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Feeling hungry and need a quick lunch? Office too far from restaurants? Want an affordable but equally delicious meal? The days of traditional dining out or bringing a packed lunch are behind us, and the food industry today is providing us a wide variety of options. One area that is especially booming is the food truck business.

The key advantage of food trucks for consumers is convenience. Food trucks will come close to its audiences to win their business, whether that means driving to a busy area of town where businesses are located or driving to a local fair or festival.

Although it’s popular and there is a big upside for entrepreneurs and operators who do it right, starting a food truck business is not easy. It is true that it requires low overhead, but the competition is so intense that you need to stand out from the others. Success isn’t always guaranteed but with the right mix of creativity and protection from unforeseen events, a growing and stable mobile food business is not impossible.

Here are the key things every food truck operator needs to consider to stand out from the crowd.

Be memorable

You might be serving delicious cuisine but if the outside of your truck isn’t inviting, people won’t notice you. Businesses in the food truck industry need to find ways to tell passersby what type of food you serve and a bit about your brand. If your food truck doesn’t look sharp and interesting, people will won’t think twice about stopping and will just keep walking by.

When it comes to how to own a food truck business, consider getting your vehicle wrapped. A food truck wrap is a huge vinyl sticker that covers the outside of the auto. These are usually made by large format printers and owners can customize how they look and feel. From colors to graphics and lettering, use imagery to communicate what you offer.

  • Food truck wraps costs anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the design.
  • Consider getting partial wraps for smaller sections to minimize startup costs.
  • FYI, wraps don’t affect the paint of your vehicle and they should last between 3 and 5 years.
Be mobile friendly

Many people think that all food trucks only accept cash as payment. But with the majority of people carrying less than $20 in their pockets, how can you reach those who are fond of using a credit card or mobile apps for payment? As a business owner, you need to provide alternative payment methods to become the first choice for hungry workers. Accepting mobile payments such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and the like will definitely increase your customer base.

Similarly, consider adding a mobile ordering system to your food business. In today’s fast-paced world, everything needs to be quick and speedy. Allowing people to order their take-out meals online reduces the waiting time and it benefits you by taking additional orders without adding to the line.

  • Research mobile ordering applications and make sure the one you choose is compatible with your truck.
  • Choose an app that goes hand in hand with your POS to lessen logistic tasks.
  • Dedicate someone to monitor and keep an eye on your mobile ordering system.
Offer delivery

When you are looking at how to start a food truck business, convenience is the name of the game when it comes to running a food truck. Today’s workforce doesn’t have the time to go out and spend a lunch break outside the office. Millennials, in particular, would rather order food and wait for its delivery than wait in long restaurant lines.

Offering delivery will surely require additional logistics but think about the vast amount of orders it will bring to your small business. You can opt to partner up with logistic companies to lessen the burden but keep in mind that a certain percentage, typically 10-20%, will be subtracted as a form of commission. While this might not be the best option for startup businesses, bicycle delivery is another alternative.

  • Bicycle delivery requires minimal capital.
  • Add bicycle billboards on the food basket or rear-wheel cover as a form of advertisement to increase your brand visibility.
  • Bikes can escape traffic congestion so can always be on time and deliver on your promise.
Cater events

Another option for food truck owners is to offer catering services for parties, festivals, music concerts, and even weddings. Unlike a commercial kitchen, food trucks provide choices to attendees and provide a variety of options that are sure to please every individual.

There are many events where you can offer your menu items. You can provide catering services for corporate activities, conferences, conventions, birthday parties, reunions, exhibits, community events, school fairs, housewarmings, and all other special occasions. If you’re considering this option, remember to:

  • Plan the food preparation ahead of time since events are always scheduled to avoid rushing.
  • Market your catering services by adding a call-out number to your menu or stickers to the truck.
  • Inquire to third-party agencies that specialize in food truck catering to help find customers.
Properly insure your food truck business

Last on these tips on how to own a food truck business, always ensure your business to avoid costly lawsuits and unfortunate events. Not every day is a good day, one day you might be generating thousands of dollars of revenue and the next day you could be sued for food poisoning. Also, doing business on the road makes you vulnerable to risks such as accidents and bad weather conditions.

Aside from the licenses and permits that you need to operate, be smart and safeguard your food truck venture from various liabilities. Having business income insurance secured in place will help protect your trade against uncontrollable circumstances. It provides coverage of natural disasters such as fire, wind, vandalism, damage from vehicles etc. that might result in financial loss. Other policies tailored for food truck businesses are:

  • General liability to protect you against claims resulting from slip and fall accidents.
  • Product liability if someone complains about your food or other products.
  • Inland marine to protect your goods from losses while on constant road travel.

The post How to Start a Food Truck Business – The Key Things You Need to Consider appeared first on CoverWallet.

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Insurance for startups just got easier
CoverWallet is excited to introduce a new initiative for high-growth startups
By Inaki Berenguer, Co-Founder and CEO of CoverWallet

It’s a fact: startups need to have insurance.

They need to protect their property, their employees, their products and services, their founders and executives, and several other parts of their business. And even if founders don’t want to spend money on insurance, it is necessary to buy it to satisfy the minimum requirements of a contract or of the investors.

Until now, the process for startups to get insurance has been complex, time-consuming, and frustrating. And all of us at CoverWallet believe it should be simple, fast, and convenient.

Today I’m excited to announce a new initiative from CoverWallet called CoverStartups, which provides high-growth companies with a dedicated platform and resources to help them get the insurance coverage they need in a matter of minutes.

