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// by Elaine Eisenman / Jul. 31, 2009 5 comments

Turn Risk into Opportunity

iStock_000004295280XSmallClose your eyes and picture a risk. Is the picture in your mind’s eye a danger or an opportunity? Few of us realize that risk is not necessarily something bad, and in fact can lead to something wonderful. Another common misconception about risk is that it is all or nothing. Either you can control all of the outcomes of a decision or you can control none of them. For budding entrepreneurs or early-stage enterprise leaders, this misconception can be paralyzing. Yet the most effective leaders are those that embrace risk and manage it towards the most positive outcome. In truth, the knowledge and control you have over the factors included in risk are always on a spectrum. Especially in these times of economic upheaval, the degree to which you can know and control all that is knowable and controllable depends on the tools you have available at the time of decision making. And the knowledge you have will never be complete because no one, you included:
  • Knows the future except in hindsight.
  • Can ever know everything because everything and anything is subject to change without notice.
  • Has enough time to identify and evaluate all options and choices. .
Once you recognize what is controllable and knowable and what is not, the most essential and least asked question is “what is the worst case scenario?” If you can live with your answer, then the risk is a likely path to opportunity. Each one of us has a different tolerance of the unknown and even the “worst case scenario” varies based on the eye of the beholder. For this reason, truly knowing and understanding your own style and appetite for risk can be one of your most powerful assets. Picture a continuum, if you fall on one end you are a “Risk Worrier™;” on the other end, you would be a “Risk Warrior™.” Risk Worriers are people whose motto is “better safe than sorry.” These are the leaders who over-rate uncertainties, are pessimistic about outcomes, and prefer security and status quo to reaching for potential opportunities. The term “analysis-paralysis” definitely applies to these risk-avoiding leaders. Or are you a Risk Warrior? Someone who participates simply for the risks involved and might be seen as over-daring when it comes to risk? This end of the continuum brings a different set of problems that can occur when the risk taken is not well understood and the chances of failure are increased. Or do you fall somewhere in between? Do you step back and assess the risk and its consequences to determine if the probability of potential success is greater than the probability of potential failure? Ask yourself when you hold yourself back from risk taking and identify the times when you were willing to take risks. Looking for a pattern will help you understand your style and assist you in assessing when to take risks and when to pass because, at base, if the ROI is not greater than the chance of failure, then passing on the risks increases your chances of success next time. Elaine Eisenman, Guest Blogger  View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers
Elaine Eisenman
// by SCORE Association / Jul. 30, 2009 1 comments

 Improve Cash Flow & Grow

iStock_000006413338XSmallAs the market rebounds, get ahead of the game. Increase your cash flow now. Help your business earn higher profits and improve cash flow to sustain business growth. Check out these finance guides to get the most out of your biz.   . Resources to Jump Start Your Cash Flow Collect Payment Establish a Line of Credit Finance Your Start-up (Also in Spanish) Get a Loan (Also in Spanish) Manage Cash Flow (Also in Spanish) Profit Planning Trim Fuel Costs SCORE Association View more posts by SCORE
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by SCORE Association / Jul. 29, 2009 1 comments
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by Betty Otte / Jul. 28, 2009 5 comments

Follow Your Dreams, Get Business Advice

j0400032At SCORE I meet with many women who are thinking of going into business. I recently met with a woman who wanted to open a bakery because everyone loved her cookies. She was newly divorced, had a chunk of cash and dreamed of opening a bakery. "My friends and family all love my cookies and my recipes are special." She had no business background and knew nothing about running a business. I asked if she had ever worked in a bakery. No,but she often went to a little French bakery near her home. Asking if she had researched the cost of opening a bakery (a sneaky way to start talking about the business plan) she said "no", but she had a substantial chunk of cash. When I asked if she knew the hours involved in running a business her face lit up as she said she needs little sleep. This was a trick question on my part as I knew she had not experienced the hard labor involved in running a bakery. Bottom line, I suggested she go to our SCORE all day workshop on how to start your own business and to spend 6 months working in a bakery learning the trade of running a bakery. With that she explained that she had come to be supported in her dream and that I didn't understand her plan. Needless to say, she was not one of my repeat SCORE clients. Two parts to any business: the art or craft of the business (how to bake) and and the art of running a business (business experience or know how). Unfortunately, she had neither and was not willing to learn. Before you open a business take inventory of your skills and use SCORE to help with the art of running a business. What is your story about starting your business? You can learn the hard way, but why? Come see SCORE. That is why we are here. Betty Otte, SCORE Orange County View more posts by Betty
Betty Otte
// by SCORE Association / Jul. 27, 2009 2 comments

From Neighborhood Trend to Global Brand

In 1987, two young entrepreneurs set out to find feminine and quality driven luggage for women. When their search was unsuccessful, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller decided to make their own. After stealing the show with neighborhood clothing displays, Baekgaard and Miller knew they needed to meet the growing demand and come up with a solid business plan. The two fashion forward women contacted SCORE in Ft. Wayne. They met with mentor George Cook who gave them the business advice they needed to grow their company into a fashion empire. With help from SCORE, Vera Bradley Designs transformed from a neighborhood trend to a global brand. Miller says, “George never told us what to do or how to do it. He would ask questions that helped us find the solutions for ourselves. We were very lucky to connect with somebody whose business expertise complimented our creativity. I'm sure SCORE does that for everybody. They are a fantastic organization.” Even as a global, multimillion dollar company, the two owners say they never hesitate to contact George for business advice. Have you tried SCORE? Let us know how your mentor has helped you succeed. SCORE Association View more posts by SCORE
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by Elaine Eisenman / Jul. 24, 2009 3 comments

Successful Business Growth in Tough Times

iStock_000006668316XSmallThe business world can learn a lot from gardeners. Gardeners are masters at nurturing growth. They know when to plant a seed to ensure the external environment is ripe for new opportunity. They know how to care for the emerging organism so it begins to grow and withstand challenging conditions. They know when to prune, often cutting out the strongest branches to enable sunlight in to foster more growth that better fits the environment. And they know that they must step back at times, assess their progress, and identify things that inhibit the organism from reaching its full growth potential. CEOs also need to periodically take stock of their employees to ensure that growth is possible. Times of turbulence offer companies the opportunity to look at their talent pool and identify what the company needs to achieve its future goals. If your future goal is to become the leading supplier of the latest technology widgit, for example, ask yourself if your current employees have the right technical skills to achieve new innovations in widgitry? Does your management team have the strategic vision to both identify and pursue new widget markets as well as to help expand the current ones? If the answer is yes, then the question you now need to ask is what can I do to help my employees continue to be their best? The reason that continued investment in your people is so critical is that the talent wars continue to survive and thrive. If you don’t invest in keeping your human assets and building upon their strengths, you can be sure your competitors will invest in recruiting them. If your answer is no–you don’t have the right employees to help you grow into the future. Now is the time for you to make adjustments to your bench. Even the strongest performers can’t help you achieve your company’s goals if their strengths are not in the areas your future organization needs. Often, this is a very difficult decision for leaders. Most emerging organizations tend to hire for the skills needed at this very moment. And many founders develop strong loyalties to those who were there “from the beginning.” When the organization moves forward or in a different direction, leaders may fail to make the needed talent changes. This can be detrimental to your organization. And it may be a disservice to those valued employees whose skills were right at one point in time, but who may not reach their full potential because they’re no longer a fit at your company. If your strong performers can help drive the company into the future, be sure to invest in them. If they cannot, or their expertise lies in an area your future organization doesn’t need, take a cue from the gardeners. Prune systematically and fully with a vision of the future. Help your root-bound talent replant in an environment that will nurture their growth. And provide the necessary nutrients to foster the growth in your own organization to achieve its full growth potential. Elaine Eisenman, Guest Blogger  View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers
Elaine Eisenman
// by Julie Brander / Jul. 23, 2009 7 comments

Tips and Tools for Creating Brochures

The purpose of a brochure is to inspire the perspective customer to do business with you. A Brochure:
  1. Helps you establish credibility.
  2. Gives you the ability to explain what your company does.
  3. Explains the reasons the customer needs your services or products.
  4. Will focus on the benefits of your services or products in detail.
Brochure Content:
  • Is it eye catching?
  • Does it establish credibility? List your credentials and experience
  • Are the benefits to the customer listed?
  • Are the products or services clearly described?
  • Are the prices listed (optional if applicable)?
  • Are their graphics, pictures if applicable?
  • Is it easy to read and written in simple language?
  • Are the type sizes and styles easy to read?
  • Is it written in sincere friendly easy to understand language?
  • Have you used bold face and bullets to emphasize key points?
  • Does it provide a call for action?
  • Does it include your name and phone number in more than one place?
  • Is there an email and website available?
  • Is the address included with directions if applicable
  • Consider attaching your business card
. Make sure your brochure is printed on heavier paper stock, perhaps in color and hand it out at networking events along with your business card.
Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by SCORE Association / Jul. 22, 2009 0 comments

Put Plans in Place to Protect Your Business

Resources for your business: Free Events: "For the Good of Your Business." Learn more. Hosted by SCORE and HP. Christine Banning, SCORE View more posts by Christine
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by Peg Corwin / Jul. 21, 2009 2 comments

Companies Can No Longer Hide from Digital Media

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo] With the power of social media in this Web 2.0 world, your business can't run and hide.  It's got to deliver or apologize and make good. You have probably seen or read about the video of cable company repair guy caught sleeping at a customer's house, or how Twitter and YouTube are upsetting elections in Iran.  Here's yet another example of the power of customers using social media. SCORE Chicago counselor and DePaul marketing prof Hank Rodkin gave me a head's up on a small band that was flying on United.  They looked out the window before takeoff to see their guitars being thrown around and broken by the luggage handlers.  Click the arrow to play the above video, and hear the story in song. And the story, as reported by CNN: customer power with social media "This is a case study", Hank says, "on how viral videos and the digital age have changed the marketplace.  And why it's critical for service businesses to follow through with service." Many SCORE counselors, including those at SCORE Chicago, understand social media and can help you market your business online.

Related Posts: Web 2.0 Marketing:  Friedman's 4 Steps into Social Media Why Web 2.0 Marketing Is Hard For Us 1.0 Marketers Nonprofits Use Fire Power of Social Media:  One Condominium Tries Social Media Marketing

Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago View more posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Peggy Duncan / Jul. 20, 2009 4 comments

Make a Dent in Email Overload

Practicing email etiquette will help you and your recipients reduce email overload. Before you know it, better email habits will reduce the flurry of messages going back and forth, your messages will be clearer and have more meaning, and your recipients will be able to answer more thoroughly.
  • Protect the privacy of the recipients with Bcc. If you're sending a message to a group of people, send it to yourself and blind copy (Bcc) everyone else. You'll protect the privacy of everyone's email address and you'll prevent a Reply to All fiasco (with Bcc, if a person clicks Reply to All, only the originator receives it).
  • Make your subject line sizzle. Your subject line should read like the headline in a newspaper. The recipient should know precisely what your message is about just by reading the subject line. It should always match the message.
  • Add a salutation. Always greet the person you're writing with Hi Mary, Dear John, Hello John, etc. Otherwise, your email will come across as an order, especially if you're making a request.
  • Remind the recipients of who you are. If you've met someone once or it's been awhile since you've reached out to them, remind them of previous encounters.
  • Treat email as a business letter. Email should receive the same treatment as a letter on your company's stationery. If you wouldn't put smiley faces, ivy growing down the side, shorthand as in an instant message, etc., in a letter, then don't do it in email. Proper grammar, capitalizations, and punctuation should be standard.
  • Be brief but be clear. Spend time crafting a well thought-out email and get to the point quickly. Use bullets if you're making several points so the message can be quickly scanned. Put any deadlines in a bold font near the top and bottom of your message.
  • Thank people in advance. You can reduce email overload if you simply thank people in advance. Then you won't feel compelled to send a useless one-word thank you email later.
  • Avoid receiving numerous useless replies. When you send a message to a group, add at the top and bottom of the message whether you need a reply (e.g., NRN for no reply necessary).
  • Keep the body of the previous email with your answer. Set your email software to include the previous message when you reply. Don't make the originator have to go back to figure out what they asked you for.
  • Answer within 48 hours. An email message is not a 9-1-1 call, but it should be answered within a reasonable time. Your company should set this standard.
  • Think before you send. Read the message before you reply, giving the sender everything they've requested. If you're in a meeting with your PDA under the table, you're not going to send a good answer. Wait until you're back at your desk and can think more clearly. And don't answer any messages when you're upset.
. Start practicing better habits and etiquette today and keep me posted on your progress. Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy
Peggy Duncan