Wenatchee Office located at 238 Olds Station Road, Wenatchee. By appointment call 509-888-7252 or email jim.fletcher@wsbdc.org

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I-GEN: The "Connected" Generation,

For an interesting article on the youngest generation of our society read about the IGen, or Gen Z.  The generation of those presently 20 and under, born after 1995.  While there is much to observe and consider about this newest generation the reports provided the following some insights as to how the IGen, will influence retail business.  
  • IGens witnessed their parents deal with the great depression and recovery of lean family financial conditions. IGEN's will pay attention to price and quality.
  • IGens are comparison shoppers readily using their smart phones to check for better deals.
  • IGens influence over price, selection, ratings, reviews is shifting power away from retailers, and brands to the consumer. 
  • IGens access discount websites, bidding apps, sales, loyalty promotions, making purchases at a discount is their expectation.
  • IGens will do  most of their shopping online, stores will be a recreational pastime or social activity 
For the full report discussion on the IGen  2016 National Study on Technology and the Generation after Millennials  by The Center for Generational Kinetics and Jason Dorsey

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Changes to Overtime Pay Exemption

Effective December 1, 2016 exemptions from Federal minimum wages rules may increase the number of your employees eligible for over time pay rates.

What changes on December first is the limit on when exempt position are eligible for overtime pay. The annual wages limit will double from $23,660 to $47,476. 

Any employee positions classified as exempt should be reviewed and reclassified to non-exempt and thus will be eligible of overtime pay.  Job positions already eligible for overtime pay, these changes do not affect those positions in any way.

Reclassification of positions can result in other HR issues and further decisions and important to avoid wage problems but also changes in job duties to better control costs of overtime pay.  Choices for job positions impacted include;
  • Maintain workers’ pay rate and pay additional overtime.
  • Maintain their pay rate but limit their hours.
  • Reduce their pay rate to maintain cost neutrality for overtime worked.
For employees being reclassified, there are options with respect to their duties, retaining   professional duties even though they are now paid overtime. Changes to any employee's position and pay can start a series of adjustments for all employees, not to forget emotional fall out form those who feel they were not given fair consideration. 

As business owners and managers review your employee positions. Identify any presently exempt positions that will be impacted and plan for appropriate changes.  It is highly recommended that you planning include talking to an HR advisor as well as your payroll accountant. 
Use your advisors to update overtime controls and policies, set clear overtime work expectations, clarify compliance with eligibility rules, and how to present changes to employees.

Additional Readings

·        Managing Overtime: Setting the stage for success by Kathy Peters -- Overtime is more than an issue of compensation. Effective employee relations strategies can alleviate common confusion and dilemmas surrounding overtime.
As a supervisor of non-exempt employees, you’re responsible for seeing that employees accurately record the time they work and receive overtime when it’s due. This article looks at managing overtime issues through workplace atmosphere, communication, and expectation setting.

·       4 Overtime Traps  by Chris Kelleher  to Avoid  Overtime. It's been a law for almost 70 years. If you thought that after all that time every business would know how to follow it, you would be very, very wrong.
Alleging violations of the overtime law is a new "growth industry," with employees (and their lawyers) going after everyone from mom-and-pop businesses to industry giants. To keep your business from becoming yet another lawsuit statistic, here are four common overtime traps and how to avoid them

Overtime Management Techniques   by Lisa McQuerrey, Demand Media.  Overtime, or time worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek by hourly, non-exempt employees, can wreak havoc on the operating budget of a small business. While there may be times when overtime is necessary and cost-effective, overtime pay can begin to drain your bottom line if not managed correctly. Advance planning and scheduling can help reduce the need for employees to work in excess of their scheduled hours. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SBDC Assists Busienss Owners in Strategic Decisions

Advisers in the Washington Small Business Development Centers are quietly working with business owners all across the State. Confidentiality is a key trust factor with clients so its not often that client stores make the news.   Yet occasionally, with the clients permission a story gets published about a clients success and how SBDC advisers were able to help.

Published by Washington State University online news

Washington Small Business Development Center program is hosted by Washington State University in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and local economic development organizations. Offices are located in 25 communities across the state.
Washington Small Business Development Center

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Planning to Sell Your Business

There were obvious advantages to buying a business, but there were also the usual concerns. Did the sale price seem reasonable? How should the purchase be structured? The buyers had some money to invest, but how much would they need to borrow? What could they expect in revenue over the next year, and what, exactly would their expenses be...
Every year hundreds of businesses owners try to make a successful exit by selling their business. Of all who try, only 2 in 10 owners are in the best position to find qualified buyers and receive a full offer.  Another 3 in 10 will close receiving a liquidation value if anything.  That means half of all who want to sell could get a better deal by preparing to answer the buyers questions.
The goal of exit planning is to help that 50% in the middle get a better outcome.   Planning starts with a review of existing financials, reviewing the business operations to identify improvements.  Actions are implemented over the next two to three years that improve the business value when it’s time to sell. 

One reason a business sale is difficult to finance is the seller does not provide a good set of financials that prove the business value to a lender.  Even well qualified buyers will have difficult in financing if the seller's financials don't pass the lenders review.  Moreover, the recession took its toll on buyers who now have less equity to invest. Combined with too many sellers its a buyers market, businesses with the best profitability have the advantage.
Most efforts to sell a business fail to gain good value because the owner remains an entrepreneur and does not prepare the business to attract a good buyer. Preparing to sell means creating a business that buyers will want. A seller needs to show a strong profitability,  competitive edge to stay profitable, sustainability to survive economic downturns, scalability so the business grows, and a business culture so good employees stay. 

Planning to sell a business is a systematic process with three goals.
  • Maximize business value to the seller and qualify for buyer financing.
  • Maximize the number of possible qualified buyers.
  • Minimize cost and lost time looking for buyers.
A through process helps identify transition opportunities, business strengths and weaknesses, risks to a successful sale, needs of both the business and the owner, now and for their life after business, keeping the businesses successful and local.

To obtain a successful sale takes time and effort to prepare.  Consider a three year strategy which happens to be the time lenders look back on the sellers financials. Thus, three years of good performance will improve the opportunities for a successful sale. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Starting A Business

There are lots of good ideas for starting a business, yet more than half of all new businesses fail in the first year, and half of those remaining fail the second year.  Why?

Starting a business is easy, staying in business requires dedicating your life to the business plus more money than you expected. Then the realities of the marketplace are not what you expected. The idea of a business plan is not so much about the plan as it is about researching and thinking about the how to tie your dream to actionable steps. 

Owning a small business is a lifestyle. You will have long days at the store working on budgets, marketing, customer relations, employee issues few days off, worrying about sales, solving vendor problems and a host of other questions.  You have to be dedicated to the business and your family has to be supportive.  Without personal dedication and family support many owners burnout, the business become a heavy burden.

Money, what you need to earn, what you never have enough of.  Start up expenses will exceed estimates, sales will be slower than desired, and a lack of cash flow consume more and more of your savings. Finding a loan to start your business will be difficult. Most banks like to see up to two years of operating history before they will consider your loan application. Additionally, you need to invest your own money and collateral.  If you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to invest in yourself , then why will anyone else be willing to support you with a loan.

Not enough customers, to generate sustainable sales.  Do not deceive yourself by thinking “everyone” is a potential customer.  A marketplace reality is that all potential customers are already buying from other businesses. Your business will need to compete and win customers away from your competitors.  Start by identify who is most likely the target customer and ask them what do they want. 

A simple plan and budget will help organize all the things you need to do to start your business. A good plan is short, provides an outline that keeps you focuses on actions yet be responsive enough to consider new opportunities. Budges are the foundation for a successful business by prioritizing expenses and setting revenue goals.  Budgets identify how much it will cost to start and to operate.  When you plan for what it really takes to be successful actions can be taken to start at a manageable scale and then grow as sales increase and you improve operations.
Get Help. When writing a business plan and starting a business its very easy to convince yourself that you know what's best.  An objective third party review will bring you back to reality and help you find a path the results in a successful business.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Price is More than Dollars and Cents

Customers are sensitive to the cash price once they are in the store, but they decide on what store based on emotional likes or dislikes. All things equal a customer will choose the product with the lowest cash price. Yet in real life customers make decisions on how they feel about the store, the products or services.

A customer’s emotional desires can overrule the pure economic interest for lowest cash price.  We’ll call these desires the non-monetary value of price.  Non-monetary price are all of the aspects of acquiring a product of service that require the customer to exert time, effort, experience an inconvenience or disruption to their normal activities.  If any aspect of the acquisition process causes a customer to seek an alternative then the non-monetary price exceeded the economic interest of actual cash price.

One example of extreme non-monetary price was on the news the other night.  In this case, the customer’s desire for the product was so strong hundreds they were willing to wait hours on end for a token that would allow them to come back later, waiting a second time, to buy Seahawks tickets. An extreme example of emotional desire worth any inconvenience.  We’ll call that strong brand loyalty.  

In a more day to day situation emotional pleasures include buying from a specific store, a specific style of clothing or a favored brand of any merchandise.  These desires increase the willingness to pay a bit more and go a bit farther out of the way to get the satisfaction of the preferred product.  Starbucks is an example of playing to emotional desires through delivery of a combination of product, service, setting, and rewarding loyal customers to create a very strong customer base.

Test your own responses to the non-monetary price on your daily activities.  Consider how long you are willing to wait in a drive up line to obtain a latte.  Will you stop at a store if you finding a parking space in front yet pass that store if you have to walk more than a block.  Why do you shop at the stores you frequent most often, is it sticker price or something else.

For business minimizing the negative non-monetary price and maximizing the positive emotional desires is a case for understanding your customer’s.   As consumers we are not logical, we make emotional decision about which store before considering the cash price.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Community Sourced Capital in Washington State

Recently Washington State Department of Commerce and Community Sourced Capital, launched a campaign aimed at bringing zero-interest crowd-sourced loans to small businesses in all of Washington’s 39 counties.  So what is community sourced funding and how does this program work for businesses.
Essentially Community Sourced Capital is a portal to crowdfunding. A portal hosts funding requests so that crowds of people primarily in the community where the business is located can make small investments to support economic development in their neighborhood.  
To start a business will submit a loan application to Community Sourced Capital and pay a fee to become a member of the portal.  The application is checked for financial integrity and community connection, history of sales and existing debts that might compromise the ability to repay the loan. Promotional material indicate loans are at zero interest but there are monthly fees.  Loans must be repaid in three years or less.
The amount of money loan is divided into units called squares at $50 each. Supporters can may as many $50 squares as they wish to support to business. Squares do not return interest to the supporter. AS the business repays the loan the payment is divided and shares paid into the squareholders   account. Monthly statements and short updates are also provided to squareholders.
Like all crowdfunding site the business seeking funds will need to make a serious marketing effort to campaign for local supporters. Steps include creating awareness of the funding request, making sure the request has a social value that the community will want to support.  In the end it will be the community supporters who determine if the business gets a loan.  In most crowdfunding campaigns that were successful typically had great marketing efforts. 
For details and information  https://www.communitysourcedcapital.com/