/Running A Small Business

10 Steps to Starting an Email Newsletter to Market Your Business

If you are looking for an effective way to increase sales and keep your business in the forefront of customers’ minds, email is the perfect solution. With an ROI of $38 to every one dollar spent, according to a survey last year, email marketing can pay off big for a small business. After all, we all get email, and most of us check it multiple times a day.

Inundating prospective customers with daily emails about sales or discounts isn’t the way to get their attention, however. Instead, try offering them something useful: an email newsletter. Here are 10 steps to starting your own.

  1. Clarify your goals. As with every other type of marketing you do, it’s important to set specific, measurable goals for your email newsletter. Do you want it to get customers to visit your website, call your business or actually walk in the door? What numbers constitute success? How will the newsletter integrate with the rest of your marketing efforts to reach those goals?
  2. Decide on content. A newsletter must be more than just a marketing message — it should also offer some valuable, useful information to readers. For example, if you own a garden supply store, you could share 10 tips to prepare your garden for winter, a list of 5 essential garden tools, or the 3 biggest mistakes new gardeners make. Think of questions your prospective customers have or problems they need solutions to, then develop content that answers them. You can also announce new products or services, upcoming events at your business, and sales or other promotions.
  3. Be consistent. How often to send out your email newsletter depends on your available time, type of business and desired goals. However, once a month is a good starting point for most businesses. If you send your newsletter less frequently than that, you won’t achieve your goal of building brand awareness. Consistency is key, so send your newsletter out regularly at the same time of the month and the same time of day—such as 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month.
  4. Collect email addresses. The FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act strictly regulates email marketing. You can’t send your newsletter to people unless they sign up for it. Put a sign-up box near the top of your business website (all you have to ask for is the customer’s email address) or use a popup message. Collect email subscribers offline, too, by asking customers to sign up during the sales process. Offering an incentive for signing up, such as a code good for 20 percent off the first purchase, will help build your email list.
  5. Choose an email marketing service. Email marketing services provide email newsletter templates that make creating your newsletter easy. They also handle the grunt work of sending out the emails and gathering data about how customers interact with them. Constant Contact, Campaigner and MailChimp are popular email marketing services; ask other business owners for their recommendations, too.
  6. Select a template. Choose a template design that fits the type of content you plan to include and harmonizes with the design elements of your business brand. Make sure the template is mobile-friendly, since the majority of emails are now viewed on mobile devices.
  7. Create a welcome message. When someone signs up to receive your email newsletter, send a confirmation or welcome email thanking them for subscribing and letting them know what to expect. For example, tell them how often they will receive the newsletter and how to change their newsletter preferences or unsubscribe. Your email marketing service can set up this welcome email to send automatically.
  8. Include calls to action. Remember your newsletter goals? Include clear calls to action to achieve those goals. For instance, if you sell clothing online, news about your new fall fashions could include a link to “Shop Now.” Links should always go to specific landing pages—not just to your website’s homepage. Make sure the landing pages are mobile friendly in case users click through on a mobile device.
  9. Encourage pass-along readership. Grow your email newsletter audience by asking readers to forward the newsletter to a friend or colleague who might be interested. (Be sure to include a link at the bottom of the newsletter that tells recipients how to subscribe.)
  10. Track results. Email marketing services gather lots of data about how recipients interact with your emails, and provide analytics tools you can use to slice and dice that information. How many recipients open your newsletter? How many actually click on a link? Of those, how many actually take the desired action (such as making a purchase from your website)? Slice and dice this data to see what email newsletter topics, times of day and subject lines work best. Use what you learn to continually improve your email newsletter.

Will Your Business Need Financing in the New Year?

As you plan and set goals for your small business in 2017, one area to look at is financing. Will you need additional funding at some point in the New Year? If the answer is yes, how will you raise the money? Take a closer look at the two primary means of raising capital — equity financing and debt financing — and what you need to know about each.

Equity Financing

In equity financing, you give up a piece of your business (equity) in return for an investment of capital. Equity investors may be private investors, venture capital companies or even your friends and family.

Angel investors are the most realistic source of investment capital for most small business owners. Angels are private investors; some invest individually, while others form angel groups to pool their money. Generally, angels are experienced business people, former business owners or professionals. In addition to the capital they can provide, they can also offer much needed business guidance and expertise.

If your small business has strong growth potential in an industry such as technology or healthcare, you may be able to get venture capital. Venture capital firms tend to focus on businesses with a track record of success and potential for rapid growth with a high return on investment. They make large investments, but in return, will want to have a strong say in your business and possibly even take over management.

If you plan to seek capital from investors, it’s important to make sure the business structure you chose will allow what you want to do. For example, if you operate as a sole proprietor, you won’t be able to take on equity investors, since there is no separate “company” to invest in.

A general partnership, C corporation or limited liability company (LLC) form of business all enable you to sell shares in your business. However, if you have an S corporation, the number of shareholders you can have is limited to 100, which could be a problem. In addition, the S corporation form limits what type of person or entity can be a shareholder or owner, which could cause problems either in raising capital or transferring ownership of shares down the line.

While taking on investors may seem like an easy solution to getting the money you need, you should think carefully before giving away equity in your business. Depending on the amount of equity they control, investors can make it more difficult for you to make decisions about your business without their input. Your relationships with investors, even those you are currently close to, may change in the future, leading to unforeseen difficulties. If you give up too large a stake in your business, you may eventually lose control of it altogether.

Debt Financing

As the name implies, debt financing means taking on debt that you need to repay at some point. Typically, this means a bank loan. However, debt financing can also take the form of loans from friends and family, credit unions, or alternative financing sources or even taking credit cards advances.

Business loans can be secured or unsecured. Secured loans require you to put up some collateral, such as business equipment or your house, to obtain the loan. Unsecured loans don’t require collateral, but are often more difficult to get and have higher interest rates and fees.

If you’re seeking a bank loan, the best place to start is with a bank that makes Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. SBA loans are partly guaranteed by the SBA, which makes banks more willing to lend to small businesses they otherwise might consider risky borrowers.

Other sources of debt financing include:

  • Equipment financing: If you are purchasing business equipment, the company that makes the equipment may have financing options available.
  • Invoice financing: Invoice financing companies advance you money based on the amount of your outstanding invoices.
  • Factoring companies: Similar to invoice financing, factors purchase your outstanding invoices for a percentage of their value, and then take over collecting on the unpaid invoices for you.
  • Merchant cash advances: If your business makes most of its sales via credit cards, such as an e-commerce business or retail business, you may be able to get a merchant advance based on the amount of your average credit sales.

The Right Choice

To make sure you’ve selected the right form of business for your financing needs, it’s best to discuss it with your attorney and accountant before making any decisions. If you need to make changes to your business structure before seeking financing, start now so you’ll be ready to go after the capital you want in 2017.

Should I Incorporate Now or At The Beginning Of The Year?

So you want to change your business structure from a sole proprietorship to an LLC or a corporation? Great! But you might be wondering if you should make it effective now, or wait to file your paperwork until the New Year.

If you’re one of those hyper-organized people, like me, you probably love the idea of having a neat and tidy January 1 effective date. After all, who wants to deal with filing two sets of tax forms—one for the period of time in this year when you operated as a sole proprietor and another for the part of the year the new structure was in place? But at the same time, I’ll bet you want to have all your ducks in a row right now, so you don’t risk filing too late and facing the same situation next year.

Sigh. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Delayed Filing To The Rescue
Guess what? Most states offer a Delayed Filing option. It provides you a way to perfectly time the effective date of when your business officially changes to your new structure of choice.

Delayed Filing enables you to submit your application for whichever business structure you’ve chosen, but delay the actual incorporation date until a specific date in the future. In short, it lets you control your effective date of incorporation or LLC formation.

Whether you want to make a clean break with a January 1 start date or you have reason to schedule your new structure to take effect on some other date next year, you can get the paperwork out of the way now. That leaves you with one less task to take care when you need to be focused on marketing strategy, customer service, and all else.

Nice, right?

When To Submit Your Delayed Filing
You can use the Delayed Filing option at any time of the year. Check with your state to find out how far in advance you need to file. The requirements vary from state to state. Typically, you would need to file between 30 to 90 days before your requested effective date.
What To Do
When filling out the online forms to form an LLC or incorporate, indicate the number of days after filing that you want your business structure to be effective. When registering your business structure for a delayed start date, your Articles of Incorporation (or Articles of Organization) will need to reflect that effective date, as well.

