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As we pass the halfway mark of 2018, there are numerous reports saying small business owners are optimistic. A few months ago I noted the Spring 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report showed some of the highest levels of optimism among U.S. entrepreneurs since the survey began in 2012.

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But small business owners had some concerns as well, primarily the cost of healthcare, higher interest rates and consumer spending.

So, what is the state of the U.S. small business economy these days? I put that question (and a few others) to Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) last month, and a mega-successful entrepreneur in her own right.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What’s the state of our small business economy these days?

 

Linda McMahon: There’s a feeling of optimism, confidence and enthusiasm among small business owners. They’re excited about the tax cuts, rollback of regulations and launch of association health plans (which will become more accessible on September 1st). [There’s more about association health plans here.]

 

Lesonsky: What’s the environment for getting a small biz loan now?

 

McMahon: With less regulation, it’s possible for the SBA, conventional lending banks, community banks and credit unions to go back to kind of lending they did. The SBA is guaranteeing more loans.

 

 

Lesonsky: You personally have long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. What  are some of the challenges we face in trying to level the playing field for fair and equal access to credit? (McMahon cofounded Women’s Leadership Live in 2016.)

 

 

McMahon: There are many women’s organizations giving support to women, to help them be more confident. And there are now 109 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the country, where women can get expert advice from women—and men—about what they need to do. Some of the greatest help women can get is to help them develop a good pitch.

 

The SBA, SCORE, the SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) and WBCs are here to help women walk through the paces, and to advocate for them. And the SBIC [Small Business Investment Company, which is licensed by the SBA to invest in small businesses] is helping women get access to venture capital.

 

Lesonsky: What do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access?

 

McMahon: We need to continue to break down barriers. Women are resilient and are starting more businesses. We need to help women get more loans and seed capital. We are thrilled to see more traditional lending coming from banks.

 

Lesonsky: You are a big believer in the value of technology and have said in previous interviews that small business entrepreneurs should embrace technology to remain competitive. I am always surprised by the fact nearly half of small businesses don’t have websites.

 

McMahon: I don’t know how you get started without having a website. It gives you a head up. Consumers are Googling to find out where businesses are and [what they do]. If you need to, go to your local SBDC or SCORE office to help you develop a website. It’s all free.

 

Lesonsky: How can we encourage more startups?

 

McMahon: We had a big recession and it takes recovery time to come back. But people are more confident and optimistic now, so more businesses will be starting.

 

I’m visiting all 68 SBA district offices to make sure the SBA is not the best kept secret in the country. [I met McMahon as she visited the Santa Ana (CA) district, her 49thtrip to a district since she began serving her term.] Small businesses should know about all the resources we have to help them start and grow. They should check us out at SBA.gov.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

One of the toughest aspects of being a small business owner is the isolation. Next time you feel like there’s no one you can turn to for advice, check out one of these organizations. They’re some of the best places I know to get help achieving your entrepreneurial goals.

 

Small Business Administration (SBA)

This federal agency provides access to capital, entrepreneurial development and training, assistance with federal contracting and more. Through its resource partner organizations, including SCORE, the SBDC Network, Women's Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, the SBA helps entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses. There’s also an online Learning Center where you can take entrepreneurial education courses[GK1] .

 

    Related Content: SBA Loans & Financing from Bank of America

 

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SCORE

With more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters nationwide, SCORE is the country’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. SCORE offers both in-person and online mentoring by current and former business owners and executives. Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of free educational resources including live and on-demand webinars, interactive online training courses, in-person local workshops, and free business tools.

 

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners with free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, market research help and more. There are hundreds of SBDC locations nationwide, typically located on college and university campuses.

 

Women’s Business Centers (WBC)

There are more than 100 Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States and its territories seek to level the playing field for women business owners. Women can receive training and counseling on a wide range of topics to help them overcome the unique obstacles they face in starting and growing their businesses.

 

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC)

Transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses who want to start, buy or grow a business should check out the Veterans Business Outreach Centers. Located nationwide, the offices provide transition assistance programs including Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot; resource referrals; and business development assistance such as training, counseling and mentoring.

 

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

Founded in 1975, the National Association of Women Business Owners represents over 10 million women-owned businesses nationwide. With chapters across the country and members from all industries, NAWBO works to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of its members and promote economic development. Members benefit from a library of resources; networking opportunities; and the NAWBO Institute Virtual Platform, which facilitates best practice sharing, communication and education[GK2] .

 

     Related Content: Learn about Bank of America's partnership with NAWBO

 

The National Minority Business Council (NMBC)

The NMBC offers minority business people business assistance, educational opportunities, seminars, purchasing exchanges, mentoring, business listings, procurement-related events and opportunities, and more.

 

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC)

The largest black business association in the world, the National Black Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity. It has more than 200 chapters in 40 states and 50 countries. Members include businesses of every size and industry, state and local chambers of commerce, and trade and professional associations. Benefits for members include corporate and federal procurement sessions, networking opportunities, publications, access to international trade missions, and an annual convention.

 

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

This elite organization is open to owners, founders or majority stakeholders of businesses earning at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. With 173 chapter locations in 54 countries and more than 12,000 members, Entrepreneurs’ Organization promotes both global and local networking. Members have access to executive education and mentorship programs, local, regional and global events, and virtual learning tools.

 

With so many entrepreneurial assistance organizations out there, there’s sure to be one (or a few) that appeal to you. Have you worked with any of these organizations? What did you think?

 

*(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my business.)

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

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Many entrepreneurs turn to their bank for a loan when starting a small business. On the latest podcast episode, Chris Ward, Small Business Credit Executive from Bank of America, explains what banks are looking for when making loan decisions.

 

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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.

 

 

Chris Ward:                If you have an accountant, that's your business partner. If you have an attorney to help represent you, that's your business partner. Think of your banker the same way, one of the three trusted business partners for you to be successful as a small business, because every small business owner wants to grow their business over time and wants to have a positive impact on the community. So how can your banker help you with that?

 

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 Chris Ward, he’s the Small Business Credit Executive at Bank of America. We're going to talk about something, Chris, I know all small business owners think to themselves and always wonder who I can ask? Here's the question. When it comes to a bank like Bank of America making business loans, what is the bank looking for?

 

Chris Ward:                Good question Gregg. It's hard for small businesses, because there's not a lot of information out there to help them like there is on the consumer lending side. What are banks looking for? They're primarily looking for the five C’s of small business credit. What are those five C’s of small business credit?

 

                                   It's about capacity, collateral, capital, conditions and character, and if I could throw in one more, it's also about communication, so let's just call it the six C’s of small business lending credit.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. I'm game to call it the six C’s of small business credit. Let's take them one at a time. You said the first one is capacity. What do you mean by that?

 

Chris Ward:                Capacity really is about whether the revenues, the income that your business generates, is enough to cover your debts, so your business debts and also your personal debts. Because if you're a small business owner, your business is your personal income as well. So, it's about the cash flow that your business generates and is that cash flow getting better, is it getting worse, is it stable, is it unstable, is it volatile? It’s things like that we’re looking for to determine the capacity that a business has for handling its expenses and its liabilities.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Do you find that many people who are looking for a small business loan are surprised that their personal credit situation is also a factor?

 

Chris Ward:                A lot are. A lot don't realize that. But if you think about it, if you're a sole proprietor, it makes all the sense in the world, because on your tax returns on your personal side you're going to have your business. But when you're a Subchapter S or LLC, a lot of those businesses—because of the way they're structured—they have to pass through the retained earnings back to the personal side.

 

                                  Because in a small business loan, as owners, you're going to be personally guaranteeing that loan, we have to look at both sides, both the business side and the personal side to see how you're managing your entire financial well-being.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Are there certain benchmarks or rules of thumb that I, as a small business owner, should be looking at to recognize whether I'm in a good situation to be going to a bank for a small business loan?

 

Chris Ward:                Yeah. There's a general rule of thumb, and it's really about the income divided by your total debt. We call it debt coverage ratio. In general, in the industry you're looking for about $1.25 to cover at least every dollar of liabilities out there. That way you have a little bit of buffer, a little bit of wiggle room, if you will, on your cash flow to manage your debt and provide some working capital for the business so it can keep on growing.   [GK4]

 

Gregg Stebben:          Then the next C of the six C’s of small business credit is capital, so talk about that.

 

Chris Ward:                Capital is really about your business assets, what the business owns, what the business has generated. Is it greater than the total liabilities the business has out there? Think of your business assets. Think of what the business owns. Think of inventory. Think of real estate. Think of retained earnings, the cash, the checking account balances. Is that more than what the business owes to others? So, whether that's an actual loan or maybe it's just your accounts payable, and does that capital also have enough to show how much you as a business owner have invested in that company that you own?

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which I think would tie into the next C, which is collateral.

 

Chris Ward:                Collateral, right. Capital helps to generate collateral, at least generate the means to grow your collateral. It's accounts receivable for a business. It's inventory. It's cash. It's equipment. It's real estate if the business actually owns its property instead of leases. It's an automobile that might be in the business name or a truck, depending on the type of business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. We're talking about ... I think classically they're called the five C’s of small business credit. We've talked about capital, we've talked about capacity, we've talked about collateral. There's also a C, which is the fourth C, which is conditions. What does that refer to?

 

Chris Ward:                That's really about the economy and the type of industry that you are. A lot of industries could be very seasonal. You think of industries that rely upon tourism, very, very seasonal. So that means the cash flow, the revenues, could be somewhat volatile if we look at the entire year.

 

                                   It also could be about the type of industry such as a gas station or a convenience store. You might be handling very dangerous liquids—obviously a gas station would—so there's legislation, there's regulations involved. So, it's really understanding not only the business itself, but also the type of business it is and how it impacts our local communities.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It's interesting, when you talk about something like seasonal industries, are you suggesting that there's a best time of year for me to be applying for a loan, or just that I am addressing it well when talking about the need for the loan or in the written materials I might submit to the bank?

 

Chris Ward:                It's more about addressing it well with your banker, making sure they understand the type of business you are, when your revenues come in if they don't come in as a straight line. And no business has revenues coming in in a straight line every month, month over month. You think about it, just the American economy. People spend a whole lot of money in the fourth quarter for the holidays and then they turn around and they have to pay all their bills in Q1, and the tax time comes, so that also relates to small businesses in general from my opinion.

 

                                  Help your banker understand how your revenues come in, how your expenses go out, and how does time and the time of year impact how your business runs.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking that you're suggesting that I be prepared to answer the same questions a rich uncle would ask if I went to my rich uncle for a loan.

 

Chris Ward:                Yeah. Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Is that actually ... Could that be a good way to approach this? Just imagine that I'm making a case for a loan for my business to another person versus a bank? Because everything you've said so far is really common sense.

 

Chris Ward:                It is common sense, but you're dealing with your banker, and so how you have that relationship with your banker, how you build that partnership with your banker, is really important. Getting them to understand how your business runs, because every business is different. There's over 28 million small businesses in America today. They're all different. Some are businesses at home. Some are businesses with an actual storefront. Some are businesses where the owner is more of a consultant and traveling all the time.

 

                                   So, help that the banker understand how your business runs, how it operates, how it generates cashflow, and what is the ultimate goal and purpose of your business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. Let's move on to the fifth C of the six C’s of small business credit. It's character. That's got to be a big one.

 

Chris Ward:                It is. It's probably one of the most important, if not the most important. It's all about you as a business owner and your history. It's tied so closely to the success of your business. It's actually critically important.

 

                                  It's factors such as your personal integrity, your industry experience, your good-standing. It's about your credit history, both your personal and your business credit history, and the factors that impact your credit score, because there are small business credit scores out there as well as the credit bureau agencies.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And the sixth C you have said is communication, and I would think that that fits in with character as well. Talk about why that's so important.

 

Chris Ward:                Well, it's a little bit different, and here's how it's different. Communication is first you have a business plan. It's significant if you have a business plan where you've been, where you are today, and where you're going, and how are you going to continue the success of your business, and then can you communicate and share that business plan with your small business banker? Because your small business banker is your business partner in many, many senses. They're there to represent you with the bank and to cut through the red tape of banking, because banking is not easy nowadays.

 

                                   It's gotten a lot better because of mobile technology and mobile banking or remote deposit capture and things like that, but it's still complicated, especially for a small business owner, because there are so many factors that impact you as a business owner. So that communication, that relationship, that give and take that you have with your small business banker to help you get the proper products, to make sure that you're lining up the right type of lending products to the needs that you have, that's what communication is all about.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, I want to ask you two more questions. I'm talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. I want to ask you two other questions. One is what is the best way for me to begin building a relationship with my local bankers now, so that when I'm ready to ask for a loan I'm not walking in for the first time, so that I know them and they know me?

 

Chris Ward:                That's a great question. So here's my suggestion. Where you have your business checking account today, get to know that bank, the bankers there that represent you at that local branch, and get to know their products and services. Then ask them questions about how to run your business better, how to have a better business banking relationship.

 

                                   So think of things like merchant services. If you accept credit cards from your customers, are your merchant services to accept those credit cards with the bank that provides your checking account? Do you have a business credit card? Business credit cards are a very popular way of helping to finance small dollar expenses for a business. If you don't have a business credit card with your bank today, why not? Look into it.

 

                                   Does the relationship you have with your bank reward you, so the more that you have at that bank, does it give you discounts and fee waivers? The larger the relationship with your bank, the better that you get from that bank, the better the relationship, but also the more that you know about that banker and how they can help you.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It sounds to me like I should really be thinking about the bankers in my local branch almost as consultants when it comes to managing the money of my business. There are ways they can help me that I might not know unless I made the effort to ask them.

 

Chris Ward:                I totally agree. I actually think they're your business partner. If you have an accountant, that's your business partner. If you have an attorney to help represent you, that's your business partner. Think of your banker the same way, one of the three trusted business partners for you to be successful as a small business, because every small business owner wants to grow their business over time and wants to have a positive impact on the community. So how can your banker help you with that?

 

                                   If you have a banker that can help you with that, it's going to help your business. It's going to help make your life easier as a small business owner. So making sure that you have a banker who's competent and knowledgeable and dedicated to small businesses I think is super important.

 

Gregg Stebben:         The last thing I want to ask you, Chris ... Chris Ward, he's the Small Business credit executive at Bank of America. The last thing I want to ask you is this. I'm sure many people listening have never applied for a business loan before from a bank. What is that process like? Can you give us a brief overview?

 

Chris Ward:                Every bank is a little bit different. It's not as common and streamlined as it is in consumer lending, say as an auto loan. But a lot of banks are dedicating a lot of time, money and technology to improve in the small business credit application process.

 

                                   So the first thing I would ask that you all do is that you go to the bank's website and see what their capabilities are and are not. For example, go check out Bank of America and compare it to the competition. Do they have an easy way to apply for credit? Do they have a learning section with really good general industry information that helps you understand how to establish and maintain your business credit?  How to apply for  business credit

 

                                   Then does it also list out all the different types of small business credit products that are out there, from a small business credit card, to a real estate loan, to a business auto loan, up to an SBA, a Small Business Administration loan? Do they have those capabilities? That's a great place to go and to start the process, to educate yourself and making sure that you're dealing with a bank that is full-service and has industry experts to help you with your small business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's really great advice. I've been talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. Chris, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Chris Ward:                Thank you.

 

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

Facebook offers small business owners an unprecedented opportunity to reach your ideal target market with your message. With the right Facebook ad format, creative and offer, you can easily drive more foot traffic and website traffic to your business. Managed properly, your ad campaigns can yield incredible results, including generating more highly qualified prospects that convert into increased sales and profits.

 

If you are not optimizing all Facebook offers with its wide array of campaign objectives, targeting parameters, placements and ad formats, this article is for you. We’ll specificallyhone in on the best performing formats and placements.

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Currently, there are over 80 million business pages on Facebook. Out of which, only six million use Facebook for advertising.

 

If you are among the 74 million businesses not taking advantage of Facebook ads, you likely fall into one of two camps:

 

      1. You’ve tried Facebook ads and were disappointed with the results. Perhaps you ran a few campaigns and didn’t get the ROI you were expecting. Thus, you’ve decided Facebook ads don’t work (for your business).
      2. You’ve never placed a Facebook ad and don’t really know where to start. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed with all the options and afraid of losing money. And/or you may be hoping that your organic marketing strategy will pay off.

 

 

The good news: There’s never been a better time to start using Facebook ads to grow your business.

 

12 Facebook Ad Formats

 

Facebook offers the following 12 different ad formats for promoting your message to your target market. This list is in my recommended order for both best performing and level of complexity, from easiest to more complex.

 

  1. Video – Tell your story with sight, sound and motion. Show off product features, and draw people in. The auto-play movement catches people’s eye. Video is one of the best performing ad types as Facebook is giving high priority to video content in the News Feed.
  2. Image – Use a beautiful image to convey your message. Drive people to a destination website or app through high-quality visuals. Image ads with a link work really well on Instagram in particular, given it’s such a visual platform.
  3. Lead Generation – Lead ads on Facebook and Instagram help you collect contact information from people interested in your business. A lead ad is presented using an image, video, or carousel, and followed by a lead form when the user engages with the ad. Facebook’s tagline for Lead Ads is, “Tap, tap, done.” It’s that simple for the user.
  4. Messenger – Get people to start conversations with your business. This format is particularly effective when you have a Messenger chatbot [BE2][GK3] hooked up to your Facebook Page. Plus, people seeing your ad don’t have to leave Facebook to interact with you. Well, they hop out to Messenger and then right back to scrolling through their Facebook feed!
  5. Slideshow – This ad format is a lightweight looping video of up to 15 seconds long, using between 3-10 of your own images or Facebook’s stock images available via Shutterstock. The simple slideshow format doesn’t take up as much streaming data to play, which helps to reach people across connection speeds.
  6. Carousel – This is a lovely format that allows you to showcase up to ten images and/or videos within a single ad, each with its own link. This format performs well on both Facebook and Instagram.
  7. Offers – Create a special discount to share with your customers on Facebook. You can design your offer ad to appear as an image, video, or carousel.
  8. Event Responses – Use this ad format to promote awareness of your event and drive responses. Event ads can be a single image or video. I recommend video.
  9. Collection – Encourage your prospects to shop by displaying a variety of items from your product catalog—customized for each individual. Definitely a more advanced ad format, and essential for ecommerce stores.
  10. Dynamic – Promote all the products in your catalog to the right people, automatically. Also incredibly effective for ecommerce stores.
  11. Canvas – This beautiful, immersive format lets people open a full-screen, mobile-optimized experience instantly from your ad. I don’t see too many of this ad type; usually bigger brands put the time and effort needed into creating this format.
  12. Page Likes – I put this one last on purpose. If your Facebook Page is really new with not that many likes (fans), or you’ve reached a plateau in fan growth and wish to build your audience, then Page Likes ads could be a good choice. Page Likes ads can be with a video or an image. However, I will say that Page Likes ads should be a low priority in your marketing mix. It’s best to invest your advertising dollars to place your message in front of your exact target audience. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying to get more likes, and then paying again to reach them.

 

Small businesses should first focus on these 3 Facebook ad formats

 

If you are new to Facebook ads, the three formats I recommend focusing on for best performance are video, lead generation and Messenger.

 

For video ads, upload native video content to your wall first and also broadcast using Facebook Live. Then amplify reach with the Video Views objective. But, before you place your video ad (boost your video content) make sure you’ve included a strong call to action and a link, or Messenger button.

 

For almost all ad formats, you can include a link to drive people to your website to learn more about your business or special offer.

 

You’ll want to run many split tests when driving people off of Facebook. Ideally, send people to a very simple landing page with no extraneous buttons. Just a clean, simple offer to sign up with their name/email/phone number or to make a purchase. Make sure you have Facebook Pixel installed on your landing pages.

 

To learn from real businesses of all sizes generating amazing results with their Facebook ads, visit Facebook’s Success Stories.

 

In future articles, I’ll be walking you through additional aspects of how to get solid results with Facebook ads.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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

 

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

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

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

How should I lead my team to grow company revenue and retention?

 

I received this question from a small business owner with 50 employees, and he has been struggling to get his employees on board with a new company direction.

 

Without the right plan, process and actions, leadership can be exhausting for the business owner. More importantly, it can be detrimental to the business by impacting morale,

productivity and sales.


Here are five important considerations business owners should do to be a strong leader.

 

1) Identify and share desired business goals

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It's imperative to share your overall goals with the very people who are going to help attain those goals. How can you arrive at success if you haven't told the people what  your plans are and what success looks like to the company?

 

Lack of effective communication can be a problem for achieving company goals. If employees are not clear on the goals, they are confused when the results aren't what was expected.

 

Related Content: Keeping it real: Are you setting your expectations too high?

 

2) Align the business goals with the goals of stakeholders and employees

This can be a challenge for many business owners because they think the goals of the business, or the ideas of the business, are generally most important. However, people instinctively have their own interests in mind. Effective business leaders are able to identify those goals and dreams, not only for the business and for themselves, but also for employees.

 

Your responsibility as a business owner is to understand your employees' goals, your team members' goals, and other stakeholders' and align them with company goals.

 

For example, it's important to understand what a colleague really cares about. If they care about more money, maybe you can create an opportunity to earn more by improving the bonus and compensation structure.

 

Identify your employees’ goals first before aligning them with the organization’s goals.

 

Related Content: 6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees

 

3) Recognize the staff and people who work for you


Everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized in some capacity. Sometimes, a thank you is enough, and other times public congratulations may be in order. Whatever it is, learn how they receive information and praise. If not, it's your responsibility as a leader to understand how your employees and team members receive praise and understand what makes them feel appreciated.

 

When they feel appreciated, they'll be more excited to come to work and happier because they know what they're doing is being acknowledged. This greatly improves productivity and company revenues.

 

       Related Content: How Are You Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day?

 

4) Interact with team members frequently - daily or weekly meetings


Frequently interact with team members. Not just for specific projects but consider having daily or weekly strategy meetings. Part of being appreciated is knowing you're acknowledged, and for an employee to know you care about who they are and what they do.

 

It doesn't mean you must meet with every single person you work with. Many sales teams have daily meetings to encourage and inspire the sales staff to dominate the day. These strategy meetings allow you to revisit individual employee goals, the team's goals, and the company's goals.

 

Spending time with the people who help build your business reminds them their contribution matters. Also, it allows you to learn a little bit more about the people who work for you.

 

5) Create a positive and enjoyable culture

 

This doesn't mean that you must play video games or pool like a tech start-up. Foster a jovial work culture.

 

People understand what the culture is, and know how they fit in the culture. The last thing people want is to work in a contentious or difficult situation. You still need to have hard conversations if warranted.

 

Encourage team building activities and group experiences that build camaraderie and trust. Some of the best companies I’ve worked for had an amazing internal culture. This will increase productivity and profitability in the long run for your business.


As the business owner you're responsible for the health of the business and the growth of your employees. Ever had a great experience at a store or restaurant? If you have, chances are the culture and leadership of the business are in sync. That leads to better customer interactions, service and eventually, a healthier bottom line!

 

Related Content: The importance of employee perks and how you can offer more than you think

 

About Ebong EkaEbong+Eka+Headshot.png

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 smallbusiness planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms likePricewaterhouseCoopers, 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

Over the course of a long career advising and strategizing with entrepreneurs, I have noticed a trend, particularly amongst those driven by creativity and passion. For these creative types, it is that their biggest strength – the incredible creativity that sets them apart and drives them to pursue an opportunity – is often their biggest weakness in business.

 

I have gone deep with the owners of some of the coolest and most interesting business concepts around – the type of entrepreneurs who are doing phenomenal, creative and impactful things with their businesses. From the outside, it looks like they have a veritable goldmine. They are the businesses others look at and go, “why didn’t I think of that?”

 

However, as I get to peek behind the curtains (i.e., look at their financial statements), many of these “innovative ideas” are not being executed in a way that makes the entrepreneur enough profit to get by. Some aren’t making any profits at all.

 

High-touch vs. Systems

 

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For many of the high-touch or creative businesses, the uniqueness that sets them apart is what keeps them from reaching the next level or even turning a profit. Instead of being focused on creating something that is perhaps slightly less unique, but scalable and repeatable, the entrepreneur is married to the complexity. They feel it would compromise their vision to streamline what they are doing. Often, that is at the expense of making money.

 

When a business has specialized high-touch services it is also difficult for them to be replicated, even by team members. This leaves the owner burnt out because he is working too many hours or is having a hard time teaching his staff to deliver on the value proposition. This also leaves the entrepreneur with a job, instead of a business.

 

     Related Content: Hear Daria Knowles talk about her family business, Hot Skwash, that designs and

     manufactures high-end home décor – Post Some Love Small Business Podcast | Hot Skwash Interview

 

Pricing Reality

 

For some entrepreneurs, their unique product or service is in demand but only at a price point that won’t support the business’s viability. By requiring certain elements are done by hand, by an artisan or with a special material, they have priced their product or service out of the market. It’s a needed product or service, just not at the price that it would require to keep the entrepreneur’s vision intact.

 

     Related Content:

     What your Prices Say About your Small Business

     Take a Fresh Look at your Pricing Strategy

 

So, what does an entrepreneur do when the vision that drives you is what’s keeping you from being successful?

 

Compromise has to happen.

 

If you are in this position, are you willing to let your creative vision inform you, but also to scale back some of the uniqueness for the sake of growing the business (or staying in business)? That is the million-dollar question.

 

I hope you can make that mindset shift. You don’t have to give up your values or your mission, but you may have to implement them in a way that cuts out the smaller details in order for the business to thrive.

 

The challenge is to do that in a way that is still appealing to the customer, as well as to you as an entrepreneur.

 

Ask yourself, “Is what’s setting me apart holding me back?” If it is, you need to decide whether passion or profit is your priority.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.pngCarol 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.

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

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.

Regardless of if you have a new start-up or a long-standing family business seeking to grow, having a board can help your business become more successful.

Whether your board is loosely structured as an advisory board or has a fiduciary responsibility to the business’s shareholders via a formal directorship, you need a plan of action to get the most out of your advisors.

 

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Here are some key ways to help your advisors help your business to be a success:

 

1. Know your advisors’ competencies. Advisors can bring a bevy of benefits to companies, so know what you want and what will help you the most when seeking an advisor.

 

2. Set clear and realistic expectations. What is it you want your advisors to assist with? It could be help with raising capital (through direct contacts or credibility), strategic advice, marketing and PR, product development, business development, sales or a whole host of other connections and areas. Know and communicate your expectations.

 

Many of the companies I advised find the most value in using me as a sounding board and a check-in point to keep them on track. That is an underrated value of having someone who can provide discipline on your advisory board. On the flipside, don’t expect your advisor or board member to be running your business for you. That’s never their role.

 

3. Know what you are looking for. You should know your needs before you seek an advisor, just like you should know a job description before hiring a candidate. While you may run into someone who is so fantastic that you just want them involved in your business, it’s likely going to be most helpful to have a list to check a potential advisor’s skills against.

 

Also, it can be tempting to add cachet to your company by adding brand name individuals as advisors. However, if these big wigs don’t do anything for your business, they will end up being just a waste of space on paper.

 

4. Have diversity in your advisors. Your business will benefit from having advisors that don’t all have the same skills or demographics. If your board is comprised of people with the same age, sex, industry background, etc., you are missing a huge opportunity to expand the benefits advisors can bring. Having diverse advisors will expose you to a wider array of connections and thinking.

 

5. Ask for the help. I always tell those that want to engage me as an advisor that I am always available to help, but they have to ask. First, I don’t know the goings-on day-to-day in the company, so I won’t know what issues are most pressing without being told. Also, I am very busy. There are multiple things on my mind at one time, not always the company. If you want something done, ask and be specific in your ask. The onus is on you, not the advisor, to find a way for them to be helpful.

 

     Related Content: 7 Ways to a More Productive Meeting

 

I would also suggest you schedule regular check-in meetings, via phone, Skype, in-person or otherwise. This is usually a practice with formal boards, but not necessarily with advisory boards. This makes sure that you, as an entrepreneur, don’t forget to utilize the advisors as you get caught up in the day-to-day fire drills of running the business.

 

6. Be responsive. If you ask for help and the advisor wants to help or is helpful, be responsive. I have had far too many entrepreneurs ask for my help, only to find when I requested something specific, like a piece of collateral required for me to bring my contacts and expertise to bear, they never got back in touch (or perhaps, took quite some time). Advisors can be helpful, but you need to fulfill your part of the bargain. You have a responsibility to follow through on any tasks required to help your advisor help you and the business.

 

Even worse are the entrepreneurs who ask for help and then bounce to the next person for help without following through on the work the first advisor has done. I have seen this many times. It is not fair to send an advisor on a wild goose chase or have him invest time in one direction for you to get bored, fall off the face of the earth and then ask another person a new set of initiatives. You will not only lose business benefits, but you will earn yourself a bad reputation.

 

7. Give advisors a “vested” interest. Many advisors love to give back to entrepreneurs, but being an advisor is both a commitment and an opportunity cost, even if that cost is that they just can’t be on another board. Consider giving them an equity stake so they have a vested interest in participating in the success of the company.

However, the second part of that is to make that equity interest “vest,” i.e., earned over time. As many flaky entrepreneurs as there are, there are also flaky advisors. So have a trial period to test out working together and if you both see the value, have that extra kicker available.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

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.

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Did you know veterans are twice as likely to be self-employed as non-veterans? Listen to part one of the latest podcast episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street” to hear about the entrepreneurial priorities, drive and future of the men and women who have served their country in the military.

 

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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.

 

 

Jeff Cathey:               You know they've fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.                         

 

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

 

Kate Delaney:            Boy, I'm so excited. This time around we're diving into something really close to my heart to be honest. Jeff Cathey joins us. He's a Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and a former Navy captain. I'm married to an ex-Navy guy so I know what that's like. It's interesting because what we're going to talk about with Jeff is so, so significant. According to a study published, Greg, in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, when you look at the veterans they are twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. This does not surprise me. So, Jeff, first of all, welcome, and do you think this status really widely known by veterans themselves?

 

Jeff Cathey:                I think it is. We know that about 180 to 200,000 service members leave the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines every year. And as they do formerly they go through a transition assistance program in their individual services. And about 10% of them raise their hand and say, "I want to start my own business. I want to get in there and run a franchise or start my own business, and I'm very interested in receiving an initial primer on what that is all about. What are the resources out there? What are the barriers are there to either help me or hinder me in going forth with my efforts?" So it's a strong cohort that's interested in it.

 

                                   And the services have set that up to kind of segregate them off to the side and say, "Okay, if you're interested in starting your own business come over here and we'll start talking about business plans, and marketing plans, and so forth."

 

Gregg Stebben:         So Jeff, you're a former Navy captain, you're now the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and I mean this is really what you focus on every day. I'm wondering looking back on your past as a Navy captain and now interacting with these veteran entrepreneurs every day, are there certain things that draw people to military service that then lead them to become great entrepreneurs? Are there things that happen in the training or in the course of their years of service that make them great at being entrepreneurs? Can you kind of see it as a whole or as a whole process for them?

 

Jeff Cathey:               Gregg, you know I would say that those who want to come out and start their own business really probably want to control their own destiny. And maybe in some ways quit taking orders and start giving them, right? And they're going to be successful. Employers are looking for talent, work ethic, and attitude. And 70% nationwide survey of companies are looking for primarily work ethic and attitude. So, I think the ones who raise their hand and want to start their own company, that work ethic will transfer over. It’s up to them to keep the attitude on because there are going to be starts and stutters and so forth. And then the talent portion of it, that's the neat part where they're going to be intellectually curious. They're going to have to go and start a new mission, and they're going to have to learn all this stuff from the business plan to the marketing plan, to how to raise capital and so forth.

 

                                  I just see them as they fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. I think they don't lack confidence. I think they've had a ton of responsibility in the service. They've had global exposure. They worked in diverse environments. They've done some crisis action planning and they've made some decision making at high rate of speeds. So, I think they can jump right into it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.

 

Kate Delaney:            Jeff, I referenced this in the beginning because of my own family I saw this, and I talked about this study that was published in 2017 by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, and in that study they also found that self-employed veterans demonstrated higher levels of gratitude, community integration, and altruistic service to others. I'm not surprised by that because of what I've seen. Can you talk about how supporting veteran entrepreneurs and encouraging other vets to become entrepreneurs and small business owners also brings great benefits to the community at large?

 

Jeff Cathey:               It does, Kate. To get out there and ... there's less than one percent of Americans that are putting the uniform on. And so, they are highly trained, they're very specialized, their operational tempo is high, they deploy a lot. Americans nationally and in the local communities want to support the troops so to speak, but they can't find them. And so, they're just gone. And to be able to come back and self socialize and to start up through your own initiative your own company, and get rid of the national tendency towards isolation whether you're on a military installation or you're on a Mac flight going overseas, or you're on the ground deployed in South Korea or Germany, or you're in a combat zone. That isolation has just really got to be peeled back. And to start your own company, and to put a sign up on the window kind of demystifies the whole thing. I think so many of the veterans, they're community integrators, they're going to be contributors. They want to get in there whether it's on the little league field, at the church, any kind of associations to include in the business community.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Jeff Cathey, the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America—he's a former Navy captain. We're also talking about how and why veterans become so great at being small business owners and entrepreneurs. And one of the things I want to ask you Jeff is, what are some of the challenges that veterans face? And when I Googled this I actually came up with the term “vetrepreneurship,” so there's clearly a movement here, but what are some of the challenges that veterans face in starting a small business or continuing to run one, and what kinds of programs are out there? For instance, I know that BofA just launched a programto help military veteran entrepreneurs.

 

Jeff Cathey:               We did and it's exciting. And let me just table that for a second, Gregg. But I would say the barriers are access to capital. Really where are the dollars, number one. And number two I think inside the military we have appropriated dollars from the tax payers through the Congress. And so, it's a budgetary sort of exercise, large budgets but it's different then the raising of capital in the generation of revenue. And so that is something that the vetrepreneur sort of has to learn, and then also how to manage expenses, and how to borrow money to grow that business. So I think those are the barriers. And then that business acumen part, now it's, "Okay, I gotta develop a business plan. I've gotta know my marketing plan and who's the competitors, who else is already out there." Maybe this market in Des Moines, Iowa, is saturated or over saturated in trying to do mobile automobile detailing or dog grooming, or whatever it is. So, those are the things that are out there.

 

                                   And then as I said the access to capital is the big one. So, if they come to most banks, they leave the Army on Friday and want to start their business on Monday and they walk into the bank, they're just not bankable. So, a lot of them will go over to other sources of capital or maybe even a credit card and pay pretty high rates to borrow that money, and sometimes that can be crushing and put them out of business before they even start.

 

                                   So, Bank of America on the 8th of June announced a $20 million veteran entrepreneur lending program whereby the non-profit lending arm of the company and some community development financial institutions, CDFI's, are out there. We funded five of them over seven states: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, California, New York, and both Carolinas. And it's a real solution. At about an eight percent plus or minus percent type of lending for the veteran. And so, we lent about zero to one percent to those CDFI's who turn around and lend to the business owner once they vet them and look at their credit scores, and their business plan, and all that, that we mentioned. You can start at eight percent, it opens the door, it gets them to meet their financial needs for the capital upfront and off they go. So, we're very excited about that CDFI program called Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program. $20 million dollars over those five CDFI's, and it's just started and we're very excited about it.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know what's interesting Jeff is as I've been listening to you—and I did not serve in the military, I am not a veteran—I've learned so much by listening to you. And I was really excited to talk to you because I realized folks who have not served and our not veterans have so much to learn from this conversation. And one of the things I started thinking as I've been listening to you here is, there are probably some real advantages to being in the military and then getting out and starting a business, but there are probably some disadvantages.

 

                                  And one of the disadvantages I thought of as you've been talking is, if I go the traditional entrepreneurial route, which I think for many people is you go to college and maybe you're studying business maybe you're not, but you're networking with other potential entrepreneurs in the community perhaps or you're just focused on a very specialized thing because you have a college major. Then maybe you go on to get a master's degree and a PhD. You've been building this whole network around you that's going to support you in your business. That's not necessarily true I would think for a veteran, so that could be a disadvantage that they're not in the same environment. And do you think programs like this BofA program or are there other programs from like the SBA that help support veterans to eliminate that disadvantage and turn it into an advantage?

 

Jeff Cathey:               Yeah, no I hear you Gregg. And the sequence just comes in different orders. And so, I agree with you. There's a very hierarchal way and build the triangle like you said on one side. The other side is go over there and defend your countrymen and do what you're asked to do from a military for deployed perspective and so forth. And you're sort of losing ground along the way when you come back.

 

                                   And that's why it's so exciting to see these veteran entrepreneur programs that have been established mostly at the land grant colleges like University of Florida, Oklahoma State University, University of Southern Calthe Marshall School of Businessand at Syracuse University at IVMF, and even here locally where I am at Hillsborough Community College they have Operation Startup. Not a set aside, but just a veteran entrepreneur program. Even Stanford has Ignite.

 

                                   There's 1.1 million veterans on college campuses executing the GI Bill and most of these courses ... and I've been to the one out in LA and up in Gainesville and Stillwater, Oklahoma and most of these. There's about 80-90 veteran entrepreneurs either current existing ownership, have a business fledgling in their first or second year, or brand new. And those usually go eight or nine months or so, and they'll come in for a week and get to know the instructors, the expectations and so forth, and have some academics there. And then they'll go back to their hometowns through some online academics and some mentorship along the way, and some checkpoints and so forth. And they'll come back and graduate. So, it's good. There's a buzz around it. There's strength in numbers. Popping out of that is going to be sort of the evening out of those sort of two different paths to owning your own business.

 

Kate Delaney:            So, Jeff I can imagine you just talked about some of the programs that are there, can you share with us some stories from some of the vets, some of the entrepreneurs and small business owners that you've worked with in your position with Bank of America?

 

Jeff Cathey:               You know Kate, I’d say most of those that I know that are running organizations, and I'd equate them to a small business, they're leading non-profits. And these are sort of millennial led non-profits that Bank of America's associated with such as Student Veterans of America, such as America's Warrior Partnership, or Team Red, White, and Blue, or Mission Continues, or Team Rubicon. And these are young men and women as executive directors of these organizations that essentially are doing the same thing. Even a non-profit, you've gotta generate revenue, you've gotta fundraise, you've gotta control expenses, and staffing, and travel, and everything else, and you have to lead a team. And that's exactly what they're doing. And so, we have great partnerships, long lasting partnerships sustained with all of those non-profits, and some of the smaller veteran owned businesses.

 

                                   We went out to People Fundwhose one of those five CDFI's that we spoke about. They're in Texas, they're in Austin, Texas. And we went out and met Gary Lindner and he runs them. And we looked at all their books, met some of their veteran entrepreneurs. Looked at how they vet who they're going to lend to. We looked at their loss rates. We looked at their sustained efforts to support these veterans as they start up their business, because it's more than just veteran entrepreneur leadership program I talked about. It's more than just writing a check and the $20 million dollars to those five CDFI's. It's lending, and learning, and technical assistance. And so, that is a huddle up, that's support network, that is we've all go the same target, but there's going to be some off ramps, there's going to be some unexpected barriers and so forth. But this is the learning part of it through Syracuse University, and IVMF the Institute of Veteran and Military Families, their V-Wise, their women veterans programs. There are ways and technical assistance for those business plans, and control of money, and expenses, and so forth to make this a go. So it's not “here's your check good luck, see you later.”

 

Gregg Stebben:         Well that makes perfect sense. And in fact, Jeff when I was getting ready for this interview and just Googled the phrase military veteran entrepreneurs and veteran entrepreneurs, that's when I began to discover that there's this whole world that includes networking, and programs like you've described for learning in addition to access to capital and things like that.

 

                                   We're talking with Jeff Cathey, he's the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, and a former Navy captain. I want to ask you Jeff, we're talking here about veterans starting businesses or continuing to run businesses and getting the kind of support that can help them continue to be successful. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for people who are listening who are family or friends of a veteran and they know that their family member or their friend has always talked about or dreamed of starting a business, but maybe just needs a little bit of a push. Are there things those of us who are family or friends can do to support that veteran to enable them to take the first step?

 

Jeff Cathey:                I think so, Gregg. I think beside lending them a few dollars is to really get them into the community and even the SCORE. The senior former executives that are out there in most markets around the country that lend their expertise, so they have come and gone in their business entrepreneurship and been successful, and they know what the minefields are, and they know what the success metrics are. These are companies big and small. If you look back at current or recent executives, CEO's of large companies like Lockheed Martin, and FedEx, and Proctor and Gamble—Proctor and Gamble's Bob McDonald is a West Point graduate who was most recent secretary of the VA. And so, these are good leaders. Bank of America was run by a Marine, Hugh McColl, General Motors same thing. And so, they all somewhere in there whether they served like I did for 29 years or they came in and did an honorable service for four years and then left, and struck out on their own.

