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Month: March 2015

Small Business CRM Is Here To Stay

Small Business CRM Is Here To Stay

If you ask most small business owners what priority CRM has in their short-term business plans, chances are you’ll get more than one blank stare. The fact is that most small business owners don’t even know what CRM is not to mention how significantly it can benefit their growing company. This prevailing ignorance of small business CRM (customer relationship management) usually stems from just a few basic causes.

Excuses not to invest in small business CRM

The first and most common reason for disinterest in small business CRM is the very nature of small business. With limited financial and personnel resources at their disposal, business owners believe they can’t afford the money or time that a small business CRM system would require showing a significant ROI. Often the chief concern is just staying afloat long enough to sign that big contract or receive a large product order.

Still other owners of new businesses believe that they can build and maintain quality customer relations simply by the virtue of their cordial personality or particular market niche. They see small business CRM as an unessential luxury to be enjoyed exclusively by their larger competitors. What these owners often find is that without sufficient small business CRM support their business will never expand beyond the number of customer names they can remember. The problem is compounded when the company expands into internet sales (an essential move by any growing company) and suddenly finds its present customer tracking system overwhelmed by the sheer amount of incoming customer information.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, as all successful small business owners have learned, is that it takes more than one good idea to build long-term business growth and stability. You may be great at attracting new customers to your business, but if you fail to care for, track, and understand your customer base, not only will you hemorrhage your hard-won clientele, you will also fail to capitalize on future opportunities by not anticipating future market trends.

The Solution

The good news about small business CRM is that there is an increasing number of automated systems available at prices that most smaller companies can afford without too much difficulty, usually around $2000 a year. Some CRM companies, effectively eliminating the need for small business owners to micromanage their CRM system, largely manage newer small business CRM systems. Now small business owners can reap the benefits of a smooth running CRM system with a minimal time/financial investment.

Features to look for in a small business CRM system

There are many features available to small business CRM users designed to not only track sales, but also cause sales. Here are some features to look for.

· Power Dialing-This feature allows your outbound sales agents to place 300%-400% as many sales calls, effectively quadrupling your workforce.

· Voice Messaging System-Allows you to automatically record and send sales calls designed to elicit a customer call back.

· Custom Fax and Email-Following up on leads with timely fax and email can mean the difference between closing sales and miss out on potential revenue.

Other ‘must-have’ features include:

· Calendaring

· Marketing Management

· Sales Management

· Order and quote management

· Service Management

With the ability to outsource these business functions, small business owners can concentrate on implementing strategies that they’ve had to hold off on due to lack of customer information and time.

Reality Vs Myths – SBA Changes Small Business Reporting Standards

Reality Vs Myths – SBA Changes Small Business Reporting Standards

The SBA recently made some changes to how small businesses can compete in the federal marketplace, leading to some false beliefs. An examination which clears up some of the false beliefs about the change in Small Business Association guidelines and how it affects businesses trying to do work with the government.

Myth: Small Businesses can’t compete in the federal marketplace because large companies are getting contracts specifically written for smaller businesses.

Reality: Though it is true this has happened in the past, large businesses taking contracts set aside for smaller businesses is not a real factor anymore in the federal contracting arena. A minuscule percentage of contracts get awarded to companies whose size is later challenged – the companies are almost universally on the edge of what is defined as a ‘small business’ rather than the large multi-national corporations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has adopted regulations which keep such contracts from being considered as small business contracts, helping to make the available figures and statistics more accurately reflect reality.

Myth: Large and multinational corporations are listed in the GSA’s database with small business contracts because they were awarded them.

Reality: There are two explanations for this. The first is that size status is determined at the time a contract is awarded and is retained for the duration of the contract. In recent times, agencies have increasingly been awarding long-term contracts which can extend for as much as twenty years. During that period, it is quite possible that these businesses become larger and no longer fit the small business size standard for their commodities. Small businesses are becoming large businesses during the period of their contracts, making size reporting difficult to implement effectively. Secondly, many large companies have a strategy of purchasing small businesses with long-term contracts, meaning that a contract awarded to a small business may then become owned by a subsidiary of a large business. Until recently, agencies were allowed to count those contracts toward their small business goals despite this fact.

Myth: Nothing has been done to stop such misrepresentation of small business awards, and the SBA has not made it more difficult for larger businesses to attain long-term small business contracts and misrepresent themselves.

Reality: Many steps have been taken to resolve this issue. The SBA implemented a ruling in June that requires companies, large or small, to recertify their size status at the end of the initial contract term (generally five years) and again at every exercising of a contract term extension option, usually between one and five years. Additionally, whenever a small business is bought out by or merges with another business (of any size), it must recertify its size status for all of its contracts, regardless of where they are in the term. Thus, from now on all contracts will be reported as held by large companies if the business holding them has grown past small business size standards or has been acquired by a large company. The SBA has also taken other steps, including increasing its staff working on finding small business contracting opportunities, requiring federal agencies to review any issues or discrepancies with their reported contracting statistics, and starting a “Small Business Procurement Scorecard,” which will monitor and score agencies on their performance on a variety of small business goals.

Myth: This five-year recertification allows agencies to report the tens of billions of dollars set aside for small businesses for large businesses until 2012.

Reality: The new SBA policy explicitly prohibits this. It forbids small businesses that merge or are acquired by large businesses from claiming small size status for all future work, even on existing contracts. This means that as soon as a business is no longer legally considered ‘small,’ all of the dollars used must be reported according to the appropriate size standard. It also limits the time that a small business that expands beyond small standards can report as small to no more than five years – and most to within one year. All of the new SBA policies apply to all existing and future contracts of any term length, so that whenever any event that triggers a recertification need occurs – merger, acquisition, end of a contract term, or exercise of a contract option – the business must recertify itself to whatever size standard is appropriate at that time.

Myth: Small business can be forced to compete alongside large businesses because of the new recertification policies.

Reality: A contract that is set aside for small businesses MUST be given to a business that is certifiable as small at the time of bid submission. These new policies actually protect small business owners from having to compete with larger businesses, because there is now no way for them to acquire small businesses to certify small business status.

Myth: There is no enforcement, and there are no penalties, fines, or consequences for large businesses that get small business contracts.

Reality: If the SBA determines that a business has misrepresented itself about the size standard, they have the right to disqualify a bid and deny the contract. If a business is found to have intentionally misrepresented itself regarding size status in order to get a contract, under Section 16(d) of the Small Business Act, the owners are subject to fines and imprisonment. Companies that lost out on the bid may challenge the size of the winning companies and also file civil suits under the False Claims Act. Additionally, there is proposed legislation that would delay awarding of any contracts that have size standards attached to a certain dollar amount until the size status of the winning bidder is determined and verified by the SBA.

Myth: The SBA will not release information on small businesses awarded government contracts.

Reality: Information and data relating to federal contract awards are readily available to the public through the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Any person – small business owner or otherwise – may request information or reports through the database operator, the General Services Administration (GSA), if they have difficult finding data or navigating the site.

Myth: The recertification procedures will change the size standards for small businesses and how they are classified as ‘small,’ much like the 2004 proposal.

Reality: This is simply not the case. Small businesses are still determined to be so by the same regulations. The rules regarding size standards have not changed and are still determined by industry – some are based on a maximum number of employees, some are on revenues in recent years, and some are a combination of the two. The 2004 proposal, which did not go into effect, was a broad restructuring agenda that would have made all size standards determined by the number of employees.

Myth: More than a dozen federal investigations in the last six years have reported finding that billions of dollars were diverted from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies and their subsidiaries across the country.

