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)
We recognize that this is a historic time with the Coronavirus impacting all plans for businesses, nonprofits, organizations — every aspect of our daily work and personal lives — all over America! And, beyond our borders.
With this in mind, we want to remind you that we are still “open” — using CDC social distance practices — and stand ready to assist with your actions to communicate to employees, customers and the public.
So, please contact us if you want to go over your actions to communicate going forward. Using our expertise to help during a crisis is not about commercial advantage or profit. It is about doing the right thing for our country and showing our company’s true values and citizenship.
Lessons learned from past experience as a senior public relations practitioner for 911, Katrina and other national crisis situations has taught me:
- Times of crisis can be confusing and frightening, resulting in an amplification of speculation, conspiracy theories, and fiction.
- Use only OFFICIAL sources for facts and information.
- Rumors and mis-information will continue to increase as the length of this unprecedented circumstances continue.
- Again, please DO NOT share information that is not from official sources, i.e., federal, state, county and city. You should start with this site:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Coronavirus.gov is the official app of the US Government and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Joint Task Force including the agencies of the CDC, White House, Health and Human Services, and FEMA.
John Hopkins University for the Number of Global Cases
Each state has an official website to get resources, updates and what you should know. Here is ours in Colorado: https://covid19.colorado.gov
Some of have asked what the US military is doing. Here is a FOX news clip that provides excellent information.
Finally, the need to provide a hopeful and caring message in your dialogue with employees, customers and the public is key as you continue to respond to this situation.
Stay safe. Remain healthy.
Michael B. Perini, USAF-Col. (Ret)
President & CEO
I first blogged this topic in 2013 and still believe today that we remain in a new and ever-changing age of photography.
With the continual evolution of both stand-alone digital cameras and new models of smartphones coming out for the holidays, by gosh, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight of this technological revolution!
The number of photos that you and I take in a year has gone through the roof. In fact, in a recent study by The Conversation, it was claimed that as many as I TRILLION photos were taken in 2018.
Here are couple of other interesting facts.
- 95 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram every day!
- As for Facebook, 250 billion is the total number of photos you will find.
So, the answer to my question, is “Yes”. Photos are still necessary as “currency”. For you wanting to use photos in your business to attract customers then that photo must be special. Picture this in your mind. A photo with two small dogs. Wearing funny hats and dark sunglasses. I would offer up to you that this photo has more than a bark! This photo generates emotions and questions.
“Aren’t they cute!”
“Where’s the red carpet?”
“How’d they get them to sit still?”
“Are those prescription specs?”
This photo of these trendy dogs begs viewers to want to know more.
In the public relations and marketing world having photos that communicate like this one are key to the success of your business, nonprofit or special event.
What makes a great photo; in a nutshell a great photo is one that helps tell your message. Here are several factors that I always remembered when selecting photos for clients:
Wow factor! There is so much competition for your personal attention. Again, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. If we are to be successful and capture your time and attention, then we need to show an image that has that “wow” factor. Immediate reaction…positive or negative, depending on your objective…is what you need to look for.
BRIGHT is right. The image needs to be visible. By that I mean a photo that expresses an emotion, view or drives you to action. A lot of vivid colors work for me and drive me to action.
Mystery with a +. The image should leave you wanting more. This photo does that for me. You?
I think this topic of photos for business is one that we need to come back to.
Bottomline is: If you want your photo to get noticed…then you need to get creative.
We would really like to hear your comments about photography. Here are several examples of great ones!