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Related News

New survey report: small business confidence hits highest level in three years

SBAM’s national affiliate, the National Small Business Association (NSBA), today released its 2011 Year-End Economic Report, which shows a decidedly more positive outlook for America’s small businesses, with important gains in several key indicators. Most notably, more small-business owners report being confident about the future of their businesses than at any time in the last three years, up from 64 percent just six months ago to 75 percent today. 

“Although this report is by far the most positive we’ve seen in quite some time, it is imperative policymakers not mistake these gains for a task completed,” stated NSBA Chair Chris Holman, CEO of Michigan Business Network.com and President of The Greater Lansing Business Monthly. “There are countless issues that continue to hinder small businesses.”

While the majority of small-business owners (66 percent) continue to anticipate a flat economy in the coming year, the number expecting a recession was more than cut in half at 14 percent, down from 30 percent six months ago. Additionally, the number of small businesses expecting economic expansion in the coming year nearly doubled from 12 percent to 20 percent in six months.
Revenue growth was at its highest point in more than three years with 46 percent of small businesses reporting increases—up from 39 percent six months ago. There was a commensurate drop in those reporting decreases in revenue from 37 percent to 31 percent. And while job growth didn’t experience the same kind of growth—it remained unchanged at just 22 percent reporting increases—the number of small businesses (23 percent) reporting employment decreases was the lowest it’s been in three years.
When asked which issues are most important for policymakers to address, small businesses overwhelmingly ranked reducing the national deficit number one—up to 44 percent from 34 percent six months ago—followed by reducing tax and regulatory burdens and reigning in the costs of health care. Along those lines, there was a marked increase among small-business owners who cited regulatory burdens as a major challenge for their business—up from 31 percent six months ago to 40 percent today.
Please click here to access the 2011 Year-End Economic Report.

Entrepreneurship: Instrument for Positive Social Change

By Mark H. Clevey, MPA, Entre/Intrapreneurship Consultant and co-author of the Michigan Entrepreneurship Scord Card

In 2011 the Michigan Municipal League published a new book titled, “The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People” that identified entrepreneurship as one of five key drivers of community and economic development. Entrepreneur extraordinaire Josh Linkner notes that entrepreneurs drive this development because they, by definition, “change the world.” More importantly, research increasingly shows that entrepreneurs change the world other than by simply by making a better mouse trap. They do so by creating and catalyzing a paradigm of entrepreneurship that makes the social, cultural, community and economic systems that surround them more entrepreneurial as well. When this influence reaches a tipping point it becomes, in the words of Google, an “entrepreneurialist culture.” 

According to Google, an, “Entrepreneurialist Culture is not just relevant to business and engineering students contemplating starting their own businesses. It is just as relevant to people who intend to seek employment with large companies or, indeed, are going to enter public service, Non Governmental Organizations, charities, museums, hospitals, universities, public school administration and the like.”

Even more importantly, research shows that an entrepreneurialist culture is more than just the sum of its parts. It is characterized primarily by a synergistic “virtuous cycle” where a greater number of innovative people lead to shared ideas which further leads to growth in institutions that foster innovation that in turn attract more innovative people from less fertile communities and so on. Over the last eight years, SBAM’s Annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card has researched the issue of “entrepreneurialist culture” and has found that entrepreneurship typically flourishes in three key ways:

• Small Business Entrepreneurs are defined as firms that effectively combine technical innovation with intent and capacity for growth in high growth potential markets. 

• Intrapreneurs - While an entrepreneur is defined as an individual that takes primary responsibility for venture creation, intrapreneurs are entrepreneurs who reside inside of existing organizations that serve as change agents, steering their hosts in new directions of growth, diversification, profitability and impact. 

• Social Entre/Intrapreneurs - In 1980, Bill Drayton, a management consultant working for McKinsey & Company, coined the term “social entrepreneur” as an individual who uses entrepreneurship principally to generate positive social change operating in both the private and non-profit sectors. 

SBAM’s Score Card research indicates that communities can use Social Entrepreneurship to enhance innovation and change in non-business organizations as well as to encourage increased small business entrepreneurship as an economic revitalization strategy. Serial entrepreneur extraordinaire’ Josh Linkner, for example, tells would-be entrepreneurs that, “if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, do it to make a difference.” Many for example, look to the Charter School movement as a prime example of Social Entrepreneurship at its best – better educated students make higher performing employees and better business/community leaders and followers. In other instances, Social Entrepreneurship is being used a way to revitalize communities and seed new businesses and industries in blighted areas. Social entrepreneurs often are early adopters of new technologies, thus helping innovators compete in the marketplace. Finally, at the community level, a growing number of organizations are beginning to use social entrepreneurship principles as a way to revitalize the community based organizations that they financially support.

Those wishing to learn more about how t

You may be small (for now) but you can still grow and succeed

(By David Fant, owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

What do Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Amway Corporation all have in common? And, what is their relationship to small business? It is interesting to note that ALL big businesses started as small businesses. Rockefeller did not start as a huge corporation. Rather, he began small and grew from humble beginnings. Consider this: Amway Corporation, a $9 billion + company, started with two people. Apple Computer, a $350 billion company, started with just two people. Microsoft Corporation, another $350 billion company, started with just two people. Combined, these companies employ over 500,000 people – and that number is even greater if you count the independent sales force of Amway Corporation. So, what does that mean to you?

It does not mean you will become a company worth billions of dollars or that growing so large even has to be your goal. Rather, what it means is that you are the seed for growth. Expansion, growth, diversification are all the watch words of business today. Each of the above three companies became who they are by starting with one product, selling it well, then diversifying into other related fields. How do you go about growing?

1. First, look at what you do and analyze exactly how you can be the best in the market. Look at what you do well, and what you need to improve. Are expenses in line with revenue? Are you spending excessive amounts of money on things you don’t really need? Is your staff doing their job and selling like they should? If you’re a company of one, what is your sales process like? Are you invoicing your clients and collecting those fees or do you shrug your shoulders and say, “they will pay when they can?” Don’t forget, you do the work, you get paid. Don’t ever make an exception on that point.

2. Second, if you’re ready to grow, what areas do you work on first? My recommendation is finding new ways to sell more of what you make. If you have saturated your local market, can you expand geographically? If so, expand the market area for your company and expand sales. Don’t forget to factor in the added cost of servicing clients who are further away from your headquarters.

3. Third, diversify. Adding new products/services to your company’s portfolio is a great way to grow income as well as spread the risk of sales over more than one product line or service. One way to diversify is to purchase an existing company with similar products/services or who have the product/service you want to start to offer. They come with a staff, expertise and customer base that you won’t have to reinvent.

4. Fourth, find a new, undiscovered product or service. At one point in my business life I kept getting phone calls from prospective customers about finding homeowners who live on a body of water. The answer was “sorry, but that database doesn’t exist.” After about eight years of this, I decided there has to be a way. I did some research and analysis and two years later created a nationwide database of Waterfront Homeowners. It is unique in the market and to this day, no one has duplicated this niche database. 

Will you become the next Amway? Microsoft? Apple? Maybe not, but then again, you never know. What you do have the potential to become if you haven’t already is a small business with big impact. Find your niche, serve it well, expand and diversify when able – stay the course – you’ll find great success.

David Fant is the owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee.

How do you plan to grow? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.