Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Home Based Business Issues

By Chemeketa SBDC

If you work from home, you already know that running your business out of your home is a great way to save on office and commuting costs. It also affords you the chance to be closer to your young family or older parents (if these are part of your daily responsibilities). But being at home also makes you vulnerable to interruptions and distractions that you need to consider — maybe even more than you might face at a traditional office. The most common pitfalls you are likely to encounter are usually the following. Consider these strategies to avoid letting distractions get in the way of getting business done.

Household responsibilities: Don’t let errands and household activities become a regular part of your workday. Cultivate the attitude that even though you are physically at home, you are mentally at work. If the vacuum cleaner is calling your name, you are probably avoiding some work task that you don’t want to do. Relegate chores to their own time — schedule them in if you have to. Emergencies do happen but keep in mind how you organized your personal time when you worked in the office and approach errands the same way working at home.

Family and friends: Talking to your spouse, your children or friends can potentially consume much of your time. Instead, work out a clear plan with your family and get their support. Let them know when you will be working so they will avoid disturbing your concentration. Hang a “Genius At Work” sign at your office area and when the sign is out — you’re not available.

Many mothers of infants and young children chose to work at home only to find that the care and nurturing of the children consume their full daylight hours. If that is the case, and the tender age of the child prevents the “Genius” sign from working — change your office hours, perhaps after the children are asleep or early in the morning before other activities have started.

Losing focus: Don’t interrupt yourself with office minutia or extraneous telephone calls. Set up your working environment to help you stay focused on the job at hand. Put temptations out of sight as much as possible. Make a list of tasks and/or projects to complete and check them off as you complete them. If non-business telephone calls (either welcomed or not) disrupt your work consider getting a separate line or letting your answering/voice mail pick up. And, don’t initiate personal calls during your office hours. If disruptions continue to be the bane of your workday, consider relocating your office to a different part of the house.

The luxury of working at home comes also from the flexibility of setting your schedule. If your job requires you to put in eight hours a day, consider breaking your “work day” into two shifts of four hours and maybe very odd hours, say from 5 to 9 a.m. and again from 7 to 11 p.m. Be flexible, be creative but be dedicated to your schedule.

A Few Low Cost Tips to Market Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

Every business owner is busy and has limited time and money for marketing, but it still needs to be done. Here are a handful of low-cost ways to spread the good news about your business.

  • Ask family and friends to help market your business. Educate them on the products and services you offer and tell them how they can help bring in customers — after all this close group of people wants to see you succeed.
  • Build a business referral network where you can find other business professionals who work within the same target market as you.
  • Attend meetings, events and trade shows to connect with other business professionals and attract new customers.
  • Offer to speak at an event. There are always groups who are looking for speakers that will interest their attendees. This does not have to be only to groups in your own industry but other businesses that can benefit from your expertise.
  • Volunteer in your community, or volunteer to be on the board of a local charity. You will meet a variety of people and attain a positive image for your business.
  • Use the press. Write a publicity article about your business or a local cause in which you are involved. In addition to the newspaper, there are several smaller local publications in which to advertise. Offer to write an article for them.
  • Put up posters and fliers on local community bulletin boards, at local businesses and in meeting places.
  • Offer informational brochures to educate your customers about your industry and the products and services you offer. Write a blog and become an expert in your field.
  • Collect email addresses from your customers. Produce a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter and use this as a way to stay in touch with your customers.
  • Give something away for free — have a contest or drawing to attract customers. Sponsor a local event by offering your product as a prize in a local contest.
  • Never run out of well-designed business cards. Give each person two, one to keep and one for them give away to your next customer.
  • Advertise on local websites not just on your own.

Customer Awareness

By Chemeketa SBDC

If your business (bricks and mortar or virtual) is going to be successful over the long run, you must focus on serving your customers’ needs and desires. The essence of marketing rests on your clear understanding of your customer and delivering a unique product, service, and benefits that he or she cannot get anywhere else.

A customer analysis helps you predict which items will appeal to your customers and make a dramatic impact on how you spend your advertising dollars. Do you have answers for the following checklist?

1. Who are your target customers and what are they seeking from you?

2. Have you profiled your customers by age, income, education, occupation, etc.?

3. Are you familiar with your customers’ lifestyles?

4. Should you try to appeal to the entire market or just a segment?

5. Are there new customer segments or special markets that deserve attention?

6. Do you know where your customers live?

7. Do you use census data from your city or state?

8. Are you aware of the reasons why customers shop at your store?  (Convenience, price, quality products, etc.?)

9. Do you stress a special area of appeal such as lower prices, better quality, wider selection, convenient location or convenient hours?

10. Do you ask your customers for suggestions on ways to improve your operations?

11. Do you know what products your customers most prefer?

12. Do you know what seasons and holidays most influence your customers buying behavior?

13. Have you considered using customer questionnaires to help you in determining your customers’ needs?

14. Do you know at what other types of stores your customers shop?

15. Do you visit market shows and conventions to help anticipate customer wants?

once you get answers to those questions, what do you do with the information?  Just gathering data is not enough.  The answers to the above questions will give you the opportunity to make true management decisions about your business and how you will reach out to your customers with your marketing.

Delegation Vital to a Business’ Growth

By Chemeketa SBDC

One of the harder chores that a business owner faces is delegation. While there may be immediate gratification when someone takes a task off your overwhelmingly full plate, the fact is that once you feel the relief, you may very well begin to question whether it has been done as well as you expected, as fast as you could do it, or even done right.

No one can do everything alone. We know that intellectually. But whether we can accept it personally is another step. Delegation is vital to the growth of a business. It is also important in developing the sills and abilities of your staff. It allows you to groom your staff for higher-level positions and to take increasing important roles in decision-making.

While delegation, the assignment of part of your work, is the reason you add staff, often we don’t fully understand that with delegation also must come authority and accountability. Three steps are generally needed for the delegation process to be successful.

First you must assign responsibility to someone. You must ask someone to do a job or perform a task.

Second, you must give that person the authority, the power, to accomplish the task or job. This may include the power to get specific information, order supplies, authorize expenditure and make some decisions.

Finally, you must create accountability, the obligation to accomplish the task. (Note that while you can create accountability – you cannot delegate it away. You remain accountable to your business. If your staff fails to complete the job – you are accountable.)

Communication, good communication, is the key to successful delegation. First you have to know what you want to accomplish and you need to clearly communicate the task or project. If there are any absolutes you also need to let you staff know what they are and how these absolutes must be accomplished. You need to think of the tools (including information) the person will need and let them know where they can access these tools. You should be very clear about the expected outcomes, deadlines and deliverables.

And then you need to get out of the way. And remember, it is always a learning process. If you cannot afford mistakes, you cannot avoid training. Set your staff up for success, not failure.

Confidential Business Advising Offered to Business Owners in Yamhill County

By Chemeketa SBDC

The Chemeketa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), with support from the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce, is pleased to announce the hire of a McMinnville-based business advisor Larry Strober who will be counseling business owners in Yamhill County. There is no cost to business owners for this service.

“We are thrilled to have an advisor on board to serve business owners in Yamhill County,” Marcia Bagnall, Chemeketa SBDC Director, said. “While the SBDC has worked with many businesses in Yamhill County over the years, it will be nice for the Yamhill business community to have support closer to home.”

Mr. Strober will be meeting with business owners one-on-one to discuss business strategies, expansion, hiring and other HR matters, financial issues, marketing needs, and other business-related issues. He has over thirty years of senior management experience with emerging companies, and has expertise in business planning and business turnaround. “I’m looking forward to helping strengthen local businesses and seeing them thrive,” he said.

Business owners may contact Mr. Strober directly at 415-720-8262 to set up an appointment, or call the McMinnville Chamber to be directed to him.

“We are excited to partner with the Chemeketa SBDC to bring this very valuable resource to Yamhill County,” Nathan Knottingham, President/CEO of the McMinnville Chamber, said. “The McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce is committed to building a strong local economy and supporting resources like business advising, which is free of charge to businesses thanks to the support of Chemeketa, and fills a very real need for many of our small businesses and entrepreneurs in this area.”

The Chemeketa SBDC is 1 of 19 SBDCs throughout Oregon that provide assistance to new and established small businesses.  The Chemeketa SBDC is a part of the Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry, located at 626 High Street NE in Salem. Over the past 30 years they have provided training, resources, and advising to thousands of business owners in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties.   For more information about the SBDC, visit, call 503-399-5088, or email


Keeping Your Customer Pipeline Full

By Chemeketa SBDC

The economic recovery seems to be in full swing and the customers are coming back. This is good news! You may have just about as much work as you can handle these days. Or perhaps you do some of the time, and then make a marketing surge to fill the pipeline when things are slack.

But that’s the problem, right? When you’re really busy you don’t have time to market. And when you’re not busy enough it’s because you weren’t marketing during the boom weeks. The fact is that you need to market continually (boom times and lean times) in order to keep your sales pipeline full.

So how do you do that?

Always be thinking about marketing your business and attracting new customers. It should be top of mind all the time. Don’t skip networking events. Don’t slack off on continually getting your name in front of current and potential customers. You can’t afford it!

Reach out to former customers and try to get them to come back. Use social media, email newsletters and other forms of communication to keep in touch with them and invite them to reconnect with you.

Create a system to put customers on a waiting list if they come to you when you’re too busy to handle them. Don’t let them slip away because they won’t come back.

Consider getting additional help to handle overflow times. That way you can meet a customer’s need when the need is there. If you put a customer off because you’re too busy, they’ll just go somewhere else instead.

Think about creating tiered pricing so that you can adjust your prices up or down depending on what your demand is at the moment. This is a strategy to adjust as you go so that you always have customers coming in.

Ask yourself if you can turn some of your customers into a recurring and predictable income stream, and away from a one-off occasional buyer. The more “bread and butter” customers you have, the easier it will be to smooth out your pipeline and forecast workflow and resource needs.

Five Steps to Project Your Business’ Sales

By Chemeketa SBDC

Every business owner should be forecasting sales. You may use actual numbers if you have historical financial records. But what do you do if you have nothing to refer back to? You will need to determine how many potential customers are there and how many of these potential customers are likely to buy from you, decide the average sale per customer, and then project this out for the year. Try this:

First, determine the total number of potential customers living in your territory. (Don’t forget — the more clearly you can define your customer — the more realistic your research!)

If you sell to the general public, you need to find the information from the new U.S. Census data for your market area. You can find this information on the Web ( or at the library. If you sell to other businesses, there are many potential sources of information. One of the best is a trade association that represents your industry. You can also find this information through a Web search or at the public library.

Once you have determined the total number of potential customers living within your geographical area, you have the base to begin narrowing down your target market.

Second, determine the number that will likely buy from you. You need to be realistic. Consider your competition (both in number and quality), consider that some of the people will not buy from you or your competition, and consider people will find substitutes for your product. What percentage of the total available population will you be able to attract?

Third, determine your average customer sales per year. How many purchases will your average customer make in a year? How much will they spend on each purchase? Is this a repeat business or once and only once? Does the average customer buy the same product/service, or will they need other complementary services? Trade associations are good sources of information to help answer these questions.

Fourth, determine your annual sales volume. You have determined the number of customers and determined the average amount each customer will spend per year. Multiply these two numbers together to calculate your expected annual sales volume.

Finally, evaluate the annual sales volume figure. Does the number you calculated make sense? If not, go back and work the numbers again. What assumptions have you made about your customers? How accurate or risky are these assumptions? You can guess, and this is not a bad place to start. But — then — you need to back up your assumptions with actual figures to gain the greatest degree of reality for your projections.

Networking: Beneficial Relationships, Not Sleazy Sales People

By Chemeketa SBDC

When you hear the word “networking,” what do you think of? I used to think it meant sleazy sales people trying to manipulate others into buying their junk. Boy was I wrong! Networking is really another way of saying you’re going to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential customers.

The key here is mutually beneficial. The relationship has to work for everyone concerned. It has to benefit everyone. And that sounds like a good thing to me.

So why do this? Well, networking with individuals and groups is a great way to become more attuned to the issues that affect you and your business. From your own managerial issues and questions to your customers — their needs, concerns, and preferences — you don’t have to be alone in your business. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there, so tap into them.

For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to include the organizations where you share leads (although they have a place in your consideration as well). I’m going to focus on the places and groups designed to help business owners network with one another, and to use these peer networks for both personal development and to grow their company.

Here are several types of national networking groups:

Professional Societies: Nearly every type of business has a national association that represents their members’ interests. Most have local chapters with regular meetings and activities. Along with providing a great source of contacts, professional societies offer volunteer opportunities where you can demonstrate your initiative, cooperative spirit, and leadership qualities.

Target Specific: There are several groups that promote networking among specific types of businesses or different types of business owners. Examples would include the National Association of Women’s Business Owners (

Chambers of Commerce: These groups offer valuable exposure in a particular community or region. While other members may (or may not) be in your target market, they can provide valuable opportunities for you to “show their stuff” via trade fairs, demonstrations, and media features. There are nine Chambers in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. Seek out the closest one and learn about the benefits of membership.

Remember, being in business for yourself doesn’t have to mean by yourself. Seek out like-minded business owners and put the power of networking to work for you. Today!

Hiring Strategies

By Chemeketa SBDC

Knowing whom to hire is a critical factor for every expanding business. As you already know, the image and reputation of your company depends on how your customers view your employees. Your job begins long before the new employee is greeting your public.

The hiring process is not (or shouldn’t be) haphazard. Before you begin, decide why you are bringing on a new employee — define the job. Determine the experience or education level truly required. And know the appropriate salary and benefits for the job. (Appropriate is not only the market rate but your ability to pay and equity within your company.)

If you have not formulated a personnel policy, now is the time. What are the hours to be worked each week, the number of days per week, holiday work and the time and method for overtime pay, fringe benefits, vacation and sick leave, time off for personal needs, training, retirement, a grievance procedure, performance review and promotion, and termination. This may seem overwhelming but it is better to “put up the stop sign before there is a fatal accident,” so to speak.

Often in a small business you will hire a person for a certain job (or tasks) but you should also expect, articulate and cross-train for the most efficient utilization of that employee. Can they pinch-hit for other staff? Is there room to “grow your own” managers? Think not only about the training they will need to get them up to speed on their assigned responsibilities, but also the next steps — what else do they need to learn do within the company?

Rather than deciding who to hire based on intuition, establish an entire hiring process that enables you to determine their worthiness for the position. Review their resume, application and work samples; test the applicant if appropriate for the position; interview the candidate; and check his or her work references. Do not focus on what the candidate has done; rather, find out how they did it.

Interview the candidate, not their resume. Observe and deliberately consider interpersonal skills and motivation level. When it comes time for the hiring decision, your instincts of people will come into play, your ability to separate “good” employees from “bad” ones. However, a word of warning: do not hire someone you believe will turn around. Time is too precious and too expensive to waste on anyone who cannot contribute 100 percent.

There is always concern about what questions are legal in an interview. While is it important to know the laws related to job discrimination, you may be overwhelmed by the “what if” scenarios. According to one expert, there are two simple rules to test whether or not to ask a question. First, is it job related? If it is not, do not ask. Second, is the question presented only to a specific type of candidate? If it is, do not ask.

Make your employee expansion a process. Formalize the entire procedure — you can tweak it over time but establish a system for hiring before you begin.

Reality of Grants

By Chemeketa SBDC

DO NOT expect a grant to get your for-profit business started — despite those TV commercials late at night where the gentleman is screaming at you that the federal government wants to give you $50,000 to start your own coffee house!

Think about it, if there was really FREE money available to start a new business, there would be 250 million Americans in line ahead of you! If you haven’t figured it out yet, federal grants (despite the TV guy) are a myth, foundation grants are narrowly defined and virtually no one gives money for small business start-ups.

So, how does this myth persist? Because there are some (rare) federal grant programs that are awarded to the for-profit business. These grants are based on the needs of the federal program for a product or process — not the needs of the business — and they are seeking someone that can develop these products.

If you find that you can respond to the needs (generally a request for proposal — RFP), you need to know that applying for a grant is very different than applying for a loan.

Before developing a grant proposal, it is vitally important to understand the goals of the particular federal agency or private organization, and of the grant program itself. This can be accomplished through Internet research and discussions with the information contact listed in each resource description. You may find that, in order for a particular project to be eligible for funding, the original concept may need to be modified to meet the criteria of the grant program.

In allocating funds, grant makers base their decisions on the applicant’s ability to fit its proposed activities within the grant maker’s interest areas. If you want to see information about federal grants, go to

Other web sites for exploring grants:

Note: There are approximately 7,000 private foundations in America; some offer grants for specific business activities that relate to whatever activity they espouse. If you are aware of a foundation that offers grants in the area of business that you want to pursue, I suggest you contact them directly to obtain the details for applying. Again, these grants are most often awarded to non-profit agencies that compliment the mission of the awarding foundation.