Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free and/or affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your monthly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events in November.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting the free and/or affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your monthly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events in November.

Northern California/Sacramento

Healthy Employees, Healthy Bottom Line Workshop
Date: November 9, 2016 | 9:30 am PDT – 11:30 am PDT
Location: Contra Costa SBDC – 2nd Floor
300 Ellinwood Way Pleasant Hill. CA 94523 (map it)
Contact: Rhea Aguinaldo | raguinaldo@smallbusinessmajority.org | 415-654-4846
Organization: Small Business Majority & Contra Costa SBDC
Fee: Free

Small business owners spend their days concentrating on their particular specialty, but there’s one thing they have in common: they all have to contend with a host of similar workforce issues. Join Contra Costa Small Business Development Center and Small Business Majority for a workshop on a variety of workforce and healthcare laws as they pertain to small businesses, including paid sick days, paid family leave, and Covered California for Small Business.

Topics include Covered California for Small Business—online health insurance marketplace where small businesses and the self-employed can shop for health coverage for their needs and budget; California’s Paid Family Leave Program—employer obligations, employee eligibility requirements; California’s new paid sick days law; and tools and resources to help you navigate the new laws. A question and answer portion will follow.

Click here to register for this event.

La Cocina’s Food + Entrepreneurship Conference
Date: November 13 & 14, 2016 | 9:00 am PDT – 5:00 pm PDT
Location: San Francisco
Contact: Aniela Valtierra | aniela@lacocinasf.org | 415-824-2729 x 309
Organization: La Cocina
Fee: $50 – $200 (scholarships are available – Please see below for more information. Application deadline is November 7)

For the past 5 years, the Food + Entrepreneurship Conference has been a gathering place for civic leaders, nonprofit innovators, and forward thinking food business owners to come together, rethink economic structures, share innovations and work together to build more equitable, vibrant and delicious cities. Leaders and innovators from as close as Oakland to as far as Helsinki have looked to La Cocina throughout the years to engage in dialogue and revolutionize the way we produce, eat, and think about food.

This year, La Cocina’s Food + Entrepreneurship Conference, presented by Whole Foods Market, will kick off on Sunday, November 13th with a full day of conversations, workshops, and food with a focus on how small businesses can be activists for change in their communities. On Monday, November 14th, we’ll be hosting guided walking tours (with plenty of eats!) to experience food entrepreneurship on the ground.

To see what we’ll be discussing at the conference, and who will be speaking, have a look at the Conference Schedule.

Food Producer Scholarships: We also have a scholarship fund for producers, which is good for the Sunday Conference Program. So if you think you’d really benefit from attending the conference but can’t quite afford it, please do send in a scholarship application form.  We are reviewing scholarship applications weekly, and will respond to you accordingly. The last date to apply is November 7th.

For more information or to buy tickets for the event, click here.

Buying or Selling a Small Business
Date: November 14, 2016 | 9:30 am PDT – 12:30 pm PDT
Location: Silicon Valley SCORE
234 E. Gish Road, Suite 100 San Jose, CA 95112 (map it)
Contact: info@svscore.org | 408-453-6237
Organization: Silicon Valley SCORE
Fee: $45; Free for veterans (see below)

Learn how to buy the right business cheap….or sell it high! This is a class for anyone who wants to buy or sell a business and doesn’t know where to start. Two highly experienced business brokers teach this class and they really know their stuff. Anyone who wants to know about evaluating a business’s value or wants to know how to be sure they are buying value should take this class. The course will cover valuation, what kinds of records you need to review, and the legal overview of a business transaction.

Click here to register for this event. Veterans: Free admission is available for this class. Click here for details.

Southern California/San Diego

Small Business Development Center Orientation
Date: November 1, 2016 | 1:30 pm PDT – 2:30 pm PDT
Location: San Diego SBDC
880 National City Blvd., Suite 103, National City CA 91950-3263 (map it)
Contact: sdsbdc@swccd.edu | 619-482-6391
Organization: San Diego and Imperial Valley SBDC
Fee: Free

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers a myriad of services for the start-up and existing business owner at “No Cost” or “Low Cost”. The one-on-one business consulting services are non-fee based and designed to assist in the formulation and management of your business. The workshops and classes cover a variety of business interest topics and most are no cost to the SBDC client. The SBDC mission is to assist small business owners to start and grow their business.

Click here to register for this event.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business—Information Session
Date: November 2, 2016 | 8:30 am PDT – 10:00 am PDT
Location: We Work, the Gas Company Tower
555 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90013 (map it)
Contact: Catalina Aldridge | 213-580-7590
Organization: Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Fee: Free

Have you secretly desired to learn how to take your business to the next level? With Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, you can gain practical business skills and tools to help accelerate that growth. Through professional workshops, you will learn from some of the brightest minds in business. Learn about access to financial capital and build a powerful network of professional support. If accepted into this national program with near 100 percent completion, program tuition will be at no cost to you!

If you are a business owner that is passionate about building greater success, join us for this information session. Your invitation will give you access to previewing the program, hear from an instructor, and learn how to apply for this exclusive network of business owners from around the nation. Opportunity Fund Regional Director Iosefa Alofaituli is scheduled to appear at the event.

For more information about the Goldman Sachs program, click here. Download the information flyer for the information session here: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

Business Resource Seminar & Expo
Date: November 9, 2016 | 8:00 am PDT – 12:30 pm PDT
Location: Ventura College Wright Event Center
57 Day Road Ventura, CA 93003 (map it)
Contact: Xiomara Peña
Organization: Small Business Majority
Fee: Free

The Board of Equalization invites you to join this business expo full of strategies for success in today’s economy. Topics will cover: the power of the chamber of commerce, avoiding common sales and tax problems, forms of ownership, recordkeeping for small businesses, employee or independent contractor status, loan programs, and much more. Our So. Cal. Outreach Manager will be presenting on the importance of planning for retirement and complying with workforce regulation including CA’s new Paid Sick Day Law and Paid Family Leave.

Click here to register for this event.

Virtual

Money Now, Money Later: ABCs of Financing Your Small Business and Building Your Retirement
Date: November 8, 2016 | 11:00 am PDT – 12:00 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Geri Agilpay
Organization: Small Business Majority
Fee: Free

Small Business Majority invites you to join us for a free webinar to help you navigate the funding landscape and finance the growth of your small business. We will focus on microloans, crowdfunding, online lenders, and guarding against predatory lending. Growing your business also means securing your finances, so we will provide an overview of common retirement paths for small business owners and their employees.

Topics of discussion include an overview of alternative lending options including microloans and reputable online lenders, questions for entrepreneurs to consider when seeking funding, The Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, the U.S. retirement savings gap and how small business can be part of the solution, and much more. A question and answer period will follow.

Click here to register for this event.

Low Cost Marketing Ideas
Date: November 17, 2016 | 9:00 am PDT – 12:30 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: sbc@durhamtech.edu |919-536-7241
Organization: Small Business Center Network
Fee: Free

Learn how to create a marketing strategy that supports your business goals. This seminar will cover some of the best marketing tools that are free or at a very low-cost and explore creative ways to promote your business without breaking the bank or your budget. Taught by Melissa Terrell of Women’s Business Center.

Click here to register for this event.

Veteran Entrepreneurship
Date: November 30, 2016 | 5:30 pm PDT – 6:00 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Amber Lopez | sdbc@canyons.edu | 661-362-5900
Organization: SBDC Los Angeles
Fee: Free

The session will highlight entrepreneurship as an option to generate income and cash flow.  Participants will be introduced to resources to help with the next step in starting or growing your business, or transitioning from current activity into a formal business. Join instructor Raimone Roberts, Business Advisor at the College of the Canyons SDBC and U.S. Air Force veteran.

Click here to register for this event.

We’re looking for upcoming events to promote to small business owners like you. If you have an event you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. Last year, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

There are over three million small businesses in the state of California. Three million small business owners have a lot of voting power. Read why as a small business owner you should vote.

According to the Small Business Administration, there are over three million small businesses in the state of California. Three million small business owners have a lot of voting power and play an influential role in their communities Read why as a small business owner you should vote and encourage others too.

Californians Are Registering and Voting Less

Too many Californians aren’t voting. Only 25% voted in the June primaries and only 42% voted in the November general election. This is a big problem. If less than half the state is voting, the results aren’t truly representative of the state.

The reason why? Low trust in the government is the top reason reported for not registering to vote, but time constraints and lack of interest are the top reasons for not voting.

Polls open early, usually around 7 a.m. and stay open until 8 p.m. making polls accessible to you and your employees.  If you feel like you don’t have time to vote on election day: vote by mail. The deadline to apply to vote by mail is no later than seven days before the election; November 1 this election. If your businesses work hours don’t make it easy for you and your employees to vote in person, encourage your employees to apply to vote by mail too.

If you don’t have any interest in voting, keep reading to find out why you should.

Why Your Vote Matters

We went in depth as to how ballot measures can directly affect your small business in our blog post here[insert when we have a permalink], but the most important thing to know is that your vote can and will influence policies and laws.

Regardless of political party affiliation, voting for representatives and legislation is a civic duty and a responsibility of small business owners as community influencers.

As a small business owner, you take pride in your entrepreneurship and your hard work. Take that drive and initiative to the voting booth by voting for the interests of your business and your community.

Find your polling place here, and go vote on election day!


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

Before a chance meeting in 2013 with Accion, a nonprofit microlender, Kris Schoenberger pulled in $20,000 to $30,000 annually through his mobile catering company, BBQ’d Productions. Catering was his side gig at the time.

A little more than a year later, Schoenberger’s business in Third Lake, Illinois, north of Chicago, had grown to include a full-service restaurant. His revenue from July 2014 to July 2015, the first year of business for the restaurant, soared to $2 million.

Schoenberger gives a lot of the credit to Accion, which lent him about $7,500 to help upgrade his catering operation from a grill in the back of his truck to a fully equipped catering trailer. He says an Accion loan officer helped him save nearly $6,000 on the trailer.

‘They also teach you’

“Not only do they give you the money,” Schoenberger says, “they also teach you how to make the most out of that money. I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for them. Any time I have a problem or question, I can always call them.”

This type of financial and business education is central to the mission of most nonprofit microlenders. Rather than lending money and leaving borrowers to fend for themselves, microlenders provide counseling and mentoring to help entrepreneurs succeed.

Nonprofit microfinance organizations also help people in underprivileged and underrepresented communities access the capital they need to start businesses, buy homes or build credit, often when they can’t get financing through a traditional bank.

In recent years, microlenders have become more visible as traditional lenders, such as banks, pulled back on small-business lending during and after the recession.

Microlending has been growing in the U.S., according to the latest information from the Aspen Institute, whose FIELD program collects data on microlenders across the country. Total microloans disbursed in the U.S. jumped to $209 million in 2014, up 47% from $142 million the previous year. The total number of microloans rose to 56,351, a gain of 49% from 37,927.

Germaine Seufert took out an $18,000 loan from Accion, after being declined by a bank, to buy a bus to help expand her organization’s summer camp. Seufert is the director of Consultants for Children, a Colorado company that provides in-home and small-group services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Before approving the loan, Accion made a site visit, called business references and looked over the organization’s books. The whole process took about four weeks, Seufert says.

When she went to Accion to refinance the loan to buy a second bus, the process went much more quickly.

‘They immediately approved’

“It took more time for me to pick out the vehicle,” she says. “But once we had the appraisal done, they immediately approved the loan.”

Founded in 1961, the global nonprofit Accion helps millions of people in more than 20 countries secure financing. Among those countries: the United States.

The organization offers microloans and general small-business loans in the U.S. in amounts ranging from $200 to $750,000. Accion offers loans to help businesses in specific industries — including child care, food and beverage, spa and salon — as well as those that are in the nonprofit sector or aiming to go green. Accion’s lending activity in the U.S. is committed to helping underserved entrepreneurs, including women, veterans, people with disabilities, Native Americans and other minority business owners.

Many nonprofit lenders are local, serving specific regions or communities. California-based Opportunity Fund is one. The microlender has been serving residents of the state since 1994, with more than $100 million in microloans.

Laura Hanson, a co-owner of Watershed Nursery in Point Richmond, California, was one of those people. In 2008, Hanson borrowed $10,000 from Opportunity Fund to expand the nursery, which she and her co-owner started in the backyard.

‘They were there to help’

“They were offering better rates. It felt more attractive and straightforward and helpful,” Hanson says. “We had a person who was on our account who was accessible and answered questions. I felt like they were there to help us.”

In addition to microloans to small businesses, Opportunity Fund also promotes microsavings. This program matches every dollar saved by low-income clients with $1 from Opportunity Fund and $1 from donors.

Opportunity Fund doesn’t simply give money, though. The organization provides basic financial literacy education to clients to help them learn to budget, save and spend wisely.

When you’re a small-business owner on a quest for capital, there are several smart reasons to turn to nonprofit lenders. These lenders go beyond making small loans to entrepreneurs and provide some benefits that traditional lenders don’t:

    • Profit is not their objective. Many microlenders are called mission-focused or mission-based lenders. They offer loans from government or nonprofit programs geared to helping disadvantaged communities, including areas that are struggling economically. Some microlenders also operate internationally, helping entrepreneurs in developing nations.
    • Microlenders typically offer loans of $50,000 or less to startups and other small-scale operations. Some make bigger loans to more established businesses.
    • Many microlenders and nonprofits provide pro bono consulting and training, including helping small businesses build credit.

Read the article Here

CEO Eric Weaver leads Opportunity Fund, which lends tens of millions of dollars to small businesses that are often overlooked by traditional institutions.

 

Read the article

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable online tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your toolbox for five affordable design resources.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable online tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your toolbox for five affordable design resources.

Visually appealing packaging and marketing is important for drawing new customers to your small business. We’ve compiled this list of five affordable online tools you can use to become more colorful, cohesive, and modern. From inspiration to actual creation, this list has you covered.  

 


How much it costs: Free for standard use, $1 premium photos and icons, $10 a month business account

What it does: Canva is an amazing free online tool for creating just about any kind of collateral. From social media banners and event invitations to menus and flyers, you can choose from dozens of templates or create your own dimensions. Canva also has a large database of stock photos, icons, backgrounds, and fonts. Although many photos and icons are free, you can “rent” a premium item for 24 hours for only $1. Upgrading allows you to resize your project, save branding color palettes for future projects, create folders, etc. Canva allows you to download your image in a variety of formats including PDFs with bleeds for easy printing!


How much it costs: Free

What it does: Pixlr is a great Photoshop alternative that has just as many tools and features for editing photos and graphics. You can choose either of their two web versions or download their software to your desktop for offline use. If you’re more creative, you can create beautiful images from scratch or just edit your business photos to make them look more professional and attractive to your customers.


How much it costs: Free

What it does: Paletton is a simple, easy-to-use online tool for generating color palettes. Having a cohesive palette with colors that look good together will help your products and branding look professional and attractive. You can choose from a monochromatic color scheme that shows shades of the same color, or you can choose from more complex options that will show you complimentary colors and shades for up to four different colors. Once you’ve chosen your colors, Paletton gives you lots of useful information about each individual color and options to share your palette for easy access later on.


How much it costs: Free and varying prices for premium bundles

What it does: Graphic Burger is a great website for inspiration and design resources. They offer free downloads and premium bundles for the more complex projects. Some of the design resources include fonts, product mock-ups, icons, design kits, backgrounds, text effects, stock photos, and more. Unless you know your way around Photoshop and other vector editors, or your small business has a graphic artist, these resources might seem confusing. Even if you don’t want to fiddle with those, Graphic Burger is a wonderful place to browse for inspiration for branding, product labels, and marketing materials.


How much it costs: Free

What it does: Subtle Patterns is a simple website with easy downloads. Patterns can be really useful for fast, easy design. Use them for business cards, social media headers, website headers or backgrounds, flyers, menus, etc. There are limitless possibilities for these free patterns.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

You already know that good credit is vital for getting the loan your small business needs. Our content partner Nav shares four easy ways to improve your credit score.

You already know that good credit is vital for getting the loan your small business needs. Our content partner Nav.com  shares four easy ways to improve your credit score.

Small business owners have a lot of numbers to think about when managing their finances. But one series of numbers that often gets ignored is their business credit scores. Just as individuals earn a numerical rating to help lenders determine their credit-worthiness, businesses are also given a score based on their credit history, and that score can impact their ability to get financing, government contracts, trade credit accounts and more.

Business credit scores are created by agencies like Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax, all of which use a score that ranks a business from 0 to 100, with 100 as a perfect score. You should aim to keep your business credit scores above 75.

In addition to these bureaus, FICO also has a score that rates small businesses: the FICO SBSS score. It ranges from 0 to 300, the higher the score, the better. The SBA uses FICO’s SBSS model to pre-screen it’s most popular loan applications. If your score falls below 140 then you likely won’t qualify for these attractive (loan interest rate) loans. And banks usually require your FICO SBSS score be even higher, in the 160 range.

With all the different bureaus and types of scores, it can be confusing. The good news is that following a few simple steps can ensure your business has a strong credit profile regardless of the bureau or model being used to judge it.

Establish Credit

Many small business owners might not see a need to establish business credit when they are starting out. Often, when working on a small scale, you can bankroll the company on your personal credit. But even if you don’t see an immediate need for business credit, one might arise down the road as the business grows and expands. It’s better to dig your well before you’re thirsty, right? Not establishing a business credit profile might disqualify you from financing when it’s needed.

Since business credit scores are strongly based on history, you should open a few credit accounts, like business credit cards, to start to build a credit history. Even if the business does not need this financing, it will pay off to use it minimally and show your business is responsible managing credit.

Pay Early

You might think that paying all of your bills on time is enough to earn you perfect business credit reports. With your personal credit score, this might be true. But with your business credit score, on time is not enough. The Dun & Bradstreet Paydex score, for example, is completely based on the timeliness of your business’ payments to its vendors, suppliers and creditors. Paying on time will earn you a Paydex score of 80. The only way to earn a perfect 100 is to make your payments 30 days before they are due.

Keep Debt Low

A big factor impacting your business credit score is your debt-to-equity ratio. This measures your business’ financial leverage in relation to the amount it is currently using. Credit utilization is another important metric, which looks at your available credit in relation to your debt. A high ratio will result in a low credit score. Small business owners should aim to keep credit utilization below 30 percent. A good tip to help manage this is to make several small payments during a billing period rather than waiting until the end to pay off the debt in full.

Check For Mistakes

Mistakes are more common on business credit reports than on personal reports. A Wall Street Journal survey showed that 25 percent of people who checked found business credit report errors that lowered their score. The main reason errors are more common is because business credit data is much more fragmented, so it’s easier for information to get crossed up.

This is another reason why it’s important for you to regularly monitor your reports to ensure there are no mistakes.

Nav offers truly free business credit reports and monitoring on our website. We also have a free tool (CreditSweeper) that helps you spot and dispute any mistakes.

By doing these simple things, you should be able to maintain a healthy business credit score and ensure your business is poised to take advantage of any growth opportunity.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Meet Dave and Lana of Outerlands Café in San Francisco.  The husband and wife restaurant owner team needed a needed $10,000 loan to open their popular restaurant.

Our customers inspire us every day and we want to regularly share those stories to inspire you, too.  This week, read about Dave and Lana of Outerlands Café in San Francisco.  The husband and wife restaurant owner team needed a needed $10,000 loan to open their popular San Francisco restaurant.

We Recognize Innovation

When their bank turned them down for a small business loan, Dave and Lana went to the San Francisco’s SBA office and discovered Opportunity Fund.

Recognizing the couple’s potential to succeed and innovative approach to their restaurant, Opportunity Fund approved them for a $10,000 microloan.  Two months after the doors opened in 2008, a New York Times reporter wandered into Dave and Lana’s café deep in San Francisco’s Sunset District.

Outerlands appeared in the Travel Section not long after, and in the years since buzz about the cafe’s farm-fresh ingredients, innovative menu, and inviting atmosphere has not subsided.

Coming Back For Seconds

After paying off their initial $10,000 loan, Dave and Lana were approved for a second $100,000 loan from Opportunity Fund to purchase their liquor license.  Now, five years after opening, Outerlands has become one of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhood cafes.

Later they began seeking additional financing in order to fund their restaurant expansion.  They were able to “graduate” from an Opportunity Fund loan to a loan from Citibank.  They consolidated their debt and paid off their Opportunity Fund loan with no prepayment penalties, enabling their business to grow even stronger.

We hope this story has inspired you, too.  At Opportunity Fund, we offer easy-to-get, fast, and affordable small business loans to help small business owners succeed.  Visit our home page to find out more.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. Last year, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Having a business strategy is important for running a successful business, but developing a good strategy from scratch can be difficult. Our content partner Nav shares a few tips on how to develop a business strategy based off of an I.M.O. framework.

Having a business strategy is important for running a successful business, but developing a good strategy from scratch can be difficult. Our content partner Nav.com  shares a few tips on how to develop a business strategy based off of an I.M.O. framework.

Guest post by Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, entrepreneur, blogger, and business planner. The original post can be found on Quora: What makes a good business strategy?

What Makes a Good Business Strategy?

There are some obvious easy answers to this question if you take it from after the fact, looking at strategies that worked. From that point of view, a good strategy is one that worked. Every successful business had a good business strategy.

Would you agree that the great business strategies, the ones we all know that really worked, all looked obvious when you go back and study them after they made it? Federal Express, Google, Apple, McDonald’s … all a matter of focus, carving out identity and product-market fit … all obvious to all later?

During the several years that I was a VP at a firm called Creative Strategies I thought the name, with its reference to strategy, was a business problem. I decided strategy was like driving, and sex, in that everybody is sure that he or she is very good at it. That made it hard to sell consulting. Or so I thought.

But I think the real question is how to determine a good strategy before it’s executed. What qualities make a good business strategy?

You could start with this: strategy is focus. A good business strategy focuses on a well-defined target market, with a business offering that matches. Think of how MINI-cooper addresses a market subsegment with a specialized product offering.

Obviously there are whole careers spent on analyzing strategy, and people have PhD degrees on strategy. But I think it has to be simple to work. And obvious, afterwards, as if it were always there.

I’m working on something I call IMO, which stands for identity, market, and [business] offering. They are three factors that work together (this is from Lean Planning Practical Business Strategy: 3 Key Factors).

  • On identity: Every business has its core identity. How are you different from others? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your core competence? What are your goals? Take bicycle shop as an example. One shop was started by a bike racer who loved the sport and the bicycles with a passion. Her core competence is high-level bicycles, racing bicycles. She’s comfortable with the obsessed enthusiasts. Another shop was started by a couple with kids, who liked the bikes as a family activity. That’s identity.
  • On choice of target market: Your identity influences your choice of target market. The bike racer focuses on attracting enthusiasts, offering expensive high-end bicycles and equipment. The couple focuses on attracting parents with kids, concentrating on medium-level bikes, trailers, and family-friendly accessories.
  • On the business offering: Your business offering is your product or service. You can already see with the bike shop example how one shop needs one kind of inventory and the other needs a different kind. That’s strategy at work. Your identity influences your choice of market, which influences your choice of product. Your choice of product influences your choice of market. They have to work together.

I think this three-way strategy framework works well for real businesses. It’s not as elaborate as some of the more well-known frameworks, like Porter’s five forces; but those were done for analyzing large business successes, and after the fact.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org