Small business, big opportunities: Tips for women focused on managing their small businesses (ARA) - It's no secret small businesses are essential to the economy. The latest U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners reported women owned 7.8 million businesses and accounted for 28.7 percent of all businesses nationwide. These small business firms generated $1.2 trillion in receipts. Given the challenges facing small businesses overall in this current economic climate, now more than ever women are navigating work-life demands, business management and talent retention issues. In fact, women are more concerned about virtually every economic factor than men, including the effectiveness of government leaders (76 percent vs. 73 percent), commodities prices (76 percent vs. 70 percent) and healthcare costs (75 percent vs. 66 percent), says the recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners nationwide. The report also revealed that running a small business causes owners - both men and women - three times as much stress as raising children and twice as much stress as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner. However, women do not give themselves the free time that men do - 62 percent compared to 53 percent. "Small business owners are constantly making sacrifices and prioritizing the success of their business over other personal priorities in their lives, but there are some simple ways to maintain a better work-life balance," says Steve Strauss, small business expert and USA TODAY columnist. Strauss offers the following tips to managing the daily juggling act of owning a small business: * Build a diverse support system: While a vast majority of small business owners need some level of financial guidance, often in the form of occasional or ongoing expert advice, the report finds more women than men engage an accountant/bookkeeper (79 percent vs. 70 percent), a financial advisor (73 percent vs. 65 percent) or banker (52 percent vs. 47 percent) to help them run their businesses. Resources such as these can expand your network, provide essential professional support and keep you current on relevant trends. * Use tech tools and resources available to you: According to the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report women are actually more likely than men to view technology as a useful cash management tool. For example, female small business owners are more likely to view online banking (78 percent vs. 67 percent of their male counterparts) or direct payments (46 percent vs. 35 percent of males) as helpful in managing their small business. Electronic invoicing, online payroll services and mobile banking are other resources that can help. If you're not already using these types of tools, be sure to speak with your financial institution about how to better manage your finances and improve efficiency. * Boost your competitive edge in the war for talent: The financial benefits you offer current and potential employees can be a dealmaker ... or deal breaker. The good news is that small businesses now have access to 401(k) and IRA products designed specifically for their needs and budgets. For example, Merrill Edge Small Business 401(k) is designed for small businesses' unique needs and offers a simplified, easy-to-manage retirement plan with lower costs than many traditional 401(k) plans, enabling owners to provide an important benefit to their employees. Offering these benefits is more important for women particularly when coupled with the cultural and work-life balance perks that often make small businesses attractive to employees, and they can boost your competitive edge. With the right expertise and tools, small business owners can be equipped to improve their work- life balance. For more information, visit https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/index.jspa and http://ahead.bankofamerica.com/fueling-the-economy/bank-of-america-releases-inaugural-small- business-owner-report/.
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