Season's greetings from the staff of the MU Extension Business Development Program.
What's on your wish list?
It's the time of year for lists. Lists of gifts to give and lists of gifts you hope to receive.
If you're like most business owners, you never seem to have enough hours in the day to get everything done. And while we can't offer you the gift of more time, we can help make some of your wishes reality.
If you're hoping to ...
Better understand your current market, potential markets and your competition.
The Business Growth Services team in the MO SBTDC can help. This team provides the kind of high-powered research that major corporations pay for on a regular basis but is just too expensive for small and medium-sized firms. Unwrap this gift to get help with website optimization, social media marketing, geographic information systems and in-depth industry information. The best part? The information is customized to your business, and our counselors will not only provide and interpret the information, they stay engaged with your firm to assist with implementation of any improvements you'd like to make.
Move your idea from the drawing board to the marketplace.
Remember that small businesses create most new products and technologies. Not every small business owner can invent an industry as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did, but every entrepreneur can explore a bright idea to see if it will fly. Financing can be an obstacle and banks can be conservative when it comes to funding an unknown innovation. That's why angel investors, federal research and development grants and venture capital funds are so vital to technology-oriented small businesses. SBTDC staff can help you discover non-conventional sources of financing and prepare to make your request.
Understand where all of your money is going.
Have a discussion with an SBTDC counselor. Few of us are born accountants, and navigating your balance sheet and profit and loss statements can befuddle even the most gifted business owner. Gaining an understanding of where your money comes from and where it goes can help you better understand your company's past, current and future performance. We'll help you make sense of the numbers and use the information to make sound management decisions.
Enter government contracting.
The PTAC program can help you check that off your wish list. PTAC has one goal: to assist businesses — including small, disadvantaged and women-owned firms — obtain federal, state and local government contracts. We can help you cut the red tape, find the best opportunities for your company and prepare your bids. Doing business with the government can be frustrating, but PTAC is here to help.
Enter the international market.
You can join the ranks of Missouri businesses who export outside the U.S., where 96 percent of the world's consumers reside, with help from the SBTDC's international trade team. With counseling, training and access to key programs, this team can help you determine if you are ready to export and identify potential markets for your goods and services. Here are just a few businesses the team has helped compete in the international area: a T-shirt maker, a blood donor chair manufacturer and a food distributor.
Compete against cheaper imports.
Here's what could be one of your best gifts this year. The Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) provides funding and assistance to U.S. manufacturers and some service firms that have been affected by changes in international markets, offshoring and other threats to competitiveness. The TAAF center at Blue Springs helps companies throughout Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas with projects in production, engineering, quality control, marketing, management and information technology — almost anything that will boost your sales. Here are just a few success stories.
Save on energy costs.
The Missouri Environmental Assistance Center (MO EAC) can help. Its Pollution Prevention Intern Program recruits and trains upper-level engineering students to identify and analyze opportunities to reduce energy and environmental costs. This program has saved Missouri companies more than $1 million in annual operating costs. The MO EAC has lots of other tips to help your business realize significant energy savings, such as 10 ways to go green for the holidays, installing lighting upgrades that can cut 50 to 70 percent of your business' lighting bills and much, much more.
Predict the future.
You can wish for a crystal ball, but working with the MO SBTDC to understand current economic and marketplace trends may be slightly more reliable. Here are some things we're seeing in the future:
- Transfer of wealth.
Following the Great Depression and WWII, the U.S. entered a golden age of business development and personal prosperity. Americans created, invested and multiplied unprecedented private wealth. Experts predict that over the next 50 years, $75 trillion (and that's a conservative estimate) will change hands, transferring to heirs, charities and community support. It's never too early to start planning your succession strategy.
- Youth offers advantages and opportunities.
Young entrepreneurs are entering the market bearing not only energy but also optimism and a higher tolerance for risk. We'll see more and more young business owners in the future, and they have grown up multi-tasking and building online networks. As one youthful entrepreneur said to us recently as we admired his ability to create a powerful online presence without even breaking a sweat, "You all grew up learning languages like Spanish and Latin; I grew up learning this language. It has been part of my life since the beginning." If you're hiring and managing youthful workers, you would be wise to adopt techniques employed by the most successful sports coaches. Most workers anticipate spending no more than three or four years in each position, so you may have your talent for only a short time, much like a college coach. These workers learn quickly; push them hard and help them prepare to succeed at the next stop on their career path (PDF file).
- Everyone is going to be online.
Believe it or not, 64 percent of Missouri businesses still do not have an online presence. But that's changing quickly, and the prognosticators say the marketplace is shifting rapidly to instantly connect people, information, goods, services and ideas. And we won't have to sit at a computer workstation to make it happen. We'll wear watches or bracelets or pins that connect with a touch.
- Boomers are going to continue to rule.
We're going to see continual growth in the demand for many home services as those born between 1945 and 1964 begin to need more help. The youngest boomers turn 50 in 2014, and the next boom is going to be in elder care, retirement services, travel, hospitality, home health care and recreation. As the population moves to the most desirable retirement regions, there will be a corresponding need for local services, such as restaurants, dry cleaners, retail and entertainment.
As the new year begins, we wish you happiness, prosperity and continued success. Let us know if we can help.
Accredited Member of the ASBDC
America's Small Business Development Centers
Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
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