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2019

You have a business idea you’re passionate about. But before you take another step, you need to find out if there’s a demand for that business in your community.

 

Conducting market research will reveal whether the area has enough potential customers, if they’ll buy what you’re planning to sell, and who your competitors are. Here’s what you need to find out.

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Is the industry thriving?

 

Start by researching the industry you want to enter. Is it growing, mature or declining? How do others in the industry sell their products or services? Where are most of them located? How much money do they make?

 

You can find a lot of information by searching online. Suppose you want to start a boba tea business. The search “is boba tea a growing industry?” reveals that the bubble or boba tea market is expected to reach $3,214 million by 2023. Look for search results from legitimate sources such as government websites, industry analysts, industry publications or industry associations. Tap into trade associations and trade publications for industry trend data, too. Using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to identify how your industry is classified will help you find more information.

 

Are there enough customers in your community?

 

Just because your community has a lot of residents doesn’t mean it has a lot of customers.

 

You need people who fit your target market profile. For instance, the primary customer base for boba tea stores tends to be millennials and Asians, so starting this business in a community full of white retirees won’t work.

 

To see if your business idea is a fit, get demographic information such as age, ethnicity, marital status, education level, household income and size, and homeownership for your community. The following sources can help:

 

 

Will those customers buy what you sell?

 

Even people in your target market won’t buy from you if they don’t have sufficient disposable income. For instance, boba tea is a luxury, not a necessity, so consumers on a budget may not buy it. Use consumer spending data to research your market’s spending habits.

 

    • The Bureau of Economic Analysis shows income levels by location.
    • The Consumer Price Index shows how much people pay for various products.
    • Employment and Unemployment Statistics reveals employment levels in your area and what types of jobs people have. For instance, if you want to start a beauty supply store targeting hair stylists (a business-to-business venture), find out how many people in your area work in salons and how many salons exist that might become customers. The cost of starting a beauty supply store may not be a strong investment if the market of customers isn’t there in your local area.
    • Consumer Spending shows overall spending trends.

 

Conducting surveys is a good way to see if prospective customers will buy from you. SurveyMonkey Audience lets you survey people in your desired region and demographic. If your customer base can be easily found (such as hair salon owners) you can also contact them directly to ask questions.

 

Who’s the competition?

 

All systems seem go—your community is full of hair salons and hairstylists, not to mention style-conscious women who can be potential customers for your hair salon supply store. Not so fast! What competing businesses exist?

 

Use the resources mentioned above to find local competitors. Visit them to get an idea of how they position themselves, what products they sell and the level of service they provide. This will help you identify opportunities to differentiate your business.

 

What if your research shows a sizable Asian, millennial customer base that spends a lot on eating out—but there are already three boba tea shops in your community? There might be room for another, but only if you can distinguish your store by offering something the others don’t. Could you serve more than just boba tea, or stay open late at night and host poetry readings and live music?

 

If there are nocompeting businesses in the area, that’s not necessarily a green light. Maybe there are no hair salon supply stores near you because local salon owners and hairstylists buy all their supplies online. You’ll need to dig deeper by contacting them to ask.

 

If all this research seems overwhelming, the experts at SCORE or your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) can help you conduct market research on your community at no cost. (Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)

 

Whatever option you choose, don’t neglect this important step. It can make the difference between a successful startup and an empty storefront.

 

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About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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Ensuring your employees are aware of their value is more important than ever. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Chris Brogan shares how small business owners can help inspire and motivate employees to increase retention.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I'm here with Chris Brogan. He's an author, keynote speaker and business advisor. He's also the president of Chris Brogan Media at ChrisBrogan.com.They offer business and marketing advisory help for mid-to-larger-size companies. If you're not a big company, Chris also has a company called Owner Media Group at Owner.Media. That's where he helps small business owners through classes and webinars. Chris, welcome.

 

Chris Brogan:             Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, I want to talk to you today about how to bring out the best in your employees. Before we go there, I want to point out that your upcoming book, you've written one book which is a New York Times bestseller — it's called Trust Agents— but your upcoming book, your 10th book, is called Dented: Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age. You also post a lot of posts on Twitter using #Dented. Your Twitter account is @chrisbrogan.

 

                                   I want to talk about how do we bring out the best in our employees. This is more important than it's ever been. Is this also a big focus of your upcoming book Dented?

