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.

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.

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.

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

Financial Literacy Month

By Noah Brockman, Oregon SBDC Network Capital Access Team

There are several steps small business owners seeking funding should take to prepare for acquiring capital. In this article, you’ll find a checklist of “to-dos” for accessing capital. If you have questions or need support, the Oregon SBDC Capital Access Team is here to help!

Revisit Your Household Budget

Consider your monthly income and expenses. Have there been any changes recently? Think about how business income contributes to your household income, and make sure to review your personal and business credit. With these factors in mind, consider whether your financial profile will be acceptable to prospective lenders.

Get Clear About Your Funding Needs

Having clarity about how much you need and how funds will be used is vital as you prepare for business funding. How much cash do you already have available, and will you have sufficient personal and/or business cash reserves after your cash injection? It’s also important to think about the time frame for funding.

Create a Startup Budget

If you’re just starting your business and need funding to launch, this to-do is for you! If you haven’t already, make a startup monthly budget that indicates all revenues, cost of sales, and expenses. It’s helpful to prepare a list of any new business assets you need to get started, such as inventory and equipment.

Create a Project Budget

For those who are already in business and require capital to grow, make a project budget to outline your funding request by asset type—such as inventory, equipment, tenant improvements, and/or permanent working capital.

Evaluate Your Current Situation

Already in business? Need cash for working capital? Take a look at your business to see where you might already have some cash tied up, such as A/R or inventory. Review your fixed overhead expenses to assess any cuts you can make to reduce your cash expenditures. You may also want to look at your gross profit margin to see if it’s on par with your industry average and determine if you need to make any adjustments to COGS or pricing.

Determine Your Financial Projections and Cash Flow

Whether you’re starting or growing your business, it’s a good idea to put together at least a 12-month financial projection/cash flow budget showing anticipated revenue, cost of sales, expenses, profits, owner draws, and debt service payments to share with funders. If possible, a 24-month projection is even better. Try to be conservative, and make a list of your underlying assumptions.

Understand the Types of Funding Available to You

Familiarize yourself with different types of funding and how they fit with different scenarios. For an overview of traditional and nontraditional funding, click here.

Assess Your Position for Debt or Equity

Are you in a position to borrow? What collateral will the lender use to secure the loan? How will you pay it back? Pull your credit report to ensure that there are no hidden surprises. Consider whether you have owner equity (cash) to put in. Having at least 10% is a great start.

If you’re already in business, is the business profitable? If you’re not interested in taking on debt, are you seeking an equity investment? Ask yourself what return on investment you can offer to investors.

Develop or Update Your Business Plan

Whether you are starting or growing your business, it’s vital to develop a business plan to share alongside your financial projections to help funders understand your vision. At the Oregon SBDC Network, our business advisers can help you create a comprehensive plan to move your business forward.

Organize Your Business Documents and Paperwork

For existing businesses, make sure your financial statements are up to date, and gather past year-end business financials, as well as personal and business tax returns. For new businesses, gather your organizing documents, any industry-specific licenses, and any insurance or lease documentation.

If you are seeking guidance on the best path forward, the Oregon SBDC Network can provide assistance. Connect with your local Center and register for confidential, no-cost advising on your funding options and in all areas of your small business.

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.

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

Having a presence on social media can reap big rewards for your small business. Social networking sites allow you to reach your target audience in a cost-effective way while engaging current and past customers and attracting new business opportunities.

Social media users span all demographics, but the key is identifying which platforms your customers are using and how best to promote your product or service through those specific channels.

Let’s take a look at the benefits small business owners can gain through social media marketing and dive into the differences among the top sites, so you can determine which ones are the best fit for your company.

Top 3 Benefits of Using Social Media for Your Small Business

Social media offers free access to a vast audience of potential customers, providing endless opportunities to spread brand awareness, increase traffic to your business website, and generate sales.

If you’re a small business owner on a tight budget, or if your business is brand-new, having a presence on one or more social media platforms is a marketing tactic that makes sense. While there are many benefits to leveraging social media, we outline the top three benefits for small businesses below:

1. Boost Brand Awareness

When it comes to marketing, social media has a massive advantage over traditional media platforms like TV, radio, and print. With one social media post, you can immediately spread information about your business and potentially reach millions of people.

