Sunday, November 30, 2008

Social Networking.. are you on facebook?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Showing Your Business Skills on the Job

Intrapreneurship is the opportunity to exercise your entrepreneurial skills within a company or organization. It is a great way to gain corporate independence as well as increase your profile within the company and the industry. Robert Wallace, author and CEO of Bithgroup Technologies Inc. in Baltimore, shares what it takes to become a successful intrapreneur.

Understand that an intrapreneurial venture requires many of the same skills as starting your own business. Is there a need for this separate business unit? Will you be able to manage the budget and resources required for success? How will you increase value over time?

Develop a business plan. Plan for development, sustainability, and growth with provisions made for change and innovations. Wallace also suggests that as you develop your plan, consider your professional goals and how the structure of your business plan will address them.

Know the rules of engagement in your company. "Every organization has a culture, and the culture defines the rules about how success is attained," Wallace explains. How receptive is your organization to new ideas or business concepts? What have been the channels of completion for other projects? "A lot of minority professionals don't understand that it's not just about the credentials and how hard you work."

Build strategic alliances that advance you. To move any idea forward, an employee needs the advice and support of mentors and advocates, senior level executives who will advise you on how to manage the political climate.

Taken from Black Enterprise Magazine (Kingsley Kanu, Jr.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Outsourcing for Small Business

The phone’s ringing off the hook, employees are working overtime to handle the overload, and your website is buzzing with activity. These are all “good” problems we wish for, but are you ready if they become a reality? Today’s business happens at warp speed, and efficiency is a key hallmark of success. One way to gain efficiency is to focus your energy on the things that are of core value to your business. Keep those activities in-house, and put your non-core functions on the hot seat – even small business outsourcing is a reality in today’s business environment.

To make outsourcing work for your business, try the following:

Analyze your expertise

Take a look at the value you offer your customers and where you focus your efforts. Are you spending too much time on areas that are outside of your expertise? Many times, it is more cost-effective to have someone outside of the company take care of these non-core activities. Research various service providers and ask for referrals so you can start outsourcing functions such as logistics, accounting, IT services, payroll, public relations, and more.

"A small business owner should evaluate outsourcing just as any other business decision,” states Walter Turek, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Paychex, a national provider of payroll, human resource and benefits outsourcing solutions. “Criteria should include:expertise in performing the function, confidence in the service provider, return on time invested, risk versus reward, and peace of mind consideration."

Outsourced but not out of mind

Once you find an outsourcing vendor, be sure to keep your eye on the ball! Since you can’t just walk down the hall to oversee the quality and timeliness of outsourced work, continue to tightly manage whatever functions you outsource. Arrange for regular reporting to ensure accountability and effectiveness.

Move “fixed costs” to “variable costs”

Some functions in your business require only part-time work. An example might be bookkeeping. If your needs add up to only four days a week in bookkeeping work, then consider outsourcing. That will allow you to move the burden of “fixed” costs (in this case, a full-time salary) to the “variable” side (an outsourced vendor). In essence, you pay for the outsourced functions only when you need them.

Jump on opportunities from downsizers

Be aware that the rigors of this economy are forcing big business to shed non-core functions. After all, corporations must find ways to maximize profitability, which they do in part by reducing their expenses. Just as in small businesses, outsourcing allows big companies to move fixed costs to the variable column. Like you, they pay for the outsourced functions only when they need them. From a business development perspective, this may represent a trove of opportunity for you. You can develop an entire business model centered on providing services that used to be in-house at large companies.

Our Bottom Line

The primary message here is that outsourcing is here to stay and it should be something you entertain for your business. Concentrate on the key aspects of your small business, where customers find value, and outsource other business functions to outside experts. If you monitor vendors carefully and focus on efficiency, you’ll be positioned for rapid growth and success.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Make Every Proposal Count

Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references, and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills - but, in most cases the first (and possibly the last) impression you make on a potential client will be through your bid proposal.

Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you're only looking for one outcome: to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:

Know the client.
Some clients have posted a number of jobs. Check out their previous projects and get a feel for their business and the skills they tend to need. Also check out their feedback, both given and received: you'll get a feel for how they like to work and communicate, and you may also get a sense of what's most important to them (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking lots of questions early in the project, etc.)

Ask questions.
Use private messages (PMBs) to get clarification and additional information. You'll not only better understand the project, but you'll begin to build a working relationship with the buyer.

Tailor each proposal.
You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don't. Each client and each job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Clients can more easily ignore proposals that appear to be boilerplate or generic, so, if you do cut-and-paste, tweak the results to ensure you specifically address the client's needs. Every proposal should read like it was developed specifically for that particular client.

Stress the benefits.
Your proposal isn't about you – it's about the client. The client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. While you should certainly describe yourself, make sure you describe the benefits and advantages of what you will do. And if you can, explain how you can add additional value or features to the project.

Don't oversell.
Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do and use facts to back up your skills and experience. Provide relevant samples or links to previous work – the more relevant, the better. Buyers can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure you created, but if they need a website created, providing links to sites you've designed will be much more effective.

Get to the point.
Clearly explain your services, features, and benefits. Be concise in demonstrating your skills and experience. Include one or two quick descriptions of previous work you've done – work that is applicable to the project – and refer the client to your profile and portfolio. Longer is not always better.

Also, avoid jargon. Elance is a global workplace, and word usage varies from country to country. Get rid of catch phrases and just say what you mean in simple, clear and everyday language.

Let your personality show.
Share your enthusiasm for the project or the client's business. You and your potential client will work together on this and hopefully many more projects – give them a chance to see you as a real person.

Review your proposal as if you're the client.
Put yourself in their shoes: How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you'll receive? Do you feel confident the provider can deliver? Do you get a sense of the provider's excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line, would you consider hiring this provider? Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic – focus instead on what your proposal says about you and what you'll do.

Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after you finish writing. If that's the case, take a few minutes to review old proposals you've written. They won't be as "fresh," and you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you'll find things you wish you'd done differently – apply what you learn to help make each new proposal count.

Taken from

Monday, November 10, 2008

Taking a Break Can Help Grow Your Business

One of the strategies of business growth highlighted on the popular website, suggested that a business growth strategy was “taking a break”. With the holidays just around the corner, this might just be the encouragement you need to take a break and spend time with your family and plan for the coming year’s business opportunities.

The article mentioned that there is too much of a good thing. The same things that give you a mental buzz can also stress you out if you don’t take a breath and relax now and then. This will also ensure that you don’t’ lose the fun factor in your work or the passion for what you do. This is why mental time outs are an important part of business.

This mental break may not come in the form of a physical vacation, but perhaps just taking a few minutes away for the madness during the day to take a walk around the block. You must give yourself permission to stop. Some ways to deal with this mentioned were:

1. 1. Keep a time log. This will help you keep track of the time you wasted and you can use this time to do something that will help you relax.

2. Plan for each activity. Pad extra time around meetings and task to account for time-killers such as traffic.

3.3. Evaluate the quality of your clients. Only do business with clients who don’t take advantage of you, who pay you on time and who are pleasant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer

If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, choose that preparer wisely. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their own tax returns even if prepared by someone else. So, it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare personal returns. Most return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. Here are a few points to keep in mind when someone else prepares your return:

  • A Paid Preparer is required by law to sign the return and fill in the preparer areas of the form.
  • The preparer should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return.
  • Although the Preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of the return.
  • Review the completed return to ensure all tax information, your name, address and Social Security number(s) are correct. Make sure that none of these spaces is left blank.
  • Review and ensure you understand the entries and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign.
  • Never sign a blank return, and never sign in pencil.
  • If you have provided specific authorization in a power of attorney filed with the IRS, you may have copies of notices or refund checks mailed to your preparer or representative; but only you can sign and cash your refund check.
  • A Third Party Authorization Check Box on Form 1040 allows you to designate your Paid Preparer to speak to the IRS concerning how your return was prepared, payment and refund issues and mathematical errors.

Taken from eNews for Small Business