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What Do I Have to Do to Get a Loan for my Small Business?

small business loan application

Small businesses in the United States are normally privately-operated corporations employing far fewer employees than sales giants like Walmart. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in fact, states that privately-owned corporations must have fewer than 500 employees to be considered eligible for government loans and tax exemptions per a small business. 

There are currently 20,000 small businesses in the United States, yet many of these smaller outfits are struggling to provide adequate benefits and insurance plans due to the underfinanced nature of hiring fewer people in smaller communities and competing against the likes of Walmart. Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a host of loan options to start-ups and small businesses.

Microloan Programs

The Microloan Program spearheaded by the U.S. Small Business Administration is intended to furnish small businesses and not-for-profit childcare centers with up to $50,000 in loans. These loans are intended to help small businesses expand and ensure start-ups get off to a promising start. 

Microloans typically require some ilk of collateral and a personal guarantee from the small business owner. That said, once the loan is secured, small businesses may use microloans for working capital, fixtures, supplies or work equipment. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration has flexible repayment periods of up to six years; the exact terms actually depend on how the small business owner intends on employing the loan as well as the loan amount. The interest on the loan can also vary depending on the intermediary lender’s position with the U.S. Treasury.

General Loans

The average small-business general loan amount for fiscal year 2012 was approximately $337,000. The interest rate, though, actually increases as the loan amount increases. For instance, an SBA 7(a) general loan of $150,000 only accrues 2% in interest annually; loans over $700,000 entail a 3.5% annual interest rate. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration guarantees 85% of the loan amount on loans not exceeding $150,000, but only 75% of the loan amount on loans exceeding $150,000. For small business owners eager for quick start-up cash, however, the U.S. Small Business Administration features a maximum guarantee of approximately 50% on all loans.

SBA Export Express

The simplest export loan, though, is the SBA Export Express. An SBA Export Express loan’s financing is up to $500,000 and terms, forms and procedures are provided by participating lenders. The U.S. Small Business Administration usually determines eligibility for SBA Export Express loans within 36 hours of submission. 

In essence, a small business can qualify for an SBA Export Express loan by showing that the loan’s capital will help bolster U.S. export activity in some way. Typically, small businesses use SBA Export Loans to export orders, purchase new equipment and streamline production facilities. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration has offices in convenient locations around the country to help small business owners expand and thrive! 

Should I Hire Family Members to Work for Me in my Small Business?

Hiring a family member to work with as a partner or as an employee typically starts with all the best intentions. The economy is at the most challenging it has been at in decades and  employment is either remaining stagnant or going up in most states. So hiring a family member naturally seems like a great way to help out an out-of-work relative.
Father and Son Working Together
In the best-case scenario, this would be someone you can thoroughly trust and even share an enjoyable rapport with around the office. While working with a relative can bring out the best in people — in terms of cooperation and goal sharing — at the same time, there are risks. For instance, it can be difficult for a relative, especially one who is senior in age, to be subordinate. Unlike an ordinary employee, a relative may feel entitled to make decisions that that he or she has no business making.

Hiring a family member risks:

  • You may know some things about your relative that a typical boss or co-worker would not be privy to. Even if your relative behaves appropriately now, it could be difficult to rid your mind of the fact that in the distant past, a cousin was known to shoplift or that a sister defaulted on personal family loans.
  • Supposing you have to leave the business – for a few hours or a few days – and a non-relative would make a better stand-in supervisor, will this cause tension with your family member?
  • Working together can be a 40-hour per week commitment. If you have a tight family, not only will you be working together, but spending holidays, birthdays and recreational days together as well. Is that something you’re prepared to do?
  • It’s possible other family members may interfere with your work policies. For instance, asking a relative to work overtime or come in on a major holiday could result in a call from an angry aunt or grandmother.

Hiring a family member benefits:

  • Sometimes, the only people you can really trust are family members.
  • Relatives are less likely to steal money from a family business compared to employees who are not related to the owners.
  • Whereas disgruntled (and many non-disgruntled) employees tend to waste work time by surfing the ‘net or sneaking a few extra lunch or smoke-break minutes, some family members can be more reliable.
  • Working with a close family member could improve your morale.
  • A relative in the business is like having a second supervisor. Workers are less likely to slack off when your relations are around.

No one family is the same

There’s no way to guarantee that working with a relative will be a good or bad experience. You can try agreeing on certain boundaries before taking the plunge. If you’re a bickering family unit, try working different shifts. On the flip side, if you and your relative get along too well, it’s possible you’ll get less work done.
There’s more chance of it being a stressful working situation if the family member had a troubled past and you have trust issues that you can’t get over. In that case, you can assign your family member to report to a different manager. This way, your relative will feel as if he’s working an ordinary job without a relative looking over his shoulder. But if this is a person you fully trust, it’s a great opportunity to share duties – especially when it comes to handling money, minimizing theft and keeping workers from slacking off.

Getting Your Business In Google Maps and Places

The Internet has opened up countless opportunities for businesses to reach more customers easily.  Websites, blogs, and advertising are all well-known ways to attract customers.  Business owners can also take advantage of Google Maps to bring in customers, and it’s easy to do.  In fact, companies may find that they are already listed in Google Maps since Google uses information online to automatically compile their map listings.  If a business is not showing up already, there is a fairly easy way to remedy that.

Google Maps

Why Online Presence is Crucial for Finding Customers

Today’s economy is powered by technology, especially the internet.  When potential customers need or want something they don’t want to wait for it.  They go online to get those needs met quickly.  Google is still the most common search engine used by the masses, and it can be a wonderful tool for any business, putting customers in contact with them and letting the world know they are there.

Google Maps requires businesses to have a website in order to be listed.  Customers want to be able to access the information that a business has to offer quickly and easily, and a website is the best way to do so.  If the business does not already have a website, it will need to get one set up before it can be listed on Google Maps.  Fortunately, this is not a difficult thing to do, and a good website will also help the business maintain contact with those customers that locate them through Google Maps.

Getting Listed on Google Maps

With website and company details in hand, visit and look for the link that says ‘Put your business on Google Maps’.  Currently it is on the left hand side of the page.  This links to another page where business owners are asked to log into their Google account and fill in a form online to become listed.  A Google account will need to be created if the business does not have one already, but this is a very simple and straightforward process, and one that can boost traffic to the business immensely.

Once the address and contact information have been filled in a business description must be entered and a category selected to describe the business.  Owners must then verify the address by entering a PIN number provided by Google either via postcard to the physical address or via business telephone.  Once the PIN has been verified, it can take up to one week for the listing to go live and show up in customer searches.

If a business already appears in the map searches, there may be some incorrect information showing up.  If this is the case, the owner must verify the account before any edits or corrections can be made.

Google Guidelines

Google does have some guidelines regarding how a business listing can appear on Google Maps.  There can only be one listing per business, so if the company services multiple locations it should have its main address listed and there is a separate place to list the different areas serviced and describe the services that are offered.  Google also requires businesses to provide a physical address, not a P.O. Box.

To make it easier for customers to locate and use businesses, Google allows business owners to place all contact information in one handy location, including extra details to assist customers in locating the physical property.  For example, if a business is located inside a shopping mall or inside another store (container store) there is a space in the ‘details’ field where this information can be displayed.  This helps drive traffic more efficiently and is helpful for the customers as well as the business.

Of course, businesses promoting illegal activities are prohibited under the Google guidelines.  There are also other restrictions which may be viewed by going to Google’s website.

How to Improve Chances of Getting a Top Listing

If there are a lot of similar businesses in the area listed with Google Maps it can be difficult to be listed on the first page or in the top few listings.  In order to have a chance at a top listing businesses should make sure that all details are accurate and complete when registering with Google Maps.

The type of business listed needs to be listed correctly in order for the site to show up when searched for.  For example, a store that sells upscale children’s clothing needs to use keywords detailing this fact in their description instead of simply using ‘clothing’ or apparel so that the search results will be refined enough to meet the customer search terms.

Google Maps is a fantastic free tool that, if used correctly, can drive traffic and increase sales with just a few clicks of a button.

Does My Small Business Need A Server?

Although many small business – before graduating to SMB status and beyond – start out using home networks primarily managed on the internet, a modicum of success soon places such demands that they find that having their own network servers becomes a necessity. As the number of computers linked to the home network begins to grow, a private business server becomes essential; coordinating all the data from a central location from which different workstations can access company files as the need arises.

Of course, the World Wide Web is a vast server with few restrictions when it comes to scalability; however, there are very real issues of control and security that a company has to think about. Even encrypted information is subject to cyber-attacks from viruses, malware and privacy violations, for the simple fact that they are being sent over a public network. This fact also highlights the relative lack of control a business that employs the internet as their primary network faces; sensitive company data is always at risk. A private server eliminates most of these risks, as well as conferring additional benefits.


The Dedicated Server

The very opposite of the shared server that characterizes the internet; a dedicated server is the choice of all serious businesses, because security issues are minimized. The bulk of the current business marketplace exists in cyber-space these days, which means private information from customers – credit card information, social security numbers, etc – exists on servers, and is possibly at risk of electronic manipulation. A server protects against this by keeping all such info in-house; all information on the workstations linked to it passes through the network, which isn’t being shared with other companies, as would be the case with the traditional ISP (Internet Service Provider). With shared hosting, any breach in another company’s network can compromise all others on the network, even if they have different levels of personal security.

With the mobile device revolution, many businesses are transitioning to a world where most of their employees are on-the-go, while still working. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution is a natural result of the mobile space, with employees using their own customized tablets and smartphones to access company servers and work from home, or even from different counties and geographical regions. Having a dedicated server to manage company networks provides an added layer of security over shared servers, where devices that aren’t configured to the network won’t accidentally release company info to a competitor.

Specific Server Uses

In addition to the general benefits a dedicated server confers on a business, there are many specific advantages it has over hosting on shared servers:

  • Scalability. A dedicated server is easily amenable to additional workstations for the growing business. The increased need for storage and bandwidth is quickly rectified, without the additional payment plans required by shared hosting.
  • Enhanced security. Private business servers have their own firewall, and are not subject to the security compromises of other companies, as they can be on a shared network. This secure computing space is also much more amenable to mobile device usage by employees.
  • Server management. A compromise in an ISP – whether through denial-of-service attacks or unplanned downtimes – is absent; downtimes on a private server are expected and planned for ahead of time, so that the cost to eCommerce is minimized.
  • Because of the exclusive use of the server for a single business, the company doesn’t have to contend with the slow speeds and decreased processing power of ISPs that have a lot of traffic being diverted to multiple users. This is especially important for an eCommerce site so as not to delay a surge in orders – customers often navigate away from pages that are taking too long to load. The increased memory allocation also helps speed.

With all the abilities that a dedicated server bestows upon a business, it can be seen as a cost-benefit analysis; the extra cost (sometimes; depending on the specifics of the data plan) can be easily offset by the increased efficiency, and greater operational leeway in terms of available memory, speed, security and control. It provides a more coherent and unified in-house front for employees and management, and facilitates future expansion.

Why Does My Business Need Social Media?

Are you using the latest marketing tools to get your business and its message out to potential customers? If you are not using social media, your kit of marketing tools is incomplete. Well over 60 percent of adult consumers are connected to social media networks of some sort. That is tens of millions of potential customers that you are not connecting with if you do not have a social media marketing plan in place and active.

This fact alone is the reason to have your business using social media as a marketing tool. 

Social Media Marketing

But, there are many more reasons that answer the question, “Why does my business need social media?”

  • Social media can increase your ranking in search engine results.
  • The use of social media offers a free or inexpensive way to gain more customers.
  • Customers expect businesses to be in the social media world.
  • An established social media network is an effective marketing tool in good times and bad.
  • You can build trust in your company’s brand using social media.
  • Your company’s visibility increases with social media.

Increase Your Search Engine Ranking

Every time you tweet or update your company’s Facebook account, you are opening up the chances of increasing your search engine ranking. When people follow your social media, you get link backs to your website and your social media accounts. All of this increases the chances of improving where you stand on Google, Yahoo, Bing, or similar search engines.

The search engines want to give users the most relevant sites that meet their search needs. When you have social media traffic adding to your company’s reputation, it can help your chances of being at the top of their list.

Take Advantage of the Low Cost

No matter what anyone tells you, social media sites are completely free, even for businesses. You can build a network of followers with a very low cost. You can ask friends and family to join up, then ask them to spread the word. Every follower you gain is a potential customer. Every follower also has the potential of being a marketing source since they often spread the word about businesses they follow.

Social media campaigns should be planned carefully. You may want to get the services of a professional company to do it right the first few times. But, the cost will be minimal when you see the results. You will gain hundreds or thousands of followers who will bring their business to you.

Let Customers Find You Easier

Customers expect to find businesses in the social media world. They do searches in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get information, discounts, and make the connection to the companies they do business with. If they cannot find a company in these social media centers, they are less likely to do business with them long-term.

Your social media presence allows customers to find you easier. When you connect with someone, their friends see this. It spreads the word about your company, your brand, and your products and services. Simple searches in a social media network can garner lists of companies providing services and products. You want to be on the list when those search results come up.

Increase Trust and Credibility of Your Brand

The consumer wants to trust in the companies they do business with. That has been true since business became part of the human experience. Today, in order for a company to build that trust, they need to connect with their customers in as many ways as possible. A professional social media presence offers many opportunities to connect with potential customers.

Adding social media to your online presence gives your company more credibility. Some businesses see social media as a frivolous thing. But, with over 60 percent of consumers using it, a smart business realizes that a professional presence in the social media world lends credibility to their company and its brand.

Even if your company is handling a crisis, the social media networks allow you to communicate directly with your customers. This gives you an advantage in getting the truth out and letting customers know how you are handling it. This lends credibility to your company and increases consumer trust as well.

While social media offers many possibilities for your business, you need to use it wisely. Putting together a comprehensive social media campaign requires forethought and knowledge to get the most traction. But the results are well-worth the time and hassle. You will see it in increased traffic to your website and increased revenue from your product and service sales.

How Do I Get My Business to Show Up on Google?

So you have established an online presence for your business – now what? In order for you website or social networking profiles to be effective, you need to be able to generate enough web traffic. One of the best ways to draw potential consumers to your business is through Google search. So how can you ensure that the world will be able to find you via a Google search? Here are a few simple steps to follow in order to bring the masses to your business!

Get found on Google

3 Steps to Getting Your Business to Show Up on Google

1. Iron out the Kinks to Make Your Site “Spider Friendly”

Being indexed by Google is a process that is completely free and doesn’t require a website submission of any kind, but your webpage needs to be “spider friendly”. Google utilizes an automated software known as “spiders” which “crawl” the internet at regular intervals in search of new sites to be added to their expansive index. In order for your webpage to be included in Google’s index, however, it needs to be ready for a web crawl. Some of the most common reasons for a website being missed by spiders are:
A website that is not well connected via multiple links from other websites.

  • The website was launched right after the most recent Google web crawl (the site was launched between crawls).
  • The page’s design is such that it is difficult for Google to efficiently crawl its content.
  • The website was temporarily “down” or unavailable when the web crawl was attempted, or an error was received by google during the attempted crawl.

It is important that when you launch your business website, you are certain that all of the kinks are ironed out, that your web design is spider compatible, and that your page is fully operational. You can make use of Google’s Webmaster Tools in order to find out if Google received any errors when attempting to crawl your site in order to ensure that everything is up to par. In doing so, you can ensure that your site will be indexed by Google as quickly and accurately as possible.

2. Request a Google “Web Crawl”

Feeling impatient for Google’s spiders to craw your website? Whether you happened to launch your site in between crawls or have been working diligently to correct previous errors that prevented your page from being properly indexed, you are surely eager to “pass the test” and get your website some notice on the Google search engine. If this is the case, you are always able to specifically request a web crawl. The instructions are simple to follow and will allow you to avoid the waiting game and take the reigns into your own capable hands.

3. Mix Relative Keywords into Quality Content

Once your business’s website has been indexed by Google, it is important that you understand the concept of search engine optimization (SEO). Basically, you need to figure out how to make sure that your website shows up at the top of the Google search engine results when your potential customers begin searching for the types of goods and services that you provide. How can this be accomplished? One of the simplest and most effective ways to keeping your site relevant on Google searches is through utilizing keywords. Stop for a moment and do a bit of brainstorming. Consider what your client’s may type into a search engine in hopes of finding the services that they need. These are your keywords. Not only can these keywords be used in the various sections of your website (About Us, Product/Service Descriptions, etc), but you may also consider publishing an informative, helpful, and thought-provoking blog that makes use of your keywords.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that when it comes to keywords, there can be too much of a good thing. “Loading” or “stuffing” your page’s content with keywords can actually get you in trouble with Google and may come with a penalty. You can successfully avoid this by keeping your keyword density at 1%-2%, and ensuring that these words are integrated into HIGH QUALITY content that will provide useful information to your customers. Use your blogs to establish your authority and expertise, to express your personality, and to build up a relationship with your customers – not just as a tool for luring in consumers from Google. In this way, the folks that are attracted to your website will continue reading through your pages and will be more likely to  make a buying decision.

Getting found on Google is easy to do and is a key part of the success of your business. By adhering to these three simple steps, you are sure to gain the notice on the Google search engine that you desire.

How Do I Get My Business Listed on Yelp?

Yelp may be the place where you read reviews before you go out to a meal but did you ever consider Yelp to be a great social networking tool for your business? Yelp is also a great source of free or very inexpensive advertising! It’s also a great place to cultivate an organic following of real paying customers who like and stick with your business.

Consider your Yelp fans like Norm and Cliff on the show “Cheers.” We always see them frequenting the establishment; they’re always at the bar. In the virtual world these cats would be an even more vocal proponent. Your virtual Yelp fans are great because they like and frequent your business in an actual way but they are also great because they speak highly of your business on the Yelp discussion boards and help get your Yelp saturation to its maximum.

So how do you get your business on Yelp? Can you control the flow of the content? Is your business already on Yelp without you even being aware of it?

Add Your Business: The first thing you should do, if you haven’t already done it, is check in on your business to see if you’re already listed on Yelp. If you’re not then that’s okay; go to the “Small Business Page” of Yelp and “Add Your Business to Yelp.”

This is where you will fill in all the details about your business which you should take care to do correctly and as thoroughly as you need to. If you have fickle hours or multiple phone lines or have a complicated address (like an urban address in the basement level or around a corner from the main address), then you have got make sure that you notate that. If people can’t find you in the real world, all the praise that’s coming in from Yelp won’t matter!

Yelp Deal: Now that you have entered your information and you have verified that it’s all accurate then you need to get customers in your area hot about your business. Create a “Yelp Deal” and you will be able to bring in Yelp users who maybe didn’t even know you existed. If you are a specialty retailer who does online or mail order items you can broadcast your Yelp deal to everyone who is interested in what you’re dealing with. The more the merrier with Yelp!

Customer Interaction: Now that your business is up on Yelp you are going to begin getting a lot of people with a lot of things to say about your business. Not everything will be good; some people are just asking for trouble. Still because you are the business owner it would be the same if someone came into your restaurant and stood up and said they had a bad hamburger at your place. You would want to be sure that this customer left the exchange happy; so too you’ve got to be after any unhappy virtual customers you have. Speaking to them directly is a pretty cool thing for the customers because they have direct access to you and it’s reassuring that you can take an active role in any unruly social media chatter.

Trending: Now that you know what your customers are saying and seeing that revenue roll in from the special deals you’re making for Yelp customers, not you need to see what else is going on in the social media world. What are people talking about? Wearing? Driving? Cooking? Whatever your business you want to see which related areas are trending and then find out how to cultivate that into more sales.

Free vs. Paid: You can have a “free” listing on Yelp. The only problem with a free listing is that when people are looking for Jake’s Bike Shop in Peoria or they are just looking for a bike shop and yours comes up, if you have a free listing then big chains like Sports Authority and Sears will also come up. If you pay to have a private listing then your larger competitors won’t pop up.

Once you’re on Yelp and you have been established in your area you will likely see the uptick in sales from influx of these virtual customers. You may even find your virtual customers begin to outnumber your steadfast customers. One thing you should be wary of is “changing” the fundamentals of what brought people into your place of business; especially just for a few vocal, online customers.