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Alternatives Office Space to Working from Home

Need office space because you’ve outgrown your home office or because you can’t run your business from home? Consider these home office alternatives.

Running a small business from home offers many advantages, especially for startups. With no commute and no rent to pay, you have more time to work on the business and more profits to put in the bank. Yet despite the convenience and cost savings, operating a business from home isn’t for everyone.

For instance, businesses that get a lot of deliveries, store equipment or trucks on the property, or have a number of employees, patients or customers coming and going generally can’t be run from a residential location. Business owners who need a professional location to meet with clients or patients generally need some environment other than a home office for their business, too. The same is true for one-person businesses that are expanding and hiring employees. Then, too, there are business owners who find there are too many distractions to work productively at home, or that working at home all the time is too isolating.

Fortunately, if you can’t or don’t want to run your business from home or if you’ve outgrown your home office, there a number of alternatives to consider. What’s right for you will depend on what type of business you run, what your customers or clients expect, what kind of space is available in your locality, and how much you can afford to spend for office space.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are a relatively new concept in the business world. The concept appears to go back to the 1990s when a few companies began to offer working space that would bring together people with no business relationship to each other, allowing them to work in a single, open location. Today, coworking appeals to solopreneurs, telecommuters working for larger companies, freelancers, and small business (both established and start-up). Coworking spaces provide internet access and other services along with desk space. Depending on the location and plan, the desk space may be a seat at a long table with many people working on their laptops, or an individual desk in an open area (as opposed to a private office). For many users, the main attraction of a coworking space is the community aspect.

“People who work from home — freelancers, early stage entrepreneurs and others – don’t have a team to work with,” explains Natasha Juliana, co-owner of WORK, a coworking space in Petaluma, CA. “They’re working on a computer by themselves and miss the contact with other humans in this digital world. Using a coworking space adds that human element back in their workday.”

Fostering that community feeling, is something WORK Petaluma focuses on, too. The company runs coffee socials, offers lunchtime business lessons, holds holiday parties and other events to help its members get acquainted and make friends. “People sign up for the desk or office space,” Natasha says, “but they stay because of the community. Most of the regulars know each other. It’s like going to any office. They ask how each other’s weekends were, go to lunch together, share in each others’ successes and often get help from others in the facility when they need it.”

Furnished Office Suites

Business owners who prefer a private office but don’t want to pay to furnish it or sign multi-year leases often opt for renting a furnished office suite on a part-time, full-time or as-needed basis from a company such as Regus™ that provide ready-to-go offices and office services. These companies, which operate in many cities and suburban areas, make individual offices available for rental and provide you with internet and telephone services, shared receptionist, conference room availability, business address, mail receiving and forwarding, and other amenities, depending on the package you purchase.

When attorney at law Lisa Pomerantz started her practice, her first significant engagement was creating compliance training programs. “That was something I could do from home,” she says. “But when I refocused on developing a more conventional legal practice, I started renting office space and a conference room on an as-needed basis from the Regus office center in Bohemia, NY.” Her practice focuses on business and employment law and grew quickly, so she rented an office suite from the Regus facility on a full-time basis. Today she is also a mediator and arbitrator of business and employment disputes and finds the professional space and availability of conference room and limited clerical support at the Regus office center is perfect for her needs.

Regus, which has 3,000 locations in 900 cities around the world is probably the most recognized name in the field, but there are other companies as well. To find furnished office suites in your location, search online for the term “furnished office” or “executive suites” followed by your town or county. When you search, you’ll find that some companies known for providing office suites, also offer coworking arrangements. Similarly some companies that primarily offer coworking spaces have some private offices available as well.

Before finalizing arrangements with any company that provides office space and services or salon space be sure to read their contract carefully, noting how long the agreement is for, whether or not it automatically renews, and the time frame during which you are allowed to terminate the agreement.

Furnished Salons

If you are a hairdresser, nail technician and want to set up a your own salon without renting a storefront and buying expensive equipment, there are furnished salon suites available in many areas of the country through companies such as Sola Salons, My Salon Suite, and Phenix. As with office suites, before renting a salon suite, be sure you read and understand the contract. You need to be sure about and what you’re entitled to, what might be extra, and how you can terminate the agreement should your need change in the future.

