Top cities for entrepreneurs and networking tips

Where does your city rank among the top cities for entrepreneurs?  What resources do most cities provide that you can take advantage of to make your business successful?  How do you master the art of networking?

Today on The LaKesha Womack Show, we will discuss the answers to those questions and provide some fun facts about the cities that made our list.

Do you want to comment or ask a question?

Tweet me – @LaKeshaWomack

Call in and ask to speak with the host – 646.929.2031

Don’t forget to check out our show blog in the coming weeks for information about our upcoming guests (http://TheLaKeshaWomackShow.wordpress.com) and most importantly, listen to today’s show and past shows at http://blogtalkradio.com/LaKeshaWomack

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LaKesha’s Lunch with Grover Brown: Financing Alternatives for Your Small Business

I know that many of my small business friends are busy making plans for 2012 and one of your considerations is how you will be able to finance the next phase of your business.

Join us for Lunch with Grover Brown, a Loan Officer specializing in working small business owners to discuss alternatives to traditional bank financing for your business goals.  Grover will share some tips that he uses with his clients as well as provide information about micro lending, borrowing small amounts of cash.

Listen live on Wednesday, November 23 at 12p CST/ 1p EST or call 646.929.2031 to listen from your phone

Don’t forget to follow the show, leave us a comment or question and tweet us during the show @LaKeshaWomack using #LWBTR

Get to know Grover…

Grover Brown is Loan Officer with Community Enterprise Investments, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida.

Notable: Grover has over eighteen years of experience in community development and the financial services industry.  Grover has been with CEII since 2006.  Grover brings a wealth of experience to CEII as an entrepreneur and through his extensive background in non-profit management, finance and community development.  A native of Pensacola, Florida, Grover is actively involved in promoting microenterprise throughout North West Florida and Southern Alabama.  In addition to several organizations that he is affiliated with, he currently serves on the board of directors for:  The Alabama Microenterprise Association (AMEN), the Alabama Association for Community Development Corporations (AACDC), the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Council, and the North West Florida African-American Business Alliance.

Grover has a Bachelors Degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a Masters of Public Administration, from Troy State University, Troy, Alabama.

Company Information: Community Enterprise Investments Incorporated (CEII) is an authorized Micro Lender for the Small Business Administration (S.B.A.), and Community Development Financial Institution, serving North Florida and Alabama.  CEII provides small business loans throughout Southern Alabama, operating four distinct loan funds with differing service areas, loan sizes, and funding sources.  The focus of the small business lending activity is job creation for low to moderate income areas residents; the creation of business ownership opportunities for low-income area residents, for minorities and women and the overall development and improvement of economically distressed areas.

For more information, contact Grover…
Community Enterprise Investments, Inc.
302 North Barcelona Street
Pensacola, Florida 32502
Tele. (850) 595-6234 x 203
Cell (850) 748-7890
Fax. (850) 595-6264
Toll Free (888) 605-2505
Email gbrown@ceii-cdc.org
web site www.ceii-cdc.org

Building a Brand without Spending a Bundle

Yesterday, subscribers of this blog received their FREE e-book entitled “Building a Brand without Spending a Bundle“.  In the electronic publication, I shared my journey toward building my brand and provided some information as well as exercises to help my readers do the same.  I focused on five essential questions that you must consider before building your brand…

  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I trying to say?
  3. Who am I talking to?
  4. What resources do I have to dedicate to this process?
  5. How will I measure success?

Don’t know the answers to those questions?

Don’t have a lot of time or money to find the answers?

You need this e-book!

If you did not receive a FREE copy, email me at contact@LaKeshaWomack.com by Friday, November 19 for access to the document.  Otherwise, it will be for sale electronically for $5.95 or as an e-zine for $8.95 beginning Monday, November 29.

Interns, Employees and Independent Contractors

As your small business grows, you may begin to seek help with administrative tasks, marketing execution and even financial management.   There are many routes that you can take to find help and each comes with a set of pros and cons.  Listed below are the three most common and a few advantages and disadvantages to consider.  Remember, every business is different and you have to make the best decision for your business type while keeping your budget in mind.

