Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chamber slates business breakfasts

Staff Writer

The Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a new series of small business breakfasts and roundtable discussions beginning Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 a.m.

Don Fischer, director of the Small Business Development Center at Ole Miss will facilitate the talks that will be held at City Cafe’ McA Style downtown.

A small business-related topic will be taken up at each of four scheduled meetings set for the first Thursday in each month.

The topic for the September 1 roundtable will be “How to seek, identify and satisfy customer expectations.”

The discussions will bear upon 10 important points for success of a small business, which Fischer touched upon as guest speaker at last week’s Chamber luncheon.

Some of the tips for new and existing businesses Fischer laid out included:

  • tie the vision for the business to a sound business plan with goals. Some visionaries are not good business managers, he said. The Small Business Development Center helps new entrepreneurs draw up a business plan in confidentiality, he said.
  • get the management, organizing and controlling skills needed for the business.

    “Most small businesses don’t have the management tools in place to know when things are not going right,” he said.

  • know your business niche and how to defend it.

    “Successful companies know their competitors, who to appeal to, and the strengths and weaknesses of the competition,” he said. “Price the product for a profit.”

  • attain a consistent level of service or product. Successful businesses have written policies and procedures that preplan decisions, Fischer said. A self-analysis checklist helps monitor the consistency and quality level of services. Know how to recover a customer if a mistake is made.
  • recruit, select and train the best people available. Hire intelligent and intrinsically motivated people who work well with others and communicate well, he said.
  • build a good customer data base. Use after-sale surveys and seek to satisfy the customer.

    “It is easier to retain a customer than to find one,” Fischer said.

  • pay attention to key suppliers and the things going on around your business continuously. Adjust the business plan when things change.
  • know that cash flow is more important than profits or losses. Monitor and measure the vital signs of the business monthly.
  • maintain a company’s six best friends - the CPA, attorney, banker, insurance agent, Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Development Center.

The Small Business Development Center at Ole Miss partners with state and federal government to provide free and confidential consulting and free workshop training throughout the state.

The Ole Miss center works with 19 counties carrying 500 to 600 clients for the year. Seventy percent are new businesses and the remaining are established ones, Fischer said. This year Mississippi added 7,000 new businesses.

Small business undergirds the state’s economy to the tune of 98 percent, according to Fischer. Six thousand small businesses will go out of business either by folding or ending a natural business life or by being sold.

Fischer said one-half of business failures are due to lack of management skills.

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