All posts by SBAC News

Just Keep Swimming


By: 544

As business owners, we have all experienced times of adversity or challenge. Sometimes the challenge is thrust upon us by an amazing opportunity that stretches us beyond our current capacity or competencies. Other times it could be a vendor or employee that gives us an unexpected challenge that we have to take on, whether we like it or not. In most circumstances, we are accustomed to rising to the occasion without even thinking about it; we expect to encounter these hurdles along the way and we are prepared for them.

What about those times when challenge after challenge seems to mount before us – and we find ourselves in constant motion uncertain how much more we can handle? It is in these times that it can be hard to imagine how we will get through and if we will have our sanity once we immerge. Also, it is in these times that we need to focus on the possibilities, the learnings that come from dealing with challenges, and the growth that we can only gain through adversity and struggle.

We all should take a lesson about endurance from the young woman in the true story, Grayson. She takes on the challenge of reuniting a baby whale with his mother in the vastness of the Antarctic Ocean. Although the journey starts with just her and the baby whale – over a four hour period of swimming alongside the baby whale and enlisting many locals and others at sea – she is able to do the unthinkable of reuniting the mother and baby. The physical exhaustion of swimming for four hours is met with the satisfaction of accomplishment.

In business, there are many times when we need to ‘just keep swimming.’ We know that the water may be rough, or we may need to adjust our course, or it may take longer than expected, but if we are able to keep our focus on the goal and push through – the rewards from our accomplishments will be worth all the hard work.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Take time to align yourself to your goals and what needs to be accomplished to get you there. Then, push yourself to do what it takes to make it happen – ‘just keep swimming.’

If you would like further information or you have any questions about this blog, you can email me at pjweiland@actioncoach.com or call 847-739-3079.

Please visit www.workingonthebusiness.com to register for my complimentary workshop, 6 Steps to a Great Business, and let’s work together to achieve massive results in your business.

The SBAC Annual Advocacy Awards Dinner is Only a Few Weeks Away!


By: 544

Join us as we celebrate and honor the business leaders who have dedicated their time and energy to level the playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs. This memorable night will include a delicious dinner, cocktails, entertainment, a silent auction and the opportunity to connect with other SBAC members. The proceeds of this event will go to support our advocacy efforts on behalf of the small business community in Illinois.

 

To purchase tickets, see our award reciepants, and view our sponsors click here

 

This annual dinner will also feature a silent auction, which helps to fund the SBAC’s advocacy efforts for the next year.  While several of our members have already provided generous donations, we also realize that many of our members are professional services that are unable to donate in-kind services.  Therefore, this year, our members have the ability to provide a monetary donation that will be used to purchase silent auction items.  If you or your organization would like to donate, please click here. Any amount is appreciated, and your organization will be listed at the event as one of the donors of an item.

 

We hope to see you on the 10th! 

What is CRM and What Does It Mean For My Business? Customer Relationship Management Defined.


By: 544

CRM systems are databases created to hold information about people relevant to your organization and have long been a staple in the business-to-business world. Your success is driven by people inside and outside your organization, whether you are a business, government agency or nonprofit. CRM is the way you can manage relationships and measure success.

 

What is CRM? A Definition of Customer Relationship Management
and Constituent Relationship Management.

In the commercial business world, they are typically referred to as “Customer Relationship Management” systems. In the public sector or nonprofit/NGO realm, you may hear the term “Constituent Relationship Management” used instead to show the focus on service vs. revenue.

Typically geared to be a single source of information about the people who are connected to your organization – either directly or indirectly.

The people could include:

• Customers, clients or program participants.

• Staff, volunteers, or Board members.

• Investors, funders or donors.

• Vendors, service providers or partners.

 

CRM systems track activities for these people, including:

• Transactions and interactions: Products purchased, customer service or customer support interactions, donations.

• Time spent on: Development or service interactions, sales cycle length, volunteers.

• Communications documentation: Dates, time and content of emails, phone calls or letters.

• Participation in: Events, marketing campaigns, sales or service processes.

In the business world, there is typically a heavy focus on measuring and managing sales deals and effectiveness — improving the ROI on
sales and marketing expenses.

 

What this means to your business?

CRM’s provide that 360-degree view of your business for centralizing your data and information around all the people and marketing connected to your business world.

Making it easy for you to track communication and attach that communication to actual contact profiles, automate tasks and assign them to others on your team. You can set milestones around projects or events and hold others accountable.  You have reports available for analyzing behaviors, sales and service statistics to better understand your contacts and their specific needs; then, address those needs by sending customized communication in a timely manner.

CRM empowers businesses with an environment full of tools they
need to keep both internal and external contacts and users happy and engaged, while having that birds-eye-view of their business

​.  Integrating a CRM with your website​ for a direct flow of your leads from your site to your database for marketing followup keeps all your systems talking.

For nonprofits, the focus is on donor management, volunteer management, services enablement and program improvement.

Typically, a CRM system replaces or connects existing legacy systems. In a commercial environment, this could include integrating or replacing out-dated:

• Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems.

• Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

• Customer Service Representative (CSR) databases.

In the nonprofit world, it is typically replacing an entire suite of older, disconnected or “silo’d” systems such as:

• Donor Management System.

• Volunteer Database/Spreadsheets.

• Program Management Package.

• Mailing Lists living in an Email Distribution System.

 

The purpose of CRM.

CRM’s create a central command environment that interconnects
the information you need with tools you need to drive your entire organization.

Are you experiencing pain points with how you operate your
business and business marketing? Do you know you need to do something
different, but you’re not sure what? You may want to look into a CRM.

There are many different types of CRM’s in the market. Before
you shop, learn what questions to ask when selecting the small
business CRM that’s right for you.

Why Illinois Should Pass the Intrastate Crowdfunding Exemption Bill


By: 544

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a press conference announcing the introduction of HB 3429 in the Illinois General Assembly.  HB 3429 is an intrastate crowdfunding exemption proposal that would allow Illinois companies to make certain investment offerings available to Illinois residents in small blocks.  

As the founder and CEO of PeerRealty, a Chicago-based real estate crowdfunding platform, I’m not exactly a neutral party.  Anthony Zeoli, who has worked on the language of this bill for months, is actually one of our attorneys, so there’s no question that I have a dog in this fight.  Putting all that aside, I strongly believe that HB 3429 can be, as Elliot Richardson of the Small Business Advisory Council (SBAC) has said, “an absolute game-changer for the Illinois small business community.”  I urge the Illinois General Assembly to pass the bill at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

Background

First, a bit of background on the current regulatory regime that crowdfunding platforms operate under.  PeerRealty, like many equity crowdfunding platforms nationwide, operates under Title II of the federal JOBS Act, as implemented by the SEC in Regulation D. Rule 506(c).  Under these current regulations, crowdfunding platforms may use general solicitation or advertising to market securities offerings to investors, but these offerings may only be sold to accredited investors (generally individuals with an income of over $200,000 for the last two years or a net worth of over $1 million excluding their primary residence).  The platform must also take “reasonable steps” to verify that all purchasers are accredited investors.  The JOBS Act, which was passed in 2012, also contains a Title III which would allow certain non-accredited investors to invest under limited circumstances; however, this section has not yet been implemented by the SEC.

While the SEC is waiting to act, several states have passed their own intrastate crowdfunding exemptions.  While the details of these bills obviously vary from state to state, the bills generally allow crowdfunding platforms to make offerings without subjecting the platform to the stringent registration and compliance requirements that large public companies must meet, provided that the offerings are made by companies domiciled to do business in that particular state and are limited to investors in that state.  Some intrastate crowdfunding exemptions allow non-accredited investors to invest, but generally limit the amounts that they can invest to relatively small sums.

 

The Illinois Bill

As I mentioned above, Anthony Zeoli, an industry-recognized crowdfunding attorney (who we’re fortunate enough to have as one of our attorneys at PeerRealty), has been working for months to draft language for an Illinois intrastate crowdfunding exemption proposal.  On February 26, 2015, the proposal was filed by Rep. Carol Sente in the Illinois House of Representatives.

The proposal would create a new intrastate exemption for Illinois securities offerings, provided that the issuer has met certain requirements.  First, the current bill states that the aggregate purchase price of all securities sold by an issuer within any 12-month period that rely upon the intrastate exemption may not exceed $3 million, unless the issuer has made audited financial statements available to prospective purchasers, in which case the limit is $5 million.  Zeoli notes, though, that these limits will likely be changed to $1 million and $4 million, respectively.  The bill would also allow non-accredited investors in Illinois to invest in offerings, but no issuer would be able to raise more than $5,000 from any individual non-accredited investor per year.  There was some confusion on this point at the press conference – while a non-accredited investor can invest more than $5,000 per year, they can only invest $5,000 per year with any one issuer.  

The bill would also regulate Illinois crowdfunding portals, while clarifying the activities that these portals are permitted to conduct.  Portals would be required to establish “commercially reasonable measures” to ensure that access to these offerings is limited to Illinois residents.  This could include obtaining a copy of an investor’s Illinois drivers’ license or state ID, or verifying the investor’s IP address.  The proposal also exempts crowdfunding portals from registration as a broker-dealer or an investment adviser, provided that the portal meets certain requirements.  

The main features of the bill work hand-in-hand to benefit both investors and crowdfunding portals.  The $5,000 per year limit that issuers can raise from any individual non-accredited investor ensures that unscrupulous portals will not be able to take undue advantage of these investors.  The flexible funding caps also provide portals with incentive to make audited financial statements available to investors.  Getting these statements requires additional time and expense, so the larger funding cap for these offerings will allow more investors to participate while compensating the issuer for the added expense.

As the owner and CEO of a crowdfunding portal, what I appreciate most about the proposal is the clarity that it would provide for our business.  As I mentioned, the bill lists certain activities that a portal can conduct without being required to register as a broker-dealer or an investment adviser.  For example, the bill makes clear that a portal does not need to register as a broker-dealer or investment adviser so long as it does not (among other things) collect or hold funds, compensate employees or agents based on the solicitation of securities offered on the portal, and as long as the portal is not compensated based upon the amount of securities sold.  We have been waiting for the SEC to provide this type of guidance for three years.  

Obviously, getting legislation introduced, much less passed, requires compromise.  In whole, though, I believe that the Illinois intrastate crowdfunding exemption proposal strikes a balance between providing important investor protections and the flexibility that Illinois small businesses and entrepreneurs need to raise capital.  Many states have already passed intrastate crowdfunding exemptions, and this bill takes those states’ experiences into account.  The bill would be a great help for Illinois small businesses looking to raise capital, and I urge the Illinois General Assembly to pass it as soon as possible.  

Entrepreneurs – Born or Made?


By: 544

Many people have a great idea. Many people are willing to take a risk. Many people know how to hustle the sale. Many people would say, “failure is not an option.” Many people are willing to work really, really hard. Many people know how to turn a profit. Many people can motivate others. Many people are hyper-focused. And many people can build powerful relationships. YET – not every one of these people is a successful entrepreneur.

Jim Clifton, the author of Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder, asserts that only 5 out of 1,000 people have the total package required to start and grow a big business. He contrasts that with the fact that 20 out of 1,000 people have an IQ high enough to be accepted into Mensa. So, you might ask what does that mean to the average business owner?

For the average business owner, it might mean that you are not alone in the challenges you face. By understanding the textbook view of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur you will have a better understanding of the areas of entrepreneurship that don’t come naturally to you. This doesn’t mean that you have to throw in the towel, or settle for a less than successful business.

If you are serious about building a successful business, now is the time to look for team members, mentors, and/or partners that can provide complimentary entrepreneurial skills to your own skillset. Perhaps you don’t have a risk-taker mentality and would rather agonize over the pros and cons endlessly before making a decision. One way to step up your risk-taking is to have a group of advisors that have a more balanced view of risk and even include some advisors that are high risk-takers. If you are not the shameless salesperson, then hire someone who can thrive in that role – and then let them.

YOUR CHALLENGE: If you are not one of the five that are born with the entrepreneurial silver spoon in your mouth, determine the skills you are lacking and then surround yourself with those that share your passion and are willing to assist you.

If you would like further information or you have any questions about this blog, you can email me at pjweiland@actioncoach.com or call 847-739-3079.

Please visit www.workingonthebusiness.com to register for my complimentary workshop, 6 Steps to a Great Business, and let’s work together to help your business grow.

3Pointer: Full Cloud: Fact or Fiction?


By: 544

Some small businesses are kicking technology to the curb. Sort of.

 

A movement is underfoot to dismiss space-hogging servers and temperamental desktops in favor of a full-cloud offering where everyday business systems are virtualized.

Here’s how full-cloud works. A thin client (basically a dummy terminal) or other device uses the Internet to connect you to your company’s entire IT infrastructure—servers, data, email, business tools and applications. Everything is stored in highly secure data centers, designed as fortresses even Chuck Norris couldn’t crack (more on this a bit later). 

If all this sounds a bit like science fiction, it isn’t. 3Points has helped several companies make the leap to full-cloud. One in particular, Destra Capital Management, is featured in this issue. According to company president James Yount, he’s never looked back. 

 

Let’s see how traditional technology compares with full-cloud…

Sound familiar? All your tech stuff is on-site, vulnerable to fire, power outages, natural disasters, negligence and theft. You purchased the equipment, which is an added line item on your P&L. As computers and servers sit in your office, problems that can’t be solved remotely demand a 3Points technician. As technology matures, equipment needs replacement. When software reaches end-of-life, there’s another version lined up just waiting for installation.

Now imagine a far less cost of ownership. With full-cloud, you don’t have to buy desktop computers or servers, so if anything happens to your office, your information isn’t there to lose. Instead, it’s sitting safely in two separate data centers, one on each coast, that are SAS 70 compliant with biometric hand scanners and backup generators fueled by natural gas. Cold air comes up through the floor. An intricate maze of pipes keeps the temperature crisp. Highly pressurized, clean water is on hand in case of fire. Robotic arms load and unload tapes in a tape library.

Below are five reasons why some small business leaders are embracing full-cloud computing.

Flexibility and Productivity

Going full-cloud centralizes your business infrastructure. Employees and clients with access rights can work at 3 a.m. just as easily as 3 p.m. on any device with an Internet connection. Cloud computing cultivates greater productivity.

 

Lower Cost of Ownership

Instead of owning equipment, you invest in what matters to you most. Since everything is in the cloud, the set-up on the ground calls for thin client technology. Thin clients don’t think, they connect. The actual “thinking” or processing is stored in the cloud. (Yes, the term “thin client” is borrowed from society’s obsession with physique. Fat client technology is a computer that handles more processes, thus it takes on more weight.)

 

Lower Risk

Power outages and disasters can’t touch a full-cloud infrastructure. 3Points has fielded many calls from frantic business owners over the years because of building fires, theft, water damage, and even mold infestation. These issues are moot when you go full-cloud since all the important data is offsite.

 

Easier Maintenance

With a full-cloud offering, you don’t need a technician schlepping into your office on a regular basis. There are no physical systems to maintain on-site. Customers pay a flat monthly fee to access end-to-end technology. The Network Operations Center (NOC) at 3Points addresses issues on demand.

 

Not For Everyone, But It Is For Many

Full-cloud is not for everyone. Big advocates include: professional services, accounting, nonprofit, investment and financial, trades like plumbing or electrical, transportation, and construction. Why? They impose less demand on the network, follow strict security protocol and are data-focused. Manufacturing companies with machinery like CNC machines or robotic technology connected to a main network typically don’t have enough bandwidth to go full-cloud. Same for verticals like bakeries, research facilities and laboratories—any establishment that uses a lot of equipment and data.

Intrastate Crowdfunding Bill Has Been Filed (HB 3429)


By: 544

On Monday, March 2nd at 1:00PM, the SBAC and Representative Carol Sente held a press conference at 1871 highlighting recently filed legislation, HB 3429, that will allow Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs to raise funds through intrastate equity crowdfunding. This new vehicle for raising capital will empower the small business community and stimulate our state’s economy.

 

Chicago Tribune wrote an article covering the filing of intrastate equity crowdfunding legislation in Illinois. Statements made by 1871 Chicago CEO Howard Tullman, Representative Carol Sente and Small Business Advocacy Council CEO Elliot Richardson are highlighted in the article. Click here to read the full article.