Small Businesses Deserve More Than One Week of Recognition and Support!

May 2 to 6, 2022 was Small Business Week and I am pleased to see the growing national attention this sector deserves.  We learned during the pandemic that small businesses contribute 47% of new jobs and half of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  California has the highest number of small businesses 4.2 million as of 2022 per Shopify (https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/number-of-small-business-in-the-us). California has 40% more small businesses than Texas which has the second highest number of small businesses in the nation. Eighty-three percent of new jobs created in California in 2021 were created by small businesses. The U.S. has  61.2 million small business employees in the US, which make up approximately half (46.8 percent) of the total US workforce.

The small business sector struggles every time there is a bump in Covid-19 cases, which is now endemic in the population.  Business districts across the country lost local restaurants that were institutions families enjoyed for decades.  Retail businesses of all sizes are searching for new business models to survive.  

Business owners who want to grow need to be celebrated and cultivated all year long. Small businesses can benefit from better combinations of low cost loans, grants, and equity funding. Furthermore, customized learning on advanced topics like executive leadership, decision making, and product development and implementation.  In California high levels of financing are required to bring the small business sector back.

UPCOMING WEBINAR

If you would like to learn more about how to strategically guide your company’s growth and implement your strategic objectives, join me on May 24 and 25 for a three-hour workshop on “The Great Decision Workshop: More Value Than Just Money”.

Details below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-great-decision-workshop-more-value-than-just-money-tickets-315862301647

May 24 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

May 25 11 am – 12:30 pm

Contact us at info@thecraneworks to get a $175 discount code.

Have a Plan and Timetable Before You Leave Your Professional Job

The exodus of millions of workers from standard employment is impressive. I left corporate life many years ago and it was the best decision I made about my career. Being independent allowed me to deliver products and services that I knew I could not create inside corporations.

Making the leap to total independence was a two-year effort.  Here are some key points for professionals who are starting their own businesses after years in working in corporations.

  • Plan at least six to twelve months before you quit your job
  • Test your future business model with some moonlighting before you quit
  • Have a financial plan for being successful and backup plan in your case your venture does not work out
  • Pay for expert assistance to increase the potential for success of your venture
  • Consider buying a business if it is close to your desired business endeavor

Two stories generated the list above.

Two future owners I knew invested time and money to create an employment services business. They did work at it for a number of months.  However, they did not get hands on experience in the exact business operations they would be delivering. Within two weeks of opening the business, they knew it was not what they wanted. They closed down the business within two months. It is great to dream, but also get a dose of reality before taking the leap to ownership.

If you are clear about a business line you know you were born to be in, then consider finding a company that fits your goals, work style, and desired business model. Purchasing a business can reduce the risks of going through the startup and launch phases. 

There still is risk if you take over a business because you will eventually have to immediately satisfy customers, who expect consistent products and services. One way to reduce the risk of a take over is to retain the owner as a consultant for a specific transition period, frequently one year. Then the customer base will be better retained and the take over of full operations less stressful. Hiring an expert consultant in the business line is also done frequently.

If you feel that starting from scratch is the best route for you then explore the many resources programs and services for startup businesses. Public sector, non-profit and private programs and services are accessible remotely.

Tactical Tips:

  • Budget for all the resources and needed
  • Plan to create intellectual property or products to distinguish yourself from competition in your field.
  • Create a work environment and team that brings out the best in you as owner, decision maker and leader   

Deep Thinking Required About the Future of Existing Business

We define an existing business as a business in full time operations for at least a year with a full-time owner or hired operating manager. The owner is accountable for making decisions and shaping operating goals and key processes. Now owners are faced with complex decisions across the whole lifecycle. Serving these owners is a journey through major transactions’ businesses go through over the whole lifecycle which includes:

  • Long-term planning
  • New product development and launch
  • Site expansions
  • Adding new business lines
  • Funding raises
  • Exits and Purchases

These are not pivots, these are major growth initiatives or structural changes of businesses requiring thorough preparation and thoughtful actions.

Many businesses are evaluating these major initiatives considering the persistent levels of risk on several levels. Also, new opportunities are emerging as the economy and social environment shifts. This is the time to set up a process for identifying and working through major decisions. Consider these suggestions to build you strategic decision-making process.

  • Write down clear and brief descriptions of the decisions and the timeline for major decisions. This make it easier to work toward a decision and sound result.
  • Obtain reliable information from your trusted team with a balance of quantitative and qualitative perspectives. This team should include your CPA, financial advisor, attorney, and trusted business advisor. Bring your family members and trusted colleagues into making big decisions.
  • Avoid holding too much information in your head because you may forget or feel overwhelmed.
  • Write down the answers to key questions and insights you are gaining as you work toward a decision.
  • When you do make the decision, commit to working towards the desired end results.

