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How to Get Certified As a Woman-Owned Business

In the world of business, women are considered to be a minority regardless of their race. Many government contracts and business arrangements require that a minimum percentage of business transactions be handled using minority owned businesses. For this reason, getting a business certified as woman-owned can be advantageous and open up new markets for goods and services. But, who offers certification and how does one get her business certified as woman-owned?

The Nation Women’s Business Owners’ Corporation (NWBOC) is the first organization to offer a certification program for woman-owned businesses. The NWBOC is a non-profit organization created in 1995 to provide assistance to woman business owners in competing for government and corporate contracts. Their Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification program is one step in this process.

In order to get her business certified as woman-owned, a woman or group of women must make an application to the NWBOC for certification and supply business paperwork that supports the claim that the business is at least 51% owned and controlled by a woman or women. Incorporation papers, a partnership agreement, or a county DBA (doing business as) fictitious name filing will normally suffice.

The second step takes place at the NWBOC where the application and supporting paperwork are reviewed in detail to verify that the legal owner of the business is, indeed, a woman or group of women. Once the review is complete and the paperwork has passed inspection, a site inspector will be meet with the owner(s) at the actual location of the business to see how the business is operated on a daily basis and verify that a woman is in charge of making the day to day decisions associated with running the business. These inspectors may be other woman business owners, CPAs, or other professionals with enough business experience to determine how the business is being run and who has actual control, regardless of what is on paper.

The final step along the road to certification as a woman-owned business is the decision making by the NWBOC. They will write a letter to the business owner telling whether the business is or is not being certified as a woman-owned business and why. The conditions that must be met to be certified are a little strenuous to ensure that the businesses who receive certification are truly owned and managed by women so that government and corporate entities can be comfortable in the knowledge that they are fulfilling their mandate to do business with minority owned businesses when they trade with WBE certified businesses.

Business is difficult at best in today’s business climate. Women who own their own businesses are at a major disadvantage in dealing with many corporate and government entities. Getting certified as a woman-owned business through the NWBOC is one of the best steps a woman business owner can take toward making the playing field more level for her business. WBE certification can be very handy at making woman-owned businesses more competitive in the business world today.

7 Steps to Business Card Graphic Design Success

Often a small business owner or real estate agent must design his or her own marketing materials. Companies run out of marketing materials, or smaller independent realtors may need some made for them and do not have the in house marketing specialist to razzle dazzle sales prospects with their graphic art. Whatever the reason it means making sure the materials are the best quality they can afford to represent their business and make a good impression. While making up the design of these materials it is important to keep a few things in mind.

Design, Design, Design
Whether it is a product sales sheet or real estate agent business cards the marketing material is going to end up in front of a sales prospect. Make it the best marketing collateral that you can. The sales professional will look better if the marketing material looks professional as well.

When the marketing materials are created they must be planned out well to communicate the right message you are trying to send. The entire product must be well organized and professional. Since the pictures are usually the focal point, they must be crisp and clear. This is important because the product is representing a company and ultimately you are judged by the quality of your materials. If the pictures are blurry and the design is choppy, clients will view it as second-rate and your company along with it. Use photo quality images, 300dpi if you are using a photo. Cell phone cameras are an excellent tool but be mindful of resolution. Customers may decide to find a different real estate company with better marketing collateral.

The appearance of real estate materials includes the materials it is constructed with. If an agent is trying to make a good impression, it should be made out of the best materials available. At least 14PT card stock. Extra thick paper stock and glossy finishes are signs of a well-made business card or realestate brochure. Business Card Genius is an online site that provides these services, but not the only one. Although we take it a step further and use 16PT card stock because you can feel a difference. These final touches cost a smidge extra, but dramatically improve the appearance. The entire appearance of realtor materials can affect a client’s view of the business. Be mindful that saving $10 on business cards can cost you a commission on a sale. Choose wisely.

Gone are the days when customers are still willing to keep plain-looking business cards. 90% of the cards given to customers are thrown away; they are bland and do nothing for the sales prospect. Do you want to be in the 10% that are kept? A well-designed business card will get you there. When it comes to your business card for real estate, you may want to leave it to the experts to provide you advice on how to combine the right elements to get you noticed. A logo is essential; it will also be highly advisable if you can add a photo to your business card. It becomes easier for your customers to associate your business with your face. It increases your credibility. You can also check out the portfolio page for many excellent samples for real estate business card designs. Stay away from generic templates offered by companies. It won’t help you be unique in your customer’s perception.

Branding
A large reason marketing materials use the same format on all of the different pieces is to build the company brand. Whenever someone sees a logo or design on a realestate brochure or a broker business card, they start to develop a familiarity with it. This familiarity may cause them to lean towards one real estate company rather than another. Brochures, business cards, presentation folders, and realtor envelopes must all contain the company’s logo and design to make the system work most effectively for you. The agent’s picture will also be printed so the client can get familiar with them as well as to associate the agent with the brand.

Choose The Correct Card Stock For Your Customer
Business Card Genius makes use of 16pt heavy card stock for their business cards for real estate agents. Few of our competitors do the same. For us its a no-brainer. Heavier thickness card stock for the realtor business cards is to make sure that they are rich in texture, especially when printed in full color. If you purchase business cards at a local print shop you will be offered generic business card paper which is often 12PT card stock. The cards will be untreated. You can put some text on it and a logo.

Let us be clear. It is OK to purchase a generic card from a generic printer for a generic customer where you are not worried about building a relationship to market and sell high value items. If you need maximum impact you should choose the best cards, not the generic ones. That means the heaviest card stocks, the best treatments, and the brightest colors and clearest pictures you can find. If you believe your customers prefer the feel of a linen card then go with that. 100LB linen paper is good quality and most customers will realize that is the case.

Business Card Printing Shapes
The business card for real estate may have different kinds of shapes. The most usual design is the square corner card, but you can also get rounded corners or fold-over cards which basically looks like a small brochure. The interior part contains the contact information of the real estate broker, while the front may contain the photo of the agent, logo, and other graphics.

Balance Images and Text
It is essential that texts should be highly visible on your business cards. Fields such as your name, contact details, e-mail and office addresses, and other pertinent details should be readable. Make sure your graphics do not detract from the text. You need the text. Make sure the text does not over power the graphics either. Good internet printing companies have good designers who will be able to get this right for you. Use them if you don’t have experienced in-house people. I would suggest trying them at least once in any case. My company makes cards for people in different geographic areas where different card styles are used. Often we can suggest styles from other areas you haven’t seen before which will make them more unique for your customers.

Buzz
The best marketing materials create a buzz around them. Your customer’s remark on them to you, will remember them because the marketing materials stood out, and will show them to their friends, business partners, and acquaintances. Make sure your Brochure is THAT brochure. If a real estate agent has to make their own marketing materials they should keep these tips in mind. A good presentation of you is what keeps clients coming back. A quality printer is capable of helping agents make their own custom real estate brochure, business cards, postcards, and envelopes. Regardless of how the economy is doing there are always people who are looking for homes or are selling them to prospective buyers. This means that you have a very huge market waiting for you out there.

Call To Action
You can also enhance the effectiveness of your business card for real estate by including a call-to-action tagline, slogan, or sentence. It may be a short phrase or a sentence that will compel your clients to contact you for a deal or for more information of your services. You can have these taglines printed in the back and front portions of your business card.

Small Business Management Through the Recession

Today’s uncertain economy is enough to make a small business owner’s hair fall out, bowl over from a stomach ulcer or scratch up a rash that could cause customers to consider another place for service or product. The good news is that we know the economy will turn around, in time. Your job is to work smarter and keep your business moving forward until then. That means taking a hard look at the business of your business.

As small business owners we are good at what we do and make. Problems arise when we pay too much attention to our product or service and not enough to managing the business itself. Granted that is the part that usually evokes a dreaded “ugh,” but it is also the part that can mean the difference between success and failure. Focusing on your financials, the people who make your business possible, and your vision will help ensure your survival in today’s economy and beyond.

Re-Mind Your Business

Cash in or Cash Out I am sure you have heard this a thousand times, but it still needs saying. “Cash is king.” A business is more likely to survive in a good or bad economy with good cash flow than with profits. One does not necessarily mean the other. Small business owners usually have problems with cash flow no matter the economy. To improve cash flow do a cost analysis of your business. Look at areas where you can save money such as bank and credit card charges; negotiate with creditors for longer payment arrangements. Barter for services or products with suppliers. If you offer credit to your customers, cut it down or out and be more aggressive with collections. Consider outsourcing services instead of hiring another employee. There are many freelancers that are experts in specific areas such as accounting and bookkeeping, website design and operations and marketing and public relations that can cost less than an employee, benefits included. Be creative in reducing the cost of your day-to-day operations without sacrificing the quality of your product or service.

If you do large jobs, ask for a payment plan that includes a deposit. If you do large contracts such as janitorial services for major corporations, invoice early and ask for early payment or offer your customers a discount if they pay the invoice within a certain time frame. In a poor economy, large corporations are looking for ways to save money too.

If you need help with your cost analysis or cash flow projections, ask for it. Worcester has many free and low-cost resources to help you develop your survival tactics.

Marketing

While cutting costs is most important, cutting back on marketing, advertising and public relations during a poor economy is a big mistake. Marketing and public relations are what gain you new business. When times are hardest is the time you want to shine even brighter than before. If you do not let your customers know you are still on board, they may forget about you when the good times resurface. And they will resurface.

Develop a no cost marketing plan that includes building media relationships so you can submit byline articles relevant to your industry. Appear on local access television as an expert in your field. Join in professional, community and industry networking events. Develop a customer management program that includes regular contact with customers about subject unrelated to your business as well.

Apply for small business awards and contests by corporations, professional associations, and government. This recognition will get you attention by your customers as well as potential customers that may not know you exist. Winning an award often gets you requests from other media who want to publish your story. It also builds your credibility.

Nurture Your People

Employees It may be that without your employees you would not have a business. During this economic slowdown, communicate with your employees. Now more than ever it is important to be transparent, ask for their ideas for improvement. Motivating employees is difficult when they are feeling shaky about whether they will keep their jobs. The best motivator is to provide them the opportunity to offer suggestion on how to serve the best interest of everyone in the company over the long-haul. They may be willing to take a pay cut or have ideas about cutting back on expenses you did not think about. Go the extra step and provide praise for good work or ideas that work. They are your most precious resource. It is usually less costly to keep current employees than searching for qualified employees that you have to train when the economy improves.

Customers Keeping your existing customers by providing excellent customer service is good practice anytime. During today’s economy it is critical. It is much easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones. Talk to your customers. Learn what they need, how they are doing financially, what their expectations are for the future, so you are on your game when the economy improves and your customers start spending more.

Suppliers Supplier loyalty can be valuable when you need extra time to catch up on your account payables. Depending on your business, you may land a new account and need supplies to launch the account until your first month of receivables is due which could be 60 to 90 days out. A good relationship with your supplier could mean your payables receive the same time consideration. Think creatively when making deals to grow your business with the help of your suppliers. The more growth your business experiences, the more business your supplier could expect.

Focus on the Future

Business Plan Review and revise your business plan. As your business grows and your industry changes it is necessary to keep your business plan relevant. A well-thought out business plan that includes your cost analysis, new marketing plan and employee and customer management programs is critical to a quick and successful recovery. It can ensure the future viability of your business.