Every Small Business Owner is A Farmer

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 9/8/2018, a http://www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: Some believe small business ownership leads to overnight success and immediate wealth, time freedom and social status, when, in fact, the fruits of small business ownership are most often experienced only after years of long hours of toiling and after taking a significant financial risk. We will show how being a small business owner is much like being a farmer.

Small business ownership and farm ownership share many of the same attributes, responsibilities and challenges. The process of growing a business and growing crops in the field are very similar in nature. Most farmers are, indeed, also small business owners, but how is it that small business owners are like farmers?

Much like a farmer, a small business owner must plant the seeds of their future harvest. This means investing into a location, equipment and tools, inventory, and many other aspects of their value proposition before they reap any financial benefit. The small business owner must cultivate the field of potential client prospects and nurture these relationships the same way farmers nurture and provide for their plants, so that in the near future they can benefit from the harvest. The small business owner’s harvest happens when the relationships built with potential clients begin to yield purchases, and the financial exchanges are made for products or services of equal or greater value.

Just like a field of corn or a crop of select vegetables does not grow into a cash crop overnight, the small business owner must also wait for their business to mature. The small business owner must have three qualities that the farmer also possesses – patience, perseverance and vision.  Just as it takes time to grow a quality crop, it also takes time to grow a fundamentally sound business model. During the time in which the crops and business continue to grow, new challenges can arise. The business owner and farmer must both have a plan to deal with these challenges and a willingness to work through the adversity.

Both the farmer and the business owner have an opportunity to sharpen the ax. For the business owner, the downtime in between serving existing and potential clients affords attention to be concentrated on other areas of their business that are critical moving parts of the bigger wheel of small business ownership. Small business owners and farmers must always be looking for ways to make their respective enterprises more efficient. Whether it be dedicating time to education or industry training, development of a marketing-advertising program, or taking some time out to service and maintain equipment and tools, both the farmer and business owner must use downtime to make improvements that will maximize their return on investment.

The business owner and the farmer each have time constraint issues to contend with. The farmer only has so much time to get their ripened produce harvested and to market before the crops spoil. The business owner must also serve his/her customers in a timely manner or put at risk their reputation with the customer. In both situations, the farmer and the business owner must be postured to serve the needs of the customer in the expected time frame that the consumer has set, or they both risk losing the sale. A harvest must be presented to market in a set period of time or the crop becomes unwanted by the market. The same can be said for products or services, as every product or service has a life cycle before it becomes obsolete. New technology is developed each day, and as a society of entrepreneurs, we are always looking to make things better and more efficient for less money.

The farmer and business owner must also be good managers of the tool known as money. A farmer has to know the cost of growing fields of their preferred crops, as well as all of the indirect cost of operating their farm. Farmers must be able to budget their money wisely so that they have enough resources to operate their enterprise until the next harvest provides additional cash flow. Small business owners also must also be good money managers. They must plan and gauge their inventory and/or services, as well as turnover time in between sales cycles and projects, so they too can have enough cash to run day to day operations until the next wave of sales happens. The farmer works on slim margins and knows that a bad year in the fields means a hard year of managing expenses until the next harvest is available. The small business owner must also be prepared for long sales cycles and poor performing seasons.

The business owner and farmer both must be able to see the field full of harvest before they even begin. This is called having vision. The small business owner must have a short term and long term plan for creating a return on their original investment while also pointing to the future of what will happen in a year, three years, and even five years down the road for their enterprise. A farmer stands in the field in early spring, before the first rows have been tilled, and must be able to see the crop that is to be harvested in the fall, even before the first seed is planted. The vision provides the ability to stake a plan of action that brings the series of events into focus that leads both the small business owner and the farmer to the day when they can be proud of the investment they made into their respective fields of practice.

Small business owners are farmers, regardless of whether they own a retail business or a service-oriented business. They must always plant new seeds of potential customers in growing their consumer base, cultivate and nurture business and community relationships, and invest themselves in the “behind the barn” work that is part of the machine of their value proposition to the market. If you want to become a great small business owner, aim to become a farmer first.

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.”

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“It’s a Pyramid Scheme…”

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: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Marketing, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business,

Source: Multi-level marketing has received a great deal of criticism throughout the years, being accused of scamming people out of their money while coaxing them with grand visions of financial independence and lavish lifestyles. Though the odds have not always been in favor of the average network marketer, we uncover the myths versus facts of network marketing business opportunities.

So why does multi-level marketing receive such negative press and opinion? Chances are, the majority of negative opinions were developed by individuals that tried to make a go at becoming successful in a multi-level marketing business venture, and failed to achieve the success that was originally advertised. The statistics are not pretty, however when you compare them to how many people start a traditional business and fail, or how many people try to become professional athletes and fall short of their desired success, the statistics are relative to other career aspirations that are not achieved.

According to a Report authored by Robert FitzPatrick in 2005, over ninety-nine percent of individuals that got involved with multi-level marketing business opportunities ended up losing all of their investment. Studies performed by third party consumer watchdog groups have proven that between 990 and 999 people out of 1000 that have signed up as network marketers have lost their entire financial investments; and for some, because they had dedicated so much time to their multi-level marketing businesses, were let go from their day jobs or lost out on other career opportunities. It will be interesting to see if these numbers change as the industry transforms.

