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Oct 23, 2014

5 Business Industries That Will Thrive This Winter

Last winter was filled with snow and extreme cold temperatures for many U.S. cities. As we round the corner into the dark season yet again, experts are predicting another harsh winter, especially for the East Coast and Southern states. According to Accuweather, the mid-Atlantic region will be subject to high amounts of snow and ice for the second year in a row, while some Southern states may experience higher-than-normal ice threats. 

In light of such bleak predictions, there’s still good news to be had for seasonal small businesses. Here are five of the industries that can expect to experience an increase in sales this winter:

  • Auto repair. With snow, ice and freezing rain comes slick road conditions and an increase in fender benders. While it’s bad news for drivers, small businesses who fix the damage to cars will do well this winter. Similarly, tow trucks that take broken cars to the shop will also see an increase in demand. 
  • Snow removal services. Seeing snow cover your driveway is thrilling when you’re in grade school, but for adults who spend hours shoveling, it can be a painful experience. Home owners and even business owners will call on plowing companies to clear paths for them so they don’t have to lift a finger.
  • Gyms. Exercising outside when it’s 15 degrees can be extremely uncomfortable and less than motivational. Those committed to staying fit during the winter will flock to gyms, where they can meet their exercise goals without risking frostbite.
  • Coffee shops. A hot drink on a cold day can warm the heart and soul. As the weather gets chillier, coffee and tea shops would be wise to stock up on mugs and seating to accommodate those wanting to get warm. Free wi-fi will also be a big draw for households that experience power outages due to the bad weather.
  • Sporting goods stores. Whether it’s a child’s snow suit or a skier’s heavy-duty coat, stores that sell outerwear and winter sports equipment will prosper as people prepare to spend time in cold temperatures.

Oct 22, 2014

It’s National Save for Retirement Week: 4 Ways You Can Prepare

With the cost of living rising and the average life expectancy getting longer, many Americans don’t have enough in their nest egg to cover their golden years without making significant cutbacks. In fact, more than half of all American workers have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments; in some states, that wouldn’t even cover one year’s worth of living expenses.  

In an effort to educate the public on the importance of saving for retirement, this week has been deemed National Save for Retirement Week. Here are a few ways you can prepare for life after career:

  • Calculate your retirement needs. Experts say you’ll need at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living.
  • Start saving early. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be when you reach retirement age.
  • Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan. Automatic deductions make it easy, plus your taxable income will be lower and your employer may match what you contribute.
  • Don’t take a taxable distribution. Withdrawing from your retirement savings early triggers a hefty tax penalty, meaning you’ll lose a chunk of what you worked so hard to save.
If you’re interested in starting your own business, though, there’s a way you can leverage your retirement funds before you reach retirement age. Through an arrangement called Rollovers for Business Start-ups, you can invest up to 100 percent of your retirement funds in a small business or franchise without triggering a taxable distribution. Take five minutes to see if you’re eligible for this alternative form of small business financing now. 

Oct 21, 2014

Lessons From My Dad: 3 Easy Ways to Improve Retail Sales

When I was a young boy, my summer family vacations always involved visiting Kmart and Woolworth stores. This was the late 1970s and early 1980s when the premier big box store was Sears, and before Walmart and Target became dominant players in selling household goods. My dad was what was called a manufacturer’s rep. He was a pure commission salesman, however, he had the exclusive right to sell to certain chains on behalf of the manufacturers he represented. His biggest client was Slim Jim snacks.

When we visited stores, he was checking for three things:

  • Location of the Snacks
  • Availability of the Snacks
  • Bundling
This taught me three things that can help any store improve their sales.

Lesson 1: Keep Small and Inexpensive Items Near the Checkout Counter
 

Slim Jims and (Slim Jim brand) beef jerky are the perfect items to be located near the checkout counter. They are small, inexpensive, and satisfy a need or desire. The desire in this case is for a salty, filling food item.

It should be noted, though, that checkout items don’t necessarily need to be food. They do need to be small (easy to carry), cheap (it’s not a major decision), and somehow immediately satisfying to fulfill a perceived need. Novelty gifts often fit this description. As the person checking out has already gotten the items they came for, checkout items represent additional sales that don’t take away from other purchases.

Lesson 2: Be Visibly Well Stocked


My dad and the manufacturing companies he represented often would pay to have a certain location and amount of shelf space in a store. However, shelf space was only half the battle. My dad never liked seeing empty shelf space for several reasons:
  • It might give customers the feeling that the remaining merchandise had been sitting around and wasn’t good.
  • It made it harder to physically reach the merchandise.
  • If there was a run on the item (which would sometimes occur on summer weekends for Slim Jims), there would be no inventory left for customers to buy. Well-stocked shelves are conducive to more sales. One easy way to make sure items don’t run out is with a Point-of-Sale (POS) system, which keeps track of inventory.
Lesson 3: Discounts Are Good, But Bundling Is Better 

During the summer or football season, the snack companies my dad represented would run specials. The specials were not to get 10 or 20 percent off, but for discounts that encouraged buying more, like buy one box of Slim Jims and one box of Beef Jerky, and get the third box free. In other words, the snack companies were encouraging people to buy more stuff by giving bigger discounts for adding to what they had originally planned to buy.

The problem with “normal” discounts is that you’re sacrificing profit margins in order to encourage a few more people to buy an item. It’s not always clear if a merchant ends up better off as a result of discounting. With bundling, asking customers to buy at least two specific complementary items to get the discount, you’re rewarding customers for buying more than they might have otherwise.


Marc Prosser is the co-founder and publisher of Fit Small Business, which provides how to advice to small business owners on topics ranging from setting up a Google Plus page to getting approval for an SBA loan. Previously, Prosser served as the Chief Marketing Officer of NYSE-listed currency brokerage firm, FXCM.

Oct 20, 2014

Celebrating Women’s Small Business Month

Female-owned small businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors in the business world. According to American Express OPEN’s 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, more than 9.1 million women have taken charge of their careers and started their own businesses. Those entrepreneurs generate $1.4 trillion in revenue and employ almost 7.9 million people.

Here at Guidant, we’ve had the honor of working with many strong women who’ve been courageous enough to pursue their passions and start their own small businesses. Since October is Women’s Small Business Month, we’d like to send a shout out to some of our leading lady clients who’ve taken the leap into entrepreneurship. Here are just a few of them who used our services to finance a small business or franchise:

  • After enduring a series of layoffs, Bohnne Jones followed her dream and established her own Decorating Den franchise. Check out the video below to learn more about how her unemployment fueled her entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Karyn Brown worked in the insurance industry for 20 years when she decided to launch a Mosquito Squad franchise over the summer. Using her extensive business background, she hit the ground running, and her business is already off to a solid start. Learn how she financed her franchise in her press release.
  • For Sharon Streb, attending graduate school in Italy when she was almost 50 sparked her interest in starting a business. She opened an Oil & Vinegar franchise after falling in love with Italian olive oil. Now, she’s enjoying the freedom that comes from working for herself. Learn more about Streb’s journey in this press release announcing her business. 
Three cheers for women!   

Oct 17, 2014

Apple Pay, iPad Air 2 and Yosemite: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Apple held its second product release event in six weeks yesterday. While most of the announcements were no surprise after last month’s product launch that unveiled the iPhone 6, there are a few new products and features that will impact small businesses. Here are four of the most important:
  • Apple Pay will go live on Monday, Oct. 20. The 220,000 stores that have installed near-field communication readers will put them to the test next week, allowing consumers to pay for products with just a bump of their Apple devices. Partners offering the new payment method include Subway, Panera, Starbucks, Walgreens, Whole Foods and Uber. Will it be the beginning of a revolution in simple-pay systems?
  • The new iPad Air 2 will be 40 percent faster but even thinner than last year’s version, perfect for entrepreneurs who enjoy working without being tied to a desk. The new device is only 6.1 millimeters thick — smaller than the new iPhones by 1 millimeter. The iPad Mini 3 will also be a great tool for business owners on the go.
  • The new tablets will read fingerprints, making them more secure than past versions. This is especially important in the wake of recent hacks on businesses, banks and celebrities. The new feature will allow users to unlock their devices and launch apps by just scanning a finger, preventing sneaky hackers from gaining access.
  • New Mac software will easily sync desktop computers with mobile devices. For business owners who want to work on the same project on different devices, your wish is Apple’s command. Thanks to the new Mac operating software, called Yosemite, users will be able to start a task on one device and continue working on another device seamlessly.

Oct 16, 2014

That annoying pumpkin spice craze? It’s good for business.

Each year when Starbucks announces it’s time for its annual Pumpkin Spice Latte to return, folks line up in anticipation, sending social media into a tailspin. Since the drink was invented after meticulous laboratory research 11 years ago, thirsty customers have sipped more than 200 million of them. Yes, 200 million

But the pumpkin spice revelation was not only good for Starbucks; it was great for hundreds, if not thousands of brands – large and small – that capitalized on the popular flavor to create their own concoctions.

There are: PumpkinSpice Eggos, Pumpkin Spice Milanos, Pumpkin Spice Tea, Pumpkin Spice Oreos. There’s even a Deep Fried Pumpkin Spice Latte.

But the madness doesn’t end at food …

There are also beauty and home products, such as: Pumpkin Spice Hand Repair Cream, PumpkinSpice Goat Milk Soap, Pumpkin Spice Room Spray and Pumpkin Spice Sea Salt Scrub.

Sure, a lot of people make fun of the mania, but if you’re lucky enough to own a business that has ridden the coattails of Starbucks’ success, you’re probably laughing all the way to the bank.

Oct 15, 2014

Lowering Prices at the Pump Lessens Burden on Small Businesses

Gas prices as of late have placed a huge burden on small businesses with company cars. With prices soaring to more than $4/gallon in the past few years, it’s been tough for business owners to keep their tanks full. But there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel — gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in four years. 

Thanks to fears of a price war between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers, prices are below $3/gallon at one-third of gas stations in the U.S., and they’re expected to keep falling. According to a MarketWatch article, the national average currently sits at $3.176/gallon, but the average price is already under $3 in 10 states. And AAA reports consumers can find gas for less than $3 in at least one station in 45 states, except Alaska, California, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming. 


Oil prices have been falling since June due to low demand in a sluggish global economy. The International Energy Agency cut its 2014 oil demand growth forecast to its lowest in five years, but oil output has continued to rise.  


How will the lower gas prices affect your small business? Have you already found a gas station under $3/gallon? Let us know in the comments section.
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