Author Archives:Score Cincinnati

Register Business Now

State of Ohio Fictitious Names & Trade Names

Forms to Register your Business in Ohio

Start with the Secretary of States site Select Businesses on list near the top of the page
This will provide access to:

  • Business Name Search
  • Guide to Name Availability
  • Filing Forms and Fee Schedule

Then Select Businesses again near the top of the page

Select Starting a business in Ohio for a Quick-start list for your business entity. There are additional lists:

  • Starting a Corporation
  • Guide to Nonprofit Corporations
  • Guide to Secured Commercial Transactions
  • Registering your Trademark or Service mark
  • Guide to Starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Guide to Starting a Partnership
  • Guide to Starting a Sole Proprietorship
  • Fictitious Name filing requirement is included
  • Southern Ohio Chapters


We have several Briefs dealing with various aspects of taxes. You will find them here

1st Stop Business Connection

The 1st Stop Business Connection is an easy way to learn about starting a business in Ohio. It provides free state-level information needed to get started or continue on your entrepreneurial journey. Follow this four step process and you’ll be on your way. If you need assistance, please contact us at 1-800-248-4040, 614-466-4232, or

Small business owners who receive three or more hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased growth and SCORE is America’s premier source of free, confidential business advice. If you would like to request a free SCORE Mentor to assist you with developing your business strategy request one here.

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Market Research

Market Research

Market research is defined as research that gathers and analyzes information about the moving of goods or services from producer to consumer.

There are two main approaches to conducting market research. These include:

  • Developing primary data via surveys and focus groups
  • Using secondary data, that which is available through publicly accessible sources Surveys

Once we have determined a particular item or range of data that will assist in our business planning, a choice must be made as to which of the several survey methods available will be used to acquire this information. Online, mail, telephone, and face-to face are the main methods being used. You can commission a market research agency to carry out any of these survey methods if your budget allows.

Surveys allow you to find out the views of a targeted population. The more individuals surveyed, the more reliable will be the results. Online and mail surveys are generally not random and can over- or under- represent segments of the population. Telephone surveys are generally more representative of the population, though wide use of cell phones has complicated the issue.

The secret to a successful survey lies in questions that collect the information you need. Make sure you ask each respondent exactly the same questions and try to avoid any which are leading or ambiguous.

For more information read:

Focus groups

This a small group of people with similar characteristics selected from a wider population for an open discussion of its members’ opinions and emotional responses to a particular subject or area. Generally a group consists of about ten members in a room with a researcher. This is an example of qualitative research, i.e., non-numeric.

Secondary Research

Secondary research uses publicly available data. The upside is that there is no need to conduct surveys; the downside is that such data may be out of date, does not apply to your target market, or that techniques for collecting the data were faulty. Still, this is the most widely used technique.

Secondary data sources you should try include:

  • Articles on Demographic Research, via
  • American Fact Finder, a better indexed version of census data.
  • Biz Stats, comparison of performance for similar businesses.

Industry Codes

Much of available commercial and industrial data is organized by a market segment code, generally NAICS but sometimes by the older SIC code. As an example of how to use a code, let us say you want to make chocolate candy for sale; you plan to purchase the chocolate. The NAICS codes are progressively detailed as the length of the code increases:

Manufacturing 31 Food Manufacture 311 Sugar and Confectionery Product Manufacturing 3113 Confectionery Manufacturing from Purchased Chocolate 31133

Data for NAICS code 31133 will be very useful to your research. For an example of how to find such data, see

Researching Your Competitors

This process begins with finding your competitors. This generally produces answers about who, what, where, when and how. One can obtain this information through Internet searches, looking through industry journals, or talking to knowledgeable sources.

As well as knowing who your competitors are, this will also tell you what they offer and their propositions. This will help you identify your USP. See What’s Your Unique Selling Point? See also “Researching Your Competitors.”

Industry Data

A lot of data exists within trade associations. To find the publications for a specific industry simply Google the words “trade magazine xxxxxx” with xxxxxx being the product or service. For example, “trade magazine chocolate manufacture” provides a link to the National Confectioners Association. Other good sources for trade association data include:

Sometimes it is helpful to have someone not so close to the business help with strategy. If you would like to request a free SCORE Mentor to assist you with developing your strategy request one here.

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Business Man on Top

Comprehensive Business Plan

It is important to remember that the proposed contents shown in this Brief should be treated as a guide, and not as a rigid, all-encompassing format – each business is unique and its business plan should reflect as much; additions, deletions, expansion, and adjustments should be made to fit each unique situation. A business plan for use in applying for a bank loan may require more in-depth data than one prepared for the owner’s guidance. The plan should be updated frequently to reflect revised scenarios as market conditions change, as company strategies evolve, and as projections are surpassed or not reached.


The Executive Summary is critical: This two to three page summary of the plan is where most investors turn first. It is where they decide to read on or to decline the opportunity. It is your opportunity to “make the sale.”

Focus: The business plan should be clear as to the products or services to be developed, and the markets to be addressed by the business. If the company plans to develop a widget and sell it General Motors or to the grocery store down the street, make sure you detail how it’s to be done.

Avoid unsubstantiated superlatives: The “trust me” school of thought doesn’t work in business plans. If your product is going to be the best in the market, thoroughly describe why.

Quantity does not equal quality: The well written plan is succinct and to the point. The typical plan should be able to say it all in 15 to 20 pages, not counting the documentation in the Appendix.

