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What problem would you solve for tomorrow?

Students and teachers across the country will tackle critical issues using science, technology, engineering and math to win prizes for their schools.

Students and teachers across the country will tackle critical issues using science, technology, engineering and math to win prizes for their schools.

(NAPS)—Students and teachers in public schools are racing to solve problems that can exist in many communities across the country—such as water pollution and street safety—and they’re doing it with $2 million on the line. The nationwide Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest is helping students engage in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through community-based learning—by taking topics out of traditional classroom settings and exploring, in a hands-on way, how they address issues that affect their lives.

To enter, visit www.samsung.com/solve by October 31.

From the applicant pool, 255 state finalists will be selected, then 51 state winners (representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C.) will be announced. Fifteen national finalists will present their projects to judges, and five grand prize winners will be selected by public online voters, judges and Samsung employees.

In total, approximately $2 million in prizes will be given throughout the competition. To learn more, visit www.samsung.com/solve.

 

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Ask Score

 

By Paul D’Amato, SCORE Counselor and former franchise Owner 

 

Franchising 

Franchising accounts for 40 percent of all retail sales in the United States, employs over 18 million people and accounts for roughly $1.5 trillion in output.[1]  Many people that are interested in becoming an entrepreneur look at franchising as a viable option to help them start a business. Be careful.

Franchising is not for everyone, and it is likely you will work at least as hard or harder for yourself as you do working for someone else. If franchising is something you are considering, here are some things to think about before going too far:

Is the business a good fit for your personality?

Nearly all franchise companies will tell you that they have such a clearly defined business that anyone can run it. Even if this is true, and I feel in many cases this is just a sales pitch, it is important that you are happy doing whatever it is. For example, there are some excellent franchises that rely on the franchisee making sales calls. If you are skilled at sales and enjoy it then these franchises may be a good fit for you. However, some people may hate to make sales calls and a business that relies on the franchisee making sales calls may be a big mistake. Whatever business it is, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can get someone else to manage it. You will be extremely involved and will be overseeing every aspect of the business. Because of that, it is critical you find something that is exciting for you and is a good fit.

Due diligence

Due diligence is a term given to the process of verifying for yourself that the business is what it claims to be. You should plan to spend as much time as it takes in this process to make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting into. A full description of due diligence is certainly beyond the scope of this article, but I do want to point out a few of my favorite things to look at when I first start looking at a franchise.

Time Commitment

It has been very enlightening for me on several occasions to compare what franchisors claim for time commitment against what the actual franchisees are saying the time commitment is. Recently I was looking at a franchise that claimed on one of its video presentations to take no more than 10-15 hours per week for the franchisee. In fact, they said that you could easily run this franchise and continue to be involved full time in another job. This seemed almost too good to be true to me, and when I started talking to franchisees it turned out that it was. I called and talked to five different franchisees in various parts of the country and every one said that they were spending at least 40 hours per week running the franchise and that it was a much greater time commitment than what they had been led to believe. Be sure to do your homework and research.

Profitability

The central question of every investor in a franchise should be; are you going to make money? Unfortunately, this can be one of the most difficult questions to answer. It is not required that franchisors make an earnings claim in their disclosure materials to you. Many franchisors do not make a claim about earnings because it opens them up to liability with their franchisees. If the franchisor tells you that you are going to make a 20 percent return on your investment and you lose money, the franchisor might end up in court.  So, although there are arguments why some franchisors do not make earnings claims, I would be leery of any franchisor that is unable or unwilling to give you any information about how your investment might do. I would be much more inclined to invest in a franchise that publicly makes an earnings claim.

Whether the franchise gives you an earnings claim or not, you are still going to have to verify profitability by talking to existing franchisees in the business. Unfortunately, franchisees can be hesitant to give you actual numbers. It would be very rare for a franchisee to fax you their income statement and balance sheet for instance. However, I have been quite successful in asking enough questions that I arrive at a pretty good picture of how they are doing. For example, asking how many customers they have and their average ticket price per customer is a good way at getting their gross sales figure without asking directly.

Exit Strategy

I have a good friend who is a business consultant at McKinsey and one of his favorite questions to ask his clients is “okay, but what then?” If everything works well, and in 10 or 15 years you want to retire, will you be able to?  Some franchises do not allow the transfer of the franchise to another party. On the other side, some franchises are more than happy to buy you out at a fair price whenever you are ready to sell. It is much easier to ask these kinds of questions before you get involved with a franchise than once you have signed on the dotted line. It is always good to have an exit strategy even if you never use it.

Evergreen Provision

Similar in some ways to an exit strategy is what is sometimes called an “evergreen provision.” This provision in the franchise agreement gives the franchisee the right to transfer the franchise to your kids without the franchisor blocking the transfer in some way. Personally, I would love to be able to pass a business along to my kids someday so this is another thing I look for.

Defined Territories / Encroachment

Most lawsuits in franchising seem to come out of encroachment.  Encroachment is when the franchisor opens another store right across the street from your store and half of your customers leave. This is a nasty practice and certainly something that you should be very careful to research before you enter in to any franchise. What makes this subject so complex is that you want lots of branches for brand recognition – just not right next to your branch. One of McDonald’s strengths, of course, is that they have locations all over the world. However, even McDonalds has to be careful not to open their branches so close together that neither can survive. Exactly how this is managed varies from franchise to franchise, but is a very important thing to take into account. The policy should be clearly spelled out in the agreement so you don’t wake up and find a new location right across the street.

Franchising is a very important part of business in the US and the rest of the world. Franchises come in virtually every industry and in a myriad of shapes and sizes.  I would encourage people who are planning on becoming an entrepreneur to look into franchising as an option. As my mother says, “you won’t know any less.” But you need to be careful. Do extensive due diligence. Talk to franchisees, talk to your friends, get advice from accountants, get counsel from lawyers, and come into the SCORE office in Grand Rapids (111 Pearl St. NW) for some free advice paid for by the Small Business Association.  wwwscoregr.org

 

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Spectrum Health United Hospital receives award

BUS-Spectrum-Health-web

Baby-Friendly USA announced that Spectrum Health United Hospital has received prestigious international recognition as a Baby-Friendly Designated birth facility.

Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. is the U.S. authority for the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, this prestigious international award recognizes birth facilities that offer breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.

“It is amazing to see how the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative has already begun to transform our culture and the health of the community we serve. We are leading the way for breastfeeding success by our passion and commitment to provide the best quality of care possible,” states Jennifer Peterman, RD, IBCLC, Spectrum Health United Lifestyles.

Therese Alt, obstetrics manager at Spectrum Health United Hospital states, “I am honored to work with a team of staff and providers who are willing to gain new knowledge and implement processes that provide moms with opportunities to be successful at breastfeeding. We are blessed to have optimal care and support for our breastfeeding mothers and babies.”

Kelly Wiersema, MD, with United Hospital Obstetrics and Gynecology says, “We are so excited about all of the positive improvements we have made to help educate and support our breastfeeding moms! A job well done by everyone involved!”

There are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers worldwide, with 193 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. The “Baby-Friendly” designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed. The award is maintained by continuing to practice the Ten Steps as demonstrated by quality processes.

 

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BUSINESS BITS

Family Cuts and More

 

Are you looking for a new place get your hair done? Relax with a manicure and pedicure? Try a new look? You might want to check out Family Cuts n’ More, located at 4023 17 Mile Road, in the strip mall near Tractor Supply.

Owners Kristin Reister and Agnes Meksula run a full service salon with men’s, women’s and children’s haircuts, highlighting, color, perms, facials, manicures, pedicures, shellac, and acrylic nails.

Great customer service is uppermost in their mind.

“We offer great pricing and a very clean, friendly atmosphere. We try to individualize each client’s wants and needs. We are here to serve you and pamper you,” they explained. “We try to offer the best service possible to uplift and inspire each client and visitor to touch our community with kindness.”

Hours are Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call (616) 439-8512 for more info or an appointment.

Kent Theatre stage lighting project

 

The Cedar Springs Theatre Association plans to switch to energy efficient LED lights for the stage at the historic Kent Theatre. The total cost of the improvements is expected to be about $45,000.

Meijer recently donated $1,000 to the project, and you can make a donation, too! Show your appreciation for the entertainment and venue they provide. Contributions may be placed in the donation jar in the theatre lobby; mailed to CSTA, PO Box 237K, Cedar Springs, MI 49319; or done online at www.kenttheatre.org/donate. Money may be given to the general fund or designated for theatre stage lighting.

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The Art and Science of Business Management

Ask Score

By Christian Glupker, SCORE Counselor

 

The Small Business Administration lists poor management as one of the major causes of business failures. Successful entrepreneurs overcome this by recognizing three functions of business management:  Planning, organizing, and leadership.

The planning function answers three key questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? It’s like planning a family vacation. You know where you are starting and you know you want go on vacation. You just need to decide how to get to your destination. There are four different methods to successful planning: strategic, objective, operational and contingency.

Strategic planning involves deciding where you want to go on vacation. How much do you want spend? Do you want to go to the beach or skiing in the mountains? Apply the same logic to your business. Strategic planning will establish the long-term goals for your organization, as well as the policies, mission and overall direction. A solid strategic plan is one of the key drivers to a successful business.

Objective planning, also known as tactical planning, takes your vacation destination (strategic plan) and determines how you will pay for the trip and maps out how to get there. Objective planning will answer the following questions: How does the family budget change? Do we want to drive or fly? For an organization, it’s setting the short-term actions and goals needed to achieve the strategic plan. A strategic plan may cover a period greater than three years while an objective plan will cover up to three years. You will not arrive at your destination without clear directions on how to get there.

Operational planning is actually traveling to your destination. This could include plugging the information into a GPS unit or driving to an airport. For an organization, the operational plan assigns specific goals to a department and/or employees. These goals are based on the desired outcome of the objective plan. Giving your employees ownership of these goals will provide a sense of empowerment, which will significantly increase your chances of success.

Contingency planning is the possibility of unforeseen changes in your plan. For your vacation, this could include lost luggage or a flat tire. For an organization, the business environment is very dynamic, therefore remain flexible to adapt to changing customer needs and new opportunities. Remaining too rigid to your plans may result in missing key opportunities.

The second function of business management is organizing. This function establishes the organizations structure in terms of ownership and management. A well-defined organizational plan will help employees understand the leadership hierarchy, thus giving them direction when it comes to meeting the organizations goals.

The organizing function also deals with human resources. The recruitment, staffing and maintaining of skilled employees is one of the most challenging tasks for all entrepreneurs and managers.  When employees have a sense of empowerment, job satisfaction and loyalty, this will ultimately lead to an increase in productivity and success.

The final function of business management is leadership. A leader is somebody who creates a vision for the organization and then rally’s the employees around that vision. How a leader rally’s the employees depends on their individual leadership style. To be a successful leader, you should seek the input of your employees when it comes to setting goals. This will make them feel a part of the organization, thus giving them a sense of ownership in the success of the company.

Given the dynamics of the business environment, a good leader will recognize the need for change, form a new vision, and then rally the employees around that new vision. Resisting change will result in missed opportunities, as well as decreasing the chances of achieving the existing strategic plan. An organization with strong leadership recognizes that and quickly adapts to seize those opportunities.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit www.scoregr.org or email score@grandrapids.org.

 

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Family Fare Store up for sale

BUS-Family-fare-webRumors have been swirling through the community for months that Family Fare, located at 4175 17 Mile did not renew their lease on the store, which is up in November.

The Post called SpartanNash for confirmation and received this response from Meredith Gremel, Director of Corporate Affairs. “SpartanNash is continually looking at ways to coordinate our distribution and retail business segments to become more efficient to better meet all of our customer needs. We do not respond to store closing rumors.”

However, a simple Google search pulled up the store on several different commercial real estate sites showing retail property for sale.

The property shows it is listed at $1,850,000. A partial description for the property reads: Cedar Springs Family Fare store, Remodeled inside and out, very well maintained, existing lease runs through November 2014 with great income remaining. Building also offered for sale. Different suite sizes available for lease – see other lease listings. Great location with easy access to 131.“

Family Fare was formerly Great Day, before it joined the Spartan chain of stores, and has been a fixture in Cedar Springs for many years. We will let readers know when we receive more info from SpartanNash.

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New location for Take Two Game Shop

BUS-TakeTwo-webBUS-TakeTwo-inside-webIf you visit Take Two Game Shop at their new location at 43 N. Main Street (corner of Main and Elms Streets), you will find it a lot easier to browse their selection of video games, video game systems, and dvds.

“We have a lot more room here,” said owner Shawn Kiphart. “We’ve needed this for a long time.”

Kiphart moved from 18 S. Main (new home of The Red Flannel Festival) about a month ago when the owners sold the building. “It turned out to be a good thing for me,” he said.

One thing that makes Take Two unique is that they carry a wide variety of video games and systems from the 1970s to the present. They also offer in-store trade. “We are a store that offers nearly twice the amount of in-store trade as our competitors, and we also offer dvds, so we always have something for the entire family,” said Kiphart.

Take Two is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 616-773-5126 for more info.

 

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The Barn – on a mission

BUS-The-Barn2-webFor Victoria Merlington, owner of The Barn, a vintage and consignment shop at the corner of Main and Cherry Streets, in Cedar Springs, her business is about more than just vintage décor. It’s about helping others. All profits from her shop go to help the people of Honduras and her trips there to work with them.

Her passion was ignited 30 years ago when her grandfather went to Honduras and built a school and church. She was a child and wanted to go with him, and finally did in 2001. She worked on an orphanage, and returned annually to feed the poor, build homes, provide dental work, give away shoes, and hand out Bibles to the people.

*BUS-The BarnIn 2004, Victoria held a benefit in memory of her grandmother, who had passed away, and raised funds to build a home for nine orphan boys in Honduras. In 2012, she opened The Barn, in Rockford, as a way to raise the funds she needed for Honduras. She later moved to Cedar Springs, and has held fundraisers to benefit another home she created in Honduras, this time for girls and young moms, called Hannah’s Home, a safe house for girls to be educated in skills, as well as about life, self worth, and purity.

The Barn features upcycled, repurposed and reloved
vintage decor, shabby chic, collectibles, chippy, industrial, leather goods, clothing and accessories. Check them out at 6 S. Main Street Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. For more info call 616-240-3080.

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Kent County’s Delabbio elected VP of Professional Association

*BUS-DelabbioKent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio has been elected as a Regional Vice President of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Delabbio will serve alongside 20 other members of the ICMA Executive Board; his term runs for three years, and begins in October 2014. Delabbio has been in local government for 37 years, and has held the Administrator/ Controller role since 1998, after three years as Assistant County Administrator. Prior to working at Kent County he was City Manager in Rockford for 11 years and served in two other Michigan cities.

“Daryl is dedicated to doing what is best for Kent County residents and businesses,” said County Board of Commissioners Chair Dan Koorndyk. “His ability to work in an inclusive, professional manner has helped Kent County stay on course. He truly has a ‘servant’s heart’ and his leadership is admired by many.”

“It’s quite a distinction for Daryl to be selected to this role,” says Kent County Commissioner Roger Morgan, who previously served as Board Chair.  “Kent County is fortunate to have such great leadership for the past two decades.”

“Serving as one of 21 members of the ICMA Executive Board is one of the highest honors that a member of the local government management profession can receive,” noted ICMA Executive Director Bob O’Neill. “It is a significant career achievement and a tremendous expression of confidence in Daryl by his peers.”

 

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ASK SCORE

 

By Bill Leete, SCORE Counselor

The Business Plan

The business plan is a document that should be prepared by each potential new entrepreneur prior to starting a new small business. The business plan, which consists of narratives, financial projections and action items requires research, planning and thinking about a business in a systematic manner. The plan is the blueprint that the entrepreneur should follow to bring his/her   ideas for a new business to fruition and ultimately to a successful enterprise. With a business plan, the entrepreneur can compare the business’ actual performance to the plan. When actual performance starts to deviate from the plan, the red flag should go up and the entrepreneur should take actions to bring the business back to plan and/or to update the plan to reflect the new realities of the business. Failure to do a business plan will almost always result in the failure of the business no matter how great the business idea.

Established businesses should also update and create new business plans to reflect changes in their markets, new business opportunities as well as operational, financial and other problems that impact the viability of their businesses.

In addition to being a planning tool for the entrepreneur, the business plan is also required when approaching financial institutions for funding the business start-up as well as ongoing funding needs. The business plan and executive summary should be the basis for presentations and applications when requesting funding from banks and investors.

The typical business plan consists of several sections and should be concise, clearly written and easy to understand. These sections include the following plus an Executive Summary of the plan that should be prepared last:

General Company Description

Products and Services

Marketing Plan

Operational Plan

Management and Organization

Personal Financial Statement

Start-up Expenses and Capitalization

Financial Plan (Profit & Loss, Cash Flow & Balance Sheet Projections)

The marketing plan is the first section that should be developed. No matter how good the product or service, the new business cannot succeed without a marketing and sales plan. There are many elements to a marketing plan all of which will require considerable research. These elements include the size of the market, market trends, competitors and their market share, distribution channels, pricing, barriers to entering the market, projected market share and most importantly, the market niche for the new business. After the market research is completed, a sales forecast in units and dollars must be developed for the next 2 to 4 years. This sales forecast is the basic input to the other   sections and especially to the financial projections required for the business plan.

The most effective way to create a business plan is to download templates. These templates, which are available from several sources, provide the format and outline of the business plan with questions for each section that should be answered for the specific business being planned. Thus, the complete business plan can be created on the entrepreneur’s own computer and can be modified and updated during the planning process and later as needed. The SCORE website at www.score.org has an extensive template gallery with business plans and financial statements available for downloading as well.

The time and effort required to produce a viable business plan are well worth the investment and significantly increase the probability that the new small business will be successful.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit our website at www.scoregr.org or email us at score@grandrapids.org.

 

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