Thursday, December 13, 2012

Business Bank Accounts Do Not Have the Same Protection As Personal Bank Accounts

You know how your personal bank account is protected if you lose your debit or credit card as long as you notify the bank within a specific period of time? Well, this same protection occurs if the bank's accounts are hacked and your money is taken. The bank is responsible, not you. The bad news is, this protection only applies to personal bank accounts, not business/commercial bank accounts.

Businessman_depressed

Caption: If you did not protect your business account from fraud and cyber attacks, this could be you.
Unfortunately, business owners, especially small business owners, usually assume that their business bank accounts are protected in the same way their personal accounts are. Not so. According to an article in the New York Times, "Provided banks can show adequate security procedures, they have no legal obligation to reimburse businesses for attacks, as federal regulations do not cover commercial accounts."
What that means is you MUST search your bank's fraud and IT security measures and see what level of protection they provide. You must take action to ensure the money in your account does not magically disappear one day. The good news is rarely does this type of breach occur. But rarely, is not never, so take precautions.
To read more on the subject, read the NYT article, A Win for Small Businesses in a Bank Fraud Case."
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Business Planning in Competitive Industries


Business planning is even more crucial when there's greater competition.

Here's a direct excerpt from an article I wrote:


"Many small and medium businesses in numerous industries encounter a lot of competition due to low barriers to entry. In industries where start-up costs are relatively low and few regulatory, relationship, or infrastucture hurdles exist, the competitive landscape can be fierce.  Such industries are often fragmented and local.  Consequently, possessing a clear strategy for how you will differentiate and run your  business can mean the difference between success and failure.


Determine goals and objectives.
One of the primary purposes of a strategic plan is to identify your business’ goals. To do this you must ask some challenging questions. What are your core competencies? What makes you better than your competitors? What are your revenue or net income goals? What area of the market would you like to focus on?"

To read my blog article in its entirety, go to The Need for a Strategic Business Plan in Competitive Industries.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zig Ziglar Quote: Yesterday Ended Last Night

A quote from Zig Ziglar

As you may or may not know, esteemed, crowd pleasing motivational Zig Ziglar died in late November 2012 at the age of 86 of pneumonia. In his honor, I'd like to share a few great quotes from him over the next week or so. Today's quote is "Yesterday ended last night. Today is a brand-new day. And it’s yours.”

I like this quote because it focuses on the present. Too many of us live in the past which can stop us from enjoying today. Others live too much in the future and also can't enjoy today since they're so focused on what will happen instead of what is happening.

Let's take a hint from Zig Ziglar and start each day afresh and hopeful. Have a wonderful day!
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Entrepreneurs Goal: Wealth Creation...Or Is It?

The entrepreneur's overarching goal is to generate wealth for the shareholders. Many entrepreneurs, known as mom and pops, sole proprietors, and micro or small business owners, just want to work for themselves. So the business is essentially no more than a job. It generates enough income to keep them satisfied but

Businessman_on_laptop_and_phone-small
the business does not generate enough to allow him or her to step away. In this case, there is little or no wealth creation for the shareholders.

 

This is not a knock on you if your business is just a job. But if you have visions of selling it for a decent price, you'll need to address this before you put your company up for sale. Otherwise, enjoy the freedom that working for yourself provides. (Hopefully, your business/job does at least give you freedom if you've owned it for several years.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For Those Who Hate Making Calls

No_cell_phone

I read an interesting article by the founder of a technology startup. For all those who wonder why or how so many teens (and others) could spend their time texting, this article has answers. The article/blog post is aptly titled, "Sorry, No Calls". For those of you who hate making calls, here is a fellow commiserator. For those of you who strongly prefer phone calls over emails, you get the opportunity to glimpse into the psyche of your opposite.

Do I have your attention now? Read the entire article at http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/92302/Sorry-No-Calls.aspx .

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Raleigh Christmas Parade

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I am at the annual Christmas / Holiday Parade in Raleigh, NC. If you have a retail business, especially food-related, along a parade route, a parade is a great opportunity to make additional money. Participating in the parade is a good way to promote your business and attract customers. Here is a photo of a high school band. I probably should have included a photo of an area business' float! Oops!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Become a Spokesperson to Promote Your Business

I read a job search blog that provided some good tips. But I thought some of the tips were directy applicable to small businesses looking to build credibility in their industry or sector and attract customers. Here is the applicable quote from that blog, "Donate your time or your services to an event in return for personal promotion. Offer to become a guest contributor to blogs in your industry. If there’s an organization or committee of like-minded people in your area, join them."

Comical_spokesperson

Becoming a spokesperson by doing the above will definitely help you promote your business. If your business is less local and more national, you could join national organizations or take advantage of small business forums through online entities such as Yahoo! and LinkedIn.

This was excerpted from the blog post, What Supermodels Can Teach You About Getting a Job by Cara Barone, the Social Media Marketing Manager at Kforce.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Great Advertising Is Memorable!

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In mid-October I was in New York City visiting good friends in lower Manhattan sitting at the counter eating breakfast and reading the New York Times when I read something that caused me to laugh so hard I almost spit out my food! An ad from New York Sports Club (NYSC), located in the bottom right of the page, read, "like football, you score more with a great tight end." As someone who fancies herself an athlete, works out a lot, and is a big football fan, I truly appreciated that ad. (That explains why I clipped it and saved it.)
My friend said NYSC is known for their catchy advertising. And that has paid off for them. NYSC keep up the good work! You make even non-New Yorkers like me want to join up! If I have this much fun reading your ad, imagine how much fun I could have at your sports club. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Social Media Photos

"Volunteering photos. A small business that gives back to its community builds goodwill among its customers. Take advantage of your philanthropic events visually by posting photos of your team helping out around town,"

"Office photos. Loyal customers love to see behind-the-scenes photos,"says Scott.

quoted Rebecca Scott of Scott Project Solutions

Pointers were excerpted from the article, "7 Photos That Play Best on Social Media".

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Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Better Use Facebook to Market Your Business

I don't know that much about using Facebook to connect with your customers. Admittedly, I focus on businesses and not on consumers so I utilize those sites and other marketing and PR options that tend to reach business owners and management. However, I do try to stay abreast of available resources, even if I don't use them. You never know when an opportunity may present itself. If you have no idea an option even exists, you can't circle back and find out more about it when a potentially great fit arises. (Of course, you wouldn't know it was a good fit if you hadn't been exposed to it, would you?)

Facebook_page

Before I get completely sidetracked, my point is that there are myriad ways to now leverage Facebook to connect with and engage with potential, prospective, and current customers. What are those ways? Well, check out the article, Facebook's Post Targeting Feature a Boon for Small Business by Angela Stringfellow to find out.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Confucious Quote for the Day

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Confucious

What a wonderful quote for the day that sums up all the talk about following your passion, doing what you love, and work not feeling like work. Enjoy.

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Get Good Deals on Business Items

Have you ever looked in your favorite newspaper and seen half-page or whole page ads listing all the items seized by a particular government agency, i.e., the FBI, the DEA or even your large county sheriff department? I have. I remember reading how individuals or businesses would track these seizures, find out when the next agency auction would be, then attend and buy items at rock bottom prices. (My favorites were always the Lamborginis and yachts seized in southern Florida!)

Publicsurplusdotcom

Well, there are much easier ways to access these agency auctions now. There are a number of sites such as PublicSurplus.com and GovDeals.com that provide online auctions of government surplus goods and seized items. You can get office chairs, laptops, cars, etc. from these sites. The government is (finally) doing what much of the private sector has been doing for awhile. These auctions and sites are an excellent way to get good deals on business items.
Admittedly, the idea for this post came from an article I read, "How to Get a Good Deal on Almost Anything." Click on the highlighted title to read more.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SMB Retirement Plan: The SEP

A SEP is a Simplified Employee Pension plan.

According to an American Express Open article written by Mike Periu, a "SEP is setup by a business for the benefit of its employees." The good thing about a SEP is that it can be used by a single member LLC or by any other business with only one person drawing employment income. Hence, SEPs are great for single-person consulting firms or other personal and professional service providers. 

If your business has more than one employee, you can still use a SEP. A SEP, "is a tax-deferred individual retirement account." So the business can contribute money on behalf of all of its employees. That's also the primary limitation of the SEP. A SEP requires that all contributions be the same for all employees. In addition, neither you nor any employee can directly contribute; only the company can contribute. Therefore a SEP pension plan differs significantly from a 401(K) plan.

To read more on the subject, check out the article in its entirety, "Tailored Retirement for Small-Business Owners".

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Five More Ways to Crowdfund

I've written about crowdfunding before and will likely do so again. An American Express Open article, "5 Cutting-Edge Ways to Crowdfund" by James Rennie identifies five additional crowdfunding sources for small businesses and projects. One notable one is Smallknot. According to the article, "Smallknot is a site that encourages businesses to appeal to their immediate customer base for financial backing." Sounds like this site could facilitate something called a Direct Public Offering or DPO.

Another crowdfunding source, Brickstarter, helps "raise money for community projects". You could leverage this to do a good deed in your community which could help you build the PR and good will that leads to an increase in customers and revenue. A roundabout way to procure funding, certainly, but potentially a great way to get PR...and do some good for others while doing good for yourself.

The other three sources cited have nothing to do with small business funding but may still be of general interest to you. To read the article in its entirety, go to "5 Cutting-Edge Ways to Crowdfund" .

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Small Business Saturday

You've heard of Cyber Monday? If not, this is the Monday following Black Friday (after Thanksgiving) when, apparently, everyone goes back to work and shops online from the comfort of their office or cubicle! Anyway, there's now Shop Small Business Saturday® . This effort is designed to channel sales to small businesses all around the U.S. on the Saturday after Black Friday.

If you are a small business and want to take advantage of this marketing effort, check out the American Express® toolkit at Small Business Saturday.
According to an American Express Open email I received, this subsite will provide "tools and resources that can help attract customers and grow your business." It will also "help your business reach new customers throughout the year". Good luck!
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Selling Your Company Isn't the Answer...Or Is It?

I read an article on Inc. online earlier which quotes a serial entrepreneur as saying, "Selling your company doesn't make you happy". (The entrepreneur's name is Ryan Carson and the article title was "Selling Your Company Won't Make You Happy".) The real question is: What does make you happy?

Question_mark
If you are an entrepreneur who thoroughly enjoys creating something from scratch and building it until it becomes a truly viable business, sustainable without you AND this process is what you enjoy most, then selling your business when it reaches this stage will make you happy. Then you can rechannel your efforts on finding some other problem to solve and another business to start from scratch. This kind of challenge and the need for this challenge is what often drives those who are classified as "serial entrepreneurs", especially those who seem to sell out of their businesses every 5-7 years or so.
 

There are also entrepreneurs who take 10, 15, or 20 years or more to build a very large business who then sell for a variety of reasons. If you are truly bored with the business, you may be in need of a new challenge. Realize that if you started a business and grew it once, you can do it again. Or, if you bought a small business and grew it to a large business, you could do it again. So take the leap and sell.

However, if you have owned your business for a while, do not wish to retire, and are still enjoying your company, do not succomb to any pressure you may feel when you read about other entrepreneurs selling to private equity firms, competitors, larger companies, etc. Only you know what drives you and what drives you at any given point in time may differ than what drives others to sell. Sell or don't sell. But let your needs and desires be the driver.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gaps in Resumes Are Self-Inflicted

I just listened in on a webinar with an executive recruiter. This was right up my alley since said recruiter is a former business founder and CEO who sold his business. He later moved into recruitment since human capital arguably is the greatest resource growing businesses need. This recruiter/author/commentator, Peter Weddle, said, "Gaps in resumes are self-inflicted."

Resume

I loved that statement! How empowering it is. I know people who took time to regroup after a failed business or took a sabbatical or left to spend time with the kids/family for a few years who obsess over gaps. And I do mean obsess. In their minds the gap is a huge negative. Well, not in Peter's mind, assuming you were doing something that contributed to your personal development.

Peter commented that more than any other time in history, due to the rapid pace of dissemination of new knowledge, continuous education is highly valued. Leverage and showcase that.

Were you taking online Spanish classes or teaching yourself about blogging and social media? Did you attend how-to classes? Did you learn to be a more patient, tolerant senior manager? Did you volunteer or mentor anyone during that time?

All of this is considered personal development. According to Peter, you should denote towards the bottom of your resume near the education section. If you took relevant coursework, list it with dates.

The above discussion on resume gaps applies to all resumes, not just those for job seeking purposes. You submit resumes to the bank when seeking financing, to private equity firms and venture capital firms when seeking funding,... You see my pattern.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Living in Small Spaces

Dwell magazine did a short video series on a husband and wife architect team I know very well. It's about how they live, as a family of 6, in a 1600 square foot apartment in Manhattan. If you have ever been fascinated by IKEA or other places that champion small spaces and make them look chic, you should view this video. It may be a source of inspiration!

Hayes_apartment_layout

The inhabitants are the Slades. The firm they represent is Slade Architecture, also based in Manhattan.
Here's the link: http://www.dwell.com/videos/the-modern-family-part-two.html
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Public Relations (PR) on a Budget


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There’s a way to connect with journalists, bloggers, and freelance writers to help you get your company’s name and products/services out to potential customers and others. These are others who may be helpful to the growth of your business such as bankers, investors, or future employees. This article discusses how to do so and launch a strong public relations (PR) initiative in a cost effective and time effective manner.
Read the fulll article PR on a Budget at TheResourcefulCEO.com
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fund Your Company With a Self-Directed IRA

Please note: You can fund your company with a self-directed IRA but you cannot do it directly. As per IRS rules, you CANNOT use your IRA to directly purchase stock in a private company you own the majority or controlling stake in.

According to Wikipedia, “If the account owner or beneficiary engaged in a prohibited transaction, the account is treated as distributing all its assets to you at their fair market values on the first day of the year in which the transaction occurred." Hence, you want to make sure that you follow all the rules in setting up then transferring out the proceeds.

Investment

What you have to do is set up a legal entity in your name as trustee of your IRA. As the trustee, you can then invest the funds into your company. It's similar to the way your IRA Rollover account is set up and then works when you rollover your 401K. It’s a bit circuitous, yes, but it is completely legal.

Read the rest of the article at Use a Self-Directed IRA to Fund Your Company.
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Exploiting a Niche

People walking down urban street lined with apartments.
University-area apartment buildings are a niche that many have exploited.
Musings on exploiting a niche: I was at a recent dinner party for a nonprofit Board I was invited to join. (And I did. ) One of the attendees was talking about how he exploited the student housing niche over the last 2-3 decades. He started with one apartment near a large local university (in this case, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). He focused/stayed on it until it cash flowed nicely, then he did it again. And again. And again. And so on.

This individual honed his strategy and his systems. He branched out to a broader geographical area but with the same focus - apartments near colleges and universities. He has done quite well (i.e., he is wealthy and financially independent) doing this. He advocated that I do the same.

I also read an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about smaller entities buying up ailing older mall properties. This is the same principle - niche exploitation. You make more money and get better at what you do (not necessarily in that order!) when you focus on learning about, serving, and ultimately exploiting a niche.

Even if you wish to expand your offerings, focusing on one niche at first, allows you to hone your product, system, marketing and strategy and do one thing extremely well. This is a play on the saying, "You can please some people some of the time but you can't please everyone all of the time. "

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Liens Are One Way to Protect a Contractor's Right to Payment

As the primary contractor or a subcontractor or materialman, getting the construction or supply contract is the first order of business. The second? Ensuring you get paid. Without either, your business will wither and die. Properly structuring your contract is necessary for both.

The law provides contractors, subcontractors, and materialmen with several payment remedies
Construction_project
including bonds, liens, and claims under a provision called the Prompt Pay Act.  Those who provided services or materials for the construction or improvement of private property but did not receive payment on a reasonably timely basis may file a lien in the amount that is past due to secure the right to payment. Filing a lien creates an interest in the property in the amount filed.  A number of states disallow companies and individuals from filing liens against public property or projects but most public projects require bonds. In such cases, the contractors would pursue payment remedies against the bond.


To finish reading the article, Protecting Your Right to Payment: Liens, click on the link.
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Friday, September 21, 2012

SMBs and the Impact of Bankruptcy Law Changes

According to an article in the New York Times, Adviser to Businesses Laments Changes to Bankruptcy Law, “changes in bankruptcy law have given unsecured creditors more power and made bankruptcy more expensive." Previously bankruptcies could take years and years to finalize but now the maximum time rarely exceeds three years.
Businessman_depressed

I have worked with companies that have been under financial duress. The key is communication. If you are in a cash crunch and are not sure when it will end yet you still have paying (albeit slow paying) customers and sufficient revenues, notify your suppliers and vendors as soon as you become aware of slowing receipts and the associated hitch in cash flow. The earlier you communicate, the better for your relationship with your significant vendors because the additional time gives them time to plan and potentially come up with options to assist you...and them.
To continue reading this article, go to Bankruptcy Law Changes' Impact on SMBs.
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

PEO Benefits

Venture capitalists like PEOs (personnel employment organizations). Why? Because they enable rapidly growing enterprises to ramp up their hiring without getting bogged down in all the administrative tasks related to onboarding new employees. VCs like founders and co-founders to focus, focus, focus on running their start up.  On what, pray tell? On products, production, services, customer service, sales, and marketing.

Help_wanted

PEOs handle all the administrative details related to hiring. They provide interview forms, interview guidelines (what not to do), I-9 and W-4 forms, ready-made templates, HR and related training, and the list goes on. They also provide benefits and benefits administration which are key to enticing new employees. And when a company is growing rapidly, it's doing all it can to hire people fast enough to cover demand. If the management team had to focus on more of the human resources than recruiting, interviewing and ensuring a good fit, how could they be sure they focused properly on the other areas necessary to support rapid expansion? Answer: They could not.

To read more on the subject, read the article Benefits of Personnel Employment Organizations (PEOs) .

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Steps to Crowdfunding

Due to the inherent risk of an unproven venture, business start-ups rarely garner the support of the banking or investment community. However, if you can induce one group of individuals or one company to invest or lend, you can typically leverage that into additional funding. Why? Because people rarely want to be the first. Once they see that someone else is interested and felt comfortable enough to put their money in, the perceived risk drops.

Crowd
If you can get this many people to participate, you can raise large sums of money for your business!

So how do you get the first group to invest? With the JOBS act, crowdfunding will become a more popular way of doing just that - getting the first group to invest. Crowdfunding - and the marketing that goes along with it - can be a great method of enticing smaller angel investors to invest in your company.
Want to know more? Click on the link to read the remainder of the How to Crowdfund; 3 Essential Steps article.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Real Estate andR Small Business Loans

According to an article posted in the American Express Open Forum, most small business loans are collateralized by real estate. To be more specific, most are backed by the owners' (or, in a few cases, the investors') primary residence. The second most common source is rental property owned by the entrepreneur or the office building (or warehouse or retail outlet) owned by either the company or the entrepreneur. Admittedly, I didn’t know the statistics on this, but in my years of advising small businesses and their owners, this has been my experience.
Per the article, “The Real Reason Small Businesses Struggle to Get Credit” by Courtney Rubin,  “Nearly all of the businesses surveyed own some sort of property, and the assets’ declining values cut small business’s clout with creditors.”
Read the entire article at http://www.cash4impact.com/business-credit/property-values-impact-small-business-loans/.
Businessman_holding_house
Many small business owners with little business collateral must use their homes as collateral.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is PE a Bad Word?

Ok. PE is not a word but an acronym. But that title didn't look quite right to me. Remember, those of you who weren't so athletic in school, when you had to go to PE class and you'd try to avoid it as much as the academically challenged avoided chemistry or calculus? That "PE" stood for physical education. Those that didn't like it would question its value. Many schools have eliminated PE classes. And now America has a growing child obesity problem. Do you think there's any correlation between the two? Just a teeny bit, eh?

The new "PE" stands for private equity. And many try to malign it. Like the PE above, some people don't understand the role private equity plays in the financial health of the US (and beyond). Sorry. I'm not here to explain today, just compare. If you want to know more about PE firms and what they do and why they have value, check out Fortune's Dan Primack and his daily "Term Sheet". It's a free daily update.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Monday, September 10, 2012

More Tech Firms Are Going Urban

Well, it seems more tech firms are making their way to urban centers. This is great news for all hose start-ups and newbie companies that don't have the cash to bring the lattes and massage therapists and gourmet food in-house. By locating in the heart of cities, tech firms can continue the boot strapping theme. Want a latte? Go hit up the Starbucks two blocks over! Want great food? There are so many great eateries around, take a break and go check 'em out! And there's at least one day spa within walking distance or 1-2 subway stops where you can at least get a neck massage. Ok. So the start-ups have to pAy higher rents. But they save on in-house perk provisions...and they are close to where the people they hire live. If you live 2 stops away, you can work until 7 pm, take your run, go home and shower, then come back and work until midnight. Convenient, eh?

Yes it is. And that's why more tech firms are intown. (That, and the lower cost of infrastructure. Boy has start up costs plummeted in a decade!) Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Business Owners Delaying Retirement

According to a WSJ article, more business owners are delaying retirement because they can't sell their companies for what they need to comfortably retire. I ask you, when did that become the valuation criteria?

I say over and over (and perhaps it is a good thing that I am brown skinned and have a summer tan so you can't see the blue in my face!), you MUST create value that others appreciate in order to sell your business for a good price. How does one create value, you ask. By installing some professional management (i.e., a CEO or COO and CFO or Controller and a VP of Sales) for starters. If you have all the relationships and run the company without help at the high levels, I am just buying a job with the risk of you (the seller) becoming my greatest competitor!!


If you transfer the relationships to the head of sales, the risk drops. Or if your customers are locked up under 3-5 year contracts. Many of the owners in this article were working 12 - 16 hour days and/or hadn't taken a vacation in years. Come on now. With that description, would you want to buy the company? If you've run it for 15-20 years and that's where you are, what makes you think someone else can come in and do better? This is why the companies are not selling. Make the fundamentals more attractive and begin revamping your business into a salable asset, and it will sell. It may take a few years to shift it all, but it will be well worth it. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rains are Necessary

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Rain is sometimes unwanted, but necessary for growth.
I am sitting outside Staples waiting for the rain to abate. What's the term? "It's raining cats and dogs. "
Some people complain about the rain. I don't. If you've ever been through a drought, you learn to welcome the rain...even if it messes with your plans. Rain provides the sustenance for things to flourish and grow.
Business issues can be like rain. You have a great customer that leaves you. You have short term cash flow issues and find it hard to pay your bills. You have a strong employee that just quits.
You can use these issues to look deeper and find the real reasons these problems arose. You can welcome the rain as a means to clear away you or your company's fog or haze and see what's really going on.
Or, you can refuse this opportunity. Then, eventually, the issues will erode your business and the pouring rains will last for weeks. Without a strong business foundation, your business will wash away until it's just a shell of its former self.
Respect the rain and use it to strengthen and thrive. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Financing Expanding for Auto Lending

Auto lending is at "the highest level since the first quarter of 2009" according to a WSJ article I recently read. Apparently, per the article, when people's budgets get tight, they'll forego paying their mortgages before they forego making their car payments because it's relatively easy for the banks or other financial institution to re-possess a car. (It's obviously significantly more difficult to foreclose on a home, even if you live in a non-judicial foreclosure state like Georgia.)

So if you are in the market for some company cars, now is a good time to go for it. Or, if you wish to offer employees an additional benefit, consider helping them to finance a new or used car. Or, if you have a tiny business and just need a few thousand in funds, assuming your vehicle is paid off, you can re-finance your car and pull funds out.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Growth Signals

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One sign of growth in construction markets - and overall - is a crane. Yes, a crane. A huge, multi-story construction crane. I remember reading a couple/ a few years ago that the majority of the world's cranes were located in China due to the rapid pace of growth and the ensuing construction there.
This crane is located near downtown Raleigh. It is being used on an apartment complex. Two blocks away a new Hampton Inn is under construction. Raleigh, NC is growing. These are the signs to look for as signals to what's going on. You can read the negative business press or you can hone your powers of observation to identify windows and opportunities for your business. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Tech Start-Ups Make Inroads Into Large Corporations

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the rise in acceptance of business start-ups by large corporations. According to the article, large corporations such as Vanguard Health Systems are broadening their base of technology companies beyond the Microsofts, Ciscos, and Oracles of the world (i.e., other large corporations). More are relying on the quickness, nimbleness, and flexibility of smaller companies.

The article states that CIOs, the perennial technology decision makers, are the ones leading the charge. This bodes extremely well for tech and related startups. If you have a tech company and want to make inroads into a large corporation, pursue the CIO. Stay away from the IT Director and others. Go straight for the top. Even go for the CFO. Think big and it will pay off.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Lower Property Vaues Lessen Small Business Owners' Credit Availability

Big_house
According to an American Express Open Forum article... "Nearly all of the businesses surveyed own some sort of property, and the  assets’ declining values cut small business’s clout with creditors.  Lots of entrepreneurs have used their company’s or their own personal  property to fund their businesses." excerpted from
The Real Reason Small Businesses Struggle to Get Credit by Courtney Rubin.

Interesting excerpt. This excerpt references the value of business owners' homes and business offices. But I've been reading that, in many locations, home values are ticking slightly upward (due to the lower number of houses on the market for sale). Just keep in mind that, due to the amount of collateral required for the typical small business loan or line of credit, the real estate market - residential and commercial - will impact most of the bank loans your small business would be eligible for.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Community Development and Stakeholders

Raleigh-20120725-00082

This is a photo of Jeanne Tedrow, CEO and co-founder of Passage Home, Inc., a community development corporation that serves Raleigh (especially southeast Raleigh) and its county, Wake County, North Carolina. She was talking to stake holders in the community about development of an area abutting a planned city revitalization strip. I think it's important for any business to keep its stakeholders in mind, not just shareholders. Doing so helps build good will and helps all feel like a company is serving a mission beyond just making money. Stakeholders include people and organizations in the communities your business has a presence in, other small business owners impacted by your business such as current or potential partners, shareholders/investors, your bank(s) and other lenders, suppliers, and customers. The stakeholders for this area development discussion here were a church, small business owners, and nearby landlords. An additional benefit: Thinking about all your stakeholders and not just your customers and investors helps you broaden your thinking and stay alert to new opportunities. What better way to never get into a rut than to ask the opinions on a regular basis of a highly diverse group of people? Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Annual audits

We just commenced our annual audit. (Our fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30. ) I personally have never had any angst around an audit so it's interesting to see those that do, even in my organization. One person is a bit of a perfectionist so she worries about any request for which she doesn't have an immediate response. I don't take audits lightly but I do truly believe auditors are there to help. Auditors are there to make sure that the financials you represent in Quickbooks, Peachtree, Sage or other accounting software are accurate. Yes, they do check for fraud and misrepresentation (which is a great thing!). But the bulk of their work is ensuring consistent use of the (usually) accrual method of accounting, following GAAP standards, and ensuring adherence to processes outlined in your own internal standards. So, if you have any questions about accounting standards, your treatment of a revenue or expense source, any gray areas, just Ask! You can ask throughout the year. It's always better to ask when you are not sure. Consistency is important and how can you be consistent if you aren't sure how to handle something and keep flip flopping? Think of your annual audit as the tool that keeps your accounting systems running smoothly, your bankers, investors and others happy, and you aware of any potential accounting concerns looonngg before they become serious. You will be much happier and have a much easier process than if you view an annual audit as a necessary evil!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Passage Home Wins $25K Contest

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Thank you very much to all who voted from mobile devices and computers between 7pm - 7:45pm EDT today (Thurs., 7/12/12). Passage Home won the Atlantic BT $25,000 Mobile App contest! The voting was very close but Passage Home pulled ahead in the last several minutes...and stayed there to win. Please see the photo of the smiling winners with the check below. (I, Tiffany C. Wright, am seated on the far left.)

Again, mucho gracias!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Vote Now for Passage Home to Help Win $25K

Tonight is the night! Passage Home made the finals of the national Atlantic BT contest for $25K, but they need your help to win! All previous voting has been wiped clean, so they need everyone to vote again.

Please cast your vote NOW TONIGHT at 7:00PM EST by computer AND phone (each device will count as one vote!). The winner will be announced at 8:00pm tonight!
Here is the link – voting begins at 7:00pm sharp and ends at 7:45pm sharp:

http://www.atlanticbt.com/givesback/

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Thank You for Voting for Passage Home, Inc.!

I just wanted to say "Thank You!!" to all of you who voted for Passage Home, Inc. in the Atlantic BT mobile app contest! We garnered the most votes and won that round of voting!! We could not have done it without all of you who went online and voted from your home and office computers and from your mobile phones.

Passage Home must prepare a pitch for the finals which take place in ~1.5 weeks. That will be interesting.

Again, thank you all for helping us get to this point.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Treatment of Employees - Current & Potential - Pays Off

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According to the July/August issue of Inc. magazine, "People pay your business the highest compliment of all by saying they would like to work for you; after all it means they would like to spend more time with you than with your families."

Keep this in mind when dealing with current employees, considering (additional) benefits, and hiring new employees. You will notice a difference when you act from this belief! Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Inspiring Business Quotes

Here are a couple of inspiring business quotes I heard today. "Every child should be taught to expect success. " From the book He Who Thinks He Can "Desire is the starting point of all achievement. Not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. " Napoleon Hill

I hope they inspire you directly or inspire you to inspire others. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Check Out This Rap Video for a Mobile App Contest

An entity, Atlantic BT, which creates mobile applications for businesses and governments has opened up their business to nonprofits. Nationally. They've done this by creating a contest whereby they will actually build a mobile application - based on the idea submitted by the nonprofit - for the nonprofit that wins.

Fast forward. The community development corporation (CDC) I now work for (Yes, I am still an entrepreneur but, for now, I'm focusing on social entrepreneurship!) is highly innovative. We came up with the idea for a nonprofit registry ala bridal registry mobile application. Our idea made it to the national semifinals. Now the nation must vote!

To make it fun, the contest required you create a video explaining why you should be selected. Well, we created a rap. We used the Fresh Prince of Belair as the theme. Check it out:

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Business plan competitions

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I just read a great article in the Fortune 500 issue of Fortune magazine. Subject: the annual Rice Business Plan competition. The 2012 winner walked away with a whopping $874,300 in prize money!! Wow!

The runner ups didn't do shabbily either. 2nd place took in $146,000 and 3rd place, $115,000. What happened to the days of the $10,000 grand prize?! That's far more than inflation can account for. I believe the focus on new ventures this year has spilled over into this arena. If you can, capitalize on this. Enter business plan competitions. According to the article, they are proliferating. You can access funding and PR in one fell swoop. Need I say more?

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dalai Lama quote for Memorial Weekend

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I am sitting here on the beach in Wilmington, NC, relaxing and enjoying the amazing weather and my general good health. I can- and do- run on the beach, jump in the surf, swim in the ocean, look far down the horizon... I am reading a couple of books and one referenced a Dalai Lama quote I thought I'd share. So many view success in monetary terms only. Money affords a great many things but a broader view of success makes for a happy, rich, rewarding life. This quote is from Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity. "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived. "

Don't let the above be your description. Enjoy the holiday. Remember those who have passed and appreciate that YOU are still alive!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Getting Acquired for a High Price

Many (formerly small) business owners, entrepreneurs, and the lawyers, accountants, and others who serve them often ask "why are some companies acquired for eye-popping valuations while very similar ones never attract much interest? The difference often comes from smart exit planning." (Quote taken from article, How to Get Acquired for a Big Price)

Value

One very big reason: being on the radar screen for potential acquirers. That's another great reason to do publicity and marketing. Not only will your prospective customers know you, but so will prospective buyers. Just as with any good sold, the value is determined by those willing to buy. The more buyers you have (or it seems you have), the higher the price you can command for your business.

The article mentioned above has several other smaller reasons. Click on the link to see those reasons. Note: Most of the companies referenced in the article are technology companies. Hence the reference to "eye-popping valuations" instead of just a high price.

 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Asking for a Bank Loan

How to ask for a bank loan is a subject that I have written and spoken on numerous times...and will continue to speak and write on. I saw a great article in my email inbox from Inc. on the very subject. The article stated that loan requesters should include a brief summary of the business and several other key points. That brief summary is also known as an executive summary.

According to the article's author, "Remember, you are not selling your business as an investment vehicle for the bank. You are creating confidence that the bank's money will be repaid. And to gain that confidence, they need to understand several things at a basic level." I couldn't have said it better myself!

To read more, click on the article link: How to Ask Your Bank for Money.

 

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Use Advertising as a Testing Tool

I read the following line in a blog article by a guest writer on OnStartups: "...Unless you have deep pockets think of advertising not as a long-term traffic strategy, but as a testing tool to improve your website and find out more about your ideal visitor. Few bootstrapped startups can withstand the cash outlay required to turn advertising into a marketing activity with a positive ROI, but that shouldn't keep you from testing the waters to find out for yourself." I wholeheartedly agree!

Not only will using the above strategy save you money, it will also make you more disciplined in your marketing overall. (Discipline is one great side benefit of bootstrapping!) Marketing should be driven by market research and analysis of results. If you get into this habit before you really have money to spend, you will use your money wisely when you do finally possess sufficient funds to allocate a real marketing budget.

To read the entire article, go to The 5 Minute Guide To Cheap Startup Advertising.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cash Flow: Remember Receivables!

Here's an excerpt from the Inc.com article, "Cash Is King: 5 Simple Rules for Creating a Cash Flow Plan".

"Remember receivables. Not every sale is created equal when it comes to cash. Cash and credit card sales are available for ongoing operations immediately, but sales with terms can take 30, 60, or even 180 days or more to turn into usable funds. Factor this timing into any projections, and most importantly, remember the potential impact on cash flow before extending terms to new customers."

I couldn't have said it better myself. And so I didn't! To read the article in its entirety, visit Cash Is King.Publish

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Questions to Ask When Making a Sale

I read an article in the American Express Open newsletter about ten questions to ask customers to boost sales. The article then made me think of a few ideas of my own. Here are two questions to ask your existing or prospective customers when making a sale:

  • Who is/who are the decision makers? The answer here could help you save invaluable time. If you are an IT firm spending a lot of time selling to a company's director of IT but it's the CFO who makes the decision, if you make a sale, it will probably be one-off or short term. If you'd asked who the decision maker was and involved the CFO in the discussions, you could have had a long term contract. But it's never too late to move up. :-)
  • What trends do you see as having a major impact on your business? Or, put another way, is there anything on the horizon that could skew your business decisions in general, purchasing decisions in particular, either way?

What are the questions you ask customers?

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Checking Up on Your Business - Cont'd

Last week I gave some tips Scott Gerber provided on Inc.com regarding the need for a periodic business check up. Well, here are some additional tips he gave that I didn't include:

  • Be mindful of employee morale. If employees are unhappy, they become less productive, less patient with customers, less sales-oriented... You see the trend here. If you notice a downshift in employee morale, get to the root cause by asking questions. The converse is, if you notice a surge in increased employee morale, find out why. Whatever it is, see if you can bottle it for the future. (Or at least make it part of how you do business.)
  • Assess your goals and objectives against your strategic business plan timeline. Are you on track? Are you ahead, behind? Why? Remember, a strategic plan is a living, breathing document. (This is figurative. If it really does do that, run like the dickens!) The purpose is to help you focus on your core competencies and be proactive in your market. Tracking your performance can help you identify market, industry trends and other developments that could help or hinder your business long before your competitors see them.
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Friday, May 4, 2012

Crowdfunding Campaigns to Raise Capital

According to the founder of Indiegogo, a crowdfunding company, crowdfunding can be a great way to raise funds for your small business or startup. According to Slava Rubin:

Get 40% - 60% of your funding from friends, family, others that are interested in you and your business. You can then get 20% or so from crowdfunding. The additional PR you get from your crowdfunding campaign will generate a portion of the remainder of the funds.

If you have a money raising campaign, then use create and post a video as part of your campaign.

Per Mr. Rubin, the benefits of using crowdfunding to raise money are as follows:

  1. Gage demand, mitigate risks.
  2. Test your market
  3. Get extra promotion from all the extra social media.
  4. Get actual customer data. (Highly valuable, of course!)
  5. "You get money."

To see the actual video, go to How to Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Coaching
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Checking Up on Your Business

I checked out Scott Gerber's tips on Inc.com. I thought some of the pointers were highly valid so I'll share a few.

  1. Check your cash flow for the coming 1-2 months. I'm a HUGE proponent of charting and tracking cash flow. If you aren't tracking it, you could be in deep doodoo. If you are tracking it but do so on a very short timeline, then you could become aware of a huge impending deficit but have NO time to do anything about it!
  2. Strategically plan your sales. This will help you avoid over concentration with one customer or, if it does happen, help you be able to find other customers to lessen the risk within a suitable time frame. Or, if your sales are dropping off, you can figure out the issue and do something about it before it really adversely impacts your bottom line.
  3. Check on what's working. If something is working really well, run with it. If you don't pay attention to what works well, you may lose an opportunity.
    Scott_gerber
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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Banks Located Inside Stores

Today I attended the grand opening ceremony for Fifth Third Bank inside of a Kroger Store in Raleigh, NC. It was my first ribbon cutting ceremony so that was interesting in itself. But I'll save those comments for a later day.

The comments made by Kroger's management and Fifth Third Bank management got me to thinking. How successful are the banking locations located inside popular grocery stores? One of my former businesses banked at SunTrust so I did find it highly convenient that SunTrust had locations inside Publix grocery stores in the Atlanta metro area. They stayed open later. They were highly convenient. I could grab a banana or some baked goods on my way out!

I've also seen banks inside Walmart. (Is that a bank partially owned by Walmart. Forgive my powers of observation. Since I don't bank there, I have not paid the name much attention!) Always, I see a fair number of people inside of these banks or standing in line within the store during the bank's hours. And banks don't have the level of overhead that they'd incur from owning a stand alone location.

Does anyone know  the comparison statistics on performance for banks located inside grocery stores vs. stand alone banks? Please share ...or you will force me to do research and report back!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

In the TrianIn the NC Triangle Area? Check this out on April 13, 2012

Friday, April 13
7:30-11:00pm
Marriot Downtown Raleigh - State Ballroom
500 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh

We invite you to show your support for Passage Home, a local non-profit agency with a vision to fight homelessness and poverty in Wake County. Join us in hearing Jimmy's story. One like so many others. It's a story of survival and overcoming the odds. He did this through song.

Limited Seating available.

Every new dollar raised will be doubled through a matching fund!
 

Join me on  April 13th to see Jimmy Wayne sing & share his story in support of Passage Home and their work to support homeless kids, families, & veterans!  Limited tickets available at http://www.passagehome.org/jimmy.aspx

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Monday, March 26, 2012

New Netflix Competitor from Comcast: Xfinity Streampix

Okay, I'm a little late in writing about this. I love my WSJ but sometimes I just don't get a chance to read it like I'd like! In those cases, I'll go back and look at the old issues that I missed. Well, in looking back I saw an interesting article in the February 22nd issue of the Wall Street Journal.

In case you are late like me and haven't heard, Netflix has new competition from Comcast. Comcast has opted to somewhat cannibalize it's own services (only partially, mind you), as a means of staying ahead of the game and ahead of the rising power of Netflix. It launched a new streaming subscription service called Xfinity Streampix.

Admittedly this service is not on par (yet) with Netflix. It provides old movies and old tv shows. Not old as in "classic" but old as in "not current in the last couple of years". Xfinity Streampix will cost Comcast subscribers $4.99 per month which is less than what Netflix costs on a monthly basis.

Ahh. As always, success brings in competition. Stay tuned for more...

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B of A to Let (a Few) Foreclosed Homeowners Stay

According to an article in Friday's Wall Street Journal, Bank of America is rolling out a new alternative to foreclosure to a select few. That alternative: The homeowner hands over the deed to the bank and the bank lets the homeowner stay in the house as a renter. The first "wave" will be up to 1,000 homeowners in the foreclosure process in Nevada and Arizona (two states with very high foreclosure and default rates) and New York.

That 1,000 may not seem like many but you have to start somewhere. Not all the homeowners will accept the offer. Some will likely pursue the short sale option or loan modification alternative, assuming either makes sense for them and B of A has been responsive.

I think this new option is tied to another Wall Street Journal article I read earlier in the week or the previous week which essentially celebrated the move of large investors into the housing purchase and rental market via the purchase of "packages" of properties from Fannie Mae. When there's demand, it's always amazing how another entity will do something creative - i.e., create a new product or service - to fulfill that demand.

Anyway, I think this is a great option for Bank of America to explore. And this, especially if the deed handover/home rental option proves successful, could lead the way for B of A to clear a lot of those failed Countrywide loans off their books faster.

If you are a skilled landlord and have owned/managed a number of rental homes, I recommend you identify and contact the cash-rich entities that are buying up foreclosed properties or considering doing so. They have cash and you don't. They need house rental management and you have it. It's a match made between Wall Street and Main Street.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Atlanta Team Ivy Business Breakfast Networking Event

March Meeting
Small Business Access to Capital

 

 

BILL HOLT, EVP,

BUSINESS BANKING, SUNTRUST

"SMALL BUSINESS ACCESS TO CAPITAL"


Are you wondering what this year and the next few years portend for small businesses? Are you in the market for a business loan but aren't sure what that market looks like? Would you like to know what can be done to increase the likelihood of accessing the capital that is available? Well, come here to hear Bill Holt speak. Bill will give us his insights on accessing capital to grow and expand your small to mid-sized business. You asked. We answered. Come hear him speak!

Click here to register


 


"What does it take to access money in today's environment?"

Click here to register

Event details:
When: March 21st, 2012 7:30am - 9:00 am.
Where:  City Club of Atlanta (Buckhead)

3343 Peachtree Road
Suite 1850
Atlanta, GA 30326

(404) 442-2600
COST: $20 pre-registration, $25 after March 18th
(Parking is included).
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Venture Debt and Economic Development Assistance

According to Dan Primack's Term Sheet, Virdia (whose name was changed from HCL CleanTech), "a Redwood City, Calif.-based developer of cellulosic sugars, has raised $20 million in new VC funding from existing backers Khosla Ventures, Burrill & Company and Tamar Ventures. The company also has secured $10 million in venture debt from Triple Point Capital and signed a $75 million  with the Mississippi Development Authority to build manufacturing plants in the state. www.virdia.com"

The interesting thing here is the venture debt from Triple Point Capital and the assistance from Mississippi to build manufacturing plants. Venture-backed firms and strong angel-backed firms can access debt even though they don't fit the typical debt profile for a bank. Any company that will make a large enough impact on job creation can access economic development funds from a number of different states, counties and cities, depending on the economic impact that company will provide. Investigate. Check first with your (or your targeted) state's economic development entity for a list or introduction to available resources.

Like what you read here? Sign up for Dan Primack's Term Sheet by going to: www.GetTermSheet.com.

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