Common Ways Employees Compromise Security

When people consider threats to security, they usually imagine hackers and cybercriminals getting into systems from outside. However, the issue can stem from employees. It could be intentional, or the employees may not be trained properly. Your business may not have strict security policies in place. Because as many as 28% of data security incidents come from the inside, it is important to protect yourself. 

  1. Intentional Threats

The worst kind of insider threat is intentional. While it is rare, it happens, and it is harder to detect and costs more than outside attacks. Back in 2014, AT&T experienced this type of attack, as well as Sony, JPMorgan, and Home Depot. Not only did it cause customers’ social security numbers, birth dates, and drivers’ license numbers to be exposed, but these companies were hit with large fines. The best way to prevent this attack is by paying attention to employees and making sure that you only allow access to sensitive data to those who need it. 

  1. Password Issues

The way that people use passwords is a huge threat to businesses today. Many people use the easiest combination of letters or numbers to remember, which makes it easy for hackers to get in. It only takes ten minutes to hack a six-character password in all lower case. When you add a few capitals, it takes them ten hours. Once you add numbers and symbols, it takes up to 18 days. Make sure that your employees use longer passwords with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, and require them to change the passwords frequently. 

  1. Access Policies

Another way that businesses suffer is from weak access policies. It is important to make sure that the only people who access systems and files are those who need to. Access should be revoked as soon as a person no longer needs it. You could have an employee who accesses one and opens it. This leaves a cached copy on their workstation, which opens up another door for hackers. You need a strict access policy with folders being inaccessible as the default setting.

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Why Baseball Is So Popular

Baseball is one of the most historic sports. Americans love baseball and it’s become such a tradition. There are many reasons why baseball has maintained high popularity to this day. Read on to learn a bit about why baseball is so popular. 

Accessibility

Accessibility plays a role in the popularity of baseball. You see, some sports are hard to play without buying a ton of equipment. It’s easy enough to play baseball if you have a bat and a ball. The roots of baseball go back to rural people playing the game. Also, the rules of baseball are simple to understand. 

For many, baseball is a game that’s so great because of its simplicity. The rules might be simple, but there are so many complex strategies that you can form inside of those rules. You can teach kids how to play baseball easily and they can learn to excel at it. It’s also something that you can enjoy no matter how tall you are so it doesn’t feel like you have to hit the genetic jackpot to do well in this sport. 

The Rich History

Baseball has a rich history in America that goes back well over a hundred years. There are people out there who have been rooting for their hometown team for a hundred years (or close to it). Since this game has been a part of American culture for so long, the history of the game has become a part of the people. You might grow up learning about the history of your hometown baseball team from your family. 

The Long Schedule

Major League Baseball has a much longer schedule than other professional sports. There are just 16 regular season games in an NFL season and there are 82 regular season games in the NBA. The MLB has a 162-game season. There’s a good chance that you can see your hometown team play each day during the season on TV, and it’s not hard to try to attend a live game with so many opportunities during the year. 

There Are So Many Teams

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. There are also so many minor league baseball teams playing the game at various levels. Even if you don’t live close to a major team, you might have the opportunity to see minor league teams play. This game is enjoyable at all levels of play, and you can see players working their way up to the majors on minor league teams.

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High Profile Company Data Breaches of 2022

There have been many recent cybersecurity attacks on industries such as healthcare, government, energy, finance, and manufacturing. With the evolution of technology, cybercrime is projected to cost as much as $10.5 trillion by 2024, and businesses have become more vulnerable, even with protection in place. Take a look at some of the high-profile company data breaches of 2022. 

  1. February 2022: GiveSendGo Breach

This company is a Christian fundraising site, and it happened after the Ottawa truckers’ protests. The personal details of people who had donated were compromised, and the hackers redirected the site to a page that was against the protests. This is a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, and they followed it up by posting the personal information of 90,000 people who had contributed to the GiveSendGo website. This shows how important it is for businesses to use secure platforms and payment methods. 

  1. January 2022: Crypto.com Breach

Although Crypto.com has been considered one of the most secure sites for transaction processing, hackers work hard to break in. On January 17, 2022, there was an attack that targeted 483 user wallets. The cybercriminals stole close to $18 million in bitcoin and another $15 million in Ethereum. They were able to bypass the two-factor authentication, which is one of the reasons that it is so important to use a password manager. It is critical to make sure that any sensitive data is encrypted. 

  1. December 2021: FlexBooker Breach

This is a site that schedules appointments, and it suffered an attack that hurt around 3 million users. Hackers were able to access sensitive data, including photos, ID information including drivers’ licenses, and more. They posted this information on hacker forums. Many professionals, including consultants, accountants, and lawyers stopped using this platform because the hackers exploited the site’s AWS configuration and installed malware, which gave them full control of the system. 

  1. November 2021: Robinhood Breach

Robinhood suffered a breach on November 16, 2021, where the attacker went into its internal systems using social engineering. They got the email addresses of 5 million users and the full names of 2 million people. The hacker demanded a ransom, but Robinhood contacted law enforcement and informed customers.

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A Travel Guide for Sports Fans Visiting Philadelphia

Philadelphia has long been one of the most famous sports cities in the United States. If you’re visiting Philly for the first time, there are many places you should visit as a sports fan. Below, you’ll find a short travel guide that gives you many tips for making the most of your trip. Keep this advice in mind and your time in the city will be very memorable. 

See a Philadelphia Eagles Game 

If you’re traveling during the NFL regular season, it’s a great idea to go see a Philadelphia Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles fans are well-known for being among the loudest and most passionate fans in the league. Home games are always raucous and entertaining. The stadium itself is truly beautiful and well worth visiting even if you just take a stadium tour when going to a game isn’t possible. 

See a Philadelphia Phillies Game

Of course, you’ll want to see a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park if you can. This is a large baseball stadium that seats up to 43,500 people. It’s a wonderful ballpark that has been recognized as having some of the best ballpark food options in the country. You’ll enjoy great baseball and a fun atmosphere at this ballpark if you choose to go. 

Visit the Rocky Statue

Visiting the Rocky statue is one of the most iconic things to do in Philadelphia. Rocky is an all-time great boxing movie starring Sylvester Stallone. The Rocky steps that the character famously climbs in the movie during training are also a must-see attraction. Currently, the statue is located at the bottom of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Check Out a Philadelphia Union Game

The Philadelphia Union is the first Major League Soccer team in Philly. They play games at the Talon Energy Stadium in Chester, and it’s well worth checking out. If you’re a fan of soccer, you’ll love getting immersed in a competitive game at this stadium. Soccer is a growing sport in America, and it’s fun to see its rise. 

See a Game at the Wells Fargo Center

You can’t go to Philly as a sports fan and ignore the Wells Fargo Center. Both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers play at this stadium. If you’re a fan of the NBA or the NHL, you’re going to want to check this stadium out. It’s a great venue to enjoy sports and you’ll have fun seeing games there with friends or family members.

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Tips for Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business

Starting a company? Here are some important startup tips that will help you make your startup a success.

What do you need to do to start a business? There are dozens of websites that have checklists to remind you of the many tasks you should perform when starting a business. Although such checklists are very useful because they help you remember important startup steps, they’re just To-Do lists. They tell you what to do, but don’t provide any tips about what makes a business successful.

Unfortunately, you don’t succeed in business just by completing a list of tasks. Nor will your business be a success just because you think it’s a good idea.

What will make or break your business? What determines if it will be a success?

Here are some tips for starting a business and making it succeed

Know yourself, your true motivational level, the amount of money you can risk, and what you’re willing to do to be successful. Sure, we all want to make millions of dollars. But what are you willing to give up to reach that goal? How many hours a week will you work on an ongoing basis? How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to stretch? How far will your family stretch with you?

To be successful, keep your business plans in line with your personal and family goals and resources.

Choose the right business for you. The old formula — find a need and fill it — still works. It will always work. The key to success is finding needs that you can fill, that you want to fill, and that will produce enough income to build a profitable business.

Be sure there really is a market for what you want to sell. One of the biggest mistakes startups make is to assume a lot of people will want to buy a particular product or service because the business owner likes the idea or knows one or two people who want the product or service.

To minimize your risk for loss, never assume there’s a market. Research the idea. Talk to real potential prospects (who aren’t family and friends) to find out if what you want to sell is something they’d be interested in buying and, if so, what they’d pay for the product or service. 

Research your competitors. No matter what type of business you’re starting or running, you’ll have competitors. Even if there’s no other business offering exactly what you plan to sell, there are very likely to be other products or services your target customers are using to satisfy their needs.

To be successful, you need to research the competition and find out as much as possible about what they sell and how they sell it. Competitive research is something you should plan on doing on an ongoing basis, too. If there really aren’t any other competitors, it’s possible there isn’t a market or a real need for what you want to sell.

Plan to succeed. If you’re not seeking investors or putting a huge sum of money into your business, you may not need an elaborate business plan, but you still do need a plan — one that specifies your goal and your destination — and then lays out at least a skeletal roadmap for how you’ll get to where you want to go.

The plan will change as you progress and learn more about your customers and competition, but it will still help you stay focused and headed in the right direction. Use our business planning worksheet to help develop that basic plan.

Know the operational needs. Most people who are thinking about starting a business focus on what they’ll sell and who they’ll sell it to.  What they often don’t consider is how the business will actually operate.

For instance, if you’re selling items, how will they be delivered? How much customer support will be needed — either to answer questions about the product or to respond to people whose shipments haven’t arrived? Will you need to accept credit cards? Will you invoice customers? Who will follow up to make sure you’re paid? Who will build and maintain your website and social media presence? Will you be able to use a virtual assistant for such tasks, or will you have to hire employees? Even if you’re starting a small personal service business, these are issues you should consider and plan for.

When it comes to staying on top of invoicing, accepting credit cards, and managing clients, the ZenBusiness Money app can help.

Don’t procrastinate. I’ve heard some people advise would-be business owners to not move ahead with their business until they have investigated every last detail of the business they want to start and are absolutely sure it’s all going to work and be profitable.

The problem with that approach is that it leads to procrastination. No one ever really has all the pieces in place — even after they’ve started their business. Yes, you need to research the market, have a rudimentary plan in place, and do things like get a tax ID number if needed, register with local officials if required, etc. But if you try to make everything perfect before you launch, you may never get around to starting your business at all. 

Start on a small scale before going all out. Some people believe that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. But for the most part, successful entrepreneurs don’t like walking blindfolded onto a limb. Instead, they take controlled risks. They test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, tweak what shows promise, and discard the disasters. You can also consider starting as a freelancer first.

Don’t fixate on mistakes or get demoralized by them. The difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people learn from their mistakes and move on. They don’t dwell on failure, blame the economy, curse their bad luck, or blame other people for their fate. If the path to their goal is blocked, they look for an alternate path or sometimes choose a different, more attainable goal.

Learn from others. Find mentors, join groups with like-minded people, and learn everything you can about your industry and what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be. Attend industry conferences. Take training courses when they’re available. Buy courses offered by experts. You’ll save a tremendous amount of trial and error by learning from people who have been there before.

Think of what you do AS a business. Keep track of income and expenses, keep business money separate from personal funds, and find out what regulations your business needs to abide by.

Understand the difference between working for yourself and building an ongoing business. If you want to build a business, you need to develop systems and methods that allow you to hire other people to DO the work of the business while you plan it. You limit the potential for growth if you don’t bring in other people to work for you.

Get to know investors. If the business you’re starting will need investors to grow, do what you can to find out what investors are looking for and where to find those who might invest in your kind of business.

Local angel and venture capital groups are a good place to start. Attend meetings they hold or meetings where investors are speaking. Have an elevator pitch practiced so you can use it to interest investors if you get the chance.

Put yourself out there. Ask for what you want (politely). I started my online business by participating online on GE’s GEnie online service. When I was ready to send them a proposal to run a small business area, I could not only talk about my credentials in general, but point to places I was already contributing to their service.

I became one of the early content providers to America Online because I picked up the phone and made a cold call. I wound up with a new consulting client after I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me on an airplane.

Remember, people like to do business with people they know. Get the ball rolling, and keep it rolling by continually reaching out and introducing yourself to new people.

Embrace digital marketing. Even if you’re running a local business, you need a comprehensive digital presence. At a minimum, you need a professional-looking website, an email list that lets you communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis, and a presence on the social media channels that your customers frequent.

While you may get many of your customers by word of mouth, referrals, or networking, you still need a strong digital presence. The reason: prospective customers are likely to look you up on the web before they decide whether to contact you. Coupons, special offers, and practical information sent to your email list can encourage customers and prospects to buy from you or make repeat purchases.

Never stop learning and trying new things. What’s profitable now won’t necessarily be profitable next year or 10 years from now. So, don’t let yourself fall into the “this is the way I’ve always done things” rut.

Keep your eyes and ears open for new things. Are there newer or better ways to market your products and services? Are customers asking for something you’re not offering? Is there a different type of customer you should be targeting? Get answers by reading everything you can about your industry and listening to your customers.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

Start an LLC in Your State

When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for forming an LLC.

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How to Set Company Policies to Avoid Problems

Some people view company policies as a sign of encroaching bureaucracy and hence avoid having written or established policies as much as possible. There are even a few publicized cases of relatively large companies that have enjoyed tremendous success without benefit of company policies.

However, if you don’t have some company policies, you may soon find yourself in a situation in which you wish you did.

Policies can make it clear to employees what kind of behavior is expected in your workplace. They can set clear guidelines on what is and isn’t appropriate. And policies can help you avoid, or at least defend, against lawsuits.

Have established purchasing procedures

By having established procedures, including clear delegation of who is and who is not authorized to make purchases, written purchase orders with clear quantities, and pricing and shipping directions, you can go a long way toward avoiding problems.

Remember that, according to the law, a person who looks and acts like a manager at a business can be considered a person who is an authorized purchasing agent.

So avoid issues with your employees and your suppliers by establishing in advance who in your organization actually places orders, and the procedures they should follow.

For example, if you buy goods from a supplier and you don’t issue a purchase order, you may find that the price has suddenly gone up and you’re then stuck with the messy situation of paying the higher price or returning the goods.

Or you may find the supplier has delivered 7% more goods than you ordered because, according to their policies, going 10% over or under is acceptable.

Or let’s say you order office furniture from a supplier and then are told that the items are out of stock and will not be available for six months.

So, you verbally cancel the order and place a similar order with another furniture company. Then six months later the first furniture company ships you the goods. You say you aren’t going to accept them because you canceled the order.

The first furniture company says you can’t do that because they have your written purchase order but no record of the verbal cancellation, and the employee you claim verbally canceled the order with has long left the company.

In this case, if you had just canceled the order by email instead of verbally, you would have had a record and been fine. Now, instead, you have two sets of identical furniture and two bills to pay.

Employee handbooks keep everyone on the same page

If you have more than, let’s say, a dozen employees, you should consider creating a company policy book, often referred to as an employee handbook. This type of book lays out in clear, simple language the patterns of behavior that are or are not acceptable in your workplace. These policies should be aimed at both managers and staff alike. A well-done handbook will go a long way toward protecting you against some employment-related legal claims.

If you do decide to create an employee handbook, have an attorney who specializes in employment issues review the document before you issue it to your employees.

Remember, too, that although you’re the employer, you must follow the rules outlined in your employee handbook yourself and meet any requirements or responsibilities you have set within. The courts have sometimes viewed company policy books as legally binding contracts between employers and employees. Numerous employees have won lawsuits against companies because the employer did not honor the terms or conditions in their own handbooks. So, don’t create one casually; have an attorney do it.

Sexual Harassment

Most women, and some men, have experienced sexual harassment during their careers. Many employees who do so become extremely upset by it. Even the perception of sexual harassment can have a very negative effect on an employee — and, oftentimes, on everyone else in the workplace.

As an employer or manager, take the high road. Make it very clear to people that your firm is strongly against sexual harassment, not just because it is unlawful, but also because it just isn’t right. Most, if not all, of your employees will appreciate your position. If there are objections among members of your staff, they aren’t the type of employee you want in your workplace, anyway!

Sexual harassment is one of the most common grounds for employee-initiated lawsuits in the United States. As an employer, you’re responsible for your own actions, the actions of your managers, and the atmosphere of your workplace. If the environment in your workplace is or may be deemed to be conducive to sexually negative behavior, such as sexually oriented joking, then you may be legally vulnerable.

You need to state a clear policy against sexual harassment within your workplace. You need to take appropriate action against any employee who either condones sexual harassment or violates sexual harassment policies. And you need to assign an impartial party as the person with whom sexual harassment complaints can be registered.

This allows employees to lodge complaints with someone other than their immediate supervisor, which could be a serious problem if the supervisor is the person the complaint is about.

Equal Opportunity

In hiring and promoting personnel, you need to make sure that you’re an equal-opportunity employer — that women, minorities, people of all ages, people of all religions, etc. have an equal chance of employment or promotion at your firm.

Under current U.S. law, you also need to undertake some expenditures, if necessary and with the value being dependent upon the size of your company, to employ physically challenged people.

Take the high road. Make an effort to hire and promote people equally. It’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do.

You want to make sure that all supervisors are careful not to discriminate in their hiring and promoting practices. You also want to make sure that they’re completely apprised of which questions are appropriate and legal to ask during interviews and which ones are not.

Being an equal-opportunity employer is not easy. Most people find it easiest to relate to those individuals who most closely mirror themselves. It’s a natural human tendency to hire and promote the people you like.

So if, for instance, an engineering department manager is a white male, you need to make sure he doesn’t overtly or subconsciously overlook any qualified nonwhite or female candidates when he’s interviewing for a new staff engineer.

Dress

Business dress in most workplaces today is considered fairly casual. Some companies that still have relatively formal dress may even designate a particular day, seasonally or year-round, as casual day.

And some companies waste a significant amount of time defining what is and what is not appropriate as casual wear. It really isn’t necessary, though, to spend too much time developing a dress code. Think simple.

If you don’t greet customers or clients in your workplace, you may want to skip having a formal dress code. One exception might be offensive dress — skimpy outfits or T-shirts that carry profane messages or images.

Of course, this liberal policy may result in a sloppy dress on the part of some employees, but the rewards you reap by showing respect for your employees will be worth it.

If customers or clients frequent your workplace, then set a few basic standards for dress for the employees who interact with the public — shirts, not T-shirts; slacks, not jeans; and shoes, not sneakers.

If somebody wears something really offensive to work, I would send him or her home to change, but do so nicely, and at least for the first time it happens, pay him or her for the time traveling home and back.

Hours

In all of my past businesses I have avoided flextime. I have practiced setting regular office hours or shift hours — I have seen it as part of building a winning team.

You may want to make exceptions, such as offering certain employees reasonable flextime schedules to accommodate special needs. For example, if an employee needs to arrive later and leave later to manage childcare arrangements, you may allow them a working hour variance.

But you can still insist that all employees observe a consistent schedule if that’s your standard policy. As far as exceptions go, it would be a lot quicker to be flexible on a one-time rather than a routine basis.

By setting reasonable office hours, you will appear fair to all employees and will avoid having to memorize myriad different work schedules.

With my latest business, I’m starting out experimenting with flextime, allowing people to set their own schedules as long as they work at least 40 hours per week in the office, including during the designated “core” office hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. So far this experiment has had mixed results.

While it sounds great when you’re recruiting employees, I have found that once you start to offer a liberal work plan that employees can take it as a signal that they can further reinterpret the work hour policy just about any way they please.

More and more companies are offering flexible hours, but it can be a slippery slope. I’ve seen some companies initially offer flextime but then cancel this policy after finding that too many people were abusing it or that it was too difficult for people working and meeting together.

Phones

Avoid setting policies regarding personal phone usage, local or long-distance, or personal cell phones. The results of no policy may be reflected in your phone bills, but the results of a specific policy will be reflected in employee attitude. You will be viewed as petty and, for this, employees will resent you.

Obviously, if a particular employee abuses your liberal phone policies, then action is called for. Sometimes a chat will do, or you may have to make it difficult for the employee to access the phone altogether.

But people are human and there may be periods where their personal life issues make them feel compelled to talk a lot more than usual on the phone.

You may think, well, I understand if the issue is someone caring for a sick child or an aging parent, but I don’t understand when my 20-something assistant feels a need to talk with his or her friends about a recent romantic breakup.

My advice is that people are human — allow some occasional exceptions.

Romance

There will always be dating in the workplace, whether you like it or not. This is especially true if you have young, single employees on staff. And yes, it can happen with married people, too.

It certainly seems intrusive to regulate people’s personal lives. Weigh the considerations and make your own decision.

Things do get sticky in office romances — especially if the romance isn’t between peers. If a supervisor dates a reporting staff member, the staff member may receive a glowing, but undeserved, performance review.

Or, in the event of a breakup between someone in management and someone on staff, a recommendation that the staff member be dismissed for “unmanageable behavior” might result.

Issues of sexual harassment might be raised if a manager repeatedly asks a reporting member to date him or her.

Because these types of situations can breed tension and have potential legal consequences, you may want to consider prohibiting management from dating anyone who reports to them directly.

Smoking

While smoking is banned in almost all workplaces, the “just outside the doors” smoking and smoking breaks can create tension between smokers and management, and resentment between smokers and nonsmokers.

You need to state a clear smoking policy. If even one person smokes at a company event, for example, then you aren’t working in a smoke-free environment.

You need to inform new hires of your smoking policy. If the new employee is a smoker, he or she might be upset to find that the designated smoking area is a ¼-mile walk outside or that smoking breaks are not something management is thrilled about.

Employee Loans

Many employees don’t have strong financial educations and don’t have the discipline to manage their finances. You may allow employees who have been with you for a few months to borrow modest amounts of money for short periods of time.

Don’t charge interest — it’s just too petty. But do deduct the payback out of each payroll check and have the employee sign a simple demand note stating the amount loaned, the payment schedule, and a clause stipulating that the loan be immediately payable in full should the employee leave the company for any reason.

Or you may decide you simply will not lend money to employees at all, period. Whatever you decide, be consistent.

If you do decide to lend, set a limit on the amount you’ll agree to lend to any employee — and do this in advance of any requests. Sooner or later, you’ll lose money when an employee leaves and you find that you can’t collect.

But despite this drawback, remember that, in the long run, an employee loan policy will strengthen your firm.

I lost about $2,000 when one long-term employee was fired and I was unable to recover my loan. But I have loaned money to hundreds of other employees over a period of years without incident.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Even small companies need policies.
  • Small companies can easily trip up on employment law.
  • A well-crafted employee handbook can help.

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses, including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, a learning platform for starting and running a business.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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How to Sell Yourself

In very small businesses, the owner and business are one and the same. So, when you’re marketing your business, you’re really marketing yourself — but that isn’t easy for everyone. Here’s advice for getting better at selling yourself and your business.

The smaller your business, the more you and your business are synonymous. People may not know the name of your business at all; they might just know you, and for that reason, you have to know how to sell “you.” As you grow, your business will hopefully gain an identity outside of you, but for now, you’re everything.

You know how it works — some people are really good at talking. They’re the people at the events who have a story for any situation. They’re the ones who bounce from group to group seemingly knowing everybody — or can drop a name that they and the group have in common. They’re smooth — sometimes cheesy and annoying — but somehow, they seem to have an endless pipeline of business. As much as you don’t want to hear it, you might need to become a little more like those people. Don’t worry; we’re not advocating turning you into somebody you’re not. Here are some skills to learn when selling yourself.

1. Be confident

Let’s just call it what it is. Those schmoozers are exuding confidence. They may struggle with confidence just as much as the next person, but they know that confidence is what gets them in the door. They know that confidence is professionally attractive, so they play the part even if they don’t feel the part. “Fake it until you make it” is a big part of selling yourself. Of course, there’s a fine line between confident and cocky.

RELATED: 6 Simple Ways to Build Your Confidence

2. Be persistent

We’re not done with the clichés. How about “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” For every opportunity (unless it’s some equivalent to a root canal) there are loads of people going for it. Every customer you’re trying to land is being courted by others just like you. Your job is to be persistent — even kind of annoying. Keep sending the emails; keep sending the texts; let them know when something changes that is valuable to them. Just keep in contact with them. Even if they’re not ready to buy now, they’ll likely think of you later.

RELATED: How to Get Sales Appointments

3. Don’t be boring

For real — even if you’re not great in social situations, you have to find a way to be unique. Be proud of your introverted nature. There’s nothing wrong with you, but that doesn’t give you license to not stand out. People who don’t stand out can’t sell themselves because they never get noticed. The cheese machine at the party is getting noticed.

And, of course, your product has to be unique, too. It’s great that you design websites, but what makes you unique? If you’re not unique, you’re boring. Don’t be boring.

4. Offer a solution

Your customers are smart enough to identify the problems. What they need is for somebody to dig into the details and offer a solution. Not something that MIGHT work — something that WILL work.

Offer more of a solution than your competition. Create a detailed report, show that you were super thoughtful about their problem, and offer some top-level advice free of charge. Become part of their solution before selling your product. Talk is cheap. Your customer wants to know about you, but they’re more interested in how you’ll solve the problem.

5. Stop with the resume speak

Seriously — nobody wants to hear you describe yourself as a problem-solver, a go-getter, or as having great attention to detail. Your customer wants specifics. Who have you worked with that had problems like theirs, and how did you solve them? And by the way, attention to detail is probably something to stay away from because you risk talking to somebody who has greater attention to detail than you. Are your handouts stapled in the exact same place? Are your clothes 100% wrinkle-free? Might want to stay away from that kind of language.

6. Work on your non-verbal communication

You know that what we say is only a tiny piece of what really communicates, right? It’s actually your non-verbal communication that tells the person more about you than anything. Sit up straight, make eye contact, don’t cross your arms, walk at a leisurely yet intentional pace, avoid talking with your hands excessively, and have a firm handshake. Your non-verbals will probably sell you more than anything else.

7. Be positive

We all live in the same world. Everybody likes to complain about something, don’t they? Social media is a cesspool of complaining, and we all know at least a few people that can find the negative in anything.

But all of us are looking for positive people to place in our lives. We’re looking for that breath of fresh air that we have trouble even being to ourselves. Find ways to find the positive. Smile a lot, be thankful for what you have, talk about things you enjoy, and tell your customer that everything is going to be alright. Positivity equals confidence. Don’t look or sound miserable. Nobody needs anymore of that in their life. Positive people will always land more opportunities.

Bottom Line

Yes, your messaging has to be on point, but selling yourself is more involved than just speaking the right words. It’s about having the right air about you. Be confident, be a problem solver, and be positive. Those are great starts to what could become a great working relationship.

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How to Craft a Guest Posting Strategy that Still Works

Writing guest posts for other websites can still be an effective way to get traffic back to your own site, but the strategy you need to use has changed. Learn today’s rules of guest posting here.

You have a website. You want more people to know about your website. Your website is getting lost in a sea of other websites. How do you fix the problem?

Since the early days of the Internet, this problem is one site owners have tried to fix in a variety of ways. One of those ways is by guest posting on other websites. 

Some experts say that guest posting is a product of the early days of the Internet that no longer works. But for those who submit guest posts using today’s rules, it’s still an effective way of gaining visibility.

The key is to construct a guest posting strategy that takes into account the new rules of Internet content that focus on high-quality and unique content. Here’s how to do it.

1) Identify profitable blogs – Remember the days when your website was just getting started and had maybe a handful of visitors each day? Still, you probably received guest-posting requests from people. If we might be so bold, those people need a serious rethink of their strategy.

The goal is to find blogs with enough traffic to justify submitting a post yet not so big that the site owner will turn you down. Look for sites with a Google page rank of at least 3. Sites higher than a 7 are not likely to say yes to your request unless you’re a known expert in your field.

You can check a site’s page rank by going to one of the many page rank tools found online. The key is to find sites that have a reasonable amount of traffic.

Also, make sure the sites you choose relate to your own. If you’re a travel site, guest posting on a site about iPhones isn’t going to help your cause, and, because Google looks for relevant links back to your site, it may hurt you.

2) Research before emailing – Sending a website owner a canned message asking for the opportunity to guest post probably isn’t going to net you the response you’re seeking. Instead, read the site’s content, make some quality comments to some of the stories, and find a subject area that isn’t widely covered.

When you send the request, provide your website name, credentials that make you an expert, a possible guest post idea based on your research, and a delivery time frame. Assure them that the content will be 100 percent unique and of reasonable length.

3) Quality counts This isn’t the time to throw something together and send it off. Your guest posts should be some of your best work. First, every site owner knows that guest posts are often of very low quality. This will make them read your submission with highly skeptical eyes.

Second, if the quality of your submission is high, they might ask you to write another post or write a piece regularly. If it’s a high page rank site, this can be a fruitful relationship for your site.

Don’t forget to include relevant links back to your website in the piece. Two or three should be enough. More than that, and you risk it looking too much like spam. (Be sure to ask how many links you can include.)

4) Comment on the story After your guest post is live on the site, respond positively to comments, even if they’re negative. Show the site owner that you’re interested in helping them as much as they’re helping you. Commenting may also produce additional links for your site.

5) Follow up with the site ownerWhen you submit the story, thank the owner for the opportunity. A few weeks later, send them another note, thanking them again and asking if the post generated positive buzz.

Do it all yourself

There are plenty of PR firms as well as individuals who want to take on this task for you but if you’re a new site, do the work yourself. If you want to invest capital in guest posting, hire a high-quality writer to create some eye-catching content. PR firms and others promising to get results for you will likely do what you can do yourself: contact websites related to yours and request the opportunity to guest post.

Since the quality of the content is vitally important, put your dollars into the product and do the legwork on your own.

Finally

Guest posting not only establishes you as an expert — the links it builds back to your website create traffic and traffic creates sales. Most importantly, identify other sites large enough to be worth your time, create high-quality content, and partner with the website owner to add value to their site as they add value to yours.

If you don’t yet have a business website or are unhappy with the one you have, we can help with our customizable, easy-to-use business website builder.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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It’s Easier Than You Think to Start a Part-Time Business!

You might think that starting your own business will involve endless hours of work and years of commitment. Well, the truth is that most businesses do require lots of effort. But there are plenty of other types of businesses that you can start on the side or part-time, and get up and running in a number of days.

Most of these business ideas require only a small investment; many of them require little if any expertise; and many of them you can operate from your home. Here’s why it’s easier than you think to start a part-time business.

Choosing a Part-Time Business

The key to finding an easy-to-start business or a business that you can run part-time is to carefully choose a business. Don’t just choose a business because it sounds like fun. Choose one that will also fit how much energy and time you want to put into the business.

Is it really realistic to think that you can find an exciting business that you can easily start and run part-time? Sure, it is. When I was in college, I started at least one business on every summer vacation. Sometimes I started two or three. This was just during a 12-week vacation time.

What kind of businesses did I start? One year it was bicycle rentals. Another year I bought and sold boats. Another year it was house painting. One business, a map business, I’d started on a six-week winter holiday vacation. I came up with the concept for the map, created it, sold advertising on the map, and took initial orders all in the time period from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Run a business while in school

I can also give you examples of businesses I ran part-time at school. During my sophomore year at college, I started a newspaper. I knew nothing about newspapers, so I got a job doing proofreading at the school newspaper for about one hour a week for 3 weeks so that I could figure out how it was done. Then presto! With several friends, I launched a newspaper business.

When I was at Business School, I operated several phone books and started a book publishing company in my spare time.

To be sure, my choice of part-time businesses wasn’t based on the easiest or the least time-consuming businesses. But my point still stands. There are plenty of businesses out there that you can succeed in part-time.

Part-Time Businesses Plans

Even though you may be thinking of a part-time business, I strongly recommend that you bring the same rigor and discipline to the planning process as you would a full-time business. My favorite question in business is: “What’s your plan?” I believe that every business from a casual lemonade stand on up should have some kind of business plan.

It’s not so important that your business plan is long, complete, and detailed. What’s more important is that you have given thought and weighed alternatives for key decisions. How is your business going to be different than your competitors? On what basis are you going to compete? What is your marketing plan going to be? How much money are you going to budget for starting your business?

Investing in Your Part-Time Business

I believe, especially with a part-time business, that you should set a hard limit for the maximum amount of money that you are willing to invest in your business. By doing this, you not only limit your risk, but you also limit your fear. You know how bad the very worst case could be. Limiting your fears is an important tool for you, to help you feel more positive about starting a business. Make sure you write down how much money you’re willing to invest.

Be realistic. Have you really budgeted enough money to get the business off the ground? No matter how carefully you budget out every expense to start your business, there will always be cost overruns on the items that you budgeted, and you’ll also run into expenses that you never thought about.

But you also don’t want to keep pouring money into a business endlessly. Many people will have in their mind an amount to start a business, but then once they have spent that amount, they’ll just keep pouring money into the business endlessly. Don’t be one of those people. Set up a realistic limit on how much you’re willing to invest and then stay with it — at least until you hit a positive, measurable milestone that indicates your business is succeeding.

Part-time business ideas are limitless

A business plan allows you to bring your thoughts together in a cohesive way. It can force you to consider the many critical elements needed to bring your business to life. Sometimes by doing a business plan, you may decide that the business you were planning on starting doesn’t look so appealing after all. That’s OK. Sometimes in business, the most important decision is what business not to start. And there’s always another great business idea for you lurking around the corner!

Bob Adams is a serial entrepreneur and founder of BusinessTown.com.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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How to Ask Friends and Family to Finance a Business

Like most of us, you’re probably reluctant to ask friends and relatives for money. But, at one stage or another, a lot of people do when they are running their own businesses. If you’re really serious about starting and/or staying in business, swallow your pride and go beg for those funds.

If your friends and family express an interest in assisting you with your business financing, then pitch them professionally.

How should I pitch a relative or a friend for a business loan?

Don’t be embarrassed to show financial statements, tax returns, or whatever else they want to see. Do anything to get that money!

You’ll want to prepare a written agreement about any loans. If you don’t, bitter arguments are bound to sour the relationship eventually. Even some minor detail, such as the timing of interest payments, can cause great friction if arrangements aren’t backed up in writing.

Don’t be surprised when your friends and relatives suddenly turn into business tycoons once they have agreed to lend you funding. They may insist on terms that are more stringent than those you might get through a commercial bank!

Asking your friends and family to finance your business is rarely fun

Have I asked relatives to lend me money? Sure! Was it fun? No, it was terrible! My maternal grandfather turned me down! He had tons of money, but he had recently gotten burned on another business loan. Did he consider his grandson to be something special? Apparently not.

I did borrow a little money from my father, an ex-banker. Boy, was that a process! He had me sign documents, and, unlike the bank, had me send him interest every single month. If I was a day late I heard about it very, very quickly!

Should I ask for a loan or an equity investment from a relative or friend to finance my small business?

If you’re looking to get money from a relative or a friend, I suggest you try to get a loan, not an equity investment. This way, you don’t dilute your ownership if the business takes off.

But it’s more than just that. A friend or a relative who makes an equity investment in your business, however small, is highly likely to tell you how to run your business, whether you like it or not. In addition, you end up in a messy discussion of what the true profits are, and what expenses should or shouldn’t be deducted before his or her portion of the profits is determined.

But if the only way you can fund your business is with an equity investment from friends or relatives, then go for it! Maybe you can get them to make part of it an investment equity to give them some upside and part of it a loan to protect their downside, thus minimizing the dilution to your ownership stake and to your control of the business.

If I’m getting financing from friends, do I need to form an LLC?

If you’re taking on outside investors, it might be more appealing to them if you form a corporation, an LLC, or a limited partnership. This way, they’re not responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business if they make an equity investment and the business goes south.

Because getting loans from friends and relatives has become so common, there are now companies that specialize in handling such transactions. They help with the paperwork and act as an intermediary for payments. This helps professionalize the process, and it might be appealing to your reluctant rich uncle. My advice on this? Of course, I’d first opt for the cheapest way out, but if a service like this helps secure funding from family and friends, then go for it!

Do I really have to ask a relative or friend for money to finance my small business?

The bottom line is that we all hate — hate with a passion — to ask friends and especially relatives for money. But sometimes you just have to do it. And if I did it, then so can you.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for money.
  • Try to get a loan instead of an equity investment.
  • Approach them with a detailed proposal as you would a bank.

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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