What? Already!

hurricaneFor those of us living in Florida, we are getting an early reminder that the Hurricane Season is about to begin. While it officially starts on June first, the National Hurricane Center is watching the first potential weather system of 2018. Today is Monday, May 14th, 2018, and a mass of weather in the eastern Gulf of Mexico has formed and is causing heavy rain over South Florida and slowly expanding to cause the entire state to be rainy for most of this week, with some urban flood watches already issued for the southeast part of the state. The National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) as of 9:35 EDT this morning stated that the weather mass will remain over most of Florida for the week and currently has a 40 percent chance of developing into a tropical weather system within five days.

While at most it could develop into a tropical storm, as the center of the weather is close to land and the water temperatures are still relatively cool, it serves as a good reminder that businesses should prepare (for those that do not have them) or update their contingency and emergency plans. This alert also applies to those of you not likely to be affected by a hurricane, as every area has natural threats of some kind. Whether they are from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or volcanic eruptions does not matter. What does matter is that your business is prepared to protect its staff, mitigate any risks, regroup after the event, and sustain its operations.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

On Target!

Target with arrow in center

Does your business have a customer or market niche? If so, you can conduct target marketing and focus your efforts directly on potential customers. If not, your business is functioning in a generic or commodity market where it is hard to distinguish your product or service from that of your competitors. Many businesses have products or services that can serve multiple niches. Finding the niches that your business can serve and marketing directly to them can reduce the cost of obtaining new customers and increase revenue at the same time, resulting in a higher profit margin.

Most large companies employ the Pareto Principle in their approach to marketing. They understand that 80% of their business comes from 20% of their customer base. By focusing the majority of their efforts on the niches in that 20%, they are able to maintain a high return on their marketing expenditures. Target Stores is a good example that begins with their logo. It exemplifies the company’s laser-like focus on meeting the needs of its niche customer. The typical Target customer, according to www.pymnts.com/news/retail, is young, affluent, and looking for products that are unique and stand out from the “run-of-the-mill” variety. Target’s customer demographics show the average customer is female (63% of total customers), between the ages of 18 and 44, and earning $12,000 more per year than their counterparts shopping at other stores.

Having determined that their niche customer prefers upscale unique products has allowed Target to develop merchandising programs with manufacturers who are willing to design specific products for the company that aren’t available elsewhere. Target also seeks out smaller manufacturers of boutique and upscale products that are not carried by their competitors. While small businesses don’t have the volume of sales to develop similar arrangements, they can take actions to attract niche customers to their establishment. The first step in the process is to identify the niches that your business can attract and serve. A photographer, for example, can have multiple niches: weddings, pet photography, real estate photos, classic and collector car photography, and so on. Each of those niches has customers with different characteristics. Those characteristics include the customers demographics, their geographic location, and their psychographic preferences.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF



Business Ceredigion Style…

Tractor plowing fieldI was testing a random search function on Google and landed on an article about the land of Ceredig. While reading about historic agricultural activities in the spring, it occurred to me that analogies could be made with small business practices…

It’s always best to start a story at the beginning. For this one, that is in the land of Ceredig, for that is what led me to Ceredigion. Ceredig is ancient, but not mythical. Ceredig was a son of Cunedda, a chieftain who re-conquered much of Wales from the Irish around the 5th century. The land of Ceredig became known as Ceredigion as it was ruled by his descendants for over five centuries. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceredigion)

The first analogy I considered was that of branding. Ceredigion changed its name to Seisyllwg in the late 7th century as it expanded and it’s then rulers wanted the name to recognize a larger territory. In the mid-10th century, Seisyllwg merged with Dyfed and changed its name to Deheubarth. Between 1888 and 1974, the county was governed by Cardiganshire county council, and on local government reorganization in 1974, a new Ceredigion district council was formed. On April 1, 1996, the Ceredigion district was made a unitary authority, under the name of Cardiganshire, only to change its name back to ‘Ceredigion’ on April 2. If you have an established, recognized brand, stick with it. Use your brand consistently and prominently as it will serve to distinguish you from the competition.

Back to the story…  after Ceredig lead me to Ceredigion, some further searching lead me to the Ceredigion Museum, which tells the story of the land and its peoples (www.ceredigionmuseum.wales). Ceredigion had a self-sufficient agricultural economy from it’s earliest days. In reading about the agricultural policies and practices of springtime, I was again struck by the analogies to small business needs today.

Springtime was the time for “Ploughing.” Plowing broke up the ground that lay dormant all winter and killed the weeds that were emerging so that the “cash croppe” could be planted. Being located in a northern latitude, most crops in Ceredigion were harvested in July and August, with early September reserved for the last crops of potatoes. After preserving and storing the harvest, October was a time of celebration of the bounty the land provided (Octoberfest), and for preparing the land for planting in the springtime, and planning the layout of the fields as crop rotation was used as early as the mid-fourteenth century in Wales. This might be a good time to review what is dormant in your business, how to rejuvenate it, and what ‘weeds’ might be in the way. Have you reviewed sales and profitability by product or service to determine which ones are the ‘cash crop’ and which are the ‘weeds’?  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF


Wheels of Industry, Tires, and the Right Interface…

rows of tiresA mishap with my car got me thinking about wheels and tires last night. The “Wheels of Industry” is a phrase first used and written down, according to oxforddictionaries.com, in the mid 1700’s by William Wilke, a Church of Scotland minister who used it in one of his sermons. It occurred to me that wheels need the correct tires to work effectively, and that tires can be used in a business analogy.

Last night on the way home, I ran over a bolt in the road that impaled itself in my tire. When I went to get the tire repaired I was told that due to the location near the sidewall, the tire was unrepairable. Murphy was of course on hand so my size tire was not in stock and needed to be ordered from the warehouse, and my spare was installed so I could drive while awaiting the new tire. As the spare was not the same size as the tire it replaced, I was cautioned to limit my speed and to expect the car to handle a bit differently. The correct tire is needed for the car to perform well.

As an entrepreneur, your business is the vehicle that provides you with a means of making a living and accumulating wealth. If it performs well, it can provide long-term financial security and independence for you and future generations. From a macro-economic point of view, it can provide employment and capital investment which will contribute to the economic viability and well-being of the community.

Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF



Delivering the Goods…

semi-truck on highwayIf you have been following the news from England, you have been aware of the fiasco that Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had to deal with there. Beginning on February 14th, 2018, and continuing for more than a week, KFC was unable to get chicken to their 900-plus stores in the UK and over 800 of them had to close. KFC became a target of ridicule and while funny to outsiders, the problem was critical for the company. Most of the KFC locations are owned as franchises by independent owners, who have fewer resources than KFC’s parent company, and were severely impacted by the crisis.

KFC has to be given credit for not making excuses, but rather using cheeky public relations to show its humiliation and poke fun at itself.

KFC has issued a high-profile humorous apology for its chicken shortages in the UK.  The fast-food chain used a full-page ad in British newspapers to apologize for shutting down hundreds of restaurants this week because it ran out of chicken. The bright red advertisement showed an empty bucket with the chain’s initials scrambled to say “FCK” on it, alongside an apology. “A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who traveled out of their way to find we were closed,” the ad said. (Source – CNN Money)  Continue reading here.


Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF


Tips for growing your business…

grain image

If you want to find out how to grow your business, one of the best ways is to study the people who literally do that on a 24/7 basis, 365 days a year – farmers! Their best practices will revel many tips that can be applied to any business. Here are some of the key ones…

  • A successful business must be sustainable – From farmers’ points of view that not only includes agricultural practices to maintain productivity of the land, but also general business practices that apply to all types of businesses. Among these are:
    • Maintaining equipment on a regular schedule so that it will be operational for many years after it has been paid for. Your profit margin will automatically go up because you will no longer have interest and payment expenses. As an example, Certified Grocers in Ocala, Florida, was a grocery distributor incorporated on April 15 1948 that operated until it was sold in 1993. During those years it maintained a fleet of trucks that were tens of years old and had several million miles on them. Maintained is the key word… parts were replaced on schedule before they caused a break down; trucks were repainted and renewed inside and out every few years. The result was a paid-for fleet that looked and operated like new, which contributed to a higher than average profit margin.
    • Maintaining excellent customer service. A successful business must be able to sustain its customers as well. As it is easier to sell additional items to an existing customer than attract a new one, you should focus on customer needs and wants as time changes. Farms have added organic products, ready-to-consume items (like juices, jams, and salsas), and entire new ranges of items to their business. Recognizing that customers won’t eat beef, chicken, pork, or fish all the time, many small farms have diversified to carry more than one type of protein. Some previously strictly livestock farms have also begun growing and marketing produce.  Continue reading here.


Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF


Think like a crow; Act like a squirrel…

squirrelAfter watching a number of “cute wildlife” videos on YouTube, it occurred to me that both crows and squirrels have characteristic behavior, that if adapted by business owners, could increase the performance of their businesses. Business owners should think like a crow and act like a squirrel in order to increase the performance of their business.

Crows have long been known to show intelligence. Aesop, a storyteller generally believed to have lived in Greece between 620 and 564 BCE is credited with the story of the crow and the pitcher. Historians suggest that the first written recording of the story was in the first century CE and it was included in an anthology of works collected by Phillippus of Thessalonica that exists to this day.

The fable involves a thirsty crow that found a pitcher with a small amount of water at the bottom. As the neck of the pitcher was too long and too narrow for the crow to reach into it, the crow picked up small pebbles and dropped them into the pitcher until the water had risen to the top of the neck, where the crow could reach it and drink. Crows are a member of the family corvidae, commonly called corvids. Corvids have a total brain to body mass ratio equal to that of great apes, and only slightly less than that of humans. Many scientific experiments have proven the intelligence of crows, and it has been documented in casual, entertainment-focused videos as well. Among the characteristics demonstrated by crows that could benefit business owners are: Continue reading here.


Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

Tax Reform Law: Topics of Special Interest for Individuals

House with Paper Chain FamilyRepeal of the ACA Penalty for Individuals

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires individuals to pay a penalty if they aren’t covered by a health plan that provides at least minimum essential coverage. That penalty is also known as the “shared responsibility payment.” Unless an exception applies, the penalty is imposed for any month that an individual doesn’t have minimum essential coverage in effect.

The new tax law permanently repeals the ACA penalty for individuals for months beginning in 2019. But the penalty is still in force for all of 2018. The new tax law doesn’t change the ACA mandate for employers, however.  Continue reading here.

Brought to you by Brent Ross, CPA, Ross Hughes & Associates, CPAs, PLLC & SBRN Member



FSBDC at UNF Success Stories – Emergency Bridge Loans

Interview with Marco Tran, I-Tech Personnel Services in Jacksonville

Image of I-Tech Personnel Services Owner and SBDC EmployeeIn the latter part of this year, Hurricane Irma brought quite the impact to Florida’s First Coast, but there is a silver lining – the Florida SBDC was able to assist local small businesses, like I-Tech Personnel Services, in obtaining Emergency Bridge Loans to help “bridge the gap” between the disaster and long-term recovery resources.

Please provide a brief description of your business:  A full-service staffing company established in 1998.

What type of damage occurred?  Roof was destroyed by Hurricane Irma

How helpful was the Bridge Loan?  Very much, it helped us to maintain pay for our employees

How helpful was the SBDC?  Very helpful, we got help very fast!

Click Here for a look at some stories from around the state!

Why Your Team Is Failing

image of team members looking down in defeat

Today’s educational system, from Kindergarten through college, puts a focus on team work. However, while you may learn who gets their work done versus who is counting on everyone else to get an “A” grade, your scholastic team experience probably did little to prepare you for business teamwork.

When you think about it, every business relies on the performance of teams, yet few companies ensure their employees have the tools necessary to be cohesive and successful. Many leaders have trouble identifying how effective their teams are, especially when they are meeting goals. However, just because your group is achieving desired results doesn’t mean they are as productive as they could be.

Take the pulse of your team by answering a few questions, True or False:

  • Team members receive a great deal of feedback regarding their performance
  • Morale is high and there are few complaints
  • Team members communicate openly, dealing with conflict professionally and productively
  • Communication occurs regularly, not just during meetings
  • Everyone on the team recognizes and appreciates what we do and why
  • Team members feel valued, and value each other

Continue reading here.

by Karen Nutter, CBK Coaching & SBRN Member

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