Your Daily Business Journal

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Modern entrepreneurs can suffer from information overload.  Every media outlet has a plethora of data that they can present to businesses in the process of making informed advertising decisions.  The Emporia community has events your business can get involved in almost every week.  Market data that highlights demographic, psychographic, and geographic information is available at the touch of a button.  Businesses that use accounting software, or use a local accountant, have a series of financial reports available that provide a current forecast for the business.  The local Small Business Development Center provides cash flow projections, Ibis World reports, and internal analysis that can help keep a business on the right path.  With all of this information available, some entrepreneurs simply get lost in a sea of numbers. All of the aforementioned reports are critically important to understanding your business past, present, and potential future.  However, most entrepreneurs need something simple that they can glance at to help them easily spot trends and help make decisions.  A business journal is one of the simplest methods that can connect a small business person directly to the “30,000 foot view” data points that allow for trend identification, maximization of opportunities, and threat mitigation.  Tracking a few data points on a daily basis can identify highlights highs and lows within a business, and significant changes may encourage entrepreneurs to take a closer look at other forms of data.  Below are a few data points you should consider journaling, and a few helpful links. 1. Date/Day-  Noting the day and date can help you look back and spot trends.  With enough information, you can extrapolate future staffing, buying decisions, hours of operation, and more.  It seems obvious, but remember that days may have different dates in past years.  Your awesome Saturday may only look awesome in comparison to a Monday on the same date in a previous year.  Over time, you may see a pattern emerge as different holidays fall on different days, and impact sales both before and after celebrations. 2. Gross Sales-  This data point doesn’t automatically recognize profitability, but it is an indicator of sales volume.  If you look at your gross sales over a week, month, or quarter, you can typically spot opportunities or mitigate emerging threats before it is too late.  Looking back over previous years can help you extrapolate future sales based on current gross sales of items. 3. Items Per Sale-  In the world of retail, the saying goes: “Sell one item, you are losing money.  Two items, you are breaking even.  Three or more, and you are making money.”  The more items you sell to your customer, the more efficient the selling process for the business. ...

Read More

Being Relevant

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Every business, organization, or non-profit should consistently ask themselves: “why am I absolutely necessary in the lives of my consumer?”  Necessity can mean something different depending on your stage of life, your financial situation, and your personal preference.  Something that is “necessary” to a retiree may not be necessary to a young parent.  A product or service that is absolutely required for a family with a household income of $300K may be different than the needs of a family with a $40,000 yearly income.  We are all different people, and what is relevant to one person may not be relevant to someone else.  HOWEVER, there are some common elements when designing a business or organization that holds lasting relevance in the mind of the consuming public. 1.  What do you actually do?  Among economic development specialists, there is a process known as “buzz word bingo”.  You have probably heard of people saying something like “we are the leader in producing quality products for our consumer at reasonable prices with outstanding service”.  What does that business or organization actually do?  Be honest with yourself, and talk about the product or service that you actually produce.  When you start distilling your entity down to “actuality”, you can determine your level of necessity. 2.  What problem(s) do you solve (and is that problem relevant)? Relevance in problem solving is more complex in the era of automation.  At one time, the phone book was a critical tool for businesses and consumers.  With the ascent of online databases, people have access to a worldwide phone book with their smart phone.  Physical connectivity in knowledge points has often been replaced (or at least diminished) with on-line alternatives.  For other business/organizational models, your ability to solve for issues generally has a measurable item related to it.  Some solvency expresses itself in sales of your products.  Sometimes you can look at third party market penetration models to show your ability to remain relevant to the consumer.  For non-profits, you can look at changes in the issue you are trying to change to determine your relevance. 3.  How do you make lasting, positive change?  Beyond the sale, beyond the “we made contact”, beyond the “we offered services”, how do you make a lasting change in the lives of your consuming public?  For some businesses, you can track impact by customers becoming employees or volunteers over time.  For other entities, you can measure the “nostalgia effect” with people that share fond stories of your entity years after they intersect with your organization. 4.  Do you follow up?  It’s a bit of a cliche, but many businesses and organizations will talk about how they “change lives”.  You can typically tell...

Read More

When Options Are Flying At You How Do You Decide?

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

When we communicate with entrepreneurs, we always ask “what weren’t you adequately prepared for?”, and the answer we typically get back is “the amount of decisions we have to make.”  The small business world is full of decisions that typically fall to the person (or persons) at the top.  When inundated with requests and options, some entrepreneurs simply shut down because they can’t handle any more input.  There is now solid scientific evidence that shows too many options can “shut down” decision making.  For entrepreneurs, the world is full of options, so the idea of option induced “brain freeze” is a real concern. So, how do entrepreneurs break through the multitude of choices?  How do they filter input and create action?  When we look at critical decision making, some of the most stressful jobs break down the process with an acronym called “OODA” (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).  Through this thoughtful process, entrepreneurs can simplify input and produce tangible actions that result in better decisions.  Better decisions can lead to longer term success.  Let us look at the process in more detail: Observe- This step is all about information gathering.  If you are reading this, you are connected to the internet.  If you are connected to the internet, you have a world of information available at your finger tips.  To avoid information that is tabloid-esque, try using advanced methods like Google Scholar to improve research-based search results.  Use your past experiences, rely on mentors, or communicate with trusted fellow business people to improve the breadth of your observation.  Try and take as much information in as possible, but give yourself a time limit. Orient- This is undoubtedly the hardest step.  Each of us brings bias to the decision making process.  Our likes, wants, past experiences, and outside influences can alter our perceptions within the decision making process.  Making effective decisions requires individuals to check their biases before creating an action.  Are you dedicating resources because it has a positive impact on your business, or because you simply like something?  How many logical steps do you have to take in your mind before you can generate a reasonable return on your investment of time and capital?  Does the decision you are making resonate with the brand image that you are trying to project?  For example, auto dealers are sometimes hesitant to publicly align themselves with public auto safety campaigns (many do this privately) because they don’t want to create the mental link between their product and crashes.  Without effective orientation, you could either muddy your brand image (decreasing effectiveness) or associate your business with a consumer thought process that damages your business. Decide- Once you have your observations, and you have...

Read More

Adjusting Headings

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

In the Main Street world, there is a concept called “entrepreneurial friction” (some refer to it as entrepreneurial density).  Essentially, when entrepreneurs are in close proximity and can communicate with common purpose, good things can happen.  Cross promotions occur, new products are born, and some proto-entrepreneurs have some “mojo” rub off on them, inspiring the next generation of small businesses.  This process is vitally important to the growth and development of small communities and diverse commercial districts, but it flies in the face of the dogmatic industrialized processes that evolved post-World War II in the United States. The growth of entrepreneurial friction coincides with the increase community development emphasis on “third space” creation.  The establishment of community gatherings, and gathering places,among a diverse population with a common unifying element can create community pride.  Think about Emporia around the Glass Blown Open Block Party, Dirty Kanza Finish Line, Welcome Back Block Party for ESU and FHTC students, and the Great American Market (all Emporia Main Street events).  The pride is palpable, and a shared ownership of a “space” (in the aforementioned examples, that space is the downtown), allows participants with common interests to interact in a way that fosters future development.  It’s the reason that people will come up to Emporia Main Street staff after the Great American Market with expansion ideas, but they won’t approach us with same “improvement” concepts after a business mixer.  The establishment of entrepreneurial “third spaces”, where entrepreneurs come to express ideas, help each other, generate products, and communicate best practices is the ultimate expression of targeted “third space” creation. This is where the “uncomfortable transition” part kicks in.  If we want to help entrepreneurs, we have to identify our spaces as “shared” ownership with multiple entrepreneurial entities.  We have to use technology to extend outside our four walls on a consistent basis, and we have to be honest about our value to different constituent groups.  The concept of “shared spaces” through partnerships and uses that are designed to change over time is a little terrifying.  People like stability, and a destabilized design, by design, is something that constantly pushes a community outside of its comfort zone.  But, an “uncomfortable zone” where we are constantly encouraged to attack problems and mitigate threats is beneficial for the community.  In contrast, if we created an environment where we were simply “comfortable”, the incentive to make changes would be nothing but a buzzword bullet point. The new Emporia Main Street building is designed for shared use.  We obviously share the building with the Dirty Kanza offices (they occupy the western third of the building).  We will continuously rotate through businesses in the incubator space (occasionally, multiple businesses at...

Read More

Volunteerism

Posted by on Jun 28, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Volunteering simply requires ideas, passion, and a belief in something larger than yourself. Emporia Main Street, like many organizations, is highly dependent on volunteers to achieve success. We have an endless list of projects and a small staff, so volunteers are a must. Volunteering has many benefits for the people giving their time or talent. The right match can help you to reduce stress, find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. Connecting with an organization can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure who to approach. We offer a few tips and tricks to find the best volunteer opportunity for your individual skills and preferences. – Research the causes or issues that are important to you. Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly. – Consider what you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, or like to teach, you may want to look for a volunteer opportunity in which your special skills can be utilized. Similarly, if you have limitations, don’t let that stop you from giving back. There is more to volunteering that physical labor. Many organizations have projects that can be completed from a desk or over the phone. -There’s no need to wait to be asked. There are many ways to find organizations that are looking for volunteers. Ask your friends or colleagues about their own volunteering activities. If there is an organization that you find interesting, you can typically make a phone call and ask about opportunities or you can visit their website and see what they have posted. Many non profits feature volunteer options on their homepage or under the About Us Section. -When you find an organization that is in line with your interests, request an interview and plan for it in much the same way that you would plan for a job interview. Be prepared to ask your interviewers about their organization and the benefits they offer to their volunteers. Also ask about their on boarding process. The organization you are volunteering at should offer you direction when you get started. If you are not comfortable with the task at hand, just ask for assistance. Training will help both you and your organization in the long run. -Would you like to learn something new? Consider whether the organization offers training or professional development opportunities for their volunteers. – Find the volunteer activity that fits your schedule. Organizations need different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities. Serving as a mentor, for example, will require a regular, intensive commitment, while volunteering for a walk-a-thon is...

Read More

Creating Employee Intersections

Posted by on Jun 22, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Most of us have been in the unenviable situation of needing to replace staff- quickly. It always seems like you are heading into the busiest time of the year, or have some sort of massive activity pending, and you are suddenly short staffed. Although some unplanned staffing situations can occur, organizations can proactively create a potential “bullpen” while improving their staff quality and extending their organizational culture. Proactive approaches to employee identification and development require planning, prioritization, and a clear understanding of what you are promoting. Getting off the hamster wheel of “I just need a competent body!” takes some time, but it can also provide you with some peace of mind that comes from a less chaotic work environment. Below are some proactive ways you can generate staff members of the future through some basic techniques. 1. Identify where your ideal employees are coming from, and intersect early in their process in meaningful ways. Some of our local businesses are highly dependent on graduates of certain programs to fulfill employment requirements. It’s a good idea to intersect with those programs early and often. Do classes need a speaker or a guest teacher? Are there opportunities to provide scholarships? Can you offer a job while people are still in their program? Can individuals shadow your business or intern? If you identify potential pipelines for employees, it is important to gain exposure to potential staff early and often. By the time official recruitment activities open up, you are on the same playing field as everyone else in your industry. 2. Your best clients might be a window into potential staff. Do you have people that rave about your products and/or services? Have you ever heard “this would be a great place to work” from clients as they discuss your business? Do you ever follow up with these people to cultivate potential employees? You can’t teach passion, and those that exhibit passion for your business or industry could represent future staff. Have mechanisms to collect information and cultivate relationships for potential future employment. 3. Consider interns, seasonal help, or other short term employment options. Long term employees can start as short term staff members. Many (most) businesses are seasonal in nature. Finding individuals that can serve as help in a defined employment period may provide you the opportunity to gauge their long term employment potential. A lot of people with young children exit the labor force for a time, and short term employment opportunities can serve as a reentry point for their career. Students in a given field may have short term employment windows that revolve around school breaks. Newly retired people looking for short term income to supplement retirement may...

Read More