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Small Business Best Practices 2018

Best practices involve business owners finding and using ideas from outside their company to help improve performance and morale in the workforce. Operating a small business can be a challenging process at times, but small businesses can receive substantial benefits through professional development. Here is a list of the best practices that small business owners should focus on this year:

Have A Solid Foundation

Being successful starts at the core of the business. Owners should make sure that they have a solid team in place. Small business owners should look to hire people who share their passion and dedication to achieving success. Owners should hire employees based on the demand for their services. Small business owners should only consider hiring someone when the business is suffering from being short staffed.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations for all employees and demanding accountability can make a huge impact. Small business owners should consider bringing all the managers and executives together monthly to discuss each department in the business. This is a good opportunity for small business owners to give and receive feedback.

Be Punctual

A common trait among successful business owners is that they are always on time. Staying on time will help small business owners develop better relationships with their partners and clients. Punctuality holds the business owner accountable and helps your day run a little bit smoother.

Small business owners should respond to any questions or concerns that a customer has in a timely manner. The faster that the business responds, the more impressed a customer will be.

Avoid only responding when a client initiates the dialogue. Try to answer questions in advance. Never let a client feel that the business doesn’t value their support.

Avoid Getting an Ego

Many small business owners can be stubborn at times. However, the most successful owners aren’t bothered by criticism or feedback. Business owners must be good listeners, willing to accept that things may not be going well and focus on the changes that need to be made.

Use Updated Technology

Running a business can be complex at times, as there are multiple variables that can impact outcomes. Small business owners should rely on data. Using data based decision making allows small business owners to take an objective viewpoint and keep track of important records. Protect yourself and your employees by installing cyber security systems.

Document Everything

When small business owners provide clear documentation for everything, that promotes transparency. Employees should have a clear idea of what is being asked of them. Documentation makes it easy for owners to bring on new employees while also stopping the business from being over reliant on a few employees.

Market Your Business

Your small business may not be a branding giant but there are small marketing steps to take to make your business more visible.

  • Stay active on social media accounts
  • Use paid advertising
  • Promote special events or sales
  • Make sure your contact information is updated and available

Marketing your business will increase revenue and your customers while also helping you connect to the community around you.

Always Think About the Future

Small business owners should incorporate policies that will be successful right now and in the coming years down the line. Owners should constantly look ahead so that they can continue evolving and avoid becoming outdated. Stay consistent and focus on the longevity of your business.

Emphasizing Customer Service

The most successful businesses have made proving excellent customer service a major point of emphasis. Dealing with unhappy customers is something that every business will have to deal with at some point. If the business handles the complaint with professionalism, that will enhance their reputation in the industry.

Save Money

Small business owners should try to put aside at least $1,000 to $1,500 a month. That way they can have a peace of mind concerning their finances and avoid fears of going out of business. Many business owners have said that getting their finances in order has helped their relationships with vendors.

Embody Your Mission Statement

Create a mission statement if you do not already have and let that be the heart of your business. Small business owners should enjoy the process of creativity. People and products are important, look to surround yourself with good people and strive to create innovative products.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for NextGen Wealth. She often produces content for a variety of business blogs.

2018’s New Employment Laws Business Owners Need to Know

Among the many responsibilities you have as a business owner is to keep up with the latest laws that affect your company. Each year seems to bring change, and keeping up to date can be difficult, which is why we’ve outlined everything for you in this article.

Minimum Wage Laws

There are 18 states that have higher minimum wage requirements in 2018. Eight of these are due to increases linked by law to the inflation rate: Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota. The other 10 states passed laws raising their minimum wages: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State.

The salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act will probably rise in 2018. This is the threshold on the maximum salary subject to the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at time and a half. The threshold stood at $23,660 at the start of 2018, but we await the new figure due sometime this year.

One other thing that should be on your radar is the crackdown on companies that steal wages from employees. Prosecutors have been winning stiff penalties and jail time for companies that underpay their workers. For example, a Texas chain restaurant was found guilty of working their employees 12 hours a day and paying them less than minimum wage. Three of the chain operators are now serving time in prison.

Taxation and Deductions

The 2018 tax brackets have been lowered, with the corporate tax rate dropping from 35 percent to 21 percent. Corporations can also deduct state and local taxes. If you are a business owner, you’ll likely find your personal tax bill lower in 2018 due to the lower top rates. And certain small business, especially LLCs, are eligible for a 20 percent tax deduction on their gross income.

One other change pertains to the Section 179 deduction. This deduction allows small business to immediately expense the full price on leased or financed equipment and off-the shelf software rather than depreciating the cost over several years. The change for 2018 is that the deduction limit doubles to $1 million.

State Laws

There are a slew of new state laws and regulations that could affect your business in 2018. Check your state’s department of state for new rules affecting:

  • Equal pay for equal work laws: These laws outlaw the gender-based pay gap.
  • Paid leave: Several states have passed paid leave laws for employees seeking family or sick time.
  • Posting requirements: States frequently update their job posting requirements that allow current employees to apply for different jobs within the company.
  • Predictive scheduling: More states are climbing on the predictive scheduling bandwagon. Predictive scheduling laws oblige businesses to provide employee schedules ahead of time. The law usually applies to selected industries such as food services, hospitality and retail, but the rules vary by locale.

How a Business Owner Can Take a Vacation Like a True Boss

Many people aspire to be the boss so that they can control their own schedule and take off as much time as they want. However, the stark reality is that many owners don’t take vacations at all, year after year.

According to a recent survey, half of small business owners take an average of three days off per year, while 70% work on holidays, including Thanksgiving. The main excuse for lack of time off is that business owners don’t feel like their companies can survive or thrive without their presence and input.

However, not taking any time off leads to extreme stress, feeling burnt out, loss in productivity and a creativity block. In fact, lack of vacations can lead to depression, cognitive decline and even heart disease!

There are ways for all business owners to take a vacation with these tips:

Start Small

It’s probably not the best idea to take a two-week cruise where you will be fully inaccessible if you haven’t taken more than a day off in recent years. Instead, start small and train your staff and yourself to run the business without you little by little.

Start by giving yourself half-day Fridays when work permits, and leave after lunch to see how your staff does without you. If all goes well, take an entire day off, followed by a mini-vacation for just a few days.

Assess how your employees are able to handle responsibilities on their own, and how much they need to contact you to make decisions before taking a week off or more.

Designate a Leader

They say that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. This especially applies to the workplace, where employees feel they can give themselves luxuries they would never dream of when their boss is at the office.

This is why it’s vital to designate a leader in your absence who will be responsible for overseeing the workplace. Choosing a proven and trusted colleague will help you rest easier, and will let your employees know that work will resume as usual.

Limit Checking In

Although you may force yourself to get on a plane and jet to a new destination, you may not be as relaxed as you would expect when you return. That is because the majority of business owners can’t abstain from constantly checking in with their staff while on vacation.

It’s hard to lay on the beach or take an excursion when you’re constantly checking emails or  are on the phone. Plus, the more you make yourself available, the more your staff members will feel like they can reach out, even for non-vital matters.

Make it clear to your staff that you will only check in once every 24 hours, and that they can only defer to the leader if an emergency occurs and you need to be contacted sooner.

This will allow you to take true time off, while empowering your employees to make decisions without your input.

Slow Summers? Contact IOU Financial for a loan to help smooth cashflow, get winter inventory ready, or up your marketing efforts. We can approve you for up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours.

 

Better Manage Your Time: 13 Tips for Business Owners

As a business owner, you spend your time thinking, acting and communicating, punctuated by too many interruptions. Maybe you’ve taken a time management course without realizing any improvement. Here are 13 tips to help you get better control on how you spend your time:

  1. Track your time:

    Write down on a schedule what you do as you do it. Do it for a week, and find out how much of your time is spent on thinking, acting and communicating. It’s the first step into a larger world.

  2. Make appointments:

    An important activity or communication should be assigned a time. Try an appointment book, either the old-fashioned paper variety or an AI app with voice recognition. Then discipline yourself to keep your appointments without letting them run long.

