Look Before You Lease

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on September 6, 2018.  Some of the chief disrupters to businesses momentum involve real estate. First there’s the challenge of finding the ideal location – appealing and convenient for customers and where your business activity is… Read more »

The post Look Before You Lease 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 September 6, 2018. 

Some of the chief disrupters to businesses momentum involve real estate.

First there’s the challenge of finding the ideal location – appealing and convenient for customers and where your business activity is permitted. Too often businesspeople make these decisions emotionally and rush to sign a lease without due diligence. Real estate matters are complex, and it behooves us to get expert guidance.

The first stop should be the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. Nobody is more conversant with the city’s real estate than the staff of the city’s economic development program. Describe to them your ideal space needs and target market, and they will share their expertise on what types of businesses work best in which neighborhoods and have synergy with other types businesses. They will also discuss how those neighborhoods and businesses – and others you might not have considered – are likely to evolve over time.

The next essential is a well-connected commercial broker, and the economic development staff can make those referrals. Tenant brokers go beyond just being “space finders” but, even in that capacity, they are likely to produce more options for you because they have access to many more properties than you’d find through a Google search. And they cost you nothing – their commission is folded into the transaction costs that the landlord pays.

A knowledgeable broker will do a careful needs assessment, drilling down to the characteristics of the property most essential to your business while considering your budget constraints. They will then begin a targeted search, freeing you to stay focused on your business.  Another area where business owners sometimes get tripped up are the actual costs of occupying space.  The utilities, insurance, taxes, sewer, and trash, for example, vary from building to building and can be complicated. A qualified broker can break those down so you can compare one property with another.

Property owners usually hold most of the market knowledge, but when it’s time to negotiate, the broker knows market rates and has the expertise to get the best deal for you. They also pay attention to things you might not otherwise consider – the landlord delivering the property in good order; rent concessions if you need to manage construction costs or your occupancy is procedurally delayed; and provisions to better position you for lease renewals or changes to market conditions.

Some of the costliest business heartaches could have been avoided had business owners used a commercial broker in the search and negotiation process, an attorney to review their lease and possibly help them through permitting hurdles, and an architect for planning purposes. Small business owners are typically short of cash, but these expenses are sound investments that save money down the road.

One final suggestion is to consider consulting with the Alexandria Small Business Development Center. We can provide objective feedback; connect you to commercial brokers, attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, city facilitators, and qualified architects and contractors; as well as put together a solid financing plan for your business. And our services are without cost!

The post Look Before You Lease appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Facebook Advertising 101 for Small Business (Webinar Archive)

Facebook Advertising 101: How to Create Effective Ad Campaigns on Facebook (Webinar Archive)

Facebook Advertising 101: How to Create Effective Ad Campaigns on Facebook (Webinar Archive)

Are you Ready for the Holiday Marketing Season?

This blog post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting. It may come as a surprise from Small Business owners to start thinking about holiday marketing planning before Labor Day. But, now is the time to start planning the holiday marketing campaigns you want to be successful for this coming fall and winter holidays… Read more »

The post Are you Ready for the Holiday Marketing Season? appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This blog post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting.

It may come as a surprise from Small Business owners to start thinking about holiday marketing planning before Labor Day. But, now is the time to start planning the holiday marketing campaigns you want to be successful for this coming fall and winter holidays season. Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosted a series in partnership with Visit Alexandria about holiday marketing planning, as well as the Business Development Roundtable (which happens every third Tuesday at noon at the SBDC) just passed this week on “Planning Ahead for the Holidays.” Here are some of the vital thoughts about early holiday marketing planning.

Walkable towns: Alexandria, Va.

Choose Your Holidays Widely and Wisely

There are holidays happening almost every day of the year. (See also this list of holidays.) While some business owners might find some of these holidays off-putting, the importance of celebrating milestones and other timeframes throughout the year might be more palatable to them. Either way, there are times of the year when you need to be taking advantage of the marketing opportunities that avail themselves.

The most important holidays are the ones that pertain to your business/industry and directly include your target audience culturally, and hopefully also emotionally. For these holidays, choose wisely what you will do to be culturally sensitive (e.g., don’t post cat videos on National Dog Day to your dog-loving clients!?) and effective. You want marketing campaigns that will be highly effective for your goals (as we’ll discuss in a moment). While, you may wish to do smaller campaigns for holidays of lesser importance, where the holiday is not about your business/industry or your target audience, specifically, but more general that everyone can enjoy it (like World Wildlife Day).

Know Your Goals

“Know your goals” is not some fluff, self-improvement trope to dismiss immediately. (Okay, it can be in the wrong context.) But, here relating to your business’s bottom line, it’s not. You need to manage your goals and expectations as a small business owners, so you can manage your resources better and learn from your experience to succeed at business over time.

Knowing that the goal of increasing awareness and acknowledging the holidays to clients appropriately, as Peter Baldwin, MarketForce Strategies, noted during the Roundtable, provides him with clarity about what he needs to do for the holiday marketing season. This is important to understanding what kind of communications to send and other offerings a company like Peter’s wants to commit to and execute during the holidays season.

For retail business owners, this may be a prime selling opportunity, if your products or services cater to holiday buyers for gifts in honor of the holiday. So, your goals may include hitting a certain sales metric, bringing in particular amount of foot traffic, or donating a number of your products to a charity for good publicity. Whatever the goals are, now you can make a plan.

Map Out Your Plan and Share It With Your Team, Vendors and Other Stakeholders

Plan early for the holidays as the seasons come up on you too quickly. And, trying to plan and execute at the same time usually leads to shoddy campaigns that are ineffective, demotivate your marketing efforts for next year, and make holidays a chore instead of a celebration for you personally.

Plans for holiday marketing typically revolve around a timeline, so a calendar format for holiday marketing plans are usually most effective. You can choose a paper calendar posted in your office or shop for you and your staff to see together, or you can do so using digital tools like a shared Google Calendar or another online calendar of choice. Remember to include everyone who needs to know about the holiday marketing campaign(s) in the calendar, which can include not just staff, but also vendors, volunteers, family members, and other stakeholders who are responsible for helping execute the plan.

You can also set milestones in your plan, for every few weeks. These are opportunities to take stock in what has happened, correct course on where things might need to catch up and/or improve, celebrate successes, and then map out the detail for the next few weeks. This is helpful because it keeps everyone focused on short-term, achievable actions with each longer-term goal in mind.

These are some of the things you can think about for getting ready for the holiday marketing season(s). There are many more, that you can think about, and find other articles online that discuss this. Good luck with your holiday marketing campaigns this season! We hope you’re getting ready for them now.

The post Are you Ready for the Holiday Marketing Season? appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Small Business Cyber-Resilience: The Basics of Cybersecurity for Small Business

Find the original archive of the video here: Small Business Cyber-Resilience: The Basics of Cybersecurity for Small Business. Download the handout with links to tools. What do many energy companies, 300 universities, (UnderArmour-owned) MyFitness Pal’s…

Find the original archive of the video here: Small Business Cyber-Resilience: The Basics of Cybersecurity for Small Business. Download the handout with links to tools. What do many energy companies, 300 universities, (UnderArmour-owned) MyFitness Pal’s 150 million users, and a

Pop-up Retail

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on August 2, 2018.  You no doubt are hearing more about pop-ups, and for good reason. It’s a trend that isn’t new but is really catching on because it offers win/wins for everybody. Pop-up retail began… Read more »

The post Pop-up Retail 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 August 2, 2018. 

You no doubt are hearing more about pop-ups, and for good reason. It’s a trend that isn’t new but is really catching on because it offers win/wins for everybody.

Pop-up retail began to appear in the 90s in the world’s major cities. The trend spread in the 2000s and can now be found in one form or another in almost every community. Pop-ups come in every shape and size and are ideal for products from fashion to tech gadgets to art to makers and food.

Early versions saw major retailers clearing space in their stores for outside vendors to set up specialty shops. Sometimes they held receptions, cocktail parties or festivals to highlight a new product line or designer. Years ago, Target rented a boat at a New York pier for a holiday pop-up, and you’ve likely noticed major furnishings retailers using temporary shops for floor sample sales.

Most of us are familiar with pop-ups around the holidays. Christmas markets and fireworks stands have been around for years. Halloween shops will appear in a couple of months, and ugly Christmas sweater shops are becoming icons for holiday fun and quirkiness. Clever retailers always find ways to monetize holidays, festivals, anniversaries and the spectrum of annual and seasonal occasions. Pop-ups broaden those opportunities.

For vendors, makers and artists, pop-ups give them an easier and more affordable way to test a concept or product and determine whether there is a viable market. If their items sell, they can consider options for expanded pop-ups or perhaps moving into brick and mortar. Pop-ups enable them to fine-tune their approach and make less expensive adjustments because of the manageable scale. If their approach falls flat, their risk was minimized and they can more affordably retool and come back to try again.

The community also benefits. Fewer vacant storefronts convey greater vitality, and the increased foot traffic helps neighboring stores. The community and its consumers also get to experience brands and approaches they might otherwise never know.

Landlords have much to gain from pop-ups. It’s not only a way to monetize vacant space, but also exposes their real estate to prospective permanent tenants. Even if the space is slated for development or waiting an incoming tenant, a pop-up could bring in extra revenue and be tailored to the circumstances.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) is proactively promoting pop-ups to add vibrancy and strengthen the local economy. Their Pop-up website welcomes vendors searching for space and provides landlords templates for pop-up leases and a way to list their space.

 AEDP also welcomes community suggestions for pop-ups to attract.

AEDP and the Small Business Development Center are presenting a Pop-Up Retail workshop on August 15th that will highlight opportunities and discuss how to approach the pop-up process.

There’s magic in pop-ups because we all enjoy being part of something that’s special and unique, and because it’s a fleeting experience we get a greater sense of urgency. Ideally we can look forward to more pop-up excitement in Alexandria.

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WordPress for Small Business

On “Switched on IT,” the PowerTV Australia show that’s co-hosted by Doug Endersbee of OZ Hosting and W3 Consulting’s Ray Sidney-Smith, Episode 10, Doug and Ray discuss WordPress for Small Business, originally a blog content management syste…

On “Switched on IT,” the PowerTV Australia show that’s co-hosted by Doug Endersbee of OZ Hosting and W3 Consulting’s Ray Sidney-Smith, Episode 10, Doug and Ray discuss WordPress for Small Business, originally a blog content management system (CMS) that now

All About Domains | Google and Beyond Webinar Archive

Find the original archive of the video here: All About Domains | Google and Beyond Webinar Archive. Since the invention of the hyperlink, the Internet and the World Wide Web (which are different things), the real world has never been

Find the original archive of the video here: All About Domains | Google and Beyond Webinar Archive. Since the invention of the hyperlink, the Internet and the World Wide Web (which are different things), the real world has never been

What Does your Network Want to Know?

You have social media accounts, but do you ever run out of ideas to write or talk about? At last month’s Small Business Roundtable attendees brainstormed ideas for social media posts, from Tweets to Podcasts.  Each participant gave a very brief “elevator speech” about their business, and others told them what they would want to… Read more »

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You have social media accounts, but do you ever run out of ideas to write or talk about?

At last month’s Small Business Roundtable attendees brainstormed ideas for social media posts, from Tweets to Podcasts.  Each participant gave a very brief “elevator speech” about their business, and others told them what they would want to know about their business, their industry, etc.  It only took about five minutes of brainstorming for each attendee business for every one of them to walk out of the Roundtable with several ideas for new posts.

Many of the best ideas came from people who knew little or nothing about the ‘target” business. We are often so wrapped up in our business that we forget that what seems simple or obvious to us would be a great nugget of information for someone who is not living in the day-to-day experiences of our world.  You do not need to wait for the next SBDC Roundtable Brainstorming session to do this.  Everyone has a network of friends or relatives who would be willing to sit down for an informal discussion – especially if a little pizza and beer is included. The less they know about your business in the beginning, the more creative their ideas may be!  Those who have never calmed a dog frightened by fireworks or a thunderstorm would be interested in the tips and tricks that a dog day care business owner could provide.  That’s a great tweet or short blogpost for this time of year!  A staffing agency might want to write about the differences between W-2 and 1099 “employees” as well as part-time and full-time employment.  These are just a few of the many ideas that were generated at the Roundtable and that you can generate by hosting periodic brainstorming sessions yourself!

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