This Week in Small Business

Since 1994, I’ve been running my own small business (it’s a consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management). In the early years, the best way to get information was by reading a few self-help business books and visiting a couple of Web sites once in a while. Now it seems as if there are a million Web sites and books and experts all trying to tell me how to succeed. And another million bloggers and pundits interpreting the daily political, economic and cultural news and events that affect my company.

What small-business owner has the time to sort through all of this stuff? Well, now that The New York Times has enlisted me as a blogger, I guess I do. I’m going spend the time each week and summarize everything that’s happening that affects my business. I’m going to highlight the best commentary from smart people who will help me understand these events. I’ll add a few of my own comments. This exercise, I hope, will help me run my business better. Perhaps it will help yours, too.

Welcome to Dashboard.

STILL A BUYER’S MARKET A big job-creating program that was part of the last year’s stimulus bill is expiring soon, which could mean even more people will be unemployed. “The federal program has helped employ nearly 130,000 adults and has paid for nearly an equal number of summer jobs for young people, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal policy institute in Washington.” But wait… a new report by the Conference Board says that online job demand has increased by 30 percent (that’s a million jobs) since the official “end” of the recession in June 2009. Even so, it looks as if unemployment is going to stay high for a while.

IT’S OVER, I TELL YOU While many were busy watching the premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” (dude, that Palin girl can move!), the government announced that the recession ended in June 2009. Don’t believe it? Neither does Steve King, a researcher who argues that for many small businesses, the recession is… not over. Back in August, Mr. King wrote about the “2 Speed Economy,” explaining that bigger companies were recovering faster than smaller ones (funny, he reached this conclusion even without visiting my company). He is now forecasting that “the small-business economy will emerge from recession by the end of this year and start to grow early next year.”

HERE’S ANOTHER BAILOUT Maybe we should stop whining about China all the time. One recent report listed 25 American products that rely on huge protective trade tariffs just to survive. (Hey! That’s the jacket I wore to every high school dance on slide No. 8.) I bet these business owners aren’t complaining about the government.

HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL MOVES FORWARD Some key provisions of the health care plan have kicked in. NPR has an interesting interview transcript that reviews the changes for both individuals and businesses. You might want to point your employees to this summary of the bill, too. Many business owners are still grumbling about higher premiums. Meanwhile, a new poll says the new bill doesn’t go far enough.

NEED A TICKET? The Phillies clinched the National League East this week, which means I’m going to be paying big for playoff tickets. This report in the Harvard Business Review gives some tips on getting great ticket prices. Oh, and it helps business owners like me figure out their own pricing challenges, too. It’s useful, but do you really think a prof from Harvard is going to out-negotiate a scalper from South Philly?

SMALL-BUSINESS POLITICS Just before the Congressional recess, the small-business jobs bill was signed into law, offering incentives for banks to loan and tax breaks for businesses buying equipment. Some tax guys are gushing over it. And remember the old saying about rain being good for the farmers? This guy says the bill is too. Me? I think it’s a gimmick.

LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING Where do you want to spend your advertising dollars? With the recession behind us, a new report says that “most retailers are planning to increase spending on Internet and mobile channels over the next 12 months. In addition, most retailers are planning to advertise more aggressively during the 2010 holiday shopping season.” Don’t want to waste more money on ads? Then according to a new product by this sales training coach all you need to do is make your customers laugh more.

FEELING SICK? I’m keeping my eye on a proposed law in New York City that could, if successful, affect businesses around the country. “The bill would require businesses to provide employees up to 72 hours, or nine days, a year of sick leave. For a business with fewer than 20 workers, the maximum number of paid sick leave hours would be 40, or five days.” The costs for small businesses could be huge.

TECHNOLOGY SPENDING Happily for my business, a new survey from the tech distributor CDW predicts that information technology spending by small businesses is on the rise. Thirty-six percent of the small businesses that took part in the survey said they planned to purchase new computer hardware within the next six months and 51 percent of small businesses planned to purchase new software in the next six months. Thank you, Microsoft, for making Windows 7 and forcing the entire world to upgrade.

A NEW MARKET FOR MY PRODUCTS? Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the big picture. Scientists say they have found a new earthlike planet pretty nearby. Much like Los Angeles this past week, temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees (or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero) but in between – in the land of constant sunrise – it would be “shirt-sleeve weather,” said a co-discoverer, Steven Vogt, of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

NEW THOUGHTS ON STARTING UP What’s the outlook for people looking to start a business? A new Wharton article outlines the challenges and the hot sectors. Leonard Lodish, a Wharton marketing professor, says there has been a shift: “In 2006 and 2007 it was much easier to get funding if you had a good idea and a good track record. Now you need to demonstrate that you have a business model that really works.” The best positioned industries, apparently, are those that have continued to attract investment dollars, notably green technology and renewable energy as well as Internet-related businesses. Before launching that new venture, you may want to check out this new report on some of the worst celebrity business owners. I’ve been out for a while – any messages from Heidi Fleiss?

