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As a small business owner, effective cash flow management can empower you to accomplish long-term success. Ensure you’re carefully budgeting and keeping an eye on your big picture goal with these tips from Ryan Larison, Bank of America SVP and Small Business National Sales Performance Executive.




“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 and Bank of America at And here's your host, Greg Stebben.


Greg Stebben:           We're really excited to welcome Ryan Larison here. He's the SVP, Small Business National Sales Performance Executive at Bank of America. Ryan, welcome.


Ryan Larison:            Well thanks, Greg. I really appreciate the invite and the ability to talk to everybody today. Thank you.


Greg Stebben:           Well, thank you, because we're going to talk about something so important to small business owners. In a sense, it's kind of a refresher course for many people, but I think this is the kind of information that is worth hearing and rehearing and reviewing often as a small business owner. We're going to talk about cash flow management. Everyone who owns a business knows what cash flow management is, because if you own a small business it's something you're thinking about all the time. But there are probably some very important aspects of cash flow management that many business owners miss, and I'm hoping you can educate us.



Ryan Larison:             Absolutely, Greg, and effectively managing that cash flow can really empower you to accomplish a few things that will contribute to a long-term success of your business. It does a few things for you. For instance, it allows you to plan for any shortfalls that you might have due to any type of drop in sales or any type of emergency that came up with your business.


Ryan Larison:            So we always recommend to save about six to 12 months of reserve cash. That's a real good rule of thumb. It's also a part of careful budgeting, which includes predicting payables and your receivables and accurately tracking changes in your business, because we all know it can be tough at times and requires consistent attention to detail, but it can ultimately be the difference between success and failure.


Ryan Larison:             And finally, effectively managing your cash flow, it helps you see the big picture of your business and emphasizes your focus on your profits. Ultimately, you need to know what your break point is, and that really gives you a big-picture goal as to what you're working towards, and then you can effectively manage your cash flow to get to that break point and beyond.


Greg Stebben:           It's so interesting, Ryan. In what you just described, it in a sense is very focused on, well in a sense, your relationship with you and your bank account, right? I mean, if I'm planning for shortfalls, I'm setting money aside or making sure that we have money there for if there's a problem. If I'm budgeting, again, it's my small business and my budget. If I'm focusing on profits, again, it's looking at the accounts, talking with the accountant, maybe talking with the bookkeeper.


Greg Stebben:           But there's a whole other side of managing cash flow that is also very important. It's the part of managing your cash flow that involves customers. Because customers are king, customers are queen, but sometimes these relationships can get a little tricky to manage, and you want to make sure those long relationships stay and continue to be great, profitable relationships, and you want to manage relationships with new customers. What are some strategies we can employ to help manage the customer side of cash flow?


Ryan Larison:            That's a great question. And listen, we always want to keep our customers happy, but if the payments are not coming in or they're coming in sporadically, it really can impact your business negatively. So a couple of the strategies that we advise our small business clients to consider include establishing clear terms in your invoices, so you can't fault the customer if they're not paying you if you haven't expressed the terms correctly.


Ryan Larison:            One area you can utilize is maybe some late fees in order to get a great way to spur them to actually start paying off their amounts. Another great way is to accelerate receivables, so by meeting the needs of your most busy customers, one great way is to get a lockbox. We have lockboxes that we utilize that you can mail your payments in and they have faster processing. Or even my favorite, which is an electronic payments portal that is the quickest and easiest way in order to get that payment over to us.


Ryan Larison:             And then finally, this is probably the most important. I like this a lot better than late payments. It's to engage the customer and maybe even have some discounts or rewards for referrals as well as many ways to pay the invoices. So maybe you offer a discount on invoices paid immediately or even allowing your customer to pay via credit or debit card. That's a quick and easy way to get those payments over to you and get those into your hand in a very fast manner.


Greg Stebben:           I love those ideas, especially the idea of incentivizing, as you said, engaging customers and incentivizing them to pay faster, either making it easier for them to do that or even using incentives like discounts and things like that. Because you never know when your customers might also find that as a benefit, and if you don't ask, you'll never find out that that actually could be a great way for you to help manage cash flow.


Greg Stebben:           So Ryan, I want to ask, are there other tips you would want to give small business owners who are nervous about their cash flow? Are there other things you've learned from working with small business owners that might be helpful to our listeners today?


Ryan Larison:             A few more things. So one thing that may not actually come to your mind as a business owner is you can actually creatively schedule your own payables as well. You can negotiate 60 or 90-day payments that may give you a little bit of breathing room when things slow down. And so maybe you have a cycle that's a little bit different than everybody else, and so you just have and communicate with your vendors around a different payment schedule.


Ryan Larison:            Or you can…It can also be helpful to explore options when determining how to handle payables and recurring expenses. So if there is a shortfall, you can keep information like, such as with your loans and lines of credits and utilize those in order to help you through your cash flow.


Ryan Larison:             And of course, we do this at our bank, and I'm sure you do it as a small business owner. It's really important to make sure that you forecast wisely. So when you think about where you're going and what that will mean for upcoming budgets and inflows and outflows, and just be realistic with where you think your business will be and just make sure you forecast correctly, because a good plan can always get you through those tough times.



Greg Stebben:            And I would guess, and I think anyone who owns a small business can identify with this, being surprised is always putting yourself in the worst possible place when it coming comes to managing your cash flow.


Ryan Larison:            That's correct. You want to try to figure out what could come your way and have the best plan possible for those incidences that happen, that just typically will put you in a bad spot, and just have a couple of plans of attack in order to go after it. And communication is always key. In talking with your vendors and talking with your clients, that communication piece can really help you get and utilize cash appropriately.


Greg Stebben:           Well, that is really great advice. He is Ryan Larison. He is the SVP, Small Business National Sales Performance Executive with Bank of America. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. And for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America's online small business community at


Greg Stebben:           Ryan, thank you so much for joining us.


Ryan Larison:            Thank you, Greg. I appreciate it.


Speaker 1:                 Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at and Bank of America at


Make sure your small business leverages to right influencers to reach your desired target audience. Small Business Community contributor, Joel Comm, shares his influencer insights on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”




“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 and Bank of America at And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.


Gregg Stebben:         I am here with Joel Comm. His website is Joel is J-O-E-L. Comm is C-O-M-M, dot com. He's on Twitter and Facebook @JoelComm. Joel was a true internet pioneer and he's been creating profitable websites, software, products, and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995 and he calls himself the functional futurist. He doesn't just see the future. He gets there first.


Gregg Stebben:         And in addition to being the functional futurist, he is also an author, speaker, consultant, and podcaster. So Joel, one of your books is called The Fun Formula: How Curiosity, Risk-Taking, and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. Welcome and I hope we can talk about this and things like influencer marketing because influencers are supposed to be fun, too.


Joel Comm:               Oh, I hope they are. But the most important thing is that influencers are supposed to be influential and there's a lot of people that call themselves influencers, but they don't actually influence anybody to do anything. That is not an influencer.


Gregg Stebben:         And certainly not one you should hire or pay.


Joel Comm:               Right.


Gregg Stebben:         Can you define influencer marketing for us?


Joel Comm:               Well, it's basically working with the brand to bring awareness of that brand to their target market in the hopes that it will bring results, right? So, an influencer is typically somebody who will use, represent, a product or service to their audience in order for that audience to say, "Hey, this person approves or likes or uses this. Maybe I should too."


Gregg Stebben:         Hmm. So, it's endorsement marketing or what we might have called endorsement marketing at another time in media history.


Joel Comm:               Sure. I think that it really is the same thing only now instead of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, being the ones to do the influencing, a new realm of micro celebrities, micro influencers, that are not nearly as well-known as some of these major celebrities, which also means you don't have to pay the same multimillion dollar celebrity fees, but also have a more personal connection with their audience.



Joel Comm:               So as a tech influencer, the people that, the companies which hire me to influence, they know me already. I have a relationship with them. It's not that, "Oh, they've seen me play sports or that they've seen me in movies." Many of them have actually met me or has engaged with me already on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or YouTube or Twitter or anywhere. And so, there's a greater likelihood that those people will be responsive to an influencer that they're more connected to.


Gregg Stebben:         So if I'm a small business owner, why might this be a better way for me to spend my marketing dollars than to pay for traditional paid advertising?


Joel Comm:               Well, that's a great question. Paid advertising, you're targeting a market, but the messaging is coming directly from you as the merchant. And so, you might not have any relationship with the people that you're trying to reach. Whereas if you secure the services of an influencer, it is a third-party endorsement, right?


Joel Comm:               People are…there's a reason people go to third-party review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, or that we read reviews on assuming that what we're reading is legitimate—and we know that there are reviews that are planted and that some people game the system—but assuming that those are legitimate, we trust the input and advice of other people more than we trust the messaging that comes directly from the merchant themselves.


Joel Comm:               And if it's somebody that we know that we already trust, that endorsement is exponentially more influential, and so it makes sense rather than just go and buy ads that go direct to the consumer to say, "Hey, here is somebody who has some clout that is influential. They already use my product or my service. What if I pay them to tell their target market about what we're selling?" And it's highly effective when done right.


Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Joel Comm. He's an amazing guy. He's an internet pioneer. He's been around the Internet and social media since the beginning. He calls himself the functional futurist. One of his books, one of his 15 books, is called The Fun Formula: How Curiosity, Risk-Taking and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. One of the things you mentioned, well you mentioned some big name athletes as potential influencers, and we all recognize this because we see celebrities as influencers. We know that this is part of what they do, but I'm a small business owner. Is it possible that there are influencers in my world that can make a difference for my business because I surely can't afford a movie star or an all-star athlete?


Joel Comm:               Sure, of course there are. And the key to that is finding one of your customers that has an audience. That's really the key right there. Somebody who already buys your socks and wears them and enjoys them. Somebody who eats your baked goods that has an audience that has perhaps a local audience that they could reach, go, "Mm, that is one good cupcake. Go over to Cupcake Heaven over there and try one of these." And they post a video. I mean that would be me. If there was a cupcake place I loved and they're going to say, "We're going to pay you in cupcakes, Joel." I would be like down there and I would shoot a video of myself eating this delicious cupcake and I would post it on Instagram perhaps. And then people that know me here locally would go, "Oh Joel, that looks amazing. I've got to go try one of those." It's that simple.


Gregg Stebben:         And I trust Joel. So if Joel says it's the best cupcake, it's gotta be the best cupcake.


Joel Comm:               Right. And he really appears to be enjoying that cupcake. I mean, him and that cupcake should probably get a room. They're having such a good time. So, this is influencer marketing at its most basic, and it really is basic. This is not rocket science. Which is good because I am not an engineer and a rocket scientist. But I do know what I like and I do know that I enjoy telling other people what I like and by demonstrating how much I like a brand for their product or their service, I'm communicating to those who follow me, "I think this is worthy of your attention. Here's why. Want to check it out? Here's how."



Gregg Stebben:         So in this cupcake scenario, Joel.


Joel Comm:               Now I'm hungry.


Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. Well you're going to just have to wait a few minutes. Sorry about that. But I'm the cupcake shop owner and I know you love my cupcakes and I know you have a good audience and people trust you. So, you seem like a really good influencer for me and my cupcake shop. Am I going to get away with just offering you all the cupcakes you can eat in exchange for you tweeting and Instagramming, Snapchatting and Facebooking and did I mention tweeting my cupcakes? Or might I have to pay a little bit more than that?


Joel Comm:               Yeah, I would probably ask you to pay me as well and then I would ask you to pay for my doctor bill because I'd become huge and unhealthy from eating too many of your delicious cupcakes. But I've done all kinds of influencer deals. I've worked with big brands. Most recently I did some influencer work for Alibaba as a consumer electronic show. I've worked with IBM and just a lot of other brands and I've worked with smaller brands and sometimes it's just that, "You know what? If you'll send me that piece of electronic hardware that you created or your software. Let me try it. If I like it, I'll take a picture, I'll send a tweet." Sometimes I've actually had people send me socks because people know I like fun socks and I'm in the crypto currency space because my podcast is all about bitcoin.


Joel Comm:               It's called the Bad Crypto Podcast and I've had people that are making these fun crypto currency socks, send them to me, unsolicited, and that that's a good way, by the way, to get an influencer to do something without paying them is just sending them a gift. Don't expect anything in return, but if it's something that they like, then odds are they're going to be, "Hey, I got this cool coffee mug or this gift basket or whatever from so-and-so." And they'll often tag you and sometimes that is the most cost-effective way to get influencer marketing and word of mouth that you could possibly do.


