Keeping Start-Up Costs at a Minimum: Tips for New Business Owners
1 August

Keeping Start-Up Costs at a Minimum: Tips for New Business Owners

When you’re contemplating a start-up, few things are as vital as budget and costs. In fact, often times a budget can either make or break a decision to begin your venture – but it shouldn’t. If you find yourself fretting over your start-up bottom line, rest assured, there are ways to keep your costs under control.

Keeping Start-Up Costs in Check

Chances are, if you’re looking at budgets and start-up costs, you’ve already done your fair share of research on what to expect. You’ve also likely heard that you need to have a solid plan in place in order to give your venture a clear shot at success. So, what does that mean exactly?

For starters, yes, you need to create a budget that takes as many factors into consideration as possible – but that’s not all. When it comes time to putting your budget and plan in motion, there are ways to be smart about your spending that will help you keep your costs in check.

Buy Smart

It may seem like a no-brainer, but before you go writing checks for your start-up needs, make sure you shop around. Just like you would take advantage of holiday sales or special discounts for everything else in your personal life, you need to do the same with your business.

Research area businesses that may be having a close-out sale, or maybe a going-out-of-business sale can help you score some quality used pieces on a budget-friendly purchase. It’s always good to check tag sales and estate sales or auctions for items you may need as well. Remember to keep things in check by ensuring you’re truly buying what you need, and not just what is convenient or something that lured you in for “extras” you could really do without right away.

Start Simply

In the beginning, you’ll likely have a difficult time keeping up with the expenses of bringing on a full-time (or even part-time) staff. One way to help off-set this expense is by avoiding it altogether. How? Try subcontracting work out on an as-needed basis.

There are plenty of sites and sources for employees looking to work on a contract-only basis, meaning you simply pay for what you need without all the overhead for insurance premiums and salaries. As time goes on and you get more established, you can look to add more permanent staff members later.

Alternative Spaces

Being budget conscious about your start-up equipment and staff needs are a large part of the puzzle, but there’s another one you need to focus on as well: your business space. Starting your own business doesn’t mean you need to go out shopping for primo store fronts or the typical brick-and-mortar buildings.

There is a plethora of options out there for those just starting out in their business ventures today (and even for those well-established ones who are looking for a more budget-friendly avenue). Many choose to carve out a space in their residence to help cut costs that way, but there’s a third option to consider as well: coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces can be a great way to keep your start-up costs in check because they offer a fantastic business setting without the fantastic pricing. Essentially, you share a communal office area that comes complete with all your basic needs (so you’ll cut down on equipment expense as well) and offers a professional atmosphere to present to clients.

Overall, there are a number of ways you can stay under budget on your start-up, you just need to be smart and resourceful about it. Do your research, stick to what you need, and explore options that give you the most bang for your buck.

Conference Room for Rent? Wowing Clients with Professional Spaces
15 July

Conference Room for Rent? Wowing Clients with Professional Spaces

As the coworking movement continues to trend, entrepreneurs are beginning to see more and more of the advantageous benefits of their memberships. Among them is the ability to wow prospective clients with amazing professional spaces on a budget. Some of the greatest advantages to coworking spaces and conference room rentals is the minimal overhead and maximum utilization.

Professional Space Memberships and Rentals

If you’re unfamiliar with the coworking trend, it’s essentially a shared office space which allows freelancers and entrepreneurs alike to work alongside others in a professional setting with minimal costs. It’s catching on quickly, in large part because it allows business professionals to work in some amazing (and fully equipped) spaces with very little overhead expense.

With several options available today, memberships range from full-usage, unlimited access, to conference room rentals for specific meetings. These spaces are designed specifically to meet the needs of any business professional while allowing for budget-friendly flexibility and accessibility.

What Conference Room Rentals Offer

There are a number of reasons you may find the need for a larger meeting space. Annual budget meetings, conferences, or even just to impress a specific client – whatever your need, conference room rentals might be a great option.

