Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

General Business

764 posts

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

Make sure your small business leverages to right influencers to reach your desired target audience. Small Business Community contributor, Joel Comm, shares his influencer insights on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I am here with Joel Comm. His website is joelcomm.com Joel is J-O-E-L. Comm is C-O-M-M, dot com. He's on Twitter and Facebook @JoelComm. Joel was a true internet pioneer and he's been creating profitable websites, software, products, and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995 and he calls himself the functional futurist. He doesn't just see the future. He gets there first.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And in addition to being the functional futurist, he is also an author, speaker, consultant, and podcaster. So Joel, one of your books is called The Fun Formula: How Curiosity, Risk-Taking, and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. Welcome and I hope we can talk about this and things like influencer marketing because influencers are supposed to be fun, too.

 

Joel Comm:               Oh, I hope they are. But the most important thing is that influencers are supposed to be influential and there's a lot of people that call themselves influencers, but they don't actually influence anybody to do anything. That is not an influencer.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And certainly not one you should hire or pay.

 

Joel Comm:               Right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Can you define influencer marketing for us?

 

Joel Comm:               Well, it's basically working with the brand to bring awareness of that brand to their target market in the hopes that it will bring results, right? So, an influencer is typically somebody who will use, represent, a product or service to their audience in order for that audience to say, "Hey, this person approves or likes or uses this. Maybe I should too."

 

Gregg Stebben:         Hmm. So, it's endorsement marketing or what we might have called endorsement marketing at another time in media history.

 

Joel Comm:               Sure. I think that it really is the same thing only now instead of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, being the ones to do the influencing, a new realm of micro celebrities, micro influencers, that are not nearly as well-known as some of these major celebrities, which also means you don't have to pay the same multimillion dollar celebrity fees, but also have a more personal connection with their audience.

 

 

Joel Comm:               So as a tech influencer, the people that, the companies which hire me to influence, they know me already. I have a relationship with them. It's not that, "Oh, they've seen me play sports or that they've seen me in movies." Many of them have actually met me or has engaged with me already on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or YouTube or Twitter or anywhere. And so, there's a greater likelihood that those people will be responsive to an influencer that they're more connected to.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So if I'm a small business owner, why might this be a better way for me to spend my marketing dollars than to pay for traditional paid advertising?

 

Joel Comm:               Well, that's a great question. Paid advertising, you're targeting a market, but the messaging is coming directly from you as the merchant. And so, you might not have any relationship with the people that you're trying to reach. Whereas if you secure the services of an influencer, it is a third-party endorsement, right?

 

Joel Comm:               People are…there's a reason people go to third-party review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, or that we read reviews on amazon.com assuming that what we're reading is legitimate—and we know that there are reviews that are planted and that some people game the system—but assuming that those are legitimate, we trust the input and advice of other people more than we trust the messaging that comes directly from the merchant themselves.

 

Joel Comm:               And if it's somebody that we know that we already trust, that endorsement is exponentially more influential, and so it makes sense rather than just go and buy ads that go direct to the consumer to say, "Hey, here is somebody who has some clout that is influential. They already use my product or my service. What if I pay them to tell their target market about what we're selling?" And it's highly effective when done right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Joel Comm. He's an amazing guy. He's an internet pioneer. He's been around the Internet and social media since the beginning. He calls himself the functional futurist. One of his books, one of his 15 books, is called The Fun Formula: How Curiosity, Risk-Taking and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. One of the things you mentioned, well you mentioned some big name athletes as potential influencers, and we all recognize this because we see celebrities as influencers. We know that this is part of what they do, but I'm a small business owner. Is it possible that there are influencers in my world that can make a difference for my business because I surely can't afford a movie star or an all-star athlete?

 

Joel Comm:               Sure, of course there are. And the key to that is finding one of your customers that has an audience. That's really the key right there. Somebody who already buys your socks and wears them and enjoys them. Somebody who eats your baked goods that has an audience that has perhaps a local audience that they could reach, go, "Mm, that is one good cupcake. Go over to Cupcake Heaven over there and try one of these." And they post a video. I mean that would be me. If there was a cupcake place I loved and they're going to say, "We're going to pay you in cupcakes, Joel." I would be like down there and I would shoot a video of myself eating this delicious cupcake and I would post it on Instagram perhaps. And then people that know me here locally would go, "Oh Joel, that looks amazing. I've got to go try one of those." It's that simple.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And I trust Joel. So if Joel says it's the best cupcake, it's gotta be the best cupcake.

 

Joel Comm:               Right. And he really appears to be enjoying that cupcake. I mean, him and that cupcake should probably get a room. They're having such a good time. So, this is influencer marketing at its most basic, and it really is basic. This is not rocket science. Which is good because I am not an engineer and a rocket scientist. But I do know what I like and I do know that I enjoy telling other people what I like and by demonstrating how much I like a brand for their product or their service, I'm communicating to those who follow me, "I think this is worthy of your attention. Here's why. Want to check it out? Here's how."

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         So in this cupcake scenario, Joel.

 

Joel Comm:               Now I'm hungry.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. Well you're going to just have to wait a few minutes. Sorry about that. But I'm the cupcake shop owner and I know you love my cupcakes and I know you have a good audience and people trust you. So, you seem like a really good influencer for me and my cupcake shop. Am I going to get away with just offering you all the cupcakes you can eat in exchange for you tweeting and Instagramming, Snapchatting and Facebooking and did I mention tweeting my cupcakes? Or might I have to pay a little bit more than that?

 

Joel Comm:               Yeah, I would probably ask you to pay me as well and then I would ask you to pay for my doctor bill because I'd become huge and unhealthy from eating too many of your delicious cupcakes. But I've done all kinds of influencer deals. I've worked with big brands. Most recently I did some influencer work for Alibaba as a consumer electronic show. I've worked with IBM and just a lot of other brands and I've worked with smaller brands and sometimes it's just that, "You know what? If you'll send me that piece of electronic hardware that you created or your software. Let me try it. If I like it, I'll take a picture, I'll send a tweet." Sometimes I've actually had people send me socks because people know I like fun socks and I'm in the crypto currency space because my podcast is all about bitcoin.

 

Joel Comm:               It's called the Bad Crypto Podcast and I've had people that are making these fun crypto currency socks, send them to me, unsolicited, and that that's a good way, by the way, to get an influencer to do something without paying them is just sending them a gift. Don't expect anything in return, but if it's something that they like, then odds are they're going to be, "Hey, I got this cool coffee mug or this gift basket or whatever from so-and-so." And they'll often tag you and sometimes that is the most cost-effective way to get influencer marketing and word of mouth that you could possibly do.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You actually bring up a really important point here and that is there have been some issues with the FTC about influencer marketing, right? I mean if you are paid to be an influencer, you are supposed to, in some appropriate and legal way disclose, that you're being paid, and we need to be conscious of that.

 

Joel Comm:               Oh yes you are. Yeah, you are. And so the hashtags that you are to use, if it's sponsored in any way, and that could mean payment or that could mean that you received goods or services of some value. You're supposed to use one of these three hashtags: either #ad #sponsored or #promoted, and that is what the FTC is looking for. As long as you have labeled, you don't have to have this long disclaimer, you just need to have one of those hashtags. And that is what is commonly understood as full disclosure.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And so when someone sends you socks or I send my product to a celebrity hoping he or she will use it or wear it or eat it and take a picture of it, are they because they got it for free, supposed to use one of those three hashtags?

 

Joel Comm:               You know, I am not a lawyer and I've never played one on television. I think a gift is a gift and I don't know that it's necessary. Now, if an agreement was made, right, I think that that's different. If there was a contract, whether verbal or written, I would probably default to, "Hey, if you'll send me the ..." If somebody was trying to negotiate with you, what would it take to do this? Send me these. You know, it's a sticky area. I don't really know. I'm not going to give legal advice.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Where do I….Do you know where I would go to find out more? Is that the FTC website?

 

Joel Comm:                Yeah, I would probably do that. I would go use a search engine and just ask that question.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. The last question really quick is if I am engaging with an influencer, what kind of metrics should I be looking at to know if that influencer is really creating results for me and these are actually a return on investment?

 

 

Joel Comm:               Yeah. You want to look at their engagement. It's not about the number of followers they have. It's about the engagement that they have. There are micro influencers, people that are very influential in small communities. They might only have a thousand followers on Twitter, but then you'll see 20 or so reactions, which is a lot for just having a thousand followers. So look at how many followers they have and then look at the metrics for what type of engagement, what kind of comments are people leaving? Are they retweeting and sharing this content? And then you'll know whether or not this person is truly influential or has the reach to get the job done.

 

Gregg Stebben:         All right. He is Joel Comm. It's J-O-E-L C-O-M-M. Joelcomm.com,on Twitter and Facebook @JoelComm. I mentioned one of his books, he's written 15 but one of them is The Fun Formula, How Curiosity, Risk-Taking and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. Full disclosure for Joel, he's also, I believe, an influencer for Bank of America, correct?

 

Joel Comm:               That is correct. I was going to leave that to you to bring up.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. So, for more great tips from Joel as one of Bank of America's influencers and other small business experts like him, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community bankofamerica.com/SBC. Joel, thanks for joining us.

 

Joel Comm:               You bet. My pleasure.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

No matter the size of your business, there’s a customer experience journey to be had. You might not think about it that way, or talk about it, but even a lemonade stand has the opportunity to deliver good and bad customer experiences. What separates two businesses with good products often comes down to which one gives their buyer a better time.

assorted-buy-customer-159991 (1).jpg

 

The Journey Often Has the Same Touchpoints

 

A customer experience almost always follows this path:

 

*Event* - Something happens that makes someone a prospective buyer. And then:

 

    • Awareness - customer finds out your product/service exists
    • Evaluation - they decide if you’re the right fit for the job
    • Purchase - the actual mechanics of acquiring your product or service
    • Onboarding - the process of getting started with your product or service
    • Retention/Referral - what you do to keep them or earn more customers

 

I mentioned a lemonade stand above. Let’s use that to map one of these:

 

*Event* - You’re thirsty OR you see a stand on the side of the road.

 

    • Awareness - You see the stand.
    • Evaluation - Is this what you want to drink?
    • Purchase - The price might matter (Do they take cards?)
    • Onboarding - Not a lot here for this example. They hand you the cup.
    • Retention/Referral - Maybe you tell someone else about the stand.

 

Apply This to Your Business

 

Even with that super simple business, you can see a customer experience journey. I suspect your business is a bit more complex than a lemonade stand, but you can apply the same map to it in order to develop great customer experience. Let’s use the little plan again:

 

*Event* - What happens that prompts someone to decide to work with you?  Are you even sure you know?

 

    • Awareness - Are you marketing your business? How do people see what you sell? WHERE do they see it? How often?
    • Evaluation - What do you do to help people see the difference between what you sell versus a competitor?
    • Purchase - Is it easy to buy what you sell? Do you make the experience enjoyable? How fast does your buyer get what they paid for?
    • Onboarding - What do you do once they’ve paid? How do you make them feel welcome? What gives your customer the sense that you’re in this together and there to serve them?
    • Retention/Referral - It’s so much easier to get a referral or keep an earned customer than it is to acquire new ones. What can you do to help that process?

 

Completing Your Map

 

A lot of times, people have one or two of these touchpoints figured out. Often times, however, there are parts that are very unclear. For instance, I find that many companies aren’t really clear on what *Event* might trigger someone needing what they sell. For some businesses, that’s easy. If you replace auto glass, it’s clear that a piece of glass had to break. If you sell life insurance, there are much more complex triggers to be considered.

 

The “awareness” and “evaluation” points of the map are about marketing. If you’re not putting your business out there to be seen, people will be less aware. If you’re not helping show people the difference between what you do and what someone else does, they will pick on cost or convenience. Knowing how better to position what you sell (the evaluation point) helps you justify a higher price point, for instance.

 

My buddy Joe opened a barbecue restaurant in Milwaukee, but he used only top-quality cuts of meat (BBQ is usually about saucing up cheap meat). The difference was there, but it cost more, so he had to really sell the story of high-quality cuts and an elevated dining experience.

 

 

The “purchase” map point sometimes yields an advantage for customer experience. If you can make it easier to buy from you or easier to pay you or easier to hand over what you’ve sold than another company, this can win you more business.

 

Not every product or service requires “onboarding.” If I buy a hot dog from your stand, I don’t need much in the way of direction. Or do I? What if you set out the condiments with little suggestions about flavor combinations to build? Show me how to dress my own Chicago dog (veggies all over it - don’t forget the sport pepper) or a Sonoran dog (bacon and beans and salsa).

 

“Retention/Referral” points to the area of marketing I find most companies do the least work to secure. You’ve bought. Now leave. Sure, sometimes, someone will say “come back again” or something similar, but that’s the extent of it. Work in this one category can definitely land you more business and improved revenue. How will you keep them coming back for more?

 

 

Work Your Map

 

As you sit with these ideas, try jotting it out for yourself. Don’t just read this and move on to something else in your day. Give yourself five minutes to map whether you’ve considered your customer experience journey for what you sell. I can bet you’ll learn something that might yield more results and revenue.

 

 

          Read Next:

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. 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. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Are you passionate about health, fitness and nutrition? So are millions of Americans. According to The Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry grew by 12.8 percent between 2015 and 2017 and accounts for 5.3 percent of the global economy.

architecture-building-indoors-2196457.jpg

 

This could be an ideal time to launch a wellness business.

 

What is wellness? From organic skin-care products to meditation apps, the concept encompasses just about every product or service you can think of that affects the mind, body and spirit. However, the following key sectors identified by GWI are most promising for entrepreneurs:

 

  • Personal care, beauty and anti-aging ($1,083 billion in 2017)
  • Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss ($702 billion)
  • Wellness tourism ($639 billion)
  • Fitness and mind-body ($595 billion)
  • Spa economy ($119 billion)
  • Workplace wellness ($48 billion)

 

Here’s an overview of some of the fastest-growing wellness trends that have the greatest potential as business startups.

 

Personalized diet and nutrition counseling

 

“Personalized” is the key word in today’s diet, nutrition and weight loss industry, a market that some estimates project will hit $11.5 billion by 2025. Successful entrepreneurs will tailor nutrition advice to clients’ specific goals, genetic makeup and food sensitivities, as well as special diets such as keto, vegan, paleo or Mediterranean. There’s a focus on improving overall health and performance rather than simply losing weight.

 

Meditation

 

Like yoga 20 years ago, meditation is just starting to explode, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. Already, meditation is tied with yoga as the most popular alternative medicine practice in the country, but there’s still potential for more growth. In the coming year, look for drop-in meditation centers, fitness programs that incorporate meditation, and a wider range of ancient meditation practices to enter the mainstream.

 

Wellness travel

 

In contrast to “overtourism,” (tourists flooding popular vacation spots), wellness travelers seek to boost both mind and body with vacations that enhance their physical, mental and spiritual wellness. That could mean traditional spa activities such as daily yoga and meditation with a vegan diet prepared by a chef or going “off the beaten path” to experience little-known wellness practices of local cultures. 

 

Workplace wellness

 

Anxiety disorder is the top mental health issue in America. Not only does anxiety cause personal problems, it also cuts into business productivity and reduces employee satisfaction. As businesses strive to retain employees in a competitive market, a workplace wellness business that helps promote happier, healthier employee lifestyles will be in demand. You can provide everything from massage and yoga to meditation and fitness training to office workers.

 

One-stop wellness centers

 

“Holistic” is the buzzword for wellness in 2019 and beyond, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. That’s behind the trend of wellness centers that incorporate medical treatment, fitness classes, nutritional advice, personal trainers, yoga and meditation and other wellness activities in one place. Similar to co-working spaces, one-stop wellness centers provide a place for members to drop in and have all of their wellness needs taken care of in a community of like-minded people. Consider partnering with other wellness entrepreneurs to start a center or locating your business in an existing center.

 

Wellness apps

 

Would you rather write code than do crunches? There’s still opportunity for tech startups to create apps that help people track their fitness progress, monitor their food intake or stick to their meditation practice. Just be sure to check out the competition closely before you start developing your big idea, so you don’t enter a niche that’s already saturated. Female reproductive and sexual health are areas with promise, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report.

 

Pet wellness

 

The same wellness trends that humans embrace quickly trickle down to our furry friends. According to CB Insights, high-grade pet food, pet health products, pet fitness trackers and pet nutritional supplements are all growth areas attracting attention—and venture capital. If the market for a particular wellness concept is already saturated in the human space, pivoting to pets could give you the edge you need.

The global appetite for wellness isn’t going away. Starting a business to serve consumers’ quest for self-improvement offers the opportunity to help others while also making a healthy profit.

 

               Related Links

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

The Department of Labor has made changes that could impact your Small Business payroll. Listen to Erron Stark, an ADP Executive, share insights on what the latest Labor Department rule changes mean for your Small Business in this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.comand Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Erron Stark. He's the Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Erron, welcome.

 

Erron Stark:               Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm really excited to talk to you as well because there's a lot going on within the Department of Labor, as far as them proposing some big changes when it comes to minimum salary requirements, particularly, if I understand it correctly, when it comes to those who qualify as having administrative professional and executive exemptions. Can we talk about…obviously I want to talk about the bigger topic, which is those minimum salary requirements, but first let's talk about who qualifies in that category as having administrative, professional and executive exemptions. Can you explain to us who that is?

 

Erron Stark:               Sure. So the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is actually what is being reviewed right now and has been reviewed for the better part of five or six years now as it pertains to overtime exemptions, and if those individuals, as you were just referring to, that have classifications as administrative roles, professional roles, executive roles within an organization, there are very specific definitions and elements of their job functions that would then classify each one of those particular job types.

 

Erron Stark:                And over the years, the minimum salaries for those particular individuals has fluctuated to allow an organization to pay an individual within those classifications a certain salary on a weekly or biweekly basis that would exempt them from being eligible for overtime. So whether or not I worked 40 hours or 50 hours in that particular week, if I met that minimum salary for that specific pay period, I would not be eligible for overtime. And what is currently on the docket to be reviewed and potentially implemented is a significant increase to those thresholds, which will impact business owners on how they structure and classify certain individuals. But because of that, a lot of business owners need to be a little bit more in tune with what those classifications are and what those threshold implications could be.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So if I'm a business owner and these proposed changes are in whatever state they're at and perhaps about to become effective as law or not, but what should I be doing today...?  First of all, what's the best way for me to monitor what's happening and then what kinds of changes should I be thinking about in terms of preparing for this, should these changes become law?

 

Erron Stark:               That's a great question and I think for large organizations, many institutions typically have some type of regulatory department within their HR arena or legal arena that helps them classify certain individuals and be in sync with the differentiation between state and federal minimum thresholds and the classifications. But specifically for small business owners, what we recognize is that their passions typically get them into opening up a business around their respective craft and service that they're trying to provide to the market, but these particular areas of concentration and education are not necessarily what they got into business for.

 

Erron Stark:               So I think first and foremost is to begin to familiarize themselves with these classifications. And if the bandwidth is not necessarily there, to start to identify services that they could employ, that could help them better define where they currently stand today as far as being in compliance with the current regulations, but then also starting to understand what the future implications could be.  And one of the biggest areas of opportunity for most organizations big or small is ensuring that they have a structured time and attendance process today.

 

Erron Stark:               Because most organizations, if they do define their employees as exempt from overtime, they then don't feel the need to have any type of attendance and/or time tracking mechanism in place. And again, if these new changes go into effect, those are certain protocols or certain systematic changes that if they are proactive today, they will be in a much better place and feel more confident that they are ready for those changes before they go into effect.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So you mentioned a very interesting thing, which is services that can help businesses monitor this, prepare for it. I'm talking with Erron Stark. He's the Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Who provides those services? And I'm guessing a company like ADP does that. But if not, help direct us so we know where to go and look for those services.

 

Erron Stark:               It is convenient that we do, but I would be lying if I said we were the only player in that game. However, the services that, if I were a small business owner that I would be looking for, are services that can use economies of scale, because most small business owners from a cost perspective, it's usually not efficient for them to employ a full-time SHRM-certified HR professional that a large organization may. But there are services that exist where you can tap into teams of those SHRM-certified HR professionals that can help give guidance and evaluate your current infrastructure and then tell you where there are certain gaps.

 

Erron Stark:                And again, it's almost using it on an as need basis as opposed to maybe a more proactive or robust HR offering. But depending on your needs, size of organization, the growth trajectory of your organization, those are services that are flexible. ADP does happen to provide those that are scalable, anything from reactive to proactive HR support and guidance to keep an organization compliant with changes such as this around Department of Labor regulations.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of my questions for you, Erron, and you may not know the answer, but I'm gonna ask anyway, do you have any sense of how many small businesses—as a percent—these proposed changes might affect?

 

Erron Stark:               It’s a great questionand I can tell you confidently that it's at minimum 50%. It's hard to identify across the entire chasm of small business owners coast–to-coast and certain job descriptions that they have how many of them are currently in compliance, how many that are currently within the current regulations out of compliance. But what I can tell you is that once these changes go into effect, that number will increase substantially from 50% into the high 70s and 80s, where I as an individual, especially as organizations grow in size, they may have individuals that have already exceeded those thresholds to be considered exempt, but it's with a significant level of confidence that there are going to be levels of the organization that have individuals being paid at certain rates that will not meet the proposed changes. So again, big or small, I think there's going to be a significant impact to the business community in general and how they approach these changes.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So really those numbers and those percentages are high enough that almost anybody with a small business needs to have this on their radar starting today if it's not there already.

 

Erron Stark:               Correct.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to go back to something else you said. You mentioned regulations on the state level. Because, of course, right now what we're talking about is the federal Department of Labor, but you also mentioned state. What impact can state laws have on this?

 

Erron Stark:               Yeah. It's interesting because, in most cases, state law, when it pertains to Department of Labor regulations, will supersede that of federal. However, what we've learned is that in certain instances, a state may have a lower threshold and using minimum wage potentially as an example, if a state has a lower minimum wage than that of the federal minimum wage, whichever one is higher will win for the employee. So rest assured that these changes on the FLSA front will more than likely follow a similar type of model where what these threshold are, if the state is higher than federal, then an organization will have to follow the state guideline based on them residing within that state. And if the federal happens to be higher than the state, then they will then have to follow the federal in favor of the employee themselves.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And you're again I think in a subtle way making a case for why a small business needs to go get some expert help from a service that specializes in this. Because if you own or you're running a small business, it's probably going to be very difficult for you to sort this all out. And Tthere's probably a good chance you're going to miss something that's very important. You should focus on running your business successfully and not trying to become expert at something that there are already experts for you to hire to assist you.

 

Erron Stark:               Yeah and to take it one step further, what we've seen in feedback from businesses that employ such services from ADP is that their prior course of action was to go on the web and search for what they would perceive be the right approach to handle these matters. And when it comes to regulations within the Department of Labor and just federal and state regulations in general, the amount of interpretation that can take place and how one person reads it versus another, it's intriguing to say the least.

 

Erron Stark:               And again, one just doesn't want to get caught in a situation where I as a business owner interpreted what I read on the internet versus how it actually should have been read, which is where a HR professional can truly help them decipher what is going to be compliant for their organization.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So it seems to me an analogy here is for the same reason that I have an accountant who helps me interpret tax law and apply it to my circumstances, this is complicated stuff that I'm needing another professional to help me interpret. And that actually gives me both the ability to sleep better at night, but it also gives me some cover should there be a problem down the road. I did all the right things to do our best at interpreting the laws even if we might have missed something.

 

Erron Stark:               It's a phenomenal analogy just because for decades, if not centuries, with the accountant profession being one of the most tenured professions out there that business owners have always entrusted to help give them guidance on how to run their business. When it comes to the HR arena that is growing substantially, the reason behind that is due to the increased legislation that has continued to impact business owners both big and small.

 

Erron Stark:                And with those increased legislation that have continued to be passed typically in favor of the employees, when you combine that with the extensive media coverage that an employee has access to and just the sensitivity of how employers engage with their employees, which is their greatest asset, it has become even more prevalent for an organization to go beyond just the four walls of their accountant guidance to seek out HR professionals that can also help ensure and insulate their organization so they can focus on growing their business as opposed to having to stay up at night worrying about whether or not they are prepared for these types of changes or whether or not they're in compliance in general.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's really well said. I'm talking with Erron Stark. He's Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. And Erron, I want to ask one last question and that is what is the status of these proposed new rules? Do we know if or when they will take effect?

 

Erron Stark:               So the latest that we have been privy to is that the target date is January of 2020. So we're not necessarily looking too far out on the horizon. I would preface that by saying this has been a change that has been on the docket for quite some time now. And it has gone through a myriad of modifications. And I think that also could potentially give a business owner a little bit of a false sense of security today because it's been something that has been in the proposal stage for so long that they could make a assumption that it will continue to stay in that stage.

 

Erron Stark:               But my precaution to those individuals is to say if you are not prepared for the change, once it eventually goes into effect, it will have a significant implication to business owners and not in a negative way. It's just going to require a tremendous amount of visibility into current classifications, potential restructuring of whether or not an employee is salary versus hourly. And those types of exercises, if it's rushed for a business owner because they waited too long or they just didn't believe that it truly was going to pass, is where you could potentially get yourself into hot water because then once it's rushed, you typically don't do it well or implement the right strategies to ensure that it does not impact your organization in an adverse way.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And if you're caught by surprise and you're having to do this in sort of emergency mode, you're taking resources away from other important parts of your business. So I think we all understand that planning ahead and working ahead and being smart about what you're doing always make sense. I think that's great advice and Erron, it sounds like what you're saying is: the time is now.

 

Erron Stark:               For sure. I would complement this conversation by saying this is just one of many changes that have already taken place, and there are even more legislative changes that again are in favor of employees to help strengthen their position in the workforce today. In the tight labor market that we have with an almost 50 year low in unemployment, the employees are super important to every organization today. The retention of those employees are important. So employing some type of HR strategy, employing some type of insulation to ensure that your organization is compliant should mean a more comprehensive outlook outside of just FLSA and these changes that could potentially go into effect in January.

 

Erron Stark:                And that way if you are proactive in ensuring that you are holistically compliant, if and when these changes go into effect, which it seems stronger today than it ever has, that January is a realistic timeframe, you will be even more prepared and, to your point, not have to worry about being distracted at that time so you can continue to grow and focus on what you got into business for initially.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's really very well said, Erron. Thank you. He's Erron Stark, Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Erron, thanks for joining us here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. This interview and lots of other great small business tips will be available if you check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community. That's at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Erron, thank you for joining.

 

Erron Stark:               Oh, it was my pleasure, and thank you for having us. Look forward to doing more of these soon.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.comand Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

 

Learn more about ADP® payroll and HR solutions from Bank of America.1

 

1ADP is a registered trademark of ADP, LLC, used under license. Bank of America does not deliver and is not responsible for the products, services or performance of ADP, LLC. Data connection required. Wireless carrier fees may apply. Other bank fees may apply. See the Business Schedule of Fees available at bankofamerica.com/businessfeesataglance for details.

You have a business idea you’re passionate about. But before you take another step, you need to find out if there’s a demand for that business in your community.

 

Conducting market research will reveal whether the area has enough potential customers, if they’ll buy what you’re planning to sell, and who your competitors are. Here’s what you need to find out.

adult-beverage-blur-551652.jpg

 

Is the industry thriving?

 

Start by researching the industry you want to enter. Is it growing, mature or declining? How do others in the industry sell their products or services? Where are most of them located? How much money do they make?

 

You can find a lot of information by searching online. Suppose you want to start a boba tea business. The search “is boba tea a growing industry?” reveals that the bubble or boba tea market is expected to reach $3,214 million by 2023. Look for search results from legitimate sources such as government websites, industry analysts, industry publications or industry associations. Tap into trade associations and trade publications for industry trend data, too. Using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to identify how your industry is classified will help you find more information.

 

Are there enough customers in your community?

 

Just because your community has a lot of residents doesn’t mean it has a lot of customers.

 

You need people who fit your target market profile. For instance, the primary customer base for boba tea stores tends to be millennials and Asians, so starting this business in a community full of white retirees won’t work.

 

To see if your business idea is a fit, get demographic information such as age, ethnicity, marital status, education level, household income and size, and homeownership for your community. The following sources can help:

 

 

Will those customers buy what you sell?

 

Even people in your target market won’t buy from you if they don’t have sufficient disposable income. For instance, boba tea is a luxury, not a necessity, so consumers on a budget may not buy it. Use consumer spending data to research your market’s spending habits.

 

    • The Bureau of Economic Analysis shows income levels by location.
    • The Consumer Price Index shows how much people pay for various products.
    • Employment and Unemployment Statistics reveals employment levels in your area and what types of jobs people have. For instance, if you want to start a beauty supply store targeting hair stylists (a business-to-business venture), find out how many people in your area work in salons and how many salons exist that might become customers. The cost of starting a beauty supply store may not be a strong investment if the market of customers isn’t there in your local area.
    • Consumer Spending shows overall spending trends.

 

Conducting surveys is a good way to see if prospective customers will buy from you. SurveyMonkey Audience lets you survey people in your desired region and demographic. If your customer base can be easily found (such as hair salon owners) you can also contact them directly to ask questions.

 

Who’s the competition?

 

All systems seem go—your community is full of hair salons and hairstylists, not to mention style-conscious women who can be potential customers for your hair salon supply store. Not so fast! What competing businesses exist?

 

Use the resources mentioned above to find local competitors. Visit them to get an idea of how they position themselves, what products they sell and the level of service they provide. This will help you identify opportunities to differentiate your business.

 

What if your research shows a sizable Asian, millennial customer base that spends a lot on eating out—but there are already three boba tea shops in your community? There might be room for another, but only if you can distinguish your store by offering something the others don’t. Could you serve more than just boba tea, or stay open late at night and host poetry readings and live music?

 

If there are nocompeting businesses in the area, that’s not necessarily a green light. Maybe there are no hair salon supply stores near you because local salon owners and hairstylists buy all their supplies online. You’ll need to dig deeper by contacting them to ask.

 

If all this research seems overwhelming, the experts at SCORE or your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) can help you conduct market research on your community at no cost. (Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)

 

Whatever option you choose, don’t neglect this important step. It can make the difference between a successful startup and an empty storefront.

 

          Related Links

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

Ensuring your employees are aware of their value is more important than ever. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Chris Brogan shares how small business owners can help inspire and motivate employees to increase retention.

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I'm here with Chris Brogan. He's an author, keynote speaker and business advisor. He's also the president of Chris Brogan Media at ChrisBrogan.com.They offer business and marketing advisory help for mid-to-larger-size companies. If you're not a big company, Chris also has a company called Owner Media Group at Owner.Media. That's where he helps small business owners through classes and webinars. Chris, welcome.

 

Chris Brogan:             Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, I want to talk to you today about how to bring out the best in your employees. Before we go there, I want to point out that your upcoming book, you've written one book which is a New York Times bestseller — it's called Trust Agents— but your upcoming book, your 10th book, is called Dented: Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age. You also post a lot of posts on Twitter using #Dented. Your Twitter account is @chrisbrogan.

 

                                   I want to talk about how do we bring out the best in our employees. This is more important than it's ever been. Is this also a big focus of your upcoming book Dented?

 

Chris Brogan:             It is. One of the ways that I'm looking at modern business is that, at least in the west, and at least with the kinds of the companies that I've been working with, there's a lot of situation where unemployment's at a very, very low level right now. Retention is a lot more important than ever before. However, at the same time, there's a lot of stuff going on that's challenging to businesses.

 

                                   For instance, I'm seeing that there's a lot of trouble with presenteeism, meaning people disengaged. That's costing companies up to $550 billion a year. People come to work, they're doing their job, but they're also thinking about the fact that a family member is dealing with an addiction problem, or they're dealing with the mental health challenge of depression or something like that.

 

                                   My work in this space, what I'm trying to do is ... Some of this is coming from the hectic side of all this digital stuff coming at us. Some of it's just coming from work and life are not in balance, and they're not supposed to be, but there needs to be a new fit there. What I'm looking to do is, how do I help companies, employees, executives, everyone, how to help them figure out how to bring their whole self to the interactions that they need to have? What are we going to do to connect, interact, and belong at the level that we need to?

 

Gregg Stebben:         You're asking a lot of questions there. I'm hoping we can transition to the idea that you might have some tips to help us do that. What kinds of things should we be thinking about doing to inspire and motivate our employees?

 

Chris Brogan:            Well, I'll back it up a little. One thing I'd say is that humans in general have one great need more than any other. Stephen Covey talked about this a billion years ago in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He said humankind's greatest need was the need to feel wanted.I would even go a layer easier than that, and say to feel seen and understood.

 

                                  I think that more so than ever before, there's so much distraction. I'm looking at how do companies work with their employees to develop them a little bit more. How do employers work with their teams to say, "I see you. I understand what's going on with you. Let's make this environment work best for what's going on in your world."

 

                                   Then in the meantime, I think that companies need to have five things that they're working on a lot more often, even if they hide this inside of other language, if they need to. Resilience. How much are people able to withstand a bad situation happening or a negative situation, and then get back on station, so to speak. How do they get back to work?

 

                                   Clarity. You'll have time to try to sort through stuff. The level of people who are expert communicators is much lower than the level of people who need to communicate these days. I think some skill there needs to happen.

 

                                  Systems. One thing we tend to do a lot as leaders and employers, we tend to believe that there's a whole bunch of knowledge inbred into the people that we've hired in. You should know that already…that anyone, blah, blah, blah. That's the sort of language that comes out, but those systems don't exist, or they're not as explicit as they need to be. We need to retouch on that.

 

                                  Confidence. It is amazing how many opportunities exist overall to have your confidence mashed down over and over again. So can we build in ways to work on people's confidence, develop their confidence, etc.?

 

                                  Then I talked a little bit about this when I said clarity, but communications in general, we need to really train everybody in that organization how to do things like give feedback, how to do things like do effective brainstorming when you're doing collaboration work and whatnot, and how to really make sure that we're speaking to the variety of humans that could be there. We tend to get a lot more homogenous in our view and talk to everyone, but the world doesn't really react to that well.

 

                                  Those five things, resilience, clarity, systems, confidence and communication, I think are part of a core operating system for helping leaders and their employees work better.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think part of what you're saying here is that in today's world, where we have what many are calling a war for talent, employers need to be more aware than ever of the value of the employees they have, not lose them, that's retention, and also understand that making your employees feel valued will make it easier for you to attract more employees, including the friends and associates of the valued employees you already have. Am I summarizing that well?

 

Chris Brogan:            Oh, very well. There are stats like that. Employees who feel their voices are heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. By the way, I think this stat I'm going to read to you is the least shocking stat you could ever hear. Ninety-six percent of employees believe that showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. I'm wondering who the 4% were, but you know. That's something I read. Eighty-nine percent of workers at companies that support wellbeing initiatives are more likely to recommend that company as a good place to work.

 

                                  These numbers matter. There's math to this. There's money to this, but for so many years and still ongoing, we call this stuff the soft skills, which is silly. This is everything. There are almost no real factory jobs. There are almost no real, we don't care who sits in that chair, just pull the lever when the light turns blue. That doesn't exist anymore.

 

                                   I know that's a threat to some people, who would just rather people shut up and do their dumb job, but it's really not ... If you're going to make a company that's thriving, you're not going to get away with it using that methodology.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask you about one other type of employee, Chris. I'm talking with Chris Brogan. He's an author, keynote speaker and business advisor. He's at ChrisBrogan.com. He's on Twitter @chrisbrogan. He's the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller Trust Agents. His 10th book is upcoming. It's called Dented, Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age.

 

                                  I'm coming back to Dented, because I want to ask you about one type of employee that I think every business owner has had. This is somebody who does a great job, but is shy or introverted, and you believe as a business owner that you could help them transform themselves, frankly, but also bring so much more to the company if you could help them bring themselves out of that introverted state. Do you have ideas for how we can encourage someone to become even greater at using the skills and experience and thoughts that they already have, when they're shy or introverted?

 

Chris Brogan:            I love the question, because I want to say at the front of it, one really difficult challenge for extroverted people is they think, "Well, actually, that's where you should be. You should be out like me."

 

Gregg Stebben:        Yeah, that's me. I'm the guy asking the question and that's me.

 

Chris Brogan:            Yeah. I hear you. The challenge there is that some people were born to be stage hands. Some people love painting the set, and hoisting the fake rainbow up and over the picture at the right moment during the school play. Other people, like my oldest son, love to wear glitter and sequins, and scream as loud as he can every line in his play.

 

                                   We need both. I would say that instead of how do we make an introvert more extroverted, the question is how do we mine those deep waters, because there's just so much value in there.

 

                                   To me, one way to do that is to encourage other means of communication and interaction. They're the kind of people you could say, "Hey. Can you write a little report?" or, "Hey. Are you up for sharing a quick five bullets every now and again?" There's always ways to get people a step or two into sharing what they know.

 

                                   One thing that helps really introverted people a lot are confidence building opportunities. I think that one missing piece of work that anybody who owns a business could learn something from those time wasting video games that I love so much, is that games have stages and levels and checkpoints. Work doesn't. I would say the one cool way to work with introverts is to say, "Here's what level one of interacting looks like." "Here's what level two looks like." "Can we get some more interaction here?" If I built this person's confidence, what would that look like? What would feel rewarding to that person for sharing? Then you start to see how you could design something.

 

                                  When I work with executives to design better ways to lead their people, or to tune up their leadership, one of the things I'm looking for is that. Are there more breaks that we can stick in, are there more checkpoints and systems? Specific to introverts, I think that's the method is get smaller bites, but get lots of those bites. Make it a nice tapas meal, and then you get their value.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I really like the analogies there, tapas meals, and to the levels or leveling up in gaming. He is Chris Brogan. His company is Chris Brogan Media at ChrisBrogan.com. He's also the owner of Owner Media Group for small business owners, where they offer classes and webinars. Owner Media Group is at Owner.Media. You can also follow Chris on Twitter, like I do, @chrisbrogan. His New York Times bestselling book, Trust Agents was one of his nine books. His 10th book is coming. It's called Dented: Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age.

 

                                  Chris, in addition to your website, are there other places people can go to learn more about you, or are there things on your website you would point us to that can offer great value?

 

Chris Brogan:            ChrisBrogan.com works well. If you get there, there's a newsletter that will pop up and bother you. That's my best thing I do every single week. If you found this interesting, grab that newsletter. You can always hit reply to me directly from there, and we can chit chat.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's great. For more great tips from Chris and other small business experts, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community. It's at bankofamerica.com/SBC.

 

                                   Chris, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Chris Brogan:             My pleasure. Thank you.

 

Narrator:                     Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

Related Links:

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

A bank loan is a great way to help entrepreneurs start growing their own business. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Steve Strauss shares six steps to successfully obtaining a small business loan.

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. Here’s your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us to talk about six essential steps for getting a business loan. Steve is USA Today's small business columnist and also the author of 17 books, including the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve, thank you for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         This is obviously an essential topic, how to get a small business loan. You are, as I mentioned, USA Today's small business columnist. You're also a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, and you talk to a lot of small business owners and I suspect that questions about how to get a loan is often one of the things they ask you.

 

Steve Strauss:           You bet. In fact, a couple years ago I even wrote a book on this very subject called Get Your Business Funded, because the good news is there are really a lot of different ways to get the money that you need for your business.

 

                                  The best and most obvious is to get a bank loan, as we're going to talk about today, but there are others like crowdfunding and microfinance, even business-owned competitions that people aren't as aware of. But the good news is, there is money out there for you to start running and grow your business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, of these first six steps, what's number one?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number one is you want to create a relationship with your banker before you ever go get a loan. In fact, what I really want people to know is banks want to lend to you. They want to lend to you. That's their job. That's their business. That's their business model.

 

                                  So, your job is to make their job easier, and the first way to do that is as I said: create a relationship with your banker. So before you ever go into the bank with your loan package, instead go into the bank and meet your small business banker.

 

 

                                  For example, Bank of America, who I do a lot of work with, who you mentioned, a couple years ago hired more than 1,000 small business bankers, and they're there to help you understand the banking process, understand the loan process, and understand what your loan package needs to have and how your business needs to look in order for you to get the funding that you need.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think what you said about it being the business of business banking to make loans is a really important point to make, because I think sometimes people feel like it takes luck to get a loan, but they're actually in the business of doing it, and that's an important thing to remember. So that's step number one. What's step number two?

 

Steve Strauss:           Step number two is to understand how much money you need realistically. It's kind of like Goldilocks' porridge. You don't want it to be too little because then you're going to end up with a capital crunch before you even start. You don't want it to be too much because the banker who is well-versed in finances and books and spreadsheets will understand that you're asking for too much money and that's not what you want to do.

 

                                  So you really need to think thoroughly through what it is you're trying to do, how much money you need to do what it is you want to do, and then go in with a loan package to ask for that proper amount.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, I've done that. What is step number three?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number three is to get your personal credit in order. It going to be very unlikely that you're going to be able to go in and just on the basis of your business get a business loan, at least if you're fairly new to business. Often a bank is going to want to see a personal guarantee on the part of the principal, and so you want to make sure that your personal credit score is about 700, that your debt to income ratio isn't out of whack, that you have a great credit history, that you have a history of paying your debt back in time, on time, and in full.

 

 

                                   They're also going to want to know how long you've been in business and what your cash flow is like. But make sure that you get your personal credit in order so that if you need to give a personal guarantee or if you need to give collateral even you can do both of those things.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Steve Strauss about the six steps to get a small business loan. Steve, what is step number four?

 

Steve Strauss:           Step number four is the one that we kind of talked about at the beginning. Now get your loan package ready. You've met with the banker, you know how much money you need, you have your credit in order, then you do number four, which is prepare your loan package.

 

                                  You have to include your financials, projections, a business plan, leases, contracts, personal financial information. You're going to put all of that together in a package that you're going to give to the bank.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Now, Steve, I'm really curious about steps five and six, because I would have thought we were done after number four when we got our loan package together. So, what's number five?

 

Steve Strauss:           Five is an easy one, which is, you know, you submit and you wait. You may wait a day. It just depends on what kind of loan you're trying to get. It may be that you have to wait for a couple weeks for underwriting to do their job. But you're going to submit and then see what happens.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I would imagine that if we did step number one correctly, which is create a relationship with our banker, then step number five, waiting, is a lot easier because we have someone we can go back to and check in with and say, "Is there anything else you need? How do you think we're doing? Do you think we're making the right kind of progress?"

 

Steve Strauss:           Bingo. So instead of going in blind and hoping for the best you're going in with your eyes open and expecting the best.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes, and having an advocate on our side.

 

Steve Strauss:           That's right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. So we're talking about how to get a business loan. We've now submitted our loan package, we're waiting to hear back from the bank. Let's just say because we did everything else correctly that we've now got our loan. What is step number six?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number six is to repay it in full and on time, and even better, early. I mean the secret to getting an even bigger and better loan next time, meaning better rates, better terms, that kind of thing, is to be a good borrower. So, that means paying it back early. It means that you've done everything that you're supposed to do.

 

                                   And if you do those kind of things, then you're going to have established yourself and your business as being credit worthy, and once that happens then the bank is going to want to work with you even more, and you're going to want to grow your business, and you're going to get another loan, and you're going to grow your business, and you will have created a great relationship and one that allows you to have the capital that you need accessible, and that's really is what makes a big difference for so many small businesses.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I love the sound of having a bank want to work with me even more.

 

Steve Strauss:           Right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, let's walk through those six steps again really quickly as a recap. Step number one, start creating a relationship with your banker right now before you're ready to apply for a loan. Step number two, figure out how much you need, not too much, not too little. You got to figure out what the right amount is, and of course, if you have a relationship with your banker you can get some help there I would imagine.

 

Steve Strauss:           Correct.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Step number three, get your personal credit in order because that's probably going to be a factor here. Step number four, prepare your loan package, which leads to number five, submit and wait. And step number six, probably the most important because we do want the bank to want to work with us again the future ... Step number six, repay the loan back in full, on time, even early, because that will make it clear that you are a great business to lend to next time.

 

                                   Steve, thanks for the great advice and steps for how to get a business loan. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           Sure. You can always find me at my personal website, which is MrAllBiz.com. You can find me at USA Today, and I would also suggest that you come over to the Bank of America Small Business Community. They have lots of great information, articles, videos, tips, other experts, and you can find a lot of great, great stuff right there.

 

Gregg Stebben:          As Steve mentioned, a great place to go for advice in addition to his website, USA Today, and of course checking out his best-selling book, The Small Business Bible. Visit the Bank of America Small Business Community. It's at BankofAmerica.com/SBC.

 

Announcer:                Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

 

Read next:

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “A woman is like a tea bag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

image1.jpeg

 

This quote popped into my head as I listened to Stephanie Vitori, owner of Miami Beach-based Cheeseburger Baby, accept the Small Business Administration’s National Phoenix Award during Small Business Week in Washington, D.C. The Phoenix is awarded to those who’ve “displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.”

 

Vitori started her career at Cheeseburger Baby as a delivery driver, but she didn’t stop there. After learning the ins and outs of every position at the company, she bought the place. She set out to transform the “dive” by adding food trucks (which turned out to be a lifesaver) so she could “grow beyond South Beach and reach more customers.”

 

No stranger to transformations, Vitori had to rebuild her iconic burger business after it was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Irma. She’s the perfect embodiment of both the Phoenix—rising from devastation—and the tea bag—gaining strength as she went.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: You bought Cheeseburger Baby in 2004. What made you think you could go from delivering burgers to running the place?

 

Stephanie Vitori: I’ve always loved food—I grew up in the kitchen with my family. I was a foodie before being a foodie was a thing. I also saw the connection Cheeseburger Baby had with its customers and employees and I believed in it.  So, I saw an opportunity and went for it. No risk, no reward.

 

Lesonsky: You’ve said you “transformed” Cheeseburger Babyfrom a dive into a South Beach hot spot. How did you do that?

 

Vitori:I transformed it with hard work, offering great food, ambience and customer service. Word got out we were the place to go for the best burger in town. I also make sure I am present and involved as an owner from cooking burgers to doing the dishes. It’s important to lead by example.

 

Lesonsky: So things were going great and then Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. Did you prepare for the coming storm?

 

Vitori: I prepared for the worst but was hoping for the best. About 48 hours before [the storm hit] I decided to put everything in freezers, board up the stores, park the trucks in a safe area, pack up and tarp our house. We got in a U-Haul with our five dogs and went on what seemed like one of the longest road trips ever. It was the hardest decision in my life.

 

Lesonsky: And yet, despite your preparations, Irma devastated Cheeseburger Baby. What were the damages?

 

Vitori: Hurricane Irma was by far the biggest challenge the business and I faced in the last 19 years. Water backed up into the restaurant, damaging food and essential equipment. There was also major damage to the air conditioning unit, freezer, hood ventilation system, and our marquee sign. A tree fell on our food truck damaging the roof and awning. Power was out at the restaurant for two weeks.

 

Lesonsky: You experienced about $150,000 in losses and property damage. Recovery was slow. Were you worried you were going to lose it all?

 

Vitori: Yes, I was worried about losing it all. I learned about the Small Business Development Center and went to them for help. I had only 24 hours to get our bridge loan application together. It was a challenge but prepared me for filling out the SBA Disaster Loan Application (we were approved).

 

We did whatever we could. We relied more on the food trucks as we recovered. My wife and I worked endlessly, picking up more truck events everywhere we saw an opportunity, and we marketed on social media.

 

Lesonsky: During your acceptance speech for the Phoenix Award, you made a pretty staid audience cry and got a resounding standing ovation. How did that make you feel?

image2.jpeg

 

Vitori: It truly is hard to put into words what I felt—I’ve never felt anything like it before. It was the first speech I’ve ever given in my life. I was obviously nervous, but I felt blessed and appreciated. The audience made me feel validated—20 years ago I went down the wrong path, quickly realizing it wasn’t for me. Then I was outed in high school which pushed me to graduate a year ahead of my class.

 

I moved to Miami not knowing my future. I worked extremely hard, buying Cheeseburger Baby and paying it off in two years instead of five. I was honored to [receive] the National Phoenix Award for resiliency, tenacity and strength. I feel the award was for everything I have been through in life, and I think the audience felt the same.

 

Lesonsky: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?

 

Vitori: Always make time for you.

 

Lesonsky: In your acceptance speech you said, “There are two kinds of people in the world—problem identifiers and problem solvers. Small business owners need to be both.” Was that the lesson this taught you?

 

Vitori: I’ve always been that way, but in business you learn a lot of time gets wasted when you just have identifiers. Identify, find a solution, solve it and move on.

 

Lesonsky: What’s next?

 

Vitori: We want to continue to be the best burger people have ever had in the world.

 

     Related content:

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Put down your Pina Colada and step away from the pool. If you’re a retailer, now is the time to start planning for holiday shopping success.

architecture-bar-boutique-279260.jpg

 

Last year 89 million consumers shopped both online and in stores over Black Friday weekend, an increase of nearly 40 percent from 2017, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). With the economy in booming condition, sales are likely to be just as strong this year. But there’s plenty of competition—so take these steps this month to put your retail business out front during the holiday season.

 

Get a head start on inventory

 

    • Review your best sellers from last year and use your inventory management software to plan ahead and forecast your inventory needs. Strike a balance—ordering too much or too little inventory is a profit-killer.
    • To get the right mix of products, research what’s trending in your target market. Visit trade shows to see what products are being promoted; monitor the hot sellers on Amazon, eBay or Alibaba.com.
    • It’s also important to keep your merchandise fresh, so plan to order different products you can highlight every couple of weeks.
    • Focus on a mix of unique inventory that customers can’t get from big-box retailers or websites, as well as some popular items and small impulse buys you can use to get customers into your store.
    • Place orders early and stay in contact with suppliers. Know how soon you need to order, any extra fees for rush delivery and the like.
    • To hedge your bets in case one supplier is shut down by bad weather, order from multiple suppliers so you won’t get caught short.

 

Plan for marketing and advertising

 

    • Revie last year’s marketing and advertising plan. What worked and what didn’t? Create a marketing plan, calendar and budget based off that information.
    • Start by planning end-of-summer promotions to clear out stock and make room for holiday merchandise.
    • Next, plan marketing for key dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day and Super Saturday.
    • Online marketing is key, since shoppers go online to research products, compare prices and find stores. Capture consumers in these early stages with pay-per-click advertising and promoted social posts.
    • If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, update your local search directory listings using keywords shoppers are likely to use.
    • Your website needs some holiday spirit. Create gift guides. Plan to add a holiday design.
    • Can your website handle a surge in holiday traffic? Make any major changes to your site well in advance.
    • Email marketing is a key driver of holiday sales. Clean up your email lists; encourage customers to sign up for your emails; and plan your email campaigns adhead so you’re not trying to create them during the holiday rush!
    • Don’t forget real-world marketing. Brainstorm ideas for in-store events or charitable campaigns now so you can start building excitement.

 

Promotions and deals

 

    • More than four in 10 consumers say they can’t resist making a purchase when something is on sale. Use your sales forecasts to calculate what types of discounts you can offer without hurting your bottom line.
    • Incentivize shoppers with deals such as BOGO, flash sales or VIP sales offers.
    • Plan for post-holiday discounts. Last year, 68 percent of holiday shoppers and 80 percent of those aged 18-24 planned to keep shopping December 26-January 1, according to the NRF.

 

Get your systems ready

 

    • Review last year’s holiday data to see what days, dates, and hours of the day were busiest. This will help you plan and budget for staffing needs.
    • If you’ll need extra help, reach out to seasonal workers you hired last year to available.
    • Bigger companies start holiday hiring as early as August, so if you want the best workers, prepare your job listings and start putting out feelers now. Remember, allow time to train seasonal staff well before the holidays.
    • If you’re implementing new service offerings this season, such as “buy online, pick up in-store,” selling gift cards, or offering layaway, put the proper systems in place and work out any kinks now.

 

Get your groundwork done now, and you’ll boost your odds of “winning” the holiday shopping season.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

If you travel through airports at all, you really don’t need to be told how great TSA Precheck is.

 

airplane-airport-passengers-34631.jpg

Either you have enviously seen the empty lanes as you interminably wait in your own long, security line, or you have Precheck and have waltzed through security yourself, wondering why everyone else hasn’t gotten with the (great) program yet.

 

If you’re someone whose small business requires travel for buying trips, trend scouting, trade shows, or just a good old-fashioned client pitch, Precheck could save you valuable time and cut down on travel headaches.

 

How great and popular is Precheck? Check out these stats from the Transportation Security Administration:

 

The average Precheck passenger spends less than five minutes in a security line

More than 7 million people are enrolled in Precheck

Precheck is offered in more than 200 airports and by 67 airlines

 

The Global Entry program is essentially the same thing, but for international travel – an expedited security process for those who pass the required security clearances.

 

How do you get into each, and what are the benefits? Let’s see.

 

TSA Precheck

 

Getting into the Precheck Program is a three-step process:

 

1. Apply online: Precheck costs $85 for a five-year membership. You begin the process by applying online.

 

2. Pass the background check: Needless to say, the point of Precheck is to give preference and advantages to low-risk flyers. As such, you will need to pass a background check that includes an in-person interviewand fingerprinting.

 

3. Get accepted and use your number: Once you pass the background check (between 30 to 60 days), you will be given a “Known Traveler Number.” Then, whenever you make a plane reservation, you enter that number and thereafter will have “TSA Precheck” on your boarding pass, both mobile and printed versions.  Long lines be gone!

 

Here are two Precheck tricks you should know about:

 

1. Some credit card and other travel-related loyalty programs will pay for your Precheck application fee. You can find a list here.

 

2. If you have Precheck and are travelling with someone who is not a part of Precheck, it would behoove you to book them on the same reservation. This usually ensures that they will be given Precheck too on their boarding pass.

 

Global Entry

 

If you do any international travel, Global Entry is definitely something that should be on your radar (excuse the pun).

 

Global Entry provides travelers with the following perks:

 

      • TSA Precheck
      • Expedited customs screening when re-entering U.S. airports
      • Expedited customs screening when traveling by train or sea
      • The ability to use Global Entry kiosks when going through customs

 

The cost for the program is $100 for five years. So, for only an extra $15, you can apply for Global Entry and get all its advantages, as well as TSA Precheck, which is a pretty sweet deal.

 

The application process for Global Entry is equivalent to Precheck: Apply online and then attend an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.

 

Global Entry and TSA Precheck are altogether a better way to travel. Apply now and before you know it, you will be saving yourself wait times and airport stress, leaving more time to prepare for your business needs.

 

Bon voyage!

 

     Related Links:

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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: www.theselfemployed.com 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Social media marketing is a broad term covering everything from targeting detailed demographics on Facebook to threading tweets on Twitter, shooting video, and rustling up audiences on YouTube.

 

szabo-viktor-z1aLTzG2VGU-unsplash.jpg

Yet despite the constant conversation about social media marketing, one platform that’s often overlooked is Pinterest.

 

The platform has more than 250 million visitors every month with 84 percent of them turning to Pinterest specifically when they’re trying to decide what to buy. It’s popular with millennials, and it’s particularly popular with females. For any business, but especially businesses that target women, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

One of the reasons that Pinterest has such a dedicated, engaged audience is that it’s easy to use. Another important difference between Pinterest and other platforms, particularly for use in social media marketing, is that it operates more like a search engine than a social media site. Interaction with followers is less important than a steady flow of content properly keyworded. But like Instagram, and unlike Google, Pinterest is built on images.

 

Images are “pinned” to themed boards created by the user and can be shared or “repined” and commented on. And, since the platform tends to be both highly visual and instructional, adding text to your pinned images is often more impactful than the post caption itself in terms of audience engagement.

 

According to Lauren McManus of CreateAndGo.com, a consultancy for bloggers, text should have no more than two or three fonts and colors, but should emphasize the important words.

 

“The headline has to be click-worthy,” she says.

 

Pinterest is also unusual among the social networks in delivering better results for pictures of objects than for pictures of people. Users are more likely to be looking for purchase or design ideas than for selfies of their friends.

 

Format is important too. Pins should have a 2:3 ratio and be no more than 1,500 pixels long. 

 

“Pinterest has said that they will cut off pins at 1,260 pixels,” Lauren says, “but if you keep the majority of the text in the top portion of the graphic, then there usually won't be an issue. Our longer pins from the past still perform well.”

 

Businesses should create their own boards that they fill with relevant pins. Those pins could be product images or even form a kind of mood board related to the services the business sells. Farmers Insurance, for example, has boards that cover family life but also places pins that look like print adverts and promote insurance policies.

 

The real challenge in using Pinterest, as for many social media platforms, is building the audience. One option is to join a group board, a place on which lots of contributors place pins. “Group boards with lots of followers are great for exposure,” says Lauren. “But niche group boards are also very important as relevancy is key in the Pinterest algorithm for associating content with yours.”

 

Businesses should avoid boards with a virality score below 1.0, though, which means that a pin is shared for every pin added. Tailwind, an app that brings pinners together, has also proved to be useful.

 

Group activity is one vital step towards audience building on Pinterest but so is a steady flow of new content. Lauren recommends posting at least once a week and as often as two or three times a week. “Once you build up an audience, you can slow down,” she says. “You can also freshen up older content with new graphics. That's a great strategy.”

And of course, repinning other people’s content gives your audience new content easily while spreading your views to others and increasing the chances that your own pins will be shared.

 

But it’s the keywords that are most important. Users on Pinterest search for images and ideas so keywording your pins and placing them on properly keyworded boards is vital for being seen and growing organically. It sounds technical but adding terms to images is still more fun than targeting demographics and can be no less effective for small businesses.

 

While it may be tempting to stick to platforms that are familiar there is a huge benefit to experimentation. Small businesses, particularly those selling goods online, should explore Pinterest as a great option to reach potential customers in a new and fresh way.

 

Related content:

The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick your Platforms

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Just like students get summer homework, here are  summer reading suggestions for you, the small business owner I chose books that were not only filled with great advice for entrepreneurs, but ones you can dip into for easy, but informative, summer reading.

 

Summer Reading SBC.png

It’s the Manager

Authors: Jim Clifton and Jim Harter

 

How should we prepare for the future of work? The premise ofIt’s the Manager, which is based on Gallup’s 30-year study of the workforce (over 37 million people were surveyed), is that while we continue to worry about the decline in global productivity, we’re ignoring the best solution—managers. In fact, the authors (Clifton is the Chairman and CEO of Gallup; Harter is Gallup’s Chief Scientist, Workplace) maintain the single biggest factor in determining your company’s success is the quality of your managers.

 

Because the book is from Gallup, it uses data to explore the challenges and offer solutions.  The research shows they key to business success today is aligning a company’s purpose and culture with the needs and wants of today’s employees, who want work with a deeper purpose.

 

The book is intentionally written for busy business people. Harter says, “Instead of …setting aside big chunks of time to read the book from start to finish,” you can read the relevant discoveries when an issue arises.

 

Turning the Flywheel

Author: Jim Collins

 

Jim Collins has written six books that have sold more than 10 million copies, including the iconic Good to Great. That book focused on seven principles, including the concept that good-to-great transformations aren’t caused by a “single defining action.” Rather, success stems from “the flywheel effect,” which Collins likens to the act of pushing a “giant, heavy flywheel” forward. First it takes great effort, but as you keep pushing the flywheel builds its own momentum until it’s almost unstoppable. For example, Collins explains, offering lower prices to encourage customer visits was Amazon’s flywheel.

 

The publisher labels Turning the Flywheel as a “monograph to accompany Good to Great.” The book is only 40-some pages long—so it’s ideal for summer reading – yet Collins covers a lot, explaining the steps involved in discovering, maintaining and extending your own flywheel.

 

Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life

Author: Guy Kawasaki

 

Full disclosure: I am a long-time fan of Guy Kawasaki, having read his The Art of the Startmore than a few times. Wise Guyis Kawasaki’s most introspective book, covering topics ranging from business skills to moral values to parenting.

 

The book is not written in a traditional style, making it easy to pick up and put down. There are numerous “Wisdom” sidebars, which alone make the book a worthwhile read. One of my favorite stories involves a Dutch bike company which noticed 25 percent  of its boxes were being damaged in shipping. They solved the problem by putting pictures of widescreen TVs on the bike boxes, because apparently workers are more careful when shipping TV sets.

 

Kawasaki says his goal for writing Wise Guywas to “help you live a more joyous, productive and meaningful life.” To help us do that he uses examples from his life. To underscore the “you’re never too old to learn something new” trope, for instance, Kawasaki talks about his adventures when he took up surfing at age 62.

 

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Authors: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

 

While not a household name to most of us, Bill Campbell has coached business people we’re all familiar with, including all the authors (Schmidt is the former CEO of Google and executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company).

 

Campbell, a former college football coach who died in 2016, was known as Silicon Valley’s preeminent executive coach. The book’s title pays tribute to Campbell’s success—he helped build corporate giants like Google, Intuit and Apple, creating over a “trillion dollars in market value.” The authors talked to more than 80 of Campbell’s clients, including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, the president of YouTube and Brad Smith from Intuit about the lessons Campbell taught them.

 

Campbell believed in only coaching the coachable. What makes a person coachable? “Honesty, humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.” If you’re coachable, there’s a lot to learn in this book.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Q: I am trying to grow my business, but with limited results. Expanding is an expensive undertaking, and one that seems unaffordable. The costs for building out a new store, labor, inventory, and other overhead make the risk almost not worth it. Is there an easier or less expensive way to expand my business?

 

brainstorming-business-plan-close-up-908295.jpg

A. There is. Consider: While retail sales only rose by 3.6% from 2016 to 2017, a different sales

sector grew by a whopping 16% that same year.

 

What is that part of the economy?

 

E-commerce.

 

And it’s not just last year. E-commerce sales have shown double digit growth every year for the past decade.

 

Advantages of e-commerce include, but are not limited to:

 

    • The ability to acquire new customers faster, and cheaper
    • Higher average sales than physical retail
    • More average monthly orders
    • Loyal customers

 

Those are some compelling reasons to invest in building out e-commerce as part of your existing business. And let me add one final selling point: The cost of entry is pretty darn low.

 

If you are already on the e-commerce bandwagon, way to go. But if you are like most small business people and are not really engaging in selling your products online in a big way, you are missing out on a great opportunity. This is the easiest, most efficient, and most affordable way to grow your business.

 

So, how do you do it, you ask? There are essentially two ways. First, you can create your own e-store and website, and that is what we will discuss here. The other, to be discussed on a different day, is to sell via online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

 

There are basically three steps to creating your own e-commerce store:

 

1. Decide what you are going to sell.

 

If you already sell some products from your physical store, you are ahead of the game. Figure out which would be best to sell online. Are they unique? Is there a large market? Can you sell them inexpensively? What would it cost to ship? These questions, and more, must be considered when deciding what you are going to sell online.

 

After that, you will need to photograph all of your products so they can be displayed digitally. You will also need to write up attention-grabbing headlines and product descriptions.

 

If you don’t have products to sell yet, you will need to find some. The secret here is deceptively simple. Buy low, sell high.

 

I had a pal once who was a great retailer. He would always tell me, “It’s all in the buying.” Johnny knew that if he was able to buy product at the right price, selling it would be the easy part. Your job is the same: find something people will want to buy online, and then purchase it at the right wholesale price. A simple Google search will help you locate scores of online wholesalers.

 

2. Create your e-commerce store:

 

There are a lot of e-commerce hosting sites out there that offer online merchants everything needed to set up an e-store. (This can either be a standalone site or part of your regular website.)

 

The host will guide you through a point-and-click site creation process that allows you to get selling online. The software helps you upload and display your products, prices, and descriptions using pre-made templates. It will also allow people to buy from you via a shopping cart and checkout system.

 

If you search for “e-commerce hosting” you will find many options. What you want is to find a trusted turn-key e-commerce web-hosting solution. Any good hosting provider should offer inventory control options, live customer support, security, and an easy to use dashboard.

 

Suggested Reading: E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace

 

3. Get a merchant solution:

 

You obviously need to be able to take online payments. You can use PayPal, Apple Pay, take credit cards, or find some other online solution.

 

Making the transition from solely brick and mortar to the e-commerce world can feel like a huge step. But with more money to be made while keeping a budget, it begs the question -- what are you waiting for?

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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: www.theselfemployed.com 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

Are you leveraging the right tools and marketing methods for your small business? On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Mari Smith shares her top tips to master Instagram marketing.

 

iTunes-Button.gif

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Automated:                Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Here’s your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to "The Heartbeat of Main Street" brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Mari Smith joins us to talk about marketing your business on Instagram. Mari is often called the Queen of Facebook marketing. Facebook, of course, owns Instagram. IBM recently named Mari one of seven women who are shaping digital marketing, and she is a Forbes perennial top social media power influencer.

 

                                  Mari, thanks for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                Oh, you bet. Happy to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Mari, you are the author of The New Relationship Marketing and also Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, and you are a columnist for Bank of America. Could you take a guess at how many small businesses should be marketing themselves on Instagram, but aren't?

 

Mari Smith:                Okay, so I happen to know that there are two million advertisers using Instagram stories ads, and if I were to guess how many are not using Instagram with their stories or not, I'm going to say probably like at least a million.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, if we're not using Instagram for marketing right now, what's the best way for us to get started, today?

 

Mari Smith:                Sure. One of the quickest ways: of course, you've got to have an Instagram account.  Go into your settings, link your Instagram account to your Facebook account, and then you'll be able to cross-purpose and cross-post. It makes it much easier to put your content in both places, especially for stories. I'm going to recommend that'll be the number one place to start — focus more on publishing stories, and that's the little circles at the top of your Instagram account that are getting some incredible attention. There’s actually 500 million daily active users right now on Instagram stories.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, we've talked about how many businesses aren't using Instagram, but probably should be. We've talked about companies who aren't using Instagram, but realize they should be, and how to get started today. What if I'm already using Instagram, but I know I could be, or I should be, doing a better job there. What's the most important thing for me to do today to make my business more attractive on Instagram and to reach more customers?

 

Mari Smith:                The number one thing I'm going to say here is consistency. It's to make sure that you're publishing on-brand, good messaging, vibrant visuals and short videos, and for the story format, because it's just super easy to create short — it's ephemeral, meaning it disappears, and it appears top of mind. Top of mind, top of feed. Ideally, for consistency, I would say one story a day, if you can. Ideally even three. If you can get up to three stories a day, you're off and running.

 

Gregg Stebben:         She is Mari Smith and I'm guessing that if we come find you on Instagram we're going to find a great example of how we should be using it for our businesses, too. Tell us how to find you on Instagram, Facebook, and of course your website as well.

 

Mari Smith:                You bet. So, on Instagram, I'm @Mari_Smithand I do want to mention the Bank of America Small Business Community online, I have written numerous articles on Instagram marketing and stories as well, so they can find out more over there.

 

                                  And then, Facebook, on Facebook.com/MariSmith and marismith.com.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And Mari Smith is M-A-R-I Smith, S-M-I-T-H. Mari, thanks so much for joining us, and for more great tips from Mari and other small business experts, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/SBC.

 

Automated:                Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

     Read next:

BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

Ensure your business is growing and earning customers by experimenting with new marketing methods. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Steve Strauss shares his top three tips to attract new customers and get your business in front of new eyes.

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us with a few quick tips for attracting new customers. Steve is USA Today's small business columnist. He's the author of 17 books, including the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve, thanks for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, great to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, you own a small business, and in your capacity as USA Today's small business columnist, and also as a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, you also talk with a lot of small business owners. They must ask you all the time, "What can I do to get more new customers?" So what's the number one tip you offer when someone asks?

 

Steve Strauss:           My number one tip is also my number two tip and my number three tip. And that is this: market your business, and then market it some more, and then market it some more. Look, we go into business. We have a marketing idea. It works. It keeps us around for a little while. We get some customers. The problem that so many small business owners have is they learn one trick or two tricks and that's it. They don't expand beyond that.

 

                                  But if you're going to really grow your business, then what you really need to do is get your business in front of new people. New eyeballs. New ears. So the way you do that is by marketing your business in all sorts of different ways. Instead of doing the same thing that you've done for years and years, whether it's a stall at the Saturday market or an advertising campaign that works. What I would suggest is you come up with three or five different kinds of things that you can do. Find some guerilla marketing strategies that make sense to you and implement those. What that is going to do is get your business in front of new people.

 

                                  If you get in front of enough new people, some new people are going to become your customers. You do your job great, you offer great service, you offer great prices, great customer service, and then those new people will become regulars. That's exactly what we want.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, I want to mention here. You use the term guerilla marketing, and I want to make sure everyone listening is aware that that's actually a series of books by a gentleman by the name of Jay Conrad Levinson. And it is actually - in addition to Steve's book, The Small Business Bible- Guerilla Marketing, that book series is a great place to go and get ideas for things to try you have not tried before. And to break down that barrier of thinking, "Oh, well what I've done in the past has worked. Now it's time for me to do something else."

 

                                  I want to move on to tip number two, Steve, because as you alluded to, it's easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again, although in reality those things tend to lose their potency over time. And at the same time, the world around us and technology is changing so fast. How do I keep up, so I know I'm going to where my new customers are, even if it's, for instance, some new social media website that I've never even heard of before? How do I make sure I've heard of it so I know that I should be using it?

 

Steve Strauss:           Let me preface this, Gregg, with saying I've lived this. My first business was my own law firm back when I practiced law. The way I got my customers was that I would put on seminars to the public. I would advertise them in the newspaper, to really date myself, and then people would come in to the Holiday Inn for the day and then for the next six months I would have customers. And that worked for me for years and years, until one day it stopped working. And you know why? It was because it was what you said. It just wasn't fresh anymore. People had seen it. It was stale. So I had to start trying some new things. And that's what I think any smart business has to do.

 

                                  The great news is, it doesn't cost you a lot these days to market your business. Technology is amazing, and one of the amazing things for small business insofar as technology goes, is that there are all sorts of tools out there that allow us to market our business, to get in front of these new eyeballs that I mentioned, without spending a whole lot of money. So it could be content marketing. You create some articles or videos related to your business with a link to your website. People find it, see it, share it. You're getting people that way.

 

                                  Or what if it's a pay per click? You create a little Google ad or an ad on Facebook and someone sees a nice little ad. People who don't know your business but loves your ad, they'll click on it. And what's great about that is you don't pay for that ad until they click on it. So that's really beautiful.

 

                                  Or search engine optimization. SEO it's called. You create some webpages on your website that are specifically designed to sell whatever your product is, and then you get it out there. And that's going to be almost free customers, because SEO builds and builds over time. It could be your social. It can be your e-newsletter. The point is there are lots of different ways to do this marketing that I mentioned up front. So the good news is there are just so many ways now to do this marketing that I suggested up front, and none of them really cost you a whole lot of money. They'll take a little time, but they're going to pay out big in the end.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Learn why local SEO matters more than ever.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, I want to ask about one last thing. And that is, it seems to me that one thing we have not talked about here is if you want to reach new customers, one way to know who they are and where they go is to talk to your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? Who do they know? And how can I motivate them to actually become my sales force for me?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well, word of mouth. You are preaching to the choir, my brother. I grew up in a small business family and my dad owned at one point 20 carpet stores. Then eventually went down to one giant carpet warehouse. He really had a lot of experience. And in that carpet warehouse he had a banner that said, "Our word of mouth advertising starts with you." That was the essence of his 20 years of experience as a very successful entrepreneur. So word of mouth works, because it is people talking to people about something, an experience they had that's good, hopefully, and that's what people trust.

 

                                  But these days, word of mouth really is word of click. I've been talking about all these digital ideas. When someone retweets your tweet, well that's word of mouth. Isn't it? It's word of click. When someone likes your Facebook page, that's word of mouth. It's someone saying to the rest of the world, "Hey, this is a valuable thing that I like that you should like."

 

RELATED CONTENT:Learn from Mari Smith how to increase authentic reviews on Facebook.

 

                                  When someone takes your e-newsletter and forwards it on to someone else, that, again, is word of click and word of mouth. So today it's not just one person talking to one person. It's one person talking to a thousand. And for small business people, that's an incredible opportunity.

 

                                  One thing I would suggest is ask for it. Ask people to retweet, and ask people to give you a good review. Ask people to give you a like. People want to be nice. People will do it, and if you do your job right, they'll help you. You're going to get a lot of word of mouth and a lot more business as a result.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Rieva Lesonsky explains how to boost positive online reviews and deal with those pesky bad ones

 

Gregg Stebben:         Really well said. Okay, I want to recap what Steve said here. We're talking about ways to find new customers for your small business. Tip number one, Steve said market, market some more, market some more, market some more. Try new things. Don't just keep doing the same things you've been doing over and over again, because eventually those things are going to go stale. Meanwhile, there's all kinds of new avenues for you to try and succeed with.

 

                                   Number two is to think about digital marketing. Using things like SEO, pay per click, e-newsletters. And I think part of what you're suggesting, Steve, is experiment and just try things to find out what works.

 

Steve Strauss:           Absolutely. Yep.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And number three. Never forget about word of mouth marketing, or as Steve called it, word of click. Don't forget about the power of your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? These are good clues for where to get new customers. And ask them to help you market your business. If they're satisfied, they should love sharing information about your business with their friends and family.

 

                                   Steve, these are great tips. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and to get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           You can go to USAtoday.com and find my column, Ask an Expert. You can go to my website which is mrallbiz.com. Or I would really suggest go to the Bank of America Small Business Community. I write there. There's a lot of other influencers who create some great content there. Articles, videos, podcasts like this. And you can find anything you need to take your business to the next level.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve just mentioned Bank of America's online Small Business Community. It's at bankofamerica.com/SBC. Steve, thanks for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, keep up the great work. Thanks so much for having me.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Filter Article

By tag: