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Biscuits Café to open East Vancouver location

Biscuits Café to open East Vancouver location

Plans are underway to start construction on a Biscuits Café at the Eastside Spec...

Local cemetery faces unexpected challenge as trends change

Local cemetery faces unexpected challenge as trends change

“The industry-wide challenge that we face is the majority preference for cremati...

Philanthropy coverage: Business spotlights

Philanthropy coverage: Business spotlights

There’s a tradition of philanthropy within Southwest Washington’s business commu...

Philanthropy coverage: Nonprofit spotlights

Philanthropy coverage: Nonprofit spotlights

Southwest Washington enjoys a healthy nonprofit sector. Simply put, these organi...

Talks over propane/butane export terminal at Port of Longview progressing

Talks over propane/butane export terminal at Port of Longview progressing

The Port of Longview and Haven Energy are “finding common commercial ground” in ...

Dancing with the Local Stars raises $154,000

Dancing with the Local Stars raises $154,000

Saturday's Dancing with the Local Stars raised $154,000, according to a report f...

Technology & Electronic Solutions

Cloud computing becoming the new norm, despite concerns

Cloud computing becoming the new norm, despite concerns

After hundreds of naked celebrity photos were allegedly hacked from Apple’s iCloud this Labor Day weekend, many are questioning the security of “the cloud.” But that hasn’t stopped the steady influx of businesses switching from in-house data storage to cloud-based solutions.

Integra, a communications and networking company headquartered in Vancouver, released data estimating that 70 percent of bu...

Innovation & Manufacturing

Manufacturers investing in the future

Manufacturers investing in the future

Invest in what you do. That is the mantra of many Southwest Washington manufacturers this year, as they pour significant investments into new facilities, equipment and infrastructure.

Take ProTech Composites, for example. This carbon fiber manufacturer grew sales 57 percent last year and projects 30 percent growth this year. Jeff Olsen, ProTech Composites president, said that the company is on tr...

News Briefs

County seeks to fill Animal Control Advisory Board vacancy

The Board of County Commissioners is seeking applicants for a position on the volunteer Animal Protection & Control Advisory Board. The vacancy is for an at-large position, beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Spotlight

Current Home Technologies: Market growth fueling elaborate installations

Current Home Technologies: Market growth fueling elaborate installations

Tony Curtis, owner of Current Home Technologies, has been a professional integrator since 1997. Back then, dedicated theater rooms sparked the imagination of homeowners everywhere, but the technology of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel audio only whispered at the capabilities of the completely integrated home experience that Current Home Technologies provides residents with today.

Despite unwitt...

Common Business Questions

Staying competitive in the market can prove profitable

Janet A. Harte
Small Business Development Center

Q: Sales are growing but I am not making any money. How do I improve my profit?

A: First, take a look at your selling price and, second, analyze your expenses. A selling price that is too low or expenses that are disproportionately high mean less money for you.

Staying competitive in the market can prove profitable

Janet A. Harte
Small Business Development Center

Q: Sales are growing but I am not making any money. How do I improve my profit?

A: First, take a look at your selling price and, second, analyze your expenses. A selling price that is too low or expenses that are disproportionately high mean less money for you.

Q: What do I need to know about setting prices?

A: Two factors that affect price are competition and cost. If you are selling comparable products or services at a price lower than your competition, then you will attract market share. However, keeping market share depends on how your customers perceive value. Normally, low price means you can’t afford to offer other things like a convenient, attractive location and excellent service. A low price strategy means a "bare bones" cost strategy.

Q: What if the prices I use are similar to my competitors’ prices?

A: If prices are competitive, then your ability to improve profits means lowering costs to give you sufficient profit margin. Begin by analyzing the gross profit margin – selling price minus cost of sales. Gross profit must cover your overhead plus profit. To see if your costs are appropriate, compare them with industry standards. Good resources are the Risk Management Association’s "Annual Statement Studies 2006" and Dun and Bradstreet’s "Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios." They are available at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. If you belong to a trade organization, look for statistics on appropriate cost of sales in your industry.

Q: Assuming the gross profit margin is OK, what about overhead?

A: First, make sure you are recording all of your overhead expenses. Overhead costs are those you have to pay whether you make a sale or not. Shop for the best deals on insurance, telephone plans, advertising and travel, as well as on industry-specific costs. Common large overhead expenses are leases for space and/or equipment. Negotiate the lowest cost per month by extending the terms or assuming the costs of improvements. Some expenses such as electricity, water, fuel, office supplies, and so on can be minimized by avoiding waste. Pay close attention to overhead costs and profit margin goals. Remember, sales must cover cost of sales and overhead, and provide profit to reinvest or distribute.

Q: Is there anything else I should do?

A: The best way to be competitive is to meet the needs of your customers. This means identifying opportunities to provide more or better products and services as customer needs evolve and change. Keep an eye on new products and trends, suppliers and competitors. However, to be profitable, you must adjust prices as necessary and always look for opportunities to reduce costs.

Visit your local library to research market trends or contact relevant trade associations. Visit competitors regularly to compare your business with theirs and assess your competitive advantage. Talk to your accountant or a business consultant about managing your finances. Your industry and market environment, your customers and your ability to manage your business all impact your goal of higher profits.

Janet A. Harte is a certified business advisor and center director of the Washington State University Small Business Development Center for Southwest Washington. The SBDC offers free, confidential business management advice to small and mid-sized businesses. It is a partnership program with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For questions or to make an appointment, call 360-260-6372 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . For more information, visit www.wsbdc.org.

Opinion

Focus Column

New industry: Can Vancouver be at the forefront of carbon fiber recycling?

New industry: Can Vancouver be at the forefront of carbon fiber recycling?

Once associated only with skunk works aircraft and exotic automobiles exclusively available to the world’s elite, carbon...

Returning innovation to the manufacturing sector

Returning innovation to the manufacturing sector

Double entry bookkeeping is a concept that is over 500 years old. You might ask, “What can we learn about innovation fro...

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