“Is Being an Entrepreneur Right for You?” Business Seminar Summary

EntrepreneurThe SCORE organization recently gave a presentation on starting a business. So, are you ready and willing to take that risk in order to become a successful entrepreneur?

Myth vs. Reality of Being an Entrepreneur

  • Myth: If you go out on your own, you won’t have to work so hard or such long hours.
  • Reality: You’ll probably work harder and longer than ever before – but enjoy it more at the same time. Exhaustion fades at the moment you proudly say, “I did this!”
  • Myth: People with their own businesses can charge high prices and make a lot of money fast.
  • Reality: Provide a service or product that’s fair priced where you can make good money.
  • Myth: You’ll be able to deduct everything, so you don’t have to pay taxes.
  • Reality: Taxes are based on net income, which can be lowered by subtracting expenses related to the business from gross income. Keep good records and learn how to make the tax system work for you.
  • Myth: If you work independently you won’t have to report to a boss.
  • Reality: You won’t have a single boss, you’ll have many – your customers and vendors, each of whom have specific needs and demands. Your challenge is to keep all of them happy.
  • Myth: All you need is a few good customers and you’ll be set.
  • Reality: It’s easier to deal with just a few customers, but the risk is high – limiting yourself could sink your business.
  • Myth: If you work on your own, you can work uninterrupted and won’t have annoying distrctions like meetings.
  • Reality: The challenge is to establish structure and discipline so you can maintain as much control over your environment.
  • Myth: Business owners get to do the work they want to do, and only what they find interesting.
  • Reality: You’ll have to develop an interest in every aspect of your business, no matter whether or not you find it interesting.
  • Myth: You won’t have to deal with any office politics if you have your own business.
  • Reality: Customers, suppliers, employees and others will place demands on you.

Did you know that there are over 23 million small businesses in the US and about 75% of them are run by only one person. Therefore, you don’t need a whole office of employees, as long as you can be successful and run the company you want to run, that is all that matters.

Can’t attend one of our educational seminars? No need to fret, just follow us on Twitter @NJBanking and you can “join” the seminar with our Live Tweeting from the comfort of your own home or desk! We always invite you to join the conversation by using the hashtag provided the day of the seminar – this way you’ll never miss a beat! To go back and review the tweets from this seminar, use #EntreBiz.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. It offers free counseling sessions, workshops, and more. To learn more about how you can get free help with your small business or to set up an appointment, visit SCORE’s website, give them a call at 732.224.2573, or find them at library counseling locations at Shrewsbury, Manalapan, Wall, and Middletown; main office at Brookdale Community College. They are also available through EMACC, SMCC, and GMCC Chambers of Commerce.

Social Media Strategy for Business Seminar Summary

social%20media-resized-600Social Media Consultant Deborah Smith recently helped our attendees strategize a social media plan for their businesses. By using social media tools like FacebookTwitterLinkedIn Pinterest, any company can market themselves for little to no cost; but in order to make these social platforms successful for your company, you must dedicate the time. They aren’t going to work and market all by themselves.

If you are curious to know which social media sites you should use, Deborah Smith suggests the following:

  • If your company is business to business = LinkedIn & Twitter
  • If your company is business to consumer = Facebook & Twitter
  • If your company provides visual products/services = Pinterest & Twitter


It’s important to do your research first to get to know your audience and who you want to specifically target. Using sites like Hootsuite and Google Alerts helps make your “tweeting” a lot easier. Hootsuite allows you to organize streams of search queries, schedule tweets, research hashtags and much more. Google Alerts will send you e-mails if any keyword you specifically want Google to search for comes up. Be creative and play around with keywords and research hashtags on Symplur for you to use on your own Twitter account.

Other tips:
  • Find targert markets through keyword research.
  • Follow prospective people with low follow counts, they will be more likely to notice you just for following.
  • For influencers with large follow counts, retweet their tweets to get noticed.


“The first thing you need to do is make a good impression,” says Deborah Smith about starting a LinkedIn profile. Make sure to include a professional headshot, post your city and state, and create a company page. It’s important to periodically post status updates (new hires, new certifications, etc.) on both your personal and company pages but be sure not to overload your connections with unnecessary updates. To get yourself noticed, make sure you complete and optimize your profile, build your network, ask for recommendations, become visible and be sure to include your LinkedIn URL in your e-mail signature and on all promotional/marketing materials.

Other tips:

  • Utilize the advanced search feature to find very specific people to connect with.
  • To rapidly grow your connection base on LinkedIn, join an “Open Networking” group like LION (LinkedIn Open Networkers).
  • Become a paid member and designate yourself as an open networker (one who accepts all invitations) with a mutli-colored wreath next to your name.
  • Only invite people who are already on LinkedIn and craft a unique message, don’t use the generic message.


You want to develop a Pinterest business page with eye catching boards that appeal to your target market and create relationships with your audience by interacting with users who pin images from your website or board. Why? Early research indicates that Pinterest is more effective at driving traffic compared to other social media sites, even Facebook.

Other tips:

  • Invest in a good camera that produces high quality images if you have products that you want to market.
  • It’s important to learn about your followers, so take some time to go and see what your followers are pinning.
  • People are on Pinterest to have fun, not to be sold to. So it’s a good idea to post things from other sites and online stores rather than just your own.


Facebook timelines are like mini-websites where you can highlight specific employees, news in your surrounding community and mix in information about your products and services. Your company isn’t going to boom overnight, “you need to do your song and dance to get noticed on Facebook,” as stated by Deborah Smith. Provide questions that get your audience to respond and get talking. Nothing is better than receiving personal testimonials about your products and/or services than from a customer.

Other tips:

  • Design custom tabs at Shortstack.com (contact forms, surveys, sweepstakes, etc.).
  • Your cover photo should not be a marketing tool or contain any call-to-action (i.e. “Get it now!”, “Tell your friends!”, “Like this page for 10% off”).
  • Utilize paid advertisements to target specific audiences by state, town, sex, age, education, etc.
  • Pay to promote posts by the number of people you want to reach out to.

Cool tools for Social Media:

  • Use StumbleUpon to get even more noticed by targeting by interest, location and demographic.
  • Constant Contact for their social campaigns.
  • e-Grabber extracts all members of LinkedIn Groups into spreadsheet with phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

For the full presentation, click here for the PDF version.

In 2007, Deborah founded a highly successful food blog which focusses on great eats in New Jersey. Check out JerseyBites.com for delicious tips and inspiration! To learn more about Deborah’s Social Media and E-mail Marketing services, visit DeborahLSmith.com.

Follow Deborah @DeborahLSmith@JerseyBites and Facebook.com/SocialMedia4Business.


Marketing & Sales for Business Seminar Summary

In a recent Marketing and Sales Business Seminar, counselors from SCORE spoke about the importance of marketing and sales at First Financial.

Marketing is about building trust and a relationship with clients. 70-80% of your time will be spent in marketing your business.

You want to ask yourself:

  1. What is the uniqueness my business offers?
  2. What problem will I solve for my client?
  3. How can I get my message out?

Some different types marketing outlets to consider using include:

  • Family and friends
  • Past Business Acquaintances
  • Cold Calling: telephone or door to door
  • Direct Mail
  • Advertising: Print and Media
  • Networking (something you want to constantly work at)

Social Media

When considering the use of social media here are five commandments to consider:

  1. Thou shalt understand the reach and power of the social Web – Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks give you cost effective access to more prospects than even before. It also gives you a chance to share information without sending out email blasts or cold calling.
  2. Thou shalt not become a Satan of Spam – offer members helpful ideas or links.  Never spam members or use automatic friend-adding software.
  3. Thou shalt not mix business and pleasure – to avoid confusion, use a professional identity for your business.  For example, when using Facebook, set up a page that is strictly for your business, not your personal account.
  4. Thou shalt be 100 percent transparent – when using social media programs always be upfront about who you are and what you do.  Never leave a positive comment or testimonial about yourself.
  5. Thou shalt be kind to others – online communities can be vicious at times, with people feuding and spreading rumors and innuendos.  While using online sites, remember the Golden Rule, treat others, including your competitors, as you want to be treated.

Selling a product or service is 70-80% listening.  You need to understand the right questions to ask and when you should ask them.  When trying to make a sale – be yourself, be natural, be confident, and be positive.

Sales are generally lost due to neglect of listening, lack of a trustful relationship, the client wasn’t educated enough, or you didn’t ask for the sale.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. It offers free counseling sessions, workshops, and more. To learn more about how you can get free help with your small business or to set up an appointment, visit SCORE’s website, give them a call at 732.224.2573, or find them at library counseling locations at Shrewsbury, Manalapan, Wall, and Middletown; main office at Brookdale Community College. They are also available through EMACC, SMCC, and GMCC Chambers of Commerce.

LinkedIn for Business Seminar Summary

New-LinkedIn-Updates-resized-600LinkedIn is the “Trade Show” of all social media platforms…

Social media expert, Deborah Smith, recently joined us for an informative and educational presentation on LinkedIn tips to optimize your profile. With the dozens of ways to improve your profile, Deborah reveals the “hidden secrets” to fully complete that desired page to really market yourself and your business.

Did you know that LinkedIn enables you to…

  • Customize your interests and news content on your LinkedIn homepage.
  • Add additional applications to your profile (i.e. events, polls, books you may be reading, presentations, etc.).
  • Turn on/off activity broadcasts when you update or edit your profile.
  • Connect with people that your connections are connected with (kind of like 2nd and 3rd cousins in relation to 2nd and 3rd tier connections).
  • Upload your resume to your LinkedIn profile for potential employers and clients to view.
  • Opt in or out of an “Open Network” where anyone can connect with you.
  • Ask for recommendations (and publish them on your profile) from colleagues, clients, and/or people you have worked with and you can also endorse them in return.
  • Send out 3,000 invitations (per account) to connect with other users.
  • Post statuses (similar to Facebook) where you can share with your network and link to your Twitter account as well.
  • Get “Introduced” to someone you would like to get to know in order to possibly connect with them through a mutual connection.
  • Group your connections based on customized Tags (i.e. Business Partners, Colleagues, Clients, etc.).
  • Create your own Group to publish on LinkedIn.
  • Utilize the “Advanced Search” option to narrow down specific professionals.
  • Save 3 job searches that you may be interested in that you might want to refer back to at a later time.
  • Register and customize your LinkedIn profile URL.
  • Update your LinkedIn title summary with keywords (not too broad) in order to appear more frequently when people search for those certain keywords.
  • Make your profile anonymous or public when you view other people’s LinkedIn profiles.
  • Convert profile to .pdf format, print profile or download vCard into Outlook (1st connections only).
  • Create a personal company page for others to follow and receive updates.

LinkedIn provides numerous options to help you market yourself and your company. Remember, when you’re sending an invitation to a potential employer or client, you want to stand out and build a relationship. Try to only send out invitations to people who are already on LinkedIn and utlitize your network of connections. When you are looking to connect with someone, take the time to craft a personal message to each person and not just use the generated message that LinkedIn provides you. You can reference something special you liked in particular on their profile or something you have in common like a group or connection.

Deborah Smith has had a very successful food blog for the past couple of years which focuses on great eats in New Jersey. Check out her blog JerseyBites.com for great tips and inspiration! For more social media tips and tricks, subscribe to DeborahLSmith.com.


Blogging for Business Seminar Summary

The 3 “P’s” of Blogging: Passion, Persistence & Patience…

Recently, Deborah Smith gave another information packed seminar at First Financial to talk about how to build and operate a successful blog for your company. Her seminar was a success, as she covered the whole spectrum of what there is to know about blogging for your business.

Keep%20visitors%20coming%20to%20your%20blogA “blog” is an internet page where you control the content that gets published through individual articles known as “posts.” Make sure you do your research before creating your own blog. See what you like in regard to color schemes, themes, layout and design. Most importantly, see what other blogs are doing right and what they’re doing wrong, so you don’t make the same mistakes.

Deborah told our attendees, “Your blog is like real estate on the internet. Search engines love new content and blogs give you that content.”

Just to recap, Deborah made several other important points that are helpful to remember when operating your business’ blog:

  • Purchase a dot com for your blog (if you plan to have a stand-alone blog. One that is not part of an existing website). It lets your readers know that you are established and serious about your blogging. This can be purchased at WordPress.com where you can pay as low as $17 per year.
  • Learn to write! Blogging at its core is a writing intensive process and the better your writing is, the better your blog will be. People want the facts, so be a conscious self-editor and remember that less is more!
  • Try to be consistent in your schedule when publishing blog posts. Pick a set day or several days of the week to post. If you remain consistent with posting, you will see a stonger following.
  • Capture a larger audience by getting people to subscribe to your blog so they receive posts automatically without having to check your site everyday for a new post.
  • Title your blog posts carefully. Although it can be fun to give your post a clever name, it’s important that your title contains keywords so the post appears in search engines.
  • You want to keep your content fresh, so try to mix it up a bit and keep your posts between 500-800 words. Depending on your business, you might want to do some seasonal suggestions, reviews or interviews. “Top 10” lists seem to be very popular in the blogging world, but don’t over do it.
  • Tagging is a key element to your blogging process. Tags help your blog show up in search engines when users are looking for something particular.
  • Connect with other blogs on the web. There are tons of special interest blogs out there that you can either guest post with or trade links. Link trading is helpful because the amount of links to your site increases your blog’s page rank, and of course the higher the better!
  • Always remember to follow the formula for successful blogging: Great Content + Other People – Marketing Messages = Growth.  The formula is from Michael Stelzner’s book “Launch,” which Deborah strongly recommends for those running their own blog.

Some common blogging platforms include: WordPressBlogspotJoomla,TumblrSquarespaceTypepad and Drupal.

Deborah has had a very successful food blog for the past couple of years which focuses on great eats in New Jersey. Check out her blog JerseyBites.com for great tips and inspiration! For more social media tips and tricks, subscribe to DeborahLSmith.com.

Exit Planning for Business Seminar Summary

Recently, SCORE presented a workshop designed for business owners on exit planning strategies.  They discussed how to identify the causes and circumstances for exiting a business; how to evaluate the impact of exiting a business on employees, family, and clients; and options and issues for exiting a business.

Exiting a business impacts you as a business owner, your family, your clients, and business partners – not just the business itself.  Every business should have at the very least – a brief exit plan strategy, which is a necessary component of your regular business plan.  If a partnership is involved in the business, the exit strategy should be established and in writing at the start of the partnership.  While you can make all the plans you wish, there is enough chaos in the world to have contingency plans prepared for any shift of business, health, personal issues, and disasters. Exit plans will need to be updated periodically during the lifespan of your business. Exit plans are living documents, it’s a good idea to evaluate yours once every year and be open and honest with all business partners throughout the life of the business.

Why exit a business?  There could be a number of reasons, however some of the most common include: family issues, death or disability of the business owner or partners, financial insolvency, decline in business, tax issues, the product is no longer viable as a revenue source, or you have achieved all your business goals and wish to sell your business to another company or new owner.

Once you have decided you want to exit your business, it is important to make sure all your obligations are met.  It’s also important to finalize all payroll and sales taxes – the government will collect all necessary funds – so meet your obligations!

Here are some other key points to think about when getting ready to exit your business: exit strategy contingency fund, buyer/seller agreements, life insurance, conditions of any partnership agreements, and potentially speaking with a trusted advisor like an accountant or lawyer during the exit process.  Do what’s reasonable for your business!

Stay on the lookout for future seminars at First Financial – we offer a business seminar each month! If you have any business banking or loan related questions, contact Business Development.