Skip navigation
1 2 3 4 Previous Next

General Business

749 posts

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

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.

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“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.

commerce-food-food-counter-947174.jpg

 

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

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 1.39.39 PM-Recovered.png

Like you, I bet, I learned about the uncertainty that comes with owning a business the hard way.

 

The first time for me was when I opened my first business, a law firm. Starting in March of that year, I hung out a shingle, advertised the heck out of it, and made a profit my very first month. I thought I was some sort of capitalist genius.

 

That belief stuck with me… until November and December of that year, when business completely dried up. I didn’t know people generally don’t like hiring lawyers during the holidays. OK, lesson learned.

 

Fast forward a decade later: I had begun my second business, a better-fitting content creation and writing business. But much to my surprise, an unexpected recession hit, and my business completely dried up a second time.

 

These days, needless to say, potential bumps down the road are alwayson my radar.

 

And I am not alone.

 

Twice a year, our friends at Bank of America issue the Small Business Owner Report (SBOR). Always a fascinating glimpse into the mind and machinations of small business owners, the SBOR this year indicates that not a few small business owners are starting to think about, and plan for, an upcoming downturn in the economy:

 

“Overall, we found that most business owners are preparing whatever the future may hold, creating continuity plans for their business in the case of a disaster and taking steps to prepare for a potential economic downturn.”

 

According to the Report, “Concern over a variety of economic factors has ticked up over the last six months. Health care costs remain the top-ranking issue, with the political environment emerging as a close second.”

 

The good news is that according to the SBOR, confidence among small business owners remains high. For instance

 

  • Almost 60 percent of small business owners surveyed expect their business revenues to increase over the next year (almost exactly the same percentage as last year)
  • Just about a quarter plan on hiring this year (more than last year)
  • Well more than half expect to be able to grow their business over the next five years (slightly down from last year)

 

So, yes, as is their nature, small business people are optimistic. But, that said, they are also prudent, and smart, and as such, are expecting the unexpected.

 

According to the Report, “Business owners recognize the need to prepare for disruptive events such as economic downturns, natural disasters and cyber breaches, [with] a majority [having] continuity and preparedness plans in place…”

 

Specifically,

 

69 percent have taken steps to prepare for a general economic downturn. Steps taken include:

 

  • Established an emergency fund: 37 percent
  • Created an alternative business plan, reducing expenses: 25 percent
  • Opened a line of credit: 19 percent
  • Obtained a second job: 13 percent

 

61 percent have a continuity plan in place in the case of a natural disaster(flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc.) This includes:

 

  • Purchased an insurance policy: 49 percent
  • Backed up files: 40 percent
  • Implemented a communication protocol for employees: 19 percent
  • Made structural updates to building: 14 percent

 

80 percent have plans in place in case of a cyberattack:

 

  • Installed security patches: 47 percent
  • Secured customer data: 44 percent
  • Securely disposed of confidential documents: 42 percent
  • Trained employees on confidentiality protocols: 27 percent
  • Implemented a third-party security management program: 25 percent

 

As they say, what goes up, must come down. But they never said that it has to come down with a thud. What these savvy small business owners (and even your late-to-the-game author) know is that with a little planning, even the most unexpected of changes can yield a soft landing.

 

Start. Planning. Now.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Did you know more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA)? Since 2000, small businesses (now 30 million strong) have created 66% of all net new jobs in the U.S. Clearly, small businesses have an outsized impact on the nation as a whole. But how do small businesses impact their local communities? In honor of National Small Business Week (May 5-11, 2019), let me count the ways.

 

buildings-city-cityscape-210557.jpg

1. Small businesses employ local workers. Independent businesses create jobs and hire people who live in their communities. Those small business employees then spend their paychecks in the community, resulting in other local businesses needing to hire more workers to keep up with the increased demand. All this stimulates the local economy. For each dollar spent in a local store as much as $3.50 recirculates into the local economy, according to the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). A small business in an economically-challenged community may provide employment for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to find work because they can’t afford cars or transportation to jobs outside the area.

 

2. Local small businesses generate tax revenues. Sales tax, property tax and other taxes paid by small businesses help finance improvements in the community. The more small businesses there are in a city or town, the more money is available for public works projects such as road repairs, new parks, public schools, police and fire departments andmore.

