Welcome and Introduction Welcome the staff members to the session State the subject of the session Describe the overall goals of the session
Course Overview Session 1 Preparing for Success Session 2 Researching Your Business Idea Session 3 Business Planning Session 4 The Marketing Plan Session 5 Laws, Regulations and Taxes Session 6 Managing Your Microbusiness Session 7 Analyzing Your Market Session 8 Product and Price Session 9 Placement and Promotion Session 10 E-Commerce Session 11 Selling Success Session 12 Cash Flow Management Session 13 Keeping Books and Records Session 14 Financial Tips and Tools Session 15 Bringing It All Together
Participant Materials Session Outlines ◦Session-by-session course outline Text ◦Business Plan Basics: NxLeveL ® Guide for Micro-Entrepreneurs Worksheets ◦NxLeveL ® Micro-Entrepreneur Business Plan Worksheets Resource Guide ◦NxLeveL ® Business Resource Guide Other ◦Class handouts, supplemental materials
Class Agenda Class Opener Instructor Topics and Worksheet Time ◦Worksheet Activities and Discussion ◦Business Plan Sections Guest Speaker Break ◦Refreshments ◦Networking Activity Instructor Topics and Worksheet Time ◦Worksheet Activities and Discussion ◦Business Plan Sections ◦Writing and Reading Assignments
Expectations and Ground Rules Attendance ◦Absenteeism ◦Punctuality Participation ◦Discussion ◦Confidentiality ◦Listening Assignments ◦Reading ◦Worksheets ◦Written business plan sections ◦Format General ◦Safe environment to test ideas ◦Ask questions ◦Add ground rules as needed
Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs Passion. Enjoying what you do is a big part of doing it well! Persistence. Entrepreneurs don’t give up when facing challenges. Self-confidence. Entrepreneurs have confidence in themselves. Optimism. Entrepreneurs believe their hard work and planning are likely to pay off. Critical thinking. Smart entrepreneurs look at situations as they are, not as they want or imagine them to be. Creativity. This is the main factor that determines whether an entrepreneur will succeed or fail. Risk-taking. Entrepreneurs take calculated risks to reach worthwhile goals. Willingness to work hard. Entrepreneurs are achievement- oriented people who take pride in overcoming obstacles. Cooperation. Smart entrepreneurs know when to seek help. Communication skills. Marketing your business is an ongoing process of communicating the things that make it special. Fairness. Successful entrepreneurs earn a good reputation through fair dealing and personal integrity. Staying healthy. Entrepreneurs know that taking care of business requires taking care of themselves.
Risks of Business Ownership Stress. Starting a business is stressful at the best of times. The more you have at stake, the more stressful it is. Financial hardship. You may have your own money or other assets at risk. Also, your income may be irregular during the first year. Debt. If your business fails, you may end up with serious debt, credit problems and other financial troubles that make it hard to get back on your feet. Failure. The emotional effects of business failure can be hard to handle, especially if you don’t have strong support from friends and family. Long hours. You may have to work 50 hours or more per week. This could mean giving up activities you currently enjoy. Family problems. If your family members don’t understand and accept the risks of your new business— including long hours and new financial stress—serious conflicts are likely.
Rewards of Business Ownership Independence. You’re in charge of your own life and work. Job security. These days, a microbusiness may offer more stability than a traditional job would. Money. The financial rewards of running a microbusiness can go far beyond what you would earn at a normal job. Pride. Running a successful business can earn recognition and build pride and self- respect. Helping your community. Successful businesses help communities grow and thrive. Learning new skills. Launching a business is a powerful learning experience that can transform many areas of your life. No matter what happens, you’ll gain new valuable skills and experience. Excitement. Running your own business offers opportunities for excitement, creativity and recognition that most traditional jobs can’t match.
Personal and Business Goals Common personal goals Use your creativity or talent. Move to a bigger home. Put money aside for your child’s education. Get off welfare or Section 8. Sponsor community events (concerts, lectures, afterschool programs). Spend plenty of time with your family. Help to solve a social or environmental problem. Common business goals Grow your business by 10 to 15 percent each year. Grow the business to a certain size and sell it. Grow the business and open a second location. Hire two employees in your first year. Be the greenest business in your industry. Capture a certain percentage of your market. Revitalize a struggling community or neighborhood.
Why Do Microbusinesses Fail? Lack of a well-researched business plan Not identifying their target customers Not understanding what their target customers need and want Not setting the right price for products and services Choosing the wrong distribution method Poor customer service Failing to plan ahead and prepare for contingencies, including: natural disasters, theft, illness and growth Poor accounting practices Poor inventory management Poor cash flow management Owner’s salary is too high Failing to comply with laws, regulations and taxes Failing to seek help from mentors and other small- business experts
Why Do Microbusinesses Succeed? Careful research and planning at every business stage A clear understanding of who their customers are, where they live and what they need A unique product that meets customer needs, offered at the right place, the right time and the right price Excellent service based on an ongoing dialogue with customers Taking steps to minimize or avoid problems that affect business operations Good accounting and bookkeeping Good inventory management Careful budgeting Effective promotions Good organization and management skills Asking for help when necessary
Bootstrapping Ideas Share a rental space with another business. Hire workers for one-time tasks through a website like Craigslist. Participate in a small-business incubator. Look for a local nonprofit that provides microbusiness owners with free or low-cost computers. Look for free supplies on Freecycle.org and similar sites. Find an existing business that will let you rent equipment or facilities. Test-market your product online with sites like Etsy or eBay. Ease yourself into business by selling at flea markets, farmers’ markets, street fairs and “pop-up retail” options. Look for Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) whose members trade goods and services. Barter to procure supplies, or trade expertise you have for expertise you need. Use free or low-cost online faxing, database and accounting programs. Get funding through online tools like Kickstarter. Increase your visibility and reach with Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. Send marketing materials and catalogs electronically instead of printing and mailing them.
Networking Tips Think ahead! List all the people you know, and think about how they could help you launch your business. Consider family, friends, neighbors, work contacts, school contacts, online contacts and interest groups. Be clear! Come up with a simple, compelling way to introduce yourself and your business idea. Be prepared! Always carry business cards. Be confident! Learn and practice positive body language and conversation skills. If necessary, get help from a pro. Be sincere! Most business people are good at spotting insincere networking attempts. Stand out in a crowd! Wear something unusual to spur conversation (e.g., a unique pin, watch or ring). Keep your network warm! Set up a system to stay in touch with your contacts. Be reliable! Always follow through on your promises. Be helpful! Networking is a two-way street. The more you give, the more you get!
Professionalism in Business ALWAYSbe on time for meetings and other appointments. ALWAYSdress appropriately. ALWAYSspeak and act politely and respectfully. ALWAYSrespond promptly to phone calls and emails. ALWAYSmaintain a clean, orderly workspace or office. ALWAYSdo your best to exceed expectations. NEVER make promises you can’t keep. NEVERhire employees who don’t meet your standards for professionalism. NEVERargue with customers.
Verbal Communication Tips Speak at a clear, comfortable pace—not too fast, and not too slow. Speak at a moderate volume—not too loud, and not too quiet. Avoid vulgarity, slang and swear words. Never interrupt people. Listen! Good communication requires careful listening. Don’t use jargon or technical terms without defining them. Stay positive and steer clear of controversy. Use business terms correctly and appropriately. Record yourself speaking and listen back to identify areas for improvement.
Listening Skills Stop whatever you’re doing. When other people speak, give them your full attention. Be engaged. Look alert and maintain eye contact. Show interest. Encourage the speaker to continue by nodding, laughing where appropriate and showing other signs of interest and attention. Prove that you’re listening. Summarize points and ask questions to make sure you understand what’s being said. Think before you respond. Listen carefully, judge calmly and then react.
What Are Your Time Wasters? Watching TV Talking on the telephone Spending time online Disorganization Lack of clear goals Worrying Frequent interruptions Long lines Unreliable transportation Misplacing things Other people make too many demands on your time Feeling overwhelmed; not knowing where to start Looking for information Procrastination Failure to prioritize Oversleeping Negative attitude
Time Saver Tips Use a calendar or planner every day Prioritize your tasks Ask family for more help with household chores Set clear boundaries between family time and business time Complete difficult tasks when you’re at your daily peak Learn to say no Keep all business papers filed neatly Always put tools and equipment away Look for online alternatives (e.g., buying postage online instead of waiting in line at the post office) Use timers or clocks to manage your time Schedule regular breaks Plan shopping trips carefully to avoid making multiple runs Get help with tasks you’re not good at
Coping With Stress Take a break! Getting some distance clears your head and helps you make better decisions. Get some exercise! Research shows that exercise reduces stress and eases depression and anxiety. Eat well! A microbusiness is only as healthy as its owner. Get enough sleep! The combination of high stress and little sleep is very dangerous! Think positively! You may not have control over stressful events, but you can control how you react to them. Find support! No matter what you’re going through, someone can help you cope. Slow down! Set aside some quiet time every day to reflect and relax. Stay motivated! Carry an inspirational quote. Get help! If you have a hard time overcoming negative thoughts and worry, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
What You Must Know About Credit Whenever you buy something on credit or apply for credit, it’s reported to national credit bureaus that track your credit and payment history. The main three credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. When you apply for credit, credit bureaus generate a credit report based on your name and Social Security number. A credit score is assigned to you based on your credit history. Creditors and lenders use credit scores to make decisions about your application. Your personal credit score affects your startup business’s ability to get credit. If you are denied credit, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. You can get a free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
How to Protect Your Credit Get copies of your Equifax, TransUnion and Experian credit reports annually. For best results, order a free copy from one of the bureaus every four months. Note any incorrect information on your credit reports, and alert the credit bureaus in writing. Don’t apply for credit accounts unless absolutely necessary. Create or sign up for payment reminders to avoid late payments. Protect your Social Security number, credit card number and other private information to avoid identity theft and other forms of fraud. Check your monthly credit card bill for unauthorized or incorrect charges.
Overcoming Credit Problems Create a personal budget and stick to it. Do not apply for more credit or incur more debt. Contact creditors and make arrangements to pay back old debt. Try to get monthly payments reduced, if possible. Fix any errors on your credit report. Pay your bills on time! If you are making payments on multiple credit accounts, prioritize them. Make the largest payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate while maintaining minimum payments on other credit accounts. Once the most expensive account is paid off, move on to the next. Beware of ads and emails that promise quick fixes. Credit repair is possible, but it takes time and patience. Get help from a reputable credit counseling or debt management service.
NxLeveL ® Micro- Entrepreneur Business Plan Outline - 1 Section Worksheet Pages Cover Page 14-8 Table of Contents14-9 Section I. Executive Summary 14-6 Section II. Business Concept A. General Description of the Business 3-3 to 3-6 B. Business Goals and Objectives 3-1 and 3-2 C. Industry Information Industry Background 4-5 Current and Future Trends 4-6 and 4-7 Business Fit in the Industry 4-8 Section III. Business Organization & Operations A. Business Structure, Management and Personnel Business Structure 5-1 Personal Background Information 1-8 and 1-9 Management Team 6-1 to 6-3 Outside Services and Advisors 6-4 and 6-5 Personnel 6-6 to 6-11 B. Operations Plan Site and Equipment 6-12 to 6-14 Purchasing and Inventory 6-15 Risk Management 6-16 to 6-19 Laws, Regulations and Taxes 5-2 to 5-4 Contracts and Leases 5-5 and 5-6 C. Managing Books and Records 13-1 to 13-6
SectionWorksheet Pages Section IV. Marketing Plan A. Products and Services Product Description 7-1 to 7-3 Features and Benefits 7-4 B. Market Analysis Customer Analysis 7-5 to 7-7 Competitive Analysis 7-8 to 7-11 Market Potential 7-12 and 7-13 C. Marketing Objectives, Strategies and Tactics Product Strategy 8-1 to 8-5 Pricing Strategy 8-6 and 8-7 Placement Strategy 9-1 Promotional Strategy 9-2 to 9-8 D. Sales and Customer Service Sales Strategy 11-1 to 11-5 Customer Service Strategy 11-6 to 11-8 Section V. Financial Plan A. Capital Requirements Startup Costs 12-2 Loans, Grants and Self-Financing 14-1 to 14-3 B. Sales Forecasts 12-7 C. Cash Flow Projections Monthly Cash Flow Projections–Year 1 12-1 to 12-9 Notes to Cash Flow Projections 12-10 Annual Cash Flow Projections—Years 2 & 3 12-11 and 12-12 D. Financial Statements Sources and Uses Statement 14-1 to 14-3 Personal Financial Statement 1-14 to 1-16 Income Statement [Optional] Balance Sheet [Optional] Attachments 14-10 to 14-11 NxLeveL ® Micro- Entrepreneur Business Plan Outline - 2
Where Do Business Ideas Come From? Prior job 56% Hobbies and interests 18% Chance 10% Someone else’s suggestion 8% Education 6% Other 2%
Comparison of Manufacturing Service and Retail Businesses
How to Identify Business Opportunities Take stock of your skills and experience. What are your strengths? What can you offer? Keep an eye out for unmet or underserved needs identified by friends and relatives. Meet temporary needs. Rental businesses are springing up for tools, college textbooks and even baby clothes! Look for green opportunities. Can you make an existing product better for the environment? Find new uses for old things. There are hundreds of potential uses for old and discarded goods and materials. Find a new way to deliver an old product. Many entrepreneurs make their fortunes by changing where and how people buy an existing product. Stay informed! Stay on top of business ideas and trends by reading newspapers, trade journals and magazines.
Evaluating Your Business Idea Is my business idea safe and legal? Is there enough customer demand to support my business? Can I meet this demand? Is anyone else offering my product? If so, can I do it better? If not, why not? Can I run this business by myself? What kind of workspace do I need? Can I work from home? Where will I get the materials and equipment I need? How much will they cost? Who are my customers? Where are they? Where will my customers buy? At a store? Online? Why will they buy? Why do they need my product? How often will they buy? How much will they buy? How much will they pay? How many competitors do I have locally, regionally, nationally and internationally? Where will I get the capital I need to start this business? What is my maximum possible financial loss? When will I start earning a profit? How will I cover my personal expenses and debts until then? How do I know my business will become profitable? Will the profit be enough to cover my personal expenses and debts? How and when will I grow my business?
What to Look For in a Niche Market Clearly defined and measurable (skateboarders in your area, aged 12 to 25). Accessibility (how will you communicate with them? How will you deliver products?). Worthwhile size and sales potential (how many customers are there, and how much do they spend each year on skateboard parts?). Unmet needs (no parts shop in the area). Growth rate (stable or expanding). Presence and strength of competition, locally and online. Percentage of the market you can realistically target, given your budget, capabilities and competitors. Percentage of the market you must capture to earn a profit.
Segmenting Your Customers Demographic segmentation ◦Age ◦Gender ◦Income level ◦Marital status ◦Occupation ◦Education level ◦Kids at home? ◦Ethnicity Psychographic segmentation ◦Lifestyle ◦Needs and values ◦Attitudes ◦Beliefs / opinions ◦Buying styles ◦Interests / hobbies ◦Recreational choices ◦Entertainment choices Geographic segmentation ◦Country, state, city ◦Rural, urban, suburban ◦Population density ◦Climate / weather ◦Terrain (coast, prairie) ◦Access to Internet ◦Infrastructure (roads, rail) ◦Natural hazards
What Makes Your Business Idea Unique? New invention or service One-of-a-kind product (e.g., arts and crafts) Benefits other products lack (comfort, ease of use, color, shape, durability) Special materials or processes (handmade, recycled, green, organic, local) Location (convenient for customers; near a local attraction; region has historical or social interest) Personal story (a family tradition; your skills or accomplishments; a personal or social commitment) Faster and better customer service Customization or personalization Unique distribution channel (house calls, online service) Special add-ons or extras Supports a cause or philosophy (community redevelopment, social justice, green living)
Sources of Business Information U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) Minority Business Centers (MBCs) University and community libraries SCORE Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) Microlenders Business Information Center (BIC) Trade associations Suppliers and vendors Local business mentoring groups Local chamber of commerce Local nonprofit foundations Local or state office of economic development Local credit union or community bank Magazines and newspapers Business websites and expert blogs Talking with potential customers Talking with competitors
Questions About Business Planning Is a business plan really necessary for a tiny microbusiness like mine? How will planning affect my bottom line? What’s the connection between a business plan and management skills? Why do lenders and investors care about business plans? How can I make plans when everything’s so uncertain? Do I have to get everything right the first time? What happens if I learn new things or change my business idea? Can’t I just start my business now, and deal with management issues as they come up? How often is planning necessary? Who can help me complete my plan? What if I don’t complete my plan?
The Benefits of Planning Seeing the big picture. Planning helps you sort through your business issues and identify the ones that cause most of your problems. Clear communication. A good business plan clearly explains your goals to employees, partners, lenders and investors. New opportunities. Change brings opportunities. Careful planning helps you make the most of them. Surviving economic downturns. Microbusinesses are vulnerable to changes in the economy. Owners who plan are more likely to stay in business. Continuous improvement. Comparing planned to actual results is a terrific way to improve your business operations. Being prepared. A business plan helps you avoid, minimize or recover from disasters. Assessing financial performance. Preparing a financial plan helps you measure and improve your business’s financial performance.
Keys to Successful Planning As the owner, you must take the lead role. Everyone in your family and your business should have input. Goals and objectives must be clear, realistic and include a deadline. The plan should include contingency plans for worst-case scenarios. The plan should be flexible. Review your plan often and revise it as necessary.
Business Goals and Objectives Goals are things you want your business to accomplish over a specific time period. ◦Short-term goals are things you want to accomplish within one year. ◦Long-term goals are things you want to accomplish within two to three years. Objectives are specific steps you will take to reach your goals.
Characteristics of a Good Mission Statement Reflects the core purpose and direction of the company Embodies the basic values of the owners and employees Short, specific and focused Written in plain English, without trendy jargon and buzzwords
Setting Exit Limits Exit limits are a safety net against personal and professional loss. Your exit limits might look something like this: If my business experiences the following, I will seriously consider calling it quits: ◦Overdue bills exceeding $5,000 ◦Annual sales below $30,000 ◦More than $50,000 in long- term debt ◦Profit margins below 12 percent over four consecutive quarters ◦A buyout offer of $50,000 or more If my business experiences the following, I will call it quits: ◦Overdue bills exceeding $10,000 ◦Annual sales below $20,000 ◦More than $75,000 in long- term debt ◦Profit margins below 10 percent over six consecutive quarters ◦A buyout offer of $75,000 or more
Elements of Marketing Market Research ◦Gather primary and secondary data about your industry. ◦Gather primary and secondary data about your customer, competition and market potential. Market Analysis ◦Analyze the data you gathered about your industry, customer, competition and market potential. ◦Identify your target customer. ◦Identify your competitive advantage. Marketing Objectives, Strategies and Tactics ◦Determine the best methods of getting your goods and services to your customers, based on your market analysis. ◦Create a marketing mix using the Four Ps: Product, Price, Placement, Promotion.
Contents of the Marketing Plan A. Products and Services ◦Product Description. What is your product? What needs does it meet? ◦Features and Benefits. What are your product’s features and benefits? B. Market Analysis ◦Customer Analysis. Who and where are your target customers? ◦Competitive Analysis. Who and where are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? ◦Market Potential. How big is your target market? What percentage can you capture? What trends affect it? What barriers to entry exist? C. Marketing Objectives, Strategies and Tactics ◦Product Strategy. What is your product line? What is your product positioning strategy? What is your brand identity? ◦Pricing Strategy. What is your pricing strategy? How have you calculated costs and profitability? ◦Placement Strategy. How will you get your products to your customers? Why is this the right choice for them and for you? ◦Promotional Strategy. How will you promote your business? What media will you use? How much will this cost? How will you measure success? D. Sales and Customer Service ◦Sales strategy. How will you sell to your target customers? Why did you choose this method? ◦Customer service strategy. What are your quality control policies? How will you track and measure customer satisfaction? What is your refund and return policy? How will you communicate with customers, and what steps will you take to resolve problems?
Sales Forecasting Methods Breakdown Forecasting ◦Start with the largest population and break it down to estimate sales from target customers. Buildup Forecasting ◦Estimate the size of each market segment, and add them to get a total. Indirect Forecasting ◦Find possible indications of demand and sales when specific market data are missing.
Sources of Industry Data Federal, state and local government offices and websites U.S. Census Bureau Economic Stats (http://www.census.gov/econ/)http://www.census.gov/econ/ EconomicIndicators.gov FedStats.gov International Trade Administration’s Office of Industry Analysis (http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/index.asp)http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/index.asp Small Business Administration’s Business Data and Statistics page (accessible from http://www.sba.gov) http://www.sba.gov Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) Women’s and Minority Business Centers (WBCs and MBCs) Business Information Centers (BICs) Local, state and national trade and industry associations Business and industry magazines and websites Local, state and national nonprofit foundations Local newspapers and magazines Chambers of commerce Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys (available through library) Standard & Poor’s Statistical Service (available through library) Encyclopedia of American Industries (available through library) Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries (available through library) ProQuest Statistical Insight (available through library) Join online industry forums and sites Follow industry leaders and experts on social media Professional research firms Follow competitors on social media U.S. Business Reporter Industry Research (http://www.activemedia-guide.com/)http://www.activemedia-guide.com/ Conduct your own interviews and surveys with key industry contacts and experts National Association of Manufacturers: Manufacturing & Trade Data By State (http://www.nam.org/)http://www.nam.org/
Ways to Gather Primary Data Face-to-face interviews Phone interviews Email or mail interviews Email or mail surveys Phone surveys Online surveys Post research questions on social media (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook)
Drawing Industry Conclusions How has the industry developed? How do microbusinesses operate within this industry? What are the industry’s current growth patterns? What is the industry’s current size? Is it expected to grow or shrink over the next three years? What niche markets are hot? How does international trade affect the industry? How will new and emerging technology affect the industry? How will current and new regulations affect the industry?
Sole Proprietorship Pros The simplest way of doing business. Easy to form and dissolve. You have complete control over the business and receive all its income. Filing income taxes is relatively easy. Cons You are personally responsible for every act and debt of the business, so creditors can legally come after your house, car and personal savings. You can’t expand your business through new owners and their capital. Sole proprietorships end when the owner dies or is unable to work. This can cause serious problems for the owner’s family.
General Partnership Pros Fairly simple to set up. Partners may bring new expertise or additional funding to the business. Business profit and loss pass through to each partner’s personal income tax return. Cons Partners are jointly and individually liable for business debts. Creditors will go after whoever has enough assets to cover the debt. Each partner usually has the right to sign contracts that are binding on the other partners. General partnerships usually end if one partner dies or withdraws. Partners pay tax on their share of profit even if they don’t withdraw it from the business.
Limited Partnership Pros Limited partners are only liable for debts to the extent of their investment. Partners can provide additional funding for the business. Cons More expensive to form. General partners are jointly and severally liable for debts. If limited partners get too involved in the business, they can also be held liable for losses that exceed their investment. It may be hard to find a partner who’s willing to invest without having the authority to make decisions.
Corporation Pros A corporation can shield owners from debts and liabilities. You can raise money by selling stock. The business continues even if the owner dies or sells to a new owner. You may be able to deduct employee health insurance and benefits. Cons If corporate rules aren’t followed, the owners can be held responsible for debts and liabilities. Time-consuming and expensive to form. More regulations, paperwork and recordkeeping. Risk of double taxation. The corporation pays tax on its income, and you pay tax on any dividends you receive as a shareholder. (An accountant can help you avoid this problem.)
S Corporation Pros Profit or loss is passed back to the shareholders like a partnership. Cons: Limited number of shareholders. Limited to one class of stock. Must file their tax return on a calendar year basis.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) Pros Limited liability, like a corporation. No double taxation, like a partnership. If one partner can utilize tax losses better than another, the LLC allows beneficial allocation of that tax benefit. Cons Can be expensive and complicated to form, depending on where you live. Some states don’t allow LLCs to have only one owner.
Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) Pros Limited liability, like an LLC. Operating as an L3C makes you eligible for investment and grant money from nonprofits. Cons Can only be formed for charitable purposes. Many states don’t have L3C laws, so you have to form it in a state that does.
Cooperative Pros Members own and control the business. Potential for collective efforts to improve marketing and add value to products. Shared expertise in operation is a potential benefit. Cons Lengthy process by members to set up (bylaws, major policy issues, direction, board). Effectiveness depends on members’ long-term dedication. Group decision- making and shared ownership may be cumbersome.
Government Regulations Business Registry ◦Business licenses ◦Filing requirements ◦Business name registration Zoning Laws ◦Signage restrictions ◦Parking restrictions ◦No manufacturing or sales ◦No deliveries or storage ◦No noise or pollution Business Taxation ◦State income tax ◦Sales tax ◦Property tax ◦Federal income tax Employee Regulations ◦Payroll taxes / withholding ◦Independent contractors ◦Wage and hour regulations ◦Equal Pay Act ◦Immigration laws ◦OSHA regulations ◦Civil rights laws ◦Child labor laws Consumer Protection Laws ◦Consumer privacy laws ◦Do-Not-Call Act ◦Direct emails (CAN-SPAM) ◦FTC mail or phone order rule ◦Refunds and returns ◦False advertising ◦Labeling laws ◦Public health and food safety Shipping Regulations ◦Certification and licenses ◦Hazardous materials laws ◦Export controls and customs Environmental Regulations ◦Hazardous materials storage ◦Clean Water Act / Clean Air Act ◦Waste disposal ◦Underground storage tanks Bankruptcy Laws ◦Filing requirements ◦Limitations on protection
IRS 20-Point Checklist: Independent Contractor or Employee? Primary Factors 1. Does the service recipient have the right to require compliance with significant instructions? 2. Does the service recipient have the right to set the hours of work? 3. Does the service recipient have the right to set the order or sequence of services to be performed? 4. Does the service recipient have the right to discharge the service provider? 5. Does the service provider have the right to hire, pay and supervise assistants as the nature of the work requires? 6. Does the service provider have no ability to realize a profit or loss? 7. Does the service provider have no investment in significant tools, materials and other equipment when such items are necessary to accomplish the task and are customarily provided by the service provider? 8. Does the service provider have no significant investment in facilities when they are necessary to accomplish the task and they are customarily provided? Secondary Factors 9. Does the service recipient train the service provider? 10. Does the service recipient have the right to require oral or written reports? 11. Does the service recipient pay by the hour, week or month? 12. Does the service recipient pay for business and/or travel expenses? 13. Does the service recipient have the right to require personal service? 14. Does the service provider usually not work for more than one firm at a time? 15. Does the service provider maintain a continuing relationship with the service recipient? 16. Does the service provider devote substantially full time to the service recipient? 17. Does the service provider have the right to terminate the relationship at any time without incurring liability? 18. Is the service provider integrated into the service recipient’s business? 19. Does the service provider not make his or her services available to the public on a regular and consistent basis? 20. Does the service provider work only on the service recipient’s property or designated location? YES suggests employee status. NO suggests independent contractor status.
Basic Contract Terms Performance ◦What actions must you complete? Price ◦How much, in what currency? Place of delivery ◦Where, by what method? ◦Who’s liable while goods are in transit? Time to perform ◦When are the goods or services due? ◦When is payment due? Quality ◦What quality standards must be met? Legal remedies ◦How will the contract be enforced?
What’s in a Lease? What are you leasing? True cost of the lease Payment escalators Permitted uses Tenant rights Renewal options Purchase rights Right of first refusal Exclusivity Triple Net Lease (tenant pays taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance in addition to rent) Common Area Maintenance (often added to the lease in malls or shopping centers)
Protecting Intellectual Property Trademarks protect your business and product name and logo. Copyright protects creative work in tangible form (e.g., writing, music, art, photographs, recipes, patterns, etc.). Patents protect eligible new processes, designs and inventions. Trade secret laws protect private business information, methods and processes.
Pros and Cons of Working at Home Advantages Flexibility in scheduling Lower startup costs and overhead More time with family Increased job satisfaction Tax advantages No commute Disadvantages Isolation Loss of privacy Credibility issues Zoning problems Space
Home-Based Business Tips Set clear boundaries between work and personal life Make time for family! Set up a functional office Project a professional business image Understand zoning regulations and taxes Understand insurance needs Stay connected!
Managing Business Communications Written communication ◦Be clear and concise. ◦Always type your business letters. ◦Check spelling and grammar carefully. ◦Keep duplicates or backups of all communication. ◦Develop a secure and effective filing system. ◦Remember that putting things in writing may form a contract. Verbal communication ◦Be honest! Always stick to the facts, and never make promises you can’t keep. ◦Be reliable! Smart business owners never say anything they wouldn’t be willing to put in writing. ◦Be organized! Set an agenda, and be clear and brief. Phone etiquette ◦Answer with a friendly greeting that identifies yourself and your business. ◦Sound confident and enthusiastic! ◦Always keep a duplicate message pad handy. ◦Say thank you!
Key Management Goals Learn to delegate Develop your internal team and your external team Develop management goals and strategies Create efficient processes and structures Assign responsibilities and authority Ensure clear communication Lead by example Get advice when needed Accept constructive criticism Have fun!
Guidelines for Successful Outsourcing Understand your core competencies ◦What expertise do you have in-house? What expertise must you seek elsewhere? ◦Figure out what you do best, and consider delegating the rest. ◦Can you manage the new relationships that outsourcing will involve? ◦Are there structures in place to make it work? ◦What matters to customers? Will outsourcing affect their perception of your business, or your core competencies? Look at long-term viability, not short-term savings ◦Don’t assume that decreasing labor costs will always provide big savings! ◦Weigh efficiency against effectiveness. Seeking greater efficiency is a bad idea if it lowers your ability to meet customer service and quality standards!
Basic Employee Management Practices Identifying policies, tasks and job descriptions Interviewing, selecting and hiring, and training Setting performance goals Evaluating and measuring performance Creating compensation and incentive strategies Facilitating communication and continuous learning
Expanding Your Network Join a formal networking group. Local chambers of commerce and similar groups usually offer regular networking sessions and business seminars. Become active in local business organizations, and get to know people with similar interests. Start an informal support group. Meet with other microbusiness owners to discuss common business issues. On behalf of your business, get involved with a local charity. As you give to the organization, you’ll also have an opportunity to let others know about your business. Add contacts to a mailing list you can use to advertise your products. Use social networking tools like Twitter and LinkedIn to increase your visibility and grow your network. Remember that networking is a two-way street. You must give in order to receive!
Types of Insurance Property and liability insurance ◦General liability ◦Business property ◦Business interruption ◦Business crime ◦Fire and flood ◦Key person ◦Commercial auto ◦Electronic data processing ◦Website ◦Home office Life and health insurance ◦Workers’ compensation ◦Life insurance ◦Health insurance ◦Self-insurance ◦Social Security ◦Pension plans
Tips for Lowering Insurance Costs Secure all doors and windows! ◦Adequate lighting, barred windows and secure doors greatly reduce the risk of theft. Fire safety is one of the biggest factors in insurance costs! ◦Install smoke alarms and test them every month. ◦Avoid dangerous electrical connections. ◦Keep the perimeter and interior of your building free of debris and clutter. ◦Store hazardous chemical properly. ◦Keep fire extinguishers fully charged. Keep your business site safe for visitors! ◦Walkways should be clean and dry, and steps should be sturdy and well maintained. ◦Keep your office area free of clutter. Keep your business safe for employees! ◦Provide adequate safety gear, and avoid unsafe working conditions. ◦Replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives wherever possible. ◦Create a written safety policy and hold regular safety meetings.
Business Continuity Planning List all necessary business functions, who performs them, and what equipment and supplies they require. Compile contact information for key employees and assign recovery tasks. Identify threats, and the business functions they threaten. Try to minimize the damage they can do to infrastructure, equipment and data. Get contact information for all essential outside partners (lawyers, suppliers, etc.). Identify and make copies of essential documents. Create duplicates of all the documents you need to run your business. Designate a secondary work site to use until your primary site is restored or replaced. Get employee input. Seek employee comments before finalizing the plan. Distribute the finished plan to employees. Every member of your team should have a copy of the plan at work and at home. Revise the plan as necessary. When things change, your plan needs to change with them. Test the plan regularly. It’s better to learn about mistakes during a practice run than during a crisis!
Requirements for Successful Business Growth A profitable business model Proven operating procedures that have been set down in writing A clear understanding of your current and future customers A stable or growing market demand for your products The ability to provide additional training to your employees, if needed Openness to change Access to growth capital
Surviving Economic Downturns Revisit your budget and your business plan. Expenses that aren’t crucial may need to be cut, scaled back or postponed. Don’t stop advertising. In tough times, the last thing you want to do is reduce your visibility. Innovate. Consumers may welcome new tactics and offerings. Reduce inventory. This can free up space, time and money! Keep employees informed and inspired. They may have good ideas for cutting costs or boosting sales. If they stand by you, reward their loyalty when things get better. Keep an eye on your supply chain. If vendors, customers or partners are having financial problems, it may affect your ability to fill orders or get paid. Form partnerships and alliances. Other struggling businesses may be looking for ways to weather the storm. Work together to find win-win solutions! Offer incentives. Special offers, free services and added value can attract customers who are worried about their finances. Don’t ignore payroll taxes and other payments that are due to the government. These agencies can impose fines, place a lien on your property, or even shut down your business altogether. Keep your creditors informed. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, stay in contact with your creditors and vendors, and offer them a realistic payment schedule.
The Purpose of Market Research Your goal is to identify: ◦Customers. Who will buy your product? ◦Market niche. Who’s your competition, and where do you fit into the market? ◦Price. What price will make your product competitive? ◦Competitive edge. What makes you better than or different from the competition? ◦Location. Where will you sell your product to reach your target customer?
Market Research Tips Identify your research problem. Set clear objectives for data gathering. Create a budget and a timetable. Placing limits on the research process will keep it from spiraling out of control. Prioritize your research tasks. Identify the most and least important research questions. Prioritize your data sources. Which ones are most likely to have the information you need? Keep an open mind and seek viewpoints that differ from your own. Don’t let wishful thinking or beliefs affect how you gather or interpret data. Always document your sources thoroughly (e.g., book title, author, year of publication, page number). If you create a survey, include a space for open-ended comments. Ask permission to record interviews to ensure that you don’t miss any important details. Keep your surveys and interviews short, clear and neutral. Organize and analyze the data. Make sure it addresses the research problem you identified.
Where to Find Market Data Surveys. Interview groups or individuals by mail, online, in person or on the telephone. Government publications and statistics ◦FedStats (http://www.fedstats.gov) ◦Economics and Statistics Administration’s Economic Indicators (http://www.economicindicators.gov) ◦State government websites Libraries. Information from libraries is usually free, except for the cost of printing or copying documents. Internet. Most public libraries offer free Internet access to subscription-based industry sites and journals. Universities, technical schools and Small Business Development Centers may provide free or low-cost information. Census banks. These “banks” store information rather than money. To find them, check at the library or visit http://www.census.gov.http://www.census.gov Chambers of commerce and trade associations and publications. Industry and business groups offer information and support. Competitors. Visit them, review their advertising and customer reviews, buy and test their products.
The Product Life Cycle Introduction ◦The product is new and entering the market for the first time. ◦Customers are generally unaware of the product. ◦Sales are low and there is little competition. Growth ◦Sales and profits begin to increase as public awareness increases. ◦New competitors take note of the product’s growing popularity and enter the market. Maturity ◦Many competing products are on the market. ◦Businesses increasingly vie for market share though branding, redesign, packaging improvements, new colors or flavors and other marketing strategies. ◦Sales and prices tend to peak or decline. Decline ◦The market is saturated. Sales, profits and prices are low enough that many businesses are forced to discontinue the product.
Features vs. Benefits Features Size, color and shape Quality Varieties Types Materials Benefits Time savings Convenience Status Security Safety Fun People buy benefits, not features!
Goals of Market Analysis Identify your customer profile (demographics, psychographics, access to and attitudes toward technology). Identify your trade area (geographic boundaries and size). Determine the number of people (or businesses) in your trade area who potentially match your customer profile. Determine the market potential for your business in your trade area.
Demographics Gender. Men and women have different buying habits. Age. Different age ranges have different buying habits. Income. This tells you whether a customer or household can afford your product, especially if it’s a nonessential item (e.g., jewelry). Occupation. This relates to age, income and education, and may indicate ability to buy. Location. This includes how near the customer is to your business, as well as regional or national location, geography, climate and weather. Marital status. Customers’ needs and desires vary based on whether they’re single or married. Children. Households with children have different buying habits than those with no children. Education. Education may be an indicator of reading comprehension, use of technology, income, etc. Ethnic origin. People from different cultures may have different values and needs that influence buying habits.
Psychographics Beliefs and values. Cultural, religious and political beliefs and values can have a strong influence on buying decisions. Behavior. What are your target customers’ spending patterns and buying behavior? Interests. How do your customers’ hobbies, pastimes and social causes affect buying behavior? Media choices. These provide a clue to buying decisions, income and education, as well as what promotions are most likely to succeed. Recreation. People who like outdoor activities such as camping or hiking may have different needs than people who prefer indoor activities such as videogames or scrapbooking. Transportation. People who have a car, bicycle, motorcycle, RV or boat may have very different buying patterns. Entertainment choices. Music, movie, book and art preferences tell marketers a lot about lifestyles and attitudes.
Gathering Customer Data If you sell something to eat, ask people to taste it. If you offer a service, ask people to use it. If you sell something to wear, ask people to try it on. −THEN− If people hate it, ask them WHY. If people love it, ask them WHY. Ask them questions about themselves (demographics, psychographics, needs, wants, motivations).
Things You Should Know About Your Competition Who are they? List current competitors and research any that may enter the market over the next year. Where are they? Are they in your city, county, region, state? Are they national or international? Customers. Who are their customers? Don’t assume they’re the same as yours. Two companies selling the same basic product can have very different target markets. Product. What do they really sell? What features and benefits make their product unique? What’s their niche? How do they back the product up with customer service? Price. Is their price in line with customer expectations? How do they compare with competing brands? Placement. Where and how do they sell their product? Do they sell online, offline or both? Promotion. What type of promotions do they run? In what media, and to what audience? Are they effective? Location. Are they local, regional, national or international? Is their location convenient for their customers? Is it convenient for yours? Can you offer greater convenience? Company image. What’s their reputation? What are people saying about them online? Do they have lots of goodwill, or are people looking for an alternative? Weaknesses and strengths. What things do they do best? In what ways are they weak? Compare the way they represent their service to the service you actually get as a customer. How will you take advantage of their weaknesses? How will you compete with their strengths? Goals. What are their stated goals? What are their long-term plans? What strategies and tactics are they using to achieve those goals? Online “About Us” and “FAQ” pages can be good sources for this information, as can interviews, articles and annual reports. Differentiators. What features, benefits and messages make the competitor stand out in the marketplace? What aspects of their business do they emphasize most strongly?
The Four Ps vs. SIVA FOUR PsSIVA Product is what you offer your customers. Your product is a solution for your customers’ problem. Promotion is how you tell customers about your product. Promotion gives customers information about your solution. Price is the amount you charge customers to buy your product. Customers buy based on how much they value your solution. Placement is how you deliver your product to your customer. Placement gives customers access to your solution.
Product Strategies Understand your features and benefits! Consider how each stage of the product life cycle affects marketing strategies Define product lines (depth and width) Define your product’s position in the marketplace Write a positioning statement Define your brand identity Write a branding statement Plan for brand management Make packaging decisions that reinforce your positioning and brand Define service enhancements
Product Life Cycle Introduction ◦High startup and marketing costs. ◦Poor distribution and sluggish sales. ◦Competition is usually at a minimum. ◦Product strategy focuses on raising awareness. Growth ◦Product is accepted by target market. ◦More sales, but also more competition. ◦Product strategies: Expand distribution; defeat new competitors by building brand. Maturity ◦Widespread competition and slower sales. ◦Competitive pressure to lower prices. ◦Features, benefits and branding become more important as consumers look for reasons to choose your product. ◦Improvements to product may be necessary to attract new customers, recapture old ones and outflank competitors. Decline ◦Market is saturated. Competition is high; prices and sales are low. ◦Product strategies include discontinuing the product, cutting production levels, or selling or leasing it.
Positioning Statement Tips State real, lasting benefits. Vague benefits like “great taste,” and variable ones like “low prices,” aren’t adequate. Lots of businesses can legitimately offer “great taste,” and lots of businesses with low prices are forced to raise them. Your positioning statement must get at the heart of your product’s specific value to customers. As a rule of thumb, try putting your competitor’s product name into your positioning statement. If it’s just as accurate, your statement needs more work. Pinpoint your differentiator. Businesses often throw terms like “unique” around, but these words don’t mean anything unless there’s a real difference. And if there is a real difference, you should describe it clearly instead of using buzzwords. In other words, don’t say you’re unique; explain why you’re unique. Keep your customers’ needs in mind. If your statement doesn’t give them a strong, obvious reason to buy from you instead of a competitor, you need to go back to the drawing board.
What Makes a Good Brand Name? Establishes or reinforces your brand identity Suggests product benefits Easy to pronounce, recognize and remember Sets you apart from your competitors No double or hidden meanings Creative, but not too cute or weird Eligible for trademark protection Suggests product benefits (e.g., Mr. Clean, Krispy Kreme or Beautyrest mattresses) Fits the brand identity and attitude Doesn’t limit your ability to grow, change or sell your business Reflects the scope of your business (local, national, international)
Brand Management Basics Make sure your brand promises something customers want. Keep it simple! Focus on communicating a few basic points. Be consistent. Remember that every interaction with a customer or client is an opportunity to communicate your brand identity. Involve your employees. Get them excited about your brand, and they’ll communicate that excitement to others. Whatever your brand promises, exceed it!
Basic Pricing Terms Cost is what you spend to produce your product. Price is the amount you charge customers for the product. Value is what your customer believes the product is worth. Revenue is the amount of money your business receives from sales over a specific period. Profit is what’s left over after you subtract costs from revenue.
Pricing Considerations What are your costs? What will your customer pay? What brand identity do you want to convey? What does the competition charge? What will the market bear? How will your price affect demand? How does a service provider determine price? What other pricing challenges does your business face?
The Four Cs of Pricing Customers. Knowing your target customers’ income level, lifestyle and concept of value is central to setting a realistic price. Competition. In the last session, you identified your direct and indirect competition, and you compared their prices, features, benefits, strengths and weaknesses to yours. You must take all these things into account when setting your price. Company position. If you provide better service and higher quality than your competitors, that means you offer greater value. This appeals to customers who place a higher importance on service and quality. Costs. To set a price that will earn a profit, you must know your total variable and fixed costs (including taxes).
Understanding Your Costs - 1 Variable expenses are costs that go up or down in relation to sales volume. Example: Suppose you sell custom T-shirts for $10.00 each. Selling Price$10.00 Variable Expenses Raw material (T-shirt)3.00 Hourly labor1.00 Sales commission (10%)1.00 Shipping charge0.50 Total Variable Expenses$ 5.50 Price – Variable Expenses$ 4.50 The $4.50 is called the contribution margin, because it represents how much each unit of sales “contributes” toward paying for fixed costs and profits.
Understanding Your Costs - 2 Fixed expenses are costs that don’t change, regardless of sales volume. Example: Fixed expenses (per month) Rent$ 800 Telephone100 Insurance50 Bookkeeping100 Loan payments300 Total fixed expenses$1,350 QUESTION: How many T-shirts do you have to sell each month to pay for your variable and fixed expenses?
Your Break-Even Point How many T-shirts must you sell each month to pay for your variable and fixed expenses and start making a profit? Break-Even Units Volume = Fixed Costs Price - Variable Costs Example: Selling Price$10.00 per unit Variable Costs$ 5.50 per unit Contribution Margin$ 4.50 per unit Fixed Costs$1,350.00 per month Break-Even Point In Units: $1,350 ÷ $4.50 = 300 T-shirts When you sell your 301st T-shirt, you will start making a profit for that month: 300 T-shirts x $10 = $3,000
Planning for Profit Can you sell 300 T-shirts per month? How much profit do you want to make? If it takes 300 T-shirts per month to break even, how many more shirts must you sell to earn the amount of profit you want? Example You want to make $900 in profit per month. How many more T- shirts do you need to sell? It took 300 T-shirts just to break even. After the first 300 shirts sell, $4.50 per T-shirt contributes to profits. $900.00 ÷ $4.50 = 200 more shirts must sell to earn desired profit of $900. Can you sell 500 T-shirts per month?
Pricing Strategies Loss leader pricing offers a low price on one product to attract customers who will then buy additional products at the normal price. Multiple pricing offers a discount for buying more than one of an item. Penetration pricing sets an artificially low price in order to enter a new market and encourage customers to try your wares. Premium pricing usually indicates high quality, customization, rarity or a one-of-a-kind item. Price skimming sets a higher price in the short term. As demand drops, prices are gradually reduced. Cost-plus pricing means totaling your fixed and variable costs and adding a target return percentage to arrive at your sale price. Competitor-based pricing involves basing your price on your competitors’ price for a similar product. Value-based pricing. The goal is to charge an above-average price while leaving customers with the feeling that they’ve gotten a good deal. Retail pricing. To get a retail price, you multiply the wholesale price by a certain percentage (called a markup), and add that to the wholesale price.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Location Proximity to customers Neighborhood Convenience Safety (lighting, off- street parking, etc.) Accessibility (ADA) Visibility Foot traffic, vehicle traffic Other complementary businesses nearby Size/floor plan requirements Lease or own Zoning restrictions Landlord restrictions Costs (property, amenities, required improvements, common area maintenance)
Distribution Basics Questions you need to answer: Where will I distribute my product? ◦Retail location ◦Wholesalers ◦Customer’s site ◦Online How will I deliver my product? ◦UPS, express mail services, USPS ◦Personal delivery ◦My home or office ◦Their home or office ◦Online Will I need someone to help me sell? ◦In-house sales team ◦Sales representatives ◦Agents ◦Distributors
Distribution Considerations Product ◦Perishable or fragile products may require direct sales to avoid spoilage or breakage. ◦There may be shipping restrictions on certain products, based on weight, size, materials, destination or purpose. Profit ◦The more intermediaries you have, the more units you must sell. ◦Selling direct may distract you from core business tasks. Customers ◦Distribution strategies must reflect customer lifestyle. Competition ◦How and where do your competitors sell? Will your products be handled by the same stores, wholesalers, distributors or agents? ◦If an online retailer offers lower prices and free shipping, what can you offer to outweigh those advantages? Confidence ◦Can you trust your intermediaries? ◦Can you afford to have all your eggs in one basket? Technology ◦Your distribution methods must reflect your customers’ access to and attitude toward current technology.
Distribution Strategies Direct marketing (to customers or to other businesses) Manufacturer to retailers through intermediaries (sales reps, agents, brokers, wholesalers) Consignment Mail-order catalogs Classified ads Home shopping networks Piggyback with other products Internet
Elements of Effective Advertising WHO? Right Audience WHY? Right Benefits WHAT? Right Message WHEN? Right Time WHERE? Right Place HOW MUCH? Right Budget
Common Promotional Tools Print ◦Newspapers ◦Magazines ◦Catalogs / brochures ◦Newsletters ◦Fliers ◦Business cards ◦Classified ads ◦Yellow Pages Other ◦Direct mail / email ◦Telemarketing ◦Signage ◦Word of mouth ◦Networking ◦Novelty advertising (e.g., pens, hats) ◦Sign spinners Online ◦Paid ads ◦Web directories ◦Business directories ◦Craigslist ◦Online Yellow Pages ◦Social media ◦YouTube videos ◦SEO Broadcast ◦Radio ◦Internet radio ◦Broadcast TV ◦Cable TV
The ABCs of Signage A ttracting new customers Because a certain number of your customers will move out of the area, change their buying habits or switch to competitors, your business must constantly restock its customers, just like it restocks its inventory. B randing your business A sign that’s visible every day may do more to communicate your brand identity than all your other marketing efforts combined. C reating impulse sales Studies show that 68 percent of all U.S. sales are impulse sales. Your job is to attract your share of these impulse buyers and turn them into regular customers.
Public Relations Ideas Donate money or time to clean up highways, parks or beaches. Help improve a piece of local land. Get involved in historic preservation efforts. Install a new, cleaner energy system and offer public tours. Cosponsor local sporting, arts or charity events. Be sure to put up posters or banners announcing your support. Hold contests and giveaways. Give lectures to trade organizations or chambers of commerce. Send your business story to your local newspaper or trade association. Write or contribute to a blog or industry-related website. Use Twitter, Facebook or YouTube to attract a community of followers for your company. Donate prizes or time to local fundraisers. Join service organizations or clubs. Attend trade shows as an exhibitor or observer. Offer to be a guest speaker on a radio show to discuss elements of your business, or offer how-to advice that relates to your business.
Benefits of Being Online Provides business and product info to global markets Increases consumer awareness of your product (note that even if your target customers aren’t online, people who are may recommend your product) Improves customer service by providing online product tips, instructions and links Gives prospective customers one more way to contact you Helps you keep track of what your competitors are doing Online interaction with customers can build your brand or improve your products Networking, partnering and bootstrapping opportunities
Online vs. Offline Buying Why people buy online Speed and convenience Vast product selection Special deals and coupons It’s easy to compare prices and save money Search capabilities No driving, parking or crowds Why people don’t buy online Product is easily available locally Shipping costs are too high Security, fraud and privacy issues (trust) Inability to sample, try on, taste, or test the product (trust) Return and warranty issues (trust)
Building Your Own Website: Pros and Cons Advantages You may be able to get a site online quickly You learn site-building skills You can update your site as needed Site maintenance costs may be lower Disadvantages Time spent learning skills distracts from core business tasks Time spent maintaining site distracts from core business tasks Site-building tools may lack features you need The appearance and function of the site may be limited by your design and tech skills Site may not be able to grow with your business
Selling Through an E-Commerce Host: Pros and Cons Advantages Setup is usually very easy and fast E-commerce functions already in place, usually with appropriate security Some hosts may have consumer trust, and offer problem-resolution services Professional look and function Host may include useful promotional tools, social media capabilities, etc. Disadvantages Higher charges (per month, per transaction, by traffic volume, etc.) Hosts may have uniform look and few or no opportunities for building your brand “One size fits all” format may not suit your business
Hiring a Web Designer: Pros and Cons Advantages You don’t have to waste time on site- building You have more control over features, appearance and function Costs are upfront and known Professional look and function Disadvantages You must rely on outside help Updating and maintaining the site may be slow, difficult or expensive if you don’t have adequate tech skills Higher cost Site maintenance costs may be higher in the long run
Issues to Address When Planning Your Site What business tasks do you need to do online? Do your customers buy online? What information do your customers need? How quickly do you need a functioning site? How much can you budget for site creation and maintenance? How will you market your site? Are you prepared to sell internationally, or will you only sell in the USA? How often will you need to update your site?
Website Design Tips Avoid site features that are distracting, irritating or hard to use, such as animation, soundtrack music or horizontal scrolling. Don’t clutter your site with slow-loading images. Every second your customer must wait for content increases the likelihood that she will give up and go elsewhere. Display your contact information clearly on every page. Answer questions and concerns. Features that build customer trust include a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, video explanations or tutorials, and a clearly stated return policy. Don’t ask users for personal information unless you’re making a sale or giving them something in return. Check your site regularly to ensure that links and other site features work properly. Support your promotional messaging with facts anyone can understand and verify, like reviews and awards from credible sources. Ensure consumer privacy with secure socket layer (SSL) protection. Use professional, high-resolution photography to display products. Use a cross-selling application to suggest products that go with whatever product the customer is looking at. Include helpful tools where needed (e.g., rulers and calculators). Include all relevant product information (e.g., height, weight, color, size, ingredients, sourcing). Include customer reviews and recommendations. Consumers trust other consumers more than they trust businesses!
Social Media Basics They feature user-generated content. They allow networking and collaboration between friends, family, associates, clubs, product users and interest groups. They are based on dialogue, rather than monologue. Users can give and receive feedback on information, content and ideas. They are increasingly integrated (e.g., you can tweet about the podcast available on your blog). They are usually free, and easy to set up and maintain. Social media account for 22 percent of all time spent online, according to the Nielsen Company.
Types of Social Media Blogs are online journals containing text, graphics, photos, audio and video content. This category also includes microblogging formats like Twitter and Tumblr. Social networking sites like Facebook create connections and build trust-based communities. Geosocial networks like Foursquare allow interaction with individuals and businesses in a specific location Social bookmarking sites allow users to gather, rate and recommend websites, news stories and other content. Examples include StumbleUpon and Reddit. Multimedia sites like YouTube and SlideShare allow users to share multimedia content like videos and slideshows. Consumer review sites like Yelp and Epinions allow users to find, rate and review businesses and products.
Rules for Social Media DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Different social media have different demographics. Research sites to make sure they reach your target customers. TAKE YOUR TIME. Get to know the format, the site and the community before participating. BE HONEST. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. BE CONSISTENT. Whenever possible, use the same name, colors, images and other elements in each account. BE PREPARED. Don’t launch a specific channel until you’ve prepared content and created a posting schedule. BE RELIABLE. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t promote upcoming content and features unless they’re actually ready to launch. BE HELPFUL. Answer questions, provide advice, seek out and link to worthwhile content. BE RESPECTFUL. Don’t spam users or sites with marketing messages, or use social media as a vehicle for shameless self-promotion. Help yourself by helping others. BE ENGAGED. Keep your content fresh and current. Post regularly, even if it’s just a link to someone else’s article. Respond promptly and courteously to comments and requests. HAVE FUN! The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you are to earn friends and followers!
Search Engine Optimization Features A domain name that describes your brand, products or business (e.g., nxlevel.org, fireworks.com). Flat site architecture. The fewer clicks a visitor has to make, the more likely you are to convert that visit to a sale. A descriptive title for each page of your site. The title tag for each page should be unique to that page; using the same title on multiple pages will undercut your efforts. Descriptive keywords in your site headlines, body copy and links. Alternative text tags for graphics. This is descriptive text that appears if an image doesn’t display. Fast loading time. Pages that load slowly or incorrectly are hard for search engines to index, and frustrating for human users, so they tend to get a lower page rank.
Tips for Writing Online Content Write about what you know. The Internet is full of ill-informed speculation and opinion. Sticking to practical, helpful facts will make your content stand out. Stay focused. Your content should flow logically from one paragraph to the next. Don’t try to cover too much ground at once. If content doesn’t seem to fit, use it for another article. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to have less content than to fill space with material that lacks usefulness, credibility or interest. Format text carefully. Short paragraphs, clear punctuation and informative headings are usually best for online text. Don’t use quotes unless you’re quoting someone. Many inexperienced writers put quotes around everything from “figures of speech” to “product names.” This is “unnecessary” and “distracting.” Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!!! Use them only when absolutely necessary, and never use more than one at a time. Multiple exclamation points communicate inexperience and desperation. Avoid clichés and buzzwords. Don’t try to promote innovation or originality with worn-out phrases like out of the box or pushing the envelope. And don’t use business or industry jargon that your readers may not understand.
Traits of Successful Sellers Empathy. Good sellers can relate to each customer’s unique situation. They don’t try to force a one-size-fits- all solution on them, or pressure them to spend more than they can afford. Personal drive. Good sellers have a strong personal desire to make the sale and satisfy customers’ needs. Persistence. Good sellers don’t get discouraged by rejection. Confidence. Good sellers believe in their products and know how to get other people excited about them. Flexibility. Customers vary, so the ability to adapt to different buying styles is essential. Quick thinking. Sellers need to be able to think on their feet to answer objections and assess counteroffers. Excellent listening skills. Smart sellers ask relevant questions and listen respectfully while customers answer. Technical knowledge. Sellers should understand everything about their product. Good communication skills. The best sellers make their points clearly, briefly and respectfully. Respect for the customer. Remember: Without customers, you have no business!
Understanding Buyers Most buyers respond to stories. Instead of describing features, explain how those features solved a problem for a previous customer. Be prepared to back up your stories with references. Most buyers like to talk about themselves Being a curious, engaged listener is vital to building a relationship, and building a relationship is vital to earning loyal customers. Business buyers are usually more cautious than everyday consumers. Business buyers usually want to see strong evidence of value, technical expertise, reliability and professionalism. Behind every buying decision, there’s a desire or a fear. What are you really selling? Fun? Beauty? Youth? Security? Status? Unless you understand the hidden motivations that guide buying decisions, you’ll find it hard to get customers to buy in.
Eight Steps to Selling Success Step 1: Prioritize Prospects Step 2: Prepare to Sell Step 3: First Contact Step 4: Make the Presentation Step 5: Overcome Objections Step 6: Close the Deal Step 7: Reflect and Adapt Step 8: Follow Up
Common Closing Techniques Basic close by using a sales form. Begin by asking the customer a question from the form. Write in the answer. Proceed to the next item. If the customer doesn’t stop you, you’ve made a sale. Close by offering choices. “Do you prefer green or blue?” When a prospect makes a minor decision, the major decision is near. Close by making a balance sheet. Take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center and help the prospect list the reasons for and against buying. Close by asking clarifying questions. If you have a prospect who seems interested but won’t commit, ask questions: “Is there anything I didn’t make clear?” Close with a confirming question. If a prospect asks whether it’s possible to get what you’re selling in a particular size, format or color, ask the prospect if that’s the way he wants it. If the answer is “yes,” the prospect has bought. Close by setting a date to do the work. If you run a lawn care business, for example, you might offer to cut their lawn and trim their hedges next Thursday.
Selling Tips Be honest. Tell the truth about your product. Don’t hype attributes or downplay problems. Don’t procrastinate. Take on tough clients now, not later. Practice active listening. Work to improve listening skills and develop interactive sales presentations. Be patient. Building long- term relationships takes time and care. Keep learning. Become an expert in your field so that customers see you as a valuable resource. Stay in touch. Check in with customers regularly and always bring something of value to the conversation. Study your competitors. Knowing their strengths and weakness will help your sales presentation. Referrals build sales. Always ask for referrals. Satisfied customers will usually be happy to help. Be positive and have fun! A positive attitude will carry you through tough times.
What Customers Want Availability. Customers want you to be available, responsive and engaged at every stage of the selling process. Consistency. Customers want the same level of service and quality every time they deal with you. Confidence. Customers want to feel they can trust you. They don’t necessarily expect perfection, but they do expect you to make things right when they go wrong. Understanding. Customers want to feel that you are listening to them and making an effort to understand and satisfy their needs. Attention. Customers want to feel that you’re alert, interested and ready to help. They want to feel that you’re willing to do what it takes to meet their needs. Comfort. Customers want to feel comfortable, welcome and secure. They don’t want to feel rushed or pressured. They prefer businesses to be clean, attractive and organized.
Why Businesses Lose Customers 1%die 3%move away 4%drift to another business 5%change on a friend’s recommendation 9%buy it cheaper somewhere else 10%have a service problem that is not resolved 68%leave because they feel they’re not getting good service
The Benefits of Customer Loyalty Loyal customers: ◦Show less sensitivity to price changes ◦Generate referrals and word of mouth ◦Buy add-ons more often ◦Make it harder for competitors to enter your market ◦Need less handling, education and selling time ◦Are easier and more cost-effective to sell to than new customers
Your Customer Service Plan Every business should have a customer service plan within its marketing plan. This should include: ◦Customer service goals ◦Customer service benchmarks (how you’ll measure success or failure) ◦How you will gather, store and use customer data ◦After-sales service practices ◦Return, exchange and customer complaint policies ◦Special order or custom service policies ◦How different areas of your business deliver service ◦A formal system for customer feedback (e.g., questionnaires, report cards, online surveys or forums, complaint forms)
Resolving Customer Complaints Step 1: Listen! Step 2: Recognize the customer’s feelings. Step 3: Apologize! Step 4: Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. Step 5: Explain your solution.
Customer Service Essentials Greet customers immediately and pleasantly. Always make an extra effort to help customers find what they need. When you make a mistake, fix it! Follow up on all customer contacts. Always record the customer’s name, phone number and order type. After customers call for product information or service assistance, follow up within two days to check on satisfaction. Memorize the names of frequent customers. Always answer the phone within three rings. Don’t automatically dump customers on hold. If you must, ask if you can put them on hold, or call them back within five minutes. Answer emails promptly, and proofread them before you hit “send.”
Cash Flow Projection Worksheet Sections (A)Beginning Cash Balance (B)Cash In From Operations (C)Operating Cash Out (C1) Variable Expenses (Cost of Goods Sold) (C2) Operating Expenses (D)Net Operating Cash (B - C1 - C2) (E)Cash From Investment or Loan Activities (E1) Other Cash In (E2) Other Cash Out (F)Net Monthly Cash (D + E1 - E2) (G)Ending Cash Balance (A + F)
Sample Chart of Accounts - 1 Account Asset accounts: Capital accounts: 100Cash on Hand 300Owner’s Equity 101Cash in the Bank 310Owner’s Draw 102Petty CashRevenue accounts: 105Inventory 400Sales 110Equipment (Net) 401Product 1 Sales 111Accum. Depreciation - Equipment 402Product 2 Sales Liability accounts: 403Service 1 Sales 200Accounts Payable 410Interest Income 210Payroll Taxes Payable 420Other Income
Developing a Professional Mindset Set clear, achievable goals Do business on the books Keep personal and business accounts separate Develop a code of ethics for your business, and stick to it Make tax payments on time Commit to making budgets and comparing them to your actual expenses Keep accurate books and records
Why Separate Business and Personal Finances? Taxes. The IRS lets you deduct expenses for a business, but not for a hobby. If you mix business and personal income, the IRS is more likely to decide that your microbusiness is a hobby. But even if it doesn’t, mixing funds will make your taxes harder to calculate and pay. The cost and effort of keeping your accounts separate is minimal compared to the problems sloppy accounting can cause. Loans. If you need a business loan, you normally must show your financial records. Mixing funds makes it hard for lenders to know how profitable your business is. Professionalism. Having separate accounts shows customers, suppliers and clients that you’re serious about your business. Management. If you don’t separate your funds, it’s harder to make good business decisions.
Why Do You Need Records? Producing financial statements Preparing tax returns (including deductions) Providing information to lenders and investors Paying and collecting bills when due Budgeting and planning Applying for loans Managing cash flow Setting and measuring progress toward business goals Tracking and managing costs Preventing theft Providing compliance with laws Supporting your case in a lawsuit
Record Retention Guidelines Type of RecordRetention Period Bank statements7 years Business licensesUntil expired Cash register tapes3 years Check registersPermanent Canceled checks3 years Financial statementsPermanent General ledgerPermanent Inventory records7 years Invoices (A/P)3 years Invoices (A/R)3 years Phone/utility bills3-6 years Property/plant recordsPermanent Purchase orders3 years Receiving reports3 years Tax returns10 years minimum Time cards or tickets3 years Travel expense records7 years Property deeds/titlesKeep while you own
Computerized Accounting Systems Before buying a program, do some research! ◦Compatibility. Will your computer be able to run this program? What are its hardware requirements? ◦Ease of use. Can you figure out how to use the program out without getting a Ph.D. in math? Always factor learning and training costs into the price of the system! ◦Range. What modules or tools does it offer? Do you actually need them? ◦Flexibility. Can you easily customize the program? Does it mesh with other business applications, as well as email and word processing programs? ◦Security. Is it secure? Does it prevent unauthorized access to your data? ◦Add-ons. Will you have to make multiple upgrades as you grow? If you’re planning for a certain level of growth within a year or two, will the system still meet your needs? ◦Help. What type of training is available? Does the program have a reliable help utility or online user forum? Is the manufacturer popular enough that it’s likely to stay in business?
Tips for Keeping Books and Records Keep your records daily. ◦Deal with your bookkeeping on a regular basis, and it could take as little as 20 minutes a day. Create an audit trail. ◦Keep checks in numeric order. Never skip a number, and always record voided checks. ◦Keep invoices filed sequentially and/or alphabetically. ◦Make everything easy to find and track. Request a bank statement with a “month-end” cut-off date. ◦It’s easier to reconcile your records when they all end at the same time. Keep withholding taxes withheld. ◦Don’t spend this money−it’s not yours! Don’t panic if you find a mistake. ◦Everything can be fixed, as long as you’ve kept up with your recordkeeping chores.
Twelve Check-Writing Tips 1. Always write checks in ink, or type them. 2. Always write clearly and check your spelling. 3. Date the check correctly. 4. Write the payee’s name after the printed words “Pay to the order of.” 5. Write the amount of the check in numbers close to the printed dollar sign ($), so that other numbers can’t be inserted. 6. Write the amount of the check in words starting as far to the left as possible, leaving no room for the amount to be changed. 7. Draw a wavy line to fill any blank space left after you write the amount. 8. Do not sign a blank or partially complete check. 9. Always sign your checks just as you signed your bank’s signature card. 10. Use the memo line to help keep records of your spending. 11. Record each check you write— and each deposit you make— immediately in your check register. 12. Don’t forget to record automatic deposits and withdrawals in your check register.
Sources of Capital Self-Financing. Most lenders and investors want to see that you’ve committed personal funds to your business. ◦Personal funds ◦Savings or investments ◦Outside salary ◦Home equity Debt Capital ◦Money that you borrow ◦Interest is usually charged for use of the loan Equity Capital ◦Money provided by an investor ◦Investor shares in profits or losses ◦Not a debt (unless you agree to pay the money back even if the business fails) Angel Money ◦Money received from family, friends or interested third party ◦Can be debt or equity financing ◦Always formally document angel money as you would traditional debt or equity financing
Fitting the Loan to the Need Short-Term Debt ◦Used to meet short-term needs, such as seasonal inventory or short-term liquidity problems. ◦Repayment time: One year. Intermediate Debt ◦Used for permanent working capital or equipment acquisition. ◦Repayment time: Three to seven years. Long-Term Debt ◦Used for real-estate purchases or the initial purchase of a business. ◦Repayment time: Seven years or more.
Debt or Equity Financing Considerations Change in ownership Obligation to repay Tax considerations Capital structure Time required Cost of obtaining the funds Personal factors/preferences Lender and investor reactions
Debt Financing Sources Banks Credit unions Microlenders Peer-to-peer lending / crowdfunding Consumer finance companies Commercial finance companies SBA programs State and local loan programs Business incubators Leasing
Leasing vs. Purchasing Advantages Usually no down payment Often over a longer time period than a loan May allow upgrade to current equipment models May allow “off balance sheet” financing Increases possible sources of financing Disadvantages May cost more if tax advantages lost May not own asset at end of the lease Is still a long-term legal obligation Terms and conditions may limit flexibility of use
Other Financing Sources Suppliers Customers Factoring Grants Credit cards
Financing Factors 1. The growth potential of your business 2. The riskiness of your business 3. The length of time you need the money 4. The kind of money you need (debt or equity) 5. The amount of interest you can afford to pay (debt) or the amount of ownership you’re willing to give up (equity) 6. The profit potential of your business
Preparing for the Loan Process Before you apply for a loan: Find a lending institution that regularly lends to microbusinesses ◦What size businesses do they normally lend to? ◦Do they avoid making loans within certain industries? Check your credit history ◦Are there credit problems you need to clear up? ◦Do you know how to repair your credit? ◦Are there credit problems you don’t know about? Get your business records in order ◦Have your business plan ready. ◦Be able to describe your recordkeeping procedures and accounting system. ◦Find out what books and records the lender will want to see, and gather them.
What Lenders Require Business loan application form Complete business plan Cash flow projections (monthly for 12 months, quarterly or annual for years 2 and 3) Personal financial statement Personal tax returns (2 to 3 years) Other documentation (optional) ◦Accounts payable aging ◦Accounts receivable aging ◦Inventory status reports ◦Appraisals
The Cs of Credit Credit history Character Capacity Collateral Conditions
Tips for Working with Your Banker Deal with a local bank when possible Make an appointment Select a banker you trust Select a banker familiar with your type of business Dress appropriately Ask for advice or clarification of anything you do not understand Develop a long-term relationship Know your needs Present a complete proposal Explain uses of the loan Be flexible Be patient Tell the truth Recommend your banker to others
Ratio Analysis: Understanding the Financial Health of Your Business Current Ratio = current assets ÷ current liabilities Example: $1,000 ÷ $500 = 2 (or 2:1) Debt to Equity Ratio = long-term liabilities ÷ owner’s equity Example: $5,000 ÷ $10,000 =.5 (or 1:2) Net Profit Margin = net profit ÷ gross revenue from sales Example: $1,000 ÷ $10,000 =.10 or 10% What do ratios tell you about the health of your business? How are ratios used by lending institutions?
Warning Signs of Credit Card Fraud If an order shows two or more of these warning signs, take extra steps to confirm that the buyer is for real before you ship! Orders for multiple expensive items or large amounts of cheaper items. Multiple large orders within a short time frame, especially from buyers in Russia, Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia. Overnight shipping, especially to foreign countries. Vague contact information, such as a private box address, an unlisted phone number or a free, Web- based email address. Large orders from “businesses” that don’t appear when you search for their names online. A shipping address that doesn’t match the credit card billing address. Asking the delivery person to leave the package at the door. To avoid fraud, require the person who receives the package to sign for it.
Check Acceptance Guidelines Call the bank that issued the check and ask if there are sufficient funds in the account to cover it. Ask for personal identification, such as a driver’s license. Look closely at the picture and signature on the license, and jot down the license number on the check. Decide what checks you will take beforehand. The SBA recommends never accepting checks that are undated, postdated or more than 30 days old. You should also avoid third-party checks. Use a company that verifies checks. The verifying company assumes the risk if a check doesn’t clear the bank. Never accept a check written for more than your selling price. Some crooks will write bad checks for more than the selling price of an item, and then ask the merchant to return the amount they overpaid. Never issue a refund before the check clears. If you refund money you haven’t actually gotten yet, you run the risk of an even bigger loss!
Smart Credit Policies Base your credit decisions on the individual customer’s creditworthiness. Realize that the credit terms you offer might differ from one customer to the next. Your best customers deserve more generous terms. (The reverse is also true: Your worst customers deserve less generous credit terms.) If a customer is late on payments, you may have to reduce or eliminate the credit terms you offer that customer until he or she re-establishes a good payment record. Expect to achieve your ideal credit policy only through trial and error. You’re bound to make some errors about who’s a good credit risk and who isn’t. Consider your policy in relation to your cash flow. Your policy should not endanger the cash flow you need to operate your business. Remember that your credit policy will change over time, along with your business’s growth and economic conditions. Reevaluate it at least once a year to make sure it still meets your needs.
Five Basics of Negotiation 1. There would be no negotiation unless both sides expected a benefit. 2. The goal of negotiation is to create a new situation that’s better than the old one. 3. Unfair deals last only while one party feels weaker than the other. 4. Win-win negotiation delivers the best, most enduring deals. 5. Like any other skill, negotiation can be learned and practiced.
Negotiation Strategies Soft Negotiators ◦Avoid conflict at any cost ◦Usually don’t stand up for their best interests Hard Negotiators ◦Aggressive and competitive ◦May use threats or bluffs ◦Not trusting or trustworthy Win-Win Negotiators ◦Work toward the best outcome for all ◦Flexible, but can be firm when it’s appropriate ◦Attack problems, not people
Stages of Negotiation Setting an Agenda ◦Why are you negotiating? ◦What are the issues? What are the goals? Voicing Demands and Offers ◦What are your interests and positions? ◦What do you want, and what are you willing to give in return? Working to Minimize Differences ◦Where do interests overlap? ◦Where is the common ground? Closing the Deal ◦“Win-win” means both sides are better off than when they started.
Traits of Effective Negotiators Good negotiators: ◦Understand their counterparts’ interests and perspectives ◦Understand the difference between positions and interests ◦Understand the difference between real power and perceived power ◦Know their settlement range ◦Know their BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) ◦Know when to walk away from negotiations
Overcoming Negotiation Problems Recognize manipulative tactics such as stonewalling, bullying and deception. Open your ears and listen. Being a careful listener is the best advantage you can have. Get in the other person’s shoes. Understanding your counterpart’s point of view will help you find common ground. Slow down and regroup. When things get stressful, taking time out will clear your head. Get off the hot seat! Don’t make important decisions on the spot. Go to a safe location to consider your options. Know when to walk away. Knowing your limits ahead of time gives you more control over the situation.
Key Contract Management Tasks Create processes and practices Review timeframe Evaluate benchmarks and measures Define the responsibilities of each partner Identify contingency plans Establish regular meeting times Resolve conflicts and problems Review performance and improve where necessary
Dangers of Unmanaged Growth Failing to manage growth can affect every area of your business’s performance. Major pitfalls include: ◦Inability to maintain consistent performance standards ◦Low employee morale, and high employee turnover ◦Loss of profitability ◦Loss of customer loyalty ◦Lower quality and professionalism ◦Slowdown in business learning and competitiveness ◦Inability of overworked leadership to provide direction ◦Cash flow problems ◦Inefficient use of resources ◦Stress and burnout ◦Loss of focus on core objectives ◦Poor communication among employees
Moving to the Next Level Celebrate what you’ve accomplished! Organize what you’ve learned! Fill in the blanks! Ask for help! Finish your business plan! Check and double-check! Polish your presentation! Don’t stop planning! Take advantage of the NxLeveL ® Training Network!