Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Do you like a challenge? You'd better if you own a business these days. 2009 is going to be a challenging year for all businesses. That's the bad news. The good news is that the downturn will pass, and the actions owners take today will either make their companies stronger in the future or obsolete.
Here are 5 questions to make your business stronger for the future:
1. Are you looking for more opportunities, both inside and outside the organization? Successful companies are not afraid to dump old products and move on to new ones. This downturn will bring many new opportunities. Which ones can you capitalize on.
2. Do you have a mentor? Mentors can jump-start an entrepreneur’s knowledge level, link him or her up with new contacts, offer feedback on ideas, plans and strategies and even provide help in raising capital. Now, more than ever, it is important to gain the knowledge of veteran entrepreneurs. Find owners who have been through a few downturns.
3. Have you built an A-team?Savvy entrepreneurs bring people into the organization who are smarter and more skilled than they are. They then create incentives to keep them. The best entrepreneurs are clearly team builders. Many businesses are letting quality people go because of the downturn. There is a lot of talent looking for work.
4. Are you radiating your passion? Success belongs to people with passion. Zeal sustains entrepreneurs during the ups and downs. It becomes contagious, rubbing off on employees and customers.
5. Are you providing mind-boggling service? When you deliver legendary customer service, customers will rave about your company and become tremendously loyal. Even in a downturn, they will find you.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Credit Outlook For 2009

Credit has never been easy for small businesses. Most small firms have always relied on savings, credit cards, family and friends, angel investors and other forms of alternative financing to build their dreams.
Things certainly don't look any different in 2009. In fact, with many businesses bottom lines shrinking and banks in a cautious mood, capital from banks may be more difficult than ever to obtain. Small businesses will have to be more creative searching for financing more flexible when it comes to alternative sources such as factoring and batering.
Click here to read an interesting article on the lending outlook.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Plan: Maybe You Don't Need One?

Now is the time of year when business owners start looking at next year and planning for the future. Unfortunately, as one entrepreneur told me last week, "most business owners don't plan at all."
No plan. That means they have no idea where the bus should go.
Well, maybe that's not such a bad thing. As Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) discovered, the executives who ignited the transformation from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. They would then figure out where to drive it.
"These business leaders said, in essence, 'Look, I don't really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we'll figure out how to take it someplace great,'" Collins wrote.
As you look ahead to 2009, maybe you should focus more on who is on your bus and less on where you are headed.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where's The SBA? Can Anyone Find The SBA?

I've been watching all these giant businesses grab bailout money for a few months now. At first, I was surprised they received it, then a bit skeptical about the whole thing...Now, I'm starting to get a little angry.
Not that these firms are getting bailed out, but that no one is really helping smaller businesses in America. Remember them...they are what both political candidates this year called "the foundation of our economy."
Check this out: SBA 7a loans were down 30% last year. Through Nov. 15 they were down 50%. SBA 504 Loans were down 17% last year and 38% this year.
At a time when businesses need capital more than ever, SBA loans have dried up. Hello! Anyone home?
Now, the SBA says loan demand is down, many borrowers are not creditworthy, etc. All of this I'm sure is true. The poor economic outlook makes the best business projections questionable. However, we've got to figure out a way to get these deals done. These factors aren't keeping the giants from bailout cash.
Now is the time, if we are bailing out everyone and his brother, to somehow find a way to capitalize our foundation.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, November 17, 2008

9 Key Networking Tips

With the economy struggling and sales slowing, now is the time to get out of the office and start cultivating future relationships. Networking is more than just small talk; it's the art of relationship building.
The following are nine networking tips, courtesy of the book, "Great Connections: Small Talk And Networking For Businesspeople," by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon:
1. Tell your talent, not your title.
2. Give first, give generously.
3. Make your name memorable.
4. Linger longer over the name game.
5. Hear and help. Listen to find out what people need, and help them find it.
6. Build trust by telling stories about yourself.
7. Follow up six to eight times to add someone to your network.
8. Think of networking as learning about others and teaching others about yourself.
9. Remember, your next conversation could change your life.
--Ron Ameln, SBM