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Posts Tagged ‘small business’

March Madness, Business Edition

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Last week, employers lost $175 million to distracted workers during the NCAA tournament. How much did March Madness cost your company?

With any luck, your employees remained productive throughout the first two days of the tournament. But even with the cost of the tournament, many employers also feel that the games can be a way to heighten employee morale. According to a recent poll by OfficeTeam, 68 percent of employers say that tournament games are either welcome or acceptable in moderation in the office. Perhaps these happy employees will return to work more productive than ever on Monday.

Whether or not you are a fan of watching basketball games in the office, there is at least one thing gases and welding distributors (and other businesses) can learn from the NCAA tournament.

Cinderella stories are a staple of the tournament. The last few years, there has been a 12- or 13-seed to make it through several rounds, with unheralded programs like Butler and VCU in the Final Four, or even the championship game. March Madness is a reminder that the little guys can win, and sometimes it’s the team that plays harder that comes out on top.

This brings me to an interesting conundrum:

I read a comment that said, in referring to small distributors in the gases and welding industry, that the niche for small players will always lie in supplying welding equipment. The commenter went on to say that small distributors will always struggle to grow in the gases side of the business due to the need for capital and a larger infrastructure required for delivery and production systems.

What do you think? Can a small distributor excel in the gas business, or does the need for capital limit the small operator to a hardgoods focus?

Then again, when it comes to the NCAA tournament, who would have thought that teams like Butler, VCU and Gonzaga would develop into more than Cinderella stories, but perennial threats?

Learning From Businesses Of All Sizes

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

During a conversation earlier this week with someone in the business community, I was surprised to hear him say that, in reading about a large company in his industry, he could not relate because of the size of the company. I can see where he was coming from as the owner of a small business. But it’s hard to think there isn’t something he could learn from a larger company.

This conversation got me thinking about GAWDA members and the companies we profile in Welding & Gases Today. Over the last year, the GAWDA member profile has looked at companies ranging in size from 9 employees to 900. A big range, yes, and one that reflects the diversity of GAWDA members themselves. I’d like to think that no matter the size of a company, there are always things to learn from others. Large companies can learn from the little guys, and vice versa. How so?

At a 24-person operation like Melo’s Gas & Gear, it might be tales of how cylinder tracking has helped the company with accounts receivable and theft prevention. President Dave Melo says, “Reconciling cylinder balances can be an incredibly frustrating and potentially damaging process for a distributor.” Melo recalls the police making multiple arrests when cylinders ended up in the wrong hands, all because the company’s cylinder tracking system proved that the cylinders were stolen.

Meanwhile, a 900 person organization like Norco might teach a small business about success in a family business. CEO Jim Kissler recalls how in order to work for his father’s company, he first had to complete a four-year degree and then work outside the business for five to seven years. Kissler’s father was a firm believer in the teachings of Leon Danco: “Danco taught family business members to first become somebody before coming into the business,” says Jim Kissler. “It makes you more credible, and it makes you more knowledgeable about running a business when you’ve worked outside of the family business.”

When it comes to business, there are issues that simply transcend business size. Well, that’s my opinion, at least. What do you think? What have you learned from a business of dissimilar size?

Good News For Small Businesses

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Last week brought good news for small businesses, as the government reported record numbers for contracting dollars spent with small businesses. In Fiscal Year 2010, ending September 30, 2010, small businesses won $97.95 billion in federal contracts, which translates to 22.7 percent of government contracts. This is the closest the government has come recently to its contracting goal of 23 percent.

In speaking to GAWDA members, I have learned that government contracts can be a complicated business. In the recent article, “Small Business Scramble,” Jim Earlbeck, president of Earlbeck Gases & Technologies, told Welding & Gases Today, “It’s a moving target.” However, as the numbers above show, it can also be profitable.

With contracting moving to the Internet over the last few years, the game has changed. For some, this means opened doors to contracts that were not easily accessible before. For others, it means increased competition.

If you’re interested getting a piece of the nearly $100 billion dollars that go to small business contracts, start by checking out “10 Steps to Winning DoD Contracts.” Also check out Federal Business Opportunities at fbo.gov, where you can search available contracts.

What’s your experience like working with the government? Share by leaving a comment.

Speed Dating for Businesses

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Photo courtesy of mrleroneThe West Virgina Small Business Administration recently turned matchmaker when it borrowed the concept of speed dating to help small businesses find loans. Companies spent six minutes each with various lenders to find their perfect match. The meet-ups not only helped companies find lending options, it gave them the opportunity to ask general questions about putting a loan package together.

I thought this was not only a great way to help businesses get loans, but I thought it was a very unique idea. It got me wondering if something like this could translate into a customer interface. What if you were given six minutes with a series of customers, while they hopped from you to your competitors. Would your company stand out above the others?

There’s an important point underlying the SBA event. The six minute meet and greets were not only used for banks to push their own interests, but also to help borrowers understand the lending process and what goes into loan packages. The point is, if you are given six minutes, if you can help a customer, solve a problem of theirs, give them a better way to accomplish their work, chances are they’ll remember you.

So what do you think? How would you distinguish your company? Could you sell your real value in six minutes?

Will the Small Business Jobs Act Work?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Barack Obama Signs Small Business Jobs ActThe Small Business Jobs Act was signed into law on Monday. The new legislation could have an impact on many GAWDA members, seeing as many members fit the category of small businesses. And while the main feature of the act is $30 billion in lending, it is called the Jobs Act, not the Loans Act. The target is 500,000 jobs, and it hopes to help small businesses create those positions by offering access to credit, tax cuts for hiring and write offs for buying equipment.

Is this enough for to get small businesses hiring? We’ll find out soon enough. One thing’s for sure—the Jobs Act has no shortage of skeptics.

A lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW)—a GAWDA-affiliated association—is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “Business doesn’t need credit. Business needs customers. If they don’t have a customer base because demand is down, they’re not going to borrow, because there is nothing for them to borrow for.”

The American Small Business League suggests creating this customer for small businesses by allotting a larger portion of government contracts to smaller companies. “Considering the current state of our economy, I can’t imagine why President Obama and Congress would not support legislation to stop giving small business contracts to large and Fortune 500 firms,” says ASBL President Lloyd Chapman.

Clearly, small business advocates want customers before they will justify spending. Just as customers have tightened their belts, companies have worked to operate leaner and leaner. Who will take the leap and start spending again? We are faced with a chicken-egg situation between customer spending and business spending, and neither side wants to go first.

So how big will the impact be? One GAWDA member I spoke with said it would impact his company very little, since the company is not quick to take out loans. What about you? Will your company take advantage of the new legislation?

Running A Small Business In Style

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Kentucky Small Business License PlateIt’s time for small business members to stand up and be proud. Small businesses, including many gases and welding distributors, play a critical role in our economy and the advancement of technology. Wear your small business status and proclaim your modest size but massive strength. Let the world know who you are.

But how best to express your small business identity in a novel, but amiable way? Soon, if your company is in Kentucky, you will have an answer. The Kentucky Commission on Small Business Advocacy is hosting a contest to design a small business license plate for the state. Instead of promoting your favorite Kentucky sports team or the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, you can boast your entrepreneurial nature with your plates. You don’t have to drive a big car, you just need a small business license plate.

When I saw this contest, I just had to share it with you. I think it’s a great idea, and I hope other states follow suit. The contest is only open to small businesses, too, so it offers a unique opportunity to qualifying organizations. It’s definitely a challenge to graphically represent such a diverse group as small businesses, so I’ll be curious what they come up with.

What would you put on your small business license plate?

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