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End of Holidays Doesn’t Halt Small-Business Beef with Amazon App

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The small-business community has enjoyed an anything-but-cordial relationship with Amazon. com since the e-commerce pioneer launched in 1995. Beyond the challenge Amazon poses to traditional bricks-and-mortar stores simply by virtue of its size and presence, many small-business owners assert that Amazon has an unfair advantage in the marketplace because the online retailer presently isn-t required in most states to collect sales tax.

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How to Run a Small Business While Traveling the World

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Betsy and Warren Talbot (pictured) wanted to travel the world for five years. In order to live their dream, they got rid of most of their possessions, including their house, and saved more than $50,000 over two years. They left Seattle in October 2010, after packing everything they still owned into two 65-pound backpacks. They took Warren’s small business, a newly created website-development firm called MWL Development, with them, too.

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4 Tips for Greening Your Packaging and Shipping Practices

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As many small businesses wrap up their busiest weeks of the year for packaging and shipping, now is a perfect time to examine ways to make your operations more efficient and eco-friendly. Here are four tips for greening your packaging and shipping practices from the Green Business Bureau.

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Green Giving for Small Businesses

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The end of the year is approaching, and you’re in need of some last-minute gifts for vendors, clients, or staff. Consider green giving. Sustainable gifts help you demonstrate your company’s commitment to environmentally sound practices — and lead by example. They also provide opportunities to market your business while making a difference.

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How to Drive Comments to Your Blog Without Driving Yourself Crazy

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For hard-core blogging enthusiasts in the small-business world, seeing a big, fat, glaring zero in their blog-s reader comments section can be as painful as a goose egg in their checking account balance. That’s because the most in-demand blogs today are those that maintain a robust, engaged readership that drives traffic — and offers repeat marketing opportunities. Reader comments are essential, experts assert.

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How (And Why) to Cross-Train Employees

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Managers are often guilty of compartmentalizing their staff into silos: Bob handles the phones, while Sally boxes the widgets. This can work well… until Sally gets sick and Bob gets bored. If one staff member is out for an extended absence, your business can suddenly be hamstrung because no one else knows how to do his or her job.

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10 Helpful Blogs About Health Care Benefits

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As a small-business owner, you have a lot on your plate, from marketing your services to managing your cash flow. Add employee health care benefits to the mix, and you may feel as if your plate is overflowing. The Intuit Small Business Blog rounded up 10 helpful blogs about health care benefits to support you in becoming more informed about your options.

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The Do-s and Don-ts of Dealing with Deadbeat Clients

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Do you typically bill clients and receive payment only after completing projects? If so, you may sometimes find yourself waiting for checks long past their due dates. How do you deal with the deadbeats? Here are some do’s and don’ts of getting paid what you’re owed.

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5 Health Care Benefit Resources for Small Businesses

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The U. S. health care industry is undergoing a transformation. As legislation, incentives, and benefits roll out over the next few years, small businesses should seize the opportunities created by health care reform, including new and more affordable options for insurance coverage.

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In the Trenches: How to Treat the Media

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This last week, we had someone sign up for our service who writes a blog about air travel. Often, people won-t tell you when they-re trying your service out in order to write about it, but in this case, he told us right away that was his plan. That, of course, left us with a question. Should we treat him differently?

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How To Manage Inventory in a Seasonal Business

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When I was working part-time in a stationery store during my college years, I remember taking inventory of all of the store-s Christmas merchandise during one warm April afternoon. I didn’t realize it then, but my boss had empowered me to manage the inventory of his most lucrative seasonal business.

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Brewing Up a Niche Coffee-Roasting Business in the Shadow of Starbucks

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When Pat and John Curry launched Buona Caffe, a specialty coffee-roasting company in Augusta, Ga., as a part-time venture in 2009, each entrepreneur had a “regular” job. Pat worked as a freelance writer, John as a newspaper photographer. But after John was laid off in 2009 and again in 2011 , the couple accelerated its plans to make the coffee-roasting business a full-time endeavor.

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No Glitter or Highlights Needed for This Buzzed-About Beauty Website

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House of Mikko, which lets women recommend beauty products to one another, gets the kind of buzz and user interaction on its website that most businesses dream about: With a simple landing page and low-budget marketing campaign, the company grew its community of users from 100 beta testers to nearly 10,000 members within a few months. The company now boasts more than 82,000 fans on its Facebook page, too.

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Small Business Spotlight Get Organized Now!

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In the first of an ongoing series of interviews showcasing small business success stories, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Gracia of Get Organized Now! As a Professional Organizer, Maria’s business helps people organize their homes, offices, and schedules to free up more time to spend on things they love. What I found particularly interesting was Maria’s willingness to shift away from a traditional client-service role in her business. Embracing the internet as an information channel has dramatically increased Maria’s worldwide market of people she helps with her organizing methods, services and tips.

Following is the transcript of my interview with Maria…

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Small Business Association Loans Give Your Small Business an Advantage

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Business owners know that it can be challenging to get the capital needed to keep a business healthy. It can be especially difficult for small business owners working with a limited credit history who need to grow beyond their current size or location to stay competitive. However, thanks to the government, small business owners have a major advantage when it comes to borrowing. The Small Business Association (SBA) works with banks to offer loans that are either partially or fully guaranteed by the government. In many cases, without this backing, these loans would not be available to businesses that critically need them.

Take advantage of financing with an SBA 504 Loan, an SBA Express Loan or an SBA 7(a) Loan

If you own a small business and are looking for a loan to help you purchase equipment, expand your office space, build a new facility or obtain working capital – consider these small business loan options:

SBA 7(a) loan program: An SBA 7(a) loan is a great borrowing option for businesses with less established credit histories. This loan may make up to $5,000,000 available to improve cash flow, acquire equipment, purchase real estate or access working capital. SBA 7(a) loans are especially ideal for businesses that operate heavily in the export business, operate in a rural area, are just being established or are undergoing an expansion.

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What Small-Business Owners Need to Know about Health Care Benefits

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Offering comprehensive benefits to employees can help you attract, hire, and retain the best workers. Yet many small-business owners believe that health care insurance is a luxury they can’t afford. The good news: Thanks to new incentives, tax credits, industry reform, and nontraditional plans, health care insurance may be within reach.

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In the Trenches: What to Give Employees for the Holidays?

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It-s that time of year again; it-s time to think about holiday gifts. It-s hard enough to figure out what to get for family and friends at this time of year, but as a small business owner, I find it even more difficult to know what to get for the people that make the business run as well as it does.

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In the Trenches: Recognizing Our Own Recognition

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In the December issue of Conde Nast Traveler, I was named one of the Top Travel Specialists in 2011 for my work with Cranky Concierge. That-s a tremendous honor, but it left me wondering: What-s the best way to talk about it?

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Small Town Business Ideas

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Looking for small town business ideas? You may love living in your small town, but also want to start a business.

Will big city ideas work in a small town that has a smaller customer base?

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Learn How to Grow Your Small Business with These Four Tips

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Five years ago you had a great idea for a small business. Four years ago you earned your first dollar, and last year you finally got out of the red. How do you continue to grow your business, make sure that you’re able to pay off debts and keep those profits rolling? Growing a small business has a lot to do with knowing your market, your community, your message, and your product. If you’ve made it this far, you probably have a good handle on things. Now, you need to figure out not only how to maintain your success, but also how to grow your business even more. Here are four tips to help you as you expand.

Know your target market: Before you can begin to advertise, you need to have a strong understanding of your target market. Who are your key consumers and what makes them happy? Talk to your regulars and see what they want for your business, then compare that to your personal business plan. Never stop advertising: How you advertise will depend a lot on what you sell, but one thing is universal. You don’t want to become complacent. Making sure your logo is unique and modern is important, but it’s more important to have it speak to what you do. You also need to be present in different media forms with print ads, radio and TV ads, signs and more.Be creative: Look for innovative ways to be a voice of experience and draw in customers:
    Offer your appetizers at a wine tasting. Sponsor a charity event. Supply the centerpieces for a dinner.
Create an online presence: Growing a small business these days means creating a blog, posting news and reviews your customers are looking for, offering coupons on Social Media sites and more. Plus, having an online presence can help you engage with your current fan base and expand to reach new customers.Be involved in your community: Customer loyalty is important when growing a small business. Create deals designed to reward return customers and work collaboratively with other small business owners in your community. If you are concerned you don’t have the cash to fund the advertising you need, consider a small business Express Loan, or soliciting the aid of local college students. Young business majors crave hands-on experience and will jump at the chance to prove themselves for your company.Constantly innovate: Whether you’re inventing new products, creating new recipes or designing new clothes, growing a small business requires continual research and re-design.Carefully consider your location: Are you looking to expand your business? If you have a strong bottom line, you can consider franchising your business or opening a new location with managers you trust. Finding the right place to set up shop means looking at more than the rent check. Look for a location close to your target market that you can easily design to match your brand. Then, when it comes to financing your expansion, consider the SBA 7(a) loan program.

Plan your growth carefully to ensure you’re ready for the future

As you consider how to grow your business, make sure you have the employees, suppliers and financing to expand. Will you need inventory loans? Do you have the time and energy to train new managers? Does the timing and location match up with your long-term business plan? If your answer to these questions is yes, speak to your lender to determine which financing option is the best for growing a small business.

This guest post is courtesy of Amber Evanston from Citizens Bank ®

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5 Ways to Care for Your Employees- Emotions

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Everyone appreciates a cheerful co-worker, but employees often experience negative feelings on the job, too. Episodes of depression, anxiety, or anger can affect your company’s bottom line: The World Health Organization estimates that 35 to 45 percent of workplace absenteeism can be attributed to mental distress. Meanwhile, researchers at Tel Aviv University found that those who described a workplace as “emotionally non-supportive” were 2.4 times more likely to die over the study’s 20-year period, The New York Times reports. Questions posed by researchers included whether or not subjects viewed supervisors and peers as approachable and friendly.

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Buss Fitness Wins $25,000 Intuit Hiring Grant

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October was the start of the largest small business grant competition to date on LoveALocalBusiness. com. Intuit is sponsoring $100,000 in Intuit Hiring Grants to help small businesses hire the help that they need. Over 300 fans voted for our October winner, Buss Fitness, a provider of fitness classes in Northfield, Ohio. They were randomly selected to win a $25,000 grant. They are also the first Finalist who may win the additional Grand Prize that increases their grant to $50,000.

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4 Things to Know Before Hosting a Holiday Party

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You’re hosting an office holiday party to celebrate the company’s recent success and enter 2012 on a high note. Like any business event, you’ll want to plan carefully to ensure it’s a hit (and not a fiasco). Here are four tips for keeping the festivities professional, responsible, and enjoyable for everyone.

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Getting Your Small Business Noticed

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Visibility is essential for the success of any business. Without the proper advertising, it’s hard for a company to stand out amidst the competition. One of the most effective tools for keeping a high profile business is effectively displaying their company outside. However, some signs can’t grab enough attention from people to generate business. Even the best conventional signs can always be improved to help draw more attention and overall become more prominent.

Simple

An important strategy to improve visibility in an outdoor sign is simplification. Avoid using lengthy headlines, and keep the font basic but bold. Include the name of your business and basic contact information, but don’t go into wordy details regarding your company’s services. Wherever possible, try to use interesting and memorable graphics to convey your ideas. To make a lasting impression, the images on your sign should draw on the reader’s emotions or sense of humor.

Easy on the eyes

By using contrasting and vivid foreground and background colors you can really create an ad that demands attention. A white background provides a clutter-free canvas to place your eye-catching ad. However, you should use a dark color for text on a white background. Consider the flow of your advertisement as well. The focus should be on the headline initially, and the imagery should smoothly connect to it.

Lights

Using various forms of lighting can make an outdoor sign pop. Neon and fluorescent signs are the standards for many companies, but LED backlit signs are increasing in popularity. These signs illuminate your message with high-intensity lighting that doesn’t fade in the sunlight. You can also power your lighted signs using solar panels, which saves money and helps your bottom line.

Unique

You can capture the attention of potential customers by using distinctive advertising as well. Placing a monument sign outside your business can drastically improve your visibility. Additionally, signs that have interesting shapes or curved faces instantly catch the eye. Using a multi-message prismatic display will also draw immediate attention to your business. These signs use motion to entice viewers and encourage brand recollection. They also increase the number of messages that can be shown on a single sign.

Outdoor signs that stand out visually can be effective marketing tools for sparking interest in your business. Signs and billboards can increase community awareness, announce store openings, detail the types of services provided, and promote special sales. By improving the visibility of your outdoor signs, you can stimulate business, increase sales and help your company thrive.

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How to Find the Sweet Spot When Setting Prices

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Price setting involves various factors, from analyzing and predicting consumer behavior to more pragmatic approaches like pricing a product in line with the competition, regardless of the differences in perceived value. Whichever method you use, one thing is clear: The way you set your prices will greatly determine how profitable your business becomes.

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-Tis the Season: The Holidays Kick into High Gear

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With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, the holiday season is officially upon us. It-s a -make or break- time of year for many small businesses, so how promising does this season look? In this infographic, we examine the 2011 holiday season forecast and review the numbers from years past. Click the infographic for an enlarged view.

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Creative Business Ideas

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Are you looking for creative business ideas? Many people want to make money from home and look for innovative ways to use their skills whilst developing a viable business.

While many home business ideas develop from providing technical skills and services, others businesses come from various arts and crafts.

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5 Ways to Grow a Rural Business

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Healthy rural economies depend on small-town entrepreneurs, and both politicians and nonprofit organizations have programs to help grow rural businesses. Rural entrepreneurship appears to be on the rise. The U. S. Small Business Administration in November sponsored its first Rural Young Entrepreneur Summit — an event designed -to strengthen entrepreneurial culture in rural America.- In October, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation launched a $3 million initiative to encourage the development of innovative enterprise in rural communities in Maine.