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- 75% of B2B buyers use social media to make buying decisions. (International Data Corporation (IDC))
- 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchase decisions. (IDC)
- 76% of B2B buyers prefer to work with recommendations from their professional network. (IDC)
- More than 72% of sales people using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often. (Aberdeen Group)
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is already the sixth largest airport for flights in the U.S. and the eighth busiest in terms of commercial traffic. In 2014, over 44.3 million passengers traveled through CLT and it is only expected to increase. Approximately 80 percent of fliers are transferring and 20 percent locally originating.
Six major carriers, 14 regional carriers and three foreign flag carriers offer 680 daily flights from CLT with nonstop service to 147 destinations, including 37 international locations.
Projections call for moderate growth at CLT of 3 percent to 3.5 percent into the 2030s, which is well below the pace of the previous decade, but still higher than the industry average.
Billion-dollar expansion and renovation projects continue on many fronts as airport executives strive to remake the city’s most important economic asset for the 21st century. CLT is one of the strongest assets Charlotte and the region have for keeping and recruiting jobs and companies, with an economic impact estimated at $10 billion to $12 billion annually.
Over a year ago, the airport hired Landrum & Brown Aviation Consultants to analyze growth and demand at the CLT airfield and the terminal over the next 20 years. They are using these projections to help them formulate a master plan for expansion.
They periodically share updates to the master plan with Charlotte City Council, designating the more immediate projects and presenting contracts and bids to Council for approval. Passenger and user fees and bonds repaid from airport revenue (airline leases, parking, food and drink sales) pay for the various projects.
Brent Cagle, CLT interim aviation director, recently met with City Council to update them on the expansion plan. Cagle discussed projects likely to come before council members during the next year, aimed at meeting the demands of the next five to 10 years.
Among the top priorities: a fourth parallel runway, expanded and renovated concourses, and a makeover of the main terminal and entrance.
Over the next seven to eight years, the airport wants to widen entry roads to the upper and lower levels of the main terminal, build pedestrian skybridges and underground walkways connecting the terminal with the main parking deck, and expand the terminal by 80 feet for ticketing and baggage claim areas. Also in the works are plans for construction of a new air traffic control tower; the existing tower was built in 1979.
Expansion of the terminal in phases will increase the number of gates to 164 from the current 93. In the next 10 to 12 years, the total would grow to 125.
CLT most recently completed construction of a seven-story $120 million hourly parking deck with 4,000 hourly public parking spaces and capacity for 3,000 rental cars and check-in counter next to the main terminal. Workers spent three years building the deck which covers 12 acres and 3.2 million square feet, or twice the square footage of the main terminal.
CLT is now the second largest hub for the combined American Airlines and U.S. Airways, the world’s largest airline. American Airlines accounts for about 90 percent of the local traffic at the airport.
The airport is in the process of negotiating a new lease with American Airlines. The current lease was agreed to 28 years ago and ends on June 30, 2016. CLT will also need environmental studies, approval from the FAA, and a long-term financing in place by July 2016.
CLT is being demand-driven to make investments to meet the projected growth of the airlines, passengers in the terminal and runways. Without their approval and financing, CLT will not keep up with the expected growth, confirm consultants Landrum & Brown.
According to Jack Christine, CLT chief operating officer, assuming traffic meets expectations, the number of flights and passengers at CLT in 2033 will be similar to the current rates at Chicago-O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. The consultants’ projections demonstrate a 3.3 percent annual growth in domestic air travel and 5.1 percent in international travel.
In 2014, there were 545,000 operations (take-offs and landings) at CLT. With the projections, that could grow to be 953,000 operations by 2033.
Asked by a city councilman whether the constant construction and expansion at CLT will ever stop, Cagle responded, “We are trying to make the growing pains not so painful,” but also made remarked that American Airlines has an expectation for each of its hub airports that require a mix of value and quality.
Another councilman commented on the ambitious expansion blueprint for CLT by saying, “Thanks for skating to where the puck is going to be.”
“The growth of Charlotte Douglas is a testament to our strength as a premier airport hub,” Cagle noted. “Our location and strong business partnerships are key factors in our success.
“We need to get out and talk about what growth at the airport means. What are the pros and cons? I think you’re going to see that as a major piece for the next year for the airport.”
Have you been asked to connect with someone on LinkedIn that you didn’t know? Have you ever asked someone to connect with you that you didn’t know? If either of these scenarios is familiar, we have some time-tested advice about how to handle both.
LinkedIn is a dynamic tool for meeting new people, creating new business relationships and developing collaborations. Take the time to ensure you are building your network strategically.
Connection Request Sent To You
Over 95 percent of all connection requests within LinkedIn are made without a personal note attached. In many instances this is a direct result of someone effortlessly clicking on the ever-present “Connect” button located throughout LinkedIn’s desktop and mobile apps.
