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When I am speaking with a business owner about the opportunity to buy or sell a business operation the conversation always comes around to “What about the business has value?” It is easier to frame this question when looking at an existing business, but for start-ups or emerging businesses the question is still valid. Is it a unique thing that you make? A problem you solve? Knowledge you possess? Relationships you have built? A brand that you have built?

Each of those options are possibilities, or something else entirely. It could vary from business to business, or even within a business as it progresses through stages of development. The important thing for all entrepreneurs to remember is to do SOMETHING to protect whatever it is that creates value in the business. It could be a simple as insuring their own ability to perform a task. Or it could involve a long conversation about intellectual property, multiple agreements and legal documents. In a disturbing number of cases those specific steps just aren’t taken.

In our efforts to bring light to these issues, and to help small business owners avoid as many mistakes as possible, the Small Business Development Center is partnering with John Perkins and Doug Lineberry to present a workshop addressing these and other legal issues that small businesses face on a daily basis. Held in Greenville on Friday, November 30, “Small Business Legal Issues” will cover topics such as entity formation, employment agreements, non-disclosure agreements, protecting trade secrets, and intellectual property. John and Doug bring real-world expertise to the table, help entrepreneurs be aware of the challenges and opportunities in front of them. This is the real-world, every day, in the trenches kind of information that you just don’t find very often.

For more information or to register check out http://calendar.clemson.edu/event/small_business_legal_issues?utm_campaign=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=Clemson+University#.UKa4FmfaDPk.

Hopefully those two words grabbed your attention. We need to be looking for new opportunities, right? If you are seeking a new customer, a new resource, new knowledge or a new perspective you can probably find it here in South Carolina in the month of November. Here are just a few of the things that are happening in the business community that may interest, motivate, inspire or inform you…

Innomobility Conference 2012 is coming up November 7 and 8. This two-day event brings talent and ideas together to change the way we move. If you are interested in technology, transportation, entrepreneurship, planning, and high-power thinkers, this could be for you: http://innomobility.com/2012/.

South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) will hold a Business Innovation Master Workshop in Greenville on Wednesday, November 14. The program features presentations on marketing communications, innovation strategy and more! Learn more at http://www.scmep.org/business-innovation-workshop/.

Explore the World of Government Contracting is the place to meet and learn from buyers with several federal government agencies and prime contractors. This event, held Thursday, November 15, at the Greenville Marriott, overviews both the range of opportunities in – and the process for winning – government contracts. For more information see: http://calendar.clemson.edu/event/exploring_the_world_of_government_contracting?utm_campaign=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=Clemson+University#.UJQwJGfmqi0.

Social Media Freedom will be led by Chris Manley of Engenius Web Development on Thursday, November 15. , Social Media makes a ton of sense for some businesses and it’s a terrible investment of time and resources for others – and no single business is the same. This seminar will walk through when it can be beneficial, when you might be wasting your time, and how to measure returns on your investments in social media. Learn more at www.engeniusweb.com/products/engeniusu.

Small Business Legal Issues is a program the SBDC loves to host each year. On Friday, November 30, John Perkins and Doug Lineberry join the SBDC to share experiences and insight on a variety of topics that just may make or break a business. From entity formation to employee & contractor agreements to fundamentals of intellectual property, this interactive program is a great resource for new businesses and for established firms that are positioned for growth. To learn more and register please see: http://calendar.clemson.edu/event/small_business_legal_issues#.UJQsJGfmqi0.

If you don’t see something for you please let us know. If you do check out one or more of these, please let us know what you took away from it.

 

October is winding down but this is still the best time of the year to learn more about business skills, resources, threats, and opportunities.  Our focus in November is on practical skills and opportunities. Click the “Greenville Events” page to learn more and register for one of these workshops.

We start with a new program “The Science of Selling” on Friday November 2.  Held as a lunch-and-learn, your registration includes a tasty box lunch and a copy of The Selling Machine, which is the basis for the program.  Everyone has to sell something – whether it is your resume or a product.  But sales isn’t a dark mystical art that only a chosen few can understand.  Everyone can benefit from learning a few basic steps to building your own ‘selling machine.’ 

Next up is “Social Media Freedom” on Thursday November 15.  Led by Chris Manley of Engenius Web Design, this two-hour workshop will help you step back and look at various social media platforms from the perspective of your marketing plan.  Don’t get caught up in too many posts on too many sites that your customers don’t see.  But if your customers are there – and they are looking for you – be there!

Also on Thursday November 15, we are hosting “Exploring the World of Government Contracting” at the Greenville Marriott.  This half-day event will bring representatives from several US Government agencies to you.  Learn the WHAT, WHY and HOW to get involved as a contractor or subcontractor in government purchasing. 

Last, we wrap up November with a great forum called “Small Business Legal Issues” on Friday November 30. John Perkins and Doug Lineberry address a variety of topics from entity formation to intellectual property from a very practical perspective. This program gets great reviews and is full of straight forward information from the real world of small business. Someone told me that life is too short to make every mistake for yourself. Here’s a chance to learn from someone else and avoid the big ones!

Be sure to navigate to the “Greenville Events” page to learn more and register for one of these workshops. We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these programs, or hearing from you about topics you would like to see addressed.  

Do you wish you knew more about your customers, the competition, or your industry? It is time to start learning what your competition may already know. I’ve got three places to start learning — FOR FREE!

Here’s the first one, with lots of info available to the public, as well as custom research reports (by real live people!) available through a SBDC Consultant. Too many items to list, but the tan box on the right of their page is worth $$$. Check it out!

http://www.sbdcnet.org/

This one is for the B2C folks, who are always looking for more details about that super-elusive characteristic:  DISPOSABLE INCOME. Check out this tool which is designed for basic location comparisons.  You can get a glimpse of home values and household incomes, as well as traffic counts. 

www.planabiz.org

This resource is probably right under your nose and you may have even been there recently.  That’s right – your public library! 

Did you know that Greenville County Public Library has a Business Reference Librarian on staff?  They offer assistance by phone, email or online chat.  Best thing is that they subscribe to databases that none of us can afford, and most of it is available to you online!  Getting to the data may require an active library card, but that’s easy!

http://www.greenvillelibrary.org/

Good luck, and let me know where you find the numbers you need.

Businesses often run SWOT analyses (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) when launching a new product, moving into a new area, or physically expanding a retail base. But before you even start your business, consider running the same analysis on yourself.

Most analysts identify a handful of reasons why so many businesses fail:

  • Under-capitalization. They just didn’t have enough money to operate and didn’t realize how seriously in trouble they were.
  • An inability to get necessary loans or capital investment.
  • A non-entrepreneurial personality trying to be what they aren’t.
  • Failure to create a valid business plan and continue to review and update it each year.
  • Lack of preparation and knowledge about business ownership.

A SWOT analysis might help you figure out whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how well thought out your business idea is.

Are you a self-starter with a hard-driving, no quit work ethic? That’s a definite strength. But if you’re also in a shaky financial situation with a lot of loans and a credit score under 700. That’s a weakness and a threat to your businesses success.

Ever written a business plan or followed a detailed budget each month? Another plus. But you’re no accountant so running those pesky monthly reports and spending time analyzing the numbers may not be something you’ll want to do. But you may be an innovator with a unique idea. Ideas are great, but turning them into products and services is often a lot more work than it seems. Are the opportunities worth the risks? Do you know what you will need and where to get it?

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers a number of tools to help you take action to give your business its best chance of success. The “Jumpstart” program is now available online and on-demand. This is an in-depth program that covers most issues a new business faces. Part I is built a to emphasize feasibility and preparation.  Part II provides help with building a business plan – and a template.  Part III is all about the financing process, building projections, and understanding basic financial statements.

Click here to start the registration process. Then select the program that meets your needs.

The automatic re-post…

Aime Marse flipped past “fluff” and went straight to Practical in the Sept. 13 piece for Small Business Trends.  Clearly we all fall short from time to time, but here are seven simple tests to help keep us on track.

Which of these seven is the easiest for you? 

We are often asked “Where do I get good information about my industry?” Sometimes this is early in the planning stages when clients are building the first business plan.  In other cases it is when they want to document their performance against peers or other benchmarks.  There are many sources of information such as trade groups, financial statement studies from RMA, and others.

But the first place to look for information is now a free online tool from the SBA:  SIZEUP!

http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/new-sizeup-tool-delivers-free-customized-business-analysis-small-businesses

Let us know if you find this helpful.  The early feedback was positive when I saw it debuted at a national conference last week.  This data will not replace all other sources, but provide a good first-glance to let you know if there are trouble signs ahead.

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