Tag Archive for 'small business issues'

Six questions and answers on being a successful business owner

As many of you know, for almost 19 years I’ve conducted over 1,000 live interviews annually on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. I get to ask four really smart people a lot of questions. But occasionally the tables are turned are turned on me, like when Alignable.com podcaster, Alan Belniak, asked me several questions about small business on his show. I thought you’d be interested in that interchange.

Belniak: What’s the biggest problem small business owners don’t know they have?

Blasingame: Too many business owners don’t realize that their customers’ expectations are changing faster than ever before. If you want to find out what your business should be doing tomorrow or next year, that information is inside the heads of your prospects and customers. Ask them.

Belniak: What advice do you have for small business owners in order to make a successful new hire?

Blasingame: Focus on the 3Ps: Be more patient, professional and proactive. Don’t make a hiring mistake by rushing to fill a slot. Use professional methods and practices to increase your chances of making a successful hire. Be more proactive by grooming employees to step up to a key assignment, so that you’re hiring for the lower position.

Belniak: What advice can you give to those who are seeking funding?

Blasingame: Strategy and forecasting. Create a capitalization strategy that includes multiple capital sources and terms. Don’t use operating cash for long-term capital expenses. Don’t finance something you can lease. Don’t use investors when you should get a bank loan. Use an electronic spreadsheet to create a 12-month cash flow projection so you can forecast beginning and ending cash. This will make you smarter and your banker happier.

Belniak: What is one way that operating a business today is the same as 15 years ago, and one way it’s different?

Blasingame: It’s Old School fundamentals and New School tech. Old School: The fundamentals never change: you still have to buy low, sell high and keep good records; cash is still King; people still want to be treated well. New School is the digital elements, and most is good news: Small businesses have handy cool and affordable tools available, but it’s not good news if you’re not keeping up. You don’t have to win the digital race, but you do have to participate.

Belniak: What are some of the character traits common among successful entrepreneurs?

Blasingame: You have to have a high tolerance for risk. If you don’t, clock in tomorrow. You have to believe in yourself. Many days all other elements of your business will let you down. If you can’t believe in yourself, there will be days when you won’t come back. You have to love working. You’ll never work harder than when you own a business. If you don’t love working, clock in tomorrow.

Belniak: What’s one thing you see small business owners failing to do?

Blasingame: They fail to set aside time at least every week to stop being a manager and assume the role of the CEO. Fire yourself from jobs you no longer have to do and promote yourself to jobs that a growing company needs someone to perform, but that only you can do.

Write this on a rock … Being successful in small business isn’t complicated, but the degree of difficulty is hard to explain.

Which candidate is best for small business?

As a leading voice for small business success, one of the factors I track and report on is public policy. In my advocacy role, I support those issues that benefit small business and oppose those that don’t, regardless of party origin.

Every four years since 2000 I have compared the policies of the two presidential candidates with regard to their alignment with small business success. Here are comparisons for the top small business issues:

Jobs = customers
President Obama’s economic recovery plan – including spending hundreds of billions on a government approach to economic growth – has failed as a jobs creator. And yet he continues to advocate more government “investment” in the economy. Mitt Romney has stated that the best way to grow the economy is to support small businesses in their efforts to grow jobs and thus create more customers for everyone.

Taxes
The largest drain on a small business’s precious working capital is taxes. President Obama thinks of tax reform as a way to redistribute wealth from “millionaires and billionaires,” but small businesses will become collateral damage. Mitt Romney proposes tax reform where job creators pay higher taxes based on their success, plus a broader tax base so more Americans have a vested interest in our country’s future.

Health care
Obamacare will cost double the initial estimate, plus impose new fines, new taxes and onerous compliance requirements on small businesses – without benefiting them. But perhaps the worst of this law is it puts small business owners in conflict with their employees and their own growth plans.

President Obama is committed to his namesake law. Mitt Romney promises to repeal Obamacare. When we polled small business owners about Obamacare, 78% agreed with Romney.

Fuel prices
Gasoline costs small businesses and their customers almost twice what it did when Barack Obama took office.

All of the increase isn’t Obama’s fault, but presidents can influence oil prices. When crude topped $140 a barrel in 2008, President Bush simply announced he wanted to remove the offshore drilling ban and oil prices dropped like a stone.

President Obama has taken no steps to reduce oil prices – rejecting the Keystone pipeline, for example – because his alternative energy policies only work when the cost of carbon fuel is high. Mitt Romney has promised to pursue the full potential of America’s domestic energy sources.

Mitt Romney is the only presidential candidate who knows what it takes to make a payroll every Friday.

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On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked more about my comparison of the two Presidential candidates based on issues important to the future of small business. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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What is your big concern for 2011?

Since the last third of 2008, as our world began spinning into what we now call the Great Recession, when talking with small business owners I’ve asked them what is their single greatest concern. Almost every time the answer has been, “More sales.”

Here we are, almost two years into the not-so-great recovery, and we wanted to know what small business owners’ big concern is today. So we asked my radio and online audience this question: Which one of these four areas will be the single most important thing you will work to improve in your business for 2011: grow sales, improve profits, get a bank loan, or find qualified people.  Here’s what we were told:

Once again, sales came in on top at more than 40%. No surprise here because, as one of my mentors once told me, “In business, sales cures all ills.” Clearly, with unemployment at almost double-digit levels, a big chunk of small businesses are experiencing weak demand that is slowing delivery of the marketplace medicine of sales.

In second place, one-in-four of our respondents selected profit improvement. This group probably represents small businesses that have achieved sales recovery at a level they can service with the resources they have, and now want to find a way to keep more black numbers on the bottom line.

Perhaps the big story in our survey is the response that came in third – 17% said their big concern was finding qualified employees. The good news is they anticipate hiring. The bad news is concern about the applicant pool not producing qualified prospects for increasingly precious positions.

As ugly as the current 9.6% unemployment statistic sounds, the human fact is uglier: We may have 17 million people either unemployed or underemployed. Structural unemployment – unqualified for 2nd decade of the 21st century jobs – is our most challenging economic headwinds, and the longer this problem persists, the longer it will take for a small business’ first concern – sales – to be solved.

At fourth place was credit availability, with about 14% selecting this option. This response helps dispel two media myths that have been around since 2008: 1) As our survey – and every other one I’ve reported on for the past two years – will attest, most small businesses are not interested in a bank loan; and 2) If a small business wants – and qualifies for – a bank loan, they can get it. Independent community banks have never stopped making small business loans.

Have you decided what your big assignment is for 2011?

This morning on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked more about this survey and the results. Click on the link below and take a few minutes to listen, then leave your comments on what’s most important to you in 2011.

What are your biggest small business concerns for 2011?




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