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62 Posts authored by: Bank of America SB Team

Transforming a hobby into a small business takes preparation, passion and faith. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Karen Anderson shares the story of her company, Tiny Doors ATL, and its evolution from a personal art project into a successful business and local phenomenon. Karen takes listeners behind the scenes of her journey, offering advice to anyone looking to turn their passion into a business.

 

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

 

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

 

Check out more small business stories:

 

Podcast transcript:

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:        Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I am here with Karen Anderson, she's the principal artist and director of the company, Tiny DoorsATL. The website is tinydoorsatl.com, on Facebook and Instagram @TinyDoorsATL. Karen, I'm gonna let you explain what you do, I'm just gonna explain that the ATL part stands for Atlanta. You're on your own for explaining the Tiny Doors part. Welcome and tell us about your business, Tiny DoorsATL.

 

Karen Anderson:        Hi, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here. Tiny DoorsATL is a fun little thing to try to explain to people and I think a lot of small business owners have this issue of the elevator speech, how exactly you explain what your ... what your thing is.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Is it a tiny elevator door from Tiny Doors, for the tiny elevator pitch?

 

Karen Anderson:       Yes, that's a perfect idea — I have made tiny elevator doors for a Marriott, actually, so that's a good little segue way. I went to art school, art school is not business school…it is just making art. They don't really teach you about the business of making art, and so it became something, I started making these tiny doors and then they started to get more and more demand for them. I found that I wanted my business model to be just making a few of what I was doing a year and making them matter.

 

 

                                   Instead of taking that large-scale production I went with smaller scale and with a more impactful way about it. What I do is I make literally seven-inch doors, they're one inch to one foot, so it would be a seven-foot door to seven-inch door. It reflects and respects the neighborhood that's around it so it's gonna look like it belongs where it is, whether it's at the business or in a neighborhood, I try to make something that is interactive and feels like it belongs to the neighborhood. Does that make sense?

 

Gregg Stebben:         And so we are literally talking about tiny doors, I just want to be clear about, and not just tiny doors, by the way. For instance, I'm looking at one, I think it's at either a pet food store or a doggy day care center. It's a tiny door with a tiny dog door in the tiny door and a tiny dog behind going through the tiny dog door. We actually find out there's this little secret or an Easter egg. It's actually a cat behind, not a dog behind.

 

 

                                   What I love about what you just said is that you have a completely different — maybe you have to go to art school to come up with this — but you have a completely different take on supply and demand because, as you said, many businesses think you have to get bigger and do more and more to grow. What you actually did was decide to get smaller and to address supply and demand in a completely different way.

 

Karen Anderson:       Yeah, and you know what's funny, is that I thought that didn't qualify me as a small business. I have an LLC, I am a small business, and I still didn't think of myself that way because I wasn't doing the more demand.

 

Gregg Stebben:         There was no tiny door factory — you are the tiny door factory and there's only one of you.

 

Karen Anderson:        Right. I'm an artist and this is my art that you're looking at. I do have some employees who work for me, I do have all the other things that a business would have, I just don't have a factory that makes a thousand tiny doors a year.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes. So I guess I have to ask. I'm talking with Karen Anderson, she's the principal artist and director of Tiny DoorsATL. You can see the tiny doors at tinydoorsatl.com, the ATL part stands for Atlanta. She's on Facebook and Instagram @TinyDoorsATL. It is such a joy to go and look at the photos, it is so much fun, almost as much fun as I'm sure being there. There's a map of where you can tour the tiny doors in Atlanta, but I am hoping you will give us a little insight into the business model of your business. You've alluded to it, but I think, for some of us, it's a bit of a mystery how you could make a living, create a successful business, creating tiny doors and deliberately only creating a few.

 

Karen Anderson:       Yeah, you know, it's certainly never been done before, and I followed the business model of a lot of other artists, say muralists, who can't make a thousand murals a year, but they can make 10 or 12 great murals a year. So, they look for 10 or 12 companies who are interested in commissioning. That's what has ended up happening with me, is that I get commissioned to do these doors, and then there's a lot of business that goes on around that.

 

                                   I have a lot of merchandise that people buy, things like that, that aren't doors, and it also has led to public speaking, which is another part of the Tiny DoorsATL business. I do conferences and I do schools — it's been really fun to go talk to students who have seen the doors and are interested. There have been a few facets that this business has turned into rather than just being a door production factory. It's become meeting demands as they come up and really sticking with having the doors themselves be my resume rather than be a product you could buy off the shelf.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You've said so many really great things here. One is, I actually want to direct our listeners back to “The Heartbeat of Main Street Podcast” because we did another interview that was really focused on what you just described, which is creating multiple profit centers. Again, it sounds like you've done a brilliant job of that, merchandising things around the doors, merchandising yourself as a speaker. There's probably all kinds of ways you can continue to grow the business without actually making more tiny doors.

 

Karen Anderson:       Absolutely.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, in the evolution of this is a business, given that you went to art school, at what point did you realize, "Oh — oh, I have a real business here." Was there any conflict inside you about that? Did you ever think, "Well, wait a minute, I'm an artist."

 

Karen Anderson:       Yes, I think all artists get that sort of starving artist thing thrown at them so many times that they might start to feel guilty about making money and a lot of people at the beginning of this process, the beginning of Tiny DoorsATL, becoming more known, started to ask me to become a non-profit. They were like, "Okay, here's the time. Become a non-profit, we'll help you file the paperwork," and I looked at what it meant to be a non-profit, and I thought about whether I wanted that or not, whether I could stomach being for profit as an artist.

 

 

                                   It was something that I really struggled with but the thing about profit is it's what you do with it. With my profit, I choose to pay my employees as much as I can, I choose to reinvest into the business. I’m not doing anything nefarious. I’m taking care of the street art that I've made in Atlanta, with the money that I make from private commission, so I literally take care of street art with my profit. But if I were a non-profit, I would have had to go about it so differently and I decided that wasn't for me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's a really wonderful way that you describe that, and it actually leads into one of the questions I wanted to ask you which is, with your art and with this business philosophy you just shared with us that includes things like taking care of your employees in the best possible way, have you found that turning your passion into a business has given you the power to reach a wider audience? Did you envision that, is that something you embrace, is it something that you want to do more? Talk more about the power that having this successful business gives you.

 

Karen Anderson:       Yeah, I’m gonna use the M word. I'm a Millennial, and I think that's important to note because I came of age at a time when the economy had tanked. I graduated from high school in 2001, and so I was heading off to college right at the beginning of a recession. It really empowered me. I felt like I could follow my passion because there was no safety, there was no route where you could go and you were guaranteed, at least for me, at least for someone who didn't want to study math.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Or business.

 

Karen Anderson:        It wasn't a safe route for me to get through, and so I felt like, "Well, you know what? The only way I'm gonna do it is if it's something that I love. Then starting Tiny Doors, I had other things that I was trying. Tiny Doors wasn't ... I didn't start this thinking, "This will be my career, this will be my business." I just had been listening to people paying attention to it, people wanting to participate, wanting to buy more art from me. It has made me feel empowered to keep building and keep growing.

 

                                   It's also, I think, just really good to listen to what's going on around you and respond to that, and that's a lot of what I've done with this.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask one last question, Karen. Talking with Karen Anderson, she's the Principal Artist and Director of Tiny DoorsATL, tinydoorsatl.com, on Facebook and Instagram @TinyDoorsATL. Go to the website, go to the Facebook page, go to the Instagram page. Look at the tiny doors.  They're tiny doors, but way more than tiny doors. As you can hear in Karen's voice, they're really, it sounds like transforming neighborhoods and communities and even businesses that embrace this because of everything that's included in this whole, I'm gonna call it a tiny door movement.

 

Karen Anderson:        I think that what people respond to is honesty. Like, I have a t-shirt that I bought from a company, that I love the honesty of the people who put that company together with the materials that they use. There's that story of why it was important to you, why this was created. This project is so honest to who I am. I've always made miniatures, I've always loved it. I'm a little bit shocked that people are as nerdy as I am and they love it right along with me. But I embrace that and I move forward with it as much as I can.

 

                                    I think a lot of that, a lot of the success of this business has been the response to how real it is.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's a perfect place for me to ask this last question which is, what advice would you offer others who see what you're doing and your success and hope to turn their own passion into a business? What advice can you give them to get started and give them the courage to go for it?

 

Karen Anderson:       I'm kind of, I'm pretty deliberate. For somebody who has pink hair and makes tiny doors, I'm actually pretty reserved when it comes to making choices like that. I chose not to take a job teaching art, I chose to nanny when I first moved to Atlanta because I wanted to pursue making art. So, I chose not to take the status position. I chose to take a job where I could pursue my passion as a hobby, and see if I liked it. I ended up two years into that job writing my TedX talk while the kid was taking a nap because I just was afraid to make that leap, because I liked my job and I liked having it all, but I was like, "This isn't gonna move forward until I really give it everything I have."

 

                                  I slowly and deliberately made that leap into Tiny Doors, and I'm really glad that I did. There have been a lot of leaps along the way — I know every small business owner will say that. It's not as though you made one big decision, it's like a lot of little decisions that ended up as a business.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         Could we summarize what you just said as saying you had faith in yourself?

 

Karen Anderson:       I did. I did have faith in myself and I think that when you're doing what you absolutely love, there's that faith that's in there because you know that it's something that you're never gonna give up on. There was one day when my business took a big leap forward. I was posted on Instagram's Instagram, which has hundreds of millions of followers, and then I was on the Travel Channel all in 24 hours. And I was freaking out, honestly, I didn't know what to do with all that attention at once and so I called a friend, who has been a rock star for about 30 years and I asked her what she does.

 

                                   She said, "Here's how I think of it. You’ve got to find the one thing that you love about what you're doing and do more of that. Do as much as you can. Take one thing, just pick one thing that you don't like, and don't do that thing anymore, hire someone to do it. Find a way that you don't have to do that one thing," and she said, "Everything else is just your job. Even if it's your dream job, it's just your job, just do it." It really changed how I felt about this project. It really helped me get some perspective. Do more of the thing I love, it seemed so simple.

 

                                  She was like apologizing to me, going "I know that's so simple," and it was brilliant and I hope it helps someone else.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         And we get to know who the rock star is, so we can give credit where credit is due?

 

Karen Anderson:       Sure. Sure, it was Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls.

 

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's awesome. If you were as charmed as I am by Karen and her story, go to the website tinydoorsatl.com, Facebook and Instagram @TinyDoorsATL. If you want to hear more great small business stories and tips just like those we just heard from Karen, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Karen, thanks again for joining us.

 

Karen Anderson:        Thank you, it's been a pleasure.

 

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

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Preparing for the unexpected is a key element of small business ownership. The Bank of America spring 2019 Small Business Owner Report found that many entrepreneurs are taking steps to prepare their business for  unexpected events, but there’s still room for improvement. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Bank of America Head of Small Business Sharon Miller shares tips on how to prepare for unexpected events including disasters, cyberattacks, reputational crises and more.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America, I'm here with Sharon Miller. She is the head of small business for Bank of America, we're talking about the new Small Business Owner Report that Bank of America just released. Sharon, welcome.

 

Sharon Miller:            Thank you, Gregg, for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Really a fascinating report here, among other things, you asked small business owners how they're preparing for the unexpected. Things that could potentially disrupt their businesses like natural disasters, cyber security issues, reputational threats. Give us a summary of the things you found.

 

Sharon Miller:            First of all, the good news is a majority of entrepreneurs do have a continuity plan in place. Entrepreneurs are recognizing the need to prepare for disruptive events, like you talked about. Whether it be a natural disaster, maybe a cyber breach, so they're thinking about it, and nearly two thirds do have a plan in place, but that still leaves one-third without any planning at all, which is troubling.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're going to talk here about some things that small business owners and entrepreneurs can do to put a continuity plan in place. Let's dive into some specifics here. First of all, accidents and disasters, like a fire or a flood, what should I be doing? What should I be thinking about? What steps should I be taking to prepare for that?

 

Sharon Miller:            When you think about protecting your business, first of all for a flood, for a fire, or other natural disaster, you want to make sure that you have an insurance policy in place. And what we found, was about half of the small business owners that we surveyed did have an insurance policy in place. But again, that leaves half that did not. Also, you want to be thinking about backing up your files, because what if a flood happens? What if something damages your computer system? Make sure that you're continually backing up your files, because you've got all your records, you've got your clients, all the things that you need to understand what's happening with your business, your tax records. Make sure that you have them backed up.

 

                                   And then, the communication protocol for employees. Those entrepreneurs that have employees, make sure that you've got some type of calling tree. So, if something happens who calls who? And making sure number one, all of your employees are safe, and then from there, what happens to report back to work? Is the business open? So that you have that open line of communication with your employees. Those are some of the steps you can be taking, and we want to make sure that entrepreneurs are thinking about it. Because, you've got to plan for the unexpected, you never know when it's going to happen.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Obviously buying fire insurance, accident insurance, flood insurance, those are pretty obvious things, even if you're not doing it, you know you should. I think backing up your systems is essential, and there's lots of tools available today that make that very easy and affordable. I love you bringing up the idea of communications protocol, because I think that's something that would escape many, many businesses until they hear it, like in this interview with you, or frankly until something bad happens and they don't have a communications protocol.

 

Sharon Miller:             That's exactly right. And I think about Bank of America. In Houston, we had the hurricane, and that was the first thing we go to, the communication. Check in on our employees. Are you okay? What's happening? Because we want to make sure, for the safety of our employees, and again we didn't anticipate a hurricane coming, but you've got to plan for the unexpected. And the safety of our employees is of the utmost concern, that's the number one thing for any business. Making sure they're safe, and then giving them the instructions on what happens. Will we be closed? When are we going to reopen? How do you report back to work? All of those things are necessary.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Now, for accidents and disasters, like fires and floods and things like that, it seems like the steps are pretty obvious. Especially, now that we've talked about them. Buying insurance, making sure you're prepared in advance, backing up all your data and your systems, having a communications protocol. I love that idea. The next thing we're going to talk about is a little harder to prepare for, it's a reputational crisis. What happens if something happens to your company's reputation? What should we be thinking about there?

 

Sharon Miller:            Reputational management is so important, and it's critical to business success. And what we found on that front as well, is only one quarter of small business owners have a crisis management plan in place. And it is something that absolutely needs to be developed to address reputational issues, and at least three quarters that don't. So, how are you actively managing your social media? How are you making sure that you are out there visible and ensuring that there are good reviews?

 

                                   We asked about reviews in this report as well, and what did business owners think about reviews, negative versus positive. By and large, the business owners told us, “We think the positive review is much more effective for our business.” And I think they're missing a big piece, because something written negative about your business, just one person, that can have a rippling effect through people reading social media, can create doubts about your company.

 

                                   So, it's important that you consult, whether it be for cyber issues, cyber security specialists, there are companies out there managing social media, so all of those things are important to the reputation of your company and your brand. You're building a brand for your business, and so you want to make sure that there's nothing detrimental out there, and when it is, that you're able to take action and address it. Because you're always going to have issues. There're going to be service issues, there's going to be things that go wrong. And what I always say, “It's not that things will go wrong, it's how you fix them and address them when they do.” Because consumers know, everything is not going to be perfect every day. But it's when you make a mistake, how do you recover, and how quickly can you recover and make it right for that client?

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm really glad you said that, and in fact in an earlier interview, which you can hear as part of the Heartbeat of Main Street podcast. We talked with a company called PSP Diesel, and we talked about exactly how you can use your reviews to build your business, and what to do to be prepared in the event that you have a bad review. So, that's another great podcast to listen to. We're talking with Sharon Miller about the new Bank of America spring 2019 Small Business Owner Report. Sharon is the head of small business for Bank of America. We've been talking about things like natural disasters, fires and floods. We've talked about reputational crisis, let's talk about cyber security. Do you have any tips for things we should be thinking about, to make sure that our businesses are secure?

 

Sharon Miller:             Absolutely. Well, the top three actions that we find for business owners, when it comes to cyber and making sure that you're prepared for a cyber-attack: one, make sure you're installing security patches and updates. This is a pretty simple step. When there's a security patch, when there's an update, make sure everything is up to date. Make sure you're securing your customers’ data, you've got to make sure that data is secure, that is a trust factor with your clients, and making sure that all the data that you have on them, for them, about them, that it is very, very secure.

 

                                   And then as you have confidential documents that are floating around your office, that you have as a part of doing business, you got to make sure they're securely disposed. You can't just throw them away, you make sure that they're shredded, that they're securely disposed, picked up, however it is that you are filing those things away. It's got to remain very, very confidential, because yes, cyber we think of the security on our computer, but it's also papers that could be laying around. All of those things have to be secured and have to be disposed of properly so that you can protect your clients’ interests.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know what's really interesting to talk about here, relative to cyber security, that you brought up, it's not just cyber security, but security includes being aware of and handling appropriately what you're doing with physical paper as well. The great news that I think about that is, that you can outsource that. There's lot of best practices, you don't have to invent this for yourself, you just have to go and find the vendor, or the partner that can handle it for you. And know that you're in good hands, because it's their area of expertise, it doesn't have to become your area of expertise.

 

Sharon Miller:            Not many companies have the luxury to hire a chief technology officer or a cyber expert. So, it's important that you go and contract with other vendors that have this specialty, and that's what small businesses do. You can't afford to not invest in this for your business, and whether it be through the computer or for the physical papers that you have floating around in your office, it's important that they're handled correctly. Because when a reputational issue hits, sometimes it's not recoverable.

Check out our Fraud and Privacy Resource Center

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking about Bank of America's new spring 2019 Small Business Owner Report. We're talking with Sharon Miller, Sharon is the head of small business for Bank of America. Sharon I want to ask you one last question, because we're talking about things that businesses need to do to be prepared for all kinds of unexpected things. And the last thing I want to ask you about is another type of event that small business owners have no control over, and that's an economic downturn. What should we be doing to be prepared for that?

