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Pricing to Stay Competitive

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Inflation has become a growing concern as cash has flowed into consumer’s hands following the outset of coronavirus. In theory, businesses should increase prices, especially as labor becomes more expensive. In fact, the economy is more chaotic and unpredictable. Business owners should consider sound realities before they jump to conclusions about how to price their products in the post-pandemic economy.

As discussed in previous blog posts, the pandemic sent the trend toward online consumerism into overdrive. Consumers know they can now resort to online sources that maintain a low overhead. This development bodes poorly for “brick and mortar” stores. Unfortunately for such establishments, the balance of power may continue to shift in the direction of online consumers.

What can a small business owner just out of the military and looking to apply their newfound skills do, especially in this strange new economy? Fortunately, many strategies can simplify marketing efforts.

  • First, human interactions, in general, have become more online over the past few decades. The possible end of the Pandemic will not change this trajectory. During the Pandemic, online interactions only became more sophisticated and established. websites and social media have only gained importance. Every economic participant, including veteran business owners, should become more Internet savvy. 
  • Second, unpredictable shifts in price can leave entrepreneurs unprepared. Given confusing shifts in the economy, business owners should understand current market circumstances in the here and now. For this reason, entrepreneurs should stay vigilant about direct competitors. Confusion may arise from assumptions and inaccurate predictions from the media. Mindfulness about the here and now should prevail.

“Staying vigilant” does not mean cutthroat behavior. “Staying vigilant” means an understanding of a ballpark range for goods and services catering to your specific clientele. Everyone benefits from some level of cooperation. Consider networking groups or your local Chamber of Commerce. Of course, backstabbing tactics only draw the worst kinds of attention.

Learning spreadsheets can help new business owners compare themselves most accurately to rivals in the current, uncharted online market. Microsoft Excel, as well as Apple Numbers and Google Sheets, may provide tools to compare prices with similar online marketers. 

  • Third, new business owners should consider their own costs and capacities. Many analysts divide these costs between variable and fixed costs. “Variable” costs shift with demand and changes in the economy. “Fixed” costs may include contractual obligations such as overhead, payroll, and the costs of maintaining websites. The goals and resources of the business owner may determine the outcome.
  • Fourth, consider profit margin and your own economic needs. Profit margin tends to vary by industry. Usually, profit margin consists of the difference between the cost of maintenance and the income from sales. Great damage can occur when the owner has invested heavily in the business, and profit margins stay low. A home business may need only a low-profit margin, and a restaurant or auto shop inevitably requires a much higher one, due to the cost of equipment.
  • Fifth, underpricing may ruin a business. Many entrepreneurs try to achieve brand recognition through discounts, sales, and cheap products. Misguided attempts at market penetration can leave consumers turning their noses when entrepreneurs need to raise prices to simply pay the bills. 

In short, pricing depends largely on the circumstances of the business owner. Generally, higher investments in overhead and equipment necessitate much more careful analysis. Always, the best price for a product or service depends on the relevant market. Hairbrained schemes such as underpricing rarely serve anyone. Veteran Business Owners need to balance their own circumstances and those of any other market participants, including clients and competitors. 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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According to a survey in 2019, there were over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the United States. This accounts for almost ten percent (10%) of all American businesses!

Veteran-owned businesses, like any other businesses, sometimes require grants or other sources of funds in order to get started or to grow and prosper. Below are the top resources for veterans looking for business financing in 2021.

1.) Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business

The federal government sets aside 3% of its contracting budget every year specifically for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

In order to qualify you must:

  • Be a small business according to the SBA’s definition of a small business
  • Be at least 51% owned/controlled by a service-disabled veteran
  • Have at least one service-disabled veteran managing the day-to-day operations and long-term decisions at the business
  • You must have a service-connected disability

If your business meets the above requirements, you can represent and bid federal contract jobs for your service-disabled veteran-owned business on SAM.gov.   Corporations that sell goods or services to the government are required to have a diverse network of suppliers.   Veterans hit all the boxes and they want to do business with Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses.

2.) Innovation Research Grants

This money stream is not exclusive to Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, however, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides grants to small businesses that create technological innovations.

They offer two categories of grants: Phase I and Phase II.

  • Phase I grants are awarded up to $150,000 (non-dilutive) and are awarded for businesses who are in need of funds to figure out their business’s overall commercial viability. If you qualify for this grant and prove your proposal is viable, you are then eligible for Phase II.
  • Phase II grants are awarded up to $1 million over a two year period and are based upon Phase I performance.

To apply your business must be:

  • A for-profit business
  • Majority owned by a US citizens or permanent resident of the USA
  • Employ less than 500 employees

3.) Veterans Business Outreach Centers

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) are overseen by the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development and they provide a wide range of tools and training programs to help veterans and their spouses start businesses.

