Summer for Small Business

This summer has been hot.  With many days climbing into the upper 80’s and 90’s, it’s hard to find motivation to accomplish any amount of work.  All you want to do is hop in the pool, or sit on your couch with a fan.  It can even be hard to run a business in this heat.  Customers may not want to walk or drive to your store to avoid the heat.  Your employees may lose productivity as they take vacations or simply daydream about being outside in the fresh air.

However, you can still improve your business in the summer months.  Here are four ideas to help you keep your business running smoothly when even the air conditioning is struggling.

  1. Take advantage of “rainy days”.

I know many people still use the adage “I’ll save it for a rainy day.”  Generally this means they’re saving some money for when it’s tight, but it also means sometime when a job can be accomplished.  Luckily for us, this summer has brought many rainy days to accomplish tasks.  However, you don’t need to watch the sky to know if it’s a rainy day.  A rainy day can be any time that you can accomplish a task.  Is your business often quiet before 10 am?  Then schedule some time in the morning to work on that bookwork that’s been piling up.  Do five people call on Tuesdays compared to 20 the rest of the week?  If so, start using that day to update your client profiles.  “Rainy days” can happen at any time.

  1. Make sure all your systems are running smoothly.

This one is especially true if your business involves a lot of outside work or has many pieces of equipment.  The summer months are the best time to fix anything that may be broken on your office building or within your machinery.  Take this one from me as I have had to set fence posts into the cold ground on Christmas Day and also demolish a building in mid-May.  I would much rather demolish buildings all summer then set one fence post in December.  Your employees will thank you if you accomplish outside tasks during the warm summer months.

  1. Plan an employee or customer appreciation night.

This one can help you express your gratitude to loyal employees and customers.  Rent a park, picnic shelter, or even just offer up your house one night (assuming it can hold all your employees).  Your customers will appreciate the gesture, and it can help build comradery between your employees.  It can also be cheap, especially if it’s an outdoor employee potluck or barbeque.

  1. Take a class

This is a page right out of your college handbook.  If you get behind on your degree, take summer courses.  Running a business is no different.  If you’ve been running your business for a long time, taking a class that is focused on your business can give you new perspective on how to attract customers, create marketing schemes, or simply get you up to date with new rules and regulations.  There are many classes for business owners offered in the summer months.  If you are interested in this, check out www.iowasbdc.org/workshop-calendar/ for different classes, workshops, and seminars offered around the state of Iowa.

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

IRDC Newsletter Article, Nov. 2017: IRDC Expanding Their Impact

Since 1992, the Iowa Rural Development Council (IRDC) has been engaging partners and assisting small towns.  And there are steps being taken to boost the work of the Council and expand its impact.

The IRDC was created as part of an Executive Order and ensuing Farm Bill in 1992.  It received federal funding for many years and was later housed in the Iowa Department of Economic Development.  But both state and federal funding dissolved and the group has operated informally without paid staff since 2005.

In 2016, the IRDC hosted the first-ever Iowa Rural Summit, bringing together 300 individuals from more than 60 rural communities.  That event sparked a resurgence in interest among rural advocates and convinced IRDC partners, who include federal and state agencies, Regents’ institutions and community colleges, utilities, non-profits and statewide associations, to revitalize the Council’s ability to support rural development.

“This is an organization that has impacted rural Iowa for a quarter century and is positioned now to do more,” said IRDC chair Sandy Ehrig, who runs the Iowa Farm Bureau’s “Renew Rural Iowa” program.  “Our rural summit in Jefferson last year was a big step and the Council is ready to build on that momentum.”

Beginning in 2018, IRDC will develop sponsorship levels open to partners, including for-profit businesses, seeking to support strategies and policies that benefit small towns and rural places.  And that will allow the Council to bring on a paid executive director, former USDA Rural Development state director Bill Menner.

Menner, who served at USDA from 2009-2017, was previously economic development director in Poweshiek County.  He will help the IRDC connect with new partners, resource providers and innovative rural communities who can provide successful case studies for other places.

“Rural Iowa has so much, from engaged residents to committed leaders and forward-thinking businesses,” Menner said.  “But many times they start from scratch when they work to develop new ideas or address community needs.  Instead they could be just looking down the road for direction and I think the IRDC can compile and share those best practices.”

The financial resources created through sponsors and engaged members will position the IRDC to launch new programs that address rural issues, build capacity with small towns, and capitalize on opportunities that exist to enhance the viability of rural communities.

Those opportunities may revolve around issues the IRDC sees as central to rural development, from housing to workforce to broadband to entrepreneurship.

For more information about the Iowa Rural Development Council or the 2018 Iowa Rural Summit, contact Bill Menner at iowaruralcouncil@gmail.com or 641-990-4757.

Iowa Rural Development Council Leadership Team (left to right): Rand Fisher, Iowa Area Development Group; Mark Reinig, Iowa State University CIRAS; Bill Menner, IRDC Executive Director; Sandy Ehrig, Iowa Farm Bureau “Renew Rural Iowa”; Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Jim Thompson, Iowa Economic Development Authority; James Hoelscher, University of Northern Iowa Institute for Decision Making; Gary Taylor, Iowa State University Extension.  Not pictured: Kathy Anderson, ABI; Sue Cosner, Iowa Area Development Group; Dave Duncan, Iowa Telecommunications Alliance; Zachary Mannheimer, McClure Engineering.

PollUp.io, Ames

PollUp.io began very simply; just three guys that wanted to create a cool software application. Kenyon Brown, Dave Leo, and Neil Saigal decided to develop a business-to-business tool that would “make work more enjoyable.” They started working on the app in October of 2015 and began developing a company business plan the following March.

PollUp.io discovered the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through Iowa State University’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. “[I] knew [SBDC Regional Director] Ted Bair and immediately felt comfortable working with the organization,” writes Kenyon. The SBDC conducted market research for PollUp.io during the summer of 2016, helping them develop their minimum viable product. After a period of customer discovery and development, PollUp.io launched their pilot program in December of that year. They then used what they learned from the program to refine their product and successfully launched their app commercially on March 6, 2017.

PollUp.io is a feedback software that assists companies with training, engaging, and increasing productivity with employees. “You wouldn’t check in to see how your spouse is feeling once a month. You would instead talk to your spouse every day. So, why would you treat your employees (the people you arguably spend most of your time with) any differently?” asks Kenyon. PollUp.io uses polling to gather feedback from employees in a timely manner, helping to build a stronger company culture, while providing a return that benefits the bottom line. The company currently operates out of Ames, Iowa.

Kenyon describes the assistance they received from the SBDC as “quick, simple, and effective. It allowed us to further understand the market we were getting into,” he explains. “This was especially needed as we were entering a new ball game for us in terms of who our potential customers were. [The SBDC] allowed us to discover the best ways to further communicate and build relationships with companies we wanted to work with.”

PollUp.io plans to continue expanding their company, with a new development that the industry has been desperately needing coming hopefully by the end of the summer. They were recently nominated as one of the top five student start-ups in Iowa by the Technology Association of Iowa, yet they would describe their biggest triumph as launching a product that solves the exact problem they set out to solve back in October of 2015.

For more information on this interesting company, visit PollUp.io.