Should I Establish An S-Corporation For My Business?

The sub-chapter S corporation was originally created in 1958 to provide the benefits of operating a business inside a corporation, with the liability protection of a corporation but it has many similarities to a partnership.

If a business is incorporated, the corporation will pay the taxes as a C corporation unless you elect to be taxed as an S corporation. The owners of the corporation must file an S corporation election on form 2553. It may be filed anytime during the year prior to election as an S corporation or up to the 15th day of the third month after the beginning of the year. In community property states the spouse of the shareholder must also sign. Basically, this is consent by the owners to have the profits flow through to them as individuals and not be taxed at the corporate level.

Normally S-Corporations must operate on a calendar year.

There are some limitations on who can be an owner of an S-corporation. A C corporation cannot be a shareholder, nor can a nonresident alien. The S-corporation must have 100 or fewer shareholders. There can be only one class of stock. Shareholder debt convertible into stock can be a trap and invalidate the S-election. If one shareholder sells so much as one share of stock to an ineligible shareholder it will terminate the election and the S-Corporation is not allowed to reelect for five years.

The income or losses, of the corporation are taxed to the owners, in the same percentage as they own stock in the corporation. If they own 20% of the business they are taxed on 20% of the profits, 100% ownership taxes 100% of the profits. This is reported on schedule E of their personal income tax return, form 1040.

It should be noted that an owner is not allowed to take a loss from a corporation if that loss exceeds his basis in the S-corporation. Basis is the amount the shareholder has invested in the company, including both stock and loans. It is a very important point to remember that a bank loan to an S corporation even though guaranteed by the owner does not create basis. Should the S corporation have a loss exceeding the investment by the owner, it would not be deductible by the shareholder even if covered by the bank loan the shareholder has guaranteed.

The corporation is required to pay out reasonable salaries. Much litigation has taken place on what is a reasonable salary. Wages and salaries of owners are subject to payroll taxes. Profits beyond salary can be paid out as dividends. There is a tax advantage to this. Dividends are not subject to self-employment tax. This can be a huge savings over a sole proprietor.

The IRS position on dividends seems to hold that profit in an S-Corporation needs to be generated by something other than the efforts of the owner in order for dividends to be paid and not be subject to employment tax. Realtors are a case in point. If all their income is generated by their own efforts, there is little rationale, according to the IRS, for paying out profits as dividends.

There is a fringe benefit problem with an S-Corporation. If getting health insurance and certain other fringe benefits are an issue to the owners, they should be wary of an S-corporation. Health benefits are passed through to an owner as though he received the income and paid for them himself. He is allowed to deduct them on schedule A of his personal return, but oftentimes with income limitations on personal medical deductions that does him little good.

S-elections of existing C Corporation can have tricky tax consequences. That is beyond the scope of this article. Look carefully before you leap.

Liquidation of an S-corporation is less difficult than a C corporation. The basis of the stock is usually roughly equal to the basis inside the corporation, so there is usually no gain on liquidation.

As with all corporations it is wise upon forming a corporation to file articles of incorporation and create bylaws with corporate minutes. Jump through all the legal hoops. A federal corporate identification number is required for payroll, depending on the state, a state number for payroll and corporation tax or sales tax will normally be necessary. Attorneys currently often favor forming an LLC and then filing an S-election. This will work. Some attorneys feel there is a slight advantage in doing so.

There is no magic, if you incorporate your business. Generally with very few exceptions, you are not able to deduct any expenses, which you could not deduct as a sole proprietor, partnership or other form of business organization. The standard for allowing a deduction is that it must be an ordinary and necessary business expense.

One final piece of business advice. The lawyers are quick to make the argument for incorporation as a protection of personal assets from business liability. Each case must be examined separately, because circumstances vary. However more than 30 years of business experience have convinced me the best protection is to carry adequate insurance coverage.

S-Corporations are complicated. The above gives the general rules, but the tax law, and life are riddled with exceptions. Setting up an S-Corporation is not a do it yourself project.

Why Are You Waiting to Start Your Business?

For most first-time entrepreneurs, there is a considerable lag of time between thinking about starting a business and actually taking the first steps toward turning a business idea into reality. This time is usually spent rationalizing inaction — that is, thinking about all the reasons that now is not the ideal time for a startup. For the most part, these justifications fall into one or more categories:

  • Lack of Time
  • Lack of Money
  • Lack of Product or Service Idea
  • Concerns About Security
  • Concerns About Personality, Knowledge and Skills
  • Not Knowing Where to Start

 While these are all valid concerns, none are factors beyond your own control. As one management expert once said, an entrepreneur “…doesn’t see risks; he sees only factors he can control to his advantage.” Each and every excuse you can think of to resist taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is just that — an excuse. If you are serious about working for yourself and building your idea into a successful company, there is a way to start on that road immediately. Working obstacles into opportunities is a basic skill of successful entrepreneurs, and now is a good time to start honing those habits.

Time

Lack of time is a common reason for delaying the startup of a business idea. For some, there just isn’t any time today to work on the business idea. For others, the thought of taking months, or even a year, to start a business seems overwhelming and too far off. Instead, many potential entrepreneurs put off planning their business idea until they will have enough time. The problem is that life has a funny way of never leaving us with enough time to do everything we need to do! The trick to getting started with your business idea now is to organize your time effectively.

Many potential entrepreneurs have a great business idea or two but can’t find the time to develop these ideas into an actual business. This is particularly true for those who work full-time for someone else and have significant personal and family obligations. The reality is that with a little effective time management and commitment you can find at least a few hours per week to work on your startup. Many of you are thinking, “Sure, I could find a few hours a week, but it would take a year to get my business off the ground at that rate!”

So what???

The year will pass whether you work on your business idea or not, but by scheduling just 3 hours per week, you will have put in nearly ONE FULL MONTH of work hours by the end of that year! For most business ideas, a full month of work is enough time to complete just about everything that needs to be done to launch!

The trick to getting started on your business idea with limited time available is to organize your time and responsibilities effectively. Use a daily planner to schedule all of your current commitments, along with time dedicated to your startup. Plan for which part of your startup you will work on during each work session, including clear objectives. That is, identify the specific tasks you will accomplish during each startup session and hold yourself accountable for getting those tasks completed on schedule.

Try using a 90-day planning strategy for managing long-term goals. For most people, it is difficult to accurately predict how much can be accomplished within a full year from today. It is far easier to estimate what can realistically be accomplished within a 90-day window. If you can spare 3 hours per week to work on your business, a 90-day plan would include the work you think you could accomplish in one full workweek (3 hours x 12.5 weeks = 37.5 hours).

Just remember, time will go by whether or not you move forward with your business idea. Don’t wait any longer for your independence — get started today!

Money

Lack of money is, by far, the most common argument for not starting a business. Obviously, business ideas vary in the amount of capital required to successfully launch, but most can be modified and bootstrapped into manageable startup costs. Most first-time entrepreneurs develop an “order of magnitude” estimate of how much they think they need to start their business, based on nothing more than general ideas of what the big things should cost. Without detailed research and planning of your business idea, there is no way to gauge whether the cost of startup is too much. In addition, it is far easier to raise the capital you do need once you have thoroughly planned all aspects of your idea. A well-thought out idea and accurate financial projections will convince potential family and friend investors, and perhaps the SBA, that you are serious about succeeding.

Even if you work through your idea and find that you are unable to finance the full startup, you will find it much easier to modify and bootstrap your idea into smaller, less costly niches that you can ultimately grow into the company you imagine. You can start out part-time, barter with other small business owners for needed goods and services, or pick up side consulting gigs to increase income during the early stages. The internet provides significant opportunities for free marketing — it takes a little more time and effort than paid advertising, but can be extremely effective over the long run in building your brand and customer base. Once you know where you need to spend money to get your business off the ground, it is far easier to find the places to bootstrap.

Of the companies included in the 2008 Inc. 5000, 87% were funded, at least in part, by the owners themselves. The median amount of capital spent to launch these companies was $25,000 — that means half of those 5000 successful companies were started with less than 25K. A bootstrapped startup of $5,000 or less is very common, and most people can raise 5K with a little motivation. Cut your spending, sell some stuff on eBay, do some side jobs, whatever it takes, there is always a way to get started without a major outside investment. By starting your business with an eye toward conserving cash, you will develop a culture of financial responsibility that will ensure your business’s long-term growth and success.

Friends and family are the second most popular source of funding for startups (after self-funding). In order to protect and separate the business and personal relationship, it is important to follow basic business principles in making deals with those close to you. Negotiate all the terms, set a clear repayment schedule, and memorialize your agreement in writing. There are companies available who will service your family and friends loans, for a fee, which can be a great option if you and your lender would prefer an intermediary to handle any potential problems or disputes regarding the investment.

Another new avenue to raising capital for your startup is through social lending websites. These sites allow you to post your request for loans along with a description of the purpose and the interest rate you are willing to pay. Interested users pledge their own funds toward your loan in increments from $50 to your full requested amount. You repay these lenders through the website. This can be a great option if you have limited access to your own capital. Peer-to-peer lending is gaining in popularity, which also means there are some kinks to work out. Be sure to check into any lending site you consider before you commit.

Bank loans are very difficult to secure for startups. Generally, the only way to use the bank’s cash for startup is to personally guarantee the loan, usually with collateral. The SBA offers a number of excellent startup financing programs which require a full formal business plan and good personal credit. Of course, these loans take a significant amount of time and effort to secure, so if your startup expenses are relatively low, you may be better off scraping together your own cash and looking to friends and family for the rest.

Angel investors and venture capitalists are often touted as the ideal route to funding a startup. The reality is that very few companies are funded at startup through either Angels or VCs, the competition is very stiff, and you must be willing to give up significant control and ownership, in most cases. Generally, both Angels and VCs are looking for quick and enormous returns on their investments and are far more inclined to be second round investors — on board after the R&D and grunt work is complete, and all that is needed is cash to send the company to the stars. The process for most VCs is long and tedious, and very few of those seeking capital actually get funded. If you are selected, you will give up most of your ownership stake in your business and be expected to heed the advice of the professionals that come with the money. However, if your idea is one that fits the VC profile, destined for overwhelming success, you will likely be willing to make those trade-offs for the cash your company needs to succeed.

Whatever your startup plans, there is a way to get started, with or without outside financing. It is critically important that you work through your business idea in detail, including all planning and financial projections, before you reject your idea because of lack of money. The more you plan, the better able you are to see ways to bootstrap by starting smaller, cutting expenses, and exploiting opportunities that will allow your business to get off the ground.

Idea

Many potential entrepreneurs are excited by the idea of starting a business, but do not have a particular product or service in mind on which to base a business. Currently, the most popular advice is to select something you are “passionate” about, and build a business around that. The theory behind this advice is that you will be more dedicated and committed to a business that involves something that you love. The flipside of this advice is that involving yourself in that activity 60 hours per week may take some of the joy away — a pastime that was a great escape from the grind suddenly becomes the grind. For some, this choice is obvious, and you have probably considered turning your hobby into a business for a long time. For others, especially if you are still unsure about what business idea you should pursue, the chances are that you don’t have a passion that you want to turn in to a business. This is not an indication that you should not become an entrepreneur. In fact, many extremely successful entrepreneurs couldn’t care less what type of business they are in, as long as they can control the factors that make it successful!

If you fall into the “whatever business will work” category, your first order of business is to identify needs that must be filled, or new needs that can be created. How do you do this? Pay attention! Everywhere you go, everything you do, keep an eye out for problems people have and brainstorm potential solutions. Keep a pad of paper with you and write down every idea you come up with. The reality is that just about everyone could come up with at least ten business ideas right now if desperate enough. Think about what you are good at, jobs you think you would enjoy, things your friends and neighbors complain about, improvements on products or services that could save time or money. Consider the market you are most interested in targeting — what do they do? How can it be done better? What product or service do they need that they don’t even know they need yet? Include ridiculous and impossible ideas. The act of writing down even outrageous ideas can enhance creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, eventually leading you to a business idea that is viable and fits you.

If you have trouble getting started, surf the web for lists of business ideas, scan startup magazines at the grocery store, and talk to your friends and neighbors about your desire to start your own business. There are many, many business ideas that can be developed into successful companies. If you are determined to work for yourself, finding the right business idea is a minor obstacle. Of course, it’s hard to argue with “doing what you love” — just remember that the reality of owning your own business requires the bulk of your focus to be on the business side. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that the right set of business skills can make any business idea enjoyable and profitable. As long as you are willing to put in the time and commitment to learn everything you can about your business, you will succeed.

Security

Many potential entrepreneurs who are on the fence about whether to launch their own business are concerned about the perceived lack of security and high risk involved in going out on their own. There is a common belief that working for others is more secure than working for yourself because of the “guaranteed” paycheck. As the recent economy is showing us, working for others is no guarantee of job security! One in ten of your peers are currently unemployed, and the job market is going to get worse before it gets better.

Working for yourself is often considered “risky” by non-entrepreneurs, but most business owners don’t see it that way. Instead, entrepreneurs see every factor as within their control and as an opportunity to build their business into a successful company. With your own business, you are in complete control of the direction of your business, you decide how and when to market, you manage all the finances, and you make the final decisions about every aspect of growing and developing your idea. While it’s true that any failures are your responsibility, business ownership tends to drive entrepreneurs to pay closer attention to the details and factors that drive success or failure, and have far more incentive to pick themselves up when they slip and try again.

The primary factors in reducing the risk in any startup are good planning, efficient marketing, and solid financial management. Good planning does not mean throwing together a basic business plan using a ready-made outline. Rather, you need to completely flesh out your business idea, considering all relevant factors from your business name to target market to expenses. Efficient marketing begins with a complete understanding of who you are trying to reach and how your product or service will grab their attention.

With the ever-changing marketplace, it is more important than ever to research and understand the various marketing options available and establish procedures for ensuring your business is getting the best return for your marketing dollar. Financial management of the business is often a struggle for new entrepreneurs. Owning a business is all about turning a profit, regardless of the type of business you choose. It is critical for new business owners to select the right accounting system (not necessarily the most popular) that will allow you to accurately evaluate the financial health of your startup, and to understand the basics of evaluating the numbers on a regular basis.

If you are working a full-time job now and are reticent to give up that steady paycheck, consider starting your business part-time. As mentioned in the earlier, working on your idea just three hours per week for one year is equivalent to taking one full work month to focus on your startup. In addition, starting your business while still employed eases the financial pressures inherent in startups. By tightening up your personal expenses, many entrepreneurs may be able to launch their business without any outside investment. At a minimum, completing all of your business planning while working will make it clear whether working for yourself will be successful enough to support you financially and how much capital you will need on hand to survive those first few months.

One side note — some potential entrepreneurs worry that if they start a business and it fails, then all of their personal assets (house, savings, etc.) will be at risk. The primary avenue for protecting yourself from that possibility is to organize your business as an LLC or corporation and to make the effort to keep your business compliant. Basically, this entails keeping all personal and business records completely separate, filing all required paperwork and fees with the state on time, and maintaining accurate records of your business entity. In addition, new business owners should avoid providing a personal guarantee to any lenders or suppliers, if possible. Business failure does not necessarily mean a devastation of your personal assets as long as you plan from the start to protect and separate your business and personal worlds.

The slow economy and tight job market make this an excellent time to start up your own business. By planning your company conservatively enough to survive this economy, you will develop a culture of careful spending, efficient marketing, and consistent oversight that will prepare your company for explosive growth once the economy bounces back.

Personality, Knowledge & Skills

Some potential entrepreneurs worry that they do not have the right personality, knowledge, or skills to successfully launch and run their own business. While certain traits are generally associated with the entrepreneurial spirit, there is nothing magic about owning a business — anyone with the desire can learn what they need to know.

The personality traits that non-entrepreneurs generally associate with entrepreneurs are that they are extreme risk-takers, are very outgoing, have no fear of failure, and have a high tolerance for uncertainty. While it seems, at first consideration, that these traits might be required for taking the chance on your own startup, they are not. All different types of people have successful companies, the trick is to use your own traits to your advantage. If you do not see yourself as a risk-taker, you are likely to put more time and effort into planning each facet of your business idea, researching and comparing options to find the best avenue to reach your business goals. If you are an introvert, you can choose a business model that allows you to work independently, add key personnel to handle public appearances, and practice your networking skills in smaller, controlled environments.

A healthy fear of failure is an excellent motivator, as long as you don’t allow yourself knee-jerk reactions to setbacks. For many successful entrepreneurs, the fear of failure translates into the drive to succeed. Changing your mind about how you channel your fears can be a critical factor in the success of your business idea. A low tolerance for uncertainty is often reflected, again, in careful planning as well as close attention to the financial management of the startup. In reality, some of these presumed “entrepreneurial traits” can be a real disadvantage to a new business owner. If you have no fear of risk or failure, you are far more likely to take uncalculated risks that are far more likely to put your success in jeopardy.

Most business responsibilities fall into two broad categories — operations and business. Operations refers to what your business actually does — makes and delivers pizza, trains construction managers, publishes a sports magazine, etc. The business side refers to the tasks that must be handled for all businesses — accounting, marketing, customer service, etc. Entrepreneurs tend to be very strong in one area or the other, but often not both. Those who choose a business idea because it is something they are passionate about usually have the operations under control but worry about handling the business side of the equation. Even if you are “doing what you love,” the whole point of business ownership is to turn a profit. It is critical to understand how to handle the money and to equip yourself with the right tools to make financial management of your startup as accurate and straightforward as possible.

In addition to basic accounting skills, an entrepreneur must be familiar with research and planning, marketing, and dealing with customers and, in most cases, employees. None of these skills are particularly difficult, but those with little or no experience will need to take the time to understand and master these areas in order to drive their business to success. For those who have a particular business idea but have limited knowledge of the actual operations, you can take classes, work in the industry to learn the ropes, or hire key personnel with the experience your business needs. Whatever skills you lack to successfully startup your dream business, a little time and dedicated effort can get you where you need to be.

Where to Start?

Congratulations! You have eliminated all the usual excuses for not getting started on your new business…..now what? Figuring out where to start in developing your business idea is a major stumbling block for most first-time entrepreneurs. The available advice is all over the place and often lists “business requirements” without telling you how, when, or why to do them. Simply registering your business and posting a website is not enough, and the available fill-in-the-blank business plan templates do not tell you how to dig into the details of your startup or what you should be looking for.

For every business idea, the first order of business is to actually plan your business. Merely writing down your business idea and throwing together unjustified numbers for projected financials is not a plan. Rather, you need to thoroughly define your product, identify your target market and how to reach them, determine all legal requirements, and develop solid, justifiable financial projections before you can decide whether your business idea is viable. In addition, you need to develop a complete marketing plan, from the role, design, and SEO of your website (yes, your business must have a website!) to the best routes for reaching your market through paid advertising to the role of networking in developing your business.

Quite a bit of effort goes in to a well-developed plan, but the experience will leave you completely prepared for managing your business once it is up, running, and making money. Your well-developed plan will provide you a roadmap for where your business is going and how to get there. In addition, if you will need outside investment to launch your startup, all of this research will easily develop into your formal business plan and will clearly show that you have done your homework and know your business inside and out.

With your completed plan, you will know whether you can finance the startup yourself or will need outside investment. If you can fund it yourself, the next steps are to execute the plan and open for business! Then, your responsibilities shift to the actual operations, managing employees, overseeing the financials, and planning for growth.  

There is a lot to starting your own business, but the independence and flexibility that comes with entrepreneurship is well worth the effort. The process is not as complex as it seems, and the keys to success are easy to remember — Planning, Marketing and Financial Management. If you begin your business with these factors in mind, you will greatly reduce your risk and greatly increase your odds of success.

21 Top Marketing Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

The analogy between marketing and a business is similar to the relationship of body and food. Marketing is the heart of the business. Every business is different so each business has to offer marketing and development, which fits each unique business’s need. There are many ways of developing and marketing for any business, but first let’s find the true concept and definition of marketing.

Marketing definition:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”.

1- Thinking advertising is marketing:

The biggest mistake most of the business owners make is to think advertising and spending money is the only marketing way exist. This group only focuses on advertising, which when the desire result is not achieved at the end of the month, they complain of how much money they wasted away. Advertisement is merely one of many ways of marketing.

2- You don’t enjoy what you do:

As stated above Marketing has many ways and approaches. The main marketing for your business is to love what you do. Nothing is better than your “Love what you do” attitude since it brings out your creativity, shows your talent and tells everyone how devoted you are to your business. Your daily positive attitude defines the successful future of your business. The love of your business construe in your daily interaction with new clients, employee’s moral and making important and effective marketing decisions. To be a good marketer for your business, first rule is your love for what you do.

3- Don’t have a good business plan:

What is business plan?

“A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement”.

Having a business plan is like having a map. Many businesses start their business ignoring this very effective tool and get lost in the middle of the road. Every business plan states the exact details of the business’s concept and outlines clearly the marketing strategies, profit and loss, demographic, place of business, finances and targeted niche market. In order to make a solid business plan:

A) Know your business inside and out

Knowledge of your business is important to know the answer to all the categories of business plan. If you do not know the concept of your product or service, business plan and the pillar of your business does not exist.

B) Study, analyze and scrutinize

When you know the back and forth of every detail in your business, you can access all the required information needed to project your business in a business plan. In order to access all this information you need to study, analyze and scrutinize every file and information in libraries, city records and valid informative site on the Internet.

C) Print it and have it accessible

When you put all the info together and created your fully detailed business plan, print a copy and keep a file handy and accessible.

Your projected analysis for the business works as a map to your success. Don’t drive to an unknown destination, not having a map on hand.

4- Don’t have any plans:

Marketing and developing its strategy is vital for every business. Marketing works as fertilizer to boost the lawn of your business. Even more importantly, marketing acts like sun to shed light and direction to your business for finding leads for the potential clients. Marketing is like having your open sign on in the dark street. I think I emphasized enough and you understood how important marketing is for any business, small or large.

5- Not analyzing the market for correct pricing.

Every business offers products or services. Then producing and providing the products and services involves certain cost and fees. Setting the price according to the market is very important and cause for a major failure for small businesses if done without market awareness. The root and source to find a perfect price is your business plan. It is necessary for every small business owner to investigate:

A) The demographic income of the targeted niche and audience:

The business plan states the average income of the targeted audience and the niche market. Set prices based on the factual statistic and spending ability of potential clients.

B) Market needs and economy balance:

An involved business owner is always aware of the market needs and the economy balance. Based on your niche market, be on top of the factors of change in economy that can impact your client’s ability to spend. If you deal with bankers and investors, keep up with stock market news and its daily changes and adjust your prices regularly.

C) Competitive market prices:

A business person is always on a lookout for its competitors and is aware of their side of story. It is necessary to know your competitors and adjust your prices based on their offering and similar services.

D) Demand of the product or service:

Investigate the demand before putting the price tag on your product and service. You can find this information through the data in your business plan. Balance your prices based on the market demands;

  • If you projecting a good volume of sale, price it lower than competitors.
  • If the demand is lower and the project of volume is slow, price higher to accommodate the distance between each sale.

E) Uniqueness of the product or service:

A unique product and service in the market attracts more attention. Price it higher than other regular products.

F) Acceptable profit margin range in the area:

Profit margin’s acceptability is always decided based on the market and economy as well as the market demand for the product.

  • Consider a big city. If you have a product or service that is unique, but projecting a high volume of demand, based on the economy and your targeted niche, the profit margin should set higher than normal.
  • In a small community, If you are investing on a product with limited demand, go conservative on your profit margin.

6- Not having any budget

Many small business owners make a big mistake and do not place any budget for daily, monthly or yearly marketing plans. Whatever the profit and loss data projects on your business, it must include certain amount of budget for marketing plans that are realistic and traceable. Unfortunately small business owners mostly have no budget and deduct the cost of marketing plans from their profit data. This particular budget assignment is very effective in the future of business growth. Increase the marketing budget with business slowly reaching the peak of demands for your product and services.

7- Spending money on non-traceable ads

As the market changes, so as the marketing plan, pricing and target audience. Invest and assign marketing plans that are traceable. Traceable marketing means follow-up charts to analyze data.

The worst mistake of marketing is to spend money on a plan that cannot be traced and measured. This marketing mistake is wasting money or in other terms is shooting in the dark.

8- Do not trace the result

Many businesses have assigned a budget for the traceable marketing plan but sadly do not follow-up on the result and do not trace it. This is just the same as spending wasteful money on non-traceable.

9- Think in a closed box:

Each business is unique. Even if the business offers a same product as other business few streets down the road, the two are still unique and different in many ways. The biggest mistake small business owners make is to follow other businesses’ footsteps. Marketing and its strategies should not have any limitation. Think of marketing out side of the box and do not limit the marketing strategies to a cliché approach others do. Be creative and design a plan unique and suitable for the very business.

10- Don’t know what plans to set:

Everyone is familiar with the word marketing. The first conversation when opening a new enterprise is “Lets do marketing!” But do we all really realize the core meaning of it?

I compare marketing strategies and its unique approach to our fingerprints, which is distinctive. Many understand the word marketing but are not familiar with how to set the strategy and the game planning related to the business.

It is a big mistake not knowing how to set the strategies while being fully aware of marketing important role in the business. Since setting the marketing plan requires research, analysis and knowledge of he market, hire a professional researcher and marketer to create the necessary game plan.

11- Assuming the product or service will sell itself:

One of the biggest marketing mistakes is to assume your product or service is going to sell itself. This assumption is misleadingly translating marketing into advertisement. I have met many small business owners who declared that quote-to-quote “I don’t spend money on the marketing, to me I only rely on word of mouth”.

Word Of Mouth is the strongest way of marketing. So what this small business owner was under impression that he does not do any marketing because he thought marketing was spending money on advertisement. So he was counting on the most effective marketing, the word of mouth. Word of mouth consists of two factors:

A) Product or service:

People have to like the product or service to continue talk about it and refer their friends.

B) Customer service

Another major difference between businesses is the level of customer service. I didn’t say the level of good or bad. What I mean is each business owner or employee that has been fully trained to look after a client as a customer service has his or her own charm. This specific charisma and character make the business unique to others and is a major influence for word of mouth.

Let me give you an example of how powerful the word of mouth and spreading the word is to any business. While ago, I worked as a junior manager in an up-scale restaurant. The general manager identified his target niche as young professionals in downtown area. So he hand-picked few employees in the same age range as the targeted niche to use public transportation and talk about the restaurant among each other. His decision, although was not directly traceable, but yet had an amazing effect. How did I analyse the result and witness the proof?

The restaurant offered comment cards, asking “How you hear about us?” and many without any surprise responded via word of mouth in public transportation.

Even if the business owner is avoiding any advertisement cost, they still rely on spread of word about their service and product via the community and the word of mouth marketing.

12- Don’t know the target audience:

To plan and set a marketing strategy, any small business has to have a direct target niche as an audience. Analyze everything about the niche audience. The list certainly is not limited to the audience’s income, age, interest ratio to the product, sex, education, commitment ratio and their loyalty.

13- Don’t know the competition:

The best way to analyze the market is to get familiar with the competition and rivals. It might sound cliché but as the Godfather movie suggested, “Keep you enemy close“. Or if I may rephrase ” Keep your competition close and be aware of their moves”.

This is especially important for small business owners in small community to have a good relationship with other competition. To share my experience in the same restaurant I used to manage, the general manager always encouraged me to go to other local restaurants and dine. He even offered to pay the bill. All I had to do was to analyze everything from the greeting, staff knowledge, manager’s presence, client’s relation and the overall quality. My report helped him to understand his competition strengths and weaknesses.

14- Hiring wrong person to do marketing:

Many small business owners out of desperation and lack of networking, hire wrong people to do their marketing. As we said earlier, every business has unique offering and services so must focus on unique planning for its marketing strategies.

It is the small business owner’s responsibility to hire a professional firm who can relate to the business’s need and offerings.

A good reputable marketing firm whose focus is to promote books and authors in not a good fit for a small local bistro.

15- Underestimate the value of existing clients:

A good businessperson always knows the value of the existing clients;

The best way of follow-up with the existing clients is to create informative data about them. Many small business owners lack this very important source of information. To avoid this mistake, keep a record of every client’s information. If the information requires certain personal data, keep it in a safe and secure place.

A client whom already has experienced your product and service knows about the quality of it. Always do follow-up calls and do not be afraid to ask how they liked the product or service. Even if the client responses back with dissatisfaction is a perfect opportunity for the business owner to fix the problem.

Gain a new customer is costly. I am gong to explain this by an example:

Nancy enters Joe’s café because of a coupon she found in a local magazine offering 10% discount. She solely relies on a menu attraction, prices, quality of the food and customer service. Joe the owner spent lots of money and time for marketing after analyzing the community needs, price affordability and the targeted niche market.

Joe has three ways to collect emails or phone calls for follow back:

A) placing a note pad in front of the cashier’s desk asking new clients to write email or contact info for special promos.

B) Placing a glass bowl by the cashier’s desk offering the weekly draw of free lunch from dropped business cards.

C) Offering comment cards and asking for contact info.

Joe has three ways to accumulate client’s information and follow-up with them. So everyday he goes through all the information and creates a secure data.

Nancy finds the place charming and the food great but not a good customer service. It is Joe’s responsibility to follow-up and gain back Nancy’s business once again to avoid spending all the money and time all over to attract another new client.”

Existing clients are the perfect way to promote every business. Send special offering, communicate with them and even ask them to share your business with their friends. Respect the boundary between proper communication and spamming.

16- Not offering giveaways and novelty items:

One of the most effective ways to attract clients is to giveaway your product or service for free.

A) Test run: Offer a monthly test run of your product and service and giveaway a free sampler. People love to get samplers. It gives them information about your business and its quality.

B) Propose monthly contest: Proffer a monthly contest and giveaway prizes based on participating in your business. People love contest and it excites them to know they can win something. If it didn’t work, Lottery and Casinos didn’t exist.

C) Give out novelties like mugs, pen, key chain, notepad, calculator, shirts and hats with the business information printed on it.

17-Wrong niche:

As a business owner recognizing correct niche market target is necessary for further marketing planning and budget assignment.

To explain this better lets picture a shoe store that carries high-end fashion shoes for women. The first thing that comes into the mind, high-end fashion niche is only younger generation and teenagers. A good business owner will explore the possibilities to analyze further more into the data from business plan to understand the local community needs.

If selling high-end, then its higher quality and higher prices. A teenager on a student living budget cannot be a direct and only target niche. So the correct niche is a professional and higher income spender who is more interested in quality without considering the price tag.

This example clears how a business owner distinguishes the certain target audience by analyzing the local market data from business plan. With enough knowledge in market research, the business owner avoids wasting the marketing budget on a wrong niche.

18-Not participating in community:

“Every big things has small beginning”

Regardless of the geographical target of any business, whether global or corner store in a small village, it all begins with local community.

Who are the first people you would share news with in your everyday life? Family and friends are the strongest link to marketing and spreading the word. It starts from friends and family and spreads to their friends and family and before you know it, is a snowball effect and cumulative.

The local community is the test run before spending a time and money on a dead-end marketing plan.

19- Do not own an informative and representative website:

Internet plays a great deal of connection in people’s life everyday. Many customers use the Internet to search and review local businesses. No matter what kind of business, it requires an informative and user-friendly website. A good business website is a gateway that welcomes customers to enter and experience the business offering.

Many small business owners making mistake and assume their line of business does not need a website. With daily development of technology, people get more connected via Internet and do their shopping online. Search engines get stronger everyday by developing codes and programs to bring up the exact and precise inquiry.

20- Do not appreciate the value of the Internet:

With a vastly growing competition on the Internet and the increase in demand for business development, simply having a website that offer information is not enough. Popular search engines are only producing websites in their search result, which have better ranking. Many small business owners simply making a big mistake by avoiding the presence on the Internet and ignore the growing highway to success. Every business must have an informative website and optimizes the business on search engines, social media and popular relevant forums. This subject of Internet marketing and its highly effective marketing plans is a lot of subject to cover in this article.

21- Expecting too much in short time:

Do not expect too much in a short time. There is always cause and effect but it requires proper time period to produce best effect. A seed needs time to open the surface and grow to a strong tree. But it requires water and good fertilization. Marketing is the water and fertilization to the business. It takes time for a good marketing plan to spread the roots and make a strong holding ground.

“Rome was not built in a day”

It took generations and much hard work of skilled engineers, planning and proper budgeting to build the mega city of Rome.

Can you hold a roof without building the pillars and the walls?

Marketing is the pillar of the business. Without marketing and planning, business lacks a foundation.

Many business owners place the marketing and development in their last page when the business opens its door to the public. Marketing starts when the business idea takes shape. It begins before the business is even called a business. Avoid making marketing mistake and start your marketing with knowledge and strategy.

Marketing is the heart of every business and keeps the health of the company in balance. But treat the heart right. Eating healthy, exercise and lack of stress are keeping the heart healthy to beat the life into our body. Practicing and implementing the right marketing strategies keep the business in shape. Don’t make mistake if you had a good run. Many small business owners get too excited for this temporary beat of recognition and look at it as everlasting. To keep a good balance in business, marketing and planning should match the flow of the business. Increase your strategies as your business grows and increases.

Marketing is the pillar of every business and is the only foundation to go further, faster. Imagine a boat with no engine crossing the Atlantic. The marketing to a business resembles the engine to a boat. The planning and strategy of the marketing to the business is the safety gear of the boat that keeps it balance and not to tip over.

Venture Capital: Presenting Business Plans to New Investors

The new generations of entrepreneurs who have developed their business to the point of needing investors to build larger, are hesitant about giving up control of their business. CEOs that are raising capital for their business want to know that the investor can bring a benefit to their business. Entrepreneurs are more likely to give up some control of their business, if they feel solid chemistry between them and the investor and if the investor has great skills with plenty of contacts to help grow the business.

Venture capital firms are looking for businesses with solid business plans that are realistic. The business plans should outline the financial planning for the future growth of the business that covers all aspects. The plans should prove beyond a doubt that the projected plans are solid and why more financing is needed. Documents need to show how much money is needed so the business can grow into profitability.

Most investors are also looking at those businesses where the owner has put up his own money for the success of the business. If the owner is willing to take the risk on himself, investors seem to be more willing to put up the extra capital needed. Entrepreneurs who are willing to take a personal risk are usually harder working at making the business grow.

When presenting the business plans to investors, make sure the presenter has a good knowledge of management and can be forceful in bringing the facts to the table. Make sure the whole team presenting the business plans to potential investors, are well versed on presenting the plans. Investors want to see a positive attitude from those that are going to be running the business and spending the money from the investors.

Investors will want to see financial statements and budget plans for the business. If the business is, up and running create a quick layout of the financials and how the business is doing. Investors are not looking for a perfectly financially sound business. They are looking to see how the finances are handled and what improvements need to be addressed.

Capital investors are in great demand. Make sure that all the business plans are completely prepared properly and that all presenters are equipped with the right financial reports, charts and budgets for the business. A poor presenter could diminish the chances of the business gaining the financial money needed to grow or expand a business. Investors will ask all sorts of questions and the answers need to be the ones the investors are looking for without any hesitation from the presenter. Presenters need to know the business inside and out and be able to have the patience for answering questions from more than one investor.

The final step would be to show exactly how much money is needed and how it will be spent to improve the business for future growth. Do not inflate the amount of money needed. Investors are very knowledgeable about business finances and do not play games when investing their money.