Category Archives: Small Business

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.


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 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 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. 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. 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.

How Cloud Backup Options Benefit a Small Business

Depending on the size of your business, the cost of lost data could total in the millions. A 2015 Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis found among 350 companies in 11 countries, the average cost per lost or stolen record is $154. The average complete data breach cost is $3.79 million, while unexpected damage caused by natural disasters, physical hardware theft and lost hardware or employee error are other factors that make small business digital data so vulnerable to threats. Off-site backup options that use cloud storage technology and encryption security help ensure data protection and peace of mind when dealing with sensitive company material.

Besides the high cost of permanent loss of data, temporary data loss can be debilitating. The Data Center Journal reported in 2013, the average cost per minute of unplanned downtime was nearly $8,000, which was an increase of more than 40 percent compared to 2010. The average reported outage length was nearly an hour-and-a-half in 2013, which would cost a business nearly $700,000. For e-commerce sites, downtime not only results in loss of sales, but negative sentiment and loss of trust in a company, as breaches against companies like Target have shown. The company has agreed to reimburse financial institutions more than $100 million for a 2013 breach, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cloud backup is constantly monitored against breaches and provides uptime guarantees, while keeping data safe, secure and easily recoverable.

What is cloud backup?
Cloud backup is simply data storage located on an external server away from the business, with security functions in place to make sure the data stays safe, and with immediate backup that allows data to instantly be recovered should something negative happen to the physical servers. It also helps alleviate in-house IT needs, since data is backed up and accessible with user permissions from any device, from anywhere.

Research and advisory firm Gartner reported an increase of nearly 5 percent in worldwide spending on information security in 2015 over 2014, to reach more than $75.5 billion. As hackers become more sophisticated, and businesses need to protect customers’ personal information, data protection is of increasing importance to both large and small business enterprises. The Ponemon Institute report states a 23 percent increase in total cost of data breach since 2013, while the Breach Level Index reports more than 3.7 billion records lost since 2013 as of March 2016. As data protection becomes more affordable, and breaches do more damage, return on investment for off-site backup makes sense.

What to look for in off-site backup data protection
When considering backup options for your small business, consider the following qualities:

•     Automatic backup protections. With automatic cloud backup, you won’t have to worry about remembering to backup            your data — the off-site backup does the work for you. Services that offer the option to time backups throughout the day            give your small business continuous protection and safeguard your data.
•     Multi-device capabilities. In today’s mobile age where increasing numbers of employees conduct business activities on            mobile and tablet devices, and more employers allow a bring-your-own-device landscape, backup from devices beyond            desktops is essential. ZDNet reports 74 percent of organizations            currently use or plan to allow employees to bring their own            devices to work, so it’s vital to look for a data protection provider            that works on any device.
•     Instant restoration. To decrease the amount of downtime your            business might experience, cloud backup should offer one-click            data restoration to keep you moving.
•     Industry grade security. Besides guaranteeing 99 percent            uptime for data, a data protection service should offer the same            security standards that are used by institutions such as the            military and banks to give a business the highest quality security            available. Multi-encryption standards make sure data is protected            from breaches.

Security issues can happen at any time, which is why 24/7 customer support is also a critical consideration. There are backup options to fit any business budget, and when you weigh the costs of data loss, investing in off-site backup makes financial sense for your business and your customers.

How the Internet of Things will Change Your Business

Small businesses across many industries are using the Internet for more devices now than ever before. Beyond point of sale terminals, tablets, laptops and desktops, the Internet is now collecting and transferring data from:

Touchscreen self-serve kiosks
     •     Metering and monitoring devices on equipment and machinery
     •     Barcode readers
     •     Trucks and company vehicles
     •     Drones for cameras and transport
     •     Lighting
     •     Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
     •     Building security
     •     Wearable devices
     •     Product inventory

Though all of these devices, sensors, and items will cost your business money, there are tremendous savings opportunities to be discovered.

Here are six areas of your business where the Internet of Things (IoT) will drive down cost, create efficiency, and lighten your workload.

1. Operational Building Costs
Let’s say you are a Chartered Accountant, and you needed to work late at the office. You were the last out of the building, and forgot to do the rounds and turn off corridor lighting. Fortunately, you are equipped with a smartphone enabled device, so you can turn off the lights from your driveway, instead of driving back to the office.

Climate control, security systems and other environmental infrastructure can also be interfaced with a mobile application. You’ll benefit from the system’s convenience, and the cost savings of being able to regulate your office even when you’re not at the office.

2. Self-Serve Kiosks and Devices
Here are a few more scenarios. Let’s say you run a restaurant, or a retail store. Your employees work hard, yet there are often long line-ups, or your employees can’t be in every aisle. Self-serve touch screen devices can take food orders, help shoppers find what they are looking for, and even find out about promotional offers you have in your establishment.

If you your business is in an area where it is difficult to get qualified employees to serve your customers, or if your business is growing rapidly, IoT connected kiosks, tablets and other devices will increase the accuracy of customer orders, increase the productivity of your staff on the floor, and improve customer satisfaction.

Cashier-less check-out machines have helped to process express lane customers for several years. Since fewer customers are using cash, and turning to credit and/or debit cards, so it seems fairly certain retail transactions will continue to evolve to automated systems.

3. Connected Equipment Monitoring Devices
If your business is in the manufacturing or construction business, you will have machines and equipment which require regular maintenance. Connecting these company assets to the IoT ensures they are maintained either on a usage cycle, when they are due for some down time, or in case a sensor identifies some sort of performance or safety issue.

4. Telematics
Telematics sensors can be equipped on transport trucks or fleet vehicles, to monitor for maintenance, performance, or on-site/off-site location. Although telematics gear and related apps historically have been geared towards large enterprise and public sector, the technology cost is now affordable for small and medium businesses.

5. Wearable Devices
The use of fitness bands, smart watches and IoT enabled garments continues to evolve for personal and business use. For healthcare-related businesses, patients with diabetes, dementia or other mental/physical challenges can be outfitted with connected devices which will alert loved ones or medical professionals in case of an emergency.

6. Practical Uses for Drones
Internet-connected drones have been getting a bad rap lately for their privacy implications and safety. If you have a large warehouse, or operate farms with livestock, or plants, drones can be very useful.
     •     Want to find out where your horses went when the gate wasn’t            secured?
     •     Looking to find out if you have any forest green gas ranges left in inventory, but don’t want to walk back in the            warehouse?
     •     Interested in creating a video of your car dealership from a few hundred feet above, and stream it to the web?
           There are drones for that!

The Internet of Things offers small businesses many opportunities to save money. The role of employees and management will change as more tasks become automated, small businesses will find ways to benefit, and adapt to the evolution of smart things.

Small Business Owners and IT: Yes, You Can DIY

Running a small business requires creativity, a relentless work ethic, and the ability to wear multiple hats at any given time. While regular employees can “turn it off” once they leave the office, owning a business is a 24/7 undertaking and business owners simply don’t have that luxury.

No matter what type of business you own, it’s likely that technology plays a key role. These days more business is done via smartphones and computer screens than ever before. So it stands to reason that in order to remain competitive in the marketplace, small business owners have to stay on top of their technological needs. Generally this means having to pay an expert to manage their IT process.

The problem is, a lot of business owners can’t afford a dedicated IT admin, and as a result many tech issues go unresolved.

But what if there was a way for the small business owner to manage some of these IT needs themselves, without having to hire an outside person? Luckily there is! Here are a few ways that business owners can pick up tech skills that are relatively easy to learn, yet incredibly powerful for helping manage a small business.

Look online
Whether you are just starting out and handling multiple tasks within your company or you are an experienced business owner, every entrepreneur can benefit from continuing education and do so without paying tuition and taking evening classes at the local community college.

These days there are a number of online resources that will help develop skills in any subject matter—information technology included—often for free or at a much lower cost than college or tech school tuition.

Among the most popular options (Udemy, Coursera, and Lynda), business owners can learn from experts in their field the skills needed to become proficient in managing technology issues.

Reach out to your local Small Business Development Center
Small Business Development Centers work in conjunction with local colleges and universities to provide training, advice, and assistance to small business owners. They offer courses, workshops, and seminars on a range of topics from how-to courses on accounting software to Internet marketing and managing tech issues.

While the exact courses and workshops offered may differ from one SBDC to another, they generally will offer some basic instruction on managing technology for small businesses.

Seek out a mentor
Although online coursework and workshops are an invaluable resource for business owners, all learning doesn’t have to be completely structured. Organizations like SCORE match retired executives with small business owners who are in need of advice or help.

These interactions generally take place on a one-on-one basis, and an owner can get help on a wide variety of business topics from general business to specific technology-related questions.

In addition to the one-on-one assistance, SCORE’s website also offers online learning options. These can serve to supplement the other learning options and help reinforce understanding in a particular subject area.

By educating yourself on your company’s technological needs, and working with the correct tools and professionals to help you make sense of it all, you’ll be well on your way toward long-term success—all without a negative hit to your bottom line.

How Women Can Secure Grants to Jumpstart Their Business

Do you have a great business idea but need the cash to fund it?

Believe it or not, there are grants that might be able to help you jump start your business. There are ones that offer small business grants to women. That being said, it is not as easy as you think.

What about government grants?

Most might believe that the government has a lot of money to hand out, when in fact that is simply not true. Many federal grants for small businesses are for very specific things, such as development or research projects for rural areas. So if you’re looking to get a grant to cover startup costs or daily expenses, you might be out of luck.

However, if your business features a product or service that can positively affect women’s lives, you can try your hand at the InnovateHER Challenge, hosted by the US Small Business Administration. The top three national finalists can win up to $40,000. To qualify, you need to win a local InnovateHER challenge.

Because grants like the InnovateHER challenge can be very competitive, you might want to consider your state or local government grants. Keep in mind that the availability and types of grant differs depending on where you live, so you’ll need to do some research to find specific grant programs.

A good place to look is at your local women’s business centers. The Small Business Association (SBA) sponsors around 100 of these centers all over the country. They are specifically there to help females gain access to capital and with developing their business plans. Some of these places will actually lend you money directly. Others will help you figure out what kinds of grants you can qualify and apply for.

Another place to look is your local SBA sponsored centers. They are usually found at colleges and they offer free one-on-one business consulting. Simply set up a meeting with an adviser who can help you find grants in your area.

Are there any private grants?

There are a few national grant programs for women. You can win $500 from the Amber Grant Foundation. If you are a winner, you might be one of 12 grant winners to be awarded another $2,000. To apply, all you need to do is describe what your business is all about and tell them what you plan on doing with the money. After you pay a $7 application fee, you just have to wait and see if the foundation’s advisory board likes your story and passion.

Another grant you might want to look into is the FedEx Small Business Grant. They award 10 small businesses up $25,000 each annually. To apply, you need to explain what your business will be and how you would use the money. In addition, you need to provide photos or a video or your business. This one is not specifically geared towards women, but it doesn’t hurt to look into it.

If you need more options, a great website is Grants For Women. You can search through their database for grant opportunities, though you need to make sure the grants are specifically for businesses.


Grants are a great way to jump start your business. Again, understand that the grant money you receive might not be enough to cover all your costs, so try your hand at applying to as many as you can to help make your business dreams come true.