What Is Your Most Valuable Asset?

Shot of a young female designer working in her officeYour most valuable asset isn’t your real estate or the tech stocks you bought in the 90s that have done well. It isn’t even your business per se. Your most valuable asset is you — specifically your ability to run a profitable company and make money.

Are you protecting that asset from the risk that a disabling illness or accident might prevent you from working? If you don’t have disability income insurance, you’re not protected.

What Are the Odds?

People generally think the odds of becoming disabled are low. But the numbers say otherwise: More than one in four 20-year-old workers become disabled before reaching retirement age. Here’s another reality check: Serious accidents are not the leading cause of long-term disability; chronic conditions are. Muscle and bone disorders (such as a back disorder or joint or muscle pain) are responsible for more than one in four disabilities.

How Long Could You Go Without an Income?

Even a short period of disability could be devastating. The average group long-term disability claim lasts 2.6 years. Even if you have reserves you 3 could tap, your personal finances would take a hit. If and when you were able to start earning an income again, you might have to start all over.

What Would Happen to Your Business?

Your involvement is vital to your company’s financial success. If you’re unable to work, you might have to hire someone to take your place and borrow money to pay the bills until you’re back on the job. Bottom line? If you’re sidelined by a long disability, it could jeopardize the success or even the survival of your business.

What Can You Do?

Call your financial professional to review and discuss this important issue.

Try a Trust

Happy confident lawyer, Real Estate Agent, notary, financial advisor giving consultation, legal advice to senior couple of clients about medical insurance, wills, house buying or selling, savings, investmentYou don’t have to be fabulously wealthy to benefit from a trust. For many people, a trust is a great financial planning tool.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement between the person who sets up the trust and transfers property to it (the “grantor”) and the individual or institution that agrees to manage the trust assets (the “trustee”). The grantor specifies who is to benefit from the trust (the “beneficiaries”) both during his or her lifetime and at death, if applicable, names the trustee, and spells out in the legal document creating the trust how the trust assets are to be managed and distributed.

What Can a Trust Do?

Trusts can be used for many purposes, including:

  • Managing your assets if you become incapacitated. With a revocable living trust, you can stay in control of your assets while you’re able and avoid probate after your death. You can also arrange to have a successor trustee make investment decisions and handle other financial matters for your benefit if you’re no longer able to do so. This arrangement avoids the expense and complications of a court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship.
  • Reducing the size of your estate. With a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT), you transfer assets with the potential for appreciation to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of a child, other family member, or noncharitable beneficiary and retain an annuity interest for a term of years. When the annuity ends, your child (or other beneficiary) will receive the remaining trust assets. If you outlive the trust term, the value of the assets won’t be included in your estate.
  • Donating to charity. If you set up a charitable remainder trust (CRT), you receive an income stream from the donated assets for life or a set number of years. Then, at your death or when the trust term ends, the charity you have chosen will get the trust assets. If you set up a charitable lead trust (CLT), the charity you choose receives income from the assets for a period of time that you specify. After that period ends, the assets flow to your family as “remainder beneficiaries.” Both CRTs and CLTs offer potential income tax and estate tax advantages.
  • Preserving wealth for future generations. With a dynasty trust, wealth is preserved and generated by cascading through multiple generations. Any income or appreciation generated by the trust assets may be exempt from estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes as long as it remains in the trust and if the laws governing such trusts are satisfied. Typically, your children and then your grandchildren would be the trust income beneficiaries. You also can determine under what conditions your beneficiaries can or cannot receive income from the trust.
  • Protecting assets from creditors. When you set up a trust, you can generally include “spendthrift” provisions that prevent your beneficiaries from assigning their interest in the trust to creditors. Putting assets in trust for your child instead of giving them to your child outright may be a good way to provide asset protection in case of a future divorce or major lawsuit.

Your financial and legal professionals can provide more information about the different types of trusts and how they may apply to your situation.

Your Plan Account Statement Can Reveal Valuable Information

Cropped shot of a man and woman completing paperwork together at a deskIt’s smart to make a point of reviewing your retirement plan account statement in detail at least once a year. You’ll want to ensure that the information in your statement is accurate and assess whether you should make any changes in your contribution level or investments going forward.

Ensure Personal Details Are Correct

To start your review, check the following for accuracy:

  • Personal information (e.g., name, address, phone, etc.)
  • Hire date (since it can affect vesting)
  • Contribution amounts (yours and your employer’s, if applicable)
  • Investment instructions
  • Beneficiary designation

Review Your Investments’ Performance

Any large change — up or down — in one investment market can impact your portfolio’s overall asset allocation.* Consider rebalancing** your portfolio at least once a year so that the percentages you have invested in stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives remain in line with your desired asset allocation.

As a retirement plan investor, your investment goals are typically long term. As such, you may decide to allocate a greater percentage of your portfolio to stock funds*** since a longer investing horizon gives your portfolio more time to recover from any short-term declines in the stock market. However, if there have been changes in your financial situation — for example, you have experienced a job loss, or you have had to deal with large, unexpected expenses — you may have less tolerance for investment risk than before. If that’s the case, you may choose to lower your exposure to higher risk investments in your portfolio.

One of the best ways to measure your portfolio’s performance is to compare your investments to benchmarks. Benchmarking helps put performance in perspective. For example, it can be disturbing when a fund you own has a negative return. However, it doesn’t seem so bad if the fund’s comparable index dropped by a similar percentage.

Likewise, if the overall market fell 10% while your fund only fell by 5%, you would understand that your fund did well in the circumstances. However, if your fund earned returns of 5% during a period when its benchmark rose by 15%, then you may want to examine whether continuing to hold that fund makes sense.

Portfolio Turnover Rate

The term portfolio turnover rate refers to the percentage of a mutual fund’s holdings that changes over a given period of time. Certain types of stock funds may have high turnover rates because they pursue aggressive or growth strategies. Other types — value funds, for example — may have lower turnover rates.

It can be a red flag if a fund’s portfolio turnover rate is much higher than that of other funds in the same style category and the fund consistently underperforms similar funds and its benchmark. Portfolio turnover rate is just one of the many factors investors should review when assessing funds in their portfolios.

Management Fees

Mutual funds charge management fees to help cover the expenses of operating the fund. Typically, management fees are used to compensate the investment managers who select and monitor the fund’s investments. Deciding whether to continue owning a mutual fund based on how much it charges in annual management fees is a subjective judgement. If the management fees are higher than those of other comparable funds and the fund’s performance demonstrates no appreciable difference, then it might be worth looking deeper into the issue.

Work With a Professional

Reviewing your retirement plan account statement can help identify strengths as well as deficiencies in your retirement planning and allow you to respond accordingly. Your financial professional can also be a valuable partner in ensuring that you are on the right track to a financially solid retirement.

Tips on Tax Planning

Monthly cost or budget, expense to pay bill, mortgage or debt, plan for savings or investment, money management or credit card payment, smart woman plan her monthly budget with calendar and piggybank.You may not think about taxes often, but they can prove to be a large expense. That’s why it’s important to make the most of any opportunities you may have to lower your tax liability. Here’s a look at some of the factors you may want to consider in your planning.

Standard Deduction or Itemizing

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) contained many provisions that will be in place through the 2025 tax year. For example, there are significantly higher standard deductions for each filing status and various itemized deductions have been reduced or eliminated. As a result, many people who previously itemized are now better off taking the standard deduction. But don’t automatically rule out itemizing, especially if you expect to make a large charitable contribution or will have a lot of medical and dental expenses. By bunching these items in one tax year, to the extent possible, you may have enough to make itemizing worthwhile that year.

Home/Work Tax Breaks

If you are a traditional full-time employee and work from home, home office expenses are not deductible, even if you itemize. The deduction for unreimbursed employee business expenses (and various other miscellaneous expenses) won’t be restored until 2026. However, if you are a self-employed/gig worker, you may qualify to deduct your home office expenses. Certain requirements apply.

Moving Expenses

Work-related moving expenses may now be deducted only if you are an active-duty member of the Armed Forces and the move is per a military reassignment. This deduction is available whether you itemize or claim the standard deduction.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

HSAs continue to offer tax breaks. If you are covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan and meet other requirements, you can contribute pretax income to an employer-sponsored HSA or make deductible contributions to an HSA you open on your own. An HSA can earn interest or be invested, growing in a tax-deferred manner similar to an individual retirement account (IRA). And HSA withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax free. You can also carry over a balance from year to year, allowing the account to grow.

Family Related Tax Credits

The TCJA expanded tax credits for families, doubling the child credit and adding a family credit for dependents who don’t qualify for the child credit. Credits include one for each child under age 18 at the end of the tax year and another for each qualifying dependent who isn’t a qualifying child. The latter category includes an older dependent child or a dependent elderly parent.

The adoption credit and the income exclusion for employer adoption assistance are still in place. You’ll want to check into the details if you are adopting a child.

Section 529 Plans*

These tax-advantaged savings plans assist in paying for education. While initially used to pay for a college education, 529 plans may now cover elementary through high school education as well. Some states offer tax breaks for 529 plan contributions. However, contributions are not deductible on your federal return. Growth related to 529 contributions is tax deferred, and withdrawals for qualified education expenses — including elementary and secondary school tuition of up to $10,000 per year per student — are free of federal income taxes.

A special break allows you to front-load five years’ worth of gift tax annual exclusions and make up to a $85,000 contribution per beneficiary in one tax year free of federal gift tax. If you make the contribution with your spouse, the total can be extended to $170,000. (These limits may be inflation adjusted.)

Other Education Tax Breaks

As before, you may be able to take advantage of either the American Opportunity credit or the Lifetime Learning credit for higher education costs. The first credit can be up to $2,500 per student per year for the first four years of college. The second credit is limited to $2,000 per tax return and is available for qualified expenses of any post-high school education at an eligible educational institution, including graduate school.

In addition, if you are paying off your student loans, you may be able to deduct the interest, up to $2,500 per year. This deduction is available whether you claim the standard deduction or itemize.

Keep in mind that there are income limits for these tax breaks.


To help reduce the taxes you pay on investment gains in taxable accounts, you may want to consider:

  • Selling securities with unrealized losses before year end to offset realized capital gains.
  • Choosing mutual funds** with low portfolio turnover rates that tend to generate long-term capital gains, since the lower long-term rates offer a tax savings.
  • Factoring in that you can deduct only $3,000 of net capital losses per year against other income ($1,500 if you’re married filing separately), but you can carry forward excess losses to subsequent tax years.

You should also be aware that if you have modified adjusted gross income of over $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly; $125,000 if married filing separately), you may owe a 3.8% “net investment income tax,” or NIIT.


While the TCJA made only minimal changes in the area of retirement planning, there are still issues to consider. The main one is whether you want to pay taxes on your retirement account contributions later (when you eventually take distributions from your account) or pay taxes on them now (which means potentially tax-free distributions when you retire). It all depends on the type of savings vehicle you use.

Traditional 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans and traditional IRAs allow you to save for retirement on a tax-deferred basis. Your employer may also choose to make contributions to your plan account. Salary deferrals to 401(k) and similar plans are generally pretax, while traditional IRA contributions are tax deductible under certain circumstances.

Roth alternatives — available in some employers’ 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans, as well as through a Roth IRA you open on your own — provide no tax break on contributions. However, investment earnings accumulate tax deferred. And, when requirements are met, distributions from your account are tax free. Since Roth accounts in employer plans lack income restrictions, you may be able to make larger contributions to an employer’s Roth plan than to a Roth IRA.

As always, make sure that you obtain professional advice before making tax-related decisions. Your tax professional can provide detailed information and help you evaluate what might be appropriate for your personal tax situation.

Keeping It SIMPLE

Hand holding drawing virtual lightbulb with brain on bokeh background for creative and smart thinking idea concepA SIMPLE IRA is an option for small business owners who do not currently have a retirement plan in place but would like to have one. This particular type of retirement plan has several attractive features that deliver significant benefits to both employers and their employees.

What It Is

The Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) is a retirement savings plan targeted at employers with 100 or fewer employees who earn $5,000 or more in compensation. With fewer reporting and administrative requirements than other retirement plans, the SIMPLE plan is designed to appeal to employers with limited resources and personnel to handle benefit administration and compliance issues.

With a SIMPLE IRA, employees may make tax-deferred contributions through payroll deduction to traditional individual retirement accounts set up under the plan. In 2023, the contribution limit is $15,500 ($19,000 if age 50 or over). All account earnings are tax deferred until the plan participant begins withdrawals. Withdrawals from a SIMPLE IRA are taxed at regular income tax rates.

Employers appreciate the fact that a SIMPLE IRA is relatively easy to set up and operate. An annual report is not required, although certain documents must be distributed to inform employees about the plan.

Employers are required to contribute to the plan, either by matching employee contributions up to 3% of pay or by contributing 2% of each eligible employee’s compensation. The matching percentage may be lowered in some years.

Plan Benefits

  • Employee contributions are tax deferred
  • Employer contributions to employees’ SIMPLE IRAs are tax deductible
  • Account earnings are tax deferred
  • No annual filing requirement or discrimination testing

Potential Drawbacks

  • Employer contributions are required
  • No Roth contributions are permitted
  • Full immediate vesting (employee has ownership of all SIMPLE IRA money)
  • No loans permitted

Your financial and tax professionals can help you assess your retirement plan options

Help if You Want It: Lessons From Your Account Statement

Business analyst. Financial data analysis. Advisor analyzing financial report. Vector illustration of data and finance management.An account statement can provide investors with a wealth of information about their investments.

How closely do you look at your brokerage account statement? Your statement can tell you a lot about your investments. The following key elements of your statement contain important information that can help you assess the health of your portfolio.

Account summary. Your statement should include a summary of investment performance during the statement period. Typically, the summary also shows the total value of your account at the end of the period. This snapshot of your portfolio’s performance can help you assess whether you’re making progress or need to take a closer look at investments that may not be performing well.

Some brokerages offer consolidated account statements that can serve as a single source of comprehensive information for most or all of an investor’s financial holdings, no matter where the assets are held. Generally, investors can specify which accounts they wish to have included and provide access to data for accounts not held by their brokerage firm.

Your income. Your statement may include information on withdrawals, deposits, dividends, and interest income. Bond investors also might see the detailed maturity dates of their bonds listed in this section.

Your portfolio. Check your account details to confirm that the names and amounts of individual assets held are accurate. If investments are categorized by asset class, use this information to help you determine whether your investments are well diversified. This section may also include additional information, such as bond insurance ratings, that can help you make decisions about your investments.

The details. Your statement should include explanations and/or definitions of terms, codes, fees, and account types, as well as new or revised legal information and fee details.

Investment objective. Your statement might include a description of your investment strategy — for example, moderate, growth, etc. Confirm that any such description reflects your current goals and update it if your objective changes.

Trade protocol. Review the details of any trades you’ve made during the quarter by checking the original trade confirmation against the information in your brokerage statement. Trade confirmations list the date and time of the transaction, the quantity of shares bought or sold, and the price at which you bought or sold a security. The confirmation should also provide contact information for the clearing firm that handled the transaction.

Don’t wait. Report any inaccuracies to your broker as soon as possible after you’ve reviewed your statement. At least once a year, visit your financial professional to discuss your progress.

Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Cropped shot of a young business owner using her tablet while standing in her storeMany businesses are founded on an original idea or design. Consider Xerox or IBM. Or look at products like Coke or popular published works such as the Harry Potter books. Where would they all be today if their idea or work had not been protected by intellectual property laws? For a growing business, securing the rights to an idea, products, or an identity can be a critical step in staving off the competition and in locking in future revenues.

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights collectively make up the backbone of intellectual property rights. Which may apply to your business depends on the nature of your product or service and what specifically you are looking to protect.


Patents are used for gaining rights to an invention — which can be a machine, process, design, or even a new type of plant. A patent grants the holder “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, generally for an initial term of 20 years. Once a patent is issued, it is the responsibility of the holder, or patentee, to enforce the patent.

There are three basic types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents relate to processes, machines, and other manufactured items, substances, or any improvements thereto. Design patents pertain to design for an article of manufacture. Plant patents relate to distinct and new varieties of plants. For all three types, the invention must be “new and original.”Therefore, the application process necessarily involves a patent search.

While there are numerous online patent search engines, most serious applicants consult a patent attorney, as the cost and consequences of using an already patented idea can be significant. Filing fees can run from as much as $600 to $1,000 or more without legal fees, and approval can take time. If you are considering applying for a patent, ask yourself whether the idea you are applying for is even patentable and whether the idea’s long-term potential outweighs the time and cost of applying for a patent.


In contrast to patents, trademarks protect words, names, symbols, designs, or even sounds and colors that distinguish a product or business. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it relates to service rather than a product. Unlike patents, trademarks and service marks can be renewed forever as long as they are actively used in a business.

To claim rights to a trademark, you need only place the “TM” or “SM” next to the trademarked material. However, you must first check to see that it is not already trademarked by someone else. Using a trademark that is already registered can land you in an expensive law suit. So you’ll probably need to do a trademark search — which generally involves engaging a trademark lawyer.

A registered trademark (®) goes a step further and requires registration with the Trademark office of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although it is not required to register a trademark, it does provide some advantages, most notably, greater legal precedent in the event it is challenged and the ability to bring action in a federal court. Trademark registration also is a prerequisite for registration in foreign countries.

What should you trademark and when should you use it? Consider trademarking any material that is integral to your business — its name, a product name, or logo — anything that connotes the business and factors into its marketability. Make sure to include the mark on packaging, displays, and sales literature, as well as any advertising.


Copyrights relate to “original works of authorship” such as articles, books and other writings, music, and works of art — both published and unpublished. A copyright gives owners the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and display their work. Legal protection is extended automatically, as soon as the work is created, though registration provides the copyright owner with the advantage of establishing public awareness of its use. The Library of Congress registers copyrights, which last for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Legal Matters

Intellectual law can be very complex. Identifying the subtle differences between one trademark and another, defining what constitutes patent infringement or what level of “copying” is acceptable over the Internet — are all issues that are regularly debated by lawyers and judges across the country. There’s also a matter of international intellectual property rights; U.S. trademarks and patent grants are effective only within the United States and every country has its own laws. If you are to successfully navigate the complicated world of intellectual property rights, you should consult a legal professional — preferably one familiar with your specific business. Not only can qualified counsel aid with patent or trademark searches, but they can give you direction on what intellectual property needs registering and help you through the application process.

5 Often-Overlooked Tax Credits for Your Small Business

Document of payment, tax. Check, contract. Budget planning calculator, bill payment abstract metaphor, tax credit, bank account. Flat illustration. Abstract business concept vector illustration set.As a small business owner, tax time can be stressful. That’s why ensuring you’re garnering every benefit possible is essential. Many small businesses overlook some huge benefits when it comes to tax credits. This article reveals five of the most overlooked tax credits for small businesses. Read on to determine if any of these apply to your business.

Tax Credit vs. Tax Deduction

Before jumping to five tax credits often overlooked by small businesses, let’s clarify the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction.

While tax deductions reduce your taxable income resulting in you paying a lower tax amount, tax credits are a dollar amount deducted from the taxes you owe. So, if you receive a tax credit of $500, you subtract $500 from taxes due.

Tax credits can be highly beneficial come tax time, so knowing which ones your small business is eligible to claim is good. Unfortunately, there are quite a few that many business owners aren’t aware of.

Here are five tax credits that are the most overlooked by small businesses. After you review the list, check with your accountant to see if your business is eligible for these or other tax credits to reduce the amount you owe to the IRS.

5 Tax Credits You May be Overlooking

1. Retirement Saver’s Credit

For small businesses that start a retirement plan for their employees, the IRS offers this credit to offset some of the startup costs they consider “ordinary and necessary.” Your business must employ fewer than 100 employees and not have had a retirement plan previously. The credit is for 50 percent of your startup costs, with a maximum credit of $500.

This tax credit can be claimed for three years, beginning the year before your plan becomes effective. If you do not currently offer a retirement savings plan for your employees, now may be the time to establish one.

2. Research & Development Tax Credit

The R&D tax credit is one of the most overlooked because small business owners not in a “research” field with a laboratory setting often blaze right past this one. But according to the IRS, “research” isn’t necessarily in a lab.

To qualify for this tax credit, a business must improve a product or process, often occurring in many companies as part of their everyday operations. For example, you may qualify if you own a software company and develop or improve an IT process.

Developing, designing, enhancing, or improving a product or process related to your business can qualify you for a credit of 13 cents on every dollar. Of course, you’ll want to confirm whether your business qualifies, identify qualifying activities, and keep copious records so that you can back up your claim to the credit.

3. Rehabilitation Credit (Historic Preservation)

If your business spent money to rehabilitate or renovate a historic structure, this credit likely applies to you. A 20 percent tax credit is available for rehabilitating historic, income-producing buildings determined by the Secretary of the Interior to be “certified historic structures.”

This does not apply to residential structures; however, many businesses purchase historic properties to house their office, restaurant, or other business. Historic structures are certified by the National Park Service, which reports to the IRS. If that applies to the structure where your business is housed, it is worth reviewing this credit with your accountant.

4. Empowerment Zone Employment Credit

Empowerment Zones (EZ) are distressed urban and rural areas needing revitalization. The purpose of the EZ credit is to encourage business owners to operate in these areas and employ EZ residents.

The credit is 20 percent of qualified wages paid during a calendar year. Businesses are eligible for a wage credit of up to $3,000 annually for each eligible employee.

5. Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit

Suppose you purchase a new plug-in electric vehicle (EV) for your business between 2023 and 2032. In that case, you may qualify for a tax credit of $7,500. To be eligible for the credit, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must not exceed $150,000 in the year you take delivery of the vehicle or the year before (whichever is less).

The EV must meet qualifications regarding battery capacity, retail price, and weight. Speak to your tax accountant for the guidelines and qualifications if you purchased a plug-in EV for your business.

Ensuring you claim every tax credit your small business is entitled to is the key to paying the lowest tax possible. There are dozens of tax credits that small businesses are eligible for. Be sure to have your accountant or CPA review your eligibility for maximum savings come tax time.

The Pluses and Minuses of Business Borrowing

Human hand giving money to other hand. Holding banknotes. Isolated on blue background. Vector illustrationThere are distinct pluses and minuses that small business owners should consider when looking for a loan.

New small business owners typically enter the marketplace with high expectations — they want to build sales and increase profits quarter to quarter. More often than not, they hope to add employees and, perhaps, open up additional locations. To help turn their dreams of growth into reality, they often seek out financing.

The big question is when to borrow money and on what terms. The decision isn’t always clear-cut, as there are distinct pluses and minuses that small business owners should consider.

The Pluses of Business Borrowing…

Seeking financing can make sense from a business perspective if the loan is intended to help the business expand and grow. For example, using debt to add to or introduce a new line of products, acquire additional property, or take other actions that are expected to boost revenues is an appropriate business strategy. A loan can also make sense when it is used to repay the owner of the business some of what he or she put into the business using personal funds.

…And the Minuses

A business loan impacts cash flow as it is being repaid, often in monthly installments. The interest cost may be an important consideration, depending on the interest rate environment. Business borrowers should understand that their tax deduction for interest expense may be limited to 30% of the business’s adjusted taxable income. However, smaller businesses may be permitted to deduct more. A tax professional can provide details on these rules.

Excessive Debt

Business owners also need to consider other possible negative ramifications from taking on excessive debt. For example, the owner of a small business is typically required to personally guarantee loans to the business. If the business defaults on the loan, then the owner is personally liable for repaying the loan balance. It is possible that in such a situation, the lender would take steps to seize the owner’s auto, home, and other assets in order to settle the debt. Moreover, if the business ended up with more liabilities than assets and was unable to repay what it owed, then the business might be forced to file for bankruptcy.

Seek Professional Input

Before taking on debt, small business owners may want to consult with an experienced financial professional. A professional analysis of the business’s financial health, cash flow, and prospects can help the owner determine whether a business loan at this stage makes sense and how much debt the business can afford to take on.

Facing Off Against a Big Competitor

Business people run on the arrows. Concept business competition vector illustration. Flat business cartoon, Speed, Togetherness, Office Team, Back view.Running a small business isn’t easy. You probably wouldn’t have it any other way. The ability to survive and thrive is a source of great pride for small business owners. So when a competitor moves in, especially a big one, it can feel like battle lines have been drawn.

Sharpen Your Edge

Before you do anything, accept the fact that you can’t compete on the same level as a large national chain. But that doesn’t mean you can’t win the battle. Study what the competition does and how they do it. Then use that information to define — and sharpen — your company’s competitive edge.

A large competitor will almost certainly have lower prices and a deeper inventory. But you can connect with customers in ways the competition can’t. You can add value to every customer interaction by being attentive and providing expertise and personalized service.

Perhaps your biggest edge is your size. Being small means you can respond to market trends and customer requests more quickly. You can also change and adapt policies and procedures faster.

Rally the Troops

You have another big advantage: You have an established customer base and you know what they need. Establish a timeline to reach out to your customers directly via snail mail or e-mail (or both) with special offers. If you have a loyalty program, consider doubling rewards for a period of time that overlaps with the competition’s opening.

Look for Advantages

Having a big competitor move in may have some unexpected benefits. The new company validates the need for what your business offers and may do a fair amount of advertising. If your marketing budget allows, this could be a good time to do some strategic advertising of your own.

The competition also may create some unexpected opportunities in the future. The new company will change the dynamics of the marketplace, which may lead you to steer your business in a new direction.