You may know the difference between business structures, but are you aware of the financial pitfalls that you can encounter if your business is set up the wrong way? Read more to find out what these are and how to avoid them.

You may know the difference between business structures, but are you aware of the financial pitfalls that you can encounter if your business is set up the wrong way? Read more to find out what these are and how to avoid them.

 

You have a few options when it comes to organizing your legal business structure – sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation. Refresh your memory on the differences between each one and evaluate if you need to restructure or just keep an eye out for potential costs.

Please remember that this does not constitute legal advice and does not replace consulting with a qualified legal advisor. If you need help, we compiled a few affordable legal resources for you.

Taxes

Nobody wants to think about the “T” word, but it is important to consider – Get the worst out of the way first! Taxes do vary between different business structures, and you should consider costs (and hopefully savings) related to your small business’ structure.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships file business and personal taxes as one. Corporations are separate entities that require separate tax filings. Depending on your business’ structure, you will have different costs.

For example, say you are the sole proprietor or a partner. Good news: Your taxes will be simple because you report all income and expenses on your personal taxes. Corporate taxes are more complicated and may cost you from hiring a professional tax agency – and even more money if you do it yourself incorrectly. Bad news: If your business is very successful, it will raise you into a much higher income bracket than you would be if your business was a separate entity.

Liability

Along with taxes, nobody really wants to think about liability. We all dream of a perfect world where disasters, lawsuits, and bankruptcies don’t exist. But they do, and it is important to consider the possibility of liability costs when organizing your business.

Let’s return to our example of sole proprietorship. Good news: Because your business does not have stock, you are less affected by the instability of stockholders and the stock market. Bad news: If your business takes a huge loss, you are solely responsible. Bankruptcies and bad credit affect your personal financial reputation.

If you are a partner in your small business, there are additional costs if you choose the wrong person to go into business with. It may cost you more upfront to create strong partnership agreement with a lawyer, but it could save you lots of money if your partner doesn’t work out. You might even need to buy your partner out if necessary.

Overhead Expenses

Incorporating your business costs a lot of money. There are four typical fees for incorporating a business: $100-$200 for filing Articles of Incorporation, $800-$1,000 in First Year Franchise Tax for each state you do business in (except Nevada), $50-$200 in various government filings, and $500+ in attorney fees for advising and setting everything up correctly. It is possible to file for incorporation without an attorney, but if you make a mistake you could cost yourself more in the process.

Additional hidden costs of incorporating can include state-level registration, penalties for missing ever-changing state and federal regulations, acquiring U.S. citizenship, and more.

What costs the most? If incorporating is the wrong structure for your small business. All those expensive fees are unnecessary if being a sole proprietor or being in a partnership works just fine. Check out this handy chart that compares business structures. If you think your business should be a separate corporation, talk to your business mentor.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Many small businesses experience seasonal ups and downs. When your business is in a boom, you may need to hire extra help. Our content partner Nav offers tips for knowing who and how to get the best seasonal help.

Many small businesses experience seasonal ups and downs. When your business is in a boom, you may need to hire extra help. Our content partner Nav.com offers tips for knowing who and how to get the best seasonal help.

 

In some industries, the need for workers peaks during a particular time of year. Pools need lifeguards in the summer. Pumpkin patches need workers in the fall. Retailers might want to staff up for the holidays, but need few of those workers to stick around come January. Whatever your seasonal need, it can be tricky to hire temporary employees. Follow these best practices to bring in high quality, seasonal workers no matter what you need them for.

1. Don’t Overwork Your Core Employees

Before we jump into the details of hiring seasonal employees, it is important to understand why they may be needed. Seasonal employees are ideal for positions that require little training or expertise, but require a human to physically be present and do the job. Common examples are retail cashiers, farm fruit and vegetable pickers, shipping company logistics, seasonal resort positions, and tour guides.

Some of these jobs may be needed year-round. For example, big box retail stores always need cashiers and UPS always needs people to unload and load trucks. But in the holidays, these companies need far more workers than they do the rest of the year.

You may be tempted to ask your current staff to work overtime, but that may not be ideal, both for financial reasons and for team morale. Instead of making your existing employees take all of the needed extra hours, hiring seasonal help is a great strategy.

2. Balancing Budget and Quality

Overtime hours requires paying overtime wages. When your business is at peak hours, managing your budget is important. Don’t sacrifice customer service for the sake of a few bucks, but do ensure your employment costs don’t get out of control when dealing with seasonal workers.

Start by budgeting for seasonal workers in terms of dollars, then figure out what that translates to in hours. With that information in hand, it’s time to start finding workers.

Remember that hiring is like much else in business: you get what you pay for. If you budget only for minimum wage workers, expect minimum wage quality. If you are able to offer a little more, you are more likely to attract higher caliber seasonal employees. Also, keep in mind that you have to pay taxes and may have other expenses, like insurance and payroll, for each seasonal employee you hire.

3. Make Clear Guidelines

Now you should know roughly what your seasonal employees—or seasonal intern—will do, your budget, and what you can afford to pay them per hour. Now it is time to put together a job description and get ready to hire.

Make your hiring and employee guidelines crystal clear so there is no confusion and you don’t make poor hiring choices. The clearer the job description, the easier it is to hire for that role. A good job description should discourage unqualified applicants and tell anyone what to expect in a day’s work.

Your job description may be published online, added to a print out, or passed out at a job fair. Make sure it is well written, easy to understand, and sufficiently detailed to explain to someone why this may or may not be the right role for them.

4. Join a Career Fair or Host Your Own

Now it’s time to hire your seasonal workers! You have a few great options to bring in potential workers for your seasonal needs. Here are a few popular examples:

  • Online advertising: Post your position on a site like Craigslist, Monster.com, Indeed, CareerBuilder, or elsewhere to get maximum exposure to job hunters on the internet.
  • Career fairs: Buy a table at an upcoming local career fair to meet potential hires in person. Local newspapers, nonprofits, and government organizations are good places to look to find upcoming job fairs near you.
  • Hiring event: Host your own job fair when you need to hire workers in bulk. Set up an efficient operation where workers can apply, interview, and get hired on the spot.

There is no right or wrong way to handle this, just try to stay efficient to avoid wasting time and money. Don’t forget your own network as a source for workers too. Friends who run businesses may know workers looking for a temporary job, and nepotism is perfect for bringing on part-time, seasonal employees on the cheap.

Another great option is to incentivize current employees for successful referrals. Offering a $50 bonus or a gift card might be enough to get your existing team exciting about the process, making your job easier.

5. Stay on the Right Side of the Law

However you decide to hire, make sure to stay compliant with all labor laws. Do not hire “contractors” for jobs that clearly require W-2 employees. Read up on child labor laws. Always follow the law to avoid issues that could require paying fines, big legal costs, or could even threaten to shut your business down for good.

Employee labor laws are extensive and can be confusing. If you are unsure or uncomfortable, consider a session with a local labor attorney to ensure you are doing things by the book, or read into laws for your city, state, and the Federal government.

Go Forth and Hire

If your employee needs seasonal labor, you can absolutely tap into the local labor market for great results. If a small investment in labor costs will lead to big results for the bottom line, there is no reason you should avoid or be scared off from temporary hires. As long as you follow the law, your budget, and stick with an efficient and effective hiring process, seasonal workers could be a path to sustainable results year after year. And that is what business is all about.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

With wide-spread home internet and decreasing public funding, libraries may seem like a relic of the past. But these local hubs of knowledge still offer amazing, completely free resources that you can use to grow your business. This is your toolbox for five free ways the library helps entrepreneurs.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your toolbox for five free ways the library helps entrepreneurs.

With wide-spread home internet and decreasing public funding, libraries may seem like a relic of the past. But these local hubs of knowledge still offer amazing, completely free resources that you can use to grow your business. This is your toolbox for five free ways the library helps entrepreneurs.

 

Amenities

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Libraries almost all offer free Wi-Fi, computer access, meeting rooms, and inexpensive printers and faxes. If your small business is home-based or if you just need a quiet space to get work done, your local library has many amenities for you to use.

Workshops and Classes

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Libraries often sponsor space and resources for organizations like SCORE to host workshops, classes, and mentoring. Some even have business resource information centers which can provide you with even more resources, information, and organizations to get assistance from. Your local branch may not advertise these, so make sure to ask directly. If they don’t, consider giving back to your community and hosting one yourself for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Research

How much it costs: Free

What it does: The most obvious way libraries can help you is through their vast inventory of books, periodicals, and research librarians. If mentoring isn’t right for you – or you just want to learn for yourself – you can easily research any business topic you need to brush up on.

Advertising

How much it costs: Low-cost

What it does: Many libraries have bulletin boards that allow you to post flyers and small adverts for your small business. Some are even starting to offer low-cost advertising opportunities (such as in windows, on bookmarks, in restrooms, etc.) for local businesses to combat declining library funding. You can also host your own workshops, offer mentoring, or donate your services to other library events in exchange for getting the word out and networking with potential customers.

Fairs and Expositions

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Occasionally, a large library will host a craft fair or STEM exposition to support local businesses and library patrons. Keep an eye out for these opportunities to offer your products and connect with new audiences.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from January 18 through 31.

Every two weeks, we’re sharing and promoting free and affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from January 18 through 31.

Northern California/Sacramento

12-Week Business Planning Class
Date: Starts January 23, 2018 | 6:00 pm PDT – 9:00 pm PDT
Location: 275 5th St. San Francisco, CA 94103 (map it)
Contact: Kareen Boncales | kboncales@rencenter.org | (415) 348-6227
Organization: Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
Fee: $1000—12 week class that meets twice per week. Scholarships up to 50% and payment plans are available, based on household income. For more information on eligibility, see the scholarships page. A $40 nonrefundable application fee is required. This fee will be applied towards the class tuition if your application is accepted.

Take our 12-Week Business Planning Class and develop your business plan with confidence. This intensive class meets every Tuesday and Thursday and focuses on creating a practical and effective business plan—one of the most useful documents an entrepreneur will ever use. It is a critical management tool for feasibility analysis, operations, marketing, and finance and is necessary for accessing capital for business launch and growth.

The 12-Week Business Planning class addresses all aspects of business start up and expansion including:

  • Marketing strategies
  • Industry trend analysis
  • Operations
  • Financial projections and sales assumptions

Participants have access to industry experts, one-to-one consultations, small group interactions, financial coaching, and a business plan review session. Completing this course will help build a strong foundation necessary to embark on the exciting journey of entrepreneurship.

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to attend a Renaissance SoMa Orientation. Get more information on income verification here.

Click here to register for this event.

Small Business Meeting with Assemblymember Catharine Baker
Date: January 26, 2018 | 9:30 am PDT – 10:30 am PDT
Location: Contact samantha@csba.com for location information
Organization: California Small Business Association
Fee: Free

Assemblymember Catharine Baker will be hosting her annual small business meeting in her district on January 26 in San Ramon. The meeting is comprised of 6 to 8 local small business owners from within the district from a variety of industries. The purpose of the meeting is give small business a voice and to work with the Member to make small businesses in California stronger.

If you live or have a business in the district and would like to attend this meeting please email Samantha@csba.com.

Building a Business Website
Date: Starts January 30, 2018 | 11:00 am PDT – 1:00 pm PDT
Location: 205 Chestnut St. Mount Shasta, CA 96067 (map it)
Contact: Jenny Payton | jpayton@e-jedi.org | (530) 926-6670 ext. 10
Organization: Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI)
Fee: Free with JEDI membership

Do you want to build your own business website? Now you can in this introductory, hands-on, project based website development course for the small business owner.

Join this comprehensive class every Tuesday and plan, format, develop, and publish a basic business website using WordPress web or another web development software.

Skill learned include:

  • Developing copy
  • Adding text, images, media, widget, and navigation elements
  • Linking to other websites

Click here to register for this event.

Southern California/San Diego

Why Your Website Should be Your Top Priority
Date: January 24, 2018 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:30 pm PDT
Location: Rancho Santiago Community College District
2323 North Broadway Room 107 Santa Ana, CA 92706 (map it)
Contact: David Calderon | calderon_david@rscc.edu | (714) 564-5200
Organization: Orange County Small Business Development Center
Fee: Free

Wake up your website and drive more business! Join us to learn some of the latest best practices and techniques for making your website an effective sales tool.

Business owners should prioritize their website as the foundation of their online marketing to achieve success. This informative session will cover:

  • Mobile trends
  • Mobile-friendly websites
  • Website best practices
  • Turnoffs for visitors
  • Tips to make your website a more effective sales tool
  • Your site and HTTPS
  • Overview of Google Analytics
  • Resources for tracking and monitoring your website
  • Real world case studies and small business examples

Click here to register for this event.

Free Small Business Growth Workshop
Date: January 25, 2018 | 9:00 am PDT – 11:30 am PDT
Location: Ovitt Family Community Library
215 East C St. Ontario, CA 91764 (map it)
Contact: Denise Marquez | (909) 481-6474
Organization: Office of Norma Torres
Fee: Free

Join Congresswoman Norma Torres for a free small business growth workshop to learn how to gain access to loans in order to grow or start your business. The following organizations will be presenting at this event:

  • Opportunity Fund
  • CDC
  • Accion
  • AMPAC
  • Wells Fargo
  • SBA
  • SBDC
  • Inland Empire Women’s Business Center

Click here to register for this event.

Small Business Meeting with Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes
Date: January 26, 2018 | 9:30 am PDT – 10:30 am PDT
Location: Contact samantha@csba.com for location information
Organization: California Small Business Association
Fee: Free

Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes will be hosting her annual small business meeting in her district on January 19 in Corona. The meeting is comprised of 6 to 8 local small business owners from within the district from a variety of industries. The purpose of the meeting is give small business a voice and to work with the Member to make small businesses in California stronger.

If you live or have a business in the district and would like to attend this meeting please email Samantha@csba.com.

Virtual

Money Matters: Accessing Capital for Asian American Small Business Owners
Date: January 18, 2018 | 2:30 pm PDT – 2:45 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Geri Agilpay
Organization: Small Business Majority and National ACE
Fee: Free

Small Business Majority and the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (National ACE) invite you to join us for a free webinar on responsible ways to access capital for Asian American small businesses.

Through this webinar, Geri Aglipay of Small Business Majority and Emily Nordquist of LISC Small Business will help you understand the funding landscape to start and grow your business. Learn about safe forms of small business financing – from alternative to traditional methods –including how to navigate the growing online lending space. Dr. Karen Eng, National ACE Advisory Board member, will provide introductory comments and insight into growing a small business. This webinar is suitable for small business owners with less than 10 employees, startups, home-based operations and sole proprietors.

Topics of discussion include:

  • An overview of alternative and traditional lending options, including microloans, SBA loans, and reputable online lender
  • 5 C’s of credit
  • Key questions to consider when seeking funding
  • The Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights
  • Helpful tools and resources

Click here to register for this event.

How To Use Change Management In A Small Business Webinar
Date: January 23, 2018 | 8:00 am PDT – 9:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: (810) 767-8387
Organization: VetBizCentral
Fee: Free

Improve your small business productivity and reduce costs with change management principles in this webinar.

Join host Salahuddin Ali, a client of VetBizCentral and CEO of SLA Business Solutions, to learn how to implement industry leading change management models in your business and keep up with the changing business world.

Topics include:

  • Information technology
  • Process improvement
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Project management
  • Change management solutions

Click here to register for this event.

Digital Marketing Trends in 2018
Date: January 23, 2018 | 10:00 am PDT – 11:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: monmouthscore@gmail.com | (732) 224-2573
Organization: Monmouth (N.J.) SCORE
Fee: Free

Digital marketing is changing due to widespread ownership of smartphones, ever-increasing data and video streaming, and a cultural desire for digestible and personalized content. Do you know which trends will impact your organization in 2018?

Join us as we explore the top trends that small businesses should be paying attention to and some simple ideas for incorporating them into your overall marketing strategy:

  • Marketing automation
  • Content marketing
  • Video
  • Mobile

Click here to register for this event.


We’re looking for upcoming events to promote to small business owners like you. If you have an event you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Women in leadership roles, especially business leaders and entrepreneurs, are frequently stereotyped based on their gender. It is critical to develop your leadership skills in order to be the best boss your small business deserves.

Women in leadership roles, especially business leaders and entrepreneurs, are frequently stereotyped based on their gender. It is critical to develop your leadership skills in order to be the best boss your small business deserves.

 

Women-owned businesses – especially women of color – are the fastest growing segment of businesses. Despite this inspiring statistic provided by the U.S. Senate’s Small Business Council, women entrepreneurs still face many challenges.

If you identify as female, there is a good chance you are already aware of the unfortunate prejudice against women in leadership roles. You might have even experienced it yourself during your journey as a small business owner. “Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine,” says Dr. Tetyana Pudrovska, author and professor at the University of Texas.

We asked Opportunity Fund’s new CEO, Luz Urrutia, about her experiences as a woman entrepreneur – from overcoming personal challenges to advice to other business owners.

Manage Your Career, Know Your Strengths and Use Them Unapologetically

Luz Urrutia mentions that a lot of women “do not ask for what they want and are not intentional about developing a plan that will lead them to the leadership positions that they are fully capable of attaining with the proper mentoring and direction. As a result, they leave their careers for others to decide, ending up as spectators of their own professional future instead of the active participants they should and deserve to be.”

Some stereotypes about women are that they are more social, better able to connect emotionally, and excel at nurturing relationships. These attributes are not a disadvantage or handicap to being a great leader. In fact, this Gallup study reports that employees who work for a female manager are more engaged on average than under male managers. Despite the stereotype that men make better managers, women’s emotional intelligence and leadership styles translate into a more satisfied and productive workforce.

If you find that these attributes match the way you interact with your employees, don’t change! Don’t be afraid that your emotional intelligence is a detriment to your leadership. It is a powerful skill to inspire and connect with your employees, and workers who feel valued and appreciated are more productive and dedicated.

Connect With Women Business Leaders and Learn From Each Other

Because there is a significant unbalance of men and women in business leadership positions, you might feel isolated from other women at the top.

Finding a mentor or a sponsor can be especially hard as a woman in a leadership role. Luz agrees that finding role models can be tough but important to developing yourself and progressing in your career.

Look at this list we’ve put together for you with six amazing resources for you to find a mentor,  connect with your peers and access business development centers that will help you develop your leadership skills. This blog also publishes bi-monthly events posts, so check back regularly to find networking and learning opportunities for you as a women entrepreneur.

Take the Initiative in Your Own Business

Once you’ve found a mentor or a sponsor, networked with other women entrepreneurs, and attended leadership seminars, it’s time to bring it back to your small business.

Luz offers a few suggestions for encouraging gender equality that will bring long-term benefits to the business and to other women who may look to you as a role model.

  • Show commitment and get men involved: When employees see higher-ups prioritizing gender and racial diversity, they are more likely to be committed themselves to see the value of diversity.
  • Invest in employee training: Unconscious bias training works best when it doesn’t only raise awareness of bias but also directly encourages people to avoid thinking of others in a stereotypical way.
  • Give your managers the means to drive change: Small businesses need to make sure managers have the know-how to support women’s career development. You can also invest in formal mentorship and sponsorship programs to provide additional guidance to your female employees. Lead your business towards gender equality.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Stuck in a rut? Being a successful small business owner requires more than hard work, it involves keeping your brain sharp. Our content partner Nav explains why staying in shape is important for running a business and how to motivate yourself to keep at it.

Stuck in a rut? Being a successful small business owner requires more than hard work, it involves keeping your brain sharp. Our content partner Nav.com explains why staying in shape is important for running a business and how to motivate yourself to keep at it.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of exercise. It’s only fun if you’re playing a sport, and I’m not the most coordinated guy. I can’t even pull off a friendly fist-bump if I’m walking while I make the attempt.

Imagine how that would translate on a basketball court.

I used to get fired up about exercise all the time. I’d think, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to start lifting weights!” And I would follow through, too — for about a week.

Problem was, mornings and evenings were out for me. I’m constitutionally incapable of exercising at 5 a.m., and I’ve got a wife and six energetic daughters who’ve called dibs on my evenings.

Our Amazing Brains

Things turned around when I read a book called Brain Rules. In it, developmental molecular biologist John Medina discusses 12 discoveries in brain science that have profound ramifications for our happiness as human beings.

The one that really stood out to me was that exercise helps your thinking. Your brain has characteristics like a muscle — the quicker your body, the stronger your heart, the quicker and stronger your brain.

There are limits, of course. Jogging isn’t going to turn you into Einstein. But whatever your baseline intelligence is, jogging will improve it.

It occurred to me: If you can’t do mornings and evenings, why not exercise during the day? What if you made working out part of, you know, work?

Working It Out

We entrepreneurs spend our days in a hypercompetitive, cutthroat environment. We require every piston to be firing at maximum capacity just to stay even, much less get ahead.

My company wants me to be smarter. My company needs me to be smarter. The same can be said for small businesses and small business owners across the land.

Problem is, we often feel guilty if we’re not sitting behind our desk. We’re stuck inside a tight little box that says: “If it doesn’t look like what we traditionally call ‘work,’ it isn’t work.

But if a 20-minute phone call was all it took to improve the Internet speed in your office, you’d make that call. You wouldn’t consider the time you spent on hold as wasted. If a 20-minute jog will do the same thing for your brain, putting on your running shoes is a no-brainer.

It’s easy to talk about self-improvement, however. It’s a whole other ballgame to actually improve. Here are four steps to sticking to your goal to keep in shape.

1. Take It Personally

After reading Brain Rules, I thought: “I knew my body was out of shape, but my brain?” I found it a little offensive. I considered myself a fairly smart guy in some ways, but now I realized that I had all this room to grow in an area I already felt confident about.

It was an uncomfortable feeling, and I took it as a challenge. Be honest with yourself. Are you really operating at your highest potential? If not, why not?

2. Find Your Motivation

If working out makes you a better entrepreneur, it’s easier to get past the guilt and rationalize doing it during the workday.

Add that motivation to others. Exercise for the sake of being a better parent. Exercise for the sake of being a better spouse. Find the motivation that means the most to you, and keep it in front of you.

3. Fight Through the Despair

It can be humbling to learn that there’s so much room to grow. But it can also be seen as good news, because life is boring in the absence of new challenges to conquer.

Seeing it as good news leads to excitement, and this is the emotion that carries most people into the gym when they first resolve to start going.

Almost inevitably, however, the other shoe drops, and despair sets in. This is the emotion that carries most people right back out of the gym, never to return.

Watch for it. If you know it’s coming, it’s easier to fight through it until excitement makes another appearance.

4. Plan Ahead

If you’re on the road, make sure your hotel has a gym. The same goes for vacations. If you simply can’t get to a bench press or a treadmill, do push-ups by your desk. Stretch. Take a walking meeting. Jog. Ride a bike to the office.

If you can’t find the motivation to work out while sitting at home on a Saturday, what’s the likelihood that you’ll do so on a busy workday unless you systematically schedule it.

Once I found the motivation to work out, my life improved dramatically. I became a better employer, a better leader, a better human being. Take it from someone who can’t dribble a basketball:

The same thing can happen to you.

This article originally appeared on Inc.

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from January 8 through 17.

Every two weeks, we’re sharing and promoting free and affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from January 8 through 17.

Northern California/Sacramento

Developing Your Own Food Business—10 Part Seminar
Date: Starts January 10, 2018 | 6:30 pm PDT – 8:30 am PDT
Location: Ruggieri Senior Center
33997 Alvarado-Niles Rd. Union City, CA 94587 (map it)
Contact: Lee Lambert | seminars@acsbdc.org | (510) 208-0410
Organization: Alameda County SBDC
Fee: Free

Thinking of launching a food product or opening a restaurant/cafe? Learn the critical aspects of how to start and succeed in the specialty food business!

The Alameda County SBDC and the Alameda County Community Development Agency offer a free 10-part seminar series: “Running Your Own Food Business” This series is for entrepreneurs interested in launching and growing food businesses in Alameda County.

Join us for this free 10 class series that meets every Wednesday and Thursday. Participants who attend eight of the ten sessions will receive a Certificate of Completion.

1/10/18 Class 1: Concept (mission/vision/values)     
1/11/18 Class 2: Operating Models    
1/17/18 Class 3: Consumer Packaged Goods & Food Service Models
1/18/18 Class 4: Understanding Costs (cash/profit)
1/24/18 Class 5: Operations                   
1/25/18 Class 6: Marketing Communications                                                       
1/31/18 Class 7: Financial Projections
2/01/18 Class 8: Legalities & Resources                               
2/07/18 Class 9: Funding Your Company                                                                 
2/08/18 Class 10: Your Business Plan

Click here to register for this event.

