“Do’s and Don’ts of MLM”

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter, and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 8/17/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Selling, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business, Relationship Marketing, Home Based Business

Source: So… you have decided to get involved in a multi-level marketing business opportunity. After spending hours of research on the right opportunity, you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. How do you assure yourself greater odds of success? We provide a few tips.

Every multi-level marketing business opportunity has a recipe for “success” which is usually provided by the MLM parent company, and offered by way of training materials, tools, books, and audios. There are some basic key concepts to keep in mind when building your team and customer base. These key concepts may seem simple, however are often overlooked, leading many in the industry to disappointment and failure.

One of the very first things to keep in mind is to pay close attention to every detail related to the process of sales and recruitment, and to the fine print of company policy & procedure and compensation plan. Many network marketers fail to collect on every benchmark they achieve because they miss a step in the process of submitting paperwork or forget to fill in a required field on an online form. Within the independent contractor agreement and compensation plan, there are specific details related to how commissions are earned on product sales and on sales from a downline that may not have been presented during the initial opportunity introduction.

Network marketers must have an understanding that their new opportunity should be treated as if it is a business they personally own. Discipline, motivation and consistent daily action are crucial for success, for if positive results are not produced, no compensation is earned. The network marketer should have a thorough understanding of the products they represent, the market they serve (who will need them), and a willingness to handle objections and even deal with disgruntled customers.

The network marketer should be a product of the product. The best sales representative is a person that has a personal experience with the products they are selling, and can convey their personal story or connection with those products to others. A network marketer should sample each of the products they intend to promote, and focus primarily on those that have the greatest impact on them, rather than those they did not personally enjoy or find beneficial.

Research the ideal consumer market and start there. Many network marketers will begin pitching their product offerings to a list of family, friends, neighbors, and other associates from within their local community or network. What network marketers need to understand is once they have exhausted their list of contacts, they will have no choice but to engage with strangers. Sales representatives, in general, who focus on solving problems and filling a need, develop a customer following and are more successful than their peers who primarily rely on friends and family to buy their products.

Network marketers need to have a definitive plan of execution in reaching their target market. In discovering where your target market might be located, you will want to put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer. What are their likes, dislikes, consumer behaviors and habits? What influences their decision making? Your discovery process should include learning why your potential customers make the choices they do.  This will apply to building your team network as well.

Network marketers need to set realistic and obtainable daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and stay disciplined to achieve the set benchmarks. Network marketing is about making repetitive consistent efforts over a long period of time. Where many fail is by having the desire and intention of making a big splash of achievements in the beginning, so they could sit back and allow for their downline to do the rest. When they don’t achieve success in the short time line they hoped for, the disappointed network marketer often quits. Network marketing is a battle of time and milling through the field of potential prospects. The network marketer that is willing to spend less time per week, but willing to work years at the business, will have far greater returns than the network marketer that works feverishly in the first 30 days and does nothing thereafter.

Another practice of becoming a better network marketer is to develop your own personal brand that can help separate you from the field of thousands of other network marketing representatives. What makes you so different that a potential prospect should buy from you instead of your competitor? It will be the little things that matter – returning people’s calls, texts and emails, answering questions, helping people with their paperwork, being supportive of other members of your downline, and being a team player. These are just a few ways you can create your personal brand.

The career network marketer should have some of their own personal business tools, such as a business card, website, social media page, hotline, group newsletter, and blog post. These are places where you can tell your story and the stories of your personally connected satisfied customers and fellow network marketing colleagues.

Network marketing is just that, networking. Every network marketer should be engaged in a business organization where he/she can meet with other fellow business leaders and potential customers. Building relationships within this community will provide credibility that you are a professional and not some lone wolf trying to look out only for yourself. Within these business groups, look for opportunities to be of service to others.

Most importantly, the network marketer must have patience. Customers and members of your “team” will come and go. There are natural consumer life cycles to every product or service. You must continue to be diligent in developing strong customer and business relationships, and keep in mind that some of your recruits will not produce a thing and end up quitting the opportunity. Quitting over someone else quitting will yield zero results.

Not all network marketers will make enough money to quit or replace their day jobs. It takes time, monetary investment, and a keen ability to work with other people to achieve any level of financial gain in network marketing. Those who are not ready to assume all the risk should yield to caution and look for other career building opportunities.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

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Tax Code Reform, So What Did We Get?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter, and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 8/2/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business, Tax Policy

Source: With Tax Code Reform signed into law, there are a number of changes to be aware of. We review the biggest changes to the tax code that have been made since the last set of revisions that were made in 1986.

The largest reform to the current tax code since 1986 was enacted into law at the end of 2017. This reform has come with mixed reviews by skeptics, who sought more resolve to the existing tax code laws. Most of the adjustments to the tax code have been on the personal tax side of the books. Some of the most noticeable changes include:

  • The Child Tax Credit increasing from $1000 to $2000, so families can benefit from this adjustment, which leaves more of the wage earner’s money on the table at home.
  • A significant change to the Individual Tax Rate and Bracketing. Prior to the change, there were six specific brackets in which personal income tax was rated. The 2017 tax code reform has added additional brackets with adjustments to existing brackets. These changes were minimal, however for some wage earners, the changes can mean having a few extra dollars in their pockets for their families.
  • An increase in the standard deduction from $12,700 to $24k for married filing joint couples. The standard deduction has increased from $6350 to $12,000 for single filers. The head of household deduction has increased from $9350 to $18,000.
  • Good news for the small business owner. Small business owners that operate pass through income corporations (S Corps or LLC) were formally taxed at the individual tax brackets. These same pass through corporations now receive an added twenty percent deduction bonus. A benefit for C-Corporations has also been worked into the bill. C-Corporations will see a reduction from a thirty-five percent tax rate to twenty-one percent flat, giving corporations the largest adjustment to corporate tax in decades. In addition to a change in corporate tax rates, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for corporations has been repealed.
  • Changes to personal exemption allowances. Formerly, the personal exemption allowance was up to $4050 per person, however since the new tax code is in place, this exemption has been eliminated. To compensate for this, an increase in the standard deduction has been implemented.
  • A cap in SALT (state and local tax) deductions. Some property owners may not fare well in the new tax code deal. State and local income tax was formerly deductible prior to tax code reform; however, in accordance with the new tax code, this deduction is now capped at $10,000 in total between both property and income taxes. Some say this hurts property owners who relied on the former allowance to offset the pain they felt when paying heavy burdens on their state and local property taxes.
  • Adjustments to the mortgage interest deduction. In 2017 it was allowable to deduct the interest up to $1 million dollars on your main residence. The new code drops this deduction to $750,000 for new loans that are generated in 2018 and forward.
  • Added benefit for individuals that have 401ks. Such investors have plenty to be happy about. As the new tax code specifies, the cap on employer-sponsored 401k programs has been increased by $500. This also allows for anyone over the age of 50 to contribute up to $24,500 into their 401k. On the other side of the coin, deductions for IRA’s will be phased out. However, some exemptions on this plan will still be allowed. Other adjustments and phase outs include Roth IRA exemptions and deductions.
  • An increase in Earned Income Tax Credit maximums. This tax code rule was increased to assist families with multiple children. Though the increase is not a landmark, the modest increase was made to help struggling families.
  • An unexpected surprise in the area of gifting. An individual can now provide a gift up to $15,000 to any one other person without the receiver having to deal with a tax liability.
  • An increase in the maximum Social Security taxable earnings amount, which affects employees, employers and the self-employed.

So which states benefited and which states were most affected by the new tax code reform? For low income families, the states that receive the least amount of benefit include Alabama, Pennsylvania, Montana, Wyoming, and Vermont.  States that received the most benefit for low income families include District of Columbia, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, and California.

As it relates to middle class family demographics, the states that received the most benefit include Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Delaware, and California. Middle class families on the other side of the spectrum in the states of Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Arizona lose out on this round of tax code reform.

For high income families, the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Ohio gain the most from tax code reform. The wealthiest in the states of Mississippi, California, New Jersey, New York and Arizona stand to lose the most with the new tax code reform bill.

To find out how the tax code reform directly affects you, refer to your tax attorney or certified public accountant for additional information. This article was not intended to provide tax or financial advice, but to provide awareness by highlighting some of the most noticeable tax code changes.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

What is Network or Direct Selling?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/22/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Selling, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business, Sales Opportunities

Source: One of the most common at-home business opportunities is the direct sales network marketing of products offered by a parent organization. Direct sales or network marketing has received a bad rap in the past, where advocates and adversaries share their pros and cons about this business model. We take a look at what networking marketing and direct selling opportunities are.

Network marketing/direct selling companies offer their products and/or services by employing a business model that includes a number of independent representatives or marketers who promote the parent company and its product line. The first method in which network marketers earn an income is based on sales commissions for product sales of the affiliated parent company. This applies to both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Network marketers can then earn additional income from building an “organization” or “downline,” which consists of a network of other individuals they recruit to also sell the parent company’s products, making this the “multi-level” business model.

Multi-level marketing organizations have been pitched under a number of monikers. Some of the most common other names for multi-level marketing are network marketing, direct selling, community marketing, referral marketing, pyramid selling, person-to-person marketing, and relationship marketing. Network marketing or direct selling have been the most common terms dubbed since multi-level marketing has been associated with negative perception of the industry as a whole.

Some of the most successful and longest standing direct selling businesses include Avon, Amway, Primerica, May Kay Cosmetics, Legal Shield, and Shaklee. Within the past forty years, the number of network marketing companies that offer products and services have exploded to an all-time high. There are well over fifty companies today that dominate the multi-level marketing landscape, and there are no signs of the industry slowing down.

Billions of dollars in product and service sales have been made for these companies as a result of this business model. In 2015, the industry posted $183.7 billion dollars in sales worldwide. Collectively, these companies claim that over $73.4 billion dollars (roughly 40%) of gross revenue was paid directly to “distributors,” who are the network marketers themselves. The majority of the industry’s sales were collected in the United States, with twenty to thirty percent of all sales having taken place stateside. The industry also did well in China, which is the industry’s second largest market, followed by South Korea, Germany and Japan.