Many people think of these areas as hotel meeting rooms with closed off panels and outdated décor. It’s difficult to make a good impression with outdated surroundings weighing in on the meeting. That’s where the coworking movement and conference room rentals come in. Today, there are several options available for coworking spaces and conference room rentals in much more elaborate (and fully equipped) settings.

The Benefits of Conference Room Rentals

Whatever your reason for considering a conference room rental, there are numerous benefits to the rented space options. If you’re considering a conference room or meeting room rental, here is a look at some of the greatest benefits to keep in mind:

1 – The Wow Factor

Perhaps you don’t have the space in your existing office environment to accommodate a larger meeting, or maybe you just want something with an impressive view. No matter what your reasoning, renting conference rooms can offer you the chance to truly impress potential clients with functional and updated areas. Particularly, if you’re conducting business out of a small home office, professional conference spaces can supply you with a much more professional atmosphere for meetings.

2 – Fully Equipped

It’s difficult to host a meeting if you’re lacking specific technology and equipment. Depending upon your current office situation, it may be quite costly to purchase items such as multiple phone lines, projection screens, interactive whiteboards and other tech needs. Renting conference rooms offers all of the technology you will need to hold a successful meeting without the ridiculous overhead expense.

3 – Convenience and Budget-Friendly

If you’re a budget-conscious entrepreneur (and let’s face it, we all are), coworking spaces and conference room rentals are a fantastic way to stay in the black. By keeping costs to a minimum and offering flexibility of usage, these shared spaces are a great way to conveniently take care of some of the basics of your business needs.

The Coworking Trend: What Is It and Why It Might be Right for You
1 July

The Coworking Movement: What Is It and Why It Might be Right for You

Whether you’re a small business owner or a freelancer, planning a start-up or self-employed, one of the most important decisions you’ll face is where to set up shop. You’ve likely considered the usuals: home office, rented storefronts or building spaces – but did you know there is another option? The coworking movement is trending today, and for good reason.

What Is the Coworking Movement

Coworking is a relatively new concept that’s quickly gaining ground in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why. With the options and flexibility of coworking spaces, they are a great fit for many different entrepreneurs. So just what is coworking?

According to CoworkingResources.org, “coworking is a shared office space where entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, and anyone else who wants access to a fully-equipped space can get a membership.”

In essence, coworking spaces are community offices that allow workers of all walks of entrepreneurship to come together. They are essentially a place to network and share ideas with others while still offering private work and meeting areas for an affordable membership fee.

Strong Growth Pattern

If you’re considering a coworking space, you’re not alone. Statistics have shown coworking spaces have a strong growth pattern, continuing to catch on across the globe. Harvard Business Review explains the new trend is due in large part to the many benefits associated with office sharing:

“…People who belong to (coworking spaces) report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular office spaces.”

With such a high number of employees reporting positive rankings for coworking, researchers wanted to take a closer look. What is it about coworking spaces that creates a highly satisfying work space?

A Networking Hotspot

Since coworking offers unique opportunities to network with others in various professions, the benefits are practically endless. In addition to the fully stocked office equipment coworkers have access to, networking with individuals with other entrepreneurial specialties can be exponentially advantageous.

“In a shared office space, there are usually dozens of other people – if not hundreds – occupying the same location as you, and those demographics will likely change every month. It’s a perfect place to meet new people in the professional world…” writes Forbes.com.

Beyond the Networking Opportunities

Outside of the networking opportunities, there are several other benefits reported by those who are already coworking members. Among the benefits, coworking spaces offer members:

  • Flexibility of membership (monthly, no long-term lease requirements)
  • Freedom (come and go as you please, no set hours or required schedule)
  • Less Pressure (no office politics or competitions with others as with a traditional office)
  • Community Support (get advice and ideas from a wider range of coworking community members)
  • Fantastic office spaces at budget-friendly prices

Above all, the coworking trend is catching on because it offers a unique and affordable office experience for those looking to get away from the traditional conformity. With the flexibility and networking opportunities associated with coworking, it’s no wonder coworking office spaces are increasing in popularity.

SEO, B2B, SMM and More Digital Marketing Terms You Should Get to Know
15 May

SEO, B2B, SMM and More Digital Marketing Terms You Should Get to Know

With the digital world booming today, your understanding of online marketing strategies can essentially make or break your business ventures. Practically every form of commerce has a corresponding (if not central) online presence nowadays, but the reality is, not all business owners are also digital marketing gurus.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a marketing whiz to operate a successful online presence for your business. Understanding the basics of digital campaigns will help you navigate your way through the web; and it all begins with knowing the lingo.

Digital Marketing Terms

The first step to tackling digital marketing is to learn the terminology behind it. There are a lot of various anagrams and terms out there that can be quite confusing – but they don’t have to be. Once you familiarize yourself with the lingo, you’re well on your way to improving your business’s online presence.

“The better you familiarize yourself, the easier it is to understand and speak discerningly, whether it’s within internal departments or the agency building your website.” – Forbes.com.

Acronyms

There seem to be no shortage of acronyms when it comes to digital marketing terminology. Consider it the shorthand of the day, or the texting lingo of the business world. However, you look at it, acronyms are here to stay, so it’s best to get familiar with them – at least, the most widely used phrases.

Some of the acronyms should be fairly understandable once you learn what they represent. In fact, many of them are just abbreviations of common business terms you likely are already familiar with.

Most Common Acronyms

Here is a look at some of the most common acronyms used in digital marketing today, along with a brief description of their meaning:

  • B2B: Business to Business, or commercial operations
  • B2C: Business to Consumer, or traditional operations
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization, or knowing how to drive customers to your site
  • SMM: Social Media Marketing, or utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms
  • WOM: Word of Mouth, or advertising via client praise

The Details

Essentially, the bulk of the terms are fairly self-explanatory. If you’re a business owner, chances are you are already familiar with terms like “word of mouth” and know whether your business is focused on B2B or B2C transactions.

However, it goes without saying that the more you know, the better off you are. Especially when it comes to familiarizing yourself with current trends and successful digital marketing tactics.

SEO knowledge, for example, is a highly sought-after commodity in terms of creating a booming virtual business. Why? Well, since the bulk of all internet traffic flows through search engines (such as Google) first, the businesses who rank in the top findings for each search are the ones with the greatest visitors. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that greater website traffic equates to a wider client base.

“Having your online business searched, found and ranked is not only about how you are marketing and messaging to online audiences but also how it is in observance of the latest rules and algorithms.” – Forbes.com.

The More You Know

There are multitudes of acronyms out there when it comes to digital marketing, but don’t let that dissuade you from getting your business out there digitally. These terms are critical parts of running a successful business venture of any kind today. The more you learn, the easier it will be to navigate your online presence.

Want to Boost Your Profitability? A Look at How to Increase Your ROI
1 May

Want to Boost Your Profitability? A Look at How to Increase Your ROI

When it comes to running a business, few things concern owners more than achieving a successful return on their investment (ROI). It’s not an issue that disappears after you’ve officially reached a profitable term or a well-developed client and customer base. In fact, it’s a concern that will dictate your business decisions for the duration of your operations.

Whether you’re an established entity with decades of experience or just starting out and toying with the idea of a new business, you’ll be focused on generating ROI. Why? It’s more than simply earning back the basic start-up costs. As you will continually invest in your business, you’ll be continually focused on the ROI of those investments.

What Is ROI?

In order to understand how to maximize your ROI, you must first understand what it is. Most business owners are already familiar with the definition, but a refresher never hurts.

In layman’s terms, your ROI is quite simply, the probability of recouping the costs of your investment, and the potential profitability ratio. According to Business News Daily, “ROI is used to calculate how much of a value an investment is.”

There is a basic formula that is used to determine the ROI of any individual project or business investment. In short, your ROI is calculated by dividing your net profit by the overall cost:

ROI = Net Profit (Profits – Investment) / Cost (Investments, Maintenance)

Boosting Profitability

It goes without saying then, that in order to increase your ROI, you need to increase your net profits – which, let’s be honest, is the whole purpose anyway. The higher your net profits, the higher your ROI and the greater your investment is worth. So how do you go about boosting profitability?

Well, for starters, you need to fully understand the overall costs of any particular venture. Whether it’s advertising, investing in a new product or service, or developing new merchandise lines, using the ROI formula will be your first step in understanding the likelihood of a successful endeavor.

“Understanding the return on investment of any project or marketing campaign helps in identifying what is a successful business practice versus what isn’t.” – BusinessNewsDaily.com.

Tips to Increase Your ROI

Once you are confident you’ve got a successful concept for investment, the next step is to optimize your profitability in order to increase your ROI. Determining what factors will positively impact your ROI isn’t a cut and dry process, as every investment venture has its own unique set of influences. However, there are tips to help increase the ROI of many ventures as a whole:

Electronic Marketing.

It may seem like a given, but electronic communication is a highly efficient method of increasing the ROI of any given investment. Why? Because it cuts the cost of generating hard copy mailers and takes a significantly lower amount of time to complete. It also gives the invaluable insight of digital analytics which allows you to fully grasp which markets are working best for your investment.

Utilize Analytics.

With marketing campaigns focused largely on digital platforms, it makes sense to track their success rates digitally as well. Online analytic programs will take the guessing out of your ROIs by tracking all traffic and success rates for you.

Competitive Pricing.

Another concept that is crucial to the equation is to ensure you maintain competitive pricing. While it may be tempting to stay conservative on pricing options in order to increase your profits, experts say it’s best to remain competitive.

“Consumers view value in different ways and pricing yourself out of competition is going to kill your ROI.” – Chad Reid, Director of Communications for JotForm via Comidor.com.

In-House Efficiency.

Lastly, one of the best ways to increase your ROI is to carefully choose the costs that are incurred on the front end. While you don’t want to skimp on critical pieces or strategic campaigns, there are ways you can minimize costs. Determine what pieces of your investment can be done in-house (successfully), and keep your in-house overhead to a minimum. Co-working office spaces are a great way to do this, as are mobile work stations because they allow ample opportunities to develop your investments at minimal cost. Overall, there are a number of ways to increase your ROI at every step. The key is to fully research your costs and carefully determine the best strategies for each particular venture.

Determining Your Business Structure: LLC, Sole Proprietorship or Inc?
15 April

Determining Your Business Structure: LLC, Sole Proprietorship or Inc?

One of the most critical decisions to make when starting a new business, is choosing the right business structure. There’s a lot of jargon out there that can be quite confusing when it comes to choosing a business structure.

“The business structure you choose influences everything from day-to-day operations, to taxes, to how much of your personal assets are at risk. You should choose a business structure that gives you the right balance of legal protections and benefits.” – sba.gov

With so much riding on which structure you choose, it’s easy to understand the importance of making the right choice. To ensure you make the best decision for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Understand the Differences

First and foremost, you will need to understand the differences between each business structure. You can’t very well decide one or the other is better if you don’t know what each offers or requires.

Should you file as a Limited Liability Company (LLC)? A Non-Profit? A Corporation? What about C-Corp, S-Corp, or B-Corp? How do you know which structure is right?

Start by educating yourself on the details of the most widely-used legal business structures. Sites such as the U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov) or the IRS (irs.gov) can offer helpful definitions of each structure.

Identify Your Options

Once you have a basic understanding of the typical structures available to you, you can begin comparing them. Some of the choices will automatically be eliminated (for example – if you’re not forming a business with a partner, you can obviously rule out filing as a Partnership), but others will need a closer look.

Create a small list of the structures which are not ruled out by basic criteria. Even if you may not initially consider one, if your business qualifies, add it to the list for now.

Create a Short List

From here, you can begin to compare and eliminate options. Do this by adding criteria, pros and cons, regulations, and whatever else you discover in your research under each structure on your list. By short-listing the highlights, you will be able to do a side-by-side comparison later on which will help you make the best possible decision for your business.

Be sure to include details in your comparison list such as tax liabilities, company control levels, legal liabilities, and any other form of protection you may need down the road. This will help you to weigh the risk-factors of each structure in terms of protecting your business (and your personal assets) in any future unforeseen issues.

Speak with Established Owners

Another thing to consider when deciding the right structure for your company is the invaluable insight from others who have already gone through it. Speaking with other local business owners, colleagues from a coworking space, or friends and family who have entrepreneurial experience can give you an inside look at things you may not think of by simply doing online searches.

In short, such an important decision is best made with all of the facts and details in mind. The only way to do that is to be thorough in your research and seek the advice of others who have been through the process.

Business Plan Basics: 5 Steps to Your Best Business Plan
1 April

Business Plan Basics: 5 Steps to Your Best Business Plan

When starting your own business, there’s one detail all successful business owners can attest to: create a solid business plan. While this may not be groundbreaking news, your business plan is a crucial step and needs to be taken seriously.

A solid business plan will help you with more than investment pitches (though that is a critical point for most). It will also help you outline everything you’ll need to be successful and will illuminate any potential problem areas.

Creating the detailed plan can be a tedious task but avoid being tempted to rush through it. This piece will be the backbone of all your future business’s endeavors; approach it with commitment.

With your future success riding on a solid business plan, prep work is imperative. To help make this happen, here are 5 steps to your best business plan:

1 – Create a Space

You might be ready to dive into writing, but the very first step should be to create a space. Before you begin your plan, you must make sure you’re prepared to work!

Whether it be a home office, a co-working office space, or an on-site building, you need to have a location that is specifically for working on your future business. Why? Not only does an office space give you a chance to work undistracted, it reaffirms your commitment to future endeavors. By designating a work space for yourself, you’ll be able to cut down on distractions, focus on your commitment to your future success, and get down to business.

2 – Do Your Research

Once you’ve created your working space, it’s time to begin researching. Since a bulk of your business plan will revolve around outlining your intentions, you need to be able to back up your words with action. Research similar businesses, speak with local business owners for tips, and use your research to formulate your intended actions.

3 – Do More Research

When it comes to a business plan, knowledge is key. The more you research, the higher your chances of success. It’s not enough to simply have a dream – you need to be able to make it a reality. You do this by fleshing out an outline of your path. You’ll need to know your market, competitive pricing, thoroughly define what you’re offering and how you’ll stand out from competition.

4 – Business Plan Outline

After you’ve begun your research, create a basic outline of your business plan. You shouldn’t begin writing it entirely, but create a skeleton outline of what to expect. For some, this can come in the form of a generic business plan template. An online search will help you locate one if you’re having trouble and want a basic template for reference. This outline will help you to organize your research and understand what’s needed before beginning your polished plan.

5 – Keep Focused

Lastly, while you want to make sure you have a fantastic business plan to present to potential investors or partners, do not let your determination be swayed by perfection. In other words, no matter how many times you review your plan, know that you’ll likely always find something to tweak, but don’t let that cause you to lose sight of your goals and miss your opportunities. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be detailed and concise. Stay focused.

“Don’t wait until you think your business plan is perfectly polished and cannot possibly go any further in depth. Otherwise, chances are you will have missed your window of opportunity…” Forbes.com.

Overall, the most important rule to remember when creating a successful business plan is to do thorough research and keep plugging away at it until it’s finished. It all begins with your preparation, so get yourself prepared for success!