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Coronavirus Resources: What You Need to Know For Your Small Business.

As countless small business owners confront unprecedented financial challenges due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19), we are developing articles designed specifically to help your business navigate these anxious times. Our team of expert small business writers will provide guidance on remote workforce management, social media sales tactics, how to host a virtual seminar and much more advice to help your business. Make sure to check out this page frequently for updates.

We’re here for our small business clients Ready to Re-Open? Here’s what to Consider How to Create a Digital Course and Become a Thought Leader The Small Business Coronavirus Crisis Guide to Reading, Listening  and Attending Virtual Conferences Grow Your Network Now by Following the Best Practices for Social Networking How to Prepare Your Small Business to Reopen Why Your Business Should Empower a High-Touch Customer Service Approach Coronavirus Playbook: How to Increase the Value of Your Social Ad Spend Coronavirus Playbook: How to Share Costs with Other Small Businesses Defeating Coronavirus Requires a Teamwork Mentality How to Set Your Business Up for Post-Coronavirus Success Manufacturers Respond to Coronavirus How to Use the Uncertainty of Coronavirus to Innovate, Learn and Lead The Coronavirus Changes How We Work. Here’s What to Consider Is Amazon Right for Selling Your Goods During Coronavirus? A Digital Strategy to Grow Your Business During Coronavirus Managing Remotely During Coronavirus is about Communication, Not Tools Managing Coronavirus: How to Cut Overhead and Not Staff Coronavirus and Your Taxes: What Businesses and Individuals Need to Know About the IRS Tax Extension Tips on Preparing for a Long-Term Supply Chain Disruption During Coronavirus Outbreak Help Your Small Business Stay Healthy with a Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan The 7 Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Small Businesses During Coronavirus The Small Business Delivery Options to Tap During Coronavirus Stay at Home Rules How to Help Your Employees Focus as They Work from Home A Guide to Translating Live Events to Digital Platforms

With “stay-at-home” policies widely implemented across the nation to slow the coronavirus (Covid-19) spread, delivery services are quickly becoming part of the new normal. brett-jordan-phUtWl8RyFE-unsplash.jpg

So, if consumers can’t come to you, are you prepared to bring your products to them? Here’s how:


Delivering food

There are plenty of existing food delivery services in many American cites to choose, and the main players are offering incentives to businesses and consumers.

Here’s a sampling of what’s available at press time:



The company launched an #OpenForDelivery campaign, reminding consumers that restaurant delivery is safe and that restaurants need orders. The campaign includes social media posts, listing DoorDash and its competitors.


DoorDash announced “a package of commission relief and marketing support for new and existing DoorDash partner restaurants to help them generate up to $200 million in additional sales this year.” The program includes:


  • Through the end of April, independent restaurants in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia can sign up for free with DoorDash and Caviar and pay zero commissions for 30 days. Merchants will not be asked to pay anything back.
  • Existing DoorDash and Caviar restaurant partners won’t have to pay commission fees on pickup orders so customers can spend less time in the store. They are “also providing additional commission reductions for eligible merchants already on DoorDash.
  • To incentivize consumers, DoorDash has added over 100,000 independent restaurant partners to DashPass, their subscription program which offers $0 delivery for consumers for free.



Grubhub is deferring commission fees for impacted independent restaurants to help “increase restaurants’ cash flow.” They are “also matching all promotions run by independent restaurants, to help make their investments in growth twice as effective.”



Postmates launched a Small Business Relief Pilot program for small businesses so they can more easily use their platform. The program will temporarily waive commission fees for businesses in some markets. They are talking to restaurant associations and city governments around the country to assess how to build on this and support local restaurant corridors.


Uber Eats

In their statement Uber Eats says they’re “working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants…, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.”


To drive consumer orders, Uber Eats has waived the delivery fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants they feature and launched a daily dedicated marketing campaign promoting delivery from local restaurants.


They’ve also rolled out a new payment option for restaurants, allowing them “to opt into daily payments on all Uber Eats orders, rather than the typical weekly billing cycle.”

Curbside pickup.


Several national retailers are offering curbside pickup for products bought online. Small business can easily adopt this practice. Post information on your website that you’re offering curbside pickup. Customers order online, pay and indicate they want curbside pickup. You process the order and then send an email or text that the order is ready for pickup.


When customers pull up to your place of business, they call you, and their products are brought outside and, in many cases, placed immediately in their trunk. No contact is made. Some independent bookstores are offering this option.


Other delivery options

If you’ve previously relied on services like Task Rabbit to deliver your products locally, Task Rabbit is now “asking clients to request contactless tasks.” That can still work for your business, however, the company says, “By requesting a contactless task, clients and Taskers agree to maintain a safe six-foot separation. For example, a client can request that a Tasker delivering essential food or medications leave them in a safe place at your door. Contactless tasks can be requested in the booking details or when chatting with your Tasker.”


Another option


Local entrepreneurs can team up with other local businesses and form your own local delivery service that can be used to deliver food or other products. Contact your local chamber of commerce, city government or its economic development agency to see if they can offer assistance.


About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the Rieva headshot.pngblog 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./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3367-416250/Rieva+headshot.png/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3364-414071/Rieva+headshot.png


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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and 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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Managing Employees Working from Home_Sized.jpgby Chris Brogan


To the untrained eye, working remotely looks a lot like doing nothing.


We stare at our computers, sometimes typing, sometimes video conferencing with people, sometimes taking a minute to watch YouTube. But, I get much more done at home than I ever accomplished in an office with dozens of coworkers.


Having worked remotely for years, I’ve developed processes for getting things done.


Newly minted remote workers don’t have processes in place to keep them focused. Most don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, either, because they’re used to leaving home for the office.


This alone represents a sudden upheaval of people’s routines. Add the emotional turmoil of a global pandemic and that many people have their kids home from school and you have a less than ideal pilot program for remote work.


Here are tips for helping your team succeed while working from home.


Talk with your employees


To help your people thrive in a new, remote environment, schedule calls with each to see how they’re doing overall (everyone is stressed and anxious right now), then talk about some of the successes and challenges they’ve experienced so far in their career.


Combine what you learn from these conversations with your experience working with people in the office and look for patterns:

  • Does this person need a lot of hand-holding, or can he work with minimal supervision?
  • Does she define work in hours or by project?
  • Does he crave the daily social interaction of a physical office, or does he secretly prefer working during off-hours to minimize distractions?


Learn what each person needs to be productive, then provide it. Take a more active role managing people who need reassurance. Exchange regular virtual messages with more social employees to make sure they feel connected to the team. Allow a few minutes at the start of any virtual meetings to ask how everyone’s doing.


Once you know what people need from a management standpoint, make sure they have the tools to collaborate effectively.


Give Your Team the Right Tools


Many remote workers experience loneliness and isolation, and research shows many view remote work as an obstacle to forming friendships with teammates. Give your employees the means and opportunity to connect.


Here are some tools that can help:



If you’re already using these kinds of tools, make sure your licenses cover the right number of employees and that your technology can handle the increased use.


Get Flexible


Your newly remote team is going to need a little flexibility in the well-worn “9 to 5” work structure.


Many people have children at home with them who’d otherwise be in school or at daycare. For them, the transition to remote work is happening under the most challenging of circumstances (and with no prep time).


Offer employees the flexibility to work when they’re most productive. A little leeway will help reduce stress and increase productivity.


Now, let’s talk about you.


Ask yourself whether working from home feels liberating to you, or if you feel a bit unmoored without the structure an office environment provides.


If you need more structure, schedule blocks of time on your calendar to check in on projects or do deep strategy work. If you’re a “work until the project’s finished” type, you’ll need to set boundaries. Establish your work hours, then abide by them.


If you can, set up a physical space just for work, then leave it when your day is over. You might also want to try an approach like the Pomodoro technique to keep you from burning out.


One thing to remember: almost everyone around the world right now is in the same stressful situation. Take into account the emotional strain employees are experiencing, and be sure to cut yourself some slack, too.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and 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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Virtual Meeting Tips.jpgby Mari Smith


If you were already hosting live events, given the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, you’re now faced with the new reality that you cannot gather your audience together in person. At least for the foreseeable future.


So, how can you recreate a very similar experience in the online world? With the incredible breadth and depth of technology available today, it’s perfectly feasible to simulate an experience almost as good as in person.


There is no amount of sophisticated technology that will ever take the place of live, in-person meetings. We can look into someone’s eyes, read their body language, get a sense of their ‘vibe.’ The next best thing is video. And, especially live video.


If the idea of doing more videos is scary to you, you’re not alone! Most people really don’t care to be on camera. But it really does just take practice, practice, practice. Now is the time to push through those modest fears and go for it. We’re all in this together.


I’ve been doing video trainings and live streaming for 15 years and I absolutely love it. I feel very connected to my audience. But it wasn’t always that way. I was super shy as a child.


How to Plan


Consider creating a series of online streaming events/webinars. Take the body of work you would’ve been sharing at the live event and chunk down into lessons. If you were having guest speakers at your live event, you can still invite them to be a part of the virtual event.


Start with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? Is this a one-off webinar for the public? Or, a private training for your top clients? Will you be on camera? Is it a free or paid session? Answers to these questions and more will determine your set up.


The Tech you Need


Decide on the tech you’ll use. (See my list of resources below.)


If this is new territory for you, aim to keep things super simple at first -- maybe simply doing a Facebook Live with your phone into a private Facebook Group. Or, perhaps you’re familiar with Zoom, which is a great choice.


To go more high tech, use your webcam or a DSLR camera hooked up to your computer and stream via a third party app (details below). I have a whole list of recommended video gear available here.


The Approach for Promotion


Create a registration page on your website. And/or a Facebook Event on your Page.

Or, just drive people to register on a Zoom Webinar. Or, you could use Eventbrite for registrations.


Send out emails to your list to join the webinar/live stream. Publish invitations to register on your social media posts. And, paid media is totally fine now, too. The key element is if your webinar/live stream is relevant and helpful to your audience right now. Depending on the content, it may make sense to wait a month or so if it’s not vital right now.


Be very organized and clearly communicate with your audience -- emotions are running high around the world just now, and the more you can present a nice, clear path forward for your audience to learn from you, the more successful your online event will be.


How to Reach your Community


This will be one of the most important aspects of your webinar or live streaming video. People will be craving connection more than ever during this time of isolation.


Perhaps this is a good time to start a Facebook Group, if you don’t have one already connected to your Page. I particularly enjoy using groups on Facebook to build connection and add extra value. I run separate, private Facebook groups for all participants of my online courses. And, I run a larger group open to the public to provide value and make periodic offers.


Don’t Forget: Follow up


Again, keep that nice flow of communication going. Send out the replay by email. Connect with your audience in the Facebook Group. Encourage peer support. Be sure to answer all questions. Consider doing a follow up to address FAQs. Conduct a post-webinar survey and invite candid feedback. Run a poll in your group and find out what else your audience would like to learn from you.


Resources for Conducting an Online Event


Virtual Meeting Tools



Live Streaming Tools for Facebook (and other Social Platforms)



Video Tools



Helpful Articles





Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. 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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Crisis Communications Plan.jpgby Riva Lesonsky


For businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses without large cash cushions, the impact of a major crisis is enormous, affecting cash flow, sales, jobs and business survival rates.

As a small business owner, I know how, where and when I communicate with my clients a crisis will greatly influence how my business will fare during the crisis and when it is over.

Take a moment to go over this small business crisis communications checklist to help your business remain healthy if you face lean times.


1. We are here! We are here!


In the words of Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who, you need to let your customers know you are still running your business and making every effort to keep your services/products available any way you can. You can’t assume your customers know you’re still operating (even in a diminished capacity), so make sure you tell them right away what you’re currently offering and that you’re working on a longer-term game plan.


Emailing your customer list is likely the quickest and easiest option.

If you send out a regular e-newsletter, include your message in there as well.


2. Going on hiatus?


What if your business is closing—temporarily? Some businesses will have no choice but to close their doors. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from retailers announcing they’re closing for several weeks. All have mentioned their websites are still operating and many have eliminated or reduced shipping fees. If you’re in retail, now’s the time to ramp up your e-commerce business, and email marketing, again, seems like the fastest way to spread the word. Also consider social commerce, selling via your social media channels. 


3. What should be on your website?


Where are your clients going to check first for information about your business? If you said your website, you are right and so you should have already posted information about any changes to the business such as new store hours, delayed deliveries and the best way to reach you. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge the crisis, offer advice and words of comfort. To be really helpful, post links to resources for more information on the crisis.


4. Email to stay in touch


After your initial outreach to your customers, it is imperative you keep the lines of communication open. If you’ve been communicating primarily by email, continue to use that channel. If you’re open for business, whether you’re selling products online, meeting with clients via telecommunication tools (Skype, Zoom, etc.), or selling food via takeout or delivery, consider emailing your customers and clients weekly. Customers will be bargain-minded, so offer incentives and promotions to persuade them to buy.


Many people are encouraging consumers to help out local businesses by buying gift cards now, for use later. This gives the businesses an influx of cash. So make sure you offer gift cards and visibly promote them.


Think about what your customers want to hear from you, in addition to discounts and other promotions. Can you offer information to help get them through the next few weeks or months? My hairdresser already texted me instructions on the right way to trim my own bangs. Depending on the type of business you operate, consider offering relevant tips, such as how to be productive working from home, tech tools, ways to entertain the kids while you work, best music or movies to help pass the time, favorite recipes, exercises, etc.


Consumers are stressed right now and would welcome hearing from a familiar business owner once or twice a month.


And make sure you let your customers know when you might be open for business again. When my dentist called to cancel my upcoming appointment, they rebooked me for a month from now, but added they’d be in touch with regular updates.


5. Start a dialogue on social media


Isolated consumers will be turning to social media for news and to make social connections. Start with the social platforms you usually use to engage you’re your clients and customers. But explore other social channels to find out where the conversations are. Ask open-ended questions to get a conversation going and make sure you answer questions customers have for you.


6. Get creative


Now may be a good time to try communication channels you haven’t used before. Consider live streaming to show customers how to use your products, starting a podcast, or beefing up your YouTube channel.


What about holding virtual meetings with your clients over video chat, especially if your customers want face-to-face interactions, or you need to show charts or other visuals? Consider hosting webinars so you can interact with many of your clients at one time.


How are you planning on keeping communication going with customers during this global pandemic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Yes, we are in seemingly uncharted territory with COVID-19, but the good news is that the operative word here is “seemingly.” While the coronavirus outbreak is a disaster unlike any of us have seen, there have been other unique disasters and we have recovered from them all.


man-in-black-holding-phone-618613.jpgBecause the unexpected can in fact be expected, companies and governments have become far better at being able to help in these times. As such, if you need financial help getting through this crisis, here are your resources:


The Small Business Administration

By far, your best bet right now is emergency relief from the Small Business Administration. In the first of what is expected to be several relief bills signed into law, the SBA announced a Coronavirus emergency relief fund of $7 billion.


SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans: According to the SBA, “The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.  Click here to apply for a Disaster Loan at


Some states may be eligible for additional funds resulting from natural disasters.  Click here to see what programs are available for your state, and to apply directly for available programs.


The 7(a) Loan Program: The SBA’s 7(a) loan is its primary program for assisting small businesses. It offers loans from $25k to $5 million and repayment of up to 25 years (if you utilize an SBA Preferred Lender). Note that Bank of America is a member of the SBA Preferred Lender Program and may provide additional benefits such as fee waivers, discounts for veterans, and 24-hour approvals.

Additional Funding Resources

CDFIs: also known as local loan centers – provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses. Through these innovative partnerships, Bank of America is making more loans available for people and communities, and helping address important economic and social issues.  We created a searchable directory to connect small business owners to more capital. Click here to search the directory to find a CDFI that fits your needs.


Kiva: is a unique non-profit. Starting out as a lender making microloans to impoverished people around the globe, it has grown into a crowdfunding platform that has expanded into the U.S. Presently, Kiva is making 0% loans of up to $15,000 to qualified U.S. businesses.


Facebook: Facebook just announced that it is making $100 million available in small cash grants to 30,000 eligible businesses.


State and Local Resources

Check out these benefits that might be available to residents of specific states, counties, or cities.


Check with your city and state to see what may be available in your area.

Targeted, Digital Marketing.jpgby Steve Strauss


Advertising and marketing are so much better today than even a decade ago, and woe to the small business that is not taking advantage.


Example: I know a chiropractor who used to offer free “pain relief seminars.” He would run expensive advertisements on radio, TV, and in the newspaper, get people to the local Holiday Inn to hear his schpiel, and then hopefully convert some into paying clients. The whole thing would run him about $5,000 to host and he might make $10,000.


Last month, he did the same thing, but he advertised on Facebook using pay-per-click ads. The entire campaign cost him a tad over $1,000 and he still made more than $10,000.


The difference: he now advertises to a specific audience as opposed to a mass market. These days, he only pays for clicks from the people most likely to respond to his ads, as opposed to hundreds of thousands of TV viewers who have zero interest in pain relief.


The secret is micro-targeting.


On Facebook or Google, and actually, on any other similar digital medium, you can now specifically and narrowly locate, target, and reach people who are most likely to appreciate your ad, click on it, and move into your sales funnel.


For small businesses, the days of mass selling to mass audiences are (or should be) over.


Back in the day, my chiropractor friend would have no choice but to blanket the market with his ads, hoping that a few of the right people would see, read or hear it. Now, he advertises only on Facebook with an ad seen only by people in his zip code, who were upper income, who were older, and who had an interest in alternative healing.


See how that campaign had a far greater likelihood of success?


Fewer eyeballs, yes, but these were the people most likely to be interested in his seminar. That is the value of specific audience messaging vs. broad marketing.


Here is how you can join the online advertising party:


1. Choose the right outlet:

While there are a lot of options, your best is either Google or Facebook as that is where the traffic and results are.


2. Set a budget:

Advertising and marketing is an ongoing process. If this is your first foray into pay per click advertising, start slow and small. Test ads, budgets, calls to actions, audiences. Both Facebook and Google make creating an ad and a budget super easy.


When you go to create your ad campaign on the platform(s) of your choice, there will be a place to set your budget. Like I said, start small, say even $100 for a week or two to start. See if it is getting clicks and what the cost per click is.


3. Figure out the ad


The different platforms have different options.



4. Target your audience


This is the best part in my opinion. Your audience can be as large or small as you want, and as specific as you prefer. But, remember – the greater the reach, the more you will pay. You want the audience who sees your advertisement to mirror your ideal customers; that is, the people most likely to buy from you.


This is where the magic of pay-per-click comes in.


5. Test the ad


This is key. It is unwise to simply create an ad, check out, and come back two weeks later to see what happened. Test, review, tweak, and see what works.


6. Roll it out


Once you know you have a successful ad, go for it. Spend more and run it often. It can become your cash cow.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.


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

by Rieva Lesonsky


Money is the scorecard of business success. In honor of National Women’s Small Business Month, we asked women business owners to share their best advice about managing business and personal finances. women owners tips couch pic.jpg


What’s your best advice about business financial management?


Rachel Braun Scherl, Managing Partner/co-founder, SPARK Solutions for Growth, a company that designs and implements practical strategies for accelerating business growth


Often you are going into meetings where the men in the room assume you won’t be on top of the financials. Be rock solid in terms of the business drivers and numbers of your business. Know your P&L, balance sheet, lifetime customer value and other key numbers backwards and forwards.


Joanna Sobran, CEO, MXOtech Inc., an IT consulting company based in Chicago


Negotiate multi-year contracts with your customers. This has given my organization long-term financial stability, allowing [me] to plan for the future and form a foundation for strong relationships. In 13 years, I have not had to borrow money.


Deborah Sweeney sold her business, MyCorporation, to Deluxe in 2018 and still runs the division.


Be keenly aware of the ROI on all investments and business initiatives, whether that is hiring, marketing, investing in technology or taking on a new business partner. Understand your measurements of success. Do more of what gets you a higher ROI; cut the lower ROI initiatives.


Donna Miller, founder, C3Workplace, a provider of coworking, consulting and educational programs for B2B professionals


Understand what your numbers mean and how they can be leveraged to drive the growth of your business. Learn to (or hire the skill to) think in Excel. All business decisions should start with solid financial data (which will allow you to find the most profitable projects and markets consistent with your company's products and services) and marketing data (which will allow you to determine the proper demographics, psychographics and trends that align with your company's products and services).


Felicia Kelly, founder, Cyrus Anointing Consulting, a personal and professional development company


Double your expense projection and cut your sales projection in half. This is not to say you should lower your goals. In fact, this method gives you the opportunity to always come in below budget and above revenue projections so that the time it takes to turn a profit is significantly shorter.


Lozelle Mathai, CEO, Closing Your Books LLC, a financial accounting consulting firm focused on women-owned businesses


Have a yearly budget broken out monthly. The budget should be in line with business goals, should include a significant reserve, and should be reviewed monthly. This ensures all facets of the business are financially on the same page.


What’s your best advice for personal financial management?women business owners pic.jpg


Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder, Virtual Vocations, the largest hand-screened database of telecommuting jobs online


Pay yourself first. Without a traditional job that provides retirement benefits and easy ways to save, it’s even more essential for business owners to plan for the future. Whether your business is flourishing or whether you’ve hit a plateau, make sure you add something to your savings account, IRA or other retirement fund every month.


Sobran: Set yourself up for success by not putting all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your investments with the help of a financial advisor who can help you make more informed investment decisions. I have put together a “life plan” with my financial advisor, creating a holistic approach to my finances that balances my life and business goals.


Kelly: Understand that starting a business does not solve your money problems. How you handle money is typically exposed and amplified once you start a business. It’s important to master your personal money management upfront, or your business finances will be just as much of a burden as your personal finances.


Miller: It’s low tech, but it’s life-changing: Establish a firm budget that allows you to live within your means.


What’s your best advice about getting outside financing?


Sweeney: Maintain a strong [personal] credit score. The way you handle yourself personally is also how you will likely handle the finances of your business. You are a much more creditworthy candidate for financing when you can show that you can manage your personal finances well.


Scherl: Raising money is about telling a story that is motivating to your funding targets. Your audience will be listening from their own points of reference, areas of expertise and investment thesis, so one size does not fit all. Your passion for the business, knowledge of the market, awareness of competitive opportunities, points of differentiation and business strategy should be presented with awareness of and through the filter of your audience’s specific perspective.


Sobran: When you apply for funding, you don’t want to be another name on a piece of paper. Create relationships with your bank and other financial institutions. When I was building my business and needed outside financing, I made sure to consistently communicate all business updates with the organizations I worked with. I was transparent on my business growth and overall vision. I expressed my commitment and made sure to show my sincere character. It made all the difference because I formed relationships with people who believed in my organization.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky.


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

Facebook Privacy Era.jpgby Mari Smith


As Facebook continues to prioritize privacy, small- and medium-sized businesses can look at it as an opportunity to deepen relationships with prospects and customers.


In January, Mark Zuckerberg solidified his vow to create safe, digital experiences for Facebook users in his annual vision post.


“Being part of such a large community… makes us crave intimacy,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. “When I grew up in a small town, it was easy to have a niche and sense of purpose. But with billions of people, it’s harder to find your unique role.


“For the next decade, some of the most important social infrastructure will help us reconstruct all kinds of smaller communities to give us that sense of intimacy again.”


Over the next few years, Facebook plans to rebuild more of their services around the following principles: private interactions, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage.


The 3 Keys to Small Business Success on Privacy-Focused Facebook


There are three specific areas of the Facebook family of apps that already thrive on privacy … and are at the focal point of this initiative. As small business owner, these are where you want to double-down.


1. Private Messaging


Privacy on Facebook’s three messaging platforms - Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct - is high priority. Facebook Messenger is the No. 1 messaging app inside the U.S., and WhatsApp is the #1 messaging app outside the U.S.


Small Business Strategy: Integrate Messenger Automation with Chatbot Marketing


Since people in the U.S. are using Facebook Messenger as their primary point of individual and small group conversations, this is the first area SMB’s should dive into.


The recipe is simple: Use Messaging and Messenger automation via chatbots and integrate email and SMS! Chatbots can be used for lead generation, pre- and post-sales communication, improved customer service, and so much more.


Messages from Messenger can get open rates as high as 80 to 90 percent. Plus, their click-through rates are significantly higher than email. To get an even better return on your investment, combine chatbots with email and potentially text messaging, too.


Currently, chatbot platforms such as ManyChat and MobileMonkey, integrate with Facebook Messenger, email, and  texting.


Watch for both Instagram Direct and WhatsApp opening their respective APIs for chatbot integration at some point. Facebook is bound to roll this out for all its messaging apps sooner or later.


If the future is private, messaging apps are an extremely powerful and effective channel for B2C or B2B communication.


2. Stories


Zuckerberg has stated on numerous occasions that, “Stories are the future.”


Stories engagement has never been public, and that in part likely inspired the hidden like-counts and engagement on Instagram and Facebook. Since engagement on Stories are private, and they disappear after 24 hours, people are more likely to engage with them. In fact, there are currently over 500 million daily active users on Instagram Stories, and the same number using Facebook and Messenger Stories combined.


Small Business Strategy: Create More Stories


If you’re not already doing so, publish Stories on Instagram and Facebook regularly. If you’re not sharing organic Stories daily, at least consider making use of the Stories product via ads. If you use automatic placements in Facebook Ads Manager, you’re likely already doing Stories ads. Now take it a step further and create native Stories ads with the full, immersive 9:16 videos.


To increase engagement on your Stories, make good use of the poll, quiz, questions or group chat feature. People love to touch their phones!


Another strategy is to encourage DM replies. This helps develop and sustain relationships with your audience. And with Instagram DMs accessible inside your FB Page Inbox - and Instagram DMs coming to desktop - it’s easier than ever to start and continue those private conversations.


If your clients and prospects feel more comfortable communicating in private ways, such as engagement and replies in Stories, give them ample opportunity to do so.

Recommended reading: Bringing Your Small Businesses to Life with Facebook and Instagram Stories


3. Facebook Groups


Facebook has placed major emphasis on the groups product for the past couple of years. Perhaps Facebook’s biggest display of commitment is its Super Bowl ad featuring groups. Groups are instrumental in developing community among devoted fans, prospects and customers. While you can create public groups, private groups provide your community with a safer, more inclusive level.


Small Business Strategy: Create Private Groups


Develop one or more groups, linked to your Facebook page, and be sure to have a strategic purpose. For instance, you can create groups for niches within your specialty, groups for training, etc.


Use groups to go deeper with topics you present on your business page. For example, do a Facebook Live on your business page. Then, at a later date, host a Watch Party in your group for an active Q&A. This will also allow you to reach parts of your audience that may have missed the original stream.


Use your group to add value, supplement your page’s information, and create deeper connections. Other things you can do in your group include:


  • Do Live video broadcasts just for group members every week or even once a month
  • Conduct polls
  • Make offers periodically for building leads
  • Crowdsource user-generated content
  • Do an ask me anything
  • Create a think tank or focus group to provide feedback on new products/services


Recommended reading: How to Use Facebook Groups to Grow your Small Business



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. 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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Launch a Podcast.jpgby Chris Brogan


It’s easy to see why we forget about podcasts. Screens dominate our lives. We watch Netflix and YouTube on multiple devices. We skim (never read) articles on our phones (sometimes while watching Netflix or YouTube). Whenever we have access to the glowing glass, our eyes turn in that direction.


But here’s the beauty of a podcast: it’s in our ears. It’s great for when we are driving, running, bicycling, pushing a stroller, or sweating it out at the gym. We can roam the grocery store while listening to a podcast.


People are getting into Podcasts


You definitely don’t need to take my word for it. Read last year’s Infinite Dial report, by the same people who handle the exit polling results for presidential elections. The numbers are on a steady rise for people who are consuming digital audio content (and especially podcasts) in their cars and on their mobile devices.


As more of us seek ways to entertain and inform ourselves on topics we care about versus whatever happens to be on the radio, the rise of podcasting is only natural.


That becomes my first piece of advice: start learning about podcasts by seeking a topic of your interest.


Look up a show that catches your interest. Google Play has a podcast section. Apple has a podcast section. Spotify is investing more every year to add even more podcast content to their platform. You’ll find what you want if you search.


Find a show on yoga or Texas hold-em or true crime stories (a surprisingly popular podcast genre) or one about your favorite show, new or old.  A guy I know runs a Babylon 5 podcast about a show that hasn’t been on for decades and few watched even in its prime.


From here, you’ll learn about the value of listening to podcasts.


Where’s Your Podcast?


The effort required to produce a podcast isn’t all that intense. (Disclosure: I offer a jumpstart program for just that.)  Since 2005, I’ve launched (and eventually shuttered) six or seven shows and I have a new one starting soon. It’s that easy to make one, and that easy to take one down.


The work to produce a simple podcast is minimal. You can do the actual recording on a smartphone if you can find a quiet place (like a closet) to record. Or you can do interview-style shows by recording a Zoom or Skype call. Background music isn’t hard to find (I use Epidemic Sound). Editing is as easy as cut and paste. 


But What Will You Talk About?

Here’s where you can shine. Your podcast can be about exactly what your customers and prospective customers most want to know about. If you sell dog grooming, maybe you do a show called “Between the Cuts” that gives general dog health and grooming tips for people to follow between visits.


If you sell ventilation systems for buildings, maybe you make a show for facilities managers called “Go Duct Yourself.” (Okay, that’s a bit irreverent, but I predict it would get a lot of pick up.)


The point is that you have a massive amount of freedom to make exactly the kind of show that customers and prospects would benefit from having. Shows like this keep customers warm between sales. They improve usage of the product. They sometimes even solve simple customer service challenges by educational means.


In fact, if you want to stretch the concept of podcast and not create an ongoing show, you can record 8 or 10 episodes of a “boxed set” and use it as a lead generation or on-ramping tool, or as a way to warm people up for the product they’ve purchased.


Their Ears Are More Ready Than Their Eyes


There’s far less competition to reach someone’s ears. You can encourage someone to take you to the gym, play your show on their morning commute, or tune in every time they go grocery shopping. The ear’s the limit in this case.


But really. Why not? It’s a strong opportunity to reach an otherwise overwhelmed prospect.


Give it a try.



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and 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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Secrets Women Business Owners.jpgby Rieva Lesonsky


Women entrepreneurs are looking forward to a strong 2020, according to the 2019 Women Business Owner Spotlight, recently released by Bank of America. In honor of Women’s History Month, which celebrates “women’s contributions to America and the world,” we asked several women business owners to share their stories and best tips.


Meet the Entrepreneurs


Lauren Bercier and Laken Swan—founders, Something Borrowed Blooms, a Rent & Return Floral Company specializing in premium silk flowers. “We create on-trend wedding flower collections and rent them to couples saving them up to 70%!” Started 2015.


Gini Dietrich—Founder, Spin Sucks, a professional development business for communicators. “We provide online and in-person training to a PR professional who is looking to evolve their career and learn new skills. Started 2015. I started a PR firm in 2005 and Spin Sucks was our blog, which launched in 2006. By 2015, we discovered we'd built a big enough brand that we could roll Spin Sucks into its own P&L with its own team.”


Mika Leah—CEO, Goomi Group. Goomi Group provides onsite fitness and wellness programs, classes and sessions to companies and organizations nationwide with customized programs that fit any budget. Started 2015.


Colleen Puffpaff—Owner, Pigtails & Crewcuts, a hair salon catering to children. “We have fun theme chairs, movies playing, fun stylists and toys from wall to wall. While our main focus is haircuts, we do everything from birthday parties to ear piercing as well!” Started 2019.


Olga Vidisheva—Founder & CEO, Shoptiques provides small businesses with the software and tools to streamline operations and increase sales. In addition, partner stores are featured in front of millions of customers through the marketplace. Started 2012.

What motivated you to start a business?


Bercier and Swan: We were both young mothers looking for an opportunity to start a business that would allow us to be in control of our future. We were motivated by the rental trends being adopted by millennials, especially Rent the Runway. We saw a gap in the traditional wedding market where couples were looking for new alternatives and we decided floral was the perfect fit! We currently fulfill over 500 wedding orders on a monthly basis. When we started, our goal was to ship 12 weddings per month.


Dietrich: I hate this question because it makes it sound like I’m impossible. And maybe I am. But the truth of the matter is, I have a massive problem with authority, especially with authority who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. When I left my job to start my own agency, it was because I was sick and tired of my advertising colleagues dismissing the work I did and treating me like a tactic instead of a strategic partner.


Leah: Three weeks after my 33rd birthday I was wheeled into emergency heart surgery. Five heart stents and four procedures later, I realized my life was short and I wanted to make a difference in the world. Goomi Group was started to make wellness simple in order to help others get healthy and happy, which I believe go hand in hand.


Puffpaff: I am the mom of two young boys. When they were babies, I worked part-time for my father, allowing me the flexibility to be around for my children. As my boys transitioned into full-time school, I wanted more of a career but didn’t want to sacrifice the flexibility. Owning a business allows me to [be there for] my kids while building a business.


Vidisheva: Walking down the streets of Paris, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the fashion, architecture, culture—and the boutiques! Years ago while traveling for work, I came across a gem of a store in the Marais district with the friendliest, most stylish owner. The owner pointed out a pair of shoes and I knew I couldn’t leave empty-handed.


I still dream about visiting that tiny Parisian store again, but I’ve been lucky enough to discover so many other boutiques. Each one is special in its own way, but they all have something in common—beautiful hard-to-find pieces and a knowledgeable owner with a distinct style perspective. This is why Shoptiques was founded. We grant women access to the most stylish boutiques and replicate that same intimate in-store experience. Shoptiques is an online destination to browse, discover, and buy the best boutique merchandise in the world.


What’s the most important advice you got when you started your business?


Bercier & Swan: Don’t give up. Your greatest accomplishments are just past the most trying times. For both of us, giving up has never been an option. Although we have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of, it’s important to note there was equal or more hard work and grit.


Dietrich: Oh, man. It was so long ago...and there has been so much advice. I remember when I was starting out, I would read the typical entrepreneurship magazines and they freaked me out. So much to think about—and so many failures! So I stopped reading them and just started doing my job, as I’d been taught to do. Of course, that came with its own set of challenges. I didn’t know, for instance, that I had to actually set up a business with the state and with a bank. I didn’t know what P&L stood for. I had a lot to learn.


Leah: Since we have no overhead costs because we bring everything on-site to companies, I was advised to, “Just start and see if it will work; what have you got to lose?”


Puffpaff: Take it one day at a time! I didn’t have a clue what this meant until we actually opened. The first year of business ownership is a rollercoaster. One day is great—you feel like you’ve got this down and the next day all your stylists and receptionist call out and you’re scrambling to find someone to come in so you can open your doors. Trying to always see the forest through the trees is really important!


Vidisheva: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. We are all guilty of sometimes talking ourselves out of pursuing an idea or asking for help. The best advice I got was, “Go for it, because if you don’t, you are guaranteed a no.”


What was your biggest challenge?


Bercier & Swan: Changing consumers’ mindset in a very traditional market was a big undertaking, but through e-commerce and digital advertising we’ve been able to connect with today’s brides who are more accepting of change and open to eco-friendly alternatives. Utilizing real bride reviews has been one of our most powerful sales tools in breaking the traditional mold.


Dietrich: Sales. Not because we don’t have them, but because I cannot figure out how to train someone to sell like I do. And I don’t love it, so I’d really, really like to figure that out. I hired a crackerjack professional late last year who shows incredible promise so we may very well be on our way.


Leah: There were times it felt as if the company was growing faster than we could keep up. However, we solved this by revising our workflow process to make sure everyone on the team had their own swim lane and no one drowned.


Puffpaff: There are so many challenges opening a business. We had difficulties securing an SBA loan. We had a faulty sprinkler system go off in our salon four months after opening, flooding our entire salon, causing thousands of dollars in damages and forcing us to close for two weeks.

The most challenging thing for me is opening and running a business while dealing with a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression. As I said before, it’s important to always try to see the forest through the trees and that can be hard when you add those to the mix. Solving this challenge goes back to taking things one day at a time and having a strong support system. My husband is the crux of my support system.


Vidisheva: When you start a business, the challenges are never-ending and ever-changing. You learn to accept them as part of the journey. My biggest challenge was managing my busy professional life when my grandmother was ill. It was challenging emotionally and physically, but I am grateful I got to spend time with her before her passing. That wouldn't have been possible without my amazing team, who went above and beyond to make it doable for me.


Did you/do you have a mentor? Other female entrepreneurs you admire?


Bercier: My old boss, Gina Babineaux who has started several successful businesses.


Admire: Sarah Blakely of Spanx.


Dietrich: I’ve had a ton of mentors throughout the years. I had a boss at the agency where I worked who was incredible. Then, as I started my business, I hired coaches and joined Vistage. Both of those things were incredibly helpful. Today, I study more on my own— everything from marketing and customer experience to business growth and sustainability.


Admire: Michelle Obama, Brené Brown, and Susan Cain are the ones you’ve heard of. In my industry, there is Ann Handley, Michele Linn, Cathy McPhilips, Mary Getz, and several of our women entrepreneur clients. They inspire me daily.


Leah: Oprah once said that she surrounded herself with people smarter than her, and I can say that I do that every day. Everyone has something to teach you, you just have to listen. Admire: Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Hollis, Sara Blakely, Brené Brown, Vera Wang, Taylor Swift, J.K. Rowling, Sheryl Sandberg and Barbara Corcoran—to name just a few!


Puffpaff: My Aunt has always been a huge influence in my life. As a young adult, she found herself in a male-dominated field where she had to fight to make a name for herself, even though she was more qualified than most of the men she worked with or worked for. Her drive to work through tough situations and keep going even has helped push me when things are hard.


Admire: I’m a part of a lot of mom blogs full of female entrepreneurs and I admire them all. Being a mother is challenging. Being a partner is challenging. Being a businesswoman is challenging. Trying to mix and find the balance in all of these is nearly impossible and yet I see women doing it successfully and to their fullest every day.


Swan: Kristi Brocoto, founder of The Basketry. Kristi was my first boss and the biggest influencer in my decision to pursue a degree in marketing and later take the entrepreneurial journey. I was inspired by her Kristi’s passion, commitment and drive to grow her specialty gift basket service and her generosity to the community she operates in.


Vidisheva: Pauline Brown is a friend and mentor. We first met professionally when I interviewed at The Carlyle Group where she was a partner. Over the years, Pauline has become a close friend. I made a leap to pursue Shoptiques at her house, and her support, advice and encouragement has helped me tremendously. Today, Pauline sits on the board of Shoptiques and guides and advises me and our team.


Admire: Jessica Livingston, Anne Wojcicki, Reshma Saujani, Sara Blakely.


What keeps you going?


Bercier & Swan:  Songs: Do the Next Right Thing from Frozen 2 and This Girl is on Fire by Alicia Keys. Podcast: How I Built This.


Dietrich: I’m a cyclist and, and while I’ve taken a sabbatical from racing while I raise a kid, I cannot focus without a good ride every day. The other day was a rest day but I was in such a bad mood, I needed to do something. So I went to SoulCycle where the instructor was dressed in an Elton John, sparkly Dodgers jumpsuit. That made me much happier and I was able to lead my team without being a grouch.


Leah: My favorite quote I tell myself almost daily is, “You only fail if you stop trying.” It’s also important to remember: If you don't go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, then you are always in the same place. You only fail if you stop trying.


Puffpaff: I had a tutor in middle school who always told me to “go the extra mile.” I apply this every day with my customers and my employees. Most people think haircuts are just haircuts. But when a parent comes in with a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism or a general fear of strangers cutting their hair, the haircut becomes much more. I’ve watched my stylists lay on the floor playing with kids for an hour before attempting to cut a kids hair.


I push my stylists to have that mentality with our customers, but I also have that mentality with them. Most of my stylists are young and just starting out in the “real world.” We go the extra mile for each other.


Vidisheva: Our team and our partners. Each time I step into the office, I am grateful to work with such a passionate and driven team who wants to help small businesses around the world succeed and who raise the bar of excellence every day! I am challenged by them, proud to work with them and excited to create something so impactful together.


Also, our partners. Small businesses have so much passion for what they do. We feel so grateful to work with them and help them grow and succeed in today’s world. Every time a boutique tells me they didn’t shut down because of our tools or grew 30% more than they expected because of our software, it just makes all the hard work worth it!


Writer’s Note: I have met many women entrepreneurs in my career who have inspired me. Here are some motivating quotes from some of them:


  • Sara Blakley, founder, Spanx: “The smartest thing I ever did was to hire my weakness.”
  • JJ Ramberg, Founder & Managing Director, GoodShop, Cofounder, Goodpods: “A lot of us start out nimble. You need to stay that way. You want to have that in your culture. Check to see why things are going wrong and fix them. Understand what’s going on in your business so you know if there’s a drop somewhere.”
  • Anita Roddick, founder, The Body Shop “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” And, “If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”
  • Muriel Siebert, founder, Siebert Financial Corp, the first woman to own a seat on NY Stock Exchange: “When a door is hard to open, and if nothing else works, sometimes you just have to rear back and kick it open.” And, “Do your homework all of your life.”
  • Martha Stewart, founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia: “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” And, “Without an open mind, you can never be a great success.”
  • Lillian Vernon, founder, Lillian Vernon Corp.: “Don’t spend more money than you’ve got. Don’t spend money before you’ve got it.”
  • Oprah Winfrey, founder Harpo Productions, OWN, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” And, “The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free.”



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky.


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

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