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What Is Your Small Business Concerned About?

As a small business owner, I get it. I know what it’s like when gas prices go through the roof. I understand the challenges of getting loans in a tight credit market. And health insurance issues… don’t even get me started.

When I saw the just-released Sage survey of small business concerns, I was curious to see if other small business owners have the same outlook as I do.

According to Jennifer Warawa, senior director of partner programs at Sage, the top concerns small businesses consistently voice include:

  • Running the businesses on reduced staff

  • Dealing with rising costs and regulatory issues

  • Attracting and keeping new customers

  • Waiting for consumers to start spending again

  • Finding ways to retain skilled employees


Small business owners also said reduction of bureaucracy (56%), business taxes (48%), and the national debt (48%) should be priorities to help small businesses. Some of those are a little different than the issues I grapple with, but I can still relate.

“On a brighter note, attendees indicated that while the construction and real estate sectors have taken a serious beating over the past couple of years, the real estate market is slowly coming back, and non-profits are regaining some momentum,” Warawa says. “While they are cautious, many small businesses are hoping that things will continue to improve in 2011."

Clearly, things are getting better.  I read small business headlines every day. Small business bankruptcy filings are down. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is working to expand the definition of “small business” to help more entrepreneurs. Congress is also fighting for small businesses, knowing that they make up the backbone of the economy.

Be encouraged. If you’ve made it this far, the worst is behind you. And if you are just starting out, the best is before you. If you are thinking about starting a new business, check out this video from eHow:



What is your small business concerned about? What are you most optimistic about?
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Is Dell’s New Vostro 3000 a Smart Buy for Small Biz?

In case you didn’t now, I’m a technology reporter for various magazines. That means I can keep you up to date on the latest and greatest technologies for small businesses.

When I saw that Dell launched a new Vostro 3000 series laptops aimed at the small business market, I decided to take a look-see for myself—so I could share my opinion with you.

Dell designed the Vostro 3000 series laptops to meet the demand for real-time information exchange, long battery life, and virtual collaboration solutions. That’s a tall promise, and I was a bit skeptical that Dell could pull all that off for around $550.

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the specs on this new laptop. Whether you are a road warrior, or just an entrepreneur who works from your virtual office 9-5, these machines let you speed on the Internet fast lane with an Intel second-generation Core 1 series processor. That’s about as fast as it gets.

And when it comes to style, Dell also has you covered with the Vostro 300 series. Apple may turn heads with its sleek machines, but Dell’s Vostro is nothing to turn your back on. The design is pretty sleek in and of itself, complete with a chiclet keyboard, aluminum finish and your choice of Aberdeen Silver, Lucerne Red or Brisbane Bronze. You can choose a 13-, 14-, 15- or even a 17-inch model.

But the real benefits happen underneath the hood. This is the first small-business laptop to feature voice enhancing technology SRS Premium Voice Pro software. A full HD webcam promises lifelike interactions with coworkers and customers, and a digital array mic helps reduce ambient noise for clearer sound. Skype is also pre-installed so you can do video conferencing from your customized dashboard.

Another great feature is security. You can back up your small business data 10 times faster with the Vostro’s super speed USB 3.0. The machine also comes with a built-in fingerprint reader and Trend Micro’s Worry-Free Business Security software.

What’s it going to cost you?

•    13-inch 3350 SAPP - $599
•    14-inch 3450 SAPP - $499
•    15-inch 3550 SAPP - $499
•    17-inch 3750 SAPP - $549

Pound-for-pound, I’d recommend this small business laptop over the other options in the market. Unless you are just a diehard Apple fan, this machine will thrill you.
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Worried About Retirement? Start Planning Now.

Are you concerned about retirement? You are not alone.

The just-released 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) reveals people are more pessimistic than at any time in the past two decades about their retirement prospects.

High unemployment rates. Federal, state, and local government fiscal crises. Rising health care costs. Lower investment returns. A surge in the older population putting stress on social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Longer life expectancies. All of these factors are weighing heavy on the hearts of people concerned about retirement.

According to the RCS survey, 27 percent of people now say they are “not at all confident” about retirement, up 5 percentage points from the level measured just one year ago. And the percentage of workers saying they are "very confident" of a comfortable retirement ties with 2009 at 13 percent—the lowest rate ever measured by the RCS. Nearly a third of survey participants said they had to dip into their savings last year to pay for basic expenses.

“Many people are planning to work longer and retire later because they know they simply can't afford to leave the work place—both for the paycheck and for the benefits,” says
survey co-author Mathew Greenwald, of Greenwald & Associates. “Unfortunately, many retirees also tell us they left the work force earlier than they planned, either because of health problems or layoffs. So it may not necessarily be a bad thing that those who can work longer choose to do so.”

What’s a concerned worker to do? Start putting away money for retirement now. The United States Department of Labor has some strategic tips for preparing for retirement.

  1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals.

  2. Know your retirement needs.

  3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan.

  4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan.

  5. Consider basic investment principles.

  6. Don’t touch your retirement savings.

  7. Ask your employer to start a plan.

  8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account.

  9. Find out about your Social Security benefits.

  10. Ask questions.


Those are the tips in a nutshell. You can visit the Department of Labor online to dig deeper into each of those retirement planning tips—but the overarching message is clear: Get in formed and start planning now.

Check out this YouTube video with some additional tips for retirement planning:
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Would You Have Enough Insurance in a Disaster?

In the wake of the 9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan, small businesses may be thinking about what would happen if a disaster strikes closer to home.

Not every small business needs to worry about earthquakes and tsunamis. But there are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods—and plenty of man-made disasters—that could strike at any time.

What would happen to your small business in the midst of a disaster? Would you lose everything? How would you replace it? Insurance is the typical answer.

According to a new survey from specialist insurer Hiscox, 72 percent of small businesses agree that insurance is a must-have. The question mark comes with the amount of insurance that’s appropriate.

"As a small business's revenue increases, so does the level of complexity and confusion about the proper amount of insurance coverage needed to cover against risks,” says Kevin Kerridge, small business insurance expert from Hiscox USA. “A lawsuit against a small business could be crippling, not only to the business itself, but to the owner's other assets, including their house.”

The Hiscox survey found that the bigger a business grows, the more its owners wish they knew about how much insurance they need. Established small businesses were twice as likely to cite "not understanding how much to insure their business for" as the number one mistake small business owners make when purchasing insurance versus micro small businesses.

What’s more, the smaller the size of a business, the more likely they are to use their personal network for insurance advice. Micro small businesses are twice as likely to purchase insurance through referrals from friends or colleagues, compared to established small businesses. Finally, established small businesses are much more likely to purchase insurance through brokers compared to micro small businesses.

But small businesses should be cautious about whom they take advice from. Here are a few tips to get you started, but be sure to consult with an insurance professional:

  • What are the legal minimums in your state?

  • How much protection does your legal business structure offer against lawsuits?

  • What is the value of your property?

  • What are the alternatives to high insurance rates and what risk do they bring?


You can also check out this video on how business insurance works:

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What Do You Believe About Your Career?

People talk about "belief" as this thing that only works for people who are successful. Ask these same successful people what they owe their success to and they'll start using words like positive thinking and affirmations. But people who struggle often articulate the success of others to "good luck" and their own struggles with "bad luck."

If those who are achieving great things in their careers keep using the same words over and over again, maybe they are repeating these words because they are true or because the repetition helps them to become true. Maybe being successful really is simple and straightforward. You believe and then you achieve. If this is the case, then is it finally time to follow their advice?

In a world that puts out a lot of negativity, it's a challenge to think positively. But unless you do, your goals won't happen. A negative attitude holds you back. It makes you doubt yourself and your ability to reach your goals. But this can be changed if you want it to change. The flip side of thinking negative is positive, so if you have a career goal in mind, one that you really want, it's time for you to shift your thinking and your focus.

So How Do You Believe? Follow These 3 Steps Below:

1) Chose To Believe

If you don't think that believing in your goals works, then you won't believe. And, your goals won't work. Without belief, the magic in your career is gone. Many of my clients want to be excited, motivated, and passionate about their careers. Belief is at the heart of this wish. When you believe in something, you feel giddy, like a child who knows that anything can and will happen. You get that pep in your step, and you have something to look forward to. Belief gives you a reason to get out of bed everyday. It fuels your fire and moves you forward in a strong and powerful way.

2) Say Your Career Goals Out Loud

When you speak something, rather than only thinking it, it becomes real. But many people are afraid to speak about their goals because they don't know what the outcome will be. You don't get a guarantee in your career. You get a feeling that something feels right and then you go after it. And usually if it feels right, it is right. Try it now. Speak your goal. How did it feel? Good, I bet. Now, who will you tell, and keep telling? Writing down your goals is important, but so is saying them out loud.

3) Achieve Your Career Goals

If you work on your goals, you will reach them. If you don't work on your goals, you won't. But once you believe you can achieve your goals, and you've said it for the world to hear, you are ready to act. Put one foot in front of the other and keep repeating this action until you've reached your destination. Sound too simple to be effective? Probably. But what's wrong with simple?

So, what do you say? You only have one life to live, so it might as well be a life you love!

Deborah Brown-Volkman, PCC, is the President of Surpass Your Dreams, Inc. a successful career, life, and mentor coaching company that works with Senior Executives,  Vice Presidents, and Managers who are looking for new career opportunities or seek to become more productive  in their current role. She is the author of "Coach Yourself To A New Career", "Don't Blow It! The Right Words For The Right Job" and "How To Feel Great At Work Everyday."  Deborah can be reached at http://www.surpassyourdreams.com.
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