Best Small Business Tips and Ideas

Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life. We are living in a world wherever everyone wants to make extra money and add to his income. Most people have achieved this by acquiring great business ideas. When one starts up a company, he must be ready to meet competition. It is important to note that you would not need to become rich or popular to succeed in business but have to think smartly. But there are a lot of moving parts and many different elements to consider.

10 basic tips essential to start a business successfully.

Tip 1: Get inspired and Love your idea

Every business begins with an idea you may have imagined of opening your own business for years, or motivation may have hit you suddenly. Nevertheless of the source, the first step of starting your own business is coming up with a business idea. And as important as your idea, you must in love with the idea.

Tip 2: Do Your Research / learn everything about the business

You’ve recognized your big idea, now it’s time to balance it with the reality. Are you truly ready to start a business? Answer the questions below and see what you need to prepare yourself for business. For a small business succeed it must fulfill a need, solve a problem or offer something the market wants.

You can identify this need in many ways by doing research, focus groups, and even trial and error.

As you search the market, some of the questions can be:

• Is there a need for your anticipated services or products?
• Who needs it? (Target Costumers)
• Are there other companies offering similar services or products right now?
• How is the competition?
• Can or how will your business fit into the market?

Tip 3: Make a Business Plan

You need a business plan in order to make your business idea a reality. If you expect to seek monetary support from an investor or financial organization, a formal written business plan is a must.

Even if you don’t need monetary support, a simple business plan can give you precision about what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to do it.

In overall, your business plan should summary your business goals and the inspiration behind them, as well as your plan for realization of your goals in terms of marketing and funding.

Tip 4: Planning Finances

Opening a small business doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, but it will involve some investment.

There are a number of methods you can fund your small business:

• With Small business grants
• By Financing
• With Small business loans
• Or Angel investors

You can also attempt to get your business off the ground by bootstrapping, using as little capital as necessary to start your business.

Tip 5: Business Structure

Your small business can be an individual ownership, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. The business structure you might choose will impact in many factors from your business name, to liability, and how you file your taxes.

You can choose an initial business structure, and with time re-evaluate and change your structure as your business grows and needs to be changed.

Tip 6: The Business Name

The name you choose plays a role in almost every aspect of your business, so you want it to be a good one. Make sure you think through all of the possible consequences as you explore your options and select your business name.

Once you have selected a name, there is the need to check if it’s trademarked, currently in use and if stills free you will need to register it. A individual proprietor must register their business name with either their state or county clerk. Corporations, LLC, or limited corporations usually register their business name when the creation paperwork is filed.

These days you need to have a website, so please don’t forget to register your domain name once you have selected your business name. The best domains and more valuable online are the ones ending with .com.

Tip 7: Licenses and Permits

There are a range of small business licenses and permits that may apply to your situation, depending on the type of business you are starting and where you are placed. You will need to inquiry what licenses and permits apply to your business during the initial process.

Tip 8: The Business Location

Setting up your place to work is essential for the operation of your business, whether you will have a home office, a shared or private office space, or a retail location. You will need to reflect about your place, equipment, and overall setup, and make sure your business place works for the kind of business you will be doing.

Tip 9: Accounting System

One of the most essential systems for a small business is an accounting system. Your accounting system is essential in order to build and manage your budget, set your charges, conduct business with others, and file your taxes. You can set up your accounting system by your own, or hire an accountant to take away some of the work.

Tip 10: Promote Your Small Business

As soon your business is up and running, you need to start attracting customers. You’ll want to initiate with the essentials by writing a single selling offer and building a marketing plan. Explore as many small business marketing ideas as you can so you to choose how to promote your business most successfully. Completed these business start-up actions, you will have all of the most important small business bases protected, and be prepared for small business success.

15 Business Ideas to Generate Extra Income

If you want or need to start a side job because you still need to wait a little bit longer to start your own business, here are 15 suggestions for you.

1. Make money Blogging

If you enjoy writing, find a theme you’re passionate about and start a blog dedicated to covering that theme and anything else interesting you enjoy to talk about. All you need is a laptop, some time, and inspiration to consistently write. It can start as a hobby and turn into a business over time. Creating a blog is free, but if you want to look professional it can cost less than $ 12 per month.

2. Buying or selling on eBay

Thanks to internet there are more opportunities to make money than ever to buy and resell products for extra money. There are lots of people buy at a discount and resell them on eBay for profit.

