Small Business Best Practices
We at The WIN Companies are pleased that our “Small Business Town Hall Open Forums” have brought about solutions for owners, entrepreneurs, and CEOs of small business about which they were previously unaware. Many of the participants were concerned with increasing current sales, the rising costs of doing business (especially health insurance), effective use of resources, business structure for tax purposes, increasing the value of their business for future sale and more.
It was a pleasure to be able to introduce successful strategies to help these professional get solutions. One solution that has been well received is WINs Business Acceleration program. WIN Business Acceleration, Inc. (found under our Services tab) offers premium, affordable and comprehensive payroll, workers’ compensation, medical, dental, vision, supplemental and commercial insurance coverage to those employers of one or more who have previously been able to only obtain the poorest coverage at the highest rates. By working collaborative to mitigate the risk for insurers and negotiating economies of scale with large volume and premium partners WIN has been able to create this program to level the playing field for small businesses with their larger competitors.
If you have already attended a Town Hall and would like more information, a downloadable .pdf, or to learn about the affiliates program, visit us at WINcompanies.com/Services/WIN Business Accelerator or call us at 949.502.4200. If you would like to attend a Town Hall and find solutions for your business, register at WINcompanies.com or eventbrite.com. Due to popular demand, additional dates will be added at lunchtime and specifically for referral partners.
What is the easiest way to attract great interns, employees, vendor partners, clients and investors with limited resources? There is a simple key to unlocking the treasure trove of resources: collaboration! The key is pooling resources with like minded professionals and sharing resources to gain economies of scale. There are many ways that this can be done (and some that should be used with extreme caution!) Today’s brief article will cover only sharing space as in an executive suite, a shared common space, an incubator, or an accelerator.
First, what’s the difference?
Executive Suites: rent space, generally under long term contract, have a low base rent and from there include significant additional fees for services (often whether you utilize them or not). They are difficult to budget and often times disproportionately expensive to their alternatives. They offer no shared expertise or collaboration. For entrepreneurs and start-ups these are probably best used for mailing addresses only.
Shared Space: again rent space. Their space is generally more utilitarian in design but much less expensive than executive suites. It does allow for collaboration with specific design (i.e. there may be access to peers, but not experts), but has no other amenities to enable you to capture efficiencies in your fledgling business. This space may be good for performing tasks, but will not impress prospective interns, employees, clients or investors.
Incubators: share space as well as provide guidance and/or a structure program for entrepreneurs to help them in key areas that will drive their success. While not all incubators are created equally, they are a step above your first two options by adding in the elements of expert collaboration, feedback, and structure. Be certain to interview the management team and ensure that they understand your vision. Most importantly, be certain that they are there to nurture and support your vision.
Accelerators: accelerators are incubator with funding available. Again, proceed cautiously! Taking on funding too early, marrying only the accelerator’s funding source, being forced to march through a program on a specified timely are all red flags. The best accelerators are working in the best interest of the clients we service. Yes, we have funding available and partnerships with others who may be better suited for your vision. Every business matures on its own timeline – generally 2 to 5 years. Those accelerators with programs that force you out in a short period of time or proffer only the sponsors funding should be used cautiously. Are they acting in your best interest or theirs?
After you’ve found Your Space!
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defined Community’s of Practice (CoP) or co-op’s [collaborative workspace] pursuant to the Asia Decent Work Decade targets in April of 2010. According to the ILO, CoPs:
• Are one of the most cost efficient ways of working
• Improve service delivery and enhance individual and organizational learning
• Increase ownership and help shape policy through sharing knowledge and experiences
• Concentrate energies and resources around niche areas of work
That is to say that the ILO agrees that you can be 40-50% more effective in growing your business if you work collaboratively. It is less expensive, you learn from the expertise of others, and I know you don’t care about this – but it is more fun! We spend a lot of time building our empires as entrepreneurs, it is a marathon, not a sprint…we need to remember every day to live life to its fullest and enjoy the ride. Happiness breeds happy teammates whether they be interns, employees, vendor partners, clients or investors. Happiness will make your business grow exponentially faster.
Researching Your Options
My recommendation when looking for collaborative workspaces is to try to select one with as many of the following key attributes as possible:
• Record of success.
• Strong leadership.
• Interview process for new members.
• Strong positive culture.
• Professional image.
• Expert peers.
• Knowledge of resources.
• Ability to grow with your business.
• Customized Options.
• Flexible pricing.
• No hidden fees.
Cheers to your success!
Virginia Lorimor, Founder, The WIN Companies
WIN Success Centers | WIN Business Accelerator | WIN Innovative Funding | WIN Opportunities
Contact Us: WINopp.com 949.502.4200
“Not Just a Receptionist – an Executive Assistant”
Zero-Time Selling by Andy Paul suggests that prompt follow up – that is, the first business to get its prospective clients (even leads), the information they need, has the highest likelihood of winning the client even with the same functions or service and yes – even at a higher price!
