Business

Business
The success factor
October 25, 2017
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Here is an old quote from Woody Allen that has entered the realm of Respected Axioms.

It’s a reminder that progress requires action.

Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up.

In a recent interview with The Motley Fool investment advisors, Allen recalled that quote:

“I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.

“All the other people struck out without ever getting to the plate. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing. Once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that is the biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.”

If you want to do something, you must start.

You can further your career with training classes, college courses, or you can open up a text editor and start your great American novel.

Your goals don’t have to be lofty either. Want to be a citizen and homeowner? Get up, Dress up, and Show up every day and do your best.

Business
The Reality of Running A Small Business: Prepare Yourself (And Your Loved Ones)
October 20, 2017
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Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart. Being your own boss offers rewards—and plenty of challenges as well. Transitioning from working for someone else to running your own company brings changes that not only you need to navigate, but that your family and friends also need to adjust to.

“Realistic expectations are required by both the entrepreneur and close family. It must be a ‘team sport’,” explains SCORE mentor Steve Spencer.

As you prepare to start your business, keep these things in mind so you—and your loved ones—can more easily transition into the brave new world of entrepreneurship.

Income might be unpredictable at first.
Without a steady paycheck coming from an employer, you might find it challenging to keep up with expenses both professionally and personally. When you’re starting out, revenue from your business will take time to ramp up. It takes time to build a network of connections and clients.

You may need to forego some luxuries.
Prepare to make some personal sacrifices when self-employed. A daily caramel latte and Friday dinners out at your favorite five-star restaurant probably won’t be in the budget for a while.

Working from home requires discipline.
If you decide to run your business from an office in your home, you’ll face a whole new set of distractions that can threaten your productivity. Tuning out the personal to-do list and spontaneous requests from friends to meet up for coffee during the workday demand concentration—and the strength to say “no.”

Expect to work really hard.
Starting a small business requires a significant amount of time and effort. Many new entrepreneurs find themselves working harder and for longer hours than when they worked for an employer. Finding ways to maintain a comfortable work/life balance might be challenging in the beginning, but it’s necessary for the well-being of you, your family, and your business.

According to Spencer, “Realize that your new business will need a variety of help and advice. You will need to form relationships with professionals you may not have needed to collaborate with before. To better your chances of success, consider creating a business development board comprised of legal, accounting, banking, and industry experts who will agree to provide pro bono guidance as you begin. Having a team to guide you can help you prepare yourself—and your family—for what to expect from running your own business.”

SCORE mentors, with their breadth of experience, are often willing to serve on business development boards. Also consider talking with other entrepreneurs in your community who have walked the same path and can offer valuable insight and experience about the realities of entrepreneurship.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
What exactly is being professional?
October 15, 2017
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So many people talk about professionalism as if it is a suit you put on.

In fact, professionalism is just shorthand for being a respectful, skilled, and reliable.

*Respectful
It’s not just ‘yes, ma’am’ or ‘no, sir’, but that isn’t a bad thing. Respect is about:

Listening: Treating co-workers and customers as important humans with valuable things to say. Learn to listen without interrupting.

Dressing properly: The dress code is either spoken or unspoken. Look around to figure it out. Lifehack writer and business analyst, Ben Brumm, suggests dressing slightly above the dress code. If a collared shirt is required, try wearing a tie, too.

Conversing smartly: Stay away from politics and religion, according to Inc. Magazine. You may want to avoid discussing current events, especially if it is against prevailing wisdom.
Answering the phone properly: Greet and state your name. Hello, this is Sandy or Good Morning, Sandy speaking.

Separating work from home: Hello Kitty is swell, but it should not dominate your office space. Decorate modestly and discretely. Don’t bring your hobbies into the office. Be in the office to work, not solve family problems on the telephone.

*Reliable
Return emails and texts promptly.
Be punctual: Be on time, all the time. No exceptions.
Meet all deadlines: Treat them as sacred.
Show up. Always.
Lend a hand.
Volunteer for special jobs, if you have the time to follow through.

*Skilled
Be great at your job.
Be great at recognizing other people’s greatness.
Speak formally. No slang and certainly no objectionable words.

Business
Achieving Product/Market Fit For Your Small Business Startup
October 13, 2017
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For any startup to succeed, achieving product/market fit is among the most vital of goals. But verifying that your product meets a strong market need and can stand up to competitors is not an exact science, nor does it typically happen in one grand a-ha moment. Likewise, building momentum in a market requires patience and comes with no guarantees as customers’ needs, regulatory landscapes, and competitive pressures change over time.