3. Freelance writing

If you’re great with words, you might be capable to find some work as an online freelancer. A variety of publications need online content in the form of product, stories, service descriptions, and reports, and if you have the talent and ability, you could easily be the one to create them. Luckily, all you need is a computer and Internet connection to get started. You can start here freelancer.com

4. Social media expert

Now a day almost everyone uses Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but did you know that many companies are willing to compensate people to support them managing their social media accounts and sometimes you can do it part-time from home. If this appeals you, to find social media jobs you can start by writing companies with a social media presence and visiting sites like Elance.com for opportunities.

5. Proofreading and editing

Do you have strong English skills and outstanding grammar? You may have chances to work as a proof-reader from home. Marketing for this can be hard; seek out those who might actually be able to use your services and advertise directly to them.

6. Virtual assistant

Many companies and individual professionals like having someone who can check and answer their email, organize task lists for them, someone who can update their calendars, and perform other administrative tasks, with minimal communication. The best of being a virtual assistant is that you can offer this service from home with a good Internet connection.

7. Website design

If you know a little bit about web design you can approach small businesses in your community, as they could use a very basic web presence to tell others about their business. These businesses usually don’t have a large budget for websites and create a great yet simple website is for you, get a bunch of clients from your local community, create sites for them, and maintains them for a small fee. You can easily get enough businesses to have a nice side business of your own with a low investment.

8. Affiliate marketing

Certain types of online businesses will pay you to promote their products and encourage sales. If you’re interested in learning more, check out affiliate marketing programs such as Click-bank, Commission Junction, and these websites are trustworthy and you can earn money by posting their products in your blog, website or Facebook. The secret of online business is all knowing targeting the right public and marketing efficiently. It can be overwhelming with all the information available online as more than 50% of the information is just a waste of time.

9. Become a business or life coach

If you are a good speaker and passionate about the business world and able to inspire and encourage others in a unique way, you could marketing your services as a business or even a life coach. Take your passion and expertise to the next level giving advice and suggest actionable steps people can take to progress their professional and private lives.

10. Start a resume writing service

If you’re excellent at writing remarkable resumes that in the end result in people getting the job, contemplate advertising those services. Most of your work will spin around writing, editing, designing, and proofreading, so you will only need few supplies outside of your computer and basic software to get started.

11. App Developer

Web app development is the creation of application programs that reside on remote servers and are delivered to the user’s device over the Internet. Now a day you can do apps with software’s you don’t really need to be a weirdo to do it, you can be an app developer for Facebook for instance and of course you can do it part-time and home based.

12. Business Consultant

If you are high organized and skilled being a good problem solver this job is for you. Companies bring Business Consultant to identify their problems, provide solutions and optimize companies. The only investments are your skills.

13. Data Entry Service

Many companies and online businesses require some type of manual information tracking, creating a vast amount of data entry work. Although there are many work-at-home scams related with data entry work, there are a lot of genuine chances available for genuine data entry businesses. If you are an excellent typist with an eye for detail, a data entry business is a great idea for you.

14. Freelance Writer

If you have the skill to write and inform people in a certain area, you can write small books or guides and sell them online, the biggest books platform is Amazon.com, where you can display your books for free and when they are sold, you will receive a percentage from the selling. Payments are made every month depending on your sales. Investment is only your time to write and imagination.

15. Internet Researcher

The Internet provides a vast amount of information. If you can quickly and efficiently navigate through that wealth of information, and essentially find a needle in a haystack, you can create a very successful business as an Internet researcher. Search for this kind of job online or about a company which is looking for this of service.

I give you only a glimpse what you could do, and these are just a few ideas, but many ideas were left behind.

First of all I advise you to think what you like to do as a hobby or in your free time, why don’t you make profit from what you are doing already?

You have the world as your disposal, but for a business to work out the first thing from all things is, it doesn’t matter what you intent to do, but you have to love it. If you love what you do it doesn’t feel like a job, you will be doing it with joy and this way you will be successful.

There are some side business opportunities that have grown more common in the past few years. And thanks to internet you have much more opportunities, ideas and help to develop your business.

7 Things Successful Small Business Owners Do

If you’re stuck wondering how to be a successful small business owner, know this: running a small business often simply means making good use of successful small business ideas. Successful small business owners face many ups and downs throughout their work. They know that small business ideas cannot turn out successful unless they use the proper approach and strategies.

If you want to be one of the few successful small business owners, remember that having a good strategy is crucial. Without the right strategy and a proper approach, you are not likely to achieve your goal.

Some small business owners manage to overcome their everyday challenges, while others seem to give up after a while. So, let’s find out what successful small business owners do differently from the unsuccessful ones. Let’s turn their experience into your success through your small business ideas.

1. MAKE ANNUAL REVISIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET

Every business goes through changes every now and then, including your small business. For this reason, your business plan and budget should be somewhat flexible to bear such changes along with your business goals. Without revising your business plan and budget, you shouldn’t expect your business to flourish and expand.

The flexibility of your business plan will help you avoid and overcome the eventual unpleasant surprises on the market. Also, such flexibility will give you some time to adjust to certain changes you may experience on your way.

Every business experiences both success and failure points each year. In order to detect and estimate these points, you should revise your budget and business plan every year. While revising, you should check if you are still going in the right direction. If not, you may need to make some changes and adjustments to achieve better results in the upcoming period.

Successful small business owners don’t hesitate to reallocate funds, if that is what it takes to achieve success. In order to increase profits, after they conduct a business revision, smart business owners define and implement the necessary changes immediately.

2. UPDATE YOUR OFFER AND ADD VALUE TO IT

People change, as do their needs and habits. As soon as you notice that you aren’t selling as much as you used to sell before, it is time to make changes. If people aren’t purchasing what you currently have to offer, that’s a clear hint that something needs to be done.

A simple price cut may be the first thing that comes to your mind. As much as lower prices may seem more appealing to your customers, they also point to a devaluation of what you offer. Devaluation of your products or services is never a good thing, so try doing just the opposite – add value to your offers.

The best way to update and add value to your products and services is by developing new offers. If possible, try to offer something completely new to your customers. You could offer product bundles, training programs and workshops, and so on.

3. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Most successful small business owners believe in daring to be different. They know their target consumers. Trying to target everyone and anyone as a consumer will get you nowhere fast. Instead of trying to make products for the masses, focus on a clearly targeted community and grow with it. Once you target your consumers, it is easy to understand their needs.

Understanding your consumers is the secret to a successful business. When you know their needs, you can modify your products and services in order to satisfy them. Satisfied consumers will not only become your regulars, but they will also spread the word about what you offer. This may become the best marketing strategy for your business.

Spreading the word about your products or services is called a referral marketing strategy. It’s been proven that most of the faster growing small businesses turn to this kind of marketing rather than relying on traditional advertising.

4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION

Successful small business owners know their competition. They know that keeping an eye on the competitors and understanding their policy and pricing is crucial to the business. It is wise to consider your direct competitors in your area, as well as indirect competitors.

A direct competitor offers the same primary services to the same target group as you, and they are easy to follow on the market. However, an indirect competitor company offers the same or similar products as a segment of a wider product or service offering.

In some cases, the indirect competitor may offer a product that is an applicable substitute for the original product. Successful small business owners know how to position their company against the indirect competitors. They take both types of competing companies seriously and they account for them in their annual business plan.

5. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Even though hiring the right people for your business sounds obvious, it can be a really tough job for small business owners. Also, not hiring the right people could be a huge downfall for a small company. People who don’t share the concept of your business approach and goals are not the type of people you want to engage in your business.

Candidates who don’t have the right temperament, skills, or talent for the job position that you offer can be too pricey for your company. Having the right people in the right job positions can make your company outstanding. Exceptional companies recruit exceptional people.

6. ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY CHANGES

Technology changes on a regular basis nowadays. Successful business owners are very well aware of that, so they change accordingly. Doing things the way they were done years ago will not provide the same success nowadays.

Accepting technological improvements can help your company become more effective and efficient. Keep yourself informed about the latest in new technology, and the improved solutions it brings. Choose the most appropriate ones for your business and adopt them. Your customers will be grateful and you’ll experience great benefits.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you believe your intuition has been serving you well so far, listen to your inner voice carefully. Your instincts can lead you a long way. If you still feel strongly about something, regardless of the lack of facts or data – act on it. What seems right for other businesses doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Relying on intuition is often the first step out of your comfort zone, and the first step towards becoming a leading company on the market. While you watch your business grow and spread, remember that having faith in yourself and the business you are running is crucial. Being aware of your inner voice can lead you to making business decisions with more confidence and a greater success rate.

Small Business – When Government Stacks the Deck Against You

We expect a fair degree of corruption, arrogance and drooling self-interest from our elected officials. After all, in the last 206 years, we have fallen a great distance from the days of the “virtuous republic” that existed-or was thought to exist-in that first decade after the Revolution. Yes, we expect it, but I would have more respect for the operatives, the party-men and the politicos themselves if they could be just a little intelligent about it. The current issue with the Bush Administration, Congress, the SBA and the awarding of a great deal of money earmarked for small business, is a case in point.

When Big Business Seems Small

It is illegal, a felony that comes with fines and a prison term, to try to pass your big business off as a small business to get one of the 23% of Federal contracts reserved for small businesses. Yet, it happens all the time. According to the American Small Business League, a non-partisan watchdog group, some $60 billion in Federal contracts go to major corporations each year. How it happens brings us to the question of how you decide that a business is truly small.