 

3. Small business owners give back to the community. Whether by joining local organizations (like the Rotary club or chamber of commerce), sponsoring Little League teams, chairing civic committees, or hosting fundraisers for schools and charities, small business owners and their employees often are at the forefront of community engagement and involvement. Their efforts help create a better, more tight-knit community for all residents.

 

4. Small businesses hire other small businesses. Because of their small size, independent businesses tend to use local suppliers and services. For example, a local retailer might hire a local sign-maker, electrician and contractor to build out or repair their store. Small retailers are more likely than chain stores to sell locally-produced goods, according to AMIBA.Local businesses also use independent professionals such as accountants, lawyers, insurance agents and advertising agencies, putting more money back into the community.

 

5. Small business success has a snowball effect. When a region has a growing community of small businesses, more entrepreneurs are attracted to the area. As more businesses then open up, the community becomes more desirable and attracts more residents, drawn by both the thriving business activity and the increased job opportunities. Property values rise, and everyone benefits.

 

6. Small businesses sometimes become big corporations. Those small businesses that grow to become big ones have an even bigger effect on their communities. For example, major employers like Microsoft, Nike, FedEx and Amazon all started out as small businesses. By staying put as they grew and expanding in their home cities, they now provide jobs for thousands of people and have turned their communities into major business hubs.

 

How does your small business benefit your local community? What more can you do to make it even better? Let us know in our discussion forum.

 

Join us in celebrating Small Business Month!

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Though we are surrounded by a slew of shiny new social media platforms, the backbone of all digital communications, especially in business, remains email. Even though the first email was sent all the way back in the 1970s, it has not lost an ounce of its relevance after all these years, and in fact, is now more vital than ever.

communication-connection-contemporary-261706.jpg

 

As times have changed, however, so has email etiquette. What was acceptable at the turn of the century is different from what passes muster today. But fear not. I have compiled a list of the six most important rules when it comes to business emails. Take a look:

 

1. Write a subject line that resonates: Whether you are writing a proposal, a virtual introduction, or simply a follow-up, you want your email to get noticed and read.

 

In this regard, your subject line is your first, and easily most important, tool.

 

Quickly summarizing your email in the subject line is a great way to make sure your email does not get skipped over. By the same token, a “No Subject” email will never catch anyone’s attention, and similarly, a boring subject line will easily get ignored. So craft a short and snappy subject line that will cause them to want to read more.

 

Think of it as the headline of your story.

 

2. Keep it short: What do you do when you get an 8-paragraph email? If you are human, you tune out.

 

The secret is to keep your emails short and sweet to the extent possible. Not only does a shorter email save you time, but it also helps you build a good reputation as someone who respects other people’s time, and in the business world, it is essential to make this kind of impression.

 

Other people are just as busy as you are. Because we all skim over our emails from time to time, the details of a long email will surely get lost in the shuffle. Your emails must be short and easy to read if you want to ensure business gets taken care of.

 

One last note re: length. Keep paragraphs short, too. Attention spans are shorter these days. Long paragraphs are difficult to read. Keep it snappy, pappy.

 

3. Emojis are OK!: This is a significant – and recent – change. It used to be that emojis were seen as child’s play, literally. But not so today. Emojis help to personalize email communications. Yes, you must use them judiciously, but, that said, the right emoji at the right time helps you create rapport with the right person.

 

4. Use the correct tone: Work has become less formal and email has followed suit. Friendliness and being personable in your written communications are generally quite important.

 

Remember though that tone and intonation do not easily translate into text. Because of this, you need to be careful about using sarcasm or making facetious jokes; these can easily be misinterpreted in the context of an email.

 

By the same token, an email can quickly come across as rude or too-serious if there is no detectable levity (even if the words are innocuous spoken out loud.) An exclamation mark or lightly playful remark will remedy this, amigo!

 

5. Writing is re-writing: You. Must. Proofread. Period. While this tip may seem obvious, there are plenty of people who still forget to proofread their emails before they send them off. Using “i”  instead of “I” for instance makes your look sloppy, immature, or both.

 

Look for obvious spelling and grammatical errors, but also make sure your email is readable, organized, and formatted properly. For example, if you notice two different topics in one paragraph, you should take the time to break up that paragraph into two smaller ones. Proofreading your emails will make you look smart and will make it easier for your recipient to give you the response you need.

 

Writing is re-writing.

 

6. Remember, nothing is private: This is the key rule for using the internet generally, and email specifically. Only the illusion of privacy exists in email. People forward on emails, they bcc people, they copy and paste, etc. There is no privacy in email.

 

Although email has evolved throughout the years, the basic rules remain the same. Common sense (and good grammar) can see you through.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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.

BA12496541_Maneet_High_Res.jpg

 

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.

BA12496540_Myrna_High_Res.jpg

 

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.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.57.35 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.45.35 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.46.02 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.46.38 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.47.14 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.47.52 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.48.25 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 5.51.29 PM.png

 

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.

Still 2 - Mike and Lester Outside square.jpg

“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

Local events provide unique opportunities for small businesses to capture excitement – and increase sales. The story of my career is filled with such events.

NY_131020_07_0100.jpg

 

Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I played professional football for 11 heart-thumping seasons. In fact, in 2005 with Philadelphia, we made it to the Big Game. Today, as a business owner, I seize opportunities like big football games – and other, local events – to create an uptick in awareness, engagement, and sales. You can learn more about my business, BowTie Cause, here.

 

Here’s the playbook for turning an event into a touchdown for your business:

 

1. Define success. Understand what you want from participating in or sponsoring any event before you dive in. What’s your goal? Define it as specifically as you can, identify how you plan to measure success, and create a game plan to achieve your objectives.

 

2. Pick the right event. Knowledge is power, and the first step to leverage an event to benefit your business is to educate yourself. What about the event is relevant for your business? Engage where it’s most practical. For instance, if you own a record store and a music festival is planned in your area – be a sponsor. The important thing is that it makes sense for your business to be present.

 

3. Be true to your brand. Authenticity—from your brand’s message to its voice—is critical to connect with your target audience. Once you’ve identified an appropriate event, ensure your participation is true to your brand. If you own a T-shirt company that specializes in humor and a comedy festival comes to town, equip comedians with your best shirts to wear during their set; if a burger festival is on the calendar and you own a new restaurant, enter the competition; if a surf tournament comes to your local beach, sponsor a surfer and set up a pop-up shop near the event – just engage in a way that is right for your brand.

 

4. Join the conversation. There are many ways to hit a bullseye in this regard. One of the easiest is to get in on the digital dialogue – create content online paired with a trending event hashtag – and bring your brand to an active online audience. Take full advantage of social media. There are many ways to do this, from promoting targeted messaging to event attendees to streaming live video from the event. Engaging visibly online will draw attention to your business.

 

5. Consider working with a partner. If you are not resourced to plan for event engagement, consider partnering with a marketing or PR firm with values similar to yours. An experienced partner can play an important role in developing a truly impactful strategy – and help bring it to life.

 

Each business has its own story, its own goals, and its own way forward. By prioritizing relevance and authenticity, you can leverage the right event for your business to attract attention and win sales. Stay true to your brand and seize opportunities to connect in the most meaningful ways with your audience. And never forget, the way forward is your way forward.

 

About Dhani Jones

 

Dhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and with Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, Dhani Tackles the Globe and the CNBC series, Adventure Capitalist. He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.

If your small business is considering expanding into a new market—either geographic or demographic—a pop-up shop can be an excellent way to test the waters before you commit to a bigger investment.

 

adult-commerce-cook-375889.jpg

Pop-up shops are short-term locations typically open for a few weeks. While they are usually retail businesses, the pop-up concept can also work for service businesses, such as a yoga studio or beauty salon. Restaurants have even popped up in large urban markets like New York and Chicago.

 

 

What can pop-up shops help you do?

 

1. Create a physical presence: E-commerce businesses often open a pop-up shop before launching a permanent brick-and-mortar location. They may also use pop-up shops on an occasional basis to build buzz about a new product or take advantage of seasonal demand.

 

2. Test a location: If you’re thinking of opening a second location (or first), you could commit to a lengthy commercial lease and cross your fingers that the space you’ve picked is a good one. Or you could try out a pop-up shop for a few weeks to see if the location works before you sign on the dotted line.

 

3. Test-market new products or services: Are you considering adding a new product or service to your offerings? Use a pop-up shop to do real-world market testing, then use what you learn to modify the product or service for greater success before you launch it.

 

4. Build brand awareness: Companies hoping to expand to new demographic markets can use a pop-up shop to build brand awareness and generate word-of-mouth among a new customer base.

 

Secrets of pop-up shop success

 

You’ll have more success with your pop-up if you focus on one of the goals above, rather than try to do everything. Other steps to success:

 

1. Choose the right location: The ideal location will differ based on your goal. If you want to build broad awareness of your brand in a certain city, locate near an area with a lot of foot traffic. If you’re trying to attract students, a spot near a college or university would work. If your target market is upscale shopaholics, a spot in a popular mall might be best; if you want to reach hipsters who shun the “masses,” you could try an out-of-the-way downtown warehouse. To find potential pop-up locations, contact local retail property managers or visit pop-up property websites such as Storefront.com, PopupInsider and Uppercase.

 

2. Promote, promote, promote: Pop-up shops are all about excitement, exclusivity and the fear of missing out, making social media the ideal place to promote them. Start plugging your pop-up well in advance by sharing “Save the date” announcements, sneak peeks at what you’re planning and special offers for your followers. (Create a hashtag for your pop-up and use it in all your outreach.) Invite your email subscribers to the event. Reach out to influential members of the media, including relevant bloggers, to alert them about your pop-up and invite them to attend as guests of honor. Once your pop-up is underway, pass out flyers and use street signage, balloons and flags to catch the attention of passersby.

 

3. Make it memorable: A pop-up is more than just a temporary retail store—it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Give visitors a reason to stop in by throwing a party! Live entertainment, interactive activities, makeovers, fashion shows, product demonstrations, competitions, and prize giveaways are all fun activities that will attract people into the store and get them talking about your pop-up.

 

4. Get customers engaged: Your pop-up shoppers are your best source of marketing. Get them to spread the word about your pop-up shop by creating Instagram-worthy spots for selfies and encouraging customers to share them on social media (with your pop-up hashtag, of course!). Ask customers to sign up for your email or text messaging lists and follow you on social media so you can stay in touch with them after the event. Finally, take advantage of the opportunity to get real-time customer feedback on your product or service.

 

A pop-up shop can be the first step to a permanent location or an occasional activity you use to attract new customers and expand your target market. Either way, this concept has plenty of potential for entrepreneurs who know how to make the most of it.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

According to the LinkedIn 2019 business survey, the No. 1 “soft skill” business owners say they want is “creativity.” While this might be true in a survey, it becomes a little more complicated to consider and execute in the real world.

brainstorming-campaign-collaborate-6224.jpg

First, not every business wants or needs creativity. (Franchises are technically about the absence of creativity, in some ways. Do what this book says to the letter.)

 

Second, there’s a vast distance between “wanting” creativity to flow at a company versus knowing how to guide and encourage the process while protecting customers and the business from any unintended fallout.

 

How to Encourage Creativity

 

Set Parameters - The first important detail to point out about creativity is that it’s a condiment, not a meal. It is vital to be clear whereyou want a team to be creative, and within which parts of the process. If you run a bakery, there might be a “lab” part of the business where once a week (or month), you open the kitchen during non-production hours and encourage some recipe exploration. But you would clearly separate that kind of activity from the production tasks required every day.

 

The parameters around creativity might include the following:

 

    • Which areas of the business are flexible for creativity
    • What types of problems creative actions are meant to influence or solve
    • What is off limits (putting up “guard rails” is a vital part of helping people stay creatively safe while protecting your business)
    • What expenses are considered reasonable to the process
    • How to operate the primary business separately from the creative process so nothing accidentally spills over

 

It’s strange to think of parameters as being the first part of building out a creative practice, but it’s also the part most people feel anxiety around. Eliminating potential to harm the business, the customers, or the creative process is very helpful.

 

Build A Healthy Creative Environment - Even if you simply want occasional brainstorming, it’s important that as a business owner, you set up simple ground rules for the creative process. Creative people have two types of mindsets when they’re coming up with ideas: one, being really innovative and free to dream, or two, being defensive and fighting off criticisms. With that in mind, here are a few tips to building a healthy creative environment:

 

    • With parameters in place, state clearly that the process is meant to be positive, and that you’ll limit any use of negative words like no/not/can’t/won’t/never and so on. (Keep reading.)
    • Adopt a “Yes, and” policy. When an idea won’t work, don’t interrupt the creative flow to say that. Instead, say “What else do you have?” or “Great. Give me three more ideas.”
    • Have physical space for creativity, including whiteboards, sketchbooks, colorful markers and other materials. Give people the physical tools to explore beyond just words in their head.
    • Share creativity and innovation videos from YouTube like TED talks on design or Disney Imagineer materials. Some people are secretly creative or latent innovators but simply need the right stimulus to get their plans in action.
    • Help your creative people break walls. If you run a car dealership, talk about “What if we sold subscriptions to cars? What would have to change? What if we sold scooters?” And so on. Sometimes, giving people a very different perspective on the business will yield completely new ideas and directions.

 

As a business owner, your role is to keep the operations running, but also nurture a space for new ideas. It’s very challenging to lead people through creative processes. Your role adapts to having to learn how to guide a very fragile experience. Creativity is less hammer and nails and more like dovetailing wooden joints.

 

Reward Creativity (and Failure) - It’s vital that people see their ideas yield future satisfying uses. When you think an idea might be worth a try within your company, celebrate that. It would also empower your people to work more creatively if you celebrated failures. Sometimes, even though an idea fails or can’t be implemented, a key learning can be taken from the experience. Be sure to celebrate and reward both experiences.

 

    • While people appreciate monetary rewards, be sure that praise and credit go to your creative types. Humans love to feel necessary and wanted.
    • Celebrate failures because if people see there’s not a huge penalty for getting an idea wrong, they’ll be willing to share even more ideas. Innovation is almost always hiding inside a crazy idea, not a safe one.
    • Be sure to keep the cycle of creativity flowing so a reward of being part of the process is that it becomes a facet of an employee’s role. Think of the retention implications of someone saying, “Yes, I install ventilation systems for this HVAC company plus I get to design better internal wiring as part of my job.” That invitation to innovation might hold someone’s interest more than the simple execution of repetitive tasks.
    • Offer some kind of annual creativity-based prize. Be loud about it. Make sure there are videos and an event and lots of internal coverage of the experience. We all love hanging our foil-starred homework on the fridge.
    • Consider adding a failure-based prize to the same experience, but one where you talk loudly about the positive lessons learned from such experiences.

 

Creativity Isn’t Operations. It’s WHY There are Operations

 

In any business, there are people who come up with ideas and people who implement and execute those ideas. It’s the same in most industries. To be the kind of company that has creative ideas and who gets ahead of the competition means making some shifts in how you lead and manage.

 

Creativity is a leadership-heavy activity, not a management-centric one. You have to learn how to collaborate, how to welcome diverse opinions, how to honor different backgrounds and methods and mindsets.

 

Before anything can be “the way we’ve always done it,” someone had to come up with that way. Creativity is the little green buds poking through the soil that eventually yield mighty trees. They require nurturing but what you get will be worth it for sure.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

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

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

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

 

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

 

SBC Team

Celebrating Small Business

Posted by SBC Team Apr 17, 2019

Every Community has Something to Celebrate This Small Business Month.

Small Business Month is a time when we stop and take notice of all the vibrant businesses that make up our communities. The relationship owners have with their customers make up the fabric of their neighborhoods. That’s why we’ve collected our best articles, highlights and interviews to help other rising business owners with their online presence, social media strategies, and much more. Make sure to check out this page throughout the month to learn more and inspire ideas that help your own small business community grow.

Social Media Shoppers Visit Stores, Too.  Here's How to Find Them. Small Business, Big Presence: 5 Ways your Business Should Engage Locally Success Stories: How Tiny Doors ATL Became a Big Hit How to Encourage Online Shoppers into Your Brick-and-Mortar Store How to Make Your Local Business a Neighborhood Institution Using Micro Influencers to Drive Business in a Local Market Small Business Profile: The Spindle Floods, Cyberattacks and Reputational Threats: Is Your Business Prepared? Neighborhood Vendors: How hyper-local businesses stay in business today Why Planning for Uncertainty is a Must for Business Owners 6 Ways Small Businesses Have a Large Impact in Local Markets Schedule an Appointment Small Business Spotlight: More to Love Yoga Around the block in Atlanta with Myrna Perez Around the block in Nashville with Maneet Chauhan Client Spotlight: Denise Shelton, Founder and CEO of Community Bridge, Inc Brewing Success: How Tapping a Community of Beer Lovers Drives Barebottle Forward Small Business Spotlight: TheraPeeds Family Center Join the Conversation Spring 2019 Small Business Owner Report Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event

Do you think it’s impossible for a small retailer to compete against e-commerce giants? It can be tempting to imagine the worst when almost half (49 percent) of all online purchases in the U.S. are made on Amazon, according to a recent survey, and 83 percent of consumers have bought something on Amazon in the past six months.

celebrate-celebration-communication-296878.jpg

Fear not! There’s still opportunity for independent brick-and-mortar retailers to fight Goliath. Here’s how you can battle the giants and come out on top.

 

Make shopping simple. Convenience is the primary reason 28 percent of shoppers use Amazon. While you can’t compete with bigger retailers on price, you cancompete on convenience. For example:

 

  • Streamline the payment process. Offer a range of payment options, including mobile wallets, so customers can pay in the way they prefer.
  • Shorten wait times. Almost half of consumers alwaysvisit a physical store when they need a product fast. To make it snappy, use mobile devices to process transactions from anywhere in the store.
  • Simplify returns. Clearly state your return policy and train all your employees on how to accept returns so the process goes quickly.
  • Offer click-and-collect. If you have an e-commerce website as well as a store, give customers the option to pick up online orders in the store so they can get them quickly.

 

Provide a personal touch. E-commerce retailers offer personalization via automated emails and recommended purchases delivered by artificial intelligence algorithms. Your store can offer that and much more. Here’s how:

 

  • Use retail loyalty software to gather detailed data about loyalty program members, and marketing automation to deliver timely messages, special offers and shopping suggestions.
  • Share customer data with your salespeople so they can make personalized suggestions or alert shoppers when a particular product is available. Some 79 percentof shoppers say personalized service affects where they buy.
  • Hire employees who genuinely like people and provide training that empowers them to help your customers.
  • Educate your employees about your products so they can explain options, offer suggestions and help customers make decisions.
  • Equip your team with tools they can use to provide a better customer experience, such as inventory management software to show shoppers what’s available.

 

Claim your place in the community. Your physical presence in the community is a key differentiator. Here are some ways to play it up:

 

  • Emphasize your independent spirit. Tell your story in your marketing materials. Why did you start your store? Why are you so passionate about what you sell? What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
  • Encourage customers to shop local. Almost 90 percent of consumers say independent businesses strengthen local economies. Remind customers that supporting your store also means supporting the community through sales taxes and employment. If your community doesn’t have a Shop Local organization, start one.
  • Get involved in your community. Give back by volunteering for local charities and participating in community organizations. Sponsor a local sports team. When people see you care, they’re more likely to buy from you.
  • Create community at your store. Hold in-store events such as book signings, musical performances, or classes for customers. Use social media to build bonds with your real-life community online. 

 

Enable discovery and delight. Online shopping can’t match the element of discovery that retail stores offer. Try these tips to delight your customers: 

 

  • Curate your merchandise. Instead of the endless options giant ecommerce sites offer, streamline your selection so customers can choose from the very best.
  • Appeal to the senses. Use sight, sound, smell, and touch to make your store a place where customers enjoy spending time.
  • Keep ’em coming back. Change your store inventory and displays regularly so there’s always something new to discover and shoppers will return more often.
  • Be unique. Almost 40 percent of Amazon shoppers say they’d go elsewhere if a retailer carried unique products.

 

Nearly 86 percent of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar locations. Follow these tips, and hopefully, your store will be one of them.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Filter Article

By tag: