Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Monthly Archives: June 2015

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 http://sbdc.chemeketa.edu, call 503-399-5088, or email sbdc@chemeketa.edu.

 


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 (www.census.gov) 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 (www.nawbo.org.)

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.