Counting Heads

What is a small business? How do you measure it? Is it revenue? Sales? Staff size? Any one of these could be a viable measure, but for the most part the matter is decided with staff size. Depending on the industry, you can have a maximum of 1,500 employees and still be considered a small business! (Federal Regulations Title 13, Part 121, Section 201)

These larger “small businesses,” with 1,000 to 1,500 employees, deal in oil, aerospace, rail transportation, textiles, and chemical and rubber products. Wholesalers, regardless of their products, are capped at 100; information technology value-added resellers are capped at 150 (a very recent change) while the rest are capped at either 500 or 750. In 2005 (the most recent data available), there were 5,966,069 firms in the U.S. with 500 or fewer employees and they employed 58,644,585 people out of a total employment of 116,373,003. That is 50.3% of the working population working in what could easily be described as legitimately small businesses. If you add up the firms with larger numbers of employees, you find that there are 11,546 of them and that they employ 9,475,180 people, 8.14% of the workforce.

Call me crazy, but a firm with 1,000 employees doesn’t seem to be very small to me! It may be small when compared to the giants in its industry, but it is a giant compared with the vast majority of small businesses. In 2004, there was an effort to bring the number of employees down from 500 to 100 for a business to be classified as small. In spite of a great deal of support for the measure-including U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who said: “By working to change the definition of a small business for government contracts from 500 to 100 employees, federal contracts specifically designed to ensure the success of American small business would go where they belong – to support Americans, not big companies dressed in sheep’s clothing.”-the effort was killed by the SBA itself. That, however, is only the beginning. Another has to do with how small businesses are certified.

Finding a Certified Small Business

The question of how many employees a small business can have is complicated even further when we see that the government has been rather lax in enforcing the contract award rules for small business. In fact, in 2005, some $49 billion in Federal contracts that were set aside for small business were actually awarded to the 13 largest government contractors. This lax enforcement has led to cases where the small business in question is actually a subsidiary of a much larger company, where businesses have outgrown their small business status, where big business misrepresents itself as a small business and where government procurement offices, such as with the military, simply disregard the rules and do business with who they like.

The Small Business Front

Two of the most prevalent ways that large companies can maintain a small business front are through the legal loopholes that allow a small business to retain its status throughout the life of its original contract-and bid on new business as a small business-no matter how large it grows and even after it is bought out by a large company.

In either case, what the company in question is doing is, in fact, legal. Their actions are also limited by the fact that the loophole is based on the length of the small business’ initial contract. For example, if a small business wins a 10-year contract to provide computer hardware, it maintains its small business status for the full 10 years of the contract regardless of how large it grows or if some huge conglomerate buys it. This has been an issue for some time. Consider the following:

According to a 2006 report on the U.S. Government Accountability Office: Commerce Information Technology Solutions (COMMITS) Next Generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract, “We found that many of the 55 COMMITS NexGen contractors have grown significantly or have been acquired by larger businesses and may no longer meet small business size standards. We also found that a significant portion of the task orders intended for the smallest contractors were issued to larger, incumbent contractors.”

Incumbent contractors tend to get the lion’s share of the government’s business. A 2004 SBA Office of Advocacy: Eagle Eye Publishers’ Report said that: “Of the top 1,000 small business contractors in FY 2002, Eagle Eye Publishers’ analysis found 44 parent companies it identified as either large firms or ‘other’. Contracts to these two groups taken together had a total value of $2 billion.” The report continued, saying that: “The Department of Defense and the General Services Administration accounted for 79 percent of the contract awards found to have gone to large businesses.” One of the conclusions drawn from the report was: “As a result of this lack of transparency, many awards that should be reserved for small firms go to large firms unchallenged.”

Disregarding the Rules

Rules can be broken either directly, by a willful disregard on the part of those the rules were intended to regulate, such as a company that purposefully misidentifies itself as a small business in order to get a contract; or they can be broken indirectly by a lack of oversight and enforcement that creates an atmosphere in which the rules can be ignored. One of the problems sited against the SBA is oversight. “SBA did not review the majority of reported bundled contracts that we identified, though procuring activities must provide, and SBA must review proposed bundled acquisitions. As a result, 192 contracts identified by procuring agencies as bundled were awarded without SBA’s review. If all of these are actually bundled contracts, a minimum of $384 million would be potentially lost to eligible small businesses, based on minimum dollar reporting requirements of $2 million.” (SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of the Contract Bundling Process, May 2005) And consider this from the SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of Monitoring Compliance with 8(a) Business Development Contract Performance, March 2006:

“Though SBA delegated 8(a) BD contract execution authority to 26 procuring agencies, SBA did not ensure that procuring agencies monitored whether companies complied with 8(a) BD regulations when completing 8(a) BD contracts . . . SBA has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that companies comply with 8(a) BD regulations”

The SBA is the final oversight authority for these contract awards and yet through their lack of enforcement efforts, it is easy for large businesses to slip through. Why is this? There are two likely reasons. The first is that the Bush Administration, when it came into office, cut funding for the SBA. At the end of the Clinton Administration, the budget for the SBA was about $1.1 billion. By 2006 it was down to $456.5 million. Funding has increased since the 2006 low; for 2009, that number has increased to $657 million, mostly due to funding for disaster relief loans; but the agency has nowhere near the budget it used to have. Generally speaking, if you cut funds to an agency, certain things start to slip and that is not a message that the SBA, or the Bush Administration for that matter, want going public.

However, it already has.

An audit by the American Small Business League (ASBL) and two independent experts showed that even while the SBA was saying that it is a “myth that large companies, including large, multi-national corporations are taking away federal contracts specifically intended for small businesses,” it was discovered that the Bush Administration had in fact included billions of dollars in awards to Fortune 500 corporations and other large businesses in the United States and Europe in its small business contracting statistics. Also, the Bush Administration failed to comply with the congressionally mandated 23% small business contracting goal by including such corporate giants as:

Dyncorp
Battelle Memorial Institute
Hewlett Packard
Government Technology Services Inc (GTSI),
Bechtel
Lockheed Martin
General Dynamics
General Electric
Northstar Aerospace
Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.
Raytheon.
British Aerospace Engineering Systems
Buhrmann NV (Dutch)
Thales (French)

More than that, ASBL’s research also found that the government was forced to systematically increase the volume of contracts awarded to small businesses in order to balance out those that were going to inappropriately large companies. In addition, awards to legitimate small businesses were systematically inflated to equalize the reduction of small business contract dollars awarded to Fortune 500 corporations. The ASBL found that according to SBA numbers, Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $887.5 million during 2005. However, the government’s own figures indicate that Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $287.5 million during 2005, which represents a discrepancy of $600 million. The ASBL audit found several other instances where the contracting numbers of legitimate small businesses were also significantly inflated.

The Bottom Line

The government decided to play fast and loose with small business contract money and they got caught siphoning it off to some of the largest companies on Earth. There are those that will only see the damage that this will do to McCain in the fall, yet another Bush Administration failure/debacle/betrayal-whatever you like best. That, however, is not the point. The point is why was the SBA hamstrung and placed in the position it has been in by the Bush Administration? More than that, why has this abuse been allowed to go on for so long? Call me a political cynic-I am from Chicago so I come by it honestly-but the only thing that makes sense to me is that government officials are paying back the people with deep pockets who helped to get them elected and they are doing it at the expense of, well, YOU. True, paybacks are a time-honored political tradition, but by stealing the money from small business, the U.S. Government as a whole turned its back on the overwhelming number of U.S. employers and employees in favor of a handful of major corporations. I urge you, as a small business owner; and you as an employee of a small business, to write your senators and congressmen, and to write to each of the presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, and their respective party chairmen-Republican and Democrat alike, and tell them that you want this to stop. Remember, small business contract set-asides are for YOU, not major corporations. It is time to remind Washington of that.

Reality Vs Myths – SBA Changes Small Business Reporting Standards

The SBA recently made some changes to how small businesses can compete in the federal marketplace, leading to some false beliefs. An examination which clears up some of the false beliefs about the change in Small Business Association guidelines and how it affects businesses trying to do work with the government.

Myth: Small Businesses can’t compete in the federal marketplace because large companies are getting contracts specifically written for smaller businesses.

Reality: Though it is true this has happened in the past, large businesses taking contracts set aside for smaller businesses is not a real factor anymore in the federal contracting arena. A minuscule percentage of contracts get awarded to companies whose size is later challenged – the companies are almost universally on the edge of what is defined as a ‘small business’ rather than the large multi-national corporations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has adopted regulations which keep such contracts from being considered as small business contracts, helping to make the available figures and statistics more accurately reflect reality.

Myth: Large and multinational corporations are listed in the GSA’s database with small business contracts because they were awarded them.

Reality: There are two explanations for this. The first is that size status is determined at the time a contract is awarded, and is retained for the duration of the contract. In recent times, agencies have increasingly been awarding long-term contracts which can extend for as much as twenty years. During that period it is quite possible that these businesses become larger and no longer fit the small business size standard for their commodities. Small businesses are becoming large businesses during the period of their contracts, making size reporting difficult to implement effectively. Secondly, many large companies have a strategy of purchasing small businesses with long-term contracts, meaning that a contract awarded to a small business may then become owned as a subsidiary of a large business. Until recently, agencies were allowed to count those contracts toward their small business goals despite this fact.

Myth: Nothing has been done to stop such misrepresentation of small business awards, and the SBA has not made it more difficult for larger businesses to attain long-term small business contracts and misrepresent themselves.

Reality: Many steps have been taken to resolve this issue. The SBA implemented a ruling in June that requires companies, large or small, to recertify their size status at the end of the initial contract term (generally five years) and again at every exercising of a contract term extension option, usually between one and five years. Additionally, whenever a small business is bought out by or merges with another business (of any size), it must recertify its size status for all of its contracts, regardless of where they are in the term. Thus, from now on all contracts will be reported as held by large companies if the business holding them has grown past small business size standards or has been acquired by a large company. The SBA has also taken other steps, including increasing its staff working on finding small business contracting opportunities, requiring federal agencies to review any issues or discrepancies with their reported contracting statistics, and starting a “Small Business Procurement Scorecard,” which will monitor and score agencies on their performance on a variety of small business goals.

Myth: This five year recertification allows agencies to report the tens of billions of dollars set aside for small businesses for large businesses until 2012.

Reality: The new SBA policy explicitly prohibits this. It forbids small businesses that merge or are acquired by large businesses from claiming small size status for all future work, even on existing contracts. This means that as soon as a business is no longer legally considered ‘small,’ all of the dollars used must be reported according to the appropriate size standard. It also limits the time that a small business that expands beyond small standards can report as small to no more than five years – and most to within one year. All of the new SBA policies apply to all existing and future contracts of any term length, so that whenever any event that triggers a recertification need occurs – merger, acquisition, end of a contract term, or exercise of a contract option – the business must recertify itself to whatever size standard is appropriate at that time.

Myth: Small business can be forced to compete alongside large businesses because of the new recertification policies.

Reality: A contract that is set aside for small businesses MUST be given to a business that is certifiable as small at the time of bid submission. These new policies actually protect small business owners from having to compete with larger businesses, because there is now no way for them to acquire small businesses in order to certify small business status.

Myth: There is no enforcement and there are no penalties, fines, or consequences for large businesses that get small business contracts.

Reality: If the SBA determines that a businesses has misrepresented itself about the size standard, they have the right to disqualify a bid and deny the contract. If a business is found to have intentionally misrepresented itself regarding size status in order to get a contract, under Section 16(d) of the Small Business Act the owners are subject to fines and imprisonment. Companies that lost out on the bid may challenge the size of the winning companies and also file civil suits under the False Claims Act. Additionally, there is proposed legislation that would delay awarding of any contracts that have size standards attached over a certain dollar amount until the size status of the winning bidder is determined and verified by the SBA.

Myth: The SBA will not release information on small businesses awarded government contracts.

Reality: Information and data relating to federal contract awards is readily available to the public through the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Any person – small business owner or otherwise – may request information or reports through the database operator, the General Services Administration (GSA), if they have difficult finding data or navigating the site.

Myth: The recertification procedures will change the size standards for small businesses and how they are classified as ‘small,’ much like the 2004 proposal.

Reality: This is simply not the case. Small businesses are still determined to be so by the same regulations. The rules regarding size standards have not changed and are still determined by industry – some are based around maximum number of employees, some are on revenues in recent years, and some are a combination of the two. The 2004 proposal, which did not go into effect, was a broad restructuring agenda that would have made all size standards determined by the number of employees.

Myth: More than a dozen federal investigations in the last six years have reported finding that billions of dollars were diverted from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies and their subsidiaries across the country.

Reality: There reports almost universally raised issues regarding the accurate reporting of contract dollars that were originally awarded to small businesses – just the sort of thing the new rules were put into place to prevent. This meant that small businesses were the original winners of the contracts, but then were bought up by larger companies. Although there are a very few occasions where large businesses won federal contracts that had been set aside for small businesses, generally this was because of a misunderstanding or of a small business not realizing it had grown beyond the size standard. None of the studies suggested that large, multinational corporations competed against small businesses for contracts. The dollars went to the larger companies because the business that originally won the contract was small. The new rules and guidelines that have been put into effect as of June 30, 2007 should prevent any further such problems of misreporting.

How to Get Financing For Your Small Business

In today’s hostile economic environment, access to capital is the primary differentiating factor between those businesses which have been able to expand and gain market share versus those that have experienced enormous drops in revenue. The reason many small businesses have seen their sales and cash flow drop dramatically, many to the point of closing their doors, while many large U.S. corporations have managed to increase sales, open new retail operations, and grow earnings per share is that a small business almost always relies exclusively on traditional commercial bank financing, such as SBA loans and unsecured lines of credit, while large publicly traded corporations have access to the public markets, such as the stock market or bond market, for access to capital.

Prior to the onset of the financial crises of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession, many of the largest U.S. commercial banks were engaging in an easy money policy and openly lending to small businesses, whose owners had good credit scores and some industry experience. Many of these business loans consisted of unsecured commercial lines of credit and installment loans that required no collateral. These loans were almost always exclusively backed by a personal guaranty from the business owner. This is why good personal credit was all that was required to virtually guarantee a business loan approval.

During this period, thousands of small business owners used these business loans and lines of credit to access the capital they needed to fund working capital needs that included payroll expenses, equipment purchases, maintenance, repairs, marketing, tax obligations, and expansion opportunities. Easy access to these capital resources allowed many small businesses to flourish and to manage cash flow needs as they arose. Yet, many business owners grew overly optimistic and many made aggressive growth forecasts and took on increasingly risky bets.

As a result, many ambitious business owners began to expand their business operations and borrowed heavily from small business loans and lines of credit, with the anticipation of being able to pay back these heavy debt loads through future growth and increased profits. As long as banks maintained this ‘easy money’ policy, asset values continued to rise, consumers continued to spend, and business owners continued to expand through the use of increased leverage. But, eventually, this party, would come to an abrupt ending.

When the financial crisis of 2008 began with the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and most renowned banking institutions on Wall Street, a financial panic and contagion spread throughout the credit markets. The ensuing freeze of the credit markets caused the gears of the U.S. financial system to come to a grinding halt. Banks stopped lending overnight and the sudden lack of easy money which had caused asset values, especially home prices, to increase in recent years, now cause those very same asset values to plummet. As asset values imploded, commercial bank balance sheets deteriorated and stock prices collapsed. The days of easy money had ended. The party was officially over.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Great Recession that followed created a vacuum in the capital markets. The very same commercial banks that had freely and easily lent money to small businesses and small business owners, now suffered from a lack of capital on their balance sheets – one that threatened their very own existence. Almost overnight, many commercial banks closed off further access to business lines of credit and called due the outstanding balances on business loans. Small businesses, which relied on the working capital from these business lines of credit, could no longer meet their cash flow needs and debt obligations. Unable to cope with a sudden and dramatic drop in sales and revenue, many small businesses failed.

Since many of these same small businesses were responsible for having created millions of jobs, every time one of these enterprises failed the unemployment rate increased. As the financial crisis deepened, commercial banks went into a tailspin that eventually threatened the collapse of the entire financial system. Although Congress and Federal Reserve Bank led a tax payer funded bailout of the entire banking system, the damage had been done. Hundreds of billions of dollars were injected into the banking system to prop up the balance sheets of what were effectively defunct institutions. Yet, during this process, no provision was ever made that required these banks to loan money out to consumers or private businesses.

Instead of using a portion of these taxpayer funds to support small businesses and avert unnecessary business failures and increased unemployment, commercial banks chose to continue to deny access to capital to thousands of small businesses and small business owners. Even after receiving a historic taxpayer funded bailout, the commercial banks embraced an ‘every man for himself’ attitude and continue to cut off access to business lines of credit and commercial loans, regardless of the credit history or timely payments on such lines and loans. Small business bankruptcies skyrocketed and high unemployment persisted.

During this same period, when small businesses were being choked into non-existence, as a result of the lack of capital which was created by commercial banks, large publicly-traded corporations managed to survive and even grow their businesses. They were mainly able to do so by issuing debt, through the bond markets, or raising equity, by issuing shares through the equity markets. While large public companies were raising hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital, thousands of small businesses were being put under by banks that closed off existing commercial lines of credit and refused to issue new small business loans.

Even now, in mid 2012, more than four years since the onset of the financial crisis, the vast majority of small businesses have no means of access to capital. Commercial banks continue to refuse to lend on an unsecured basis to almost all small businesses. To even have a minute chance of being approved for a small business loan or business line of credit, a small business must possess tangible collateral that a bank could easily sell for an amount equal to the value of the business loan or line of credit. Any small business without collateral has virtually no chance at attaining a loan approval, even through the SBA, without significant collateral such as equipment or inventory.

When a small business cannot demonstrate collateral to provide security for the small business loan, the commercial bank will ask for the small business owner to secure the loan with his or her own personal assets or equity, such as equity in a house or cash in a checking, savings, or retirement account, such as a 401k or IRA. This latter situation places the personal assets of the owner at risk in the event of a small business failure. Additionally, virtually all small business loans will require the business owner to have excellent personal credit and FICO scores, as well as require a personal guaranty. Finally, multiple years of financial statements, including tax returns for the business, demonstrated sustained profitability will be required in just about every small business loan application.

A failure or lack of ability to provide any of these stringent requirements will often result in an immediate denial in the application for almost all small business loans or commercial lines of credit. In many instances, denials for business loans are being issued to applicants which have provided each of these requirements. Therefore, being able to qualify with good personal credit, collateral, and strong financial statements and tax returns still does not guarantee approval of a business loan request in the post financial crisis economic climate. Access to capital for small businesses and small business owners is more difficult than ever.

As a result of this persistent capital vacuum, small businesses and small business owners have begun to seek out alternative sources of business capital and business loans. Many small business owners seeking cash flow for existing business operations or funds to finance expansion have discovered alternative business financing through the use of merchant credit card cash advance loans and small business installment loans offered by private investors. These merchant cash advance loans offer significant advantages to small businesses and small business owners when compared to traditional commercial bank loans.

Merchant cash advance loans, sometimes referred to as factoring loans, are based on the amount of average credit card volume a merchant or retail outlet, processes over a three to six month period. Any merchant or retail operator that accepts credit cards as payment from customers, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover, is virtually guaranteed an approval for a merchant credit card advance. The total amount of cash advance that a merchant qualifies for is determined by this three to six month average and the funds are generally deposited in the business checking account of the small business within a seven to ten day period from the time of approval.

A set repayment amount is fixed and the repayment of the cash advance plus interest is predetermined at the time the advance is approved by the lender. For instance, if a merchant or retailer processes approximately $1,000 per day in credit cards from its customers, the monthly average of total credit cards processed equals $30,000. If the merchant qualifies for $30,000 for a cash advance and the factoring rate is 1.20, the total that would need to be repaid is $30,000 – plus 20% of $30,000 which equals $6,000 – for a total repayment amount of $36,000. Therefore, the merchant would receive a lump sum of $30,000 cash, deposited in the business checking account, and a total of $36,000 would need to be repaid.

The repayment is made by automatically deducting a pre-determined amount of each of the merchant’s daily future credit card sales – usually at a rate of 20% of total daily credit cards processed. Thus, the merchant does not have to write checks or send payments. The fixed percent is simply deducted from future credit sales until the total sum due of $36,000 is paid off. The advantage to this type of financing versus a commercial bank loan is that a merchant cash advance is not reported on the personal credit report of the business owner. This effectively separates the personal financial affairs of the small business owner from the financial affairs of the small business entity.

A second advantage to a merchant credit card cash advance is that an approval does not require a personal guaranty from the business owner. If the business is unable to repay the merchant cash advance loan in full, the business owner is not held personally responsible and cannot be forced to post personal collateral as security for the merchant advance. The owner removes the financial consequences that often accompany a commercial bank business loan that requires a personal guaranty and often forces business owners into personal bankruptcy in the even that their business venture fails and cannot repay the outstanding loan balance.

A third, and distinct advantage, is that a merchant credit card cash advance loan does not require any collateral as additional security for the loan. The future credit card receivables are the security for the cash advance repayment, thus no additional collateral requirements exist. Since the majority of small businesses do not have physical equipment or inventory that can be posted as collateral for a traditional bank loan, this type of financing is a phenomenal alternative for thousands of retail businesses, merchants, sole proprietorships, and online stores seeking access to capital. Such businesses would be denied automatically for a traditional business loan simply because of the lack of collateral to serve as added security for the bank or lender.

Finally, a merchant credit card advance loan approval does not depend upon the strong or perfect personal credit of the business owner. In fact, the business owner’s personal credit can be quite poor and have a low FICO score, and this will not disqualify the business from being approved for the cash advance. The business owner’s personal credit is usually checked only for the purpose of helping to determine that factoring rate at which the total loan repayment will be made. However, even a business owner with a recently discharged personal bankruptcy can qualify for a merchant credit card cash advance loan.

Since the cash funds being lent on merchant credit card advances is provided by a network of private investors, these lenders are not regulated or affected by the new capital requirements that have placed a constraint on the commercial banking industry. The merchant cash advance approvals are determined by internal underwriting guidelines developed by the private lenders in the network. Each loan application is reviewed and processed on a case-by-case basis and approvals are issued within 24 to 48 hours from receipt of a complete application, including the previous three to six months of merchant credit statements.