Tag Archives: small business

airport

Sky Harbor Named Top Airport for Small Businesses

Phoenix Sky Harbor International is the number one airport in the country for new small businesses, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General. The goal of the report was to identify which of the nation’s 64 largest airports have been able to successfully incorporate new DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) operators. According to the report, airports have several procedures in place to encourage contract awards to new small businesses, including unbundling major contracts and leases, entering into direct contracts or leases with DBE/ACDBE (Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) firms, outreach initiatives and financial incentives.

In fiscal year 2012, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport added 14 new small businesses – the most of any airport in the nation.

“Phoenix is a great place for small business, and I could not be more pleased with the results of this audit,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “We are committed to supporting small businesses and building a diverse and sustainable economic future.”

In fact, the city of Phoenix helped secure $4 million in financing for small and disadvantaged business at the Airport. “It is vital that we support and encourage small businesses at Sky Harbor and the city of Phoenix,” said Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela. “Small businesses create jobs and opportunities.”

In 2011 and 2012, Sky Harbor rebid its food and beverage concession in Terminal 4, which serves more than 80 percent of the Airport’s passengers. The contracts were awarded to HMS Host and SSP America. Both have several local small businesses operating within those contracts and have brought extensive local, regional and national food offerings to the Airport, including Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Press Coffee Food &Wine, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, Sir Veza’s Taco Garage, Tammie Coe Cakes, and many more.

“We are honored to be able to provide opportunities to many local, small business owners,” said Aviation Director Danny Murphy. “It is not only good for the local economy; it also provides our visitors with a true taste of Arizona.”

Phoenix Sky Harbor also holds outreach events for companies interested in doing business with the Airport. For additional information, visit skyharbor.com. For the full report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, click here.

Vestar Development Investment

Phoenix a Top 5 City for Small Business

Phoenix is one of America’s top five cities for creating small business opportunities and opening doors for entrepreneurs according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

The national organization cites “Phoenix’s rebounding economy, favorable climate and entrepreneurial culture” as elements that attract small business owners.

NFIB specifically recognized the City Council’s recent steps to improve efficiency and make it easier to do business with the city. Phoenix now offers online review of building plans and has co-located city and Maricopa County permitting services at City Hall.

“This ranking is a testament to the actions we’re taking to lift small and local businesses,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “We’re moving in a new economic direction – one that creates real opportunity for business owners and entrepreneurs.”

NFIB State Director Farrell Quinlan said one of Phoenix’s advantages is that it is a relatively young big city. “The majority of people starting small businesses and prospering were born somewhere else,” Quinlan said. “That kind of ‘new blood’ and vitality means opportunities in Phoenix aren’t encumbered by an ‘old boys’ network.”

“This puts Phoenix in a position to compete in the global economy, making us faster, smarter and better than our competitor cities,” said Councilman Sal DiCiccio. “Getting 24-hour permitting and the ability to submit plans online allows businesses to open today, not months from now. The Mayor and Council recognized that it grows our economy faster when we help businesses take off quickly.”

DiCiccio and former Councilman Tom Simplot led a 125-member Ad Hoc Development Task Force that provided recommendations for how to streamline the city’s permit process.

Under Stanton’s leadership, the City also adopted a Shop Local policy that increased the value of procurement contracts to local businesses from just $50,000 to more than $2.3 million in just two years. The same concept was applied to local banking practices – the city has more than $36 million deposited in local banks, with plans to invest more.

The other cities that round out NFIB’s list are Casper, Wyo.; Jackson, Miss.; Las Vegas, and Orlando, Fla.

refund

Creating A Small Business Refund Policy

Did you know that businesses incur up to $14.8 billion per year in fraudulent returns? Or that 91% of customers say that a store’s return policy greatly influences their purchasing decisions? In a competitive market, a smart refund policy can keep your small business from being in the red. Here is advice on how to construct an effective policy on refunds and returns:

Creating a Small Business Refund Policy infographic
Via: BOLT Insurance

small business

Gateway Bank's "Love Local" to Award $5000 to Small Valley Business

The nominations are open and only one Valley business will win. Love Local, a campaign created by Gateway Bank, gives the local community an opportunity to nominate favorite small businesses for a chance to win a portion of Gateway Bank’s own marketing budget (in the form of a $2500 donation), which will be matched by Forty in the form of branding and design services.

“Small businesses help our economy grow and thrive, and Love Local is one way of showing appreciation while giving the community an opportunity to return the support,” said James Christensen, president and CEO of Gateway Bank.

With nominations open through August 31, Valley residents can visit gcbaz.com/lovelocal to nominate their favorite small business (owned and operated by Arizona residents and with 20 employees or less) and tell Gateway Bank why they think their nominee deserves the boost. The winning company will be announced on October 1.

About Gateway Bank:
Gateway Bank, a Mesa, Ariz.-based, community-centric institution, is focused on returning to the “old-fashioned” way of banking. With services available Valley wide, Gateway Bank offers businesses and individuals personalized solutions ranging from simple savings and checking accounts, to complex loans and cash management solutions for business. 

humana

What does the Obamacare mean for small businesses?

Small-business owners who are anxiously waiting for regulators to finalize rules that will define the three-year-old Affordable Care Act remain uneasy. Their anxiety is justified since they are waiting for rules that will be enacted next year and no one knows what growing pains lie ahead.

But they shouldn’t necessarily view the ACA as a bad thing for business.

“Beginning in 2014, purchasing insurance coverage should become simpler and more streamlined,” said Jon Pettibone, managing partner of Quarles & Brady in Phoenix. “When a small business purchases a new insurance policy, insurance rates will vary only due to the following limited factors: family size, age, geography, and tobacco use. Insurers will no longer be able to base insurance rates on pre-existing conditions, claims history, gender, size of employer, and/or occupation of employees. In addition, insurers cannot deny a small business’s application for insurance if the business fails to meet the plan’s minimum participation or minimum contribution requirements as long as the small business applies for coverage between November 15 and December 15.  Although coverage may not become cheaper, increases from year- to-year will be based on a significantly larger risk pool and so may become somewhat more predictable.”

According to Scott B. Carpenter, an attorney with Carpenter, Hazlewood, Delgado & Bolen, the ACA will require all business with 50 or more employees to provide affordable, minimum essential coverage or face a penalty of $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 employees.

“An employer with 60 employees, for example, that does not provide coverage, will pay a penalty of $60,000,” Carpenter said. “If a small business owner decides to pay the penalty, the amount of the penalty is not a deductible business expense.”

So what happens if an employer realizes that a $60,000 non-deductible penalty is still less than what she would pay in health insurance?

“That decision will force those employees into the individual market or ‘exchange,’ where there is no guarantee that the subsidies and premium tax credits will make the insurance affordable for that employee based on the wages they receive,” Carpenter said. “In other words, employees who do not receive coverage through their employer may seek employers who do provide coverage. This is one of the biggest unknowns – the behavior of employees who do not receive coverage through their employer.”

Pettibone said a small business owner should analyze the “shared responsibility” payment it might owe if it makes no changes to its health insurance program.

“In some cases, a small business owner might discover that it could have a small — or even zero — shared responsibility payment,” Pettibone said. “In that case, the business owner may decide to make little change to its health insurance program. In other cases, the small business owner might discover that it could have a very large shared responsibility payment and thus needs to develop a strategy to minimize the amount of the payment.  Developing a plan now will help avoid an unwelcome surprise later.”

Carpenter also suggested that small business owners need to make sure that they are outsourcing non-critical functions — including payroll processing, IT support, etc. — to reduce headcount, if possible.

“From there, an attorney can be utilized to make sure that employee and independent contractor policies are ironclad and that possible business restructuring options are pursued,” Carpenter said. “ There is no question that today there is an incentive, until the Affordable Care Act and the various markets it will create — both good and bad — become more mature, to stay under 50 employees. Companies under 50 employees will have maximum flexibility.”

While the potential impact of the ACA remains anything but clear for small-business owners, there is one major misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up, even for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

“The biggest misconception out there,” said Rich Boals, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), “is that health insurance is going to be free. That’s not going to happen.”

The cost of health insurance has been a growing concern for small businesses, said Jeff Stelnik, senior vice president of strategy sales and marketing for BCBSAZ. Overall, about 71 percent of firms with 10 to 24 employees offered health insurance in 2011, compared with 77 percent in 2001, according to a 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Of firms with three to nine workers, 48 percent offered insurance in 2011, compared with 58 pecent in 2001.

“While the Affordable Care Act gives more people access to health insurance coverage, it doesn’t address the affordability issue,” Stelnik said. “In the coming year, small businesses will see higher premiums that are the result of the ACA provisions including essential health benefits, guaranteed issue, ratings and taxes/fees. These increased premiums are a weight that could have a significant impact on the bottom line of small businesses.”

Another misconception is that many small business owners don’t think there are not many requirements if they stay under the 50 full-time employee or 50 full-time employee equivalent threshold, but experts said that is not the case.

“Small employers still need to be educated on their compliance responsibilities,” said Shay Bierly, director of client services for MJ Insurance’s employee benefits department. “Those compliance responsibilities include maximum waiting periods, how to distribute medical loss ratio rebates, SBC (Summary of Benefits and Coverage) disclosure rules and reporting requirements, to name a few.”

Bierly said that all business owners — no matter the size of the business — need to educate themselves and prepare a strategic plan with a professional consultant or advisor so that they don’t fall prey to the many misonceptions that are floating around regarding the ACA.
“The law is here and is not going away before the big implementation date of January 1, 2014,” Bierly said. “Business owners need to understand the expectations, possible financial impact and prepare themselves and their employees.”

Bierly said the ACA provides an opportunity for employers to assist their employees in becoming educated consumers.

“With the possibility of moving to a consumer driven health plan, employees will have more skin in the game and, by necessity, find the need to understand the cost and quality of services they need,” she said. “It is all about working smart and staying in the know. Employers must be engaged in what the market demands from a recruiting and retention standpoint while creating a responsible, healthy workforce.”

To make sure they are ready for the arrival of the ACA, Stelnik said business owners should do these things:

* Understand if your business has a grandfathered health plan.
* Know how your business is classified under the ACA. For example, businesses with 51 or more full-time employees will have to pay a penalty if they do not offer employees health insurance. Small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees may be eligible for tax credits to assist with cost of insurance.
* Balance the decision to offer health insurance by weighing corporate finances, culture and the best interests of your employees.
* Begin looking into unique, new offerings specific to small businesses. Companies like BCBSAZ is tailoring plans to meet the needs of small businesses.

“For some businesses, a number of employees may be eligible for subsidies through the ACA, lessening the employer’s responsibility to offer health insurance,” Stelnik said. “Employers might also see improved employee satisfaction and quality of life as a result of the increased access to healthcare.”

Ultimately, experts said the ACA may drive small businesses in Arizona to new levels of success and innovation.

“Currently, many people who would like to start businesses do not do so because they cannot obtain affordable insurance in the private market and must rely on employer-provided coverage,” Pettibone said. “If those budding entrepreneurs can obtain subsidized coverage on the individual insurance marketplace, they might be more likely to take career risks and start new businesses. It’s thus possible that the Affordable Care Act will enable more people to pursue entrepreneurial activity and create more small businesses.”

5 THINGS TO KNOW FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

On average, small businesses pay about 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy because they lack the purchasing power that larger employers have. The Affordable Care Act provides tax credits and gives small businesses the ability to shop for insurance in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, which should help close the cost gap.
1. If you have up to 25 employees, pay average annual wages below $50,000, and provide health insurance, you may qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent (up to 25 percent for nonprofits) to offset the cost of your insurance.
2. Under the health care law, employer-based plans that provide health insurance to retirees ages 55-64 can now get financial help through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. This program is designed to lower the cost of premiums for all employees and reduce employer health costs.
3. Starting in 2014, the small business tax credit goes up to 50 percent (up to 35 percent for nonprofits) for qualifying businesses.
4. In 2014, small businesses with generally fewer than 100 employees can shop in the Health Insurance Marketplace, which gives you power similar to what large businesses have to get better choices and lower prices. Open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.
5. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from new employer responsibility policies. They don’t have to pay an assessment if their employees get tax credits through an Exchange.

wells fargo - home for veteran

Initiative Helps Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

Veterans who own small businesses in Arizona can save up to $3,000 by tapping into a new loan program called VetLoan Advantage.

The program, offered by CDC Small Business Finance, features rebates and fee waivers associated with SBA-504 loans (for commercial real estate purchases) and Community Advantage loans for working capital, equipment purchases and other needs.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no military experience to be entrepreneurs, and often times face challenges in raising capital or getting a conventional loan.

“Veteran-owned small businesses employ nearly 5.8 million people nationwide, making the need for loan assistance vital to our recovering economy, said Chris Bane, loan officer with CDC Small Business Finance. “These programs are our way of saying thanks to vets for their honorable service.”

The VetLoan Advantage programs in Arizona by CDC include:

SBA-504 – for purchasing commercial/industrial buildings or large equipment.  CDC will issue a cash rebate up to $3,000 for any funded loan to help veteran owners offset loan expenses.  The SBA-504 loan offers a low-down payment (typically 10%) and long-term fixed rates (now under 5%).

Community Advantage – provides up to $250,000 for working capital, equipment, inventory, tenant improvements and business acquisition.  CDC will waive the packaging fee for veterans, a savings of up to $2,500.

For more information visit: http://cdcloans.com/small-business/vetloan-advantage/

CDC Small Business Finance is the nation’s leader in SBA-504 loans as well as a leader in helping start-up and emerging small businesses via a variety of other SBA loan programs.

Small Business

USDA Celebrates National Small Business Week With Continued Investments to Help Rural Business Grow

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces $4.7 million in additional investment for rural small businesses

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Small Business Week by highlighting USDA’s actions to help rural small businesses create jobs, get access to capital and spur economic growth. He also announced the selection of recipients for USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grants.  USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in small towns and rural communities, just as they are in our biggest cities,” Vilsack said. “USDA supports small businesses by providing job training, business development opportunities, strategic community planning and other resources.  We’re focused on making sure that Main Street businesses have the tools they need to grow.”

Secretary Vilsack announced 54 awards under the Rural Business Enterprise Grants program in 21 states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Please click here for a complete list of Rural Business Enterprise Grants awarded today.

USDA has several initiatives underway to support small businesses and the communities they serve.  Altogether, USDA business and cooperative development programs have had a significant impact on rural communities – achieving record results under President Obama. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 15,000 loans and grants through its business programs, helping more than 60,000 rural small businesses.  For more information on USDA’s business and cooperative development programs, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/Business.html.

This assistance has also been directed toward historically underserved communities. For example, USDA Rural Development is working closely with the Appalachian Regional Commission on a public/private partnership to help economies prosper. This partnership is intended to create a stronger and more diversified Appalachian economy. It compliments several other initiatives USDA has in place. Additionally, USDA is working in persistent poverty areas in 16 states to leverage local partnerships and grow the economy through its StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

Rural small businesses are encouraged to contact their nearest USDA Rural Development office for information about available assistance.  A list of these offices is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.

The funding announced today under the Rural Business Enterprise Grants program will help support the Obama Administration’s vision by providing rural communities with resources to support small businesses, improve public facilities, and create new, sustainable jobs. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions for the grant.

The Rural Business Enterprise Grant program also supports the development of local food systems. For example, in 2010, the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., received a $35,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to support the county’s Farm Fresh program.  It is designed to enhance agri-tourisim. As a result, EDC provides transportation for more than 2,300 visitors from metropolitan areas to small farms and vineyards throughout rural New York. The funding has increased tourism in rural New York and expanded markets for several small businesses.

Rural Business Enterprise Grants and other USDA programs help rural small businesses manufacture new products, expand local food systems and create jobs. Secretary Vilsack continued a call this week for Congress to pass a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible. Leaders from both parties have signaled a willingness to come together and get this critically important legislation passed.  On June 10, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan version of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Secretary Vilsack noted that he is encouraged by signs that the House of Representatives will consider a bill this week.

President Obama’s plan to revitalize the rural economy has brought about historic investment over the past four years – including in America’s small towns and rural communities. USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.

social.media

Social Media: Great Resource for Small Business

Are you taking advantage of social media in your small business? According to a recent report by the Social Media Examiner, you probably should.

89 percent of the respondents said social media was providing them greater exposure and 75 percent claimed it was increasing traffic. Although only 43 percent suggested that social media increased sales, I think social channels should be looked at more as a brand building play anyway—which is very consistent with the survey results. That’s not to say social channels don’t generate sales, they do. I just don’t think the social channel should be treated the same as a Google Adwords campaign or direct mail.

I was surprised to read that about 25 percent of the small business marketers surveyed had been doing anything with social media for a year of less and only 30 percent had been doing anything for a couple of years or more. For many small businesses, I think the social bandwagon is a wagon you should likely get on, provide you take the right approach.

Nevertheless, before you jump in with both feet, here are five questions you should ask yourself:

1) Do you really want to do this?

Before you spend time on strategy, before you set up any social media accounts, ask yourself, “Am I willing to invest the man hours that will be required to make the effort a success?” Most small businesses won’t require a full-time social media person, but they will require someone’s time. For example, if you plan on posting a blog every week, plan on three or four hours to research and write. Once you get in a groove, you might be able to cut that down a bit, but if all you’re doing is once a week, you won’t see much time savings. What’s more, it takes about 50 posts before Google starts paying any attention to you, so you’ll want to commit to a year’s worth of writing before you’ll see much search traffic.

If you’re going to have a Facebook or Twitter account, you’ll want to make daily updates — which don’t add much time to the day but can add up to an hour or more if you’re updating Twitter, Facebook and any other social media — to build a following. Best practice suggests a couple of posts in the morning and a couple of posts at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you can ignore that media the rest of the day. You’ll want to make sure someone is regularly (every hour or two) monitoring your accounts in the event a customer or prospective customer tries to interact with a question or concern. This person might be you, but doesn’t have to be. Just remember, whoever interacts with the world on social media becomes a spokesman for you and your company. Choose wisely. However, if nobody’s there, you lose the interaction and the value of the social medium. Do you really want to do this?

2) What do you want to accomplish?

As I said before, being social just to be social is time that could be better spent someplace else. Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader? Do you want to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s happening in your company? Do you want to keep customers and potential customers educated on industry best practice? Do you want to leverage social media as a customer service tool? You’ll need to build a strategy around those objectives and execute accordingly. Some media do a better job at some objectives than others.

3) Are you prepared to air your dirty laundry in public?

None of us like to deal with public complaints, but maybe this question is put the wrong way. A better question might be, “Are you willing to watch your dirty laundry aired in public?” Whether you’re part of the social conversation or not, people are talking about you and your business online — the good, the bad and the ugly. If your business is like most, you’re going to be exposed to some pretty intense negative feedback from time to time.

One of my friends purchased a shed from a big box home improvement store a while back. It was to be shipped in a couple of days, but somehow his order got lost. After several frustrating phone calls with no resolution, he decided to try complaining on the business’s Facebook site. Within a few minutes, he had a very friendly social media person try to take his complaint offline to “shut him up.” You may want to establish an official policy regarding how this type of interaction will take place. Don’t wait until it’s time to make those decisions while in the heat of battle.

He suggested they work it out on Facebook. Not long after that, he had confirmation of the shipment and the issue was resolved. Like most of us, they didn’t want this dialog to take place on a public forum — they had behaved badly and wanted to hide the misstep. However, publicly making things right probably helped them with their Facebook followers. We all understand that mistakes happen. This retailer demonstrated publicly that it was willing to help its customer (although it would have been much easier to have dealt with the issue before my friend escalated the issue to Facebook).

4) Who is going to be responsible?

If nobody in particular is responsible, your social media efforts aren’t going to go anywhere. A few years back I did some social media consulting for a local nursery. They had volumes of tips to help gardeners and we started sharing them three times a week in a blog that invited them to visit one of their gardening experts to make sure they got the best advice for their particular yard. It was so successful that they decided to bring the effort in-house. Unfortunately, they lost whatever momentum we had gained when they stopped posting daily on their Facebook and Twitter accounts and quit contributing regularly to their blog. My guess is that nobody was really responsible to make sure the effort happened every day (see point No. 1.

5) How are you going to eat the elephant?

Launching a social media effort can feel pretty daunting for a small business, but it’s a lot like eating an elephant, you need to do it one bite at a time. Once you’ve discovered where your customers hang out the most, start there. If it’s Twitter, spend your time there. Once you’ve got that down and feel like you can take the next step, move forward. You might be surprised at how quickly you’ll have a robust social media presence.

If you were waiting for the fad to go away, I’m not convinced it will. Sure, we might be using different tools that Facebook or Twitter, but the way we communicate with our customers is changing for many small businesses and I’m convinced it’s going to continue. You might be interested to know that Facebook, Blogging, and Twitter round out the top three social media channels according to the survey. If you’d like to read more about it, here’s eMarketer’s take. What do you think? Is social media a great resource for small business?

A small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty Kiisel makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.

Bolt Insurance - Small Business Crime Infographic - Featured

Small Business Big Target – Crime Infographic

Did you know that small businesses are 35 times more likely to be a victim of crime? Or that $656,982,032 worth of office equipment is stolen annually?

Despite the amount of money larger businesses make, the size and security measures taken may be intimidating to a white collar thief. Small businesses often make the best targets because they often have more relaxed security measures and a small staff.

We invite you to use this infographic to find out how small businesses are at risk, the costs and losses involved, and how you can help to prevent small business crime at your business. Here are a few facts:

  • $1 billion: Tax revenue lost to shoplifting ($205 per incident)
  • Cyber Attacks: 67% of 7,818 surveyed fell prey to at least one cyber attack
  • 30%: Small business owners report less than 30% of crimes
  • 39%: Of fraud victims have 99 or fewer employees

Bolt Insurance - Small Business Crime Infographic
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Infographic Credits, courtesy of Bolt Insurance:

Source: BoltInsurance.com

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Arizona Small Business Association seeks new CEO

Small Businesses Slowly Increasing Economic Activity

Small business owners are showing a willingness to hire more employees amidst signs of expanding business activity, according to the most recent Business Confidence Survey released today by Insperity, Inc., a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions for America’s best businesses.  More than 40 percent of respondents say they are adding employees, up from 28 percent last October; 55 percent are maintaining current staffing levels, versus 63 percent last fall; and 5 percent are laying off employees, down from 9 percent in October.

Insperity also announced compensation metrics from its base of more than 5,500 small and medium-sized Workforce OptimizationTMclients.  Compared to the 2012 first quarter data, average compensation is up 3.7 percent and bonuses are down 0.6 percent.  Average commissions received by worksite employees reflected an increase of 4 percent versus a 2.6 percent increase in the first quarter of 2012.  Overtime pay is still low at 8.7 percent of regular pay, down from the 10 percent level seen last quarter that generally indicates a need for additional employees, but up slightly from 8.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

In the survey, 74 percent of respondents said that they are either meeting or exceeding their 2013 performance plans, up from 71 percent in the last survey; meanwhile, 26 percent report that they are doing worse than expected, down from the 29 percent response in October.  Concerning the timing of an economic rebound, 28 percent think one is currently in process versus 20 percent last fall; 26 percent expect a rebound in the third quarter or later; and 45 percent are unsure.  The percentage of those unsure of the timing of an economicrebound has remained at or above 40 for the last year.

“Business owners are slowly beginning to implement business plans that they hope will take advantage of any coming economic opportunities,” said Paul J. Sarvadi, Insperity’s chairman and chief executive officer.  “However, as in the previous survey, a significant number of respondents express continuing concerns about the negative impact of governmental policies on business activity.”  A representative comment from one participant was, “New federal regulations make plan execution difficult because more effort is going into avoiding penalties and less into delivering the product.”

Although the economy still leads the list of short-termconcerns of business owners, it dropped to 62 percent from 72 percent in October and 74 percent last July.  Government health care reform and rising health care costs are tied for second on the list at 51 percent, followed by hiring the right people, remaining at 42 percent.

For the list of longer-term concerns, 63 percent indicate they are either very concerned or have elevated concerns about potential tax increases, down from 69 percent in October; the Federal deficit and the total national debt ranked second at 60 percent; government expansion and its effect on business was third at 59 percent; and the economy dropped to fourth place at 50 percent, down sharply from 66 percent last October.

When asked about their pipelines for new business through 2013, 59 percent of survey respondents expect sales to increase, up from 52percent in October; 28 percent anticipate no change, down from 34 percent last fall; 7 percent predict decreasing sales and 7 percent are unsure, both thesame as the previous survey.

The survey results show that 59 percent of participantsexpect to maintain employee compensation at current levels through 2013, versus 53 percent in October; 26 percent plan increases versus 29 percent last October, but still up from 19 percent last July; 3 percent expect decreases; and 12 percent are unsure.

Concerning their current profit-generating activities, 67 percent listed increased service to existing clients as the leading strategy, and 66 percent cited selling new accounts.  This was followed by 50 percent saying they were adding new services or products versus 44 percent last fall; and 31 percent listing negotiating with vendors.

Insperity conducted the survey April 9-11, 2013, of more than 4,840 chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other executives in a variety of industries at its more than 5,500 client companies throughout the United States.  The overall sampling error of the national survey is +/- 4.25 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 27 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. InsperityTM Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce OptimizationTM solution.  Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services.  Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees.  With 2012 revenues of $2.2 billion, Insperity operates in 57 offices throughout the United States.  For more information, visit http://www.insperity.com.

Rendering of the amphitheater at the Great Park at Eastmark.

Eastmark Grand Opening Set For June 1 With Full Day of Activities

 

The first new large-scale integrated community to launch in Metro Phoenix in 10 years will hold a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 1 to showcase its first phase of residential homes and the first phase of the Eastmark Great Park.

Eastmark, located in the heart of the East Valley, is a new community focused on creating a connected life for its residents, employers and visitors.

To debut Eastmark to the public, DMB is planning a day of festivities that will include music throughout the parks system, family games and entertainment and activities for all ages to encourage the community to discover the lifestyle at Eastmark.

Tours of 14 new home models from seven homebuilders will be available to guests. Every home design in Eastmark features a new floorplan designed for this community.

Eastmark’s phase one builders are:

>> Maracay Homes

>> Mattamy Homes

>> Taylor Morrison

>> Woodside Homes

>> Ryland Homes

>> Standard Pacific Homes

>> Meritage Homes Corporation

At the grand opening, visitors will be able to explore The ‘Mark, Eastmark’s Visitors and Community Center; enjoy the first 10 acres of the Eastmark Great Park; 11 neighborhood parks, piazzas and plazas; and landscaped, tree-lined streets and parkways.

Trollies and pedicabs will take guests around the community to enjoy outdoor concerts, kite flying and other demonstrations, food trucks and refreshments throughout the day.

“Eastmark is one of the most thoughtfully designed communities in the country. In our planning, we’ve artfully blended residential areas, employment cores, recreation and commerce to complement each other,” said Dea McDonald, DMB’s Senior Vice President and Eastmark’s General Manager.

“Eastmark’s grand opening will give guests an opportunity to engage in ‘Life in Motion’ and enjoy fun, family-friendly activities and exciting looks at this community which is unlike anything else in Arizona.”

If you go 

WHAT: Eastmark’s Grand Opening – Life in Motion

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, 2013

WHERE: Ray and Ellsworth Roads in Mesa

COST: Admission is Free

 

Jan Brewer

Brewer’s sales tax overhaul passes 1st House hearing

A proposal that would overhaul Arizona’s complex sales tax collection process got a strong endorsement from business leaders before unanimously passing its first Arizona House committee Monday.

The proposal from Gov. Jan Brewer is designed to ease the burden on businesses, and business leaders hailed the bill for its intent of cutting red tape and complexities.

Cities and towns object because of the way the measure shifts taxation of new construction. It’s now based on where the building is done, so growing areas get added revenue, but Brewer wants it changed to where the materials are sold.

The legislation doesn’t affect how consumers pay sales tax.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price testified at the House Ways and Means committee Monday that his city would lose millions in revenue a year because of the construction tax changes.

“Let’s call a spade a spade here. At the end of the day this is going to boil down to numbers,” Price told Ways and Means Committee members. “There are 91 cities and towns in this state that are very much opposed to this construction tax change.”

An amendment designed to ease the loss to municipalities was adopted, but cities said even with that change, the losses could decimate their cities.

“If you don’t want to see some of these become ghost town, like the city of Maricopa, they you need to listen to what we say,” Price said.

The bill would unify the state’s sale tax collection system, creating one return, one payment and one audit. That would replace multiple versions of each that businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions must deal with.

Jan Brewer

Brewer's sales tax overhaul passes 1st House hearing

A proposal that would overhaul Arizona’s complex sales tax collection process got a strong endorsement from business leaders before unanimously passing its first Arizona House committee Monday.

The proposal from Gov. Jan Brewer is designed to ease the burden on businesses, and business leaders hailed the bill for its intent of cutting red tape and complexities.

Cities and towns object because of the way the measure shifts taxation of new construction. It’s now based on where the building is done, so growing areas get added revenue, but Brewer wants it changed to where the materials are sold.

The legislation doesn’t affect how consumers pay sales tax.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price testified at the House Ways and Means committee Monday that his city would lose millions in revenue a year because of the construction tax changes.

“Let’s call a spade a spade here. At the end of the day this is going to boil down to numbers,” Price told Ways and Means Committee members. “There are 91 cities and towns in this state that are very much opposed to this construction tax change.”

An amendment designed to ease the loss to municipalities was adopted, but cities said even with that change, the losses could decimate their cities.

“If you don’t want to see some of these become ghost town, like the city of Maricopa, they you need to listen to what we say,” Price said.

The bill would unify the state’s sale tax collection system, creating one return, one payment and one audit. That would replace multiple versions of each that businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions must deal with.

small-business-financing-featured

Follow The Money: How Small Businesses Get Funding

Finding the cash to launch your business or keep it running can be a daunting task. Whether you are reaching into your pocketbook (or someone else’s), borrowing money from a bank or seeking a cash-heavy investor, every enterprenuer knows that without cash, success is out of reach.

With this infographic courtesy of Bolt Insurance, you will learn:

  • The various ways that small businesses get money to help them grow
  • Who is most likely to get funding
  • How how much venture capitalists and angel investors contribute financially
  • Much more…

A few facts from the graphic:

  • 31% of small business owners borrow money from friends and family
  • 75% of young firms’ funds come from bank loans and credit
  • $6.27:  For every dollar of venture capital invested since 1970, $6.27 of revenue was generated
  • New law in Jan. 2013:  A company can raise up to $1M a year from individual investors in exchange for equity in the company

small-business-financing-infographic

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Infographic Credits, courtesy of Bolt Insurance:

Source: BoltInsurance.com

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social.media

Use the ’10 Cs’ to create winning social media strategy

It is incumbent on business executives to stay ahead of the social media curve in order to compete efficiently in their respective industries.

However, when you consider where social media was just five years ago, it is impossible to imagine where it will be by 2020. This can be daunting for CEOs and other top executives who were not taught social media when they went to business school or worked their way up the ranks of their organizations.

Senior executives need to embrace social media and integrate it into the DNA of their entire organization.  It needs to align with the business goals and permeate throughout each division and employee in order to fully maximize the benefits.

In order to do this, Steve Nicholls, author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist offers a list of 10 Crucial C’s that will lay a foundation for senior executives to create a winning social media strategy

1.      Conversation: social media, at its core, is a conversation taking place online. People share content in all kinds of forms – words, videos, music and webinars amongst many other kinds – between each other. Passive intake of information is not the name of the game any longer; social media instead allows constant interaction and sharing of content between Internet-users.

2.      Coordination: coordinating projects across geographical boundaries and time zones is made much easier by social media. A project manager, for instance, has many business tools that he/she can use to manage and coordinate a project online between different participants, different locations and different time zones. Social media is like the glue bringing different parts of a project, or different projects, together.

3.      Cooperation: social media pairs very well with cooperation as it allows more cooperation to take place between different participants in a project, job or office, amongst other contexts. As we just saw, social media is by definition the sharing of information, this means that by definition, it is a cooperative process, and this cooperative process, transposed onto a business context, has much potential.

4.      Communication: social media creates and enhances communication amongst a company’s staff, between staff and clients, between sales and customers and between upper and lower management, to give just a few examples. Social media thus generates and develops communication both internally – within a company – and externally, between a company and external players in the business. Also, it allowed both formal and information communication to take place, where the fomer is owned by the organization and the latter by the employees. Maagemetn however needs to be cautious not to push information communication underground by attempting to control it.

5.      Collective intelligence: user-generated online content equates to business intelligence for companies. Taking advantage of this information is invaluable leverage and can help a company improve and perform better by accessing new ideas, finding solutions and getting feedback of its business directly from customers or clients. Moreover, this kind of business intelligence can be collected at virtually no cost, which means that companies have the opportunity to gain business insight in a highly cost-effective way.

6.      Communities: social media allows a company to find, create and interact with pools of customers, clients, suppliers and even competitors, amongst other key players in a given business. Communities can take shape both internally, within a company’s employees for instance, and externally, between a company and its clients for example. Taping into communities is a very efficient way to reach as many people as possible in a very fast, inexpensive and efficient way.

7.      Collaboration: social media helps creating more efficient collaboration between co-workers, partners and stakeholders. Social media facilitates teamwork through a range of tools that can be managed across geographical limits. This can take place between employees, teams and departments, but also between bilateral groups like business/customers, business/suppliers or business/stakeholders.

8.      Content: social media is all about sharing content. Through social media tools, you can create, share, change and have access to all kinds of content. It is this freedom in generating and sharing content that makes social media so powerful. This is what makes it possible for someone working from an attic somewhere to create a ‘viral video’ about a particular food recipe that will reach millions across the globe, for instance.

9.      Context: it is the context that will define how a social media project will take shape. Looking at a company’s business environment, company culture and business goals, for instance, will shape a social media project according to the specific business context in which the company operates. This will prevent companies from going enthusiastically in the wrong direction and adopt a social media project that has no beginning or end.

10.  Culture: culture is a crucial component that will determine how successful a social media project can be. A company culture generally fits somewhere between a closed to open continuum, and the more open it is, the more a company will have the freedom to take advantage of social media. Opening a company’s culture is perhaps the single most important thing to do in order to engage with social media project. Banning social media is not a solution anymore, even autocratic political regimes have failed to do so, but using it within a conducive but regulated cultural framework is the ideal response to the Internet revolution.

Steve Nicholls is the author of the best-selling “Social Media in Business,” international speaker, and social media strategist who helps business executives implement a winning social media strategy into their organization. 

AZRE - Peter Madrid - Small Business Summit

Goodyear to host small business summit; AZRE editor to be keynote speaker

The City of Goodyear’s Economic Development Division, along with Sonoran Technology, will host a Small Business Summit for existing or emerging small businesses in the Southwest Valley from 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Tuscany Falls Clubhouse in PebbleCreek, located at 16222 Clubhouse Dr.

The summit will feature eight sessions that include topics involving banking, marketing, business development, business performance and speakers, including Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord and others from the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Small Business Administration, Arizona Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix Industrial Development Authority, U.S. Small Business Association and West Valley National Bank.

The event’s keynote speaker will be Peter Madrid, editor of AZRE – Arizona Commercial Real Estate magazine. Madrid’s keynote speech will discuss “Embracing New Media: Big Steps to Building Your Small Business.”

“I am extremely pleased the City has partnered with one of our Goodyear small businesses, Sonoran Technology, to offer this inspiring and informative training for small businesses here in the Southwest Valley,” Mayor Lord said. “I am confident with the business experts on the program and the networking opportunities, business owners will leave with tools to help them succeed.”

Registration for the event is free, but seating is limited. Small business owners and their representatives can register online at goodyearaz.gov/summit or call Tina Daniels in the City’s Economic Development Division at 623.882.7874. The registration deadline is Oct. 1.

Attendees at the event will also have the chance to win an iPad by purchasing $10 raffle tickets. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit Homeless Youth Connection. The Small Business Summit sponsors include APS, Insperity, Paragon Business Equipment, Sonoran Technology, Southwest Gas and West Valley National Bank.

Increase Cash Flow, Reduct Debt

Increasing Cash Flow, Becoming A Debt-Free Company

How much debt financing is right for a business? In today’s low-cost money environment, the “easy” answer might be “as much as you need” because it is inexpensive (depending on a company’s financial situation). However, the credit environment has tightened significantly during the past two years because of the stress that has been placed on the financial markets. Low-cost money really isn’t that easy to come by.

Possibly the more important question may be, what would it take to run the business without any debt? As the B2B CFO for a number of small- and mid-sized businesses, I can attest to the fact that operating a business on the cash flow generated from operations is easier and less stressful than being saddled with a lot of debt. It also increases control over the company.

With a good focus on cash flow and a deliberate plan to reduce debt, it is possible to achieve the objective of becoming a debt-free company. The elements of a robust cash flow plan will likely include a sound understanding of the classic elements of the sources and uses of cash. In simple terms, you want to increase the sources of cash and reduce the uses of cash to the extent possible.

Sources of cash:
·         Improve the efficiency of revenue generating processes
·         Collect customer receivables faster
·         Turn inventory faster and reduce the inventory balance
·         Lengthen supplier payment terms, request early pay discounts, or take full use of existing terms
·         Reduce operating expenses
·         Increase gross margin of products or services

Uses of cash:
·         Increase working capital in all its forms — A/R, inventory, etc.
·         Increase interest expense as a result of increasing debt or rates
·         Increase operating expenses – payroll, benefits, rent, travel and entertainment
·         Capital expenditures
·         Add employees or contractors
·         Decrease gross margin

Successfully implementing these actions so that the sources outweigh the uses will increase cash flow in the business. The CFO is then able to turn this into a comprehensive financial plan to determine when the business can be debt-free. Without debt in the business, owners are no longer reliant on other entities for success.

Debt isn’t always a detriment. In fact, by the end of the year, my firm will have helped clients obtain more than $200 million in debt financing. These clients have largely been growing businesses in which a loan can be very helpful to support capital expenditures and increased working capital to support additional revenue. When used properly, growth-supporting loans are paid off when revenue growth and increased profitability are achieved.

Unfortunately in a difficult economy, too much reliance on debt has become a way of life for many businesses versus a vehicle for growth. As we enter a year when the economy has at least stabilized, eliminating or reducing debt is one beneficial goal to achieve for companies.

For more information about increasing cash flow and becoming debt-free, visit B2BCFO.com.

5 Common Small Business Challenges

5 Common Small Business Challenges

In working with small, growing entrepreneurial businesses, I have discovered several common financial-related issues with which they struggle. When I first start working with these businesses, most if not all of these issues exist. All of them are critical to their success in managing and growing their businesses. The good news is that with time and focus they can be rectified.

In no particular order, here are five small business challenges that I see most:

1. Lack of Timely and Accurate Financial Statements

In today’s business environment, decisions are made at a fast pace. Information is readily available via the Internet, yet internal financial information to improve the decision-making process is sadly deficient. Most business decisions have financial implications, and without this basic financial information, it may be a shot in the dark. Many times the financial statements are put in a drawer and never reviewed because the information is too old (not timely); the business owner doesn’t believe the information is correct (not accurate); or the financial statements support the preparation of the income tax return, not running the business (not operational). They usually only become important when the business owner needs to meet with the bank.

2. No Cash Management

As we all know from operating a business, cash is king! It is the common denominator for all businesses: NO CASH = NO BUSINESS. Other than the current cash balance (most of the time determined by looking at the bank’s balance), most small businesses don’t manage their cash.

Cash management includes understanding your business’ “operating cycle” (i.e. cash-to-cash cycle). To improve your “operating cycle,” it is imperative you understand what it means, how to calculate it, and what influences it before you can improve it. Many times I will ask, “What do you expect your cash balance to be in six months?” Most of the time, they are fighting cash flow problems today and can’t think about the future past this week. Managing cash flow will provide a real sense of control over the business.

3. Poor Pricing Management

Setting the price of our products or services will drive revenues and, just as importantly, the “gross margin” for the business. Unfortunately, not enough time and attention is provided to this aspect of business. In working with small business owners, I find many have not revised their “pricing formulas” for some time, while others don’t really know their underlying costs to derive a sales price that provides profit. Many products are market-driven because of competition, so it is imperative to know not only the direct costs but also all costs necessary to produce a profit. Gross margin analysis by product line, products or customer is critical for small businesses.

4. Lack of Systems and Processes

Processes, whether documented or not, exist in all businesses. It is the way we perform the work necessary to produce our products or services. In most small businesses, the underlying processes to accomplish the work are rarely documented or reviewed as a whole (i.e. system). Developing efficient and effective systems and processes generally reduce costs and/or improve productivity. In businesses where there is a high turnover of people, documented processes are critical for training to ensure employees achieve higher productivity quicker.

5. Minding and Grinding Not Finding

I have developed a simplistic organizational model for small businesses. I have identified the three roles in small business as Finders, Minders and Grinders. Grinders represent the employees whose focus is about today. They generally work in the production side of the business. Most Finders start as Grinders. The Minders live in the past; their work is in the administrative, accounting, customer service or warranty departments. Minders are just as critical as Grinders to the success of the company and must be led. All Finders live in the future. They are the visionaries, innovators and relationship builders. They are the passion and the drive for the business to grow and succeed.

The entrepreneur is the Finder and must stay in the Finding role. Unfortunately, as businesses grow the Finder gets pulled into the company and works in Minding and Grinding activities. Without a change back to the Finding role, the entrepreneur/small business owner severely limits the business’ ability to grow. In working with small business clients, they almost always identify with this organizational model.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, these challenges for the small business owner can be corrected. Most of them are fundamental changes. As with most challenges and the related changes, awareness is the first step.

For more information about the small business challenges discussed, visit B2BCFO.com.

open4business-cropped

Phoenix offers development assistance for small business

The city of Phoenix Planning & Development Department’s Office of Customer Advocacy (OCA) provides guidance and support to small business customers new to the development and permit process.  The OCA provides assistance with pre-project research, identifying plan submittal requirements, coordination between the design team and city staff, resolving technical issues and provides a central point of contact for the customer.

The OCA also administers the Adaptive Reuse Program, which encourages the reuse of existing buildings for new businesses and provides regulatory relief in many cases.  Information about the OCA and adaptive reuse program is available online at: http://www.phoenix.gov/pdd/development/oca/index.html

Small business customers are encouraged to contact the office before leasing or purchasing property to verify the site and building will be acceptable for the intended use.  The OCA is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located in Phoenix City Hall, 200 West Washington Street, second floor.  For more information or to make an appointment, call 602-534-7344.

Customer Service

5 Tips To Providing Great Customer Service

Are customers important to your business? They sure are to mine. If you find them to be important, I suggest reviewing the details of your customer service touches, process and ability to help customers as needed — even if that means working outside of the normal channels.

5 Customer Service Tips:

1. A business owner/supervisor/manager/employee cannot be too busy to handle customer service related issues.

We are all very busy, but it’s time to get over the “I’m too busy to help just one customer” mentality. We have to remember it takes less time to work on existing customer service needs then to find new customers to use your product or service. If the owner is available, have him or her resolve the concern. Customers rate working directly with the owner much higher than another employee, even if that employee is a manager. It makes them feel important and valued. However, when the owner is on vacation or unreachable, the employees need to have permission and feel empowered to handle customer service problems to resolve the issue and make the customer happier quicker.

Business owners and employees need to be able to think outside the box to make customer service special. Each business and industry have rules they need to stick by, but there are times that it is more important to go outside of or bend the rules in order to make up for a mistake in order to make your customers feel heard and happy.

2. As an owner, it is important to lead with good customer service.

Customers like to know you’re actually listening to them. If they have a good suggestion, let them know. Tell them you’ll bring it to your team and possibly implement the changes they’ve suggested. Give credit to your customers where credit is due if you make a change based on their needs and requests. Fox example, at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we added regular Sunday services a few years ago after several of our customers told us they couldn’t take time off during the week and needed to use our services on the weekend. We listened, we acknowledged, we acted, and we thanked our customers for helping us better understand their needs.

3. Customers don’t care until they know how much you care.

Customers want to be heard, and they want to be understood. Listen more than you speak. Make sure the customer has said everything he or she wants/needs to say before you interject. Once it’s time for you to speak, begin with, “I heard you say X, Y & Z.” This ensures that you understand what is at the heart of the customer’s frustrations. It’s not always a refund that they want; sometimes they just want to be heard. Relate to them. Use phrases such as, “I understand your frustration, you’re right,” “It is a hard position to be in,” etc. Make sure to keep your tone in check. How you say what you say is often times more important than what you actually say.

4. What to do if things go wrong:

Be patient. Give the customer time to talk and share. Acknowledge what happened. Don’t defend it. Be honest, upfront, and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. More importantly, let them know that the entire team will be informed regarding the issue, regardless of what the issue is and what actions you plan on taking. Be sure this mistake doesn’t happen again; and if necessary, re-train employees on tasks or treatments, depending on your individual industries.

Don’t just get things back to normal. Go the extra mile. Do something special like send them to dinner or a movie, buy flowers, give them a gift certificate, etc. — depending on the severity of the mistake.

5. Stand behind your guarantee.

How do you feel when a company or organization states a guarantee only to give you an excuse on why it’s not met or avoided, then ignored when your opinion was not held up?  When your guarantee is not held, the reputation of your company declines, and customers no longer feel they can trust your product or service. Sometimes as human beings we have a tendency to focus on the negative, and every good thing you’ve ever done for a valued customer can go out the window with one grave mistake. If guarantees aren’t held up, everyone is at risk of losing their company’s growth, current customers and potential employees if there is no revenue to pay their salaries. Bottom line: If a guarantee is offered, it must be held up.

small business training

W. P. Carey School & SRP Host Small Business Leadership Academy

Small businesses play a key role in our economic recovery, creating jobs to help get our community back on track. The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is offering a program to help small business owners and executives learn how to improve efficiency, streamline operations and raise profits. The fifth annual Small Business Leadership Academy is available to the leaders of small and diverse local businesses.

“We’ve had phenomenal feedback from business owners who attended the academy over the past several years,” said Dawn Feldman, executive director of the W. P. Carey School of Business Center for Executive and Professional Development, which hosts the program. “Classes are held just one night per week, so they fit right into busy executives’ schedules, and they’re taught by top professors from the highly ranked W. P. Carey School. Participants not only take away great business knowledge, but also a new support network of peers that will exist long after the program is over.”

Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding co-sponsor, is offering a number of scholarships to its current suppliers and small business customers.

“The academy offers an outstanding opportunity for small business owners to gain knowledge from highly acclaimed professors and establish lasting relationships with other community small business owners, all in a well-structured academic, but practical environment,” said Carrie Young, senior director, corporate operations services for SRP. “The partnership we have with ASU, coupled with the sponsorship and scholarships we offer to the academy, is a natural fit for SRP in supporting economic development within our own community.”

As part of a larger partnership with ASU focused on small business support, JPMorgan Chase is also joining as a top sponsor, providing 15 scholarships to the academy.

“As Arizona’s number one SBA lender, we know how important small businesses are to our economy,” said Joe Stewart, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase in Arizona. “Entrepreneurs who participate in the Small Business Leadership Academy will get the best of ASU in a format that fits their busy schedules.”

The 10-week academy will run on Wednesday nights from Aug. 29 to Nov. 14. The curriculum will cover business strategy, team-building, negotiations, procurement and competition through service offerings. Program applications are due July 13.

Participants must come from companies that have:

  • Been in business for at least three years,
  • Annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million,
  • Fewer than 100 employees.

Applicants must be able to attend all scheduled classes and related activities. Those who complete the program will receive four Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.

Other sponsors of this year’s program include the Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, U.S. Bank and the Hahnco Companies. These firms are also sponsors of the school’s Spirit of Enterprise Awards, which recognize some of the state’s best businesses. The W. P. Carey School’s Spirit of Enterprise Center helps hundreds of small businesses each year.

For more information about sponsoring a scholarship or applying to the small business leadership program offered through the nationally ranked W. P. Carey School of Business, call (480) 965-7579, e-mail wpcarey.execed@asu.edu or visit www.wpcarey.asu.edu/sbla. Current SRP vendors can also contact Art Oros, SRP procurement services manager, for information about this year’s SRP scholarships at (602) 236-8773 or Art.Oros@srpnet.com.

Lisa Alberti - Small Business

Paving The Way For Phoenix Small Business Growth

Foreshadowing federal reports of an uptick in demand for commercial real estate and small business lending, CDC Small Business Finance recently funded two loans to help a local company purchase three commercial buildings in Phoenix.

We wanted to take advantage of lower property values and low financing rates to purchase the buildings,” said Todd Franklin, owner of Arizona Sun Supply, a wholesaler/distributor of solar screen products. “The additional square footage we gained will give us the space we need to warehouse all of our raw materials and give us more room to grow.”

Franklin benefited from using the Small Business Administration 504 loan program, designed to help small businesses purchase commercial real estate at below-market fixed rates and minimal down payment. The anticipated result is that small businesses expand and are able to create new jobs.

CDC Small Business Finance teamed up with Bank of America on the Arizona Sun Supply loans. CDC provided the SBA-504 fixed-rate loan to finance 40% of the total purchase, Bank of America provided 50% with a conventional loan and the small business needed only to contribute a 10% down payment. Arizona Sun Supply’s commercial real estate loans totaled just less than $1M.

Typically, small businesses are unable to tap into the long-term capital market, but can do so with a SBA 504 loan. Business owners of growing companies usually come to a crossroads of whether they should buy a facility or lease. An SBA-504 loan makes purchasing attractive because the cash down payment required by the owner is minimal, allowing the small business to preserve its cash for ongoing operations. Plus, long-term tax benefits are often realized.

Arizona Sun Supply, Inc. (AZSUN) operates as a niche supplier with a focus on specialty products that reduce the negative impact of the sun. As the top supplier of Textilene products, a durable mesh fabric made from PVC resin that is specifically designed to block the sun’s harmful rays, the company sells at wholesale prices to the general public across the U.S. In Arizona, they only work directly with sunscreen and shade structure businesses.

“The window shade business can be cyclical based on housing growth rates in the market,” Franklin said. “However, we’ve been growing at a steady rate because we continue to add new products to sell across the country and have not been reliant on sales in one or two markets.”

The primary areas of growth have been in shade fabric installed in parks, schools and other outdoor venues. Arizona Sun Supply’s general product line includes solar, screen fabrics, sliding and swinging doors, aluminum screen frames, sail and structure fabric, insect and pet screen and Textilene outdoor fabric enhanced with fire rated performance.

Over the past six months Small Business Finance has funded 21 SBA-504 loans, partnering with banks to provide $39M in financing to Arizona small businesses.

“Like Arizona Sun Supply, small businesses are taking advantage of lower property values to purchase new facilities for expansion,” said Lisa Alberti, loan officer for CDC Small Business Finance.

Alberti added that other Arizona small businesses are taking advantage of a refinance program revamped by the SBA and available through September. This program is designed to help small business owners facing balloon payments on conventional commercial property mortgages. The current refinance rate through this program is 4.95%. (For more information, http://tiny.cc/SBA504refi).

The 504-loan program was created by the SBA for the specific purpose of financing long-term fixed assets such as commercial real estate and equipment with economic life of 10 years or greater.

CDC Small Business Finance’s office is located at 2575 East Camelback Road, Suite 450. For more information, contact Lisa Alberti (602-635-8413 or lalberti@cdcloans www.cdcloans.com)

Business Credit Score

Protect Your Business Credit Score, Improve Business Policies

Most people know that how you manage your personal finances directly impacts your credit, but many don’t realize that proper management of your business financials is significant for protecting your company credit standing and ultimately a company’s growth and success. Just as a poor credit score can make it difficult for you to get a home or auto loan, it can influence the decision on a business loan or even the opportunity to lease office space. Maintaining a good credit score can be difficult for startups and small businesses that rely on payment for products or services.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect your company’s credit. At the core of it all, companies need to focus on receiving payments on time and keeping a reasonable amount of cash on hand to cover expenses. Enlisting staff support and making them aware of how to handle billing and payment inquiries and proper collection procedures can have a direct and positive impact on the company’s credit scores.

Create and enforce business policies

If you don’t have internal policies in place already, consider developing specific business practices that promote prompt and timely payments from your customers or vendors. Work with staff members and even key customers to eliminate issues in your organization that may adversely impact cash flow, including limiting the way your business takes payments.

When customers are consistently paying late or not paying altogether, consider automating the identification of delinquent accounts based on a formula of the customer’s credit rating, payment histories and buying patterns. This will allow you to manage the company’s accounts receivable investment more effectively.

In difficult situations, credit lines and payments can be worked out collaboratively with the customer to achieve the objectives of both parties. This may require creativity on the part of the credit manager and use of security, documentary and other credit management tools. Credit policy should be a tool used to expand company revenues as well as the customer relationship.

Provide proper training

Provide training across all departments that interact with clients or customers to ensure understanding of your company’s policies and objectives. Ensure all members of your organization provide a consistent message to the outside world, and anyone working in a customer service role knows how to answer questions about payment, deduction, dispute or credit-related problem. This can help eliminate payment delays by a customer waiting on callbacks and emails from the accounts receivable department.

When to start collecting

Use a credit and payment scoring model that triggers workflow actions. The scores should reflect credit risk and industry payment data, as well as your own experience with a customer to estimate a time for your company to begin collection action.

Be sure that collection performance goals are written down and that your staff are held accountable for their results. The goals should be in sync with those that drive senior levels of management but focus on more targeted metrics to draw team concentration to what’s important.

Partnering with outside agencies

Don’t shy from using collection outsourcing companies or agencies. While they will charge for their services, the alternative may be lower collection rates, higher borrowing and bad debt write-offs. This prioritization must be by employee as well, as some are better suited for volume collections as opposed to complex collections.

If your business is experiencing an unacceptably high level of bad debt, perhaps your credit processes are inadequate to the task. Another possibility is credit insurance, although a credit insurer will also require that you implement effective credit controls and policies. If you have tried improving your business with the steps suggested above, you may find it more beneficial to try turnkey solutions, including credit and collection outsourcing or even factoring.

For more information about how to improve your credit score and your chances at attaining a business loan, visit fswfunding.com.

ACA FAST Grants promote growth

ACA Awards FAST Grants To Small Businesses

This week 25 small businesses were awarded $184,832 in FAST Grants by the Arizona Commerce Authority. The ACA hopes that this will initiate the commercialization process. The grants ranged from $5,000 to $7,500 for each company and may be used toward reviews of technology, commercialization feasibility studies and commercializations assistance.

According to the president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority Don Cardon, “This is a seed investment the ACA is making towards startup companies which we believe will assist the company advance in the crucial steps towards bringing the idea to the market place.” Don Cardon states that he is pleased with the amount of responses received for the program and believes that they are a promising glimpse into the future of Arizona.

Since 2008, Arizona has seen a 57 percent increase in entrepreneurial activity, ranking 5th in the U.S. for business start-ups. Programs such as the ACA’s FAST Grants awards have been crucial in the advancement of small businesses.

Executive director Laura Tyler of Stimwave Technologies Inc. said, “We are so thankful to the AZ Commerce Authority for their support of Stimwave’s efforts in expanding the reach of our innovative wireless neuromodulation platform.” Tyler also added that the grant will allow Stimwave to complete market investigations and device planning as well as local research partners like TGen/TD2 and Barrow’s Neurological Institute. This will further their ability to provide effective and minimally invasive therapies for cancer and brain disorder patients.

The co-founder and chief technology officer of Acudora, Inc. stated that the grant will be used to assist their continued commercialization efforts. Mark Banister, founder and chief technology officer of Medipacs said, “This grant will provide Medipacs the ability to finish market research and our product launch plan for a medipacs device that can be launched in the Veterinary market late this year. This product will help build value for our investors and jobs for Arizona.”

Besides awarding FAST Grants, the ACA also secured $18.2 million for the Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund — A fund that helps stimulate business growth, capital investment and the creation of jobs in Arizona. The ACA’s second Arizona Innovation Challenge is also underway and semi-finalists will be announced in early March.

2012 Arizona FAST Grant Recipients
Acudora, Tucson, $7,500
Arbsource, Tempe, $7,500
Arizona Cancer Therapeutics, Tucson, $7,500
Castle Biosciences, Inc., Phoenix, $7,500
Colnatec, Gilbert, $7,500
Cyclone ADG, LLC, Tucson,$7,500
Earth Knowledge, Tucson, $7,440
ECOmplete, LLC, Chandler, $7,500
Fennova Corp., Tucson, $5,000
inXsol, Phoenix, $7,500
Kinetic Muscles, Inc., Tempe, $7,500
Latitude Engineering, LLC, Tucson, $7,440
Medipacs, Inc., Tucson, $7,500
MSDx, Inc., Tucson, $7,500
NEST Energy Services, Prescott Valley, $7,500
Power Gold, Phoenix, $7,500
Prime Solutions Group, Goodyear, $7,500
Provista Diagnostics, Inc., Phoenix, $7,500
Quaesta Instruments, LLC, Tucson, $7,452
Reply Buy, Inc., Scottsdale, $7,500
Science Tomorrow, LLC, Phoenix, $7,500
Serious Integrated, Chandler, $7,500
Siegel Consulting, LLC, Scottsdale, $7,500
Stimwave Technologies, Inc., Scottsdale, $7,500
VisionGate, Phoenix, AZ, $7,500

For more information on the Arizona Commerce Authority and its current projects visit azcommerce.com