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Community Matters

Ruth Graham is the owner of Ancient Art Health Center.  A center that promotes holistic medicine through the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine, allergy elimination, nutrition and other natural therapies.  While Graham has a variety of degrees and diplomas her focus is acupuncture and Chinese medicine.  Graham suffered from severe allergies and used NAET* (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques) to find relief.  So, she went to study with Dr. Nambudripad in California and brought the techniques back to her own practice.

In 1998 she opened Ancient Art Healing and by 2005 was ready to buy her own building. Graham partnered with Colorado Business Bank and Preferred Lending Partners to purchase and renovate a building located in the Historic District of downtown Littleton.

Graham is rooted in her community.  She believes there is substantial merit in working, living and giving back to the community.  Because of these personal values, Graham has been awarded a number of honors from her community.  She has been recognized multiple times as “Citizen of the Year” in Littleton, she’s been highlighted in the local newspaper and magazines a number of times for all her work in the community, and has served for nearly a decade as President of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Associates*.

Graham was asked what advice she had for other business owners:

  • Plan for the ups and downs
    1. It won’t always be easy
  • Plan on being able to support yourself
    1. You have to have the fortitude to do this for the next 5 years. If you’re thinking you’ll just try it out for a year, then you shouldn’t do it.
    2. Have a clear picture for how you’ll support yourself if your business doesn’t produce what you’re expecting. It’ll take some time.
  • Trust your instincts
  • Know that no one knows your business like you do
  • Ally yourself with people taking the same level of risk as you are
    1. Find mentors and people to bounce your ideas off of
  • Know some will disappoint you, but it isn’t personal – it’s businesses

In the end, Ruth Graham emphasizes being “kind and loving in your business practices”.  Doing so will ultimately provide great communities for everyone to live and work in.

Investing 504

Investing
By Susan Tweedy

How does a business owner evaluate return on investment? There are numerous ways that a small business invests in their business: Time, money and energy being the most obvious.

Business owners invest in their facilities, employees, and brand. Many of these types of investments are difficult or even impossible to evaluate objectively.

If a business owner chooses to own their building rather than pay rent, the return on investment  is one of the most beneficial and measurable investments that can be made. Building equity can assist in other aspects of building business credit. Rent savings will free up valuable working capital. And security from rent hikes or ownership changes offers peace of mind. Refinancing and consolidating debt is another important investment consideration for business owners.

Before committing to debt for your business it is always prudent to consult your legal and accounting professionals for advice.

If you or someone you know is considering purchasing real estate, refinancing, expanding or renovating their real estate, please contact one of our Business Development Officers for assistance.

Growing in 2017

Now that the New Year is in full swing and the office is buzzing again, what is your team doing to grow in 2017?  All businesses know that spending time and energy on good marketing strategies can help their business grow.  What isn’t always recognizable is which methods will work for their business and which ones will be a waste of time (and money).  However, in this modern era, a few things are clear.

  1. Web presence
    If a business doesn’t have a website they’re missing out.  In a world so consumed with technology why would anyone not have a website? Perhaps there is too much to do, or it is too expensive? Or it is just too complicated.  There are many tools available, that can help anyone learn basic website development.  Furthermore, many online website hosting sites now provide, easy to use cheap and inexpensive options.  One thing is clear, if a business isn’t on the web they are missing out on business.
  2. Know what “Mobile – Centric” is and how to use it
    It is clear to see (just look out the window at all the people walking by), at least half of them on their mobile devices.  People live by the computers in their pockets, so to be prepared to address the current consumer, a business needs to be easy to use on the mobile device.  What does this mean? Does the business website adjust to the mobile users needs? Can a customer easily use their mobile device to purchase products or services? More and more often the consumers are adopting mobile pay services like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, so businesses need to be more prepared to support their customers’ demands.
  3. Email marketing
    No this is not new, yet many companies seem to take this for granted.  It has been proven that it is a great tactic and one of the most ROI-positive strategies out there.  The key is to find the right way to use this tool. Just a few ways would be; providing DIY guides, links to blog content and industry news.  Getting traffic to the business website should be the goal.

