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3 Ways You Can Level the Playing Field Against Big Business

To gain ground against well-established rivals, focus on the three Cs: Competition, credit and connections….

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Too many small businesses are stuck at the bottom of the economic mountain, watching in frustration as larger competitors hog the top, snagging resources and reaping the benefits.

Bigger companies can afford to use quantity discounts to undercut prices. Banks are happy to accept small-business deposits but don’t build strong relationships with credit and loans for their smaller customers.

Even programs marketed for small businesses, such as vendor finance programs and dynamic discounting programs, often benefit the large company that takes the discount. Even government help seems to favor the well-connected. Just see what happened with the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

But there are ways small businesses can level the playing field. We can refer to them as the 3 Cs: Competition, credit and connections.

If the competition feels unfair, change the rules. This may seem daunting at first, but inventive and nimble thinking goes a long way. Consider this real-life example: A woman in Georgia who ran an on-site fueling business for heavy equipment operators found she was consistently undercut by established energy giant competitors. She finally acknowledged she’d never win contracts if she kept bidding for projects under the billing rules set by huge rivals, who could charge less. So she got creative. She offered to extend payment time to 30 days—a change from asking customers to pay every week—and levied a small surcharge.

Within a few weeks, she’d won every contract she’d submitted. Customers were happy to take advantage of the extended payment time because it allowed them to keep cash on their own balance sheets longer, despite the surcharge. This business owner changed the game on her competitors.

Make your bank pay attention or leave it. In our parents’ era, bankers were local members of the community who were truly trying to help the local farmer or the neighborhood shop grow their businesses.

But as the banks have become larger and more consolidated, their online lending platforms don’t know you. They don’t know your business. They don’t care what your business does. They care only about lending you $200,000 because they’re going to make a lot of money from that loan. Demoralizing, right? But remember: those banks are also required by federal law to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA, which encourages big financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities with which they do business. That includes low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

If you have a small business checking account with a big bank, ask a branch officer about CRA compliance — and how your business can help that bank meet CRA requirements via loans and lines of credit. More information here.

You can also visit a local credit union in your area or a CDFI. Both are not-for-profit and both may be able to provide more customized services to you and your business.

Get free advice from experts. Many government programs feel rigged against small business. Consider the recent $660 billion PPP loan program which was supposed to help small businesses squeezed by COVID-19 but instead delivered much money to the rich and politically connected, such as Kanye West, members of Congress, and large restaurant chains like P.F. Chang’s and TGI Fridays.

Yet many small business owners don’t realize the government also has free, valuable tools available and accessible around the country.

There are almost 1,000 Small Business Development Centers, or SBDCs, throughout the United States. These are partnerships between the Small Business Administration and local colleges or universities. Many SBDCs are staffed with retired executive entrepreneurs who have built and run successful companies, people who are happy to help small businesses find resources, build relationships, and figure out which specific capital tools are needed to grow a business.

SBDCs also can help business owners wade through confusing regulations to qualify for government contracts as a women-, minority-, or disadvantaged-business enterprise. More information is here.

If you need advice on taxes, capital, marketing, training, and networking, call or visit your local SBDC.

I’ve started and operated enough businesses to know some will always have an edge. A small business may not have the financial resources to outspend their larger rivals, but they can outsmart, outflank, and outhustle them.

Look for ways to rewrite the rules and keep the 3 Cs in mind.

Competition: Can you outmaneuver them by rethinking billing or other conventional practices?

Credit: Ask a bank officer how your business can help that bank meet Community Reinvestment Act requirements via loans and lines of credit.

Connection: Call or visit your local Small Business Development Center for help with everything from taxes to marketing and networking.

The playing field will likely never be tilted entirely in your favor. But the 3 Cs may help you knock some smug rivals off their perches at the top.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/irnFWk7e6us/359517

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How Cultural Changes in the Workplace Can Grow Your Business

Does your business culture support and leverage demographic, cultural, and experiential differences? If not, find out how you can begin to do so and grow your business.

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Does your business culture support and leverage demographic, cultural, and experiential differences? If not, find out how you can begin to do so and grow your business.

Limited-Time Savings: 60% Off Leadership Books

Use code LEAD2021 through 4/10/21 to save on our leadership book collection.

February 16, 2017 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Glenn Llopis’s book The Innovation Mentality. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code LEAD2021 through 4/10/21.

The Cultural Demographic Shift (CDS) is driving the fastest-growing part of our U.S. workforce, and shift populations represent the largest segments of America’s potential purchasing power. But they also represent some of the fastest-growing demographics of business owners in the U.S. You want them to be your customers, but they’re also fast becoming your competitors.

Related: What Magic Johnson Can Teach You About the Advantages of Cultural Demographic Shifts

Shift populations, like immigrants, have been compelled to use the innovation mentality to see opportunity and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit. This is part of the reason why black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. (up more than 322 percent from 1997 to 2015 according to the “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express Open) and why the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew 15 times faster than other U.S. businesses (or at a rate of 7.5 percent from 2012 to 2015, according to a study by the consulting firm Geoscape and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce).

Those shift population businesses present opportunities to reach the populations a business doesn’t have the talent internally to connect with. That’s how we come up with the three most visible areas where the CDS has created immediate and obvious opportunities for growth:

  • Workplace/workforce
  • External partnerships
  • Marketplace/consumers

Solve for the gaps in these three areas using the six characteristics of the innovation mentality, and you solve for high-performance teams through diversity of thought; authentic workplace cultures whose values are defined by individuals who are encouraged to breed continuous innovation; and intellectual capital and know-how previously unseen that enables the full potential in people. All this results in an intimate engagement that maximizes the full potential of people who are your employees and your customers. That’s sustainable ROI!

So ask yourself: “Does your workplace culture support demographic, cultural and experiential differences and leverage them in these three areas?” Probably not. Most current leadership in the U.S. is woefully unprepared or unwilling to see the opportunity gaps, let alone invest in them. Unfortunately, American corporations see all this activity as an initiative (cost center) and will see the CDS as the last remaining true growth opportunity (profit center) only when Latin America and other international regions begin seizing the previously unseen opportunities because they had the vision to see it first.

Related: 4 Steps to Profiting from the Cultural Demographic Shift

Solving for workplace/workforce

Do you celebrate differences and individuality in your workplace? Or are you like the hundreds of companies I’ve worked with that have said something similar to what senior executives from a major investment-banking firm told me: “Today, we’re afraid for the future of our business because our employees don’t relate with our emerging global client base. Many of our new competitors are now owned and operated by Indians, Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics. We continue to lose key diverse members of our workforce to these same competitors because we lack the cultural intelligence to keep them.”

Remember, you can’t develop this cultural intelligence, let alone define your business platform, unless you have leaders who own the experiences and influence their cultures can bring to how they think, act and are motivated to perform. This is part of their leadership identity. That’s why it’s important for you and your managers to spend time defining your personal brand value propositions and leadership identities.

When you’re in evolution mode, you have to create your own platforms. Otherwise you just keep substituting, which is exactly what workplace programs like Employee Resource Groups do. ERGs are growing initiatives in corporations as the CDS has required new, diverse talent in management, director level and senior executive management roles. I used to think ERGs could play this role and have a purpose beyond events, social aspects and focus groups that usually define what they do at most companies — in a strictly voluntary capacity, mind you. But I realized that they almost always have no real strategic value. They’re just initiatives. Even when they have hundreds of members, only a small percentage of ERGs are active. It’s difficult to recruit new members when these volunteer groups are not incentivized or properly invested in. And why should people participate when no one in senior leadership is active or sees any real strategic value in them, other than as initiatives that exist solely to check off another box on the “compliance” list.

That’s irresponsible. ERGs and workplace groups like them have value only if they matter and have quantitative influence — and that happens at such a small percentage of companies, it’s almost statistically irrelevant. Until then, ERGs will likely make an organization more divisive until that organization can recognize the value that comes from different types of people. Which is why, like job descriptions, I believe they should be eliminated until organizations clearly define what their ERGs are solving for. Before it makes sense to reinstitute ERGs, organizations should view these groups as profit centers not cost centers, pay active members a small bonus to remain active and quantifiably contribute to business growth. Without that, ERGs will continue to play the role of “diversity checkboxes” that unknowingly create more tension and widen engagement gaps among their members.

So what’s the solution? Instead of large groups of inactive members, I’d rather see small “idea labs” led by subject matter experts who serve as examples of how their unique differences cultivate innovation and initiative. You can’t come into the group unless you’re a subject matter expert or have a desire to be one, because as experts, you know what you can solve for, see the opportunity gaps and identify them quickly to build a plan around them. This group and its plan then serve as examples of how their unique differences cultivate tangible change and growth that impact the bottom line.

Related: 6 Characteristics of an Innovative Leader

That’s how ERGs become smarter about defining what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish for themselves and the business, and then create a metric to enforce accountability to assure their objectives are being measured and attained. ERGs must view themselves as formidable advancement platforms for talent and market development activity. They must be focused on defining a value proposition that is more strategically aligned to seeing and seizing business innovation and growth opportunities that are directly related to a person’s cultural, gender, sexual-orientation and societal identity. They must be more forceful and encourage different points of view and perspectives that translate into solutions to meet corporate growth objectives and initiatives across channels, brands and business units. Until then, they will do little to alleviate the fact that the changing face of America is being met with tremendous resistance. That’s how and why the “old guard” remains uncomfortable with the CDS; it still represents uncertainty and change for those who are uninformed about what diversity means to enabling business growth, which brings us to external partnerships.

Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code LEAD2021 through 4/10/21.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/-IJAcjxdkXI/288144

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The NFT Gold Rush: Here’s Why Everyone Is Talking About Non-Fungible Tokens

Bitcoin remains the undisputed blockchain industry leader, but as the major banks and investment funds accumulate BTC, retail investors always try to find the next big thing.

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Bitcoin remains the undisputed blockchain industry leader, but as the major banks and investment funds accumulate BTC, retail investors always try to find the next big thing.

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April 8, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The crypto market moves in waves. Bitcoin remains the undisputed blockchain industry leader, but as the major banks and investment funds accumulate BTC, retail investors always try to find “the next big thing” that would be able to repeat the unparalleled success of the original cryptocurrency.

First it was altcoins, then it was ICOs (which was another name for altcoins), in 2020 it was DeFi (which was yet another name for altcoins). NFTs can already be declared the most popular crypto trend of 2021. But unlike the previous fads, NFTs are not just rebranded altcoins – they have a unique use case, and they might stay here for longer.

What are NFTs?

One of the reasons for the rapid rise of the popularity of NFTs is that it’s very easy for everyone to immediately get what they’re all about. Imagine collectibles like baseball cards, or works of art like paintings, only stored in the form of tokens on a blockchain. That’s what NFTs essentially are: digital collectibles kept on a decentralized ledger.

Related: What Is an NFT? Inside The Next Billion-Dollar Crypto Sensation.

The word NFT is an abbreviation of “Non-Fungible Token”. Typical cryptocurrency tokens, like the thousands of altcoins launched on the Ethereum network, are all fungible. This simply means that 1 XYZ token in your wallet is worth exactly the same as 1 XYZ in anyone else’s wallet. It’s the same with traditional currencies like euro or dollar: 1 USD in your bank account has the same value as 1 USD in somebody’s pocket.

The word “non-fungible” means that all NFTs are unique, and each of them has a different, individual value. Simply put, NFTs are collectibles very similar in nature to traditional baseball trading cards. A common card can be worthless, but a very rare card can be worth millions.

The History of NFTs

NFTs are by no means a new thing. The first NFT project called CryptoPunks was launched in 2017. Originally, 10,000-pixel art characters named CryptoPunks were created, and anyone with an Ethereum wallet could claim one for themselves for free – back then, NFTs weren’t considered a business opportunity but a silly novelty only intended to make crypto a little bit more popular.

The first NFT project which gained wider recognition was CryptoKitties. CryptoKitties weren’t really that much different from CryptoPunks – the only difference was that instead of collecting pixel art “punks”, the users collected digital pets.

For a few years, projects like CryptoKitties were only enjoyed by a small number of Ethereum enthusiasts. NFTs weren’t really considered an investment back then. They were just fun collectibles that utilized the new, exciting blockchain technology.

The NFT Revolution

The situation changed in 2020, with the advent of DeFi (decentralized finance) solutions. DeFi developers reinvented Non-Fungible Tokens, and soon started to find new applications for what was once considered a mere novelty.

The NFT projects of today are much more advanced than the original CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties. Thanks to smart contracts technology, almost anything can be tokenized and stored on the blockchain, and NFTs that are created now can be very complex.

Related: Tampa Bay Buc Rob Gronkowski Is Launching His Own NFT

A good example is the NFT virtual painting of the Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin entitled “EthBoy”, which sold for 260 ETH (almost $500,000 with today’s prices). EthBoy is much more than just an image stored on the blockchain – it is a fully interactive work of art that changes its appearance every day based on external data such as the ETH price and Ethereum gas fees.

The Future of NFTs

The groundbreaking moment in the history of NFTs happened when Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold the NFT of the first tweet he ever made for $2.9 million. Suddenly, everyone realized that there’s money to be made with Non-Fungible Tokens, and celebrities like Lil Pump, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton started selling their own NFTs. Even Elon Musk tweeted about selling an NFT, but he eventually turned down all the offers.

Perhaps even more important than individual celebrities selling NFTs is the fact that many reputed companies are now launching their licensed NFT projects. The two best examples are NBA Top Shot and Sorare, which allow people to trade virtual baseball and football cards respectively.

Related: 3 Tips for Creatives Looking to Break Into the NFT Industry

The NFTs are getting more advanced and complex. Currently, many companies are working on utilizing NFTs to create blockchain-based video games, which could make Non-Fungible Tokens even more popular. Unlike the ICO craze of 2018, the NFT phenomenon is built on unique technologic fundamentals. Who knows, maybe in the future owning an NFT project will become as common as owning a website?

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/fIaNQHBFQD4/368124

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5 financial tips to avoid a disappointment when undertaking

When starting your business, take these tips into account to manage your finances. They will make it easier for you to break even!

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When starting your business, take these tips into account to manage your finances. They will make it easier for you to break even!

Free Book Preview Money-Smart Solopreneur

This book gives you the essential guide for easy-to-follow tips and strategies to create more financial success.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

In the first phase of the economy of a company , the main concern in the mind of the entrepreneur is to be able to survive and find effective models to generate income. Despite the preparation that we may have from an academic point of view, there are certain areas where only experience can help to carry out the business.

Above all, you should always have realistic planning and expectations about the financial projections and times that your company needs to break even and then be profitable.

Next, we give you some tips with which you can avoid more than one disappointment when undertaking and will allow you to be more prepared for the reality of an SME:

Reserve funds

Your financial plan must be realistic. Every venture generates more expenses than income in the first months of operation and calculating a three-month treasury may be insufficient. You must consider the long term and avoid at all costs a financial drowning caused by debts or liabilities. It contemplates larger reserves, to be able to invest in a considerable product catalog and manages the expectations in its sales time.

Payment terms

Always keep in mind the payment terms. Generally, large companies abuse dates of 30, 60 or 90 days to cancel an invoice, which can mean big problems for a company that is just starting. On the other hand, working together or for the Public Administration generates similar inconveniences, which are often accentuated by the bureaucracy.

Excess advertising spending

Every business that starts must control its expenses. Despite the fact that many outflows of money are more than justified, it is necessary to have an order, not to abuse the lines of credit and not to end the reserves. Although it is important to publicize your brand, in the beginning, excess advertising spending can be detrimental. Effort should be devoted to cost analysis and considering when the return on investment will be realized.

Therefore, it is recommended that in your beginnings you bet on lower cost means such as social networks and digital marketing tools in general. It is very important that you define your strategies well and define your return on investment.

Weekly reviews

Keeping the accounts up to date is always beneficial for any company. In many cases, a slight miscalculation can throw finances out of balance and alter the business plan. It is advisable to carry out weekly balances, which will allow you to have more precise control over expenses and income.

Delinquency

Having delinquent clients is a situation in which no entrepreneur wants to be. You should always ask yourself if the customer is dissatisfied or if they really have financial problems. Faced with disappointment by our products or services, it is recommended to act quickly, offer replacements or give a complementary service, which will leave you pleased and allow you to unblock the debt. In the event of a bad financial situation, you should consider all legal options to settle outstanding accounts.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/S1UyO9odcog/367963

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