Networking, Volunteering, and Government Roles of Small Business

Networking, Volunteering, and Government Roles of Small Business

Government entities need the backing of the citizens and businesses in order for positive changes to take place in a community. Changes must grow from the bottom up. Large and small businesses, services, non profits and ordinary people giving time and in some cases money, to enact positive causes, ensures that the whole community benefits.

Politicians, citizens, religious and business leaders are responsible to find a common ground, stop nit picking and slandering and focus on the real problems . A main initiative rooted in self agenda, is misread, misquoted and misinformed at every opportunity for a payoff of attention, and serves as a waste time on trivia.

Kalamazoo, Michigan is a Model City

In a southwestern Michigan town during the 1990’s, discussions, dialogue and presentations of various volunteer groups in a non-profit organization catapulted sustainable, positive changes and growth. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, these changes ended up affecting surrounding communities in Kalamazoo county. Citizens for change in the combined Kalamazoo and Portage areas know that giving of self will render what is needed.

Kalamazoo Growth Survives Business Downturn

Even though the closings of large donor companies caused the Forum of Greater Kalamazoo to eventually disperse, there were spin-off groups that continued the work. The city improved so fast that people who had lived in the area and moved away came back after a few years to find a city that wowed them. The result was new growth in businesses, and a new look for the city.

Although the recession took a toll and many businesses went bankrupt, the city of Kalamazoo remains progressive and upbeat.

Even though disagreements arise, progressive, positive businesses can overcome and reach agreement through non-profit forums, supporting citizen endeavors and co-operating with government.

Southwest Michigan First, the Catalyst of Business Growth

Although the recession took a toll and many businesses went bankrupt, the city of Kalamazoo remains progressive and upbeat.

In just a few years, the Radisson Hotel was transformed into a space age focal point to Michigan Street.

Kalamazoo Avenue gained a fabulous new renovation to the Arcadia Festival site and across the street, the Amtrack train and bus station lot was merged with the cities Metro Transportation system with new brick and mortar, and parking stations for in town and out of town buses.

Old Brownfield developments in the downtown area changed from slum looks to resurfaced brick, updated and renovated to house new restaurants, technology and other businesses.

Burdick Street Mall-The First Renovation

A new brick paved downtown mall laid over heated duct work now runs through the Burdick corridor. The mall street and walk way was laid over heated duct work and creates a wonderful and exciting place to shop, lounge and eat in or outdoors.

Changes are too numerous to mention in one column and all brought about by the citizens backing government in a small college town called Kalamazoo, Michigan.

15 Strategies for Savvy Small Businesses in 2017

15 Strategies for Savvy Small Businesses in 2017

The last few years have been tough for many small businesses due to the recession and lingering financial and regulatory uncertainty. Yet, many small businesses have remained healthy, and others have started, during these challenging times. The difference between the success or failure of a small business can often be tied to the ability of its management to recognize early and adapt quickly to changing trends in the market.

Based on recent small business trends and predictions for 2017, there are some strategies that small business owners should consider for the coming year.

Small business marketing strategies for 2017

  1. 1. Develop a social media marketing strategy. Social media is here to stay. If you don’t already have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, doing so should be one of your first marketing priorities for the New Year. If you already have a profile, now is the time to carefully and strategically fine-tune your strategy. As the social media market matures, there will be less tolerance for the haphazard, shotgun approaches to social media marketing that have been seen thus far.
  2. 2. Manage your online presence. Good news about a company or a business person travels quickly on the web. Bad news travels even faster. Periodically Google your business, and yourself, to see what others are saying. Be mindful of your dealings with prospects and customers. It’s always easier to keep a customer happy than to turn a dissatisfied customer around.
  3. Quality content is your friend. The internet provides countless ways to get the good work out about your business. Use blogs, social media accounts, online articles, and other people’s web sites to spread the word.
  4. Make the most of your web site. More than half of company web sites are essentially online brochures, offering general information about goods and services, but missing an important opportunity to provide real value to customers and prospects. Enhance your web site with fresh, high-quality content, e-commerce solutions, customer service support, and any other type of information that may help you attract and keep customers.
  5. Reconsider local advertising. With companies like Groupon, and the explosion in mobile apps, local advertising is taking on a new twist and regaining popularity. More and more consumers are looking online and to their smartphones for customized searches and ads based on where they live and work.

