Thursday, December 25, 2008

Growing Your Farm Profits - Resources

Growing Your Farm Profits: Planning for Business Success is a voluntary awareness and education program designed to help Ontario farmers prepare
confidential and self administered business plans for their farm businesses.

The Growing Your Farm Profits program is a process of business plan renewal that encourages farmers to use the suggested planning tools. The program easily
accommodates any business, but is specifically oriented towards farm businesses. Farmers from any commodity group or sector of agriculture can adapt this tool to their unique business needs.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information found herein, it should not be considered the final word regarding covered legislation.

Seek the advice of appropriate technical experts familiar with the applicable legislation as the details of your situation may differ from those described.

This project is funded in part through contributions by the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario under the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI), an initiative of the federal-provincial territorial Agricultural Policy Framework designed to position Canada's agri-food sector as a world leader.

Small businesses rethink holiday spending

Many small businesses are scaling back their holiday plans not only because of budgets and cash flow but because some owners believe these hard times call for less frivolity. They’re still marking the holiday season, but parties may be a little more subdued, and there may be fewer gift baskets sent to customers and clients.

St. Louis-based IMPACT Group will be donating to charity the money that it had planned to spend on gifts of candy for clients.

“With the economy in its tumultuous state, we felt that it would be most appropriate to give to those who really need it,” said Melanie Winograd, marketing specialist with IMPACT, which provides career transition services, such as relocation and outplacement.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have a very successful year, so we felt it would be most appropriate to donate,” said Winograd, who added that the company does plan to hold a holiday party this year.

Instead of expensive chocolates, Multicultural Marketing Resources Inc. is giving some of its clients free mini-press releases.

“We’re calling clients we usually send a gift to, and this year, we’re saying, ’We hear your marketing budgets are taking a beating,”’ said Lisa Skriloff, president of the New York-based marketing and public relations firm. The press releases are “more meaningful for our clients” than the usual box of candy, she said.

The company isn’t giving up all its usual holiday observances — top clients are still being taken out for lunch. But Skriloff noted that those meals are working lunches, where her staff and clients discuss planning for the coming year.

Business owners who want to save money or give clients something with more value this season may need to be a little more creative. The answer, as Skriloff’s firm found, is likely to be with a company’s products or services, which unlike candy or knickknacks are at the heart of the business relationship. A discount is likely to be remembered and appreciated far more than a pen or mug.

Along that line, owners need to put some thought into how they can have holiday celebrations that are meaningful and don’t break the bank. Many owners believe that no matter how tough the economic times are, canceling a party is a mistake, giving staffers the feeling that the company doesn’t care, and in the process, deepening the gloom everyone is feeling.

Talent Retriever, a recruitment consulting firm in Burlington, Mass., did consider whether it should have a holiday party this year — and decided that even with a down economy, it was better to go ahead with the event.

Cheryl Barbato, vice president with the company, said managers asked themselves what kind of message it would send if the party were canceled. “We felt really strongly about having a party to show our appreciation” to the staff, she said.

But small businesses can find ways to cut corners and have parties that are more in keeping with the times. Some decide to forgo serving alcohol at their holiday events — which also can lessen the possibility of people getting into accidents or behaving inappropriately. Or they’ll serve beer and wine, but not the hard stuff.

Owners have plenty of options for downscaling a party. Instead of a big affair in a restaurant or hotel, the party could be on the company’s premises. Instead of a catered affair, it could be potluck — even though employees are basically supplying the food themselves, many have a good time showing off their culinary skills to one another.

Many companies are finding they can take advantage of the fact that caterers, hotels and other companies in the event planning business are seeing their bookings fall this season.

Barbato said Talent Retriever was able to book a cruise in Boston Harbor at a lower price than the company would have paid last year, simply because the cruise operator had an open date and was unlikely to find another client at this point this season.

A holiday gathering doesn’t necessarily have to be a party — some companies arrange for staffers to spend a day volunteering for a charitable group or at a school. And some owners recognize that rather than party, their employees would rather have a little extra time off during the holidays, so the time that would have gone to a party becomes a paid day off.


Mickey Donatello, a co-owner of two restaurants in Wilmington, Del., has noticed a "bizarre" phenomenon -- the job candidates he's been interviewing recently are actually qualified.

"Up until about four months ago, whenever we interviewed people it was like you were just replacing one standard employee with the next, but never stepping up, especially with skilled labor, like sous chefs or chefs," said Donatello, who owns Lucky's Coffee Shop and the Corner Bristo. "But now we're seeing guys that are qualified, almost over-qualified."

This is the positive side to a pretty grim jobs picture. With so many companies scaling back, or shutting their doors, there is a growing pool of talented people who are looking for work.

And entrepreneurs like Donatello are benefiting.

The unemployment rate has hovered at record levels lately, and that has naturally led to more people out there hitting the job-seeking pavement -- some pretty good people it turns out.

"Stronger candidates are now applying for retail positions due to the softening economy and increased layoffs," said business consultant Eric Herrenkohl.

However, he added that businesses "are closely watching their payroll expenses in this environment and are hesitant about making expensive hires."

His recommendation to business owners and managers is to build a strong funnel of job candidates. As they cut expenses, and poorly-performing current employees, they'll have room to selectively hire strong, talented people who will bring value to their companies.

That's just what Donatello is doing.

Right now, he's in the market for several cooks, but he's taking his time and being selective. While business is holding steady at his coffee shop, the bistro has seen a decline of about 10 percent. But he considers himself lucky given how other establishments are faring.

"I can sit back and be picky," he said about finding the best employees.

Recently, Donatello put an ad in the paper and one on Craigslist for a server. A guy showed up who had been a manager at a small chain of restaurants nearby.

"He can't go out and find a management job. It's just not out there," Donatello said.

The current environment is a far cry from last year when he held a job fair at Lucky's and got a pretty crummy showing of applicants.

"It was comical," he explained. "We were desperate to find people. None of the people we hired from that are even with us anymore. They were that bad."

Sometimes one man's feast is another man's famine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top 9 Tips For Starting A Business That Will Succeed

1) Do what you love. You’re going to devote a lot of time and energy to starting a business and building it into a successful enterprise, so it’s really important that you truly deeply enjoy what you do, whether it be running fishing charters, creating pottery or providing financial advice.

2) Start your business while you’re still employed. How long can most people live without money? Not long. And it may be a long time before your new business actually makes any profits. Being employed while you’re starting your business means money in your pocket while you’re going through the business start up process.

3) Don’t do it alone. You NEED a support system while you’re starting a business (and afterwards). A family member or friend that you can bounce ideas off and who will listen sympathetically to the latest businses start up crisis is invaluable. Even better, find a mentor or, if you qualify, apply for a business start up program. Experienced guidance is the best support sytem of all.

4) Get clients or customers first. Don’t wait until you’ve offically started your business to line these up, because your business can’t survive without them. Do the networking. Make the contacts. Sell or even give away your products or services. You can’t start marketing too soon.

5) Write a business plan. The main reason for doing a business plan first is that it can help you avoid sinking your time and money into starting a business that will NOT succeed.

6) Do the research. You’ll do a lot of research working through a business plan, but that’s just a start. You need to become an expert on your industry, products and services, if you’re not already. Joining related industry or professional associations before you start your business is a great idea.

7) Get professional help. On the other hand, just because you run a small business, doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on everything. If you’re not an accountant or bookkeeper, hire one (or both). If you need to write up a contract, and you’re not a lawyer, hire one. You will waste more time and possibly money in the long run trying to do things yourself that you’re not qualifed to do.

8) Get the money lined up. Save up if you have to. Approach potential investors and lenders. Figure our your financial fall-back plan. Don’t expect to start a business and then walk into a bank and get money. Traditional lenders don’t like new ideas and don’t like businesses without proven track records.

9) Be professional from the get-go. Everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a professional running a serious business. That means getting all the accoutrements such as professional business cards, a business phone and a business email address, and treating people in a professional, courteous manner.

Get The Business Knowledge You Need

Many people have tried to start their own businesses without bothering to acquire the business knowledge they need to make their business a success - and their businesses have failed.

To start a business, you have to be knowledgeable about many different aspects of business and have many different skills… or at least have done the research to find and hire the people who have the skills you lack.

If you aren’t knowledgeable enough about accounting to keep your own books, for instance, you’re going to need to hire a bookkeeper and/or an accountant. If your business is Internet-based, you’d be wise to hire a company to design your web site and handle the back end, unless you personally are an expert in site development.

When you’re creating your business plan, one of your first steps needs to be a frank assessment of your skills and expertise. What aspects of the business are you qualified or willing to handle, and which aspects will necessitate either more learning on your part or calling in outside help?

Managing people is only one skill set you’re going to need to start a business that's going to be successful. You also need to be knowledgeable about sales and marketing. For example, suppose you’ve developed a better mousetrap. Who are your competitors? What are the mousetraps they’re offering like and how are they priced? What makes your mousetrap better? Is there even a need for a better mousetrap out there? Where is “out there”? Do you have the skills needed to identify and contact customers? Are you good at selling mousetraps? Can you develop a feasible marketing plan and promotional material?

And what about business operations? Do you have the business knowledge to manage inventory and fill orders? Where all you going to store all your mousetraps and how are you going to get them to your customers? Have you found the suppliers you need and developed relationships with them? Have you set up a customer support policy?

Business knowledge before you start a business is critical. All the drive and determination in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t have the knowledge to actually run a successful business and don’t bother to research and plan for your success appropriately. A friend of mine had long dreamed of opening a bookstore. So he did. Unfortunately, he hadn’t bothered to study the competition or the demographics of the market in the area. It took less than a year for his bookstore to fail. He had the desire and the drive, but didn’t have the knowledge he needed to apply them.

So let's assume that you are a Type D Personality with all the business knowledge necessary to start a business. Are you a shoo-in for success? Not unless you have the money you need to start a business. Continue on to the next page to learn about finding start up money.

Are you an Entrepreneur?

Ask yourself this question, “Do I have what it takes to be a home entrepreneur?” Like any business venture, a home-based business requires an investment of time, energy and resources.

An entrepreneur is a person who has decided to take control of his future and become self-employed-whether by creating his own unique business or working as a member of a “team”, as in multi-level marketing. There are several character traits and work ethics that are common to successful entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are careful about money. They always know how much money they have. They know the value and cost of things so they can recognize a real bargain.

Most entrepreneurs earned money when they were teenagers-babysitting, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, sacking groceries, etc.

Entrepreneurs are competitive by nature. Many were active in sports and other competitions in high school and college. Others were competitive in wanting to make good grades, earn the respect of their parents and teachers and achieve their goals. Entrepreneurs believe in the old adage, “the early bird gets the worm.” They sleep and eat enough to maintain their energy levels but they don’t usually linger over nonproductive tasks.

Entrepreneurs are risk-takers who trust their hunches and act on them. Taking risks can be small first steps, like placing your first ad in a mailorder publication.

Entrepreneurs have a “head for business.” They are always thinking of new ideas and new ways to make money or increase their business. They are not afraid to put these ideas to use.

Entrepreneurs are usually loners rather than joiners. That’s one reason why the home-based, mailorder business is so appealing to many entrepreneurs. They prefer a solitary work environment

Entrepreneurs are usually honorable people who do business based on a handshake or a promise. They tend to form strong associations with others who share this work ethic.

Entrepreneurs do set aside time for leisure activities and family. Their principal form of relaxation is their work, but they do realize the importance of downtime and spend time with their family.

Entrepreneurs don’t retire. They may sell or change their business, thinking they will retire, but they just can’t ignore.

Entrepreneurs are professionals. Whether working from their bedroom, the kitchen table or a modern, well-appointed home office, they operate just as they would if they were in an expensive office building in a major city. When they are working, they don’t let outside influences distract them.

In general, entrepreneurs are people who have high energy, feel self-confident, set long-term goals, and view money and financial security as a measure of accomplishment and piece of mind. They persist in problem solving, take risks, learn from failures(their own and from others), take the initiative, accept personal responsibility and use all available resources to achieve their success.

Entrepreneurs compete with themselves and believe that success or failure lies within their personal control or influence. They do not see non-successes as failures but as learning experiences. Most of all, they never give up and never quit striving for success.

If you fit most of these criteria, you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Success comes mainly from educating yourself and- A LOT OF HARD WORK!