Own Your Negotiations – Women Mean Business
Date: January 10, 2018 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 275 5th Street San Francisco, CA 94103 (map it)
Contact: Fatimah Aure | faure@rencenter.org | (415) 348-6217
Organization: Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
Fee: $15

Learn three powerful tools to get ahead and get along in your business negotiations with customers, vendors, and your team.

Enjoy a light dinner and learn from and be inspired by successful women business owners, industry experts, and thought leaders.

Women Mean Business is Renaissance SoMa’s monthly women’s networking meetup. This event strives to help local business women and emerging women entrepreneurs learn from successful women business owners’ experiences, make new contacts, build their networks, and grow their businesses. Examples of topics include setting goals, accessing capital, and industry-specific sessions in fashion, jewelry, retail, and food.

Click here to register for this event.

Exploring Business Ownership – What It Takes To Start a Business
Date: January 17, 2018 | 5:30 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 205 Chestnut St. Mount Shasta, CA 96067 (map it)
Contact: Jenny Payton | jpayton@e-jedi.org | (530) 926-6670 ext. 10
Organization: Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI)
Fee: Free with JEDI membership

Starting a business can be scary, but like any other successful adventure, the more prepared you are the higher chance of a positive outcome. If you are considering starting a business, join this workshop and get informed!

We will discuss the following:

  • The mindset and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs
  • The different types of businesses and legal structures
  • Common business terminology as it applies to start-ups
  • Why conducting a feasibility study is like packing the right supplies for a trip

Click here to register for this event.

Southern California/San Diego

Basic Accounting for Your Business
Date: January 9, 2018 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 77-806 Flora Rd. Suite A Palm Desert, CA 92211 (map it)
Contact: Kim Scanlan | kscanlan@cvwbc.org | (760) 345-9200
Organization: Coachella Valley Women’s Business Center
Fee: $20

Because everything in business revolves around money, proper money management will be key your small business’s success. Your ability to understand and follow a few basic accounting practices is what will make the difference between success and profitability or headache and heartache. This workshop will show you the bare minimum accounting practices and procedures for any small business and how to implement them.

Click here to register for this event.

Women’s Networking Breakfast
Date: January 12, 2018 | 7:45 am PDT – 11:00 am PDT
Location: Sheraton Mission Valley
1433 Camino del Rio South, San Diego, CA 92108 (map it)
Contact: score140@scorevolunteer.org | (585) 283-1101
Organization: San Diego SCORE
Fee: $20

Join us for this networking breakfast planned around the theme: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Profit.

Rhonda Sher, The LinkedIn Diva, leads the seminar. She’s an expert in creating LinkedIn profiles and knows how to leverage the platform for business success. Rhonda will show you how to optimize your profile so that it speaks to your ideal clients and referral partners and stands out from the competition. You will also learn how to make connections on LinkedIn and how to go from offline to online in today’s digital world.

Your registration fee includes breakfast: scrambled eggs with chives, spinach and cheese, potatoes, bacon, sliced fruit, orange juice, regular and decaf coffee and tea.

Click here to register for this event.

Time Management – Work Smarter, Not Harder
Date: January 16, 2018 | 3:00 pm PDT – 5:00 pm PDT
Location: Highgrove Public Library
530 Center St. Riverside, CA 92507 (map it)
Contact: Dee Ann Chandler | deeann@iewbc.org | (909) 890-1242
Organization: Inland Empire Women’s Business Center
Fee: Free

If you’re doing more and enjoying it less, it’s time to make real choices about how and when to spend your time. This workshop gives you the tools to find balance, achieve your goals and be more effective and productive.

Join us and learn how to:

  • Plan your week so you can reduce stress and save time
  • Organize your master project and to-do lists so they are doable
  • Break down your personal or business goals into bite-sized pieces, and make the time to work on them

Click here to register for this event.

Virtual

Energize Your Enterprise
Date: January 11, 2018 | 8:00 am PDT – 9:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Stephen Konkle | stephen.konkle@sba.gov | (312) 886-4208
Organization: SBA Illinois District Office
Fee: Free

Owning and operating a small business is both rewarding and challenging. Over time, things change: markets, economic conditions, and people. What seemed like a great product or service when you started may need to be discarded or modified. Perhaps the market for the product or service you provide no longer exists. Financing methods can change. Your target market may evolve.

In this webinar, we’ll show you how to perform a systematic operational review. If you own a small business and have been operating for at least two years, it may be time to review the history and set the direction for the future. This free webinar can be your start.

Click here to register for this event.

Beyond Google: Free Market Research at Your Library
Date: January 11, 2018 | 12:30 pm PDT – 2:00 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: workshops@sba.gov | (206) 553-7310
Organization: SBA Seattle District Office
Fee: Free

It’s vital to stay ahead of the competition during any stage in your business. Information is key to success, but it can be expensive or time-consuming if you don’t know where to look. Find out how to navigate various databases available through your local library to help you make informed decisions in your business planning, marketing, site location and market analysis. Also, gain valuable information and insights to better understand local economic conditions, customers, and more.

Click here to register for this event. If you’re in the Seattle area, you can attend the class in person at SBA Education & Training Center, 2401 4th Ave, Suite 450 Seattle, WA 98121 (map it).

Managing Cash Flow
Date: January 16, 2018 | 6:00 am PDT – 7:30 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Savannah Wilburn | savannah.wilburn@sba.gov | (803) 765-5377
Organization: SBA South Carolina District Office
Fee: Free

Money Smart for Small Business (MSSB) provides a practical introduction to topics related to starting and managing a business. Developed jointly by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), this instructor-led curriculum consists of 13 modules.

This module, “Managing Cash Flow” is the third module of the series. Subsequent modules will be presented every month. Participants do not need to complete previous modules to participate in future modules.

After completing this module, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the purpose of cash flow management in a small business
  • Make cash flow projections based on the cash cycle
  • Identify some ways to manage cash flow, including receivables and payables
  • Work more effectively with technical experts

Click here to register for this event.


We’re looking for upcoming events to promote to small business owners like you. If you have an event you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Just Drive helps Bay Area drivers lease cars to get started with on-demand driving jobs. When owner Chris needed to purchase a car for Just Drive, Opportunity Fund was there to help with a commercial vehicle loan.

Our customers inspire us every day, and we want to regularly share those stories to inspire you, too. Read about Chris Taylor of Just Drive. His business helps Bay Area drivers lease cars to get started with on-demand driving jobs. When Chris needed to purchase a car for Just Drive, Opportunity Fund was there to help with a commercial vehicle loan.

A Force for Driving Change

Chris Taylor started Just Drive in late 2014. The Bay Area-based company leases cars to drivers who want to get started in on-demand delivery and driving jobs such as Doordash and Uber. Chris saw the opportunity to help those who couldn’t get started in the industry and ran with the idea to help drivers finance cars with the goal of eventual ownership.

Just Drive’s model of acquiring cars to lease to their drivers helps drivers save money. The company assumes maintenance costs of each vehicle, plus each driver pays substantially less each month in car leasing fees compared to other companies. Chris also helps his drivers get started with on-demand driving jobs.

“We help them get a car and a job, set a goal to own their own car, and then be their own boss,” he said.

With the on-demand driving industry in flux, Just Drive faces serious challenges. In less than a year, Just Drive’s biggest industry competitors cut driver payouts dramatically. Undercut revenues made Chris look critically at his company and think of new ways to keep his unique model alive for the people he wanted to reach the most.

Opportunity Fund Helps Just Drive Stay on Track

None of the typical small business funding sources was right for Just Drive’s operations. “The SBA said that a car leasing business was passive income,” he said. “But it wasn’t passive. I was working every day.”

Chris’ business banker at Wells Fargo connected him to Opportunity Fund. Our loan consultant Madieu Shyllon worked with Just Drive to close a $7,000 commercial vehicle loan in March 2016 to purchase a vehicle. The working capital connection was the right fit for Just Drive, so Chris came back in October 2016 for a $16,000 loan to finance another vehicle purchase.

Chris Taylor - Just Drive

Chris helps his drivers get on the road to independence through his driving company (photo courtesy of Christian Peacock)


“Opportunity Fund was there to help me with liquidity” Chris said. “Without that, the business may have failed.”

The ease and speed of the funding process was a big win for Just Drive. “Madieu was a huge help,” Chris said. “He put in the time and effort necessary to get it done. I got the loan in less than a week after approval.”

Now that Chris has the working capital he needs to keep his fleet on the road, he can focus on helping others get started with jobs to improve their lives.

“Just Drive helps people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said. “People from East Oakland, West Oakland, or The Mission. A lot of people that get duped by predatory lenders or dishonest car dealerships. I was there to put them in a vehicle.”

We’re proud to support entrepreneurs like Chris with vision to change the world, and we’ll be there to help grow Just Drive’s fleet in the future.

We hope this story has inspired you, too.  At Opportunity Fund, we offer easy-to-get, fast, and affordable small business loans to help small business owners succeed.  Visit our home page to find out more.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Yelp is often the only place a food truck business is listed on the internet. Our content partner Nav explains how you can use Yelp to get people talking about your business—and how to avoid typical pitfalls that can sink your business.

Yelp is often the only place a food truck business is listed on the internet. Our content partner Nav.com explains how you can use Yelp to get people talking about your business—and how to avoid typical pitfalls that can sink your business.

 

Word-of-mouth marketing has always been a valuable tool to business owners, but in recent years, social media has upped the ante. In fact, 82% of adults in the U.S. turn to online reviews before making a purchase. For Yelp, that translates into 84 million desktop users, 73 million mobile web users and 26 million mobile app users.

For small business owners across the U.S., those numbers should translate into a definitive need to factor Yelp into your marketing strategy. If you’re a new business owner, or simply new to Yelp, your next question is likely, “but how?” And while there are multiple ways you can use Yelp to your advantage, perhaps the best way to shape your approach is to look at these all-too-common Yelp mistakes.

1. Not Claiming Your Business Page

It’s free, it’s easy, and it can help you increase your revenue. Customers can review a business regardless of whether or not it’s been claimed, but claiming your business is a must, and if you haven’t done it yet, you need to do it now. It’s OK … I’ll wait right here.

Claiming your business allows you to add photos, a detailed description and up-to-date information. This is important for two reasons. The first, and arguably the leading reason you’re reading an article about Yelp in the first place, is that this information will help you convert potential customers to existing ones and grow your business.

Secondly, providing thorough and specific descriptions (think keywords) can have a big impact on your local SEO efforts, helping your business land in the top results for relevant searches. (Here’s a quick guide to how to do good local SEO.)

Speaking of SEO, by claiming your Yelp page, you’ll gain ability to respond to reviews as the business owner, which helps create content. You’ll also be able to access Yelp Metrics, which provides valuable analytics about how Yelp users interact with your page. Both of these things are valuable tools when it comes to increasing visitors to your store or site.

As an added bonus, if you’ve claimed your business, you’ll have the opportunity to create Yelp Deals, which are prepaid vouchers that customers can buy at discounted rates. It’s an additional marketing tool that may be worthwhile for businesses. If you don’t have a marketing budget dedicated to some of those promotions already, using a tool like this can help you dip your toes in. (Growing a business can require significant resources, and many business owners even turn to financing options to get new acquisition channels started. You can check your business credit profile for free at Nav to see where you stand before you apply.)

2. Disregarding Yelp Metrics

As I mentioned, one of the reasons you should claim your business on Yelp is so that you can gain access to Yelp Metrics. Yelp Metrics can help business owners to make educated decisions about their efforts on the popular review site.

Among the interesting analytical tidbits included in Yelps analytical reports are traffic to you businesses page (over a month, a year, or two years) as well as how many times your establishment appeared in their organic search results. You’ll also be able to view information about user actions with regards to your business, specifically things like mobile check-ins, mobile calls, visits to your URL and Yelp Deals performance.

Analyzing this information can lead to a strong presence among consumers as well as the ability to better leverage Yelp for business growth. For example, if you find that your business is not showing up in relevant organic searches, it may mean that your business info/descriptions need some tweaking.

3. Assuming Your Business Isn’t Relevant on Yelp

There is this common belief that Yelp is just for restaurants and eating establishments, and while they do make up a big piece of Yelp businesses, they certainly don’t account for all of them. In fact, Shopping is the biggest business category on Yelp, accounting for 22% of reviews, with the Restaurants category coming in at 18% of total reviews.

Included among the industries listed on Yelp are Home and Local Services, Beauty and Fitness and even Auto. It’s true that they may not make up the biggest portion of the pie, if your business falls into them, it’s important to, at the very least, look into how you can leverage reviews and gain a positive presence among potential customers.

4. Not Responding to Reviews

Engaging with your customers is an absolute must if you want to increase loyalty and positive word of mouth. And while it’s true that this engagement strategy is helpful for both positive and negative feedback, responding to negative feedback can really help your branding.

The old cliché that there are “three sides to every story” is important to keep in mind here, especially when it comes to review responses, which are seen by the reviewer, the business owner and all Yelp users who look at your business profile.

Obviously, if you can remedy or smooth over a bad experience by reaching out to the affected customer, then that’s a win; it may even result in a change of heart (aka a revised review). But as a business owner, the way you respond has a much more significant impact on potential customers.

The 1/9/90 Rule, which is highly endorsed in the social media marketing world, is also highly endorsed by Yelp. This rule suggests that 1% of users are responsible for creating content, 9% are of them will engage with that content, and 90% of them will sit back and silently digest and make decisions based on that content.

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, the Search Engine Journal suggests that business owners focus on that 90% when responding to negative feedback on their Yelp page. Why? Because that huge chunk of viewers are potential customers, and even if your response doesn’t appease the 1%, it can go a long way in helping a Yelp user decide if your business is worthy of their patronage.

5. Ignoring the Competition

When it comes to putting your finger on the pulse of local competition, Yelp becomes an invaluable tool.  If you’re not doing a little competitive research on Yelp, then you’re leaving dollars on that dreaded table.

By doing a little good-hearted digging in the name of competitive analysis, you’ll tap into a wealth of knowledge, particularly when it comes to reviews and Yelp Deals. In the end, you can gather information on some of your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you identify reasons you may be lacking clients, or perhaps why their customers are in search of a new place to grab a bite, drink a beer, or pin down a reliable contractor.

With millions of regular users, Yelp is a serious force in consumer reviews, and when properly leveraged, Yelp can be an excellent, low maintenance tool with a huge impact.  By avoiding these common mistakes, you can make the most out of your listing and increase your customers without breaking your back or your bank account.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org