Posts Tagged uncertainty

International Entrepreneurs: Success Means Knowing Where to Go


In 1990, Robert Walsh, a Montreal engineer, launched Forensic Technologies inventing the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), a crime-fighting tool so popular CSI and Jeopardy have featured it on television. Although Walsh had no knowledge of guns, his invention has become a sophisticated crime-fighting tool that fingerprints bullets and casings from guns by digitizing microscopic information about them. The company landed its first federal contract in 1994 in Washington and has gone global with sales in over 60 countries. Forensic Technologies has its technology installed in over 200 locations in the United States (Chapin, Righton, & Gallant, 2011).

Although Walsh founded the company in his native Canada, he noted the United States emerged as a natural place for this technology because of exploding gun crime. Forensic Technology’s vice president and general manager, René Bélanger, said expansion of the company did not come without challenges because doing business from one country to the next is quite different. Bélanger added a company has to pursue its target and know where it wants to go. Bélanger said a company has to tie to the segment of the market it wants to target to achieve success. Forensic Technology learned this lesson after trying to diversify its product offering, which did not go so well. Forensic Technology today boasts an IBIS hub at Interpol in Lyon, France as it targets the world (Chapin et al., 2011).

International entrepreneurs have to define their target market and go after it with a vengeance. Doing business across the globe is a complex task and a company has to know its customers. Do you have a business that you want to go global? Have you defined your market? If you do and have not defined your market you need to learn more.

References

Chapin, A., Righton, B., & Gallant, P. (2011). International success stories Canadian Business, 84(10), 52-54. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ent&AN=61074191&site=ehost-live

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Attack Never Defend: An Entrepreneur’s Key to Success


Entrepreneurs do best in the face of uncertain conditions, but mature firms have a hard time with uncertain conditions because they plan for what is certain and has worked for them in the past. Entrepreneurs can succeed by doing what they do best and creating uncertain conditions for mature competitors.

ImproMed is one such company that has made “attack never defend” its mantra. Ron Detjen, ImproMed’s founder and president, says his company continues to grow and add employees because it keeps a competitive attitude. Detjen argues companies that go on the defensive can never grow as fast as companies that go on the offensive. Detjen encourages his employees to go on the offensive by finding something they excel at and keep working on it (Anonymous, 2011). What an excellent approach!

ImproMed is a company that helps veterinary practices deal with complex recordkeeping needs and has developed the world’s leader software products for both the business and medical needs of veterinary practices. ImproMed stresses a consultative approach for its employees is the key to its extraordinary growth (Anonymous, 2011).

A company that focuses on what its employees do well wins. Employees are critical to a small company because they are responsible for how the company performs. Encouraging employees to focus on strengths puts competitors at a distinct disadvantage because they do not know what to expect. A good entrepreneur works from his or her strengths and not weaknesses.

How does your company attack? I would love to hear your comments. If you want to know more about how you can design a way to attack using strengths you can learn more here.

References

Anonymous. (2011). 2011 Winners small business success stories Corporate Report Wisconsin, 26(7), 30-35. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/864104598?accountid=35812

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The Small Business Financing Disconnect


Most small businesses start with a business plan to get financing for a venture, but entrepreneurs prefer managing risk through effectuation. Effectuation entails entrepreneurial control over what an entrepreneur can do to achieve a wanted result when the means to that result involves taking an uncertain action. The effectual thinker takes action toward an imagined state incapable of continuous planning because the entrepreneur is uncertain about the result of the action (Gabrielsson & Politis, 2011; Read & Sarasvathy, 2005; Sarasvathy, 2001; Sarasvathy & Dew, 2005).

Entrepreneurs create business plans to achieve early financing and develop plans like they understand the outcome of their actions, but this often is not the case. Entrepreneurs performance typically is significantly off from early plans not because of bad planning, but because of uncertain actions taken toward imagined outcomes. Planning is valid when actions are certain to produce a known result.

Financiers fail to recognize this disconnect, and conventional planning does not fit when an entrepreneur works toward an imagined outcome. Financial planners rely on existing business models and not newly created ones. Not until the entrepreneur perfects the model can planning have true substance in predicting a wanted result.

Financial planning done for business plans at best presents a plan conforming to existing conditions. When an entrepreneur wants to create a new market or product conditions do not yet exist to support such plans. Such conditions cause financiers to rely on risky projections.

This disconnect raises a question about how to evaluate a venture without a financial track record when future actions are dubious. What can an entrepreneur do to convince a financier of the merits of the venture when financial planning projections are so far-off from true results? I want to know your thoughts. Do you want to learn more?

References

Gabrielsson, J., & Politis, D. (2011). Career motives and entrepreneurial decision-making: examining preferences for causal and effectual logics in the early stage of new ventures. Small Business Economics, 36(3), 281-298. doi: 10.1007/s11187-009-9217-3

Read, S., & Sarasvathy, S. D. (2005). Knowing what to do and doing what you know: Effectuation as a form of entrepreneurial expertise. Journal of Private Equity, 9(1), 45-62. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19164962&site=bsi-live

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2001). Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 243. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=72362644&Fmt=7&clientId=13118&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Sarasvathy, S. D., & Dew, N. (2005). New market creation through transformation. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 15(5), 533-565. doi: 10.1007/s00191-005-0264-x

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Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned: Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Cake How I Wonder What’s Your Fate


As the song goes the bankruptcy of the Hostess Brands, Inc. brings to mind how many companies today rest on their laurels. Many companies have forgotten how to compete because rapid growth has gotten in the way. Kalson (2012) noted how the Hostess company blamed the company’s problems on its unions and dispelled the idea bad corporate decisions, financial shenanigans, outdated strategy, and inept management could have caused the problems.

The Hostess brand emerged from a troubled history at Continental Bakeries. Interstate Bakeries later bought Continental pursuing its strategy of growth by acquisition and mergers. Interstate had a history of run ins with its workers and focused on rapid growth instead of its products and people. For example, in 1982 Interstate Bakeries raided an over funded pension fund to pay off debt on its inefficient plants (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

The Continental merger brought new enzyme technology to the company allowing its products to have a longer shelf life, lowering delivery costs, and improving profitability. Continental like Interstate engaged in an acquisition strategy. Similarly, the company had disputes with its workers and in 2000  lost a suit in San Francisco brought by 19 black workers claiming racial discrimination (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

Again in 2004 the government probed the company’s worker’s compensation reserves and problems with a new financial system the company installed. In 2004 the company filed for bankruptcy still under investigation for how it set its worker’s compensation reserves. In 2009 the company emerged from bankruptcy and relocated to Kansas City only to file for bankruptcy again in 2012 (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

The lesson learned is growth through acquisitions often is a poor strategy leading to financial difficulty if not managed carefully. An entrepreneur would do better by focusing on products and people to grow organically. Entrepreneurs should learn from the Hostess story, acquisitions and mergers often leads to discord between workers and management, and financial problems. Duplication of duties is costly without a plan to remove these costs. A company’s business strategy can become blurred, and the company can lose its focus on its vision and how it best serves its customers.

Kalson (2012) noted how Hostess sold its soul to private equity firms, hedge funds,  and investors while amassing over $1 billion dollars of debt. Acquisitions seemingly erase the competition, but can also serve as the deathbed of a company. Entrepreneurs should think about losing their Twinkies before entering such a strategy.

Entrepreneurs should understand both sides of this strategy before committing to it. If you want to know more about the pros and cons of different strategies contact us to learn more.

References

Hostess Brands, Inc. (2012). Hoovers Academic. Retrieved from http://subscriber.hoovers.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/H/company360/history.html?companyId=15324000000000

Kalson, S. (2012). When all else fails, blame the union hostess gives the twinkie defense a whole new meaning Pittsburgh Post – Gazette. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1220357399?accountid=35812

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The Entrepreneurial Journey


Errico (2010) shared the following story about the Great Hill:

Before time was time, there was a Great Hill.
And on the Great Hill there lived the Yolks.
The Yolks spent their entire lives climbing the Great Hill, trying to reach the top.
Some Yolks climbed fast.
Some Yolks climbed slowly.
One Yolk in particular was a very slow climber. He was different than the rest of the Yolks.
When he climbed, all the other Yolks passed him.
It was hard for him to watch them pass by.
He felt like the worst climber in the world.
Some Yolks made fun of him as they passed.
Others didn’t.
Some Yolks wanted to help him climb but he didn’t let them.
It was hard for him to climb. It was even harder when it rained because the ground got slippery. Sometimes it seemed like it was only raining on him.
But it wasn’t.
There were times when he felt like he wasn’t moving at all.
But he was.
Then one day he met another Yolk who climbed even slower than he did.
He helped the slower Yolk climb.
“Thank You,” said the slower Yolk.
“You’re Welcome,” said the slow Yolk, “I can’t be of much help to anyone else since I climb so slowly.”
“Slowly?” asked the slower Yolk.
“Well yes. I watch other Yolks pass me all the time.”
“I do not know if you are slow or fast, but I do know that you helped me, and that you are still climbing.”
The slow Yolk said goodbye to the slower Yolk, and kept climbing.
“Still climbing,” he thought to himself.
“That is true.”
And he smiled.
So the Yolk kept climbing. He climbed when it was nice out, he climbed when it rained, and he even climbed when it snowed.
As he kept climbing he got better and better.
Sometimes he would pass other Yolks and sometimes they would pass him.
He had stopped paying attention.
He also noticed that some Yolks were no longer climbing.
When a yolk stops climbing it stays where it is.
Some Yolks stop climbing because they are happy with how far they have gone.
Others stop climbing because they don’t want to climb anymore.
The Yolks that had stopped climbing did not like to be passed, and they made it harder to get by.
But the Yolk kept climbing, right over them!
There were still times when the Yolk thought he was climbing an impossible hill, but he kept climbing.
Always, always, climbing.
Do you think he made the top ?

The Great Hill story highlights the entrepreneurial journey. Often entrepreneurs climb slowly to get to the top of the hill, but must persist to reach the top. Entrepreneurship is about persistence and keeping focused on the end goal (to reach the top of the hill). Some entrepreneurs climb more slowly than others, but the challenge is in the journey to the top.

Entrepreneurs recognize others want to trounce them and say, “I told you so,” but filter out the negativity and keep moving on the journey despite the odds against them. Few entrepreneurs are on the fast track, but advance at their own pace. Successful entrepreneurs preserve their passion by settling at a comfortable pace instead of racing to the top of the hill.

Most important, successful entrepreneurs do not let the competition intimidate them. Successful entrepreneurs want to help others succeed in their journey. The key is to keep moving toward the top of the hill no matter what position the entrepreneur is in at a given time.

As the entrepreneur approaches the top of the hill he or she notices other entrepreneurs quitting or conceding on their journey. The successful entrepreneur just keeps going no matter what the pace. The successful entrepreneur knows his or her limits and works within them.

Think about the Great Hill story! How do you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Are you working within your limits at a comfortable pace or are you trying to race to the top of the hill? If you want to get to the top of the hill and avoid stalling before getting there, let us help you find a comfortable pace and help you work within your limits. Learn more.

References

Errico, D. (2010, December 7). The great hill. Free Children Stories. Retrieved from http://www.freechildrenstories.com/story_details.php?st_id=156

 

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Small Business Alliances: The Case of Lehman Trikes


During the height of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Lehman Trikes formed a strategic alliance with Harley-Davidson. Lehman Trikes, a small publicly held company on the TSX Canadian  Venture Exchange, lead the industry in making three-wheeled motorcycles in Spearfish, South Dakota. Harley-Davidson announced it selected Lehman Trikes as its exclusive supplier of its Tri-glide three-wheel motorcycle. Before signing the alliance, Lehman made the three-wheeled motorcycles in the aftermarket. Harley legitimized the three-wheel motorcycle with its announcement bringing it into the established motorcycle market (Looney & Ryerson, 2011).

By the end of the summer of 2010, Harley-Davidson faced difficult times losing half its business. Harley-Davidson did not renew the agreement signed with Lehman Trikes. Harley kept the rights to the Tri-glide brand and granted no residual rights to Lehman Trikes, but in its original agreement clearly laid out its non-renewal rights and terms. Although Lehman feared Harley might not renew the contract, it understood the risks when it signed the original agreement (Looney & Ryerson, 2011).

Do you believe the alliance between Lehman Trikes and  Harley-Davidson met both companies’ goals? Do you believe the alliance had successful results? What benefits did the companies achieve because of the alliance? What risks did the companies face by signing the alliance? Did the alliance benefit Lehman Trikes, the smaller company? Do you believe Harley exercised its rights in a fair and transparent manner? Knowing that ending the agreement would limit its supply of the Tri-glide, did the strategy benefit Harley-Davidson? Did Lehman Trikes have a viable business model or could it have strengthened its model?

Let us know what you think? Do you want to know more about forming strategic alliances? Learn more.

References

Looney, D. C., & Ryerson, A. (2011). Lehman Trikes: A story within a story 17, 35-39. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ent&AN=69927663&site=ehost-live

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Small Business Risk Taking: History Repeats Itself


“History repeats itself” is a saying I hear on occasion and often wonder about. Today, for example, some businessmen say they cannot work because of uncertain conditions, yet Adam Smith designed capitalism as the “epitome of risk taking” (Bernstein, 1996, p. 19). According to Bernstein, up to the time of the reformation, the stable Protestant tradition stressed abstinence to avoid risk. Protestants considered the danger inherent in risk-taking as akin to gambling. Adam Smith (1904) introduced capitalism believing the danger attached to risk also came with opportunity. Instead of looking at risk as a zero-sum game where someone wins and someone loses, Smith believed trade resulted in a mutually worthwhile pursuit. Smith believed both parties to trade and risk taking could become wealthier contrary to practice before the reformation that relied on exploitation to gain wealth (Bernstein, 1996).

Recent conversations have talked about how unacceptable the transfer of wealth is from the elite to its underlings. Some business people espouse the pre-reformation idea that wealth transfer should only come from exploitation of underlings, while others see wealth transfer more like Adam Smith did. Smith believed business is risky, but full of opportunity and new wealth came to those adventuresome people willing to innovate (Bernstein, 1996). Today with the coming of supply-side economics, some want to return to the days of exploitation and stymie adventuresome entrepreneurs willing to innovate and create new trade. Does history repeat itself? Has the pendulum swung too far in the wrong direction?

I believe an efficient economic system has to balance opportunities with risk taking. If business people do not take risk, I do not see where innovation comes from under such conditions. Stable well-established businesses do not like to remove themselves from their comfort zone and their products and services eventually become stale and do not satisfy consumer needs. Meanwhile, society needs to provide more incentives to entrepreneurs to innovate and create new trade.

What do you think? Is our economic system returning to the stable pre-reformation days bereft of any risk taking relying solely on exploitation? Are you willing to take a risk in today’s economic setting? What incentives do you believe would help entrepreneurs to resume their efforts to innovate new trade? Please leave your thoughts here. Do you want to know more about incentives to small business entrepreneurship to its rightful role? Click here.

References

Bernstein, P. L. (1996). Against the gods: The remarkable story of risk. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Smith, A. (1904). The wealth of nations (5th ed.). London: UK: Methuen & Co., Ltd.

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The Multiplier Effect of Small Business Transaction Costs


Jones (2007) defined transaction costs as costs involved in negotiating, overseeing, and controlling costs between people. Organizations need to keep these costs low by managing exchanges between organizations. Jones used the health care industry as an example. According to Jones, 40% of the United States budget for health care has to do with managing exchanges between doctors, health-care providers, government agencies, insurance companies, and other merchants. Imagine if the health-care industry could remove these costs how much less health-care goods and services would cost.

Small businesses also have to manage transaction costs to achieve sustainability. Transaction costs involve many kinds of costs. For example, an organization can experience costs resulting in duplication of effort, power imbalances, intellectual property protection issues, knowledge transfer issues, and preserving alliances. Nooteboom (1993) argued small firms have a particular disadvantage with transaction costs because of scale, scope, learning, and experience. Such costs are bounded by rationality, opportunity, uncertain conditions, and transaction specificity. When many firms add value to products or services each firm adds transaction costs multiplying the cost to the consumer for each firm involved in producing the product. On the other hand, outsourcing parts of the production offers economies of scale to spread the cost among more units. Bureaucracy costs can offset the transaction costs saved by larger organizations because of their capability to deal with scale, scope, learning, and experience issues (Jones, 2007).

Small businesses need to weigh these exchange costs in making their products and services competitive. As in the case of health care 40% is a significant added cost for a customer to bear. Unless a firm has the ability to  deal with transactions costs it can have a significant disadvantage compared with a larger firm that has these skills. Any time a firm can erase these costs or hold them to a minimum the firm will put itself in a better position to achieve competitive advantage.

How do you manage transaction costs? If you have not considered transaction cost management and want to know more I urge you to contact us to learn more.

References

Jones, G. R. (2007). Organizational theory, design, and change (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Nooteboom, B. (1993). Firm size effects on transaction costs. Small Business Economics, 5(4), 283-295. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoh&AN=0328531&site=ehost-live http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100338

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The Role of Entrepreneurship in Restoring the Economy


Before the financial meltdown of 2008, small firms in the United States in 2007 comprised 99.7 percent of all employer firms. These firms employed slightly more than half of all private industry workers, and paid 44 percent of private business payroll. Small firms produced 64 percent of net new jobs for 15 years before this time. Small firms created over half the private nonfarm gross domestic product, and hired better than 40 percent of high-tech jobs for scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. Further, small businesses made up 97.3 percent of all exporters producing 30.2 percent of known export values in 2007. Small businesses accounted for 52 percent of home-based businesses and 2 percent of franchises (Kolbe, 2007; Yallapragada & Bhuiyan, 2011).

A growing part of entrepreneurship comes from social entrepreneurship. Shockley and Frank (2010) distinguished social entrepreneurship from commercial entrepreneurship as consisting of a community orientation that forgoes private incentive for public benefit. Shockley and Frank connect the economic entrepreneurship theories of Joseph Schumpeter and Israel Kirzner to Western literature, namely Virgil’s Aeneid. The three main parts of Virgil’s (2006) Aeneid deal with using the mind to discover, developing a duty to community interests, and believing in the fate of the actor to avoid uncertainty or “unknown probabilities” (Knight, 1921; Shockley & Frank, 2010, p. 777).

Social entrepreneurship fills societal needs not met by commercial entrepreneurship and stresses discovery, community, and the fate to overcome unknown conditions. Commercial entrepreneurship is not exclusive of social responsibility, but in modern society has focused on the interests of enlarging profits for the benefit of capitalist investors. This motive is not to say entrepreneurs have no interest in societal interests as surely some entrepreneurs champion such issues before profits, but many companies put profits first after a founder finds a successful model. Social entrepreneurs can discover solutions to societal needs in either or both the public or private domain.

Schumpeter (1934/2002) argued new combinations affect the flow of capital and causes temporary disequilibrium aiding in economic development. Schumpeter (1994) put “creative destruction” at the center of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter explained how “creative destruction” leads to the demise of the entrepreneur and a temporary socialistic state to deal with new unmet needs because the entrepreneur becomes a capitalist and ceases to work as an entrepreneur. Shockley and Frank (2010) referred to Schumpeter’s works as foundational and timeless finding these same ideas in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Similarly, Kirzner (1973) put “entrepreneurial discovery” (p. 39) at the center of entrepreneurial theory. Kirzner argued the entrepreneur’s role is to stay alert to unnoticed opportunities and relies on unpredictable behavior akin to the fate in Virgil’s Aeneid. Both Schumpeter and Kirzner distinguish the entrepreneur from the capitalist because the entrepreneur risks no investment in discovery(Shockley & Frank, 2010).

The point of this literature is that both the role of the entrepreneur and capitalist are necessary in a market economy. Today, the role of the entrepreneur has succumbed to the capitalist and caused discovery to slow for the sake of promoting the profit motives of the capitalist, but the capitalist cannot grow without discovery. Capitalists choose not to meet societal needs. The temporary state to overcome the problem rests in Schumpeter’s notion of “creative destruction” where socialism takes over until the entrepreneur can return to the flow of the equilibrium process (Schumpeter,1994).

I see little effort today to recognize the entrepreneur’s role to resolve this problem despite the significant contributions entrepreneurs made before the financial meltdown of 2008. Some people have played down the role of restoring equilibrium and have extended the problem by suspending a capitalistic economy indefinitely. I see social entrepreneurship as a step to restoring discovery needed to return the flow to the equilibrium process.

I would like to hear your thoughts about how to restore capitalism by re-emphasizing entrepreneurship’s role and ending the state of “creative destruction” in which the United States economy currently resides. Learn more.

References

Kirzner, I. M. (1973). Competition and entrepreneurship. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Knight, F. H. (1921). Risk, uncertainty, and profit (2002 Reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Beard Books.

Kolbe, K. (2007). How important are small businesses to the United States’ economy. Office of Advocacy, Funded Research, United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census and International Trade Administration.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934/2002). The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1994). Capitalism, socialism, and democracy (5th ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

Shockley, G. E., & Frank, P. M. (2010). Virgil’s Aeneas as the quintessential social entrepreneur: Juxtaposing selections from epic poetry and entrepreneurship theory to teach social entrepreneurship. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 23, 769-784. doi: 2281649991; 58798731; 54851; JSBE; INNNJSBE0000605310

Virgil. (2006). Selections from Virgil’s Aeneid. In S. Lombardo (Ed.), The Essential Aeneid. Indianapolis, Ind. & Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc.

Yallapragada, R. R., & Bhuiyan, M. (2011). Small business entrepreneurships In The United States. Journal of Applied Business Research, 27(6), 117-122. doi: 2519801721; 65758121; 12637; JRH; INODJRH0007536491

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Snake in the Grass Syndrome: Small Business Channel Partners


Often small businesses build relations with various suppliers and channel partners only to later find the relation is not as strong as first thought. The small business entrepreneur needs to protect against interruption occurring in the supply chain and make sure that everyone involved is on the same page.

I have had the unfortunate experience of working with a channel partner only to find later the channel partner only had its own interests in mind. I found the channel partner did not share a common vision and did not want to genuinely build a lasting relation. After working hard to build a good relation, the channel partner let the company down by not performing up to expectations. I call this the “snake in the grass” syndrome.

Because of this experience, I encourage small business entrepreneurs not to put all their eggs in one basket. As much as an owner likes a particular channel partner, competition is good and promotes efficiency. An interruption in the supply chain can have devastating effects on the small business. Consider what would happen if a missing link exists in the supply chain. Finding a new channel partner at the last minute is not easy and could harm the quality of the product or the service provided to customers. I suggest finding at least three suppliers for every slot in the supply chain to avoid last-minute problems.

Another step a small business entrepreneur can take is to make at least an annual evaluation of all channel partners in the supply chain. A business is only as strong as the weakest link in its supply chain so it pays to remove weak channel partners and replace them with stronger ones. I suggest developing a formal written evaluation form and think about what is important to the business.

Do you have a procedure to evaluation channel partners in your supply chain? I want to hear your thoughts? If you want to know more about how to remove the “snake in the grass” I urge to get help now. Learn more.

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