 

Chris Brogan:             It is. One of the ways that I'm looking at modern business is that, at least in the west, and at least with the kinds of the companies that I've been working with, there's a lot of situation where unemployment's at a very, very low level right now. Retention is a lot more important than ever before. However, at the same time, there's a lot of stuff going on that's challenging to businesses.

 

                                   For instance, I'm seeing that there's a lot of trouble with presenteeism, meaning people disengaged. That's costing companies up to $550 billion a year. People come to work, they're doing their job, but they're also thinking about the fact that a family member is dealing with an addiction problem, or they're dealing with the mental health challenge of depression or something like that.

 

                                   My work in this space, what I'm trying to do is ... Some of this is coming from the hectic side of all this digital stuff coming at us. Some of it's just coming from work and life are not in balance, and they're not supposed to be, but there needs to be a new fit there. What I'm looking to do is, how do I help companies, employees, executives, everyone, how to help them figure out how to bring their whole self to the interactions that they need to have? What are we going to do to connect, interact, and belong at the level that we need to?

 

Gregg Stebben:         You're asking a lot of questions there. I'm hoping we can transition to the idea that you might have some tips to help us do that. What kinds of things should we be thinking about doing to inspire and motivate our employees?

 

Chris Brogan:            Well, I'll back it up a little. One thing I'd say is that humans in general have one great need more than any other. Stephen Covey talked about this a billion years ago in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He said humankind's greatest need was the need to feel wanted.I would even go a layer easier than that, and say to feel seen and understood.

 

                                  I think that more so than ever before, there's so much distraction. I'm looking at how do companies work with their employees to develop them a little bit more. How do employers work with their teams to say, "I see you. I understand what's going on with you. Let's make this environment work best for what's going on in your world."

 

                                   Then in the meantime, I think that companies need to have five things that they're working on a lot more often, even if they hide this inside of other language, if they need to. Resilience. How much are people able to withstand a bad situation happening or a negative situation, and then get back on station, so to speak. How do they get back to work?

 

                                   Clarity. You'll have time to try to sort through stuff. The level of people who are expert communicators is much lower than the level of people who need to communicate these days. I think some skill there needs to happen.

 

                                  Systems. One thing we tend to do a lot as leaders and employers, we tend to believe that there's a whole bunch of knowledge inbred into the people that we've hired in. You should know that already…that anyone, blah, blah, blah. That's the sort of language that comes out, but those systems don't exist, or they're not as explicit as they need to be. We need to retouch on that.

 

                                  Confidence. It is amazing how many opportunities exist overall to have your confidence mashed down over and over again. So can we build in ways to work on people's confidence, develop their confidence, etc.?

 

                                  Then I talked a little bit about this when I said clarity, but communications in general, we need to really train everybody in that organization how to do things like give feedback, how to do things like do effective brainstorming when you're doing collaboration work and whatnot, and how to really make sure that we're speaking to the variety of humans that could be there. We tend to get a lot more homogenous in our view and talk to everyone, but the world doesn't really react to that well.

 

                                  Those five things, resilience, clarity, systems, confidence and communication, I think are part of a core operating system for helping leaders and their employees work better.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think part of what you're saying here is that in today's world, where we have what many are calling a war for talent, employers need to be more aware than ever of the value of the employees they have, not lose them, that's retention, and also understand that making your employees feel valued will make it easier for you to attract more employees, including the friends and associates of the valued employees you already have. Am I summarizing that well?

 

Chris Brogan:            Oh, very well. There are stats like that. Employees who feel their voices are heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. By the way, I think this stat I'm going to read to you is the least shocking stat you could ever hear. Ninety-six percent of employees believe that showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. I'm wondering who the 4% were, but you know. That's something I read. Eighty-nine percent of workers at companies that support wellbeing initiatives are more likely to recommend that company as a good place to work.

 

                                  These numbers matter. There's math to this. There's money to this, but for so many years and still ongoing, we call this stuff the soft skills, which is silly. This is everything. There are almost no real factory jobs. There are almost no real, we don't care who sits in that chair, just pull the lever when the light turns blue. That doesn't exist anymore.

 

                                   I know that's a threat to some people, who would just rather people shut up and do their dumb job, but it's really not ... If you're going to make a company that's thriving, you're not going to get away with it using that methodology.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask you about one other type of employee, Chris. I'm talking with Chris Brogan. He's an author, keynote speaker and business advisor. He's at ChrisBrogan.com. He's on Twitter @chrisbrogan. He's the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller Trust Agents. His 10th book is upcoming. It's called Dented, Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age.