Small business technology strategies for 2017

  1. Explore opportunities to incorporate cloud computing. Use web-based and/or mobile apps to save money and time and to facilitate sharing and collaborating with colleagues and customers.
  2. Focus on security. Increasing identity theft and web site hacking have raised legitimate concerns about doing business online. Make sure your business transactions are as secure as possible. The bad guys are always coming up with new ways to cheat, which means that businesses need to update security measures on an ongoing basis.

Other small business strategies for 2017

  1. Going green can mean more green. As consumers become more eco-friendly, demands that the businesses they deal with do the same are growing. From paperless transactions to using recycled products, explore and implement creative, cost-saving, and environmentally-friendly opportunities to go green.
  2. O2O becomes key. Doing business online is great, but there is still something to be said for the beauty of face-to-face transactions. Implement online strategies that will drive prospects and customers to your offline location whenever possible and practical. Establishing personal relationships with prospects and customers is one of the best ways to grow your business.
  3. Turn cost-cutting measures into cost-containment strategies. Many small businesses had to cut costs in order to survive the recession. As business improves, identify ways to continue those cost savings so that more of your revenue will make it to the bottom line.
  4. Give those boomers some respect. There are 76 million or so baby boomers that are generating a host of opportunities for businesses that are savvy enough to identify and meet the specific needs of this special population. As boomers live longer, healthier lives, the opportunity to serve this market is becoming even more profitable.
  5. Consider location, location, location. A recent study found that the worst place to get work done was at the office. When productive people were asked when and where they were able to get the most work done, the majority cited a location other than the office, but when working in the office, the most productive times for them were when others weren’t around. Low-cost, and often free, cloud computing applications making sharing and collaborating remotely a breeze. In addition, telecommuting also saves money on rent, utilities, and travel expenses.
  6. Put the customer first. The customer may not always be right, but businesses can’t exist without them. Make providing the best possible customer service a core value of your business. Make it easy for customers to connect with your organization if they have questions, concerns, or problems. Develop a feedback loop so you can gauge the level of customer satisfaction your business has at any given point in time.
  7. Look for the next great idea. Two of the best, and most frequently overlooked, sources of inspiration for your business are right in front of you – your customers and your employees. Ask them what’s working, what’s not working, and what products or services are on their wish lists. Implement as many as you can in order to boost your business and keep those good ideas coming.
  8. Reassess your management style. More and more people, business owners and employees alike, are searching for more balance, simplicity, authenticity, and integrity in their lives. Old school management styles that may have worked in the past have in many cases become burdensome and counterproductive. Traits that distinguish an effective leader may surprise some who haven’t given this much thought in recent years. Invest some time in learning what constitutes a good leader and develop a strategy to become one.

TV Advertising for Small Business: Make TV Ads Sell with Compelling Offers to Increase Traffic

TV Advertising for Small Business

Buying a TV advertising schedule is a significant investment. It’s normal to wonder whether the return will be worth it. Only experience will tell, and there are several ways to minimize the risk.

Make it Sell

The first thing to do is make sure that the ad sells something. The TV sales rep and the station’s production director may want to produce a creative, edgy, attention-getting spot. Creativity and attention are vital, but most of all, the ad must sell.

Selling something is the only chance for a return on the investment. A spot that spends 25 out of 30 seconds being creative instead of selling products or services may earn the station an award from the local ad club. But the real test of the ad’s value is whether it increases traffic and sales.

Do a Break-Even Analysis

Consider very carefully which product or service appeals to the broadest segment of the station’s viewers. Then, do a quick analysis to quantify how many units must sell to cover the cost of the advertising.

If it seems realistic to believe that many units will sell as a result of the ad, and if the business can afford to take the risk that the ad won’t pay for itself, the next step is creating an offer to the potential customer.

Make a Compelling Offer

Is the business introducing something new? Is there a special discount promotion on a product line? Ask what would compel a viewer watching the ad to visit the store or call the office.

Better yet, ask existing customers. Do an informal focus group on the sales floor. Pick a regular customer and ask them. For example, “We might close out this line of products and pick up a new brand. If you were in the market, what discount would it take to interest you?”

Repeat that with 10 or 12 customers, and they will provide a strong sense of what kind of offer they’ll consider compelling enough to take action on after seeing the spot. And, if it’s a sufficient offer to interest current customers, chances are it’ll interest other viewers and convert them into new customers.

Provide a Copy Platform for the Creative Concept

Next, rough out a first draft of what the spot should include. This will give the TV sales rep and the station’s copywriter a good platform for constructing a creative spot that emphasizes the product or service and the offer. This needn’t be breathless prose – it’s just a starting point.

Suggest to the sales rep that they draft three creative concepts for the ad. The rep will work with the station’s copywriter and production director to come up with three different versions of the proposed spot. Then, evaluate all three and choose the one likely to work best.

Control the Content

Once a script is chosen, stay involved with the production. Observe the process to be certain the spot stays on track as it goes together. Trust the professionals on their mastery of the technology, but retain control over the content.

One specific tip: Be certain that the business phone number, location, Web site or other contact information runs throughout the spot. Potential customers have to know how to find the store! Make sure it’s on-screen as long as possible so they can easily write it down.

Scrutinize the Ad Schedule

Check that the ad is scheduled in programs with adequate ratings so the message reaches significant segments of viewers. Watch for overnight placements, which have less value.

Make the first ad sell, and discover the potential of TV advertising.

Small Business Help to Survive Global Recession: Surviving Economic Recession- Marketing and Survival Strategies

Small Business Help to Survive Global Recession

Many small and new business need all the help they can get in a global recession to avoid sinking completely.

Small Business Help to Survive Global Recession

Offer exceptional customer service: Competition is fierce for many businesses, especially small and new ones. Now is the time to focus on offering exceptional service. Customers do remember outstanding service and will actually pay more for a product if they feel valued. Send out regular, personal e-mails detailing special offers, take steps to ensure service delivery is effective, perhaps ask customers to fill out a satisfaction survey. Consider offering flexible payment terms.

Diversify: Specialized goods and niche services are good but consider branching out to offer other business related products or services. Be innovative but be careful not diversify too widely.

Cut costs to survive global recession: Costs can be reduced or even eliminated by using inexpensive business tools, such as using Google Apps to manage company email, documents, spreadsheets, mobile calendar sync. agenda management, lower IT costs etc. Telephone costs and the cost of video conference calls can be reduced with Skype, Mikogo. Be careful not to get into excessive debt, manage cashflow effectively and resist the temptation to spend on staff, software etc. unless there is adequate revenue to cover these expenses.

Small Business Marketing Strategies

Marketing costs can be costly, but without advertising and marketing the business risks sinking in times of global recession. Become more aggressive and more comprehensive than ever.

Consider hiring experts in the marketing field. Other strategies include touching base with clients on a regular basis, setting up an exceptional website with an online store, if applicable.

Small businesses typically have a limited marketing budget if any at all. Consider the following business marketing strategies:

  • Call vendors or associates and ask them to participate in co-op advertising.
  • Take some time to send existing customer incentives for referrals.
  • Consider the value of free publicity, such as radio publicity to boost business. By doing this, a small business owner can position himself or herself as an expert in a given field. If interviewed, have all facts together and be lively and enthusiastic.

If an entrepreneur is considering starting a new business in a time of recession, good businesses to start are typically in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, education, renovations, repairs and entertainment.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Ideas For Small Businesses

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Ideas For Small Businesses

When owning a small business, coming up with new ideas to boost exposure and income can be challenging. Try participating in Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year to bring attention to your services and products.

Small Business Can Compete With Big Business

Small businesses can often be swallowed up by the masses of advertizing put out by larger competitors. The weekend after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping weekend of the year and everyone is looking for a deal. Instead of sitting back and praying for a little exposure during the holidays, try getting out there with your own brand of “deals” to be had.

 Small Business Ideas For The Holidays

Home-based businesses are one of the leading choices among parents because it can be more flexible with a family’s schedule. Being home based is an advantage here because while some people really like being out in the malls on Black Friday, others want a low-key day after a holiday full of food and family. Have friends, family and customers over for a Black Friday holiday get together. You can showcase gift ideas and special offers in a laid back environment. It will feel more like a party than a business gathering and gives everyone the opportunity to relax, have fun, and get some shopping done without feeling the pressure of a salesperson or the retail experience. Better yet, you as the business owner, you have the control. Fancy Dinner or cake and coffee? You can decide what works for you and your schedule while taking advantage of a busy shopping weekend. Internet businesses can benefit from Cyber Monday by offering special pricing, free shipping or any number of specials that you may come up with. Proposing things like gift wrapping and delivery services for holiday purchases can draw customers to the convenience that you are offering them.

Service based businesses don’t need to shy away from shopping holidays. In times like these, when money is tight, people want what they need more that extraneous gifts. Suggest gift certificates for services for family and friends or discounted services for referrals. Free gifts with the purchase of a service is also popular. Advertise special rates or practical gift ideas during that first week of the shopping season.

Any kind of business can profit from joining in on the holiday fun. Be creative. Business owners already know how to think outside the box, so put those skills to use. Don’t just get drowned out it all the commercials and sale papers, get out there with your own promotions this holiday season and make yourself heard!

How to Implement Successful Promotions: Promotions Need to Be Planned Effectively to be Worthwhile

How to Implement Successful Promotions

Promotions are part of most small businesses. They range from % off costs to offering a prize to customers and everything in between. Small businesses have specific challenges and their promotions need to be approached differently than those of larger organisations. One of the biggest challenges in small business promotion is working with small budgets.

Small budgets mean more specific promotions

The most important part of any promotion is to figure out the goal of the promotion and then put processes in place to monitor the success of the promotion. Promotions are useful if they achieve their goal. This means that every promotion should have a goal to begin with. It’s important to figure out what the promotion is trying to achieve specifically.

Potential promotion reasons:

  1. Increase sales
  2. Increase brand awareness
  3. Increase brand loyalty
  4. Create a new market or expand an existing one

For example: A cafe introduces a new product; take-home meals. The goal of promotional activity is to increase brand awareness of the new product and the gauge of success is an increase in inquiries online and in store about the new product. Note that the gauge of success is not increased sales as that is not the goal of the promotion. It’s important to be clear on goals and the gauge of success.

Planning a Promotion

A plan for the promotion will assist in ensuring the promotion stays on track. Following is a simplified example of a promotional plan for the aforementioned cafe promotion:

Promotional Plan

Goal/Objective of the promotion: To increase awareness of the new product, ‘Take Home Meals’.

How success will be measured: An increase in inquiries on website and in store

Target market/s: Current customers and busy meal preparers.

Outline of the promotion and how it will achieve the specified goal: An email is sent to the current cafe database outlining the new product and the chance to win a week’s worth of family take away dinners by entering online or filling out a competition entry form at the counter.

Marketing Message: The best solution for busy people. Don’t resort to junk food, take the cafe you love home with you.

Marketing Material: Online form and brochure as well as in store competition forms. Posters and print ads.

Where and how the promotion will be communicated: Current cafe database, ads and editorial in local paper, posters in store.

Timelines and Deadlines: Promotion to coincide with the launch of the product. The promotion will run for one month with prize drawn the following week.

Budget: Prize $250, Marketing: $400, Licensing: $250

Make the next promotion even better

It’s important to also record the results of the promotion as well as any obstacles or unforeseen circumstances. This will assist in future promotional planning. Promotions are great tools for small business as long as they are well thought out and executed.

Five New Business Failure Myths: The Truth About Succeeding With Small Businesses

Five New Business Failure Myths

It is common knowledge that many small businesses fail within a year. However, many also succeed. Why do some thrive while others don’t manage to survive? There are several common myths about small business success. Each one of these myths is true for some businesses while being completely false for others.

If a New Small Business Fails Within a Year, the Area Just Isn’t Ready for It.

Sometimes, an area simply can’t support a business. Other times, the business owner quits to soon, doesn’t advertise effectively, or has a bad location. It is wise to really research the economic status of an area before opening a similar business, but taking a close look at why the other business failed is also a smart idea.

A Business Failed Because It Was Located in a Home.

Multimillion dollar computer corporations began as home businesses. Unless the entrepreneur is running a business where appearances are everything, a business run from a professional looking home office is just fine.

The Small Business Owner Who Doesn’t Succeed With a First Business Isn’t Cut Out for Entrepreneurship.

Actually, the opposite is usually true. A person who has a failed business under his or her belt knows from personal experience what the pitfalls of the last business were and can avoid most of them with a new business. However, if the first business failed because he or she just couldn’t remain organized, forgot to invoice customers and spent all day playing Solitaire instead of hunting for new contacts, then a second try at starting a business is probably a very bad idea.

 A Move to a New Location Can Kill a Business.

 It happens quite often. A thriving new business moves to a new location and fails within a year. However, other times the business doubles its revenue. Before moving a new business, think very carefully about customer travel patterns. Instead of driving as little as five minutes out of their way to continue going to the business that has moved, they may opt to find a different business that is located within their current travel pattern.

The Business Failed Because the Owners Weren’t Committed to It.

This can be true, but it also can be completely false. If the owners shut down the store on a whim because it is a nice day, a cold day, the third day of a week with Friday the 13th in it, National Pickle Day, and for any other random reason, it is probably very true. Small business owners know that the second they decide to close for the day, someone will come wandering in the front door. Despite the fact that they have somewhere to go, successful owners usually give the potential customer a warm welcome. This is because they are aware that the potential customer isn’t likely to come back another day after being shooed out like a pesky fly. The same is true for people who walk up to the store, tug on the front door and then see the “Sorry, we’ve gone fishing!” sign in the window. One unscheduled closure is usually forgiven, but two or three cause them to decide to head for a store they know will be open.

Affordable Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: 3 Ways to Save Money When Marketing Your Small Business

Affordable Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Marketing can be one of the hardest expenditures for small businesses to budget. When cash flow is tight, it can be tempting to slash marketing expenses but that doesn’t mean the marketing plan has to be non-existent. There are several affordable marketing ideas that don’t cost much. They may require a bit of creativity or extra work, but the cost is often worth the gain.

Social Network Marketing

Many small business owners are realizing the value of social networking. How many people now have Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter pages? Developing a business presence on these platforms can help a company establish relationships with customers and communicate with them regularly.

The difference between social networking and your static company website is that social media allows two-way interaction. Your fans, friends, or followers can interact with your business by reading, commenting, and sharing your page. They can also address the company directly with feedback, which you can use to improve your marketing plan. Social networking sites are free so the only investment is your time, making this is a very affordable marketing method for small businesses.

Bartering for Marketing

This one requires some creativity but can really help cash-strapped businesses continue to market products and services despite a lack of cash flow. A good example is a computer store owner who needs to invest in a new website. The store owner approaches a local web designer who needs some new hardware. The two can then swap services or products of similar value and they both get something they need. The small business owner now has a new website to expand his marketing efforts and attract new customers.







It is important to note that, when bartering, a business should record the fair market value of everything it trades and receives. This is needed because the fair market value of bartered services or products must be listed as income come tax time.

Turn Customers Into Marketing Staff

This is one of the oldest affordable marketing techniques in the book. It is one of the most powerful forms of marketing for small businesses, especially those that operate on a local level. It can also be one of the easiest advertisements to obtain. Business owners should ask family, friends, and happy customers to talk about the business.

The best way to generate good word of mouth about a business is to take good care of the customers. If they receive outstanding service from the company, they’ll be more likely to recommend its product or service to a friend, co-worker, or family member. This is especially important when dealing with confrontation. If customers have a concern, the owner or employees should keep their cool and do what it takes to change the customer’s frustration into satisfaction. Providing good service causes a company’s customers to become its most powerful marketing tool.

New Walmart Opens, Small Businesses Close–Common Misconceptions

New Walmart Opens, Small Businesses Close–Common Misconceptions

A theory the new Walmart opening in town will indefinitely cause all local small businesses and existing retailers to disappear from the grid is a dismal conviction that society and small business owners recognize as unabridged fate.

Independent retailers are under pressure when billion dollar mega-retailers bring local competition–recent article states entrepreneurs gain by innovation.

Old Wive’s Tale Debunked

The article, The Wal-Mart Effect: Wave of Destruction or Creative Destruction?, from Economic Geography shows reputable, analytical stats backed by researchers at University of Florida, University of Toronto, and Princeton. In a 14 year study from 1980 to 2004 in Florida, research suggests small businesses may lose more by regarding or undertaking the notion that business will indefinitely flounder–buying into what has been engrained in the minds of Walmart shoppers, independent retailers, and Walmart greeters across the board.

Even though this a premise society has adopted and adapted to as commonplace knowledge, research from the study states this misconception as fallacy. The ostensible mythos negatively effects intimidated local business owners to the point of considering and often calling it quits rather than evaluating all possible circumstances before closing.

If local surrounding businesses offer services and products Walmart does not provide, the competition is not as steep in the long haul as some skeptics state.

Creative Destruction, Entrepreneurs Step Up

According to the study, retailers close to Walmarts are apt and previously equipped to sell the same products as the mega-retailer–providing the same product or service at a competitive rate either forces independent companies to change or leave the scene.

The vacant locations eventually attract fresh occupants and entrepreneurs that diversify the local market. For example, an art supply store can provide higher end, professional products Walmart does not stock.

A Korean restaurant, for instance, will benefit more from the new neighbor whereas a newly established Kodak store owner may need to reevaluate her business strategy since Walmart provides photo development services as well.

Variety and diversity in the market regenerates depletion of past businesses dissolving while opening doors for future investors, ultimately to potentially successful entrepreneurial ventures, in a business environment when large super stores like Walmart force market transformation.

Over time, the newbies establish products and services to compete and succeed with extensive innovative changes in business strategy to push forward and out perform competitors of old.

Inevitable Losses, Envisioned Gains

Entrepreneurs should be optimistic when Walmart waltzes in a few exits down I-77 from another Super Walmart: the small business owner should take a look at setting up shop next to the fresh asphalt and offer services and products the new mega-vender does not provide, perhaps a joint, non-profit validation parking service venture for Walmart customers.

Professional Employer Organizations for Small Businesses

Professional Employer Organizations for Small Businesses

In an increasingly complex and regulated business environment, owners must manage a plethora of complicated personnel matters, such as employee health benefits, retirement plans, workers’ compensation compliance, payroll, taxes, and unemployment insurance claims. Short of hiring or expanding full-time human resources expertise, many business owners find themselves juggling these unproductive details themselves. Worse yet, some owners leave themselves exposed to potential liability by operating outside of required government standards or find it difficult to compete with their more efficient rivals.

A Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, enables a business owner to keep current staff yet outsource much of the human resources management function, including payroll, benefits, and workers’ compensation. Working with a PEO frees the business owner’s valuable time from these necessary distractions and allows him or her to focus more energy and talent on core business activities that generate revenue and make the company more profitable.

How a PEO Works

According to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, the PEO industry is approximately 30 years old, with 700 PEOs operating across all 50 states. Through a shared employment relationship referred to as “co-employment,” the business owner and the PEO agree to share employer responsibilities. Under this arrangement, the business owner typically remains the work site employer and continues to handle decisions related to hiring, termination, job requirements, work assignments, and promotions. The PEO can step in as the administrative employer, taking on functions related to payroll, benefits, and compliance with employment laws.

A typical PEO client is a small business with between 10 and 50 workers, although larger organizations are beginning to utilize PEOs as well. The types of businesses turning to the PEO model are diverse. PEO clients include accounting firms, manufacturers, universities, medical offices, government agencies, and others.

Benefits of a PEO

In addition to relieving the business owner from unproductive time-consuming administrative tasks, contracting with a PEO has other advantages. A PEO relationship can allow an employer to offer enhanced employee benefits that may otherwise be too expensive. PEO sponsored benefit packages can include 401(k), healthcare plans, dental, vision, employee assistance programs, and more.

A PEO may also enhance the work site and contribute to a safer working environment. Staffed by certified human resources specialists, the PEO focuses on safety programs, workplace risk management, and sound human resources practices. Other services may include recruiting, pre-employment screening, and planning for wages and compensation.

In an economy that continues to challenge employers to control costs and rein in spending, a PEO can be a viable alternative for many business owners. Employees can benefit as well, through greater access to valuable and meaningful benefits, in addition to the peace of mind that comes from knowing they work for an employer that is better positioned to remain strong and competitive.