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Sage Advice for Business Owners

Our August TweetChat with Andrew Sherman

This month we were very fortunate to have Andrew Sherman as our guest on #PEXCardChat. Andrew is a partner at Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the world. He is also a serial author of 26 books on entrepreneurship, an adjunct professor at both the University of Maryland and Georgetown University, and considered to be one of the top experts on entrepreneurship in America.

PEX Card: You have a great track record on forecasting the future for small business owners and entrepreneurs. What’s ahead in 2015 for them?

Andrew Sherman: Overall, I am bullish on the near future. If I was a weatherman, the forecast would be partly cloudy with a strong chance of sunshine. There are lots of variables with our global economy, the 2014 elections, interest rates, consumer demand, etc. The clouds will pass and we'll all be at risk of sunburn so remember to wear your lotion.

PEX Card: Excellent! We will make sure to add weatherman to your updated bio. Can you tell us what are the biggest issues keeping business owners up at night?

Andrew: Access to capital is certainly an issue I hear brought up by many business owners. Being in Washington D.C., I hear a lot from entrepreneurs about the cost of government regulations and its impact on growing companies. The third concern is probably new customers and increased competition, both domestic and international. Lastly, global uncertainty in Russia and the Middle East is creating uncertainty on top of the usual summer business doldrums.

PEX Card: Let’s get into some specifics of running a business. Do small business owners understand branding in a world now dominated by social media?

Andrew: Some business owners get branding, but many still don’t understand its importance in the company’s growth strategy. Customers, vendors and partners in your ecosystem all want something or someone they can identify with as potential evangelists. The brand can be you, a product or service or even your logo. Think of Apple, the Nike swoosh & Google. All iconic! The key is a clearly defined value proposition and genuine differentiation.

PEX Card: Why is branding so important in the growth strategy for an entrepreneurial company?

Andrew: Strong branding can give companies leverage in the marketplace—especially if the “brand” is trustworthy. On the flip side, if you have a negative or neutral brand image, you are giving leverage to a competitor. In today’s competitive economy, a growing business needs to take advantage of every opportunity. Branding is definitely an opportunity.

PEX Card: Switching now to financing, what’s happening with access to capital for entrepreneurs today? Is it easier to find money?

Andrew: The private capital overhang is very significant. There is a lot of money in the marketplace ready for deployment. The challenge for entrepreneurs is can they articulate the value proposition for the investment to the source of capital?

PEX Card: Is managing cash flow still a major issue for growing companies?

Andrew: Managing cash flow is ALWAYS an issue. Smart companies have triggers when it starts to become an issue. You have to be a squeaky wheel with receivables. Otherwise, your customers will take advantage of your generosity. Cash flow becomes an issue when net 30 suddenly hits net 90. That doesn’t happen on the payables side.

PEX Card: Any final words of advice for business owners and entrepreneurs looking to grow their companies?

Andrew: Surround yourself with great business resources. Be a giant sponge for business trends and capital markets information. Be informed and keep your ears close to the ground. Create a culture of dedication, passion and engagement (this will be the focus of my next book due out in 2015). Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay confident. Lastly, carry an umbrella, and sunscreen, with you at all times.

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