4 Ways to Grow Your Business During the Holidays

‘Tis the season for gift giving, get-togethers and … business growth?

Whether you want to thank current customers, reach new customers or boost sales, the holidays can give you prime opportunities to grow your business and build brand recognition.

We’ve compiled a few ideas to help you give your business the gift of success. Oh, and we’ve included an idea that’s just for you, because there’s no better time to give yourself a little time off and recharge your batteries!

1. EXHIBIT AT A HOLIDAY POP-UP MARKET.

Your city is likely host to a number of pop-up artisan, maker and other holiday markets throughout the holiday season. Whether you’ve exhibited multiple times or this is your first show, why not add your business to the exhibitor line-up?

If you’ve exhibited before, participating in a holiday pop-up market can help you reach a different audience. And if you haven’t exhibited before, the cozy, more intimate feel of most holiday pop-up markets can give you a welcome environment in which to sell your goods or services.

Since holiday pop-up markets are traditionally hosted on a smaller scale than other types of events or conventions, check with event organizers or a fellow exhibitor to get the scoop on your booth space. You may find, especially if you’ve exhibited before, that you can scale back your typical display. Regardless of the space constraints, you’ll want to be sure you have basic booth supplies: a table cover, signage, business cards and other collateral, plenty of product and the appropriate display fixtures.

In addition to selling your goods or services, look for other ways you can use the holiday pop-up market to your business’s advantage. If you have an email newsletter, for example, set out a sign-up sheet so that people can opt-in. Be sure to post on your company’s social media channels with the applicable event hashtags and handles. And if time allows, carve out a few minutes to network with your fellow exhibitors and learn more about what other local entrepreneurs are doing.

2. CONNECT WITH CUSTOMERS.

The holidays are the perfect time of year to thank your customers by sending a personalized holiday card or even a small gift. Work with your local commercial printer to design and print an eye-catching branded holiday card. You might also make a list of key customers, stakeholders and supporters (and check it twice!) and send them a small token of your thanks. You certainly don’t need to compromise your budget on gifts, but a thoughtfully selected gift can leave a lasting impression on the recipient, which likely translates into continued brand loyalty and support.

Stuck on what to give? Shop local! There’s likely no shortage of incredible brands and makers in your community. Not only will you delight your recipients, but you’ll also support a fellow entrepreneur. And if your recipient list is relatively short (and your budget allows), try assembling a locally themed gift box that celebrates some of your city’s best flavors and finds. Consider a bag of local coffee, a colorful coffee mug and a locally made sweet treat; or two pieces of locally made glassware paired with a local wine or spirit. Add a short handwritten note and you’ll have everything you need to surprise and delight your recipients.

3. LAUNCH A HOLIDAY PROMOTION.

Breaking news: people spend a lot of money during the holiday season! Shocking, right? With so much buying activity, this is an ideal time of year to launch your own holiday promotion.

The details, of course, depend on what you sell. Popular promotions include free shipping, a percentage off your purchase, gift with purchase or introducing a new, limited edition item. As you decide the specifics of your promotion, keep in mind your customers and your bottom line. For some small businesses, for example, offering free shipping — or even a flat shipping rate — can be cost-prohibitive, erasing any possible net gains of the promotion. Be sure to do the math before you commit to an idea.

One other tip? Think a few steps ahead of your promotion. A holiday promotion is, of course, intended to drive sales. But how can you use that promotion to get people to come back and buy from you once the holidays are over? You could include a coupon in their order. Or enclose a postcard or other brief informational piece that highlights other products. By keeping your long-term goals in mind, you’re more likely to avoid customers who simply swoop in for the deal and never return.

Whatever type of promotion you decide to launch, be sure to carefully track it so that you can measure performance and decide if it’s something you want to do again. And don’t forget to promote your promotion! If you’re exhibiting at a holiday pop-up market, whip up a brief postcard with details on the promotion. If you have email subscribers, send them an announcement so that they can take advantage. You could even generate some anticipation by teasing the announcement, then revealing the promotion on a specified date on your website, social media platforms and any other marketing channels you use.

4. TREAT YOURSELF WITH TIME OFF.

Entrepreneurs typically don’t have much — if any — downtime. But the holidays are an ideal time to give yourself the gift of a break. After all, you’ll likely have plans to celebrate with family and friends, and you should do what you can to soak up every minute.

Look for other opportunities to take at least one day off and do something you love … or, better yet, nothing at all! It’s easy to guilt yourself into working, but you deserve a break. And it will help keep you rested, energized and at a lower risk for burnout. With a little holiday R&R, you’ll be refreshed and ready to conquer your 2019 business goals.

We’ll leave you with one last gift: the gift of knowledge! If you find yourself in need of resources or insight regarding a particular business topic, register for Kauffman FastTrac, our free online course that helps you launch your business. If you’re post-launch, that’s no problem — you might just find a helpful refresher or information about a topic you hadn’t yet considered. The best part about Kauffman FastTrac? It’s self-paced, so you can learn on your own time, including in your holiday PJs! Hot cocoa is optional.

5 Tips to Find an Insurance Broker

Creating a business involves a lot of risk. But successful entrepreneurs learn how to mitigate those risks to improve their odds of success. One of the best ways to mitigate risks is purchasing insurance. There are many different kinds of insurance available to new and existing businesses, including general liability, errors and omissions, property, and more.

You should research options but, more importantly, you should find and work with a good insurance agent or broker to analyze your risk and purchase the appropriate policies for your business.

Here are 5 tips to help you find the right insurance professional for you.

COMMERCIAL V. PERSONAL

To begin, you should recognize that many insurance professionals specialize in only personal policies such as life insurance, personal property insurance, auto insurance, and the like. While these professionals know more about insurance than you, it doesn’t mean they understand the world of commercial insurance policies. That’s why you should always seek out a professional that has experience working with businesses (and if you are a new business, then someone with experience working with new businesses). That way, you can make sure you are not missing an important policy such as a directors and officers liability policy.

If you already have a great relationship with your personal insurance professional but they don’t do business policies, ask for a referral. They are bound to know many other agents and brokers (more on referrals below).

AGENTS V. BROKERS

You should also note that insurance agents and brokers are not the same thing. Insurance agents will look for policies from only one specific carrier (unless they are an independent agent). While they may have a good policy at a good rate for you, they may not. That’s why it might make more sense for you to speak to a broker. Insurance brokers will seek policies from multiple carriers. This means they can shop around for different policies at different prices and you may find a better overall fit by going through a broker.

YOUR UNIQUE NEEDS

It’s true that many businesses have similar risks such as general liability, property, and auto. Those are pretty standard and are fairly easy to cover with insurance.

However, you should always consider what unique risks apply to your business and then consider whether you need to speak to a unique insurance professional about those risks. For example, if you run a construction company building high-rises, you’ll certainly have a greater risk of injury for your workers. On the other hand, if you spend your entire career building creative assets, you may have greater risk exposure for copyright infringement.

Accordingly, you should seek out an insurance professional that has experience in those areas and who can help you find the appropriate policies to mitigate those risks. And most importantly, keep in mind that certain risks (for example, intellectual property insurance) require special policies for coverage.

CONSIDER HOW THEY WORK

As with searching for any other professional, consider how your prospective insurance professional works. Some prefer emails, some prefer phone calls, and others prefer in-person meetings. In either event, make sure you and your insurance professional share similar working habits to avoid poor communication.

GET A REFERRAL

Without a doubt, the best way to find a good insurance broker or agent for your business is to get a referral. First, ask fellow business owners (especially owners of similar businesses) who they use and whether they are happy with their relationship. From there, you can check in with various trade organizations and entrepreneurial support groups in your city and you can ask your state insurance regulator for a list of professionals (or find a list on their website).

READY TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS?

If you are trying to start or grow a business, you should consider getting all the help you can get. One great resource is the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program. You can sign up for free courses and entrepreneurial resources at www.fasttrac.org.

Picking the Right Accountant for Your Small Business

Most successful entrepreneurs have mastered the most important metric – their financials. They are so important that you should consider your financials at every step along your entrepreneurial journey from writing your business plan to starting your business and growing.

However, you’ll almost always be best served by working with a good accountant that can help you create projections, manage your books, and provide strategic advice about your financial situation. This post will give you some tips on how to find a good accountant for your business.

GET A GOOD REFERRAL

The best way to find a good accountant for your business is to talk with other business owners. If you are not already connected to other business owners, then consider going to various networking events in your city to meet some. They can often provide the best advice on which accountants are good (or bad) and which ones are most likely to understand your business. That’s a big key because finding an accountant that is already familiar with your business model and industry can make things much easier on you.

If you can’t get a referral from a fellow business owner, consider reaching out to local organizations that might have a resource list or look for someone recommended by your accounting software provider (for example, Xero and Freshbooks both maintain directories of financial professionals).

UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY DO

There are many different types of financial professionals out there–from Accountants to CPAs, CFOs, and more. Some offer tax preparation and filing, some offer forecasting services, and others offer strategic financial advice, among other services.

It’s not important that you understand the entire industry today, but you need to know what you are looking for. Most likely, you’ll simply need an accountant for now to help you set up your financial records. This often entails setting up your chart of accounts so you can properly track the money coming into, and going out of, your company. From there, your accountant can help to make sure you are paying your taxes properly throughout the year (sales taxes, use taxes, employment taxes, etc.). And finally, they can help you to prepare and file your taxes at the close of each tax year.

You should ask your accountant if they can do all of those things and what else they can provide. If they are not comfortable playing the role of a CFO, then you may need to seek additional financial professionals to supplement your accountant.

UNDERSTAND HOW THEY CHARGE

Many accountants simply charge hourly for their services. But more and more are offering packaged services, whether it’s a fixed monthly fee for a set package of services or a fixed fee per tax return filing.

In either event, it is important that you understand what bill you are going to get in the mail for their services so you are not caught off guard. This is especially true for hourly billers. You should always ask for estimates and, when applicable, a cap on their fees (or at least an email notice if they go over some pre-determined number of hours).

MAKE SURE THEY WORK LIKE YOU

This may be the most important tip–always interview the accountants on your short list to make sure they work like you. For example, if you prefer to do everything in the cloud, don’t hire an accountant that plans to mail you a bunch of paper. Or if you plan to manage your books day-to-day and only call on them for occasional advice, make sure they are okay with that.

DON’T STOP HERE!

Finding a good accountant is just one of many things you have to do when starting and growing a business. If you are looking for more entrepreneurial advice, check out the Kauffman Foundation’s free FastTrac program at www.fasttrac.org where you can take online courses to learn how to become a successful entrepreneur.