Dealing with Pain Points: Tips for Innovators & Entrepreneurs

ChessPieces&Mannequins

Sometime innovators and entrepreneurs get swept up in excitement for their own ideas and expect that once they start moving ahead, it will be a straight-line to success. In such cases, unexpected but ordinary challenges can feel like insurmountable obstacles. More often than not, there are  hurdles along the way to successful commercialization of a new product, technology or service; and it is helpful to be prepared for them ahead of time. It is important for innovators to recognize there are often pain points along the path to commercial success during start-up and growth phases: some are ordinary problems to be dealt with and others are red flags that something requires serious attention. Being prepared to mitigate and deal with problems can help prevent red flag scenarios or facilitate recovery from them.

Common pain points:

  • Cash Flow. Temporary lack of cash to purchase equipment, hire employees, market the business, or even cover existing accounts payable is a very common struggle, especially for start-ups that might have difficulty acquiring commercial financing due to lack of sales.
  • Employee Management. Many innovators experience uncertainty knowing when to bring on a new employee, how to define a job and set high but realistic expectations, where to find the right person, how to hold employees accountable without micro-managing them and when to fire someone for inadequate performance. This can be even more complicated in cases of family-owned businesses.
  • Time Management. Working long hours and even multiple jobs is not uncommon for innovators. It can be difficult to know which tasks to prioritize, how to set time limits and deadlines, and when to ask for help.
  • Work-Life Balance. While developing a new product or technology,  getting a new business off the ground or an existing business into a growth phase, entrepreneurs don’t always have enough time to spend with family and friends; and this can cause tension outside of work.
  • Failures and Doubts. Setbacks in developing a product or technology, or lack of initial market interest, can trigger lack of confidence about the worth of the innovation or the innovator’s capability to move forward with the idea.

Pain points can be difficult to get through; but while they present challenges to be dealt with, they are not necessarily signs that the idea cannot be successfully commercialized. There are, however, some red flags that things might need serious attention.

Red flags:

  • Lack of Financial Management. When no one is properly managing the finances, paying attention to cost structure and pricing, or when there is no feasible plan for controlling cash flow, the business might be in danger of running out of money rather than going through a temporary lack of cash flow.
  • Lack of Engagement in Planning. When the owner isn’t staying engaged in business planning on an on-going basis but is just churning through tasks, or when the owner is indecisive and puts off decision-making, the business might be in danger of stalling due to lack of direction.
  • Poor Employee Management and Company Culture.  When employees are overworked and/or micromanaged, performance expectations are lacking or are unrealistically high, tensions and pressures create a negative atmosphere, or poor compensation structure is in place, the business might be in danger of inconsistent performance and an inability to retain valuable employees.
  • Rigidity: When the owner/management lacks flexibility,  doesn’t listen to the support system that is in place or is not coachable, the business might be in danger of getting stuck with an idea or processes that won’t make it through to successful commercialization. This might happen, for example, when the owner is passionate but not realistic about the innovation.
  • Lack of Due Diligence: When a company is dependent on others to perform key tasks and does not go through a proper vetting process or make sure that appropriate contracts are in place, it may be at risk of failure due to the others’ failure to perform.

Strategies for planning and coping:

  • Don’t wait until you are out of cash or the sky is falling to ask for guidance about managing the business. Ask for real help from people you trust and whose opinions you value.
  • Make purchases carefully. Think of them as investments in the business.
  • Be creative during cash crunches (e.g., find creative solutions in working with vendors).
  • Don’t make rash business decisions under pressure. Take a walk, take a break, think things through over a period of time.
  • Plan ahead for the need to reevaluate your value proposition and best customer base.
  • Understand that the right team isn’t necessarily people who always agree with you. Figure out what you really need in a team in terms of experience, knowledge, skills, aptitudes, attitudes, etc. Find people whose strengths complement yours.
  • Get input from employees, customers, mentors, and/or reliable support resources.
  • Network and build relationships with people you admire and with people with which you potentially see future overlap.
  • Pivot when needed.
  • Diversify revenue streams.
  • Have contingency plans for what to do if things don’t go as planned. Don’t think that you need to keep moving in the same direction or keep going at all costs.
  • Learn what you can from your failures, adjust, pick up, keep going. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”-Henry Ford
  • Utilize good resources. Places to go for business support include your SBDC office, banker, accountant, attorney, mentor, and other entrepreneurs.

At the Kansas SBDC, we recognize the challenges faced by innovators along the way to commercialization and want to help them be successful and avoid costly missteps. Our advising services include cash flow and financial analysis, access to capital, management, market research, growth strategies and general business planning for both preventure and existing businesses.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in business growth, Business Planning, Employees, success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Attending Conferences is Good for Your Business

conference-stock

It is no secret: small business owners are busy people and often feel like they don’t have the time to do everything. Attending conferences can fall onto their list of things I wish I had time for but don’t, especially in this day and age when there is such a plethora of information available online. Professional development, however, is important for business owners and, in many cases, for their employees as well.

Here are a few reasons why attending conferences can be good for you, your employees, and your business:

• Interaction with other people at live professional events can be energizing and make people feel even more committed to success.

• Conferences provide opportunities to learn new information or skills, inspire people to try new things, and have a better sense for how to deal with challenges along the way.

• Sometimes you need to get outside of your business- your “box” – to think outside of the box.

• You can connect with resources that you might otherwise never connect with.

• Presenters at conferences are knowledgeable and willing to share their experiences – both successes and challenges.

• Investment in yourself and in your employees is important for personal satisfaction with the workplace.

The Kansas SBDC is hosting a Rural and Independent Innovators Conference in Manhattan on January 28th and 29th.  RIIC will take attendees through the lifecycle of getting from idea to commercialization and will enable them to connect with valuable resources and inspiring entrepreneurs. Two weeks away, we are excited about the enthusiasm that the participants are already demonstrating and about the positive outcomes that this conference will help support! Register here.

RIIC is sponsored by: Washburn University SBDC, America’s SBDC Kansas, North Central Regional Planning Commission, NCKCN, Networks Plus, Central National Bank,  Junction City & Geary County Economic Development Commission,  Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Kansas Department of Commerce, USDA Rural Development and K-State Technology Development Institute

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisors

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in Employees, success, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rural and Independent Innovators Conference: Program Details

RIIC

Manhattan, Kansas

We are very excited about RIIC and looking forward to meeting innovators! Program details are included below.  (More information can be found here.)

Day 1 – January 28, 2019

8:00 – 8:25 Sign-in

8:30 – 8:50 Opening Address: The Importance of Innovation, by Kent Glasscock, President of the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization

8:50 – 9:45  Panel: You think that you have an innovative idea – or you are trying to get involved in innovation – how do you know whether you should move forward? Alan, Badgley, Kansas SBDC Technology Commercialization Center; Tim Carty, EMP Shield; Bret Lanz, Technology Development Institute; and,Tim Penner, Harper Industries.

9:45 – 10:00  Break 

10:00 – 10:50 Panel: Once you have decided to move forward, what steps do you take? Nick Graham, Sileo Corp; Tim Haynes, FAB LAB at Independence Community College; Karl Klein, Washburn University Kansas SBDC; and, Rick LeJuerrne, Flow Capital, LLC.

10:55 – 11:50 Panel: Pulling Together Financing for Early Stage Ventures. Trish Brasted, Wichita Technology Corporation; Joe Fiorella, Central Funding Exchange;  Imagene Harris, NetWork Kansas; and, Doug McKinney, North Central Kansas Planning Commission.

11:50 – 12:45 Lunch Break: 

12:45 – 1:40 Panel: SBIR Grants. Tom Byler, Kansas SBDC; Bill Carey, Kansas SBDC Technology Commercialization Center;  and, Debra Franklin, WSU Strategic Initiatives.

1:45 – 2:40  Intellectual Property Basics by  Sara Butts, Engineering, Patents, and Trademark Librarian & Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) Representative, Wichita State University Libraries

2:40– 2:55 Break 

2: 45 – 3:40 Panel: Managing Risks.  Jerry Horton, Networks Plus; Patricia Judd, Washburn University School of Law; and, Rick LeJuerrne, Flow Capital LLC. 

