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Thursday, September 08, 2016
Update by Reagan Reeve,
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Florida SBDC Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Emergency Bridge Loan Program Activated to Aid

Businesses Impacted by Hurricane Hermine

Florida SBDC Network Stands Ready to Assist,

Encourages Businesses to Complete Disaster Assessment

Florida SBDC Network Headquarters (Pensacola, Fla.) - Florida businesses that have been impacted by Hurricane Hermine may now apply for short-term, interest-free loans through the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Activated yesterday by Governor Rick Scott, the bridge loan program helps bridge the gap for small businesses between the time impact occurs until other resources are available, including insurance claims or federal assistance. The deadline to apply is October 31, 2016.

Under the program, eligible small businesses with two to 100 employees can apply for loans for up to $25,000 for 90 or 180 day terms. To be eligible, a business must have been established prior to August 31, 2016, be located in the 51 affected counties, and demonstrate economic or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Hermine.

The following Florida counties are currently approved for the emergency bridge loan program: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) administers the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Governor Scott has allocated $10 million from the General Revenue Fund for the program.

The State of Florida is assessing the damage caused by the recent storm. Small businesses that have incurred losses due to Hurricane Hermine are asked to complete a Business Damage Assessment Survey. The survey will help the State Emergency Response Team determine the needs and level of assistance for impacted businesses. To take the survey, please visit www.flvbeoc.org.

The Florida SBDC Network, the state's principal provider of business assistance, can provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

"Our goal is to ensure that small businesses impacted by Hurricane Hermine have access to the resources needed to recover as quickly as possible," said Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC Network. "We want businesses to know that we're here to help. Our mission is to help small businesses succeed - especially in times of need."

For more information, and to submit an application, please visit www.floridadisasterloan.org. For questions about the Emergency Bridge Loan Program and how the Florida SBDC can help, please contact Florida SBDC Network Headquarters Disaster Coordinator Gerry Goldstein at (850) 898-3489.

About the Florida SBDC Network:

The Florida SBDC Network, the state's principal provider of business assistance, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016. Since its inception, the Florida SBDC Network has nourished a statewide partnership between higher education and economic development to provide emerging and established business owners with management and technical assistance, enabling overall growth, increased profitability, and economic prosperity for the state. Since 2011, Florida SBDCs have provided 401,475 hours of consulting to 45,502 client businesses, resulting in 217,849 jobs created, retained and saved; $29.3 billion in sales growth; $2.1 billion in government contract awards; $947.4 million in capital investments; and 3,857 new businesses started. A statewide network of over 40 centers, the Florida SBDC is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Defense Logistics Agency, State of Florida and other private and public partners, with the University of West Florida serving as the network's designated lead host institution. The Florida SBDC Network is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs. For more information, please visit www.FloridaSBDC.org.


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Sunday, April 03, 2016
Update by John Beagle,
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Protect your Ohio SMB from Identity Theft



BIT or Business Identity Theft, like personal identity theft is on the rise in worldwide and that includes Ohio!

There are criminals fraudulently using SMB names to establish lines of credit with other businesses, governments and financial institutions. Victims of BIT can face real financial damage ranging from a twenty dollar nuisance to total financial collapse.

In Ohio, thanks to Jon Husted, the Ohio Secretary of State, businesses can protect themselves from BIT by subscribing to E-mail alerts directly from the Secretary of State. The service emails the business whenever any filing change or update is made to their state registered account. There is no cost for the service and you can register at: OHBusinessCentral.com.

In order to subscribe for the Business Filing Notification System or unsubscribe for existing notifications(s), business or individuals will need an e-mail address and business charter, registration or license number for each filing, which can be found through an online business search. Click here to search the Ohio Secretary of State’s Business Entity Database. 


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Friday, October 02, 2015
Update by John Beagle,
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4 Tips to Boost SMB Performance

The end of the fiscal year marks a time of reflection and a chance for businesses to set forth tactics and goals to boost performance and profitability when leaping into the next fiscal year. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, businesses should determine what initiatives where successful, as well as what were financial weights in order to create strategic operational goals that will result in increased revenues and reduced costs in the next year.

 Richard Milam, office productivity expert and president and CEO of EnableSoft has over two decades of experience in business efficiency helping to develop productivity software.

Here are our four Richard Milan tips that are crucial during the fiscal year-end review:

 

1. Review What Worked.

Executives should review the past year’s goals to discriminate which goals were reached and which were not reached. Uncovering the actions that were taken to reach the goals attained enables executives to create executable goals for the next year. In addition, although executives in the business make the decisions, it is the employees—the underdogs—who are out on the frontline, selling, interacting with customers, and creating the products that keep the business functioning. Executives must communicate with—and recognize—their employees in order to gain actionable feedback on the operations of the company. How did they interact with customers? What did they need to be more effective? Businesses must, one, discover what succeeded; two, discover what actions preceded those successes; and three, discover what employees need to improve their performance in the next year. 

 

2. What Do You Stop Doing?

While it is always favorable to consider what actions lead to profitable results, CEOs and CFOs may gain more useful knowledge by examining what actions or processes were not successful—or worse—financially damaging. There is a lot to gain from company-wide discovery sessions where employees and executives can discuss what processes or procedures were challenging or hindered profitability and collaborate on what can be done in the future to change the outcomes. Many times failed actions require just a tweak to become successful. Charrette (design and planning) sessions reveal the operations that actually occurred and the steps that resulted in unsuccessful outcomes. Employees will feel unified as they discuss strategies for improving processes and procedures, which allows executives to create modifications that may lead to future success.

 

3. Plan Then Execute.

Setting next year’s goals is the easy part—increase profit margin, develop into new markets, cross-product sell, enhance product and service—but developing strategic, actionable plans is the nitty gritty part of goal setting. Now is the time to take what was learned from last year and use the knowledge to set goals for the new fiscal year. Generate each step, process, or action that executives and employees must execute in order to reach—or exceed—goals. Set bigger goals that will generate a larger income, but also ensure the goals set are reasonable and on target. If employee’s have the mentality that their goals are unattainable, they will not strive for excellence or become sloppy in executing their specific plan of actions. In addition, while large sales may be a “home run,” encourage smaller “base hit” sales, which can happen every day. Multiple small sales form the drivers of profitable revenue growth, plus, builds employees’ confidence so they are more prepared to take advantage of “home run” opportunities when they do come along. Building on successes, and learning from failures puts the company in a position of power.

 

4. Increase Efficiency While Reducing Costs.

In today’s economy, the ultimate success of a company depends on their efficiency. Year after year, one recurring goal is to do more with fewer resources. Technology has provided great advancements over the current century and businesses are beginning to be more open to adopting new technologies in order to increase their productivity and efficiency. However, one large complexity organizations face in a world dictated by consumerization is the variety of user interfaces that must be supported by applications and programs of all types. Information technology and operations managers desire technologies that will fully integrate with their existing systems in order to increase productivity and efficiency—not create more work for them. In the recent years, organizations have leveraged what’s known as, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology which creates a Return On Investment (ROI), immediately. IT folks love automation technologies, like Foxtrot, a RPA technology, created by EnableSoft, because it is easy to learn, but essentially, interfaces with existing applications to create an omnipresent environment. Operations staff love it because it gives them the ability to take action on their own without the need to involve outside resources. Upgrading several applications can be costly, but implementing one application that can be leveraged for many processes and works with current user applications and databases becomes very cost-effective. An InformationWeek Big Data Survey clearly shows how organizations are not quite organized when it comes to storing and processing their data.

 

It becomes imperative for CTOs to implement technologies that will integrate their data systems and make managing—and analyzing—their data easy. One Foxtrot user, Barry Allen, Vice President, Credit Operations, at 2 Billion-asset Southern Bank, agrees, “I have had access to other tools in organizations, and I don’t know if there is another keystroke program out there that can do what Foxtrot does.” Robotic Process Automation can be utilized, quickly and easy, by end-users, and begin performing many of the manual data-related processes within the organization, thus creating a high ROI. Industries that have embraced Robotic Process Automation have found they have reduced their costs of hiring more staff, increased their efficiency and productivity, and even discovered new profits from processes that employees did not have time for previously.

 

The end-of-fiscal year reflection for organizations provides valuable information that can be used to forecast new profitable projects and enable CEOs and CFOs to budget accordingly for the new year. Setting new fiscal year goals to increase productivity and efficiency, encourage and empower employees to be successful, and generate new and bigger revenue than last year puts businesses on a trajectory of growth and financial enhancement.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Update by Zack Duncan,
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How Your SMB Can Use Stock Images Without Getting Sued

Images are a quick and easy way to add color, life and personality to your business, whether being used for your website, new products, marketing materials or in presentations. However, simply copying and pasting from Google Images or from other sources online could result in lengthy and expensive legal battles over correct image usage. Despite a wealth of stock image providers hosting millions of images, companies of all sizes are regularly facing legal issues for failing to question whether they are legally entitled to use images for their own purposes.

In January this year, the Court of Appeal upheld a ban on Topshop selling a T-shirt featuring an image of pop star Rhianna. Taken during a video shoot in 2011, the image was obtained without her permission. It was the first successful celebrity case of its kind and Topshop’s parent company was sued for £3.3 million.

Without the appropriate release in place, the organization left itself vulnerable to this expensive and embarrassing lawsuit, showing that even huge corporations can suffer from a lack of consideration of image usage laws. 

In another example, Nestle was forced to award $15.6 million in 2005 to a model whose image was used on Taster’s Choice coffee product labels without correct permission. Following the original photo shoot in 1986, the model had signed a contract stating he would be paid $2,000 if the image was used in Nestle’s marketing. Although the image wasn’t used until 2002, ignoring the conditions of the release was a costly mistake for this international brand.

What Is A Release?

A release is a signed document which ensures that the people or property (works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings) included in an image or clip are safe to feature. While most stock image collections clearly identify where a release has been signed, further limitations may be in place so it pays to always double check. At Alamy, we make it clear as to which images have had releases signed, we’ve also developed an infographic to help ensure you don’t find yourself in trouble. You can view or download this here.

Key Facts About Image Copyright

There are some commonly held misconceptions around image use – we’re hoping to set some of these straight for you below:

  • Changing the image by 20% does not make it safe to use: If you use someone else's copyrighted work in any way you are violating the copyright and potentially liable for a lawsuit, even if you've changed the look of the image. 
  • Google's image search is NOT public domain: Copyrights last for 70 years past the owner's death, so it's likely that most images online will still be under copyright. Never use an image from a Google search without the correct permission from the owners.
  • Crediting the owner for the image does not override copyright laws: Check carefully before using an image, particularly for commercial use and, if in doubt, contact the image owner directly for permission.

Using Stock Images Effectively

We've put together some tips to help you get the best out of your stock images:

  • Do your research: You don't want to spend money on an image to features as part of a campaign or on a product if it has been used in a similar capacity before. Check to see where else it has been used. Google Images is a good resource for this. 
  • Make sure your image is relevant: You might fall in love with a picture, but always check and double check if it's relevant to your content. There's no point in spending money on an image which you won't be able to use. 
  • Check whether you need a release, and ask if you're not sure: It is your responsibility to make sure that the image has the necessary releases in place. 
  • Ensure your chosen image(s) has the appropriate release in place: It should be clear on the site as to whether this is in place or not. If in doubt, call and ask or check with your lawyer.

Copyright and IP law is complex and you don't want to find yourself in hot water after you've spent money and time building up your business. It's easy to get carried away when you've found the perfect image but getting the basics right is important to make sure your SMB is a success!


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