Idea for April
Small Business Resource Center

The Value of Customer Loyalty

Your customers are probably your most valuable business assets. In the increasingly competitive world, it is essential to keep existing customers as well as get new ones. Consider steps that can increase your customers' loyalty and maximize the value of those relationships.

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Alma Bank

Organizing and managing a business is not always simple. We have created the Small Business Resource Center to make those tasks easier. The Guidelines and Checklists in the Resource Center provide practical information that can help you address some of the most important issues your business faces. The articles in the Financial Library cover many topics that you may find interesting and useful on a regular basis.

Guidelines to plan your business
Considerations When Starting a Business Preparing a Business Plan
Preparing a Marketing Plan Preparing to Borrow
Creating an Employee Benefits Program Choosing a Retirement Plan for Your Business
Preparing a Disaster Recovery Plan  
Checklists to manage your business on a daily basis
Potential Employee Interview Employee Performance Review
Marketing Through the Mail Preparing for a Business Speech
Exhibiting at a Trade Show Renting a Business Location
Reviewing Your Insurance Needs  
Small Business Library to help you and your business
Starting a Business Human Resources
Retirement Planning Marketing Issues
Financial Issues General Business Issues
Calculators to help you monitor the financial dynamics of your business

We recognize that business owners and managers face many challenges in running their business and managing their personal finances. We are committed to providing the services and solutions to help you reach your financial goals and to make your business successful.

Starting a Business

Considerations When Starting a Business - Making the decision to start a business can be frightening and exciting. This article provides some insights into some of the critical decisions you should consider before taking that big step.

Working From Home or From an Office - Many small businesses start in a spare room or in a basement and then move to a rented office as they grow. Whether you are considering starting a new business or considering a move, this article highlights some issues to consider.

Avoiding Common Small Business Startup Problems - After an entrepreneur makes the decision to start a business, there are hundreds or thousands of decisions that must be made and actions that must be taken. This article offers some insights into issues that may be faced in the early stages of a business.

Choosing the Right Legal Form for Your Business - Learn how different types of structures can help you achieve your objectives. This article addresses issues regarding taxation, ownership and managing of your business.

Developing a Business Plan - Having a business plan can make running your business easier. Your advisors, creditors and others will better understand your business after reviewing your plan.

Choosing the Right Legal Advisor - Not all attorneys have the experience or the right attitude to work with small business owners. Learn some of the questions to ask when evaluating an attorney.

Choosing the Right Accountant - The income and estate tax issues facing small businesses and their owners are not always simple. Choosing an advisor that can truly help you and your business is important.

Leasing a Location for Your Business - The right location, with the right amenities at the right price can add to your success. Learn some of the key things to look for when leasing a location.

Evaluating Franchises - Franchising has become a popular way to start and operate a business. Learn some of the risks and benefits of this way of doing business.

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Human Resources

Interviewing Job Applicants - Good employees are critical for the success of any business. Asking the right questions during a job interview can help you make the right employee decisions.

The Importance of Job Descriptions - Giving employees an understanding of what is expected will help them perform better. It can also help in the evaluation, promotion or termination of the employee.

Evaluating Your Employees - While performance evaluations are seldom looked forward to, they can be a critical and valuable step in effectively managing your business.

Motivating and Managing Employees - Making sure your employees are properly carrying out their roles is critical for the success of your business. Here are some ideas that can make that process easier and more effective.

Terminating An Employee - No matter how carefully you hire employees, there will be a time when you must terminate an employee. If you do it carefully, you can reduce the risk of any legal action and maybe learn something that will help in running your business.

Creating and Using an Employee Benefits Policy - Hiring, retaining and motivating qualified employees is one of the greatest tasks facing many small businesses. Learn what to consider as part of an employee benefits policy and how to maximize its effectiveness.

Providing an Employee Benefit Program - Your total compensation plan must serve to attract, retain and motivate your employees. While wages and retirement plans may be the largest components of your plan, other options can be very important to employees and often inexpensive for the company.

Employing a Family Member in Your Business - There are benefits of having a spouse, child or other relative as an employee. Learn some of these benefits (and potential pitfalls) of hiring a family member.

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Retirement Planning

Reviewing Your Company's Retirement Plan Options - Choosing the right retirement plan is a critical issue for most businesses. Understanding contribution limits, eligibility, vesting, costs and the business's objectives can make decisions easier.

Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) - SEPs have helped many businesses provide a valuable employee benefit with the costs and difficulties of other types of plans. Learn how a SEP may be helpful for your business and your personal wealth creation.

Evaluating a 401(k) Plan for Your Business - This flexible form of qualified retirement plan has become very popular with businesses and employees. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of using this type of plan to attract, retain and motivate employees.

Maximizing Retirement Plan Contributions for Small Businesses - Small business owners have many options to accumulate funds for retirement and reduce current income tax liabilities. SEP's, SIMPLE-IRA's and even one-person 401(k) plans can be used very effectively. It usually comes down to questions of funding and financial priorities.

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Have a Marketing Plan - Having a written marketing plan can make everyday decision making easier and save you time. Here are some ideas to use when creating a plan.

Following Up on Sales Leads - New customers are the life-blood of most businesses. Once you get the lead, there are several ways to stay in touch. The keys are to follow up consistently and efficiently.

Prioritizing Your Follow-up of Sales Prospects Effectively - New customers and new orders are critical for the growth of your business. This article provides a guide for prioritizing categories of leads for follow up.

Giving Customers the Respect They Want and Deserve - Keeping existing customers, as well as finding new ones, is more critical than ever. Better understanding the customer relationship from the customer's point of view can help you strengthen, lengthen and leverage one of your most valuable business assets - your customer relationships.

The Value of Customer Loyalty - Your customers are probably your most valuable business assets. In the increasingly competitive world, it is essential to keep existing customers as well as get new ones. Consider steps that can increase your customers' loyalty and maximize the value of those relationships.

The Art and Science of Generating Referrals - Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable. Learn some of the when's and how's to make the process more effective and easier.

Using the Trade Press to Generate Results - Trade publications you and your customers read are an ideal way to spread the word about your company. Following a few steps can help you take advantage of this "free" advertising.

Marketing with Direct Mail - Marketing through the mail is effective for some and not for others. Learn some of the ways to evaluate and use this marketing tactic.

Marketing With Newsletters - Finding ways to stay in touch with customers and prospects is critical for the success of your business. Newsletters provide "a reason and a means" to communicate. Learn why many companies use newsletters to keep interested parties informed.

Creating a Public Relations Campaign - Favorable media exposure can increase business. One way to do get noticed is to spend money with advertising. The other way is to effectively use press releases and relationships with publication writers. Public relations can take time, but the costs are minimal.

Trade Show Marketing - Industry gatherings and conferences can be an ideal way of getting your marketing messages in front of potential buyers. This article helps identify what types of shows may be best and how to use your attendance or exhibiting more effectively.

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Financial Issues

Choosing the Right Checking Account for Your Business - Having the right checking account and potentially linked interest bearing account for idle cash balances can enhance the operations of any business. This article explains what to look for in a checking account and other accounts to maximize the earnings on balances.

Preparing and Using an Effective Cash Flow Statement - Most small businesses live and die by their cash flow. This article offers some suggestions on preparing a cash flow statement that will help you better understand your cash flow and potentially some ways to improve it.

Enhancing Your Cash Flow Dynamics - Cash flow and time are most owners' most valuable commodities. A few simple ideas may help your cash flow.

Getting Ready to Borrow - At some point, almost every business will need to borrow money. Being prepared for the loan application and approval process can make the whole experience less stressful.

Equipment Leasing - Leasing a piece of equipment can help with your monthly cash flow. Learn how equipment leases work and issues to consider when making the buy or lease decision.

Small Business Administration Loans - The SBA program has been the source of capital for thousands of small businesses. Doing some homework can help you evaluate this source of capital and make the application process easier.

Business Insurance - There are several types of insurance that every business should have. Make sure you have the right types of coverage for your business.

Professional Business Brokers - If you are considering buying a business or selling yours, you should understand how these individuals can be of assistance. Learn what to look for and what to look out for.

Business Succession Planning - Don't let an unforeseen tragic event cause too much disruption in your business. Here are few steps to take "just in case."

Key Person Insurance - Many businesses use life insurance as part of funding any buy/sell agreement that may be in place. Life insurance can also be helpful in protecting the business against the unfortunate death of a key member of the business.

Buy/Sell Agreements - Many partnerships (and businesses with multiple owners) use buy/sell agreements to address ownership change issues. These agreements can be valuable in case of retirement, business disagreements and death or disability.

Keeping the Right Tax Information - Learn what type of information must be kept and for how long to satisfy the IRS. You may find that you are keeping more than you need.

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General Business Issues

Building Stronger Customer Relationships - Strengthening existing customer relationships can be one of the best ways to generate continuing and increasing sales. This article provides some insights into what customers want from their vendors.

Learning When You Lose a Customer - Losing a customer is seldom pleasant. But, many businesses learn from those experiences. Knowing why a customer left may help you from losing others.

Monitoring Your Competitors - Knowing what your competitors are doing can help your business in several ways. It can help you overcome current obstacles and provide ideas for future growth.

Opportunities on the Internet - The Internet is changing the way we live and also changing how consumers and businesses interact with other businesses. While not every business needs an Internet presence, many do. This article provides some ideas on how to use the Internet to help grow your business.

Using the Internet for Market Research - The amount of online information on your customers and your competitors is immense. Learn some places to look for information that can help you and your business.

Naming a Product - The first impression a prospect has about your products will probably be greatly influenced by the name of those products. Finding the right combination of descriptive and memorable words can help.

Avoid Cannibalizing Sales with a New Product - Most businesses are constantly trying to add new products or services. The challenge is to be sure that nay new offering increases the top line without sacrificing the bottom line.

Preparing for a Business Speech - Opportunities to speak in front of customers and others should be seized and capitalized on. Many business managers let the anxiety of public speaking prevent them from taking full advantage of these opportunities.

Improving Your Listening Skills - Communication is a two way process. Only by understanding what customers, prospects, employees and others are truly saying can you respond effectively. Learn some techniques that can help you be a better communicator.

Enhance Your Telephone Skills - Everyday you probably spend hours on the phone with customers, prospects, vendors and others. Learn how to make those conversations more productive and potentially shorter.

Writing Effective Email Messages - Email has become the communication of choice for many. This article offers some tips on how to make your business email messages more effective.

Making Work Life More Productive - Some people truly enjoy their jobs and accomplish a great deal. Others do not. This article explores some ways to help employees feel better about their job and be more productive. There may even be some tips the business manager can use.

Have a Disaster Recovery Plan - Are you prepared if your business is hit with a flood, fire or other disaster? This article explores steps to consider to prepare for the unexpected.

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Disclaimer - The information and articles in this Small Business Resource Center are meant to be educational in nature. Each person must consider his or her objectives, risk tolerances and level of comfort when making financial decisions. In many cases, seeking the advice of competent professional advisors can ensure the decisions you make will be best suited for your situation.