NEWS You Can Use

Don’t push ideas; focus on solutions

Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Don’t push ideas; focus on solutions Published in The Tennessean December 1, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “Coworkers, customers, and even my wife, say I’m a bit pushy but I can’t help myself. How can I come across as having the other person’s best interest at heart?” I feel your pain. Most people believe their ideas are best and if others would just listen the world would be a better place. At SCORE, our counselors go through a training program that, when followed, makes our mentoring sessions much more productive. The process is based on the acronym, SLATE. Stop and suspend judgment Listen and learn Assess and analyze Test ideas Expectation setting Stop and suspend judgment. Clients come to me dressed poorly or with an idea that, at first thought, is doomed to failure. Many high tech projects would never get off the ground if the appearance of the ratty blue-jeaned, t-shirted idea guy were the key to success. And just because an idea doesn’t appeal to you does not mean it is not irresistible to a different demographic. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity because of your prejudices. Listen and learn. You have two ears and one mouth; you should listen twice as much as...

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Resolve to improve your business in 2015

Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Resolve to improve your business in 2015 Published in The Tennessean December 29, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I need to improve my business. Where do I to start?” That’s a huge question and the answer differs based on what you are currently doing. In the spirit of the New Year, I have picked five resolutions for you. I will look closely at my business model. Starting with my Value Propositions (product and service offerings), I will make revisions based on evolving customer desires and/or competitive pressures. Next, I will look at redefining, adding or deleting customer segments. Finally, I will consider my partnerships and make necessary changes. This might involve negotiations, meaning I will learn to be a better negotiator.  I will study last year’s financial statements and look for opportunities to increase revenue and/or decrease expenses. I will prepare budgets or rolling forecasts and compare these to actual results each month, paying particular attention to cash flow. Based on variances, I’ll find ways to improve performance or adjust the budget. I resolve to use financial statements and budgets as tools to improve my business. I will spend more time working on my business rather than in my business. I will delegate more work to employees...

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Hard numbers matter in plan

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Hard numbers matter in plan Published in The Tennessean December 15, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “My business plan is almost complete. All that’s missing are the financial projections.” That’s like saying, “My masterpiece is almost finished, I have the canvas, idea and frame; all I need is the paint.” The financial projections are what investors or lenders find most compelling. To do your projections you will need a sales forecast, expense estimates, and a set of financial statements. Do research to develop realistic sales forecasts. Talk to potential customers and ask if, and how much, they will buy from you. Contact similar companies in comparable markets (in which you won’t compete), and ask about their sales growth, marketing successes and failures, and any surprises they experienced. Don’t base your projections on a percentage of the market; that type of statistic rarely proves accurate. When you come up with your projections, make sure you take into account your growth from zero and seasonality of sales. Be conservative in your estimates. Expense projections include fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are rent and utilities, marketing, salaries and similar items. Variable costs typically fluctuate based on sales. Estimate expenses slightly higher than expected to account for unanticipated costs. You...

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Businesses should plan for a disaster

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Businesses should plan for a disaster Published in The Tennessean November 17, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “Floods, tornados, hackers, Ebola … how do we protect our business?” You’ve been following the news and are rightfully concerned about these potential disasters. While you’ve listed some major catastrophes, you missed the most common disaster to hit a business, a simple hard drive crash. A hard drive crash can cause considerable, even irreparable, damage. I can tell you from experience that the loss of your company’s billing data can be a major blow. We once lost a month’s worth of data because we were lax in our back-up frequency. Luckily we had paper backup and after many hours of reconstruction we were able to recreate most of our missing receivables and billing data. Back up computers frequently and store the back-ups off-site to prevent data loss. Cloud-based services can provide for off-site back-ups without physically transporting devices or media. Consider the damage that a computer virus or hacker can cause. Software can help protect you from these problems but it is not flawless and must be updated regularly. Develop a plan for recovering from malicious damage to your systems. Power outages are more common than destruction of physical structures....

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Find great workers with smart hiring

Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Find great workers with smart hiring Published in The Tennessean November 3, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “We are about to hire several employees. Any advice?” Start with written job descriptions. Include requirements for applicants, employee responsibilities, and a broad, non-specific statement allowing for “other tasks as requested by management” since job duties evolve over time. Your company culture determines the type of person you want to hire. Will your culture be hierarchal, team-based or involve internal competiveness? Do you favor “smooth and steady” or do you like to take risks? Employees must understand and embrace your culture. Know what motivates potential employees. Is it money, recognition, opportunity for advancement, or something else? Determine if you can offer what the applicant wants. If money is the prime motivator, will the employee jump at the first opportunity earn an extra buck? Are technical skills and education necessary for success? Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue says he finds attitude far exceeds experience when deciding whom to hire in non-technical positions. If you are hiring for a technical position, expertise and education might be important, but I’d rather have a 3.5 student with a great attitude than a 4.0 scholar with ego issues. Assessments are objective ways of evaluating everything...

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Fight back against new competition

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Business Basics, NEWS You Can Use

Fight back against new competition Published in The Tennessean October 20, 2014 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “We’ve been the ‘only game in town’ and things have been going great but now we have competition. I’m worried that our customers will begin leaving.” Wouldn’t it be great if once we had a good thing going we could just ride the wave of success? Unfortunately, when business is good, others will see opportunity. If you keep doing things the same way you always have, the competition will find cracks in your armor and infiltrate your customer base. You can sulk, stubbornly remain the same, and watch your customers disappear or you can change what you are doing and retain, maybe even grow, your business. Go with the second option; change. Look throughout your business model to see where you can improve.  The first place to focus is customer relationships and service. When you have no competition, you might be lax in this area; where else will customers go? Make their experience with you so good that going somewhere else is too painful or dangerous to consider. If you do lose customers, ask them why they left and what you can do to bring them back. Next, look at your...

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