Everyone Can Be a Celebrity

25 02 2010

I happened upon this “Ten Small Business Trends and Opportunities” list and smiled at number four: “Everyone can be a Celebrity.” There’s always a lot to discuss with regard to marketing and social media, but I like this perspective of thinking of yourself as a celebrity. Your personal brand has a lot to do with how you define your business and its success, why not promote it?

Afterall, your brand distinguishes your competitive advantage. It’s also the first impression you have with potential customers and the source of attachment you create with your current ones. More and more these days, transparency is key as search engines start to blend with social networks and status updates are made visible and accessible just about everywhere on the web. Your opinions and thoughts are what people want to hear, not just previous projects that get outdated really fast. For a jump start, check out these personal branding trends for 2010.

It’s still early in the new year and there are lots of opportunities to focus and refocus your marketing efforts. With a deeper understanding of your brand, you’ll likely have a more aligned view of where your business will stand out, and even better – succeed.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Fogel.


Managing Volunteers

10 02 2010

Alright, making do with less has motivated us all to find efficiencies in many aspects of our lives. And when it comes to getting the job done at work, doing more without impacting the bottom line is always a bonus. So when it’s time to commit to additional staffing, it’s important to distinguish between employees, interns, and volunteers.

Volunteers. Summed up, a volunteer can be defined as “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking,” or “a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.” Legally, a volunteer can be defined as “a person whose actions are not founded on any legal obligation so to act.” So volunteerism lies in the absence of a contract and the absence of a subordinate type of relationship – a volunteer is simply someone who wants to help out, is free to come and go as she/he pleases and is not rewarded with money (with the exception of reimbursements ) nor training in exchange for the tasks carried out.

In 2009, volunteerism in the U.S. rose to include about 26.8% of the U.S. population, or 63.4 million people. Among the notable statistics, this increase was driven by women, and employed people volunteered at a higher rate than the unemployed. Furthermore, a survey indicated the following volunteerism habits:

  • People aged 35 to 44 are most likely to volunteer;
  • Married people and parents of children under 18 are more likely than the single or childless to volunteer;
  • Fund raising is the most frequently cited activity engaged in by volunteers; and
  • Most volunteers give their time to only one organization.

With so many people wanting to help out and your time stretched thin, where can the efficiencies be found? Well, upon managing volunteers and volunteering programs, for an organization and its volunteers to benefit the most from each other, volunteers should be managed as part of an overall, systematic program, somewhat similar to the systematic approach that should be used to managing employees. And to learn about or adapt an existing program, the Free Management Library has truly put together the best list of resources on the subject. This resource includes a number of articles on a dearth of relevant information, including:

  • Deciding whether your organization needs volunteers;
  • Designing and operating your volunteer management system;
  • Role of volunteer managers;
  • Legal and risk considerations;
  • Policies;
  • Volunteer job/task descriptions;
  • Volunteer recruitment and screening;
  • Training and supervising volunteers; and
  • Assessing volunteer management programs.

Don’t get caught turning down volunteers simply because you don’t have time to manage them otherwise. As I mentioned earlier, volunteers are eager to help. And there are more of them willing to do so these days. Recognize the opportunities a part of your organization that could benefit from volunteer work and set up a systematized approach for managing their efforts. Surely, both you and your volunteers will appreciate it.

Photo courtesy of Be Brilliant.

Sales Tax Compliance.

6 02 2010

Alright, I’ve mentioned this before. In this era of increased economic sensitivity, governments are looking for further ways to ensure tax payment compliance. With regard to resident businesses, my recent post about paying use taxes is just one measure.  Sales taxes include another measure, and they can be tricky to determine.

Collecting sales tax is a monster of a time sink for small businesses to wrap their hands around, but an important one to figure out (especially if you don’t have a software system to do it for you). And as a reminder to Washington businesses, “reseller permits” issued by the Department of Revenue have replaced “resale certificates” as of January 2010. So to whittle down what may appear to be a complex issue, here are a few generalities a part of collecting sales taxes:

I hope this helps filter the relevant tax information applicable to your business. Washington state has several useful tools to help your business remain compliant – though, keeping up to date could be one of the hardest tasks; even big-box stores can’t get it right. For any further questions about filing your tax return, or new laws, rules, and notices, check out the Washington State Department of Revenue’s most recent Tax Facts publication (it comes out twice a year).

Here’s to regulatory success in the new year.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State’s blog.

Reuters: Small Business

2 02 2010

Part of what I find fun about researching content for my blog is finding hot spot resources for small business information. I recently stumbled upon Reuters’ Small Business section via clicking through a few article links and got lost in its treasure trove of information. Reuters recently launched its Small Business section in March 2009 with the goal to “provide entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to innovate and grow their businesses.” I think they’re doing a great job.

Reuters calls itself “the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.” And Reuters delivers; it offers an intellectual insight to breaking news on a number of topics, and it showcases what small business entrepreneurs and owners are actually thinking. I do enjoy reading the trending topics in the small business section of the Wall Street Journal; now I’ve got more information to pile on to my morning read.

But my favorite segment of Reuters Small Business is their “Small Business Resource Center,” which includes content by FindLaw. It’s a great aggregate of current small business material, with a legal perspective twist. And its broad content includes information on the following:

  • Starting a Business;
  • Incorporation and Legal Structures;
  • Employment Law and HR;
  • Finances and Taxes;
  • Insurance and Liability; and
  • Operations.

As many business owners know, legality finds its way into more issues than one can possibly muster. And because much of Reuters Small Business information is generated by FindLaw, I’m confident that this is a solid resource for answering small business legal questions – answers to which you also never knew you should know.

Enjoy the read.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.