The Institute Blog

The Latest News in Economic Development

Work Smarter

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A common phrase in business development courses and training sessions is: Work Smarter, Not Harder. Sounds easy enough, but exactly what’s entailed to achieve the same level of productivity with less work?

Understanding how to work smarter is a lesson in priorities; knowing which parts of the business, project, or job are both important and urgent; and which are neither of those two things. How can a business owner identify and define such priorities? Drawing a box on a sheet of paper is a good starting point. Next, fill in the box with two centered vertical and horizontal lines, creating four equal quadrants. The upper left box is for items that are Urgent and Important; the upper right box is for items that are Important, but Not Urgent; lower left is Urgent, but Not Important; and lower right is Not Urgent and Not Important.

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Play to Your Strengths

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Looking back, consider how much time has been wasted on projects or tasks where you simply did not excel. Although the desire for constant improvement is an admirable one, it should take second place to a more noble business cause, which is to focus time, energy, and resources on areas where you are strong and can demonstrate achievement and success.

When new customers and clients come in to The Institute with a grand plan or vision for business success, a few of the questions they are asked include: Do you have a business plan? Is there a market for the products or services you offer? And finally, ‘What do you do well?’ The last question in that series is the one that makes all the others make sense. Why? No matter how thorough or detailed the business plan may be, or how viable the market is for a particular opportunity, if the business owner isn’t good at what he or she does, it creates an additional—often insurmountable—hurdle to overcome. Instead, entrepreneurs should leverage opportunities where they have already demonstrated success, and follow advice shared by business coach Gary Lockwood from an excerpt on his website titled Play to Your Strengths:

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Do Customers Tolerate or Celebrate Your Company’s Contributions?

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There is a big gap in the world of business between simply being tolerated versus being celebrated. Many companies fall somewhere in the middle, wandering aimlessly in the dreaded mediocre zone. Superstar, high-octane companies figure out early in the game that the winning formula for success is to become an invaluable asset—so prompt, polished, and professional—leaving customers no option other than to celebrate their contributions.

A common adage in business shared by motivational speakers and sales trainers worldwide is the idea of Under-Promising and Over-Delivering, subsequently wowing the client with quality goods and superb service; on time, every time, under budget. In practice, this means to understate a capability, manage expectations, and then over-perform by delivering exceptional results. For example: Yes, we can complete the job by Friday; and then deliver the finished product, along with some bonus or added value, a few days ahead of schedule—hence, wowing the client.

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Ask These Three Questions to Protect Your Company from Fraud

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In November 2015, The CEO and staff members of a large highway contractor—as well as the owner of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firm in North Carolina—received prison sentences and fines in federal court. The parties were sentenced and fined in relation to their participation in fraudulent activities related to the federal DBE Program. Over recent months the federal government has ramped up its pursuit and prosecution of companies participating in schemes to subvert the purpose and mission of the DBE Program, which is to provide business opportunities to Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) seeking opportunities.

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Three Cs of Branding

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Large companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Ford, and Timex have perfected their brands over the course of generations by imprinting an image in the minds of potential consumers for their products. Over the years, consumers have learned to ‘Enjoy’ Coke; that they ‘deserve a break today’ at McDonalds; that the F-250 pickup is ‘built Ford Tough’; and that a Timex will ‘take a licking and keep on ticking.’ While these references may be a bit dated, the point is that these companies’ brands have stuck with consumers over the years for a reason.

Have you ever thought about what makes a brand stick in the minds of consumers? Is it the style of the logo, or a catchy slogan that people remember? Or is it an expensive marketing campaign consisting of commercials, print ads, and news releases? Actually, it is none of those things. The aforementioned items simply illuminate or reinforce a strong brand identity that already exists.

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Minority Businesses Matter

Image of chart Growth of US Firms 2007-2012

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) recently released a fact sheet with preliminary data from the Survey of Business Owners conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012. The preliminary data shows that minority businesses are leading the country in the areas of business creation, employee growth, and revenue growth.

These promising statistics reinforce the reality that minority businesses matter in the success of the U.S. economy and in the quality of life of America as a whole. This is largely due to the fact that minority populations are the only growing component of the total population of the United States, while the non-minority population actually decreased by 0.5 percent from 2007-2012.

There are three crucial ways that minority businesses matter in America, that make programs and initiatives to assist and accelerate their growth all the more important in the 21st century.

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MED Week Events Celebrate Minority Business Success

Image of 2015 Charlotte MED Week luncheon award honorees

During the fall of each year, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) honors the success and accomplishments of minority-owned businesses across the country through local and regional Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week events; including a national MED Week celebration.

This year, MBDA began a partnership with the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC) to host the National MED Week event in conjunction with the 2015 NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange. The combined event took place Oct. 18-21 in San Diego, California. The new partnership gave minority business owners the benefit of connecting with both corporate executives and federal government procurement officials at a single event.

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Johnson Elected to AWBC Board of Directors

Image of Briles Johnson, Executive Director of The Institute’s Women’s Business Center

The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) recently elected Briles Johnson to its national board of directors. Johnson is executive director of The Institute’s Women’s Business Center of North Carolina (WBCNC). In her role at The Institute, she is responsible for the continued growth, education, certification, training, and advocacy of women entrepreneurs across the state. Under Johnson’s leadership, the WBCNC has helped businesses create and retain over 600 jobs, obtain $8.5 million in capital, and clients have been awarded more than $17 million in government and private contracts.

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Does Your Business Have a USP?

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Does your business have a Unique Selling Proposition? When it comes to individuals, uniqueness ranges from our DNA, to the sound of our voice, and even to our fingerprints. Therefore, logically it would seem that every business owned by a unique individual would in some way have a unique identity in the marketplace. While this is true, your business—as an entity apart from its owner—should also have characteristics that make it unique in the eyes of the customer and other stakeholders that will potentially do business with the company.

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Institute Reports: Minority Businesses Survived and Thrived Post-Recession

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Media Contact:
Christopher Scoville
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DURHAM, N.C. – It’s not all bad news for minority-owned businesses that endured the economic downturn and recession, which peaked during 2008, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2012 national survey of small business owners indicates positive growth for minority firms since 2007. Analysis by The Institute shows that African American-owned firms expanded their employee numbers at a higher rate than that of white employer firms; with white firms adding employees at a rate of 1.7 percent and black firms adding employees by 9 percent over the same period from 2007 to 2012.

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