3:45 – 4:40 Panel: Dealing with Pain Points: Knowing When to Call it Quits or How to Keep Moving Forward.  Trish Brasted, Wichita Technology Corporation; Bill Carey, Kansas SBDC Technology Commercialization Center; Nick Graham, Sileo Corp.; and, Pete Keegan, EMP Shield.

4:40 – 5:00 Lanes of Commercialization, Alan Badgley, SBDC

5:00 – 6:30 Networking

Day 2: January 29, 2019

Sign -in 7:30 – 7:55

Speaker: 8:00 – 8:25 Business Growth through International Markets, Dennis Pedersen of GT Mfg. Inc.

8:30 – 9:35 Round Table:  Product Development, Scalability and Production. Jim Correll, FAB LAB at Independence Community College; Fred Goertzen, Goertzen Manufacturing; Bret Lanz, Technology Development Institute; and, Tim Penner, Harper Industries.

9:35 – 9:45 Break

9:45 – 10:50 Round Table: Accessing Markets:  Tom Byler, Kansas SBDC; Scott Knapp, PTAC; Ken Williams, K-State Institute for Commercialization.

10:45 – 10:55 Break

10:55 – 12:00 Round Table: Financing for Later Stage Projects. Salih Doughramaji, Kansas Department of Commerce; Doug Haverkamp, Central National Bank; and,  Lyle Peterson, MidAmerica Angels.

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch Break 

12:30 – 1:00 Concluding Talk: Exit Strategies by Karl Klein, Washburn University Kansas SBDC & Tom Byler, Washburn University Kansas SBDC

 

Register here or by phone at our new office number: 785.215.8375

RIIC is sponsored by: Washburn University SBDC, Kansas SBDC, North Central Regional Planning Commission, NCKCN, Networks Plus, Central National Bank,  Junction City & Geary County Economic Development Commission,  Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Kansas Department of Commerce, USDA Rural Development and Technology Development Institute.

Please check here back for program updates.

Posted in business growth, success, Success Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rural and Independent Innovators Conference

Do you have an innovative idea but are unsure of whether or how to move forward? Or are you a company looking to expand through innovation but do not know how to access innovative ideas? Are you wanting to learn more about how to become an innovator?

On January 28th and 29th, the Kansas SBDC will be hosting our first Rural and Independent Innovators Conference (RIIC). We are very excited about this opportunity to connect with innovators in rural communities and innovators who lack the support of a university or corporate research program.

RIIC is a day and a half long conference to help innovators – and businesses that want to be involved in innovation – understand how to get from idea to commercialization.  The conference will be geared toward, but not limited to,  those interested in products and technology.  (View schedule here.)

Our goals are to help rural and independent innovators recognize good ideas, understand the steps for moving forward with them and mitigate risks along the way so that they can successfully bring their innovations to market! Successful commercialization of innovations is vital for growing the Kansas economy and for supporting jobs growth, especially in rural communities.

Our presenters include subject matter experts and businesses willing to share their experiences: Alan Badgley (Kansas SBDC Technology Commercialization Center), Sara Butts (Wichita State University Libraries), Trish Brasted (Wichita Technology Corporation), Tom Byler (Kansas SBDC),  Bill Carey (Kansas SBDC Technology Commercialization Center), Tim Carty (EMP Shield), Jim Correll (FAB LAB, ICC),  Salih Doughramaji (Kansas Department of Commerce), Joe Fiorella (Central Funding Exchange), Debra Franklin (WSU Strategic Initiatives), Kent Glasscock (K-State Institute for Commercialization), Fred Goertzen (Goertzen Manufacturing), Nick Graham (Sileo Corp), Imagene Harris (NetWork Kansas), Doug Haverkamp (Central National Bank), Tim Haynes (FAB LAB, ICC), Pete Keegan (EMP Shield), Patricia Judd (Washburn Univ. School of Law), Karl Klein (Kansas SBDC), Scott Knapp (PTAC), Bret Lanz (Technology Development Institute), Rick LeJuerrne (Flow Capital LLC), Dennis Pedersen (GT Mfg. Inc), Tim Penner (Harper Industries), Lyle Peterson (MidAmerica Angels), Randy Snider (USDA Rural Development), and Ken Williams (K-State Institute for Commercialization). (Please check back for updates.)

Dates: January 28 – 29, 2019

Location: Bluemont Hotel, Manhattan, KS 66502

Space is limited. Register early by phone at our new office number: 785.215.8375 or online at https://ksbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/24437 

Cost to attend Day #1 only: $70

Cost to attend Day #2 only: $50

Cost to attend both Day #1 and Day #2: $85

RIIC is sponsored by: Washburn University SBDC, Kansas SBDC, North Central Regional Planning Commission, NCKCN, Networks Plus, Central National Bank,  Junction City & Geary County Economic Development Commission,  Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Kansas Department of Commerce, USDA Rural Development and K-State Technology Development Institute.

For more information about the schedule or program, please contact ksbdc@washburn.edu. 

We are looking forward the interesting conversations that are bound to occur at this conference and to seeing their results!

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in business growth, Exporting, success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honoring Veterans

SoldierFlag

In recognition of our United States veterans, last week was National Veterans Small Business Week. The Kansas SBDC at Washburn University together with the U.S. SBA Wichita District Office and Veterans Business Resource Center in Kansas City held events in Manhattan, Kansas and Milford Lake, Kansas to help support our veteran-owned business community. Together, we help with access to capital, government contracting and advising on a wide range of topics for small businesses.

Thank you, veterans, for your service. We wish you success in your endeavors and are honored to assist you with your businesses.

National and Local Resources

America’s SBDC – Use this link to find your local SBDC (small business development center) for workshops and one-on-one business advising anywhere in the country.

America’s SBDC Kansas: Washburn University KSBDC (the MACC Outreach Center is closest to Ft. Riley), University of Kansas KSBDC (closest to Ft. Leavenworth),  Wichita State University KSBDC (closest to McConnell Air Force Base), plus Fort Hays State University KSBDC, Pittsburg State University SBDC, Emporia State University KSDBC, Johnson County Community College KSBDC and Seward County Community College KSBDC. Centers offer one-on-one business advising, speciality consulting, workshops, training events and conferences for small businesses.

SBA Contracting Resources – Information about training on government contracting and programs to support the competitiveness of small businesses in contracting. SBA Wichita District Office: (316) 269-6616

SBA Veterans Advantage  – Information about loan programs to assist veterans access capital for their businesses.

Veterans Business Resource Center  (VBRC) – Also called Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), this center conducts training for transitioning military and veteran business owners, helps connect veterans with resources and counseling.   KC Office (877) 825-4190

Boots to Business  This is a 2-day intensive introduction to entrepreneurship for transitioning military and/or their spouses. It is part of the Transition Assistance Program. In Kansas, it is offered Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base. Presenters from the SBA, SCORE, KSBDC, and VBRC teach the modules at these Kansas installations.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – You can get assistance in registering for government contracting here and also training on government contracting. PTAC has offices at Wichita State University and in Topeka.

VA Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization – You can register for verification as a veteran-owned business here, plus this website has information about training events and networking opportunities for government contracting.

Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) – This office promotes veteran entrepreneurship through use of SBA programs. This website has information about SBA training programs, SBA loan programs, and government contracting.

 

IMG_1939[8]

view from Milford Lake Conference Center at Acorns Resort

Thank you to Acorns Resort, Iron Clad and Della Voce Restaurant for helping to host the National Veterans Small Business Week events in Manhattan and Milford Lake.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in success, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugar Creek Country Store and the Kansas SBDC

Thank you to Dan Hohman from Sugar Creek Country Store for sharing his story about working with the Kansas SBDC and to Harvest Video for producing the video! It is a pleasure and honor to work with such talented people!

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University Kansas SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in success, Success Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SBA Disaster Assistance

high-water-123222_640

Thank you to Michael Aumack from the Wichita District Office of the SBA for providing information for this article.

Update for Clay, Geary, Marshall, Pottawatomie, Riley, Wabaunsee and Washington counties. 

Passages quoted below are from the U. S. Small Business Administration News Release Number:  KS 15692-01, dated September 17, 2018.

“Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to Kansas businesses and residents affected by flash flooding, flooding and severe storms that occurred Sept. 1-3, 2018, announced Administrator Linda McMahon of the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA acted under its own authority to declare a disaster in response to a request SBA received from Gov. Jeff Colyer, M.D. on Sept. 11, 2018.”

“Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters whose property was damaged or destroyed by this disaster,” said SBA’s Director Tanya N. Garfield of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West. “Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 18, SBA representatives will be on hand at the following Disaster Loan Outreach Center to answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each individual complete their application,” Garfield continued. The center will be open on the days and times indicated below. No appointment is necessary.

 

RILEY COUNTY

Disaster Loan Outreach Center

City Park

(Former Parks and Recreation Office)

1101 Fremont St

Manhattan, KS  66502

Opens 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18

Mondays – Fridays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Closes 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept 27

 

“Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses and homeowners to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.”

“For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic injury assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.”

“Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.govfor more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.”

 

The deadline to apply for property damage is Nov. 13, 2018. The deadline to apply for economic injury is June 14, 2019.

………….

(Original blog post below.)

Due to recent flooding in Manhattan and surrounding areas of Kansas – with some vicinities receiving almost 9 inches of rain overnight – our office has received inquiries about SBA Disaster Assistance. Hopefully, this post will shed light on the process of how an area becomes eligible for SBA Disaster Loans and the loan application process.  SBA Disaster Loans are available to businesses of any size, nonprofit organizations, churches, homeowners and renters in eligible areas. These direct loans are long-term, low-interest rate loans to help with disaster recovery.

The Declaration Process

A Presidential Disaster Declaration for the flooding in Manhattan would would trigger both FEMA and SBA-Disaster assistance.  Both FEMA and SBA-Disaster Assistance (ODA) require the state’s governor to declare an official disaster with a request for federal government assistance. One a disaster declaration has been made, if Governor Coyler issues the request, FEMA and SBA-ODA will go to the affected areas to review the situation and set-up a disaster recovery center(s) where people can go to apply for assistance. Disaster recovery centers are generally set up in easily accessible locations for people who do not have computer access; but the SBA-ODA encourages people to apply for a disaster loan online, when possible, to save time.

As of this writing, it is our belief that processes are being followed, though the Kansas Adjutant Governor webpage that lists disaster declarations does not yet list the flooding in Manhattan. Here is where one can check declarations at the state level for Kansas:  http://www.kansastag.gov/KDEM.asp?PageID=434

In addition, here are two websites with national-level information that can be searched to review when a disaster declaration is open/active for SBA assistance:

•  https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Declarations/Index

•  https://www.disasterassistance.gov/

The Application Process

Once a declaration and state’s request for aid are official, affected business owners, nonprofits, churches,  homeowners and renters should go to either of these webpages to get more information and, if needed, to apply for assistance:

•  https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

•  https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

The application-review-funding process is described in detail in this document:  https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Documents/Three_Step_Process_SBA_Disaster_Loans.pdf

Funds are generally available within 5 days after the SBA has received the signed closing documents.

…..

For assistance with on-going processes involved in disaster recovery, affected businesses in Manhattan or elsewhere in Kansas, should contact their local Kansas SBDC office. Businesses in the greater Manhattan area should contact ksbdc@washburn.edu.

Small businesses and the people who work in them are vital parts of our local communities. For the sake of the business owners, their employees, and those who depend on their products and services, we at the Kansas SBDC do what we can to assist with business continuity and recovery.

Our thoughts go out to those who suffered losses during the recent weather event.

Related Articles

Developing a Small Business Continuity Plan

Understanding Business Insurances

National Preparedness Month

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Washburn University Kansas SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Posted in Capital/Financing/Grants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment