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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.

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Season’s greetings from the Small Business Community!

 

The holidays are in full swing on Main Street and it’s time to check in to make sure your small business is ready. Brent Tilson, CEO of Tilson and author of “Go Slow to Grow Fast,” shares holiday best practices for small businesses on this 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.

 

Brent Tilson:               When you're thinking about the holiday season, start all inclusively with everybody that you're going to communicate with so that you can be sensitive to not only your employees and the impacts around what could be a morale issue in the company ultimately, but also your customers.

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm here with Brent Tilson. He's the president and CEO of Tilson, tilsonhr.com, also the author of the ForbesBook Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast-Paced, Competitive Business World.

 

                                   Brent, we're thrilled you're here, and we invited you here to talk with us about some HR issues that are particularly relevant today as we're getting closer to the holidays. The holidays can have some really ... companies can handle the holidays with their teams and their employees in a very successful way, I would imagine, or they can really step in it and make some real mistakes.

 

                                   And interestingly, as I've been reading your book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, your book actually centers around a company having what they think is a morale issue. Hint, hint, it's not really a morale issue. That's just a symptom, but it's so perfectly aligned with the idea of making sure that you do the right thing for your employees during the holidays, that I wanted to talk with you both about the book and things we can do as companies to handle the holidays appropriately.

 

                                   And when I bring up the idea of the holidays and dealing with employees, is this a common conversation that companies have or should have?

 

Brent Tilson:               Well thanks, Gregg. And it is a conversation that companies should be having, especially this time of year. I don't necessarily find where companies have written policies about what they should or shouldn't say during the holiday season, so it's important that people talk about it and that the management teams understand what's important, that they share with the employees, and really have a conversation around those pitfalls. As you said, they could really step in it, and people get really excited around the holiday season.

 

                                   In fact, not too long ago, we celebrated Halloween, and, years ago, Halloween was something that was very commonly celebrated. Well there's also a little darker side to Halloween, and so companies today are starting to be mindful that certain employees don't want to have these Halloween celebrations. And it's the sensitivity issue that we ... I wouldn't have imagined years ago, but so many things I see today, I would never have imagined years ago.

 

                                   And so it's important that companies have these conversations to begin to think about their employees and the excitement that they have to celebrate, but just because they may have that personal excitement at home, they have to somewhat tamper it down a little bit when they're in the office or at work.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, right, I mean, one of the things is you have to make sure that these kinds of things within the office are inclusive because people have different religions, different celebrations, different customs, and different traditions. And if I'm listening to this and I'm an HR person, what kind of advice can you give me for helping me discuss this with my management team to make sure we're doing the right thing when we approach it with our employees?

 

Brent Tilson:               Well the first thing I like to tell people to think about is to approach it both for internal and external. So when you're thinking about the holiday season, start all inclusively with everybody that you're going to communicate with so that you can be sensitive to not only your employees and the impacts around what could be a morale issue in the company ultimately, but also your customers. Because your customers have to be ... You need to be sensitive with them because they also have personal, whether it be religious or other sorts of traditions that they are mindful of.

 

                                   So my advice would first be think about it from encouraging the employees to see it through the lens of the recipient, the person they're talking with. So if they're certainly in an internal employee situation, be mindful that not everybody is going to be the same faith, and that we are a melting pot, and that we need to be very mindful of the words we use, how we say them, maybe even the greetings and the goodbyes, because this is the time of year when things, people tend to say different things when they meet somebody.

 

                                   And so it's about understanding through the eyes of the recipient is the first thing that they should do. And then also just be sensitive that, in the holiday season, not everyone is excited about the holiday season. So you have to be sensitive to people, how much are they really wanting you to be engaged in those sorts of discussions with them.

 

Gregg Stebben:          You made an interesting point about ... I've been asking about internal communications and relationships between employees, but there's also employees interacting with the public or the company interacting with the public, and that's another place where, if you don't manage it well, you can really alienate some very important people in your business, which is your customers.

 

Brent Tilson:               Well and people, they get lazy. I was in a very ... what I would consider somewhat of a high profile meeting this last year over the Easter time period. It was just a mixed group, and the individual who was hosting the meeting just was careless in comments towards the end, and this was actually an elected official who wasn't really thinking about what he was saying at the time, he was trying to be ... wishing everybody a good weekend. And afterwards, he reflected on what he said and he's like, "I can't believe I just did that." So just careless in reading and understanding the room, and the things you may say or may not say.

 

                                   And so, it happens to everybody, no matter where you may be, whether it's in business or in some other situation, it's just being careful of really understanding the audience that you're in, and making sure the message is tailored for that audience.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, two words come to mind as we're talking about this. One is training. I mean, there must be some ... there has to be some way of communicating this with your employees, or you're leaving it up to chance that they're going to get it right. So you need to, I would think, in some way or another, let employees know this is what we think is appropriate, and we want you to act in the following way.

 

                                   Which is built on awareness, because I think sometimes people say things like this elected official you were mentioning, sometimes it's just a lack of an awareness that there could be sensitivity, and once you're aware that the sensitivity is there, you think, oh, I never would've done that if I had thought about it, but I didn't have the awareness to think about it.

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, and many people ... and you're right, the training is very important, and the reason the training is important, or at least to make people aware of it. And it certainly should be done not just in a holiday spirit, it ought to be more from a sensitivity and diversity training that's all encompassing so that it's not just specific to the holidays. The holidays are an example, they certainly are a placeholder in the training for people to have to understand that there are different times of the year that you have to be even more aware of the activity, and what you might say or do.

 

                                   So in those trainings it's important to have these pieces, but it just goes so much more than that. Think about it this way, that people are at work, are in the office, far more than they are at home. But yet they bring from their home their personal beliefs and experiences, and not everybody wants that shared in the office environment. And so it's really important to understand that there's that line that individuals have to manage and monitor themselves when they bring in their personal beliefs, if you will.

 

                                   And so it's really important to understand both sides of that. There's that line that you do cross when you walk through the door.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm talking with Brent Tilson, he's the president and CEO of Tilson, they're at TilsonHR.com. He's also the author of the Forbes Book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.

 

                                   Brent, I want to change gears here a little bit and talk about another big part of the holidays in the workplace, and that is: I'm an employee, I have an expectation that I'm going to get a bonus, a gift, a raise, or maybe all three. This seems to me another place where employers have to be really strategic about what they do. I want you to talk a little bit about the things you do at Tilson, so we can then understand the kind of advice you offer to your clients around these kinds of year end issues.

 

Brent Tilson:               These are great issues to address, because you think first about raises. It's one of those things that some people just expect it annually, I'm going to get a raise. The cost of living increase or whatever it may be, and we're always very clear to articulate in our organization that while we do try, and want to be giving raises, and certainly want to keep up with the cost of living, so there's certainly that as an element, so we make sure our staff understands there's an element of raises that are a part of the overall compensation that will happen year after year.

 

                                   But then on top of that, it's going to be merit based. So if you're improving, and you're moving from one level to another level, and you've actually improved your position and/or your overall performance, then yes you will be justified to get a possibly higher raise. So we make sure it's very clear that there's a merit component to the raise piece, that way we set expectations.

 

                                   Now come to bonuses, you have those performance based bonuses and discretionary. So performance based, once again, it's going to be based on the merits, so it's very clear and they should be very clearly articulated as to when those bonuses will be paid out, so that they understand how they're doing, so you're rewarding the right type of thing.

 

                                   Oftentimes in the holidays, we get into the discretionary bonuses, and that's where people can get themselves in trouble, because if they do discretionary bonuses, and they've done it for five straight years in a row, it starts to be expected. And if some reason the company doesn't do well, or some change happens that that isn't paid out, then employees' expectations have to be better managed so that people know that it's not going to happen. We see that as a real problem, companies tend to just habitually do these year-end bonuses, they do it as a discretionary, they don't communicate it that this is not to be expected every year, then people start to think it's a part of their income. And it can be really problematic as people think they're going to use that money for Christmas gifts, or whatever they may be doing.

 

                                   So certainly those things are an issue that management really needs to talk about, because to set expectations early, and frequently, because you can't just say it once, you're going to have to say it multiple times.

 

Announcer:                 As a professional employer organization, Tilson, and one of the services you offer are payroll and benefits administration, is this the kind of thing that you and your team end up talking with your clients about?

 

                                   Want an alternative to giving bonuses?  Try these 6 easy employee benefits to reward employees from Steve Strauss. 

 

Brent Tilson:               It is. Yes, our HR team will work with our clients and we'll talk about best practices, things to think about as they're getting ready to roll out their bonuses. Because it's not just a bonus, it could be ... when you get on the technical side, sometimes bonuses are tied to 401k programs, and so that's going to be money that they think they're going to get, or making sure they articulate, okay, you're going to get $1,000.00 bonus but once taxes are done, it's not going to be that full amount, so what is your real intent? Are you wanting them to take home a full $1,000.00? Well then we have to talk about the financial implications, and the taxes, and what we call grossing it up.

 

                                   So yeah, we talk about everything from the tactical and technical components of how and what amount you want to give, to the strategy of what that impact is on the workforce.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And there's another wrinkle to this, I'm referring to a statistic from the Fall 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Reporthttps://newsroom.bankofamerica.com/system/files/Small_Business_Owner_Report_-_Fall_2018.pdf, which reports that 83% of small business owners planned to offer holiday related perks this year, 83%. And I'm relating that to the headlines we read about there being real problems hiring talent. I would think that if you're a small business owner, and you're not offering appropriate bonuses, gifts, or raises, you probably run the risk of losing employees.

 

Brent Tilson:               That's a real issue today. So many companies, that's one of the ... probably the number one thing we hear is keeping employees, and trying to get the talented employees to replace them when they're gone. It's a real issue. And what we're starting to see is some pressure on compensation. We're seeing companies having to put a little more money behind these roles, and these jobs that are open, and/or with the people they have today, to keep them. Because people are being pried away, and the way the world is today with the pace of things, the really top talent is being pursued.

 

 

                                   And so giving perks, and as you said, the bonuses, or gifts are just ... when you think about it at the end of the day, it's a very small gesture, but very valuable in the eyes of the employee. And things that we can do today to help keep our teams is important. Now, we don't want to buy their happiness, that's not what we're suggesting. But what we're seeing in the economy is such a strong business environment, and the economy's performing well, profits seem to be up. And if that is then likewise shared with everyone who's contributing then there starts to be a little bit of a disconnect between the employees and the employer.

 

                                   So it certainly is something that we see companies thinking more about doing this year.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well and I would imagine at Tilson, one of the things, one of the conversations you're having with clients is even helping them quantify the cost of losing someone, or to say it another way, what's the cost of hiring somebody else? Again, in the Fall 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 24% of small business owners said they have lost at least one employee in the last year, and 58% said they were having difficulty finding qualified candidates. So you have to factor those kinds of statistics into if we lose someone, particularly a key employee, someone with great talent, it's ... you're not only losing a person who's doing some work today for the team, you also have to factor in the time and the amount of money that it costs to replace them, if you can replace them.

 

                                   Read Rieva Lesonsky’s article, 6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees.

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, if you can replace them then the ramifications last for years. If you have really top talented people, when they leave, it's not just getting to that next person in the seat, it's all that knowledge that they walked out the door with. And especially if they've been there years with the company, and someone comes and kind of takes them away for a better opportunity, then the cost of turnover is substantial, and we do, we work with our companies and our clients to help them understand what are they doing, what are they putting in place to really make sure that they're keeping their top talent.

 

                                   In my book I talk about building a high performance team, and to do that you have five major categories for working with employees. How do you find them, develop, direct, motivate, and retain, and those five pieces are so critical. And companies need to make sure that they have things in place at each place along the way so that retention at the very end, is you're retaining, you actually have a strategy and a program to retain employees.

 

                                   And of course, those that are not performing, well, that falls under how do you direct them, eventually you direct them out if they're not the right people, because they can cost you dearly as well, if you have the wrong people. But those five pieces of the employment lifecycle or so critical to have it right.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm talking with Brent Tilson, the book he mentioned is Go Slow to Grow Fast, his new book, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World. Brent is the president and CEO of Tilson at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook @TilsonHR.

 

                                   You know, one of the things we're talking about, we can talk about here as we talk about the holidays, is how to use the power and the spirit of the holidays to actually inspire and motivate employees. Do you have tips there so that we can actually take that spirit of the holidays, and the togetherness, and use it to make our company even stronger?

 

Brent Tilson:               Absolutely. I think what we like to do, I know what I like to do, and encourage others, is this is a great time to reflect on the successes. There's so many negative things that we see in the news every day, and people ... If we just came out of an election cycle where we're all just beat up over all the negativity that can be out there, and this is a time in the holidays where people are excited. They're ready for celebration, at least you can't assume everybody, but there's a sense of that in the air.

 

                                   And so, what I like to do is let's look back and celebrate the successes we've had over the last year. Let's make sure we call these people out, and explain, and share, and celebrate with them. Whether we do it publicly in holiday parties, or you do it with a little private note that you write to them individually. But there's also things that people can do, encouraging to give back, because oftentimes when people give back, they get more out of it than just receiving. So we like to recommend, and we do internally, we do a number of different programs where we help maybe a family in need, they have different programs, I think they call them Christmas Angel type environments where a family that's in need will have a list of all the things that they could really use to help their family, and so we've done that. And people ... the generosity that flows from the staff to help these other groups just warms them, and makes them feel better about it. And it just helps create this sense of pride, as well as fellowship and kinship when people are participating in activities such as those.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Within an organization, can that kind of participation in a program kind of come from the bottom up, or the top down? I mean, could it be HR saying, "We've identified this program and we're going to participate," or is there a way to encourage employees who have ideas of their own, here's how to suggest a program that the company or your department might want to participate in?

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, in fact it is both ways. So in our company, we do have things that we suggest corporately, "Hey, this is something that we want to get involved in," typically we put it out for discussion and see kind of what we would like to celebrate and participate in this year, whether it's simply making donations to certain charities on behalf of employees, or possibly it's actually, like I just mentioned, actually doing an event where we're gathering donations.

 

                                   But what we also have is we actually have a program that we implemented in our company, where we allow people to basically, they submit a request, they can do it individually, but they get a day of paid time off for them to go to a ... either a local charity, or something that they want to give back. So they just submit it, it gets approved. It can be individually or they can do it as a group effort. And so they go and find these things, because we want people to be involved in the community, because we know the value that it provides to them and to the community. So it can be done both ways.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well I really like the sound of that, because I ... when someone, a team or an individual sources it, and then it gets embraced by the company, even if it's just a few people within the company, that then is going to be very empowering to that person, beyond the spirit of giving, but making them feel like, "Wow, I made a real contribution both to my community, but also to my company."

 

Brent Tilson:               Oh, that's absolutely true. There's so many different programs that we've done over the years, it's fun. When they're ... when the employees and the team choose to do something, then you can see the spirit, because they have a little competition amongst themselves, they make it more fun, they ... who's going to out donate who, and you find that they've been hiding some of their donations so no one really knows how much they have until the last day, and everything shows up and one department's so thrilled that they've outdone everybody else. And it's just ... it's a camaraderie, there's so many things that it does, over and above and beyond merely just the time of giving, but there's also so many other things that just really help employees and people feel a part of something bigger than just themselves.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Brent Tilson is with us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Forbes Books and Bank of America. He's the president and CEO of Tilson, they're at TilsonHR.com, he's also the author of the Forbes book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.

 

                                   I think we need to talk about people within your organization who, frankly, may be dreading the holidays. For one reason or another, this may not be a time of happiness for them, but it may be a time of sorrow, or struggle. And what's the best way for us as individuals, as managers, even as ... a C suite executive, to make sure those people are being acknowledged and helped in whatever way that they may need?

 

Brent Tilson:               It is a tough time of year. Many people talk about how, or you see reports, where depression actually goes up during the holidays, because possibly someone ... this is the first holiday, first Thanksgiving, without Grandma, the first time that they're not going over to somebody's house to celebrate one of the holiday events and parties. And there are so many things that are personally tough this time of year, sometimes there are great celebrations, other times they're not so.

 

                                   And I think the first thing we have to do as organizations is not be ... make things mandatory, and all inclusive, you have to allow people to make decisions on what they want to participate or not participate in. Because just purely mandating may put somebody in a really awkward situation, or trying to encourage ... we want to ... 95% participation at the company's holiday party, well, who's doing that? Is that because you want the bottom line to justify the money you spent? Or are you trying ... what's the intent there? So as managers and leaders, we really need to acknowledge that some people in the organization really just want their space, and their time.

 

                                   The other part is being sensitive to that. So if you're a manager of an organization, of employees, you may be aware, personally aware, that somebody's going to go through a tough time, so maybe it's a handwritten note, just offering them words of encouragement, without getting into specifics and details, let them know that you're thinking about them during this upcoming year, and holiday season, and just offer that open hand of a gesture of just being here to help if there's anything we can do to help.

 

                                   So it's more of just being aware, and just good, human kindness.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Is there a way, or should we be thinking about a way to make sure everyone in our organization knows that there's an easy, risk free way to ask for help if they need it? Is there a way to offer that, that's ... that will be effective, and not ... not intrusive?

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, there are. There are many programs that are just available, companies offered, often known as employee assistance programs, EAP programs, that's a little more structured, but they're designed to allow because our professionals who can actually participate in ... and you can say, "Okay, you're going into this time of year, recognize that there may be a need for you to reach out and have a conversation," and so the counselors, through these EAP programs, can talk with the employees, let them kind of work through. So it's not something that's being done internally, it's not being done by the HR manager, or really ... it could be, but really oftentimes this is such a personal thing, it needs to be done in a manner that is supportive of them, and help them, and that's why those programs are important to have for employees. Because you just really don't know all the things going on in somebody's life. And to be able to extend, and remind people, "Hey this is a time of year, don't hesitate to reach out to the EAP group and they can help you."

 

                                   And certainly there's fliers, and a lot of times there's documentation. I know we have some in our office that we circulate around, just reminding people of this information so that they receive it in multiple fashions, not just like somebody standing up, or telling people, it's actually, hey, it's on the bulletin boards, it's on the intranet site, or wherever. "Hey, don't forget about these tools that are available for you."

 

Gregg Stebben:          That way you are never singling someone out, you let them self-identify as, "Oh yes, that would be valuable to me, and I get to approach it, or take advantage it in whatever way makes sense for me, and is private, or public, a way that I want to."

 

Brent Tilson:               Well that's exactly right, I mean you may have an employee in the office going through a divorce and nobody knows about it, they've kept it quiet, but it's being very disruptive, and it's like during the holidays, and everybody's trying to figure out who's doing what, and when, and where, and that's not something you would want to single out.

 

Brent Tilson:               But if they knew they had the availability to go to ... through a program, or have somebody to talk to, to work through those needs and issues that are professionals, it certainly allows those individuals that to work through their items and not make it a part of the office.

 

Gregg Stebben:          He's Brent Tilson, he's the president and CEO of the professional employer organization, Tilson, at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook @TilsonHR. He's also the author of the ForbesBook, Go Slow to Grow Fast. It seems counterintuitive.

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, and that's why the book title, I think works, is people want to say, "What does that mean? What do you mean go slow to grow fast?"

 

Gregg Stebben:          That's what I'm asking, what does that mean?

 

Brent Tilson:               What it means is people really need to slow down, understand their surroundings, what they're doing, where they're going, making sure they're doing the right planning, have the right things in place, put the right measurements, and tools, and think about their business before they just try to grow. I see so many companies go out and try to grow as fast as they can, only to become just a wreck on the side of the road because they just weren't prepared for what they were doing.

 

                                   So the idea of going slow is to really take the time, understand the business, understand those forces around you. I like to tell people that every year you should ask yourself what will put you out of business? And really think about those issues, so you can better prepare, because once you've thought about that, and you've done the right planning, then go grow as fast as you can.

 

Gregg Stebben:          It's interesting, as I'm reading the book, one of the things that I've really been left with, the book is called Go Slow to Grow Fast, he's Brent Tilson, he's the author. One of the things that it's really left me with that, frankly, I had never completely thought through for myself, is that growth has consequences. It has rewards, of course, but it's also not without consequences, and so if you grow too fast without the planning, that growth can actually kill you. You think it's the thing that's going to make you successful, but it may actually be the thing that kills you, because you didn't plan for it, and therefore you can't handle it.

 

Brent Tilson:               And I've seen it time and time again. And maybe it doesn't put somebody completely out of business and cause them to fail, but they grow to a certain level, they outgrow the capability of the organization, the customers get upset, they start leaving, morale starts dropping. And all the sudden the company has to move backward to re-establish itself, to try to get its feet under it again, and then they start growing. But they lost all that time because they tried to grow too fast, and they just got ahead of themselves. And it happens time and time again. And it's the idea of let's anticipate the future. If you're going to grow at 30% a year, well, what do you have to have planning wise done, you have to do even more than what you're doing if you're growing at 10% a year.

