March 2015: Small Business Success

Cut clutter and prioritize for good

Columnist Sarah O'Connell

Columnist Sarah O’Connell

I am definitely off the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. It’s the worst time of the year to try to take on a slew of new behaviors. We are just coming off an extensive holiday season, we’re exhausted, and the weather is doing its relentless winter thing. I’ve decided that my new resolution month is going to be March. Spring is coming, the sap is stirring, and I always have more energy as the days get longer. So let’s look at a couple of resolutions I’ve made this month for my personal and business life. [Read more…]

February 2015: Small Business Success

Develop the right social media mix

Columnist, Jennifer McCluskey

Columnist, Jennifer McCluskey

It can be difficult to decide which social media outlet you should use to get the message out to your customers. You may feel overwhelmed by the different options, especially if you are not someone who regularly uses social media. This brief overview may help you pick which ones are most likely to reach your target audience. Trying out a new social media platform could be a good way to expand your marketing during a slow winter season. [Read more…]

Is your business a hobby or not?

Small Business Success column || by Sarah O'Connell

Small Business Success column || by Sarah O’Connell

Most businesses we work with at the Small Business Development Center are clearly motivated to be profit-generating enterprises, with business loans or lines of credit, payroll taxes to be paid, liability and property insurance and all the other expenses that need to be matched and exceeded by revenues. [Read more…]

Small Business Success: Trust me, it’s not me, it’s really you

With the rise of social media marketing in the past few years, advertising is much, much different from how it was back when I was a small-business owner. The big buzz words now are “customer engagement.” So when I say, “It’s not me, it’s you,” I mean that my marketing campaign needs to concentrate on you, the customer, not me, the business owner. We business owners have to grab your attention and get you to spread the word for us far and wide. This is one viral situation that you should desire. [Read more…]

Seasonal clients benefit everyone

Michelle Collins

Michelle Collins

Warmer weather is finally returning to Northern New York and it’s not just us natives who appreciate the beauty of our region during the summer months. Tourism is one of the north country’s largest industries and it’s not only the communities that offer seasonal attractions that can benefit from the influx of summer visitors. More and more, travelers are looking for an authentic, localized experience and many small businesses in our communities are well poised to offer just that. [Read more…]

Prepare for your visit to the bank

Sarah O'Connell

Sarah O’Connell

Applying for a business loan can rank right up there with a doctor’s visit or a dental exam in terms of stress. But you can get through it much more easily if you are properly prepared. Here are some things to consider before you make an appointment with your commercial loan officer to see about a start-up or expansion loan.
What bank should you choose? [Read more…]

Foster loyalty in non-family employees

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

You may have observed quality of service and success in many family-owned and operated businesses; a sense of commitment and desire to provide a great product or service by the staff. The question however, is how do you develop employees to be as loyal as your family? [Read more…]

Top five business financing myths

Sarah O'Connell

Sarah O’Connell

Most new businesses are going to need some money to start up. And while you may be able to self-finance if your costs are minimal, most startups need to look elsewhere for financing, whether it’s a public lender such as Jefferson County Local Development Corporation or a commercial bank lender.

Your business plan will show the lender that you have made a great case for the loan through your research, management skills, understanding of your target market, personnel needs and so on. Then you come to your financial projections. This is where your small business advisor can help you put together a conservative and realistic picture of how your business will achieve its revenue goals to cover inventory purchases, business expenses and loan repayment, with enough left over to provide you with a personal income.

When we SBDC advisors sit down with clients to help them with the process, myth and reality often collide. Here are five of the most common myths that we hear in our office:

1) Grants — This is probably the number one question we get. “Where do I find a grant?” And then: “Because my uncle Bob’s second cousin’s best friend got a grant to start his business.”
While it may be true, we will need more specific details about the source of that grant, because in general, grants are not available to for-profit businesses unless it’s for something very specific (such as façade improvement). [Read more…]

Don’t let a home base limit growth

Brooke James

Brooke James

Many north country entrepreneurs start a business in their home, whether it’s a hobby, a professional service or a mobile business that does not require Main Street or production space. Just because you are home-based, does not mean that your growth has to be limited.

Expand your distribution channels. If you are selling directly to customers, consider setting up intermediaries to resell your goods or services. Is there a gift shop, mechanic, restaurant, spa or florist that might be interested in selling your product or promoting your service? Can you partner with any of these businesses to create a package or an integrated referral system? Identify these potential clients (they may purchase directly or set up a consignment agreement), then craft your sales pitch and marketing materials to sell in bulk, deliver or ship. [Read more…]

Going green will save your green

Sarah O'Connell

We had some unusually hot weather this summer, so air conditioners seemed more of a necessity than a luxury for many of us. Normally, our utility bills are highest during the cold weather of winter (and fall, and spring) because of heating. But certain types of small businesses, including convenience stores, restaurants and retail shops, incur significant utility costs year-round because of their heating and cooling systems, lighting and refrigeration units.

For example, Monnat’s Country Store in Croghan was erected in 1922 and has 14-foot ceilings and multiple coolers; energy costs were a significant part of operating expenses.

Owner Gerald Schneeberger, who has been operating his business there for 18 years, came to the Small Business Development Center for help with obtaining a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority energy review. This audit is free and available to small businesses with an average monthly energy use of 100 kilowatts or less. [Read more…]