Moving Forward

Quiet time

Photo (CC) Marin Pulaski, on Flickr

As a small business owner sometimes one of the hardest things to do is to keep moving.

When times are rough and even when times are good, looking ahead and moving forward just seem impossible. You’re tired and you just want to get away.

So what keeps you going?

Each of us have our own methods. One of my methods is to find quotes that inspire, motivate, make me laugh, or cause me to think. I just peruse my list finding ones that cause me to pause and think about for a couple of moments. Another method is taking a walk and still a third is just taking time to reflect (one management text I read called it navel-gazing). Some business owners may work on a hobby for a few minutes.

The idea is finding something that helps you have some quiet time, gather your thoughts, and reflect. While these examples may sound like you have stalled, the idea is to let your mind wander and your body recharge.

What you do isn’t important? The important part is doing.

So does this mean you don’t take a vacation when you shut down the business side of your brain? Certainly not. You need those times as well. Taking regular breaks helps you move forward also.

The danger is when your vacations are unplanned and random, done only in frustration.

So the next time you get stuck, pull out one of your methods to push the clutter out of your mind and get ready to get back to business.

I’ll leave you with some of the more recent quotes I have seen recently. Happy reflections.

  • Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often – Mark Twain
  • Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be – A. Lincoln
  • There are seven days in a week and Someday isn’t one of them – Author Unknown

Family Businesses Give Back to Communities


Photo (CC) by Katie, on Flickr

Information provided by Diane Masuo, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa

I have the opportunity to work with colleagues from land grant colleges and universities across the country. Part of what I am involved with is the study of family businesses. Diane, one of our team members, recently examined how family businesses support the communities where they are located.

Family businesses are more prevalent than most people think. Family businesses come in all shapes and sizes from the main streets stores in our town to the major ones such as WalMart, Cargill, Ford and Mars.

Family businesses, in total, represent one-third of the S & P 500 index, and comprising nearly 10 million firms in total.

Family businesses are the retail, small manufacturers, and service businesses we see and use every day. Our economy would quickly come to a halt if we didn’t have family businesses in our world.

Yet to think that they only provide goods and services underestimates their importance in our communities. Diane explored what “socially responsible practices and economic support” they also provide. She noted:
– Male business owners were more likely than female business owners to:
—- Provide financial and technical assistance in community development and planning
—- Made monetary donations to schools.
– Non-service sector businesses were more likely to be personally involved through holding elected offices and leading civic groups.

Business owners were found to give back to their communities. It didn’t matter if they were home-based businesses or not home-based business. Length of time living in the community seems to play a part in the willingness to give back.

Length of time in business directly influenced what type of resources were given. In the earlier years it was more likely to be monetary donations with leadership positions and technical assistance added to the giving as the business matured.

Diane’s recently released report can be found at:

So as you think about your community’s family businesses, remember the unseen resources of time and money they provide along with jobs, taxes, and needed goods and services we depend on.

Is Your Market Changing?


Photo (CC) by SEO, on Flickr

My drive to work is usually spent listening to news on the radio. Three recent items got me thinking about this column.

Yesterday one of the stories highlighted how millennials are now the largest segment of the U. S. workforce. Today a news story discussed how ethnic backgrounds in various parts of our country have constantly changed since our country’s founding. And last week a news article, discussing the slowdown in oil production in western North Dakota, commented on the rapid change in the mix of people again occurring.

The point these three stories make is that markets change. No matter where you are located or who your market is today, things will be different tomorrow. Developing an understanding of your market is something you do just once. Never stop updating your information about who your market is.

This means your:
• Product and service offerings may need to change.
• Marketing methods may need to change.
• Pricing may need to change.
• Acceptable payment methods may need to change (just an aside – an article yesterday indicated that over 80% of today’s customers do, or want to, pay using credit or debit cards).
• Competition has probably changed.
• Service and support may need to change.

You probably have the picture. Not only do you need to know who your market is but you need to respond to what the market wants. It is rare for a business today to be able to continue to always do business “the good old way.”

There are lots of ways to keep in touch with changes in your market. Following the news is just one. Being involved in the community is another. Keeping up with census data and reports done for local officials or the chamber of commerce is a third method. And of course, you can do your own market research.

Your market is changing. Your continued success happens if you stay in touch and continue to be innovative in your operation.

Local Foods Offers Taste, Freshness and Stronger Communities

Farmers' Market

Photo by USDA

Each year, people across the country anxiously await spring and summer and the local foods that become available. While there is the possibility for some form of local food practically year around, it’s this time of year when baskets are overflowing.

Local food has seen tremendous growth in recent years. In 2014, local foods sales were estimated to have topped $11.7 billion according to the USDA. In 2008, sales were less than half at an estimated at $5 billion.

People access their local foods in many different ways. Direct-farm sales is one. Others may enjoy it at restaurants where it is a current culinary trend. Schools have been including it more often in their offerings. More grocery stores have local food sections where you can shop. And still others are members of a CSA or community supported agriculture endeavor where you purchase a share that brings you a basket of local items on a regular basis, often weekly.

One of the largest supply sites are farmers markets. Today there are over 8200 farmers markets across the country. They range in size from those having just two or three producers meeting weekly to those that operate on a daily basis in multiple buildings or cover several blocks.

Local foods are a great way to connect with your local producer. Local foods is identified as supporting over 163,000 farm families. This is the connection where local foods not only provides for our needs but it builds families and the communities where those families live, go to school, and shop.

While local foods offers a direct connection to enjoying local foods, it also does things such as building community as people to town. Local markets become a gathering place where you may also find entertainment, food vendors and a festive atmosphere. It is not uncommon to hear grocery store owners comment that people come to their store after visiting the local market to purchase other items needed to complete a planned meal.

Local foods represent a win in so many ways. But probably the most important win is what your taste buds say when you are eating them. So get out and experience local foods. Your taste buds, your local producers, and your community all appreciate your support.

Tracy Frank – Bootstrapping a Food-based Business

Having a passion. This is key when building a business. Tracy had a passion. Well, she actually had a couple.

First, Tracy had a passion for food. She admits during the chat that she didn’t have any training but she loved to work with food. Specifically her food passion is for nutritious local food.

Tracy’s second passion is helping build ND small communities. With that in mind, she searched for a place where she could develop her business. Because she had limited funding, this search led her to Medina, ND where she found a closed meat locker that she could renovate and use.

When starting, however, her passion for local communities meant she wanted to start a meat processing business that didn’t compete with a similar business already in town. So after considering her options, barbeque became her niche.

Today, nearly 5 years later, she continues her barbeque line along with a line of sausages, ND comfort food, to market during the winter months.

Tracy offers a variety of tips for the beginning entrepreneur. She discusses how she had to overcome getting suppliers, developing a professional support team, and growth issues including finding employees.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, take a few minutes and listen to Tracy’s thoughts and advice.