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LSBDC welcomes consultants in new regional structure

The Longwood Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) has adopted a new regional approach that utilizes experienced, independent consultants to better serve the small businesses in 19 counties and six independent cities in South-Central Virginia.

“Where we had five specific office location before, we’ve created  three sub-regions,” Longwood SBDC Executive Director Sheri McGuire said. “We’ve shifted Mecklenburg and Brunswick into our central region covered from Farmville. Lin Hite manages client services in  our western region as regional director. Ellen Templeton manages client services in our eastern region as regional director.”

In addition to LSBDC’s staff of regional directors and general business analysts, the independent consultants will provide a broader menu of services and higher level of skill sets.

New to the LSBDC consultant team is Jon Van Cleave, who has 25 years of experience with the global corporation, Reynolds Metals/Alcoa, as well as working as an independent consultant.

“Billion-dollar companies put a lot of money behind financial planning and analysis. Small businesses need the same analysis — just on a smaller scale,” Van Cleave said.

 “I do financial planning and analysis including business evaluations and acquisition integration, product and customer profitability analysis, and budgeting and forecasting.”

Van Cleave, who has been traveling on a weekly basis for the past seven years, looks forward to settling in Farmville. He and his wife are currently renovating an older home on High Street.

“I’m looking forward to focusing on Virginia,” he added. “I’m the kind of consultant that likes to work side-by-side with a client — not just come in, advise and leave. I want to work as a partner.”  Van Cleave will be available to work throughout the SBDC territories.

Michael Duncan and Kelvin Perry continue to serve as independent consultants in the western region and are available for online consultations throughout the territory as necessary.

“Michael Duncan specializes in manufacturing and operations for existing businesses ,” McGuire explained. “Kelvin Perry, who works for the City of Danville in the economic development office, also works as an independent consultant  for LSBDC on an as-needed basis.”

“I provide counseling to start-ups or for clients who want to grow an existing business,” Perry said. “I meet with clients in Martinsville after hours, but I’m flexible.”

Randy Lail provides independent counseling on a volunteer basis.

“He’s a retired CFO for Peebles Department Store whose specialty is retail and finance,” McGuire said.

A recent addition the LSBDC office in Farmville is Brandon Hennessey, who completed his MBA at Longwood University. As business analyst, Hennessey assists clients with marketing, financial analysis, and developing a business plan.

“I can give clients a good practical abstract of where they’re headed and what actions they need to take to be successful,” Hennessey said. “Developing interpersonal relationships with my clients is important to me — I want them to feel comfortable in discussing their plans and problems.”

McGuire sees the regional structure with new consultants and analysts as a way to provide greater service to small business owners in the LSBDC service area.

“We believe that providing specific and specialized resources to grow existing businesses can create an even greater impact in the community,” she concluded. “Assisting start-ups also remains an important part of what we do.”

As a small business resource for 28 years, the LSBDC core mission is to provide education, consulting, and economic research to support potential and existing small business owners throughout Southern Virginia. LSBDC works with local sponsors to

provide consulting services free of charge; for more information visit www.sbdc-longwood.com

Virginia’s Growth Alliance to Award up to $90,000.00 in Business Startup and Expansion Grants

Entrepreneurs, new business startups and existing business owners are invited to participate in Virginia Growth Alliance’s 2018 Regional Business Competition, “Growing Entrepreneurs Together” (G.E.T.).

The G.E.T. business competition is designed to cultivate local economic development by inspiring and supporting local entrepreneurs and existing businesses with a desire to expand in the VGA towns of Clarksville, South Hill, and the city of Emporia.

The competition will give rise to many budding entrepreneurs and expanding businesses that have been prepared through a free 6 week bootcamp-style workshop series provided by the experts at the Longwood Small Business Development Center (LSBDC). These workshops will be instrumental in guiding participants through studying the feasibility of their proposed business, exploring business models, and developing successful business plans.

Multiple winners will be awarded prizes that range from $5k to $30k. Additionally, winners could receive other benefits that include access to a low-interest revolving loan funds, building lease rebates, local and regional business mentoring, and other local incentives to be announced.

“Although up to $30k is available for each award, we anticipate the majority of the awards to be around the $5-10k range”, explained competition organizer, Tina Morgan. “We are really excited to see what big ideas come in for the competition, and based on hat our residents and visitors are saying, we’re particularly hoping to see entries for Food Trucks, Restaurants, Brewery’s, Bakery’s, Retail, and maybe even Tasting Rooms.”

Applicants aren't limited to these communities; the VGA is hoping to see entries come in from across the country by entrepreneurs who desire to take advantage of local incentives to build in one of these named locations. “Small businesses are the lifeline of our communities around the Commonwealth. They provide jobs, they provide talent, and a sense of place.” said Jeff Reed, Executive Director of Virginia’s Growth Alliance.

“Entrepreneurship is a key component of our economic strategy, and we want to foster the development of these individuals and their ideas, particularly here in rural Virginia” Planning is underway for this exciting project and those interested are invited to join one of three upcoming (free) Lunch and Learn information sessions to be held in each of the named locations, beginning with Emporia on November 17th. Register for this session and find details about other upcoming information sessions, competition guidelines, and application by visiting www.thinkbiggervga.com and following the Get Cash links. The VGA is interested in knowing what types of businesses you’d like to see open in these areas, so you are invited to weigh in with your opinion at www.thinkbiggervga.com (click on Survey). By completing the survey, you will be entered into a drawing for a $100.00 Visa Gift Card.
For additional information or questions, contact Tina Morgan, Competition Organizer at the following email: tina@vagrowth.com or phone 434-200-8066. This initiative is made possible through seed funding from the DHCD, educational resources by the LSBDC, support and mentorship from state and local officials, additional funding resources by the SPDC, and planning and administration by the VGA. VGA includes the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward, and the city of Emporia.

4 Ways For Busy Business Owners To Keep Up With Bookkeeping

“One thing an accountant hates to see coming is a client with a box,” Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Business Analyst Kim Ray says.

Ray operated her own accounting business for 12 years before coming to SBDC and experienced those clients first hand. “When an accountant sees a box, the bill goes up,” she says with a smile.

Accountants are paid by the hour, she adds, and going through a year’s worth of receipts takes time.

Ray, who received her MBA from Virginia Tech in 2004, currently advises new and prospective business owners in Farmville’s SBDC office. One of the first things she tells her clients is to make time for record keeping.

“A lot of small business owners are so busy keeping up with the primary focus of their business that they don’t have time to do the administrative work,” Ray says.

The regimented nature of accounting, she adds, is also not appealing to everyone.

“There are a lot of rules and steps in accounting, and you can’t skip them,” she says. “You can’t be creative.”

While “creative accounting” is something you probably don’t want to do, there are creative ways to establish a recordkeeping system that works for you. Here are Ray’s tips:

Get organized!

Start by developing a system for organizing receipts, bank records and warranties for equipment. It can be a simple as dozen 8 by 10-inch envelopes, one for each month. Once you have source documents organized, you don’t have to keep them in reach. Just close them up, and you’re done.

Have a backup plan.

Before you throw those documents in a box or envelope, have some type of listing. Organize your documents and have a record-keeping system — it can be as simple as a ledger or a computer file. It’s also wise to back that data up in another location.

Seek assistance.

The worst scenario is not completing the first two tips. A business owner who doesn’t have time for bookkeeping should consider outsourcing. Hiring an accountant or other professional relieves stress and often saves money in the long run. The main thing is — bookkeeping needs to be done. Make a habit of record keeping.

Establish a CPA relationship.

It pays to have a CPA you can call for business advice. A CPA can look at a major purchase from a tax-wise perspective and provide legal representation on IRS issues. It never hurts to have a CPA look over what you’ve done. These professionals stay up to date on the latest laws — it’s always good to have expert advice.

To make an appointment or for more information on the services SBDC provides, contact the Longwood Small Business Development center at (434) 395-2086 or visit www.sbdc-longwood.com.

Key to business success — think positive

Ellen Templeton, new director of the Crater Small Business Development Center of Longwood University, believes her job is all about being positive.

“When you work with small businesses, you have to smile,” she said. “Their enthusiasm is contagious.”

Working as an economic developer for ten years in Hampton, Templeton often countered negative comments like, “There’s too much traffic here,” with her own take. “That’s because a lot of people want to be here,” she said. “That’s an example of how to look for the positive in a community.”

Director of Crater SBDC since November, Templeton is well suited for the job. She started her career in commercial real estate before moving on to a Virginia Economic Development Partnership job in Richmond. She later started her own insurance company.

“Throughout my career, I found that I gravitated toward small businesses,” she said. “When you work with big businesses, you help to create jobs but never have a chance to interact on a day-to-day level. Working with small businesses is more personal — you really get to see and feel that impact.”

Another facet of Templeton’s positive approach is seeing each community’s uniqueness. Crater SBDC covers Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Emporia, Greenville, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George County, Surry and Sussex.

“Every one of these communities is fabulous,” Templeton said. She is currently meeting with Chamber of Commerce and economic development officials in each area. “I see them as our partners and allies — our goals are the same.”

Templeton has compiled some tips for new and existing clients; these are three she considers important:

#1 Learn before you leap

Have knowledge about what you want to do. If you want to be an artist and can’t draw stick people, that might be a problem. Templeton’s experience as a small business owner is a valuable tool in advising clients. “Talking about a business and doing it were two very different things,” she said. “A business plan serves as a guidebook, but there are things only experience will teach you.”

#2 Love what you do

Passion is important for any small business owner. “If you lack passion, you’re going to do just what you have to do,” she said. “Then it becomes work — it shouldn’t be that way!”

#3 Honesty’s the best policy

 “If someone tells me they don’t want to invest the time to make a business plan, I ask them, ‘Then why do you want to invest this money?’ It’s not fair to mislead clients. I love their excitement, but we’re here to help them succeed.”

The Longwood Small Business Development Center provides free education, consulting, and economic research for potential and existing businesses throughout Southside Virginia. It is a non-profit organization funded through Longwood University, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and local governments where we have offices.To make an appointment or for more information on the services SBDC provides, contact the Longwood Small Business Development center at (434) 395-2086 or visit www.sbdc-longwood.com.

Ellen Templeton Joins the Crater SBDC

Ellen Templeton, new director of the Crater Small Business Development Center of Longwood University, believes her job is all about being positive.

“When you work with small businesses, you have to smile,” she said. “Their enthusiasm is contagious.”

Working as an economic developer for ten years in Hampton, Templeton often countered negative comments like, “There’s too much traffic here,” with her own take. “That’s because a lot of people want to be here,” she said. “That’s an example of how to look for the positive in a community.”

Director of Crater SBDC since November, Templeton is well suited for the job. She started her career in commercial real estate before moving on to a Virginia Economic Development Partnership job in Richmond. She later started her own insurance company.

“Throughout my career, I found that I gravitated toward small businesses,” she said. “When you work with big businesses, you help to create jobs but never have a chance to interact on a day-to-day level. Working with small businesses is more personal — you really get to see and feel that impact.”

Another facet of Templeton’s positive approach is seeing each community’s uniqueness. Crater SBDC covers Colonial Heights, Emporia, Greenville, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George County, Surry and Sussex.

“Every one of these communities is fabulous,” Templeton said. She is currently meeting with Chamber of Commerce and economic development officials in each area. “I see them as our partners and allies — our goals are the same.”

Templeton has compiled some tips for new and existing clients; these are three she considers important:

#1 Learn before you leap

Have knowledge about what you want to do. If you want to be an artist and can’t draw stick people, that might be a problem. Templeton’s experience as a small business owner is a valuable tool in advising clients. “Talking about a business and doing it were two very different things,” she said. “A business plan serves as a guidebook, but there are things only experience will teach you.”

#2 Love what you do

Passion is important for any small business owner. “If you lack passion, you’re going to do just what you have to do,” she said. “Then it becomes work — it shouldn’t be that way!”

#3 Honesty’s the best policy

“If someone tells me they don’t want to invest the time to make a business plan, I ask them, ‘Then why do you want to invest this money?’ It’s not fair to mislead clients. I love their excitement, but we’re here to help them succeed.”

Small Business How-To Column: Tax Tips for Small Businesses

For many small business owners, tax season can be the stuff of nightmares. If April 15th makes you cringe, help is on the way. Anna Falkenstein, a senior stakeholder liaison for the Small Business/Self Employment Division of the IRS, shares her insider tips on handling your small-business taxes like a pro. Her division focuses on providing outreach and education to partners in the industry, such as chambers of commerce, and organizations like Longwood’s Small Business Development Center.

Falkenstein emphasizes that tax law is revised on almost a yearly basis. Staying informed of these changes is key to tax prep success. Falkenstein recommends familiarizing yourself with the IRS website and regularly checking for tax law updates. One of the biggest overall changes that will affect all taxpayers are updates to the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) program. ITINs are used for those who don’t have a social security number and aren’t eligible to apply for one. Changes to the law require that new applications for ITIN numbers will need to be submitted to the IRS prior to filing time, as well as renewals of previous ITIN numbers. More information on if or how this will affect you or your business specifically can be found on the IRS website.

In addition to the changes in the ITIN program, according to Falkenstein there are a few noteworthy changes to watch for this year that will directly affect small businesses.

“The Work Opportunity Tax Credit was extended through 2019. Section 179 business expenses were permanently extended as well as the exclusion of capital gains for small business stocks held for more than 5 years. I recommend you check the IRS website to see if your small business is eligible to take advantage of this provision,” says Falkenstein. “Due dates for business returns were updated for 2016 also. It is best to refer to the return instructions for 2016 to determine what the newest due dates are. Corporations and partnerships were both affected by this change.”

She also encourages small business owners not to hesitate in asking for help.  “There are many organizations available to assist new small business owners,” she says.

Staying organized is critical. Falkenstein advises small business owners to “keep accurate and organized records. Label your receipts and organize them so you can easily determine if a receipt is an office expense or an operating expense, even if it came from the same supplier,” she adds.

She also advises filing your return on time, even if you aren’t able to pay the whole amount. “By filing in a timely fashion,” Falkenstein says, “you will avoid the Failure to File penalty which can be up to 25% of the tax due.”

Lastly Falkenstein says to stay alert for scammers. Small businesses are common targets. Some prevalent tactics are requesting fake tax payments over the phone, “verifying” tax return information over the phone and targeting payroll and human resources personnel posing as a boss or exec to obtain W-2 information on employees. She advises using the IRS website to stay up to date on the latest scams making the rounds.

These simple tips should help de-stress tax time for your small business. For more in-depth information on a wide variety of tax related topics, check out the IRS Video Portal at www.irsvideos.gov. It provides specific topics for small business owners on collections, audits, tax liens, the Affordable Care Act and more.

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