Friday, March 1, 2019

small business

small business

Research spotlights big challenge of small business and efficiency programs - Energy News Network

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 09:00 PM PST

A pair of recent reports look at how utilities can reach small and medium businesses with efficiency programs.

When it comes to the challenge of connecting small and medium businesses with energy efficiency programs, a pair of recent reports confirm what many utilities already know: There are no shortcuts or one-size-fits-all solutions.

Small and medium businesses consume about 20 percent of the country's energy, but they account for less than 4 percent of utility energy efficiency spending, according to EnergySavvy. It is "one of the most challenging sectors that we see utility programs going after," said Neal Elliott, senior research director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Experts usually consider a utility program successful when 5 to 15 percent of eligible customers participate in it, he said. But many small and medium business programs are barely at 1 percent.

Why? Small businesses often don't have staff dedicated to energy management, Elliott said. On top of that, without smart planning by utilities, the cost of interacting with them can outweigh the revenue for the utility and savings for the customer.

The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative included small and medium businesses for the first time this year in its annual State of the Consumer report. Accenture also recently released its own report showing the value of small and medium business engagement.

Getting the most work done in as few consultations as possible is key, Elliott said. Some of the most successful programs he's seen are direct-install programs, in which utility representatives come to the business site, assess it and offer the customer the optimal measure, such as a lighting upgrade. If the customer agrees, the utility often has contractors on hand that can do the upgrade right then. And when many businesses are situated close to each other — for example, if a city has a main street — the utility assessors can make the most of their own time by going up the street and covering as many businesses as possible.

Several utilities, including ComEd in the Midwest, have been successful in implementing these and similar "one-stop shop" installation programs, Elliott said. He added that a company like ComEd, which serves higher density areas in northern Illinois, is likely to have an easier time engaging more customers than one like Ameren, which operates in lower density areas in the central and southern regions of the state.

Slightly larger businesses may be able to benefit from more upgrades, Elliott said — opportunities like air conditioning or water heating system changes. In this case, given limited access to funds, the utility often has to offer a financing option to help the business pay for the upgrade.

A common option is on-bill financing, in which the utility pays for the equipment up front and the customer then pays for it on their monthly bills. "If you can set up a process where they get the cash up front, then you can move forward and get the contractor in there, and get the savings opportunities cemented," Elliott said.

But however the customer pays, and whatever the upgrade, Elliott emphasized that in the most successful programs, "the only thing a customer has to do is say 'yes.'" Follow-up work like calling installers or getting quotes can take time and money these customers don't have. So if a utility can assess the property, inform the customer about upgrade opportunities and costs, and facilitate installation, that customer will be more likely to follow through, he said.

Utility representatives can also use their initial assessments with the customer to determine if there might be room for more work in the future, Elliott said. For example, a food processor might start with a lighting upgrade, which could lead to a refrigeration upgrade next time.

Given the wide variety of business sizes and specialties — from offices to retail establishments to manufacturing facilities — customers have different energy needs and varying levels of interest in efficiency. This is where Elliott and others see opportunity for utilities to segment their customers.

The case for segmentation

The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative breaks down customer segments based on customers' current levels of engagement with their utilities and how actively they seek energy efficiency options.

Importantly, SECC's survey research showed that managers of larger businesses in the small and medium business sector are more likely to seek out energy efficiency options than managers of smaller establishments. This is in part because operations with hundreds of employees tend to use more energy than operations with only a few.

It also correlates with the time and resources business administrators have available. Managers of smaller businesses often have multiple responsibilities, so finding the right person to begin with can be difficult. "I think that is the biggest challenge that we face as a research organization, and also the biggest challenge that utilities and industry professionals face, is reaching that decision maker," said Patty Durand, SECC's president and CEO.

Elliott agreed, adding that when it comes to communication, in-person interaction is often more effective than email offers, phone calls or mailings. "Telling someone, 'Hi, we'll be in your neighborhood; can we stop by?' — that's how a lot of these programs are successful," he said.

Read more: Utilities missing opportunities to tailor efficiency pitches to customers, report says

Business specialty is also important. Manufacturing companies tend to be especially engaged in energy efficiency, SECC's data shows. These businesses are often open for more hours than other businesses and have the highest energy bills, so efficiency upgrades can be especially useful.

Utilities need to look at who their customers are to determine how best to serve them, Elliott said. California-based Pacific Gas and Electric, for example, serves agricultural customers who use irrigation pumps, so the utility offers services to manage those pumps.

But utilities also need to be realistic in how well they're suited to engage with customers in different specialties. Elliott used Oregon-based Portland General Electric as an example: One of the company's largest customers is a steel mill. Knowing they didn't have the capacity to develop the technical expertise necessary to meet that one steel mill's energy needs, PGE's administrators contracted an engineering firm to serve as an informational resource for the mill.

"Having that segmented approach and building those customer portfolio offerings that are tailored specifically to customers that are high energy users or economically important to the community — that's how you really have good success," Elliott said.

Smart meters, with the huge data sets they offer, can help utilities serve small and medium businesses. Detailed energy usage information can show irregular patterns and indicate failing equipment, Elliott said. It could also help utilities compare usage among organizations, potentially opening the door to offer savings opportunities to businesses.

Public utilities commissions can help by implementing regulations that minimize work for the customer, Elliott said: one-page contracts with little fine print.

Overall, he said, to achieve high levels of participation among small and medium businesses, "minimizing the customer need for action is imperative."

How to utilize technology to make your small business a success - FOX 59 Indianapolis

Posted: 01 Mar 2019 02:27 AM PST

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. —  More than 90% of companies in America are small businesses despite all the mega corporations.  But 50% of those businesses fail in their first 5 years.  That's why having the proper game plan is key, and one of the first steps is to utilize technology and the internet  for your small business.

"We are a hospice company.  We to go where the patient is, and for us mobility is key.  We can't be locked into land-lines and we need to be able to transfer cell calls," said Robin Lightfoot, Executive Director of Heritage Hospice.

That's why a new app and system has helped their business tremendously, allowing them to change where calls are routed given their needs.

"Being able to do it from a distance and change the person that is receiving the calls has helped us prevent missed calls, helped us prevent pulling our nurses from whatever patients they may be with, and made sure there's no gap and no delay," said Lightfoot.

Heritage Hospice uses a Comcast business system.  Whatever provider you chose, one of the best ways a small business can stretch their dollar is to bundle,  and not just typical bundling.

"Am I going to need cell phones?  Am I going to need land-lines, am I going to need a customer facing internet?  Do I need my own wireless gateway in the front of the store, do I have a TV up front," said Mike Wilson, PR Director for Comcast Indiana.

Wilson says managing your network is vital.  Every internet and technology provider is different.  If you're a small business with multiple stores or locations, find an internet provider that offers usable network management over a broad footprint.  For example, Comcast has a product called SD Wan that enables business customers to access their network at multiple locations.

Another way to save money, instead of hiring a website developer, is to use a company like Squarespace that can help small business owners looking to get online exposure. And, If you're looking to build an online store, there are platforms like Shopify.

Managing your website is key.  If you're looking to build a website or even an online store, think about what options your internet provider might offer that can help.  Here's another example:  Comcast offers Wi-Fi Pro, which is a service that enables a top tier of network management. It's especially good for business owners who may have a need for customer-facing internet access in their stores. It will let you manage a splash page, focus your Wi-Fi resources, and gauge network and use analytics. If you have a small business, another factor to success is internet speed.

"If it's slow, it doesn't work.  Everything that we do is electronic.  Our charting is electronic, our communications are mostly electronic, so if it's going slow that means that everything goes slow," said Lightfoot.

That means people are working harder to get the same job done, but in the last month, that's all changed for Heritage Hospice.

"So since we've had the service, we haven't had any disruptions and everything moves like very fast," said Lightfoot.