  3. Direct your activities:

    Decide to spend at least half of your time engaged in communications, activities and thoughts. You’re more effective if you don’t waste time.

  4. Schedule time for interruptions:

    Set aside time every day to handle interruptions. You might set up special hours in which you are open to handling all the tasks that interrupt your work flow.

  5. Use the first half hour:

    When you first come into work, take the first half-hour to plan your day in detail, including when to handle interruptions.

  6. Know your desired outcomes:

    When you set aside time to perform a task or communicate with others, know beforehand what you want to achieve. By knowing what defines success, you can better achieve your goals and, if something is missing, identify what you aren’t doing right.

  7. Use automated note taker:

    Automated AI tools will transcribe, summarize and annotate meetings and phone calls so that you don’t have to. It’s a real time-saver and lets you better concentrate on what is being said.

  8. Buy a “Do Not Disturb” sign:

    Deploy it when you don’t want to be interrupted. A perfect accompaniment to a thinking cap.

  9. Postpone responses:

    Do you drop what you’re doing to respond to a phone call, email or text message? That’s not necessarily a good idea. Unless it’s an emergency, get back to people when it suits you, and schedule time for your replies.

  10. Block distractions:

    Social media sources might be vying for your attention, but unless you need these for your business, ignore them. They are interrupting your schedule and your train of thought. Some people don’t allow Facebook or Twitter on their business computers.

  11. Observe the 80/20 rule:

    Don’t feel bad that you can’t get everything done during the day. Remember that 20 percent of your activities, thoughts and communications will account for 80 percent of your results.

  12. Try the Pomodoro technique:

    Set a timer for 20 or 25 minutes when you start on a specific task. When time is up, take a 5-minute break before beginning your next task.

  13. Fill out your staff:

    If you’re an entrepreneur who’s accustomed to operating on a shoestring, consider hiring staff to take over some of your time-consuming tasks. If you’re short of working capital to enlarge your staff, consider a loan from IOU Financial. You can use it to get a bigger office, more desks and other items to support more employees. Remember, IOU Financial offers quick, affordable loans with an easy daily repayment process.

5 Free or Inexpensive Online Classes Small Business Owners Can Take

The business world is ever changing, and it’s important to be at the forefront of innovation in order to run a successful business. It is in the best interest of small business owners to continue to brush up on their business skills to keep their competitive advantage. While business owners have enough expenses without committing to pricey programs and degrees, there are plenty of free online resources on various helpful topics. We have included five of our favorites for you here:

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology shares some of their undergraduate and graduate course content online, providing a great resource to small business owners without the hefty price of MIT admission. You can learn accounting with their Introduction to Financial and Managerial Accounting and Management Accounting and Control classes; learn how to file a patent with by following the advice in the Inventions and Patents class; brush up on Entrepreneurial Sales and learn about Pricing from the comfort of your home or office!

The Open University

The Open University is a UK non-profit group that offers over 1,000 free courses and videos on different topics, such as business! There are 104 free courses in the area of money and business, such as:

HubSpot

HubSpot helps its customers grow their sales by providing marketing, sales and customer service tools. The site offers an 11-hour course that helps small business owners with inbound marketing (marketing with the goal of attracting new business) and sales.

Learn about the full inbound marketing methodology, content marketing, sales, design and contextual marketing with their free tools and courses!

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA provides a multitude of free resources for small business owners, including online courses, the option to web chat and other helpful videos. Courses cover topics such as mentorship programs, getting a competitive advantage, winning a federal contract, taking a product to market, etc. You can view the list of classes or search in a catalogue, finding more information about each course when you click on it.

Fundamentals of Operations Management

Another free course that highlights the importance of operations management. Learn about how to plan, find a facility, schedule and conduct inventory and quality management for effective operations.

The course has four modules:

  1. Operations management
  2. Operations management strategies
  3. Applying operations management
  4. Assessment

If you come across other courses or classes for small business owners that require a financial contribution, IOU Financial can help. We provide small business loans of up to $300,000 to help you grow your business. Contact us today!

