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Are you ready for retirement? Small business owners need retirement plans not only for themselves, but often for their employees. On the latest episode of, “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Merrill Edge executive and retirement pro, Matt Gellene, discusses what you should look for in a retirement plan for yourself and for your team.

 

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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.

 

Matt Gellene:              Any company, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan, just like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really help them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize.

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt Gellene joins me. He is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. We are going to talk about retirement planning, particularly for small business owners. But Matt, before we go there, I want to welcome you, and I also want to have you tell us a little bit about your job and your title.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well first, Gregg, thanks for having me. I appreciate that, joining you today. Yeah, as far as what I do, I'm in charge of all of the Financial Solutions Advisors. These would be the financial advisors that are out in our financial centers, our banking centers throughout the entire country. We have 2500 of these individuals, and they're out there helping our clients solve their financial problems.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, that's a huge job that you have. You must know on a day-to-day basis how you're doing, because you must get a lot of customer feedback.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, we do. It's great. We've had lots of our clients speak to us through, certainly the way that they interact through our client experience partners, but even directly with me, they talk about all the great things that our advisors are doing, the way that they are helping with their financial lives. It's really gratifying to see the work literally every day.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, one of the things I want to talk about today is the difference between retirement planning for someone who's an employee, say an executive, and for the person who actually owns the company, because it's very different when someone else has created the plan for you than when you are, in a sense, in charge of both running the company and creating the plan for yourself.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, most people participate through the retirement plan through their company. In that case, it's already set up for you. It's a way for you to participate in your retirement savings through a really prescriptive way. But if you are your own business owner, if you are running your own company, now you really have to think differently about the way you engage with it, because in most cases, it's not already set up.

 

                                   The good news, Gregg, is any company, virtually any business, even a sole proprietorship, can implement a retirement plan like a large company. In fact, they can implement a 401K plan, and that can really benefit their business, not only personally and what they can save for themselves, but also their employees and really help their business overall not only attract great talent, but really them through a variety of different ways. Deductions for their potential taxes, you can deduct contributions, etc. It's something that I think a lot of small business owners don't realize. We would be happy to explain that to anyone who is interested.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So let's say I'm a small business owner, I'm listening, and I just heard you say, "Gee, Gregg, this is something you should be doing, because you own a small business, and there's some real advantages to it." Who do I call and what do I ask for? Can you help me with that first step so that I start talking to the right person to get the kind of assistance I need?

 

Matt Gellene:              Absolutely, absolutely, Gregg. Thanks for bringing that up. As I mentioned on the outset, we have more than 2500 individuals throughout the country that actually have the ability to help any small business owner go over their options and talk through these types of solutions. The first step is trying to understand, really, what the plan is, what the small business owner is trying to accomplish. Then we can direct them to ways that they can use some of these things I said to help them do that plan. It's certainly something we do here at Bank of America Merrill Edge. We'd be more than happy to help.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Do you find that this is a common thing, that small business owners are so wrapped up in running the business and keeping it growing and successful that they actually neglect to think about themselves and their own future?

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, completely. I think any small business owner would tell you that so much of their time and their energy, really all of their mind share, is spent trying to grow and build their business. Even more so, I think many small business owners think that this business, in and of itself, is their retirement plan. They think that everything they do to grow that business ultimately will have some sort of retirement payoff, if you will. But it's important for everyone to sort of separate out their great work they might be doing to build their business and the plan they have to put in place for themselves for retirement, really separate and apart from what they're driving with their business. This is really a challenge for many small business owners.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, let's dig into those challenges a little bit. So, let's say I own a small business, I've been thinking that, you know, at some point this is the retirement nest egg that I need to grow for myself. You're saying, "Well, that's probably not the right way to be thinking about it." What kind of things can go wrong if that is the extent of by retirement planning?

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, if you really don't think separately about the way you save and the way you plan for your retirement, you could be overemphasizing your current projects for your business, and you might not have the right discipline to create that separation over time. So what I would always suggest, and frankly this goes not only for small business owner, but frankly anyone who is looking to save for a very specific goal to get, as I said, specific. Think about how much needs to be put away, how you're going to account for that, and really separate and apart from your other endeavors. Make the time and the energy to build a plan around that goal. You're going to be able to have a much better discipline over time to insure you reach that goal.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, as I'm listening to you, I'm also realizing that if I own a small business and I'm counting on it to support me in retirement, I'm also banking on the fact that my business is going to continue to be successful without me there, because now I'm retired, or I'm counting on the fact that there will be a successful exit.

 

Matt Gellene:              Right. I mean, I think ultimately every small business owner certainly has to have that optimism about the future, but in order to make sure that you can, as you say, continue on either after you've left the business, post retirement, you have to make sure that you have a great plan in place in case that doesn't come to pass. To your point, there are some businesses where you have succession challenges, and what's going to happen after I leave or directing the business—that's why we really, really want to sit down with the business owner. Create that plan, make sure that they have that benefit laid out, and really start to work through the contingencies that might happen if it weren't to come to pass as they envisioned.

 

Gregg Stebben:          We're talking with Matt Gellene. He's the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. I want to ask you a more general question, Matt. That is we've been focusing so far on small business owners, but let's broaden the scope. What is it that most people get wrong when it comes to retirement planning? Then I went you to drill in and say, "This is what most people do wrong. Now this is what most small business people do wrong." Because I think we're either going to learn that they make the same mistakes or very different mistakes, but it will very, very useful, either way.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, thanks Gregg. I think that there's sort of two big areas that most people, as you say, quote on quote, "get wrong," when they're thinking about retirement planning. The first is they begin to save, but they save just to save. What I mean by that is they're not laying out a full plan. They're not laying out an end goal and starting to plan for how much they'll need, how much they need to put away, what the rate of return will be necessary to get to that number. Unfortunately, they think, well, just putting a little bit away or making it a regular activity is going to get them to their goal. Frankly, it's because they haven't thought through the plan or the end result. That's the first thing.

 

                                   The second thing is a little bit of a derivative of that. It's the whole notion of, "Well, set it and forget it." I will tell you, this happens to a lot of people who have a 401K and are contributing regularly. They are doing the right thing by setting that savings plan in place, but they're not looking at where that money is going or looking at where those investments have led them and what the returns are. I will tell you, as you go through your sort of economic life as you're proceeding through your career, you have to make sure that you're constantly looking at your portfolio and getting advice as to how it might need to be rebalanced. As you know, the investments and the markets change. The allocations of where you want to put your money will certainly change over time based on your risk tolerance and when you're going to need it. Too many people do the, "Set it and forget it," notion, and then when they go back to look at it when they're now ready to access it, it might not be where they need it to be. So saving to save and setting it and forgetting it are the two big items that I think many good savers who are planning don't do enough analysis to insure that they're going to be okay.

 

Gregg Stebben:          It also seems to me that for a small business owner, their success in business could be very helpful here if they were focused, but I would imagine for some successful business owners, it could also be a trap. In other words, I know how to build a successful business. If I apply those lessons to my retirement, I'm probably going to have a very successful retirement plan. But on the other hand, you may think you know how to plan a retirement plan because you've been successful in business, but what made you successful in business may require a whole other set of skills.

 

Matt Gellene:              You said it really well. I mean, ultimately, what you should be looking to do is seek out expertise in the areas that you really need help. In fact, the small business owner who's great at running his or her business may not necessarily have the right level of expertise to do the things that I just said. Set the right plan, make sure you're doing the rebalancing, re-evaluate the investments to make sure that they come out the right way, so to speak, when retirement comes around. That core is the expertise that we offer here at Bank of American and Merrill Edge. So we can deliver that for our clients while they spend all of their time building their business.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I would also imagine that not all investing is about retirement, either. I mean, in many cases, when you're a successful business owner, you have money you should be investing for things other than retirement. Can you talk about things you've learned by dealing with small business people?

 

Matt Gellene:              Completely. You know, I think one of the things that we will find is when you talk to a client, whether it's a small business client or an individual client, the most important thing is to find out what their priorities are. What's their, what we like to call, "their life priorities," where they're putting their energy and what's most important to them, because as we will talk to, especially business owners, we know that clearly their work and their business is probably an overarching, if not the first, priority, but there are going to be others as well. It could be how they educate their children, it could be, as you say, retirement planning. It could be simply to create some extra wealth to pass on to future generations.

 

                                   We have to get to those pieces as well, because once you create that life priority framework, then you begin to be able to plan appropriately for each need. As I said earlier, you can sort of separate out the way you're approaching that, because they may have different plans, they may have different sort of investment profiles, so to say, they may have different risk tolerances. They could be customized depending on what the goal is. It's so important to have that perspective so someone can really own their financial life.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well and what's interesting here ... again, I'm talking with Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. What's interesting here is that thing that makes successful business owners successful, in many cases, starts with this vision and drive to accomplish the goal. Really, what you're saying is broaden your ability to make goals, and make a goal for yourself personally financially as well, not just a goal for your business.

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, that's really well said. You know, ultimately, you have to make sure that you set the right goal, create the right plan, and make sure you've got the right level of priorities. Along with your advisor, create the right level of interaction and constantly evaluate so you can get to those goals, whatever they may be.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm going to ask you one more question, Matt. I want to boil this down into one thing to do today. So for anyone listening who realizes now, "I have not been planning adequately for myself, and my family, and even my business," the one piece of retirement advice you'd like to leave them with. I want you to close with, "Here's how you can reach out to us at Bank of America and Merrill Edge."

 

Matt Gellene:              Yeah, well, thank you for that. I think the most important thing I would say is ... and you've heard it throughout thematically here ... is make sure that you have the right level of plan in place to meet that life priority. For us, I think the best way to do that is to be informed and to access the right level of expertise. At Bank of America Merrill Edge, we have that for you. Certainly, as I mentioned, we have 2500 Financial Solutions Advisors that are out in our banking centers, our financial centers, as we call them, but you could do it simply by going to merrilledge.com to begin the journey, see what we have to offer to help you in that regard. If you so desire to speak to someone, we can connect you right through that website to someone locally to help you.

 

Gregg Stebben:          He's Matt Gellene. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Matt is the head of Financial Center Merrill Edge and National Performance Executive. Thanks so much for joining us. Great tips.

 

Matt Gellene:              My pleasure. Thanks, Gregg.

 

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 Merrill Edge® at www.merrilledge.com/small-business.

 

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Now on the Small Business Community, listen to part two of Exploring Veteran Entrepreneurship. In addition to gaining insight on the entrepreneurial mindset of the men and women who have served their country, learn practical tactics for managing your business like a veteran. Did you miss part one? Tune in here.

 

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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 adedicated 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.

 

 

Marcus Flakes:          I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values.

 

                                  Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me was sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop an organizational culture within my company as well.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. A company that, frankly, I think is on the cutting edge and doing some really exciting things, but rather than me talk about it, Marcus, welcome. I want you to tell us about your business and what you're doing.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Thank you, Gregg. I appreciate it. Well, a little bit about my business. The umbrella company is CSI US Military Maintenance. We're a cleaning maintenance and remodeling company. We hire local veterans and their families as well as patriotic non-veterans with the mission of giving back to the community. We do this through industrial and military training for economic development projects, i.e., restoration of homes, cleaning, commercial cleaning, remodeling commercial buildings and things like that. Since our company's inception, which was February 2017, we've grown significantly with small business partnerships that have also enabled us to start a subsidiary venture known as Commercial Sanitation Initiative, CSI. CSI is a North American distributor of EnviroCleanse. This company is a combination of veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners distributing cleaning products and organic disinfectants nationwide.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One thing you said, Marcus, that I'm a little unclear of—and I did not serve in the military—and that may be why, but there's lots of people like me who may not understand some terminology. Did you say that you use military training with your employees? If that's the case, explain how that works because it's not clear to me.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Absolutely. The military training, as you well know, it's called Military Occupational Specialty, MOS. Within the military there's a myriad of knowledge, skills, and abilities that we acquire. One of the things I was focused on is how we can use the exact training from the military and transition that into civilian sector. I created this company around what the military actually does. Not in all facets, in a good piece, cleaning for instance. We learn that going into the military. I don't know a better cleaner than a military person.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We all know the ability of soldiers to do things like make beds and shine shoes and things. It's legendary to all of us just through what we see on movies and on TV. I suspect there's a lot more to it than what we see and what you've done is, I think, is actually recognize that those are highly valuable skills, and that once people are out of the military, you are able to put those people and those veterans and those skills to work.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. That's what we do.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to hear about your military background, but before we do, I want to pick up on something you mentioned, which is a product called EnviroCleanse. I think you said you're the North American distributor?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Correct.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to know a little bit more about that including, this really caught my eye on your website, and by the way, Marcus' company is Commercial Sanitation Initiative, the website is commercialsanitationinitiative.com. One of the things that caught my eye on your website is that there's some relationship between your company, EnviroCleanse, and Warren Buffett, or Berkshire Hathaway. Can you just explain that because I find that very, very interesting?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yes, absolutely. EnviroCleanse LLC, it's a division of Charter Brokerage LLC, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which is owned by Warren Buffett.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yeah, which is owned by Warren Buffett. Yeah. Absolutely. I have not yet talked to Warren Buffett. Very large company. I'm just one of the smaller entities down here making the mission happen for EnviroCleanse. With all due respect to Warren Buffett, he is the man behind the scenes making a lot of things happen for EnviroCleanse. I consider CSI as having an intricate role to distributing these products on a national level. When I say on a national level, I'm talking about the many industries that this product intersects.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which are?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Which are retail, commercial, and industrial. You think about population health, I have a master's in public health so I think very broadly on these topics, but I'll make it very, very simple, is that everybody is seeking organic and sustainable products. I'm sure whoever is listening to this call could actually agree with me on that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes.

 

Marcus Flakes:          We provide just that. We provide a product that is an organic disinfectant and we provide green cleaning, de-greasing formulas within another product. We've had a lot of traction from retailers and commercial and industrial. We're on the growth side at this point.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I think when you pick a product like EnviroCleanse and it has essentially not just the endorsement of Warren Buffet, but the fact that he owns that company and the product that the company makes, I think that for a lot of people is a level of validation that's untouchable. It's the gold standard. You know that if Warren Buffett has put his name on it essentially, it must be a great product and you're now the distributor for North America and I assume using it in your cleaning for your clients yourself at CSI.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That is absolutely correct. We've seen nothing but success when we talk to our clients about cleaning contracts. Not only do we offer our services with a good work ethic, but we also offer this product in conjunction to the contract. It gives them a double-edged view of what they're getting from us.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Marcus Flakes, the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's commercialsanitationinitiative.com. Tell us about your military background because it's a very big part of your story.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Okay. Well, I'm a 22-year veteran. I have a very wide background. My experience is within the Navy, Army, as well as full-time employment with the Texas Air National Guard. I was also a food program manager for the state of California Army National Guard as well. I was deployed three times in my military career in the Navy. One thing I want to point out is that what I learned from these deployments. I learned sacrifice, mission, and core values. Now, there were a whole lot of different things that I learned, but one of the few things that stuck with me is sacrifice, mission, and core values. I use these traits to develop the organizational culture within my company as well.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Would you say that as a business owner if you hadn't had that military training your business would be running very differently and would you actually look at your military training and say, you know, if I hadn't got those years of training in my 22 years of service to my country, I might not actually know how to be successful at running a business or starting a business?

 

Marcus Flakes:          You know, there's a true and false to that. The truth is that I gained the confidence from the military. Some of the things that they teach us, they teach us resiliency. They teach us leadership. They teach us sacrifice. Not being all about yourself. It's that selfless service that comes into play. It really brings on your ability to mentor others, which I do on a daily basis for other business owners that seek me out and want to know what I'm doing and how I can help them. But, as far as false, I would say if I never had gone to the military, I had interest prior to enlisting in the military and it was business and health. Looking in hindsight, I think I would've gone to school a lot earlier than I did and picked up a lot of knowledge, skills, and abilities and perhaps just like every other small business owner who doesn't have a military background, they're very successful as well. I really can't take that credit away.

