Adapting to Technology Helps Small Businesses Win

It should come as no surprise that more and more of us are attached at the hip, literally and figuratively, to our smartphones. Nationally, over 50% of the population carries smartphones with them daily. That statistic rises closer to 90% in the Washington metropolitan area. Mobile devices allow us to communicate and research extensive information wherever we are, while also reporting our patterns and preferences in real-time. Our smartphones are becoming more and more embedded in our daily lives.

The technologies and capabilities associated with mobile devices are increasing exponentially. Devices in our pockets link with sensors in places where we shop. We no longer have to pull out a credit card to pay when we make a purchase. The shop’s sensor knows who we are, what we bought and how to charge us. Our smartphones send GPS signals that, combined with those from fellow travelers along the same route, accurately depict real-time speed of traffic and enable accurate warnings of delays and arrival predictions. As we grow to expect instant information at our fingertips, small businesses must take advantage of opportunities to reach potential customers on their smartphones and make sure that their information is easily accessible.

Mobile-Marketing-getting-started 10.30

 

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) recently hosted a Mobile Marketing for Small Business program presented by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting. It highlighted how urgent it is for every business to develop a mobile marketing strategy. It’s not sufficient to just have a robust website; we must also streamline our messages into a mobile format. We must anticipate ways to connect with our customers’ changing mobile needs in a way that adds value to our interactions. If you are not sure how to approach this, now is the time to find out.

While there is no single mobile marketing strategy that will work for everyone, here are a few common tactics to help you get started:

  1. Think mobile first in every aspect of your current marketing and communications plan. Alexandria SBDC can point you to recommended websites for help.
  2. Think about the different devices that people use to access your business information, and streamline your message to make sure that important content is prominently displayed in a way that will be visible on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. It may also be worth designing a separate mobile version of your website.
  3. Consider offering a special discount or deal to customers who use smartphones to share information about your business through Facebook or Twitter.
  4. Determine how you might be able to use QR codes to increase traffic to your website.

Getting started with mobile marketing may seem intimidating, but the Alexandria SBDC is here to help. We offer insights on mobile strategies, as well as social media in general. Visit www.alexandriasbdc.org to learn more about SBDC education programs on marketing and social media. We also schedule monthly one-to-one social media clinic sessions with Ray Sidney-Smith, Digital Business Strategist. As always, our resources and services are provided to Alexandria businesses without cost. For more information, contact Alexandria SBDC at 703-778-1292 or [email protected]

Bill Reagan is the Director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center. Bill contributes to a monthly column in The Alexandria Times to discuss issues impacting the City’s small businesses. This piece was originally posted in The Alexandria Times in March 2013.

 

The Critical Importance of Good Advice

Alexandria Small Business Development CenterSmall businesses and small nonprofits often face situations where it may make sense to get expert guidance to avoid costly mistakes. At the very earliest concept for a business venture, there are resources that can provide objective feedback and suggest approaches you might not have considered. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides accessible and experienced resources through its staff and its new SCORE counselor. These experts are adept at identifying areas that even the best of planning might have overlooked, and every entrepreneur benefits from getting a fresh perspective. With comprehensive feedback at the earliest stages, your strategies, approaches, and next steps are much better defined. In addition, the services of the SBDC and SCORE are without cost, leaving you more resources to spend on starting and growing your business.

During these counseling sessions, entrepreneurs may identify issues that require further research. Often, these include zoning and other locational considerations. They also include licenses, permits, and potential restrictions. Forewarned of these requirements, the entrepreneur can make better plans with fewer surprises. City staff is also ready to help the entrepreneur with preliminary and detailed planning – all before leases or other obligations are signed. The City now has small business facilitators who are entirely focused on helping novices through permitting and licensing processes. They can be reached at 703-746-4199 or 4268.

For help with site selection and advice on leasing, the entrepreneur should consult the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP). Their expert staff knows the City, the real estate market, rental rates / sales comps, and can assist you with the site selection process for leases, sales or development. Their services are free and an essential stop before anyone considers, much less signs, a lease. Additionally, the Alexandria SBDC has a “Leasing Checklist” on its website. Both AEDP and SBDC staffs can advise you on Alexandria neighborhoods, their civic and business groups, and how to make the best entry with your business.

Financing is another area where entrepreneurs may need to get advice before making a formal application. Every application you make could affect your credit score, and being declined reduces your prospects with other lenders. Meeting with the SBDC’s business analyst – a retired banker – will help you strengthen your presentation to a lender, much like preparing with a coach before an interview. The earlier that preparation takes place, the better.

In addition to the free economic development resources like the SBDC, SCORE, and AEDP, there are other professionals whose expertise will save entrepreneurs many headaches – and dollars – if they are consulted early-on. Attorneys and accountants should be part of your management team from the start, and human resources consultants can help you avoid potential pitfalls as you start hiring employees. Alexandria SBDC keeps lists of reliable professionals for a broad range of small business matters, and we welcome your contacting us for referrals.

For more information, visit www.alexandriasbdc.org or contact Alexandria SBDC at 703-778-1292 or [email protected]

 

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Hire Smart Small Business Event by Intuit and LinkedIn [virtual event]

Hire Smart Small Business Event by Intuit and LinkedIn

We received an email invitation about this Hire Smart Small Business Event by Intuit and LinkedIn. We’ll be there and hope you can join us!

===From their website===

April 27, 2013

Doors Open at 9AM

We know there’s a lot to think about when hiring your first employees. That’s why we’re hosting a FREE event to help small businesses like yours make the right decisions as you look to grow. You’ll walk away with:

  • Expert advice from one-on-one conversations with accountants, HR specialists, lawyers and other successful small businesses
  • The tools you need to get started, including three free months of Intuit Online Payroll and a LinkedIn “First Hire” package, including free premium LinkedIn Talent Finder access and special rates for posting jobs
  • Insights from guest speakers like Bill Rancic, Rhonda Abrams, Intuit CEO Brad Smith and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

 

IT’S FREE

DETAILS

Saturday / April 27, 2013

9AM

DOORS OPEN
10:30AM

INTRODUCTION – BRAD SMITH AND JEFF WEINER
10:45AM

KEYNOTE – BILL RANCIC
SESSION SPEAKER AND PANEL MODERATOR – RHONDA ABRAMS
2:15PM

SMALL BUSINESS PANEL

Hear from successful small businesses about the good, the bad, and the ugly of hiring their first employees, and learn tips and tricks for wherever you are in the journey.

Sessions

Each session is available twice—in the early and late afternoon

Noon & 2:45PM

IS IT TIME TO HIRE?

When you can’t find time to keep up with paperwork, or worse, pursue new ways to grow your business, then it might be time to hire. Hear from expert Rhonda Abrams on how to identify the type of position you need and some affordable and creative ways to find the right person.

Noon & 2:45PM

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEE VS. CONTRACTOR

It’s a tough decision that may have a bigger impact on your business than you think. Hear insights from experts and accountants on what to consider, and gain the confidence to make the best decision.

12:30PM & 3:15PM

FINDING THE PERFECT FIT

Unfortunately you can’t just sit and wait for the perfect employee to walk through the door. Learn from a LinkedIn expert about the hiring search tools available today and how to use them to find the best candidate.

12:30PM & 3:15PM

PROTECT YOURSELF AND STAY COMPLIANT

As an employer, you have specific payroll responsibilities that are required by government. A compliance expert helps you understand all the steps you need to complete before and after you hire to keep you compliant with federal and state regulations.

1PM & 3:45PM

ASKING ALL THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

You may have done interviews before, but the stakes are greater when you’re hiring for your own business. Get tips from experienced small business owners on which critical questions to ask and how to evaluate candidates during interviews.

1PM & 3:45PM

ATTRACT WORKERS AND KEEP THEM HAPPY

One way to attract and retain good workers is to offer rewards and benefits. Review best practices from successful small business owners and HR experts that will bring out the best in your employees and fit within your budget.

1:30PM & 4:15PM

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT’S NOT WORKING OUT

Not every person you hire ends up being a perfect fit. Learn from an HR expert how to know when it’s time for a worker to go, and what rules you need to follow.

1:30PM & 4:15PM

HOW TO BE THE BEST BOSS YOU CAN BE

You probably started your business so you could be your own boss—not someone else’s—but you have a responsibility to your employees once you hire. Find out from an HR expert how best to engage, motivate and grow your workers.

Activities

Available throughout the day

GET READY TO RUN PAYROLL

What’s the biggest expectation of a new hire? A paycheck. Join our Intuit product specialists who will walk you through setting up payroll, so you can easily and efficiently start paying your new hires and filing your taxes immediately.

FINDING TALENT ON LINKEDIN

Learn how to harness the power of the LinkedIn network to find great employees—it’s easier than you think. Get your free LinkedIn Premium account set up and hear some great tips and tricks from LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions management team.

ONE-ON-ONE ADVICE WITH EXPERTS

Have legal or accounting questions? Want to consult with other small businesses? Stop by and chat one-on-one with experts who will answer your specific questions.

EXHIBITS

Explore the exhibit space to learn about different solutions to grow your business and pick up resources that will help get you started.

*Agenda subject to change

Can’t make it in person? Select sessions/activities will be streamed live and available online after. Register for more details.

SHARE:   

FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT PRODUCT OFFERINGS OR THE EVENT, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON OUR LINKEDIN GROUP.

PRIVACY STATEMENT

SPEAKERS

Bill Rancic

WWW.BILLRANCIC.COM

Bill Rancic is an entrepreneur, best-selling author and television personality. He was the winner of the first season of “The Apprentice” and is the author of You’re Hired and Beyond the Lemonade Stand.

 

Rhonda Abrams

WWW.PLANNINGSHOP.COM

Rhonda Abrams is a USA Todaycolumnist and renowned author of more than 15 books focusing on small business, including “Hire Your First Employee.” She has more than 15 years’ experience advising, mentoring and consulting entrepreneurs and small business owners and is one herself.

Brad Smith

Brad Smith is Intuit’s president and CEO. The company is the leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and midsized businesses, financial institutions, consumers and accounting professionals. He has successfully led several of the company’s major businesses, including the Small Business Group, which serves more than 7 million small businesses.

Jeff Weiner

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn, the world’s largest and most powerful network of professionals. Jeff joined the company in December 2008, and under his leadership, LinkedIn has rapidly expanded its global platform, grown its membership base and increased its revenue more than tenfold to $972 million in 2012.

LOCATION

2750 Coast Avenue,
Building 6
Mountain View, CA
94043
Can’t make it in person? Select sessions/activities will be streamed live and available online after. Register for more details.
INTUIT STARTED SMALL IN 1983 WITH QUICKEN PERSONAL FINANCE SOFTWARE, SIMPLIFYING A COMMON HOUSEHOLD DILEMMA: BALANCING THE FAMILY CHECKBOOK. TODAY, WE’VE IMPROVED THE LIVES OF MORE THAN 50 MILLION PEOPLE. OUR FLAGSHIP PRODUCTS AND SERVICES, INCLUDING QUICKBOOKS®, QUICKEN® AND TURBOTAX®, SIMPLIFY SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND PAYROLL PROCESSING, PERSONAL FINANCE, AND TAX PREPARATION AND FILING.
LINKEDIN WAS LAUNCHED IN 2003 AND IS NOW THE WORLD’S LARGEST PROFESSIONAL NETWORK, WITH 200 MILLION MEMBERS IN 200 COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES AROUND THE GLOBE. OUR MISSION IS SIMPLE: CONNECT THE WORLD’S PROFESSIONALS TO MAKE THEM MORE PRODUCTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL. WE’VE BEEN HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES GROW THEIR TEAMS AND FIND GREAT EMPLOYEES FOR THE PAST DECADE, AND HAVE SOLUTIONS TAILORED FOR SMALL BUSINESS NEEDS.
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Virginia SBDC Success Story – Amanda Sozer, PhD

Here at the Alexandria SBDC, we’re delighted when we meet someone as a startup and watch them grow into a multinational success story. And, we’re proud to say, we have several of these success stories in our roster of SBDC clients! One of those successes is Amanda Sozer, PhD, of SNA International.

Here’s the direct link to the embedded YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAJJrIoj47E

Virginia SBDC’s Small Town and Merchant Program Highlights Several Alexandria Retail Businesses

Independent retailers and restaurants are the heart and soul of small towns and main streets across Virginia. Successful retailers build vibrant downtown destinations, but they face unique challenges ranging from inventory control, advertising, merchandising and staffing, to big box competition. To help these vital small businesses, the Virginia SBDC network has developed STAMP.

Small Town and Merchant Program (STAMP)

Independent retailers and restaurants are the heart and soul of small towns and main streets across Virginia. STAMP is a comprehensive collection of workshops, hands-on initiatives, and resources designed to address the specific needs of main street retail and restaurant businesses.

Local organizations such as the Virginia Main Street program, chambers of commerce, retail and restaurant associations, and others work with STAMP to sponsor and deliver targeted and relevant guidance that business owners and managers can put to use immediately.

STAMP offers:

  • Individual, Comprehensive Retail Business Checkup and Restaurant Check-up
  • On-site business visits
  • Seminars held before or after hours
  • Complete confidentiality

This is a great video detailing the program:

Small Town & Merchant Program (STAMP)

For more information about STAMP, feel free to reach out to Alexandria Small Business Development Center today!

Alexandria SBDC Announces Human Resources Counseling for Small Business!

Patra Frame - Strategies for Human ResourcesAlexandria SBDC now offers individualized human resources counseling for small business…at no cost!

The Alexandria SBDC would like to announce a new program that will begin this month. Many of our small business clients fear HR issues and mistakes, but do not fully appreciate how the right people and processes will help them succeed. Patricia Frame, founder of Strategies for Human Resources (www.SHRinsight.com), Human Capital Management Consultant, Speaker, and Author, will provide one-on-one Human Resources Counseling for Small Business through the Alexandria Small Business Development Center. These sessions will be available at no charge to City of Alexandria businesses on the fourth Wednesday of each month (except December). Sessions will last for 50 minutes at the SBDC offices, and there will be three timeslots available each month. The first series of sessions will take place on Wednesday, September 26th, at 9, 10 and 11 a.m.

HR consulting sessions will be scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis. To take advantage of this opportunity, send Gloria Flanagan an email message (gflanagan [at] alexandriasbdc.org <– remove spaces and change [at] to the @ symbol for the actual email address), with “HR Consulting” in the subject line.

You must also include the following information in the body of your e-mail:

  • Name, company name and contact information
  • Current number of employees in your organization
  • 2 – 3 critical business issues facing your organization
  • Issues that you would like to address in the meeting

Participants who are not current Alexandria SBDC clients will also need to complete the “Request for Counseling” Form.

Once we have received your e-mail we will contact you to schedule your session.

Biographical Background Information for Patricia Frame is provided below:
Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management.

Bring in your business concerns and let her help you find a path forward to enhance your success.

Upcoming Events at the Alexandria SBDC [event]

Alexandria Small Business Development Center presents June 2012 Series of Events.

We so hope you will consider attending one or more of these events designed to help your business and nonprofit thrive and grow. Please note where registration is required. Remember, there is NO FEE for attending any of these programs.

As always, please contact us with your business concerns! For all these and more, just visit our website to learn more and register/rsvp.

Brown Bag Lunch “Get More Time Out of Your Day” presented by Holly Herman of Achieving Skills Resources!

Tuesday, June 5: Do you get everything on your “to do” list finished?  Do you have interruptions that derail your whole day?  Do you ever wish you had time to accomplish more?  Do you feel like you should be more productive?  If you can’t get everything crossed off your list, you’ll learn how to double your productivity and work fewer hours.  Held in our office from noon – 1:00 pm. Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.  Doors open at 11:45 am.

START, MANAGE, GROW WORKSHOP “Doing Business in the City of Alexandria”!

Tuesday, June 12: Over the last few years, the City of Alexandria has implemented a number of strategic changes that have made it easier for small businesses to thrive in the City.  Hear directly from: Planning & Zoning, Code Adminstration, Multi-Agency Permit Center, Transportation & Environmental Services, Department of Finance and the Alexandria Health Department.  New City Manager, Rashad Young, will be the keynote speaker and will highlight City partnerships with its much-needed economic engine: SMALL BUSINESSES!  There will be a brief Q & A and then an opportunity to talk one-on-one with officials in breakout sessions. The event location is The Mary G. Gates Learning Center, United Way of America, 701 North Fairfax Street, 8:00 am – 10:30 am.  Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.

