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!

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.

Small Business Accounting Basics

Small Business Accounting Basics

Operating your own small business and being your own boss comes with many benefits but also brings new responsibilities. One of the biggest burdens of being a small business owner is handling the accounting. This includes keeping a record of all income and expenses and accurately reporting your business financials when tax season rolls around.

This article covers the basics of how small businesses can set up an accounting system and manage their bookkeeping effectively.

What Is Small Business Accounting?

Small business accounting includes the process of tracking, recording, and analyzing your business’s financial transactions, including purchases, sales, expenses, payroll, and more. These numbers translate into a statement that provides a picture of your business’s profitability.

In short, small business accounting tracks the money that flows in and out of your business accounts and boils down to:

  • Bookkeeping (recording financial transactions)
  • Creating financial reports
  • Filing tax returns

Accounting also helps you determine the health and value of your company so you can adjust accordingly for short- and long-term success.

Below are some basic steps to help you to set up an effective accounting system for your small business.

Open a Business Bank Account

Once you’ve legally registered your business, you’ll need to have a separate bank account to cover all your business transactions. Not only does this make life easier come tax time, but it also protects your personal assets in the case of bankruptcy, lawsuits, or audits. Additionally, having a business bank account with detailed financial records can help you obtain funding from creditors or investors down the road.

Note that Oregon LLCs and sole proprietors don’t legally need to have a separate bank account, but it is highly recommended.

Start by opening a business checking account. It’s also a good idea to have a business savings account, which can help you organize funds and plan for taxes. For instance, if you automatically put a percentage of your business income into a savings account, you’ll have money set aside for your estimated taxes due each quarter. A good rule of thumb is to put aside 25% of your income, or perhaps more if you’re a high earner.

To open a business bank account, you’ll need a business name, and your business might have to be state-registered. Check with the individual bank on its requirements.

Consider a Business Credit Card

Having a business credit card can help build your company’s credit rating. And if you choose a card with benefits, you can earn cash-back rebates or travel points with your purchases.

Track Expenses

Accurate expense tracking is essential for monitoring business growth, developing financial statements, keeping track of deductible expenses, and preparing tax returns.

From the very beginning, your business needs to establish accounting methods for organizing receipts and other important records, which can be done manually or using accounting software.

What Expenses Do Small Businesses Need to Track?

The IRS requires that you keep documentation that proves income, credits, and deductions shown on your tax return. Although the records and receipts you need to save will depend on the nature of your business, generally you’ll want to keep the following:

  • Receipts
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Bills
  • Canceled checks
  • Invoices
  • Proof of payments
  • Financial statements
  • Previous tax returns
  • W2 and 1099 forms
  • Any other documentation that supports an item of income, deduction, or credit shown on your tax return

The IRS does not require receipts for certain expenses under $75. You can keep digital or paper copies of receipts, and there are many apps and online storage services that make it incredibly easy to scan, organize, and store all your receipts.

Below are the types of business expenses you need to keep a record of:

  • Meals and entertainment
  • Out-of-town business travel
  • Auto-related expenses
  • Receipts for gifts
  • Home office receipts

Operating your business from your home helps keep overhead low and allows you to qualify for more tax deductions. The IRS allows you to deduct the portion of your home that’s used for business, as well as your internet and cell phone service, and transportation to and from work sites.

Any expense that’s for both business and personal use must reflect its mixed use. For instance, if you use one phone for both, you can deduct the percentage you use the device solely for business. Gas mileage costs are 100% deductible, so be sure to hold onto all records and keep a log of your business miles.

Develop a Bookkeeping System

Bookkeeping is the accounting process of recording transactions, categorizing them, and reconciling bank statements.
Accounting is the high-level process that provides an overview of your business progress and makes sense of the data compiled in your bookkeeping.

As a small business owner, you’ll need to determine how you want to manage your books:

  • You can use software like QuickBooks online or use a simple Excel spreadsheet.
  • You can outsource a part-time bookkeeper, one that’s local or cloud-based.
  • When your business grows, you can hire an in-house bookkeeper or accountant.

You also need to determine whether to use the cash or accrual accounting methods. These are the differences between the two:

  • Cash method. Revenues and expenses are recognized when they are actually received or paid.
  • Accrual method. Revenues and expenses are recognized when the transaction occurs (even if the cash hasn’t been paid or received yet), so it requires tracking accounts receivable and accounts payable.

U.S. business owners can use cash-based accounting if revenues are less than $5 million. Otherwise, the accrual method must be used.


Determine How You’ll Get Paid

Most business transactions these days are not done in cash. Therefore, you’ll need to decide on a payment solution that works best for your business. This will come down to whether you accept payments in person, through a point of sale (POS) system, or online.

  • POS system and in-person payments. If you accept both, consider getting a mobile credit card reader like Square. This is great for businesses that don’t expect to process a high volume of in-person purchases daily.
  • POS payments only. If you perform only POS sales, you can use a POS system that works with a cash register or just a credit card reader independent of any cash collection system. For the in-person payment methods—POS systems or credit card readers—you need to have a merchant account with your bank. This account acts as an intermediary between the payment system and your bank account to withdraw and deposit funds.
  • Online payments only. If you accept only online payments, PayPal and Shopify are two popular platforms for online retailers.

Set Up a Payroll System

When it makes sense for your small business to hire more help, you’ll need to determine whether you hire an employee or an independent contractor.

If you have employees, you’ll have to set up a payroll schedule and make sure you’re withholding the correct taxes. There are many services available to help with this, and if you use accounting software, many offer a payroll feature.

If you hire independent contractors, keep track of your payments to them, as you’ll be required to file a 1099 form for each contractor at the end of the year.

Tax Filing Obligations

The legal structure of your business determines your business’s tax obligations. If you’re a sole proprietor or your business is registered as an LLC or partnership, you’ll likely claim business income on your personal tax return. If you run a corporation, it’s considered a separate tax entity, and the income you receive from the corporation will be taxed independently, as though you were an employee.

Self-employed individuals need to withhold income tax the same way an employer withholds taxes from an employee’s paycheck. If you owe more than $1,000 in taxes for the year, you will need to pay quarterly estimated taxes four times a year.

When tax season comes around, technology is your friend! Understanding what business expenses you can deduct and using technology to track them will help to ensure you don’t pay more than you owe.

Be sure to have a program intended for business purposes, like QuickBooks, Sage, or Great Plains. While there are many “free” programs out there to track mileage and expenses, “Free is not free” when your data is lost!

Consider software that can help track:

  • Mileage
  • Travel and meal expenses
  • Personal use of a dedicated home office space
  • Receipts
  • Time

If your needs are more comprehensive, the Oregon SBDC Network provides classes on small business accounting, budgeting, cash flow management, and QuickBooks—one of the most extensive financial reporting and management programs on the market for small business accounting purposes.

If you’re new to QuickBooks, you can learn how to set up new customer and vendor accounts, create invoices, record sales, and enter payments. If you are already using the basic features of QuickBooks but want to master its other offerings, advanced classes are offered throughout the state.

QuickBooks training is available through your local Small Business Development Center and taught by experienced professionals who understand the software inside and out. To find a QuickBooks or small business accounting class near you, contact your local Center today.

Small Business Development Center Approved for Columbia County, Oregon

The Center will be the Oregon Small Business Development Center’s 21st location in the state

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network (Oregon SBDC) announced the approval of a new Small Business Development Center in Columbia County, Oregon. The Columbia County Small Business Development Center (Columbia County SBDC) is the first new center formed in Oregon since 2013. It marks the network’s 20th Center offering core business advising services in the state of Oregon.

The Columbia County SBDC will combine with a newly formed Business Resource Center (BRC), co-locating small business advising and coaching with economic development, business retention, recruitment and expansion, and tourism. The Center and staff will have access to all programs, protocols, systems, training, and software within the Oregon SBDC to enhance its already considerable capacity.