Gregg Stebben:         You actually bring up a really important point here and that is there have been some issues with the FTC about influencer marketing, right? I mean if you are paid to be an influencer, you are supposed to, in some appropriate and legal way disclose, that you're being paid, and we need to be conscious of that.


Joel Comm:               Oh yes you are. Yeah, you are. And so the hashtags that you are to use, if it's sponsored in any way, and that could mean payment or that could mean that you received goods or services of some value. You're supposed to use one of these three hashtags: either #ad #sponsored or #promoted, and that is what the FTC is looking for. As long as you have labeled, you don't have to have this long disclaimer, you just need to have one of those hashtags. And that is what is commonly understood as full disclosure.


Gregg Stebben:         And so when someone sends you socks or I send my product to a celebrity hoping he or she will use it or wear it or eat it and take a picture of it, are they because they got it for free, supposed to use one of those three hashtags?


Joel Comm:               You know, I am not a lawyer and I've never played one on television. I think a gift is a gift and I don't know that it's necessary. Now, if an agreement was made, right, I think that that's different. If there was a contract, whether verbal or written, I would probably default to, "Hey, if you'll send me the ..." If somebody was trying to negotiate with you, what would it take to do this? Send me these. You know, it's a sticky area. I don't really know. I'm not going to give legal advice.


Gregg Stebben:         Where do I….Do you know where I would go to find out more? Is that the FTC website?


Joel Comm:                Yeah, I would probably do that. I would go use a search engine and just ask that question.


Gregg Stebben:         Okay. The last question really quick is if I am engaging with an influencer, what kind of metrics should I be looking at to know if that influencer is really creating results for me and these are actually a return on investment?



Joel Comm:               Yeah. You want to look at their engagement. It's not about the number of followers they have. It's about the engagement that they have. There are micro influencers, people that are very influential in small communities. They might only have a thousand followers on Twitter, but then you'll see 20 or so reactions, which is a lot for just having a thousand followers. So look at how many followers they have and then look at the metrics for what type of engagement, what kind of comments are people leaving? Are they retweeting and sharing this content? And then you'll know whether or not this person is truly influential or has the reach to get the job done.


Gregg Stebben:         All right. He is Joel Comm. It's J-O-E-L C-O-M-M.,on Twitter and Facebook @JoelComm. I mentioned one of his books, he's written 15 but one of them is The Fun Formula, How Curiosity, Risk-Taking and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work. Full disclosure for Joel, he's also, I believe, an influencer for Bank of America, correct?


Joel Comm:               That is correct. I was going to leave that to you to bring up.


Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. So, for more great tips from Joel as one of Bank of America's influencers and other small business experts like him, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community Joel, thanks for joining us.


Joel Comm:               You bet. My pleasure.


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

No matter the size of your business, there’s a customer experience journey to be had. You might not think about it that way, or talk about it, but even a lemonade stand has the opportunity to deliver good and bad customer experiences. What separates two businesses with good products often comes down to which one gives their buyer a better time.

assorted-buy-customer-159991 (1).jpg


The Journey Often Has the Same Touchpoints


A customer experience almost always follows this path:


*Event* - Something happens that makes someone a prospective buyer. And then:


    • Awareness - customer finds out your product/service exists
    • Evaluation - they decide if you’re the right fit for the job
    • Purchase - the actual mechanics of acquiring your product or service
    • Onboarding - the process of getting started with your product or service
    • Retention/Referral - what you do to keep them or earn more customers


I mentioned a lemonade stand above. Let’s use that to map one of these:


*Event* - You’re thirsty OR you see a stand on the side of the road.


    • Awareness - You see the stand.
    • Evaluation - Is this what you want to drink?
    • Purchase - The price might matter (Do they take cards?)
    • Onboarding - Not a lot here for this example. They hand you the cup.
    • Retention/Referral - Maybe you tell someone else about the stand.


Apply This to Your Business


Even with that super simple business, you can see a customer experience journey. I suspect your business is a bit more complex than a lemonade stand, but you can apply the same map to it in order to develop great customer experience. Let’s use the little plan again:


*Event* - What happens that prompts someone to decide to work with you?  Are you even sure you know?