 

Gregg Stebben:         What you're pointing to is that by serving that time in the military, in a sense, you sacrificed something else that was of interest to you for a long, long time, for 22 years, which was your interest in business and health. It's just interesting hearing your perspective on this because I think frankly for many of us, if we haven't served, we don't think about the idea ... We know that veterans come out of the military and then most of us in business know that they make great employees, particularly in the areas where they have trained, but I think most people today don't yet have the idea of what great entrepreneurs veterans make. Did you find in starting your business, and I don't know if this was your first business or you've started others, but in your time as a veteran starting businesses, have you found that there are certain hurdles that have been bigger hurdles for you because you were a veteran?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I have. I have. Starting out with employment. Usually when a veteran comes off active duty or gets out of the National Guard, they're taking on a new journey so to speak. We close that chapter and we start a new chapter here. One of the first attempts is getting a job. Not just any job, but a higher-paying job using the skillsets that they have acquired from the military. Now, when they get that, this is where the problem starts. Either you're over-qualified or you just don't have what that company is looking for. It's been a question for a long time as to why is it like that.

                                    Now, what happens to that veteran after they get so many No’s it becomes very frustrating and they start to ... their resilience, their resilience training starts to kick in because they're not gonna give up. They have no quit in them. They turn to entrepreneurship. There's groups out there. I'm a member of several groups with over a million veterans involved sharing information with one another, trying to make it easier on their comrades because quite frankly one veteran has more experience than the other. It's a beautiful thing because they're able to share that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know it's interesting. There was a study published by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2017 last year that said that veterans are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. I looked at that and on one hand I was surprised and on the other hand I wasn't. I could see a case being made either way. But that's the statistic. It never occurred to me that the process might be as you're describing that veterans get out of the service and then actually have a hard time getting an appropriate and better paying job given their skill level. They might be over-qualified. That only after that experience do they turn to entrepreneurship. I just assumed that a lot of veterans got out and when surveying the landscape of opportunity might think, oh, I can get a job, I can go into this kind of industry, or I can start my own business. Do you have a sense of how many veterans go through that process of having a hard time getting a job because they're over-qualified and turning to entrepreneurship versus taking that on as their first thing directly out of coming out of the service?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I think the percentile is pretty high having a problem finding a job initially. I think that percentage is somewhere around 40%. Then after that is when different veterans will think about different opportunities. Some start in the civilian sector and start looking for a private-owned company and want to work for them. Maybe a food distributing company or something like that. If they don't have any luck there, they usually turn to federal employment. Now, there's a lot of veterans looking for federal employment. Unfortunately, these federal agencies can't hire everybody. They can't hire everybody. They get very, very picky and selective about which veteran they’re going to hire. That's why they have those preferences. If you're service disabled, 50% or 100%, those go to the top. The people who don't have a disability, they're competing with the rest of the applicants with only a five point preference or so.

 

                                  Other than that, when they exhaust those opportunities, then they start looking at, okay, what can I do. It's usually entrepreneurship. They start thinking about what did I do in the military. Maybe I can start up a security company because I was a military police. Maybe I can start up a restaurant because I was a culinary specialist. You see the correlation of why they select different industries to start a business in.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm wondering if you have ideas ... I'm gonna ask this question in three levels. I'm wondering if you have ideas for things we as the individuals listening can do to help veterans either overcome the hump of getting a job because of what you said among other things being over-qualified, or more quickly move to the idea of being an entrepreneur. What can we as individuals do because we all have family and friends who are veterans and many of them are returning veterans or veterans looking for different career opportunities? I'm also wondering beyond us as individuals, and some people listening to this own small businesses or would consider starting another small business or another division as in a sense you've done, but I'm also wondering if you think there's things that government should be doing like Veteran's Affairs, and if there's things the federal government should be doing to make this process better for veterans who are no longer serving.

 

Marcus Flakes:          That's a really good question, Gregg. Not sure if I can fully answer that, but I'm gonna definitely give you my take on it. Whether it's government, nonprofit, or corporate entities, personally I'd like to see them as stakeholders such as theSBAand investors taking interest in business plans that are developed by veterans. The reason I say that is because I think that idea funding is more accessible than credit-based funding.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Really good point. Was access to capital an issue for you?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Access to capital is an issue for everybody. I don't know a business owner who doesn't need capital. When you're out there looking, where are you supposed to be looking? You could be a part of groups. You can put it in there. You can go on LinkedIn. You can say it there. There's just so many places you can say it, but that's social media. You're not having that conversation with that investor who gets the opportunity to sit at the dinner table and actually spell out what you want done for your business with the intention of that investor potentially wanting to help you. That opportunity doesn't come often.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm really interested in what you just said, Marcus. I'm talking with Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. It's commercialsanitationinitiative.com. I'm really interested in what you said about idea-based funding versus credit-based funding for veterans. Are there programs like that that exist that veterans know about? I know, for instance, right here on Bank of America's “The Heartbeat of Main Street” that we do here with ForbesBooks with Bank of America, and they've rolled out a $20 million program for lending to US military veteran entrepreneurs. I know those kinds of programs exist, but I'm wondering to veterans know they exist and could part of the job here be just to do a better job of making them aware of it?

 

Marcus Flakes:          Yes. I've been doing my part as far as spreading the word out about this funding that's available to veterans for starting businesses. But I think this, they're hesitant because this is what they're thinking, is this just another hype about supporting veterans? Because to be honest with you, they're not really looking for a handout. I'm gonna give you a scenario. If you told me that I can give you money and you pay me back versus I can give you this account and we'll utilize your services and we'll benefit from your services while you earn money, I probably wouldn't go for the loan. I'd probably go where I'm earning revenue. I'm actually working for that capital.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I may be wrong about this, but I'm speculating you may actually be describing something that doesn't exist today, which is you mentioned idea-based funding. There's credit-based funding. But you're really describing a scenario where it's a work for funding. Does that exist or is this something that you have conceived of yourself?

 

Marcus Flakes:          This is something that I conceived of myself. You sit here and brainstorm about how do you access capital. There's no rule to how you access capital as far as I'm concerned. Accessing capital, I do it every day. The reason I say that is because I opened up another business so that it can be funded by the umbrella business. Listen, for instance, if I go out and get a $50,000 contract and it lasts for maybe two months or something like that, remodeling a home, what happens is that I take that revenue from a founder's perspective, I take my percent and I reinvest that back into the company. That's not capital. What I've done is I'm also increasing my percentage of injections into my asset ability of my company. Now I'm able to go to the bank and say, hey, look what I've been doing

 

Gregg Stebben:         A scenario where someone is just starting out, I think what you're suggesting is if there was a program that said you're going to get the $50,000 contract and the $50,000 access to the $50,000 today so that you can tool up to get the job done. You've just reverse-engineered the process you just said. It just involves having access to the capital upfront instead of at the end when the job has been complete.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Exactly. Because when you think about it, if an opportunity were to be presented to any veteran, or any small business owner for that matter, if it were to be presented that way, now you know you have revenue. Planned revenue. What do you do? You take that and now you can use invoice factorization to make sure you're able to take care of your employees. Now you're managing a business and you're not just looking for funding.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I want to ask you one other thing, Marcus, because this is really a fascinating conversation. As you're talking with other veterans, do you find that there are similar things that they say that prevents them from doing what you've done, which is starting a business that we as friends and family of veterans could hear? You might've already said this in a way, but I want to drill into it very specifically. As you're talking with veterans and they're thinking about starting a small business, are there certain things that stop them that you think we as friends and family should hear so that we know how to give the best encouragement to those veterans who are perhaps the next best greatest entrepreneurs?

 

Marcus Flakes:          I have not met a veteran that I've talked to that just stopped in their tracks because maybe it was something they read or something that they heard. They usually go into the startup. They have X amount of dollars to start. It's not very much usually, but they're all in. They're all in. What happens is that when they start, without the right mentor letting them know where those forks in the road are gonna be, that's when the confusion starts for them. There's this thing called business lifecycle stages. I don't think that veterans ... This is not to discredit any veterans. There are some great veterans out there that are doing some great things better than myself, but business lifecycle is an education in itself. It'll teach you a lot about startup, the growth maturity, and the acceptance and renewal by consumers. This is where you're able to understand where your business sits in the marketplace.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah. Really what you're saying is for a veteran who wants to start a business, grit is not the problem. Getting started is not the problem. At some point though, they just may not know what's coming next or what they need to prepare for. That's where something like a mentor and business lifecycle, as you're describing it, can really make a difference.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely because they'll go from startup and skip growth to maturity. You miss the growth. This happens a lot. This happens a lot. They're good companies. They're solid. They're making connections. They've got leads and they're making money. Money is not really being invested back into the business, so you're not growing.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes. Yes. They have all the pieces, they just need a road map or help creating the appropriate road map to keep going forward and continue to build on that success.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Absolutely. Here's a gem. If they miss the investment, the injection back into their company, when they go to the table for a loan, they will be denied because there's a certain amount of injection percentage that the banks must see from your business. If it's not there, you don't have the tools to generate these financial statements, PNL statements, balance sheets, and all of that. If you don't have the tools to generate that, then you're gonna get overlooked anyway.

 

Gregg Stebben:         By skipping a step, there's downstream consequences you might not even understand until somebody stamps denied on your application.

 

Marcus Flakes:          Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's a lot to think about. He is Marcus Flakes. He's the CEO of Commercial Sanitation Initiative. Commercialsanitationinitiative.com. Making a really great case for why veterans make such great business leaders and entrepreneurs and things they need to know about to ensure their success even if they're at the point where they started a business and it's doing well, being able to look forward. I think mentorship is a really great point you make. I want to thank you, Marcus, for joining us here on the Heartbeat of Main Street.

 

Speaker 2:                 Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

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Did you know veterans are twice as likely to be self-employed as non-veterans? Listen to part one of the latest podcast episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street” to hear about the entrepreneurial priorities, drive and future of the men and women who have served their country in the military.

 

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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.

 

 

Jeff Cathey:               You know they've fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.                         

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

 

Kate Delaney:            Boy, I'm so excited. This time around we're diving into something really close to my heart to be honest. Jeff Cathey joins us. He's a Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and a former Navy captain. I'm married to an ex-Navy guy so I know what that's like. It's interesting because what we're going to talk about with Jeff is so, so significant. According to a study published, Greg, in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, when you look at the veterans they are twice as likely to be self-employed compared to non-veterans. This does not surprise me. So, Jeff, first of all, welcome, and do you think this status really widely known by veterans themselves?

 

Jeff Cathey:                I think it is. We know that about 180 to 200,000 service members leave the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines every year. And as they do formerly they go through a transition assistance program in their individual services. And about 10% of them raise their hand and say, "I want to start my own business. I want to get in there and run a franchise or start my own business, and I'm very interested in receiving an initial primer on what that is all about. What are the resources out there? What are the barriers are there to either help me or hinder me in going forth with my efforts?" So it's a strong cohort that's interested in it.

 

                                   And the services have set that up to kind of segregate them off to the side and say, "Okay, if you're interested in starting your own business come over here and we'll start talking about business plans, and marketing plans, and so forth."

 

Gregg Stebben:         So Jeff, you're a former Navy captain, you're now the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America and I mean this is really what you focus on every day. I'm wondering looking back on your past as a Navy captain and now interacting with these veteran entrepreneurs every day, are there certain things that draw people to military service that then lead them to become great entrepreneurs? Are there things that happen in the training or in the course of their years of service that make them great at being entrepreneurs? Can you kind of see it as a whole or as a whole process for them?

 

Jeff Cathey:               Gregg, you know I would say that those who want to come out and start their own business really probably want to control their own destiny. And maybe in some ways quit taking orders and start giving them, right? And they're going to be successful. Employers are looking for talent, work ethic, and attitude. And 70% nationwide survey of companies are looking for primarily work ethic and attitude. So, I think the ones who raise their hand and want to start their own company, that work ethic will transfer over. It’s up to them to keep the attitude on because there are going to be starts and stutters and so forth. And then the talent portion of it, that's the neat part where they're going to be intellectually curious. They're going to have to go and start a new mission, and they're going to have to learn all this stuff from the business plan to the marketing plan, to how to raise capital and so forth.

 

                                  I just see them as they fought for this country and now they can maybe own part of it or run a piece of it. I think they don't lack confidence. I think they've had a ton of responsibility in the service. They've had global exposure. They worked in diverse environments. They've done some crisis action planning and they've made some decision making at high rate of speeds. So, I think they can jump right into it. Some that we talk to are very interested in coming back maybe even to their hometown into the community and helping their own reintegration efforts in that respect.

 

Kate Delaney:            Jeff, I referenced this in the beginning because of my own family I saw this, and I talked about this study that was published in 2017 by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, and in that study they also found that self-employed veterans demonstrated higher levels of gratitude, community integration, and altruistic service to others. I'm not surprised by that because of what I've seen. Can you talk about how supporting veteran entrepreneurs and encouraging other vets to become entrepreneurs and small business owners also brings great benefits to the community at large?

 

Jeff Cathey:               It does, Kate. To get out there and ... there's less than one percent of Americans that are putting the uniform on. And so, they are highly trained, they're very specialized, their operational tempo is high, they deploy a lot. Americans nationally and in the local communities want to support the troops so to speak, but they can't find them. And so, they're just gone. And to be able to come back and self socialize and to start up through your own initiative your own company, and get rid of the national tendency towards isolation whether you're on a military installation or you're on a Mac flight going overseas, or you're on the ground deployed in South Korea or Germany, or you're in a combat zone. That isolation has just really got to be peeled back. And to start your own company, and to put a sign up on the window kind of demystifies the whole thing. I think so many of the veterans, they're community integrators, they're going to be contributors. They want to get in there whether it's on the little league field, at the church, any kind of associations to include in the business community.

 

Gregg Stebben:         We're talking with Jeff Cathey, the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America—he's a former Navy captain. We're also talking about how and why veterans become so great at being small business owners and entrepreneurs. And one of the things I want to ask you Jeff is, what are some of the challenges that veterans face? And when I Googled this I actually came up with the term “vetrepreneurship,” so there's clearly a movement here, but what are some of the challenges that veterans face in starting a small business or continuing to run one, and what kinds of programs are out there? For instance, I know that BofA just launched a programto help military veteran entrepreneurs.

 

Jeff Cathey:               We did and it's exciting. And let me just table that for a second, Gregg. But I would say the barriers are access to capital. Really where are the dollars, number one. And number two I think inside the military we have appropriated dollars from the tax payers through the Congress. And so, it's a budgetary sort of exercise, large budgets but it's different then the raising of capital in the generation of revenue. And so that is something that the vetrepreneur sort of has to learn, and then also how to manage expenses, and how to borrow money to grow that business. So I think those are the barriers. And then that business acumen part, now it's, "Okay, I gotta develop a business plan. I've gotta know my marketing plan and who's the competitors, who else is already out there." Maybe this market in Des Moines, Iowa, is saturated or over saturated in trying to do mobile automobile detailing or dog grooming, or whatever it is. So, those are the things that are out there.

 

                                   And then as I said the access to capital is the big one. So, if they come to most banks, they leave the Army on Friday and want to start their business on Monday and they walk into the bank, they're just not bankable. So, a lot of them will go over to other sources of capital or maybe even a credit card and pay pretty high rates to borrow that money, and sometimes that can be crushing and put them out of business before they even start.

 

                                   So, Bank of America on the 8th of June announced a $20 million veteran entrepreneur lending program whereby the non-profit lending arm of the company and some community development financial institutions, CDFI's, are out there. We funded five of them over seven states: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, California, New York, and both Carolinas. And it's a real solution. At about an eight percent plus or minus percent type of lending for the veteran. And so, we lent about zero to one percent to those CDFI's who turn around and lend to the business owner once they vet them and look at their credit scores, and their business plan, and all that, that we mentioned. You can start at eight percent, it opens the door, it gets them to meet their financial needs for the capital upfront and off they go. So, we're very excited about that CDFI program called Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program. $20 million dollars over those five CDFI's, and it's just started and we're very excited about it.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You know what's interesting Jeff is as I've been listening to you—and I did not serve in the military, I am not a veteran—I've learned so much by listening to you. And I was really excited to talk to you because I realized folks who have not served and our not veterans have so much to learn from this conversation. And one of the things I started thinking as I've been listening to you here is, there are probably some real advantages to being in the military and then getting out and starting a business, but there are probably some disadvantages.

 

                                  And one of the disadvantages I thought of as you've been talking is, if I go the traditional entrepreneurial route, which I think for many people is you go to college and maybe you're studying business maybe you're not, but you're networking with other potential entrepreneurs in the community perhaps or you're just focused on a very specialized thing because you have a college major. Then maybe you go on to get a master's degree and a PhD. You've been building this whole network around you that's going to support you in your business. That's not necessarily true I would think for a veteran, so that could be a disadvantage that they're not in the same environment. And do you think programs like this BofA program or are there other programs from like the SBA that help support veterans to eliminate that disadvantage and turn it into an advantage?

 

Jeff Cathey:               Yeah, no I hear you Gregg. And the sequence just comes in different orders. And so, I agree with you. There's a very hierarchal way and build the triangle like you said on one side. The other side is go over there and defend your countrymen and do what you're asked to do from a military for deployed perspective and so forth. And you're sort of losing ground along the way when you come back.

 

                                   And that's why it's so exciting to see these veteran entrepreneur programs that have been established mostly at the land grant colleges like University of Florida, Oklahoma State University, University of Southern Calthe Marshall School of Businessand at Syracuse University at IVMF, and even here locally where I am at Hillsborough Community College they have Operation Startup. Not a set aside, but just a veteran entrepreneur program. Even Stanford has Ignite.

 

                                   There's 1.1 million veterans on college campuses executing the GI Bill and most of these courses ... and I've been to the one out in LA and up in Gainesville and Stillwater, Oklahoma and most of these. There's about 80-90 veteran entrepreneurs either current existing ownership, have a business fledgling in their first or second year, or brand new. And those usually go eight or nine months or so, and they'll come in for a week and get to know the instructors, the expectations and so forth, and have some academics there. And then they'll go back to their hometowns through some online academics and some mentorship along the way, and some checkpoints and so forth. And they'll come back and graduate. So, it's good. There's a buzz around it. There's strength in numbers. Popping out of that is going to be sort of the evening out of those sort of two different paths to owning your own business.

 

Kate Delaney:            So, Jeff I can imagine you just talked about some of the programs that are there, can you share with us some stories from some of the vets, some of the entrepreneurs and small business owners that you've worked with in your position with Bank of America?

 

Jeff Cathey:               You know Kate, I’d say most of those that I know that are running organizations, and I'd equate them to a small business, they're leading non-profits. And these are sort of millennial led non-profits that Bank of America's associated with such as Student Veterans of America, such as America's Warrior Partnership, or Team Red, White, and Blue, or Mission Continues, or Team Rubicon. And these are young men and women as executive directors of these organizations that essentially are doing the same thing. Even a non-profit, you've gotta generate revenue, you've gotta fundraise, you've gotta control expenses, and staffing, and travel, and everything else, and you have to lead a team. And that's exactly what they're doing. And so, we have great partnerships, long lasting partnerships sustained with all of those non-profits, and some of the smaller veteran owned businesses.

 

                                   We went out to People Fundwhose one of those five CDFI's that we spoke about. They're in Texas, they're in Austin, Texas. And we went out and met Gary Lindner and he runs them. And we looked at all their books, met some of their veteran entrepreneurs. Looked at how they vet who they're going to lend to. We looked at their loss rates. We looked at their sustained efforts to support these veterans as they start up their business, because it's more than just veteran entrepreneur leadership program I talked about. It's more than just writing a check and the $20 million dollars to those five CDFI's. It's lending, and learning, and technical assistance. And so, that is a huddle up, that's support network, that is we've all go the same target, but there's going to be some off ramps, there's going to be some unexpected barriers and so forth. But this is the learning part of it through Syracuse University, and IVMF the Institute of Veteran and Military Families, their V-Wise, their women veterans programs. There are ways and technical assistance for those business plans, and control of money, and expenses, and so forth to make this a go. So it's not “here's your check good luck, see you later.”

 

Gregg Stebben:         Well that makes perfect sense. And in fact, Jeff when I was getting ready for this interview and just Googled the phrase military veteran entrepreneurs and veteran entrepreneurs, that's when I began to discover that there's this whole world that includes networking, and programs like you've described for learning in addition to access to capital and things like that.

 

                                   We're talking with Jeff Cathey, he's the Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, and a former Navy captain. I want to ask you Jeff, we're talking here about veterans starting businesses or continuing to run businesses and getting the kind of support that can help them continue to be successful. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for people who are listening who are family or friends of a veteran and they know that their family member or their friend has always talked about or dreamed of starting a business, but maybe just needs a little bit of a push. Are there things those of us who are family or friends can do to support that veteran to enable them to take the first step?

 

Jeff Cathey:                I think so, Gregg. I think beside lending them a few dollars is to really get them into the community and even the SCORE. The senior former executives that are out there in most markets around the country that lend their expertise, so they have come and gone in their business entrepreneurship and been successful, and they know what the minefields are, and they know what the success metrics are. These are companies big and small. If you look back at current or recent executives, CEO's of large companies like Lockheed Martin, and FedEx, and Proctor and Gamble—Proctor and Gamble's Bob McDonald is a West Point graduate who was most recent secretary of the VA. And so, these are good leaders. Bank of America was run by a Marine, Hugh McColl, General Motors same thing. And so, they all somewhere in there whether they served like I did for 29 years or they came in and did an honorable service for four years and then left, and struck out on their own.

 

                                   As I said, everybody's wanting to support the troops and more than just writing a check. So, if you get in the local area, what is it that community ... and these are where communities can be led by all of us as collaborators and integrators through the economic development part of a local community, or the Chambers of Commerce and other ways to do this, and figure out where the belly button is to push it to collaborate, because it's just really a bit of an opening of a door just like our CDFI program. Just open that door, get it going, and it's going to flush out in the right direction. And it's really just the socialization, sort of a networking, the exchange of ideas, the engagement. As I said, these veterans and these former servicemen, they're going to come and they're going to contribute. They're going to show up early, they're going to wrap it up, they're going to work on a weekend, they're going to figure it out until it goes. And just a little bit of a push from those in the know, this is an economic stimulator, this is a very good and a righteous way to help veterans reintegrate into the community and not be so isolated.

 

Kate Delaney:            I can only image what it's going to look like in 10 years, so exciting. Jeff Cathey, Senior Military Affairs Executive for Bank of America, former Navy captain. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

Jeff Cathey:               Kate, thank you very much. Gregg, likewise.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “the Heartbeat of Main Str”et" with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.comand Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

Last night I went out to dinner with my family, and the restaurant we visited was unusually packed. When I asked the waitress what was up, she said that the restaurant was giving out a free dinner to all veterans this month in honor of both their service and the upcoming Veteran’s Day holiday on November 11.

 

We were happy to wait.

 

It reminded me of a great story I heard a few years ago about a sergeant named Robbie Doughty. Doughty was 32 when he lost both legs in a bomb blast in Iraq. USA TODAY did a story about the sergeant and soon after he received a phone call from Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Little Caesars Pizza chain (and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.) Ilitch just wanted to thank Doughty for his service, but the call ended with Ilitch offering Doughty his own Little Caesars Pizza franchise. Today, Doughty is a successful entrepreneur in his hometown in Kentucky.

   

              Related: See how Bank of America shows its support and commitment to veterans and their families

 

It’s not surprising that entrepreneurship resonated with Doughty. Indeed, if you think about it, there are many reasons why veterans make great entrepreneurs, and why almost 10% of all small businesses are veteran-owned:

  • Vets understand the idea of teamwork and uniting behind a bigger mission
  • They not only take direction well, they are also well-versed in leadership
  • Creatively solving the problem is what they do

 

Given this, and the fact there are so many veterans since 9/11, I am happy to report there are a lot of great programs designed to help veterans start and grow their own businesses.

 

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The Small Business Administration: The SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran small business entrepreneur. For example, the SBA has a program called Operation Boots to Business. The program’s goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

Another great SBA program is the Veterans Business Outreach Center. The VBOC is a “one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. Located nationwide, VBOCs provide transition assistance programs such as training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals.”

 

The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers a plethora of programs to help veteran entrepreneurs, everything from starting to financing to growing a business.

 

The National Veteran Owned Business Association: NaVOBA is a private, non-profit association that acts as a gathering place and resource for veteran small business owners.

 

The V-Wise IGNITE Program: IGNITE is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and the SBA. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

The program is open to women veterans, active duty service women, and women military spouses/life-partners interested in small business ownership.  The program features nationally acclaimed speakers, expert instructors, local and military friendly business resource providers, and successful veteran women and military spouse entrepreneurs.

On this Veteran’s Day, it is great to see that “thank you for your service” is not just a phrase, but is being backed up by so many great organizations looking to help veterans transition into small business ownership.

 

       CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

About Steve Strauss

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Steven 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Did you know that, according to SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) estimates, approximately one out of every ten businesses is owned by veterans? This contributes approximately $1.4 trillion to the country’s total receipts/sales every year. With this in mind, veterans are valuable to the nation not only for their time spent serving, but also for their positive impact on the economy. However, not every veteran comes home equipped to start a business.

 

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As Steve Strauss highlighted in yesterday’s article for veteran small business owners, there are many resources designed to help veterans start and grow their businesses, from training and mentorship opportunities to federal contracting opportunities and loan programs. This article will dive deeper to explore additional resources to help broaden the scope of services available to veterans. Perhaps no areas are as important to the establishment and successful management of a business that training and funding.

 

Training

 

OVBD (Office of Veterans Business Development) facilitates support to service-disabled veterans, SBA programs by veterans, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, veterans’ dependents or survivors, and reservists. OVBD is an SBA faction devoted to promoting veterans entrepreneurship via funding and training.

 

Training is an integral part of any startup. Many mistakes that kill new businesses are avoidable. SBA is armed with a network of resource partners with extensive experience offering training and counseling, equipping business-minded veterans for the market and lenders. Commercial supply chains and federal procurement play a significant role in the veterans business.

 

The SBA’s “Veteran Business Outreach Center” is a one-stop-shop that provides interactive learning opportunities and hands-on experience to transitioning veterans. Opportunities are available for all veterans and their spouses.

 

Veterans Business Outreach Center seeks to:

 

  1. Boost the veteran awareness of entrepreneurial development services
  2. Increase the access of the veterans to entrepreneurial development services
  3. Help veterans fully utilize the entrepreneurial development services for the growth of the economy.

 

Visit their site to find a center near you: https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/vboc

 

Funding

 

Investors are sometimes weary to invest in startups due to the high risks of failure. Many studies have shown that nine out of every ten businesses fail in the first year of operation. As a result, investors and lenders need assurance that the money they give will come back to them.

 

Through varied programs, SBA offers business loans to veterans for much needed capital to grow their businesses. The Veteran Advantage program under SBA guarantees approved loans to business that are at least 51 percent owned by a veteran or military spouse.

 

Of note, the MREIDL (Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan) program provides veteran-owned small businesses with a monetary lifeline in the event the business is struggling to meet the necessary operating and cashflow needs. This can sometimes happen after a crucial employee is recalled to military active duty.

 

All the services available to the veterans through these institutions are done to appreciate the veterans’ valued sacrifice and service to the nation. What can you do? Support veteran-run businesses, as they not only stimulate the economy but provide opportunities to give back to those who have given much for us.

 

Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

For more information about great business resources for veteran entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes:

 

 

Read next:

 

 

About Ebong Eka

 

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Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. 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

When leaving the military, veterans are faced with a choice:

 

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What to do next?

 

For many, the choice is clear. They learned or sharpened skills during their time of service and those skills make them eminently employable. Combined with their ability to work in a team, follow direction, and lead, you see why many veterans are in high demand by employers upon discharge.

 

But, that said, interestingly, many of those same traits are also the ones needed to start a business: Taking the initiative, creating a plan, following through, etc. So yes, veterans also make great entrepreneurs, and maybe that is why they are so successful at it. According to the Census Bureau, just about 10 percent of all small businesses in this country are owned by veterans (roughly 2.5 million), and those business employ some 5 million Americans.

 

If you have a veteran-owned business, or want to start one, the good news is that there is a lot of help available, much of it absolutely free.

 

Here are some of the best:

 

Free online introduction to veteran entrepreneurship course: Bunker in a Box is a great resource.  Embark on 14 “missions” that include video, expert commentary, related articles and track your progress. According to Bunker CEO Todd Conner, “The Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.”

 

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC): Speaking of training, the purpose of PBC is “to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs leading the new economy.” Programs are held in various cities nationwide.

 

University training: The leader for in-person, live entrepreneurship training is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (in conjunction with a host of other major universities.) Here you will find an online 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-person session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring.

 

Women entrepreneurship training: IGNITE is also operated by IVMF (and the SBA.) Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

Even more free training: VettoCEO is a program exclusively for verified members of the military and for veterans. Designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, the course is offered online “so that anyone, anywhere can participate in a well-designed, collaborative online environment.”

 

Small Business Administration programs: Not surprisingly, the SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. Check out its Operation Boots to Business program, whose goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers many programs to help veteran entrepreneurs - everything from starting to financing to growing a business.

 

Free money: The Street Shares Foundation gives away combined $25,000 every year for veteran entrepreneurship.

 

Even more money: If you need investments in the six-figures, check out the veteran-focused angel fund, Hivers & Strivers.

 

Contracting opportunities: The National Veteran Owned Business Association, NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.

 

So yes, with so much help available, it is a great time to be, or to want to be, a veteran entrepreneur.

 

Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

For more information about great business resources for veteran entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes:

 

Read next:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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Steven 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Is Facebook still the king of social media? Although it’s been a difficult year for the platform, small businesses shouldn’t doubt the power of Facebook marketing. Find out why Facebook is the right place for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

 

 

 

Mari Smith:     Hello there, friends. It's Mari Smith here with you back again, coming to you from live sunny San Diego, and today we are going to be talking all about, is Facebook still the king of social media, and what makes Facebook the right place for small businesses to market, to grow their business, and entrepreneurs? So we have a packed session here for you today. I've prepared a lovely slide deck. I absolutely love to do educational sessions for my friends out there, and the small business world, as well as I work with major brands and a lot of different companies in different industries. We're going to talk about, is Facebook still the king of social media? Spoiler alert, it is, and I'm going to show you why, and we'll give you some great examples as well. So got any questions? Do let me know.

 

Mari Smith:     What makes Facebook the right place for small business owners and entrepreneurs? I know that right now, in fact, 2018, you'll see in a moment when I get into my slides, this has probably been one of the most challenging years for the Facebook team. You'll see what ... some of the things that they're doing to really support businesses. And then this session, I will tell you that it's brought to you and sponsored by the Bank of America Small Business Community, and I'll show you where you can get some terrific resources, literally thousands of articles written specifically to help small business owners and entrepreneurs, and I am one of the contributing authors to Bank of America Small Business Community. So thank you so much to be here ... for being here, my friends. Always a joy to have you with us.

 

Mari Smith:     So let's get on with it. I'm going to show my slide deck, and we're going to show ... Yes, I'm going live twice today. I know it was confusing for you guys, but it's all good. We've got some great content lined up for you, so let's dive in. This is a session brought to you, as I say, by Bank of America Small Business Community. Is Facebook still the king of social media, and why Facebook is the right place for small business owners and entrepreneurs?

 

Mari Smith:     Feel free to pop your questions in the chat as we go along. I will definitely take your questions, and anything that you have found that's working for you, in fact. I love to see examples. What's working for you in your small business, medium size business, as an entrepreneur or business owner? What's working for you, and also what challenges are you finding? Okay? So those two things. Tell me what's working for you, and also kind of what's not working. What challenges are you facing when it comes to Facebook marketing, and including organic or paid, anything you're doing with your Facebook marketing? Pop your questions in here. I'll be happy to take them for you.

 

Mari Smith:     Quick bio if you haven't seen me speak before. I'm sure many of you have. I know I've got our fabulous audience here today. I'm known as the premier Facebook marketing expert, hired by Facebook and Fortune 500 companies, top-rated keynote speaker around many, many major events around the country and the world, frequently top influencer and premium brand ambassador. I work with numerous brands, and always delighted to represent the companies that I work with.