 

                                  I'm coming back to Dented, because I want to ask you about one type of employee that I think every business owner has had. This is somebody who does a great job, but is shy or introverted, and you believe as a business owner that you could help them transform themselves, frankly, but also bring so much more to the company if you could help them bring themselves out of that introverted state. Do you have ideas for how we can encourage someone to become even greater at using the skills and experience and thoughts that they already have, when they're shy or introverted?

 

Chris Brogan:            I love the question, because I want to say at the front of it, one really difficult challenge for extroverted people is they think, "Well, actually, that's where you should be. You should be out like me."

 

Gregg Stebben:        Yeah, that's me. I'm the guy asking the question and that's me.

 

Chris Brogan:            Yeah. I hear you. The challenge there is that some people were born to be stage hands. Some people love painting the set, and hoisting the fake rainbow up and over the picture at the right moment during the school play. Other people, like my oldest son, love to wear glitter and sequins, and scream as loud as he can every line in his play.

 

                                   We need both. I would say that instead of how do we make an introvert more extroverted, the question is how do we mine those deep waters, because there's just so much value in there.

 

                                   To me, one way to do that is to encourage other means of communication and interaction. They're the kind of people you could say, "Hey. Can you write a little report?" or, "Hey. Are you up for sharing a quick five bullets every now and again?" There's always ways to get people a step or two into sharing what they know.

 

                                   One thing that helps really introverted people a lot are confidence building opportunities. I think that one missing piece of work that anybody who owns a business could learn something from those time wasting video games that I love so much, is that games have stages and levels and checkpoints. Work doesn't. I would say the one cool way to work with introverts is to say, "Here's what level one of interacting looks like." "Here's what level two looks like." "Can we get some more interaction here?" If I built this person's confidence, what would that look like? What would feel rewarding to that person for sharing? Then you start to see how you could design something.

 

                                  When I work with executives to design better ways to lead their people, or to tune up their leadership, one of the things I'm looking for is that. Are there more breaks that we can stick in, are there more checkpoints and systems? Specific to introverts, I think that's the method is get smaller bites, but get lots of those bites. Make it a nice tapas meal, and then you get their value.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I really like the analogies there, tapas meals, and to the levels or leveling up in gaming. He is Chris Brogan. His company is Chris Brogan Media at ChrisBrogan.com. He's also the owner of Owner Media Group for small business owners, where they offer classes and webinars. Owner Media Group is at Owner.Media. You can also follow Chris on Twitter, like I do, @chrisbrogan. His New York Times bestselling book, Trust Agents was one of his nine books. His 10th book is coming. It's called Dented: Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age.

 

                                  Chris, in addition to your website, are there other places people can go to learn more about you, or are there things on your website you would point us to that can offer great value?

 

Chris Brogan:            ChrisBrogan.com works well. If you get there, there's a newsletter that will pop up and bother you. That's my best thing I do every single week. If you found this interesting, grab that newsletter. You can always hit reply to me directly from there, and we can chit chat.

 

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

 

                                   Chris, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Chris Brogan:             My pleasure. Thank you.

 

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

 

Related Links:

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A bank loan is a great way to help entrepreneurs start growing their own business. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Steve Strauss shares six steps to successfully obtaining a small business loan.

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us to talk about six essential steps for getting a business loan. Steve is USA Today's small business columnist and also the author of 17 books, including the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve, thank you for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         This is obviously an essential topic, how to get a small business loan. You are, as I mentioned, USA Today's small business columnist. You're also a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, and you talk to a lot of small business owners and I suspect that questions about how to get a loan is often one of the things they ask you.

 

Steve Strauss:           You bet. In fact, a couple years ago I even wrote a book on this very subject called Get Your Business Funded, because the good news is there are really a lot of different ways to get the money that you need for your business.

 

                                  The best and most obvious is to get a bank loan, as we're going to talk about today, but there are others like crowdfunding and microfinance, even business-owned competitions that people aren't as aware of. But the good news is, there is money out there for you to start running and grow your business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, of these first six steps, what's number one?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number one is you want to create a relationship with your banker before you ever go get a loan. In fact, what I really want people to know is banks want to lend to you. They want to lend to you. That's their job. That's their business. That's their business model.

 

                                  So, your job is to make their job easier, and the first way to do that is as I said: create a relationship with your banker. So before you ever go into the bank with your loan package, instead go into the bank and meet your small business banker.

