Understanding Small Business Succession Planning

As a successful small business owner, you have poured tons of time, money, and commitment into your company. But there may come a day when you want to retire or focus on a new business venture, and what will happen to the business you’ve worked so hard to build? 

In addition to giving you a sound exit strategy when you’re ready to make your next career move, a business succession plan can also address unexpected life circumstances, such as illness, disability, or death.

Read on for some business succession planning tips from the Oregon SBDC. If you need more help, our knowledgeable advisers are available and ready to assist; click here to connect with us. 

What Is Business Succession Planning?

Business succession planning is an action plan around the logistical and financial aspects of your business, including who will take over and fill the key roles and responsibilities when you retire or need to exit. While succession plans are most commonly associated with the owner’s retirement, they also support the sale of a business and other circumstances that can take place throughout your business’s life span. 

If anything unexpected happens to you or a co-owner, including death or disability, having a succession plan in place provides peace of mind about the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

Why Create a Business Succession Plan?

Besides providing you peace of mind, a plan, and a goal to work toward, a business succession planning strategy ensures that there will be less disruption to your company’s operations, employee performance, and clients when you are no longer able to run the company or decide that you no longer want to run it yourself.

A good succession plan also addresses how your business would respond to unexpected events, including death, disability, divorce, or the decision to separate from partners; to whom the business’s ownership would be transferred; how you can maintain your lifestyle when you’re no longer working full time; and how your heirs would be provided for financially.

Your Business Needs a Succession Plan: Here Are the Basics

A business succession plan is put into writing to guide all participating parties through the change in ownership. It aims to benefit everyone involved, including departing small business owners, successors, employees, and the business itself.

Depending on the complexity of your succession and your business, you may develop the plan yourself or hire a professional to assist you through the succession planning process. Whichever method you choose, a well-crafted small business succession plan should include the following:

  • A succession timeline: This details the specific circumstances for when a succession would occur and, if applicable, the dates it would commence.
  • Potential successors: If the succession is not through a purchase of the business, you should choose three or more potential successor candidates, the order of consideration, and explain why they would make suitable successors based on their key positions, management roles, and skill sets.
  • Formalized standard operating procedures (SOPs): This includes the compilation of documents, procedures, employee handbooks, and training manuals.
  • Your business’s valuation: This should include the method for how the business was valued and should be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • How the succession will be funded: This part of the plan spells out if the succession will be funded through life insurance, a seller’s note, a business loan, or other financial options.

How Do You Create a Business Succession Plan?

This section contains a general outline of what a small business succession plan should cover and the steps to ensure a smooth transition when you leave the company.

1. Decide how the business’s ownership will be transferred.

These are the four ways to transfer business ownership:

  • Transfer the business to your heirs.
  • Sell your shares or ownership interests to your business partner(s) or co-owner(s).
  • Sell the company to an employee who now fills a leadership position or other critical role.
  • Sell the business to an outside buyer.

2. Conduct a business valuation.

Even if you don’t plan to sell your business, getting a business valuation is beneficial in many ways. It can help with your retirement income strategy, place a value on future owners’ shares, and ensure the purchase of adequate insurance for long-term protection. 

A business valuation is also used to attract potential buyers and investors, and to help qualify you or your potential successors for business loans.

3. Prepare for the transition.

The period of time when ownership of a business is being transferred can put the company in a vulnerable position. Therefore, your succession plan should include the details on how the transition will happen to ensure that there is minimal disruption to operations and a high potential for a seamless handoff to your successor.

4. Review your plan annually.

Once your plan is created, don’t just file it away and forget about it. Over time, potential successors could change due to employees in key roles leaving the company or family members losing interest in taking it over—or your own long-term plans for the future may shift. Therefore, review your succession plan annually to ensure that it stays aligned with your current and potential future circumstances. 

Some Final Thoughts

Creating a business succession plan can be complicated, which is why many small business owners choose to work with a professional third party to help them develop a succession plan that provides peace of mind. 

The Oregon SBDC Network offers guidance to support small business owners with effective succession planning. Locate a Center closest to you by visiting OregonSBDC.org.

How to Get a Business Loan in Oregon

Oregon is home to over 387,000 small businesses. Many of these ventures started with a great idea. But to turn a concept into reality, you need capital.

A small business loan can help you get your business off the ground or take an existing one to the next level. Keep reading to learn the steps to getting the business financing you need to make sure your company is one of the strongest small businesses in the state.

Startup Business Loans

Obtaining a loan at startup isn’t as simple as going to the bank, filling out an application, and receiving the funds. There are few financial institutions that are willing to lend to a business with no track record, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options available. Startup loans generally require collateral to secure the loan, as well as some cash investment from the owner. 

A business plan is essential, and many new business ideas may not have one already in place. But don’t worry: Oregon’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) specialize in helping you formulate thorough plans that can help you get the funding you need.

A strong business plan outlines several key elements of your business model, marketing strategy, product or service development, and structure. A plan needs to include:

  • A detailed description of products or services, including their strengths, weaknesses, and plans for upgrading or adjusting them
  • Profiles of your target customers
  • Marketing strategies for each kind of customer
  • The Sales techniques and tools you will need
  • Product development life cycle plans, including the future phases of development for each product or service you provide
  • A plan for how you will spend the money you borrow
  • A financial plan outlining when and how you will repay your funds
  • Your business structure (LLC, corporation, etc.)
  • A detailed outline of each principal’s responsibilities
  • A description of the physical resources, equipment, inventory, and other items needed to support your business
  • Any real estate requirements, such as a shop or office space rental
  • At least two years of monthly financial projections

Once this is accomplished, you can approach a lender that offers loans to startups with the kind of plan that inspires confidence in your success. 

Small Business Loans for Existing Businesses

As with startup loans, a business plan is essential to securing funding for your existing business. Whether you’re looking for a working capital loan, a small business line of credit, or a short-term loan, the Oregon Small Business Development Centers can help ensure that your plan has the right content and structure. 

For example, we can teach you how to emphasize your current earnings—and those you will receive as a result of the new funding—in a way that’s honest, realistic, and compelling for a lender.

Also, as a seasoned small business owner, your organization may have some qualities that can make it more appealing to a lender. An Oregon SBDC can help you identify attributes that can enhance the appeal of your business when approaching financial institutions.

Options for Obtaining Loans

There are a variety of lenders, loan programs, and financing solutions for small businesses, including the following:

  • A private lender. A private lender can be anyone from a friend or relative to a venture capitalist. Regardless, you will need to have a business plan in place before approaching any private party about funding. A private lender can be an option for both startups and existing businesses. 
  • The Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund (EDLF) from Business Oregon. This organization provides direct loans for startups and small businesses that made less than $1.5 million in the past 12 months or are owned by a severely disabled individual.
  • Microlenders. Some organizations focus on microloans or smaller loans for both startups and existing businesses.
  • Oregon Economic Development Districts. These are set up by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which has districts across the state of Oregon that support the development of economies in those areas. In some cases, when a bank can give you only some of the funds you need, the Economic Development District in your area may be able to help you find the rest.
  • Traditional bank. Most banks and credit unions offer small business lending, but most focus on lending to existing businesses with a solid cash flow. If your business has an established relationship with a bank, start there. Terms, interest rates, and loan products may vary.
  • A Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. While the Small Business Administration itself doesn’t lend money, it works with lenders and has standards you have to meet to qualify for the loans its lenders offer. Examples of SBA loans include SBA 7(a) and SBA 504. Both of these loans are generally more available to existing businesses. 

How to Use an Oregon SBDC

If you’re starting or expanding a small business in Oregon, you don’t have to go it alone. Both new and existing small business owners can work with a Center for guidance and resources. Even if all you have is an idea, an SBDC can help you get everything in place so you’re ready to approach lenders about getting a loan.

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network and our Capital Access Team can help you transform your business idea—no matter how well-developed it is—into a solid plan designed to help secure the funding you need and ensure that you’re able to repay the loan.

With a strong business plan in hand, you’ll have plenty of options for securing a loan to fund your new or existing venture. To locate an Oregon SBDC near you, visit our website.

Best Hiring Practices and Interview Questions

Bringing on new employees is a significant long-term investment for any small business, and finding, hiring, and retaining the right talent plays a pivotal role in your company’s success. Read on to learn the best practices for recruiting staff, making sure your interview practices comply with federal and state laws, and creating an inclusive recruiting and hiring process.

Craft an Effective Job Posting

The first step in the hiring process is sourcing qualified candidates. This can be done by creating a job posting on a popular job search platform like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, or others. 

Many job boards offer screening services that parse resumes based on how well they meet a job’s criteria. To attract the best-matched candidates for any position, keep these tips in mind when you create the job post:

  • Make sure the job title is clear, direct, and specific. Many job-seekers apply based on the job title alone, without reading the full job description.
  • Write a job description that helps candidates visualize a typical day at work.
  • Put the salary range and employee perks and benefits on top, followed by the candidate requirements and qualifications needed for this job. 

It takes time to filter applicants, interview them, and train the right person. You can reduce the number of initial applicants by laying out some non-negotiable requirements and the preferred skills you’re seeking. Sending out screening questions to applicants can also help reduce the pool of candidates.

Interviewing Top Candidates

The more you learn about a candidate, the more you can make a confident hiring choice. Hold multiple interviews and invite other staff members to meet with job candidates before determining your final pick. 

The purpose of the interview is to ask questions that aren’t already answered on their resume and to get a sense of how the applicant thinks and performs. You can also get clues about their attitude, work style, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

To give you a better idea of how a candidate might fare in these categories, below are some questions from Monster that you might consider asking. Of course, interview questions will vary based on your specific business and the position you’re looking to fill.

  • Explain a time when you didn’t know how to complete a task. How did you get the help you needed?
  • What personality types do you find particularly difficult to work with?
  • What are some of your non-work activities and hobbies, and what can they tell me about you?
  • How do you adapt to change? Can you give me an example from one of your past roles?
  • How would your past or current co-workers and managers describe you, both positive and negative?
  • Besides compensation, what else do you value in a job?
  • What were some of the opportunities for improvement listed in past performance reviews?
  • How do you define success? What are some of your greatest professional accomplishments so far?
  • Describe a workplace conflict in which you were involved and how you managed it. Were you able to get it resolved?

Be transparent with candidates on your hiring process’s timeline and next steps to keep them informed and interested in the position until you’re ready to make an official offer. When you make your final selection and a candidate accepts the job, be sure to let the other candidates know that the position has been filled. (You can add that your company will keep them in mind for future opportunities.)

Federal and State Recruiting Laws

In addition to screening applicants based on their skills and whether they’re a good fit for your company culture, you must also make sure that your hiring process complies with federal and state laws. Otherwise, you could risk possible legal action against your business. 

Federal Hiring Rules

It is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. This ban on discrimination applies to various hiring practices you must observe through your company’s job postings, recruitment practices, and screening methods.

You can review the federal rules that apply to hiring best practices and some interview questions a hiring manager can and cannot ask on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website here

Oregon Recruiting Rules

The state of Oregon has its own requirements that impact recruiting and hiring. Below is a summary of the rules that Oregon businesses must follow

  • Ban the box: An employer cannot require an applicant to disclose a past conviction on an employment application or before a conditional job offer has been made.
  • Criminal checks: An employer must advise job applicants that criminal offender information will be sought and must confirm for the Department of State Police that the applicant has been advised and how they were advised. Oregon law prohibits the use of expunged juvenile records in making employment decisions.
  • Drug testing: Employers are allowed to conduct pre-employment drug tests but must follow state law in how the testing is done. Positive test results that will cause denial of employment must be confirmed by a clinical laboratory or an equivalent out-of-state facility before the result is released.
  • Credit checks: Employers are generally prohibited from obtaining or using credit history information for employment purposes unless such information is substantially related to the candidate’s job. Exceptions to this rule include federally insured banks or credit unions, law enforcement officers, and where state or federal law requires the use of credit information.
  • Salary history inquiry restrictions: Employers are prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history or seeking such information from a current or former employer. However, an employer may ask a prospective employee for written authorization to confirm prior compensation after the employer makes a job offer that specifies compensation.

Where there may be overlap between federal, state, and/or local laws, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

How to Hire Inclusively

The inclusive hiring process actively recognizes the diversity and broad range of qualities and perspectives that candidates bring to their workplace. While there are laws to prevent discrimination, implementing inclusive hiring practices helps strengthen a business’s reputation, which in turn helps with talent acquisition in a competitive job market. 

Additionally, research has shown that having diversity within an organization leads to higher levels of productivity and innovation, and helps improve employee retention rates. You’ll want to make sure your business uses inclusive hiring practices to level the playing field for all applicants and eliminates recruitment bias and discrimination in any form.

Here are some best practices to ensure equity and inclusion in your hiring and recruitment process:

  • Craft inclusive job descriptions. Use inclusive language that invites candidates in. This means no gendered language, jargon, or idioms that can make potential candidates feel excluded. It’s also a good idea to state your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion within the job description.

  • Ensure inclusive video interviews. Video call interviews, especially in the early stages of the interview process, have become the new norm in hiring people. But it’s important to note that candidates may not have access to the latest technology at home, or their living space could lack private or quiet areas. Remember that these factors do not impact how well a candidate could do the job.

  • Use the same questions for all candidates. Asking the same interview questions in the same order provides each candidate an equal opportunity to effectively showcase their fit for the role. Avoid questions that are superfluous or that could exacerbate bias.

  • Select questions that focus on capabilities. Your interview questions should focus on capabilities over direct work experience. This way your business can be inclusive of varying backgrounds and perspectives in the interview process.

  • Utilize work samples to assess skills. Requesting work samples or asking applicants to complete a skill test during the interview process allows employers to evaluate job candidates’ abilities objectively. Also, if two candidates are given the same test, they can be evaluated side by side based on their work and not the employer’s unconscious bias that may influence the hiring decision.

By following these best practices, you can be sure that your company is hiring people who are right for the job—and that the time, money, and resources spent on your recruiting process are being used effectively.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need by visiting OregonSBDC.org.

How to Scale a Business for Sustainable Growth

Scaling a business is typically done when a company has passed through the growth stage and is now ready to increase its customer base and revenue without significantly increasing expenses. In this article, we’ll explore how to scale your small business strategically so that it won’t take too much away from the bottom line. 

How to Scale a Product-Based Business 

If your business sells products, implementing these successful scaling strategies can help you reach a broader audience. 

Leverage Online Exposure

When trying to generate significantly more sales, simply having a website will not cut it. There are many ways to expand your businesss online presence, and these are some ways you can gain broader exposure for your goods:

  • Place your products on various platforms. Regardless of what type of products you sell, you can make them available for sale on other e-commerce platforms, like Amazon, Walmart.com, eBay, or specialty stores that sell products in the same niche as yours.
  • Promote products through social media. Post engaging stories, photos, and videos featuring your products; share customer reviews; and promote special offers to put your products in front of new customers, build your brand image, and drive more sales.
  • Take advantage of CPC advertising. Consider running CPC (cost-per-click) campaigns on social media channels, which are targeted posts that get directly in front of your target audience. With CPC ads, you set your own daily budget. 
  • Make the most of influencer marketing. Arrange to have your product endorsed by an influencer. Influencers are individuals who have a large social media following and are seen as experts in a specific niche. This is a business strategy that can propel product sales.

Go Global to Scale Your Business

Another way to scale your small business is to sell your products to customers outside the U.S. or to import products internationally. The Oregon SBDC’s Global Trade Center offers no-cost advising services to help small businesses reach their global business goals. The Oregon SBDC’s Global Trade Center allows you to work with a trade adviser to assess your company’s readiness, create a business plan, access specialized training programs (such as Buying and Selling Outside the United States and CGBP Exam Prep Training), get support from a network of global trade partners, and more. 

Gain Access to Market Research 

Having valuable data at your fingertips is a surefire way to ensure that youre making intelligent decisions when scaling your products-based business. The Oregon SBDC’s Market Research Institute provides market research to help companies identify growth opportunities, understand the competitive landscape, refine their business plans, and make more informed decisions. 

How to Scale a Service-Based Business 

If you have a business that offers services like beauty, healthcare, accounting, finance, marketing, and so on, below are some strategies on how you can grow your business depending on the type of service you offer. 

Use Technology to Serve More Clients

If you provide services that dont need to be conducted in person, you can take advantage of tools that allow you to do more. Many service-based businesses have continued operations during the pandemic by meeting with clients through video-conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and others. These tools allow you to expand your client base outside your geographic area.

Another way your business can use technology to serve clients better is to utilize online schedulers, automatic appointment reminder texts, online form completion, and digital contractsigning platforms. These tools not only offer more convenience for your clients but also help streamline your businesss internal processes.

Scale Your Business Through Government Contracts

Securing a government contract can offer numerous benefits for companies, making it a great way to scale your business. These contracts come in different sizes, and multiple companies, including major corporations and small businesses, can compete against each other for the winning bid. While there is usually a lot of paperwork involved, and it can take a long time to win the bid, some of these opportunities can be lucrative. 

The first step is to research what contracts are up for bid on the federal, state, and local levels and determine whether your company would be a suitable fit. You can access government contracts up for bid through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), and you can find Oregon state and local government contracts on OregonBuys or the Procurement page on Oregon’s state government website. 

Scale Through Innovation

To help Oregon small businesses scale and bring innovative concepts to the marketplace, the Oregon SBDC helps companies prepare proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants through the Network’s partnership with VertueLab. SBIR/STTR are competitive federal grant programs that award funding to small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential to commercialize new technologies. More information can be found here.

The Oregon SBDC is here to support small business owners from launch to expansion, and renewal to exit strategy. To locate a regional Center near you, visit OregonSBDC.org.

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Franchise

Buying a franchise is a great way to start your own business, but before you decide to invest, it’s essential to do your due diligence. If you’re considering purchasing a franchise, we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons below, as well as how the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) can assist you.  

What Is a Franchise?

The International Franchise Association defines a franchise as a “method of distributing products or services involving a franchisor, who establishes the brand’s trademark or trade name and a business system, and a franchisee, who pays a royalty and often an initial fee for the right to do business under the franchisor’s name and system.” 

