Grants and Funding for Entrepreneurs

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

For small and mid-sized businesses cash is their lifeblood.  Northstar Consulting, in its capacity as a Certified Advisor with the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development, is pleased to offer OED’s Grant Availability Analysis to small and mid-size businesses in the metro Atlanta area.

The Organization for Entrepreneurial Development is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded to serve small and medium sized, entrepreneurial businesses in the United States OED’s efforts are geared to helping businesses and their owners thrive (not just survive) by making available to them the resources necessary to establish, grow, maintain and exit from their businesses. OED has simplified the process of searching for and finding grants and funding by offering a Grant Availability Analysis to small and midsize businesses.

Since cash is the lifeblood of business, OED has established grant and funding programs for entrepreneurs to help them get their share of the money that is available… and there is money out there. Business owners just need to know where to find it and how to get it.

If you, or a business owner you know, needs cash or funding to achieve unmet business goals,  please use or forward this email or call me directly to take advantage of our Local Business Assistance Program.  It is pro bono and it works, so… why wait?

Best Regards,

Gene G. Wright

Northstar Consulting is officially certified with the Organization for Entrepreneurail Development

404-908-5561; ggwright@nstarconsulting.biz

So, What Did You do After the Great Depression of 2008?

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

I can’t help but wonder what some business owners will ask themselves about what they did to change the trajectory of their businesses 10 years from now when they think back to a time when interest rates were the lowest in fifty years, the prime rate was zero, great employees were readily available, the internet made the size of a business irrelevant to customers. I hope they aren’t the ones that answer the question by saying ““I spent my time whining, waiting, worrying and wishing for things to get better.”

It’s time to stop thinking about how crazy the times are and start thinking about what crazy times demand.  For most of us, 2011 represented two very different years; the first half being more robust than the second half. From where I sit, 2012 feels solid and quite balanced. But it’s not “Deja vu all over again” as the famous philosopher Yogi Berra once said. This time around our clients are working outside banks to source operating capital, finding new strategic partners or forming alliances that help enhance their competitiveness and getting closer to their customers than ever before in very different ways.

The goal is time around isn’t just to grow sales and market share; it’s about growing business profitably. I have some thoughts to share along those lines.

First, small businesses need to” get out of the banking business” as my friend Lara O’Conner Hodgson proclaims.  Most businesses don’t even realize they are in the banking business, but they are, financing inventories for their vendors and receivables for their customers.  They take the same risks as banks (in fact backed by their same personal guarantees), only they don’t receive interest from their loans to their suppliers and customers!

However, when more cash is needed to fund new growth opportunities, buy new equipment or hire people in advance of product shipments, where does it come from? Not from a bank line of credit if you’ve been in business less than three years or don’t have a need for a loan because you have excess cash on hand. But being in business for less than three years isn’t a prerequisite for achieving phenomenal revenue and profit growth.

In order to achieve success in working “outside the banks” to acquire capital, owners must first optimize their own working capital to provide more cash internally. Next, they need to insure that their business design (customer selection, differentiation and scope) not only produce profits, but protect the profits they earn from their competitors.

I am fortunate to be working with a few clients who are currently exploring ways to finance exponential growth because they were successful in creating excellent business design that their customers love! These companies refused to pull a manhole cover over their heads and wait for better times. They were able to grow profitably in a tough economy because they had a structured, disciplined approach to do so.

There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Let’s get to it!

 

Business Owners and the ‘going it alone syndrome.’

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

 

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
Mark Twain

Many business owners suffer from the ‘going it alone syndrome.’ They have a business with all the demands of larger firms, but without the skills or staff to perform the day-to-day management, financial and planning functions. They try and do too much which sometimes results in even less getting accomplished over the long run. It is easy to become mired in small details and push aside or delay the decisions that really matter.

 

The sheer number of choices that owners must make each day-what products to buy, what information merits attention, what tasks to prioritize-can be overwhelming. The burden of isolation can often lead to inaction and being unable to process the next step or decision.

 

So, what to do? The first step is to simply understand what you’re up against. Start by slowing down a little bit and trying to understand better what you’re up against. Speed is the enemy of reflection. Next, get some help. A reliable support system is crucial to an owner’s success and you should begin cultivating a group of trusted advisors who can provide a safe outlet for you to express concerns and reliably provide honest unvarnished feedback. In many cases, learning to accept feedback is a challenge within itself; especially if you believe “no one knows better than you.”

 

Often known but rarely discussed, owners are plagued by feelings of isolation and many feel it hinders their performance. Take a minute each day to reflect on how complex and even scary your job responsibilities can be. The more accepting a business owner is of this reality, the easier it is to seek and accept support in dealing with it.

 

Unfortunately, the ‘going it alone syndrome’ can be fatal to a business, if not corrected. And even if not fatal, then surely it will limit the business’ success, such that the business is just surviving… not thriving.

 

Cheers!

 

Gene G. Wright

 

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“The Business Owner’s Challenge” Sponsored by Northstar Consulting and The Business Owner’s Movement

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

Northstar Consulting and The Business Owner Movement are pleased to announce The Business Owner’s Challenge, a series of business owner meetings/workshops beginning in January 2012. Our panel of business experts will provide counsel and feedback on a PRO BONO basis to business owners in the metro Atlanta area during a two hour “hands on” workshop in response to your greatest business opportunities and challenges submitted in advance of January 9, 2012.

Each week, if selected, you and your business will be our featured guest of our panel of business experts for a two hour workshop to provide insight, advice to help your business achieve its potential! We’re excited to be able to assist businesses gain access to some of the leading consultants, attorneys, accountants, IT and marketing professionals in the metro Atlanta area!

Please visit www.thebusinessownermovement.com and complete the on line questionnaire to register your interest for this unique opportunity. The Business Owner’s Challenge workshops are scheduled to begin on Monday January 16, 2012 from 11:00am-1:00pm at Atlantic Station, 201 17th Street Suite 300 Atlanta GA. 30363.

We look forward to your participation and hope to help make 2012 the most successful year ever for you and your business

Best wishes for a successful and prosperous 2012!!

 

What will be the “Butterfly Effect” for Small Businesses During the Next Decade?

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before”. —-Wikipedia.

Many small and mid-market businesses did not survive the turbulence caused by multiple “butterfly effects” during the decade of 2000 that began on September 11, 2001 in New York. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (along with spending on social programs and bank bailouts) resulted in record federal deficits by 2010.  Earthquakes 2004 in the Indian Ocean led to disasters in Indonesia and the Philippines. The collapse of the US housing market in 2007 led to an unprecedented global financial crisis. Hurricanes devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2008.  The impact of China and India as emerging global powers had a direct impact on US unemployment during the entire decade. Rising commodity prices led by oil and gas pretty much finished the job
on consumer spending the collapse of the housing market had begun. Rising unemployment, soaring health costs and a continually shrinking middle class added to the difficulties of the US business owner, and the cumulative effects of these events had dramatic impacts on business large and small.

 The business gladiators who survived the decade endured multiple “butterfly effects” from these and other hardships. Banks denied access to credit, consumers stopped spending, and businesses reduced buying from other businesses. They cut expenses including people to the bone. They halted
marketing and business development initiatives in their tracks. They learned how to get by with less because there was no other alternative. Somehow they made it through the decade and now are wondering “what could possibly happen next”? They’ve become reluctant to hire new people even though there’s a flickering flame of demand, they want to hoard what little cash they still have because they are afraid of “what happens after what happens next”.

 My question to these gladiators is does your preference for safety create its own risk? What will the decade of 2010 bring? More
chaos and uncertainty is a given, but it’s always darkest before dawn. There are nascent signs of recovery ahead. Unemployment has begun to reverse its trend, large companies have record levels of cash reserves, and reports indicate a good start to the 2011 holiday season relative to consumer spending. The housing oversupply over the next few years will return to some form of equilibrium. The playing field is currently absent of competitors that did not survive the past decade.

Technology advances in cloud computing and smart phones will create new opportunities for those who can monetize the business opportunities they present. Outsourcing non core competencies will keep costs down while bringing much needed people resources on a “just in time” basis. No business ever expenses its way to profit over the long term. Today’s gladiators have an excellent grasp on costs; they’ve developed that core competency to survive. But will they miss the next big opportunity?

 Now is the time to rethink how to grow their businesses profitably. They owe it to their families, employees and investors who stayed with them. Its time to take some risks.

 

 

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me before I became a CEO

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

As a consultant to many business clients, I’m often asked how I know about so many different aspects of starting, growing, and running a business. In my experience as a senior executive with large companies and an entrepreneur/owner in three business ventures to date, I learned most of my business experience through trial and error. Like everyone else I suspect, I made my share of mistakes on the “experience highway”. Looking back over a career currently in its fourth decade, I often times wish I had known then what I know now about running businesses more effectively.

There’s an old Hindu proverb that says “no physician is any good until he’s killed at least one or two patients”. That old proverb speaks candidly of the high cost of decisions that leaders must make and the experience gained as a result of them.

At any rate, I hope I can help others by sharing what I wish I knew before becoming my own boss. My list is not in any particular order of importance, nor is it in any way complete. The fact of the matter is that I’m learning more today than in the earlier years when my own lack of experience meant I was not well enough seasoned for the next big career move according to my
boss at the time.

  1. If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business. You must stay focused on your customer. Personally. Stay in touch. Really in touch. Customer needs and wants change quickly. Very quickly.
  2. Don’t ever run out of money– Place small bets versus big ones. Reinvest in winners, cut your losses on losers. That goes for people, projects, and  marketing programs, technology investments, entering new business segments or geographies. Once you’re out of funds, life gets much harder.
  3. Learn to be an effective communicator. More business is lost than you can believe through ineffective communication. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  4. Hire the very best people you can afford. Period.
  5. Outsource every non-critical function or activity you can that distracts you from the customer you serve. Thinking you’re saving money be doing your own payroll, being your own account or lawyer is just plain wrong. No business ever expensed its way to profitability.
  6. Think before you act. It’s never as easy as you think it is. It will usually take at least twice as long and cost twice as much as your best plans say it will.
  7. Know that people will tell you what they think you want to hear, whether they’re employees, suppliers or other business partners.  Finding someone who will tell you the unvarnished truth is priceless. If you can find someone who cares that
    much about you, never lose contact with them, ever.
  8. Business plans are never right. Every plan I’ve ever seen in my career missed either high or low. Making plans for more than three years out is an exercise in complete futility. Business today moves at the speed of light.
    It’s more important to understand why your assumptions were off, then course correct quickly. Remember number 2.

Enjoy the ride!

It’s Time for Small Business Owners to Create an Agenda… Georgia’s Economy Isn’t Going to Turn Soon

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

In a recent forecast prepared by UGA’s Terry College of Business, Dean Robert Sumichrast said slow growth remains the mantra in 2012. “Our forecast is for more of what we have seen the past couple of years,” he said. “We might see continued slow growth or, technically, we might see patches of recession. Either way, unemployment will remain high.”

While the United States has been on the plus side of job creation since 2009, Georgia has only managed to slow its rate of job loss. “In 2009, we lost about a quarter-million jobs,” he said. “That decreased to 50,000 in 2010, and we estimate that Georgia will lose another 25,000 jobs in 2011.”

According to the Selig Center forecast, Georgia’s jobless expansion should finally turn the corner into job growth in 2012. Net employment in the state is projected to increase by 18,000 jobs. “That small uptick will be the first annual gain in employment since 2007.” Sumichrast said. “But that is only five percent of the total jobs Georgia lost due to the recession. That won’t help Georgia’s unemployment rate improve much. It will average just over 10 percent in 2012.”

Business owners who have survived the last few years feel like survivors on the TV show “Lost”. Bloodied but unbowed survivalists in a world somehow had gone wrong. But relief may not be on the way….at least not yet. “Lost” survivors know that business is about execution, and a new agenda is required to take advantage of the space weaker competitors left in the the last decade. They realize they are now doing business in the aftermath of a historically significant period of immense challenge.

Michael Hammer, noted author and the originator of the idea of re-engineering, proposed nine powerful ideas in 2001 for business owners to ponder that seem more relevant to me today than when they were first introduced.

  1. Make your company “easy to do business with”,
  2. Add more value for your customers,
  3. Obsess about your processes,
  4. Turn creative work into process work,
  5. Use measurement for improvement, not accounting,
  6. Loosen up your organizational structure’
  7. Focus on your final customer,
  8. Knock down outer walls by collaborating more,
  9. Integrate virtually, not vertically.

It’s well known that the best ideas in the world aren’t worth much without effective implementation. The survivors of “Lost” realize a “silver bullet” in terms of a better economy that lifts all boats isn’t likely to occur in the near term. It’s time for a new aggressive agenda to win in today’s environment.

Small businesses need help creating jobs… and they aren’t getting it.

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

According to the attendees at a business summit hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, government at the state and federal levels needs to do more to support small, job-creating businesses, but they are not organized or equipped to do so.

The declines in job creation and the increases in job destruction have gotten worse since the recession began, becaus entrepreneurs have to focus all their efforts on staying alive… marketing and selling to new customers and clients, retraining workers, investing in the future and improving their operations, all at the same time and on their own without assistance.

Many business owners and professionals in attendance believed there should be government and business support to help firms succeed in repositioning and sustaining themselves by building connections with each other, but these types of programs do not exist in the public sector. One attendee shared findings from research showing companies able to reach out and get help with their difficulties tended to be at least 10 percent more productive than companies unable to do so.

This is where non-profit organizations like the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development and their Certified Advisors such as Gene Wright have become important in providing much-needed support.

Many business owners remain challenged because they do not realize there are experienced and seasoned business professionals who can assist them to reach their goals. And they don’t understand that the available help costs only a fraction of what they imagine and much less than the stress, strain and financial burdens they carry around day and night.

One of my, and the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development’s, main roles is to help business owners here in Atlanta
via OED’s Local Business Assistance Program.

If you, or any business owners you know, are looking to thrive and not just survive, you may want to take advantage of OED’s Local Business Assistance Program.

To learn more about the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development and Local Business Assistance Program please contact me via email or at 404-908-5561.

Best regards,

Gene Wright

How Scenario Based Planning Helped Retailers Prepare for an Uncertain Future.

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

November 10, 2012

In 1996, my team at Andersen Consulting’s Retail Place, a futuristic retail  environment created to offer industry executives a perspective for the future, developed a set of retail scenarios to help our clients better prepare their businesses for change.

Fifteen years later, we’ll revisit those predictions in a presentation called “Thom McAn to Gucci” to share what actually happened
with those scenarios and discuss how scenario based planning can better prepare business leaders for the future.

The discussion will be held on December 7, 2011 at The Cosmopolitan, 711 Cosmopolitan Drive Atlanta Georgia.

The meeting is open (subject to seating) to all business owners and entrepreneurs interested in learning more about creating competitive advantage for thier business.

Please RSVP by replying below or calling 404-908-5561 to reserve your place at this event.

I look forward to seeing everyone on December 7, 2011!

Gene

 

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Thom McAn to Gucci

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

November 7, 2011

Gene Wright has started a new Meet Up discussion group in metro Atlanta “Thom McAn to Gucci”.

This group is open to This group is open to business owners, entrepreneurs, investors and anyone else
committed to achieving “rare air” in their business environment. We enjoy
getting together to come up with new ideas for old problems by discovering fresh
perspectives for the future; a challenge for any business. We give each other
advice and share “logically provacitive” ideas for the benenfit of all. Our end
goal is to produce wealthly members by identifying more powerful and actionable
strategies and that is exactly what we will do. Just watch us go!!!