 

                                   As I said, everybody's wanting to support the troops and more than just writing a check. So, if you get in the local area, what is it that community ... and these are where communities can be led by all of us as collaborators and integrators through the economic development part of a local community, or the Chambers of Commerce and other ways to do this, and figure out where the belly button is to push it to collaborate, because it's just really a bit of an opening of a door just like our CDFI program. Just open that door, get it going, and it's going to flush out in the right direction. And it's really just the socialization, sort of a networking, the exchange of ideas, the engagement. As I said, these veterans and these former servicemen, they're going to come and they're going to contribute. They're going to show up early, they're going to wrap it up, they're going to work on a weekend, they're going to figure it out until it goes. And just a little bit of a push from those in the know, this is an economic stimulator, this is a very good and a righteous way to help veterans reintegrate into the community and not be so isolated.

 

Kate Delaney:            I can only image what it's going to look like in 10 years, so exciting. Jeff Cathey, Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, former Navy captain. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

Jeff Cathey:               Kate, thank you very much. Gregg, likewise.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “the Heartbeat of Main Str”et" with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

Your customers want to pay you for your product or service, but are you making it difficult for them to give you money? Carol Roth discusses what stands in the way of you and added revenue – from a poorly trained sales staff to a confusing website layout.

 

 

Transcript

 

Hey, it’s Carol Roth, and I want to talk to you about a big mistake that businesses make in terms of their growth and their revenue – and that is making it difficult for customers to give you money.

 

Now this may sound counter-intuitive, but far too many business do this. The first issue is with ill-trained sales staff.

 

I have a colleague who was planning a wedding who called different venues and different caterers and the like, and had so many people give conflicting information; so many people who couldn’t answer basic questions about their offerings – at the end of the day she didn’t go with a company that had the offering she wanted, she went with the company and the venue that had the ability to answer her questions. So, make sure your sales staff is well-trained.

 

This happens to me at spas all the time. I call spas. They’re not able to say this is what you want, this is our service that matches it, here’s an up-sell. They do a really poor job of tracking that entire journey. And if you have somebody who is interfacing with the customer, they have to have that nailed. So, make sure that you’re training them properly – giving them all the information that the customer needs to give you money. It is imperative.

 

     Related article: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

 

I will say the same thing for websites. Sometimes going online and trying to be self-served, it’s impossible to find key information. Whether the information is about the goods and services, the different facets of those, the pricing, or even a number to call more information – don’t make it difficult – again, online or on social – wherever your customer is interfacing, for them to get that information they need for them to give you their money.

 

     Related article: Ten Top Hacks to Increase Sales on your E-commerce Website

 

And the final step is: make sure you have a good payment processor. So, think about how your customers like to pay you and make sure that’s not a roadblock for them to give you money. Because at the end of the day you are in business for customers to give you money, and you want to make it as easy as possible.

 

Learn more about taking payments online, in-store, anywhere.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.pngCarol 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.

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In the latest episode of The Heartbeat of Main Street, a small business podcast series by Bank of America and ForbesBooks, entrepreneurs were given a wealth of information about how their businesses can benefit from banking rewards programs. Tune in to get insights about how loyalty programs with vendors can play an important role in the growth of a small business and hear about how you can earn benefits from Bank of America by taking advantage of their new Relationship Rewards program.

 

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 impact revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and past episodes, as well as episodes from the BofA Small Business podcast, can be found here. Each new episodes will appear on the Small Business Community, or on iTunes, GooglePlay and SoundCloud. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

Kevin Condon:            Entrepreneurs are among the busiest people out there and the program has to be simple, easy to understand, and easy to enroll. When we took a step back we said, “Can we design a program that spans across all the products and services of the bank that meets those three tests? That's easy to understand, that provides incremental rewards, and really appreciates the loyalty of our clients?” That's what we did with Relationship Rewards.

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:          Talking with Kevin Condon, he's the Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. It's interesting that the name of this program is Business Advantage Relationship Rewards because at the core of all this is, frankly, what all business people want to have with their customers, which is a relationship. That must be what was behind the research and must've been what was behind the creation of this product. What kind of research did you do as a team to determine what would be the most valuable things you could offer your small business customers?

 

Kevin:                         Greg, we talked to many small business owners, many of our own clients at Bank of America, and clients of other banks. We gained a few keen insights from that research. The first was, as I mentioned, perhaps more than anyone entrepreneurs appreciate the value of loyalty because they're working so hard to earn the loyalty of their customers. Any offering that they have with their suppliers or their partners that recognizes the value of their relationship is something that they'll be interested in. The second thing we gleaned from that insight is those rewards or that loyalty program needs to be incremental, meaning the more business I give you the more I get from you, and if the business I give you increases a lot I want the value of that reward to increase even more than that.

 

                                   Then, the third thing that we learned from them is entrepreneurs are among the busiest people out there and the program has to be simple, easy to understand, and easy to enroll. When we took a step back we said, “Can we design a program that spans across all the products and services of the bank that meets those three tests? That's easy to understand, that provides incremental rewards, and really appreciates the loyalty of our clients?” That's what we did with Relationship Rewards.

 

Gregg:                        This whole conversation about rewards is really interesting, and before we get into the specifics of your new program at Bank of America, I'm wondering what other kinds of rewards small business people told you were most valuable to them? I'm really asking because I suspect some people who are listening could learn oh, I didn't realize I could take advantage of rewards in other parts of my business, and obviously we want to talk about the banking rewards from Bank of America as well. What other kinds program did you hear small business owners talking about and really appreciating the value of?

 

Kevin:                         Greg, we found that through our discussions with our clients that there are a growing number of great loyalty benefits in the marketplace, and I would encourage every small business owner to ask their partners and suppliers if those suppliers offer such a program because they are on the increase. What we heard though is the characteristics of those better programs tend to be, as I mentioned, those that offer incremental value when I do more business with you. The more I give you the more I want to get from you, and those benefits need to increase the more business I give you. Think of the frequent flyer program at an airline, the higher your level of status you achieve, the better the benefits you get each time you fly. You get a bonus on the rewards, you get earlier boarding, you get incremental free bags that you check, that's an example of those incremental benefits the more business I give you.

 

                                   Second key element were those rewards programs that focus on what's most important to the small business owner tend to do the best. For example, if your business requires you to be on the road a lot and buying or purchasing a lot of gas at gas stations, a program that offers benefits such as cash back on gas purchases is critical. It's something that the small business owner is doing every day and it provides tangible benefits where they don't have to change their behavior. All they have to do is reward that provider with more of their business.

 

                                   The third key element we found was small businesses want programs that recognize the full value of the relationship. Rewards programs that omit a part of the relationship with the small business tend to be viewed more skeptically, so if there's one part of the business that's rewarded and one part that's not small business owners tend to take a step back and view that a little bit more skeptically.

 

                                   Finally, those programs without a lot of fine print or exceptions are the most successful. The easier the program is to understand, the easier the program it is to enroll, and the easier it is for the benefits to be tangible and meaningful to the small business owner without having to do a lot of research analysis are the programs that tend to do the best in the marketplace.

 

Gregg:                         Let's talk about the specifics of your new program. It's called the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards, it's a new program that, as you've now said, offers small business clients a lot of different benefits, frankly, to help them grow their businesses. Let's talk about some of the specifics. What are the things that your clients are going to enjoy as participants in this program?

 

Kevin:                         We tried to act on the feedback and the best practices that our clients told us about rewards programs when we launched Business Advantage Relationship Rewards most recently. The program recognizes and rewards our small business clients across the products and services that Bank of America offers them, so there are benefits on small business deposit accounts, investments, credit cards, and loans. It's simple to understand. Starting at $20,000 of any combination of deposit or investment balances that a client has with Bank of America they start earning benefits. Those benefits span the entire relationship across those products and services that I just mentioned. From fee waivers on your checking accounts, to cash rewards on merchant services processing, to interest rate discounts on loans, to higher rewards bonuses on the credit card purchases. You receive benefits across all the services we have to offer.

 

                                     It's a tiered program so we provide those incremental benefits, the more and deeper your relationship with us there are three tiers and when your qualifying deposit and investment balances reach the next tier the value of those benefits across the services I mentioned go up. The higher the tier you qualify for the greater those benefits become. We launched it most recently after extensive research across those three areas, we tried to reflect that in the program, and we're very excited with the results so far.

 

Gregg:                        When you talk to small business owners in doing your research on this would you find that they, on their own, could point to specific parts of the banking relationship where they would benefit from rewards or was it more of a give-and-take with you suggesting what if we did this and what if we did that? I'm just wondering how prepared were small business owners to dive in and help you address places to create rewards versus you coming to them and making suggestions based on your own internal research?

 

Kevin:                          Our small business clients were very eager to help us in our research. We found that the critical elements where they found that they could get the most was, as I mentioned, recognizing the full value of the relationship. What they felt was most financial institutions provide rewards on one particular aspect of their relationship, be it the credit card rewards programs that most of us are familiar with both in our consumer lives and in our small business. What our small business owners said is, "Hey, we'd like to see you recognize the full value of what I bring to you not just credit card, but also those deposit balances I have with you, my investment relationship I have with you, and any lending I do with you with your bank. We want to see benefits across the whole spectrum."

 

                                    Based on that overarching theme and feedback we got from our clients the rewards program that we designed really became easy and our clients were more than happy to react to the specific benefits that we brought, but it's simple to understand. If you purchase one of any one of those services with Bank of America you'll receive a benefit and the deeper that relationship goes the greater that benefit becomes. That was the keen insight that we got from our clients.

 

Gregg:                        One of the things that I really admire about this program, I'm talking with Kevin Condon, he's the Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America, one of the things I really admire about this program is that it really is focused on many parts of a business including not only having the businesses' relationship with Bank of America grow, but helping the business grow itself so that it grows as an entity in the market marketplace, which then of course naturally creates a growing relationship with the bank. One of the places where I think you've done that very successfully is by actually offering interest rate discounts because, as we all know, if you own a small business there are times when if you're getting a small business loan that capital is essential and you're really, as you said, you're looking at every place where a small business can have a relationship with a bank, but I would suspect that for many small business owners having an interest rate discount on a small business loan is one of the most exciting things you're offering here.

 

Kevin:                          It is, and our small business clients were excited to give us that feedback when we laid out the options before we launched our Relationship Rewards program. Clearly, as you mentioned, a loan, be it a auto loan if they're requiring an automobile to help run your business, a commercial real estate loan, or an everyday loan for a line of credit clearly that's a need that many of our small business owners have to grow their business. We want to be in the business of helping our business owners grow their business, so a discount frees up some cash flow, helps our clients invest their funds back into growing their business, and if their business grows Bank of America grow along with them, so we're more than thrilled to work with our clients to do that.

 

Gregg:                         I'm curious to know the actual process you go through to talk to small business owners about programs like this. Are there a lot of face-to-face meetings? Is a lot of it done by email or electronically, by phone? If somebody's listening and thinks, "I would love to be able to give feedback to my bank or Bank of America as well," are there ways for small business owners to give you feedback today?

 

Kevin:                         When we designed the program we did extensive in-person discussions with multiple small business clients, so we would have groups of small business clients come together and talk about what's important to them, what needs they have from their financial institution, where they feel some of those gaps had been in recognizing that full value of the relationship, and what benefits would help them bring more of their business to Bank of America. We found that those in person, face-to-face discussions were a great opportunity for us to get really deep insights on how we can better serve our clients going forward.

 

                                    In terms of ways that a current small business client could come and talk to us, we'd recommend you setup an appointment to speak to a Bank of America employee, if you go to bankofamerica.com there's an opportunity to schedule an appointment with a customer. We'll be happy to talk with either a small business specialist or a specialist in one of our financial centers, we take that feedback on a day in and day out basis and act on it to try and increase the value of the services and products, and the rewards programs that we're bringing to our customers.

 

                                    Additionally, as the program matures for Relationship Rewards over the next weeks and months we'll be gaining direct client feedback on their customer experience on everything from enrollment to how our associates explain the program, to how we could offer even more value on different benefits going forward. We'll be back in the marketplace doing those group discussions in short order.

 

Gregg:                         This program is brand-new, I think you just rolled it out a week or so ago.

 

Kevin:                          We did. We launched it on March 26th and we're very excited about the results we’ve seen in the first two weeks.

 

Gregg:                        You mentioned the word “as the program matures” and I think that's another important thing to small business owners. Just in the conversation we're having here there's a clear commitment to this program and having it evolve over time into something that increases in value and so when you describe it as maturing can you look out and see where this program might be in a year, 5 years, 10 years from now? Do you have thoughts on what the future may be for the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards Program?

 

Kevin:                         We're always looking to expand the value of our rewards programs with our clients, and so the best roadmap we have for seeing how Relationships Rewards may evolve will be looking at the rewards program we had in our consumer space. Relationship Rewards is modeled after our consumer Preferred Rewards program, which was launched a little over three years ago and in those three years we've done the same process of gaining client insights and feedback, and we've adjusted the benefits of the program during that time. We've adjusted how we've communicated, how a customer can enroll, we've adjusted how we communicate what the benefits have actually been. We've changed, in fact, some of the benefits themselves adding additional lending benefits to the consumer space. What we found is the best way to draw that roadmap is to continue to talk to our customers and clients, and so I can't tell you how the program will change in Relationship Rewards, but I can tell you it will change, and the people that will help us change it are our small business clients.

 

Gregg:                        When you encourage people to reach out and talk with someone at Bank of America about things they see that could be a benefit or an addition to the program you really mean it because that feedback is going to go right back into the R&D loop.

 

Kevin:                          Exactly. In fact, the reason we've launched Relationship Rewards was based on feedback that our small business clients, who were also consumer customers, told us. They said, "I love the fact that I have a rewards program for my consumer business. I would love it if you could bring it for my small business relationship well."

 

Gregg:                        He is Kevin Condon, he's Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. We're talking about the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, it's a new program for small business clients of Bank of America and it offers all kinds of benefits to help them grow. I guess, the last question, Kevin and it's obvious one, is if I want to become part of the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, what do I do?

 

Kevin:                         The easiest thing to do is go to bankofamerica.com and click on the small business tab and schedule an appointment to talk to one of our small business specialists or one of our financial center associates. They'll take you through the process of how to enroll, answer any questions you have, and talk to you about the core products and services that go into Relationship Rewards where you receive all those incremental benefits.

 

Gregg:                        This is, frankly, a different type of process than I might go through opening and a consumer account because, in this case, I'm speaking to someone who is a specialist in working with small businesses?

 

Kevin:                         That's right. We have several thousand small business specialists located across the country and available via phone. We want to make sure that we're putting our small business clients in the right services that best meet their needs, so we'd like to have a conversation with our small business clients to ensure that they're in the correct core product offerings before we enroll them in the Relationship Rewards program where they get those added benefits on those offerings.

 

Gregg:                        You mentioned earlier that this service grows with you as your business grows. Can you mention those tiers again and if there are fees associated with being part of the program, could you tell us about that as well?

 

Kevin:                         There are no fees associated with being enrolled in Relationship Rewards. As I mentioned, it's a three-tiered program we have Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors. Our Gold program, a customer qualifies with $20,000 of combined deposit and investment balances, if those balances increase to $50,000 the client moves to Platinum, and at $100,000 of deposit and investment balances you become eligible for the Platinum Honors program.

 

                                   You asked me about fees, Gregg, and are there any fees. In fact, the fees on your core deposit account are waived as a client who's enrolled in the program. The value of the benefits across lending, merchant services, investments, credit card, and deposits increases as you move up those tiers. For example, at the Platinum level you receive the benefit of no fees on non-Bank of America ATM transactions. There's a limit on how many of those fees are waived. When you move to Platinum Honors that a limit is waived, so the value of the benefit growth as our relationship with our client grows as well.

 

Gregg:                        It's a really interesting and clearly valuable program. I love the fact that as you move up through the tiers the value of the program itself increases and, as you said, there's no fee to be part of the program and in fact, in a way, you're actually saving on fees. He is Kevin Condon, he's Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. We've been talking about the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program. Kevin, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Kevin:                         Thank you for having me.

 

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

By the time he was in his mid-50s, Ray was a mediocre, unhappy, traveling milkshake mixer salesman.

 

And then it happened.

 

The fateful day that changed everything. His life. Your life. And mine.

 

On that day, Ray called upon a new client – a restaurant in Southern California. It was there that Ray discovered a radical new way of running the business. So amazed was he, so enamored, that Ray committed himself 100 percent to working with and for the brothers who owned the place. Before long, they gave in to Ray’s enthusiasm and cajoling and hired him.

 

Within 10 years, Ray Kroc’s vision for what the McDonald brothers had created begat a behemoth, and he had invented the system of franchising along the way. New franchisees were taught the McDonald’s way, allowed to use its name, brand, recipes, and systems, and (for a fee of course) were able to open their own McDonald’s.

 

So yes, franchising is a remarkable way to join something bigger than oneself, but it doesn’t come without risks. Indeed, there are both pros and cons to buying a franchise.

 

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Maybe the best part of buying a franchise is that you are buying into a proven system. Here is how it works: Somewhere, some business owners created a successful business they thought could be duplicated, systematized and taught. The owners reduced their success to a step-by-step plan, and that plan – the system – as well as their business model and brand and “secret sauce” is sold to would-be entrepreneurs.

 

That is the essence of a franchise.

 

The idea is that if the franchisees do what the owners did, they will get the results that the owners got. A good franchise then is a systematic way of doing business whereby you agree to do things the franchisor’s way and are being allowed to use their business name, logo, system, and so on.

 

So, the first benefit of franchising is that you theoretically reduce your risk of failing as you are buying a proven business success system.

 

The second good thing about buying a franchise is that you should get plenty of help. Ray Kroc put it best: As a franchisee, you might be in business for yourself, but you are not in business by yourself. Whereas when you start a business from scratch you are on your own, when you start a franchise, the franchisor and other franchisees are there to help you succeed.

 

The franchisor in particular will offer expertise in a wide variety of areas: marketing, accounting, finances, labor, etc. A good franchise system therefore should train you to be a successful businessperson.

 

The last benefit of franchising is that you will get assistance with your advertising and marketing, and with the bigger franchise systems, you will get the benefit of their national advertising campaign.

 

Cons

 

While the benefits of buying a franchise are significant, the downsides must be considered too.

 

The first is that it can be expensive to buy a franchise. When you are buying a franchise, you are buying the franchisor’s name, logo, goodwill, expertise, system and training. That can be worth a lot, especially for a well-known franchise. This is not to say that all franchises are expensive, there are many that are quite reasonable, but just know that if you want to buy a name-brand franchise, you will pay for that right.

 

How much? Here are a few examples:

 

  • Want to buy a Taco Bell? Startup costs, including construction expenses, range between $1.2 million and $2.6 million for a new restaurant, according to the company's franchisee disclosure document. The franchise fee alone (the fee for buying in), is $45,000.
  • Conversely, a small home-based franchise system might have a $2,500 franchise fee and total costs of $10,000.

 

The second issue is that you will have less independence as a franchisee than you would as a regular entrepreneur. The system is the system, and you will agree in your franchise contract to run your business according to the system. Because the franchisor trusts you with its brand and goodwill, you will need to do things their way.

 

The final downside, and this is important, is that in relation to your franchisor, you will be in a position of relative weakness. The franchise contract, for example, is drafted by the franchisor’s attorney to favor them. The franchisor will know more about the business than you, and likely will be better financed than you.

 

Not insignificant, any of this.

 

The important thing to understand in this regard is that not all franchisors are created equal; some are great to work with while you should run in the other direction from others. How do you know the difference?

 

  • Speak with other franchisees to learn of their experience
  • Use Google
  • Research potential lawsuits that the franchisor has been involved in

 

All in all, if you do your homework and find a good franchisor to team-up with this, you should find that franchising can be a really great way to get started in business.

 

Related Content:

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America

8 Steps Toward Starting a New Business

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Buying a Business 

How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

Did you know that “Get to Know Your Customers Day” is observed on the third Thursday of each quarter (January, April, July, October)? You may not, because there are some 1,500 “days” nationally, but if you own or run a small business, this one is worth a second look.

 

We all know customers are the lifeblood of our business but we may not always act that way. Between dealing with the staff, marketing, returning emails, and doing projects, “customer service” can sometimes be an oxymoron.

 

But it shouldn’t be, especially in the Amazon age we live in. 42131715_s.jpg

 

One of the hallmarks of a small business is that we take care of our customers. We have – or should have – the personal touch. But that can get lost these days, not only in the hustle and bustle of life, but in the digital avalanche of today’s world. And yet, at a time when people can shop online and get their products quickly and for less money, the need to offer great service is more important than ever.

 

Indeed, why shop with you if shopping online is cheaper and you aren’t excelling at customer service?

 

Related Content: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

 

Yes, excelling. Fine is not good enough anymore.

 

That is where “Get to Know Your Customers Day” comes in. The idea, obviously, is by getting to know your customers better, you can better serve them and the more connected they will be to your business. That last point needs to be underscored. People do business with, and shop at, stores and people whom they like. The more they feel an emotional connection to your business – because they know you and know that you appreciate them – the less likely they are to be lured away by that Amazon Prime deal of the day.

 

Given all of this, not only is the idea behind Get To Know Your Customer Day valid, it is a value proposition that should be adopted and implemented across the board.

 

Get to Know Your Customers. Period.

 

Here are a few ways to do just that:

 

Use their name: One of the best pieces of business advice I ever got was when someone told me, “People love their name.” And it’s true. If you use their name they perk up, and if you forget it, they perk down. If you have a retail shop it would really behoove you to learn the names of your regulars.

 

Take time: I know you’re busy. Very busy. That’s the way it goes these days. Even so, taking the time to meet and speak with your customers can go a long way to cementing your relationship with them.

 

In my world, most of the people who hire me do not live in the city where I live. Like you maybe, a lot of my work is done remotely and via email. And that is why I make a concerted effort to go meet them in person. Taking the time to get to know my customers makes for a much more solid, satisfying, and mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Check in: Aside from the meet-and-greet, there are lots of ways to easily and quickly be more customer-centric. Shoot them an email checking in. Or send an email after a purchase to see if they were happy with it. Forward on a newsletter you think may be of interest. Text them hello.

 

Give thanks: Sending a gift card or discount coupon to your store would be quite welcome. What about offering them a loyalty program for “best customers only?” Or consider this radical idea:

 

     Related Content: How to Start a Loyalty Program Before the Holidays

 

Write them a thank you note.

 

     Related Content: Thinking Beyond the 10%-off Coupon: Five better ways to thank your customers

 

The idea behind a thank you note is the same behind Get to Know Your Customers Day: In an era where things increasingly are digital and impersonal, going analogue can be a game changer.

 

     Read Next:  How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out by Rieva Lesonsky

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

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

 

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The Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Community is dedicated to empowering small business owners with the expertise and tools they need to thrive. The newest addition to our resources is a new podcast series, brought to you by Bank of America and ForbesBooks.

 

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 monthly on the Small Community. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

Sharon Miller (intro):  We are consultants. We are advisors. We're providing advice and guidance. We serve 3.1 million small business customers. There are 29 million small business owners in the United States, so we do see clients coast to coast. We can offer insights, which is why what we do is so important to the local economies because, when our small business owners are winning, so are our communities, and you can feel it as you go into these local markets.

 

Narrator:                     Welcome to the Heartbeat of Main Street with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

Kate Delaney:              Always a pleasure to have Sharon Miller on the show, Bank of America Head of Small Business. She's a managing director, so we have some great news here at ForbesBooks. We're very excited to be launching this radio and podcast partnership with you and Bank of America's small business. Sharon, what are the goals for these radio interviews, the podcast, and for all the people that have been listening?

 

Sharon:                        Well, Kate and Greg, first of all, thank you so much. This is an exciting partnership for us here at Bank of America, in particular small business. I hope that we can provide a forum for small business owners to have access to content about the economy, what's happening in the business world, trends, what are we seeing across the country because, as we know, small business is a very local business. What's happening in one community may be different than another community in a different area, so every small business is unique, and geography plays a big part of it or type of industry. We'll discuss all of that together. To me, it's just a very, very exciting topic.

 

Gregg Stebben:           I'm glad you brought up so early in this discussion the idea of local businesses and how sometimes they're dealing with different things, and sometimes they're dealing with similar things. You must travel around the country a lot and talk to business owners around the country a lot in every corner of the country, and what kind of things do you hear them talking about today in 2018 that has you excited and that has them excited?

 

Sharon:                        We continue to hear from our small business owners that they're optimistic about the future. We take surveys twice a year at Bank of America to understand how our clients are feeling around their business prospects, so do they think their revenues will grow or are they coming down? Do they feel they're going to expand their business or are they going to let go?  

 

               Related Content: Spring 2018 Small Business Owner Report

 

                                    All of these different items that small business owners contemplate over the course of a day, a week, a month, we ask them about that, so we continue to hear optimism in the air for our small business owners, and we just had the recent tax reforms pass. We know that there are some considerations for small business owners, and those are some of the things that they're talking about. How will I hire more employees? How can I get qualified employees? There's a war for talent out there, and small business owners are competing at every level, so that's something that I continue to hear.

 

                                    The other thing is around technology and online and mobile and how do they make sure that they have the latest content, information, and access to information so that they can provide information for their customers but, more importantly, how do they use that to run their business and to gain efficiency. These are all the conversations that I'm having, no matter where I'm sitting, if it's in San Francisco, California or Tampa, Florida. These are similarities, and you do feel the optimism in the air.

 

Gregg:                         It's so interesting, Sharon, to hear you talk about, first of all, from where you're sitting as Bank of America Head of Small Business, and we're talking with Sharon Miller from Bank of America. It's so interesting to hear from where you're sitting you bringing up tech and mobile, in particular. First of all, I mean, we all know that the world is going to mobile, and it's going very fast.

 

                                    Yet, as you were describing those conversations with small business people around the country, I realized that the more data is accessible to a small business person, especially the financial information, which is exactly where Bank of America and Bank of America small business comes into play. The more small business owners have access to that information, the better they are able to do all the things that make their business a success. Can you kind of walk us through the journey of Bank of America when it's come to having mobile access for their customers to their financial information?

 

Sharon Miller:             You think about five years ago where we were building as a company access for clients to get on their computer, just online to go to bill pay, to go to online banking because people were sitting in front of their computer. Today, we think about mobile first, so it's still for the mobile because everyone has mobile in the palm of their hands, and this is how people prefer to bank today, so that's the consumer industry in general. I think about myself as a banker, but I also bank with Bank of America. I want to make sure that I have access to that and I don't have to be at home sitting in front of my computer.

 

                                    I can just have my phone with me, log in, get on, understand what I have in my account, move money, pay bills and, now, we've launched Erica for our consumer clients and coming for small business, it’s a virtual assistant. Just like with your Amazon Alexa where you can ask, "What's the weather?" "What date is whatever event they're looking for?" You can find all this accessed information.

 

                                    We now have Erica, which is a clever way of shortening Bank of America, so we just took the 'Bank of A" out and it's Erica, so it's, "Erica, pay my bill," "How am I doing on my budget?", "Should I invest money?" All this is going to be available for small business clients, as well, so this is on your mobile phone. I think that's the difference is, today, it's mobile first. We do build for online and to be able to be in front of your computer, but the world is becoming increasingly tightly knit, global. We're all there together, so I think that mobile is the way we've got to position going forward, and that's what our consumers are asking for.

 

Kate:                            Yeah, Sharon, you nailed it with this Erica. I'm sure people that are listening are now super drawn to this. Tell us a little bit more about that. I can imagine you probably had a think tank or you were flushing it out, or how did that all come about to get ahead of the curve?

 

Sharon:                        Artificial intelligence, it's gaining insights to behavior and being in front of our customers and giving them what they need, but they may not even know what they need. We're trying to anticipate their needs and trying to understand, you're spending a thousand dollars more each month than you make. Maybe we need to talk to a financial advisor about a budget. All of these things that we can understand of our customers' behavior because we understand what's happening in their account, and we want to help them. We want to be their financial partner and say, "Look, maybe it's time to get a checkup for ... You have two children. We can see, and you probably need to start a 529 plan for them." All these insights from a virtual assistant in the palm of your hand, it's incredible. I would've never guessed we'd have something like this available. It's the first of its kind in the industry and, quite frankly, it's what our customers want.

 

                                    Today, this is what millennials are expecting. They want to wake up and say, "What's the weather?", all these things. My son has one of those Dots sitting on his bedside table. "What time is it?" "What's the weather?" "Is it going to rain today?" You can find this out just by talking. That's the same concept that we used for Erica.

 

Gregg:                         If I wasn't talking to you now, Sharon, I would be Googling Bank of America, Erica, to find out more about it. Can you tell us what stage it's in? Are there some who can see it today? Is it in beta or when we can expect to see it if it's not available?

 

Sharon:                        No, we had it available for all employees, and our employees were testing it. I was part of that test group so I, of course, kept getting every time I'd log into my mobile banking, I'd get this flag, and it'd say, "Do you want to use me?", Erica. Now, all of our customers are gaining access to this, so it's there for them. You just click on, "Hi, I'm Erica," and then it'll start interacting with you, so it's available for our customers.

 

                                    It's something that, if you haven't checked it out already, it is so cool and just the most innovative thing that I think we've done when it comes to the artificial intelligence, launching it for our employees. It gets smarter as you use it. That's what artificial intelligence does. It can understand your behaviors as you're interacting so that it can anticipate your needs.

 

Kate:                            You can tell Gregg and I are just enthralled by this. This is amazing to hear about Erica, but one of the things that you also said is, you talked about the war for talent. That is real, that is big, and that's a problem that you know you're trying to solve and help people with, right?

 

Sharon:                        Absolutely. We hear this all the time that business owners, they want to expand. They want to replace, because you're going to have attrition. Even if you're not increasing the number of people you have in your company, someone's going to leave. They're going to go to a competitor. They're going to decide to go back to school. They're just going to do something else and make another choice, or maybe you have problems with that employee. You're going to have to replace. If you have ten employees, two leave in a year, you're still going to have to hire two people just to keep it ten.

 

                                    In our business owner reports, what we hear from small business owners are that they're either going to maintain their existing staffing levels or they're going to increase it. With that being said, it would be unheard of for every small business to have no turnover, so we know we've got to hire. What we're doing is working with our Merrill Lynch partners to make sure we have our financial advisors out there that can help small business owners set up retirement plans, set up benefits because this would attract employees. It might differentiate a small business from another just because I have access to a 401K and the competitor down the street doesn't. People care about that today. Employees, it matters.

 

                                    We want to work with small business owners, get them connected to the very best thinking on Wall Street around setting up retirement plans, setting up benefits. All these different considerations are really important in today's economy, and that's how we partner with our small business owners.

 

Kate:                            Sharon, I think you have one of the coolest jobs in the world, and I'm really curious what the path or journey is in the business that brought you to where you are today as the Head of Small Business at the Bank of America.

 

Sharon:                        I started my career with Bank of America 22 years ago as a financial advisor and have always served clients, whether it be helping them plan for retirement, maybe they're opening a small business, or they are sending a child to college. All of those issues and just life events happen to clients, so I've served clients my entire career. In my book of business, I did have business owners, many corporate clients, some small business owners, professionals, executives. That is how I started my career. I did go into management probably ten years ago, and I've moved to different areas of the country. This led me to where I am today.

 

                                    Two years ago, I was asked to take over as the Head of Small Business when my predecessor retired, and at first I thought, "Wow! I'm not sure because I've never directly served just small business because my background has been more on the investment side and wealth management. As I got into this role, I realized that everything I had done up to this point prepared me for this because small business owners, they have the same issues. They have the same worries and concerns that every other person when you think about professionals.

 

                                    They're human beings. They're people. They are worried about, "What about my home. What about my family? How am I going to take care of my health? How am I going to pay my employees?" All these items, these are just issues that small business owners have every single day, and that's what we're here to do. We're here to partner with them to solve those items and to help them make their vision a reality.

 

                                    It is an exciting area. It's an exciting business, and I get so energized and just proud when I sit down with our small business owners and I realize that, because of our partnership, we have been able to help them realize their goals, whether it's expanding their business or it's opening a new practice, all these things. These are ways we help at Bank of America.

 

Gregg:                         You know what's interesting to me, Sharon, in what you just said is, you used the word “partner” and “partnership” a few times. Of course, that was really what you were doing in your early days as a financial advisor and wealth advisor, and it's what you continue to do today, but I think when you're a small business owner, knowing that your bank considers you to be a partner with them and having a partnership and, frankly, one of the most essential parts of a business, which is the financial part of a business because it touches everything else.

 

                                    You must find that, when you and your team sit down and talk with your small business clients that they are so thrilled to have access to you and the value of the things you're learning as a team from dealing with businesses all across the country. You must just have story after story after story of where you can share with business owners things you've all learned as a team because you're dealing with so many business owners that you're, in a sense, almost serving like consultants who can help them when they really need the help the most.

 

Sharon:                        That's right. I mean, that's exactly how I view our role. We are consultants. We are advisors. We're providing advice and guidance, and not just for their small business, but their personal, as well. As a small business owner, they're wearing so many hats, so they're the CEO of their business, they're the CFO. They could be the janitor if they need to be. They're serving every role. I mean, whatever it is that needs to be done, they're going to get done, and they put their heart and soul into their business. To me, that's where we come in and say, “You know what? We serve 3.1 million small business customers across the United States. There are 29 small business owners in the United States generally.

 

                                    At Bank of America, we're serving 3.1 million of them,” so we do see clients from coast to coast. We can offer insights and, sometimes, that is, "You know what? You may need to adjust the way you're doing X,Y,Z, this or that, so that we can get you access to more capital," or, "Maybe it's not a good idea to expand today. You need to get these things in order first." All these conversations are what our bankers are having across the country every single day across the desk, which is why what we do is so important to the local economies because, when our small business owners are winning, so are our communities, and you can feel it as you go into these local markets.

 

Kate:                            Perfect segue into this next question. Sharon, you're a mommy of a couple of kids, and you're the Head of Small Business for Bank of America, big job. I've talked to a lot of women about this, is work/life balance. Is there such a thing?

 

Sharon:                        I don't think so. I mean, really, it's ... I feel it every day. You strive to have that balance and, sometimes, you're more tilted toward your home and your family and your children because you know when you've got to be there. You might have to miss a meeting flying to travel somewhere. I mean, I've had that happen before where I've had to go to my boss and say, "You know what? My daughter has a play. I just can't travel this date because, in ten years, no one's going to remember if I was at that meeting, but my daughter's going to remember." That's the reality.

 

                                    You can't make everyone happy a hundred percent of the time. You just have to be true to yourself, and no one is perfect every single day, and that's what we strive to do, to be better and better every single day and be there and provide as much balance and focus and be the best self you can be because when you're doing that, you'll be able to give to others.

 

Gregg:                         We're talking with Sharon Miller. She's the Head of Small Business at Bank of America. Sharon, you mentioned, I think you said your son has an Amazon Dot on his nightstand.

 

Sharon:                        Echo or whatever he got.

 

Gregg:                         If we could be that Amazon Dot or that Amazon Echo and we could hear the kinds of conversations you have with your kids about money, I'm really curious about how that works in your house because you spend your whole day helping people understand the power of money, and then you go home, and how do you translate the lessons from what you've learned and seen at work into lessons for your own family?

 

Sharon:                        That's such a great question. I have two kids. My son is 11. My daughter is 9, and my daughter, Lauren, she saves every penny she's ever had. She won't spend anything, and she's just very different. My son, 11, if he's got $40 in his side drawer, he wants to go spend that today. It's just so interesting to talk to both of them about the value of money and to say, "You know, Ryan, you've got to save. You've got to put some aside. Just because you got your allowance doesn't mean you have to just go buy something because you want it. You need to save and put money aside," whereas my daughter, she won't buy anything. It's so interesting. Kids are kids, right?

 

                                    You just have to have those different conversations and teach them different lessons, but the reality is, we have to instill in our kids a sense of value to money. You just don't have these things. They just don't appear. You have to work. You have to focus and save and, sometimes, you can't get what you want today just because you want it. You need to put some money aside, so those are all the life lessons and just general conversations that I'm having with my kids. Again, just like work/life balance, some days are better than others, and that's with kids. We just try to instill the right values so they can make the right choices as they grow up to become young adults.

 

Kate:                            Do you talk to them about entrepreneurship because, especially their age group, I think you're going to see more and more of that.

 

Sharon:                        Absolutely. I have in my front yard on Saturdays, many times my daughter has some friends over and they'll do art work, and they'll put it in the front yard. In fact, my neighborhood has this stand to sell lemonade. They're going to the neighbors, knocking on the door, "Do you want this painting?" They're putting it on canvas. They're selling it. You know what's so amazing, and I just think this is just such the world that our children are growing up in, which is so good, they come in.

 

                                    In fact, last weekend, they came in. They had made $38, and it was three girls, and they had been selling cookies and lemonade and some paintings in the front yard. Of course, I probably paid ten of that just walking by, and then maybe their grandfather gave them another five and then the two neighbors, but either way, they raised it and they put it in an envelope and they said, "This is for the Humane Society. We want to go down and give that to them," which is just wow!

 

                                    That just makes you smile and say, "That is amazing!" They're giving back and just the way they're thinking, that just makes you proud as a mother and, just as a human being, it's so nice to watch children and how they're so involved, but entrepreneurism, yes. They can do anything. That's what I always tell my kids, "You can do anything you want to do. If you put your mind to it, you work hard, and you dedicate yourself to it, you can do anything, so you need to follow your passion and follow your dream."

 

Kate:                            Perfect place to end this. Sharon Miller, Bank of America Head of Small Business. This is why I love these conversations.

 

Greg:                           I want Sharon to be my mom!

 

Kate:                            I know! Me, too!

 

Sharon:                        Tell that to my kids. Tell that to my kids.

 

Gregg:                         Kate and I do not roll our eyes.

 

Sharon:                        Exactly! That's what I was thinking. I got the eye roll this morning. Again, some days are better than others.

 

Kate:                            I love it! Sharon, thank you so much.

 

Sharon:                        This is great. I appreciate it, and this is going to be really, really ... I think it's going to be a great partnership.

 

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

 

Check out episodes of the Bank of America Small Business podcast.

As a small business owner, there are likely a lot of people, institutions and groups that target your business as a potential sponsor of their group or event. Whether it is a local youth sports league or a concert in the park, groups target small businesses because we have 1) a built-in audience, and 2) the perceived financial wherewithal to help underwrite the event.

 

But even though they want you, the question is, do you want them?

 

The answer should probably be yes, for six very good reasons:

 

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1. It creates goodwill: Goodwill is one of those things in business that is important, vital even, but a little amorphous. Essentially, it is the reputation your business has in the community generally, and among your customers specifically.

 

The value of sponsoring an event is that it boosts the status of your business. Not only do people like and appreciate event sponsors, but additionally, they think more highly of a business that can sponsor an event. Additionally, tying your business to an event will co-brand your business with that event.

 

The upshot is that your business reputation should increase by sponsoring an event.

 

2. Event sponsorship can lead directly to sales: A recent survey by the Event Marketing Institute found that 74 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after they were exposed to the business from a branded marketing event.

 

And here is anecdotal evidence: When I first moved to where I live now, I went to an event. One of the sponsors had a food truck there. Mmmm, delicious! We are still eating at their restaurant 15 years later.

 

3. Increased visibility is always good: 99 percent of all businesses are small businesses, but then again, you don’t need to be told you have a lot of competition; you know you do. An additional benefit of sponsoring an event is that it helps you get noticed. And especially in these days of Short Attention Span Theatre, getting noticed is more important yet tougher than ever.

 

Sponsorship can be the answer.

 

There are a lot of people who never heard of your business. But they will if you sponsor an event, and even better – if their first exposure to your business is because you are a sponsor of an event, that impression will likely be a positive one.

 

4. It can help you hit your target market: One of the important things when deciding whether to help sponsor an event is determining if the event caters to your intended demographic. If it does, if you choose wisely, then your sponsorship puts your business directly in the sightline – literally – of your target market, and how great is that?

 

5. Sponsorship can be a great lead generation tool: Sponsoring events should consist of more than just plastering your name on a program. A good sponsorship package should include some sort of lead generation mechanism. It could be

  • An email opt-in form
  • A business card collection system
  • A networking event

 

Whatever the case, sponsorship can and should lead to warm leads.

 

6. Sponsorship can also generate partnership opportunities: By being out there in the community, by being more visible, and by co-branding with the event, you are not only exposing your business to more potential customers, but equally, you are more visible to other businesses and professionals. Who knows what opportunities may come from that? Likely some very good ones.

 

The bottom line is that sponsoring an event doesn’t cost, it pays.

 

Read Next:

Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event by Dhani Jones

How to Host a Successful Event for Your Small Business by Steve Strauss

How Event Sponsorship Can Benefit Your Small Business

How to Be More Effective at a Networking Event

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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.

 

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