How do Certifications affect your Business? Thursday, Sep 18 2014 

Certifications could benefit your business! Your company could greatly benefit from certifications if you invest time to learn, understand, and market the certification(s). Federal, state, and local municipalities have established certification initiatives to assist small businesses in securing contracting opportunities. Certification initiatives have designated contracting goals on each project. As a certified firm, you could be the prime contractor or a subcontractor on the project. As the prime, you have the majority percentage of the total value of the contract. For example, a construction project with a total value of $250,000 could have a designated 20% or $50k goal for a certified business. If your company is certified, then you meet the 20% as a subcontractor or you could be the prime. Conversely using the same scenario. Another company could be the prime and you could be the subcontractor doing 20% of the total value of the contract, which is set-aside ONLY for a certified business.Certified Certifications

 How does a business get certified? All certifications have an application process and they vary from agency to agency. Most applications are available online and some can be submitted electronically while others have to be mailed in. Some certifications have interview task attached.

 Length: The length of being certified varies.  Some certifications have an end date such as the federal 8a Certification – 9 years. Some certifications have an annual re-certification process, which requires submitting information to get initially certified and the submitting updated information that proves that your company still qualifies for the designated certification. Submission information could include business tax returns, personal tax returns, and financial statements.

Cost: The majority of certifications are free, your only cost is the time it will take to package your application. Federal, state and local certifications are free. Third party agencies, or agencies that administer the certification process on behalf on another agency, charge a fee to obtain certifications.  These certifications range between $250 -$350, on average.

 Research: I recommend that you research ALL certifications that your company can qualify for and evaluate. If you decide that certification is an option your company would like to pursue, then consider doing the certifications you select at the same time. Most certifications will ask for the same or similar information – so maximize time and do it all at the same time.

Remember, just because you have a certification does not mean that new business will simply start appearing. Certification is another tool for you to use in your arsenal of marketing strategies.

 

Author:

Tiya Scroggins, MBA

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RESPONDING TO RFPs Monday, Jul 14 2014 

RFPs are also known as Request for Proposals. They are different from RFQs or Request for Qualifications. RFQs are requesting information specifically on the Qualification of the firm and/or the professionals that would be working on the project. A RFP would include not only information on the qualification of the firm, but also information, such as: a Q&A comment sections with time deadlines, technical proposal, cost proposal, specifications on how the proposal must be submitted, such as “seal envelope” or “5 copies” or “electric copies.” In short, the RFP is more detailed and requires more work because the response will require more information.RFP-Sml

The RFP WILL have a page limit. Make sure you do not go over the page limit, no matter how tempted you are to provide more information, brochures, or videos. The technical proposal will provide the detailed narrative on the proposed company or team, past performance, methodologies and approaches, organizational structure, and organizational charts. The cost proposal is the detailed cost allocation for your services. It would include personnel, fringe benefits, contractual, consultants, supplies, equipment and miscellaneous expenses to name a few. If copies are required, produce the exact amount of requested copies. If an electronic copy is required, then copy all documents onto the jump drive or CD. During submittal, obtain proof that your proposal was submitted on time via electronic reply, signature or stamp from agency with date and time.

FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS, NO EXCEPTIONS!

Marketing Tools for You Monday, Jun 2 2014 

Marketing Tools for You

Let’s face it; marketing your business can be extremely difficult or extremely easy. For small businesses, getting started can be a monster challenge. When looking at very large corporation accounts and media, it is difficult for a beginning or small businesses to imagine how they are able to master or use the same techniques as their largest competitors. Finding simple marketing techniques to assist in the building or supplementing your current techniques are a few steps that can be taken to learn different forms of marketing. Listed below are 6 forms of marketing tools that are a must to affirm the true message of your business.marketing-300x300

1. Voicemail – Develop a message that relays the information of your business in a courteous and pleasing manner. Make sure to include the basics: a Thanks (“Thank You for calling Edwin Hardware…”), your time of operation (“We are open 9-5 Monday thru Saturday”), invite them to leave a message and tell them how “Please leave a message with your name, number, and the reason for your call”), then finally tell them you WILL get back with them. Most importantly CHECK YOUR MESSAGES DAILY (Mainly three times a day: Opening, Midday, and two hours before close of business. Two hours usually gives customers enough time to come to your location before the end of day.)!

2. Brochures – brochures are a type of paper media that benefit companies by telling the customers the mission, main products, contact information, etc. Brochures are extremely beneficial at trade shows and conferences. Key Fact: Make your brochure unique through graphics, di-cuts, or by shapes.

3. Press Release & Newsletters – Press Releases and Newsletters are great ways to show the inside of your business for your customers and community members. Press Releases (“PR”) showcase what you do that is new, interesting, or beneficial to the community. They can be distributed through local, county/parish, or state publishing papers, websites, or television stations. Try Volusion Press Releases for free distribution sites. Newsletters maybe sent out through paper or email mediums. They are an extremely useful way to keep in touch with your customers, send promotions, and support repeat purchases.

 

4. Referrals – Referrals can either make you or break you in some industries. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on products/services. Push word-of-mouth referrals and create brand ambassadors through your extremely satisfied customers. Promotion Idea: Ask your customers for 3-5 referrals and they receive 20-30% off a purchase.

5. Case Studies – Case Studies can be used to establish your company as a professional source of information/knowledge and explain products functions/benefits. Note: Offer your individual case study on your website and social media to assist potential buyers in their decisions.

6. Well-Designed Website – For your website, it must have a logical layout and be aesthetically appealing to your customers. If your website is confusing, it will affect your business. Know your target market, design your website for customers in similar and different to your industry.

 

Assessing Staff Thursday, May 22 2014 

Staffers are essential to the success of any firm and assessments are recommended at least once per year. This process is a team effort involving both the manager/supervisor and the staffer. Assess each staffer individually, never as a group. Staffers should also know when the assessment will occur. Staffers should know what you expect of them via an agreement Imageestablished when they were hired. The assessment addresses areas expected via the employment agreement. The assessment may include some of the following: performance report, job description, employee self-evaluation, employee handbook, and if need be, an IDP or Individual Development Plan.

The assessment provides the staffer with his or her strengths, outlines major accomplishments during the review period, and provides suggestions on improving the employee’s performance. If there are issues to improve, then use an IDP.  The IDP is used to address short and long-term career goals and development goals for the next review period. Both manager/supervisor and employee agree on the assessment.

Employees versus Independent Contractors Thursday, May 1 2014 

Employees versus Independent Contractors

When you hire someone, should they be an employee or an independent contractor? Maybe they would be both, but at different times. An employee is one that is paid a salary or hourly wages for working for your business. He/she works an assigned time, at a specific location and you provide the necessary material/supplies/equipment for them to complete their work. Employees are paid an agreed upon amount and set pay day. The business is responsible for paying the employee on time as well as withholding taxes from the employee’s paycheck and submitting all withholding taxes by their designated deadline (federal and state). . Lastly, the business is responsible for paying its share of employee taxes (the business’s portion) of employee with-holdings plus any workmen’s compensation on employees. Yes, it cost more than the hourly wage you pay your employee(s) to have an employee(s). An employee receives a W-2 form at the end of the year, mailed by January 31. The deadline for each business is dependent on your structure aEmployees vs Contractornd/or number of employees, etc. The exact timeline and reporting requirements can be found at www.irs.gov.

 

An independent contractor is an individual or business that provides its own material/supplies/equipment to complete a job for you. In other words, you do not tell them how to accomplish a job/work, you simply contract with them to perform a service. They supply the knowledge and resources to get the task accomplished. Independent contractors are paid an agreed upon amount at an agreed upon pay date. You should have agreements identifying tasks to be delivered with completion dates. An independent contractor receives a 1099 form for work completed in a fiscal year mailed by January 31. No taxes are withheld from their checks. They are responsible for their own taxes.

So, now that you know the difference between employees versus independent contractors, which one is applicable to you and your business?