MOODY’S JUMPS IN This week, the credit-rating giant Moody’s announced its own Web site to provide more information specifically to small-business owners. The site “features small-business news and economic analysis and timely articles. A variety of recent credit and economic data is also available, ranging from auto and retail sales data to daily foreign exchange and mortgage rates.”

HE’S OUR GUY Representative Todd Platts, a Pennsylvania Republican, won a “Guardian of Small Business” award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses for his support of small-business legislation in the 111th Congress. Congressman Platts was awarded the award during the 110th Congress, as well. But before you get too excited, the N.F.I.B. is presenting “Guardian awards to 202 U.S. representatives who voted favorably on key small-business issues at least 70 percent of the time during the 111th Congress.” It’s like my children’s T-Ball league – almost everyone’s a winner!

A QUICKER WAY FOR US TO PAY At the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, PayPal announced a new way to make deposits using “mobile pictures.” The new app will allow a user to take a picture of the front and back of a check with your iPhone camera, and it will be added to your PayPal balance. Great, here’s my first entry.

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A Harmonized Display of All Asian Lifestyles – The Asian Civilizations Museum

The Asian Civilizations Museum is the most significant museum in Singapore, exhibiting a wide range of cultures, traditions and lifestyles of the Asian community that’s very much a part of the country’s history. The museum is managed by the National Heritage Board.

People who came to settle in Singapore over the last 200 years have brought various cultures along with them. Thus their customs are a mixture of uniqueness and antiquity. This is one of the key features that ACM has concentrated upon. You will therefore find that the collection exhibited in ACM has a variety of antiques depicting the traditions and backgrounds of natives coming from China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia.

The Asian Civilizations Museum’s focus is on the legacy of the Asian ethnicity. The first building, Peranakan Museum, situated at Armenian Street, has been painstakingly and carefully restored and it dates back to 1910. This museum is abode to the highly praised eternal exposition of the Peranakan Legacy, which displays the affluent heritage of the Peranankans from the Straits Settlements and the Indonesian Archipelago. The features include the famous batik, embroidery and beadwork collections. You also get a peek at the lovely silver and porcelain pieces.

Another wing of the ACM museum was inaugurated in February 2003 after massive restoration, and it is located at Empress Place. It covers three levels and showcases thematic colonnades that exhibit cultural heritage of India, China, Southeast Asia and the Islamic World. Modern exhibits plus the competitive and simple to understand technologies with educational essentials are cautiously incorporated into the colonnades. A center that is specially committed to the young visitors is also a part of this museum. The grand exhibitions can be displayed in the unique exhibition gallery. Value is added to these displays by the tassel events that depict the traditions and the customs.

While you are in Singapore on vacation or business, don’t forget to take a step into the Asian Civilizations Museum. If you are staying at a hotel, Singapore attractions and activity details can often be obtained from the front desk.

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An Overview of Herbal Incense and the Products Offered by Redback Incense

Herbal incense has been used for thousands of years, both for ritualistic and for religious purposes. Nowadays, it is mainly used for relaxation purposes especially since many of the ancient ritualistic practices have become obsolete. Incense has survived the test of time, and Redback Incense is committed to delivering high-quality products across the United States, Australia as well as certain countries in Europe such as Norway, Romania, Denmark, Sweden and others. It usually takes a maximum of three days until the orders are available.

What Is Legal Herbal Incense Used For?

As the name implies, herbal incense supplements are entirely legal and safe to use (despite the fact that the laws and regulations may slightly vary from one country to another and from one state to another) and they are aimed to help your body relax and to align your spiritual elements. Legal herbal incense is used for recreational purposes, as they create a pleasant, healthy and relaxing environment at home, where you can let off some steam and put your thoughts in order. In other words, legal herbal incense promotes physical, mental and emotional balance and delivers an overall feeling of well-being.

What Does Redback Incense Have to Offer?

Redback Incense delivers top-notch legal herbal incense at the most affordable prices. The company always collects the incense from trustworthy and legal sources that are controlled on a regular basis, just to make sure that the products are always safe for human use. Redback Incense commercializes a wide array of flavors and products, and it delivers good value for one’s hard earned money.

