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Posts Tagged ‘Christine Davis’

“Ask CJ” Growing Your Business-Exporting

Monday, February 13th, 2012

If you are want to safeguard your investments, you are probably going to diversify your portfolio.  Having a variety of investments will not only help protect you when certain markets are down, but should also help you grow your investments.  The same can be said about your business.  There are a number of ways a business can diversify its portfolio: by size and number of clients; variety of revenue streams; and exporting your products, the subject of today’s column.

 Exporting can be a great way to avoid having all of your eggs in one basket. When you diversify your markets, the result can be a more even business cycle.  I can’t think of a business that wouldn’t mind avoiding the rollercoaster of activity that can come with a narrow business model.  If you are new to exporting, there are some free and cost- effective resources to help you make the transition to international markets.

 The Office of International Commerce (OIC) here at the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development has staff who work one-on-one with New Hampshire businesses interested in exporting their products. OIC regularly offers low-cost workshops on topics such as   export documentation, environmental compliance, doing business in Russia and international traffic in arms regulation. OIC also offers free technical assistance in our office or at your place of business. More information on OIC’s programs and services can be found at www.exportnh.org.  The staff will help research potential markets and guide you to other resources such as the U.S. Department of Commerce for more in-depth assistance.

I spoke with Justin Oslowski, the Director for the New Hampshire branch of the U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the Department of Commerce.  Much like the OIC, the U.S. Commercial Service, www.export.gov/newhampshire, helps reduce the sometimes complicated and confusing processes that can come with exporting.  Most of Justin’s clients export business-to-business and have some previous experience with exporting.  His office also offers free general market research for businesses looking to export.  A company must be selling a product that contains at least 51% American content to participate in their programs. 

One of the great selling points for the U.S. Commercial Service is that their network is deep and wide with in-country representation in 80 countries around the world.  Their staff can pick up the phone and obtain country-specific information and contacts.  They offer a “Gold Key” service that for $700 connects a business with in-country representation, arranges 4-6 business matchmaking appointments, provides an in-country briefing and cam even assist with the travel arrangements. Justin said they don’t want to waste anyone’s time or money, so if a market doesn’t look feasible during the initial meeting, they don’t go forward. If the market does look like a good fit, the company can expect to have appointments set up in about 8-10 weeks from their start in the program.

 Even with the free and low-cost export assistance available, a successful launch into exporting requires an investment of both time and money.  Thanks to a U.S. SBA grant, New Hampshire was awarded nearly $300,000 in 2011 to assist with exporting.  The State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) grant will be used over a three-year period to enhance OIC’s efforts to help small businesses in New Hampshire prepare for new markets, comply with regulations, access financing, and attend trade missions.  Specialized programs will focus on foreign markets that have the highest growth potential and industries that have the greatest ability to compete successfully.

 While we see a need to grow our presence internationally New Hampshire isn’t unknown outside of our borders. Our state exports in 2010 were 44% higher than those in 2009.  We were the highest ranking state in New England and we were ranked in the top five for the country. While the number decreased in 2011, New Hampshire businesses continue to see the international market as a place to grow and diversify.  Our products in a vast array of industries are sold to more than 160 different countries. 

 While some may think that it is tough to compete globally, American products are well received overseas as we have a reputation for high quality, innovative products. It may surprise some people to learn that our state’s number one country of export is Mexico, while China is ranked fifth. How about them apples? 

Christine J. Davis works for the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. She connects businesses with the available resources so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. She can be reached at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she can be found volunteering with her girls for the Chamber Children’s Fund, “hitting the gym,” or spending time with friends and family.

Cobham to Bring 120 Jobs to Exeter, New Hampshire

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

EXETER, NH – Cobham Antenna Systems — a world leader in the design and manufacture of communication systems and antennas serving commercial aviation, defense and law enforcement – is consolidating their operations by bringing 120 new jobs from Methuen, Massachusetts to their Exeter, New Hampshire plant.

“We are excited about this move to New Hampshire, including the expansion of our Exeter plant” said John Moore, Vice-President of Cobham’s Microwave Component business unit. “Consolidating the specialized design and manufacturing of microwave and electro-mechanical rotating devices will greatly complement what we do here in Exeter.”  As part of this consolidation, Cobham will close its 80,000 square foot plant in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Michael Bergeron, Business Development Manager, and Christine Davis, Business Resource Specialist, with the N.H. Division of Economic Development, worked with Cobham in this move to New Hampshire.  “New Hampshire’s low taxes, business friendly attitude, and available space, helped Cobham in their decision to relocate,” said Bergeron.

Cobham is an international company that employs more than 10,000 people on five continents, with customers and partners in more than 100 countries.

For further information on the benefits of New Hampshire, contact Michael Bergeron at 603-271-2591.

Ask CJ-How can businesses become energy efficient without overspending?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

“You have to spend money to save money” is an expression used by many women to justify their shopping habits.  When I say “many women” I really am speaking for myself but it feels better to try and create a community.  The saying is quite true on levels that go well beyond trips to Cole Haan’s outlet sale or an upright freezer filled with boxes of waffles and Texas Toast. 

If you spend money providing educational opportunities for your business’s staff you should expect to save money in the long run with better productivity.  If you invest in marketing, your business should reap the rewards with increased activity.  Another smart investment that companies are making, anticipating a future payoff, is in energy efficiency.  You may have to spend money to save money, but there are some fantastic energy efficiency programs available now that can reduce the initial investment required.

Bob Reals, bob.reals@dred.state.nh.us, manages two energy programs through our office; an energy audit program as well as a technical assistance program.  The energy audit grant program, funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), has been so successful that Bob expects all of the allotted funds will soon be expended.  Through the program, 80 New Hampshire businesses have received in-depth energy audits, as well as assistance in securing low-interest loans to implement those recommendations. 

While our grant funding may be winding down, our office continues to provide technical assistance which helps businesses navigate the numerous energy efficiency resources.  For a list of those resources, visit our website, http://www.nheconomy.com/business-services/energy-efficiency-programs.aspx.  After reading the list, I’m glad to know Bob is available to help you weed through it all and make the process easier. 

What impresses me is that you can utilize more than one program at a time.  For instance, The Retail Merchants Association of NH will pay for 60% of the cost of an energy audit for its members (non-members pay a $100 application fee).  The group then offers rebates for 20% of the implementation costs, up to $30,000.  A qualifying business can combine this program with our program, which would cover the other 40% of the energy audit.  Both organizations will work with the business to see that any and all other rebates and incentive programs have been uncovered for maximum savings. 

Ken Young of Young’s Restaurant in Durham took advantage of the RMANH program and he expects to save nearly 50% on his energy costs.  “I knew that there had to be opportunities for me to reduce my energy costs, but did not realize the significant savings that could be realized through efficiency.  The entire audit process was a great education for me.  In just the first couple months after the project, I am seeing cost savings that I would have never guessed could have been achieved while greatly improving the comfort within the restaurant”.  While our office is funded through ARRA funds, the program at RMANH is funded through a grant from the Public Utilities Commission’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (RGGI).

You don’t need to own your building to make improvements.  Tenants can work with their landlords to create a more efficient and valuable facility.

Last week I met with an Exeter business who has been working with Unitil to take advantage of the rebates and incentives that they offer their utility customers.  The company has already used Unitil’s incentive program to replace all of their lighting and they are now in the process and looking into replacing their entire HVAC system with more energy efficient units.  Through the RGGI program Unitil is able to offer a 0% On Bill Financing in which a company can borrow up to $50,000 to implement energy efficiency improvements.  In addition to the program offered by Unitil the company is working with our office to seek out additional assistance with their project to complement Unitil’s program.

You still need to spend money to save money but it may be a heck of a lot less than you envisioned and the long-term savings and environmental impact may be a deal you just can’t turn down.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to connect businesses with the available resources so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. She can be reached at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she can be found volunteering with her girls for the Chamber Children’s Fund, “hitting the gym,” or spending time with friends and family.

Ask CJ: Exploring the brave new world of home-based business

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

If you think back not even 20 years about home-based businesses, you might envision a low-tech service business such as a daycare or landscaping company. To run a professional business, you needed to be located in commercial office space. Not only did commercial space provide the technical services you needed, but it also provided a professional atmosphere appropriate for meeting with clients.

Today, that is no longer the case. Many small, predominately service-related businesses are home-based and are able to perform the same functions that once were restricted to commercial space. There are some obvious advantages and some resources available that make the home-based business a good choice for the right person.

Before you decide to open up shop from your home, a serious self-examination should take place, and there are several questions you need to ask yourself. “Do I have the discipline to maintain a focus on my business if it is run out of my house? Is there an adequate space in my home that can be used as an office? Are there distractions that will pull me away from my business focus? Will family and friends respect my work time?”

These might seem like obvious questions, but if you can’t separate home from business while working out of the house, you won’t be successful.

With the incredible advances in technology over the past two decades, you can run a small business from your home with the same access to high-speed Internet that you get at many offices. What you may not have is a professional space for client meetings, which raises several considerations: How many of your interactions will be face-to-face? Is it expected that you will go to their place of business or do they need to come to you? What image do you want to portray?

For example, if you are bringing major clients to your home to showcase your engineering capabilities, will they hesitate or question your business acumen if the meeting takes place in your garage? This hurdle can be overcome by using fee-based conference space, such as that offered by I.O.S. in Portsmouth. Conference rooms can be rented for an hour or the day. This is a great resource for someone who can do most of their work from home but who occasionally needs a professional setting for meetings and presentations.

A home-based business can provide a great cost-savings, as you not only save by not paying commercial rent, but the space devoted to business purposes can be used as a tax deduction. A portion of the utilities can also be factored in as tax deductions, but they have to be in proportion to the size of your office space. You may want to have an accountant assist with this because it can become an issue with the IRS if done improperly.

Dianne Durkin, president of Loyalty Factor in Portsmouth, started her company 16 years ago with the express intent of keeping it based out of her home. She likes the home-based environment because, “I can be creative and innovative at any time with all the resources available to me whenever I need them.” For instance, she may wake up in the middle of the night inspired by an idea and being home-based means she doesn’t have to wait until typical business hours to flesh it out. Dianne often puts in some office hours over the weekend, but she says that when she is done for the day, she closes the doors to her office to help create the separation between home and workplace.

Loyalty Factor has four employees, including Dianne. One staff person splits hours between home and Dianne’s place, another works full time at Dianne’s home, and the third employee works part time at the business. Dianne and her employees dress professionally at the office, as they would in any other business setting. Asked about misconceptions of having a home-based business, Dianne said, “You won’t find home-based professionals working in their pajamas all day from a dining room table. It just isn’t conducive to productivity.”

There goes my dream.

Whether you have been in business for 20 years or are just getting started, we have the resources and the expertise to answer your questions. You can e-mail me at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us. I look forward to hearing from you.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.

Ask CJ: Good Communication Key to Good Partnership

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

“Two heads are better than one.” That’s a phrase we have all heard when it comes to finding the solution to a problem. What about when it comes to owning and running a business? Are two heads better than one?

NH Division of Economic Development Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

When it comes to starting or running a business, there are so many factors to consider that it can make your head spin. A successful business isn’t just about having a needed product or service. It isn’t just about having the ability to market and sell your product or service. Nor is it just about having the drive and temperament to be an entrepreneur. It’s all those things and it might not just be you making those decisions. Many businesses are owned and managed by two or more individuals. This can be advantageous and successful if done right.

Not everyone has the ability or desire to own and operate a business without partners. Financial constraints alone can prevent someone from maintaining sole ownership of a company. Having one or more partners not only eases that burden, but it also opens up the business to having leadership that possesses a variety of talents and strengths. Matt Benson, a corporate attorney with Cook, Little, Rosenblatt & Manson of Manchester, cited these reasons as some of the major advantages of taking on partners in a business venture.

Benson shared a laundry list of considerations for those contemplating starting a business with one or more partners; however, what he kept coming back to was communication. “Free and open communication” is at the top of his list for a successful partnership. If you have good communication, you can avoid a lot of potential conflict. Benson also stressed the importance of having your basic business goals in alignment. Are you looking to create a lifestyle business or are you looking to grow with an eye toward selling the business? Do your goals, philosophies and business ethics match up? Are your individual strengths complementary, and is there respect for the value that each person brings to the table?

Not surprisingly, the comparison to a marriage was brought up and it makes sense. You will be spending a lot of time together and making decisions together that affect your personal and financial well-being. Open communication as you go through the good and the tough times together is critical. If you can’t do that while maintaining mutual respect, you may be headed for divorce. Even a fantastic partnership eventually will come to an end (retirement, death, disability, etc.) and being prepared for an exit is essential. Having buyout documents with transfer restrictions decided upon before they are needed can avoid conflict not only between leadership but for their families as well.

I spoke with David Lahme and Sam Biddle, partners at Tradeport USA in Somersworth, to get their perspective. Lahme and Biddle went into business together almost 10 years ago and cited numerous reasons why a partnership has worked well for them. Combining funds and their complementary strengths were seen as highly instrumental in their success. Lahme said they have the same goals for the business, which is one of Benson’s basic foundation pieces for a good partnership. Lahme also feels comfortable that he can be away from the business and know it will continue to run smoothly with Biddle at the helm.

Biddle shared his thoughts and added that trust is a key component to a successful partnership. Each partner has individual responsibilities, with Biddle handling operations while Lahme focuses on sales and financials. Biddle said he values having someone to bounce ideas off and admitted, “If I had to do everything, I wouldn’t have a life.”

Having a well thought out business plan and laying out the ground rules at the outset are also a part of Tradeport USA’s continued success. Over the years, they have amended their LLC and are now adding a buy/sell agreement.

Not to be dismissed is having the support of a business partner. According to Lahme, “It is easier to jump off a crevasse with someone else.” That certainly gives new meaning to the phrase, “till death do us part.”

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide support for businesses so they can remain viable and growing entities in the community. She can be reached by e-mail at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters. When not performing her work or parenting duties, she can be found volunteering with her girls for the Chamber Children’s Fund, hitting the gym, or spending time with friends and family.

Ask CJ: Retaining Great Employees

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Q: “I have been struggling to keep my employees but I can’t offer the highest wages in town.  Any suggestions for retaining good people?”

A. Finding good employees is a challenge.  Keeping them can be just as big a challenge.  Loyalty between employees and employers isn’t what it used to be as it has become accepted and expected that an employee will move on as new and better opportunities arise.  Understanding the talents and needs of your staff will go a long way in keeping them happy and engaged.  In order to do that, you need to communicate often and as openly as possible.  The instability of the economy makes the communication piece that much more important.

New Hampshire Division of Economic Development Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine J. Davis

Most employees have taken on more responsibilities as companies have had to cut staff and that stress is starting to show.  People who are unhappy at their place of work will eventually leave and that will cost you time and money.  An article I read a few months back surveyed employees about their dedication to their current position.  The results showed that a sizeable percentage of employees will be looking for something else once they feel the economy has turned around.  Surprisingly money isn’t as much of a driver as one might think.  Employees want to feel valued and appreciated in other ways too.

I spoke with several businesses that have retained some employees for 10, 15, and 20 + years and none of them saw wages as the major factor in keeping their employees.  Both Skip Healy of Northeast Lantern and Joe Torrisi of Jackson Lumber felt that having an open-door policy where employees have access to leadership makes a difference in employee morale and dedication.  Being approachable and flexible can go a long way in creating employee loyalty.  These business owners seek input from their staff and work to create a comfortable work environment.  Skip sits down with each employee during their yearly review and shows them the costs that the business incurs to provide him or her with the various benefits they receive.  The employees have a better understanding of their true compensation and might reconsider leaving for a position that paid a bit more but lacked benefits.  Over at Nantucket Beadboard in Rochester, lunch is prepared for the staff every day and the owner takes pride in preparing meals on their grill.  It is a nice perk that also creates a sense of community.  I was there at the lunch hour the day I visited and the smell was enough to make me want to send over my resume.

Employees who are taught new skills, given more responsibility and shown opportunities for advancement are more likely to stick around.  Understanding what motivates each person and putting him or her in a position that utilizes his or her strengths can help with retention.  The NH Job Training Fund grant, www.nhjobtrainingfund.org, is a great opportunity for businesses to offer skills enhancement training for their employees without bearing the full cost of the training.  Our office oversees this matching grant program which meets monthly to review and grant funds to eligible NH businesses. 

I also spoke with a couple of businesses that are experiencing high turnover.  The reasons vary but included such issues as the quality of the candidate, demands of the job, hard-charging leadership and insufficient compensation.  Maybe it just is the nature of the beast with some industries.  Maybe employee turnover will inevitably be higher for some industries more so than others.  I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do believe that efforts made to create a positive work environment won’t be wasted.

Not every business is going to be able to create the perfect environment, but if you want to avoid a constant search for new talent, take the time to find the right people and do what you can to create an environment that keeps good employees.  It may not cost you as much as you think and it could save you immensely in time and money.

Christine J. Davis works for the NH Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes spending time outdoors, volunteering in her community and discovering news places with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ask CJ: Laying Out the NH Advantage

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

“I have heard that there are grants available to business owners in NH.  Is that true?  What other economic incentives are available to a NH business owner?”

I get this question pretty frequently from businesses of all sizes and industries.  What is that “NH Advantage” that we keep hearing about? 

NH Division of Economic Development Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

Unlike some other states, New Hampshire isn’t known to dangle hefty incentive packages to lure new business into the state.  We don’t offer short term special deals to a prospective company from out of state that isn’t available to our current business owners.  What NH does offer, the NH Advantage, includes such things as our lack of an income tax and sales tax.  Also part of the Advantage is our high standard of living, quality of education, and geographic location.  We also have government agencies such as ours, the Division of Economic Development, that are reachable and responsive. 

Besides the above-mentioned incentives for locating your business in the Granite State, there are a number of other potential NH-based financial incentives.  Large energy consumers may be eligible for a grant that covers the cost of an energy audit.  Our division, www.nheconomy.com, offers free technical assistance, which could include an energy audit (valued at $10,000) to businesses that are spending $100,000 or more on their combined utilities.  The business can take this audit and work with a number of financial institutions, including the NH Community Development Finance Authority (which also has some grant funds for energy audits) to assist them with a cost effective plan to implement these recommended efficiencies.  These funds are limited so you will need to check first on availability. 

The Business Finance Authority (BFA) offers the Business Energy Conservation Loan Fund: http://www.nhbfa.com/BFA_LoanPlans_BizEnergy.html which is financing assistance for energy efficiency improvements.  The USDA Rural Development program, www.rurdev.usda.gov/vt, offers both grant and loan programs for a variety of projects and programs.  You will need to visit their website to see if your business falls within the geographic and industry parameters for the projects they support.  The NH Community Development Finance Authority, www.nhcdfa.org, also offers a tax credit program that provides, “New Hampshire businesses the unique opportunity to invest and target their tax dollars to community development projects throughout the state in exchange for a 75% State Tax Credit through the Tax Credit Program. This program enables businesses to invest cash, securities, or property to fund economic or community development projects in exchange for this 75% tax credit which can be applied against any or all three of the business profits, business enterprise, or insurance premium taxes. The donation also may be eligible for treatment as a state and federal charitable contribution.”

Businesses that are located within an Economic Revitalization Zone may qualify for a tax credit if they are making improvements to the facility and creating new jobs.  You will first need to check with your town or our office, www.nheconomy.com, to see if you are located in an ER Zone.  If so, you may be eligible to receive up to $40,000 in tax credits per year for up to 5 years to be used against your business profits tax and or your business enterprise tax.  It is a complicated formula but our staff will help with the heavy lifting.  This program also has limited credits available but that ceiling was not reached last year.

Non-profits are quite familiar with grants, as many of them need this support in order to function.  Grants are almost always restricted to non-profit entities and when I hear someone tell me they received a call about grant opportunities for businesses (of course in exchange for a fee) I cringe.  There is one grant in NH for businesses and it is the real deal.  The NH Job Training Fund is a matching grant program available to both for-profit and non-profit entities.  Companies can be awarded a cash match that ranges from $750 up to $100,000 for skills enhancement training.  What does that include?  Just about any training that increases the skill set of your employees including computer training, technical training, leadership and management skills training and lean manufacturing to name a few.  Details on this fantastic program can be found at www.nhjobtrainingfund.org

Through the University of NH the Green Launching Pad, www.greenlaunchingpad.org, “is a public and private sector initiative that enables local start-ups to bring green solutions to market.  We discover New Hampshire’s best and brightest, and then support them with the financial resources, business infrastructure, and academic expertise to succeed.”  Companies apply and compete to be selected as a GLP recipient.  Winners not only receive some funding and technical assistance but they also get some great press which has a lot of value. 

Also through UNH is the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center.  Created by the Legislature in 1991, these grant funds are meant, “To increase collaboration, technology development and innovation between New Hampshire businesses and universities.  New Hampshire businesses propose projects in collaboration with researchers, typically at Dartmouth Medical or the University of New Hampshire. Companies then match their project awards to fund the research which often leads to new production methods, new products and sometimes new companies.”  You can visit their website, www.nhirc.unh.edu, to learn more about this program.

Each city, town or county may have its own incentive program for business development.  You would want to reach out to your town manager, mayor or economic development director to see what is available.  You never know until you ask.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time at the beach and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ask CJ – Opening a Restaurant: The Bitter and the Sweet

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

“I’m interested in opening up my own restaurant and I’ve heard that it is really tough to get financing to do so.  What might be available, if anything?”

Well, you’re quite right in that it’s often more challenging to secure financing for a restaurant.  The reason, as many people know, is due in part to the perception of a high failure rate for new restaurants.  I myself have heard countless times that 9 out of 10 restaurants fail within the first year of operation.  I was about to cite that “statistic” when I decided to do a little digging to see if it was still valid.  Boy am I glad I did!  A professor from Ohio State University’s hospitality program, H.G. Parsa, had trouble believing those statistics (and couldn’t find a source for the data) so he decided to research the failure rate himself. 

Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

Parsa used records from the health department to track 2,500 restaurants in the Columbus, Ohio area over a three year period.  He found that about one in four restaurants close or change ownership within the first year of business.  Over three years, that number rises to three in five (Bloomberg Businessweek, April 16, 2007).  The success rate for chain restaurants isn’t much higher.  New businesses in general face similar failure rates.  It is also worth noting that the failure rate was higher when located in an area with a high concentration of restaurants.

The good news is that you have a better chance at success than commonly perceived.  The not-so-good news is that securing financing for your restaurant is still going to be a challenge.  I spoke with Carol Estes from Optima Bank in Portsmouth to see what she recommends for an aspiring restaurateur.  Carol noted that like any business seeking funding, you will have a better chance of getting funded if you have good credit, collateral, a fall back position (cash in the bank) and 10-15 years of experience in the industry.  Previous successful restaurant ownership will also build your case for financing.

Carol pointed out the SBA’s 504 loan program that provides a fixed rate commercial loan for businesses acquiring property.  If you are planning on buying the building, this might be a good option for you.  The program offers a fixed rate for 20 years for real estate and a 10 year fixed rate for equipment. The customer can purchase the property with as little as 10% down with the bank taking 50% of the loan and the SBA covering the other 40%.  A start-up business would require 15% equity.  The banks like this program as they are able to mitigate their risk while still taking care of their customer’s needs.  Funds can be used to purchase land or purchase or construct a building as well as renovate an existing structure.

I also spoke with Fred Palazzolo of the Granite State Development Corporation, www.granitestatedev.com, in Portsmouth about the SBA’s 504 program.  The GSDC focuses solely on the SBA 504 program and Fred noted that the 20 year rate guarantee in conjunction with the low down payment can be a real help to business owners who are looking to preserve cash and have a predictable loan payment.  Fred also shared with me that a start-up is defined as a business with less than two years in existence.  Single purpose facilities would require an additional 5% equity.  Unlike some other SBA programs, the 504 is not an SBA guarantee on a bank loan but actually a loan that is separate from the bank.  To learn the specifics about this program, you can visit the SBA’s website, www.sba.gov, and click on “loan and grants” under the navigation bar. 

Securing financing for a restaurant is going to be as challenging if not more so than for other types of businesses.  However, if you have the experience, credit and the necessary collateral you have a much better chance of getting the financing you need.  My hat goes off to those who are willing and able to open and maintain a restaurant.  As much as I love to eat, I could never take on that endeavor based on family obligations alone.  Restaurant ownership demands an immense investment of time and energy in addition to the knowledge and funds that are required. 

Christine J. Davis works for the NH Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties, she likes to spend time outdoors and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ask CJ – Hiring Seasonal Employees

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Q: “I bought a seasonal business and I have hired employees for the first time.  What are the rules on summer/seasonal employees in regards to paying for overtime hours?”

A: When I was growing up, my dad worked in the sheet metal construction industry.  I became quite familiar with the labor laws as my dad would take advantage of any opportunities to work overtime as it meant he would be earning 1 ½ times his normal hourly wage for any time worked past his contracted 40 hour work week.  That meant a lot to a family with four kids and one wage earner.  He was also eligible for increased pay for working on holidays and took advantage of those occasional requests.  It would not have been the case if he had been working for a seasonal business.

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Specialist Christine Davis

Summer is in full swing and many businesses that sat dormant over those cold winter months are now alive and bustling with activity.  Seasonal businesses include everything from water parks to ice cream stands.  These businesses typically open up around Memorial Day and wrap up around Labor Day.  Seasonal businesses can, however, operate longer than that and abide by a different set of rules in regards to overtime pay.  Any business that fits the criteria of a “seasonal business” as defined by the Department of Labor does not have to pay overtime hours.  Those guidelines found in RSA 279:21 section VIII state:

VIII. Those employees covered by the introductory paragraph of this section, with the following exceptions, shall, in addition to their regular compensation, be paid at the rate of time and one-half for all time worked in excess of 40 hours in any one week:
(a) Any employee employed by an amusement, seasonal, or recreational establishment if:
(1) It does not operate for more than 7 months in any calendar year; or
(2) During the preceding calendar year, its average receipts for any 6 months of such year were not more than 33- 1/3 percent of its average receipts for the other 6 months of such year. In order to meet the requirements of this subparagraph, the establishment in the previous year shall have received at least 75 percent of its income within 6 months. The 6 months, however, need not be 6 consecutive months.

I spent some time digging around the NH Department of Labor’s website, www.labor.state.nh.us, and I was pretty impressed with how easy it was to navigate and find information about this and other labor-related questions.  I decided to refresh my memory about child labor laws as well since many businesses hire younger workers for seasonal businesses and many non-seasonal businesses need to hire additional help for the busy summer months.  I won’t go into the details about the laws that apply during the school year, but as far as summer goes, you can hire youth ages 16 and 17 with written parent or guardian permission.  Youth under age 16 will need a Youth Employment Certificate unless they are working for their parent, grandparents, or guardians or they are employed as farm labor.  I can’t help but laugh when I read that one.  I guess it is assumed that family and farmers won’t take advantage of the kids.  I know I wouldn’t . . .

A youth can also work without a certificate if they are performing “casual labor” which means no more than three calendar days for one employer.  Youth under the age of 16 can work up to 48 hours per week during the summer vacation time period which is defined as June 1st through Labor Day.  It should also be noted that, “No youth shall be employed or permitted to work in any hazardous occupation, except in an apprenticeship, vocational rehabilitation, or training program approved by the commissioner” (RSA 276-A;4).

Owning a seasonal business can be a great opportunity as it fills a need for the community and helps drive revenue.  Like any other business, there are guidelines and rules that need to be followed as a part of running your business.  Take the time to do it right and hopefully you will have a business that becomes an institution in your community.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time outdoors and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ask CJ: Becoming the Master of Disaster (Planning That Is…)

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Service Specialist Christine Davis

I decided to shake things up a bit this week and instead of answering reader’s business questions, I have a question for businesses. 

Q: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a crisis or natural disaster?

I was home with my youngest daughter, Emma, a few days back as she had a sore throat.  Since I was going to be in Exeter all day, I decided to be proactive and see if we could get teeth cleaning / checks moved to that day too.  Lucky for me they had some cancellations and the girls and I headed over. 

I like to think I am the type of person who is prepared and stays ahead of the game.  Apparently, I’m not.  I had a strong suspicion that one or two of my fillings were cracked as I had been having some sensitivity for a while and sure enough I was right.  Not only were the fillings cracked, but the teeth they resided in were cracked as well.  My dentist had told me a long time ago that I needed a mouth guard as I grind my teeth at night (stress rears its ugly head in so many different ways).  I didn’t want to believe it was really that big of a deal and so I didn’t take a simple precaution that I now know would have saved me at least $2,000.00.  It was preventable.  

I am sharing this little story about my foolishness because as I was driving back from attending the “When Disaster Strikes-Business Continuity Workshop,” I started thinking about how easy it is to prevent a disaster in both our personal and business lives yet we often take foolish risks and hope for the best.  The session I attended is part of a series of free half-day workshops that go over the steps a business should take now to keep their business up and running in the event of a disaster. 

I admit that I did not have a plan in place when I was running the Women’s Business Center in Portsmouth.  When the water heater let loose one night, we weren’t prepared.  The only reason we didn’t end up in a really bad place was sheer luck.  If it had happened on a Saturday night, we would have had to shut down operations for much longer than I would like to admit.  Counting on luck in your business isn’t a great plan.

Fortunately there is a second workshop that is taking place on Thursday, June 30th in Rochester for anyone who is able to attend.  For those who cannot, I wanted to share some of the resources and tips that I learned today. 

First of all, I quickly learned that “disasters” aren’t limited to floods, ice and tornados.  Interruptions in your supply chain, cyber security breaches and workplace violence are all forms of man-made disasters that affect businesses.

The many different faces of disasters have pretty ugly results as well. It was noted the 40-60% of small businesses do not survive a disaster.  In the past five years, over 1,300 businesses reached out to the NH Division of Economic Development, www.nheconomy.com, in response to disaster related issues.  I wonder how much of that could have been prevented by better planning?

Jeannette McDonald of Cogent Solutions LLC. in Portsmouth, referenced a list of questions that she pulled from a great website, www.ready.gov.  The site is loaded with good simple information that covers business continuity issues.  The following questions and suggestions are a great start to getting your business prepared for any natural or man-made interruption:
1. What are your potential risks?
2. Assess your critical business functions
3. Can you depend on your supply chain?
4. Create an emergency management plan
5. Where is your back-up data stored? 
6. Create a crisis communication plan and include social media
7. Can my business survive for more than a few days?
8. What is my insurance coverage?  Do I have business interruption coverage?
9. Where else can I run my business?
10. Create, communicate, practice, reevaluate again and again

These topics were expanded upon in the discussions throughout the morning event and were touched upon by industry experts from Homeland Security, Fire and EMS, Social Media, Public and Media Relations and the Small Business Administration.  No matter what size your business happens to be, it is so important that you are prepared for any number of disasters.  Investing a few hours of your time to create an emergency management plan could not only save you thousands of dollars but could potentially save your business.

Other online resources include www.preparemybusiness.org, and www.sba.gov.  The next workshop for “When Disaster Strikes” is Thursday June 30, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm in Conference Room 1A at the Rochester Community Center, 150 Wakefield St, Rochester, NH.  There is no charge to attend.   For more information and to register, visit: http://strafford-disaster-eorg.eventbrite.com/  Registration isn’t required to attend.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time outdoors and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.