If you’re an online retailer or service-based business, you can expand your audience to people all over the country who could potentially be buyers of your product or services. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, you can target people who live in, or travel through, your specific Oregon location. There is no other form of advertising that can give you this type of reach for the cost.

2. Bring Traffic to Your Business Website

Another benefit of social media is that it’s easy to direct traffic to your own website by simply including a call to action in your posts, like “Visit our website to sign up now!” or “Get 10% off when you purchase online today!”

Encouraging social media followers to visit your website can improve the quality and quantity of your inbound traffic. Also, it’s an effective way to generate traffic without having to rely on SEO and Google Search.

3. Gain New Customers and Increase Sales

Another significant benefit for small businesses using social media is the ability to target your posts. You can take advantage of advertising tools that get your posts directly in front of your target audience and gain exposure to potential customers. With retargeting ads offered by most platforms, you can make sure your content is being seen by those who are most likely to patronize your business, based on demographics like age, gender, location, personal interests, and more.

Targeted posts are considered paid advertising on social media, but the good news is that on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can choose between CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) models and set your own daily budget. It’s a great tool to attract new clients and help grow your small business.

Social Media for Small Business: 5 Major Platforms

One of the struggles small businesses have with social media is figuring out which platforms are right for the business and will provide the most value. Not every social networking site is a good fit, and trying to master each one is too time-consuming. Instead, it’s best to consider which one your target audience uses and focus your efforts there.

Facebook

Facebook is the world’s largest social media network, with over 2.9 billion active monthly users in 2021. Having a presence on Facebook is a must for every small business, regardless of what products or services your company offers.

Facebook statistics:

  • 200 million small companies are on Facebook.
  • 63% of Americans over 12 say they have a Facebook account.
  • 78% of consumers have found a product through Facebook.

Creating a business profile page is free, and you can customize your page with images and list your website URL, contact information, hours of operation, and the products and services your company offers. Once your profile is set up, you can create posts that share information, photos, videos, infographics, company news, blogs, and more. And with a Facebook Business account, you’ll gain access to advertising tools and in-depth analytics.

Instagram

Instagram is incredibly popular, with around 1.1 billion active users in 2021. What sets Instagram apart from other social media sites is that it is a visual platform dominated by photo and video posts. Therefore, it’s best for small businesses that have appealing visual content to share. Just ensure that your images and video are high quality.

Instagram statistics:

  • More than half of the global Instagram population worldwide is age 34 or younger, and it is especially popular with teens.
  • Instagram is also one of the most influential advertising channels among female Gen Z users when making purchasing decisions.
  • 90% of people on Instagram follow a business account.

From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, small businesses can use Instagram’s tools to promote their offerings. It’s important to note that this platform is almost entirely mobile. It doesn’t allow you to take photos or create new posts on the desktop version unless you use a special social media management tool.

Twitter

Twitter currently has 396.5 million users and is best for sharing brief updates, engaging with followers, and sharing links to blog posts. You can share tweets—which are posts containing 240 characters or fewer—photos, videos, links, and more. You can also interact with others on the platform by mentioning users in your posts and liking and retweeting tweets from other users.

Twitter statistics:

  • 206 million users access Twitter daily.
  • Twitter is most popular among users age 25 to 34.
  • Worldwide, men use Twitter more than women.

If you have engaging content to share and can voice that content in a captivating way, Twitter can be a valuable platform for quickly spreading the word about your business. To boost your tweets, you can use hashtags, and when users retweet your posts, your content could go viral. When using Twitter, it’s essential to strike a balance between sharing your own content and retweeting relevant content from other users.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has 260 million monthly users and is the prime platform for professional social networking. This is the best social media channel to find and recruit talent for your company, position yourself as an industry leader, and promote your business to other professionals.

LinkedIn statistics:

  • Women account for 43.1% of LinkedIn users, while 56.9% of LinkedIn users are men.
  • The age group with the most LinkedIn users is between 25 and 34 at 60.1%.
  • 50% of internet users with a college degree or higher use LinkedIn.

Users on LinkedIn create their own profiles that showcase their skills and professional experience, similar to a resume. Businesses can create a company profile that showcases their offerings. LinkedIn is effective for posting job openings, information about your company culture, blogs related to your industry, and other content that would interest professionals. You can also join industry-specific LinkedIn Groups, which can help with brand recognition and introduce others to your company profile and website.

TikTok

TikTok is relatively new to the social media arena. On this platform, its 100 million active users can create and share short videos. It is mainly dominated by Gen Z users, and as it skews toward a younger audience, it may not be the right fit for your small business.

TikTok statistics:

  • 53% of TikTok users are male; and 47% are female.
  • Roughly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under 34, with 32.5% between 10 and 19 years old.
  • TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021, with 656 million downloads.

TikTok is known for posting memes, dance challenges, and viral moments. It can be a successful marketing platform for small businesses, but only if used properly. The good thing about TikTok is that it doesn’t just show you videos from those you follow. Instead, it offers a continuous stream of content, including videos from people you don’t follow but that the app thinks you might like. This means potential customers can see your content without going directly to your profile.

Get Started with Social Media for Your Small Business

Learning how to leverage social media for your small business can set you up for success.

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

The Oregon SBDC Network Honors Women’s History Month

The Oregon SBDC Network Honors Women’s History Month

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is proud to honor Women’s History Month by inviting you to meet some of our inspiring and innovative Center directors serving Oregon’s small businesses.

Tammy Marquez-Oldham, Portland Community College SBDC

With a background in the education, healthcare, software, and food industries, Tammy Marquez-Oldham pairs her extensive business acumen with a vision of providing the highest level of business education and advising possible for the Network’s clients as the director of the SBDC at Portland Community College. Through the years, Tammy has spearheaded several initiatives for the Oregon SBDC alongside various collaborators and partners including:

CAPITAL ACCESS TEAM

Tammy co-founded the Oregon SBDC Network’s Capital Access Team (CAT) with Noah Brockman, who now leads the CAT as a regional and statewide service. The CAT helps small businesses identify the right source and use of capital through planning and loan package development. The CAT’s experienced advisers understand and leverage multiple forms and sources of capital, sometimes beyond traditional lending, in order to support the many small businesses they serve. The CAT celebrates its 10th year in 2022, and has helped more than 2,500 small businesses in Oregon successfully access more than $255 million in capital since its founding.

GLOBAL TRADE CENTER

The Oregon SBDC Network’s Global Trade Center is the only one of its kind in the state of Oregon and was co-founded by Tammy and Global Trade Center liaison and senior adviser David Kohl. An initiative that took 11 years to develop, the Center is celebrating its fifth year in 2022. This NASBITE-accredited Center offers trade assistance and advising for new-to-export-level small businesses through two training programs: the Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) and Buying and Selling Outside the U.S. for small businesses.

GETTING YOUR RECIPE TO MARKET

The Getting Your Recipe to Market program was founded in the fall of 2006 to help small-business food entrepreneurs learn how to take their food recipe or product from idea to commercial-ready prototype. Tammy co-founded this program with the then–executive director of the Food Innovation Center, Jill Beaman; OSU staff; and members of the Portland Community College SBDC team. In partnership with the Food Innovation Center and New Seasons Market, the program has supported the development of more than 450 food entrepreneurs over 15 years. Beaman leads the program today.

RESTAURANT BUSINESS BUILDERS

The Restaurant Business Builders program was designed to support the needs of restaurateurs in the early stage of development by providing participants with instruction from top chefs in Portland. The program was developed in tandem with Leslie Hildula and is currently led by Dr. Sean Harry with support from lead adviser and organizer Terry Long.

BUSINESS DESIGN SERIES AND BUSINESS BUILDERS

The Business Design Series tailors a curriculum for businesses within their first year of operation, led by Jackie Babicky-Peterson. For businesses in their first through third years of operation, Business Builders provides specialized training and advising from Kim Allchurch-Flick. Together, they ensure that small businesses have the essential training, resources, and knowledge required for growing a healthy business.

ADVANCED SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

For business owners who are growing and expanding their businesses, the Advanced Small Business Management Program provides them with experienced subject matter expert trainers and advisers. This program, led by Dr. Sean Harry, has been sponsored by the Portland Business Alliance, funded by Bank of America for the past 10 years.

COLUMBIA COUNTY SBDC

One of the latest developments for the Oregon SBDC Network is the addition of its newest Center in Columbia County, which is the network’s 20th regional SBDC offering core business advising services and the 21st location in the state of Oregon.

The Columbia Economic Team, a private/public economic development organization serving Columbia County, initially launched the 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.

When Tammy was approached by Columbia Economic Team (CET) Executive Director Paul Vogel to support the initiative, she helped to provide the framework of the language and culture to the concept and resulting plan. With her guidance and the help of many state and local partners and investors, the Center was able to engage full local support in just nine months.

In addition to her leadership at the Portland Community College SBDC, the Centers and programs for which Tammy has helped to design and secure funding have impacted thousands of small-business clients throughout her 15 years of service at the Oregon SBDC Network.

Tammy attributes the success of the Center and its programs to the extraordinary team of program specialist Yevette Johnson, client service coordinator Sharon Quillen, business advisers, training facilitators, community partners, Portland Community College, and the Oregon SBDC Network.

“Together with Team is how we serve small businesses,” she said. “Together we are stronger!”

Ruth Swain, Rogue Community College SBDC

Rogue Community College SBDC Director Ruth Swain is passionate about supporting people and organizations to achieve their vision and goals. She is a small-business champion and award-winning marketing and design expert who has supported entrepreneurs in business growth for more than 30 years.

In her position at Rogue Community College SBDC, Ruth leads a team of advisers whose combined business ownership and management knowledge offers valuable guidance to small-business owners. In recent years, Rogue SBDC has performed in the top five Centers supporting capital access, number of clients served, new business starts, and robust training programs. She also leads a team of advisers in the Illinois Valley satellite office, which features a fully equipped commercial kitchen in support of founding food product makers.

Prior to serving as director at Rogue, Ruth served as interim director of the Mt. Hood SBDC, where she founded and led the Oregon SBDC Network’s statewide Cybersecurity program.

Cybersecurity attacks on small businesses are a grave and growing issue, with criminal activity quickly evolving along the digital landscape to affect every aspect of technology involving communication: the web as well as telephone, Bluetooth, and electronic devices. Key cybersecurity practices are simple, but many businesses know little about safety measures.

The aim of the Cybersecurity program is to offer educational awareness for businesses at different levels through workshops; training; and no-cost, one-on-one advising sessions.

Ruth led the project management of developing the program, which included teaching, conducting workshops, creating training materials, and matching small businesses with cybersecurity interns to teach principles and practices of cybersecurity in this increasingly important aspect of safeguarding small businesses.

Ruth has also served in the following capacities to further cybersecurity awareness for Oregon small businesses:

  • Appointed co-chair of the America’s SBDC Cybersecurity Interest Group
  • Represented Oregon SBDC’s Cybersecurity program and conducted certification program training at America’s SBDC national conference
  • Presented on cybersecurity and workforce at University of Illinois Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI)
  • Implemented the first statewide Small Business Cybersecurity Survey
  • Led the Network’s small-business franchising program, FranFit
  • Provided legislative testimony on small-business franchising to the Oregon House Interim Committee on Business and Labor

Ruth’s leadership has extended beyond the Oregon SBDC Network. Prior to joining the Oregon SBDC, she helped to raise millions of dollars in grants for organizations such as the City of West Richland’s Community and Economic Development, served as the vice president for advancement at the Columbia Basin College, and was part of the leadership team to found a new medical school at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima, Washington. She has also been a multi-time recipient of the Rotary International Paul Harris Award for “Service Above Self,” volunteering to help disadvantaged and underrepresented youth and women and children around the world suffering from poverty and domestic violence.

“Sharing positive ideas, energy, and encouraging others who have a dream is the most rewarding thing on the planet!” Ruth said. “Most of us just need a bit of insight to take the steps toward success.”

Kat Rutledge, Klamath Community College SBDC

Native Oregonian Kat Rutledge holds two positions in support of small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and those who want to be. She is the director of the Klamath Community College SBDC, where she leads a team in providing technical advice and training to the rural small-business communities of Klamath and Lake County. And she’s the director of Klamath IDEA, a community initiative focused on developing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Klamath County.

The KCC SBDC is the only small business technical service provider for nearly 15,000 square miles, serving as a go-to resource for practical training and no-cost, confidential business advising to entrepreneurs on the application of best practices for success and growth in business. In her almost nine years as the director she has grown the SBDC from a one-person operation, offering only advising to a full center with standing classes for start-ups as well as a Small Business Management Program for existing business owners who are ready to grow. Meanwhile, Klamath IDEA works to foster an entrepreneurial culture through entrepreneurial ecosystem development, building a celebratory and supportive environment for entrepreneurs, and outreach to connect entrepreneurs to the right resources at the right time. While closely aligned, the varied services provided through Klamath IDEA and the SBDC provide critical support to rural entrepreneurs and have great impact when woven together.

Through her work with Klamath IDEA, Kat has been involved with the Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) since the program’s inception, when Klamath Falls was one of four communities initially funded by (then called REDI). Business Oregon eventually expanded the program to 20 communities in the 2021–23 biennium and ROI continues to be one of the funding streams that supports Klamath IDEA’s efforts to grow and sustain a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Klamath IDEA has recently joined the Ford Family Foundation in the Growing Rural Oregon Program, in which Klamath was selected as one of four Oregon communities working on entrepreneurial ecosystem-building to receive support for up to five years. They have received funding from the Oregon Community Foundation and are also financially supported by Klamath County and the City of Klamath Falls.

Kat believes that entrepreneurial ecosystem-building provides an amazing economic development opportunity for rural places. Rather than spending time, money, and resources exclusively on “catching the big fish” to save the day, entrepreneurship is an approach that leverages the assets that already exist and helps to highlight the gaps needed to be filled in order to grow an economy from within.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of this approach in its infancy,” Kat said. She said she looks forward to watching the approach catch on more broadly at the state and philanthropic levels.

Prior to her current roles, Kat worked in HR and financial management in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. Following her departure from corporate America, she ventured into owning her own HR and conflict management consulting business. She is an Oregon Certified Economic Developer and serves as a member of the South Central Oregon Regional Solutions Regional Advisory Committee. Kat holds a degree in Business and Economics. She has taught at both the high school and community college level. Kat has been involved in Oregon’s collegiate innovation scene for eight years with Oregon Tech’s Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, InventOR, and as a founder of KCC’s Badger Venture. She serves on the Craft3 CDE Advisory Board, as well as the board of directors for Discover Klamath. As a lifelong rural Oregonian, she is a loud and proud rural advocate!

Lisa Woods, Umpqua Community College SBDC

When Lisa Woods saw an opening for a position at the Oregon SBDC Network, she felt like the job description had been written specifically for her. Lisa spent 25 years as a small-business owner in San Diego, where she and her husband owned a martial arts center that included childcare. With an MBA and a passion for teaching, she taught business courses at a local college in San Diego County, using her gift to simplify complex subjects and helping individuals navigate their own growth and find their passion. A native Oregonian, Lisa has welcomed the opportunity to return home to Roseburg to serve as director of the Umpqua SBDC and support small-business owners in attaining their life’s goals.

“Often as a business owner you’re working in your business all day long,” she said. “We’re here to help business owners and entrepreneurs learn how to work on their business—not just in their business.”

Though she joined the SBDC in January 2020, Lisa has not let the challenges of the pandemic get in the way of providing support to Douglas County businesses. One issue that the pandemic helped to highlight was the lack of childcare providers, particularly in rural areas. Though many people were providing childcare for their immediate network—many times out of necessity—they often were not approaching it as a business, and thus were unable to take advantage of the support being provided to small-business owners at the state and federal level.

When the Ford Family Foundation approached the SBDC regarding this need, Lisa jumped at the chance to create a program designed to help entrepreneurs reposition their existing childcare services as businesses. The innovative pilot program, a collaboration between Care Connections & Education and the Umpqua SBDC, and funded through the Ford Family Foundation, launched in February 2021 and successfully completed in January 2022.

Since returning to Oregon, Lisa has found many ways to serve her community. She joined the planning commission for the city of Sutherlin, where she currently serves as the chair, she is on the city’s Urban Renewal Task Force, and she and her husband have opened a new martial arts studio as well as a church.

Whether it’s through helping to launch a business or teaching self-defense, Lisa’s passion to empower women permeates through the many facets of her life.

As she looks to the future, she is excited to be a part of transforming lives and small businesses, one relationship at a time.

In addition to these Center directors who are helping to lead the way for small businesses, the entire Oregon SBDC Network is actively engaged in supporting small businesses to grow and thrive. Connect with your local SBDC at www.OregonSBDC.org.