3 Ted Talks Small Business Owners Should Listen To

As a small business owner, would you appreciate the opportunity to get advice from accomplished and world-known leaders? Would you be especially interested if this advice was free and accessible from a computer, tablet or smartphone? If you answered yes to the two questions, you will love Ted Talks — videos from leadership experts that specialize in various industries.

Ted Talks originated in 1984 as a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design, and has grown to a collection of  short videos (18 minutes or less) that are available in over 100 languages. The following three Ted Talks are particularly beneficial to small business owners as they can help them become better leaders:

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This Ted Talk is hosted by Simon Sinek, a famous author, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. He is responsible for books such as Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last on the topics of inspirational leadership.

In this video, he tries to explore answers to how leaders can promote trust and cooperation and encourage and accept change in organizations. He utilizes real world examples that don’t only focus on the world of business, bringing to light successes from people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and brands such as Apple. Sinek focuses on similarities between inspiring leaders in how they act and think, and shares them with his listeners.

The video has gotten over 34 million views, and is the third most successful Ted Talk of all time!

Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work

While many of the inspirational leadership Ted Talks are hosted by authors or motivational speakers, this video is hosted by someone who has actually walked the walk! Margaret Heffernan was the CEO in five businesses. Her experience is diverse – she worked as a television producer, headed IPPA, a trade organization that represents independent film and television producers in England, worked on public affair campaigns, ran Internet businesses and wrote a book.

Heffernan shares what she learned throughout this time, which is that company leaders should nix the “the superchicken model” that only values the highest-performing employees, and instead focus on cohesion and the empowerment of every single member of the team to truly create change and success within the organization.

Learning From Leadership’s Missing Manual

What do the leader of the Ashaninka Nation, a leader of an NGO from Bangalore and a Chinese businessman have in common? They all provide inspiration for motivational leadership skills to the presenter of this Ted Talk, Fields Wicker-Miurin.

This social entrepreneur looks for leaders in unique situations and places, and shares what knowledge she was able to get from their stories. She is a director of Savills, an international property advisory company and CDC group, a UK development finance institution, as well as the co-founder of Leader’s Quest, an organization that connects leaders and encourages them to not only analyze their positions and roles, but to seek inspiration from leaders around the world.

In this Ted Talks, Wicker-Miurin provides examples of non-traditional leaders in order to help business owners consider their own leadership roles and how they can help their teams in a better and more productive way.

IOU Financial is committed to helping small business owners become the best leaders they can be! If you want to attend leadership conferences or take business classes, we can help you finance that goal with a small business loan in under 48 hours! Contact us to learn more.

 

Five Ways to Lead Independent Thinkers

There are different types of leaders – micro and macro-managers. Micro-managers are akin to dictators, they want to be involved in every small decision, and do not provide their staff members with the ability to think for themselves. Macro-managers, on the other hand, lead a democratic team, encouraging their employees to make their own decisions, take chances, and provide innovative solutions to everyday problems.

Time and time again, research studies have proven that macro-managers are the best types of leaders; this manager not only creates a happier corporate culture, but has loyal and productive employees. However, in order for a manager to relinquish control and delegate tasks to staff members, they need to be sure that the workers are up to the challenge of working independently and trusting their own instincts. Whether you are integrating a new candidate into your team, or want to delegate more and micromanage less, you can lead your staff to become more independent thinkers in the following five ways.

Delegate

A common grievance of bosses is that they spend a majority of their day on tasks their staff members should be doing. However, not all supervisors have the skills necessary to take themselves out of the equation and delegate tasks to free up their schedule.

The first step to encouraging employees to think on their own is to make them responsible for their own tasks. This process starts with the team’s leader – this individual must be able to hand out assignments without looking over the individual’s’ shoulders every step of the way. Employees must feel capable and qualified to handle their duties in order to start thinking independently, otherwise they will keep turning to the boss with every question or concern.

Be Open to Different Views

Once tasks have been given out, the manager must be open to hearing and implementing different views. Many leaders feel comfortable following the status quo, and resist any suggestions to innovate. This attitude stifles the minds of the employees, and doesn’t encourage them to think on their own, as they know that any suggestion will be ignored or denied.

