Government Hands Out Billions In Corporate Welfare and Then Gives Loans to Small Business

I always think it is funny when our politicians tell us that they are working to help small businesses. Whenever I hear a politician in one of the districts where I am tell me such things, I challenge them right away and ask; “exactly what have you done to help small businesses in this district.” They talk about such things as putting together small business loans, about collaboration projects with businesses to create jobs. I just shake my head and laugh – it’s as if they don’t get it.

You see, funneling taxpayer money into special pet projects with small business owners who happen to be friends with politicians and also duly support their campaign war chest for reelection does not appear to me to be helping local entrepreneurs much, rather it is helping the politician himself or herself feed at the trough. Secondly, offering more business loans to little companies at the bottom or top of the business cycle only puts local business people in debt. All the while our politicians are giving out lucrative contracts to large companies and corporations; corporate welfare.

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on March 20, 2014 titled; Loans Are Flowing Again, But Not In All Sectors,” by Julie Bennett which was featured in the Focus on Franchising section. One franchisor was said to have stated; “You can’t grow a franchise company without the SBA,” and whereas, this may be somewhat reality based it begs the question of why?

Now then, as a former franchisor or I’d like to say; “the hell you can’t.” You see, I have franchised my company and I can remember only a few SBA loans of all the franchises we ever sold. Those SBA loans were difficult to get, they were time consuming, they had too many stipulations, and the paperwork was a nightmare. When I went into new territory or region I wanted to sell the franchises quickly to dominate the area and increase our market share as rapidly as possible and get our brand name out there. I didn’t have time to wait to do the paperwork or help a franchise buyer get SBA secured financing which might take 60 to 90 days.

I wanted those businesses up and running within 60 to 90 days, but we could not even sign the franchise agreement until they had the money in hand but the SBA made that process come to a complete halt. Worse, the small business administration wanted all sorts of paperwork, business plans, and other information which I was not willing to divulge to a new franchise buyer until I was sure he was qualified, but they aren’t qualified until they have the money, but they can’t get the money unless I divulge information to the SBA.

To add insult to injury, if I did divulge the information to the SBA, they wanted to put those business plans online, on their website for other future franchise buyers, unfortunately that information would also be available for my competition.

Therefore, I conclude that the SBA never helped me in my business, and yes, “I did build my business, and I didn’t get much help from the government thank you very much.” Please consider all this and think on it.

 

Mobile Business Apps Are the Next Best Marketing Tool for Small Businesses

A lot of words and statistics can be used to build the case that mobile devices have grown and continue to grow into one of the most popular technological advancements. Just looking around would convince the most skeptical among us. And as with all new developments, the speed with which these new developments are improved and made more accessible, is directly proportional to their popularity. As a result, mobile is changing and improving… FAST!

For business marketing, an online presence is an ongoing evolution from the days, not too long ago, of just having a website, which developed into a mobile website, to developing an online social presence, and to now developing your own mobile app. Many large businesses have been in the mobile app marketing arena for some time. They realized the many benefits and conveniences mobile apps provided their customers and, with proper management, the increased revenue and customer loyalty they would gain. They also had the resources to fund the exorbitant development costs required to create a custom native app for all the mobile platforms and were able to still do it cost effectively.

Technology marches on! Today, mobile apps are no longer within just the reach of the largest corporations. For the purpose of this article, we will not get bogged down in the technical difference between custom native apps, mobile web apps, hybrid apps, mobile websites, etal. The focus is going to be on what appears to be the best option for small businesses. The target… an exceptional User Experience (now commonly referred to as UX), easily managed content and affordability.

There is no one best solution for every type of business out there. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the mobile options. The key is selecting the best fit, ie., the option that provides the greatest number of benefits to the business and their customers, at the best price. After doing the research, it’s difficult to present an unbiased presentation of these facts when the best choice for most small businesses is so clear. In short, the engaging customer features available, the ease of complete control of the content and the affordable price, the native mobile app built using a template (NMAT) is the next best marketing tool, to improve the bottom line and increase customer loyalty.

To be clear, custom built native apps that are built from the ground up, require hand coding for each app on each mobile platform, Apple, Android, etc. This is a very expensive process. Coders are very well paid and the end result provides a great, custom, UX. The new alternative, NMAT, is building an app using an already coded template system that can be customized in appearance, function and content. This option provides similar features as the custom app, to choose from, at a fraction of the cost, with a very similar UX and can be totally controlled on-line.

Here is a quick look at the comparison of benefits between mobile website and native apps.

Device Features – Apps have full access to all of a mobile devices capabilities including camera, GPS, data storage, etc. for the best UX. Mobile websites currently have limited access.

User Installation – No installation required for mobile websites. A bit of motivation is required to search and find a mobile business app. In the gaming industry, this should not be an obstacle. Most customers will be motivated to find your app to benefit from the content including offers and discounts.

Speed – A mobile app is much faster then a mobile website creating a better UX.

Owner Maintenance – The maintenance of a NMAT is much simpler these days with the app hosted in the cloud. Online Content Management System Dashboards (CMSD), allow clients to change the content of their app and send messages 24/7. Custom native apps are much more complicated to update. Mobile website are updated as easily as a web page.

Offline Functioning – Without a wifi or cell service connection, mobile websites are not accessible. Native apps have offline accessibility giving them the edge in this category.

Development Costs – Custom native apps are extremely expensive. Both Mobile websites and NMAT’s involve the least cost and are very affordable. Possibly with future technological advancements, mobile apps for small businesses may go the way of betamax, and mobile websites may overcome many of their current shortcomings and become the dominate mobile format. But for now, and probably for the foreseeable future, native apps are the best marketing tool available for small businesses. For maximum benefit, your app can be used in conjunction with your mobile website and gain additional user benefits such as the ability for customers to log in to their personal accounts.

Now to the good part. Here’s a look at what benefits a mobile app can bring to your business and your customers. The power of the mobile app to engage and communicate with the customers, is in it’s features.

Mobile App Benefits

The features currently available that can be built into an app is what ‘powers’ the benefits and makes it such a perfect fit for small businesses. In addition to the traditional listing of your businesses’ general information including facility amenities, specials, event calendars, contact info and directions, etc. that you would find on any standard mobile website, apps offer features that better engage customers and fully utilize their mobile devices capabilities making for a very personal and fulfilling UX… that they will want to share. To be clear and further illustrate the benefits of an app over a mobile website, this summary of features will include only those that are available in a mobile app format, and not a mobile website. There are dozens of features available for businesses to choose from to use in their app. We will look at just a few of the more beneficial ones here.

1. Content Management System Dashboard (CMSD) – This gives businesses complete control over the content of their app 24/7. Managing an app is very much like managing your social online presence. It requires daily attention and creative management. The CMSD makes it easy and efficient to make changes to your apps content and appearance, and an easy to use preview feature allows you to view your changes instantly.

2. Push Notification keeps your customers well informed – This feature allows you to send graphically attractive, instantaneous messages to your customers with offers to encourage their immediate or future attendance in your facility. The geo-fencing targeting option within this feature makes targeting your customers more like using a scalpel then a sledge hammer. Strategically used, push notification can keep your customers well informed, connected to your business and continually coming back.

3. Offer QR Code Coupons – This feature requires customer attendance a predetermined number of times before unlocking the value of this coupon. With attractive offers, this feature has the potential to increase customer attendance and increase revenue. QR codes are easily created within the CMSD and available for printing on any and all marketing materials that can be placed in the various departments around your facility.

4. Offer Loyalty Cards – This feature is a virtual stamp card designed to reward your current customers for multiple purchases or actions. It is a simple task using the CMSD to design the number of customer actions required to redeem the offer. This helps remind your current customers that you appreciate their business and helps solidify their loyalty.

5. Offer GPS Coupons – GPS coupons are made accessible when customers are within a predetermined distance of your facility. The number of check-ins required to redeem these coupons, and the time frame, is created using the CMSD. Creative and strategic thinking will make this feature very useful.

6. Detailed Analytics – Be completely informed on all aspects of your customers usage of your app. See what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments. The analytics available directly on the CMSD provides valuable information to app managers.

7. One Touch Calling – A simple feature that makes calling more convenient for your customers. A good customer service.

8. Event Attendance – Want to highlight a special or recurring event to your customers and get a sense of how many customers will be attending? This feature will provide that benefit and also help get the word of your event circulated by allowing users to notify their friends and family of their plans to attend.

9. Third Party Integration – There is a wide variety of 3rd party websites that can be integrated into any app. customers can sign up on your email list directly into services such as Constant Contact, iContact, Get Response and others. Also, integration of all the popular social media and advertising web sites is available.

One other very big benefit of having a well managed and informational rich app, is that it will cut down on the time currently required to give out the same information to customers calling on the phone. Another is the directions feature. One touch and the app will guide them to your location from wherever they are. An app is like every other online presence channel that you currently manage… you do get out of it what you put in. When the decision is made to create an app, a plan should also be in place for the personnel and time required to manage it to reap it’s maximum benefit. It will make your business better.

Mobile apps are now like where websites were 15 or so years ago, you had to have one to keep up. In another 5 years or so, every serious small business will have a mobile app. Now’s the time to get a jump on the competition and lead the way.

 

How to Enjoy a Business Trip: From Expense Reporting to Room Service

A business trip can be a great time, but if it’s not done properly it can also be a pain in the neck. Flight delays, poor amenities, and packed schedules can leave you wishing you had just stayed home. Here’s how to make the most of your travels.

1. Hotel: It’s important to stay in a hotel that is close to town. You don’t want to be stuck on the outskirts in a Motel 6. It’s nice to have a hotel with fitness center (to de-stress), a pool and Jacuzzi (to cool down) and room service (to sleep in). Make it a nice room, as if you were choosing it on vacation. That way you can look forward to returning home after a long day under fluorescent lights.

2. Vacation: Consider adding a couple of days to your stay so you can check out the sights on your own time. Invite a friend or spouse along to visit so you can share new experiences together.

3. Schedule Properly: If you can, schedule your meetings according to your desires. If you’re a night owl, schedule them in the afternoons. If you’re an early bird, do it in the morning.

4. Eat Well: Do some research to see where to eat. Visit different neighborhoods and absorb some of the culture while you’re there. Turn dinner into more than just a business meeting by choosing a restaurant with live music or one that’s showing a big game you and your client may be interested in.

5. Pack Light: If you are burdened with big bags you are going to wind up having to chauffeur them around, which is more to worry about and more to pay for, especially when it comes time for business expense reports.

6. Expense Reporting: Don’t worry about expense reporting and T&E (travel and entertainment). Instead use expense management software so that you don’t have to think about invoices before you go to bed at night.

Travel should be fun and exciting. When you do explore new lands for business, you should be able to appreciate what you are seeing and experiencing without dwelling on the small stuff, like how you’re going to report all of your business expenses or how you should get to the airport. Treat it like any vacation, where you just so happen to have a planned itinerary. Show up, relax, have fun, and work hard.