Tag Archive: small_business_owner

New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

New Ways to Find Domestic Manufacturesby Erin McDermott.

New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures. Having your goods “Made in the U.S.A.” may be getting a little bit easier for America’s entrepreneurs.

Referred to as in-sourcing, on-shoring, reshoring, or just simply “bringing jobs back home,” business news outlets are trumpeting the return of manufacturing to the U.S., including corporate giants like General Electric, Apple, and Whirlpool.

But smaller fish hunting for domestic production sites are often frustrated by time-consuming and sometimes-fruitless searches at trade shows.

Now a new infrastructure is taking shape that can help connect entrepreneurs with an idea and the motivation to make a product here at home. The ironic twist: The Internet, which once made long-distance manufacturing seem so simple, is being harnessed to link up designers and makers, sometimes in each others’ own backyard.

For example, in the apparel industry there’s now Maker’s Row, a website that’s helping to link domestic designers and manufacturers. Factory owners create a profile that includes their facility’s capabilities, turnaround times, videos of their work, and all information necessary to make production decisions. Customers can even leave reviews. There’s some 1,400 manufacturers listed, in all 50 states, with everyone from emblem-makers and furriers to knitters and shoemakers and people making any kind of accessory you can imagine. It’s a U-turn for the highly offshored industry.

Cofounders Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez got the idea for Maker’s Row after discussing his frustrations with overseas manufacturing and the difficulties he encountered in finding a domestic producer for his Brooklyn Bakery line of leather accessories. They’ve created a site that adds much needed transparency and connectivity to some of the nation’s old-world craftsmen.New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

“As a small business, I found there’s a lot of inhibiting factors about creating products overseas, like language barriers, cultural barriers, and time differences,” Burnett says. “Small businesses are seeing these big companies coming back as a signal right now. They’re trying to find American resources and manufacturers, too.”

“But there is no real, comprehensive database of manufacturers out there,” he adds. “That’s where we saw a huge challenge in our prior companies—and that’s where we see a huge opportunity for Maker’s Row.”

Burnett says the U.S. manufacturers they’ve approached have been very receptive and have opened them up to their entire networks. Menendez adds that designers have been referring their clients through the site, as the feedback system for each manufacturer gives them a built-in vetted audience ready to jump at new opportunities.New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

Their timing may be right for many reasons. Cheaper U.S. energy from new natural gas sources and rising global transportation prices are altering supply chain calculations. Alarming news reports of human-rights abuses in overseas factories have raised concerns; increasing labor costs are a factor there, too. And there are the perennial issues of dealing with the unknown: long-distance shipping delays, sustainability, and intellectual-property and security worries.New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

Since the recession, many U.S. manufacturers have become more willing to take on smaller-scale projects, as a supplement to bigger contracts and as a way to diversify their revenue streams.

Roberto Torres leads one small company dedicated to domestic manufacturing who’s tapping into Maker’s Row. He’s president of the Black & Denim Apparel Co., a Tampa-based clothing line that produces high-end jeans, custom T-shirts, and accessories, all from American-sourced materials. He grew up in Panama, and immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s, which he says influenced the desire to make his goods here, too. “We wanted to make it here. For men who understand what American-made means,” he says. “In the ’80s in Panama, if you wanted something to last, it had to be made in America.”

Tampa doesn’t have a Garment District, so Torres’s team was somewhat isolated in getting started. Finding suppliers and manufacturers was a slog, from phone books and trade shows to the Internet and word-of-mouth references, Torres says.

And that’s why he calls Maker’s Row a “game-changer” for his industry. When Black & Denim recently decided to add a women’s line, within two days they had found all the manufacturers they needed to get started, Torres says. “Anything that can bridge a gap between two brick-and-mortar stores is paramount right now.”New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

If you’re looking to make your goods closer to home, here are a few other sites worth a look:

MakeXYZ
Here’s a matchmaker for the 3D printing world. Got a MakerBot sitting idle? List your desktop factory here to get on the radar of other designers looking to fabricate something closer to home than at one of the bigger 3D printing sites like Shapeways. For creators looking to print, simply search by ZIP Code for machines available to make your doodad, upload your file, and select your colors or materials. You can either arrange to have the printer ship your item to you, or just swing by to pick it up. MakeXYZ takes a five-percent commission on your project and turnaround times are generally swifter than the big 3D printing services, and cheaper, too: prices start at 25 cents per cubic inch. Launched by Austin-based programmers Chad Masso and Nathan Tone in November 2012, the site has nearly 600 printers signed up so far.New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

Reshoring Initiative
Here’s an all-in-one resource for manufacturers large and small. This industry-funded group has several worthwhile tools, from its definitive library of white papers and case studies about in-shoring companies and news coverage to its built-in Total Cost of Ownership Estimator calculator, which allows users to do the math on the array of costs and freight expenses in order to compare how much they might save by using local manufacturing. They’ve also got a smart Twitter feed.

The Maker Map
This is a rapidly expanding open-source display of the world of makers, from hackerspaces and tool-sharing sites to bigger name fabricators and startup incubators. What started out as a Bay Area guide to local listing has recently gone global, but the majority of the entries are right here in the U.S. Manufacturers and parts suppliers that cater to this inventive group can create their own entries.New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

Many still have experiences like Sheila Duncan’s in trying to find a domestic manufacturer for her Trouble the Dog project. At first, Duncan was using a Chinese company to make the plush toy, which is a therapeutic tool for kids experiencing stress. After a round of frustrating back and forth, she decided to try to bring that work closer to home.

From her Marblehead, Mass., headquarters, Duncan says she spent “all day for six months” looking for a manufacturer willing to take up her initial run of 1,500, hopeful-eyed dogs at an affordable price. She traveled all over New England searching for a spot. In Maine, she encountered a sewing-factory owner who told her outright that “she couldn’t afford my price,” even though he was also sending out blanket emails soliciting new business. “So many I encountered just could not step out of the box of the way they were thinking to get something done,” she says.

Ultimately, Duncan did find her U.S. manufacturer, in Arizona. And although the costs are about 4.5 times what her Chinese vendor charged, she says she’s “glad she went through the hoops” to land a domestic source. “And I mean we are talking hoops.”

Why was it worth it? Duncan points to the reports of poor working conditions overseas that made her uneasy, and a bigger selling point these days: differentiation.

“Look in a child’s room and all the stuffed animals are made somewhere else,” she says. “What this is going to do for me, I believe, is give Trouble a way to stand out from everything else out there.” New Ways to Find Domestic Manufactures

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

by Jennifer Shaheen.

Get ready—Google+, the little known social media platform, is likely going to play a much more important role in your marketing strategies in the future.

 

It’s all part of a plan Google vice president Bradley Horowitz first laid out in 2011.Google+ has a social networking component, but it is not meant to be solely a social network. Instead, Google+ is the integration of all the Google tools and applications, which gives the company the opportunity to roll out and integrate features that enhance the user’s experience. You can use Google+ to connect with your circle of friends, host online meetings through Hangouts, search for local businesses or protect ownership of your content through Google Authorship. “Google+ is Google itself. We’re extending it across all that we do—search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube—so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are,” Horowitz said. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing: The reach of Google

On average, Google+ users are spending 12 minutes a month on the social network. That pales in comparison to the 8 hours a month users spend on Facebook. Given this disparity, why is Google+ relevant? Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

The answer’s simple. Guy Kawasaki said it best in his book, What the Plus! “Google owns one of the biggest rivers of Internet traffic.” As a result, if you’re a new user who wants to use any of Google’s most popular products or services—like creating a YouTube Channel or utilizing review sites like Zagat and Google Local—you now have to have a Google+ account. Creating a simple Gmail account, however, does not force you into using Google+ and individuals who already have a Google account haven’t been forced to register for Google+ either. But if you would like access to certain features, you will find yourself redirected to a sign-up page for Google+. (If you want to access any of Google’s services without being forced to sign up for Google+ Lifehacker tells you how.) The move requiring forced registration has ruffled a few feathers, but Google’s in the enviable position of being Disneyland in a world otherwise populated with cut-rate theme parks. To get on the best rides and have the most fun, you’ve got to pay the price of admission. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

Google has been working steadily to integrate Google+ into sites it doesn’t actively control. Web publishers are lured by the promise that something as simple as adding Google’s “+1” button—which only requires cutting and pasting a few lines of code to the site—can exponentially boost site traffic. Five million people hit that “+1” button every single day, sharing articles, blog entries, photos, logos and iconography, a YouTube video, reviews, and more.

 

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.:Ubiquity has its benefits

“The Google platform gives you enterprise quality tools for a small business price,” says Ivana Taylor, publisher of DIYMarketers.com. “Specifically, I like that they all integrate into the most powerful search tool on the planet. You can literally run an entire marketing system on one platform.”

 

For years, Google has been providing entrepreneurs with free tools they can use to market their business. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, and Google Places—now Google Local—are critical components of many small business owners’ digital marketing arsenal. Google+ adds another layer of functionality to the tools they’re already using.Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

It’s important to be strategic and determine what role you want Google+ to play in your digital marketing strategy. To do this, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what the features and capabilities of Google+ are.

 

“Get on it, and add your other profiles and websites/blogs to the About Page,” advises Joel Libava, The Franchise King. “Make sure to do the Google Author Markup along with it. It helps tie it all in for your Google search results.”  Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing:The importance of knowing your customer

“The psychology of getting someone to share your message is very different than the psychology of getting people to drive to your store and actually buy something,” says B.J. Bueno, managing partner at the Cult Branding Company. “The key thing to remember is that communication has a biological function. It’s vital to our survival. People tend to share things that give them value in their social circles.”   Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

“The way to get the most out of your Google+ strategy is to put yourself in the shoes of your customer,” says Taylor.  “What will your customer “touch” first? Chances are that they will search first so it makes sense to do Google Local and Google Adwords and YouTube. You can see how powerful the integration is for getting found and ultimately getting chosen.” Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

Ramon Ray, of SmallBizTechnology.com, uses Google+ primarily for video chatting with clients and colleagues through the Google+ feature known as Hangouts. His key for engaging with customers via Google+? “Just like any other vehicle, you need to deliver great content, regularly,” he says.

