Every business owner wants to cultivate a loyal customer base and avoid toxic relationships. But B.J. Bueno, founder and managing partner of The Cult Branding Company in Orlando, says doing so is not easy; it requires disciplined brand management and employee buy-in. He spoke recently with Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein about strategies that entrepreneurs with limited resources can employ to cope with brand fanatics and brand detractors. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
Karen E. Klein: What causes customers either to fall in love with a small business or to hate it?
B.J. Bueno: Feeling is the beginning. A transactional customer looks for cheaper prices. He is thinking when he is shopping—as opposed to being guided by his feelings. If your product is a commodity, for your customers, it will be like going to the supermarket.
Most small businesses can’t afford to compete on the commodity level. They want customers who become brand believers. Now you’re in a different realm, where the consumer feels first and thinks later.
Angry customers can become aggressive about spreading bad faith through word of mouth or online. What triggers someone to act out a vendetta against a small business?
To read more of this Business Week article click here.
FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s), an operating company of FedEx Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 89.25, -0.12, -0.13%) , today released the results of its third annual Signs of the Times national small business survey, just ahead of National Small Business Week. The study found that small business owners are eager to lead the charge out of the country’s protracted recession — with almost three-quarters (72 percent) saying they will be the driving force behind the U.S. economic recovery in 2010. In fact, 51 percent of the small business owners polled say their businesses have already or will fully recover by the end of this year.
This optimism is a marked improvement over the survey’s findings last year, when 54 percent of respondents indicated they were very concerned about the economy’s impact on their business. Further evidence of this brighter outlook is that 18 percent of small businesses are considering an increased budget for staffing and HR activities in 2010, up from just 9 percent last year.
To read more of this Market Watch article click here.
With 2009 tax season just over for many business owners, it’s time to look ahead to the wide variety of new tax rules owners might take advantage of in 2010.
On healthcare reform, the IRS plans to send postcards to 175,000 tax professionals to educate them about the Health Care Tax Credit, and will hold 1,000 workshops for interested business owners. The credit covers 35 percent of health insurance costs now, and rises to 50 percent in 2014. It’s good for businesses with fewer than 25 workers who earn an average salary of $50,000 or less. The credit’s a bit complicated and works on a sliding scale depending on company and salary size.
To read more of this Entrepreneur blog article click here.
Seventy-nine percent of small businesses revealed a confident to neutral outlook for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months, according to the Small Business Attitudes & Outlook Survey conducted by Constant Contact(R), Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!ctct/quotes/nls/ctct (CTCT 23.28, +0.09, +0.39%) , a leading provider of email marketing, event marketing, and online survey tools for small organizations. Constant Contact conducted the survey in collaboration with other small business advocates, including the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), SCORE, and the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) — all of which are organizations dedicated to the success of small businesses.
Key findings from this survey of nearly 7,000 small business respondents are:
– Small businesses anticipate growth in 2010
– Small businesses are doing more with less
– Small businesses look for new efficiencies as costs increase
– Small businesses question government support
To read more of this Market Watch article click here.
Current recession made many small businesses rethink how they do business and forced them to make changes. Most cut costs to keep doors open. Some decided that the fight is not worth and closed their operations. Others run out of money and quit. In conversations with Alpha Business Bridge during December 2009 almost all wished the economy to stabilize.
Since the beginning of 2010 the economic conditions are slowly improving. As some business owners stated “people are tired of postponing purchases”. However, very few see return to pre-recession sales levels any time soon. Yet, new demand helps businesses stay solvent and make spotty profits. In this situation some owners already are plotting the next move.
Better established businesses consider expanding. This is good news because just six months ago no one ventured to even think about. They realized that the environment is changing and operations have to upgrade accordingly. What is interesting is that the help is coming from internal networks rather than from open market searches.
Certainly, current recession forces many changes on small business. Resilience and resourcefulness will help many of them to weather these difficult times.
Small-business owners are being warned about a wave of scams, exorbitant fees and abusive marketing tactics related to federally guaranteed loan programs.
As lenders and borrowers slowly return to the loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, some are complaining about such abuses, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General warns.
Among the complaints:
* Firms charging small businesses high fees to provide assistance in applying for SBA loans. The allegations include guarantees that a business will get a loan if it pays the fee. SBA says it does not endorse or give preference to specific private companies or their clients.
* Firms call offering assistance and ask for the business’ bank account and routing information and then charging for services never requested. (Never give social security numbers, bank account information or credit card numbers especially to inbound callers.)
* Firms tell owners that they will be issued a “forfeiture letter,”making their business ineligible for any SBA funding for three years if the owners refuse to use the firm’s services.
To read more of this The Orange County Register article click here.
David Harmer didn’t think he’d have a problem getting a $50,000 line of credit for his 33-year-old air-conditioning business.
First Class of Cape Coral, Fla., was profitable. Harmer’s net worth was $2 million, and he’d never been late with a loan payment.
But Florida Gulf Bank denied his application last summer, saying First Class’ balance sheet didn’t show a profit. Harmer explained he reclassifies company earnings as his wages at year’s end to lower his taxes, a technicality that hadn’t posed a problem for his previous credit lines at other banks.
To read more of this USA Today article click here.
One trend is clearly visible today. Hi rents are driving many small businesses out of existence in the Pasadena area. The affected groups are restaurants, retail and service establishments. Landlords in the area are not as sensible to small businesses as their counterparts from the beach cities. The result is that many establishments are replaced with For Rent signs.
An unscientific survey among local business owners reveals that loss of revenue and high rent are the main reasons driving them out of business. Today’s bad economy does not produce high revenues. Vast majority of businesses are affected.
While property owners in the affluent coastal areas responded with lowering the rent rates to $1.50 – $2.50 per square feet, tenants in the Pasadena area do not feel the same effect. Many landlords still hope that the economy will turn around soon and business will continue as usual. The result of this thinking is visible in many for rent signs.
Current econimic conditions are challenging for both tenants and lendlords. Obviously, the former cannot support break even or money loosing businesses indefinately. It is interesting to see for how long the later can afford to have empty spaces.
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Nine of the largest banks to receive money through the government’s $700 billion financial market rescue program cut back lending to small businesses in January.
The total volume of small-business loans outstanding at the banks fell 1% in January, the U.S. Treasury said in a report released late Monday. New loan originations for small businesses dropped 28%.
Meanwhile, total average loan balances at the institutions rose 2% to $1.064 trillion in January. Overall new loan originations were down 35%.
To read more of this NASDAQ article click here.
Ryan Fochler’s life changed six years ago when he left his job in the computer industry to buy an Arlington County-based dog-walking business with $50,000 in personal savings and a home-equity line of credit. The firm grew quickly, with revenue more than doubling each year. By 2008, Fochler was ready to expand the business into a full-fledged pet day-care service called Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws.
The only problem was money.
To read more of this Washington Post article click here.