Subleased Space

Another alternative to running a business from home and signing a lengthy lease is to sublease unused space from another business. Unlike renting space from an office center that leases temporary offices to many businesses, when you sublease you become an occupant in space some other company has leased for their own business.

Grace Freedson is a literary agent and book packager who left a job in the publishing industry a number of years ago to start her own company, Grace Freedson’s Publishing Network. The company, located in Woodbury, NY, works with authors to develop projects to bring to publishers and works with publishers to develop ideas for book and find authors to write them. Grace had planned to run the business from home, but having worked for a number of years in an office environment with lots of people around she found running her business from home “a little bit isolating.”

She wanted to be in a professional location, a short commute from home, and decided to look for space she could sublease. That way, while she would have her own office, she’d be part of an office suite, and not have her name on the lease. She was also able to save a bit on rent by subleasing. To find the first space she sublet, she went into some buildings where solo practitioners rented space, got their names and then send out letters to them asking if they had any unused space they were interested in subleasing.

Businesses that are willing to sublease space do so for a couple of reasons. In some cases the space may be available because the lessee (the business that leased the space) didn’t grow as much as they thought they would or because they have downsized their business. In other cases, a business may have chosen a space that was bigger than they need because they liked the location, and there was no smaller space available. No matter why the extra office space is available, if the company’s lease allows it, the lessee may be willing to sublease the unused space to you. To find subleasing opportunities, check local newspapers, search the Internet and Craig’s List for your area, and consider doing what Grace Freedson did – contact companies you think might have space they’d be willing to sublease.

Traditional Real Estate Lease

Businesses that have a need for several employees are likely to opt for a more traditional space, leasing space in an office building, retail location, or industrial park, depending on their needs. Sharon Hamilton, owner of Centennial Insurance Agency in Farmingville, NY, worked from home to launch her business in 2004, but after 6 months she moved the business into office space in a well-known and easily accessible building in town. “I needed a professional location to meet with prospects and clients, and an office big enough to hire employees,” she explains.

Although it’s usually not to difficult to find buildings with space to rent either by riding around a town and looking for “For Lease” signs or searching on the Internet, doing so can be time consuming, and sometimes the properties landlords try to lease on their own aren’t optimal. Sharon didn’t want to waste time and wanted to be sure to get the best office and location she could afford, so she worked with a commercial real estate agent to find space for her business.

The Right Space For You

There are lots of things to consider when you choose a non-home location for your business. To be sure you choose the best option, start out by listing your needs on paper. Put them in a checklist format, with the top priority needs for space on top of the list. Consider how long a lease you’re willing to sign, how far from your home you’re willing to travel, and whether or not you need to be near retail locations, or public transportation. Include things like the number of employees you plan, whether you want private offices for your employees, or a bullpen setup, whether you’ll need space for employees and customers to park, or have trucks or other equipment you’ll need to accommodate. Will the building need to project a professional atmosphere, or would warehouse or industrial space work. Are you willing to walk up stairs to get to an office that isn’t on the ground floor, or would you and clients require an elevator. Details such as these become especially important if you have to sign a multi-year lease. Finally, if your lease agreement involves a significant period of time and/or money, have an attorney review it and go over it with you.

Simple Steps to Start a Business with No Money

Want to start your own business but don’t have any money? Here are 10 creative strategies you can use to launch your business when you have little to no startup funds.

You have a dream but no money to put toward the dream. That’s not uncommon among entrepreneurs. Don’t let the lack of money deter you from a business you know other people would find benefit from. Here are a few ideas of how to get your business off the ground with no money.

1. Some are Easier Than Others

If you don’t have any startup capital, service-based businesses are perfect. Product based businesses require you to purchase and then resell. Service-based businesses like consulting, advising, or things like content creation or web design, only need equipment you probably already have.

2. Get Creative with How You Raise Funds

Consider the story of how Outbox Systems started. The founders had a dream of connecting two software applications together but didn’t have the money to build it. Instead, they worked out a deal with another company where they would build a similar product for a discounted rate yet retain the rights to sell the product to others. That’s creative financing. How can you get creative with how you raise money?

3. Sweat Equity is Free

Starting a business is hard. It’s not comfortable. Expect long days, a lot of hard conversations, and plenty of people telling you it won’t work. You don’t have the money to hire people to do tasks like cold calling and door to door sales so you have to take on the task. If you commit to being the person that does just about everything in the beginning, startup costs are much lower.

