Springtime for Small Business

The time around the changing of the year is commonly used for reflection and revitalization. We make promises of things that we will change about ourselves, or we set goals for the year, tough goals, that we may or may not reach. Today, I want to focus on something much more practical. With the longer days and warmer weather, you will probably be preparing to rid your house of the clutter that has accumulated over the past year. This is a great opportunity to do the same for your small business. Small business owners should take some time to perform some spring cleaning on their businesses.

What do I mean by that? Spring cleaning is all about getting rid of clutter. “Clutter” is anything that is inhibiting you from creating value for your customers.  For your business, “clutter” may be the Britannica-sized stack of papers on your desk. It may be the product line that isn’t selling. It may even be the employee who shows up late, drags their feet, is rude with customers, and adds about as much value to your business as the pen you’re fiddling with while you read this. Whatever it may be, it is disrupting processes and decreasing revenue. Spring cleaning is all about eliminating these things.

Why do I believe this is a good activity for your business? Because I’ve seen your desk. Not your desk specifically, but the desk of a small business owner. It is a desk that bears less resemblance to a desk than it does the Amazon rainforest. As a small business owner, you have a plethora of responsibilities, and when these overwhelm you it can lead to disorganization and waste. Spring cleaning gives you a great opportunity to ask yourself questions like “how much time am I wasting on everyday tasks?” and “what can I do to change that?” You don’t need to find drastic pivots to make to your business model or philosophy. Save that nonsense for New Years. The goal is to look for simple improvements to make to your business and your daily routine.

Why spring? No particular reason, just tradition. Also, with this being around tax time, you may already be getting ideas for things that need to be cut or changed. More than anything, the end of another long winter often makes for an influx of productivity from Midwesterners, who are weary of hiding in their caves to escape the cold. Now, you can obviously choose a different time to do your spring cleaning, although then it will just be “cleaning,” and no one likes boring ol’ cleaning. Whenever you do your “spring” cleaning, the important thing is that you are setting aside time to identify and eliminate the clutter in your business.

The Amazon…or your desk?

Remember, spring cleaning is not another opportunity to make sweeping resolutions about the direction of your business. You should be looking for small, tangible changes to make that immediately increase productivity or improve business processes. Most importantly, your focus should be on eliminating, not adding. This is a time to get whatever is worthless or inhibiting out of your business. So for Pete’s sake, clean your desk.

America’s SBDC Iowa: Who We Are, What We Do

America’s SBDC Iowa has been providing quality business counseling for small business owners and entrepreneurs since 1981. Still, many are unaware of the services we provide, and the benefits that clients experience. If you are unsure about receiving counseling from the Iowa SBDC, read on.

Our Mission

To support the collaborative economic development of Iowa by providing entrepreneurs and businesses with individual consultation and educational resources necessary to assist their businesses to succeed.

Brief history

The history of the SBDC can be traced back as far as the 1940’s, when some of the first University-based extension services were presented in legislation. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that the University Business Development Center, the first incarnation of the SBDC, was established at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA. By 1979, the network had 16 participants, including universities in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri. Then, in 1980, President Carter signed the SBDC network into law with the Small Business Development Act. The Iowa SBDC was established in 1981, as one of the first 20 centers added to the network.

For more on the history of the SBDC, click here

Overview of services

The Small Business Development Center was created to educate and support small business owners across the country through no-cost counseling. Because of the emphasis on client education, the SBDC program has been the largest and most successful technical assistance program the federal government has provided for small businesses. We provide consulting in the most vital areas of your business, including:

  • Business planning
  • Market research
  • Capital infusion
  • Legal requirements
  • Exit strategies

SBDC counselors bring years of experience in a variety of industries, and many of them have owned small businesses of their own. This helps them see things from the perspective of the business owner. Additionally, they can draw on their personal experience to help business owners and entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls that they may not see coming.

For more on the services provided by the Iowa SBDC, click here

Impact

The Iowa SBDC has consistently provided a significant positive impact on small business since 1981. In 2017, the SBDC impacted Iowa in the following way:

  • 293 New business starts
  • 1,845 Iowa jobs created
  • 4,044 clients counseled
  • $108,668,237 in capital infusion
  • $111,807,427 in increased sales

For more on the impact of the Iowa SBDC, click here

 

Testimonials

Clients have a lot to say about the SBDC. Here are some words of praise from Iowa small business owners just like yourself:

“Having access to the resources to help turn our idea into a business was a vital part that got us where we are today. How much interest the SBDC has in every business just goes to show how much they care and want us to succeed, which means a lot.” – Mikayla Sullivan, Kinosol SBC (Ames)

“We always met wherever and whenever. Communication was always great. They helped me with 3 year projections before I purchased the business. Within a short amount of time, they were able to help me with the foundation of the business. I don’t know if we would even be in business without the help of the SBDC.” – Theo Ramsey, Ramsey’s Market (Lenox)

“The SBDC is a great asset to rural communities that need help to build businesses in their communities.”- Jessica Kannegieter, Mud on Main Coffee Shop, Café & Roastery (Aurelia and Cherokee)

“The SBDC is a great resource to help put together a loan application and financial projections for securing a bank loan. They are there to answer questions and to bounce ideas off of, and are not afraid to ask you (the owner) tough questions to make you think about your business decisions.”- Terry Schnack, C.A.R.S. (West Burlington)

For success stories about the business above, and many, many more, click here

Whether you have a new business idea and don’t know where to start, or are an established business looking to grow, America’s SBDC Iowa has the expertise and resources you need to find success. Contact us today to schedule your first session, and just see how far you can go!

To request counseling from America’s SBDC Iowa, click here

Great Coaches, and What They Teach Us

Football. America’s most popular sport. Most of us who will watch the game on Sunday will look for big plays from stars like Rob Gronkowski, Fletcher Cox, and Tom Brady. However, we will pay little attention to the chess match occurring between the men roaming the sidelines. In our star-driven sports leagues, we often miss the valuable lessons that great coaching can teach us. The way a coach runs a team can be a great model for how a small business owner runs their organization. As Super Bowl LII approaches, let’s see what we can learn from three of the greatest masterminds in NFL history.

Vince Lombardi

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Lombardi’s Packers dominated the NFL in the 1960s, going 98-30-4 and winning five championships in nine seasons. From day 1, Lombardi made his players commit to excellence. He established a culture of winning in Green Bay, bringing in veterans like Emlen Tunnell to provide the necessary leadership, and jettisoning players who didn’t fit his mold. He brought attention to detail, spending hours watching film to gain an advantage, and expecting his players to do the same. More than anything, he communicated to his team that he expected hard work, dedication, and discipline from them, and embodied all of those qualities himself. The success of his strategy is plain to see.

Lombardi’s success was built on a culture of hard work, determination, and “individual commitment to a group effort.” Your small business should be, too. There was nothing innovative about Vince Lombardi’s offense. It relied on a power run game and efficient passing, just like most offenses of that era. Your coffee shop relies on great coffee and a warm atmosphere, just like most coffee shops of today. So what will make you successful? Communicating your vision to your employees in a clear way. Being the type of worker you expect your employees to be. Creating buy-in by rewarding exceptional performance. In short, a winning culture.

Before becoming Green Bay’s head coach, Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordinator for the highly successful New York Giants. He won two championships with New York in four seasons. At his first team meeting as Packer’s head coach, Lombardi famously looked around at his players and told them “I have never been on a losing team, gentlemen, and I do not intend to start now.” Sure enough, the Packers would never have a losing season under Lombardi.

Chuck Noll

“Champions are not champions because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.”

In 1969, Chuck Noll became head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a franchise that had been around for 36 seasons, and only had a winning record in eight of them. They had never won a championship. They had never even won a playoff game. However, over the course of four seasons, Noll turned the Steelers from losers into winners. He accomplished this by emphasizing fundamentals. He spent time in practice focusing on things like footwork, stances, and proper tackling, things you wouldn’t expect professional football players to need much brushing up on. He was famous for emphasizing that football is about blocking and tackling, and avoiding the media spotlight both during his career and after retirement. He also developed a defensive scheme that built the Steelers into 4-time Super Bowl champs in the 1970s. In all things, Chuck Noll was controlled, intellectual, and understated.

Noll brought a singularity of purpose to the Pittsburgh Steelers that the franchise had never known. In emphasizing the details, he focused his players on one goal: winning. Everything else he tuned out. This is a valuable lesson for small business owners. The best companies aren’t always the ones that are constantly innovating, or continuously pivoting to explore new opportunities. They capitalize on their current opportunities by focusing on fundamentals. Quality products. On-time deliveries. Customer service and retention. Consistency and efficiency. These are the things that make a business successful long-term.

There aren’t many quotes from Chuck Noll on the internet. As a coach, he wasn’t a motivator, and he wasn’t one for long-winded speeches. He didn’t give many interviews with the media. He let his work speak for itself. 23 years, 209 wins, and 4 Super Bowls later, he quietly rode into the sunset as one of the NFL’s all-time greats.

Bill Belichick

“If you sit back & spend too much time feeling good about what you did in the past, you’re going to come up short next time.”

In case you haven’t heard, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl again. This isn’t just the second time in two years. This is the eighth time since 2000, when Bill Belichick became their head coach. This was the 16th time in 18 seasons that the Patriots finished with double-digit wins. This nearly-unparalleled level of success can be attributed the Belichick’s simple, but profound philosophy: “No Days Off.” After winning his fifth title last year, Belichick pointed out that “as great as today is, in all honesty, we’re five weeks behind 30 teams in the league in preparing for the 2017 season.” Belichick wasn’t about to take time reveling in his massive success. He didn’t want to. He was ready to get back to work.

We all need time to rest. However, business owners simply can’t afford as much time as most people. To successfully build a company from the ground up, it takes a type of drive and work ethic that most of your friends might see as crazy. But to you, it may not even seem like work. “I don’t see this as work, this actually beats working,” says Belichick. The old adage goes something like “if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Of course, even the most passionate of entrepreneurs have those days when running a business feels like a grind of epic proportions. But few would trade it for something else.

Belichick is preparing to coach in a Super Bowl for the eleventh time in his career, his eighth as a head coach. Over the course of his storied tenure, he has never taken his foot off the gas pedal. Most coaches would have retired by now, being satisfied with their millions of dollars and notoriety. But some live for the grind, and wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

 

Owning a business isn’t always as clear-cut as coaching a football team. However, just like movies, sports are often a great metaphor for life. There are valuable lessons to be learned, both from playing, and from watching the great ones. For small business owners especially, many of the traits that win out in sports, win out in life. So as you watch on Sunday, don’t merely be a spectator; be a student. There’s plenty to learn out there.

The Value of Small Business

Where did you spend your time growing up? What are your favorite memories of your hometown? For many of you, the answers to these questions will involve a local business. I was fortunate enough to grow up working in a family coffee shop. I saw firsthand the benefits a small business can provide to a community, and they go far beyond your morning cup of coffee. They give your town personality, provide superior service, and make a greater economic impact than chain stores.

 

Identity

Small businesses are often the defining aspect of your community’s identity. Whether it’s the coffee shop where you and your friends meet every weekend, the bookstore where you buy your kids’ Christmas presents, or the thrift store where you design your wardrobe, local businesses create the environment that is your town. They give the community places to gather, they provide goods and services from trusted sources, and they probably gave you your first job. Almost every town has “their spot,” the place to which you immediately refer visitors to show them what your community is all about, and some lucky towns even have more than one. These businesses give their communities life, and occupy an important place in our hearts.

 

Personalized Service

In a similar vein, there is something special about supporting a business owner that you know. This is even more true when you know you are going to receive personal, sincere service, something that superstores and online outlets just can’t match. The tailor-made service you receive at a local business comes from real relationships forged between the owners and their customers. My parents used to sit down and talk with customers for extended periods of time, showing genuine concern for what was going on in their lives. The relationships they forged with their customers were irreplaceable. While this may violate one of Don Corleone’s most important rules (“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”), it ultimately means a better experience and a better product for the people in the community.

 

Local economic development

For every $100 spent at a local business, an average of $68 stay in your community, compared with $43 out of every $100 from non-local businesses. This local spending includes wages, local supplies and services, and community donations. Additionally, small businesses are likely to be the first job for many of the kids in your community. This gives the added benefit of providing work experience in what is likely to be a friendly environment. I remember working with a lot of my friends from high school at my family coffee shop. In addition to economic benefits from supplies and wages, small business owners are more likely to support local booster clubs and events, providing additional value for the community.

 

Small businesses and the people who run them are irreplaceable in a community. That’s why America’s SBDC Iowa’s mission is “to support the collaborative economic development of Iowa by providing entrepreneurs and businesses with individual consultation and educational resources necessary to assist their businesses to succeed.” If you need help growing your business, or have a new idea you want to test, let us know. Consultations are free, and we have 15 centers conveniently located throughout the state. Let us help get you off the ground.

 

iowasbdc.org

iowasbdc@iastate.edu

515-294-2030

 

Special Thanks: Leah Pitts

3 Affordable Marketing Methods

Everyone knows marketing is essential for businesses, especially small businesses. Without the help of media exposure that larger firms experience, it can be difficult to spread the word about your business and your service. Also, it often seems that the price you pay isn’t worth the benefits you receive. Furthermore, marketing is a constantly evolving sector of the business world, making it hard to keep up with competitors. What every small business needs is an affordable way to stay relevant in their communities. Below, I will outline three ways you can spread the word about your business without breaking the bank.

Social Media

This is an obvious one. As a matter of fact, most if not all of you reading this now probably implement social media as a marketing channel. But aside from the bare minimum of occasional Facebook posts, how can you use social media to market your business?

  1. Ask for feedback: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all serve as direct lines of communication between you and your customers. Why not take advantage of that to see what they think? A simple “how are we doing?”-type question on one of these platforms lets customers know you’re interested in their opinions, and want to improve their experience as much as possible.
  2. Utilize hashtags: Hashtags help your posts show up in searches on social media sites and in Google. They are especially useful for Twitter and Instagram. Try to use phrases that are commonly searched. These can also be used to start a conversation about your business, or involving your business.
  3. Content, content, content: Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO at Kodak, writes in a 2016 article for Fortune that “Developing quality content should be the rule, not the exception, regardless of industry.” For small businesses, this means pictures and videos of your business, customer testimonials, blogging, and above all a consistent online presence. Being active, active, on social media is the easiest way to reach customers of all types in 2017.

Email

In a 2015 article for Entrepreneur, Kabbage CMO Victoria Treyger advises making email a “heavy hitter.” “Not only is it effective,” she says, “it’s also desired. In study after study, consumers regularly say that email is their preferred channel for brand communications.” Emails can be used to inform customers of upcoming sales, new items in stock, or new plans for the businesses future. All of these things help keep your customers engaged.

When emailing customers, make sure your message is clear and concise. Just because people like email marketing doesn’t mean they want to read an essay. Make sure the design is clean, and add something interactive, such as a website or Facebook link. If you are promoting a deal on your website, something like an “Order Now” button would be appropriate.

Consider utilizing a marketing platform such as Campaigner for this tactic. These services are very affordable, and help you design email templates, automate the process, and maximize the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Considering the already heavy burden on small business owners, services such as these can add a lot of value to your marketing. 

Texting

Texting is a fast and easy way to reach customers, especially those in their teens and early twenties. In some cases, it can be even more effective than email marketing. Texts are easier to open, and take less time to read, making them an ideal marketing channel for young consumers.

A brief note before I can go on: spam texting can cause problems with the FCC. Minda Zetlin, in an article for Inc.com, advises business owners to “make sure customers really do want your texts – and you can prove it.” In other words, make sure you have a record of customers who have opted to receive your marketing texts.

One of the biggest keys to successful text message marketing is to offer something of immediate value. KeySplash Creative CEO Susan Gunelius, in a 2012 article for Entrepreneur, advises that since “text messaging is an instantaneous medium, you should include real-time offers. Whether you’re providing information about a sale or a new product, the message should describe the benefits of acting now.” Gunelius also advises users to identify themselves when communicating with customers, to avoid “the spam treatment.”

Remember, marketing your business doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are plenty of ways to affordably communicate with consumers. Oftentimes, these are just as effective, even more effective, than other traditional marketing channels, such as radio or print ads. The tactics outlined above would mean more work for the owner, but would go a long way in freeing up capital to compensate employees, expand your business, or improve your products.

 

For further reading:

Best SMS Marketing Software – fitsmallbusiness.com

 

6 Ways to Market Your Business for Less Than $100 – Entrepreneur

 

101 Small Business Marketing Ideas – The Balance

 

Iowa City Entrepreneurs are SBDC Award Winners

Contacts:
Tricia Janes, Iowa SBDC, (515) 294-5595, triciaj@iastate.edu
Paul Heath, University of Iowa SBDC, (319) 335-3742, heath@uiowa.edu

Iowa City, Iowa– The Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is pleased to announce that David Schwindt, owner of L8NT, Iowa City, is the winner of the SBDC’s Business of the Month Award.

Paul Heath, regional director of the University of Iowa’s SBDC, Iowa City, says the following about David, “He is an innovative entrepreneur who is an Iowa City police officer by day and a developer by night. He has developed a process for finding stolen cell phones, laptops, game consoles- any wi-fi enabled device.”

Schwindt’s software is designed to run “behind the scenes” on computer systems already installed in squad cars to detect signals of stolen devices within a few hundred feet away. “It’ll pop up on the screen notifying (officers) what the device is, what agency entered it, any notes on the case, and it’ll open up a Google Maps system where it will start plotting pins on the map.”

Due to Cloud technology, each department running the L8NT software has access to the database of known stolen items. Johnson Country Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek remarks, “Somebody could come here from Washington, D.C. that has a stolen device and all of a sudden we’ll see that it’s popping up in small town Iowa.”

The Iowa SBDC Business of the Month Award will be presented to David Schwindt in Iowa City by SBDC Regional Director Paul Heath. For more information on L8NT, visit their website at https://www.latentwireless.com.

The Iowa Small Business Development Center program is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s College of Business. Partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the organization has 15 regional assistance centers located strategically across the state. Since program inception in 1981, the Center has helped hundreds of thousands of Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs through no cost, confidential, customized, professional business counseling and practical, affordable training.

For more information on Iowa Small Business Development Center programs or services, call (515) 294-2030 or visit www.iowasbdc.org.

Interviewing: Some Guidelines to Follow

Job interviews can be tough as an employer. In most instances, you don’t know the candidate beforehand, and have to learn enough about them in a 30-45 minute interview to determine if you’re willing to let them behind the counter of your business (or on the factory floor, in the office, etc.). There is no surefire way to interview that will reveal which candidate is the best. However, there are guidelines you can follow that will help you learn about the candidates, and give you enough of a sense of them to make a good decision. Let’s start by looking at ways to prepare for an interview.

The first part of preparation is getting to know your candidate. One way is by reviewing their resume. In addition to reviewing the information they provide, review their LinkedIn profile, and make use of the information presented their. Be wary of using outlets such as Facebook, as you may be running up against discrimination rules. You don’t want to go into an interview with any biases about the candidate, so make sure you have the right attitude before they arrive. After you have reviewed the candidate’s information and qualifications, come up with a list of questions to ask the candidate. I will go into further detail on this below. Lastly, select an appropriate environment for the interview. A good rule is to select somewhere quiet and professional. Coffee shops are common, and some libraries have small study rooms you can use. Of course, if you have your own office, that would probably work the best.

When the interview starts, observe the candidate as you listen to them. Be on the lookout for “closed-off” posture, such as crossed arms. Additionally, take note of whether or not the candidate dressed appropriately. During the interview, don’t be afraid to delve deeper into questions. Nikoletta Bika, for workable.com, advises: “Asking one question about a past experience may not tell you a lot about a candidate. You don’t just want to hear their story. You want to understand their way of thinking, how they reached a solution, what was the impact of their actions and how others perceived them.” It can be very helpful to ask questions that force the candidate to expand on their past experiences. Miss Bika also reminds us that the “interview isn’t only about [the interviewer] assessing the candidate. It’s also a chance to present the company in a way that will persuade the best candidate to accept their offer.” This is a reminder that a job interview isn’t meant to be a one-way affair. You need to be selling your business just like the candidate is selling themselves. Also, it’s a good idea to take notes, especially if you are interviewing multiple candidates.

There are a number of good questions you can ask the candidate. While I’m sure you have heard most of the common selections, here are a few less-used interview questions that can help you determine if a candidate is the right fit for your business:

  • Tell me about a time that you made a mistake at work. How did you handle it?
  • What do you expect from your employer?
  • “What are the three most important attributes or skills that you believe you would bring to our company if we hired you?” (com)
  • “What did you like most about (a job on their resume)? What did you like least about this job?” (com)

These questions help you get a sense for what motivates a candidate, as well as how they interact with their coworkers. Most interview questions are meant to reveal something about the interviewee’s cultural fit, expectations, motivations, and skills. There are plenty of resources available to help you develop a set of interview questions (see below).

Always finish the interview by asking the candidate what questions they have. These can tell you a lot about the candidate. If they don’t have questions, or if they have very basic questions, it could point to a lack of interest or preparation. The questions they ask may be just as important as the answers they give you in determining what type of employee they will be.

Interviewing candidates is one of the toughest parts of growing as a small business. There is only so much you can tell about a potential employee’s character, work ethic, and skill in a single job interview, so be sure to do your research beforehand. Always remember that you have more than just answers to judge a candidate on (body language, apparent preparation). Also, remember to come up with your script and stick to it, for all of your candidates. Everyone has their own way of interviewing, but these guidelines will help you identify which candidates are the best fit for your business, and which ones to let go.

 

Special thanks to: Amy Dutton, Michael Wampler

For further reading:

Interview Techniques from Experienced Interviewers – workable.com

Best Interview Questions for Employers to Ask Applicants – thebalance.com

Professional Recruiters Reveal 16 of the Best Interview Questions to Ask – insperity.com

Recruiting for Small Businesses

By Tyler Raymie

Recruiting isn’t an issue that is often associated with small business owners. Often, owners will simply hire the first candidates they interview to fill an opening, so they can get back to running the business. However, for many customers, your employees will make or break their experience. When this is considered, it becomes apparent that finding quality employees is vital to the success of any growing company. With that in mind, let’s take a brief, high-level look at some of the major questions associated with recruiting.

What type of people am I looking for? Obviously, the necessary skills of employees will vary by what kind of job you have open. However, there are certain character traits that are common among great employees in any industry. Three common examples are:

  1. According to a 2012 Forbes article by Alan Hall, this is always “the first factor to consider.” It is essential for employees to possess “the necessary skills, experiences, and education” to provide first-rate job performance.
  2. I like this one, because many other factors play into it, such as reliability, accountability, and work ethic. An employee who is committed to a business feels that they have a personal investment in the business, and will put forth a greater effort to see it succeed. You want employees who aren’t afraid of commitment, and that are looking for more than just a paycheck.
  3. This is another one that implies other qualities, such as creativity, teamwork, and a willingness to learn. An adaptable employee can thrive in a wide variety of situations, and so can be incredibly valuable for a small business owner who has a multitude of varying tasks to complete.

There are other qualities that are important to look for, but these three are among the most common from CEO’s and business owners.

What tools are available for recruiting? Two big ones for small business owners are your local Chamber of Commerce and social media, such as Facebook. Chamber members will usually receive free access to job boards, allowing you to reach a wide selection of candidates. Social media websites such as Facebook, as well professional sites like LinkedIn, allow you to transmit your job opening through your personal and professional network. They also allow you to reach out to your friends, family, and business contacts. This, too, allows you to reach wide variety of candidates, many of them a potential fit for your opening. Print ads in your local newspaper are another option. While you may not be able to reach as many potential candidates, this is still a viable and effective option for reaching out.

How do I recruit the right kind of candidates? The way you present the job opening can go a long way in attracting the right kind of candidates. The staff at Entrepreneur Media suggest that you complete a “job analysis” before writing your ad. This analysis should cover “The physical/mental tasks involved,” “How the job will be done,” “The reason the job exists,” and “The qualifications needed.”  Next, you should write a job description. According to Entrepreneur, “This is basically an outline of how the job fits into the company.” Focus on the position’s responsibilities and goals, as well as “whom that person will report to,” and “how the job relates to other positions in the company.” Once you have these, you can use them to write an ad that will attract the right kind of candidates. Entrepreneur suggests that to write a “targeted ad for your business, look at your job specifications and pull out the top four or five skills that are most essential to the job.” Make sure the requirements are educational and experience-related, as these are the hardest for the candidate to fake.

There is no single, definitive method for recruiting employees. A lot of it depends on the type of business you run, as well as the type of position you need to fill. However, these methods are suitable guidelines that can be applied across industries and settings. It may not seem like a priority, but your employees will define the experience of many of your customers. Hiring the right ones can be the first, most vital step in effective marketing.

 

Special thanks to: Amy Dutton, Haylee Weaver

 

For further reading:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanhall/2012/06/19/the-7-cs-how-to-find-and-hire-great-employees/#1193db8253c8

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248026

https://www.hr360.com/employee-recruitment-hiring/

3 Essential Aspects of a Mission Statement

Last week I talked about why mission statements (or elevator pitches) are important for small businesses. Today, I am going to give some advice for writing them. It may seem like a simple enough task, but you are trying to sum up the primary goal of your business in a few sentences, or less. This can either be an exercise in futility, or a proverbial goldmine for your business, all depending on how much effort you put in. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three essential aspects of your mission statement.

The first thing you need to check with your mission statement is that it is fulfilling its purpose correctly. You want to make sure what you are saying actually means something, and isn’t just some ethereal piece of writing that no one understands and has little consequence in the real world. In a 2012 article for Forbes, Jim Nichols compares a business’ mission statement to the military’s “commander’s intent.” “The commander’s intent focuses on an end state communicated to each and every member,” He writes. “If the commander’s intent is to take that hill, then even the last soldier standing knows that he has to take that hill, regardless of rank, positioning, skill, etc.” Your mission statement should communicate to all you employees your end goal. However, it doesn’t need to be overly specific in doing this.

Secondly, you need to make sure you keep your mission statement simple. It is not where you define how you will achieve your end goal, only where you define your end goal. In a 2014 article for Entrepreneur, Mike Kappel explains; “A mission statement helps you pin down on paper what you are going to achieve.” He goes on; “Don’t let your mission statement constrain your business too much. Just make sure that your mission statement is sensible – but allows for growth.” You don’t want your statement to be too vague, so use language that is easy to understand. A great example of a short mission statement belongs to the nonprofit organization TED: “Spread ideas.” It doesn’t paddle on about how they will spread ideas, or even any specific type of idea. It keeps TED’s mission simple, understandable, and leaves it room to grow. Most importantly, it sums up exactly what TED does in two words.

Lastly, you need to express what makes you unique. This is your mission, not your competitor’s. The website allbusiness.com advises you to “identify any underlying philosophies or values that guide your company.”  Comparing Tesla and Ferrari gives us a good example:

Tesla: “Our goal when we created Tesla a decade ago was the same as it is today: to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”

Ferrari: “To make unique sports cars that represent the finest in Italian design and craftsmanship, both on the track and on the road.”

We can see that although both companies are creators of expensive vehicles, they have highly contrasting mission statements. One is focused on sustainable transport while the other is focused on style and speed. Be sure that your mission statement communicates what makes your goal different from your competitor’s.

This should help you develop a mission statement that represents you. Remember, your mission statement should be personal, and should show that you care about what you are doing. Don’t worry about being too specific, but make it clear enough that it gives your business direction. This may seem like something small, but if it’s done right, it can define your business for years to come.

 

Special thanks to: Susan Pitts, Bryan Ziegler, Todd Rausch, Amy Dutton, Joel Youngs, Tricia Janes

AMERICA’S SBDC IOWA ANNOUNCES NEW REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR ITS AMES CENTER Brian Tapp is the new regional director for the Iowa State University SBDC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

8/17/17

AMERICA’S SBDC IOWA ANNOUNCES NEW REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR ITS AMES CENTER Brian Tapp is the new regional director for the Iowa State University SBDC

AMES, Iowa – America’s SBDC Iowa (SBDC) is pleased to announce that Brian Tapp is the new Regional Director for the Iowa State University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Ames. He started his new position on August 1, 2017.

Tapp will be advising and training entrepreneurs and existing business owners in Boone, Marshall, and Story counties.

“America’s SBDC Iowa is pleased to add Brian Tapp to our team of knowledgeable, experienced, and professional business advisors,” says SBDC State Director Lisa Shimkat. “Brian has considerable business and counseling experience and will provide excellent service to the region’s clients and promoting economic growth in Central Iowa.”

Brian has a wealth of experience in economic development. Previously he worked at The Bank of Missouri as an SBA Loan Officer and Southeast Missouri State University focusing on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Most recently he was in a shared position with the SBDC and the Value‐Added Agriculture program at Iowa State University.

America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Iowa State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran. Inquiries regarding non‐discrimination policies may be directed to the Office of Equal Opportunity, 3410 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa 50011, Tel. 515‐294‐7612, email eooffice@iastate.edu.

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, America’s SBDC Iowa has 15 regional assistance centers located strategically across the state. Since program inception in 1981, the SBDC has helped Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs through no fee, confidential, customized, professional business counseling and practical, affordable training workshops.

For more information on America’s SBDC Iowa programs or services, call (515) 294‐2030 or visit www.iowasbdc.org, https://www.facebook.com/AmericasSBDCIowa, or https://twitter.com/IowaSBDC.

Press Contacts:
Tricia Janes, America’s SBDC Iowa, 515‐294‐2030, triciaj@iastate.edu