Category: Business Growth

Online Networking in the New Normal

Remember networking events?

Pre-COVID, we all attended them – some of us embracing the events – looking forward to seeing familiar faces and chatting with friends in the small business industry. Others may have found them a bit painful and cheesy, hoping to make new business friends, but dreading the process.  Maybe you attended a networking event and found it really wasn’t as bad as you thought and actually had a good time, met new people, and networked like a pro.

In 2020 we were all thrown into the COVID shut down and suddenly, individuals discovered they really missed those networking events!  While some of us are back to networking the “old fashioned way” in person and probably in a mask. Others have expanded their online networking presence and have found it to be extremely beneficial to their business.

 

Networking in the “New Normal”

I know – we’re all tired of hearing that term, “the new normal,” but it does explain where we are in business, in relation to the Pandemic. Out of necessity, and the lack of in-person networking opportunities, COVID helped shape and refine online marketing and networking. Online platforms like Zoom meetings, Skype, Webex and Go To Meeting, became the new, edgy, and fun way to network. Businesses got creative, hosting networking classes, meet-n-greets, and even cocktail hours – all online. Other websites expanded and began to offer more networking capabilities, all aimed at growing business and creating meaningful business and personal contacts.

 

Which websites are best for networking?

We’ve all heard ads that end with “Follow us on Facebook” or “Trending on Twitter.” The choices of social media platforms can be endless.  It may seem impossible to get on every type of social media, but there are some you should consider essential.  Not only will a presence on these websites help your business, but they will also help your networking capabilities. Here is a short list of the most popular social networking websites for businesses:

  • Facebook: Probably the most popular of social networks. Facebook currently has 2.7 Billion active users.
  • LinkedIn: Long considered the network for professionals, LinkedIn boasts 800 million users.
  • Twitter: Twitter users have 200-million users and a younger demographic than Facebook.
  • Instagram: 1 billion active users per month pop onto Instagram.
  • YouTube: 2 billion active users either post videos or watch them on YouTube.

 

Before you join a social media network – know your demographics:

Maybe your small business would like to attract and sell to the teenagers with disposable income (or large allowances.) Or perhaps you would like to focus on the older, professional, executive customers. Each business is unique and not every social media platform is “necessary.” For instance: you shouldn’t turn your initial focus to getting an Instagram account up and running if you are marketing to older 50-something professionals. However, if you want to sell your super cute kitten leggings to the 13 to 18 year old’s – Snapchat, Instagram and even TikTok may be your “go to” social media platform.

 

Breakdown of social media demographics:

Use the following chart to plan where you should network, based on the ages of social media users:

Website Name Age Demographic Number of Users
Facebook 35% globally are men 18-34

24% globally are women 18-34

*It is important to note that 85% of all of Facebook’s users are from outside the US and Canada

2.74 Billion
LinkedIn 60% are ages 25-34

19% are ages 19-24

51% have a college degree – or above

75% are from outside the US

800 Million
Twitter 37% are ages 18-29

25% are ages 30-49

200 Million
Instagram 59% are ages 18-29

33% are age 30-49

68% are female and 90% of all users are under age 35

1 Billion
YouTube Has a fairly even use-distribution across all age groups. 2.3 Billion
WhatsApp 27% are age 26-35

19% are age 15-25

20% are age 36-45

17% are age 46-55

2 Billion
TikTok 25% are age 10-19

22.4% are age 20-29.

21.7% are age 30-39.

20.3% are 40-49

1 Billion
SnapChat 50% are under 25

37% are age 26-34

2% are over age 55

498 Million
Pinterest 38% are age 50-64

34% are age 30-49

32% are age 18-29

442 Million

 

I’m on social media, now what?

The primary reason to join social media platforms is to advertise your small business and to network with fellow business people not only in your immediate area, but across the globe. Here area few simple things to do, now that you’ve taken the leap onto a few social media platforms:

  • Ask: You guessed it, ask people to follow you on Facebook. Each social media platform offers the opportunity to engage with fellow businesses and associates. Send out those friend requests and ask people to follow you.
  • Advertise: Post the name, location, logo and hours of your business.
  • Like: Like other business posts, follow other businesses and look for companies or individuals who compliment your business.
  • Follow: Follow other businesses and individuals who can help promote or compliment your own business.
  • Look around: Take a look at your competition – see who they follow, what they are posting and maybe even collaborate with them to promote both businesses.

 

Online Networking in the new normal can be fun, interesting, and actually a lot easier and less time-consuming than the one-on-one networking events of the past. With online networking, you can reach more people, more often. You can expand both your business contacts and your customer base. The best part? Most social media sites are free to join!  Get out there!  It’s worth the time investment!

 

For additional information regarding online networking in the new normal, and how to expand your small business’s social media, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

How to Grow Global Sales in 2022

If your business has products or a service that can be marketed and sold beyond the boundaries of the U.S., then expansion into developing international markets may bring the possibility of new growth and profits for your company.

Gary is a gym shark living in a small-town in the USA. Nearly every day you can find him lifting weights, sprinting laps in the pool or joining in a yoga class, notably the same days when Sheila the other gym shark works out. He wasn’t always this energetic though. One day he invented an energy food bar with a secret ingredient and soon his workouts looked like a wild hare bouncing around on spring coils. Everyone in his local community wanted that kind of energy. So, he registered his secret recipe and began selling his bars. The business grew into a nationwide sensation. With interest from developing markets in other countries, it was time to consider going global.

 

What are global sales?

Global sales are transactions that take place outside the country in the international marketplace.

Depending upon demand, if Gary were to successfully begin selling his energy bars in Europe, Asia or Australia, his global expansion would be realized.

 

Why would I be interested in growing my sales world-wide?

World-wide growth can potentially generate new avenues for sales and profits.

Online sales for example, customers spent nearly $4.9 trillion dollars in 2020, up from $3.46 trillion from the year before.

There are various ways a business can grow into a global company. Depending on the size and customer fulfillment volume, business should consider the following:

  • Online orders from the company’s home base. This would require logistics for international shipments for either single parcel or bulk shipping.
  • Exporting and Licensing. Exporting allows a business to establish their brands and products in foreign markets with little or no direct investment in each country. A service-oriented business may find this option more challenging unless the services they perform are over the internet. Licensing allows a foreign company to sell and market your brand in their country.
    • This may require creating strategic partnerships, a wholly owned subsidiary or multi-national expansion where the product is produced and distributed from another country.
  • Source a hybrid marketplace such as an Amazon, Costco or Walmart that sell their own inventory and offer a platform through which other retailers can sell their products in other countries.

 

How can I manage costs if I’m shipping globally?

For Gary to ship his gym shark bars the best option appears to be direct to customer via a global carrier like FedEx, UPS, or DHL. However, after striking fame and employing half the small town, the company has expanded into sports equipment, clothing and a special yoga mat designed by Sheila. His shipping needs have changed. A few options to consider are:

  • Air freight:
    • Expedited or next day out freight will likely have the highest premiums. For shark bars with an expiration date this may make sense.
    • Consolidated where cargo is grouped together with other manufactured products and shipped when the container is full. This is a slower and more cost-effective method better for bulk orders shipped to fulfillment centers or distributors.
    • Deferred or low priority shipments that are placed on planes when space becomes available. This is best for non-time sensitive shipments and may be the least costly.
  • Ocean shipping:
    • Containers shipped across sea are 20-40 feet and usually charged a flat rate. While cost effective, shipping time can be slowed greatly and there are risks with reliability such as weather and rough seas.
    • Recent side-effects of the pandemic have brought shipping containers to a complete standstill, waiting to be offloaded. Make sure you know if your container will take months to arrive at its intended destination.

 

What regulations should I be aware of with global sales?

Each country has differing regulations, taxes, and compliance issues to consider. They are constantly changing. The following are a few ways to plans for global sales and regulations:

  • Hire or consult an experienced compliance-centered broker to help with bonds, duties, international freight filings and other complex processing.
  • Employ experienced and well-trained staff.
  • Prioritize documentation to avoid costly delays.
  • Understand compliance fines. Many of these are due to improper valuation, classification, and misunderstanding of trade agreements.

 

Keeping my “US base” happy while expanding world-wide:

To lose core customers by overextending the company into the global market and slowing customer fulfillment at home can be catastrophic. Always remember to grow at a pace the business can handle. Even with a financial backer, all the money in the world will not keep a business alive without consumer spending. Some things to implement include:

  • Hire when necessary.
  • Prioritize key sales regions that generate the highest profit.
  • Head off any foreseeable issues. Many times, a call ahead of an issue will salvage an otherwise lost relationship.
  • Prepare to deal with the emotional side of customers.
  • Use customer feedback to shape future problem solving.

 

Need more information? Paris SBDC can give you ideas and expert advice on how to grow your sales globally. Let us help you understand how and when to expand your business and “Go Global.” Contact Paris SBDC today!

 

For additional information on going global while keeping your at-home customers happy, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

 

Business Planning Calendar for 2022

Benjamin Franklin once said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Growing a small business is important. A key factor for consistent and healthy growth is yearly planning. A good way to start a new plan is by analyzing the past year and determine the company’s strengths and weaknesses. After which, hold a brainstorming session involving team members and discuss what things you would like to achieve for the upcoming year.

A fun option is to take a company trip to a location where the planning event can take place. This may also be a tax-deductible expense. You can also combine it with team building and make it a pleasant “perk” for employees. Be sure to leave “Negative Nancy” at home, however. Or let her/him know that this is a positive-thoughts-only trip. And yes, we all have one of those employees; it’s best to address negative attitudes early.

 

What is a business planning calendar?

Think of a yearly business calendar like a roadmap of what your company plans to do and the goals you would like to achieve for the next year. Make it simple. Break down the calendar into monthly goals and then quarterly goals. Be sure to create a visual chart or calendar so it can be reviewed daily on a desktop image or a physical chart on the wall. These reminders help to keep the focus on your goals.

 

What should be on my Calendar for my business in 2022?

There are many things that can be useful on a business calendar from travel to tradeshows and events to marketing schedules. However, there are three main categories that should be considered:

  • Marketing Plan:
    • Create a list of your ideal customers and how to target them.
    • What makes your company unique compared to other companies and how is this exceptionality communicated to your target customer?
    • Develop a marketing message that speaks to your experience and reputation.
    • Set a budget of how much you will spend on marketing activities based on what each activity costs, who it targets, when and how often you plan to spend.
    • Track the results. This can be achieved with a spreadsheet or one of the many business planning apps available in the marketplace.

 

  • Financial plan and budget:
    • Base your marketing plan on history. After analyzing the previous year, determine the successful expenditures and project what you would like to spend each month moving forward. This should give a good sense of the cash flow needed for the year.

 

  • Operational improvement plans – Consider the following items and list ways to improve the company’s operations:
    • Marketing: Develop a team to share the company’s vision and message.
    • Sales: The key to cash flow is sales. Educate and motivate staff to improve sales.
    • Customer fulfilment: Efficiency in delivering goods or services is an important goal to customer fulfilment.
    • Customer satisfaction: If developing loyal customers seems arduous, losing them can be worse. Set out a plan of how to keep your base and how to grow it.
    • Leadership and organizational management: Evaluate your workforce. Maybe it’s time for “Negative Nancy” to retire or resign. A strong business requires well-organized leaders willing to cut ties with no-productive areas of the business.
    • Cash flow management including inventory, cost of goods, expenses, and travel.
    • Back-office management of accounting, data management, reporting, receivables, etc.

 

Make time for social media platforms:

Now is the time to be the media maven or social influencer you’ve always wanted to be.

As an important part of the planning process, budgeting time for social media platforms requires consistency. This can also be part of the company’s advertising campaigns.  Goals for this should include are:

  • Increase shares of voice with daily posts and repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Gain new followers: Never fear asking people to take interest in the company and what you do.
  • Drive traffic to your website through fun, educational or interesting posts.
  • Generate new leads through low-cost ads that reach a broad audience.
  • Grow community engagement and develop loyalty. Again, repetition is the key.
  • Allocate customer support requests through FAQ’s on your website.

 

Allow for flexibility:

There is nothing like a crisis to test one’s creativity and perseverance.

Maybe Negative Nancy has a secret passion to be the face of social media and networking and according to her millions of Pinterest followers, she is good at it. Being flexible is about making changes and adapting to unforeseeable events that influence our environment. With a little recognition and redirection Nancy could be your best asset. I’m sure she would agree, and it may be beneficial to use her social media talents.

 

Plan for effectiveness

  • Define your business concept: A vision statement is an aspirational declaration of what you want to achieve in the future.
  • Create your mission: This is how you plan to achieve your vision.
  • Set your goals: These objectives are measured results achieved by persons or a system in a specific timeframe.
  • Develop a plan: This is a long-term strategy that helps you reach the company’s goals.
  • Define your approach: This is the methodology as to what your business will do to execute its plan.
  • Get down to business: Use tactics focused on initiatives, projects or programs that allow the business to carry out the strategic plan.

 

Need more resources and information on planning for 2022? Paris SBDC can give you ideas and expert advice on how to properly plan and execute your calendar for 2022. Let us help you with your small business planning needs. Contact Paris SBDC today!

 

 

For additional resources and information on planning to succeed in 2022, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

 

Impact Branding Locally | Business Outreach

Mrs. Jones taught her daughters Jenny and Martha the finer art of baking and cooking. When Jenny the older daughter grew up, she opened a bakery selling extraordinary pastries and breads. When Martha was old enough to go out on her own, she began packaging and selling delicious cook at home meals. While both were successful, people loved Martha’s food so much they all but forgot about Jenny’s company even when she tried to compete with her version of take and bake breads and cookies.

While both had similar businesses, Martha focused on using organic products, naturally grown, and sourced locally to help support her community. She created a food bank for the needy, an outreach program that delivered meals to cancer patients recovering from chemo and a scholarship program for at-risk youth to grow into the food industry.

Jenny spent her marketing efforts at fancy food events, promoting her image to news outlets, and paying for magazine coverage all to the benefit of her company.

The difference between the two companies is Martha created an emotional connection that customers related to and supported.

 

What is Impact Branding?

Impact branding is developing an emotional connection to your business through:

  • Creating a positive influence on issues that affect the world, such as environmentally friendly cleaning products, affordable housing, or eco-friendly textiles. Typically, these are items or ideas that work to resolve things that negatively impact people, communities, or the planet.
  • Integrity. A business that utilizes impact branding understands the role they play in making the world a better place. They hire with an equitable mindset, and develop products and services centered around people.
  • Innovation. For a few rare businesses, they invent or create products and solutions that solve the biggest issues plaguing the world such as electric cars that help reduce our carbon footprint and slow greenhouse gas production.

 

What is Business Outreach?

With the goal of gaining more exposure to your business, contacting another organization, individual, or adopting a cause, may influence people to support your brand. However, there are two sides of outreach to consider. While both Jenny and Martha used an outreach strategy to promote their companies, Martha worked in collaboration with others for a mutual benefit. When Jenny reached out to others, she gained exposure for her company without collaborating in an impactful way.

 

How do I do Impact Branding?

The best impact branding comes from the heart.

  • Adopt a cause. Let’s say you, or someone you care about, lost their health insurance and suffered a life-changing accident. Now they cannot work and have bills they cannot pay.
  • Resolve what you want to achieve by supporting the cause. In the case of the person with catastrophic medical bills, you could raise awareness of their plight and create a city-wide fundraiser by selling baked goods the company makes and donate a portion to their bills. This will have a positive impact on the family while getting your company exposure.
  • Market. Tie your company in by letting everyone know what you are doing for a worthy cause.

 

How do I do a business outreach that brings me business?

Adopting a cause doesn’t necessarily mean sending $9.99 a month to find a home for all the sad and abandoned puppies and kitties you’ve probably seen advertised. Companies, by nature, must be profitable to succeed. Therefore, outreach must be looked at like a high-level advertising campaign. Outreach goals should consider the following:

  • Develop recognition: Competition for gaining new customers is stiff. Pairing up with an adopted cause needs to focus on what customers can expect from your brand.
  • Increase business value: Like any good two-for-one sale, buying into a great product or service and helping a cause at the same time becomes a win-win for the customer.
  • Generate new customers: With a strong impression on what to expect from your company’s outreach program, word of mouth can steer customers toward your brand.
  • Establish trust: People tend to trust professional looking companies with highly effective branding. Creating an emotional tie to a cause brings a sense of maturity and decency to your name.
  • Evoke pride and satisfaction with your employees.
  • Change buyers’ intentions: Many people will go out of their way to buy things they love or for a cause they support. Once this connection is established, a second level of advertisement can enhance how they feel about themselves for supporting your brand and its adopted cause.
  • Loyalty: By gaining trust and making people feel good about your brand, a loyal following becomes second nature.

 

Bang for your buck: 

Think big! To help one individual in need may be noble and bring recognition, you need to look further. Adopt a cause that can help many people or resolve a worldwide concern. This is a way to draw global interest to your company at little cost.

Give back:

Be authentic about giving back. While being raised by a single mother, life was not always easy. Martha took the memories of times with little food and doing without to heart. This is the reason each year during the holidays her company donates food, and volunteers time feeding those in need. Giving back is her way of expressing gratitude for the success and support the world has shown.

 

Need more information? Paris SBDC can help you understand the best ways to do impact branding, customer outreach and how to best promote your small business. Contact Paris SBDC today!

For additional resources and more ideas on how to do your own impact branding or customer outreach, for your small business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

Small Business Saturday | Ho, Ho, Holidays!

It’s the Hap, Happiest time of the year!  It can also be the craziest time of the year for small business.  Are you ready?  Do you have a plan to capitalize on the “Small Business Saturday” shopping initiative?  In today’s blog, we’ll give you some fun, inexpensive and quick-to-implement things you can do to gear up for Small Business Saturday.

 

What is Small Business Saturday, you ask?

Or maybe you didn’t ask, because you are well aware that Small Business Saturday is every retail, local, small business’s opportunity to boost sales and to profit from the spending spree we hope everyone will be on. Black Friday sales started early this year, priming everyone to spend money buying holiday gifts.  Whether you realize it or not, all the advertising by the big chain stores is helping you, the small business owner. You can capitalize on the “spend early” frenzy and ask people to “Shop Local.”

Add your business to the Shop Local map with AMEX  or download the posters 

Downtown Paris to host Small Business Saturday   Get more info by visiting the Downtown Paris Association

 

How to kick this thing off:

Advertising:

It’s okay if you don’t have a big advertising budget – you can use local and free advertising.

  • Consider making flyers, highlighting the specials you will offer on Small Business Saturday.
  • Use the internet! Start now posting on Facebook, Twitter and the other platforms you are (hopefully) using to build interest in your products and business.
  • Email, or snail mail – get the word out that you are open for the holidays and are ready to sell, sell, sell!

 

Know Your Holidays:

Christmas shopping isn’t the only holiday people are gearing up for right now. Do you know your holidays and what to advertise for?  Here’s a short list to spur your imagination for holiday hullabaloo:

  • November:
    • Thanksgiving
    • Diwali
    • Black Friday
    • Small Business Saturday
    • Hanukkah
  • December:
    • US National Guard Birthday
    • National Free Shipping Day
    • Winter Solstice
    • Christmas
    • Kwanza
    • Boxing Day
    • New Year’s Eve
  • January:
    • New Years Day
    • National Hangover Day (Yes, that’s an actual day…On Jan 1st, of course)
    • Walk your dog month
    • National soup month
    • Epiphany
    • Orthodox Christmas Day
    • Martin Luther King Day

In fact, if you are looking for some holidays or other days to promote and celebrate (and sell products during) you don’t need to look far to find something you can capitalize on as a small business. For instance, you could offer hot chocolate on “National Hot Chocolate Day” or a discount for those savy enough to know to wear brown shoes on “Wear Brown Shoes Day” (It’s December 4th, in case you were curious.)

Here’s where to find a list of all kinds of “special days” to keep you selling and to keep you motivated:  National Holidays

 

Blue and Silver Ribbons:

Collaborating with your fellow small businesses is a beautiful thing. One easy way to say to your community: “Hey, we’re all in this together” is to have a quick, visual reference.  Blue and Silver Ribbons, for instance.  Coordinate with your local chamber of commerce, other businesses, and plan to display blue and silver ribbons in your business. Let everyone know that small businesses in your area support each other and everyone is a team. Be aware of what your competitors sell for some “coopetition” refer them as well and support shop local for your community of businesses.

WHY would you want to promote a business other than your own?

Because the more shopping opportunities you give buyers, the more sales occur—for everyone. Not to mention, you are helping to make people feel good about shopping local and shopping from small businesses.  In fact, check out our blog: Retail Holiday Sales Strategies to see why it makes good business sense to partner with your competition for the holidays.

 

Adjust your hours:

Most people are back to work, which means “regular business hours.”  If you run a small business, and want to maximize your holiday sales – you may want to adjust your hours:

  • Open early to capture the “on the way to work” crowd.
  • Plan to say open late – even if it’s a few nights a week to cater to those 9 -to- 5 workers.
  • Be open on Saturdays (yes, that one is a no-brainer).
  • Extend your “Super Saturday” to “Super Sunday” and offer special perks for the customers who missed Small Business Saturday.

 

Capitalize on the Supply Chain Shortage:

If you are local, you probably have inventory you need to move. You can let people know, that as a small, local business, you have plenty of inventory and are ready to “make a deal.”  Assuring your customers that you have items in stock (and are not waiting for a shipping container to make it to shore in California) will help boost sales.

 

Small Business Saturday is in 10 days – – go get your blue and silver ribbons, make up some flyers and LET’S DO THIS! 

 

For additional information on Small Business Saturday and how to capitalize on the holiday shopping season, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

Manufacturing and ISO Standards

Manufacturing and ISO Standards

Paris, Texas is not only known as a shipping point for commodities: cotton, grain, and livestock; Paris does a fair amount of manufacturing.  Neighboring counties in the PJC area, also have cities with Type A sales tax intended for manufacturing and industrial development.   If you are a small business with an industry class in manufacturing, you need to understand ISO Standards and what they mean to you as a business owner.

What are ISO standards?

ISO is the International Standard of Organization; or (formally) it stands for the International Organization for Standardization.  In the 1920’s, several country representatives got together and said: “Hey, we want to make sure our products are safe around the world.” The International Federation of the National Standardizing Association (ISA) was formed by representatives from various national standards organizations who helped set standards worldwide for technical, industrial, and commercial manufacturing. The name was later changed to ISO after WWII and when the United Nations agreed to join forces to create an international standard. Their goal(s) are simple: creating a check-and-balance system for safe products. For instance, if you were transferred to the UK for your job, and needed a car seat for your child, you want to know the car seat you buy is just as safe as one purchased in the United States. If something is ISO certified, you can be sure the manufacturing standard is the same as in the US.

Are ISO standards just for manufacturing?

ISO standards can be used for much more than manufacturing. Think of ISO standards as a recipe, or formula, for the best way to do something. Rather you are manufacturing a product, providing a service, managing a process, or supplying materials, ISO standards can help you work more efficiently. ISO standards hold the wisdom of individuals who have experience and expertise in your business. Here are a few types of ISO standards:

  • Quality Management Standards: Help you work more efficiently,
  • Food Safety Standards: Keeps food from becoming contaminated, or unsafe.
  • Energy Management: Shows you how to conserve energy.
  • Environmental Management Standards: Keeps your environment safe, reduces waste and helps to be more sustainable.
  • Health and Safety Standards: Helps reduce injuries and keeps the workplace safe.
  • IT Standards: Helps keep private or sensitive information secure.

 

What are some ISO standards I should know about?

The best-known ISO standard is called ISO 9000. It’s actually a series of quality management and quality assurance standards that can help small business maintain an efficient quality system of business. The ISO 9000 series is adaptable to any size business and can be applied across all types of businesses. Here is a quick run-down of some of the most popular ISO standards that might help you when running a small business:

  • ISO/IEC 27000: Information Security Management
  • ISO 45000: Occupational Health and Safety Management (in the US it is managed by OSHA)
  • ISO 14001: Environmental Standards and Management
  • ISO/TS 16949: Auto Industry Standards
  • ISO 22000: Food Safety Management
  • ISO 50001: Energy Standards and Management
  • ISO 13485: Medical Equipment
  • ISO 31000: Risk Management

 

Why would I want to use ISO Standards?

Using ISO standards in your business can benefit you in several ways. First, you can learn the best practices, before bad habits develop. Second, being ISO certified helps your customers know that your products and services are equivalent to the high standards, set by the ISO governing body. In short, it makes you and your business more reputable and more appealing; customers know they can trust in you and in your product, service or supply.

 

How do I learn more about ISO Standards?

ISO standards are designed for easy implementation. There are many resources online to help you navigate the ISO standards world. Of course, we at the Paris SBDC can help steer you in the right direction. Contact us today!

 

 

For additional resources on ISO standards and how they apply to manufacturing or to your specific business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

 

Shipping Costs | Order Fulfillment for SMB (Small to Mid-size Business)

What is e-commerce?

E-commerce is buying or selling a product online over the internet. When you search online and buy a new pet toy to replace the squeaky stuffed bunny the dog dismantled, you are ordering from an e-commerce business. Let’s say as a hobby, your Aunt Lucy knits fancy unicorns. Together you start selling them to friends at the local flea market. To grow your business, you decide to start posting pictures online. Soon you are selling fancy unicorns by the dozen on platforms like Etsy or Shopify. Simple as it may be, you now have a small e-commerce business.

  • In 2020 e-commerce topped just over twenty-six trillion in sales globally.
  • Growth in the US alone is expected to increase by eighteen percent to over four trillion in sales for 2021.

 

When does e-commerce make sense?

By the end of 2020 the COVID 19 pandemic had dramatically changed e-commerce. Regarding transitioning to e-commerce, Forbes writes the following from an article contributed by square Inc, on November 18, 2020; According to the PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey, safety is the top priority for 49% of urban consumers. The same survey showed that 86% of consumers are likely to continue shopping online even after pandemic restrictions end.

Consumers are prioritizing both health and convenience. To remain competitive, more businesses are offering services like click and collect and curbside pickup.

A 2020 survey from Incisiv seems foretelling as it showed that:

  • 85% of shoppers have increased curbside pickup.
  • 79% of shoppers say contactless pickup is important.
  • 80% of shoppers expect to use contactless and curbside pickup more in the next six months.

 

When should you automate?

Does the thought of being buried neck-deep in mythical yarn animals sound unpleasant? Let’s say the house is full of shipping boxes with Aunt Lucy’s knitted unicorns and you are renting a truck to haul packages to the nearest click and ship drop off center. It is likely time to automate. If counting trips to the yarn store or postal center hasn’t convinced you, a good standard to follow is when the business reaches a daily fulfillment of thirty (30) orders per day.

As most business owners learned, the term “adapt or dissolve” became an all too real state of business with the continuance of the pandemic. That alone may be the factor for deciding to automate.

 

 Making plans to automate your business:

There are many resources online that specialize in automating a business. Finding the right fit can be a daunting, but a necessary task. Do your homework as all good business decisions require research. Consider the following key areas when automating your business:

  • Marketing: Coordinate changes to your business through all channels via e-mail marketing, short message services (texting), social networks, website upgrades and paid advertising.
  • Finance: Integrating the financial aspect of a business into the automation process can reduce costs and errors. Integrating the invoicing process can also improve the supply chain.
  • Sales: Automate the sales process to track and contact existing customers as well as generate leads for both inside and outside sales to new clients. The goal here is to create more sales while maintaining the current customer base.
  • Product development: Efficient automation should free up more time to develop new products.
  • Product: Working on the business not in the business is the goal here. Automation that creates other means for product manufacturing other than the proprietor doing the work allows for this to happen.
  • Supply chain: Integrating vendor orders, shipping, warehousing, and invoicing will improve the supply chain. For example, Aunt Lucy now has a team knitting her unicorns and they need more yarn. An automated purchase order is sent to the yarn supplier each time an invoice is generated, or a shipment of unicorns leaves the warehouse.
  • Customer service: Integrating things like chatbots on your e-commerce site to answer frequently asked questions can free up more complex customer service issues requiring human contact. Also, scripting these outsourced contacts can further improve customer service beyond the FAQ’s.
  • IT: Automation through things like cloud management platforms can help control computing cost, security, and performance as well as forecasting futures. This helps free up IT personnel to work on pioneering new technology for the company like a computer chip recording that sings a lullaby when you squeeze one of Aunt Lucy’s unicorns.
  • General business function: Automate as many of the companies processes such as HR, payroll, travel scheduling, inventory management and order fulfilment can decrease errors and inefficiencies while improving compliance issues and provide insight to the business.

 

Shipping cost and order fulfilment; a micro-focus on the benefits of automation:

If you are now considering automation for your company, let’s focus on what it can do for shipping cost and order fulfilment.

  • There are many automation tools and companies that specialize in shipping and logistics available in the marketplace. The best advice here is, when possible, find tools that do not require coding or IT skills to implement—that can increase the bottom-line to the companies shipping and order fulfilment costs.
  • An efficient automation of the shipping and order fulfilment can reduce your overhead through eliminating overstock or dead stock and control inventory as well as track costs.
  • Automation can create an effortless process with not only the company’s supply chain, but fulfilment to your customer.
  • Automated shipping with efficient order fulfilment can reduce the need for human intervention in the process. With less labor costs, personnel can be assigned to other processes that do not require automation.
  • Automation can track specific products and market demands globally. So, if Aunt Lucy is still selling unicorns in California but the rest of the world now has a demand for her new calico kitties, the right amount of yarn gets ordered, proper amount of stock is produced, and customers get their orders on time.

Need more information? We can help you with strategies, tips and tricks to get the most out of your order fulfillment and e-commerce strategies.  Contact Paris SBDC today!

 

 

 

For additional resources on order fulfilment strategies, or in deciding if e-commerce is right for you and your small to mid-size business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

Pricing Discounts and How to Manage the Bottom Line

What does “Managing the Bottom-line” mean?

The term “bottom line” in business refers to the profitability of a business after revenues are recorded and expenses are subtracted. It is a company’s net earning value.  Successful businesses learn to invest resources in a strategy to find and keep customers. It continually develops products or services and markets those offerings to increase sales. Cost reduction strategies can further increase a business’s bottom line.

 

How do I manage the bottom line?

There are several strategies you can look at as a small business to manage and improve your bottom line. Here are a few things to look at implementing in your business:

  • Expenses: Look at all of your expenses. Are there areas you can cut costs, such as shipping, rent, manufacturing or inventory that doesn’t move? Examining your expenses is the first step in improving your bottom line.
  • Pricing: Is your pricing covering all direct and indirect expenses and still allowing a profit? If sales are good, but you aren’t seeing a profit, it may be time to increase pricing.
  • Interest: If you have loans on your real estate, or if you are using credit cards to cover business expenses, you may want to look into a low-interest loan or a property refinance. Applying for an SBA loan could offer a lower interest rate while helping you grow.
  • Marketing: Are you using effective marketing for the price you are paying? Review the demographics of who you are selling to and determine if you are targeting those groups appropriately.
  • Networking: A vital part of managing the bottom line is networking. Making connections with customers, manufacturers, and suppliers can all work to your benefit. In today’s business world, networking can involve social media, emails and face-to-face meetings. Make sure you are spending enough time networking.
  • Innovation: Keep an open mind toward innovation. Look for new opportunities to increase sales and decrease expenses.

 

What are pricing discounts?

Don’t you love a bargain? Everyone loves a deal, especially if they feel like they have paid less than the original cost of an item. Today’s small business customer is expecting a deal and they often chose their purchases based on the amount of money they will save.  Discount pricing can be used as both a promotional strategy for new products as well as means for increasing traffic and sales while moving inventory.

Creating successful pricing discounts can increase revenue. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Holiday Discount: Offer a discount on certain items during specific times of the year. (Consider “Christmas in July” to clear out old inventory and prepare for new.) Other holidays, such as Halloween, Hanukah, Diwali or Ramadan could be an opportunity to offer a different discount and increase sales.
  • Promotional Discount: Offer a limited time discount on a new item.
  • Bulk Purchase Discount: Offer a tiered discount for items or the amount purchased.
  • BOGO: Buy one get one free sales are proven to be a very popular discount among consumers. You might also consider BOGO-1/2-off (Buy one get one half off) for items that have a smaller profit margin.

 

How can offering pricing discounts help manage my bottom line?

It sounds counterproductive – to offer something cheaper that will (in the end) make you more profit – but pricing discounts, when done properly can improve your overall sales and even increase sales. It is also imperative to know what your costs are so you can “afford” to offer pricing discounts without losing money. There are a few things to keep in mind when offering a discount and still keep your business profitable:

  • Make discounts temporary: You don’t want to de-value your own inventory or items. Showing them discounted for a limited time, will help maintain their perceived value to the consumer.
  • Offer a limited supply: This can be done by turning off the discount after a certain number is sold, or by limiting the pricing discount to only a few, select items.
  • Don’t discount…. but offer a “perk:” Sometimes it’s better for your bottom line to offer a “perk” instead of a discount. Some popular perks for today’s small businesses are:
    • Offer quicker shipping for purchases over a certain amount. (Free shipping is always a good way to get customers to purchase more items.)
    • Include something free – such as gift wrapping or a small gift.
    • Offer a rewards program for repeat customers.
    • Include fellow business discounts (see our business collaboration blog!)

 

Need more information or ideas? We can help you with strategies, tips and tricks to monitor and maintain your bottom-line.  Contact Paris SBDC today!

 

 

For additional resources on pricing discounts, or with help in how to manage your business’ bottom line, or other tips for growing your small business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

 

Local Business Cooperation | Collaboration

Local Business Cooperation – Working Toward a Common Goal

Does the idea of a group project bring you anxiety? You know…the stress of working hurriedly towards a common goal, all the while feeling like you might be better off working alone? No? Just me?

Well, in the world of starting and supporting your own business, collaborating with others can be vital to surviving amongst the sea of big-box retailers. Whether you have a virtual storefront, or your business thrives on foot traffic, this guide can ease any apprehension by explaining the importance of working together with other small businesses. After all, teamwork really does make the dream work.

 

Like A Good Neighbor, Your Business Is There (Supporting Local Business)

Expanding Your Network

One of the more significant obstacles small businesses must overcome to be successful is right there in the name: small. Entrepreneurs consistently rely on their day-to-day contacts, whether new or familiar, for network expansion. If new connections are not formed, then your business is less likely to thrive. Partnering with another small business, even one with a similar business model, can markedly expand your network to potential customers you could not previously access.

 

Let it be Educational

Here again, teamwork can effectively make your dream work. Teaming up with other entrepreneurs and professionals, especially those with different strengths and skillsets, can offer new techniques on how to effectively run your business. Being open to these learning opportunities can improve your business structure and possibly increase revenue. Be ready to learn from other’s mistakes and successes.

 

Increase Innovation

As a small business owner with an established daily routine, creating and implementing new methods of doing business, or new marketing ideas, can easily become lost among the technicalities. Who feels inspired to alter their marketing strategy after a day of crunching numbers or anxiously awaiting a new product order? Partnering with local entrepreneurs provides the opportunity for new and fresh perspectives that can be harnessed for innovation. Whether it be altering in-store product placement or refining your online marketing strategy, these small business owners can provide constructive criticism or even enhance your ideas. This partnership with other like-minded professionals is mutually beneficial in maintaining that ever-important creative flow.

Overall, the mutualistic relationship formed when you team up with one or more local small businesses can grow these businesses to exponential heights.

 

Break Me Off A Piece of That Local Business Deal (Offer Packaged Deals)

It’s no secret that customers love a great deal. Now imagine the allure of a discounted package deal (bingo!). It’s Friday night in Texas which can only mean one thing: high school football. You race around town looking for that perfect shirt when you notice a large easel with “25% off game day attire!” Ok, you’re interested…but wait! Purchasing any game day attire item gets you a bin of team-colored popcorn at half-price from Mom & Pop’s Popcorn Shop next door. And 20% off your meal at the local café. The list of discounts can continue depending on the number of participating businesses. Get involved with other businesses to offer group-business deals.

 

Best-Sellers

When reviewing revenue data, make note of the top-selling product, or even the top three selling products over the past 30 days, 6 months, and 1 year. If the best-selling products from these time frames vary, the trend should be evaluated for determining future product trends. Selecting products for packaged deals is important for not only enticing new customers but to have them return again in the future.

 

Partnerships

Just as important as selecting the product is finding the right local business to team up with. Do you want to expand your clientele beyond your normal customer base? Or do you want to continue to serve your ideal customer? Once you decide which population to market, you can pinpoint the local businesses you would like to partner with and with whom you can collaborate.

 

Snap! Collaborate! Pop! (Distinguishing Participating Retailers)

You and the other business owners have tested several package deals and determined the one that benefits all participating shops the most. Now, how to spread the word? Creating a distinct image, such as a special-colored ribbon or designing a unique seal, to affiliate participating businesses is a great place to start. Similar to the idea of rating restaurants with Michelin stars, or awarding Olympic athletes with medals, this image should be memorable and easily associated with this branding.

Branding can also improve your offerings-base as more and more businesses will want to become part of the “team with the theme” to highlight their own items and improve sales.

 

For additional resources on cooperating with local businesses, or other tips for growing your small business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving the Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.