Trust the Capabilities of Your Staff

Another component to promoting independent thinking is to fully trust in the fact that your employees are capable of making their own decisions, and are invested in the best interests of the company. After all, you hired them for a reason! When bosses stop second guessing their team members, and trust that they are experts in their field and have the experience and knowledge to work independently, they can start encouraging their staff to trust themselves.

Encourage Original Thinking

To promote independent thinkers in your workforce, you should promote original and out-of-the-box thinking. Ask your employees to come up with innovative ideas and share them with the rest of the team. Consider rewarding employees who offer unique ideas that can benefit your company – you can offer gift certificates, time off or bonuses for the effort!

Provide Inspiration

Innovation often comes from inspiration, but it’s difficult to get inspired inside the bland walls of most office environments. To promote creativity and original thought, provide inspiration in the form of bright colors, vivid images (art and photography), music and unique experiences in the office.

Advise your employees to take a walk outside if they are in the process of a creative endeavor, or take your team to an ethnic restaurant to introduce them to flavors and smells from different cultures. All of these experiences can contribute to helping them change the status quo.

Want to Be a Better Leader? Ignore Popular Advice

Any person in a position of power likely strives to be a better leader. After all, most of us have encountered unfair treatment as we climbed the ladder to success, and now that we secured a leadership role, being the best possible boss is an important goal.

What defines being a great leader? Is it being empathetic, empowering or motivational? Does it involve expecting only the best and pushing your staff to work at optimal levels? There are countless articles both online and in print that provide tips on improving your leadership skills. What do some of the most popular sources recommend leaders do to improve?

  • Inc.com recommends investing in training, taking risks, creating a vision and challenging employees to optimal performance.
  • Harvard Business Review states that successful leaders have richer personal lives, and to hone leadership skills, individuals must focus on all domains, including their personal and professional lives, their community and their self (body and spirit).
  • Forbes takes the focus off employees entirely, and advises bosses to meditate to be better at their jobs.

With so much conflicting advice, what should you focus on if your goal for next year is to be a better leader? Do you budget for training your staff, or do you invest in spending time in your local community? Will either really benefit the relationship you have with your staff members?

We have only one piece of advice when it comes to exceptional leadership – skip all the popular advice (just not ours) and practice active listening! This one simple goal involves a few steps:

Stop Speaking

Many managers hold the false belief that as the most experienced members of the team, they must do all the talking. Bosses typically monopolize business meetings, prepare weekly to-do tasks for employees, and encourage subordinates to come to them when seeking help.

The problem is that with all the talking is leaders rarely stop and simply listen to their staff. Those that do, quickly realize that their staff will let them know (either verbally or through their actions) what it is they require for a happy and productive workplace.

Instead of micromanaging your staff, involve them in the plans and goals for your department. Invite them to contribute their opinions, raise objectives and suggest improvements. Doing so will empower your team to be driven and responsible.

Be Aware

Once you stop feeling responsible to lead the conversation, you can concentrate on becoming more aware of others around you. Remember that as a boss, your job is not only centered on overseeing job performance, but also ensuring your staff’s well-being and satisfaction. If they feel unappreciated, overworked or mistreated, your employee turnover will increase.

Start everyday by asking your employees how they feel; but also focus on their non-verbals. If they look stressed out, tired or sad, inquire about what is going on. Whether they feel pressured at work or are dealing with personal issues at home, a good leader will create awareness of their staff’s emotions, feelings and thoughts, making the workers feel valued and cared for.


Be Selfless

Many managers mistakenly believe that since they hold senior titles, they no longer need to work as hard as their subordinates. However, when you require your staff to work nights and weekends, but you’re the last person to come in and the first to leave, your employees become disgruntled.

Strive to be selfless, and be the example of what a hard working and dedicated worker acts like. This way, your staff will respect you, and not resent their selfish boss.

While striving to become a leader leader is noble, you don’t need to spend company funds on management training; instead, just focus on listening, being aware, and being selfless to create the best company culture for your employees.