National Veterans Small Business Week

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President Obama declared November 3rd-7th the first ever National Veterans Small Business Week. These veterans continue to serve our country by contributing to the local economy as business owners. Many veterans use the skills learned in the military to become successful business owners.  As more than a million service men and women end their military careers over the next five years and transition back to civilian life, veteran business owners will play a critical role in creating economic opportunities for the entire nation.   Veteran owned businesses range from traditional government contract and supply to broad traditional main street businesses such as construction companies, attorneys, barbers, waste management, restaurants, sporting goods and other retail.  

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and senior SBA leaders will host veteran small business events across the country.  ABC television’s Emmy Award winning business-themed show, ‘Shark Tank,’ will be hosting a veteran-themed episode during National Veterans Small Business Week.  Veteran entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas to the Sharks, tough, self-made, multimillionaire and billionaire tycoons in hopes of securing a business deal and investment.

Veterans make up nearly 1 in 10 small business owners in the US and the state of Florida boasts over 262 thousand Veteran Owned Businesses as per data from the SBA office of Advocacy 2010 report.  

The Veterans Business Outreach Center Region IV (VBOC) at Gulf Coast State College, assists veterans in business or veterans who are pre venture in the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky.  

The mission of the VBOC is to be the ‘Boots on the Ground’ counseling agency of the Small Business Administration in business consulting to military veterans, active duty military, National Guard and Reservists, Service Connected Disabled Veterans’ spouses and widows of the aforementioned group.

Veterans assisted by the VBOC have been successful in creating Veteran owned businesses;   winning over $350 Million in government contracts, $10 Million in capital formation, starting businesses and hiring other veterans.  

With the 2013 roll-out of the new Boots to Business Program, a two day introduction to business ownership offered on base to separating military members and their spouses, the VBOC has direct access to separating and retiring military members who want to pursue entrepreneurship.  VBOC has delivered 18 Boots to Business workshops to 471 military members in the last 18 months.

As the goal of self- employment is an enduring ambition, the trend towards veteran owned businesses is increasing.

Veteran Business Owners nationwide will be featured and celebrated for their accomplishments during this week of events. 

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How Your Latest Failure Can Lead to Your Greatest Success

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Does the word failure make you weak in the knees or induce a cold sweat? Well, you’re not alone. Even though it has a negative connotation, you could use it to your advantage? Believe it or not, failing often leads to great things, and here is why:

Motivation
Just because an idea fails does not mean you have to give up. Think of failure as a speed bump and not as a road block. A road block will keep you from passing, but a speed bump just slows you down. Think about what problem you are solving and how your idea can be altered rather than vacating the idea altogether.

Rethink Your Plan
Make a list of pros and cons, and most importantly, use this time to further research and improve your ideas. Additional research will make you more knowledgeable, in turn making you a stronger startup. Knowledge is power.

Courage
Sometimes you have to get out of your own way. There is a chance of failure when you share new ideas; however, it could become the next big thing. Step out of your comfort zone, sharing your ideas with the right people could lead to your big break.

Take failure as a chance to push forward and make your idea even better. Improve your product or service, research your ideas further, and give yourself the boost you need. Your next great idea is just beyond that speed bump, but you will never know unless you keep moving.


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Katy Kitto
Communications
Business Innovation Center


4 Reasons College Students Should Launch Their Dream Startup

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Think college is just for taking classes and expanding your knowledge base? Think again. College campuses are becoming hubs for entrepreneurial success. With resources around every corner, college may be the perfect place to begin the startup of your dreams. Here’s why:

1) Best time to start is now.

While in college, even though it may not seem so, you are likely to have more free time than when you graduate. Allow yourself a little time to be self-centered before you devote to a full-time job, spouse, or children. Use this time to research, think big, and explore the idea of launching your own business.

2) Choose classes and programs wisely.

Take advantage of the entrepreneurial courses your school offers. Courses like Small Business Management, Entrepreneurial Management, and Business Innovation will teach you how to develop a business plan, foster creativity and innovation, and explore techniques on managing and marketing new businesses.

3) Your Professors can be an invaluable resource.

Your college professors are great resources. Bounce your ideas off of them. They can give you advice and they can help you prove your business is feasible. Learning from someone that has knowledge in business can help you learn what to do, and most importantly what not to do. Professors may also help you network and find contacts to help you advance your ideas.

4) Search out other resources on campus.

Your professors are helpful, but what about other areas on campus or nearby? Most campuses have a career services center. Some cities have business incubators. These valuable resources can offer mentorship in a variety of areas, and help get your business off the ground. Whether you are just starting your business or looking to grow, mentors can give you valuable insight and an outside perspective you may have not discovered on your own.

Get out there and be inspired!

If you’re a college student, don’t hesitate to start your dream business. Even if your business is not immediately successful, the experience you gain will prove to be invaluable while searching for jobs and building your resume. Starting your own business shows future employers you are capable of thinking outside the box.


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Katy Kitto
Communications
Business Innovation Center

5 Tips to Curb the Time Monopolizing Client

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If you’re working, you are sure to encounter multiple types of customer relationships. You will enjoy most and others seem to consume more energy than humanly possible. Good or bad, if you let it, any customer relationship can take up a ton of time. Sending emails, returning phone calls and dealing with the unscheduled drop-in can turn into an enormous drain. Always remember, you are in control of how people treat you, you set the tone of your interactions. Here are 5 tips in addressing the issue of the time monopolizing client.

1) Set a Timetable – Always set a time limit and stick to it.  Don’t let a quick meeting or phone call turn into an all-day affair. Respect the client’s time, and make sure they respect yours. If a meeting is set for one hour, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and the client does not arrive until 10:15, generally your meeting should still end at 11:00. Ten minutes prior to 11:00 alert the client of the few minutes remaining and focus on things that need to be covered.

2) Communicate – Clear communication can alleviate lots of wasted time. Make sure your form of communication is working for your client. Having a clear understanding of your customer’s need will help you respond accordingly. Ask for feedback and never fear the response. Understanding social cues can be helpful. If your client begins to check the time or becomes fidgety in their seat, your communication style may need to change.

3) Set a Plan – Set a structure for your meeting. With a plan, everyone can know what to expect. Consider creating what-to-expect documents. When sending an email, explain the reason for the email and break it into different topics. Write out words instead of an abbreviation. This will make the email easily searchable at a later time. Educating your client is the best way to facilitate the process.

4) Keep Records – Keep detailed records of your interactions with clients. Make a record of important things discussed, issues and solutions. If a client is unorganized, it can cause you to waste time trying to catch them up.  Accurate records can make that catch-up process a lot less painful. It can also help to answer questions and resolve misunderstandings.

5) Put Your Plan Into Practice – You must follow your rules. If you hope to have a schedule that works, now is the time to do as you say….practice what you preach. Be on time for appointments, respond to your client’s needs, have a plan of action and keep track of the actions. Having a friendly conversation during a meeting is fine; however, do not waste your client’s time with your historical perspective of accomplishments. Obviously your client chose you, you do not need to monopolize the meeting with personal stories.

While it may be appropriate in some circumstances to move away from a particularly overbearing client, most customer relationships can grow successful bottom lines if you take steps to have preset boundaries and expectations.

Dealing with clients can be tricky, but it is a must. Utilizing these 5 tips can save you a headache and help you build better, stronger client relationships.


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Kenneth Cody Gray
Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator
Business Innovation Center

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Building Your Dream Team

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When it comes to startups, building a great team is one of the most important things a founder can do. The team that you build in the beginning can make or break your business. Here is a summary of what you should focus on when forming your startup team.

Management

Ensure the success of your startup by carefully aligning the best business minds. Two qualities to consider should be experience and loyalty. Focus on having someone that has the proven ability of getting startups off the ground. Experience is crucial in this phase of your business. Understand that you might not be the right person to manage a team.

Mentors

Any great leader knows when to seek help and advice. Find a mentor that can take your business to the next level. Business incubators like the Business Innovation Center can mentor and guide startups to increase the chances of long-term success. Mentors can provide valuable information.

Employees

Make certain the qualifications meet the needs of your business. Being an employee of a startup will mean long hours, hard work and flexibility. Startups often require all levels of staff to take on clerical task that are typically reserved for lower level positions. Make sure that the employees know what will be expected of them. Whether it’s full-time, part-time or contract employees, choose wisely.

Making the right decision when it comes to building a great startup team can set your business on the path to success.  Get out there and find your dream team!


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Kenneth Cody Gray
Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator
Business Innovation Center

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