NAVIGATION

Celebrating – and Becoming Involved in – International Trade

Celebrating – and Becoming Involved in – International Trade

May is World Trade Month 2018, a time for celebrating companies that export goods and services around the world, and for highlighting the expanded opportunities international trade can bring to companies of all shapes and sizes.

The educational focal point of World Trade Month is World Trade Week. Established in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the third week of May is dedicated to educating the public about the importance and benefits of global trade to the local and national economies. Many business organizations across the country host educational programs and events to help further the public’s understanding of this vital facet of commerce.

How vital?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 27 million companies in the U.S., and slightly more than 10 percent of them export goods. In 2017, those companies exported $1.54 trillion dollars’ worth of goods, up from $1.45 trillion in 2016. And even more impressive is the fact that 97.6 percent of those companies were small or medium sized businesses, with fewer than 500 employees.

Whether your company is among them, or is currently contemplating joining their ranks, there is assistance available in negotiating a landscape that can seem extremely daunting.

As part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the International Trade Administration is charged with helping U.S. exporters and workers success in the global marketplace. Its functions include promoting exports, attracting investment and leveling the playing field. In 2016, the ITA assisted over 28,000 U.S. companies that wanted to play on the world stage, enabled $59 billion in U.S. exports, facilitated more than $5.3 billion in foreign investment into the United States, and successfully removed, reduced, or prevented 110 foreign trade barriers. In total, its work supported more than 300,000 American jobs that year alone.

Working closely with businesses and their leaders, the ITA helps U.S. businesses tap into global markets in ways they may not have been able to otherwise.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is another important partner which provides resources to assist small businesses in reaching the global marketplace. The SBA’s export loan program helps small businesses access the financing they need to sell their goods and services in the global arena. In 2016, the SBA provided over $1.5 billion in guaranteed loans to small business exporters which supported over $3.3 billion in export sales.

In addition, SBA works closely with the U.S. Commercial Service and the U.S. Export-Import Bank of the United States to provide potential and existing exporters with a unified, one-stop approach to export expansion through 21 U.S. Export Assistance Centers nationwide.

To help area companies expand their business through export opportunities, EDC-VC’s Small Business Development Center of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties launched its own Export Initiative in June 2011. It provides free one-on-one consulting with SBDC consultants who specialize in exporting, and training seminars for businesses interested in accessing export opportunities or expanding existing international exports.

If your business is in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County and you are interested in exploring international trade opportunities, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County to set up an appointment. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

Sources: sba.gov, Trade.gov

Conducting a Workplace Investigation

Conducting a Workplace InvestigationA properly conducted workplace investigation can be a fairly lengthy process but can be absolutely vital in maintaining the integrity of a business, or indeed its very existence. 

Employers are obligated by a variety of local, state and federal laws to investigate a range of complaints in a timely manner. Employers are further obligated to take any appropriate corrective action to ensure that illegal actions and behaviors cease immediately. It is therefore vital that employers conduct a thorough, well-documented investigation into the alleged action(s).

As potentially disruptive as investigations can be, they must be prompt, thorough and effective to ensure everyone’s protection. There are several steps that should be taken as soon as the employer receives a verbal or written complaint.

Ensure Confidentiality

The employer must protect the confidentiality of employee claims to the best of its ability, but should never promise absolute confidentiality to any party involved in the investigation. The employer should explain that, to conduct a prompt and effective investigation, some information will be revealed to the accused and potential witnesses, but only on a “need to know” basis.

Provide Interim Protection

An employer may need to take immediate measures for the protection of the accuser or the alleged victim, such as separating the alleged victim from the accused to guard against continued harassment or retaliation. But tread carefully, because actions including involuntarily transfers or burdensome changes could appear to be retaliatory and result in a retaliation claim.

Select the investigator

Employers generally use the resources of experienced HR professionals, internal security, legal counsel (inside or outside) or a third-party investigator. Regardless of the category chosen, the appropriate investigator should be able to investigate objectively without bias, have no stake in the outcome, and have skills that include prior investigative knowledge and working knowledge of employment laws. He or she should have strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail and the right temperament to conduct interviews.

The investigator must be in a position to maintain confidentiality, be respected within the organization because his or her conclusions will be used to make a determination, have the ability to act as a credible witness and, if they are internal, have the likelihood of continued employment with the company.

Create a Plan for the Investigation

A complete plan for the investigation should include an outline of the issue, the development of a witness list, sources for information and evidence, interview questions targeted to elicit crucial information and details and a process for retention of documentation such as interview notes and e-mails that could be treated as evidence.

The time it takes to complete a thorough investigation will vary depending on the circumstances. It could take several days, and sufficient time should be allowed to interview the accuser, the accused and any witnesses; flesh out additional details; review the findings; conduct follow-up interviews; discuss proposed resolution with upper management; decide on final resolution; create any relevant disciplinary actions, warnings or memos; hold separate closure meetings with the accused and the accuser; and write investigation report/summary.

Develop Interview Questions

Questions should be developed well before beginning the interviews, though additional questions will be added as more evidence and information is revealed. Good questions are relevant and designed to draw out facts without leading the interviewee; they should be open-ended to elicit as much information as possible.

Conduct Interviews

At the outset, the investigator should inform all parties involved of the need for an investigation and explain the investigation process. While it is necessary to stress confidentiality of the investigation process, do so carefully, as this can be seen as interference with employee rights to engage in concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The investigator should focus on being impartial and objective to gather and consider relevant facts. The investigator should never offer any opinion or say anything to interviewees that will raise concerns about his or her impartiality.

Make a Decision

Once the interviews are conducted, other necessary procedures, such as evidence collection, should be completed. The investigator or member of management, along with legal counsel, should make the final determination of any employment actions that are warranted based on the investigative report. The employer must consider all the parties involved as well as organizational processes, not just whether the accused is guilty, in the final determination.

Closure of Investigation

It is important to let the complainant know that the organization took the complaint seriously and took appropriate action. Once a decision is made, the employer should notify both the complaining employee and the accused of the outcome. The organization must ensure the complainant agrees that he or she has been properly heard and understood, even if he or she is not in agreement with the results.

Develop Written Summary Investigation Results

The employer should consider preparing a final investigative report in case the matter is escalated. The organization should keep a clear paper trail of the evidence, such as examining documentation of previous employee behavior and incidents. The investigator should have a clear record of everything done and any findings as well as other steps taken during the investigation. Employers should also document interviews with the accused, the accuser and witnesses.

The final report should summarize the incident or issues investigated, including dates; the parties involved; key factual and credibility findings, including sources referenced; employer policies or guidelines that apply to the investigation, specific conclusions; the name of the party or parties responsible for the final decision; a list of any issues that could not be resolved and the reason(s) for that; and the employer actions taken.

The goal of the document is to ensure that if a court, jury or government agency were to review it, the reviewers would conclude that the employer took the situation seriously, responded immediately and appropriately, and had a documented good-faith basis for any actions taken during or as a result of the investigation.

The EEOC has a wide range of resources to aid employers, including sample investigation interview questions for the accuser, the accused and any witnesses.

For more guidance on conducting a workplace investigation, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

How to Choose the Best Legal Structure For Your Business

How to Choose the Best Legal Structure For Your BusinessOne of the first decisions an entrepreneur must make is about how best to structure his or her business. It is also arguably one of the most important decisions, as the structure they choose will have legal and tax implications.

A variety of options is available. The following gives brief descriptions of several, one of which may be the one best suited for your business.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. One person – the “sole proprietor” – owns the business by him or herself and is responsible for its assets and liabilities. As an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual, there is no distinction between the business and the owner. The owner is entitled to all profits and is responsible for all the business’s debts, losses and liabilities.

Partnership

Partnerships are the simplest structure for two or more people to own a business together.

There are two common kinds of partnerships: limited partnerships (LP) and limited liability partnerships (LLP). Limited partnerships have only one general partner with unlimited liability, and all other partners have limited liability. The partners with limited liability also tend to have limited control over the company, which is documented in a partnership agreement.

LLPs are similar to limited partnerships, but give limited liability to every owner. An LLP protects each partner from debts against the partnership; they won’t be responsible for the actions of other partners.

Partnerships can be a good choice for businesses with multiple owners, professional groups (such as attorneys), and groups who want to test their business idea before forming a more formal business.

Limited Liability Company

A limited liability company (LLC) is designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. It enables a business to take advantage of the benefits of both the corporation and partnership business structures.

LLCs protect the owner from personal liability in most instances. Their personal assets — such as vehicles, house and savings accounts — won’t be at risk in case the LLC faces bankruptcy or lawsuits.

Corporations

The two most common types of corporate structures are the C corp. and the S corp.

A C corp is a legal entity that is separate from its owners. Corporations can make a profit, be taxed and can be held legally liable.

Corporations offer the strongest protection to its owners from personal liability, but the cost to form a corporation is higher than other structures. Corporations also require more extensive record-keeping, operational processes and reporting.

Unlike sole proprietors, partnerships, and LLCs, corporations pay income tax on their profits. In some cases, corporate profits are taxed twice — first, when the company makes a profit, and again when dividends are paid to shareholders on their personal tax returns.

An S corporation, sometimes called an S corp, is a special type of corporation designed to avoid the double taxation drawback of regular C corps. S corps allow profits, and some losses, to be passed through directly to owners’ personal income without ever being subject to corporate tax rates.

Not all states tax S corps equally, but most recognize them the same way the federal government does and taxes the shareholders accordingly. Some states tax S corps on profits above a specified limit and other states don’t recognize the S corp election at all, simply treating the business as a C corp.

There are special limits on S corps. S corps can’t have more than 100 shareholders, and all shareholders must be U.S. citizens. S corps still have to follow strict filing and operational processes of a C corp.

Both C corps and S corps have independent lives. If a shareholder leaves the company or sells his or her shares, the corporation can continue doing business relatively undisturbed.

Cooperative

A cooperative is a business or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Profits and earnings generated by the cooperative are distributed among the members, also known as user-owners. Typically, an elected board of directors and officers run the cooperative while regular members have voting power to control the direction of the cooperative. Members can become part of the co-operative by purchasing shares, though the amount of shares they hold does not affect the weight of their vote.

For guidance on choosing the best legal structure for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

Creating an Effective Anti-Harassment Policy

Creating an Effective Anti-Harassment PolicyReports of workplace harassment have dominated the news recently but despite that high-profile publicity, many employers may still be short on specifics of what constitutes harassment or how to create an effective policy to keep workplace harassment from happening in their business.

“Workplace harassment” is defined as any unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on protected bases, which include race, religion, gender, national origin, age (40 and over), disability and sexual orientation.

“Unwelcome conduct” is conduct the employee did not solicit or invite, and which they regarded as undesirable. Examples include, but are not limited to, sexual advances, pressures for dates, slurs, comments, jokes, innuendos, threats, inappropriate gestures, pictures, graffiti, slang expressions and physical actions such as inappropriate touching or beatings.

Harassment can be conduct that culminates in a tangible employment action such as hiring or firing, promoting or failing to promote, reassignment and other actions. It can also be conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it results in a hostile work environment.

It is important for employers to understand that they may be liable for inappropriate conduct whether that originates with supervisors, co-workers or non-employees. It is also important that employees who are affected by the harassing conduct know they must explicitly or implicitly communicate that the conduct is unwelcome. Further, they cannot be an active participant in the behavior.

While employers cannot, in practical terms, control every word spoken or action taken at every moment, they do have a “Duty of Reasonable Care” with regard to harassment, and that is satisfied by establishing, disseminating and enforcing an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure. They must also take other reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct harassment that occurs.

