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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Veteran-owned small businesses have a lot to offer, to their customers, their communities, and to prospective employees. Despite the focus and push for veteran employment through diversity and inclusion, there needs to be greater focus on supplier diversity for veteran owned businesses.  I also believe that corporations need to integrate their Supplier Diversity, Inclusion and Diversity and Veteran Affinity and mentorship groups for real success.

 

Some interesting stats according to the Small Business Administration (SBA):

  • Veterans are a key part of any supplier diversity program.
  • Veterans are one of the most successful groups of business owners in America.
  • 1 in 10 businesses are veteran-owned.
  • Veterans are 30% more likely to hire other veterans.
  • 5% of VOSB’s operate in the professional, scientific, technical services industries, and the construction industry.
  • 1 % are in wholesale and retail trade.

 

Don’t Just Hire Veterans – Do Business with Them! There are many good reasons to work with veteran-owned businesses.

  • Know the Rules

 

The federal government requires 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards go to Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs).

  • Finding Veteran-Owned Businesses

 

The very best way to find a veteran-owned business is to search connect with and sponsor trade associations such as VAMBOA with huge memberships of Veteran Business Owners.   VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association can connect the RFIs and RFPs of your corporation with our network of over 7,000 members.

 

I believe that time is at a premium for small Veteran and Service-Disabled Businesses as it is for the corporations that are required to have a diverse supplier network.  Instead of spending the time of staff and the expense of attending conference, become a VAMBOA sponsor and we will place your message online to our large membership and on social media with almost a quarter of a million fans and followers.

  • Do Your Research
    There are good vendors and bad ones. Simply having a federal VOSB/SDVOSB certification does not mean that the vendor is experienced or any good at their job. Always ask for work examples or references as you would with any vendor, supplier, or potential employee.

 

Any company can slap a “veteran-owned” sticker on their location or product but some may not be honest, and fraud is a concern. Most states will certify a business as VOSB/SDVOSB if they have their federal VA certification. Before doing business make sure that you request a copy of that certification.

  • Get Management on Board

 

You will need to gain the support of your senior management in order to add veteran-owned businesses to your approved supplier lists. Veteran-owned businesses now provide almost every type of product or service you can think of.  Make sure the entire company is on the same page about including VOSB/SDVOSBs. Veterans hit all the boxes as they are diverse group including minorities, women and disabled.

  • Educate Your Purchasing and Contract Departments
    Once you are sure that you have clearly outlined your goals for including veterans in your diversity supplier efforts, provide well researched lists to your key personnel of veteran-owned businesses to help jump-start the process. The most common internal pushback is lack of access to known veteran-owned businesses. If you cannot find them – it is hard to work with them. Make it as easy as possible for your employees to include VOSB/SDVOSBs when your company is looking for a vendor or supplier. The very best way is to become a VAMBOA sponsor.  Contact us.
  • Tipping the Bidding Scales in Your Favor
    Sometimes working with veteran-owned businesses can bring you a competitive edge when bidding a job. Certain agencies will give preference to companies that utilize VOSB/SDVOSBs. Each federal agency sets participation goals for small businesses in procurement contracts. Regulations require Federal purchases over $10,000, but less than $250,000 to automatically reserve, or set-aside, a portion of the contract monies for small businesses.

 

Working with VOSB/SDVOSB can help you, the VOSB/SDVOSB you work with, and our economy in general. Next time you need a new supplier, vendor, or partner it may be in your best interest to find one being run by a vet.   Contact VAMBOA.

 

Simple Ways to Get More Done in a Day

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

 

There never seems to be enough time in the day to finish everything you need to do. This is especially true for Veteran Small Business Owners.  Below are some ways to help better manage your time and fit more into your day.

 

1.) Take care of the toughest tasks first thing in the morning:

Getting done the most unpleasant, or time-consuming tasks first thing does a few things for your entire day.  It will provide you a feeling of peace as you move onto tasks that are more appealing.  It will also start your day in a very productive way and can help you clear your head.  Often we have more energy first thing in the morning and as the days go on, we are use it up.

 

2.)  Group similar tasks together:

When you group similar tasks together and get into a “groove” of accomplishing them, you will end up saving yourself a ton of time. Switching gears can be tricky and you tend to lose your momentum getting ready for the next task.

 

3.)  Focus:

Multi-tasking is not a great idea when you are trying to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Keep your focus on one task at a time. Trying to tackle too much all at once can feel overwhelming and will slow you down.

 

4.) Track your time:

You know how long it takes you to accomplish most of your day-to-day tasks. Try to plan your day according to how long it will take to do the things you need to get done.

 

5.) Take breaks:

This may sound counter-productive but taking short breaks can help you be MORE productive. A short break can help you restore your focus, clear you head, rejuvenate some energy and balance your mental state. We are all human, not robots. Even if you only take a five- or ten-minute break to take a quick walk outside, you will feel better and be able to focus more on the tasks you need to complete.

 

6.)   Plan for tomorrow:

At the end of your day, it is always a good idea to plan ahead for the next day. List out the most pressing or difficult tasks to tackle first thing in the morning and budget the rest of your time based on what you already know about how long each task will take you.

 

Taking the time to really understand your time needs and planning appropriately will not only save you time, it will make you much more productive.

Customer Service for Small Businesses – Part 1

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Please enjoy this 3 part Customer Service Series

 

Providing exceptional customer service can be a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but particularly for small businesses. Whether you are just starting a business, or you’re an established small business, customer service is a priority.  Learning how to deliver great customer service can mean the difference between happy customers who keep coming back and those that make it a point to share with others to avoid you.

 

Provide stellar customer service by addressing these important factors:

  • Know what outstanding customer service looks and feels like
  • Create a culture of exceptional service within your business
  • Put in place systems, management tools, and reporting that make it easier to communicate with and please your customers
  • Train and empower your employees to solve problems
  • Consider outsourcing

 

Great Customer Service Is Good Business

Customer service is more important to consumers than price or product. Poor customer service will cost you lost revenue and customers and can tank your business.  Negative word-of-mouth, stories of poor service can spread instantly via viral videos and social media posts.

On the flip side, excellent service can boost you above your competition.  Treat your customers as individuals. You need a system in place that identifies your customers’ needs and be ready to meet them.

 

Create a Small Business Customer Service Plan

Take time to really look at your business, the services or products you provide, and all the ways you currently satisfy your customers or clients. Look at all of the ways your customer service has gone wrong in the past and what you could have done differently for a better customer outcome. It makes sense to obtain customer input too.

Once you know where to focus your energy, you can design a workable plan to address problems. You may also want to consider bringing in a customer service consultant.

 

Choose the Right Customer Service Tools

There are many tools available — from social media, to chat, to CRM systems — that can make it easier to serve your customers. Consider these small business tools to help provide stellar service:

-CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is an essential customer service tool. Not only will a CRM provide you with the reports you need to monitor your customer service, but it also can help you organize and streamline other aspects of your business including operations and marketing.

CRM helps you manage your customer relationships by letting you store and analyze data about your customers, create customized reports, and send custom emails. CRM also lets you slice and dice data so you can analyze patterns and trends.  You will need to find the right CRM system at the right price for you.

 

-Live Chat

Customers today expect instant gratification. Different customers prefer to reach out to you in different ways. While some might like email or phone, chat is essential for any small business. CRM systems do not offer chat functionality that allows a customer to “chat” with you about issues online. If this is a service you wish to offer you will need to use another platform, such as social media.

 

-Social Media

Your small business should be found on all major relevant social media platforms. Make sure that your business pages are consistently branded, filled out properly, and have information on how your customers can reach you. Social media is not just a place to post about your new products or an award you won; they are essential customer service channels that need to be monitored and used to interact with customers and address concerns.

 

-Team Communication Technology

Desktop and mobile apps can help your customer service team communicate issues quickly with each other and with you,

 

Get the Right Reports to Identify Your Customer Service Issues

It is critical to monitor uour customer service. Take the time to review service reports on either a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You should be monitoring and reviewing the following reports:

Complaints Report

Make sure that your employees log all complaints so that you can review which customer complained, what it was about, how big the customer is, and what is being done.

 

-Glitch Report

These reports are not necessarily complaints but common issues that customers bring up about your service or product. Look closely at every open service ticket, what was last done to resolve it, and what is the next scheduled action.

 

-Time-to-Close Report

This report focuses on how long it’s taking to resolve customer problems. You can use this report to set customer service goals to improve your service.

 

 

Amazing customer service can help make your business a success, but it’s also easy to make service mistakes that can tank your business. A great place to start is the website for the U.S. Small Business Administration. They offer quite a lot of free online resources and training materials to help boost your business’s customer service – take a look here:

https://www.sba.gov/course/customer-service/

 

Keep an eye out for Part 2  and Part 3 of this Series.

Part 2 will feature Customer Service for Small Businesses : Train Employees to Provide Excellent Service.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

Veteran-owned small businesses have a lot to offer, to their customers, their communities, and to prospective employees. Despite the focus and push for veteran employment through diversity and inclusion, there needs to be greater focus on supplier diversity for veteran owned businesses.  I also believe that corporations need to integrate their Supplier Diversity, Inclusion and Diversity and Veteran Affinity and mentorship groups for real success.

 

Some interesting stats according to the Small Business Administration (SBA):

  • Veterans are a key part of any supplier diversity program.
  • Veterans are one of the most successful groups of business owners in America.
  • 1 in 10 businesses are veteran-owned.
  • Veterans are 30% more likely to hire other veterans.
  • 5% of VOSB’s operate in the professional, scientific, technical services industries, and the construction industry.
  • 1 % are in wholesale and retail trade.

 

Don’t Just Hire Veterans – Do Business with Them! There are many good reasons to work with veteran-owned businesses.

 

Know the Rules

The federal government requires 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards go to Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs).

 

Finding Veteran-Owned Businesses

The very best ways to find a veteran-owned business is to search connect with and sponsor trade associations such as VAMBOA with huge memberships of Veteran Business Owners.   VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association can connect the RFIs and RFPs of your corporation with our network of over 7,000 members.

I believe that time is at a premium for small Veteran and Service-Disabled Businesses as it is for the corporations that are required to have a diverse supplier network.  Instead of spending the time of staff and the expense of attending conference, become a VAMBOA sponsor and we will place your message online to our large membership and on social media with almost a quarter of a million fans and followers.

 

 

 

-Do Your Research
There are good vendors and bad ones. Simply having a federal VOSB/SDVOSB certification does not mean that the vendor is experienced or any good at their job. Always ask for work examples or references as you would with any vendor, supplier, or potential employee.

Any company can slap a “veteran-owned” sticker on their location or product but some may not be honest, and fraud is a concern. Most states will certify a business as VOSB/SDVOSB if they have their federal VA certification. Before doing business make sure that you request a copy of that certification.

 

-Get Management on Board

You will need to gain the support of your senior management in order to add veteran-owned businesses to your approved supplier lists. Veteran-owned businesses now provide almost every type of product or service you can think of.  Make sure the entire company is on the same page about including VOSB/SDVOSBs. Veterans hit all the boxes as they are diverse group including minorities, women and disabled.

 

-Educate Your Purchasing and Contract Departments
Once you are sure that you have clearly outlined your goals for including veterans in your diversity supplier efforts, provide well researched lists to your key personnel of veteran-owned businesses to help jump-start the process. The most common internal pushback is lack of access to known veteran-owned businesses. If you cannot find them – it is hard to work with them. Make it as easy as possible for your employees to include VOSB/SDVOSBs when your company is looking for a vendor or supplier.  The very best way is to become a VAMBOA sponsor.  Contact us at info@vamboa.org.

 

-Tipping the Bidding Scales in Your Favor
Sometimes working with veteran-owned businesses can bring you a competitive edge when bidding a job. Certain agencies will give preference to companies that utilize VOSB/SDVOSBs. Each federal agency sets participation goals for small businesses in procurement contracts. Regulations require Federal purchases over $10,000, but less than $250,000 to automatically reserve, or set-aside, a portion of the contract monies for small businesses.

 

Working with VOSB/SDVOSB can help you, the VOSB/SDVOSB you work with, and our economy in general. Next time you need a new supplier, vendor, or partner it may be in your best interest to find one being run by a vet.   Contact VAMBOA – info@vamboa.org

 

Branding Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Branding your business is vital to your success. Branding offers consistency across   your promotional channels including social media, ads, newsletters, and more.  It    generates your unique identity and can increase your perceived professionalism.

 

What is Branding?

Branding is the entire visual representation of your small business. It includes:

  • Your business name
  • Your logo
  • Your color scheme
  • The fonts you use
  • More….

 

Branding is much more than just a cool logo.   Branding encompasses how your business is perceived by your customers or potential customers, how you conduct your business, and what your business stands for. It is not too complicated to brand your business.

 

Key Areas for Successful Branding:

  • Your Key Business Goals: Make sure that your business goals are clearly defined so that you start your branding from a solid foundation. Any ideas that do not fit your goals should be discarded.
  • Define Your Brand: The more time you dedicate to developing your look and feel, the better you will be received in the market. You need to select your website’s domain name, your email addresses, your logo, your color scheme, the tone you will use when writing any communications, typography, etc. Additionally, make sure that your business name is consistent across all of the platforms you use; you do not want to make it difficult or confusing for a potential customer to find you.
  • Who Is Your Target Audience? Though it would be nice if you could target everyone with your product and service, you are more likely to gain business if you have a clear idea of who your target customers are or will be. Make sure that the products or services you offer match the needs of your target clients. Find what makes your business stand out from your competition and highlight it.  How will you fulfill the promises you make to your customers? How will you make them connect personally with your business? When you can help people relate personally to your business, they are more likely to gravitate toward your products and services.
  • Consistent Marketing: With clear goals in hand, a defined brand, and a solid picture of your target audience you can more effectively market your business. Make sure your marketing efforts are consistent with your business goals and establish your brand in the market. Most people today rely upon social media for recommendations and to connect with brands that they identify. Your website alone is not enough in today’s market. Make sure you are where your customers are and make sure it is all consistent! Your website, social media channels, ads (both online and offline), brochures, flyers, posters, business cards, and the like all need to have the same look and feel so that at a quick glance your customers know they are in the right place.

 

Branding your business will have a direct impact on your success.

Take the time to clearly define who you want to be in the market and make sure you stick to it.

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