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Small Business Blog

Our blog is designed to be a "go to" resource for your small business. Here you will find valuable information and advice on launching, running, protecting and making your business a huge success.

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3 steps to ensure your small business passes an IRS audit

3 steps to ensure your small business passes an IRS auditFollow these steps to ensure your small business passes an IRS audit.

First, what is an IRS audit? An audit is an accounting procedure in which the IRS examines your financial records to verify that you filed the return in question accurately. If you have your paperwork and receipts (or access to them) and can prove that your initial return was complete and correct, the tax audit will end there.  If the IRS finds errors, either accidental or intentional, you’ll have to pay the adjusted amount and any interest penalties.

There are few pieces of correspondence as capable of making small business owners fearful as an unexpected letter from the IRS.  But entrepreneurs don’t have to start worrying, as the IRS is generally eager to resolve small business tax issues amicably.  In 2013 only 0.6% of business returns were audited, your chances of an IRS audit are relatively low. Read More »

What type of retirement plan should your small business offer?

What type of retirement plan should your small business offerGuest blogger Charlene Barkley shares tips on finding the right retirement plan to fit your small business, and employees, needs.

I recently shared my story about the launch of Brazzlebox.com, a business to-business social media network for small and home-based businesses, in the Hiscox Small Business Corner. In addition to being a platform for small business owners, we also focus on challenging and educating our members. One of the biggest questions that we get asked is, “How do I start a small business and when I do, what kind of retirement plan should I be offering?”

It’s no secret that the U.S. Social Security program is in danger. Employees are required to contribute 6.2% of income and employers match this 6.2%. If you are self-employed, this entire percentage is on your own shoulders at a rate of 12.4%. Benefits for Social Security are calculated off of your 35 highest earning years. These payments are adjusted for inflation, as the U.S. Social Security Administration deems fit. For those born after 1960, full retirement age is now 67 years-old. This means that those that are 30 years old today, will be able to collect benefits between the years of 2050-2051. However, recent studies are proving that the anticipation of the plan exhaustion is 2033. This meansthat our current workforce for the next 19 years needs to have alternative plans for retirement. At exhaustion benefits payments would be dramatically reduced to ¾ of what the promised payments are now. Without immediate action and an approximate contribution increase of 1.3% to employees and employers there will continue to be a problem and deficit and no restoration. Read More »

5 ways to use social media in your small business

5 ways to use social media in your small businessHiscox Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Moran shares why your small business should start using social media today.

As someone who works with social media on a daily basis, it’s hard to fathom how millions of business owners still haven’t seen the light when it comes to using the medium as a tool for business. The overwhelming majority of responses from business owners as to why they aren’t using social media are, “We just don’t have the time.”

Social media has fundamentally changed the way that the world communicates. It has seized the megaphone from marketers and large corporations and put it into the collective hands of billions (with a “B”) of consumers. Almost everything marketers learned at the tail end of the 20th century can be thrown out the window. You now have #oldschool marketing vs. #newworld communications (bonus points if you understand why I used the # symbol). Read More »

Hiscox Small Business Corner: Brazzlebox.com

Hiscox Small Business Corner - Brazzlebox 2

Charlene Barkley, Director of Advertising and Promotions for Brazzlebox.com and Founder Glen Zinszer, prepare for the launch of the business-to-business online networking tool.

A new platform for small businesses prepares to launch as a resource for connecting with other business owners.

The Hiscox Small Business Corner series is an outlet for small business owners to highlight what makes their businesses stand out. Previously, we’ve featured technology firms, a childcare facility, social media agencies and more. The latest small business corner feature is a New York based company, Brazzlebox. Read on for insight on how small business owners can use a new online tool to connect with each other and grow their businesses.

I’m Charlene Barkley, Director of Advertising and Promotions for Brazzlebox, and I’m happy to share the story of the company for the Hiscox Small Business Corner. Brazzlebox is a business-to-business social media network for small and home-based businesses. Slated to launch on September 18th, we hope to use our platform to challenge and educate our members, while helping them build long-lasting relationships with other business owners. Brazzlebox will allow businesses to connect and network in a way no other website has.

Our indirect competitors are the “big” social media networks, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. But, where Facebook is a platform to wish someone a happy birthday, LinkedIn is great for head hunting, finding a job and boasting your credentials (in fact, statistics have proven that they are now a bigger job hunting website than Monster.com), Instagram lets you put a cool filter on your bagel and Twitter announces what you are doing that second in life. None of them really connect businesses. Those platforms put businesses in front of the consumer, but rarely do they connect businesses to other businesses for networking purposes. As a small business owner, I’m sure you already know that making connections takes time and money. And let’s face it, there are two things that small and home-based businesses don’t have a lot of, it’s time and money. Read More »

For millions in donations, just add cold water

For millions in donations just add cold waterAs the Ice Bucket challenges takes over social media, some are questioning it’s value – which is huge for ALS research.

No matter where you looked over the past couple weeks – on TV, online and over social media – you couldn’t help but notice all the videos of people dumping buckets of cold water over their heads.  It looked like everyone was having fun, well except some of these people, and it was all for a good cause – to support research the ALS Association and their efforts to help treat and prevent Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But, were many of these people just taking their 5 minutes in the spotlight rather than helping support a deserving cause? True, the original intent of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seemed to get lost by many along the way. The ice bath was a truth or dare type challenge in lieu of donating actual money – $100 – to ALS.  But, even if most of the participants don’t know why they’re dumping cold water on their heads it doesn’t matter.  Awareness of the challenge has been raised sky high and the ALS Association has raised over $23 million in the last three weeks – ten times what they raised in the same time period last year. Read More »

4 of 2014’s best small business marketing tactics

4 of 2014’s best small business marketing tacticsUse the last half of the year to boost your small business marketing with these quick to implement tactics.

Small business marketing moves fast, even when you have a marketing plan in place, you’ll need to act quick to implement necessary changes. As a busy entrepreneur you might not have as much time for marketing research and updates as you’d like.  That’s why we’ve put together a quick list of today’s top marketing trends – ideas to know about and tactics to implement.  Check it out, compare it to your current marketing activities and make adjustments as needed.

Content marketing

This type of marketing, which involves creating and sharing media and publishing content, rose to prominence in 2012 and shows no sign of slowing.  That’s because content marketing delivers useful information to people who want it.  It’s targeted because you define your audience and it’s in line with your business’ personality because you use the marketing methods you like most. Read More »

Why small businesses should consider cyber liability insurance

Guest blogger Larry Alton shares insight on cyber liability insurance.

Guest blogger Larry Alton shares insight on cyber liability insurance.

Independent business consultant Larry Alton shares insight on cyber liability insurance in the guest blog post below.

In the Internet-dominated business arena, companies store more sensitive information than ever on their computers. But a shockingly low number of small businesses have invested in cyber liability insurance to combat the potentially devastating effects of a cyber-attack.

In fact, many small business owners are unaware of the high risk of data breaches at their establishment, in the belief that hackers are likely to attack only high-profile, high-revenue firms. Although such breaches obviously occur, they do so significantly less frequently than among small businesses.

The “newsworthiness” of data breaches at larger corporations often overshadows the more frequent security violations that target small businesses. Read More »

4 must-dos if you’re thinking of becoming a mompreneur

4 must dos if youre thinking of becoming a mompreneurThese tips will help moms transition into business ownership.

Female entrepreneurs and women small business owners are a financial force to be reckoned with.  According to the 2012 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the past 15 years have seen growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned firms (+54%, +95 and +58%, respectively) seen nowhere else outside of the largest, publicly-traded firms.  It’s estimated that there are now more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. generating $1.3 trillion in revenues annually and employing 7.7 million people.

Many of these women are mompreneurs – a newly-coined phrase that’s becoming commonplace as the number of mothers who start their own businesses grows.  A growing segment of the entrepreneurial ecosphere, mompreneurs are female business owners who actively balance the dual roles of mom and entrepreneur. They contribute significantly to the statistics given above and are important enough to the overall economy that Entrepreneur.com has an entire section of its website focused on mompreneurs. Read More »

3 steps for differentiating your IT consultancy

3 steps for differentiating your IT consultancyHelp your IT consultancy stand out from the crowd with these three marketing tips.

As an entrepreneur you know that small business marketing can be challenging. When you’re marketing a service such as IT consulting that many people don’t fully understand, the challenge increases exponentially.  In order to move from the early days of relying on word-of-mouth business and scale up you’ll need a structured marketing push that shows you’re not just another IT services firm. Read More »

Watch out small business owners: There’s a new threat to your point of sale system

Watch out small business owners - There is a new threat to your point of sale system

Matt Donovan, Underwriting Leader – Tech and Privacy, Hiscox Insurance, shares insight on how business owners can protect themselves from the latest hacking threat.

Hackers are using a new tool to obtain credit card information. Read on to find out how to protect your small business.

Small businesses watch out! A new vulnerability for point of sale (POS) machines used by many small businesses to swipe credit cards has popped up.  This comes along just as Target reported that it is still hurting from their data breach last year, with related losses now at nearly $150 million.   The newest tool being used by hackers, Backoff, uses remote desktop access (RDP) to install malware on POS machines and skim card data.  The number of RDP attacks has exploded recently with hundreds of incidents cited by the Secret Service over the past couple months, many of which are still unbeknown to the affected businesses.

Why is this happening and what makes small businesses so vulnerable?

The constant threat of hackings has made retailers smarter and credit card data is now encrypted in almost every part of the transaction.  But, just like a determined burglar will try to  find the one unlocked window to break into your house, hackers have discovered this new vulnerability at the first point of data collection when credit cards are initially swiped.  Most larger retailers have already taken steps to remove the possibility of RDP access to their networks and guard against this threat.  But smaller businesses with skeletal IT teams and unsophisticated networks probably haven’t even heard of RDP access to their POS machines.  That’s why this latest threat is much more hazardous to the moms and pops of the world than Fortune 500 companies. Read More »

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