Archive for the ‘Commerce’ Category

By Charles Lamb, Marketing Director, Central Bancorp

ImageAn article in the Colorado Springs Business Journal last month (Most Small Business Owners are Marketing Online) reminded local small business owners of key challenges they face in creating the right marketing mix to establish—and keep—their customer base, create awareness, and differentiate their product in the marketplace.

A marketing program to do all of the above is tough work, assuming most small business owners do not have their own marketing directors, graphic designers, web developers, and social media experts on hand to do the work it requires to bring in customers and build their business. So, most small business owners—as the article states—resort to marketing online. The reputation of online marketing is it’s inexpensive and easy, and that’s why small business owners rely on the internet and social media to market themselves. I have some thoughts on why this should not be your only strategy outlined below, but first there are several points within the article on which I agree:

Small businesses need to go where their audience is. This is especially important if you have just one location and where your e-presence can benefit your growth.

Participating, networking, and being found online is extremely important. How customers interact with you electronically is critical and could be a prospect’s first point of contact with you due to the growing utilization of mobile and electronic devices.

A majority of consumers use the internet to research products and services in their local area. A user-friendly and attractive website or mobile application will drive customers to your business.

What made me stop and think a minute while reading Monica Mendoza’s article—who is, by the way, a great local writer for the journal—is the second paragraph, which says that of the small business owners surveyed by Manta—an online site for small businesses—74 percent find networking online just as, if not more, important than networking in person. Yikes!

Sure, you might need a Facebook presence. And, you need a decent website. But, as a small business owner, it’s to your advantage to also invest in developing strategic alliances and partnerships out in the community. You can do this by networking and getting involved in the Colorado Springs non-profit and business communities—creating ambassadors for your brand, which will drive business through referrals. And, the good news is that you don’t need a dedicated marketing department to create decent volume of word-of-mouth marketing.

Online marketing would be your mass approach and building strategic alliances and networking would be your grassroots approach to building your customer base—and it could most definitely take both efforts to do the job of building your business. But, my point is that you cannot put all of your marketing eggs in one basket and ignore the other. All effective marketing programs have a mix of both.

For further discussion or questions, feel free to contact Charles Lamb at 719.228.1143 or Charles.Lamb@CentralBancorp.com.


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Contributed by guest blogger Chuck Kocher, Certified Diamond Master Coach, ActionCoach

Remember those days when business folks sealed deals through a handshake, and it was all about who you knew?  Yes, those were the good old days, and I’d like to tell you that they’re still here!

Even in today’s technology-driven, global business environment—where we’re more prone to catch up with our buddies or business partners via Twitter and Facebook—a wise business strategy is to build a network of close relationships to generate sales referrals and ultimately revenue for your company. I would estimate that 70 percent of my business is developed through my key strategic partners: people with whom I have developed strong personal and professional ties, who then provide warm referrals to people they know.

Another way to put this is to create a strategy around creating mutually beneficial relationships to drive your business—and theirs. Here are a few key tips to get you started:

–  Tip 1: Make this a priority in your business life. Schedule 4 to 5 strategic partner meetings every week to build upon relationships and develop revenue channels.

–  Tip  2: Take your time and be a giver. Don’t go into the first meeting making it all about you and what you need. Learn more about your potential partner, what their business needs are, and ways in which you can assist.

–  Tip 3: Set the table. In meeting number 2 or 3, let your partner know that a mutually productive business partnership is a goal of yours.

–  Tip 4: Give again. Once a partnership has been established, give referrals to him or her as often as possible.

–  Tip 5: Build upon your network. Now that the groundwork for exchange has been completed, ask for the names of your partner’s trusted advisors and then go about making those people or firms a part of your network.

–  Tip 6: Perform well. Once your strategic partner has referred you to one of their advisors, perform well so that your strategic partner has confidence to provide you with more opportunities.

In short, it’s important to think foremost about the people around you and the networks you want to develop to generate revenue and opportunities for your business. Yes, social media and advertising are important tools for business generation—but so is building strategic partners.

For more information on action coach Chuck Kocher, CLICK HERE.

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Contributed by Jill Webb, Director of Business Development, Central Bancorp

ImageAs home to a growing defense industry and military presence, Colorado Springs has the honor to host a number of technical conferences each year that discuss the nation’s defense capabilities–present and future.

I had the pleasure this past week to attend one such gathering of minds at the Wide Area Sensing and Communications (WASC) Conference, which brought together some tremendous defense experts and officials including General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA; General William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command; Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia; and several other Department of Defense officials and industry experts.

These professionals from the commercial and military sectors were here in Colorado Springs to share the latest and greatest in communication and technology platforms that our military and government are using and developing to keep this country safe.

While most of what I saw seemed futuristic and unimaginable, the most interesting aspect of the conference, in my opinion, is that a lot of the technology showcased came from local small businesses right here in Colorado Springs, and they should be commended for their achievements in advancing defense technology.

The following companies were at the conference along with their CEO’s, who shared their latest successes:

Navsys Corporation: Provides technical products and services in GPS hardware design, systems engineering, systems analysis, and software design

SkySentry: A national leader in the investigation and development of high altitude operations

Imprimis Inc: Supports government and private organizations in achieving operational excellence with the effective use of technology

Global Near Space Services: Designs and develops unmanned aerospace systems

Colorado Springs is known for its many great industries, outdoor offerings, and quality of life. Through the work of these industries and more, it has also become the second largest defense industry market in the United States. We should be proud of that accomplishment and celebrate these businesses who are making it happen!

For more information on the WASC Conference, CLICK HERE.

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Contributed by Charles Lamb, Director of Marketing, Central Bancorp

I’m new to Colorado Springs—a transplant from the Four Corners—and in my four short weeks exploring, living, and working in the downtown area, I’ve grown to love the local small business feel permeating the city.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with big box stores or national chains. Much of my ‘Black Friday’ shopping was spent standing in line in one. But, during the remainder of the holiday shopping season, I’ll commit to buying holiday cards, wine, coffee, bike parts, and groceries in as many locally owned shops as I can find.

It’s a great feeling to hand a wife and husband your debit card in their wine shop; sip on a latté in a coffee bar named after the area’s famous peak; get served a pastry from the daughter of the bakery’s owner; and bank where the teller knows your name—and you know hers. There is satisfaction in shopping local and knowing that your money will stay in town and have an impact here in Colorado Springs.

Please remember your neighborhood small business during the hectic holiday shopping season. Perhaps you’ll find the experience of buying local so enchanting—as I have—that it’ll become a shopping habit to continue year round.

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Contributed by Tim Coutts, COO, Central Bancorp

Gone are the days where a business valuation was only done when contemplating a sale.  The process of determining the value of your business is a good practice in a market where efficiency is key.  Understanding the weaknesses and potential opportunities for your business is of tremendous value, so why wait until you want to sell your business to gain this insight?

Formal business valuation is an excellent tool for businesses that can afford the time and expense that is required.  However, resources for quick, easy and cost effective estimates are also available. We are currently offering our clients access to an Online Business Valuation tool provided by ValuSource, a locally-based national company with over 25 years of experience.

Here are a few examples of how even a high-level business valuation can make your business more efficient and more profitable, long before you ever think of selling it.

  1. Find opportunities for improvement in your operations by comparing key financial benchmarks (e.g., sales, distributed earnings) with companies in your industry that have been sold.  One of the key tools for strategic planning is benchmarking – measuring the performance of one company against another high-performing company.  The challenge for businesses, especially for small businesses, is finding the data to use as a benchmark.  When you obtain an estimate of value from Online Business Valuation, one of the resources involved is a database of over 30,000 businesses that have been sold, including numerous details about their operations.  By comparing such performance metrics as sales, revenue, and discretionary earnings to those of companies in your industry, you can see how those metrics impact the price for which that company sold.  How do the sales, discretionary earnings or other metrics of your company compare to other companies that sold in the price range you want to reach for your company?
  2. Find an opportunity for growth through leveraging debt (more…)

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Contributed by Scott Yeoman, CEO, Central Bank & Trust

Having spent the first four and a half decades of my life in the industrial Midwest, I have witnessed some wrenching changes over the past 20 years.  The simple act of making things in the U.S. got much more difficult due to the lower costs of overseas competitors.  Manufacturers looking to survive had to become much quicker on their feet, no longer able to count on a product having a profitable life cycle of 40 years.  Fast forward to 2011 and an ability to quickly introduce new products and an incessant focus on productivity are the new requirements of the manufacturing game. 

This shift renders manufacturing a desirable industry for any community.

Managers in manufacturing must have their eyes and ears tuned in to worldwide trends, not just to the other guy down the street.  This global view stimulates an innovative environment with a constant infusion of new ideas back into the local community.  Though manufacturing can be dirty and unglamorous, one of the major benefits of this trade is the legacy factor.  Successful manufacturers often create an intricate family tree of suppliers and customers who directly prosper from their success.  For those that succeed, the creation of wealth is the reward.  And unlike many other businesses, the lucky owners of successful manufacturing operations make money around the clock, not just when the door is open. 

Manufacturing gets into a community’s lifeblood and when that happens, much of that wealth stays in the community and gets spread to the arts, health, and human services.  I applaud the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation’s efforts to build a stronger foundation for manufacturing in our community.

**By way of disclaimer, which is something we are very good at in the banking industry, those aren’t actual arms in the photo accompanying this blog post.  That’s an image from Truskin Gloves, a latex glove manufacturer in India, that carries the tagline “The hands we glove…Touch the lives you care.”

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