Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SMB Retirement Plan: The SEP

A SEP is a Simplified Employee Pension plan.

According to an American Express Open article written by Mike Periu, a "SEP is setup by a business for the benefit of its employees." The good thing about a SEP is that it can be used by a single member LLC or by any other business with only one person drawing employment income. Hence, SEPs are great for single-person consulting firms or other personal and professional service providers. 

If your business has more than one employee, you can still use a SEP. A SEP, "is a tax-deferred individual retirement account." So the business can contribute money on behalf of all of its employees. That's also the primary limitation of the SEP. A SEP requires that all contributions be the same for all employees. In addition, neither you nor any employee can directly contribute; only the company can contribute. Therefore a SEP pension plan differs significantly from a 401(K) plan.

To read more on the subject, check out the article in its entirety, "Tailored Retirement for Small-Business Owners".

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Five More Ways to Crowdfund

I've written about crowdfunding before and will likely do so again. An American Express Open article, "5 Cutting-Edge Ways to Crowdfund" by James Rennie identifies five additional crowdfunding sources for small businesses and projects. One notable one is Smallknot. According to the article, "Smallknot is a site that encourages businesses to appeal to their immediate customer base for financial backing." Sounds like this site could facilitate something called a Direct Public Offering or DPO.

Another crowdfunding source, Brickstarter, helps "raise money for community projects". You could leverage this to do a good deed in your community which could help you build the PR and good will that leads to an increase in customers and revenue. A roundabout way to procure funding, certainly, but potentially a great way to get PR...and do some good for others while doing good for yourself.

The other three sources cited have nothing to do with small business funding but may still be of general interest to you. To read the article in its entirety, go to "5 Cutting-Edge Ways to Crowdfund" .

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Small Business Saturday

You've heard of Cyber Monday? If not, this is the Monday following Black Friday (after Thanksgiving) when, apparently, everyone goes back to work and shops online from the comfort of their office or cubicle! Anyway, there's now Shop Small Business Saturday® . This effort is designed to channel sales to small businesses all around the U.S. on the Saturday after Black Friday.

If you are a small business and want to take advantage of this marketing effort, check out the American Express® toolkit at Small Business Saturday.
According to an American Express Open email I received, this subsite will provide "tools and resources that can help attract customers and grow your business." It will also "help your business reach new customers throughout the year". Good luck!
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Selling Your Company Isn't the Answer...Or Is It?

I read an article on Inc. online earlier which quotes a serial entrepreneur as saying, "Selling your company doesn't make you happy". (The entrepreneur's name is Ryan Carson and the article title was "Selling Your Company Won't Make You Happy".) The real question is: What does make you happy?

Question_mark
If you are an entrepreneur who thoroughly enjoys creating something from scratch and building it until it becomes a truly viable business, sustainable without you AND this process is what you enjoy most, then selling your business when it reaches this stage will make you happy. Then you can rechannel your efforts on finding some other problem to solve and another business to start from scratch. This kind of challenge and the need for this challenge is what often drives those who are classified as "serial entrepreneurs", especially those who seem to sell out of their businesses every 5-7 years or so.
 

There are also entrepreneurs who take 10, 15, or 20 years or more to build a very large business who then sell for a variety of reasons. If you are truly bored with the business, you may be in need of a new challenge. Realize that if you started a business and grew it once, you can do it again. Or, if you bought a small business and grew it to a large business, you could do it again. So take the leap and sell.

However, if you have owned your business for a while, do not wish to retire, and are still enjoying your company, do not succomb to any pressure you may feel when you read about other entrepreneurs selling to private equity firms, competitors, larger companies, etc. Only you know what drives you and what drives you at any given point in time may differ than what drives others to sell. Sell or don't sell. But let your needs and desires be the driver.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gaps in Resumes Are Self-Inflicted

I just listened in on a webinar with an executive recruiter. This was right up my alley since said recruiter is a former business founder and CEO who sold his business. He later moved into recruitment since human capital arguably is the greatest resource growing businesses need. This recruiter/author/commentator, Peter Weddle, said, "Gaps in resumes are self-inflicted."

Resume

I loved that statement! How empowering it is. I know people who took time to regroup after a failed business or took a sabbatical or left to spend time with the kids/family for a few years who obsess over gaps. And I do mean obsess. In their minds the gap is a huge negative. Well, not in Peter's mind, assuming you were doing something that contributed to your personal development.

Peter commented that more than any other time in history, due to the rapid pace of dissemination of new knowledge, continuous education is highly valued. Leverage and showcase that.

Were you taking online Spanish classes or teaching yourself about blogging and social media? Did you attend how-to classes? Did you learn to be a more patient, tolerant senior manager? Did you volunteer or mentor anyone during that time?

All of this is considered personal development. According to Peter, you should denote towards the bottom of your resume near the education section. If you took relevant coursework, list it with dates.

The above discussion on resume gaps applies to all resumes, not just those for job seeking purposes. You submit resumes to the bank when seeking financing, to private equity firms and venture capital firms when seeking funding,... You see my pattern.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Living in Small Spaces

Dwell magazine did a short video series on a husband and wife architect team I know very well. It's about how they live, as a family of 6, in a 1600 square foot apartment in Manhattan. If you have ever been fascinated by IKEA or other places that champion small spaces and make them look chic, you should view this video. It may be a source of inspiration!

Hayes_apartment_layout

The inhabitants are the Slades. The firm they represent is Slade Architecture, also based in Manhattan.
Here's the link: http://www.dwell.com/videos/the-modern-family-part-two.html
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