 

                                   But that doesn't happen. And so my encouragement is people really do go slow to understand, so that you don't have that high growth put you out of business.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yeah, and the kind of problems you can have if you're not prepared for the growth is anything from cash flow to client satisfaction and losing your clients, which again, can be devastating.

 

Brent Tilson:                Absolutely.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So my last question, and this is a fun one. I hope. You've seen a lot of things in your years, and we've been talking largely about the holidays, and how to approach them from an HR perspective. Have you seen any just like really funny, or common but they shouldn't be, HR gotchas around the holidays that you can share with us? Both to entertain us, but also frankly, so that we can learn something from the story.

 

Brent Tilson:               Yeah, well one of them is I remember walking in an office, and they had mistletoe hanging, and I thought, "No, no, no, no, get that out of here." We don't need mistletoe hanging around the office.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Especially in 2018 it sounds like a really bad idea.

 

Brent Tilson:               Bad idea. So certainly that's an easy one, but that did happen, I just had to laugh.

 

                                   We all know the holiday parties, those are the things that get people in trouble. They maybe have a few too many drinks, maybe a little too comfortable in the environment, forget who they're talking to. The attire that they wear, I mean, I've been places where it's like, "Oh my goodness, I cannot believe somebody showed up wearing what they're wearing," and it's just, everybody's embarrassed by this whatever, and however.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Everybody but the person wearing it, because they don't even understand that it's embarrassing.

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, yeah, they thought that was a fun outfit for the evening.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Brent Tilson:               It's like, "No, that was not quite right." So certainly you get into the gotchas of just unwelcome affection, where people just get comfortable, they think it's a fun time of year, maybe they do have an attraction to somebody, and they just kind of ... just a little overzealous, so we see those types of things happening, certainly.

 

                                   The gotchas from an HR perspective is just you want everybody to remember to keep their ...

 

Gregg Stebben:          It's a work event.

 

Brent Tilson:               It's a work event, this is not a party. This is not a night club event, and just remember that. And so, but I think the businesses owe it to themselves to make sure ... you know, like for us, we have a holiday party, we'll do a two drink ... you know, "Here, everybody gets two tickets, that's all the company's providing." And one of the things that's being recommended this year for companies is to use shared services, like the Ubers, and the Lyfts, and those types of things. And say, "Hey, go ahead as a company and pay for it." If somebody shows up, don't even hesitate to give them the opportunity, why would you want your employee to take a chance even if you're not participating in the purchase of anything, you don't want to put yourself on the front page of the paper because somebody made a mistake and it comes back on you. And so take those necessary precautions so you don't get yourself in trouble. And just don't hang the mistletoe up.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes. And I think Uber and Lyft is a really great idea for holiday parties. The last thing I want to ask related to this, is do we as the people at the top of the company, or the organization in the C suite, should be assume that we should be very explicit about, for instance, what is appropriate attire? Or what is appropriate behavior? So that no one can come back and say, "Well, I didn't know."

 

Brent Tilson:               Well, that's best practice. The best practice is when we have these events, and it's clear to what the attire is, what's appropriate, what's not appropriate, oftentimes that's in the dress code. But we have ... when it says that it's evening attire, or black tie, or festive, or whatever, there's so many different varieties of names, you can Google them and look. And then you can get lots of different outfits. So it's really good to be very clear as to what's expected. It just takes the pressure off of everybody.

 

                                   Also what's expected at the event. Whether or not ... be mindful, this is going back to the alcohol reference, but you are at a company event, and some companies don't have alcohol, they just, they avoid it, they don't want the issues at all. But that doesn't mean the employee's not going to have some cocktails maybe sitting there before everyone gets there. So there's elements you can't control.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yeah.

 

Brent Tilson:               So it's important to really communicate, and that's a best practice. For all of us who are the leaders of the company, we also set the example. So while we're at these events, we also have to be mindful, everybody's watching us. And from the clothes you're wearing, to the things you're saying, to the things you're doing. So it's very important for the leaders to set the example. And the staff will follow. And I've seen certain leaders who have a little too much fun, well it doesn't take long for the staff to follow in that front. And so I think it's important for us to exhibit it.

 

Gregg Stebben:          It's funny how culture has a way of showing up everywhere, isn't it?

 

Brent Tilson:               That's why it's called culture.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Exactly. Well Brent Tilson, that's for joining us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Forbes Books and Bank of America. He's the president and CEO of the professional employer organization, Tilson, at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook, @TilsonHR. He's also the author of the Forbes book, I, I highly recommend it, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.

                                    Brent, thanks so much for joining us, and happy holidays.

 

Brent Tilson:               Thanks Gregg, appreciate it so much. Have a great holiday season.

 

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

Your business is thriving. Customers keep asking when you’re going to open another location. Some even ask if your business is a franchise—and if they can buy one.

 

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So, you wonder: should you start franchising your concept? Not so fast. Just because your business is successful doesn’t mean it can – or should – be franchised.

 

Here are five steps to take before franchising your business.

 

Step 1: Assess your business.

 

Is your business running smoothly? Do you have operations manuals, training processes and documented systems in place? If you take a vacation, does the business fall apart or run like clockwork?

 

Do you have multiple locations? Before considering franchising, start small by expanding your business locally or regionally. This proves your concept’s viability outside of its initial location, educates you in managing multiple locations, and raises brand awareness—which helps sell franchises later.

 

Step 2: Assess your market.

 

Just as when starting your business, do market research before franchising it. Ask:

 

  • Is the industry growing?
  • Is the customer base growing?
  • Does the concept have “legs?” A business based on a fad may succeed in one location but has little chance of lasting.
  • Who are your competitors and what advantages do you have?

 

Step 3: Assess your capital needs.

 

Franchising can be a cost-effective way to grow your business, because franchisees finance their startups, sign their own leases and take responsibility for operating costs.

However, until you actually sell some franchises, you’ll be footing the bill for legal and accounting assistance, franchisee training and support, and marketing and sales costs. Gather adequate capital to finance your franchise plans.

 

Step 4: Assess yourself.

 

Being a franchisor is different than being an independent business owner. As a franchisor, your focus will be on selling franchises and supporting your franchisees—not on baking pies, teaching children’s gymnastics or whatever passion encouraged your business. If you don’t have what it takes, hire or partner with someone who does.

 

Step 5: Get professional help

 

Franchising requires lots of decisions:

  • What criteria you’ll set for franchisees
  • What fees and royalties you’ll charge
  • Franchisee territories
  • Whether to sell master franchises
  • Requirements for using suppliers and vendors
  • The training and support you’ll provide franchisees

 

Put these professionals on your team to help:

 

Accountant

 

An accountant can help you determine if you have the necessary capital to franchise, if franchising is financially viable, and what franchise fees and royalties to charge. (Being a franchisor is not cheap—startup costs, at minimum, will likely run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

 

Attorney

 

Franchising is highly regulated on both federal and state levels. An attorney can create a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and help you register it with the  Federal Trade Commission. The FDD includes detailed information about your franchise opportunity, such as audited financial statements, management experience, franchise costs and fees, the franchise contract and more. Several states also require registering your FDD with the state.

 

Franchise developer

 

Franchisee training and support materials are key to a successful franchise system. (If franchisees fail, it hurts your brand image—and your profits.) A franchise developer can help you create training materials, operations manuals, company policies and more.

 

Franchise broker/consultant

 

As a franchisor, you’ll need to market your business both to consumers and to prospective franchisees. A franchise broker (sometimes called a franchise consultant) can help with the latter. Brokers match franchisees with franchises and receive a commission from the franchisor. Franchise consultants do the same but are paid a flat fee by the prospective franchisee. Since strict rules govern franchise sales, working with a broker or consultant can help your franchise grow with less effort on your part.

 

Franchising resources

 

For more information, visit:

 

Be sure to read this franchising advice from a serial entrepreneur.

 

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America.  

 

Read 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

I always knew that entrepreneurs liked their work, but I never knew just how much. How much? Apparently quite a lot.

 

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If you own a business, are self-employed, or otherwise know people who work for themselves, you know this to be true. Small business owners are in it for a good many

reasons – economics for sure, necessity sometimes, and often most importantly, for the pure enjoyment of doing what they love.

 

According to Bank of America’s Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), an amazing 90 percent of small business owners say they would recommend entrepreneurship as a career path to others. That is amazing.

 

But what about the long hours you say, the hard work and uncertainty?

 

Even more respondents – 91 percent – say it’s all worth it.

 

This is not to say entrepreneurship is easy, because it is not. The SBOR is a bi-annual survey that looks at the state of small business in America, and it always offers a fascinating glimpse into the real world of the small business owner.

 

For example, looking at economic and hiring trends, the Fall 2018 SBOR report zeroed in on what it takes to succeed in your own business.

 

Is it:

  • Access to capital? Partially, according to 68 percent of respondents
  • A solid network? Yup, 78 percent thought that was the answer
  • Luck? A forthcoming 56 percent agreed luck played a role

 

But in the end, and not surprisingly, the small business owners who participated in the survey thought that the keys to success were perseverance (96 percent) and good old-fashioned hard work (97 percent.)

 

One of the biggest challenges small business owners have today, and not surprising given the strong state of the economy, is attracting and retaining top talent is tougher than ever.

 

“While business owners are pleased with the direction of the economy and planning for growth, they are confronted with a new challenge. More entrepreneurs are looking to hire in the year ahead against the backdrop of one of the tightest job markets in half a century,” the report noted.

 

Consider these findings:

  • 58 percent report difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies
  • 50 percent believe the tightening labor market had a direct impact on their ability to hire, and
  • 25 percent believe it took more time to fill positions this year than last year

 

The good news: The Fall 2018 SBOR shares some interesting ways small business employers use to recruit talent.

 

For instance, fully a quarter of the respondents said they have shifted to a more flexible culture to attract talent. Specifically, the SBOR drilled down into some differences in individual cities and found employers in Boston are most likely to give holiday perks to their team. In Dallas, employers use ongoing training to keep employees involved. And in the San Francisco area, flex hours are the key.

 

With 55 percent of respondents saying they expect the national economy to improve over the next year (compared to 29 percent in 2016), it makes sense that small business owners are looking to grow their own businesses and find the right mix of employees who can help them do that.

 

And I think what those employers are looking for may be the other big surprise in this SBOR. Do they want a well-educated workforce? Of course (30 percent). Do they want a staff with experience? Yes, that too (53 percent).

 

But most of all, what these small business owners looked for were . . . people with “integrity” (60 percent). That’s amazing when you think about it. By a 2-to-1 margin, small business owners value integrity over education when choosing their staff.

 

As I said, I love when the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report comes out because I always learn something new and unexpected. I bet you will too. You can see the infographic for the report here.

 

Learn more about attracting and retaining employees:

 

 

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

Small business fraud can be a serious issue for many businesses and prevention of such fraud is a necessity as a modern business owner.

Ensuring your business isn't vulnerable is a top priority. While small businesses are more susceptible to fraud than most large companies, there are ways in which you can help protect your business. Setting up secure systems, infrastructures, and internal controls to protect against fraudulent activity can save you both time and money. Whether your business has already experienced fraudulent activities - like identity theft or cyber security threats - or you are just looking to be able to identify threats before they happen, use these different resources to keep your workplace secure.

 

Fall 2018: Small Business Payments Spotlight Report Small Talk with Bank of America Merchant Services SpendTalk with Bank of America Merchant Services Protect your small business; security and fraud tips Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce (VISA) Fraud is evolving. So should your data security. Business Identify Theft in the U.S.: 2018 Report What is business identity theft? Business identity theft scams Tips to protect business identity Business identity theft, Victim resources Tips to help protect your company during tax season

Thumb.pngFraud isn’t going away—it’s getting more sophisticated. The security industry is always applying new techniques to keep pace. Help safeguard your company and customer data at the point of sale.

 

Click here to download the guide: Fraud is evolving. So should your data security. (PDF)

Thumb.pngThe insights provided in this guide are for small and medium size businesses (SMBs) in the United States, with a focus on helping businesses grow and improve the customer experience by leveraging technology and digital commerce.

 

Click here to download the guide: Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce (PDF).

In the latest Bank of America Small Business Podcast episode, Steve Strauss speaks with Jessica Kavanagh, founder of VetLinks.org, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director of the organization. Listen to learn about the journey to create VetLinks and discover how it empowers veterans – with tips to help entrepreneurs everywhere thrive.

 

 

 

Kirk:                The one kind, this missing component, was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience.  It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand as we launched this journey that is VetLinks.org.

 

Steve:             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.

 

Steve:             Today we're speaking with Jessica Kavanagh, founder and president of VetLinks.org, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director for the organization. Today's guests play a hugely important role for veterans across America through an amazing organization called VetLinks. VetLinks is a 501c3 nonprofit that bridges the VA mental health care gap for veterans with PTSD by connecting veterans, families, and caregivers to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury alternative treatments, programs, and resources.

 

Steve:             VetLinks.org educates and empowers veterans and their families by linking them to services, support, and programs in order to enrich the quality of their life.

 

Steve:             So Jessica and Kirk, great to have you on the show. Welcome. Jessica, let me begin with you. VetLinks is an amazing organization. What inspired you to help create it?

 

Jessica:          Yeah, no, thanks for having us on the show tonight. My husband, Brian Kavanagh, he was an Army infantry officer, he was a ranger, and back in 2014 he came home one day and he was asking for help with his post-traumatic stress. And so we called the VA, and they had put us on a six week wait time for mental health. So we took matters into our own hands and we found him a place on our own for private care, and got him help. And after that, we called the VA again and they put us on another six week wait time, and so we've started our own private treatment again for mental health appointments.

 

Jessica:          By the summer of 2015, things were not getting much better by any means. So this time we called the VA and we kept our six week wait time appointment, which ironically fell on September 11th. And then when we went to the appointment, I was so hopeful that she was going to give us this magical place that was going to help Brian with his post-traumatic stress, and his substance abuse, and instead all she could offer was a psych unit. So I started calling anyone, everyone who would listen to me. And finally, this woman called me from Texas and she said, "I've heard your story from two different people, one in Florida and one in California, and you really need to go down to Washington DC to a Congressional hearing on October 7th, and Bob McDonald's going to be there." Bob McDonald was the former secretary of the VA.

                                                                     

Jessica:          So I went down, and I went into the Congressional hearing, and I met with every single person in there. I had written out our story, typed it out, gave it to everyone. I introduced myself to Bob McDonald, and I told him our story and said that we needed help right away or that Brian was going to die. And in three days, he got him into an inpatient facility out in West Virginia with the VA.

 

Jessica:          So Brian went into the 90-day program. And he was meeting veterans left and right who weren't getting help additionally with benefits that they deserved, so he started holding classes on how to get these resources until finally someone said to him, "Brian, you're a patient here, you can't just hold these classes." And so when he got out of the inpatient, he told me of the idea that he wanted to help these veterans. And he wanted to help take care of them and get them the resources that they needed. And of course, I was so supportive, but at the same time I thought well, great, let's add caregivers to the list because I couldn't get you help, it took me months to get you into a facility.

 

Steve:             Your husband had the inspiration to create VetLinks, and I know he's not with us anymore, you carried it on. Could you just maybe tell us about that a little bit.

 

Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. So when he passed away, I vowed to take over the nonprofit in his honor, and I wanted to carry his vision on. So after the funeral, a bunch of us were just sitting around the table, and I was telling a lot of Brian's friends about his vision, about what he wanted to do with VetLinks, and they said, "Let's do it." So we decided right then that we were going to take the nonprofit and move it in the right direction.

 

Steve:             Well it's so admirable. And VetLinks has been around for how many years now?

 

Jessica:          It'll be two years on December 20th.

 

Steve:             Way to go. Kirk, let me ask you this. How did you meet Jessica and how did you get involved with VetLinks?

 

Kirk:                Well first Steve, I want to echo Jessica's sentiment and just thank you for the opportunity to be on the program.

 

Kirk:                The short answer to how Jessica and I met was through her relationship with my best friend, Brian Kavanagh. Brian, as Jessica mentioned, was really the inspiration behind VetLinks.org. The slightly, I guess, longer version of how we got together, Brian and I grew up in a small town in Pittsburg, Kansas. We did everything together, hung out, we played sports, found creative ways to get in trouble at times. We were basically together almost every day from preschool really through high school graduation. So about as tight as two guys could be.

 

Kirk:                Flash forward a couple years, and Brian had gone through the ROTC program at Pittsburg State University in our hometown, got commissioned, and eventually the Army stationed him over in Baltimore where his relationship with Jessica begins. And about that same time, I was also on active duty and serving in Iraq at that point. And honestly, Brian had dated other people, but when we communicated on email and phones, there was just something different about the way he was talking about Jessica. He was certainly smitten with her, head over heels.

 

Kirk:                So I returned that deployment in May of 2011, and Brian brought her to our good friend, Pat McNally's wedding, and that was the first time that we met in person.

 

Steve:             It must have been so hard for you to see your best friend, your pal, suffer from such severe PTSD.

 

Kirk:                Yeah, you know, it's hard to imagine knowing someone for over three decades, and then seeing their personality almost fundamentally change in front of you. It's one thing to hear words like post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, but to see the effects of that on someone you care so much about, it's almost impossible to describe. It was like when I'd go out to Baltimore with friends to kind of help Jessica intervene a little bit, and get Brian to realize what was going on, it was almost like a shell of himself. You look behind his eyes, and it just wasn't the same man that I'd grown up with and grown to love.

 

Kirk:                The other thing that was interesting for me in my initial journey with VetLinks, was it was hard for me to kind of understand their struggle. As an active duty Army officer, the healthcare that I'm provided and still am has been phenomenal, the Army really takes care of its soldiers. But you know, when Brian left active duty he kind of gave up that camaraderie that is so unique to soldiers, you know, the bond that you form when you're in combat with somebody, it's indescribable for someone who hasn't been there. And so when Brian left active duty, he left that kind of network, that camaraderie of veterans.

 

Kirk:                And then the second thing is, when you leave active duty, the level of care that's available to veterans just is not up to par compared to what's provided for us on active duty. And so what I kind of came to realize in seeing Jessica and Brian's struggles, is ... it's difficult for the VA to provide the individual, necessary support, if you will, that our veterans deserve.

 

Steve:             So Jessica, let me ask you this, clearly you created VetLinks in honor of our husband and to help other soldiers like your husband. Can you tell us though a little bit more about what exactly VetLinks does, and who it's for, and how it helps them.

 

Jessica           So VetLinks is for veterans, it's for our caregivers, it's for family members. And we want to be able to provide the immediate resources that they may need in a very immediate fashion. Whether that may be an inpatient stay, whether that might be therapy, alternative treatment, whether that's just getting a massage, or acupuncture, or having a babysitter come over to the house so the couple can go get the couple's therapy they may need. Or as a caregiver, getting a flight to be able to go see their veteran while they're in an inpatient center. I mean, it really could be anything. As long as ... our criteria is based off of our story, as far as post-9/11, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, TBI-related. But however and whatever resources they need, we want to be able to provide.

 

Kirk:                Like any small business or nonprofit starting out, kind of identifying that target audience and developing our niche was hugely important for us. There's a lot of great nonprofits that do some really amazing things to assist veterans. So as we sort of developed our initial focus as a board, we thought let's model our target customer, if you will, on the Kavanagh family. So as Jessica mentioned, that's a combat veteran and their families who are struggling specifically from the effects of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse.

 

Kirk:                And our original thought was, hey, if we can save one veteran, we can impact one family's life, we'll be successful. And so as we progressed a little bit, the other thing we came to realize is that one of the forgotten parts of this epidemic involves those caregivers that Jessica talked about. Those persons, or people that live day in and day out with their veteran.

 

Kirk:                The other thing we learned is that the effects of post-traumatic stress can have profound impacts on the children of those veterans as well. So some of our focus has been specifically for those caregivers and children of veterans, in addition to trying to help veterans themselves.

 

Steve:             So you make a really great point, Kirk. I mean, one thing I always talk about to my small business brothers and sisters is that you have to serve the market, and find a need and fill it. And clearly there is a great need for the work you are doing. I'm going to ask this question to both of you, and Kirk, I'll go to your first. What is it you find most rewarding about your work with VetLinks?

 

Kirk:                Well I think first and foremost, it's the realization that we're helping people through our work. We've helped some people in some big ways, paying for inpatient treatments and such, and also in smaller ways. If I could I'd like to tell you a story about one of the first people that we helped. He was a Marine combat veteran named Matt. And when Matt got out of the Marine Corps, he really struggled with that transition back into civilian life. He had the telltale signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress, and was really abusing alcohol.

 

Steve:             Right.

 

Kirk:                And when we learned about Matt's story, we said, "Hey, this is exactly who we're trying to take care of." So VetLinks’ board kind of looked at the case, we voted wholeheartedly, let's get Matt some help. So we were able to provide six months of inpatient treatment therapy out in California. And Matt really took the treatment really well. And so we kind of followed his story as a new nonprofit startup, and I'm so proud to tell you, Steve, that he completed the six months of treatment, he got sober, and more importantly he got employed. And I'll tell you the great thing about that employment, Steve, is that he's actually employed with the VA right now. So it's about a story going full circle. Here Matt is struggling and we were able to help him through that struggle, and now he's living proof of what nonprofits like VetLinks can do, and we're so proud of the work he's doing in the VA to help his fellow vets out.

 

Steve:             Well that's fantastic, and congratulations, and it's stories like that that are so heartwarming. I'm sure, Jessica, that is the kind of thing that you find incredibly rewarding as well.

 

Jessica           Yeah, absolutely. We get emails and text messages and phone calls all the time, thanking us for everything. So it's really rewarding.

 

Steve:             We are speaking with Jessica Kavanagh and Kirk Duncan of VetLinks, Vetlinks.org, and we will get back to that in a moment. But first I want to tell you a little bit about our friends at Bank of America.

 

Steve:             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 booster on a Business Advantage savings account. And interest rate discounts on new loans and lines of credit.

 

Steve:             Interested? You should be. Learn more about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards at BankofAmerica.com/RelationshipRewards. That's BankofAmerica.com/RelationshipRewards.

 

Steve:             Jessica, I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about some of the unexpected challenges you have faced along the way. You know, it's not easy to create a business, it's not easy to create a nonprofit, an organization, a website. What unexpected challenges have you found?

 

Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. Well, I personally think that one of the biggest challenges we have is dealing with getting passed the stigma of these men and women wanting to get help. I know Brian never wanted to get help, he never wanted to talk about his struggles, or his issues, until he finally did, and hit a wall, and then it was too late. So there's a stigma overall, I think, with people struggling with mental health.

 

Jessica:          But just reaching them, and getting them to want to you know accept help, and get help has been one of our biggest challenges.

 

Steve:             Clearly you're getting there. And Kirk, what about you? What do you think?

 

Kirk:                Yeah, you know Steve, surprisingly, one of the unexpected challenges that we've faced was actually finding veterans and their families to help. As we started our nonprofit and found some initial success raising funds, we then had to figure out well how do we connect our resources, our monetary resources to those that need it? Reaching our target customer, if you will.

 

Kirk:                Another challenge involved the need to screen veterans' requests, kind of ensuring that we were in compliance in terms of like the regulations safeguarding peoples' private information, their identity, and their health information. And luckily, these are both kind of challenges that we've been able to work through by our networking efforts.

 

Kirk:                One thing that I think is valuable, whether you're serving the Army like I am, running a for profit enterprise, or working in a nonprofit like VetLinks, is really the power of networking. I think Jessica has been an absolute pro at networking in the Baltimore and greater Washington DC area. Her efforts and relationship building skills allowed us to connect with a great partner, and this organization that's called Code of Support. And Steve, what Code of Support and their partners do is they basically link together different veteran's charities, and are able to leverage the capabilities of each nonprofit in this collective partnership.

 

Kirk:                So if a veteran reaches out through Code of Support and has the need that fits our model and our criteria, they pass that referral on to us and we're able to connect our resources with that veteran's specific needs.

 

Steve:             Nice. Well clearly, Jessica, you are a master networker. Your story of how you went about helping your husband is pretty incredible. And if you brought those same skills to this endeavor, I'm sure you guys have an incredible network.

 

Steve:             I'm wondering, in fact, how creating this organization and VetLinks has impacted your personal life. It began as a personal story, you and your husband, and you taking the mantle from your husband. How has it effected your personal life since then?

 

Jessica:          You know, it's a challenge. I feel at this point I'm basically running three full time jobs between our two little girls, and I work for a medical sales company that I've been with for 14 years, and that of course pays the bills, and now running the nonprofit. So it's just ... the challenge is time management, and just figuring out the priorities for the day. And that's all I do, is I just take it day by day.

 

Steve:             And Kirk, you, I'm guessing, have never started a business before, never created something from scratch. This has to have affected your personal life in ways you didn't expect either.

 

Kirk:                Yeah, it's really brought into focus the criticality of managing the work/life balance. Like Jessica, I have children, I have four kids, and they're all active and doing sports and school activities, and so trying to fulfill my duties as an active duty Army officer, balancing that with being a husband and a father, and having such passion to try to help veterans that are like my best friend, Brian, it's been a challenge. But what it's taught me, as far as helping VetLinks, is just learning to balance and manage my time better.

 

Kirk:                The other thing that kind of comes out of this is actually learning how to say no. When we first started out, we took every opportunity we could, we'd go speak to any group, big or small, and then now we have to really kind of weigh our opportunities, because our time is limited and we have to choose those opportunities that give us kind of the best return, if you will, on that precious resource which is time.

 

Jessica:          Absolutely.

 

Steve:             And Kirk, would you do anything differently now two years in that you think people might want to know about?

 

Kirk:                You know, it's ... when you start any business, there's going to be certain things that you're good at, your core competencies, those things that you inherently feel comfortable with doing. And looking back, we were blessed to have a group of friends that had some unique talents that all contributed in meaningful ways to us starting VetLinks.org. But the one kind of, I guess, missing component was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience. It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor, or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand, as we launched this journey that is VetLinks.org.

 

Steve:             That's a great tip. And I'm wondering about you Jessica, anything you might do differently and any advice you would give entrepreneurs or other people listening to our show today?

 

Jessica:          Yeah, absolutely. You know, I would say if you have a conviction about what it is you're trying to accomplish, you're going to get there. I know we had a problem, and we still have a problem today, taking the proper care of our veterans and caregivers. But that caused us to learn, and to put one foot in front of the other. So if you believe in your product, don't be afraid to go for it, because success can only come from taking action.

 

Steve:             You know, one of the things I love most about meeting the people I get to meet on this show is their enthusiasm and the initiative they take, and creating something out of nothing. As I mentioned, it's not an easy thing to do. And so, whether that's a small business, or a nonprofit, it really makes no difference. And what you're doing is admirable and great, and you're doing it so well too, so I would just recommend to anybody listening who has a veteran who needs help, VetLinks.org is a great website, and a great organization, and we are all lucky to have you doing the work you're doing.

 

Steve:             So Kirk Duncan and Jessica Kavanagh, thank you both so much for being with us today.

 

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

 

Related resources:

I’m often asked, “what makes entrepreneurs different?” One factor is the ability to look at something and see the opportunity others often overlook.

 

That’s what sets Maddie Purcell, the founder of Portland, Maine-based Fyood Kitchen, apart. Like millions of Americans, Purcell was a big fan of Chopped, a mainstay on the Food Network. Chopped is a cooking competition show where contestants are given baskets of mystery ingredients and need to create a delicious dish on the spot.

 

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Purcell loved Chopped so much she played at home with her best friend. But, unlike millions of Americans, Purcell took that obsession and turned it into a business. Fyood Kitchen, launched in 2016, brings the Chopped experience to the masses. Fyood, Purcell says, “puts on outrageously fun, amateur, social cooking competitions.”

 

Purcell was recently recognized by SCORE and the SCORE Foundation as their Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What inspired you to start a business based on Chopped?

 

Maddie Purcell: I was stuck in an unfulfilling job and realized I wanted to run my own company. I made lists of potential problems I could solve looking for the right fit. I worked on another startup idea for six months. Then I took part in an informal Chopped-style competition in a friend’s professional kitchen and it was the most fun night I’d ever had. I knew I would pay to do that regularly and wanted to give people the opportunity to have this experience.

 

Lesonsky: How did you get started?

 

Purcell: I didn’t know how to start so I decided to host several cooking competitions in my apartment between friends to figure out some details, such as should there be judging? Could amateurs tackle real mystery baskets? What did a stocked pantry really need to include for maximum creativity?

 

I launched Fyood with a crowdfunding campaign which is a real rollercoaster of momentum swings. But, we surpassed my financial target, while creating a group of staunch supporters and generating marketing opportunities that proved crucial to our early success.

 

Lesonsky: How does Fyood work?

 

Purcell: Fyood’s competitions, which take about three hours, take place in a professional kitchen. We offer the ideal cooking experience—no rules, no chores, and tons of imagination. Each team gets a basket of mystery ingredients with four “must-use” foods and access to a fully stocked pantry. They have to create dishes (one sweet, one savory) without instructions or recipes.

 

Lesonsky: And how do people react?

 

Purcell: Over 90 percent of cooks make something they'd never attempted before, permanently expanding their culinary comfort zone.

 

But Fyood isn’t just a cooking competition. We’re a connection company that happens to be in a professional kitchen and includes a delicious meal. In our increasingly digital age, people are searching for a social experience that fully immerses them in the present and creates lasting memories. Fyood produces uniquely engaging events designed for collaboration, creativity and laughter.

 

Lesonsky: What were some lessons you learned as you built Fyood?

 

Purcell: I worked with several mentors in SCORE’s Portland office. They taught me to sell and helped me become more comfortable understanding the worth of our services rather than underselling myself or feeling guilty. And they helped me make connections I wouldn’t be able to access on my own.

 

Lesonsky: How is Fyood doing? What are your future plans?

 

Purcell: We’re growing. Fyood recently pivoted from regularly scheduled open events to focus on the demand for private group events, especially teambuilding, birthday and wedding parties.

 

Over the next year we're planning to triple our number of monthly events, hiring three additional team members, including an event manager, along the way. In preparation for this growth, we're currently focused on optimizing our existing systems as well as testing new marketing campaigns to make sure the folks who would have the most fun at Fyood are able to find us when they want to throw a creative cooking party.

 

Lesonsky: What are you most proud of?

 

Purcell: Several things. Our mystery baskets provide an innovative platform for ingredient producers (salsa, kombucha, veggies, sauces, chocolate, etc.) and consumers to meet each other, enabling us to promote our amazing local food ecosystem.

 

I’m proud we can give customers an incredible connection and creative opportunity—empowering and inspiring them and give my team the opportunity to create something awesome and do something that feels great for them.

 

And seeing folks come in unsure of their abilities to cook without a recipe and leave feeling like they’re conquered the experience is pretty magical.

 

Hear more small business owners tell their stories on the Bank of America Small Business Podcast.

 

*Photo from MaineBiz

 

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

Being an entrepreneur can require a substantial financial and emotional commitment. For many individuals, testing business ownership out on a small scale before making a bigger commitment makes sound business sense. 

 

For others, having the ability to supplement their other professional endeavors at their own convenience is also appealing. For these reasons, the “gig” economy has really taken hold. While estimates vary widely, we can all agree the number of people with a “side hustle” is in the millions and growing.

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However, just because your side business is part time, it doesn’t mean you can abdicate your responsibilities, have sloppy accounting or not take it seriously. To that end, below are four things you should know to make sure that your side hustle or gig business is successful.

 

1. Treat it Like Any Other Business. Testing a business out on a small scale does not mean you should forget that it is still a business. You should consider creating a separate legal entity, which can help to protect you personally from liability and also make accounting and operational endeavors easier.

 

This also means you should have a separate bank account and not co-mingle your personal and business revenues and expenses. “Often having a separate business bank account can be a deciding factor in whether the IRS treats this income as a business or a hobby,” said Dee Dee Stone, CPA, a tax strategist for small- to medium-sized businesses and owner of Dee Dee Stone, LLC, who works extensively with hobby-business owners and gig economy entrepreneurs. “Business income is taxed after the expenses have been deducted and businesses can show a loss that offsets other income on the taxpayer’s return. Hobby income is taxed purely on money received with no deduction for expenses incurred to earn it.”

 

2. Make Accounting a Priority. Those who are new to businesses, and particularly those running small and/or part-time businesses, are often sloppy with accounting, which makes end-of-year tax filing a nightmare (and can also get you into trouble with the IRS).  “If you utilize a separate bank account and file your receipts by category at the end of each week, you will find you generally have more deductions than you realize without trying to sneak in personal expenses,” Stone said. “In the event you are audited, you will generally be required to produce business bank statements, another reason to have a separate account, along with receipts for purchases and a mileage log to substantiate any auto deduction.

 

“Today, because we can buy nearly anything we need from a one-stop shop and items can be business or personal, receipts are required to prove the business nature,” she added. “The burden of proof is on the business owner that items are ordinary and necessary for their business and are only allowed to be deducted at the discretion of the auditor so trying to sneak in all your personal expenses for the extra deductions can result in increased penalties in the end not to mention, if you ever try to sell your business it will not look as profitable.”

 

     RELATED CONTENT: Learn about account management from Bank of America

 

3. Don’t Forget to get Paid. While some gig jobs make it easy to collect money, many do not. It is your responsibility to make sure you are invoicing your clients regularly and accurately for completed work and/or services or goods provided. Sloppy invoicing that isn’t systematized can delay your payment. In some cases, I have seen entrepreneurs who have lost payment because they haven’t tracked their work well. And, of course, delays in invoicing can create cash flow issues for your business if you are planning to use the money you have earned immediately.

 

Several technologies and tools can help you manage invoicing, like those incorporated into Quickbooks and more. Do your research to see which is best for your business. There are also a host of tech products that help track expenses, including those you need to bill back to your client.

 

4. Know the Limitations of a Hobby vs. a Business. While it is important to take any business endeavor seriously, side hustles have limitations you should be aware of. Make sure set your expectations and investments accordingly.

 

“As the gig economy grows, we have seen more attention from the IRS on taxpayers claiming losses from their ‘businesses’ for multiple years in a row to offset their other income,” Stone said. “If you show a loss for more than two years and are not exercising every opportunity to make your side hustle profitable, you have a hobby for tax purposes. To avoid being limited by the ‘hobby loss’ rules, running your gig business will require proper accounting and recordkeeping.”

 

The gig economy is here to stay. If you want to participate in it effectively, make sure you are prepared and professional in your approach to ensure you get the most benefits possible.

 

Read next:

 

 

About Carol Roth

 

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

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

Since 2012, “Giving Tuesday” has taken place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. After all of the focus on shopping around that time – what with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday is a welcome respite; a day for individuals and businesses to give back to their community.

 

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It’s not surprising that small businesses are typically enthusiastic about participating in Giving Tuesday: After all, small business people are generally highly idealistic. (You have to be if you are going to quit your job and start a business from scratch.) But, beyond that, small business people also know if it were not for their tribe and community, they would not be in business for long. So, when it comes to giving to the community, small businesses know it is important to give back.

 

How, you ask? Here are some ideas as to how your small business can give back to your community – on Giving Tuesday, and indeed throughout the holiday season.

 

1. Team up: Last year on Giving Tuesday, Tadlock Roofing partnered with Boys Town, a national nonprofit that supports children, families and communities. Tadlock Roofing offered to match donations to Boys Town up to $10,000, and additionally, the President of the company agreed to jump out of a plane if they met their goal. Sure enough, the President of Tadlock Roofing was captured jumping out of a plane to show that the sky’s the limit to give back.

 

2. Encourage a community service day or days: Many local non-profits are now, in anticipation of Giving Tuesday, creating giving events for that day. See what is happening in your area and help out. Here are some examples.

 

More broadly, Giving Tuesday does not have to be confined to that one day. Employees love being able to volunteer, especially around the holidays, so a great way to give back is to offer your team paid time off to do volunteer work within the community. Contact local food banks, senior centers, and elderly services to see where there might be volunteer opportunities.

 

3. Give a percentage of your sales to charity: Pick a cause that you like, that inspires your team, and which will resonate with your customers, and then pledge to set aside profits for that Tuesday to that group or charity. Yes, it is nice that that will be tax deductible, but what is even nicer is the good you will do and the goodwill you will foster.

 

4. Offer special discounts for the elderly, the disabled, and those in need: Offering special discounts to these groups is another way to do well by doing good. It would be a win-win for all concerned.

 

5. Organize a food drive to provide donations for a local food bank: The amount of hungry people in this country is truly astounding. By teaming-up with an appropriate Giving Tuesday organization, you can really make a difference. Indeed, helping the hungry is as giving as it gets.

 

6. Organize a toy drive for the holidays: Similarly, there are not a few parents who are unable to give their kids the sort of holiday they would prefer. You can either work with a local charity, or even simply locate a needy family and “adopt” them for the holidays.

 

7. Get your social on: One of the cool things about Giving Tuesday is that it is a national, nay international, movement. Sharing your participation is not gauche as it helps spread the word. And the Giving Tuesday organization wants to help you do just that. You can download and use their social media toolkit here. Or just remember, #GivingTuesday.

 

(You can download the entire Giving Tuesday Communications and Participation plan here.)

 

 

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

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Are you ready for retirement? Small business owners need retirement plans not only for themselves, but often for their employees. On the latest episode of, “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Merrill Edge executive and retirement pro, Matt Gellene, discusses what you should look for in a retirement plan for yourself and for your team.

 

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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.

 

Matt Gellene:              Any company, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan, just like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really help them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize.

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt Gellene joins me. He is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. We are going to talk about retirement planning, particularly for small business owners. But Matt, before we go there, I want to welcome you, and I also want to have you tell us a little bit about your job and your title.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well first, Gregg, thanks for having me. I appreciate that, joining you today. Yeah, as far as what I do, I'm in charge of all of the Financial Solutions Advisors. These would be the financial advisors that are out in our financial centers, our banking centers throughout the entire country. We have 2500 of these individuals, and they're out there helping our clients solve their financial problems.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, that's a huge job that you have. You must know on a day-to-day basis how you're doing, because you must get a lot of customer feedback.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, we do. It's great. We've had lots of our clients speak to us through, certainly the way that they interact through our client experience partners, but even directly with me, they talk about all the great things that our advisors are doing, the way that they are helping with their financial lives. It's really gratifying to see the work literally every day.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, one of the things I want to talk about today is the difference between retirement planning for someone who's an employee, say an executive, and for the person who actually owns the company, because it's very different when someone else has created the plan for you than when you are, in a sense, in charge of both running the company and creating the plan for yourself.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, most people participate through the retirement plan through their company. In that case, it's already set up for you. It's a way for you to participate in your retirement savings through a really prescriptive way. But if you are your own business owner, if you are running your own company, now you really have to think differently about the way you engage with it, because in most cases, it's not already set up.

 

                                   The good news, Gregg, is any company, virtually any business, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize. We would be happy to explain that to anyone who is interested.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So let's say I'm a small business owner, I'm listening, and I just heard you say, "Gee, Gregg, this is something you should be doing, because you own a small business, and there's some real advantages to it." Who do I call and what do I ask for? Can you help me with that first step so that I start talking to the right person to get the kind of assistance I need?

 

Matt Gellene:              Absolutely, absolutely, Gregg. Thanks for bringing that up. As I mentioned on the outset, we have more than 2500 individuals throughout the country that actually have the ability to help any small business owner go over their options and talk through these types of solutions. The first step is trying to understand, really, what the plan is, what the small business owner is trying to accomplish. Then we can direct them to ways that they can use some of these things I said to help them do that plan. It's certainly something we do here at Bank of America Merrill Edge. We'd be more than happy to help.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Do you find that this is a common thing, that small business owners are so wrapped up in running the business and keeping it growing and successful that they actually neglect to think about themselves and their own future?

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, completely. I think any small business owner would tell you that so much of their time and their energy, really all of their mind share, is spent trying to grow and build their business. Even more so, I think many small business owners think that this business, in and of itself, is their retirement plan. They think that everything they do to grow that business ultimately will have some sort of retirement payoff, if you will. But it's important for everyone to sort of separate out their great work they might be doing to build their business and the plan they have to put in place for themselves for retirement, really separate and apart from what they're driving with their business. This is really a challenge for many small business owners.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, let's dig into those challenges a little bit. So, let's say I own a small business, I've been thinking that, you know, at some point this is the retirement nest egg that I need to grow for myself. You're saying, "Well, that's probably not the right way to be thinking about it." What kind of things can go wrong if that is the extent of by retirement planning?

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, if you really don't think separately about the way you save and the way you plan for your retirement, you could be overemphasizing your current projects for your business, and you might not have the right discipline to create that separation over time. So what I would always suggest, and frankly this goes not only for small business owner, but frankly anyone who is looking to save for a very specific goal to get, as I said, specific. Think about how much needs to be put away, how you're going to account for that, and really separate and apart from your other endeavors. Make the time and the energy to build a plan around that goal. You're going to be able to have a much better discipline over time to insure you reach that goal.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, as I'm listening to you, I'm also realizing that if I own a small business and I'm counting on it to support me in retirement, I'm also banking on the fact that my business is going to continue to be successful without me there, because now I'm retired, or I'm counting on the fact that there will be a successful exit.

 

Matt Gellene:              Right. I mean, I think ultimately every small business owner certainly has to have that optimism about the future, but in order to make sure that you can, as you say, continue on either after you've left the business, post retirement, you have to make sure that you have a great plan in place in case that doesn't come to pass. To your point, there are some businesses where you have succession challenges, and what's going to happen after I leave or directing the business—that's why we really, really want to sit down with the business owner. Create that plan, make sure that they have that benefit laid out, and really start to work through the contingencies that might happen if it weren't to come to pass as they envisioned.

 

Gregg Stebben:          We're talking with Matt Gellene. He's the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I want to ask you a more general question, Matt. That is we've been focusing so far on small business owners, but let's broaden the scope. What is it that most people get wrong when it comes to retirement planning? Then I went you to drill in and say, "This is what most people do wrong. Now this is what most small business people do wrong." Because I think we're either going to learn that they make the same mistakes or very different mistakes, but it will very, very useful, either way.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, thanks Gregg. I think that there's sort of two big areas that most people, as you say, quote on quote, "get wrong," when they're thinking about retirement planning. The first is they begin to save, but they save just to save. What I mean by that is they're not laying out a full plan. They're not laying out an end goal and starting to plan for how much they'll need, how much they need to put away, what the rate of return will be necessary to get to that number. Unfortunately, they think, well, just putting a little bit away or making it a regular activity is going to get them to their goal. Frankly, it's because they haven't thought through the plan or the end result. That's the first thing.

 

                                   The second thing is a little bit of a derivative of that. It's the whole notion of, "Well, set it and forget it." I will tell you, this happens to a lot of people who have a 401K and are contributing regularly. They are doing the right thing by setting that savings plan in place, but they're not looking at where that money is going or looking at where those investments have led them and what the returns are. I will tell you, as you go through your sort of economic life as you're proceeding through your career, you have to make sure that you're constantly looking at your portfolio and getting advice as to how it might need to be rebalanced. As you know, the investments and the markets change. The allocations of where you want to put your money will certainly change over time based on your risk tolerance and when you're going to need it. Too many people do the, "Set it and forget it," notion, and then when they go back to look at it when they're now ready to access it, it might not be where they need it to be. So saving to save and setting it and forgetting it are the two big items that I think many good savers who are planning don't do enough analysis to insure that they're going to be okay.

 

Gregg Stebben:          It also seems to me that for a small business owner, their success in business could be very helpful here if they were focused, but I would imagine for some successful business owners, it could also be a trap. In other words, I know how to build a successful business. If I apply those lessons to my retirement, I'm probably going to have a very successful retirement plan. But on the other hand, you may think you know how to plan a retirement plan because you've been successful in business, but what made you successful in business may require a whole other set of skills.

 

Matt Gellene:              You said it really well. I mean, ultimately, what you should be looking to do is seek out expertise in the areas that you really need help. In fact, the small business owner who's great at running his or her business may not necessarily have the right level of expertise to do the things that I just said. Set the right plan, make sure you're doing the rebalancing, re-evaluate the investments to make sure that they come out the right way, so to speak, when retirement comes around. That core is the expertise that we offer here at Bank of American and Merrill Edge. So we can deliver that for our clients while they spend all of their time building their business.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I would also imagine that not all investing is about retirement, either. I mean, in many cases, when you're a successful business owner, you have money you should be investing for things other than retirement. Can you talk about things you've learned by dealing with small business people?

 

Matt Gellene:              Completely. You know, I think one of the things that we will find is when you talk to a client, whether it's a small business client or an individual client, the most important thing is to find out what their priorities are. What's their, what we like to call, "their life priorities," where they're putting their energy and what's most important to them, because as we will talk to, especially business owners, we know that clearly their work and their business is probably an overarching, if not the first, priority, but there are going to be others as well. It could be how they educate their children, it could be, as you say, retirement planning. It could be simply to create some extra wealth to pass on to future generations.

 

                                   We have to get to those pieces as well, because once you create that life priority framework, then you begin to be able to plan appropriately for each need. As I said earlier, you can sort of separate out the way you're approaching that, because they may have different plans, they may have different sort of investment profiles, so to say, they may have different risk tolerances. They could be customized depending on what the goal is. It's so important to have that perspective so someone can really own their financial life.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well and what's interesting here ... again, I'm talking with Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. What's interesting here is that thing that makes successful business owners successful, in many cases, starts with this vision and drive to accomplish the goal. Really, what you're saying is broaden your ability to make goals, and make a goal for yourself personally financially as well, not just a goal for your business.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, that's really well said. You know, ultimately, you have to make sure that you set the right goal, create the right plan, and make sure you've got the right level of priorities. Along with your advisor, create the right level of interaction and constantly evaluate so you can get to those goals, whatever they may be.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm going to ask you one more question, Matt. I want to boil this down into one thing to do today. So for anyone listening who realizes now, "I have not been planning adequately for myself, and my family, and even my business," the one piece of retirement advice you'd like to leave them with. I want you to close with, "Here's how you can reach out to us at Bank of America and Merrill Edge."

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well, thank you for that. I think the most important thing I would say is ... and you've heard it throughout thematically here ... is make sure that you have the right level of plan in place to meet that life priority. For us, I think the best way to do that is to be informed and to access the right level of expertise. At Bank of America Merrill Edge, we have that for you. Certainly, as I mentioned, we have 2500 Financial Solutions Advisors that are out in our banking centers, our financial centers, as we call them, but you could do it simply by going to merrilledge.com to begin the journey, see what we have to offer to help you in that regard. If you so desire to speak to someone, we can connect you right through that website to someone locally to help you.

 

Gregg Stebben:          He's Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. Thanks so much for joining us. Great tips.

 

Matt Gellene:              My pleasure. Thanks, Gregg.

 

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 Merrill Edge® at www.merrilledge.com/small-business.

 

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Now on the Small Business Community, listen to part two of Exploring Veteran Entrepreneurship. In addition to gaining insight on the entrepreneurial mindset of the men and women who have served their country, learn practical tactics for managing your business like a veteran. Did you miss part one? Tune in here.

 

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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 adedicated 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.

 

 

Marcus Flakes:          I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values.

 

                                  Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me was sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop an organizational culture within my company as well.

 

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 Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. A company that, frankly, I think is on the cutting edge and doing some really exciting things, but rather than me talk about it, Marcus, welcome. I want you to tell us about your business and what you're doing.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Thank you, Gregg. I appreciate it. Well, a little bit about my business. The umbrella company is CSI US Military Maintenance. We're a cleaning maintenance and remodeling company. We hire local veterans and their families as well as patriotic non-veterans with the mission of giving back to the community. We do this through industrial and military training for economic development projects, i.e., restoration of homes, cleaning, commercial cleaning, remodeling commercial buildings and things like that. Since our company's inception, which was February 2017, we've grown significantly with small business partnerships that have also enabled us to start a subsidiary venture known as Commercial Sanitation Initiative, CSI. CSI is a North American distributor of EnviroCleanse. This company is a combination of veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners distributing cleaning products and organic disinfectants nationwide.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One thing you said, Marcus, that I'm a little unclear of—and I did not serve in the military—and that may be why, but there's lots of people like me who may not understand some terminology. Did you say that you use military training with your employees? If that's the case, explain how that works because it's not clear to me.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Absolutely. The military training, as you well know, it's called Military Occupational Specialty, MOS. Within the military there's a myriad of knowledge, skills, and abilities that we acquire. One of the things I was focused on is how we can use the exact training from the military and transition that into civilian sector. I created this company around what the military actually does. Not in all facets, in a good piece, cleaning for instance. We learn that going into the military. I don't know a better cleaner than a military person.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We all know the ability of soldiers to do things like make beds and shine shoes and things. It's legendary to all of us just through what we see on movies and on TV. I suspect there's a lot more to it than what we see and what you've done is, I think, is actually recognize that those are highly valuable skills, and that once people are out of the military, you are able to put those people and those veterans and those skills to work.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. That's what we do.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to hear about your military background, but before we do, I want to pick up on something you mentioned, which is a product called EnviroCleanse. I think you said you're the North American distributor?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Correct.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to know a little bit more about that including, this really caught my eye on your website, and by the way, Marcus' company is Commercial Sanitation Initiative, the website is commercialsanitationinitiative.com. One of the things that caught my eye on your website is that there's some relationship between your company, EnviroCleanse, and Warren Buffett, or Berkshire Hathaway. Can you just explain that because I find that very, very interesting?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yes, absolutely. EnviroCleanse LLC, it's a division of Charter Brokerage LLC, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which is owned by Warren Buffett.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yeah, which is owned by Warren Buffett. Yeah. Absolutely. I have not yet talked to Warren Buffett. Very large company. I'm just one of the smaller entities down here making the mission happen for EnviroCleanse. With all due respect to Warren Buffett, he is the man behind the scenes making a lot of things happen for EnviroCleanse. I consider CSI as having an intricate role to distributing these products on a national level. When I say on a national level, I'm talking about the many industries that this product intersects.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which are?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Which are retail, commercial, and industrial. You think about population health, I have a master's in public health so I think very broadly on these topics, but I'll make it very, very simple, is that everybody is seeking organic and sustainable products. I'm sure whoever is listening to this call could actually agree with me on that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes.

 

Marcus Flakes:          We provide just that. We provide a product that is an organic disinfectant and we provide green cleaning, de-greasing formulas within another product. We've had a lot of traction from retailers and commercial and industrial. We're on the growth side at this point.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think when you pick a product like EnviroCleanse and it has essentially not just the endorsement of Warren Buffet, but the fact that he owns that company and the product that the company makes, I think that for a lot of people is a level of validation that's untouchable. It's the gold standard. You know that if Warren Buffett has put his name on it essentially, it must be a great product and you're now the distributor for North America and I assume using it in your cleaning for your clients yourself at CSI.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. We've seen nothing but success when we talk to our clients about cleaning contracts. Not only do we offer our services with a good work ethic, but we also offer this product in conjunction to the contract. It gives them a double-edged view of what they're getting from us.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's commercialsanitationinitiative.com. Tell us about your military background because it's a very big part of your story.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Well, I'm a 22-year veteran. I have a very wide background. My experience is within the Navy, Army, as well as full-time employment with the Texas Air National Guard. I was also a food program manager for the state of California Army National Guard as well. I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values. Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me is sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop the organizational culture within my company as well.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Would you say that as a business owner if you hadn't had that military training your business would be running very differently and would you actually look at your military training and say, you know, if I hadn't got those years of training in my 22 years of service to my country, I might not actually know how to be successful at running a business or starting a business?

