Keeping small businesses going - East Valley Tribune: Business

Keeping small businesses going

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Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 10:32 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

It's no secret that times are tough for most small-business owners, but there are a variety of strategies to turn businesses around and cut costs.

Valley entrepreneur Rochelle Balch offered tips to turn a business around to about a dozen entrepreneurs Wednesday morning at the Arizona Small Business Association in Phoenix.

"It's really hard to make cuts, but if we're going to survive in the tough times, that what's we have to do," Balch said. "Make drastic cuts where you can even if you don't think you can."

Balch's company, RB Balch & Associates, has had to shift its focus from computer programming for big businesses to computer support and troubleshooting for small businesses.

"As a small-business owner you have to be able to change quick," Balch said. "Make a decision based on the market and change your focus."

You can't let your ego get in the way either, she said. The first step to turning a business around is to create a monthly budget to gauge expenses, income and overall performance.

After creating a budget and tracking the business' performance, small-business owners need to evaluate the services and products they offer and focus less on those that aren't profitable. For example, a planner-cover maker might want to shift from focusing on planners to making personal digital assistant covers. An auto mechanic might want to focus on and market general tune-ups instead of pushing transmission work if it's not going well.

"It may not be what your core business is or what you enjoy, but it may be what you have to do," Balch said. "You don't want to necessarily throw out your business that's not profitable, but you may want to refocus."

When Balch's business market changed, she cutback on networking luncheons and canceled her pager, billboard and some of the freebie products with her company information on it. She also suggested saving money on postage by e-mailing work orders and invoices.

Job fairs and trade shows can be good places to find customers, if the entry fee is reasonable. Balch also suggested donating services or products to local charity auctions, which helps them and increases the business's exposure. Scottsdale resident AnaMaria Herrera said she added her photo to her business cards to distinguish her Phoenix homeopathic practice from other physicians, which is atypical for medical professionals.

"I wanted people to connect with a smiling face that was personable, especially because my target is women," Herrera said. "Don't be afraid to be yourself and let your marketing material reflect that. I tend to be an exuberant, passionate person and that's why I put my picture on my business cards."

She also has considered writing a short book for patients to increase exposure and she sends thank you notes for each referral to show her appreciation. Valley entrepreneur Frank Hess offset the down economy by increasing his prices at Maids 'N More, but new customers pay a higher price than current customers.

"It doesn't seem to have hurt us a bit," he said.

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