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According to the LinkedIn 2019 business survey, the No. 1 “soft skill” business owners say they want is “creativity.” While this might be true in a survey, it becomes a little more complicated to consider and execute in the real world.

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First, not every business wants or needs creativity. (Franchises are technically about the absence of creativity, in some ways. Do what this book says to the letter.)

 

Second, there’s a vast distance between “wanting” creativity to flow at a company versus knowing how to guide and encourage the process while protecting customers and the business from any unintended fallout.

 

How to Encourage Creativity

 

Set Parameters - The first important detail to point out about creativity is that it’s a condiment, not a meal. It is vital to be clear whereyou want a team to be creative, and within which parts of the process. If you run a bakery, there might be a “lab” part of the business where once a week (or month), you open the kitchen during non-production hours and encourage some recipe exploration. But you would clearly separate that kind of activity from the production tasks required every day.

 

The parameters around creativity might include the following:

 

    • Which areas of the business are flexible for creativity
    • What types of problems creative actions are meant to influence or solve
    • What is off limits (putting up “guard rails” is a vital part of helping people stay creatively safe while protecting your business)
    • What expenses are considered reasonable to the process
    • How to operate the primary business separately from the creative process so nothing accidentally spills over

 

It’s strange to think of parameters as being the first part of building out a creative practice, but it’s also the part most people feel anxiety around. Eliminating potential to harm the business, the customers, or the creative process is very helpful.

 

Build A Healthy Creative Environment - Even if you simply want occasional brainstorming, it’s important that as a business owner, you set up simple ground rules for the creative process. Creative people have two types of mindsets when they’re coming up with ideas: one, being really innovative and free to dream, or two, being defensive and fighting off criticisms. With that in mind, here are a few tips to building a healthy creative environment:

 

    • With parameters in place, state clearly that the process is meant to be positive, and that you’ll limit any use of negative words like no/not/can’t/won’t/never and so on. (Keep reading.)
    • Adopt a “Yes, and” policy. When an idea won’t work, don’t interrupt the creative flow to say that. Instead, say “What else do you have?” or “Great. Give me three more ideas.”
    • Have physical space for creativity, including whiteboards, sketchbooks, colorful markers and other materials. Give people the physical tools to explore beyond just words in their head.
    • Share creativity and innovation videos from YouTube like TED talks on design or Disney Imagineer materials. Some people are secretly creative or latent innovators but simply need the right stimulus to get their plans in action.
    • Help your creative people break walls. If you run a car dealership, talk about “What if we sold subscriptions to cars? What would have to change? What if we sold scooters?” And so on. Sometimes, giving people a very different perspective on the business will yield completely new ideas and directions.

 

As a business owner, your role is to keep the operations running, but also nurture a space for new ideas. It’s very challenging to lead people through creative processes. Your role adapts to having to learn how to guide a very fragile experience. Creativity is less hammer and nails and more like dovetailing wooden joints.

 

Reward Creativity (and Failure) - It’s vital that people see their ideas yield future satisfying uses. When you think an idea might be worth a try within your company, celebrate that. It would also empower your people to work more creatively if you celebrated failures. Sometimes, even though an idea fails or can’t be implemented, a key learning can be taken from the experience. Be sure to celebrate and reward both experiences.

 

    • While people appreciate monetary rewards, be sure that praise and credit go to your creative types. Humans love to feel necessary and wanted.
    • Celebrate failures because if people see there’s not a huge penalty for getting an idea wrong, they’ll be willing to share even more ideas. Innovation is almost always hiding inside a crazy idea, not a safe one.
    • Be sure to keep the cycle of creativity flowing so a reward of being part of the process is that it becomes a facet of an employee’s role. Think of the retention implications of someone saying, “Yes, I install ventilation systems for this HVAC company plus I get to design better internal wiring as part of my job.” That invitation to innovation might hold someone’s interest more than the simple execution of repetitive tasks.
    • Offer some kind of annual creativity-based prize. Be loud about it. Make sure there are videos and an event and lots of internal coverage of the experience. We all love hanging our foil-starred homework on the fridge.
    • Consider adding a failure-based prize to the same experience, but one where you talk loudly about the positive lessons learned from such experiences.

 

Creativity Isn’t Operations. It’s WHY There are Operations

 

In any business, there are people who come up with ideas and people who implement and execute those ideas. It’s the same in most industries. To be the kind of company that has creative ideas and who gets ahead of the competition means making some shifts in how you lead and manage.

 

Creativity is a leadership-heavy activity, not a management-centric one. You have to learn how to collaborate, how to welcome diverse opinions, how to honor different backgrounds and methods and mindsets.

 

Before anything can be “the way we’ve always done it,” someone had to come up with that way. Creativity is the little green buds poking through the soil that eventually yield mighty trees. They require nurturing but what you get will be worth it for sure.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

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

 

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

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

 

SBC Team

Celebrating Small Business

Posted by SBC Team Apr 17, 2019

Better relationships. Better Business. We’re celebrating Small Business Month.

During Small Business Month, we’re focused on helping you make more meaningful connections with your customers and your community. That’s why we’ve pulled together some of our best articles and interviews with fellow entrepreneurs about social media strategy and other topics to help your business. Be sure to check back on this page throughout the month as we add new ideas to improve sales, generate loyalty and build a strong community connection.

Glaze Fire Interview The Appalachian Comeback Story The 5 Strategies for Improving Cash Flow Management Hot Skwash Interview How One Social Enterprise Transformed a Community Small Business Owners Optimistic About Future How to Increase Authentic Business Reviews on Facebook Steve Strauss interviews the CEO of Warschawski, the U.S. Small Agency of the Year Small Business Profile: Scott Snyder Law The Small Business Owner's Guide to Social Media How to Boost Positive Online Reviews for Your Business Post Some Love Small Business Podcast: Pollen Facebook Privacy: What Small Business Owners Need to Know Spring 2018 Small Business Owner Report 9 Ways to Discover What Your Customers Really Think of Your Business The Digital Resources Small Businesses Should Use Now to Grow 7 Questions to Ask Your Customers Immediately How Good Is Your Customer Service? 7 Ways to Boost Engagement from Your Social Media Posts Schedule an Appointment

Do you think it’s impossible for a small retailer to compete against e-commerce giants? It can be tempting to imagine the worst when almost half (49 percent) of all online purchases in the U.S. are made on Amazon, according to a recent survey, and 83 percent of consumers have bought something on Amazon in the past six months.

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Fear not! There’s still opportunity for independent brick-and-mortar retailers to fight Goliath. Here’s how you can battle the giants and come out on top.

