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Is Your Business Prepared If A Disaster Strikes?

With hurricane Irene looming off the coast of the eastern United States and as many as 25 states being affected by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in central Virginia, small businesses all over the United States should have received the wake-up call to have plans in place in case their business is affected by disaster. Whether your business is in a small town like Mineral, Va or a big city like New York or Washington, any kind of disaster can have a negative impact on the future of your business.

Long before any disaster strikes, your business should have plans in place to allow for it to move forward with as little disturbance as possible. Here are some things your plan should include:

Insurance Coverage

There is an unfortunate assumption that your “All Perils” insurance policy will cover anything that might happen to your home or business. It is a hard lesson to learn after a disaster like a hurricane or earthquake strikes that your insurance company will not pay for damages or repair. A simple review of your policy now will prevent heartache in the future.

List of Employees, Vendors, Suppliers and Any One Else You Depend On to Run Your Business

This contact list should contain phone numbers, including cell phones numbers as well as e-mail addresses. A copy should be kept at home and in your car as well as distributing them out to your employees. It should be updated any time an employee, vendor, supplier or other contact person changes. Having this list can play a vital part in weathering a disaster.

Data Back-up

Something as simple as a power surge can cause havoc for your business. Important and irreplaceable data can be lost. If you are unable to restore your data after a disaster, your business is dead in the water. Data should be backed up as often as possible. It can be done on any form of external drive or you can subscribe to a service that places your data on a “cloud”. By placing your data on a “cloud”, you can retrieve it anywhere, anytime.

Having a business emergency plan in place is a MUST. Having one not only saves lives and business assets, it will save your ENTIRE business. For further information on how to create a disaster recovery plan check out the Department of Homeland Security’s website, www.ready.gov, for home and business disaster planning. Being prepared is your best offense in the event disaster strikes!

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Muses From A Social Media Novice

I must admit my foray into using social media for business purposes has taken a long and winding road to get to where it is today. When I first started my business my thinking was I only needed to get a website up and running in order to direct potential clients to information regarding my business. I didn’t think I needed anything else. Then I started hearing about other outlets that would help get information out about what my business and I had to offer.

My knowledge of social media was minimal at best. I had heard about Facebook but didn’t want to go through the trouble of setting up a personal page just so I could then get a FanPage. Having that attitude I keep Facebook on the back burner, as far back as I could place it. Although I was doing this I was hearing about other outlets to get the word out.

My first venture into social media was LinkedIn. I posted my resume and connected with old colleagues. I kept wondering how this was going to help me grow my business. After a while I had a LinkedIn page for my business. Still not much was happening. Twitter was next. Again this was something that I had heard of but kept at arms length. Little did I know how having a Twitter account would start helping my business networking. After signing up for my account I looked around for people and businesses that were in the know when it came to the small business field. As I followed them I started learning about things I could apply to my business. Then things took off. One of the tweets I received told me about a social media stock market game called Empire Ave. I know most of you are scratching your head about how playing an online game could help your business but believe it or not it did. One of the benefits the site gives you is the opportunity to join various communities that allows you to network with others on the site. One of the communities I joined was Advertising, Social and Integrated Marketing. Being a SPAM Free community allowed conversations regarding B2B and B2C businesses to grow. I started networking with some of the members through LinkedIn and Twitter. This then brought me full circle back to Facebook. After being involved in several conversations regarding FanPages, I got over my initial doubt of Facebook and jumped in and got involved with it. With one of the connections I made on Empire Avenue, my Fanpage was created. I have even signed up for Google+ and am networking there too.

From my initial entry into social media with LinkedIn to my most recent ones with Facebook and Google+, I have learned how using it as an additional outlet for my business makes good sense. I have been able to grow my networking base which has allowed me to learn more things that I can apply to my business. It is also allowing more people to learn about and tell others about my business.

If you are one of those who are still on the fence regarding how social media can help their business jump off and check it out. I have chosen to be involved in several forms of social media but you can pick and choose at your comfort level. The time you spend using it is also your choice. Do not feel that you will have to forsake something else in your business to make the time to use it. Take the opportunity to try something new and different for your business. You’ll never know whether or not it can help until you try it!

Is Your Business Where You Want It To Be?

You have your business. It’s existed for a while or you may have just started it. You have all these ideas of what you want to do with it and how you’d like to see it grow. Can you take that idea and run with it or do you just let it stagnate, sitting in your brain wondering what if?

Many a business will become stagnant because they do not keep up with the times. What worked for your business last month or last year may not be what will work for you now or in the future. The business environment is constantly changing. So is what your clientele wants and expects from you. Are you prepared to step up to the plate and meet those expectations?

Keeping up with the ever changing environment that affects your business should be a priority, not some secondary thought that can be gotten to sometime down the road. If you wait till later, it might be too late.

It’s still January, take the time to reflect on where you’d like to see your business this year. Start the ball rolling on making those changes that will get your business where you want it at the end of 2011. If it’s help in getting things organized, get the help. If it’s training you need, take the time to be trained. If you feel like you have too much on your plate, delegate the work out to others, even if that means hiring temporary help.

If your business is not where you want it to be now, take the time to figure out what needs to be done and take action as soon as possible. If you wait too long you may not like the end result.

Walk The Talk – How The Use of Social Media Started Helping My Business

Like most people, I had kept social media at arm’s length for a long time, a very LONG arm’s length. I was sure that I didn’t need it for my personal or my business life. I kept telling myself there was no need for it. I didn’t care if I connected with old acquaintances or shared what was going on at work. My thoughts were why should I. Then I started my own business and my views slowly changed. Maybe there was something to this thing called social media.

My first foray into social media was a site called EONS, an online community for baby boomers. Having never been a part of an online community I had no idea what to expect. I signed up and joined some communities that I thought would interest me. As time went by, I found that I was getting involved with more of the posts in one of the communities, getting to know some of the members better. That in turn led to meeting some of them in what we affectionately call the 3D world.

Just because I took a chance on social media in my social life didn’t make it’s transition into my business life any easier. I had started my business and thought how could I let others know about it. After putting it off for a long time, I finally posted a LinkedIn profile as well as a profile page for my business. I started to connect with some former co-workers and old college acquaintances but never felt that I was getting anything out of it for my business. I started writing Blogs but that was hit or miss. Next came Twitter, first on a personal side then on a professional side. I started to follow people or sites that I thought would give me some business incite. I then started posting things I thought were interesting from the business world related to my line of work. Next I started to receive followers and watch many of my ‘Tweets”  get re-tweeted. In the process of getting involved in the twitterverse, I connected with other business owners who provided me with helpful suggestions to grow my business. This led to my current project in social media, getting on Facebook and getting a business fan page.

There I was I telling my clients to think outside the box when it came to running their business yet I wasn’t doing the same for mine. I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. During each step made into the depths of social media I have seen how more and more people were not only getting to know more about my business but how I might be able to help them. I’ve opened up avenues I had not previously considered.

Sometimes we get into a comfort zone within our businesses and don’t feel we need to change. Change is not easy but I found as I started trying different aspects of social media, my comfort zone for it widened. What social media is doing for my business is but an example. Take the leap of faith and start thinking outside the box. It might just do the same for you.

“It Will Never Happen to Us!” – Why Even Small Businesses Need a Recovery Plan

“It will never happen to us!”

Believe it or not, that is something heard a lot when asking small business owners why they do not have some form of a business continuity/disaster recovery plan. You may not be hit with a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, but even something as simple as having a broken water pipe can temporarily sideline your business.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have an alternative location to run your business from if some sort of disaster was to occur?

2. Would you be able to reach your employees, vendors and clients to notify them of your current situation?

3. Do you have backup systems in place to get your business back up and running?

4. Do you have Business Interruption Insurance?

If you have answered “No” to any of these questions, you may be ill prepared to get your business back up and running after a disaster.

As a small business owner you should take the opportunity now to get some form of a business continuity/disaster recovery plan in place. A good resource for information can be found at http://www.sba.gov/content/disaster-preparedness.

It is not a matter of if your business will have a disruption, it is when.  BE PREPARED!

Does Your Business Inspire You?

Does your business inspire you? This may sound like a funny question to ask to some. For others it may raise an eyebrow. You can take this question one step further and ask, do I feel the same about my business now as I did when I first started it? If you’ve answered yes to these two questions, that’s great. If you’ve answered no, what are the reason? Most likely the majority of you will respond with something related to the current state of the economy. Your business may not be as busy as it was before the down turn. You might be juggling too much that you can barely keep your head afloat. What ever the reason maybe, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate where you and your business are at. You had a passion at one time to start your business. Do you still have that passion? I think a good majority of you still have that passion. Regardless of how busy you are, take the time now to determine some positive changes you can make to get that inspiration back. It’s not too late to get that passion back!

Are Small Business Owners Becoming Stagnant With Their Business?

With the many costs of running a business skyrocketing, business owners are forgetting why they started their business in the first place. What use to be a passion of theirs may now have become a chore. As a business grows from start-up, what might have been the initial vision for the business changes. New products or services may have been added to the business. More staff and or locations may have also been added. Any of these changes made to a business will result in a change of how a business is run.

Unfortunately, there are two root causes of business change that some business owners do not take into consideration. First, they may never have considered these changes ever happening when they started up their business. Worst yet, they believe that the way they have run their business from start-up is the exact way it should be run now. No changes!

As the saying goes, “The Times They Are A Changin.” As a small business owner, adapting to change is a must. Instead of being reactive to what is going on with a business, a proactive approach should be taken. Just because it was done one way before doesn’t mean it is the way it should be done now. Time should be taken now to review what is currently happening within the business and set a course that will keep the business as exciting and new as it was when it was first started.