Skip navigation
2018

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

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

 

57814637_s.jpg

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

     Related Content: 7 Ways to a More Productive Meeting

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

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

 

 

Transcript

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Carol Roth

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

11BOA-Heartbeat-Soundcloud-header-TEAM-2400x750-150dpi.jpg

 

iTunes-Button.gif

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Kevin:                         Thank you for having me.

 

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

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

 

And then it happened.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prosimageedit_2_3012441430.jpg

 

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

 

That is the essence of a franchise.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Cons

 

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

 

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

 

How much? Here are a few examples:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Not insignificant, any of this.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Related Content:

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America

8 Steps Toward Starting a New Business

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Buying a Business 

How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Yes, excelling. Fine is not good enough anymore.

 

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

 

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

 

Get to Know Your Customers. Period.

 

Here are a few ways to do just that:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Write them a thank you note.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

iTunes-Button.gif

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

               Related Content: Spring 2018 Small Business Owner Report

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sharon:                        Echo or whatever he got.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Greg:                           I want Sharon to be my mom!

 

Kate:                            I know! Me, too!

 

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

 

Gregg:                         Kate and I do not roll our eyes.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

43089688_s.jpg

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sponsorship can be the answer.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Read Next:

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

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

How Event Sponsorship Can Benefit Your Small Business

How to Be More Effective at a Networking Event

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

President Donald Trump is not the first businessman president. If you study the biographies of the 44 people who served before Trump, you will find we have had many entrepreneurs serve the country’s highest office.

46954750_s.jpg

 

And so, let’s look at what we might call The Secret Small Business History of the Presidents. While Barack Obama was famously a public employee for most of his adult life, his immediate predecessor George W. Bush had an entrepreneurial streak. And while W’s entrepreneurial career is checkered at best, he did end up hitting one out of the park when his investment in the Texas Rangers baseball team made him a millionaire.

 

Bush began his career in 1979 when he launched Arbusto Energy, an oil exploration company financed with trust fund money, as well as capital from investors. Unfortunately, Arbusto was hit hard by the energy crisis of the late ‘70s and basically went ar-busto.

 

W had much more success when he and his team bought the Texas Rangers in 1989. When the team sold again in 1998, Bush’s $600,000 investment scored him a hefty profit of about $15 million.

 

His dad, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, founded the Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company in 1953, and later, the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. In 1963, Zapata Petroleum merged with Southern Penn Oil to become Pennzoil and Bush became a millionaire.

 

Jimmy Carter’s small business story is impressive. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Carter moved back to the little town of Plains, Georgia and took over the failing family peanut farm. Carter turned that small farm into a multi-million-dollar peanut business of warehouses, shelling plants, industrial farm equipment, and more.

 

Despite the farm’s great success, Carter was almost broke again while in the White House as he had put the farm in a blind trust. Nevertheless, his entrepreneurial skills allowed him to reverse course. He founded the Carter Center, became a best-selling author and an in-demand speaker, and yes, in the process, a millionaire.

 

Before becoming president, Harry Truman was a haberdasher. He also opened his own clothing store in Kansas City after serving in World War I.

 

While Franklin Delano Roosevelt was never an entrepreneur in the traditional sense, he was what we would now call a social entrepreneur. FDR famously transacted polio as an adult. As part of his therapy, Roosevelt traveled to Warm Springs, Georgia for treatment. While he was never cured of the disease, the treatments helped greatly and FDR spent many years raising funds for, and helping to launch, what became known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

 

Warren G. Harding was quite the small businessperson. When he was 19, Harding bought a newspaper that was about to go under – The Marion Star. Harding became the publisher and turned the failing venture around. The paper soon started to make a tidy profit; so much so in fact that it became the source of Harding’s income for the next several decades.

 

As we all know, Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, but he was also quite the industrious entrepreneur. Lincoln:

  • Opened a general store in 1833 (it failed)
  • Opened his own law firm
  • Obtained United States patent no. 6,469

 

Andrew Jackson made his first fortune buying and selling real estate. He was also one of the founders of Memphis, Tenn.

 

Finally, let’s not forget our first president, George Washington. Before he led the continental army, Washington was a farmer, which, at that time, was among the most common small business endeavors. By the time of his passing, Washington owned five farms. In fact, so entrepreneurial was he that Edward Lengel wrote a book about Washington titled First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity.

 

So yes, you as an entrepreneur are in good company, and who knows, maybe someday you will become president too!

 

Related Content: What 5 U.S. Presidents Can Teach Us About Business

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Filter Article

By tag: