Business Owners: Are You Guilty Of Negligence?…

If you’ve recently started a business, I’m sure you’re quickly discovering just how much goes into making it a success. Your big idea is just the start of it. From there, you need to think about your HR, marketing, IT infrastructure and a whole host of other factors. With so much going on, it’s essential to make sure you don’t neglect anything important. Here are some things that you simply can’t afford to neglect…

Office Data Backup

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article | Entrepreneurship | Business Owners: Are You Guilty Of Negligence?...
Photo courtesy of Torkild Retvedt via flickr

Office data backup is something that you’ll hopefully never have to use, but you’ll be glad you have it if and when the need arises. Backing up your office data is a great insurance policy against the unexpected. Files can be wiped from your servers, sabotaged by a disgruntled employee, or some kind of freak disaster could damage the servers beyond repair. By regularly backing up all your company’s important data, you’ll be able to get the company up and running again soon afterwards. Despite the massive importance of backing up, a lot of small businesses manage to overlook it completely. If you haven’t already, take a look at your options and set up a dependable system for backing up your files.

The Employee Handbook

Neglecting this part of your business is usually a side-effect of rapid growth. In the early days of your business, when there’s only you and a few employees, any kind of solid HR policies aren’t really that necessary. However, when your business starts to grow and develop as an organization, you’ll need to take on a lot more staff. This means you’re going to need some solid rules in place. A good employee handbook will introduce new recruits to the company’s core values, mission and culture, will tell them what’s expected of them, but most importantly, it will tell them what’s permissible and what’s not. By taking the time to draft an employee handbook, you’ll protect yourself from all kinds of costly litigation and disputes. Whether you do it all on your own steam or reach out to an employment law firm like Ellis Whittam, an employee handbook is an absolute must. Just a few printed words can make all the difference to your company’s future!

A Good CRM

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article | Entrepreneurship | Business Owners: Are You Guilty Of Negligence?...

CRMs, short for customer relationship management platforms, are great tools for managing your company’s interactions with both current and prospective customers. With one of these in place, your company will enjoy better workflow, will be able to automate various tasks, increase the number of sales leads you’re getting and generally increase productivity. Although these auxiliary programs were once considered a luxury, an increasing number of firms are using them, and they’re quickly becoming something of an essential resource for any modern business. Despite what you may have been led to believe, CRMs aren’t exclusive to big businesses anymore, and the packages on the market are getting more and more cost-effective all the time.

As you move forward with your business, make sure you’re not neglecting any of these and holding your firm back from what it can achieve!

Facts About LLCs All Business Owners Should Know

A Limited Liability Company or an LLC is a company structure that borrows some features from Corporations and others from Partnerships.

Similar to Corporations, LLCs provide you with a huge advantage in the form of limited liability protection. On the other hand, LLCs have a flow-through taxation structure, just like it is in Partnerships.

In a nutshell, LLCs can be considered hybrids.

If you are someone who is looking to form their own LLC, take a step back. First, consider the pros and cons of LLCs carefully.
What Are the Advantages of LLCs?

Let’s first check out the advantages of forming LLCs:

  • Forming LLCs is easy and also relatively inexpensive.
  • Because of the limited liability feature of LLCs, none of the members is liable to pay the debts of the LLC personally.
  • The members of the LLC can decide how they want the profits to be distributed.
  • You don’t need to maintain formal records of resolutions or meetings for LLCs.
  • LLCs do not have a double taxation system.

What Are the Disadvantages of LLCs?

While LLCs do offer a lot of advantages for small business owners, they do also have their own drawbacks.

Here are some of the disadvantages of LLCs:

  • Federal, as well as state-level filings, are required for all LLCs.
  • You need to pay state filing fees for the year when you form the company, and every year consequently.
  • An LLC isn’t the best structure for companies with investors who want to make their companies public.

Now that you have a balanced perspective on LLCs, you can make an informed decision. If you are still interested in forming your own LLC, here is what you need to do.

Steps to Form Your Own LLC

The first step to form your LLC is to apply for your LLC EIN (Employer Identification Number). Once you get it, you need to file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.

That’s not all.

In addition to this, you are also required to make an operating agreement for your LLC. This agreement should outline the financial as well as functional frameworks for your LLC.

It should also clearly define responsibilities and profit distribution between members. Although creating an operating agreement isn’t a requirement in all states, it is recommended that you make one.

Want to know more about forming LLCs? Check out the infographic below by GovDocFiling.

The Essentials Facts of LLCs You Need to Know as a Small Business Owner

Image Courtesy: GovDocFiling

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Brett ShapiroBrett Shapiro is a co-owner of GovDocFiling. He had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was young. He started GovDocFiling, a simple resource center that takes care of the mundane, yet critical, formation documentation for any new business entity.

10 Top Tips For Starting Your Own Business At Home

StrategyDriven Starting Your Business Article | 10 Top Tips For Starting Your Own Business At Home

If you’re thinking of starting your own business at home but you don’t know where to begin then don’t worry, you have definitely come to the right place. Whether you’re starting a business as a result of COVID-19 or you’ve had a business idea in mind for years, you need to be sure you’re doing all you can to make your first year a success. Whilst it may be overwhelming at first, there are lots of tips and tricks you can pick up to ensure you’re doing your best. From determining your target audience to creating a routine that you easily can work to each day, the more you’re doing to help your business succeed the better. With that in mind, here are 10 top tips for starting your own business at home:

Consider What Your Business Is Going To Do And How You’re Going To Make Money

One of the first things you need to do when it comes to starting your own business is to think about what your business is going to be doing and how you’re going to be making a profit from it. Although it may seem obvious, people often forget about this stage of their business plan.

If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is write down all of the products and services you’re thinking of offering, focussing on the value each of them will bring to the customer. Once you have done that, you will be able to think about a price point. If it helps, you may want to consider looking at your competitors and what they’re doing. When it comes to doing your first competitor analysis, you may want to do a little bit of research first.

Write A Detailed Description Of Your Target Audience

In order to create a business that is going to succeed, you need to think about who your target audience is. Whilst it may take some time, you need to ask yourself as many different questions as you can in order to create the perfect customer avatar.

Questions you may want to consider asking yourself include:

  • How old are they
  • Are they male or female?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What do they like to watch on TV?
  • Where do they like to shop?
  • Do they have any children?
  • What hobbies do they have?
  • What social media platforms do they use the most?
  • How often do they get paid?
  • What are their pain points?

Once you have asked as many different questions as you possibly can, you will be able to create an image of what your ideal customer should look like. This will make it much easier to market your product in the future.

Create A Comfortable Space For You To Work That Is Free Of Distractions

Working from home is incredibly difficult as you associate your home with being able to relax. Whilst you’re allowed to relax in your own home, you also need to ensure you have a specific space that is dedicated to working. Whether that’s a home office or a desk in your living room, knowing that you have a comfortable space that is free of distractions will help keep you motivated when you’re struggling to concentrate. For tips and tricks when it comes to creating a working space that motivates you, you can visit this site here.

Make Sure You’re Working To A Routine

Similar to the point above, you need to ensure you’re sticking to a working routine. Whether that means starting at the same time every day or ensuring you have an hour-long lunch break, you’re going to find you get much more done if you have a routine.

Do As Much Research As You Can When It Comes To Running A Business

If you have never run your own business before, you need to be sure you’re doing as much research as you possibly can in advance. From following successful entrepreneurs on social media to reading as much information as possible, the more you know about running your own business the better. If you’re struggling, you may want to consider taking a course to help improve your knowledge.

Set Up An Email And Caller System To Deal With Enquiries

Although you may not get many enquiries, to begin with, you need to ensure you have a way in which people can contact you if they’re interested in your products or services. The best way to do this, of course, is to give them ways to email or call you.

When it comes to setting up a phone number, you may want to consider using an auto dialer at first. This means that you will be able to continue using your personal number whilst you make outbound calls. This makes you seem like a much bigger business, which certainly helps when it comes to professionalism. For more information, you can visit Call Cowboy here.

Put As Much As You Can Into Your Marketing Efforts To Begin With

One of the best things you can do for your new business is to ensure you’re putting as much as you can into your marketing efforts for the first few months. If you’re starting a business where no one knows your name, you need to do as much as you can to increase your brand visibility. A great way to do this is to use paid ads on social media. Not only will this help build a customer base, but it will also help when it comes to growing your social media following.

