Culture – What is it Good for?

Whether consciously planned or not, your organization has a culture.

In several HR seminars I’ve done for Alexandria’s SBDC, a common comment was surprise at the importance of culture to their organization’s future. Many attendees said they simply had not thought about their culture or its impact on hiring or productivity.

What creates the culture in an organization?

  • First is the vision since many people join (or buy from) because of what they understand the business or organization to be about.
  • Next is what we say about our organization – our story, our values.
  • Third is how we implement our vision and our values.

While other issues of culture may be included, these three give you the basics of the culture in your organization. How are you actively manifesting them?

When I do organizational assessments, I often find a difference between what founders/CxOs say they want as a culture and what their practices actually are. For example, you may have been in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ work arena – and that is one critical strike against a positive, productive culture.

Aligning your culture, your policies, and your actual practices is critical for success. Sometimes, the culture originally developed is not what you now need. Or worse, the culture you thought you had created is not what you actually have.

As you prepare for future success, take a look at your existing culture.

  • Is it what your organization needs?
  • What you want?
  • How is the desired culture expressed in basic practices and policies?
  • Will the existing culture support your strategic and business plans?
  • If so, great! If not, what are you going to do? How? When?

One of my clients was an ethical, terrific founder who knew his business and had great ideas. He was quite successful at first. But over time, his dislike of and avoidance of conflict led to a culture where all disagreement was avoided. People were retained when they should have been fired, and critical decisions were delayed or left unresolved. And it cost him his business. While extreme, this is not an unusual failure – it happens too often in organizations where the culture has become a hindrance to success. 

You can create a culture that helps your organization succeed.   But it takes attention and thought to do so.  And to maintain its best aspects, you need to keep your culture in mind  as needs change, as you grow, as your environment changes — all those may require tweaks to your culture.

Attracting Working Moms to Jobs in Small Business

“The Ladders” recently released a survey showing that working mothers care more about flexible work hours than any other benefit an employer can offer.  Businesses, and especially small businesses who can fashion a way to build their employees’ schedules with flexible work hours can go a long way to attracting this very underused segment of the American working population.

Not much attention has been paid to this population lately due to the recession, I would venture, but with the local Alexandria unemployment rate significantly lower that many other communities right now, it would make sense for a small business owner who may be having issues finding the kind of skilled, committed labor force that is needed for success to look to this group. Many working moms have disengaged from corporate America, either as a result of the recession or because they have volunteered to leave, sometimes finding corporate policies on flextime too restrictive. It would make sense that with reasonable accommodations from an employer as to flexible work hours and/or working from home options, this segment of the local labor market could be very useful to the Alexandria Small Business Owner.

 

Photo courtesy of emilywjones

  • Buy American(alexandriasmallbusiness.com)

  • 10 Tips for Small Business Owners to take a Vacation [Infographic](saleschase.com)

Buy American

With Independence Day just around the corner, it’s an appropriate time to remind everyone to Buy American.  It is important to the nation’s economy and it’s particularly important to small businesses.  Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, interact with other small businesses and cross-promote when possible: each one helping one.  They are a fine example of the generosity that America possesses.  Here’s a personal example.  Casart recently selected Homebody DC  as the location for a photo shoot.  The staging was done by stylist Samina Vieth and the photographer was Yulia Mikhalchuk.   All are members of the DC design community.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ just over half of all private sector employees. Small business have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the last 15 years and pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll… As a nation, we must support this. Recent reports indicate that if each American spent a dollar a day onU.S.made goods this alone would create almost 1 Million new jobs in a year.  When you go shopping for your daily groceries, clothing or home improvement tools, start locally, buy American and keep our jobs here. Even if it costs a couple extra dollars, supporting small businesses is the only way we can get our nation up and running again.

MISSION: SMALL BUSINESS

Casart coverings is currently participating in the Chase/Living Social national initiative to help small businesses.  Small businesses can submit their application to be considered to be one of 12 recipients of a $250,000 grant.  To be eligible for consideration, the business must first receive 250 votes via Facebook by June 30th.  We would certainly appreciate your support ofAlexandria based Casart coverings in our effort to get those 250 votes.  If you don’t have a Facebook account, please tell your friends about it, ask them to vote and tell their friends.  We’ve set our goal at 15 votes a day and we are encouraged that we will reach the 250 votes with the support of other businesses, friends and family.  Here’s what you do:

Click Mission: Small Business.  Go to Support on the right side. Login with your Facebook account. Search for Casart in the businesses (no city or state needed). Click vote and please share with your friends.

MADE IN AMERICA

Last year ABC News did a special about products that are made in America and how just increasing what we buy by 1- 2% can boost our economy.

The series took a family’s home and removed all the products that were not made in America. Surprisingly, this was the majority of what they owned. The challenge was to replace everything with items made inAmerica. The ABC team found most of the items here in the USA but they were hard to come by and had to be searched to be found. The only thing they couldn’t locate was a coffee maker. The family had to live without this. I don’t know if I could.

There are numerous web sites that list American made items and each week the Travel Channel visits a different city and features  American made products.

WHY BUY AMERICAN?

Americans Working lists these top  reasons why it’s important to buy American made products.

1. Jobs – Above all else, when you buy American you save or create AMERICAN JOBS! These are the jobs that are at the foundation of our economy, and have unfortunately been moving overseas, but by buying American you can help to reverse that trend.

2. Environmental – Many of the top countries where our goods come from have little or no regulations to protect
the environment, and the manufacturers have no regard for the earth and they pollute and abuse the soil, air, and the water. When you buy American you know there are regulations in place to protect the environment so our children can appreciate this beautiful country as much as we do.

3. Human Rights – The countries the United States import from often have nonexistent standards regular working conditions. Many of the factories producing US bound goods are worse than our prisons, and filled with children working extremely long days. No one wants to support that, and by buying American you know you aren’t we have regulations and agencies in this country to prevent those types of atrocities.

4. Democracy – Americans believe in and stand up for democracy whenever we can, and by choosing to buy American you are supporting the ideals of democracy.

5. Conservation – When buying products that are produced overseas built into the price is the cost of shipping that product all the way from that country to the United States, usually crossing the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. This wastes an extremely large amount of petroleum and produces unnecessary emissions into the atmosphere.

6. Domino Effect – When you buy American that money stays in the United States. That money goes to pay the wage of many people that are directly or indirectly responsible for creating your product. Each of them in turn spends this money on goods (hopefully American made) and services, and the cycle continues. The more you buy American, the more the economy is stimulated, and the more jobs are created.  Plus, American workers pay taxes on wages earned in America.

7. MORE JOBS – For every manufacturing job there are FIVE additional jobs created. Do the math. Dollar for dollar it is a great investment in this amazing country!

It’s nice to know if my walls were bare and I wanted to decorate them that all phases of  Casart’s production are made in America, from the substrate’s manufacturing, the PSA(pressure sensitive adhesive, which is water-based), to the artistic creation and printing as well as the shipping. We’re doing our part to keep this economy going. These All-American, artistic stair risers can be found on our Architectural page.

Here are just some of the Patriotic Casart Design which along with all our wall coverings are Made in America!

We are proud to be        

Ashley Spencer & Casart Coverings Crew

 

Feature Image Photo courtesy of Patrick Hoesly 

Should I Hire an Employee?

The decision on whether to hire a person is especially critical whether you are just beginning to grow or need specialists you are not sure you can afford.How do you decide whether or not to hire employees?ASK YOURSELF:  1. Is this work which must be done over a long term?

If the work is on-going and critical to your organization’s success, consider hiring or leasing an employee.  If it is not, consider other options.

Work can be done by independent contractors who specialize in the area, by temporary staffing services, by consultants for a project or a specific need, by an interim executive, by a paid intern, or by sub-contracting.  Would one of these options work better for you?

Too often, small organizations add a non-core position because of short-term or part-time needs and then realize that work has expanded to fill the time, not because of actual necessity.  So a real 10-20 hour a week need has become a full-time employee.

2. Can I afford to hire a regular employee?

Hiring employees who support your revenue or mission growth is smart.  But once you hire, you cannot skip pay periods, tax or legal obligations.  Costs
include the person’s pay and also:
* mandated benefits including: OASDI (‘Social security’ and Medicare), unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance
* costs for space and equipment for the employee
* pay processing and accounts establishment costs
* legal compliance and risk management costs

Check out your state’s small business services or your local economic development agency – these provide detailed guidance on any local laws you need to comply with.

OK, I want an Employee

Think: What type of work and level do I really need?

Classically, small employers want folks to wear multiple hats.  But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time but it is unlikely!   Two part-timers or outsourcing one part makes far more sense where the work needs are very different.

The other classic is to want a senior-level person to show you are growing and to get some strategic advice, but want that person to also do basic level work.  A CTO is not going to do programming.  And hiring a CxO of any sort usually results in hiring several more layers as well.  So, you had a Manager of Accounting and one accounting clerk before and now have a CFO and 5 staff, but no more revenues.

Not sure how to structure a position?

Take a good look at similar job ads from larger organizations: what set of skills and requirements do they combine?  Many put fairly detailed descriptions on their website employment section.  Check to see if your trade association offers sample job descriptions you could tailor to your needs.  Ask other business owners.  Ask your vendors in that area for ideas.

Before you add a position, make a clear list of exactly what business necessity creates the need, all specific responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, and what increased revenue will result.

OK I’ll outsource    I don’t need an employee, but the work needs to be done.

Make a list of potential options.  As with an employee, structure the work clearly.  Ask your advisors and network for recommendations.  Current vendors are a great resource; e.g., CPAs often know other services providers, such as IT support, and can recommend people to meet your needs.

Grow Smart!

Hiring people who can contribute to your organization’s growth and success is an important step.  A little thought and effort first to ensure you only add costs you can afford and you spend your money on the best possible solution for your needs will repay you handsomely.  Unfortunately, too often the opposite is true – and having a staff becomes a nightmare of added work, added costs, and negative results.

Ask questions, seek advice, consider alternatives – do all the things that you would do before offering any new product or service to your customers or clients.  You will grow much more successfully with less hassle if you do!

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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Pinterest for Small Business Retailers: Marketing Hot or Not?

Red Pinterest logoIf you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.

Continue reading…

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

Google to Great Webinars: Google Sites

Using Google to Be Found, Part 1 – Google Sites from Ray Sidney-Smith on Vimeo.

In our first Webinar, we present Google Sites, the Internet giant’s tool to help your Small Business quickly and easy draft, edit and publish a Web site in minutes!

Google describes its product as:

With Google Sites, you can easily create and update your own site. Google Sites allows you display a variety of information in one place—including videos, slideshows, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text—and share it for viewing or editing with a small group, an entire organization, or the world. You always control who has access to your site.

We go over you would use Google Sites to plan and implement a new site, how to modify the look and feel, how to navigate the basic and some intermediate features of the product. During the Webinar, we allotted ample Q&A time with our favorite “Google-ologist,” Ray Sidney-Smith, and had some great questions!

Do you have a question after watching the video? Ask it in the comments below, or tweet @w3consulting and include the hashtag #googletogreat in your tweet. We’ll post a video response to your question!