Asking for Advice

Starting and operating a small business is hard. There are so many things that have to be done and, it seems, so little time to do them. Plus, at least in the early years, you don’t have the funds available to hire help.

Adding to the obstacles you face is the fact that many of the tasks that need doing are things you probably have little or no experience in. Most business owners start a business because of a passion for creating or building something or providing what they see as a needed service. That passion though does not provide a background in handling the variety of other tasks that need doing.

What happens in many cases is the business owner does the best he or she can do. Research through the Internet and reading is done. Talking to others is also a common practice.

In this video, one of five done during Small Business Week here at Power of Business, George Johnson of George Paul’s Vinegar encourages small business owners to do more of the latter, asking for advice. He indicates some of the resources he used and notes that those and others can be accessed, often for free. While specific state resources vary, across the country you can find Cooperative Extension (in each state and through eXtension), the Small Business Administration and its related agencies, Small Business Development Centers and SCORE.

So listen to George’s advice and then get in contact with agencies that can help you achieve success.

Getting Started in Your Business

Guest Blog Post from

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Judy Pederson, Owner
2719 Halligan Drive
North Platte NE 69101
1. Listen to the experts. The first thing I did after purchasing Pro Printing and Graphics was find the right people and resources to help me be successful. Start by joining your local Chamber of Commerce or state organizations (UNL Extension, GROW Nebraska) and networking with other entrepreneurs. There are also several different kinds of trade organizations or peer groups, that can help you as well. We are a member of a printing peer group, which includes other printers from all across the United States, that we frequently communicate with for advice and best practices.
 
2. Hire the right people. Finding the right employees who are as passionate and dedicated as you are is key – and tough! It can be hard to find the talent you need in small communities, but if the person you hire is willing to learn, you can train them to be successful. Make sure your employees can help you succeed, but also enjoy coming to work everyday!
 
3. Adapt to your customer. Don’t sell what you want; sell what the customer wants to buy! Sometimes we limit ourselves to our ideal business model, but need to transform into what the customer needs instead. When we bought Pro Printing & Graphics, it was strictly a printing company. Since then, we have added website and marketing services, large format and digital printing, and more! 
 
At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong answers on how to get your business started. Over the past four years, we have found success through getting help and advice from peers, working with quality employees, and changing our business model to meet our customers’ needs. Hopefully we can continue on to many more! 
If you missed Judy’s Power of Business Live Chat – you can listen to it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka6Mk1DDVkg

 

Know Your Competitor

Food truck competition

Competition (CC) Bob B. Brown (bit.ly1o2905w), on Flickr

Successful business owners understand the market they are in and who they are competing against.

Have you taken the time to figure this out for your business? Understanding this and then developing your business to respond are crucial for long-term viability.

Yet research suggests that often the business owner takes too narrow of a view of who are his or her competitors. This restricted view may be in geographical, industry or customer terms.

Customer terms represent a broad look at the psychological and behavioral elements the customer is looking for when entering into a business transaction. A common example of this element is what happens when you want a cup of coffee.

You can make the coffee at home, which makes it a commodity purchase. If you stop at the local diner and get a cup of coffee there, your cup of coffee is a “good” as opposed to a commodity. However, if you take coffee buying to the next step, or the Starbucks approach, the cup of coffee has become an experience.

This set of possibilities reflects customer needs.

You also need to consider your competitors in geographical terms. A common phenomenon in consumer behavior is the tendency to always look at the next bigger town as having better goods and services than what you can buy locally. People living just outside the area who come to the smaller town to shop view the local stores highly. But the locals living in the smaller town think the stores in the bigger community offer better-quality goods.

Another part of the geographic view is to take into account customers’ ability to buy goods and services online. This makes anyone in the world your competitor.

The idea of coffee also brings up the overlooked notion of who my competitor might be when viewed in terms of industry. Coffee is just one part of the overall beverage industry. It is just one way I can quench my thirst.

One final way to consider who your competitor is comes from a basic economic principle. As a consumer, I have only a certain amount of disposable dollars, or money I can spend in a variety of ways. If I spend the money on a cup of coffee, it no longer is available to buy a shirt or maybe put gas in the tank to drive out to the lake to go fishing. It is an economic choice principle.

For business owners, the bottom line is that all of these ways of understanding who your competitor is are valid. You need to understand and then make your offering unique. Understand, however, that being unique is much easier if you are selling the experience as opposed to the commodity.

Finally, remember that the competitive marketplace is dynamic and not static. New competition pops up daily and old ones disappear. Thus, you need to be watching the changing marketplace as well as the trends occurring in the consumer market overall.

Stay on top of who your competition is. Think broadly when defining that set. And understand how your customers are viewing the marketplace.