It seems the most recent question asked of me lately is, "what is the chamber going to do to help small businesses in 2009?" I continue to receive phone calls with individuals asking me if we have enough financing available for businesses in our area. Pick up any news periodical and you will see evidence of the turn in the economy due to the most recent developments in the real estate market, the auto industry, and our financial institutions.
I don't want to dwell on the bad news shared by the media. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are actually living these turn of events every day. If you're looking for advice and solutions on how to deal with the situation, we hope you will turn to the chamber so that we might be a strong resource as you grow your business.
I strongly believe entrepreneurs should not wait for the tough times to pass, but should instead continue to aggressively grow their businesses. Despite the news to the contrary, entrepreneurs can still find financing. Here are some tips:
• Stick close to home. Try local lenders (smaller regional banks), credit unions, and private investors. Our chamber membership is comprised of many local lenders.
• Get comfortable with equity financing. I know many of you might be reluctant to give away a piece of your company if you are anything like me. But, that reluctance could really hurt your business. Now might be the bet time to inject some capital infusion. Capital infusion often refers to the cross-subsidization of divisions within a firm. When one division is not doing well, it might benefit from an infusion of new funds from the more successful divisions. In the context of venture capital, it can also refer to funds received from a venture capitalist to either get the firm started or to save it from failing due to lack of cash.
• Be detail-oriented. Having prepared my own business plan, I know from experience your loan package needs to be strong and include in the plan, a competitive analysis, complete financials, client referrals, and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis.
• Curb spending. This is a key time to look for places where you can cut spending both personal and business spending. This is not the time to stop marketing or investing in new technologies.
Instead of buying into the doom and gloom, entrepreneurs need to "get re-energized & think outside the box" and avoid making any decisions that you might regret later.
Here are five "don'ts":
• Don't cut your prices. Unless you are absolutely certain that lowering prices will boost sales (which rarely happens), you shouldn't do it. Cutting prices generally leads to cutting into your profits. I made this mistake after 9/11.
• Don't stop talking. Today consumers are telling us what they want and need. You have to keep the dialogue flowing with your customers and your vendors. Maintaining a good relationship with your suppliers is also very important. They can even help you through some tough times - just don't wait until you're in a pinch before you contact them.
• Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. No matter what's happening in the economy. If you've got an idea you think will set the world on fire, the time to go for it is now!
• Don't stop networking. You can't be reactive, sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or people to walk into your storefront or office. Networking is more important than ever, "the more leads you generate, the more sales you'll bring in." Marketing is no longer limited to print advertizing and radio. Cyberspace has opened the door to so many marketing opportunities. It's a new technology world. So get on board and try to embrace these new avenues to reach your customers and bring your product, your service, and your brand to where they are.
The world is getting smaller while the marketplace is growing bigger. The answer to "what is the chamber going to do to help businesses in 2009" is help your business grow of course! We will continue to bring people together and strive to help our members grow their businesses exponentially. We believe now is the time to surge ahead and "Take it to the Extreme". Make the first step and make your reservation for the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting today!
Becky Hajost is the President of the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce.