I recently watched a series of promotional videos produced by SCORE which really hit home with me. These videos, which can be viewed on various pages of SE CT SCORE’s website (www.southeasternctscore.org) and in another Express News article in this issue really sum up the way I feel about SCORE — that it’s a priceless resource which everyone businessperson should know about.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.”, and yet, here at SCORE you can get the next best thing — advice from those who have the experience already. They’ve paved the way with trial and error so that they can offer you the best possible advice. And they aren’t doing it for a paycheck — they’re volunteers. They want to be a part of your success — they want to help.
In today’s society where nothing is free and everything has a price, how can you afford to miss out on the added value of SCORE? You simply cannot.
Are you aware of the Free, Live Webinars that are presented by SCORE? Our very own Bill Reverie highlights what you’ve been missing:
By Bill Reverie
Unveiled: Mysteries of Utilizing Social Media Featuring best-selling author, Lon Safko
As a “social service” to its thousands of clients, SCORE recently sponsored a series of webinars that greatly simplifies the mystery of how to utilize social media for your business. Lon Safko, author of the best-selling book The Social Media Bible, presented small business people with an exceptional approach to today’s must-have marketing strategy.
Social media marketing is a lot more than a Facebook page and a few Tweets. It’s about:
– Understanding all of the available tools.
– Knowing which ones to use and how to use them.
– Understanding mobile marketing, search engine optimization, segmenting, and day parting to achieve higher conversion rates.
– In-game advertising, virtual worlds and video marketing.
It’s more than you ever thought, but it can be easier to understand than you ever imagined. The topics were:
We are excited to bring you two Fall Workshop Series starting in just a couple of weeks! The first is the Three Rivers Community College Fall Workshop Series sponsored by Dime Bank, Three Rivers Community College, and the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce.
Session 1: Start-up Basics, Sept. 13, 6:00pm This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success. Start-up Basics provides you with an overview of the skills and tools you need when deciding to start a business. In this session, you learn about: the advantages and disadvantages of owning a business, the most profitable form for your business, and the fundamentals of formation, organization, marketing, cash flow and funding sources. Presenter: Jim Toner. Click here to register for this free workshop.
Session 2: Business Concept, Sept. 20, 6:00pm The second workshop focuses on your business concept and step-by-step guidance in researching your idea, your market, and your competition. At the end of the Business Concept workshop, you are able to: identify your target markets, describe your products and services, and collect key competitive information to support your feasibility plan. Presenter Eric Steinmetz, Dennis Peoples, Mike Del Vecchio. Click here to register for this free workshop.
Session 3: Marketing Plan, Sept. 22, 6:00pm The third workshop provides you with an introduction to marketing communication methods and tools to maximize your customer reach. The discussion in the Marketing Plan workshop covers pricing strategies, positioning, the difference between features and benefits, and different marketing strategies. At the end of this session, you will know how to: outline your marketing strategy, test your marketing message, choose the right sales channel, and exercise your marketing strategy. Presenter: Dennis Peoples, Mike DelVecchio. Click here to register for this free workshop.
Session 4: Financial Projections, Sept. 27, 6:00pm The fourth workshop uses exercises to help you better understand financial concepts. This session reviews sales and prices, financial risks and rewards, true start-up costs, ongoing operating expenses, setting benchmarks for tracking progress and the organization of all your financial information. Using a hands-on approach, you learn how to use our financial model to forecast sales revenue and build solid pro-forma financial forecasts. Presenter: Larry Flick, Nazz Paciotti. Click here to register for this free workshop.
Session 5: Funding Sources, Sept. 29, 6:00pm The final workshop offers information on how to finance your small business. In this session, discussions include sources of funds, accounting the six C’s of credit, banking relations, ratio analysis, and monthly preparation and review of financial statements. A bank loan officer will give an inside view of how a banker assesses the merits of business plans and loan application. At the end of the series, you have all of the tools necessary to decide whether or not to launch your small business. Presenter: Joe Beerbower, Mike DelVecchio. Click here to register for this free workshop.
The second series starts in October and is sponsored by the Guilford Savings Bank. More details will be available on our website as the dates of the workshops draws near.
Guilford Savings Bank Workshop Series 2011 Guilford Fire Department Conference Room, 400 Church Street (Route 77), Guilford
Internet Marketing and using Social Media to boost your market share
Oct. 4, 8:00am
Oct. 18, 8:00am
Managing your business for survivial
Nov. 1, 8:00am
Legal ways to minimize your tax liability Presenter: Nancy Farley, Stakeholder Liaison, Northeast Area, Internal Revenue Service
Nov. 15, 8:00am
SCORE has put together a series of videos which we have featured throughout our website and this month’s newsletter. Both counselors and clients alike have found them inspirational, so we wanted to share them with you.
Youngsong Martin of Orange County, CA turned her passion for designer linens into a successful business with the help of a SCORE mentor!
When Steve Allen of Tulsa, OK got tired of the corporate grind, he turned to a SCORE mentor to help launch his dream business, RadCab – a successful bicycle taxi and outdoor advertising company, and a fun way to get around downtown Tulsa!
“What’s even better than dreams, is making a dream come true. Volunteer your expertise; you’ve got it- share it!” - Tom Patty, SCORE Mentor
Southeastern Connecticut SCORE Chapter Needs You Now!
By John Ferrara
You know what the situation is like. Sometime during your business career you were facing a problem and stumped for an answer. You had to come up with something but couldn’t seem to find just the right answer. Then someone; an associate, a friend, a mentor came to the rescue and helped you find the solution.
Didn’t it feel good to be able to call on that resource? Wouldn’t it feel just as good or even better to be able to offer that resource to someone else?
Those experiences and the successes in your business career can now help someone in your community who urgently needs your help. Southeastern Connecticut SCORE needs you to help entrepreneurs and small and medium size businesses to achieve their dreams by overcoming some of those same business problems you faced during your career. If you have even just eight hours a month to devote, you can help!
SCORE volunteers have been helping businesses succeed and grow since 1964. The Southeastern Connecticut chapter is helping businesses and people with the dream of starting their own business from Guilford to Norwich and Middletown to Stonington. If you are interested in making a difference, you can contact Chapter Chair Dennis Peoples by phone at (860) 388-9508, by e-mail at ScoreChapter@gmail.com or check us out on our website at www.southeasternctscore.org/join. Consider joining the men and women of our chapter by taking the first step today!
By now you’ve surely been to our website, but have you really had a chance to explore and find all that it has to offer? We know you’re busy running your business, so we’ve put together a quick list of some resources you may not know about. Browse these links, or bookmark them for later, but either way, know that they’re here for whenever you need them.
Southeastern CT SCORE will start Counseling Sessions in Middletown beginning in April. We are very pleased to make this announcement. Our objective is to reach out to the largest number of potential clients in Southeastern Connecticut. Middlesex and New London counties cover 69 of the 169 towns in Connecticut with a population of 414,000, covering over 1,000 square miles.
We want you to know even more about our REACH objective. So the next issues of SE CT EXPRESS will highlight one of our Teams from each of our eight Counseling locations starting with this issue – the Old Saybrook Team lead by Jerry Litner.
SE CT EXPRESS also continues to evolve as we find out what works and what does not. Besides the recent changes in format, we are striving to make it shorter, but with original articles written by SCORE Members you will not find elsewhere to help you manage your business better. We also look for news you would not be likely to find in your busy day, but that you can actually use in your day-to-day management.
We welcome your input and suggestions, even contributions as two of our articles were this month. Just e-mail me at the address below.
It means putting together a group that can see a client’s problem through different lenses of experience, often creating the synergy where one good idea seems to leap forward and lead to the next.
Typifying this type of team mixture in the Southeastern Connecticut SCORE chapter is the counseling group that meets two Tuesdays a month in Old Saybrook.
So, let’s introduce the five member OSB team, consisting of three men and two women, whose experience ranges from big corporate banking to one-man start-ups:
Mike Reddy comes from the world of big banks, having spent forty years as a commercial and investment banker which makes him a natural for direct and incisive questioning and commenting on budgeting, financial records keeping, and the value of cash flow analysis. In addition he has been a consultant to the public and private utility and energy industry sectors. He also owned his own small business for four years.
Jerry Litner offers a story from a different angle. Out of work at age 50 (the victim of a corporate “bloodbath”) he found he was unemployable in the big corporate world …the headhunters told him he sounded too much like an entrepreneur, so he went out and did the entrepreneurial thing and started his own company from scratch. Up to that point he had been a manufacturing corporation president at age 30, had been through mergers and acquisitions and survived a Chapter 11 bankruptcy among other things, giving him a hands on insight to a wide range of small business operational problems.
Jean Ferris sees the world through the lens of lending to small and mid-size companies. She has 30 years experience in commercial banking and managing a commercial lending team. She currently serves on the board of CT Community Investment Corporation. In addition she has served on several boards of directors of not-for-profits and civic organizations.
Bruce Greenfield in addition to having organized and started a small business has extensive experience in manufacturing, marketing and sales, primarily in mid-cap industrial firms, principally in electronics, aerospace, process control and computer industries. He has done company direct marketing and for many years was an independent manufacturer’s rep.
Beth Vogel brings strength in e-commerce retailing and multi-store retailing. For 18 years she had owned a small commercial printing company, then she ran a division of a retail chain of specialized gift stores and over five years saw her group expand from four to 24 stores. Her current e-commerce business specializes in wedding related products.
How Small Businesses can use Mediation to Save Time, Money, and Working Relationships
Part of doing business is dealing with difficult issues:
The Partner’s Son Your business partner is planning to retire by handing his share of the business to his son. In your opinion, the son is absolutely incompetent and will drive the business to ruin. Your partner’s been a great guy, and you’ve worked together successfully for 20 years. But he’s got a blind spot when it comes to his son. For the good of the business, you’ve got to block that move. But you don’t want to go the legal battle route because it’s so expensive and you don’t feel good about making your partner an enemy. How can you save the business and a valued friendship without losing your shirt?
Dueling Employees Two of your employees have been in-fighting so much lately that it’s affecting your business. You can’t just fire them – you’re a small shop with limited resources, they’re key employees, and basically good people. And even if you did fire them, you’ve heard enough about retaliation of fired employees and discrimination claims that you’d rather not go there. So how can you make them work together and get your business back on track?
Getting Paid Your client is refusing to pay the invoice for the website you just developed (for him). You’re certain that it’s exactly what they asked for, but they say it’s not. They want all kinds of changes, at no additional cost, and you just can’t afford the time. You have a suspicion that they’re strapped for cash and are just using this story as an excuse to not pay. Small Claims is one option, but that takes forever, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get anything. And you’re a new business in a small town, and you’re worried about word-of-mouth. How can you get paid for your work without harming your reputation?
Smart businesspeople choose the right option to solve the problem:
Option 1: Ignore the situation – Maybe the son isn’t as stupid as you thought, and everything will turn out alright.
– Maybe your employees will work it out themselves, or one will just quit.
– Maybe you make the website changes the client asks for, and hope the invoice will follow.
And then, maybe not.
Option 2: Go on the Offensive (powerplay, litigate) – Hire a lawyer to fight your partner’s decision or challenge the son
– Threaten to fine or fire your employees, or actually fire them
– Demand payment from your client, go to Small Claims
And pay the time, money and relationship costs
Option 3: Find an Optimal, Win-Win solution (mediate, collaborate) This is the only option where you have control of the outcome.
Hire a mediator as a neutral third party to facilitate a mutually respectful, private, problem-solving discussion. You’ll focus on what the really important issues are to each of you, and what it’s really going to take to resolve it once and for all. You can write up an agreement, which can contain whatever terms you want. Who enforces the agreement? You each do – because it’s what you agreed you wanted to do.
Sounds simple. It is. And it can really work for you and the issues you face as a small business owner.
Jane Zirlis (firstname.lastname@example.org) Jane Zirlis is a consultant to large and small organizations, a mediator and an arbitrator. She coaches, runs workshops and facilitates projects. Her next course, on April 1 in New Haven, gives managers tips on employee effectiveness.
recently announced 300 million users)– More than 1.5 million pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook… daily.– % of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees… 80%– Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé… In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen– There are over 200,000,000 Blogs– 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands– 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content– 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations– Only 14% trust advertisementsSocial Media: The power of people. The power of word of mouth. The power of community. But, with this new consumer-driven community comes a new vulnerability that needs to be addressed: advertising in the world of social media is no longer one-sided. In other words, you are giving your clients a podium to speak their mind to all of your other existing and potential customers. And you need to be prepared for what they say. That's where your Social Media Marketing Plan needs to come into play. It doesn't have to be overly complicated, but you need to have a plan and it needs to be one that's right for your company.Some things to consider: How much time do you have to dedicate to social media? Is video a medium that is relative to your product or service? Are you able to maintain a blog, but also drive the traffic to it? Will you be able to respond to viewers' comments in a timely manner?For people just starting out, my personal recommendation is to start with a Facebook Business Page. I like Facebook because you can share images, links to other sites (including video), articles, and just small snippets of text easily. In other words, if you post an article you like, then all of your friends will see it. If even one of them likes the post and re-posts it, then all of their friends will see it. And so on, and so on. Facebook, through its interface, helps to get the word out for you.Southeastern CT SCORE's Facebook Business Page”]How does this work for your business? And how does this translate to your bottom line?
That all depends on your business. For example, if you have weekly events that you want to get people in the door for, then announcing them on Facebook will get the word out and as you gain “fans” for your page, the word will spread faster each time. The return on investment is easy to measure because you can compare your attendance stats, or take it a step further and ask each attendee where they heard about the event from. Just some straight-forward math.
However, what if your company is a service – then the rules are a little different. In that case you want to approach Facebook from another angle. Here I would recommend focusing on your reputation. Become your customer’s expert friend they want to turn to when they have a problem. Share bits of info with your viewers — this makes you seem generous and knowledgeable and fans will appreciate that. Over time that will build trust in your brand and a positive reputation. But, of course, this is a much harder return to measure.
No matter what your business is though, the important part is that you are going on Facebook because you care about your customers. Don’t make the too frequent mistake of making Facebook about your bottom line and only that. Remember, it’s about customer service . . . their needs, not yours. That approach will help you build your very own positive social media community.
You can’t have too many “friends”, right?
Karen Stevenson, Principal of Thumbnail Designs, a graphic and web design studio, has helped many of her clients navigate the choppy waters of social media and is happy to be helping Southeastern CT SCORE get their feet wet with Facebook.