NAVIGATION

How Is Your Business Growing?

How Is Your Business Growing?

Managing growth in business can be challenging, but with strategy and discipline, you can position your business to respond when opportunity knocks.

PLANNING IS KEY.

Identifying new market opportunities and/or services will help you define a growth strategy for your business. As you target your goals, determine which resources are within reach, which goals require investment, the costs to your business and an appropriate timeline.

BUDGET.

Identify expenses that are specifically allocated for growing revenues and develop the necessary plan(s) to reach those revenue goals over the short- and long-term.

WAIT FOR THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES.

As new opportunities arise, examine whether the opportunity fits into your long-term strategy for steady growth, and avoid the temptation for a short-term surge. Asking the right questions and paying attention to your market is key.

DRIVE WITH TECHNOLOGY.

Having the appropriate technology and software in place to measure and maintain growth can help you forecast, plan launches and prepare for the future.

CROSS CHECK.

As your business grows, be sure to check in with your customers through use of a survey or a simple “how are we doing?” to monitor your performance and direct attention to any areas in need of maintenance to build up your strengths.

KEEP THE CORE VALUES ALIVE.

Stay close to the core values and culture that have allowed your business to grow thus far, especially when hiring new talent. 

FIND GREAT PEOPLE AND THEN DELEGATE.

Delegating is key to achieving your goals. Evaluate your budget and determine where it may be beneficial to hire talented individuals to help manage duties, then delegate the necessary tasks.

INVEST IN YOUR BRAND PROMISE.

Stay focused on your promise to your customers and what makes you different from your competitors. Implement a strategy to maintain consistency throughout the company from new employee training programs, to marketing materials and social media to ensure your brand’s promise is clear at every level.

IF NECESSARY, BRIDGE THE GAP.

If you need extra funding to bridge the gap during a growth phase, expansion capital may be an option. Before you seek financing, review and update your business plan and consult with an SBDC advisor to review the financing options available to you. The SBDC can also help you package your loan and shop it to network financial partners to assist you in securing the best rates and opportunities.

For help growing your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County to schedule a no-charge appointment with a qualified business advisor. We’re here to help!

Hiring and Managing Employees

Hiring and Managing Employees

Finding the right person to fill a role in your company can be challenging. But before you start the search for that person, you should have an infrastructure, of sorts, in place. You’ll have to have a plan for paying those who work for you.

Employer Identification Number

You’ll have to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), find out whether you need state or local tax IDs, decide whether you want to hire employees or use independent contractors, ensure you receive completed W-4 forms from new employees, schedule pay periods to coordinate tax withholding for IRS, create a compensation plan for holiday and vacation and leave, decide whether you want an in-house or external service for administering payroll, decide who will manage your payroll system, know which records must stay on file and for how long, and report payroll taxes as needed on quarterly and annual basis.

Employees Versus Independent Contractors

Distinguishing between employees and independent contractors can impact your bottom line, as this affects how you withhold taxes and avoid costly legal consequences. Learn the differences before hiring your first employee.

An independent contractor operates under a separate business name from your company and invoices for work completed. Independent contractors can sometimes qualify as employees in a legal sense. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) created a guide to help business owners make the determination.

That’s an important decision to make. If your contractor is discovered to meet the legal definition of employee, you may need to pay back taxes and penalties, provide benefits, and reimburse for wages stipulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Benefits

Next, you have to decide which benefits you’re going to offer. Some are required while others are at the discretion of the employer.

Among the required benefits are Social Security taxes, which employers must pay at the same rate as their employees, currently 7.65 percent from each in 2018. Workers’ compensation insurance is required across the country, and disability insurance is required in California as well as four other states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Outside of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most leave benefits are optional, and unemployment insurance varies by state.

In a competitive market, other benefits such as an employer-sponsored 401K or pension plan and employee incentive programs can help attract the most desirable employees.

Labor Laws

In addition to providing the benefits required by the federal and state governments, employers must adhere to labor laws. Those include laws for hiring veterans, foreign workers, household employees, child labor and people with disabilities, among others groups. Employers must also comply when terminating an employee, laying off workers, or downsizing the company.

More guidance is available from the U.S. Department of Labor, which offers federal and state law resources, and from experts at the organizations including the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the EDC-VC.

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

Source: SBA.gov

Want to Get Noticed on Social Media?

Want to Get Noticed on Social Media?

There are several reasons your business should be on social media. If you are just getting started or are ready to try something different, here are some tips.

Know where your audience is. 

When creating accounts, consider who the audience is and what social media they will be using. Different audiences are looking for different companies on different platforms, with the majority expecting companies to be present on Facebook, followed by Twitter then YouTube.

Let your audiences know you exist. 

It’s not enough to simply have accounts on social-media platforms. Update them regularly, post new content and interact with individuals. It’s better to be present on just a few platforms and use them well rather than to be on all platforms with sub-par offerings.

Give your audience a reason to follow. 

Consider what audiences are looking for in social media and give them a reason to connect with the company. Can they get questions answered? Can they see things others can’t? Use social media to make followers feel personally involved with the brand.

Vary your content from platform to platform. 

It’s often obvious when companies are copying and pasting the same content to multiple social-media platforms. However, what works well for Facebook may not translate well to Twitter, and audiences can usually tell when everything is the same. While branding should be consistent, it’s good practice to customize your posts for specific sites.

Be real. 

Let your company’s voice come through. Audiences relate best to content that comes across as real, human and relevant. Avoid content that is overly promotional, formal or feels robotic. One of the best aspects of social media is the ability to have fun with it.

Looking for guidance on social media marketing? Contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

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.”


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