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    • Expanding your small business


      The streak continues for the U.S. economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the economy added jobs for the 57th month in a row in November. More than 320,000 jobs were added as the nation notches its longest employment growth streak of all time.

      But possibly the best news of all is that small businesses had a major role in the streak. Roughly 7 to 10.9 million jobs have stemmed from small ventures, not major corporations.

      Evan Singer, general manager of SmartBiz, a firm that works with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), said 2014 was a stellar year for startups and small businesses.

      "Don't let the negative press scare you," Singer told IT Business Edge. "The economy is going well. People are hiring, adding jobs. They're looking to expand their businesses. I've seen it across the country and it almost doesn't matter the market right now. …When I see some of the negative articles, I think 'Oh, that's funny because I'm not seeing that.'"

      The 57-month streak of employment growth is enough for Singer to believe small businesses thrived in 2014 while helping boost the economy. Those factors could lead some companies to expand in the coming year.

      Expanding and growing a business
      Most entrepreneurs that have opened a small business have dreamed big at one point or another. Whether it's turning a small burger joint into a national fast food chain or taking a small tech company and putting it on the map next to perennial giants, everyone wants to see their business succeed and do well in the market.

      But deciding when to expand can be difficult. Entrepreneur reported small-business owners should do their homework before trying to expand vertically, which entails taking an existing product or service and bringing it into a new market.

      Vertical expansion can greatly help a company add revenue and grow because it offers a new customer base, but it can also lead to rough times if that new base doesn't take to the product or service.

      The two main questions a business owner should ask before vertical expansion is when and why. The why is simple for most people because they hope to add to their clientele base and increase profits, but the when can be more difficult because it's not always a good time to enter particular markets.

      Entrepreneur asked small-business owners thinking of vertical expansion to look at their competition and the products or services they offer. How does one product or service differ from the other? What is your company's relative advantage over the current competition in the market?

      By sitting down and answering some of these questions, business owners will have a better grasp of the market and what needs to be done prior to launching a vertical expansion campaign.

      Small-business owners and financing
      It's never easy for small-business owners to land loans, but Singer said companies need to strike while the iron is hot.

      "If a business had a good 2014, a good year from a financial perspective, and they're looking to borrow money or get some type of business loan, they should file their taxes early, if possible," Singer said. "The reason is that most banks will look at the business' tax returns to decide whether or not they should give them a loan, and will also use those returns to determine how much they can qualify for."

      Singer said if the company had a great year, it should not hesitate to send off its returns.  That way, a bank can use the newest tax information compared to the previous tax returns, which might not have been as profitable.

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