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Small Factories Embrace Automation Because They Can’t Find Enough People

Robotic arms on display.

If you look up at the night sky and happen upon some little lights on the move it might be a shooting star. Likely it is not a UFO.

The better bet, of course, is that the lights belong to an airplane. And the odds are very high they come from Astronics Luminescent Systems Inc (LSI).

These ingeniously designed, extra-durable LED exterior lights are made at Astronics LSI’s flagship factory in East Aurora, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. The facility, utterly nondescript from the outside, though a sprawling, bustling workshop inside, employs 300 mostly blue-collar workers.

With its motto of “innovation at 30,000 feet,” Astronics LSI is well-known in the industry for aircraft lighting. It’s also a major supplier of cockpit instrument panels. The company’s hundreds of products are subjected to rigorous quality control measures as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Cockpit lights need to be bright, but not too bright. And they can’t ever suddenly go out.

Image result for small industry big size gif advertisementsDemand is usually sky high with new jet fleets being rolled out regularly. Astronics products are custom-crafted. They are tested and re-tested. Nothing is rushed.

Still, the company is eager to ramp up production. And they would, too. If only they could hire more people.

“It’s been a continual challenge for us,” Astronics CFO David Burney said. “We can’t find enough qualified workers.”

The company needs machinists and engineers and assemblers – careful, not easily distracted people who like working with their hands.

Astronics is not alone.

The National Association of Manufacturers has sounded an alarm, estimating some 2.4 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2028 due to labor shortages.

Somewhere along the line, over the past several generations, high school shop courses fell out of favor as communities steered their youths toward college degrees tied to white-collar work. New forces are at now reshaping the labor market.

Automation, as well as AI technology that takes robotics closer to sci-fi levels, has and will continue to reconfigure work as humans have known it. At risk, it seems, are people who weld, fabricate, mill, join, lathe, wire, cut, hoist, assemble, package and load stuff.

“AI could affect work in virtually every occupational group,” said the Brookings Institute in a new report. And while manufacturing and production workers will be among the most affected, white-collar workers are seen as equally vulnerable.

Most big companies, such as those in the automotive industry, already have become mostly automated; smaller companies, not so much.

Robotic arms have become nimbler, safer and less expensive. It has never made more sense for so-called “SMEs” (small and medium-sized enterprises) to automate.

Image result for small industry big size gif advertisements

Advanced manufacturing has a chance to transform smaller manufacturers like Astronics, and hundreds of others like them in the Western New York region.

Written off by some as a rust-belt relic, Buffalo tried to reinvent itself during the 1980s and ‘90s as more of a white-collar hub. But its blue-collar roots run deep, going back to the early part of the nineteenth century.

The first waves of Irish immigrants, many of whom helped build the Erie Canal, found work unloading grain shipments from eastbound lake freighters hauling barley, wheat and rye across Lake Michigan, by way of the Detroit River, to Buffalo. In the latter part of the 19th century, that task was automated. Grain elevators (buckets fastened to steam-powered conveyor belts) may have displaced some Irishmen (who became “scoopers,” going down into hulls to shovel the corner piles that the buckets couldn’t snag) and, as more Irish (and German and Polish and Jewish and Italian and black Southerners) poured into Buffalo, they found abundant employment. Bethlehem Steel and Curtiss-Wright and GM and Ford plants at one time all ranked among the most productive manufacturing sites on the planet.

By the 1970s, most of the large manufacturers were gone, leaving behind empty, too-massive-to-knock down facilities most of which still stand today like “the ruins of a manufacturing empire,” as one local business leader has said.

In 2014, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, through his Buffalo Billion initiative, opened Buffalo Manufacturing Works. It runs an ambitious nonprofit program to help revitalize the area’s manufacturing base through technology, including robotics and also additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

Related imageBuffalo Manufacturing Works (and don’t ever call them “BMW” if only because the German multinational has that trademarked) was born of a vision by state and local leaders to reinvigorate the city’s manufacturing base. Because Buffalo had few, if any, automation consultants and no real robotics industry of which to speak, the state partnered with Columbus, Ohio-based technology innovator EWI.

For more than three decades, EWI has been providing advanced manufacturing support to companies across the rust belt and throughout the country. Expanding on what EWI has done in Ohio, Buffalo Manufacturing Works serves as a central resource for Western New York manufacturers as they tip-toe toward innovation, including automation.

The Buffalo area is still home to more than a dozen large manufacturers, including Moog, Sumitomo Rubber, Fisher-Price/Mattel and Dresser-Rand. Two GM plants still make engines here. And there is a Ford stamping plant.

Tesla’s controversial factory in South Buffalo, originally SolarCity, employs about 300 people making energy storage products for electric cars. Panasonic Corp, which makes solar panels, has about 400 employees. Whether the Tesla-Panasonic partnership creates hundreds more jobs remains to be seen. (Based on the amount of subsidies provided, New York State believes it will).

Despite the dramatic reduction of large manufacturers over the decades, there are roughly 1,600 small- and medium-sized factories based in Western New York (a region also often dubbed Buffalo/Niagara) still making stuff – aircraft lights and radio antennas and countless other items. Mostly we are talking about small parts and components of other products. To stay competitive, these small companies, many of them run like family businesses, will need to invest in the future.

“Only about 20% of the small factories in the Buffalo area have some form of automation,” said Mike Garman, Senior Engineer-Automation, Buffalo Manufacturing Works. “The rest are just starting out down this road. A lot of these companies know they need to automate but putting in a robotic arm? That’s overwhelming to them – they don’t know where to begin.”

If Buffalo is ever to regain past manufacturing glory, the companies calling it home might have no choice but to automate.

“We project more than 20,000 advanced manufacturing job openings in Western New York in the next 10 years,” said Stephen Tucker, President and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, another key player in the region’s advanced manufacturing initiative. The openings owe to an aging workforce and pending retirements, Tucker added.

“[The training center] is working to prepare local residents with 21st century technical skills necessary to fill those jobs,” he said.

Related imageAbout a 15-minute drive north from Astronics’ East Aurora factory is one of Buffalo’s best-known suburbs, Orchard Park, home of the NFL’s Bills.

In a bland corporate complex, not that much more than a Josh Allen deep ball away from New Era Field, is a company called STI-CO. They make mobile radio antenna systems. STI-CO’s customers include law enforcement agencies and the military which need customized covert equipment. The U.S. Department of Defense uses the company’s products to outfit low-profile overseas operations and in natural disasters.

Additionally, STI-CO engineers antenna systems for freight and passenger railroads that communicate critical Positive Train Control data such as how fast a train is moving and if it needs to be remotely controlled to slow down.

“We recognize that we need to automate and have allocated the resources to do it,” said CEO Kyle Swiat, whose late father, Robert Kaiser, a machinist, founded the company in 1967. “But we are involving all of our people in the conversation.”

They’ve added CNC machines and a 3-D printer to speed up processes.

“Our employees are excited about the technologies,” she said. “They want to see the company invest in future growth.”

Today, STI-CO produces hundreds of products and is keen to stay competitive in a global market. That means exploring alternatives, including, eventually, robotics.

She also confirmed the challenge of finding qualified, reliable workers and sees automation as inevitable and a win for her 45 employees.

“This is a family,” she said. “Even if we could automate the whole operation we wouldn’t ever do that because we believe that people still make the difference.”

One of the worst jobs at the STI-CO plant had been the dreaded taping and labeling detail. Each set of antennas come with sets of color-coded wires (like when you hook up a stereo). STI-CO’s process for packaging and marking the wires not only was tedious but woefully inefficient i.e. done in an outdated manner the way they’ve always done it – by hand.

So in something of a baby step into the future, STI-CO, about ten months ago, invested in a computer-enabled system. While not a robot, the creatively engineered set-up was a modern machine that took on the bundling and labeling tasks previously done by humans, freeing up those workers to focus more on quality control.

“When a company looks to automate, the first project should be an easy win,” Garman said.

Simply automating for the sake of automating, without fully thinking it through, creates more headaches, not less, he warns; a robot deployed without a clear problem to solve is just “a hammer in search of nail,” Garman explains. “We always say, ‘start slow, start small and keep it simple’ and then move from there to something more ambitious.”

As far as its first foray into actual robots, STI-CO is still coming up the curve with help from Garman and the team at Buffalo Manufacturing Works, as well as from a host of robotics industry people: advisory professionals; robotic arm distributors; systems integrators and consultants. These firms form a village of advanced manufacturing enablers supporting smaller factories in their efforts to automate more activities.

In the next installment, we’ll take a deeper dive into this robotics ecosystem and the work they are doing to reboot the Buffalo area.

(Part two of this three-part series will run tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 27.)

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I’ve covered Wall Street for nearly 25 years, focused mainly on asset management, working for publications such as ABCNews.com, Trader Monthly and Institutional Investor. Lately, writing as a freelancer, I’ve been focusing on machine learning and automation. I am also the author of three nonfiction books, including “The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up,” currently being adapted into a motion picture. I do NOT have a podcast.

Source: Small Factories Embrace Automation – Because They Can’t Find Enough People

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B2B eCommerce: Here’s What Every B2B Company Needs to Know

B2B customers need seamless user experiences and top-notch branding just like B2C customers.

B2B eCommerce, when compared to the B2C industry, is projected to be two times bigger than B2C in 2020. In fact, it’s anticipated to be the area of largest eCommerce growth from 2020 to 2025.

That means BIG things for B2B marketing are on the horizon.

Merit claims that 73 percent of B2B buyers today are Millennials, who prefer buying online—this is a large part of why B2B eCommerce growth has occurred at such lightning speed.

According to the latest publication from Meticulous Research, the global e-commerce market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.1 percent from 2018 to 2025, reaching $24,265.12 billion by 2025.

This can be attributed to factors including:

  • Rising mobile and internet penetration
  • Technological advances such as big data and cloud-based e-commerce platforms
  • Advanced shipping and payment options
  • Rise in disposable incomes.

The Push for Amazon Businessmazon Business is the B2B marketplace on Amazon, providing business customers with the pricing, selection, and convenience of Amazon, with features and benefits designed for businesses of all sizes.

It’s designed to make purchasing easy and cost-effective by combining Amazon’s familiar one-stop shopping with quantity discounts, price comparisons, approval workflows, and multi-user accounts.

Its competitive annual membership program means that, similar to Prime members, Amazon Business members get perks including free two-day shipping. It also includes business-tailored features, such as multi-user business accounts, approval workflow, payment solutions, tax exemptions, dedicated customer support, and more.

Install WooCommerce

How B2B Brands Build Relationships with Clients and UsersAs retailers become more selective in choosing the brands they want to carry, B2B sites must give brands the platform to not only sell the products they offer but promote the image they’ve built.

So how can you engage the majority of consumers—whether B2B or B2C—with a straightforward marketing strategy? Here are five steps to take which, if implemented over time and with consistency, can help you reach success.

1. Create A Blog About Your Niche

Your eCommerce store is for other business people. They want information that will help them make rational decisions. When you create a blog for your niche, you’re supporting your community while also gaining valuable SEO.

2. High-Quality Backlinks: Reach Out To Develop B2B Connections And Content

Backlinks, or links from other pages leading back to your website, help build your web page’s authority within your domain. They’re also an excellent B2B marketing strategy for eCommerce pages.

3. Establish an E-Commerce SEO Strategy For Your B2B eCommerce Store: Optimize Your URLs

This is a key part of telling both humans and search engines what to expect to find on the page. Good URLs are related to the page they represent, and are essential for good user metrics.

4. Improve Site Speed: B2B Clients Get Impatient Too

People hate to wait for an eCommerce page to load. Whether you’ve got a B2C or B2B page, you need to do everything you can to deliver a speedy experience—otherwise, you’ll be losing business by the second.

5. Set Goals For Your B2B Ecommerce Site And Track With Analytics

Install Required Plugins

On average, B2B clients do more research than B2B consumers because they are making business decisions. Understand what your clients need and offer them the services that will make finding business opportunities easier for them.

Learn to Support Brands in B2B EcommerceEven in B2B, your brand matters! You’ve got to act like a B2C while operating as a B2B in order to generate demand, build better relationships, and ultimately drive sales. Here are four key branding factors to consider that B2B often forget.

  1. Constant Consumer Communication

Manufacture demand by communicating all the time, not just in high season for your industry or high buying times in the calendar year. This includes utilizing all social media channels and keeping them updated with fresh content.

  1. User Experience

Oftentimes, B2B sites don’t consider their user experience a high priority, which can affect how often retailers frequent and use their portal. Just as consumers prefer websites with engaging content, graphics, and character, online ordering portals can and should offer more than just utilitarian lists of SKUs.

  1. Optimize for Mobile

Millennials are picking up the B2B eCommerce market and want it on the go. B2C sites recognize this and are constantly optimizing their websites across desktop, tablet, and mobile. This should be no different for B2B sites.

  1. Brand Story

Provide the same ability for buyers to learn about brands. Enabling brands to share their stories is a crucial part of the wholesale process, both for selling to new buyers and strengthening relationships with existing buyers.

Top B2B Platforms, Technologies, and FunctionalitiesSelecting a shopping platform is the foundation of any eCommerce business operation. Most of the leading platforms are not industry-specific, and all of them competently provide core shopping cart, payment, shipping, and store management features.

For B2B, choosing the right eCommerce platform is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Some big names are always popping up like Magento, Shopify, Enterprise, and BigCommerce. When looking at the array of options, it is important to ask yourself if they have the following:

  • Mobile Compatibility—More and more B2B decision-makers are using their mobile devices to search for solutions. Not being mobile-friendly can prove costly today.
  • Compliance—The platform should be able to accommodate GDPR, ADA, and other mandatory user privacy and accessibility guidelines that are in effect today.
  • B2B eCommerce Functionality—Your B2B eCommerce platform should ideally have b2b eCommerce functionality features directed at B2B buyers like bulk ordering and pricing, account management, and multiple shipping/payment capabilities.
  • Optimal User Experience—The user should have a customizable marketplace template to choose from to create an intuitive and user-friendly experience.
  • 24/7 Availability—Unlike the traditional method where clients need to wait for your response, eCommerce platforms are always open for business.
  • Marketing functionality—With more and more online searches being made via web and mobile, SEO-optimized eCommerce platforms boost your visibility.
  • Automation and Machine Learning—Humans are error-prone. Automated platforms offer a consistent solution.
  • Customer Communications—Not only does the client get an instant response, but he can also select their desired product/s with just a few clicks.

The predominance of B2B eCommerce means that B2B businesses must improve and simplify their shopping journey, channeling the B2C ordering experience. However, the B2B shopping experience is a lot more complicated than that of a B2C customer.

Install WooCommerce

Because of the nature of the transaction, B2B buyers usually need to go through various steps, including sales representative interaction, negotiations, and approvals before they can make a successful purchase.

That’s why it’s crucial for B2B eCommerce businesses to provide a more seamless transaction, building in advanced functionality to their sites for quote management, price negotiation, easy ordering, and inventory management.

Consider hiring the right experts to manage your platforms as B2Bs have enough to consider with running their businesses. Custom programming, development, and functionality require consistent and careful planning, strategy, and great execution.

There are even companies that create custom functionality projects for any eCommerce platform such as Volusion, Bigcommerce, Shopify, 3DCart, Americommerce, Magento, Netsuite, Ecwid, Bigcartel, Zencart, Virtuemart, Prestashop, CoreCommerce, WooCommerce, WordPress, OSCommerce, Infusionsoft, Podio and X-Cart.

If you’ve been told that a certain functionality is not possible, it’s worth getting a second opinion. Even for mobile, your eCommerce store needs to in top shape to convert the sale. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be ready for the next wave of B2B eCommerce growth opportunities.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of Zen Media – a b2b communications firm. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country.

Shama is the bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, now in its 4th edition and Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Shama has delivered keynotes in over 20 countries and spoken for recognized brands including Movado, Chase, Tupperware and Inc 5000.

As a result of her success, Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn has named Hyder one of their “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media for four years in a row. Her online videos were awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was given the “Global Empowerment award for Marketing and Technology” by Anokhi Media.

As the CEO of Zen Media, she and her team help b2b companies succeed in the digital age

Source: B2B eCommerce: Here’s What Every B2B Company Needs to Know

Adding Product

Eurotas comes with several shortcodes which can be used to display your content. To use our shortcodes, you go to page editor and change to Visual Composer canvas. Click on the Add Element button to open Visual Composer elements list and change to Theme-Sky tab.

  1. Adding a product on sale and a deal:
    • With the Simple Product, you select General tab. You add a Sale Price and click the Schedule button to set up date.
    • With the Variable Product, after setting up Product Attributes in the Attributes tab, you can go to the Variations tab and add New Variation. With each Variation Product, you also click the Schedule button next to the Sale Price field. Please note that product only displays the time of first Variation Product.
  2. Adding Additional Information: You go to the Shipping tab. You set value of Weight and Dimensions options. You can change the unit by going to WooCommerce > Settings > Products tab
  3. Enable/Disable Product Review: You go to the Advanced tab. You will see Enable reviews option. Just check/uncheck it.
  4. The WooW works well with Visual Composer, the popular drag and drop page builder plugin with intuitive interface to build your content at ease. If you plan to use Visual Composer Plugin for your site, check out these source.

5 Ways You Can Recession-Proof Your Business That Go Beyond Simply Saving Money

The economic outlook at any point in time can cause confusion. Is the market bullish or bearish? What if Wall Street is happy but wages aren’t keeping pace and thus customers are tightening their belts?

One thing we can say for sure is that traditional markers of economic growth and stability show the U.S. economy is improving. Hiring is up, and unemployment is down. California just posted it’s lowest unemployment numbers in more than four decades. However, there are always doubts about the economy when debt is high and many people have little extra spending money.

What are some unconventional but beneficial moves for small businesses to make in this economic climate, then? Here are a few options.

Invest in upgrades now, not later.

Typical posts about recession-proofing your business would have you save up and hunker down for the inevitable economic downturn. While saving up is always a good thing, sometimes the best strategy to meet economic uncertainty is to grow before it arrives. Growth requires facilities sufficient to sustain increased demand. Consequently, now’s a great time for your business to invest in better equipment and facility upgrades.

Make sure you line up funding before you begin a facility overhaul or equipment buying spree, however. Start shopping around now for the best funding options. Explore bank loans, lines of credit, or other kinds of financing from different sources so you can find the most competitive terms available to you.

The types of financing available to small-business owners are increasing these days. Financial and risk-management technologies are making the extension of business credit in the form of loans or revolving lines of credit more attractive for lenders. That means you’ll have an easier time securing financing now than, say, later on, if the economy takes a turn for the worse.

Add mobile payment options.

How easy do you make it for your customers to make purchases? According to a recent Bank of America report, 46 percent of small businesses were equipped to take digital payments in 2018, a substantial increase from 36 percent in 2017.

Expanding your customer base and making it easier for those customers to make purchases is one of the soundest investments you can make in your business. Leaning into digital payment technology isn’t something that’s usually at the top of the list for most companies when times are lean. With a healthier economy right now, make sure you’re keeping up with the technological times and helping your mobile customers give you their business.

Attract top talent.

If you want your business to dominate your industry or even just a slice of it, you’ll need the best possible people on your team. Figure out ways to court the best workers in their fields for open positions.

A key strategy for accomplishing this goal is to examine what your industry leaders do. What kind of compensation packages are they offering? Where do they recruit? Do they offer college internships, and are they paid or unpaid? Adopt and adapt their tactics to suit your own business.

