The Small Business Check-up - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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HighEndCareOnce entrepreneurs successfully surmount the difficult process of building startup capital and writing out a business plan, many believe that their company has the straightaway to success. If a roadblock appears, they seem to think it came out of nowhere, when actually, if they had done a little more planning, the problem could have been avoided.

“No one says ‘I’m going to start a business and mess it up,’ ” says Marcia Pledger, author of My Biggest Mistake and How I Fixed It: Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Front Lines (Orange Frazer Press Inc.; $19.95) “But you can go out of business as quickly as you went into business if you don’t take care of the basics.”

It’s hard enough to stay in business without the U.S.’s sluggish economy making it more difficult. Consider that in 2008 the U.S. government wrote off a record $2.1 billion from small business loan defaults, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Those remaining in or choosing to start businesses must be ever more diligent at avoiding preventable setbacks. diagnoses four common ailments in small business growth and our experts provide prescriptions for remedies to help them recover.

Ailment: The competition always out-prices your merchandise.
Prognosis: The targeted clientele is too broad.

Prescription: Develop a well-established product or service, market to a niche customer, and communicate to that customer the unique qualities of your product or service. Small business owners can’t compete on price points with large, national brands, but they can compete when it relates to value, says Jerome Edmondson, president of the Entrepreneur Development Network, a small business incubator. Convince your customers that even though your prices might be higher, your product or service provides a better benefit and thus a better bargain.

Ailment: Your company is expanding too quickly.
Prognosis: The owner lacks knowledge about how to grow and profit simultaneously.

Prescription: Now that you’ve created a well-established brand, do your homework before you try to take it to the next level. Take time to understand the industry, your product, and your customer. Pledger recalls a story about a pretzel company owner who, in an effort to expand her business, took a large order from a grocery store chain but was not prepared for the challenge. Her distributor ran out of packaging, she did not know how she would deliver the product to the store, and she lost money when the pretzels didn’t sell.

“She should have done some research to find out what the grocery industry entails,” says Pledger. If the owner had sought advice from a larger company that sold a similar product, she might have learned that the profit margin for her specialty product was very thin.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.