Key, according to Mr. Paul is to “Provide the Human Touch:” meaning that every time the phone rings it is answered by a person, not a voicemail greeting, and not an auto-attendant. It means you must have a receptionist or administrative assistant who assigned to answer the phones. Each call must be answered promptly, competently, and personably, even when the business owner, the sales representative or the customer support representatives are at lunch or in meetings: networking, with clients or with their families.
Zero-Time Selling also endorses in the “Practice [of] Unconditional [Customer] Support”: meaning a live person must always answer the support line. Why? Because all customer-support inquiries have to be responded to in less than 30 minutes. Why 30 minutes? Because a response in 30 minutes or less will feel like instantaneous responsiveness to a customer. It is that “instantaneous responsiveness” that will, as Mr. Paul dubs it – allow your business to “hunt with the sharp end of the stick.”
This means that if a competent person, thoroughly knowledgeable about your product or service answers your phones and is authentically engaging with your clients and prospective clients you increase your responsiveness and hence your rate of CONVERSION. By routing each call to the correct employee, a good front line receptionist is not a “gate keeper” they are a salesperson. They can expedite calls such than important calls are even received during other meetings and ensure that an opportunity is never lost.
The moral of the story is, if you do not have a dedicated person answering your phone – get one. One who is trained in your product and acts as an extension of your business. Not any phone assistance service will do. Interview services, ask for recommendations, and look for ways that they can further integrate with your business like scheduling appointments with your clients using a shared calendar and facilitating your CRM (customer relationship management software) by entering leads, conversations, and follow up prompts. For a very small monthly investment, you will find that it is not leads that you lack, but follow through to conversion.
Are you considering forming a new business entity and are unsure as to what type of entity to create? The following chart summarizes the basics of each entity type, its benefits and limitations.
|Limited Liability Company||General Partnership||Sole Proprietor|
|Owners have limited liability for business debts and obligations||X||X||X|
|Created by a state-level registration that usually protects the company name||X||X||X|
|Business duration can be perpetual||X||X||X|
|May have an unlimited number of owners||X||X||X|
|Owner need not be U.S. citizens or residents||X||X||X||X|
|May be owned by another business, rather then individuals||X||X|
|May issue shares of stock that attract investors||X||X|
|Owners can report business profit and loss on their personal tax returns||X||X||X||X|
|Owners can split profit and loss with the business for a lower overall tax rate||X|
|Permitted to distribute allocations, under certain guidelines||X||X|
|Not required to hold annual meetings or record meeting minutes||X||X|
This was presented at Rainmaker BNI on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Wendi D. Coley, CPA of Coley Accountancy. I felt that this was extremely relevant to my audience and I wanted to pass it on. Please check out Wendi’s web site at www.ColeyAccountancy.com.
In this lingering down economy, the standard “business incubation model” is no longer proving to be effective. I was startled to see that recent statistics in an article entitled “Boon or Boondoggle” by Amezcua at the Syracuse University show the following:
|INCUBATED FIRM||NON-INCUBATED FIRM|
|First Year Sales||$637K||$437K|
|Rate of Sales Decline per Year||-1.2%||-3%|
|Employee Growth Rate per Year||+3%||+0.74%|
|Age||42% close by age 3.63 Yrs||50% fail in 2.5 years|
|Spends avg. of 4.5 yrs in incubator|
|944 business incubators operated in 1,121 locations, about 18,000 firms, founding year = 2000|
Graduation rate from incubator was only about 4%; among the 18,426 incubated firms in the study, 7,543 of them closed while in incubation, 193 of them closed after incubation, 464 of the graduates remain in operations, and the remainder, 10,226, continue operating in the incubator.
Some of the author’s conclusions:
- Incubation does not reduce chance of going out of business sooner than a non-incubated firm
- Incubated firms fail 10% sooner after leaving incubator
- Incubated firms increase employment, but only by 3.5% compared to non-incubated firm
- Incubated firms increase employment growth rate by 6.7%
- Sales growth rate increase by 2.15% when entering incubator, 5.1% when leaving incubator
- Based on employment and sales performance, incubation generally has a positive economic effect but it does not contribute to net economic gains since overall there are net losses in employment and sales for the incubated group
- Claims that incubators are highly successful and serve a significant number of businesses are overstated; also, incubated firms outperform non-incubated firms in terms of employment and sales growth but fail sooner
Small businesses need more in today’s incredibly challenging business market. They need flexibility and guidance. A center that offers the infrastructure and benefits once only available to large businesses, at a price those small businesses can afford. Moreover, the flexibility to grow with those businesses only as those businesses need to grow into additional services (absolutely a-la-carte, never – “You want fries with that.”) No hidden fees. No long term contracts. Where each of the companies works cooperatively. Does this seem unthinkable?
WIN is a business accelerator with a proprietary model that offers those benefits. WIN is leveraging many small businesses together to gain economies of scale and to allow start ups to appear instantly larger than they are. I would be interested to hear if others have come across other business accelerators that have a legal structure that (in the United States) allow companies to join together to obtain liability, workman’s compensation, errors & omissions coverages; a lawyer on call, HR administration, CPA ownership with payroll discounts, business connectivity and advisory services, and low cost bookkeeping and administrative assistance.