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“Understand Your Competition and Define What Makes You Unique” #SFSBW2016 Interview: Wells Fargo

#SFSBW2016 asked our sponsors to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Steve Ward, SVP – Small Business Segment Manager at Wells Fargo.5.27 Wells Fargo

What is your company’s mission?
We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.

How does your organization support and engage the small business community?
We are a proactive member of the small business community.  We have over 40 stores placed throughout the many neighborhoods of San Francisco placing us firmly in the center of the small business community.  Our Small Business Specialists take the time to understand the goals and needs of your individual business and match the solutions necessary to help your business be successful.  We also have over 8000 Team Members who live and work in San Francisco who actively support small businesses in their neighborhoods.

What tools and resources has your organization created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?
Two years ago, we launched our Wells Fargo Works for Small Business Platform which includes a commitment to lend $100 Billion to small businesses throughout the United States over 5 years.  Also, we launched www.wellsfargoworks.com as a free resource for customers and prospects which include interactive tools and educational resources to help your business throughout its lifecycle.  Last year, we added the free Business Plan Center on the site as a way for business owners to create and maintain their evolving Business Plan which includes a Competitive Intelligence Tool to help you understand how you compete in your industry and/or market.

What are the trends you see when you think about the small business marketplace, and how will these trends shape the future of small business?
While small business optimism over the past year has been higher than any point since 2008, many business owners remain cautious about today’s economy and the year ahead.  In addition, in a market with low unemployment, people have choices so maintaining focus on employee engagement to minimize turnover is crucial.

Can you share one brief story about how your company is helping San Francisco businesses thrive?
We recently sponsored and hosted an event for the San Francisco African American Chamber designed to empower chamber members to focus on building a strong financial foundation. We had the chance to address the group regarding our commitment to lending $100 Billion to small businesses and I was fortunate to meet Wayne Perry, the CEO of a local engineering and management consulting firm, Cornerstone Concilium, Inc. Wayne had been thinking about expanding his presence in other markets and needed a line of credit to aid in his plans. Our team of specialists took the time to understand the company’s goals and made it happen. Not only were we able to help meet their immediate credit needs, but also aided in Cornerstone’s long term expansion plans. By being involved in the community and taking an active interest understanding the needs of local business owners, we will all thrive.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?
Take the time to understand your competition and what makes your business unique in your neighborhood or industry.  Less than 30% of small business owners have a business plan yet those that do feel more confident about their growth prospects and are more likely to hire additional employees which is good for the business and the economy.  Our free Business Plan Center at www.wellsfargoworks.com can help you understand your competition through the Competitive Intelligence Tool we provide and has the templates already built to create your business plan.

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