February is coming to an end and spring is just around the corner. That means the rush is about to begin for many small businesses ranging from accountants and tax preparers to lawn services, landscapers, house painters, window installers, pool maintenance services, camps, and other spring and summer seasonal industries. So now is the time to get ready, because indications are that you may be in for a great year.
A recent Bloomberg post cited a 5.5% rise in property values since 2011, record low mortgage rates, and a significant decrease in the number of people underwater on their mortgages, as the driving forces behind a spring hiring spree by home-improvement giants Home Depot and Lowes. Home Depot plans to hire 80,000 mostly temporary seasonal workers in 2013, which is a 14% increase over 2012. Lowes plans to boost its seasonal hiring by 13%.
Even if your small business is far removed from home-related services, you can use the same strategies the big guys do when staffing-up for your busy season: temporary workers. These workers can be people your company recruits and hires directly, independent contractors, or employees you get from a temporary staffing agency.
While tax preparation is probably not one of the most enjoyable things you need to handle as a small business owner, it is one of the necessities. If you have prepared well during the year then actually getting your returns filed will be considerably easier. If you have not, then now is a great time to start.
The Internal Revenue Service offers a free Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop that is designed to help small business owners understand tax rules, regulations, and procedures. The course is constructed to provide a new entrepreneur with the basic information needed when a business is first started, and to provide help with new tax requirements that become relevant as a business grows.
Is your small business taking advantage of the visual web? If not it should be. Today, effective marketing is more than just great copy accented by a related image. Images and video are fast becoming central to the message. Infographics are being used to tell the story, not just illustrate it. Pinterest and Instagram are now valuable direct marketing tools. Video for everything from customer testimonials to product demonstrations is now an essential component of every business website. And an online marketing program is not complete without video postings to Google-owned YouTube.
The following tools will help you simply and easily create visual content for your small business:
The ability to take an idea and turn it into a company is a large part of what makes small businesses succeed. But initial success is just the first hurdle. As a small business owner, it is important to seek out and embrace the changes required to provide the best possible products and services to your customers. To stay ahead you need to think ahead, and you need to build and lead a team that is up to the challenge. 99U provides resources that can help you do just that.
The site takes its name from Thomas Edison’s famous quote that “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,” and aims to be the university of that 99 percent. It is sponsored by Behance, which is an online platform for artists’ work to be showcased and purchased. The stated purpose of 99U is to “focus on what happens after inspiration — researching the forces that truly push ideas to fruition” providing resources that help you move “beyond idea generation into idea execution.”
If you are like many small business owners, you wear multiple hats and often find yourself with too much to do and too few hours in the day. Your team is likely just as dedicated and busy. So how can you help yourself and your team relax and ease the feeling of having too little time to get everything done? According to a recent study, encouraging them to take altruism breaks each day works wonders.
An altruism break is taking time out of the day to do something for someone else, such as writing an encouraging letter to a sick child or performing a non-work related service for a customer. The study, Giving Time Gives You Time, from researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard found that such breaks provide a feeling of “self-efficacy” and productivity that spending time on oneself does not.
Tips and resources for using conferences and other speaking opportunities to promote your small business
As a small business owner, one of your many responsibilities is to be the public face of your company. You are likely already the key customer relationship manager. But to grow your small business you need to be its champion and lead promoter as well. One effective way to do this is to attend and actively participate in conferences related to your industry. Another is to give educational talks to groups of potential customers.
The following tips and resources will help you find conferences and speaking opportunities relevant to your business and your expertise, and they also will help you land speaking engagements.
Hopefully your small business is off to a great start in 2013. If it is, you may be thinking about adding new team members. Making the right hires can help energize your business and propel it to the next level. Making the wrong hiring choice can drain time, money, and energy from your team and drive away your true superstars.
So whether you are about to make the big leap and hire your first employee or add to an established team, the following resources provide help with the entire hiring process, from where to look for great candidates, to what to ask during interviews, to how to make the final decision.
Understanding your competitive environment is essential to helping your small business succeed. Large companies spend considerable time and money on business intelligence, but small companies often do not have the resources required to undertake this type of comprehensive research. To address this gap, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) contracted with SizeUp, a business intelligence company, to offer its users free access to the SizeUp Business Analysis Tool.
This tool enables small business owners to benchmark their company against competitors in their region, locate new customers and suppliers, and identify the best markets for advertising.