Do You Know Your Customers?

It’s always nice, when eating at a nice restaurant, for the owner to come up and ask how everything was.  That personal contact goes a long way in keeping customers happy – and returning.  It seems that customer service is now handled by making a potential customer or client wait on a telephone for what seems like forever, often forcing them to repeatedly listen to a recording saying that the call will be handled in 10 minutes.  Small businesses are usually built around personal customer service.  If you are a business owner, when is the last time you “worked the floor” or handled the phone, or had lunch with a good customer?  Customers and clients like to do business with the owner.  Even a friendly “hello” or “nice to see you again” goes a long way in customer relations and service. The importance of knowing your customers and/or clients could actually be extended to suppliers, vendors, and others connected with your business.  When is the last time you visited with your banker, … [Read more...]

Ownership Transition — Survey Results

Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company provided the following survey results based on family-owned businesses. Although the ownership transition survey was conducted several years ago, the results are still quite revealing, and still applicable. • Four out of five companies are still controlled by the founders. • 30% of family-owned companies will change leadership within the next five years. • 55% of companies fail to conduct regular valuations of the company. • 55% of CEOs who are 61 or older have not chosen a successor. • 13% of CEOs will never retire. • 90% of businesses will continue as family owned. • 85% of successor CEOs will be a family member. • 20% of family owners have not completed any estate planning. • 55% of family owners do not have a formal company valuation for estate tax estimates. • 60% of businesses do not have a written strategic plan. • 48% of companies rely on life insurance to cover estate taxes. The above survey indicates that many family businesses … [Read more...]

How’s Your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Your first question may be, “Just what is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?” We see CSR demonstrated in a variety of ways in areas such as: THE COMMUNITY:  o Contributing to local community programs through financial support and personal involvement THE ENVIRONMENT:  o Using packaging and containers that are environmentally-friendly o Recycling o Using low-emission and high mileage vehicles where possible o Seeking more efficient manufacturing processes, etc. THE MARKETPLACE:  o Utilizing responsible advertising, public relations and business conduct o Exercising fair treatment of suppliers/vendors, contractors and shareholder THE WORKPLACE: o Implementing fair and equitable treatment of employees o Upholding workplace safety, equal opportunity employment and labor standards Actions such as these not only uphold today’s business standards, but they also pave the way for future generations. In years past, many of these elements were considered almost anti-business and … [Read more...]

Why Your Company Needs a Physical

Many executives of both public and private firms get a physical check-up once a year. Many of these same executives think nothing of having their investments checked over at least once a year – probably more often. Yet, these same prudent executives never consider giving their company an annual physical, unless they are required to by company rules, ESOP regulations or some other necessary reason. A leading CPA firm conducted a survey that revealed: 65% of business owners do not know what their company is worth; 75% of their net worth is tied up in their business; and 85% have no exit strategy There are many obvious reasons why a business owner should get a valuation of his or her company every year such as partnership issues, estate planning or a divorce; buy/sell agreements; banking relationships; etc. No matter what the reason, the importance of getting a valuation cannot be over-emphasized: An astute business owner should like to know the current value of his … [Read more...]

Saying “Hello” — More Important than You Think

The telephone rings, the caller receives a message welcoming them, then she is asked to dial the extension of the person she wants to talk to. Since she doesn’t know the extension, she has to wait and listen to the office directory; then presses the extension number only to discover that the person being called is not there. Most Americans have called a credit card company, their bank or any other large company only to get lost in the maze with no way of talking to an actual person. Then there is the “hold music,” the commercial while you wait, with more “amusements” popping up all the time. Who knows what the future holds in telephone communication. While it used to be that the telephone was a visitor’s first contact with your business, that tradition is changing. Now it is your Web site. Today’s busy buyer now goes to the Internet to look for whatever he or she is considering purchasing. It is even easier for potential clients or customers to find your telephone number from … [Read more...]

Women Business Owners: Coming on Strong

If there were any doubt that women owners are an ever-growing force on the independent business scene, new studies of leading female entrepreneurs around the world supplies incontrovertible proof. The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) has been hard at work, researching the small business climate for women and identifying strong trends. Fifty Top Women Show Trends In one study done jointly with IBM, the NFWBO used as its subjects 50 top women business owners (plus 10 more up-and-coming) to compile these findings: These women owners cover a wide range of industry categories, for example: 27 percent in manufacturing, 25 percent in retail trade, and 10 percent in real estate. Slightly less than half (46 percent) of these women inherited their businesses, and more than half began their own: 34 percent by themselves, and 17 percent with others. As a group, the study subjects generate $139 billion in revenue and employ more than 150,000 workers. And, the … [Read more...]

Do You Have an Exit Plan?

"Exit strategies may allow you to get out before the bottom falls out of your industry. Well-planned exits allow you to get a better price for your business." From: Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, published by Adams Media Corporation Whether you plan to sell out in one year, five years, or never, you need an exit strategy. As the term suggests, an exit strategy is a plan for leaving your business, and every business should have one, if not two. The first is useful as a guide to a smooth exit from your business. The second is for emergencies that could come about due to poor health or partnership problems. You may never plan to sell, but you never know! The first step in creating an exit plan is to develop what is basically an exit policy and procedure manual. It may end up being only on a few sheets of paper, but it should outline your thoughts on how to exit the business when the time comes. There are some important questions to wrestle with in creating a basic plan and … [Read more...]