While you may have some experience buying paper products, computer equipment, or even insurance for your small business at Sam’s Club, odds are you haven’t tried their newest service: small business lending.
With a lot of the government stimulus programs coming to an end, often without helping the liquidity crisis facing many small and medium sized businesses, retailers like Sam’s (A division of Walmart) are taking it upon themselves to help businesses finance growth. Call it over-the-counter stimulus plans. Sam’s lending service is built upon a standard SBA loan program, though the service streamlines the paperwork and approval process considerably (a significant deterrent for many businesses) and even discounts the loan application.
The program lends from $5,000 to $25,000, unsecured, at a low rate (7.5% at time of publication). Pre-approval is available online in minutes… To date, about 45% of its applicants have been approved. Read more »
Most small and mid-sized local businesses have had to make all kinds of tough decisions since the Recession began. According to American Express, only 20% of these firms have been able operate profitably without major cut-backs in staff and operating capital.
Marketing is an obvious target for most budget cutting. The only problem with chopping the marketing budget is its damaging impact on sales. According to numerous studies over the last 80 years, firms that eliminate their marketing decline rapidly during tough times. Those that even cut back modestly lose significant market share to the few firms that don’t cut. They also tend to miss significant gains in the first 2-3 years of recovery.
So how do you make a tough budget decision that preserves your near-term viability without causing an even greater long-term problem? Simple: cut your marketing budget to the bone, but spend your remaining dollars to dominate an audience – no matter how small that audience may have to be. It’s a principle that smart advertisers have been using for decades, through good times and bad, but one that proves essential for every firm when funds run tight. Read more »
In tough economic times, consumers go where they still get the best value. You either have to increase the value side of the equation or reduce the cost equation. Reducing cost can have significant long-term effects on your business, since prices are typically difficult to raise until demand increases to the extent that consumers are willing to pay more to get what they want, when they want it (don’t expect this to happen soon!). Value, on the other hand, can help you out in several ways: it can increase loyalty more than pricing ever could and it can differentiate your business in a lasting, meaningful way.
So what can you do to increase the value side? And do this without spending a ton of dough giving away stuff for free? Take a 720° look at your business.
What does 720° mean? Good question, and you’ll profit by understanding it before your competitors do. The number 720 is 360 times two. As you may know, “360°” is business jargon/consultant speak for taking a comprehensive, “full view” of something. We use the “times two” reference because when owners look at their businesses from two different 360° viewpoints, interesting opportunities to add value emerge. Read more »
Anyone who’s had an opening or two recently has probably seen hundreds of resumes. More than a few from folks who have enough experience to run the place. And we certainly can’t complain about salary needs: recruits are demanding much less than they were several years ago.
So what’s the problem?
There’s a funny thing about our 10%+ unemployment economy: it hasn’t gotten that much easier to find great employees.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you know that hiring now is tricky for two reasons. First, most of the overqualified applicants aren’t going to stick around when the job market turns this year or next. And second, the true cost of labor includes 1) the training that goes into replacing them and 2) the lost productivity that comes from having unfilled positions and/or a less-than-perfect fit. When you consider these costs, our current ability to pick through the low-hanging fruit isn’t as compelling as it seems. Read more »
2009 was a great year for Wendy Harris, of Team Harris Realty, despite the horrible macro environment for realty businesses. While many of her peers reacted to the real estate downturn by reducing or eliminating mass-marketing, Wendy moved in the opposite direction with spectacular results.
Wendy recently wrote to share her story: “Thanks to Cumulus radio, I outsold every resale Real Estate agent in Fayetteville and continue to increase my business!”
Wendy took advantage of radio’s unique ability to deeply inform potential clients as part of the mass-reach/high-frequency branding process. She differentiates her business with a unique listing proposition: a guarantee to sell the house at a specified price by a specified deadline and backs her guarantee by agreeing to buy the home if she doesn’t hit her goals. By breaking this concept down into several explanatory radio commercials she quickly communicated this program to anxious sellers. “The phones started ringing the first week I started.” Read more »