Success Strategies to Power Up Your Business

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In today’s small business landscape, it is crucial for companies to constantly seek ways to boost their performance and stay ahead of the competition. This article will explore some powerful strategies that can help businesses achieve growth and success.

Develop a Strong Brand Identity

Create a Memorable Logo

  • Choose a design that reflects your company’s values and resonates with your target audience.
  • Ensure that your logo is versatile and can be used across different marketing channels.

Craft a Compelling Brand Story

  • Define your company’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Tell a story that connects with your customers and differentiates your brand from competitors.

Consistent Branding Across Channels

  • Maintain a consistent visual identity across all marketing materials, including website, social media, and print materials.
  • Use consistent messaging and tone of voice to reinforce your brand’s identity.

Embrace Digital Marketing

Build a User-Friendly Website

  • Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and provides a seamless user experience.
  • Optimize your website for search engines to increase visibility and attract organic traffic.  Small Business expert Cameron Nelson will be addressing this specifically at our Power Up Your Business Conference.  Check out the schedule of speakers here:  Small Business Conference Schedule

Leverage Social Media Platforms

  • Identify the social media platforms that are most relevant to your target audience.
  • Create engaging content and interact with your followers to build brand loyalty and increase brand awareness.  You can learn this and so much more at our Power Up Your Business Conference on October 20, 2023.

Implement Email Marketing Campaigns

  • Build an email list of interested prospects and customers.
  • Send targeted and personalized emails to nurture leads and drive conversions.

Foster Customer Relationships

Provide Exceptional Customer Service

  • Train your employees to deliver outstanding customer service.
  • Respond promptly to customer inquiries and resolve issues in a timely manner.  Bill and Sandy Long, owners of Auto Care Clinic in Front Royal, VA will be speaking about customer and employee loyalty at this years Power Up Your Business Conference

Implement a Customer Loyalty Program

  • Reward loyal customers with exclusive discounts, special offers, or VIP perks.
  • Encourage repeat purchases and referrals through a tiered loyalty program.

Gather and Act on Customer Feedback

  • Regularly collect feedback from customers through surveys, reviews, and social media.
  • Use customer feedback to improve your products, services, and overall customer experience.


By implementing these power strategies, small businesses can enhance their brand presence, attract more customers, and ultimately boost their overall success. It is important to continuously evaluate and adapt these strategies to stay relevant in an ever-changing business environment.

How do I optimize my website for Google search engine?

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Optimizing your website for Google search results involves various strategies and techniques collectively known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO aims to improve your website’s visibility and rankings on search engines like Google, leading to increased organic traffic. Here are some essential steps to optimize your website for Google search results:

  1. Keyword Research: Identify relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience might use to find your content. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner or other keyword research tools to discover high-traffic and low-competition keywords.

  2. High-Quality Content: Create valuable and engaging content that satisfies the intent of your target audience. Google values well-written, informative, and relevant content. Focus on creating comprehensive and authoritative articles that answer users’ questions.

  3. On-Page Optimization: Ensure that your target keywords are used naturally within your content, meta tags, headings (H1, H2, etc.), and image alt tags. However, avoid keyword stuffing, as it can negatively impact your rankings.

  4. Mobile Optimization: With the majority of searches now happening on mobile devices, ensure your website is mobile-friendly and provides an excellent user experience on all screen sizes.

  5. Page Speed: Optimize your website’s loading speed. Google considers page speed as a ranking factor, and faster-loading pages tend to rank higher in search results. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to identify areas for improvement.

  6. Use Descriptive URLs: Create clean, descriptive, and user-friendly URLs that include relevant keywords. Avoid using generic URLs with numbers or meaningless strings.

  7. Internal Linking: Link relevant pages and posts within your website to create a logical and organized structure. Internal linking helps Google understand the content hierarchy and improves user navigation.

  8. External Linking: Link to reputable and authoritative websites when it makes sense. Outbound links to high-quality sources can add credibility to your content.

  9. Secure your Website: Use HTTPS to encrypt data transmission between your website and users’ browsers. A secure website is now considered a ranking factor, and it instills trust in your visitors.

  10. Optimize Images: Compress images to reduce their file size without compromising quality. Properly optimized images can improve page load times and user experience.

  11. Implement Schema Markup: Add schema markup to your content to help search engines understand the context and relevance of your pages better. This can lead to rich snippets in search results, improving click-through rates.

  12. Regularly Update Content: Keep your website fresh and up-to-date by adding new content and updating existing pages. Fresh content signals to Google that your website is active and relevant.

  13. Monitor Analytics: Use tools like Google Analytics to track your website’s performance, user behavior, and traffic sources. This data will help you understand what works and identify areas for improvement.

Remember, SEO is an ongoing process, and it may take some time before you see significant improvements in search rankings. Stay up-to-date with SEO best practices, and adapt your strategies as search engine algorithms evolve.  Have questions?  Reach out to me at [email protected] to set up a free consultation.


Do these small business challenges affect you?

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Small business owners face a wide range of challenges, and these can vary depending on the industry, location, and specific circumstances of the business. However, some of the most common issues that small business owners encounter include the ones that follow.  If you have business questions we can help you.  Email [email protected]

  1. Financial Management: Struggling with cash flow, budgeting, and financial planning are frequent challenges for small business owners. Keeping a close eye on expenses and revenue is essential for sustainability and growth.

  2. Marketing and Customer Acquisition: Many small business owners find it difficult to reach their target audience and effectively market their products or services. Customer acquisition and retention are critical for long-term success.

  3. Competition: Small businesses often compete with larger, more established companies, making it challenging to gain market share and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

  4. Regulatory Compliance: Navigating complex regulations and legal requirements can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses with limited resources.

  5. Staffing and Talent Management: Finding and retaining skilled employees on a limited budget can be a significant hurdle. A small team’s dynamics and performance can greatly impact the business’s success.

  6. Technology Adoption: Keeping up with rapidly evolving technology and incorporating it into the business can be daunting for small business owners.

  7. Time Management: Balancing multiple responsibilities and tasks is a constant struggle, leading to time management issues and potential burnout.

  8. Inventory and Supply Chain Management: For businesses involved in selling physical products, managing inventory levels and supplier relationships can be challenging.

  9. Economic Uncertainty: Small businesses are more susceptible to economic downturns, and uncertain market conditions can impact their stability and growth prospects.

  10. Adapting to Market Trends: Being agile and responsive to changing consumer preferences and market trends is essential, but it can be difficult for small businesses to pivot quickly.

  11. Access to Capital: Securing funding and financing for business expansion or investment in new projects can be a significant obstacle for small business owners.

  12. Online Presence and E-Commerce: In the digital age, having a strong online presence and e-commerce capabilities are crucial, but some small businesses struggle to establish and maintain an effective online presence.

  13. Healthcare Costs: Providing healthcare benefits for employees can be a significant financial burden for small businesses.

  14. Risk Management: Managing and mitigating risks, such as legal liabilities, cybersecurity threats, and natural disasters, can be challenging for small businesses with limited resources.

  15. Scaling the Business: Transitioning from a small operation to a larger business requires careful planning and execution, presenting its own set of challenges.

Addressing these issues requires a combination of strategic planning, adaptability, and seeking professional advice when needed. Small business owners who are proactive and resourceful are better equipped to overcome these challenges and achieve long-term success.


How Do I Hire A New Employee in VA?

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When you’re ready to hire a new employee in VA,  you’ll need to consider several key elements to ensure you get your hiring done right the first time.

Employee or Independent Contractor?

Determine whether you want an employee or an independent contractor. There are certain factors that define a worker as an independent contractor.

An independent contractor does not rely on the business as the sole source of income, works at his or her own pace as defined by an agreement, is not eligible for employer provided benefits and they have a degree of control and independence.

Hire A New Employee

1. Develop a job description for the position. What do you want this person to do? What are the clear expectations?
2. Develop a job posting and interview questions.
3. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
4. Register with the Virginia Taxation department
5. Register with the Virginia Unemployment Commission

Forms For VA New Hires

Once you are ready to hire there are new hire forms you will need.
1. Ensure new employees return a completed W-4 form and VA-4 tax form
2. Have the employee complete the I9 form.
3. Have the new hire complete a Contact Information form and Direct Deposit
Authorization form
4. Work with a bookkeeper to do your payroll or learn the state and federal tax laws and
how to report and pay your taxes.
5. Schedule pay periods to coordinate tax withholding for IRS
6. Each employee should have an employee file. If you offer benefits there should be a
separate file for anything health related.
7. Develop an employee handbook
8. Create a compensation plan for holiday, vacation and leave
9. Decide who will manage your payroll system
10. Learn which records must stay on file and for how long

The IRS maintains the Employer’s Tax Guide, which provides guidance on all federal tax filing requirements that could apply to the obligations for your small business.

The State of VA Taxation department has a business checklist.


**Thanks to our SBDC Director, Christine Krize for these insight.

Do You Want to Bake Your Business?

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You’re asking what does “Bake Your Business” even mean?

I like analogies, so bear with me.  

If you wanted to bake a cake you would need certain ingredients, like flour and eggs and maybe butter or some flavoring, right? And you may have to get some culinary training to be able to bake the best cake you can bake, right?

When you make a cake you want everyone to rave about the cake and you want people begging for more, right?

Having your own business is something like working to make the best cake that others will want to eat.   

There are some common ingredients you need in order to be succesful.


You need to know what problem your products and service will solve.

How is your product or service going to uniquely solve this problem better than anyone else?


Once you know who you customer is, ask yourself, “Where is my customer today?”  “Where is my customer spending time today?”  “What social media platform(s) is my customer hanging out on today?”  

Every successful business needs to solve a problem that their customer already perceives is a problem.

If your target customer doesn’t see their problem, you are going to need to invest a lot more time and money to educate and convince your customer that there is a problem. 

You may want to start with the problem your customer already understands and recognizes before you start solving a problem your customer doesn’t see or recognize. 


  1. Who is my target customer?
  2. Where is my target customer
  3. Are there enough of these target customers in my market?
  4. Identify everything you possibly can about your customer?  What is their age?  What is their financial situation?  What is their level of education? You should be able to describe your target customer as completely as you can. The better you understand your customer the better your product or service will solve their problems and fit with their needs.  This, my friend, is a major key to your success or failure as a business owner. 
  5. Do the research. Going with your gut is not always a good plan.   You think you know how to make that cake and you think you know the flavor that people will want, but are you 100% sure? There are direct ways to do your research like observation, interviewing. There is also research tools that can give you an overview of the market and the particulars of that market, like profitability, fixed and variable cost ratios, but this does not take the place of being in and knowing the market.  Getting experience or partnering with someone who does have the knowledge.
  6. Talk about your idea with folks who are likely to be in your target audience.   You need to test your concept. If you want, you can use a non-disclosure agreement but you do need to get other people’s perspectives.  
  7. Consider where you want to locate your business.  Consider what particular skills will you need, who you will serve, and think about how much capital will you need to make your business work in this locality.

Whatever you do, please make sure you have a particular audience that you want to serve, now their problems and solve those problems better than anyone else in your industry.

I know that starting small requires a slower approach than most people would like.   But the slower approach is also the least expensive way to set up your business for long term success.

Before you sink a lot of money into a new business idea, test the market and see if there is a market for your product or service.

Our team is always available to help you with these tips and more.  We want to see you launch, run, grow, and make your business successful.  We’re here when you need us.  You never have to run your business alone…you have experienced, trusted partners in us.

Reach out to us anytime!

**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Dale Maza for these insights. 

Should I Register As A Business?

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Whether you are a full-time independent contractor or are operating your own small business, you may not need to register as a business.

However,  you may be required to obtain a business license from your municipality if you make over a certain amount of money in a year.

By not registering as a business, though, you may miss out on personal liability protection, legal benefits, and tax benefits.

By registering as a business, you separate the entity itself from you as an individual, which in turn helps you avoid certain legal and financial liabilities that may occur for your business.

What this means is that if anything is to happen to the business, your personal property or credit may not be impacted or affected as strongly.

Second, it is much more credible and safe for a consumer to work with a business over an individual. As a registered business you are able to protect your personal assets, which is important in the event something goes wrong with your business.

Another great benefit of going the business route is the tax benefits.

As a registered business, you can take advantage of business expense deductions, which means you can use all your business expenses to offset the earned gross income of your business.

Another big advantage is that by taking dividends instead of a salary, you have more flexibility with the company’s income, which allows you to meet diverse needs, especially when starting out.

In conclusion, incorporating a business may not be required, but it is a benefit with a rather small cost.  I say that it is worth registering as a business to avoid potential losses.

For more information:




**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Diana Patterson for these insight

Why Do I Need A Business Plan?

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Why do I need a business plan and how in the world will I know what my sales will be?
Great question, your business plan is the story of your business. 
It is there to provide proof of concept and without that we can’t get a banker to understand what you are doing and how they are going to get paid back for the loan we need them to provide.  Making the story clear and concise is the design of the business plan and the numbers need to be validated by the text. 
The sales are definitely tricky. 
Most people struggle with this, but think about why you think this business will be successful. 
You have in your head an idea, a goal, a dream about that you will generate X number of sales and revenue and turn those into profit.  Let’s pull that from your head and put it down on paper so we can begin to prove the model. 
Most will prove the model by gathering 3rd party data, which can be done from different market reports as well as other similar businesses in similar areas.  If you find businesses that are not competition for you, they may be willing to provide some information to assist you so you don’t run into the same pitfalls they did.
**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Cort Maddox for this insightful article.  

How Do I Get More Customers?

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The cost of acquiring new customers has increased almost 60% over the past six years. If this is something you’re struggling with, you’re not alone: 49% of companies report that customer acquisition is their primary marketing objective.

Even with the best small business ideas, spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Here’s something to think about:
Finding customers starts with figuring out who your ideal customer is. You may sell to everyone between ages 18-60 BUT who buys the most from you?
What age are they? Are they male or female? Income level?
Where do they get their information from?
What do they care about?

Are you offering a solution to a problem that people are willing to pay to solve?

Are you using pictures of people in your marketing that are similar to your ideal customer? Can your customer relate to your marketing?

If you’re struggling with finding new customers please reach out to us for a
marketing consultation! Email [email protected]

2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report

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On February 1st the National Restaurant Association issued a report that included forecasts for 2022 and the “new normal” eateries face as the nation attempts to move away from COVID.  The report provided the following industry insights:

  • Industry sales are anticipated to reach $898 billion in 2022
  • Foodservice jobs will likely grow by 400,000, for total industry employment of 14.9 million
  • 2022 will not be normal for multiple reasons, including food, labor, and occupancy costs, which will be elevated, all of which will impact industry profits
  • 96% of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items, starting in 2021 and likely to continue
  • 51% of adult consumers stated that they aren’t eating as often as they would like, an increase of 6% from pre-pandemic levels
  • 70% of eateries state that they are not adequately staffed to serve customers
  • 50% of operators believe that hiring and retaining staff will be their greatest challenge in 2022
  • The industry anticipates adding 200,000 jobs per year for the next decade
  • 75% of operators plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees
  • Operators plan to reduce their menu offerings and work to improve the quality of take-out and delivery food products
  • 88% of consumers stated that they would be likely try take-out or delivery options if restaurants would use packaging that helps the food maintain the same temperature, taste, and quality as when it’s served in the restaurant
  • Technology advances will continue to help the industry, with fully 80% of members stating that their use of technology helps to give them a competitive advantage
  • Many operators will expand online ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management, along with back-of-the-house technology
  • Consumers also prefer technology where it doesn’t diminish hospitality
  • Outdoor dining is also favored by many consumers, and 40% indicate that they would select eateries with such options over those that do not have it
  • To-go alcohol sales are also popular with consumers
  • 54% of adult consumers say that takeout or delivery food is essential to their lifestyles, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z 
  • 50% of operators think the availability of sidewalk, parking lot, or street seating will become more common during 2022
  • 70% of Gen Zs and 62% of millennials stated that to-go alcohol along with take-out or delivery orders would make them more likely to choose one eatery over another without these options

As with many other surveys and data dumps, the results for this critical industry are mixed at best.  For those operators that have successfully pivoted during the pandemic and those that continue to do so, 2022 should be OK, but for those that remained viable only due to federal support programs, the coming year will not be a return to “happy days”.  

Article thanks to Mike Austin of the VASBDC network.

How to prepare for Virginia’s 31% Minimum Wage Increase

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Small Business Consultants Winchester VA - Virginia Minimum Wage Increase 2021

Hello there, I’m Cort Maddox.

I’m an adviser with the Laurel Ridge SBDC and today I get to come to you and talk about changes coming to the Virginia minimum wage.

Not sure if you’ve heard about this but as of May 1, 2021, in the state of Virginia, the minimum wage will go from $7.25 to $9.50.  

After that, we will see an increase on January 1, 2022 to $11.00 per hour then every January 1st thereafter until January 1, 2026 if will increase $1.00 per year until it eventually gets to $15.00 per hour.

All of this barring any adjustments from a Federal level, but right now, that’s the plan for Virginia.

Now I want to dive into how this is going impact your business then talk about things you can do to prepare.  

First, this is a 31% increase.  This is a dramatic increase and one we have not seen in the past.  This is going to impact your small business.

I want to go over a potential example to show we as consumers can expect to see and then show how businesses can try to manage this as well.

On January 1, 2022 the minimum wage will increase an addition 16% when it goes from $9.50 to $11.00 per hour.  This is a 52% increase which is a big increase given that the average business has an average overhead of about 20-30%.

When you increase your overhead expenses by roughly 52% you can see the impact.

In addition, this will mean an estimated increase of 13% in employer/employee taxes that you will pay on behalf of your employee.  This is about a $.50 increase per hour that will need to be taken into account.

Now, let’s consider a $15.00 product.  

In order to account for the estimated 59% increase, 52% wage increase plus $.50 per hour in taxes, you will now need to charge $23.85 for that same item to accomplish about the same margin.

That is a heavy hit for customers.

This is why we want to help you to come up with resources to lessen the impact.  We want to help you be prepared to make this adjustment without negatively impacting your current customers.

Our team wants to help you keep the number of disgruntled customers as low as possible.  We’re all dealing with a lot of things in life right now.  Adding another possible stressor to our lives right now is not something we want.

But, this change is coming and you need to be aware of what this change means.  

Please make sure you do not violate any labor laws during this process because the consequences will greatly impact your business as well.  

We will be hosting an online workshop to provide you more resources.  We want to help you navigate these changes because they are going to impact your business.

In the meantime, if you have questions or need help with any business challenge, reach out to our team, we’re here for you at no charge. 

Remember, we are funded by the state and local Economic Development Centers, not by small business owners.  We are here to serve as your resource.  Let us know how we can help!