Small Business is a Community

This blog post was written by Alexandria small business owner Carol Supplee following last week’s fatal attack in Old Town. I never want to see crime scene tape again. The Alexandria business community lost one of its own today.  “Man found slain in Alexandria business,” read one headline.  It’s shocking and sobering and terribly sad…. Read more »

The post Small Business is a Community appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This blog post was written by Alexandria small business owner Carol Supplee following last week’s fatal attack in Old Town.

I never want to see crime scene tape again.

The Alexandria business community lost one of its own today.  “Man found slain in Alexandria business,” read one headline.  It’s shocking and sobering and terribly sad.  It’s an event that reminds us of our vulnerability.  It reminds us that we must always be looking out for our colleagues, friends and neighbors.  It traumatizes those immediately involved.  To passers by it was mostly a curiosity or even an annoyance.  There were yards and yards of crime scene tape all around the 1200 block of King Street and the block was closed for at least eight hours on Friday, July 13.  The Alexandria Police Department took a suspect into custody at the scene, so we are calmed by their quick response, their interviews at the scene and the idea that there is no immediate and lurking danger out there.

Then I am remembering.   Many business owners will have experienced some threat to personal safety or loss that now comes back to haunt us.  We get through those experiences again by being there to support each other.  That’s what the community does.  And business will go on as usual.

Then I come back to the event and the loss of a life never to be returned which is an entirely different matter.  The victim, the victim’s family, the murderer and the murder’s family are now one in a tragic loss.

This one was up close and personal.

The post Small Business is a Community appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Using Amazon Prime Day

Amazon.com, Inc., the ecommerce and cloud computing juggernaut based out of Seattle, is 24 years old. And, four years ago, in honor of its 20th birthday (so it said) it launched Amazon Prime Day, a retail holiday filled with deals

Amazon.com, Inc., the ecommerce and cloud computing juggernaut based out of Seattle, is 24 years old. And, four years ago, in honor of its 20th birthday (so it said) it launched Amazon Prime Day, a retail holiday filled with deals

Add space by investing in a starter media fixture.

Start with a basic fixture, designed for flexibility and mobility.

Helping Retailers Succeed – Most every year the Small Business Development Center, in my case locally in Virginia, puts on an event designed to help retailers succeed. I usually attend. This year’s event was The Alexandria Experiential Retail Summit, experiential being the operative word. Most of the discussion centered around primary marketing and selling communications, which are important, but only indirectly relevant to the design of a physical store.

Make an impact with a product specific, in this case eye wear, or lifestyle graphic.

Demonstating Knowledge – Interestingly, when we broke into discussion groups more significant design issues were revealed. In particular the need for flex space. Retailers are finding it necessary to become experts. Clients expect them to be masters of their particular product or service and further customers prefer to see this knowledge demonstrated, to the extent that a retailer must often become an educator. One such resort type fashion retailer wanted to offer a mini class on how a particular brand of scarf might be worn to best advantage. She assumed that this was impossible as she was “out of space” in her shop.

Retailers Sometimes Need Reminding – Clearly retailers occasionally need reminding that almost all floor fixtures can be mobile and mobility frees up valuable retail space within a store. Simply by adding casters and rolling away some regular floor fixtures this owner, hoping to demonstrate how to tie her line of scarves, could easily free up enough space to stage and event featuring her product.

Invest in a Starter – Another, not to be overlooked, design issue is flexibility. Indeed, there is a need for a highly adaptive store fixture suitable for use in many varied sets of circumstances, including options for accommodating the all important media. This one is able to accommodate everything from a continuous video in a loop, to presentation options used to enhance a demonstration, to a basic TV in a waiting area. It has vertical standards that can be used for shelving, a platform base for a computer, if required, and a simple backdrop made of glass or other merchandise display material like pegboard. In addition to all this it is two sided, mobile, and has space to hide most cables. It is a great starter for any retailer wanting to incorporate media and create that WOW moment.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED Accredited Professionnal practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design and has a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction. She has many years experience working for well known architects, developers and retailers. In 2011 she started Gaddis Architect an independent practice in Alexandria, VA. In addition, Ms. Gaddis has an interest in residential projects and is the author of Real People Don’t Hire Architects,” a blog about houses.

The Best Marketing for Your Handmade Business | Google and Beyond Webinar Series Archive

Find the original archive of the video here: The Best Marketing for Your Handmade Business | Google and Beyond Webinar Series Archive. The Best Marketing for Your Handmade Business: Taking Your Craft Business to the Web Here’s the handout fo…

Find the original archive of the video here: The Best Marketing for Your Handmade Business | Google and Beyond Webinar Series Archive. The Best Marketing for Your Handmade Business: Taking Your Craft Business to the Web Here’s the handout for

I’m Not Cattle, Why do I Need to Brand Myself?

Red apple that stands out from the gray ones
Figuring out what makes you and your business unique can make a big difference.

If you’ve been in business for even just a month or two, you have probably run across marketing workshops or articles that talk about building your brand. And if you rolled your eyes at any of this, I get it. It sounds superficial, doesn’t it? Or for folks like me, it feels like a box you put yourself into that restricts who you are as a person or what you offer as a business.

In reality, it doesn’t have to be fake or limiting, especially if you go about creating it in a thoughtful way. After attending a workshop by DC-based leadership coach and speaker Christa Davis (hosted by  40Plus of Greater Washington), my perception began to shift.

One way to think of a brand is as a dish made off three ingredients: who, what and how. The Who, Davis explained, is comprised of your:

• values,
• passions, and
• strengths

While you want to project a positive brand, consider your weaknesses as well as your strengths to keep it real. After we made a list of each of the three Who items, Davis asked us to choose one word that reflected who we were. Not an easy exercise but not painful either. It definitely made me think and I liked the words I came up with (such as connector, as in connecting with audiences and connecting data points to see trends). I don’t consider any runner-up words to be lost or wasted as I will incorporate some of them into website copy and other marketing materials.

What’s next? The What, of course. What are you doing to develop your brand? For example, if integrity is what you want to be known for, is it clearly reflected in the experience and accomplishments you mention in your marketing? Are you volunteering or engaging in other daily activities that allow you to showcase your integrity? When was the last time you wrote a blog or social media post on the subject?

Moving on to How, as in how are you delivering your brand, Christa challenged us with these questions: (1) What impact does your presence make before you say a word? and (2) How are you presenting your value?
Again, not easy.

Personally, I find it hard to gauge what impact my presence makes but I’m willing to start asking people I trust to tell me truthfully: Does my energy, confidence, or communication style reflect [fill in the brand]? If the answer is sort of or not quite, then I have some work ahead of me but I will be grateful for the knowledge.

Why it Matters

Put simply, a brand tells prospective customers what makes you different from your competitors and why they should buy from you instead. “Our Who affects how we are showing up,” Davis remarked.

How we show up, whether it’s at a business meeting or a kid’s soccer game, matters; after all, those other parents may be potential customers or connections to customers you are seeking. For example, what makes you the right accountant for a family? They have dozens to choose from. You came across as friendly, low-key and understanding of people making mistakes and that’s what they were looking for. None of us will be a fit for everyone and that’s okay. After all, wouldn’t you prefer a client who likes you for who you are and how you do your work?

For more info on how to build your brand, check out these 10 tips from Duct Tape Marketing.

Start ’em Right: Ensuring New Employees Succeed

This blog post was written by Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra has offered workshops and individual counseling on human resources and employer issues for Alexandria’s small businesses through the SBDC for many years. Whether you call it on-boarding or orientation, you need a process to help a new hire become a valuable… Read more »

The post Start ’em Right: Ensuring New Employees Succeed appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This blog post was written by Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra has offered workshops and individual counseling on human resources and employer issues for Alexandria’s small businesses through the SBDC for many years.

Whether you call it on-boarding or orientation, you need a process to help a new hire become a valuable part of your team. Yet, I have seen far too many businesses which were not really prepared for someone to start. No-one is there to welcome the person the first day. There is no plan for the day and other things take priority, so the new person is ignored. Equipment is missing. There is no training on how to access computer systems, much less the software in use.

An advantage of being a small organization is your ability to treat a new hire well from the first moment. Doing so helps you both succeed! Plus it helps retention.

In AdvanceLoan Application Assistance

Make a plan for the first week, first month, and 90 days. Start with a review of the actual work to be done. Use a job description if you have one. Create some specific steps and goals for the person. Figure out who will show the person how your systems work and have a login ready. Ensure any equipment and entry keys, if needed, are ready.  Define what ‘success’ looks like at each period’s end.

If you have hired a more senior person, be sure you talk to anyone else whose role will be changed in advance. Explain the reasons you have added this new person and position to the staff too. This helps everyone understand the organizational goals and feel as if you are keeping them up to date.

The First Day

Welcome the person yourself or have their manager do so. Show them the layout including basics like bathrooms, coffee machines/refrigerator, or employee rest areas. Start the welcome process by reminding the person why you hired them and why you think they can succeed, based on interviews and their resume. Talk about the actual work to be done. Be sure you describe needed results and actions. Give them something that shows what must be done, such as a current job description.  Explain your organization goals, mission, and values. Describe the ‘success’ looks like this measures you have defined so they have a roadmap.  Tell them how you like to work or have their manager do this if they do not directly work for you.

Add in introductions to other employees, starting with those the person will work closely with and describe that interaction. Notify your whole staff of the new person with a little about their background and what their role will be.

Do all required paperwork – tax forms, I-9s, benefits, etc – on the first day but make this something you do later in their shift. Include physical access, security issues, systems access and security in this discussion.

The First Week

Set up some specific work objectives. Your goal here is two-fold. You want to ensure the person understands how their work impacts others by meeting and working with those employees. And, you want the person to begin to feel productive almost immediately. Check in informally during the week to see what questions the person has.

Going Forward

Plan a review with the person in the first few weeks. At it, ask what issues they might have, what else they need to know to do their job well, and what questions they have. Keep it short and simple but be positive and show how their role is important.

Make sure you have some formal check-in points. Many small businesses do a 90 day plan for what has to be learned and achieved, then use that as a review at the 90-100 day point. Depending on the role of the person and your culture, you may do this at 45 – 60 days or add a second check at 180 days.

These simple steps make a large difference in ensuring employees have what they need to succeed.  Most failed hires in the first year are due to management problems. You can significantly decrease job turnover by learning to hire well and then:

  •           effectively welcoming and supporting new hires
  •           ensuring they know what is expected of them and how to get information

The post Start ’em Right: Ensuring New Employees Succeed appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.