Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Mother Nature has started out 2014 with a bang, and as many businesses shut down during our snow storm recently, you may have been considering what will 2014 bring to the Wabash Valley in regards to your company?
According to America’s Small Business Resource and Referral Network there are six tips they have identified to help you build your business this year.
n Virtual Business Mentoring: I recently had a conversation with a client about the challenges faced by new as well as seasoned business owners. So often people think it is easy to own a business. Truth be known, it is not. Owning a company is extremely hard work and it requires long hours, family support and usually up to two to three years before you even get to take home a paycheck.
If you can locate a mentor, preferably in your industry, but any mentor can help you regardless of their industry. A mentor can help you by navigating through the streets, hills and valleys of business ownership. They have most likely experienced everything you are going through and use their experience to prevent you from making the same mistakes.
• Business Assistance Programs: Research your community to identify programs and networks that have tools available to assist business owners. For example, most chambers have committees and events that owners and employees can participate in as well as training classes offered to increase knowledge in a variety of areas ranging from social media to accounting.
• Alternative Funding Tools and Expertise: Have you heard of Kickstarter? Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site to assist either new or existing small business owners gain capital for their operations by bringing their projects and ideas to “life.” (www.kickstarter.com) There are also other avenues to gain funding, such as using a funding campaign on Facebook. There is no bad idea or project; here are two to give you an idea: a RoboCop statue in Detroit or an arm band solar generator.
n Low Overhead Costs: Consider any services you can outsource to reduce costs and using virtual office meetings. Virtual office meetings can be an effective solution to expand offerings in ways that provide a cost savings while simultaneously enhancing productivity.
• Cloud-Based Applications: These increase operational efficiencies through avenues such as bookkeeping, expense control and project management.
• Networking, Networking, Networking: This historical business practice still ranks as one of the most effective tools to grow and establish your business. We have discussed the importance of networking before, and it continues to be vital to the success of a company. We are very blessed and fortunate in the Wabash Valley to have multiple networking events to attend on an annual basis. For example, United Way has Big Hair and Bow Ties coming up on Jan. 25. By attending an event like this, business owners have the opportunity not only to meet new people but to engage them by sharing their story of their company. (Be sure to have your elevator speech ready that tells who you are and what benefit your business will provide them.) Another example is each of our regional chambers has networking events through luncheons, training events and committee memberships. You must engage with the public to create branding awareness, referrals and to grow your customer base.
As we conclude today, be sure to do a bit of business reflection back on 2013. What went well? What went not so well? Then develop a plan of action using some of the trends mentioned here for 2014 to help you and your company become more established.
Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.