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

Category Archives: Best Practices

Ready, Set, Start Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

Are you ready to start your business? Not sure if you have everything in order or you don’t know what you don’t know? Begin your business the right way.

This course covers the essentials needed to start a small business. Learn about:

  • business structure
  • business registration
  • licensing
  • taxes
  • miscellaneous rules and regulations

The information presented can help you eliminate mistakes before they happen. This fast-paced class is the perfect first step!

Time: 12:30 – 2 pm
Location: Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry, 626 High Street NE, Downtown Salem
Cost: $49
Registration and Information: 503.399.5088


Developing Your Business Plan

By Chemeketa SBDC

Covers the elements of a business plan and its purpose. Participants would come out with a basic outline for their business plan.

Date: Thursday, May 18
Time: 12:30 to 2:30 pm
Location: Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry, 626 High Street NE, Downtown Salem
Cost: $59
Registration and Information: 503.399.5088

 


Marketing Basics

By Chemeketa SBDC

A basic marketing class that focuses on:

  • What is your target market?
  • How do you determine your target market?
  • How do you reach your target market?
  • How do you know if your marketing is working?

Date: Thursday, June 22
Time: 12:30 to 2 pm
Location: Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry, 626 High Street NE, Downtown Salem
Cost: $49
Registration and Information: 503.399.5088


Organize Your Business Systems for Fun and Profit

By Chemeketa SBDC

Have you ever torn your office apart looking for something vital?

Running a business is hard work—with a staggering amount of complexity. From financial documents and taxes to customer information and marketing systems, there’s a lot that can get lost without good systems for keeping track of it all.

We’re here to help

At the SBDC, we understand what it’s like to trying to keep all the balls in the air while watching your profit margin and keeping your customers happy.

By request, we’ve created a new class to help business owners get organized.

Organize Your Business Systems for Fun and Profit

A fun, fast-paced organizing class for entrepreneurs

In two hours, you’ll learn the ten best things to organize in your business to help you save time, make more money, and possibly save your sanity too.

Our instructor, Jennifer Hofmann, is a professional organizer with a decade of experience working with creative entrepreneurs to get their stuff and systems in order.

Dates and details

Tuesday, January 26 from 10am – 12pm
626 High St NE, Salem OR, 2nd floor, follow signs to classroom

Great coffee and fresh, warm cookies will be served.

Bring a notebook and pen.

Free parking available at Marion Parkade across from our building

Register today!

Sign up before January 22 and get a special price of $45!

Call 503-399-5088 to register.


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.


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.


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.


The Trouble with the Low-Cost Game

By Chemeketa SBDC

Don’t have enough customers so it’s time to lower prices, right? Well, maybe. You may be tempted to do this in your business, especially if a competitor has lowered prices. But you run the risk of lowering yourself right out of business.

Carefully consider other options; perhaps there are better ways to remain competitive. And if you need to lower prices, do so with a clear idea of where that might take your business.

• Review each step of your supply chain, from your vendors on through to your customers. Why are there not enough customers? Are you losing current customers because they’re dissatisfied? Chances are there’s more to it than your prices. Find the areas of weakness and shore them up.

• Find ways to cut costs where your competition can’t. This increases your margins and consequently your cash. If you need to cut prices as a last resort, you’ll be sitting in a better position. You may think you’ve cut costs to the bone, but take another look.

• Examine your business model. Are there strategic changes you can make instead of tinkering with pricing? Are your current offerings what the market really wants? You may have a problem with what you’re selling instead of how much you’re charging for it.

• See if you can raise prices in a complementary service or good if you need to lower them on a core good or service. A coffee shop might leave the coffee pricing alone, but slightly increase prices for pastries. This results in the same revenue per customer. On the surface it appears as if you are competitively priced, but you’re not paying the penalty for those low prices.

• Selectively lower prices for only some of your customer base, or for only a limited time as an incentive. Make sure that what you gain (in customer loyalty or in increased purchases of ancillary goods) makes up for the loss from the price reductions. Be strategic about this.

• Have a clear idea of just how low you can go, if you choose to engage in a price war. Know your limits. Remember that smaller businesses will lose this arms race much faster than larger and better capitalized businesses.

 


Make a New Year’s Resolution for Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

It’s that time of year again, when the old year is wrapping up and the new is just around the corner. The time of year when those resolutions about losing weight and spending less money are top of mind.

Business owners make resolutions at this time of year too. Smart ones will be setting goals and lining out action steps to go with their choices of course. But let’s start with a list of questions that every entrepreneur should take a look at right now. Some may or may not apply to your particular situation. Just pick a few for serious consideration. And then resolve to do something about them.

  • How can I be more proactive and less reactive?
  • What tough decision do I need to make (in January!) that will have an effect on the rest of the year?
  • Am I operating my business more like a hobby than a business?
  • Will I do a major campaign or major push of some kind this year?
  • Is my staffing at the right levels?
  • Is it time to shake up my marketing, perhaps add a big dose of social media?
  • Are my employees and I wearing appropriate clothing every single day, clothing that carries a clear message about my business values?
  • Am I measuring the right things?
  • Do I have sloppy work habits that are impeding my ability to run my business in an efficient and effective manner?
  • Am I thinking big enough?
  • What is the one thing that I can do this coming year that will make the biggest impact on my business?
  • Why don’t I have systems in place that make operations more efficient?
  • Do I run my business with a heavy dose of wishful thinking instead of running it on actual facts?
  • Do I have the right customers?
  • Will I be in business a year from now if I keep doing what I am doing, and doing it in the way I’m currently doing it?
  • How committed am I to making this business a success?
  • What help do I need and where will I get it?
  • Does my business need to be scaled up, or scaled down in the next year?
  • What got me into this business in the first place, and is it still relevant today?