Tag: small business phoenix

Love the Problem, Not Your Solution

One of my favorite business gurus, Ash Maurya, uses the phrase

“Love the problem, not your solution.”

Got an idea to solve a problemWhat he means is that as an entrepreneur the key to success is to solving problems, not the solution itself. Entrepreneurs are great at identifying problems (like the traditional taxi business provides horrible service at high cost) and coming up with solutions in the form of new businesses, and new business models (like…Uber).

But entrepreneurs are also often guilty of falling in love with their solution. Here’s what that means.

When I mentor an entrepreneur or new small business owner, I ask them first, “What problem are you solving? (the simple business model)” and “Who are you solving this problem for? (Who – and how many – and how will you reach them)” and finally, “Do they care? (Are they willing to pay you for your solution?)” These are critical questions that each small business owner must be prepared to answer quickly and succinctly and with real data.

To those three questions, I’ve started to ask a fourth. “If someone brings you an obviously better solution – all or in part – would you rip up your way of doing things and incorporate the new solution?” It’s very easy to become overly focused on the elegant solution you have come up with, and not the critical problem that your customers need fixed. It’s also easy to become more and more inflexible, especially after investing hundreds of hours to relentlessly pursue a desired solution. This happens to the detriment of the business model, growth, profitability, and eventually, the entire potential success of the company.

So what to do? Try the following and make it part of your daily or weekly self-examination:

  • State the problem you are solving clearly and differently from the proposed solution. Problems are problems (for your customers), and solutions are solutions (and can change)
  • State your solution as a proposal. A fluid process that may or may not solve the problem and therefore needs to be constantly tested and evaluated.

If you find yourself saying, “it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m glad we looked at the data and modified our approach.” Then you are well on the way to loving the problem and being open to change and better solutions.

You are an entrepreneur creating a business to solve a problem. The solution is merely a tool, not the goal.

If you have an idea to solve a problem and would like to bounce it off someone who’s been there, done that, schedule a free mentoring session with one of the Greater Phoenix SCORE mentors.

About the Author:

Andy BeranAndy Beran is the immediate Past President of Greater Phoenix SCORE and has been a mentor since 2008. Andy currently owns a medical transport company in the Phoenix area.  Since purchasing the company in 2010, he returned the business to consistent profitability and growth. During his extensive corporate career, Andy held various management positions at a leading Fortune 50 high technology research, development and manufacturing company.  His positions included Group Controller and Director of Strategic Planning.  He was a proven expert in the areas of Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategic Alliances, New Business Development, Operations and Capacity Planning, Finance & Budgeting and ROI / Productivity. Learn more about Andy here.


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Getting Social for Business

Get online, get found and grow your business with social media

By RuthAnn Hogue, GoDaddy

Getting social for businessSocial media has long since taken the leap from an ever-growing collection of forums and apps to enhance your social life to the realm of valuable business tool. If you’re still waiting to join in, here are some reasons why you should.

First, everyone else is doing it. Regardless of what your mother said, sometimes this does matter. Granted, it’s still not wise to jump off a cliff. You can trust her on that one. But if you are a small business trying to reach critical mass you need to get your message in front of potential clients. Today, that means being where they are. And that is on social media.

So, what exactly is social media for business?

Isn’t it just a bunch of egotistical people posting selfies on Facebook and Instagram or snapping pics of themselves on Snapchat using apps to add silly pig noses?

Isn’t it just for kids or those who cannot be bothered express themselves in more than 140 characters on Twitter?

What about all those people going crazy trying to catch imaginary creatures using the Pokѐmon Go app on their smartphones?

And Periscope, isn’t that just a place where users gather to watch whatever someone else is willing to broadcast?

Yes, but each is so much more.

Here are some real-world social media business applications that might make your life better.

Buy the numbers

Still the big daddy of social media, Facebook as of June 2016 reported on average of 1.13 billion active users daily. While using Facebook is free, access to those users is for sale. Because Facebook has so much personal information on its users, targeting your demographic sweet spot is completely possible.

It’s a Snap

Meanwhile, Snapchat was reported as of June 2016 as having 150 million logged-in users. While its content is fleeting, new upgrades now allow users to save memories to create stories. Whether you use Snapchat to share pics of a live event, let people know about an event on deck, post a coupon or offer other perks, it also has the ability to target—now including geographically.

Instagram for Business

For those relying on a personal account to share Instagram images, it’s time to upgrade. The popular photo-editing and sharing app now offers accounts just for business. Unlike its personal accounts, Instagram business accounts allow you to run analytics. In addition to your own posts, you’ll also be able to purchase ad space when you make the switch.

Tweet it up

Twitter is heating up among teens and tweens who want to escape a Facebook landscape increasingly inhabited by their parents and grandparents. Its user base had reached 313 million by the second quarter of 2016, which can easily be targeted using hashtags.  While sponsored hashtags for specific topics or events are available, anyone can create one at no cost. All it takes is a hot topic, a good network of followers and your message can be retweeted around the globe.

Scope it out

Periscope, an offshoot of Twitter, is no longer just for virtual voyeurism. Kind of. You still get to watch whatever someone else decides to live stream. You still get to post comments in real time. Unless marked with the hashtag #save, content disappears within 24 hours.

Only now, in addition to people broadcasting random content, marketing-savvy business owners are using the platform to share content featuring everything from tutorials for hairdressers on the latest cuts and styles to messaging on how they can brand or marketing your business.

Of course, social media is ever-changing and constantly growing. Keeping current is a must. Unless you want to hang out alone.

Check out SCORE’s classes on Social Media and online marketing presented regularly.

About the Author: RuthAnn Hogue, GoDaddy

Based in Arizona, RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publisher’s Syndicate, a published nonfiction author and a contributor to the GoDaddy blog. The recovering journalist occasionally breaks out her 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe Silverburst rock ‘n’ roll guitar when she wants to let loose. A devoted fur mother, RuthAnn makes time to spoil all four of her Jack Russell terriers when she is not tweeting from @MyWhiptail or posting on Facebook @whiptailpublishing.

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The Challenges in Opening Your Own Restaurant

Obstacles in Opening Your Own Restaurant

The Challenges of Opening Your Own RestaurantThe single biggest problem in the first year is a lower sales volume than expected, due either to fewer customers or customers spending less money than estimated. Do not overlook seasonality. In the Phoenix area in the summer breaking even is a challenge.

Owners seem to have the idea that they can just open the doors for a grand opening and customers will come flocking in. Increased marketing in the restaurant’s immediate vicinity often cures weak initial sales – but be cautious about offering coupon specials as they are costly and often have a low rate of generating repeat business. Also, talk to other restaurant owners outside your competitive area for lessons they learned in developing their businesses.

Funding Your Business

Money needed to start depends on the type of business, the facility, how much equipment you need, whether you buy or lease new or used, your inventory, marketing, and necessary operating capital. Banks seldom loan more hen 50% of required funds. Depending on how much money you have to

invest in your food-service business and the particular type of business you choose, you can spend over one million on a facility.

  • Your own resources. Inventory of your assets. You may have more assets than you realize, including savings accounts, retirement accounts, equity in real estate, recreation equipment, vehicles, collections and other investments. You may opt to sell assets for cash or use them as collateral for a loan.
  • Family and friends. Friends and relatives who believe in you and want to help you succeed. Be cautious with these arrangements; no matter how close you are with the person, present yourself professionally, put everything in writing, and be sure the individuals you approach can afford to take the risk.
  • You may choose someone who has financial resources and wants to work side by side with you in the business. Or you may find someone who has money to invest but no interest in doing the actual work. Be sure to create a written partnership agreement that clearly defines your respective responsibilities and obligations. And choose your partners carefully–especially when it comes to family members.
  • Government programs. Make your first stop the SBA, but be sure to investigate various other programs. SBA programs generally work through banks and require a complete business plan. The business section of your local library is a good place to begin your research.

Regulatory Requirements

Food operations are strictly regulated and subject to inspection. Fail to meet regulations, and you could be subject to fines or be shut down by authorities. And if the violations involve tainted food, you could be responsible for your patrons’ illnesses and even death. Issues such as sanitation and fire safety are critical. Provide a safe environment in which your employees can work and your guests can dine, follow the laws of your state on sales of alcohol and tobacco products, and handle tax issues accurately, including sales, beverage, payroll and more.

Most regulatory agencies will work with new operators to let them know what they must do to meet the necessary legal requirements. Investigate the governmental regulatory requirements, city, county and state, starting with the Arizona Environmental Services Department as well as county health departments. Prepare for an excess of paperwork, including complex codes with regulations covering everything from kitchen exhaust systems to sinks, storage devices and all interior finishes.

Qualified Labor – one of your biggest challenges.

The Challenges of Opening Your Own RestaurantFinding qualified workers and rising labor costs are two key concerns for food-service business owners. The supply of workers age16-24, the primary pool for restaurant employees, has been declining. Develop a comprehensive HR program and a personnel manual. The job description needs to clearly outline the job’s duties and responsibilities. It should also list any special skills or other required credentials, such as a valid driver’s license and clean driving record for someone who is going to make deliveries for you.

Next, establish a pay scale. Research the pay rates in your area. Establish a minimum and maximum rate for each position. You’ll pay more even at the start for better qualified and more experienced workers. Of course, the pay scale is affected by whether or not the position is one that is regularly tipped.

  • Hire right. Every prospective employee should fill out an application even if they submit a resume. A resume is not a signed, sworn statement acknowledging that you can fire the person if he or she lies about his or her background; the application, which includes a truth affidavit, is. Thoroughly screen applicants. Do background checks. If you can’t do this yourself, contract with a HR consultant to do it for you on an as-needed basis.
  • Detailed Job Descriptions. Don’t make your employees guess about their responsibilities. Be sure they understand what you expect of them. Interview key personnel to determine their perception of their roles and responsibilities. A written description for the owner and all personnel providing position title, qualifications required, basic functions, reporting relationships, authority, responsibilities, and measurements of performance can then be used for training and compensation purposes.
  • Formal Personnel Evaluations. A process that will communicate performance results to company employees on an ongoing basis – and is a fair – is an objective way to provide recommendations for improvement in behavior and performance. After documentation, establish a baseline for developing practical recommendations for improvement. Again, have the employee sign the evaluation form after discussions and a copy kept in company files.
  • Motivational and Compensation Process. Incorporate a profit-motivated employee incentive plan with a bonus weighted according to the employee’s contribution towards achieving both the company profit and individual growth goals as specified in the job descriptions. A new owner should consider profit sharing to provide incentives, reduce turnover, promote teamwork, and improve overall employee operational efficiency.
  • Understand wage-and-hour and child labor laws. Check with your own state’s Department of Labor to be sure you comply with regulations on issues such as minimum wage (which can vary depending on the age of the workers and whether they’re eligible for tips), and when teenagers can work and what tasks they’re allowed to do.
  • Report tips properly. The IRS is very specific about how tips are to be reported; for details, check with your accountant or contact the IRS (or see your local telephone directory for the number).
  • Provide initial and ongoing training. Even experienced workers need to know how things are done in your restaurant. Well-trained employees are happier, more confident and more effective. Plus, ongoing training builds loyalty and reduces turnover. The NRA can help you develop appropriate employee training programs.

When your restaurant is still new, some employees’ duties may cross over from one category to another. For example, your manager may double as the host, and servers may also bus tables. Be sure to hire people who are willing to be flexible in their duties. Your payroll costs, including all taxes and benefits, your own salary and that of your managers, should be about 25 to 30 percent of your total gross sales.

  • Your most important employee. Your best candidate will have already managed a restaurant or restaurants in your area and will be familiar with local buying sources, suppliers and methods. You’ll also want leadership skills and the ability to supervise personnel while reflecting the style and character of your restaurant.

Quality of manager are paid well. Depending on your location, expect to pay a seasoned manager $30,000 to $40,000 a year, plus a percentage of sales. An entry-level manager will earn $22,000 to$26,000 but won’t have the skills of a more experienced candidate. If you can’t offer a high salary, work out a profit-sharing arrangement-it’s an excellent way to hire good people and motivate them to build a successful restaurant. Hire your manager at least a month before you open so he or she can help you set up your restaurant.

  • Chefs and cooks. When you start out, you’ll probably need three cooks–two full time and one part time. Restaurant workers typically work shifts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to closing. But one lead cook may need to arrive early in the morning to begin preparing soups, bread and other items to be served that day. One full-time cook should work days, and the other evenings. The part-time cook will help during peak hours, such as weekend rushes, and can work as a line cook during slower periods, doing simple preparation.
  • Salaries for chefs and cooks vary according to their experience and your menu. Chefs command salaries significantly higher than cooks, averaging $600 to $700 a week. You may also find chefs who are willing to work under profit-sharing plans. If you have a fairly complex menu that requires a cook with lots of experience, you may have to pay anywhere from $400 to $500 a week. Pay part-time cooks on an hourly basis.
  • Your servers will have the most interaction with customers, so they need to make a favorable impression and work well under pressure, meeting the demands of customers at several tables while maintaining a pleasant demeanor. There are two times of day for wait staff: very slow and very busy. Schedule your employees accordingly. The lunch rush, for example, starts around 11:30 a.m. and continues until 1:30 or 2 p.m. Restaurants are often slow again until the dinner crowd arrives around 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Servers who earn a good portion of their income from tips are usually paid minimum wage or just slightly more. When your restaurant is new, you may hire only experienced servers so you don’t have to provide extensive training. As you become established, however, you should develop training systems to help both new, inexperienced employees and veteran servers understand your philosophy and the image you want to project.

This is part of a series on Starting Your Own Restaurant

About the Author:

Roger_RobinsonRoger Robinson, PhD has been a SCORE mentor for over 16 years. His specialties include non-profits, business planning, specifically in restaurants and hospitality, recreational and arts and Entertainment verticals. Read more about Roger here. Click here to schedule a free mentoring session with Roger or another SCORE mentor.



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12 Steps to Creating an Inspiring Strategic Plan – Part 2

(This is the second of two articles by Ray Madaghiele highlighting this powerful 12-step strategic plan process.)

12 Steps to Creating an Inspiring Strategic PlanEnergize and engage your employees with an inspiring strategic planning process the helps everyone get clear, get organized, get going, and get results. That’s what successful businesses do.

Here are the remaining steps of the 12 steps of the strategic plan process cycle that, done right, tends to amplify and accelerate the success of any organization:

Get Organized…

  1.  Do Some Soul Searching –Warren Buffet said “In the business world, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” When you reflect on and understand your Strengths, Possible improvements, Opportunities and Challenges (SPOC Analysis) as an organization, you can chart the best course toward your goals and figure out the actions needed to reach your company vision.
  1.  Focus Your Energy –What you focus on expands and grows stronger, so, focus your attention on your desired intention. Oprah Winfrey said “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
  1.  Chart Your Course –Companies that use strategic planning to set only financial targets are missing out on some of the most rewarding benefits and possibilities. Establish goals that will be inspiring and energizing, not just financial targets to achieve. Involve your employees in the process before you get too far down the path.

Get Going…

  1. Prepare for Ignition –Jack Welch said, “When it comes to strategy, ponder less and do more.” Much of strategic planning is about building potential energy, similar to that of a roller-coaster climbing a hill, then kinetic energy takes over as the roller-coaster rushes down the hill—as you put your plans into action!
  1. Keep the Energy Flowing –Napoleon Hill said, “All natural laws and all of nature’s plans are based upon harmonious, cooperative effort.” Gain enthusiastic support and buy-in for the plan by involving ALL employees in the process. Assign everyone a piece of the puzzle to help keep the plan alive. Everyone collaborates to deliver 24k Gold ServiceTM that improves loyalty and profitability.

Get Results…

  1. Measure Your Progress –“Robert Kiyosaki said, “My measure of success is whether I’m fulfilling my mission.” Measure how well you are doing in achieving your mission, vision, and goals. Establish performance targets that let you know whether or not you are on track to achieve the results you desire. However, keep your plans like malleable clay with the flexibility to ebb and flow with conditions.

