SBA Proposed Changes to the 8(a) Business Development Program

The Small Business Administration has announced proposals for the improvement of the 8(a) Business Development Program for disadvantaged small businesses. The first comprehensive review of the 8(a) program in several years resulted with the proposed 8 (a) regulation changes that were published in the Federal Register. The public comment period on the proposed changes is open for 60 days.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills said about the proposed changes that they will “strengthen the program and and maximize its benefits for eligible small businesses”. “The 8(a) program has a proven record as an effective program for helping disadvantaged small businesses gain access to training and contracting opportunities to help them grow, create jobs and ultimately succeed in the marketplace once they graduate from the program”, said Mills.

The 8(a) program is designed to help businesses that meet the SBA’s criteria for being socially and economically disadvantaged. In effort to help small businesses grow and motivate people to starting a small business, this program provides them with access to government contracting opportunities, specialized business training and counseling, and help with their small business marketing and high-level executive development. In fiscal 2008, small businesses received over $16 billion in 8(a) contracts.

Some of the proposed changes of the 8(a) program include:

* Economic Disadvantage: Adjustments to how assets, gross income and retirement savings are considered when determining whether the company is economically disadvantaged.
* Ownership and Control Requirements: The proposed changes would provide flexibility in admitting immediate family members of current and former 8(a) participants into the program.
* Joint Ventures: The proposal would require 8(a) firms to perform significant portion of the work on joint ventures, ensuring that they are able to build capacity.
* Business size for Primary Industry: Requiring that the firm stays small for its primary industry while participating in the 8(a) program.

Details of the proposed rule can be viewed in the Federal Register.

Eight Steps To The Next Level – The Business Plan, “The Engine of Small Business Development”

This is the second of a series of articles describing how small business owners and managers can drive their business growth and profitable development through the creation and implementation of a business plan.

I know the prevailing view among many small business people is that “planning” is for the larger, more substantial business and “they are too busy running their business to have time for planning”. Indeed, many small business owners are “too busy” running the business, but they ignore, at their own peril and survival, that “failing to plan is planning to fail.”

I am convinced that the small business owner will benefit from engaging in this business planning process because of the nature of carefully examining and thinking through the way their business competes and operates; – and how that will align with their determination of “what business they want to be in”.

This business planning process yields a stronger, more profitable business which provides real value to its customers and the marketplace.

The business planning process described in this article is the most logical, pragmatic and practical examination possible of the small business. This process is far from arcane or mysterious, but totally focuses on the reality of the small business environments (the business, the economy, competition, customers’ needs, wants and desires) as well as the determination and allocation of the firm’s resources).

Business Planning Process – Eight Major steps

For the past thirty years, I have successfully used the following business and strategic marketing planning process. The following process consists of eight major steps which are sequential and continuous. I will describe the nature and function of each of these steps.

This process applies to all types of organizations; regardless of size, products, services, or industry…. I have even used this process with a national religious organization.

1. DEVELOP MISSION AND POSITIONING STATEMENT
2. SITUATION AUDIT
a. Internal
b. External
3. WOTSUP ANALYSIS
4. MAKING ASSUMPTIONS
5. DEVELOPING OBJECTIVES
6. STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT
7. SPECIFY TACTICS AND ACTIONS
8. PREPARE FORECASTS/BUDGETS/FINANCIALS

1. MISSION AND POSITIONING STATEMENT

With respect to the definition of your businesses’ purpose and mission, there is only one focus, one starting point; it is the customer or user of your products/services. The user defines the mission of any function or business. The question “what is our mission or purpose” “what business do we want to be in?”, can therefore be answered by only looking at your business from the outside, from the point of view of the customer or potential customer. What the user or customer sees, thinks, or believes at any given time must be accepted by your business management as an objective fact to be taken seriously.

By definition, the customer is purchasing the satisfaction of a need or want.

For example, here is a well-known and real example of a business mission which defined the way in which that company conducted its activities.

A drill bit manufacturer defined its mission as determining “what size holes customers need” their focus was directly on customer needs and not on their product specifications. They were customer-focused and very successful.

Once the mission statement has been completed develop the positioning statement for competitive advantage and prepare the USP – your unique selling proposition. “Why the business is able to provide more effective solutions and greater value than the competitors.”

2. THE SITUATION AUDIT- Internal and External

The situation audit is a description and analysis of past, present and future data (information) which provides the basis for pursuing the business planning process. It is an organized method for:

  • collecting pertinent information
  • interpreting its effect on the business’s environments (market conditions)
  • analyzing significant trends
  • projecting all pertinent factors, which could influence company activities.

3. WOTSUP ANALYSIS

The acronym WOTSUP stands for Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats and Strengths Underlying Planning. This step flows naturally from the fact base (Situation Audit). The Weaknesses and Strengths constitute an internal analysis, i.e. “what are we at good and bad at?”-

Opportunities and Threats, on the other hand, form an external analysis. From this analysis, objectives can be formulated with specific action plans designed to overcome weaknesses and threats by exploiting the business strengths and opportunities.

4. MAKING ASSUMPTIONS:

Assumptions make planning possible. Without the use of assumptions, planning would be almost impossible. Since planning deals with the “futurity of current decision-making” and events in the future are almost impossible to predict with unfailing accuracy; – assumptions make planning possible.

5. DEVELOPING OBJECTIVES

Overall objectives are the real crux of the Business and Marketing Planning Process. They deserve every last ounce of time and effort – often frustrating. The objectives form the umbrella under which the balance of the whole planning structure is built. Because of the key role they play they must be thought through and be expressed in the most specific and concrete fashion. In simplest terms an objective is… “what do you want to accomplish?” Objectives are prepared to overcome weaknesses and threats developed in the WOTSUP Analysis and to exploit the opportunities and strengths.

6. STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT:

Once the objectives have been developed, the preparation of strategies is the next step in the process. Strategies, must explain, in a broad sense, how the objectives will be achieved.

7. SPECIFY ACTION PROGRAMS:

After the objectives and strategies have been developed, describe the work to be performed. The actions must be very specific; what work is to be done, by whom, how and when.

8. FORECASTS/BUDGETS/FINANCIALS PREPARED:

The action programs when completed form the basis for budget preparation. The cost of each action and the revenues derived from the detailed actions generate the operating budget and cash flows for the Business Plan.

Many organizations confuse planning with budgeting. One important purpose of the budget is to ensure the business has adequate financial resources to function. Budgeting is about not failing, planning is about what is possible.

The Solo Entrepreneur’s Success Secret: Planning Time for Business Development

One of the primary issues about which my clients complain is that they never stop running their businesses. They say their day is an endless cycle of completing tasks for clients, having conversations with prospective clients, and networking to find clients. They know that they need to find some time to plan what they’re doing and where they’re going in their businesses, and the only time they manage to carve out for themselves to do this is late at night with a glass of wine in hand, on Saturday morning in the midst of a child’s soccer game, or on a Sunday afternoon at the dining room table when the kids are working on school projects. How productive can anyone be in that kind of environment?

Normally, when you think of time management, you’re told to put your tasks in 3 categories (A, B, and C) based on priority, with the As being the highest priority, and then do all the tasks the A list. Poof — time management — done! If it were only that easy..LOL

The time management system that I’m currently using is a bigger-picture system, focusing on the overall plan of how you structure your time rather than on the actual tasks, although that does come into play. In this system, you have 3 kinds of days: Rest Days, Profit-Generating Days, and Business Development Days. You can set as many (or as few of these) as you like each week, as long as the total number adds up to 7 for a full week.

I’ve purchased a large laminated wall planner for the current year and a set of colored sticker dots to graphically represent on this calendar my Rest, Profit-Generating, and Business Development Days. I’ve found that having this hanging on the wall in front of me helps tremendously in my planning, and when presented with an opportunity, helps me determine how viable it is in relation to the time I have available.

On your Rest Days, you are free to do anything at all except work-related tasks. You can meditate, veg on the couch, spend time with friends and family, go for hike, or take a vacation. The goal on your Rest Days is to revitalize and rejuvenate your spirit and not think about business, work, or money. This is the first set of days I’d like you to plan for yourself. Yep, you heard me right. Repeat after me, “Pay yourself first.” What works with money also works with time! Currently, for me, that translates into 2 Free Days per week. I then have a number of longer vacation periods kicking in and 3 and 4-day weekends. Remember, all work and no play makes Jill a cranky girl….

Next fill in your Business Development Days, which is the time when you’re working ON your business, not IN your business. The Business Development Days are the most important days for a business owner because they’re serve as your business management days, or time when you focus on finances, marketing, sales, resources, and personnel.

Let me repeat — this is the most important day of your week. You can’t grow and market your business while you’re doing the actual work of the business, so devote at least one day per week to developing and overseeing your business. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, Business Development Days are vital to your success. Your business will not be able to grow and prosper without regularly scheduled business development time. My business development day is sacred, and I guard it like the Hope Diamond. Only in extreme emergencies do I let other things interrupt my Business Development Day.

The most compelling reason that Business Development Days are vital to your existence is because without that time, you don’t have any of the third kind of day, the Profit-Generating Days.

Whatever is left of the week are Profit-Generating Days, or the time when you’re actually working in your business, doing the work of the business. These are the days that you’re working with clients, answering their problems and concerns, or conducting other activities in which you’re directly generating revenue. In some businesses this time might be called “billable hours.”

So, my current schedule is as follows:

Saturday and Sunday: Rest Days

Monday and Tuesday: Profit-Generating Days

Wednesday: Business Development Day

Thursday and Friday: Profit-Generating Days

I started this type of long-range planning several years ago, and have found it to be incredibly empowering. I guess I’d fallen into the M-F, 9-5 rut again without realizing it, and spent all that time working with clients rather than spending any time on the business development side and taking a long, hard look at what I really wanted out of my business. What was helpful to me was realizing that I’m not going to always be 100% faithful to this system, as opportunities arise that I can’t control. However, I know if I commit to being 80-90% faithful to the system, I’ll do just fine.

Start planning time for your business development today. Buy your calendar, set aside some time to map out your year, and begin to experience the power of actually being in the driver’s seat of your business.

Copyright 2006 Donna Gunter

Facebook Role in Business Development – The New Face of Business Marketing

Business and community since ancient times, have correlated on a common platform, which has given way to collaborations, conglomerates and the corporate. From old-time barter to trade, the link to business was through communities. Tapping the same potential in the internet world are social networking sites such as Facebook.

What is Facebook’s role in business development?

The internet has helped business to assume global dimensions in the initial stages itself. What would have traditionally cost a colossus in terms of over-the-sea advertising, or trans-border marketing has now become much cheaper, with the evolution of the internet technology. It is not only the cost effectiveness but also time-zone-transcendental phenomenon of the “I” power, which helps you remain ‘connected’ always.

Now with such a scenario presented in the internet space, social networking sites such as Facebook helps you connect to serve your business interests. With a user-base of more than 61 million, there is a wider reach to business-profiles, entrepreneurs (budding and established), whom you can reach through the site.

In a way, social networking sites can give a jumpstart to your business if you have the directions and pointers right, and such as the ones like Facebook, can play a strategic role in business development in length, breadth and depth.

The first step is that of creating a profile for your business. Before you go about launching your business profile on Facebook, you need to frame your key marketing strategies, as to what are the objectives you desire to achieve for your business, and the scope of your business performance and your business viability in the online medium of marketing. Once you have these parameters defined, you have the foundation of a business profile, which you can build by employing some of the custom tools in Facebook. Some apps can also be downloaded as according to your business requirement. When you have the framework ready, you need to establish links/contacts for this framework, so that your business community expands or links to other businesses. There are sophisticated features and advanced search criteria in Facebook through which you can search for business contacts or get in touch with hi-profile business people. As the key to expanding your Facebook base it is imperative to create a profile which is attractive, authentic and achieving. As the first impression to a prospective business partner or a customer, your business profile is the first window of opportunity within the community of Facebook users and outside the boundary of the site as well. Your profile can be projected as a business badge in other networking sites, blogs etc.

From being the ‘face’ of your business profile, Facebook role in business development can be substantiated through various apps such as MyBox, Business cards which can be downloaded from the site. Apart from these, features and tools such as creating events, or writing notes or announcements about strategic business developments will help in maximizing your business potential; by being a medium of advertising and a platform for joint-ventures with other business of common interests.

Facebook has features to list out priorities for your business. You could categorize your friends’ list as top friends, blog friends, with socialistic apps, interactive friends graph, and apps for free conference calls. In view of establishing a communication interface and therefrom a platform for interaction, association and partnership, Facebook’s role in business development is significant. Additionally, there are also RSS feeds and email alerts utilities which you can customize for your business purpose.

Business is all about brand building. The techniques and ethics you would employ in real-time scenarios namely credibility, authenticity, commitment, a die-hard passion for growth, ambition is what you would need to project in sites such as Facebook, with the apps and utilities available. You need to translate projections into performance and make trust a very much existent element, in the extensive yet vulnerable web medium.