NAVIGATION

Protecting Your Business

Protecting your business involves planning on multiple fronts. It means protecting your business from lawsuits, theft, cyberattacks and natural disasters. It also involves creating a succession plan so your business continues under new management should that become necessary.

While California is known as earthquake country, the more frequent threat comes from fires. In 2017, the state was struck by nearly 9,000 wildfires, which burned 1.2 million acres of land (an area the size of Delaware), destroyed more than 10,800 structures and claimed at least 46 lives.

Fires erupted as far north at the Klamath National Forest on the Oregon border, as far south as San Diego and as far east as the Sierra Nevada Mountains. No area seemed immune.

And then there are the earthquakes. From the famous magnitude 7.8 San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989 to the 6.7 Northridge quake of 1993 and the 6.0 Napa Valley quake of 2014, they too can strike anywhere at any time.

What can you do to protect your business?

While specific steps can vary depending on the type of disaster, a prepared business owner should identify the steps to take before, during and after a disaster. They will need to identify their risks and know which disasters are most likely to affect their business.

Any business can be hit with a lawsuit; work to keep risks to a minimum and retain competent legal counsel to consult as necessary.

Although any business can fall victim to Internet viruses and other malicious software spread by bad actors, steps can be taken. At an absolute minimum, get anti-virus software installed on your computers and keep its protections up to date. Have a data policy that addresses opening email attachments and following links. Consider having an expert provide training on how to spot and avoid “phishing” attempts.

Other hazards can be as simple as a power outage or as serious as a fire or earthquake.

Business leaders should develop a workplace emergency plan and be sure employees know what that plan is. They will also need a crisis communications plan to keep in contact with customers, suppliers and employees during and after a disaster. Then, they need to test and practice those preparedness plans.

Have emergency supplies available at the workplace and be sure your employees know where to find them. A first aid kit may be the most critical but having a case of water per person as well as some energy bars or other non-perishable food is also a good idea.

Providing assistance and support for employees should also be a part of a business’s preparedness program. In many cases, disasters are widespread enough that they can affect the employees’ homes as well as your business.

Plan ahead to back up your data. Ideally, it should be backed up offsite, and be backed up automatically. A third-party provider with a robust back-up system of its own it preferable to backing up your data manually on a thumb drive or portable hard drive that you take home each night.

Check your insurance policies to ensure you have enough coverage before a disaster strikes. Speak with your insurance professional about specific hazard coverage. Coverages for earthquakes, hurricanes and other specific disasters are often excluded from standard plans and must be added as riders.

In the event of an actual emergency, listen to local officials and follow their instructions.

The EDC-VC has additional resources that can help business owners with preparedness. The Department of Homeland Security also has online resources at Ready.gov.

For more information on protecting your employees and your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: DHS/Ready.gov

Business Benefits to Going Green

Business Benefits to Going Green

Everyone and every business wants to present itself as “green.” Being environmentally conscious is important, but there’s a big difference between “greenwashing” your business – placing more emphasis on looking the part than taking actual steps – and adopting practices that actually make a difference.

Increase the environmental friendliness of your business

Increasing your business’s energy efficiency, whether an office-based business or a manufacturing operation, saves on utility costs. Reusing existing materials in creative ways can mean fewer dollars spent on new raw materials. Using bio-fuels for your transportation needs can reduce tailpipe pollution and is becoming more cost-competitive with petroleum fuels almost day by day.

Of course, a prudent business person will perform a cost-benefit analysis before retrofitting or replacing existing equipment, especially if it has not yet reached the end of its useful life, but don’t forget to include the value of the enhancements to your business’s reputation by making green choices.

According to a Nielsen survey of some 30,000 customers, 42 percent agreed they would pay more for products that came from sustainable sources, and businesses that promote their environmental awareness could also see a halo effect as consumers choose to do business with such firms.

Going green not only fosters positive feelings from customers; employees also often feel better working for green businesses, especially when they’re involved in company-wide green initiatives. It may be hard to quantify, but there’s intrinsic value to improved staff morale.

Take specific steps to help the environment

Look around your business (and encourage employees to look around their homes). Report or fix leaky faucets. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, or more than the water needed for 180 showers.

Put recycling bins at or near every desk and encourage their use. Purchase paper products with at least 35 percent post-consumer content. Use the back side of paper for scratch paper before it is put in the recycling bin.

In your company kitchen, use washable cups, flatware and plates instead of disposable dinnerware. If you don’t already have washable kitchenware, look for products made with recycled material.

If you use a landscape company or lawn service, look for those that use electric equipment rather than gas.

Consider using online conference calls when practical instead of spending the energy (and time) to attend in-person meetings.

Encourage employees who use their car for lunch to park and go inside rather than idling in a drive-thru. To save even more fuel, encourage them to telecommute one day a week. If your business has the means, consider offering an incentive to employees who rides their bikes to work, use public transportation or purchase an energy-efficient vehicle.

The financial benefits to going green can extend well beyond the dollars saved through energy efficiency or the additional dollars earned by appealing to environmentally conscious customers. Grants and funding may be available to help further establish green businesses. Organizations such as The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Energy offer financial assistance in the form of grants and loans to small businesses and farms. Such programs provide money for individuals looking to start a green business, existing green businesses and business that are taking the necessary steps to go green.

For more information on greening your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: SBA.gov; Scientific American

Simple Leadership Habits to Empower People

Simple Leadership Habits to Empower People

Successful leaders recognize the value of empowering workers to perform to the best of their ability. Many leaders agree that by empowering others you get the best results but getting started can be challenging.

Leading by example

The empowering process begins with healthy and strong leaders who are willing to lessen their grip and trust their people. Each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel trusted and empowered by you, they will follow your example to lead.

Struggling to empower others

As you have navigated your way up the business ladder, you’ve been able to grow along with your business. But at some point, you need to start handing things off to others if you are to continue to keep pace with the business’s growth. Trusting your employees to take on new responsibilities helps motivate them to do their best and frees you up to take your business to the next level.

Provide clear expectations

Your picture of empowerment needs to match that of your people. Be specific in what they have authority to do. While it’s best explained when someone first joins your organization, it’s important to recognize that it’s an ever-changing process and should be regularly communicated to avoid confusion.

Get out of their way

In the end, once you give your trusted employees the tools they need to succeed, you don’t need to do much other than allow them to develop their own authority and leadership voice. By scheduling regular check-ins, you can provide advice and oversight but leave the day-to-day hands-on to them.

For help developing more effective leadership skills to enhance your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

How to Hire and Inspire Millennials in Your Workforce

How to Hire and Inspire Millennials in Your Workforce

If you are looking to fill positions in your business, chances are many of the resumes you receive will be from Millennials. Millennials have now surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the American workforce. If you feel like rolling your eyes: don’t! Many millennials have the drive, skills and ideas you’re looking for when building a productive team of employees—but this generation has a different set of work values and attitudes. What’s surprising is that the changes millennials are pushing for in the workplace are things that are desired by most employees, regardless of age.

Collaboration.
Collaboration shouldn’t be limited to team work and meetings. This new generation of workers wants to use technology to connect with the world and their peers in ways that allow them to have deeper and more globalized connections.

Outline a path for growth and development:
Millennials are all about knowing where they stand and how they can improve. Without a roadmap for success, you’ll be frustrated by a lack of results and they’ll be frustrated by a lack of vision.

Understand both their professional goals and their personal goals:

Work and life are now integrated in so many ways that millennials (and frankly all your workers) want not only to contribute and be better at work, but also to grow as human beings.

Provide flexibility:
Millennials want to have the option to work from home and maintain flexible schedules. If employees are doing the same amount of work at the same level of quality in the same amount of time, why does it matter where they’re getting it done? This millennial work style has had the most radical impact on companies in recent years, and it shows no sign of reversing.

Embrace cognitive diversity:

Millennials are attuned to diversity of every sort, and cognitive diversity is no different. Having people come together to challenge ideas, innovate and collaborate is energizing to this group.

Feedback:

Millennials want feedback—they’ve been raised in an era driven by metrics and effectiveness. Everyone is driven by goals, but the millennial workforce believes (correctly) that this can happen in many arenas, from company goals to collaboration to job satisfaction and engagement. When an employee does good work, don’t wait to hand out the praise, they’ll feel appreciated and want to work even harder.

Purpose:
A recent study found that 80 percent of millennials ranked purpose and meaning in their day-to-day work as the most important thing. That mindset also carries over to millennial consumers, who prefer to support brands that care about the greater good instead of just their bottom line. Millennials expect constant feedback, learning opportunities, and most of all, the chance to meaningfully contribute to society through their work.

For help on hiring and inspiring a team of effective employees for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

President’s Message

edc-vc, president, ceo, sbdc, smallbusiness, venturacounty

Bruce Stenslie

May 10th was a red letter day as EDC-VC joined local officials, First 5 Ventura County and Gus and Alma Ferrel, owners of ABC Kids Preschool, to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the ABC Kids new Oxnard location on the campus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (the Club). The Ferrels made available 78 new preschool slots in the Oxnard community, which has a high, unmet need for early childhood education.

This event marked the long-term collaborative efforts of the Ferrels as entrepreneurs committed to early childhood education, the  Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura CountyFirst 5 Ventura County as funders of a loan program, and the Club. Our collaborative mission was to add quality preschool slots to Oxnard.
Aware of the Community Investment Loan program funded by First 5, the Club reached out to the EDC-VC to consult about the potential for using excess space at their Oxnard club for quality child care, identifying three core benefits:
  1. By extending its services to younger children, the Club could add value to member families, providing a more comprehensive suite of services and creating a feeder for its youth development activities.
  2. By creating 78 new child care spots, the operation could help close the gap in access to quality care, particularly for low income children in the area.
  3. By contracting the childcare and preschool service out to a private, professional provider, the Club could lease the space to a business, generating rental income, essential for supporting and expanding the Club’s youth development offerings
The goal of expanding high-quality preschool to every preschool-aged child in Ventura County requires stewardship, operating dollars, facilities, trained teachers and public will. Reflecting on this most recent example of the positive impact regional partnerships can create through collaboration, I am encouraged that public-private partnerships are one way we can help our communities reach this goal.

The Club worked with First 5 Ventura County to develop the evaluation criteria for selecting the care provider, assuring that the partnership with a quality care provider would maintain alignment with the Club’s mission and values. EDC-VC provided the Club and the qualified child care provider with technical assistance with the business plan, assuring a sustainable service and partnership.

EDC-VC also blended the First 5 funds with private capital to build out the space to meet licensing standards. The City of Oxnard played a key role by owning and leasing the property to the Club and supporting the expansion of quality care and preschool by assuring a quick and efficient review of building plans to help the center launch.
Recent research demonstrates that regional investments in high-quality preschool programs can result in long-term economic and workforce gains. (Click here for the full study). To achieve these gains, we first need to narrow the widening gap between disadvantaged families and their access to high-quality preschool programs.
Currently in Ventura County, about 50% of preschool-aged children do not attend preschool. The Ventura County cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme are especially challenged with limited access and capacity. To that end, First 5 and EDC-VC joined together to create the Community Investment Loan Fund. The Fund helps increase the number of licensed child care and quality preschools needed to serve the high-need communities by providing below-market financing.
The Community Investment Loan Program, and regional stewardship supporting the development of quality child care and preschool spaces, has enabled real quality outcomes in early child education. Since 2011, the following results have been achieved:
  • 318+ new high-quality preschool spots have been established, 107 of which are for the especially scarce and high-value infant and toddler age group.
  • Created more than 52 full-time equivalent jobs in early child education.
  • Secured a total lending, from all funds, of $1,665,000, with $1,196,868 in First 5 Tobacco Tax fund-leveraging an additional $468,132 in private lending.
  • Achieved a return on investment for each new child care spot for an affordable $5,236 in loan capital. Full-day preschool at age four for low-income children has the highest ratio of adult earnings benefits to costs, at over 5-to-1.

Filing Deadline is October 15 for Low-Interest Federal Disaster Loans

sba loans

65392838 – sba loan application form with a pen on a desk with an approved stamp

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available for businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations. Qualified applicants may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets.

Economic Injury Disaster loans are available for businesses that may or may not have sustained any damage, but have experienced a downturn in business because of the disaster. The 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. Disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries.
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 emaildisastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.
Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Hot Section Technologies Heats Up New Growth

aircraft maintenance growth

Hot Section Technologies (HST) has been in the business of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul for over 30 years. Its experts provide airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul services for regional and turboprop aircraft manufactured by Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, Fairchild, Fokker, Hawker, Beechcraft and others. They also provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services for turbofan, turboprop and APU engines manufactured by GE, Honeywell Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce.

HST was in the midst of a turnaround which started in 2016 and, as a result, was experiencing solid growth but with that growth came challenges, including a significant strain on working capital and business operations.

The EDC-VC provided HST with both a uniquely-structured loan for working capital and consultation from specialists in process improvement, finance and marketing.

HST’s working relationship with the EDC-VC began with consultations. In February 2016, HST CEO Jase Rex met with SBDC advisor Carlos Conejo, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt who spent a significant amount of time in the company’s shop reviewing everything from shop layout, purchasing practices, inventory control, work flow and repair procedures. Following those review sessions, he provided ideas for improvement.

Rex then met with SBDC advisor Gonzalo Fernandez, a specialist in finance with decades of experience in providing financial support to business through banking. After assessing the company’s financial condition, Fernandez developed a financial plan that would provide adequate working capital and stabilize operations.

Finally, HST leaders met with SBDC advisor Rose-Lise Obetz, Ph.D., a specialist in marketing. She reviewed the company’s marketing and sales practices, evaluated its market, customers, competition, website, search engine results and branding, then made suggestions for improvement in each of those areas.

Consultation with experts from EDC-VC resulted in improved business practices and a more even cash flow.

“Our customer base has grown significantly and spread throughout the world,” Rex said. “I believe our current growth rate in revenue is directly attributable to the relationship we have with the EDC-VC. We now have solid tools to manage both our operations and finances.”

Building A Business Support Network

Building A Business Support Network

Owning a business is not only stressful, it can be lonely. Whether you have just started a new business or are preparing to celebrate yet another year of successful business, it is important to build a network of like-minded individuals who can offer advice, listen to your ideas, and share opportunities with you.

Having a business support network can help you feel less stress over the everyday struggle of work and entrepreneurship. Here are a few ways you can build a business support network.

  1. Chamber of Commerce: Find and join a local or state chapter so you can meet and support other business leaders. Becoming an active member can expose you to other industries, perspectives, opportunities, and like-minded individuals.
  2. SCORE: Supported by the Small Business Association, SCORE is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. There are SCORE locations throughout the U.S. providing workshops, mentorship and professional support to business year-round.
  3. Extracurricular groups: It’s easy to forget that we form bonds with people we meet through leisure activities like sports leagues, volunteer and travel groups. When not working on or in your business, it’s important to engage in non-work-related activities that feed your outside interests.
  4. Former co-workers: If you’ve shared ideas or worked well with previous coworkers and staff, re-engage with them to share your current business venture. Their skillset might be useful in your next idea or they can provide valuable insight or contacts that you may not have considered.
  5. Professional organizations or conferences: Depending on the nature of your work and business, there might be an established network of professionals who meet regularly. Conferences and professional groups are instant support systems because they bring together small and large crowds of people pursuing similar goals. You can get a lot of inspiration and information by not only attending events but potentially sponsoring or speaking at one.
  6. Online Groups: Thanks to the wonder of the internet you can find a group for just about anything. You can build connections through online groups who can come from anywhere in the world. You can also join a local online group that has the advantage of being able to meet up.

For more information on ways to build your business support network, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County.  Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Cross-channel marketing

You may have come across the term “cross-channel marketing,” but what is it and how does it work?

Cross-channel marketing is a way of identifying potential customers, then exposing them to your product or service through multiple channels. For example, if a user is browsing for a product on a company’s website but does not purchase it, the business can use cross-channel marketing to remarket the product to the prospect through other media, which can include advertisements on another web page or through email campaigns. Increased conversion rates are the goal.

According to the 2016 State of Marketing Report published by Salesforce Research, successful marketers were nearly 35 times more likely to use cross channel marketing with their customers vs. under-performing sales organizations.

However, successfully employing cross-channel can be difficult.

Businesses need an integrated platform of marketing technology software and applications, referred to as a “martech stack,” so they can become familiar with their customers across a broad range of media. That will enable companies to touch those customers and potential customers early and often.

Once that is in place, using it effectively becomes the next step. One expert identified four main keys to success in cross channel marketing.

Visibility

The prime principle for cross channel marketing is being visible. Customers move frequently between devices and channels and do considerable shopping before making a purchase. In fact, Google statistics show that 90 percent of shopping consumers never stay on just one device when making a purchase.

Getting that visibility goes back to that integrated martech stack mentioned earlier. Businesses should include CRM, retargeting platforms and marketing automation solutions to track each interaction a customer is having with their brand across all devices and channels.

Measurement

Once a business has a sense of the customer interactions with their brand, it needs to measure the impact of its current marketing campaigns, including online and offline interactions as well as devices or channels.

Personalization

Personalization is key to making cross-channel marketing efforts speak to the customer’s wants and needs, but it’s no easy task. A survey conducted by Experian revealed the biggest challenges to personalization included not having immediate access to insights, not having enough data, and having too much inaccurate data.

Optimization

The most successful marketing campaigns depend on knowing what landing pages, services or products drive potential customers to make the next step. Businesses must know exactly which channels bring in the purchases, and why. Without that knowledge and correlation, a business is still using the shotgun approach.

In sum, visibility, measurement, optimization, personalization and the right technology will enable businesses to take full advantage of cross channel marketing.

If you need help developing and implementing a marketing strategy for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!

Source: Forbes

Benefits of a Diverse Marketing Team

Benefits of a Diverse Marketing Team

Diversity in the workplace occurs when a company hires employees from a variety of backgrounds, race, gender, age and religion. A diverse culture in the workforce in general benefits companies in a number of ways. It provides a wide range of perspectives that can be valuable in a number of areas, both tangible and intangible.

Better Morale

When diversity is well-managed, employees feel validated and important regardless of their apparent differences. Feeling valued improves the morale of each worker and promotes positivity in the workplace. In addition, giving employees the opportunity to work with people who bring different skills and views to the table helps them recognize that everyone is important for different reasons.

Different Perspectives

A workplace with people from different backgrounds and cultures exposes employees to varying viewpoints and ideas. Allowing culturally diverse employees to brainstorm results in a wide variety of solutions that are based upon different experiences and schools of thought. With more ideas to choose from, the chances of finding the best possible final solution is improved.

Community Relations

With many communities becoming increasingly culturally diverse, it is increasingly important that companies mirror the communities that they serve. Companies need to be able to communicate effectively with customers and understand their needs, no matter the customer’s language or culture. Communities and customers also prefer to engage with companies that employ people who are similar to them.

Diversity can be especially important when it comes to a company’s marketing team and marketing efforts.

Think Globally

In an increasingly globalized world economy, marketing teams that are culturally diverse can help companies expand their business in worldwide markets. Understanding the cultural nuances of a company’s target market will enable the company to communicate more effectively, in a way that is accepted within that culture. For example, in Poland, a handshake at the end of a business conversation simply means the conversation is over; it does not mean an agreement has been reached.

A diverse team will be more likely to recognize subtleties and identify facets of marketing efforts that might prove off-putting or even offensive in international markets. Something as simple as color – which is often either considered artistically or is taken for granted – can have an impact on marketing efforts. One scholarly study showed that the colors purple and gray hold opposite meanings in different cultures.

For these reasons and more, consider a culturally diverse marketing team and workforce to be among the greatest assets your business can have. Although workplace diversity comes with some challenges, the benefits more than outweigh the difficulties you may encounter, especially with the use of proper management techniques.

For help incorporating diversity into your marketing and/or workplace environment, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help!


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