Monday, February 6, 2012

Supporting Your Small Businesses

At the heart of a successful community are thriving small businesses, with local ownership. No segment of our economy is under more attack today, however. In order to preserve these valuable assets, communities need to embrace and support them. At a civic level, efforts must be undertaken to understand the true nature of the business, their positive attributes, and any needs they have that threaten their success. Some communities have undertaken to survey their local business community (perhaps extending this to a county or regional effort) in order to fully understand the challenges and opportunities that exist. From this compilation, efforts can be made to match local suppliers and producers, address common problems (such as Internet access or other infrastructure issues) and find ways to aggressively promote these local businesses.

A natural extension of this effort is a program to aid your local businesses in competing with the threats posed by large retailers. No local business can survive head to head competition, but with careful attention to inventory mix, promotion, and personal service, many can find a niche that allows them to remain viable and profitable. Community support is also essential, and a successful small business program will also involve promoting the "shop at home" concept to the benefit of your local businesses.

Future posts will provide more specific guidance into efforts you can undertake in your community. I'm currently offering my services to assist communities in initiating these programs.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Aid for Flood Victims in the Delta


5,000 Families in Flood-Damaged Delta to Receive Free Medical, Dental Care

Delta Regional Authority, Gov. Beebe to Launch Taskforce “Razorback”

300 Military Medical Personnel to Provide Shot in the Arm to Delta’s Health Care

LITTLE ROCK – 5,000 families in the flood-damaged Delta will receive free medical and dental Care, Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe announced today.

The health initiative named Taskforce “Razorback” and led by military reservists from across the nation, will operate for the next two weeks, June 8-18, in the towns of Eudora, Helena-West Helena, Marianna, McGehee, and Wynne.

The Delta has faced record level flooding over the last two months. Receding waters have only begun to reveal the extent of the devastation to families and towns across the region – with millions of dollars of crops washed away, thousands of homes destroyed, and businesses shuttered.

Taskforce “Razorback” – Delivering Free Medical and Dental Care to Delta Families
-Free health and dental services for approximately 5,000 people in five towns will be delivered.
-Any resident is eligible for services that include testing for diabetes, high-blood pressure, eye exams and general dentistry.
-Patients will be referred to doctors in their area for any follow up care that is needed.
-300 medical personnel from the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Air Force Reserve with valuable and realistic training will be provided.
-The health care gap left by the closure of 9 Arkansas hospitals located in or adjacent to the Delta area that have closed since 1985 will be shortened.

Chairman Masingill said, “This initiative honors the strength and determination of Arkansas families during this challenging time. Not only are we renewing our commitment to these families, but we are providing a major shot in the arm to the region’s health. Existing health disparities are a hindrance to the Delta’s vibrant communities and the DRA is committed to combatting them.”

“This care would be important in any year, but it is especially needed after the recent floods and storms we’ve experienced in the Delta,” Governor Beebe said. “We are proud to see these military professionals helping those who need it the most with assistance from the Delta Regional Authority.”

The Delta region, including Arkansas, consistently suffers from poor health outcomes. Compared with national rates, deaths in the Delta region from circulatory diseases are 21.2% higher, deaths from cancer are 12.7% higher and deaths from accidents are 42% higher. In 2002, infant mortality rates in the Delta region were almost 30% higher than the national average.
The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that serves 252 counties and parishes in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Chris Masingill, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the DRA’s Federal Co-Chairman, along with the governors of the eight states comprise the Authority’s board. For more information, please visit: www.dra.gov.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Generational Transfer - Services

The final of our three keys to success is services. Some of this has already been covered under technology - but there is more to it than that. Business specific expertise is an important part of helping families realize that there may be more value to keeping the family farm or business than selling it. Land management, timber management, business valuation, estate planning, and general business planning advice are all important, depending on the economic landscape in the communities you serve. These capabilities will set your bank apart with current and future generations. For example: the death of the farmer in the family need not mean selling off the land, if you can aid the surviving spouse in leasing out the land for farming. Doing so can provide comfort to the family, by keeping the land, and generate needed income for years to come. There are many examples across many family oriented businesses.

As I said last time, packaging and promotion is critical . . . as a part of your overall bid to serve the heirs to your current customers. Put together a brochure (print and electronic) and perhaps a web site to promote your ability to assist families in preserving and enhancing wealth across generations . . . include descriptions of all the ways that you can help. Remember that promoting a comprehensive package casts you in a much better light than waiting to react to requests for services. If you are serious about surviving generational transfer, make it evident to all that do business with you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Generational Retention - Technology

Lets look at the second of the three keys to retaining banking relationships across generations: technology. Banking has been quick to adapt many new technologies, and a lot of them are customer facing. From the advent of automated teller machines, through voice response systems, to today's mobile banking platform, customers are demanding, and banks (most of them anyway) are providing a variety of technologies to make access to information and transactions simple and painless. A large part of maintaining and preserving relationships with heirs and potential heirs is ensuring that it's easy for them to do business with you. This includes Internet Banking for individuals, and Internet cash management for businesses, along with remote deposit capture for those customers who still handle checks as a primary payment method for their business dealings. The rising popularity of PDA/Smart Phone devices makes mobile banking - as an extension of your Internet Banking product - a must.

Packaging and promoting these services is important . . . as a part of your overall bid to serve out of town customers. Put together a brochure (print and electronic) and perhaps a web site to promote your ability to assist families in preserving and enhancing wealth across generations . . . include descriptions of all the ways that you can help. Remember that promoting a comprehensive package casts you in a much better light than waiting to react to requests for services. If you are serious about surviving generational transfer, make it evident to all that do business with you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Generational Retention - Relationships

In keeping with the theme of what community banks can do to preserve relationships as older depositors die off, my last post indicated there were three keys. This time, lets look at the first key - the Relationship Factor. If you want to keep banking relationships beyond the current generation, you must - well before a "transfer inducing" event occurs - establish solid relationships with heirs. This starts early in life . . . even during elementary school. Kids savings programs, and financial education, can serve to implant your brand into kids thinking. As kids grow older, work with mom and dad to make sure the kids feel that the bank is a trusted friend and adviser. We'll talk more about technology in a future post, but it is essential in staying connected to these youngsters if they leave home. Hosting events, or webinars, regarding estate planning, generational transfer, and asset management will strengthen your position as that trusted adviser, and make it easy for heirs to look to your bank for money management advice and services. That's the goal . . . when parents retire or pass away, you want to keep your relationships with the family money, the family business, the family farm. Building strong relationships is the key.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Generational Retention

Recently, the subject of the following blog post (repeated from February 2009) has struck a chord with some of my bank audiences. In the coming days, I will expound on each of the three key issues, but I felt it appropriate to include this general post as a reminder:
General Transfer is a key issue for most rural banks. One key challenge these banks have is relationship retention. If you've taken the first step (and some are frankly afraid to look) and found that many of the heirs to your current deposits are "somewhere else" then you realize the challenge. Two parallel tracks are necessary. First, address the heirs who are still local. Reach out, through parents if necessary, to form relationships and help these heirs learn that your bank can be a valuable tool for managing the assets that will be left to them, be they a business, land, or simply deposits. Second, put together a plan to reach out to absentee heirs with essentially the same message . . . we are here to help you manage your inheritance. Your plan for resident and non-resident heirs is comprised of three main parts: relationship (a face); services; and technology.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Supporting Your Small Businesses - Part II

This time, let's look at specific things a community can do to help existing small businesses thrive, and to attract new ones because of the positive climate you've created. It's essential that civic leaders understand just who the local businesses are, and what challenges these businesses face. In addition to the value of the information gathered, undertaking such a program will send a clear message that your community is pro-business. Depending on the size of your community, and what efforts are already underway, this can be a large or small effort. The key is this - create a database of all local businesses, identify the products or services they offer, what raw materials, if any, they require to work, as well as their infrastructure requirements. Meet directly with owners or local managers and ask specific questions . . . be sure to inquire about challenges, and take the time to listen and record their comments. A team made up of civic and business leaders should be at the forefront of this effort.

A word about coverage: be sure you take steps to identify all local businesses, don't just rely on storefronts . . . so that you cover rural, home based, or other non-traditional businesses.

Once you have completed the data gathering, compile and review the results . . . what synergies exist with other local businesses, for example? If you are in a region where other communities are doing the same thing . . . compare notes, and see if you can find regional suppliers, customers, or peers of your businesses. Be sure to address challenges, especially if there are common concerns across many businesses. Infrastructure is a common issue: transportation, broadband Internet, water, or natural gas.

Host networking meetings, make introductions, and watch businesses do better as a result of your efforts. Your businesses will feel like they are cared for, and your local economy should do better.

Please share your experiences with these projects as you undertake them.