The Business Plan Debate

The Business Plan Debate

It wasn’t that long ago that full-blown business plans were commonplace in American businesses. Companies created five or even ten year business plans that would include page after page of gathered data, graphs, and plans for how the business would be operated successfully. Some business plans were so long and elaborate that it made you wonder whether or not anyone ever read them. They often, quite frankly, were never implemented once the business opened. Business plans were often a requirement to get financing for start-up businesses, and banks demanded they be a part of any business loan application. Many never questioned their real value. We just kept printing them out like some inflated college essay.

Why Business Plans May Be Ineffective

Business plans began becoming increasingly ineffective when markets, marketing, and technology were changing faster than the plan could be altered. A business plan that may have included the use of billboards and print advertising ten years ago would need elements of digital marketing and social media today. Smartphones, the internet of things, SEO, influencers, and viral videos were barely a thing a decade ago. Many also view a business plan as busy work, intended to demonstrate competence but not to prove a solid foundation for a viable business. Yet many financial providers continue to require them and new enterprises keep generating them.

A Better Idea

More modern, forward-thinking business plans are significantly more compact and, rather than long dissertations about market share, are likely to include more benchmarks and sales goals. They may include easy-to-read graphs and customer personas. It is a simpler, more direct way to put the focus on what’s really important and, just as importantly, it can be easily adjusted for changes in the marketplace and technology. Many now believe it is more desirable to have a brief sheet or two of goals, deadlines, and innovative use of technology than a multi-page thesis. One or two-year plans and goals may be more important than a five or ten-year business plan that can quickly become obsolete.

Are you doing what you can to protect your business? Business insurance can help you protect assets and income, and prevent you from suffering financial losses due to a liability claim. Contact one of our independent business insurance experts today to get your no-obligation quote today.

There’s Power in Asking for Help

There’s Power in Asking for Help

If you are a business owner or in upper management, you have probably said these sentences out loud or at least to yourself.

“I can handle this.”

“I’ve got this covered.”

“Don’t worry, I got it.”

We sometimes feel like not only do we have to be leaders, but superheroes as well. There is nothing too difficult or challenging for us.

In the meantime, we may be losing sleep, ruining our health, and putting an unneeded strain on our companies.

Here’s a concept: Ask for help.

You may own or operate a business because you’ve shown talent in a certain area, had a great idea, or are filling a niche. Rarely do people run a business because they can do everything well. In fact, delegation is often a trait of excellent managers and owners.

It can start by simply taking inventory of the people who surround you.

Professionals

You likely have access to a series of professionals like attorneys, accountants, bookkeepers, marketing experts, tax people, and insurance representatives. If you need help in their area of expertise, ask them. What do they see other companies doing? What aren’t you doing that you should? It may only take the cost of a lunch.

Business Associates

If you don’t have a group of business professionals you can turn to, begin working on it. Local civic groups and business associations can be a good start. The odds are, whatever you are dealing with, they have experienced it. Ask for their advice and help.

Management and Staff

You may already have the help you need on staff, but are unaware of it. Interview your employees every few years to talk about their talents and goals. You may just find a team member who enjoys graphics design, programming, coding, marketing, or a variety of other skills you may be able to tap into.

Asking for help can relieve some pressure and put another person on the project. The next time you are faced with a challenge, don’t just respond with “I’ll handle it.” Instead, ask, “Who can help me with this?”

Operating a successful business takes an uncountable number of decisions each day. When it comes to business insurance, make the right one by contacting one of our independent business insurance professionals. We look forward to serving on your team.

Benefits of Making Your Business More Environmentally Friendly

Benefits of Making Your Business More Environmentally Friendly

It can be challenging to address becoming a “greener” company when you are attempting to shore up lagging sales, hire quality employees, or meet budget demands. But in many cases, becoming more environmentally friendly may help you accomplish these goals and more.

Here’s how.

Save Energy

Saving energy quickly can turn into saving money. This is whether it is through more fuel efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles, low energy lighting, more efficient heating and cooling systems, or going solar. Many shops continue to use old, energy-sapping equipment, which puts a drain on the environment and a strain on your budget.

Hire Better Employees

More and more millennials and those entering the workforce are taking a closer look at the companies they choose to work for. Sure, compensation is important, but employees want to feel like they are working for a cause and something greater than themselves. Being environmentally responsible can make you more appealing in your recruiting efforts, especially with younger employees.

