This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
Now that we’re in 2022, many small business owners may be wondering what they can do to make their business more prosperous in the new year.
For our first Small Business Focus of 2022, we thought we’d have a Q&A with our BizLaunch Director, Tara Palacios who will share some tips from her 20+ years of experience in helping small businesses start, grow and scale.
1.) The last two years have been extremely challenging for many small businesses. What is one action item that you’d recommend that all business owners complete in 2022?
If there is anything the pandemic has taught us, it is to make sure you have your house in order. One action item is to make sure that you are ready to take an opportunity that presents itself. Do a business audit ensuring that the formation of your business is solid. This includes making sure you have your EIN and that it matches your legal name of your business with the SCC. If you’re using a trade name for your business, ensuring that is registered with the SCC. You want to ensure everything matches with various regulatory agencies.
Additionally, you will want to make sure that you are current on all your bills, including your tax obligations to compete for opportunities. Last year, many entrepreneurs faced challenges regarding their legal structure, and you cannot apply for a grant or other forms of capital if your legal name does not match with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) or if you are not current on your financial obligations.
I would also recommend business owners check that their social security number or EIN has not been compromised, meaning someone else has not used your personal information. Individuals can pull a copy of their Social Security Statement and credit report to ensure everything matches their records. Maybe even consider getting a credit monitoring service as cybercrime continues to rise and small businesses are an easy target. The new year is a wonderful opportunity for businesses to audit these areas.
I think before the pandemic many businesses may not have been aware of certain regulatory requirements; however, at this stage of the game it’s imperative businesses have their house in order. Having your house in order will ensure you’re able to compete in 2022 whether that be for financial or business opportunities.
Finally, with so much disruption affecting businesses, I think conducting a SWOT analysis is helpful in analyzing future opportunities and threats and how businesses can combat those.
2.) If you could look into your crystal ball, what are some opportunities that small businesses can take advantage of in 2022?
I would say that in any type of crisis, there is always opportunity. There is always need, and there is always the ability to be able to build your business. Therefore, if I were to look into my crystal ball for 2022, I would say anything around making life easier for people whether through technology or superb customer service. If you can build innovation that makes things easier for people to navigate, that’s the way to go.
This is also the time to have your employees trained on customer service, ensuring your service to customers is on point. Having employees trained to provide top notch customer service is one way not only to differentiate your business, but also to retain talent.
3.) Finding and retaining talent continues to be a challenge for many small businesses. How can small businesses best compete for talent in 2022?
The biggest thing small businesses can do is create an atmosphere where employees can access professional development opportunities. Take advantage of the resources available through the Arlington Employment Center and the Workforce Investment Board. These services are free and provide training and recruitment services for employers.
Employees want to feel empowered and that they are making a difference in the work they are doing while also feeling challenged and growing. A job is not just a place to make money, but rather a lifestyle. People are doing jobs today because they feel an affinity for the work.
4.) What are some of your favorite small business resources?
My favorite small businesses resources are the online tools provided by the Arlington Public Library. You can access free business intelligence, market research and industry analysis. We’re also excited to be able to provide additional databases this year such as Statista, Demographics Now and IBIS World.
I also love Canva, which is an online graphic design tool that is very easy to use and gives businesses the ability to develop upscale marketing collateral and access licensed professional imagery.
However, I can’t forget BizLaunch’s ReLaunch program, a free resource where businesses can access consulting and website development services. That program is one I would take advantage of in 2022.
I think sometimes businesses think they must spend a lot of money on these resources; however, many are accessible for free in Arlington.
5.) Arlington is home to many legacy businesses (those in business 15+ years), what advice would you give to those businesses given that Arlington is an ever-changing community?
For many legacy businesses, being able to adapt is key. Because of the global pandemic, the way business was done yesterday is not the way business is done today. Businesses must be able to adapt to this new environment, having an online presence is key as well as the ability to sell online.
Even if you’re a retail store having that hybrid ability (online & in-person) differentiates you from competitors. Whereas the local flavor is what people love but being able to also offer that online opens small businesses up to new customers not only nationally but globally. Before, digital was optional, but now that’s out the door and it is necessary today.
6.) The Federal Reserve has signaled that they may raise interest rates in 2022 to combat rising inflation. Should businesses seeking capital apply now? What about existing loans?
I’m always about getting the best possible rate with the best possible terms and having some debt but minimizing it as much as possible. If you have a major project, acquisition etc. coming up in 2022, secure a low rate early.
Small businesses should have a good relationship with their bank. There are so many community banks and credit unions that offer competitive rates so shop around. Go for the money when you don’t need it. A line of credit is one of the best ways to do that; however, many times those offer variable rates, but it is possible to get a fixed rate. For those with existing loans, if you can get a better rate, try, and refinance now.
7.) Supply chain issues have plagued all businesses in 2021. How can small businesses navigate these challenges in 2022?
There are opportunities for small businesses in 2022; however, if you are reliant on the supply chain outside of the U.S., I would work to try and stock up now based on past performance versus waiting until when you need the inventory. If your business is seasonal, you can line up your terms and contracts now allowing for greater efficiency and to be as strategic as possible.
If necessary, search out different suppliers, the beginning of the year is a time for new beginnings to discover new suppliers. If there are opportunities to buy local or setup a different supply chain than what you have previously relied on, now is a good time due to the current disruptions to the supply chains.
Businesses should ask themselves what the threats are out there affecting their operation. Having a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C is important to have to increase business resiliency.
8.) What is your New Year’s Resolution?
My New Year’s Resolution is to give grace. We all have been through so much the past two years, and I want to give grace to all while bringing joy to our Arlington community in 2022.
The Arlington County Board says it’s on the side of Arlington Public Schools in the battle with the state over mask mandates. Arlington and six other Northern Virginia school systems…
An ongoing redevelopment project on the “Landmark Block” in Courthouse is poised to realize a significant portion of a 2015 vision to transform the neighborhood. But beyond the “Landmark” project…
Dems to Discuss School Board Caucus — “Unsurprisingly, perhaps, into this climate of culture war skirmishes surrounding public education comes opposition to the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s long-standing caucus process…
Just Reduced includes a 4 BD/3.5 BA home with an unfinished basement, two-car garage fenced yard.