Marcia Bagnall, Chemeketa SBDC Director
Are you starting to employ younger workers in your business? If so, you may be wondering who these young people are and how best to manage them. What you probably know for sure is they aren’t like you, but how can you turn that into an advantage?
The latest generation to join the workforce is the Next Generation, sometimes referred to as the Y-Generation (“Gen Y”) or “Echo Boomers.” This group, born roughly between 1977 and 1997, is about 70 million strong. They are comfortable with technology and can create new trends overnight. They have short attention spans, but high social consciousness. They are the beneficiaries of “everyone gets a trophy” parenting and school systems. They seek meaning in the workplace and will give up financial and security rewards to get it.
So what’s an employer to do? Here are some smart strategies to turn the Gen-Y’s tendencies into a win-win situation for your business and for them.
- Create feedback systems and work them regularly. Gen Y’s as a rule were raised with parenting techniques that were heavy on self-esteem. These young people believe in themselves, which can make them high performers. It can also make them high maintenance, as they crave continuous feedback and praise.
- Allow for an open flow of communication, and respond quickly. Consider assigning the Gen-Y a mentor, which links him or her to a more experienced person and provides an additional avenue for feedback.
- Lay out a plan of advancement (with a lot of small steps) to help them understand the realities of your workplace. Although they may expect a corner office and big salary right away, this won’t happen and they need to be clear on that (keep in mind the parenting their generation got praised someone just for showing up!)
- Discourage the use of a “control” style of management. This generation prefers to speak their minds and have input. A top-down, “my way or the highway” style doesn’t resonate with these young people. They’ll choose the highway every time.
- Show them how their work makes a difference to your company, point out their contribution and its value. Gen-Yers seek meaning in what they do. This generation volunteers in their communities more than any other in American history. So capitalize on that by letting them know their work matters. You’ll benefit from their increased commitment to your business.
- Harness their use of technology. Allow a Gen-Yer to show you how to build efficiencies into your workplace using technology (shorter meetings, more immediate communications, upgrades to your online marketing, etc.)
- Offer flexibility. For Gen-Yers the line between work and home is blurred (thanks to technology) and they’re big believers in work-life balance. They’re also world champion multi-taskers. So allow for flexible work schedules and telecommute options. They’re high achievers; they’ll get the work done. And they’ll work harder if they get to choose how.
Marcia Bagnall, Chemeketa SBDC Director
Thinking about starting a new business and need a name? Or perhaps you’re rebranding an existing business and the name needs a face lift. In either case, there are guidelines you should consider, and rules to follow. It’s an important decision, so give it plenty of thought.
First, go to www.filinginOregon.com (the Oregon Corporation Division website) and click on the “Business Name Search” link. Enter in the words, names, or phrases you are considering using. Is someone else already using them? Is your potential name really close to someone else’s name? You’ll need to make sure yours is different enough to avoid confusion, or you will not be able to register your business using that name.
Next, learn the rules for whether your business name is an Assumed Business Name or not. If you are a sole proprietor or a general partnership and not using only and exactly your own legal name(s) for the business, you need to register an assumed business name with the Business Registry. There’s a nice lesson on this on the Corporation Division website (www.filinginoregon.com) that explains this well.
Here are some tips for choosing names:
- Remember your business name has one primary function –to identify your business to your customers. Choose a name that, at least partially, identifies what you sell. Why make your customers wonder who you are and what you do? You might think they’ll be curious and ask, but most of them won’t. They’ll go to a competitor instead.
- The name you choose can be distinctive but it should also be descriptive (Food For Less, One Hour Photo, Coca Cola). You’ll get very tired, very fast, of explaining what your business is about, so why not let your name (your brand) do it for you? Use your name as a calling card, isn’t that what a name is for?
- Avoid names that are difficult to pronounce (why make your customer sound like an idiot?) or spell (why make your customer work hard to find you on the web or in the yellow pages?). Customers will go elsewhere if you’re not easily accessible.
- Test your choices out on friends and family – can they tell what your business is about? Can they easily pronounce the name? If you get lots of negative feedback don’t ignore it! Make changes, you’ll be glad you did. Once you settle on a name it’s hard to change it, so get it right the first time.
The economic downturn and the corresponding squeeze in the credit market have many people looking beyond traditional financial institutions for loans to start or grow their business. One new option is peer to peer lending, facilitated by websites such as Prosper and Lending Club. This is an emerging industry that facilitates loans of $1000 to $25,000 from private lenders to private borrowers.
To apply for a loan, prospective borrowers create an online profile on a peer lending site outlining how much they would like to borrow, the maximum interest rate they are willing pay, and information about their credit history. They may also include information about what they will use the loan for. Their credit history is verified by the site, which assigns them a credit rating.
A sound piece of advice for business owners is to focus on niche markets as a way to more effectively reach a target audience. But what exactly is niche marketing anyway? Niche marketing is about identifying a specialized customer and then delivering your product or service to them. Once you identify the characteristics of a very specific group of ideal customers, you can then customize your business and service delivery to meet the needs of these customers.
Niche marketing involves discovering the biggest frustration your customer faces when dealing with your industry, and then solving that problem for them. It has to do with specializing in a particular area of your industry. It is becoming an expert at a certain facet of your business. You offer something that no one else is offering, or you do it in a way no one else is doing it in your industry.
There are 6 commonly held misconceptions that we hear a lot at the Small Business Development Center from people wanting to start their own business. You may hold some of these beliefs yourself, so do yourself a favor and change your thinking:
- If I start my own business I’ll have more time to do the things I want. Sadly the story doesn’t pan out like that. You’ll be working more hours and for less pay (for sure right at the start, but probably for a few years at least). A new business demands so much more time than you might think. While you may have the flexibility to take your kids to the orthodontist and after-school activities in order to be successful, you have to embrace the concept that being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a job. (more…)