The herbal incense provided by Redback Incense aims to help the consumer relax and connect with the nature, so that he can “recharge his batteries” in a natural and safe way and draw energy from the nature. These herbs are pleasurable legal highs that are safer, cheaper and legal, unlike many illicit substances that can wreak havoc on your health (and on your freedom as well) in the long haul.

 However, the products sold by Redback Incense can be used for a variety of purposes, not solely for personal recreations Рthey are often a great addition to ceremonial events and various religious practices, where legal herbal incense is used to enhance the spiritual experiences.

An Introduction to the Legal Highs Offered by Redback Incense

If you have decided to give Redback incense a try, you should know that the company commercializes a wealth of different products. For further

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Start a Business – What Type of Company Should You Form?

Choose An Entity Type

When you initially form a new company, you need to consider what type of legal entity to utilize. Here are some of the most common examples:

  • LLC – Limited liability companies are some of the easiest to setup and maintain, and are pass-through entities. This means that the  profit and loss from the business passes through to the individual owners on their personal tax returns. LLCs can be good for owning assets such as real estate because of protections they offer with “charging orders”.
  • S-Corporation – An S-corporation has many of the tax benefits of a C-corporation, but has passthrough taxation. This means that the profit and loss from the business passes through to the individual owners on their personal tax returns. You can elect S-corporation status by filing a simple document with the IRS after forming a corporation in your state.
  • C-Corporation – A C-corporation is the entity structure of companies publicly traded on the stock exchange. It provides the maximum amount of deductions for fringe benefits, and a low corporate tax rate for a small corporation. However, it is the hardest to set up and maintain, and also has doubletaxation. Double taxation means that the earnings are taxed at the corporate level first, and then on the individual tax returns of the stockholders.
  • General Partnership – This is a partnership between multiple owners, but all partners equally share in the liability, ownership, and profits.
  • Limited Liability Partnership – This is a partnership between multiple owners that offers the ability for some partners to have limited liability, as well as limited input on management decisions.
  • Sole Proprietor – This is where you just operate in your own name, or you personally do business as (DBA) another name that has not been officially formed as one of the other entity types (and thus it is just you using an alias). Many people think that by registering a DBA certificate with their local county office gives them a legal entity structure, but it does not. It is just an assumed name for your sole proprietorship. (Note that corporations and other entities can file DBA’s with their Secretary of State, but that is different than what is meant here).

Each of these entity types have their pros and cons. Think long and hard before operating as a sole proprietor. The reason is because a sole proprietorship subjects you to complete personal liability. This means that if your business is sued, your house, your car, your personal savings, and pretty much everything else are at risk. Consider forming an entity that provides an additional level of protection for your personal assets.

Note that each state has different laws on entity types, and you should determine what your options are for the state in which you plan to form your company. Consult an attorney if your questions are not answered from your own research.

You can find out what entity structures are available by visiting the Secretary of State (SOS) web site for the state in which you plan to form the company. We have spent a lot of effort creating an index for you of all of the Secretary of State web sites across America (on our site below). Before proceeding to the next step, check out your respective SOS web site to research what type of legal structure may be best for your type of business.

Brainstorm Entity Names

Once you have determined the legal entity type to use, brainstorm on some names for your company. Write down 3-5 names now. In a later step, we will illustrate how to pick the best name.

  1. Search Secretary of State – Search to see if your name is available on the Secretary of State web site for your company’s home state. If no, you need to cross that name off of your list. The reason is because the SOS will not let you form a company with that name, regardless of whether the existing company is in your industry or not. In other words, that name is taken, and cannot be registered again in that state.
  2. Search United States Patent & Trademark Office – Search to see if anyone else has a trademark registered with the USPTO that is identical or similar to your name. If so, is it a really famous brand, or are they in a similar industry such that your customers may also be their customers for similar products? If yes to either question, then you should cross that name off your list to err on the side of caution. If not, proceed with step 3 to do further research on the current name.
  3. Search State Trademark Register – Does anyone else have a trademark registered with the Trademark Register for the state in which you plan to form the company? Each state maintains a trademark register for businesses who have registered that name in the state. You should repeat step 2, but for your state.
  4. Search The Search Engines – You should search one or more search engines such as Google, MSN, and Yahoo to see if anyone in your industry is already using the name.

Form the Legal Entity

Now that you have chosen the type of legal entity, and have determined what name to use for your company, it is time to file the papers with the Secretary of State of the state in which you plan to organize the company. Note that the state in which you form the

company does not have to be the same state in which you live. Some states have more corporate friendly laws than others. However, such an explanation is beyond the scope of this blueprint.

