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Part of the BuildMyBiz Blog Posts The BuildMyBiz Blog showcases the BuildMyBiz Materials library, puts the latest small business news into perspective, and brings you the best business content from around the Web.

The Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Fourth of July

As you prepare to celebrate the 238th anniversary of America’s Independence Day, here are five little-known facts about our nation’s birthday that you can use to wow your friends and family at your holiday celebrations.

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5 Steps to Establishing Trust with Business Clients

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship, especially for a business. After all, every day businesses ask people they’ve never met to trust them to deliver on a product or service. Business owners are aware of the necessity of trust and anyone looking to partner with, or sell to, another business must work diligently to build that trust. That’s always easier said than done, especially if you’re running a new business without a lot of history to back up its promises, but how can a business establish a foundation of trust?

1) Build a solid website with informative content.

78% of Business-to-Business Buyers begin their research online – that means any B2B seller or partner needs a solid, functional, and informative website. A sloppy WordPress template with a bunch of industry buzzwords and talk about synergy won’t cut it. You need a site that details what your business does, and clarifies how your company is different from the competition. You must also have a blog that you regularly update. There is a reason why 9 out of 10 B2B marketers use content marketing – it generates traffic and interest, so don’t let your blog lapse in this regard.

2) Make yourself easy to contact.

A study done by KoMarketing Associates found that the quickest ways to destroy a burgeoning B2B relationship is to hide your company’s contact information – 55% of B2B buyers cite that reason as why they chose to look elsewhere. The motive behind hiding contact information, from the small business owners I’ve spoken to, is typically because they’re afraid of being spammed. They figure that anyone that actually wants to talk to them will be willing to dig through the site to find a phone number. Sorry, but that isn’t how B2B sales works. Make sure to display your phone number and email address prominently on your website. You might have to deal with some spam, but it’s worth the hassle if it means potential partners can seek you out and place their trust in you.

3) Let them choose how to be contacted.

I’m a big fan of email. Email lets me answer questions and solve problems at my leisure, and give me a good idea of the type of person I’m working with before we actually talk. Phone calls, on the other hand, require I commit a chunk of my schedule to talking to someone. But if a potential client or partner prefers phones to email, then you can bet I’ll be talking to them on the phone. The last thing you want is to appear suspect to a potential partner, so don’t try and dodge one method of communication for another. Let them set the terms of contact.

4) Focus on what you offer.

I realize that you want to make sure you’re getting something out of this deal, but you have to put yourself in the position of the buyer too. They’re the ones shopping around and weighing their options. If you start asking too many questions about what you’ll get out of this deal, you’ll seem pushy and unwilling to work with them. Make them feel comfortable, establish that foundation of trust, and then start working to ensure any deals or partnerships are mutually beneficial.

5) Don’t lose what you’ve built.

It is ridiculously easy to shatter burgeoning trust – something as simple as forgetting to call someone back can be enough to make them question working with you. When you’re a new business, you may not know exactly how much leeway you can give, but if you try to change the terms of a deal you will lose that customer. It takes twelve positive experiences to make up for one bad one, so if you want people to trust your company, you need to make it your priority to ensure that any potential clients, customers, or partners are taken care of and happy. Once word gets out that you treat your clients well, that trust you had to work so hard to get at first will be much more forthcoming.

About the Author:

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

The Three Traits of Successful Female Networkers

Women can stand proud over the progress we’ve made in the business world. It is estimated that women own 8.6 million of US-based businesses, which contribute $1.3 trillion to the economy. But if there is one part of the corporate culture we haven’t yet gotten down to a science, it’s networking. A 2011 GEM Consortium report revealed that women business owners and entrepreneurs tended to have smaller, less diverse networks than their male counterparts. An active network helps grow both the business, and its owner and I’ve always been a big proponent of networking, and love any opportunity to meet people who have dealt with the struggles and problems that I too have faced. Since I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to stand out amongst your peers, I’ve noticed that the most successful female networkers often embody the following three traits.

The first time you step into a room full of confident, successful businesswomen, it’s easy to feel nervous and you may feel your own confidence taken down a few pegs. But the more you network, the easier, and less intimidating, the whole process will become. Networking is as much about selling your business, and yourself as it is about meeting new people. Don’t be the wallflower, sipping coffee in the corner and occasionally handing out business cards. It doesn’t matter how many cards you pass out if no one remembers you. Before you walk in, psyche yourself up, run through a few career highlights, and have these points at the forefront of your mind so you can bring them up when asked about what you do at your place of work.

When you go to a conference, remember that you are there to network. Not check up on emails, post selfies on Instagram, or beat your high score on Flappy Bird. Networking isn’t always easy, and I admit that, on occasion, I’ve sought the sanctuary of my iPhone instead of getting up and introducing myself to yet more people. But there’s no gain without a little pain, so you have to make sure that you tune out distractions. Turn off your phone to stay better focused and on top of any conversation you’re having. When you’re not talking to someone, you should be canvassing the floor to meet other people.

Resolve is one of the most important traits of a good networker, and yet it’s so often ignored. After you get home from that big conference, how many of the attendees do you stay in touch with? Do you add them on LinkedIn and leave it at that, or do you actually try and build a working relationship? Having the resolve needed to maintain contact with other professionals is the key to building your network. A few hours chatting over conference room coffee may have gotten you started on the right foot, but you need these professional relationships to progress if you want your network to grow. That doesn’t mean you should start sending a barrage of emails to your address book, demanding to know what everyone learned by the end of every week. But you should follow the careers and projects of the women you connected with. After all, building this collaborative and supportive environment is a real benefit to female entrepreneurship.

About the Author:
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Your Taxes Are Done: Now What?

I realize that tax season is officially on its way out, and taxes are probably the last thing anyone wants to think about. But, as any long-time entrepreneur will tell you, taxes are an aspect of your business you just can’t escape. When you run a business, you always have to watch out for how much the government is expecting from your total take. Relax too much and you’re suddenly up to your eyes in penalties and fees. Thankfully, taxes are fairly manageable, as long as you look at them as a yearlong obligation, rather than as an annual, paperwork-driven annoyance.

Get your next estimated tax payment ready

Self-employed people who expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes, and corporations that expect to owe more than $500, have to pay quarterly estimated tax payments. And hopefully you knew that already, because your first estimated tax payment was due on April 15th, and your next one is due June 16th. You should have a pretty solid idea as to what the government expects from you in 2014 since you just finished 2013’s returns. But if you don’t know how much you are supposed to be sending in, Form 1040-ES can help you calculate what you owe and adjust future payments.

Use your refund wisely

Processing your refund check normally takes the IRS around three weeks, so if you don’t have your refund already, you’ll hopefully have it soon. When you do get it, I recommend immediately putting a chunk of it into your savings. The general rule of thumb is to put 20% of your tax refund into your savings account, and you’ll be happy to have that money during a rainy day. Now, I can’t tell you how to spend the rest of your refund, but before you run off to spend the weekend at Disneyland, consider investing some of your refund back into your business. Do you need a new computer? Are you ready to go ‘Office Space’ on your ancient printer? Use this refund as a way to re-invigorate the aging parts of your business – some of those essential purchases could even qualify for a Section 179 deduction next year!

Plan out a tax strategy

A large part of any tax strategy is to know what you owe, and to save to pay it. If you’re self-employed, you have to pay self-employment taxes in addition to your income tax to cover your Medicare and social security. Along with knowing what you owe, you should think about what deductible-expenses you could invest in this year. Health insurance, a retirement plan, and even continuing your education are all great investments that could help boost your refund next April. 

Don’t slack on maintenance

Again, I know the last thing most people want to do at this point is think about their taxes, but bad habits are hard to break, so you have to stay organized. Don’t start throwing important receipts into an old shoebox – sort out what you bought for your business, and organize your paperwork. You should also make sure your books balance out at the end of everyday; otherwise you’ll spend hours hunting for phantom expenses and missing deposits. If you aren’t using some sort of bookkeeping software, now might be a great time to look into one to help you stay on top of your finances.

Keep meeting with your accountant

Don’t let April 15th, 2015 be the next time you meet with your accountant. Estimated tax payments can be hard to pin down, especially if you expect any growth or contraction in the coming year. At the very least, meet with your accountant towards the end of the year, around October to November. They’ll help you start closing out your books, and will let you know if you need to adjust the payment due in January.

Being an entrepreneur means embracing everything that comes with running a business, including taxes. Most people tend to see taxes as a once-a-year occurrence, but business owners can’t think that way. So get ready for the coming year, plan out your estimated tax payments, and stay on top of your bookkeeping. A little extra work now means a much smoother tax season in 2015.

About the Author

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Think Before You Ink

Printing can be expensive; it’s even more costly when you mistakenly send docs to be mass-produced that are riddled with errors, contain foolhardy content, or are poorly designed. We’ve all seen promotional fliers that might have been made using Microsoft® Paint from 1997.

Before submitting anything to a printer, run through this checklist to save yourself from a reprint or inclusion on a viral webpage making fun of regrettable prints.

Proofread x2

Nowadays, folks can’t spell too well. Blame spellcheck all you want, but accidents happen. Even to our president (see number 6). Before you pull a Patrick Bateman and proudly print hundreds of business cards telling the world you are in the business of  “aquisitions,” run your idea by someone who can spot these things and save you from yourself.

Check for Design Flaws

Misspellings aren’t the only aspect of your project that will create regret and call for a re-print. If you’re including images (and you should! Visuals and white space are important!), check and make sure that it looks the way you want it to, really. Especially if you modified the image in any way; Photoshop errors are more common than you’d think. You’ll also be wise to make sure that your image will print where you intended on the page, and that the photo resolution won’t wind up blurry. Most print services offer free test prints that eliminate costly and unwanted surprises when your full 500 page order arrives.

Make Sure It’s All Necessary

Print orders include a variety of options from font size to paper type, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that different options come with different price tags. Some fonts require more ink (like Arial), and some less (Times New Roman). Times New Roman, then, will cost you less in the long haul. As will printing on cheaper paper for events that don’t require the finest stock. Make sure that whatever you choose, you choose with intention.

About the Author

Mark Stokvis is the marketing director at Best Value Copy, an online printing service.  With over 14 years of experience in the printing industry, he is an undisputed expert on all things paper, binding, and formatting.