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Veteran Business Owners’ New Year’s List

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Happy New Year to our Veteran and Military Business Owners.   There are always many tasks for entrepreneurs to do and not always enough time to do them.   This is an excellent time to start with a fresh prospective, plan and focus.   You may want to reflect on the prior year and refocus your energy.   Below is a list to begin 2020:

 

  1. Recap & Forecast: Now is a good time to look at where you are and where you want to go with your business.   Review your return on investment, ROI on major projects, your finances and your goals.   Make sure you and your team understands your goals for the coming year.   This will make any changes easier.  It is a also an excellent time to  gain valuable input on what works, what can be improved and what has not worked.

 

If you have a team, you need to talk with them and develop an understanding of their roles and how they feel about them.   The New Year is an excellent tine for an annual review.    This is the time to perform your due diligence and be proactive to place you ahead of your competition.    Consider this to be your plan for success in 2020.

 

  1. ROI Marketing Focus: Your focus in determining your 2020 marketing initiatives must be what is the ROI (Return on Investment) on each initiative.  These include social media, advertising, blogs,brand building and more.  Not every marketing initiative is measurable but you should evaluate those you can.   You want to direct your money and resources to those initiatives that pay off for you.
  1. Look At Industry Trends: You need to take the temperature of what is going on within your own industry as well a industries that impact yours such as your suppliers.  This will enable you to react to changes and be proactive.   If the Trade Wars with China or oil prices affect your business, you need to take all of this into consideration and be prepared for a worst case scenario.
  1. Realistic Financial Goals: It makes a great deal of sense to put your financial goals in writing at the beginning of a New Year to achieve them.  You may want to check out SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) and OKRs (objectives and key results) formats.   This can include creating a list of objectives and key results for each area of your business (such as sales, finance, marketing, manufacturing and product development, etc.).   Each member of your team needs to have a keen understanding of their goals for the new year and how they are going to achieve them.

 

You might want look into affordable financing options for your business too.   This can make sense even for thriving businesses because the best time to look for financing is when your business is doing well.   Don’t take out loans unless you need one to grow your business and take it to the next level.

 

  1. Look at Automating Your Business: You might want to look into automated software solutions that will enable you to automate accounting, customer management and time tracking  to allow you to focus on accomplishing the real work.  Automating your finances will also provide you valuable input into better managing your cash flow and ROI and to forecast properly.
  1. Working Remotely: This is a good time to determine if some or all of your business can be done remotely.  Remote work is a trend and many believe that almost three-quarters of all  departments will have remote workers by 2028.   You may want to look at whether hiring remote workers and freelancers can benefit your business.   This is not viable for every business such as a retail store.   However, for some businesses, it can reduce the cost of office space and enable you to draw from a larger pool of talent.   We recommend that if you are considering a remote staff that you look into collaborative and communication tools.
  1. Mentors: Mentors are one of the most valuable resources for any business at any level.  Mentors provide objective advise, experience and access to a larger network of resources and people.   Almost all small business owners believe that mentors have had a direct impact on the growth and success of their business.   Those who don’t have a mentor, wish that they did.   If you don’t have mentors, the new year is a a good time to find them and start the year right.

Turning Construction Contacts into Contracts

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Don’t Miss This – December 13, 2018

Over 60 exhibitors looking for business with small certified firms DVBE’s, DBE’s, WBE’s, and SBE’s.

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veterans transition out of the military with the skills and attributes necessary to succeed as veteran business owners. Often times, the main roadblock for these entrepreneurs is financing their new mission: to become a veteran business owner or a service disabled veteran business owner.

Investing in your business operations doesn’t always have to come with a big price tag, as there are some cost-efficient ways to invest in your small business to get it going and growing.

Begin by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Invest in personal growth, so that you can turn those weaknesses into strengths. Take classes. Do your research on the web. Seek out tutorials. Don’t overlook the value of a digital marketing platform. Make sure you have a website.  Utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AdWords, Instagram, etc. There are plenty of free resources available to help you navigate these waters.

If there are skills that you can’t or don’t want to do, and you don’t have the staff to do them, outsource! Perhaps tax returns, web design and the like are best left in the hands of the experts. You might even be able to barter services. And for those occasions when the work load is on an upswing, don’t rule out freelancers or temporary workers.

But when it comes time to assemble a staff, your hiring strategy should be based on talent, not functions. If your team is versatile with diverse talents, they will be better positioned to grow with the business.

Identify your business’s core values and build a team aligned with them. Having your values in place will give your business purpose and direction, and will in turn provide a culture for your employees to be proud of. Along with values, don’t underestimate the value of a corporate identity. You want to be your own company, not just a “light’ version of another company.

Have a rainy-day reserve account. As a business owner you’re probably thinking, “How in the world can I save for this?” The key is to start small and build up. This safety net will get you through rough times, which are inevitable.

Invest the time in writing Standing Operating Procedures, a set of step-by-step instructions to make sure there is a “Bible” for routine operations. Answer what tasks need to done? Who needs to do them? What are the best ways to approach these tasks?

Veteran Business Owners and Franchises- A Good Fit

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s encouraging to see military veterans take advantage of entrepreneurship opportunities available to them, especially when it comes to franchise opportunities. For many, a franchise business offers them the chance to be their own boss, but it comes with an established structure. Someone’s already proven that this works.

According to the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, approximately 14 percent of franchises are owned by veterans.

Having served, many of these entrepreneurs find that their military experience easily translates into franchise success. Franchisors believe that veterans make for great franchisees for several reasons. Many of the factors that made veterans excel within the military environment make them ideal for franchisees.

The world of franchising represents a marriage between the self-start world of entrepreneurship and the rigorous discipline needed to follow a set of instructions and execute on a proven plan. The ideal franchisee is someone who can take direction and work within guidelines provided by the franchisor, but who can also effectively lead a team and get things done.

Attention to detail, knowledge, and understanding of chain of command and how things work contribute to their success.

Most brands offer a discount to veterans and people with connections to the military, most commonly a markdown on the initial franchise fee, averaging a little more than 18 percent. Discounts are typically restricted to people opening their first franchise.

Veteran-owned franchisees contribute to the economy not only for the franchisee, but also for their fellow veterans: franchisees are 30 percent more likely to hire their fellow veterans than their civilian counterparts.

The largest numbers of veteran-owned franchises are in California, Texas and Florida, which have the first-, second- and fifth-highest military populations.

Remember, doing your homework about the franchise first will help you gain a solid understanding of what to expect as well as the risks that could be involved. With that said, more than 87 percent of veteran-run franchises stayed in business over the past three years.

Funding for Veteran Business Owners

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According to the most recent census data, there are 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. Veteran entrepreneurs contribute to the economy through their businesses and their willingness to hire veterans.
There are a number of funding resources available to veterans in order to get their business off the ground, or expand an existing business.
• The Office of Veterans Business Development, through the Small Business Administration (SBA) supports new and existing veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses. The program offers a variety of training and financial services. The SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loans program offers loans of $150,000 or less with no guaranty fee. Larger loans carry a low guarantee fee. SBA Express Loans have no upfront borrower fee for eligible veterans and military spouses on loans up to $35,000. Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital matches businesses with SBA-approved non-profit lenders. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s most common loan program, and includes financial help for businesses with special requirements.
• The Department of Veteran Affairs is a great starting point when looking for financing, and has created the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), which can help you quickly identify financing resources for your business.
• The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan provide funds to eligible small businesses to meet necessary operating expenses that it could have met, but is unable to meet, because an owner/essential employee was “called-up” to active duty.
• The USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant, run by the Department of Agriculture, aims to bring traditionally underserved people into farming through training and technical and financial assistance.
• The VetFran(R) program is designed to help veterans start their own business. While these aren’t traditional business loans for veterans, the program offers financial incentive for veterans to launch a franchise.
In addition to lending resources, don’t discount the value of networking resources. Who better to share advice than those who have walked the path before you?
• American Corporate Partners links veteran entrepreneurs with successful businesspeople for training and mentorship.
• National Veteran-Owned Business Association presents you with a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn much more about running a business.
• SCORE Foundation Veteran Fast Launch Initiative offers advertising, marketing and business mentoring, all at no cost.

• Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families provides entrepreneurial training. Their Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans program is free for post-9/11 veterans.
• Veterans Business Resource Center provides business consulting and mentoring.
• Veterans Business Services can assist in obtaining capital for your business.

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