Buttonwood Business Center at the BBB’s Shred-It Day Recap

This last Saturday October 4, 2014, was the Better Business Bureau’s first annual Shred-It Day! The event was hosted at Lucky’s Market all day Saturday where individuals form the community could drop off items to shred (papers, discs, etc.)

Our Center Director, Pati Pelaccio, attended the event as she is now a member of the Better Business Bureau advisory board.

The event as a success and “lots of fun” according to Pati. A total of 109 cars drove through to drop off items to shred. Look forward to another Shred-It Day next year!

 

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Recovering From the Late Summer Slump & Getting Back On Track for Fall: 6 tips to get you motivated

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What is your slowest time of year? Is it fall when school goes back in session? Is it the summer months when it seems that all you and everyone else wants to do is stay inside and beat the heat? Maybe it’s the holidays?  Or maybe you remain busy throughout the year, but you just feel bored despite all the hustle and bustle that is going on around you.  Whatever the case may be, we all may find ourselves in seasons where work may be slow, we are bored, or there just isn’t anything new happening.  How do you stay motivated in these seasons? Here are some easy tips to help you get out of your slump.

  1. Count your blessings- Remind yourself of all the great things you have going on, though slow, boring or old they may be.
  2. Innovate- How can you change things up and shake some excitement into your job, career, or business? Dare to dream a little. Is there a new product or service you have been wanting to offer? Is there a charitable organization you’d like to get involved with? Is it time to expand your business?
  3. Change up your daily routine- doing the same thing every day can get old for just about anybody.  Try switching up your routine a little, even if it’s just a small thing to make your day more exciting.
  4. Treat yourself- When was the last time you treated yourself? Take a day off, purchase that gadget you’ve been eyeing for a while, take a break and go get that ice cream you’ve been craving.  Whatever it may be, take a little time to spend on you.
  5. Remind yourself the reason why- Why did you start your business? Why did you take that job?
  6. Look retrospectively and see the progress you have made in the last year. Or if you haven’t made progress, begin thinking about how you can change that.

Hopefully through these tips, you can get yourself back on track and motivated to tackle what lies ahead.

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Knowing When to Expand Your Small Business

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Knowing when to expand your business, or make your first hire other than yourself, is really a difficult place to be in for most small business owners.  Perhaps you are at a place in your business where you can barely keep up with your customer demand.  Or maybe you continue taking on customers but have a very slow turnover rate because you are swamped with all the customers you keep accepting.  Or maybe you are turning away business because you can no longer handle the volume and those potential customers are going to the competition.  Whatever the scenario is, it’s never an easy decision to expand.

If you are a small business owner working solo, it is especially intimidating knowing when to make the jump and make your first hire.  It is certainly not a risk-free move to hire a new employee (whether it is your 20th or your 1st) even if you have business beating down your door.  Taking on another employee means taking on more overhead- namely financial.

Maybe you know it is time to hire some help but you feel as though you cannot afford another employee at the moment, so you don’t hire.  In the mean time, you find yourself swamped and turning away business.  You find soon enough that your business is at a stand still- you’re bringing in money, but haven’t grown or don’t see the numbers climbing like you want them to.  The only way you are going to overcome this is if you take the risk and add an employee to your team.  Maybe you can’t afford them at the moment, but look at it this way- maybe you make some personal sacrifices to make it work. If there is high demand for your market, you will soon be able to add more volume, more customers, more jobs to your business and quickly make up for the loss you undertook at the start of your new hire.

With these ideas in mind, maybe you are still nervous about expanding.  I would then have you answer these questions-

  1.  Are your potential customers who contact you but are turned away going to the competition?
  2. Is your competition growing and expanding as well (i.e. is the market for your business hot?)
  3. Does your business have no real competition and still have a high demand?
  4. If you project how many more customers you would be able to take on with a new employee and calculate your revenue, would you end up in the green?

If your answer is yes to these questions, you are probably ready to expand.  If you are still unsure, consider hiring a part-time virtual assistant. VA’s are certainly an alternative solution to your expansion problem worth considering. Depending on the work you have in mind, they have very little overhead and come at a reasonable rate.  As with all things, do your research, plan well, and happy expanding!

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Client Feature: The Better Business Bureau

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The Mid Missouri BBB has been a Buttonwood Business Center client since 2010.  We are a branch office of the BBB serving Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois based in St. Louis, Missouri.  Our mission in the 13 counties we serve in Mid Missouri is to help make the entire region a better place by encouraging positive, ethical business practices.  The folks at the Buttonwood Business Center play an important role in that with their support services and friendly, professional staff.

Originally called “Vigilance Committees”, the first BBBs were established in the early 1900’s and were part of Advertising Clubs of America.  Its goal was to correct advertising abuses and worked to create self-regulatory standards in the advertising industry.  In response to marketplace demands, BBBs quickly expanded to monitor business performance and provide consumers with vital information to avoid pitfalls of the marketplace.

The Mid Missouri BBB is one of 112 independent BBBs located throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.  We are a private, non-profit association of business and our vision is to create and maintain an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other.  It does so by providing the following information and services to consumers and businesses:

  • BBB Business Reviews – Information on a business’s performance in the marketplace.
  • BBB Wise Giving Guide – Information on charities and other soliciting nonprofits that seek public donations.
  • Fighting Fraud – Issue press releases to warn the public about current marketplace scams and frauds.
  • Request a Quote – A way for consumers online to request information, a bid or an estimate for services or products they want to purchase.
  • Business Ethics – Promote truthful, accurate advertising and selling practices, both online and other forms of advertising, by monitoring and seeking appropriate corrections.

There are many other benefits we offer to both businesses and consumers.  All BBB services to consumers are free of charge.  BBB provides objective advice, free business and charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.

MikeMike Harrison is the Regional Director for the Mid Missouri BBB.  He works with the local media (TV, radio, newspapers) to help educate consumers and businesses on best practices, educational information, local and national scams, etc.  Mike is available for BBB speeches and presentations to various organizations in Mid Missouri.  He is involved in local Chambers of Commerce and is a member of the NW Rotary Club in Columbia.  BBB also hosts community outreach events and programs throughout the year.

Duane Carroll PicDuane Carroll is the Business Relations Representative for the Mid Missouri BBB.  He determines the eligibility of potential new accreditations for businesses and extends invitations for BBB Accreditation to those companies who meet BBB standards.  Duane helps explain BBB Accreditation benefits to companies, answers questions and concerns and helps with their application and Accreditation Investment.  He provides high quality service at all times.

The Mid Missouri BBB can be contacted via email at manager@midmobbb.org or by phone at 573-886-8965.

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July Monthly Mingle

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Join us for bagels and coffee for our July Monthly Mingle.  It’s a great opportunity for small businesses at Buttonwood Business Center and around the community to gain exposure and meet new people.  Make sure to come visit us at 8:30am in the large conference room on July 14th!

 

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Client Feature: CWH Estate Planning Center

CWH EP Pic The CWH Estate Planning Center has been a Buttonwood Business Center client since 2005. Our name back then was “The Estate Planning Center, LLC). We have five office locations: Columbia, Lake Ozark, Chesterfield, Hannibal and Quincy. The Buttonwood Business Center has been excellent to us, and we appreciate the efforts of the staff to provide a quality professional office experience.

Our law firm has been in continuous existence for 136 years.  Attorneys Joseph D. Welch and Crystal M. Gallagher cover the Columbia location at the Buttonwood Business Center.  Both of us practice exclusively in estate planning, which includes conventional estate planning, nursing home planning and elderlaw, asset protection, business formation and maintenance, and real estate transfers.

Joe WelchJoseph D. Welch is the Senior Partner in the law firm of Cary, Welch & Hickman, LLP and the founder of the CWH Estate Planning Center. A busy practitioner for over 35 years, as well as a frequent author and lecturer on estate planning, asset protection, and business succession topics.  Joseph’s clients include professionals, families with special needs children of all ages, farm families, entrepreneurs and business owners, wealthy families with dynasty goals, seniors and young families with minor children.

In describing the practice, Joseph states: “We design and draft many types of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, living trusts, trusts to protect from nursing home spend down, asset protection trusts, special needs trusts and retirement plan trusts, to name a few.”

“We do not just pull a form off the shelf; each plan is individually designed in conjunction with the client to achieve specific goals,” according to Joseph.  “In addition, every client is offered an array of asset protection and tax elimination techniques with each trust we design.”

crystalCrystal M. Gallagher is an associate attorney in the law firm of Cary, Welch & Hickman, LLP and a member of the CWH Estate Planning Center.  She is also a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).  Her practice is focused on Elder Law and Medicaid Planning.  Her mission is to assist families in navigating the complex issues involved in long term care solutions for themselves or a loved one.

Crystal enjoys providing community education and helping parents and grandparents reduce financial worries.  She appreciates the opportunity to assist clients to provide an enduring legacy through family-oriented estate plans.

Crystal states: “Long term care insurance is great, but not everyone has it or can get it.  We help people protect their hard – earned assets from nursing home spend down.  Sometimes people are only interested in protecting certain assets, for instance, a home, farm, family business or an investment portfolio, while others choose to protect virtually everything they own.”

“Every estate plan we create addresses the needs of the client.  Many clients choose to divorce-proof their children’s inheritance.  Others choose to implement powerful protections available under Missouri and Federal law for their own assets or that of a spouse,” according to Crystal.

Both Attorneys believe that providing education is an important part of their mission: “Many people think that estate planning is only for the very wealthy.  Sometimes, however, it is even more important if family assets are limited.”  A $200,000 inheritance can be spent to zero in a very short time or it can be left in a highly protected lifetime investment account.  This type of planning is also valuable for very young couples with young children, since a life insurance policy coupled with a superb estate plan can provide important protections in the event of a family tragedy.”

Both attorneys hope to continue their association with other Buttonwood Business Center tenants for years to come.

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Websites: The Living, Breathing Organism of Your Business

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In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed the importance of having a business website.  To go further on that idea, we wanted to comment on how your business website should be like a living, breathing organism: constantly growing, changing, and altering.

As a small, local business ourselves, we have found it incredibly important to continually reevaluate and update our website.  It is so easy, once you get your business website up and running, to push it to the back of your mind and let it run on auto-pilot.  But truth be told, the web is constantly changing, and so should your website. Here are some reasons you should be keeping a continuous eye on it:

  1. Make sure all of your information is up-to-date.  If your website is touting incorrect information, you are giving your potential customers the wrong idea.  Your website has to be accurate and be a clear reflection of the business you are running.
  2. Constantly reevaluate how you can make your website more user friendly.  Are their ways to better organize your content to make hot topics, products, or services more easily found? Is your website easily shareable to social media? Face it folks, if your website isn’t shareable to social media, you are missing out on a huge marketing niche for your business.  Let people social share the awesome things you and your business have to offer! You will be amazed at how it boosts your SEO (search engine optimization) and get people talking about your brand.
  3. Is your website optimized for SEO? Do you have accurate keywords that will help your website pop up in organic searches? Search Engine Optimization is a whole other animal, and it is constantly changing.  Search engines and their robots are continuously upgrading and becoming more efficient.  If you aren’t making sure your website is optimized for search engines, you will be missing out on potential customers being able to easily find you when they search for topics, products, or services related to your business.

All in all, your business website is a living, breathing organism.  It should be updated frequently to adjust for all the reasons stated above. If ignored, it truly has the potential to hurt your business.

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What is a Virtual Office Anyway?

Many of you may have seen or heard of a virtual office.  You may nod your head and pretend you know what it is, but in all reality, do you really know what it is?

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We throw around this idea of a virtual office, and you may think, well, my house is my “virtual office” because I have an internet based business, or I work from home, so I’m kind of like a virtual office, right?

Let me take a few moments to explain to you what a virtual office is.

A virtual office is having a place you can call an office without actually having to work there.  What you typically get with a virtual office is:

1. A reputable business mailing address that isn’t your home address and mailing services to handle the mail that gets sent to you there.

2. A virtual receptionist to answer your calls in your company name without you actually having to answer the phone every time- aka never miss a phone call again!!!

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3. A designated, professional place to meet with your clients.  Most virtual office plans give their clients special access to professional meeting rooms or offices, so that if on occasion, you must meet with a customer, you can do so in a quiet professional setting that isn’t Starbucks. Day Office 2 

Now, you may be asking yourself, why would my business need these things? I’m getting along fine (or at least seemingly so). Well, first of all

1. Having a reputable business address is a great way to make your business more competitive in the marketplace.  People can look at your address and see you are “located” in an established place and not just working from your home. Plus your home mail won’t be bogged down with business mail- you can keep it separate.  Or, let’s say you are a business based in another town but want a presence in a nearby area.  You can do so by having a mailing address for the nearby area you want to have a presence in without actually having an office there- so much more cost effective!

2. A virtual receptionist, or telephone answering service, is another great bonus to boosting your credibility as a small business.  If you have an official receptionist answering your business phone, you will seem much larger and more established as a business.  Plus you don’t have to worry any longer about missing key phone calls. Additionally, if you are getting a large volume of calls, you can focus on other things aside from answering the phone all day.

3. Professional meeting rooms are key for portraying that professional image we all seek as a business.  Give your customers the quiet, professional experience in a meeting room rather than a coffee shop.  Plus, if you are a lawyer or accountant, financial planner or counselor, you need to provide your clients with privacy.  Having a professional place to bring your clients (without having to pay for an office space every day) is a great way to do so if you are only meeting on occasion.

Do you now feel enlightened? Do you think a virtual office can help your business? Inquire with Buttonwood Business Center today to learn more!

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June Monthly Mingle

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Join us for bagels and coffee for our June Monthly Mingle.  It’s a great opportunity for small businesses at Buttonwood Business Center and around the community to gain exposure and meet new people.  Make sure to come visit us at 8:30am in the large conference room!

 

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Why Is Your Business Website So Important?

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Many businesses these days, whether they are brand new, or have been around for many years, seem to be neglecting the importance of a business website.  Facebook seems to be the new “poor man’s website” where businesses have a Facebook page but have virtually no other presence on the web.  Why is this a problem?

First of all, we now live in the day and age where not having a website for your business is like not having a phone number.  Bad, right?  In our new technology age, people’s impulse today is to look up a business on the web before doing anything else.  If they can’t find you, that’s a serious problem: you automatically lose credibility in their eyes.

Maybe you do have a small web presence through a Facebook page, Google+ page, or LinkedIn page for your business.  This is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is not the end all, be all of online marketing and web presence.  If you have a business page on these social media sites, but do not have a website of your own, again, you lose credibility.  As a business, you give your potential customers the idea that you are not an established business. While social media sites are great for connecting and engaging with your customers on a more “social” level, it still should not replace an official business website.  These outlets can be used to drive traffic to your website through SEO (search engine optimization).  In layman’s terms? These social media sites can be used to help people find your business on the web through higher ratings on organic searches related to your business.  So don’t just stop at the social media sites.  You lose search ranking capabilities by neglecting a business website.

Finally, let’s face it: people want information available at their fingertips (hello computers, tablets, and smartphones!) so if you, as a business, aren’t providing that necessary information through those venues, your business will be hurting in the long run.  People want information about your business readily available, and if you aren’t providing that through an official business website, eyebrows will be raised and you may get fewer converts or leads.

So what’s the bottom line? If you don’t have a business website, trust us.  You need one!

 

 

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