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What Every Potential Mompreneur Needs to Know About Starting an Online Business

An online business can be a very appealing and safe way to start a business. It allows moms to be home with their children while still having the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. The running of an online business allows you to work from home while creating your own schedule. The initial investment can be very little and your monthly expenses are minimal. Most importantly an ecommerce business can be run anywhere there is Internet access which allows you to be home with your children and even work while on vacation.

What You Need To Run an Online Business

With very little equipment you could be running your own ecommerce business out of the confines of your home. Ideally, a home office is best but I started my first ecommerce business from my kitchen table. So, just clean organized spaces where you can keep your computer and files. You will, of course, need a computer. I prefer a lap top as it allows me to work from anywhere in the house or in various coffee shops. Of course you will also need an Internet connection and I highly recommend a high speed connection. As moms we need to work fast and as efficiently as possible and high speed Internet allows that to happen. A printer is nice to own and will be useful for printing whatever documents you may need. A fax machine is not essential. With programs that offer online faxing, such as “eFax,” owning a fax machine is no longer critical. Believe it or not, that is basically it from the standpoint of hardware and connectivity.

Stocking Your Website with Product

The most important step in owning an ecommerce business is stocking your online store with product. Depending on the industry you get involved in, you might find that you are able to drop ship versus holding product in house. Drop shipping means you hold no inventory. How drop shipping works is once a consumer makes a purchase on your site you send the order directly over to the vendor. The vendor fills the order and sends it directly to your customer.

When the customer makes the purchase on your site the money goes directly into your business bank account. When the vendor ships the order out, they will at that time charge your card. You pay the whole price for the product to the vendor. The customer pays retail price. Your profit margin is the difference between the two.

Daily Tasks of Running an Online Business

When running an ecommerce business, daily tasks have to be completed each day such as checking orders and answering emails. I would allow 30 – 45 minutes when you first start out to complete these tasks. You must answer emails each day as you want to offer your customers the very best in customer service. What can be done in your own time is search engine optimization, merchandising, and marketing. Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your site so when someone types in keywords that relate to the products you sell on your site then your site will come up high in the search engines. This is part of the daily running of your ecommerce business and is critical to your success.

Merchandising is a term I like to use when referring to updating your product, adding new product, and changing out the product on your front page. You want your site to be dynamic and interesting. Changing out the front page and adding new product makes your site interesting to potential customers.

Monthly Expenses

The monthly expense of running an ecommerce business can be very minimal. Some of your fixed costs include monthly hosting which on average is $10.00 per month, a merchant account which on average is around $25.00 and month, your newsletter providers which is about $5.00 per month and your 800 number which can vary but with services like “Kall8.com” you can keep that cost to around $5.00. So for around $45.00 per month you can run your ecommerce store. By just obtaining 1 sale per month you could cover the cost of that overhead.

Software and Security

Everybody asks about additional software they must add to their home computer or laptop to run help them run a store. That’s one of the benefits of running an ecommerce business; the software applications that are so critical to your success are ASP or Application Service Provider software. This means the tools you need are online and are attached to the backend of your website. You don’t need to purchase any software and load it onto your computer; everything is in an online environment. The “chain link” is what we like to call it and refers to the succession of links starting from your website to your bank account. It goes like this: your website and store admin are hooked or linked, your store admin is hooked to your shopping cart, your shopping cart is hooked to your gateway, and your gateway is hooked to your merchant services provider, which is hooked to your bank account. All of these critical pieces are online and accessible to you by a unique user and pass with 128 bit encryption, so it’s very secure.

Security problems such as viruses can be a concern because you are online often perhaps doing research on your online marketing rankings such as search engine optimization and pay per click or searching for new vendors to help expand your product line. As always, you have to be very careful of accepting emails from unknown senders. If you don’t know the sender, don’t open the email. Also, be wary of the occasional popup. You can combat this by turning on your “popup blocker”, cleaning out your cache, and deleting your stored historical web pages once in a while. I would recommend purchasing a good and reputable virus scanning software such as McAfee or Norton. It’s hard to go wrong with those two. Also, McAfee offers a free virus sweep that you can use once every couple of months that is very easy to download and run. All that being said, your specific ecommerce work, such as editing your site and shopping cart, viewing orders in your shopping cart, answering` client questions with your gateway, or reviewing the money in your merchant account prior to it being passed on to your bank account, is all done in secure user and password generated sites.

Running an ecommerce business can allow the busiest of moms to raise a family while running a successful business. It also allows a mother to have a creative outlet while expanding her skills as the CEO of both her family and her business. For more information on starting your own boutique web business or other work at home web businesses check out http://www.pureecommerce.com

How to Grow Your Lawn Care Business During Cold Months, Beyond Adding the Obvious Services

It’s cold in many areas of the country. Temperatures are steadily falling in many states, but that does not mean your business profits have to go down as a lawn maintenance company. One of the most effective ways to grow your lawn care business during the fall and winter months is to add new services.

Goal: Healthy Bottom Line

During the winter months, many lawn maintenance companies market the obvious services such as blowing leaves, mulching, aerating, pruning, and similar services. These are needed services that most lawn care companies tout and bank on to assist in a healthier bottom line.

Grow Your Lawn Maintenance Business by Working with Foreclosures

But to exponentially grow your lawn maintenance business during slower months, you can capitalize off a needed service that has cropped up as a result of the astronomical number of foreclosures on the market: foreclosure cleanup. Foreclosure cleanup businesses generally handle a plethora of services which can include the following: debris removal, interior and exterior cleaning, lawn mowing, trimming, tree removal, roof repair, gutter cleaning, pressure washing, window boarding, door boarding, lock changing, inspections, carpet cleaning, laying and carpet removal, painting, minor repairs, and the like.

Work On HUD Homes

In many scenarios, the homes needing foreclosure cleanup services are HUD homes and often the work is given to smaller companies by foreclosure realtors or larger property preservation companies working as an extension of HUD’s M&M Contractors (“Management and Marketing” Contractors).

Choose Services that Work with Your Business

Though foreclosure cleaning businesses can offer a plethora of services, as a lawn maintenance business, you can choose to add foreclosure cleanup services that fall in line with the services you already offer in your business. For example, you can offer lawn and exterior debris removal such as the removal of limbs, fallen trees and piled up junk such as bicycles, swing sets, grills, etc., from homes that have been abandoned or are in the foreclosure or pre-foreclosure state.

Put Truck and Trailer to Work

As a lawn maintenance company, you likely already have a truck and/or a trailer you can use to pick up exterior debris and haul to the junk yard. You probably already have a saw, large bags, needed gloves and face masks and a small crew. Use them to get a foot in the foreclosure cleanup industry in your area.

You can also choose to offer drive way and exterior pressure washing. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can easily rent one at The Home Depot or a similar rental outlet. Throw it on your truck and offer this service as part of your foreclosure cleanup cache of services during the cold months so you can profit during what is traditionally a slow time for lawn care businesses.

If you are equipped, you can also offer snow removal (consider partnering with a like company) and interior trash-outs. Remember, you likely already have a truck and you are familiar with the real estate contracting industry as a lawn maintenance company; so why not buy some cleaning supplies, hire qualified interior cleaners and put some miles on that truck in the winter months by offering foreclosure cleanup services.

Using Equipment You Already Have On-hand

The trick in adding basic foreclosure cleanup services to your lawn care business is to keep in mind the equipment you already have on hand. Take inventory of the tools, equipment and supplies you already have, research the foreclosure cleanup industry, and get creative on how you can maximum equipment inventory in your area in the fall and winter months.

Check Your Business Insurance and Licensing

You will want to contact your insurance agent to make sure your existing coverage is ample to cover the new foreclosure cleanup services you want to add to your lawn maintenance business. Also, give a quick call to your governing business license office (i.e., in some areas, the County Clerk) to make sure your current business license is ample to offer foreclosure cleanup services.

Get a Quick Start

To get started quickly, pick up some new car magnets from your local print shop or online printer (less than $30 bucks in most cases!), order some new business cards (you can find free business cards online), find a list of Realtors in your area (go to your multiple listing service) and start contacting them announcing the new aspect you’ve added to your lawn maintenance company’s cache of business services.

Good luck with your lawn maintenance business as you venture into the world of foreclosure cleanup!

10 Things That Make Your Business More Valuable – Often 70% Higher Than That of Your Industry Peers!

The value of your company is partly determined by your industry. For example, cloud-based software companies are generally worth a lot more than printing companies these days. However, when businesses in the same industry are analyzed, major variations exist with respect to valuation. Because of the large number of Baby Boomer owners within the small business community, it is crucial for these business owners to consider building value now so they can obtain higher competitive offers when they transition out of the business. Here are ten things that will make your business more valuable than its industry peer group:

1. Recurring Revenue

The more revenue you have from automatically recurring contracts or subscriptions, the more valuable your business will be to a future buyer. Even if subscriptions are not the norm in your industry, you should be able to find some form of recurring revenue that will make your company much more valuable than those of your competitors.

2. Something Different

Buyers buy what they cannot easily replicate on their own, which means companies with a unique product or service that is difficult for a competitor to knock off are more valuable than a company that sells the same commodity as everyone else in their industry.

3. Growth

Acquirers looking to fuel their top line revenue growth through acquisition will pay a premium for your business if it is growing much faster than your industry overall.

4.Cache

Tired old companies often try to buy sex appeal through the acquisition of a trendy young company in their industry. If you are the “darling” of your industry trade media, expect to get a premium offer.

5. Location

If you have a great location with natural physical characteristics that are difficult to replicate (imagine an oceanfront restaurant on a strip of beach where the city has stopped granting new licenses to operate), you’ll have buyers who understand your industry interested in your location as well as your business.

6. Diversity

Buyers will pay a premium for companies that naturally hedge the loss of a single customer. Ensure that no customer amounts to more than 10 percent of your revenue and your company will be more valuable than an industry peer with just a few big customers.

7. Predictability

If you’ve mastered a way to win customers and documented your sales funnel with a predictable set of conversion rates, your secret customer-acquiring formula will make your business more valuable to a buyer than an industry peer who does not have a clue where their next customer will come from.

8. Clean Books

Companies that invest in audited statements have financials that are generally viewed by buyers as more trustworthy and therefore worth more. You may want to get your books reviewed professionally each year even if audited statements are not the norm in your industry.

9. A “2iC”

Companies with a second-in-command who has agreed to stay on post-sale are more valuable than businesses where all the power and knowledge are in the hands of the owner.

10. Happy Customers

Being able to objectively demonstrate that your customers are happy and intend to re-purchase in the future and consistently make referrals will make your business more valuable than an industry peer that does not have a means of tracking customer satisfaction.

Like a rising tide that lifts all boats, your industry typically defines a range of multiples within which your business is likely to sell for; but whether you fall at the bottom or top of the range comes down to factors that have nothing to do with What You Do, but instead, How You Do It. Consider the following eight value drivers:

(a) Financial Performance: Your history of producing revenue and profit combined with the professionalism of your record keeping;

(b) Growth Potential: Your likelihood to grow your business in the future and at what rate;

(c) The Switzerland Structure: How dependent your business is on any one employee, customer, or supplier;

(d) The Valuation Teeter-Totter: Whether your business is a cash suck or a cash spigot;

(e) The Hierarchy of Recurring Revenue: The proportion and quality of automatic, annuity-based revenue you collect each month;

(f) The Monopoly Control: How well differentiated your business is from competitors in your industry;

(g) Customer Satisfaction: The likelihood that your customers will re-purchase and also refer you; and

(h) Hub & Spoke: How your business would perform if you were unexpectedly unable to work for a period of three months.

By working on these value drivers, your business can build significant value over time and, with the right tools and resources, you may be in the position to get offers of over 70% more than your industry peers. And, the sooner you start, you can not only expect a more valuable business, but a much more profitable one in the short term.