Consumers have so many choices when it comes to choosing the right business for their needs. The first decision they must make is whether to go with a small or big business. Small businesses are able to focus on their mission and keep their fingers on the pulse of their customers. They are also able to offer more personal attention to their clients. But we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of small privately owned businesses these past few years.For smaller businesses today, an important point to consider is whether they should develop an online store or website. Many experts agree that an online presence is essential for most businesses, and that there are several reasons why consumers should select a small business over a big one.While many small companies see big companies as the enemy, their real competition is other small companies like themselves. Most big businesses already have a recognizable brand name. They also have a pretty loyal fan base. They are not worried about small operations knocking them down in sales. But other small shops must continue to fight their business counterparts to get an edge in today’s market.Why would people choose to go with a smaller business over a larger one? Many customers enjoy the more personal and face-to-face attention they get from a small business; they’re not just talking to a voice on the end of a phone. Some people like to think that the money they’re spending is going back into the local community. You need to remember these principles when developing your website or online store.It is increasingly straightforward for a small to medium business to establish an online presence nowadays. Successful online stores can really help small businesses increase their sales and steer their profits into the black. Before launching an online store, however, a small business first needs to learn how to make the most of its strengths.Some small sized businesses make the mistake of using their online image as a way to appear bigger. But that image may turn away the customers they would normally attract with their usual image. Building an online image that reflects the hallmarks of a small business is important. Having an email address and phone number on your website for customers to contact you is a good way help them feel more personally connected to your business. Also consider an instant chat option with customer service representatives for your customers to receive real-time responses.Also highlight how your small business benefits the local economy. Use your website to remind customers that you are a member of the community and that you care about it. Maybe highlight the employees to give them the “face” your customers want to see. That added personal touch is what brings in the types of people who are tired of big businesses and want better customer service.Too many small businesses try to go bigger and better when they establish their online store or website. They lose sight of their original mission and forget about the things that people value about small business. Make sure you make good use of your business’s characteristics when establishing your online presence and don’t discard your small business image. This will help your venture online be a success.
People involved in small business get a bad rap for their workaholic ways. You know because you either know someone who is involved in small business or you are that person. Let’s look at some facts about small businesses in San Diego and then ways people involved in small business everywhere can a better create work-life balance.According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.9-percent of the 27.5 million businesses in the United States are considered small firms with fewer than 500 employees*. According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the majority of companies in San Diego County are small businesses with 50 employees or less. One out of every five small businesses in San Diego County are in the business services segment which includes consulting, engineering, accounting, research and management. The additional types of business segments in descending size order are wholesale trade, manufacturing / repair, transportation, consumer services, specialty construction, builders, retail, finance/real estate/insurance and an “other” segment (the unclassified small businesses in the county). In San Diego County, the average number of people employed by a small business is 7.3 people.Everyone related to small business – the owners, the employees, the people who cater to and support small businesses – here are three tips for more balance in your life:1. Schedule time off. Small business owners value the importance of sticking to a schedule and deadlines. Decide how much time you can schedule to relax, be social or spend time with family in the next week and also how much time you would ideally like to have for such activities in the future. Then, schedule time away from work. Maybe this upcoming week you can only dedicate one hour away from everything work related; block out that hour on your calendar immediately. Knowing that your ideal amount of time is two full weekdays per month, a small business owner can set aside those specific dates in February now. Once those days are on the schedule, they must be respected as if they are meetings with the most valuable client. Commit to taking the time off for the things that matter most outside of business and protect that scheduled time.2. Turn off the cell phone. This goes for small business owners and anyone who has ever thought about work outside of the workplace. Especially when spending time with others outside of working hours, turn off the distractions of business. By removing the distractions of phone calls, text messages, instant messages, e-mails and phone alerts for a short time, you can truly relish in your time away from the office.Do you (or the small business owner you know) feel anxiety rise up inside of you when you merely consider turning off your phone? What if you took up the challenge of turning your phone off for one hour next week? Maybe it’s turning off the phone for the hour you’ve scheduled for yourself and your family. Maybe you turn off your phone before you fall asleep or leave it off while you get ready in the morning. Another suggestion is to shut off your phone during your commute if you drive. Since you shouldn’t be on it if you are driving, turn it off and turn up your favorite tunes. Whenever you decide to turn off your phone, you are claiming that time for yourself, which is a crucial piece of the work-life balance equation.Once you’ve turned on your phone again and realized that your business or work hasn’t imploded or exploded, your anxiety will be less the next time you cut off this type of communication. And what if your business does start to implode or explode? If you are not the sole person in your business, then someone will get ahold of you through your significant other, neighbor, friend, coworker or someone will show up where you are to tell you. If you are the sole person in your business, find another business owner in the same situation and work out a trade where you ensure each other’s businesses don’t go awry. Which brings us to the next point.3. Appoint a second-in-command for when you are inaccessible. You will take time off whether it’s an hour next week or a full month next year, and you don’t want to worry about your work during that time. That would eliminate the balance. Select a second-in-command and let the person know in what circumstance they will be in charge and how to reach you if a true emergency arises. (You may want to clarify what you consider an emergency with this person.) Let everyone in your company and important vendors know who is in charge in your absence moving forward. That way if something comes up in the hour you are in a business meeting or at your child’s play or in the month you are on vacation abroad, all employees and important vendors will know who to go to. Your second-in-command acts like the gatekeeper to your time away and assesses when he or she needs to contact you. Finally, when setting up your away messages with the times and dates you will be out of pocket, list your second-in-command’s contact information. Your away message may be on your website, in your social media messages, in an e-mail bounce-back message, on your store’s door, and on the phones in your business. If you’d like that breath of fresh air without the worry, then take the steps needed to prevent work from finding you unnecessarily while you are claiming more life in your work-life balance.With the majority of businesses in United States and in San Diego County operating as small businesses, work-life balance is necessary to continue and grow. By scheduling time off, turning off the cell phone and choosing a second-in-command, you can protect and freely enjoy your time away from the small business you run, work for or support. Here’s to work-life balance in small businesses everywhere!* The U.S. Small Business Administration sources data from the Office of Advocacy estimates based on data from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, and trends from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Business Employment Dynamics.