Sunday, March 3, 2019

small business

small business


Target's Online Marketplace To Compete With Amazon...And Other Small Business Tech News This Week - Forbes

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 04:00 AM PST

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Target takes exclusive approach for new online marketplace.

According to a new CNBC report, Target is slowly, cautiously opening up its website to third-party sellers with an invitation-only Target+ initiative. The company is being very selective about who it invites and has been testing the waters with companies who were chosen based on 'what people are searching for,' according to Target's marketing and digital boss. These include sporting goods retailer Mizuno, educational toy maker Kaplan, and keyboard giant Casio. (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

If successful, Target's approach could potentially rival Amazon, eBay and Alibaba and provide yet another platform where businesses of all sizes can sell their products and reach new audiences.

2 — Microsoft is pitching its most futuristic technology to businesses instead of trying to wow consumers.

Last weekend, at the Mobile World Congress—a mobile trade show in Barcelona—Microsoft did not focus on fancy new phones for consumers but instead took its most futuristic technology and showed how it could be used to make businesses more productive. Microsoft also introduced its HoloLens 2 augmented reality device, which has been vastly improved over its previous version and will sell for about $3,500. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your business:

As I wrote here I believe the HoloLens 2 will have a significant impact on businesses with uses ranging from Troubleshooting, inspecting, maintaining and fixing machinery on the floor using interactive guides, pointers and diagrams to treating people or animals onsite during an emergency where the medical technician is given immediate visual instructions or is acting as the eyes and ears for a more experienced doctor who's located potentially thousands of miles away.

3 — Half of C-level execs say blockchain will change how their tech firms do business.

A new KPMG survey shows that almost half (48%) of IT executives believe blockchain will change the way their companies do business over the next three years. Respondents also said that the biggest benefit of blockchain is improved business efficiency, and 41% percent said they're 'likely' or 'very likely' to implement blockchain in the next three years. (Source: Computer World)

Why this is important for your business:

In the survey, the execs said they believe the greatest disruption from blockchain adoption will be in Internet of Things, where it's expected to help track software upgrades, product refills, and product warranties. Look for many new applications of this applications to be available for your business in the coming years. It's worth understanding all that blockchain does.

4 — Lenovo's smallest and best-selling ThinkPad laptops get refreshed for 2019.

This week, Lenovo has announced some largely incremental updates to its more affordable IdeaPad laptops and its ThinkPad X and T series. Since the models under $1,000 are what most consumers buy, Lenovo is now trying to bring some of its more premium features to these lower-priced models. For example, the company's updated IdeaPad S540 now includes Intel's 8th Gen Core i7 processors or AMD's Ryzen 7 3700U processors and an option for Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050 discrete graphics card. Lenovo will launch three versions in April and June: a 14-inch Intel model starting at $879.99, a 15-inch model at $849.99, and a 14-inch AMD variant starting at $729.99. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your business:

I've found ThinkPads to be extremely reliable and durable which is why they make up most of the laptops we buy.

5— Robots at Work: meet the non-engineer who automated his small business.

Curtis Lucas, owner of Alaska Professional Janitorial (APJ), a commercial janitorial business, is an example of how automation is impacting small and mid-sized businesses—and how accessible automation technology is becoming, even to non-engineers. After having trouble finding employees to do cleaning, Lucas decided to design a robot for the job and found easily available, affordable sonic sensors, microprocessors for software architecture, and motors and motor controllers to construct the robot. He did most of the coding himself but hired someone to improve on his work and develop the app to run the robot. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:

If some dude in Alaska is easily building robots how long will it be until these machines truly overtake the world?  Answer: not as long as some people think!

Gene Marks is a CPA and owns The Marks Group PC, a technology consulting firm based near Philadelphia.

 

Program gives local small businesses insights, chance to grow - Worcester Telegram

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 03:30 AM PST

WORCESTER — Renee A. King Diaz, owner of The Queen's Cups gourmet cupcake shop on Water Street, said she wanted to go back to school to take some business courses, but didn't have the time while running her business full-time and managing 26 employees.

Ms. King Diaz graduated from Worcester State University with a psychology degree with plans of becoming a counselor years earlier and hadn't dreamed at the time she would be running a successful business of her own in her 20s, she said.

Now 30, somewhat business savvy and wanting to learn more, her loan officer at the Cornerstone Bank nominated her for the U.S. Small Business Administration's Emerging Leaders program.

In its 12th year, the SBA initially launched the program in 10 cities across the U.S. in 2008 including Boston, said Robert H. Nelson, Massachusetts district director for the SBA. The program is now in 60 cities across the U.S., including Worcester, he said.

Over the course of seven months, participants are given the opportunity to work with experienced mentors, attend specialized workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders and the financial community, he explained.

"For FY 2018, I made the strategic decision to move the Massachusetts Emerging Leaders from Boston to Worcester and last year was the initial year in Worcester," Mr. Nelson said. "We graduated 19 businesses from the program and had an amazing cohort and I made the decision to continue in FY 2019 with Worcester."

Ms. King Diaz was one of the graduates of the first class in Worcester.

She opened The Queen's Cups in 2012 and was trying to find time to take business courses, she said.

"The first few years you're in business, you hope you'll make it and then, you think about how you can continue to stay in business," she said. "There are so many things in the class you normally would set aside time to learn, but running your own business, there is not time."

She said the program made her think about business in a different way.

"I feel smarter, that I can trust my decisions more and received feedback from others on how to run a business," she said. "There were different perspectives in class, but at the end of the day, we're all going through the same thing. I'd take it, again, if I could."

She said she learned about human and financial resources in the program, business models, and how to read profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets.

"I thought the class was super beneficial and it was really awesome to have a free program to teach you all those things," she said. "Being amongst 19 other successful business owners and hearing about their struggles and successes, it was amazing to learn from other people. When you open a business, there's no one telling you, 'Here is every mistake you are going to make and how to fix them.' There are so many things to learn whether you've been in business 20 years or just a year. You never stop learning."

Mr. Nelson said the SBA is recruiting for the 2019 class that starts in April and will run through October.

"We are looking for 20 Worcester area businesses that are passionate and committed to growing their business and creating jobs," Mr. Nelson said. "This is what Emerging Leaders is all about. Over the span of the seven months, the class will go through 13 in-class modules and will learn about all aspects of running a successful small business and developing growth strategies and a five-year growth and action plan."

He said the program introduces entrepreneurs to a number of guest experts during the course. Those in the program will also meet outside of class in CEO mentor groups, another valuable aspect of the program, he said.

The federal training initiative focuses on executives of businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities, he said, and provides participants with the "organizational framework, resource network and motivation," required to build sustainable businesses and promote economic development within urban communities.

"The inaugural Worcester Emerging Leaders cohort proved that promising small businesses in Central Massachusetts are making significant contributions to the vibrant economy," Mr. Nelson said. "We're bringing Emerging Leaders back to Worcester to continue shining a light on these entrepreneurs and provide a boost to help them reach their full potential."

The SBA underwrites 100 percent of the cost of the program and it is free to the 20 businesses that will be part of the group, he said.

"I can tell you that the metrics on this program prove the value with increased sales, increased jobs, contracts, financings and capital," Mr. Nelson said.

The training is for established business owners, he said, not start-ups or people who are thinking about starting a business.

The program is open to businesses that have been open at least three years, he said. The business must have revenues of at least $250,000 and have at least one employee besides the business owner to be eligible, he said.

"Our partners who help us to deliver this program in Worcester include Clark University's Small Business Development Center, SCORE, the Center for Women & Enterprise, our host partner WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and area lenders," he added.

Interested small business owners can apply online at: www.interise.org/sbaemergingleaders. Deadline to apply is March 8.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative has aided more than 4,000 small business owners in sustaining and growing their businesses, according to the SBA.

Sales trends impact small business sales growth - Chicago Tribune

Posted: 02 Mar 2019 05:30 PM PST

Competing in today's marketplace can be very challenging. Small to mid-size business owners work diligently to keep the doors open, to keep their employees and to keep their customers. They are so busy working IN the business they fail to work ON the business.

This failure shows up in not being aware of current trends and how they impact sales. In marketing the trend continues to place digital marketing ahead of the more traditional marketing paths.

For example, Facebook's demographics are for those 30 years or older with established networks (friends, family, etc.). Instagram as a digital marketing arena captures those under 30 years of age who prefer images as well as hashtags.

Another sales trend is the concept of "value."

Pipeline for entrepreneurs: SBA initiative aims to help grow small businesses - Brownsville Herald

Posted: 02 Mar 2019 07:45 PM PST

Just as the Women Entrepreneurs' Small Business Boot Camp has helped many dozens of women (and a few men) become entrepreneurs, a program newly available in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is designed to assist established entrepreneurs in growing their businesses.

Angela Burton, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Lower Rio Grande Valley District, advocated to bring SBA's "Emerging Leaders Initiative" to the Lower Valley. ELI is a no-cost, intensive entrepreneurship course consisting of nearly 100 hours of classroom time and opportunities to work with experienced coaches and mentors, and make connections with peers, local leaders and the financial community.

Recruitment is underway for the 2019 training cohort. Classes begin in mid-April and run through November. Classes will take place at the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco. The location was chosen in an effort to draw enrollment from around the Valley, Burton said.

The response has been great so far, she added, and said her office has received a number of inquiries from potential candidates. To be eligible, candidates must generate between $250,000 and $10 million a year in revenue, have been in business at least three years, and have at least one employee other than themselves. Candidates are expected to attend all 13 workshops and seven mentoring sessions, and complete required course work.

"We're really picking folks that are very interested and that are going to be dedicated, and that are going to attend all the sessions," Burton said. "Once we've received all the applications we'll probably do interviews. We need to make sure folks are serious about it."

Burton likened the program to "mini-MBA training" that gives small-business owners the opportunity to "work on their business instead of in their business." Often, small-business owners get caught up in the day-to-day operations and neglect building their businesses for the future, she said.

Burton, who launched the women's boot camp in 2009 as executive director of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, said she envisions a pipeline of entrepreneurs from the boot camp to the Emerging Leaders program. The boot camp, now administered by the Women's Business Center Rio Grande Valley, has graduated 221 people since the beginning.

"You may have gone through the boot camp several years ago and you've got a business up and running," Burton said. "I see this as a way for folks to continue their education."

Bringing the Emerging Leaders Initiative to the Lower Valley represents a significant investment on the part of SBA, she said.

"This is to make sure small businesses thrive, and that's what's important to me," Burton said. "My job is to make sure to get the tools out there so folks can be successful."

For more information or to apply, go to www.sba.gov/emergingleaders, call (956) 427-8533 ext. 231, or email angela.burton@sba.gov.

Options for exiting your small business - Cape Cod Times

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 12:59 AM PST

Question: I am a small-business owner and thinking of retiring. What are my options?

Answer: When you come to the realization that you want to get out of your business, the how and when include several options and variables to consider. Here are six strategies to consider for your exit.

Strategy No. 1 – It's time. You hate the business you are in and want out now. Putting a good deal together usually takes as much planning as launching a business. Sometimes it takes a year or more. If you just want out, your business is losing money or your health has deteriorated and you don't care about potential equity you have built up, you can shutter the business immediately, lock the door, take the cash, collect receivables, pay payables, pay off leases, offer severance, sell assets, and put an end to your misery ASAP. This might be the quickest way out, but it's certainly not the most lucrative. In most cases it is the worst way to exit.

Strategy No. 2 — Sell to a third party. This strategy may take the longest time to implement, but it may provide the best return for the owner of a profitable business. You must gather current and historical financial information and statements. Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet, Statements of Cash Flow, Aged Receivables, Accounts Payable, and other schedules will need to be in order. You and your accountant, or a business intermediary, will need to recast the financial information to help determine the true value of the business, including owner benefits. Be sure to list any personal items that will not be included in the sale. You'll need to look at industry multiples and come up with a reasonable asking price. Hopefully, your broker will produce an interested party.

Assuming you strike a deal and agree on price and terms, you will go through a due diligence process confirming the information represented to the buyer. Ideally, you will sell for what you think your business is worth and drive or fly off into the sunset!

Strategy No. 3 — Sell to your business partner(s). The good news is that your partner should already be familiar with the business. The bad news may be that your partner is familiar with the business. Depending on why you want to get out, you may be able to work out a fair deal for you and your partner. If the cash flow of the business is thin, you may get a smaller amount down and finance a good portion of the balance.

Your comfort level will vary based on your relationship with your partner and how viable the business is and is likely to remain for the term of your payout.

Strategy No. 4 — Sell to a competitor. Do you really want to sell to your competitor? A plus is that the buyer should be very familiar with your business and certainly your industry. A big minus is if the deal doesn't go through, you just opened your books to your competition. A big plus for the buyer, depending on the type of business, may be the realization of economies of scale making his existing business more profitable (1+1=3). In this instance, and if you are a good negotiator, you may get a very good deal. Be wary of the buyer who wants to purchase your company with your own (money) receivables. If buyers are scarce, this tactic could provide good incentive adding to deal appeal.

Strategy No.5 — Sell to employees. This may make sense if there is a strong first or second person in charge, or if a management team is operating the business successfully. An employee stock option plan may already be in place to financially execute this plan. This strategy can be fraught with many issues, including a lack of financial capability of your employees to consummate a deal.

Strategy No. 6 — Sell to a family member(s). Does your daughter or son really want to take over the business? Has your family member been working in the business? If more than one person is involved, do they get along with each other? Do you need to receive money from selling to a family member? Are you planning to stay on in a reduced role or consulting capacity? Think twice about this strategy and make sure the family member really wants to be in this business.

Other factors: Regardless of the strategy you choose, you will have to enter into a "covenant not to compete" for a period of time in a limited geographical area, unless you choose option No. 1. You will need to carefully consider price and terms, vet the buyer and roll the dice that you will be paid for the sale in full. And, in the end, if you're not retiring and are a true entrepreneur, you may want to do this all over again. Exit stage left — and re-enter stage right.

— Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Originally published 7/24/14 by Dennis Zink, Business SCORE Card (permission to reprint 2/25/19). For free and confidential mentoring, contact SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands at capecod.score.org, capecodscore@verizon.net or 508-775-4884. We go where and when you need us. Ask about our flexible appointment calendar. If you want to give back to the Cape's small-business community by volunteering for SCORE, contact the SCORE office at capecodscore@verizon.net.

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