In addition, the new Columbia County SBDC will collaborate with BRC partners to conduct outreach and client recruitment that will serve every community throughout Columbia County. The advising services provided will be consistent with the other Oregon SBDC offerings, which include—as mandated by the federal Small Business Administration—no-cost advising and coaching to any business.

The Columbia County SBDC will be operated under the direction of Columbia Economic Team (CET) Executive Director Paul Vogel.

“This exciting development really is all about timing, and the timing is just right,” said Vogel. “Historically, our county has been difficult to serve by the Portland Community College SBDC due to geography and population factors. We’ve been experiencing significant growth, however, and the COVID pandemic both underscored the glaring need for business support and provided funding sources to make it possible,” Vogel added.

The Columbia Economic Team, a private/public membership organization serving Columbia County launched an initiative to form the Business Resource Center and SBDC after filling grant making and other small business assistance gaps during the pandemic and economic downturn.

“On the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Columbia County SBDC is a much-needed and anticipated resource for local small-business owners,” said Mark Gregory, state director for the Oregon SBDC. “With the new SBDC’s presence in Columbia County, there will be opportunities to expand and create new businesses, and provide business support solutions for the many challenges Oregon’s small-business communities face as they emerge from the pandemic in 2022.”

The Oregon SBDC would like to thank several state and local partners and investors. These partners include:

  • Columbia County Board of Commissioners
  • Columbia Pacific Economic Development District (Col-Pac)
  • The City of St. Helens
  • The City of Scappoose
  • The City of Clatskanie
  • The City of Vernonia
  • The City of Columbia City, Oregon
  • Sen. Betsy Johnson
  • U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici
  • The Columbia Economic Team
  • CET Executive Director Paul Vogel
  • Tammy Marquez-Oldham, PCC SBDC Director

For all press inquiries please contact Paul Vogel at paulvogel@columbiacountyoregon.com.

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

Running a small business is never easy. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your own company for years, whether you have a few loyal clients or a whole lot, whether your overhead is minimal or substantial, running a successful and profitable business takes a lot of work—rewarding work for sure, but hard work nonetheless.

Luckily, there are some ways to make it easier. While the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has loads of resources—some we’ll tell you about here—that can help small-business owners, the best step you can take to improve your odds of success is to plan properly. In this article, we’re outlining six strategies you can implement for successful business planning.

1. Start Planning Early

It’s never too early to start planning. Never. Whether you have an idea you want to turn into a business, you have a business ready to launch, or you already have a successful business and are thinking of what to do next, a strategic plan is crucial.

The Oregon SBDC is here to help with your business planning at any stage. From startup to scaling, our advisers have the tools to help you build a solid foundation for your business. Tools like LivePlan simplify business planning, budgeting, forecasting, and performance tracking for our clients.

GrowthWheel is another tool our advisers use that provides a visual toolbox to help business owners make better decisions and take action in their businesses. Both of these tools are offered free of charge exclusively to Oregon SBDC clients.

2. Set Your Goals

Your strategic business plan needs to include more than just ideas. While the vision of a business is an important component, a key factor to success is setting SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Oftentimes a big goal is tied to several smaller goals you need to achieve along the way. For this reason, some business owners set goals by month or quarter, while others set goals for the year. The right timeline to choose depends on you and your business goals.

3. Identify Your Staffing Needs

When people think about goals for businesses, they typically think about financial targets they want to hit, potential physical expansions, new strategies for upcoming product launches, and the like. But another factor that merits consideration and forward planning is your business’s future staffing needs, especially in today’s climate.

If your business goals include expanding your operations, the number of full-time, part-time, and/or contracted workers will likely change. The cost and time it will take to hire for your staffing needs requires planning.

4. Understand Your Financials

Awareness of your business and personal finances is a vital part of successful business planning. Even if you’re “in the black” and seeing profits, understanding your finances is important when making decisions and planning for the future of your business. And this means knowing more than just what’s in your bank account.

Understanding how much money is coming in and going out each month, product costs, the cost to manufacture, the cost of goods sold, labor costs, fixed and variable costs—these are all numbers you need to know so you can make decisions for your business. Your financial indicators are the drivers of your business, and if you don’t understand them, it can be easy to make a costly mistake.

5. Put Together Your Marketing Plan

A marketing plan may sound like the kind of thing that only big businesses with their own massive internal marketing departments need to do. But small, local businesses need a marketing plan, too. And just like any other part of running a business, your marketing requires a carefully thought out and meticulously detailed plan.

From the channels you will use to the creative you want to deploy to your monthly marketing budget—write it down. Building and implementing a successful marketing plan can help your business grow exposure and revenue.

6. Evaluate the Previous Year

When you’re running a small business, there are times when you’ll need to look back in order to move forward. Looking back can be fun, especially if you’ve experienced growth in your business and can count your wins over the year. It can also be hard, if you’ve experienced a challenging year that didn’t live up to your expectations.

How to Get a Business Loan in Oregon

How to Get a Business Loan in Oregon

Oregon is packed with over 320,000 small businesses. Many of these ventures started with a great idea. But to turn a concept into reality, you need money. An Oregon 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 how you can get lines of credit for the working capital you need to make sure your company is one of the strongest small businesses in the state.

How to Use an Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

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

An Oregon Small Business Development Center can help you transform your business idea—no matter how well-developed it is—into a solid plan designed to secure the funding you need.

For Existing Businesses

If you’re applying for funding for an existing business and you need your first loan, a Small Business Development Center can help ensure that your plan has the right content and structure. For example, they can make sure it emphasizes your current earnings—and those you will get as a result of the new funding—in a way that’s honest, realistic, and compelling for a lender.

Also, as a seasoned business owner, your organization may have some qualities that can make it more appealing to a lender. An Oregon Small Business Development Center can help you identify attributes that can enhance the appeal of your business.

For New Businesses

A business plan is essential, and many new business ideas may not have one already in place. But don’t worry: SBDCs specialize in helping you formulate thorough plans that can get you 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 the following:

  • 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
  • Sales techniques and tools you will need
  • Product development life cycle plans, including 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

Once this is accomplished, you can approach a lender with the kind of plan that inspires confidence in your success. Oregon SBDCs have access to LivePlan, an online business plan resource that makes sure your plan is complete and suits your kind of business.

Options for Getting Loans

To get a loan for your business, you have a few different options, including:

  • A Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. While the SBA itself doesn’t lend money, it works with lenders and has standards you have to meet to qualify for the loans its lenders offer.
  • 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.
  • The Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund (EDLF) from Business Oregon. This organization provides direct loans for start-ups and small businesses that made less than $1.5 million in the past 12 months or are owned by a severely disabled individual.
  • An Economic Development District entity set up by the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA has districts across the country 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 EDD may be able to help you find the rest.

Does the Government Hand Out Business Loans?

The short answer is “Sometimes”—but only to people who have strong business plans that address a pressing need the government has. Generally speaking, unless your business solves a specific problem the government is facing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get a loan from any state, local, or national governmental entity.

With a strong business plan in hand, you 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.

Small Business Tips for 4th Quarter Planning

Small Business Tips for 4th Quarter Planning

Time flies when you’re running a business—it’s hard to believe we’re heading into the 4th quarter! To ensure business success through the end of the year, NOW is the time to prepare if you’re a small business owner. Here are some small business tips for 4th quarter planning:

  • Check in on your inventory and operations.
  • Organize your 4th quarter marketing strategies.
  • Plan your year-end client and customer appreciation.
  • Review your year-to-date goals.
  • Get your financials in order for tax planning.