First impressions are lasting impressions: Beware of incorrect spelling, grammar, punctuation, numbers that don’t total, poor organization of the plan. These can add up to sink a proposal that might otherwise float. Take the time to have the plan proofread by several other members of your team.

Have the content evaluated by one or more people, outside the company, whose opinion(s) you trust. Ask if the plan is convincing and what potential problems they can see.

“Slick” plans can be a turnoff: Expensively prepared plans are often perceived as valuing form over substance and a poor use of company funds. Don’t waste scarce financial resources on a too-professional document.

Avoid the use of non-assertive language: Qualifying words such as “might,” probably,” “perhaps,” and the like can have a subtly negative effect on readers. Be positive.

THE BUSINESS PLAN – – – PROPOSED CONTENTSComprehensive Business Plan


The non-disclosure agreement states that the information in the plan is proprietary and is not to be ©2013 shared, copied, disclosed, or otherwise compromised. A control number can be used to cross-reference the plan to a journal kept by the entrepreneur (i.e., copy 14 issued to Jake Johns on September 10, 2013). Control numbering is not critical, but does help keep track of issued plans.


Identify business, name, address, phone and fax numbers, e-mail and web page addresses. Include the name or names of company principal(s) and their position(s). Include the preparer of the plan and the date it was issued. If submitting the plan for a loan, introduce the submission with a business letter personalized to each lender with the reason for the loan request and the amount requested.


Each section of your unique plan should be clearly identified and the pages numbered.


Many consider the executive summary to be the most important part of the plan because it is what investors and lenders read first. It is the “sales pitch” through which an investor will be convinced to spend more time on the plan itself. The executive summary should be as short as possible and should not exceed three pages. It should be a concise and clear highlight of what the company is all about and what’s in it for the investor. It is a concise summary of the details of the body of the business plan. The executive summary should be written last after completing the other sections of the plan. It should include descriptions of the following:

The Company/Business

  • Is the company proposing a new product, or service, or combination?
  • When was the company formed? Who are the company’s principals?

The Product(s)/Service(s)

  • What are you selling? What makes it unique?
  • What are the distinguishing features from the competition: pricing, quality, variety, service?
  • Is it proprietary? What are the entry barriers for the competition?
  • What is the current stage of development of the company?

The Market

  • What is its current size? What market share can the company achieve?
  • Would there be an international market for the product?
  • How fast has the industry been growing (cite sources)? What is its projected growth (cite sources)?


  • How complete is the team?
  • Give brief past relevant experience, highlighting strengths


  • How much money is being sought? How will these funds be used?
  • What are the three to five year revenue and net income projections?
  • To what stage of development will these funds take the company?
  • When will the company break even? When will profits begin?
  • How will the funds be paid back?


An important part of this section is to clearly define your business concept. This would include whether your business involves a product, service or combination, its uniqueness, the anticipated size of the business, and the geographical area intended to be served. Note any patents or copyrights. If the business has a history, it should be stated. Describe the type of customers you are targeting. This definition is important because all sections of the plan will depend on how the business is defined.

Whether you have a manufacturing facility, retail firm, or a service business, there is a typical cycle to the operations that should be described. Describe the facility you will need for the business—its location, size, necessary equipment, accessibility, zoning, and any other special requirements. Do you intend to own or lease the facility and/or its equipment? List the suppliers you will need.


This section should provide an in-depth analysis of how the company perceives their market:

Market description:

  • How big is the market? In what direction is it going and why?
  • What are current market trends? What are relevant economic trends?
  • What is the maturity of the market, growth stage, or level?
  • What related products are available? How many companies are providing these products?

Market players:

  • Who are the end users of the product? Where are they? From whom are they currently buying?
  • Why are they buying? What are they looking for? On what factors are buy decisions being made?

Market segments:

  • How is the market segmented? Geographically, by industries, volume vs. unit buyers, etc.?
  • What are the growth prospects within each segment?

Market distribution:

  • How are products delivered to buyers?
  • By direct sales? Manufacturers’ representatives? Distributors? Competition:
  • Who are they? What is their reputation? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What markets segments do they address?

The better you know your competition, the better you’ll be able to plan around them (and the more you’ll impress potential investors).

How well you know the market will be demonstrated in this section. The sources of knowledge in any market are myriad:

  • Existing competitors’ product brochures and web sites.
  • Interviews with marketing people.
  • Visits to others in a similar business who are not direct competitors
  • Trade publications, trade shows and exhibitions
  • Analyst’s reports, available from many securities brokers
  • Publicly available databases
  • Internet searches
  • Potential customers
  • Users of existing products or services:
  • purchasing directors
  • manufacturing directors
  • others who use these services

Marketing Strategy


After a thorough description of the market, this section should cover, in depth, how you plan to get products or services to your buyers and what strategies you’ll use to help accomplish that task.

  • Target market by demographic segments, geographic, industry, type of buyer
    Here, you want to specifically identify the market niche you will address. What is it about the segment that makes it right for your company? Is it a niche ignored by competitors or ill-served by competitors? If you go into it and make a profit, why won’t a larger competitor enter it also (revenue volume in niche too low, buyers in market are unit purchasers, etc.)?
  • Credibility: company and product/service.
    Why should customers buy a new product or service from an unproven company?
  • Pricing strategy: high, medium or low relative to market? Why?
  • Warranty policies: standard or non-standard?
  • Branding: quality, reliability, service, response time
  • All are key components in company image and should fit neatly with other strategies
  • High quality and low price may not appear to make sense…if they do in your case, explain why)
  • What lead times are expected by your customers?
  • Distribution channels (the means by which the product/service will be provided to you customers):
  • factory distribution
  • company-owned regional distribution o independent remote distribution
  • Servicing:
  • repair/replacement policy
  • factory-only service
  • company field service engineers
  • contracted service
  • Sales terms
  • returned goods policy
  • service contracts
  • profit centers and loss leaders
  • Sales channels o direct sales
  • company representatives (incentives?)
    distributors (co-op advertising and promotion)


Note: If you use reps, what kind of incentives will you use to get them to know and push your products/services? Is it a highly technical product/service requiring skilled sales people? At what level in the buyers’ organizations will sales be made? Should senior management in your company participate directly in the sales effort to establish company and product/service credibility? How will you compensate sales efforts– commissions (payable on order or receipt of payment), bonuses, salary increases?

A strategic matrix can be helpful in selecting your strategy (see Appendix).


  • Provide a detailed description of existing products (with illustrations, if appropriate)
  • Are they market-ready and, if not, how long until they will be?
  • Bill of materials (major components, not too detailed)
  • Potential component supply problems
  • Proprietary protection (trademark, copyright, patent)
  • Advantages/ disadvantages relative to competing products
  • Pricing and costs, expected profit margins
  • Differentiation from competition, services capabilities, strengths, and characteristics. .
  • Future products/services, innovations to existing line, brand extensions, development time lines


Is your product/service ready to go to market, or is some research or development required? If R&D is required, what is needed, what must be done, how long will it take, what resources are required, how will you get them, what financing is required, and how do you plan to get it?


  • Facilities requirements
    location, why selected?
  • leased or purchased
  • Labor requirements
    union relationships
  • local labor pool
  • skilled and unskilled o full time/part time
  • Production options
    sole or multi-sourced
  • quality control o supply issues
  • Capital Needs and equipment list
  • financial requirements including working capital
  • Quality control
  • Critical processes
  • Seasonality
  • Inventory control system
  • Availability of supplies; delivery of orders; purchase/pay arrangements


Describe your management philosophy

  • Management team: job descriptions, responsibilities, compensation, resumes (details in appendix)
  • Organization: legal structure, Board of Directors
  • Personnel: current, future, selection process/recruiting, qualifications, duties, skilled/unskilled
  • Polices/procedures, appraisals
  • Advisors: Accountant, lawyer, insurance, banker, other


List important, measurable goals and milestones for your business, both short and long term. Explain the ultimate destination for your company and how you plan to achieve it. Be realistic and specific, including amounts (such as level of sales or profit),quantities (such as units to be manufactured or sold, employees added, new locations opened, market penetration, diversification) and dates for each (and for key milestones such as signing the lease, completing leasehold improvements, ordering initial stock, hiring employees, initiating advertising, opening for business, etc.). Also indicate who is responsible for achieving each. Such specific milestones serve several purposes: they provide a visual check of the things to be done, they indicate the degree of planning to potential lenders, they provide measures to determine if things are going as planned and an orderly structure as the basis of re-planning.

It is also worthwhile to identify key milestones which, if not met, signal the need to restructure or close the venture, before catastrophe. Pre-plan an exit strategy.


While underlying detail should be available for further discussion, financial projections should include high- level figures, not line item detail, department by department. Present three to five-year projections, monthly for at least the first year (but not more than two) and quarterly or annually for the remaining years.

Current and Historical Conditions: If the business has a history, financial statements (including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, changes in shareholders equity and cash flow statements) for the past three years it should be included. Past tax returns may also be required.

Forecasts: A financial forecast is usually required to show the business’ ability to repay loans or investments. Generally, the first year should be shown by months, the second by quarters, and the third annually. The forecast should include profit and loss statements, balance sheets, changes in shareholders equity and cash flow statements. A list of key assumptions should also be included.

Personal Financial Statement: A personal financial statement will be required of all owners if applying for financing. However it is important for the non-borrower to complete one in order to determine how much he can invest in the business. The statement itself can be placed in the appendix, but should support the investment cash shown in the Cash Flow Statement. If a loan application is involved, it may be desirable to consult with the lending institution to ask what they would require in the financial section of your plan.

The Request For Financing: Describe the purpose of the loan and provide any additional supporting detail that may be helpful (by listing itemized start-up expenses, capital expenditures, etc.). Discuss method and timing of repayment.

Accounting: Decide whether to use cash or accrual accounting procedures. XIV. APPENDIX

  • Additional detail on the various sections of the plan
  • Leases, contracts, résumés, permits
  • Articles of incorporation or partnership agreements
  • Letters of intent or reference
  • Technical or marketing supporting data
  • Resumes of key managers
  • Insurance requirements
  • Lists of suppliers or vendors; inventories and supplies available In defining strategy, you may want to use a strategy matrix:

Choose your strategy

Business Strategy

The circle on the matrix represents your enterprise.
Both axes are divided into three segments, yielding nine cells. The nine cells are grouped into three zones:

The light-gray zone consists of the three cells in the upper left corner. If your enterprise falls in this zone you are in a favorable position with relatively attractive growth opportunities. This indicates a “green light” to invest in this product/service.

The medium-gray zone consists of the three diagonal cells from the lower left to the upper right. A position in the yellow zone is viewed as having medium attractiveness. Management must therefore exercise caution when making additional investments in this product/service. The suggested strategy is to seek to maintain share rather than growing or reducing share.

The dark-gray zone consists of the three cells in the lower right corner. A position in the red zone is not attractive. The suggested strategy is that management should begin to make plans to exit the industry.

For additional information, see:

If you would like to request a free SCORE Mentor to assist you with developing a business plan request one here.

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business plan roundup

Business Plan Roundup

There are not many things more important for the success of any small business than a well written business plan.

We have clients that have accomplished things because of a business plan such as negotiating a lease that gave the client time to build the business before the full lease term payments kicked in. Another client actually secured a government contract before they have the employees to fulfill it.

Your business plan will be your roadmap to follow as you build your business.

Simplified Business Plan Outline

This simplified business plan outline is for a small business, and needs to be developed whether or not there is a need for outside funding such as bank loans or venture capital. Remember, the primary reason for a business plan is to provide you with a guide book of how YOU intend to operate YOUR business and measure it’s performance. Continue reading Brief 03.00


It is important to remember that the proposed contents shown in this Brief should be treated as a guide, and not as a rigid, all-encompassing format – each business is unique and its plan should reflect as much; additions, deletions, expansion, and adjustments should be made to fit each unique situation. A plan for use in applying for a bank loan may require more in-depth data than one prepared for the owner’s guidance. The plan should be updated frequently to reflect revised scenarios as market conditions change, as company strategies evolve, and as projections are surpassed or not reached. Continue reading Brief #03.02

You may also want to review the COMPREHENSIVE BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE as a guide for writing your business plan. Brief #03.01

Library Business Plans

Often we forget about all of the resources available at our local libraries. The Cincinnati Library has an exhaustive list of sample business plans and guidance material. Brief #01.10

The Strategic Plan

The strategic plan provides the basic focus and guidelines that drive the business planning process. It covers a multi-year period and provides a long-term perspective for your business and furnishes the business with a decision support framework to be used year around.

Strategic planning is a fundamental requirement of any successful business. It establishes and communicates direction and vision for the organization to follow, and allows management to respond to unexpected opportunities in your market place. Continue Reading Brief #03.12

What is an elevator pitch?

One of the most difficult tasks for any business owner is developing a succinct elevator pitch that allows them to explain to anyone what their business does and who it services.

An elevator pitch is an overview of your business that can be conveyed within 30 seconds (30-80 words) during the ride of an elevator. It should leave your listener wanting to know more. Elevator pitches can be written for products, people or businesses. Continue Reading Brief #03.14

Online Business Plan Resources

This brief offers more than eight online resources that you will find very helpful in preparing your business plan. Remember your business plan is one of the most important documents you can produce for your business. Continue Reading Brief #03.16

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The Strategic Plan

The strategic plan provides the basic focus and guidelines that drive the business planning process. It covers a multi-year period and provides a long-term perspective for your business and furnishes the business with a decision support framework to be used year around.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a fundamental requirement of any successful business. It establishes and communicates direction and vision for the organization to follow, and allows management to respond to unexpected opportunities in your market place.

Although no plan can detail every step along your future path, your plan can provide clear direction for the planning period. You should identify two or three strategic initiatives for the planning period. Success with these will enable you to achieve your business goals. To support your strategic plan, you will need a plan (operating plan) that describes how you intend to support the initiatives over the next 12 to 18 months.

Small businesses are not scale models of big businesses; they are characterized by resource poverty and dependence on a fairly localized market. Their greater vulnerability to the consequences of a lack of focus stresses the importance of their strategic plan.

Critical Success Factors

Before we begin a Strategic Plan we should examine our objectives for the plan. Here is a set of suggested factors that are critical for success:

  1. Developing a market-oriented customer focus.
  2. Improving productivity at all level of your business.
  3. Staying focused, following your plan, and re-evaluating your plan, as needed, to meet the changes in your business environment.
  4. Staying close to your customers.
  5. Maintaining recognition as a “Marker Leader” in your target market.
  6. Providing a strategic vision and tactical focus that enable each team member to clarify their role in contributing to achieving your plan.
  7. Valuing and supporting an environment that encourages and rewards risk taking, maintains high ethics, and supports personal development.
  8. Having a plan for managing accelerated changes to ensure orderly business operations are maintained.
  9. Striving for excellence in all aspects of your business.

Developing the plan

The strategic plan defines the company’s “competitive edge,” that collection of factors that sets the business apart from its competitors and promotes its chances for success. It requires a clear evaluation of the competitive business climate and an intimate knowledge of the market for the entrepreneur’s product.

The foundation for the strategic plan is a clear mission statement for the venture. Addressing the following questions can assist in developing this statement:

What business am I in? The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. A good example of an industry group that failed to take a broader view is the railroads. If they had viewed their business as transportation rather than trains-and-tracks, then the airlines would be named Union Pacific and Illinois Central.

Who is our service intended to satisfy? What customer needs are being satisfied? How are these needs being satisfied, that is, by which of our methods or products?

An important strategic option is in how we price our product (as a price leader, value leader, or prestige product). Another choice can be the particular “niche,” or subset of the market, we seek to serve.

Once we have set internal objectives, we must examine the external and competitive environments in which we will be trying to achieve them.

The external environment consists of those factors that are largely outside our control, but affect the market for our product. Examples of these factors include general economic conditions, regulations, technological developments, and consumer demographics and attitudes. This environment is very dynamic, but some attempt must be made at projecting its changes.

Analysis of the competitive environment must begin with consideration of whether there are any barriers to entry of a new competitor into the market. How strong is consumer loyalty to existing brands? How important are economies of scale; can a small independent firm compete?

Barriers to entry include: Are capital requirements prohibitive? Is there some proprietary technology that puts prospective entrants in a serious competitive disadvantage? Is access to some materials or to distribution channels limited in some way? Are new entrants limited by permit restrictions or regulations?

The competitive structure of the industry is another important consideration. Are there a few dominant firms, or is the industry fairly fragmented? Will current competitors attempt to “punish” new entrants, such as through a price war, heavy advertising, or exercising their clout with key suppliers? Is there some geographic niche we can serve? What factors create cost advantages or disadvantages? How important is a firm’s position on the learning and experience curves? How are prices set? Is demand rising, even, or falling? Are there exit barriers that raise the risk of entry?

Can buyers perform the services themselves? Do they have a wide choice of vendors? Are there less expensive or superior substitutes to our service in some segments of the market?

These are certainly not easy questions to answer, but performing the research to make better informed decisions, and addressing these questions “head-on” can improve our chances of success.


Within the briefs format all we can provide is an overview. For detailed information see:

Free Management Library

The Strategic Planning Process

If you would like to request a Cincinnati SCORE Mentor to assist with your planning please click here.


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Key Financial Ratios

Financial Ratios

Financial ratios are designed to measure aspects of financial performance. These ratios can be meaningful used alone, but are generally more useful when compared to other companies in the same or similar industries. These comparisons will identify variations from the norm which may then warrant management attention. See RESOURCES, below, for more ratios and sources of industry data.

In addition, as with other measures, how these ratios change over time can be important to identifying trends, either problem areas or areas that have shown improvement. It is common for banks and other lenders to include some of these ratios in loan documents, which usually allows the bank to take action if the ratios fall below specified thresholds.

Below are some of the more commonly used ratios:

Current Ratio =       Current Assets
                                Current Liabilities

Current assets are those normally expected to flow into cash in the course of a merchandising cycle or in one year. These include cash, notes receivable due within one year, accounts receivable and inventory.

Current liabilities are obligations due within one year, e.g. accounts payable to suppliers, accrued liabilities, short term bank loans, and taxes. This ratio is an indication of a firm’s ability to meet its current obligations.

Generally, the higher the current ratio, the greater the “cushion” between current obligations and a firm’s ability to pay them. The stronger ratio reflects a numerical superiority of current assets over current liabilities. However, the composition and quality of current assets is a critical factor in the analysis of an individual firm’s liquidity. A 2-1 ratio, assets to liabilities, is typically considered a healthy short-term financial condition.

Quick Ratio (“Acid Test”) =  Current Assets – Inventory
                                                         Current Liabilities

The quick ratio is more conservative than the current ratio, a more well-known liquidity measure, because it excludes inventory from current assets.

Inventory is excluded because some companies have difficulty turning their inventory into cash. In the event that short-term obligations need to be paid off immediately, there are situations in which the current ratio would overestimate a company’s short-term financial strength.

Debt to Worth (D/W) =    Total Liabilities
                                                Net Worth

This ratio expresses the relationship between capital contributed by creditors and that contributed by owners. It expresses the degree of protection provided by the owners for the creditors. The higher the ratio, the greater the risk being assumed by creditors. A lower ratio generally indicates greater long-term financial safety.

A firm with a low debt/worth ratio usually has greater flexibility to borrow in the future. A more highly leveraged company has a more limited capacity for more debt.

Gross Profit Percentage =    Gross Profit
                                                     Net Sales

Gross profit represents sales less cost of goods sold. It is the amount available to cover selling, general and administrative expenses, plus profit. A low gross profit percentage could mean the company is paying too much for its merchandise or setting selling prices too low (or giving away too much through sales discounts or promotions). For a manufacturing company, a low gross profit % could also be an indication of inefficient production processes.

Net Worth as a Percent of Assets =    Net Worth
                                                                  Total Assets

This ratio expresses the relationship between capital contributed by the owner(s) plus profits retained in the business, i.e. not paid out in the form of bonuses, draws, dividends, partnership distributions, etc., and total assets. This is a key indicator of a company’s internally generated financial strength. The higher the equity percentage, the lesser the liabilities as a percent of assets. A lower percentage equity indicates a greater dependency on debt to sustain operations. When the percentage equity is zero or less, the company is totally reliant on borrowing and unable to generate operating capital internally.

Return on Sales =    Net Profit
                                    Net Sales

This is a measure of how much of each sales dollar falls to the “bottom line” as profit. A 5% return on sales means that $.05 of each sales dollar remains after all expenses were paid. This return is available to make distributions to the owners or re-invest in the business. Keep in mind that if your legal entity does not pay income taxes (LLC, S Corp, Proprietorship or Partnership), some of this net profit will likely be distributed so the owner(s) can pay these taxes.

Return on Investment (ROI) =    Net Profit (pre-tax)
                                                                 Net Worth

Net worth is the claim by the owner(s) to the assets of the business. Proprietorship and partnership net worth is each owner’s original investment plus or minus earnings after withdrawals. In a corporation, the owners are the shareholders.

The corporate net worth is the sum of the contributions (initial stock purchases) plus earnings retained in the business after paying dividends. This ratio expresses the rate of return on owners’ investment in the business. It can serve as an indicator of management performance. It should be used in conjunction with other ratios as a high return normally associated with effective management could indicate an undercapitalized company. A low return, usually an indicator of inefficient management performance, could reflect a highly capitalized, conservatively financed business.

Return on Assets (ROA) =    Net Profit (pre-tax)
                                                        Total Assets

This is a measure of operating effectiveness, since it measures the profit generated as a percentage of the assets deployed in the business. A high percentage reflects effective utilization of assets to generate profit. This ratio differs from ROI (see above) because it eliminates the impact of debt on the percentage return.

Debt Service Coverage =    Annual Cash Flow before Principal and Interest / Annual Debt Service (Principal and Interest)

Debt Service Coverage is a measure of how adequate the company’s cash flow is in relation to its debt obligations. The higher the coverage ratio, the easier it is to handle the debt payments. Bankers commonly use this ratio when evaluating new loan applications.


For more ratios of interest, see:
Financial ratios vary by industry and company size. Sources of data that are relevant to your particular business type can be found in the following databases:

  • Annual RMA (Risk Management Association) Financial Statement Studies. Excellent source for comparative business data for a fee. These are available without a fee in many libraries.
  • BizMiner offers business statistics and financial ratios.
  • Your trade association. For example, with a membership you can see the American Supply Association’s Operation Performance Report. Without a membership you can see trends in the industry.

If you would like to request a Cincinnati SCORE Mentor please click here.



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Selecting a PR/Marketing Agency

Public Relations

While Public Relations and Marketing are two separate functions, they share many of the same considerations when selecting an agency for your company. After discussing these considerations we will consider what is unique to each function.

Base the decision on value

Make a decision about your agency based on the value it can deliver, not on price alone. A good agency will match the best mix of activities against your budget to maximize the results.

Is the prospective agency interested in your company?

A strong indicator that your prospective agency will do a good job is if they ask lots of questions. Never trust a firm that delivers your entire strategy based on a quick call to you. How can they hope to understand the business goals and your individual pressures without spending some time with you and getting to know your organization?

Do they understand your objectives?

Ensure that clear goals are set out from the start and that any agency is prepared to measure the same. If your agent is to achieve meaningful results, it needs to understand what your business is trying to achieve from the very start of the relationship.

Is there chemistry?

Good results come with effective teamwork. See your agency as an extension to your marketing effort and don’t approach this as a buyer-seller relationship. The chemistry has to be right and if you are in any doubt, don’t hire them. You need someone with whom you can bond and who understands the demands made on you.

Take time to select the right agency for you

This is an important decision for the business – both in terms of the impact PR and marketing can have, and the level of time and budget required from the business.

Selection of these agencies is an important investment and should not be rushed. Take time to select and see agencies relevant to your business and ask for client references. Meet agencies for ‘credential meetings’ (the chemistry test) and invite those you like to respond to your brief. Make your final decision based on their pitch and your experience of the interaction you’ve had with them through the process.

Messages should be consistent and compelling across all your communication channels, including your website, sales collateral, press material and direct mail.

Why does your business need PR/Marketing?

Will these functions help you prosper? They must be accountable – make sure you get a return on your investment by ensuring that your objectives map on to your business plan.

Where does PR/Marketing fit into your overall marketing effort?

Understand exactly where these functions fit within your marketing effort. Share your business and marketing objectives with your prospective agency so that it can interconnect with other marketing activities to deliver maximum value.

Adapted from an article by Chris Hewitt, CEO of Berkeley PR which employs 30 people in the UK’s Thames Valley, Derbyshire and Bristol.

How do PR and the functions of a Marketing Agency differ?

Public Relations is defined as Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives Public relations is the opposite of advertising. In advertising, you pay to have your message placed in a newspaper, TV or radio spot. In public relations, the article that features your company is not paid for. The reporter, whether broadcast or print, writes about or films your company as a result of information he or she received and researched.

Publicity is more effective than advertising, for several reasons. First, publicity is far more cost effective than advertising. Even if it is not free, your only expenses are generally phone calls and mailings to the media. Second, publicity has greater longevity than advertising. An article about your business will be remembered far longer than an advertisement. Most importantly, publicity has greater credibility with the public than does advertising. Readers feel that if an objective third party – a magazine, newspaper or radio reporter – is featuring your company, you must be doing something worthwhile.

A marketing agency is defined as an organization that, on behalf of clients, drafts and produces advertisements, places advertisements in the media, and plans advertising campaigns. Such agencies may also perform other marketing functions, including market research and consulting. Instead of focusing on merely advertising, a truly effective agency focuses on marketing and knows that advertising is but one form of marketing.


Full service agencies strive to integrate all aspects of a client’s marketing operations so that clients get a better overall return for their marketing dollar. Traditionally, agencies are compensated by the commission received from the media in which they placed advertisements.

Any creative, planning, or buying services would be covered by that commission, which means that these services are effectively free to the advertiser. Marketing services are unique to each case, but there are some essential principles common to most advertising campaigns.

The primary objectives of advertising are:

  • Increasing the sales of the product/service
  • Creating and maintaining a brand identity or brand image. Communicating a change in the existing product line.
  • Introduction of a new product or service.
  • Increasing the buzz- value of the brand or the company.
  • The media available for advertising include:
  • On-line Advertising – Email, In-text Ads, Mobile Device Ads, Search Engine Ads & optimization, etc.
  • Print Advertising – Newspapers, Magazines, Brochures, Fliers.
  • Outdoor Advertising – Billboards, Kiosks
  • Event Advertising – Tradeshows and Events
  • Broadcast advertising – Television, Radio and the Internet Covert Advertising – Product Placement
  • Public Service Advertising – Advertising for Social Causes Celebrity Advertising

If you would like to request a Cincinnati SCORE Mentor please click here.

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Requirements for Day Care Center

Requirements for Child Day Care Centers in Cincinnati

The information presented herein for the City of Cincinnati is intended only to provide a general picture of the industry, a partial checklist, and sources of current comprehensive information. The regulations are regularly reviewed and periodically modified. It is likely that similar controls will be in place in other locations, particularly in the State of Ohio. It is necessary to inquire with local authorities before planning a center in any location.

State of Ohio Administrative Codes 5101:2-12-01 thru -99 are incorporated and enhanced in the City of Cincinnati Board of Health Regulation 00013, which controls local childcare centers.

Licensing is required by the State of Ohio and by the City of Cincinnati and can be applied for at:

Ohio Dept. of Job & Family Services Cincinnati District Office
Bureau of Child Care Services
222 E. Central Pkwy

Cincinnati, OH 45202

Telephone: 1-866-635-3748 Option 2 Ext. 1 Telephone: 1-866-635-3748 Option 2 Ext. 1

Day Care Licensing
Cincinnati Dept. of Health
3101 Burnet Avenue, Room 202 Cincinnati, OH 45229

Telephone: 513-357-7456 Telephone: 513-357-7460

In addition, a help line is available 1-866-886-3537 option 2 from 8:00 A.M to 5:00 P.M.

For an excellent source of information see:\cdc\providers.stm Completed applications should be mailed to:
Ohio Dept. of Job & Family Services
TSDC P.O. Box 714834
Columbus, Ohio 43271-4834

Other valuable sources of information are:

Comprehensive Community Child Care (also called “4C”), is a non-profit agency organized to provide consultation, technical assistance and other services to promote quality child care in the Cincinnati area. The main office is at 1924 Dana Ave, Cincinnati 45207. There is a Northern Kentucky located at 20 Grand Ave. Ft. Thomas, Ky. The phone number for both locations is 513-221-0033. This organization is very interested in working with people who want to establish quality daycare facilities.

City of Cincinnati Board of Health Child Day Care Licensing Law. Send requests and the required fee by check or money order to the Day Care Licensing address shown above.

Ohio Department of Development publication Quality Care for Children. This very informative and useful publication may be obtained from the Department of Human Services at the address shown above.

Both the state and the city provide consulting services to guide applicants in the licensing procedure and to assist in the planning process.

Who is required to have a license?

The City of Cincinnati requires that a valid license be on hand in the name of the child day care center:

  • If four or more children under two (current age) are in the care of the care center at one time, or if seven or more children of any age are in the care of the care center at one time.
  • Children of the staff and of volunteers, or playmates, who are in the center, must be included in the count that establishes the requirement for the licensing.


State of Ohio

Final written license approval must be obtained from the state; however, City of Cincinnati agencies have been delegated authority to certify to the state an applicant’s compliance with some requirements. Applications should be made to:

  • Ohio Department of Human Services: final state licensing authority.
  • Ohio Department of Industrial Relations, Board of Building Standards, or a certified local building department: environmental, safety and sanitation requirements.
  • State Fire Marshall or designated local fire official: fire safety regulations.
  • Cincinnati Department of Health (on behalf of the state): food service operation, if required or provided (see below), or an exemption certificate. For more information on state requirements, see:

City of Cincinnati

A license must also be obtained from the Cincinnati Department of Health, Day Care Licensing. An application must be made to the agencies that participate in the final licensing:

  • Building Code Plan Examination: building, facilities, equipment plan.
  • Zoning Code Administration: use of location.
  • Fire Prevention Division: fire safety inspection.
  • Inspection Bureau Inc.: building plan compliance.
  • Health Department: environmental safety inspection.
  • Health Department, Food Service Inspection: food service operator license.


Application forms to the state and the city must be accompanied by a Business Plan with content essential to ensuring specific required procedures and sound business policies, including, for example:

  1. Plan of Operation

Total child capacity; days of week in operation; hours of operation; snacks and meals; quality goals; planned adult to child ratios; staff skills requirements; organization; job descriptions and scheduling; continuing staff training; employment policies; staff pay schedules; child care fee schedules; financial plan including P&L and cash flow projections; marketing plan including target market strategy and advertising.

It is also important to consider early in your planning the role to be played by your insurance coverage. Liability insurance is a must! Discuss this with your personal insurance agent.

  1. Sample Files on Staff and Children

Background checks through the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation are required.

  • staff-signed documents attesting to their reading and understanding the definitions of child abuse and neglect and their responsibility to report such incidents.
  • medical records stating staff members are tested and free of communicable diseases.
  • records of staff specialized training in health, safety and child development skills.
  • children’s medical records verifying prescribed inoculations and absence of communicable diseases.
  1. Program Policies and Procedures
  • ratio of ages of children to be admitted at one time.
  • child development goals, plans and programs. Will structured education be included?
  • child activity schedules, furnished toys and equipment.
  • nutrition plans and schedules.
  1. Parent’s Handbook
  • planned child development goals.
  • hours of operation.
  • snacks, meals and nourishment plans.
  • child’s daily health and hygiene requirements for admission.
  • drop off and pick up rules and security.
  • fees for child care and payment requirements.


The city’s published purpose of licensing a child day care center is to assure care, protection, supervision and the promotion of sound growth and development necessary to the child’s health, safety and welfare.

