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by ARLnow.com Sponsor November 29, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

This column is written by Tara Palacios and sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

We are about to close the final chapter on 2017. The holidays have officially launched. We’ve run out of creative ideas of what to do with our turkey leftovers. Are you ready for 2018? As a local small business, there is still much to do. Business never ends but how can you ever be ready?

We’ve got some quick tips for local entrepreneurs so you too can plan for a worry-free holiday season.

  • Strategize for 2018 while things slow down during the holiday season. December is an excellent month to get things done. Activity is stone-cold quiet by the time December 20th rolls around (shipments end). Write down the goals you’d like to accomplish before the New Year begins. Factor in holiday parties and time spent with friends and family. Organize paperwork, do a visioning of 2018 with achievable goals and an updated business strategy. Use quiet time to develop efficiencies.
  • End of Year Charitable contributions. There are plenty of opportunities before the end of the year to give back, and to do social good. Identify an organization you’d like to support. Create a campaign or other activity to help others in need. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has great tips on not only making sure an organization is qualified as a charitable organization but also a tax assistant to help identify how much you can deduct during the looming tax season.
  • Revisit your tax structure. Taxes are changing constantly and are in the news every day. Set a time to meet with your tax advisor before the end of the year to ensure you have set up the best tax structure based on current law that meets the needs of your business. If you don’t have a tax advisor – get one. They may save you money in the long-term, and will be up-to-date on the latest tax recommendations.
  • Seasonal thank you notes to your clients/customers. This is the best time of year to let your customers know how much you appreciate them for their business. Send out handwritten notes (a real standout in today’s age of technology) of appreciation or a personalized email letting them know how much their business means to you and your company.
  • Be mindful and consciously plan to recharge your batteries. Running a business is hard work. Make sure you plan for time for yourself and for your employees. The holidays can be very busy and a time for a lot more juggling – but being good to yourself will help you be in a good place in the future and to your customers.

Check out BizLaunch programming for the New Year. We will be hosting events on mindfulness and strategic planning. There are still events in December too. We hope you can join us.

Do you have top tips you’d like to recommend before the New Year begins? If so, please let us know in the comments below.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor November 8, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

This column is written by Tara Palacios and sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Social media can be intimidating for a business. How often do you use it — if at all? Which platforms are your customers on? Is it a waste of time or do you get more business from your efforts?

In BizLaunch, we field questions from entrepreneurs regarding what are the most effective ways to use social media. How can you effectively get your message across in the clutter of the online world? How do you know you are reaching your target audience, and most importantly what role does social media play in sales?

First, think of social media as a part of your overall marketing plan. It can be an extremely useful tool in your toolkit if it is used wisely. Keep the below Top 10 Tips in mind as a handy guide to ensure that your business is getting the most out of your social media efforts.

Tip #1 — Identify which social media platforms your customers, competition, and industry colleagues are on.

You don’t want to be the only one at the party. Be present where members of your field are located. Business Decision is a free online tool offered by Arlington Public Library which can help you understand what social media platforms your target market is on.

For example, many businesses can be found on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not just for job seekers but a community to identify like-minded colleagues that can help grow your business. Artists, retailers and food-related businesses use Instagram and Pinterest (imagery) to promote their businesses to name just a few platforms.

Tip #2 — Understand the best time to reach your customers using social media.

As a business, you can see how effective your sharing of information is to your target market by immediately analyzing the analytics as to how effective a tweet or post has gone. What time did you send the information? When are most of your customers on social media? At the end of the work day? On the weekends? Make sure to monitor your social media content daily so that you can develop a strategy around “when,” is the most effective time of day to post your information.

Tip #3 — How often do you want to be on social media?

Come up with a plan and stick to it. You’ll want to be responsive to your customers; however, you’ll also want to be realistic about how much time you can effectively spend online. Think of social media as you would when you respond to emails or respond to phone calls. It is another way for your clients to reach out to you.

Depending on your industry you may want to schedule 3 posts per day or 3 posts per week. It really is dependent on how much and how often you would like or need to share information. The biggest key here is to stick with your plan. You can also use multiple platforms to distribute the same information. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 11, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Have you thought of starting your own business? Have you sat in front of your computer and daydreamed what it would be like to work for yourself? Do you feel a deep passion for innovation or creativity around an activity or industry?

Launching a business takes guts.

Launching a business is hard. (Don’t let Amazon, Apple, Google or Shark Tank fool you.)

Launching a business is about drive, tenacity, passion and a keen sense of self.

BizLaunch has worked with small businesses in Arlington for almost two decades. We have experienced different federal, state and local administrations. Different financial cycles and employment needs. In BizLaunch, we see launching a business as a key to unlock your dream of entrepreneurship — if it is approached in a logical, planned way.

Here are some of our top recommendations if you are thinking about Starting a Business in Arlington:

  • Research — Know your industry sector like nobody has ever known it before. Understand your competition, target market, pricing structure, employees and discover the opportunities for long-term growth. Arlington County Library offers a wealth of resources when it comes to market research for small businesses. Best thing of all — it is free with your Library Card.
  • Mentorship — If you have an idea and wonder if you can start a business or need someone to review your business plan objectively SCORE is your answer. Arlington is fortunate to have SCORE Mentors located at BizLaunch for counseling and mentorship. Best of all it is also free. Our counselors have a variety of professional backgrounds and business experience to meet the needs of Arlington business owners: Ed Coleman, Joe Clarke, Gerry Sanz and Frank Gunion.
  • Planning — Business planning makes the difference between a highly successful business, and a business that is getting by. If you do your due diligence throughout the life cycle of your business you minimize costly mistakes. We offer free or minimal cost workshops on planning each month.
  • Pricing — Know your worth. Don’t have the cheapest costs in town. It will catch up with you.
  • Reach Out — Attend free workshops and conferences on entrepreneurship. Brunch and Business is a great first step to hear firsthand from an Arlington business as to how they have achieved their success. The DC metro area is rich in opportunities to learn about the craft of starting a business. BizLaunch is here to help budding entrepreneurs decide if they are ready to launch their business.
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