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Top tech trends for 2015

Top tech trends for 2015

Remember when a cloud was just a puff of white or gray in the sky? A file was ma...

Port commissioners approve Northwest Packing Co. lease extension

Port commissioners approve Northwest Packing Co. lease extension

Fruit processor Northwest Packing Co. will continue to call Southwest Washington...

Trust reveals plan for Academy renovations

Trust reveals plan for Academy renovations

Although officially it won’t be a done deal until late January when escrow close...

New laws affecting business in 2015

New laws affecting business in 2015

With a new year come new rules and regulations. However, most of the pressing ch...

2015: A critical year for future of the Port of Vancouver

2015: A critical year for future of the Port of Vancouver

The upcoming year holds several major projects for the port of Vancouver. Ten ye...

Best in Business 2014

Best in Business 2014

Here are the winners of the Vancouver Business Journal’s 2014 Best in Business A...

Technology & Electronic Solutions

Top tech trends for 2015

Top tech trends for 2015

Remember when a cloud was just a puff of white or gray in the sky? A file was made of paper? Security required a locking cabinet and a key? It’s hard to overemphasize just how much modern workplaces have been transformed by technology over the past three decades. Today, clouds are a trendy online tool, security requires complex rules and the systems that companies use to generate new leads are und...

Accounting & Finance

What businesses can expect this tax season

What businesses can expect this tax season

The tax man cometh – and just exactly what that means this year depends on your business. For some, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will bring significant ramifications. For others, capitalization and repair rules are going to be a major concern. For businesses and CPAs alike, IRS response times could cause problems. In the following paragraphs, local CPAs share their expertise with VBJ readers to h...

Spotlight

Heritage Bank: Banking on growth in SW Washington

Heritage Bank: Banking on growth in SW Washington

One-year after opening a new branch in East Vancouver, Olympia-based Heritage Bank is looking to continue to expand in Clark County, riding positive economic trends.

Heritage entered the Southwest Washington marketplace in September of 2010 via their acquisition of then-struggling Longview-based Cowlitz Bank (also known as Bay Bank). And after more than four years in Vancouver, starting at the ci...

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

ACA: Delayed tracking, reporting & penalties are over

ACA: Delayed tracking, reporting & penalties are over

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was written into law, there have been several confusing delays with its implementati...

The 2015 tax filing season is here

The 2015 tax filing season is here

It is time again for the lively advertisements encouraging taxpayers to get their billions back. Meanwhile, IRS computer...

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