The entrepreneur who considers launching a child care center or buying and continuing operations of an existing one is urged to investigate and take into account, at the earliest possible point, the extensive and very strict standards that must be met in this industry. Some of these involve the specifications for housing and space per child, facilities and equipment; fire safety and staff training for child medical emergencies; ratios of staff and assistants to numbers of children; sanitation; meals; and education programs. Details are available through the state and local agencies listed above.

Need support in getting through all of the requirements for a daycare? Request a free SCORE Mentor here.


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Covington Catering Company Owner Named SCORE Client of the Year

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Contact: Melinda Zemper                                                                                                              Sept. 26, 2016


Phone: (513) 706-3737


Covington Catering Company Owner Named SCORE Client of the Year

The Delish Dish catering firm and Made by Mavis jellies and jams of Covington were selected top regional businesses Sept. 16 at the annual SCORE luncheon and awards ceremony.

The two businesses are owned by Mavis Linneman-Clark of Bellevue, Ky.

SCORE is the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration. Its 100-plus mentors provide no-cost mentoring and low-cost small business workshops for entrepreneurs who are high on passion, but need the practical business guidance and support that only seasoned business owners and managers can provide.

The catering company was formed in 2012 to bring globally-inspired dishes and artisan jams to greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Carlin Stamm of Mt. Lookout is Linneman-Clark’s SCORE mentor.

“I consider Mavis the ideal SCORE client,” said Stamm. “She’s smart, prepared for business meetings and passionate, as well as continually cheerful. She has gone in three years from zero income to about $500,000 projected for this year.”

Linneman-Clark had been working with Stamm on her business when she was selected a Bad Girls Venture finalist in the spring of 2013. She joined the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen to expand her catering business and launched an artisan jam line called Made by Mavis.

Rebecca Volpe, director of the Small Business Development Center at Northern Kentucky University, helped Linneman-Clark develop cost information and financial projections in her search for a suitable building for her to purchase, said Stamm.

In 2015, Linneman-Clark was one of the faces of the Kroger Buys Local campaign through the Kentucky Proud program.

SCORE named two other Clients of the Year: Helping Hands of NKY of Florence, Ky., and NANI Massage of Mason, Ohio.

Annual service awards were also announced at the luncheon. SCORE mentors who have volunteered for 10 years include:

Claudia Aviles of West Chester; Bill Haman of Indian Hill; Tom Moon of Cincinnati; and Dick Wendel of Cincinnati;

SCORE mentors who have volunteered for five years include: Brian Hanley of Cincinnati; Dan Herche of Cincinnati; Mary Hurlburt of Cincinnati; Bill Schlueter of Cincinnati; Greg Spontak of Loveland; Carlin Stamm of Cincinnati; and Jane Vanderhorst of Cincinnati.

For more information about Delish Dish catering, go to and for Made by Mavis jams and jellies, go to

For information about SCORE workshops or mentoring, call (513) 684-2812 or visit

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Helping Hands NKY COY

Florence Home Care Company Named SCORE Client of the Year

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Contact: Melinda Zemper                                                                                                              Sept. 26, 2016


Phone: (513) 706-3737 

Florence Home Care Company Named SCORE Client of the Year

Helping Hands NKY in Florence, Ky., was selected a Client of the Year Sept. 16 at the annual SCORE luncheon and awards ceremony.

SCORE is the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration. Its 100-plus mentors provide no-cost mentoring and low-cost small business workshops for entrepreneurs who are high on passion, but need the practical business guidance and support that only seasoned business owners and managers can provide.

Helping Hands is owned by David Sarker of Walton. Steve Bradley of Fort Mitchell and Mary Willenborg of Edgewood are his SCORE mentors.

After a career as a commercial airline pilot, Sarker decided he wanted to spend more time with his two children. He wanted to start a business that would allow him to stay close to home.

He formed Helping Hands NKY in 2010 to provide in-home care for clients who range from ages five to 100-plus years old. The company offers a safe, reliable and caring option for people who need assistance, but prefer to stay in their own homes. It offers grooming and hygiene care; meal planning and preparation; light housekeeping and companionship.

“I met Mary at a chamber of commerce meeting and we clicked right away,” said Sarker. “She told me about SCORE and I jumped at the chance to have help with the business. Originally it was tough, because she and Steve made me do things I didn’t want to do—like look at numbers and setting price points. I also had to make some hard choices about getting rid of an employee who was costly, but not producing.”

“We had a bit of tweaking to do,” said Willenborg. “We helped him with goal setting and gave him confidence that if he raised his rates, people would not care because he had such high-quality customer service.”

Sarker said revenues are on track to reach $500,000 this year. Since his experience with SCORE has been positive and he likes the idea of helping other entrepreneurs, he has decided to become a SCORE mentor, he said.

SCORE named two other Clients of the Year: The Delish Dish catering and Made by Mavis jellies and jams of Covington; and NANI Massage of Mason.

Annual service awards were also announced at the luncheon. SCORE mentors who have volunteered for 10 years include:

Claudia Aviles of West Chester; Bill Haman of Indian Hill; Tom Moon of Cincinnati; and Dick Wendel of Cincinnati;

SCORE mentors who have volunteered for five years include: Brian Hanley of Cincinnati; Dan Herche of Cincinnati; Mary Hurlburt of Cincinnati; Bill Schlueter of Cincinnati; Greg Spontak of Loveland; Carlin Stamm of Cincinnati; and Jane Vanderhorst of Cincinnati.

For more information about Helping Hands NKY, visit

For information about SCORE workshops or mentoring, call (513) 684-2812 or visit

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