Reality: There reports almost universally raised issues regarding the accurate reporting of contract dollars that were originally awarded to small businesses – just the sort of thing the new rules were put in place to prevent. This meant that small businesses were the original winners of the contracts but then were bought up by larger companies. Although there are very few occasions where large businesses won federal contracts that had been set aside for small businesses. This was because of a misunderstanding or of a small business not realizing it had grown beyond the size standard. None of the studies suggested that large, multinational corporations competed against small businesses for contracts. The dollars went to the larger companies because the business that originally won the contract was small. The new rules and guidelines that have been put into effect as of June 30, 2007, should prevent any further such problems of misreporting.

Small Business – When Government Stacks the Deck Against You

Small Business – When Government Stacks the Deck Against You

We expect a fair degree of corruption, arrogance and drooling self-interest from our elected officials. After all, in the last 206 years, we have fallen a great distance from the days of the “virtuous republic” that existed or was thought to exist in that first decade after the Revolution. Yes, we expect it, but I would have more respect for the operatives, the party-men and the politicos themselves if they could be just a little intelligent about it. The current issue with the Bush Administration, Congress, the SBA and the awarding of a great deal of money earmarked for small business, is a case in point.

When Big Business Seems Small

It is illegal, a felony that comes with fines and a prison term, to try to pass your big business off as a small business to get one of the 23% of Federal contracts reserved for small businesses. It happens all the time. According to the American Small Business League, a non-partisan watchdog group, some $60 billion in Federal contracts go to major corporations each year. How it happens brings us to the question of how you decide that a business is truly small.

Counting Heads

What is a small business? How do you measure it? Is it revenue? Sales? Staff size? Any one of these could be a viable measure, but for the most part, the matter is decided by staff size. Depending on the industry, you can have a maximum of 1,500 employees and still be considered a small business! (Federal Regulations Title 13, Part 121, Section 201)

These larger “small businesses,” with 1,000 to 1,500 employees, deal in oil, aerospace, rail transportation, textiles, and chemical and rubber products. Wholesalers, regardless of their products, are capped at 100; information technology value-added resellers are capped at 150 (a very recent change) while the rest are capped at either 500 or 750. In 2005 (the most recent data available), there were 5,966,069 firms in the U.S. with 500 or fewer employees and they employed 58,644,585 people out of a total employment of 116,373,003. That is 50.3% of the working population working in what could easily be described as legitimately small businesses. If you add up the firms with larger numbers of employees, you find that there are 11,546 of them and that they employ 9,475,180 people, 8.14% of the workforce.

Call me crazy, but a firm with 1,000 employees doesn’t seem to be very small to me! It may be small when compared to the giants in its industry, but it is a giant compared with the vast majority of small businesses. In 2004, there was an effort to bring the number of employees down from 500 to 100 for a business to be classified as small. In spite of a great deal of support for the measure including U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who said: “By working to change the definition of a small business for government contracts from 500 to 100 employees, federal contracts specifically designed to ensure the success of American small business would go where they belong – to support Americans, not big companies dressed in sheep’s clothing.”-The effort was killed by the SBA itself. That, however, is only the beginning. Another has to do with how small businesses are certified.

Finding a Certified Small Business

The question of how many employees a small business can have is complicated even further when we see that the government has been rather lax in enforcing the contract award rules for small business. In fact, in 2005, some $49 billion in Federal contracts that were set aside for small business were awarded to the 13 largest government contractors. This lax enforcement has led to cases where the small business in question is actually a subsidiary of a much larger company, where businesses have outgrown their small business status, where big business misrepresents itself as a small business and where government procurement offices, such as with the military, simply disregard the rules and do business with who they like.

The Small Business Front

Two of the most prevalent ways that large companies can maintain a small business front are through the legal loopholes that allow a small business to retain its status throughout the life of its original contract and bid on new business as a small business no matter how large it grows and even after it is bought out by a large company.

In either case, what the company in question is doing is, in fact, legal. Their actions are also limited by the fact that the loophole is based on the length of the small business’ initial contract. For example, if a small business wins a 10-year contract to provide computer hardware, it maintains its small business status for the full ten years of the contract regardless of how large it grows or if some huge conglomerate buys it. This has been an issue for some time. Consider the following:

According to a 2006 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office: Commerce Information Technology Solutions (COMMITS) Next Generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract, “We found that many of the 55 COMMITS NexGen contractors have grown significantly or have been acquired by larger businesses and may no longer meet small business size standards. We also found that a significant portion of the task orders intended for the smallest contractors were issued to larger, incumbent contractors.”

Incumbent contractors tend to get the lion’s share of the government’s business. A 2004 SBA Office of Advocacy: Eagle Eye Publishers’ Report said that: “Of the top 1,000 small business contractors in FY 2002, Eagle Eye Publishers’ analysis found 44 parent companies it identified as either large firms or ‘other.’ Contracts to these two groups taken together had a total value of $2 billion.” The report continued, saying that: “The Department of Defense and the General Services Administration accounted for 79 percent of the contract awards found to have gone to large businesses.” One of the conclusions drawn from the report was: “As a result of this lack of transparency, many awards that should be reserved for small firms go to large firms unchallenged.”

Disregarding the Rules

Rules can be broken either directly, by a willful disregard on the part of those the rules were intended to regulate, such as a company that purposefully misidentifies itself as a small business in order to get a contract; or they can be broken indirectly by a lack of oversight and enforcement that creates an atmosphere in which the rules can be ignored. One of the problems cited against the SBA is an oversight. “SBA did not review the majority of reported bundled contracts that we identified through procuring activities must provide, and SBA must review proposed bundled acquisitions. As a result, 192 contracts identified by procuring agencies as bundled were awarded without SBA’s review. If all of these are bundled contracts, a minimum of $384 million would be potentially lost to eligible small businesses, based on minimum dollar reporting requirements of $2 million.” (SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of the Contract Bundling Process, May 2005) And consider this from the SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of Monitoring Compliance with 8(a) Business Development Contract Performance, March 2006:

“Though SBA delegated 8(a) BD contract execution authority to 26 procuring agencies, SBA did not ensure that procuring agencies monitored whether companies complied with 8(a) BD regulations when completing 8(a) BD contracts . . . SBA has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that companies comply with 8(a) BD regulations.”

The SBA is the final oversight authority for these contract awards and yet through their lack of enforcement efforts, it is easy for large businesses to slip through. Why is this? There are two likely reasons. The first is that the Bush Administration when it came into office, cut funding for the SBA. At the end of the Clinton Administration, the budget for the SBA was about $1.1 billion. By 2006, it was down to $456.5 million. Funding has increased since the 2006 low; for 2009, that number has increased to $657 million, mostly due to funding for disaster relief loans; but the agency has nowhere near the budget it used to have. Generally speaking, if you cut funds to an agency, certain things start to slip, and that is not a message that the SBA, or the Bush Administration for that matter, want going public.

However, it already has.

An audit by the American Small Business League (ASBL) and two independent experts showed that even while the SBA was saying that it is a “myth that large companies, including large, multi-national corporations are taking away federal contracts specifically intended for small businesses,” it was discovered that the Bush Administration had in fact included billions of dollars in awards to Fortune 500 corporations and other large businesses in the United States and Europe in its small business contracting statistics. Also, the Bush Administration failed to comply with the congressionally mandated 23% small business contracting goal by including such corporate giants as:

Dyncorp

Battelle Memorial Institute

Hewlett Packard

Government Technology Services Inc (GTSI),

Bechtel

Lockheed Martin

General Dynamics

General Electric

Northstar Aerospace

Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Raytheon.

British Aerospace Engineering Systems

Buhrmann NV (Dutch)

Thales (French)

More than that, ASBL’s research also found that the government was forced to systematically increase the volume of contracts awarded to small businesses to balance out those that were going to inappropriately big business. Also, awards to legitimate small businesses were systematically inflated to equalize the reduction of small-business contract dollars awarded to Fortune 500 corporations. The ASBL found that according to SBA numbers, Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $887.5 million during 2005. However, the government’s figures indicate that Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $287.5 million during 2005, which represents a discrepancy of $600 million. The ASBL audit found several other instances where the contracting numbers of legitimate small businesses were also significantly inflated.

The Bottom Line

The government decided to play fast and loose with small business contract money, and they got caught siphoning it off to some of the largest companies on Earth. There are those that will only see the damage that this will do to McCain in the fall, yet another Bush Administration failure/debacle/betrayal-whatever you like best. That, however, is not the point. The point is why was the SBA hamstrung and placed in the position it has been in by the Bush Administration? More than that, why has this abuse been allowed to go on for so long? Call me a political cynic-I am from Chicago so I come by it honestly but the only thing that makes sense to me is that government officials are paying back the people with deep pockets who helped to get them elected, and they are doing it at the expense of, well, YOU. True, paybacks are a time-honored political tradition, but by stealing the money from small business, the U.S. Government as a whole turned its back on the overwhelming number of U.S. employers and employees for a handful of major corporations. I urge you, as a small business owner; and you as an employee of a small business, to write your senators and congressmen, and to write to each of the presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, and their respective party chairmen-Republican and Democrat alike, and tell them that you want this to stop. Remember, small business contract set-asides are for YOU, not major corporations. It is time to remind Washington of that.

Review Over French Press Coffee Makers

Review Over French Press Coffee Makers

Day by day, there are a large number of the advancements are made in the food industry, and many of the beverages are introduced in the market in a huge way. Of course, a variety of coffees are introduced in the market, but still, some of them are more delicious and makes the people attain a better rejuvenation in their tastes and strength. In that way, the French press brews are the most imperative, which are needed by many of the people, and there are many appliances are there for to make it. But still, this makes you know about the one, which could give a perfect support for the daily usage.

Of course, this is nothing about the best french press coffee maker, which could make people attain a better appliance for making the instant freshly prepared French press brews. Even though, there are a large number of the appliances are there to make this recipe, this appliance is one of the most imperative and also the innovative one, which could give a complete benefit in a perfect way. This is, of course, a complete one and which could give the effective taste and makes a complete rejuvenation in a riskless way. It is in fact; this is easy to maintain and also gives the user to make coffees in an easy and also in an efficacious way. This is highly recommended by many, and this can be attained in a cheap affordable cost without any complications.

Structured Cabling System; All You Need to Know

Structured Cabling System; All You Need to Know

Well, we are now in the market of structured cabling system. Before we get too far into the main topic, let me tell you its definition first so that you have an idea what discussion this article is heading to. A structured cabling system is a series of wires that connects a company’s communication system and other data transmission systems. This type of cabling system can transfer data, voice, and video communications. Those who run a huge company or business may need this type of cabling system so that all the data can be well synchronized. However, you may also need a more complicated solution if you have a larger business with a great deal of technology that needs to be wired together.

Below are the differences of structured cabling system in Woodlands that you may useful if you are in the needs of having one of them for your company;

The common form of the cable system is an entrance facility. Entrance facility comes as first choice for those who own companies whose setup interfaces with the public. This type of cabling system seems to be very useful if your technology faces outward.

Next, it will be in another common form of the cabling system. But, what makes it difference from the first list is that you need an equipment room to run the system. An equipment stands to serve the communications needs of the internal audience. The equipment room will control all the technology and system that is going to be used by all the employees.

Then, if you are such an owner of a business that runs or own a very complicated system, then you need to use both entrance facility and also equipment room. However, it is not going to be easy to use both of the system. You need something called telecommunications room for both. A telecommunications room houses both a horizontal cable system and or a backbone system.