Plan to expand.

The crash of 2008 put a lot of business plans on hold. While the economy has certainly improved, that sense of pressure and crisis is hard to shake off. And many companies have shied away from significant investments.

Therefore, an unconventional tactic may be to dust off those expansion plans. Be careful, though. Evaluate your revenue and cash-flow projections to make sure your future earnings warrant such a move. If so, then proceed with those plans if the expansion still makes sense for your business. However, remember that goals you set years ago may not necessarily fit your business today.

Attack your debt, and build up reserves.

Pay down both personal and business debt where you can. High levels of credit card debt can rack up thousands, especially with interest rates in the double digits. If you have college student loans, pay those down as well.

Also, aggressively add more to personal savings and build up cash reserves for your business. Extra cash on hand will come in handy during a downturn.

Get a professional opinion and advice about other smart money moves. Hiring a personal or business financial planner is a savvy investment. In addition, expand your own knowledge in other ways. Read books on the economy and financial planning, take a course at your local college or online, and spend more time keeping up with financial developments through news sites and financial blogs.

Finally, set realistic yet challenging financial goals, both for yourself and your business. Goals that feel like a bit of a stretch are usually the ones that keep us fired up and motivated. Write down your goals and then figure out how you can achieve them within a realistic time frame.

By John Boitnott Journalist and digital consultant

Source: 5 Ways You Can Recession-Proof Your Business That Go Beyond Simply Saving Money | Inc.com

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How Your Small Business Can Maximize Profit & Minimize Loss With a Financial Plan

As one of the most essential aspects of a business proposal, the financial plan utilizes current financial data to project long-term profits and losses for your company. As a business owner, having a strong financial plan helps you identify potential issues and discrepancies while it’s still early enough to make changes. Having a good financial plan handy also improves your odds of securing funding from banks and other investors by showing you’ve done your due diligence.

Still, first-time entrepreneurs often struggle to create these all-important documents.

Below are five components every financial plan should have, along with suggestions for collecting the necessary data to plan your business’ future.

1. Income statements

Income statements reveal revenue, expenses and profits over a given period of time. Start by making a list of all the costs and expenses associated with running your business. This may include raw materials, suppliers, employee salaries and rent costs. Then record your revenue, which is the money you receive in exchange for providing goods and services. By subtracting your expenses from total revenue, you can determine whether your company can expect to make a profit or suffer a loss.

This information is crucial not only for planning purposes, but it can also help draw potential investors to your business.

While income statements for existing businesses convey data from the past one or two years, startups must instead forecast this information based on their research. When drafting your company’s first income statements, you may need to project profits and losses using information from similar businesses in the area. The goal is to determine if your company can support itself moving forward and make budgetary changes as needed.

2. Cash flow

Cash flow projections estimate the amount of money that will be entering and exiting the business on a regular basis. Determining net cash flow requires simply subtracting cash outflow from cash inflow, which reveals only those funds that are actually available at a given time.

Just as with your income statement projections, you’ll have to create a plan of how you expect your cash to flow based on rational observations, predictions and your own research. Again, while it seems frustrating, compiling a schedule of when cash comes in and out can give you (and investors) insight into how much cash you’ll actually have available to operate your business.

By keeping accurate cash flow statements as your business matures, you can identify problem areas before they grow too large to contain. For instance, if your projections suggest you need more immediate cash, you can try strategies to help bring it in, such as turning over inventory more quickly or reducing the length of your billing cycle. However you use it, a cash flow’s primary functions are to assess your company’s financial health and help you make business-development decisions moving forward.

Another thing to keep in mind: When calculating your cash flow projection, you won’t be able to use any revenue amounts from unpaid invoices. The reason? That revenue hasn’t been collected yet and thus isn’t available to go in or out. Yes, you may be able to declare the money from unpaid invoices in your revenue projections, but not as cash on hand.

3. Balance sheet

balance sheet provides a snapshot of a company’s assetsliabilities and equity at a given time. As its name implies, a balance is struck between a company’s assets, which equal its liability added to the value of its equity.

First, take time to list all assets, including accounts receivable, savings, inventory and equipment. Next, you should detail all liabilities, such as accounts payable, loan payments and credit card balances. Lastly, you can add up the company’s equity, which may take the form of owner equity, investor shares and earnings from stocks. When you’re finished, check to make sure that the total value of assets equals that of your liabilities plus your equity.

As you may expect, your balance sheet can have a significant effect on your business’ ability to secure the funding it needs to get off the ground. Learn more about how to create a detailed balance sheet to track your startup’s liabilities and equity.

4. Break-even analysis

It’s no secret that startups rarely turn a profit at the onset. If and when your business does cross the threshold from red to black, it will have crossed the break-even point. The break-even point occurs when the expenses of running your business equal the revenue from your products and services. To increase your odds of reaching that crucial turning point, take the time to create a break-even analysis as part of your financial plan.

Along with your company’s fixed and variable costs, the document should include projected prices and account for the value of inflation. Not only does a break-even analysis show potential investors that your company has the potential to succeed, but it also enables you to make better decisions regarding resource allocation. If your break-even point is too high, you may want to consider ways to reduce your cost of business. This might include shopping for new suppliers, increasing prices or even temporarily working out of your home.

5. Financing schedule

Most of us can’t launch a new business entirely on our own. Because loans are an unfortunate fact of life in the startup world, every business plan should include a loan summary and financing schedule. Take note of the types of loans incurred, including interest rates and expected terms as well as securities information. After all, potential lenders want to know that you have a solid plan to pay off existing debts before investing more money in your business venture.

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, then you’ve probably heard the bleak statistics. According to one report, as many as eight in 10 startups fail in the first 18 months. To give your business a fighting chance, you need to have a strong financial plan in place before you launch.

By: April Maguire

Source: How your small business can maximize profit & minimize loss with a financial plan

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In this video, Kelly discusses how to maximize profits in business in just three simple steps. By taking advantage of what resources you already have within your company, you can maximize profits and grow your business. Your company can figure out how to improve sales by analyzing what your business is doing so already…and what your business is not doing. By putting these steps into action, you can figure out how to attract customers and increase profits Ask yourself: • When was the last time you last raised profits within your business? Are you getting what you want? • Is your business selling the right kinds of stock including individual packages, group packages, etc. for your services? If not, these kinds of products would bring in money that your company is not seeing already. • Are you engaging with previous customers? If not, these customers are just as important to figure out how to attract customers to your business. Want a quick overview of topics? Check out the time stamps below: 00:49 – Charge what you’re worth to grow your business 1:42 – When was the last time you raised your rates? 2:08 – Consider having reoccurring revenue to maximize profits 2:40 – Fortune is in the follow up! Make it your business growth strategy Learn how to improve your outlook on money but also create more income within your business. Not only will you learn to improve your vision of money but rethink your ideas so you can create new ones. ======================================================== THANK YOU for taking the time to watch these videos!! If you like what you’re watching, comment below to start a conversation! =================================================== To learn more about our program that teaches you how to build and scale your business to create more freedom go to: http://www.KellyRoachCoaching.com/yes ======================================================== Visit the Kelly Roach Coaching online store for products and programs to help you grow your business! http://www.kellyroachcoaching.com/shop ======================================================== **Click Below to SUBSCRIBE for More Videos** https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwyA… ======================================================== Kelly Roach Business Growth Strategist, Rapid Business Growth Coach, Author, Host of Unstoppable Success Radio http://www.KellyRoachCoaching.com ======================================================== Join the conversation: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kellyroachint… Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kellyroachint YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/kellyroach ====================================================== To learn more about how to grow your business and how to increase sales, watch Kelly’s “How to improve your Money Mindset” video at https://youtu.be/1mo_Fvrgpw4

 

How to Start a Business in 10 Steps

A little less than two-thirds of Americans want to start their own business. Perhaps surprisingly, this is true among both younger and older workers. Like the drive to write a book ( 81% of Americans) or work as a full time freelancer (soon to be half of all workers), starting your own business is a widely shared dream.

For good reason. People who work for themselves tend to love it. Although it comes with the complexity of having to manage every piece of an operation, as well as the stress of knowing that success rides completely on your own shoulders, there’s nothing quite like being your own boss.

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It’s also very possible. Here’s how.

1. Research Your Market

This guide will assume that you already know what your business will do. If not, we have an excellent guide to coming up with your small business idea here.

Once you have your idea set, you need to do your research.

Starting your business will inevitably be a learning experience, but you want to get as much information as you can beforehand. So take some time to study your planned market. Ask questions like:

• What kind of competition will you face?

• Who is your target consumer?

• Where will you locate your business?

• What are the logistical and practical concerns about that location?

• What do consumers like and dislike about the existing market for your product?

• What do consumers say they want right now?

• What kind of spending power does your target consumer have?

Your market will be different depending on the nature of your business venture. A corner store has entirely different demographics and challenges than a web-based service vendor. In both cases, though, it pays to know your audience. Literally.

2. Write a Business Plan

The business plan is the blueprint for your company. It’s where you’ll apply your research and planning into one document that describes in detail the who, what, when, where, how and why of your new business. In it you will address issues such as:

• Who you will market to;

• What you plan to sell;

• When you anticipate hitting certain benchmarks, your timeline for development;

• Where you will locate this business, whether online or brick and mortar;

• How you will operate this business day-to-day;

• Why this business, what opportunity did you see in the market.

Your business plan should also address critical issues such as:

• Monetization and cash flow. How do you anticipate making your money and turning a profit?

• How much will it cost to run this business? Don’t miss the details.

• When do you expect to become profitable?

• Specific challenges you anticipate and how you will overcome them.

• What will it take, step by step, to operate this business and create this product?

The business plan article linked above goes into more detail, and the Small Business Association has a template here. Both are worth reading in further detail, because starting a business without a business plan is like setting off on a road trip without a map or GPS.

And, of course, don’t forget to pick a terrific name.

3. Get Feedback

Now stop.

Writing your business plan should be exhausting. This should be a detail-oriented document that takes a hard look at your planned venture and how, precisely, it will work. If you’ve done it right, by now you should be ready to tear into the building phase of your new business.

Instead, take a step back and solicit feedback. Call friends, family and colleagues who might have some knowledge of the industry you’d like to enter. Seek out mentors or professional guidance if possible. Get their opinion of your business plan. They might have questions you didn’t think of or notice something that slipped by you.

Hopefully this business will be around for years to come. You can afford a small delay while you get a few more eyes on your proposal.

4. Find the Money

Cards on the table, this is the hardest part for most entrepreneurs.

Not every business needs a lot of startup capital, but you will almost certainly need some. How much will depend a lot on what you want to do. A web-based services firm might require very little in the way of funding, while a retail store can require a substantial amount of cash to pay for rent, inventory and staff.

Regardless of how much, now is when you need to find this money.

This is something every entrepreneur faces, and small business owners turn to a variety of sources for startup capital. No matter where you get funding, expect to invest at least some of your own money. Lenders and investors will want to see that you have “skin in the game,” to use industry speak. Beyond your personal accounts, called self-funding, small business owners also rely on:

Bank Loans

Many businesses start with a small business loan from local banks.

You will need to have all of your paperwork in order to pursue a loan. Expect the institution to ask for details from your business plan, including monetization strategy and financial projections. If you have trouble securing a loan, you can turn to the Small Business Association which runs a loan guarantee program to help make this type of financing more accessible.

Personal Loans

While not an option for every entrepreneur, many people do rely on loans from family and friends.

If possible this is typically better than securing a loan through the bank. You’ll likely pay little interest and will have more generous terms in case of default. However, it also depends on knowing people who have that kind of cash lying around.

Grants

While not lavishly funded, programs such as Grants.gov operate small business grants for entrepreneurs.

Investment

Professional investors typically look for potentially large-growth business opportunities. Depending on the nature of your intended company, this could be a good fit for you.

A venture capital firm is unlikely to sink money into a small legal practice or restaurant. These tend to be low-growth relative to the returns that they seek. However, someone looking to launch a new product or web-enabled service, something with high potential scalability, might be a good fit for the private investment model.

Local angel investors, such as those found through AngelList, are more likely to invest in a regionally focused business. While beyond the scope of this article, you can learn more about finding private investors here.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly common source of startup capital for small businesses. This model tends to reward retail style projects (someone looking to create a specific thing that catches the public’s eye). It can also be an excellent way to hone your sales pitch to a general audience.

For more information on financing, the SBA has a comprehensive information sheet on common sources of funding here.

5. Choose a Location

Where you locate may determine some of your legal obligations and paperwork, so it’s best to get that done at this step.

As much as possible you should try and do this with specificity. While you’re not ready to sign a lease just yet, the closer you can come to a specific address the better. Meanwhile, if you’ll be starting this company online, now’s the time to pick up your domain if you haven’t already.

Pay attention to local laws! We cannot overemphasize this. The best location can be killed off by a zoning ordinance that makes your business illegal on that particular street corner. Municipal laws can be petty and confusing, so make absolutely sure your business is street legal.

6. Establish Legal and Tax Structures

If at all possible, at this step you should retain the services of a lawyer and/or accountant. You will absolutely want professional advice. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing details that come back to bite you down the road. We also must note that nothing here constitutes legal advice. This is just a general primer on what you need to know.

Now is when you’ll actually begin forming your business and filling out the necessary paperwork with federal, state and local governments. This can involve (but is not limited to):

Choosing Your Corporate Structure

There are many types of businesses you can form, including LLCs, S-Corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships and more. Those listed here are the most common corporate forms for a small business. The right one for you will depend on issues like cash flow, number of participants and how you want to structure potential liability. You can read more about this issue here and here.

Register Your Business

How you have to register, and with who, will depend on your specific corporate form. However, if you have formed a corporation of some sort you will have to file articles of incorporation to create this legal structure. For more information on registering your business, see this resource.

Register With State and Federal Tax Agencies

You will need a tax number and may need an employer ID number. The SBA has a guide to finding and filling out your appropriate tax forms here.

Determine Any Licenses and Permits That You Need

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need a license to operate. The SBA has a database of federal and state licensing requirements here.

Be certain to also look up zoning and location-based regulations. You may need additional permits based on where you’ve chosen to operate your business. These are typically a city-level concern.

7. Open Bank Accounts and Sign Leases

Once your business has been properly formed you can begin to act in its name. Now is when you can start actually executing on many of the opportunities you’ve already lined up.

Open bank accounts in your new business’ name. Take out a corporate credit card and, if your bank offers it, work to pre-establish a line of credit. You will find this easier to do now that your company exists and has established funding, although it may not become an option until you have operated for some time.

Go out and actually get the funding you secured earlier, because now you have someplace to put it. You should have already gotten the “yes” by now from someone, but you don’t want to deposit corporate seed money into your personal checking account. This may technically constitute a felony that rhymes with “schmembezzlement,” and is poor form either way.

With the money in hand and a functional checkbook, now is when you sign the necessary leases on real estate.

8. Take Care of Little Details

Once again step back and take stock, because the best ideas can be broken by the smallest details.

Make sure your business has comprehensive insurance for issues ranging from fire to property damage and legal liability. Many business owners overlook that last issue, and it can be a career killer if someone slips and falls or even just decides they don’t like you.

If you will hire employees put a documented process in place for hiring and firing. Have your workers compensation and unemployment insurance paperwork filed and in order.

If you haven’t already, talk to both a lawyer and an accountant. This is especially critical if you will employ people. Even if you don’t formally retain an attorney, buy a few hours of an employment lawyer’s time to make sure you have your bases covered. Figure out how your business will do its accounting and have that system set up and operational, whether you’ll do it yourself or have hired a professional.

9. Start Making Things

Now, at long, exhaustive last, we get to the fun part. It’s time to start actually making things.

You have the money, you have the location. You have all of your paperwork filed and are legally bulletproof. Now begin making your product.

How you do this will, obviously, depend entirely on what you specifically do. A manufacturing company will need to source suppliers for raw materials and the necessary machinery. (Because you took our advice and checked out all the local laws you won’t need to worry about any noise complaints from the neighbors.) A retailer will source vendors and set up an inviting, fun storefront. A consultant will finish making her office look tasteful and professional.

A restaurateur should stock the kitchen, buy appliances and write out a menu.

The details of getting to work depend entirely on your industry and profession. Fortunately, you’ve got a well written business plan for figuring out what those details are. Whatever you do, though, now’s the time to start actually doing it.

10. Scale and Hire

Your business is operational. Now’s the time to think about how to keep the lights on.

Some businesses will require employees from the very beginning. A cafe, for example, is almost impossible to run alone. Those employees are part of your startup costs and will be with you from the very beginning. As your business grows you may have the luxury of hiring more people to take some of the work off your plate.

Now is also the time to begin marketing.

To be fair, this is something you should be considering all along. You should always think about how to get your business’ name out into the community. Don’t let up once the doors open. Look to social media, advertising, foot traffic and local networking to get people in. Talk with other businesses in the area about collaboration efforts.

This is where you get to be creative. This is the fun part of being an entrepreneur. If you’re at step 10 you’ve earned it. So enjoy, because this is your business.

Source: How to Start a Business in 10 Steps – TheStreet

The Business Case for Positive Company Culture

Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, shared some of the results during a Business Leader Forum at the most recent Workday Rising. Nearly 40 percent of all respondents indicated that unfairness or mistreatment played a major role in their decision to leave a company; 30 percent of women of color felt they had been passed up for a promotion; and a large percentage of Asian and Caucasian men and women felt they were treated unfairly by leadership and management…………

Source: The Business Case for Positive Company Culture

How Two Millennial Women Made Over $130,000 While Traveling the World Full-Time

 

Last year, I left my corporate life in New York City behind in a vow to give myself one year to design my dream job. Shortly thereafter, I took off on a 9-month-long social experiment, in which I would circumnavigate the globe by couch-surfing exclusively through my social network. Seventeen countries, four continents, and over a hundred encounters later, I have learned that I am not alone in my quest to earn a living while traveling the world: there are so many people out there right now who are making it work.

Source: How Two Millennial Women Made Over $130,000 While Traveling the World Full-Time

Forbes Mutual Fund Ratings: The Honor Roll

These funds have done well over the long pull while beating peers in bear markets. We evaluated 1,261 domestic stock funds. Twenty-six were good enough to make our Honor Roll. The select list includes some familiar names, like Vanguard Primecap and Fidelity Contrafund, and some less familiar ones like Parnassus Core Equity. Honor Roll members cleared three hurdles. They had to beat the stock market over three market cycles going back to October 2002. They had to hold up comparatively well in down markets, earning an A+ or A. They had to keep their expenses to a reasonable level: below the 1.5% median for this collection of mutual funds……

Source: Forbes Mutual Fund Ratings: The Honor Roll

New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

China’s services sector growth rose for the second month in a row and hit its highest level since June 2018 , according to the Caixin China General Services Business Activity Index, released on Friday. Caixin said that increased foreign demand for Made in China goods and improving business confidence helped. The Index hit 53.9 in December from 53.8 in November and 50.8 in October. While the number is generally flat from November, it is much higher than the third-quarter average and comes at a time when trade tensions remain high.

Source: New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

Older Workers Need Further Labor Market Improvements

Older workers in particular need the labor market to continue its growth streak. Employers added 312,000 new jobs in December 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is welcome news, but the labor market needs to continue improving, so that older workers will see real economic security. Additional job gains could make it easier for unemployed older workers to find a new job. And continued job market growth could further shrink inequalities in job market outcomes for older workers, for instance, by race and ethnicity…..

Source: Older Workers Need Further Labor Market Improvements

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