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!

Risk Avoidance: Risky for Small Business Investors

Risk
Risk (Photo credit: The Fayj)

When I first joined Wachovia in 2008 (you may know us as Wells Fargo), one of the first things I was told was that “Sometimes you buy stocks when they are down so you won’t get tempted to buy them when they go up.” I feel it was great advice. It tells me there are subtle risks in stocks that are just as real as the obvious ones.

Academics define risk in terms of volatility. Most of the Small Business investors I know do not worry that the stocks that they own will go up too quickly; that would be a wonderful feeling! They worry that what they own will go down in price and that they will lose money; pretty normal if you ask me. Losing money is painful. It’s only right that we all want to avoid doing it. That being said, I am not 100% sure that this risk should be avoided at all costs.

Overtime, we have been shown that stocks seem to defy the rules of supply and demand. In most cases, higher prices mean less demand and lower prices mean more demand, which is not always true in the capital markets. Sometimes when an asset appreciates, there is a belief in further appreciate of that asset in those who have not participated in the rise. Those who have not bought in experience remorse. The feeling can exist even more if that rising asset was avoided because of fears of losing money. In addition, an alternative asset was purchased as a result of expected lower risk when unfortunately little or no return was given to its holder causing even more remorse.

It can be painful not to own stocks as they are going up. Investors feel they have “missed the boat,” which can cause one to enter the market at higher prices and set the stage for future losses. I believe that investors should be risk averse, but I also believe that they should be aware of the bucket of risks that exist. I feel that the future is risky by nature. One cannot avoid risk but one can manage it. A diversified portfolio may mean that you are never entirely right, but guess what? The chances of you being entirely wrong are not so great. When was the last time you rode on a Ferris wheel. It would be stupid to invest all of your assets on one bucket. What would be smart is to divide those assets into several buckets in that Ferris wheel. Should one bucket tip, you have others to stabilize that one bucket’s loss. If you ask me, 100% cash portfolio can cause almost as much trouble as one that is 100% common stocks.

In my opinion, there is still room for appreciation. The world is still far from perfect. The perceived risks of stock prices are still widely felt. Is the least understood risk the risk of no equity exposure at all?

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JASON FUCHS is a financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors in the Alexandria, Virginia area and can offer you a wide range of financial and investment services.

 

Wonder Woman to the Rescue!

In today’s fragile economy, some of you may be working diligently on getting yourselves hired. If you are, you are probably talking with a corporate recruiter/human resources manager like me whose job it is to help organizations determine who is the best fit for their vacant positions.  We all know that interviewing is very stressful – right up there with …

In today’s fragile economy, some of you may be working diligently on getting yourselves hired. If you are, you are probably talking with a corporate recruiter/human resources manager like me whose job it is to help organizations determine who is the best fit for their vacant positions.  We all know that interviewing is very stressful – right up there with ...

If Mama’s Happy, Everybody’s Happy!

After two months of running around metropolitan DC in my beloved gas-guzzling Chevy Suburban, I decided it was time for a change. With my miles-per-gallon topping 17 on a good day – a drive to Gainesville and back, I wanted one thing – relief at the pump. I was determined to settle for nothing less than 28 miles to the …

After two months of running around metropolitan DC in my beloved gas-guzzling Chevy Suburban, I decided it was time for a change. With my miles-per-gallon topping 17 on a good day – a drive to Gainesville and back, I wanted one thing – relief at the pump. I was determined to settle for nothing less than 28 miles to the ...

Growth Starts “At Home”

Myers-Briggs Frequency visualization
Myers-Briggs Frequency visualization (Photo credit: Peter Forret)

Many of us understand the importance of building the capacity of our business, but ourselves? Not so much. Developing your skills and knowledge are important. Developing your personal capacity for resilience is critical.

Resilience allows you to push past difficulties, cope with tough times, and maintain your health. All those are vital to any entrepreneur, not to mention to most humans!

Sure you already know what you should be taking care of (yourself, your health, and all those new year’ resolutions)… so how do you understand and build your personal resilience quotient?

First, learn how your brain works.

Do you understand how you react to challenges? How your temperament influences your actions? I see executives all the time who are so tied up emotionally in some problem that they are sense-less or crazy-making.

Understanding personal style and temperament can help you be more effective – and resilient. If you understand these, you can choose to change when you need to or to cope better with issues that you face.

If you know that what drains your energy and what bolsters it, for example, you can work smarter. One easy introduction is the free Keirsey Temperament tool. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is another.

Read the amusing economics book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely to see how and why we so often over-estimate small risks and are not rational about our decisions. It will help you think smarter the next time you are making a business move, hiring staff – or buying chocolates.

Brain science is rapidly developing—a little attention and you can use yours to help you grow, to develop greater capacity, and to be resilient.

Second, evaluate past experiences.

We rarely use our past difficulties to inform our present. You’ve had times where you overcame an obstacle or dealt with something you did not think you could handle. Learn from those.

Take a moment to consider what your past experiences tell you. Make notes: what was the issue, what did you do, how did you get through the bad time? How can you build on the skills and abilities you demonstrated then?

Ask people you respect to help you identify your strengths and resiliency. Get them to talk about their hard times and share skills.

Third, build your coping skills.

The techniques you learn to handle problems more effectively at work can be used in your personal life and vice versa.  Advice on becoming happier or more productive and self-help guru’s books are everywhere.

The real challenge for most of us is to actually try something new, to make it a habit to challenge our own thought processes, and to face our fears full-on.

Developing resilience is neither easy nor hard. But it does pay high dividends at work and at home if you do so before your next challenge hits.

What resiliency tips are you willing to share? We’d love your ideas to help us all.

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. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

Small Business Insurance: A Necessity From the Start

Insurance
Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

The “to do list” is long and daunting when you are start a new business. What entity to use ? What about office space ? What office furniture and equipment do I need ? All are good and necessary questions. Frequently missing from the list – what type of small business insurance will I need ? This question is one of the most important.

Insurance protects your business from losses due to fire, theft, yours and your employee’s negligence, and accidents that occur in your office. In its various forms, it provides peace of mind for you, protection for your business, its assets and your own personal assets.

While insurance needs depend on the business’ nature, almost all businesses should have a commercial general liability (CGL) policy. This policy protects the business from the costs of defense and settlements or judgments that result from bodily injury, property damage, libel, and slander claims. Depending on the policy and the nature of the claim, it may cover the costs of defense and a settlement or judgment for a breach of contract claim.

In addition to a CGL policy, if a business provides services, error and omissions (malpractice) insurance is a necessity. This policy provides protection for claims which allege negligence in the provision of services to customers and clients. A CGL policy does not cover these claims.

If the business owns the building or the business has business personal property, property insurance is a necessity. Property insurance protects the business property from fire, theft, vandalism and the like. If the business owns motor vehicles, then commercial auto insurance is necessary to protect the business from any claims arising from accidents in company owned vehicles. If employees drive their own cars for business purposes, then non-owned auto liability coverage is necessary in case the employee does not carry auto insurance or has inadequate coverage.

Depending on circumstances, other insurance policies that a small business should consider are: workers compensation insurance (required if the business has employees), business interruption insurance, disability insurance, data breach insurance, directors and officers insurance, and products’ liability insurance.

Many of the above coverages may be combined into a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP). A BOP is a package policy that combines the more common coverages, CGL, property, auto, business interruption, for example, into a single policy with premiums that are lower than if you purchased each policy separately.

To assess the types and amount of insurance that best suits your business, seek out an independent insurance agent who specializes in commercial lines insurance. Such an agent has the ability to shop the policy around for the best coverages and deductibles for the best premium. Since not all policies are created equal, the independent insurance agent is invaluable in comparing policies to ensure that you are buying the most appropriate insurance for your purposes. As 2012 comes to a close and 2013 dawns, it is a great time to assess or reassess your insurance needs. 

Law Office of Paula M. Potoczak
218 North Lee Street, Third Floor
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
(703) 519-3733 (Telephone)

Red Hots Wanted!

A few merry Christmases ago, my friend Jenny introduced me to a marshmallow cornflake no-bake concoction that requires three cinnamon Red Hots as trimming.  The addition of the candy transforms the green gooey mess into a precious holly fragment and the dessert of choice for the younger set.  Since then, I’ve been whipping these up with the help of my …

A few merry Christmases ago, my friend Jenny introduced me to a marshmallow cornflake no-bake concoction that requires three cinnamon Red Hots as trimming.  The addition of the candy transforms the green gooey mess into a precious holly fragment and the dessert of choice for the younger set.  Since then, I’ve been whipping these up with the help of my ...

Hello, World!

This company, TalentFront, was officially conceived when I found myself verklempt at a routine end-of-year staff meeting at my old firm. Our company had had a very good year . . . no wait, we had had arguably the best year in our corporate history. Our…

This company, TalentFront, was officially conceived when I found myself verklempt at a routine end-of-year staff meeting at my old firm. Our company had had a very good year . . . no wait, we had had arguably the best year in our corporate history. Our president and CEO, a remarkable leader with an incredible talent for public speaking decided ...