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SALT LAKE CITY — There are over 28 million small businesses in the United States and the majority, nearly 22 million, are self-employed individuals with no employees, according to Forbes.
Over 50 percent of small businesses in this country are home based, according to the report. In addition, over 50 percent of workers in the US work for small businesses and 65 percent of new jobs created in this country since 1995 were in the small business sector.
Cell phone carriers are well aware of the potential customer base that exists in the business world and small business owners are valued tremendously. Surprisingly, many small business owners are not taking advantage of the deals offered by major US carriers.
If you have a federal tax ID, or a sole proprietorship, you could be taking advantage of a business account for your cell phone needs. Realtors, day care providers, mechanics, attorneys and others often leave valuable savings on the table each year by utilizing personal, rather than business, plans. Read on for important things to consider.
Rate plan and phone discounts are available for any size business
Each major US carrier discounts per line and data charges for business. AT&T and Verizon discount each line $5 per month, compared to personal accounts, and data plan discounts can vary between 8-24 percent. AT&T requires five lines minimum to qualify for data plan discounts, but the five can include personal lines held by employees of the business. Phones, accessories and even activation and upgrade fees are often less expensive — or free altogether — for business customers.
A cell phone may be the least expensive employee benefit to offer
In today's economic climate small business owners are keenly aware of the rising costs of employee benefits. In the personal cell phone world an individual plan can cost as much as $85 per month or more with the major carriers. By taking advantage of economy of scale, most small business owners can spend half that per line per month and offer their employees a much appreciated benefit. If you are currently reimbursing your employees for their individual cell phone use, consider pooling them together on a less expensive business plan. You'll save money each month and your employees will love you for it.
Small business discounts are also family friendly
Consider adding family members to your small business cell phone plan. If anyone in the family has a federal tax ID it makes little sense for extended family to pay too much for their cell phone service. Most data plans being offered by the major carriers today allow for at least 10-25 lines per group. If an independent realtor with no employees invites up to nine family members onto her business plan everyone wins. Why should those family members have, for example, three separate $100 data plans when they could share one? On top of that the data plan and each line will be discounted as outlined above.
Employees benefit, regardless of whether the business owner foots the bill
Each of the major carriers allows any small business owner to offer his employees the same data plan discount he receives on their own personal plans. If a business owner decides offering employees phones is not in the cards, they can still receive those same 8-24 percent data plan discounts on their personal or family plans. T-Mobile's Advantage program offers a variety of benefits, including gift card rebates for phone purchases and larger than typical personal plan discounts, for employees of T-Mobile business customers.
Cell phone carriers offer one stop shopping for many business needs
AT&T offers the largest suite of business apps and solutions for small business but every major carrier can help you consolidate many of the services you use every day with one company.
Imagine a self-employed attorney having a virtual office receptionist system that would rival those of the largest firms at a fraction of the cost, including an 800 phone number. Clients may think they're really calling a Wall Street firm instead of a cell phone.
Cloud based mobile forms and document processing can make transactions with customers more professional and efficient. Other benefits could include credit card processing, even home and office automation and security. Don't forget GPS tracking, time clock and vehicle maintenance services for those business owners with a fleet of vehicles.
Your entire cellular plan may pay for itself by routing your employees more efficiently and avoiding costly vehicle repairs. By consolidating services that you'd normally depend on multiple companies to provide and utilizing cloud based services, instead of physical equipment, there is substantial money to be saved while elevating your small business profile with customers and clients.
Intangibles, intangibles, intangibles
Business customers have access to their own customer care call center, online access to every detail about their account and a personal sales rep that can save trips to retail stores and time spent on the phone. Time is often the most valuable resource a small business owner has and business customers will be catered to in a way that personal customers won't be. If you've ever signed into the waiting list at your local retail cell phone store on a Saturday morning, you'll come to appreciate personalized service from a small business consultant.
Whether you're a self-employed realtor with no employees or running a landscaping company with dozens of vehicles and employees you owe it to yourself to learn more about the benefits of a business account with your cell phone provider. Don't forget to invite the family along for the ride.
Mike Stapley is a father of two, is Business Sales Manager for a telecom company and is an aspiring novelist living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org