 

Sharon Miller:            Business owners are not as optimistic about the local and national economy as they have been in the past. But they are optimistic about their business, and their prospects for growth over the next 12 months. No matter how you feel about your business, it's important to make sure you're preparing for the unexpected. So, number one, make sure you have an emergency fund. Things may not always be going great. The number one reason why businesses go out of business, is because they're not managing their cash flow appropriately. We just launched out Business Advantage 360 platform, for business owners this first quarter and over 400,000 business owners have already gone on this platform and what we're hearing is, “Wow, this is great information. It’s great tools, it's helping us manage our cash flow, which is a huge concern.”

                                   So, make sure you've got an emergency fund, and that you're appropriately managing that cash flow. Two, make sure you've got some alternative business plan, reducing your overall expenses. Because when times get tough, you don't want to have to close the doors. You can cut back a little. How can you reduce expenses? How can you be managing that P&L, so that you're able to stay in business through the ups and the downs? And then, opening a line of credit. Most people come to a bank to open a line of creditwhen they need it. To me, it's part of a foundation of smart credit.

Read next: 10 Cash Flow Tips for Small Businesses

 

                                   Get a line of credit established, even if you don't need one, because there may be a time when you do. And when you do need one, that might not be the time when you can qualify. So, as you're planning your business and as you're managing your cash flow, be sure you're working with a specialist, with a banker that can help you think about these things. So that when times get tough, because it's not if, it'll be when. History repeats itself, there are cycles that go on in business. So, you've got to make sure that you're working with a partner who has seen these cycles and who can help you plan for the unexpected.

Read next: Creating a Balanced Cash Flow Cycle

 

Gregg Stebben:         Sharon those are really great tips. Thank you so much. These all come as a result of the spring 2019 Small Business Owner Report from Bank of America. She’s Sharon Miller, she's the head of small business for Bank of America, and for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at BankofAmerica.com/SBC. Sharon, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Sharon Miller:            Thank you, Gregg, for having me.

 

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

 

It’s not every day you encounter a small business with such a unique combination of components as: 1) a core product offering of handcrafted, made-to-order bicycle bags, 2) an owner who attentively sews these wares out on the showroom floor, and 3) an adjoining bar and café that sells an array of locally sourced treats to hungry bicyclists.

 

Welcome to The Spindle, one of many eclectic small businesses within Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, and part of a thriving, close-knit community of entrepreneurs who are pursuing their passions.

 

For brothers and co-owners Sharif and Ezz Hassan, The Spindle is a natural reflection of both their individual strengths and shared interests, not to mention the simple need for a place in the neighborhood that offers honest expertise from people who ride bikes.

 

“To be successful in any small business, you need three things: patience, humility, and passion,” said Sharif during a recent visit, emphasizing the latter trait. “Otherwise you’re not going to follow through with it all the way.”

 

It’s this shared passion that’s not only kept them in business, but growing well beyond the initial vision of a small shop serving only handmade bike bags. Indeed, The Spindle opened in 2013 as an extension of Ezz’s burgeoning hobby of sewing custom-made bike packs. Over the years, it has evolved into a neighborhood institution and gathering spot, especially after the shop further expanded its offering to include The Spindle Kitchen in 2018,serving coffee, beer and a range of healthy dishes sourced from local farmers and vendors.

 

This ongoing commitment to the surrounding community is a point of pride for Sharif and Ezz. Visit The Spindle’s website and you’ll find a comprehensive calendar of upcoming rides and events that they help organize and participate in. And while Ezz is busy making the bags, Sharif is regularly making the rounds within and beyond the neighborhood to check in on friends, family, and patrons.

 

“Sharif’s really good at bringing the community together,” Ezz maintains. “He goes out on a lot of rides, and I think it’s nice to have someone out there in the community who’s really genuine.”

 

Of course, that leaves Ezz with the formidable task of fulfilling all the orders that come in, which is why you’ll find him dutifully attached to his sewing machine during business hours – and often times, overnight and into the early hours of the morning.

 

“If you find something you really like, you have to do it all the time,” Ezz explains. “And when you make something and hand it to a customer who’s really excited about it? I don’t think there’s anything better than that, because you’re giving them an item they’ll have for the rest of their life. That’s why I feel really lucky.”

 

Balancing the around-the-clock demands of a business like The Spindle may not be for everyone, but Sharif and Ezz wouldn’t have it any other way. For them, it’s an opportunity to not only pursue their passions, but also create a lasting legacy with each other.

 

“This is a fulfilling lifestyle,” Sharif says. “Being able to engage with the community and to work with my family on a daily basis is the definition of fulfilling.”

Next: Go around the block in Atlanta with Myrna Perez

 

Check out our other Small Business Spotlights:

by Robert Lerose.


Stories of small, seemingly outmatched underdogs beating larger rivals date back centuries. Malcolm Gladwell's book, appropriately titled David and Goliath, is an exploration of this perennial theme. The conflict continues to play out every day on Main Streets across America, where local businesses try to prevail against bigger or nationally known brand names. Although these outsized competitors may be better financed or give deep discounts to customers, many local merchants can leverage their position in the neighborhood to gain a decided edge.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Competing with the Giants: How a Small Store Can Thrive

 

Be involved

 

Local businesses can gather key information about their customers by dealing with them regularly, seeing them in the neighborhood, and interacting with them in their personal and professional lives—and then use that knowledge to target those customers effectively. "A national brand would have to do a lot more legwork to really find that sort of data to give it a personal touch," says Christopher Tompkins, CEO of The GO! Agency, a Seminole, Florida-based full-service marketing company.

 

Event marketing can cement relationships between local vendors and the community, Tompkins says. For example, a sporting goods store could sponsor a school competition, sell equipment and apparel to the athletes, and also make a donation to a charity selected by the athletes and their families. In addition to school events, choosing an activity where the whole community participates also favors local merchants over bigger names.

 

"If you're a huge company, you'd have to figure out what these events were and hope that the information is correct because you could be putting $10,000 into a race that gets 100 people," Tompkins explains. "Whereas if you're in that neighborhood, you know that one of the most popular races is the one on Thanksgiving morning that gets 1,000 to 2,000 people. So you get the inside scoop. By getting involved in what your audience is involved with, it's almost like a simpatico relationship."

 

Social media channels are good for establishing credibility, driving traffic, and brand building, but often don't result in closing the sale on their own. Tompkins believes in using a mix of traditional and online advertising methods to reach customers, such as billboards, flyers, direct mail, and email campaigns. Local businesses also need to optimize their website for mobile devices, since their primary customers will often be within driving or walking distance. "All these work together to build a buzz about your business that can take you to the next level," Tompkins says.

 

Do what you're good at

 

Local businesses should play to their strengths and provide something that their bigger rivals don't or don't do as well, such as customer service.

 

"As soon as you start to compete on price, you have no emotional loyalty. [The customer then says,] 'Give me a number and I'll determine whether I'm loyal,'" says Shep Hyken, a St. Louis, Missouri-based customer service expert. "What you try to do is connect on another level—on the value you deliver. That value can be in the relationship you have or the service that you give." Hyken gives the following example:

 

There was a small family-owned hardware store that had been in a Boston strip mall for over 30 years, when a Home Depot and a Lowe's both opened up nearby—yet the owner says that he has never been more successful, even though he stays open fewer hours than the megastores. "The owner said that if he tried to do what they do, he'd lose," Hyken explains. "He does what he's best at—creating value for the customer in the form of service by asking the customer what they need a part for, and then making other suggestions for the project that the customer might not have thought about. There's a big difference between that and just taking the order, [like the big box stores do]."

 

Hyken says that every employee at a local business should conduct themselves as if they were the owner. For example, he spoke with an 18-year-old waiter at a pizza parlor, who was mistaken for the actual owner by a group of customers because of the attentiveness he displayed in his work—resulting in loyal patrons. "Everybody needs to take pride and make the good decisions necessary for either their internal or external customers as if they owned the place," Hyken explains.

 

Nurture your employees

 

Local business owners can usually develop personal relationships easier and faster than workers at megastores. "Every customer should know your name and you should call them by their name," says Tom Egelhoff, a Bozeman, Montana-based author of How To Market, Advertise & Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town. "Calling them by name reinforces that local feeling."

 

While it is crucial for owners to focus their attention on customers, nurturing employees can motivate them to say good things about your business, even when they're not working, to anyone they meet in the community. Egelhoff also says that employees should get their own business cards to hand out to customers so that the owner knows who provided good service when the sale was made—and then reward employees. When Egelhoff was a personnel manager for a retailer, "I would try to publicly recognize each employee for something at least once every six months. I would encourage the other employees and customers to let me know the good things they did."

 

Egelhoff encourages local businesses to have a grand re-opening once a year for the benefit of new people who just moved to the community, even if the business has been long established. Local businesses can also become the go-to source in their neighborhood if they take time to bond with their customers on a one-on-one level and put their priorities first. Colossal chain stores, such as Circuit City, are no longer around because "they didn't adapt to the customer. They tried to make the customer adapt to them," Egelhoff says. "People buy on emotion, not on logic. I don't know the guy or the manager at the big box store, whereas if I walk into a small business, the owner is probably the guy behind the counter."

 

    RELATED ARTICLE: Brewing Success: How Tapping a Community of Beer Lovers Drives Barebottle Forward

 

May is Small Business Month and this year Bank of America is celebrating by highlighting one of the most vibrant cities in the country; Nashville. Celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan is our guide as she takes us around her block, showing off some of her favorite, go-to small businesses. We see her relationship with these small business owners, diving into what makes their business so special, and showing us that when a community has the power to support small business, there is nothing that can hold them back.

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Check out the businesses featured in this video:

 

CHAUHAN ALE & MASALA HOUSE, Indian Fusion Restaurant

HANDMADE STUDIOS, Ceramics

THE TURNIP TRUCK, Natural Foods Grocer

THE CUPCAKE COLLECTION, Bakeshop

 

NEXT: Visit Atlanta with Myrna Perez

 

And be sure to visit bankofamerica.com/SBcelebrate to see other small business stories and read expert advice about connecting to your community.  Be sure to tell us your story in the discussion forum.

 

Video transcript

 

MANEET: “I decided to open a small business because Indian food is pretty much not something that you would associate with Nashville.”

 

SUPER: Maneet Chauhan, Chef & small business owner


MANEET: “One, two, three, go!”

 

SUPER: CHAUHAN ALE & MASALA HOUSE, Indian Fusion Restaurant

 

MANEET: “Just textures and flavors and everything fun.”

 

MANEET: “Small businesses are what gives neighborhoods their heart and soul, and today, I’m going to take you around my neighborhood.”

 

SUPER: NASHVILLE

 

HANDMADE STUDIOS: “We’re called Handmade Studios, so everything we make is made completely by hand.”

 

SUPER: HANDMADE STUDIOS, Ceramics

 

HANDMADE STUDIOS: “We embrace imperfection. We find that there is beauty in that.”

 

MANEET: “Nothing in nature is perfect, and that’s why it’s beautiful.”

 

HANDMADE STUDIOS: “The most surprising thing about opening a small business is that it actually worked. That I actually run a business that is growing.”

 

SUPER: THE TURNIP TRUCK, Natural Foods Grocer

 

THE TURNIP TRUCK: “I grew up on a farm and when I made it to Nashville, I could not find any local food that I was used to.”

 

THE TURNIP TRUCK: “The food tastes so much better coming local.”

 

MANEET: “Fresh!”

 

THE TURNIP TRUCK: “Trying to build local farmers and we buy [from] at least 80 different vendors that sell within the Turnip Truck.”

 

MANEET: “That’s how we make our entire community stronger – by supporting each other.”

 

THE CUPCAKE COLLECTION: “For me, we don’t sell cupcakes here. What we sell is actually joy.”

 

SUPER: THE CUPCAKE COLLECTION, Bakeshop

 

THE CUPCAKE COLLECTION: “I think people want to come back here because they find connection, they find love, they find family. When I started this, I was drowning in debt, and I was broken. People were getting out of debt by having a bake sale and I thought you can have a bake sale every day. Now I feel like there’s nothing that I can’t do. I’ve learned that impossible is actually I’mpossible.”

 

MANEET: “These small business owners have the power to lead a life that they are so proud of.”

 

SUPER: Bank of America is proud to support Small Business Month this May.

 

SUPER: Join us in celebrating the impact small businesses have on a community.

 

MANEET: “Seriously, I don’t have as much sass as you do. I’m like okay, that’s it.”

 

SUPER: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE POWER TO DO?

 

SUPER: [Bank of America logo]

 

SUPER: Discover more small business stories at bankofamerica.com/SBcelebrate

 

May is Small Business Month and this year Bank of America is celebrating by highlighting one of the most vibrant cities in the country; Atlanta. We are introduced to Myrna Perez, a small business owner in her own right, as she takes us around her Atlanta neighborhood to all her favorite small businesses. We see her relationship as a customer to these small business owners and how important these bonds are. Because when a community has the power to support small business, there is nothing that can hold them back.

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Check out the businesses featured in this video:

 

LOTTAFRUTTA, Frutería

THE SPINDLE, Cycling Apparel & Café

THE CLEAN DOG, Pet Daycare & Grooming

TINY DOORS ATL, Public Art Project

 

And be sure to visit bankofamerica.com/SBcelebrate to see other small business stories and read expert advice about connecting to your community.  Be sure to tell us your story in the discussion forum.

 

 

Video Transcript:

 

SUPER: Myrna Perez, Fruitologist & small business owner

 

Myrna: “I live above my shop.”

 

SUPER: LOTTAFRUTTA, Frutería

 

MYRNA: “I wanted to build a place that had all of my childhood memories and that’s why I have so much of my family inside LottaFrutta – in the Ofrenda and in photos and in recipes. I love to feed people.”

 

MYRNA: “And now I’m going to give you a taste of my neighborhood.”

 

SUPER: ATLANTA

 

SUPER: THE SPINDLE, Cycling Apparel & Café

 

THE SPINDLE 1: “People are coming in because they’re going to get honest expertise out of people who definitely ride. As long as you’re treating people with respect, they’re going to feel respected in your shop, whether they buy a four-hundred-dollar bag or a three-dollar coffee.”

 

THE SPINDLE 2: “Relationships are really important in businesses. It’s much stronger with my brother because we’re family and we’re stuck together.”


SUPER: THE CLEAN DOG, Pet Daycare & Grooming

 

THE CLEAN DOG: “The clean dog customer loves their pet. Right? It’s not okay just to sit them in the corner and let them play with a plush toy. You want to engage, you want to see the community.”

 

MYRNA: “An interactive experience.”

 

THE CLEAN DOG: “Right? Here we go…”

 

TINY DOORS ATL: “I started the business, Tiny Doors ATL, after I had started making the art that you see on the street.”

 

SUPER: TINY DOORS ATL, Public Art Project

 

TINY DOORS ATL: “And what’s really cool is that my resume is right here. You know, businesses will call me and say, ‘Hey, do you have ideas on how we can make tiny trophies?’ and I’m like ‘Yes!’ It’s a lot of upkeep because people love it so hard. And I’m there a lot because I love it too.”

 

MYRNA: “My fruteria gives me the power to support other small businesses in my neighborhood – as a customer, as an owner, and as a neighbor.”

 

SUPER: Bank of America is proud to support Small Business Month this May.

 

SUPER: Join us in celebrating the impact small businesses have on a community.

 

MYRNA: “Mami, let me just get you an ice cream. Let me get her an ice – hold on. Come have some ice cream.”

 

MYRNA: “That one’s for you.”

 

LITTLE BOY: “Thank you!”

 

SUPER: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE POWER TO DO?

 

MYRNA: “You’re welcome, papa.”

 

SUPER: [Bank of America logo]

 

SUPER: Discover more small business stories at bankofamerica.com/SBcelebrate 

Despite their concerns, entrepreneurs remain largely optimistic about their business outlook, with revenue forecasts, growth and hiring plans holding steady since the fall of 2018.

 

The bi-annual Small Business Owner Report, conducted by Bank of America, explores the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners throughout the U.S. and across 10 major cities. The spring report explores a range of topics important to the constantly evolving small business landscape. Some important insights from this report explore:

 

  • Strong business growth indicators despite shifts in economic confidence
  • Divided opinions on how major policy issues are impacting business
  • Small business owners planning for the unexpected
  • The pros and cons of online reviews
  • Barebottle Brewing Co. Client Profile

 

For additional insights, see the Small Business Owner Report infographic below.  For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, download the Spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report here.

 

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An example of small business growth momentum is Bank of America client Barebottle Brewing Co., a San Francisco-based craft brewery energizing a passionate community of beer enthusiasts to bring a unique business model to life…

 

Mike Seitz, a co-founder of Barebottle Brewing Co., started making his own beer back in 2008. Inspired by the historic brewing culture of Cincinnati, Seitz teamed up with friend and fellow Cornell University graduate Lester Koga to turn a passion for beer into a business venture.

 

By July 2016, after years of comprehensive planning, research and participation in beer competitions across the country, Seitz and Koga had relocated to San Francisco, building out a former warehouse to serve as the brewery headquarters and a public taproom, and officially opened the doors of Barebottle Brewing Company.  

 

Bolstered by a unique business model — Barebottle releases up to five new beers each week without a flagship beer — Seitz and Koga focus on building a brewing community in the Bay Area, encouraging customers to submit recipes and even try their hand at brewing beer at home.

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“Brewing is a very cool community to be a part of. It’s one of the oldest industries to work in — and also one of the most personally rewarding and enjoyable,” Seitz said. “No one really takes themselves too seriously, and they’re all willing to share.”

 

With 12 employees and over 400 beers produced in just under three year, Seitz and Koga are now turning their sights toward expansion, targeting a second taproom in the Santa Clara area. While beer will still be brewed in the original Barebottle location, the rapid success and popularity allowed the duo to expand their footprint.

 

“We’re lucky that we’ve been so successful with an expanding team to be able to open a second taproom,” Seitz said. “In order to continue to have that one-to-one relationship with consumers, this is an important step for us.”