4. Creative Fundraising – Part 2

Yes, there’s friends and family but today we have crowdfunding, local and national incubators, accelerators, and microfinancing. If you don’t know what these are, do some Googling and learn about them. Look for communities of investors in your area and tell others about your business. There’s plenty of funding that doesn’t involve banks and credit cards.

5. Start Simple

Your dream might include a pretty big business offering a wide variety of products and services but for now, keep it simple. Sell a single product or service. Build your customer base and later branch out into other products and services.

One of the most expensive parts of running a business is acquiring customers. If you gain their trust with one product or service now, selling something else later is much easier.

6. Start as a Hobby

At some point you’ll have to quit your day job but that day isn’t today. Hobby businesses often come from the person’s love of something. Maybe you have a corporate job during the day but you love to bake when you come home. Start with people you know and allow your network to grow from there. Your marketing costs are zero and you still have money coming in from your day job.

7. Work for Somebody Else

Although they may not admit it, most business owners became entrepreneurs thinking they knew more than what they did. In fact, many businesses fail because the person was ill-equipped to build a successful business.

Before you start your own business, work or intern with somebody in the business already. The experience you gain will allow you to start your business knowing what you truly need to spend money on and what you don’t. You’ll also gain insider knowledge of the industry and possibly a healthy customer list from the beginning.

8. Use Free Services

The Internet is full of high quality services you can use for free. Mailchimp is a powerful e-mail marketing platform that’s free for the first 2,000 e-mail addresses. Wufoo allows you to make online forms, and although Facebook and other social media platforms won’t put your ad in front of large amounts of people unless you pay, you can still gain some traction by telling people what you’re doing.

There’s also freelance platforms like Fiverr, Elance, and Upwork that have quality freelancers willing to help with logo and web design, and other service for cheap. You could get a logo made for $5!

9. Barter

Don’t have any money? Offer to barter your services in exchange for somebody else’s. There aren’t many small business owners that aren’t looking for ways to get quality services for little or no cost. What you have, they want, and they’re willing to trade for it.

10. Hustle!

Finally, go into your business endeavor with a hustling mindset. Be ready to do anything legal and ethical to get your business off the ground. Don’t like cold calling? Do it anyway? Not a graphic designer? You can find templates online for just about anything. Don’t want to do any free work? It might be worth it to get your name out there. If you don’t have the money to pay for services, you have to do them or find somebody who can and will do it for free.

Just as you would do just about anything for your family, you have to have the same mindset about your business.

It’s possible to get a business off the ground with next to no money. You just have to get creative.

Easy Tips to Get a Business Loan

Ready to apply for a business loan? Whether or not you get the loan depends on whether you can convince the lender you’re a good risk, and that will be based on the documentation you provide. Here’s a run down of the items most lenders will need to see.

Access to capital is an ongoing need for growing businesses. Whether you want to hire several more employees, open a new location, increase production, or develop new products, a business loan can provide your small business the money it needs to expand.

How successful you are at getting the loan will depend on how successful you are at convincing a lender that you’ll be able to repay your loan on time. That decision will be based on a number of factors including the business’ income and credit record, your business plan, the nature of the business, your industry, the business experience of the owner(s), the personal credit of the owner(s), your collateral, and the lender you choose.

To evaluate those factors, lenders will ask you to complete a loan application and provide a variety of information and documentation. Although the specifics will vary from one lender to another, you may need to provide some or all of the following:
Loan request details:

• Why you want the loan
• How much you need
• How the money will be used
• Amount of time needed to repay the loan
• What other business debts you have

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Business Plan
This would include a description of the business, description of the products and services, marketing projections (and how you plan to achieve your goals), resumes of the principals in the business, and financial projections

Legal Documents

Business licenses, incorporation documents, patents, commercial leases, franchise agreements, or other legal documents related to your business.

Financial Statements

Profit and Loss Statement (also called an Income Statement) for an existing business

Balance sheet

Cash flow statement

Accounts receivables and payables reports (for existing business)

Tax Returns

Both business and personal tax returns from the last three years may be required.

Credit Reports

The lender may require credit reports both for the business (if it’s already established) and personal credit reports for the owner(s).

Collateral

Collateral is something of value that can be used to repay the loan if the business defaults on the payments. That something of value would be something the lender would be able to sell to recoup its losses if the business can’t pay off the loan. The “something” might be inventory, equipment, bank accounts, or even your home.

Gathering all of the above information and documents before you approach a lender, will help you speed the loan application process. It should also help you get a clearer vision of your business needs and the businesses’ ability to repay the loan.

Tips to Increase Your Productivity

The trick to getting things done isn’t to work more hours, it’s to be more productive in the hours you already work. Use these strategies to boost your productivity so you can enjoy your time off.

Time management isn’t simply about managing your time during the work day. It’s about getting the most important work done within the amount of time you have allocated and enjoying your personal life when you’re not working. Hitting that sweet spot of productivity and leisure is what we really want when we seek out time management strategies.

Focus List

In order to get the most important work done you have to know what the most important work is at any given point in time. One of the simplest and yet most effective tools is a Focus List. Not your Master List which includes all your projects, tasks and ideas, but a simple list of the top priority projects you are working on in a day. It can be as simple as a handwritten index card with one to three projects you have identified from your Master List as the most important for the day.

This is probably something you have heard before, but what I want you to consider for a moment is all of the tasks, projects and ideas that are not on the list. They are not on the list because you have deemed them as less important at this time than the top priority projects you are going to do. So, don’t interrupt yourself and jump back to any of these items during your focus list work. Commit to getting the three done and then if you have more time you can recheck your Master List for the next three items.

Time Blocking

Blocking off time to do specific tasks can be as complex as scheduling appointments on your calendar for specific tasks or as simple as having two hour blocks of time allocated toward working on your Focus List work. It is not possible to block off every hour of every work day for focus list work. Email does need to be checked, phone calls need to be made, meetings attended and colleagues communicated with. So don’t try to convince yourself that you have 8 hours a day to accomplish your priority items. Instead block one or two 2-hour time blocks for working on your Focus List. During this time close your door and put a polite but firm Come Back Later note on it, do not check email, and do not take incoming phone calls or make outgoing ones (unless these calls are your Focus List item). Everything else can wait for two hours. After all, these are your self-selected most important projects. Give them your full attention.

Focus Work Time

The key word here is focus. Start with the first item on your list and work on it. Work on only this project during your Focused Work time. You may be surprised at how often you interrupt yourself with non-priority things. You might say to yourself “I really do need to send a quick email to Susan about that meeting next week.” That email might take just 3 minutes to write and send, but it cost you momentum on your primary task. And if you do this more than once your two hours will be eroded, leaving you feel unproductive and like time got away from you.

Instead of doing the things that pop into your mind, write yourself a quick reminder about them so you can do them when your two hour Focus Work Time is over. You may find that over time this list will get shorter as you are able to just stay focused. Once you begin to trust that the other items on your list will get their own focus time, you’ll be less tempted to do them when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Stop Working

When your time blocks are over, stop and take a break. Do the other things that are calling out to you and need to be done. Then you can dive back into your projects again if you haven’t finished. It is as important to stop focusing as it is to stay focused. Otherwise all the other things that you need to do will pile up and cause problems. It is OK to do them. Also, it is unrealistic to work in Focus Mode all the time. It is the contrast of the two work styles that makes Focus Mode so productive.

When the end of the work day comes, stop working. The reason that you want effective time management in the first place is so that you have been productive enough to feel good about walking away at the end of the day. So do it. Walk away from work and leave it there – mentally and physically. Not only will your life feel better and like you actually have time to enjoy it, but you will be refreshed and restored able to work fully the next day.

If ideas or things you need to do keep popping into your mind, that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you have to do them right now. Like your Focus Time at work, this is your Focus Time during your leisure time. So just write yourself a note and when you’re back at work you can do them.

Give Yourself Permission to Do Nothing

Lastly, in society today it is very easy to become overscheduled. Something to do every night, every weekend filled with activities and sports and events. No time to just relax and do nothing. Nothing makes you feel like your time needs managing more than having all of it filled up. Leave some blank space on your calendar. Make a firm commitment that you will have at least one night each week and one weekend a month with nothing on the calendar. If this means saying no to doing things with friends or un-volunteering for a committee or telling your kids to pick a sport that doesn’t have three practices a week and games every weekend, do it. This is your life. Enjoy it.

Simple Ways to Making Better Decisions

Being able to make better decisions is important for your business to succeed. Being able to make them quickly is important as well. These six steps can help you make better decisions.

how to make better decisions
Image source: StockUnlimited.com
Are you a decisive person? If your answer is, “I don’t know,” you’re probably not! Some people are better at making decisions than others. Some people are better at making the RIGHT decision better than others, and some people could use a little help.

Regardless of which category you fall into, as a business owner, you’re likely faced with making decisions all day long, some that could have lasting impacts.

Learn to make better decisions faster using these six steps:

1. Quit Trying to Achieve Perfection

Economist Herbert Simon wrote about “satisficing” in 1956. Basically, a satisficer takes action as soon as their criteria are met. It’s not a matter of settling for less than the best. Instead, it’s setting and sticking to criteria that you know you’ll be satisfied with once they’re met.

Maximizers are different. They want to make the best or optimal decision. Even if their criteria are met, they will keep looking for a better option. They’re never truly satisfied because they believe there’s a better option that they couldn’t find. Satisficers are happier because they spend less mental energy trying to find perfection. Constantly looking for more information comes at a cost. At some point you have to stop and make a decision.

2. Think Like Franklin

Make Better Decisions Get our free guideJoseph Priestley was the nephew of Benjamin Franklin. Priestley wrote to his uncle about a tough life decision he had to make. Franklin told him to use something he called moral algebra. Divide a piece of paper in half and write the pros on one side and the cons on another. After thinking about it for a few days, when you find a pro and con that are of equal weight, cross each of them off your lists. What is left is the best answer.

3. Go with Your Gut

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer wrote a book called “Gut Feelings.” He said that we’re wired to make quick decisions based on limited information. “Heuristics,” as he calls it, is simply taking efficient cognitive shortcuts to make better decisions faster.

To break down all of the science, think of this: Every decision has numerous variables you could consider, but if Gigerenzer is correct, you will quickly decide which are the most important and only consider those.

You might be thinking that considering less information is quite an ignorant approach to making a decision. If that’s your view, there’s a large body of psychologists that agree with you, but Gigerenzer asked a computer to analyze which Chicago high school a pair of hypothetical parents should most consider for their child. The computer weighed 18 variables using a complicated formula. In the end it only considered 2 of the 18 variables to make the choice. Gigerenzer argues that this is proof that more information isn’t better.

4. Understand Cognitive Bias

“Tell me about your childhood,”—a common and maybe cliché question that therapists often ask their patients. As you collect experiences, positive and negative, your mind creates biases. For example, if you were mugged on a certain city street, you would likely develop a bias that would drive you to avoid that street. Or maybe you went through an awful divorce and you have trouble believing that any potential mate could be faithful. These are examples of cognitive biases.

Every decision you make, thought you have, or even word you say first went through a filter of your life experiences. Psychologist, Dan Gilbert says in this TED Talk that we aren’t very good at predicting what will make us happy because of these biases. Instead, we’re probably better off just asking somebody else what they think. In other words, if we want to make better decisions, it’s sometimes a wise move to get help from others.

5. Choose Your Timing Wisely

Should you make a big decision right after an argument with your spouse? How about when you’re not feeling well or had a long stressful day? Most people would agree that making a decision when your mind is sharpest and free of outsized emotion is the best time to commit to a course of action.

Oddly, though, we often make decisions at the worst times. If nothing else, don’t make quick decisions. To make the best decision, take a day or two before deciding. But don’t take too long. “Analysis paralysis,” or overanalyzing, is just as dangerous.

6. Decide Which Decisions Are Important

Business owner or not, you’re faced with multitudes of decisions all day, every day but not all decisions should receive equal weight. Should the brand of dental floss command the same amount of research as the make and model of your next car? Should you research the type of lawn fertilizer as much as you learn about a health condition? The answers seem clear but some decisions in business are more important than others.

If you’re a very visual person, you might put way too many hours into picking a logo while somebody else is waiting for you to secure business licenses. When you learn to prioritize decisions and only place a lot of time and energy into the ones that deserve it, you can concentrate on decisions that will truly move your business forward.