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CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS - SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS . . . . . NEWSLETTER EVENTS
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Paula Robinson Deare & Tulaine Marshall
Left: Paula Robinson Deare, Eworkstyle Writer,
Right: Tulaine Marshall, ULEM Host Staff Coordinator

The final day of convening at the Urban League convention called together a variety of small business owners, college trainers and state partners, as well as several audiences of new start-ups and seasoned and serial entrepreneurs from all sectors.  

The underlying lynchpin in the Urban League’s Jobs for America convention was a general understanding that the economy is changing and one must strive to secure their place in a work force were small businesses employs half of the people in the United States.  Our research with the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows about 29.6 million businesses in the USA. Small businesses represent 99.7% of employer firms; employ just over half of private sector staff; pay 44% of total U.S. private payroll; generated 64% of new jobs over the past 15 years; are 52% home-based, 2% franchises; made up 97.3% of identified exporters; and produced 30.2% of the known export value.  Additionally, 27% of the US workforce is self-employed, that's over three times the national average of all occupations.

Polish Soldiers bronze statue

Above: The Partisans, a bronze sculpture tribute to Polish underground fighters who battled the German and Soviet forces during World War II stands outside of the Silverline station at the Boston Convention Center.
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NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS
Karl Nurse presents a video
PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS
National Guard Recruiters
National Guard outreach team, Arlington Virginia
Above: Karl Nurse, CEO Karl Nurse Communications presents a documentary on leading Black entrepreneurs in Boston who have broken the barriers that typically limit sustainable success.

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SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS: ENTREPRENEURS SHARE INSIGHTS

The Small Business Matters summit gave attentive, informative dialogue to standing room only workshops on reinvention, renovation and working capital.  They asked attendees; “What kind of business are you in and how big do you want to grow?”  There were a number of forums where the central theme Surviving Tough Times underpinned each agenda; from financing programs, reaching customers and entrepreneurial mindsets to selling to corporate America, effective networking and even business pitching with cash prizes. 

Representatives from government and business included:  Neil Rader, VP\GM Pitney Bowes: Maggie Anderson, CEO the Empowerment Experiment; Alfred Edmond, Jr. Editor Black Enterprise Magazine; Magnus Greaves CEO 100 Urban Entrepreneurs & The Cash Flow; and Carty Yates, Senior VP Wells Fargo Houston in partnership with: Babson College; the New England Minority Supplier Development Council; City of Boston, Small and Local Enterprise Office; the Youth Career Coach, Inc.; the Initiative for a new Economy; and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive office for Administration and Finance offices of Supplier Diversity, Access and Opportunity, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Experts talked about key points such as vision, values and environment in the context of what it takes to find, retain and grow business as well as what contributions business should make to its community.  From the inside out discussions took place on the personal manner it takes to introduce oneself and define one’s business; from the history of how the visionary and the business began; in order to gain understanding and support from consumers, as well as to position for a share in any corporate supply chain.

Babson College experts held a session that focused on understanding capital, debt equity and its use to break even and grow by tying hard numbers into a business plan to pitch investors.  Their emphasis was on administrative and accounting systems from three-year business plans to cash flow financials for bank loans and under what terms capital should be taken.  They included summaries on: rationing analysis by performance, comparing industry averages, indicators that link to factors to improve options and solutions, as well as fixed costs and reducing costs in preparation for negotiating business borrowing.  Babson experts recommended “Entrepreneurship Advantage” as the best and easiest to use software tool they’ve found because it allows business owners to put historical systems into place that track said enterprise requirements, so that you can prove you can do what you say. Also, create monthly reports on profit and loss to address problem solving.  Survey your consumers on what you do well or badly and where possible growth areas are based on their needs.  Initiate research projects that help you to understand trends, markets and shifts as well as your consumers.  Look to ongoing studies like those at the Pew Research Center which reported Blacks have one-plus trillion dollars in buying power.

Jobs for the Future Recruiters
Left: Jobs for the Future personnel
Bourne National Cemetary
In honor of Black soldiers and veterans from all wars, Bourne
National Cemetery
presented commemorative memorabilia.

Breakout workshop experts and attendees mentioned the value and cost savings in using readily available, free services from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE).  Others talked about the proverbial “location, location, location” of today includes Hub Zones and business improvement districts as keys to receiving help from the Minority Business Development Agency, during tough times. 

Several drove home the need for state certification as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) or Minority Woman Business Enterprise (MWBE) through the National Minority Development Council (MNDC) or the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC pronounced We-Bank).  Certification is very important to competing to provide goods and services according to global corporations like Shell Oil Company, Nationwide Insurance and UPS that represented with lecturers who work with procurers. They emphasized their expertise isn't who is and who isn't a minority vendor. 

Nationwide Insurance’s representative stated; “We expect you to be the best, the same with any other business.  We have relationships with the National Minority Development Council (MNDC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).  We look to them for Certified Minority Businesses because diversity is evolving and it means a variety of different things according the times, we have to rely on diversity organizations that challenge, keep up with and monitor diversity.”

UPS Corporation’s representative stated; “Do your research on us and pay attention to whom you’re pitching.  We had one very good business owner that made a great pitch in meetings, discussions and on the phone.  However when they sent in their paperwork they sent it to us addressed to the “F” company and lost the deal.  I reiterate what the others have said about working that certification to participate in our set-aside programs.  Part of accessing low fruit prospects is registering for procurement opportunities as a minority enterprise.  Being prepared isn’t just getting your paperwork in order; you must network with those who need to know you and the quality of what you provide in order to be among the selected when it comes time to compete. 

Jobs Rebuild America Sign
Above: the National Urban League's convention mission
Jobs Rebuild America brought in global corporate recruiters.

Corporate and government experts agreed small businesses must work their certifications by participating in events, trainings and social networks offered by certifying organizations.
Shell Oil Company’s representative stated; “We look for businesses that can add value to our supply chain, have done research on Shell and understand where they fit with our upstream and downstream companies.” 

When you know what works, you need money and time to do what you know.  Your banker needs to know who you are and how you do what you do in order to lend you money.  Networking to really build long standing relationships allows bankers, corporations, angel investors and others with competitive grants to get to know you, see your company growth and believe in your business ideas.  You’ve got to make time for opportunities and dedicate resources to promote your business growth, so that you can go after sure business.  That means freeing the visionary\owner from the day-to-day operations so they can get out and sell the company because no-one knows the company better. 

All agreed entrepreneurs become so ingrained in doing the day-to-day operations, that they also don’t get\take time to plan their growth and sell their business outside of immediate consumers.  In order to grow the business, owners must move from time consuming activities as chief administrator and window washer to recruit, train and retain qualitative and talented staff that can take over important day-to-day tasks efficiently and effectively.  Growth through sales is the answer on how not to get deeper into debt.  You need to hire talent to get new business and you need enough business to hire new talent – it can be a catch 22.  However, the best business revisions come out of tight times like recessions, one advisor stated. “A recession is where you really see what you need and where can cut costs to find the funds and resources to bring in the people, talent and\or relationships that lead to more time and opportunity. Think out of the box and connect between high schools, vocational programs and apprenticeships to get\help students interested in what you do. 

US Consumer Safety

Try talking to colleges and graduate programs to create work\mentor relationships with interns and advisors.” Other’s followed, the first few lines of help a business owner needs is administration support to cover calls and billing; assistance with the day-to-day operations; concentration on sales; lowering transaction costs to increase liquidity; work with banks and others who you support; and then pay to join networks which can bring opportunities for revenue.  The Small Business Enterprise Center offers 80 free workshops, one-on-one expert counseling, and networking events designed to help business owners and employees improve their business skills.  You should also check your local\state universities and public libraries as sources for free small business workshops and advisory sessions.   

Another advisor stated; “You eat what you can kill in sales.  You’ve got to exhaust local to global opportunities.  There are three different types of business revenue: anchor business or steady customers; project work for us that’s 12 to 24 weeks and taking on larger projects to go worldwide.  The latter allowed us to sustain and grow our business.” The overall theme was, a business owner has got to be willing (and able) to network, use word of month and leverage connections.  You can’t be so caught up in the silo of your day-to-day operations that you’ve closed yourself to opportunities.  You’ve’ got to make the time to get out and network with those who allow you to get beyond your immediate circle of people.  You can start by finding programs that are out there to see if they fit, who there is compatible and can help.  Business owners need to know where projects are and where they aren’t and to go where they are.     

There was also a lot of focus on having respect for the consumer by consistently delivering high quality products and services.  The lesson was educated consumers shop by need, pocket and taste and they have options.  Educated consumers tend to shop where they already know they can get what they need at the best prices.  That means businesses have to win consumers over by initiating, growing and maintaining consumer trust and interest in supporting the sensibility of the company.  One way to stay in touch with consumers is to get information out regularly and get feedback as often as possible.

Recognize what is holding you back and as well as what is pushing you forward and you will have the gift of accuracy.  You can only do this if you concentrate on building relationships with customers.  Grow your contracts beyond those who walk in the door by making the time to use old-fashioned manners and develop presentation skills so that you can showcase your new products and services. You’ve got to entangle yourself with your customers, peers, advisors, lawyers, accountants and anyone else who can recommend you because these are the people that you support who can also help you to grow your business. 

We live in a 21st Century economy where hard assets are not as important as they once were.  “There’s a new game in town and high touch is king,” an expert stated.  Innovation is important in this century and there is a huge opportunity to stay in contact and cut costs with all-in-one, web-based and open source applications.  Business owners need to invest in high touch technologies.  Web applications and other operational resources designed for the marketplace can keep clients informed about the company and its products and services like the web application Sales Force.com.  The pulse of your customer surveys, phone calls and holiday presence counts.  Your customers can and will talk about you on the web through a variety of applications.  You need to know what these applications are as well as what your customers are saying about you and your company.  How you dive into available web applications can help you to improve business relationships.  You can see business is booming with those who have good relationships through social media networks. 

Bottom line, business ownership is worthwile but not easy. According to the Small Business Administration, over 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports two out of every three businesses started fail.  The BLS stated a focus on communications skills in salesmanship & public relations creates the best opportunities to showcase expertise, and those that do it well are the ones who succeed.

While the Small Business Matters summit promotional discussions centered on the expanded ways to use word of mouth by personally networking with those you support, 80% or more of the discussions about getting-the-word-out incorporated internet based social networks. 

What was missing was information on newspaper, billboard, train\bus ads, magazine, radio, TV and neighborhood-to-global campaigns targeting tourism and other nomadic populations that move through cities for events and attractions.  There were no discussions on creating public relations materials, designing promotional campaigns, what to do about advertising from annual costs to where\when to place ads nor how to create credible market outreach research or best practices in showcase opportunities. But then, that’s our area of expertise! 

Take a few moments to sample & bookmark Eworkstyle's FREE World Wide Wednesday OPEN COURSES or for more intensive training courses join Eworkstyle Institute today.   

PG Peeples, KY businessman
Kim, Melody & Alicia
Host Affilate Staff: Kim Reynolds, Melody Adams & Alicia Buggs

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Paula Robinson Deare Tulaine Marshall