Social Studies: Being socially responsible is a key element of running a small business

Written by Rhonda Abrams, featured on Costco Connection Magazine

Small businesses have long been the backbone of their communities. Small businesses support local charities, Little League, food drives, school fundraisers and more. Most small-business owners don’t have to be told to be charitable-they already are. But being charitable is just one part of the wave of interest and increasing demand for businesses to be socially responsible.

In addition to focusing on the bottom line, being socially responsible is a smart part of a company’s strategy for success.

Social Steps:

  • Create an inclusive workplace with fair pay.
  • Donate a portion of profits. Choose an organization and make it clear a small percentage of your pre- or post-profit sales will go to that cause.
  • Think and work sustainably. Look for ways your business can reduce waste, consume less energy and lower its carbon footprint.
  • Donate time. A good way to build team morale as well as contribute to your community is to have your employees volunteer-on paid company time-for a good cause.
  • Donate products or services to causes you believe in.

An Incubator that Works For You and With You: The Emerging Enterprise Center

What is the Emerging Enterprise Center? It is a small business incubator that is co-located in the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCC Chamber of Commerce).

The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) began as an initiative that came out of the NCC Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council (EDC). In 2008, the EDC saw a need for a place to help startup businesses from failing in the first 5 years and a vision that would nurture a strong and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as build jobs and revenue for New Castle County and Delaware.

At the time, the EEC was the first and only incubator in the state and while it is a separate entity from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, the two entities work hand and hand with each other to partner with resources, events, and making connections for its members. The EEC continues to expand its programs by leveraging the NCC Chamber of Commerce resources, facilities, and initiatives.

The EEC is not just about cost-effective space for young businesses; it is more about one-on-one mentoring and the connections that we can facilitate for growing businesses. The EEC attracts everything from the traditional main street businesses to fintech startups, with programs that range from pure co-working space with business amenities to more comprehensive programs, with one-on-one mentoring. Each business moves at its own pace with guidance that helps them focus on the needs and skills that will help them take their business to the next level.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about two-thirds of businesses survive at least 2 years and about half of that survive at least 5 years**.  In addition, most entrepreneurs will attest that starting a business can be very lonely.  The EEC works to help decrease those numbers by offering specialized services and mentoring. Does it work? Historically, International Business Innovation Association member incubators have reported that 87%* of all graduate firms are still in business.

The EEC is unlike most incubators in the country right now. It is quite normal for a chamber to offer support to business incubators, but it is very unusual for a chamber to embed its own home-grown program inside the existing chamber of commerce.  Research shows that there are fewer than 10 programs like this among the International Business Innovation Association*. The EEC has found that by being co-located with the NCC Chamber of Commerce, its clients work in close proximity to practical business people doing business everyday and have the capability to network with them to help understand that building relationships is so important. This affiliation is one of the many reasons that makes the EEC unique from other incubators in the area.

The EEC has one full-time certified mentor that works directly with each business to help develop business skills and hold each business accountable to the tasks they need to do to keep their business growing.

Young businesses can enter the coworking plus, business accelerator or resident program. Businesses that are older but still need some help can take advantage of the coworking or coworking plus programs.

Since its inception, the EEC has worked with 42 companies, while they were in the incubator, these 42 companies have generated $62 million in revenue and created over 200 jobs in the county.

For more information about the EEC programs, please call the NCC Chamber of Commerce at 302-737-4343.

Sources:

*https://impactindex.inbia.org/ecdata/

** https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/Business-Survival.pdf

Are You Making the Most of Your Social Media Platforms?

Did you know that almost 90% of marketers say their social media marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business? In case that is not powerful enough for you to want to learn more and achieve increased traffic, 48% of Americans have interacted with companies on at least one social media network. But to be a part of these statistics, you need to keep these factors in mind:

  • Which channels you use depending on your target audience as well as how well you have identified their patterns and behaviors.
  • The voice of your brand should be consistent and friendly and represent what suits the business
  • The content should be visual, relevant, and engaging.  

The main goal is to get the fans to interact and not just follow. You should use your social media presence as a place to connect and produce engaging content with clear and consistent messages. If you don’t have a clear message to convey to your fans, the engagement will be limited and you have a 51% chance of having them unfollow you.

There are many social media platforms out there for you to connect with your fans. One of those platforms you use needs to be Facebook. Although, most think Facebook is dying, stats don’t lie. Facebook is still king of the social media platforms right now. Seventy nine percent of internet users in the US log into Facebook. Facebook continues to command the largest audience and the time users spend on the site is still growing. However, due to the recent algorithm updates, organic reach for brands is lower than ever. So you have to get a little creative to best reach your target audience.

However, nearly a fourth of social media influencers believe Instagram is the top avenue for marketing strategies. As Instagram emerges as a top platform, more and more brands will be focusing heavily on marketing strategies for Instagram. Instagram drives the most engagement per post compared to any social media platform. 84 times more than Twitter and 10 times more than Facebook.

Twitter ranked last as platform to use for ads but 47% of marketers agreed Twitter was the best social media channel for customer engagement. Due to its real-time feed and updates, Twitter has proven to be top channel for customer service, allowing customers to easily and quickly contact brands.

For LinkedIn, you do have to focus on making sure each post contains highly relevant and targeted information but you don’t’ have to produce the volume of posts required for a successful Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter campaign. The typical LinkedIn user only uses the network for an average of 17 minutes per month. Users come to LinkedIn for information and expertise, so it’s an ideal platform to establish yourself as an expert in the industry.

It also drive more than half of all social traffic to business to business blogs and sites. Of the 2 billion Millennials globally, 87 million of them are on LinkedIn. Of those 87 million Millennial users, 11 million are in decision-making positions.

If you take anything away from this, it is that social media is more important than ever for marketing. The platforms you use and the content you produce for each are just as important to your campaign to get engagement and fan investment.

If you want to learn more about maximizing your social media platforms and using social media to promote your brand, you need to attend our Business Growth Training workshops for 2019.

Register for our workshops: http://www.eecincubator.com/business-growth-workshops.html

See this site for more stats on social media: https://ignitevisibility.com/social-media-statistics/

Social Enterprises – An EEC Soft Landings Company is on the Rise!

Social Enterprises was founded in the US in 2015. It is a company to give consultancy to entrepreneurs and investors who want to invest in the US.  People know that in 2016 world trade amounted to 16 billion dollars. The US has 3.9 billion dollars and 24 percent of world trade. Thanks to Social Enterprises, more than 250 companies were established in the USA since 2015 to take advantage of the opportunities the US offers. These small-scale companies are entering the world market by opening up to the US market. More than 300 hundred entrepreneurs and investors came to the US to found their companies. Social Enterprises, in other words, is a bridging company that open the US’ doors to Europe.

Having considered that there are many companies in the world, it is a fact that business consultant firms are needed to make them more successful. According to official records, there are about 200 million companies in the world. 80 percent of them are local, and 70 percent of them want to open up to the world. Social Enterprises takes part here. It is serving its customers in many ways to transfer their companies from being local to global, from opening a bank account to accountant services and any other operations without any intermediary to customers who want to establish a business. It does not only set up a company in the US, but it also provides services to legal counselling by delivering institutionalisation of companies.

On the other hand, the institutionalisation of the companies is impossible before understanding the US system well. The founders of Social Enterprises, Samet Oynamış and Fatih Pekar, are aware that consulting firms that have not been integrated into the US market cannot solve the US system by watching from the outside, and they experienced themselves firstly by entering into the US business system itself and giving information to entrepreneurs. The founders are now encouraging and consulting many enterprises from all around the world to convey their experiences. Moreover, Social Enterprises is trying to be integrated to e-world. The founders are focusing on e-government systems, services and e-government solution systems.

Furthermore, Social Enterprises directs software and technology companies to “International Soft Landing Program” focused on providing companies from the tech and innovative space the opportunity to learn about doing business instead of Silicon Valley of San Francisco. Participants in the program will receive exposure to key areas including marketing, sales and so on. These courses the ones which entrepreneurs have to know about.  For example, for “must-known” issues, Social Enterprises highly recommends the Delaware Emerging Enterprise Center to entrepreneurs. This centre is a professional business incubator that helps start-up businesses learn entrepreneurial skills. Its business growth workshops are designed to improve critical business skills necessary for start-up and growing companies.

Finally, Social Enterprises provides consultancy services to all business people from Europe to the US through their partnerships in America, their own experiences and business visions. Social Enterprises invites from Europe to the US.

Entrepreneurial Profile: The Central Firm – M2

The Central Firm, led by M2 (pronounced “Em-Squared”), evaluates and analyzes a company’s current operating expenses and recommends ways to reduce costs.

M2 is a native Delawarean. She graduated from the University of Delaware and Delaware State College. She is retired military and served in the Middle East for 20 years.

Upon her return to the US, M2 noticed discrepancies in the fine print in service contracts and agreements that didn’t align with the original sales promises. She saw the need for expense analysis for businesses and The Central Firm was created. The Central Firm is a boutique concierge consulting firm which offers tools and services to assist and support businesses by offering evaluative and metric driven advice. The Central Firm uses proprietary methodology that reviews, evaluates, and advises systematic strategies to improve operational effectiveness like cloud hosting, VoIP, water/sewer, managed services, etc.

M2 does acknowledge that her greatest challenge is getting past gatekeepers to the decision-makers in order to begin the process of presenting her success rates as a newly created, female, small technology business. The Central Firm has already proven a success rate for a current client by reducing their operating expenses by 27%.

The Central Firm aims to work with the State Department in the near future and when current projects can support it, she also plans to work with University interns to support clients. M2 says, “The EEC has provided us with invaluable advice and mentoring to help solidify our value proposition which has helped increase business opportunities. Since joining the EEC, we have made some great contacts that are sure to be rewarding in the near future.”

A Strategy to Exit

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank

STRATEGY TO EXIT

Rich Manders of Freescale Coaching grew his company, iAutomation, to $12Million with $2.5M in EBITDA and sold 75% of the business back in 2007. Over the past decade the company has continued on a growth track reaching over $100M in 2016.

During the acquisition process, the acquiring Private Equity firm, Riverside Company, used the “SPARKLE” model as a checklist evaluate the company’s value. Each letter represents an aspect of your business that should “sparkle” and if your business doesn’t, the acquiring firm wins.

At the 2016 Harvard Innovation Symposium, Rich shared the model and explained how buyers use the checklist to determine the price of a business. HINT: The more a company SPARKLES, the more the right buyer is willing to pay.

I highly recommend watching the entire presentation – about 43 minutes. If you’re time-strapped, however, you can read a recap of what each letter stands for here.

Emerging Enterprise Center by the Numbers

 

The EEC is a business incubator that helps startups and small businesses learn essential entrepreneurial and business skills, grow their business, and develop a long-term sustainable model. The key elements of the incubator program include: one-on-one mentoring, coupled with business growth workshops. These are used to provide guidance and context to entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has worked with 38 companies generating over $61 Million in revenue and created 179 full time jobs in the County while they were in the incubator.

The EEC has 20 workshops/seminars scheduled for 2018.

The EEC uses the Growth Wheel to help mentor its participants. It is a toolbox built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It is designed around the four challenge areas of business (Business Concept, Business Organization, Client Relations, and Business Operations).  It is a systematic approach to help entrepreneurs build their business through an action –oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work. The EEC has a certified Growth Wheel mentor on staff. Click here to see the program guide for the workshops.

Contact us at 302-737-4343 or info@EECincubator.com for more information on how you can get involved in the Emerging Enterprise Center.

Creating and Selling Value: Creating Value: Sales & The Value Pyramid

By Dora Cheatham, Emerging Enterprise Center

Going from supplying a product that meets basic customer expectations to contributing to a client’s organization can be hard to establish and even harder to maintain, but is an invaluable strategy for long term profitability. Keeping a customer requires the creation of a relationship of mutual trust and partnership that goes beyond supplying a quality product.

Seeking to create value and a sustainable competitive advantage is increasingly difficult in today’s data-filled environment. Buyers today are educated and savvy. In the B2B world, the buyer can be 60-65% through the purchase process before he or she even makes contact with an incumbent or potential vendor. They know what’s out there and what it costs so if all you have to offer is a product that meets specifications, then you have effectively created a situation where your only option is to sell on price—and the lowest price invariably wins. That also means that as soon as a competitor emerges with the same option at a lower price, then chances are that customer is lost to the newcomer. So how can you ensure that your customer remains loyal to your product and business?

Smart Buyers Seek Value

A truly smart buyer understands the value of a vendor that contributes to the smooth running of his or her business. If you can deliver a flawless product, on-time, every time, with excellent customer service, then it behoves him to use your product—because spending time dealing with vendor-related problems and quality issues costs money and impacts his own customer service and bottom line (think about the UPS “I’m happy” ads where department managers and customers are happy thanks to UPS Logistics).

By supplying a quality product with excellent customer service you have already established some level of competitive advantage. And many companies today provide good products with good service – it is a prerequisite to staying in business. To sustain that advantage however you need to continually climb the value pyramid and add to your product in terms of additional service and knowledge, eventually making a quantum leap to the peak of the value pyramid to establish yourself as more than a vendor, but a trusted strategic partner.

Can you help lower your customers’ costs or improve their productivity? Can you help them identify new products or markets? At an even broader level, can your customers call on you for advice on operational systems and processes or strategic direction? In other words, does your customer consider you a supplier or a partner?

Schematic adapted from Doyle P. and Stern P., Marketing Management & Strategy, 4th ed., Prentice Hall

 

As you climb the value pyramid, commoditization decreases and company and product value increases, with fewer competitors able to compete at the same level. The fundamental difference between the lower and upper levels of the pyramid is distinct: to be good at the former, the salesperson and business needs to have a top quality product to sell and needs to understand his product and his own business well.

To be good at the latter, the salesperson and business needs to have an understanding not only of his own product and business, but of his customer’s business as well. He needs to understand his customer’s individual and industry needs and must excel at consultative selling, offering solutions that are of mutual benefit to both organizations. Only then can you hope to ensure an enduring partnership and long term rewards.

You don’t close a sale; you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise. Patricia Fripp.

Why Do Passionate Entrepreneurs Fail?

Written by Frank DeSantis, Certified Growth Wheel Trainer, Former Emerging Enterprise Center Program Director

The link below is to a great article in HBR on Passion vs. Preparedness, and reflects what I believe is the approach the Emerging Enterprise Center tries to take with their Incubator companies.

An entrepreneur has to have passion. It’s entirely too hard to start and run a business if you don’t absolutely love what you are doing! Apparently, according to this research, passion is a key ingredient to attracting attention of investors, especially novice investors, those typically found on crowdfunding sites.

Long term success, however, depends upon your ability to be prepared to scale the business. For that you need to have a vision (what do you want to be when you grow up), a game plan (strategy or business plan), and the processes and procedures to replicate what you do and how you sell. For more experienced investors, the passion and the concept may attract them initially, but they move quickly to determining how prepared they are for success; what is the experience of the management team; have they started a business before; is there a market; have they proved the concept?

At the Emerging Enterprise Center, they try to help you focus first on DRIVING YOUR BUSINESS (sales), while in parallel, developing the business skills and the policies/procedures to enable you to take advantage of opportunities that help you achieve your vision.

I believe you can have and, in fact, need both: PASSION AND PREPAREDNESS!

https://hbr.org/2015/07/for-founders-preparation-trumps-passion