Time Wasters

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 5, 2019. Our lives are congested under the best of circumstances. We’re constantly stressed to accomplish what’s on our plates. The last things we need are intrusions that waste our precious time or require… Read more »

The post Time Wasters appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 5, 2019.

Our lives are congested under the best of circumstances. We’re constantly stressed to accomplish what’s on our plates. The last things we need are intrusions that waste our precious time or require us to take extra steps.

In our business lives, we too often encounter unintentional but thoughtless time wasters. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of this behavior, and all of us have a responsibility to respect the time of others. Hopefully, describing some of these might deter more of us from inadvertently burdening others. Talk to your employees and colleagues about setting norms that thwart time thieves and become productivity proponents.

Websites: Websites should always consider what people are searching for. Too many sites don’t have key information on their home page and require many clicks to find the basics. Many sites are not mobile friendly, so the functionality is limited for many users. Test your site with someone who knows nothing about your business and pay attention to their feedback.

Email: There are many ways for emails to be time sponges. Some are pointless or do not provide an easy way to respond succinctly. Re-reading your draft before hitting send will make sure you’ve provided clear and easy action steps. That improves chances the recipient will respond. If you’re referencing something in the email, make sure there’s an attachment or link. Always include your title and contact information in an email signature so recipients know exactly who you are and have an alternate way to reach you.

Telephone and Voicemail: Too often, callers launch into details without confirming they’ve reached the appropriate contact. State your purpose up front, then follow up with relevant details. How often have you had to repeatedly re-listen to voicemails to catch the name and number? It’s frustrating and inclines us to ignore the call. Speak clearly and pronounce your name and organization slowly. When leaving a phone number, say it slowly, and then repeat it. Then repeat your name and company.

Referrals: When you refer someone to another individual, it behooves you to make sure you’re doing both of them a favor. Too often people are just trying to get rid of a situation, but blind referrals can waste everyone’s time. Check first to clarify whether the matter is in their wheelhouse before you burden someone else with something that you cannot solve.

Events: We’ve all gotten stuck in an endless conversation without an escape. Don’t monopolize one person’s time at an event. Remember that event planning requires solid headcounts. Not RSVPing is rude and is an imposition when the planner must chase you down. With electronic RSVPs, there is no excuse for not responding.

Avoiding becoming a time waster requires us to be thoughtful and to take a little extra effort. Yes, we might have to invest a little of our own precious time, but making things flow smoothly is not only courteous, it improves communications and responses. It also enhances our standing among colleagues and potential customers.

The post Time Wasters appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Erroneous Zones

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on June 6, 2019. Who among us hasn’t spent sleepless nights or agitated days stewing over something someone said, or something you inferred, that you realize later you had completely misunderstood? Likewise, we might stumble or… Read more »

The post Erroneous Zones appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on June 6, 2019.

Who among us hasn’t spent sleepless nights or agitated days stewing over something someone said, or something you inferred, that you realize later you had completely misunderstood? Likewise, we might stumble or make a momentary mistake that prompts us to doubt our own capabilities and whether we really have what it takes, only to bounce back the next day full speed ahead.

This column periodically explores variations on this topic, because misperceptions are a pervasive weak link in our productivity and affect everybody from time to time. The solution is to seize the opportunity to gather informed assessments and objective feedback. That applies to every aspect of our lives.

Small business owners are particularly susceptible because they’re isolated. They might not have people around them to check their beliefs and don’t realize that they’re not the only ones making common mistakes. On the other extreme, they might feel smug and think things are rosy until they are dumfounded by unforeseen circumstances.

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is a resource that can provide objective feedback in its confidential one-on-one consultations. Those might be a discussion of comparative performance measures and best practices, financial assessments or tips on handling thorny business issues.

The center has access to a large network of resources to help business owners make critical connections with experts or other businesses, or perhaps get feedback from peers. These include peer groups, co-work spaces, industry gatherings and targeted networking opportunities.

Business owners might feel more comfortable approaching someone one-on-one. Good advice doesn’t have to come from someone in the same industry or area of expertise. Identify someone whose success you admire, and invite them to coffee to get their viewpoint. These informal sessions might help you to see your business from a fresh perspective.

Objective feedback can come from many sources. Professional coaches offer consistent and insightful observations. Many Fortune 500 companies support their executives engaging coaches to add balance and perspective to their personal and professional lives. Professional coaches are not cheap, but they are are often worthy investments.

Many of us invest time, money and energy into our personal health and well-being. Whether we’re pursuing diets or fitness regimens, it’s very possible we’re following routines we’ve seen in magazines or picked up through casual observation.

Too often those routines are not suited to our particular circumstances or condition. We might not be getting the best effect – and might even be doing harm. For personal health and fitness, as in other matters, it is absolutely essential to get the guidance of a qualified professional.

There are many aspects of our lives where we’re wasting time, emotion and effort. One of my favorite maxims is that none of us is as bad as we think we are on our worst days; but neither are we as good as we think we are on our best days.

Objective, informed feedback can be one of the most important investments in individual and business productivity and is worth careful consideration.

The post Erroneous Zones appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Celebrating Small Businesses

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 3rd, 2019. The week of May 6th is being celebrated across the country as Small Business Week, highlighting the importance of small businesses to the US economy. In Alexandria we are particularly beholden to… Read more »

The post Celebrating Small Businesses appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 3rd, 2019.

The
week of May 6th is being celebrated across the country as Small
Business Week, highlighting the importance of small businesses to the US
economy. In Alexandria we are particularly beholden to small businesses because
they are such an integral part of our character and economy.

They
comprise almost 90% of Alexandria’s total businesses and they are ideally
suited to our scale. Retail spaces on King Street and Mount Vernon Avenue are
perfect for small boutiques, intimate restaurants, and specialty shops. In
fact, 78% of retail stores on King Street are small, local, independent
businesses.

Our
commercial office market also includes attractive offerings for small
businesses. Smaller office buildings and historic spaces appeal to businesses
like commercial creatives and small professional service providers.

Alexandria
relies on our small businesses in many ways. First, we know that our citizens
love the variety of small independent shops and restaurants that give
Alexandria its authentic and unique flavor. 
In addition, these owners and their employees often sponsor events,
serve on volunteer boards, contribute time and money to local causes, and have
often provided community leadership through changing times and circumstances.
Alexandria is a stronger and more adaptable city when our businesses are
engaged, because they truly have their finger on the pulse of the community.

Since
our economy and quality of life are so dependent on the success of small
businesses, the question worth asking is whether we are doing our very best to
be inviting and to help them start and grow. City government has worked very
hard in recent years to streamline processes and minimize delays. While there
are still frustrations, city leadership, economic development and business
organizations constantly collaborate on solving challenges.

The
city has a wide array of interconnected resources that encourage and promote
small business. They focus on the infrastructure and business climate that preserves
and enhances Alexandria’s ideal setting for small businesses. After all, the
attributes that made our city and region so appealing to Amazon and Virginia
Tech are also things that help small businesses thrive.

From the Alexandria city government, to the Chamber of Commerce, to Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, and neighborhood business associations, many organizations work together on behalf of small businesses across the city. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is at the core of these efforts. It helps interconnect the initiatives of support organizations and expedites the communications flow to and from small businesses. It also helps small businesses solve problems, overcome obstacles and make worthwhile connections throughout the community and region.

Robust
small businesses help to broaden the tax base and improve the mix of business
products and services offered in the city. They contribute to a positive
resident experience and enhance our quality of life. The reciprocal role for Alexandrians
is to support small businesses through shopping local.

As
we commemorate small businesses this week, our charge is to make sure
Alexandria continues to be such an attractive and nurturing home for their
success.

The post Celebrating Small Businesses appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Instagram Ads 101 for Small Business

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Connecting Google Analytics to Google Search Console

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Strengthen Banking Ties Before the Metro Shutdown

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on March 7th, 2019. Savvy business owners are planning now for potential effects from the shutdown of all Alexandria Metro stations this summer. There are many considerations including impacts on your employees and customers, but one… Read more »

The post Strengthen Banking Ties Before the Metro Shutdown appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on March 7th, 2019.

Savvy business owners are planning now for potential effects from the shutdown of all Alexandria Metro stations this summer. There are many considerations including impacts on your employees and customers, but one of the most productive preparations you can undertake now is strengthening the relationship with your banker.

In the event that sales are impacted and cash flow becomes a problem, you want the ability to turn to your banker as a trusted partner who can work with you to manage your way through the rough patch and be part of your resilience when you come out the other side of the shutdown.

The smartest owners build solid relationships with their banks and bank staffs from the very start and maintain contact to keep them informed of their progress. In good times and bad your banker is part of your team, and the more acquainted they are with you, the easier it is for them to tailor their resources and services to your needs. Under circumstances you could be facing with the shutdown, banks might be able to help you tide the crunch with lines of credit, special credit cards or other arrangements that vary from bank to bank.

 If you haven’t developed that quality of relationship yet, it’s not too late, but the shutdown is just a few months away and this is something that is best accomplished in advance.

This is an ideal time to schedule an appointment with the Alexandria Small Business Development Center Business Analyst, Jack Parker. As a retired banker, Parker knows how bankers operate and what they expect to see from the businesses they serve. Jack will review your financials with you and help you make the best presentation of your circumstances. If your financial records are lacking, he will advise you what you need to do to bring them up to the standard that bankers expect. One of the biggest pitfalls in business banking relationships is inaccurate or inadequate recordkeeping.

Consultations with Parker are conducted in confidence and without cost to City of Alexandria businesses. These sessions resemble coaching before an interview, and are done before your discussions with your banker. Even those owners who feel they have a great rapport with their banker are well-served by candid and regular consultations with Parker.

A distinguishing characteristic of Alexandria SBDC is its banking expertise and long-term partnerships with local bankers. Those bankers often refer prospective borrowers to the center to obtain guidance and have found that center-assisted applicants are typically much better prepared and are therefore much better credit risks. That has enabled the SBDC to facilitate $80 million in capital investments over its history.

Whether a business owner needs financing, a line of credit, or other assistance, it behooves them to have a strong and confidential partnership with their bank. The center can help Alexandria business owners develop such relationships and better manage the financials of their business. We welcome your contacting the center at www.alexandriasbdc.org for such guidance.

The post Strengthen Banking Ties Before the Metro Shutdown appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.