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2018

Few people prepare longer and harder than professional athletes. Hours of dedication to training, diet, and study ensure athletes can bring it during game day, and they know better than anyone there is no substitute for hard work.

 

As a professional football player turned entrepreneur, I believe small business owners can learn a lot from athletes. To open and run a successful small business takes research, commitment, agility and teamwork. Everything doesn’t always go your way, but it’s up to you to do everything you can to achieve success.

 

Here’s how you can think like an athlete to the benefit of your business.

 

1. Get comfortable with discipline

 

Athletes discipline themselves with relentless training to ensure they perform to the best of their ability. Similarly, small business owners must understand that discipline is not a hobby – it’s a lifestyle. Commit yourself to being as organized as possible, and eliminate the risk of making careless errors that could be detrimental to the health of your enterprise.

 

Entrepreneurs need to take great care to understand their industry inside and out, to stay on top of trends, attend conferences, capitalize on events, read the right books and trade publications, train themselves and their employees, and understand the competition better than it knows itself. This commitment will broaden understanding of your field, sharpen your skillset as an entrepreneur and ensure you run a tight – and profitable – ship.

 

2. Be better than yesterday

 

Athletes train to improve themselves – to be better than who they were last season. Teams do the same. When a season ends, players and coaches reflect to see what they could have done better, and then act on those learnings.

 

Businesses should do the same. What worked last quarter? What didn’t? There’s no such thing as a perfect athlete, a perfect business, or a perfect person, but there are winners and losers in business and those who win do so by constantly improving.  Every day is an opportunity to examine what works and what doesn’t work, acquire a new skill or a new team member, and cut or add where you need to. Regular self-examination is essential for evolution, and evolution is what enables some businesses to thrive while others fail.

 

3. Your team will make or break your business

 

A football team’s success is rooted in collaboration. Players must understand how to work with one another to put the most points on the board. In the same way, businesses depend on teamwork. You need the right players for the job – for strong performance and for a healthy environment.

 

Culture is crucial to building a positive environment for a team or an office. In a sense, the culture of your company begins with you. Create and cultivate that culture by finding the right teammates and leaders who will champion your objectives and your brand. If you have a happy and harmonious team that wants to do great things, there’s little to stop you.

 

Teamwork is Key to Success

           

 

 

4. Believe in yourself

 

Finally, and most importantly, believe in yourself. There will be many voices who say you can’t do it, it’s impossible, and there’s no way forward. Some of those voices might even come from inside yourself. The truth is, for most entrepreneurs, building a business is twice as hard as they thought it would be.

 

But if you have the passion, if your business plan is strong enough, if you can see a clear way forward, and if you’ve put the right people in place who have what it takes to evolve, you will succeed. Trust your team, trust your plan, and understand you have what it takes.

 

While every business has unique challenges, one truth remains consistent for all small business owners: smart, hard work is necessary to run a successful business. By dedicating yourself to improve, focusing on teamwork and understanding you can succeed, you’re on the right track to a successful career as a small business owner.

 

Read more from Dhani Jones

 

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About Dhani Jones

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

Have a question about your business? Let’s see if I can help; write your question here.

 

Q: I am getting sued for the first time, after being in business for 20 years. I know you used to practice law. The fees the lawyer quoted me are astronomical. What can I do?

 

A: I have good news and bad news for you.

 

First the bad news: Almost assuredly this is going to cost you money. That’s not the question. The question is, how much? And that’s the good news. There are ways to keep your fees “sensible.” Here’s what you need to know:

 

Legal fees are negotiable: Look, if you go to the biggest firm in town on the 30th floor of the tallest high-rise, no, their fees are not negotiable. But for many of the other lawyers in town, their fees may be far more flexible than you realize. 54427908_s.jpg

 

Why? Because clients are valuable and not always easy to get. You are a valuable commodity if you are looking to hire an attorney. Use that. Per hours fees may be negotiated, flat fees are possible, and fees for little things like emails and quick phone calls should be minimal.

 

Litigators have a vested interest in lawsuits. I know of no lawyer who would ever suggest that a client enter litigation without good cause. But that said, you also need to know that lawsuits are money pits for clients. But for the firm, they are a cash cow. So, beware of being the client that is keeping the firm in the black.

 

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and walk: There is a tendency, especially in litigation, to keep going because you either don’t want to lose or you really want to win. But, as Kenny Rogers once advised, you have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

 

Fighting is expensive.

 

 

Q: Steve – I have read your advice about the dangers of lawsuits. I am fairly new to business and have a busy retail shop I love. I would hate to get sued. That scares me. How can I avoid that?

 

A: There are few things worse in the life of your business than getting sued. It takes time and money and bandwidth and it’s aggravating and, yes, scary. Litigation generally, and defending a lawsuit in particular, is among the top reasons why entrepreneurs don’t always like entrepreneurship.

 

Are there ways to reduce your chances of getting sued? You bet. Here are a few:

 

1. Be reasonable: The very general standard in a lawsuit is that someone is wrong if they acted “unreasonably.” Example: You don’t clear the ice in front of your store, even though you know it is a slippery hazard. That is not “reasonable” in the eyes of the law.

 

So, be cautious. Keep your word. Do the right thing. Keep safety in mind. Be reasonable.

 

2. Work it out: Lawsuits are very often the option of last resort. A person (the litigant, also known as the plaintiff) feels aggrieved about something and sees no other option. Typically, first, he or she will try talking it out, or maybe having their lawyer write a nastygram. Whatever the case, suing someone is usually not the first option.

 

Given that, when something goes wrong at the store, my general advice is to listen and try to work it out. Settle if at all possible. No, you may not want to, but the alternative is usually worse.

 

3. Don’t sue: Sure, people will likely sue you if you breach a contract or harm them in the course of business, but they also may not, because they know what you know: lawsuits are a drag. But you significantly up the chances of getting sued if you sue someone. Why? Two reasons:

 

      • Countersuits are a legitimate litigation strategy. They think you will be more likely to settle if they sue you back.
      • People who are being sued are people who are mad. And people who are mad, sue.

 

4. Get insurance: If you are properly insured, there is far less reason for someone to sue you. First of all, insurance should pick up the claim, and second, if it doesn’t, the insurance company likely becomes a better target than you. Additionally, if you buy the right sort of liability insurance, it covers the cost of your legal defense. So even if you are sued, the bite, at least financially, will be more palatable.

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Not all that long ago, business owners wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a political stand—it was all too easy to alienate customers. But in today’s politically charged environment, do they have a choice?

 

In Global Strategy Group’s latest Annual Business and Politics Study, 84 percent of U.S. consumers believe companies have a responsibility to bring about social change, 83 percent say a brand’s values are important to their purchasing decisions, and 70 percent say corporations should stand up for their political beliefs, whether controversial or not.

 

However, even if your customers expect you to take a stand, doing so can be tricky. Nearly six in 10 respondents in a recent survey by YouGov will boycott a brand for its political views. Consider Keurig, which found itself in a firestorm after pulling ads from Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show last November. 43928270_s.jpg

 

When Hannity defended Roy Moore, the defeated Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, outraged Twitter users urged businesses to pull their ads. But Keurig was quickly hit with a backlash as Hannity supporters boycotted the company and posted videos of themselves smashing Keurig coffeemakers. Within days, Keurig apologized for “taking sides,” infuriating even more consumers.

Clearly, small businesses taking a political stand walk a fine line. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you keep your balance.

 

    • Do consider your customers. By choosing a stance on one side of a partisan divide, you’ll alienate customers with opposite views. Even if 75 percent of your customers support your position, can you afford to lose the other 25 percent? If you feel strongly enough to take the risk, have a plan for using your political stance to generate brand awareness and attract new customers.

 

    • Don’t fake it. Any political stance you take should be authentic to your brand. Millennial consumers are passionate about supporting companies based on social values, but they’re also quick to sniff out phonies. If customers sense you’re just jumping on a bandwagon, you could face a backlash from all sides.

 

    • Do consider your employees. Don’t assume all your employees feel the same way about an issue as you do. Realize taking a political stance could hurt your business financially, and your employees could suffer collateral damage, facing criticism for being part of the business.

 

    • Don’t wing it. Talk with your team about your company’s values and how best to express them. You’ll be better able to respond in a timely fashion if everyone is clear on your company’s values ahead of time and have worked out a strategy for communicating your positions on social media.

 

    • Do your homework. When taking a political stand, consistency counts. Suppose your retail store garners local praise for supporting a $15/hour minimum wage. Then the Twitterverse finds out that a brand of clothes you carry is made in a sweatshop overseas. Make sure you live up to the values you’re touting.

 

    • Don’t respond in haste. Social media outrage over political issues creates a sense of urgency. Remember, what your business says on social media can’t be taken back. The GSG study notes there’s a fine line between responding too quickly on social media and waiting too long.

 

    • Do keep it positive. The bitter partisanship in politics isn’t helping our country, and it won’t help your business, either. If you do take a stand, be a unifier, not a divider, by focusing on the positive. Suppose your business opposes the Trump administration’s decision to allow elephant trophies from Africa into the U.S. Instead of criticizing the administration or the policy, share information about organizations that help protect endangered species, get involved with these groups and urge your customers to join you in effecting positive change.

 

As the political rhetoric heats up, it’s going to get even trickier to take a stand. Before you speak out, make sure you’re aware of—and prepare for the consequences.

 

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Is your small business active in supporting social causes—or would you like to be? If so, February 27, 2018, offers the perfect opportunity to get started. That’s World NGO Day—an annual, international celebration of non-governmental organizations. Here’s what you need to know about World NGO Day.

 

What’s an NGO?

Generally, an NGO is a nonprofit organization or charity that focuses on global concerns, such as humanitarian crises, environmental issues, healthcare and social causes. They often empower long-term initiatives, such as conserving the earth’s resources or eradicating communicable diseases. The Red Cross, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam are among some of the best-known NGOs.

 

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Behind World NGO Day

World NGO Day has entrepreneurial roots. It was established by a young British-Latvian entrepreneur, Mārcis Liors Skadmanis, who came up with the idea in 2009 as a way of helping NGOs achieve greater success. In 2014 the United Nations officially put its stamp of approval on World NGO Day, and the first official celebration took place in Finland.

What’s World NGO Day All About?44898468_s.jpg

 

The theme of World NGO Day is “Celebrate, Commemorate and Collaborate.”

  • Celebrate: Honor NGOs and the volunteers who give their time to help NGOs make a difference.
  • Commemorate: Acknowledge the hard work NGOs do to create positive change in the world and the inspiring results they achieve.
  • Collaborate: Create greater symbiosis between NGOs and the public and private sectors; find new ways for both businesses and public agencies to assist NGOs.

 

What Can My Business Do?

If you’re already involved in supporting an NGO, or you want to get started, here are some great ways to participate in World NGO Day 2018.

  • Educate, then spread the word. Make your customers and the community aware of the mission of your chosen NGO and the need for what it does. You can use social media, email, your website and public relations to spread the news about both the NGO you support and World NGO Day in general.
  • Solicit donations. Encourage your customers to donate to your chosen NGO. Make it fun: Give a percentage of your profits on February 27 to the organization to encourage your customers to buy from you, or offer a discount to every customer who gives X amount.
  • Get involved. Plan and host an event to raise awareness of what your NGO does and how members of the community can participate. You can get templates to help promote your event here

  • Donate. Make a donation to the NGO of your choice. You don’t have to donate money—in fact, donating goods or services can be more effective at raising awareness of your cause.

Whatever approach you take, get attention for your activities by using the official hashtags of World NGO Day: #WorldNGODay, #YourNGODay and #NGODay.

 

Learn more about how Bank of America supports social causes and makes an impact.

 

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Is being an entrepreneur good preparation for being president of the United States? Considering that Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and Warren G. Harding are among the few U.S. presidents who previously succeeded as business owners, the answer seems to be no. But while the lessons of entrepreneurship don’t always translate to a successful presidency, many of our past presidents have important lessons to teach us about business.

 

George Washington: Focus on fiscal responsibility.

"Building the national prosperity is my first and my only aim."50264478_s.jpg

 

Washington was an innovative farmer who bred horses and owned a distillery. Perhaps it was his business background that gave him the sense of fiscal responsibility he carried into the presidency. Before stepping down as president, he worked with Alexander Hamilton to establish a national bank and gradually help the United States get out of the debt it incurred to other nations during past wars. According to First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His—and the Nation’s—Prosperity, Washington knew the young nation needed to be on solid financial footing in order to succeed.

The Takeaway: Keep a close eye on your cash flow.

 

Related Article: Cash Management for Small Business

 

Abraham Lincoln: Surround yourself with people of different viewpoints.

“We are not enemies, but friends.”

 

After being elected president, Lincoln promptly appointed some of his fiercest rivals to his cabinet. He wasn’t just seeking to keep them under his control: He wanted to hear their opinions, and he listened to their advice. Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin has said that Lincoln recognized the importance of surrounding oneself with those who have not only different opinions, but also different temperaments. He knew that a country needs the best people to lead it—whether those people were his supporters or his rivals was secondary. Of course, listening to different opinions didn’t mean Lincoln always followed his advisors’ advice. For example, his cabinet spent a long time debating whether to abolish slavery. Ultimately, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation despite their advice.

The Takeaway: No, you don't want yes-men.

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Be a leader.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

 

Taking office during the Great Depression and leading the nation through World War II, Roosevelt faced one of the most challenging administrations of any president. Yet he was elected for four terms because he understood the importance of leadership. Throughout many ups and downs, Roosevelt remained steadfastly calm, strong and optimistic. His Fireside Chats projected strength and eased the fears of a frightened nation. If Roosevelt was worried, he never showed it—in fact, he worked hard to hide any signs of weakness. Although he used a wheelchair as a result of having polio, public appearances and photos were carefully staged to hide his disability.

The Takeaway: Never let ’em see you sweat.

 

Related Article: Leadership Traits that Small Business Owners Should Possess

 

John F. Kennedy: Tap into the power of new marketing tools.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

 

Presidential elections have long relied on slogans and slander, but in 1960 there was a new tool in town: television. The first televised presidential debate was held in 1960 between Nixon and Kennedy. You’ve probably seen footage of the smooth, smiling and attractive Kennedy crushing the sweaty, nervous Nixon. In fact, the visuals were so persuasive that the more than 70 million TV viewers overwhelmingly saw Kennedy as the winner—even though radio listeners generally thought it was a draw, or even that Nixon did better. Kennedy wasn’t afraid to use this new media and marketing channel to his advantage.

The Takeaway: Maybe it’s time for you to start marketing on Instagram after all.

 

Related Article: 5 Easy Tips for Getting Your Business Started on Instagram

 

Happy Presidents’ Day! Are there any business lessons you’ve learned from our nation’s leaders?

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

 

Sometimes you find your passion. Other times, your passion finds you. In my case, it came from a friend.

 

In 2000, my childhood friend Kunta Littlejohn was in the middle of his battle with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – something that’s impossible to imagine until it strikes so close to home. I didn’t know how to support him. I only knew that I wanted to do something – whatever I could – to help.

 

At around the same time, I began my professional football career as a linebacker with the New York Giants. Kunta and I spoke often as he underwent treatment and I began my journey as a professional athlete. He was fighting for his life while I was launching into the national spotlight. As my star rose, Kunta told me, “If you wanna be somebody, you gotta rock a bowtie.”

 

At first, I took the statement for what it was: one friend imparting some light-hearted advice on another. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the enormous potential inherent in a tiny fashion accessory. A custom-designed bowtie could be used to tell his story of perseverance, resilience and survival – and bowties designed to support good causes could move mountains for those in need across the nation.

 

I started my business by listening and, like other business owners, I became passionate about identifying what the market needed and growing my business.


Today, BowTie Cause provides an avenue to support individuals and organizations they believe in by rockin' a signature BowTie. What began as an idea has transformed into a powerful tool for philanthropy – and a growing enterprise. I hope each bowtie will serve as a catalyst for conversation while having a meaningful impact for those in need. Bowtie Cause now helps raise money and awareness for many charitable organizations, from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to USAID.

 

It would never have been possible to empower the causes and people that BowTie Cause touches without taking a leap – to pursue a passion, to build a business, and—ultimately—to transition from one career to another as a business owner. I played professional football for 11 seasons, but now I am fully dedicated to enterprise.

 

Football and business are similar  in that you take great care to reach the Big Game. In football, you take care of your body like you take care of your business. Your goal is to reach the Big Game. As a business owner, your Big Game may be reaching the Fortune 100.

 

However, running a business has challenges different from professional football. Sales, for example. Sales can be challenging, and I’ve learned it’s important to have a compelling product and a good story in order to thrive – whether that means growing your business into an empire, or growing your business to sell it.

Professional athletes know that their careers won’t last forever. The advice I share with them is the same advice I would give all small business owners: plan while you’re planning. By this I mean focus on your current enterprise, but always look ahead to the next great idea, the next opportunity, and the next adventure.

 

Kunta knows what I’m talking about. He beat cancer, and you know he’s rockin’ a bowtie!

 

Unknown.jpeg

About Dhani Jones

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

On this Valentine’s Day, it is of course important to remember the ones who make our hearts go aflutter. Flowers, chocolates, a honey-do list – it all goes a long way toward letting our partners know we love and appreciate them.

 

I would suggest that this is even more important when your Valentine is also your business partner.

 

This is true for many reasons. One key issue is that when you work with your spouse or significant other, lines can get blurred. Business and love are not the same thing; the way you treat or think about your business associates is not (or should not be!) the same as how you treat your mate. So it’s important that you use Valentine’s Day to reaffirm the romantic side of your multi-faceted relationship.

 

This then begs the question – what is the best way to run a business and a relationship at the same time?

 

Here are a few tips I have compiled – from my own experience, from that of couples I know in the trenches, and from some experts:

 

1. Keep work and home separate (to the extent possible): Look, we all know that there is no way that these two worlds can be completely separate. However, partners that make it work know that one’s role at work is not the same as their role at home. They keep these worlds (somewhat) separate.25764254_s.jpg

 

Some couples accomplish this by having “office hours.” Work is about work at these times, and later, home is about home. I know one couple whose rule is that they are not allowed to speak about work after 8 p.m.

 

And, by the same token, it is important to set ground rules, whereby, just as work needs to stay at work, so too does your personal life need to stay out of the office (again, to the extent possible).

 

2. Have a division of labor at work: Along the same lines, having a division of labor is key at work. At home, roles and responsibilities may tend to intersect or bleed over. At work, it is important to know who is responsible for what and to accept and appreciate the chain of command.

 

3. Have your own space: Just because you are working together does not mean that you must spend all day together. You probably don’t want to in any case. That means at work you not only need your own space – you also need to give your partner space.

 

4. Remember that playing the game is different from watching the game: Running a business is like being on a team together. When working with a spouse, he or she is going to be playing the game on the field with you every day. You will not have someone rooting you on from the sidelines. Remember your partner is your teammate more than your cheerleader when you work together.

 

5. Make time for your relationship: As you well know, owning and running a business can be time-consuming. Finding time for yourself can be challenging, let alone finding time to nurture your relationship. But that’s why it’s more important when you run a business with your partner. It is simply vital that, just as you need to not let your personal relationship negatively interfere with your business, you also need to make sure your business does not overwhelm your relationship.

 

Taking time helps ensure that.

 

6. Heed these words of wisdom: Let me end by giving you the best piece of advice given to me on my wedding day, 27 years ago, by a family elder who had been happily married for over 50 years:

 

“Treat her like a queen and she will treat you like a king.” (I’m not always successful, but my Valentine knows I try!)

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, entrepreneurs.

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Each February, at the start of Black History month, I reflect on the many contributions African Americans have made to the country, to the economy and to our communities. Going back decades, we can see the impact civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks and many others have had in creating opportunities for people like me today.

 

As an immigrant to the United States and a recently sworn-in U.S. citizen, I have always understood the importance of “economic opportunity” in this country. This is one of the major reasons I focus so strongly on economic empowerment, which is a powerful way to improve the lives of millions of Americans, and to increase their ability to have an impact – not only in their communities but also in their environment, their country and their business community.

 

I’m inspired by the stories of successful African Americans entrepreneurs, like Bob Johnson, founder of BET, Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, Oprah Winfrey and many others.

 

These entrepreneurs and countless others like them gave me the idea that the American dream, though difficult to achieve, is possible. I was inspired by the importance of solving problems related to money – problems that can lead to economic empowerment. It doesn't mean you have to start the next Fortune 500, but it does mean if you have an idea and a dream, you can make it a reality.43928880_s.jpg

 

The U.S. economy rewards hard work. It rewards innovative thinking. It incentivizes people to take their ideas, send them to the marketplace, and exchange those ideas and actions for money and influence. To me, Black History Month serves as a reminder there are Americans who look like me succeeding despite difficult racial and economic setbacks in the past.

 

As a result, I devoted my life to not only writing a bestselling book about entrepreneurship, Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan, but to focus on helping minorities, women, and people of color, by giving them the tools to start and grow their lives through entrepreneurship. Black History Month also reminds me of my journey and how being in this country has given me an opportunity to make my dreams a reality.

 

I lived and spent time in multiple countries and numerous continents while playing professional basketball 18 years ago. I’ve also visited repressive regimes where freedom of speech is non-existent – let alone the freedom of entrepreneurship. I've seen opportunities in the U.S. that I’d never be exposed to in other parts of the world.

 

America is not without flaws, nor without faults. The civil rights movement as we currently know it is still young and America still has a long way to go regarding racial inequality and economic empowerment.

 

If you have an idea and a dream, and you're able to communicate that idea effectively, the United States of America is one of the best places for you to make that dream become a reality. Black History Month reminds me of how Wally Amos wanted to bake and sell cookies, so he created Famous Amos – doing $1 million in revenue in his second year of business. Thomas Jennings was one of the first African Americans to obtain a U.S. patent in 1821 for his innovative way to dry clean clothes. Sarah E. Goode, who ran a furniture business, invented the foldaway bed and was the first African American woman to receive a patent in 1885.

 

The contributions of Amos, Jennings and Goode not only improved the lives of African Americans but also the lives of all Americans. Black History Month reminds me that my experiences in tax, small business, accounting, sales, pricing and marketing can be used to empower others. The contributions of millions of African Americans to the community and economy will continue because this is a land of opportunity, and my goal is to make it as easy as possible for people like me, and for all Americans, to survive and thrive.

 

Related Article: Martin Luther King’s 4 Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Learn more about how Bank of America is driving economic and social progress

 

About Ebong EkaEbong+Eka+Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

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

  

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Does your small business use freelance writers? Perhaps you rely on freelancers to help you write and edit blog posts, create marketing copy, draft social media posts or craft your website wording. This year, February 12-17 is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week, which would be a good time to show these unsung members of your team how you feel.

 

As a former magazine editor who now runs a content creation company, I know a LOT of freelance writers. Here are some proven suggestions for how you can share your appreciation in ways they’ll really appreciate.

 

Send a gift. Writers love food. For writers who are employees and work in an office, having lunch brought in for a client meeting or receiving a tin of gourmet cookies in the mail is an event that gets everyone on staff running to partake of the goodies. Freelance writers who work by themselves at home don’t have that little thrill, so they’ll be truly grateful if you send something special. Since freelance writing isn’t the highest paid job in the world, a gift card to a failsafe retailer like Amazon or Target is sure to be a hit, too.

 

Put your sentiments in writing. Send a thoughtful, handwritten card to share why you appreciate all the hard work the freelance writer has done for your business. In a sea of emails, a personal note always stands out and makes a freelancer feel valued, which always makes people want to work harder on your behalf.

 

Provide some detailed, positive feedback. As a freelancer, one often gets detailed criticism or requests for rewrites. When something you’ve written is really good, you’re less likely to hear about it—or if you do, it's a brief, “Good job!” If you explain what you particularly liked about their recent work, they’ll be better prepared for the next assignment.32981727_s.jpg

 

Don’t be cheap. When it comes to freelancers, you’re going to get what you pay for. Many people who don’t write think writing is easy. It’s not. Pay freelancers a fair fee. Many will negotiate a volume discount with you if you hire them for multiple projects.

 

Host a get-together. If the freelance writer lives nearby, take him or her out to lunch. Do you work with more than one freelancer? Why not host a happy hour? The freelancers will probably welcome the opportunity to network with each other, as well as enjoy a break from work.

 

Offer to be a reference. Speaking of networking, recommendations from satisfied clients are the primary way that most freelance writers find new work. Offer to be a reference. Let them know that prospective clients can call or email you with any questions about their work (and then be sure to respond if they do).

 

Write a testimonial. Freelance writers generally market themselves online and are always looking for testimonials from satisfied clients to post on their websites. Offer to write a testimonial and make it a good one! Be very specific about why you hired this writer, what they’ve done for your business and why you would recommend them to others.

 

Endorse and recommend the freelance writer on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an essential marketing tool for freelance writers. Take the time to not only endorse them for skills they’ve employed for your business, but also to write an actual LinkedIn recommendation. This shows that you care enough to do more than just click a few buttons.

 

The life of a freelance writer can be an isolated and thankless one. Showing your appreciation will go a long way toward building a good relationship with the freelancers you rely on.

 

Related Articles:

6 Tips for Working Better with Freelancers

Remote Workers Are Happy Workers: My Tips for Making Smart Hires

6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Entrepreneurship and stress seem to go hand in hand. So, how do you handle the stress? Here are six stress hacks for entrepreneurs:

 

1. Take a walk: If, in the middle of your day, things are getting too out of control – too many demands, too many deadlines, and your wife has taken to calling you “Steve Stress” (oops! sorry, that’s my stress story) – then one of the easiest things you can do is to get the heck out of Dodge, or at least your office.

 

A 15-minute walk around the block will do wonders to clear your head and break the stress momentum. Indeed, studies show that one of the best things you can do when feeling stressed-out is to interrupt the pattern.

 

2. Go work out: More broadly, and if time allows, hitting the gym or otherwise getting in some real exercise will do wonders for reducing your stress levels. The great news is that exercise alleviates stress on two levels:51611071_s.jpg

 

      • First, the physicality of exercise works to counteract the physicality of stress. Physically getting your blood pumping works stress out of the body.
      • Secondly – and just as importantly – interrupting the pattern and experiencing the change of pace and scenery that accompanies a workout helps to clear your brain.

 

3. Get some rest: On the other end of the spectrum, the toll stress stakes physically and emotionally often coincides with a lack of sleep. By getting a regular good night’s sleep or a good nap, you counteract the power that stress can have over your body and life.

 

In a Ted Talk that has gotten almost 5 million views, Arianna Huffington says that the key to productivity and creativity alike is a getting good night of sleep.

 

4. Look at a nature scene. According to Psychology Today, “Looking at nature scenes can speed your heart’s recovery from stress. In a recent study, students were stressed by having to take a math test and getting feedback that they were performing below average. Afterward, researchers [showed the students either] pictures of trees or pictures of urban scenes. Those who saw the pictures of trees had a quicker cardiovascular (heart rate, blood pressure) recovery following the stressor.”

 

5. Check some things off your list. Stress is often the result of having too many things to do. By getting productive and simply checking a few things off your list, you may feel better.

 

6. Reinterpret your stress as excitement. That same Psychology Today article suggest that, instead of trying to calm down, what works is to harness the “energy of you stress chemicals.” People who reinterpret their anxious feelings as excitement do better on various tasks and have more positive feelings about the task than “those who tried to calm down.”

 

Tony Robbins famously uses this technique in his firewalking events, where he teaches people how to transform “fear into power.” That is the same idea here; stress is an energy that can be harnessed and used positively.

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

By Dhani Jones

Eleven-year pro football veteran and small business owner

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Dhani's Three Tips for Small Business Success

 

Local events provide unique opportunities for small businesses to capture excitement – and increase sales. The story of my career is filled with such events.

 

Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I played professional football for 11 heart-thumping seasons. In fact, in 2005 with Philadelphia, we made it to the Big Game. Today, as a business owner, I seize opportunities like big football games – and other, local events – to create an uptick in awareness, engagement, and sales. You can learn more about my business, BowTie Cause, here.

 

Here’s the playbook for turning an event into a touchdown for your business:

 

1. Define success. Understand what you want from participating in or sponsoring any event before you dive in. What’s your goal? Define it as specifically as you can, identify how you plan to measure success, and create a game plan to achieve your objectives.Unknown.jpeg

 

2. Pick the right event. Knowledge is power, and the first step to leverage an event to benefit your business is to educate yourself. What about the event is relevant for your business? Engage where it’s most practical. For instance, if you own a record store and a music festival is planned in your area – be a sponsor. The important thing is that it makes sense for your business to be present.

 

3. Be true to your brand. Authenticity—from your brand’s message to its voice—is critical to connect with your target audience. Once you’ve identified an appropriate event, ensure your participation is true to your brand. If you own a T-shirt company that specializes in humor and a comedy festival comes to town, equip comedians with your best shirts to wear during their set; if a burger festival is on the calendar and you own a new restaurant, enter the competition; if a surf tournament comes to your local beach, sponsor a surfer and set up a pop-up shop near the event – just engage in a way that is right for your brand.

 

4. Join the conversation. There are many ways to hit a bullseye in this regard. One of the easiest is to get in on the digital dialogue – create content online paired with a trending event hashtag – and bring your brand to an active online audience. Take full advantage of social media. There are many ways to do this, from promoting targeted messaging to event attendees to streaming live video from the event. Engaging visibly online will draw attention to your business.

 

5. Consider working with a partner. If you are not resourced to plan for event engagement, consider partnering with a marketing or PR firm with values similar to yours. An experienced partner can play an important role in developing a truly impactful strategy – and help bring it to life.

 

Each business has its own story, its own goals, and its own way forward. By prioritizing relevance and authenticity, you can leverage the right event for your business to attract attention and win sales. Stay true to your brand and seize opportunities to connect in the most meaningful ways with your audience. And never forget, the way forward is your way forward.

 

About Dhani Jones

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

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