Since CoverWallet’s launch in 2016, tens of thousands of small businesses have benefited from the CoverWallet platform. CoverStartups builds on our current offering and is designed specifically for startups, providing tailored insurance offerings to companies from Seed to Series B and beyond. As the startup grows, we make it simple for businesses to update their policies and add additional coverage.

VC companies often require Directors & Officers (D&O) insurance for the companies they invest in; buildings and co-working spaces require General Liability for businesses to sign leases; and when businesses hire their first employees, most states make it mandatory to have Workers Compensation. CoverStartups businesses will be able to get quotes, purchase policies, and manage their insurance directly through the platform while having access to support from insurance advisors specializing in startups if they have questions.

Any startup founder who has had to purchase insurance for their business will tell you how painful the process is. When I founded my first company, Pixable, many years ago, I went online to try to buy insurance thinking it would be like buying any other product. But there was no way to get it digitally, I had to fill out dozens of pages of paperwork, and it took weeks to get coverage.

On a similar note, when Pixable got acquired by SingTel in 2012, I needed to buy a D&O policy as one of the requisites to complete the transaction during due diligence. The whole acquisition was delayed three weeks because it took that long to get the D&O policy in place. And I could not understand or explain why the process was so analog, time-consuming, and opaque. It was this frustrating experience that led to the idea for CoverWallet.

We have been on a mission since 2015 to make business insurance simple and convenient. As a startup ourselves, we understand what other startups look for in the purchasing process, and we have reinvented insurance to make it fast and easy for high-growth companies to navigate and handle online.

For more information about CoverStartups, please visit www.coverstartups.com.

The post Insurance for Startups Just Got Easier appeared first on CoverWallet.

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When you sell products online, your first priority needs to be that consumers can find your products. There are millions of products sold online, and your products need to stand out. While it may sound impossible to be found, the truth is it’s actually easy.

Since consumers typically look for products and services with a search engine, being at the top of search engine results is critical. The majority of consumers do research ahead of buying a product or choosing a business to do work with. When your product or services are at the top of search engine results, you’ll have far more success in being found compared to your competitors. The rankings are identified using complex algorithms, and there are practices that you can implement to increase where your page, product, or services show up on a page.

If you’ve started your own business, it’s likely that you’re an expert in something – but that something might not be Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Your expertise in something, or your ‘niche’, is what we’ll focus on in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. This easy guide provides the basics you’ll need to understand how search engines work and how to be sure your business attracts visitors searching for the product or service you offer.

Search engines are essentially databases with a pretty interface. A search engine sends out a bot called a spider to “crawl” the world wide web every time someone hits enter on a search. Whatever pages the spider finds are saved to the search engine’s index. When you perform a search in Google or Bing, the search engine provides its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) which rank the results according to how likely the search engine thinks a page will answer your query. Search Engine Optimization is the art of being found in Google, Bing, or whichever search engines your customers are using.

Here are key tips and strategies to help you stand out on search engines.

1. Focus on long tail keywords that attract buyers

Keywords are a set of words that are related to the user’s search query, meaning the words or phrases the customer uses to look for a product, services, images, etc. Keywords are either short or long tail. Short-tail keywords contain up to two words. Short-tail keywords, unless extremely obscure, make difficult targets for SEO. It’s likely that a short-tail keyword query will return results for big companies or websites that were established long ago and are well-trusted by search engines. To a certain degree, they are also fool’s gold for a smaller business because they aren’t well targeted to your business. If you run an insurance agency that specializes in insurance for wineries, ranking number one for “insurance” won’t do you much good because the traffic isn’t targeted. Most of that traffic is looking for auto insurance and may be from areas you don’t service.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, provide a far better benefit to your business as they bring targeted traffic and higher success rates. Long-tail keywords are more specific phrases, such as “winery insurance agent California.” A focus on long-tail keywords brings targeted traffic – and by choosing the right keywords, you even can qualify buyers and can target the content to the sales stage that your visitor is at.

Long-tail keywords are also cheaper when you want to run a paid search marketing campaign. The bid on long-tail keywords, and thus the cost-per-click, is cheaper compared to short-tail keywords. When you target for longer and more specific keywords, you can get higher ad rankings without the need to pay for a premium price.

2. Provide Quality Content

Since people know that keywords are the prime contributor to SEO, they often fill their websites with keywords only, which content-wise makes the site less very user-friendly. This is where search engines, particularly Google, have taken action and penalized websites that are filled with keywords and are obvious spam. Creating quality content is essential to help you stand out among search engine results.

Gone are the days where keywords are the only metric to measure search engine rankings. Nowadays search engines look for several key factors including the quality of your content. Search engines look not just for the relevance of the content, but the authority of the page as well. Search engines look for content that is more in-depth, as this is viewed as a better answer to what the search query is looking for. For best results, aim for content that is around 2,000 words in length minimum for competitive keywords and around 1,000 words for less competitive keywords.

The quality of your content is also important, as search engines keep an eye on the grammar and spelling of your content to provide a better user experience. Well-written content means that people will take the time to read it to the end and decreases the chance of them leaving the site immediately or hitting the back button right away when they visit your page.

Quality content also attracts backlinks which make your site more authoritative. When you have quality content, people will be more likely to share it with their friends, colleagues, and family members, therefore boosting your rankings faster than focusing only on keywords.

3. Use Effective Titles and Descriptions

In addition to the content on the page, you also have to focus on the so-called meta tags. The most important tags are the Title Tag and the Description Tag, which you can usually add in your content management system. These are what users will see in the search engine results – and they will be what makes a user decide to click or to keep scrolling.