What is clear, with the coming generations, being tech savvy should be on the forefront of all businesses as they put together their goals and strategic plans.  The key for small businesses will be to determine when and where to spend time and money first and be okay with asking for help.

Kindness Renders Big Rewards

kindness-renders-big-rewardsThese days with the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is often easy to get wrapped up in our own world, focused on the many activities and things we need to accomplish before the end of the year.  What would it look like if we all did something nice, even just a small act, for someone random each day?  It is observed that when you commit a random act of kindness to a stranger, they often will continue the movement.  Here is a short list of just a few things you might consider doing for those around you to help brighten up their lives:

  • Hold the door open for the person behind you
  • Complement a stranger or acquaintance – “nice shoes” or “great scarf”
  • Smile at the stranger passing you on the street – take it a step further and add a “good morning”, “hello” or “good evening”
  • Take the grocery cart from the person in the parking lot (if you’re heading into the store) save them the walk to the cart holder
  • If you have extras, keep them in your car or purse and share socks, a scarf, a hat or gloves with someone cold you pass
  • Buy the coffee or tea, snack at a convenience store for a stranger or even bigger, their dinner at a restaurant

A quick example, this last weekend I stopped into a bagel shop, which was pretty busy and you could tell that customers were starting to get impatient.  I already had it in my mind that I would like to be doing more good deeds for others, so I bought breakfast for the woman standing behind me in line. In turn she bought the person behind her, their breakfast and there were lots of smiles, thanks and “that’s so kind” from not just the recipients but also the workers behind the counter.  It really turned the mood in the whole place around.   So as the year comes to an end, think of the little smile, kind word, or small gesture and what a large impact that small act might have on a single individual. Let’s leave 2016 with a smile and kindness in our hearts.

 

Supporting Entrepreneurs

supporting-entrepreneurs-2016Do you consider yourself an Entrepreneur?   Are you a person who organizes and manages a business with considerable personal risk? Due to the nature of our business, we work with Entrepreneurs of all kinds.  Some are small business owners that are just getting their business up and running, others are established Entrepreneurs with 10+ years under their belt growing their business and expanding into multiple locations.  In either case the founder/owner(s) still carry significant personal risk if something where to go wrong.  No matter what their business size, all Entrepreneurs have one thing in common.  They are the leaders and motivators of their business.

In SBA’s Fiscal Year 2016 which ended September 30th, program partners helped 182 entrepreneurs and their businesses obtain SBA 504 loan approval.  This was an increase of 13 loans compared to 2015 FY numbers.  In Fiscal Year 2016, Preferred Lending Partners helped 24 entrepreneurs and their business obtain loan approval to finance their own building and other large fixed assets

Some additional fun facts about Colorado’s small business community, were shared by Patti Green from Accutrend Data.  This information is regarding businesses in Colorado in 2014 and 2015, as the 2016 calendar year has not yet wrapped up.

  • New Businesses Registration has increased by 17,422 new businesses in 2015 from 2014
  • In 2015 Colorado reported having 15,489 women owned businesses, this is nearly 5,000 more than 2014
  • Of which 2,473 of them were located in the Denver Metro area.

These leaders often turn to resources for assistance such as websites, trade associations, SBA and other friends and family members that have owned their own ventures.  Utilizing your resources can truly help your business succeed, however, knowing where to turn can sometimes be difficult.  Below is a link to the 50 best websites for entrepreneurs to visit.  We’d like to point out that both SBA and Score program (which we are strongly connected to) are listed as resources.

On November 26, 2016 show your support to fellow entrepreneurs for Small Business Saturday.  Show your local small business owners how much you appreciate what they do!

Is Your Cybersecurity Working?

Cybersecurity is a term more businesses are familiarizing themselves with.  With more work and communication happening through the use of email and the internet, cybersecurity is becoming a key factory, when considering how to protect your business.

Many businesses and employees know that you should be careful about emails you open. They set-up spam filters to help trap the risk before it reaches the reader.  Then there are passwords and restrictive usage systems created to help minimize risk and damage, should something take place.  This is a great place to start.

Even doing a quick search on the common forms of “hacks” you get an overload of information.  Whether the hack is to gain personal or proprietary information or hinder productivity and disable the company, the results are the same, it is damaging and costly to repair.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness month, so we ask, do you have the tools to protect your company?  Do you carry cybersecurity insurance? Do you know the most common ways hackers tend to attack?  For example, have you ever heard of a “ransomware”?  This is when information is encrypted and user access is denied.  The hacker puts a “ransom” on the files, so that the company pays to get their information back.

There is a silver lining, Colorado is a leader in cybersecurity, Colorado is the home to over 90 cybersecurity enterprises between Colorado Springs and the Denver Metro area.  In March, Governor John Hickenlooper stopped by the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank, to discuss the efforts Colorado is making to address increased cyber threats, promote innovation and education well as improve response time to cyber threats.

We encourage all our clients to take steps to protect your cyber network and educate yourself and your staff about common threats.  You never know when or how you’ll be attached.

For more information regarding the Governors discussion please visit the recording from the Wilson Center: Wilson Center – Cybersecuirty Innovation its the States Stupid

No Limitations on Expansion

Appliance Factory & Mattress Kingdom’s (AFO) founder and owner, Chuck Ewing has proven thaafo-editedt limitations are just temporary and if you really want to do something, such as expand your business, with the right plan, it can happen.  Chuck now owns sixteen locations, employs over 430 employees and is the nation’s 30th largest appliance and mattress retail.  However, AFO formally known as A&A Quality Appliance wasn’t always a big company, it was actually quite the opposite.   When Chuck was 25-years-old, with a passion for music, and an entrepreneurial spirit, he found a niche buying and selling appliances out of his garage.  In 1986 he opened his first retail store on East Colfax in Denver, selling used appliances. By 1990, GE approached the company about becoming a distributor of scratch and dent merchandise.   Chuck saw an opportunity to change the business focus and a new relationship with GE developed. “This new relationship eventually changed the business model of the company – forever”

Within 5 years of selling the scratch and dent machines, GE was so pleased at the success of A&A Quality Appliance’s that they offered them the opportunity to sell new GE appliances.  In 1998, Chuck bought the building on East Evans and with the implementation of the “appliance sales model,” and within a year Chuck was able to increase sales by 150%.  Chuck continued to expand his reach opening stores in Colorado Springs, Westminster, Fort Collins and additional Denver locations.  By 2002 the company was renamed Appliance Factory Outlet.

In 2003 an opportunity for AFO to take over two Lefty Martin locations (as they were closing) opened up.  AFO was able to retain many of the employees from this deal and reopened two newly branded AFO locations.  Chuck is an opportunist when it comes to expanding his business.  Preferred Lending Partners has been fortunate enough to help Chuck finance two of his facilities with the SBA 504 program.  We are certainly proud of our borrower and appreciate our partnership with US Bank.

Job Creation

504 Loan Program and Job Creation

The 504 Loan Program is focused on helping local businesses create and retain jobs.  Over the past 30 years Preferred Lending Partners has partnered with financial institutions to provide 504 funds to Colorado businesses. These funds have helped businesses retain capital, giving them the opportunity to grow and expand.  In turn they are often able to create new jobs.  Two years after a loan funds, we reach out to our borrowers to see how things are going and see if they’ve created jobs.hp_company

The program is also structured to help businesses that might otherwise let jobs go, retain their employees.  When asked how many jobs our borrower, Monarch Pet Products LLC created and/or retained, Alex Mckinnon stated “Without the facility that is being financed by the SBA loan, it is easy to believe that some of those 13 might have been dropped by the company, but impossible to prove.”  As of May 2016, over a period of 2 years, Monarch Pet Products has created 16 jobs.  Per the SBA guidelines they only needed to create 8 new jobs, they were able to do twice the SBA standard.

In the past 30 years Preferred Lending Partners has helped local businesses create over 5,459 jobs.  Supporting local businesses and helping spur job creation is Preferred Lending Partners main goal. Let us help your business grow. Contact Us

Keeping Your Ducts in Order

Spring is almost over, so many businesses are putting away their mops and buckets as spring cleaning comes to an end.  However, with the quick approach of summer and the heat that comes with it, have you considered building maintenance that could help improve your office environment as well as protect your assets?IMG_0903

Perhaps you’ve cleared out old junk that piled up around the office for the past few months or cleaned up your email folders, but with the approach of summer and the increased stresses on your HVAC systems, have you taken the proper steps to insure you’re operating at full capacity and efficiency?  Have you taken the proper preventative maintenance actions to protect your system?  We sat down with the owners at Ducts Unlimited and discussed what you should do and how it could help your business.

We asked the owners, Robert Leishman, Elissa Leisham and Clifton LaMont for recommendations on maintaining your HVAC and other ventilation components. They all agree that preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid costly repairs and maintain the performance and integrity of your systems.   Business owners should consider checking their systems every 3 to 6 months depending on the system and how it is being used.  Catching a problem early is the best way to avoid large system failure and expense repairs.  Furthermore, just like an oil change, regularly changing your filters and belts along with regular preventative maintenance helps keep your equipment running at specs which allows your systems to operate at their best efficiency levels.

Ducts Unlimited has been providing commercial HVAC Installation and maintenance services to the Front Range since April 2000. Ducts Unlimited is a woman owned business, with over 100 years of combined experience in the HVAC industry. At Ducts Unlimited they’re focused on delivering exceptional customer service and believe every client “deserve(s) a quality job that is done right the first time”.   Robert and Elissa admitted to us that due to the “grace of god” and being blessed with the employees whose work ethic and integrity apply to every job they manage, they’ve been successful and continue to grow and expand.

Driven to Innovate

From the start Raymond W. Lavallee II has had an entrepreneurial spirit. Paired with his drive to innovate and provide high quality products to his customers, Ray has lead Intec into new exciting projects and opportunities.  When Ray was a child, still in grade school, he got an allowance from his father.  He asked his father how he could get more money, and his father responded with “you need to learn to make money with your money.”  So Ray set out buying candy for two cents and selling them for four.  Once he had enough money he bought a shovel and started shoveling snow for the neighbors.  He then saved up for his first lawn mower and by junior high he had 5-7 other kids working for him mowing lawns.  He continued this business through high school and college.

Ray graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Computer Systems and an MBA with a focus on Operations and Manufacturing Management.  With his extensive educational background, he started working for large corporations.  However, he always thought to himself, “hey down the road, if I could position myself and actually obtain a small company, I could really grow it.”  So Ray kept his eyes open, ready to jump on an opportunity if it arose.

Intec was a company founded on innovation and quality, providing portable insulation blowing equipment.  Intec created industry standards which have been and continue to be emulated and copied by others.  Along with innovation, Intec was also driven to provide the highest quality product to their clients.  In 2007, after working on multiple projects and building a relationship with the owner of Intec, Ray saw an opportunity to leverage these characteristics and grow the business.  He joined the company and began building up sweat equity in the business.  Vac SystemAfter taking full ownership Ray took advantage of the low interest rates in the SBA 504 Loan program, allowing Intec to purchase their current facility, and save about 1/3 of what they were spending on rent, reinvesting the funds in Research and Development.  Intec is now able to implement new “upgraded” innovative products, with the same high quality guarantee, the business is known for.  Intec is in a unique place where they are able to listen to a client’s needs and can customize products without sacrificing quality.

Ray’s story is one of drive and perseverance.  He stayed true to his dream of owning a business, and although he admits to unforeseen challenges, like the downturn in the economy, he has managed to grow his company; utilizing innovation to do so.  It is clear to see that Ray is passionate about what he does and proud to be the leader of Intec