Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Work Hard to Build Trust With Your Clients

By Chemeketa SBDC

As a business owner, do you consider yourself a salesperson? If you don’t already, then you should. Anyone who is in business is in sales. And sales often boils down to relationships. You know the old adage that “People buy people” right? Building and maintaining relationships is a key skill for business owners.

Here are some guidelines to help form the trust bonds that underlie relationships.

-Put in the time and energy to deeply understand the real needs of your customers. You do this by actively listening and carefully paying attention. Customers want to know that their concerns are considered valid by the people they do business with. Give a customer your full attention.

-If you are a business that has other businesses for customers, show you care by learning about your customer’s business model, industry, stressors, customer base, and anything else that is relevant. You can do this by reading trade journals, attending industry events, spending time with industry members, and paying attention to relevant media. Make it your business to be up on their business.

-Never pretend to be knowledgeable about something you’re not, or pretend to care about something you don’t. Sincerity is a necessary foundation for trust. Faking it will come around to bite you, every time. It goes without saying that genuine relationships require honesty.

-Always provide excellent service. It goes without saying that customer service should be a cornerstone of your customer relations. But how many businesses consistently provide it? Yours should be one that stands out for that very reason. Resolve to create a business that is passionate and dedicated to your customers. Create an environment they won’t want to leave for any reason.

-Offer a sincere and wholehearted apology if the situation warrants one. We all make mistakes. Take full responsibility for yours.

-Continually pay attention to your good customers. Don’t take them for granted as you work on acquiring new ones. Treat them as special and important to you, because they are.

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program. The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each Sunday. Questions can be submitted to Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.

Guide Offers Business Financial Resource Listings

By Chemeketa SBDC

Have you been turned down for a business loan from the bank? Too scared to even ask for a loan from the bank? Looking for funding outside of the bank? You’re in luck; MERIT, a program of the SBDC, has recently published and distributed the free “Mid-Willamette Valley Guide to Small Business Financial Resources.” The guide is a comprehensive look at the funding opportunities for small business owners in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties. Here’s a glance:

Loans: Municipalities, the Oregon Business Development Department, and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments provide a range of business loans. Some of the loans are specific to certain industries or geographic areas.

Microloans: Microloans are loans that lend up to a certain amount. Smaller loans are not as profitable for banks so microloans fit the need of business owners who do not need a lot of funding.

Grants: We get asked about business grants at the SBDC all the time. The fact is they don’t really exist — at least not how people want them to exist. Some municipalities offer façade grant programs. These grants typically work on a match basis.

Individual Development Accounts: IDAs are a matched savings program. Typically, the match is 3 to 1. It can be used for a start-up business or business expansion. You must income qualify to be eligible for an IDA.

Tax Incentives: Oregon offers some tax incentives for eco-friendly businesses or businesses in particular geographic locations.

Venture Capital: Venture capitalists invest in high-potential companies and in return take an equity position in the company. The guide lists several Oregon-based venture capitalist firms and networks to join.

Alternate Funding: Crowdfunding is an alternate way to raise funds for a business venture by creating a campaign online and soliciting funds from friends, family, neighbors, and strangers around the world.

Credit Building Products: Your credit score is a vital component to any loan application. If you have no credit or bad credit, contact your bank or credit union to learn about the different products they have that can help build your credit score.

Loan Guarantee Programs: Loan guarantee programs get a lot of press, mainly the SBA loans. However, loan guarantee programs do not work directly with the borrower. Instead the programs work with the lender by insuring their position so they can take on riskier loans.

The USDA and the Department of the Interior: Indian Affairs also have loan guarantee programs that are not widely known.

Most of the resources listed in the “Mid-Willamette Valley Guide to Small Business Financial Resources” are underutilized. Stop by the SBDC to pick up your copy of this guide today.

Kristin Mozian is a resource development coordinator working with the MERIT Microenterprise Program at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center.

New Year Offers Chance to Improve

By Chemeketa SBDC

The holidays have come and gone, a new year is here, and it’s a blank slate. A lot of people go through a slump in January and it’s hard to keep up the energy. Your business depends on your being motivated though, so you need to be playing to win every day. Here are a few tips on staying at the top of your game.

-Remember that you made the choice to be in business to begin with, and it’s still your choice (every day) to stay there. You are in control. You are the one who decides at the beginning of each day where you will go and what you will do. No matter what circumstances are swirling around you, you are ultimately the one who makes the decision to stay in or get out. Own it.

-Carefully limit the amount of media and economic news you watch and listen to. It seems that you just can’t read or hear a business story these days that doesn’t predict that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. Do you need to ingest those stressful messages on a regular basis? And will knowing how bad things are really help you run a more successful business? Do whatever minimum you need to in order to stay informed, and then spend the rest of the time filling your mind with motivational messages and helpful resource information.

-Pay attention to what triggers negative thoughts and emotions. Is it the economy? Unhappy customers? Bookkeeping duties? Maybe a couple dozen other things? When those things happen, what are your responses? And more importantly, what can you do to head off the negative responses at the pass? If you recognize the patterns you can change them.

-Choose to avoid negative people and spend more time with positive and supportive people. For the most part you control who you spend time with, so make choices to be with people who uplift you and make you glad to be alive. You know the ones, those who are pleased about your successes and wish the best for you. Resolve to stop complaining about things and hanging around people who complain. Don’t commiserate with negaholics. Who needs it?

-Practice gratitude and determine to thank at least one person in your life every day. Stop to appreciate how people are contributing to your life, and make sure they know you have noticed. Move on from there to spend a moment at the end of each day listing ten things you’re grateful for. Remind yourself why your life is good. This one tip alone can transform a dragging spirit into one that greets the day, motivated to be and give 100 percent.

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program. The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each Sunday. Questions can be submitted to Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE. in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.

New Year is a Good Time for Changes

By Chemeketa SBDC

Another new year – another opportunity to focus on a strategic area of your business and make some good forward progress. If you have a sense that your company has had inconsistent results from your product lines or types of services, then you might want to consider working out a plan to correct and strengthen your company’s position.

Smart business owners continually are updating their processes after taking a hard look at their current situation. What difference might some of these action steps make in your business?

1 Conduct an operational analysis by type of business and/or type of customer, and determine where profits or losses are derived. Don’t be surprised if you isolate an area that is draining your cash reserves. Next, consider all the implications of any actions you might take to correct the problem. Is the service or product actually a draw to customers because once they are in, they purchase goods from you that carry a healthy profit? If this is the case, then your loss might be, in reality, an advertising cost rather than a loss. Analyze.

2 Spend your time, money and energy on those areas of your business that bring in the best return. Advertise and sell the products that make the profits you need. You do not need to “slash prices.” You must learn to go after your best customer, not just anyone who happens by. Identify and sell to the customers who are truly the key to the future of your company.

3 Consider contracting out the business that shows borderline or no profits. A business that specializes in your unprofitable product or services might be happy to act as your subcontractor and you might both be able to see profits from the venture. You can increase cash flow simply by selling out inventory and equipment of an unprofitable line in order to concentrate on what you do well.

4 If you must terminate a phase of your business, do it over time and help your customers find alternative vendors. Good customer service requires advance notice. Don’t just take action abruptly; you don’t want to undermine your customer’s faith in the ability of your company to provide support for those lines you do keep.

5 Promote what your business does well. Your company has a story to tell. It includes who you are, how you came to be where you are now (a strong, profitable company) and what you do well. Consider your business story and make sure that your public image is consistent with these facts. Accentuate the positive. Tell your story in words and actions. Brand yourself.