    • Awareness - Are you marketing your business? How do people see what you sell? WHERE do they see it? How often?
    • Evaluation - What do you do to help people see the difference between what you sell versus a competitor?
    • Purchase - Is it easy to buy what you sell? Do you make the experience enjoyable? How fast does your buyer get what they paid for?
    • Onboarding - What do you do once they’ve paid? How do you make them feel welcome? What gives your customer the sense that you’re in this together and there to serve them?
    • Retention/Referral - It’s so much easier to get a referral or keep an earned customer than it is to acquire new ones. What can you do to help that process?


Completing Your Map


A lot of times, people have one or two of these touchpoints figured out. Often times, however, there are parts that are very unclear. For instance, I find that many companies aren’t really clear on what *Event* might trigger someone needing what they sell. For some businesses, that’s easy. If you replace auto glass, it’s clear that a piece of glass had to break. If you sell life insurance, there are much more complex triggers to be considered.


The “awareness” and “evaluation” points of the map are about marketing. If you’re not putting your business out there to be seen, people will be less aware. If you’re not helping show people the difference between what you do and what someone else does, they will pick on cost or convenience. Knowing how better to position what you sell (the evaluation point) helps you justify a higher price point, for instance.


My buddy Joe opened a barbecue restaurant in Milwaukee, but he used only top-quality cuts of meat (BBQ is usually about saucing up cheap meat). The difference was there, but it cost more, so he had to really sell the story of high-quality cuts and an elevated dining experience.



The “purchase” map point sometimes yields an advantage for customer experience. If you can make it easier to buy from you or easier to pay you or easier to hand over what you’ve sold than another company, this can win you more business.


Not every product or service requires “onboarding.” If I buy a hot dog from your stand, I don’t need much in the way of direction. Or do I? What if you set out the condiments with little suggestions about flavor combinations to build? Show me how to dress my own Chicago dog (veggies all over it - don’t forget the sport pepper) or a Sonoran dog (bacon and beans and salsa).


“Retention/Referral” points to the area of marketing I find most companies do the least work to secure. You’ve bought. Now leave. Sure, sometimes, someone will say “come back again” or something similar, but that’s the extent of it. Work in this one category can definitely land you more business and improved revenue. How will you keep them coming back for more?



Work Your Map


As you sit with these ideas, try jotting it out for yourself. Don’t just read this and move on to something else in your day. Give yourself five minutes to map whether you’ve considered your customer experience journey for what you sell. I can bet you’ll learn something that might yield more results and revenue.



          Read Next:


About Chris Brogan



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


Web: Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan


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


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

Are you passionate about health, fitness and nutrition? So are millions of Americans. According to The Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry grew by 12.8 percent between 2015 and 2017 and accounts for 5.3 percent of the global economy.



This could be an ideal time to launch a wellness business.


What is wellness? From organic skin-care products to meditation apps, the concept encompasses just about every product or service you can think of that affects the mind, body and spirit. However, the following key sectors identified by GWI are most promising for entrepreneurs:


  • Personal care, beauty and anti-aging ($1,083 billion in 2017)
  • Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss ($702 billion)
  • Wellness tourism ($639 billion)
  • Fitness and mind-body ($595 billion)
  • Spa economy ($119 billion)
  • Workplace wellness ($48 billion)


Here’s an overview of some of the fastest-growing wellness trends that have the greatest potential as business startups.


Personalized diet and nutrition counseling


“Personalized” is the key word in today’s diet, nutrition and weight loss industry, a market that some estimates project will hit $11.5 billion by 2025. Successful entrepreneurs will tailor nutrition advice to clients’ specific goals, genetic makeup and food sensitivities, as well as special diets such as keto, vegan, paleo or Mediterranean. There’s a focus on improving overall health and performance rather than simply losing weight.




Like yoga 20 years ago, meditation is just starting to explode, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. Already, meditation is tied with yoga as the most popular alternative medicine practice in the country, but there’s still potential for more growth. In the coming year, look for drop-in meditation centers, fitness programs that incorporate meditation, and a wider range of ancient meditation practices to enter the mainstream.


Wellness travel


In contrast to “overtourism,” (tourists flooding popular vacation spots), wellness travelers seek to boost both mind and body with vacations that enhance their physical, mental and spiritual wellness. That could mean traditional spa activities such as daily yoga and meditation with a vegan diet prepared by a chef or going “off the beaten path” to experience little-known wellness practices of local cultures. 


Workplace wellness


Anxiety disorder is the top mental health issue in America. Not only does anxiety cause personal problems, it also cuts into business productivity and reduces employee satisfaction. As businesses strive to retain employees in a competitive market, a workplace wellness business that helps promote happier, healthier employee lifestyles will be in demand. You can provide everything from massage and yoga to meditation and fitness training to office workers.


One-stop wellness centers


“Holistic” is the buzzword for wellness in 2019 and beyond, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. That’s behind the trend of wellness centers that incorporate medical treatment, fitness classes, nutritional advice, personal trainers, yoga and meditation and other wellness activities in one place. Similar to co-working spaces, one-stop wellness centers provide a place for members to drop in and have all of their wellness needs taken care of in a community of like-minded people. Consider partnering with other wellness entrepreneurs to start a center or locating your business in an existing center.


Wellness apps


Would you rather write code than do crunches? There’s still opportunity for tech startups to create apps that help people track their fitness progress, monitor their food intake or stick to their meditation practice. Just be sure to check out the competition closely before you start developing your big idea, so you don’t enter a niche that’s already saturated. Female reproductive and sexual health are areas with promise, according to The 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report.


Pet wellness


The same wellness trends that humans embrace quickly trickle down to our furry friends. According to CB Insights, high-grade pet food, pet health products, pet fitness trackers and pet nutritional supplements are all growth areas attracting attention—and venture capital. If the market for a particular wellness concept is already saturated in the human space, pivoting to pets could give you the edge you need.

The global appetite for wellness isn’t going away. Starting a business to serve consumers’ quest for self-improvement offers the opportunity to help others while also making a healthy profit.


               Related Links


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 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: 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


The Department of Labor has made changes that could impact your Small Business payroll. Listen to Erron Stark, an ADP Executive, share insights on what the latest Labor Department rule changes mean for your Small Business in this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”




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


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



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


Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Erron Stark. He's the Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Erron, welcome.


Erron Stark:               Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.


Gregg Stebben:         I'm really excited to talk to you as well because there's a lot going on within the Department of Labor, as far as them proposing some big changes when it comes to minimum salary requirements, particularly, if I understand it correctly, when it comes to those who qualify as having administrative professional and executive exemptions. Can we talk about…obviously I want to talk about the bigger topic, which is those minimum salary requirements, but first let's talk about who qualifies in that category as having administrative, professional and executive exemptions. Can you explain to us who that is?


Erron Stark:               Sure. So the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is actually what is being reviewed right now and has been reviewed for the better part of five or six years now as it pertains to overtime exemptions, and if those individuals, as you were just referring to, that have classifications as administrative roles, professional roles, executive roles within an organization, there are very specific definitions and elements of their job functions that would then classify each one of those particular job types.


Erron Stark:                And over the years, the minimum salaries for those particular individuals has fluctuated to allow an organization to pay an individual within those classifications a certain salary on a weekly or biweekly basis that would exempt them from being eligible for overtime. So whether or not I worked 40 hours or 50 hours in that particular week, if I met that minimum salary for that specific pay period, I would not be eligible for overtime. And what is currently on the docket to be reviewed and potentially implemented is a significant increase to those thresholds, which will impact business owners on how they structure and classify certain individuals. But because of that, a lot of business owners need to be a little bit more in tune with what those classifications are and what those threshold implications could be.


Gregg Stebben:         So if I'm a business owner and these proposed changes are in whatever state they're at and perhaps about to become effective as law or not, but what should I be doing today...?  First of all, what's the best way for me to monitor what's happening and then what kinds of changes should I be thinking about in terms of preparing for this, should these changes become law?


Erron Stark:               That's a great question and I think for large organizations, many institutions typically have some type of regulatory department within their HR arena or legal arena that helps them classify certain individuals and be in sync with the differentiation between state and federal minimum thresholds and the classifications. But specifically for small business owners, what we recognize is that their passions typically get them into opening up a business around their respective craft and service that they're trying to provide to the market, but these particular areas of concentration and education are not necessarily what they got into business for.


Erron Stark:               So I think first and foremost is to begin to familiarize themselves with these classifications. And if the bandwidth is not necessarily there, to start to identify services that they could employ, that could help them better define where they currently stand today as far as being in compliance with the current regulations, but then also starting to understand what the future implications could be.  And one of the biggest areas of opportunity for most organizations big or small is ensuring that they have a structured time and attendance process today.


Erron Stark:               Because most organizations, if they do define their employees as exempt from overtime, they then don't feel the need to have any type of attendance and/or time tracking mechanism in place. And again, if these new changes go into effect, those are certain protocols or certain systematic changes that if they are proactive today, they will be in a much better place and feel more confident that they are ready for those changes before they go into effect.


Gregg Stebben:         So you mentioned a very interesting thing, which is services that can help businesses monitor this, prepare for it. I'm talking with Erron Stark. He's the Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Who provides those services? And I'm guessing a company like ADP does that. But if not, help direct us so we know where to go and look for those services.


Erron Stark:               It is convenient that we do, but I would be lying if I said we were the only player in that game. However, the services that, if I were a small business owner that I would be looking for, are services that can use economies of scale, because most small business owners from a cost perspective, it's usually not efficient for them to employ a full-time SHRM-certified HR professional that a large organization may. But there are services that exist where you can tap into teams of those SHRM-certified HR professionals that can help give guidance and evaluate your current infrastructure and then tell you where there are certain gaps.


Erron Stark:                And again, it's almost using it on an as need basis as opposed to maybe a more proactive or robust HR offering. But depending on your needs, size of organization, the growth trajectory of your organization, those are services that are flexible. ADP does happen to provide those that are scalable, anything from reactive to proactive HR support and guidance to keep an organization compliant with changes such as this around Department of Labor regulations.


Gregg Stebben:         One of my questions for you, Erron, and you may not know the answer, but I'm gonna ask anyway, do you have any sense of how many small businesses—as a percent—these proposed changes might affect?


Erron Stark:               It’s a great questionand I can tell you confidently that it's at minimum 50%. It's hard to identify across the entire chasm of small business owners coast–to-coast and certain job descriptions that they have how many of them are currently in compliance, how many that are currently within the current regulations out of compliance. But what I can tell you is that once these changes go into effect, that number will increase substantially from 50% into the high 70s and 80s, where I as an individual, especially as organizations grow in size, they may have individuals that have already exceeded those thresholds to be considered exempt, but it's with a significant level of confidence that there are going to be levels of the organization that have individuals being paid at certain rates that will not meet the proposed changes. So again, big or small, I think there's going to be a significant impact to the business community in general and how they approach these changes.


Gregg Stebben:         So really those numbers and those percentages are high enough that almost anybody with a small business needs to have this on their radar starting today if it's not there already.


Erron Stark:               Correct.


Gregg Stebben:         I want to go back to something else you said. You mentioned regulations on the state level. Because, of course, right now what we're talking about is the federal Department of Labor, but you also mentioned state. What impact can state laws have on this?


Erron Stark:               Yeah. It's interesting because, in most cases, state law, when it pertains to Department of Labor regulations, will supersede that of federal. However, what we've learned is that in certain instances, a state may have a lower threshold and using minimum wage potentially as an example, if a state has a lower minimum wage than that of the federal minimum wage, whichever one is higher will win for the employee. So rest assured that these changes on the FLSA front will more than likely follow a similar type of model where what these threshold are, if the state is higher than federal, then an organization will have to follow the state guideline based on them residing within that state. And if the federal happens to be higher than the state, then they will then have to follow the federal in favor of the employee themselves.


Gregg Stebben:         And you're again I think in a subtle way making a case for why a small business needs to go get some expert help from a service that specializes in this. Because if you own or you're running a small business, it's probably going to be very difficult for you to sort this all out. And Tthere's probably a good chance you're going to miss something that's very important. You should focus on running your business successfully and not trying to become expert at something that there are already experts for you to hire to assist you.


Erron Stark:               Yeah and to take it one step further, what we've seen in feedback from businesses that employ such services from ADP is that their prior course of action was to go on the web and search for what they would perceive be the right approach to handle these matters. And when it comes to regulations within the Department of Labor and just federal and state regulations in general, the amount of interpretation that can take place and how one person reads it versus another, it's intriguing to say the least.


Erron Stark:               And again, one just doesn't want to get caught in a situation where I as a business owner interpreted what I read on the internet versus how it actually should have been read, which is where a HR professional can truly help them decipher what is going to be compliant for their organization.


Gregg Stebben:         So it seems to me an analogy here is for the same reason that I have an accountant who helps me interpret tax law and apply it to my circumstances, this is complicated stuff that I'm needing another professional to help me interpret. And that actually gives me both the ability to sleep better at night, but it also gives me some cover should there be a problem down the road. I did all the right things to do our best at interpreting the laws even if we might have missed something.


Erron Stark:               It's a phenomenal analogy just because for decades, if not centuries, with the accountant profession being one of the most tenured professions out there that business owners have always entrusted to help give them guidance on how to run their business. When it comes to the HR arena that is growing substantially, the reason behind that is due to the increased legislation that has continued to impact business owners both big and small.


Erron Stark:                And with those increased legislation that have continued to be passed typically in favor of the employees, when you combine that with the extensive media coverage that an employee has access to and just the sensitivity of how employers engage with their employees, which is their greatest asset, it has become even more prevalent for an organization to go beyond just the four walls of their accountant guidance to seek out HR professionals that can also help ensure and insulate their organization so they can focus on growing their business as opposed to having to stay up at night worrying about whether or not they are prepared for these types of changes or whether or not they're in compliance in general.


Gregg Stebben:         That's really well said. I'm talking with Erron Stark. He's Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. And Erron, I want to ask one last question and that is what is the status of these proposed new rules? Do we know if or when they will take effect?


Erron Stark:               So the latest that we have been privy to is that the target date is January of 2020. So we're not necessarily looking too far out on the horizon. I would preface that by saying this has been a change that has been on the docket for quite some time now. And it has gone through a myriad of modifications. And I think that also could potentially give a business owner a little bit of a false sense of security today because it's been something that has been in the proposal stage for so long that they could make a assumption that it will continue to stay in that stage.


Erron Stark:               But my precaution to those individuals is to say if you are not prepared for the change, once it eventually goes into effect, it will have a significant implication to business owners and not in a negative way. It's just going to require a tremendous amount of visibility into current classifications, potential restructuring of whether or not an employee is salary versus hourly. And those types of exercises, if it's rushed for a business owner because they waited too long or they just didn't believe that it truly was going to pass, is where you could potentially get yourself into hot water because then once it's rushed, you typically don't do it well or implement the right strategies to ensure that it does not impact your organization in an adverse way.


Gregg Stebben:         And if you're caught by surprise and you're having to do this in sort of emergency mode, you're taking resources away from other important parts of your business. So I think we all understand that planning ahead and working ahead and being smart about what you're doing always make sense. I think that's great advice and Erron, it sounds like what you're saying is: the time is now.


Erron Stark:               For sure. I would complement this conversation by saying this is just one of many changes that have already taken place, and there are even more legislative changes that again are in favor of employees to help strengthen their position in the workforce today. In the tight labor market that we have with an almost 50 year low in unemployment, the employees are super important to every organization today. The retention of those employees are important. So employing some type of HR strategy, employing some type of insulation to ensure that your organization is compliant should mean a more comprehensive outlook outside of just FLSA and these changes that could potentially go into effect in January.


Erron Stark:                And that way if you are proactive in ensuring that you are holistically compliant, if and when these changes go into effect, which it seems stronger today than it ever has, that January is a realistic timeframe, you will be even more prepared and, to your point, not have to worry about being distracted at that time so you can continue to grow and focus on what you got into business for initially.


Gregg Stebben:         That's really very well said, Erron. Thank you. He's Erron Stark, Division Vice President SBS Channel Sales for ADP. Erron, thanks for joining us here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. This interview and lots of other great small business tips will be available if you check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community. That's at Erron, thank you for joining.


Erron Stark:               Oh, it was my pleasure, and thank you for having us. Look forward to doing more of these soon.


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



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