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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.

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!

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.

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

Keeping Green In Mind

Being a sustainable business and considering your environmental impact on the world does not have to mean being an environmental activist.  It means breaking down the services your company provides and really considering the environmental impact it has and implementing methods to lesson and/or improve that impact without the need to be radical.IMG_0101

From the beginning Jeff Patch, President of Premium Panels, Inc. has focused on building a company driven to provide customers with the ultimate experience in service and products.  What isn’t as publicized, is the company’s dedication to being Green.  Jeff took the time at the start to consider his products and how his company could be a sustainable company, without impacting quality or service.  A large percentage of all the materials Premium Panels buys is recycled.  Jeff has maintained the mentality that his business should “leave the smallest footprint as possible” from the very beginning and that even the little things can make a difference.

Furthermore, Premium Panels recycles all for their metal scraps from their projects, along with offering their clients the ability to bring their scrap metal to their facility to be recycled.  Jeff explained that “metal can be reused, and reused, it doesn’t need to be new” which allows Premium Panels the opportunity to provide an exceptional product to their clients while keeping Green.

Not only is Premium Panels conscious of their environmental impact, but the product they provide can also help their clients be more sustainable.  Metal roofing has the ability (with proper insulation) to cut a buildings energy bill significantly.  The metal panels reflect the heat back into the atmosphere, unlike tile and asphalt roofing which can trap heat from a hot day for hours after the sun has gone down, hindering the house from quickly cooling off in the evenings.

Green CubeA few years ago, Premium Panels had the opportunity to work with Urban Green Development group on the project, known as The Green Cube home.  It was LEED Platinum certified, and one of the first of its kind in the area.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and concentrates its efforts on improving performance across five areas of environmental and human health: energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, sustainable site development and water savings.  IMG_0096

Colorado is currently ranked fifth in the nation for LEED green building and with businesses, such as Premium Panels, providing green sustainable products, more of us can keep green in mind whatever our future endeavors may be.

A Woman’s Perspective on Business Success

In honor of International Women’s Day, which was earlier this month, we thought we would highlight one of our many borrowers managed and influenced by a strong female presence. Mary Benoit from Mathias Lock & Key Mary Benoit is President and manages the day to day operations of Mathias Lock and Key alongside her two son Benny and Michael Benoit.  Mathias Lock and Key was established in 1901 by John Mathias, as a mechanical shop, focused on fixing just about anything mechanical or repairable.  John left the shop to his nephew Steve Benoit Sr in 1951.  Steve and his wife, Violet ran the business until 1981 when Mary and Steve Benoit Jr. took over.  The business has changed over the years to address specific needs of their clients.  By the time Steve and Mary took over the business it’s focus was on security, locks and safes.

As the President of Mathias Lock and Key, Mary explains that she has had a great experience leading the company. She contributes a lot of her experience to the fact that when she first took up the business, it was just her husband and herself with a couple of guys working for them.  Mary was able to come into her leadership role gradually, she didn’t just jump in with 30 employees, all trying to figure out where each person should fit.  She was able to gradually grow as a leader, earning the respect among her peers and colleagues.  She attributes her success as a leader to making sure that everybody understands what their job is, and furthermore that they want to be doing that job.

In addition, the success and longevity of Mathias Lock and Key can be contributed to, their ability to modify their business plan in order to meet their customers’ needs.  Mary admits that they are constantly analyzing their financials and operations and if services are 2% of their work or 3% of their revenue then maybe they shouldn’t be doing it anymore. Mary’s learned that it is important to spend your efforts and resources on products/ services that work.Welcome to Mathias Lock & Key  When asked about what advise she would share with business owners looking to expand or take over other businesses she replied:

Go with what you know:
Just because you’ve always wanted to be a baker, but you’re a printer, doesn’t mean it’ll work out. It could be a disaster.

Stick with what you know:
Being over anxious can mean you end up buying a business with either a lot of debt or a bad reputation. If you know the industry, you’ll know if it is too far in debt or you’ll know the reputation of the business before you buy it.

Don’t buy something you need to fix:
If the business has a bad reputation you’re better off buy a new location and expanding rather than trying to fix a bad reputation. With a new location there is nothing to fix, you can just build your business how you want.

Mary’s advice for fellow women looking to start or take over a business: “Go for it!  Be educated and know what you’re talking about. That’s how you gain respect.  You’ve got to have respect of your colleagues your peer to succeed.  We all go through phases were we’re a little intimidated and we don’t know anything and then you go through phases where you think you know everything, get a little delusional and a little reckless and then as we mature we figure it out. Lastly, gain an education and have real realistic goals.”

Investing When, Where and Why

With the start of the new year, and the imInvesting (1)minent “tax season” upon us, financial planning is often on the for front of our minds.  Individually, many are thinking of where they are at and what types of investments they may want to make for their futures.  On a larger scale business owners are doing the same thing, evaluating how the previous years turned out and what new ways they can invest, to improve and grow.  No matter the type or size of investing one is looking to get into, it is important to do your research, set clear goals and find trusted resources/partners to assist you with your goals.

Exploring long-term investing we interviewed Michelle Onoda, MBA at Estates Financial Services, for her thoughts on real estate investing.  Michelle specializes in financial planning for both businesses and individuals, and admits that there are benefits as well as clear draw backs to investing in real estate.  Her statements are primarily in residential real estate, however, PLP believes many of the concepts can be applied to commercial real estate.

Many small businesses use the SBA 504 Loan Program to invest in real estate for the long-term.  Businesses use low down payments and fixed interest rates to provide stable grounding for their business operations with potential equity growth and appreciation.  When considering whether to invest in real estate or not the pros can be found in the “hope of potential appreciation in the property; equity build up, tax benefits, and the ability to leverage their money, along with pride of ownership,” Michelle Onoda.

Investing in real estate can be uncomfortable, there are financial commitments with initial down payments, renovation and ongoing maintenance expenses.  However, the long-term return can be significant, especially if planned appropriately.  Here are three statements you may want to consider before spending:

1) Figure out what type of investing you’re looking into doing, long-term or short-term.

2) Determine which investments best match your needs depending on the time you have available to invest.

3) Find the appropriate partners to work with to get you where you want to go.

 

To reach Michelle Onoda please contact her at 303.948.1102 or by email at Michelle@EstatesFinancial.com