Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
chemeketa students

Monthly Archives: November 2015

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.