Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Surviving a Small Business Cash Crisis

By Chemeketa SBDC

Jimmie Wilkins, SBDC instructor
If you suddenly find that making payroll is beyond your bank account’s capacity – you are obviously in a cash crisis.  In the long run, it may be that eroding profits have caused this crisis and will need to be examined closely for longer-term remedies.  In the meantime, you have bills to pay and weathering this storm is your priority.  The first thing you need to do is create a cash cushion.  Here are five ways to create that cushion:

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Conflict in Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

img_0563-joanne-s-copyJoanne Scharer, Small Business Advisor

I often hear people say, “I don’t like conflict,” and I think to myself, does anyone?  Still, like it or not, it exists–in our relationships, our communities, and yes, in our businesses.  What is important is not that conflict arises, but that we address it and even more importantly how we address it. 

From unsatisfied customers,
stressful economic times, lack of communication, rumor mills, and ill-matched personalities of employees, the opportunities for discord to surface in business are innumerable.  The good news is those times can be opportunities for growth, for new ideas, for learning.  If you have been avoiding a contentious situation in your business, consider these tips for turning it into a meaningful and productive experience.

1. Address the conflict early, don’t let it simmer. 
The sooner you address the situation, the better.  Even if it appears to have been put to rest, making sure that it was effectively addressed will prevent a superficially resolved conflict from festering and resurfacing.  Setting the example for your employees and customers as someone who addresses conflict in a healthy, productive way will build trust and may even have a trickle down effect.

2. Accurately identify and express the issue. 
Whether you are addressing a problem employee, an interpersonal conflict, or mediating an issue, being clear about the situation will help all parties involved understand the predicament. Verify that everyone is on the same page about what is going on. Focus on the issue rather than the parties involved to prevent blame from getting in the way of a resolution.

3. Keep communication positive. Avoid “why” questions as these often cause people to feel defensive.  To understand the issue more, ask open-ended questions.  Do not interrupt the person talking or judge what they are saying; validation goes a long way. Talk in terms of the present and ask everyone to focus on what they want instead of what they don’t want.

4. Look for “win wins.” 
Collaboration will have better results than compromise. Getting clear about what each party wants from the situation will generate better solutions. Allowing employees the opportunity to participate in a creative solution will give them a feeling of ownership and accountability.  

5. Encourage employees to address conflict between themselves first before going to a supervisor or business owner.  If employees can address conflict on their own or deal with unsatisfied customers in a positive, direct manner, this will lead to a healthier and happier business environment in the long run.  However, if this isn’t happening or isn’t working well and your mediation is required, make sure you meet with both or all parties involved at the same time.  Meeting with them individually can lead to distrust and polarization.

For more on conflict resolution in the workplace, visit http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/employeerelations/Pages/conflictres.aspx  or http://www.managementhelp.org/intrpsnl/conflict.htm


Simple Rules for Entrepreneurship

By Chemeketa SBDC

little-marciaMarcia Bagnall, SBDC Director

Why are some entrepreneurs wildly successful and others merely get by? What do these leaders know that the rest of us can learn? Well, it turns out there are some pretty simple rules to play by if you’re planning on thriving in today’s competitive business environment. Master these and you’ll be unstoppable.

1.    Find problems and solve them. Wherever there are customers with unmet needs there’s an opportunity for you to jump in. Don’t make the mistake of providing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, no one will buy it! Instead, focus on gaps, pain, needs and wants. This is where your best chances exist.

2.    Keep your focus on the customer. This is the person who matters most. Know everything you can about these folks, think about them all the time. They should drive everything you do. Every decision you make should be preceded by the question of whether this will benefit customers in some way. You work for your customer, your business is designed to help them in every way possible. Shift your focus off of your customer and you will lose your edge (and your business). Remember, your business exists because customers come to you with needs. Don’t greet them at the door with stuff they don’t want or need. You need to anticipate what they want so you can be ready when they show up.

3.    There are unlimited opportunities; you just need to keep your radar tuned to what’s missing for your customers. Your job is to seek out, and then solve customer problems. Concentrate on troubles that every customer has but no one else has solved yet. They’re everywhere. Find a way to provide a product or service cheaper, better, faster, or more conveniently. Create something totally new. Until everyone you know is completely satisfied all the time, there’s work to be done! This is where successful entrepreneurs live. Look for business opportunities everywhere. Develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and be continually open and curious about the needs not satisfied and problems not solved.

4.    Bootstrap as much as possible. Determine that you will invest your time, your energy and talent instead of your money to get started. Try to avoid using other people’s money as well. It takes a long time to get out from under debt, so try to avoid it in the first place. Many great fortunes were started by people with no money, resources or backing. They were started by individuals who came up with an idea and who then put their whole heart into producing a product or service that someone else would buy.


Do you need to register your business name?

By Chemeketa SBDC

Here’s what the Oregon Secretary of State Corporation Division says in answer to that question.

Are all businesses required to register and use an assumed business name?

If the name of your business includes the “real and true” name of each owner, then you do not have to use or register an assumed business name. A “real and true” name means your first name, middle initial or name, and last name. For example, if your name is Tom G. Sorenson, and you conduct business under the name Tom G. Sorenson Construction, you would not be required to register an assumed business name. For corporations, limited liability companies, and other business entities, the business name registered with the Corporation Division is the real and true name of the business, so no additional name registration is required. An assumed business name is only required for entities like corporations and LLCs if they are conducting business under a name other than the registered name for the entity.


Survive and Thrive through Focused Communication

By Chemeketa SBDC

loriLori Cegon

As a business owner during these tough economic times, are you working extra hours in your business, trying to do more with less and taking on more duties yourself? These stressful times for you and your employees call for some action on your part if you are not only going to survive, but also enter the next cycle going strong and retaining your team when times improve.

According to the 2009 Society for Human Resource Management Employee Job Satisfaction Survey,
employees selected job security for the second consecutive year as the most important aspect of job satisfaction. Not a surprise given our economic climate. However, a simple performance management system can lower the fear of the unknown by providing ongoing dialogue and information on how each employee can have positive impact on the well being of your business.

Performance management is much more than filling in the blanks of an employee appraisal form. A strong system effectively and consistently communicates business-aligned goals, skill development and pay-for-performance tools that demonstrate to your employees that they are truly a valued asset. Added benefits include increases in performance, productivity, employee morale and quality of work, plus a reduction in both turnover and employee relations challenges.

A performance management system may sound a bit daunting. You may think, “That’s for big corporations, but not for my small business.” Not at all. While establishing a performance management system is a significant undertaking, once the system is in place, the time needed to manage the system decreases while the results improve. Consider the following components:

  • Define the job’s purpose, duties and responsibilities.
  • Define the performance goals desired and include measurable outcomes.
  • Communicate your performance expectations “clearly” for each component of the job. Include opportunities for questions, discussion and clarification of the key issues.
  • Provide ongoing positive and constructive feedback to all employees about their performance. Continue to check with the employee that goals and expectations are understood and necessary tools are available.
  • Maintain a record of performance by jotting notes about contributions, challenges and opportunities throughout the year in an individual confidential electronic or paper file. Communicate anything recorded with employee no later than 3 days of the occurrence in order to be impactful and relevant.
  • Develop a performance review document that supports the organizational goals and allows space for comments and specific examples of actual performance to support each performance rating. For best results, also incorporate a separate feedback form in order for the employee to have a voice and be empowered to provide examples about their own performance and development needs.
  • Develop and manage a coaching and improvement plan for employees needing additional tools, skills and feedback.

It all comes down to communication. A performance management system is an important tool that sets your employees up for success. Your consistent willingness to value and appreciate each of your employees will pay dividends by creating a positive workplace, better two-way communication, higher productivity and, ultimately, a thriving business.