On average, about two thirds of small businesses survive the first two years, half survive five years, and one in three 10 years, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). After the most difficult (and most volatile) first few years, survival rates flatten out. Keep in mind that not surviving doesn’t necessarily mean failure, either, because a business could be sold or merged with another, according to NFIB.
Many Woodland Park small business owners are excellent examples of how America is built.
If you live here long enough and we have, since 2002, we have seen entrepreneurs make our mountain community a favorite to live, work and have fun in.
Business owners who choose to start in our town can put their heart and soul (and financial savings) into a new business only to have the following predictable mistakes derail their “dreams” for success.
Here are five key mistakes that each new business owner should be aware of. Plus, we have provided recommendations based on our 11 years in business assisting small business clients.
First, being cheap. For each dollar you save you might increase that smile on your face. However, if you get too carried away with saving money, you might end up losing opportunities and customers as competitors make changes to meet demands. Set aside 10%-15% of your operations budget to respond to changes in consumer demands. Also don’t forget to explore every possible avenue for free (or nearly free) funding.
Second, refusing to hire those who might be smarter than you. Yes, an employee might know more than you about a particular aspect of your business. Great! Let them do what they do best. I can tell you that skills listed on a resume don’t always create productive teams. So, be sure and build teams that work well together. Collaborative teams are much more effective than individual stars.
Third, can’t make priorities. This is where you need to become a gold medalist. There is always so much to do and little time to do it. I was once told when the list of things to do was so overwhelming “eating and sleeping was a sign of weakness”. I don’t agree. You need to stay physically fit. So, pick one priority and focus on it and rank order the remaining.
Fourth, your ego. Yes, it can get in the way. You can’t control everything or be the best at all critical business components. We find business owners who believe, for example they can do their own PR and marketing. Statistics show otherwise with many unsure how to integrate PR into their business or grasp how to keep their reputation intact during a crisis. So, yes, it is important to know when you’re stretched and need help.
Fifth, the signs. You either didn’t see them or chose to avoid them. Common signs for failing include small levels or lack of cash, inability to pay back loans on time, inability to pay suppliers on time, customers that pay late, loss of clientele, ill prepared for a crisis and an unclear business strategy.
Finally, much can go wrong when starting a business. It might shock you, but failure is a part of business. Learn from the missteps and structure your business to make the most of it for future success.
(Source: Initial printing in Woodland Park Living, July 2022)
Michael B Perini, ABC, is president of Perini & Associates, a full-service public relations and marketing firm based in Woodland Park. Best of Teller Award 2022, 2021 and 2020. FAA Certified Drone Pilot. Military veteran. Reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With drone technology evolving, more brands are understanding the value for the use of drones to reach target audiences (customers, clients, supporters, stakeholders, etc.).
It is the same direction for our firm. We have invested for our clients in an FAA Certified Part 107 commercial drone license.
Drones have numerous public relations and marketing uses:
- website videos
- content video
- press releases
- delivering products and supplies
- real estate
- generating buzz
Our three-part video series located on our YouTube channel shows how we are now able to provide clients with a new and innovative tool in outreach to engage customers, supporters, and clients with a much higher recall value from all who access a client’s video. Our 3-part series showcases the angles, heights and stop and go variety of our drone shots. The stats in the videos are from Dronepedia as of December 19, 2021.
Clearly, the future of public relations and marketing is headed upward; the sky after all is our largest billboard.
Please Check out our 3-part series.
Part 1: https://youtu.be/mx7ORW0DIfc
Part 2: https://youtu.be/AWs1VgRvlDg
Part 3: https://youtu.be/Ki59MubU2sE
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), over 80% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within the first five years. And, only about half of small businesses survive pass the five-year mark, ranging from 45.4% to 51% depending on the year the business was started.
Beyond that, only about one in three small businesses get to the 10-year mark and live to tell the tale. Unfortunately, our community is similar when it comes to small businesses facing obstacles to success – as shown by the vacancy signs on main street Woodland Park.
As discouraging as this may sound, there are still new businesses starting up here in our community and elsewhere. We know from our client experience if a business identifies the primary causes of small business failure, adjustments can be made to allow that business to place the odds in their favor.
So, if you are a new business owner or are planning to start a business (home or otherwise) here are the primary obstacles to success to be mindful of:
Insufficient capital (money).
The math just doesn’t work. If you don’t have enough cash to carry you through the first six months or so before the business starts making money, your prospects for success are not good. Consider both business and personal living expenses when determining how much cash you will need for investment in the business (employees, equipment, marketing, etc.) and be prepared for a “business emergency”, i.e., theft, natural disasters or a competitor who sets up nearby. Additionally, you may feel like you cannot afford to give your customers something free or at a discount. But in reality, you can’t afford not to.
Believing you can do everything yourself.
One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is to let go. Let go of the attitude that you must have hands-on control of all aspects of your business. Let go of the belief that only you can make decisions. Concentrate on the most important challenges facing your business. Let others help you out. Give trusted advisors responsibility and authority.
Failure to clearly define and understand your market, your customers, and your customers’ buying habits.
Who are your customers? You should be able to clearly identify them in one or two sentences. How are you going to reach them? Is your product or service seasonal? What will you do in the off-season? How loyal are your potential customers to their current supplier? Do customers keep coming back or do they just purchase from you one time? Does it take a long time to close a sale or are your customers more driven by impulse buying?
Failure to anticipate or react to competition, technology, or other changes in the marketplace.
It is dangerous to assume that what you have done in the past will always work. Challenge the factors that led to your success. Do you still do things the same way despite new market demands and changing times? What is your competition doing differently? What new technology is available? Be open to social media; online tools (website, EZ-texting and Geo-Fencing) and the explosion in the use of smart devices. Experiment. Those who fail to invest in the new tools to attract and retain customers end up becoming pawns to those who do.
PR and Marketing Mishaps.
Business owners often fail to prepare for the public relations needs of a company in terms of capital required, prospect reach and accurate conversion ratio projections. When companies underestimate the total cost of early PR and marketing campaigns, it is often difficult to secure financing or redirect capital from other business departments. Because PR is a crucial aspect of any early-stage business, it is necessary for companies to ensure they have established realistic budgets for marketing needs.
“In life, you may have forgiving friends and relatives, but entrepreneurship is rarely forgiving. Eventually, everything shows up in the soup. If people don’t like the soup, employees stop working for you, and customers stop doing business with you. And that is why businesses fail”. — Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.
Michael B Perini, ABC, is president of Perini & Associates, a full-service public relations and marketing firm based in Woodland Park. Best of Teller Award 2021 and 2020. Reach him at email@example.com.
NOTE: This article first appeared in Woodland Park Living magazine, September 2021)
Likely, the COVID-19 pandemic will still impact services provided by a business through 2021.
We know this news is not what you wanted to hear, but we believe it’s prudent to be ready to live along side of COVID-19 for the remainder of 2021.
So, how is this foreboding forecast overcome if you are a small business owner or self-employed?
First, by being pragmatic. Any business that hasn’t figured out a way to protect employees and customers from the virus, and fence off products, services or supply chains needs to do so immediately.
Second, resilience is key. We need to learn how to conduct business with the virus, respect the mandates to wear masks and integrate social distancing measures for the foreseeable future. If your business isn’t nimble and adaptable to COVID fallout in 2021 you will face a challenging future.
Third, be knowledgeable about some common trends we anticipate will become leading public relations and marketing tactics for the rest of 2021:
- Create a human connection – online. “Ninety percent of people in the U.S. are spending more time on their devices,” according to McKinsey & Company, a marketing and sales firm. So, take steps to Improve your mobile shopping or service experience – make this action a priority!
- Update your messaging to meet challenging times. There’s an opportunity for businesses to get to know their customers on a whole new level and personalize offers, promotions, and experiences like never before. Remaining engaged with customers is a critical trend.
- A strong communications strategy and crisis communications plan are key for not only staying afloat, but also coming out of the pandemic in a stronger position. You never know when you might have a customer or employee test positive for COVID-19. You must be ready to mitigate the situation and demonstrate your business’ ability to overcome bad news.
- Reputation Management. With mounting political division and social media missteps in controlling news and information, your company needs to be ready to detect and to act on potential PR issues. Quickly being able to plan and react to the news cycle will be important to branding and customer confidence.
- B2B. Business-to-Business purchasing and servicing will be even more important than ever. Every Woodland Park and Teller County business is impacted by COVID. So, learn from neighbor businesses and adopt best practices. Set up a series “Customer Engagement” meetings to drive success in 2021. Look, you can avoid the “race to the bottom” if you are willing to partner and work together to expand customers by collaborating.
- Remain Positive. We really believe the “worst” is over! And, we see this development with the increased attention our firm is being given to provide PR and marketing services.
Now into Spring and Summer to quickly follow it is THE time to return to a “new normal”. You need to look past the last 15 months and focus on the future. If your business comes to grips with lessons learned during 2020 then you will be on a strategy for renewed success; able to pivot and weather all types of disruptions.
Michael B Perini, ABC is president of Perini & Associates, a full-service public relations and marketing firm based in Woodland Park, CO. Reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Playing a role in our community can be good for business. In a competitive professional environment, potential customers tend to do business with those companies that demonstrate social responsibility.
Here are a few ideas we have learned from our community engagement that you can apply to your own business. Remember, it’s all about creating goodwill (and good karma):
- Take an active interest in community issues.From the continued tourism challenges to the downtown planned development options to attract new businesses to Woodland Park and the Teller County area.
- Sponsor youth activities. There are many activities to choose from. Baseball. Volleyball. Music. Theatre. Take a group photo and hang it on your office wall. Sponsoring youth activities will make you feel good while at the same time sending a signal that your business cares about the future generation.
- Participate in local government. Business leaders can volunteer to share their expertise on various city and/or county committees. Opportunities are posted on the City of Woodland Park website at https://city-woodlandpark.org and for Teller County at http://www.co.teller.co.us.
- Join and/or present to business and service groups. Membership in local organizations can really help sell your products and services by showcasing your knowledge and relationship building skills. Offer to make a 10-15-minute presentation. Public speaking is a great way to network. Make sure you bring business cards.
- Purchase materials and supplies from local companies. “Shop Local” is a true call to action. What we need to do is to apply it to our daily routine. Demonstrating your support to spend your resources locally opens up a world of return business.
- Support local charities and take part in civic activities. Sponsor a fundraising dinner or event, like a bike race or parade. Get involved with Keep Woodland Park Beautiful’s annual City Cleanup. From there, you gain exposure for your business and you show that you care to make the community a better place to live and work.
- 7. Recognize your employees for community volunteer activities. Review your community engagement plan each year with the goal of building off past successes.
Involvement in the community is a great step to becoming a respected leader, as well as building customer loyalty for the long term.
(Note: Article first appeared in Woodland Park Living, March 2020 I Michael B Perini, ABC, is president of Perini & Associates, a full-service public relations and marketing firm since 2009 based in Woodland Park. Reach him at email@example.com.
Webinar Hosted by The Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce I April 29, 2020
(AS DELIVERED) By Michael B. Perini, Panel Member
Thanks for setting this webinar up and for the opportunity to share some insights on how to communicate a business or nonprofit re-opening.
First, I just want to say we at perini & associates are so sorry for everyone who has been ill and/or had a loved one die due to covid-19.
As some of the panel members have already said, sharing reliable, trustworthy information is important during a crisis.
Having a plan to successfully reopen depends heavily on the communications strategy and the activities that are developed.
Lessons I learned from past experience as a senior public relations practitioner during 911, hurricane Katrina, forest fires and other crisis situations has taught me critical lessons communicating to employees, stakeholders, news media and the general public.
I know due to covid-19 many are frustrated and stressed and as a result the amount of information your customers can understand and remember at one time needs to be communicated in clear, simple ways.
There is a need to provide hopeful and caring messages in dialogues with employees, customers and the general public going forward.
Always be truthful.
The fact you are likely operating on a very meager budget the ways you can communicate your reopening needs to use tools that are not so time consuming in human resources and financial expense. I understand that.
So, here are some ideas.
And if we have time, I would be glad to offer other examples of what you can do if you have a marketing budget, which of course, I would recommend to really accelerate information getting to customers as you reopen.
First, be intentional about telling the public that you are reopening. This is no time to be shy.
Second, be sure to inform customers about your safety measures.
This includes mentioning hand sanitizer, masks, no more than 10 customers at a time and social distancing/requiring that tables are 6-ft apart, etc.
Whatever the guidelines are from state, county, city and public health departments for you to reopen. These need to be visible and made clear so that people feel safe in your business.
Now for some specifics. I am going to cover these quickly for those of you who might be taking notes but would be willing to provide additional details during the question period. Also, you will find this list on our website later today. Www.periniassociates.com
Let’s start with:
- Each day pick three phone contacts to text or call about reopening.
- Each day have your employees make three phone calls or text to their friends, family and those they already connect with the great reopening news.
- Change your business voicemail now to the message that you are opening –with dates and times. Because most people do not like long answering machine messages direct them to your business facebook page or website or even the flyer you have placed on your storefront with additional details.
- Speaking of flyers, these can be easily designed and are very inexpensive to generate. Post them around town. There are many places where flyers are accepted. I would suggest 8.5 x 11 so other businesses can also have space to communicate their reopening.
- If you belong to a church or any community organization share your reopening information with them at least 7 t0 10 days in advance – if you can — and ask them to share it with their members.
- Send the information about your reopening via email and ask others you know to do the same.
- If you are on social media, then place a post on your page and on the teller county and woodland park groups. There are many to choose from. Be sure to ask all to share. You can also take photos of your preps to reopen and pass them along. This will generate “buzz” as we say in the marketing world and will encourage conversation about your business.
- And yes, if you have a website place your announcement on the front page – large enough for viewers to see right away.
- I would also suggest you call the local media and tell them that you are reopening. This is a hot news topic and you are likely to get positive exposure reaching many people that you would not likely have been able to so efficiently. The reporter might even want to cover your first days back. If so, you should encourage it.
- Now is the time to think about signage. “we are open” signs displayed prominently either in windows and/or with yard signs and/or with banners. For ex – we know one local business owner who is going to display a vinyl, limited menu in her front window.
- Along these lines, you should have an employee stand out in front of your store front with a sign indicating that you are again open.
- Offer discounts and meal specials for the first week or so to build your return business. For ex, one local restaurant we know of will be offering family meal deals.
- Again, I am trying to keep these ideas at little to no cost, but buying an inexpensive fb ad to announce openings, specials and days/hours is also something you should consider. You can do this for just a couple of dollars a day with really good targeting results.
- If you are a Chamber member, you should create a post for the weekly grapevine. It goes to many beyond just chamber members and is an excellent way to promote your reopening.
- There are many electronic community boards out there where you can post short announcements for free.
Look, if you have a budget for paid advertising then yes, you should consider print, radio, tv and online.
Again, as I said at the start, now is the time to plan to communicate. If you take action now, then you be rewarded with customers returning sooner.
Finally, I would be interested in any marketing ideas you might like to pass along to those on the webinar. I am sure they would appreciate it. (AS DELIVERED)