Business Owners’ Gift Guide

Need help getting motivated, organized, and planning your corporate gift giving? Well, we’ve got some action items and gift ideas all lined up to help you out! Because, if you haven’t planned your gift giving for this holiday season, then you’re running out of time…

Make your List – list everyone that you need to recognize, thank, and connect with during the holiday season; this includes clients, colleagues, employees, partners, and prospects. Your goal should be to have your list completed before December 5th.

Create your Budget – begin with your total budget. Determine the per person budget which can be based on a percentage of your total budget, and should probably be weighted according to the type of relationship you have with the individual. Your goal should be to have your budget completed before December 10th.

Get Organized – in order to simplify the process, try to order as much as possible from the same source.  If ordering online, have gifts shipped directly to the recipient. Try to choose retailers and distributors who will still be around next year, in order to simplify reorders. Your goal should be to have all of your gift orders placed by December 15th.

Need help finding appropriate gifts and giving inspiration?

Clients – be sure to acknowledge your clients this holiday season. This could be as simple as a card, as nice as a bottle of wine or box of chocolates, or a personalized gift that you hand pick. Consider Send Out Cards, Tasting Room, Harry & David, or Kiva.

Colleagues and Partners – it’s a good time to show your appreciation for the partners and co-workers who help to make your business a success. Consider useful gifts for the office or thoughtful gifts personalized for the individual. Consider Uncommon Goods, Think Geek, or Cell Phone Shop.

Employees and contractors – while appreciation should not be limited to the holidays, this is certainly a time of year that warrants your expression of gratitude for the people who help support you throughout the year. Consider fun gifts that will allow them to enjoy their down time or experience something new. Consider The Wine Buyer, Haven’s , or Send Out Cards.

Here are some suggestions of where you might find such items at reasonable prices:

  • Send Out Cards – an easy way to send personalized holiday cards, gift cards, and small gifts for any occasion
  • Harry & David – various gift baskets of fruit, chocolate, cheese, and more
  • Tasting Room – wine by the bottle, the glass, or a sampling set
  • The Wine Buyer – mix and match cases of wine with free shipping
  • Uncommon Goods – many unique gift ideas
  • Think Geek – fun gift ideas for the geeks in your life
  • Cell Phone Shop – very affordable electronic accessories (not just for cell phones)

For those in Maine who want to shop local, there are some fantastic options:

  • L.L. Bean – lots of quality gift ideas from a Maine icon
  • Haven’s – handcrafted Maine candy, chocolates, and fresh roasted nuts. They also offer corporate branding.
  • Len Libby – Maine made chocolates, taffy, and fudge
  • Wine Wise – unique wine events and education in the Portland area

Consider some philanthropic options this year to really share the spirit of the season:

Consider using a service like charity navigator to review an organization before making a donation

If you have any additional tips that you have found helpful, or gift ideas that have been well received, please share with a comment!

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, please be aware that there may be affiliate links within this article. However, we never promote products or services based on any financial gain, only on our experience and the value that we believe you may gain.
 
 
 

Tips on Small Business Banking in Maine

This is the time of year that many small businesses are realizing that they need to reorganize their finances. Specifically if they have not already separated their business funds from their personal funds!

With my banking background, I often feel the need to educate on such topics as accounts and services… this post covers No Fee Small Business Checking accounts.

Every business, no matter the size, should have a specially designated checking account to segregate funds and pay expenses. However, the needs of a business can vary greatly based on the size of the company and the volume of transactions.

For many businesses in Maine, a Small Business checking account at a local bank or credit union will satisfy all of their needs with NO FEES.

In order to find an account that will satisfy your needs, you need to start by asking some basic questions.

Here are some basic questions to ask when shopping for a Small Business Checking account;

  1. Is there a monthly service fee for having this account?
  2. Is there an average balance requirement for this account?
  3. Are there any per transaction or item fees?
  4. Is there a charge for a Debit card?
  5. Is there a charge for Online Banking?
  6. Is there a charge for Online Bill Payer?
  7. Is there a limit to the number of checks that can be written?
  8. How much do checks cost?
  9. Does the account earn any interest?
  10. What is the minimum balance allowed on this account?

In Maine, you should have no problem finding a Small Business Checking account that offers the following;

  1. No monthly service charge
  2. No monthly balance requirement
  3. 75 – 500 free transactions or items per month, then each transaction or item could cost anywhere from $0.10 – $0.50
  4. No charge for a Debit Card
  5. No charge for Online Banking
  6. There may be a small charge for Online Bill Payer with a business account
  7. No limit on Check writing
  8. Checks could cost anywhere from $15 – $150 depending on what you order, however some banks will give you the first order free
  9. Most free accounts do not earn interest
  10. The minimum balance could be anywhere from $1 – $500

Now there is no excuse to comingle your business and personal funds. Contact your local bank or credit union and investigate your options!

With over 10 years of community banking experience in Maine, I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about business banking, accounts, and services. Feel free to contact me!

Social Media for Maine Business

We have been using social media to help promote Maine events, educate about the usefulness of virtual assistants, share information, and meet people for over a year now and have found it to be quite successful! However, there are key elements to utilizing Social Media in the state of Maine… follow-up, consistency, quality, and meeting in person!

  1. Follow-up – Make sure you respond to inquiries, comments, and new connections in a timely manner. Don’t leave people hanging. (Smart phones are a huge help with this)
  2. Social MediaConsistency – Don’t give up. It’s about building awareness, and relationships that doesn’t happen in a month or two. (The definition of consistency can vary from site to site)
  3. Quality – Think of the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”… don’t post items that you wouldn’t read yourself, and consider reposting news and information that would help others.
  4. Off-Line Networking – Mainers (in general) still want to meet you! They still want to sit and have a cup of coffee, and get to know you as a person, before they will do business with you, or suggest that anyone else does.

The most value that we have gotten from Social Media is the opportunity to meet and connect with more people, more quickly. Social media is a great platform for sharing news and information. But, when our followers and connections recognize us at local networking events, it’s an invaluable advantage. With that being said, it’s helpful to use an avatar (picture) that actually looks like you!

If you would like to find out about local networking events, visit our Maine Networking Calendar!

If you would like more suggestions or help setting up your social media profiles, contact us!

If you have your own comments or suggestions for others, please post!

5 Tips for a GREAT Networking Event!

Networking is essential for the small business owner and entrepreneur, especially in the start-up or growth phases. Networking allows you to meet other like-minded people, learn about local business and events, and hopefully find your next great client(s)!

With all the networking options available and the limited schedules of busy entrepreneurs, what makes a GREAT networking event? What makes an event worth your time? And what should you be sure to offer at the next event you host?

Here are 5 aspects that I look for in a GREAT event;

  1. Attendance – First thing’s first, you need people to show up, in order to have a great networking event. Getting the word out about an event is essential. Post it on any local calendars that are available, send out e-mails to your contact list, and use social media to promote your event.
  2. Atmosphere – The venue needs to be easy to find, welcoming, and have ample open space to allow for mingling, but there should also be seating for those that prefer it.
  3. Diversity – The attendees should come from diverse industries, to encourage and promote sharing of information and interesting topics.
  4. Mingling – Attendees should be encouraged to meet new people. If this does not seem to be happening, then the coordinators should take initiative to introduce people or offer some form of activity that encourages mingling.
  5. Food and Beverages – While the quality and quantity of food and/or beverages can vary greatly, depending on the time and place of the event, there should be something available to help attendees fill those moments in between mingling.

I found all of these factors at two local events that I attend regularly; Maine Successful Thinkers and Maine Freedom Networking! You can typically meet and greet with dozens of local business owners, walking away with at least 15-20 business cards from people who you had meaningful conversations with. Plus, they are fun to attend!

If you are looking for local places to network, check out the Maine Networking Calendar on the Office Solutions ME website!

Feel free to contact us for networking details and coordination, and read our earlier post for more information about how to be a great networker!

5 Ways to Network like a Pro!

Networking is essential for the small business owner and entrepreneur, especially in the start-up or growth phases. Networking allows you to meet other like-minded people, learn about local business and events, and hopefully find your next great client(s)!

With all the networking options available and the limited schedules of busy entrepreneurs, it is important to make the most of each event!

What can you do to make sure that every networking event you attend is worthwhile? Here are five tips to help you maximize your networking opportunities;

  1. Mingle – Work the room! Catch the eye of someone you don’t know and introduce your self. A good way to do this is to give someone a compliment, but be genuine. Make a goal for yourself to meet at least two new people at each event you attend!
  2. Exchange Cards – Bring plenty of business cards! Create a system for easy card access and exchange. For example use one pocket for giving cards and the other pocket for collecting cards. Be sure to look at each person’s card when they hand it to you, this will help you to remember the person and their name.
  3. Introductions – Use your connections to help others! Make sure you introduce people who you know or even just met. This helps increase the effectiveness of the event and increases the chance that they will do the same for you. It also helps to include at least one fact about the people you are introducing. For example where they work or what their hobby is. This demonstrates your listening skills and lets others know you are paying attention.
  4. Invitations – Invite others to attend events with you! Let clients, coworkers, friends, and who ever else would be interested know where you will be. This allows you more opportunity to (re)connect with people you already know and be introduced to people you don’t know.
  5. Follow-up – After the event, be sure to follow-up with the people you met. Send them an e-mail, write them a note, connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook, whatever your style is, use it. Don’t let your time go to waste, stay connected!

And although it should go without saying, avoid drinking too much at networking events. When you’re uncomfortable or anxious, it’s easy to over indulge, but this is when it should be avoided. You would hate to make a bad first impression.

If you are looking for local places to network in Southern Maine, check out the Maine Networking Calendar on the Office Solutions ME website!

Feel free to contact us for networking details and coordination, and we look forward to seeing you at local events!

Thank You!

1stCelebrating 1 Year!!

It’s official! As of June first, Office Solutions ME has officially been in business for 1 full year!

This first year in business has really been a year of exploration, discovering business needs, networking and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, and developing partnerships in our community. We have truly enjoyed developing and building our business and look forward to the many years to come!

We have had the opportunity to learn so much about our clients and their businesses as we have assisted them in a vast array of support services. We have helped over fifteen different companies, with services ranging from data input, to small event planning, to Facebook training sessions. No two projects have been the same, and we have appreciated every opportunity to assist our clients!

We have recently had the pleasure of joining the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce and the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. We regularly attend networking events held by such groups as Maine Successful Thinkers, Freedom Networking of Maine, and the Maine Women’s Business Center. We have also shown our support for such organizations as the Maine Women’s Fund – Women Standing Together, Pecha Kucha Night, the CLIMB Good Friday Breakfast, and the Maine Women’s Network, through sponsorship opportunities.

So… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Thanks to everyone that has contributed to the success of Office Solutions ME!

Thanks to our clients! Thanks to our supporters! Thanks to our coaches and mentors! Thank you for helping to make our first year in business a fantastic one!

Want to learn more about Office Solutions ME and what we’ve been up to this year? We’d love to talk to you, feel free to contact us!

Kathrine Farris
Owner & Virtual Professional
Office Solutions ME

Entrepreneurs Getting Started, Getting Organized!

What better time to talk about Entrepreneurs, with EWeek right around the corner! EWeek Maine, February 20th through 27th, encourages and supports entrepreneurs with panel discussions, workshops and networking events, designed to foster entrepreneurial education and lifelong learning. Go to http://www.eweekmaine.com/  for a complete listing of events.

Not many of us have one-dimensional lives. Most of us have expectations and requirement coming from many directions; bosses, employees, spouse, children, parents, teachers, students, neighbors, etc… In order to ensure all of these responsibilities are fulfilled and expectations are met, we have to be organized. This holds true, and is even multiplied, if you are the business owner.

Business owners now need to consider not just how to complete an order and the process of making the widget, but also the marketing, security, finances, regulations, taxes, etc… that go into running a company. While these tasks may grow with regards to the company size, they exist on some level at any size. So what is an Entrepreneurs or Solopreneurs (single person company) to do? How can you effectively wear all of these hats?

Here are some options/suggestions;

  1. Take the time to learn all of the functions of running a successful business. Just bite the bullet, take classes, attend seminars, and make time to learn the material.
  2. Find a mentor or business counselor that can help you find resources and give you tips. It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone who continues to expand their knowledge and share that with you.
  3. Hire a consultant or business coach that has experience in running a business or in a particular aspect that you are struggling with. Again, It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone you can trust to help keep you on track.
  4. Get a partner or hire an employee to help share the work load. When choosing to work with others, you add the human resource function to your plate, so be sure that is something you are prepared for.

Here are some websites that I have found helpful as tools and resources for getting started, getting organized, and learning how about the many aspects of running a business;

National Resources

Local (Maine) Resources

If you are not already a member of the Maine Entrepreneurs Group or the Maine Successful Thinkers Group on LinkedIn, I would highly suggest it. There are some great resource discussions.

Feel free to comment on additional resources that you have found helpful!

If you are looking for local places to network, check out our newly created Maine Networking Calendar.