6 tips for startups to take advantage of the recovery

– Chris Lynch is vice president of economic development at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed are his own. –

With recent reports the economy is becoming stable and showing signs of upward growth, the question is what are entrepreneurs going to do about it?

The answer is simple, they can take advantage of the upbeat perception that the economy is in recovery and benefit from the opportunities they didn’t have before. The following are some tips on how entrepreneurs can take advantage of the recovery, based on years of experience coaching successful startups.

1. Get a good start on the recovery. Right now the market is solid for proven ventures, but in about 18 months the market will be ready for riskier ventures. This is a critical time for when opportunities will be made, so start making new contacts, solidifying your business model and creating potential business relationships right away. Look into entrepreneurial or business workshops, such as what we provide at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce and the Irvine Entrepreneur Forum. An economic recovery is a good time to capitalize on the optimistic mood of investors and put your business out there in front of the right people. So make sure to perfect a quick elevator pitch and consolidate all your financial information.

2. Take advantage of the opportunities. It’s important for entrepreneurs and startup businesses to pay close attention to the opportunities and general attitude towards investing during a recovering economy. The fact that investors are becoming more willing and openminded towards investing is a good place to start. This means that the money is starting to flow back into venture capital and other investment options. People are looking for new places to put their cash and every entrepreneur should take advantage of the opportunities by getting their innovation out there to potential investor groups.

Mix it up: Trends and fads in email marketing

– Melanie Attia is the product marketing manager for Campaigner email marketing. The views expressed are her own. –

In business, there are fads and there are trends. While fads help pay the bills in the short-term, a good small business understands the longer-term viability of its products and services that will be for sale in the seasons to come.

The same holds true for marketing. It’s essential for growth and these days marketing trends continue to shift from offline to online programs.

12 steps toward reinventing yourself in 2011

SecondAct contributor Michelle V. Rafter covers business and workplace issues for a variety of national publications. She is based in Portland, Oregon. The views expressed are her own –

Reinventing yourself at midlife is no simple undertaking, especially if it involves switching careers. It takes equal parts planning, stamina and guts.

But everybody’s got to start somewhere. Here are a dozen first steps, based on advice from SecondAct interviews with authors and other experts on careers and midlife transitions.

Top 5 changes for small business in 2011

– Jason Beahm is a contributor to FindLaw’s “Free Enterprise” blog. FindLaw is owned by Thomson Reuters. –

The cliche is true: the one constant is change.

This year a series of regulatory, compliance, and legislative changes will occur that will affect small business owners. Paychex, Inc., recently put together a list of the most influential business regulations in 2011. We narrowed the list down to five that we found the most interesting.

1. Tax changes – In 2011, taxes are going to get even more complicated for small business owners. (What did you think, it was going to get easier?) However, as a plus, there will be a retroactive extension of some of the tax incentives that expired at the end of last year.

Top 10 tech investing trends for 2011

– Dave McClure is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and the founder of Internet seed fund 500Startups. He has worked with companies such as PayPal, Mint, Founders Fund, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Twilio, Simply Hired, O’Reilly Media, Intel and Microsoft. The views expressed are his own. –

Over the holidays Silicon Valley is a ghost town while most geeks and venture capitalists are busy hitting the slopes at Tahoe or playing Angry Birds Holiday Edition.

If you haven’t had enough football or eggnog yet, stop reading this blather and go watch some grown men beat the snot out of each other while drinking yourself into yuletide stupor. If that doesn’t sound more appealing then you’ll just have to settle for my crazy tech predictions for this year.

5 marketing tips to grow your business in 2011

– Stephanie Chandler is the author of “LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business”. She is also a business advisor to Project REV – a small business marketing lab by Deluxe Corp. The views expressed here are her own. –

As the year comes to a close, now is the time to assess business performance for the previous year while you develop plans for a successful 2011. Because marketing is so essential to business growth, the following are some strategies to help you get a strong start for the new year.

1. Give your website a makeover

Like a house that needs periodic maintenance and improvements, your website should improve and change over time. Take a close look at your site and make a plan to refresh or add content, upgrade site design, or improve the experience for site visitors. Your website can be the first introduction potential customers have to your business so it’s important that it makes the right impression.

SMBs make hopeful New Year’s resolutions

– Lisa Barone is a contributor for Small Business Trends. This article originally appeared here. –

While it may have been an unfriendly economic climate over the past few years, small business owners are hopeful heading into 2011. Sixty percent of small business owners polled said they expect their business to swell over the next 12 months, signaling not only good spirits, but a 6-percent increase over December 2008. That’s according to a recent Intuit, Inc poll of 1,000 small business owners from across the United States. And what do SMB owners plan to do with the increased cash flow their businesses attract?

According to the survey:

    56 percent will focus on retaining and growing current customers 41 percent will look to expand marketing and attract new customers 30 percent will look to reduce costs and save money

It’s not surprising to see that many small business owners will be looking to use the surge of cash to try and attract new customers. One of the largest pain points for small business owners is often trying to keep a steady flow of customers. In fact, Intuit’s survey found that 54 percent of SMB owners experienced a declining customer base over the past year, with another 32 percent naming delayed payments as their sore spot.

Top 10 challenges for CEOs in 2011

– Charley Polachi is the co-founder of Boston-based executive recruitment firm Polachi, Inc. The views expressed are his own. –

1. In 2011, CEOs will be challenged with balancing expectations for earnings per share (EPS), which in most cases are already set, and their investors’ growing impatience for top-line growth. To grow, CEOs have to invest again. But if they invest, they could miss EPS estimates. The CEOs who walk this tightrope successfully will pull away from the pack and outperform their peers.

2. Maintaining momentum in the slow growing market. Solution is innovation.

3. European governments and their economies continue to perplex – look at Greece and Ireland. Who’s next? Finding efficient ways to get revenue internationally through distributors and partners instead of employees may be the way to go.

Hot healthcare investing trends for 2011

– Dr. David J. Brailer is the chairman for San Francisco-based venture firm Health Evolution Partners and served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under President George W. Bush. The views expressed are his own. –

2011 will be a chaotic and unpredictable year for investors.

We will see the first big changes of health reform play through – regardless of what the incoming Congress does. No one can predict what health reform means, particularly alongside the dwindling of the financial crisis and the ongoing jobs bust. The only sure thing is that 2011 won’t be a replay of the last two years where safe deals got done and a lot of companies traded from investor to investor.

Here are a few trends – and a few pitfalls – to pay attention to:

1. Please, no more meaningful use. Health information technology has been hyped into the stratosphere, and every entrepreneur is trying to raise capital while they can. Many are spinning their wheels because they mistake the investment bubble for their own shrewdness. The market will figure out in 2011 that federal subsidies will happen far slower than planned or that they may be cut back by a deficit-hawk Congress. Once the bubble pops and people get their feet back on Earth, deals will start to happen again. There are some very good health information technology companies coming to market in 2011 and they are going to rock healthcare in the coming years.

5 year-end tax planning tips for small businesses

–- Glen Wielandt is head of franchise business development at Fiesta Auto Insurance and a veteran in the income-tax services industry with more than 20 years of operational experience in the tax center franchise industry. The views expressed are his own. –-

It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means: tax season is right around the corner. Recognizing the positive impact that early tax-season planning can have on the small business community, below are five practical tips to better prepare yourself and your business for the 2011 tax season: Keep a calendar. Deadlines differ depending on the type of business and when your tax year ends. Meeting filing deadlines will minimize penalties and interest. Organize your records. Good organization may not cut your taxes, but there may be other financial rewards. Maintaining regular bookkeeping of your financial records year-round will make tax season a less daunting time of the year. Plus, your tax accountant will spend less time organizing your records, and you will pay less money for his/her time and services. Contribute to a retirement plan. The benefit to this can be two-fold – if your business is profitable and you have employees. You can shelter income in a qualified retirement plan that will provide you with a tax deduction for your contributions. This will defer tax on earnings on those contributions, which ultimately becomes paid for when you start taking money from the plan. In addition, providing employees with a retirement savings opportunity can gain employee loyalty. Defer income and accelerate deductions. There are several steps you can begin taking now to put off income into the next tax year and increase your deductions in the current tax year. Send your bills out a few days later, in the last month of the year. This means that you will get paid a few days later in January of the next year, and you will be able to defer the income, instead of having to declare that income immediately. Similarly, see what bills you have due in January and pay them before the end of December. This way, you can take that deduction during the current year. Business tax credits. Keep in mind that there are many tax credits that your small business may be eligible for, including: Alcohol Cellulosic Biofuel Fuels credit, Alternative Motor Vehicle credit, and Disabled Access credit, to name a few. You can view a complete list of available tax credits by visiting the IRS website.

As you begin wrapping up your year, take these tips into account now and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier you’ll get through the tax season and the savings you’ll find.