 

Bank of America is committed to providing entrepreneurs with solutions to ignite and accelerate their potential, providing access to capital, mentoring, education and training through our business and partnerships.

 

Check out our other client spotlight videos:

 

Dr. Julia Harper, Founder of TheraPeeds Family Center

Denise Shelton, Founder and CEO of Community Bridge, Inc

Rachel Estapa, Founder and CEO of More to Love Yoga

 

Learn more about the Preferred Rewards for Business.

 

Video Transcript:

 

Lester Koga: What inspires me are flavors, and being able to integrate them in ways that hopefully no one's ever experienced before.

 

Lester Koga: At Barebottle, every beer that we brew has a new idea, and it's always fun seeing people's reactions. We brew to share. I'm Lester Koga, and I co-founded Barebottle Brewing Company with my friend, Mike Seitz.

 

Mike Seitz: Lester is one of my oldest and best friends. He and I started as homebrewers. We decided we want to do this because we love it.

 

Mike Seitz: Barebottle Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in San Francisco. We focus on innovation and coming out with new beers all the time.

 

Mike Seitz: This is such a community-based business.  So on the back of every label, we actually include the home brew recipe. It's all about sharing information and creativity.

 

Lester Koga: We want to make sure that we never lose sight of that passion.

 

Mike Seitz: Running your own business, it's just a huge responsibility. That's your livelihood. Bank of America has been a great partner with us basically since the beginning.

 

Lester Koga: Paul reached out and said,"What is it that I can do to help you?”

 

Paul Fuentecilla: When I started working with Barebottle, what impressed me was how knowledgeable and how passionate Mike and Lester were about what they were doing. My job is to help make their banking easier.

 

Paul: Barebottle’s a part of the Preferred Rewards for Business program, so as their business grow and as their relationship with Bank of America grows, the more rewards that they get to take advantage of.

 

Lester Koga: The more and more we’ve used our credit card, then the more and more rewards we get from just the normal things that we do for spending. That’s really helpful as weexpand.

 

Mike Seitz: We're going to be opening our second location down in Santa Clara. The positive vibe that people have being here is just so rewarding and I’m excited to bring it to more places. When we decided to expand, Paul was my first call.

 

Paul: I really believe that they have a great product, so playing a small part in their roadmap of growth is one of the coolest parts of my job.

 

Mike Seitz: We have the power to make an idea a reality and add to the community

 

Disclosure: Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. provides informational reading material for your discussion or review purposes only. Interpretations in this release are not intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for the professional advice received from a qualified accountant, attorney or financial advisor. Neither Bank of America, its affiliates nor their employees provide legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

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

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Staying zen in the early days of a small business startup can be tough. Steve McGrath, owner of YogaSource, knows first-hand the tools required for successful organic growth. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” stretch your mind and learn tips every small business should know when expanding.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.comand Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. Here's your host, Steve Strauss.

 

Steve Strauss:           Today we're speaking with Steve McGrath, owner of YogaSourcein Los Gatos, California. YogaSource is the largest and most-awarded yoga studio in Silicon Valley. Independently owned since 2002, the studio offers 130 weekly yoga, Pilates, and revolution cycle classes with world-class teachers.

 

                                  Steve, great to have you with us.

 

Steve McGrath:         Thanks very much. Great to be here.

 

Steve Strauss:           So, let's start at the beginning. Why don't you tell us a little bit about YogaSource?

 

Steve McGrath:         My wife, Linda, opened the studio in March 2002, and thankfully we met through yoga shortly after that. I became involved in the business pretty much that way, really supporting her dream and her entrepreneurial drive. I manage a lot of the day-to-day maintenance of the studio, the development of the business, the marketing, and a lot of the things that are often not quite so easy to manage, which is the customer service elements of the business, and of course the maintenance and literally keeping the business running.

 

Steve Strauss:           Tell me a little bit about the early days of YogaSource. How did you grow it? How did Linda grow it when she started, because the start-up phase is always challenging for people.

 

Steve McGrath:         She opened the studio as a young 24-year-old. Went out and got an SBA loanand started from scratch. I came along about six or eight months later and was immediately involved in the studio. We sat in a very small space. We had 800 square foot practice space. We could fit 28 people maximum, literally kind of mat to mat.

 

                                   Like any small business, we grew organically. Small classes became medium size, and we got 10, 12 people. Then a few months later we had 15, 20 people. And eventually after a couple of years, the classes were packed, and we added more classes. We added more styles of yoga, and then of course expanded into the larger and larger spaces over time and moved the business into a bigger location.

 

                                  Despite our size now, we're still looking for opportunities to grow. We're about to open a second location in Morgan Hill, thanks in large part to the support of Bank of America and the SBA.

 

Steve Strauss:           Nice.

 

Steve McGrath:         Yeah, you know it's sort of that classic organic growth story. We don't take credit for all of it, of course. It always frustrates me when you hear business people describe themselves as geniuses when they've taken advantage of what sort of market offers.

 

Steve Strauss:           One of the things I love about what you're doing is you do something that I suggest to small business owners often, and that is to create multiple profit centers. Mainly you have one way of making money in your business, but what great businesses do is they create a second and a third way so that when one part of your business is down, the other is up, and vice versa.

 

                                  It seems to me that's what you've done at YogaSource. You started with yoga. Now you have Pilates. You had one location. Now you're going to have one in Palo Alto and one in Los Gatos, so you are definitely creating multiple profit centers. Has that been a conscious decision on your part?

 

Steve McGrath:         Yeah, it has, and actually there's even more elements to it within that matrix of the business. If you look at our business, in the early days we had that very small location. When we were considering moving to a larger location, we wanted to look and say, "What are the aspects of this experience that we're delivering at this small location that we can take and we can move across to the larger space?"

 

                                   And one of the things we had a few lines of clothing that we were custom making for ... you know, t-shirts and yoga pants. We thought, maybe if we included a bit of retail, we could really benefit from that, and so we built retail into our model into our next location, our second step, as it were in expansion. And what retail allowed us to do was it allowed us to differentiate from all the other yoga studios around because back in 2005 when we expanded, most yoga studios were a case where you sort of roll up to the door of the studio and your instructor comes huffing and puffing around the corner on their bike and says, "Sorry, guys. Sorry, guys. I'm late. Let me just open the doors for you."

 

Steve Strauss:            Right.

 

Steve McGrath:          And it's not a great experience. Where we are in Los Gatos, there's a very high expectation of a very high quality service, and so we said, "well, we need to keep the doors open all the time—we need to have staff on location all the time." And one way to pay for that is by having a retail store, so a retail component to the business where the profitability of the retail can help the business, but it also can pay for those employees who are at the front desk selling, and they happen to be always there to check into classes.

 

                                  So we immediately approached Lululemon, which is one of the ... at the time was the brand in yoga apparel.

 

Steve Strauss:          Sure.

 

Steve McGrath:         And asked to be a distributor, and we are now their largest distribution partner worldwide.

 

Steve Strauss:           Wow.

 

Steve McGrath:         They partner with yoga studios and gyms with a very limited line of clothing, and we currently are their largest partner worldwide to sell their basic black yoga pants. So it's been very successful for us.

 

                                   We've also developed other revenue opportunities. We have a very well-developed retreat program where we take people to exotic destinations like Tulum near Cancun. We go to Bali. Linda takes a yoga and art retreat to Paris. This year we're going to Florence, Italy, where she takes people to do yoga in the morning and do art visits in the afternoon with a guide from someone who is a practitioner at the studio.

 

                                   In addition to that, we are a teaching institute. So we are an approved teaching institute by the Yoga Alliance, who are the governing body for yoga, which basically means we have the ability to run training programs to educate students and teachers in our own style, empowering them to become yoga teachers themselves.

 

                                   So we have lots of streams of opportunities and revenue parts of our business.

 

Steve Strauss:           That is definitely multiple profit centers.

 

                                   I'm wondering if you could give us two or three tips about what's worked in your business that you think other small business owners could learn from. What might they be?

 

Steve McGrath:          I think, number one, I would say to people focus on the experience that you're delivering for your client. Many small businesses get caught up in what their competitors are doing, which is a natural tendency, but I think you really need to focus on the experience that you're delivering.

 

                                  We, early in our process ... we took kind of a page from my experience with marketing at HP where you look at the customer experience. How are people aware of your studio? How do people select your studio to visit? What is their experience when they walk in the door the first time? How do they continue to sign up and experience classes? And as they develop in their experience, how do you continue to inspire and challenge them and deliver that experience?

 

                                   And so, focusing on all the elements of that experience and literally going through an exercise of documenting how you want people to talk about your business in each part of that experience will help you build out that experience. And don't worry about competitors. If you are doing the right thing with your experience, then people may go, but they'll come back if you're filling their needs.

 

                                  The second thing I'd say is don't be scared of taking calculated risks. Look for those trends in your market. We saw yoga developing as an exercise modality and took some risks to expand into that bigger space. That helped us double or triple almost overnight. We tripled our business by adding more classes in a bigger location. We added a second practice space so we could have multiple classes at the same time.

 

                                   And I think the third tip I'd say is if possible, as soon as you can, invest in real estate. Be your own landlord. Try and avoid that burden of paying someone else rent and investing in their property. Try and own your own building or your own location as early as you can.

 

Steve Strauss:           Steve, if you could do anything different, if you could talk to yourself or your wife back in 2002, anything you might suggest that you've learned along the way?

 

Steve McGrath:          I think it's really important to acknowledge your weaknesses and look for support where you need them. If you're an artistic, creative, extroverted, big-picture type personality ... I mean, that's terrific, and if that's the business you're in and that suits your business, that's great.

 

                                   But don't be shy to find people who can keep your feet on the ground. Find a good business advisor to help you on those sort of boring accounting kind of business decisions. Balance is very, very important.

 

Steve Strauss:           Steve, if listeners want to find out more about you or your business, where should they go?

 

Steve McGrath:          Just go to YogaSourceLosGatos.com.

 

Steve Strauss:           YogaSourceLosGatos.com.And I also want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to work not just in your business, but on your business. So keep up the great work. And for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America’s online small business community at BankofAmerica.com/SBC. That’s BankofAmerica.com/SBC.

 

                                  For Bank of America and ForbesBooks, I'm Mr All Biz, Steve Strauss.

 

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

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A small business credit card can be a smart starting point for businesses and entrepreneurs to establish a financial identity. Learn how your small business can get the most out of credit cards on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Today, we're going to talk about small business credit cards. Are there benefits to having a credit card for your small business that you don't know? We're joined by Rieva Lesonsky. She's one of the influencers at Bank of America's Online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc, and she's also President and Founder of GrowBiz Media and smallbizdaily.com. Also, with us is Kevin Condon. He's the Head of Consumer Deposits and Small Business Products at Bank of America. Thank you both for joining us.

 

                                   This is really such a fascinating topic, because we all know about personal credit cards. We all have them, but I'm not sure small business owners always stop and appreciate what additional value a credit card for their small business can have for them. So, let's start with this Rieva. If I'm a small business owner, why should I get a small business credit card? And I guess that's really two questions. First, what will a small business credit card let me do that a personal card won't, and how is a small business credit card different from my personal credit cards?

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        That's such a great question, Gregg. The basic bottom line of this is, you need to lead two separate financial lives as a business owner. You have to have your business life and your personal life. So, a small business credit card is going to act as the separation between that. It's going to help you establish your business identity. It's going to help you build business credit history. If you ever want to get a loan in the future, you need to have a business credit history, not a personal credit history.

 

                                   A credit card, a business credit card, is going to help you do that. It's going to help you keep track of your business expenses, so you know what you can write off at tax time. And it's going to give you access to money when you need it, kind of like a business line of credit, but it's easier to get. And I think that thing that people don't understand the difference says, “I'll just use a personal card and use it as a business,” but business credit cards come, often, with higher credit limits.

 

                                  That's, like I said, a line of credit, so you can spend more money. They help you build that credit history, like I said. And, if you have employees, they help you keep control on employee spending. You can give your employees cards, look for an issuer that gives you employee cards for free, and you can set limits on those employee cards. So, any travels, they may have a higher limit than an employee with a card who's just there to buy the office expenses.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And it also lets you see, in almost real time, exactly what they're spending money on. So, if there's a problem, you can stop it much faster. Those are really great points. Rieva, thank you.

 

                                  Kevin, you and I have talked about this before on the show, but I want to come back to it. I remember you telling us that, a great way to build credit and trust with the bank, if you ever want to take out a loan, is to start with a small business credit card, correct?

 

Kevin Condon:           That's right, Gregg. In banking, we refer to the five C's of credit frequently when we discuss credit with our clients. Those five C's are capacity, collateral, capital, conditions and character. A business credit card is a great way for you to establish that last factor of character. Now, when I'm talking about character, I'm really referring to your personal integrity, your industry experience, and your credit history. Yours, and the people closely tied to the success of your business, so the people on your teams, your partners, and so forth. A business credit card is a great way to demonstrate your trustworthiness, and your credit worthiness in the future to a bank while earning rewards on your purchases that are relevant to your business.

 

                                  Using that card to make sensible purchases, and paying off your balance in full, and on time every month shows us at the bank, that you have a track record of fiscal responsibility and you're a strong candidate for larger scale lending, such as a business line of credit in the future.

 

Gregg Stebben:         All of that's really perfect, and one of the things you mentioned, rewards. I just want to highlight that, you and I actually did an interview, and folks can hear it at forbesbooks.com/bankofamerica. We actually did an interview, specifically, about how to take advantage of the rewards tied to a small business credit card. Folks may want to go back and listen to that again, because there was some really good information there. Back to you, Rieva. I want to ask you about the kinds of things I should think about, or consider, when I'm looking for a credit card for my small business. What's important? What should I be considering here?

 

[Learn more about the Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card]

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        Well, the first thing you should look at is, does it make you pay a fee or not? Sometimes the fees are worth it, because you may get extra benefits. But there's a lot of business credit cards out there that you don't need to pay an annual fee on, and that really helps because you know you're saving money. Then you want to make sure that you match any rewards that you're getting with what you do. If you don't travel, if you maybe take two business trips a year, then don't get a travel rewards card. There's other cards out there that will give you some kind of reward, or bonus, based on what you do you.

 

                                   So, think about what you need. Do you need flexible payment options? Do you need travel protections, discounts, a cashback card? You want to make sure that there are tools to help you keep track of the expenses. Then, maybe, look for card with as low and APR as you can get. I know APRs are a little higher these days, but still look for a card that is giving you the lowest interest rates that you can get right now.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And you mentioned fees right up front, but, again, once you've evaluated what the rewards are, and how they're going to benefit you,that is the right time to then consider whether the fee actually makes sense for you. Are the rewards, or the benefits, so much greater than the fee, that it makes sense, or should you move onto a card that doesn't have a fee?

 

                                  Kevin, I want to ask you a question that assumes, now, we've listened to this much of this podcast. We've gone out. We've applied for our business, our small business credit card.Now we have it. What are some good practices we should keep in mind to make sure we're getting the most out of it? And, frankly, also making sure that we're staying out of trouble.

 

Kevin Condon:           A great question, Gregg. You know, being a responsible cardholder is really straightforward, if you follow just a few simple tips. First and foremost, make your payments on time every month. We all get busy, and distracted, and we've all forgotten, in our personal lives, about an upcoming payment at some point. But these days, there's plenty of tools at our disposal to make sure that that never happens. I'd recommend arranging automatic online payments from your checking account, or setting up email and text alerts, to remind you when those payments are due, so you won't miss a payment.

 

                                   Second, be conservative about the purchases you make on your card. Youshould never charge big purchases that you don't think you'll be able to afford to pay off, right now. And try to keep your balances below 10% of that credit line. Sometimes people fall into the trap of making purchases based on future income expectations, and if that income doesn't end up materializing, they can end up in some trouble.

 

                                   Next, just be practical. Monthly expenses like gas and office supplies for our businesses are great ways to build payment history without overextending yourself. Avoid those impulse purchases and splurges just because something goes on sale. Make sure you're being practical.

 

                                   Fourth, pay off your credit card in full each month, if you can. Making purchases and consistently paying our cards off, on time, can demonstrate to a bank that you can manage your payments, and keep your credit score healthy, which will allow you access to that line of credit we talked about earlier.

 

                                   And lastly, don't forget about making sure you're capitalizing on any rewards you may be eligible for. Gregg, like we talked last time, make sure you're layering those rewards. Making your purchases where there are loyalty rewards programs at specific merchants, taking advantage of those credit card rewards, and then any other rewards programs your bank may offer, so you don't leave money on the table.

 

[Discover valuable rewards that grow along with your business.]

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know what I really like about this is that, from what you're both describing here, a credit card for your small business, it really has benefits today - those sort of logistical benefits, that Rieva talked about. It can help you manage expenses, see where you're spending, see and control how employees are spending money -but there's almost a network effect here, as you described Kevin, because this can do all kinds of things for the future of your business. It can really help you build your credit, build a relationship with a bank, and do all kinds of other things, including maximizing the value of those rewards.

 

                                   I really want to thank you both for joining us. I've been talking with Rieva Lesonsky. She's one of the influencers at Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc. She's also president and founder at growbizmedia and smallbizdaily.com. Grow Biz Media is at growbizmedia.com, as well. Kevin, Kevin Condon is the head of Consumer Deposits and Small Business Product for Bank of America. And for more great small business tips, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community where you can see things from Rieva, and lots of other influencers like her. It's at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Thank you both for joining us.

 

Rieva Lesonsky:        Thank you.

 

Kevin Condon:           Thank you.

 

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

 

 

A passion to change lives and make an impact on at-risk communities drove Denise Shelton’s transition from Department of Corrections warden to CEO.

 

Shelton retired from the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections in 2002 and formed Community Bridge, Inc (CBI). Her company was built “with the goal of empowering and rehabilitating local residents by providing viable, progressive employment and trade skills development.” Community Bridge is now a full-service facility management company that employs 200 people and services six wards in the District of Columbia.

 

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Starting a business that could serve as a legacy was critical to Shelton. Not only as something she could pass down to her daughter and grandchildren, but to have a lasting effect by empowering, teaching and supporting others. As a second-chance employer, Community Bridge is changing lives.

 

Shelton is CEO of CBI with her daughter, Shawn Nance, serving as President. Her grandson already has goals to continue the legacy by being Community Bridge’s CEO when he grows up.

 

Family has been the basis of CBI from the beginning. When Denise’s daughter joined the business early on, and after she gave birth to her second child, CBI had to get creative with their office space. And as such, the first CBI office was a “mommy van” that allowed Denise and her daughter to drive her children around while still having the ability to discuss the business and have meetings with one another.

 

Working with her mother has been amazing, says Nance.

 

“Denise Shelton to me is unstoppable. At the end of the day, she is my No. 1 partner.  She has changed the course of her life to make sure I was okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

Watch our other spotlight videos:

 

Video transcript:

 

Title: Denise Shelton, Founder & CEO, Community Bridge, Inc.


[Denise Shelton] Starting Community Bridge, it has been part of our mission to make sure that we change lives. We wanted to do something more than just open a business. We would hire directly from the jail to the community, so that's how we started out. Whoever we hired, we wanted to make an impact.

 

[Denise Shelton] Community Bridge is a full service facility management company, and we do snow removal, landscaping, and janitorial.

 

Title: Shawn Nance, President, Community Bridge, Inc.

 

[Shawn Nance] It started off with a parking space and a mommy van where we had meetings, because we didn't have a building. At that point, we had no roof, two lawnmowers and two contracts. We went having one truck and a trailer to going down to purchase four or five more trucks the next day, and all of a sudden, we, we had a business.


[Shawn Nance]Bank of America for Community Bridge started day one, that was part of the foundation.


[Denise Shelton] As a small business owner, it's very important that I have a bank that supports me, and Bank of America made that walk with us, and made it easier.


[Shawn Nance] The same people that gave us the opportunity when we didn't have anything are the same ones that are our partners today.


[Denise Shelton] I'm passing down this family business to my daughter, who's then going to pass it down to my grandsons.


[Shawn Nance] That's a huge responsibility, but it's one that she's prepared me for.


[Denise Shelton] When I see how she has grown, and her commitment and dedication to Community Bridge, it reminds me why we went in the business, and what's important.


[Shawn Nance] To see her as a woman, to see her as a business owner has been one of my joys in life.


[Denise Shelton] When we talk about a legacy, for me, something that's going to empower other people, and teach other people, and support other people, and I hope that it continues down through my legacy in generations. I have the power to build a legacy for my family.

 

Endpage:

Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation.

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As a small business owner, you will have problematic employees from time to time. Do you have the skills to steer a contentious situation to a productive conclusion? Steve Strauss shares his three-step approach to dealing with difficult employees on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to ”The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us to talk about how to deal with a difficult employee. Steve is USA Today's Small Business Columnist and the author of 17 books including the best-selling, Small Business Bible. Steve thank you for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Great to be here, Gregg, and thanks for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve you own a small business, and in your capacity as USA Today's Small Business Columnist and also as a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, you also talk with a lot of small business owners, and today you are going to give us a three-step approach to dealing with a difficult employee. What's step number one?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well the first thing I think you need to do is listen. What you don't want to do is tune the bad employee out, which is I think what a lot of us might want to do, or maybe prefer to do. But what I know is that the best managers try and understand the disgruntled employee, get their point of view and try and see what can be changed. Then what you have to do is give some clear feedback and direction and expectations, and if I could put my lawyer hat on, you also need to document. So, listen, give correction, but then document. All three of those things are critical for sure.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. So that's step number one. Step number two is…?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well you don't want to become part of the problem. You don't want to poison the well.  What that means specifically in this context is: don't gossip. As the manager, as the owner, as the boss you have to set an example, and you do the opposite of that by talking about the person, talking about the problem to other employees. My dad used to say, I'm your father not your friend, when I would get really sassy. And you know my dad was a great guy, but he was setting a clear demarcation point, right. There has to be some respect, and so I think that's true in the office as well. You need your employees to know that you are the boss not just another co-worker, and you do that by not gossiping about the problem employee.

 

Gregg Stebben:         In our conversation about how to deal with a difficult employee what's step number three?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well finally you want to make sure that you get to the core issue, so that it doesn't happen again. Now think about a giant ocean liner, how does that ocean liner change direction? Well you think the captain turns the rudder, and turns the wheel, the wheel turns the rudder, but actually there's a little mini rudder on the big rudder called a trim tab. So the captain turns the wheel, the wheel turns the trim tab, the trim tab turns the rudder, and then the rudder turns the ship. You have to get to that trim tab thing. What is the problem in your business specifically that you ended up with a problem employee. Now maybe it was you. I once hired an assistant, and the problem was me. It wasn't the assistant, it was that I didn't do a good job in my hiring process, and that was when I figured, okay I have to do better at that. So you have to look at your processes, your people, and figure out what the core issue was that allows it to fester and get out of control, and then fix that problem. We fix that problem and then you shouldn't have at least that issue ever again.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to try to recap what you just said. If you're dealing with a difficult employee three steps to try to manage the situation. Step number one, listen, try to understand, give clear feedback, and document what is going on.

 

Steve Strauss:           Correct.

Gregg Stebben:         Step number two, don't become part of the problem. No gossip to other employees, and always remember you are the boss, not a friend. Correct?

 

Steve Strauss:           Yep.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And step number three, get to the core issue and think about how an ocean liner changes course.It's big but there's some tricks like what Steve called the trim tab. And think about the processes that got you there including things like your hiring processes. How'd I do?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well what we want to do is hire people like you who are such good listeners, Gregg.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And good note takers, by the way.

 

Steve Strauss:           There we go.

 

Gregg Stebben          Steve where can our listeners go to find out more about you and get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           Sure you can always find me on my website, which is mrallbiz.com or go to USA Today, find my column, Ask an Expert. I've got a couple of tips and hints there too, I think.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And I will also just remind folks that you are the author of 17 books including the best-selling, Small Business Bible. And for more great tips from Steve and lots of other small business experts check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc.

 

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

When Julia Harper, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L, talks about her business, TheraPeeds Family Center, you can hear the passion in her voice and see the joy she gets from her work.

 

In her words, she was born to do this work. Born prematurely in Trinidad and Tobago and “sent home in a shoebox to die,” Harper instead not only survived, she thrived.  She believes she was ‘saved’ so that she could be an agent of change.  “I love change with everything inside of me.”

 

 

Harper, a Ph.D., began TheraPeeds in Brooklyn, New York, in 1999 and moved it to FL in 2004. At that time it was a one-person practice and her focus was to change the lives of children with processing disorders such as learning disabilities, attention problems and autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are caused by a deficiency in a person’s ability to use information gathered by their senses and can cause a plethora of issues including low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

 

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“I set out to change the outcomes kids were getting,” she said.  Twenty years later, she has over 55 employees and TheraPeeds attracts clients from around the world, mainly via word-of-mouth.  Instead of just treating children, now the TheraPeeds team treats the entire family and adults with processing disorders across the lifespan.

 

Her business has experienced spectacular growth, continually running out of space.  In March 2019, TheraPeeds relocated to a new 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Davie, FL.  Harper tells you her business isn’t expanding so they can treat more clients, they’re expanding so they can treat their clients better.

 

Today, Harper is not only an occupational therapist but also a wife, mother of two, business owner, psychologist, life coach, mentor, speaker and writer. Her work and personal presence is an inspiration to her social followers, but most importantly to the lives of those she touches every day. You can get your weekly dose of #VitaminJ by following @JuliaHarper_phd on Instagram.

 

 

 

More info: Introduction to Buying Commercial Property »

Commercial real estate loans from Bank of America.

 

 

Video transcript:

 

[Julia Harper] When you’re coming in this door. You’re coming in this door to change. We make sure that our clients leave with an outcome that is both functional, and life-changing.

 

[On screen copy] Julia Harper, PhD, MS, OTR/L. Founder and CEO, TheraPeeds Family Center  Bank of America Customer

 

[Julia Harper] My name is Dr. Julia Harper and I am the founder of TheraPeeds Family Center.

 

TheraPeeds is a center where we create change in the brains of people so that they learn to function better in their lives.

 

What I do as an occupational therapist is I focus on the entire life of a client. They get better motor skills, in their communication skills, in their cognitive skills, and their social-emotional behavior skills. Families come into this door functioning one way, and they leave functioning better.

 

So my intention was never to start a small business. I intended to be a therapist that did great work. The fact that a business grew up around me is still stunning to me today.

 

So we really think of this business as an individual with a life of its own. We think about it and we say, “what do we want this business to grow in to?”

 

I first met Marianela, my small business banker, when she walked into this door, because she wanted to see what we do here.

 

[On screen copy] Marianela Martinez, Small Business Banker, Bank of America

 

[Marianela Martinez] What makes Bank of America unique, is that we can come to our clients, to their place of business, to their environments, and bring the bank to them.

 

[Julia Harper] Marianela brought to the table the business perspective that I didn’t have.

 

[Marianela Martinez] So we partnered up with Julia, to help her forground-up construction for her new facility.

 

[Julia Harper] What I’m interested in doing now is providing deeper care to the entire family.

 

I love the fact that I’m in a sisterhood. That she’s a strong woman that showed up for another strong woman, to say yes, let’s do this.

 

The children, the families that we treat here, our people that need to know that they matter. And that my bank turned around and did the same for me meant the world.

 

[Marianela Martinez] As a mother, and thinking that she is helping families all over the world, it’s pretty amazing.

 

[Julia Harper] I have the power to be a change and help others change themselves.

 

[On screen copy] What would you like the power to do?

 

[On screen copy]

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Learn more: bankofamerica.com/BusinessAdvantage

 

Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC  2019 Bank of America Corporation.

Small Businesses should leverage social media marketing to grow sales. Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith offers two essential tips all business owners should use in the latest podcast episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Mari Smith joins us with two essential social media tips you can quickly put to work in your business today. Mari is often called the queen of Facebook marketing. IBM says she is one of seven women who are shaping digital marketing and she is a Forbes perennial top social media power influencer. Mari, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                Thank you Gregg. I'm delighted to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Mari, you are the author of The New Relationship Marketing and Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, and you are also a columnist for Bank of America. So you talk with small business owners about social media marketing every day. What are the two most essential social media marketing tips all small business owners should put to work in their businesses, literally today, right now?

 

Mari Smith:                Right now, I tell you what Gregg, the number one thing that I see small businesses doing incorrectly is not having crystal clarity on their target audience. So that's number one. When you get super, super clear on who you're wanting to reach, who your customer avatar or avatars are, that will go a long way to inform the type of content that you create, and your messaging, and then definitely your ad targeting. When you're doing your Facebook and Instagram ads, you want to be able to know who am I speaking to, what are their interests or demographics and so forth. Really, really critical.

 

                                   I would say number two is to focus on creating roughly 80% of your posts for Facebook as video content. Facebook is really favoring video content, and the good news is you don't have to be on camera if you don't want to. You can use tools and repurpose and reuse different videos and different formats and use them across other social channels. My favorite video tool is simply called wave.video. That's wave.video.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We know that if we go to your website, and to your Facebook page, and if we go to your Twitter account, we're going to see great examples. Tell us where we should go, your website address, your Twitter handle, your Facebook name, so we can come find you and learn more.

 

Mari Smith:                 Thank you so much. Absolutely. I'm marismith.com. On Facebook, it's facebook.com/marismith. Twitter is @marismith, and Instagram I'm @mari_smith, and as I like to say, just Google me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         By the way, just to add a fine point to that, Mari is M-A-R-I, Smith, S-M-I-T-H, Mari Smith. Mari, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                My pleasure.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Learn more about video marketing. Visit these articles on the Small Business Community.

Positive word-of-mouth reviews are a must for small business success. With thousands of followers and countless 5-star reviews, PSP Diesel in South Houston, Texas, understands the power of social media to drive business growth. In this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street," we discuss strategies for boosting your small business' online reputation.

 

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

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks’ Gregg Stebbens and Small Business Community Contributor, Steve Strauss. More information and previous episodes can be accessed through a dedicated home page and 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” at ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.com and Bank of America at bankofamerica.com. Here's your host, Steve Strauss.

 

Steve Strauss:           Art Martinez is the owner of PSP Diesel. Art is often described as being the best in his craft, and is praised for his honesty, professionalism, attention to detail, and great work. Their commitment to customer satisfaction is evident with countless five-star ratings and testimonials, and he's gonna teach us a little bit about how we can get some great reviews, too.

 

                                  Art, how did you become an entrepreneur?

 

Art Martinez:              It was in 2007, 2008 during the Financial Crisis. I did work for a dealership. Work had declined, and bills had to get paid. It started with one customer who was looking for quality work at a reasonable price, and we capitalized on that. We took that experience, we took care of the customer. We surprised him with our efficiency, our professionalism, and it grew. In about seven or eight years we've been in business and our current data, we hold about 4,800 customers year-to-date.

 

Steve Strauss:           Wow. That's so impressive. Why do you think people love coming to your business?

 

Art Martinez:              I think one of our biggest compliments that we get, Steve, at the shop, is our honesty and our professionalism. I believe that it shouldn't just be a transaction. It shouldn't be about profit. It shouldn't be about selling. It should just be about an overall experience. Creating a relationship with that customer and understanding their needs.

 

Steve Strauss:           Give us an idea about how big your business is now here 10 years later after you began. In a typical day how many trucks are you servicing? How many people work for you? What's the size of your business?

 

Art Martinez:              We've been showing since 2008 ... We've shown about a 25% growth. We started with one employee. There is a partner, Richard Alvarado, myself. We started with one employee, and eight and a half years later we have 14 employees, and we operate within a 20,000-square-foot facility. During a busy week we repair about anywhere from 25 to 35 trucks, ranging from a basic oil change, basic break job, to a full-on race build.

 

Steve Strauss:           I know that developing a digital presence has clearly been vital to your business. Can you tell us a little bit about your strategy from the get-go with regard to digital?

 

Art Martinez:              From the very beginning our strategy has been organic growth, word of mouth. I encourage my customers to recommend their neighbor. Their neighbor's gonna recommend the construction worker. It wasn't until about two and a half years ago that we really, really started focusing on social media and our channels. Why not? They’re free advertisement and in today’s age, we’re surrounded by that. We wanted to take that opportunity and post some pictures. Let the community know that we’re here and we’re here to help.

 

Steve Strauss:           You do have a lot of reviews, a lot of positive reviews online. Art, what’s your secret?

 

Art Martinez:              Steve, it’s really, really simple. Our strategy has been the same from the very first customer to our current customers now. People like honesty. People like to be treated fairly, and they want to be put in a certain situation where I said earlier, it's not just about profits. It's about creating an experience and understanding their financial needs. These trucks are used as mobile offices. The trucks are down, that means they're not making money.

 

                                   A lot of our clientele are rig welders, construction workers, and when these vehicles are down, they're not getting paid, they're not making money. It sometimes means going out of the box. Whether it's a loaner program, whether it's a ride to the airport, you're creating an overall experience. You back that up with an honest experience, a reasonable bill, and maybe a courtesy call after the job has been done, a review will follow.

 

Steve Strauss:           That last sentence is what I want to ask you about. Clearly the first part is you have to do five-star work if you want to get a five-star review, but how do you get people then to take their experience and go online and take the time to figure out where to write a review for you and then write a review for you? Do you ask them? Or are you saying it just happens organically?

 

Art Martinez:              No, it happens organically, but a key note question that I commonly ask my customers from first impression, from when we first meet, I shake their hand, introduce myself. "How did you find us? How did you end up here?" We don't have a store front. We operate within an industrial part of South Houston, which is a very small industrial community, so in order to find our shop, you're either on the internet, you're on Yelp, you're on Google, or somebody told you exactly where we're at. That's key to me. Why? I want to know. We don't want to invest a whole lot of money in advertisement.

 

                                   I mentioned earlier our biggest advertisement is word of mouth. The customer comes in and tells me that, why wouldn't he want to try our shop? We've got 145 reviews and they're all five stars, my direct approach is, well, that comes at a very high price because I can tell you just as much as we have really good experiences, we have bad experiences. This is probably gonna answer your next question, you must control a negative experience. We're in business. It's how you control it and how you make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Let's say somebody has a bad experience, because you're right that does happen in business, and they go online and they write a bad review about you. How you do handle that?

 

Art Martinez:              I can tell you year-to-date, Steve, I'm being completely honest, I don't think we've ever had a negative review posted on ... We've had customers call back and tell me their negative experience. I want to know what happened, who was involved, and how we're gonna make it right.

 

Steve Strauss:           Well, I know I can give some advice to people also with regard to negative reviews. I saw a study recently that said that companies that do nothing about their negative review, end up, of course, with a negative review. Those companies that go back in and find the reviewer and then write to the reviewer and say, "We're really sorry you had a bad experience. What can we do to help it?" They try and fix the situation, after that often not only will the reviewer be amenable to removing the review, but they actually become customers again. You can really turn by just doing what you say you do, a negative experience into a positive by doing great customer service. I'm sure that's been your ... kind of what you're saying as well.

 

                                  What do you think of asking customers to write you a good review?

 

Art Martinez:              I think it should be encouraged, definitely. In our lobby we do have signs, "Your Experience Matters." We do talk to customers about, "Hey, if the experience was positive, please ... your input ... we want to hear your input." We're listed on Yelp, Google. That's about it. We don't really influence anybody into reviewing the business. We believe if we're doing everything that we possibly can to make it a plus experience, that review will follow.

 

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

 

 

Learn more about how to boost positive online reviews for your business – and deal with those pesky bad ones – from Rieva Lesonsky. 

Mari Smith explains how to increase authentic business reviews on Facebook.

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