On one hand, LinkedIn has fostered this impersonal approach by making connecting too easy. On the other hand, connecting with someone should be done with a purposeful objective.
We’re constantly asked how to handle a LinkedIn connection request from someone you don’t know. The answer isn’t a simple one since LinkedIn enables reconnecting with previous business acquaintances, connecting with existing business partners and making new connections. Each person has his or her own criteria for accepting a request to connect.
We use the following criteria to decide if we accept a connection request. We review the person’s profile prior to accepting their request. This allows us to determine whether there is value in connecting with them. If the potential exists for possible collaboration, new business, or if the person is connected to over 500 people, we will most likely accept their request.
Think about asking the person why they want to connect with you. Here’s an example of a note you may send to them prior to accepting or ignoring their request:
“Thanks for the connection request.
If we have met, I apologize, I don’t recall.
My network is very important to me. It’s not about the number of connections I have. It’s more about the quality of the relationship and its potential for collaboration.
LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting and I’m open to meeting new people. In that spirit, I’d like to know what is it about my profile that caused you to request a connection.
Also, please share a little about yourself and how we might both benefit from the mutual connection.”
Using this method will help you discern the quality connectors from the quantity seekers. If they respond, you will have a much clearer understanding why they are seeking you out and if it makes sense for you to accept.
If the person requesting a connection took the time to customize their note to you, that should also weigh in your decision to accept. It’s a simple way for them to exhibit they have actually taken the time to review your profile and think there is a genuine reason to connect.
How you handle connection requests from individuals you do not know is entirely your decision. We believe the spirit of LinkedIn is about expanding your network and creating new meaningful business relationships.
Once you accept, follow up with your own note, thanking them for the connection request, and ask for a 5 to 10 minute introductory phone call.
Connection Request Made By You
While it’s easy to understand why someone sent you a request to connect without customizing it, there is absolutely no excuse for you to ever send an impersonal connection request. Proper business etiquette is not a default message like the one you receive saying, “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.”
Business is personal. Therefore, you should only connect from the other individuals’ profile and write a well thought out message. At this time it’s the simplest and most consistent avenue to connect with a personal note. Using the “Connect” button from any other area on the platform will result in sending out the default connection message.
Similar to what you expect of an individual requesting a connection from you, you should always cite why you’re seeking the connection from them. Review the persons profile for common interests, groups, organizations or shared connections. Include those common elements in your request. Think about asking one of your shared connections if it would acceptable to reference them in your invitation. All this is designed to increase your success rate.
You have spent a lot of time seeking out new connections. You have one chance for acceptance. Make the most of it. Do your homework. Make your request so compelling, engaging or intriguing that the person will accept it readily.
Finally, once your request is accepted, always follow up with a thank you note and request a 5 to 10 minute phone call or meeting.
Content contributed by Linda and Ira Bass of IB Media LLC, an advertising media planning and placement firm built using the strategic power of LinkedIn to serve agencies and marketers with a targeted approach to reaching their customers. For more information, please contact Ira Bass at IraBass@IBMedia.biz or 704-989-3790. Learn more at www.IBMedia.biz or www.LinkedIn.com/company/IB-Media-LLC.
As we have been discussing in the past two articles, the personal decision to sell your business is usually based upon some combination of the following:
· A desire to “take the chips off the table.” Your tolerance for risk just isn’t what it used to be.
· The joy of going to work each day is fading. Not only has the fire in your belly gone out, but it’s been replaced by the desire to do “something else,” known or unknown.
· The “successor designate” can’t and/or won’t succeed. Neither child nor employee is able and/or willing to fill your shoes.
· You realize that now is the time to sell because you can attain financial security.
· There are a lot of activities other than running a company that you still want to experience.
Along with the personal motives listed above, there are objective conditions that must be present to maximize your chances for a successful business sale. These include:
· Your company should be experiencing increasing cash flow.
· Your company should be maximizing the “value drivers” recognized by investment bankers as causing your company to be more valuable.
· The merger and acquisition (M&A) market should be vibrant and near the peak in deal activity and pricing.
On a regular basis (no less than annually), you should discuss with your “planning team” (which normally includes your CPA, attorney and personal investment advisor) current business value and how best to increase and protect it. If your business has reached a value threshold that permits a sale that allows you to realize your financial goals, you have reached a point where you may be able to sell.
If this is the case for your business, then the next step is to discuss with your team the process for selling to an outside third party. With access to an experienced “deal team” (including a transaction intermediary) who can estimate the marketability and pricing if you sold your business today, a professional legal advisor (preferably one with substantial experience with sale of business transactions) can help guide you through the process of cashing out of your business and moving on to the next stage of your life.
If your business is not ready to be sold, even though you are ready to sell it, you may need to focus on increasing cash flow. This is best achieved by employing value drivers recognized by the M&A professionals.
The following value drivers are just a few of the key value drivers which are important to selling your business for the highest price:
1. A motivated management team tied to the company by “carrots” (stay bonuses and ownership or ownership-like incentive arrangements) and “sticks” (non-competition and non-solicitation agreements)
2. Quantified operating systems
3. A diversified customer base (no one customer constitutes over 10% of your revenues)
4. Recurring revenues and multiple streams of revenue
5. Realistic growth plan and scalability
6. Financial systems and controls to withstand due diligence
7. Financial growth in all three areas at once (revenues, cash flow, and profitability)
8. Protected intellectual property
9. Owner already removed from the business
10. Relational health (engaged employees, engaged customers and engaged suppliers)
Again, meeting with your planning team is key to maintaining a focus on increasing business value and cash flow through value drivers. The planning team will help you make the decision to sell as early as practical—hopefully years before the actual sale—so that the business is ready when you are!
Remember, it usually takes years to significantly and consistently increase cash flow and business value. Once you’ve made the decision that you would like to someday sell your business, the time to begin planning and implementing begins immediately.
If you are ready to exit, and your business is saleable given the current M&A marketplace, the decision is usually straightforward. It is when you are ready to sell, but your business isn’t, that the chance for burnout increases. Be sure to choose an experienced exit planning professional so that your potential for owner burnout is minimized and you are able to exit on your terms and in your preferred time frame.
Article presented by Robert Norris, a Partner and co-chair of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP’s Emerging and Middle-Market Practice Group. Norris is also a member of Business Enterprise Institute’s International Network of Exit Planning Professionals. 2015 Business Enterprise Institute, Inc. Reprinted with permission. Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP partners with owners of closely-held business to provide comprehensive legal services in all areas of business, tax, exit planning, succession planning, purchases and sales of businesses, estate planning, real estate, employment law, intellectual property and litigation. For more information, contact Robert Norris at 704-945-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.slk-law.com.
Foreign financial account reporting, despite existing for years, came into the spotlight in 2014 due to the implementation of FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. While the act became law in 2010, its main provisions, which require foreign financial institutions to disclose information about U.S. customers, did not come into force until July of 2014.
With the disclosure of accounts held in foreign financial institutions imminent, many U.S. taxpayers became aware—many due to letters from their foreign banks—that they had a filing requirement with the Department of Treasury, specifically the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).
Determining who and what needs to be reported can be difficult, even for the savviest tax accountant. Below are the quick who, what, where, when, why and how of foreign financial account reporting.
Who must report foreign financial accounts?
Any U.S. person who has a financial interest in or signature authority over foreign accounts with an aggregate value greater than $10,000 must report the account(s). A U.S. person can be an individual (either a U.S. citizen or resident), trust, estate, or any legal business entity.
What must be reported to FinCen?
Foreign financial accounts can include, but are not limited to, a simple checking or brokerage account. They can also include accounts as complex as commodity futures, life insurance policies, even foreign retirement accounts.
Where does the account have to be held in order for it to be reported?
For an account to be reportable it must be located outside of the U.S. If the account is held in a branch of a U.S. bank located outside of the U.S., it must be reported. On the contrary, accounts held in a U.S. branch of a foreign bank need not be included.
When do the accounts need to be reported?
Foreign financial accounts must be reported when all said accounts owned by a U.S. person have aggregated balances, at any point during the year, greater than $10,000. Each account must be assessed individually for its highest daily balance and those balances are combined to determine if the $10,000 threshold has been exceeded.
Why should the accounts be reported?
There are multiple reasons that the accounts should be reported, most importantly, because it’s the law. The penalties for not reporting when required are substantial. The penalty can be $10,000 per unreported account per year for accounts that are not reported. If the non-reporting violation is considered willful, the penalty leaps to the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the account balance.
How must the accounts be reported?
The accounts must be reported on FinCen Form 114. Form 114 must be electronically filed by June 30th of the year after the reporting year. For example, Form 114 for 2014 is due June 30th, 2015. Unlike other forms used to report information to the U.S. Treasury, Form 114 cannot be extended.
The above should provide insight into the complexity of foreign financial account reporting, as well as its importance. If you believe you may be required to report a foreign financial account, it is imperative that you consult a knowledgeable international tax advisor.
Content contributed by GreerWalker LLP, a Charlotte-based accounting and business advisory firm offering assurance, accounting, tax, and consulting services primarily to privately held middle-market companies, their owners, and their executive management teams, as well as a range of consulting services directed to publicly traded companies. Content written by Jennifer Gaitsch-Aguirre, CPA, Senior Tax Associate. For more information, contact Jennifer Gaitsch-Aguirre at email@example.com or 704-377-0239 or visit www.greerwalker.com.
America is undergoing a craft beer boom. Whether it’s a passion for beer or dissatisfaction with the 9-to-5 routine, or just a desire to start your own business, entrepreneurs are bubbling to the tap lines in increasing numbers. Dreaming big, working hard, and thinking differently, they are propelled by visions of success—a reward increasingly scarce in our tough economy.
Typical entrepreneurs give up their corporate jobs to start dabbling with their own brew, raise their startup capital through a network of friends, family and co-workers, and try to bring their product to market through an immense set of complex regulations.
Each one brings their own unique perspective to one of America’s favorite beverages, challenging each other and pushing boundaries, for the one great beer.
North Carolina is “the most exciting place for craft beer,” national wine and beverage blog Vinepair recently announced. “While Denver, Portland and other massive craft meccas may still have a hold on the mainstream craft movement, if you’re looking for the next great beers that hop heads will ultimately drool for, chances are you’ll find them in the Tar Heel state.”
Citing Asheville as the state’s craft beer capital, the blog acknowledges the over 110 breweries currently be found across North Carolina, including Charlotte’s own NoDa Brewing Company that recently won a gold medal for its Hop, Drop ‘n Roll India Pale Ale, the most competitive category in the World Beer Cup.
The number of craft breweries has been growing for a few years now, but the fall months of 2014 saw an explosion of as many new breweries as had opened over the last two years combined. This year, all indications are that the number of breweries in Mecklenburg County will more than double.
The number of craft breweries has been growing for a few years now, but the fall months of 2014 saw an explosion of as many new breweries as had opened over the last two years combined. This year, all indications are that the number of breweries in Mecklenburg County will more than double.
The Charlotte region had experienced a brief, smaller craft brewery boom in the 1990s, and over the years various breweries had popped up intermittently, but all had folded. Problems ranged from beer quality to distribution to some of the inherent difficulties in nurturing a small business, especially when restaurants were combined with the business model. In 2008, the region was left bereft of any local breweries after the closure of South End Brewing.
However, in true entrepreneurial resurgence in 2009, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) took a fresh shot. As a matter of fact, between 2011 and 2013 another nine breweries opened. Local consumers have been extremely supportive; only Four Friends Brewing has folded, which happened early in 2014.
With the openings and expected openings of this most recent ‘brew boom’ spread out between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015, Mecklenburg County is slated to have 13 new breweries. While a few have yet to finalize locations, potentially all 10 of the Charlotte breweries could be along the light rail corridor.
In mid-October 2014, Sugar Creek Brewing opened in the former OMB site off Old Pineville Road (OMB recently moved to a larger location a block away). Sugar Creek brews Belgian beers, including wits (wheat beers) and even a barely-legal 15 percent Belgian strong ale.
At the beginning of November 2014, Sycamore Brewing opened in a former auto garage just off the light rail near Tremont Avenue. Husband-and-wife team Justin and Sarah Brigham offer an impressive 20 taps in their taproom, of which 16 are Sycamore brews and four are from cideries and other breweries.
At the end of 2014, six more breweries either had opened or were on the brink of opening in Charlotte: Red Clay Cider Works (245 Clanton Rd.); Free Range Brewing (2320 N. Davidson Ave.); and even a small system in Salud Beer Shop (3306-B N Davidson St.).
Red Clay, which raised $29,287 through a Kickstarter campaign this fall for its final funding boost, will be the city’s first cidery, taking advantage of North Carolina’s diverse, high-quality apple crop. The draft list won’t look too different from that of a brewery—founders Jay and Deanna Braddish are producing hopped and even barrel-aged ciders.
Elsewhere in the county, Barking Duck Brewing Company (8037-C Fairview Rd., Mint Hill), Bayne Brewing Company (19507 W. Catawba Ave. Suite I, Cornelius) and Primal Brewery (16432 Old Statesville Rd., Huntersville) also opened by the end of 2014.
Spring 2015 will see Three Spirits Brewery (5046 Old Pineville Rd.) and Wooden Robot Brewery (1440 S Tryon St.) fill out Charlotte’s light rail corridor. Three Spirits is soon starting construction in an old textile dye building and is planning an English pub-styled taproom complete with mini-arcade.
Wooden Robot, a short walk from the Food Truck Friday site, will offer a wide range of farmhouse ales and will host farmer/supplier events. On the horizon, just in need of the right location, are Archive Brewing, DukBone Brewing, and GoodRoad CiderWorks. Archive, which is looking in both Charlotte and Matthews, will have a unique offering with its focus on U.K./English styles.
Still Unfilled Niches
The swell of new brewers have some common characteristics. Though their backgrounds vary considerably, from banking to nuclear engineering, many have been homebrewing for more than a decade and are Charlotte natives.
Most have spent months or even years trying to find just the right location for their brews, often repurposing an old industrial site in the process. They strive to integrate local ingredients and even grow hops onsite. And, by their own admission, they “are learning worlds” from the established brewing community.
Recipes and brewing methods continually being perfected are on display each year at Charlotte’s Oktoberfest, the region’s premiere beer tasting event, fostering interest and promoting innovation in the homebrewing community.
This has allowed upcoming breweries to identify currently unfulfilled niches in the craft beer scene, from geographically-defined beer styles to ciders. Additionally, because of complicated production, established breweries have not focused on sours and farmhouse ales, the yeast from which can contaminate other beer styles. But multiple upcoming breweries plan to produce these styles.
Sugar Creek Brewing founder Eric Flanigan stressing his devotion to the Belgian niche, proudly declaring, “We’re probably the only brewery in Charlotte that doesn’t have an India Pale Ale—or two or three.”
And while a number of upcoming breweries plan to utilize the symbiotic food truck model that has been successful for most area breweries, allowing them to forego the hassle of food production and permitting, multiple upcoming breweries also plan to have some food prepared in-house.
Particularly in Charlotte, starting a brewery is a complicated process. Although zoning laws that once kept breweries 400 feet from residential areas have been amended to 100 feet, making it easier to locate, there are months of time and thousands of dollars consumed by plan approval, permits and inspections at the local level. Add to that the state and federal approvals, such as for labels and recipes.
Sugar Creek’s Flanigan has experienced frustration at the local level, even having had some familiarity with city permitting after starting up and managing Whisky River. “The permitting process is very strenuous,” says Flanigan. “I would definitely suggest anyone starting a brewery seek appropriate legal help through the permitting process—preferably find someone familiar with the process.”
Even without having to get recipes, labels and other aspects approved again by state and federal authorities, the city’s scrutiny through plans, permits and inspections is extremely trying. Birdsong Brewing’s Chris Goulet knows because he did it three years ago and is doing it again as the brewery is in the process of opening a second, larger location.
“There are at least five different government agencies that monitor or restrict our business, and each of them has its own unique set of bureaucratic ýcomplexities to deal with,” says Goulet. “The process for the expansion is just as challenging as the original brewery. While a few zoning laws have changed, there are still many thousands of pages of county ordinances to take into account.”
But even these regulatory complexities do not seem to have daunted Charlotte’s rising crop of brewers. There are some different circumstances that portend well for the beer craft.
For example, prior Charlotte breweries had smaller scale production and very limited distribution. “We have broad support from Charlotte area bars and restaurants, so we’re not totally dependent on selling beer in one location,” explains Goulet.
Additionally, he points out, brewers have also learned how critical it is that their product be consistent and high quality, which is not easy for a process that is essentially a biochemical reaction drawn out over days, weeks and even months with barrel aging.
Flanigan describes the greatest difficulty in brewing as “the quality of beer and making sure the beer is exactly right every time.” He says, “You’ll hear that 95 percent of a brewer’s life is spent cleaning, and it’s true.”
More plentiful options have also helped area breweries. In 2005, North Carolina gave brewers more latitude by raising its cap on alcoholic content in beer from 6 percent to 15 percent. Since then, North Carolina has grown from 25 breweries in 2006 to more than 120 breweries currently.
That growth, making it the fourth-fastest growing state for craft breweries, is what attracted craft brewery powerhouses Sierra Nevada (California), Oskar Blues and New Belgium (both Colorado) to open east coast facilities in the Asheville area.
About another dozen unannounced breweries are already incorporated with Charlotte addresses, according the North Carolina Secretary of State’s listing of corporations. But the trend is by no means limited to Mecklenburg County. Breweries are planned and opening up in Gaston, York, Union, Cabarrus and Iredell counties.
“Consumers have discovered authentic flavor from their local breweries, and they don’t want to go back to that box of beer that tastes like nothing,” claims Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the NC Craft Brewers Guild. “And they’re creating new beer drinkers because of the quality flavor and local source of the craft beers.”
That fact is particularly evident as the annual economic impact of craft breweries in North Carolina was $800 million and 10,000 jobs in 2013. That economic potential was noticed this past spring by South Carolina legislators, who are currently considering a bill to loosen restrictions on how much a brewery can produce and where it can sell.
The culture is also different, with roots deeply set in the community. Breweries, many with large, open industrial spaces, host a constant rotation of running clubs, charity fundraisers, yoga classes and bands.
“We really take a community-first approach,” says Chris Harker, founder of Triple C Brewing, which throughout its three years has hosted almost weekly charity events. “We don’t need to be the biggest brewery and might get a little bigger, then level out. We want our friends and neighbors here, and we want to give back.”
Especially startup breweries express a strong sense of camaraderie among brewers. Says Flanigan, “Everyone scratching everyone else’s back, that’s what drew me to this culture. Everyone’s working together for the same common goal.”
LinkedIn provides you with an abundance of opportunities to grow your business that you may not be aware of. Favorable chances to connect with your prospects are around every conceivable corner of the platform. We often receive several types of notifications on LinkedIn such as someone’s career change, recommendations from colleagues and clients, or interesting posts that our connections have published. Each of these instances may be the “crack in the door” to re-establish a business relationship, a reason to catch up, or initiate a conversation.
You may find a position or potentially be found for your next career move. If your profile is optimized with strategic keywords, a recruiter seeking someone with your credentials has a greater chance of finding you in their search for candidates with your experience. LinkedIn has revolutionized the recruitment industry with 95 percent of all recruiters looking for “A” list talent. Be found and be proactive!
LinkedIn Opportunity Knocks. When LinkedIn opportunities knock, you need to pay attention and act upon them. Here are some examples:
Endorsements. If one of your connections endorses you for a skill, thank the endorser and return the favor if you are comfortable doing so. Many of us receive endorsements from individuals we have never conducted business with. Take this as an opening and run with it. Offer to meet to establish or rekindle the relationship.
Who’s Viewed Your Profile? Check who has viewed your profile daily. People who look at your profile might be interested in doing business with you. Be proactive and send them a message that you saw them viewing your profile and ask if there is something you can do for them. Most of the time this will result in a new connection and possibly new business.
“Likes” or Comments in Groups. If a LinkedIn member “likes” or comments on a post that you have shared with a group, this is a great opportunity to acknowledge the person and thank them for the “like” or respond to the comment. This response gets you noticed within the group which will further your personal brand marketing and could result in a meeting in the future.
Freely Message Group Members or Post Articles. Joining 50 groups and 50 sub-groups gives you access to group members and allows you to message them without requiring a connection. This exposes you to thousands of prospective clients and key people in your industry.
Post an informative article in an appropriate group. Comment on other’s posts within the group to become more visible to the group members. Becoming a Top Contributor in a group results in the posting of your picture and headline on the group’s front page. What a great way to generate free publicity and notoriety!
Life Change Notifications. When you receive a notification of a network member’s job change, birthday or work anniversary, congratulate the person and suggest a celebratory lunch. This action can lead to the growth of your network and referrals. It’s a great way to get start a conversation!
Recommendations Received. Receiving a recommendation from one of your connections to add to your profile is a great way to establish your credibility. After accepting the recommendation, consider returning the favor and possibly suggest a meeting or phone call. This interaction offers an additional chance to build upon a relationship for potential referrals.
Sharing or Publishing an Article. You can create another touch point moment designed to keep you top of mind by sharing a relevant article with a connection. By doing so you are portrayed as a Thought Leader and a portal of information in your industry to your network.
Most LinkedIn members have already received access to LinkedIn Publisher. This new feature allows members to post interesting and compelling original articles. Hopefully your topic will strike a chord with your readers who will share your article with their LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter connections. This is a tremendous opportunity! By utilizing the publishing tool you can expand your reach to thousands of people, establish yourself as an expert in your field, and enhance your personal brand.
Be sure to make the most of your opportunities within the LinkedIn platform. Each of these recommendations really works! We have seen every single example cited here build businesses. Go ahead and try a few. Drop us a note and let us know what LinkedIn opportunities you used to grow your business.
Last month we looked at the first two personal motives that can influence your timing on selling your business—taking “chips off the table” and losing the “fire in your belly.” Let’s look at the next two scenarios that can influence your decision to cash out of your business and move on to the next stage of your life.
The Successor Selected Doesn’t Work Out
A successor or successors are anointed from within the business (a key employee or usually two) or from within the family (a child or two). If no one has:
o stepped forward;
o the talent to take the business to the next level;
o demonstrated sufficient commitment to the business (at least equal to what yours had been); or
o the money now or through future cash flows from the business adequate to buy the business; then the business has become too valuable or too complex to transfer to anyone other than an outsider.
Let’s look at how one fictional business owner tried (and failed) to lure his desired successor into ownership.
It was the most unexpected outcome imaginable. John owned a disaster recovery service that had prospered for the last 20 years. As a careful, conservative businessman of the “old school,” John had amassed a significant fortune outside of the business—a business that earned $1 million or more each year. One of John’s exit objectives was to reward the key employees who had helped build and sustain his successful company. After much soul searching, John decided to “give” the business to his key employees. They would pay him nothing out of their own pockets.
The technique John used to give the business away was to have the business contribute money to a separate fund for three years. At the end of that time period, John would receive the money as a down payment for the purchase of the company. The down payment would equal 50 percent of the purchase price.
The remaining 50 percent would be paid to John over the subsequent six years from the available cash flow of the company. If cash flow was insufficient, John was willing to accept a longer payout period, although if cash flow continued as expected, it would be more than adequate to pay John the remaining balance.
In short, John would pre-fund his own buyout with three years of revenues (money he would otherwise be entitled to) and would obligate key employees and the company to provide the remaining 50 percent of the payment solely from the future cash flows of the company. In essence, John was “giving” the company to his employees.
At the end of six years, without one penny coming from their own pockets, John’s employees would own a company producing at least $1 million of cash flow per year. Imagine John’s surprise when their unanimous response was, “Thank you very much, but we don’t want to own the company. There’s too much risk in this business.”
John’s exit advisor was not nearly as surprised as John because through experience the advisor had come to realize that many key employees—wonderful, valuable and contributing employees that they are—simply have little tolerance for the risk that is part and parcel of business ownership. In John’s case, the employees weren’t even willing to be given the company.
There’s More to Life Than Building and Running a Company
Many business owners reach a point where they realize that there are a lot of things that they want to do while they are young enough to enjoy them. These include active vacations, spending time with family and friends, service work and personal growth and development which they can’t get to because they are too busy running their business.
Many boomer owners are deciding to pursue a second life or second career full of possibility, activity and involvement. This crowd gravitates toward race car seats rather than rocking chairs. To be strapped into the driver seat, owners need financial, emotional and time freedoms.
If you find yourself falling into one of these categories, then the time may be now to create a plan for preparing your business for your eventual exit. Find an expert advisor that can help guide you through the process of reviewing all of the factors associated with exiting your business and creating a comprehensive exit plan that addresses all of your personal and business objectives.
• A desire to “take the chips off the table.” Your tolerance for risk just isn’t what it used to be.
• The joy of going to work each day is fading. Not only has the fire in your belly gone out, but it’s been replaced by the desire to do “something else,” known or unknown.
• Your chosen “successor” doesn’t work out. Neither child nor employee is able and/or willing to fill your shoes.
• You realize that now is the time to sell because you can attain financial security.
• There are a lot of activities other than running a company that you still want to experience.
Let’s look at the first two personal motives that can influence your timeline of cashing out of your business today and moving on to the next stage of your life.
Taking Chips Off the Table
As we age, our tolerance for risk diminishes and our desire for safety and security increases. Owning and operating a business places the majority of your assets at risk. These risks normally include:
• Competitive Risks—from competitors with more money than you;
• Financial Risks—the need to continuously invest money in the business to sustain growth;
• Personal Health Risks—owners are not immune from health issues that can (and do) pop up without warning;
• Liability Risks—there are hundreds of thousands of practicing lawyers in this country looking for someone to sue;
• Business Conditions—key employees may leave or your industry may ultimately become irrelevant; and
• The Economy—when it cycles down will it take your business with it?
For most owners, there is a point at which these risks become overly burdensome—especially when the business itself has become valuable. You no longer want to expose your most valuable asset to constant risk. When all of your eggs are in one basket and the basket is now worth a lot of money, it makes sense to lower the risk of losing that basket.
The only way to eliminate the risks inherent in owning a private business interest is to sell it—for cash, if at all possible. Doing so not only takes chips off the table by converting an “illiquid” asset to cash, but it also allows you to eliminate personal guarantees, reduce liability exposure and remove personal collateral (used for business purposes) that was at risk.
No Fire in the Belly
Few owners reading this article are as energetic and enthusiastic about their businesses as they were when they started. Owners tend to continue in business beyond an “optimum departure date” because they don’t know what else to do with their time. They continue on and spend months or years in their businesses long after the passion has died.
First, once lost, owners typically don’t regain their enthusiasm for and excitement about their businesses. The reason is pretty straightforward—entrepreneurs like to create. Once a business has a life of its own, it is left to wreak havoc or to succeed. Making money and all of the other byproducts of a successful business are nice, but it is the act of creating, of successfully meeting the challenges, that brings satisfaction to the entrepreneur.
The “fire in the belly” is the passion that gives birth to and nurtures your business. Once the business no longer needs you, it is time to move on to the next challenge, the next call for your passion and creativity. It is at this point that many owners begin searching for the exit door in order to find the next passion.
Second, one of the few solutions to the loss of fire is to sell the business and get out. Your business will move to the next level under new ownership for whom moving to the next level provides ample stimulation and challenge.
If one, or both, of these personal motives resonate with you, then the time may be NOW to discuss with your advisors the path that needs to be taken to prepare your business for your exit. Your advisors should have experience guiding business owners like yourself through the process of reviewing the factors associated with exiting a business and creating a comprehensive exit plan that addresses both personal and business objectives.
The term social selling is derived from the use of social media to develop relationships for the purpose of selling a product or service to an individual. The fact is, “social” selling has been around since the beginning of mankind. The most successful sales professionals have always known that people don’t want to be “sold,” but they love to buy.
Understanding this dynamic, “old school” sales people spent significant time uncovering buyers. Once found, they cultivated a relationship with the buyer while listening attentively and learning their pain points with compassion. This approach led to a positive relationship, which ultimately resulted in a sale. This seems simple but today relationship building and targeted sales can be accomplished more efficiently using social media.
Today the use of LinkedIn serves to shorten the sales cycle by easily uncovering key decision makers. By gaining important insight into the prospect, the learning curve has been shortened and contacting the buyer/decision maker is less time-consuming.
Research Supports the Power of Social Selling
If you’re skeptical about conducting business using social selling, recent research adds to the credibility of engaging with social media. Here are a few examples:
Efficiently Connect with the People Who Matter
LinkedIn isn’t intended to replace face-to-face interactions; instead, it optimizes your ability to know more about people you’ve met or are about to meet. With over 332 million members on the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn facilitates successful lead generation by enabling sales professionals to easily find their targeted prospects.
Utilizing LinkedIn also creates an opportunity to conduct business internationally through the ability to research LinkedIn company pages and key executives worldwide. It helps establish the relationship quickly and easily.
Social selling involves developing new relationships but it also relates to re-engaging past clients. Success can be traced back to reconnections. As a result of using LinkedIn to get back in touch with former clients, you can acquire new lucrative accounts.
Indeed, you should follow prospective company pages to learn more about the inner workings of an organization. Take time to leverage your current connections to gain insight into who can introduce you to specifiers and procurement personnel.
Within your network, look for those people who are connected to your 2nd or 3rd degree connections and request an introduction. Research by LinkedIn shows that people are five times more likely to engage with you if the outreach is through a mutual connection.
Create a Great Profile Directed at the Buyer
Your inbound marketing tool is your profile. A well thought out, optimized profile presents you as a professional who is reputable and stands out in a crowd of sameness. It exhibits in words and through attached media the depth of your experience and speaks loudly about your ability to achieve results. Take note that buyers are researching sellers to determine whether your company or you personally have the acumen necessary to engage them. Being found for business opportunities is the bonus of having an optimized profile.
Don’t Sell… Listen, Publish, Engage, Build
Remember this is a social medium. You’ll turn off a prospective connection if you sell, particularly with your first communication. Instead spend time engaging, learning and exhibiting sincere interest. Join groups they are currently in. Listen to the conversation, participate and pay attention to your prospects involvement.
Publish your own content; articles, posts, blogs, or share your executive associates’ posts to your network and groups. This will serve to present you and your organization as forward-thinking thought leaders worthy of business collaboration and consideration.
Social Selling in a Nutshell
Prospect efficiently using LinkedIn to find your warm leads, engage with key people in companies you choose to target, build trust and create relationships offline with your prospects and if you are patient your buyers will be asking YOU for the sale!
3D printing is considered a “disruptive” technology in as much as it has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and even effect societal change. According to Avi Reichental, president and chief executive officer of 3D Systems, Inc., surprisingly, some of that change may make our future more like our past.
At its heart, 3D printing makes things. It’s an additive manufacturing process that creates three dimensional objects by building them, layer by thin, successive layer out of a variety of materials—over one hundred now and still counting—but usually from plastics, nylon and even metal.
The making of things is part of why Reichental connects 3D printing with our pre-Industrial Revolution heritage, but it’s the ability of 3D printing for mass customization that strikes a chord with Reichental.
“While the Industrial Revolution enabled amazing advancements for mankind, it also atrophied our craftsmanship skills and eradicated hyper local manufacturing, leaving us with cheap, uniform and commoditized goods that churn off assembly lines half a world away.
“Think about the products we consume every day. Almost all of them were designed to be mass-produced so that producers could achieve economies of scale, making them more readily available to a wider number of people. We call that ‘design for manufacturing,’ but in reality, it is ‘design for manufacturing constraints’ because mass-produced goods inevitably compromise performance and personalization for production efficiency, cost and uniformity.
“3D printing is turning this traditional approach to manufacturing on its head. A 3D printer requires no tooling or set-up so there are no economies of scale to be achieved from mass production. Per-part costs are the same whether you are producing a batch of one or one million, and this gives companies the opportunity (and the incentive) to personalize each product to an individual consumer’s needs.
“We are at the dawn of the mass customization era where products you buy—from clothing to consumer electronics to medical devices—will be tailored to your individual specifications.”