Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

Small Business says “What Fiscal Cliff?”

After today’s Bluffton Chamber breakfast, the Chamber and the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs hosted a small business workshop on the challenges of being an entrepreneur. About 25 entrepreneurs (and 17 Bluffton University business students) representing businesses from Bluffton, Findlay, Pandora, Columbus Grove, Ada, Beaverdam, and Lima swapped stories, offered advice, and shared words of wisdom about running a business from personal experience.

What stood out to me were the answers given to the following questions: “Does political noise, “fiscal cliff” drama, and discouraging economic news affect the way you run your business? And are you less inclined to grow and look for new opportunities as a result of today’s business climate?” The answer I heard from people around the room was largely the same: “if you’re not moving forward, you’re likely headed in the other direction.”

There are certainly businesses that are cutting spending and taking a less optimistic approach to 2013. American Express announced yesterday they are going to eliminate about 5,400 jobs this year as part of a restructuring effort. Morgan Stanley is also eliminating 1,600 jobs according to reports earlier this week.

However, the small businesses in the room today maintained that success doesn’t come from sitting still and it’s better to look past the negativity and find ways to adapt and grow. It takes partners who share this mindset for businesses to succeed. In places like Bluffton, Pandora, Findlay and other local communities, willing partners include community banks. A bank of any size sitting on excess funds can decide it’s time to put loans on the books and grow by buying business. However, when the economy falters and large national banks retreat, cut ties with small businesses they’ve suddenly lost the appetite for supporting, and then wait for better days, the value of invested community banks is significant.

Chase and Jamie Dimon don’t need Bluffton or Findlay. Bank of America doesn’t need Pandora. But First National Bank needs Bluffton. First National Bank needs Pandora and Findlay. Ditto for Citizens National Bank and the communities it serves. Businesses and banks need each other to thrive–and healty communities need both–and the right mix is what allows small business to look forward and succeed in spite of challenges.

New Business Coming To Bluffton!

A new business will be opening its doors on June 24, 2011, in Bluffton, Ohio.

And, earlier this spring I had the opportunity to facilitate a strategic planning session for this aspiring business.  The company has about 40 employees that are full of energy, passion and enthusiasm.  They come from different backgrounds but they all have bright minds and you can see the potential when they start moving in the same direction towards a common goal.

I facilitated the strategic planning session to help them think through their idea and formalize a business model.  Their product isn’t necessarily anything special, but their presentation and delivery is where they have a competitive advantage.  The ideas flew fast and furious.  I had trouble keeping up, but here are a few notes we took at the planning session:

Proposed Business Location: Downtown Bluffton (Main St and Cherry)

Direct Competition: There will be plenty of it; will be tough to compete long-term; especially Common Grounds, Community Markets, The Food Store, etc.

Target Market: Any human, all ages; must be thirsty

Product Pricing: $0.50/item; try to encourage repeat business and BIG tips

Competitive Advantage: Young, enthusiastic, persuasive, cute

Marketing: Social media and local media(I offered to help with this one), door-to-door selling (see note above on being persuasive and cute), pass out coupons on Main Street, make lots of noise at the business location, have customers wear stickers publicizing that they participated.

Hours of Operation: Friday, June 24, 2011, 1-5pm; see how it goes and play it by ear to determine if we reopen after Friday.

Goal: Earn, Save, and Spend wisely; Develop the entrepreneurial spirit; plant the seed early to encourage financial responsibility; Build Community Greatness

Business Name: Young Entrepreneurs

Product: Best lemonade this side of Main Street

What to Watch For: Very persistent Young Entrepreneurs in royal Blue T-Shirts coming after you with a glass of lemonade and a sticker

What the Young Entrepreneuers will do with their earnings: Deposit in their savings accounts

How You (the reader) can Help: Visit the “Big Lemonade Stand” on June 24 in Bluffton and show your support for these Young Entrepreneurs who are learning first-hand about responsibility, earning money, creativity, and teamwork

Member FDIC          Equal Housing Lender

 

 

So…The Big Banks finally get it

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, “Banks” are getting back to the people business.  The funny thing is that when they say “Banks” they mean the biggest banks in the country.  According to the Journal, “deep customer relationships were the bedrock of the U.S. banking industry, especially at small financial institutions.  That ended at many regional and big banks with the rise of computer-driven credit scoring models…”  The Journal goes on to say that, after a few rough years, those same big banks are trying to go back to the model that has worked so well for community banks–know your customer, and look at credit AND character.  Good community banks never stopped using this model. 

Community banking works because we’re a typically a conservative bunch of businesspeople.  We have high standards but we’re not beholden to a business model that throws out the good clients with the bad.  So we look for business owners that know what they’re doing and that also have strong character. Our customers know us and we know them.  Ideally, it creates an accountability on the part of both the lender and the borrower because we are working with people we know in communitites we want to see grow.  Poor decisions hurt us and the community at large.

So, go see a good community banker if you want to work with someone who cares about you and your business, knows the communities you know, and wants you to succeed.

Lemonade Anyone??

Lemonade Anyone??

My daughter Clara would make Donald Trump proud. Ever since she was old enough to know that money buys things, she has been scheming about different ways she can earn money. Over the last year or so her focus has been on buying a laptop computer for the different games and activities she enjoys. She knows they are expensive but that hasn’t stopped her from saving her pennies anyways. Her dad will probably have to subsidize her purchase later this year, but for now she keeps on plugging away. Some of the projects she has undertaken include growing and selling gourds from Grandma Matthews’ garden, selling a homemade soapy concoction to Judy Augsburger and other understanding neighbors, and helping out with our periodic garage sales. But her all time favorite money maker is the old standby: a lemonade stand.

I can’t tell you how many times she will race up to me in the middle of winter or during a spring downpour and ask if she can go out and sell lemonade for her laptop fund. As tiresome as that question can be in the dead of winter, her persistence and entrepreneurial spirit are inspiring. And her favorite small business has recently been the inspiration for a new youth program we are starting at First National Bank.

Until we come up with a better name we are calling our new program the “Young Entrepreneurs” and it is designed to inspire kids to earn, save, and take responsibility for their own money. Every year we spend time in area schools teaching students about the importance of saving and about understanding the value of money. This year we have been taking this one step farther and are encouraging them to take ownership of the things they want by earning their own money.

The Bank already offers a youth savings account called Moola-Moola and we are giving away business kits to children who open or already have an account. The packet includes a zippered change bag, checklists for helping to plan a lemonade stand or any other youth project, a pencil, and for the first 50 kids who come in after June 1 we will also give them a poster board so they can advertise their business with a poster.

If we can inspire kids like Clara to think about earning and saving money now, they will be that much farther ahead as they grow older. Feel free to bring your child or grandchild into any of our branches and we can help give your young entrepreneurs the tools they will need to make a little lemonade out of lemons.

Member FDIC