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Small Business Development Center

You need to hire in a tight labor market. How can you recruit the right candidates to apply? First, brainstorm what knowledge, education, and professional skills you need from your ideal employee. To help with this brainstorming, you might consider the ideal employee’s experience or career so far.

But remember, you are hiring for the future. So for this, you need to consider the mind-set, values, and personal skills that describe your ideal employee. Sometimes, the perfect fit may come in an unlikely package. A person may lack the formal education or the exact experience you think you need. However, if the person has a demonstrated can-do attitude, excellent problem-solving skills, loves assisting others, and is a quick-learner, he or she could become your ideal employee.

A lot of business owners look for employees who are versatile, self-motivated, and willing to grow with the company. To attract this type of individual, put yourself in the applicant’s shoes and describe the future career path of your ideal employee. What might their position look like next year, two years from now, or within five years if they join your company today?

Alternatively, if you are looking for someone to do a long-term, consistent, repetitive set of activities that doesn’t necessarily result in an upward career path two or five years down the road, that’s okay. Instead, emphasize values such as stability, mastery, or life-balance to recruit the ideal employee for that position.

If you would like assistance flushing out the specifics of your ideal employee, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is here to coach you through this process. We offer additional advising services related to personnel or staffing, such as:

  • Mapping out current and future positions and areas of responsibility within your organization
  • Writing detailed job descriptions to clarify employee roles and responsibilities
  • Doing a cost/benefit analysis of increasing your staffing levels
  • Developing an in-house employee training plan

 

You don’t have to work in isolation or go-it-alone. The SBDC can help you get the help you need! Contact us today to schedule a confidential, no-cost appointment with a professional business advisor.

Post date: 201811

Sometimes, I joke that bodybuilding gave me enough (and sometimes a false sense of) confidence to do the MBA program. Also, that it humbled my ex-full-time-yoga-instructor-self about the “ease” of yoga. Both statements are actually 100% true, for which, I am extremely grateful.

Undoubtedly, we all know there are tons of health benefits from exercising. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Lifts mood 
  • Reduces feelings of depression
  • Improves strength and heart health 
  • Increases longevity and quality of life 

We’ve also seen the articles about the most successful CEOs and business owners who swear by exercise as a means to optimize their performance; the theory being that a physical prime is directly correlated to performance in other aspects of life. 

Which… going back to the health benefits of exercise: 

  • Builds confidence 
  • Advances learning abilities and creativity 
  • Keeps you competitive 
  • Boosts energy and productivity 

While I believe all those things to be true and fabulous, I, Haley, the program manager for the WWU SBDC, like exercise because it’s symbolic (blame the creative in me). Without further ado, here are a few reasons I like the gym:

Gives shape and tone to the day.

Five years ago, a piece of fitness advice I received and reflect on often is, “It can get pretty crazy out there, use this for stability and sanity. Be consistent here and that will follow you.”

I work out in the morning (and, honestly, often at night… cardio, yoga, dance class, etc. I’m active, okay?). It gives me a space to spend time with myself, listen to me, decompress and assess what is truly important. Even when I stall or dread it, finishing a workout is one thing accomplished and checked off the to-do list. 

Anyone else feel like crossing one thing off a list allows energy for, “I am a finisher. What’s next!?”
 
Trims the “fat” out of life.

When I started working out regularly, it changed so many of my habits. 
1. I ate out less ($$$ savings!!).
2. My true friends stuck around because we held similar values for ourselves, lives and time. 
3. I simplified in general and deeply understood discipline. Focusing, being thorough and really successful at a couple things is really hard work. Ain’t no wool being pulled over anyone’s eyes for experts in any field!
4. I can get more done and know when I can take on extra things because I identify my needs and priorities. 

Resistance training for life.

Simple: look at all that hard stuff you just did! What else can you show up for like that and kick booty? 

This is tenacity. 

Exercise is a ritual that facilitates my ability to be my best self. I don’t think your ritual necessarily has to be the gym (Although, as mentioned, there are real physiological and psychological benefits because of… biology and chemical transfers… but we won’t get into that:-). Alternative examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Make your bed
  • Schedule “off-time” or “Me-time”
  •   Schedule your time, in general
  • Meditate 
  • Writer

The key is finding daily, grounding habits for your day-to-day that inform, advance and punctuate your other activities.

Post date: 201811

A lever serves to amplify a force. Plyers, wheel barrows, boat oars, and even our own arms and legs amplify an input force to create an even greater output force. This is the essence of leverage. In the financial world, leverage is more narrowly defined. In business financing, leverage is a strategy that revolves around borrowing money (debt) to create a disproportionate return than you could have created with your own current asset base.

For many small companies, debt is the primary source of funding. Selling equity too early will result in a loss of ownership disproportional to what you think your company will grow into, and self-financing might not be possible. If Jeff Bezos financed through equity early on, he wouldn’t be worth nearly what he is today thanks to his shares in Amazon. If he only used what he owned, then Amazon wouldn’t have grown at the rate that it did.

The two advantages of financing through debt is that it can enhance your earnings and it will give you a favorable tax treatment since interest expense is tax deductible. Debt is a powerful tool if used correctly. There is no shame in trying to minimize your debt levels, that is a conservative approach that will minimize your risks, however, debt shouldn’t always be feared either, rather understood. It’s a tool, and it has pros and cons worth understanding, especially if you are trying to grow quicker than you are in your current state.

           

Let’s look at an example of how leverage can amplify your returns.

Scenario 1 (No Leverage): Your company uses $500,000 of its own money to buy a factory. So no leverage is used and no interest payments need to be made. The next year your business generates $200,000 in profits directly thanks to your investment. After one year, you would have a 40% return on your investment. ($200,000 in profits/$500,000 initial investment = 40%).

Scenario 2 (Leverage): This time your company uses $100,000 of its own money and $400,000 in debt to buy the same factory. Let’s say the factory generates the same $200,000 in profit, but after interest payments are made, that number goes down to $175,000. The return you make on your investment is 175%. ($175,000 in profits/$100,000 initial investment = 175%). If you wanted to at this point, you could re-sell the factory, pay off your debt instantly, and you’d be up $175,000 with no skin in the game and all you needed was $100,000.

 

Unfortunately, leverage is a double-edged sword. In the same scenarios above, if you incurred a loss of $200,000 before any interest payment, the roles would be reversed and you would suffer a 40% loss without debt and a 225% loss with the debt financing and interest payment. The disadvantages of debt revolve around the risk. If things don’t go the way you want, then your losses will be disproportionally blown up and you may not have the assets needed to cover your debt payments, resulting in bankruptcy. Likewise, if you start to accumulate too much debt compared to your own assets, then debtors will demand higher interest rates to compensate for the higher risk of bankruptcy you’re incurring.

Financial leverage can be a risky game, especially if your business is cyclical or has low barriers to entry. If, however, your business is steady and the future is cut in stone, then perhaps your business can more easily justify leverage. Like most things in life, there is a natural balance. Finding the right amount of leverage for your business can be difficult and risky without the proper help.

Here at the SBDC, we are available to discuss leverage. While there isn’t a perfect answer for what everyone’s leverage should look like, one of our Certified Business Advisors would love to help you find a leverage ratio that is right for you or point you in the right direction.

           

           

 

Post date: 201811

I first came across the book Different by Youngme Moon in my MBA Marketing Strategy class, and I will admit, it was a required reading. However, it provides a new perspective on how to view competition in a business setting and provokes thinking about your own business differently.

 

Youngme’s message of modern business is extremely simple yet also very powerful: most companies have too narrow of a view in their respective market, and will blindly follow their direct competition. Companies will compete time and time again usually on one focus: price, margins, target market of consumers, etc. Consequently, the harder they compete, the less differentiated each business becomes amongst each other. Youngme Moon likes to call them “the herd”.

 

The most successful brands that Youngme writes about in Different are the brands that were willing to redefine the terms of their competition and embrace one-of-a-kind thinking. Youngme likes to call these brands, “Idea Brands”. They are not perfect brands, but in a way, have a perfect way of thinking about the industry they are in.

 

Youngme highlights three different types of idea brands: reversal, breakaway, and hostile. All three offer a whole-scale rethinking of the value proposition in their respective categories.

 

Youngme’s example for a Reversal brand is Google. At the beginning of time, long before “just Google it” was a phrase, there was in fact an alternate search engine. Anyone remember Yahoo? The Yahoo homepage, and other competitors at the time, was a plethora of stuff. Weather, stock quotes, email, entertainment news, games, etc. Yahoo was setting the consumption standard for how people accessed information on the internet. But then came along Google. When Google first launched, Google’s homepage was nearly empty. There were no pictures, weather, shopping, nothing. Google took away what ordinary users didn’t realize at the time was unnecessary. While Yahoo, AOL, and other competitors were getting ready to shift gears again, Google stepped in and threw the whole industry into reverse.

 

A Breakaway brand is defined by creating a new subcategory in an industry that is well beyond the next business cycle. What a breakaway positioning offers is an opportunity to achieve long-term differentiation from other competitors in the industry. Take Cirque du Soleil as an example. They entered the circus industry by being everything a circus is not. They took away the animals, had no ringmasters, but instead added in new forms of entertainment categories - dance, opera, etc. By combining the overall circus theme with modern entertainment, Cirque du Soleil was able to enter the market in a new category that they created, or broke away from the current industry standards.

 

Hostile brands are all about marketing in a non-classical sense. Some brands do this by marketing their product shortcomings, some do it by being evasive with their distribution process. One great example of this is the Mini Cooper. At the time, the Mini Cooper was about to be one of the smallest cars on the market, if not the smallest. Rather than market towards all of its individual product features of the car, the Mini Cooper marketed strictly towards how small it was. Rather than straying away from concerns that the car would be too small for consumers, the brand literally marketed with the message entailing something like this, “the car is small, deal with it.” The hostility of their campaign is what led to the success of the introduction of the Mini Cooper into the car industry.

 

It can be extremely scary to branch away from the herd and start something new, but the success stories given in this book are unmatched. There are many uncertainties, and a lot can go wrong, but with the business world rapidly growing and competition increasing, why not try to be different?

 

Here at the SBDC, we are always available to discuss marketing strategy. If you are struggling to articulate your value proposition, are looking to build your business, or have a one-of-a-kind idea but need help getting off the ground, one of our Certified Business Advisors would love to help.

 

So if you’re ever in the mood for a light read about marketing strategy, or want to learn more about how to become an “idea brand”, consider picking up Different by Youngme Moon.

Post date: 201811