 

Make shopping simple. Convenience is the primary reason 28 percent of shoppers use Amazon. While you can’t compete with bigger retailers on price, you cancompete on convenience. For example:

 

  • Streamline the payment process. Offer a range of payment options, including mobile wallets, so customers can pay in the way they prefer.
  • Shorten wait times. Almost half of consumers alwaysvisit a physical store when they need a product fast. To make it snappy, use mobile devices to process transactions from anywhere in the store.
  • Simplify returns. Clearly state your return policy and train all your employees on how to accept returns so the process goes quickly.
  • Offer click-and-collect. If you have an e-commerce website as well as a store, give customers the option to pick up online orders in the store so they can get them quickly.

 

Provide a personal touch. E-commerce retailers offer personalization via automated emails and recommended purchases delivered by artificial intelligence algorithms. Your store can offer that and much more. Here’s how:

 

  • Use retail loyalty software to gather detailed data about loyalty program members, and marketing automation to deliver timely messages, special offers and shopping suggestions.
  • Share customer data with your salespeople so they can make personalized suggestions or alert shoppers when a particular product is available. Some 79 percentof shoppers say personalized service affects where they buy.
  • Hire employees who genuinely like people and provide training that empowers them to help your customers.
  • Educate your employees about your products so they can explain options, offer suggestions and help customers make decisions.
  • Equip your team with tools they can use to provide a better customer experience, such as inventory management software to show shoppers what’s available.

 

Claim your place in the community. Your physical presence in the community is a key differentiator. Here are some ways to play it up:

 

  • Emphasize your independent spirit. Tell your story in your marketing materials. Why did you start your store? Why are you so passionate about what you sell? What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
  • Encourage customers to shop local. Almost 90 percent of consumers say independent businesses strengthen local economies. Remind customers that supporting your store also means supporting the community through sales taxes and employment. If your community doesn’t have a Shop Local organization, start one.
  • Get involved in your community. Give back by volunteering for local charities and participating in community organizations. Sponsor a local sports team. When people see you care, they’re more likely to buy from you.
  • Create community at your store. Hold in-store events such as book signings, musical performances, or classes for customers. Use social media to build bonds with your real-life community online. 

 

Enable discovery and delight. Online shopping can’t match the element of discovery that retail stores offer. Try these tips to delight your customers: 

 

  • Curate your merchandise. Instead of the endless options giant ecommerce sites offer, streamline your selection so customers can choose from the very best.
  • Appeal to the senses. Use sight, sound, smell, and touch to make your store a place where customers enjoy spending time.
  • Keep ’em coming back. Change your store inventory and displays regularly so there’s always something new to discover and shoppers will return more often.
  • Be unique. Almost 40 percent of Amazon shoppers say they’d go elsewhere if a retailer carried unique products.

 

Nearly 86 percent of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar locations. Follow these tips, and hopefully, your store will be one of them.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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Staying zen in the early days of a small business startup can be tough. Steve McGrath, owner of YogaSource, knows first-hand the tools required for successful organic growth. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” stretch your mind and learn tips every small business should know when expanding.

 

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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.

 

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.comand Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. Here's your host, Steve Strauss.

 

Steve Strauss:           Today we're speaking with Steve McGrath, owner of YogaSourcein Los Gatos, California. YogaSource is the largest and most-awarded yoga studio in Silicon Valley. Independently owned since 2002, the studio offers 130 weekly yoga, Pilates, and revolution cycle classes with world-class teachers.

 

                                  Steve, great to have you with us.

 

Steve McGrath:         Thanks very much. Great to be here.

 

Steve Strauss:           So, let's start at the beginning. Why don't you tell us a little bit about YogaSource?

 

Steve McGrath:         My wife, Linda, opened the studio in March 2002, and thankfully we met through yoga shortly after that. I became involved in the business pretty much that way, really supporting her dream and her entrepreneurial drive. I manage a lot of the day-to-day maintenance of the studio, the development of the business, the marketing, and a lot of the things that are often not quite so easy to manage, which is the customer service elements of the business, and of course the maintenance and literally keeping the business running.

 

Steve Strauss:           Tell me a little bit about the early days of YogaSource. How did you grow it? How did Linda grow it when she started, because the start-up phase is always challenging for people.

 

Steve McGrath:         She opened the studio as a young 24-year-old. Went out and got an SBA loanand started from scratch. I came along about six or eight months later and was immediately involved in the studio. We sat in a very small space. We had 800 square foot practice space. We could fit 28 people maximum, literally kind of mat to mat.

 

                                   Like any small business, we grew organically. Small classes became medium size, and we got 10, 12 people. Then a few months later we had 15, 20 people. And eventually after a couple of years, the classes were packed, and we added more classes. We added more styles of yoga, and then of course expanded into the larger and larger spaces over time and moved the business into a bigger location.

 

                                  Despite our size now, we're still looking for opportunities to grow. We're about to open a second location in Morgan Hill, thanks in large part to the support of Bank of America and the SBA.

 

Steve Strauss:           Nice.

 

Steve McGrath:         Yeah, you know it's sort of that classic organic growth story. We don't take credit for all of it, of course. It always frustrates me when you hear business people describe themselves as geniuses when they've taken advantage of what sort of market offers.

 

Steve Strauss:           One of the things I love about what you're doing is you do something that I suggest to small business owners often, and that is to create multiple profit centers. Mainly you have one way of making money in your business, but what great businesses do is they create a second and a third way so that when one part of your business is down, the other is up, and vice versa.

 

                                  It seems to me that's what you've done at YogaSource. You started with yoga. Now you have Pilates. You had one location. Now you're going to have one in Palo Alto and one in Los Gatos, so you are definitely creating multiple profit centers. Has that been a conscious decision on your part?

 

Steve McGrath:         Yeah, it has, and actually there's even more elements to it within that matrix of the business. If you look at our business, in the early days we had that very small location. When we were considering moving to a larger location, we wanted to look and say, "What are the aspects of this experience that we're delivering at this small location that we can take and we can move across to the larger space?"

 

                                   And one of the things we had a few lines of clothing that we were custom making for ... you know, t-shirts and yoga pants. We thought, maybe if we included a bit of retail, we could really benefit from that, and so we built retail into our model into our next location, our second step, as it were in expansion. And what retail allowed us to do was it allowed us to differentiate from all the other yoga studios around because back in 2005 when we expanded, most yoga studios were a case where you sort of roll up to the door of the studio and your instructor comes huffing and puffing around the corner on their bike and says, "Sorry, guys. Sorry, guys. I'm late. Let me just open the doors for you."

 

Steve Strauss:            Right.

 

Steve McGrath:          And it's not a great experience. Where we are in Los Gatos, there's a very high expectation of a very high quality service, and so we said, "well, we need to keep the doors open all the time—we need to have staff on location all the time." And one way to pay for that is by having a retail store, so a retail component to the business where the profitability of the retail can help the business, but it also can pay for those employees who are at the front desk selling, and they happen to be always there to check into classes.

 

                                  So we immediately approached Lululemon, which is one of the ... at the time was the brand in yoga apparel.

 

Steve Strauss:          Sure.

 

Steve McGrath:         And asked to be a distributor, and we are now their largest distribution partner worldwide.

 

Steve Strauss:           Wow.

 

Steve McGrath:         They partner with yoga studios and gyms with a very limited line of clothing, and we currently are their largest partner worldwide to sell their basic black yoga pants. So it's been very successful for us.

 

                                   We've also developed other revenue opportunities. We have a very well-developed retreat program where we take people to exotic destinations like Tulum near Cancun. We go to Bali. Linda takes a yoga and art retreat to Paris. This year we're going to Florence, Italy, where she takes people to do yoga in the morning and do art visits in the afternoon with a guide from someone who is a practitioner at the studio.

 

                                   In addition to that, we are a teaching institute. So we are an approved teaching institute by the Yoga Alliance, who are the governing body for yoga, which basically means we have the ability to run training programs to educate students and teachers in our own style, empowering them to become yoga teachers themselves.

 

                                   So we have lots of streams of opportunities and revenue parts of our business.

 

Steve Strauss:           That is definitely multiple profit centers.

 

                                   I'm wondering if you could give us two or three tips about what's worked in your business that you think other small business owners could learn from. What might they be?

 

Steve McGrath:          I think, number one, I would say to people focus on the experience that you're delivering for your client. Many small businesses get caught up in what their competitors are doing, which is a natural tendency, but I think you really need to focus on the experience that you're delivering.

 

                                  We, early in our process ... we took kind of a page from my experience with marketing at HP where you look at the customer experience. How are people aware of your studio? How do people select your studio to visit? What is their experience when they walk in the door the first time? How do they continue to sign up and experience classes? And as they develop in their experience, how do you continue to inspire and challenge them and deliver that experience?

 

                                   And so, focusing on all the elements of that experience and literally going through an exercise of documenting how you want people to talk about your business in each part of that experience will help you build out that experience. And don't worry about competitors. If you are doing the right thing with your experience, then people may go, but they'll come back if you're filling their needs.

 

                                  The second thing I'd say is don't be scared of taking calculated risks. Look for those trends in your market. We saw yoga developing as an exercise modality and took some risks to expand into that bigger space. That helped us double or triple almost overnight. We tripled our business by adding more classes in a bigger location. We added a second practice space so we could have multiple classes at the same time.

 

                                   And I think the third tip I'd say is if possible, as soon as you can, invest in real estate. Be your own landlord. Try and avoid that burden of paying someone else rent and investing in their property. Try and own your own building or your own location as early as you can.

 

Steve Strauss:           Steve, if you could do anything different, if you could talk to yourself or your wife back in 2002, anything you might suggest that you've learned along the way?

 

Steve McGrath:          I think it's really important to acknowledge your weaknesses and look for support where you need them. If you're an artistic, creative, extroverted, big-picture type personality ... I mean, that's terrific, and if that's the business you're in and that suits your business, that's great.

 

                                   But don't be shy to find people who can keep your feet on the ground. Find a good business advisor to help you on those sort of boring accounting kind of business decisions. Balance is very, very important.

 

Steve Strauss:           Steve, if listeners want to find out more about you or your business, where should they go?

 

Steve McGrath:          Just go to YogaSourceLosGatos.com.

 

Steve Strauss:           YogaSourceLosGatos.com.And I also want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to work not just in your business, but on your business. So keep up the great work. And for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America’s online small business community at BankofAmerica.com/SBC. That’s BankofAmerica.com/SBC.

 

                                  For Bank of America and ForbesBooks, I'm Mr All Biz, Steve Strauss.

 

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

One of the great things about being in business for yourself these days is that there are a lot of helpful resources to be found. Back in the day, especially the pre-Internet day, entrepreneurs were mostly on their own. They would rise or fall based on what they knew or – more accurately – did not know.

 

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Not now. Today, not only are there more resources, but they are also far more readily available. Not knowing, and not having help, is mostly a thing of the past.

 

In particular, there is especially a lot of help for women and veteran small businesses aimed at encouraging small business ownership among these groups. Here are some of our favorites:

 

Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

What with their ability to follow a mission, their commitment to teamwork, and mastery of follow-through, veterans make great entrepreneurs. Here then are some of the best small business resources available to them:

 

SBA Veteran Programs: Not surprisingly, that best friend to small business, the Small Business Administration, has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. For example, Operation Boots to Business is a program for military service personnel transitioning to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration: Similarly, the VA has a great small business resource center, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. Offering help for everything from starting, to financing, to growing a business, this is a great place for the fresh and seasoned veteran entrepreneur alike.

 

Veteran Entrepreneurship Courses: According to Bunker in a Box CEO Todd Conner, “Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.” Using videos, online tutorials, and articles, veterans can embark on 14 “missions” that teach entrepreneurship. Along the same lines, but in person, Patriot Boot Camp offers entrepreneurship training programs in various cities nationwide.

 

 

Resources for Female Entrepreneurs

 

While women face unique challenges when it comes to business, they don’t have to go at it alone. Community, funding, training, mentoring and much more are available both on and offline. Check out:


The SBA: Any woman looking to launch a career in entrepreneurship should begin their search by going to the SBA Office Women Business Ownership Home Page
SCORE: At SCORE, either online or off, you can get free, confidential, expert business mentoring from coaches nationwide.
Female entrepreneurship training: IGNITE straddles the line between veteran and female entrepreneurship. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities nationwide.

National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO has chapters throughout the country that sponsor educational meetings and networking events. NAWBO's website includes online entrepreneurial training and resources.

Entrepreneurship Websites: The internet is full of sites designed to inspire, educate, and empower women. Some offer free content, some are membership sites, and some are geared toward conferences or education. Popular sites include Woman Owned She Owns It the Female Entrepreneur Association. You can find others by searching for websites and blogs for women entrepreneurs.

 

        • Check out this collection highlighting how to embrace the unique challenges women face and thrive as small business owners.

 

Financial Resources for all

 

All entrepreneurs should know about the funding options available from the Small Business Administration. The programs below are great options, whether you are a woman, veteran or any other type of small business owner:


The 7(a) Loan Program: This bread-and-butter program is one of SBA's primary lending vehicles. It provides very favorable terms on loans to small businesses                unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. One important thing to note is that the SBA does not make loans itself. Instead, it guarantees loans made by private financial institutions – banks, credits unions, and so on.

SBA CAPLines: Need working capital? This is the place to go.


Microloans: The expedited SBA Microloan program offers small business loans, up to $50,000.

 

CDFIs: Also known as local loan centers – provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit organizations operating in lower income communities.

 

 

Yes, it is fun to start and grow a small business, but it also can be lonely and difficult. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available today making it less so.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

  

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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A small business credit card can be a smart starting point for businesses and entrepreneurs to establish a financial identity. Learn how your small business can get the most out of credit cards on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Today, we're going to talk about small business credit cards. Are there benefits to having a credit card for your small business that you don't know? We're joined by Rieva Lesonsky. She's one of the influencers at Bank of America's Online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc, and she's also President and Founder of GrowBiz Media and smallbizdaily.com. Also, with us is Kevin Condon. He's the Head of Consumer Deposits and Small Business Products at Bank of America. Thank you both for joining us.

 

                                   This is really such a fascinating topic, because we all know about personal credit cards. We all have them, but I'm not sure small business owners always stop and appreciate what additional value a credit card for their small business can have for them. So, let's start with this Rieva. If I'm a small business owner, why should I get a small business credit card? And I guess that's really two questions. First, what will a small business credit card let me do that a personal card won't, and how is a small business credit card different from my personal credit cards?

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        That's such a great question, Gregg. The basic bottom line of this is, you need to lead two separate financial lives as a business owner. You have to have your business life and your personal life. So, a small business credit card is going to act as the separation between that. It's going to help you establish your business identity. It's going to help you build business credit history. If you ever want to get a loan in the future, you need to have a business credit history, not a personal credit history.

 

                                   A credit card, a business credit card, is going to help you do that. It's going to help you keep track of your business expenses, so you know what you can write off at tax time. And it's going to give you access to money when you need it, kind of like a business line of credit, but it's easier to get. And I think that thing that people don't understand the difference says, “I'll just use a personal card and use it as a business,” but business credit cards come, often, with higher credit limits.

 

                                  That's, like I said, a line of credit, so you can spend more money. They help you build that credit history, like I said. And, if you have employees, they help you keep control on employee spending. You can give your employees cards, look for an issuer that gives you employee cards for free, and you can set limits on those employee cards. So, any travels, they may have a higher limit than an employee with a card who's just there to buy the office expenses.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And it also lets you see, in almost real time, exactly what they're spending money on. So, if there's a problem, you can stop it much faster. Those are really great points. Rieva, thank you.

 

                                  Kevin, you and I have talked about this before on the show, but I want to come back to it. I remember you telling us that, a great way to build credit and trust with the bank, if you ever want to take out a loan, is to start with a small business credit card, correct?

 

Kevin Condon:           That's right, Gregg. In banking, we refer to the five C's of credit frequently when we discuss credit with our clients. Those five C's are capacity, collateral, capital, conditions and character. A business credit card is a great way for you to establish that last factor of character. Now, when I'm talking about character, I'm really referring to your personal integrity, your industry experience, and your credit history. Yours, and the people closely tied to the success of your business, so the people on your teams, your partners, and so forth. A business credit card is a great way to demonstrate your trustworthiness, and your credit worthiness in the future to a bank while earning rewards on your purchases that are relevant to your business.

 

                                  Using that card to make sensible purchases, and paying off your balance in full, and on time every month shows us at the bank, that you have a track record of fiscal responsibility and you're a strong candidate for larger scale lending, such as a business line of credit in the future.

 

Gregg Stebben:         All of that's really perfect, and one of the things you mentioned, rewards. I just want to highlight that, you and I actually did an interview, and folks can hear it at forbesbooks.com/bankofamerica. We actually did an interview, specifically, about how to take advantage of the rewards tied to a small business credit card. Folks may want to go back and listen to that again, because there was some really good information there. Back to you, Rieva. I want to ask you about the kinds of things I should think about, or consider, when I'm looking for a credit card for my small business. What's important? What should I be considering here?

 

[Learn more about the Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card]

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        Well, the first thing you should look at is, does it make you pay a fee or not? Sometimes the fees are worth it, because you may get extra benefits. But there's a lot of business credit cards out there that you don't need to pay an annual fee on, and that really helps because you know you're saving money. Then you want to make sure that you match any rewards that you're getting with what you do. If you don't travel, if you maybe take two business trips a year, then don't get a travel rewards card. There's other cards out there that will give you some kind of reward, or bonus, based on what you do you.

 

                                   So, think about what you need. Do you need flexible payment options? Do you need travel protections, discounts, a cashback card? You want to make sure that there are tools to help you keep track of the expenses. Then, maybe, look for card with as low and APR as you can get. I know APRs are a little higher these days, but still look for a card that is giving you the lowest interest rates that you can get right now.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And you mentioned fees right up front, but, again, once you've evaluated what the rewards are, and how they're going to benefit you,that is the right time to then consider whether the fee actually makes sense for you. Are the rewards, or the benefits, so much greater than the fee, that it makes sense, or should you move onto a card that doesn't have a fee?

 

                                  Kevin, I want to ask you a question that assumes, now, we've listened to this much of this podcast. We've gone out. We've applied for our business, our small business credit card.Now we have it. What are some good practices we should keep in mind to make sure we're getting the most out of it? And, frankly, also making sure that we're staying out of trouble.

 

Kevin Condon:           A great question, Gregg. You know, being a responsible cardholder is really straightforward, if you follow just a few simple tips. First and foremost, make your payments on time every month. We all get busy, and distracted, and we've all forgotten, in our personal lives, about an upcoming payment at some point. But these days, there's plenty of tools at our disposal to make sure that that never happens. I'd recommend arranging automatic online payments from your checking account, or setting up email and text alerts, to remind you when those payments are due, so you won't miss a payment.

 

                                   Second, be conservative about the purchases you make on your card. Youshould never charge big purchases that you don't think you'll be able to afford to pay off, right now. And try to keep your balances below 10% of that credit line. Sometimes people fall into the trap of making purchases based on future income expectations, and if that income doesn't end up materializing, they can end up in some trouble.

 

                                   Next, just be practical. Monthly expenses like gas and office supplies for our businesses are great ways to build payment history without overextending yourself. Avoid those impulse purchases and splurges just because something goes on sale. Make sure you're being practical.

 

                                   Fourth, pay off your credit card in full each month, if you can. Making purchases and consistently paying our cards off, on time, can demonstrate to a bank that you can manage your payments, and keep your credit score healthy, which will allow you access to that line of credit we talked about earlier.

 

                                   And lastly, don't forget about making sure you're capitalizing on any rewards you may be eligible for. Gregg, like we talked last time, make sure you're layering those rewards. Making your purchases where there are loyalty rewards programs at specific merchants, taking advantage of those credit card rewards, and then any other rewards programs your bank may offer, so you don't leave money on the table.

 

[Discover valuable rewards that grow along with your business.]

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know what I really like about this is that, from what you're both describing here, a credit card for your small business, it really has benefits today - those sort of logistical benefits, that Rieva talked about. It can help you manage expenses, see where you're spending, see and control how employees are spending money -but there's almost a network effect here, as you described Kevin, because this can do all kinds of things for the future of your business. It can really help you build your credit, build a relationship with a bank, and do all kinds of other things, including maximizing the value of those rewards.

 

                                   I really want to thank you both for joining us. I've been talking with Rieva Lesonsky. She's one of the influencers at Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc. She's also president and founder at growbizmedia and smallbizdaily.com. Grow Biz Media is at growbizmedia.com, as well. Kevin, Kevin Condon is the head of Consumer Deposits and Small Business Product for Bank of America. And for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community where you can see things from Rieva, and lots of other influencers like her. It's at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Thank you both for joining us.

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        Thank you.

 

Kevin Condon:           Thank you.

 

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

 

 

Move over, Millennials: A new generation is about to shake up offices near you. Generation Z is getting ready to enter the workforce, with the oldest members between the ages of 18 or 23, depending on your definition (Bloomberg and the Census Bureau say the first Gen Z’ers were born in 2001, while others such as Pew Research dates its beginning to 1996).

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How will Generation Z transform workplace culture? While it’s still early, here are some insights into how this age group thinks, the way they work and what they expect from employers.

 

They’re money conscious: Generation Z grew up seeing their parents struggle during the Great Recession and, like millennials, many are graduating with high levels of college debt. No wonder financial security is top of mind. In a recent survey, more than one-third of Gen Z respondents plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s—and 12 percent have already started! Offering solid benefits packages—including retirement plans and health insurance—will be key to attracting Gen Z employees. Offer college loan repayment assistance and you’ll really win their loyalty.

 

They’re digital natives: This is the first generation that has always known smartphones, social media, and the internet. They’re comfortable with all types of technology and expect your business to be up-to-date with the latest tech tools. Gen Z will have little patience for practices that waste time or natural resources (paper). If you’re not quite there it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of their know-how to up your business’s technology game.

 

They struggle with soft skills: Gen Z can text in their sleep and know the meaning of every emoji, but common business interactions such as writing and responding to emails or making phone calls or having face-to-face discussions may be new territory. Gen Z employees tend to interact online more often than IRL – in real life. They’re less likely to have held jobs in their teens than previous generations because more were in college (or doing extracurriculars to get into college) at that time. You may need to provide some training to get entry-level Gen Z workers up to speed on their soft skills.

 

They work hard.They may not come fully polished on day one, but the Gen Z demographic grew up competing for everything from social media status to college admission. As a result, they’re a driven bunch, willing to try new things and learn new skills. Seven in 10 members of Generation Z say it’s more important to be curious and open-minded than to have specific skill sets. Don’t be afraid to challenge Gen Z employees with “stretch goals.”

 

They need support. They’re eager to take on challenges, but Gen Z isn’t overconfident or cocky. In fact, this generation suffers from high levels of anxiety. One-third of Gen Z say mentorship is the most important benefit a workplace can offer, and 65 percent say they need frequent feedback from employers to stay in their jobs. Use frequent check-ins to boost their confidence and help them grow into their roles.   

 

They’re collaborative loners. Anxiety, social or otherwise, means Generation Z employees do some of their best work solo. However, they also express a desire for human interaction as part of teams. An office space that incorporates both private workspaces and communal areas will support Gen Z’s need for both solitude and collaboration.

 

They value authenticity. Even more than millennials, Gen Z expects the workplace to embrace their authentic selves and support causes they care about. As the most ethnically diverse generation in American history, it’s no wonder “equality” is the number-one cause they care about. Your workplace needs to welcome all types of people in order for Gen Z to be their best.

 

I’m not a big fan of lumping people into categories. (When Generation X entered the workforce, they were derided as “slackers;” millennials were mocked as entitled. Both of those demographics have turned out pretty well.) The best way to make the most of Gen Z employees: Treat them like unique human beings.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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A passion to change lives and make an impact on at-risk communities drove Denise Shelton’s transition from Department of Corrections warden to CEO.

 

Shelton retired from the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections in 2002 and formed Community Bridge, Inc (CBI). Her company was built “with the goal of empowering and rehabilitating local residents by providing viable, progressive employment and trade skills development.” Community Bridge is now a full-service facility management company that employs 200 people and services six wards in the District of Columbia.

 

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Starting a business that could serve as a legacy was critical to Shelton. Not only as something she could pass down to her daughter and grandchildren, but to have a lasting effect by empowering, teaching and supporting others. As a second-chance employer, Community Bridge is changing lives.

 

Shelton is CEO of CBI with her daughter, Shawn Nance, serving as President. Her grandson already has goals to continue the legacy by being Community Bridge’s CEO when he grows up.

 

Family has been the basis of CBI from the beginning. When Denise’s daughter joined the business early on, and after she gave birth to her second child, CBI had to get creative with their office space. And as such, the first CBI office was a “mommy van” that allowed Denise and her daughter to drive her children around while still having the ability to discuss the business and have meetings with one another.

 

Working with her mother has been amazing, says Nance.

 

“Denise Shelton to me is unstoppable. At the end of the day, she is my No. 1 partner.  She has changed the course of her life to make sure I was okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

Watch our other spotlight videos:

 

Video transcript:

 

Title: Denise Shelton, Founder & CEO, Community Bridge, Inc.


[Denise Shelton] Starting Community Bridge, it has been part of our mission to make sure that we change lives. We wanted to do something more than just open a business. We would hire directly from the jail to the community, so that's how we started out. Whoever we hired, we wanted to make an impact.

 

[Denise Shelton] Community Bridge is a full service facility management company, and we do snow removal, landscaping, and janitorial.

 

Title: Shawn Nance, President, Community Bridge, Inc.

 

[Shawn Nance] It started off with a parking space and a mommy van where we had meetings, because we didn't have a building. At that point, we had no roof, two lawnmowers and two contracts. We went having one truck and a trailer to going down to purchase four or five more trucks the next day, and all of a sudden, we, we had a business.


[Shawn Nance]Bank of America for Community Bridge started day one, that was part of the foundation.


[Denise Shelton] As a small business owner, it's very important that I have a bank that supports me, and Bank of America made that walk with us, and made it easier.


[Shawn Nance] The same people that gave us the opportunity when we didn't have anything are the same ones that are our partners today.


[Denise Shelton] I'm passing down this family business to my daughter, who's then going to pass it down to my grandsons.


[Shawn Nance] That's a huge responsibility, but it's one that she's prepared me for.


[Denise Shelton] When I see how she has grown, and her commitment and dedication to Community Bridge, it reminds me why we went in the business, and what's important.


[Shawn Nance] To see her as a woman, to see her as a business owner has been one of my joys in life.


[Denise Shelton] When we talk about a legacy, for me, something that's going to empower other people, and teach other people, and support other people, and I hope that it continues down through my legacy in generations. I have the power to build a legacy for my family.

 

Endpage:

Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation.

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As a small business owner, you will have problematic employees from time to time. Do you have the skills to steer a contentious situation to a productive conclusion? Steve Strauss shares his three-step approach to dealing with difficult employees on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to ”The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us to talk about how to deal with a difficult employee. Steve is USA Today's Small Business Columnist and the author of 17 books including the best-selling, Small Business Bible. Steve thank you for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Great to be here, Gregg, and thanks for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve you own a small business, and in your capacity as USA Today's Small Business Columnist and also as a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, you also talk with a lot of small business owners, and today you are going to give us a three-step approach to dealing with a difficult employee. What's step number one?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well the first thing I think you need to do is listen. What you don't want to do is tune the bad employee out, which is I think what a lot of us might want to do, or maybe prefer to do. But what I know is that the best managers try and understand the disgruntled employee, get their point of view and try and see what can be changed. Then what you have to do is give some clear feedback and direction and expectations, and if I could put my lawyer hat on, you also need to document. So, listen, give correction, but then document. All three of those things are critical for sure.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. So that's step number one. Step number two is…?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well you don't want to become part of the problem. You don't want to poison the well.  What that means specifically in this context is: don't gossip. As the manager, as the owner, as the boss you have to set an example, and you do the opposite of that by talking about the person, talking about the problem to other employees. My dad used to say, I'm your father not your friend, when I would get really sassy. And you know my dad was a great guy, but he was setting a clear demarcation point, right. There has to be some respect, and so I think that's true in the office as well. You need your employees to know that you are the boss not just another co-worker, and you do that by not gossiping about the problem employee.

 

Gregg Stebben:         In our conversation about how to deal with a difficult employee what's step number three?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well finally you want to make sure that you get to the core issue, so that it doesn't happen again. Now think about a giant ocean liner, how does that ocean liner change direction? Well you think the captain turns the rudder, and turns the wheel, the wheel turns the rudder, but actually there's a little mini rudder on the big rudder called a trim tab. So the captain turns the wheel, the wheel turns the trim tab, the trim tab turns the rudder, and then the rudder turns the ship. You have to get to that trim tab thing. What is the problem in your business specifically that you ended up with a problem employee. Now maybe it was you. I once hired an assistant, and the problem was me. It wasn't the assistant, it was that I didn't do a good job in my hiring process, and that was when I figured, okay I have to do better at that. So you have to look at your processes, your people, and figure out what the core issue was that allows it to fester and get out of control, and then fix that problem. We fix that problem and then you shouldn't have at least that issue ever again.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to try to recap what you just said. If you're dealing with a difficult employee three steps to try to manage the situation. Step number one, listen, try to understand, give clear feedback, and document what is going on.

 

Steve Strauss:           Correct.

Gregg Stebben:         Step number two, don't become part of the problem. No gossip to other employees, and always remember you are the boss, not a friend. Correct?

 

Steve Strauss:           Yep.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And step number three, get to the core issue and think about how an ocean liner changes course.It's big but there's some tricks like what Steve called the trim tab. And think about the processes that got you there including things like your hiring processes. How'd I do?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well what we want to do is hire people like you who are such good listeners, Gregg.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And good note takers, by the way.

 

Steve Strauss:           There we go.

 

Gregg Stebben          Steve where can our listeners go to find out more about you and get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           Sure you can always find me on my website, which is mrallbiz.com or go to USA Today, find my column, Ask an Expert. I've got a couple of tips and hints there too, I think.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And I will also just remind folks that you are the author of 17 books including the best-selling, Small Business Bible. And for more great tips from Steve and lots of other small business experts check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc.

 

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

When Julia Harper, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, talks about her business, TheraPeeds Family Center, you can hear the passion in her voice and see the joy she gets from her work.

 

In her words, she was born to do this work. Born prematurely in Trinidad and Tobago and “sent home in a shoebox to die,” Harper instead not only survived, she thrived.  She believes she was ‘saved’ so that she could be an agent of change.  “I love change with everything inside of me.”

 

 

Harper, a Ph.D., began TheraPeeds in Brooklyn, New York, in 1999 and moved it to FL in 2004. At that time it was a one-person practice and her focus was to change the lives of children with processing disorders such as learning disabilities, attention problems and autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are caused by a deficiency in a person’s ability to use information gathered by their senses and can cause a plethora of issues including low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

 

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“I set out to change the outcomes kids were getting,” she said.  Twenty years later, she has over 55 employees and TheraPeeds attracts clients from around the world, mainly via word-of-mouth.  Instead of just treating children, now the TheraPeeds team treats the entire family and adults with processing disorders across the lifespan.

 

Her business has experienced spectacular growth, continually running out of space.  In March 2019, TheraPeeds relocated to a new 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Davie, FL.  Harper tells you her business isn’t expanding so they can treat more clients, they’re expanding so they can treat their clients better.

 

Today, Harper is not only an occupational therapist but also a wife, mother of two, business owner, psychologist, life coach, mentor, speaker and writer. Her work and personal presence is an inspiration to her social followers, but most importantly to the lives of those she touches every day. You can get your weekly dose of #VitaminJ by following @JuliaHarper_phd on Instagram.

 

 

 

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Commercial real estate loans from Bank of America.

 

 

Video transcript:

 

[Julia Harper] When you’re coming in this door. You’re coming in this door to change. We make sure that our clients leave with an outcome that is both functional, and life-changing.

 

[On screen copy] Julia Harper, PhD, MS, OTR/L. Founder and CEO, TheraPeeds Family Center  Bank of America Customer

 

[Julia Harper] My name is Dr. Julia Harper and I am the founder of TheraPeeds Family Center.

 

TheraPeeds is a center where we create change in the brains of people so that they learn to function better in their lives.

 

What I do as an occupational therapist is I focus on the entire life of a client. They get better motor skills, in their communication skills, in their cognitive skills, and their social-emotional behavior skills. Families come into this door functioning one way, and they leave functioning better.

 

So my intention was never to start a small business. I intended to be a therapist that did great work. The fact that a business grew up around me is still stunning to me today.

 

So we really think of this business as an individual with a life of its own. We think about it and we say, “what do we want this business to grow in to?”

 

I first met Marianela, my small business banker, when she walked into this door, because she wanted to see what we do here.

 

[On screen copy] Marianela Martinez, Small Business Banker, Bank of America

 

[Marianela Martinez] What makes Bank of America unique, is that we can come to our clients, to their place of business, to their environments, and bring the bank to them.

 

[Julia Harper] Marianela brought to the table the business perspective that I didn’t have.

 

[Marianela Martinez] So we partnered up with Julia, to help her forground-up construction for her new facility.

 

[Julia Harper] What I’m interested in doing now is providing deeper care to the entire family.

 

I love the fact that I’m in a sisterhood. That she’s a strong woman that showed up for another strong woman, to say yes, let’s do this.

 

The children, the families that we treat here, our people that need to know that they matter. And that my bank turned around and did the same for me meant the world.

 

[Marianela Martinez] As a mother, and thinking that she is helping families all over the world, it’s pretty amazing.

 

[Julia Harper] I have the power to be a change and help others change themselves.

 

[On screen copy] What would you like the power to do?

 

[On screen copy]

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Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC  2019 Bank of America Corporation.

You’re not unique. Whatever you do, someone else is doing the same thing—or something very similar.

 

That’s how it should be. If your business really were the only one in its field, there would be a reason for that, and that reason is likely everyone else already discovered it’s a bad idea. When an idea is good it always has competitors.

 

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That truth is why hundreds of companies churn out almost identical glass and metal devices for making phone calls and connecting to the Internet. And although there is no shortage of car companies, it’s why they all offer similar solutions to the same transportation problem. And it’s why when venture investors hear an entrepreneur say they don’t really have any competitors, investors roll their eyes, shut their wallets, and assume the founder hasn’t done the research.

 

Everyone has competitors.

 

Successful businesses know how to stand out from their competitors.

 

One way to do that is to know your unique selling proposition (USP) —and make that USP clear to everyone else. When prospective customers think of your company they should know what you do, what your competitors do, and how you do it in a different way.

 

In the smartphone industry, for example, Apple has managed to brand itself as the company that pays the most attention to design. It even has its own app store and its own operating system so it can retain control over the way the phone looks and behaves. Samsung? Well, that’s the non-Apple in the market. Its phones are also well designed—its curved edges and equally high prices make that clear. But it’s not dependent on Apple’s software or user experience, and it offers a look that’s just different from Apple’s well-known branding. Mi is best known for its low prices, and Blackberry is still touting its business-friendly keyboard.

 

Those differences aren’t huge. All of the devices made by these companies largely do the same thing. But Apple’s USP of “better design” is enough to help differentiate the company, and it’s consistent in all the company’s products. Whether someone buys an iPhone or a Mac, they know they’re getting that same emphasis on design and functionality.

That quality helps the company stand out, and it encourages consumers to choose Apple over competitor brands.

 

A set of features only does part of the work helping a company’s products stand out, though. It’s what happens when you put those features together that has the biggest effect.

 

That’s what creates the company’s voice.

 

One of the most prominent effects of social media marketing has been the deepening of the relationship between brands and customers. People now see marketing messages from businesses mixed in with updates from their friends. They hear their friends talking about their trip to the beach, then they hear a restaurant talk about their new menu item. Those messages need to fit that casual environment.

 

Even if your product is made by 20 other companies, you should be able to identify a set of characteristics unique to the products your company makes. They could be an element of your design, the warmth of your customer service, your emphasis on low prices, or anything else that sets you apart. No one business can do all of those things. Apple can’t be cheap and luxurious. Blackberry can’t be professional and fun. There’s always room for your business to carve out a strong USP.

 

One way to think about this is that you should know what those characteristics would sound like if you were to put them together in a person. You should know how your brand would speak, how it would dress and what it has planned for the weekend.

 

When you can give your products a unique experience and combine that experience with an authentic voice, you’ll have a company that has a real relationship with customers, and that stands out in a crowd like a friend.

 

     Read next:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

March 8, International Women’s Day, is a daycelebrating women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements around the world. But it’s also a day to take action to build a more gender-balanced world.

 

This year, IWD’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. Creating a better balance at work pays off for more than just the women involved. A global study by Accenture found that when women advance at work, men are more likely to advance, too. (Check out Pixar’s short film Purl for a humorous look at how diversity makes a business a better place to work.)

How can your small business help strike a better balance at work by putting more women in positions of power?

 

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  • Make gender diversity a priorityin your business. A balanced business doesn’t happen by accident. Create a plan for achieving gender balance with specific, measurable goals. Do you want to increase the percentage of women in management roles? Achieve pay equity (according to the Department of Labor, women still earn on average 78 cents for every dollar earned by men)? Attract more women to IT jobs in your business? Share your plan with your employees to hold yourself accountable. Then share your commitment on social media to celebrate International Women’s Day. Download IWD selfie cards, posters, event packs and other tools at the IWD website.

 

  • Be sure your hiring practices are balanced. Your hiring policies may be inadvertently turning women off from applying for jobs at your business. According to a study from researchers at Cornell University, women and minorities generally won’t apply for a job unless they meet every single requirement for experience, skills and qualifications. Instead of saying “5 years minimum experience as accounting manager required,” say “Successful candidates will demonstrate significant experience in a senior role in accounting.” You’re likely to get a wider range of candidates applying. Cornell’s research also found that using male-oriented words like “ninja” or “rock star” in your ads tends to discourage women from applying.

 

  • Implement policies that support women. Child care and elder care responsibilities still fall disproportionately on women. Many women don’t climb the workplace ladder because the long hours or frequent travel required by leadership roles don’t fit their family needs. Offer flexible hours and remote work options that make it easier for women to advance while handling family responsibilities.

 

  • Consider off-hours activities, too. A friend of mine worked at a company that routinely invited male executives to golf outings, paintball battles, sky diving and other “manly” pursuits on weekends. Female execs at the same level didn’t get invitations and were excluded from the chance to build relationships with co-workers and clients. While this is a blatant example of bias, you could be unintentionally biased if activities that help people advance at work are held outside work hours, when many women can’t attend due to family issues.

 

  • Prepare women employees for advancement. Identify women with leadership potential and provide mentorship, training and encouragement to help them develop their skills. For instance, you can enroll them in professional organizations or send them to leadership development and training programs.

 

  • Educate your employees. Bias against women is sometimes so ingrained we don’t recognize it. Lean In has partnered with IWD to offer free ready-to-use presentations, like the workshop “50 Ways to Fight Bias,” which offers specific examples to help participants identify gender bias. The presentation is sure to spark conversation, and also provides research-backed recommendations for how to remedy gender bias. You can also browse Lean In’s library of expert talks, discussion guides and resources.

 

The 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign doesn’t end on International Women’s Day—it runs all year long. Keep your commitment to a better-balanced business going, and you, your business and your employees all stand to benefit.

 

 

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About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

According to the third annual Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight (HSBOS), 79 percent of Hispanic business owners plan to grow their business over the next five years, a full 24 percentage points higher than non-Hispanic entrepreneurs (55 percent).

 

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According to the HSBOS:

 

Hispanic entrepreneurs are significantly more optimistic than their non-Hispanic counterparts when it comes to both their business and economic outlooks. Similarly, Hispanic business owners report greater confidence in the direction of the national economy, as well as their local economies.

 

The stats bear this out. When asked about their outlook for the next 12 months,

 

  • 87 percent of Hispanic business owners said they plan to expand (vs. 67 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)
  • 74 percent said they expected revenue will increase (vs. 57 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs), and
  • 51 percent said they planned to hire more (vs. 26 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)

 

So yes, that is a lot of optimism!

 

One of the things I love about the Bank of America Small Business Owner Spotlight is not just that it is full of headlines, but it actually digs deep to give reasoning and context for the news it always seems to break.

 

In this case, what was so interesting is why Hispanic entrepreneurs are so optimistic. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be community and family. (OK, you got me, that’s two words, three actually, but you get the idea.)

 

The bottom line is that Hispanic small business owners are buoyed by their families around them, both actual and extended (and in that, there is a vital lesson for the rest of us. Read on.)

 

  • It’s a family investment: 23 percent of the non-Hispanics surveyed planned on passing their business onto their children. But among Hispanic small business owners, that number is almost double since they see the business as a familybusiness, making it both a motivator anda creator of optimism.
  • The community is involved: Survey participants stated that their community is another influential participant in their success, with 86 percent saying community support is an important part of their success and motivation. Furthermore, and significantly, 22 percent of the Hispanic entrepreneurs said they became a business owner specifically in order to make a difference in their community (compared to only 17 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs.)
  • Employees make a huge difference: And an amazing 91 percent of survey respondents indicated that their employees are critical to their ability to achieve their goals.

 

All of this begs the question: Does all of this optimism make a difference, and if so, how? The answer is an unequivocal yes. While entrepreneurs are optimistic by both nature and vocation, that optimism eventually needs to rest on something real, lest it becomes just so much hot air.

 

In the case of these Hispanic small business owners, their optimism is tied directly to not only a strong economy but to an even stronger family and extended support network. This gives them the ability to take smart, calculated risks and grow their businesses.

 

Example: One interesting takeaway from the HSBOSis that the entrepreneurs surveyed are clearly more inventive and creative when it comes to hiring. The Hispanic entrepreneurs surveyed say they have had to refine their hiring and recruiting approach to better compete in this ultra-competitive job market. How?

 

  • They have turned to social media in far greater numbers than other groups to find and recruit talent (32 percent vs. 23 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • They have begun to offer a more flexible work culture (27 percent vs. 25 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • And maybe most indicative, they are paying higher salaries (26 percent vs. 17 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)

 

As I mentioned, there is a critical lesson in here for the rest of us: By involving one’s family in the business, by getting even more involved in one’s community, and by engaging with and rewarding that extended community, you can create the sort of safety net that simultaneously reduces your risk while increasing the likelihood of your success.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Small Businesses should leverage social media marketing to grow sales. Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith offers two essential tips all business owners should use in the latest podcast episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Mari Smith joins us with two essential social media tips you can quickly put to work in your business today. Mari is often called the queen of Facebook marketing. IBM says she is one of seven women who are shaping digital marketing and she is a Forbes perennial top social media power influencer. Mari, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                Thank you Gregg. I'm delighted to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Mari, you are the author of The New Relationship Marketing and Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, and you are also a columnist for Bank of America. So you talk with small business owners about social media marketing every day. What are the two most essential social media marketing tips all small business owners should put to work in their businesses, literally today, right now?

 

Mari Smith:                Right now, I tell you what Gregg, the number one thing that I see small businesses doing incorrectly is not having crystal clarity on their target audience. So that's number one. When you get super, super clear on who you're wanting to reach, who your customer avatar or avatars are, that will go a long way to inform the type of content that you create, and your messaging, and then definitely your ad targeting. When you're doing your Facebook and Instagram ads, you want to be able to know who am I speaking to, what are their interests or demographics and so forth. Really, really critical.

 

                                   I would say number two is to focus on creating roughly 80% of your posts for Facebook as video content. Facebook is really favoring video content, and the good news is you don't have to be on camera if you don't want to. You can use tools and repurpose and reuse different videos and different formats and use them across other social channels. My favorite video tool is simply called wave.video. That's wave.video.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We know that if we go to your website, and to your Facebook page, and if we go to your Twitter account, we're going to see great examples. Tell us where we should go, your website address, your Twitter handle, your Facebook name, so we can come find you and learn more.

 

Mari Smith:                 Thank you so much. Absolutely. I'm marismith.com. On Facebook, it's facebook.com/marismith. Twitter is @marismith, and Instagram I'm @mari_smith, and as I like to say, just Google me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         By the way, just to add a fine point to that, Mari is M-A-R-I, Smith, S-M-I-T-H, Mari Smith. Mari, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                My pleasure.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Learn more about video marketing. Visit these articles on the Small Business Community.

If you want your business to succeed, you have to work hard. You have to hustle and grind. You have to burn the midnight oil, give up your weekends, and wave goodbye to your hobbies. While you’re building your business, you have to assume that that business will be your life. It’s going to be a long, hard slog.

 

This is the message we hear so often. We hear it so much that we assume the only path to success lies through sacrifice and sadness.

 

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It doesn’t have to be that way.. For many incredibly successful people, it isn’t that way.

 

Some of the biggest successes I’ve had have come while developing products where the process was so much fun that my team and I barely knew we were working.  We didn’t stay late at the office. We didn’t burn through weekends or miss school concerts to attend boring meetings. We just focused on enjoying ourselves and making something that we thought had a viable market.

 

We believed that a product that was fun to make would be even more fun to use. And we were right.

 

The same principle applies to every business and field. You don’t have to choose between enjoying yourself now and achieving success in the future. You can have both.

Start by finding the thing you love to do. That might not be the highest paying thing you could do, but as long as it pays your bills and puts a roof over your family’s head, it is the thing you should do.

 

Identifying that activity isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because we assume that work is hard, and fun isn’t work, we don’t always see the activities we enjoy can also become sustainable businesses. If you have doubts start slowly. Test the ground by selling your cupcakes at a food fair and checking the feedback, or by trying out a stand at an art fair. The more you sell, the more experience you’ll build and the greater your confidence will become.

 

You don’t have to rush into the business. Do it at a pace that feels comfortable.

 

You can also learn to say “no.”

 

So much of the work we do is work for others that we’d prefer not to do. Sure, you have to keep your customers happy, and it’s important to show your dedication sometimes. But the penalty for declining to take work that pays little and delivers large amounts of frustration is often much smaller than you’d think. It’s often a price you’d be more than willing to pay.

 

It’s not easy to say “no” to work. But once you start doing it—and your business life starts getting better—you’ll find it becomes easier to do.

 

But the most important way to build a business that compliments the life you enjoy is not to worry about the stuff that other people are doing.

 

Part of being in business is being in competition. But being the best isn’t the same as making the most sales, landing the largest number of new clients, working the most hours, or growing at the fastest rate. Its also about enjoying your life as much as you can.

 

Some other entrepreneur might appear to be more successful than you. They might appear to be taking on more staff, spending more on advertising, and building up a bigger following. But if they’re working more hours, spending less time with their families, and enjoying themselves less, then you’re coming out ahead.

 

Your business doesn’t have to be your life. But the two will always be connected. As long as you enjoy your business, you’ll be enjoying your life and doing good stuff.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

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