Three Strategies for More Revenue and Operating Stability

Consumers are finally coming back out of the Omicron shutdown.For many small business owners, the first quarter of 2022 did not deliver on the sales revenue expectations. Owners are now in catch up mode but are short on cash flow to make that happen. The first step is to stay calm and look across your business to make improvements in revenue, budgeting and effectively engage with your target segments and niches.

Take charge of the journey to revenue

Stay current on trends in your industry, especially information on customer behavior. Anticipate shifts in consumer behavior rather than being surprised. Frequently map consumer behavior trends to your products or services. You may want to check for shifts in consumer behavior every week or two weeks.

Update messages and social media copy regularly. Always stay close to your best customers and ask for their suggestions on what they need in the near term and in the next six to twelve months. Keep what is working and let go of products, services, and sales practices that are not working. Put your ego aside and keep moving forward.

Be realistic with budgets

Many businesses were able to obtain grants and some equity in 2021. I have observed a pattern of forecasting and budgeting mistakes reducing projected results or even losses. Overlooking the complete costs of distribution, the impact of supply chain delays, and not managing social media costs are typical mistakes. Any budgeting efforts must be detailed and reliable. The technique that works is cross checking budgets for completeness and accuracy. Make sure a meticulous colleague cross checks the budgets and forecasts. Always include reserves and cushions for errors, delays and shifts in external forces beyond your control.

Tap your strengths and insights into your industry and customers

Take time to step back and look for opportunities for new distribution points or emerging customer segments that have needs for your products and services. Pursue opportunities where your company can uniquely fill urgent needs.

Ventura Partners Hits the $1 Million Revenue Threshold

This article is written by Kim Frentz Edmonds, CEO of Ventura Partners

I have an addiction to reading business books. Girl’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business by Susan Wilson Solovic was always high on my list. However, the idea of MY own business hitting a million dollars in revenue seemed as fantastical as aspiring to become the next Oprah. Through my work with Darlene Crane and the PROPEL Small Business Growth Program*, I was able to modify this perspective. My new mantra – hit a million dollars in revenue and employ 10 or more people to move the business to the next level.

Ventura Partners is an organization with a mission. Our work creates opportunities for equitable ownership of community assets in real estate. It hasn’t been easy to center the financial growth of my own company within this framework. Darlene helped me internalize the view that growing businesses owned by women and people of color is vital in shifting the power dynamic in our society. This opened my mind to include my own business growth as a meaningful act.

In 2021, we reached the $1 million revenue and staffing threshold (10 employees). My company changed from being an extension of me to being an entity of its own. Our business structure allows others to grow and assume critical roles. We have established a Leadership Team to take on planning and strategic decisions. We have measurable financial goals and a specific plan for meeting them. We have metrics to make sure our pricing supports the value of our work and have streamlined our billing system to capture revenue and manage cashflow. We are outsourcing parts of our overhead that don’t yet warrant in-house staff.

I am still adapting to decision making through this new lens. I am allowing myself to delegate relentlessly. And, while I am still a bit uncomfortable that there are projects at Ventura Partners that I know very little about (because someone else is in charge of them), I remind myself constantly that this is not only fine, but important to the growth of the company.

One of my proudest moves recently was hiring someone who was an independent consultant and “competition” in our field. Not quite rising to the level of “mergers and acquisitions” (except in my own mind). It was instrumental in my ability to hand off high level projects that previously could only be accomplished by me, and it has expanded our network of clients.

I attribute our increased velocity of growth over the past four years to my shift in focus and mindset and implementing important organizational structures. I am enjoying the prospect of winnowing my role in the company to activities that hyper leverage my strengths and feed my interests … and I’ve adjusted my reading list, too.

Additional questions from Darlene:

What strategies did you use to get through the pandemic?
We shifted sales efforts when the forces on revenue shifted. We have a wide range of commercial property related services. So we shifted in the 2008 recession and through the pandemic. We shift to development projects, property management or strategic projects. Right now, non-profits are investing funds in the future.

What is the future direction for Ventura Partners?
Not doing things that are distracting to our primary mission. Being hyper focused on things we do well. We stick to a 30-day on-boarding process for new projects, developed better systems, and pay employees well.

*PROPEL Small Business Growth Program by Alliance for Community Development. The program’s focus is to build capacity in local community members, training local entrepreneurs who identified as women, people of color and veterans to bring their vision to fruition. The program was delivered in Oakland, California from 2013 – 2015.