 

Marcus Flakes:          You know, there's a true and false to that. The truth is that I gained the confidence from the military. Some of the things that they teach us, they teach us resiliency. They teach us leadership. They teach us sacrifice. Not being all about yourself. It's that selfless service that comes into play. It really brings on your ability to mentor others, which I do on a daily basis for other business owners that seek me out and want to know what I'm doing and how I can help them. But, as far as false, I would say if I never had gone to the military, I had interest prior to enlisting in the military and it was business and health. Looking in hindsight, I think I would've gone to school a lot earlier than I did and picked up a lot of knowledge, skills, and abilities and perhaps just like every other small business owner who doesn't have a military background, they're very successful as well. I really can't take that credit away.

 

Gregg Stebben:         What you're pointing to is that by serving that time in the military, in a sense, you sacrificed something else that was of interest to you for a long, long time, for 22 years, which was your interest in business and health. It's just interesting hearing your perspective on this because I think frankly for many of us, if we haven't served, we don't think about the idea ... We know that veterans come out of the military and then most of us in business know that they make great employees, particularly in the areas where they have trained, but I think most people today don't yet have the idea of what great entrepreneurs veterans make. Did you find in starting your business, and I don't know if this was your first business or you've started others, but in your time as a veteran starting businesses, have you found that there are certain hurdles that have been bigger hurdles for you because you were a veteran?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I have. I have. Starting out with employment. Usually when a veteran comes off active duty or gets out of the National Guard, they're taking on a new journey so to speak. We close that chapter and we start a new chapter here. One of the first attempts is getting a job. Not just any job, but a higher-paying job using the skillsets that they have acquired from the military. Now, when they get that, this is where the problem starts. Either you're over-qualified or you just don't have what that company is looking for. It's been a question for a long time as to why is it like that.

                                    Now, what happens to that veteran after they get so many No’s it becomes very frustrating and they start to ... their resilience, their resilience training starts to kick in because they're not gonna give up. They have no quit in them. They turn to entrepreneurship. There's groups out there. I'm a member of several groups with over a million veterans involved sharing information with one another, trying to make it easier on their comrades because quite frankly one veteran has more experience than the other. It's a beautiful thing because they're able to share that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know it's interesting. There was a study published by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2017 last year that said that veterans are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. I looked at that and on one hand I was surprised and on the other hand I wasn't. I could see a case being made either way. But that's the statistic. It never occurred to me that the process might be as you're describing that veterans get out of the service and then actually have a hard time getting an appropriate and better paying job given their skill level. They might be over-qualified. That only after that experience do they turn to entrepreneurship. I just assumed that a lot of veterans got out and when surveying the landscape of opportunity might think, oh, I can get a job, I can go into this kind of industry, or I can start my own business. Do you have a sense of how many veterans go through that process of having a hard time getting a job because they're over-qualified and turning to entrepreneurship versus taking that on as their first thing directly out of coming out of the service?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I think the percentile is pretty high having a problem finding a job initially. I think that percentage is somewhere around 40%. Then after that is when different veterans will think about different opportunities. Some start in the civilian sector and start looking for a private-owned company and want to work for them. Maybe a food distributing company or something like that. If they don't have any luck there, they usually turn to federal employment. Now, there's a lot of veterans looking for federal employment. Unfortunately, these federal agencies can't hire everybody. They can't hire everybody. They get very, very picky and selective about which veteran they’re going to hire. That's why they have those preferences. If you're service disabled, 50% or 100%, those go to the top. The people who don't have a disability, they're competing with the rest of the applicants with only a five point preference or so.

 

                                  Other than that, when they exhaust those opportunities, then they start looking at, okay, what can I do. It's usually entrepreneurship. They start thinking about what did I do in the military. Maybe I can start up a security company because I was a military police. Maybe I can start up a restaurant because I was a culinary specialist. You see the correlation of why they select different industries to start a business in.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm wondering if you have ideas ... I'm gonna ask this question in three levels. I'm wondering if you have ideas for things we as the individuals listening can do to help veterans either overcome the hump of getting a job because of what you said among other things being over-qualified, or more quickly move to the idea of being an entrepreneur. What can we as individuals do because we all have family and friends who are veterans and many of them are returning veterans or veterans looking for different career opportunities? I'm also wondering beyond us as individuals, and some people listening to this own small businesses or would consider starting another small business or another division as in a sense you've done, but I'm also wondering if you think there's things that government should be doing like Veteran's Affairs, and if there's things the federal government should be doing to make this process better for veterans who are no longer serving.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That's a really good question, Gregg. Not sure if I can fully answer that, but I'm gonna definitely give you my take on it. Whether it's government, nonprofit, or corporate entities, personally I'd like to see them as stakeholders such as theSBAand investors taking interest in business plans that are developed by veterans. The reason I say that is because I think that idea funding is more accessible than credit-based funding.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Really good point. Was access to capital an issue for you?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Access to capital is an issue for everybody. I don't know a business owner who doesn't need capital. When you're out there looking, where are you supposed to be looking? You could be a part of groups. You can put it in there. You can go on LinkedIn. You can say it there. There's just so many places you can say it, but that's social media. You're not having that conversation with that investor who gets the opportunity to sit at the dinner table and actually spell out what you want done for your business with the intention of that investor potentially wanting to help you. That opportunity doesn't come often.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm really interested in what you just said, Marcus. I'm talking with Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's commercialsanitationinitiative.com. I'm really interested in what you said about idea-based funding versus credit-based funding for veterans. Are there programs like that that exist that veterans know about? I know, for instance, right here on Bank of America's “The Heartbeat of Main Street” that we do here with ForbesBooks with Bank of America, and they've rolled out a $20 million program for lending to US military veteran entrepreneurs. I know those kinds of programs exist, but I'm wondering to veterans know they exist and could part of the job here be just to do a better job of making them aware of it?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yes. I've been doing my part as far as spreading the word out about this funding that's available to veterans for starting businesses. But I think this, they're hesitant because this is what they're thinking, is this just another hype about supporting veterans? Because to be honest with you, they're not really looking for a handout. I'm gonna give you a scenario. If you told me that I can give you money and you pay me back versus I can give you this account and we'll utilize your services and we'll benefit from your services while you earn money, I probably wouldn't go for the loan. I'd probably go where I'm earning revenue. I'm actually working for that capital.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I may be wrong about this, but I'm speculating you may actually be describing something that doesn't exist today, which is you mentioned idea-based funding. There's credit-based funding. But you're really describing a scenario where it's a work for funding. Does that exist or is this something that you have conceived of yourself?

 

Marcus Flakes:          This is something that I conceived of myself. You sit here and brainstorm about how do you access capital. There's no rule to how you access capital as far as I'm concerned. Accessing capital, I do it every day. The reason I say that is because I opened up another business so that it can be funded by the umbrella business. Listen, for instance, if I go out and get a $50,000 contract and it lasts for maybe two months or something like that, remodeling a home, what happens is that I take that revenue from a founder's perspective, I take my percent and I reinvest that back into the company. That's not capital. What I've done is I'm also increasing my percentage of injections into my asset ability of my company. Now I'm able to go to the bank and say, hey, look what I've been doing

 

Gregg Stebben:         A scenario where someone is just starting out, I think what you're suggesting is if there was a program that said you're going to get the $50,000 contract and the $50,000 access to the $50,000 today so that you can tool up to get the job done. You've just reverse-engineered the process you just said. It just involves having access to the capital upfront instead of at the end when the job has been complete.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Exactly. Because when you think about it, if an opportunity were to be presented to any veteran, or any small business owner for that matter, if it were to be presented that way, now you know you have revenue. Planned revenue. What do you do? You take that and now you can use invoice factorization to make sure you're able to take care of your employees. Now you're managing a business and you're not just looking for funding.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask you one other thing, Marcus, because this is really a fascinating conversation. As you're talking with other veterans, do you find that there are similar things that they say that prevents them from doing what you've done, which is starting a business that we as friends and family of veterans could hear? You might've already said this in a way, but I want to drill into it very specifically. As you're talking with veterans and they're thinking about starting a small business, are there certain things that stop them that you think we as friends and family should hear so that we know how to give the best encouragement to those veterans who are perhaps the next best greatest entrepreneurs?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I have not met a veteran that I've talked to that just stopped in their tracks because maybe it was something they read or something that they heard. They usually go into the startup. They have X amount of dollars to start. It's not very much usually, but they're all in. They're all in. What happens is that when they start, without the right mentor letting them know where those forks in the road are gonna be, that's when the confusion starts for them. There's this thing called business lifecycle stages. I don't think that veterans ... This is not to discredit any veterans. There are some great veterans out there that are doing some great things better than myself, but business lifecycle is an education in itself. It'll teach you a lot about startup, the growth maturity, and the acceptance and renewal by consumers. This is where you're able to understand where your business sits in the marketplace.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. Really what you're saying is for a veteran who wants to start a business, grit is not the problem. Getting started is not the problem. At some point though, they just may not know what's coming next or what they need to prepare for. That's where something like a mentor and business lifecycle, as you're describing it, can really make a difference.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely because they'll go from startup and skip growth to maturity. You miss the growth. This happens a lot. This happens a lot. They're good companies. They're solid. They're making connections. They've got leads and they're making money. Money is not really being invested back into the business, so you're not growing.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes. Yes. They have all the pieces, they just need a road map or help creating the appropriate road map to keep going forward and continue to build on that success.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely. Here's a gem. If they miss the investment, the injection back into their company, when they go to the table for a loan, they will be denied because there's a certain amount of injection percentage that the banks must see from your business. If it's not there, you don't have the tools to generate these financial statements, PNL statements, balance sheets, and all of that. If you don't have the tools to generate that, then you're gonna get overlooked anyway.

 

Gregg Stebben:         By skipping a step, there's downstream consequences you might not even understand until somebody stamps denied on your application.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's a lot to think about. He is Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. Commercialsanitationinitiative.com. Making a really great case for why veterans make such great business leaders and entrepreneurs and things they need to know about to ensure their success even if they're at the point where they started a business and it's doing well, being able to look forward. I think mentorship is a really great point you make. I want to thank you, Marcus, for joining us here on the Heartbeat of Main Street.

 

Speaker 2:                 Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

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