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  • Lawyer Up!
    areas Today websites abound where you can save money by buying contract and lease templates But if it s more than just a plain vanilla contract or lease you might want to have an attorney review the contract or lease to look for potential landmines says Mangels Business Startup Entrepreneurs must make crucial legal decisions during the early days of launching a business One of the first is deciding which ownership structure will be the most beneficial And the options can be confusing sole proprietorship partnership limited liability company or corporation While an attorney can help you choose the right form of ownership and can draft the necessary paperwork like articles of incorporation for example Mangels says this may be a task that savvy owners can tackle themselves Some websites make it easy for owners to draft these documents themselves In fact this decision is as much tax driven as legal driven so you might want to consult both your CPA and your attorney says Mangels Another startup contract you might face the buy sell agreement Any business with two or more partners or joint ownership should have a buy sell agreement in place that specifies how partners can buy each others shares and how potential disputes are handled says Sharman Better to consult with an attorney to get the buy sell agreement right than to risk problems on down the road Employment Issues Employees and personnel may be the area of greatest legal liability for many small businesses today Attorneys can help in this area by working with owners to draft or review Employment contracts Non compete and confidentiality agreements Employee benefit plans Employee handbooks Any business regardless of size that possesses trade secrets or proprietary information should make sure it has drafted a strong confidentiality agreement for employees to sign says Sharman Meanwhile if your business is faced with employment related legal issues such as a wage and hour lawsuit or discrimination claim Sharman recommends that you hire an attorney who specializes in employment law to represent you An experienced employment law attorney will be able to understand the claims investigate the validity of such claims and determine how best to proceed in defending you and your business Sharman says Collecting Customer Payments In the ongoing sluggish economy many small business owners are facing greater challenges in collecting accounts receivable If a receivable has stretched beyond 90 days and you ve received no response to your own payment inquiries Sharman says it might be time to consider hiring professional help in the form of a collection agency and attorney When you have collections issues contact a collection agency which will attempt to collect the debt for you in exchange for a percentage of the amount owed Sharman explains If the agency is unsuccessful and you decide to file suit against the debtor this is where the attorney would come in Estate And Succession Planning Estate and succession planning may go hand in hand but they differ in their

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/11/05/Lawyer_Up (2016-02-14)
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  • Want to Win The Competition For Customers?
    or service Offering training on how to use a purchase Following up to gauge satisfaction All too often small businesses look at an individual customer and say I made the sale I m done and they move on to the next customer But they fail to realize it s not just one sale but it s a relationship Jensen says Handling complaints properly can strengthen that connection but resolving issues isn t always done one on one anymore When people post negative comments on review sites like Yelp or Angie s List or on social media like Twitter business owners must reply publicly to private grievances There is however an upside If you very kindly calmly respond to that user and maybe offer a coupon or their money back then future customers who see the interaction are impressed You took a complaint and turned it into a customer service selling point Jensen says Alternatively when you fail to respond to a bad review or do so in an unconstructive way you risk turning off prospects who come across the comment and don t investigate your business further Build Customer Service Into Your Culture One way to potentially reduce broadly aired complaints is to create good feedback mechanisms The easier you make it for customers to reach you directly the less likely they ll complain in public on social media says Micah Solomon author of High Tech High Touch Customer Service AMACOM 2012 Provide a contact form online for instance and routinely respond to comments Likewise establish a presence on Facebook and Twitter to genuinely engage with customers who want to ask questions and share thoughts about your products or services Of course your company can only deliver top notch service if your staffers are willing to carry out the vision and it starts with hiring the right folks When interviewing potential employees Kratzer tells them I don t care if you don t know anything about wine that I can help you learn he explains What I really care about is that you actually like that person who came through the door and you said hello With those kinds of employees onboard he says offering good customer service is easy It s also important to continually reinforce the message about service to employees Solomon says Sometimes the strongest customer service gestures are the most personal Kratzer for instance purchases wine and spirits products with specific people in mind and invites them to come in for a try This kind of anticipatory customer service in which companies figure out what customers want before they ask for it is a level beyond customer satisfaction And it helps people start to feel a great sense of loyalty Solomon says Lisa Wells the sole proprietor of WMSE Elite Concierge Services has delivered a personal touch by sending handwritten thank you cards on Thanksgiving and regularly checking in with clients They know they re not my only customer but I don t ever want anybody

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/08/03/Want_to_Win_The_Competition_For_Customers (2016-02-14)
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  • Ask The Experts: Business Legal Structure
    have decided to open an Internet marketing consulting company I would like to make sure everything is in order before going into business with someone else We also have no money to invest and we d like to do as much of the startup work as possible I ve noticed that there are many partnership agreements online Can you please recommend one that we should use and advise us about any other steps we should take We are thinking of incorporating when we start making money A There are only two options I suggest for your business legal structure The first option is a limited liability company in which you file taxes as a partnership The second option is forming a corporation I strongly advise against anyone operating as a general partnership because of the joint individual liability for the acts of the business and your partners As for the choice between an LLC and a corporation that s not a simple question to respond to without more information about your revenue and profit projections Put simply nobody can suggest which entity is best without knowing what your financial situation will be However based on the description you gave about your business my gut reaction is to suggest you begin by forming an LLC That will likely be an appropriate starting point for you if you think your taxable profits will be less than 35 000 or 40 000 in the first year or two After you pass that mark a corporation might be more advantageous If so you can convert the LLC to a corporation To set up either the LLC or corporation my first suggestion is for you to purchase a book on how to form your own LLC or corporation as the case may be I like

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/08/03/Ask_The_Experts_Business_Legal_Structure (2016-02-14)
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  • Business Plans Made Easy
    Before You Begin You may find it s helpful to review templates and samples of traditional business plans The U S Small Business Administration and SCORE both offer good ones This is for inspiration only don t worry about all the fancy trappings Since this plan is for your eyes only formatting isn t important The value of a business plan is that it forces people to ask themselves a lot of questions and do a lot of research that is going to help them be more successful explains Fairbrother In the end the process of developing your plan is much more valuable than the final document Section One Marketing Your first task is to examine all the ways in which you communicate or will communicate if you re just getting started with customers For example how do you connect with new customers How do you stay in touch with existing customers to encourage repeat business Take a close look at all the elements of your marketing arsenal such as Email blasts Print advertisements Social media and online marketing Networking activities Direct mailers Referrals Printed brochures Consider stepping up activity in any areas that seem to be working and dropping any efforts that haven t paid off Next identify and analyze opportunities For example if your retail business promotions have been popular with customers you might implement a customer loyalty plan If your interior design website draws ample traffic you might refresh its design or start writing a blog to keep readers coming back often As you work on your plan don t forget to consider the risks For instance a re branding effort might draw new customers but it could also alienate your existing customer base Wrap up the marketing section of your business plan with a quick goal setting session Develop a strategy by breaking your goals into actionable steps Outline complicated tasks with informal to do lists Set rough deadlines to help you stay on track Section Two Finances Now it s time to crunch the numbers Begin with a long look at last year s ledger If you re planning to open a new business focus on mapping out the first year including one time expenses such as security deposits Examine your expenses carefully and identify any areas that offer potential savings For example you might be able to renegotiate supplier contracts or interest rates on loans Next determine which of your products or services are most and least profitable This information might lead you to reconsider your offerings Would it make sense to expand diversify or cut back Round out your finance section by predicting your fiscal future While formal business plans typically require a three to five year financial forecast you only need to plan for the next year Nobody in the world knows what their financial projections are going to be three years from now Fairbrother says It s impossible It s better to deal with real numbers and real situations Zoom in

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/06/29/Business_Plans_Made_Easy (2016-02-14)
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  • Ask The Experts: New Contract Employee Forms
    Links ASBDC Member Directory Search My NASE About Me Account Benefits Optional Benefits Payment Details Expert Questions Email Subscriptions Membership Directory Business Management News You know your industry let us help you manage your small business View all NASE news Ask The Experts New Contract Employee Forms Friday June 29 2012 Q Can you tell me which employment forms a contract employee needs to complete before starting to work for my company A The first question is whether your new worker is an employee or an independent contractor This is not a matter of choice but is dictated by the specific circumstances of the working relationship The key element is who controls the work You most likely have an employee if You tell the person when to be at work where to work and how to complete the work You provide the workspace and the tools they need to do the job Payments made to employees are called wages They re subject to tax withholding and are reported at the end of the year via Form W 2 You most likely have an independent contractor if you specify the end result but the worker Decides how to do the work when to work and where to work Usually provides his or her own tools to complete the work Has other clients If you hire an independent contractor you ll report payments you make to the contractor on Form 1099 MISC The form is required if you pay at least 600 to the independent contractor during a calendar year The payments that are reported via Form 1099 are not subject to federal income tax withholding or other payroll taxes You ll issue one copy of the 1099 to the contractor and send one copy to the IRS at the end of