“Consider that your business will only succeed if it adds real value for the user. In this case ‘value’ means that businesses or individuals will understand they need or want it enough to pay you a price that will give you profit and success,” advises SCORE mentor Bob Goedjen. “Start by understanding your target market’s need and then whether you will be a better solution than your competition.”

Despite the uncertainty and risk you face when starting a business, there are some actions you can take to increase your success in accomplishing product/market fit:

Do your homework to understand your customers’ current needs and anticipate what they’ll need in the future. Research your target demographic by spending time with prospective customers, read industry blogs and print publications, attend industry tradeshows and webinars, and seek out a professional in your industry who might serve as a mentor to you as you develop your products and services.

Focus on one primary and critical value proposition. It’s impossible to be all things to all customers. By homing in on what’s most important to your target customers, analyzing significant trends in your industry, and identifying where competitors are falling short in solving customers’ problems, you can deliver value out of the gate. If you’re solving a pain point for your customers from the start, they will be more patient in waiting for you to add other features and options.

Listen. Learn. Adapt.
Have a business plan, but be open to change as you listen to feedback and ideas from your early customers. Learn from what they’re telling you can improve your products or services. And be prepared to adapt your systems and processes to make your business more viable and sustainable.

According to Goedjen, “Good planning and research will pay off in money/costs avoided and a far better marketing strategy and tactics that will resound in your customers’ minds. It is not ‘how’ you bring your product or service but rather what the benefits are in the language the customer understands.”

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

 

Business
How to make lemonade
October 6, 2017
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Somebody has to do it, and that somebody could turn out to be you. When you are assigned a project or task that seems unimportant, or one that could be headed for failure, you have some choices.

You could try to convince your boss that you are the wrong person for the job. Assigned to head up plans for a service awards dinner, you could say you know nothing about event planning, food, or entertainment. You might convince the boss to pick someone else, but it would hardly be a feather in your cap.

Sometimes the unwanted project is one that seems destined to be a failure, one that couldn’t produce the results the company wants. When that happens, it’s important to keep your boss informed about progress or lack thereof all along the line.

In many cases, you will be recognized for your diligence and efforts even if the project fails.

When life gives you lemons, the old saying goes, make lemonade.

Business
Six Tips For Maximizing The Benefits Of Having A Business Mentor
October 3, 2017
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Embracing the help of a SCORE business mentor offers many advantages to entrepreneurs. Whether you’re in the early stages of exploring a business idea or already running an established business, a mentor can provide valuable guidance, serve as an objective sounding board for listening to and evaluating new ideas, and motivate you to be more accountable. With a SCORE mentor, you benefit from expertise and experience that can help you launch and/or grow your business.

Before you begin working with a mentor, consider what you can do to get the most fulfillment from your mentor/mentee relationship. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Come prepared with a list of questions and issues you’re facing to every meeting with your SCORE mentor. Mentors are there to answer even what seem to be the silliest questions. They don’t judge you by what you know or don’t know. They are there to develop your understanding and awareness. And if they personally don’t know the answer to a particular question, they can tap into the expertise of other SCORE mentors within their chapter or nationally.

Focus When you talk with your mentor, be entirely present and ready to focus on your business issues. Unless you need them for research during your meeting, put your digital devices away so they won’t distract you from your conversation.

Have realistic expectations
Your mentor is there to advise you, not to do the work for you. You will gain insight and direction from a mentor, but you will still have to work hard. Starting and running a small business requires effort—no exceptions.

Follow through
Do your homework! You should walk away from every meeting with your mentor with next steps (a.k.a. action items). Make sure you tackle what you agreed to do between meetings. If you slack off and don’t take the initiative to complete the tasks necessary to move forward, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your time together.

Keep an open mind
You and your mentor may not always see eye to eye on certain ideas or approaches. Rather than instantly discarding suggestions that don’t align with your initial thoughts, consider your mentor’s frame of reference and experience in working with other SCORE mentees who faced similar challenges. The right answer may not always be what you want to hear, so it’s important to listen with an objective ear.

Keep the lines of communication open
When first starting your business, you will probably find you need to meet with your mentor on a relatively frequent basis (possibly every week). As time goes by, your need to consult your mentor may ebb and flow depending on the nature of the competition you’re facing, industry changes, or opportunities you want to pursue. Even when you don’t feel you need to meet very often, keep your mentor up to date on what’s happening in your business via email or a periodic phone call. That way, your mentor will be informed and better equipped to provide guidance when you do face a new challenge.

Getting Started
To find a SCORE mentor in your area who has expertise in the specific aspects of small business you need help with, visit the SCORE website.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
OSHA rolls back regulations, reporting
October 2, 2017
3

OSHA has rolled back some of its detailed reporting on workplace fatalities, a move that has been backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which thought the information was unnecessarily and unfairly punitive to companies.

Under the Obama Administration, extensive details about fatalities were  posted on the OSHA website, including the names of the workers who died, the companies, and the apparent circumstances. But critics said the practice did not protect the privacy of families and unfairly put black marks on companies even before the accidents were investigated.

The practice was an attempt to make companies work harder on compliance and humanize safety statistics, OSHA officials said. The agency posted weekly reports of accidents and put a scrolling box on its home page reporting the names of workers who died in accidents.

The new OSHA website posts a more limited set of information on citations for companies dating back to the beginning of the year. Previously, fatality information was available through 2009.

OSHA has also rolled back a regulation that required companies to electronically file injury logs they keep at the work site, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Business
How To Make Writing a Business Plan Less Intimidating
September 29, 2017
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A business plan is not only important for starting your business, it’s also an indispensable tool for helping you manage and grow your business. Your business plan is your roadmap in operating your company, and it’s essential if you intend to request funding from outside sources.

A business plan spells out specific details about your business related to business concept, marketplace, and financials. The length of your business plan can depend on the complexity and scale of your business. Even short one-page business plans have purpose and can affect success.

Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not preparing a business plan. That’s not terribly surprising, because writing one can seem a daunting task. It requires time, careful thought, research, and patience as you define your business’s critical success factors and goals.

Are you intimidated by the thought of writing a business plan? Know that the benefits are well worth the effort. The value of a business plan isn’t so much in the document you create, but the discovery process you embark upon to create it. As you work on your business plan, you answer key questions about your business that you may not have otherwise considered. That can help you recognize risks and opportunities—and better position you for success.

Here are some tips to make writing your business plan less intimidating:
• Don’t try to do it all at once. If you tackle it in smaller bits and pieces, the project will be more manageable.
• Schedule time to work on it.Plan time to work on your business plan. You’ll feel less stressed about it if you reserve time on your calendar to dedicate to it.
• Use technology and resources to your advantage.Although business plan templates and software can’t do it all for you, they can save time. Consider using SBA’s online Business Plan Tool and the full range of free business planning tools and templates that SCORE offers.
• Get feedback along the way.As you work on the different sections of your business plan, ask a SCORE mentor or other unbiased business professional to review it and provide suggestions for improvement and clarity.

Even though writing a business plan will require effort, it doesn’t have to be a harrowing experience. Follow the tips shared here, and keep your eye on the prize. With a business plan, you’ll be better able to move your business in the right direction from the start and navigate changes more easily in the future.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
What is a PDF and why have they stuck around?
September 27, 2017
1

Anyone who has used a computer for long has likely encountered a PDF file. The ubiquitous file type is a must-have for exchanging files.

According to Makeuseof.com, the PDF file was originally introduced by Adobe in the early 1990s and then released as an open format in 2008 which allowed anyone to create their own viewers and editors.

Before the appearance of the PDF, professionals looking to create documents with graphics resulted in painfully large files being created because they had to store all of the elements together in that file. Due to the power of those early computers, it made handling those files a daunting task.

The PDF solved the problem by developing a system that gathered all parts of a file into a smaller whole which allowed for easier handling of the file. Because of the way the file was created, it also looked the same on any device that the user might be opening it on.

This property keeps the tech relevant, as today’s consumer is just as likely to be opening the file on a smartphone as a PC.

Business
Business networking groups: Sharing contacts and information
September 25, 2017
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Business networking groups are not just for socializing; they can actually give you access to people with new ideas and strategies.

Groups are becoming more niche oriented so that it is easier to find one where the members’ businesses are more related. This can allow for sharing business strategies. For example, a baker, ice cream shop owner, and restaurateur can approach a vendor they all use to lower their costs.

By regularly attending business events, people will begin to recognize you. Take advantage of giving others advice and the benefit of your experience. You want to be known as a person who is trustworthy and reliable. This can help you get more leads and referrals as you will be the one who “pops into their head when they need what you offer,” notes Small Business BC.

Free consult – You may find just the consultant you need within a business networking group. Just as you are angling to be noticed by being willing to give advice, so are others. You should take advantage of that. Observers note that people, in general, enjoy sharing their expertise.

“You will find that as you build relationships with people, the value of the help that is passed to you formally or informally will exceed any costs incurred by developing the relationships in the first place.” – AmazingBusiness.com

To find a networking group that’s the right fit for your type of business, contact your area Chamber of Commerce. They tend to keep track of the active groups in your community. Also, check out Meetup. This online site lists groups that you can choose from that best suit your needs.