Tag Archive: small_business_administration

Think Before You Leap: Seven questions to ask before making a big decision

Think Before You Leap: Seven questions to ask before making a big decision
by Heather Chaet.

When deciding to use a beautiful photo of Mount Fuji or that funny cat picture as your screensaver or to have the Cobb salad or a turkey sandwich for lunch, a simple coin flip will do. But, for big decisions that affect the direction and success of your company, navigating which way to head when you reach that fork in the proverbial road means you need something more than the quarter in your pocket.

LookBeforeLeap_PQ.jpgWhat is your decision-making GPS system? Small business owners are confronted perhaps daily with large dilemmas or issues to resolve—having a method to make a smart choice streamlines and focuses those often daunting determinations you need to make. Here’s a checklist of seven questions to ask before making that big decision.

1. What is best in the long term?

When making a big decision, thinking beyond the “right here, right now” is a vital first step toward avoiding a big stumble. “It’s easy to make decisions based on what’s [simple] at the moment or what makes my ego feel good. But those are rarely the right decisions,” says Ian Ippolito, founder and CEO of vWorker.com, which connects employers and entrepreneurs with virtual workers. Sometimes it helps to add a specific time frame on that question, as Paige Arnof-Fenn, 
founder and CEO
 of Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing strategy consulting firm, suggests. “[One of] the main things I think about is
 will it matter six months down the road,” says Arnof-Fenn. Thinking in terms of a finite time horizon often provides better insight to the right solution.

2. What is the return on investment?

For any small business owner, evaluating how this choice will impact your bottom line is essential. Christy Cook, president and founder of Teach My, the maker of award-winning learning kits for children, agrees. “I am not a ‘numbers’ girl, but over the years, I have trained myself to ask 
the same question every time: What is the return on investment? If small business owners don’t measure
the ROI, decisions will be made that could put the business into serious
 financial jeopardy.” Fred Deblasi, cofounder and CEO of HooplaDoopla.com, the online money saving site, says ROI goes beyond just finances, “I think this is a very common question for business at any stage, as it can cost money and time to not get a return on something—[whether it is] a marketing decision or even hiring a new employee.”

3. Are there any other decisions that need to be made before this one?

All too often when running a small business, many issues must be dealt with at the same time. Prioritizing which one needs your immediate attention is as tough and as important as figuring out the right answers to those decisions. “For the last year, we’ve been implementing a raft of changes, and we
 always need to weigh the pros (and any cons) of the change and see if
 anything else is needed more urgently,” says Sandip Singh, CEO and founder of the fundraising website GoGetFunding.com.

4. What’s the worst thing that can
happen if I make a mistake (and can I live with it)?

Just as fundamental as exploring the benefits to any change, looking at the worst-case scenario can provide a prime perspective. “We use the same advice in running our [own] business as we give to the business
owners we work with,”
offers 
Jim Stewart, founder and CEO of ProfitPATH, a strategy consulting firm, “For them and us the main question is ‘What’s the worst thing that can 
happen if this goes wrong?’”
 Being able to evaluate how your company will handle a situation if projections are incorrect or unexpected additional funds are needed to complete an expansion is crucial.

5. What will happen if I don’t do this?

Stewart often asks this after tackling the doomsday situation. Envisioning the alternative—doing nothing—can lead to a more definite outlook on the issue, perhaps even providing alternative choices not considered before or a totally new path your company could take to achieve a similar result.

http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/10/04/think-before-you-leap-seven-questions-to-ask-before-making-a-big-decision

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

With Veterans Day around the corner, I am reminded of one of the questions I got the most during the past decade writing my USA TODAY column: why aren’t more small business owners hiring veterans?

It was a very legitimate question. The fact is, since 9/11, American veterans have come home to a very icy employment picture. For much of that time, veteran unemployment figures typically were several percentage points higher than the national average. For instance, in 2011, the number of veterans out of work stood at 12.1%. In 2012, it fell to 9.9%, but even that was several points higher than the national average. Happily, veteran unemployment continues to fall. Today it hovers around 7%.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

 

So yes, the good news is that employers seem to be warming up to the idea of hiring vets. The only real question is why did it take so long? Veterans generally make very good employees, especially because of their training and background.

 

And, if you think about it, that same training also means that veterans tend to be excellent entrepreneurs and small business owners:

 

  • Veterans understand how to create a plan, implement and execute it
  • Many are trained to be leaders
  • They understand systems
  • Hard work and commitment are in their bonesYet veterans face the same challenges that all small business owners face, as well as some unique to the veteran experience. Like all small businesses, finding the training and assistance needed to succeed can be tough. Beyond that, veteran entrepreneurs who are disabled or have other trauma-related issues have their own, unique set of issues to deal with.

     

    Pull Quote.png

     

    So for all of the men and women who were brave enough to both serve our country, as well as who want to start a business (or have), here is a list of resources to make your entrepreneurial life easier:

     

Workplace Laws You Need to Know

Workplace Laws You Need to Know

Small business pop quiz: Which employees are entitled to overtime and which are not? What workplace benefits are required and which are perks? The answers to these types of questions are of course important, vital even to the success of your business, but many small business owners do not know the answers.

And that begs two questions: First, when you own a business, where do you go to get legal information? And second, are there common legal issues of which you need to be especially aware? For the second question, the answer of course is “yes,” and we will get to those in a moment. As far as where you can go to first get up to speed, here are a few options:

The Small Business Administration: The SBA should be your first stop when researching workplace rules and laws. For example, SBA.gov has an excellent piece entitled 10 Steps to Hiring Your First Employee, which covers everything from forms you need to fill out and file to getting an Employer Identification Number.

After that, you should also check out the SBA’s section on Business Law and Regulations. This area will help you learn more about environmental laws, relevant e-commerce laws, advertising laws and more.

The IRS: A good portion of your business life is undoubtedly consumed by taxes. The good news is that the IRS has a great one-stop shop that can help you unclutter the clutter and work your way through the maze that can sometimes be federal tax regulations. The IRS’ Self-Employment and Small Business Tax Center offers not only articles and publications, but also videos and webinars.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): USPTO.gov is another valuable legal research resource. When you own a business, you need to protect your inventions, logos and other types of intellectual property. What you can and cannot protect, and how to do so, can be found at USPTO. The government’s copyright office is similarly valuable.

SCORE: SCORE counselors are individuals with business experience and meeting with one, either online or in person, can help you get a general overview of what you need to legally know.

Websites: There are many websites that offer the basics in business legalities, along with software, necessary forms and more. A Google search will help you find these.

Now, as to that second question, while it is beyond the scope of an article like this one to specifically answer any legal questions, what should be helpful is a list of those workplace laws and situations that commonly trip-up entrepreneurs, so here you go:

1. Employee or independent contractor? Labeling an employee an independent contractor can be a costly mistake, so it would behoove you to know the difference between the two. While the resources above can help with that, understand that the general rule is that an independent contractor is called that for a reason – he or she must truly be independent.

Independent contractors:

Set their own pay
Make their own schedule
Decide when and where to work
May work for several businesses
Are truly independent

2. Overtime or not? Another issue that can easily trip up an employer is whether or not a certain employee should be paid for overtime. Essentially, hourly employees are entitled to overtime, whereas exempt employees are not. An exempt employee typically holds managerial, executive, administrative, professional or outside sales positions. They usually get a salary in weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payments. Check with your CPA regarding your specific situation.

3. No discrimination: The basic rule is this: When hiring, promoting, or firing, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Therefore, even when interviewing people for a job, questions that touch on those subjects should be avoided, as the answers should be irrelevant to your hiring decision.

Bottom line: Knowing what is and is not legally expected of you, and how to protect yourself, is critical. Do any of these laws surprise you? Share your thoughts below.

Workplace Laws You Need to Know

Workplace Laws You Need to Know Small business pop quiz: Which employees are entitled to overtime and which are not? What workplace benefits are required and which are perks? The answers to these types of questions are of course important, vital even to the success of your business, but many small business owners do not know the answers.

And that begs two questions: First, when you own a business, where do you go to get legal information? And second, are there common legal issues of which you need to be especially aware? For the second question, the answer of course is “yes,” and we will get to those in a moment. As far as where you can go to first get up to speed, here are a few options:

The Small Business Administration: The SBA should be your first stop when researching workplace rules and laws. For example, SBA.gov has an excellent piece entitled 10 Steps to Hiring Your First Employee, which covers everything from forms you need to fill out and file to getting an Employer Identification Number.

After that, you should also check out the SBA’s section on Business Law and Regulations. This area will help you learn more about environmental laws, relevant e-commerce laws, advertising laws and more.

The IRS: A good portion of your business life is undoubtedly consumed by taxes. The good news is that the IRS has a great one-stop shop that can help you unclutter the clutter and work your way through the maze that can sometimes be federal tax regulations. The IRS’ Self-Employment and Small Business Tax Center offers not only articles and publications, but also videos and webinars.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): USPTO.gov is another valuable legal research resource. When you own a business, you need to protect your inventions, logos and other types of intellectual property. What you can and cannot protect, and how to do so, can be found at USPTO. The government’s copyright office is similarly valuable.

SCORE: SCORE counselors are individuals with business experience and meeting with one, either online or in person, can help you get a general overview of what you need to legally know.

Websites: There are many websites that offer the basics in business legalities, along with software, necessary forms and more. A Google search will help you find these.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

Now, as to that second question, while it is beyond the scope of an article like this one to specifically answer any legal questions, what should be helpful is a list of those workplace laws and situations that commonly trip-up entrepreneurs, so here you go:

1. Employee or independent contractor? Labeling an employee an independent contractor can be a costly mistake, so it would behoove you to know the difference between the two. While the resources above can help with that, understand that the general rule is that an independent contractor is called that for a reason – he or she must truly be independent.

Independent contractors:

Set their own pay
Make their own schedule
Decide when and where to work
May work for several businesses
Are truly independent

2. Overtime or not? Another issue that can easily trip up an employer is whether or not a certain employee should be paid for overtime. Essentially, hourly employees are entitled to overtime, whereas exempt employees are not. An exempt employee typically holds managerial, executive, administrative, professional or outside sales positions. They usually get a salary in weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payments. Check with your CPA regarding your specific situation.

3. No discrimination: The basic rule is this: When hiring, promoting, or firing, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Therefore, even when interviewing people for a job, questions that touch on those subjects should be avoided, as the answers should be irrelevant to your hiring decision.

Bottom line: Knowing what is and is not legally expected of you, and how to protect yourself, is critical. Do any of these laws surprise you? Share your thoughts below.

8 Ways to Plan Your First Pay-Per-Click Campaign

There is no doubt advertising has evolved a lot in the past decade, with advertisers increasingly moving from print to electronic media. It’s not hard to understand why. The beauty of a pay-per-click campaign is that, unlike a print campaign, you only pay for the ads when people who see it like it enough to click on it and that in turn means that you are typically paying less for more qualified leads. Paying less for better leads? Yes, that is hard to beat.

Here is how you can join the pay-per-click party:

1. Brainstorm: There are two types of pay-per-click ad campaigns. The first is a branding campaign that simply gets your business’s name out there. The second, and likely the type you are interested in, is the one that gets people to buy now. Most pay-per-click campaigns are intended to create an immediate sale.

2. Choose the right outlet: Different online sources have different strengths and weaknesses. Google ads may reach a different audience than, say, Facebook ads. Here are your main options:

Google Adwords
Facebook
Microsoft adCenter
Yahoo Search Marketing

Your campaign may use only one, or it may take several of these sources to accomplish your goals. Determining the one you need is simply a matter of deciding which platform can best reach your target market and how much you want to spend3. Budget: Advertising and marketing is an ongoing process. The Small Business Administration suggests that you earmark 2 percent of your gross sales toward advertising. Others suggest 5 percent. Either way, the important thing is to make a commitment and earmark your chosen percentage of gross sales for ongoing advertising and marketing.

What you don’t want to do is spend too much of your ad budget on your first pay-per-click campaign until you know, 1) what you are doing and 2) if your ad pulls. Set a reasonable budget to test and evaluate the results.

When you create your ad campaign on the platform (s) of your choice, there will be a place to set your budget. Let’s say you want to do a one month test for $1,000.Fill in that amount and then refine it, to say, $33 a day for 30 days. Once your ad has been clicked on a certain day enough to where it adds up to $33, the ad will disappear until the next day. This lets you really control your budget and your test.

4. Figure out the ad: First, you must choose the keywords that you think people will most likely use when looking for whatever it is you are selling. Do your research – don’t just guess, Google has a good keyword selector tool for example.

After that, you need to figure out what your ad will say. As you typically only have room for a headline and a sentence, your ad has to very quickly and clearly use your keywords to explain what the value proposition is to the reader and why they should click the ad.

5. Create the ad: Creating a pay-per-click ad campaign is logistically easy:

Go to the site of your choice and use the point-and-click design tool to create your ad.
Target your exact audience. Your audience can be as large or small as you like, and as specific as you prefer, but the greater the reach, the more you will pay. Be sure that you focus the demographics for the ad so it is seen by those folks who are most relevant to your business; this is where the magic of pay-per-click comes in.

6. Test the ad: It is unwise to simply create an ad, check out, and come back two weeks later to see what happened. I once did a Google ad campaign, seeking people looking for a “small business speaker.” I ended up paying a lot of money for clicks from people looking for Bose speakers for their small office. As I said, test first.

7. Roll it out: Once you know you have a successful ad, go for it. Spend more and run it often. It should become your cash cow. An ad that pulls becomes a trusted friend; something you can rely on.

As indicated, you will be asked to create a budget.
Review your ad and budget and get started.

5 Places to Get Free Help

Steve-Strauss–in-article-Medium.pngAs we near the end of 2011, the majority of small businesses (52%) still perceive that their top and biggest challenge is the general economic climate, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So given that, where can you go to get help when you need it today, and without having it cost you a fortune?

Here are 5 places:

1. SCORE: SCORE is an amazing organization, made up of business executives and entrepreneurs. SCORE is an all-voluntary organization that offers free, confidential counseling and education on almost any subject you can name. Need help with a marketing campaign? SCORE can help. Opening an auto repair shop? A SCORE volunteer probably has done that too. SCORE matches you up with a counselor who will give you as much help as you need in your business, and if he cannot help you with some specific problem, there is another SCORE counselor who can. SCORE’s counseling sessions usually take place either at your place of business, in any one of SCORE’s almost 400 offices around the country, or, increasingly, online via email.

SCORE also offers a variety of small business workshops, both in its offices and online. In a typical year, SCORE will offer about 7,000 workshops and seminars and about 150,000 people typically attend. Some are free, and the others usually cost less than $50. And, how about this – even though there are about 10,000 SCORE volunteers nationwide, the organization is staffed and run by only 14 people. Everything else is handled by volunteers. It is an incredible organization and a great resource.

2. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): SBDCs are an offshoot of the SBA intended to provide management and technical assistance to small business owners. There are SBDC’s around the country, and each is tied-in with a lead organization that sponsors the SBDC and helps run the program, such as a university or nonprofit organization. There is also a network of smaller centers and satellite locations in each state and these too are associated with universities, community colleges or nonprofits.

Similar to the SBA and SCORE, SBDCs offer counseling and other assistance to entrepreneurs. Volunteers come from chambers of commerce, the legal and banking communities, academia and SCORE. SBDCs also use paid staffers. This assistance can range from helping small businesses with financial issues and marketing to production, organization and even engineering and feasibility studies. SBDCs make a special effort to work with minority and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs, as well as veterans, women and the disabled.

3. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Website: What would you say if I told you that there is a website that helps small businesses in a variety of ways? That would be a pretty good resource to have, wouldn’t you say? Well there is and it is:

In its field offices throughout the United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, the SBA offers classes, counseling and programs designed to help small businesses succeed at low or no cost.
After a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) or other major calamitous event (like September 11th), the SBA helps small businesses with disaster assistance.

4. Mentors: Having a mentor is one of the best ways to learn more about how to run a business. A business mentor can open doors, teach skills and provide valuable feedback. Where would you find one? Here are a few options:

Ask: Finding a mentor is often the result of simply asking someone who you admire if he/she would be willing to mentor you. Or just ask around. Tell people that you are looking for a mentor; you may be surprised at how willing people are to help.
Pay: If you know someone who knows what you want to learn but who probably would be disinclined to be your mentor, for whatever reason, consider buying their time. Is it ideal? No, but it may still work.
Click: There are many places online where you can find a mentor: SCORE, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), SBDCs and via social media are a few other options.

5. Websites: There are many options here:

Of course, I’m partial to sites I am associated with MrAllBiz.comUSA TODAY’s small business site
Huffington Post Small Business America
Inc.comEntrepreneur.com
Microsoft Business on Main
The recently updated SBA website, www.SBA.gov, is full of useful information.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Going Green, Part II: Growing “green” businesses opportunities

By Jen Hickey.

Going-green-article.jpg

This is Part II of our two-part series on green technology and the small business. Part I (click here to read), focuses on the return on investment for green products and technology.

More and more people are greening their purchases when it makes sense to do so. The entrepreneur that can provide a green product or service that has clear benefits and can help consumers save money at the same time will find the market wide open. According to a 2007 Simmons study, the number of “behavioral greens”— consumers with the greenest behaviors and attitudes — has risen to 34 million, or 31 percent of the U.S. population. What’s more, as the price differential between green and non-green products has shrunk significantly, increasing numbers of consumers are losing their inhibitions about buying “green.” And despite the recession, the trend toward green continues. According to a 2009 Global Green Consumer survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), there were more purchases of green products in 2008 than 2007 and many consumers said they are even willing to pay a higher price for green products if they are of higher quality.

Opportunities are particularly good for businesses that can distinguish their product from the competition while communicating a clear message about what it means to be “green.” Although sales for Clorox’s GreenWorks have dropped off in the last few years, those of household-product brands like Method and Seventh Generation rebounded in the double digits in 2010. While these products can cost as much as 25 percent more than their non-green competitors, the companies that produce them have a committed record of environmentally sustainable business practices, which tends to attract and retain customers. As the BCG study concluded, consumers not only expect added value when purchasing a green product, they tend to trust the claims of those companies that practice what they preach.

Going_gree-quote.pngGreen Franchises

While the market for green products may seem saturated, franchise opportunities abound for the entrepreneur looking to sell niche products and services directly to the consumer. Founded by Beth Remmes, an environmentally conscious mom looking to do more than recycle, Zola Goods operates on a home-party model that is organized by “coordinators,” who help educate and sell affordable green household and party products directly to family and friends. A start-up kit costs just $149, and coordinators are paid 20 percent on all sales. OnlyGreen4Me offers exclusive dealerships to entrepreneurs looking to open their own on-line Eco-Stores, selling a broad range of green products, with a focus on the office. A setup fee of $2,500 includes the first year hosting and maintenance fee of $1800, with ongoing hosting and maintenance fees of $150 per month in subsequent years. Dealer commissions on products sold range from 10%–30%.

As Glenn Croston, PhD, scientist, committed green practitioner, business adviser and author of 75 Green Businesses and Starting Up Green, notes, business opportunities exist for everyone, whether your background is in sales, finance, education, law, health, art and design, construction trades, or manufacturing. “While the downturn has been challenging, there are businesses that have grown and have even been helped by it. Small green businesses that have done well are those that have found a better or more efficient way to do something that helps homeowners and businesses save money.”

An example of this is America’s first zero-waste pack-and-move solution. In 2005, after seeing how much waste he produced when he moved his small office across town, Spencer Brown created The Recopack (Recycled Ecological Packing Solution) from 100% post-consumer trash, from which his Rent A Green Box venture was born. Recopacks and other recycled packing material are rented for two-week blocks. The rental fee includes free drop off and pick-up. Replacing cardboard boxes with reusable Recopacks can save movers up to 50 percent. After perfecting his business in the Los Angeles area, he is selling franchises across the country.

