Small Business Awards: Everyone Loves a Winner

small business awards

Winning Small Business Awards can boost your credibility. We’re giving it a try, and we think you should too. Want to know how to get started? Here are a few ways to do it. Standing out from competition is hard, especially if you are the new kid on the block. But it is a key method to growing your business. 

Building credibility takes time. One way that we are starting to try is to apply for entrepreneurial and small business awards. Distinguishing yourself through an award has been shown increase revenue. In fact, a study by the British Quality Foundation showed that small award-winning twice as much sales growth than non-winners. 

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Sure, It’s scary

Look, no one likes rejection. But you can’t win if you don’t try. I’ll be brutally honest. It’s taken me a long time to overcome my feelings of imposter syndrome. Yep, Ive got to take my own medicine too. How could I recommend this to you without doing it myself? Let’s support each other as we give it a go.

Which programs are the right ones?

Well, we’ve done some research that we would like to share with you. We’ve broken it down into paid submissions and free submissions. We kept this list to the broadest level. There are several industry specific awards that are worth exploring beyond these.

These are national and not industry specific. We encourage you to explore local and industry specific opportunities. We are going to submit to a few of free national programs while exploring several local options.

Things to keep in mind regarding small business awards

These applications are all pretty similar so creating a file once, where everything is stored will save you a ton of time going forward. Make sure you have a 3rd party review it. We are too close to our business that we sometimes forget or assume that people may or may not know our jargon. An impartial pair of eyes can help. Finally, make sure you tell a story. A story is much easier to read than a laundry list of achievements. Your business is more than numbers. It’s about what you unique bring to the market, and part of that uniqueness is you. Most programs are online, but others, like the SBA, require hard copies. 

Good Luck!

While we may be competing for the same prize, we wish you luck. There’s more than enough praise to go around. I would be thrilled to hear if one of my contacts or readers won. We’d happily showcase you. 

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

4 Simple Ways to Tune Up Your Small Business

small business tune-up

As we come to the close of 2019, is your business in need of a tune up? In this post, we share how one of our clients, Kelly, performed a tune-up on her business to get her engines running like new. A tune up in your small business might seem like something dangerous, but it actually is a key way to lead to growth in the long run for your business.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Kelly's Story

Kelly is a fashion designer. She is a very eco-conscious person, so she created a company around these ideals. Her line focuses on functional fashion that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. Her concept is amazing, and she didn’t need help with products or marketing. Where Kelly struggled was with business operations. While she was a wiz at design and genius of materials, her passion didn’t lie in business operations. That’s totally understandable. No one person can be a master of everything. Kelly had grown quickly, but her business processes hadn’t kept pace. In short, her business needed a tune-up. 

Where to Tune Up Your Business?

When looking for ways to tune up your business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed quickly. How do you know where to start? Well, there are a couple of key areas you should always check. 

Review Your Finances

While it’s not sexy and most people would rather avoid it, reviewing your finances is always the best place to start. The first stop is to review your cash flow. Why? Profit is like food. Cash is like air. You can live a few weeks without food, but you die instantly without air. So, think about your revenue and your cash flow to determine how at risk you might be.  

In Kelly’s case, cash flows are highly cyclical, and sales often lag purchases by months. She would always hit a cash flow crunch. Kelly dealt with this problem was by factoring her invoices. Think of it like an advance. You get a percentage of your invoice today from a lender, who gets the full value of the invoice when its paid. It’s not an ideal method. Instead, we set her up with a line of credit. She had good credit and solid financials. She was just continuing to do what she had always done. This simple fix saved her a lot of money.

We come across so many small business owner, who are ready to burn out, because they try to do everything themselves. Don’t. You may think you are saving yourself money, but it won’t work. Please save yourself the aggravation and stress. To learn some time regarding how, please read our tips on Pain-Free Delegation. 

Kelly was no different. She is a superstar, but she was burning the candles at both ends. Sound familiar? We all do it. We took Kelly through our Keep vs. Toss exercise, which highlighted several areas where her team could take over. This saved her several hours a week, which she could use to focus on where she excelled, design. 

Is Your Computer Running Word 2010?

A chart about small business tune-up needs

Sometimes we think we are saving ourselves money by trying to keep our technology too long. Intel funded a study of over 3,000 companies in 16 countries. They found a dramatic drop-off in productivity after 3 years. 

Look, we understand. Tech purchases aren’t cheap, but they start to pay for themselves after about 3 years. 

Kelly didn’t suffer too badly from this. She tended to hand down technology to the lower level talent. Fortunately, they had their own tech, which was faster than what Kelly gave them. While she thought this was saving her money, it was actually creating a cyber security risk. Therefore, we recommended that she stop this practice. A few thousand was worth more than one of her designs or plans accidentally going to one of her competitors.

Learn something new – break out of your comfort zone

It’s tempting to want to fall back to what you know. Starting a business is hard, and once you have it up and running well, why change it? While we’re not recommending that you upend your business, but we are challenging you to try to learn or to do something uncomfortable. Expanding your business can be uncomfortable. However, if you avoid growing, you may find yourself becoming a dinosaur. Hence – tune up.  

Being a creative type, Kelly was always trying new things. However, they were all in her comfort zone – design and fabrics. We challenged her to pick one part of the business that made her the most nervous and try to learn more about it. We all have those spots. Those places where we’d rather watch paint dry than do. For Kelly, that was finances. She didn’t like numbers. We told her, that’s OK. Most people are afraid of finances because they hadn’t been taught well. We set her up with the quick curriculum. We took her thought it. To her credit, she stuck with it. While she’ll never love it, she did feel much more confident. She realized had she been more confident she would have stop factoring a long time ago.

Summary

 We all need a tune-up now and again. Bad habits can creep into the best businesses. They are like dust bunnies under the bed. The longer you wait to clean them, the bigger they get. You don’t have to clean under your bed every week, but it’s a good idea to get into some type of routine.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Successful Marketing Tactics on Small Business Budget

learn about business free

If you think you can’t have successful marketing tactics on a small business budget, think again. We’d like to share a story about our client, Molly, who was able to have a successful, cost-effective, marketing campaign by being creative. It’s a tale of expanding and marketing while on a dime.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Molly’s Story

Molly ran a success yoga practice, which she wanted to expand. She was concerned about how she was going to attract new clients to her new location. Molly had a successful formula, but most of her current client base came from her personal network and built over time. She wanted to grow her business, but she had outgrown her space. She knew her new location was perfect, since the demographics of new location were nearly identical to her current. But what she didn’t know was how to reach them. Sound familiar?

Importance of Marketing

Every small business owner knows the importance of marketing. However, when they hear the word, most think only of dollar signs. It’s tough as marketing involves risk. You don’t know if it’s going to work until after you spend the money. It scares us all. The good news is that there are some costeffective in-bound marketing tactics you can use that increase your chances of being successful.

Cost-Effective Marketing Tactics

The first step in any effective marketing campaign is knowing your target audience’s need. In marketing jargon, it’s called the insight. It’s knowing what your target needs on both a rational and emotional level. While that might sound scary, it usually not. Ask your clients why they come. Listen to what they say and watch their body language. What motived them is likely to motivate others. Having a solid grasp on this motivation will only make these tactics more effective.  

Video marketing

With technology today, video marketing is cheap, easy, and effective. Nothing conveys emotion more than video. Happy clients will attract other happy clients. In Molly’s case, she gave a free class to anyone who was willing to participate in her video. People could see how she taught, how she interacted with clients, and how her clients loved her. It was shot on her iPhone, edited in several short clips with Adobe, and uploaded to YouTube. It cost her next to nothing to create it. 

Social selling

So how did we distribute that great video content? By social media, of course. She added the video to the company pages. But, that wasn’t all. She offered her clients a discount on their next class if the tagged her and included the video in the social media feeds. For a minor cost, she had the content distributed to thousands. The great thing about social media is that friends of the current clients were more likely to become new ones. She also did a little paid advertising to boost the video, but we’re talking hundreds of dollar vs. thousands in order to save money. 

Social media is marketing asset for all small businesses. A strong social presence can help raise brand awareness, trial, and offer promotions. The targeting capabilities are very powerful as well. 

Email

Since she used online booking for classes, Molly had all of the current and lapsed clients’ emails. She was doing a monthly newsletter, but she wasn’t using it to promote her business. A simple refer a friend promotion was a very effective way to gain trial. Like social media, friends are more likely to try than those without a referral. Again, it cost nearly nothing, and it had a big impact. 

Make information easy to consume

While Molly didn’t need this tactic, it is useful in other cases and worth mentioning for marketing purposes. Infographics are a creative and useful way to convey complex ideas. Even something as simple as this can be effective. It’s a lot more interesting to read than this full page of text

A map of effective marketing tactics on a budget

Molly’s Results

Molly’s marketing was extremely effective. After 3 months of effort, she was at about 50% of where she wanted to be. After 6 months, she was ahead of goal. Her second location was a success, and after year and a half, she’s considering expanding again.These marketing tactics aren’t all of the tactics available at your disposal, but they are a few that can be cheaply and effectively executed with little to no investment. This is why they are great starting points for marketing on a small business budget.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

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5 Small Business Budgeting Tips for 2020

small business budget

If you’re thinking to yourself that you can coast into the new year, think again. The time to think about your 2020 budget is now. It’s the end of the year, and there are thousands of things going on. But this is perfect time to start to get your budget in order for 2020 if you haven’t done so already. Don’t wait until the new year to make your resolutions. Your best chance of starting the year right is to plan now for saving. Let’s tell you about our client “Daniel” and how we got his budget back into shape as well. 

Unsure of how to take your business from good to great? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Daniel’s Dilemma – Great at His Job, Not with his Books

Daniel owns a small but growing wellness center in the city. He offers a mix of holistic healthcare treatments, from massage to acupuncture. He loves what he does. His sense of accomplishment and pride shines through when a patient feels better. It’s infectious. It’s what keeps his clients coming back. While Daniel loves his patients, he hates his finances. Sound familiar to anyone? This isn’t to blame Daniel. He loves treating patients and that’s why he’s a success. But avoiding something you hate can cause problems later, as it did with Daniel. Daniel is a great guy, but he’s not a guy who likes to budget. While this is great when things are good, it can be disastrous if things go south. 

How to Budget Burden-Free for 2020

While planning may be fun for some of us, most people see it a chore, a necessary evil at best. It’s doesn’t have to be so hard. There are some easy steps you can take to help reduce the drudgery.  

Why is planning so important now? Well, let’s face it. 2020 is going to be a year of uncertainty from the impeachment, tariffs, global slowdown/recession, and the elections… and your budget, too. This year is full of potential pitfalls, and that’s why planning is so important. So, let’s talk about how to do it, without too much effort. 

1. Know where your largest costs lie

The first step in effectively budgeting is to know where your largest expenditures lie. If you are servicerelated industry, it will likely be labor. If you are productbased, it may be marketing and sales. Wherever they lie, the top 3-4 expenditures are where you should focus the most. Big swings in those categories can wreak havoc.  

For Daniel, it was labor and rent. As a provider, the bulk of his costs were staff and practitioners. Living in a high commercial real-estate market like New York City, space is at a premium. This was his second largest cost. Marketing and lead generation was third. 

2. Your “Break Glass Here” fund

As we’ve said in earlier posts, we believe that holding 2 months of expense either in cash or as a line of credit is a wise strategy, especially in uncertain times. Like we said, 2020 is shaping up to be a very uncertain year and your budget may need that help  

Excluding acupuncture, most of Daniel’s business is fee-for-service, which means if discretionary spending is impacted by a downturn, he is at risk. It’s always easiest to save when times are good, so we counseled David to put a little of his profit into this fund over the past 12 months. He now has a balance of cash and cash equivalents to cover 2 months of operating expenses. 

3. The time to borrow is now

It’s always easier to get a loan or line of credit when times are good. Banks want to lend, but people don’t usually go to them until they are in dire need. That puts the bank in the drivers seat. If you go to them when times are good, you are in control. Ironically, the best time to seek capital is when you don’t need it. It’s when your financials will look their best. If you are considering a line of credit to cover you in case of downturn, now is the time to apply. If you wait until a crisis is at hand, you’re chances of receiving a fair deal are reduced significantly. 

Daniel’s sales were good. We didn’t need a line of credit, but we took out a small one, just in case. Why? For two reasons, one a line of credit doesn’t cost you anything until you use it, and second, it helps build your business credit rating. The better your rating the easier it will be to secure financing in the future. 

4. Focus on the ROI of your discretionary spending

Some costs you can’t avoid, such as cost of goods/services, rent, and the like. But for things like marketing, it is important to focus on the return on the investment. By having the ROI for each tactic or strategy, you can make informed choices about where to spend.  

For Daniel, it was looking at his marketing ROI. We ranked each tactic by performance. We could then fund the tactics that were working and cut those which were not.

5. Finally, Try to Reduce Your Fixed Costs

In uncertain times, flexibility is an asset. Some costs are unavoidable, but some costs could be cut. For example, taking a 1-2 year lease vs. a 5 year commitment. This may be a slight hit to your profitability, but it does allow you the option to reduce fixed costs if things take a wrong turn. Another option is to use hourly workers vs. full-time staff. This gives you some flexibility to ensure labor tracks demand. When appropriate, utilize contract workers in lieu of staff. For many reasons, you need to careful in how you use contractors, but if done correctly, it can reduce expenditures. For example, contracting accounting services vs. having an internal accountant. 

Daniel uses hourly employees. For a multitude of reasons, we did not recommend using contractors for any of our service delivery. They are highly directed and would be at risk of being challenged by the state. We did, however, use contactors to help with accounting and some of our lower ROI marketing tactics, where we could give them free reign to do their work, saving us both time and money.

In Conclusion

While this is a very exciting time to be a small business owner, with growth opportunities everywhere, it is wise to plan for contingencies. So, if the happen, you are well prepared to handle them. The better prepared your budget for 2020, the greater your chances of surviving the storm in one piece.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

U.S. Small Business Optimism Stalls

small business optimism stalls

We’ve had a lot to say about small business optimism before, and yet there is never enough thought on the matter. While small business optimism rose slightly in October to 102.4 from 101.8 in September, it has stalled compared to the yearly average. Despite being at a solid level, small business optimism is 4.25 points lower than in 2017 and nearly 2 points lower than 2016. While higher than the Obama administration, U.S. small business sentiment is at its lowest level during the Trump administration.

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Labor Indicators Appear to Have Peaked as Optimism Stalls

All three indicators of hiring have peaked or plateaued. Net hiring is down from 0.52 workers/firm in February to 0.12 in October. Planning to hire metrics also appear to have peaked in early 2019. 

Sixty percent reported hiring or trying to hire (up 3 points), but 53 percent (88 percent of those hiring or trying to hire) reported few or no “qualified” applicants for the positions they were trying to fill – The National Federation of Independent Business

Optimism is at a standstill as small business hire less
optimism is at a standstill
Optimism Stalls as small businesses stop hiring workers

It’s also clear from the number of job openings that finding qualified labor continues to be a challenge. We’ve discusses ways of trying to eliminate bias as a potential solution to chronic shortages. Also, it is unclear, but likely that our severe drop in immigration has dried up a potential pool of workers, thereby hampering our growth. And as growth stalls, so too does optimism.

Tight Labor is Putting Pressure on Compensation & Earnings

Higher worker compensation rose to a net 30% across all firms. With a tight labor market, compensation is the most likely, but not the only way to attract and retain qualified worker. As we‘ve mentioned before, employees are motivated by more than just salary. The majority of companies rely solely on compensation, which has a negative impact on earnings given counter inflationary price pressures. Earnings peaked in early 2018, and they have been in a downward slide since.

Trade Policy is Negatively Affecting Capital Spending

We have written numerous blog post about our point of view on the current trade war stance, and it’s negative impact on small business. According to NFIB survey, others feel the same. 

Trade policy is impacting many small firms adversely; about 30 percent recently reported negative impacts. Making commitments about production and distribution will be more difficult until import and export prices are stabilized with trade agreements. – NFIB

Hopefully, the pressures of an election year will allow for a cooling of tensions, but we will have to wait and see. As of now, it has left us in a standstill as small business optimism is in a holding pattern

Positive Tail Winds: Credit, Sales, and Inflation

Credit availability and inflation are the two positive spots in this report. Sales are strong, but uncertainty is holding it back from its full potential. Another set of effects of a stall in optimism, but one that could have a more positive result.

Sales

4% of business reported higher sales in past three months, up 2 points. In addition, 17% of owners expect higher sales in the next 3 months. Sales have been steady, but there is significant uncertainty due to the action by the Fed, recession worries, and political chaos in Washington.

Credit

Owners reporting that their credit needs were not met or that credit was harder to get are both at record lows. Nearly 40% said that all their credit needs met, and 55% were not interested in or needed credit.

Inflation

On balance, inflationary pressures are weak on Main Street as confirmed by government inflation reports.” -NFIB

Summary

It’s hard to argue that policy isn’t affect small business health. Both the trade war and immigration policy appear to be self-inflicted wounds. Both are acting to negate the positive tailwinds driving optimism. Until these are corrected, one would expect optimism to stand still

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.