 

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.: Google+ as a customer service vehicle

Viewing Google+ solely as a social media platform for corporate communications is a mistake. You can also expand the utility of Google+ by using it as a customer service tool.

 

Says Bueno: “We use Google+ specifically for the Hangout feature for our business. It is quickly becoming our preferred way to interact in the virtual space because it’s very easy and seems reliable thus far. As small businesses continue to operate in fragmented work/life space, services like Google+ can provide a vital way of keeping team members, vendors, and clients connected through sight, sound, and motion.”

 

For entrepreneurs who value flexibility, Google+ has distinct advantages as well. “With seamless access on iPads and other portable devices, you can now conduct meetings from virtually any location,” Bueno adds. “With integrated and other Google apps like Drive, Google+ has a lot to offer small businesses.” Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

 

As Google+ gains more and more of a foothold in our digital lives, being able to recognize and make best use of this powerful tool can help small business owners on a budget expand their brand presence efficiently and affordably. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

Small Businesses Should Prepare for the Worst Case Secenario: Business Planning Is Key

Small Businesses Should Prepare for the Worst Case Secenario: Business Planning Is Key

A disaster striking your small business and the community in which it operates is a scenario no one wants to think about. Yet not thinking about what you will do in the event of a hurricane or flood can end up costing you much more than just rebuilding costs. Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes.com, likens disaster preparedness to planning for a funeral: “You know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when, but you’re much better off if you’ve taken the time to have a plan.” In fact, as the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast so clearly demonstrated, preparing your company for a disaster, natural or otherwise, needs to be an integral part of your ongoing business planning. Beyond buying insurance, having safeguards and continuity procedures in place are among the most important actions you can make for the health of your company.

 

 

Get set up virtually and remotely

Virtual storage and remote desktop systems have transformed the ability of businesses to continue to work even if their physical location is unavailable. It is essential to develop daily and weekly procedures for all of your employees utilizing these capabilities. Having data backed up via off-site servers (preferably in a location far from where your company is), as well as on a cloud storage system that can be accessed remotely allows your employees to work from home or a temporary location should the situation arise. Though you may have minor delays and slower output, you can still meet the needs of your customers if you invest in the technology.

 

During and after a disaster, your company will not only need access to data, but also to assets. Richelle Shaw, entrepreneur, author, and president of the National Association for Moms In Business, says one of the ways she prepared for a disaster was to have a relationship with two banks—one local and one national. “My cousin was located in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina,” she recalls. “Her local bank was flooded out, and she did not have access to money. When I heard her story, I immediately opened an account at a national bank.”

 

 

ContinuityPlanning_PQ.jpgDouble (or triple) up

Though you have copies of your important documents protected off-site, other elements of your business should also be duplicated. Jan Decker of Crisis Management Consulting suggests having alternate suppliers and ways to deliver your products. “If shipping is interrupted or specific products are not available, strategize alternatives and keep in contact with [your] customers,” Decker says, “Small business owners that depend on a single source [of] suppliers should have replacement or contingency providers.”

 

Justin A. Meyer, an attorney with Meyer and Associates who works with small businesses on Long Island, New York, takes the idea of doubling up one step further. “There should be at least two people with keys to the front door and at least two people who know the passwords to the computer systems,” Meyer notes, “Small business owners, because they may only have a few employees, are in a more precarious position. The most important thing they can do is to have some redundancy.”

 

 

Know who to call and who’s in charge

Whether your company has three employees or 300, the same priority holds true during a disaster: communicate with employees. “Have a current, updated list with contact information for each employee,” says Jeff Garr, founder and CEO of HR Knowledge. “It could be a chain of phone calls where the supervisor alerts his team, or it could be a website with centralized information. Whatever the plan is, be sure to communicate where the information can be found and how
it will be communicated.”

 

If the main person in charge is unable to resume control after a disaster, designate in advance  who will step into that role. “Small business owners need to have a power of attorney agreement with a trusted surrogate in the event the owner is unable to take care of business,” says Decker, “Good candidates are attorneys, CPAs, banking officers, trusted family members, or friends. This is to keep the business in operation until the owner can return or other suitable arrangements are
made.”

 

 

Make a detailed emergency plan and review it

Having a specific, written emergency plan is key for every business, and being sure everyone knows that plan is vital. “Review the plan with everyone in your company and trusted advisors, [and] confirm everyone knows their roles in case of an emergency,” says Bremmer. “Bad things happen, but confusion and fear make them much worse.” He adds that, just like your annual budget review, look over your disaster plan at least once a year. “Review your plan as appropriate for your business. Last year’s plan may not be viable any longer,” he says.

 

Business Continuity Planning: Why small businesses should prepare for the worst case scenario

Business Continuity Planning: Why small businesses should prepare for the worst case scenario

Posted by SBOC Team in General Businesson Nov 19, 2012 9:44:36 AM

ContinuityPlanning_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.

 

 

A disaster striking your small business and the community in which it operates is a scenario no one wants to think about. Yet not thinking about what you will do in the event of a hurricane or flood can end up costing you much more than just rebuilding costs. Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes.com, likens disaster preparedness to planning for a funeral: “You know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when, but you’re much better off if you’ve taken the time to have a plan.” In fact, as the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast so clearly demonstrated, preparing your company for a disaster, natural or otherwise, needs to be an integral part of your ongoing business planning. Beyond buying insurance, having safeguards and continuity procedures in place are among the most important actions you can make for the health of your company.

 

Get set up virtually and remotely

Virtual storage and remote desktop systems have transformed the ability of businesses to continue to work even if their physical location is unavailable. It is essential to develop daily and weekly procedures for all of your employees utilizing these capabilities. Having data backed up via off-site servers (preferably in a location far from where your company is), as well as on a cloud storage system that can be accessed remotely allows your employees to work from home or a temporary location should the situation arise. Though you may have minor delays and slower output, you can still meet the needs of your customers if you invest in the technology.

 

During and after a disaster, your company will not only need access to data, but also to assets. Richelle Shaw, entrepreneur, author, and president of the National Association for Moms In Business, says one of the ways she prepared for a disaster was to have a relationship with two banks—one local and one national. “My cousin was located in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina,” she recalls. “Her local bank was flooded out, and she did not have access to money. When I heard her story, I immediately opened an account at a national bank.”

 

ContinuityPlanning_PQ.jpgDouble (or triple) up

Though you have copies of your important documents protected off-site, other elements of your business should also be duplicated. Jan Decker of Crisis Management Consulting suggests having alternate suppliers and ways to deliver your products. “If shipping is interrupted or specific products are not available, strategize alternatives and keep in contact with [your] customers,” Decker says, “Small business owners that depend on a single source [of] suppliers should have replacement or contingency providers.”

 

Justin A. Meyer, an attorney with Meyer and Associates who works with small businesses on Long Island, New York, takes the idea of doubling up one step further. “There should be at least two people with keys to the front door and at least two people who know the passwords to the computer systems,” Meyer notes, “Small business owners, because they may only have a few employees, are in a more precarious position. The most important thing they can do is to have some redundancy.”

 

 

Know who to call and who’s in charge

Whether your company has three employees or 300, the same priority holds true during a disaster: communicate with employees. “Have a current, updated list with contact information for each employee,” says Jeff Garr, founder and CEO of HR Knowledge. “It could be a chain of phone calls where the supervisor alerts his team, or it could be a website with centralized information. Whatever the plan is, be sure to communicate where the information can be found and how
it will be communicated.”

 

If the main person in charge is unable to resume control after a disaster, designate in advance  who will step into that role. “Small business owners need to have a power of attorney agreement with a trusted surrogate in the event the owner is unable to take care of business,” says Decker, “Good candidates are attorneys, CPAs, banking officers, trusted family members, or friends. This is to keep the business in operation until the owner can return or other suitable arrangements are
made.”

 

Make a detailed emergency plan and review it

Having a specific, written emergency plan is key for every business, and being sure everyone knows that plan is vital. “Review the plan with everyone in your company and trusted advisors, [and] confirm everyone knows their roles in case of an emergency,” says Bremmer. “Bad things happen, but confusion and fear make them much worse.” He adds that, just like your annual budget review, look over your disaster plan at least once a year. “Review your plan as appropriate for your business. Last year’s plan may not be viable any longer,” he says.

 

http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/11/19/business-continuity-planning-why-small-businesses-should-prepare-for-the-worst-case-scenario

 

The 7 best TED talks for small business owners

The 7 best TED talks for small business owners

by Erin McDermott.

Got time for a bite-size bit of inspiration? Take a look at TED Talks.

What started as a small conference that shared new thinking on technology, education, and design (that’s where the T-E-D comes from) in the 1980s has grown into an Internet juggernaut with videos that together have drawn nearly one billion views. Many cities in the U.S. and elsewhere are hosting smaller versions of the TED Talk franchise and a feature in The New Yorker this summer suggests TED has managed to turn “ideas into an industry.” But there’s also plenty of smart stuff here for small business owners. Many talks feature innovators and entrepreneurs, with savvy ideas about marketing, leadership, and burgeoning industries rife with opportunities. The clips vary in length from less than five minutes to about the average coffee run, and are engaging, fast moving, and very funny at times.

Here’s a look at seven TED Talks that small business owners should make time to watch.

Lisa Harouni: A Primer on 3D Printing (14:05)

Have you been hearing a lot about 3D printing? It very well could be the next revolution in manufacturing: technology that, layer-by-layer, assembles even the most intricate of designs. The idea and the industrial-scale machines have been around for some time, but a new focus on their capabilities—from architecture and construction use to human bones to (seriously!) a whole racecar—has engineers around the world jazzed. Some experts believe these devices could become a household norm in the not-too-distant future. Watch Lisa Harouni, chief executive of London’s pioneering Digital Forming, in November 2011 and be dazzled.

David S. Rose: Pitching to VCs (14:42)

Seeking capital for your growing enterprise? Better get your pitch right before you run the gauntlet of venture-capital panels. David S. Rose, managing partner of Rose Tech Ventures, entrepreneur, and “pitch coach,” has been on both sides of the investors’ table. Here, Rose gives a fast-paced rundown of 10 things you must be able to express in your presentation if you want to win over the angels.

Daniel H. Pink: The Surprising Science of Motivation (18:36)

If you’re running your business based on traditional thinking about carrots and sticks when it comes to incentives for your employees, you might be wasting your time and money on outdated assumptions. Daniel H. Pink, the bestselling author of Drive, Free Agent Nation, and the forthcoming To Sell Is Human, has been changing perceptions about the 21st-century American workplace for more than a decade. Here, in this video, with nearly four million views, Pink talks about what science now knows and what some businesses are still doing—to their detriment.

Richard St. John: Success Is a Continuous Journey (3:57)

Need a pep talk? In less than four minutes, writer and entrepreneur Richard St. John recounts his own rise to the top—and his downfall after succumbing to the perks of success. (One tip: That sports car isn’t a solution to depression.) He outlines how he lost it and lessons for everyone on the importance of keeping your eye on the ball. (And here’s another good one from St. John at TED.)

Margaret Heffernan: Dare to Disagree (12:56)

Arguing with your partner may be a very good thing for your business. Why? Conflict can lead to progress, while colleagues who serve as an echo chamber are unlikely to help you break new ground. That’s the gist of former CEO Margaret Heffernan’s June 2012 talk. The question is: Who has the patience and wherewithal to find, listen to, and push forward with those who challenge them most?

For more info, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/27/listen-up-the-7-best-ted-talks-for-small-business-owners

From Owner to CEO: How to grow as a leader along with your company

From Owner to CEO: How to grow as a leader along with your company

by Susan Caminiti.

Most entrepreneurs start out with a great idea, intense passion, and a willingness to work seemingly 24/7 to make their start-up a success. But what happens when the company begins to grow and expand? Are the skills that define a successful small business owner the same ones needed to run a bigger, more complex enterprise?

In most cases, experts say, the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be learned. “In the same way that a company grows, the entrepreneur has to grow and evolve, too,” says Ed Hess, author of Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Entrepreneurial Businesses. As a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Hess has studied entrepreneurs and the various ways they approach and manage change. His conclusion: As a company grows, its owner has to transition from one stage to the next, beginning with doer, moving on to manager and leader, and then finally, coach or mentor.

 

Learn to evolve

While the metamorphosis sounds straightforward, it often proves to be the most complicated aspect of running a company, says Hess. That’s because the transformation from owner to leader taps into primal issues of trust, confidence, and even identity—issues not typically top of mind as most entrepreneurs go about running their companies. “Figuring out the processes of a business is not nearly as hard as figuring out the people part,” he notes. Hess recalls that one small business owner, whom he interviewed for his book, said he felt “more like a psychologist than a business person,” when trying to manage his employees.

 

Evolving from a person who controls every aspect of a company into one that allows others to get things done takes time. “Leadership isn’t just a skill you pick up one day, it’s a journey,” says Suzanne Bates, founder and CEO of Bates Communications, an executive coaching and leadership development firm, and author of Discover Your CEO Brand. “The most challenging inflection points for entrepreneurs are when they realize they have to let go of some of the things that they used to do, and when they have to hire people who are better at certain things than they are. That’s a real turning point.”

 

Find complementary skills

For Michael Uytengsu, founder and CEO of Somersault Snack Co., that moment came sooner rather than later. When he was still getting the business off the ground in 2009, Uytengsu hired an executive who had worked at his family’s snack food business—National Pretzel Co.—to be his president. That decision, says Uytengsu, was made so that he could concentrate on securing financing for the Sausalito, California-based company (he worked for Salomon Brothers in the 1990s) and expanding its distribution,while his president managed day-to-day operations. “I don’t have the patience for the everyday issues and I knew that from the beginning,” he says.

 

Uytengsu is quick to add that although the decision to bring in other senior people to help him run the company was made early on, it was still a challenge for him. “I’m opinionated, but I wanted someone who had skills that would complement mine, and who still reported to me,” he explains. “It’s a difficult balancing act as an entrepreneur, but it’s the only way we could grow the business,” he says, noting that Somersault Snacks are now sold in 5,000 locations, including major retail chains like Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Caribou Coffee. Says Uytengsu: “There are some business owners who feel that they’re in the best position to make every decision about their company and they fail to share financial or strategy issues with their staff. The danger with that sort of approach is that it slows everything down. If I was the one who had to make every decision, that would create a huge stumbling block for getting things done.”

For more info, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/26/from-owner-to-ceo-how-to-grow-as-a-leader-along-with-your-company

 

Saying Goodbye to Summer: Best practices for closing down a seasonal business

Saying Goodbye to Summer: Best practices for closing down a seasonal business
Despite the lingering heat, many owners with small businesses tied to vacation and recreation are winding down operations before closing for the season. But that doesn’t mean they can put up their collective feet until next spring. Even if your doors are closed, your business is still “open” as far as the state in which you operate and creditors are concerned. So, it’s important to manage cash flow in those peak months to be able to cover expenses in the off-season. And you want to stay connected to those far-flung employees and customers, so they are more likely to come back when you re-open. “If you have a physical location that lies empty, the liabilities don’t stop during that five to six-month period,” cautions Tripp Watson, whose Birmingham, Alabama-based Watson Firm advises entrepreneurs on legal and contractual matters as well as on business strategy. “You have a legal duty to inspect and maintain the property. If someone is injured, even if they’re trespassing, you’re still legally liable.” Watson recommends investing in a monitored security system to help protect your business from litigation. “It always helps if there’s video of someone getting hurt or breaking in,” notes Watson. “Just factor it in as the cost of doing business.”

Beware the off-season budget busting expenses

Cash flow management is especially critical for seasonal businesses, as they may only have three to six months to generate enough revenue to cover expenses throughout the year. “Your costs don’t go down to zero when your doors are closed,” Watson points out. “You should map out expenses throughout the peak and off peak months as well as the off-season.” If it’s your first season, Watson advises doubling those costs. “Things you didn’t think about will crop up and can cut into your margins if you’re not prepared.”

For proof, just ask Tom Lawless and Tina Oddleifson. When this husband-and-wife team took over the Pilgrim’s Inn and Whale’s Rib Tavern on Deer Isle in Maine’s East Penobscot Bay in October 2005, they had to put in a new septic system right off the bat. “We were slapped with a big unexpected expense without having any revenue,” recalls Oddleifson. Thankfully, the pair had purchased the business when some late-season revenue was still coming in; coupling that with the working capital they started with, they were able to cover the cost of the repair and then replenish their coffers when they opened the next spring.

Typical off-season expenses for the inn and restaurant, though, are things like utilities and insurance payments. “Deposits, which start coming in January, help with cash flow during the months we’re closed,” she explains. And she also taps this early infusion of cash to fund renovations and repairs, which usually don’t happen until the spring.

Know your costs; watch every penny

When Duane Greenawalt, who runs his own CPA practice in Bennigton, Vermont, bought Hathaway’s Drive-in Theatre in North Hoosick, New York in 2009, he saw it as a vehicle to teach some life lessons to his children, all four of whom work there along with his wife. And while running this seasonal side business has been fun, it hasn’t been easy, he admits.

“Not only is it like running two distinct businesses, but we can only do business at night and when the weather is nice,” explains Greenawalt. “Cost control and knowing your margins are critical.” As they only bank a fraction of every ticket they sell after the film companies and state take their cut, Greenawalt instructed his eldest son on how to run a cost analysis to identify waste at the snack bar, which serves both hot and cold food. “Not unlike McDonald’s, which knows the cost of each French fry, everyone’s now more aware of the need to control portions.” Greenawalt points out. “Not that we’re giving our customers less, but we’re giving them what they pay for.”

Recruit staff for the long haul, and then stay in touch

Aside from the limited window to generate revenue, staffing is a major challenge for seasonal businesses. “A bad hiring decision can be costly,” cautions Watson. “Even if there are costs involved to maintain an employee from season to season, typically those costs are worth it when you factor in the costs of finding a replacement and training.”

“We have about an 80 to 90-percent return rate for the kitchen and 70 percent for the inn,” notes Oddleifson. “But it remains a challenge with our student staff, since our season overlaps with the academic year. My husband and I are putting in a lot of hours and juggling many roles during those months.” Oddleifson keeps in touch with employees during the off-season with periodic emails. “If people don’t know what’s happening with your business, rumors can start, especially in smaller communities,” cautions Oddleifson.

For Greenawalt, staffing is mostly a friends-and-family affair. His drive-in’s eight other employees are his children’s friends and siblings of the previous owner’s former employees. “While we lose some of the older kids when they go off to college, training usually takes no more than a week for most jobs in the snack bar, though there’s more of a learning curve for running the projector.”

Think strategically as the season’s end nears

Oddleifson has been able to structure the business’s mortgage and most ordering to pay during peak season. “We pay our biggest expenses when we’re making money,” Oddleifson points out. “By law, we have to pay for alcohol on delivery and we order food as we need it.” Then, as the season winds down, so does ordering for the restaurant. “We start paring down our wine list in the fall and don’t offer as extensive a list as our high season,” she explains. “We shorten our menu for the last two weeks we’re open and run lots of specials until the food is gone.” Any fresh goods left over are distributed among their employees and canned goods are stored. “We have become better at ending with very little inventory each season.”

As the drive-in officially closes after Labor Day weekend, Greenawalt begins winding down some purchases by mid-summer. “We have a lot of food inventory—you never know when you’re going to get hit with a big night,” says Greenawalt. “But you reach a certain point where the risk of running out is lower than the risk of getting stuck with inventory at the end of the season.” Greenawalt has typically stopped purchases for candy, popcorn, and ice cream by late July or early August, as the vendors require minimum purchase orders and he would have to buy a lot to get the reduced rate. “While we’re not going to run out of popcorn, we may run out of a few popular brands of ice cream and candy, though we offer a wide variety of both.”
For more info; http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/05/saying-goodbye-to-summer-best-practices-for-closing-down-a-seasonal-business

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business
by Susan Caminiti.

Christopher Gardner first made headlines with his best-selling memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, the story of his homelessness, which was made into the movie of the same name starring Will Smith. Today, he is the CEO of Gardner Rich & Co., a Chicago-based brokerage firm and the author of Start Where You Are—Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Recently, business writer Susan Caminiti spoke with Gardner about the challenges of running your own business, the importance of failure, and how entrepreneurs need to sometimes get out of their own way.

SC: What aspect of starting and running a small business is most often overlooked or underappreciated?

CG: When you do something that you truly are passionate about, nothing gets overlooked. And that’s the key. It’s when you decide to do something strictly so you can make money that the problems start setting in. The glass all of sudden always looks half empty. When you start a business, it’s not easy. There are a million things that grab your attention and need to be addressed. That’s why it’s so important to do something that you’re passionate about. It has to be that feeling of, the sun can’t come up soon enough in the morning so I can go out and do my thing. That’s the part some folks overlook.

PQ_QAchrisgardner.jpgSC: Is that why it’s so hard for entrepreneurs to delegate, because they’re so passionate about what they do?

CG: No, it’s because we’re control freaks! But seriously, for any business to truly grow and be successful, the owner has to get to the point that I had to reach in my business: there are people who are better than you at certain things. The hard part is finding them and then leaving them alone. I’ll give you a perfect example. I have a bad record in hiring people. But I have a person who’s worked for me for the past 18 years who’s much better at it than I am. She has every license I have and then some. It finally dawned on me that I should let her do the hiring. And you know what? It works. Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at—and then find the people that fill in those gaps. You can’t do everything. That’s just ego talking.

SC: In your book, Start Where You Are, you say there is no plan B for passion. How does someone starting or running a business balance this quest for passion with the practical needs of every day life?

CG: Passion is important but you have to have a plan and be very clear on what it is you want to start or how you want to grow a business you already have. I call it the “C-5 complex” and it revolves around these five words: clear, concise, compelling, committed, consistent. It’s great to have a dream of what you want but without a plan, that’s all it’s every going to be—a dream.

SC: Can you give me an example of how that played out in your life and company?

CG: In early 2008 my company had a $50-million commitment from an investor and I thought all was great. Then in September the financial crisis happened and that $50 million walked away. We had to re-evaluate everything. But that’s the beauty of having a plan, of being clear and committed. We didn’t try to take the company in a completely different direction. We stayed focused and kept moving ahead. And you know what? If I had gotten that $50 million and invested it before the crisis, we’d be so far under water right now it’d be hard to breathe. Sometimes the universe has a way of saying to you—step aside, the timing isn’t right on this.

SC: Failure is difficult in a corporate environment; for entrepreneurs it seems to be magnified and even more personal. How can business owners handle failure better?

CG: If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not really trying anything. In fact, when you hire someone, the most important question to ask is: Tell me about a time you’ve failed at something. If they can’t give you an answer—or won’t—then you’ve got someone who’s not really going to get in there and be creative and energetic. They’re going to protect themselves. I always tell people, I’d rather be knocked out than tap out. I spent a part of my life homeless. It would have been so easy to give up. I didn’t. Success in life is about how many times you get up, not how many times you fall down.

SC: What’s the best piece of management advice you ever got?

CG: I was with [former Citigroup CEO] Sandy Weill years ago and we were talking about finding and keeping talented people. He said to me, ‘Chris, don’t ever be afraid to hire people smarter than you.’ Then he added, ‘But remember, even though they’re smarter it doesn’t mean you have to pay them more than you.’ I just laughed and thought, they sure don’t teach you that at Harvard!

How to Turn Resolutions into a Vision for Your Business

How to Turn Resolutions into a Vision for Your Business.What is it that separates the good small business from the great small business? Many things come into play:

Innovation: Better businesses tend to be more willing to innovate and try new things.
The team: When VCs invest in a startup, one of the most critical things they look at is the quality of the management team. Good ideas with a great team have a greater likelihood of getting funding than a great idea with a good team.

But probably the most important thing when it comes to going from good to great, or small to big, is this: Vision. The best businesses, big and small alike actually, are businesses that have a “Big Vision”.

In the video below, I sat down with some great small business owners who had some very specific ideas of what they wanted their business to accomplish this year. While I spoke with them around the first of the year and so their plans necessarily took the form of a New Year’s resolution, what was equally clear is that they had ongoing resolutions for their business. Their vision necessitated it. And the same should be true for you. Consider this: When he died, Joe Wilson, founder of Xerox (a company that was started with two people), was found with a small blue index card that he apparently had kept in his wallet. It said, in part, “To attain serenity through the leadership of a business which brings happiness to its workers, serves its customers and brings prosperity to its owners.”

That is one impressive corporate vision.

Or this: In 1945, Masaru Ibuka started a new company with $1,600 in the bombed-out basement of a department store in Tokyo – as bad a place and time to start a business as possible. Yet Ibuka quickly created a vision for his nascent company. Sony would be a place:

“Where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation.”
That would “pursue dynamic activities . . . for the reconstruction of Japan.”
That would “welcome technical difficulties.”

So having a vision about what you want your business to be is a necessary first step in creating the sort of business you really want. That said, and as we all know, business success takes a lot more than just having a grand vision.

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

The real key is that you need to have specific, realistic goals and steps to carry out that vision. After all, waxing rhapsodic about your dreams and grand plans is all well and good, but if that doesn’t relate to the actual day-to-day, nitty-gritty of running your business, then it really is all for naught.

And to do that, you need to make some real-world resolutions. Resolutions are the compass that guide your business towards your vision.

Pull Quote.png

If you are looking to create an exceptional business – one that makes a good profit and makes a big difference (however defined), then you need to have your own vision, and resolutions will allow you to head in the direction of that vision.

The good news is that it is never too late to come up with your own resolutions. Take a look at the video and see what sorts of goals these small business owners have for their business. Hopefully it will give you some ideas and prompt you to make your resolutions for your business.

Do that, and you are well on your way to having the business you long envisioned.

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.

5 Ways to Conduct Small Business Research on the Cheap

5 Ways to Conduct Small Business Research on the CheapSmall Business – 5 Ways to Conduct Small Business Research on the Cheap. Is your big, new idea a winner or a loser and how do you know? As a small business owner, you probably have good business instincts, but the smart entrepreneur knows that gut instincts and a small sample are not the kind of research you can, literally or figuratively, take to the bank.

Your idea may be a winner, or it might not. The important thing is that you carefully analyze your idea, and the market, and make sure you are not the only one who thinks that it will work. A hunch simply will not do. You need hard small business facts.

Back in the day for small business, it used to cost a fortune to research a business idea. Typically, a business would hire a firm to do market research. The research company might do a telephone poll, conduct some live panels, or even do a larger survey. But whatever the research approach was, it was not cheap.

As with everything else it has touched, the Internet has also changed business research and market surveys, but for the better. Google makes looking up anything no more difficult than a few well-thought-out key phrases and a couple of mouse clicks. But, that is the low hanging fruit when it comes to small business research.

Beyond a preliminary Google search, there are many different ways to get small business and market research done these days that won’t break the bank. Here are your best bets:

LinkedIn: There are a few ways to used LinkedIn for your research:

Groups: Some LinkedIn groups can be very active, and if you participate in them regularly, you are opening your business up to a lot of new potential advisors. By posting your query to the group, you are likely to get a swarm of sharp people who are willing to give you their take.
Create a poll: The LinkedIn polls application is a great tool for asking questions and getting answers.

Twitter and Facebook: The same idea is true for Twitter and Facebook. You can post a post or ask a question to your followers, or fans, and get their instant feedback. If you make it a contest (e.g., someone wins a $25 gift card) you will definitely get answers.

Beyond social media, here are some other good ideas:

Trade Associations: Your industry’s trade association probably has a lot of market research that it has conducted in support of its membership. By contacting your trade association and explaining what you are doing and looking for, you likely can access a lot of that already-completed research, and for free (if you are a member). You should also check out their publications and see what other sort of free resources they have available.

Trade shows: Trade shows are great in this regard for two reasons:

You are able, in one place, to gather a lot of general information from the different (potentially useful) booths.
More importantly, in one setting there are a lot of the major players in your industry. By finding the right ones and spending some time with them, you will be obtaining a plethora of intellectual capital.

One excellent example of using trade shows as a research tool is when two out-of-work journalists had an idea for a new board game. These journalists took two expired press passes to the Toronto Toy Show and pretended to interview toy manufacturers. They later said they learned more about the toy industry in those four hours than anything else they did and it led directly to the game they invented – Trivial Pursuit.

Go to school: Business school that is. Business school students need projects and internships. By giving students a good research project, you can help them help you.

Ask: Find a business in a nearby town that does what you want to do and ask the owner out for lunch. Because you don’t live nearby, you likely won’t be seen as a competitor, and because people love to talk about themselves, you should get some very valuable, relevant insight.

So the idea is to learn what you need to learn so that you too can live the words of designer Laura Ashley, “We don’t want to push our ideas on to customers – we simply want to make what they want.”