Business Development Roundtable “How to Make Referral Networking Work for You”!

Tuesday, June 19: This meeting will be held in our office at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from noon – 1:00 pm. No pre-registration is necessary. If you have any questions, contact Gloria Flanagan by email or by phone at 703-778-2961.

Social Media Counseling for Alexandria City businesses!

Tuesday, June 19 & Wednesday, June 20: We offer one-on-one social media counseling with Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting.  These 45-minute individual sessions will take place in our office. If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, contact Patricia Melton by email or by phone at 703-778-2960.

Save the date for these upcoming events:

Tuesday, July 10: Brown Bag Lunch noon – 1:00 pm “Building Your Identity: Branding 101”

Tuesday, July 17: Business Development Roundtable noon – 1:00 pm Topic: TBA

Wednesday, July 18: START, MANAGE, GROW WORKSHOP 8:00 am – 10:00 am “Social Media in the Retail Environment”

 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Smart Entrepreneurship: Small Business Financial Management

Small Business Financial ManagementGuest Post by Barbara Greenwald of Sheinwald Financial Strategies.

 

I define “Smart Entrepreneurship,” as the willingness to plan ahead, adjust your plan as you go along, know your own limitations and when to consult others, only take risks that you understand and can afford to take, deliver your product or service with the utmost quality and professionalism, and always manage your business functions (especially your financial management) well.

Owning your own business requires research, planning, dedication, persistence, problem solving, and resilience. Whether it is generating revenues, keeping the cash flow going, maintaining employee morale, or managing the growth of the company, the buck stops with you.

My insights are gleaned from 30 years of lending money to small businesses. My efforts as a financial strategist are always to provide guidance that will contribute towards a smoother ride. If owning your own business were an easy path to success, however you define success, then everybody would be doing it.

Do you have 6-12 months cash to support both your personal and business cash requirements? 

You want your business to be a source of pride and fulfillment, not a source of worry and distress. Why not strive to be in a position where you can minimize any worry about money? Properly managing financial risk is one of the most important elements of running your business.

Having sufficient resources will permit you to concentrate on generating sales, hiring and training the right employees, and implementing operations. All too frequently businesses are going along and a cash flow shortage suddenly occurs when a receivable doesn’t come in when expected; or when a business expands rapidly. To better understand when revenue growth will eat cash, ask your accountant, your banker, or a financial strategist like myself. .

Depending upon the size of the business and the pace of its growth, a periodic financial check-up with an expert is advisable. Just like your personal health, if you don’t catch a problem early enough, it can be much harder to resolve in a favorable manner. It’s advantageous to be proactive and keep the financial health of your business fine-tuned.

What do the right financial advisors mean for your future success?

If a company doesn’t have its books set up properly to reflect its financial status at any given point in time, and it has not selected an accountant to pull regular financial statements, the owner won’t know if the company is making money, losing money, or breaking even, and will not have the financial reporting to make sound financial decisions when future opportunities or other challenges present themselves. Lack of knowledge about a company’s financial status is one of the biggest financial risks a business owner undertakes.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have an accountant and an accurate accounting system kept current?
  2. Have you found a banker who will follow your business progress and be prepared in advance to set up a financing facility?

What is your plan if you find that you are making progress towards increased growth and profitability, and you find you need more capital?

If you cannot identify sources for cash for the fixed overhead for your personal and business expenses for at least six months, which might include a spouse’s salary, consider a back-up plan. Finances can operate on a shoestring and even transform you into a better money manager, but can also create a more nerve-wracking experience and a greater possibility of failure.

The most important message I can deliver is to understand the financial risks you are undertaking, the business implications, and your own personal risk tolerance. It is important to only take risks you can afford to take to preserve the long term potential of your business venture.  Cash provides the maximum flexibility to get through downturns in your business or the economy. In the end, everything starts and ends with finance.

If you are a Government Contractor, please join me for my upcoming talk:
Tuesday, May 8: “Financing for Government Contracting: The Importance of Timing” presented by Barbara Greenwald, Sheinwald Financial Strategies. Held at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from 9:00 – 11:00 AM. Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.

Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda