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For small businesses, education and innovation go hand in hand

There used to be a time when creativity and innovation were only associated with artists, musicians, writers, and the like. It didn’t take much for an organization to stand out, as competition wasn’t so intense…as long as it was a little different, it was perceived as innovative, making it easy for someone to dominate the market. But with changing times, came a different mind-set. The need to ideate and innovate is pivotal now more than ever before. For businesses, it has become a game changer!

The 21st century innovation/technological revolution has changed the way we do business, becoming an integral part of every facet and detail of our personal lives and businesses – how we work, how we live, how we interact, how we conduct business, the types of businesses started, and more, making it vital for business owners to constantly learn new tools, skills, and techniques to maintain their competitive edge. But for small businesses who are short on time (and often, cash), how do you jumpstart your business education? Here are some education resources for every small business owner to get the information they need to help their team succeed.

Books and Podcasts
Access to practically anything that we want to know is available at the touch of a button. If you have the time, reading a book or listening to a podcast is a quick and easy way to brush up on a specific business topic.

Degree Programs
If you have the time to commit (and a few thousand dollars to spend), most college programs offer undergraduate and graduate majors in entrepreneurship. This provides the formal business education and training that potential partners, investors, employees, etc. find valuable. Additionally, many programs are incorporating opportunities to develop an actual business as part of the curriculum, combining business principles with applied, real-world experience.

Continuing Education Programs and Workshops
There are a number of free online courses that can be completed in a few hours a week, including those through edX, Coursera, US Small Business Administration, to name a few. If you need face time with instructors and classmates, check local programs for free seminars and guest speaking sessions sponsored by local small-business alliances.

Mastermind Groups
These groups, whether online or in person, allow you to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and trusted advisors who meet regularly with the goal of improving each other’s lives or businesses. The collective brainpower of the group, the “mastermind,” can solve problems and take advantage of opportunities in a way that an individual person may not be able to (think, two or more heads are better than one).

Incubators and Accelerators
Incubators tend to focus on startups and usually work best when focused in a specific field or industry. Accelerators provide that next step for a business to transition from start-up to full-fledge operation. These options tend to provide the close network, collaborative support and access to mentors, which have been proven to be successful elements for long-term business success.

In the hustle and bustle of entrepreneurship, it is not always easy to make time to take a class or do. But if you are to solidify your business’ competitive edge and demonstrate your position as an expert or thought, it is no longer a luxury but an imperative to develop a mindset receptive to new ideas and open to continual learning.

The University of Florida Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations offers a wide array of learning opportunities for small businesses. For more information on the University of Florida’s program, go to https://sbvdr.admin.ufl.edu/. Follow them on Twitter @UFSmallBusiness and Facebook @UFSmallBusiness.

By Kathey Porter, MBA, CPSD, Director UF Small Business & Vendor Diversity Relations

UF Director for Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations appointed to state small business advisory board

The University of Florida Director for Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations Kathey Porter, MBA, CPSD, has been appointed to the Florida Advisory Council on Small and Minority Business Development by the secretary for the Department of Management Services, Erin Rock.

This group consists of small businesses, supplier diversity professionals and stakeholders from across the state of Florida to provide insight and expertise to the state regarding small and minority business development and provide recommendations on how to improve engagement of and support for Florida’s small and minority business community.

Porter is a nationally recognized expert on supplier diversity, small business development and entrepreneurship, and has led supplier diversity programs and acted as business consultant for higher education, municipalities the federal government for more than 10 years. She is a frequent speaker/panelist at conferences and events focusing on supplier diversity, small business development/entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment and diversity and inclusion and has been an adjunct business instructor for over 10 years at several colleges and universities.

Porter is the author of 50 Billion Dollar Boss: African American Women Sharing Stories of Success in Entrepreneurship and Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan) and a business contributor to several local and national publications and platforms including the Gainesville Business Report, OPEN Forum (American Express), ESSENCE Magazine and more. In 2017, she was recognized as a 2017 Fierce Woman by Business in Greater Gainesville magazine and a Florida Woman on The Move by ONYX Magazine. Porter’s second book, on supplier diversity, is scheduled to be released in fall, 2018. Porter received her CPSD (Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity) through the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) in 2015.

“I am excited to have the work that we are doing with small businesses here at UF get recognized. I look forward to the opportunity to collaborate and create opportunities for small and minority businesses throughout the state of Florida,” says Porter.

UF’s Office of Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations seeks to identify and utilize a diverse supply of qualified vendors interested in providing the many services and products required by the university.

SBVDR is responsible for the university’s Supplier Diversity Program, which focuses on providing equal access for small, HUBZone, minority, small-disadvantaged, veteran, service-disabled veteran, and women-owned businesses by providing them equal opportunity to compete for procurement and contracting opportunities at UF.

Take Action, Try Not To Overthink It !


Congratulations! You’ve made a large step in thinking about or already establishing your business endeavour. If you now own a business, you completed the most difficult task for most, action. If you’re still on the fence the best advice is to take action.

New Is Scary

It’s more common than you think to be terrified of trying new things. We tend to think irrationally that things will automatically fail or not progress as intended. Funny things is, everything is so new when you are running a new business. Throughout the process, you will not know everything. Commonly, business owners worry about not creating enough value for their customers or not attracting enough customers to buy their valuable service or product. We often tell ourselves that our fear and self-doubt is more valuable than a positively laid out action plan. Acknowledge whenever the fear and self-doubt creep in, it’s not telling you anything useful, and move forward anyway. Overthinking is part of fear, it’s only charged up when you give it power.

Do you think you’re the only one going through these feelings? Good news, everyone struggles with fear, even if they don’t let on. The fear of putting yourself out there or launching something new doesn’t entirely go away. The main reason why people are able to manage their overthinking self-doubt and still achieve success is because when they experience it, they acknowledge it to keep the train moving.

You’re Doing Great!

You know what? Fear can be a sign that you’re on the right track to success, as long as you work to overcome it. Over thinking your abilities and work is a sign that you are working on something important. You’re most likely over thinking because you think a more perfect human other than yourself is capable. Perfect humans don’t exist and no one will do whatever you are working on like you! Go, do your thing.

There isn’t a secret to conquering self-doubt, over thinking, or fear of failure. There isn’t a huge step process because we all struggle but we must learn how to manage those thoughts as an entrepreneur

Action!

Magic happens when we take action. Embrace your actions over the perceived outcome. Practice by starting small. They won’t be perfect but just keep going. Celebrate your progress and make action a habit. Go out there and be uniquely you!


Simply Sociable is a boutique administrative firm that understands the importance of leveraging the internet and technology. Simply Sociable specializes in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to work on their business instead of in it. They provide administrative consultations and virtual administrative assistants to get things done. Nadia Alcide is the founder and a University of Florida alumni.

 

Registration for 2018 Mentor Protégé Program is now OPEN!

UF Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations Mentor Protégé Program matches emerging small businesses with leading area businesses to assist them in gaining the tools and techniques to improve their operations, foster long-term relationships and accelerate growth. .

 Accepting applications September 2017!

 Learn more about this program here.

 

Correct Your Posture Before It Tells You

The month of May is Correct Posture Month. According to the American Posture Institution, startups, entrepreneurs, and business leaders lose an average of 6 hours in productivity per week. The typical loss of activity is attributed to headaches, back pain, and decreased focus. On any given workday, there are a number of factors that play a major part in your posture. They include the placement of your work chair, keyboard, lighting, and monitors. Once you are aware of how these factors can make or break proper posture, it is suggested you pay close attention to where you can make a series of improvements.

As a hard working entrepreneur, business owner, and professional – you naturally put in longer hours than most. With the huge amount of responsibility and work associated with running successful organizations, posture and ergonomics isn’t seen as a huge priority. It then becomes a priority when you hit crisis mode to the point where there is severe pain and a large decrease in productivity.Time is precious.

If your work requires the use of a computer, you most likely suffer from rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. Ouch! Think about it, are you sore after working at the computer? If the answer is yes, chances are it also makes you sleepy and tired while trying to crush the day. Your body is lacking oxygen and produces chemicals to signal a nap. If your work is more active and strenuous, it is equally important to conduct activities using ergonomic best practices.

Positively re-educating yourself about proper posture and ergonomics is a step in a great direction for increased productivity, motivation, and happiness.

Here are a few tips to help:

Reminders
We all focus when we have a deadline or important work to get done. Sometimes we need a steady reminder. Set an alarm or use a sticky note to remind you to get up, walk around, and take advantage of a break.

Take Breaks
Allow yourself time to reset during the day or while at the computer. If you work for a full hour, take 20 to 40 seconds to stand-up, stretch, and reset your posture. Raise your hands in the air and make a large circle to reset. It will allow more oxygen flow, clarity, and better awareness during the work day.

Although relatively simple, these changes will truly help the way you tackle your very busy days.

Simply Sociable is a boutique administrative firm that understands the importance of leveraging the internet and technology. Simply Sociable specializes in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to work on their business instead of in it. They provide administrative consultations and virtual administrative assistants to get things done. Nadia Alcide is the founder and a University of Florida alumni.

Cynthia D. Washington, President of Washington Concepts, Inc. (WCI)

Cynthia D. Washington is President of Washington Concepts, Inc. (WCI) and the Creator of the WCI Government Contracting NETWORKTM.  She has developed a company that is known worldwide for Making Entrepreneurial Success and Government Contracting SIMPLETM. Over 20 years ago, she solved a huge problem in the Federal Contracting Arena and decided to travel around the Nation helping Small, Minority, Veteran and Women-Owned Businesses WIN Contracts.  WCI is still known as a company unmatched in its ability to provide expert business development, training and technical assistance to small businesses, while helping the Federal, State/Local Government and Private Entities meet their Socioeconomic and Diversity Goals.

The WCI Government Contracting NETWORKTM is used worldwide and was specifically designed to ensure that Government and Private Entity Procurement and Program Officials meet their Socio-Economic and Diversity Goals.  These Officials in The NETWORK depend on WCI when they are interested in “Connecting” with Procurement-Ready, Prescreened and Qualified Vendors and are dedicated to creating more opportunities for Small Businesses.  WCI has built relationships with Government and Private Entity Officials who want to do business with Small Businesses.  WCI Makes Entrepreneurial Success and Government Contracting SIMPLE!

WCI provides Government Services, Training, and Business Development around the world to Small Businesses interested in Bridging Markets Worldwide. Over the years, WCI has devised more products and services, which will provide Small, Minority, Veteran, and Women-Owned Businesses (SMVWOBs) and Government and Private Entities with results-driven ideas to accomplish their goals of “Connecting”. Mrs. Washington has “Led the Charge” in the Government Contracting Industry for the past 20 Years, designing innovative and effective strategies that continue to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Mrs. Washington has been given many accolades for her dedication and determination to serve the Small Business Community with results-driven business development. Through WCI’s innovative products and services designed to support the Government’s efforts to provide Contracting Opportunities, Outreach, Training, and Financing to Small Businesses, Mrs. Washington has been able to maintain the longevity necessary to succeed in business.  Just last year, she was awarded the Small Business Executive of the Year by Minority Enterprise Association Magazine.    She has been awarded Small Business Woman-Owned Business of the Year by MED Week in the US Dept. of Commerce and because of her efforts; WCI is the only for-profit Firm to ever have a Co-Sponsorship with the US Small Business Administration. For two years, WCI and the SBA offered instructional and information-packed Government Contracting Made SIMPLETM Seminars, custom designed by the expertise of Mrs. Washington. With her vast amount of Resources and Expert Advisors, she has also created a demand that is still going strong in the Government Contracting Arena, 20 years later.

WCI publishes its own Entrepreneurial Success and Government Contracting Made SIMPLETM eGuides and has expanded its effort to support the SBA by providing information-packed and effective Training Services to the U.S. Small Business Administration and its SBDCs, the US Dept. of Commerce’s MBDA, Prince George’s Community College, University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, Towson University, Howard University, Major Development Projects and Federal Agencies around the Nation. Because she created these publications, Mrs. Washington is in great demand as she lectures on the importance of Creating Entrepreneurs through Government Contracting.

Small Business Trends To Use In Your Company

Leveraging technology is on the uptick for most small companies and entrepreneurs. The definition and level of technology is different for each organization. Bottomline, regardless of what technology is used, entrepreneurs need to stay on their toes and updates with changes that may affect their business.

After working with many small businesses and entrepreneurs, we can share useful trends to implement for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Automation of Internal Systems
Sure, automation in itself isn’t really anything new but with companies like IFTT and Zapier, they make automation more accessible with low or minimal costs. If businesses properly utilize automation, it reduces manual labor cost, risk of error, and allows employees to focus on important growth areas. Also, employees will appreciate the opportunity to do less repetitive and mundane work so they can grow professionally and creatively within the business.

Increased Use of Artificial Intelligence
As discussed in the previous paragraph, workflow automations are huge for small businesses in 2017. From data collecting chat bots to other on-demand services, this is something that is well on it’s way to becoming ordinary and standardized in small business.

More Mobile
We are always on the go with so many demands and needs pulling our attention. What better way to reach and engage with your customers where they are, mobile. Remember, many of us are now making purchasing decisions, conducting research, and comparing products/services straight from our tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

Video Content Growth
A medium consistently picking up steam is video content. Customers are able to quickly digest your message through compelling video content. If your videos are attractive and hold the attention of your viewers, you’ll keep them company back to learn more from your company and what it has to offer.

Improved Consumer Relations
Through the improvement and introduction of accessible CRM (Client Relation Management) systems, businesses can do a better job of understanding their customers needs and responses faster than ever.

As an entrepreneur in 2017, how do you think these trends can improve your business for the better? If you are unfamiliar with systems that can help your business to automate and push itself forward by leveraging technology, reach out to your helpful community resources.

By Nadia Alcide of Simply Sociable

Simply Sociable is a boutique administrative consulting firm that understands the importance of leveraging the internet and technology. Simply Sociable specializes in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to work on their business instead of in it. Nadia Alcide is the founder and a University of Florida alumni.

Division at UF seeks to promote women-owned businesses

The University of Florida has a robust program to engage small, minority and women-owned businesses. The Division of Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations (SBVDR), led by Director Kathey Porter, is charged with identifying small, minority and women-owned businesses to do business with UF and implement programs to increase their long-term viability and success. A noted small business development and entrepreneurship expert, Porter is a frequently sought after speaker/panelist for insights on increasing opportunities for women-owned businesses.

“I have been an entrepreneur and have worked with entrepreneurs for a number of years now. The University of Florida is very proactive about increasing opportunities for small businesses and has a variety of programs designed to increase their utilization,” said Porter.

Porter was recently invited to attend the inaugural White House United State of Women Summit in Washington DC. “I cannot tell you how impactful the event was. It made me more determined than ever to create a dynamic entrepreneurial community and support a local ecosystem for women entrepreneurs who are armed, ready and excited about doing business.”

Women-owned businesses represent a tremendous opportunity for the University of Florida. According to the 2014 State of Women Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, as of 2014, there were nearly 9.1 million women-owned enterprises, employing nearly 7.9 million workers and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned firms grew at 1.5 times the national average. Additionally, revenue and employment growth among women-owned firms tops that of all other firms (with the exception of the country’s largest, publicly traded corporations).

Based on these statistics, Porter feels UF has an excellent opportunity to increase engagement amongst this group. One of the ways she plans to do this is through the upcoming Women’s Entrepreneurship + Leadership Conference to be held in October in celebration of Women’s Small Business Month. This event will target women entrepreneurs in the greater Gainesville area, as well as from surrounding areas including Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The purpose of this event is, firstly, to raise awareness about opportunities that exist for female business owners with entities such as the University of Florida and, secondly, to get them excited about entrepreneurship and growing their businesses.

“I am very excited about the future for women-owned businesses in this area. By using available resources such as OSD, the University of Florida and others, women-owned businesses in our area have every opportunity for growth and success,” said Porter.

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Tips To Effectively Delegate To Your Team Members

Delegation, what does it mean to you as a business owner or processional? Do you feel like you are an expert or can you always improve how you delegate to your team members? The synonyms for delegation are entrusting, giving, and transference. There is both an art and science to proper delegation. Of course, not all employees will have the same passion for the business as an entrepreneur might but the entrepreneur must trust those on their team working toward company mission statements, visions, and goals.

First start delegating in a S.M.A.R.T. way.

S : Specific

M : Measurable

A : Agreed

R : Realistic

T : Time bound

If you take the time to go through each step as the person doing the delegation, the outcome should be what you expect versus a vision of what you thought you should expect from assigning the task. An entrepreneur is limited on time. But think about it, would you rather explain properly upfront or repeat yourself multiple times only to become frustrated and stressed in the end? The common sense answer should be no but everyone is different. However, if growth and making life a bit easier is the aim, delegate and do it well.

While using the SMART way, be sure to include the following checklist to cross check for any missing information.

  1. Define your task
  2. Decide who you will delegate to (based on availability and skill set)
  3. Make sure they have tools, materials, skills
  4. Explain Task Well
  5. State Expected Results
  6. Agree on Deadline or Actionable Items Timeline

If you already do something like this with your team, great! But if your process could use room for improvement, try them, you might notice a difference. If you do have tips that work for you whether it be about delegation, contractor management, employees, and general business growth, we’d love to hear from you. Your feedback and featured input is valuable to our small business and vendor community.

By Nadia Alcide of Simply Sociable

Simply Sociable is a boutique administrative consulting firm that understands the importance of leveraging the internet and technology. Simply Sociable specializes in helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to work on their business instead of in it. Nadia Alcide is the founder and a University of Florida alumni.