Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Editor for Newsletter

After 5 ½ years its time to turn the newsletter over to a newer member.  The new editor beginning in February is Jim Roberts.  Please give him your support.

Thanks to all the contributors to the newsletter.

To the readers, I hope that the articles have been informative and helpful to you.  Send your article requests to James.Roberts@SCORE114.org

Jack James

Innovation begins with “I” !

This article was written by Carl Woodard, Chairman, SCORE Orange County

clip_image001Happy New Year to you and your business! May 2010 be your best year yet.

Are you still waiting for the fallout from Y2K?  Ten years have passed and all we have are fading memories of the worry and excitement surrounding the much anticipated end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it year 2000. Well, 2000 came and went and only the excitement lingers in our memory.  Exactly the point I want to make. Excitement seems to hang on!

Each new year brings new resolutions.  You commit to lose weight, clean the garage, plant a garden, go back to school, read and travel more, exercise regularly and, perhaps lower your golf score.  What about your business resolutions?  Perhaps you could revise your business plan or develop a better sales tool ....or add some real excitement for your customers.  Why not make 2010 a year of Innovation?

Innovation is not limited to large companies.  In fact, most of the truly new ideas and products germinate in small to medium size organizations.  And new ideas are guaranteed to generate excitement, not only for your customers but also for your employees.  Innovation gives your team something new to talk about.  And new ideas are out there, ready to be discovered.

In just one recent newspaper there are stories of a long-time chicken-only restaurant now offering steak (New menu.  New customer target.  Perhaps new profit!), a business offering a different type of “bar” at weddings (candy novelties), a store now stocking larger sizes to compete with member stores and a group that now recovers and sells bottles of wine from cases partially damaged in transit.  Each idea brings a reason to shout your message to the marketplace.  And, if you are in a service based business, you can find a way to offer new services, too.

It simply begins with asking “What if?”  Sure, you need to set aside some time to concentrate on a little dreaming, but once the ideas begin to flow, more will follow.  Call the process what you want ....thinking outside the box, blue-skying or simply dreaming.  Keep a complete list of your ideas and then give the best ones top priority in the new year.

At SCORE Orange County, we like innovation.  We continue to reach more business owners, or those just starting out, every year.  Last year, as we did in the previous four, we reached more than any other SCORE chapter in the nation.  Call us if you need help with Innovation or your Business Plan.  Then come in to see us, or we can work via the internet.  Do you need to understand your cash flow or learn how to use social networking to improve your business? SCORE offers workshops on many topics throughout the county, most at no charge.  We follow up with personal, confidential, one-on-one counseling either in person or via the internet, always at no charge.  We are well stocked with experts on finance, marketing, sales, human resources and other specialties.  And you can receive these services free.  Simply call us at 714-550-7369 and arrange an appointment or visit us at www.score114.org and sign up for a workshop or reserve an exhibit table at our next Women in Business breakfast meeting on January 15.

Remember ....Innovation begins with “I” ....that means you! And we at SCORE can help. Try us!

The Best Laid Plans

This article was written by Hillel Pitlik, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image001

Business Plans for new and existing businesses are written with intense care.  But, do we revisit this document periodically as our business proceeds.  After we invested all that effort, do we take the time to review the path we described in the plan?  Are we proceeding along the predicted path? Without doubt we have deviated.  Recognizing those deviations is critical to managing the business.

Why did we deviate?  Capturing the reason for change is critical to good management.  We must recognize that our original Business Plan was based on many assumptions and guesstimates.  So when we deviate from our plan, we begin to learn the realities of the business situation.  The defects in the original plan can be overcome by acting logically on the real world situation.  When we do so we should record the decisions and the reasons for action. As time goes on we will make numerous such decisions.  Without a record of the why, when and how we came to those critical decisions, we will not be able to review our actions and learn lessons for the future.

Businesses that ignore the lessons learned from their management actions are bound to fail.  As we move forward, know where we’ve been and decide where we are going.  The path is not always a straight line.  It consists of twists and turns in response to problems and errors in judgment.

Running a business is a matter of trial and error.  This does not mean matters are out of hand.  Only that we have learned to respond as each challenge emerges.  As time goes by, we get better at making effective responses.  But, remember, when we sit down a year from now to lay a plan for the next year, will we remember the critical decisions we made that allowed us to get thru this year?  You bet we will!  We logged each such decision and the reason why we acted.

Thus, we reduce the probability of repeating past errors.  In fact, our plans are better and the number of decision events decline year by year.  The log is the diary our business decisions.  And a review in retrospect allows us to do better in the future.

Keep on top of your business and it will be there for years to come.

Barking up the Wrong Tree? Defining your Best Target Customer

This article was written by Tom Patty, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image002

If you have been in business for awhile, you probably think you know what market you are in.  And I’m sure you think you know who your customers are and why they buy your products or services.  But are you targeting the highest value customers for your business?

Do you know what your customers are really buying?  Are you targeting the right market for your product?  These are questions that can be answered by brainstorming, customer research, and inspiration.

One of my SCORE clients is a company called “Your Story Here” and they make personal and family history video documentaries.  In business for just a few years, this small OC based video production company has already won impressive awards (Best Short Documentary and Best Documentary Award at the Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Film Festivals) and, despite the economy, is having its best year. Sales have more than doubled.

So what business are they in?  Who is their best target customer?  Because they are video biography makers they’re in the personal history business.  Right?

They certainly think they are.  They spend a lot of time and trouble appealing to the genealogy and ancestry crowd through speaking engagements, articles and blogs, as well as paid search keyword placement.  Even their website (www.yourstoryherehome.com) has a dusty feel to it (black and white photos, etc.)

Actually, I think they have been barking up the wrong tree.  I don’t think they have properly defined their market and customer.  And I think they have been leaving a lot of money on the table.  Recently I posed these questions to them –and I suggest you apply them to your business.

First, who is your best target prospect?  (By “best” I mean most lucrative considering the total cost of acquisition. In other words, are you targeting a customer who will value what you sell and will pay for it, over and over again?)  Who are these people?  What do they do? What do they value?

Let’s ask and answer these questions for “Your Story Here.”

First, “what do your customers DO?  In other words, what specific behavior do they exhibit?  The answer is: They buy expensive gifts to celebrate and commemorate special occasions.

Second, “What do they VALUE? These people value uniqueness, bragging rights, making themselves look and feel good, and creativity.

There are several important words and ideas contained in these two answers.  First, I think “Your Story Here” is in the “gift business.”  People buy their services for someone else, someone they love and care about. Second, this gift says a lot about them (the giver).  “Personal history” may be the product that “Your Story Here” makes, but it is not what their customers are buying.  Their customers are buying a unique, special, one of a kind, “gift of love.”  Consequently, “Your Story Here” is competing with other expensive gift items: such as jewelry, fashion items, and even cruises.

Because “Your Story Here” is in “the gift business,” they need to market themselves around special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Veteran’s Day, etc. They, like many businesses, need to connect to a “trigger.”  This is critical.  They need to move their product/service from an abstraction (“This is an interesting idea”) to an immediate reality (“This would make a great gift for my wife’s 60th birthday.”)

In other words, they need to get the client to connect what “Your Story Here” does (capturing “time in a bottle”) with some specific, impending occasion in their life.

When I started to think about their business in this way, I could imagine an ad for “Your Story Here” in the Neiman Marcus catalog (or website). I can see an ad in the American Express Platinum magazine called “Departures.”  I can see them placing small ads on websites for other expensive gifts.  Here’s a conceptual approach to some ad copy, just to illustrate what I mean.

“Why not get your wife something this year that will make her feel how much you truly love her and impress all your friends at the same time.  Tired of the same old trip to Tiffany’s or Neiman Marcus?  Why not give her something that will amaze her and delight her and at the same time, make you look like the best husband in the world?”

On reflection, I may need to change my opening metaphor: You may be barking up an OK tree.  But spend some time asking yourself if that tree will yield the best crop of long-term customers who will value what you sell?

What's New in QuickBooks 2010

This article was written by Dick Ginnaty, CPA

clip_image0012010's version of QuickBooks continues to add significant capabilities to the platform.

The major additions are:

· Improved invoice customization

· A redesigned Report Center which shows small samples of the reports making it easier to select the right one.

· Integrating with your scanner to attach images of documents which can be shared with others.

· Adding or editing multiple entries in excel and re-inputing them into QuickBooks.

· An auto signing feature which lets you print a "signed check."  This could be a problem also, so caution should be used in implementing this feature.

· Integration with an e-mail marketing program (for a fee).

· A capability to scan and electronically deposit checks received, saving time and possibly increasing the speed of collection.

The overall thrust of QuickBook's development is integration of the scanning capability and electronic communication. Both are waves that will not be denied, which brings us back to the comment made last year.

The enhancements in QuickBooks 2010 brings up the question of how often should you update your QuickBooks.  The answer is every two years at least.  The reason for the two year maximum between updates is simply that Intuit, the company that produces QuickBooks, does not support versions older than two years. Obviously, you should check out the changes in each version and make the economic decision if the enhancements are worth the update cost.

Good luck and here's hoping it "all adds up" for you.

P.S. If there is any area in accounting or tax that you think needs to be addressed in this column please e-mail me at Ginnatycpa@aol.com and if it is of general interest, I will address it in future columns.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Editor for Newsletter

After 5 ½ years its time to turn the newsletter over to a newer member. The new editor beginning in February is Jim Roberts. Please give him your support.

Thanks to all the contributors to the newsletter.

To the readers, I hope that the articles have been informative and helpful to you. Send your article requests to James.Roberts@SCORE114.org

Jack James

The Best Laid Plans

This article was written by Hillel Pitlik, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image001

Business Plans for new and existing businesses are written with intense care. But, do we revisit this document periodically as our business proceeds. After we invested all that effort, do we take the time to review the path we described in the plan? Are we proceeding along the predicted path? Without doubt we have deviated. Recognizing those deviations is critical to managing the business.

Why did we deviate? Capturing the reason for change is critical to good management. We must recognize that our original Business Plan was based on many assumptions and guesstimates. So when we deviate from our plan, we begin to learn the realities of the business situation. The defects in the original plan can be overcome by acting logically on the real world situation. When we do so we should record the decisions and the reasons for action. As time goes on we will make numerous such decisions. Without a record of the why, when and how we came to those critical decisions, we will not be able to review our actions and learn lessons for the future.

Businesses that ignore the lessons learned from their management actions are bound to fail. As we move forward, know where we’ve been and decide where we are going. The path is not always a straight line. It consists of twists and turns in response to problems and errors in judgment.

Running a business is a matter of trial and error. This does not mean matters are out of hand. Only that we have learned to respond as each challenge emerges. As time goes by, we get better at making effective responses. But, remember, when we sit down a year from now to lay a plan for the next year, will we remember the critical decisions we made that allowed us to get thru this year? You bet we will! We logged each such decision and the reason why we acted.

Thus, we reduce the probability of repeating past errors. In fact, our plans are better and the number of decision events decline year by year. The log is the diary our business decisions. And a review in retrospect allows us to do better in the future.

Keep on top of your business and it will be there for years to come.

Barking up the Wrong Tree? Defining your Best Target Customer

This article was written by Tom Patty, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image002

If you have been in business for awhile, you probably think you know what market you are in. And I’m sure you think you know who your customers are and why they buy your products or services. But are you targeting the highest value customers for your business?

Do you know what your customers are really buying? Are you targeting the right market for your product? These are questions that can be answered by brainstorming, customer research, and inspiration.

One of my SCORE clients is a company called “Your Story Here” and they make personal and family history video documentaries. In business for just a few years, this small OC based video production company has already won impressive awards (Best Short Documentary and Best Documentary Award at the Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Film Festivals) and, despite the economy, is having its best year. Sales have more than doubled.

So what business are they in? Who is their best target customer? Because they are video biography makers they’re in the personal history business. Right?

They certainly think they are. They spend a lot of time and trouble appealing to the genealogy and ancestry crowd through speaking engagements, articles and blogs, as well as paid search keyword placement. Even their website (www.yourstoryherehome.com) has a dusty feel to it (black and white photos, etc.)

Actually, I think they have been barking up the wrong tree. I don’t think they have properly defined their market and customer. And I think they have been leaving a lot of money on the table. Recently I posed these questions to them –and I suggest you apply them to your business.

First, who is your best target prospect? (By “best” I mean most lucrative considering the total cost of acquisition. In other words, are you targeting a customer who will value what you sell and will pay for it, over and over again?) Who are these people? What do they do? What do they value?

Let’s ask and answer these questions for “Your Story Here.”

First, “what do your customers DO? In other words, what specific behavior do they exhibit? The answer is: They buy expensive gifts to celebrate and commemorate special occasions.

Second, “What do they VALUE? These people value uniqueness, bragging rights, making themselves look and feel good, and creativity.

There are several important words and ideas contained in these two answers. First, I think “Your Story Here” is in the “gift business.” People buy their services for someone else, someone they love and care about. Second, this gift says a lot about them (the giver). “Personal history” may be the product that “Your Story Here” makes, but it is not what their customers are buying. Their customers are buying a unique, special, one of a kind, “gift of love.” Consequently, “Your Story Here” is competing with other expensive gift items: such as jewelry, fashion items, and even cruises.

Because “Your Story Here” is in “the gift business,” they need to market themselves around special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Veteran’s Day, etc. They, like many businesses, need to connect to a “trigger.” This is critical. They need to move their product/service from an abstraction (“This is an interesting idea”) to an immediate reality (“This would make a great gift for my wife’s 60th birthday.”)

In other words, they need to get the client to connect what “Your Story Here” does (capturing “time in a bottle”) with some specific, impending occasion in their life.

When I started to think about their business in this way, I could imagine an ad for “Your Story Here” in the Neiman Marcus catalog (or website). I can see an ad in the American Express Platinum magazine called “Departures.” I can see them placing small ads on websites for other expensive gifts. Here’s a conceptual approach to some ad copy, just to illustrate what I mean.

“Why not get your wife something this year that will make her feel how much you truly love her and impress all your friends at the same time. Tired of the same old trip to Tiffany’s or Neiman Marcus? Why not give her something that will amaze her and delight her and at the same time, make you look like the best husband in the world?”

On reflection, I may need to change my opening metaphor: You may be barking up an OK tree. But spend some time asking yourself if that tree will yield the best crop of long-term customers who will value what you sell?

Innovation Begins with “I” !

This article was written by Carl Woodard, Chairman, SCORE Orange County

clip_image001Happy New Year to you and your business! May 2010 be your best year yet.

Are you still waiting for the fallout from Y2K? Ten years have passed and all we have are fading memories of the worry and excitement surrounding the much anticipated end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it year 2000. Well, 2000 came and went and only the excitement lingers in our memory. Exactly the point I want to make. Excitement seems to hang on!

Each new year brings new resolutions. You commit to lose weight, clean the garage, plant a garden, go back to school, read and travel more, exercise regularly and, perhaps lower your golf score. What about your business resolutions? Perhaps you could revise your business plan or develop a better sales tool ....or add some real excitement for your customers. Why not make 2010 a year of Innovation?

Innovation is not limited to large companies. In fact, most of the truly new ideas and products germinate in small to medium size organizations. And new ideas are guaranteed to generate excitement, not only for your customers but also for your employees. Innovation gives your team something new to talk about. And new ideas are out there, ready to be discovered.

In just one recent newspaper there are stories of a long-time chicken-only restaurant now offering steak (New menu. New customer target. Perhaps new profit!), a business offering a different type of “bar” at weddings (candy novelties), a store now stocking larger sizes to compete with member stores and a group that now recovers and sells bottles of wine from cases partially damaged in transit. Each idea brings a reason to shout your message to the marketplace. And, if you are in a service based business, you can find a way to offer new services, too.

It simply begins with asking “What if?” Sure, you need to set aside some time to concentrate on a little dreaming, but once the ideas begin to flow, more will follow. Call the process what you want ....thinking outside the box, blue-skying or simply dreaming. Keep a complete list of your ideas and then give the best ones top priority in the new year.

At SCORE Orange County, we like innovation. We continue to reach more business owners, or those just starting out, every year. Last year, as we did in the previous four, we reached more than any other SCORE chapter in the nation. Call us if you need help with Innovation or your Business Plan. Then come in to see us, or we can work via the internet. Do you need to understand your cash flow or learn how to use social networking to improve your business? SCORE offers workshops on many topics throughout the county, most at no charge. We follow up with personal, confidential, one-on-one counseling either in person or via the internet, always at no charge. We are well stocked with experts on finance, marketing, sales, human resources and other specialties. And you can receive these services free. Simply call us at 714-550-7369 and arrange an appointment or visit us at www.score114.org and sign up for a workshop or reserve an exhibit table at our next Women in Business breakfast meeting on January 15.

Remember ....Innovation begins with “I” ....that means you! And we at SCORE can help. Try us!

What's New in QuickBooks 2010

This article was written by Dick Ginnaty, CPA

clip_image0012010's version of QuickBooks continues to add significant capabilities to the platform.

The major additions are:

· Improved invoice customization

· A redesigned Report Center which shows small samples of the reports making it easier to select the right one.

· Integrating with your scanner to attach images of documents which can be shared with others.

· Adding or editing multiple entries in excel and reinputing them into QuickBooks.

· An auto signing feature which lets you print a "signed check."   This could be a problem also, so caution should be used in implementing this feature.

· Integration with an e-mail marketing program (for a fee).

· A capability to scan and electronically deposit checks received, saving time and possibly increasing the speed of collection.

The overall thrust of QuickBook's development is integration of the scanning capability and electronic communication. Both are waves that will not be denied which brings us back to the comment made last year.  The enhancements in QuickBooks 2010 bring up the question of how often should you update your QuickBooks.  The answer is every two years at least.  The reason for the two year maximum between updates is simply that Intuit, the company that produces QuickBooks, does not support versions older than two years. Obviously, you should check out the changes in each version and make the economic decision if the enhancements are worth the update cost.

Good luck and here's hoping it "all adds up" for you.

P.S. If there is any area in accounting or tax that you think needs to be addressed in this column please e-mail me at Ginnatycpa@aol.com and if it is of general interest, I will address it in future columns.