The franchisor allows the franchisee access to their brand’s proprietary knowledge, processes, and trademarks. So they are essentially the same company, but the franchisee runs their business independently.

As the franchisor lends its brand name to different franchises in various locations, the franchisor can rapidly expand the business. They do not need to raise the capital to open new stores or hire employees at each location. The franchisee handles everything at its own store location, while the franchisor can focus its efforts on creating great products, processes, and customer experiences.

Let’s explore the pros and cons for the franchisee, also referred to as the franchise owner.

The Pros of Owning a Franchise

  • The concept has proved successful: When buying a franchise, you are investing in a business that has already been successful. You’ll also be able to review data and insights from other franchisees who have experience operating the same business. 
  • Established brand awareness: Consumers trust brands they are familiar with. For instance, if you’re traveling and want to grab coffee, you know exactly what you’ll get from a Starbucks location.
  • Ability to enter a new industry: You can buy a franchise and enter into a whole new industry without going back to school. You can learn everything you need to know from the franchisor. 
  • Ongoing support: As a franchise owner, you’ll have continuous training and support from the franchisor. Some even offer call centers and administrative support.
  • Corporate partnerships: Franchisors negotiate contracts and create strategic partnerships with other businesses, which can help franchisees become approved vendors or take advantage of discounts on inventory and equipment. 
  • Lower risk: While there’s no guarantee that the franchisee’s business will be successful, just being part of a franchise system lowers the risk of failure. It comes with a loyal customer following and a proven business system already in place.
  • Being part of a network: Many franchisors host conferences and mastermind groups for their franchisees to come together to collaborate and share best practices.  

The Cons of Owning a Franchise

  • Franchise fees: According to the Federal Trade Commission, to be considered a franchise, the franchisor must charge an initial franchise fee. This fee gives the franchisee the right to use the company name for a specific number of years and assistance in starting the business. This fee varies but can average $35,000. It’s a major investment, but remember that you’re paying for all the hard work the franchisor put in to grow the brand.
  • Royalties: Most ongoing franchise royalties are based on a percentage of the franchise’s revenue, and typically range from 4% to 12%. Some franchises may charge fixed royalty fees. These cover ongoing support and other resources. Some franchisors may charge an additional fee for marketing/advertising. 
  • There’s less creative control: Franchisees need to follow the system provided by the franchisor. For instance, fast food franchise owners cannot change menu items or create their own advertising campaigns. 
  • Negative PR can impact your business: If there was a horrible experience at another location, or there was a corporate mishap, it can negatively impact your business. Even if you’ve done everything right, bad press can hurt the entire brand.

Is a Franchise a Good Idea as a Startup?

There will always be trade-offs in starting any type of business, and a franchise is no different. Some prospective franchisees like knowing that a franchise is a business model that’s been proven to work. For other business owners, the lack of creativity in the system can be constricting. But that depends on the franchise; when exploring any franchise opportunity, make sure you completely understand all the brand’s benefits and limitations. 

This is where the Oregon SBDC can help, as we can assist you in exploring the advantages and disadvantages of buying into a franchise. You can also request a free consultation from Frannet to help determine if franchise ownership is right for you.

Turning a Small Business into a Franchise

Have you heard of Dutch Bros.? In 1992, Dane and Travis Boersma started a pushcart selling coffee in downtown Grants Pass. When they decided to grow their business, they enrolled in a program offered by their local Oregon SBDC and learned how to set goals, hire employees, and turn their coffee business into a franchise. 

Today, Dutch Bros. is one of the Oregon SBDC’s greatest success stories. After raising more than $400 million in an IPO in 2021, Dutch Bros. is now a publicly traded company (NYSE: BROS). While they no longer offer the option to franchise, Dutch Bros. operates more than 470 locations in 11 states, employs 13,000 workers, and continues to expand its brand. To learn more about their story and business journey, click here.

The Oregon SBDC Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. 

If you have any questions, connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

Oregon Small Business Development Center: Training and Specialized Services 

Have you ever wondered how you can leverage the Oregon SBDC Network and our services to help launch and grow your small business? Whether you’re located in an urban center or rural Oregon, our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the state in all aspects of business. 

Each Center is backed by our statewide network of support to help you find the right solutions and strategies for the success of your business. Our services include:

  • Training
  • No-cost advising
  • Small Business Management Program
  • Succession planning
  • Capital access
  • Market research
  • Cybersecurity
  • Global Trade Center
  • Innovation

Training

Small business owners can take advantage of the array of in-person and online classes offered through the Oregon SBDC Network. Some of our most popular topics include how to start a business, QuickBooks essentials, marketing for your small business, Construction Contractor Board (CCB) test preparation, and much more. 

To browse classes near you, first find your Center.

No-Cost Advising

Each of our 20 regional Centers provides no-cost, confidential advising for small business owners at any stage of business. Whether you’re seeking some guidance on writing a business plan, analyzing your business’s financials, or growing your team of employees, our knowledgeable business advisers can provide expert advice and connect you to valuable resources.

Advising requires filling out our online intake form and, at some Centers, attending a free introductory workshop to see if advising is right for you.

Small Business Management (SBM) Program

The Oregon SBDC’s SBM Program has one goal: to make you and your business more successful! Grow your business through this unique training program, which combines one-on-one coaching from an experienced adviser with classroom learning and business networking with other entrepreneurs.

The result is a customized plan to help you streamline each aspect of your business, financials and human resources and financials to digital and traditional marketing. 

The program typically starts in the fall with classes following the host college’s schedule.

Succession Planning

When you own a business with employees, personnel changes are inevitable. Having a plan for that inevitability is a critical aspect of your business!

At the Oregon SBDC Network, our experienced advisers help small business owners with succession planning, which keeps your business moving forward even as changes occur. 

From assessing your current workforce and identifying your top performers to strategizing on how to preserve institutional knowledge when key employees leave, we can support you to create a succession plan that fits the unique needs of your business. 

Capital Access

Small businesses often struggle with access to funding and finding the right financing to meet their needs. If you need support as you seek funding for your business, the Oregon SBDC Network’s Capital Access Team (CAT) is here to help!

CAT’s highly specialized advisers provide expert advising, training, and support for small business owners seeking funding. All advising is confidential, and the CAT team works collaboratively with a local SBDC business adviser to help clients work toward their goal.

Market Research

Is your business ready for growth and job creation? Better information leads to better decisions at this critical point in your business. The Oregon SBDC Network’s Market Research Institute provides customized, data-based research reports and market intelligence for established businesses that anticipate growth. 

Reports encompass a wide range of topics and databases centered on your needs and goals that can help your business:

  • Identify opportunities
  • Better understand the competitive landscape
  • Refine business plans

Clients should connect with their business adviser to see if leveraging the Market Research Institute is the right next step for their growth.

Cybersecurity

Cybercrime poses an increasing threat in our interconnected world, yet many organizations do not have a comprehensive cybersecurity plan in place. The Oregon SBDC Network’s Cybersecurity program, located at the Mt. Hood SBDC, offers educational awareness, workshops, training, and no-cost advising for businesses to address their cybersecurity needs.

Through collaborative partnerships, the Mt. Hood SBDC cybersecurity program brings world-class expert presenters in the field of cybersecurity and cyber intelligence for events, training sessions, and webinars.

Click here to see upcoming events. 

Global Trade Center

The Oregon SBDC’s Global Trade Center, hosted at Portland Community College, has been supporting entrepreneurs in taking their businesses global since 2017.

As the only center in Oregon specialized in international trade, the Global Trade Center serves as a statewide resource, combining one-on-one, no-cost trade advising with programs taught by business experts.

If you’re interested in expanding your customer base to international markets or importing products from your global supply chain, the Global Trade Center can help at no cost to you.

Innovation

The Oregon SBDC Network is proud to partner with organizations across the state that help us in our mission to build Oregon’s best businesses.

One of those partners is VertueLab, a valued partner in innovation. Oregon SBCDs partner with VertueLab to help tech companies in Oregon navigate and apply for grants through federal funding opportunities.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) are competitive federal grant programs that award funding to small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential to commercialize new technologies.

To be eligible, companies must have the following qualifications:

  • Ideas and concepts that address the needs identified in at least one SBIR/STTR solicitation
  • The skills and experience to fulfill SBIR/STTR solicitation requirements
  • Plans and capacities to commercialize technologies resulting from SBIR/STTR awards

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner excited about making a difference in tackling climate change and competing for an SBIR or STTR grant, you can connect with your regional SBDC for more information.

Ready to Get Started?

Oregon’s small businesses are as unique as our state. Whether you’re preparing to launch a business or planning to exit one, the advice and tools needed to be successful starts with connecting with your closest Center.

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small business owners often don’t have big marketing budgets to work with, which can make promoting products or services a challenge. The good news is that there are many ways to market your company that cost little or nothing but can still significantly impact your bottom line.

Below are our top small business marketing strategies.

1. Set Up a Google My Business Listing

Having a Google Business profile is one of the most effective and free marketing strategies available for local businesses. This allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches. 

For your business profile to show up higher on Google Maps or local results, you’ll need to optimize it by claiming verified ownership—which can be done through your Google My Business account.

With a Google My Business profile, you can share details and photos of your business, including its location, contact information, and services and products offered. Whether you’re looking for foot traffic or web traffic, Google is the ultimate search referrer and helps people find your business when looking for products and services like yours in their area.

Your Google Business profile also allows customers to share reviews and ratings about their experience with your business, which helps attract potential customers through their Google search results. Be sure to share your Google My Business link with your customers and encourage them to leave reviews.

You can set up your Google My Business profile here

2. Make the Most of Social Media Marketing

Having a prominent social media presence is no longer optional for small businesses—it’s a marketing must. Social media helps define your image, promote your business, gain clientele, and build relationships.

It’s best to start with one or two social channels that cater to your target market and ideal audience instead of trying to master all the different platforms at once. Once you learn one and do it well, add another. Be sure to leverage the latest trends on your platforms, like posting Facebook Stories, Instagram Reels, etc.

Some ideas on what to post include promoting your blog posts to drive traffic to your website, running polls and requesting feedback, and sharing client testimonials. 

While it’s OK to post recycled content once in a while, be sure to publish original content, too, including your own videos and photos, and share valuable tips and information. 

Tagging your loyal customers, partners, and vendors on social networks can broaden your business’s organic reach to a new potential audience, help you grow your following, and potentially attract new customers. 

When creating the “About” section on your business social media pages, make sure you get it right. This means creating a compelling description and optimizing the text by utilizing keywords that boost its SEO rank.

Managing multiple social media accounts, creating engaging content, posting consistently, responding to user comments and questions, and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job. Consider hiring an experienced social media manager or outsourcing the work.

3. Engage Your Audience Via Email and Text Marketing

Sending messages about your products or services via email and text is a powerful way to turn leads into customers and foster loyalty. Building successful email/SMS marketing campaigns is critical for any company and is the most effective method for reaching people interested in what your business is offering.

As a small business owner, your email list, including current and prospective customers, is one of your most valuable assets. That’s why building a customer contact list should always be a top priority. 

For customers, it’s easy to click “Follow” on social media, but they aren’t always eager to give out their email address. To get more emails and phone numbers, offer an email/text opt-in on your website, start a monthly email newsletter, and offer discount codes in exchange for providing their contact information.

When it comes to email and SMS marketing, prioritize quality over quantity. An inbox flooded with promotional messages is likely to annoy a customer into unsubscribing, while a small number of messages with valuable content can boost engagement. One of the best ways to do this is to place a coupon in your messages.

Still, great content doesn’t guarantee that recipients will open your message. To improve audience engagement, open rates, and conversions, put thought and effort into the subject line, call to action, and the email’s design. 

Before sending out a marketing email, always send a test email to yourself to preview what it will look like from a customer’s perspective. This ensures that any formatting issues get caught and addressed before the email goes out to your entire list.

4. Deliver Promotions Through Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct mail may be more costly than email marketing, but if you have a targeted list and promote appealing offers, it can be very effective—and profitable. Direct mail also has a longer life span than email marketing, which has a life span of just a few seconds. RetailWire reports that direct mail’s average life span is 17 days.

Some marketing ideas for direct mail include sending a postcard or brochure promoting your business, discount coupons, a gift card, or small branded items with your company’s logo. People hang on to things they can use, so putting your logo on items like magnets, pens, notebooks, and stress balls means more exposure for your business.

You can also time your direct mail campaigns around your customers’ birthdays. Send them special coupons or promo codes to acknowledge their big day. You can send both email and direct mail birthday coupons and compare the results. You may get a better response from an email campaign, but promotional emails often get lost in people’s busy inboxes.

5. Reward Existing Customers and Create a Referral Program

Your current customers are your most valuable resource, especially as they are your primary source of referrals and reviews. A referral from a current customer is the best kind of lead you can get, and a positive review from that customer can pay dividends for years.

One of the best ways to source new leads is to tap your existing network. Reward your repeat customers with loyalty programs that incentivize referrals and discounts. 

To encourage current and past clients to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers, offer them an incentive, like a gift card, free product or service, or another reward that will motivate them to send referrals your way. 

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most trusted and powerful strategies for growing your small business.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners throughout the state. Visit OregonSBDC.org to locate a Center near you and access our no-cost advising services today!

Small Business Benefits of Using Customer Relationship Management

Small Business Benefits of Using Customer Relationship Management

Wouldn’t it be great to have one tool that can host your customer database, act as a sales funnel for your website, send follow-up customer emails, and aid in structured marketing campaigns for your business? There’s good news: This tool already exists! 

All this marketing can be done under one platform called a CRM, which stands for customer relationship management

In this article, you’ll learn how a CRM tool helps companies manage their interactions with customers at all points during the customer life cycle; keep them engaged from discovery to education, purchase, and post-purchase; and improve the overall customer experience. 

What Is a CRM?

The goal of customer relationship management is to improve business relationships to grow the business. When you hear the term “CRM,” it usually refers to a CRM system, which is a tool that companies use to manage all their relationships and interactions with current, past, and prospective customers. 

A CRM helps companies stay connected to their customers and streamline processes and touchpoints, including providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.

Who Is a CRM For?

There is a CRM system for every business type. A CRM helps organize customer information and stay connected to customers at different milestones before, during, and after your sales or purchase process. 

If you’re a product-based business, you’ll want to pick a CRM that’s specific to product sales, and service-based businesses should choose one specific to services. There are also CRMs that are specifically designed for industries, so you’ll want to do your research upfront. 

Having a CRM system gives your sales, customer service, business development, recruiting, marketing, and other roles in your company a better way to manage the external interactions and relationships that drive your business’s success.

CRM systems allow you to see how customers have interacted with your company, milestones in their journey, what they purchased, when they last bought from you, how much they’ve spent, and so on. 

It also stores their contact information, which helps you identify sales opportunities and manage marketing campaigns more effectively, while also making this data accessible to anyone else in your company when they need it.

The right CRM can help companies of all sizes drive growth, but it can be especially beneficial to a small business that must find ways to do more with a much lower budget.

How Does a CRM Add Value to Your Small Business?

Implementing a CRM system for your business offers a lot of value. Below are some of the benefits that a CRM solution can provide your small business:

  • Improved customer service: Customers don’t have to repeat their stories over and over each time they contact your company. With a CRM system, you can address issues more quickly and effectively, leading to better customer support. 
  • Increased sales: Using CRM to improve and streamline the sales process, build a sales pipeline, automate tasks, and analyze sales data leads to more sales. A CRM allows you to have all your customer-facing voice, chat, and email touchpoints accessible in one place and deliver the right message on the right channel at the right time in the sales life cycle.
  • More customer retention: CRM tools can show you when customer churn happens, which is when customers stop using your company’s product or service or stop subscribing, so you can identify and address those pain points.
  • Analytics you can use: CRM tools make your data accessible, understandable, and relevant to your business needs. All your sales data, finance data, and marketing data flow into the CRM to become metrics that help you make sense of everything and use it to your business’s benefit for customer acquisition and retention.
  • Better business efficiency: Having all your day-to-day business functions in one place creates a better workflow, improved project management, and enhanced team member collaboration. CRM automates tasks to eliminate menial, repetitive work. 
  • Improved knowledge sharing and transparency: Collaborative CRM tools help you build a knowledge base, establish best-practice workflows, and facilitate frictionless communication among team members. A CRM platform allows everyone in your organization to gain visibility on your business processes, fostering better collaboration. 

Types of CRM Systems

CRM software compiles customer information in one place. Having this data handy helps your employees interact with customers, anticipate their needs, record customer updates, and track sales performance goals.

CRM solutions can be categorized into three primary types: collaborative, operational, and analytical.

1. Collaborative CRMs

Collaborative CRMs, also referred to as strategic CRMs, centralize customer data where your marketing, sales, and service professionals can all access it. 

They provide visibility into all customer communications, purchase history, service requests, notes, and other details, so customer support reps are better prepared to solve customers’ problems. Collaborative CRMs can also act on this information automatically to expedite service.

As this data is shared across the organization, each department can act on it as needed. For example, at a car dealership, the service department can use sales data, like when a car was sold, to automatically contact the customer to schedule their service appointments.

2. Operational CRMs

With sales and marketing, operational CRMs automate processes related to identifying prospects, keeping tabs on customer interactions, forecasting sales, evaluating marketing campaigns’ performance, and more.

This way, your sales team can spend more time cultivating relationships with customers, while your marketing team can target specific audiences with personalized messaging.

3. Analytical CRMs

Analytical CRMs aggregate customer information from various sources to identify patterns relating to customer trends and behavior. 

These insights can be used to generate and convert more leads, develop smarter marketing campaigns, and enhance customer service. They can also help with sales forecasting, budgeting, and reporting.

What Is the Best Free Small Business CRM Software?

Many CRM services offer free plans hoping that you’ll eventually upgrade to a paid plan.

Free CRM systems allow you to try out the platform with your team to see if it provides value that makes sense for your needs—especially if you’re a small business or a startup on a small budget. Since it’s free, there’s really nothing to lose. 

Below is a list of some CRM providers that have tools for product- and service-based businesses. We recommend that you explore these and other CRM services to see which features align best with your company’s CRM goals.

