Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Five character traits that define an innovative business owner

By Chemeketa SBDC

We all have heard of wonderfully innovative business owners, and I’ve always been curious about what they seem to have that the average person doesn’t have. What do they know that the rest of us don’t know? How do they achieve a mindset that turns towards innovation?

People with an innovator’s mindset seem to have a string of successes to look back on. They have a belief in their own abilities to work through problems and come up with clever solutions. They manage to create luck by noticing opportunities, they expect good things to happen to them, and they resist negative thinking.

So how do they do it? Here are five characteristics of such people. The good news is that you too can develop this mindset, and your business will thank you!

• Innovators are curious. They focus on questions, and enjoy wandering through mazes of what-ifs. They challenge the “way we’ve always done it” at every turn because that’s a dead end (and they don’t like ends, they like beginnings). They are always using the words “what if”?

• Innovators are willing to take chances. They don’t mind being wrong (which they often are because they take risks). They are willing to dive in and get their hands dirty. They are willing to look foolish, to act without ego, to make mistakes. They know that trial and error is the ways things get done.

• Innovators are wide awake. They notice what’s around them, they observe changes and trends. They take note of how things interact. And then their brains go to work on all that information.

• Innovators take pleasure in trying new things. They enjoy playing, testing, learning, and seeing something new in ordinary things. They relish being surprised by discoveries.

• Innovators have the drive to face challenges. To solve puzzles and problems. They desire to change things, to create value by creating something new. They are driven to make a difference.

A road map to creating the all-important business plan

By Chemeketa SBDC

The most frequent questions we get at the Small Business Development Center are, “What is a business plan?” and “Do I need a business plan?”

The business plan can be used in many ways over the life of your business. It can provide you with the information you need to make critical decisions such as a “go” or “no-go” decision. It can function as a management tool to describe the way you intend to commit your resources and measure the success of your business. It can be the “selling tool” you use to convince your banker or investors of the worthiness of your ideas and of your business.

The business plan is the “road map” you’ve designed to make informed, strategic choices throughout the life of your business. It also should allow you to be flexible and respond to the changing needs of your market.

Developing a business plan is an intensive process and requires dedication, research and a commitment of time from you. So, let us look at a way to “begin the business plan.” For purposes of clarity and simplicity, concentrate on the following four major areas and the five questions assigned to each area:

I. The Business

• What specific product/service will I offer?

• What experience do I have in this field?

• What skills will I need that I do not have? Where/how will I get these skills?

• Specifically, who will perform what duties?

• Where will I locate my business? Why?

II. The Customers

• Who is my customer? (age, gender, income, occupation, location, etc.)

• Why will my customer buy my product/service?

• How often and in what quantity will my customer buy my product/service?

• How many potential customers are in my market area?

• How far is my customer willing to travel?

III. The Competition

• Who are my major competitors?

• What are their strengths? Weaknesses?

• Are the numbers of competitors growing?

• Have any gone out of business in the past two years? Why?

• Is demand expanding/shrinking? Why?

IV. The Financial Plan

• How will I fund my business? (Personal, loan, other.)

• What are my start up expenses?

• What are my projected sales for the first twelve months?

• What are my projected expenses for the first twelve months?

• What is my projected monthly profit?


Pick your outside management team wisely

By Chemeketa SBDC

Studies show that 3 out of 5 small businesses fail within the first year. Causes vary, but the primary reasons can usually be traced to insufficient management skills and poor planning. Paying attention to choosing the best advisors can significantly increase the odds of success. You will have at least four important “partners” — an attorney, an accountant, a banker and an insurance agent. These “partners” are your outside management team.

Step One: Make A List

Generate a list of potential partners in each of the four areas. Look for leads online, get personal referrals, get other business owner referrals, check with the local, state or national associations, check with suppliers, or vendors for your industry.

Step Two: Research

Establish reputability. Check with the state commission and/or regulatory board of the profession and find out if they have a referral and/or an ethics board. A person who does not follow the rules of his/her own profession may not handle your business properly either. The team member does not have to exclusively specialize in your exact business, but should have knowledge of your industry and special challenges facing small businesses.

Step Three: Interview

Once you have narrowed down the list, arrange for a personal consultation with each. (It is wise to ask whether they charge for the initial consultation – many do not.). Before the meeting, write down a clear statement of what you expect the person to do for your business. Be open and honest. State that you are in business (or starting a business) and are looking for an attorney (accountant, banker, insurance agent) to work with you over the life of your business. Some specifics to cover at a first interview:

• Accessibility – How quickly can they respond to your needs? Will it be two to three weeks before you can get an appointment? Is this acceptable to you?

• Costs – You won’t get exact costs but you should get a range of fees for the types of service/products you need.

• Experience – What percentage of clients in your industry does this specialist serve? If they have none, you probably don’t want to be at the beginning of the learning curve.

• Personal chemistry – Does this person listen to you? Does he/she present a variety of options and explain them to you? Are you comfortable working with him/her?

Look for people who have experience in small business. Look for partners who are willing to help you learn how to do much of the “up-front” work. Look for professionals who are willing to discuss costs associated with services. And finally, look for individuals who are willing to do an annual evaluation of the services you use/need.

This outside management team can make a big difference in your ability to minimize the risk and maximize the opportunities for your business success.

Keep motivation for your business growing

By Chemeketa SBDC

Small business owners are required to wear many hats, often at the same time. It is not uncommon for the business to drain you of energy and motivation, regardless of how much you enjoy it. When that happens, remember these tips to help you remain motivated in your work and living.

Find your passion. As you reflect ask yourself, “Why did I start my business in the first place?” When you tap into the real motivation that’s driving you, you’ll become more eager to take action. Staying focused on this purpose will feed your imagination, and drive and enthusiasm.

Appreciate your customers. Customers are the reason you have a business. If you empathize with them, understand why they seek out your products and services, your customers will notice, patronize you, and bring you more customers.

Set honest goals. A critical step to remaining motivated setting reasonable and achievable goals for yourself and your business. Create a list of goals that are both longer and short term. Then prominently display your short term list, along with an inspirational quote, in a place you can see them, so that you are reminded to strive for them daily.

Schedule your days logically. There are certain times of the day that you are going to always be more productive than other times. Get to know your most successful work schedule and then plan your days carefully to make the best use of that time. Once you establish a daily rhythm, you will stay happily motivated by your work.

Limit distractions. Distractions are one of the most problematic things when it comes to staying motivated. Keep your work area clean and organized, check your email, Facebook and other distracting sites on a specific schedule, with designated times to keep these manageable.

Treat your team with respect. No business grows without a team and the business owner is the team leader. At its simplest, a wise truism emphasizes that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, then you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten. If you want your business to grow, then you need to motivate it.

Three great surprises when you sign up for our new newsletters!

By Chemeketa SBDC

We are customizing the information we send to you based on your business needs.

To get up-to-date tips and information about upcoming SBDC events, follow this 4-step process:

1. Click this link
2. Enter your email address and click continue
3. Enter your first name and choose the list that best suits your business needs
4. Click Sign up

Sign up before March 25th to be entered to win one of the following three prizes:

1. Lunch with our director, Marcia Bagnall
2. $25 Amazon gift card
3. Collection of three great business books

Each month you will receive tips on topics relevant to your business needs (marketing, human resources, accounting, customers, management/leadership, etc.).



Lead Generation Strategies

By Chemeketa SBDC

If you’re a small business owner, you know that generating new customer leads is a continual process. You always need new potential customers coming into your pipeline. So how do you find these folks? Here are five strategies to consider.

  • Focus and prioritize lead capture. This may sound obvious, but if you don’t have a system for doing this (and if you’re not working the system you might have), then it won’t happen. You need a standard process to capture lead information during any interaction that you or your staff have with any potential customer. If you’re interested in direct responses then use coupons or other discounts that bring a customer to you. You can capture customer information on your website with forms (which a customer would fill out in order to get something of benefit from you). However you do it, get that information so you can communicate regularly from then on.
  • Amp up your online presence. Review your SEO (search engine optimization) practices. Use tools like Google Places. Pay attention to Google key word protocols. Engage with influential (preferably local) bloggers who have the ears of your potential customers and offer to write a guest blog post on those sites. Make it easier and faster for leads to come across you online.
  • Divide your contact database into segments and tailor your marketing messages. A well-aimed message will get forwarded and passed along (because the folks you target associate with people similar to themselves). This is a way to have your current customers become a referral source for you.
  • Create alliances and partnerships. What businesses around you offer complementary products and services? How can you collaborate with them in a way that benefits both partners, and gives access to the other one’s customer base? The key here is creating added value for both of your customers.
  • Develop and implement a referral strategy. Besides complementary businesses, who else in your sphere of influence could benefit their customers and clients by referring them to you? Reach out to those people, make an intentional effort to know them and have them know you. Be willing to refer your customers to them as warranted (remember, you are providing a solution for your customer when you do this, and that’s good for everyone involved).

Remember that these strategies are not one-time solutions. Marketing is a continual process of doing the same things repeatedly (sorry!) and there are no easy fixes. You may not see much progress at first, but stick with it and the results will start coming in.


Projecting Sales

By Chemeketa SBDC

Even if you are an existing business – you should be forecasting – projecting your 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, 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 US 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 complimentary 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.

The Traded Sector Across Our Borders

By Chemeketa SBDC

When I think of traded sector business and bringing new dollars into the local economy, I like to think big. As in international-sized big. Did you know that doing business with foreign markets isn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds? “International” could be as close as Canada or Mexico. And many places around the globe are English speaking, making business negotiations a lot less scary. Have you considered trying to sell your products outside of the US?

There are some basic reasons for wanting to expand your product’s reach into other countries. For one thing, there are a lot of customers out there! The US represents only 5% of the world’s consumers, and that leaves the other 95% as a potential market for you. If you have saturated your local market(s) then casting your gaze to farther away places makes sense. This has the potential of increasing cash flow, and even smoothing out the seasonality of your cash flows.

Additionally, going global can be a risk management strategy as your business wouldn’t be tied only to the local economy and the business cycles of the domestic economy.

But how do you even begin to think about this if the idea is new to you? Start with examining four basic readiness factors. Ask yourself if you have 1) a good handle on your current production and product line 2) the commitment from management to try an international expansion 3) adequate cash flow 4) and the capacity and capability to produce products for an international market.

If the answer is yes to all four of these, then look at the challenges associated with such an endeavor and assess whether your business can manage them. Do you have a long enough timeline to enable you to move in this direction, and will your cash hold out while you implement all the pieces? Will you need to modify your products to suit the regulations of the new market? Can you assume a financial risk without getting hurt beyond repair? What about licenses and documentation in the new country?

You can explore these questions and many more at the website. There are links to all kinds of great free information resources. Additionally, there’s a wonderful 9-module series called Before You Go Global at

Think big! Your local friends and neighbors will thank you!


What’s New for 2014

By Chemeketa SBDC

Here are some important updates that business owners will need to pay attention to in 2014.

  • 2014 Standard Mileage Rates – The IRS has issued the 2014 optional standard mileage rates for operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes. Beginning January 1, 2014, the standard mileage rate for the use of a car (also van, pickup, or panel truck) is 56¢ per mile for business miles driven. Taxpayers have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates, and there are some limitations on when the standard mileage rate can be used. For further information, check with the IRS or your tax specialist. Google “IRS standard mileage rate 2014” for the IRS announcement.
  • The price of a first-class stamp will increase 3¢ on January 26, going to 49¢. Additional ounces for letters will see a 1¢ increase to 21¢. Postcards go up 1¢ to 34¢. Bulk mail, periodicals, and package service rates will also rise, some by as much as 6 percent.
  • Social Security’s Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) has increased the limit of the amount of earnings subject to taxation for the upcoming year. This annual limit, known as the contribution and benefit base, is $117,000 for 2014. The tax rate itself remains at 6.2 percent for employees and employers, or 12.4 percent for self-employment income.
  • Oregon’s minimum wage increases to $9.10 on January 1st. Free updated wage posters can be downloaded from the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) website Please note: All legally required postings are available for free from the issuing agency. In addition to the free minimum wage poster, BOLI also sells a composite poster of the 8 most commonly required postings together on one 24″ x 39″ page for just $10.
  • Social Media Accounts Passwords Protected HB 2754 prohibits employers from requiring or requesting an applicant or employee to provide a password to his or her social media account or from compelling the applicant or employee to allow the employer to view his or her personal account. Furthermore, it prohibits an employer from threatening or taking adverse employment action for the applicant’s or employee’s refusal to provide the password. The provisions, however, do not extend to passwords for an account provided by or on behalf of the employer nor does it affect an employer’s ability to access information already available to the public about the applicant or employee. Social media includes such user-generated content as Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, videos, photos, blogs, instant messages, and podcasts.
  • Posting and Leave Requirements Amended – For employers with six or more employees working in Oregon, HB 2903 expands the employee eligibility requirements for leave for a victim of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking. It also added new posting requirements.
  • Bereavement Leave Required – HB 2950 provides that a qualifying employee is eligible for Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) leave upon the death of an employee’s covered family member. Eligible employees may receive two weeks of leave within a one-year period for each death up to the 12-week allotment under OFLA. The OFLA is applicable to employers with at least 25 employees.


Competition is Good

By Chemeketa SBDC

Do you sometimes wish your competition would just go away?  That you could be the only business in town that does what you do so you don’t have to worry about gaining or keeping customers? What if I told you that having competition can actually make your business stronger?

Whether it’s directly or indirectly, business owners almost always have to compete for their customers and then to retain those customers. And in an age of online shopping, the competition is both local and global. But, believe it or not, competition can be a good thing. It can help you understand your niche, it can show you where you are weak, it can motivate you to improve, and it can lead to unexpected partnerships. The key is to see your competition as an ally (of sorts) rather than an enemy.

In other words, competition doesn’t always have to be about winning and losing.  It can be about growth and learning, building and partnering. How would it feel to see your competition as there to help build your business? How would you do business differently if you believed that both you and your competitors can be profitable, that no one has to lose?

Here are a few things to think about the next time you look down the street, across town, or on the web to see what your competition is up to:

  • What do you know about your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?  How long have they been in business?  What are they particularly known for? How might you support them? Be open to discovering you have immense respect and admiration for those you have been competing “against.”
  • Do you know what sets your business, product or service apart from theirs? Use this information to get clear about your target market and how it differs from your competitors’.  Perhaps a potential customer is really a better fit for your competition: are you willing to refer them so your customer gets what they are really looking for?
  • Make a list of five reasons customers should choose your product over your competitions’ without putting your competitions’ product down. If you have to spend energy making another business look bad, you don’t have that energy available to tell your potential customers why your business, product, or service is the best possible choice for them (assuming it is). Besides, it’s not very becoming either.
  • Be honest with yourself about how your competition is better than you.  Is their product superior?  Do they have better customer service? How can you learn from and emulate what they do well? Are you willing to ask them for help?
  • How can you collaborate with your competition to create win-win situations that lead to greater profits for you both? Be willing to make referrals to your competition as appropriate and don’t be afraid to play nice in the sandbox; you never know where a positive relationship with your competitor might lead.