Small Biz

Emerging from Whatever

As the country begins to lift the restrictions on business closures, I took the opportunity to observe some of the general characteristics of our small business owners.  In an earlier message, I referred to business owners as either those who dug in, waiting to be rescued from a plight not of their own making or those who were agile and adapted quickly to that same plight.  Today, I want to share an observation based on those two types of business owners and what, beyond mindset, drives the differences.

For those who chose to dig in and wait on government assistance, I noticed they were relatively lacking in adequate resources even before government restrictions were levied.  For example, their bottom line was weak, cash flow was non-existent, the business was already stagnant or at least lacking in creativity that could grow the business, and in almost all businesses that ended up closing, they were stretched beyond their means and the quarantine served to underscore a business being poorly managed.  For startups, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I question if they were truly even ready to start a business if this event, in their eyes, caused their demise.  For the long-standing business, in existence for a generation or more, their closure certainly cannot be solely blamed on COVID-19.  My guess is they were already contemplating a sell or a closure and took advantage of the situation.  Probably not a bad idea, but why not be truthful with your customers and just tell them, “It was time.”?

For those who were agile and adapted quickly, we all need to focus on those models and gather insights for best case design.  For example, very few if any suffered from resource issues.  They had the recommended 3-6 months of business savings in the bank (a lesson learned from as recent as 2008-2009).  The labor pool became their dream.  So many folks quickly let go could be snatched up, trained and productive in relatively short order.  Raw materials were quickly available and for many, it was raw materials they were not ordering in their normal line of business.   But the number one characteristic these small business owners possessed was the ability to recognize the environment around them changing at lightening speed and their own confidence to take the risk and make a CHANGE.  OK, maybe that is mindset, but without the financial reserves, ready labor and materials, even the mindset wouldn’t be enough to get them moving as fast as was required! Bottom line:  ALWAYS BE PREPARED!  (Where have we heard that before?)

Claudia

Broken or Reborn

Have you ever watched that reality cooking show “Chopped”?  Talented chefs compete to test their abilities to create, reinvent, and execute a meal under intense time pressure.  All they know coming into the competition is they will be preparing dishes in each of three rounds for a panel of highly qualified judges using the food items in a covered basket within the time constraints provided.

For small business owners, the first half of 2020 has been much like being a contestant on that reality show.  It is more than your skill and reputation on the line.  It has not only been their livelihoods, but that of their families and employees.  Business owners have had many choices to make and are still making them.  The ability to be agile, flexible, innovative, creative, and above all fearless in the face of uncertainty, has determined their place in the competition. 

One thing we are learning is business owners can resolve to dig their heels in, ride out the storm and expect to be saved or they can create their own future understanding that forward motion moves fastest when staying alert to meeting the needs of others.

Claudia

A Christmas Miracle

Tonight, two days before Christmas, I witnessed a miracle. There is no other way to explain the coincidence surrounding the incident.

I was the fourth car waiting in a left hand turn lane. When the green arrow indicated we could safely turn, the cars in front of me didn’t move and one of the drivers impatiently honked his horn. It was then that I noticed the first car in the lane had changed his, or her, mind and was pulling into the right hand lane. Just as they finished the awkward maneuver, a semi-truck barreled through the intersection. The truck definitely didn’t have a green light or the right-of-way. I am absolutely positive that if any of the cars in my turn lane had been in the intersection at that point in time, they would not have survived the impact.

That car in the wrong lane, stopped traffic in both lanes long enough to save our lives. To that unknown stranger and to a loving Heavenly Father, I say thank you and Merry Christmas.

Small Business Saturday

November honors veterans the fist week in November with Veteran’s Small Business Week – supporting our veterans is a great way to say thank you.

The last Saturday in November is Small Business Saturday® – a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.  Please remember to support your local small business by shopping at a small business.

As a shopper, you can participate by shopping at the small businesses in your area.

As a Small business owners, you can be prepared and put your best foot forward on the last Saturday in November. You can host and event and serve cookies and warm cider or holiday punch or join in a community hosted event. Offer a special and rally your friends and neighbors to join you.

There is more information about support from American Express at https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/

The program is sponsored by the SBA – Small Business Administration so look through their site for my information. http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinesssaturday

Exceptional Service

While I often wonder if exceptional service will become a thing of the past, I am reassured by the exceptional support received at two different Microsoft stores in the past six months. Both were the result of dropping a Surface and breaking the screen. One entrepreneur had a  Service Plan and one didn’t. Both owners received fast, efficient, and exceptional service with no interruption in connectivity or work. Both were extremely happy with the results!

Small Businesses have always excelled at exceptional service, but Microsoft has demonstrated twice that they are committed to customer service as well. So service comes in small and big packages. Thank goodness!

Business Cards and Cell Phone Aps

With all the amazing applications on our cell phones, life is getting easier. For instance… business card scanning.

When I was at a conference recently, I watched a young woman scan my business card into her phone. I regret that it wasn’t easy! Not because the software wasn’t scanning, but because my pretty business card was not designed to be scanned into the phone.

Not only do our web sites need to be responsive (the word that says it will look great on a phone,) but our business cards need to be designed for our phones as well. From print to electronic.

From my experience, the rules are simple.

  • Don’t use an unusual or script font for your name and other vital information.
  • Don’t use light lettering on a dark background, such as white on black.
  • Don’t use shiny paper. Too much gloss throws the scanner off.
  • Don’t crowd the text; put long descriptions on the back side.

Pictures, colors, fancy or plain paper, horizontal or vertical design didn’t make a difference. So have fun and be unique, BUT…

Bottom Line: Going forward, you want your business card clear enough to be scanned into your customer’s phone. For the more technical wizards, don’t forget your QR Code.

What did I finally buy for a bank-breaking $5; ABBYY Business Card Reader (Android and iPhone versions exist)

What an improvement over the one I tried to use ten years ago.

No Excuses

I have no excuse for my ignorance but myself. I walked out of the Lake Villa library today and two flyers on a rack caught my attention – Mining Census Records and Make Your Own YouTube Video. As an SBDC advisor, I need to know how to do both, plus I had just learned that the Library has a free Notary Service when they are open. I feel like I just hit a home run! Check your library today, you may hit a home run too.

The Same Old isn’t the Same Old

My first real job was programming COBOL. (Don’t try to guess how old I am.) I remember vividly the first object-oriented program I wrote; I had to rewire my brain.
Blended Learning is just like that I have to rewire my brain. In the fall (2013) I taught a blended class. But, although it was blended, it wasn’t integrated. I hadn’t rewired my brain. I need to integrate!!!