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/06/29/Ask_The_Experts_New_Contract_Employee_Forms (2016-02-14)
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  • 5 Tips For Expanding Your Professional Network
    unpleasant whereas social butterflies might feel frustrated getting to know people from their desk chairs If you decide to pursue face to face networking opportunities don t completely ignore the online networking world cautions Gene Fairbrother the lead consultant for the NASE s Business 101 program He recommends maintaining at least a bare bones Web page for your business on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook It s important for a business to have a presence he says Even a brief bio will give your business an air of legitimacy 2 Choose quality over quantity Networking is not a numbers game You are not in a contest to see who can collect the most contacts or hand out the most business cards Your goal is to build meaningful relationships which is a process not a one time episode At its heart networking is a social activity like any other When you meet new people aim for a tone that s friendly and curious as though you re talking to a friend of a friend Don t do anything that might seem out of place in other social settings At a dinner party would you press a business card into someone s hand without making small talk first Probably not Act natural and avoid self promotion First impressions are important but the key to successful networking is in the follow up Fairbrother recommends establishing a simple ritual to touch base with new contacts such as sending a quick email to say hello You need to have a program to follow up with them he explains You have to nurture your contacts Small gestures can lead to big business down the road 3 Keep an open mind As you network cast a wide net Try to speak with a broad range of professionals and personalities Some of your contacts will be potential clients and customers a direct source of business Others will send you referrals But plenty of the folks you meet probably won t impact your bottom line and that s perfectly OK Embrace that diversity Variety will help make your network a rich resource that can fulfill a variety of needs In addition to customers your network might include Mentors long term teachers Coaches short term counselors Professional guides such as lawyers and accountants Peers and colleagues Suppliers Valued friends 4 Don t get stuck in a rut If you nurture and expand your professional network chances are it will boost your business If however you don t see a return on your investment over time you might need to try a new approach Fairbrother recommends a three to six month trial period for any given networking activity If you re not getting business out of it don t waste your time on that group or that networking element any more he says Go find another one For example if you find that a membership with your local Chamber of Commerce isn t a good fit you might join a volunteer

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/06/01/5_Tips_For_Expanding_Your_Professional_Network (2016-02-14)
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  • Ask The Experts: Business Structure
    a handyman business for several years as a sole proprietor I m now starting a second business as a voice over artist I ll be operating both businesses for at least two years What would be the best business structure A The question you ask is not a simple one to answer without some additional information My first comment is that I would not be doing any type of handyman work as a sole proprietor I would want some type of legal entity protection in the form of either a limited liability company or a corporation Which of these would be best is a tax issue The most common reason small business owners incorporate is to protect themselves in case the business runs into financial or legal problems But incorporating by itself may not protect you from personal liability A leading misconception is that incorporating establishes a separate legal business entity from you personally unlike a sole proprietorship or partnership The problem with this misconception is that you cannot circumvent liability for your personal actions A second reason many people consider incorporating is to take advantage of corporate tax laws It s true that in most situations businesses can decrease their taxes by incorporating The question is Will the tax dollars saved be greater than the costs to be incorporated It s important to consider the ongoing expenses for a corporation like higher accounting fees state income or franchise taxes legal expenses and administrative demands These ongoing costs could wipe out any tax savings from incorporating When incorporating there is also the question of whether to elect S status with the IRS This choice is strictly based on how the corporation will be taxed The truth is that there is no way anyone can say the S or the regular

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/06/01/Ask_The_Experts_Business_Structure (2016-02-14)
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  • Ready To Be The Boss?
    hiring any employee is you need to add additional profit to the bottom line says Gene Fairbrother the lead consultant for the NASE s Business 101 program If an employee isn t profitable he or she is probably not worth hiring There are two different ways your new hire can boost profits The first is when the employee s labor directly produces new income by serving more clients or creating more products The second is when the employee s labor gives you more time to focus on income generating aspects of your business Either way the employee creates the opportunity for growth The only reason to hire someone who won t enhance your bottom line is if it improves your quality of life For example a business owner who wants to spend fewer hours at the office may decide to hire an assistant That would free up time for hobbies volunteer work family time and other lifestyle activities 3 What are my exact needs As a small business owner you probably wear many hats You re accustomed to filling different roles on the fly You do whatever it takes to get the job done Before you hire an employee it s important to carve out a specific role for that person With the role defined you can conduct a targeted search for someone who meets your exact needs Write a formal job description that includes a breakdown of day to day tasks Be forthright and realistic about your expectations so you know what type of person and what types of skills you re looking for Another useful exercise is to list your professional weaknesses Don t worry You don t have to show anyone A new employee can help you fill in these gaps You want someone who will complement not duplicate your strengths 4 Should I work with an independent contractor instead Consider your workload when answering this question Is it relatively stable or frequently in flux If you habitually feel overworked a long term solution makes sense You should feel comfortable committing to a permanent employee because your needs are unlikely to change If however your business is volatile for example if you have a seasonal business or if you re in crisis because of an unusually large project hiring an independent contractor is probably a good option Independent contractors also known as freelancers are paid by the hour or by the project on an as needed basis so they offer the benefit of flexibility With a contractor it s easier to take a risk Fairbrother explains You don t have to really crunch the numbers like you do if you re hiring an employee You may pay a few dollars an hour more for the service he adds but you re not locked into trying to give an employee so many hours a week If you only need two hours you pay for two hours If you need 10 hours you pay for 10 hours One caveat

    Original URL path: http://selfemployed.nase.org/business-help/get-help/business-management/business-management-news/2012/05/07/Ready_To_Be_The_Boss (2016-02-14)
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