Interns

Many business owners want to hire interns because they assume that they will work for free.  This is not always the case.  Despite the decline in the job market, many interns are still not willing to work for free.  Some employers have become crafty and devised a means to make the relationship mutually beneficial (as if job experience isn’t enough).  When seeking an intern, you must realize that many times, these individuals are interning because they have little to no experience in their field and are using you and your organization as a test drive.  It will be very difficult to find someone with experience that will also be willing to work for little or no pay.

Pros

  • fresh ideas
  • will generally work at no cost or for a small salary
  • usually eager to learn about industry

Cons

  • may not have very much experience
  • may not leave for a better offer
  • may have a limited availability

Employees

Taking on an employee is a huge responsibility.  Not only are you responsible for training them and making sure they are doing their job, you are also financially responsible for ensuring their payroll expenses are paid on a regular basis.  Take a close look at your budget and assess how much you are willing and able to pay before creating your job description.  Most people expect to be compensated based on the amount of work and responsibility that is required for the position.  Don’t create a long list of tasks and attempt to pay the minimum salary because it will be unlikely that you will fill the position with a qualified individual.

Pros

  • can be full-time or part-time
  • will typically be dedicated to your company during their work hours
  • should require minimal training, dependent on the position

Cons

  • required to pay taxes and other payroll expenses
  • can be difficult to terminate depending on employment laws in your state
  • must be able to consistently pay their payroll expenses (salary, taxes, benefits, etc)

Independent Contractors

Outsourcing projects can be extremely advantageous for small businesses because an independent contractor is usually knowledgable in their industry, able to work independently and will complete your project in a timely manner.  However, you must be careful about the employees that you hire as “independent contractors”.  The IRS has specific guidelines about what constitutes an IC versus an employee.  You can not hire someone as an IC if it is a position that would generally be filled by an employee.  What does that mean?  You can’t call someone an IC just to avoid paying their payroll expense.

Pros

  • usually professionals in their field, should not require any training
  • not responsible for taxes or expenses
  • project oriented

Cons

  • will also be working on other projects so you may not be their priority
  • generally will have a contractual obligation to work on a specific issue or project
  • rate may be higher than you would pay an employee

Please share your experiences with hiring these types of professionals or working in one of these capacities.

Choosing the right employee title

There are so many decisions that business owners have to make to establish and grow their business.  One of those decision is choosing the right employee title once you are ready to bring assistance into the business.  I have noticed some people having difficulties filling job positions for a variety of reasons, however today we will deal with employee titles.

When working in a small company, it may be tempting to empower your employees through their titles but you are actually doing them a disservice if they ever leave your company.  Let’s say, your best friend has a few years of marketing experience and you can’t afford to pay him over $30,000 so you decide to compensate by labeling him the Director of Marketing.  This title is out of line with his experience and salary level and will make it difficult for him to find a comparable position at another company.  Although him leaving and looking for work elsewhere really isn’t your problem, you should always be setting yourself and others up for success.

Let’s take a look at a few job titles:

  • Assistant: as the title implies this person will be assisting someone with some things; the position will generally have more administrative tasks assigned and they will report to someone on a regular basis; the salary range for this position ranges between $24,000 and $36,000 depending on the size of the company and the scope of responsibilities
  • Manager: again, as the title implies this person will be responsible for managing a part of your company, they will generally have the responsibility of ensuring projects are complete and may have employees and/or assistants reporting to them; the salary range for this position is typically between $30,000 and $60,000 depending on the size of the company and scope of the projects they are responsible for overseeing
  • Director: these persons will assist in directing the organization toward the mission and/or goals, they spend a great of time strategizing, meeting with other directors to ensure  a cohesive plan for the organization is established and providing directives to the Managers to carry out, Director can also imply someone who sits on a Board of Directors (typically only Directors of for-profit organizations are paid while most Directors of not-for-profits work as volunteers); the salary range for Directors usually starts around $60,000 and escalate depending on the size of the company and scope of operations they are responsible for directing
  • Vice-President: a company will not typically have very many Vice-Presidents unless it is large and there is a need for the Directors to have someone to report to; the salary range is generally near or in the six-figure range and the scope of their responsibilities will vary depending on the overall needs of the organization
  • President: this person is responsible for the overall operations of the company; typically the Vice-Presidents or Directors will report to the President and they will create the mission, vision and goals for the organization; the President is often the Owner of the business, however, larger corporations may hire someone to fill this position; if the position is a hired employee the salary will normally be in the six-figure range but business owners sometimes take a lower salary so that they can reinvest in the business

Obviously there are more variations however these are the most common and caution should be taken when hiring people using these titles.  The job title implies many things and part of finding the right employees is making sure they can live up to your expectations.

