Answering Services For Small Businesses

Answering services for small businesses are on the rise. I think one of the main reasons for this is that small businesses are the companies that are really powering America right now. While unemployment is holding steady, there is no hiring. That being said, many people are out there trying to build their own small business. It makes a lot of sense, then, for a small business to either answer calls themselves or hire an external firm to answer calls.

I’m a small business with just a handful of employees. I’ve been a small business owner since the first dotcom meltdown in the early 2000s. I had every imaginable form of “answering” staff and service you can imagine. Initially, I hired a full time receptionist to answer phones, then went to a virtual assistant and am finally using an automated answering service, with sometimes a combination of two.

First of all, answering services for small businesses are really an important function to consider. The reason is that they provide your company with a professional image. I think this is true regardless of whether you have a live person or an automated service.

A full time receptionist is fairly expensive. This is especially true if this person is full time with benefits. In my experience, I was paying anywhere from $1,750 – $2,500 per receptionist per month, plus payroll taxes, paid vacations and holidays. Now, the benefit of a full time receptionist is, of course, he / she can greet clients, perform physical document filing and more in addition to answering the phones.

Virtual assistants can also be answering services for small businesses. The biggest difference between a full time on site receptionist and a virtual assistant is really cost, which is substantial. Now, if you need a physical person to greet clients, make copies, etc., then it makes sense to hire a “on site” receptionist. I have found that having virtual assistants solves all or my needs, including answering calls, for a fraction of the cost of a receptionist.

Other answering services for small businesses include a dedicated answering company. There are tons of them to choose from. Essentially, a client calls into a pre-determined phone number and the answering company answers as if they were your company. Actually, there are many variations of how they can answer the phone. Typically, the prices for answering service companies range anywhere from about $35 up to even several hundred or possibly even in the thousands. This is generally determined by the number of calls that come into your “office.”

Automated answering services for small businesses are really a great option to consider. In fact, I use one of them myself, called RingCentral. They can range anywhere from $9.95 per month up to $99.99 or more, depending on the size of your company and your need for extensions, voice mail boxes, etc. I have the $49.99 version, which suits my company very well. I get a dedicated 800 number and fax number, unlimited minutes, 10 extensions, music on hold, custom greetings, and a whole lot more.

I feel that this service suits me very well, since I don’t need to have a full time receptionist or answering service pick up my phones. However, I also have virtual assistants who handle my day to day filing, calls and general support, as well. In my case, RingCentral is the hub of our customer service communications. One tip related to RingCentral is the ability to call out from ANY phone with the outbound caller ID as your company phone number. This makes it look like your calling from the “office.”

Now, there are many more tips and tricks that you can make your office / company look really big. I will be writing on many more of these topics in the coming weeks.

Small Business Grants For Women – 4 Tips for Getting Business Grants With Ease

Gone are the days when women were overwhelmed by the male population in the business world. Nowadays, we see an equal number of women entrepreneurs in the market, and some of them are more successful than their male counterparts. Although there are many more women out there that want to start their own businesses, a big stumbling block that stops them from accomplishing the dream of their own business is the lack of funds.

Recognizing this, the government of the United States has been trying to help them by offering small business grants through various sources and organizations, specifically for the benefit of women entrepreneurs that want to either start up a business or expand their current business. If you fall into this category, read on and you would find out tips of how to obtain these business grants with ease to aid you in growing your dream business:

1) Locate the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) where you would discover a complete list of grants for small businesses and the organizations and bodies that offer them. You would do well to first determine the type of business that you plan to undertake, so that your application process would be a lot easier compared to when you apply on a general basis. Visit the CFDA website if you are a budding businesswoman looking a grant to aid you financially, and trust me you would not leave disappointed.

2) Visit Usagovernmentgrants.org, this is a site where women can find business-aiding grants that have been allocated especially for women, thus you do not have to compete with male counterparts to obtain these grants. Less competition means higher chances of getting the grant, so waste no more time, and visit this site quickly. You could find relevant information such as types of grants, amounts to be awarded as well as contact details of the awarding bodies, agencies and organizations within this website

3) Visit Grants.gov, another excellent site to locate grants for women entrepreneurs out there. Remember that the more application you put, the better the chances are for you to obtain at least one grant. This website also provides tips and pointers to help you apply for grants effectively, thus take your time to go through the contents of this site before you apply!

4) Get in touch with the Small Business Administration (SBA) either by visiting their office directly or heading to their website. Here you would be able to get all the information that you need in regards to business grants and loans, thus it would help you extensively in the process of applying and obtaining your small business grant.

By going to the right places, you could obtain yourself a small business grant for women in no time! Always remember to have a good business plan with you, and ensure that the application form is filled up accurately! Good luck!

Small Business Strategic Marketing – The 5 Key Political Issues for Your Business

The very essence of a strategic approach is taking a longer term view about your business and its prospects for the future. After all, you don’t want to be here today, gone tomorrow do you?

So, much as you’d like to put your head in the sand from time to time you really can’t afford to. You need to have a good awareness not only of what’s happening currently but what might be happening over the next twelve months or so.

It’s quite helpful to have a framework to help you sort through what’s happening around you. A simple one to remember goes under the acronym PEST – which stands for Political, Economic, Social and Legal.

Here are FIVE of the more pertinent Political Issues you might want to think about – illustrated by references to the UK (October 2010) and some PRACTICAL TIPS which you may find helpful

1. Political Stability: It’s useful to be aware of where your country is in its election cycle as often government grinds to a halt in the run up to an election. How long does the government stay in office and will it see out its term or might there be an intervening election?

In the UK, for the first time in most people’s memories we have a Coalition Government. Dire predictions of failure were made at the outset and commentators continue to point up the ideological differences between the two parties. For the time being, however, they seem to be broadly saying and doing the right things.

Practical Tip

Find out who your MP is and see if you can meet him/her face to face.

Don’t be reluctant to write if you have a burning issue.

2. Support for Small Businesses: What do you feel is the prevailing attitude towards small businesses? Are they seen as an essential component of a vibrant and economy and more importantly how much are they hindered by unnecessary rules, regulations and red tape?

There is a general acceptance that small businesses and entrepreneurs (they are not necessarily the same of course) play a vital role as the private sector downsizes with the Public Sector now having to follow also.

It has proved difficult, however, to clearly identify the tools and techniques to leverage world class performance and another round of re-structuring (abolishing Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and setting up Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) will further muddy the waters.

Practical Tip

Find out what support might be available to you locally such as free advice, funding for training, specialist grants etc.

3. Taxation: Does the regime help or hinder small business formation? Many countries relax their tax rules not only for small businesses directly but also for investors in small businesses – the so called Business Angels. Often too, there is support for owners when they decide to exit their businesses by selling out with favourable capital gains allowances.

The Tax Authorities seem to have a habit of playing ‘good cop/bad cop’. ‘Good cop’ because they are allowing companies some latitude in dealing with arrears of tax. ‘Bad cop’ – not only because of poor operational processes – but also because there are cases of them being disproportionately heavy handed in dealing with some companies.

Practical Tip

Make sure your accountant has a good reputation with the Tax authorities!

4. Employment Laws: There has been a struggle since time immemorial to balance the rights of employees (personified by the Trade Union movement) against avaricious employers (for example, sweatshops in Asia. Most start up businesses tend to be one man band so these issues may not weigh too heavily but they are certainly more relevant as the business grows.

There has been a raft of legislation coming out of the European Union (i.e Brussels) that has imposed layers of bureaucracy and unavoidable cost on businesses of all sizes- which is disproportionately punitive for small companies. These include the Minimum Wage, the Working Week Directive, rules on maternity and paternity rights and the setting of Employment Tribunals. This creates an impression of a Business Sector under attack.

The new Coalition government has undertaken not to introduce a new regulation without at the same time removing an old one – the ‘one for one’ rule.

Practical Tip

If you join any Trade Associations or Professional Bodies make sure they have a Helpline that can help you with Employment Issues.

5. Corporate Social Responsibility: Profit for profit’s sake is generally no longer acceptable. Generally- because it depends on the prevailing social, cultural and business norms of the country you’re doing business in – a wider perspective needs to be adopted.

So, there is a growing realisation that the needs of a number of stakeholders must be recognised and that just the maximisation of shareholder return alone is no longer acceptable. Businesses need to recognise the impact they have, for example, on the environment, consumers, employees, and the communities in which they operate.

The UK is not exempt from these issues but Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is still in a formative stage and generally it’s the larger corporates that are making all the noise. Keep close!

Practical Tip

This is an evolving area – stay in touch with what the press and professional publications are saying

Enjoy Small Business Success – Tips For Getting Started

How do you get started with your own small business? If you are looking for an easy business to get into, there are many options. But where do you start?

Business opportunities are plentiful and it can seem difficult at first to make a choice that will fit your lifestyle. If this is truly what you want, you can start your own business and get started with research and with mustering up a lot of motivation.

Many people start a small business are looking for debt relief and the biggest solution to debt problems are debt solutions that include earning more money to pay debts off. More than ever, people look for an opportunity to start a small business and work at home to change their finances. Debts are a good motivator. Just thinking about life without debt can give you the juice to propel forward in life.

If you’ve decided to make more money and create wealth for yourself plus give yourself the gift of freedom that comes with having your own small home business, you need some tips to help you get started. You can work at home and get yourself out of debt. Solutions to your problems can be found quickly and easily if you adopt the right attitude about the brightness of your future.

Here are two important tips to help you get started on the road to a future successful business venture:

1. Gather knowledge. Learn everything you can about your chosen industry. Whether you want to get into a travel business, a computer home business, some type of business consulting or something else entirely, you need to lap up as much knowledge as you can get your hands and eyes upon.

Business people love to talk to new small business owners and share tips. The internet provides a wealth of resources for you to learn to do things like:

  • write a business plan,
  • get a small business loan,
  • deal with technology;
  • and more.

Spend as much time as you can learning other people’s secrets. Many are willing to share stories of their success and failures so you can succeed without making similar mistakes. Join small business management mentoring groups, online business forums and local business associations and network while you learn.

2. Network. Consult with everyone you can about your small business opportunity. Small business management includes more than just selling a product and managing a business. You need to learn to advertise, learn marketing, do sales and administration and wear many different hats. Through networking you’ll learn about client opportunities, technological information that can help you boost your business and learn ways to save money and increase productivity. Make as many online and offline connections as you can to help you get your small home business off the ground.