  • Freshworks: Features basic contact and deal management functionality, but remains competitive with in-built calling, webform lead generation, and allowing unlimited users.
  • Zoho CRM: Features workflow automation and can work with Zoho Campaigns to send up to 12,000 bulk emails a month.
  • HubSpot CRM: Offers contact storage of up to 1 million records, custom data fields, website marketing, and up to 2,000 bulk emails a month.
  • Insightly: Has advanced project management tools, including post-deal tracking, as well as customized reporting and bulk email marketing. 
  • Agile CRM: Includes customizable data fields, one workflow automation, and bulk email marketing.

Finding the best CRM solution for your business will require some comparison shopping. But whichever CRM product you choose, your small business will quickly see its advantages, and you may wonder how your company operated without a CRM in place!

Need Assistance?

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses.

Our 20 regional Centers assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. 

If you have any questions, connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

Setting Your Small Business Up as a Sole Proprietorship

Setting Your Small Business Up as a Sole Proprietorship

Operating as a sole proprietor is the easiest route to starting your own business compared with forming another type of business structure, like an LLC (limited liability company). Sole proprietorships are popular among solo business owners, consultants, and freelancers, who can conduct business under their own names because creating a separate business or trade name isn’t needed.

Read on to learn the basics of a sole proprietorship, its advantages and disadvantages over other business structures, how to set up your business, and what you need to know to operate your business as a sole proprietor.

What Is a Sole Proprietorship Business?

A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business with just one owner.

A sole proprietorship is easy to form and gives you complete control of your business. You’re automatically considered a sole proprietor if you perform business activities but have not registered as any other type of business, like an LLC or a C Corp.

Sole proprietorships are not a separate business entity. This means your business assets and liabilities are not separate from your personal assets and liabilities. Therefore, you can be held personally liable for your business debts and obligations.

Sole proprietorships can be a good choice for consultants, businesses with very low risk, and those who want to test their business first before committing to the time and costs of forming a more formal business structure.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Sole Proprietor?

The most significant benefits of a sole proprietorship are the ease of creating one, its pass-through tax advantage, and the low fees for establishing the business.

With a sole proprietorship, you need to register the business with the state only if you are using a name other than your legal name (“real and true” name). However, depending on the kind of business you operate, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. With a sole proprietorship, you can get your business up and running quickly and with less hassle and cost.

The tax process is easier, too, as you are not required to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS unless you have employees. You can also use your Social Security number to file and pay taxes.

The disadvantages of a sole proprietorship include the unlimited liabilities and potential difficulties in obtaining business funding from a bank or investors due to being in the early stages of business.

Because a sole proprietorship is not a separate business entity, any business liability can become your own. For example, business creditors could seize your personal assets. Because a sole proprietorship offers no liability protection, you could go personally bankrupt if your business doesn’t succeed or faces unexpected challenges.

Obtaining financing can also be a hurdle with a sole proprietorship. Banks prefer to work with businesses that have a proven financial track record, and sole proprietorships are often start-ups. As an individual starting out, you appear as higher risk to bank lenders. Getting equity from investors can also be difficult, as many prefer to fund more refined start-ups.

However, many entrepreneurs and small business owners begin as sole proprietorships. As their business grows, they can register to become a limited liability entity, such as an LLC, LLP, or a corporation.

Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC: How to Choose?

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be wondering if it would be better to create a sole proprietorship or an LLC. A sole proprietorship is usually a good fit for small businesses with low risk, low profits, and a small customer or client base.

An LLC may be the better fit if your business is associated with some risks, there’s the possibility of raking in large profits, you have a large customer base, you have employees, or you’re in a position where you could benefit from certain tax structures.

How Do You Set Up a Sole Proprietorship in Oregon?

In Oregon, you can start a sole proprietorship without filing any paperwork with the state government, unless you choose an assumed business name, need licenses and permits to operate, or will be hiring employees. Review the steps below to take the necessary actions, if any apply to your sole proprietorship business:

1. Choose a business name.

In Oregon, a sole proprietor may use their own “real and true” name or use a trade name. If you plan to use a business name or a trade name, state law requires that the name be distinguishable from other company names on record. You also want to choose a name that is not too similar to another registered business because of common and federal law trademark protections. To make sure your business name is available, run a search in the following government databases:

2. File an assumed business name.

If you use a business name different from your legal name, Oregon requires you to register an assumed business name with the Secretary of State’s Office. This is a mandatory requirement in Oregon. To file your assumed name, you must fill out the Online Assumed Business Name Registry from the Secretary of State Business Registration Service. There is a $50 filing fee.

3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.

Your business may need licenses depending on its business activities. Oregon provides a directory of every profession and occupation requiring a license, and you can obtain this information by visiting the Oregon License Directory. In addition, local regulations—including licenses, building permits, and zoning clearances—may apply to your business. You will need to check with your city and county governments for more information.

4. Obtain an EIN if hiring employees.

Sole proprietors who want to have employees need to obtain an EIN (employer identification number). This is a number issued by the IRS for tax reporting purposes. All businesses with employees must report wages to the IRS using their EIN. You can register for an EIN through the IRS website. Sole proprietors with no employees are not required to have an EIN because they can use their Social Security number to file and pay taxes.

How Do You File Taxes as a Sole Proprietor?

To file taxes as a sole proprietor, you’re required to complete a Schedule C to report your business’s profits and losses when you complete your Form 1040 for personal income taxes. The amount of taxes you owe will be based on the combined income reported on these forms.

The Bottom Line

A sole proprietorship is a straightforward way for individuals to start their own business. In some situations, it does not require registering with your state or obtaining an EIN with the IRS. However, keep in mind the risks involved and the liabilities that can be passed from the business to you personally. But if you operate a low-risk business, being a sole proprietor presents a quick, easy, and low-cost way to get your business up and running.

For professional guidance specific to your situation, contact your attorney or CPA.

Need Assistance?

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to helping build Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. Connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Small business insurance, also commonly referred to as commercial insurance, is designed to protect the business you’ve invested your time, money, and effort into building. Having insurance assures small business owners that they’ll be safeguarded against claims and lawsuits.

Why Do You Need Small Business Insurance?

Business insurance is highly recommended for all businesses. In fact, it is required by law for certain professional fields, such as healthcare, which also requires professional liability coverage. This is also known as malpractice insurance. In other professions, a contract may require that businesses be insured.

Unfortunately, businesses can be sued for almost anything, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. For instance, if someone slips and falls in a place of business, or if a client feels that they were not provided the services committed to them, a business could find themselves facing an insurance claim or possible lawsuit.

Without the protection of insurance, a small business owner would likely have to pay out of pocket when facing insurance claims. Should your small business not have the resources to be self-insured or the capital to cover such claims, it could lead to business failure.

The good news is that business insurance may cover the majority of these expenses, including legal defense for the business owner. This is why small business insurance is an important and necessary investment to protect a business and its assets.

What Kind of Business Insurance Do You Need and How Much Does it Cost?

The business insurance a company needs depends on the type of business it is. Most businesses need general liability insurance. If you offer professional guidance, you may also need professional liability insurance. If you own equipment to operate your business, like computers or machinery, you may consider a business owner’s policy (BOP) which combines general liability with business property coverage. Small business insurance costs depend on the business type and size, the policy and coverages selected, and many other factors.

The 10 Most Common Types of Small Business Insurance

These are the top 10 types of insurance coverage to consider for your small business, some of which may be required by Oregon state law:

1. General liability insurance

General liability insurance helps protect businesses from claims relating to bodily injury or damage to someone else’s property. For example, if a customer gets injured in your store, this coverage may help to pay for their medical costs.

Many small business owners get a general liability policy that includes product liability insurance. This can protect your business against bodily injury or property damage claims caused by your company’s products.

2. Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance or E&O insurance, can cover claims on mistakes made in the professional services your business provides. Doctors, accountants, lawyers, and architects are often targets for these types of claims.

This is because the errors made by these professionals end up being quite expensive for their clients to resolve. If a client or customer sues your business, professional liability insurance can help cover your legal costs.

3. Business income coverage

Business income coverage, also known as business interruption insurance, can help replace lost income if your business becomes unable to operate due to property damage caused by a fire, storm, or theft. For example, a florist whose flowers die after their refrigerator malfunctions may be able to recoup lost income with this type of insurance.

4. Commercial property insurance

Commercial property insurance, also called hazard insurance, can cover your owned or rented business space and the equipment used to conduct your business. For instance, if someone breaks into your office and steals your business computers, commercial property insurance can help cover the costs to replace this equipment.

5. Workers’ compensation insurance

Many states, including Oregon, require businesses with full-time or part-time employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. This kind of insurance can cover medical bills for on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses and provides disability benefits to employees. Many policies include employers liability insurance, which may help to cover costs when an employee blames their employer’s negligence as the cause of their injury.

For business owners who do not have employees, you may need to self-insure for worker’s compensation depending on your industry. Be sure to address your individual needs with an insurance professional.

6. Commercial auto insurance

In Oregon, all business-owned vehicles must have a commercial auto insurance policy, which covers the cost of accidents involving work vehicles. Oregon has minimum requirements for auto liability insurance, which include:

  • Bodily injury liability
  • Property damage liability
  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Personal injury protection

The minimum requirements may not suffice, though, so be sure to get the right amount of coverage for your individual business needs. Trucking companies may need additional coverage to comply with state regulations.

If a business owner or their employees use their personal vehicles for work purposes, you may also consider hired and non-owned auto (HNOA) insurance, as personal auto policies usually exclude business use. This coverage can be added to commercial general liability insurance or business owner’s policies (BOPs).

7. Data breach insurance

Data breach insurance, also called cyber liability insurance, can help your business respond to a breach of personally identifiable information getting lost or stolen. It helps cover costs for actions such as notifying impacted customers or clients, running a public relations campaign to repair your business’s reputation, and/or offering credit monitoring services.

8. Commercial umbrella insurance

Commercial umbrella insurance extends the limits of certain liability policies that your business already has. For instance, if a claim’s cost exceeds your policy’s limit, a commercial umbrella policy can help cover the difference.

9. Employment practices liability insurance

Employment practices liability insurance, also referred to as employers’ liability insurance, helps cover the costs resulting from employment-related claims, such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination.

10. Business owner’s policy

A business owner’s policy (BOP) is one of the most common types of business insurance. It combines general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and business income insurance into one policy.

Do I Need Insurance for My Oregon Small Business?

The short answer is yes. Most small businesses may need some type of coverage that protects against:

  • Bodily injuries
  • Property damage
  • Car accidents
  • Lawsuits

Your home and your business are likely your largest investments, and having the right business insurance is just as important as protecting your home with homeowners insurance. Without insurance, you risk financial losses or even the shutdown of your business.

How to Get Small Business Insurance

The following steps can help you find an insurance policy that best meets the needs of your business:

1. Conduct a risk assessment.

Determine what kind of accidents, natural disasters, or lawsuits could damage your business. Once you assess your risks, it can help you determine what aspects of your business need the most protection.

2. Find a licensed insurance agent.

Commercial insurance agents can help you find the coverage that best matches your business’s needs. Remember that insurance agents receive a commission from insurance companies they sell policies for, so it’s essential to find a licensed agent who keeps your best interests in mind. It’s recommended that you meet with your insurance agent on an annual basis to review your policies and find the right coverage as your business continues to evolve and grow.

3. Shop around.

Insurance quotes can vary significantly from one insurance provider and policy to the next. You should always compare the rates, terms, and benefits of various policies from multiple agents. If you choose not to work with a licensed insurance agent, it’s recommended that you get at least three business insurance quotes to find the best rate for the coverage you’re seeking.

4. Reevaluate each year.

The more your business grows, the bigger your liabilities become. If you have purchased or replaced equipment or expanded your operations, you’ll need to inform your insurance agent of these changes and how they may affect your coverage and insurance costs. Be sure to include this as part of your annual business plan review!

Need More Advice?

Having small business insurance is a crucial aspect of protecting your business. Be sure to seek expert advice from your licensed insurance agent for any questions relating to your unique needs as a small business owner.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. Connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.