Which stage of business ownership are you in?

During my Twitter chat (#BOSSchat) with The BOSS Network last week, a very interesting question was posed: what’s the difference between being self-employed and a business owner?  I believe there are four stages of being in business for yourself.

Stage One – Self EmployedYahoo! Merchant Solutions - 120x600
Most people start out being self-employed.  At this stage you have a product and/or service to offer and will employ yourself to do the majority of the work.  You may have people who help you but the bulk of the responsibility for making your ship sail is in your hands.  You don’t have much time away from the business and probably feel as though it is consuming your life.  It is difficult to strike a proper work/life balance but you are not sure that you trust anyone else with your baby/business.  This stage is the most frustrating but survival is the key to your success.

Stage Two – Business Owner
You have now progressed to having a manager or someone to take over the bulk of the responsibilities for your organization, however you are still involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.  You don’t feel totally comfortable delegating tasks to others but realize that it is necessary for you to be successful.  At this level, you should take advantage of opportunities to leave the business and network in your community.  You have successfully established your brand, now is time to put a face with a logo.  You may also begin to consider what is next for yourself personally and professionally.

Stage Three – Entrepreneur
Most business owners or self-employed people that I know have visions of owning more than one business.  People toss around the word “entrepreneur” to define anyone who owns a business, however, I believe you become an entrepreneur once you are able to successfully establish a business AND begin working on additional projects whether professional or community based.  These opportunities will provide you with additional leadership skills and business connections that can help make some of your goals attainable.  As an entrepreneur, you may now feel the freedom to travel to travel to industry related events with the confidence that you have created a solid foundation within your business and that things will continue as you have envisioned.

Stage Four – Philanthropist
Once you have had a chance to establish yourself and build a successful business, you should have some connections and some money in the bank.  I believe that most of us strive to make a difference in our community.  How do you do that?  Money and influence.  Do you see the connection?  Many times we see older people in our communities making decisions and being power players.  This is because they have amassed the connections and capital to have influence over decisions.  At this stage, people are coming to you seeking advice, financial assistance and consider you an industry leader.

Which stage of business ownership are you in?  Are you ready to move to the next stage?  If so, contact me ~ contact@lakeshawomack.com ~ for a one hour complimentary consultation to discuss strategies to help you achieve your goals.

Is your business at maximum capacity?

As a small business owner, you are always seeking new business, trying to hold on to current business and looking for ways to bring back old business.  However, have you considered at what level your business will reach maximum capacity?

In theory we like to believe that our business is capable of servicing any and everyone that wants our product/service; however the reality is that our business model is only equipped to handle so much “work”.  Many major corporations hire efficiency experts to help them streamline processes and constantly find new ways to do things better but in less time so that they can produce more.  Yet, as small business owners, we often create a process and stick with it regardless of our growth.  We often forget that there may be a quicker or easier way to do something  because we get used to the way we have always done things.

This attitude is harmful to your business for the following reasons:

  1. It is possible that you could be overextending yourself and not delivering on your full promise to your customer because of a lack of time and/or resources.
  2. It is also possible that you are able to handle more business but because of a lack of efficient processes, you always feel “busy” without accomplishing very much.

Working with a business consultant, will allow you to attain an outside perspective of your operation’s procedures and processes to ensure you are working efficiently while delivering on all of the promises that your business has made to your customers.  We can examine your sales processes, accounting procedures and training policies to ensure all systems are operating at full speed.  We can even discuss what happens once you reach maximum capacity and want more business.

Contact me (contact@lakeshawomack.com) today for a one hour complimentary consultation to discuss how to determine whether your business is operating at maximum capacity and what to do next.