According to Croston, the successful businesses are those that are meeting the demands of the “conserver economy.” Many homeowners and businesses are willing to pay to save on water and utility bills. Green Irene offers self-paced, online Green Business Bureau (GBB)-certified training and marketing support in the growing field of Eco-Consulting for $150 (home consulting; $29.95 annual renewal) and $350 (home and business; $49.95 yearly renewal). Pro Energy Consultants offers HERS Energy Rater Certification and BPI Building Analyst Certification franchise opportunities ($29,900 total investment) as an energy auditor.

A Solar Boom

With the help of the continuation of the federal Section 1603 Treasury program, declining technology costs, and the expansion of new state markets, the solar industry has boomed throughout the recession. According to U.S. Solar Market InsightTM report, published jointly by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, solar market value grew 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010 and was the fastest growing energy sector in the country. Grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) installations have more than doubled in the past two years alone. “Becoming a solar broker is a way for someone with a sales background to break into the solar industry at fairly low cost,” Croston notes. Prime Solar Network, a one-stop shop for all that is solar, offers regional licensing ($75,000-$150,000 in capital) and brokering opportunities, as well as consulting services and training for those looking to get into the renewable energy market.

As Tim Cassidy, CEO of Prime Solar and its brokerage affiliates Empire State Solar and JerseySolar.net, explains, “we do the shopping, from researching multiple panel options and competitively bidding on installation and design,” saving his clients time and money. Although Section 1603 is set to expire at the end of this year, more than half of all U.S. states have mandates in place for 15 to 30 percent of all energy to be generated from renewable sources over the next 20 years, and with the breakthroughs in solar thermal storage and innovation in thin-film technology, opportunities abound for those with contracting, construction, engineering, financial, and skilled trades backgrounds.

Have a Plan

Wanting to “do the right thing” is not enough, the “ecopreneur” must find the means to produce, market, and sell his/her idea. To do that, you need a plan. SolarBusinessPlans.com, Tim Cassidy’s consulting service, offers assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start a green business as well as those existing businesses trying to incorporate green standards into their operations. While SBA Express has streamlined the process, loan officers “want to see personal investment, demonstrated sales and strong background,” Cassidy cautions. “With passion comes overconfidence, to succeed you must have a realistic, staged plan for growth.”

Additional Resources

Green Products

Zola Goods Sell green products that everyone needs as a home-party coordinator. Start-up kit costs just $149, and coordinators earn 20 percent on all sales.

OnlyGreen4Me Open on-line Eco-Store, offering a broad range of green office and household products. Initial setup fee $2,500, with hosting/maintenance fees of $150 per month after first year. Dealer commissions on products sold range from 10%–30%.

Green Services

Open a Rent A Green Box franchise in your area and help movers save up to 50% by renting/selling reusable plastic moving boxes and other packing material.

Eco-Consultant

Become a GBB-certified Eco-Consultant Green Irene for $150 (home consulting; $29.95 annual renewal) and $350 (home and business; $49.95 yearly renewal) and help people green their homes and offices.

Energy Auditor

Become a HERS Energy Rater and BPI Building Analyst Certified Pro Energy Consultants franchisee ($29,900 total investment) and help homeowners reduce their utility bills by making their homes energy efficient.

Solar

As a Prime Solar broker affiliate or regional licensee ($75,000-$150,000 in capital), you will have access to a network of installers and exclusive access to territory in this growing industry.

Going Green, Part I: Is the payback worth the investment?

The following is Part I of our two-part series on green technology and the small business. Part II, which will follow tomorrow, focuses on business opportunities catering to the “green” crowd.

Situated across the harbor from the gleaming skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, in the once rough and tumble waterfront of South Brooklyn, Linda Tool has not only survived the continued contraction of New York City’s manufacturing sector (down 8 percent over the last decade) but has expanded, adding four employees since September 2008. Established in 1952, Linda Tool manufactures precision components and assemblies for a number of major aerospace and industrial concerns in the U.S. While it would not be considered “green” in some circles, Linda Tool’s president, Mike DiMarino, believes the integration of green practices and technologies into workplace operations makes sense not only for business, but also for the health and well being of his employees.

“The skilled employee base, or ‘human capital,’ needed to succeed in any business is hard to sustain,” DiMarino says. “Creating a safe and healthy work environment, coupled with a livable pay scale and a menu of benefits, helps to ensure that Linda Tool will have that skilled workforce for years to come. Linda Tool has not had a layoff since 1983, a record we are proud of.”

One Company’s Path to Green

Among the several clean technology steps that Linda Tool has taken are the installation of an air conditioning system with HEPA filtration and mist collectors on every machine tool and the switch to water-based machine fluids and lubricants to help reduce waste. DiMarino sees these as a “tremendous benefit for employees and I believe it is greatly appreciated.” In addition to recycling employee-generated waste, Linda Tool reuses packaging material and recycles all chips from machine operations, which saves on both labor costs and the purchasing or re-purchasing of packaging materials.

These steps are all laudable, but the crown jewel of Linda Tool’s sustainable business practices is the company’s “green roof.” With the help of a Department of Energy (DOE) “cost share grant” of $250,000—bringing Linda Tool’s share of the project to 44 percent—the factory’s 12,500-square-foot tar top was replaced with a patented soil blend of recycled polystyrene and local compost created by Paul Mankiewicz of the Bronx-based Gaia Institute. In place of a long, black, uninviting slab, a lush, wild garden now blooms. This green roof better insulates the building as well as absorbing rainwater that would otherwise run into sewers. Intrigued by the long-term benefits of the project, a team from Columbia University has installed a combined sewer overflow (CSO) device atop the roof to monitor its effects.

Since completion of the project in 2009, Linda Tool has seen savings of 40 percent on air conditioning costs and a 20-percent reduction in heating oil consumption, explains DiMarino. “The temperature in our facility is now very stable 24/7, 365 days of the year…a constant 74-degree atmosphere with a 35 to 40 percent relative humidity,” he notes. Not only has the green roof produced immediate savings for Linda Tool, but it’s also made the building more efficient by keeping the shop environment more stable, which “is important for the products that we make.”

Starting Small

While a large-scale project such as a green roof may seem daunting, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offer information and resources to small businesses looking to take more incremental steps on the road to “going green.” Making your business more energy efficient is a good place to start. Simply turning off lights and machines when not in use, sealing up those energy-depleting leaks to the outside, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, getting rid of those old fax machines (faxpress has made them obsolete), replacing outdated equipment with Energy Star products, and reducing paper usage by recycling can all measurably cut utility costs. There are also federal incentives and various state programs in place to help offset pricier clean technology and retrofit costs.

Green Irene, the country’s fastest growing eco-consulting service, and the Green Business Bureau (GBB) have joined forces to help small and midsize businesses adopt sustainable business practices through a green standards certification process. For more comprehensive changes, GreenBusinessPlans.com offers business plan assistance to companies that want to green their operations. “Of the 100-plus business plans developed in the last few years, well over half have been to incorporate green business practices,” CEO Tim Cassidy points out. His consulting company has helped restaurants, demolition and construction companies, gyms, and salons go green. “From a branding perspective, the value of being green outweighs the initial costs,” says Cassidy. For example, “it costs only two to three percent more for a builder to be LEED certified.”

For Linda Tool’s DiMarino, going green has not only been good for the bottom line, but also good for business. “It is a very good selling tool. People are interested in this, and I think it shows that Linda Tool is a forward thinking company. It makes clients realize we are there to look out for their best interests.” Linda Tool’s factory goes almost unnoticed nestled in the industrial blocks between a mega Fairway Market, housed in a Civil War-era warehouse along the waterfront, and a 35,000-square-foot IKEA store that now sits upon a once busy dry dock. While the longshoreman have been replaced by tourists disembarking from the Queen Mary 2, Linda Tool remains, carving a new “forward-thinking” path for Red Hook’s economic future.