Skip navigation
2013

The spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR) found that small business owners not only focus on improving the financial health of their company but also, their own personal health and their employees’ wellness. Yet, the most noteworthy finding was that millennial small business owners (those aged 18-to-34) were the most optimistic about what the future holds for their business. Older small business owners, baby boomer entrepreneurs in particular, were more cautious.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Consider the following statistics:

  • 70% of millennial owners expect to make more money this year; only 45% of the boomer small business owners thought that
  • 70% of these younger small business owners said they manage stress well, whereas only 55% of owners aged 51-64 felt the same way
  • 65% of Millennial respondents prepared for the unexpected, while only 45% of baby boomers did the same
  • 52% of the Millennials expected to increase hiring this year, whereas only 24% of older owners had the same belief

 

The results of the latest SBOR are clear: millennial small business owners are more optimistic about revenue, job creation, and the overall state of their business and the economy.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


This is especially exciting given the economic recession that we have all lived through over the past few years. It is truly welcome and remarkable that 70 percent of small business owners believe they will increase revenues over the next year and 52 percent expect to hire more this year. How great is that?

 

Beyond that the question is, do you have the “millennial mindset?” Do you still have that youthful excitement about your business? If you have been in business for a while and have survived the Not-So-Great-Recession, it is very understandable why you may be less optimistic. However, it is important for your employees, clients and bottom line to get it back.

 

Pull Quote.png

And look, I am not trying to stand here on the sidelines, pom-pom in hand, and yell, “You can do it!” I don’t want to give you a sense of false optimism. But what I am suggesting, and what I do think is important, is that we baby boomer small business owners (myself included) take a cue from our younger brethren, adopt some of their attitudes and ways, and that we do so for some very practical reasons.

 

What works in business? Well, of course, many different things work, but one thing that works especially well is a positive, optimistic attitude – the sort of attitude you had when you first started your business. Remember that time? I bet you were willing to try anything to get business in the door, and you did. Troubles were just bumps in the road and you felt enthusiastic about the prospects of your enterprise.

 

And one reason you have been around a while is precisely because you had that “millennial mindset.” It works.

 

I once saw a survey that looked at the most successful small business owners in California. What, if anything, did these entrepreneurs do right and have in common? It turns out that it was all in the attitude. Their success was not due to a great location or a cool brand, no, it was because they were happy, great people.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gifThey managed in a friendly, participatory way. Employees loved working for them. These owners created a culture of optimism and teamwork and that vibe permeated into all areas of their businesses – from how the phones were answered to how customers were treated to how they treated each other.

 

Success begets success.

 

So the lesson from the SBOR is clear: If you want to succeed, then shake off the doldrums, adopt the millennial mindset (that you once had too!), understand that things are much better today, make plans to grow our business, and get out there, make some money and have some fun.

After all, you went into business for yourself for a reason right? The time is now.

 

Do you have any tips for adopting a “millennial mindset?” Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

QAboboyd_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.

 

As a seasoned preparedness expert, Bob Boyd is adept at crafting solutions for small to medium-sized businesses to implement when disaster strikes. This can be anything from a hurricane shutting down the power of a company to an owner contracting an illness that requires indefinite hospitalization. As president and CEO of Agility Recovery, a 23-year-old organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, he helps deliver and test recovery options for clients, Boyd is well equipped to provide best practices for such scenarios. As evidence of his company’s proficiency in disaster recovery, three years ago the Small Business Administration partnered up with Agility Recovery to create content for PrepareMyBusiness.org, a microsite offering a wealth of information on business preparedness. Recently, Boyd discussed with writer Iris Dorbian why small businesses need to make sure their disaster recovery plans are inclusive and why leadership roles are the most difficult to cross-train with employees.

 

ID: What are small to medium-sized businesses doing wrong when it comes to creating disaster recovery scenarios?

BB: I think a lot of companies make plans in a vacuum. In some cases, there’s one person who’s been designated with figuring out what to do if they have a fire or they get hit by a hurricane. It’s not an inclusive plan. That one person can’t possibly know what every department does and what they get done. I think for every plan to be successful, it has to be inclusive. You have to bring in a diverse group of people from the company, ask them what they do and then prioritize the responses. Then from those responses, you conduct drills that you want your team to be part of.

 

Also, a lot of small to medium-sized businesses don’t have plans. They think that’s only something that big companies have. Or only companies in Florida because that’s where hurricanes happen. Bad things happen to companies everyday and it doesn’t matter where you are.

 

ID: What about when it comes to delegating and cross-training your employees?

BB: People need to look at their organization and prioritize tasks. I use this strategy at Agility. If a disaster hits my office, the most important thing is to have my member services (or customer services) team back up and running. These are the people who take phone calls from customers. If something happens, I have to have this department back up and running very quickly. When I prioritize the company functions, the last thing that’s important to me is accounts payable. So I will get all my accounts payable people and train them on those customer service functions, such as using the computer system and what to say to a customer on the phone. When a disaster happens, I now have a surplus of people that can help me with customer service. It’s good for me; it’s good for my customers; and it’s really good for my employees because they see they’re a bigger part of the company. They might even see a career path.

 

Cross training your people is very important because it’s a huge win for everyone involved. If you cross train, you’ve got extra resources. You also show your employees that you value them by entrusting them with important duties. There’s no loss in the process.

 

QAboboyd_PQ.jpgID: Can you offer an example of a small business client that you helped with delegation/cross training tips?

BB: With Hurricane Sandy, we had small companies in New York and New Jersey whose disaster recovery plan was to have their employees work from home. We talked to them about the flaws in that strategy. Suppose your employees don’t have power? However, for one client—a small insurance company in lower downtown Manhattan—because we trained that company before Hurricane Sandy, they were able to think through how their people would be able to process claims and perform significant tasks [in the case of a disaster]. Even though Hurricane Sandy affected three-quarters of their workforce, they didn’t miss a beat.

 

ID: Based on your expertise and insight, what best practices would you offer small business owners when it comes to how to best prepare, delegate, and cross-train their staff?

BB: Take simple steps initially. Have the organization identify what the critical functions are. Identify people within that company that can train on those critical functions and then practice that. That’s an area where a lot of organizations fail. They don’t do it. They put these strategies together and never practice it. When you conduct a drill, you find the assumptions that don’t work. I believe strongly that every business should conduct drills at least once a year. It will make the organization better.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gifAlso, take advantage of social media tools like Facebook or Twitter. Utilize them as alternative ways to communicate with employees. If you have a really good communications strategy then half the battle is won because now you’re able to set the expectations, know who’s available, who’s not available and make your employees part of your plan as opposed to not part of your plan.

 

ID: What organizational roles are the most difficult to delegate and cross train employees?

BB: Leadership roles are hard [to delegate], especially at some small businesses because they tend to be occupied by the entrepreneur who’s the visionary. But if that person is unavailable, you have to have other people who know what to do. You have to have them as backup. You don’t want people to figure who’s in charge after a disaster. You want that to be known today.

 

Leadership is really hard to train on the fly. It’s probably where most small businesses are susceptible because there tends to be a couple of key people [within the company] and if they’re not there, then somebody has to fill that void.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SilentPartener_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.

 

Of all the issues that arise from a small business partnership, one of the most problematic to address is moving a partner from an active to inactive status. The circumstances that dictate this change are varied and can include scenarios such as an older generation in a family-owned business wishing to cede management duties to the younger generation. Or it could be one partner wishing to exit in order to concentrate on launching other ventures while keeping an equity stake in the business.

 

Whatever the situation, there are several lessons that small business owners should heed to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

 

Make sure the deal is equitable

Whether it’s for you or your partner, it’s important that the person seeking to transition out of the daily operations of the business be comfortable with the terms that are agreed upon. If not, then there’s no guarantee that the soon-to-be silent partner might not have a change of heart. Or worse yet, pursue litigation to score a better deal or higher percentage stake in the business. Either option is not exactly conducive to promoting internal harmony at your business.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gifRudy Southwell, CEO of Ideal Restaurant Group, a New Rochelle, New York-based startup that builds franchise restaurants, is a seasoned silent partner in a number of small business ventures. He echoes this sentiment: “All arrangements must be sound so the new silent partner doesn't have the ability to come back or one day change their mind and waltz back in to business.”

 

Consult a lawyer

Experts say getting the proper legal counsel to move forward with a silent partner arrangement is essential. To do so via an oral or handshake agreement, they say, is not enough. Protect your business and your stake in it by learning what you need to do legally to undertake this arrangement.

 

John Wright, a lawyer with McDonald Sanders, a  firm in Fort Worth, Texas, has frequently handled such matters for business clients. He feels small business owners that are seeking to move a partner into silent or investor mode, have no other viable recourse but to seek out legal counsel for myriad reasons. To fail to do so could have a disastrous effect on the bottom line if not properly addressed, he says.


“[ h[The parties involved] need to understand what the precise role of the newly silent partner will be going forward,” Wright says. “[They also need to know] the percentage ownership interest the silent partner is going to have in the restructured relationship. Is the silent partner going to be contributing capital to the business? If so, on what terms? The silent partner also needs to understand what he or she is giving up in the transition from active to silent partner.”

 

Also, according to Wright, small business owners must speak to a lawyer to discuss how and if they will need to restructure their business as a legal entity to accommodate a partner moving from active to silent mode.

 

“For example, if the parties are conducting business as a general partnership and a general partner wants to become a silent partner, the entity structure will need to be changed to accommodate limited liability and elimination of management duties as desired by the silent partner,” says Wright.

 

In addition to seeing a lawyer, the parties involved should also contact an accountant to help assure them that the business structure is not only legally tenable but that, as Wright notes, all “tax consequences are carefully considered.”

 

SilentPartener_PQ.jpgWork out a schedule conducive to the change

If you or your partner seek to go silent, then it wouldn’t make sense for either one of you to be a ubiquitous presence in the workplace. At the same time, don’t vanish overnight. Gradually ease up on the number of hours regularly allotted to your work schedule to help you, your partner, and staff get used to the change.

 

Says Southwell: “I currently own a preschool and a restaurant and I am at these businesses a total of 8 hours per month. I’m essentially a silent partner with both. Over the next 24 months those 8 hours will likely be reduced to one quarter of that time while I add other businesses.”

 

Transitioning from active to silent partner at a small business can be a complicated undertaking. But if the procedure is approached with care and consideration, particularly toward the legalities of the new arrangement, then it should pose little distraction to the running of the business.

 

Consult a lawyer, accountant, and other business professionals before making any decisions regarding a change in ownership.


Can you believe we are halfway through the year already? In all likelihood, you started off 2013 telling yourself that you were going to reach certain goals and revenue targets. Now that we are heading into the third quarter, it is time to take a moment and reflect on whether you are meeting the sales goals you set for the year.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

The funny thing is, many small business owners won’t really know the answer. They will have a general idea whether they are having a good or bad year but not a solid understanding, based on sales, expenses, and all the rest.

 

Cash management is generally one of those areas where small business owners could use some help. Since the vast majority of entrepreneurs did not go to business school, financials, cash management, profit and loss statements are not something that they tend to understand. However, it is important to get it right.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. It is not just a matter of checking your bank balance.  You need to keep track of your revenue and financial goals for the year. Here are four ways to do it:

 

1. Google Docs: Google docs offers free cash flow templates that you can use to track sales, manage expenses, track receivables, and more. For example, a Cash Flow Projection document will give you a good idea if you are going to run into any kind of cash shortfall. And since this is Google Docs, you can share and edit these documents with others in your business.

 

What is also great about these Google Doc templates is that you don’t have to start from scratch. Are you are meeting your yearly objectives? Customize one of these Google templates and find out. This is an easy and smart way to track your progress, and it saves you the time, trouble, and expense of creating your own cash-flow documents.

Pull Quote.png

2. Cash Management Apps: Many people today track everything from calories burned to money made is via their smartphone. Thus, a great and easy way to track your financial goals and business progress for the year is by using an app.

 

Pulse, for instance, is an app that allows you to evaluate income and expenses and ranges from $14- $49 per month. It is very comprehensive and can be used by multiple members of your company simultaneously. Simply input your information or upload it from a spreadsheet. Then you can see various graphics that track how your business is doing.

 

Another good app is called You Need a Budget. For a single purchase of $60, you can easily track your expenses. While this is mainly for personal budgeting, it can also work quite well for small businesses. Based on your bank statements, You Need a Budget creates a budget and estimates how much you should expect to make each month.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gif3. Financial Calculators: Check out DinkyTown, which has a variety of free financial calculators for businesses. These products track everything from cash flow to profit margin and can help you stay on financial in 2013.

 

4. Read: If you feel like you need a little extra help with getting started, books are always a good resource. “Cash Flow for Dummies,” by John A. Tracy, will give you a refresher course on various accounting topics and some insight into how cash flow fits into the big picture.

 

There is also an excellent article called The Art of Cash Management by Jill Andresky Fraser, Inc.'s finance editor.

 

So, are you meeting your revenue goals for the year? If you can pull out your smartphone and take a quick look at your cash flow at a moment's notice, you are one step ahead of the game.

 

How do you track your revenue and financial goals for the year? Share your story below.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking her

CrisisComm_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Sooner or later, every small business will be forced to respond to a crisis. The crisis could be something that directly affects your business, such as a product recall, or something external that grips the attention of the entire nation.

 

The growing number of marketing channels and the speed with which news and comments fly have disrupted the way that businesses handle, manage, and communicate during a crisis. In the pre-Twitter days, you had more time to react. Today, a response is required almost immediately to any negative situation.

 

We asked three experts to share their thoughts on prudent ways that small businesses can take charge of crisis communications, minimize negative blowback, and even build goodwill during some dark hours.

 

Have a plan

The most common mistake that small businesses make when it comes to crisis communications is not having a plan in place that can be implemented when the crisis hits. 

 

"The plan can be as simple as having the contact information for your attorney, your local insurance person, your local authorities, your vendors, or any regulatory agencies," says Vera Dordick, principal at Tangible Development, a New York-based firm that trains companies on how to do business and communicate with people from other cultures.

 

CrisisComm_PQ.jpgAnother part of your plan should designate someone to speak for your business and determine what your message will be. Ideally, the same person should deal with the media throughout the crisis, and the message should be clear and cohesive. "It's going to be hectic with a lot of things happening. When you do a media interview, you can usually make two or three points if you're lucky," Dordick says. "What's your one key message that you want to get out?" If your spokesperson isn't used to dealing with the media or giving interviews, practicing periodically before a crisis arrives can reduce anxiety levels.

 

Since social media has become a go-to source for information, setting up a separate hashtag—the familiar "#" symbol—about a particular crisis lets you group all your communications and public comments in one place. "If you have a hashtag, it's an easy way to follow what's going on up to the minute," Dordick says.

 

It's important to acknowledge comments that your customers make to show that you're listening and that you respect their feedback. Positive comments can be treated with a genuine expression of thanks. When faced with a negative comment or review, however, strive to respond in a positive way. "At least acknowledge their comments and don't be defensive," Dordick explains. "Like it or not, whether the customer is right or wrong, the customer is right. You can't get around that."

 

Know when to go silenthttps://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gif

External events that capture the attention of the nation may still require some kind of response from your business, even though your business was not directly affected or implicated.

 

"Part of being a community member is that external reality does affect you," says Karen Swim, president of Words For Hire, a Michigan-based firm that develops strategic offline and online communications. "This is why part of your crisis communications plan needs to be proactive. Part of that is listening."

 

If your business has a Facebook page, then monitoring what your community members are saying is essential. For example, if they are consumed with an issue that has gripped the nation, it might be wise to offer conciliatory thoughts—and hold off on any announcements related to your business.

 

"Your community will tell you what they want from you," Swim says. "It may be time to go dark on your scheduled posts and to just wait until the community is once again ready to engage in normal conversation."

 

Your communications during a crisis should always be honest and sincere, and the tone should reflect the nature of your firm, Swim says. For example, a firm whose communications are typically serious and straightforward in tone should couch their comments about the crisis in the same manner.

 

It's a good idea to have some sort of checklist of all the places where you produce content. "When you need to go in and mute your posts, it's critical to have a list that's accessible to other people in your company," Swim says. For instance, an application like Buffer lets your company put a hold on the distribution of your social media content in a single step. 

 

Assess your risks regularly

"A lot of small businesses don't realize that customers view a business as something in which they have shared ownership," says Deborah Fiorito, president of Texas-based 20K Group, a firm that specializes in public relations, crisis and issues management, and training. "Therefore, businesses have a responsibility to maintain their relationship and their reputations because that's shared with their customers." 

 

Fiorito says that businesses should do a risk assessment of their operations at least four times a year. "Bring together key managers on your team to brainstorm the risks today, what happened in recent weeks, how they reacted to it, what their response was, what they could have done better, and record these assessments," Fiorito says. "Have a plan and a process for a crisis that is so rote, you don't have to stop and think about it."

 

It may be impossible to prevent a crisis, but a thoughtful, well-executed plan can position your small business as steady, proactive, and sensitive to the events unfolding around you.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngWhen you think about it, the founding fathers were called revolutionaries for a reason. Not just because they led a revolution against the greatest empire in the world, but also because they were revolutionary thinkers.

 

These men were the best and the brightest of their day. They thought radically, dreamed big and were unafraid to go against the status quo – not just for themselves, but for everyone and the ideals they believed in.

 

There is plenty to learn from those who came before us this Independence Day. There is a lot to be said for having a revolutionary mindset about your business, even if –especially if – it disrupts the status quo.

 

Here are some ways you can revolutionize your business:

 

1. Revolutionize your customer relations: Do you use the 80-20 rule? If not, why not? Twenty percent of your customers are the reason you are still in business. Don’t just be nice to them, change your model to really cater to their wants and needs.

 

Take Nordstrom’s for example. Famous for its marvelous customer relations, the retailer considers itself to be in the service business, not the apparel business. Even Home Depot has hired more employees to enhance the experience in their stores.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


Consider adding a customer rewards program, or even do something as simple as sending  a hand-written thank you note to show your appreciation.

 

2. Revolutionize your employee relations: I once saw a survey of the most successful franchisees in America. They all had one thing in      common – the owners were exceptional bosses. They treated their staff like gold. And that staff, in turn, did backflips for the business – treating both      customers and each other well by always showing respect, having fun and working extra hard.


But it all starts with you, the business owner. By revolutionizing your management style, you can revolutionize your business as well.


Pull Quote.png

3. Revolutionize your marketing:  While some small business owners might be cautious about social media, I cannot stress enough the importance of including it in your marketing plan. The most recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report found that 86 percent of small business owners found word of mouth and customer referrals to be the most effective marketing tactic. And where do people share their opinions? That’s right, social media.

 

Don’t deny the magnificent new ideas of today. Jump on the social media bandwagon.

 

4. Revolutionize your attitude: When was the last time you tried something big, new and bold in your business? It is probably safe to say that it has been a while, especially if you have been in business for many years. The startup fever that you get at the beginning of your venture tends to dissipate over time.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gifRe-ignite the fire, my friends!

 

Brainstorm, think big and try some new products, services and strategies. Sure, some of the ideas won’t pan out – that’s the nature of the beast. But some will, and they will set you on a whole new course. Don’t be afraid to boldly go where no entrepreneur has gone before.

 

When thinking about your business this Independence Day, think about a quote from Ben Franklin: “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”

 

How do you plan to revolutionize your business? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Filter Article

By tag: