Understanding Cash Flow Impacts Your Business Success

March 13th, 2018

Your business’ cash flow statement is one of the most important financial documents you utilize as a business owner. Cash flow statements report the cash generated (income) and used (expenses) during a given time period, and categorizes those expenses as operating expenses, investing activities, and financing activities. Because it is a true indicator of a business’ cash inflow and outflow, your cash flow statement provides the best gauge of whether your business is financially healthy or headed for trouble. Either way, knowing is much better than not knowing, and with a timely cash flow statement in hand, a business owner can make the decisions required to course correct when necessary.

“Financial reports are the GPS for your business. The successful business owners I have dealt with are ones who stay on top of their numbers”, says Magnusson Balfour Business Broker, Ed Larochelle. “A strong business owner is going to have financial goals for the year, some parameters for expenses, and be conducting regular reviews of their cash flow statement. How can you know how your business is doing unless you have timely financial information that you actually look at?!”

Successful businesses:

  • Set annual financial goals;
  • Stay on top of business cash flow with timely reports;
  • React quickly to financial changes; and
  • Understand the difference between cash flow and taxable income.

From a business broker’s point of view, a business’ cash flow statement plays a critical role in business valuation. It’s a warning sign when a business owner is asked for the financial information, and their response is to hand over three years of tax returns in unopened envelopes from their accountant, and they’ve never asked to receive interim cash flow statements that they review. This scenario is an example of a business that is running the owner, not an owner running their business. When your business is running you, all you can do is hope for the best and react. When you are running your business, you can plan. In order to have planned responses to financial changes – to be able to recalculate, reposition, track your margins, and know your expenses are not out of hand – you must get timely financial reports and review them carefully.

Not every business owner understands the importance of staying on track and having clear financial goals. Having all your bills paid up and a balance in your bank account is not staying on top of your business’ financial health. An owner who knows their numbers is always more successful than the owner who is just going through the motions, reacting when needed. That owner is not really in charge. It’s like riding a toboggan down a hill and hoping you don’t run into a rock, versus getting in a car and steering yourself where you want to go and around the rocks!

A successful business owner can say at any given time, “I have a goal of increasing my business 10% a year in both gross revenue and cash flow, here are my monthly reports of where we are, and here are the adjustments I have made to keep us on track to meet our goals.”

Set measurable annual goals.

Having clear, annual goals are the foundation of business success. Before the start of a new year, it makes sense to look at last year to see how your business has been doing. Look at areas that need improvement, what expenses can be reduced. Maybe the business is growing and will need the added expense of additional staff or new equipment. A goal might be paying yourself more (“I want to make a six-figure income”), so what do you need to do to get there? What do you want to do revenue-wise, what do you want to do income-wise, is expansion desired? Are there major investments in the business necessary? You can’t pick numbers out of the air, so you need timely financial reports to show you where your money went over the last year.

Throughout the year, preferably monthly but certainly quarterly, carefully review the financials via the cash flow statement, and compare them to the goals that are set and make course corrections as necessary. This makes things so much easier – you may not be on target, but you will eliminate more costly expenses from burying your head in the sand!

Monthly financial reports save time and money.

People get overwhelmed with financial management, leaving everything to someone else because they don’t like dealing with it, or perhaps they don’t really understand it so it’s human nature to avoid these things. However, if we break it down, business financials are a lot simpler than they may look at the outset. A simple spreadsheet detailing income and expenses can go a long way to organizing money in and money going out, and software programs like QuickBooks are affordable and handy because you just need to plug your numbers in and the reports auto-generate for you at the touch of a button.

Having the information delivered to you by some mechanism on a month to month basis, gives you what you need to know as a business owner, and will keep the business on track and alert the need to make changes before things get worse. When you know up to the minute (or as timely as you post information) how your business is doing, compared to your goals, you can figure out where you are doing well or going in the wrong direction. When revenue and expenses can be monitored easily, and you know what your budget is and where it stands currently, the power is in your hands and you are running your business proactively. Perhaps you need to raise your prices, look for better supplier agreements, or maybe there is money to purchase new equipment now and start making money with it in this fiscal year. Cash flow statements show you in detail the performance of your business so you can run it effectively.

Tax returns are misleading.

Tax returns have a totally different purpose in the financial picture of a business. Tax returns don’t tell you what the business is actually doing on a weekly/monthly basis, nor do they provide an accurate picture of a business’ performance. The level of financial detail doesn’t show the impact of individual expenses, or how they relate to the budget. Because we are always looking for ways to reduce our taxable income in a business, adjustments such as depreciation, non-cash paper transactions, and perks and benefits to owners are used to reduce taxable income and consequently the tax burden. As you can see, these adjustments skew the picture of actual cash flow.

Cash flow is not income.

There is a distinct difference between income and cash flow. Income (taxable income) has been adjusted to reflect the benefits and compensation to owner, depreciation, interest expenses, perks in lieu of compensation, and non-recurring expenses. Debt service impacts the cash flow statement in two different ways: the interest shows as an expense, but the principle repayment amount is not considered an actual expense on a financial statement; however, it is considered when evaluating the actual cash flow requirements for the business when considering profitability and value. Cash flow is determined after all these adjustments have been made, hence showing the real performance and cash flow requirements of the business. Clearly understanding the difference between income and cash flow is of great benefit to owners and financial management, another reason that a tax return is not the best report to use.

When a business broker is determining the value of a business, it is critical to be using accurate cash flow rather than looking only at the tax returns or business income. The only way to really know how a business is performing and what it is worth, is to use an accurate cash flow statement where those adjustments have not been made to the bottom line. That is how we compare your business accurately to other businesses as well, a key component in determining valuation.

The only way to figure out what’s what is to stop and get your numbers in front of you. It’s the only way to gain some control over the future of the business. You either react and become a victim of the numbers, or with preparation and planning you minimize financial surprises. Which sounds better?

Run your business – don’t let your business run you!

Special thanks to Magnusson Balfour Broker Ed Larochelle for his valuable input into this article!

Broker on the Move: Dennis Wheelock Can Relate to the Needs of Small Businesses in Maine

March 5th, 2018

Magnusson Balfour Broker, Dennis Wheelock, has been a business owner and member of the Gardiner community for most of his adult life. Owning Dennis’ Pizza in Gardiner for 30 years, Dennis connects on a personal level with the small business owners and entrepreneurs he works with because he has lived it. He understands what it takes to run a business, the struggles business owners face, and what it takes to develop an exit strategy. He greatly enjoys the guidance and help he can give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business, owners expanding their businesses, and those ready to sell.

How long have you been a CREB, how did you get started?

I’ve been a full time Commercial real estate and business broker for five years. I have an accounting background, graduating from Bentley College, and am very detail-oriented. When I knew I was ready to transition out of owning such a demanding business as Dennis’ Pizza, I got my appraiser’s license as it was something I could do part-time on my own schedule while still running Dennis’. Along the way I met Scott Balfour. When I was ready to sell Dennis’ I listed it with him, and it was a very smooth, professional transaction. I was impressed, and he encouraged me to get my real estate license. The rest is history!

What type of car do you drive?

A 2015 4-door Chevy Truck

What items are in your car?

Living where I do, preparation is everything! I always carry a flashlight, rain gear, and my camera. I also keep a 100-ft tape measure, screw gun, stakes, and extra signs and sign riders with me.

What paperwork do you have with you at all times?

My briefcase is always with me which has all the required disclosure forms, listing agreements, as well as my business cards, and a bio sheet for more info about me.

How many business cards do you hand out in the course of a week?

Less than I used to as so much business is just done electronically these days, but I still hand out 10 or so every week.

Do you attend formal networking events? How do you get out and build your business?

I do. I think it’s really important to get out into the community and talk to people. How else do you really know what’s going on with businesses? I attend monthly Business After Hours events, and I’m a member of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Gardiner Maine Street program.

What technology could you not live without? Do you have a favorite App that helps you with your business?

My smart phone! It really does everything I need by way of communication, paperwork, and research when I’m out of the office. One of my favorite apps is Trello. I use it to keep listings and projects organized with my office assistant, Trent, so we know what each other is doing at any time, no matter where I am.

How many miles do you travel in your car in a week? What is the farthest you have travelled to list or show a property?

I put a good 400 – 500 miles a week on my truck, last year I recorded 20,000 miles. I’ve gone to the Rangeley area a few times, and although I’m in the Gardiner/Central Maine area, I travel to Portland at least once a week to be at the main office.

How many phone calls, emails and text messages do you receive daily?

You have to stay in communication constantly in this business, so between clients, other brokers, and the other professionals involved in transactions, I have 30-40 phone calls a day, and about the same number of emails and texts. It’s a busy business!

What’s your area of specialty or expertise, geographic territory, and why did you choose it?

My area of expertise is the Central Maine market, particularly the Augusta-Gardiner area. Having lived in the area so long, raised my family here, owned a local business for 30 years, I know so many business people in the area, as well members of the community. It’s great to work close to home, where I know the area and the needs of businesses so well.

What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

As they say, it takes a long time to build a reputation, and only a short time to lose it. I believe I bring honesty, sincerity, and integrity to my relationships with all the people I work with. I’ve had a lot of clients say to me, “thank you for being so honest with me”, and I take that as a big compliment. I want what is best for them, and I won’t just go along with them to sell something.

After being a business owner and entrepreneur for so many years, I don’t think of myself as just a broker, or just a salesperson, because I’ve faced the same challenges. Whether it’s staffing, or cashflow, or how to go about selling a business. I just feel I can have discussions at a different level with clients. We speak the same language because I’ve been where they are.

What are you most excited about in relation to your job this year?

I’m a Tier 3 Broker at MB, and I’ve been asked to be on the Leadership Team. I greatly enjoy being part of helping the company move forward, setting growth strategy, team building, mentoring newer brokers. I enjoy looking at the bigger picture, not just my own listings, but what is on the horizon for Magnusson Balfour.

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

My parents were my first mentors, and they always told me to follow the ‘golden rule’ – be honest, work hard, stand by your word and do what you say you are going to do. That’s still good advice in my mind.

What is a professional development goal you have for this year?

I consistently take courses on investing, business turnaround strategies, and courses from the International Business Brokers Association. I’m getting ready to advance my license to full Broker designation as well.

How do you prefer to relax after a tough day in real estate?

I love being home with my family. My boys are grown, but my wife and I enjoy relaxing together, taking walks with our dog, Bella, and I love to be in the outdoors hunting and fishing.

Where are They Now? Client Spotlight on Justin Zandan, Gelinas HVAC

February 21st, 2018

At Magnusson Balfour, one of our top priorities is client relationships and that doesn’t end when a transaction is complete. In fact, many of our past clients continue synergistic relationships with us well into the future. Recently, we visited with a former client, Justin Zandan, owner of Gelinas HVAC Services. Magnusson Balfour worked with Justin two years ago on his vision to own his own small business in Southern Maine, and we are so happy to learn that he and his new company are experiencing much success through the transition!

Justin Zandan, Owner Gelinas HVAC Services

How did you come to work with Magnusson Balfour?

I was just getting burned out from the corporate culture, and knew I was ready to own something of my own, control my own work. I had 15 years’ experience as a mechanical engineer in the power plant industry, with a lot of hands-on project work as well as serving on management teams, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for a technical business. I really wasn’t sure what type of business I wanted, to be honest, I knew some industries I wasn’t interested in for one reason or another, but I was pretty open to what kind of business I wanted. I knew I needed some professional advice from someone who really got it, and a colleague mentioned to me that a business broker could really advise me best.

I was referred to Craig Church at Magnusson Balfour, and early in 2016, I met with Craig to discuss my desire to purchase a business. We had great rapport right away, I just liked his style. He was clearly very knowledgeable about his business, the local real estate market, and he is also a business owner himself, so I felt he had the perfect professional mix to help me. What really appealed to me was that Craig is both a business broker, as well as a commercial real estate broker, so his knowledge of consulting and advising could transition easily to helping me find and purchase a business. I was so open and all over the place in the beginning, but Craig never seemed impatient, I felt listened to, and we just worked as a team together looking at different businesses. He had all the business brokerage tools to guide me through the process, and he has a wealth of professional knowledge and resources that were invaluable too. The ability to discuss different business models, and what different industries involve to operate was extremely helpful, and that is his experience and expertise – he clearly has a real passion for what he does. I still consider Craig a great sounding board today!

What made you decide to purchase a business?

In a nutshell, I had a dream to own my own business, and Craig worked patiently and diligently with me over many months, as we explored various business investment opportunities throughout Southern Maine. I did know that I wanted to purchase an established business with a reputable brand, something I could build on. After a few deals didn’t work out, we took a look at Gelinas HVAC. I knew my experience in engineering, understanding heating and cooling systems well, would fit nicely into the business. The principals had similar values to mine, treating employees like they matter, putting customer service up front, and delivering great service, so that was a fit right away. It’s been challenging, of course, but a great decision for me and my family!

You’re 1 ½ years in now, how is it going?

My first focus has been on internal processes and improvements. We’ve transitioned from a traditional whiteboard scheduling routine, and a lot of dependency on the office, to automating our work order and customer information with a software program. Now our technicians carry an iPad, and can see immediately not only what they are going to a jobsite to do, but how long the customer has been with Gelinas, what other services they have had, if they are in our Loyalty Program. It really sets our technicians up for success before they even walk through the door to have this depth of information. Customers know they are a top priority when technicians are well informed.

Strategic Marketing

Marketing a small business is always tricky, things can be feast or famine, and so marketing becomes a just-in-time reaction. I prefer to think ahead whenever possible, and marketing needs someone paying attention to it so it isn’t just sell, sell, sell. I have professionals I work with to outsource some of our marketing so that we are making ongoing and consistent efforts to build our brand. We have done a whole new website that can assist customers, and offer helpful information about their heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency options, information on new products and programs, etc. We’ll continue to expand our marketing communication efforts as we go, and all the online marketing avenues offer a lot of exciting possibilities for us going forward.

The Value in Human Resources

I feel very strongly about the quality of our workforce, and I believe a business achieves that by being a great place to work. As well a competitive wages, good benefits, and work environment, we offer full tuition reimbursement to our staff, we’ve brought vendors on-site to provide hands-on demonstration of new products, and we always have new technicians shadow our experienced techs in the field until we know they are ready for working on their own. We have worked to partner with the area trade schools, serving on the advisory board of NTI, and speaking regularly at SMCC, NTI and MEMA in Brunswick. We want to help new technicians have a successful experience in their first interviews and jobs, and we have hired several apprentices to begin their career at Gelinas from these programs. We don’t want to just get people to work for us, we want to build an environment where people want to stay at Gelinas and build a career with us. The quality of people’s work lives is very important to me.

Mindful Growth

Growth can be great, or a disaster, and so smart scaling is a top priority. I want our growth to be organic, to grow in the best way to serve our customers and employees. We’ve worked over the last year to clearly define what our different organizational positions are, how training and development will support everyone in their roles, and how our workforce will evolve over the coming years. I want a good foundation for our growth, and to be thoughtful about how we grow the company.

What are your big goals going forward?

I’m very passionate about this business, so I’m always interested in organizational improvements, new products, new opportunities to serve our customers better. I’m pretty happy with our direction, and much of it is still a work in progress since it’s not even two years yet! I want to continue to improve our work-flow processes, streamline our procedures, and keep paying attention to how and why we do things. We’ll continue to build on customer communications, and our marketing efforts.

This is not just a business for me to lead until I want to retire. My hope is that Gelinas will become a family business, and that our employees will continue to take larger roles in the success of the business.


Small business owners & entrepreneurial veterans, meet their match!

February 7th, 2018
AUBURN, Maine– Today, Matt Leonard, CEO of Military Talent Source, LLC, announced details of the upcoming event, Maine Small Business Exchange being held at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch, 14 Great Falls Plaza, Auburn, ME, February 16 & 17, 2018.
The Maine Small Business Exchange is a first of its kind event that looks to match separating entrepreneurial veterans with small business owners looking to sell or transfer out of their successful small business. Qualified veterans have multiple funding resources available to them to assist in acquiring businesses.
Maine has an overall aging demographic and consequently many small business owners are and will continue to look to sell or transfer their successful businesses in the near future. This is the perfect opportunity for small business owners to connect with veterans ready to transition.
“I spend a great deal of time traveling around the country talking with veterans separating from service. Many of them want to either start or buy a business. Combine that with the demographics of Maine and importance of small business in Maine, that we frequently hear about, and you can quickly see how an event such as this could be a tremendous opportunity for all involved.” – Matt Leonard
The event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch on February 16th and 17th with the bulk of the event being on Saturday the 17th.
“Friday, February 16th we are holding a welcome social for those individuals traveling from out of state. The main event will take place Saturday, February 17th and will feature numerous guest speakers on various business topics as well as our keynote speaker, Chris Tyll, prominent business owner and former Navy Seal” said Leonard.
The event is open to the public and non-veterans are welcome.
Tickets may be purchased here.  

The Ballard Center: A Former Hospital is Repurposed

January 30th, 2018


The Ballard Center, in the heart of Augusta, is a welcoming, newly renovated historical property, that has been thoughtfully restored and repurposed to provide much needed quality commercial space to local businesses and organizations. Already bustling with activity, this Class A building is well-located, professionally managed, and centrally located to provide easy access and care for local residents. Formerly an iconic hospital for over a century, the Ballard Center was sitting vacant since Maine General Medical Center moved to its new facility several years ago. Dirigo Capital Advisors, who specializes in revitalizing older buildings for new use, purchased the East Chestnut Street property in 2013. With plans to repurpose the historical facilities into much needed commercial facilities for the City of Augusta, this multi-purpose commercial complex is now home to several local businesses, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations.

While so many buildings sit vacant throughout the state, to see a large complex such as this be refashioned into one of the most coveted commercial spaces in Kennebec County is a testament to committed developers such as Dirigo Capital Advisors. Commercial real estate broker, Dennis Wheelock, who represent the property, says “This property fills a vital need for high-quality office space in Central Maine. The Ballard Center will keep necessary community businesses and services local for residents, and is a phenomenal representation of what can be done when there is a vision for an otherwise vacant building.”

The complex consists of over 300,000 square feet, housed in five floors of newly renovated spaces, and offers sunny office suites and offices of all sizes. The Class A development project is built of the highest quality and energy efficient materials, with the attention to detail you would expect in a project of this kind. Additional amenities include a fitness center, comfortable common spaces, a café, security, and plenty of free parking. The Ballard Center provides a modern, state-of-the-art facility, competitive with metropolitan areas of Maine.

Dirigo Capital Advisors President, Kevin Mattson, believes repurposing our vacant, historic buildings versus building new is essential when considering new development. His passion for projects such as the Ballard Center is clear. “Our hope for the future of the Ballard Center is to build on the past, because this structure has been a staple in the community for over 100 years, and now to create a future for it as an integral part of the fabric of the community for the next 100 years.”

Magnusson Balfour is delighted to be part of the exceptional real estate offerings at the Ballard Center. Multi-purpose, commercial office space is currently available for lease, and the developer will build space to suit your specific needs. Please contact Dennis Wheelock  for more information.

For additional property data and leasing details, you may download the brochure here.

Broker on the Move: Raynor Large has a Passion for Learning

January 17th, 2018

How long have you been a CREB, how did you get started?

I’ve been in commercial real estate for a little over 3 years. I also work part-time for a financial analysis and turnaround company in Auburn, Point to Point Business Specialists, where we help startups, transitions, explosive growth, and turnaround management for businesses. A few years ago, we brought in Craig Church at Magnusson Balfour to assist us on a project. I really enjoyed the process, the perspective Craig brought to the conversation, and decided to get my real estate license.

What type of car do you drive?

A Honda HRV. It’s a smaller sized SUV, it’s roomy, comfortable, and great in all conditions.

What items are in your car?

I rely primarily on my phone, it really has about everything I could need, including a flashlight, and of course the camera and recorder. I do carry a briefcase with me everywhere, and each Friday I go through my current client list and make sure I have their files with me in that briefcase so that I can be ready for the coming week, whenever and wherever I happen to be. I also always have a phone charger, pen and paper, and alternative clothing with me. On the personal side of working on the road a lot, I also carry stuff for the gym, and my dog’s necessities.

What paperwork do you have with you at all times?

I always have our brochure and my business cards. Form 3, the Brokerage Relationships form, of course, that you have to present to everyone. I keep graph paper on hand in case I want to sketch out a floor plan, and a few flash drives so that when I need a company’s paperwork like spreadsheets or QuickBooks files, I can grab them without having to worry about emailing or copying them.

How many business cards do you hand out in the course of a week?

Around 10 per week, unless I’m at a trade show or large event.

Do you attend formal networking events? How do you get out and build your business?

I’m a member of the Lewiston-Auburn Chamber of Commerce and I attend their events. I’m on the Androscoggin County Land Trust Board where I interact with numerous people in the community. I just finished the Chamber’s Androscoggin Leadership Development Institute’s course which is a 60-hour course on developing business leadership skills. It was not only a terrific program, but I met a lot of great business people in the community.

What technology could you not live without? Do you have a favorite App that helps you with your business?

My phone is a crucial part of business during every day. My three email addresses come right into my phone, and my calendar and task lists are at my fingertips, which is so important when juggling clients’ needs.

For apps, I love that the Microsoft Office Suite is now available to operate easily on the phone, and I use a task management app that works really well to maintain my to-do’s.

How many miles do you travel in your car in a week? What is the farthest you have travelled listing/showing a property?

I travel 275 miles on average. I spend most of my time in the Lewiston-Auburn area, but I have clients from Rangeley to Bangor to Portland. With our main office in Portland, I’m there a couple times a week for meetings.

How many phone calls, emails and text messages do you receive daily?

I have 5-10 phone calls, and 20-30 emails on an average day. I don’t generally text, as I prefer more professional communications like email or speaking directly, and the nature of my rural business isn’t conducive to texting with the reception issues.

What’s your area of specialty or expertise, geographic territory, and why did you choose it?

I grew up in Lewiston-Auburn, so I’m most familiar with that community, but I rarely turn anyone away based on their geographic area. I had a client in Rockport last year, and consequently they have referred me to several people in that area. I’m doing some work in the Rangeley area, which is such a beautiful location with a lovely Main Street.

I’m primarily a business broker, and I work with any of the greater Androscoggin area businesses. There are many strong, family-owned businesses needing help with putting a value on their business and either marketing it or transitioning it effectively to a family member or perhaps a key staff member. I love the challenge of this type of work, and helping a business continue on to the next generation.

What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

I think curiosity has gotten me where I am today – I keep asking questions, keep digging down until I can really understand what is unique about a particular business. Every business has the same key elements in terms of wanting to be profitable and other financial pieces, but every business is also very exceptional. The ability to understand the ways it is different, and how to best serve its needs is very rewarding.

I also have a dual-career since I work for Point to Point doing financial analysis, as well as being a commercial and business broker. I feel this is a great value added to clients because I can help on a larger scale.

What are you most excited about in relation to your job this year?

There is a lot of exciting growth going on in Lewiston-Auburn, a real downtown renaissance. There’s a lot of new construction and restoration going on that hasn’t been happening in a long time, and it’s exciting to be a part of from a real estate perspective. I’ve been taking several real estate broker courses too, and the more I learn the fine art of commercial real estate, the more excited I get about being involved and learning from others. I like to bring as much to the table as I can, I’m very passionate about learning.

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

There are two pieces of advice that my boss in Auburn repeats to me all the time. The first is, “if you can do it today, you should have done it yesterday.” Meaning, everything in business brokerage is urgent and there’s no room for postponing, so there’s no better time to do something than right now.

The second is, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” When challenges arise, you need to draw on your experience, and have the tenacity to keep pushing forward and figure things out.

What is a professional development goal you have for this year?

To continue to take more Business Brokerage courses to build that knowledge, and to continue writing. I wrote about six articles last year for Magnusson Balfour’s newsletter and I’d like to continue doing that. I really like explaining topics and helping people understand what is involved in running businesses, how to achieve the greatest value in your business, and other ways to improve your life through business.

How do you prefer to relax after a tough day in real estate?

I love to be outside and go running, it’s so cathartic, and is my relaxation and rejuvenation. Running lets me put the day behind me, and just exist in the moment. I do a lot of trail running at Blackstrap Hill Preserve which is right near my house. My dog is just a year old, but soon she’ll be old enough to start increasing her mileage so she can run with me. My wife and I are also expecting our first child soon, so I expect I’ll be excited to get home to our new baby when that time comes!

Winter Preparation Protects Your Business and People!

December 21st, 2017

With winter approaching quickly, it’s important to take some time of assess if your building and grounds are ready for this environmental change. Energy can be quickly wasted through cracks and drafts, plumbing systems are at risk for breakage, and the requirements for grounds and access care increase dramatically. It’s important to do everything necessary to not only protect your building investment and business equipment, but your employees and customers as well. Properly preparing your facility for winter is crucial!

Having a checklist ready to address the many concerns that cold temperatures and hazardous weather presents to our physical plants can help you get prepared efficiently.

  • Snow & Ice Removal
  • Roofs & Gutters
  • Foundation & Grounds
  • Entrances & Parking
  • HVAC Systems
  • Electrical & Power Supply

Snow & Ice Removal

Snow and ice control are among the largest building maintenance tasks that winter brings. One of the worst things that could happen is for someone to suffer a slip and fall injury on your premises due to untreated surface conditions. Get out ahead of it by ensuring you have your plowing and salting services lined up, and plenty of salt/sand onsite for quick response during a storm. Put out plowing markers around the perimeters of your parking lots and walkways so boundaries are easily visible to snow removal workers.

Make sure your staff or building maintenance crew has clear instructions and expectations for addressing snow and ice. Always have people responsible, during each shift or hour of operation, for salting walkways and keeping an eye on snow buildup.


In addition to your snow and ice removal plan, entrances are major points for energy loss. If you don’t have double doors as a ‘cold lock’ entrance, consider adding an awning or tenting your main entrances in some way to manage the blowing winds and precipitation.

If you don’t already have good mats and carpets at transition areas from outside to indoors, get some so people can clean their feet to prevent slippery floors and tracking in dirt.

Foundations & Grounds

While snow build-up has long been viewed by Mainers as added (free) insulation to our buildings, letting snow pile up close to buildings also creates a damaging situation waiting to happen. The heat of the building meeting the cold of the outdoors produces constant freeze-thaw cycles, and allows water to sit and leak into the building at the foundation. This all leads to water damaged building materials over time, and also creates an environment for mold to grow.

Grounds tend to heave and move during the freeze-thaw cycles of Maine winters. This not only creates tripping and fall hazards, but can damage foundation materials. Keep snow and ice buildup away from your building, and make sure your building has adequate ventilation so moisture is not allowed to remain and wreak havoc.

Roofs & Gutters

Roofs present unique problems. Winter burdens them with extra weight which can cause leaks, damage and collapses, and they present a safety hazard as well when snow and ice shed from these upper apparatuses.

Always keep your roof and gutter systems free of debris, and clear of any standing snow and ice buildup. Do a check before snow flies to ensure that all materials are securely fastened to the building, and drainage and downspouts are working properly.

HVAC & Electrical

Freezing temperatures mean trouble for unprotected plumbing fixtures and pipes. Be sure your plumbing is properly insulated, that outdoor water faucets and sprinklers are turned off and drained, and that your sprinkler system heads are protected from snow removal equipment and the weight of snowbanks. Any gas lines should also be protected from potential damage, and falling ice and snow.

If your business has generators, this is the time of year to service them and make sure they are running properly. You want that to start right up in a time of need. If your business does not have a generator, but would benefit considerable by staying open during power outages, consider investing in one – it will set you apart from your competition if you are open and they can’t be!

Major storms can cause power outages and damaging surges in electricity. Protect your equipment and computer information by plugging in to surge-protected outlets, and have backup mechanisms for computer data. Storing files to cloud-based storage saves a lot of worry!

Taking the time to run down through all your facility parts and pieces may seem time-consuming, but the alternative damage and risks far outweigh your preventative efforts!

The Value of Competition

December 7th, 2017

Sometimes our competition does as much to define us as our business successes. Think: Edison and Tesla, Microsoft and Apple, Coke and Pepsi. Other strong forces in your market can serve to help your business as much as hinder it. It’s all in how you use them in your business strategy. How well do you know the other movers and shakers in your industry? Are you using them to help your business succeed? If not, it’s time to get to know who else your customers are paying and for what!

Know What They’re Doing…

Now, we’re not suggesting collusion or trying to undercut the market here, but having a good relationship with competitors can be very helpful in the short- and long-term. The trailblazer in the market works the hardest, and often missteps along the way, so sometimes letting the competition pave the way works best. Paying attention, and getting to know your competition allows you to stay close enough to walk the path with less effort (learn from their mistakes), but far enough away to observe and learn from the pitfalls.

Beyond your direct competitors, look at similar businesses in other geographic areas than you. These “competitors” are generally easier to speak with. Another great resource for a look inside your competition is to talk to your own A/R and A/P accounts. People who are already buying your products/services, or other professionals working within your industry, understand what you do, so their input is precise and constructive.

Ask your vendors about their other business accounts – what are those businesses doing? Do they have new innovations, technology, or services that they are rolling out? What are they spending their marketing dollars on? Of course, your own customers are also important to talk to. Ask them what other businesses like yours they also patronize. What alternatives to your services do they use in the market and why? What do they like best about your products or services, and what makes yours better than others? What would they like to see you offer?

While collecting this data can be formalized via online surveys, etc., nothing is better than direct conversations. Simply get into the habit of striking up conversations with your vendors and customers. People love sharing their opinions, and knowing you value their input.

…And What They’re Not

Paying attention to your competition is paying attention to your market, and that is what all business owners should be doing on a consistent basis. Competition forces us to pay close attention to our key customers, and stay on top of innovation, which discourages complacency.

Is your competition overlooking an important demographic or low-hanging fruit? Do they appear to be struggling to recognize a return on investment in an area? Have they expanded or niched their business differently? How is their customer experience?

You gain efficiencies when someone breaks ground in the market before you, but there is a lot to be said to leading the pack as well. Evaluating what your competition is doing allows you to identify holes in market, different ways to deliver similar services, ways to diversify your business. Just because someone else isn’t doing it, doesn’t make it a bad idea. Don’t be afraid to seize opportunities to diversify, whether that’s pivoting early or letting the competition pivot while you stick with what works. Getting stuck in the complacency of a follower can cause you to miss the opportunity to jump in front. Being creative, innovative, and diversifying is what being an entrepreneur is all about!

Use Their Efforts…

McDonald’s invests heavily in market research and identifying the perfect location – visibility, traffic count, ease of entry, local demographic analysis, and more. Burger King waits – then puts one across the street. A good competitor can show you where the market is trending, and where you need to focus. Following the competition allows you to re-invest what you save in R&D into your Advertising. Aim to be the (better) alternative… every Coke needs a Pepsi.

Having alternatives is good for consumers, choice can drive traffic and build business.

…And Plan for Mutual Success

Don’t be afraid of your competitor’s success, just make sure you’re mirroring it. Two competing entities can bring attention to a market and strengthen both companies. Back to Microsoft and Apple – their fierce competition turned the computer market into a household product, making computers a necessity in the modern world, not just for businesses and education. You can do the same thing in a local market with a smaller business. When more people know what you do, more people will realize they need it too! Your edge in knowing your competition so well, allows you to offer the better choice in the market.

At the end of the day, your competitors are prime opportunities for you to expand and acquire – or sell and retire. At some point, you will either buy or sell. This plays to how knowing your competition is part of your long-term business planning. When you already have some relationship with your competition you know what their strengths and weaknesses are, how their market position is, and the goals of the business – because you have been watching them consistently over time. If you have burned all your bridges with competition, you lose opportunities to buy them out, or you lose the chance to position your business as a great investment for one of those competitors.

“Know Thyself, Know Thine Enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu

Special thanks to Raynor Large for contributing this article.



Unique Hallowell Project an Example of Thoughtful Development

November 14th, 2017

Sitting atop Winthrop Hill, Stevens Commons sprawls across 54-acres of land in the heart of Hallowell. The campus features a group of historic buildings complete with a central Quad, newly built structures, a mature landscape, and undeveloped acreage. Additionally, the new Fire Station for the City of Hallowell is currently being built on the property. The goal of Stevens Commons is to become a model for mixed-use development, leading the charge in central Maine to revitalize this underutilized area. Utilizing a combination of development and conservation efforts, Stevens Commons promises to bring a significant area back to life by providing the quality housing choices, business retail and office spaces, and public recreational areas so necessary to thriving communities.

The State of Maine previously owned the property, and had sought to sell it for over 10 years. Developer Matt Morrill, of Mastway Development, purchased Stevens Commons in 2016, and has been working with the City of Hallowell to design and implement a plan that is both innovative and community-centric. To accommodate the needs of the community, Morrill has donated some of the land at Stevens Commons to the City of Hallowell for the new Fire Station. Local business owner and long-time resident, Dennis Wheelock of Magnusson Balfour, is representing the property. They are both excited by the opportunities this landmark development brings to Hallowell, as it transforms a previously rundown location, and brings new residents and entrepreneurs, new jobs, and new tax dollars to the City of Hallowell.

The campus includes eight mixed-use buildings, and two parcels of land available for purchase. Five of the original historic buildings on the property are on the National Registry of Historic Places, and are being sensitively restored according to historic tax credits guidelines for commercial/retail use. The rehabilitation is planned in several phases; however, a few buildings are currently available for sale or lease. Local businesses are taking notice, and have already established themselves in the new professional campus areas, including several professional service businesses, health practitioners, and the offices of Dube Travel and Premier Property Management. The range of residential offerings will include senior and veteran housing, apartments, duplexes, and clustered subdivisions. As part of the green space conservation plans, common green spaces and walking trails will be created, and surrounding neighborhoods will be connected via sidewalks, trails, and vehicular access where appropriate.

The Stevens Commons project heralds the motto, “Cultivating community through conservation, restoration and partnership”, holding the creation of a quality natural environment, preservation of community heritage through the restoration of the historic architecture, and collaboration with the City of Hallowell and its residents in designing this development plan, as the cornerstones for its success. With a mix of compatible land uses including residential, commercial business and recreational, not only will a historic piece of Hallowell be restored, but essential business and residential properties will offer quality options for members of this unique community.

Magnusson Balfour is delighted to be part of the exceptional real estate offerings at the Stevens Commons campus. Commercial office and retail spaces are currently available for lease, and some buildings and land are available for purchase to develop within the scope of the Comprehensive Plan. Please contact Dennis Wheelock for more information.

For additional property data and leasing details, you may download the brochure here.

Frye House Opens at Former Mike’s Place Location

October 30th, 2017

When Farmingdale hot spot, Mike’s Place, closed unexpectedly in 2016, the entire community felt the loss. Mike and Cynthia Genest had owned the restaurant for 18 years, and were considered friends to many patrons. Like many small towns, Farmingdale residents had come to depend on the local restaurant as far more than a place to eat out, it was a well-known gathering spot for socializing and meeting up with friends and family.

Listing Broker, Dennis Wheelock of Magnusson Balfour, recounts that each time he would be at the property to show it, inevitably someone would stop by to inquire as to the building’s future. “Was another restaurant moving in?”, they wanted to know excitedly. Local residents got their wish this past summer when Hans Peaslee and Deb Patterson purchased the property with plans to open a similar-style eatery. With several years of restaurant management experience, the new owners bring a great enthusiasm for their new business, as well as joining the community. Wheelock, a former restaurant owner himself, is happy to see another small, family-owned business take root in the community. “This will be a true family affair as some of their kids and friends will be working in the restaurant. Hans and Debbie will do well!”

Frye House opened in early October to a full house of happy customers! Specializing in many seafood and chicken favorites that locals were used to, and featuring family-style large portion meals, the Frye House has settled in quickly as a local haunt, where you can find casual dining in a relaxed atmosphere. Congratulations Hans and Debbie!

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