Final Words of Insight
Even though the end of the year is near, you still have time to submit a delayed filing for January 1, 2017. You will, however, need to use the fast track service to expedite review and approval by your Secretary of State department in time for your intended start date.

Worried you won’t be able to handle the filing details with the busy holiday season upon you? Contact us! We’ll be happy to help you file your paperwork now, so you can get right down to business in the New Year.

 

9 Ways to Show Your Employees You’re Thankful for Them

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, our thoughts naturally turn to what we’re grateful for in life. As a small business owner, I know you’re thankful for your employees. After all, how would you run your business without them? In honor of Thanksgiving, here are 9 ways to say “thank you” to your employees.

  1. Give out bonuses. Let’s face it: Most people are highly motivated by money. There are a couple of ways to handle bonuses. You can set performance goals and give employees bonuses for meeting them—for example, giving a bonus to salespeople who surpass their quotas for the quarter. Or you can give out smaller, “surprise” bonuses, like handing a $25 gift card to a customer service person who goes above and beyond to make a customer happy.
  2. Show some PDA. (That’s “public display of appreciation.”) A thank-you means more when it’s shared in front of the whole team. Whenever you praise employees, take a moment to call everyone’s attention to what you’re doing. It not only makes the employee you’re praising feel great, but also shows the rest of the staff what type of behavior you want to see at work.
  3. Spread the word. Go beyond spotlighting your employees’ achievements in the workplace: Highlight your high-performing staffers on social media, on your website or in your marketing materials. Choose an “Employee of the Month” and profile him or her on your website or in your email marketing newsletter.
  4. Have a food fest. In my experience, one of the best ways to show employees appreciation is through their stomachs. Offer bagels or doughnuts every Friday morning or order pizza every Friday for lunch. Have a potluck where employees bring in their all-time favorite family recipes or dishes from their ethnic heritage. Holiday season? Hold a bake-off with different departments competing for a prize.
  5. Make it personal. Who wants to get an engraved plaque with their name on it? Yawn. Make employee rewards more meaningful by tailoring them to the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Get passes to a big game for a sports fan, or a gift card to a spa for a busy mom.
  6. Write a note. It’s easy to say “Thank you” in passing or send a nice email, but a thank-you note is something a recipient can save and savor. Take time to make your notes concrete and specific; this shows you’re really paying attention to what your employees are doing.
  7. Upgrade them. Having the latest equipment helps employees be more productive and do their jobs better—but, it also shows them how much you value their hard work. Update computers, provide mobile devices for work, spring for better-quality headsets or buy ergonomic office chairs.
  8. It’s about time. Comp time off is always a great way to thank employees for a job well done. Flexible work hours can also show employees how much you value them. Try offering different shifts, such as 8 AM to 4 PM or 10 AM to 6 PM, instead of the standard 9-to-5.
  9. Offer employee benefits. Beyond health insurance, there are tons of other benefits you can provide for your staff. For example, even the smallest business can set up a 401(k) plan to help workers plan for retirement. Life insurance, disability insurance, financial services and even pet insurance are other benefits that can show your employees you care.

 

                               

How to Attract and Retain Skilled Workers Through Culture

If you want your startup business to succeed, it is vital to cater to millennials, now the largest generation in the American workforce, according to Pew Research Center. Professionals born between 1980 and 1996 crave engagement at their jobs, and if they aren’t satisfied, they’ll leave, 2016 Gallup research shows. Fortune Magazine reports that leaders of the top 100 best companies to work for in the United States cite culture as their most important tool to achieving success. By showing employees you value their work-life balance, giving them opportunities to learn and grow in their careers and recognizing their good work and rewarding it with fun activities at the office, a company culture thrives and motivates employees to produce better work and stay at your business.

Happier employees are 12 percent more productive, too, according to 2014 research by the University of Warwick. Decreased stress leads to less time off due to illness or accidents, as the Harvard Business Review reports that 60 to 80 percent of workplace accidents are caused by stress. Moreover, high-pressure companies spend more than two times the amount on healthcare costs than other businesses.

Taking all these factors into consideration, here is how to make your business culture stand out to those searching for jobs and how to sustain it for those who work for you.

Show off on Your Careers Page and Social Networks

Give potential candidates a glimpse of what they can expect from your company culture through the descriptions and imagery throughout your website, especially your careers page, and social networks. Write in a voice that conveys the personality of your company. Display your mission statement on your website. Create a video that gives a tour of the office. A great example of this is Toms shoes. Its homepage features the slogan “one for one” prominently, showing off its goal of donating a pair of shoes for every pair that is bought.

Include testimonials from staff about why they are passionate about working for your company. Photos of smiling faces provide evidence your business is an attractive place to work for. You can share content about your culture on everything from your Facebook profile to your LinkedIn page. If you’re looking for a good example of what to include, Amway posts updates about the company on its LinkedIn page. Posts cover everything from pictures of new employees to information about new products to trips its team leaders take.

Provide Training and Development at Work

Jobs are no longer only ways to make money for today’s employees. To stay engaged, employees require learning opportunities that help them add to their skill repertoire. This benefits your business as training enhances your employees’ competence and creativity. The Gallup poll found that 87 percent of millennials say on-the-job development is crucial to increasing their loyalty and stimulation at work.

Ways to implement development range widely and include:

  • Department-wide enrollment in online courses related to the profession
  • Cross-department training to improve how employees understand and work with each other
  • Company-wide training on skills that benefit the whole workplace, such as interpersonal communication or conflict management

Your business could employ a training professional to conduct lessons or send out a casting call for employees to lead training sessions for each other, which might make the learning more meaningful.

Respect Employees as Humans, not Just Workers

A company culture that chains employees to desks and doesn’t recognize personal needs is draining and restrictive. Employees who feel like they are able to fulfill their familial duties or personal passions while still working full-time for you will be more engaged when they’re at work. Ways to improve a work-life balance at your business include:

  • Provide childcare benefits and maternity and paternity leave
  • Offer incentives for prioritizing health, such as a paid gym membership
  • Partner with local businesses to get discounts for your employees on services such as auto repair or massages

One of the best things you can do to improve the work-life balance of your staff is to offer flexibility in hours worked, whether that means allowing them to set up their own schedule throughout the week or work remotely part of the time or when needed. A 2014 study by telecommuting job site FlexJobs found that 74 percent of people say work-life balance is affected by the flexibility of their work hours. The ability to work remotely at least part of the time decreases stress related to commutes and family or personal obligations. Working from a home office may also increase productivity for some employees.

Company culture can constantly be improved upon, so it’s a good idea to periodically survey your current employees about what is working and what is needed. When you involve your employees in creating the culture themselves, they’ll be more likely to support it and be invested in it.

 

                               

By | November 15th, 2016|Managing People, Running A Small Business|2 Comments

9 Customer Appreciation Tactics

Ah, it’s Thanksgiving season—time to stuff yourself with turkey, watch football, start your holiday shopping and argue with your crazy uncle at the dinner table. For small business owners, it’s also the perfect time to show your customers and clients how much you appreciate their business all year long. Here are nine customer appreciation ideas that will help build customer loyalty.

  1. Throw a party. Host a thank-you dinner or lunch event for your top customers. November is a great time to get festive, before all the holiday parties start and people’s calendars fill up. Make it special with a creative Evite or even a fancy printed invitation. Hold an awards ceremony to spotlight customers with awards like Customer of the Year.
  2. Make your customer a star. Put your top customers in the spotlight—literally. Film a video interviewing them about their area of expertise. Post it on your site and share it on social media. You’ll make them look good, and that makes you look good.
  3. Give a shout-out. Highlight top customers with posts on social media. Thank them for their business and explain why they’re such great customers. For example, you could feature a “Customer of the Week” every Wednesday. Be sure to include a link to their website to drive customers there.
  4. Tap some VIPs. Look at your data to find out which customers spend the most in your store, salon, restaurant, etc. Make them VIPs and invite them to special events such as invitation-only sales, after-hours shopping events, or tasting menu dinners. You can even create a VIP version of your website with limited-edition products or special VIP swag.
  5. Remember their special days. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) app to track data about your customers. Then set up reminders to send a thank-you card or email on special dates. The anniversary of their first purchase, their birthday, their wedding anniversary, the day they started their business—all are possibilities. Include an offer good for a free gift or significant discount to spark a new purchase.
  6. Give a gift. For top customers, go beyond standard promotional products like imprinted T-shirts or coffee mugs. Take some time to think of gifts that are tailored to each recipient’s interests, industry or personality. For example, you could send a copy of a business book you know a customer’s curious about, but hasn’t read yet. How about tickets to a favorite sports team’s upcoming game? Be sure to enclose a handwritten note along with the gift thanking the customer for his or her business.
  7. Refer people to clients’ businesses. There’s no better way to thank a good customer than to refer others you know to their business. Be sure to get an OK from your referral, and then send both parties an email introducing the two.
  8. Listen. Ask some of your best customers if they’d like to be on an “advisory board.” You can pick their brains for feedback about new products you’re considering or ways to improve your customer service. Who wouldn’t feel flattered to be asked for their opinion—especially if it’s because they’re such important customers?
  9. Practice random acts of kindness. Not all thank-yous have to be thought out in advance. Once a week, pick a random client to reward with a freebie, discount, call, lunch invitation or thank-you note—just because.

 

                               

By | November 10th, 2016|Running A Small Business|2 Comments

5 Qualities That Give Veterans An Entrepreneurial Edge

Veterans Day gives us pause to reflect on the sacrifice and service of our women and men in the military. We enjoy many freedoms because of their bravery and selflessness. Indeed, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

I admire and respect veterans for many reasons. Among them are the fine qualities that make them not only outstanding individuals but also seriously effective entrepreneurs.

What characteristics and skills do veterans bring to the table that can help them succeed in business?

  • Courage – Many veterans have faced adversity, danger, and fear most of us will never fathom. Their courage when confronted with risk gives them a competitive edge because they have learned to stay calm, cool, and collected when the pressure’s on and things seem uncertain.
  • Determination – “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Veterans embrace this and live by it, which can help them immensely as entrepreneurs. Although there’s no sure thing in business, the one thing you can bet on is that times will get tough now and then. Business owners need a heightened degree of determination to weather the storms and stay the course.
  • Commitment – With their strong sense of commitment to the cause, veterans put their all into achieving their goals. That’s a tremendous asset in the business world where not only is strategy important, but also is the drive to put forth the effort and energy to get results.
  • Resilience – Sometimes the rigors of entrepreneurship will knock down even the best of us. Because veterans have the strength of character to rise above challenges, they are well equipped to bounce back when facing tough circumstances.
  • Versatility – Along with resilience, veterans’ ability to roll with the punches and adjust strategy when needed can fuel their success in business. Their adaptability can help them pivot gracefully when market changes, competitive pressures, or the regulatory environment dish out unexpected challenges.

Veterans have traits we should all have and hone as entrepreneurs. So while we celebrate their contributions to our country on Veterans Day, let us also remind ourselves of what we can learn from them so we become more effective business owners.

Are you—or someone you know—a veteran who is thinking about starting a business? Check out CorpNet.com’s business filing services that simplify starting and running a business. Our Business Structures Wizard is a great place to begin as you decide on which business legal structure might be best for you.

 

                               

By | November 8th, 2016|Events & Announcements, Running A Small Business|0 Comments

Which Candidate Will Be The Best President For Small Business?

Quite the question, right? But relax, I’m not here to get on a political soapbox and tell you who to vote for. Rather, I’m encouraging you to think about what’s important to you as a business owner and as an individual.

I’ve observed that Republicans typically tend to push for less regulation and encourage more business boosting initiatives than politicians in the Democratic Party. And the Democrats tend to push for initiatives that are in the interest of the middle class, the class that includes most small business owners. Of course, what candidates say they’re going to do and what actually happens don’t always match. Good intentions don’t always come to fruition because there are many obstacles that stand in the way of execution. Sometimes plans that sound too good to be true end up being just that after more research into their feasibility is done. And sometimes, sadly, candidates simply don’t follow through on their promises.

If you review each candidate’s website, you’ll see what their intentions are for small businesses. Below, I’ve listed what stands out to me:

Trump’s Pro Small Business Initiatives:
• Putting a stop to overregulation that makes it difficult to start and run a business.
• Lowering the business tax rate from 35% to 15%.
• Renegotiating trade agreements so American companies have a fair shake when pursuing doing business with other American companies.
• Increasing the production of American energy onshore and offshore (which potentially—eventually—would cut energy and transportation costs for all Americans, including small businesses).

Clinton’s Pro Small Business Initiatives:
• Stimulating small business lending by easing burdens for community banks and credit unions.
• Allowing entrepreneurs to defer student-loan payments with no interest while they start their businesses.
• Offering incentives to state and local governments to cut the red tape involved in starting a new business.
• Simplifying the tax filing process and creating a standard income tax deduction for small businesses.
• Cracking down on big businesses that don’t pay or late pay small businesses.

Devil Is In The Details
Clinton’s website goes into more detail about her proposals than does Trump’s, giving us some peace of mind that she has thought things through. But could her position on some other key hot button issues (like health care and raising the minimum wage) hurt small businesses in the long run. As for Trump, will what he proposes benefit the smallest of businesses or only large corporations?

According to the weekly reader poll, SmartPulse, in SmartBrief on Leadership, 69 percent of business leaders believe this year’s elections will either tremendously or moderately affect their businesses.

It’s clear the business community is tuned into and watching this presidential election closely.

Whether you’re starting a business or running an existing one, you should be, too. Think about what you want for the future of your business and your family—and vote on November 8 for the candidate you believe will work to fulfill your vision.

Photo: Adobe Stock

                               

Fall Tips To Help Your Business Have A Strong End-Of-Year Finish

Although most of the year has already passed and we’re now into the autumn season, don’t panic if your business has fallen a little bit behind on its goals. It’s not too late make changes that can help lead to a strong finish in 2016.

Whether you’ve just started your business or have been running yours for years, the key is to take action sooner rather than later—and to focus on efforts that will improve your bottom line now and into 2017.

 

  1. Nurture Customer Relationships.

If you’ve fallen out of touch with some customers, now’s the time to reconnect. Just be careful to do so with their best interests at heart, so you don’t come across as desperate or pushy. One easy way to start conversations is by emailing them an interesting article that has information they can benefit from. I recommend reaching out to each select customer individually rather than in a mass email. By personalizing your communications, you’ll make them feel special—and more engaged in revisiting the status of your business relationship.

Also, consider putting a formalized customer relationship management process in place, so there’s a method (rather than madness) in how you follow up with customers after certain actions, transactions, or lack of activity. A number of customer relationship management systems (at varying price points) are out there that can help you track customer activity and automate personalized communications.

A little goodwill and top of mind awareness can go a long way in generating more sales, so it pays to check in with customers regularly to show you care.

 

  1. Upsell, Upsell, Upsell!

Why would you not seize the opportunity to sell more products or services to the customers who have shown they’re raving fans of your brand? If you haven’t been sending emails or postcards or calling loyal customers with information about your other products and services, you’re missing sales opportunities.

Afraid you’ll seem pushy? You don’t have to fear that if you approach customers with the intention of helping them solve a problem or benefit in some way. As I mentioned before, showing you care fosters goodwill and can generate sales as a result.

 

  1. Streamline Your Administrative Activities.

Take a moment to review your administrative processes and discover where you might have excessive paperwork, duplicate work, and bottlenecks that are slowing down productivity. From accounts payables to billing to project management to customer data entry, look for ways to save time by streamlining tasks.

 

  1. Keep Spending In Check.

Although you should always be cognizant of your business’s spending habits, it’s especially critical now if you’re behind schedule on reaching your financial goals for the year. Look closely at your costs, and zero in on the “must haves” versus the “nice to haves” so you can cut out unnecessary expenses. Lowering costs has a direct impact on your profit and loss statement, so if even if you ignore all other suggestions, pay attention to this one!

 

  1. Make Sure You’ve Met Your Business Compliance Requirements.

Rather than discover you’ve dropped the ball, check to make sure all your t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted now regarding your business compliance responsibilities. If required, have you filed your initial and/or annual report and complied with your business license and permit obligations? Corporate compliance services like those from CorpNet can help you ensure you’re up to date and won’t be hit with penalties. Best of all, when the New Year begins, you’ll be able to focus on activities that will drive revenue rather than put out fires.

 

  1. Think Ahead About Your Business’s Direction.

Whether you’re just starting your business or planning to close it, taking care of matters before the end of the year offers some potential advantages.

If you plan to launch your business in 2017, you can avoid becoming over-stressed during the busyness of the New Year by taking advantage of CorpNet’s delayed formation filing process. It allows you to submit your formation paperwork before the end of the year, but make the effective date of your business the first of the year.

If you know you’ll be closing your business in the near future, you might consider taking care of filing for dissolution now. Doing so before year-end might help you avoid paying additional taxes and penalties.

 

Move Your Business Forward This Fall—And In The Future

Also, think proactively about what you can do to succeed in 2017. All of the things I mentioned earlier will help, but also consider reviewing your choice of legal structure for your business. By making a change to an LLC, S Corporation, or C Corporation, you have the opportunity to gain liability protection and possibly some tax advantages, as well.

By putting more effort into your customer relationships, running your business more efficiently and cost effectively, and paying attention to compliance requirements, you’ll be taking positive steps toward a strong finish in 2016 and a successful start to 2017.

Hiring the Best Candidates: 3 Filters to Add to Your Interview Process

Some studies estimate that the cost of hiring someone is approximately six to nine months’ of their salary. An employee making on average $40,000 might cost $20,000 or more to find if you factor in the time to recruit, screen, hire and train new employees. With so much on the line for finding a great candidate, it’s critically important to do your best to screen potential employees as rigorously as possible.

Weeding out those who aren’t qualified is easy, but screening the final group for the star performer in the mix is difficult. These three filters to add to your interview process can help.

 

Three Filters to Add to Your Interview Process

The typical hiring process includes:

  • Creating (or updating) a job description for the vacant position.
  • Writing and placing a help wanted ad.
  • Receiving resumes.
  • Screening resumes.
  • Telephone interviews to screen candidates.
  • In-person interviews with the best candidates.
  • An offer and someone hired.

Keep in mind, that selecting the right job boards to find employees online is important to your hiring process as well. Of course, at any point in the process, you may add steps or people, which lengthens the process but helps hire better candidates. Many companies now ask that a potential employee’s manager, coworkers and subordinates interview candidates so that they can assess how well candidates get along with people throughout the organization.

Adding the following three steps to your interviewing process won’t slow it down too much, but it will help you narrow down the candidate pool to the best-qualified applicants. This will actually save you time later since there will be fewer resumes to review and consider.

 

#1 Enhanced Job Description

When you start with a specific, enhanced and updated job description, you already start the process of being specific and choosy with your applicants. A highly-specific job description immediately attracts only those with such specific skills, while turning away others who do not possess them. The enhanced job description should detail every aspect of the position, including educational and experience requirements, specialized skills, and more. Take this information and include it in your job posting to encourage candidates with the best fit of skills to respond. When you are posting to job sites, the enhanced position description will make it easier to set up your job posting so that only the best-qualified will respond. This significantly cuts down on the number of unqualified candidates who apply, and saves you a great deal of time reviewing resumes.

 

#2 Pre-Employment Survey

After you receive resumes and cover letters from the initial job postings, it’s helpful to ask the most promising candidates to take a brief survey. You can ask them after the telephone interview or before it via an emailed response to their application. You can even add it to the application itself, before they even submit their resume. The survey can be created on a site like Survey Monkey to make it easier to collect the information. Ask questions pertinent to the job you’re hiring for, and make them specific so that it is difficult to fudge the answers. Provide scenario-based questions to see how potential employees would handle difficult situations, or ask questions that only someone with the right skill set can answer. The survey shouldn’t take too long to complete, but it will yield insights into the candidate’s’ qualifications and knowledge, so that you can save yourself time by scheduling telephone interviews with only the most promising candidates.

 

#3 Give homework.

A paid test assignment, or a homework assignment of some sort, is the final task that many employers can add to find great candidates. If you’re hiring freelancers, always offer compensation for their time completing a paid test assignment; many professionals won’t touch a free assignment even if the actual gig is promising. The test assignment can be a small sample of a larger project that the candidate would be expected to complete if actually hired for the job.

For full-time employees, a simple ‘homework’ assignment demonstrates several things. First, it shows you how committed and interested they are in the job. Next, it provides proof of their ability to complete work independently. Lastly, it provides you with insight into how well they can meet deadlines. These are three tasks that are difficult to assess from a resume but critical for job success.

See how the candidate responds to the test assignment. Those who are eager for the job will respond positively. Also listen for how well they negotiate deadlines and the questions asked about the assignment. This yields important clues about their work habits, ability to understand direction, and interest in the position.

 

Don’t Settle for Second-Best

It’s tempting to rush the hiring process along. A vacancy means lost productivity and extra work for your current team. However, rushing the hiring process never yields the best candidate. Take your time to find the best fit for your business and your business will prosper.