4 Reasons for Small Businesses to Consider Exporting

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One of the many things that we do at the Kansas SBDC is help small businesses assess options for growth and incorporate appropriate growth strategies. Participating in international trade, in particular on the export side, is one possibility that holds much potential for many small businesses in Kansas. Here are some reasons why small businesses, especially producers of products and services that can be delivered across national borders, should consider becoming exporters.

(1) Though only 1% of U.S. small business export, almost 98% of the 280,000 U.S. firms that export are small businesses. Small businesses can be successful in international markets!

(2) As global trade continues to grow – due to improved/increasing financing options, logistics resources, internet access, e-marketing platforms, global wealth, demand for goods, services and technologies and the long-term trend toward improved international trade agreements,  – it is important for U. S. small businesses to be involved in global markets. 95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S.

(3) Due to diversification of markets, firms that export strategically tend to better able than their counterparts to support jobs stability and jobs growth, pay higher wages, extend the life cycle of their products, services and technologies and ride out localized economic downturns.

(4) There are many resources available to help businesses that have the potential to export! Though being an exporter is easier than most people realize, it is not without risks or regulations. There are various sorts of compliance issues and other important considerations to be aware of –and not just at the U.S. end. Export out of one country equals import into another country. Exporters need to think about both ends of the equation. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to help U.S. small businesses get started and mitigate risks so that they can grow through international trade. Areas of assistance include market research, connecting with potential buyers, international trade finance risk management, compliance issues, language translation, overcoming cultural barriers, classification codes, incoterms, documentation, and so forth.

In addition to the Certified Global Business Professionals (CGBPs) at the Kansas SBDC, resources for exporting assistance and for further education include the following:

Related Article:

Export: A Growth Area for Small Businesses

Laurie Pieper, Ph. D., CGBP

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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11 Tips for Small Businesses Interested in Sub-Contracting on Large Government Jobs

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On Wednesday, August 14th, NASA Small Business Specialists and Liaisons from large prime contractors came to Lawrence to connect with small businesses and to inform and inspire Kansas entrepreneurs and educators about small business contracting opportunities on large government jobs, particularly focusing on NASA Procurement. It was an interesting and educational day!

Examples of needs that were discussed are general R & D, engineering, resource development, robotics, calibration, custom software, communications systems, multi-media, machining, facilities management, pest control, protective services and human resources.

A few themes that were emphasized at the event are that the demands and locations are diverse, sub-contracting is the main avenue for small business involvement on large jobs, and that contracting requires long-term effort. Given the effort and difficulties that can be involved, being a sub is nevertheless rewarding for many small businesses because it gives them access to big jobs and because they gain experience, contacts and opportunities to grow their companies – and in some cases for their companies to be acquired. For small businesses, interested in pursuing work on large government jobs, here are some tips.

Tips for Small Businesses:

(1) Know your capabilities and where they end. Be very specific. Do not bid for jobs that you don’t have the capability to perform well and know ahead of time what assistance you might need. Be prepared to demonstrate prior experience. Do not lie. It is in your interest to get good performance ratings if you accept government contracts.

(2) Monitor your cash flow and profitability to make sure that you are financially stable. A large prime will review your financial records because it will want to know that you are not going to run into cash flow problems that would block timely performance of your expected functions.

(3) Work with an SBDC Business Advisor for assistance on topics such as pricing, cash flow and management issues. Learn more about the Kansas SBDC services and locations.

(4) Utilize your Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Work with a PTAC Advisor to get set up in SAM and other systems, to keep your registrations up-to-date, to prepare your capability statement and to help you look for potential opportunities. Attend PTAC contracting workshops and networking events. Learn more about Kansas PTAC GoTopeka Office, Johnson County Community College Office and Wichita State University Office.

(5) Learn more about sub-contracting through the SBA Contracting Guide or through an SBA Business Opportunity Specialist. Attend SBA contracting and networking events. Learn about SBA Wichita District Office  and Kansas City District Office events and services.

(6) Do your research and make connections. For example, read acquisitions forecasts, go to www.fbo.gov,  check agency websites, etc. Look for networking events hosted by government contracting agencies and installations.

(7) Before reaching out to a large prime’s Small Business Liaison to request a courtesy visit, do research on the company. If you can, talk with other subs about what companies are good to work for. Checkout the company’s website and learn about their products, technologies and services. Learn about their needs and other interests. Many large prime contracts are also looking for innovations that they can acquire and/or move forward along with.

(8) If you are able to schedule a meeting, show up early and prepared. Know what you are pursuing. In preparing your Capability Statement and other materials, make sure that your capabilities and NAICS code(s) align with the needed services.

(9) Understand the length of contracting relationships. Most contracts last for several years and, so, though there may not be one opening up right away for which you are the right fit, once you have one, the work will last a while.

(10) Keep open channels of communication and be responsive to the large prime’s demands. Don’t think that once you have a contract, you can go off in your own direction. Be prepared for a prime contractor to be demanding, even monopolizing, of your time and energy.

(11) Be aware that you may need an attorney that specializes in government contracting clients to assist you with contracts, protect your interests and understand compliance issues.

At the Kansas SBDC, we work with multiple resource partners to stay informed and connected in order to help promote the growth of small businesses in Kansas. Our participation in the NASA contracting training and networking event last week is an interesting example of how our SBDC advisors work to develop and maintain these relationships.

If you are a small business wanting to learn more about how we might be able to help you grow your business, please contact us at ksbdc@washburn.edu.

Related articles:

Government Contracting for Women-Owned Small Businesses

Developing a Small Business Continuity Plan

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Congratulations to CR’s Tire & Automotive!

 

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Troy Ross (above, right), celebrating his 1st anniversary as owner of CR’s Tire & Automotive in Wamego with a customer appreciation day, is joined by the business’s founder, the “original” CR. In reflecting on the occasion, Troy expresses gratitude to the customers that have continued to support the shop: “It’s refreshing to see the amount of support the customers in the Wamego area give to small businesses. We thank you!”

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CR’s on Lincoln Ave. in Wamego

Though Troy just celebrated his first year as owner of CR’s Tire & Automotive, he had been on the path to becoming owner of the business for several years before purchasing the shop from CR – a long-time friend of the Ross family. Troy, an avid car enthusiast, had worked in the automotive industry after completing his business degree from Emporia State University.  During that time, he had enjoyed talking with CR about the shop – then called CR’s Tire & Muffler– including the possibility of someday taking it over.  Discussion turned serious when Troy realized that he felt ready to take on the role of business owner and employer with all of its challenges, responsibilities and opportunities. Though a native of Emporia, Troy had family connections to Wamego and had always enjoyed the Wamego and Manhattan areas. So, as he and CR continued to talk, Troy decided that he would move to the area to work for CR as part of CR’s succession plan, i.e., a plan for how to keep the business going and take care of its employees and customers after CR’s retirement.

Troy was confident in the process because, over the years, CR had built a business that was doing well and had earned a highly-respected reputation for the quality of its work and its customer service. Troy recognized that as part of the transition process, “It was up to me to come in and absorb as much as I could by working alongside him for the year- and-a-half before the purchase was made. I felt this was one of the most important things that we did, as I was able to become familiar with the customers and employees while also learning the ropes from CR.”

To someone thinking about purchasing a business, Troy recommends following this process: “If the business is profitable and worth making the purchase, I suggest following the route we took. Get into the business and work with the owner for a decent amount of time before making the purchase. This will help you make sure that this is what you want. It will also help the transition process to be more seamless. You can see what has worked in the past while also putting your tweaks on things for the future.”

Troy says that advisors at the Kansas SBDC were “very instrumental” in helping him understand and pull together the pieces needed to complete the business purchase “Helping small businesses is what they do, so, many things that I may not have thought of were brought to my attention during the process. This helped to make the process seamless.”

Pieces such as a business valuation, conversations to have with employees and vendors, issues to figure out with attorneys and accountants, and working with lenders or investors are examples of parts of a typical transition process; but the most important piece, according to Troy, was the process of developing a well thought out business plan that reflected his vision for the future of the business and also demonstrated his capacity to successfully take over the various facets of management. “Without a good business plan, it makes it difficult to find investors or a bank to finance what you are doing. The SBDC helped me with an outline of the business plan. I’m proud to say we had zero issues with the plan that was submitted and the bank was very impressed with what we put together.”

Troy stays in contact with the SBDC on many of the day to day issues that come up at the workplace such as questions about human resources and customer relations.  While it is important to Troy that the business do well, he appreciates that an important part of this is treating his team and customers well. According to Troy, SBDC advisors, “with their knowledge, are great at steering you in the right direction when answers are needed.”

Troy says that, though a “whirlwind”, his first year as business owner has exceeded his expectations – something that he attributes not only to the careful transition process but also to the great crew that he has at the shop and to their loyal patrons. Troy looks forward to continuing to provide a high level of service to the great customers that come to him at the Wamego shop and, who knows … as the business continues to grow and evolve, he might even consider a second location.

Congratulations to Troy and his team on a successful first year and best wishes for the future of CR’s!

FlagsInWamego

Downtown Wamego

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Are You Watching Your COGS? If not, It Could Cost Your Small Business

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Thank you to our colleague Jack Harwell from the Kansas SBDC for another helpful post for small businesses …

Wring the most out of every sales dollar and learn how to measure and leverage cost of goods sold, or COGS, for your Kansas City small business

Source: Are You Watching Your COGS? If not, It Could Cost Your Small Business

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Will Your Business Be Ready When You’re Ready for the Next Chapter in Life?

 

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Every business owner, at some point, exits his or her business. For many small business owners, the bulk of their net worth is tied up in their business or businesses. In such cases, the ability to maximize and capture that value is, therefore, critical to their long-term financial health and ability to do the things that they want after leaving the business. The importance of this should not be underestimated. In addition, many small business owners have an emotional investment in their business and care about its mission and about their employees and customers. In these instances, business owners often feel like they can’t step away until they know that the people they care about are being left in good hands. Succession planning addresses all of these issues.

The most immediate obstacle to creating a succession plan is often simply not understanding the importance of getting started. A lot of people think that they can wait until they are ready to retire or want to sell the business to start the process. The reality is that for some businesses, it might take a number of years to develop and execute a succession plan; and without a plan in place, life’s unexpected events can sometimes present insurmountable hurdles for the business’s continuation and also for its ownership’s personal finances.

A common confusion is that people sometimes associate succession planning with going out of business; but succession planning is about cultivating a plan for having the business transition successfully to new ownership so that it does not go out of business if something happens to the current owner or if the current owner decides that it is time to move on to a new venture or new stage of life.

The process of succession planning should be started earlier on than many people recognize because getting started typically isn’t the only hurdle to overcome. Business partners, family members and key employees may need to be involved in making important decisions; and coming to agreement on expectations is not always as easy as might be hoped. One or more of these individuals might need to be cultivated into someone who can purchase or take over the business; or an external buyer may need to be sought and worked with over a period of a year or more. Processes and policies may need to be developed and intellectual property protected in order to build the value of the business. Financial management may need to be improved and strategic plans may need to be adjusted.

At the Kansas SBDC, we have CEPAs (Certified Exit Planning Advisors) and CVAs (Certified Valuation Analysts) who can help business owners with succession planning. The first step is to review long-term personal goals and goals for the businesses and then to appreciate how the eventual transition of the businesses fits into that picture. Our advisors can assess the current value of the business, its current readiness to transition, and determine measures that can be put in place to maximize the value of the business and improve the chances of a transition that meets an owner’s goals. Other key members of the business’s support team may also need to be involved in succession planning, e.g., an attorney, insurance agent, banker, CPA and/or personal financial planner.

If you are a small business owner, meeting with one of our Business Advisors to discuss goals is the first step in working with the Kansas SBDC on succession planning. Our SBDC Business Advisors will also connect you with our Value Builder team. The team can help you improve the value of your business as you work toward getting your company ready for its future ownership. A key goal will be to help you position your business so that when you are ready move on to your next chapter your business is as well.

For more information or to take a free assessment, contact ksbdc@washburn.edu.

Related Articles:

Who Needs an Exit Strategy? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Business Transitioning • What’s Your Exit Strategy?

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Weather Events Preparedness & Business Continuity

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Recent Kansas weather, and upcoming forecasts for our region, are reminders that it is important for small business owners to be prepared for weather events and other potential disasters in order to keep their people safe, mitigate risks to their assets and maintain business continuity. Maintaining business continuity is often important not just for the business but also for its employees and the broader community that it serves.

If you are a business owner and have a business continuity plan, you should review it periodically and also in advance of predicted severe weather events.  If you do not already have a business continuity plan,  you can read more here.  Your local SBDC advisor can help you start developing a plan for your business or put you in contact with one of our Certified Business Continuity Professionals.

While no one wants to have to be prepared, according to FEMA , 40-60% of small businesses fail to re-open after a disaster and 90% of small businesses fail within a year of re-opening if they were unable to re-open within 5 days. Being prepared for weather and other events, and following a plan that has been kept up-to-date, can make all the difference to a small business’s ability to survive.

Additional resources to help with preparedness and business continuity:

• the FEMA publication Every Business Should Have a Plan

• additional planning tools for businesses available through FEMA

• Ready.Gov  tips for preparing for various types of weather events

At the Kansas SBDC, our advisors help small businesses with a wide range of planning needs so that they can not only start but also can endure and grow because the success and survival of small businesses is integral to the well-being of our local communities.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Margins Matter: Learn This Formula for Success for Your KC Small Business

 

banking-cash-deposit-1602726Margin can be a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but it’s an important measure of how profitable your business is (and easy to calculate).

Read the full article, written by our colleague Jack Harwell from the JCCC SBDC here: Margins Matter: Learn This Formula for Success for Your KC Small Business

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