A properly constructed SEO title and meta description can provide huge benefits in getting to the top of search engine results. Use the AIDA formula to create effective ads:

  • Attention: Attract your prospective visitors. Make your content stand out.
  • Interest: Raise the interest of your customers by providing quality content so they won’t look elsewhere for answers.
  • Desire: Convince your visitors that your content will satisfy their needs, so that if you put your product or service in the content, they’ll buy it.
  • Action: Lead customers to take action upon reading your content and take measurable action like sharing your content or buying a product from your website.

With this formula, your goal is to capture your target audience’s attention, generate interest, and cause them to take action.

4. Be Mobile Friendly and Use SSL

Almost all web searches happen on phones nowadays, which is why Google has responsive design as one of the metrics for SEO. A responsive design renders your site to work well on all devices, from desktop to mobile.

Pages that are built for large screens may not be shown in mobile searches or may be pushed so far back in the results that they may as well not exist. Thankfully, making your site work across various devices is easier than ever as content management systems like WordPress have website themes available that will render well on any device, so no technical knowledge is necessary. On Google, you can test if your site is already mobile friendly.

Having an SSL (Secure Sockets Layers) certificate is helpful to your website and the people visiting your site, as it encrypts the information being sent between your site and your visitor’s browser. SSL prevents advertisers and cybercriminals from viewing your visitors’ activity. This is very useful particularly when a visitor purchases a product or buys a service from your site as the passwords and credit card data is encrypted. Without SSL, this information would be displayed. Google gives higher priority to websites that have SSL certificates and whose SSL credentials are up to date.

5. Use Social Media Sharing Tools

Google doesn’t currently use social media sharing metrics to rank search engine results, but those shares can get you visitors who may have never found you otherwise. This is another reason to create useful content that answers the visitor’s query. Quality content is more likely to be shared by people with friends, family members, and colleagues in social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

6. Measuring Campaigns with Google Analytics

Now that you know how to stand out in search results, it’s time to find out if your campaign works. Google Analytics is a great tool to understand the traffic you have on your site, how visitors found you, and which content was viewed most. Online success can be bolstered by repeating the processes that work well. If you have a few pages that are doing much better than others, analyze the data and learn what you did right so you can replicate it in the future or build on the content that isn’t performing as well. Basing your business decisions on real and actionable data is crucial to make sure that you have enough evidence to make a decision when things go your way and when they don’t.

The post Being Found in Search Engine Results: How to Do SEO appeared first on CoverWallet.

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CoverWallet by Pascale Aboumoussa - 5d ago

Marketing, advertising, promotion, and publicity – all of them are geared towards acquiring new customers. While they are deemed to be effective, these tactics often require a hefty investment and lengthy processes that not all small business owners are fond of.

But did you know that it’s actually easy to sell your products and services to existing customers? And that they spend more money than newly acquired clients? Customer loyalty is a key factor towards building a thriving and growing business. The satisfaction, value, and trust customers give a certain brand make the way for repeat business transactions, leading to a healthy and long-lasting client-owner relationship.

But how do you keep them? Are there tips on how to retain customers without having to try too hard? Check out these easy but highly effective customer retention strategies and start building your own cult following for your small business.

Build a friendly and competent team

Unless you’re running a one-man show, your employees act as the face of your business. Good or bad, they represent your brand in front of your clients, and having a friendly and competent team of employees helps keep customer satisfaction at high levels.

Employees who feel valued often perform better in front of customers, so it is important to nurture and give them all the support they need. Likewise, they should have a strong sense of belonging to the group. Each member should have a deep level of commitment when it comes to group decisions and actions.

  • The team should understand your goal and purpose to establish a good customer relationship.
  • Make sure that there is honest, open, and respectful communication with each other.
  • Conflicts should be resolved by establishing a mutual resolution for problems and disagreements.
Ask questions and listen to complaints

Another tip to improve customer retention is to ask for comments and feedback and then listen to customer complaints. How well do you know your business? As the owner, what’s good and positive to you might not be pleasing to your clients, and there’s no way to know unless you solicit feedback from your customers. Having a polite conversation with customers helps address potential issues before they become serious dilemmas.

Depending on how you view them, complaints can be an emotional rollercoaster. But handling them well and fixing things will help turn a bad incident into a positive customer experience. Keep in mind that dissatisfied customers will never come back for repeat business, while those who get their issues resolved will remain loyal to the brand.

  • Use surveys to solicit customer feedback. Make them short and ask one question at a time.
  • For complaints, always reassure customers but don’t forget to fix the problem.
  • Comment boxes are old school, but adding a twist like a raffle to win a small prize will keep them going.
Build customer loyalty

Want to retain customers in the most effective but least expensive way? Loyalty programs work wonders to boost the number of returning customers. Loyalty programs are specifically designed to encourage customers to continue shopping or using the business’s services in exchange for an incentive or reward. These rewards can be in the form of free merchandise, coupons, special offers, and other deals related to products and services.

While loyalty programs are effective in increasing customer retention, they must be planned accordingly to prevent financial losses. Loyalty programs should offer actual value to your clients and not just ordinary discounts and average freebies. When done correctly, loyalty programs will certainly keep new and old customers coming back.

  • Use a simple methodology such as a points system that isn’t complex and confusing.
  • Develop a long term and short term tier program to introduce higher levels of commitment.
  • VIP programs are okay as long as you are upfront with fees, charges, and actual benefits.
Build lasting relationships

The next tip to improve customer retention is to build a lasting relationship with your clients. If there is one advantage of small businesses over huge corporations, it’s the capability of owners and managers to entertain clients face to face. They always find time to make each customer feel important, valued, and appreciated, unlike large businesses that, although manned with hundreds of employees, often lack this so-called “human touch”.

