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While you keep your head down running the macro and micro duties of your business, you may forget you are surrounded by people who can help run your business better—your employees! Your employees are on the front lines, often knowing what tasks are creating bottlenecks and even missed marketing opportunities.


Here are eight things that you should ask your employees about immediately. You can do it formally through one-on-one interviews, through a survey or even a good-old-fashioned suggestion box. But, regardless of what form you ask for the feedback, make sure you review and act on it afterwards!


1.  What do you spend too much time doing?



Employees know exactly what the time-wasters are in business. Whether it’s an onerous form-filling process or other jobs that can be simplified, asking your employees for their input can help you streamline your operations.


2.  Where could technology make your job easier?

Technology is another great catalyst for making employees more productive. Ask them what tasks they wish were faster and

easier and see if they can be streamlined with a technology solution.




3.  What are customers complaining about?

Employees who interact with customers know where the business pain points are. If shipping is always making mistakes or you are constantly out of stock on bestselling items, your employees will be able to give you the head’s up on where you should be focused on.


4.  What do customers compliment us about?

On the flipside, employees who interact with customers also know what your business is doing well, so use that knowledge to make sure you focus on your differentiators.


5.  Are there other employees whose talents aren’t being fully utilized?

You may have talented employees that aren’t being used to their full extent and not even know it. A great way to find out who those employees are is via their peers. This helps you to not only get more from your staff, but also make sure that a good employee doesn’t get bored and leave because they aren’t being challenged.


6.  What do you wish we did differently or better?

There isn’t an employee around that doesn’t have an opinion (or twelve!) on what the company can do to improve, so ask them!




7.  Do you know any good people for a position?

One of the best sources of finding new employees that are a good cultural fit is through the employees who already work there. So, be sure to ask your employees about possible candidates for any job openings.


8.  Is there anything else you wish management knew?

Having an open-ended question allows for employees to share their specific insights on everything from their own goals and position to other important strategic aspects of the company.


Again, those working throughout the business are living and breathing it every single day and are a fountain of knowledge for business owners willing to listen.


About Carol Roth


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Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.


Web: or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Speaking at a conference recently, I was wrapping things up and opened the floor to questions. All started well enough, until this one guy got the mic. He just would not, well, shut up. His questions were all prefaced with lengthy monologues and the queries themselves were all about his specific, particular situation. On and on and on he went. Finally, with the audience clearly exasperated, I had to be more direct than I preferred, interrupted him, and told him I had to move on.


He was not happy.


Everyone else was.


It seems that no matter where you work, there is always someone who just doesn’t “get it” – people who are obnoxious, rude, lazy, loud, mean, narcissistic, selfish, manipulative, clueless, whatever. It is a wonder they ever get hired.


These are the people with very low levels of emotional intelligence.




To understand what this means, think of the opposite of that coworker: The people in the office who really do get it; the ones who are good listeners, good conversationalists, smart, witty, fun, bright, giving, hard-working, and friendly are the ones typically with a lot of emotional intelligence.


That’s the kind of person people like and bosses love.


So what is emotional intelligence, exactly? Emotional intelligence refers to a certain savviness with emotions, in regard to one’s own emotions as well as those of others. It includes the ability to comprehend and identify emotions, and apply them usefully to life’s daily tasks. Emotional intelligence also entails having a sense of empathy and the ability to understand and appreciate other peoples’ moods.


Psychology Today puts it this way:


“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:


1. Emotional awareness

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and

3. The ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”


It goes without saying that these sorts of skills come in very handy at work.


The concept of emotional intelligence has been ingraining itself into workplace discourse for a few years now. Relating emotional intelligence to workplace success is not an obscure idea; these days, it makes an actual, material, financial difference. And as such, as a boss or manager, it would behoove you to take emotional intelligence into consideration in the hiring, firing, and management of employees.


Consider the many benefits of hiring, supporting, and promoting the emotionally intelligent person:


They are empathetic: Hiring someone with empathy carries its own set of obvious benefits. Empathy allows people to understand and connect with others, a trait very valuable when dealing with co-workers - as well as customers. Empathy also helps create a tolerant work environment. Empathetic employees and managers are also, generally, well-liked and great team members. In short, empathy means someone has natural, effortless people skills.


28402228_s (1).jpgThey are self-aware: Emotionally intelligent people have a keen sense of self-awareness. They can identify the source of their emotions and reactions, understand how they are affecting other people, and respond to this knowledge accordingly. Compare that to those people who react strongly, irrationally, and without stopping to consider whether they might be justified.


With whom would you rather work? Exactly.


RELATED ARTICLE: Want to be a Great Boss? Develop these Traits


They are thoughtful: Emotionally intelligent people think before they act, which is important in so many aspects of work life: Making quick executive decisions, interacting with fellow employees, juggling deadlines, interacting with customers, and so on. People want to work with people who carefully consider the best course of action.


They are dynamic thinkers: People with high emotional intelligence can go beyond linear, black-and-white categorical thinking. They see gray. That type of dynamic thinking allows for resourcefulness, clever problem solving, and innovation – just the type of thing you want in today’s ever-changing and demanding workplace.


What I am suggesting is that, as a boss, it would be emotionally intelligent of you to prioritize emotional intelligence.


About Steve Strauss

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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss


You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

By Erin O'Donnell.


SuccessionPlan_Body.jpgMore than six out of 10 small business owners have no succession plan in place. That means they don't know what's going to happen to their company when they are no longer running it, according to a recent survey of 500 small business owners by Securian Financial Services.


Succession planning for your business is just as important as having a will for your family. Without it, your company's future, assets, and legacy are at risk.


What happens when the founder retires, or is disabled or dies? Planning today for these situations will ensure that your partners, employees, clients, and other stakeholders are not left at loose ends.


We spoke with Larry Grypp, president of the University of Cincinnati’s Goering Center for Family and Private Business, about the importance of a succession plan and what it should include. Read below for his recommendations:


First steps

Grypp says founders should be planning for their exit from the beginning. "Most people have done some thinking about it, but very few have a really organized, comprehensive plan," Grypp says.


Ideally, business owners should have the plan in place two to 10 years before they want to exit, to achieve a good transition, Grypp says. According to the Securian study, 33 percent of owners planned to sell to a third party, 25 percent expect to close up shop, 20 percent plan to transfer to a family member, and 20 percent plan to sell to a partner or key employee.


Choosing a successor

Succession plans should address both company ownership and leadership: who will make decisions and carry on the firm's vision and strategy. Many, but not all, family businesses are still taken over by the founder's children, other next-generation relatives, or a trusted employee.


Grypp recommends that businesses find an objective facilitator. Someone without an emotional stake will be able to guide conversations such as how the purchase will be financed, what the terms of the buyout will be, and how to transition from one leader to another. This could be an attorney, a business specialist, or someone else in your industry that has made a successful transition.


SuccessionPlan_PQ.jpgThe facilitator can also help determine whether the chosen successor is ready and capable of taking the reins. "If the founder's retirement is dependent on that business doing well after they leave, they want to make sure that the next generation has the ability to run the company competently," Grypp says.


Selling the business

If there is no successor inside the family or company, a small business can position itself to sell to a strategic buyer. Look for a competitor who would find value in acquiring your company. Another option is finding an investor. But be wary of pursuing investment if your company is very small, or highly dependent on you as the face of the business or the main point of contact for customers. An investor probably won't want the difficult task of finding a new leader who can fill your shoes.


Alternatively, you can set up an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), which gives your workers shares in the company trust. According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, ESOPs are often used to buy the departing owner's shares. According to the site,  "The company can make tax-deductible cash contributions to the ESOP to buy out an owner's shares, or it can have the ESOP borrow money to buy the shares."


Value your company correctly

It's critical to determine the true worth of your company, Grypp says. Bring in a valuation expert and work closely with your accountant to get an accurate financial picture to ensure a fair sale or buyout price.


Communicate the plan

Who should be the first to know? Will you hold meetings or issue a press release? Decide how and when you will tell family members, partners, employees, vendors, clients—and possibly legislators and regulators—about the plans for transitioning your company's ownership and leadership.


A succession plan should be a living document that is periodically reviewed to make sure it fits the company's current needs. Just like a personal will, a business succession plan should clearly define the owner's intentions for the future and leave nothing to chance.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.


©2017 Bank of America Corporation

It’s 8:00 p.m. on a Thursday night. A client has just sent you an urgent message, and you really want to get your team working on a solution now. Since everyone has 24/7 access to email, texts, and social media messages through their smartphones, getting in touch is a snap. But should you?


It’s a dilemma many business owners are faced with today. Finding the right work-life balance is a major concern for an ever-growing number of employees – but as the owner, you also have the needs of your business to consider. And with the lines between personal friends, work friends, and online friends so blurred, it can also be hard to know when it’s appropriate to connect, and when it’s not. So what are today’s ground rules when it comes to connecting with your employees during off hours? Here are the three  most important ones.


1. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected.

There are some businesses where after-hours contact is not just a possibility, but an integral part of the job – and that’s fine, as long as everyone is aware of that fact.

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Whether it’s an ongoing need to keep an eye on emails through the weekend in case something comes up, or simply a position where 24/7 texts are part of the deal, as long as employees know what to expect then no one should complain.


The problems begin when employees who aren’t expecting after-hours work start getting work messages during this time.  Asking for a quick response to a texted question may not seem like a big deal, but if it comes unexpectedly at an inopportune time, it can cause resentment. No one wants to be that parent running out of their kid’s recital to take a call from work – but the fear of what would happen if they didn’t often makes the decision for them. By preparing employees in advance for the possibility of after-hours contact, they won’t feel blind-sided by it if you do send that text.


2. Stay professional, no matter what.


Sure, it may be Saturday morning. And sure, you may be pretty good friends with your employees. But when connecting with them during their off hours, it’s important to keep your messages and your demeanor professional. Whether you’re asking them to do some last-minute work on a project via email, or just commenting on a picture they posted on Facebook, always remember that you’re their boss.


Anything that would be considered inappropriate in the workplace – from an off-color joke to a political rant – should also be considered off-limits after hours. Otherwise, you could be looking at reactions ranging from embarrassment or anger, all the way to a lawsuit.




3. Don’t go overboard.

Everyone needs downtime. And even though a quick email or text only takes a few minutes, the intrusion of anything work-related into personal time can make employees feel like they can never fully unplug. That affects not just employee morale, but also their productivity at work.


That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your after-hours messages to a minimum. Even too many casual social messages via Facebook can make your employees feel like their boss is always watching. Necessary work messages, yes. Friendly, professional comments and likes on social media, yes. But always be sure your employees are getting the personal time they need to really recharge.


RELATED ARTICLE: Employee Retention: Little Things Go a Long Way Toward Building a Small Business


44040400_m.jpgNot only will your employees thank you for following these three ground rules – so will your bottom line. When your team knows what to expect after hours that your messages will always be professional, and that you understand the value of their personal time as much as they do, they’ll be happier and more productive while at work – and so will you.  


About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.


Web: or Twitter: @Shama.


You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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