Such as:

  • Business plan writing workshops
  • Mentorship programs
  • Management training
  • and more

There are 22 VBOC centers across the country and some even offer remote services. These centers can also assist with applying for SBA loans, provide loan referrals, and help you package loan applications.

4.) Hivers and Strivers

Hivers and Strivers is an investment group that provides startup funding to small businesses that are founded by graduates of US Military Academies. They will invest between $250,000 and $1 million dollars.

5.) Warrior Rising Small Business Grants

Warrior Rising is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Veteran Business Owners.

They provide:

  • Workshops
  • Training
  • Mentorship
  • Grants
  • and more

In order to take advantage of their services and apply for their grants you must become a member. To do so, you will need to complete a telephone interview and complete a virtual training course.

6.)StreetShares Foundation

StreetShares is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, launched by a group of military entrepreneurs. Their mission is “to inspire, educate and support the military entrepreneurial community.”

They offer:

  • Grants up to $15,000 to veteran entrepreneurs
  • Female Founders Veteran Small Business Award Grant Program
  • Three types of loans specifically for veterans: term loans up to $250,000; lines of credit up to $250,000; and contract financing
  • And more

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this series which has more resources and a few tips you should read before you apply for any business grants.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been valuable.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

The DPA is a powerful tool to be employed to protect the nation.  Now that the nation’s industries are responding to the crisis, the best use of the DPA is as surgical tool for specific issues and as leverage to prompt best behavior and information sharing.

Elected members of the House and Senate now speak of the act daily. It’s also very much in the media.

The Defense Production Act first came into being in 1950 as the Truman administration realized it needed more authorities to mobilize the industrial base to fight the Korean War. The act has been re-authorized by Congress some 50 times since then, undergoing significant revision along the way.

The revisions made took basic two forms. Authorities no longer needed such as those dealing with requisitioning, rationing, wage and price-fixing, and labor disputes—were dropped.

Other revisions have broadened the original narrow definition of national defense.  It now extends to such things as energy security, space security and national disasters.

Of the seven original titles in the DPA, three remain—Titles I, III, and VII.  Here is a quick description to help understand what is taking place today with the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Title I broadly contains the priorities and allocation authorities. The priorityauthority allows the federal government to ensure the timely availability of critical materials and services produced in the private market in the interest of national defense, and to receive items through contracts before any other competing interest. The allocation authority gives the president the power to allocate or control the general distribution of materials, services, and facilities.

The Department of Defense is the most frequent user of Title I, using it to insert priority clauses into its contracts. These provisions requiring contractors to give the Pentagon preference over all other customers in delivering goods or services.

In 2018 the department did this over 300,000 times. The Pentagon used its highest rating to prioritize the delivery of Mine Resistant-Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for the Iraq War, as well as to obtain body armor for troops. The other federal departments use priority ratings much less. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used DPA-rated contracts only about 2,000 times in 2018, mostly for hurricane response.

The President has delegated his DPA authorities to the appropriate cabinet secretaries. On March 18, he signed Executive Order 13909 delegating his priorities authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This marked what the President and the media referred to as “invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Five days later, President Trump signed Executive Order 13910 giving HHS the allocations authority under Title I to stop hoarding and price gouging for medical equipment and supplies.  This authority has already been used in at least one instance to seize hoarded masks and protective equipment.

In the following week, the White House started to get specific about how to wield these authorities. On March 27, the president issued a memorandum telling HHS Secretary Alex Azar to direct General Motors to accept and prioritize contracts for ventilator production. Then, on April 2, the President signed two additional memorandums: the first directing 3M Company to ramp up N95 mask production; the other directing Azar to speed up delivery of component parts to the big manufacturers of ventilators.

  • Now, let us look at Title III. It allows the President to provide grants and loans to develop, maintain, and expand domestic production capacity for resources needed for national defense.

Again, the Pentagon has been the most frequent user of these authorities, using them to provide money—typically in amounts less than $50 million—to companies to help shore up a recognized deficiency in the defense industrial base.  In the last year or two, the Defense Department has used Title III authority to help assure access to rare earths, explosives, and lithium seawater batteries.

In a typical year, the Pentagon asks for about $30 million for the Title III DPA Fund.  In 2020 it sought $34 million.

In terms of recent activity using Title III authorities, the newly-enacted CARES Act appropriates an unprecedented $1 billion to the DPA.  It is anticipated that most of that funding will go to medical manufacturing, including for vaccines and therapeutics. The CARES act also eliminates certain limits on DPA funding and reporting requirements.

The President also delegated his Title III authorities to his HHS and DHS secretaries. (DHS is involved because it controls FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.) Now, both departments can make direct investments in U.S. corporations to increase their capacity to manufacture medical supplies and equipment.

  • The final section of the DPA, Title VII, contains a grab bag of authorities. The one most pertinent today is probably the authority for the government to enter voluntary arrangements with private companies.  Arrangements which, in normal circumstances, might look like sole-source contract awards, are thus permissible using Title VII.

For example, companies have approached the White House offering to make goods such as N95 respirators. Normally such transactions must be openly competed and competitively awarded. Title VII authorities provide for exceptions.

So, that is the DPA in a nutshell: Title I—priorities and allocation authorities; Title III—direct investments, and Title VII—voluntary agreements.

It’s likely that every one of the thousands of contracts being issued by the Defense Department and FEMA to fight the COVID-19 emergency have a DPA Title I rating.. And now that the federal government has developed a better understanding of the situation, General Motors has been directed to produce ventilators, 3M to make respirators, and ventilator parts suppliers to make more. Additional use of DPA authorities is likely in the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks, we have seen may private like Ford and Toyota volunteer to partner with medical companies to make ventilators; Honeywell, 3M, Hanes, and others to make millions of N95 masks; and Anheuser Busch, Baccardi, and scores of boutique distillers to make hand sanitizer.

The DPA is a powerful tool to be employed to protect the nation.

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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VAMBOA and our team hopes that you have enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series on Business Grants for Veterans and found it to be valuable.   Please let us know what you think because we value your input.  You can email us at info@vamboa.org.

 

Once you have your funding secured, either by grant or loan, you may still need some other business assistance. Below you can find some excellent resources for your Small Veteran Owned Business to utilize to start, learn, nurture, and grow your small business:

  • Boots to Business is a two-step program offered by the Small Business Administration (the SBA) offered on military installations around the world to introduce service members to entrepreneurship and the foundations needed to begin a business when they return home.
  • Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)is a free program for post-9/11 vets and their spouses.
  • Patriot Boot Camp is a branch of the startup incubator: TechStars and is specifically for active duty military members and their spouses who want to gain entrepreneurial skills.
  • Service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program offers between $50,000 and $150,000 as a grant to support organizations that deliver entrepreneurship training program(s) to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs who want to become small business owners or who currently own a small business.
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several veteran entrepreneurship training programs.
  • Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an SBA-funded program that offers online training, a conference and mentorship specifically to female veterans.
  • Veterans Business Services helps veterans acquire or start small business. Veteran Business Services offers assistance with franchising, marketing and with connecting you with financial services.
  • Veterans Business Resource Center offers business training for Veterans including help with understanding business plans, financials, marketing, sales, human resource management, and more. They also offer webinars and professional counseling.
  • Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP)is an accelerator program with three specific offerings specifically designed for owners, principals, and C‐level executives of Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses SDVOSB).  Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) Grow helps companies develop overall strategies to operate and expand within the federal marketplace. VIP Start helps companies that want to get into the federal market and become procurement-ready. VIP International is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.
  • VetsInTechis a private sector training program that offers tech related education opportunities, connections with tech jobs and workshops and bootcamps to help veteran startup founders boost and grow their businesses.

 

Veterans Take the Initiative to Explore Entrepreneurship

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Past military experience helps “veteran entrepreneurs” find success especially when they team up.  Working in teams is part of the military culture. Veterans tend to have a greater desire to create their own destiny, which is why starting a business is so appealing.  Veterans tend to have a unique point of view based on their past military experience.   They come up with different solutions to problems than non-military personnel do and are more creative and focused on crafting solutions.

 

Veterans have unique experiences and inner strengths that include:  

  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Commitment to a greater cause than self
  • Love for fellow comrades in arms regardless of their ethnicity or background
  • A drive to succeed against the odds
  • Focusing on the end goal and achieving the mission
  • Working in teams to get the job done

 

All of these attributes benefit veteran entrepreneurs.  This is one of the reasos that veterans tend to lean more towards starting their own businesses.  These same traits lead a lot of veteran business owners to want to help others pursue entrepreneurship as well.  They also become mentors and are leaders.

 

In the last few years there has been a surge of businesses, organizations, lenders, and programs that have been formed to provide veterans ways to explore entrepreneurship with the direct support of their colleagues.

 

Some of them include:

 

All of these organizations have one thing in common, they were created by a veteran, a group of veterans or those who support veterans to help veteran brothers and sisters in arms achieve their business dreams.

 

Military life has prepared many for the challenges that are unique to military service and those will also greatly benefit business life as a civilian. Veterans also face unique challenges when they return home from active duty. Seeking assistance from other veterans will help boost success as a civilian entrepreneur.

 

In today’s ever-changing economy, global climate, and interpersonal relationships, it is best to find programs and funding sources that focus on bringing together veterans and like-minded business owners who can help each other flourish.

 

We encourage all military and veteran business owners to join VAMBOA, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association.  VAMBOA does not charge any fees or dues.  Here is a link to register:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

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