Improving customer retention in a highly competitive market is undoubtedly difficult. But consumers are willing to pay more and choose to stay loyal if they are given a satisfactory experience.  A friendly manager or polite owner taking their time to talk to clients is just one way to create a lasting business relationship. Below are some more tips:

  • Offer a unique and personalized experience and communicate in a personal way.
  • Build a rapport and continue your interaction even after the transaction is completed.
  • To establish trust with your customers, be straightforward, open, and compassionate.
Stay top of mind

The last tip on how to retain customers is to stay top-of-mind, or in other words, be the leader of your trade. A trusted name, a well-known expert, a local household brand – whatever you want to call it, be the best in your niche. You need to be a strong brand that customers will think of whenever they need such a product or service.

Creating a buzz about your business is one proven way to build ongoing awareness. Getting the attention of everyone and aiming for your target market will soon start people talking about your business. By keeping things exciting, it will lead to higher customer engagement, and here’s how to achieve this:

  • Update your social media account with all promotions, activities, and other business happenings.
  • Offer weekly specials to entice customers such as discounts, freebies, coupons, limited items etc.
  • Host regular events or gatherings and partner with other businesses to maintain market visibility.

The post Tips to Improve Customer Retention appeared first on CoverWallet.

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A business plan is essential for every business and contains pertinent information about your business, such as its mission and objectives, sales and marketing plans, financial goals, as well as profit and loss statements. Regardless of industry, all businesses start with an idea, and a business plan turns that idea into a viable and sustainable plan of action.

Your business plan is more than just an important piece of documentation. It serves as a tool to help convince prospective investors, a management guide to identify goals and overcome obstacles, an operational plan to strategically develop corporate solutions, and a roadmap to guide your business in the right direction. Without a well-constructed business plan, your venture might not be ready for all the challenges that lie ahead.  

You want to know how to come up with a small business plan fit for micro to medium entrepreneurs. What are the things to remember and what are the things to avoid? Check out these tips and tricks below.

Speak to your audience

Your business plan won’t be presented to just one person. From the management team to bankers and capitalists, there are several diverse groups of readers who will turn its pages. Each group has its own interest, profession, principle, and view regarding your business concept. Studying the needs and wants of your audience will prepare you for questions and clarifications that might come up along the way.

With specific audiences, there is also an opportunity for customization; however, keep in mind that customized business plans should be used with great caution. You don’t want to present a proposal far from its original content just because you’re adapting it based on the audience. Emphasize the information and keep alterations along with modifications as minimal as possible without distorting its main purpose.

  • For investors, concentrate on the summary and explanation of your business idea.
  • When talking to bankers, focus on your balance sheet and cash flow statement.
  • Managers will use this to review your objectives, market condition, and profitability.
Use a template or existing document for reference

Writing a small business plan isn’t easy. It requires a great amount of knowledge and paramount expertise in certain areas that need to be highlighted. There are tons of business plan templates out there that you can use as a guide for creating your own. However, the extent of similarity should only be with regard to the structure of your trade, since every business has its own share of unique frameworks and complexities.

All business plans follow a certain format, depending on the nature of your business. Generally, a business plan contains seven sections, namely the executive summary, business description, market strategies, competitive analysis, design and development plan, operations and management plan, and financial factors. Here are some tips you need to consider:

  • Each section should be carefully drafted and analyzed in relation to your business.
  • You can use specialized software solutions that deal with writing a business plan.
  • Gather all the available information you’ll need from data to statistics and resources.
Provide a market solution

Before writing your business plan for small business, determine first if you actually have a market. The industry is not without competition, and there are likely many businesses like yours that already exist. Almost half of businesses fail due to the lack of market need, and, as the owner, it is your main responsibility to explore the market. Is there a need for your business to exist? Can you win market share?

First, you must define a problem in the industry. This can be a gap, a missing component, a wrongdoing etc. that your business can actually solve. Then, find a solution to that problem and determine if people are willing to pay to address the issue. Business planning isn’t all about objectives and financial forecast, it’s partly to identify and clearly articulate a consumer need.

  • Is the problem meaningful or valuable? Will people care about what you’re doing?
  • Who would benefit from the solution? Will it improve people’s lives?
  • Is the solution significant enough for them to shell out financially?

Support your story with stats

When writing a small business plan, it’s easy to come up with flowery adjectives and believable stories. But behind your motivational goals and lucrative opportunities, there should be a market analysis including statistical data to support your claims. Small businesses find gold in facts and figures to understand the competition, and knowing your industry better will help prepare you for any challenges and obstacles.

Extensive data collection is required to build an accurate market analysis, but only the most important data and statistical information should be included in the plan. The basics of market analysis should contain the following subsections: industry outlook, target market, market research results, lead time, and competitive analysis.

  • Conduct thorough market research and explore all potential materials.
  • Source from reliable sources such as government and recognized organizations.
  • Relate everything you’ve gathered to the type of business you are considering.
Analyze your competition, and do it better

Your plan for your small business wouldn’t be complete without doing a competitive analysis. Competition is everywhere, and even if you have unique products and services, someone will likely offer the same in a matter of days. Determining the strengths, weaknesses, and key factors of your competitors will give you an edge towards business growth and survival.  Also, analyzing your competitive advantages is essential if you’re considering crowdfunding for your business.

The first thing you need to do is to profile your current competitors. Search both local and online businesses that directly share the market with you. Recognize their objectives and the marketing strategy they use, evaluate their materials, and visit their locations if need be. Other things you need to consider include:

  • Your potential competitors including primary, secondary, and direct challengers.
  • Determine the opportunities to gain access and grab the market share.
  • Don’t assume that you’ll do it better, identify your risks and adapt to changes to win the game.

The post Essential Tips When Writing A Business Plan for Small Business appeared first on CoverWallet.

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Every year, there are devastating stories about the impact of hurricanes on small businesses. Whether it’s losses due to closing for an extended period of time, food spoilage costs at restaurants that lost electricity, or damage to inventory at retailers, the impact that major storms have on the local economy can be staggering.

Ahead of Hurricane Florence, CoverWallet provided these tips for businesses to help them prepare.

  1. Protect your electronics. Take electronic devices including point-of-sale devices, computers, phones, credit card machines, and printers and put them someplace you know will stay dry and protected from storm damage. It could be a waterproof plastic bin or even consider bringing them home with you.
  2. Backup your data. If you operate off of a server or if any of your business data is stored on a hard drive, be sure to have a backup version in a remote location away from the storm’s path.
  3. Clear anything that could become debris. Cut down any shrubs or bushes near your storefront and bring any signage inside to avoid property damage.
  4. Relocate commercial vehicles. If you have company vehicles, move them somewhere that the storm will not reach to prevent damage.
  5. Protect the interior. Install floodgates, sandbags, and flood doors for important buildings to prevent or reduce flooding and board up windows if the hurricane is looking strong.
  6. Have a communications plan in place. Encourage your employees to charge their cell phones in case power goes out so that you can keep in touch with them about any changes to business operations.
  7. Manage your supply chain. Get in touch with suppliers about any orders and ask to delay them if necessary. They might not be able to reach you or you might not be able to receive an order, so it is necessary to be in communication.
  8. Lock up. As you leave, turn off the circuit breaker for electricity (except for the refrigerator if you are in the food business), lock all windows, and lock the doors. Be sure to know how your alarm will react if power is turned off, as some of them are triggered when power goes on and off.
  9. Take inventory. Be sure to have a list of any unused food if you’re a restaurant and a list of the goods in your store if you are a retailer. If you need to make any claims, you may need to provide a list of damaged goods for insurance purposes.
  10. Know your insurance information. Be sure to have the contact information for your insurance company and details of your policy in case you need to make any claims. Have a camera ready to document the damage.

Being prepared for any scenario is important to the continuity of any business. In fact, FEMA reported that 40% of small businesses impacted by hurricanes do not immediately reopen, and 25% of close within a year.

One key aspect of being prepared is having the right insurance in place. Businesses should ensure Business Interruption insurance is included in their current policy. Business Interruption insurance is currently not being sold on the East Coast due to the upcoming hurricanes, but it would protect losses if a business had to close for a period of time due to property damage.

The post Tips for Prepping Your Business for a Hurricane appeared first on CoverWallet.

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The salon industry grew to $63 billion in 2017, but the number of salons decreased by 5%. It is a tough industry, with fierce competition and new business models constantly emerging. With consumer behavior continuously changing, people going to the salon less frequently, and many opting to buy products from retailers including Amazon, it can be challenging for salons to stand out and really thrive.

From traditional salon or spa services such as manicures, pedicures, hair coloring, styling, and makeup, to modern offerings like tanning and holistic treatments, there are many services and treatments that these businesses offer. With new tools and marketing ideas, it is entirely possible to bring in new customers, while building a loyal and dedicated clientele. Here are some top ideas to promote your salon and make it the place to be.

Referral rewards

A referral rewards system is one of the great salon promotion ideas that has been proven successful many times due to its simplistic yet compelling nature. Applicable for all businesses but highly effective in the salon industry, having a well-planned referral program in place will certainly increase your client base. Word of mouth is such a powerful tool that it can literally make or break your salon business. Great recommendations from past customers are what you need to help grow your business.

Referral programs must be attractive and irresistible enough to create awareness and attract new clients. Additionally, it is important to note that having a happy and fully satisfied client base is the secret towards having a successful referral program. Say goodbye to half-measures and few dollar-off savings and instead consider these incentives:

  • For every referral made, give promotional products that your customers will actually use.
  • Give a discount or free services such as hair coloring and treatments for every person that a client refers and books an appointment.
  • Create a referral card and loyalty program for those who patronize your business.
Be mobile ready

The majority of web searches right now are done through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, so it is essential that your website that is compatible on all platforms. As a salon owner, you should be sure to check the responsiveness of your website to retain a high online ranking.

Customers having problems browsing your website due to tiny text and unreadable pages will quickly abandon your site. The same thing goes for clients having a hard time trying to book an appointment online due to device incompatibility. A website that is not optimized for mobile devices will result in less traffic and thus fewer chances of attracting potential clients.

  • If your website isn’t mobile ready yet, work with web developers to discover your options.
  • While doing this, check your business listings in local directories for accuracy.
  • Make sure that your NAP (Name, address and phone number) are correct to assist search engine results.
  • Integrate an online booking system like Booker, which allows clients to schedule an appointment without ever picking up the phone.
Selfie Station

Who doesn’t want to take a selfie wearing that fabulous new look you’ve always wanted courtesy of your favorite salon? People nowadays are so into selfies that their social media accounts are always filled with wonderful photos taken from just about anywhere. And most of them post selfie pictures taken at home or in the car right after their salon appointment. Why not utilize this trend to promote your business location and services?

By simply adding a dedicated selfie station inside your salon, armed with the right equipment to make your customers look like Hollywood celebrities, you’ve just created a unique but practical marketing tactic to promote your business. Easy, effective, and affordable, this would definitely boost your online visibility and reach your clients’ network of friends, many of whom likely live in the area.

  • Dedicate a small space consisting of a mirror, chair, and lighting for the selfie station.
  • Use decals to brand every shot by putting your business name on the selfie mirror and add a hashtag.
  • For those who lack space, simply put decals on your normal mirrors.

Sponsor or host a local fashion show

For a unique salon promotion idea, sponsor or host a local fashion show to stylishly publicize your business. Hair, makeup, and style are all major components in the fashion industry, so why not get your name out in the crowd of fashionistas? Most businesses do this to promote their trade in a subtle yet helpful way.

In exchange for this, you’ll benefit from content marketing advertisements such as brochures and photos. Moreover, from social opportunities like this, you’ll be able to build public relations with the media. Before starting a local fashion event, make sure to check all necessary requirements and permits from your local township to avoid problems.

  • Ask around and see if there are any charity fashion events coming up where you can contribute hair styling or makeup. This is a great way to give back to the local community, while also getting good exposure for your businesses and the services you provide.
  • Contact fashion houses or boutiques in your local community that are hosting an upcoming show and indicate your interest in being a sponsor.
  • Open the possibility for tie-ups and partnerships with other local businesses.

To ensure a liability-free show, consider getting a certificate of insurance for a one-day event.

Select and reward “Influencers” who can spread the word

Maybe you have a beauty consultant friend who’s often asked for referrals and recommendations? Or a social media savvy colleague with gazillions of followers? Turn them into influencers who would literally serve as your walking and talking advertisement. When combined with a referral system, these salon promotion ideas are the fastest ways to market your beauty business.

These movers and shakers in the community will help spread the word of your beauty salon and in no time at all, you’ll have tons of customers lining up to get their hair and nails done. This salon marketing idea wouldn’t work without a good reward program for their participation. Consider these rewards for your influencers:

  • Offer complimentary services such as deep conditioning, free monthly manicure, etc.
  • Send gift baskets such as fruits and home essentials and include beauty products.
  • If you have the financial means, pay them for every referral made to incentivize them to post or spread the word.

The post Top Salon Promotion Ideas for your Beauty Parlor appeared first on CoverWallet.

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Creating an employee handbook for the first time can be a daunting and tedious task. Just the thought of writing an innumerable number of words to explain everything about your trade and your specific business is, without a doubt, tiring. Compared to start-up and small-scale companies, established corporations almost always have handbooks readily printed to be given to welcome new employees upon hiring.

But just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you will never need an employee handbook. The employee handbook is essential to every business, regardless of size and industry. It serves as a guide for proper business operations and acts as a tool to safeguard your company, employees, and customers from various risks and liabilities.

Why should you have an employee handbook?

The employee handbook is a compilation of company policies, protocols, core values, rules and regulations, employment laws, code of conduct, and much more. Furthermore, it facilitates easy communication between you and your employees, so they know what’s expected from them and from you as the business owner.

The best employee handbook should protect your small business from legal liabilities that could arise from day-to-day operations. Although it will never provide the same level of protection obtained from insurance policies such as Employment Practices Liability Insurance, Errors & Omissions, and Directors & Officers policies, having one on hand is useful enough when faced with challenging situations.

  • It demonstrates proper compliance with state and federal laws.
  • It makes sure that same rules apply to all, allowing easy business management.
  • It provides a clear understanding of the company culture, mission, and values.

Tips to make your employee handbook more interesting

No one wants to read a boring, dry, and stiff handbook that is mostly written in a concise and uninteresting manner. Most business owners tend to forget the importance of setting the tone and attitude, but rather focus more on what should be included in an employee handbook. While content is important, the person reading it should hopefully see it as something important and enjoyable.

Starting from your mission statement, set the tone in an upbeat and entertaining manner without losing the handbook’s valued professionalism. Keep in mind that this is the first document your employees will receive and you want to make sure that they read the handbook.

  • Feed their curiosity by using creative names for your handbook.
  • Don’t use generic content but personalize it based on your business.
  • Promote your perks along with unique company benefits.
  • Make it presentable: use colors, graphics, ribbons, or gift cards to make it attractive.
Elements of an employee handbook

Just as the products and services of small businesses are diverse, every employee handbook is different. Although there are tons of outlined examples out there, you may even have one from your previous job, you can’t simply print this off and distribute it to your employees. The best employee handbooks define the company’s uniqueness, and it should reflect the spirit of the business in a distinctive and exclusive manner.

It is a given fact that most employee handbooks are all crafted the same. The topics and information convey similar content, but you’ll need to review and adjust each section to match the specifics of your business. So what should be included in an employee handbook? Check out these essential elements below:

  1. Mission and company values – the beginning of your handbook should clearly state your company values, mission, goals, and objectives in a concise and descriptive manner.
  2. Employment information – this section talks about hiring policies, payment concerns, work hours, overtime pay, shift breaks, sick leave policies, safety procedures, performance review, terms of resignation, and termination protocols.
  3. Labor law – this discusses anti-discrimination, sexual harassment, federal law, state law, and other local laws relevant to your trade. Worker’s compensation and employment equality are likewise included.
  4. Code of conduct – areas of concern include dress code, alcohol, and drug policy, ethical principles, the use of personal gadgets, social media usage, gifts policy, conflict resolution, and data privacy.
  5. Employment benefits – in this part, lay out your employee perks such as health plans, vacation and paid leave, retirement programs, insurance coverage, continuous education, and other soft benefits like flexible shifts, free lunches, access to the pantry etc.
  6. Confidentiality agreement – if your business deals with sensitive information, you might want to include topics about non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest concerns.
  7. Disciplinary actions – policies and procedures are made to be followed. Describe sanctions in full detail and make clear employees’ accountability for their actions and behaviors.
  8. Disclaimer – to protect you from legal responsibilities, include a disclaimer that your employee handbook is not a contract, and thus can’t be used in legal cases if policies are not upheld.

Review your handbook with an attorney

Most businesses skip this step, thinking of it as an added cost rather than a form of protection. But the truth of the matter is that having an attorney or your trusted law firm review your employee handbook ensures that all state and federal laws are correctly followed. Additionally, it gives you the following advantages:

  • Makes sure that the correct language is used clearly and that the purpose of the handbook is understood (e.g. that the handbook is not a contract).
  • Fixes confusing or conflicting legal terms, policies, issues, and conditions.
  • Avoids surprises and business obligations by evaluating perks and benefits.
Review your handbook annually

The best employee handbook should be updated annually. Laws and regulations are ever-changing, and you may need to update it with any situations that have come up during the past year. If a new ruling now restricts you from carrying out practices that were allowed last year, the change should be reflected in the handbook.

  • Acknowledge updates and remove irrelevant parts along with unclear sections.
  • Revisit your procedures and policies every year and note any changes.
  • The moment you update your handbook, make sure to redistribute a copy to every employee.

The post How to Create the Best Employee Handbook for Your Business appeared first on CoverWallet.

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Whether you have a new business and are planning to build a team of amazing individuals or are hiring due to company growth and natural employee attrition, it’s important to have an effective interview process. The interview plays an integral role in every recruitment process, as it serves as confirmation of whether or not the candidate is the best fit for the job.

However, conducting an interview is always easier said than done. Most people find it challenging, and two strangers sitting and talking next to each other for the first time isn’t a comfortable situation for many of us. As a business owner, you need to be equipped with the right interview questions to ask candidates and other essential hiring strategies to employ the best talents for your team.

Prepare a list of questions before the interview

Conducting an interview without good interviewing questions is like going to school without having done your homework. Being unable to identify the personality, skills, and capabilities of candidates will only result in job mismatch, leading to work dissatisfaction. Keep in mind that interviews don’t last for hours and you only have a limited amount of time to learn everything about your applicants.

Starting an interview with the candidate’s resume is a great platform towards an in-depth and more thorough questioning. Along the way, make sure to stay on track by preparing a list of appropriate questions even before the interviewing process commences. Below are helpful tips when crafting job interview questions:

  • Gauge the applicant’s level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
  • The candidate’s working style should match the company culture of your business.
  • Assess the applicant’s desire factor and if he or she is really committed to join the company.
  • Use the 80-20 paradigm. Let them speak 80% of the time while you educate them with the remaining 20%.
Use team leaders or supervisors for interviews

Choosing the right interviewers will ensure a good fit between the job and the applicant. For small businesses, you might be the direct person who will handle the process, but if you can tap into other people knowledgeable about the position, allow them to interview the applicants as well. For large businesses, let the direct supervisor or manager conduct the interview as they’ll have an eye for compatibility that goes beyond abilities.

A great interviewer will find valid reasons to continue the search even if the applicant seems to be the perfect match based on submitted papers. To generate a more comprehensive and thorough assessment, make sure to discuss what interview questions to ask candidates with the right people. Likewise, train them about the do’s and don’ts when asking questions.

  • Avoid questions pertaining to marital status, sex, religion, race, and country of origin.
  • Do not ask any questions related to outstanding debt or credit history.
  • It is illegal to ask questions about drinking habits and illicit drug use.
  • Instead of asking about criminal records, rephrase the term with “convicted of a crime”.
Ask scenario-based “what-if” questions

Asking situational questions is a great way to accurately predict the working behavior of candidates. Common questions will only give you practiced or canned responses and won’t provide useful information in the interviewing process. Using “what-if” scenario-based questions allows you to evaluate the problem-solving skills of the applicant. It gives you a fuller picture of his or her capabilities that transcends beyond the resume.

When formulating situational questions, you should focus on the job description and scope of practice. Don’t expect candidates to fully adhere to company protocols just yet, instead look for particular skills and aptitudes to carry out responsibilities. Mark a red flag against candidates that offer vague answers and meaningless words. Below is a list of suggested topics:

  • Situations involving work collaboration with hard-to-please fellow colleagues.
  • Scenarios where you need to prove your point with a difficult manager or client.
  • Cases where you’ve made a mistake professionally and things you did to correct it.
  • Circumstances dealing with criticism, initiative, and tight deadlines.
Set expectations and discuss company culture

Interviewing is a learning opportunity for both the employer and the applicant. As the hiring manager, you’re assessing the candidate’s ability to find out if they’re fit for the job while they assess the company for possible growth and career enhancement. Including expectations for the role mixed in with your interview questions to ask candidates is crucial to avoid disappointment to both parties. Make sure to set expectations with regard to the job, working hours, leadership, and opportunities.

Additionally, you need to choose an applicant that exhibits the best culture fit for your business. Aside from skills and qualifications, make sure that they share the beliefs, behavior, core values, and philosophy of your trade. Find out if the candidate is a good match with your culture and work environment. Check out these sample cultural fit questions below:

  • Describe the culture, environment, and management style that will bring out your best work.
  • What are the positive and negative aspects of your previous or current job?
  • Do you feel comfortable making friends with co-workers? Why or why not?
  • What are the important things or factors that should be present in your workplace?
Give top candidates a second interview

The initial round of job interviews is primarily done to shortlist candidates. To narrow down the list, even more, to consider only the best and most highly-qualified applicants for the position, a second interview is needed. Bear in mind that although you have a good list of candidates with high aspirations, you haven’t hired the employee yet so be respectful of their time and other obligations.

Be courteous and sympathetic enough to invite only those candidates at the top of the list and allow some flexibility when it comes to scheduling. As a business owner, you need to dig deeper by asking more detailed and defined forms of questions. Below are great topics for the next round of interview questions to ask candidates:

  • Explore the professional experience and specific expertise of the applicant.
  • Use behavioral interview questions that are related to the position.
  • Evaluate their creativity and let them think uniquely by probing problem-based questions.
  • Use leadership questions to discover remarkable achievements and hidden potentials.

The post Effective Interview Questions to Ask Candidates for Hiring Your Team appeared first on CoverWallet.

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Regardless of industry, in business, there are always two types of stories – successes and failures. You’ve seen a restaurant startup suddenly gaining popularity and instant success while others shut down before their first anniversary. Opening a restaurant isn’t as easy as ordering a take-out meal at McDonald’s, it involves a huge amount of work, patience, passion, and on-point strategies.

With the increasing number of restaurant businesses trying to take a piece of the pie, it’s no secret that the food industry is challenging. Breaking into the competition is tough, but there are things you can do to ensure that your new restaurant business doesn’t end up failing.

Location is everything

It’s always been said that location is the key to every business. No matter how great your restaurant concepts are, or how delicious and appetizing your food looks, if it’s not located in the perfect spot things won’t turn out well. Location can make or break your business, and that one spot can either bring in lots of money straight into your pocket or drag you down in debt.

Just because it’s a busy street or populous corner doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect spot for your restaurant. There are food shops located in hidden areas that still manage to gain success. Whether you decide to build a small food shop in your backyard or pay rent to secure that one premium site, location is one of the biggest considerations you’ll have to think about.

  • Make sure to visit multiple sites before finalizing the best location for your small business.
  • Size isn’t an issue as long as your restaurant has an adequate kitchen, dining room, etc.
  • Assess your neighbors and don’t be afraid to negotiate the lease and reconstruction costs.

Having a solid business plan – and a plan for funding

If you want your food service to take off successfully, you should have a great business plan and backup strategy for funding. A business plan should be solid and detailed, but simple enough to be understood by everyone. Also, opening a restaurant won’t be possible without taking into consideration your financial resources. If you exhaust all your means right away from the beginning, it’s game over.

A strong business plan should include all the components of your restaurant business. It serves as the roadmap for your venture and it will lead you on the right path. If things go off track, it will show you how to divert and ultimately reach your destination. Check out these tips on how to implement a proper business plan.

  • From the front of the house to the wait staff and utilities, factor in your management team.
  • Don’t forget to include your target markets, your main customers, and alternative clients.
  • Understand the local market, economic conditions, and publicity strategies.
Test menu items

You may think that your baked mac and cheese is the best meal in the world, but what’s mouthwatering to you might just be okay to others. Keep in mind that it’s not you who will be eating your food but your customers, so while your opinion matters, theirs is significant. Takeout and even dining restaurants should always test a menu to determine the dishes that will grace your carte du jour and those that you’re better off cooking for family members.

The ideal restaurant menu should include a balance of unique recipes and old-school time-tested favorites. Likewise, it should be quick and easy to prepare in the kitchen without sacrificing cost and quality. Here are some tips on how to choose the right menu for your restaurant:

  • You can experiment and tweak classic dishes, but avoid food fads as much as possible.
  • As responsible business owners, try to buy local menu ingredients to help out the community.
  • Avoid food spoilage by making your meals versatile, use ingredients in a variety of dishes.
Insure your restaurant business

Equally as important as every step in how to start a restaurant is to protect your business from possible risks and liabilities. Food-related illnesses are common these days, and consumers are getting braver in filing legal charges against establishments. But food-related illness isn’t the only thing that could hurt your restaurant. Small businesses should also think about accidental slips and falls, employment issues, food spoilage, natural disasters, and much more.

What if something happens to one of your customers and you’re left with a major responsibility that could drain your financial resources? What if a storm wipes away all your equipment and restaurant furniture? Or if there’s a fire in the kitchen that spreads to nearby establishments? Consider these policies made especially for restaurant businesses, depending on the service you are providing:

  • Food contamination insurance to cover all expenses related to spoilage.
  • General Liability to protect you and your customers from bodily injury, property damage, and advertising or personal injury.
  • Workers Compensation, which is required in most states for utmost employee and employer protection.

Here you can find all information about proper restaurant insurance.

Love what you do

Food will never go out of style, and will always be a necessity to mankind. The restaurant industry can definitely make your life comfortable. However, this is where most restaurant owners fail – when they prioritize making money instead of showing the passion they have for the industry. Running a restaurant isn’t all a bed of roses, but if you don’t love what you do, the light of success may not be on your side.

Starting a restaurant is doable, but maintaining it through ups and down is another story altogether. Your intention will transcend your products and services. From the food you cook, restaurant decorations, customer service, and ambiance, your customers will feel your main motivation.

  • Ask yourself if setting up a restaurant is really your passion, T, this is a lifelong commitment and not just a phase.
  • Be realistic, and go slow,  always do what is feasible, and don’t get emotionally carried away.
  • Challenging times will come, but hold on to your passion and don’t let it get lost along the way.

The post How to Start a Successful Restaurant appeared first on CoverWallet.

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