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An Effective Competitive Analysis : Part 1 of 3

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By Debbie Gregory.

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What is a competitive analysis?

A competitive analysis is defining and evaluating your major competitor’s strengths and weaknesses then comparing them with your own.

 

Why do a competitive analysis?

When you have a better understanding of your competition, the greater your chances are to outperform them.

 

A competitive analysis can be a very effective tool to help you grow your business. The more comprehensive and in-depth your analysis, the greater benefit to you and your business.

 

Types of competitors:

There are many types of competitors. You may have a fairly accurate sense of who your competition is but you might be surprised to learn that you overlooked some competitors.

  • Direct competition – These are the businesses that offer the same products and services that you do and service your target market.
  • Indirect competition – These are the businesses that offer the same or very similar products and services that you do but they target a little different market than you do.
  • Tertiary competition – These are the businesses that offer something that may vaguely link to your business but isn’t in direct competition with you.

 

Search for information about your competitors:

Begin your analysis by compiling a list of names of known competitors as well as keywords or phrases that are linked to your products and services. Once you have that list in hand, select your favorite search engine and use it to locate your competition.

 

Search engines are wonderful for helping you figure out who your competitors are as well as helping you to gather data on what they are doing. Don’t stop there! You will need to click on their sites, social channels, articles, and more to gain the information you need to do you analysis.

 

Ways to find out who your competitors are:

  • Look at the ads / sponsored listings when you do your searches
  • Use content analyzing tools to search blog posts and social media for company names
  • Ask your current customers, or prospective customers, who else they use or have used
  • Read trade publications
  • Check social media channels
  • Look at popular forums

 

Put the data in a spreadsheet:

Once you have your list compiled, you can begin your actual competitive analysis. It is a good idea to use a spreadsheet to keep all the information you collect together and in a format that is easy to read and access.

 

Obtain a basic overview of your competition:

 

Include information:

  • Number of employees
  • Noteworthy employees
  • Number of offices and locations
  • Number of clients
  • Annual Revenue
  • Products and services offered
  • Area(s) they operate I
  • Websites and social media channels they own
  • Company history and significant milestones
  • Message/Brand

 

Next, you want to take a close look at how the company sees itself. The easiest way to do this is to look at the content they put out under their brand. How do they talk about their own products and services?

 

Look closely at items such as:

  • Website copy (the text on the site)
  • Social media channels
  • Printed materials (flyers, brochures, trade materials, etc.)
  • Employees speaking at events
  • Press releases or appearances
  • Interviews given by employees or management

 

The messages they put out will provide valuable insight into what they feel is important, the key areas they focus on, and the type of customer they are targeting.

 

Ask yourself these types of questions while compiling the data:

  • What is their opening piece of copy on their homepage?
  • What features/products do they emphasize?
  • Who (what types of people or customers) are they specifically talking to?
  • How do they talk/what language do they use?
  • What are their main selling points?
  • What imagery (graphs, charts, cartoons, photos, etc.) do they use?
  • What competitors do they talk about, if any?
  • What clients do they highlight, if any?

 

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this series will go into greater depth regarding the information you should be collecting such as pricing, financial records, job postings, and their website.

What Attracts & Retains Top Employees Today?

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Today’s employees have much more sway when it comes to their work environments, benefits, and job perks than ever before.

 

If you are looking to find, hire, and retain top talent in any field, there are some expectations from the candidates that you need to meet:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Flexible and adaptable workplace design
  • Connected to nature
  • On-site health and wellness

 

Flexible Schedules:

This is one of the number one issues and benefits that employees today demand.  Flexible schedules also ranks amongst the top two reasons why employees will stay with an employer.

 

Flexible scheduling can be accomplished in numerous ways and you may consider offering:  

  • Flexible hours
  • More paid time off
  • Days that can be worked from home

 

Flexible and Adaptable Workplace Design:

The days of endless rows of cubicles are in the past. Today’s employees do not want to sit in a small area with fluorescent lighting surrounded by their fellow workers in their cubicles.   You need to think outside of cubicles when planning your workspace areas.

 

You might consider offering your employees a variety of individual and group workspaces including:

  • Lounge areas with laptop tables
  • Sit-to-stand workstations that are becoming very popular with lounge areas
  • Conference rooms available for general use at any time
  • Informal meeting rooms with comfortable chairs
  • Casual work areas with high-top tables and barstools

 

Many progressive employers also include pool tables, ping pong and games in the workspaces.

 

Connected to Nature:

Employees are tired of being kept in workspaces that have artificial lighting, heating and cooling in a cubicle type setting They want to enjoy the hours they are required to be indoors at work. Many employers are shifting to more natural light sources with better outdoor views, more plants and outdoor space.  They are finding that the time spent outdoors dramatically increases employee happiness and productivity. Keeping in mind the importance of nature and natural elements in the workplace really increases employee morale.

 

On-site Health and Wellness:

More employees expect their employers to care about and help foster their well-being, including their mental health and well-being.   This is a win/win for both. Happy and healthy people are more energized and engaged with their work.  This increases productivity and can even reduce the overall cost of healthcare.

 

Some examples of ways your company can do to help promote better health:

  • Offer mental and financial wellness education, through literature, seminars, and webinars
  • Offer on-site flu shots, biometric screenings, and massages
  • Many large companies have their own medical team with one or more Physician Assistants and/or Nurse Practitioners making it simple and convenient for their employees.
  • Offer healthy food and beverage options if you have a stocked break room or cafeteria.
  • Try to add a regular catered lunch that includes healthy foods, vegetarian options, and salad bars
  • Try adding some fitness challenges that are focused on promoting holistic health
  • Build a wellness room with exercise and stretching equipment including offering classes such as Yoga and Pilates.

 

Utilizing forward thinking and a bit of creativity when planning your workspaces, employee benefits work schedule, and more will go a long way towards attracting and capturing the eyes of top-performing employees that are excited to work for you.  They will be more productive and will stay with the company putting forth their very best work.  Healthy and happy employees are a recipe for success and avoid the financial of other costs of employee turnover.

Which Business Entity Is Right For My Business?

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Whether you are just starting a business or thinking of changing your business structure, a common first step is comparing the types of business structures. While a Limited Liability Company, a C Corporation and an S Corporation share some characteristics, they also have distinct differences. You should spend the time getting familiar with each type before deciding which one might be right for you.

Most small businesses are usually either a sole proprietorship or simple partnership. In both of these cases, the business taxes are part of the individual’s taxes. There are three major types of business entities that classify the business as its own “person”– a C Corporation, an S Corporation, and an LLC (Limited Liability Company).

Some business and certain tax rules are unique to the type of entity that you choose for your business. Read below for more information on each and always check with your accountant.

 

C Corporations

A C Corporation is taxed at a flat 21% regardless of how much business they conduct or money they make. Additionally, C Corporations help create personal liability protection for the owners of the business. They are designated to the public with extensions such as inc, corp, or ltd.

This type of corporation can issue stocks that when held for more than five years, they entitle the seller to tax-free gains. Raising capital is also very easy for a C Corporation as compared to the other business types because they issue stock in exchange for the funds raised.

The major downside to a C Corporation is double taxation. All business earnings are taxed and paid for by the business however, the income received by the business owners is not deductible and they must claim and pay income taxes on the salary they take from the business on their personal taxes.

C Corporations are separate taxpaying entities and file their own very specific tax forms every year to the IRS.   These C Corporations can actually choose to be taxed as an S Corporation to help offset the double taxation by utilizing income pass-through to the owners, so they report their share on their personal taxes. This way the business and the business owners pay between 10 and 37% depending on the individual.

 

S Corporations

S Corporations also help create personal liability protection for the owners of the business. They are designated to the public with extensions such as inc, corp, or ltd – the same as C Corporations. An S Corporation also has the ability to allow up to 20% total business income deductions.

S Corporations are required by law to adopt and maintain certain formalities and they have extensive rules in place for how the business can be managed. They include by-laws, operating agreements, issuing stocks, membership shares, holding director and shareholder meetings, keeping meeting minutes and other extensive records.

 

LLC (Limited Liability Company)

An LLC has many advantages for business owners. As an LLC, you can elect to be taxed at the flat C Corporation rate, which can be very beneficial if the business owner is not qualified to use certain income deductions. This type of business entity also helps you avoid the double taxation issue of the C Corporation as the LLC is taxed a lot more like a sole proprietorship. This type of business also provides you good liability protection and some pass-through taxation, just like the C and S Corporations.

Another benefit of the LLC structure to a startup is that once you have set it up, there is not any need for continual maintenance. It is also easy to add new partners or sell interest in the entity to someone else.   An LLC can have an unlimited number of members whereas S or C Corporations can only have a maximum of 100.

The downside to an LLC is that there is a minimum tax regardless of how much business you conduct. If you make zero dollars or ten thousand dollars you still owe that minimum tax.

 

The choice of business entity is a complex matter and you need to take into consideration both state and federal tax matters as well as any other issues and non-tax considerations (personal liability protection, raising capital, etc.). As with any major changes to the overall structure of your business, as well as the tax implications of any changes, we highly recommend consulting a tax, financial, and/or business professional before making any changes.

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