You have several options for getting the company formed. You can hire an attorney, fill out the paperwork yourself from the SOS web site, or hire another third party service such as American Incorporators. to file the papers for you. There are many other companies, such as Socrates Media and Legal Zoom who sell forms to help you do the formation yourself.

Obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service

As soon as you get confirmation from your state SOS that the company has been officially formed, you should obtain an Employer Identification number from the IRS. Sign up for an EIN on the IRS web site, or by calling the EIN department at: (800) 829-4933.

An EIN is a social security number for a business. You will need it to open bank accounts, file taxes, etc.

Obtain Other Required Licenses

You also need to make sure you have any required licenses by your state for the type of business you are operating. For example, some types of businesses must have a license before operating, such as attorneys, insurance agents, restaurants, daycares, etc. Your county government office can point you in the right direction if you are not sure.

Create the Company Record Book

It is now time to set up the company record book.

The easiest way to get your company record book created and organized is to buy one from a service such as Legal Zoom or Socrates Media. The “corporate kits” typically have a nice binder, sample forms, folders for storing the various types of documents that you should be keeping, stock certificates printed with your company name (if applicable), and so on. You will need to maintain company records over a period of time, so take the time to organize them up front. You will be glad you did.

Document Future Deadlines

In the world of entrepreneurship, you have a lot of deadlines to keep track of in order to keep the various government agencies off your back. Estimated quarterly income taxes, annual or bi-annual operating statements with your state SOS, sales tax filings, employment filings, company tax returns (in addition to your personal tax returns), etc.

Business owners typically have to file estimated quarterly taxes with both the IRS and the home state. In other words, you will need to make income tax payments throughout the year to avoid being penalized if you did not pay in enough at the end of the year. It is not enough for you to catch it up at the end of the year. They can actually penalize you for not paying it in more even installments. You can find links for the Departments of Revenue for all 50 states and the IRS on our Innoventum web site.

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How to Become a Copywriter: The Five Stage Method

This article will explain to you the same 5-step approach I implemented to become a copywriter within a few short months.

  • Study copywriting.

Learn as much as you can on the subject of copywriting before beginning your own copywriting business. You’ll want to consume as much online coaching as you possibly can. You’ll see numerous free video tutorials, posts, together with other resources online that will assist you become a copywriter. You could also visit different forums and articles on the net, and read as many books as you can. I have another video on my website which recommends the top three books that will really help you study and master copywriting.

  • Practice writing on a regular basis.

If you wish to become a good copywriter, then you will want to write frequently – if not most of the time. A terrific way to internalize another great copywriter’s skill set is to actually take some of the most successful advertising campaigns they’ve accomplished and reword them by using a pen and pad. The more you do this, the more you’re going to take up the exact writing skills and techniques of that copywriter. This is a smart way of writing without actually having a client to write for. You don’t have to get your first copywriting project before you could actually get started. Train by writing for goods that you’re knowledgeable about. This not only makes it possible to get that habit and skill of writing, but experience also. So go out there and start writing today!

  • Create a diverse portfolio.

A lot of clients that may think of hiring you are going to want to see your portfolio. If you’re a new copywriter, that’s difficult to do simply because you’re just getting started. So like I said in my previous tip, you’ll like to actually start practice copywriting. However, you have got to have a few real copywriting samples, rather than rewrites of existing marketing promotions created by well-established copywriters, to show clients.

An excellent way to accomplish that is to write for friends or acquaintances who may have businesses at no cost. That way, there’s no risk on them because you’re new, and there’s no risk on you since you’re doing work at no cost. It’s going to assist you in the long run since a great portfolio is a thing you’re going to need to present to clients to get hired.

  • Establish your business.

When I first began, I didn’t have a website or a business name; I wasn’t really incorporated. As I wasn’t setup correctly, I didn’t really have that confidence – I felt like my freelance copywriting activities were all just a pastime. Make your copywriting business official by getting a business name, a site, and a business bank account, have business cards printed, and every little thing that comes with setting up your business appropriately. When you are incorporated, you’re likely to feel a lot more at ease when you begin trying to find your first client.

  • Market your copywriting business.

An easy way to look for your first few clients is to attend activities where your prospective clients are at. Such gatherings include advertising workshops, business lunches, and networking events. Some events are free while some are paid. I’ve flown across the country as well as to other countries around the world to attend marketing events, and was able to get my first freelance copywriter jobs simply by networking. Just remember to be social and confident to approach the speakers and other attendees and hand out your business card.

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