Top Tips for Small Businesses

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The money is flowing.

According to the Small Business Administration, the need for business loans has shifted. "Three years ago, small-business owners needed to borrow money to survive -- now they need it to buy equipment, hire staff, and grow their businesses.” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said, noting that the SBA has guaranteed $30 billion in loans to small businesses, a record-setting amount.

Traditionally, it’s nearly impossible for most startups to access capital. To help new companies that fall in the so-called "Valley of Death" funding gap (those that are seeking financing in the $1 to $4 million range), the SBA instituted an Early Stage SBIC Initiative, which commits as much as $1 billion "in SBA guaranteed leverage" (meaning it will encourage private sector investment) over a five-year period to “selected early stage venture funds.”

The news from the federal contracting front was even more dramatic -- since fiscal year 2009, almost $300 billion in federal prime contracts and more than $200 billion worth of subcontracts were awarded to small businesses by federal agencies.

It's time to sell abroad.

One of the SBA’s key focuses has been helping American businesses export their products and services. The National Export Initiative was launched in March 2010 with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. We’re already off to a good start -- in 2011, U.S. exports hit a record-setting $2.11 trillion, up from $1.5 trillion in 2009.

Mills said when you ask yourself, "Where will your next customer come from?" you should look offshore because "96 percent of the world's consumers (controlling two-thirds of global purchasing power) live outside the U.S." If you’re interested in reaching all those people, head to Export.gov.

Determine your brand reach.

With the proliferation of social media platforms and search engines, it’s more important than ever to know your brand reach. But it would take the better part of a day to monitor your social media and online presence. Brandify takes the pain out of that monitoring process. Launched by a team at Microsoft in March, Brandify measures your activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Bing, Google, Yahoo and Yelp and gives you score between 450 and 850.

Brandify not only shows you what’s going on with you online, it suggests actions you can take to raise your score, and provides insights about where your website ranks on the search engines, your social media activity and your website.

Brandify's creators plan to add new features and envision it as a "small business ecosystem." They say customers are checking in several times a day to see their scores.

The service is educational, free, and, kind of fun.

Multitasking tools are key.

Most small businesses run lean and mean and are dependent on technology to maintain staff productivity. One challenge many businesses are facing, according to a survey from Sage, is that they are dependent on several different disconnected apps to get work done, which slows them down. Sage just launched Sage One, a Software as a Service product that combines tasks like money management, invoicing, project tracking, task assignments, messaging and reporting together in a single Web-based app. This seems best suited for service businesses and virtual companies.

Online Resources 

Check out these links for information on Government Contracting, Business Loans, and Local Incentives and Resources.  Visit these informative links on the state of Georgia Department of Economic Development site: www.Georgia.org 

http://www.georgia.org/business-resources/small-business-resource-directory/

http://www.onegeorgia.org/programs/esb

http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/small-business-incentives/

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