Check on Your Inventory and Operations

Small business owners should ask themselves these questions NOW to build their 4th quarter plan and to save time and money in the long run:

  • Do you have the inventory you need?
    Supply chain issues are causing delays across the board, regardless of industry, so it’s important to plan ahead for your inventory needs.

  • Is your online store ready?
    Review your website and ensure the user experience is simple and in working order. Having an online store is one way to pandemic-proof your business as we move into the winter season.

  • Have you factored in your staffing needs?
    Many industries in Oregon are experiencing labor shortages at the moment, making it important to think ahead about your labor needs.

Organize Your 4th Quarter Marketing Strategies

The holiday season offers many opportunities for small businesses to amp up their promotions. Planning your marketing strategies ahead of time will help business owners make the most of 4th quarter sales.

Some specific days small business owners should consider taking advantage of in the 4th quarter include:

Black Friday, November 26, 2021
Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Last year, consumers reportedly spent $9 billion on this day alone! Plan ahead, and be prepared for an influx of business.

Small Business Saturday, November 27, 2021
Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. Think about how you can participate and encourage your community (and beyond!) to support your small business.

Cyber Monday, November 29, 2021
Consumers are increasingly going online to shop for items big and small, and Cyber Monday has gained popularity over the years for online sales. If you have an online store, think about ways your small business can participate on this day.

Ideally, your holiday marketing strategies should encompass all of your communication channels, including your website, social media, and public/media relations.

If you have an email marketing list, think about how you might nurture your current and potential customer relationships through holiday messaging as part of your marketing strategy. If community engagement is a focus, consider partnering with a local charity to spread the holiday cheer! Just be sure to plan ahead, as these types of initiatives can take time.

It’s always a good idea to map out your marketing strategies in advance.

Plan Year-End Employee and Customer Appreciation

Speaking of the holidays, the 4th quarter is a great time for small business owners to show employees and customers your appreciation for their support throughout the year.

If you’re planning to give holiday gifts, set up a holiday function, or provide bonuses, be sure to plan well in advance so that any gesture of appreciation is well thought out and doesn’t feel rushed to the recipient.

As mentioned earlier, inventory is being impacted and delays can be expected, so if you’re planning to give physical gifts, it’s especially important this year to order these gifts ahead of time.

Evaluate Your Year-to-Date 2021 Business Goals

Small business tips for 4th quarter planning wouldn’t be complete without checking in on where your business stands:

  • Have you met your goals?
  • Does something need to shift to stay on track?
  • Set aside some focused time on your calendar to review your business plan and check in on your goals year-to-date.

This is the time for small business owners to finish up any business projects in progress. You might be in the middle of redesigning your website, or maybe you’re integrating a new point of sale system.

Whatever the task, this is a great time to wrap up any projects that may be lingering in the background so that you can take time in the 4th quarter to focus on setting yourself up for business success in 2022.

Get Your Financials in Order for Tax Planning

Tax planning takes place year-round, but it’s especially important in the 4th quarter if you plan to make investments in your small business before the year ends.

Here are some small business tips related to tax planning:

  • Be organized
    It’s key that your receipts and all important documentation you’ve collected throughout the year are neatly organized for tax season. It’s a good idea to use accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks) to track your finances.

  • Be ethical
    Report all income and business expenses. Do not mix your personal expenses with business expenses.

  • Plan ahead
    Learn of any recent tax code changes, and find out how these changes will impact you and your business. Now is the time to get your finances in order and set an appointment with your trusted bookkeeper, accountant, or CPA.

Following these small business tips for 4th quarter planning will help you finish the year strong and set yourself up for business success in 2022.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners plan for success throughout the year. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need for your Oregon small business to grow and thrive by visiting OregonSBDC.org.

Cybersecurity for Oregon Small Businesses

Cybersecurity for Oregon Small Businesses

Whether or not your small business has in-house cybersecurity or IT experts, you’ve probably heard the disturbing news accounts about the increase in hacks, scams, malware attacks, viruses, ransomware, and other extortion-oriented online assaults.

The situation has worsened in the wake of the pandemic. Cybercriminals exploited many of the quickly assembled platforms that businesses set up to let their employees work from home. And, as health facilities struggled to meet the demands of patients during a surge in COVID-19 cases, they found themselves besieged by cyberattacks at the same time.

Hackers did everything from executing ransomware attacks to interfering with medical technology—including an attack in Oregon that abruptly shut down alerts attached to monitoring patients’ vital signs.

According to an August 2021 article from Nancy Bilyeau at The Crime Report, “Nearly half of all U.S. hospitals have disconnected their networks in the past six months due to escalating ransomware attacks.”

Oregon Small Businesses Struggle to Fight Cybercrime

While hospitals and other emergency service providers have increasingly become the targets of cybercriminals, they are not alone. Preventing and mitigating damage from cyberthreats has become a way of life for organizations, from the most familiar names worldwide to everyday Oregon small businesses.

In fact, Ashley Lukehart of Cybersecurity Magazine wrote in May 2021 that “43% of all data breaches involve small and medium-sized businesses.”

Technology is an indispensable tool for businesses of all sizes. So no business today is immune from the relentless efforts of hackers to intrude, wreak havoc, and steal sensitive information for financial gain.

Whether they’re dealing with patients or business customers, Oregon small businesses have a duty to protect the personally identifiable information (PII) of their stakeholders. Such information includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Telephone number
  • Credit card or other financial information
  • Email address
  • Individual account number or code

Even if small businesses don’t keep PII about their customers, they likely have intellectual property worth protecting. On top of that, they need security strategies to ensure that their employees don’t fall prey to online hacking predators.

That means Oregon business owners and their IT leaders need to look strategically at their cybersecurity strategies.

How Can Your Small Business Protect Itself from Cyber Attacks?

Recognizing the vulnerability of Oregon small businesses to cyber attacks is a huge step in launching a defensive strategy against hackers. Once you know what your organization is up against, you need some tips to protect your customers and your small business.

Here are four tips to help your small business stay safe in these dangerous digital times.

Tip 1: Cybersecurity Is Everyone’s Job

Making cybersecurity a priority in your employee training is essential. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends establishing basic security practices and policies to help reinforce that all employees’ efforts are crucial to maintain cybersecurity.

Here are some critical training topics to cover:

The potential cost of a data breach for your company can be $200,000 or more. And the ongoing cleanup in the aftermath of a security breach can be costly due to the loss of personal and financial data, as well as customer confidence.

Ensure that new employees take an initial cybersecurity training class, and then provide frequent updates via in-person or online training, along with reading materials.

Tip 2: Develop a Strong Password Protocol That Everyone Follows

Strong passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your systems, preventing unauthorized access to your small-business accounts and devices.

Try incorporating these best practices into your password security strategies:

  • Require strong passwords that are long and complex, incorporating numbers, letters, and symbols. Emphasize the importance of creating unique passwords, never using the same password twice.
  • Work to implement two-factor authentication. 2FA requires two distinct forms of identification to access a device, account, mobile app, or system.
  • Use a password management system like LastPass or 1Password to help your team keep complex passwords secure, especially when allowing sharing across users.
  • Keep “clean” machines. Having up-to-date security software, web browsers, and operating systems is critical in defending against viruses, malware, and other threats online.
  • Stay consistent, practicing what you preach to your small-business employees. Ensure that all internal and external employees understand and follow your cybersecurity protocols, and do so yourself!

Tip 3: Use Firewall Security for Your Internet Connection

A firewall is a network security system composed of programs that monitor and control incoming and outgoing private network traffic. It’s a barrier— a firewall—between your trusted working network and an external, untrusted network, like the internet.

A firewall not only works within your small business’s physical location, but it also works for anyone working remotely to provide employee access while ensuring that their home or other work space is protected.

Additionally, ensure that your business’s Wi-Fi network is secure, encrypted, and hidden, preventing your network from broadcasting its Service Set Identifier (SSID).

Tip 4: Implement a Data Backup System in Case of Emergency

You can’t predict all the ways your sensitive data might become compromised. Whether you experience a natural disaster, a ransomware attack, or another cybersecurity attack that would make your data irretrievable, your small business needs to prepare.

Implement a system to back up your company, customer, and employee data regularly. This critical data includes:

  • Word processing documents
  • Databases
  • Financial files
  • Human resources data
  • Personally identifiable information for customers or anyone else
  • Accounts receivable/payable information

If possible, back up critical data automatically and store copies off-site or in the cloud to ensure access.

Partner with the Oregon Center for Cybersecurity at Mt. Hood Community College

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so be aware: Small businesses everywhere, including those in Oregon, are as susceptible to data security breaches and other cybercrimes as anyone.

The cybersecurity program at the Mt. Hood SBDC offers educational awareness; workshops; training; and no-cost, one-on-one advising sessions for businesses in different stages of development and growth to help you develop, launch, implement and maintain your small-business cybersecurity strategy.

Do you have questions about how we can help your Oregon small business defend against cyberthreats? If you do, get in touch with your local Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at OregonSBDC.org. We’re here to help!

How to Trademark Your Oregon Business

How to Trademark Your Oregon Business

Starting a business in the great state of Oregon? If so, getting a federal trademark can ensure that your company doesn’t face legal troubles, should you expand into other markets.

In this article, we’ll cover the difference between state and federal trademarks, trademark registration, registration forms, state trademark procedures, and more.

Trademarks: State and Federal

According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, a trademark is “Any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination that identifies and distinguishes one source of goods or services from another.”

Basically, a trademark ensures and protects a business’s intellectual property rights. In the United States, this is done at both the state level and federal level. These two processes are different, and each requires a different procedure.

How to Secure an Oregon Trademark

If you’re doing business in Oregon and expect to stay here, you will want an Oregon trademark.

The first step is to register a business name—the official name your company uses to do business. It’s wise to check the Oregon Active Trademark Database first and type in the name you’re hoping to register. A quick search on the site can ensure that your name hasn’t been taken.

Next you’ll need to determine your business structure. Examples are sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations. For more on the different types of businesses, check here.

In Oregon, the cost of filing a trademark application with the Secretary of State’s Office is $50. The submission takes anywhere from five to seven business days. You are not required to have an attorney, and your trademark is effective once filed.

The trademark must be renewed every five years for a $50 renewal fee. Changing ownership or canceling the trademark costs an additional $50.

Correspondent information is changeable for free at any time; however, the description of your trademark is not changeable once filed.

A state trademark doesn’t allow you to use the “®” symbol. Instead, you must use “™” or “℠” for service marks.

How to Secure a Federal Trademark

Registering a federal trademark creates rights throughout the entire United States. If you ever intend to move your business or expand it beyond state lines, this is advised. You do not need a state trademark if you have a federal trademark.

Before deciding on your business’s name and the trademark that will cover your IP, check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database to ensure no overlap.

Filing a federal trademark can take three to four months. You’ll have an attorney assigned to the application, and the cost for submission is a minimum of $275.

Your trademark won’t be effective upon filing. Rather, it becomes active retroactively once your trademark is approved.

In your filing, you’ll need to describe your business, the service or goods you provide, and the trademark for which you’re claiming ownership. You’ll also need the class designation of your mark.

Federal trademarks must be renewed every 10 years.

Trademark Your Business Today

Receiving a federal trademark legitimizes your business on a national level. If you don’t intend to expand outside of Oregon, however, a state trademark is probably what you want. Getting a state or federal trademark protects your intellectual property, so don’t wait.

And if you need help, that’s why we’re here. We’re committed to serving Oregon small businesses, helping them to grow and establish themselves in the community.

If you found this helpful, check out upcoming events and workshops from your local Small Business Development Center.