Another way to make money is don't spend as much.  It sounds obvious, but many businesses overbuy what's needed for a company website.

"If you think you need a gigabit service, and you want a fiber line running and you want the Cadillac of whatever, 10 gigs is what we can offer up to now, but a small business doesn't need that.  For example, we use 1 gig to run an entire casino," said Wilson.

Reputable companies should not oversell, so ask around.  For Heritage Hospice, they've more than doubled their employees in a matter of months after matching their technology with their needs.

Wilmington's Small Business Success Series returns in March - Brooklyn

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 01:32 PM PST

At about $9.37 per class, Wilmington's Small Business Success Series is a bargain.

The eight-week course helps aspiring entrepreneurs develop and write a killer business plan, complete with networking and one-on-one business plan counseling.

Beginning on March 19, selected entrepreneurs will have classes every Tuesday at Hercules Plaza at 1313 N. Market St. from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The fee for the course in $75 ($100 for non-Wilmington residents).

"This is a wonderful opportunity for current business owners — or those who wish to start their own business — to network with peers and learn some of the best practices related to business development," said Mayor Mike Purzycki in a statement. "Small businesses are the backbone of our City's economy — I am pleased that Wilmington is able to again offer this valuable program and I encourage those who have either developed or undeveloped business goals to attend."

Applications are now open for the series, with interviews running through March 13. Spots are limited; apply here.



The Small Business Development Center is a free service for aspiring small business owners -

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 04:28 PM PST

PEORIA, Il -  

Starting a small business is not as simple as renting a space and selling your product or service. Luckily there are several local organizations like the Small Business Development Center and the Better Business Bureau, willing to walk step by step with entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Development Center teaches them about things such as how to register a name, how to get licenses and permits and how to fit state and federal requirements.

Peoria has seen a boom of new small businesses popping up  in the past few years, specially in the Warehouse District.

According to Kevin Evans, director of the small business development center at Bradley, Peoria is definitely a good place to start.

"The growth of small business development is really alive and well in Peoria. We have a variety of companies that have started here that are really at the brink of becoming tremendous companies that will be known perhaps nationally or internationally. So I think the climate here is really good for small business start ups, small business growth and development," said Evans

Evans also added that the mission of the organization is to  help start, grow and innovate businesses.

"We can assist business owners with actually executing the organizational kinds of things. Where do you go to register a corporation or LLC. We can assists them with those kinds of things," said Evans.

The Better Business Bureau is focused on improving trust between businesses and customers. For example, there are workshops centered on how to navigate social media for better brand marketing.

"Social media has become a primary way of getting your name out there and telling your story as a small business," said Jessica Tharp, President of BBB.

In this workshop, members get to learn about how to use each social media outlet properly.

"Then there's instagram and twitter and they way you manage each of  those different medias, matters in a small business. So take advantage of the tools that we have to offer and it's going to help you," said Tharp. 

The small business development center is a free service and its for anyone interested in starting a business.

Moving2Canada wins Small Business BC award for contribution to immigrant community - GlobeNewswire

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 09:59 AM PST

Founder Ruairi Spillane recognized in Best Immigrant Entrepreneur category for building a free one-stop-shop information hub and support network for newcomers to Canada
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 28, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The winners of 16th Annual Small Business BC Awards have been officially announced, and Moving2Canada has come out on top in the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur category. Founder Ruairi Spillane convinced the judges that Moving2Canada was a sustainable business with a strong purpose and immense growth potential, and in doing so, he held off four worthy competitors. With the award he is recognized for his strong leadership in business and service to the local immigrant community, and for both overcoming the challenges of starting a business as a newcomer to Canada as well as building a community to help other newcomers from around the world succeed in their new home."For me the purpose of Moving2Canada was always to pay down the support I received after I moved to Canada. In a year when immigration looks set to be front and centre on the national political agenda,winning the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur Award is a strong signal to our community that their efforts matter, that immigrants supporting immigrants is recognized in Canada, and that paying it down keeps paying off. To my mind, this award is a recognition of the hard work my team has put into building this community and it definitely gives us added drive in promoting Canada as a great place to live and work", said Ruairi Spillane after accepting the award at the Small Business BC Awards Gala in Vancouver on February 21, 2019. In attendance to bring awareness to the critical role entrepreneurship plays in Canada's economy were the Honourable Mary Ng, Federal Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, as well as the Honourable Bruce Ralston, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology.Speaking about his business idea, he added: "Canada is a fantastic product to share with the world. We have a unique culture defined by immigration. To live in such a diverse, peaceful country with strong economic conditions and where cultural diversity is celebrated, is a dream for many people who want to improve their lives. I was keen to find a business idea that would solve a real problem and provide an innovative solution. So I asked myself, what if we could build a community-focused one-stop-shop with information that's up-to-date, scalable and free? That would be a game changer for newcomers! As Moving2Canada, we make moving easier. Our team have all walked this same path before and take pride in building an independent platform for our growing community."The Moving2Canada business model is based on a community-first approach. Ruairi did not want to become just another gatekeeper of information, and instead wanted to open the gate and ensure that Moving2Canada could be used by immigrants from all over the world. He decided to study the needs of immigrants and focus the commercial model around creating partnerships with products and services that could add value to his audience. "Our magic formula is that we understand our community and have become experts in serving the needs of this pre-arrival segment, at a time when scant few Canadian brands are engaging with them", he concludes.Commenting on the challenges of an immigrant entrepreneur, one of the main criteria of this award, Ruairi had this to say: "All entrepreneurs face challenges. When you combine the entrepreneurial world with the immigrant world, the challenges become even larger. Sometimes it's a lonely journey as we chase our dreams. The lack of a support network was the biggest challenge for me. Working long hours away from home in a new country left me feeling isolated. The Irish immigrant community in Vancouver became my support network."The website, and its sister-site Outpost Recruitment, attract more than 300,000 visitors globally every month. Since 2012, the websites have been helping people plan their move and find work in Canada. Moving2Canada has been endorsed by Ireland's Ambassador to Canada and the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre (I/CAN).Quotes:"Congratulations to all the nominees of the Small Business BC Awards. Owning a successful business takes hard work, determination, and talent," said the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion. "That's why the Government of Canada is committed to making it easier for small businesses to start up, scale up, and access new markets. When small businesses thrive, our economy grows and middle-class jobs are created for Canadians.""The Small Business BC and Open for Business Awards honour small businesses and the communities that help them succeed," said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. "The awards showcased the achievements of some of the province's most innovative entrepreneurs who continue to drive B.C.'s economy forward, creating good jobs for people in every corner of the province."The judges for the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur category had this to say about Moving2Canada: "This business has found a niche and is serving it brilliantly. They have a keen entrepreneur's spirit and innovative ideas, and it was easy to see the passion demonstrated by the business owner and how his personal experience as an immigrant enabled him to tackle the challenges of creating and growing a business."Notes to Editor:
The Moving2Canada team currently consists of six Irish citizens (two naturalised as Canadian citizens), one German, one Israeli and one Canadian. You can learn more about our individual backgrounds here.
Ruairi Spillane (35), from Beaufort, Ireland, emigrated to Canada in 2008 to take up a role in finance. The onset of the global financial crisis soon after his move made him question his career choice. It also opened him up to interactions and queries from would-be Irish immigrants interested in moving to Canada, which helped shape his business idea. He set up Moving2Canada as a free information resource in 2012 and later that year launched a recruitment agency, Moving2Canada Recruitment (now called Outpost Recruitment), focused on assisting immigrants find work in Canada. Ruairi is a founding member of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver and has been recognized for his contributions to helping newcomers to Canada become successful.For further information on Moving2Canada, please see:
Marcel Niedecken
Phone: (+1) 819-266-9656

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