So what makes the industry so attractive? Career marketers will tout there are multiple benefits to becoming involved in network marketing organizations. Network marketers claim the main reason for their decision to join network marketing is because of its unique business model and the flexibility the industry offers.

Network marketers can earn unlimited commissions with most multi-level marketing companies, as well as paid performance bonuses when sales goals are met; and are also paid a percentage on sales from their downline. A common claim of advantage in Network marketing is the sense of owning a business without the hassle of a brick and mortar location, so very little financial investment is required in comparison to the capital necessary to start up a traditional retail or service oriented business. Network marketers have the flexibility to create their own schedule, and are not limited to any one geographic location.

Other terms coined for the sales force of independent sales people that make up a direct selling organization include: distributors, marketing consultants, promoters, representatives, independent business owners, independent contractors, marketing directors, and relationship coordinators. Some of these terms have been viewed by former network marketers as misleading, because the network marketer does not directly own part of the parent company; and many of the network marketers do not operate their venture in an official business structure (such as a corporation or limited liability company). Instead, network marketers are encouraged to register a business name and obtain a tax identification number, so the parent multi-level marketing company can pay a business entity versus paying an individual. This is where the phrase “getting into the business” was developed.

Traditionally, network marketers would introduce the parent company’s products and/or services to potential consumers directly by word of mouth advertising. Some of the most popular forms of this word of mouth advertising would come in the form of “home parties,” where the network marketer would set an appointment to host a home party (or have a family member, friend or acquaintance host the party for product discounts or gifts), and invite guests to attend the party. At the home party, family and friends would gather to share in refreshments and would view the presentation made by the network marketer, who would also showcase the parent company’s product lines and take orders from the invited guests that attended. Once the product orders were available, the network marketer would deliver the products to their customers.

With the coming of the Information Age, the Digital Age, and the Age of Mobile Devices, network marketing has become far more complex, with a host of new direct marketing tools and techniques. Individuals can now sell products and recruit members for their downline from anywhere in the world that the parent company is set up to do business with. Social media has given rise to the growing number of network marketers, where one may expect to see the latest pitch in their news feed or receive a private message from someone who is trying to share the MLM product line or opportunity that they have chosen to partner with.

Just as the methods in reaching potential customers and recruits have advanced, so have the systems used by both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Most of these companies now offer direct ship programs for their products, so the network marketer no longer has to hand deliver personal orders to customers. Multi-level marketing companies have also integrated back offices, online dashboards and apps, allowing for the network marketer to go paperless while managing their organization or downline. They have also made many of their tools available online to their network marketers, eliminating the need to purchase clunky marketing kits for personal use; and have become more transparent in recent years, providing financial reports, sales commission reports, and earnings in real time for network marketers to review.

Even with the advancements in technology, marketing tools, training, and the many success stories throughout the network marketing industry, the MLM industry and business model is still viewed negatively by many. Some claim that network marketing companies are nothing more than pyramid schemes that prey on people that are hopeful and looking for a remedy for their financial duress or other personal challenges. It is important to note, however, that some of the most successful MLM companies are also those that have come under the most criticism.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

Small Business Ownership vs. Entrepreneurship

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/8/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Crowdfunding, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: So, which are you – a Small Business Owner or an Entrepreneur? We compare the similarities and differences between the two, so you can decide which category you best fit into.

Both the small business owner and the Entrepreneur have significant impact on our economic system. They are both creators of opportunity for others, they both offer a product and/or service, and they both contribute to the success of the economy. So how do you know which one you are? There are some stark differences between being a small business owner versus being an entrepreneur; although both add great value to society.

Small Business Ownership usually means that a person owns a business that is tied to a limited geographic area, whereas an entrepreneur’s value proposition is not limited to any one community or location. Both the small business owner and the entrepreneur offer a product or service that others may need. The size of the audience in which each respective marketer serves is dictated by their reach, location, and vision. Small business owners are usually centered and consider themselves as the local authority for their respective town, city, community, or even county. The entrepreneur knows no boundaries, no boarders, no defined geographical lines, but rather focuses on the demographic of their market reach.

Both the small business owner and the entrepreneur take a risk to start their venture. They are equal in the aspect that they must invest hard financial investment, their time, their skill sets, and sweat equity in order to upstart their enterprise. The difference between small business ownership and entrepreneurship risk is the amount of risk one is willing to take and the scope of risk one is willing to endure. A Small business owner’s ability to take risk may be limited to how much capital they have available. They rarely ask for others to invest into their local business. Most small business owners will put their personal assets on the line to drum up the cash needed to start their business. The return on investment and risk is limited to the size of the market in which the small business owner provides their product or services.

The entrepreneur is a larger risk taker, willing to not only put all of their money and time on the line, but also has a business plan that allows for others to take a risk or invest into their idea as the growth plan evolves throughout different phases. The ability to gain a return on investment has far more opportunities because the entrepreneur’s offering is not limited to any one market.  The entrepreneur sets higher sales goals, and extends their market reach to higher aspirations, therefore in order to achieve these goals, the entrepreneur needs to put even more at risk. For instance if the entrepreneur visions their product or technology being utilized worldwide, they will need more capital and resources to launch their idea.

The small business owner focuses on a proven business model that they can personalize and put to work. Most small businesses have a standard business model. Say you desire to own an auto parts store, hardware store, or hair salon; these types of businesses have an industry standard business model that fits the geographic locale in which that intended business is to service. A local retail business such as a hardware store or grocery market does not invent anything, they supply a local community with a select array of product offerings which they can purchase from a wholesale supplier. Even the planogram of the retailer’s store location has a standard recipe in line with their industry.

An entrepreneur follows a different path. The entrepreneur has to develop their own road map for taking their invention or idea to market. An entrepreneur may offer a product, technology, or unique service proposition; however, they are usually either the inventor or have a partnership with the inventor to take the product or device to market. This includes all the steps of research, development, manufacturing, distribution and service, while marketing and advertising the value proposition through all of the phases of its entry into the market place.  If the product, technology or service does not yet exist, the entrepreneur must develop the methods and practices for each step in the process of creating, manufacturing and delivering their offering to market. This requires the ability to envision each moving part of the business when there may not be a business model that yet exists.

Even the style of planning and leadership is distinctly different between the small business owner and the entrepreneur. Small business owners plan a day to day schedule, a plan that may extend up to months at a time as their business model requires. Most entrepreneurs with a new idea to the market must plan for years ahead, because their market strategies may need far more time to develop. A small business owner may have to micro-manage their business enterprise due to the limited staff their business employs. Entrepreneurs can delegate more tasks from the to-do list to others as their enterprise grows. Entrepreneurs are also involved in more of the technical aspects of their value proposition, where they are part of the product or invention development process.

A study by the Quarterly Journal of Economics revealed that most small business owners are involved in businesses that require manual talents verses the entrepreneur, whose enterprise is based on high-level cognitive skills and creativity. The study further provides that entrepreneurs are naturally larger risk takers and their offering is not yet common to the market. Most small business owners are either merchants or service providers of specific needs relevant to a geographic market.

What makes the small business owner and the entrepreneur character so unique? They both share passion for their value proposition.  Both types of business leaders feel their product or service offering will be of great benefit to the audience they are serving.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently \ lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

Who are the Voices for Small Business?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 6/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: When the small business owner needs a voice, where do they go? We provide a host of some of the largest organizations that advocate for the small business community.

Small Businesses are the life blood of the US economy, and account for half of the total number of jobs and persons employed. Small businesses account for the majority of local economic engines. When Small Businesses need support or a voice to stand up for their concerns, there are a number of organizations they can rely on to advocate on their behalf. Here are a few organizations that have received positive rankings from small business owners:

Association of Washington Business: Since its formation in 1904, Washington’s oldest and largest business association continues to serve as the state’s chamber of commerce as well as the manufacturing and technology association. AWB advocates on behalf of businesses of all sizes and from all industries, working to unify and find solutions to issues facing Washington employers, their employees and communities. AWB is located at: 1414 Cherry St. SE, Olympia, WA 98501, toll free number: 800-521-9325, e-mail: members@awb.org. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.awb.org.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Founded in 1987, EO is a global business network that enables business owners to learn from each other by providing numerous resources to assist in educating and inspiring personal and professional growth. EO has international locations in Singapore, Belgium, Panama, and Canada, EO’s global headquarters is located at: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, Alexandria, VA 22314, telephone: 1-703-519-6700. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.eonetwork.org.

Minority Business Development Agency: Minority Business Development Agency is an agency of the US Dept. of Commerce. Their focus is to assist in the development and growth of minority-owned businesses, utilizing private and public sector programs, policy, and research. Additional information can be found at: https://www.mbda.gov.

National Association for the Self-Employed: Since 1981, NASE – the National Association for the Self-Employed, has been the nation’s leading resource for entrepreneurs, utilizing publications, media relations and a foundation with which entrepreneurs and their small businesses can benefit from. It is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of its kind in the US. NASE is located in Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0241, telephone: (US) 1-800-649-6273 and (AK & HI) 1-800-232-6273. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nase.org.

National Business Association: The National Business Association (NBA) has been working alongside small business owners for 35 years, providing resources and benefits needed for business owners to succeed. The NBA can be reached by telephone: 1-800-456-0440. Additional information can be found on their website: nationalbusiness.org.

National Federation of Independent Businesses: Founded in 1943, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), is the largest small business association in the US, working to defend the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. NFIB has offices in all 50 state capitals, including Washington, D.C., with its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. They can be reached by calling: 1-800-NFIB-NOW, or 615-872-5800. Additional information can be found on their website: www.nfib.com.

National Minority Supplier Development Council: National Minority Supplier Development Council is a non-profit organization that advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members, building long term strategic partnerships which encourage economic commerce between large corporate interests and locally developed small businesses owned by minority men and women. NMSDC also assists minority owned small businesses to obtain their certifications. NMSDC is located at 1359 Broadway, 10th Floor, Suite 1000, NY, NY 10018. You can also call NMSDC at (212)-944-2430 or through the NMSDC website: www.nmsdc.org

National Retail Federation: The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing retailers from over 45 countries, including the US. Their mission is to use advocacy, communications and education with which to promote the best interests of the retail industry. The NRF is located at 1101 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC, telephone: 1-800-673-4692, or 1-202-783-7971. Additional information can be found on their website: https://nrf.com.

National Small Business Association: Since 1990, the National Small Business Association, Inc. has provided small business owners, their employees, and retirees access to innovative services, resources, and benefits, such as collegiate scholarship awards to eligible NSBA members and their families. The NSBA is committed to small business advocacy and public awareness. Telephone: 1-888-800-3416, and email: contact@nsba.net. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nsba.net.

Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association: Starting in 1973, the international Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association represents the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on every issue affecting truckers in all 50 states and Canada. OOIDA seek to ensure that truckers are treated with equality and to ensure highway safety and responsibility among all highway users, as well as improve the business climate for all truck operators. Located at 1 NW OOIDA Drive, Grain Valley, MO 64029; telephone: 1-800-444-5791. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.ooida.com.

Small Business Administration: Founded on July 30, 1953, the US Small Business Administration focuses on four main venues with which it works: assistance to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting and advocacy for small business across the United States. The SBA provides millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and various other forms of resource and assistance to small businesses. The SBA has several key locations, with a toll-free number: 1-800-827-5722. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sba.gov.

Small Business Association of America: Since 1964, The Small Business Association of America has provided insured benefits, discount benefit plans and services to its members, who included small business owners, those self-employed, individuals and families. Monthly dues are required. SBA is a non-profit organization located in Washington DC. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sbaamerica.com.

Small Business International: Small Business International provides guidance and resources when a small business entertains the possibility of connecting with international partners, including matching products and services with over 80,000 other members. Business can find out more information about importing or exporting, trade laws and compliance, and more. Visit Small Business International at www.smallbusinessinternational.com

Small Business Owners & Professionals Association: Small Business Owners and Professionals Association of Canada is a non-profit organization founded with the mission to provide small business owners, their employees and retirees access to a wide variety of services, programs, information and benefits, such as sponsorship activities, networking opportunities, scholarships, and advocacy, all to aid in the success of their businesses. Additional information can be found on their website: http://sboapa.org.

United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship:  The US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship is an organization that seeks to assist the entrepreneurship community through teaching, scholarship, and practice opportunities. The USASBE includes members who are teachers, researchers, program directors and practitioners. Located at: 1214 Hyland Hall, 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, telephone: 262-472-1449. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.usasbe.org.

US Chamber of Commerce: Founded on April 22, 1912, The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of over 3 million businesses with 3 main areas of focus: advocacy, community, and leadership. Members include mom-and-pop shops, local chambers, large corporations and leading industry associations. The USCC is located at: 1615 H Street, NJ, Washington, DC 20062-2000, telephone: 1-800-638-6582. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.uschamber.com.

Young Entrepreneurs Council: Young Entrepreneurs Council provides all the tools needed for its members to become successful business entrepreneurs. The YEC staff utilizes their extensive knowledge, networking opportunities, media exposure, and personal branding development to bring their members from novice to polished professional. YEC is located at: 745 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110, email: info@yec.co. Additional information can be found at: https://yec.co.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

Why is Fashion So Important?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 5/17/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: business, community, fashion, clothing, financial investment, social-economic status

Source: Throughout history, society has turned to the latest fashion statement as a mark of social status. Why is fashion so important? Why do so many people pay attention to it, and why does it even matter?

Fashion in clothing has always stood as a social economic symbol for individuals that were in tune with the times. For some, clothing is just fabric that serves the purpose of covering and protecting the body. For others, fashion is a form of living art in motion.

It is believed by many in the fashion industry that fashion is a way for individuals to express themselves. Each color and type of fabric has a meaning, and matches a personality type. When colors and fabrics are mixed, each combination tells a story about the person wearing it, much the same as it does of the person or company that designed it. Each fashion trend has a “look” or style that best reflects individual personality and demeanor. Every person contributes a personal touch to each day’s outfit.

For instance, navy blue and a mixture of gray colors for business suits and outfits are considered the most professional in the office environment; however, if you are at a trade show trying to attract attention, you might wear white or bright colors to get noticed by people. Such “rules” for fashion usually come from corporate dress codes, with the intent of being neutral and objective to the audience you are trying to communicate with.

Fashion itself has always been a reflection of the sign of the times. Whether it is for a social economic reason, political statement, or within a culture’s tradition, fashion has always played a role in communicating the “message” of a people or a message of the times. Each culture has its own unique traditional dress that reflects its community’s belief system, whether it be philosophical or religious. As technology has improved manufacturing capabilities, fashion has gone from being “homemade” to more mass produced, thus more audiences may wear similar clothing than in the past.

A newer trend in clothing fashion goes beyond purpose, function and the traditional forms of influence to include becoming mobile billboards for the fashion brands themselves. If you take a look at fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, GUESS and Juicy Couture, their signature brands have become the focus, not the people wearing them. Their ad campaigns can make people feel that if they do not own a Hilfiger or GUESS article of clothing, they are not part of the cool crowd. Other clothing brands focus on becoming high energy, luxury life style brands, thus owning their clothing becomes a status symbol.

For others, fashion, style and choice of brands are determined primarily by an individual’s personal passion, hobby or cause, making their clothing into their own personal billboard. Some examples of this are seen in sports apparel, racing, motorcycle apparel and brands committed to environmental sustainability and human rights.

Fashion has become a living art form, and though most average working class individuals may never spend thousands of dollars on one single article of clothing, individuals have come to appreciate the many artistic designs presented on the runway or showcased on models in department stores. This work of art says something to each person that views it. Some of these designs may be ridiculous to wear in any daily situation, however, the design itself may spur off other creative ideas because of the shapes, colors, or materials used to create the living art.

It has also been said that we feel the way we look. As human beings, we are very visual people. How we see ourselves in the mirror before leaving our homes for the day may be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Have you ever put on an article of clothing such as a suit and tie or a dress and instantly felt better about yourself? Showing that we are willing to invest into ourselves before we leave home for an important meeting, or for a family or social event, usually will reflect the response that we demand from others on how they view us. Though we are taught not to judge a person by their appearance, we do; and it’s the first impression that lasts the longest in our mind.

Fashion is not just clothing. It is a representation of an industry that employs millions of people. From designers to production line manufacturing, from marketing and advertising to retail workers, many jobs and economic foundations are based on the fashion industry. The next time you choose a piece of clothing from the rack, ask yourself how many people were involved with the final product you can touch and see in the store. Even the raw materials had to be grown or harvested by a farmer or field hand.

Ultimately, fashion is a personal choice, whether you chose your style to serve a specific purpose or it’s to impress others around you, fashion is meant to be the personalized message you dare to share with others. For some, fashion trends are not that important, but rather a matter of form and functionality. Whatever your view, it is reflected in how you present yourself.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

Crowdfunding Options for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 5/8/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Crowdfunding, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: Many small start-up businesses and tech ventures in search of capital turn to popular online platforms for crowd fundraising of financial resources to get their concept off the ground and launched into market. Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, to name a few, offer solutions in generating cash to fund new ideas. How do you get people to contribute to your cause?  We take a look at some of the most effective crowdfunding techniques.

In the last decade, there have been a number of crowdfunding platforms that offer a menu of fund raising options, including the launch and growth of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe. A potential campaign contributor can find a variety of crowd fundraising campaigns that range from an inventor who is in search of a few thousand dollars, to a large, corporate-backed venture that is accepting pre-market orders for their new value creation. Each platform specializes in their own niche offering, and provides a formatted recipe for what works in getting campaign contributions.

For instance, Indiegogo mandates that campaigners build and maintain a very aggressive plan that engages with multiple audiences from the campaign’s inception. As a part of the Indiegogo playbook, campaigners must make weekly posts and provide monthly updates for campaigns that have transitioned from either a 30 or 60 day campaign to their long term product called InDemand.  Indiegogo shares that campaigns must include video and photo content as part of their message in sharing their offering with potential contributors.

Kickstarter is also a leader in assisting with the introduction of innovative products and new books, music and other forms of art to market. What makes Kickstarter so successful for some entrepreneurs are the tools available that Kickstarter offers to promote their campaigns. Crowdfunding campaigns that have the highest rate of success with Kickstarter are those that offer something that is new, solve a problem, and offer something practical that people are willing to buy. Most products presented on Kickstarter are beyond concept and are ready for manufacturing and delivery. Kickstarter has helped products get more traction online, and has served as an interim online e-commerce site for product sales while entrepreneurs are setting up a permanent place to market their value proposition.

Most people use GoFundMe as a social cause donation site. For many individuals and groups needing only a few thousand dollars of funding for a personal project, GoFundMe has become the crowdfunding platform of choice. From setting up and taking donations for a funeral, to sponsoring a local sports team which is trying to obtain funding so they can travel to an event, GoFundMe has provided millions of individuals and non-profits the ability to quickly gather up a few extra dollars in a time of need.

So what are some of the most effective practices for marketing your crowdfund project? When marketing to potential funders, social media has become the mainstay platform to inform your audience of close friends and connections about your cause or value proposition. Facebook gives you an opportunity to spread the word to your friends, family, and extended connections. To get a better reach of your program, you can ask and encourage your network to share your post, and provide feedback about the reason why they chose to help your campaign. If you desire to connect with professionals in a specific industry, Linked-in provides the ability to syndicate and share your post with people from several related market segments. You can also promote your campaign through Twitter and Instagram, redirecting raving fans to your campaign page.

So what will donors get for their money? A donor should have the ability to choose perks in return for their donation, especially if the campaign is not solely philanthropic. “Perks” are the benefits that an individual can expect in return for the donation. The more creativeness and value you can squeeze into each perk package, the more you can request per perk level. By adding in a free copy of a book or promotional materials, you can provide additional added value for your donors. “Perks” are generally pre-orders for the specific market product you desire to launch. You can, however, provide add-ons for each level of donation.

Two methods you can employ for increasing how many people see your perks are:  1) holding a contest for most shares of your post with friends on social media, and 2) asking people that are not in a position to contribute to your campaign to help by spreading the message about your campaign story with people they feel would be interested in your project.

Having a few endorsements either by written or video testimonial will provide additional credibility to your offering. You can ask satisfied customers to give testimonials, or, if you know a celebrity, sports figure, or public figure, you can ask them to share a few words about your project, edifying the project and the product.

Lastly, you must monitor your results on a daily basis and make campaign adjustments accordingly. Having the ability to tweak your project’s campaign as you obtain feedback from donors will help you make changes to your campaign and provide updates that may increase traffic to your campaign’s page. Most crowdfunding campaigns can extend as long as 60 days, thus giving you time every few weeks to add to your campaign content and promote it online.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently  lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

8 Ways to Build Your Business Name in Your Local Community

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/1/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Healthy Living, Small Business

Source: As the cost of marketing and advertising continue to rise and become out of reach for the average locally owned small business; business owners need to consider alternative community outreach efforts in getting in front of their next potential client.

Any proven marketing and advertising medium needs about ninety days in order to create top of the mind brand awareness with potential consumers who come in contact with marketing and advertising pieces. The cost of an effective marketing and advertising campaign can range tens of thousands of dollars, when including a mix of print, radio, social media, direct mail, and online advertising. Most small businesses cannot afford an effective comprehensive advertising campaign long term. On the other hand, small businesses cannot afford being seen by potential consumers.

So what does a business owner to do to get in front of people? There are many community oriented relationship building opportunities within the business’s local surroundings. Here are eight methods of reaching potential customers in place of expensive advertising campaigns.

One way a business can connect with the local community is to get involved in sponsoring local youth sports. Whether is sponsoring a local team or youth league, your business can benefit from being seen in the local youth sports network. Options include soccer, little league baseball, football, softball, and basketball. Most of the time, a business’s image and name can be found on player’s uniforms, on sports fields billboards, are mentioned in press releases, are mentioned by the game’s announcer, and are thanked on social media and in the media. Many parents will usually patron businesses that support their children’s interest.

2). Hold a free seminar at local library, VFW Hall, or Senior Facility Center. The great thing about hosing a free seminar at the local library, VFW hall, or local senior community center, is that in most cases, there is already a captive audience which can be notified about your event. Usually, these organizations will provide a monthly calendar of events for their constituents, which may have interest in the subject matter you desire to present. You will want to present an informative seminar on an industry topic you are an expert of knowledge in. Include in your presentation some facts and history about a leading concern, then present ideas and trends that are taking place to solve the issue. This is a place where you present as an expert, as an authority, without directly selling your products or services. In these cases, you’re providing a public service, where at the end you can hand out your contact information if anyone may have further questions or suggestions for you.

3). Volunteer for a good cause in the neighborhood (fund drive for local fire department or first aid squad; or raise money for an individual or family hit by a devastating life event). Volunteering is another way to build a bond with the community. You can sponsor a fundraiser, or just show up to support as many of the local fundraising efforts which benefit the community. When others see that you are generous with your time and your money, it will be notices. Whichever you give, money, your time, or both, make sure you do it from a place of sincerity, from the heart. People can spot fake intentions from across a room.

4). Get involved in your local church. Your local church can be a place where you can get to know others who share in the same values which you have in common. Whether it be to support their events, fundraisers, community outreach to the needy, or just make yourself available for set up and tear down of events, helping your local church can help you connect with others.

5). Get your business listed on Manta, Merchant Circle, and Yelp- as clients for them to leave a review and rate your business. Customer reviews and ratings rule the internet when grading a local businesses’ dedication or lack of customer service. You will want to ask your customers to leave a positive review on your Manta, Merchant Circle, or Yelp profile, after they have had a positive customer experience. Building a legion of online positive four and five star ratings and personal experiences by your clients can help spread the word of the great products and/or services you provide.

6). Join a local business or trade organization. Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, BNI, LeTip, are all business to business environments. By joining these groups allow you to network and connect with fellow business owners and leaders within the community. These networks offer a number of opportunities, including but not limited to sourcing new vendors and suppliers, connecting with prospective clients, acts as a support system, and even provides educational resource tools to build your business.

7). Show up to other community events and town meetings. Getting involved in local politics can either hurt or help your business. It is wise to take some time to understand the legislative climate your business is subjected on a local, regional, and even state level. Showing up to a few meetings will provide you first hand insight to the challenges your business may face as a member of the tax paying community. Other attendees will take notice that you have an interest in the interworking of the local government, which a dialog can then be created.

8). Write a blog of how to tips for your clients. Public awareness and public education are methods for informing your clients on subject matters important to them. You can share how to do something or how to fix something. If you own a hardware store, you can discuss how to do a particular home project, and then at the end of the discussion, provide a parts list and a coupon for potential readers to patron your store. If you are into health and wellness, you can share recipes for healthy meals, or a fitness regiment that has helped your own health situation. Blogging allows for you to connect with potential customers by sharing your expertise from the comfort of your living room.

Most of these practices only require your time. If you are to be noticed and remembered by your local community, then you need to be proactive in providing an extra value service that is important to them. Done with sincere intention, potential consumers will take notice of your noble efforts.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

How Would General Colin Powell Lead if He Owned A Small Business?

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author Published on 2/8/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Community, Economy, Government, Small Business, Tax

Source: Every small business has its share of challenges, and each successful business owner must have an iron stomach to lead their business through times of growth or economic downturns, often making unpopular decisions for the good of all.  One of the most successful Generals who ever served this country also had to make difficult choices.  So, let’s entertain a hypothetical situation:  General Colin Powell got bored with retirement and decided to open a small business, offering a set of products and services he was passionate about and felt would be of great service to the community. How would he manage his business? How can you apply his leadership style and methods to your business? Are you ready to take charge of your business to win over Main Street?

“Command is lonely.” Another way to express this is, “It is lonely at the top.” In business, the business owner cannot be everyone’s friend. They must be a leader. You can expect not to be liked by some of your employees, or by your competition, or even by some of your neighbors or even some of your own family, as they may become jealous and resentful of your small business success. What I have found is that most people who would be the first to complain they have less than someone else, are usually the last people to take risk and responsibility for their own situation. They are also the most unlikely to ever own a small business venture, and would rather criticize others from the cheap seats and sidelines.

As the leader at the top, your business will require you to put in the time investment when no others will. That means staying late to serve a customer or to clean your store front. That means giving up doing the “normal things” with family and friends when you need to fill in for an employee who just called out sick. It means spending extra time beyond the normal business hours to take care of the business paperwork and accounting or marketing functions. As a business leader you must accept the idea of being an army of one when everyone else has gone home for the day.

General Powell once said, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” How does that apply to small business ownership? A small business owner must make unpopular choices that may not sit well with employees. A business owner may decide to set hours that are designed to cater to their clientele, which may mean staying open late on weekdays or open on weekends, when most people would rather be home or out with friends and family. When a small business owner sets the schedule, someone is assigned hours they are required to work that may not be popular. The business is being responsible by recognizing its clients’ needs and accommodating them by the hours of operation the business is open.

Another example that can be applicable to General Powell’s quote is when dealing with a difficult customer. As a business owner, it is not always possible to satisfy the demands of a client. Say you own a hardware store, and a potential customer walks in the door. They desire to purchase an item, but demand you provide the item at the same price or lower price as a big box retailer down the street. You explain your position of why your price has already been set. You take the time out to educate the potential customer about the higher quality and value your store offers; and yet the potential client begins to argue with you, voicing their demands to the point of shouting at the sales counter. In some cases, you must stand your ground if you believe in the value you offer, and not compromise on your position, even if it pisses off the potential customer who never stepped foot in your store before and may never return.

General Powell also shared, “Keep looking below the surface of appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so, because you might not like what you find.”  Basically, never stop in your journey in improving your business. There is always room for improvement. If a business is not looking to improve itself, or looking to grow, it will begin to fail and die. A business owner can never become complacent and think they are on top, if they do, the advantage automatically will be given to the competition. A business owner must always stay hungry and be in search of new methods or practices that improve the profitability and branding of their business image. I have found that every small business has one area of business competency which lags behind the rest of the operations and functions of that business, and to not go back and improve these areas when resources may be abundant, creates an internal risk.

Also, “Have fun with your command.” This means playing hard when you have earned it. Never forget the passion that was the reason why you went into business for yourself. Look for the joy and celebrate the joy of owning your own business enterprise. Every once in a while, sit back and enjoy the rewards of your efforts, even if it’s in the small things. Remember, when you enjoy what you are doing, it no longer becomes work, it is play.

Most of all, General Colin Powell believes, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”  The direction of any organization will trend toward where the attitude of the people involved take it. If the leader of the business is always looking forward, even in difficult times, their influence can spread quickly to give hope throughout the business. On the flip side of the coin, the sour outlook of any employee or manager can have a devastating effect on the productivity of the organization. It only takes one sour apple to poison the entire situation. A positive attitude can uplift employees when the message is reflected that the business and its leaders are capable.

So, how do you think General Powell would run his business? Do you think he would operate it like an army; ready to serve its clients at any moment? Would his employees be ready in a moment’s notice to meet their objectives?  Would his business be the well-oiled machine you can set your watch to? If he ran his business like he did the armed forces, you can count on it.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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