Women are more likely to start a small business than men, but they are more likely to struggle obtaining financing. Our content partner Nav.com explains why women-owned businesses hit a financial glass ceiling and how you can break it.

 

A new report released by SCORE reveals some interesting data regarding small businesses, particularly women-owned small businesses. Of the 28 million small businesses in the United States, 39% are owned by women, which increased by 45% from 2007 to 2016 and continues to rise. Women are more likely to start a business than men, enjoy equal success as measured by business starts, revenue growth, job creation, and time in business. And while men are more likely to operate in the construction and manufacturing industries, women are more likely to open businesses in healthcare or education. Women-owned businesses employ almost 9 million people and bring in over $1.6 trillion in revenue. While these figures are impressive, there are some concerns found in the data.

Despite the growth in the number of women-owned businesses, these entities have remained static in revenue shares at only 4% of the nation’s business revenues, a point which hasn’t seen much growth if any over the last 20 years. In contrast, businesses owned by men have declined in their share of U.S. enterprises since the early 2000s, but their revenue shares have stayed consistent in relation to the changing number of entities. Of the businesses that responded to the survey, 34% of men-owned businesses have been in business for more than 10 years, compared to only 28% of women-owned businesses.

These numbers certainly raise concerns about the longevity and sustainability of women-owned businesses. Could this be a product of a lack of mentorship or other barriers to success?

The Glass Ceiling of Financing

In addition to revenue and years in business, the study highlighted several key indicators to determine how successful a business is, including hiring rates and access to financing. Over the last year, a larger proportion of men-owned businesses (30%) saw an increase in hiring compared to women-owned businesses (27%). Some of the women entrepreneurs responded that they would like to hire more full-time employees, but have to stick with interns, contractors, or part-time employees because funds are low in their business.

When asked why they sought out financing, a nearly equal proportion of men and women responded that they needed financing to hire a new employee. The statistics show that 34% of men compared to 25% of women search out financing, and that 38% of men versus 31% of women who apply for financing actually obtain it.

Women-owned businesses are slightly more likely to depend on credit cards or non-SBA loans for financing as opposed to men-owned businesses, whereas men are more likely to use equity raised from investors to fund their business. While experience and networking can help find better financing options, it’s always important to make sure your business credit profile is in tip-top shape. You can check your business and personal credit score for free with Nav before you seek better financing options.

Some of the differences between men and women business owners may boil down to mentoring, a topic the study addressed. The numbers clearly suggest that small business owners who work with a mentor or are under a mentorship program enjoy more success than those who don’t. While the numbers pertaining to revenue, hiring, and access to financing show that women-owned businesses are at a disadvantage, there are indeed resources available to help them take the next step forward.

 

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

 

We look forward to helping your business succeed. Right now, if you sign up for free mentoring assistance, you’ll receive up to a 2% discount on your loan’s annual interest rate. If you have questions about this loan offer or other small-business loans for women, visit ofew.org, or contact us at ofew@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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


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

Making sure your employees feel safe working at your business is not only polite, but it is your moral responsibility and a business owner. Our content partner Nav explains why a sexual harassment policy is important for everyone and how you can create one easily.

Making sure your employees feel safe working at your business is not only polite, but it is your moral responsibility and a business owner. Our content partner Nav.com explains why a sexual harassment policy is important for everyone and how you can create one easily.

 

Sexual harassment is big in the news, and has led to the end of long careers in Hollywood, Washington and large businesses around the nation. While your business may not be a multi-billion-dollar juggernaut where a sexual harassment claim would make national headlines, that doesn’t mean you can simply ignore sexual harassment.

Not only does creating a sexual harassment protect your employees and set a clear line in the sand for your company culture’s sake, it also protects your business from potential lawsuits that can be costly, time-consuming, hurt recruiting efforts and leave you vulnerable to personal liability depending on how your company is structured and what kinds of business insurance you have. Especially when small businesses are first getting started and profit margins are slim, the cost of a lawsuit could not only derail goals to grow the business, it could put you into business debt or even sink the company. Ensure your business has a clear sexual harassment policy in place to protect everyone at your workplace with these tips.

Understand sexual harassment policies.

Attitudes towards sexual harassment, gender equality and what is and isn’t appropriate in the workplace have changed over time. This generational issue is glaringly obvious when discussing recent harassment claims with Baby Boomers and Millennials at the same time. Just think of Don Draper and the behavior that was acceptable in the “Mad Men” era to get a better understanding of how sexual harassment attitude and acceptance has changed over time.

Harvey Weinstein’s accusers opened up a floodgate of workplace sexual harassment policy updates that were long overdue. Before you start working on your small business sexual harassment policy, understand what these policies do and how they work. A sexual harassment policy should clearly explain what behavior is considered sexual harassment, the repercussions for engaging in unacceptable behavior, and how you will train employees to avoid sexual harassment. The policy should also include information on how employees can report sexual harassment and what will happen if sexual harassment is reported.

Find your workplace’s unique scenarios.

While most offices should be able to easily and clearly identify and explain sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, that is not always the case in every business. And even within other business categories, it may not always be so cut and dry.

For example, at a restaurant it is inappropriate for any managers, coworkers, or guests to comment on female staffer’s appearance beyond remarking on following uniform guidelines and wearing professional attire. But at restaurants like Hooters, Twin Peaks and The Tilted Kilt, the uniform requires sexually provocative attire. In those cases, the companies must create custom tailored policies that protect their wait staff while maintaining the company’s culture and brand.

While it may be tempting to follow an “I know it when I see it” definition of sexual harassment, it is vital to write extremely clear guidelines to protect your staff from unwanted sexual advances and your business from sexual harassment lawsuits.

Find and review a policy template.

When writing your policy, you don’t have to start from scratch. For many businesses, a pre-written template will cover everything you need. If not, it may get you well on the way to a custom policy for your business.

Templates are great for any legal need, as most businesses have similar requirements and can get something together much faster and at a bargain price. But don’t just take a template and assume everything is perfect. It will still likely require some level of customization to fit your business.

Customize to your business needs.

Depending on your background, you may be able to start the customization process on your own. Read the template, update the glaringly obvious fixes you need, and then read through again with a fine-tooth comb looking for areas where the template does not match your business or leaves something out.

While most contracts are written by lawyers, there is no rule saying you can’t write in sections for your small business sexual harassment policy yourself. Do research on what similar businesses include in their workplace harassment policies and use them as a guide while tweaking the template to best match your business needs.

Hire a lawyer for legal review.

In the last section, you learned that you can write your own sections in your sexual harassment policy. But you can’t just assume everything you wrote is up to snuff with the law. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and hire a lawyer.

A legal review will ensure you are doing all of the right things to protect your employees, yourself and your business from sexual harassment and sexual harassment claims. Nothing is every 100% effective when it comes to sexual harassment prevention, but doing your due diligence does help you protect your team and your company and limits liability in the event of a claim.

Do not ignore sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is no longer something that can sit at the back of your mind when running a business. Whether your company employs two workers or two hundred, it is time to put a strong sexual harassment policy in place and update older documents.

If you take the steps to protect yourself today, you will have little to worry about in the future. But if you ignore sexual harassment, you are sitting on a ticking time bomb. You never know when a claim may arise that could take down your business. Do the smart thing and put a policy in place as soon as possible.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


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

Your credit score shouldn’t be a game of limbo. Our content partner Nav explains how low credit scores work and how you can still get credit despite your low score.

Your credit score shouldn’t be a game of limbo. Our content partner Nav.com explains how low credit scores work and how you can still get credit despite your low score.

 

In the world of finance, it’s common to hear people bragging about their credit scores. These badges of money honor are one famously important indicator of how accomplished a consumer appears. The higher, the better, and so – when talked about openly – it’s most often the big numbers you’ll hear about.

What about those who are hanging out at the bottom? Their credit history may not be a sign of good times or wise decisions. Perhaps, they suffered from a horrible loss (such as a medical disaster or business failure) and their credit took the worst kind of hit. If everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, what kind of credit score numbers would we be talking about? When we open our dark, skeleton-filled financial closets, what is the lowest credit score that could be lurking there?

How Low Can FICO Go?

One of the scoring options used for evaluating personal credit, FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation), is used in over 90% of credit decisions, and it ranges from 300 (the lowest) to 850 (the highest). But just because you’re hanging out well above the 300 mark, doesn’t make your credit “good.” In fact, most lenders consider anything below 600 in the “poor” range, and you’ll find it hard to qualify for the best credit, mortgage, and loan offers available.

If you’re sitting at a 579 or lower, Experian lumps you into this substandard group. They have determined that 61% of consumers in this category are likely to become seriously delinquent, or even default on a loan, in the future. So, even if you aren’t anywhere near the 300’s, you could still have problems getting good rates, an adequate credit line, or access to the better utility plans offered in your area.

Who determines what is a “bad” or “poor” score? It’s not FICO or the other reporting companies. They just supply the number, which is an indication of your risk to lenders. It’s the lenders themselves that make the determination of whether a score can pass their lending rules. So, a consumer who can’t get a mortgage from one bank with a 620 score, may be able to get one with another lender. While the scores are standard, how they are interpreted isn’t.

What Creates a Low Credit Score?

Responsibility with payments is just one factor that affects your score. A serious delinquency, history of late payments, bankruptcy, or default will certainly lower your score. Most people at the bottom of the score range have had at least one of these, and possibly more. You can also have a lower score if you are paying responsibly but are using up most of the credit available to you. (Keeping your ratio of debt to available credit below 30% is key to keeping your score from dragging at the bottom.)

These aren’t the only things responsible for a lower score, however. Having a no credit or only very new credit can also lead to a poor rating. A recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report revealed that 26 million adults in the United States don’t even have a credit record, placing them in the same position as those with delinquencies when it comes to accessing credit services.

This is also why experts recommend that you participate in consumer behaviors that contribute to a score, even if you don’t personally favor the use of credit. You can start with a secured credit card that only allows you to charge what you’ve put as a deposit on your account. Asking your rental landlord to report your on-time payments to a reporting bureau can also help.

Can I Get Credit With a Low Score?

The short answer is “yes.” In fact, there is a whole suite of services, loans, and cards designed for the consumer with a low score. While it’s not likely to get access to much with the absolute worst score of 300, anyone in the poor range can benefit from a secured credit card, getting a co-signer, or being added as an authorized user on an existing credit card account. Just be sure you treat these options seriously, pay on time, and do the things needed to raise your score and get access to better credit solutions over time.

Another thing to remember is that banks aren’t limited to just using your credit score in qualifying you for credit. While one important factor, they also rely on your wages, job history, and income sources such as child support or alimony. The score is just part of a whole picture lenders look at to determine credit worthiness.

What’s Next For Credit Scores?

Despite feeling like having a low credit score is a lonely place to be, it’s not. While less than 5% of consumers have a FICO score at the 300-499 level, 20% still fall in the range under 599 – considered “poor” by most lenders. This shows that credit is still an issue for a good portion of the population and one that will take years to correct.

It’s not a reason to lose hope, however. The trend is pointing up, showing that the average credit score hit 700 for the first time ever in April of 2017. This may be because consumers have unprecedented access to see their scores through free or low-cost platforms (including as part of the FICO Open Accessprogram or their credit card statements.) The U.S. economy is also credited for much of the gain, with Experian noting an upward trend since the end of the Great Recession. This same Experian study reported that scores above 800 finally outnumbered those below 600 – a first for U.S. credit holders.  

Maybe, then, we are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “how low can I go?” we should look at how high we must reach to live the life we seek. Often, the difference in getting what we need is a matter of a few easily attainable points.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


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

Being ghosted means more than being ignored by friends – it can also mean that you have little to no credit. Our content partner Nav explains how getting ghosted can cost you more money when you need a loan and how to fix the problem.

Being ghosted means more than being ignored by friends – it can also mean that you have little to no credit. Our content partner Nav.com explains how getting ghosted can cost you more money when you need a loan and how to fix the problem.

 

Getting “ghosted” is never a good thing, especially when it comes to your credit scores. They can determine whether you can borrow money for your business, and how much borrowing will cost you. When you have little or no credit history, you’re essentially a “ghost” to the credit bureaus. Being a ghost can mean paying hundreds of thousands more in borrowing costs. It can also put you out of business.

Many business owners fall into the “ghost” category because they either never established a credit history, or because they immigrated to the U.S. There are more of these credit ghosts than you may think.

According to Nav’s data on 189,466 of its small business customers, 39% qualify as credit ghosts. These business owners had a personal credit score of 620 or lower, and had no or very limited credit history. In addition to personal credit, having little or no business credit history can lead to even more problems, like low business credit scores.

Nav’s own co-founder and CEO, Levi King, was once a credit ghost himself. He grew up on a farm in Idaho and was taught to pay cash for everything. It wasn’t until he started his first business, a sign manufacturing company that he realized the importance of building a positive credit history.

“One of my suppliers asked why I didn’t set up credit accounts with them. I had been paying cash on delivery for everything,” says King. “When they pulled my credit report, they said there wasn’t even a record for my company. It was as though I didn’t exist. If they didn’t know me personally, they would have thought my business was a scam.”

How Credit Ghosts Lose Out

For some entrepreneurs, you may have felt the bite of being a ghost when launching your business idea. You may have looked for financing, but got continually denied because of your low credit scores. It’s no wonder that 62% of business owners rely on personal savings to fund their business.

Even if you’ve launched your business, you’ll likely need money to grow or cover cash flow bumps. Traditional lenders will almost always check your personal and business credit reports. A bad credit score will usually lead to a denial for bank loans or credit lines.

This forces many to seek out alternative forms of business lending that have exploded over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, some of these lenders charge extremely high rates and have terms that are tough to understand. Do you know how to calculate a factor rate, for example?

“There are plenty of ways to get money for your business these days, but as a credit ghost you usually only qualify for high-cost financing, which can ruin your business because it’s too expensive, or put you in cycle of reborrowing,” King says. “Most of these lenders don’t report your repayment information to the credit bureaus, so your situation never improves.”

Who’s Most Likely To Be a Ghost

When someone immigrates to the U.S., their credit history doesn’t follow them. They may have run a successful restaurant in Japan for 10 years and had pristine credit, but when they arrive in the U.S., they are essentially invisible to lenders and other creditors. That’s a problem.

Immigrants are crucial to the health of the U.S. economy. They launch more than a quarter of all U.S. businesses and an estimated $126 billion in annual wages are paid to Americans who work at immigrant-run businesses.

Some companies are trying to help solve the problem. Nova Credit has built technology that allow immigrants to transport their credit history around the world. And Nav educates business owners on how to build their credit profiles and provide tools to make it simple to do.

In addition to immigrants, studies have shown that minority entrepreneurs can have a harder time accessing the credit they need to grow their business dream. The Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Atlanta recently released findings from the Small Business Credit Survey that looked at access to capital issues for minority-owned businesses.

That survey found that 58% of black-owned firms reported credit availability challenges, versus 32% of white-owned firms. The same survey also revealed that 40% of black-owned firms reported not applying for financing because they were discouraged (in essence, they felt they’d get denied), compared with 14% of white-owned companies.

How to Un-Ghost Your Credit

If you feel like a credit ghost, there are some simple ways to build your profile. As a business owner, you should be building both your personal and business credit profiles — they are separate.

For your personal credit, get a couple credit cards, even if it needs to be a secured credit card, to start establishing credit history. Always pay on time and keep your credit utilization low, below 30%. (Don’t understand what credit utilization is? Read this.)

For your business credit, ask your suppliers about setting net repayment terms and whether or not they report to the business credit bureaus. You should be able to get net 15-day terms or more if you have a solid history and relationship with the supplier.

You should also apply for a business credit line from stores like Lowes or Staples. Almost any business can get approved for a small amount at these places. Finally, you can also open business credit cards in your business name. Like personal credit cards, always pay them on time and keep your balances low.

The good news for credit ghosts is that establishing a positive credit history should help you improve your scores relatively fast. In a matter of months, you may be able to un-ghost your credit, and put your business in a position to access affordable cash whenever you need it. You can track your business and personal credit score progress for free on Nav.

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


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

Landlines may be a thing of the past, so don’t let your small business get left behind. Our content partner Nav offers a few affordable solutions to your phone needs.

Landlines may be a thing of the past, so don’t let your small business get left behind. Our content partner Nav.com offers a few affordable solutions to your phone needs.

 

When Leigh Wilkins started making scones from her kitchen in Plainfield New Jersey, she had no idea it would turn into a business. “I like to cook,” she says. “It’s a passion of mine.” But when friends tasted her fresh baked scones, they told her she should sell them.

She listened, and now is the “Scone Diva,” selling scones in traditional flavors as well as unique ones she’s created like “GuavaBrie” and “CherryLemonGinger.”

Wilkins took the time to set up her business properly, forming an LLC. She realized she also needed a professional option for answering business phone calls. “I didn’t want people calling me on my private number, “ she explains. She researched a variety of options and chose a service called Sideline, which gives her a business telephone number that routes to her cell phone. It allows her to tell which calls are business and which are personal, and she can choose how to handle them. “It’s beautiful,” she says.

Wilkin’s clients primarily buy her handmade scones directly from her, and she’s started using a Sideline feature that allows her to blast announcements to customers when fresh scones are available. I’ll say, “Here’s what I just baked. Come and get them,” she says. And they do.

A GoDaddy survey found 86 percent of small business owners use their personal smartphone for both business and personal calls and texts. It makes sense that they would look for flexible services that allow them to talk to their customers wherever they are.

Even better, many newer solutions are less expensive than traditional business landlines. For a small business, every penny counts. Spend less and your cash flow will improve and you’ll have more money to invest in things that help your business grow.

Here are five professional phone solutions to consider:

Google Voice

A free service from Google, a Google Voice number is designed to be a number that will follow you everywhere. It can work as simply an online phone number, but you can also set it up to ring your cell, landline (if you still have one!) or any number(s) you choose simultaneously. You can record a business-appropriate voicemail message for calls to your Google voice number.

It comes with call screening which lets you hear who is calling and decide whether to take the call or send it to voicemail. Messages are also transcribed.

However, it’s not specifically designed to be a business solution and there are some downsides. The number displayed on the recipient’s phone will not be your business number; for example, it more likely will be your personal cell phone number. (If it’s a text message you’re sending, it may even be another number entirely, apparently generated by Google Voice.) There have been complaints about call quality as well, since Google Voice works over Voip.

Pricing: Free for most calls within the US and Canada.

Sideline

Developed by former telecom executives, Sideline is a flexible solution for small business owners that uses the cell phones they already have. Business owners can choose a second number with a local area code or port in their existing number, and connect it with their cell phone, or that of an employee. It uses your cell phone carrier (and minutes) for better quality than some solutions that work over wifi.

You’ll know which calls are business calls, and which are personal calls. In addition, when you place business calls using Sideline, your business number will be the one your customers see.

Features include the ability to send an automated text message if you can’t take a call. You can customize it to create automatic responses to common questions. Enterprise solutions allow employers to manage up to 200 phone numbers, to allow a phone number to ring multiple employees at once, and the ability to reassign numbers, say, if an employee leaves.

Pricing: Starts at $9.99 a month with a free 7-day trial.

SmartLine

SmartLine, a service of GoDaddy, allows business owners to choose and set up a business phone number, then use the SmartLine mobile app on their cell phone to text, listen to their separate business voicemails, and take and place calls with that number. Calls are placed over your cell phone carrier’s network.

You’ll know whether incoming calls are business or personal calls, and the business phone number will show up on Caller ID when it’s used to text or to place a call. Voicemail greetings can be customized, plus business hours can be set. In addition, voicemails are transcribed so they can be read at a glance.

Pricing: Basic service starts at $3.99 a month, and includes 100 minutes and 100 outgoing texts per month. Unlimited talk and text starts at $9.99 a month. Both include a free one-month trial.

eVoice

eVoice offers a full-service cloud-based business phone system. Choose a toll-free or local number (or port your own) and eVoice will record a professional greeting with a menu of extensions. Route calls to colleagues, cell phones etc. either simultaneously or sequentially. You can set up different rules for different times or days of the week. Audio files of calls will be available immediately, and transcription (voicemail to text or voicemail to email) is also available.

You can take and place calls from your cell using your business phone number. Plans are based on minutes used which include inbound, outbound or faxing. eVoice plans include a certain number of minutes; for any beyond that, there will be a per minute charge.

Pricing: The basic plan starts at $12.99 a month for 300 minutes, 6 numbers and 2 extensions. There is a 30-day free trial.

Grasshopper

With Grasshopper, you can choose a toll-free or local number for your business, or port in your own. You can add extensions for employees or departments. Extensions can forward calls to any phone number, anywhere, including Skype.

You can use Grasshopper on your cell to place business calls, check your voicemail and send text messages from your business number. Voicemails and faxes will be transcribed and emailed to you.

Features include call announce to let you know who is calling so you can decide whether you want to take the call or want to send it to voicemail. You can also set up extensions with answers to commonly asked questions such as hours or directions.

Pricing: Solo pricing starts at $24 a month for one number with up to 3 extensions and unlimited minutes. There is a 30-day money back guarantee.

 

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

PayPal can be a huge help for your mobile food business. It can also be a nightmare if you don’t know how to use it correctly. Our content partner Nav offers tips that can help you get started with PayPal.

PayPal can be a huge help for your mobile food business. It can also be a nightmare if you don’t know how to use it correctly. Nav.com offers tips that can help you get started with PayPal.

Providing customers with multiple, easy payment solutions can help increase conversion, and with 210 million active account holders, PayPal can be a solid addition to your checkout solutions. Signing up and setting up your account is fairly easy, but for small business owners who are testing the PayPal waters, lessons from those who have come before can make a huge difference in your future success.

Here are five rookie mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Assuming PayPal Is Only for Online Payments

When it comes to mobile POS payments, most small business owners think of Square, but as you’d expect for a payment solution trail blazer, PayPal wasn’t in the dust for long. Launched in 2012, PayPal Here has had a seemingly successful entrance into the offline payment sphere.

In addition, accepting payment via credit card using one of two available card readers (swipe or chip), PayPal Here also allows business owners to accept contactless payments (phone to reader) as well as checks (via photos capturing the front and back).

With a 2.7% fee per transaction, PayPal Here comes in only slightly less expensive than Square (2.75%), so they remain largely neck-and-neck in terms of expenses. However, if you’re already using PayPal and considering getting Square, it’s worth checking into PayPal’s physical solution for purchasing.

2. Not Understanding PayPal Tax Obligations

Merchants who exceed $20,00 in gross payments and 200 separate payments for goods and services, can expect a 1099-K from PayPal, which  will be required as part of your fiscal year taxes.  If you reach that point, you’ll be required to enter your tax ID/Social Security Number(SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN) for IRS purposes.

This is pretty cut and dry, but keep in mind that the $20,000 threshold includes any accounts tied to the tax ID/EIN number tied to your business. Additionally, as a gross amount, the total includes all fees (shipping, sales tax, etc), and any refunds, discounts, credits, etc. are not excluded. Be prepared for taxation, and follow up with your accountant if you have any questions or concerns.

3. Not Excluding PayPal.com from Your Google Analytics Referral Traffic Reports

Monitoring web traffic is essential to making informed decisions about your online and offline presence, so accessing the most accurate information is important. If you’re currently using PayPal on your site, you may also be noticing an increase in referrals stemming from the PayPal.com URL.

When a customer decides to complete a purchase on your site using PayPal, and they momentarily leave your site to complete the transaction, Google views their return to your site as a new session; therefore, PayPal takes credit for the referral even though it was just a momentary blip in the checkout path.

You can remedy this by making a few easy updates to your Google Analytics account. First, you’ll need to use a Universal Analytics tag on the account. Then, using the Admin panel, you can add PayPal.com to the Referral Exclusion List. This will prevent Google from recognizing the customer’s reentry as a new session, helping you keep better tabs on who really is sending you traffic.

4. Being Unware of Account Freezing or Limit Policies

Though PayPal is pretty adamant that freeze outs don’t happen often, they are possible, and if you have several thousand dollars tied up in your PayPal account for 90 to 180 days, it may be hard to pay bills. Furthermore, if you can’t access the funds from your account, it’s likely you’ll want to remove the PayPal payment method until things are figured out. In other words, it can be a real pain.

To reduce the chances of this happening, here are a few tips:

  • When you open your account, contact PayPal to verify that there are no limit on how much money you can accept in a day.
  • Make sure all your information is accurate and consistent; that includes making sure that your address, phone number, and name appear the same exact way on your PayPal account as they do on your credit card and bank account.
  • If you’re expecting a big influx of cash to flow into your business through your PayPal account (a product launch, big promotion, special event, etc.), consider contacting PayPal ahead of time to let them know.

5. Not Customizing Your Payment Page

When it comes to the user experience, the little things make a big impression. That’s particularly true when it comes to customizing your PayPal payment pages.  If you want to maintain branding throughout the shopping experience, which can help increase buyer confidence, consider taking advantage of PayPal’s Custom Payment Pages.

These pages enable users to customize all payment pages, included the Buy Now buttons, Shopping Cart, Subscriptions, and Donations.  Once you select your page style, the updates will carry throughout the entire payment flow, creating a seamless brand experience.

Offering your customers the option to use PayPal at checkout is a great way to increase conversion and make the shopping experience easier. Keep things running smoothly by avoiding some common mistakes made by those who paved the path to payment before you.

 

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

Current credit all paid off and looking for a new loan? Our content partner Nav explains why waiting a month may be better for you.

Current credit all paid off and looking for a new loan? Our content partner Nav.com explains why waiting a month may be better for you.

 

You ran through an analysis and decided it’s time to borrow to boost your business. You paid off your old credit card balances and took steps to shore up your credit score. You scrubbed through your financial statements to make sure they are accurate and professional. Is it time to apply for the loan? Probably not just yet. Follow along to learn why you should wait 30 days to apply for a loan.

What happens when you apply for a loan?

The loan application process requires data from many sources to make a decision. Depending on where and how you apply, you may get an instant online decision or have to wait weeks for a reply from a traditional bank.

Regardless of where you apply for a business loan, the lender will review your loan application, financial information, and credit history before making a lending decision. If you have perfect credit, no balances, and strong finances, you shouldn’t have a problem getting approved. But it doesn’t always work like that.

Many businesses need a loan at exactly the wrong time. When you have high credit card balances, are strapped for cash, and need a little more working capital to get through the season, a loan may be just what you need. But in that situation, you might not come off as a great, low-risk applicant to the bank. This is where waiting to apply for a loan may increase your approval odds.

A zero balance doesn’t mean your credit score says zero.

Both personal and business credit scores factor in current balances on credit cards, lines of credit, and other loans. If you max out your credit card, the impact is even bigger. Armed with this information, you may think that you can simply pay off your credit card and apply for the loan right away. But the lender might still see your old, high credit card balance even though you paid it off.

This isn’t because your credit report is wrong, per say, it is because of delays in credit reporting. Each time you have activity on a credit card or other loan, your bank systems usually update within a day or so. But your credit report does not update as quickly or frequently as your account balances.

The credit bureaus track credit report data for over a hundred million Americans. Considering that many people have multiple accounts, it wouldn’t be feasible to update everyone’s credit reports on the fly.

Here’s how the credit reporting system works.

Considering the scale of it, the credit reporting system in the United States is quite impressive. Three companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, collect data from hundreds of millions of accounts and data sources for consumer credit scores. For business credit scoring, Experian, Dun & Bradstreet, and FICO are leaders in credit scoring and reporting. But a lot happens behind the scenes to calculate those credit scores.

In most cases, every credit account you open is reported to at least one of the big three consumer credit bureaus. Every time you have activity on your account, your bank tracks that activity. Then, typically once every month, the banks will send updated information for each account to the credit bureaus. Because of this timing, it is possible for you to pay off a balance and have to wait a full month before your credit report is updated.

The timing might work out that your credit is updated the next day, but there is no guarantee. Also keep in mind that each lender reports on its own schedule, and might not report all accounts on the same day. If you pay off multiple credit cards, your credit report will likely change a few times before the final payoff is accounted for and your credit report and score jump.

Debt utilization makes up 30 percent of your personal credit score, which makes it the second largest factor in your score after payment history. Don’t underestimate the power it has to influence your score. If you can pay off all revolving credit accounts and wait for your credit report to refresh, you will be in much better standing for a new loan, assuming nothing else goes wrong with your credit in the meantime.

Wait for a 30 day cycle before applying for a loan.

Each time you apply for new credit, that credit application shows up as an inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your credit score. Don’t apply for a loan and get rejected. Pay off your debt, patiently wait a month for your credit report to update, then apply for the loan.

If you want to know for sure that your credit report is updated before applying for a loan, Nav is for you! A free account gives you both a personal and business credit score for free, and premium accounts give you scores from multiple credit reporting bureaus. Sign up and check your credit before the bank so you don’t end up with a surprise rejection of your loan application. It takes just a few minutes to get your free credit score and tips on improving your credit. You have nothing to lose, give it a try today!

 

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

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

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

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