The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce brought an expert to its Third Thursday Business Builder on September 21. Rebecca Mixson, program coordination for the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC) in Augusta, focused on strategic planning for businesses.
“Rebecca works with both established businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs,” explained Angie Martin, executive vice president of the chamber. “She helps them assess their businesses, their goals, and create those strategic plans. She has a background in retail, and in agribusiness.”
Mixon said the Augusta office and the others spread around the state, focus on small businesses, although that can be a misnomer. She said a business can have as many as 499 employees and still be considered a small business.
She said an important first step is to have a strategy roadmap.
“Is there a succession plan in place? Is it written down? I asked that because my next question is how many have a business plan? Is it written down?” she asked, adding many times business owners do not have a written plan in place. “So, we want to be able to verbalize that in the narrative. And banks really want that. That narrative that goes along with projections.”
She went on to explain having a written plan is important, but just as important is for business owners to assess it each year. Business owners should also have a way to monitor if they are meeting goals, be their sales figures or financial statements. Those, she said, should be reviewed at least monthly.
Another objective business owners must have is setting goals, both short-term and long-term goals. However, Mixon outlined another set of goals with the acronym SMART.
“SMART goals are very important in the strategic roadmap. SMART goals mean it is “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. So, every goal that you make needs to have those parameters with it. So, it is specific, it’s measurable, it’s attainable, relevant and time-bound, whatever goal you make, assign that specificity, determine if it’s even attainable.”
Turning her attention to finances, Mixon said many business owners took advantage of the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
“What happened with those EIDL payments is that principle kind of sits there and the interest was deferred for a long time, but interest is coming due, which can be shocking if you didn’t realize that. But it’s also a good thing, because now, you have a loan that is 3.75% instead of 11. It’s a scenario that you need to be thinking about and managing. Keep in mind that you have to balance that budget,” she said.
Separate from a business plan, Mixon said owners should have a marketing plan. She said it should stretch at least 12 to 18 months into the future. She said it can be traditional or digital, but if a business has a website, it is imperative to keep it up to date.
“Make sure you have these minimum things on your website, the Home tab and About Us tab. A Products and Services tab, the Contact Us tab, and an FAQ tab. Now, why would you want an FAQ tab? The reason is it’s for SEO (search engine optimization), because you can guarantee that, if they are looking up pet supplies in the CSRA and if you have pet supplies in the CSRA, it’s going to your FAQ tab and they are finding you on Google with a Google search,” she explained.
Mixon said the office provides a Strategic Growth Academy to help business owners learn advantages while avoiding pitfalls. The next academy begins on October 10. The deadline to enroll is Wednesday, September 27.
More information about UGA SBDC and the academy can be found at www.georgiasbdc.org/augusta-office or by calling (706) 650-5655.