Consider Outsourcing To Professionals For Certain Roles Within Your Business

One of the best ways to ensure you’re able to focus on the important aspects of running your business is to outsource work to professionals. Whether that means you’re outsourcing a role that you have no experience of or you’re simply freeing up your time to work on business development, bringing external people into your business is something you should look to do as soon as you possibly can. Although it can be expensive, they will more than pay for themselves when you’re able to grow your business exponentially.

Here are a number of different jobs you can outsource if you need to:

  • Your monthly or yearly accounts and tax return
  • The management of your social media channels
  • Content writing for your blog and your website
  • Public relations to help your business be seen
  • Virtual assistance to help with the running of your business

Although it can be hard to let go of certain aspects of your business, outsourcing is a great opportunity for business owners. For more benefits to outsourcing as an entrepreneur, you can visit this site here.

Set Yourself Goals And Targets That Are SMART

Setting yourself goals is another great way to ensure your first year is a success as it gives you something to work towards. When setting these goals, you need to ensure that they’re SMART. This means setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.

Make Sure You Have A Back-Up Plan In Place

Finally, you always need to be sure you have a backup plan in place. After all, you never know what could happen.

Although it can be hard to set up your own business, the tips and tricks above will help you have the best possible start. What will you be doing first? Do you think we missed anything off of the list? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Hardware VPNs or Software VPNs? What’s the Best Option?

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article | Hardware VPNs or Software VPNs? What's the Best Option?

When talking about VPNs, you might hear people referring to either “software VPNs” or “hardware VPNs.”

Fancy and interesting terms, but what do they mean exactly?

Well, this quick 5-minute article will tell you everything you need to know about them (including which option would be ideal for you).

What Is a Software VPN?

Software VPN is the app you use to run VPN connections on your device. VPN providers or independent developers create software VPN and make it available on their websites. Pre-installed clients on your operating system also count as software VPN.

I should also mention that VPN software is what VPN providers use on their servers to establish and handle client-server communications. That’s not really of interest to you, but it’s useful info to know.

What Is a Hardware VPN?

Hardware VPNs are devices with dedicated processors that offer VPN, and firewall features. Unlike software VPN, they are completely standalone. That means they can handle every single VPN function on their own.

To give you an idea of how hardware VPNs look like, here’s a good example – the hardware VPN from Zyxel.

Which Type of VPN Is Better Suited for You?

Well, just reading the definitions won’t help you make a decision on the spot, so I’ll compare the two types of VPNs with a focus on user convenience.

Alright, so let’s get started:

1. Software VPNs Are Much Cheaper

Let’s get one thing straight – hardware VPNs are not budget-friendly at all. Just one of them might cost anywhere between $100 and $500. If you’re looking for high-end features, the price can easily go over $1,000.

Sure, you might (emphasis on might) find hardware VPNs that cost less than $100. But don’t expect them to be as powerful as their more expensive counterparts.

And while a cheap hardware VPN can be a good option for your home network, software VPNs are still better price-wise. I mean, at most you’re looking at anywhere between $3 and $9 per month. Usually, the longer the subscription period, the cheaper the price.

Now I know what you’re thinking – if you use software VPNs, won’t you need to pay for tons accounts for all your employees?

Well, not really. Depending on the service you pick, you can get support for multiple simultaneous connections, like six or seven. In fact, some VPN providers might even offer you unlimited connections.

2. Setting Up the Hardware VPN Is No Walk in the Park

If you’re expecting to just buy the thing, set it in your home or office, turn it on, and relax, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

Basically, if you want to set up a hardware VPN, you’re going to need an experienced IT team by your side. You can try to handle everything on your own, but if you make a mistake, you’ll end up with annoying errors and unsecure VPN connections.

Plus, get this; hardware VPNs don’t have the same configurations like corporate firewalls and routers. So, even a skilled IT team might need some extra training to get everything 100% right.

And that’s not all. Once the hardware VPN is set up and running, the job isn’t done. You’ll still have to configure your network to accommodate the new addition. Also, you’ll need at least one dedicated person to monitor the hardware VPN and perform maintenance when needed.

I mean, you can do it yourself, but it’s going to start feeling like a full-time job fast (it pretty much is anyway).

Well, on the plus side, once you handled everything, you get instant remote access whenever you want.

Though, that pales in comparison to software VPNs. You just download and install the client, run it, connect to a server, and that’s pretty much it. Takes just a few seconds at best, or a few minutes at worst.

3. Both Software and Hardware VPNs Offer Good Security

There’s really not much difference between them. Sure, hardware VPNs use dedicated connections, so you could say it’s a bit safer because you’re not sharing the VPN server with tons of other strangers.

But here’s the thing – there are also risks associated with a hardware VPN.

For one, connection errors can pop up if the IT team didn’t properly set up or monitor the device. What’s more, cybercriminals actually prefer targeting hardware VPNs.

With software VPNs, you can at least relax knowing the VPN provider is taking care of everything for you.

4. Business-Wise, Software VPNs Are More Scalable

If you’re running a small business, you get better scalability with software VPNs. If you hire more people, you just have to get some extra subscriptions to cover the new remote connections.

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article | Hardware VPNs or Software VPNs? What's the Best Option?

With hardware VPNs, things aren’t as simple. You’ll need to spend money on add-ons to support the new employees. And if your company really grows, you’re going to have to just buy an extra hardware VPN (or more), or a new model that supports more connections.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I’d say that there’s no need to use hardware VPN if you’re an average online user. I mean you can do it if you have the money and skills, but let’s be honest – hardware VPNs are more suitable for large companies with very skilled IT teams and large budgets that want dedicated VPN connections.

As a regular Internet user, you’re better off with software VPN. It’s cheaper and easier to set up. Plus, you can even use it for your business to secure your VoIP calls, get around geo-blocks, do SEO research, and encrypt remote employee connections to your network – not to mention save money too.

If you need help to find reliable software VPNs, take a look at ProPrivacy. The website has tons of useful guides, and reviews that will help you make a smart decision.

Could You Be A Better Entrepreneur?

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | Could You Be A Better Entrepreneur?

The answer is probably ‘yes’, and the most successful entrepreneurs know that. You need to be confident and aspirational if you want to build a profitable business, but you also need to be humble enough to accept your flaws. If you can continually pinpoint the weaknesses of your company and your leadership skills, then you’ll be able to continually develop solutions which improve your business. It’s up to you to make that happen, however. Simply hiring professionals and delegating responsibilities isn’t enough. You have to guide your team. You have to help them to become as invested in your business as you are. Could you be a better entrepreneur? Probably. Here are some ways in which you could make that happen.

Do your research

Do your research if you want to become a better leader. No entrepreneur knows everything, though many of them give that impression. You can outwardly present the image of an all-knowledgeable business owner, as long as you’re inwardly aware of the fact that you need to continuously learn new things to keep up with the ever-changing business world. Make it your goal to read entrepreneurial books regularly. This will help you to keep your knowledge fresh, even if some of the things you read are things that you already know. The best business leaders keep researching. That includes your target market, of course. Talk to consumers. Learn about the mistakes being made by you and your competitors so you can develop innovative new ideas to win over potential customers in your market.

Keep taking training courses

You should also keep taking training courses if you want to be the best possible business leader. This goes beyond conducting research to learn more about the business world and your particular target market. This is about developing your technical knowledge so you can be more than just a delegator. You might want to consider doing online sales training. You probably have a sales team at your company, but you could help to guide them with more efficient sales strategies if you understand how it works. To be a good leader, you have to understand the different aspects of your business. Take training courses in web design, business finance, and other areas to help the different departmental teams which keep your company running.

Talk to your employees

If you want to become a better leader, then talking to your employees would be a good place to start. Your members of staff could tell you what improvements need to be made to the business. They could give you advice regarding your style of management and the structure of your business’ daily operations. Remember, being a good leader isn’t about doing things on your own. It’s about being a good team player. That means you have to be able to listen to your workers.

In turn, your company will be able to improve because you’ll be pooling the collective creativity of your team members together. This is essential to your growth as a leader, too. Additionally, if you respect your employees, then they’ll respect you, as well. Effective leadership is all about being respected in the eyes of your staff members. Otherwise, whilst they might still appreciate your role as their boss, they won’t feel as if they’re being led by you. That could affect the productivity levels of your workplace, so don’t underestimate the importance of talking to your workers.

Portfolio Items