An effective anti-harassment policy has several important elements.

It should start with a policy statement that is clear and precise, such as, “XYZ Company does not permit harassing conduct by anyone in the workplace. It is the policy of XYZ Company to maintain a work environment free from the harassing conduct described above.”

It should also state how the company will limit harassment, such as treating it as misconduct, even if it does not rise to the level of harassment as defined by law. It could also state that the company will act before the conduct is so pervasive and offensive as to create a hostile work environment.

The next point is the company’s statement that retaliation will not be tolerated against any employee making a good faith report of harassing conduct.

The company’s policy should define the roles and responsibilities of management members, supervisors, employees, the Human Resources department and other interested parties.

Its policy should identify the protected bases, define what constitutes harassing conduct and identify impartial plans to complain about harassment. It should also explain what should be done once harassment is reported, who should be notified, how promptly, and who will perform the subsequent inquiry into the claim.

It should explicitly cover harassment by anyone in the workplace, including supervisors, co-workers and non-employees. It should encourage employees to report harassment before it becomes severe or pervasive. Finally, an effective anti-harassment policy needs to be committed to in writing and be well disseminated.

In cases of alleged harassment, a company can be liable if it knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate action and respond appropriately. A company can be assumed to have known if the victim complained about the harassment, the conduct occurred in the presence of a supervisor or the conduct is widespread.

A company can be held liable unless both elements of an affirmative defense are met. Specifically, the company must have exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the harassment, and the complainant employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities offered by the agency or to avoid harm otherwise.

For help creating your company’s anti-harassment policy, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

What is Blockchain Technology?

What is Blockchain Technology?

It seems that new terminology finds its way into our lexicons almost constantly. One of the terms to make a recent appearance is “block chain technology.” Since its introduction, the name has morphed into a single word: Blockchain.

Blockchain is a digital/decentralized/distributed ledger technology, referred to as DLT, which records transactions in an encrypted fashion to protect the records from cybercriminals. Those records are stored on servers and hard drives literally all over the world, making it difficult for cybercriminals to obtain records by hacking a single site.

Blockchain was developed to facilitate transactions in cryptocurrencies, and records and processes transactions without a third-party provider, which in the case of monetary transactions is usually a bank. This “always-on” access enables those who use cryptocurrencies to process transactions more quickly than banks, which operate during traditional hours, including being closed on the weekend. Those limits can delay approval of transactions, sometimes by several days. Validation of transactions on a blockchain occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Blockchain technology has actually been around for almost a decade, as it was developed around bitcoin. However, it has recently begun to garner significant attention, in part due to its applicability to industries beyond cryptocurrencies.

Broadly, the name “blockchain” refers to a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography to create a shared but immutable ledger for recording the history of transactions. The attribute of being unchangeable is a key benefit of blockchain and, although relatively new to the business and enterprise arena, it offers a number of benefits across a range of industries.

At a high level, blockchain platforms are designed to help business leaders accelerate the development, governance and operation of a multi-institution business network.

In financial services, direct connections to shared ledgers can help consolidate internal and external data in secure ledgers. Improving data quality helps improve compliance programs. In manufacturing, distributed ledgers can improve multiple data-intensive processes such as chain-of-custody record keeping and warranty compliance programs.

In retail supply chains, manufacturers and retailers are investing in DLT to improve their visibility in the flow of funds and chain of custody to help them fight fraud and reduce the flow of counterfeit goods.

Health care providers, regulators and agencies are looking at DLT as a way to help in the delivery, management and security of patient records and manage electronic health records.

Increasingly, enterprise customers are looking at blockchain, DLT and smart contracts (all of which are referred to as blockchain) to help improve their business processes, data management and data security, and boost financial performance.

Among the positive aspects of blockchain technology is that it is built on open-source code, giving a developer or business the ability to customize it to their applications. As a result, blockchain can be designed to be completely open to the public, or it can be totally private, with only certain parties granted access to the data or, in the case of cryptocurrencies, allowed to send and receive payments.

To learn more about blockchain and how it may be helpful to your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

Mentoring/Engaging Remote Employees

Mentoring/Engaging Remote EmployeesIn 2017, a Gallup poll found that four U.S. employees out of 10 do some work from home, and the number of employees who are full-time remote employees is growing.

Without constant contact, mentoring and engaging remote employees can prove even more challenging than mentoring and engaging those employees with whom you interact throughout every business day.

Or is it?

Some experts say that managing remote workers isn’t much different than managing other employees. By building relationships and mentoring workers, you can develop employees and keep them feeling very much a part of the team.

Overall, businesses with remote workers need to focus on four key areas.

Set the same expectations

Remote workers need to be on the same page as in-office workers in terms of expectations and policies. The rules should be the same for everyone, regardless of their location, on topics including employee spending, vacation time, business trips, etc. They also need to be stated clearly. To understand how well you’re developing your employee, you need to know that you’re starting with a basic level of knowledge about the company and its policies.

Similarly, understand what each person expects out of the mentoring side of the relationship. Stay in regular contact without micromanaging, and understand how the employee is feeling about issues like workload and deadlines. That will enable you to find areas where the individual needs help developing new skills or overcoming challenges.

Build a relationship first, ideally in real life

One of the biggest challenges of remote mentoring arrangements is being able to build enough rapport so that the employee is comfortable asking questions. Another is getting to know them well enough that you can spot strengths and weaknesses.

A mentoring relationship is a two-way street, so it’s crucial to build a connection with your “mentee” early on so they don’t feel intimidated by you. One expert flew a remote employee half way around the world so the two could work together, face-to-face, for a week. That turned out to be time and money well-spent, as it had a huge – and positive – impact on their communications.

Build in more structure

Mentoring relationships often fail because they can’t land in the sweet spot between overly casual and overly engineered,” one expert says, noting that remote mentoring relationships need more structure and communication than many business leaders think is necessary. Determine how often you’ll be in touch and through what formats. Maintaining that rhythm will help ensure that you’re communicating regularly enough to have an impact.

When connecting remotely, it is critical to have an initial agenda and a loose plan so that there is some structure coupled with the freedom to adapt. That structure may change over time, especially as the players get to know each other better.

Feedback and recognition

Creating systems for feedback and recognition can help strengthen both formal and informal mentoring relationships. One firm instituted “feedback Fridays” where employees and managers were encouraged to engage with each other and share feedback to improve their communication with each other and recognize both areas for improvements and jobs well done.

Overall, the role of the manager is getting harder. Managers face new challenges and need to be clearer than ever about the definition of success in the job and what it takes to get there. It also requires more effort to stay connected with people to get a true understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, the company’s basic core values should include assuming positive intent and having a very high ethical culture. When a company has remote employees, managers cannot monitor everyone’s actions. Accordingly the company’s values, which should be shared by its employees, become especially important.

For more guidance on how to develop and manage remote employees for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

How to Choose a Qualified Tax Advisor

How to Choose a Qualified Tax AdvisorChoosing a qualified tax advisor can be a challenge for businesses as well as the individuals who operate them.

It’s important to understand that not everyone who prepares taxes is qualified to offer advice. It may be tempting to simply stop into your local office of a big national tax preparation chain in your search for a tax advisor. However, because there are no national educational or professional requirements, nor is a license is required, it is important to find out about the training and experience of any individual you’re considering.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of tax professionals such as enrolled agents, accredited tax advisors, accredited tax preparers, certified public accountants and attorneys who specialize in tax matters. Most of these professionals are required to meet the educational standards of their profession, often including continuing education requirements to ensure their knowledge remains current.

Enrolled Agents (EA) An EA is a preparer approved by the Internal Revenue Service to represent taxpayers before the IRS. To obtain an EA credential, the individual must pass both a rigorous two-day exam on federal taxation and related matters as well as a background check, or must have been an IRS employee within certain qualifying categories. An EA must meet ongoing continuing education requirements in tax regulations and accounting methods.

Accredited Tax Advisor or Accredited Tax Preparer An Accredited Tax Advisor is one who is prepared to handle complex tax planning issues such as planning for owners of closely held businesses and highly compensated individuals; choosing retirement plans; performing estate planning; as well as preparing tax returns for businesses and individuals. The Advisor has taken a Master’s-level, six-course program administered by the National Endowment for Financial Education, and may also be an EA.

Certified Public Accountants A CPA has a college degree or equivalent work experience, has passed a state professional qualifying exam and meets other state licensing criteria. CPAs are highly skilled in accounting methods, but before engaging a CPA, be certain that the person you’re considering is also experienced in handling tax matters and is enrolled in a continuing education program to keep updated on the ever-changing tax laws.

Public Accountants Anyone in the public practice of accountancy can be considered a public accountant. In some states, accountants are regulated by a state agency. Accountants may also be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation and use the name Accredited Business Accountant. While many public accountants also are EAs, before hiring one, it is important to determine that the individual has a solid background in tax matters. Finally, be sure to verify their credentials.

Tax Attorneys Tax attorneys generally appeal to taxpayers who are interested in legally sheltering a portion of their income. Like CPAs and EAs, many tax attorneys are qualified to provide advice on related tax matters from municipal bonds to estate planning, and, if specialized, are well informed on tax laws and their applications. However, tax attorneys generally charge the highest fees of all categories of tax preparers.

Select your tax advisor based on your needs, then review your choice periodically to be sure you’re getting the best guidance for your situation.

For more guidance on managing taxes related to your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

Are You Fluent in AIDA?

Are you fluent in AIDA?

AIDA is a proven marketing concept that helps refine all advertising and messaging so that it hits your target market and motivates them to take action to buy your product. If you aren’t using AIDA, you are probably losing leads and not closing deals.

AIDA is based on 4 steps buyers need to take:

Attention—otherwise known as “Make me Care”
This can be a captivating picture; a slogan or claim that causes someone to look twice. It is meant to create a strong feeling of interest and usually is solving some “pain” that the person is experiencing. It should be targeted to something your target audience really cares strongly about.

Interest—usually amplifies a problem or pain point.
It keeps the person’s attention by giving a fact, a testimonial, or reason to look for more information.

Desire—why they really need this.
How it will improve the person’s life, or the consequences if they don’t get it.

Action—simple way that person can get it.
Sign up on website, get free demo, get white paper, call toll-free.

Look at your marketing materials to see if each one:

A: Grabs your target market’s attention and makes them care

I: Gives them more information that lures them in

D: Makes them emotionally WANT (desire) this

A: Shows them an easy way to get it.

You will know you are fluent in AIDA when you automatically look at all marketing materials to see how the advertiser is using these four elements to get people to take action and buy their product or service.

For more help on ways to reach your target audiences, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: http://edcventura.toolsforbusiness.info/success-in-california/

Sales Lessons from the Trenches

Sales lessons from the trenches

When it comes to running a business, maintaining steady sales is key. But selling is harder than most people think, and sales often take longer than you expect. Here are some lessons from the trenches:

Know who you are talking to.

You can give a great sales presentation or demonstration, but if you aren’t in front of the decision-maker, you’re probably going to be making repeat appearances. Knowing whether your prospect is a gatekeeper (whose role is to weed out unwanted solicitors) or a decision-maker can save you time.

Maintain steady follow-up.

Always establish a day and time for your next contact with each prospect – and always follow through. Once you have figured out the typical sales cycle, make adjustments to the revenue and expenses in your business plan.

Calculate your prospect-to-sales ratio.

Figure out on average how many sales presentations/follow-ups it takes to get one sale (ask salespeople in your company/industry). Multiply your planned sales number by your ratio to get the total number of prospects that need to be in your pipeline.

It is OK for people to say no when you ask them to buy.

It’s part of the process and you need to move on. For example, if on average you can expect 19 people to say no for every 1 that says yes, you’ll know that once you make a sale, you’ll need approximately 20 more prospects to make the next sale.

Getting a new customer is time consuming and expensive.

Set up your business so that you have recurring sales from your customers OR increase the total purchase level for each customer by cross-selling other items. Cross selling and recurring business are necessary for ongoing profitability.

Keep your pipeline filled at all times.

Be consistent in prospecting. Make calls every day – regardless of what’s happening in your business.

Make it easy for others to buy from you.

Have a user-friendly website with information on what you sell and how they can purchase it. Get feedback from customers on their buying experience and look for ways to improve it.

The sale is only the beginning.

In order to get recurring business, you need to develop a relationship with your customer. Here are just some of the things you need to do:

  • Make sure your customer is happy
  • Always thank your customer
  • Communicate with your customer regularly so your business stays top-of-mind
  • Always ask for referrals from your customer

For more help on increasing sales for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: http://edcventura.toolsforbusiness.info/

10 Steps to Starting Your Own Business

10 Steps to Starting Your Own Business

You have an idea. You believe your idea is marketable and you’ve decided to expand your idea into a business. Great! Here are 10 steps to help guide you through the planning, key financial decisions and legal activities you’ll need to negotiate to get your new venture off the ground.

Conduct market research.

Market research will help confirm your belief there is an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Use that information to find a competitive advantage for your business. 

Write a business plan.

The foundation of your business, your business plan is a roadmap for how to structure, run and grow your new business. A good business plan will be a vital part of convincing people that working with you or investing in your company is a smart choice. Help in writing an effective business plan is available from the EDC-VC and other sources.

Funding your business.

Your business plan will help determine how much money you will need to start your business. If you don’t have that amount on hand, you will need to either raise or borrow the capital. The EDC-VC can guide you among the various sources of capital available.

Where to set up shop.

As the mantra goes, it’s, “Location, location, location.” Location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, whether you’re setting up a brick-and-mortar business or launching an online store. Your choices could affect your taxes, legal requirements, and revenue.

Choose a business structure.

The legal structure you choose for your business will impact your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability. Options include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability corporation (LLC), C Corporation, S Corporation and nonprofit organization, among others. You’ll need to choose a business structure before you register your business with the state. Consulting with business counselors, attorneys, and accountants can aid you in choosing the best structure for your enterprise.

Choose your business name.

Picking the perfect name is not easy, nor is it a simple matter. Your name should reflect your brand and capture your spirit. You will also want to make sure your business name isn’t already being used by someone else. Once you settle on a name, you need to protect it. There are four different ways to register your business name. Entity name protects you at the state level while trademark protects at a federal level. “Doing Business As,” or DBA, does not provide legal protection but may be legally required. Finally, registering your Internet domain name protects your business website address.

Register your business.

Once you’ve picked the perfect business name, it’s time to make it legal and protect your brand. If you’re doing business under a name different than your own, you’ll need to register with the federal government, and maybe your state government, too. For most small businesses, registering your business is as simple as registering your business name with state and local governments. In some cases, you don’t need to register at all. If you conduct business as yourself using your legal name, you won’t need to register anywhere.

Obtain federal and state tax IDs.

Most businesses don’t need to register with the federal government to become a legal entity; however, filing to get a federal tax ID is vital. You will use your employer identification number (EIN) for important steps to start and grow your business, like opening a bank account and paying taxes. It’s like a social security number for your business. Some — but not all — states require you to get a tax ID as well.

Apply for licenses and permits.

Keep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by industry, state, location, and other factors.

Open a business bank account.

A small business checking account can help you handle legal, tax, and day-to-day issues. The good news is it’s easy to set one up if you have the right registrations and paperwork ready.

For more guidance on starting your own business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: sba.gov


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