Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Best Business Ideas for Retirees

b3Looking for a new challenge now that you’ve retired from the corporate world? Why not start your own business?

Many retirees who’ve been employees all of their lives get excited at the thought of running the show, and building a business that reflects their interests and values. If you’re thinking of launching a business during your retirement, here are six ideas to get you started.

Online businesses

Many new business ideas well-suited for retirees harness the power of the internet, as long as you don’t let technology intimidate you.

“Online businesses are truly some of the best types of businesses for people over 50, but they need to get over their fears,” said Diane Eschenbach, owner of startup consultancy firm DE Consultants and author of “How to Quickly Start a Business Online.”

One simple new business option involves researching and compiling information on websites.

“One of my favorite types of online businesses for the ‘post-50 group’ is curation sites,” said Eschenbach.

As people get older, the time invested in activities (such as a new business venture) becomes very important, said Eschenbach. She is a big fan of the idea of retirees learning to use technology because of the time saved by automated programs, but she stresses the importance of choosing a business you enjoy.

“The key to a great retirement is doing what you love and finding a way to monetize it quickly,” said Eschenbach. [See Related Story: New Business Idea? How to Test Before Launching ]

Consulting and coaching

Retirees considering starting businesses should start by thinking about two areas: skills from their previous jobs and life lessons. These experiences make retirees well-positioned to share their knowledge.

“Since they have a lot of life and career experience, a consulting and coaching business suits them well as a new endeavor,” said Dolly Garlo, business coach and president of Thrive!! Inc. By capitalizing on existing knowledge, retirees can spend their time learning the ropes of running a new business.

“Retirees should focus on jobs and business opportunities that leverage the individual’s years of work and life experience, such as consulting, teaching or tutoring,” said Jamie Hopkins, Esq., assistant professor of taxation in the Retirement Income Program at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and associate director of the New York Life Center for Retirement Income.

Instead of sharing knowledge through a face-to-face business, retirees may prefer to teach or coach through a freelance writing business. “Writing and blogging can be a way for the retiree to stay engaged in an online or other community, generate some income and leverage their knowledge,” said Hopkins.

As you brainstorm new business ideas, Garlo suggests asking a few key questions. “How much time do you want to spend working? What kind of flexibility do you require? Do you want to work from a fixed location or be able to work virtually? What subject matter in particular excites you?”

Garlo says it’s also important to consider your potential business customers, and if they can afford to pay you. “This will determine whether what you provide becomes a hobby or charitable endeavor, or is an actual business,” she said.

Start a “mastermind group”

Have you left a successful career after establishing a large network of valuable and experienced business contacts? If so, the main ingredients of your new business idea may be as close as your address book.

“[Retirees] have learned lessons that many business owners won’t learn for another 10 to 20 years,” said Tobe Brockner, author of “Mastermind Group Blueprint: How to Start, Run and Profit from Mastermind Groups” (Aloha Group Publishing, 2013). “This is why starting a mastermind group is a natural fit for retirees.”

Members of mastermind groups meet regularly to collaborate and solve the problems or issues of their members, tapping into the collected experience, skills and knowledge of the group.

“Many [retirees] already have a network that they can tap into to find excellent mastermind group members, and by being the group organizer and facilitator, they can make a nice supplemental income,” said Brockner.

Depending on the size of the area in which they live, Brockner said enterprising retirees can start and facilitate multiple mastermind groups, and charge a premium for the value of being a member.

“Mastermind group facilitators can generate between $1,500 to $3,000 per month per group for just a few hours [of] work,” he said.

Service-based businesses

Providing services has long been a popular idea for younger, active retirees who want to start their own businesses; however, familiar choices like handyman services, tutoring or pet sitting aren’t the only games in town.

“There are many options for service-based businesses, but one area particularly well-suited for retirees is to provide eldercare services,” said Nancy Collamer, career coach and author of “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement” (Ten Speed Press, 2013).

“Many elderly living on their own need someone to help out with the tasks of daily living: housekeeping, shopping, errands and cooking,” said Collamer. “They also hire people to help out with special projects such as relocating, medical claims assistance and bill paying.”

Entrepreneurial support services

As the total number of entrepreneurs increases, so does the number of entrepreneurs over the age of 50. Why not start a business catering to them? There is a tremendous opportunity for you to assist new entrepreneurs with building, managing and marketing their businesses, said Collamer. While older entrepreneurs have solid core skills from previous professions, they often fall short on the skills needed to capitalize on their expertise and turn their knowledge and talents into a profitable business.

“So think about how you can apply your skills in a small business environment,” suggested Collamer. “Are you a talented graphic designer? You might be able to design logos, brochures or menus for a new restaurant in town. Do you have strong financial skills? Perhaps you could work as a small business coach or a bookkeeper.”

Few business people have the time and know-how needed to handle all the tasks required to keep a business profitable, Collamer said. And filling this need suits aspiring business owners who are also retirees.

“Most small business people can’t afford full-time staff, so this can be a nice way to earn income on a flexible or part-time basis.”

Active living

There are many ways to take advantage of the spreading “active living” philosophy, which is especially popular among Boomers. Who better to help show them the way than a peer with the know-how to stay fit and age gracefully? One of the greatest things about starting a business focused on active living is how creative you can be about what exactly your business looks like.

“The spectrum of involvement is pretty wide,” Jonah Bliss, director of community for electric bicycle company EVELO, said. “[It could be] anything from opening up franchises for electric bike stores to being ambassadors for healthy living brands, or running tours and treks to outdoor locations.”

These types of businesses not only work well as a way to bring in some money after you retire from your career, but they also help others maintain their health as they age. Be creative and use what you know to find your niche in the growing active living marketplace.

Let’s Learn About Some Ideas for Entrepreneurs

b2There’s nothing like your favorite boutique store or local restaurant. These places, owned by real people, not corporations, make a difference in their communities.

According to the National League of Cities, small “homegrown” businesses create new jobs and employ local residents, and create a unique sense of place that enhances a community’s quality of life.

If you live in a metropolitan area with lots of residents and resources, the opportunities to grow your business and have an impact are even greater. Here are a few types of small businesses you can run in a big city.

Micro-brewing

Do you have a passion for home brewing? You might be able to turn your love of beer into a business. Urban residents are always looking for local artisans who can offer a small-scale, handcrafted experience, especially when it comes to craft beer. Chelsea Craft Brewing Company, for instance, has made its mark in the Bronx with its locally brewed beverage selection.

Cities make for a competitive atmosphere, but the right combination of talent, location and interest can make your brewery an interesting must-visit location.

Dog walking

With a lot of pet owners in apartment buildings, a big city is a great place for a part-time dog-walking business. City dwellers don’t have yards for their dogs to play in, and if they work long or irregular hours, they may not always have time to take Fido for his daily stroll. Put up flyers in your building, and see if any of your neighbors would be willing to entrust this task to you for a small fee. It’s important to educate yourself on not only the local dog walking market but also proper animal care and handling before starting this business. [See Related: How to Start a Pet Care Business]

Restaurant/food truck

Everyone needs to eat, so what better place to start a food service business than a place with tons of mouths to feed? Whether you choose to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant or a food truck, you have a good opportunity to draw in customers with a great menu and the right marketing tactics. While mobile restaurants parked on busy streets can bring in a lot of business, be sure to check your city’s local laws about street vendor permits to avoid legal issues.

Eco-consulting

Large metro areas tend to produce a lot of pollution. To combat this problem, many city residents are interested in living greener. Help them make their lives eco-friendlier by starting an eco-consulting service. These consultants evaluate homes and offices, and offer solutions to make the businesses more environmentally friendly. This could mean advising a switch to energy-efficient appliances or simply implementing a recycling program. Become a certified eco-consultant to boost your credibility with potential clients.

Antique store

Major cities are historical hubs. Antique items not only bring intrigue into a city constantly growing and changing, but it helps remind people of their roots. If you’re educated in fine arts or have a knack for finding items that hold value, opening an antique store in a city may bring excitement and curiosity from all walks of life, local or otherwise. For example, Anastacia’s Antiques, a 25-year-old staple in Philadelphia, proves that the right formula of items and location will keep people coming back no matter the size of the city.

Errand service

Between their jobs and carting their children from one activity to the next, most working parents have very little time left to take care of personal errands like grocery shopping, making returns at the mall or mailing packages. Assist clients and free up their days for the important moment in their life. Public transportation in cities makes getting from place to place more convenient and less expensive than driving around in a suburban area, so you can keep your overhead travel expenses down. To boost your resume, begin building your experiences through companies like TaskRabbit or Airtasker.

Home decorating and organization

If you have an eye for design or a knack for organization, you can start a business helping city-dwellers make the most of their small living quarters. Apartment residents are constantly looking for ways to maximize their storage space and make cramped rooms feel bigger, so there will always be a market for organization and interior decorating services. Opening a physical office is also a great way for you to showcase your skills to potential clients.

Translation service

Cities are melting pots of different cultures and backgrounds, so fluency in multiple languages is a big plus. You can put those language skills to good use by offering to translate written and spoken words from one language to another for clients. Broadening international ties and an increase in the number of non-English speakers in the United States makes this a fast-growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Services predicting 42 percent growth by 2020. You can start your own independent service and market yourself to businesses, schools, hospitals, courtrooms and conference centers.

Some Business Ideas That Don’t Require Employees

b1Are you ready to start your own business, but not ready to hire employees? There are plenty of options for people who would prefer to be “solopreneurs” and keep their business operations simple.

Here are six ideas to inspire you to start working on your solo business plan right away:

Virtual Health Coaching

Are you educated in nutrition but are still looking to get your career to go in the right direction? Turn your healthy lifestyle choices and education into lucrative business decisions by becoming a virtual health coach. You’ll be aided in your efforts by the myriad new health-related apps and devices being developed to help clients keep track of fitness goals and weight loss.

Chore/Errand Service for Seniors

Anyone with aging loved ones knows how hard it can be to care for them without extra help. Elderly people living in their own homes need help with lots of routine chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and yard work. Why not start a business that offers senior citizens and their families the help they need to maintain their households without breaking their budgets? With word-of-mouth endorsements and social media targeted at the overworked baby-boomer set, you could get this business off the ground in no time. [See Related Story: Prefer Working Solo? 10 Franchises That Don’t Need Employees]

Microbrewery

Want to turn your love of beer into a viable occupation? Why not jump on the microbrewing bandwagon? With the popularity of craft beers on the rise in the U.S., the demand for innovative breweries is growing. Take a page from the successful owners of Brooklyn Brewery and start by focusing on branding and distribution of your beverages. With some thirsty investors and a few barrels of persistence, you could have your brewery up and running faster than you can say “cheers!” Learn more about starting your own craft brewery in this Business News Daily guide.

Personal Trainer

With employers and corporations looking to decrease health care costs and a greater awareness of diseases associated with obesity, America is looking to get fit. Freelance personal trainers make their own schedules and work for a diverse range of clients. If you’re a fitness guru with a head for business, this might just be the right idea for you.

Special Deliveries

Whether it’s a bouquet of flowers in celebration of a wedding anniversary or an ice cream cake delivery for a child’s birthday, there’s a need for businesses that carry out long-distance requests on behalf of those whose loved ones live far away. With the right website and a PayPal account, you could start building your reputation as a “special delivery” courier today.

Business Coach

Are you business-savvy with years of experience, and willing to pass that knowledge on to others? With the right marketing tactics, a strong personal network and a great website, it’s simple to become a business coach on your own. Work with small business owners or startup-hopefuls to carefully craft business plans, and advise those who need that extra motivation. If you know you can be a good motivator and not just a “yes man,” their investment in you will have great returns.

The Best Customer Service Solutions for Small Businesses

Excellent customer service is critical to running a successful business. But gone is the era of phone-only support. These days, customers expect support to be convenient and fast. This means being available wherever they are, whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook, email or your website, and whether they’re getting in touch via their smartphone, tablet or an old-fashioned phone call.

From help-desk services to live chat, social media and mobile support, here are 10 customer service solutions for your small business.

1. Freshdesk

Teamwork is key to excellent customer service. Freshdesk is a help-desk platform that lets customer support agents work together to deliver the best level of customer service possible. When a help ticket is opened, all team members can see the ticket and the customer. Freshdesk can show you which agent is working on the ticket and its status, customer information and communications, internal notes about the issue and more. This way, if customers call back and different agents are assigned to tickets, they can easily get caught up quickly to resolve issues. Freshdesk also comes with service level agreement (SLA) options for your customers, which helps you prioritize tickets and gives them an idea of when they can expect a response. [3 Ways Customer Service Has Changed (And How to Adapt)]

Freshdesk starts at $16 per agent per month. A free version is also available, but is limited to three agents; each additional agent costs $15 per month.

2. Zendesk

Sometimes, customers need one-on-one help; other times, they’d rather solve issues on their own. Zendesk is all about putting customers first. It features both an easy-to-use multichannel ticketing system — which organizes all email, Web, social, phone and live chat communication in one location — and a customer self-service portal for customers who prefer to troubleshoot issues themselves. Zendesk can also help you build more meaningful relationships with customers with its customer engagement feature, a platform that gives you access to key data and insights to improve performance and deliver personalized customer support.

Zendesk starts at $1 per month per agent and is limited to email ticketing. More comprehensive plans start at $25 per month per agent.

3. Desk

Want to make customers happy? Desk can help with its fast, efficient customer support system. Designed specifically for small businesses, features like universal inbox, case management, productivity tools and workflow automation help you stay organized and speed through help tickets without compromising quality. In addition to phone and live chat customer service, Desk includes unlimited Web, email and social media (Twitter and Facebook) support. Agents can also access the platform and help customers on the go with the Desk app for iOS and Android.

Desk starts at $30 per agent per month. An advanced plan is also available for $135 per month per agent, which lets you customize your plan and includes enterprise level features.

4. HappyFox

Support tickets don’t create themselves. From phone calls and chat to email, social media and Web inquiries, HappyFox can take help requests from multiple channels and automatically convert them into tickets in an organized, efficient help-desk system. The platform can also help you deliver fast customer service by identifying common issues and grouping related cases, as well as split tickets among multiple agents for more complex problems. Additionally, HappyFox integrates with a wide range of business apps — including Google Apps, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Insightly, SurveyMonkey and FreshBooks — to streamline customer service with the services your business uses the most.

HappyFox costs $9 per month per staff member for startups, or $19 per staff per month for small businesses.

5. ClickDesk

Want to provide on-demand support on your website? Try a live-chat service like ClickDesk, so customers can get the help they need as they browse your products and services online. ClickDesk offers three types of live-chat support: instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) voice chats or video calls. Agents can manage all of these in the ClickDesk help-desk portal, where they can handle multiple conversations and stay organized to give customers a great experience. If agents don’t like the portal, chats can also be taken via Google Hangouts.

ClickDesk starts at $16.99 per month. A free version is available, but it’s limited to one agent and voice chat.

6. Olark

Live chat helps you with more than just customer service; it can also help you boost sales. Olark uses live chat to give businesses an opportunity to close sales before customers click away. Agents receive multiple chats, as well as prioritize them — for instance, to prevent shopping-cart abandonment. It also provides detailed customer information to help agents with the sale, such as browsing histories, how long customers have been on your website, contact information and whether they are returning or new customers. Olark also integrates with many third-party business products, such as Salesforce and Magento, to streamline customer service with the rest of your operations.

Olark starts at $15 per month for one operator and includes all core features. For more operators, check out the Gold plan for $44 per month.

7. My LiveChat

If you’re not sure if a live-chat solution is right for your website, try a free service like My LiveChat first. It offers key functions available in paid services, such as multiple tickets, chat transcripts and real-time visitor monitoring, as well as pre-written responses to save agents time. My LiveChat is also highly customizable, so you can personalize chat windows with your own colors and branding. The software can be accessed over the Web and on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

My LiveChat is 100 percent free. Paid plans, which eliminate the My LiveChat branding and give you email reports, start at $15 per month.

8. Sparkcentral

When customers have a problem with a company, many turn to social media. Sometimes, they’ll sound off to their followers; other times, they’ll tag or mention you to get your attention. Get a handle on social media customer service and respond to issues with Sparkcentral. This social media support platform features an engagement dashboard to help agents quickly resolve issues and improve response times, a reporting and analytics portal to track metrics and productivity, and real-time collaboration tools to automate workflows and share knowledge to help customers as a team.

Contact Sparkcentral for pricing information.

9. Parature Facebook Portal

Expand your social media presence by providing 24/7 customer support on Facebook. The Parature for Facebook Portal provides a comprehensive, personalized support center right on your Facebook page. It lets customers submit help tickets, get live-chat support, access a FAQ section and find updated information, all without leaving Facebook. This way, customers can get help directly from your support team and the resources on your Facebook page, instead of posting about their issues on your Facebook wall.

Contact Parature for Facebook for a price quote.

10. Helpshift

Does your business have a mobile app? Use Helpshift to deliver customer support right from your app. This in-app messaging platform lets you help customers on mobile devices, so they don’t have to go to your website, search for answers or make a phone call. Helpshift makes getting answers as easy as texting, thus giving customers a better customer service experience that works for them. Features include image and video attachments — for instance, customers can send screenshots to show you their problem — push notifications, analytics and the ability to customize colors, fonts and other branding. Helpshift supports iOS, Android, HTML 5,Unity, Cocos2d-x and PhoneGap apps.