S COT T & TO D D S I LV ER
Brothers Scott and Todd Silver, owners of Rite in the Rain. “We make weatherproof writing paper that people use all over the world in all kinds of inclement weather. So we know a thing or two about working in challenging environments. And so does Columbia Bank. At a time when other banks have been, well, exposed to the elements, they’ve stood tall and strong. It’s a good feeling to know our money is in the right place.” Visit columbiabank.com or call 253.305.1900. Member FDIC.
Making the most of your precious time Small business is in my DNA. I have owned and operated one, my brother runs one with 2.5 full-time equivalent employees and I have worked tirelessly to support small businesses for years – even with my current role running the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, which is very much like running a small business with 14 FTEs. So, I know that the most frustrating issue for small business owners and their employees is time. They don’t have it to spare for educating themselves on developing areas to grow their business. This takes time and investment. I liken this frustration to what my daughter experienced. She would become very frustrated with her mound of homework until she started to map out her tests, deadlines, etc. – and got a handle on her “workload.” Now she has an overall (and workable) vision of the future and can plan appropriately. Even when there are things like pop quizzes dropped on her, she is prepared. Too often we get trapped in a never-ending pile of “this moment’s” issue and day-by-day items to really look at the next week, the next month and a start to plan for success. I would like to get you thinking about how to efficiently use your precious time to look at ways to grow your business. Here are some great resources to get you started.
BuildingSouthSoundBusiness.com BuildingSouthSoundBusiness.com is an online hub of Pierce County small business development training and courses developed by the chamber through the guidance of a small business resource group. The homepage month-at-a-glance calendar makes it easy to see course dates in a handy format. You can also filter calendar items by five categories that pertain to any small business: finance, human resource, legal, marketing and operations. Best yet, most courses are free or low-cost opportunities. There is also a page listing local small business development resources such as Tacoma SCORE, SBDC – Washington Small Business Development Center Tacoma and Sound Business Assistance that includes a description of the resources’ services and their contact information. Visit BuildingSouthSoundBusiness.com to view the site.
Shopsmall.com Shopsmall.com is where you can find information on “Small Business Saturday,” a national initiative to dedicate a day to small businesses between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, over 100 million people came together nationally to “shop small” in their communities. This year, “Small Business Saturday” is Nov. 24. For more information about how to get involved and promote your small business, visit shopsmall.com.
By Tom Pierson Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President and CEO
I know that the most frustrating issue for small business owners and their employees is time. They don’t have it to spare for educating themselves on developing areas to grow their businesses. This takes time and investment ... Too often we get trapped in a never-ending pile of ‘this moment’s’ issue and day-by-day items to really look at the next week, the next month and a start to plan for success. porary space available and training. More program information can be found on spaceworkstacoma.com.
Local chambers of commerce
• Your local chambers of commerce – Chambers offer a variety of services and programs dedicated to providing networking, education and profile boosting for small businesses. Reach out to a local (or several local chambers) to find a good fit for your business. There are many organizations in our community committed to helping our small businesses grow, I highly encourage you to take advantage of these resources and bring jobs and success to our area!
Spaceworks Tacoma is a program for aspiring creative entrepreneurs that connects artistic start-ups to no- or low-cost tem-
Tom Pierson is president and CEO of Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Have a product ready for exporting? SBA can lend a hand SBA has several exporting programs to help small businesses innovate and find new markets. Exporting allows small businesses to weather economic downturns while maintaining global competitiveness and driving job creation. America’s largest companies have been doing global business for decades. With growth in global networks and communications, new markets have opened for small business, too. Since 2003, America’s small business exports have grown about 80 percent. They now account for nearly $500 billion in annual sales. However, small business still represents only about 30 percent of export revenue, and more than half of small business exporters only ship to one country. SBA is working with its partners across the federal government to increase both the number of exporters and the number of countries they ship to.
... small business still represents only about 30 percent of export revenue, and more than half of small business exporters only ship to one country. SBA is working with its partners across the federal government to increase both the number of exporters and the number of countries they ship to.
The need for exporting Ninety-six percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, representing some two-thrids of the world’s purchasing power. Exporting gives small businesses the opportunities to reach new markets, increase sales, generate economies of scale, improve inventory management, maintain global competitiveness and create jobs. As a part of the National Export Initiative, SBA is working to identify small businesses that are interested in exporting through online marketing and increased outreach from our field offices and resource partners. SBA is using its counseling and training network to prepare small businesses as they work to begin exporting. Once they do, SBA has several programs to assist small businesses.
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By Calvin Goings Small Business Administration Assistant associate administrator
STEP grant program The State Trade and Export Promotion Program is a an initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act. Funded by federal grants and matching funds from the states, the STEP Program is designed to help increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting so they can grow and create jobs. The STEP grants provide support for small business participation in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips; website translation fees; design of international marketing media; trade show exhibitions; participation in training workshops; and other export initiatives unique to the needs of the state and local small business communities. This year, Washington received an award of $1.4 million. The money will be used to help local firms export their products and services and grow the local economy as a result. Once small businesses start exporting, SBA is there to support them with loan programs to help small business exporters gain access to the capital they need, and encourage lenders to provide support for small businesses that identify market potential abroad.
Export Working Capital Loans Export Working Capital Loans are typically short-term loans (12 months or less) to support “that first big order” from abroad or recurring orders throughout the year. The loan can be as high as $5 million. Small businesses should not lose out on an opportunity to export just because they don’t have working capital. These loans can support up to 100 percent of transaction costs – from purchase order to receipt of payment – covering supplier costs, inventory, productions costs related to the goods or services being exported, and the resulting accounts receivable. They can help “even out” cash flow and allow exporters to be more competitive by offering longer payment terms, because the resulting overseas accounts receivable can be added to their borrowing base.
Export Express Loans Export Express Loans can be used by companies to develop new or expand in existing overseas markets and allow for wide
See SBA, Page 7
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The world is ready – don’t keep it waiting Taking the first steps to exporting your product or service Many small and medium-sized businesses limit their potential success by not considering exporting. Even small businesses can be very successful exporters. While it might look daunting at first, there are many organizations out there that can help a company explore the international potential of their products and/or services. Several government agencies can assist with exporting. These include the U.S. Small Business Administration and both state and federal Commerce Departments. For trade finance, Washington is fortunate to have the state-financed Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington. As of August 2012, there is also now a branch office of the Federal Export-Import Bank open in Seattle. Many of the services offered by these government agencies are free or have only a nominal cost. Of course, there are nonprofits that can also help, such as the World Trade Center Tacoma. The World Trade Center Tacoma is a member of the 330-city World Trade Center Association, which is the largest business network in the world. The Tacoma office is the only full-service World Trade Center in the Pacific Northwest and has many private sector members who work in a wide variety of international trade specializations that can help other companies rapidly and successfully start trading. I’m the head of the World Trade Center Tacoma and encourage you to contact us if you are considering expanding your business internationally. For more information and to see some of our upcoming trade training programs, check www.wtcta.org. From our website you can also find links to the government agencies listed above, along with a variety of other agencies and providers who can help with international business. The secret to exporting success for small businesses is a solid export plan. A successful plan begins with assessing your readiness to export. Your business may be itching to expand overseas, but is it ready? Part of assessing your readiness includes evaluating your motivation for expansion. What is your five-year plan? What are your goals? If you are looking for long-term expansion and understand that, like any new venture, it will likely take investment and time before making a profit, then your business may be a good fit to start exporting. Assessing your readiness also means analyzing costs and benefits. Exporting can make you more competitive domestically and can mean greater sales and profits. Exporting also diversifies your business, making you less dependent on the business cycles of any one area. Companies that were exporting to China (with annual growth rates exceeding 8 percent even during the global slowdown) over the past several years have generally weathered the U.S. recession much better than companies only focused on the domestic market. You may find that your company is export ready, but is your product or service ready? Consider its success in the domestic market. Which lessons learned can be applied to its sale overseas? How versatile is your product? Is your product unique or differentiated?
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By Anthony Hemstad World Trade Center Tacoma President and CEO
The Tacoma office is the only full-service World Trade Center in the Pacific Northwest and has many private sector members ... that can help other companies ... successfully start trading. Answering these questions can help you identify your target market. Will your product require modifications for success in the international market? Culture is an oft-forgotten need for product modifications, or “localization.” Consider enlisting the services of a specialized translation company to help localize your product. Does the product require extensive training to use? Will support be needed after the sale? Be sure to think ahead about what kinds of services you will make available to your customers on location and stateside. Putting together a team of international consultants and advisers such as an accountant, lawyer, banker and international freight forwarder will lighten your load and ensure that taking your product to the world goes smoothly. Groups like the World Trade Center Tacoma can help make sure that you get connected with the right service providers, as well as potentially helping with international matchmaking and doing the initial trade research. Considering the big question of export readiness, with all its many parts, is the first step in expanding your business overseas. While it will take time and effort, keep your end goal in mind: most U.S. exporters and importers profiting from foreign markets are small and medium-sized companies, and nearly 96 percent of consumers and more than two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power reside outside the United States. With some time and effort, your business too could also be profiting from the many opportunities overseas. Anthony Hemstad is president and CEO of the World Trade Center Tacoma. Previously he ran his own successful business with offices in several European countries.
SBA: There to assist with next phase of journey continued from page 4 range of uses of proceeds, including funding export transactions, participating in trade shows or trade missions, buying equipment, translating websites, purchasing real estate or any legitimate export-related costs. Export Express loans can go as high as $500,000 and be approved in one or two days â€“ and are now a permanent SBA loan program.
International Trade Loans International Trade Loans are available to firms that are expanding due to increased exports sales, or those that have been adversely impacted by imports and need to re-tool, modernize or diversify to meet foreign competition. These loans, which have a maximum loan amount of $5 million, can be a combination of fixed assets and working capital. Loans can have a maximum 25-year term depending on the use of proceeds.
Local support Along with 68 local offices, SBA also has international trade
The South Sound is the most trade dependent region in the most trade dependent state in the country. officers at 20 U.S. Export Assistance Centers to provide counseling and training to both small businesses and lenders, help small businesses with export financing and international methods of payments questions, and underwrite SBA guarantees for Export Working Capital loans in their respective territories. The South Sound is the most trade dependent region in the most trade dependent state in the country. One out of every three local jobs is tied to exporting. If your small business has a product or service that might be ready for exporting, the SBA is ready to assist you with the next phase of your small business journey. Calvin W. Goings is U.S. Small Business Administration assistant associate administrator and can be reached atÂ calvin.goings@sba. gov or (206) 553-0291.
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You won a gov’t contract – now what? Small business owners who succeed in the federal government contracting marketplace for the first time often experience a brief moment of celebration, immediately followed by anxiety and questions – a lot of questions. Did I bid the job correctly? Are there regulations I didn’t know about? How do I get paid? To answer these questions and successfully perform on the contract, consider the following five steps to federal contracting compliance.
Step 1 Read the contract. Re-familiarize yourself with the entire contract and your proposal. It may have been several weeks since you drafted your quote or proposal and you may have forgotten some important details about the scope of work.
Step 2 Review the statement of work. As you review, track deadlines for work elements and reporting. Consider setting project benchmarks to ensure the scope of work is completed on time. Your government customers typically have less flexibility with delivery and performance dates than the nongovernment customers you may be accustomed to.
Step 3 Understand terms and conditions. Ideally, you have a strong understanding of these prior to submitting the bid – but in the flurry of last-minute proposal writing, some may have been overlooked. Important clauses may have been incorporated by reference so be sure to look those up as well. Some common clauses that impact costs include Davis Bacon Act, which prescribes labor standards on construction projects in excess of $2,000, and Service Contract Act for service contracts valued over $2,500. Regulations like these can significantly impact your costs and non-compliance could lead to fines, termination or debarment. Terms and conditions often describe your rights as a contractor (i.e. to get paid promptly), rights of the government (i.e. termination for convenience), how to invoice, how to ship, inspection requirements, Buy American Act, etc. An understanding of these terms and conditions is essential for being the responsible contractor the government requires.
Step 4 Be sure you are ready to be paid. The federal government is mandated by the Prompt Payment Act to pay contractors within 30 days of receiving a proper invoice. To ensure you submit a proper invoice and are set up to receive the electronic funds transfer, your firm must be active in the System for Award Management, found at www.sam.gov.
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By Tiffany Scroggs Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center Program director
... you can win only if you bid. Keep a close eye on federal procurement posting sites like www.fbo.gov and www.fedbid.com so that you don’t miss out on future opportunities.
This system replaced the Central Contractor Registration and Online Representation and Certification Application in mid-2012. Your SAM registration should be updated at least once a year, or more frequently when there are changes in the size of your firm, bank accounts, contact information or capabilities. For contracts with the Department of Defense, it is likely you will need to submit an invoice online through Wide Area Work Flow. First-time defense contractors should set aside several hours to register and learn how to use this system before submitting an invoice.
Step 5 Keeping your pipeline of projects full. Now that you won a government contract you may be feeling pretty optimistic about your firm’s future. Businesses that perform well on their government contract work are more likely to win contracts in the future. However, you can win only if you bid. Keep a close eye on federal procurement posting sites like www.fbo.gov and www.fedbid.com so that you don’t miss out on future opportunities. Questions? No-cost technical assistance is available through PTAC. Procurement Technical Assistance Center Counselors across the state work one-on-one with business owners to assist them in navigating government registrations, certifications, contract bidding and invoicing processes. To learn more or to find the PTAC nearest you, visit www.washingtonptac.org. Tiffany Scroggs is program director of the Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a program of the Thurston Economic Development Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 754-6320.
BRC: One-stop shop for small businesses For over 20 years, the Business Resource Center has assisted small business owners in making their dreams of business ownership a reality. Created by the Thurston Economic Development Council, this educational nonprofit exists to provide vital support to entrepreneurs in Thurston County in all stages of business development. The BRC works to encourage business growth and its mission of strengthening the local economy through small business ownership is still as relevant today as it was when it first opened in 1992.
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As a one-stop resource, the BRC offers a full suite of services for people looking to start a business, new business owners and even seasoned business owners. Each of these types of business owners has a distinct set of needs, and the staff and counselors of the BRC will work with individual business owners to determine what types of services will benefit them.
• Streamlined Commercial Loans up to $250,000 • Real Estate Loans • Commercial Loans • Business Credit Cards
... the BRC offers a full suite of services for people looking to start a business ... For entrepreneurs who prefer to do research on their own, the Business Resource Center operates a comprehensive, on-site reference library that includes a variety of books and reference materials to assist with business planning, including performing market research, legal issues, sales and marketing, and accounting and finance. Most resources are available for checkout. For entrepreneurs who are looking to receive more customized assistance, the Business Resource Center offers confidential, one-on-one counseling and mentoring services by appointment. We counsel business owners in the pre-planning and early stages of business launch, as well as providing business management advice to existing businesses that may be experiencing specific challenges. For entrepreneurs who enjoy learning in a group environment, the Business Resource Center can connect them to a variety of workshops and training opportunities for business development. The BRC hosts several workshops and training sessions each month that cover a wide range of topics such as business start-up and planning, marketing, finance and human resources. In addition to the business counseling services it provides, the Business Resource Center houses several agencies in one convenient location that provide value-added functions:
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See BRC, Page 15 2013 Small Business Resource Guide | 9
It’s time to lose the business plan 6 steps to professional and financial success Every fourth quarter, countless business owners attend seminars to prepare for the New Year. They take their team on retreats, analyze the past year’s performance, read industry magazines to pick up on the latest trends and then diligently put all that information into a plan. Some business owners won’t make a single buying or hiring decision until their plan is complete. But how effective is a business plan that gathers dust? It’s time to try something different. Consider taking action with these six steps: 1. Identify your biggest fear Fear is the No. 1 issue that prevents business owners from achieving success. There are many types of fear that can trap entrepreneurs, with the most common including fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of going broke and even the fear of what others think. Before you say you have no fear, think again. Everyone has fear – successful entrepreneurs simply do a better job of managing their fears. Fear can and should be managed with the right methods. The first step to success is simply identifying your fear. 2. What is your marketing personality? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketing solution that works for every business. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new website or advertising on Facebook – the silver bullet doesn’t exist. Before deciding on any marketing, consider your personality. Do you enjoy being on the phone? Do you have a passion for reviewing headlines on sales letters before they go out? Do you like reviewing endless analytics? Understanding your marketing personality will help you select the right medium and you will enjoy putting it into action because it’s the right match. 3. Craft a marketing message Ask yourself why people choose your business and how you differ from the competition. If reasons such as “we provide great service” or “we have been in business for many years” come to mind, then you don’t have a marketing message. Yes, you certainly do a great job or you wouldn’t be in business, but you don’t have a message. A marketing message should quickly tell a total stranger, in less than 10 seconds, why they choose you. It isn’t a slogan, but a killer message that piques the interest of a prospect and makes your business irresistible to them. 4. Systematize your business When it comes to your business, does every day feel like you are fighting fires? Far too often, entrepreneurs fly by the seat of their pants and are constantly reinventing the wheel. In order to grow and to avoid the income roller coaster, defining systems is essential. Systems can be as simple as the scripts your front desk uses to answer the phone or an email auto-responder that stays in touch with prospects, customers, and vendors. Look at each area of your business and create systems that will save you time and increase your net income. 5. Understanding your numbers
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By Todd Bates Todd Bates Systems President
Toss that dusty business plan and cancel that fancy retreat. By putting these six steps into action, you will be able to watch your business change for the better. Avoid the trap of looking at your gross income monthly. Look deeper into the numbers of your business and you will start to notice where you can start making more money. Ask yourself the following questions when you want to understand the numbers that will dictate your income: • How many leads does it take get a customer? • How much am I spending on marketing? • Which marketing medium is the most effective? • How much does it cost me to get a customer? • How many prospect calls do I receive? The deeper you dive into the numbers of your business, the more success you will enjoy. 6. Avoid getting trapped by EID (Entrepreneurial Idiot Disease) EID causes business owners to end up with numerous projects stuck at 80 percent completion. It can also cause entrepreneurs to chase the next silver bullet or get stuck in attending endless conferences hoping for magic answers. To avoid being plagued by EID, entrepreneurs must identify their fears, select marketing that matches their personality, engage in goal setting, and keep a consistent focus on sales and conversion. Toss that dusty business plan and cancel that fancy retreat. By putting these six steps into action, you will be able to watch your business change for the better. Todd Bates is a business consultant, speaker, author, and president and owner of Todd Bates Systems. He can be reached at www. ToddBatesSystems.com.
Online tools to help with laws and regulations From starting and growing a business to managing operations day-to-day, one thing is certain in business – dealing with laws and regulations. To help business owners unravel the hairball and get answers, SBA.gov offers a variety of helpful tools and resources. 1. Comply with universal business laws Whatever your business type, size or industry, there are many universal laws and regulations that will apply to you. SBA.gov’s Business Law Guide provides an overview of common business laws and regulations that currently impact small business. These include licenses and permit requirements, employment and labor laws, tax regulations, advertising law, finance, intellectual property, workplace health and safety, and data privacy laws. In addition, SBA also offers some useful step-by-step guides and tools that can help new business owners, in particular, take the right steps toward compliance: • SBA Direct – This interactive and customizable tool gives you quick access to information you need by filtering content from across the SBA.gov website and matching you to business resources, advice and training in your region. • 10 Steps to Starting a Business – This includes information on key legal steps that all new business owners need to be aware of as they start. • 5 Steps to Registering your Business – This provides information on incorporation, registering your business name and obtaining a tax ID. • Hiring your First Employee – These 10 steps outline what you need to do to ensure you comply with key federal and state regulations when hiring. • Business Licenses – All businesses need some form of license or permit to operate legally, even home-based businesses. To help you determine what your business needs, use SBA.gov’s “License and Permit Search Tool.” Simply enter your ZIP code and business type to see which licenses and permits apply to your small business along with links to Web pages, application forms and instructions. 2. Comply with specific industry laws SBA.gov also includes a large selection of Industry Guides that provide resources, information and guidance for small businesses that operate in specific, highly regulated industries. As well as regulatory guidance, these guides also provide information on training, financing, and business growth strategies. For example, the Manufacturing Guide includes information on financing options, advice on “lean manufacturing,” and an overview of free and low-cost in-person training programs to help small manufacturers expand and grow. If you operate in a federally-regulated industry including agriculture, alcohol, tobacco, aviation, wildlife or fishing, among others, you’ll also need to register for a specific federal license or permit. Source: Caron Beesley, community moderator, SBA.gov
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3 steps to maximizing labor productivity Every entrepreneur that is struggling to be more profitable always tries to cut anything but labor. But I have a new thought for you: Instead of thinking about cutting costs, increase productivity! This may sound like a play on words, but in my experience, you cannot cut kitchen supplies enough to get profitable. In every case where I have helped a business improve profits, it came through improving labor productivity. You are likely spending the right amount of money on labor, you just do not have the right people doing the right things. Here are the three keys I focus on: 1. Measure labor through a Labor Efficiency Ratio – I prefer to look at labor as a lever, not as a cost. To do this we separate labor into at least two categories: direct labor and administrative labor. • Direct Labor Efficiency Ratio - This is calculated as gross profit per direct labor dollar. My definition of gross profit is revenue minus all non-labor direct costs. Revenue is a vanity number and you can only spend gross profit to cover your labor and operating costs. By focusing on improving gross profit dollars per direct labor dollars, it gives you maximum flexibility to deal with price or volume as your tools. • Administrative Labor Efficiency Ratio – This is the next key to holding your management team accountable, and is measured by taking Gross Profit less Direct Labor to come up with a term I call “Contribution Margin.” As I studied profit and loss statement structures, I found that we needed this new item to create a line that represented the output of your business engine before any operating costs. Contribution Margin dollars per Administrative Labor dollars is our measurement for Administrative Labor efficiency ratio. By using Contribution Margin as the numerator, it allows your management team to focus on multiple options to get more contribution margin dollars by adjusting revenue, cost of goods sold or direct labor. Once again, you can accomplish your goal by either volume or pricing as long as your labor is productive. 2. Find Successful Patterns of LER by using the Data Cube – Even in struggling businesses, we find patterns of success that can be replicated. The “Data Cube” is a term I created to represent the various views of Contribution Margin you need to track to understand your business model. You should be able to track revenue, cost of goods sold and direct labor by customer, by product, by division, by location, by line of business or by employee whenever possible. Not all of these will apply to every business, but you should be able to make a good attempt at least by customer. Service businesses that track billable time can get down to LER by person. For example, if you can calculate LER by customer, rank them by labor efficiency ratio from top to bottom. If you are a typical business, 80 percent of your revenue will come from 20 percent of your customers. Find the most successful patterns in your top customers and evaluate why they are successful and others are not. This will lead you either to re-price the underperformers or to find your unproductive labor, one of the two. If it is a good customer, but bad labor, these are the employees you will need to either re-train or replace. If it is a bad customer, you need to free up your good labor by letting the customer go and not let your good labor go to waste.
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By Greg Crabtree Crabtree, Rowe & Berger P.C. Founder
This may sound like a play on words, but in my experience, you cannot cut kitchen supplies enough to get profitable. In every case where I have helped a business improve profits, it came through improving labor productivity. It is no more complex than that. 3. Hire and adjust pay based on LER targets – Once you have your LER for direct labor and administrative labor, you have the ability to hold your team accountable to a measurable outcome to base your pay adjustments and future hiring decisions. Like any productivity measure, you cannot keep your people at the highest level forever. But by tracking this over time, you will find a base level that gets exceeded and then you fall back to that amount after raises or staff additions. This also gives you the ability to calculate revenue targets for new management team hires by working backward into the increase needed to maintain the current LER. One recent example was a client of mine who wanted to add a new sales person who would cost $100,000 per year. The client thought the new sales target would be $300,000 but after we worked the math, it was really $700,000. That changed his thinking and he decided to add a less expensive person to help flush out leads and he would continue to handle closing. In today’s competitive environment, all labor must be productive and you do not have any room to pay someone if they are not producing. You will also find that productive labor does not waste non-labor costs and you won’t be cutting kitchen supplies or resorting to single-ply toilet paper to make your profit target! Greg Crabtree has worked in the financial industry for more than 30 years. He founded Crabtree, Rowe & Berger P.C. and is the author of “Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!” He can be reached at www.seeingbeyondnumbers.com.
Twitter writing: 6 tips to win in 140 If Shakespeare ever had a great Twitter writing tip it would have to be, “brevity is the soul of wit.” Yet, the undeniably witty will wrap this well-known quote in a long, drawn-out speech by a not-so-witty character in “Hamlet.” Shakespeare was, of course, going for comic irony. However, when marketers and “social media gurus” write posts like “20 Tips to Take Twitter to the Next Level and Leverage Social Media Shareability for Optimum Revenue Generating Virility,” it’s just ironically comical. So to stay on point, here are six quick Twitter writing tips you can actually use and share. 1. Just the facts Jack! SEO friendly titles get lost in translation on Twitter: The fact is, long fluffy titles just don’t work. The goal of your title is to say what the piece of content is and why people should consume it – all while leaving room for your Twitter followers to add their own commentary. On Twitter, any SEO lift comes from the title in your link – not in the tweet text, so you can always create a shorter, Twitter-friendly version. 2. Good [Twitterers] borrow, but great [Twitterers] steal: For humility’s sake, that was borrowed from T.S. Eliot, not stolen, but tweets that ring of familiarity tend to resonate in re-tweets and mentions. Wrapping a piece of content in a pop culture reference, a famous quote, a hit song or anything that triggers a positive association can give your tweet a whole new level of impact. 3. Time is on your side – or, rather, be timely. There is a disproportionate advantage on social media channels for early responders and nowhere is it more apparent than on Twitter. When writing for Twitter, you need to remember you’re writing for a real-time audience. Your message needs to fit your followers’ interests at that moment. When you hit the right rhythm, you can tweet your way into online conversations, but when you hesitate for too long your entire message may be lost. 4. Make tweets personal. Who is ever really compelled to “Check out X facts about Y?” If it’s “X facts you didn’t know about Y,” however, you might find the tweet a little more compelling. Why? The key is “you.” There’s something alive in the tweet – a human, relatable element – that makes the message a shared experience instead of just a regurgitation of information. 5. “Get together and feel all right,” or bring your friends along! In his book, “Likeable Social Media,” Dave Kerpen likens social media to a cocktail party – how often do you go to a cocktail party alone? What’s a party without your friends? The beauty of Twitter is that it’s tailor-made to bring your friends into your tweets. One caveat here, however: Your mention, like any invitation, has to fit the context of the relationship. When you bring someone into a conversation on Twitter, it has to be in a way the invitee/the mentioned can appreciate – otherwise you may come off as spammy or intrusive. 6. A little less talk, a lot more interaction. Sometimes, it’s better to inspire others to write about you than to write strictly on your own. Contests, sweepstakes, polls and other interactive content that you can include in a tweet can be great ways to invite others to do the writing for you. Source: SnapApp 2013 Small Business Resource Guide | 13
There’s never a good time to trip It happened on Thursday after lunch as I ran up five steps to the office holding a cup of coffee. On the second step, I tripped. Instantly, I knew what happened. “Call an ambulance,” I shouted. It was a complete quadriceps tendon tear. This time on the right thigh. Four months later, the surgeon’s final check up ended with words of caution, “Don’t trip!” Those words are also good business advice. While “Don’t trip!” is a powerful message, it can be ignored – even at a time when it’s easier than ever to take a dive on the second step. When they “trip,” many businesses either don’t recover or remain badly injured. Yet, their missteps can make us more aware of the dangers and how to avoid them. Here are examples of what to watch out for: • Never compromise credibility. Yet, companies can’t resist “putting a spin” on their actions, which only makes them look stupid or worse. Take what Bank of America’s global strategy and marketing officer Anne Finucane said after her company pulled the plug on its $5 a month debit card charge in the face of a nationwide revolt led by a 21-year old part-time nanny. “We were too aggressive. We were convinced given the environment, given the reaction, given the mood of the country that it just wasn’t the thing to do,” she told the Boston Globe. This is pure corporate spin, jibberish and should be avoided at all cost. Always protect the company’s credibility, which she could have done by saying, “We made a huge mistake and we’re correcting it. We should have been better listeners. It was a good lesson for BofA.” • Watch out for the details. Paychex, a national company sent its 401(k) plan customers an urgent notice detailing an action they needed to take by a specified date. There was one problem: they neglected to include the contact information. What does that say about the company? A well-meaning company has a website promoting its annual clothing drive. Unfortunately, the dates of the drive were missing. A highly regarded insurance company sends out email messages with grammar and spelling mistakes. Minor matters? Perhaps. But it also fuels the way we perceive companies. • Saying it doesn’t make it so. Just as more customers are embracing self-check out at supermarkets, other operators are rejecting it. They maintain they want to interact with their customers, particularly in the check-out line. Really? Haven’t they noticed that many cashiers are texting, talking to other employees and yawning? Haven’t they noticed the way they handle the food? Bread and tomatoes stuffed in the bottom of a bag? Why not give customers a choice? All too often, righteous responses by companies are purely self-serving. In this case, it may be the technology cost that’s the issue, not “personal service.” • Getting customer-friendly communication right. Who doesn’t dial an 800 customer service number with trepidation, doubt and angst? Between pushing buttons, waiting for the call to be answered, then being transferred when someone comes on the line, repeating the problem and being told to call another number, what’s there to love? For many consumers, it’s more like “anti-service.” Such experiences establish terrible expectations and cause misery for those taking the calls. It’s bad business, no matter how you cut it.
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By John Graham GrahamComm Marketing and sales consultant
While ‘Don’t trip!’ is a powerful message, it can be ignored – even at a time when it’s easier than ever to take a dive on the second step. When they “trip,” many businesses either don’t recover or remain badly injured. Not surprising, Apple does it differently. Not only do customers have a choice of how they want to communicate with the company, but they can also set the date and time they want to be called, for example. And it works because the calls start off with customers having a positive attitude, rather than with anger. • Getting ahead of yourself can put you behind. Whether it’s announcing a new product, a major event or a new service, it’s dangerous to put cake on display before it’s baked. More often than not, it becomes a problem. The Chevrolet Volt electric car is a good example. Several years of hype for a technological marvel led to extraordinarily high expectations from a company that, at the time, was on the ropes. Then came production delays, dismal sales figures, endless “battery fire” stories, the announcement that GM would buy back Volts, and, finally, GM’s president saying the engineers should lop off $10,000 in costs. What a negative PR scenario. This isn’t a story about technological failure. GM created the perception that the “old GM” was back doing things the wrong way. It’s another horrible example of getting up-to-speed before starting the car, a perfect prescription for fostering further doubt about the company. • Thinking outside the walls. Thinking “outside the box” is an overrated and useless exercise since it rarely occurs except, perhaps, in someone’s fantasy. The real rub is failing to think outside the walls – the company’s walls. Even though Polaroid brought the first digital camera to market, it couldn’t shake off seeing itself as an “instant film” company. That sealed its fate. Now, Research in Motion flirts with a similar destiny as it’s market share dropped from about 50 percent at the end to 2009 to 9 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to Canalys, the
See Trip, Page 17
Bust it up! 5 marketing tips for entrepreneurs A member of my book launch team advised me to slow down and move something back a week, for better scheduling. I had a client who didn’t like the brochure I created for them because it was three times longer than “normal.” And a nonprofit organization I help out was hesitant to do a fundraising campaign I created because it was too “salesy.” My responses in order were: 1) Do it now. 2) The last thing I want is normal. 3) “Salesy” is better than “brokey.”
By Randy Gage Author www.RandyGage.com
For entrepreneurs and success seekers, sometimes the best way to build something is to break it. Yes, you must think things through and have a plan, but at some point the planning, analysis and feasibility studies are no longer useful and it’s time to get off your chair, jump into action and go for it. Here are five marketing lessons for entrepreneurs: 1. Action beats perfection: A well-thought-out plan executed today is better than the perfect plan executed whenever it’s going to be perfected. (Which is usually never.) 2. Boring kills: A book, video, sales letter, brochure, opera, story, song, dance or any creative work can never be too long – it can only be too boring. 3. Say what you want: When you want someone to do something, don’t speak in codes. Whether you’re talking with your kids, raising money for a charity, crafting a marketing message or making a keynote to inspire an audience – tell them what you want them to do. They’re big kids and they can decide if they agree with you and if they want to take that action – but only if they know what the message is. 4. Be bold: The best promoter of you, your product, service or cause is you. You know it best and no one is going to make a more passionate case than you. If you believe in something, stand up for it. 5. Take risks: That mailing that the nonprofit was hesitant to use ended up being the most successful fundraiser in its 80-year history. That marketing piece I’m creating for my client is going to be bold, different and unconventional – and that’s why it will crush. Sometimes you have to break things. Shake it up. Bust it up – because that’s where the breakthroughs live.
BRC: Training, workshops continued from page 9 • SCORE – SCORE counselors provide free counseling and mentoring services to business owners in the early stages of planning and development. • SBDC – The Small Business Development Center is a program created by the U.S. Small Business Administration that offers free and confidential advising on all aspects of business. The SBDC business adviser can provide assistance with business management, growth planning and overcoming specific business challenges. • PTAC – The Procurement Technical Assistance Center assists small businesses who would like to sell their products or services to federal, state and/or local governments. PTAC provides oneon-one technical assistance for preparing bids, creating a marketing plan and contract performance. • Thurston Energy – Thurston Energy helps businesses in Thurston County to improve their energy efficiency and reduce operating costs while doing good for the environment. For more information about the Business Resource Center, or to find out information about the Business Resource Center Library hours, upcoming workshops and training sessions, or any additional services, call (360) 754-6320 or visit http://thurstonedc. com. Daryl Murrow is Business Resource Center manager for Thurston Economic Development Council. He can be reached at dmurrow@ thurstonedc.com.
Choose Opti Staffing “Opti Staffing Group is quick to respond. Their energetic staff provides a high level of service and takes every precaution to provide a good candidate-to-customer match.” –Fran, President • Direct Hire, Temp-to-Hire & Temporary • Accounting, Administrative, Manufacturing & Skilled Trades • Qualified, Tested, Prescreened Candidates For more information contact our Branch Manager, Megan Mahler at mmahler@optistafﬁng.com
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Randy Gage is the author of eight books about success. He can be reached at www.RandyGage.com.
OUR SUCCESS IS DETERMINED BY YOUR SUCCESS.
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8 ways to elevate your email marketing Successful email marketing campaigns are typically defined as such because of their higher open and response rates, and ultimately revenue generation. Small businesses busy with everyday tasks often need a little help – a blueprint leading them to results they’d define as “successful.” Here are several suggestions to help you craft more effective email campaigns. • Subject line is key – Everyone has heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately, there is a reason – because it’s a natural instinct. First impressions are critical in any form of communication. When people receive an email, the first thing they see is the subject line, which has the potential to either gain or lose their interest. Subject lines that include your company’s name as a reference and provide specifics supporting your email topic will typically gain higher open rates. • Pay attention to who it’s “from” – To understand how important this is, think about your own inbox. Would you be more likely to open an email sent from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? People don’t want to feel like they are receiving an automated email. If readers don’t see you putting time into personalizing the “from” address, they won’t spend time considering what you have to say. • Mail merge – People love seeing their own name. It makes them feel the email was written to them personally and not sent to recipient No. 432. Online services have simple options to directly insert names from your contact database using a template editor. • Variety – Sending an email can be one of the most effective ways to grab readers’ attention. However, if you abuse the efficiencies email marketing provides, readers will stop showing interest in your emails. Consistency is essential with any marketing campaign, yet variety is equally important. How often do you send out newsletters, event invites and updates that aren’t just soliciting a purchase? Are you getting an active response from recipients? If not, try something new. Be conscious about how many emails you send out each week or month. How are individuals interacting with your emails? Are you following up accordingly? How are you engaging the people who seem uninterested? Some email services include click-through analytics that monitor which readers spend time with your emails or forward them along to colleagues. • Quality over quantity – It’s far more important to send out content-rich emails than it is to send out long or multiple emails. When you provide your contacts with quality content, they’re more inclined to read your emails and even forward them to friends. Gain the trust of your contacts by emphasizing quality of communication over quantity. One option is providing information they can use immediately. A seller of gardening supplies might offer a series of horticulture tips – and when a prospect is in need of planting materials, they are likely to think of the insightful supply marketer first. • Content suggestions – How can you personalize your message content? Listen to your readers – the people who take time
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By Nicole Merrett Sage North America Vice president of CRM marketing
Pictures are a great way to grab someone’s attention – but remember, pictures don’t always show up in email messages ...
to contact you are most likely to become customers. Study their emails, questions, likes and dislikes. Build or improve products with your customers’ input and they will notice you appreciate them and remain loyal. Social media monitoring is one easy way to listen to and engage your readers. Pay attention to what customers are saying online about your services and your industry. Use these insights to create valuable email content. • Test everything – Test the way your email appears, not only through your own email service provider, but several providers. Test all links in your message to make sure they work. Test your graphics. Pictures are a great way to grab someone’s attention – but remember, pictures don’t always show up in email messages, so test the effectiveness of your email by viewing them in an email client with images turned off and making sure your message remains easy to understand and the call-to-action clear. Finally, test your email with a spam check tool before sending. Spam check services review email content to see what might get caught in spam filters. • And test some more with A/B testing – Your email has passed all the tests of looking good, having working web links, properly placed images, a call to action and has made it through the spam check, but is not getting the open rates you expected. How come? There are many reasons including time of day, day of week, frequency, message, etc. So why not test it? Test one change at a time. For example, explore what days your recipients are more likely to open your email. Split up your list and send each set the same email on different days. Does the open rate stand out more on one day than another? A next step could be to determine the time of a particular day people are more willing to open and interact with your email. Again, split your list up and send out the same email at different
See Email, next page
Trip: Pay attention continued from page 14 London-based market research firm. BlackBerry phone’s attempts to overcome a “push” email preoccupation failed. Getting it straight starts with getting yourself out from behind the company walls. • Blindsided by belief. It’s amazing how great companies make such foolish mistakes. In its CEO’s unrelenting drive for Bank of America be the biggest, it swallowed Countrywide Financial at the moment when it was overflowing with toxic home mortgages and BofA continues to suffer the consequences. Then, there’s Netflix that based its success on making its customers happy. That went well until it came up with a 60 percent price hike and separated its DVD and video-streaming businesses, only to see 800,000 customers disappear. Most dramatically, the famed Xerox research lab developed a blazing array of computer technologies in the 1970s – the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet, laser printing and the graphical user interface. But the company, blinded by its imaging process, dismisses them as too risky. It seems that Research in Motion heads down the same path. So absorbed with its push email mindset, it missed the smartphone phenomenon and may never recover. How easy it is to trip when we’re blinded by our beliefs. Unless we pay attention to the dangers inherent in our fastpaced business environment that are waiting to bring us down, it’s easy to trip at the most unexpected moments. John Graham is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He lives in Boston, Mass. and can be contacted at (617) 7749759 or GrahamArticle@gmail.com.
5 advertising basics 1. Be consistent in your ad message and style. 2. Newspapers, radio and TV stations are helpful in producing the advertising that you will be running with them. 3. Word-of-mouth advertising usually falls short of being able to attract the number of customers needed to be successful. 4. Promote benefits rather than features. 5. Know your competitors. It’s just as important as knowing everything about your own business. Source: SCORE, www.score.org
5 tips on building a 6-month cash reserve 1. Add up all your monthly expenses, so you know what a month of personal expenses really are for you. 2. Still in a day job? Then start setting aside 5 percent of your net pay each paycheck and build savings. 3. Sound like too much? Start with a goal of setting aside $100 week=$5,200 a year, which is a nice cushion. 4. As an entrepreneur, you want to be sure that whenever you take a cash draw from the company, you set aside money for tax. Don’t be surprised later with a nasty tax bill. 5. Start now. The most important thing is to create a habit of saving each week. Source: SCORE, www.score.org
Email: Test each element continued from previous page times of the day. A good starting point is the start of the day and middle of the afternoon. Studies have shown these are the best times of day to send emails. See if your tests concur. When you have a specific day and time recipients are most responsive, examine your content. What sort of subject line gains the highest response? Do your recipients react more to graphics or text? Consider the placement of your call to action. Is one position more effective than another? Do your recipients appreciate lengthy, informational emails or do they prefer a quick read? Test each element one at a time. With email marketing, you never need to settle for one formula because you will often have the flexibility to make improvements as you go. So make taking advantage of trends and technology the “constants” in your digital marketing programs. They will help you achieve more tangible results with your campaigns. Nicole Merrett is vice president of CRM marketing for Sage North America, a supplier of business management software and services for small and mid-sized businesses.
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South Sound Small Business Centers PIERCE COUNTY
SOUTH KING COUNTY
South Sound Womenâ€™s Business Center
Auburn Small Business Assistance Center
1101 S. Yakima St. M-123B Tacoma, WA 98405 Telephone: (253) 680-7194
Tacoma Business Center Bates Technical College 1101 S. Yakima Ave, M-123 Tacoma, WA 98405 Phone: (253) 680-7194
Washington State University Small Business Development Center 1101 S. Yakima Ave., M-123 Tacoma, WA 98405 Phone: (253) 680-7768
THURSTON COUNTY Business Resource Center
665 Woodland Square Loop SE, Suite 201 Lacey, WA 98503 Phone: (360) 754-6320
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110 2nd St. SW, Suite 135 Auburn, WA 98001 Phone: (253) 333-4953
Enumclaw Small Business Assistance Center 1414 Griffin Ave. Enumclaw, WA 98022 Phone: (253) 288-3400
The Highline Outreach Center 23835 Pacific Highway South, Suite 102 Des Moines, WA 98198 Phone: (206) 878-3710
Kent Campus Small Business Assistance Center 417 Ramsay Way, Suite 112 Kent, WA 98032 Phone: (253) 520-6260
South Sound Regional Business Incubator 402 S. 333rd St. Federal Way, WA 98003 Phone: (253) 929-1500
Celebrating your entrepreneurial spirit
Even as a child, you had an entrepreneurial streak. Whether you were walking dogs or weeding gardens, all it took to get started was a great idea, a few simple tools and ambition. You’ve grown up, and so has your business. Now you want a bank that can meet all of your financial needs. As your locally owned community bank, we’re serious about offering the right mix of financial options to meet your company’s unique needs. We have expertise in all loan types including SBA loans, term loans and lines of credit. Plus, our commitment to service means you get personal attention without jumping through hoops. Don’t put your growth plans on a leash! Give us a call or stop by to find out how we can help you meet your goals. And bring along your dog. We always have dog biscuits on hand!
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