Five Benefits of Getting on Board with a Business Mentor

The purpose of any mentor is having someone to guide you through the unknowns and uncertainties in specific situations. When it comes to business mentors, the can become the key to success.

A trusted business mentor will provide advice and access to knowledge that come only with years of experience in your industry – and they’ll support you along the way. What better way to navigate the uncertain seas of small business than with a captain who’s been there and done that? While there are countless benefits of getting on board with a business mentor, here are five:

Good Advice. No one is born an expert. Like any type of adviser, a business mentor often has years (or decades) of experience in a particular area or industry and is in a unique position to share that learned knowledge. Whether you have questions about sales, customer service, product trends or managerial practices, you can bet your mentor has asked those same questions. The difference is, he or she also has most of the answers.

Valuable Experience. As you know, owning a small business100715 Mentorship comes with its daily issues and challenges. One of the best things about a mentor is his or her ability to offer a different perspective to your problems. Chances are they’ve dealt with the same situations as you, they’ll be able to share their experience, offer solutions and ultimately save you time (and possibly money!).

Networking Opportunities. When it comes to owning a business, networking is key. A business mentor can help make introductions and put you in touch with valuable contacts in your industry. If your mentor has been at it for a long time, he or she will also be able to point you in the right direction towards potential clients, new customers and possible partnerships with other small business owners in the community.

Another perspective. With all the day to day operations of running a small business, you can 100715 mentorship_0sometimes lose sight of the big picture. One of the biggest benefits of having a business mentor is their objective perspective and honest opinions. Sometimes the best way to move forward is by asking difficult questions, and who better to ask than an industry expert you know and trust? While it can be hard to hear the truth, look at your mentor’s recommendations as opportunities instead of failures. You’ll be grateful that you figured them out sooner than later.

Support. Perhaps the biggest benefit of having a mentor is that you’ll always have a cheerleader on the sidelines. Whether you need encouragement, reassurance or motivation, business mentors can be your most important source of support. They understand as well (if not better) than you do that owning a small business is no easy feat. And they know firsthand that no one should have to go it alone. By developing a positive relationship with a credible mentor, you will become not only a better business owner, but a better person as well.

5 Trendy Paint Colors for Fall 2015

While there are so many things to love about fall, one of the things we’re most excited about is the abundance of crisp autumn colors! Because the rich shades of changing fall foliage are only here for a few months of the year, we happen to think they’re the perfect choices when it comes to painting and home decor pieces.

If you and your customers are looking for chic colors for the fall season, here are some of the trendiest and most complimentary hues for autumn 2015.

  1. Cool and crisp, a dusty blue shade is one of the most versatile colors to use in the home year-round but is especially gorgeous in autumn. DustyBlue (2)Because the color is quite muted, it’s the perfect accompaniment for traditional autumn tones like cranberry or woodsy browns. Whether used in the living room, bathroom or kitchen, this shade can be carried through to all seasons and is completely elevated when paired with soft winter whites.
  1. Reminiscent of the natural hue in changing leaves, rich and lively mustard is one of the ultimate colors for fall. Deep and endlessly eye-catching, mustard yellow is one of those autumn shades that has the power to completely change the mood and ambiance of any room in the home. Because it’s a dominant tone, we suggest pairing it with neutrals for a balanced look.
  1. An all-time favorite for all types of designers, burgundy is quickly becoming one of the front-runners for fashion, weddings and home decor. With a tone deeper and richer than marsala, luxurious burgundy is a sophisticated color that’s sure to pass the test of time. To create balance, this color is best as a stand-alone or paired with white or cream.
  1. Chic and earthy, we’re loving the look of olive green this fall. Gray_Orange (2)When paired with warm browns and cool whites, this elegant shade will add a soft, Zen-like ambiance to your home. Perfect for bedrooms and living rooms, this shade is a chic and trendy way to make your home a calm retreat for the autumn season.
  1. One of the ultimate looks of sophistication, dark grey is a shade that is at its absolute best when paired with pops of bright color. If you’re looking for a fabulous way to utilize this color for fall 2015, we love the idea of using it as an exterior with an orange or burgundy door. Because dark grey is moody and mysterious, the pop of autumn tones will make it unique and completely unforgettable.

5 Perks of Being a Small Business Owner

While you may not have envisioned one day owning a paint and decorating retail store, chances are your entrepreneurial spirit has been with you for as long as you can remember. And it’s something to be celebrated.

Starting (and successfully running) a business takes an incredible amount of perseverance and commitment. In addition to making a substantial investment of time, finances and effort, entrepreneurs often have to deal with trials, tribulations, hurdles and headaches. Small Business OwnerIn fact, sometimes operating a small business can seem like more trouble than it’s worth. So to remind you of why you got into this and reignite your entrepreneurial spirit, here are five perks of being a small business owner.

  1. Every great accomplishment is born from a single idea, and when your goal to become a small business owner comes to life, there is nothing more empowering. Because every day requires hard work, passion and the courage to take risks, owning a small business not only offers you professional success, but provides countless opportunities for personal growth.
  1. One of the biggest reasons people aspire to be entrepreneurs is the flexibility to make major life decisions. While it may take some time to establish the business to the point where you can travel through Thailand for three months, you’ll have more options by being able to call the shots. Whether you want to grow your family or simply take more vacations, the feeling of freedom that comes with owning a business is unlike any other.
  1. The most successful companies are the ones that take time to cater to their customers’ needs, and as a small business owner you’ll be able to put this at the top of your priorities. Because your shop is typically smaller than a big-box store, you and your employees will have the time to build relationships with every customer who walks through your door. As an added perk, excellent customer service can lead to better sales and higher profits.
  1. There’s an incredible feeling of pride that comes092415Entrepreneur when you know your small business is contributing to the success of your community. In addition to providing jobs and generating revenue for your town/city (and possibly supporting local artists or manufacturers by selling their products), you are giving consumers an alternative to big-box stores and an opportunity to shop local.
  1. If you’ve put money and time into opening a small business, it’s safe to say you’re passionate about the products and services you offer. By being the owner of this business, you have the freedom to choose exactly what merchandise you order and sell to customers. Whether you want your store to be known as high-end or eco-friendly, every choice is yours to make.

5 Tips for Staying Focused on Your Business Goals

As a small business owner, you know how firsthand how important it is to make clear and realistic goals for growth. But as the year goes on, it can be difficult to stay on track.

Whether you want to drive more traffic to your website, increase sales by a specific percentage or really hone in on creating a positive social media presence, the tasks of day-to-day business management can take up the bulk of your time and make it hard to focus on the big picture. To make things a bit easier, here are five tips for staying focused on your business goals.

  1. No matter what your goals are, the first step to staying on schedule is to remember exactly what they are – and why you decided to make them goals in the first place. While it can be daunting and disappointing to remember goals that 092115 Goalshaven’t been met yet, it’s important to regularly refresh your brain with the objectives you made all those months ago. Whether you use visuals, calendars or some other technique to keep your objectives top of mind, constant reminders will help you stay inspired and proactive.
  1. When you’re reviewing your original goal plan, take some time to figure out exactly why some of your specific goals haven’t been met yet. Is it because you simply haven’t had the time to make them work, or because a plan of action has failed? By asking yourself these hard questions, you’ll get a better sense of what needs to change in order to make it happen. And if something isn’t working, it’s time to figure out a new approach.
  1. Because reviewing your goals is best to do every six months, there’s a good chance certain aspects of your business will change during this time. If you notice that you have higher priorities due to these changes, now is the perfect time to prioritize certain goals – or even make new ones.
  1. While being the owner of a small business can seem like all of the weight is on your shoulders, it’s important to never forget to share your business goals with your employees. Not only will they be able to actively participate in working to achieve those goals, but they might be able to offer suggestions in order to meet them. Sometimes another set of hands – or eyes – makes all the difference!092115 Target
  1. No matter how big or small your business goals are, one of the most important things to remember is to celebrate the immense joy that comes with meeting them. When you take the time to experience the pleasure and satisfaction of accomplishing a daunting task or long-term project, it will give you inspiration and drive to keep working towards the next ones.

Upcoming Webinar – Black Ink: Cash Flow Management Secrets Your Accountant Never Shared

091015 cashflowPerhaps the most important factor in determining the success of any small business, cash flow management is a skill that’s particularly important for independent retailers to master.

Imagine how empowering it would be if you could accurately predict just how much cash and inventory you would have next month – or even next year. And imagine how much money it would save you by not needing an accountant to take care of it.

By setting your business up with this knowledge for the next financial quarter,091015 cash-flow you’ll be in the position to open yourself up to a world of opportunities while avoiding unnecessary risks and avoidable mistakes by having too little cash on hand.

Sign up for the upcoming webinar, Black Ink: Cash Flow Management Secrets Your Accountant Never Shared, on Oct. 13 at 10:00 a.m., and learn all there is to know about predicting and managing cash flow for your business.

To register, please contact Tina Sullivan at 1-800-737-0107 or email And to learn more ways to grow your small business, we encourage you to take a look at the rest of our webinar series here.

Oct 13 2015 Webinar.indd

5 Tips for Small Business Owners to Relax After Hours

As an independent business owner, we understand how hard it can be for you to leave your business at the end of the day – both physically and mentally.

Because your company’s success relies primarily on your hard work and dedication, it can seem like the only way to make business boom is to keep on hustling. But what if we told you that taking some time to relax every day could actually benefit your business? The fact of the matter is that when you’re feeling your best, you’ll be at your most efficient and productive – and a recharged battery is an important part of this equation.

So take a load off and check out these five tips for making downtime a top priority.


  1. When you leave work and arrive at home090215 Relax1 (or perhaps on your daily commute), the first thing you should do is debrief. Ask yourself what you think went well throughout the day and what is in store for tomorrow; but once you’ve answered these questions, let it go. By giving yourself a specific amount of time to think about business, you will be able to relish in your time off without feeling guilty or stressed.


  1. Being a hard worker is a great thing, but it’s equally important to nurture your relationships outside of the workplace. Spending quality time with friends and family is one of the best ways to not only relax, but to have a great time, too! Whether you schedule family dinner every night at 7 p.m or join a softball league, time away from work is best spent when you can focus entirely on something else.


  1. Exercise does090215 Running much more than make your clothes fit better – it’s a fantastic way to relax, too! By working out for at least 30 minutes a day, whether running, boxing, weight lifting or swimming (or even walking), your body will release dopamine, which makes you feel happy and content. It won’t take long for the boost in your mood to begin paying dividends at work.


  1. While it’s great that you feel inspired by the industry you’re working in, a great way to feel relaxed is to pursue hobbies outside of your profession. Whether you join a rowing club or take a pottery class, having interests and activities to do outside of the workplace will help you feel satisfied and relaxed during your downtime. Also, the more interests you have outside of work, the more you’ll have to look forward to when retirement comes knocking.


  1. Getting enough sleep every night is a great way to make you feel rejuvenated when you’re not at work. Set a reasonable and consistent bed time that gives you anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to ensure you feel rested, relaxed and ready to face the next day with enough energy to be the best business owner you can be.


5 Essential Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

With all the different types of innovative marketing you can do for your small business, one of the most important tactics is a simple thing called networking. By meeting new people and building strong, long-lasting relationships with other industry professionals, you can significantly increase your business’ growth, sales and reach in impressive ways.

But because networking is essentially selling 082615 Networking2yourself and your business to create connections, some people have a hard time mastering the technique. To get a better grasp on your networking skills, take a look at these five tips.


  1. One of the best ways to begin networking is to start within your community and getting to know other local small business owners. By striking up a conversation and asking general questions about their business, you’ll create a level of trust and mutual understanding about living and doing business within your town or city. And if you really hit it off with one of the shops, a great way to encourage local support is to create a partnership around the holidays. For example, if a customer spends over $100 at your store, you can offer them a 15 per cent discount at your partner’s store, and vice versa.
  1. Having an online presence is not only great for marketing and branding, but it can be a powerful networking tool, too! Because social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn give Business Communication Duplicate modelyou access to individuals in your community and other businesses in your industry, utilizing their features is a great way to make connections and develop relationships.
  1. Any successful networker will tell you that the key to building strong relationships is to listen more than you talk. By looking people in the eye, repeating their name and actively listening to what they say instead of simply talking about yourself and your business, you’ll make them feel relaxed and interested in who they are.
  1. If you live in a small town or city and are struggling to find great in-person networking opportunities, attending an industry trade show will get you face to face with a ton of professionals in your field. Not only will trade shows and conferences give you the chance to meet more people, but you’ll also get a first glimpse at hot new products, innovative industry trends and other information you can share with your employees and customers.
  1. The key to successful networking is to stay in touch with the contacts and relationships you worked so hard to get. Keep your connections alive and healthy by frequently reaching out with a casual email, phone call or even suggesting a get-together if you’re in the same area. And old-fashioned as they may be, birthday and holiday cards can work wonders.

5 Tips for Pricing Your Products

When it comes to pricing the products at your independent retail store, the line between pleasing your customers and turning a profit can be a fine one. If a product is priced too high, you stand to make higher margins but it may not sell; if it’s priced too low, you may attract bargain hunters to your store, but you won’t make any money. For the best of both worlds, follow these 5 simple tips.

  1. One of the easiest and most common ways to determine a price point for a particular product is to see what your competition is selling it for. If a customer were to call each store to compare prices before buying a product, they’ll usually go with the one that’s cheapest – even if it’s by a few cents! Although you may not always be able to undercut the big box stores, scoping the competition will at least give you a good starting point.


  1. 081915 Pricing1When you’re figuring out how to price your merchandise, it’s important to remember that each sale covers not only the cost of the product, but your other expenses as well. From marketing to administration, your prices should be high enough to cover you even when business is slow.


  1. When introducing a new product to your shelves, a little experimenting with prices and promotions can go a long way. One of the most popular mind tricks you can use is to price items high while offering a discount. When people think they’re receiving an incredible deal, they’re more likely to make a purchase.


  1. A big part of pricing products has to do with knowing your target market. Are your customers looking for excellent quality in their products, or something that will simply get the job done? If you know your customers seek only the best products and are willing to pay for them, you can get away with charging a little more. On the other hand, if your main demographic on a particular product is students, discount is the way to go.


  1. Another trick of the trade that can both increase sales and pad your profits is to inflate the price of particular products – a technique known as “prestige pricing.” Because higher price points create the illusion of greater value, some people don’t mind buying the most expensive product on the shelf. It’s a bold move, but psychology is on your side for this one!

5 Reasons Consumers Will Always Love Brick-And-Mortar Stores

With the rise in e-commerce and increasing ability to buy anything and everything online, it may seem like the store that you built from the ground up could become extinct in the near future. But according to a recent study, researchers found that even though consumers can buy what they want online, a whopping 90 per cent of them simply don’t want to.


So, even though the digital world has simplified almost everything, it turns out that people are still finding joy and pleasure from taking the time to browse around a store and keep their shopping experiences local – good news for small businesses and independent retailers, to be sure.


Here are five reasons brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere.


  1. One of the biggest reasons brick-and-mortar stores are the most popular among consumers is because people love to touch products before purchasing. In fact, according to this study, people are more likely to buy merchandise if they have the opportunity to feel it first! So, if you’re looking for a relatively easy way to increase your sales, display your products in a way that makes them easy for customers to touch. Whether you unwrap the plastic protecting of a product or set up an easy-to-reach display table, your customers will love having the 081415 brick-and-mortar-image1opportunity to get a feel for things before opening their wallets.


  1. It comes as no surprise to us, but another reason people would rather buy a product from a store instead of online is the experience of communicating with salespeople. People find real enjoyment from connecting with, and learning from, sales associates – an experience that disappears behind a computer screen. To take advantage of this, make sure your employees are given enough time with each customer to really develop a connection and rapport. While some customers are looking for a quick in-and-out shopping experience, most will appreciate the time sales associates take with them.


  1. No matter how much you include in a product description online, consumers would still rather learn about a product from a knowledgeable associate or expert at the store. So while e-blasts and social media posts might be great for marketing, it turns out that people would rather communicate with an actual person instead of a screen. Make sure your customers have an in-depth understanding about all merchandise available, and ensure your employees are caught up on the current industry trends and familiar with your product line.


  1. If you’ve ever had to return a product you’ve purchased online, you know the process can be more than a headache. One of the reasons people love shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is because of the excellent and readily available customer service they can provide. Whether they want information on a product or need to return merchandise, brick-and-mortar stores are generally faster and easier to deal with than online stores.081415 customer loyalty


  1. In the end, it all comes down to the love of loyalty. It’s easier to be loyal to an actual shop – and the people who work there – than an e-commerce store. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, people enjoy attaching themselves to particular companies, and when they receive excellent experiences a beautiful thing called brand loyalty is created. Because in-person shopping gives consumers the opportunity to touch, communicate and receive immediate assistance from helpful sales associates, they develop a sense of brand loyalty that simply can’t be found online.


5 Tips For Satisfying Unhappy Customers

 One thing all customer service professionals can agree on is that dealing with an unhappy customer is an incredibly uncomfortable experience. Whether they received poor service, their purchases didn’t live up to their expectations or they’re having issues with a particular product, trying to satisfy an angry customer is never easy. As an independent retailer, these situations are even more unpleasant because the success of your business likely relies on the happiness and satisfaction of every single customer. To make things a little easier for you and your employees, here are five tips for turning customers’ frowns upside down. Read more

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