Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ann Arbor Chamber launching iPhone app to boost local businesses

Local businesses The Whole Brain Group and Arbormoon Software developed a free iPhone application targeted at chamber members but will be available to the public. The Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce will to introduce application this November in hopes it will assist the local business community.

About 100 chamber members have agreed to offer deals through the application, which still needs to get approval from Apple to be distributed through the iTunes Store. A demo is available here.

For further information please read the full article at or contact the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Small Businesses : Stay Safe Online! Forum

Stay Safe Online! Forum

Thursday October 29, 2009 from 3:00pm - 8:30pm

Saline High School (Michigan)

1300 Campus Parkway
Saline, Michigan Get Directions

Commissioner Kristin Judge and Sheriff Jerry Clayton present Cyber Security Expert Dr. Peter Fonash, Director of National Cyber Security, US Dept. of Homeland Security. Learn how to stay safe online!

  • 3:00 - 5:00 pm Cyber Security for Business and Local Government
  • 6:30 - 8:30 pm Cyber Security for Your Home and Family

RSVP, Seating is limited! - or 734-222-6850

Free to all Washtenaw County Residents


Thursday, October 15, 2009

ATHENA PowerLink Ann Arbor Extended Registration Deadline

The deadline for women business owners to apply for the ATHENA PowerLink Program has been extended until October 23rd. The ATHENA PowerLink Program of Washtenaw County is a mentoring program designed to connect women business owners with a skilled advisory panel.

What is the ATHENA PowerLink Program?

The advisory panel, which is made up of lawyers, bankers, accountants, insurance agents, and business advisors, provides free business consultation for one year. The panel consults to help the business owner achieve networking, capital, operational, and strategic goals. The program also helps enhance the business owner’s leadership and management skills for future business endeavors.

What is the eligibility criteria for the ATHENA PowerLink Program?
  • Own the majority of the company and actively manage it
  • Minimum of two years in business
  • Minimum of two full time employees, one of whom may be the business owner
  • Minimum annual revenues of $250,000 for manufacturing or retail business
  • Minimum annual revenues of $100,000 for service business

What is the role of the advisory panel?

The advisory panel is a group of business professionals who want to give back to their communities. They work one-on-one with the business owner for one year, helping her develop and implement her business plan and strategic goals. The group’s coordinator is responsible for leading meetings, reviewing progress, and compiling results.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Five Tips to Increase Your Firm's Chance of Getting a Small Business Bank Loan

By Robert C. Seiwert, Sr. Vice President and Director ABA Center for Commercial Lending & Business Banking

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the American Bankers Association:

1) Get to know bankers at several financial institutions in your community.

Before requesting a loan, find out which financial institutions in your market make loans to firms like yours. Not all banks specialize in business loans. Some specialize in lending only to firms in certain industries. Others lend only to those in certain stages of the business life cycle (no startups, for example). Work with bankers who understand your industry and find out how the current financial crisis has affected credit availability in your community. Not all banks have been equally affected by today's financial crisis.

Another reason to deal with banks experienced in your industry relates to the financial advice they can offer. Because these bankers work with firms facing the same industry-related problems that may challenge you, they're in a better position to provide helpful advice and financial products tailored to your firm's needs. Many times the advice a banker gives is far more important than the product or service they sell. Seek a banker who can give financial advice that will help you survive and thrive in today's economy. In turn, you should reward that banker with your business and your loyalty.

2) Be able to articulate your firm's "value proposition" to its target markets and your business plan to reach them.

If you can't clearly articulate why other companies or customers should do business with you and how you'll effectively compete in your chosen target market segments, the chances of getting a loan are slim.
Develop a business plan that has three different scenarios: best case, most likely case, and worst case. You want the banker to understand all three since you're asking for support through good times and bad. Also, be prepared to discuss in detail the assumptions that underlie each of these scenarios.

3) Think like a banker.

Understand the risks of operating in your industry. Have a plan to mitigate those risks and share it with your banker. Bankers are going to do a risk analysis anyway, so it's important to help them. Most likely, you can provide a perspective that the banker hasn't considered. It's important for the banker to see that you recognize the risks of operating in your industry and that you have a plan for dealing with them.

4) Develop at least two ways to repay the loan.

Bankers look for primary and secondary loan repayment sources. For the sake of your business, you should, too. You are in the best position to determine possible repayment alternatives. Be sure to discuss these options with your banker before the loan is made. Secondary repayment resources could include the pledging of business or personal collateral as well as the addition of a loan guarantee by the firm's owners, suppliers or customers.
The more certainty that the banker has that the loan will be paid "as agreed," the more likely it will be that you not only receive a favorable loan decision, but also the best interest rate. Smart business owners understand that now is the time to think about alternative repayment sources, not when their business gets into trouble.

5) Don't ask for loans that should be funded with equity injections. Bankers aren't paid to take equity risks; they get paid to make loans that will be repaid on time.

The amount of equity you need to operate your business will depend on several factors. One of the most important relates to your industry and what role your business plays in that industry. The amount of equity required for a manufacturer will be different from that required to run a wholesale distribution business. Retailers in the same industry will also have different equity requirements.

The stability of the industry is also an important factor influencing the amount of equity needed. Firms in stable industries need less equity than firms operating in industries undergoing rapid change. The reason is that firms in stable industries can carry a higher level of debt due to the greater certainty of their revenue streams.

Another factor that determines the amount of equity required for your business relates to your firm's business model. Some firms offer easy credit terms to build market share and increase sales. Other firms operate on a cash-only basis. The sales terms your firm offers its customer base has an important impact on the amount of equity that your business will need to operate.
If your product or service is in great demand, consider asking your customers for upfront deposits on pending orders or extending favorable pricing terms to customers who pay their invoices within 10 days of receipt.

Another option is to ask suppliers for favorable terms of sale. Ask if they'll let you pay invoices later with no interest or give you discounts for paying invoices early. Any additional customer or supplier financing reduces the amount of permanent working capital that needs to be funded with equity contributions from your firm's shareholders.

Robert C. Seiwert is a Senior Vice President of the American Bankers Association. Prior to joining the ABA, Mr. Seiwert was a banker for over 30 years, serving as President and CEO of a high-performing community bank and Director of Commercial Marketing for one of the nation's largest financial institutions.

The American Bankers Association brings together banks of all sizes and charters into one association. ABA works to enhance the competitiveness of the nation's banking industry and strengthen America's economy and communities. Its members - the majority of which are banks with less than $125 million in assets - represent over 95 percent of the industry's $13.5 trillion in assets and employ over 2 million men and women.

Note to Editors: Over the coming weeks, the American Bankers Association will release several white papers intended to assist small business owners navigate the new banking environment. The papers, written through the viewpoint of a former commercial banker, give small business owners a rare glimpse into how bankers think and are intended to help them develop a mutually beneficial relationship with a bank, prepare to get loans, and evaluate offers. The above is the first paper in the series.

SOURCE American Bankers Association