SBIR Workshop and Road Tour

SBIR Workshop: A Beginners Guide to SBIR/STTR

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs offer federal government dollars to entrepreneurs, qualified small businesses, and researchers at institutions to fund innovative ideas – with no repayment required. This introductory workshop will show you how these programs work, how to search for solicitations and topics, and how to improve your chances with early stage activities.


Access our SBIR/STTR online resource guide and our SBIR STTR Assessment for your business.


Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Requests for such arrangements should be made to Kansas SBDC at WSU by calling 316-978-3193.

NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATION: Wichita State University does not discriminate in its programs and activities on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation, status as a veteran, genetic information or disability. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies: Director, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67260-0205; telephone 316-978-6791.

SBIR Road Tour Schedule

The SBIR Road Tour is a national outreach effort to convey the non-dilutive technology funding opportunity provided through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Federal and State Program Managers representing $2.5 billion in early stage funding have been invited to present at a series of events to technology entrepreneurs and innovation supporters from across the United States. The events below are a coveted opportunity for those involved in the advanced technology communities, including women-owned and minority-owned firms.

If you’re an innovator, entrepreneur, researcher, or small technology firm, take advantage of this coveted local opportunity to hear directly from federal agency program managers, and meet one-on-one with program decision makers.

Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Location: Wichita State University, Rhatigan Student Center, 2nd Floor
Time: 7:30 am-1:30 pm
Cost: Complimentary Breakfast and Lunch
First Step: Register
Second Step: Request one-on-one meetings. Meetings are scheduled on a first come basis.

Meet One-on-One with SBIR/STTR Program Managers from:
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Department of Defense – Air Force
Department of Defense – Army
Department of Defense – Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
Department of Defense – Navy
Department of Energy (DOE)
Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Small Business Administration (SBA)
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Agenda Overview

Presentations: Room 233 Santa Fe Trail Room

One-on-one sessions:

  • Room 256 Edmiston Room and
  • Room 256 Smoky Hills room

Tour: Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center (ASTEC) at former coliseum site.

7:30-8:00 AM Registration, Networking & Breakfast

8:00-8:10 AM Welcome, WSU President, John Bardo

8:10-8:30 AM SBIR/STTR Program Overview by SBA

8:30-10:00 AM Panel Presentation

  • Presentations by NOAA, EPA, Dept of Ag, Homeland Security, NIH, Energy, and NSF
  • Simultaneous pre-scheduled One-on-One sessions with federal representatives not on this panel

10:00-10:10 AM Break

10:10-11:15 AM Presentations

  • Presentations by NASA, Air Force, Army, MDA, NAVY, NIST, and United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • Simultaneous pre-scheduled One-on-One sessions with federal representatives not on this panel

11:15-11:30 AM Business  Networking during travel to the Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center (ASTEC) at former coliseum site.

11:30-Noon Industry Engagement: Tour and Review of Resources to Support Technology Development

Noon-1:00 PM Lunch & Networking, Wrap-up/Conclusion

Agenda subject to change.

Small Business Success: On Being Nimble

Art in Iron: 2015 Kansas SBDC at PSU Emerging Business of the Year

Mike Hill has a love for metal art which he developed into a business idea— Art In Iron.

As he began his ornamental ironwork business in 2012 in Garnett he realized he needed assistance in getting pointed in the right direction from the beginning. That’s when he contacted the Kansas SBDC at Pittsburg State University and began working with consultant Tom Byler. With Tom’s help, Mike developed a business plan which he admits resulted in starting an entirely different business than he originally envisioned, but found the process very educational. In addition to assisting with the business plan, Tom assisted with obtaining financing for the startup, equipment purchasing decisions, and most recently UPC barcode licensing.

Today Mike has a growing business in a tough economic environment. One of the challenges he continually faces is creating products efficiently with a decent margin. When he “gets it right” he considers this a great success. Because of the outside support he has utilized, he has been able to avoid certain pitfalls with Art In Iron by anticipating problems before they happen.

Mike also attributes the success of his small business, Art In Iron, to finding something that the large companies cannot do. Small businesses such as his can be nimble, creative and quick to adapt to changing markets and the business environment.

As for his advice to other potential small business owners, Mike shares:

“Don’t be afraid to change the business plan radically if needed since it is just a guide.”