 

 

                                  For example, Bank of America, who I do a lot of work with, who you mentioned, a couple years ago hired more than 1,000 small business bankers, and they're there to help you understand the banking process, understand the loan process, and understand what your loan package needs to have and how your business needs to look in order for you to get the funding that you need.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think what you said about it being the business of business banking to make loans is a really important point to make, because I think sometimes people feel like it takes luck to get a loan, but they're actually in the business of doing it, and that's an important thing to remember. So that's step number one. What's step number two?

 

Steve Strauss:           Step number two is to understand how much money you need realistically. It's kind of like Goldilocks' porridge. You don't want it to be too little because then you're going to end up with a capital crunch before you even start. You don't want it to be too much because the banker who is well-versed in finances and books and spreadsheets will understand that you're asking for too much money and that's not what you want to do.

 

                                  So you really need to think thoroughly through what it is you're trying to do, how much money you need to do what it is you want to do, and then go in with a loan package to ask for that proper amount.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, I've done that. What is step number three?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number three is to get your personal credit in order. It going to be very unlikely that you're going to be able to go in and just on the basis of your business get a business loan, at least if you're fairly new to business. Often a bank is going to want to see a personal guarantee on the part of the principal, and so you want to make sure that your personal credit score is about 700, that your debt to income ratio isn't out of whack, that you have a great credit history, that you have a history of paying your debt back in time, on time, and in full.

 

 

                                   They're also going to want to know how long you've been in business and what your cash flow is like. But make sure that you get your personal credit in order so that if you need to give a personal guarantee or if you need to give collateral even you can do both of those things.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Steve Strauss about the six steps to get a small business loan. Steve, what is step number four?

 

Steve Strauss:           Step number four is the one that we kind of talked about at the beginning. Now get your loan package ready. You've met with the banker, you know how much money you need, you have your credit in order, then you do number four, which is prepare your loan package.

 

                                  You have to include your financials, projections, a business plan, leases, contracts, personal financial information. You're going to put all of that together in a package that you're going to give to the bank.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Now, Steve, I'm really curious about steps five and six, because I would have thought we were done after number four when we got our loan package together. So, what's number five?

 

Steve Strauss:           Five is an easy one, which is, you know, you submit and you wait. You may wait a day. It just depends on what kind of loan you're trying to get. It may be that you have to wait for a couple weeks for underwriting to do their job. But you're going to submit and then see what happens.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I would imagine that if we did step number one correctly, which is create a relationship with our banker, then step number five, waiting, is a lot easier because we have someone we can go back to and check in with and say, "Is there anything else you need? How do you think we're doing? Do you think we're making the right kind of progress?"

 

Steve Strauss:           Bingo. So instead of going in blind and hoping for the best you're going in with your eyes open and expecting the best.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes, and having an advocate on our side.

 

Steve Strauss:           That's right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. So we're talking about how to get a business loan. We've now submitted our loan package, we're waiting to hear back from the bank. Let's just say because we did everything else correctly that we've now got our loan. What is step number six?

 

Steve Strauss:           Number six is to repay it in full and on time, and even better, early. I mean the secret to getting an even bigger and better loan next time, meaning better rates, better terms, that kind of thing, is to be a good borrower. So, that means paying it back early. It means that you've done everything that you're supposed to do.

 

                                   And if you do those kind of things, then you're going to have established yourself and your business as being credit worthy, and once that happens then the bank is going to want to work with you even more, and you're going to want to grow your business, and you're going to get another loan, and you're going to grow your business, and you will have created a great relationship and one that allows you to have the capital that you need accessible, and that's really is what makes a big difference for so many small businesses.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I love the sound of having a bank want to work with me even more.

 

Steve Strauss:           Right.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, let's walk through those six steps again really quickly as a recap. Step number one, start creating a relationship with your banker right now before you're ready to apply for a loan. Step number two, figure out how much you need, not too much, not too little. You got to figure out what the right amount is, and of course, if you have a relationship with your banker you can get some help there I would imagine.

 

Steve Strauss:           Correct.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Step number three, get your personal credit in order because that's probably going to be a factor here. Step number four, prepare your loan package, which leads to number five, submit and wait. And step number six, probably the most important because we do want the bank to want to work with us again the future ... Step number six, repay the loan back in full, on time, even early, because that will make it clear that you are a great business to lend to next time.

 

                                   Steve, thanks for the great advice and steps for how to get a business loan. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           Sure. You can always find me at my personal website, which is MrAllBiz.com. You can find me at USA Today, and I would also suggest that you come over to the Bank of America Small Business Community. They have lots of great information, articles, videos, tips, other experts, and you can find a lot of great, great stuff right there.

 

Gregg Stebben:          As Steve mentioned, a great place to go for advice in addition to his website, USA Today, and of course checking out his best-selling book, The Small Business Bible. Visit the Bank of America Small Business Community. It's at BankofAmerica.com/SBC.

 

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

 

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “A woman is like a tea bag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

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This quote popped into my head as I listened to Stephanie Vitori, owner of Miami Beach-based Cheeseburger Baby, accept the Small Business Administration’s National Phoenix Award during Small Business Week in Washington, D.C. The Phoenix is awarded to those who’ve “displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.”

 

Vitori started her career at Cheeseburger Baby as a delivery driver, but she didn’t stop there. After learning the ins and outs of every position at the company, she bought the place. She set out to transform the “dive” by adding food trucks (which turned out to be a lifesaver) so she could “grow beyond South Beach and reach more customers.”

 

No stranger to transformations, Vitori had to rebuild her iconic burger business after it was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Irma. She’s the perfect embodiment of both the Phoenix—rising from devastation—and the tea bag—gaining strength as she went.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: You bought Cheeseburger Baby in 2004. What made you think you could go from delivering burgers to running the place?

 

Stephanie Vitori: I’ve always loved food—I grew up in the kitchen with my family. I was a foodie before being a foodie was a thing. I also saw the connection Cheeseburger Baby had with its customers and employees and I believed in it.  So, I saw an opportunity and went for it. No risk, no reward.

 

Lesonsky: You’ve said you “transformed” Cheeseburger Babyfrom a dive into a South Beach hot spot. How did you do that?

 

Vitori:I transformed it with hard work, offering great food, ambience and customer service. Word got out we were the place to go for the best burger in town. I also make sure I am present and involved as an owner from cooking burgers to doing the dishes. It’s important to lead by example.

 

Lesonsky: So things were going great and then Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. Did you prepare for the coming storm?

 

Vitori: I prepared for the worst but was hoping for the best. About 48 hours before [the storm hit] I decided to put everything in freezers, board up the stores, park the trucks in a safe area, pack up and tarp our house. We got in a U-Haul with our five dogs and went on what seemed like one of the longest road trips ever. It was the hardest decision in my life.

 

Lesonsky: And yet, despite your preparations, Irma devastated Cheeseburger Baby. What were the damages?

 

Vitori: Hurricane Irma was by far the biggest challenge the business and I faced in the last 19 years. Water backed up into the restaurant, damaging food and essential equipment. There was also major damage to the air conditioning unit, freezer, hood ventilation system, and our marquee sign. A tree fell on our food truck damaging the roof and awning. Power was out at the restaurant for two weeks.

 

Lesonsky: You experienced about $150,000 in losses and property damage. Recovery was slow. Were you worried you were going to lose it all?

 

Vitori: Yes, I was worried about losing it all. I learned about the Small Business Development Center and went to them for help. I had only 24 hours to get our bridge loan application together. It was a challenge but prepared me for filling out the SBA Disaster Loan Application (we were approved).

 

We did whatever we could. We relied more on the food trucks as we recovered. My wife and I worked endlessly, picking up more truck events everywhere we saw an opportunity, and we marketed on social media.

 

Lesonsky: During your acceptance speech for the Phoenix Award, you made a pretty staid audience cry and got a resounding standing ovation. How did that make you feel?

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Vitori: It truly is hard to put into words what I felt—I’ve never felt anything like it before. It was the first speech I’ve ever given in my life. I was obviously nervous, but I felt blessed and appreciated. The audience made me feel validated—20 years ago I went down the wrong path, quickly realizing it wasn’t for me. Then I was outed in high school which pushed me to graduate a year ahead of my class.

 

I moved to Miami not knowing my future. I worked extremely hard, buying Cheeseburger Baby and paying it off in two years instead of five. I was honored to [receive] the National Phoenix Award for resiliency, tenacity and strength. I feel the award was for everything I have been through in life, and I think the audience felt the same.

 

Lesonsky: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?

 

Vitori: Always make time for you.

 

Lesonsky: In your acceptance speech you said, “There are two kinds of people in the world—problem identifiers and problem solvers. Small business owners need to be both.” Was that the lesson this taught you?

 

Vitori: I’ve always been that way, but in business you learn a lot of time gets wasted when you just have identifiers. Identify, find a solution, solve it and move on.

 

Lesonsky: What’s next?

 

Vitori: We want to continue to be the best burger people have ever had in the world.

 

     Related content:

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Put down your Pina Colada and step away from the pool. If you’re a retailer, now is the time to start planning for holiday shopping success.

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Last year 89 million consumers shopped both online and in stores over Black Friday weekend, an increase of nearly 40 percent from 2017, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). With the economy in booming condition, sales are likely to be just as strong this year. But there’s plenty of competition—so take these steps this month to put your retail business out front during the holiday season.

 

Get a head start on inventory

 

    • Review your best sellers from last year and use your inventory management software to plan ahead and forecast your inventory needs. Strike a balance—ordering too much or too little inventory is a profit-killer.
    • To get the right mix of products, research what’s trending in your target market. Visit trade shows to see what products are being promoted; monitor the hot sellers on Amazon, eBay or Alibaba.com.
    • It’s also important to keep your merchandise fresh, so plan to order different products you can highlight every couple of weeks.
    • Focus on a mix of unique inventory that customers can’t get from big-box retailers or websites, as well as some popular items and small impulse buys you can use to get customers into your store.
    • Place orders early and stay in contact with suppliers. Know how soon you need to order, any extra fees for rush delivery and the like.
    • To hedge your bets in case one supplier is shut down by bad weather, order from multiple suppliers so you won’t get caught short.

 

Plan for marketing and advertising

 

    • Revie last year’s marketing and advertising plan. What worked and what didn’t? Create a marketing plan, calendar and budget based off that information.
    • Start by planning end-of-summer promotions to clear out stock and make room for holiday merchandise.
    • Next, plan marketing for key dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day and Super Saturday.
    • Online marketing is key, since shoppers go online to research products, compare prices and find stores. Capture consumers in these early stages with pay-per-click advertising and promoted social posts.
    • If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, update your local search directory listings using keywords shoppers are likely to use.
    • Your website needs some holiday spirit. Create gift guides. Plan to add a holiday design.
    • Can your website handle a surge in holiday traffic? Make any major changes to your site well in advance.
    • Email marketing is a key driver of holiday sales. Clean up your email lists; encourage customers to sign up for your emails; and plan your email campaigns adhead so you’re not trying to create them during the holiday rush!
    • Don’t forget real-world marketing. Brainstorm ideas for in-store events or charitable campaigns now so you can start building excitement.

 

Promotions and deals

 

    • More than four in 10 consumers say they can’t resist making a purchase when something is on sale. Use your sales forecasts to calculate what types of discounts you can offer without hurting your bottom line.
    • Incentivize shoppers with deals such as BOGO, flash sales or VIP sales offers.
    • Plan for post-holiday discounts. Last year, 68 percent of holiday shoppers and 80 percent of those aged 18-24 planned to keep shopping December 26-January 1, according to the NRF.

 

Get your systems ready

 

    • Review last year’s holiday data to see what days, dates, and hours of the day were busiest. This will help you plan and budget for staffing needs.
    • If you’ll need extra help, reach out to seasonal workers you hired last year to available.
    • Bigger companies start holiday hiring as early as August, so if you want the best workers, prepare your job listings and start putting out feelers now. Remember, allow time to train seasonal staff well before the holidays.
    • If you’re implementing new service offerings this season, such as “buy online, pick up in-store,” selling gift cards, or offering layaway, put the proper systems in place and work out any kinks now.

 

Get your groundwork done now, and you’ll boost your odds of “winning” the holiday shopping season.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

If you travel through airports at all, you really don’t need to be told how great TSA Precheck is.

 

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Either you have enviously seen the empty lanes as you interminably wait in your own long, security line, or you have Precheck and have waltzed through security yourself, wondering why everyone else hasn’t gotten with the (great) program yet.

 

If you’re someone whose small business requires travel for buying trips, trend scouting, trade shows, or just a good old-fashioned client pitch, Precheck could save you valuable time and cut down on travel headaches.

 

How great and popular is Precheck? Check out these stats from the Transportation Security Administration:

 

The average Precheck passenger spends less than five minutes in a security line

More than 7 million people are enrolled in Precheck

Precheck is offered in more than 200 airports and by 67 airlines

 

The Global Entry program is essentially the same thing, but for international travel – an expedited security process for those who pass the required security clearances.

 

How do you get into each, and what are the benefits? Let’s see.

 

TSA Precheck

 

Getting into the Precheck Program is a three-step process:

 

1. Apply online: Precheck costs $85 for a five-year membership. You begin the process by applying online.

 

2. Pass the background check: Needless to say, the point of Precheck is to give preference and advantages to low-risk flyers. As such, you will need to pass a background check that includes an in-person interviewand fingerprinting.

 

3. Get accepted and use your number: Once you pass the background check (between 30 to 60 days), you will be given a “Known Traveler Number.” Then, whenever you make a plane reservation, you enter that number and thereafter will have “TSA Precheck” on your boarding pass, both mobile and printed versions.  Long lines be gone!

 

Here are two Precheck tricks you should know about:

 

1. Some credit card and other travel-related loyalty programs will pay for your Precheck application fee. You can find a list here.

 

2. If you have Precheck and are travelling with someone who is not a part of Precheck, it would behoove you to book them on the same reservation. This usually ensures that they will be given Precheck too on their boarding pass.

 

Global Entry

 

If you do any international travel, Global Entry is definitely something that should be on your radar (excuse the pun).

 

Global Entry provides travelers with the following perks:

 

      • TSA Precheck
      • Expedited customs screening when re-entering U.S. airports
      • Expedited customs screening when traveling by train or sea
      • The ability to use Global Entry kiosks when going through customs

 

The cost for the program is $100 for five years. So, for only an extra $15, you can apply for Global Entry and get all its advantages, as well as TSA Precheck, which is a pretty sweet deal.

 

The application process for Global Entry is equivalent to Precheck: Apply online and then attend an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.

 

Global Entry and TSA Precheck are altogether a better way to travel. Apply now and before you know it, you will be saving yourself wait times and airport stress, leaving more time to prepare for your business needs.

 

Bon voyage!

 

     Related Links:

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Social media marketing is a broad term covering everything from targeting detailed demographics on Facebook to threading tweets on Twitter, shooting video, and rustling up audiences on YouTube.

 

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Yet despite the constant conversation about social media marketing, one platform that’s often overlooked is Pinterest.

 

The platform has more than 250 million visitors every month with 84 percent of them turning to Pinterest specifically when they’re trying to decide what to buy. It’s popular with millennials, and it’s particularly popular with females. For any business, but especially businesses that target women, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

One of the reasons that Pinterest has such a dedicated, engaged audience is that it’s easy to use. Another important difference between Pinterest and other platforms, particularly for use in social media marketing, is that it operates more like a search engine than a social media site. Interaction with followers is less important than a steady flow of content properly keyworded. But like Instagram, and unlike Google, Pinterest is built on images.

 

Images are “pinned” to themed boards created by the user and can be shared or “repined” and commented on. And, since the platform tends to be both highly visual and instructional, adding text to your pinned images is often more impactful than the post caption itself in terms of audience engagement.

 

According to Lauren McManus of CreateAndGo.com, a consultancy for bloggers, text should have no more than two or three fonts and colors, but should emphasize the important words.

 

“The headline has to be click-worthy,” she says.

 

Pinterest is also unusual among the social networks in delivering better results for pictures of objects than for pictures of people. Users are more likely to be looking for purchase or design ideas than for selfies of their friends.

 

Format is important too. Pins should have a 2:3 ratio and be no more than 1,500 pixels long. 

 

“Pinterest has said that they will cut off pins at 1,260 pixels,” Lauren says, “but if you keep the majority of the text in the top portion of the graphic, then there usually won't be an issue. Our longer pins from the past still perform well.”

 

Businesses should create their own boards that they fill with relevant pins. Those pins could be product images or even form a kind of mood board related to the services the business sells. Farmers Insurance, for example, has boards that cover family life but also places pins that look like print adverts and promote insurance policies.

 

The real challenge in using Pinterest, as for many social media platforms, is building the audience. One option is to join a group board, a place on which lots of contributors place pins. “Group boards with lots of followers are great for exposure,” says Lauren. “But niche group boards are also very important as relevancy is key in the Pinterest algorithm for associating content with yours.”

 

Businesses should avoid boards with a virality score below 1.0, though, which means that a pin is shared for every pin added. Tailwind, an app that brings pinners together, has also proved to be useful.

 

Group activity is one vital step towards audience building on Pinterest but so is a steady flow of new content. Lauren recommends posting at least once a week and as often as two or three times a week. “Once you build up an audience, you can slow down,” she says. “You can also freshen up older content with new graphics. That's a great strategy.”

And of course, repinning other people’s content gives your audience new content easily while spreading your views to others and increasing the chances that your own pins will be shared.

 

But it’s the keywords that are most important. Users on Pinterest search for images and ideas so keywording your pins and placing them on properly keyworded boards is vital for being seen and growing organically. It sounds technical but adding terms to images is still more fun than targeting demographics and can be no less effective for small businesses.

 

While it may be tempting to stick to platforms that are familiar there is a huge benefit to experimentation. Small businesses, particularly those selling goods online, should explore Pinterest as a great option to reach potential customers in a new and fresh way.

 

Related content:

The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick your Platforms

 

About Joel Comm

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Just like students get summer homework, here are  summer reading suggestions for you, the small business owner I chose books that were not only filled with great advice for entrepreneurs, but ones you can dip into for easy, but informative, summer reading.

 

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It’s the Manager

Authors: Jim Clifton and Jim Harter

 

How should we prepare for the future of work? The premise ofIt’s the Manager, which is based on Gallup’s 30-year study of the workforce (over 37 million people were surveyed), is that while we continue to worry about the decline in global productivity, we’re ignoring the best solution—managers. In fact, the authors (Clifton is the Chairman and CEO of Gallup; Harter is Gallup’s Chief Scientist, Workplace) maintain the single biggest factor in determining your company’s success is the quality of your managers.

 

Because the book is from Gallup, it uses data to explore the challenges and offer solutions.  The research shows they key to business success today is aligning a company’s purpose and culture with the needs and wants of today’s employees, who want work with a deeper purpose.

 

The book is intentionally written for busy business people. Harter says, “Instead of …setting aside big chunks of time to read the book from start to finish,” you can read the relevant discoveries when an issue arises.

 

Turning the Flywheel

Author: Jim Collins

 

Jim Collins has written six books that have sold more than 10 million copies, including the iconic Good to Great. That book focused on seven principles, including the concept that good-to-great transformations aren’t caused by a “single defining action.” Rather, success stems from “the flywheel effect,” which Collins likens to the act of pushing a “giant, heavy flywheel” forward. First it takes great effort, but as you keep pushing the flywheel builds its own momentum until it’s almost unstoppable. For example, Collins explains, offering lower prices to encourage customer visits was Amazon’s flywheel.

 

The publisher labels Turning the Flywheel as a “monograph to accompany Good to Great.” The book is only 40-some pages long—so it’s ideal for summer reading – yet Collins covers a lot, explaining the steps involved in discovering, maintaining and extending your own flywheel.

 

Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life

Author: Guy Kawasaki

 

Full disclosure: I am a long-time fan of Guy Kawasaki, having read his The Art of the Startmore than a few times. Wise Guyis Kawasaki’s most introspective book, covering topics ranging from business skills to moral values to parenting.

 

The book is not written in a traditional style, making it easy to pick up and put down. There are numerous “Wisdom” sidebars, which alone make the book a worthwhile read. One of my favorite stories involves a Dutch bike company which noticed 25 percent  of its boxes were being damaged in shipping. They solved the problem by putting pictures of widescreen TVs on the bike boxes, because apparently workers are more careful when shipping TV sets.

 

Kawasaki says his goal for writing Wise Guywas to “help you live a more joyous, productive and meaningful life.” To help us do that he uses examples from his life. To underscore the “you’re never too old to learn something new” trope, for instance, Kawasaki talks about his adventures when he took up surfing at age 62.

 

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Authors: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

 

While not a household name to most of us, Bill Campbell has coached business people we’re all familiar with, including all the authors (Schmidt is the former CEO of Google and executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company).

 

Campbell, a former college football coach who died in 2016, was known as Silicon Valley’s preeminent executive coach. The book’s title pays tribute to Campbell’s success—he helped build corporate giants like Google, Intuit and Apple, creating over a “trillion dollars in market value.” The authors talked to more than 80 of Campbell’s clients, including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, the president of YouTube and Brad Smith from Intuit about the lessons Campbell taught them.

 

Campbell believed in only coaching the coachable. What makes a person coachable? “Honesty, humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.” If you’re coachable, there’s a lot to learn in this book.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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