Starting a business is arguably the hardest part of business success, but growing that business comes in a close second. You not only have to worry about making sure your business is growing in the first place, but you have to make sure that growth is steady. If you grow too fast, you might not be prepared. If you start growing slowly, then suddenly that growth picks up. But then it slows down again and you’re dealing with employees you may have hired who are no longer needed. You’re dealing with questions as to why, what that means for the future, etc. You have to be prepared and be able to scale that growth so that it doesn’t hurt you in the long run. The inspiration for this article was actually from something one of our managing partners, Adam Heitzman, published on Inc. Magazine . He asked entrepreneurs what their biggest challenge was in growing their business, and many people said that scaling business growth was a challenge. So I had to ask myself, ‘What’s the secret?’ Even if you’re still in the stages of trying to grow your business, it’s important to have a plan in place for when your business does grow. If you’re scrambling to scale this growth already, then we don’t need to tell you twice. But remember – growth is a good problem to have. There are many different ways to scale your business for growth, but below are some of the most effective and popular. How to Grow and Scale Your Business Change Your Approach to Pricing and Income Changing the way you think about the pricing structure in your company is huge. You might have a solid system in place that is working for a small company, but this may need to change if you’re planning to grow. For example, if you’re charging your clients per hour, you may want to consider a new approach that doesn’t limit you to the number of hours in a day. Try something called “value pricing.” This will charge your clients based on the value you’re offering. If you like charging by the hour, start setting up larger workshops or conferences so you can make more per hour. Also try looking at different outsourcing options so that you have more people helping you get the job done in less time. The sooner you can establish your new structure and/or get a system in place that allows you to grow – the better. Build a Killer Management Team and Create Internal Systems ASAP This is probably the biggest thing that entrepreneurs will tell you “saved” them. Bring in people who make up for your weaknesses and establish internal systems right off the bat. Prepare now, so that you’re not scrambling in the future. For example, right now you might be able to supervise all of your hiring decisions. But soon, that may not be possible as your orders grow and you’re needed elsewhere. This means you should have people in charge already, in place to help you hire as you need it. Switch to Cloud-Based Systems This idea came from an  article published on Sage One , and it seems to be one that is often overlooked. Cloud-based systems allow you to communicate and share information anywhere and at any time. Having information constantly accessible is the key to keeping a growing business successful because things are going to come up when you’re not in the office. If you don’t switch to cloud-based systems soon enough, you could run into the problem of having too much information on your servers. Meaning, you would need to invest in expensive servers to stay afloat. Cloud-based systems already have the power you’ll need. Be Transparent and Hold Your Team Accountable Through Public Profiles Having a presence on social media and making appearances on large publications in your industry (whether through interviews, guest articles, etc.) is key to growing your business in the first place. However, this also holds your team accountable. Make sure everyone has a public profile so that as your business growing, those who have questions can easily find the right person to contact as opposed to having everyone contacting the CEO. According to a Forbes article , the CEO and/or owner should be working ON the business more than IN it. Have a CRM System for Tracking Clients and Relationships Many small businesses can get away with tracking order and client information on spreadsheets, but this simply isn’t conducive to growth. You could get buried and lose some of those relationships you once had. A CRM system (one in the cloud, preferably) can help you keep these relationships intact so you don’t miss a beat. Remember, your business is nothing without your clients. So you want to offer a high level of customer service no matter what phase of growth you’re dealing with at the time. This point also goes along with the second point about hiring and creating internal systems as well as the third point about cloud-based systems. Are you seeing a trend? Everything is connected, so hopefully you’ll find scaling a business isn’t as stressful as it seems. One Last Tip: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help There are people you can hire to help you scale your business if you’re feeling overwhelmed or you are just slightly late in your preparation and need help fast. Find consultants or high-level finance professionals who specialize in helping small businesses develop procedures and reforming internal operations. Do you have any tips for scaling business growth? Republished by permission. Original here . Growth Photo via Shutterstock The post 5 Quick Tips on How to Grow and Scale Your Business appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Okay, let’s all be honest, a lot of us have either been on vacation, are going on vacation, or we’re dreaming of a vacation. As a result we thought we would give people a few more days to submit their Top 50 Innovation Twitter Sharer nominations. So, we’ve extended the deadline to September 7, 2014. Continue reading →

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Pinterest can be a powerful marketing tool, particularly for visual brands. But there are some types of images that lead to more engagement, clicks, and purchases than others. An infographic released by Ripen Ecommerce outlines some of the most successful types of images on the site. For instance, the infographic suggests that: Lighter images are repinned 20 percent more often than dark images. Brand images without faces receive 23 percent more repins than those including faces. Tall images are shared 67 percent more than short images. The information that goes along with these images can be just as important. For example: Pins that have a price attached to them have a 36 percent higher chance of being liked. Pins that include a description of about 200-300 characters are shared 57 percent more than pins with longer or shorter descriptions. Descriptions that include calls to action lead to 80 percent more engagement than those without. So if you’re an eCommerce company, using this information allows you to potentially choose images that amplify your reach on Pinterest. When you know what types of images customers look for while browsing the social site, you can better tailor your content to those expectations. Posting taller, lighter images without faces, for example, will probably bring you better engagement and greater reach when seeking to connect with more on Pinterest’s millions of users. Something as simple as including a price or a call to action can have a dramatic effect on the social engagement you’ll see with your brand or business. So why wouldn’t you use that information to your advantage? Compared to other social sites like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is even more successful at turning followers into buyers, according to the research from Ripen Ecommerce. This is likely due, at least in part, to the highly visual nature of the site. In addition, many of Pinterest’s users are already looking for particular types of items. Pinterest’s reach continues to increase as well. According to the infographic, more than 22% of Americans use Pinterest at least once per month. Just 12 percent used it that often in 2012. But as users increase, so does the amount of content on the site – so it’s even more important to make your photos stand out from the rest. The post Pinterest Images that Receive the Best Engagement appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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What if there was a site that could predict everything you wanted to see on the Internet? StumbleUpon is a social network that helps you discover unique and interesting things across the Web. So what is StumbleUpon, exactly?  StumbleUpon is basically a discovery engine of entertainment that recommends photography, art, humor, fashion, sports, technology and just about every other topic you can think of. Navigating StumbleUpon feels like surfing a Web where every incoming WiFi wave feels tailor-made just for you. All you have to do is tell StumbleUpon a few things you like (and a couple things you don’t), and it will learn your preferences to start feeding you interesting content. What makes StumbleUpon so cool is that every time you use it, you end up on an epic journey through webpages you may have never found without the help of the tool. We’ve found everything from must-see astrophotography to classic infographics. Besides bringing you awesome webpages, StumbleUpon allows you to submit webpages you’ve enjoyed, follow people and interests, see what your friends have shared, browse popular trending posts, photos and videos and create lists of pages you like. StumbleUpon also offers a Paid Discovery system for advertisers, and content marketers have taken notice. According to Shareaholic‘s Social Media Traffic report from late 2013 , StumbleUpon accounted for more publishing traffic than popular sites like YouTube, Google, LinkedIn and Reddit combined. Using the Stumble Button and Toolbar Ready to stumble across some interesting new webpages? You can explore recommended content by visiting StumbleUpon.com/home , which presents a grid of pages you might be interested in based on topics you like. At the top of the page you’ll find a toolbar called the StumbleBar which, among other elements, contains the Stumble Button. Clicking this button is kind of like pressing a “next” button. Every time you click it, StumbleUpon will load a new webpage for you. Along with the Stumble Button, in the StumbleBar you’ll also find thumbs up and thumbs down buttons for rating pages. You’ll want to use these buttons to help StumbleUpon better understand your interests so it can recommend you even cooler content. Outside the StumbleUpon homepage, the StumbleBar is also available as a Chrome extension , a Firefox add-on and as an app for Android, iOS and Windows 8. Using one of these downloads will give you access to the StumbleBar everywhere you go on the Web. StumbleUpon History StumbleUpon was founded in November 2002 by entrepreneurs Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith, Justin LaFrance and Eric Boyd. The site was acquired by eBay in 2007 for approximately $75 million and then sold back to several of the original founders in 2009. In April 2012 StumbleUpon announced it had surpassed 25 million registered users, and today it’s one of the top 150 most visited sites on the Web according to Alexa. Have you ever Stumbled through StumbleUpon? What do you think about the site? Republished by permission. Original here . The post What is StumbleUpon and How Does it Work? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Video marketing is still a relatively new tool for businesses. Some might even require help with creating compelling video content. That’s where Jetty Productions comes in. Jetty Productions LLC is a digital marketing company that focuses on video content. The video format has the potential to tell a story in a really unique way. And utilizing a professional video service could make a business stand apart. Learn more about Jetty Productions in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does: Offers professional video solutions for businesses. The videos can showcase a product, service, or tell a story about the business. Then businesses can post the videos online, use them in advertising efforts, or even show them at trade shows or events. Business Niche: Fast, affordable video production. Jetty has produced thousands of videos for clients since its start in 2006. And the company has never gone over budget or missed a deadline, says founder and Creative Director Neilson Paty. Paty explains: “Recently, someone called us nimble. I think that is a great way to describe Jetty. We are known as a company that creates video content quickly, and on budget.” How the Business Got Started: By doing steady video production work for one client. In 2006, YouTube was relatively new and businesses were just learning about the benefits of having a video strategy. So Paty saw an opportunity and started with one client. He says: “At the time, there were few companies focusing on the branded video content experience. Our first client was Big Fuel Communications, and I had a great relationship with its founder Avi Savar. I was able to build the foundation of Jetty by starting out with a steady stream of projects from Big Fuel. I think this is an essential ingredient when founding a company… you must have a foundational client to start it with.” Biggest Win: Working with musicians. Paty says: “I worked with many of my favorite musicians including James Taylor, Nas, and Kanye West while Producing 100+ videos for one client.” Biggest Risk: Moving the business from New York City to Miami. This turned out to be a positive step for the business. Paty explains: “During 2008-09, advertising budgets got slashed, and our revenue fell dramatically. We opted to move to Miami because it had cheaper rent, the view was nicer, and no state income tax. We risked losing some NYC based clients, but the opposite happened. Our NYC clients continued working with us, and many of their employees moved to new companies and recommended us. I joke that 5 years later, some still don’t know we left NYC.” Lessons Learned: Be patient. Paty says that if he had to start over again, he would have done a few things differently: “I would have been more patient, and looked at the bigger picture. I was offered equity in a growing company that I turned down, and instead went out on my own. I could have waited for the marketplace to grow, saved more money, and perhaps met a co-founder to start Jetty with.” How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000: Invest in a business counterpart. Paty says: “I am a very creative lead individual, and need someone that can compliment Jetty in the marketplace.” How the Company Got Its Name: It came to Paty while he was hooked to a fish on a Jetty in Florida. He explains: “The name Jetty Productions originated from a night of fishing on the Jetty in Palm Beach, FL. I had recently finished an internship at MTV Networks in NYC, and was not sure where I was headed next. I decided to go fishing, and do some thinking. While trying to release a fish I had caught, the hook, while also hooked to the mouth of a 20lb snook, found its way through my finger. I decided at that moment, while hooked to the fish, to call all contacts from MTV the following morning (Monday). I did just that, and by Wednesday of the same week, I was back in NYC with my first job, as a Production Assistant for VH1. My career started on the Jetty that night.” Favorite Quote: “Think of the consequences.” –Paty’s father Given the number of times he’s seen his entrepreneurial journey transformed by a single decision, his choice of favorite quote is not too surprising. Perhaps we should all weigh our next business decision with equal care. * * * * * Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight  program. Images: Jetty Productions The post Spotlight: Jetty Productions Creates Professional Videos on a Budget appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Just in from New Zealand: Jeremy Suisted on the big four positive signs that the work you and your team are doing is meaningful, innovative and a passionate part of your team’s work life. Continue reading →

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Successful video marketing may seem overwhelming. Especially if you have the thought in your head that you have to hire a full video crew and have all the expensive equipment to go with it in order to produce videos. The good news is that there are several affordably priced HD camcorders on the market, and your phone may even be able to shoot HD as well. Combine that with affordable or free video editing tools, and you have what it takes to start promoting your business and its products or services on YouTube, Vimeo, and beyond. Below are actionable tips you can start implementing right away to get you started. How to Perform Successful Video Marketing Cross Post Cross post on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, Google+. Google+ and YouTube are connected, but be sure to promote that you have a new video on all social networks as soon as it’s out. Share Snippets Share snippets of video on Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, as you are recording your full-length video as teasers. Embed Your Videos Into Blog Posts Embed videos into blog posts with a quick explanation for more visibility and extra content (which can help drive more traffic to your website and blog). Create Product Videos Create product videos for products to show how big an item is compared to a person (this is especially good for clothing or accessories), or how easy it is to use. Videotape Company Events Take videos of company events with employees to increase familiarity and the feeling that users know you personally. Create a Series of Videos Let one person or team from each department in your company have a “Day in the Life” video that explains what they do all day. Splice different segments together from throughout the day. Create Video Testimonials Shoot video testimonials instead of having clients or customers write them down. It personalizes the testimonial and makes it more authentic. Provide Incentives Give incentives (products, gift cards, drawings) for user-generated videos that promote your products or services. Share these videos on your video channels. Host a Contest Hold a contest to create an infomercial for your company, product, or services for employees and/or your customers. Make it fun and promote cheesiness! Use Google Adsense Look into Google AdSense for your YouTube videos to make a little more income for your efforts. Provide Employees With Cameras Give employees GoPro cameras to record company events or their experiences during their work day. Invest in an HD Camera If you need a high quality camera anyway, consider buying one that shoots HD video as well. Superzoom cameras are in between point-and-shoots and DSLRs and are an affordable option. Invest in Simple Accessories Buy a portable tabletop tripod for interviews and testimonials. There’s several affordable options on Amazon or eBay that can fit in your camera bag. Record Interviews Conduct interviews with people from your industry at conferences and networking events. Have an interviewer with a wireless mic and someone to hold the camera (or a full-length tripod). Display Product Durability Make videos that show your product’s durability. “ Will it Blend ” from Blendtec and Otterbox’s community-generated YouTube videos are good examples: Create Explainer Videos If you specialize in accessories or complements to a main product (like iPad cases), buy the latest main product and do an explainer video about it with your review. Poll People Poll Twitter, Facebook, and your website for questions from your audience and create an Ask the Expert video series with their answers. Create Video Podcasts Create a podcast with audio and video versions so users can view or listen, however they’d prefer. Create Playlists Create Playlists on YouTube of related videos or series so they are easier to find. Optimize Your Videos Be sure to implement correct video SEO for your videos’ titles, descriptions, categories, and keywords. Be sure to always include a link to your home page or the most accurate interior page, as well as your phone number, in the description. Answer Customer Questions in Video If your customer service or support team keeps getting the same questions repeatedly, answer each one in a separate video, making the title the optimized version of the question they get asked. Create Video Roundups Include of roundup of that month’s new videos in a monthly newsletter or email blast, or as an addition to your existing scheduled emails. Use Freelance Services Use Fiverr or another freelance service to get a custom intro for all your videos to make them more professional. Use Video Editing Software Utilize free or affordable video editing software (such as Windows Movie Maker ) and scale up according to your needs. Record in Front of a Backdrop Use a white sheet and PVC pipe to make an easy backdrop if you don’t have a blank wall to shoot your videos in front of. In addition, before actually shooting your videos, it might help to do some reading on basic video principles and how to use your current technology to the best of your abilities. Things such as interviewers should always look at the camera occasionally when interviewing, and you should never shoot in front of a window where sunlight is coming it to reduce glare. It’s easier than ever before to start creating video content for your business. And this can lead to more visibility, credibility, and easy-to-digest information for your audience. Video Photo via Shutterstock The post 25 Actionable Items for Successful Video Marketing appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Square says it’s ready for the nationwide switch to EMV cards next year. Recently, the company said it would soon make available an update to its magnetic strip card readers it introduced several years ago. These readers will be able to process the new EMV cards that should be in millions of consumers’ hands by October 2015. In addition to the credit card reader that plugs into smartphones and tablets, Square said it will also soon introduce a new reader for its Square Stand point of sale (POS) solution. In the Official Square Blog, the company recently explained : “It will be just as easy to get your Square Stand ready for next year’s nationwide switch to chip cards (also known as EMV cards). Soon, we’ll offer a chip card-enabled reader that you can plug right into your current stand. The peripheral will be compliant with the new regulations, affordable, and very easy to set up.” Even after the EMV readers are added, however, small businesses that use Square Stand to process traditional magnet-backed cards will still be able to do so. Square Stand connects to tablets, cash drawers and other devices to provide its basic function as a point-of-sale system. The company gives an overview of its new EMV reader of its  official website . The company recently told Wired Magazine that the updated Square card reader can be ideal for small businesses. As the switch to EMV cards approaches, small businesses that accept payments via debit and credit card will have to decide how they’ll begin accepting payments from this new card type. There is no mention in the Square announcement about whether there will be a cost for the updated portable Square EMV card readers used for mobile devices. Currently, Square provides the portable readers free to all users collecting its revenue from a percentage of all sales processed through the card. EMV is a new credit card reading technology and stands for EuroPay, Mastercard, and Visa. Rather than reading a magnetic strip from the back of a credit or debit card as it is quickly swiped through, EMV readers  have a slot into which a card is inserted. Customers will be required to use PIN numbers instead of signing credit card receipts. Each credit card is embedded with a tiny microchip. During a transaction, this microchip communicates with the reader. Square says use of EMV technology could help reduce credit card fraud by up to 50 percent. See related article: October 2015: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Swipes and Signatures, Hello to PINs . The post Merchants, Are You Ready for the Square EMV Card Reader? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Tapping into international markets is one way to expand your customer base and grow your small business exponentially. However, small businesses face many barriers to exporting including high shipping costs, unfair trade policies by other countries, cultural differences and other challenges. To help small businesses overcome these obstacles and mitigate the risk of exporting, the federal government provides a wide range of financial support. There are generally four main types of export assistance programs. Export Development and Working Capital Financing Programs These enable small businesses to get loans that help grow sales abroad and boost competitiveness in the international marketplace. These include: The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Export Express Program This program offers financing up to $500,000 for business purposes that will enhance a company’s export development such as international trade shows, standby letters of credit and translating product materials. It is the simplest export loan product offered by the SBA and easily accessible to both borrowers and lenders by allowing participating lenders to use their own forms, procedures and analyses. SBA determines eligibility and provides a loan approval in 36 hours or less. Export-Import Bank’s Working Capital Guarantee Program This program provides loan guarantees for financing that can be used to buy finished products, raw materials, equipment supplies and other essentials. The Small Business Administration’s Export Working Capital Program This program assists lenders in meeting the needs of exporters seeking short-term export working capital. The EWCP loan is designed to provide necessary financing to support an exporter’s transactions, from purchase order to final payment, with a $5 million maximum loan amount and 90 percent guaranty. Facilities Development Financing Programs This includes the SBA’s International Trade Loan Program which is designed to help small businesses enter and expand into international markets or, when adversely affected by import competition, to make the investments necessary to better compete. The allowable size for the loan was increased to $5 million and it offers a combination of fixed asset, working capital financing and debt refinancing with the SBA’s maximum guaranty of 90 percent. International Buyer Programs These programs help small businesses assist international buyers in finding financing to purchase American goods when there are no other financing options available or if interest rates are too steep. These programs from the Export-Import Bank include: Medium and Long-Term Loan Guarantee Program   Provides term financing to creditworthy international buyers in the private and public sector for up to 10 years. Direct Loan Program Provides fixed-rate financing for up to 12 years in general and up to 18 years for renewable energy projects. Finance Lease Guarantee Program Provides competitive medium-term financing structured as finance leases. The Department of Agriculture’s  Export Credit Guarantee Program encourages financing of commercial exports of American agricultural products while providing competitive credit terms to buyers. Investment Project Financing Programs Includes the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which provides funding through direct loans and loan guaranties to eligible projects in developing countries and emerging markets. For more on how to sell your goods and services overseas including free training, events, compliance resources, and other exporting resources and tools, visit the export section at BusinessUSA. Money Photo via Shutterstock The post Export Financing Programs to Help Grow Your Business appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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This post is part of a series of conversations published on the Time website, authored by myself and Nicha Ratana, with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18. Continue reading →

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