“Be incredibly careful with startup capital as it will be gone quicker than expected. If every penny is not watched carefully, the business can be in trouble before the owner realizes it.”

“View every new person met as an opportunity to do business, and to actively expand their network daily.”

Learn more about Art in Iron on Facebook, at, or by calling 785-304-0825.

Assisted by
Tom Byler, KSBDC Consultant
Kansas SBDC at PSU
Chanute. PSU KSBDC NCCC Outreach
620.431.2820×285 |

Art In Iron

art in iron

Mike Hill has a love for metal art which he developed into a business idea— Art In Iron. As he began his ornamental ironwork business in 2012 in Garnett he realized he needed assistance in getting pointed in the right direction from the beginning. That’s when he contacted the Kansas SBDC at Pittsburg State University and began working with consultant Tom Byler. With Tom’s help, Mike developed a business plan which he admits resulted in starting an entirely different business than he originally envisioned, but found the process very educational. In addition to assisting with the business plan, Tom assisted with obtaining financing for the startup, equipment purchasing decisions, and most recently UPC barcode licensing.

Today Mike has a growing business in a tough economic environment. One of the challenges he continually faces is creating products efficiently with a decent margin. When he “gets it right” he considers this a great success. Because of the outside support he has utilized, he has been able to avoid certain pitfalls with Art In Iron by anticipating problems before they happen. art in iron

Mike also attributes the success of his small business, Art In Iron, to finding something that the large companies cannot do. Small businesses such as his can be nimble, creative and quick to adapt to changing markets and the business environment. His advice to other potential small business owners is

Don’t be afraid to change the business plan radically if needed since it is just a guide.

Be incredibly careful with startup capital as it will be gone quicker than expected. If every penny is not watched carefully, the business can be in trouble before the owner realizes it.

His advice to small business owners is to view every new person met as an opportunity to do business, and to actively expand their network daily.


View every new person met as an opportunity to do business.–Mike Hill

About Art in Iron
Owner: Mike Hill
Nature of Business: Ornamental Ironwork
City, County: Garnett, Crawford County
Phone: 785-304-0825
Website: Hillforge 

Meet our consultant Tom Byler 

tom byler kansas sbdcTom Byler splits his time working as a consultant with the Kansas SBDC at PSU and ESU working out of his office in Chanute. Tom has expertise in sales development, manufacturing, and organizational management. He enjoys working behind the scenes with his small business clients and visibly supports their success. Tom  can be reached at: or 620-431-2820 ext 285.

Shooting for Success

bob fisher with charles barkley

When Bob Fisher started his business in 2008 all he wanted to do was improve the way basketball shooting is taught.

After 5 years of trying to build a business, he and his wife Connie felt like they weren’t making progress. The lack of revenue was a concern.

So in 2013 they found the Kansas SBDC at WU in Wetmore, Kansas and Mary Ann Reiderer.

Bob could make every shot he took on the basketball court, but was missing shots in his business. He had gained a great degree of exposure early on. The record holder of more than a dozen Guinness World Records, he had traveled nationally and internationally entertaining crowds at various events. They’d been involved with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kansas State University and had developed a relationship with a basketball manufacturer, but hadn’t closed a deal for sponsorship or retail space.

They were, in basketball terms, shooting air balls.

Together Mary Ann and the Fishers began working on a plan that would afford the business the ability to share Bob’s knowledge and affect change in the game he loved, as well as provide a comfortable second career with Bob’s upcoming retirement. They took a two-tiered approach that would both attract steady income and exposure as well as impart Bob’s specific knowledge to students of the game. They have set their sights first on corporate sponsorship and second on one-on-one coaching, camps, and consulting. The Fishers have established a pricing strategy, are currently coaching individual players, and are cultivating relationships to increase their team consulting options.

It was challenging to take a unique personal skill and turn it into a business model with precise focus. By working with their Kansas SBDC consultant team – including Caleb Asher, a social media and marketing consultant contracting with the Kansas SBDC at WU – they have discovered a short list of solutions that will guide their direction forward.

“They helped us pinpoint our focus,” said Bob. “We were confused as to which path to take and our Kansas SBDC consultant helped prioritize our options.” Through working with the Kansas SBDC, Fisher Sharp Shooters, LLC, has gained additional exposure and are continuing to make progress in growing their business.

“Having a defined strategy in place has given Bob and Connie the means of evaluating opportunities and prioritizing their next steps,” shared Reiderer. We still continue to work together as a team to transform Bob’s passion and skill into a thriving business.

When we asked Bob what advice he’d give himself if he could go back in time, he shared that he would tell himself to “plan for more expense” and “there’s more to starting a business than you think.” For someone thinking about starting a business today, Bob would advise someone to “be prepared for it to take longer than what you might expect.” And for those entrepreneurs currently in business,” Put quality first; be the best.” What’s Bob’s key to his business success thus far? “Persistence.”

About Fisher Sharp Shooters

Centralia, Kansas

About our consulant MaryAnn Reiderer

Mary Ann Riederer, consultant with Kansas SBDC at WU in Wetmore is a graduate of Kansas State University and has earned degrees in Management and in Marketing. Prior to joining the KSBDC, Mary Ann worked in large and small business settings, was an independent contractor, and owned her own business.

Recognizing that each entrepreneur comes to their business with a unique skill set, Mary Ann enjoys working with each person toward a complete business balance that includes creative marketing plans, routine accounting and evaluation practices, and constructive management techniques. Mary Ann can be reached by email at or 785-207-0267.

Hard work grows a business

hard work grows a business

Dexter Pfeifer, owner of Pfeifer Landscaping, has demonstrated how hard work can grow a business. He created the business because of his love of landscaping and desire to own something of his own. What started as a passion has developed into a full-fledged landscaping business with a complete list of services including, but not limited to installing and repairing sprinkler systems, lawn maintenance, and landscape design. During the colder months, the business even offers snow removal services.

The business is located in Colby, Kansas, but has expanded to serve much of Northwest Kansas. Mr. Pfeifer reflects, “The greatest challenge was getting started.” His Kansas SBDC consultant sat down with him and went through the business plan and loan process step-by-step. “It taught me a lot about business and marketing I did not know before. It helped me look at the business at a different angle,” explained the owner.

Mr. Pfeifer is constantly surprised by the demand for services. One of his biggest successes has been the positive response to the business’ quality work. Even as the business grows, Dexter is planning for future expansion. His advice for budding entrepreneurs, “Make sure your heart is in it. Make sure this is something you want to put 80-100 hours a week into and still wake up with a smile on your face, ready to go to work.”


“Working hard. When it comes down to the business you don’t have any days off. you learn from your mistakes and get better the next day.”

Owner: Dexter Pfeifer

Nature of Business: Landscaping Service

City, County: Colby, KS

Phone/E-mail: (785) 462-0134  /

Structure: Sole Proprietorship:

Began: 2012

Employees: 3 full-time, 3 part-time

KSBDC Consultant: Megan Horinek

Get to Know the Consultant:

Hey Machinery Company, Inc.

Hey Machinery Company, Inc.

Any business that has been around for 85 years clearly has the ability to stand the test of time.  Hey Machinery Company, Inc., also known as Hey Wheel, has spanned four generations of family owners so far. Hey Wheel sells re-purposed aircraft tires for off-highway, agricultural use.  They also manufacture rims and centers.  Their products can be found on tractors, grain carts, feed wagons, and other agricultural implements all over the country.

Will Hey started the business in 1929.  Mr. Hey was a dealer for International Harvester, who also did custom threshing, house moving, lumber sawing, and anything else he needed to do to make the business go in the early days.  In 1938, Will Hey mounted an aircraft tire to a rim to be used off-highway, which proved to be a key development.

The business has been located on its current Baldwin City site since 1962.  Right around that time, Hey Wheel manufactured their first bolt-together wheel, which expanded the potential uses of aircraft tires.  Rather than disposing of  tires that don’t pass rigorous pre-flight inspection, Hey Wheel makes it possible for farmers and OEMs to use these tires, cost-effectively, in ways that make sense.

Long-standing family businesses face a number of unique challenges.  Hey Wheel approached the Kansas Small Business Development Center at the University of Kansas (Kansas SBDC at KU) for assistance with valuation and family succession/transition issues.

“Our KSBDC Consultant was easy to work with and completed a difficult assignment for us in a timely fashion,“ according to Bob Hey.  With careful planning, hard work, and the right assistance, Hey Wheel plans to be around to celebrate even more birthdays.


 In our business, customer relationships are everything.  Whether it’s farmers or OEMs, we pride ourselves on meeting customers’ needs in the areas of price, quality, and delivery time. –John Hey

About Hey Machinery Company, Inc.

Owners: Bob Hey, John Hey, Bryan Hey
Nature of Business: Wheels, rims, aircraft tires for agricultural use
City, County: Baldwin City, Douglas
Phone: (785) 594-3441
Website: Hey Wheel

About our consultant Will Katz | Kansas SBDC regional director and consultant

Will has undWill Katz Kansas SBDC at KUergraduate majors in Philosophy and Russian to go along with an MBA and CVA (certified valuation analyst). Will has expertise in valuation, financial analysis, and non-traditional sources of capital. He loves working with small businesses because each one is a unique snowflake and a novel learning opportunity.  Will loves playing guitar, riding motorcycles, and spending time with his family.

Will can be reached at or 785-843-8844.


Moving the conversation forward










Moving the conversation from “What’s your cheapest product?” to “What’s your best product?”

You know you’re doing things right when the conversation with your customers changes from “What’s your cheapest product?” to “What’s your best product?” When Patrick McDonald opened McDonald’s Vacuum Center in downtown Arkansas City, Kansas in 2004, he opened with an eclectic mix of products and services that weren’t available in his home town. Used books, vacuum sales and repair, sewing machine sales and repair – McDonald’s Vacuum Center made it all available to customers under one roof.

It was a diverse mix of product lines that worked on some days better than others. Most customers were always looking for the lowest price, a bargain – a tough situation for any business trying to take off and grow.

Early on McDonald, not unlike other small business retailers, often shot from the hip making decisions without the guidance of a business plan. When we asked what advice he’d give himself if he could go back in time, he shared, “that it would have been nice to not experience the growing pains made in some of my rush decisions.”

McDonald realized that if he was going to grow from where he was to where he wanted to be, he’d have to leave the shooting-from-the-hip method behind. The business he’d started was getting too big to make rush decisions with the hope that they’d work. It would take a new way of thinking. To get help with developing a new approach McDonald contacted Jason Cole of the Kansas SBDC at WSU located in Arkansas City. McDonald knew about the consulting offered by the Kansas SBDC and one of organization’s valuable but lesser-known resources – market research. When he contacted the Kansas SBDC, McDonald had already expanded to Derby, Kansas, to grow his business in a new geographic market, but was finding that the expansion wasn’t enough. He wanted to further expand his products and market share into the Wichita metro. Cole gathered market research for McDonald to analyze not only where his best opportunities were, but also what those opportunities might be in the near future. By working closely with Cole, using both market research and consulting, McDonald decided that any short-term future expansion would be realized through new select brands and product lines.

To make this move, and to sustain his current growth, Cole and McDonald identified several changes to McDonald’s Vacuum Center – changes that would need to take place over time.

 McDonalds-Logo (1)

A new business model.

Operating multiple locations with new product lines, as well as securing new dealer contracts, all while maintaining his growing original location in Arkansas City, would require a different approach to business. His original location in Arkansas City has grown to the point where it was time to separate his sewing and vacuum sales from used book sales. And the February 2014 closure of an established quilting store in Wichita (due to retirement) added to the opportunity mix. Together Cole and McDonald worked on a phased approach to keep all the moving parts working successfully.

As of today, they continue to research and develop a new business model that will support McDonald’s profitable long-term sustainability and growth.

A new approach to financing.

Over the years McDonald had relied on cash flow to purchase the majority of his products. Market research from the Kansas SBDC identified opportunities to expand one of his product lines – sewing machines – from the $300 sewing machines he was used to selling to $10,000 high-end machines. Additionally, McDonald was recently able to secure a protected dealership area with two major sewing and vacuum manufacturers. All of these changes taking place simultaneously called for a different approach to financing.

And with new financing, as most businesses know, McDonald would have to look at pulling together a business plan for lenders. So he and Cole began working on one of the key parts of his business plan – financial projections.

Cole tapped into his background in the banking industry to build projections along with current tools Kansas SBDC consultants access for clients. Because McDonald’s product mix involved expansion into new product lines, historical financial figures didn’t reflect future earnings, Cole took a 360 degree approach to develop accurate cash flow projections. Cole used ProfitCents –a financial analysis and benchmarking tool – to evaluate how other small businesses were performing in the industry. Additionally, Cole reached out to suppliers and manufacturers on McDonald’s behalf to gain a better understanding of his potential revenues.

After gathering financial projections, benchmarks, and analysis, McDonald and Cole began contacting local resource partners. They began working with a local bank and regional Certified Development Company (CDC) to explore SBA funding and revolving lines of credit. Additionally, they reached out to the county economic development organization to explore opportunities for support of local small business growth.

McDonald secured the financing he needed to manage his expanding business and support his growth. We believe one of the keys to securing McDonald’s funding was Jason Cole’s 360 degree approach to develop an actionable cash flow.

A new approach to operations.

Operating multiple locations with expanded product lines called for new systems. By working with Cole, McDonald recognized that this would require a different approach to operations. McDonald has recognized the need for and recently added a part-time bookkeeper to his team.

And while many things have changed, some things have remained the same. McDonald knows that part of what has grown his business and allowed him to secure exclusive brands is his reputation for quality service. He knows the key to his long-term sustainability and growth is ensuring that customers continue to have a positive experience at every location he has now and in the future.

McDonald continues to work with Cole to put additional systems – inventory tracking, detailed profitability tracking by product line, and others – to keep the business moving forward.

Moving forward.

As McDonald’s Vacuum Center has grown, and owner Patrick McDonald has taken a more strategic approach to his business, he’s noticed one great benefit that can‘t be overlooked – the change in how he competes in the market. Fewer and more infrequent are the days where customers call or stop by asking for the lowest price. Today’s conversation is focused on quality.

Looking back over the past ten years McDonald smiles and reflects, “When I sold vacuums and sewing machines in my used book store, people would ask, “What’s your cheapest product?” Now they ask, “What’s your best product?”

For any small business, that’s a great conversation to have.

About McDonald’s Vacuum Center

Owner: Patrick McDonald
Nature of Business: Used Books, Vacuum Sales & Repair, and Sewing Machine Sales & Repair
City, County: Arkansas City, Cowley County and Derby, Sedgwick County
Website: McDonald’s Vacuum Center

 About our consultant Jason Cole | consultant Kansas SBDC at WSU in Arkansas City

Jason started as the consultant for the Cowley College Kansas SBDC Outreach Center in 2012. Clients seeking loans find themselves in good hands with Jason’s experience as an Assistant Vice President for Home National Bank in Arkansas City. As a co-owner of Centaur Solutions, a company specializing in employee assessment, Jason developed a passion for creating high-performing workforces. He helps Kansas SBDC clients identify and solve employee issues that are constraining sales, operations efficiencies, and profits.

Jason also served as Adjunct Instructor with the Business & Industry Training branch of Cowley College and taught in the Wellington school system. Jason holds a B.S. in Business Administration from LeTourneau University and a M.S. in Business Education from Emporia State University. He can be reached at 620-441-2563 or by emailing:

Social Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

dos and dontsTime to go over those social marketing do’s and don’ts! Over time small business has learned more and more about what works and what doesn’t when communicating online. While there isn’t a perfect formula to engagement, there are a few do’s and don’ts that seem to hold true.

Here are a few don’ts that we encourage you to avoid in your social media marketing.


Don’t: Ignore your customers and fans.


  • Social media is all about interaction and response. Your audience of both current and future customers want to hear from you and feel as if your business cares about them. Check out these brands for example!
  • Answer their questions, take in their concerns, throw in some surprises, and give them attention.

Don’t: Let opinions scare you.


  • Consumers will react positively as well as negatively, but that’s your chance to face your foes and listen to what they have to say. Answer politely and be patient with them. Deleting their comments and messages typically does more harm than good and will often egg the naysayers on.
  • Opinions are opinions and are going to be diverse. Use the negative opinions as a way of showing how your company reacts and handles criticism. This can help you gain more customers, respect, and awareness through the good that you give in return. There are some great examples in this article!

Don’t: Become stagnant.


  • Constantly remain active on social media, it’s not a place to rest. Keep consumers up-to-date, and keep renovating your sites, profiles, and posts to match the changes. Don’t sacrifice your brand, but keep the conversation fresh.
  • Use multiple social media tactics to create a cross-over value for your communities. Consider providing incentives such as contests to engage your audiences.

Don’tAssume one message fits all.


  • Knowing your target markets or audience to reach is critical to your marketing. Do you know your customers? Once you identify your targets ensure that you are using the correct social media to reach them. Spend your time and resources on the appropriate targets for your business.
  • Choose wisely what to post, share, like, tweet, etc. These choices will define who you are to your customers.

Don’t: Become “THAT”business.


  • Don’t bombard your audience with multiple promotions, discounts, and constant status updates about yourself. Instead, use social media as it is meant to be used and be social. Focus on what your audience wants to know.
  • Try posting a Q&A session or give them some tips based on the nature of your business; intrigue them to begin looking for your next post. Let yourself get noticed, don’t push so hard for attention.

Check out other recent posts on our blog including last weeks, Social Media Analytics!

About our Author

Logan Hildebrand is an aspiring intern at the Kansas SBDC and is currently attending Washburn University in pursuit of three degrees: business marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. She has a passion for capturing the awes of consumers through social media and marketing, and has been interning at the state office and the Kansas SBDC at WU for the past 2 years in order to develop her experiences. Adapting to the ever-changing field of marketing and social media is a strength of hers, as well as making a delicious cup of coffee. Her dream is to one day open her own coffee shop and continue her marketing aspirations through that venture. Until then, she will be providing this blog with insightful, interesting, and useful posts to help aid in the development of marketing in businesses that need assistance.


Reviewing Resumes and Identifying the Best Candidates

Reviewing Resumes

A resume is one of the most important aspects of a successful job search campaign and can be a determining factor when deciding whom to call for an interview. When receiving resumes it is important that you know what you are looking for in terms of experience, education and skills to help weed through the resumes quickly and identify potential candidates. Individuals with resumes that communicate skills and experience relating directly to your job description and operational needs should be interviewed.

Here are different tips to consider when reviewing resumes:

  • Review the job description. Note minimum requirements needed and refer to them often as you review resumes. If you need help with developing effective job descriptions, refer to my previous post.
  • Check work experience for applicability to the position for which they are applying, length of time in each position, promotions or awards received and reason for leaving each position.
  • Check educational background for qualifications necessary to successful job performance.
  • A steady career progression can be a green light when reviewing a resume because it shows that the individual is interested in going to the next level.
  • A “hop-scotch career path” can be a red light when reviewing a resume because although times have changed and people no longer stay in jobs for years on end, seeing successive job changes from day one of their career can signal a problem in the future.

Build a Great Resume - Avoid These Worst-Ever Resume Blunders
Via: LiveCareer – Home of America #1 Resume Builder

Identifying the Best Candidate

After reviewing resumes, it’s time to decide which individuals will be the best candidates to interview for the position at hand. I’ll discuss interview tips in my next post.

Here are a few guidelines that can help save your company time and money when going through the resume pile and finding qualified individuals who are likely to be a good fit with your company.

  • Know what the job requires. If the candidate is reporting to someone other than yourself, it’s important to discuss with the position’s supervisor what they require and desire of a candidate to fill that position.
  • Get good at spotting promise. Identifying a candidate who is self-motivated and has a passion for learning independently may have a better chance to align with your organization’s culture. If you’re looking for someone that is a strong team player that can bring a diverse group of people together, then look for keywords that indicate this passion in their resume or cover letter.

Spotting promise or potential may sound easy, but it can be challenging. At the Management Development Center at Fort Hays State University, we work with employers to identify and hire the right candidates through training at your organization and through public workshops throughout the year. To learn more, click here.

Additionally, you can seek help through any of the Kansas Small Business Development Centers located across the state.

About our Author

Saul Sanchez is a Human Resources undergraduate student studying at Fort Hays State University. He blends his classroom education with real world learning working with FHSU’s Management Development Center (MDC) as a student intern. He takes his learning one step further by guest blogging about small business HR issues via a co-operative learning opportunity developed between the FHSU MDC and the Kansas SBDC.

Market Research: Making it Useful for Small Business

Market research can be overwhelming, confusing, and often feel like it’s written in Klingon (nothing personal Star Trek fans). None of these characteristics make market research ideal for small business owners who want to get to the Who, What, and even the Why of the research so they can in turn use the data for critical business decisions.

So, to help you as a current business owner, new business owner, start-up entrepreneur, or resource partner that may refer others to the Kansas SBDC, we thought we’d approach market research through a real-world scenario.

Market Research: The Scenario

In this scenario, a prospective business owner that is interested in developing an assisted living facility for seniors in Hays, Kansas, approached the KSBDC at Fort Hays State University to schedule time with one of our consultants. A few days later when the consultant and entrepreneur meet, the conversation quickly turns to research.

Knowing that ‘research’ can result in a load of data that the entrepreneur has zero time to read, much less analyze, he stops the consultant during the discussion and asks, “How can the research provided by the Kansas SBDC help me?”

What follows are the questions that probably will be raised in this conversation.

Market Research: The Questions

What percentage of sales should I expect to use for payroll? How much of my debt might be short-term versus long-term when compared to peers in my industry? What’s a reasonable net profit from this type of business? ProfitCents – Industry Data & Analysis

What numbers might my lenders be looking at to compare my financials to the rest of the industry? For example, if I’m projecting $3M in annual sales, it would be reasonable to have a 15.5% (as a percentage of sales) operating profit. And, considering the risk associated with this type of business, I might learn that 1.4% is considered a sustainable growth rate for a business my size. RMA Financial Report

I can’t assume that my prospective lender understand the details of your industry. How can I educate my lender on key business challenges and opportunities in my industry? How can I back up my claims? First Research – Industry Profile. First Research Industry Profile provides data and conversation points you’ll want to address for your proposed business first, then be prepared to discuss with lenders. Make a note of ‘Call Prep Questions’ in the First Research – Industry Profile. Some examples of questions you’ll want to be ready for may include: How is the company curbing labor expenses? How will health care reform affect the company’s revenues? What is/will the company do reduce the risk at the workplace/improve worker safety? What’s the average number of units per facility? What is the company’s anticipated payer mix percentage among Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and private pay?

What type of businesses are in the area where I plan to locate? How many healthcare and social assistance establishments are in this area? Business (NAICS) – Type of Business Summary

What types of businesses are located in this area? What does this tell me about retirees? Business (NAICS) – Industry Occupation Summary

What income levels do potential customers have in this area? Do they have disposable income? Am I more likely to find more former blue collar or white collar workers? Or retired farmers? How will that impact my business – especially my marketing? Income Current Year & Socio Economic Benchmark Report

What are the ages of individuals living in my proposed market area? Age and Income Current Year

Are there older couples in this area? Are those age 75 or older often single households? How can this impact my business? What about culture and ethnicity? If I have a higher Hispanic population in which seniors typically live with younger generations versus using an assisted living facility, how will this impact my projections? Families Census Year & Summary Demographic Benchmark Report

What are people spending on healthcare? On insurance? On medical services and supplies? And who are my competitors or others offering related services in this area? Consumer Expenditures Current Year Summary & Competitor List2

What might my market area look like? Will I have an opportunity to reach individuals 90 miles away? What communities surrounding Hays would this include? How can this help me determine my marketing strategy and market share? Map

Is my proposed location at 2100 Vine Street in Hays a good location? Would I have higher visibility at another location? Traffic Points Basic Location Report (Rings_Drivetime)

Is this area growing? Is the population aging in place or are they moving away to retire? How might this impact my long-term strategy? Updated Summary Report

And while you may be an expert in elder care, for someone that doesn’t have extensive experience in the industry, we have additional resources through SBDCNet that we can access for our clients. For this example, you might want to know the following: What is the profile of the typical assisted living resident? Resident Profile research What does the typical assisted living community look like? What services do they offer? How are their fees structured? Facility Profile research Who are the top assisted living companies in the U.S.? What’s their typical occupancy rate? 2013 Top 40 Provider research

Market Research: The Conclusion

Our goal is that by reading this example, you’ll have a well-developed idea of how the Kansas SBDC can help achieve two major goals. First, to pull critical research for you that can help you make better, more informed business decisions. And second, to pull the research that can back your pitch to lenders and investors.

The beautiful thing about our research is that it’s free of charge to our clients. And, it’s free to become a client. If you’re not intrigued already, click the links provided in the post to see actual examples. We’re sure you’ll be impressed by the depth of information we can provide you to help you make your business decisions.


How to access Kansas SBDC Market Research

Kansas SBDC clients can access market research free-of-charge. If you are a current Kansas SBDC client speak with your consultant. To become a Kansas SBDC client request counseling online.