Tag Archives: guest article

5 Pillars of Small Business Success

It has been a while since I’ve found an article interesting enough to use it as a “guest article” but I get asked very, very often what the keys to a successful business are and this article nailed it!

It was featured on the SBA’s website in January of this year and I’ve been going to share it for a while.  I hope it is interesting and helpful to you!

5 Pillars of Small Businesses Success

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: January 13, 2015

 

What does it take for a small business to achieve success?Whether you’re already in business, or preparing to start a business, it takes hard work, tenacity and drive to achieve a high level of success. Lori Greiner, star shark of ABC’s Shark Tank says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

According to Elizabeth Wilson of Entrepreneur Magazine, while some 40 million businesses are started each year, a paltry 350,000 break out of the pack and begin growing and making money. So how can a small business owner overcome some of the common business pitfalls? Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s prime time reality series The Profit, knows all about determining the success or failure of a business. Lemonis says, “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.” Here are five pillars that make a small business successful.

1) People

If you want your small business to succeed, you need a fantastic team. Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur and founder or Def Jam Recordings says, “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” A company can accomplish amazing things when it has leadership and a team who is inspired, hardworking and believes in the company’s mission.

2) Plan

“Quality is the best business plan, period,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney. Just about everyone in the business world agrees that having a plan is important. And that doesn’t mean the big formal business plan document you fear like a term paper. It starts small and may grow in time. At a start-up, implementation is everything. That means it’s essential to establish responsibilities, set goals, and track performance. You will also need to answer key questions, such as:

  • Have you identified your target customers?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them?
  • What will be the most effective marketing and promotional strategies?

3) Process

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “85 percent of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in systems and processes…rather than the employee.” It’s crucial that you have a full and clear understanding of your company’s processes and have the right systems in place.

4) Product

Does your product solve a problem? Does it exist yet? Is there something that is out there that your product does in a different way? Is there a demand for your product? Success in business requires doing something you’re passionate about that fills a need in the marketplace. Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries says, “Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

5) Profit

When it comes to measuring a successful business, profitability is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Is the company making money? A critical component of running a successful business is knowing your numbers. “If you want to be successful in business, you need to become proficient at handling certain numbers. You need to be able to read and understand your financial dashboard” says Dawn Fotopulos, Associate Professor of Business at The King’s College in New York.

Starting and running a successful business can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. You as a small business owner should never stop learning, innovating, planning and growing. “Leaders spend five percent of their time on the problem and 95 percent of their time on the solution. Get over it & crush it!” says Tony Robbins.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in ‘Fox Small Business’,’American Express Small Business’, ‘Business Week’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The San Francisco Tribune’, ‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Practicing Slowness & Being Present

I set a goal for myself this year to be more present.  To spend less time multi-tasking and more time focused on one-thing-at-a-time.  Yes, I’m still working on that goal! Yes, I still find myself having time for just one more quick thing and rushing through my moments.  But, I’m better than I’ve ever been before.

For today’s healthy living post for the holidays, which will also be my last for 2014 as I take the holidays off to re-charge, re-connect and re-center, I bring you this great guest article from a enews I get from ZenHabits.

I also send you my wishes for peaceful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations full of grace that bring you happiness and joy!

 

Practicing Slowness & Being Present
By Leo Babauta

In our rush to get through the tasks of our day, to complete our errands and answer emails, to look at the next video or link we find … when do we think we’ll find happiness?

If it’s not here right now, when will it come?

Maybe we think it’ll come when we improve our lives, or meet our goals, or succeed at our business, or finish our college degree. Maybe it’ll come when we go on that next trip, or when we find time to relax. Maybe tomorrow.

Or we could try this:

Slow down instead of rushing.
Pause to savor the current moment.
Really notice everything about the moment, and find small things to appreciate.
Be grateful for what there is right here, right now.
Allow the things that are bothering you to just be in your life, without fighting with them, without pushing them away.
Don’t allow little things to offend you. They’re not worth ruining this moment.
Let the beauty of this moment wash over you like a warm foamy wave.

These are all things we already know. But we don’t actually do them. The key here is practice.

If you don’t practice being present, slowing down, enjoying the moment right now, when will you practice? What are you practicing now instead?

Start your practice this moment.

‘When you live completely in each moment, without expecting anything, you have no idea of time.’ ~Shunryu Suzuki

National Veterans Small Business Week

We join the U.S. Small Business Administration in celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week!

The military trains soldiers with the skills, discipline and leadership necessary to kick start and operate a successful business.  After serving in the military, many veterans return home and choose to run a business.  As small business owners, veteran entrepreneurs are able to pursue their passion to serve our country by creating jobs and spurring economic growth.  Veterans possess the skills, discipline, and leadership necessary to kick start and operate successful businesses.  This week we honor veteran business owners with National Veterans Small Business Week.

With over 21 million veterans in America and more than 250,000 service members transitioning from the military annually, SBA is focused on ensuring that they have access to the capital, counseling, and contracting needed to start and grow successful businesses.

Veteran business owners…

  • Are responsible for nearly one out of every ten small businesses in America
  • Employ nearly six million workers
  • Generate over 1.5 trillion dollars in receipts each year
  • Are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans

National Veterans Small Business Week Events

See what National Veterans Small Business Week events are happening in your area.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content (hint .. the closest to Northeastern Wisconsin are in Milwaukee)

SBA Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs:

Social Media Engagement

For National Veterans Small Business Week, SBA has created the hashtag #MyVetBiz to encourage veteran business owners to share their stories and to encourage community members to highlight local veteran-owned businesses in their community and show their gratitude and support.  We’d love for you to join the conversation.

4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year

I’m catching up on email as the snow falls here and I wait until 2pm to close the office and head home during a storm break.  While reading my Small Business Administration newsletter, I found an article that read as if I wrote it!  Since I didn’t, I’m snerching it for today’s blog post and sharing it with all of you.

Here is the bottom line:  you must market your business.    YOU.MUST.MARKET.YOUR.BUSINESS.

This post is from Rieva Lesonsky  The “I” referenced below is she (Rieva) not me (Cheryl). Ms. Lesonsky is an expert, Ms Detrick is a learner!  She is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She’s been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.

If there’s one area of operations most small businesses can stand to improve, it’s marketing. As a small business expert, I get more questions about marketing than any other aspect of business—and it’s been that way for the last 30 years. Since the New Year is all about improving oneself, how about making some marketing resolutions for your business? Here are four to consider.

  1. I resolve to make a marketing plan. Many small business owners market haphazardly, throwing time and money at one marketing method and then, when it doesn’t pay off immediately, switching gears to the “next big thing.” This scattershot approach does nothing but waste your resources and leave you frustrated and frazzled, convinced that marketing doesn’t pay off. Instead, resolve to sit down and set goals for your marketing this year. What exactly do you want to accomplish—more leads, more sales closed, more inquiries? Once you’ve got goals on paper, figure out the marketing methods that are most likely to get those desired results. Finally, figure out how you’ll track results from each marketing method so you can see what’s really working.
  1. I resolve to market consistently. It’s easy to fall into the trap of marketing only when you’ve got the “spare” time for it (which often means “never”). Or maybe you market wildly right before your busy season, then do nothing for months on end. As a result, your sales pipeline slows down. Keep your pipeline full by marketing consistently all year long. That doesn’t mean you need the same level of marketing year-round—for instance, a toy retailer would obviously market more before and during the holiday shopping season than in, say, July—but it does mean you need some level of marketing all year. Create a marketing calendar that sets out what you’ll do each month and breaks it down further into weekly and even daily marketing efforts. Then put someone in charge of making sure it’s all carried out.
  1. I resolve to keep learning new things. Is your marketing stuck in the past? Advertising only in the print Yellow Pages might work if your clientele is solely seniors…and even seniors are increasingly going online to find businesses instead of letting their fingers do the walking. If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to keep up with the (marketing) times. Resolve to regularly read industry blogs and publications, attend networking events and conferences, and take webinars and seminars to learn more about new marketing trends and how they’re affecting your industry. Pledge to learn something new every month, and at least try some of it. Marketing is moving fast, and if you don’t keep up you’re going to get left behind.
  1. I resolve to do market research. Many small business owners see market research as something they do once—when starting their companies—and then never do again. But what happens when your market changes? The 20-somethings you might have targeted with your extreme sports company in 1998 are now in their 40s. Even if they’re still buying extreme sports products, the way you market to them needs to be different now from what it was then. Keep tabs on the demographics of your target market so you can adjust your marketing approach to changes in their incomes, lifestyles, media consumption habits and buying behaviors. Use both secondary research from other sources and primary research—that is, simply asking your customers what they want and need.

These four simple resolutions will make a big difference in your results—I promise.

What are your marketing resolutions for 2014?

 

 

May Day … oops!

No, I didn’t take yesterday off, I just oops’d!  I thought I had a post ready to go for yesterday, and well, the day got away from me!

But!  Back with it today.  Today’s post is both a story and a lesson!  Here at the Chamber, we talk to and work with businesses of all sizes and types; many are start-ups and others are businesses that go through challenges.  While our primary organization role is to foster community & economic development, we do everything we can to give advice, support and resource lists and almost naturally become somewhat invested in their success.  It can be emotional on all of us when things don’t go according to the original plan!  Today’s guest article is written by one such member, David Rovinski.  If you are a regular reader of Chamber Notes, you may recognize David’s name from his former company, Fluidity Business Planning Group.    He has recently ended Fluidity and begun a new venture … no.  Wait.  I’ll let David tell you his story in his words with a postscript from me!

Over the past 3 years, I have taken up the challenge of starting my own business and have realized many things.

First off, when you start a business you are excited for the challenge and opportunity to make it a successful business.  You create a business plan with products and services that you feel are marketable and profitable leading to success.

Over time, you realize that your assumptions on: the market opportunity, target customers, and ability to realize sales quickly, can all be in question.  The struggles of a new business, low operating capital, and a small marketing budget can make “hanging in there” challenging.

I believe it is critical to provide a service that is marketable.  It  is necessary to look honestly and clearly at your services and make adjustments along the way.

I have recently started a new business called Business Growth Resources, LLC, that is focused on business development services that provide solutions to business growth problems.  Prior to this venture, I was focused primarily at writing business plans for new businesses seeking financing, or existing businesses looking to expand.

What I found out over time was that the need for a business plan for financing was secondary to what banks look at.  Personal financial statements, cash on hand, personal investment, and collateral are a major part of getting a loan.

Thus recognizing the demand for a business plan was limited, the need for strategic planning, new  product development, and growth strategies was in greater demand for businesses looking to grow.  This is what Business Growth Resources, LLC is now offering businesses in the area.

Looking at your new business honestly, recognizing shortfalls,  identifying market opportunities, and having the courage to make changes for long-term growth is scary but can be rewarding and on the path to future business success.

Hope you enjoy some insight on starting and growing a small business.

I “like” David’s story, not because of his challenges, but because it is so REAL.  Many, many entrepreneurs end up on the same path as David but a good percentage either don’t recognize where the path leads in time to make a course correction or recognize it but are just unable to adjust.

We’ll check in with David from time-to-time, both as interest and in thought that others can learn from his experiences.  I’d love to know what you think and what your experiences have been with business growth and patterns.

 

Business Meals & Entertainment

From our friends at Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co. comes this week’s tax tip on business meals & entertainment:

When you pay for business meals and entertainment, keep in mind that generally only half of otherwise allowable meal and entertainment expenses are deductible on your federal tax return. This includes 50% of all business meal and entertainment expenses, including those incurred while attending professional seminars and traveling away from home. If a hotel includes meals in its room charge, a reasonable allocation must be made to determine the portion of the expenditure subject to the 50% disallowance.

Taxes and tips related to meals or entertainment are included in the amount that is subject to the 50% limit. Also subject are expenses for cover charges to clubs, room rental for a dinner or cocktail party, and amounts paid for parking at an entertainment location. However, transportation costs incurred getting to and from the entertainment activity are not subject to the 50% disallowance. In addition, when a self-employed taxpayer uses a per diem method for travel expenses, the federal meal and incidental expense rate is treated as an expense for food and beverages and, thus, is subject to the 50% disallowance.

If an employee adequately accounts for these expenses and the employer properly reimburses the expenses under an accountable plan arrangement, the employer is also subject to the 50% limitation on its reimbursement. An ac-countable plan is a reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement that requires employees to substantiate covered expenses and return unsubstantiated advances. The employee has nothing to report since the reimbursement offsets the expenses incurred.

Conversely, an employer gets a 100% deduction if meal expense reimbursements or allowances paid for or to an employee under a nonaccountable plan are treated as compensation to the employee. Of course, the employer must then pay FICA taxes and the income is subject to normal withholding, but this rule basically allows employers to shift the 50% disallowance to employees. Similarly, meal reimbursements and allowances that are included in the taxable income of independent contractors are also 100% deductible by the service recipient.

 

Mindless to Mindful Eating

I personally have hit a new low yesterday in my health journey with a new weight low since I’ve been an adult.  (No, I won’t repeat it each time I now weigh in and that number creeps down; only when I hit goal!)  So, today’s guest post from Karin Jennings, co-owner of xo fitness struck home for me.  The post talks about literally watching what you are eating.  Being completely mindful of what goes in your mouth — and why.  Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, gain weight, or even maintain your weight, knowing what you are eating, why you are eating it and paying careful attention to how you are fueling your body is very important for the overall quality of your health.

And with that intro:

If you’re trying to lose weight and not succeeding, part of the problem might be that you are eating mindlessly. Mindless eating means that what, when and how much we eat runs counter to both the body’s true needs and our own health goals.

Learn below how you can switch from mindless to mindful eating to support weight loss. Kelly McGonigal, PhD, health psychologist and yoga teacher at Stanford University, shares her insights.

From Mindless to Mindful Eating

Mindless eating is a major saboteur of weight loss. “In many cases, it’s not the meals we eat that cause weight gain,” says Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eat, Drink and Be Mindful (New Harbinger 2009). “It’s the snacking, the mindless eating while watching television, when we’re on autopilot and not really aware of what we’re eating. Plus, the majority of food decisions have nothing to do with hunger. They have to do with stress, anxiety, sadness or frustration.”

Mindfulness can help. Mindfulness means paying attention, both to inner cues (thoughts, emotions and sensations) and to your environment. When applied to eating, this can mean the difference between one more failed diet and lasting weight loss.

Three Components of Mindful Eating

How can you eat mindfully? Albers breaks mindful eating into three areas.

  • 1. Mindful Eating in the Moment. Get rid of distractions like reading, watching television or eating on the go and really taste, smell and enjoy your food. Practice knowing what it feels like to be hungry or full, and learn to honor those signals.
  • 2. Nonjudgmental Awareness of Eating Habits and Beliefs. Keep a food journal to get a clear sense of your eating habits, including where you keep food and how you go about food shopping. Also, notice how you talk to yourself about food. Common self-defeating beliefs include not wanting to waste food and putting foods into “good” and “bad” categories.
  • 3. Nonjudgmental Awareness of Environmental and Emotional Triggers. A bakery case of pastries may trigger a craving that was not there a moment ago. That craving has nothing to do with the body’s true needs and everything to do with the eating environment. A mindful approach can help you become aware of the difference. When you are aware of your personal triggers, it is easier to avoid them or to pause and make a conscious choice. Also, mindfulness can help you recognize when you are eating for emotional reasons and can allow you to develop other strategies for self-soothing or celebrating.
SIDEBAR: Mindful Eating Exercises

Susan Albers, PsyD, suggests the following simple exercises:

1. As you eat, pay close attention to all your senses. Use your tongue to feel the texture of the food. Gauge its temperature. Take a whiff of the aroma. Ask yourself, “How does this really taste? Is this something I really want? Does it satisfy my taste buds?”

2. Change how you eat and slow down. For example, use chopsticks, eat in a new location or include new foods in your diet. Put down your fork intentionally at least three times during a meal to give yourself a moment to pause.

3. When you eat, just eat. Try turning off the television while you eat and avoiding other distractions to keep you focused on your food. Even if it is just for a few moments, put down whatever you’re doing and focus on your snack.

4. Pay attention to the cues your body is sending. How does it let you know you are hungry? Have a rumbling stomach? Or low energy? Before you take a bite, ask yourself, “How hungry am I on a scale of 1–10?”

5. When you have the urge to eat, ask yourself if you are physically or emotionally hungry. If you are emotionally hungry, set a timer for 2 minutes and find an activity to distract you, or another way to soothe yourself. At the end of the 2 minutes, ask yourself again. This will help you slow down the rush to eat in order to fix your feelings.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

A guest article from Mary Guldan-Lindstrom with a thought-provoking message for this Monday!

THE SWEET SPOT

In golf there is something called a “sweet spot”.   It is the spot on the face of the club, which provides the most effective results when hitting the ball. Every time a golfer hits, they are aiming for that sweet spot. I think of it as the place that will bring about the most desirable results.

We can apply this same principle to people. Have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole?  If so, you missed the sweet spot.

Being a mother, I worked hard to put my boys in a situation in which they could succeed. The ultimate challenge was forcing two strong  willed, can’t sit still, boys in a school classroom for 4 hours straight.   And then, we expect them to learn under those conditions.

Society expects us to conform to the rules. Thankfully, those rules are relaxing and we have more choices.

In business, every business has it’s sweet spot.  The situation where the best solution is provided to meet the their best customer’s need. This spot can demand the maximum price for the business and provide the maximum value to the customer.

Have you found your “sweet spot”  or  are you still trying to force the square peg in the round hole?

Thanks Mary!

It is Summer and the kids are …

… not working as much as they have in years past.  Teen employment rates are the lowest this year than in 50 years.  Here is a great article from Fluidity with some insight:

School is out for the summer. Young people are looking for temporary work. Unemployment still hovers around 9% despite rosy predictions. Despite claims the economy is improving, it remains sluggish at best. Many businesses are contracting. So what gives?

What is often overlooked in evaluating the American economy is the consumer perspective. As the country came through the depression over the past three-plus years, the average consumer has had to scale back in many areas. With gas prices playing with $4 per gallon, many families have cut back on travel plans and vacations. That has an impact on hotels, resorts, restaurants, attractions, gas stations, and any other business affiliated with the hospitality industry. As a result, those businesses have gone to discounts or special two-for-one offers to lure guests. They may have cut back on staff or reduced amenities to keep the lights on. That impacts everyone. Dollar stores and discount retailers have seen increased volume because of the economic downturn. Higher end retailers are struggling with inventory issues and over staffing concerns. Advertising has been cut back, which has an impact on media outlets, printers, photographers, graphic artists, and sales representatives. Grocery stores have had to raise prices because of higher transportation costs which, in turn, forces consumers to be more frugal in their buying habits. They use coupons or a generic brand instead of a name brand, which means heads roll higher up the corporate ladder. The picture may appear gloomy, but the reality is this is a great time for business owners to evaluate where they are, review their business plan, and make the adjustments that must be made to survive. The alternative is to begin shut down procedures, look for an acquisition or merger partner, or try to sell for the maximum value possible. That option will take time. If the business needs to put a plan together, now is the best time to start the process, even if there has never been a plan in place before. Positive changes in the American business environment must come through the planning process. It takes time and the willingness to be honest, plus the ability and professional help to think things through. The answers may not be pretty, but they can lead to profitability.

(Cheryl’s note, the 9% is national number, the Green Bay MSA Summer 2011 report, our numbers are lower

Expectations & Accountability

Executive Insight from Fluidity

A great article from Dave Rovinski at Fluidity!

One of the challenges facing business owners and corporate executives in this economic environment is making sure the team is clear on expectations and that people are held accountable. When the business plan clarifies the mission of the company and key success factors are identified, management has the tools to achieve both.

Workers perform most effectively when they know what is expected of them. That includes knowing what the level of performance is and what the deadlines are that need to be met. While the expectations should be realistic, it is acceptable to make them a stretch for an employee. They may need more training or require a few extra meetings with supervisors, but the expectations become the benchmarks for getting the work done. Where the accountability factor comes in is making sure that management holds itself accountable to provide the work force with the right tools and training to accomplish the objectives. The owner needs to constantly probe to make sure what needs to be achieved is clear to the people in the trenches getting the job done. It is unfair to put the responsibility for a project on an employee with no experience in that role. Running a business successfully requires a solid plan, clear expectations, and everyone being accountable for their actions. Nothing should be left to chance.