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Is your small business (or your dream of starting one) on the right track? Whether your business is still in the planning stages or is a well-established venture, having a long-term vision for your business is essential to moving it forward.

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How can you achieve your loftiest plans? Follow these six steps.

 

Step 1: Clarify your business vision

 

The term visionmay conjure up images of a distant, hazy landscape. But if you want to achieve your business vision, you must  be crystal clear on what it is. Start with a “brain dump” of what you want for your business within the next one, three and five years (or even further out). Your vision might be revamping your brand, expanding to an entirely new market or region, becoming a household name, or reaching a certain sales target.

 

  • Tip: Creating a vision board showing what you want can help you identify goals and think about what achieving that vision would look and feel like. 

 

Step 2: Make a plan

 

If your business is still in the pre-startup stages, now’s the time to write a business plan. (BPlans and SCORE* have tons of useful business plan resources.) Even if your business is up and running it’s not too late. Plan for achieving your vision as carefully as you did your startup. For example, if you want to expand your retail business nationally, where do you need to start?

 

  • Tip: Think through what’s involved and write out each step.

 

Step 3: Break it down

 

Your vision plan will be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. Dig into your plan and break every step into smaller steps. For example, for the vision of expanding nationally, one step might be identifying possible locations. You can break this into smaller steps such as:

 

    • Identifying potential markets
    • Researching demographics in those markets
    • Investigating vendors and suppliers in those markets
    • Visiting commercial real estate websites
    • Contacting commercial real estate agents

 

  • Tip: If you’re having trouble getting started on a particular step, break it down even smaller. For instance, “Contacting commercial real estate agents” can start with “Find contact information for 3 agents.” Even taking small steps will give you a sense of progress and help keep you on track.

 

Step 4: Find your cheerleaders

 

Making your business vision a reality will take time and commitment. To improve your odds of success, find supporters to motivate you when times are tough. These can include experts and advisors such as a business mentor, colleagues who have your back, or friends and family members who always know the right thing to say.

 

  • Tip: You’re not looking for “yes men,” but rather for good listeners to bounce ideas off of and vent frustrations in an appropriate environment.

 

Step 5: Track your progress

 

On the journey to achieve your vision, it’s easy to stray off course—especially when you’re also handling the day-to-day challenges of running a small business. That’s why it’s so important to track your progress. Set up periodic check-ins with yourself and your team. Schedule them weekly, monthly, quarterly or at whatever frequency works best for you. The key is to hold yourself and your employees accountable for continually working toward the goals that you’ve set.

 

  • Tip: At each check-in, review your progress, assess whether you need to modify your plans, and recommit to moving forward.

 

Step 6: Celebrate your successes

 

Making your vision a reality can be a long process. Along the way, take time to celebrate victories, no matter how small. When team members achieve goals, give them rewards and public praise. When the team reaches a milestone, throw a party or take them to lunch. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, reward yourself whenever you surmount a hurdle. Treat yourself to something special or take time out for an activity you enjoy.

 

By following these six steps, you’ll achieve your vision for your business before you know it. What’s on your horizon?  Tell us in the Comments section below.

 

*Disclaimer: SCORE is a client of my company.

Let’s face it: being a small business owner is tough. It’s a full-time responsibility and like playing professional football, it takes commitment and discipline to succeed. During a recent visit to Winter Village at Bryant Park in New York City, I hit the Holiday Shops with entrepreneur and travel expert Lee Abbamonte – who visited every country by the time he was 32 – to talk with small business owners about the challenges they face.

 

All the small business owners we talked with ran unique businesses and had their own vision of success, yet they shared a common theme: passion!

 

 

Caption: Small business owner and former NFL star Dhani Jones and entrepreneur and travel expert Lee Abbamonte talk to small business owners about the challenges of running a business and expectations for 2019

 

 

The day got me thinking about my own business. After hearing about some of the most common challenges, I wrote down my own thoughts for 2019 that can help you run your business better this year.

 

Of course, these come with a few unapologetic football puns.

 

Play 1: Get a strong “O”rganization Line

 

A lot of business owners told us that organization was not their strongest skill. To this I’d say - be glad you live in 2019! There are plenty of digital resources available that can help decrease digital clutter, maximizing efficiency. A couple of programs to consider: Google Drive and Trello. Also, check out a new tool from Bank of America to organize your business finances – details below, under the Extra Point heading.

 

For more digital resources, read this.

 

Play 2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

 

One small business owner told us being an entrepreneur meant “long days, short nights.” As a small business owner, delegation is critical! But make sure to assign tasks with strengths and work styles in mind. Give employees both motivation and structure with clear deadlines. And a loyal, passionate team is priceless, so be sure to recognize and reward employees when merited. This can include financial benefits, workspace upgrades or milestone celebrations.

 

For more ideas on how to reward employees, check out these helpful stories:

27 Ideas to Celebrate Your Employees Hard Work – No Matter the Season

 

Play 3: Tackle a Marketing Strategy

 

When developing your small business strategy, remember that while marketing methods such as print ads or direct mail are consistently stable, digital marketing constantly changes. Stay ahead of your competitors by taking the time to consider some online marketing essentials. Building a website, developing a social presence and utilizing email marketing are all key to a successful marketing strategy. Whatever your small business is developing a strategy for, check out these tips:

 

 

Play 4: Score a Touchdown, Again

 

Now comes an important piece of the small business puzzle: How can you keep the customer you just won? Earning a customer is one thing but retaining a loyal customer is a different game, and an important one at that. Forty-three percent of consumers spend more money with companies they are loyal to. A returning client costs less than acquiring a new one, they spend more and typically refer new customers. Consider some basic blocking and tackling tactics like loyalty reward programs or offering discounts to those who make referrals.

 

For more ideas on how to retain customers, read this.

 

Extra Point

 

Getting back to organization, Bank of America designed a digital tool specifically to help small business owners manage their financial performance. Business Advantage 360  tracks your account balances, ongoing expenses, analyzes cash flow and even what-if scenarios, all from a single dashboard (mobile and desktop!).

 

Trust me, you’ll want to check this out – I had a sneak peek and it’s incredibly useful!

 

 

About Dhani Jones

 

Dhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, “Dhani Tackles the Globe” and the CNBC series, “Adventure Capitalist.” He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.

Positive word-of-mouth reviews are a must for small business success. With thousands of followers and countless 5-star reviews, PSP Diesel in South Houston, Texas, understands the power of social media to drive business growth. In this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street," we discuss strategies for boosting your small business' online reputation.

 

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“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’ Gregg Stebbens and Small Business Community Contributor, Steve Strauss. More information and previous episodes can be accessed through a dedicated home page and 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” at ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.com and Bank of America at bankofamerica.com. Here's your host, Steve Strauss.

 

Steve Strauss:           Art Martinez is the owner of PSP Diesel. Art is often described as being the best in his craft, and is praised for his honesty, professionalism, attention to detail, and great work. Their commitment to customer satisfaction is evident with countless five-star ratings and testimonials, and he's gonna teach us a little bit about how we can get some great reviews, too.

 

                                  Art, how did you become an entrepreneur?

 

Art Martinez:              It was in 2007, 2008 during the Financial Crisis. I did work for a dealership. Work had declined, and bills had to get paid. It started with one customer who was looking for quality work at a reasonable price, and we capitalized on that. We took that experience, we took care of the customer. We surprised him with our efficiency, our professionalism, and it grew. In about seven or eight years we've been in business and our current data, we hold about 4,800 customers year-to-date.

 

Steve Strauss:           Wow. That's so impressive. Why do you think people love coming to your business?

 

Art Martinez:              I think one of our biggest compliments that we get, Steve, at the shop, is our honesty and our professionalism. I believe that it shouldn't just be a transaction. It shouldn't be about profit. It shouldn't be about selling. It should just be about an overall experience. Creating a relationship with that customer and understanding their needs.

 

Steve Strauss:           Give us an idea about how big your business is now here 10 years later after you began. In a typical day how many trucks are you servicing? How many people work for you? What's the size of your business?

 

Art Martinez:              We've been showing since 2008 ... We've shown about a 25% growth. We started with one employee. There is a partner, Richard Alvarado, myself. We started with one employee, and eight and a half years later we have 14 employees, and we operate within a 20,000-square-foot facility. During a busy week we repair about anywhere from 25 to 35 trucks, ranging from a basic oil change, basic break job, to a full-on race build.

 

Steve Strauss:           I know that developing a digital presence has clearly been vital to your business. Can you tell us a little bit about your strategy from the get-go with regard to digital?

 

Art Martinez:              From the very beginning our strategy has been organic growth, word of mouth. I encourage my customers to recommend their neighbor. Their neighbor's gonna recommend the construction worker. It wasn't until about two and a half years ago that we really, really started focusing on social media and our channels. Why not? They’re free advertisement and in today’s age, we’re surrounded by that. We wanted to take that opportunity and post some pictures. Let the community know that we’re here and we’re here to help.

 

Steve Strauss:           You do have a lot of reviews, a lot of positive reviews online. Art, what’s your secret?

 

Art Martinez:              Steve, it’s really, really simple. Our strategy has been the same from the very first customer to our current customers now. People like honesty. People like to be treated fairly, and they want to be put in a certain situation where I said earlier, it's not just about profits. It's about creating an experience and understanding their financial needs. These trucks are used as mobile offices. The trucks are down, that means they're not making money.

 

                                   A lot of our clientele are rig welders, construction workers, and when these vehicles are down, they're not getting paid, they're not making money. It sometimes means going out of the box. Whether it's a loaner program, whether it's a ride to the airport, you're creating an overall experience. You back that up with an honest experience, a reasonable bill, and maybe a courtesy call after the job has been done, a review will follow.

 

Steve Strauss:           That last sentence is what I want to ask you about. Clearly the first part is you have to do five-star work if you want to get a five-star review, but how do you get people then to take their experience and go online and take the time to figure out where to write a review for you and then write a review for you? Do you ask them? Or are you saying it just happens organically?

 

Art Martinez:              No, it happens organically, but a key note question that I commonly ask my customers from first impression, from when we first meet, I shake their hand, introduce myself. "How did you find us? How did you end up here?" We don't have a store front. We operate within an industrial part of South Houston, which is a very small industrial community, so in order to find our shop, you're either on the internet, you're on Yelp, you're on Google, or somebody told you exactly where we're at. That's key to me. Why? I want to know. We don't want to invest a whole lot of money in advertisement.

 

                                   I mentioned earlier our biggest advertisement is word of mouth. The customer comes in and tells me that, why wouldn't he want to try our shop? We've got 145 reviews and they're all five stars, my direct approach is, well, that comes at a very high price because I can tell you just as much as we have really good experiences, we have bad experiences. This is probably gonna answer your next question, you must control a negative experience. We're in business. It's how you control it and how you make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Let's say somebody has a bad experience, because you're right that does happen in business, and they go online and they write a bad review about you. How you do handle that?

 

Art Martinez:              I can tell you year-to-date, Steve, I'm being completely honest, I don't think we've ever had a negative review posted on ... We've had customers call back and tell me their negative experience. I want to know what happened, who was involved, and how we're gonna make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Well, I know I can give some advice to people also with regard to negative reviews. I saw a study recently that said that companies that do nothing about their negative review, end up, of course, with a negative review. Those companies that go back in and find the reviewer and then write to the reviewer and say, "We're really sorry you had a bad experience. What can we do to help it?" They try and fix the situation, after that often not only will the reviewer be amenable to removing the review, but they actually become customers again. You can really turn by just doing what you say you do, a negative experience into a positive by doing great customer service. I'm sure that's been your ... kind of what you're saying as well.

 

                                  What do you think of asking customers to write you a good review?

 

Art Martinez:              I think it should be encouraged, definitely. In our lobby we do have signs, "Your Experience Matters." We do talk to customers about, "Hey, if the experience was positive, please ... your input ... we want to hear your input." We're listed on Yelp, Google. That's about it. We don't really influence anybody into reviewing the business. We believe if we're doing everything that we possibly can to make it a plus experience, that review will follow.

 

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

 

 

Learn more about how to boost positive online reviews for your business – and deal with those pesky bad ones – from Rieva Lesonsky. 

Mari Smith explains how to increase authentic business reviews on Facebook.

It could be said that an entrepreneurial spirit is often an inherited trait. Like many entrepreneurs, I grew up in a small business household where I watched my father’s small carpet store become a healthy chain of around 15 locations. The reality of life as a small business owner was a typical kitchen table conversation in my family.

 

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When I was seven or eight years old I was asked to write a report about what my dad did for a living. Where my classmate’s parents had easily identifiable jobs like “lawyer” or “nurse,” I struggled to find a simple way to sum up “retail carpet store owner.”

 

“Tell them that I’m an entrepreneur, Stevie” was my father’s response. When I asked what that meant, he explained that an entrepreneur was someone “who took a risk with money to make money.”

 

I have heard many definitions of the word entrepreneur since, and many are quite good, but my dad’s characterization is still my favorite. It combines the essence and thrill of entrepreneurship – it illustrates that going into business requires risk, but also the possibility of a payoff if done well.

 

In the years since that conversation with my father I have learned the best entrepreneurs strive to reduce the inherent risk of running their own business whenever possible. It’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely, and you probably wouldn’t want to because risk is what makes it possible to grow and achieve new levels of success. But the smartest small business people learn to reduce risk, and, even then, to make sure that the risks they do take are well thought out and worth the potential loss.

 

How do they do that? Here are a few ways:

 

1. Court bigger, more stable customers and clients: There are many factors that are outside of the control of the small business owner. The economy surges and dips. Clients’ needs change. One way then to counter the constantly shifting business cycle is to work with stable corporate and government clients, when possible, because bigger customers can lead to bigger budgets and long-term relationships.

 

Generating opportunities to work on coveted corporate or government contracts can be challenging but is not impossible. I recently gave a webinar on the subject for SCORE, which can be viewed here

 

2. Create additional profit centers: If having bigger and better customers helps stabilize your business cycle, it should follow that having additional products and services can also help by diversifying the kinds of clients you serve.

 

Starbucks is a simple example of this kind of development. Originally the company only sold coffee beans, but they soon added coffee drinks. Then, capitalizing on an opportunity, they added Frappucinos to boost warm weather sales. And then food, music, and so on. Small businesses can use this same method to grow their offerings. By analyzing the market segment that you’re supporting and adding additional products and services to your offerings as opportunities arise, you increase the chances of making more sales in both good times and bad.

 

3. Establish proper legal status: It may be tempting to leave legalities for the future while you get your business up and running but delaying those steps may leave both you and your budding endeavor vulnerable. Incorporate right away. Establish business credit apart from your personal credit. Make sure you have enough insurance.

 

Yes, risk is part of the game, but if you play your cards right, you can ensure that your company grows and returns the investment on the time, work and care you put into it.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

Web: 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

Owning a restaurant is the culmination of the American Dream for many—particularly within immigrant communities. In fact, according to the U.S. census, as reported in Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN),immigrants own 29 percent of all restaurants and hotels in the U.S., more than twice the 14 percent rate for all businesses.

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As romantic and exciting as owning a restaurant might be, it’s not easy. Food trends are constantly shifting—with some disappearing as quickly as they emerged. Still, despite some reports of a coming “bloodbath” in the industry, there are signs of stabilization and even growth. NRNreports on data from TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence showing same-store sales in December grew 2 percent, the highest in more than three years. December was also the seventh straight month of positive industry growth. Overall, same-store sales in 2018 were up 0.7 percent, which may not seem like a lot, but was the industry’s “best performance” since 2015.

To find out about the latest restaurant trends I talked to Nancy Luna, Senior Editor at Nation’s Restaurant News.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What current national trends are you seeing? Last year it seemed it was all about providing breakfast all day. What’s the “must do” for 2019?

 

Nancy Luna: Restaurant trends these days are more focused on operational efficiency The continued shift toward an on-demand society is forcing restaurants to provide customers with delicious food in a timely manner through delivery, and mobile order/pickup. This is happening in both QSR [quick service] and casual di

ning. Not so much in fine dining.

 

Lesonsky: What changes do you think restaurants need to make to appeal to millennials, the nation’s largest consumer group?

 

Luna: I would argue restaurants are no longer catering specifically to millennials. That was overtly true two-three years ago. Today’s restaurants, at least the smart ones, are moving towards capturing a new category of diners: on-the-go, stay-at-home eaters who want to sit on their couch eating their favorite restaurant food while binge-watching shows on Netflix. That could be Gen Y, Gen X or Gen Z. You can see this playing out in QSR and Fast Casual, as [I] cited in this story.

 

Lesonsky: You’ve confirmed what I’ve heard—that every restaurant must offer a delivery option. True, or is it hyperbole?

 

Luna: Mostly true. Clearly delivery is not the right business model for fine dining concepts. It’s most advantageous for casual dining, which has struggled to compete with the quality and affordability of fast casual players. For casual dining, delivery levels the playing field and has contributed to incremental sales, according to chains I’ve interviewed.

 

Restaurant Trends to Watch

 

As for what America wants to eat, Restaurant Business says these trends will take hold in 2019.

 

  • Look for more plant-based patties on restaurant menus, as well as “veg-forward dishes.”
  • Yet “2019 will see a record-high beef supply…and prices have declined for prime rib-eyes and loins. More favorable beef costs may translate to more of this red meat on menus, perhaps in smaller portions in sync with healthy eating trends.”
  • Butter is back. Restaurant Businesssays it will be “enhancing everything from coffee to grilled meats with rich flavor.”
  • Sour power. The “rise of Persian and Filipino cuisines” have pushed extreme sour foods into the mainstream. That means foods flavored with ingredients such as vinegar, tamarind, pomegranates, and sour oranges.

 

For more on 2019 restaurant trends, check out this article.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky
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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

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After ending 2018 on a high note, small business owners are optimistic about the year ahead. Small business owners reported confidence in the economy and their hiring plans. But how will the tightest labor market in decades impact their search for talent? Sharon Miller discusses this and more from the Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report.

 

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“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.

 

 

Sharon Miller:                 We are in one of the tightest job markets out there. Unemployment rate falling to 3.7 percent, that's the lowest since 1969. That was in September where we had the 3.7percent unemployment rate. I mean, we are at a historic time within our economy, where if you want to work, you're employed. And so, it's really up to the business owners to focus on retention.

 

Narrator:                         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. This is part two of our interview with Sharon Miller about the Fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report.

 

                                       Sharon is the Head of Small Business for Bank of America.

 

Gregg Stebben:              Sharon, I'm wondering, in the face of the competitive hiring environment that we're in, how is this impacting employers in terms of numbers? Are you hearing that, oh, we're literally losing this percentage of our workforce? We're trying to hire and it's taking us this long to get people. And then when companies, when there's a delay for companies to actually make the hires they need, what are they doing instead? For instance, are they turning to things like technology?

 

Sharon Miller:                 So, as far as the turnover, I mean we don't have the exact number for the overall turnover, but what we did report is within one year, at least 24 percent of small business owners have lost one employee or more. So we do know that. And 11 percent of small business owners said they lost 10 percent or more of their workforce. With 24 percent losing one, that's a quarter of all small business owners. We've got 29 million small businesses in the United States, so that's quite a bit.

 

                                        Now, some of them were let go, that's about 30 percent, some took a position at a larger company. About a quarter of them said that they took positions at a larger company. So, there's different reasons for people departing, and it's not to say that it's all because the employee decided to get up and leave...I mean, 30 percent were underperforming, so that business owner had to let them go. So that's one thing.

 

                                        So, we do know that the unemployment rate of 3.7 percent is the lowest it's been since 1969. We have an economy out there where it's tough. It's tough to attract and retain because employees can really have the pick of where they want to go, at least top talent. And so, with that being said, there's some shifting strategies out there by business owners. And some of that, to your point around technology, I would say that the thing that small business owners are modifying their strategy around, they're saying, "We want to give them more flexible work culture. Give people flex time." So, if you want to work 10:00 to 6:00 versus 8:00 to 5:00, you know, just giving them some different hours. Or maybe you work Monday through Thursday, take off Fridays. Those types of strategies, I've heard from business owners that they're doing a lot.

       

                                        Or letting them work from home. They don't need to come into the office. Social media, they're out there on social media trying to attract new talent to say, hey, here's what we're doing at our company, come to work, we're growing. We are continuing to innovate. And that's all very, very attractive to people coming to work and job candidates. So, there's some different strategies out there outside of just more money or more benefits, but at the heart of it, it does come down to dollars and cents, and we are seeing rising wages out there. We are seeing more business owners implement healthcare benefits or retirement benefits to attract the right employees.

           

                                        And so, these are all the conversations we're having with business owners every day.

Kate Delaney:                 Wow, fascinating. So talking about the flexible hours, working from home, etc. So, kind of piggybacking on that, Sharon, how else are small business owners rewarding, we'll say, employees, and then giving back to their communities during the holidays?

 

Sharon Miller:                  Well, the business owners out there, when they have the right employees, they're focusing on flexible hours, so that's one thing. Professional development, discretionary bonuses perhaps at the holiday season. Eighty-three percent of small business owners plan to offer perks during the holiday season. Maybe they're going to close the office, they may give a salary bonus, or they may give a holiday party.

 

                                        So, all of these things feed into that culture that small business owners and entrepreneurs are trying to really deliver for their local business, which spills over to the local community. And keep in mind again, Kate, the advantages of small business employment, it's powerful. You've got less bureaucracy, you got a more collaborative environment, you've got greater responsibility, creative freedom, all these things. A local community impact because small business is local, and that's really attractive.

 

                                        So I always remind our clients, yeah there's some things that we can continue to implement and get better every day, but don't forget about what it is at the heart you do, and the advantages you already have built in by being a small business.

 

Gregg Stebben:              We're talking with Sharon Miller. She's the Head of Small Business for Bank of America. We're talking about a lot of findings and statistics and information that comes out of their Fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report.

 

                                        And you know, it's interesting that you mention local, Sharon, because one of the things that I found fascinating in the report is a map of the U.S., and you've called out some cities where there tends to be trends about how they're attracting and keeping people. So, San Francisco is most likely to offer flexible hours. In LA, they've had the easiest time finding qualified candidates to fill positions. In Chicago, they're most likely to say small businesses compete with larger companies for talent.

 

                                        I'm just curious if you have any thoughts on why different markets tend to use different things to attract and keep talent? Is there something culturally going on in those markets that we could also learn about, or do you think that within a business community, small business owners are talking about what's working and using what's working for others to help themselves?

 

Sharon Miller:                  I think it's both, and Gregg, you're right, I think because small business is local and it is a lot of word of mouth, and you also have people collaborating in local communities through different chamber organizations or just different events, you are finding that people are talking. I mean, business owners, they're going to their kid's soccer game and talking on the sideline about what's working, what's not.

 

                                        So, all of this sort of comes together in a community, and that's why we like to highlight it, because maybe someone in San Francisco doesn't know what's going on in Chicago, and we were able to highlight it, and that's also the power of Bank of America, because we do have a footprint across the entire country where we're able to give insights back to our clients to say, you know what, it might not work here, but it sure is working in Chicago. Would it hurt to give it a try?

 

                                        So, these are some of the benefits of working with a large institution that is national, but operates in 90 local markets. So, we're local enough to be able to have different focuses in our local markets, and that's how we run.

 

Kate Delaney:                 Wow, it made me think of something else, the power, of course, Sharon, of what you offer, what Bank of America offers. And let's say for example I'm in Boston and you see the success that they're having in San Francisco with the flexible hours, but we're not really doing that so much in Boston. Do you share that information and say, "Hey listen, here's some of the successes that we're seeing here, and some of the trends," because I would imagine they would gobble that up.

 

Sharon Miller:                  We do, and we just launched in four states our Business Advantage 360 program, and this is our...and it will be launched across the country in the first quarter...This is a very powerful digital capability, an online capability for business owners that's really going to change the way they manage their business, that they get insights into just this, that they're able to manage their cashflow.

 

                                        And so, not only is it through sitting down with our bankers in the 4,500 financial centers across the country where we have business experts, but it's also through our digital capabilities, and going online at BankofAmerica.com/smallbusiness, where you're able to not only access the report we're talking about today, but you're also able to understand what's going on. Different reports, different information for clients. We just launched the Bank of America Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship [at Cornell] because we know that women are a force to be reckoned with, for one, Kate, and I'm sure you can agree. And two-

 

Gregg Stebben:              I can agree, too. I can agree, too.

 

Sharon Miller:                 There you go, Gregg ... That we're opening businesses. I mean, when I sit down and I see the trends happening, businesses are being opened at twice the rate of men, by women, with half the capital. And so these are some of the issues we're seeing because we are a larger institution, and we're able to go out and solve some of these problems, or at least to help to solve them and partner up with universities like Cornell to get out the information on what, not just women, but all entrepreneurs, need to be thinking about.

 

                                        So, all of that is in our website. We've got a Bank of America Community. So yeah, either you want to read about it, you want to go into our financial center, sit down with a specialist, and to me, I would advise coming in, sitting down with a business specialist, because there's no more powerful interaction than that across the desk, because every business owner's unique, just like people, and that's where we're able to help with their priorities.

 

Kate Delaney:                 Sharon Miller, Bank of America Head of Small Business. Thanks so much, we appreciate it as always.

 

Narrator:                         Thanks for listening to the heartbeat of Main Street with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com, and Bank of America, at BankofAmerica.com.

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After ending 2018 on a high note, small business owners are optimistic about the year ahead. Small business owners reported confidence in the economy and their hiring plans. But how will the tightest labor market in decades impact their search for talent? Sharon Miller discusses this and more from the Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report.

 

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“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.

 

Sharon Miller:            Most business owners expect that the end of this year, their revenue expectations for 2018, 80% of them believe that their year-end revenue will exceed 2017, and that's pretty powerful. So, they're thinking this year's better than last year, and they're thinking next year will be even better.

 

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

 

Kate Delaney:            It's always a good time when we can be joined by Sharon Miller on the show, Bank of America, head of Small Business. She's here with some great news about small business. The US small business sector looks to end 2018 on a pretty high note according to the Fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. Sharon, so first of all, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Sharon Miller:             Thank you so much for having me.

 

Kate Delaney:            We have all kinds of questions and it sounds like entrepreneurs and small business owners are feeling really good about the economy. So, what are their expectations for revenue growth and hiring for 2019?

 

Sharon Miller:            Well, confidence in the economy, it does remain strong and their revenue expectations, the confidence in the economy, hiring plans, all of that is up since last fall, so we do see an uptick in positive sentiment from business owners and by all accounts, from our most recent survey, the confidence remains very, very strong.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I know we've asked you this before, Sharon, but I'm going to ask again just for anyone who hasn't caught our earlier discussions about previous reports, how is it that you do these reports and compile this data, because I think it's really helpful for people to understand where this information is coming from.

 

Sharon Miller:             So we survey 1,000 small business owners across the country and we do it twice a year. It's from all different types of industries, from all different types of sectors and geographies so that we can really get a pulse on how business owners are feeling.

 

                                   At Bank of America, we have 3.3 million small business clients that we serve, and so every single day we're sitting down with business clients understanding, are you looking to expand your business?Do you want to apply for a loan? How is your working capital? What about your cash flow? These are the questions and discussions we're having every single day. But then we go in twice a year and we want to make sure that, you know, this is how the sentiment is across the United States, and we over-survey in 10 major markets as well, just to see if there's some geographic differences.

 

                                   And by all accounts the whole country is very strong. We see very strong optimism and sentiment from business owners—hiring is there, plans to apply for a loan, that's up, and so all of the different aspects of the report that we're asking, they look better than they did the last six months.

 

Kate Delaney:            Sharon, it's fascinating how you pull all this together, and talking about the 10 major markets and compiling all that information. When you do that, and since you've had such great success with it, this is just kind of a sidebar question, and I think the listeners will find this fascinating: Do you then go back and recalculate, okay, something's changed here or something's moved here with business, so we're going to instead focus on this area? How do you do that when you go into the next year and you plan for the next time around?

 

Sharon Miller:            Well, it's the basis of everything we do. I mean, we have to listen to our clients. We need to understand what's happening in the economy, how business owners are feeling, and so we adjust our ongoing continuing education for our bankers. We may adjust the types of information that we're delivering in that city because we operate in 90 local markets across the country and we know that every market is unique. And so, I'm sitting here today in San Antonio, Texas, and there's a lot of building. There's a lot of growth happening, hiring, expansion, and we have a heavy oil industry. We've got a diversified economy, we’ve got financial services here, we've got a lot of tourism. And you may go to another city and it may be very strong in technology, whereas San Antonio, the number one cyber security university sits in our backyard here at University of Texas San Antonio.

 

                                  In San Jose, California, you've got an incubator of high tech and what's happening with the newest wave of devices, so every city's a little different and we want to make sure that we're training our bankers to be able to interact and not just interact with clients, but to get ahead of them and to help them think through their business plan. What's next? Should you apply for a loan, should you use your working capital, what can you expect in the year ahead? And so, that's where we have and use these insights every single day to plan for the year ahead and quite frankly, the next three to five years.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Sharon Miller. She's the head of Small Business for Bank of America. We're talking about the Fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report, a report they do twice a year.

 

                                    And Sharon, whenever business people get together and whenever there's headlines about business and the health of businesses, there's a couple of issues that always come up, especially in 2018, 2019, and two of those issues are taxes and healthcare. What did you find small business owners thinking and doing, and what would they like to see change there when it comes to those two issues, taxes and healthcare?

 

Sharon Miller:            Sure. So, as far as healthcare is concerned, we've been doing this survey for the past six years and for every single survey result, healthcare is the top of the list of concerns for business owners.

 

                                  While healthcare costs remain the top concern during this survey, what we found—and that was at 63% of business owners, they’re concerned about the cost of healthcare, about the complexity—this has dropped to the lowest level at 63% in the six years of this history of the survey. So, that's actually down nine percentage points from the fall of 2017.

 

                                   So, while it remained a top concern in the fall of '17, 72% of business owners were very, very concerned. This time 63%. So it's dropped nine percentage points from our last survey. But again, it's the number one concern.

 

                                   When it comes to your taxes and concern over corporate taxes, that also reached a five year low. And this was at 37% this fall, and that's down 14 percentage points from the fall of 2017. So, although there are concerns and these are still the top two concerns of business owners, it's dropped significantly since last survey.

 

Kate Delaney:            Sharon, when you look at that, what are some of the other things that small business owners are concerned about? What else is on their mind?

 

Sharon Miller:            You know, there's concern about trade policy, tariffs, there is concern about commodities prices, the dollar, the stock market, compliance and government regulation. So, all the things that I sort of bucket into, as really not controllable for business owners. And so these are things going on around them in the economy and the broader market, they have a lot of control over their business plan, around their business. But a lot of these issues and we can't control what's going to happen with the stock market. It's up, it's down, it's going, it's cyclical.

 

                                   And certainly with tax rates, where the government is setting those. So yes, we got to get out and vote, we've gotta do all those things. But when it comes to can a business owner directly control that? They can't, and so the focus in my conversations with business owners, it's about their business, how do they, in spite of everything going on around them, continue to drive forward, to grow and expand and do better this year than they did last year?

 

                                   And most business owners expect that the end of this year, their revenue expectations for 2018, 80% of them believe that their year-end revenue will exceed 2017, and that's pretty powerful. So, they're thinking this year's better than last year and they're thinking next year will be even better. And so, that to me is what they can directly control.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I love hearing about that kind of optimism. We're talking with Sharon Miller, the head of Small Business for Bank of America and the Fall 2018 bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. It's interesting, Sharon, you mentioned what are the things that business owners can and cannot control? Well, one of the things they can control, I would think, is how they make it through a period where hiring is so challenging and so competitive. What kinds of things did you hear from small business owners there?

 

Sharon Miller:            Well, they are experiencing it. You're right. We are in one of the tightest job markets out there. Unemployment rate falling to 3.7%. That's the lowest since 1969. So, that was in September where we had the 3.7% unemployment rate. We are at a historical time within our economy where you know, if you want to work, you're employed. And so, it's really up to the business owners that need to focus on retention.

 

                                   And small businesses are experiencing a very high rate of personnel turnover. They are. I mean, just as in corporate America. So we're seeing more people going to different companies, whether it’s be they're getting more money, they get better benefits, whatever it might be. But I would say that what small business owners are thinking about in order to retain, they're talking about how do I implement a retirement package for my employees? How do I give them healthcare? How do I perhaps think about giving them a more flexible work culture?

 

                                   And so, there are some hiring challenges, but I think that when small business owners focus on the perks of what they can deliver, like flexible hours, maybe giving them some professional development and then when you go a step further and say why do people go to work for a small business? They go to work because they believe working at a small business has got some advantages, including the ability to have less bureaucracy. They have a more collaborative environment, more responsibility.

 

                                   When you're working in a company that has less than 100 employees, you're certainly going to have some greater responsibility and more impact or at least feel that you have more impact for that company. So, there can be some certainly some strategies that business leaders can implement over and above what they're doing, but I think they also have to go with what they already have and press that advantage, which is a smaller environment, less bureaucracy, more freedom for creativity, entrepreneurial and creativity development. All those things that really we hear from Millennials, from people entering the workforce. This is what they want. So, I think small business owners should be proud of that and this should be something that they can use to attract better employees.

 

Narrator:                    We’ve been talking with Sharon Miller, head of Small Business for Bank of America. This has been Part 1 of our interview with Sharon about the Fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. You can hear Part 2 of the interview on January 2nd, here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.comand Bank of America at BankOfAmerica.com.

 

 

Stay tuned for part II

Not long ago, I was researching a company with whom I might do some business  and, as is the case so often with social media, I ended up down a rabbit hole of tangential information. Somehow, at one point, I found myself on the personal Facebook page of the CEO. He was wearing a red baseball cap that said:

 

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“Make America Great Again”

 

That moment affected my decision (although which way I will not disclose.), The moment serves as a reminder that social media generally, and Facebook specifically, is a public, not a private, place.

 

Most importantly for our purposes, you better be darned sure that you want to publicly wade into the political and cultural wars that divide our country these days because if you do, you will surely evoke a strong response one way or another.

 

Now, maybe you are thinking that politics and small business don’t mix, and if so, I agree. People frequent your business because you provide products or services they like. My take is that they don’t really care what you think, and in fact, in this era of divided politics, I suggest what you think has more risk of doing harm than good.

 

But guess what? We may be wrong.

 

According to Forbes, a recent survey of U.S. consumers found that an amazing two-thirds say “they want brands to engage in social and political issues.” That number goes even higher for younger consumers, those 18-34 years old – 73 percent of millennials want brands to speak up.

 

But here’s the rub: That same survey found more than half (52 percent) of respondents would show greater brand loyalty if they agreed with the brand’s position while even more (53 percent) said if they disagree with the brand’s position on an issue, they would frequent the brand less with a sizable minority stating they would publicly criticize the brand.

 

Given that sobering news, while consumers might want brands to speak up, there is a lot of risk for those that do. And yet, even so, there is also clearly a lot of pressure these days on businesses to take a stand. It might be a faction of employees who want their voices heard, or maybe some customers who feel strongly about an issue.

 

So, what do you do? How can you take a stand in an era of highly partisan politics? Here are a few tips that might help:

 

1. Pick your battles: Supporting a politician, opposing a politician, whatever, is just too risky. The possibility of angering your customers is too high with, as I said, little payoff. Unless supporting a candidate or party is mostly a no-brainer for your small business, the general rule is to leave this area alone.

 

Better: Choose to support an issue that resonates with you, your business and/or your clientele. Choosing an issue that aligns with the values of your business can help reinforce your brand. An outdoor travel company can safely champion environmental causes without wading into the political battles of the day.

 

2. Be a uniter not a divider: We all know what the hot-button topics are, and again, the problem is, if you play with those issues you can get burned.

 

A better strategy for the business that wants to get involved is to pick an issue not as polarizing. A topic that aligns with your values and which people generally support allows you to do good while minimizing the risk of alienating key customers.

 

Example: In the past decade, Coca-Cola  expanded its giving portfolio beyond educational causes to include access to safe drinking water and healthy living across the globe. To illustrate, Coke supports the Global Environment and Technology Foundation’s work in Africa to “replenish water sources and improve access to safe drinking water.”

 

World NGO Day can be a first step for small businesses wanting to support a social cause.

 

3. Go incognito: If you really feel the need to share your political views, do what a pal of mine recently did. He created a new Twitter account, an incognito one, and uses it to rage against the other political team.

 

And no one knows that he owns the small business down the street.

 

Check out what Rieva Lesonsky had to say about whether small businesses should take a political stand.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

Web: 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

It’s our job as entrepreneurs to keep up with the latest trends—but it can be hard to keep up. It’s essential to know what’s driving consumer spending and how you can integrate new trends into your small business. Here’s what to look for in 2019. Have more? Let us know what trends you’re following in the comments section below.

 

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1. Generational marketing

 

There are currently five generations in America, each with its own set of demands. Three (baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z) are so large they have an outsize impact on industries and specific businesses. But no one has more influence in the marketplace than millennials.

 

2. Millennials

 

This huge generation—there are 84 million of them, ranging in age from 19 to 37—is too big to ignore. And they’re in the stage of life where they’re impacting so many businesses. Take weddings – already, according to The Knot, a $72 billion industry. Businesses affiliated with weddings, from retailers, to jewelry designers to restaurants, photographers, florists and dozens more, are poised to grow even more as younger millennials approach the median age of first marriage—29 for women and 31 for men.

 

The Knot reports two to three years after getting married, 35 percent of millennials start a family and 24 percent buy a home. That leads to many entrepreneurial opportunities for years to come.

 

3. Millennial parents

 

Millennials are the nation’s parents—they head 51.2 percent of households with children under age 18. Parents are big spenders—to the tune of $1 trillion a year. And, for the first time, women in their 30s are having more kids than those in their 20s. This is great news for entrepreneurs, since older parents spend more money on food, furniture, clothing, décor, and toys for their kids. More than one million millennial women become new mothers every year, and since so many millennials are still in their 20s, this is a long-lasting trend.

 

4. Home, sweet home

 

Home ownership peaked in 2004, but is now on the rise, thanks to millennials. Between millennials and older generations of home owners holding on to their houses, businesses involved in the remodeling industry will get a boost. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the most in-demand remodeling projects include bathroom, kitchen and whole-house remodels. Homeowners are also asking for more green home features.

 

Seniors (including baby boomers) are demanding more home services—82 percent of them are still home owners. They’re hiring contractors to senior proof their homes. They want wider doorways, lower cabinets, wood floors, and bathroom remodels to make their homes safer and more accessible.

 

They often prefer others handle home maintenance chores, turning to home services businesses to get the job done. While housecleaning, lawn care, snow removal and handyman services aren’t just for seniors, targeting this market can help small businesses build a thriving business.

 

5. Mangia!

 

Americans love to eat, so there’s no shortage of new food trends. According to restaurant and hospitality consulting firm af&co., donuts are 2019’s “dessert of the year.” These aren’t your typical donuts though—consumers want artisanal treats with “unexpected savory flavors and fillings.”

 

Food on demand (either pick-up or delivery) is also soaring. Off-premises dining (including carryout, delivery, drive-through, curbside pickup and food trucks) accounts for 63 percent of restaurant traffic nationwide, and delivery is the fastest-growing segment of this market, says the National Restaurant Association. Consumers expect restaurants to deliver food. 

 

Younger millennials actually prefer off-premises dining—24 percent order takeout three to four times a week, compared to 21 percent of older millennials, 17 percent of Gen Xers and 6 percent of baby boomers, according to the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) and the Center for Generational Kinetics.

 

6. Looking Good

 

Men’s grooming is a burgeoning industry. Men’s personal care products (including skincare, deodorant, soap/bath products, hair products & shaving/depilatories) are already a $4.5 billion industry. Millennials are driving this trend as well, increasingly scooping up anti-aging products. According to new research from Mintel, 34 percent of dads (with children under 18) who use personal care products care about preventing the signs of aging, compared to 26 percent of male personal care product users overall.

 

And yet, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database, only a small percentage of men’s personal care products make anti-aging claims. This leaves a huge gap in the market. Mintel says, there’s “a significant opportunity for anti-aging personal care products specifically formulated for and marketed to men.”

 

These are just a few of the trends Americans are expected to embrace in 2019. Consumers have rising expectations, however, so you’ll have to work hard to meet them.

 

     What’s next?

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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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

Have you wrestled with issues such as these?

 

  • Your business is struggling financially. A supplier sends you their monthly invoice—and they’ve significantly undercharged you. Do you correct the error?agreement-arms-business-1081228.jpg
  • Your children’s toy store is in the thick of the holiday shopping season when you discover that your best-selling product line is made using child labor. Do you keep selling the products?
  • You’ve received complaints that one of your employees is making derogatory and inappropriate comments to coworkers. But he’s your top salesperson and you know he’s recently received another job offer. Do you confront him?

 

In these and other situations, a small business owner may have to choose between principles and profits. But is it really an either-or choice?

 

Short-term profits, long-term price

 

Sticking to your principles may cost you in the short term. In the examples above, it could cost you money, customers or your best salesperson. But if you abandon your principles, you’ll pay a higher price in the long term.

 

Actually, you may not have to wait that long. Social media makes it easier than ever for customers and prospects to see what your principles are and when  you’re conveniently ignoring them. A potential job candidate could see employees at your company complaining about on-the-job harassment. A customer could discover the child labor issue before you do. Transparency gives consumers the upper hand.

 

Profiting from principles

 

In fact, sticking to your principles can pay off. According to a Deloitte study, purchasing drivers such as “social impact, health and wellness, safety and experience” are becoming more important as consumers increasingly base purchasing decisions on their values and beliefs.

 

In the last 12 months, 74 percent of consumers in a JUST Capital survey say they began purchasing or purchasing more of a company’s products or services in order to show support for its positive behavior. The same poll found nearly eight out of 10 Americans would take lower pay to work for a company they perceive as “just.”

 

The stock market believes principles and profits can work hand in hand. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index rates public companies based on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. Participating companies report on their financial, social and environmental performance.

 

What principles do consumers care about most? The way you treat your employees takes top billing. Worker conditions, including fair pay, good benefits and a safe workplace, are the top priority for one-fourth of U.S. consumers considering companies’ principles, JUST reports.

 

How to balance principles and profit

 

How can you hold onto your principles while still making a profit?

 

  • Identify your business principles. What are your core values? What does your business stand for? Review your mission statement, value statement or vision statement. Are they still accurate?
  • Talk to your team. What do your employees think your business stands for? Do they believe the company is truly living its values? Your employees are the ambassadors for your business; they must be on the same page when it comes to company values.
  • Build your business’s values into your employee training. Set guidelines for how employees should treat customers, coworkers and vendors, as well as consequences for not doing so.
  • Practice. It’s not easy to make ethical decisions on the spot. Practice by roleplaying potential scenarios as a group. What should employees do if they see another employee harassing a co-worker? Is there ever a time when it’s justified to take office supplies home?
  • Look in the mirror. If your business isn’t living up to its principles, do you play a role in that? Perhaps you set production quotas so high that employees have to rush to keep up, compromising product quality. Own your mistakes and lead by example going forward.
  • Keep your eyes open. Pay attention to what your vendors, customers and suppliers are doing. It’s a global world and we’re all connected. Doing business with people and companies that share your principles will strengthen your commitment to your values.

 

Principles and profits can and should go hand in hand. Committing to your business principles and educating your customers about them will boost your brand—and ultimately, your profits.

 

Read next:

 

 

 

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

Slow down, reflect, and plan. Make sure your small business has a successful new year. Roger Forman, a Bank of America Small Business Executive, shares key resolutions. Tune in to the latest episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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“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.

 

Roger Forman:          The reality is a small business owner is the accountant, the Chief Operating Officer, they're the CEO, they're a mom, they're a dad, they're a janitor, they've got to do it all. Those that do it best are those that make a conscious effort to slow down, reflect, and plan, and many of them will schedule it. So I talk to business owners that say, "Hey, I've got a period of time between 5:30 and 6:00 on my drive home where I don't take a call, I'm not sitting in front of any kind of social media, and I just think about the business and what I need to get done," but it has to be a conscious effort. It's got to be something that you have top of mind because it's very easy to get passed up.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Roger Forman. He's the SVP and Northwest Small Business Division Executive for Bank of America. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. We're deep into the holiday season, and I think, for small businesses in particular, it's an important time to start thinking about, well, what do I want to do, and what do I have to put in place to be prepared for a great new year ahead? And Roger, we invited you here to talk about some New Year's resolutions we might make for our small businesses. Welcome. And let's talk about this, starting with what is a good mindset for small business owners to have now in the middle of a holiday season to make sure they make the most of this season and make sure they're really prepared for the new year?

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah. Gregg, well, first of all, thank you for having me, and three things that I would tell you that we talk to all of our clients about that are important, frankly, at any time of year, but especially in the context of New Year's resolutions, and they're relatively simple, it's: slow down, reflect and plan. When we think of the beginning of any new year, it's the perfect time to sit back and reflect on the successes and struggles of your business of the last 12 months and really make plans for the year ahead, so we'd recommend you take time to organize your priorities, set realistic long-term goals, and implement ways of measuring progress along the way to keep you on track.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Roger, it's really interesting. The first thing you said here was slow down and then reflect and plan, and I have to think for many small businesses, those are three of the hardest things for them to do. So, can you almost get into the psyche of the small business owners that you talk with and help us with some secrets or tips about how to do those very specific three things? Slow down. I own a business, when do I have time to slow down? Reflect? When do I have time to do that? I always have to be looking ahead and planning. Can you give us some insider, some tips for that?

 

Roger Forman:          Yes, you bet. It's interesting. So in my job, I get the opportunity to sit in front of small business owners every day of the week, and I'm in awe of the responsibility that they have. The reality is, a small business owner is the accountant, the Chief Operating Officer, they're the CEO, they're a mom, they're a dad, they're a janitor, they've got to do it all. So the reality is keeping everything together can be much like walking a tight rope.

 

                                  The reality is those that do it best are those that make a conscious effort to do exactly those three things: slow down, reflect, and plan, and many of them will schedule it. So I talk to business owners that say, "Hey, I've got a period of time between 5:30 and 6:00 on my drive home where I don't take a call, I'm not sitting in front of any kind of social media, and I just think about the business and what I need to get down," but it has to be a conscious effort, Gregg. It's got to be something that you have top of mind because it's very easy to get passed up.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things I hear you saying is that business owners should not think about these things, again - slow down, reflect, and plan - you shouldn't think of them as nice to do or optional, but these are essential steps for you to be successful, and so you should not consider them as optional, but you should consider them as essential, and as you just described, make time in your day or in your schedule specifically for this and make a commitment to it 'cause if you don't make a commitment to it, it's not gonna happen. I think we all know that.

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, exactly. It can't be reactive, it's gotta be a proactive, conscious effort. Absolutely.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And if you don't make time and schedule it regularly, you'll never get in the habit of doing it, and I suspect that business owners who are in the habit of slowing down, reflecting, and planning get the greatest benefit from it.

 

Roger Forman:          It's like going to the gym. Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Oh, you had to bring up going to the gym around a conversation of New Year's resolutions, that's very scary.

 

Roger Forman:          That will be on mine, I'll tell you that much, Gregg.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So this is a time of year where I think all of us begin to kind of lose the pieces of the organization around our lives. There's a lot of things going on that only happen once a year, it's real easy to begin to lose your routine, it's easy to get disorganized, and that certainly can happen in a small business. I'm wondering if you have any tips for small business owners about, okay, just maybe the thing to do is to accept that things are going to get a bit disorganized around this time of year, but do you have tips for how to get back on track so you don't start the new year in a state of disarray, but start it in a really good, solid place?

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, absolutely. During this time of year, the reality is we've got a lot of competing priorities, and I think we can all relate to exactly that. We're disorganized. So a couple ideas I would offer up. Number one, we've gotta set and keep a budget and keep it on track. So we believe that it's important to regularly review your organizational budget and update your year-end productions and your financial plans according. One of the things that we always recommend to our clients is when estimating for the upcoming year, evaluate last year's year-end projections in revenue to ensure that you've got the most accurate predictions.

 

 

                                  Secondly, we would tell you, "You gotta optimize your cash flow," and we hear from customers all the time that cash flow is king. We would agree, and we think that cash flow management really cannot be overstated, and New Year's is a perfect time to assess your business cash flow and find opportunities to improve your current situation. I would recommend that business owners determine how much working capital they need as well and be knowledgeable about how many days of expenses they can cover with their current cash on hand. If you're struggling with cash flow management, or if you're just even concerned about it, you should speak with your small business banker, who is an expert on the subject.

 

 

                                   Additionally, there are some great tools out there than can help. We are incredibly excited. In 2019, Bank of America's launching a new digital tool called Business Advantage 360, and it's been completely designed to help small business owners manage all financial aspects of their business through one single digital platform built directly into our online and mobile banking systems.

 

                                   And finally, Gregg, I'd end with this. It's relatively simple, but manage your goals. As a business owner, it's not enough to just set the goal, your planning has to include tangible steps to meet those goals, so whether it be studying sales trends, taking stock of your industry or your competition, or even exploring ways to expand your customer reach, having clearly outlined tasks will help any small business owner stay on track during these busy periods, holiday rush not to be excluded from that, and remain organized and hit their goals.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Roger Forman. He's the SVP and Northwest Small Business Division Executive for Bank of America. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Roger, it's really interesting to hear you walk through these things, starting with slowing down, reflecting, and planning, and then keeping your budget on track, optimizing cash flow, not just setting goals, but managing your goals because if you're a small business and you've had a great year in 2018, one of the things you may be thinking about, one of the goals you may be setting is it's time for me to grow by hiring more staff. What should I know about the job market at the end of 2018 that will help me be successful at adding to my head count in 2019?

 

Roger Forman:          Gregg, to say that the current hiring environment is competitive would be an understatement. We're in a historically very tight job market right now. Being on the plane last night, I think unemployment is in the threes somewhere, 3.7. don't quote me on that, but good, right?

 

Gregg Stebben:        Yes.

 

Roger Forman:          So owners really shouldn't-

 

Gregg Stebben:         Good and bad, right?

 

Roger Forman:          Good and bad. That's true. Bad if you're trying to hire people. Owners, all of us, and anybody leading an organization should not take talent retention and acquisition for granted. We just did a Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report, and nearly a quarter of all small business owners have lost at least one employee in the last 12 months, and of business owners who sought to hire in 2018, half of them believe the tight labor market had a direct impact on their ability to find and hire qualified people. So business owners who are looking to hire should be thinking about setting themselves apart from other employers. Competition's gonna be fierce, right? So, things like offering perks and benefits, flexible hours, flexible work locations. In addition, additional employee training, development programs, bonuses, things like that can go a long way towards generating loyalty.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things I hear you saying is it's not all about the salary…

 

Roger Forman:          No, absolutely not.

 

Gregg Stebben:         ... think about the perks.Roger Forman:Some of the benefits and the stock benefits of a company can be just as important.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Can you offer suggestions of resources where we might go to get ideas for perks we may wanna use in hiring, or frankly, even for retention of the staff that we have?

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, couple things that I will tell you. When I talk to clients about where they get ideas and inspiration, it comes from multiple different facets. Some of it is other business owners, the local business owner community that they work in, the chambers have lots of activities, and then we also have the Small Business Communitythrough our bankofamerica.comsite that can give lots of tips and ideas. The reality is there's a ton of information out there. It's picking the one or two things that you can manage and that will work for you and your business and executing them better than your peer group.

 

                                             Learn more about hiring  and rewarding employees:        

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things that I wanna talk about is it's been a great year for business, and so a lot of businesses are looking forward to a great year ahead, and let's say I've done all of the things that we've talked about here. I've slowed down, I'm reflecting, I'm planning, I'm setting time to think about my business in the future, I'm doing all of these things. Are there things that you're hearing from businesses that they're doing to get ahead that are more creative that we should be thinking about?

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, a couple of thoughts I would share with you at top of my list is consider creating a referral rewards program. When you think about your customers, oftentimes your best and most dependable consistent business comes from referrals. I know much of ours do. So consider creating a consistent type of system for staying in touch with current customers and then rewarding them when they send new business your way, and that's gonna vary depending upon the business that you're in and you may have to get creative, but it's one of the single best ways to drive new business.

 

 

                                   Second piece is reconnect with a mentor or become one. Mentors can give incredible feedback, they can make introductions, they can open doors, they can teach lessons, so it's as easy as setting up a coffee date with a mentor that you've fallen out of touch with, or if you have one and you feel like that's going well, be a mentor for someone else. You'll get as much out of that as you're putting into it.

 

                                   And then finally, I would say evaluate next steps to grow and expand. So if you're sitting out there saying, "My business is in pretty darn good shape," I'd encourage you to start thinking about expansion, and now is the time. If your cash flow and your business plan are up to par, let's look at obtaining more capital in order to take your business to that next level.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         I wanna go back to a couple of things you've said here. I'm talking with Roger Forman. He's the SVP and Northwest Small Business Division Executive for Bank of America here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street.” One, I want to talk about the idea of having a mentor or being a mentor, specifically being a mentor, because I think sometimes in business, we think A, I don't have time, or B, I'm not really an expert or I don't really know anything that would be helpful to someone else, and I suspect that many people who are a mentor for the first time discover that, not only are they giving incredible value to someone else, like someone else probably did for them as a mentor for them, but also, they get incredible value out of it that they never would've expected and maybe discovered things about themselves and their business that they never would've discovered had they not been a mentor for someone else. Can you talk about that?

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah. It goes back to that slow down, reflect, and plan conversation we had earlier, and I think people overcomplicate the mentor arrangement in my view. At the end of the day, it's about creating a connection with someone and having a conversation that will ultimately lead to learning. I have multiple mentors and coaches in my life, some of them in financial services, many of them in very different industries, yet we all have parallels in everything that we do. It may be the core parallel is how do you manage work and life and how do you keep that balance together, but being able to talk to someone else, listen to other ideas, is incredibly valuable, it's cathartic, and it's one of those things that you've got to put discipline around and you’ve got to be proactive with and go out and find it, but I find that that is one of the most valuable uses of my time today.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         So one of the things you're saying is don't make it into a big deal. It really can just be a relationship where you have someone you can talk with.

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, don't overcomplicate it. At the end of the day, maybe it's just that you have a great conversation then you realize you have someone in common or they can make a referral for you. You just never know where these things are gonna go, so don't overengineer it.

 

Gregg Stebben:         The other thing is that we were talking earlier about evaluating next steps for your business to grow and expand, and I would imagine having conversations with others in your industry and outside of your industry so that you can get other perspectives would be hugely valuable in being able to really evaluate effectively where am I today, where could I go, and where are there opportunities to grow, because if you're doing that by yourself, you're kinda stuck with the same thoughts you've always had. You really need to bring the eyes and the insight of others into that conversation, and one or many of those conversations may be with people who are your mentors or who you might be mentoring.

 

Roger Forman:          Yeah, they give inspiration at the end of the day and inspire you to do things you're not thinking about.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things you talked about, Roger, is, for instance, having a mentor who may help you manage both the combination of your personal life and your business life, as you said, manage work and life. I want to hear from you how you view your job and how you manage it with your personal life. So, since we've been talking about New Year's resolutions, can you talk about a personal New Year's resolution that you have for yourself? Let's say it's personal or even work-related.

 

Roger Forman:           Is this some sort of forced accountability session? Maybe if I put it out there, I'll-

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm your new mentor.

 

Roger Forman:           All right. I'll take it. I'll take it. Yeah, so here's the two things I'm thinking about now, and I will just declare, 'cause I'm sure my wife will listen to this, my pull-through ratio on some of my past personal resolutions has not been so hot, so I'm gonna keep it simple and easy. Here's the two things I'm thinking about: Number one: I've gotta get more quality sleep. It sounds sort of basic, but eight hours, apparently, is what the sleep gurus tell you is the magic number, and I'm not getting that today, and I challenge many of us, especially small business owners ... I bet there's a lot of people in that same boat. So here's what I'm thinking about. I think it's gonna be easier said than done, but no smartphone, no TV, no laptop after 10:00.

 

                                   That's gonna segue into my number two, which is second priority for me, is I wanna start reading more. As I talk to you, business owners, and peers, a lot of people are bookworms. I know my wife is, and I'm jealous of her curling up on the couch with a great book and getting lost in a story, and I don't give myself the time to do that. I know it's great for your brain, it's great brain food, and frankly, there's a million topics out there to help me learn. So that's my plan: more sleep, no artificial light, turning off the laptop, and grabbing a book.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So first of all, being part of ForbesBooks and this is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America, we love the idea that you're going to read more. We think everyone should adopt that resolution. I just wanna say that I think you've set the stage for others to look at their life and their lifestyle and think, "What could I do to make myself a better person at home, a better person at work, and frankly, a healthier person," which is going to help in every avenue of your life. Those sound like really great resolutions. I wish I had a great answer to the question. I was thinking of volunteering what my resolutions were, but I don't have a great answer, so what I've learned, so you've been a mentor to me, is I need to work on this between now and January 1st. We've been talking with Roger Forman. He's the SVP and Northwest Small Business Division Executive for Bank of America. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Roger, thanks so much for being here, and happy holidays and a great new year to you.

 

Roger Forman:          Gregg, likewise. Thank you for having me.

 

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

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John Purcell, president and owner of Elite Orthopedics, knows passion drives success. On the latest Bank of America Small Business Podcast episode, Steve Strauss sits down with John to discuss the ambition and persistence that continue to propel him forward, with tips and inspiration for others striving to succeed.

 

 

 

John Purcell:              I love what I do, and I think that is something important for everybody to think about is, you gotta love what you do. When you love what you do, you have the passion to do it 24 straight hours if need be, but at the same time, you know, there's times when it gets really tough. And those are the times when loving what you do that really kind of helps pull you through. When you are having a situation and you're kind of wondering, am I in over my head? Is this too much, or whatever has you down in the dumps that particular day. If you love what you do, that'll keep you going.

 

Steve Strauss:            Hi. I'm Steve Strauss, and you're listening to the Bank of America Small Business Podcast, a podcast where we speak with small business owners about their journey and uncover useful tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners everywhere.

 

                                    And today we are really excited to be speaking with John Purcell, the president of Elite Orthopedics. Elite Orthopedics is an agency exclusively representing Arthrex. Arthrex is a global medical device company started in 1981, and what began as a company with a focus on emerging procedures has since pioneered the field of arthroscopy. And personally, having had a couple of those, I'm glad they've done that. Arthrex has developed over 10,000 innovative products and surgical procedures to advance minimally-invasive orthopedics worldwide.

 

                                    John, it's great to have you with us.

 

John Purcell:               Thanks for having me, Steve. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

Steve Strauss:            So why don't we just start at the beginning a little bit, and why don't you tell us how you got started in the business and how you came to be the owner of Elite Orthopedics.

 

John Purcell:              Sure. Well I went to Pittsburg State University in Southeast Kansas and had a couple of undergrads in business and completed my MBA, and it was time to find a job and get in the real world. I would have tried to obtain a PhD in business if my parents would have kept paying for college, because I was having a heck of a time, but they were not onboard with that idea. So real world, here I come.

 

                                   I was literally chatting with a buddy of mine who was a business owner, and he turned me on to the idea of sales, and he thought I'd be good at it. He plugged me in with a guy that I knew, or a guy he knew, and that turned into an interview. And literally, a little bit of flexibility is what caused me to get the job. I think I talked enough in the interview that they were interested, but when they asked me where I needed to live, I asked them where they had openings. They named Kansas City, St. Louis, and Columbia, Missouri. All were far bigger than anywhere I'd ever lived in my life, so I told them any of the three would work, and they hired me on the spot and told me they'd tell me where I was moving to once they filled the other two spots. So it's good to be flexible.

 

Steve Strauss:           Flexibility works.

 

John Purcell:              It sure does.

 

Steve Strauss:            So was that with Elite Orthopedics, or who was that with?

 

John Purcell:               No. So Arthrex is the $3 billion company today that makes the orthopedic surgical implants that we sell, and they have kind of a unique distribution model where they have distributors or agencies that cover certain states and zip codes. And at that time, the distributor that I started my career with was called TASA Medical, and I worked for them up until about 2011, and then started Apollo Surgical Group, which then became Elite Orthopedics, and essentially that was my own distributorship or agency for Arthrex.

 

                                   Today my company Elite Orthopedics…we cover the east half of Missouri and the southern third of Illinois, and I think we've got 67, 68 employees now covering that area. Mainly most of those are our technology consultants, which are our sales reps, and they're in the operating room all day every day, helping orthopedic surgeons with consulting and surgical carpentry questions, I guess.

 

Steve Strauss:            So that's really interesting. I mean, you actually went from an employee to becoming an owner of your own business within that group, and that's kind of a different model for a lot of people. Did you grow up in a family where entrepreneurship thrived? Did your parents own small businesses, or is this just something that you were fortunate enough to get into?

 

John Purcell:               No. That's a great question, and I would say yes. I grew up in a business family. My grandfather was the president of a local banking system and the chairman of the board after he stepped down as president for a long time. My mother was actually a high school teacher who taught general business, and my father, who had a business degree and a master's in engineering from Pepperdine, owned and operated his own driving range, golf shop, golf business. So even when I was 11 years old, I was putting in about 30 to 40 hours a week working at my dad's business, helping shag golf balls and you know, dusting golf clubs. I did minor club repair and you know anything he needed me to do. I learned at a young age that work ethic is king in this world.

 

Steve Strauss:            So far for you what we've learned is being flexible works for you, and having a good work ethic works as well.

 

John Purcell:               Yeah, absolutely.

 

Steve Strauss:            Nice. I'm wondering if you could tell us little bit about your journey as a business owner. You started Elite Orthopedics three to five years ago. Was it just you when you started? How big or small was it when you actually became an owner of this business?

 

John Purcell:               Sure. So I actually started my initial company, was called Apollo Surgical Group, and we started that in 2011. I had a partner who lived in the Kansas side, and we owned the company together. And I think when we started we were about 20 million, and together we grew that business to roughly 45 million. And then ultimately decided, you know what, we've both got a great formula, and we've got our own sale's management infrastructure. We're probably best if we divide and conquer and each have our own piece to focus on. So we did that in 2015, and Elite Orthopedics was born. And essentially in 2015 ... We've had some pretty explosive growth. In 2015, I want to say we were doing close to 24 million in revenue, and this year we'll do 45. And back then I want to say I had 30 employees, and this year we'll probably end the year closer to 75.

 

                                   So we've had some pretty explosive growth. It's all thanks to Arthrex and the products that they make. We cover everything in orthopedics from sports medicine injuries like ACL reconstructions, Tommy John surgeries, rotator cuff surgeries, to total joints, hand and wrist, foot and ankle. We sell a lot of the large capital equipment items that they have. You know, Arthrex has put a ton of money into the research and development, and we have the benefit of being the sales force for them. So literally every day our guys wake up and go try to educate more surgeons and customers on the Arthrex product offering.

 

Steve Strauss:            So that's really interesting. You're doing one thing that I often counsel small business owners to do, and that is to find a great brand that they can co-brand with. One of the challenges small business people have is that they're small, and they don't have a huge brand. But what you've done, and what you've done well and right is teamed up with this amazing brand in your world, Arthrex, and together they've helped you grow your brand, and you've helped them grow their brand. Has that made a difference for you?

 

John Purcell:               Absolutely. I couldn't have done it without them. Whatever initiatives or stock that they have of what they want me to do, I do it every time. I don't question what it is. We just find a way to get it done. They do stuff the right way, and literally they are what makes Elite who it is, their product portfolio. Our number one greatest asset is our employees, and without our employees and reps and the Arthrex portfolio, Elite wouldn't be able to do any of what it's done so far.

 

Steve Strauss:            So it's also got to be true that there has to be a lot of competition for what you're doing in your space. So what is it though that makes Elite Orthopedics unique and different? You have a great brand and a great partner, but you must be doing something different and better.

 

John Purcell:               Well I feel like we're constantly trying to see three to five years down the road, and I think if you think about the growth we had where we've literally doubled in size in the last three years, and then when I look at the region that Elite is, the three years before that we doubled in size. So my toughest challenge is trying to think big enough and stay ahead of the game. It's real easy to get behind when you're trying to keep up with a machine like Arthrex. The owner of Arthrex, Reinhold Schmieding, is the Steve Jobs or the Bill Gates of orthopedics.

 

                                   You mentioned there's a lot of competition. There's a boatload. All of my competitors are the big boys in this industry doing you know four and five times the revenue of Arthrex for each one of those companies, and so for me, I always try to stay ahead of them by acquiring the best talent. We have a robust medical education department where I have a full-time medical education manager that literally trains new sales reps on the anatomy, surgical procedures, all day, every day. It's more than just selling to the physicians from a growth perspective. I've got to keep up with rep education, which as you can imagine, the learning curve is pretty stiff in this business.

 

Steve Strauss:            I bet it is. It is interesting though that sales are the biggest part of your business maybe. What do you look for in a good salesman? What could other small business people who do sales learn from your explosive growth insofar as what it takes to make a sale and repeat a sale?

 

John Purcell:               Well I think a lot of it has to do with hard work. It's easy to say, but at the end of the day, if somebody puts in the time to cover the cases they need ... Our reps are constant students of the game. They're always trying to sharpen the sword, learn about new surgical procedures, learn about new techniques with current products, learn about all the new products.

 

                                    Arthrex is incredible. They launch over a thousand products a year. So literally at some places, it'd be a full-time job just trying to learn all the new stuff, and our guys are doing that in addition to servicing all of the current surgeries going on every day, and at the same time, picking up all these new ideas and these new techniques, and then disseminating them down to the physicians to determine if it's going to help them treat their patients better.

 

Steve Strauss:            Interesting. We are speaking with John Purcell, the president of Elite Orthopedics, and we will get back to my conversation with John in a second.

 

                                   But first this from our friends at Bank of America.

 

                                   I want to ask you this. Have you heard about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards from Bank of America? It's a new program that rewards eligible small business owners with benefits and rewards that grow as their BofA business deposit or their Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch investment balances increase. You can read about it at bankofamerica.com/relationshiprewards.

 

                                   There are all sorts of benefits including no fees on select services from Bank of America, including monthly maintenance fee waivers on up to four checking accounts and four savings accounts. A 25% to 75% rewards bonus on the base earn of every purchase you make with your eligible Bank of America credit card. Cash rewards based on your Bank of America merchant services monthly payment processing volume. Up to 20% interest rate booster on a Business Advantage Savings Account. And interest rate discounts on new loans and lines of credit.

 

                                   Interested? You should be. Learn more about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards at bankofamerica.com/relationshiprewards. That's bankofamerica.com/relationshiprewards.

 

Steve Strauss:            So John, while you clearly have had some amazing growth, I am sure that it has also come with some unexpected challenges. Could you tell me what those have been and how you've met those?

 

John Purcell:               Well, we get challenged every day in the operating room. There will be a patient that will present with a unique situation, and what makes our sales reps, or our technology consultants as we call them, great is their ability to think on their feet. So when I was a technology consultant or a sales rep, I felt that one of things I did well was I knew my products, I knew how they were used, and I was good at thinking on my feet. So when the surgeon wasn't prepared for something, we were able to think of a way with our widgets to help bring value and help throw-out some ideas or solutions that they could employ to try to get out of that jam.

 

                                   I wish running a business was as easy as it was for me thinking out of those mechanical jams. But every day is a new challenge, and I honestly believe my biggest challenge would be trying to think big enough to keep up with the growth of Arthrex. So literally hiring, staying ahead on the hiring curve, and making sure we've got high quality individuals ready to step in when an opportunity presents. And I would say the other challenge is just my business infrastructure, and making sure that we've always got room for expansion whether it's in the operations department, the accounting and financial analyst department, operations ... I mean just trying to think large enough of where we're going to be.

 

                                   I was recently at a meeting, and the president of Arthrex was talking about how we're going to plan to double in the next five years. And all of a sudden while everybody else was thinking, "Wow, that's great news!" I had this small moment of panic where I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh! I just bought a facility and a building, and now I'm going to need to have one that's double the size. I'm going to need twice as many reps." And so I start thinking through all of the layers of infrastructure and what that looks like. It's a good problem to have. I'm not complaining, but it's difficult to think that far ahead and to think that big and be comfortable with what you need to do to get there.

 

Steve Strauss:            Well this kind of growth and expansion must have had an impact on your personal life. People always talk about the balance, and I don't think…I don’t think you really can have a great balance. At some point family takes priority. At some point the business takes priority. Balancing them is never easy. How has the growth of your business impacted your personal life?

 

John Purcell:              You're right. It's definitely a challenge, but I have the world's most amazing wife. She's very understanding of my business and my hours. She's very supportive. She helps tremendously. But you're right. There are certainly times when I'll be gone for five or six days to a convention or on a trip for work, and I'll come back and I need to basically just shut work down for a little while and reconnect with my wife and the kids and give everybody the quality family time that they deserve. And it's a constant challenge, but in order to keep up the pace that we move at and to keep up the ability to have things keep moving the way they are, there's some sacrifices that you have to make, and it's unfortunate. But I always try to make sure that whenever I get back from one of those events that I really focus on my family and make sure they're getting what they need as well.

 

Steve Strauss:            You know, I'm wondering the role technology plays in your business. Obviously you have a technology business. But insofar as the business-side of the business goes, do you use tech to help create this infrastructure? Do you use social media maybe in any way to grow your business? Or maybe it's all a more personal touch kind of business. You tell us.

 

John Purcell:               Well you know, that's a good question, and I have a second company that I own a piece of that does lawn and landscaping. And in that business, you know, social media marketing, can really impact the bottom line. However for Elite Orthopedics, social media marketing doesn't necessarily impact the bottom line because I'm selling to a very specific audience of doctors.

 

                                   However, it has been very important for me over the past year and a half or so where we have been relying on social media between Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and some subscription software pieces that I utilize to help keep up with the recruiting and the hiring ways. So I can't say that they've helped impact the revenue from bringing on sales, but it's absolutely been critical to impact the revenue from helping me find the personnel to keep up with this wave of growth.

 

 

Steve Strauss:            Is there anything you would do differently having done this for several years now? What might you have changed, or what might you think you're going to change in the future?

 

John Purcell:               You know, this past year I had a moment where we'd recently brought accounting in-house. And I had a third-party company that I was working with previously. They were unbelievable. They were incredible, but when the day arrived that we needed to bring accounting in-house, I did that and then quickly realized, "Why didn't I do this sooner?" So I think for me, a lot of times, I might not feel it's the right time to do something, or I might be hesitant about it, but once I've done it, there's been a few occasions where by the time I actually pulled the trigger on a new position or whatever it was, a couple months later I'm thinking, "I should have done that sooner."

 

 

                                   So I think the times I just need to just trust my gut a little bit more, or listen more to what others are doing and give it a shot and get out of my comfort zone a little bit more and think bigger.

 

Steve Strauss:            Think bigger. That's a great theme, and I love that you keep saying that. I'm wondering, any other advice you might give entrepreneurs who are listening today? Clearly you love entrepreneurship. You love your business. You've been very successful at it. What do you think people could take away from your journey?

 

John Purcell:               Well, I feel like I got lucky in a sort, but when I was in college and I mentioned I had that conversation that my buddy plugged me in with a guy that was in surgical sales. And as I think back, you know what? I was in the right place at the right time and knew the right guy, and then when I got my opportunity, it was all about demonstrating the work ethic and essentially being flexible. And then once I got into that role and started getting to know the job a little bit, I really fell in love with it, and I love what I do.

 

                                    And I think that is something important for everybody to think about is, you gotta love what you do. When you love what you do, you have the passion to do it 24 straight hours if need be, but at the same time, there's times when it gets really tough. And those are the times when loving what you do that really kind of helps pull you through. When you are having a situation and you're kind of wondering, am I in over my head? Is this too much, or whatever has you down in the dumps that particular day. If you love what you do that'll keep you going, and you can live to fight another day. It's always darkest before the dawn.

 

Steve Strauss:            Nice. Well we here at the Bank of America Small Business Podcast love what you're doing, we love talking to entrepreneurs who are getting the job done and making a difference and helping everyone in the process. And that's clearly what you're doing. So John, if people want to find you or Elite Orthopedics, where should they go?

 

John Purcell:               eliteorthollc.com. We're always looking for talented individuals that can help make us better.

 

Steve Strauss:            Fantastic. Keep up the great work.

 

John Purcell:               Thank you very much. Appreciate the opportunity.

 

Steve Strauss:             For Bank of America, I'm Steve Strauss.

 

 

Up next:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

Web: 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Running a business is tough, but it can run more smoothly by simplifying operations with the right systems and processes in place.

 

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Here are six strategies to consider so that your business runs more smoothly.

 

Get the right team on board

Do you have the right team? Human resources experts advise that when hiring, consider the three I’s: Integrity, initiative and intelligence. Additionally, consider hiring those with improved soft skills. A good employee should co-exist with others regardless of their title or position. Team players are assets to any organization and can make running your business easier.

 

     RELATED CONTENT:  3 Big Problems Small Business Owners Struggle With, Part 2: Finding and Retaining Employees


Be hands-on and part of the team

Your employees already know who the boss is, so make a conscious effort to be a part of the team and lead by example. You will not only understand the challenges your employees have but you also get to learn the intimate operations of your business. This does not mean that you turn into a master of all things and micromanage everything. However, being more hands on lets your employees know you’re making an attempt to understand what they do. It also shows them that you’re also accessible and approachable.

 

     RELATED CONTENT: 7 Traits of a Great Manager


Communicate, then communicate more

Do not assume your employees will understand all your decisions. Yet it is important to focus on the desired outcome for the business so everyone understand why they are doing what you ask. Let everyone on your team know their roles and your expectations. One of the significant sources of workplace strife is a collision of duties. When duties are not well defined, it creates conflict and unhealthy internal competition. Such problems are  energy suckers and can make the work environment needlessly tense. As a leader, communicate and point everyone in the right direction. When all are walking in the same direction, conflicts decrease.

 

     RELATED CONTENT: 7 Tools for Improving Office Communication


Involve everyone

People have different personalities. As a leader, bring everyone on board and make them feel like they are an important piece of the business. No one should feel superior to the other. Spend time with your team and get to know them beyond the office. When employees feel that you care, they will perform better at work.

Get your team’s view and advice on the operations and business. You do not need to implement everything they tell you but you will get to learn a few things from them. Doing so can help employees take charge and responsibility for the success of the business.


     RELATED CONTENT: Creating a great business culture by Steve Strauss

 

Reward, compensate and train well

A reward is an excellent way to boost productivity and morale in the workplace. Happy employees will be more productive employees and therefore help your business run smoothly. Rewarding and compensating may not always include a financial increase.

Find out what your employees value in their lives and provide them with it. That could be time off, gift cards and even an office party celebrating their work.


Do not limit the training to strictly job-related. Other areas that will empower your employees are life skills and personal finance lessons among others. When you invest in your employees, you are the ultimate beneficiary. The leading cause of stress in individuals today is financially related. If you choose to train your employees on how to manage their money better, you will get stress-free people. As a result, they will deliver more and make their workplace a better place.

 

     RELATED CONTENT: The importance of employee perks and how you can offer more than you think

 
The value of your business is directly related to how smoothly your business operates. A smoother working business leads to more engaged employees, sales teams, leadership and customers. If you simplify your business, you will also simplify your life!

 

About Ebong Eka

 

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Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

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

Imagine if you could add a small but mighty group of marketing partners to your team.

 

These marketing partners are all experts in their niches, and have followers on social media that closely match your own target demographic. These potential partners would

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happily endorse and promote your offers. They get to bring additional value to their audiences, the audience members get exposure to your products or services, and you get more sales. Everybody wins.

 

This is the essence of a brand ambassador program. Creating such a program for your small business can make a dramatic difference to your marketing results. The good news is it does not have to take much time or effort to launch, yet can yield tremendous growth and profits for your business.

 

Forward-thinking businesses understand that consumers want honesty and transparency. Working with brand ambassadors can be extremely effective and affordable as there is pre-existing trust and affinity between the influencer and their followers.

 

People definitely trust recommendations from peers more than they trust brand ads. In fact, studies show that 84 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations the most.

 

Brand ambassador program formats

 

Brand ambassador programs can have a variety of formats; you get to choose what might work best for your business model.

 

For example, your program could be similar to an affiliate program or referral program, where anyone can sign up on your website to get a unique tracking link. Ambassadors then use their tracking link to promote your offer to their audience. And, you only pay ambassadors a commission on sales they make.

 

Many SaaS (software as a service) companies offer more open type of ambassador programs like this. Examples include marketing automation company HubSpot, social media management platform AgoraPulse, and online video creation tool Wave.video.

 

You could make your ambassador program by application only to make it more selective and ensure you get quality matches. For example, Podium is a customer feedback software company for local businesses and they have a compelling invitation to explore becoming a Podium partner on their website. I particularly appreciate the verbiage on their inquiry form, “Podium partners with some of the most respected marketing consultants, business service providers, and marketing agencies across the globe.”

 

Alternatively, what may be most effective for you is to identify and proactively reach out to potential ambassadors. They may be known as micro- or macro- influencers in their industry.

 

The popularity of influencer marketing has quickly given rise to what are referred to as “micro-influencers.” These are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest users, for example, with small but very loyal audiences. Conversely, “macro-influencers” are power users and widely recognized trendsetters, many of which have followings in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

 

Now, we even have “nano-influencers” on the rise. These folks are normal everyday social media users with follower counts between 1,000 to 5,000.

 

How to compensate brand ambassadors

 

Brand ambassador terms could range from a one-time project where you pay a flat fee and/or a performance based bonus. Or, it could be you work with select ambassadors with an ongoing monthly retainer for services provided. Nano-influencers are most likely to be happy with some free product or modest compensation.

 

Ambassador packages could include a mix of the following:

 

  • Monthly retainer for specific brand awareness campaigns and lead generation deliverables
  • Flat fee for a specific marketing project
  • Performance based compensation with commissions payable for leads and/or sales
  • Free supplies of your product
  • Free access to your software, app, or other services
  • Any other creative ways you come up with that are win-win for your business and the ambassador

 

How to find prospective brand ambassadors

 

Search social networks such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for specific keywords and hashtags to see if you can identify good matches.

 

Nano-influencers may be the easiest to reach and team up with, versus a major celebrity or certain macro-influencers.

 

Instead of doing your own organic searches, you might enlist the help of a service that specializes in finding you ideal influencers/brand ambassadors with which to work. For example, take a look at Influencer Marketing Hub.

 

Also, Facebook recently launched a tool to help brands and potential ambassadors partner up. The feature is called Brand Collabs Manager. You can visit my own portfolio by way of example.

 

Plus, your top customers could even become some of your first brand ambassadors! Review your list of best customers and reach out to them with an invitation.

 

What deliverables do brand ambassadors create?

 

Tap into what comes naturally to the ambassador and also what their audience most resonates with. For example, I love to do educational webinars and Facebook Live video broadcasts with educational content, and my audiences love this, too. The list of companies I’ve done this for include Hootsuite, BeLive.tv, Podium, Telestream Wirecast, IMPACT Branding & Design and more. For Adobe, I hosted a Facebook live from their annual MAX Creativity Conference, with live demos of new products.

 

Deliverables endorsing your product or service can include any of the following on the ambassador’s channels:

 

  • Publishing content on any of the major social networks – in link, image or video format
  • Hosting live video broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
  • Using your product or service and doing how-to videos
  • Leading educational webinars
  • Writing and publishing a blog post
  • Sending out a dedicated email broadcast to subscribers, or a mention in an email newsletter
  • Showcasing a case study of yours in a keynote speech if the ambassador is a speaker, for example
  • Hosting a live event

 

There’s no limit to what creative arrangements you might come up with for your brand ambassadors. For instance, I recently hosted a 30-day video-a-day challenge for Wave.video. I ran the challenge inside a special pop-up Facebook group where I gathered over 1,700 participants, 90 percent of which were new leads for Wave.video.

 

How to track your brand ambassadors’ results

 

There are myriad ways to structure agreements when it comes to results. It all depends on your business objectives.

 

Perhaps you’re simply looking for brand awareness and more visits to your website and/or foot traffic to your store.

 

Or, your focus may be on qualified leads that sign up on your website with their email address and phone number.

 

Ultimately, you do want to tie all brand ambassador results to the bottom line and quantify with actual sales so you can measure a solid ROI.

 

Finding brand ambassadors that match your brand promise and that have an audience of your ideal demographic are the keys to success.

 

 

Are you interested in hosting a Facebook Live event like I do? 

 

Learn from Carol Roth

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

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

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