Category Archives: Small Business

When Should You Bring on a Partner as a Small Business Owner

You’re a small business owner and feeling stuck. This happens at all stages—during idea brainstorm sessions, product development, and even after you’ve made thousands in profits. And right now you’re not sure which direction you want to take your small business.

So to clear the fog, it can be appropriate to bring in another head; one who isn’t stuck in the stuck-zone.

This person? Your business partner. Someone with expertise and a history of results; investors, and friends with big solutions. But when is the time to introduce a business partner to your small business?

1. When business is booming

When profits are coming in from every avenue, the success is amazing. But it’s also overwhelming. The stronger your sales become, the higher your revenue, and the more responsibility you have as a small business owner.

If the responsibility isn’t handled correctly, you may find yourself:

   •   Burned out
   •   Stressed out
   •   Tired out

While you might spend 60-80+ hours in the office now, it’s not necessary. Bringing on a partner to help with the influx of orders, customers, and product inventory can bring relief while also strengthening the business. And the two of you can construct a business plan to manage all new customers and orders more effectively than if you were on your own.

2. When business is slowing

On the opposite scale, when business begins to slow down, a partner can help speed things up.

A slower season—especially if your small business is season-dependent—provides you ample time to address current needs and weak points in your business model.

Strengths and weaknesses might be hard to pinpoint; however, your partner—depending on their expertise—may have an easier time identifying aspects of your small business that is causing a shortage of sales.

Together, you can also implement a new (digital) marketing strategy to ramp up customer engagement and increase product outreach to other businesses.

3. When business is expanding

Or you’re looking to expand it.

Expansion can come in many ways; partnering with other businesses in your industry, creation of a new product in a similar and/or new niche, or opening more stores across the state or country.

Expansions rely on flowing revenue streams, additional product inventory, product development, thorough communication, and marketing plans. While expanding, you may also have to hire new team members and co-workers. But implementing these changes will be a headache to handle by yourself.

You’re only one person. Although you may think that you have unlimited mental and physical capabilities, you may be burning yourself out. Hiring a partner to help offset changes, developments, and responsibilities will take a load off you while also aiding the expansion.

But when it’s time for you to decide on a partner to develop your small business further, it’s best to hire an expert in your field. Be wary of choosing a friend or family member because close relationships cause an imbalance of power, communication issues, and additional complications if the partnership doesn’t work out in the end.

7 Outrageously Unique Perks Offered by Different Companies

Last month, I was at the salon for a hair trim. My hairdresser, who also owns the place, lamented that a branch of hers outside town just closed shop. When I asked why, she said her employees have all left.

Sad story, indeed, and the sadder part is it happens to a lot of businesses.

Unique employee perks from different companies

Recruiting new talent is no walk in the park. It requires time and manpower. The costs can easily pile up, too, especially if your turnover rate is high. Once they’re on board, the challenge is retaining the high-performing ones. They’re your company’s backbone, after all.

The solution? Add handsome employee perks into your compensation plan.

Speaking of handsome, we’ve found some of the best, if not most unique, employee perks offered by different companies.

Netflix: no regular working hours

At Netflix, employees are free to come when they please, provided they get the job done. Work hours are not tracked. No standard number of days per year is required, and even vacation days aren’t logged. As long as employees deliver the performance required of them, big vacations are not a problem.

Google: 50% salary after an employee’s death

Google’s acceptance rate is a measly 0.2%, according to a 2015 report by Business Insider – about 7,000 from the more than 3 million applications they receive worldwide each year.

Aside from Google being Google and its employee perks among the most sought-after, the company’s death benefit package warrants that should an employee pass away, the surviving spouse or partner receive a check amounting to 50% of the Googler’s yearly salary for the next 10 years.

Accenture: gender reassignment

Accenture follows a strict non-discriminatory policy within the organization. As part of its commitment to uphold equality in the workplace, the company supports initiatives that promote the well-being of their LGBT employees, including domestic-partner benefits in some countries. Its enhanced health package also covers gender reassignment procedures.

Airbnb: $2,000 annual travel stipend

Airbnb employees are entitled to a $2,000 yearly travel coupon they can use anywhere in the world, as long as they stay in an Airbnb listing.

Scripps Health: on-site massages

Medical, vision, and dental benefits form part of Scripps Health’s employee health and wellness plan. Healthy living and preventive care programs include health coaching and workshops, screening and assessments, and even on-site massages.

Salesforce: paid volunteer time-off

Salesforce encourages its employees to give back to their communities through volunteering. Each employee is entitled to a seven-day paid volunteer time-off per year. When they max out their volunteer hours, they’re awarded a $1,000 champion grant they can donate to the cause they care about.

Facebook: $4,000 baby cash

Aside from “baby cash” amounting to $4,000, parents at Facebook get 16 weeks of paid parental leave. Parental leave covers maternity, paternity, and adoption leave.

Final word

Keeping your employees happy revolves around two things: lots and lots of appreciation and a fun work environment. And if you’re much too small a business to afford lavish employee perks, the key is to craft a benefits plan, as well as nurture a company culture, that shows you value your employees on a personal level.

7 Online Education Resources that Will Help SMBs Succeed

Most small to medium-sized businesses will need all the help they can get to survive in a very competitive marketplace. Because many neither have the capital nor the manpower to bring their businesses to greater heights, they need to be much more creative to succeed. That means reading up on different online education resources to help them understand the best business practices to grow their business at an accelerated rate despite any shortcomings.

As an SMB owner, you need to absorb as much information as possible from the best and most trustworthy online education resources. The following are good places to start.

Harvard Business Review
The site is chockful of news about the latest business trends and events. There are also thought-provoking pieces about numerous industries, some of which will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business works within your market.

Inc.
Catering specifically to startups and small businesses, Inc.com is your go-to place for information about the most recent developments in the startup market. The site is also known for the Inc. 5000, which lists down the fastest growing private startups and SMBs in the US. This list is a great place to see the needle movers in your industry, as well as potential competitors and business partners you need to watch out for.

Forbes
The site features a more diverse list of topics that are not limited to the business spectrum. Nonetheless, Forbes has very vibrant entrepreneur, business, and technology sections with influential and accomplished contributors sharing their tips and advice regarding success in their respective fields.

iTunes U
This app brings the classroom to students through their Apple devices. Educators can develop lessons, compile reading materials, and mediate discussions among students, and more. SMB owners can access content from open universities related to their industries. The materials available from the iTunes U app provide SMB owners with lots of information and opportunities to help them achieve success.

Coursera
Known as one of the best platforms for offering online courses, Coursera allows SMBs to choose free or paid courses related to their industries. They can take the online classes at their pace but within a specified period. Once students pass a course, their success is recognized with an official certificate, which they can share with friends, colleagues, and employers.

Udemy
Similar to Coursera, Udemy is an online course marketplace designed to help people improve their skills and knowledge about a topic. However, whereas Coursera offers mostly academic-oriented courses, Udemy provides more practical courses for professionals and SMB owners to help them gain an edge in the workplace, if not their market.

TED
With the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED puts itself in a unique position over other online education resources for SMBs. The TED Talks, which are videos from industry leaders who discuss thought-provoking ideas in front of a live audience, will help inspire you to rethink and approach subjects related to your market in different ways. TED videos are short—18 minutes or less.

Real Estate for Small Business Owners

Whether to lease, purchase or build a location for their venture is among the most important decisions a small business owner makes. Each has its pros and cons.

Buying vs. leasing

All things being equal, deciding whether to buy or lease property usually boils down to how long you intend to remain at the location. If you think the property will suit your needs for a minimum of seven years, you’ll save money by purchasing the space. Buying is more expensive, but you build equity in the property and the value should appreciate. You have a better idea of your ongoing monthly costs if you have a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. Rental rates are more subject to market forces and are less predictable.

However, things aren’t always equal, so consider whether you want to tie up your capital with a mortgage rather than rent and use those funds to grow your business. Future expansion is another consideration. If a purchased property doesn’t easily lend itself to expansion, you’re better off leasing. The bottom line is always whether a particular investment helps your business grow.

Tax considerations

You can deduct all or most of your lease expenses. If you buy, you can deduct your interest payments, but nonresidential real property depreciation expenses are written off over 39 years. Ask your attorney or accountant whether leasing or buying makes the best financial sense for your situation.

Location, location, location

Location can make or break a retail business. It’s a situation where you usually get one chance to do it right. Do your homework, and identify your customer demographic and where they are likely to shop or use your services. For your type of business, how important is customer proximity? While competition is good, you don’t want a location where you have too many direct competitors. You pay a premium for a top location, but it also drives your business.

When considering a location, do some traffic monitoring at peak hours for your operation. If the volume isn’t appropriate for your needs, look elsewhere.

Site history is important. There are places where no one stays in business very long. Find out what businesses were previously in the location, and what happened to them. Success or failure doesn’t just lie in management; certain areas just aren’t conducive to retail establishments.

Obviously, if your business doesn’t need walk-in traffic, location is less crucial. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need convenient access to major roadways or other requirements dependent on the nature of your enterprise. Industrial or office parks may offer better opportunities and costs than buildings located on main corridors.

Building

Building an office or store exactly to your specifications is probably the dream of most small business owners. New businesses may have high tech needs that an older building’s infrastructure can’t accommodate. If it’s an option, pursue it, but consider the downside. Building is time-consuming, and you may need approvals from local planning or zoning boards. Environmental or other property issues can stop a project in its tracks—perhaps permanently. Cost overruns are a given.

Commercial real estate broker

You’ll save yourself a lot of valuable time with a good commercial realtor. Unless you have expertise in negotiating leases, you aren’t likely to save money forgoing a realtor and finding and leasing property on your own. You want a realtor whose sole—or at least major—representation involves commercial tenants. As with other professionals, word-of-mouth helps find a reputable realtor. So does asking local businesses in your intended area which broker they used and whether they would recommend the person. Brokers often specialize, so find a person familiar with your type of business and its needs. A broker should know about any municipal ordinances or zoning that could affect your business—issues you certainly don’t want to discover after you’ve signed the lease or purchased the property.

Selecting a Business Structure

When you’re starting a small business, you’ll have to decide what type of business structure suits your particular enterprise. There are pros and cons to each type of business structure, and some may not be applicable to your situation.

Sole Proprietorship

If your small business consists of just you and perhaps your spouse, a sole proprietorship is the simplest way to go. Basically, you are the business and the business is you. You file taxes under your Social Security number. The downside is personal liability. If your business fails, creditors can claim personal assets such as your home and bank accounts.

Partnerships 

If you’re in business with one or more partners, a general partnership agreement may make sense structurally. In a general partnership, profits and liability are divided equally among the partners. Other types of partnerships are geared toward special projects or are limited according to investment percentages. While a partnership must file an informational return each year with the IRS, each partner reports income and losses on their individual tax return.

Limited Liability Corporation

An LLC makes sense for many small businesses, as it provides personal liability protection and can consist of various members—not shareholders. For IRS purposes, an LLC is not a tax entity. Proceeds are passed to members, who must pay tax on them. The members themselves decide how these proceeds are divided. Although regulations vary by state, an LLC is relatively easy and inexpensive to set up. You’ll need to:
      •      Choose a business name. This cannot conflict with an LLC of the same name in your state.
      •      File articles of organization. This paperwork includes your business name and the names and addresses of members.              In most states, this document is filed with the secretary of state.
      •      Generate an operating agreement. Some states require creation of an operating agreement, and outlining your LLC’s              structure and its regulations.

If your business operates as an LLC, all members are considered self-employed. That means they must pay the self-employment tax when it comes to Social Security and Medicare.

S Corporation

The IRS defines an S Corp as an entity electing to pass through income, losses, deductions and credits to their shareholders for tax purposes. Unlike larger “C” corporations, S Corps are not required to pay federal corporate income tax on profits, although some states require S Corps to pay taxes on income. The IRS limits an S Corp to 100 shareholders—all of whom must be U.S. citizens or legal residents—but there’s just one class of stock. Besides individuals, estates and certain trusts qualify as shareholders, but not partnerships or other corporations. As with an LLC, these shareholders report income on their personal tax returns, with taxation at their individual rate. Shareholders must pay taxes on income in the year it is earned, not distributed.

Creating an S Corp is more expensive than creating an LLC. You must initially file as a corporation, then submit Form 2553 to the IRS, signed by every shareholder or shareholder representative. One caveat: The IRS tends to scrutinize S Corps more than other types of small business structures.

Your attorney or accountant can advise you on the best business structure for your particular small business.

How to Build a Website from Scratch for your Small Business

In today’s world, having a website is no longer a luxury for your small business; it’s an essential extension of your business. Websites allow you to connect with your customers by setting a tone for how your product is perceived in the marketplace. The trouble is, few small business owners have any experience setting up websites. Recently, a wave of new website builders have made it easy for small business owners to create and customize websites for their businesses that they can tailor to their specific needs.

Many of the popular website builder products such as Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace.com all offer you the option to host the site as well as register domain names, but usually comes at a cost. These sites also allow the basic website novice to build a beautiful site without much design experience. You can always use a site like GoDaddy or Register.com to host your site, but because of the ease that many of the website builders provide, it’s much easier and more convenient to go through whichever builder you end up choosing.

DO: understand the difference between hosting sites, domain names, and website builders. Check to see if your preferred website builder also offers hosting abilities and domain registration. You can usually import a domain and hosting duties with the popular website builders, but make sure that’s all taken care of before you move on to the next step.

DON’T: choose a host before determining your website builder. While it might be cheaper to have a separate host and builder, a lot of times it’s more confusing and can lead to issues down the road.

Today, website builders make it easy for novice computer users without any coding skills to build attractive websites that offer a range of services that fall in line with just about any small business’ needs. Of course, if you want a truly customized site, there will be a learning curve and some coding involved. If your end goal is to have a user-friendly site for things like e-commerce, attracting more customers to your physical location, or even something as simple as giving your business an online presence, there are simple solutions that can get you off and running in just a few hours.

Once you’ve chosen your website builder and have set up hosting duties and registered your domain, you’re ready to create your website. You might want to start with a template that has already been created to get started. While builders allow you to start from scratch, a lot of the difficult legwork has already been taken care of and you just need to add text and pictures.

E-commerce sites that offer point of sale (POS) systems and allow you to take payments often can be found on the same website builders, but there are specific templates you’ll need to use. A lot of times the costs are higher with these templates, but there are useful and convenient apps that will help you get off and running without much trouble.

DO: look through the most popular website builders to determine which one best fits the needs of your small business. If you don’t want to pay a third party to help with coding, make sure to choose a site allows novice users to launch.

DON’T: forget to do your research. Sometimes the most popular sites offer the most customization features for websites, but can be difficult to understand. Know what you want from your site and make sure you match your website builder with the site that aligns best with your small business’ needs.

Most website builders and hosting sites offer unique business emails that go along with the name of your site for an additional cost so you don’t have to use a personal email once your website is set up. Many other features can be accessed through your website builders, like the ability to make newsletters, blogs, monitor traffic, upload social buttons, and manage comments.

The final thing to remember is that you can design a site and see what it would look like before you ever have to pay a dime. Make sure you try a few sites to see what each has to offer, then choose the one that’s right for your small business.

DO: start building. You can basically build a site to the point that it’s ready to launch before you pay, so the best thing you can do is to play with some templates and find what is right for you.

DON’T: choose a plan before you recognize what features you’re paying for and what all comes with a certain plan. Templates are usually free, but there are costs associated with registering domain names and monthly hosting fees. There can also be costs with upgraded features that you need, so recognize what you’re getting and only get what you need; you can always upgrade if there is something else you need.

Building a website to fit your specific needs is no longer as daunting as it once was. Today’s new tools remove much of the complexity so that you can be up and running quickly—and making your presence known.

Must-Read Business Books for SMBs

The year’s nearly half over, and small business owners are likely looking eagerly ahead to a summer break to recharge their batteries, refuel their relationship, and rethink their businesses. To prepare for that break, it’s time to start looking for invigorating summer reading, and that includes finding the best business books for small businesses.

Maybe you’re chasing a new angle on web marketing, or seeking innovative sales insights for your team. Maybe your staff just needs a refresher on general business practices. In all cases, these books below will help offer plenty of new knowledge and wisdom to drive your company’s fortunes ahead for the rest of the year.

A Company Of Owners: Maximizing Employee Engagement: Dallas, Texas-based PhD and sought-after keynote speaker Daren Martin has written a very helpful book for business owners on best practices in working with employees. How can an SMB owner motivate and captivate employees, to try to turn them into business owners? Martin’s book (his second published this year) lays out clear insights and thought-provoking solutions to better manage a small business’s most important assets—its employees.

Tech PR Blueprint: How Any SMB Can Become an Industry Giant: Written by public relations pro Dave Costello, this book shows SMBs how to use technology and great PR tactics to help your company earn brand awareness, product reviews and industry recognition. Costello writes about successful PR and marketing strategies that he’s used for hundreds of clients, using modern web marketing practices like content marketing, SEO, and social media. For SMB owners who feel they are falling behind on modern Internet marketing practices, this book’s a sure winner.

Small Business Financial Management Kit for Dummies: Yes, it’s one of those “dummies” books, but one that can help any small business owner in the challenging world of financial management. How does a business owner best decide whether to invest in new capital expenditures or make some quick talent hires instead? The answers might lie in this guide that helps an owner understand the company’s financial status, how to plan budgets, manage financial forecasts, get a handle on cash flow, best ways to increase profits, and much more.

#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness: #AskGaryvee is the latest great book from social media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. This self-made hustler has written other essential business books, delivering insights earned from his background as a wine store owner to a multi-media superstar in the world of fast-moving Internet and media businesses. Gary writes with a plain, clear, and sometimes hilariously profane urgency, encouraging business owners to take risks in new avenues and find new ways to succeed in business.

These are just among the many new books that have been published in 2016 around the needs of small business owners. If you’re not an avid reader, and have missed some of the classic business and leadership books, here also are a few quick links to get you up to speed.

•     The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in Your Small Business
•     The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
•     Think and Grow Rich!

 

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3 Must-Have Apps for Small Business with Remote Teams

More small businesses and startups are turning to the virtual team concept to help keep costs low. Thanks to the Internet, your employees can work from virtually anywhere. While that’s great, the question that still lingers in many small business owners’ minds is this: “How do I ensure my staff members function as a cohesive unit when they aren’t operating in the same physical location?”

Thanks to some terrific apps and technology providers, there are many slick solutions to help your team function harmoniously. Here are three of my favorite small business apps focused on communication.

3 apps for remote team communication and collaboration

1. Jell

Even with the best video conferencing platform, daily or weekly “stand-up meetings” can be a groan for your remote employees. If I’m honest,  they can be a groan in person, too! Jell takes the tedium out of the stand-up meeting by turning it into more of a reporting process that’s quick, easy, and transparent.

Each day, team members fill in the answers to three core questions:

•     What did you accomplish yesterday?
•     What are you planning to do today?
•     What challenges stand in your way?
Once Jell captures this information, the status update is distributed to the team and recorded in a central location. On paid plans, you can set organizational goals, add additional questions, and more. Jell integrates with Slack or HipChat, and there is an app for smartphones, too.

2. Grasshopper Virtual Phone System

Depending on the type of business you run, you may need a toll-free line or local line along with extensions for your employees. Fees for telephony services and hardware can get costly. That’s where Grasshopper can save the day. Grasshopper offers a variety of features that make your small business look and sound more professional. With Grasshopper, you can get extensions for employees, a company directory, main greeting, voicemail, professional text messaging options, and more. Your employees can use their existing home office or mobile phones to make, take, and transfer calls.

The mobile app is one of the nicest features of the Grasshopper service. The app, available for both iPhone and Android smartphones, allows your employees to call customers, prospects, and vendors while displaying your toll-free or local business number on the caller ID. This capability keeps their mobile numbers private. Users can also manage call forwarding, listen to company voicemails, send texts from your business, and manage faxes directly from the Grasshopper mobile app.

3. Hootsuite

Hootsuite has been around now for several years and is used by countless individuals, thanks to its easy-to-use features and free plan option. But there is a lot more to Hootsuite when you move to the Pro plan. (Disclosure: I am a Hootsuite Brand Ambassador, which is a volunteer position.) With the Hootsuite Pro plan, you have access to more social platform profiles and have the option to add additional team members to help you manage and monitor social media marketing efforts. You can set user roles and create approval workflows, too.

While it’s a useful tool for marketers, a Hootsuite Pro plan can be an excellent solution for small customer service teams as well (up to 10 members). Imagine having your reps at the ready not only to answer phone calls and emails but to tackle those publicly posted customer complaints, too! Your customer service supervisor can assign customer issues through Hootsuite to a particular rep. Plus, well-known support desk platforms such as ZenDesk and FreshDesk integrate directly with Hootsuite. It’s an opportunity for your team to turn possible social media disasters into customer delight.

What are the right apps for your remote team?

These are just a handful of the collaboration and communication tools available to small business owners. Although the above are my favorites, they are not necessarily the right choice for every business. When considering solutions for your remote team, determine what you are trying to accomplish with each app. Take a free trial. Ask for employee input, and then help your employees through the change process.
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3 1/2 Tips to Make The Most Out of Your IT Budget

It’s not unusual in a small business for the IT administrators to feel beat up over their budgets (or lack thereof), and it’s not without cause. Most small businesses struggle along, especially after the devastating effects of the great recession. In fact, after the 2007 financial crisis small businesses were hit the hardest. Between 2007 and 2012 roughly 60 percent of all the jobs lost were from businesses with fewer than 50 employees. When compared to larger organizations, the job loss was 71 percent worse; small companies lost 11 percent of their jobs compared to only 7 percent from larger companies.

To further compound the problem, executive leadership in these small companies often have unrealistic demands. A study by Bain & Company, about how to make IT spending more effective, found that 70 percent of senior managers believe that IT spending is highly correlated to future business growth. But of those surveyed, 80 percent believe that IT is out of step with their most strategic business objectives.

With limited budgets, soaring demands, and pressure to align closely with business objectives, IT administrators are in a tough spot: How do you deliver more services and better communicate expectations and delivery to senior managers with smaller than needed budgets?

Here are 3 1/2 tips to help you get the most out of your IT budget. In addition to aligning budgets, these tips will help senior managers better recognize your efforts and help you better understand their expectations.

1. Use company-wide task management software
At the risk of sounding cliche or overdone, using task management software such as Trello or Asana to manage IT projects can greatly increase transparency, reduce over expectations and save you budget. Here’s how:

Both of these are free tools, and there are a slew of other free tools out there that do the same thing.
These tools are easy to use and have all the buzz-word-based features your executives love to talk about–collaborative, cloud based, redundant, and secure.
These tools increase transparency by allowing others to see what you’re currently working on, what you have in your backlog, and what you plan on working on next.
Likewise, these tools also increase transparency into all that you’ve done. If you choose Trello, there is a nifty Chrome plugin that allows you to assign time estimates to tasks and easily report time measures and time budgets up to executives or down to those who are submitting requests.
These tools truly empower you to accurately set expectations. Instead of allowing users to email you, drop by your desk, or chat you an IT request, require that they instead put the request into a new task and submit via this software tool. That way they can see how much other work you are currently working on and will better understand why you can’t just drop everything to come help them reset a password.

2. Meet digitally
In small organizations travel can be expensive. If you have sales people who are flying around and meeting with prospective customers, then your executive team is well aware of the costs associated with travel. Instead of simply going with the flow and allowing these travel budgets to eat into the overall company budget you can be proactive and approach your management team with a solution: digital meetings. Be sure to couch the idea as one that will save money but also increase the likelihood of a sale. In our quick-paced world, making time in a schedule for an in-person meeting can delay meetings by days or weeks. Instead, jump on a Google Hangout or Zoom meeting.

3. Purchase nearly new equipment
Equipment purchasing is one of the largest expenses in an IT department. That will probably never change, but it can be throttled considerably, without giving up performance or increasing your hassle. With Moore’s law (computing power doubling every year) being accurate and relevant in today’s age, people are swapping up for new hardware all the time. This leaves lightly used equipment available on Craigslist for the picking. If your organization needs equipment that is even newer, it’s easy to find strong deals by shopping the outlet/refurbished sections of Dell or Apple where you’ll get 15 to 30 percent savings while still getting a new warranty and like-new equipment.

3 1/2. Give up some control
IT administrators are often weary about giving up control, and for good reason. Giving up control often means opening vectors for security breach, over-complicating the network, or increasing time burdens. This tip is an odd one, and one that all organizations may not be ready to adopt, and that’s why we’re making it just a 1/2 of a tip–though we honestly feel like it will bring you some of the greatest cost savings and highest returns in added productivity.

The tip is this: give new employees a budget and allow them to purchase their own equipment before starting at your company. Tech/software company Kuali, a creator of higher education enterprise software, uses this strategy and has seen fabulous results. Their employees hit the ground running, have the hardware they want, and save money over their own “corporate discount” purchase plans extended by Dell and Apple.

At most companies IT staff struggle to find time to purchase equipment for new employees, and often don’t get it set up in time for the new employee’s first day. On their first day in the office they often have considerable downtime due to not having the needed equipment. If your new employees are given a budget with their offer letter they will excitedly purchase their equipment well before they start and they’ll often set up the equipment themselves.

Additionally, these new employees know what their purchase price cap is and often want to impress their new employer so they’ll spend additional time hunting for a strong bargain, time that an IT administrator simply doesn’t have.

These tips and tools will empower you as small business IT administrator to do more with less, and help your executive leadership team recognize you for all that you’re doing.

How to Get a Small Business Grant without Borrowing Money

Getting access to capital is the biggest challenge facing small business owners, according to an OnDeck Capital survey. 55 percent of business owners surveyed sought financing, but of those who applied, 64 percent failed to get any sort of financing, and 82 percent were turned down by their bank. Fortunately, there are other ways to finance a small business than getting a loan. For certain types of businesses, applying for a government, nonprofit, or private grant may be an option. Here’s how to go about getting a grant without having to borrow money.

1. Know What Types of Grants Are Available

The first step is learning what types of grants are out there. Grants are available from three main sources: government agencies, nonprofit foundations, and private businesses and corporations.

Government grants include federal, state, and local government resources. As the Small Business Administration explains, federal government grants come from programs that have been authorized by Congress and the President, and they are geared towards specific federal government initiatives and agencies. For instance, the Small Business Innovation Research Program awards grants to small businesses engaged in scientific research and development. Some states award grants for purposes such as creating energy-efficient technology, providing child care centers, and developing marketing campaigns to support tourism.

Nonprofit foundations award grants that serve their organization’s mission. For example, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation awards grants that support its key areas of assistance for disadvantaged communities, early childhood education, journalism and the First Amendment, serving veterans, and youth civic engagement.

Private businesses and corporations award grants that serve their organizational missions and community outreach campaigns. For instance, each year the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards a total of $50,000 to six deserving U.S.-based entrepreneurs and small business owners.

2. Research Prospective Grant Resources

Your next step is to research online databases and library references to find prospective grant resources for your business. Grants.gov provides an online resource for searching federal government grants. State & Local Government on the Net provides a tool for searching state government grants. The Foundation Center provides one of the largest online databases of grants available from philanthropies and offers a subscription-based Foundation Grants to Individuals Online database of 10,000 programs. BusinessGrants.org lists grants available specifically for small businesses. The Open Education Database provides a list of more than 100 different grant resources. You can also research library reference resources such as The Foundation Directory, which now also has an online counterpart.

3. Match Your Goals to Your Grant Prospect’s Mission

The third step is finding a good match between your business goals and your grant prospect’s aims. To do this, you must thoroughly research your grant prospects and their grant application criteria and instructions. The best way to do this is to contact the organization via their website, email, or phone and request their basic application guidelines.

4. Follow Application Instructions

Finally, once you’ve found some good grant prospects, follow their application instructions carefully. If you need help, you may want to engage the services of a professional grant writer. Some organizations such as Resource Associates offer free grant writing services to certain qualifying organizations, or you can hire a grant writer from a source such as the American Grant Writers’ Association.