Building Your Brand

Going green is a terrific way to build your brand. It can help associate your company name with being responsible and caring. It has also been shown that some consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that are environmentally responsible.

Recycling

Recycling scrap is not only responsible but may actually generate some additional income. Separating metals and “clean” and “dirty” trash can add up over the course of a year. You don’t have to be a metal fabricator to cash in. Jewelry stores can recycle watch batteries, stores recycle cardboard boxes, and glass companies recycle broken windshields. What can you recycle?

Going green may not be at the top of your list, but when you consider all of its benefits, maybe it deserves a bit more focus. It is also rewarding to know you are doing the right thing.

A well-crafted business plan can protect your business and its assets. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Don’t lose it in one unfortunate incident. Contact one of our independent business professionals today for your free quote.

Origins of Some Legendary Business Names

Origins of Some Legendary Business Names

They are names and brand names we’ve become so familiar with we may not give them much thought. Who are the people behind these brands and what led to the names of their companies and products? You know the names. Now here are some of their stories.

Harley-Davidson

Many assume the motorcycle company that was started in 1903 was named after its two original founders. In fact, it is named for the four original principals; William Davidson, Walter Davidson, Arthur Davidson, and William Harley. The company has had its ups and downs. Today, it doesn’t just sell motorcycles, it sells a lifestyle.

Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid

You can find one of these pharmacies at almost any large intersection in the country. Walgreens was named for Charles Rudolf Walgreen, who bought out his employer in 1901. Today, it is the largest pharmacy in the country. CVS used to be known as Consumer Value Stores and was started in Lowell, Massachusetts. CVS grew by buying out regional stores like Revco, and today it owns Target’s pharmacies and Aetna Healthcare. Rite-Aid was founded in 1962 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was originally named Thrift D Discount Center.

Amazon

Amazon was not the first choice for the mega-retailer. Jeff Bezos liked the magical sounding “Cadabara” but eventually was convinced it sounded too much like “cadaver”. He also liked the name “Relentless” but selected Amazon because it started with an “A” and he liked the connotation of being connected with a large river. By the way, if you type in relentless.com it refreshes to the Amazon page.

Apple

It is said Steve Jobs selected the name Apple for his company while on one of his fruitarian diets and had just visited an apple farm. He thought the name was refreshing and non-threatening and thought consumers would embrace it. He was right.

Maxwell House Coffee

The name Maxwell House Coffee is interesting in that the coffee brand was named after its largest original customer. That customer that served the coffee was the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Seven presidents stayed at the prestigious hotel. It was demolished in 1961. Both the hotel and the coffee were “good to the last drop.”

Budweiser

It is said that the name Budweiser was actually stolen by Adolphus Busch when he started his St. Louis brewery in 1876. He took the name from the Czech town of Ceske which translates to Budweis in German. Budjovice. For years, battles raged on about who owned the name Budweiser in certain parts of the world.

Most small and mid-sized businesses can only imagine having the longevity and success of these companies, but it starts with protecting what you have built so far. That’s what business insurance can help you do. It can help you protect your assets and income, and protect you from the expense of a liability claim. Get started today with a conversation about your business, your risks, and your goals. Our independent insurance professionals can help design a plan for your company. Contact us soon.

The Power of Personal Bests

The Power of Personal Bests

There is no question measurement improves accountability and accountability improves performance. We see it all the time in sports. We no longer just track batting averages but on-base percentage, singles, doubles, triples, home runs and walks. In both sports and business, analytics are being increasingly used to identify opportunities and talents. But sometimes improvement can get mired in details. In other words, when tracking becomes cumbersome.

This is why, for some smaller businesses, personal bests can better serve to focus on activities that improve performance.

Personal bests are levels of accomplishment that have been achieved by an individual. Most personal bests are rooted in sales, like the biggest sale made, most sales closed in a week, or most new customers over a period of time. But they can also be tied to activity that leads to sales.

These could include most referrals from a customer, most referrals obtained in a week, most new contacts made by email or most estimates or price quotes over a specific period of time.

There are many benefits of using personal bests to inspire performance.

  • They are personal and customizable.
  • They can be created to encourage strength and manage weaknesses.
  • They encourage an individual to compete with themselves.
  • They are achievable because they are set by the employees themselves.
  • Personal best can track just a select few areas of performance, or many.

While personal bests are often used in sales-related areas, they can be used to improve performance and focus in almost any department of any company. They can be used on the sales floor, the shop floor, in management and in the field.

What do you want your team and individuals to do better and how can measuring their personal best in these areas help them achieve more? It can be an interesting exercise.

Business is about building on the foundation that we have laid. It is also about protecting that foundation and that is where business insurance comes into play. A well-drafted business insurance program can [protect your property, inventory, income and even cover costs associated with a liability claim. Protect what you have built. Contact us for a no obligation business insurance review and price quote today!

How to Handle Requests for Donations

How to Handle Requests for Donations

As a small business owner, you are likely to get donation requests weekly. There are area high school yearbooks, sports programs and fundraisers. There are independent sports leagues, civic groups and non-profits. Sure you want to help as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can do. Here are some options to consider.

Know the Difference Between Advertising and a Donation

You may be asked to “buy” an “ad” in the high school newspaper or yearbook, but this is likely more of a donation than advertising. Don’t allow these donations to cut into your advertising and marketing budget.

Avoid Donating Cash

If possible, donate a gift certificate to a cause instead of cash. Gift certificates invite someone to do business with you and they may either spend more than the certificate amount or may not redeem it at all. Donating older inventory may also be a better option than cash.

Think Outside the Box

Maybe you could sponsor a shopping spree ( gift card) for the person who raises the most for the charity or fundraiser. Perhaps you could offer the major prize in a raffle or team with other businesses in a larger value basket.

Let Someone Else Say No

If, as the face of your business, you are uncomfortable saying no, give that responsibility to a staff member. If you want to say yes, do it yourself. If you are inclined to say no, delegate the request to a staff member. This way, you are insulated from looking like the “bad guy”.

Implement Use of a Donation Request Form

You can create a short donation request form to give to solicitors. You could even have a printable copy online. Any requests for donations must be accompanied by a form, which you can review monthly or quarterly. Eventually, local organizations will understand this is how you handle such things.

Sure, supporting local organizations and charities is part of your responsibility as a small business owner, but you should figure out a plan to keep things under control. The above ideas could help.

As a business owner, you also should take the necessary steps to protect the future of your business. A smart business insurance plan can do just that. Contact us today to get started on your business insurance plan.

Tools We Don’t Seem to Use In Business Anymore

Tools We Don’t Seem to Use In Business Anymore

When you think of tools not used in business anymore, you may think of typewriters, adding machines, bells over front doors and even fax machines. There are some other tools we can lose sight of, however, that we may forget to use as often as perhaps we should. Here are a few.

Common Sense

It may not happen in your business, but it certainly is seen in others. The lack of common sense can be frustrating. A company letting their best salesperson go because he or she is making too much money. Charging 50 cents for some extra sour cream on a $25 meal. Putting political programming on a TV in a waiting area. Even with so many restrictions and fine print on a coupon or discount program, to make it a dis-incentive.

Compassion

Nobody expects you to take potatoes instead of cash for payment or to start tabs for every customer who may be a little short, but more businesses could use a bit more compassion. If a client is clearly on a tight budget, look for less expensive alternatives. Perhaps you have scratch and dent items or returns that may help. Look up from the cash register and you may see something else the customer needs.

Friendliness

There is a reason why bartenders and waitresses try to remember the names of their good customers. It impacts their bottom line. People are so used to being treated like a number, even a small amount of friendliness and a smile can set a business apart. People are giving you their hard-earned money for your products or services. That should make you happy…and friendlier.

Referrals

Referrals have long been a tool in building businesses, but it is a tool that is often forgotten. If a customer is happy, they should have no problem sharing their experience on social media or review websites. They may even give you the names of potential customers. We all know word of mouth advertising is effective, we just sometimes forget to use it.

One common sense tool to protect your business is commercial or business insurance. Yet almost half of small businesses don’t carry it. See for yourself how affordable it can be. Contact one of our independent business insurance professionals for your free quote today.

Simple Steps to Better Advertising

Simple Steps to Better Advertising

Is the advertising for your business a well-oiled machine or a patchwork of hit and miss marketing efforts? Most small business owners have little time or expertise in advertising and often rely on media salespeople for guidance. While there’s nothing wrong with having some alliances in the media, there are some basics you should have in place to guide your advertising.

Define Your Target Audience

Define the group most likely to buy your product and services. If you say, “everybody”, you need to give it more thought. You can only advertise to everybody if you have an unlimited budget.

Determine What Makes You Different?

What separates you from your competition? Are you cheaper? Faster? Do you have better service or higher quality products? This is often referred to as your “unique selling proposition”. This is one of the key elements you should be promoting.

What Do People Ask About Your Business?

What are the misperceptions consumers have about you? What do they ask about when they call or email you? These unknowns and misperceptions can be addressed in your marketing to give potential clients a better idea of what it is you do.

Be Consistent in Your Branding

Get a logo and choose company colors. Use the same font in all your printed marketing. Create a tagline that briefly summarizes your mission. If you have staff, encourage “ uniforms” of perhaps khakis and the same colored golf shirts or quality T-shirts. Make sure signage goes hand in hand with flyers and what gets posted on social media. Consistency in marketing is one of the most efficient ways to accelerate the power of your advertising.

Solid marketing strategies can help build your business and protect market share. It is time to revisit your strategies.

Business insurance can also protect your business. It can cover structures, inventory, equipment and vehicles. Business insurance can protect your income and financial losses due to liability claims. Contact us today for your no cost, no obligation business insurance quote. We look forward to assisting you.

Staying Within Budget with Minimal Risk

Staying Within Budget with Minimal Risk

In tough financial times, cutting budgets can be tempting and staying within them challenging. Where do you trim without impacting your product or your ability to serve your clients? Can cutting budgets in certain categories actually accelerate your financial issues? Here are some tips to stay within your company’s budget without risking your future.

Don’t Cut in Areas That Produce Income

For most organizations, most customers come from sales and advertising and promotion and sales. Firing your best salesman, for example, is hardly a way to move your company through difficult economic times. Likewise, slashing your advertising budget may actually enhance a downward spiral.

Instead, see if your top salesman’s compensation can be restructured to encourage more new sales or even include benefits like more time off or even company stock options. Rather than cutting advertising, talk to your vendors to find out how they can provide more for the same buck.

Create Incentives for Current Customers

You can turn your best customers into salespeople by offering them incentives for referrals. This can help improve sales with minimal expense or financial exposure.

Ask For Help From Vendors

Your vendors may be able to offer you more for less rather than lose you as a customer. This can include everyone from your cellphone provider, cable/internet and even suppliers. It can’t hurt to ask.

Review Your Operational Hours

Are there days or hours when you are open that are unprofitable? Are you still operating at the same hours you did years ago? Perhaps it’s time to reassess the times you operate.

Schedule a Business Insurance Review

You may find you can save money on your business insurance simply by scheduling a business insurance review and price quote. Our independent business insurance professional can review your coverage and your risks, and shop for protection that may save you money. Contact us today for your no-cost quote.

Avoid putting your business at risk by slashing expenses. Carefully and cautiously assess your expenses and use a scalpel, not a chain saw, when trimming budgets. You’ll be in a better position for recovery.

How Business Insurance Can Help Your Company From Going Bankrupt

How Business Insurance Can Help Your Company From Going Bankrupt

There are a multitude of causes for a business to file bankruptcy, some of which may be out of your control. Market conditions may change dramatically, causing bankruptcy. A company may be under financed or there may not be enough resources for marketing. A poor location or inexperience could contribute to a business bankruptcy.

Did you know, however, that business insurance can actually protect your business against some causes of bankruptcy? Here are a few.

Protection Against Liability Claims

Yes, it is true. You can get sued right out of business and it may be easier than you think. A slip and fall, employee’s actions that create an injury and an unsafe product are just the start. In today’s litigious society, people are all too willing to sue a company who they perceive may have deep pockets. The liability portion of a business insurance plan can not only help financially protect you from claims, judgments and settlements but also help pay for legal fees. This could save your business from bankruptcy.

Structure Damage

If you own your own facility, business insurance is critical to cover you against storm damage, vandalism and a multitude of other covered calamities. This, too, can keep you in business.

Loss of Income

Even if you have other coverage, loss of income protection can replace your income while you rebuild after a covered event. This can allow you time to recover.

Theft and Embezzlement

One of the biggest causes of bankruptcy for small businesses in particular is theft. That theft may be from outside sources or even from employee theft. These losses can slowly drain resources from a company. This, too, can be protected by business insurance.

This is just the start. Business insurance can help protect your vehicles, your computer security and more.

You likely have enough to worry about with operating your business. Why worry about the things that business insurance can protect you from? We can help.

Contact one of our independent insurance experts to create a business plan specifically for your business. Business insurance can’t totally protect you from all causes of bankruptcy, but it can help with preventing a few. Connect with us to learn more.