It is difficult to decipher the true number of MLM profits, losses and sales revenue from retail customers versus the network marketer participant’s product purchases because most MLM companies historically have not disclosed the data that makes a clear distinction between sales revenue from their consumer-only audience versus sales revenue from their own network marketer participant audiences.  Because there has been little incentive to solely focus on consumer retail sales, and much of the focus in the industry’s business training has been directed to recruiting a “downline”, few network marketers have focused their sales efforts on establishing retail sales only.

The fact that most MLM parent companies’ total gross revenue is not in direct relationship to what each independent distributor earns creates a blur between the numbers, a truth often skewed when a MLM company is presenting an opportunity. If the math and the probability of success is not in favor of the network marketer, why do people still sign up to participate?

Some individuals join the networking side of the business because they enjoy the parent company’s products so much that they continue to purchase them, but desire to continue making their purchase commitments at a significant discount. In some cases, the consumer then becomes their own network marketer and tends to save enough on product discounts that their fee for joining is covered over time.

Some individuals are drawn to the social lifestyle and travel, the added value of education and training, and networking with other like-minded individuals; thus treating their distributorship more like education and/or a social club membership. In some cases, this training, networking and the connections made also benefit their other businesses or day jobs. Some individuals just enjoy the flexibility that the MLM opportunity provides, and want complete control over their own schedules. Sometimes these individuals might be involved with more than one MLM opportunity, where they may profit from cross pollination of their networks from one organization to the other (though most often frowned upon and against company policies).

Some individuals become network marketers because they believe that they (and their team) will defy the odds and strike it rich, hoping to find themselves at the top of the pyramid after the masses of other people quit. For some, the idea of “owning a business” or being “in the business” is attractive, and they will leverage that representation to recruit others into their organization.

In the legal sense, a network marketer does not own their own business (unless they have their own corporation or limited liability company that is in contract with the MLM parent); because the network marketer does not own any hard assets owned by the MLM parent organization. The Network marketer does not own the patents, intellectual property, physical property, inventory (in most cases), or other intangible business assets such as a website or domain name; nor can the distributor’s “business” be sold or acquired for a profit (in most cases).

Multi-level marketing companies have had their fair share of legal bouts. In the 1980’s, the Amway Company was met with much criticism and negative press. As of most recent, HerbaLife faced the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission. Yet network marketers that remain committed to multi-level marketing claim they have benefited from their involvement and have seen a return of investment after three to five years of dedicated efforts.

Skeptics, media, and government agencies focused on consumer protection argue that a multi-level marketing agency crosses over to a pyramid scheme when it pays more focus and monetary benefit for new network marketer recruitment than on product sales commissions, where the participant (the network marketer) can only make sales commissions on consumer retail sales if their downline is meeting mandated personal consumption inventory buys; and in order to earn either bonuses from recruitment or sales commissions, one is most often required to maintain an automatic shipment purchase of company products themselves that also may include a number of pre-requisite items such as tools, marketing materials, and training materials.

There are some multi-level marketing companies that do focus more on the products and services offered than on network marketing recruitment of new participants. Companies like Primerica and Pre-paid Legal focus on the sales of services, and encourage their network marketing representatives to be successful at selling these services before recruiting new people into their downline. These companies also have no required auto-ship.

Some companies have changed their business model to adapt business practices acceptable to watchdog groups and government agencies. Some have also eliminated the requirement for auto ship purchasing, and have increased compensation benefits to allow individuals who only desire to earn commissions on sales of products, to do so and see a return on investment within a reasonable time period.

The perspective of ‘being a product of the product” holds true in successful product promotion, and most people are drawn to specific MLM companies because they see the value and benefits of the products that the company offers. However, many folks who are introduced to these companies have limited financial resources and are already struggling to get by. Though they may like nothing more than to be able to personally enjoy the benefits of the company’s product lines every day, they may not initially have the means to purchase them monthly while doling out the expenses of building their business – such as tools, training and fuel. It is also important to keep in mind that it takes time and training to build the knowledge, skill sets and relationships necessary for success; and most often, little (if any) monetary earnings will be recognized for the first several months, especially for those who are new to the industry.

If you’re still intrigued and contemplating whether or not the MLM industry might be for you, your next step may be to research a few multi-level marketing companies, along with their products, culture, and compensation plans with a fine eye focused on detail and the fine print. Before joining a MLM organization, you have the right to research and ask for reports on the average payouts per year to new recruits, statistical and historical analysis on success/failure rates of network marketers within that organization, and for a review of consumer complaints related to the MLM parent company’s product offerings. Once you have found the MLM opportunity you are comfortable in working with, continue to move on with your new business opportunity with cautious optimism.

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 the author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource, Water;” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.” 

“It must be a Triangle Scheme…”

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 7/11/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

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

Source: One of the most common at-home business opportunities is the direct sales network marketing of products and services offered by a parent organization. Many of these network marketing companies utilize a multi-level marketing and compensation structure as their business model. Multi-level marketing has received a bad rap, where advocates and adversaries share their pros and cons about this popular and controversial business model. So what are some of the controversies of the industry?

In a recent discussion with an individual starting out their entrepreneurial career, they expressed the options of their future career pathway. Expressing their options, they said, “I am open to many types of business and career opportunities, as long as its not one of those triangle schemes.” Sounds familiar?

Chances are, you’ve experienced (at least once)… a friend, family member, or neighbor who approached you with “The opportunity of a life-time”… to get in on a business that has unlimited growth. What happens when the commentary sounds so convincing (or you just want to appease your friend), and you agree to view a video or attend a meeting where a presentation related to the product and opportunity are explained? The video, full of luxury lifestyle perks and energized individuals sharing their rags to riches stories, piques your interest and entices your human nature. Before you know it, you agree to get involved and become one of the network marketers for the parent company.

Then reality sets in. Months goes by of attending meeting after meeting with potential prospect after prospect; and you become discouraged and doubtful that the lavish lifestyle advertised could never be yours. You decide not to write one more check for an auto-ship product, marketing materials, or to attend any future events. After investing a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars, and your time, you decide to call it quits after the latest prospect says “no” to the product line up or to the business opportunity. Because “it” did not work out in the time frame of your personal expectation, you think it’s one of those “pyramid schemes.”

After a self-evaluation, you come to your own perceived conclusion that the multi-level marketing opportunity was nothing more than hype. It was the people at the top that were making all the money, and all of the flash and excitement was nothing more than showmanship to steal your hard-earned money, free labor, and network connections. But is this really true about most multi-level marketing business opportunities?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, the legal definition of a pyramid scheme is a scam which is usually carried out on the general public, by making promises of high returns in a short period of time; a system that is based upon paying off the early investors first and the long term liabilities later on. Similar to a Ponzi scheme, one person recruits another person to “invest” into the scheme, then that new recruit duplicates with new recruits, and so on. Usually, each person pays a fee to join, and the only people to make money are the very first people to get involved. These schemes involve no product ownership, no defined compensation plan, and usually crumble under their own weight.

Many people, when hearing of multi-level marketing opportunities, think of the triangle or pyramid scheme, because there is usually an up-front cost or investment for the new recruit. What makes the multi-level marketing business opportunity unlike the pyramid scheme is that the new recruit’s initial membership fee is pledged toward an initial commitment to purchase the parent’s company’s products. At the end of paying the fee, the new recruit has product or service in their hand in exchange for money.

The perception that all multi-level marketing opportunities are pyramid schemes derives from the fact that many multi-level marketing companies focus most of their attention on having new network marketing recruits build out a “downline”, and when you review the downline behavioral organizational chart, they do, in fact, look like a pyramid. What many people don’t know, however, is that a recruit is often not required to build a downline. A recruit can choose to solely focus on product or service sales. Unlike Ponzi or pyramid schemes, whose recruits’ only hope in making anything is based on the recruitment of new investors, multi-level marketing provides earnings within the compensation plan via product sales commissions.

Another common belief is that only people at the top of the triangle in multi-level marketing make all of the money, leaving those at the bottom nothing for their financial investment, time, or labor. There are two sides to every multi-level marketing company. The executive-administrative side to the company is the parent organization that either developed, manufacturers, and/or distributes the product; and the sales development side to the company, or the multi-level marketing side of the business, promotes both the product lines and the business opportunity. The corporate side can be owned by one founder or by a group of founders; however this same principle would apply to any large or small business or corporation. And yes, for their hard work and investment, they would gain a return on all of the businesses positive gains.

The compensation plan written for the multi-level marketing side of the business is usually developed so that every person who enters the business has the same opportunity and the exact same compensation plan afforded to them as everyone else. In most cases, network marketers that have large downlines make more money than those with smaller downline organizations. This has not always been the result of the direct efforts or successes of an individual, but of the efforts and successes made by members in their downline organization.  In order to dispel this issue, many multi-level marketing firms have begun to cap how much benefit a network marketer can receive from their downline and/or cap how many levels deep compensation will be paid on. Within some multi-level marketing organizations, some of the very first network marketers to sign up in the company are now making less money, while others in their downline are earning more.

Many individuals also perceive that the parent company offering the product(s) and business opportunity abuses and uses people without compensating them for their efforts. However, many network marketing companies do have decent compensation plans in place. Network marketers are compensated for product sales, similar to other sales positions in traditional companies, minus receiving a “base salary” while building a customer base. Ultimately, a network marketer is confined to a compensation plan that only pays when sales are made and new distributors are recruited and assisted in reaching sales goals.

The outlook that multi-level marketing businesses do not work is a belief that is not in line with the financial results that have proven themselves over time. In 2015 alone, network marketing business opportunities grossed $36.12 billion dollars in retail sales just in the United States alone.

Multi-level marketing organizations have been viewed as cultish or a form of religion. The industry of multi-level marketing is far from a cult or religion; but, as many small businesses or large corporations do, most of these organizations do possess a strong sense of company culture, which is a reflection of their core beliefs, values, code of ethics, goals, mission, and vision.

If you are still skeptical of multi-level marketing business opportunities, then I encourage you to continue to perform additional research or to stay tuned for my follow-up article, “It’s a Pyramid Scheme.”

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.”

Money Saving Tips Any Business Can Put into Practice

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 3/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: There is an old saying, “To be profitable is to save money.” A small business needs every advantage it can get when it comes to trimming expenses and unnecessary cost. Here are a few savings tips for every business.

During tough economic times and a very competitive business climate, Small Business Owners are doing all they can to conserve cash and increase accountability of the best use of their working capital so that they avoid watching their margins of profit from slipping away in between the floor boards. “A penny (or dollar) saved is a penny (or dollar) earned,” so here are a few tips a small business can adopt in order to save on fees, interest payments, and other bills that seem to cut into an owner’s profit margins.

1). Do away with debit/credit card use-switch to a reimbursement system. Banking institutions have switched their business model to a fee based revenue generation machine; which is different from when banks mainly profited from interest payments and fees attached to loans and loan servicing. Every time you use your debit/credit card, there is a transaction fee, either at the merchant and/or at the bank, and sometimes both. Ever use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank? You will find in those cases multiple usage and service fees from ATM Vendor, the bank it is associated with and your own bank. Some of these fees range from mere twenty or thirty cents upwards to three or four dollars.

To avoid watching these fees and service charges cutting into your profits, stop using debit/credit cards for every little business transaction. Also if you have multiple employees you will want to limit their usage of these cards as well. Use a draw of petty cash that is withdrawn from the bank in person. Use cash on smaller transactions under $100 when applicable. As it relates employees, you can set up a system in which they front the initial expenses they incur on behalf of the business, such as tolls, parking, gas, lunch or dinner meetings with clients, postage, and other purchases that make up the vast amount of small transactions. Once a week, have each employee submit their receipts to the company accountant for reimbursements and issue them a check for these expenses. Less usage of debit/credit cards means less fees you are charged.

2). Pay your vendors and/or suppliers early. Many of your vendors and/or suppliers may be on 30, 60, or even 90 day payment terms with your business. This allows for your business to have the time it may take to sell inventory or service a client account before you have begun covering your cost of goods sold. Many distributors, vendors, and/or suppliers do offer a discount if payment is received before the 30 day window. Usually the offered amount is 2% discount if a bill is paid within 10 to 15 business days. If such terms are offered, pay your bills early to take advantage of these discounts.

If your business has a burn rate of say $10k per month, 2% is $200 saved per month ($2400 a year). That is $200 that is found money which can be applied to other parts of your monthly budget, such as marketing and advertising. If your vendor and/or supplier does not yet offer you early payment terms, negotiate this upfront with them. This is a small concession they will be glad to offer in keeping you as a client. It is of no risk to them. Most vendors or suppliers are accustomed to not receiving payments until 30 days after they are due.

3). Pay your credit card balances on time and/or in full. Most Small Business Owners utilize credit cards as a form of business credit to keep their business afloat in between getting paid by clients. Most small business owners and managers often take credit card offers that provide “interest free,” or “low interest” on credit that is borrowed. Many of these deals are contingent on payments being made on time and/or in full. When only the minimum balance is paid, a small business owner now loses the low interest deal they first had when they acquired the card. To avoid these increases in interest rates and service fees, pay the balance off in full and on time.

Another practice you can try in saving money when using credit cards, is to call the credit card provider themselves and negotiate a “one time balance paid in full” when you have a high balance and are looking to close your account. Credit card companies would rather receive payment on an account that is closing than have it sent to collections. Usually if you get a manager or supervisor on the phone, you can ask to negotiate a final settlement offer. This saves you money in fees, interests, and charges, and clears the credit card company of the account.

If you are using credit cards to make purchases for business growth needs, consider joining a barter exchange that has a multitude of businesses connected to their network in which you can engage in. Barter is interest free.

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.

 

Recycle, Re-purpose, Reuse; Giving New Life to Used Items

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

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Government, Green, Healthy Living

Source: In comparison against most smaller and undeveloped nations, the United States categorically is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When compared to the average household in other nations, even the poor are not considered so poor. As a nation we also are some of the world’s most consuming population of material things. Our nation also wastes just as much as it consumes. So how do we lessen our consumer footprint not to be so wasteful?

There is an old saying, “Everything has its place.” Go into any suburban home in post-modern day era, and you most likely will find a basement, an attic, a closet, a garage, or even a shed full of items which have outlasted their initial use. It seems that most households in America will replace their cell phone every six months, a kitchen appliance once a year, and then there is the question of what to do that occasional odd ball item which someone may give us as a gift, yet serves no immediate purpose in our household.

So what are we to do with all of this stuff? The obvious answer is if the item is much past its prime, beyond the cost of repairing it; it is time to recycle it. Every year, landfills run out of space because we still do not recycle enough. Glass, plastic, metal, electronics, appliances, wood, paper, cardboard, automobiles, and even some types of concrete-cement all can be re-processed and converted into other products. Before you throw something into the garbage can, ask yourself can that item be recycled. Most county governments have a waste disposal and recycling center which you can donor your renewable waste. Salvage yards will accept every type of metal and in some cases, plastic, glass, cardboard, and electronics. Wood items are ground down to make mulch or cardboard.

If you have children, you will know this scenario all too well; you buy an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a toy for your young child just to watch them outgrow it in a matter of a few months. There are a few options…You can trade up your gently used items for either cash, store credit, or a donation voucher at a local consignment shop which deals mainly with children’s items. One store in mind is called Once Upon a Child, where slightly used items are cleaned up and prepared for resale well below the original sticker price. You can find many name brand items can be found in these types of stores for a fraction of the former sticker price, thus allowing disadvantage parents to purchase name brand clothing for their children, without the high cost. You can also donate your items to your local church or to a family that might have children that might be slightly younger than yours; thus allowing for the children items to get a second life.

Just about any household item can be cleaned up and resold at a consignment shop, flea market, if the age of the item is correct, and antique shop, or even at a church bazaar fundraiser. There is an old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Your item may have outlived its use with you, however for someone else the item’s life is just beginning. Common items that you can find at flea markets or bazaars include tools, car parts, children’s toys, household decor, and even furniture.

You can try finding a new home for your item online. Craig’s List and EBAY are online havens for folks looking to sell and buy slightly used items. Even Facebook offers their version of the local marketplace. The most popular categories to buy and sell used items include used furniture, used cars and trucks, used garden tools and equipment; and children’s items. You will also be surprised at the amount of private sellers of jewelry, collectibles, and closeout items from businesses which are liquidating their left over inventory.

Many non-profit organizations have programs where you can donate your used and undesired car, boat, truck, trailer, or recreational vehicle. The standard previously followed, is that the donor would receive a donation voucher that they could write off their taxes in the amount of the lowest retail book value for their donated vehicle. In more current years, the donor gets a voucher for their item that relates to the scrap value of their former item. Then the non-profit will usually deal with a third party who would determine whether to scrap the item, or offer it for sale at the higher retail value. The public has no idea how much more the third party makes or how much the non-profit will actually receive. In this case, its best to sell your item as a private sale to another individual and then donate the cash amount to the non-profit you desire to assist.

The latest trend is that something old can be made new again. Wooden pallets can be taken apart and remade into shelves, storage crates, or even décor. Metal sheathing can be re-purposed into material for walls, shelving, made into crafts and containers, or even used in the construction or renovation of a home or business. Glass bottles and jars are great for making sand art pieces, planter pots for small flowers, or even fill them with candy or treats as gifts. Even old lumber, such as rustic beams, floorboards, shiplap siding, can be re-purposed for giving a new home the rustic look, or can be used to replace damaged lumber in a restoration project.

Even some waste products around the home can serve another purpose. Food scraps such as used coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and bones from meat when added to leaves and grass clippings, make for a great compost mixture for the at home gardener. Cardboard and newspaper can serve as a weed barrier in vegetable gardens and are safe for the soil.  When the cardboard and newspaper break down, they provide contents for earth worms to use to help enrich the garden soil.

Many of us are used to taking former dish and bathroom towels once they are past their prime and put those towels back to work in the garage as wash rags for the car or lawn equipment. Plastic bags from the grocery store can be reused as small garbage bags around the home. Brown paper bags from the grocery store can be made into protective book covers for children’s school books. Gift boxes can be held on to and reused again the following holiday season. Just about any item around the home can be re-purposed and reused into something else.

It is our responsibility as stewards of planet earth, to find ways to get the most life out of the consumer goods and material items around us. With limited landfill space, and the need to protect our precious fresh water supplies, the more we can do to recycle, reuse, and re-purpose, gives us one less item that makes its way to the landfill before its prime.

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.

Online Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

Source: In today’s multi-media and digital marketing world, small business owners have multiple choices of low-cost/no cost options in promoting their business, in addition to traditional marketing and advertising tools and practices designed to aid the local business in becoming noticed by potential consumers.

Traditionally, before the internet and mobile devices, marketing and advertising options were limited and costly for the small business owner. Most small business owners would look to advertising in the newspaper, on local television or radio, or even handouts and flyers placed on car windshields and in mailboxes. As technology advanced, so did all the methods to stay out front of your competitors and customers. There are several tools online to help a locally owned business promote one’s self which carries little or no cost.

At one time, the standard form of advertisement for a business was to be listed in the Yellow Pages, which was the business-commercial section of the phone book directory. However, times have changed with consumers relying mainly upon their mobile devices more to communicate, and in some cases, not even having a home land line-supported phone. In place of the Yellow Pages are websites and business directories such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Tap Into.

Manta is a website which lists profiles of local businesses, and allows for consumers to leave a review after their experience of either purchasing a product or service. Manta allows for a business to set up a profile, including spotlighting the services and products a business has to offer. The profile serves as a business card to the digital world. Manta also allows for local ranking of your business based on customer reviews and special awards a business may receive. Manta also has tools which allow local businesses find other resources, and to connect with other small businesses to fulfill operational or vender needs; all this without having to flip through pages of the phone book.

Businesses will benefit from using Manta. A small business can separate itself from the crowd of other similar local businesses by having customer reviews that new potential customers can use as a point of reference in making a buying decision. When new potential clients see a number of positive reviews about a business, they also see local brand loyalty. Repeat customers tell a very different story to the market than having hundreds of one time customers. Manta’s ability for a business owner to see customer feedback and reviews will allow for a business to identify areas of improvement within its business model.

Merchant Circle is another online business listing site. Merchant Circle is a platform that allows for the locally owned business to connect and network with other locally owned businesses, sharing contacts and ideas, while helping to connect the business with potential customers. Merchant Circle had advanced their capabilities beyond just being a local business directory. Merchant Circle has combined the concepts of a local business directory and profiles with the tools of social media and marketing. Businesses can level up and purchase additional marketing services from Merchant Circle, focusing efforts on a specific geographic area.

Local online new sites, such as TAP Into, also offer free business listing directories. TAP Into focuses its hyper-local content in the State of New Jersey and surrounding areas, and is supported by the local business community. Local businesses can list their business contact and location information. Also, businesses can submit press releases to the local editors and publishers, giving businesses the ability to promote an announcement or event.

These sites can help a business in establishing an online content footprint. Businesses that have multiple articles, or key search words or phrases in their business profile description are more likely to rank higher in search engines due to the amount of content. With so many people on the go relying on information at their fingertips from their mobile devices, if your business is not at least showing up on the first two or three pages of search engines, then your business will not be seen by new potential customers. Business listings with Manta, Merchant Circle, and TAP Into drastically change your local small business’s placement within the rankings of search engines. I have even seen businesses that don’t have their own website rank high in search engines because their business profiles are enhanced and provide a lot of detail to potential consumers.

Social media is the place a business should turn to in promoting their business wares and reaching new potential customers. Take your pick, there are many to choose, however, the front-runners for two-way engagement still stands as Facebook leading the way, followed by Linked-in, Google Plus, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Each social media platform offers something different and serves a specific purpose.

They say, a photograph is worth a thousand words. That is where platforms like Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram have specialized in providing a photo journal online to be shared with family, friends, fellow colleagues, and potential customers. These platforms are designed to allow users to load up photographs in the moment and share them with fan base instantaneously, in hopes of creating a real-time feeling of “I wish I was there,” for the person viewing the picture. This emotional trigger also can work well in creating a product demand in the moment. A business can feature a picture of a spotlighted product, and offer to the first hundred people who comment on the photo, a discount on their next purchase with the merchant.

Video content ranks the highest on the internet. Video content is also the most sought after content in the leading search engines. Every smart phone or mobile device is now equipped to film short video. Small businesses can create their own small videos and post them to various video hosting platforms that will help a business establish a wider internet presence. The most popular of video social media sites is YouTube.

Videos created with the purpose to capture the attention of a new potential customer needs to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 15 to 30 seconds, or you will lose the attention of the viewer. Your video content should also be unique and have a different hook. There are tens of millions of videos posted between You Tube, Vimeo, and Daily Motion, so you will need to be creative in order that your video can be searchable and stand out among the crowd.

If your business does not have a website yet, you need to get one. You can acquire a domain name from Go Daddy for just a few bucks a year. Create-it-yourself website platforms Wix, Word Press, and Web.com, provide several pre-existing templates. The most important pages to have for a very basic website are: a home page or landing page which is the first introduction to visitors about your business and its products/services, a contact us page, which includes the hours of operation, information about your products and/or services, as well as a list of the most popular or unique products/services you provide, and lastly, the about us page, giving visitors a little more information about the business and you as the owner.

Monthly e-newsletters are another way to stay in front of your customers. Email newsletters should not be a large book or difficult to read. It should inform the reader on two or three key areas you desire your customers to focus on about your business. Maybe you’re going to have a product or service sale or host a special event; email newsletter is a great way to keep your customers reminded of your business updates. You can also offer up an informative article (about 200 to 400 words) that will help educate your audience on how to make a better buying decision or create public awareness about a cause your business supports. The online tools and services of Mail Chimp or Constant Contact offer a variety of low-cost options to reach your current clients.

It may seem overwhelming at first that on top of all your other business responsibilities you now must spend time in front of your computer marketing your business, and yes, there are many options to employ. There are tools to help you manage your online efforts. Two tools that will help you measure and manage your online presence are Google Analytics and Hoot Suite. Google Analytics can help you measure your marketing ranking and efforts online, so you can eliminate online marketing that is not the most effective or does not provide a return on investment. Google Analytics will also give you the data you need to enhance the online marketing that is helping create customer flow for your business. Hoot Suite is a digital dashboard that you can use for managing and posting content to multiple social media sites at one time, thus saving you time having to make daily posts to each individual site.

The choice is yours. You can choose to spread your marketing efforts over multiple digital platforms or you can choose to stick to one or two tools. Local businesses that employ multiple online channels to promote their business are usually the businesses that have the most physical foot traffic in their door. Once they are in the door it’s up to you to provide the best experience to keep them coming back and tell their friends and neighbors about you and your business.

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 the Internet Has Affected the Interstate

Source: Right after World War II, in the 1950s, America was on the move. With the completion of the Interstate Highway System, and more families owning more than one vehicle, families took to the open road to explore, connect, and become educated. Six decades later, fewer families see their vehicle as the expression of their freedom; and find access to the world through the internet.

How amazing it is that in just 60 years, how far we have come in declaring our expression of what gives us the tools to feel mobile and free from the confines of our own zip code?

Six decades ago saw the golden age of the auto industry in America; with the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler-Dodge dominating the majority of the vehicle ownership sales; where machines and men made America a country that became completely mobile.

Fast forward 60 years and you find the digital technology revolution is helping families become mobile again, and is changing how people define their mobility.

Now in the palm of your hand, one can access information from almost anywhere in the world. They can learn how to cook a specialty dish on Youtube, or read about historical event by “Googling it,” or even watch their favorite movie or television show on the go via an app on their cell phone. One can even shop for a new pair of jeans, pay for it, and have the jeans delivered to their door in less than 24 hours. The interstate has fallen to the internet.

America use to be completely reliant on their vehicle for everything; to go shopping, to pick up the groceries, to go downtown to see a movie, or to go visit a friend. An entire culture was developed around the premise that Americans identified mobility and freedom to travel with their cars. A variety of business models even developed to cater to the rise of the interstate. Service businesses were built around the idea of a driving culture behind the wheel. Drive-in movie theaters, the drive-through fast food take out restaurant window, the roadside attractions all were a reflection of the pride that many had as vehicle ownership.

Vehicle ownership also allowed for the shaping of modern-day suburbs to flourish. The commuter was born. Individuals were no longer relegated job opportunities as far as their local metro transit system (if any even existed) would take them. Vehicle ownership allowed for a person to live in the countryside where homeownership was less costly; as more people found it more affordable to live outside the city, but yet still work there; the car became a vital tool in developing personal wealth.

The family car, the extra car was also seen as a sign of status. At the top, luxury brands of the likes of Cadillac, Mercedes, Jaguar, or Lincoln, would echo and reflect where on the social economic scale an individual would rank. Today, that hasn’t changed, but the vehicle is no longer viewed as the pride and joy as it once was. Today it is treated and viewed more like an appliance; with an expected shelf life and is disposable.

The new status symbol of mobility is the very mobile device that many carry in their pocket. The digital era and the convenience of the mobile device (cell phone, tablet, kindle, etc.), has allowed for people to stand in their living room access the world. With this tool, the internet superhighway is the road that is most traveled over any other physical road in our current society.

Apple, Samsung, and LG are now the Big Three that offer the vehicles that provide access for people to get information, connect with people, and experience life in a way never thought of. The development of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, allow for people to connect with a click of button without having to put an ounce of fuel in the tank or drive not even a mile down the road. Just about any book once found in the library is now found in a digital format that can be read on a screen.

Programs and services like Skype, Google Hang Out, and Go to Meeting, have given people the ability to have one-on-one communications, seeing each other on a screen and hearing their words, where people can be as physical distant as the other side of the world. These services allow for people to communicate and build relationships beyond the boundaries of how far a car can take them, and are limitless to the boundaries of continents.

New businesses that cater to the new form of mobility include a host of app, ranging from apps that allow you to download coupons and deals from your favorite retailer to keeping track of your steps and physical fitness, are downloaded by the millions each day. There is even the business of add-on hardware to keep your mobile device in shape (cases, ear phones, etc.). Not to mention all of the tech improvements that has made the mobile device more functional, integrating camera, internet, video capabilities.

The internet has most certainly captured the imagination of the youth. They have grown up with the idea that the internet is as much as part of their lives as vehicles once did to our parents. Modern generations don’t know any other life but that of the one in the digital age. With the press of a button they can reach people in other countries, find out information on any subject, and view a video related to any interest.

Such technology has even entered the classroom. Virtual learning, by way of connecting by video over the internet allow for students to attend classes and seminars or view lectures from anywhere in the world. The internet has demonstrated it offers mobility to all those young and old regardless if they qualify for a driver’s license.

It once was said, “Mobility is life,” and so when there is a traffic jam on Interstate 80; remember you could have chosen to route yourself by way of wi-fi.

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.

Growing Your Network

Source: Every business needs a support network it can turn to for advice, to help grow its market presence, and provide referrals. Every step in growing your small business network will require you to invest into relationships with potential clients, vendors, employees, and community advocates. So, where do you start?

It is critical to your business’s growth and health that you establish a network of support around you. Every small business needs to have a legion of community advocacy on its side when the business environment becomes hostile. Some of your flow of client referrals may come from other business owners you have developed a relationship with over time, who do not offer the same services as your business. In the event your business experiences a disruption, who are the fellow colleagues in the business community that you can turn to in order to keep your business on track? It’s vital to establish and maintain positive relationships within the industry or business community, for two things will come out of it: resources and opportunities.

A business grows and thrives on building relationships with people. It is very important to join or be part of a business or community network. Joining either a trade organization or a local chamber of commerce will allow your business to outreach towards experienced mentors who have “been there and done that” in the business world. This provides you the luxury of learning from their mistakes and successes.

Joining a business or trade organization will lend your business instant credibility. Most consumers view the lone wolf as such that, a predator out to take their money. However, when a business joins an organization, it usually must qualify under a vetting process that deems the business and its owner credible. You can make personal connections with people, some who may offer client referrals, and in turn you may have clients you cannot serve, and will need to send them somewhere.

Having a network will increase your purchasing power. You can get better group rates if multiple business owners come together to join in using a shared services model to source things like health care or office supplies. Many business organizations or trade groups have preferred vendors which they refer to for business liability insurance, financing, or other business to business services, which may cater their expertise to a specific industry or geographic area.

When building any business relationship, the goal in mind should be to create a mutual or greater value exchange. Whether it is the exchange of ideas, or client referrals or vendor referrals, keep in mind, time is money, and to waste a person’s time without an equal or greater value exchange is to also waste their money as well as your own. Business relationships should be reviewed as long-term. Just because you met someone today or had a discussion with a new business contact today, does not mean they are obligated to you in any way, unless of course you and the other party sign a contract. You must approach each relationship with a pure intention that what you offer will uplift or enhance their life or business in one shape or form.

So where do you go to join? There are local business organizations and trade groups which are a good place to start. I suggest researching your local Chamber of Commerce. This is the place where business owners, politics and community all come together. Chamber of Commerce offers several opportunities to network with other businesses, which is also your audience if your business sells to other businesses. The Chamber of Commerce is an educational resource for your business as they will be able to connect you to information on how to acclimate your business within the local community. Also, the Chamber offers opportunities to connect with the community though a myriad of local events open to the public, giving businesses an opportunity to showcase their products or services to the general local public.

Organizations such as the National Small Business Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses, and National Small Business Association are small business trade organizations that blend solving industry issues with community advocacy to leadership in government. These organizations allow for businesses to network with each other and provide a voice for small businesses collectively, as well as on behalf of small businesses concerning regulatory matters and legislation that will either help or hurt the small business owner.

So how do you build a relationship with the community around you? Community outreach should be a priority when mapping out your marketing and advertising campaign and budget. Not all community outreach costs money. Sometimes it involves investing your time. Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Elks Lodge, and the VFW-American Legion are staples in the community. They are organizations led by local business owners and community leaders that perform good works aimed at uplifting the community. Through your service in one of these organizations, you will get to develop relationships with other people who will recognize your dedication to help others.

Some businesses take the lead by organizing a community activity. 5K runs are a very popular way to get people to gather together for a good cause. The money raised can be donated to charity, and you have plenty of opportunities to get your business name in front of people, leading up to, during, and after the event. As the host and main sponsor, your business name and contact information would be placed on all the event’s marketing materials, sign up forms, social media, and mentioned during the event. You can have a team staffing a booth or table of information made available to racers and supporters.

Another role your business can play in growing its network is becoming a member of a community activist group. This can be tricky because some community activism is driven by political agendas, and so it is important to not push an agenda or get involved with any group that requires you to vacate your personal values or alienates your clients. If you’re a business that caters to female clientele like a beauty parlor, you may choose to help a community activist group that supports women who are victims of domestic violence. If your business is in the environmental industry, you may want to take up cause with a group that advocates for better environmental practices.

Wherever you choose to build relationships, make sure that you are joining because in your heart you want to make a difference, want to help others and effectively uplift the community around you. If you volunteer or join a business organization or trade group with the intent that it’s all about what you can get out of someone else, your actions, words and mannerisms will speak out for your wrong intentions and people will take notice. Building a community and network goes hand in hand in lending your time, expertise, and sometimes financial resources in serving others. Remember, you get back what you give.

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.

The Pride TLC Difference

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Published on http://www.PrideTLC.com, written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter

So you have just retired from your career; the kids have all moved out of the home; you may have lost your spouse or loved one; and you may no longer have all of the mobility that you once had. What do you do next? You begin to make lifestyle changes and choices. You may choose to let go of the house you called home for most of your life. Where do you go? Do you choose to find residence at an assisted living facility, or do you find yourself in need of more in-depth services of a nursing home?

Or what if you are the family member of the loved one who can no longer make these decisions on their own? You have come to the realization and conclusion that your loved one, whether it is a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even a spouse, will receive better care and attention than what you may have to offer. Your loved one may be at a point in their lives where they need round the clock care. So you turn your research efforts to the internet and stumble upon a few choices.

One of those choices may be the Pride Therapy and Living Campus. So you decide to investigate, and take a tour of the facility. Then you may explore other choices for employing senior health care services for either you or your loved one. So how do you know which facility to choose?

Understanding what matters in providing excellence in senior health care are important factors in choosing a facility. What type of care do you need; Assisted living, intimate nursing home services, or rehabilitation center?

Usually a major deciding factor in your choice of facility  is the overall feel of the staff, their ability to meet the needs of residents and patients, and the interactions and genuine encounters you may have experienced while you gathered information. After visiting a few facilities you return to the idea of the Pride Therapy and Living Campus. So what is it that makes Pride TLC so special?

For starters, the Pride Therapy and Living Campus is not corporate owned. In order to be competitive against the typical “chain” of nursing home facilities that are corporately owned, they must pride themselves in other areas of competency that are lacking elsewhere. They pride themselves on being your community senior health care center; totally focused and devoted to the health and well-being of the residents that are considered part of the “Pride TLC Family.”

Proprietor Phil Castleberg explains, “In part of what is the Pride TLC Difference is people. The majority of our staff lives within the surrounding area. They most likely grew up around some of the patients and now have an opportunity to serve them as they enter their elder years. Being a part of the community of Weston, allows our staff of therapists, nurses, aides, and administration to be more attentive and respectful of the needs of each patients. As a result, our staff have a higher regard for life, and treat every patient with respect, honor, and love.

Pride Therapy and Living Campus has adopted the latest trend of offering multiple services under one roof. They offer assisted living quarters and skilled nursing/rehab services. Having these services in the same location provides a resident or patient the ability to have all of their needs met, regardless of what phase they may be in their lives. This removes the stress of moving from one facility to another, and creates a friendly environment that you are being attended to by the same trusted nurses, therapists, and aides no matter which division of the facility you call home.

Pride TLC has a unique atmosphere to it. When you first pull up to the facility you experience the beauty that surrounds the campus, with is architectural appeal and maintained grounds you immediately feel comfortable. When you enter inside of the facility, you can view the many visiting areas and sitting rooms that give this facility the look and feel of a country bed and breakfast.

“We wanted to create the sense of being home. All of our patient rooms have been arranged with the assistance and input of our staff. I asked them to design the look and feel of each room as if they were going to be the occupant of that room. As a result, each room has small touches that make them unique from one room to another. Our staff did a great job in making this facility feel like home,” Castleberg continued.

Pride TLC’s culture focuses on personal health and wellness. When you first meet the staff, you get the sense that they really care about the people who enter Pride TLC. Their attentiveness to detail and ability to recognize that life, regardless of age, is valuable reflects in the way they serve guests, residents, and their families. The smiles of the staff and their welcoming demeanor inform us that the employees of Pride Therapy and Living Campus enjoy their profession and more so they enjoy being a part of the Pride TLC team.

“Being here at Pride TLC is a choice and a lifestyle. We are a smaller family ran local operation.”

Other factors that make Pride TLC special is that they operate above industry standard. Having doubled the nurses and therapists ratio to every patient versus the industry norm allows Pride TLC to provide immediate care and expedient services. The strict discipline and commitment to excellence in senior health care have actually assisted Pride TLC to be more affordable for the average senior or family member in search of senior health care accommodations. So if your decision to enter a facility is strictly based on price, Pride TLC has you covered.

Pride TLC also knows the pain experienced in the last moments of life. Our specialized team of hospice care experts treats every patient and their families with comfort in their bedside manner. Life at Pride TLC is valued from the time you enter to the time you depart; always remaining in the hearts of the staff that make up the Pride TLC team.

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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