About the Author:

Ray MadaghieleRay Madaghiele is Chief Inspiration Officer at Business Energizers, a division of TLC, an organizational and human excellence company.

On May 26, 2016, Ray will be facilitating a powerful SCORE workshop titled “A Strategic Planning Process that Energizes your Business” where he will teach how to engage your employees in this 12-step process. Register and learn more at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ec05wk3w52f25fea

Ray is the author of the book Energize Your Business: Engage Your Employees with an Inspiring Strategic Planning Process. Learn more or purchase at www.EnergizeYourBusiness.biz . Ray is donating 10% of profits from book sales to the SCORE Foundation.


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19 Jan

Is Marketing Harder for Small Business Owners?

Don't let today's technology intimidate you - the small business owner! You can conquer it!Without the big budget of a public company, marketing can seem to be limited as far as how much you can do with a small budget if you are a small business owner. Sure, it can be challenging, but with today’s technology and huge variety of channels available for free, marketing can be conquered, effective and successful.

When the Internet and World Wide Web emerged into the marketing scene in the ’90s it was the great equalizer. All of a sudden, the little guy could compete on a level playing field with the big guys. Today, Social Media has enhanced the number channels that a business has to promote in. Still being the great equalizer.

Before, it was if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages, you didn’t exist. Then it was if you’re no on the WWW, you don’t exist. Now, it’s if you’re not active on Social Media you don’t exist.

English: www,domain,internet,web,net

Ah,  but you say, “I don’t have a budget to hire someone to do my social media and I don’t have time!” Sure you do. You have to carve out the time. You can’t afford to NOT be active on social media. You can bet your competition is – no matter how big they are!

Here’s how social media, content marketing and search engine optimization works in today’s marketing even for the small business owner:

If you can’t afford to hire someone to do your marketing for you, then you need to learn how to do it yourself or train someone in your staff. It’s not that difficult when it’s explained methodically in a way that makes sense.

Related Article: 10 Steps to Social Media Marketing Success

Learn how to be more productive.

There are so many time-wasters, like an overwhelming email inbox, in your everyday work-life that if you became a little better organized, you’d be surprised how much more you can get done!

Recently, I worked with Margo Brown, a productivity coach, to help me get organized after the fire in my apartment building displaced my home office. Ever since then, I find myself 100% more organized and productive!

She’s got an Email Inbox Organizing Class at SCORE coming up. If you have an email inbox, you need to take it!

Anything that seems intimidating can be conquered one step at a time.

About the Author, Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing strategist & trainer helping business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. She’s the official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and offers Social media classes at the new AZ Social Media Training Center. 602-738-1700. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

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7 Common Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

What do Willis Carrier, Tony Maglica, Michael Owens, George Westinghouse and King Gillette have in common?

Well, let’s put their names next to their well-know inventions respectively:

  • Carrier air conditioning
  • Maglite flashlight
  • Owens-Corning glass
  • Westinghouse appliances and he also worked with Tesla to harness the power of Niagara Falls
  • Gillette razors

These folks a few others are featured in Michelle Malkin’s new book, Who Built That – Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs.

She coined the phrase, “Tinkerprenueur” as she puts it,

“These under-appreciated inventors and innovators of mundane things changed the world by successfully commercializing their ideas and creating products, companies, jobs, and untold opportunities that endure today.”

These are the 7 Common Traits that these Successful Entrepreneurs share:

  1. Mechanical ability from an early age
  2. Stubborn practicality and dedication to making and selling useful things
  3. Willingness to expand their creative orbits as widely as possible to get the job done
  4. Relentless work ethic and insatiable commitment to continue self-improvement
  5. A deep and abiding respect for intellectual property, fair play, and the rule of law
  6. Strong faith and perseverance through failure and adversity
  7. Reverence for America’s special role as a beacon of freedom and opportunity

Do you have an invention and are clueless of where to start? A SCORE Mentor can help! Click here to schedule a free mentoring session.

SCORE can help with that “self-improvement”! Check out our upcoming Phoenix Seminars and online Webinars!

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