 

Mari Smith:     So let's start out by saying some Facebook facts and stats. Many of you know this already, but let's just kind of lay the groundwork in case for some reason you've missed the boat here. 2.23 billion active users. Facebook is still the number one, and has been for 10 whole years. Ten years Facebook has been the number one social network. And don't forget, because this is where I love to help people to kind of expand their minds, all the audiences that I speak to from small, medium, large size businesses, entrepreneurs, I speak to a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs. In fact, when Facebook hired me a few years ago to go on tour with the company, all the audiences, thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs around the U.S., that's who came to these Boost your Business events.

 

Mari Smith:     I want to make sure that everybody knows, when we say Facebook, we're not just talking Facebook. There's an entire family of apps. And most people know this, but just a reminder, there's Facebook the main app, of course. Then there's Messenger. Messenger really is a standalone app. I just got finished leading a Messenger Chatbot summit, opening keynote for the summit that's going on today. Instagram, of course, and I've said for a year and a half now that Instagram is Facebook's next Facebook. There's now officially a billion active users, and we'll talk a little bit about Stories today, too. Stories is growing at 15 times the content in the Stories feed ... Excuse me, the content and Stories format is growing 15 times faster than the content in Newsfeed. So Instagram.

 

Mari Smith:     WhatsApp, of course, is the number one messaging app, outside of the U.S. Then there's the Oculus with the goggles, the virtual reality. I put Audience Network in there as well. Facebook sometimes calls ... There's not a separate app, but it's part of their family. Workplace, some of you might use Workplace. It's kind of like Slack, or it was like a project management, in house, communication platform. It's Facebook for private, internal, enterprise use, and then there's Internet.org. And then they even have ... I didn't even put it on the slide, but don't forget they have what's called Secret Building 8, if you've ever seen or heard of that. Facebook actually has this building, they've called it Secret Building 8 for some time, and they are working on some pretty advanced technology. At some point, they're going to be coming out with an in-home video chat device with facial recognition, and you will be able to do shopping and all kinds of things.

 

Mari Smith:     It got delayed. It was going to get launched this year, but for obvious reasons over all the challenges Facebook's faced, they actually had to delay the launch of that, but that's going to be competing with the likes of Google's in-home device, and of course, Amazon's in-home device. So conversational commerce is a very, very rapidly growing arena with activated by voice, and if you keep an eye on any of the Amazon stats out there, like you've got Amazon buyers and then Amazon Prime members, how they spend quite a bit more, and then even higher above that is Amazon Echo owners, being able to order things just by voice. That's a whole future arena, and Facebook has billions and billions of dollars, and so they are investing in that. They're at the forefront of many of these developmental technologies.

 

Mari Smith:     So when I talk Facebook, I'd just really like everybody to think expansive, and thinking about the wider range of everything that Facebook's doing. They also have 30,000 employees. I don't know if you knew that, and they've got offices in major, major cities all over the world.

 

Mari Smith:     So they also have this 10 year roadmap, and they've been ... They actually brought this out about five years ago, and they've been updating it. So here's Zuckerberg on stage, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, on stage at the annual F8 Developer Conference earlier this year. And you see now, they're at kind of the three year mark, focusing on Facebook and Instagram, and they're kind of in here between the three and the five year mark, where they're focusing on ... Notice the order they've got. Video first. Search was an interesting, because I've often found search to be very challenging on Facebook. Anytime I'm looking for anything on Facebook I just Google it. It's gotten a lot better over the years. Groups, massive emphasis on groups. See where my cursor is there.

 

Mari Smith:     Of course they've got WhatsApp, Messenger, Workplace, Marketplace. So these whole ... This array here, what's that? Seven different focus points, and we're right there. But of course, with an eye on the horizon to the future and the 10 year vision is connectivity, artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality. So just kind of keeping our eye on, where is Facebook taking that vision in terms of small businesses? How can we be early adopters and integrate and maximize and optimize everything that Facebook offers? And I'll tell you, that's what today's presentation is all about. In several areas is definitely Messenger and Messenger Chatbots, and Instagram and doing Instagram Stories and Instagram Stories ads. Okey-dokey? So we'll go into that a little bit more.

 

Mari Smith:     So how does Facebook help small business owners? Well, these are some of the ways. To build a loyal following. Groups. If you don't have a Facebook group yet, and you're confused and not sure and kind of wondering if it's for you, well, it depends of course on what industry you're in and what resources you have, but I actually strongly recommend creating. You could create an open public group, so it could be open but you approve membership, or it could just be open, but I would recommend approving membership, and then that would be a free open group, so just really as a way to build out a different way of communicating with your audience.

 

Mari Smith:     I see a lot of tools that I work with, for example, Wave is a great video tool. I'm going to talk about that today, wave.video. Or MobileMonkey, they're a chatbot company. They have, for instance, groups that are for users and support, and so often what happens is that you'll get a lot of peer-support, and so those are some great things to do as well. Also just even like a think tank or brainstorming, or you could have people who are early access to different products or features, and they're testers for you. So that was one way with a group, but obviously you can have your loyal following and the public on your page. Creating communities, also, in a group.

 

Mari Smith:     Selling products. Facebook has the shop. If you have retail, you can integrate a Facebook shop. Perhaps you use Shopify. Shopify is a great eCommerce tool that you might be integrating with likes of Instagram, with the Instagram shop tab, and then Instagram is bringing out a separate standalone shopping app. So if you have a retail store, if you're a small local business and you also want to kind of shift into selling products online, maybe you already do but you want to get more into that, keep an eye on what Instagram is doing with their new shopping app. Of course, you've got the ability to already sell products through Facebook shop, Instagram shop tabs.

 

Mari Smith:     Building influencer relationships. This is really, really a great, great way to elevate your reach and your results, is looking to align yourself with an influencer. They could be micro influencers. They don't have to have tens of millions of fans, or even hundreds of thousands of fans or followers. A micro influencer could be a person who has a very loyal, devoted fan base that's not competing with what you're offering, but could be a fantastic overlap and add value, whatever it is, to your product or service, and you could approach this influencer or micro influencer and start to build those relationships with them. And how it works is you compensate them. You compensate them for promoting your product or service or company.

 

Mari Smith:     You staying on top of trends for sure, you know, subscribing to different chatbots and/or joining different Facebook groups that really helps you to be on top of trends. Of course, a big sidebar there. I do have to say, obviously when it comes to Facebook, we've got to be extremely discerning and know that there is fake news out there. Unfortunately, the fake news is actually getting more refined. Christopher, my partner and I, we often talk behind the scenes about all the different kinds of crazy AI that's happening, and how easy it's going to be for being able to perpetuate news. Not even just news, just like videos of people that looks like it's that person, so we always have to go and check the source. Use your due diligence. Be Smart, be clever before you just hit that share button. There's all kinds of crazy memes that will happen out there, and we want to make sure we always protect our own reputation.

 

Mari Smith:     Be a person that can be extremely trusted. Be a person that has an impeccable reputation of always checking the source of content that you share out there on Facebook, and really all these different platforms, but primarily Facebook, right? Because then you'll be leading the way with your business, your brand, the company that you run, that people just know they can come to trust what it is that you're sharing, and that comes with sometimes a little bit of research. You have all your different sources too, and Facebook's gotten a little bit better about that. They put the little information link and you can see, and sometimes they'll even pop up a little warning and it will say, "Oh, this has been flagged as incorrect," or maybe you want to check Snopes or something like that.

 

Mari Smith:     So increasing SEO, for sure. On your Facebook page, you want to make sure that your about section has plenty of narrative, that you've got lots of keywords in there, you've filled it all out, lots of description and key phrases and keywords, because all of that is findable on Google. It's all findable on your searches. Now then, if I go into ... Yeah. If I go over here, and you've probably ... Every page has this little section here, it's called about. You can put an additional picture in there, and then people can pop this up. Whether anybody ever reads that or not, but this in here, this is great information. You can fill out as long or as short as you want, and you can format the text, and all of that in there is a for SEO, as well as all the information in your about tab. You want to fill this out as much as you can because all of that's really, really helpful for your SEO.

 

Mari Smith:      And then communicate with customers, no question. Obviously, through groups, through commenting publicly, but most definitely a very, very growing trend, a growing arena is the Messenger Chatbots. You can find out more about that actually on my page. I just recently led a Chatbot presentation with MobileMonkey.

 

Mari Smith:     So let's take a look now, kind of stand back for a moment. After having said all of this, we already know. We've drunk the koolaid, in a good way. We know that Facebook can help small business owners to grow, and that's important. It has all these great features, and it's been a challenging year, like I said at the beginning, and we have to talk about the elephant in the room. It's definitely been a challenging year for Facebook, so how do we rise above the noise or rise above anything that's inaccurate or that's been challenging and make the best of what Facebook really does offer us, and really take the high path?

 

Mari Smith:     Now this is Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress earlier this year. That was a very grueling time for him, but I thought he handled himself incredibly well, and we're actually now nine months on from when Zuckerberg, he first changed the algorithm. That was in early January. Remember he was favoring meaningful social interaction and posts by friends and family, so that was kind of the biggest ding, if you will, to Facebook page owners. You're a small business owner, entrepreneur, you have your business page, maybe you've been getting some reach, and then all of a sudden maybe your reach shifted up, and Facebook definitely does want us to spend money on ads, but at the same time, Facebook wants us to make sure that the content we're creating is adding value, it is sparking what they call meaningful social interaction, which is more than just a reaction. It's definitely more than passive consumption, especially when it comes to video.

 

Mari Smith:     Facebook has a mission statement just for video, and it's ... I can't remember it off the top of my head, but it's specifically ... I don't have it right in front of me, but it's specifically around generating community belonging and sparking discussion. Their video mission isn't just about getting more people to watch video. It's about creating that community, and that's why, for instance, they launched features like the Watch Party inside of groups. Watch party inside of groups is super cool. In a way, I wish they'd given it a different name because you've got the Watch platform, which is totally separate and different, but then you got a Watch Party, which is also a very different feature that is in groups, and you can create kind of like a mock up of a live, that you can go into a group, an admin or a moderator can create like a playlist, even. You can get your popcorn, sit down, watch some videos with your group members, maybe for education, maybe for entertainment, but it's all about creating that engagement.

 

Mari Smith:     It's also been a year of major challenges, obviously with the data breach scandal earlier this year, congressional testimony with Zuck and friends here, election interference, privacy concerns, huge stock losses. So as a small business owner, if you've been paying attention to the mainstream headlines for most of this year, you could definitely be forgiven for thinking, "Oh, I don't know if Facebook's for me. I've kind of tried. I don't know. I'm not sure if I'm getting the results I want." You could definitely be forgiven for thinking those thoughts, and however, that's the main purpose of my session here today is to help you to see the different perspective, and all that Facebook still offers, and all of the business and the growth and the sales and the customers that you can still access, and that you might be missing out on if you're not doing certain things when it comes to your Facebook marketing. Okay? So that's why I'm going to be going ahead and showing some more things.

 

Mari Smith:     Yeah. This is belive, belive.tv. I am a busy lady today, yes, and I will definitely share my slides with you and I'll get to your questions as well, my friends. Okay, perfect. So Chris Cox, who is the chief product officer. I thought this was really interesting. Earlier this year he posted that they had just announced they hired Antonio J. Lucio to be their new CMO, chief marketing officer, and he posted this real great picture. He used to be at HP, Hewlett Packard. Before that he was a CMO at Visa and PepsiCo. So he brings ... Look at this. He says an extraordinary reputation in the industry as a leader, a marketer, an operator, wise and gracious.

 

Mari Smith:     Now I pulled this part, it's further down in the update that Chris put, and I thought this really summarized where we're at right now with that previous slide in the Facebook landscape. Facebook's story is at an inflection point, right? This is Chris Cox posting on August 23rd this year. We've never faced bigger challenges, and we've never had more opportunities to have a positive impact on the world ... Yay, speaking my language ... in our families, our friendships, our communities, and our democracy by improving our products at their core, and then by telling the story outside that we all know to be true inside.

 

Mari Smith:     So kudos to Chris. I thought that was a really great statement, and you know, I've been evangelist for Facebook since early 2007, so 11 and a half years now, and my passion and enthusiasm has never wavered during that time. I've definitely had some challenging times, just like all of us here, when my ads get disproved and I don't know why, and that doesn't happen too often, but you know, I get frustrated sometimes, but it's at the core, at the core, I just absolutely believe in Facebook and all it can do for people, for consumers, and for businesses of all sizes.

 

Mari Smith:     So let me give you this slide on, what is working now? Having kind of just, as I say, addressed all the elephants in the room, what is working now? Well, organic posts. I'm going to share with you some of the latest research that there still is a traction that you can get with your organic posts. Definitely heavy emphasis on video, and Facebook is favoring creators. I'll show you some different resources of where you can tap in to get more involved in the creator community on Facebook. Stories for sure. I mentioned how fast that's growing on Instagram. Not so much Facebook, but it's still growing, and Facebook's bringing out ads to Stories as well, and then you've got Messenger with the Chatbots, and I'll talk about ads a little bit too.

 

Mari Smith:     So these components, if you do your organic posts combined with predominantly video. If it's appropriate, creator is not for everybody, I'll show you where to get your creator community and involved with that, sign up for that. Stories is something you can just start doing right away, Messenger Chatbots, and then refining your ads, and even just reducing your span. I found with me, sometimes I used to put a much higher dollar amount on my ads, and I'm experimenting right now with just a smaller amount, but doing more. More often, more promotions, but with smaller amounts, so always testing, always experimenting.

 

Mari Smith:     So with the organic content, let's talk about that first, and this is our good friends Buffer and BuzzSumo. They teamed up and they analyzed 43 million Facebook posts from the top 20,000 brand. Now, that was just recently, and I actually posted about it on my page, and we can get you the link of where you can go and read their study and all the stats and whatnot. I've pulled just a couple of them out here.

 

Mari Smith:     This is actually signals that effect the Newsfeed content rankings. Most of you know this, but just in case you don't, the average time spent on content, and Facebook knows that. I was leading a training the other day, and we were talking about this. So whether you interact with content or not in terms of reacting, commenting, or sharing, or actually hitting the play button if it hasn't auto played, Facebook knows on desktop, on mobile, if you have hovered, if you've paused, you've paused long enough to maybe gaze at a picture, or maybe it is an auto play video, and then obviously you're logged as a video view, but you might spend a while just looking at a post. And so that's a component. Overall engagement, the time it's posted, the type of content it is, how informative it is. All of these different factors go into whether a piece of content shows up in the Newsfeed for that audience or not.

 

Mari Smith:     One of the major factors by far is engagement, as we mentioned earlier, that Facebook's favoring meaningful social interaction, right? So you want to get your audience to comment as best you can, comment, ideally as a full sentence, maybe three, four, five, six words or more. Not just one word, not just like ... You can [inaudible 00:21:38]. I see a lot of people when they're doing a Facebook live or a broadcast, they'll say, "Tell us where you're from," and people will put the city in, and that's fine. That's a great way to kind of jumpstart the algorithm, if you will. Or you could have people ... Maybe you're running a contest and they comment to enter, and they have to answer a question. What's your number one question about our latest dresses we're carrying or what ... I don't know, whatever kind of store you are, or business.

 

Mari Smith:     I don't know, whatever kind of store you are or business you are. So encouraging longer comments, for sure. And I've also seen some experts in some schools of thought out there that say if you don't get much engagement on a post, delete it. I'm not a fan of that because I just always think if someone's commented, they've interacted and maybe they want to come back and read it, or maybe even they've saved it. And then all of a sudden, you delete it, but I don't know. Some people just really like to do that and if they're really kind of trying to boost the algorithm.

 

Mari Smith:     Instead, I would just try adding a few dollars to get a bit more reach and more engagement, or maybe try editing the narrative a bit if it's not as enticing for engagement. But even a few dollars can make a big, big difference to your organic reach. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but as you are spending money on ads and boosting posts, even a few dollars, what happens is the algorithm will automatically kick up your organic reach. So that's a good thing.

 

Mari Smith:     Here's your recommended Facebook strategy. You want to focus on the ROI, the return on investment of each post. Now, I've actually been been advocating this for years, is I recommend that you never put content out there, really on any social channel, that you're not willing to put some money behind. I mean, occasionally, sure. Stories is different because really, you're just telling a story, you're narrating, and of course you're being strategic and interspersing some business content. But generally speaking, we're talking right here with your primary Facebook page posts. Don't just publish filler content.

 

Mari Smith:     Of course, if you're a media outlet, if you're doing news, you wanting just posting a lot, maybe you tend to post memes or inspirational motivational quotes and they get good response. That's great. But I'm going to show you an example here of what I'm talking about. The ROI of each post, so instead of just broadcasting your message saying, "Oh, we got a new post up, go check this link out." And some people I see it's just very automated, right? And they're not getting much reach. Some pages I look at, they just got no engagement, no reach, and and they're basically just putting link posts.

 

Mari Smith:     But instead, if you focus on increasing your engagement and interacting with your audience, I will show you an example in a moment, and then if you're creating highly shareable content and optimizing for mobile consumption. So I'm going to go into these three components a little bit more here in my upcoming slides and if you've got any questions, of course, pop them in. I will come right to your questions as soon as possible.

 

Mari Smith:     Let's look at HubSpot, my friends over at HubSpot. So they have a relatively new Facebook marketing strategy. They're doing exactly that with the focusing on the ROI of each post. They pretty much stopped posting link posts and they're creating viral videos and images and not doing things that don't work, such as posting links to their websites. Now these are just screenshots of some fun videos. I'm going to go actually over to their page. Let's just pull this up and you'll go HubSpot, fill it right. Fingers are not working today.

 

Mari Smith:     1.8 million fans based out of Cambridge and Boston. I was just in Boston a couple of weeks ago. I was speaking at HubSpot's annual conference, Inbound. I love, love, love that cover video. It's really pretty. It says, "Grow better." So pretty. It's really nicely done. I love that movement. I love when there's just a bit of movement, but it's not too like in your face. It's not too intense. It's subtle. It's almost like an animated GIF. It's really pretty. So just calling that out in terms of video.

 

Mari Smith:     So for example, here's one that's from two hours ago. It's already got almost 600 views, and you'll just see the style of what HubSpot has adopted now. Actually, many pages are doing. It's just more educational. You see how this one's got the lower thirds. You want to design your video content that can be consumed with sound off. You can watch the entire video without turning your sound on if you want. So you want the text overlay and/or captions. In this case, this one has captions. There's Elon Musk, our friend.

 

Mari Smith:     That was yesterday, almost 4,000 views. Get some good views and as I scroll on down here to some more videos, you'll see there's about hacking Instagram ads. Same thing with the captions. Nicely done. And you'll see they alternate between a landscape format and the square format. Square tends to work really well for mobile. So that's a great tip for doing optimizing for mobile is square. Of course, you can always do portrait format as well. Okie dokie.

 

Mari Smith:     So this is just a great example. Now then, let me just show you one more. I know that there was one in here in terms of a link because often what HubSpot will do is a put a link in or they'll put a link in as the comments. You can totally do that. So the short, short narrative tends to work well. Short narrative, video post, and you can always put a link in the comment, first comment. You can also put a link right here as well next to the narrative. So that works really nicely.

 

Mari Smith:     So that's just an interesting strategy you'll see. So focusing on the ROI of each post, maybe doing one video a day, if you can. One video a day would be great. If you can't do that, do maybe two or three times a week making a video post and not a link post. Oh, I just have to give a little toot of my own horn. I mentioned Inbound, that's HubSpot's annual marketing conference. They just had this in Boston two weeks ago with 24,000 attendees all over the world, marketers, and celebrities, and personalities, and agencies.

 

Mari Smith:     And guess who was the number one influencer? 124 million impacts with my tweets. OMG. Two and a half times more than Deepak Chopra. OMG. He was the opening keynote on the first night. So just tooting my own horn. I don't do that often, but I really like HubSpot and I liked that conference. If you get a chance to go to Inbound, they hold it every year in September in Boston, lovely city, really like Boston. There's my friend Larry too. He's in Boston, founder of MobileMonkey. And then they're great. They always have great celebrity keynotes. Great. Great. And then Shonda Rhimes was there too. She was one of the keynotes. That's great.

 

Mari Smith:     So anyway, switching gears again, I'm going to give you some homework, my friends. So recommended exercise in terms of focusing on the ROI of each post, organic and paid, but organic in particular, of your main Facebook page. Go through your last 20, 30, 40, 50 if you can, Facebook posts and examine each one from a consumer perspective. And ask yourself, even if you're a B2B, just consumption. It doesn't have to be a consumer. If you're B2B or B2C. I always say P2P anyway, people to people. Just look at your posts from the perspective of a person in your target market. Looking at that post and say, "If I were to see this in my newsfeed, would I feel compelled to interact with the content?"

 

Mari Smith:     Now then, sidebar, interacting with content obviously means reacting, liking, commenting, sharing, doing the meaningful social interaction is definitely doing the more commenting as I mentioned earlier, more in depth commenting. However, there's a whole other school of thought out there, and there's actually some studies. I don't have it right in front of me this second, but the thing is that sometimes your best customers are not necessarily your highest engagers.

 

Mari Smith:     So they may, especially in B2B, they might see your content, it's top of mind. They've seen your ad, they saw your Facebook live, they saw your story, they saw your ad in a story. They keep seeing you in different places. They might see you in other social platforms, maybe they're on your email list. Now they're in your Messenger chat bot, they're following you on Twitter, or whatever it might be. They see you, but they might not ever interact.

 

Mari Smith:      And then all of a sudden, because it takes seven to 17 touches nowadays, and then all of those things I just mentioned are touches or they're interacting, they're seeing your brand, your business, your message, and all of a sudden they're like, oh my gosh, you know what? I'm in the need for what you're offering. And then they come in, they sign up, and they've never engaged.

 

Mari Smith:     So I put that out there because I want to be careful that we don't get too hung up on, oh my God, I've put this post out there. I absolutely have to get 100 comments or having succeeded. Comments are good, reactions, all of that, the meaningful social interaction, that's great. We're now kind of playing by Facebook's rules of getting that engagement and getting more reach, which is a good thing. And ultimately, what we want is more business. We want more leads, we want more traffic to our website, we want more email sign ups, and we want more sales.

 

Mari Smith:     So always keep those points in mind and don't get too carried away on like it's only about the interaction. So nonetheless, I do want you to go and look at your past posts and just seeing how compelling they are. See if there's something you need to shift up. Speaking of sharing, my friends over there at a Marketo, Brian Carter and Marketo put together this really great PDF and like I say, I'll get you these slides, but this is just in a bit.ly why people share FB, whoopsies. My links gone one over like that, but you can just click on the link and it goes, it will take you directly to the PDF. I think it's a 35-page PDF.

 

Mari Smith:     It's an amazing document here, and I've excerpted out seven components of it, of what people share on Facebook and why they share it. So seven functions of highly shared posts. This is just one element of that fabulous PDF that Brian Carter and Marketo put together. Marketo is also a marketing automation platform.

 

Mari Smith:     Give. So this is why people share. In your post, if you give offers or discounts or deals or contests, I love contests. I do contests maybe about once a month or so and that always gets some terrific engagement, great comments. The advising. Tips, especially about problems, and this is a good one because you want to look at what are some of the frequently asked questions? It's one thing for sure for FAQs, but frequently talked about issues and problems and challenges that people might have in your industry that you could speak to.

 

Mari Smith:     I work with a lot of companies in the financial arena, for example, insurance companies, mortgage, et cetera. And we will talk about, well, what are some of the related areas? It could be a new tax law, or it could be about tax returns, tax time. It could be about interest rates. It could be all kinds of different areas that are around the finance industry, for example. Warnings, warnings about dangers that can affect anyone. This is all the components. Seven components of why people feel compelled to hit that share button on Facebook.

 

Mari Smith:     Amuse, everybody knows that one, right? Funny pictures, quotes. Inspire, inspirational quotes. Amazing, amazing pictures or facts. And then unite. This is a post to act as a flag to carry or a way to brag to others about your membership and group. I can hear my birds outside. They're rather loud today.

 

Mari Smith:     All right, so then you also want to optimize for mobile consumption. I mentioned earlier about how square videos tend to be good for mobile, but also you've got now what's really growing trend is vertical video. More than 95 percent of Facebook users access on their mobile device and a big factor that's actually driving that is vertical video. And I know even if you're one of the old school folks, I say old school tongue in cheek, that prefers to watch video ... Oops, I just hit stop sharing. I did not mean to do that. Not to worry. Bring it back up.

 

Mari Smith:     Put that up there and there it goes. My apologies. Now this is going to be ... Here it comes. There it goes. If you're one of the folks that tends to watch your, you prefer to see a video, for example, like right now I'm broadcasting in landscape. So if you prefer to watch full screen on your phone, you're going to tip it, right? So you tip your phone and watch it landscape.

 

Mari Smith:     But what's really been growing in popularity is this whole vertical video, which is the stories format, right? Nine by 16. And so that is really, it's definitely ... You're seeing it more on Instagram. You're seeing it on Facebook. Facebook has these funded news shows that are like Anderson Cooper, you know, ABC on location, Bloomberg has one. I did a whole Facebook live recently talking about that, about vertical video. And so Facebook is paying these media organizations to produce vertical videos. YouTube has now a whole vertical video thing.

 

Mari Smith:     79 percent of vertical video consumers agree that the format is more engaging. That was a Facebook study. 65 percent of respondents said brands using vertical video for their advertising, are "more innovative." Very interesting. Yes? So create videos between 30 and 120 seconds, right? Two minutes max for this purpose, for optimizing for mobile consumption. There's different types of videos for different purposes.

 

Mari Smith:     So for example, stories on Instagram are 15 seconds. Video ads if you're going to be doing pre-roll or it's called mid-roll ad breaks, those are five to 15 seconds, usually six is recommended, six seconds up to 15 seconds. And then in a moment, I'm going to be talking about the Watch platform and creators. And Facebook's really looking for three minutes or longer to get your videos on the Watch platform.

 

Mari Smith:     So we have to be careful when we're talking about videos because there's a variety of different purposes for them. And certainly for consumption, just general consumption in the feed, 30 to 120 seconds and shorter captions. Captions meaning the descriptions, the narrative that goes with the video.

 

Mari Smith:     And then certainly increasing your use of Facebook live. Facebook is still absolutely favoring Facebook live. It gets six times engagement than regular videos whilst it's live, and then a lot more as well continuing on whilst your broadcast is, people are catching it with the replay and whatnot. And of course, you can boost it afterwards. Oh, by the way, I had the boost button on my scheduled Facebook lives about two months earlier this year, and I think Facebook was just doing an experiment and a test and that was awesome because I found that I could get significantly more reach beforehand obviously with boosting a scheduled live. And then now, now it's just basically you can't. They took it away for some reason. I guess it was just a Beta test and I was in the Beta group and now it's gone. But I'm positive it will be coming back.

 

Mari Smith:     So in any case, with video and with live, definitely doing more lives and then also doing more video and image posts. Then you do link posts. Saving your link posts maybe for ads or what are called dark posts, which means it goes out as an ad in the feed or wherever you place it, but not on your wall. You use the Facebook ads manager for that. HubSpot example where you could see pretty much every post they're doing now is a short video. And then definitely using Facebook live more often.

 

Mari Smith:     Today, I'm using belive.tv. This is actually a talk show platform. You can have multiple guests on, you can have actually up to four people on screen at any one time. So if it was yourself and three guests or you could have one or two guests, whatever you want, you can have 10 people in the lobby, meaning that in the green room, you can see who's coming on. You can also share your desktop like I'm doing here. So you've got belive.tv and there's numerous apps out there that will allow you to do Facebook live streaming from your desktop.

 

Mari Smith:     And then for creating videos, many of you know I absolutely love wave.videos. These are super awesome platform that allows you to pull from 200 million assets they have, video clips and images, and then also export in multiple formats. They have all the different formats, as I was mentioning about square, and then you've got landscape, and then you've got your nine by 16 story format. So this is really a great tool. You got plenty of music in here. It's just, you can add your watermark and different fonts and colors, really great. There's no excuse not to be making more video. That's just a wave.video.

 

Mari Smith:     Let's look at a great storytelling example because this is an element of video that you'll see HubSpot's really starting to do a great example of that, of just putting human beings, putting people on camera, integrating real people into their videos, and doing some storytelling. I love to use this example, Raleigh Diamonds, a diamond store. Now obviously, if you are a jewelry store, you've got so many stories you could tell. I think most small businesses have stories that you don't even realize that you can probably tell, and so this is a great example of this.

 

Mari Smith:     On the left here, a couple that got just got married at 75. How cool is that? I love this example here on the right, Marquis and Amy, beautiful love story, and then so Raleigh actually created a video. Now I'm actually going to play the video. You may or may not be able to hear the volume that well, I'll turn it up just in case. It's a short, it's about a one minute excerpt of like a four or five minute video that was produced for Raleigh. So let's see if we can play that. Should come in. Come on. There it goes.

 

Mari Smith:     I'm Amy.

 

Marquis:          I'm Marquis. This is our story.

 

Mari Smith:     We painted the house together. I was 16, he was 17.  This is unreal. I'm so, so lucky. I don't even know how to explain it. It was just like magic.

 

Mari Smith:     Okay. So that, like I say, is just as a super short excerpt of a longer video. If you get a chance, you can go and check out the longer one. But that's a beautiful example of storytelling, putting the focus on the customer, and then as people are watching your video, whatever product or service that you're selling or offering, think about how you can wrap the storytelling element around a bit and create those videos. And it doesn't take a lot of expanse. It really doesn't.

 

Mari Smith:     Use a reasonably good maybe $500, $600 DSLR camera, some lighting. There's like a three point lighting always works well, and a good microphone. I actually have a whole video gear list that you can download. You can just go to marismith.com/videokit and that will actually get you all the different gear that I use myself for my home studio and I also take it on the road because just with your phone, your smartphone, you can have the whole mobile setup and you can be capturing so much great video content. And then you can supplement it with using Wave, right?

 

Mari Smith:     All right, so I promised you I would share with you how Facebook is favoring creators and I strongly recommend that if you have content that you want to create and showcase on video, you can go ahead and go to facebook.com/creators. You can register there and you can also sign up for Facebook's Launchpad. And they actually say there, it's ideal if you have plans to create videos. Remember, I said three minutes or longer and that's for the Watch platform in particular. Okay? So I'm just going to hop over there. Creators, and you'll see anybody can sign up here.

 

Mari Smith:     Facebook brought this out not that long ago. Ready to make your thing a thing? Welcome to a new community helping video creators level up on Facebook. So obviously, YouTube has a whole community of creators. You can go in any of these things. There's also a creator app, of course. You can scroll down here and go ahead and get more information. And then up the top here, here's the Launchpad that you can go ahead and click on that, and it tells you right here what that's about.

 

Mari Smith:     Creators are selected for this limited program to be eligible for cash bonuses and up to four qualifying videos. And then there's an opportunity to access and use your ad break monetization product, earn money through ads, design for video creators in the US. This is just for US for now anyway, for now, right? Longer. When they say longer, that's three minutes or more. And that's specifically, this is next generation television, my friends. This is absolutely Facebook TV. So if this is something you're interested in, Facebook's really favoring that aspect of creators, and you do get early access and all kinds of good stuff.

 

Mari Smith:     And then Facebook Watch, if you don't yet have your show. What Facebook is favoring is these episodic episodes, right? And you might have even noticed when you go to do, you upload a video, if you go in and you edit your Facebook live, you'll see now there's different features. You can say, it'll say, "Is this an episode? Is this part of a series?" And when you do select those, your video can now show up in the Watch platform whether you have an official show yet or not, because as I say, Facebook's really favoring the videos for pulling them into the Watch platform.

 

Mari Smith:     And you can also apply for your own Watch show. FB Watch Form will get you there. Bit.ly/fbwatchform. And that's just gonna be, you just fill that in and you let Facebook know that you want to, you have an idea for a show and you just fill in the details there. But don't wait until the Facebook comes back and approves you. You can go ahead and begin your episodic content, make a playlist, and do that all right there on your Facebook page.

 

Mari Smith:     Speaking of Facebook Watch, this is one of my clients, Sonia Stringer, and she's an expert in teaching women network marketing. She has a business academy, and she recently got into the Watch platform. She's one of the students and participants of my Fast Facebook program, Fast Facebook Results program. And she has now her show-

 

Mari Smith:     ... fastest results program, and she has now her show on watch. Actually, she chose to convert her original Facebook page into a show page, and you can do that. She has over 3,000 followers. You can do that or you could build a whole separate page, like our friend Gary, for example. He has his Facebook page, but then he has a separate watch page. You see people doing that, but it depends. It may not be for everybody, but this is just something to keep an eye on, and Facebook is really favoring and just moving in that direction of Facebook TV.

 

Mari Smith:     For sure, then we want to also embrace Messenger marketing, setting up your chat bot, maybe doing some what are called Click-to-Messenger ads. That's in your ads, in the call to action, you go into Ads Manager, instead of having people click and leave Facebook, or wherever the ad is placed, it might be placed on Instagram, then you can have people click that button and it opens up in Messenger, and especially if that's connected into your chat bot where you're going to begin to engage with your audience and begin a conversation, and maybe answer some FAQ or get them to do a quiz or survey to kind of segment and give people really what they want. You can find out more about that on the session I just led on my page earlier.

 

Mari Smith:     This is an example. This is a screenshot right here where I've got my red arrow, this is screenshot of an ad on mobile. That actually would be a video ad, and you can see the button there just says Send Message. This is showing you, I had the same slide in my Messenger chat bot session earlier, so this is actually a company I use called Mobile Monkey. This is a screenshot of what it looks like behind the scenes of when somebody clicks on that send message, I've set it up behind the scenes so that when they click the message, it comes and it says, "Hi! Thank you for letting us know you'd like to learn more. Want the full scoop?"

 

Mari Smith:     Then they just click that learn more, and then it goes ahead and it tells them more information and gives them the link. So it's really a brilliant, brilliant way of doing more lead generation, relationship building, customer care, all right inside of the apps. Right? Obviously people are coming out of the Facebook main feed or wherever they're seeing the ad, they're hopping over to Messenger, but Facebook makes it very, very seamless. So this is a really great strategy.

 

Mari Smith:     All right, a couple more slides, and I'll get to your Q&A. I'll get to your questions, and I'll give you the A. Okie dokie.

 

Mari Smith:     So start using stories. I mentioned about stories, especially on Instagram but also on Facebook, because Instagram is growing. In general, the stories format is growing at 15 times faster than the newsfeed format in terms of content. Facebook is actually predicting, we've only got a few months left of this year, and Facebook is predicting that the stories format consumption, like consumption of content in stories format is going to overtake, is going to surpass consumption of content in the feed format. That's both Instagram and Facebook.

 

Mari Smith:     O you can put stories on both your profile and your page on Facebook, and then you definitely want to be doing more Stories Ads. How you do Stories Ads is right inside of Facebook Ads Manager. You can create them, for example, using that wave.video I showed you where you can export in the 9x16 format. That's just a screenshot over here of an example ad.

 

Mari Smith:     In fact, this example ad is one that's actually being placed across a variety of formats. It's not just being created as a story format because it's got a landscape picture, and anytime you see the text like this in this example, it's like white text in a little black background, that would be the narrative that goes with the image in the link. Then the sign up or the call to action button as they swipe, or you can just tap that little arrow and it pops up.

 

Mari Smith:     That's the example of the Stories Ad. And you always see the little sponsored thing there too.

 

Mari Smith:     This is examples I mentioned to you of the growth. Right? Right now, as of June 2018, the stats that are official and public and out there is Instagram stories has 400 million daily active users, my friends. The whole platform has 1 billion monthly active users, and Instagram Stories. I love it 'cause I think it's like a whole subculture. People are going in there, and they're consuming content in the stories format proactively. They're not just kind of seeing it go by in their feed. They're tapping, and they tap and consume it.

 

Mari Smith:     Facebook right now only has 150 million, probably a little bit more than that by now, that was back in May. WhatsApp they call it Status. I don't know about you, but I rarely consume stories in Messenger format, but they're there, 70 million. Then I notice in this, Tech Crunch put this graph together, and Snapchat, the whole app, 200 million users.

 

Mari Smith:     Now, then, let me talk about the ads component, and then we'll get to your questions. Removal of 3rd party Partner Categories, that's really probably one of the biggest, in terms of targeting, the biggest changes this year. Then also they've tightened up Custom Audiences, which I personally am really glad about because for instance, I know there's people out there that will go and download their LinkedIn contacts, and think that's fair game to have those emails, and then go and upload them to Facebook and create a custom audience or start blasting those emails. That's just one of my pet peeves, I wish LinkedIn wouldn't allow that. I don't know if they still do, I'm pretty sure they do.

 

Mari Smith:     But in any case, the stricter rules around custom audiences, when it comes to Facebook, is you have to confirm and verify and guarantee that you collected those leads, those phone numbers or those email addresses through permission base, like people have actually opted in, which is great. I've seen, for sure, there's been an increase in a tighter process of ad approval. I've had several ads disapproved, which is not like me. I usually get all my ads approved, but I guess I'm just ... I don't know, someone told be the word you're, they don't like using the word you're. I'm like, "Good grief."

 

Mari Smith:     So I recommend maybe you could use audience insights, using your own custom audiences for sure. That's loading up your database in segments, so people who have bought from you, prospects, warm, cold, hot, different segments of leads, certainly people who visited your website, different pages on your website. Then you've also got engagement custom audiences, which is people who have watched your videos, and then retargeting them with other content. Then also building out look alike audiences.

 

Mari Smith:     Now, I know I'm giving you a crash course, and some people say stop drinking from the fire hose. Many people here, you're like, "Oh Mari, I knew all that already. Yup, I'm doing that, I'm doing that, I'm doing that. Okay, here's a few new things." Other people, depending where you're at with your business development and your use of Facebook and Instagram, you're like, "Oh my gosh, the more I know I know, the more I know I don't know." Right? Familiar with that saying? You're like, "Mari, I've listened to you for an hour, and I'm like, oh my gosh, I know about 10% of it, and I need to dive deeper."

 

Mari Smith:     I've got more trainings coming up. We'll do more trainings on ads and on Facebook, on Instagram, and on stories, and video, and all these great things. Segmenting, for sure.

 

Mari Smith:     All right, friends, as I mentioned, this is brought to you by Bank of America Small Business Community, and they have hundreds of articles for small business owners. The articles in the whole Small Business Community, there's actually a whole community over there you can join, you can interact, you can consume all the great content, it's designed to help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow online and offline. That's the full link, smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com, or I made you a simple Bitly, bit.ly/bofa_sbc.

 

Mari Smith:     With that, I'm actually going to click it and show you. As I mentioned, I've actually been writing for Bank of America for most of this year. I'll just go ahead and sign in, like that. You don't have to sign it, actually, by the way. You can become a user or you can find lots and lots of content. But if you want to obviously interact, engage, then you definitely want to do that. So yay, look at that, I'm a Featured Expert.

 

Mari Smith:     I can show you my own content right here, as I just wanted to draw your attention to that. There's lots and lots of great articles. I have a related article that goes with this particular Facebook Live, Is Facebook Still the King of Social Media? I think I had a link. Oh, you know what? I think I put that link in the Facebook Live. I'll make sure to put it in the comments, too. But this is an article that I wrote earlier that goes with this Live here today. Is Facebook Still the King of Social Media?

 

Mari Smith:     I start to go into why small businesses must embrace Facebook Marketing. There's 80 million businesses on Facebook, only 6 million advertisers. And on Instagram, 25 million business profiles, 2 million advertisers. Massive potential for business owners. Still the world's number one social network. I talked about the family of apps, and Instagram being Facebook's next Facebook, the stories format. I talk about the past, present, future of Facebook. So a really good article there, definitely take a look at that my friends. In some ways, honestly, as I think I said down here, yeah, the 14 year old company, Facebook is going through some teenage growing pains, but they're just as strong, just as robust, and it's still a profound opportunity for everything that you could possibly think of to grow your business with all that Facebook offers.

 

Mari Smith:     With that, let's hop over to some Q&A, my friends. Let's do that, okie dokie. Great.

 

Mari Smith:     What are you saying? Hi, Ed. Yes please! What's yes please? Yeah, got it, okay, great. Guilty, I need to do more on Instagram, you got it.

 

Mari Smith:     Okay, so Natura's Foods, great question. She says is Watch only for US? It just in the last, I want to say six weeks or so, four weeks, Facebook now has launched the Watch platform globally. Okie dokie? Everybody should be able to see the Watch platform globally. Let's just go like this, and if I go over to my home page here, and you should see, everybody should see this around the world. If you don't see it yet, then it's definitely coming for everybody. But right here, it's the third one down on the menu, and it's going to show you all the different videos. Click the little arrow to go to the main homepage if you haven't seen it yet.

 

Mari Smith:     I like that they used to have categories, like what's popular now, what's trending now, what your friends are watching, what's funny, all kinds of categories. But now, to me, I don't know, it's just a big mish-mash. A big mish-mash. You could just scroll and scroll and scroll. You could just go on a total binge watch. It's crazy, right? There's everything from the Mayo Clinic to all kinds. There's Goop, our friend Gwyneth Paltrow, right? Seth Meyers, oh my goodness. Bob Proctor. Look at that, all kinds of things. Try not to laugh. Amazing what's in here. Jay Shetty, I like following him. Sad guru. Where's our friend Mike?

 

Mari Smith:     So is this a way of consuming content on mobile or desktop, or television? So this, where I've got overlayed is actually my phone. If I pull up my Facebook like this, and I go into Facebook, and this icon right here, if you can see where my cursor is, the exact same little icon, if you see them side by side where my cursor is up here, there's the Watch platform on desktop, and here's the Watch platform right here. For me, it's the second icon in. It might be different for you, or you might not necessarily have it yet.

 

Mari Smith:     If I tap on that, you'll see all different pages. They've got different. See how it's almost as if it's geared for mobile, right? It's geared for people to just totally, totally binge watch. Then they've got Today's Spotlight. So you're scrolling up and down, and then we can stop and scroll right to left from time to time. All kinds of stuff in here. They keep tweaking it, they're even ... See, you've got left and right for Live Now, and there's everything that's live now. All kinds of things going on, right?

 

Mari Smith:     That's the Watch platform, and they're featuring videos in there. Whether you have a show or not, you may or may not ... Oh, I hope my phone was showing there. I just realized that I don't ... Well, maybe it was showing. I think it was. Sometimes I share the phone just by itself. But anyway, that's great. So Natura's Foods, make sure you take a look and see, you probably already have the Watch platform.

 

Mari Smith:     Let's see. Okay, Steven. "How do you make a list from bots in Messenger or do you leave them in Messenger email list I mean?" Okay, you can do both. Beautiful thing, Steven, is that you don't have to have the email addresses because they're already messenger contacts. So you can message people inside of Messenger, within the rules, and you want to sign up for subscription messages, and you can go check out my other training I just led earlier. But over time, you also want to migrate, not migrate, but it's almost like both and, you want to give people the option to also give you their email address, give them a good reason to do that so you've got something new. You'll see the way I do it. For some of them, different opt ins or options that I have in the bot, like getting my slides or something. I might say, "Here's the slides," and I just give the PDF link, right? No opt in. But then I might also say, "Hey, go check out my video gear list," and that goes to an opt in. It's kinda like both and.

 

Mari Smith:     Yeah. Oh, Gayle, absolutely, yeah, creators. Creators would be great to do painting class. For sure. You have a great business, Gayle, as an artist, and I would definitely go to Creator and sign up there, and also the Launch Pad.

 

Mari Smith:     Yeah, and you said that you're a host on a show in YouTube, but you can, yeah, you can definitely just multipurpose those and put them onto the Watch platform as well.

 

Mari Smith:     Let's see what else we've got here. Oh, that's fantastic, another one. Gayle, you're so active today, I love it. She said she did a live with an organization you work with, and you were a host. You got 8,000 organic reach. That's fantastic! Everyone following the queen, you're the best. 8,000, that's beautiful. That's awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Mari Smith:     Thank you, Scott, I appreciate you putting that link in there.

 

Mari Smith:     No, for lives, it's funny 'cause people have different ... If you're going to go live, I'd say on your mobile, you can use the creator app and go live on vertical. I would do those shorter. But for me, when I'm doing more like this of a training and educational session, I would go maybe 20 minutes minimum, it could be 10, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, but I usually go for an hour. Sometimes if there's more questions, I might even go over. But yeah, exactly.

 

Mari Smith:     That's a good point Ed makes here. It goes back to ask yourself what do you want to do with the video later? Is it going to be used elsewhere? What's the layout? Yeah, good point, yeah. So even with these, like I'm in the center here, I can repurpose this as a square video, but then if I put in the questions or anything that takes up full landscape, that would be a different story, right?

Mari Smith:     All right. Anything else I can help you with here today, friends? Good, good, good. All right, excellent. Thank you, Ashley. Great!

 

Mari Smith:     Yeah, exactly. The call to action, the optional lead capture page, precisely. You got it, Steven.

 

Mari Smith:     And Karlyn, it's not about adding things to watch. The interesting thing, Karlyn, is that what happens with Watch platform is Facebook is basically pulling videos from all kinds of sources, and if you happen to have one video, whether it's live or recorded, or pre-produced, and you upload it, what they're looking for is engagement. So if you have a video, one or more videos on your page, whether it's part of a show or not, it doesn't matter at the moment, then what they're looking at is does this have engagement? Does it have views? Are people interacting, commenting, sharing? Then that could actually just show up in the Watch platform without you even necessarily knowing it, and more people could discover it in the Watch platform.

 

Mari Smith:     Then, Al, yeah, Facebook's definitely offered criteria. Oh, no, actually, that's a good point. It's not necessarily public knowledge, but they definitely are looking for that episodic content. Ideally, if you want a show, if you want a regular show on Facebook, then it does need to be episodic. So you're, let's say, it could be every day, mostly going to be every week. Ideally, it's what they call appointment television, but it doesn't necessarily have to be.

 

Mari Smith:     I just recently was watching Rachel Farnsworth, I think her name is, and she has Stay At Home Chef, and then she has recipes. Recipes Watch is her page, and that has over 4 million fans. Now, she is doing some great things, and you can definitely do well to follow her and all the cool things she's doing with the Facebook Watch and monetizing through ad placement, actually. Of course, when you've got 4 million fans, you can definitely monetize through ad placement, right friends?

 

Mari Smith:     Anyways, I think that's about it for now. I just want to remind you that this is brought to you by Bank of America Small Business Community, and you can find tremendous articles, all kinds of great information here. Business, general business, sales, marketing, technology. Look at all this in the resource center. Small business podcasts, celebrating small business. They've got a good one here, a spotlight on women, some great, great information here for all kinds of entrepreneurs and business owners, and then some great content, people you can follow. Actually, shout out to my fellow contributors here, Steve Strauss, Carol Roth, Ebong Eka, Rieva Lesonsky, and Karen Harrison. People who are influencers contributing content as well to the community.

 

Mari Smith:     Let me see, I'm just going to my content here. You can see all the different views. I think one of my most popular articles here, let's see 7,000. Oh, this one here, Facebook Privacy was most popular, followed by How to use Facebook Groups. Then we've got Facebook Messenger Chat Bot is another good one. Instagram Stories. Best Performing Facebook Ad Formats, and so on and so forth. We're just getting around to our September ones.

 

Mari Smith:     All righty, friends. It's been a joy and a pleasure to be with you here today. As mentioned, this is brought to you by Bank of America Small Business Community. Check out their fabulous resources for articles and all kinds of free resources to help you grow your business.

 

Mari Smith:     I hope by now you've figured out, Facebook is still the king of social media. Thank you my friends. I look forward to seeing you again real soon. Have a blessed rest of your day. Many blessings. Bye for now.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

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

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Halloween Tips for Small Business: “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Episode 11

 

Is your business making the most of the season? Tune in to the latest podcast episode from “The Heartbeat of Main Street” to find out. No tricks – just treats and must-have tips from Small Business Community contributor, Steve Strauss.

 

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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.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I am here, on "The Heartbeat of Main Street," with ForbesBooks and Bank of America, with Steve Strauss. He's the best-selling author of the book Small Business Bible and just wrote an article for USA Today called Tricky Halloween Season Can Be a Treat for Small Businesses. First of all, Steve, tell us about the story. For how long has Halloween been a significant holiday for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:            Well, first of all, Gregg, thank you for having me. Great to be here. Love the show and happy to be on it. Yeah, I was talking to my editor and we were talking about upcoming events. I always try to make the column timely. I've been writing it for a long time, and Halloween was a little ways away. When you start talking about Halloween, it turns out Halloween has changed significantly, especially in the last 10 years or so. Look, not to date myself too much, but it will never be the holiday it was when we, as kids, ran rampant over hills and dales.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And made our own costumes out of junk in the garage or what have you.

 

Steve Strauss:            Right. Yeah, it's increasingly interestingly become an adult holiday in a lot of ways. I saw this one statistic that said since 2009, Halloween spending by adults has doubled from about four billion to almost 10 billion, actually almost tripled. Last year half of all adults bought Halloween costumes. And I love this stat, twenty percent of us plan on outfitting our pets in Halloween costumes, so it's definitely changed.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well and the whole pet market, that's a whole other conversation we could have because

 

Steve Strauss:            Right

 

Gregg Stebben:           That is a fast growing market as well, I understand.

 

Steve Strauss:            Absolutely, so yeah I think it's definitely changed and it's for the small business person, that presents an opportunity, and that's what we tried to cover in that column.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, so my first question for you, Steve, given how much Halloween spending is growing particularly among adults, here's my big question, how come I'm getting invited to the wrong parties?

 

Steve Strauss:            I don't know. You'd have to ask yourself that question.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So, then in all seriousness, I mean there's a chart in USA Today with your article that shows, spending in 2005, $3.3 billion in 2005, and 2018 projected $9 billion, so tripling in 13 years. That's a pretty exciting market, if I own a small business or I'm an entrepreneur, I want to take advantage of that so what kinds of things do I need to know? And I'm glad you published this a little early. You mentioned it being a little early, but the fact that its early gives me a little time as a small business owner to actually take advantage of the lessons in your article, and maybe not plan something that's a bad idea. So let's talk about some good ideas first.

 

Steve Strauss:            Sure, there really are all sorts of things. It's just the idea of getting into the holiday spirit, and this is a great holiday because, it's a nondenominational holiday. Who doesn't like Halloween, right? Decorating the store or even the office in some Halloween decorations, for example is a really easy thing to do. Adding a little orange and black to the windows, or putting pumpkins on the stoop, whatever the case may be. You know just adding Halloween.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Right, and going to a party store to find great decorations is also, it's an hour of time, but it's going to make a big difference.

 

Steve Strauss:            Well yeah, and then you're creating kind of a culture and a vibe around your store, that it's a fun place to be. Of course this applies to a retail store, for sure. But it can also apply to an office, also the other advantage of it is besides getting your customers excited, and maybe giving them a reason to come shop with you if you want to start stocking supplies that are maybe a little Halloween, or beyond that you can just create a culture in your office that allows people to have fun. So maybe some of your employees dress up, and you have some decorations in the office, and people who come in to your office also are in the holiday spirit. It creates a nice, happy thing. People like happy offices, and happy offices create happy employees, and happy employees create happy customers. Happy customers are repeat customers. So it works all the way around.

 

Gregg Stebben:          What a beautiful recipe you've come up with there.

 

                                   You know, I was actually visiting a friend who is in the medical services, so in a sense retail, in the sense that they have medical professionals and clients or patients come to visit, and what they were doing that I thought was really fascinating is, they're having the medical staff and the office staff have a pumpkin carving contest, and the clients get to vote in advance on who will carve the best pumpkin.

 

                                   RELATED CONTENT: How to Host a Successful Event for Your Small Business

 

Steve Strauss:            So that's a great idea. I love that idea. And aside from making it festive, and fun for the customers and all of those things, it does double duty as something that you can post on your social. You know, you have this great pumpkin carving contest and then next thing you know it's on your Instagram page, or on your Facebook page, and you're getting a little more love that way from it as well, I suppose.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well, and in fact they're even leveraging it in social media before Halloween and before the pumpkin carving contest because, they're promoting it in social media now. And people are actually betting, and it's becoming a rivalry and so this kind of good-natured competition, which is also great in social media to build some anticipation, and excitement, and get attention. So it's worked out really well for them, and I think even the people in the contest who are carving the pumpkins are kind of sharing little teases of their designs, and things like that, so it's got a lot of leverage leading up to Halloween, and then of course they'll have the leverage afterwards, and the engagement with the customer.

 

                                   RELATED CONTENT: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Social Media

 

Steve Strauss:            I think that word that you just used, engagement is so key. When we talk about social media, and we talk about using social media to promote your business and get some attention to your business, the word we use is engagement. Well what is engagement? You don't want to just tell people oh I'm having a sale. You don't want to just talk about your business. But if you're having a contest it's a nice thing to be sharing, and doing. Posting the pumpkins or posting the costume contest, and while people are paying attention to you it's not show off-y, it's not salesy, and so it really works to create some social media love, I think.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah and the interesting thing about this contest is it's actually two contests, because there's the pumpkin carving contest and then they're getting the patients, or the customers involved by letting them, in a sense, bet on who the winner will be in advance, so that's another contest. So everybody has a way of winning here. So, if I'm kind of a curmudgeonly person and I own a small business, does it say something about me or have a negative impact if I do nothing for Halloween, and encourage nothing, either for my customers in my store or amongst my employees, even if we're in an office setting?

 

Steve Strauss:            I don't think it says something negative about you, but I think you're missing really a great opportunity. There is so much competition now for people's attention in the small business world. I'm going to say there's 30 million businesses in the United States, 99% are small businesses and that's not even looking at the online world. That's not even looking at the competition you face, you know, the internet. And then getting people's attention and getting them to find, and choose you is increasingly challenging for the small business person. So a holiday like Halloween presents you with an opportunity to standout a little bit.

 

                                   To get some attention, as we were just talking about, to get people to pay attention to you, notice you. And if you really want to do it right and you have the kind of store that lends itself to this, then you start stocking some Halloween treats, or themed items, or themed products, and then you're creating another profit center out of the Halloween holiday. So it's an opportunity. I don't think anyone's going to think bad of you if you don't do Halloween at your store, but they'll think better of you if you do. That's how I see it. Would you agree, disagree?

 

Gregg Stebben:          Well I think that's really well said. I mean it is a lost opportunity, and in business can you afford to lose opportunity? Especially given the amount of money and enthusiasm we talked about, $3.3 billion in 2005 up to $9 billion in spending in 2018.

 

                                   We're talking with Steve Strauss, here on "The Heartbeat Of Main Street," with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. He's the bestselling author of The Small Business Bible, he's written 16 other books as well. He's USA Today's small business columnist, so you've certainly seen him there. He's also a keynote speaker, an entrepreneur, a thought leader, a spokesperson. He's at mrallbiz.com, @stevestrauss on Twitter and Steve Strauss on LinkedIn, as well @theselfemployed on Facebook. He's just recently written a story as one of his columns for USA Today, Tricky Halloween Season Can be a Treat for Small Businesses.

 

                                   I want to change gears here a little bit, Steve, and I want to ask, what are the worst things you've seen or heard small businesses do to take advantage of Halloween? What could I do to really shoot myself in the foot, because I want to make sure I avoid that.

 

Steve Strauss:            One thing you want to avoid doing is, people like to encourage costumes, for example, at the store, but you have to have, I think, a limit on what you allow and that's hard to do. You don't want to censor your employees and nevertheless, you don't want them to wear something to a costume contest, or maybe it's the week of Halloween and you're letting everyone dress up, and that seems really festive, and then all of a sudden they come into the store wearing something inappropriate. In whatever way, maybe it's political, or maybe it's religious, or maybe it doesn't look right, whatever the case may be. Then you don't want to have to reprimand your employee, or maybe you're not there and they're wearing this at the store and, your employees are a part of your brand.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So, the lesson here is set ground rules for people so they understand that these things are great, these are off limits, this is why they're off limits, make it common sense and just tell them in advance so you don't have to correct them later.

 

Steve Strauss:            Absolutely, and I do think that's the biggest mistake I've seen. Other mistakes people can make is not using social media right. Social media is a challenge for a lot of small businesses. They want to use it. They know they're supposed to use it. That message certainly has gotten through, but figuring out how to use it effectively during a holiday, like Halloween, it can be the challenge. So it's not as much of a mistake, as again when we were just talking about, lost opportunities. If you are doing something within your store to promote Halloween, maybe you even have a Halloween sale make sure you're using your social properly to get that message out there and, you're sharing your costume contest and things like that because it would be a waste to do those great things in the store in the other hand and, not share them and not get the social media attention you might be able to get out of it as well.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm glad you brought up the use of social media because when you think about a holiday, like Halloween, it’s easy to imagine a retail store, or an office where people are working together so there's some physicality to it, but what tips can we offer to businesses that are online? Or even b-to-b businesses who might want to use this, not in a retail environment but with their customers even though their customers, maybe their customer are all remote. Are there things they can do as well? Starting probably with social media.

 

Steve Strauss:            Absolutely, well let’s think about how we can use the online world to grow our business, and then how Halloween might play into that. So one thing you can do is, most of us have an e-newsletter, and if we’re good with our e-newsletter we're using the 80/20 rule, and the 80/20 rule in this case is you want to make 80% of your newsletter about your customer, about what they're thinking about, about what they're doing, or in this case maybe about Halloween and 20% about you and your sale and your business. If you use that ratio, then you can use Halloween in your e-newsletter, and maybe you create some Halloween themed sales, or maybe you have some Halloween themed content, or you found some content online that you just thought your customers might find interesting, you share it via your e-newsletter. And then you use a Halloween template for your e-newsletter and then you're all of a sudden part of the Halloween conversation.

 

                                   I think that's really what we're talking about. We want to be part of the conversation, not be left out of the conversation. And it's not so hard to do online, you can update your website with some appropriate decorations or sales or products or things like that, but I really think the idea of using your e-newsletter as a way to get ahead, and get attention works really well.

 

Gregg Stebben:          We're talking with Steve Strauss, he's the best-selling author of the Small Business Bible. He's also USA Today's small business columnist, and we're talking about a column he wrote for USA Today, Tricky Halloween Season Can be a Treat for Small Businesses. Steve, you actually gave me an interesting idea, which is, and this is probably more for someone in the b-to-b environment, but what you might do, is take your article from USA Today and send it to your customers with the idea of “hey did you know how big a market Halloween is? I wanted to make sure you saw this so you are thinking about how to take advantage of it for your business.”

 

Steve Strauss:             Well I think that's a fine idea.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I mean I thought you might. But in all seriousness sometimes our customers love it when they see we're thinking of them and we've identified something that can help them in their business, even though it has nothing to do with them buying something more from us.

 

Steve Strauss:            Malcolm Gladwell has a name for what you're talking about, and it is connectors, and to be really good as a connector, to create tipping points in your business, means that you're going to be sharing information to your customers that have nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with them. So this idea that you just shared, whether it's my column or any column, or any kind of content to grow their business

 

Gregg Stebben:          Let's stick with your column.

 

Steve Strauss:            Great. I agree, that's a fine idea. You take my column and you share it with your customers, and here if you have a b-to-b business and here’s some ideas you can use in your business, well they're going to love you for that. And you can certainly do that and it makes a lot of sense, and it's going to create good will and good will goes a long way in a lot of ways.

 

Gregg Stebben:          All right, so we're talking about Halloween it's kind of obvious, right? I mean it's a holiday that almost everybody gets excited about it. There's opportunity for a lot of participation and engagement, but I also want to kind of step back and talk theoretically about how do I think about, and identify other opportunities like this for my small business? You know Halloween's a national thing, and everybody's participating at the same time, so of course you, as the USA Today small business columnist, are going to write about it because it's a big deal. But sometimes there's local events or local news that we can take advantage of as well. Do you have any tips for people so that they can just hone their ears and eyes for watching for those opportunities, so they don't miss out on those?

 

Steve Strauss:            Yeah, I think that's a really good point, and it's a matter of being tuned into your community, so if you're not part of the local Chamber of Commerce or business association, I think it would behoove you to do that, for all sorts of reasons. There's networking opportunities available, and there's business seminars that would be available, and you're going to learn about activities that you otherwise may not know about and then you can become part of that community. In the case of Halloween, here's one thing you can do, because kids now go to safe places to trick or treat, one idea you might want to think about is using your store or your office or your business to become part of that. So you team up with other businesses in your area and you decide you're going to be a Halloween go to place, and you're really going to decorate and you're going to hand out candy on October 31st, and you're going to be a destination.

 

                                   And then you're going to one, work with other companies, other businesses, you're going to make those connections, that's great. Two, parents are going to love you and you're going to get the word out that you're going to be part of this community, and three, you're part of the community. So this idea of working with the community on a very local level certainly reaps a lot of benefits.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And to that end, a friend of mine with some small children just told me that she took her kids over the weekend, so really early, to a trunk or treat.

 

Steve Strauss:            What is a trunk or treat?

 

Gregg Stebben:          I said "What is a trunk or treat?" Yeah I didn't know either, but it was at a, it was exactly following along with what you just said. A group of businesses opened up their parking lot for a trunk or treat and the idea here, this might be a local thing just in my community, but the kids and the parents each decorate the trunk of the car, that's the trunk, and then they fill it with candy, the kids show up in costumes and they all run from car to car to car to car, but it's in a sense been vetted for safety. It's a safe environment. You come and you park and there's no more cars. And I'm guessing it's all parents that know each other, or clients of the businesses so you're not worried about any candy problems or anything. And that would be a great opportunity for a company with a parking lot, and if you don't have a parking lot, you could certainly get together with other businesses and have a Halloween party that worked the same way but within your retail establishments.

 

Steve Strauss:            That's a very clever idea.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I wish I could claim it but, I'm just showing up to the next one for the candy.

 

Steve Strauss:            You know my sweet grandfather just, apropos just a little bit, had in his trunk this box called the magic box, and whenever he would drive over to the house and we would see him, he would open up his trunk and we'd open the magic box, and the magic box was always full of candy. And it was never empty, and I guess at eight years old we never figured it out but we thought it was the greatest thing we ever knew. So we were trunk or treating all year long with my grandfather.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Little did your grandfather know that he invented trunk or treat.

 

Steve Strauss:            Right.

 

Gregg Stebben:          All right, we're talking with Steve Strauss. This is "The Heartbeat of Main Street" with ForbesBooks and Bank of America, he's the best-selling author of the Small Business Bible. He's USA Today's small business columnist. I want to ask one last question. You have such a deep background in small business, and I'm just wondering away from the subject of holidays and Halloween what is the single greatest piece of advice you could offer our listeners that you have learned about small business, that you wish everyone who was a small business owner knew and knew today?

 

Steve Strauss:            I love that question and I'm going to give you an answer kind of like you couldn't take credit for trunk or treat I can't take credit for this tip, but it's nevertheless the best tip anyone ever gave me so. One of the first books I ever read when I was getting ready to start my first business and this is back when I was practicing law. I don't anymore.

 

Gregg Stebben:          That came from left field. I wasn't expecting that.

 

Steve Strauss:            Many years ago I came to my senses and I don't practice anymore, but my first business was my own law firm and at the time I was working at a big law firm in the big city, quote unquote, making the big bucks and I was big time unhappy. I really hated it, so I was trying to figure out how to venture off and start my own law firm.

 

                                    So I read a book called Making a Living Without a Job, by a woman named Barbara Winter, and it kind of just gave me the blue print for how to leave the gig I was in and start what I really wanted to do which was be my own boss. And I love this book, and one of the things Barbara said in that book is you need to have multiple profit centers.

 

                                   If you're going to be successful in your business whether you're going to be a solopreneur or you're going to have 50 people work for you, you need multiple profit centers. That is, it's kind of like a stock, you'd never just own one stock because that stock could go up and that stock could go down. You diversify your portfolio so that when one part of your portfolio might be down a little bit, the other part is up. The same idea is true in our businesses, You want three or four or five different ways of bringing money in the door, so in the case of my law firm I started out doing a wills and trust practice, and then I started doing a bankruptcy practice, then I started doing a little p.i. I did a little bit of everything, but when one part was down the other part was up and when that part was down the other part was up. And it kept money coming in the door all year long, and I think for any small business, I think it's one of the best things you can do, cause it's going to ensure your long term viability, it's going to keep your business more interesting and more creative for you, you're going to have a more diversified client base. So to me that's what I think works best. If I was going to give one tip, I think that's my favorite tip ever.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And you know what's really fascinating about that, Steve Strauss, is here's multiple revenue streams. No, in all seriousness, I think

 

Steve Strauss:            It's true.

 

Gregg Stebben:          You model this right? Best-selling author Small Business Bible, he's written 16 other books, there's 17 streams of revenue. USA Today small business columnist, another stream of revenue. A global speaker, a keynote speaker, there's another source of revenue. Entrepreneur so you probably have your fingers in other pies, entrepreneurially speaking. You're also a spokesperson, so you have multiple ways of bringing money in under the umbrella of Steve Strauss. His website is mrallbiz.com it's M R A L L B I Z.com. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn @SteveStrauss on Facebook, oh you'll love this now that you heard what you just heard, the ex-lawyer is on Facebook @theselfemployed. It all makes so much sense now Steve. Thanks

 

Steve Strauss:            I practice what I preach.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yeah thanks for joining us. Thanks for talking about Halloween and things we can do and things we should avoid within that holiday, and how to take advantage of other events and holidays around us. Thanks so much for being here.

 

Steve Strauss:            My pleasure. Thanks for having me and keep up the great work.

 

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

 

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

 

Steven 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 Success. © Steven D. Strauss.

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

You can listen to the Bank of America Small Business Podcast, hosted by Steve 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

“First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare, Henry VI

 

My colleague ended up with a huge problem. The owner of a very popular local pub around for decades,  she never once ran into any major problems. For the most part, her employees were happy, and her customers were happy.

 

One day, a server dropped a tray and spilled a few drinks. No big deal – this is commonplace in the restaurant business. However, here’s where the story goes south: In the very small window between the spill and going to fetch the wet floor sign in the back, a customer slipped and fell. This is every restaurant owner’s worst nightmare.67504037_s.jpg

 

To complicate matters, her insurance company refused coverage, so when the customer proceeded to sue, my colleague suddenly faced a two-front war: A battle with her own insurance company and a lawsuit from a disgruntled customer. The legal fees she was facing were potentially enormous. My colleague was terrified.

 

She spent sleepless nights obsessively thinking about the problem. The legal fees were piling up. Social media was killing her. The stress was, too. In the end, although she had legitimate legal claims to rely on (the insurance company should have paid, the customer likely was at fault), she settled both claims, but not before almost going under.

 

It took two years, but eventually the business clawed its way back.

 

The fact is, every business eventually encounters big problems, sometimes catastrophic ones. It could be the big contract that got cancelled or a hurricane that severely damages the store.

 

What do you do? Here’s what:

 

1. Assessment: Even though it’s easy to panic, you can’t. The first thing when faced with a catastrophe is to properly assess the situation. Think rationally. What has happened? What is at stake? What needs to happen in the short term, and what needs to happen in the long term? What can you control and not control from this point forward? Make lists. Do your research.

 

Usually, insurance must be assessed immediately. Even if you don’t realize it, there’s certainly a chance that you are covered. Speak with your agent and your attorney. There are lots of stipulations and fine print when it comes to insurance.

 

2. Fix the immediate problem: There won’t always be a clear-cut solution like my colleague’s, and even in her case, it was not clear cut. But whatever the case, immediate issues must of course be addressed first.

 

3. Think long-term: This could mean finding experts or going through the correct bureaucratic processes. After a catastrophe, you will very likely need help. This likely means leaning more heavily on your staff. It can also mean asking your customers to give your business some extra love. People want to help, and you should let them.

 

4. Learn your lesson: Bad things happen. Sometimes the best you can do, like our restaurant owner, is to cut your losses, learn your lesson, and move on. Other times, it means gutting it out. Either way, surviving a catastrophe is typically a two-step process:

 

  • Initially, the big problem must be overcome.
  • Then, once things settle down, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

If you lost that huge contract, that means diversifying your client base so you are not dependent on one customer going forward. If you were flooded, it might mean relocating.

 

While you can’t prevent bad things from happening, at least learning your lesson and making necessary changes reduces the likelihood that a particular problem will happen again.

 

 

Read next:    

The Types of Insurance Your Small Business Really Needs

Q & A : Fighting is Expensive. What to do if You Are Sued

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Women like Nicole Centeno, CEO and founder of Splendid Spoon, inspire confidence in the young women who work for her.  Nicole is featured in the Bank of America National Women’s Small Business Month video currently running in Times Square and here on the Small Business Community.

 

 

 

 

My name is Nicole Centeno, and I’m the CEO and founder of Splendid Spoon.

 

Women lead differently. We need male leaders, and we need female leaders, and unfortunately, there is a dearth of female leaders, especially at the very top right now, so there’s an imbalance. What I have found growing my business is that I’m able to inspire confidence in the young women who work for me to be truly themselves, and to lead in the way that is truly right for them.

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Much has improved for women small business owners over the past 30 years. At the recent NAWBO 2018 National Women’s Business Conference, women business leaders discussed this progress and remaining challenges, with a spotlight on HR5050. HR5050 addressed the needs of women entrepreneurs and business owners – giving them recognition and resources, while eliminating discriminatory lending practices. On this episode of "The Heartbeat of Main Street," Jill Calabrese Bain discusses the recent conference, the doors opened by HR5050, and the path forward.

 

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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.

 

Jill:                  The big buzz at the conference this year was around the celebration of a very special anniversary if you work in the small business space, and that was the passage of the Women Business Ownership Act, which is really commonly referred to as HR 5050. Thanks to folks within NAWBO who helped get this legislation passed, it was, for the first time, the ability for a woman to apply for and secure credit without having a male relative cosign. It was not that long ago, it was in 1988, so it was a very short 30 years ago.

 

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

 

Gregg:             I'm here with Jill Calabrese Bain, she's the Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Banking and Lending for Bank of America. This, of course, is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America.

 

                        Jill, welcome to the show. You were just out in Spokane, Washington, and you were speaking at the annual conference for the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO. Welcome home, first of all. Tell us about the conference starting with the theme and what you were speaking about while you were there.

 

Jill:                  Great. Thank you Gregg. It was really an exciting time for us. We've been partnering with the National Association of Women Business Owners, informally known as NAWBO, for many, many years. Every single year they have and host an annual conference. We've had the pleasure of hosting that conference with them for the past six years.

 

                        For those who don't know, NAWBO has been in existence for many decades. It's just celebrated its 43rd year. They really came together, initially, in the early '70s as a way for women entrepreneurs to come together, to share best practices, to talk about public policy, so we were out there together in Spokane, Washington. The really wonderful thing about the conference is that it creates an opportunity for women business owners across the US, and sometimes across the globe, to come together and tackle issues, conversations, what in fact is facing small business owners today. They have the opportunity to spend time on different thought leadership pieces with different presenters, and really different opportunities not only to talk about what the challenges, but what are some of the successes that they see, and how do they share that as a best practice?

 

                        We're always happy to partner with those guys, and this year the theme of the conference was Work Well, Live Well. The way I think about it, if you want to live well you’ve got to work better, and if you want to work well you need to live better, so that theme was completely integrated. Female entrepreneurs they have a journey, it's really never a destination, they're all running businesses, they're all managing households, they're giving back to their communities, and they're advocating for a lot of different causes, so this was really an opportunity to take a pause for just a bit, have an opportunity to refocus, nurture what it is that they're doing. We were just excited because it really brings together wellness, and wholeness, and how we approach our business from a strategic perspective, but also what we need to do every single day to deliver for clients. 

 

                        This year the keynote speaker was Liz Gilbert. Many might know Liz as the author of the bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, which-

 

Gregg:             Who doesn't? Who doesn't know her as the author of Eat, Pray, Love?

 

Jill:                  Exactly. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to spend a little time with Liz and introduce her to the broader group of women business owners. She really encouraged everyone to embrace their curiosity, and let go of certain things. She really showed everyone how to be creative, tackle what they do, to face down what they most fear, so she was just a great speaker, and great representation of the theme Work Well, Live Well.

 

Gregg:             You've been going to this conference, it sounds like, for many years. I'm curious to know how you found this year's conference relative to others? What were particular themes, or issues that women were talking about this year that seemed to be new issues or new topics?

 

Jill:                  Gregg, it's always interesting. There's one prevailing theme, no matter if it's male or female, but the prevailing theme is always around access to capital. Although I would say, in reflection, that women have made significant progress over the years, in fact, we just released the Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight that we issue annually and that really takes a look at goals, and challenges, and experiences of women. What was most interesting to many of us is that this year's report found that while an overwhelming majority of women business owners believe access to capital has improved over the last decade—in fact 84% of them believe it improved—the majority still feels like it is more difficult to secure financing than it is for their male counterparts.

 

                        The big buzz at the conference this year was around the celebration of a very special anniversary if you work in the small business space, and that was the passage of the Women Business Ownership Act, which is really commonly referred to as HR 5050. Thanks to folks within NAWBO who helped get this legislation passed it was, for the first time, the ability for a woman to apply for and secure credit without having a male relative cosign. Think about that.

 

Gregg:             I have a hard time even thinking of that as being possible in my lifetime, and I have a feeling you're going to tell me it wasn't that long ago that that was passed. What year was that?

 

Jill:                  It was not that long ago, it was in 1988, so it was a very short 30 years ago. When I have this conversation with my children who are teenagers they can't even fathom this as a thing.

 

Gregg:             I'm not a teenager and I'm having the same problem.

 

Jill:                  That is cause for celebration, but it is a chance to look back and say, "Okay, well progress has been made over the past 30 years, but there is still so much work to be done."

 

Gregg:             I guess, one of my questions, because I have to be honest and I'm sure partially because I'm a man and wasn't impacted by this in the way that women business owners were, it took a law to make that possible? Or it took a law to remove the requirement legally?

 

Jill:                  It took the passage of legislation to enable the ability and to eliminate the barriers that once existed around securing credit, so that is, in fact, what it was meant to do. What was really wonderful is that we had about five women who were really the pioneers of helping to support this legislation 30 years ago and they were all there at the conference this year, and they all got to tell a little bit of their story, and it was absolutely fascinating, and educational, and inspirational to hear what their experience was, and a real lesson for women business owners today that you never really can give up. You always have to go after your passion.

 

Gregg:             It also seems, to me, that it's an opportunity for younger entrepreneurs, and younger business owners, in this case women entrepreneurs and women small business owners, to really understand you don't want to take things for granted that you have today. As you said, you also want to look ahead and say, "You know, there's still things that are unjust, or there are still any qualities, and we have to keep working on those too. Look, it may be a lot easier for women today, but the playing field should be level, and we have to keep working."

 

Jill:                  Yeah, and I believe that an organization like NAWBO does create the ability to pull together women such that there is critical mass and thinking around a topical issue, and gives us an opportunity nationally to be better informed around what it is that we could do differently to help accelerate growth for women. We do know that women are the fastest-growing segment of the small-business space and of the small business economy.

 

Gregg:             Even more reasons to encourage them for all kinds of reasons, because it's the right thing to do, but it's also better for all of us including the economy itself.

 

Jill:                   Exactly.

 

Gregg:             Interesting.

 

                        Previous to this year's conference, what have been themes even the actual formal themes of the conferences? What have been the topics of big buzz? Obviously, access to capital always, and this being the 30th anniversary of HR 5050, but can you just think back and hit on a couple of other major themes, so we get a sense of what these events are like, and the things that are on the minds on the members of NAWBO?

 

Jill:                  Yeah, absolutely. The women business owners are always looking for opportunities for how do they improve upon themselves, and how do they improve upon what they can do for their businesses, and what they can do for their communities? The conferences always take on different themes, the themes that are always critical and essential for women. One thing that has struck me over the years is just the diversity in the type of businesses that we see, and it's everything from what one might think of nontraditional for women like construction management, to legal, to HR staffing.

 

                       The beauty of the opportunity to get together on an annual basis, and this always comes through, is that despite the fact that we might have somebody who is managing a bakery versus somebody who is managing a dental practice, some of the themes are always the same. Everyone is very proficient at whatever their technical discipline is, but then as it relates to business, that's where sometimes they need more support. How do we think about and plan for the next 12 months, the next 18 months? Throughout the conferences there are breakout sessions, and workshops that really hone in on wherever a business owner is in the maturity of their business, there's usually something for them that will allow them to think about: how do we get to that next level?

 

Gregg:             You know, what's interesting as you're talking it seems, to me, that one of the obvious things for you and I to talk about is why women entrepreneurs and small business owners who are not members of NAWBO should really consider it. I want to throw out the website for NAWBO, it's nawbo.org. I'm talking with Jill Calabrese Bain. Of course, we're here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America.

 

                        Can you speak to the kinds of benefits women might immediately enjoy as a result of becoming a member of NAWBO? Do you hear from women there, "Oh, I just joined in the last year, and here's how it helped me, and boy was I surprised at how much value I got out of this"?

 

Jill:                  Yeah, absolutely. It's always a great opportunity to speak directly to women business owners, and I have that opportunity with my colleagues across Bank of America and Merrill Lynch US Trust every year. What we hear is that they get a lot of leverage and opportunity within their own community, so if they're Chicago-based, or Columbus, Ohio based, or Cincinnati-based, wherever they might be there's a local network that they built, and then with the umbrella of NAWBO, at national level, there's opportunity then to not only learn from business owners in your community, but then learn from business owners across the country. NAWBO does make available in addition to local membership access to different partnerships and different alliances, and how you might be able to secure thought leadership on a topic that you might not be able to secure on your own. There's online resources, and there's also timely communications of things that impact business owners across the board.

 

                        What I would say is that I think there's a great local and national opportunity that might not otherwise be afforded, and there's tons of great networking opportunities, and the ability to really step up in your community, or at a national level to address and influence policy.

 

Gregg:             What's interesting about this is as you're talking about NAWBO and Bank of America's long relationship with NAWBO I'm realizing that for many small business owners and entrepreneurs there can be a tendency to actually put your head down, even though in this interview we're really focused on women because NAWBO of course is the National Association of Women Business Owners, but for both men and women for many entrepreneurs and small business owners there's a tendency to just put your head down and just keep working, and going at it alone. One of the things I'd like to hear you talk about both in terms of women supporting women but small business owners getting support from a community, wherever that community may be, the benefits of not just putting your head down and going it alone, but really getting involved in a larger community, not just for what you can get from the community, but what you can also give, and by giving getting even more.

 

Jill:                  I think that's a really great point. What happens with the business owners and anyone who works within any type of establishment, what happens is we always get focused on what is the day-to-day necessary thing that needs to happen or else your business shuts down? What are all the tactical things that you need to do to make sure that your employees are happy, your clients are happy? Sometimes what that doesn't afford us the opportunity to do is take a step back, and think very strategically about the business, and what the priorities are both personally and professionally because those two do interact with one another.

 

                       When business owners allow themselves to take a broader view of their business, to think more strategically, they can better plan for the future. They can better plan for the way the market might be changing around them, or the competitive or client appetite, or dynamic might be. It's so critically important to be able to work and live well together such that we afford ourselves the opportunity to think about our business, and what it is that we want to do short-term and long-term. That goes for all business owners and anyone who's part of a business establishment.

 

Gregg:             That's really well said. I'm talking with Jill Calabrese Bain, she's the Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Banking and Lending at Bank of America. This is “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America.

 

                        Jill was just at the annual conference of the National Association of Women Business Owners or NAWBO, NAWBO's at nawbo.org. What's interesting, when you talk about not just looking at what I need to do today to make my business a success, but looking into the future and being part of a community to do that. I would imagine for some small business owners there's both “I don't know what to do next,” but “I don't even know how to go about figuring out how to know what to do next.” I think just putting yourself in a position of being part of a group just surrounds you with lots of people who have been where you have been, and just formally, or informally having those conversations is going to empower you, and then give you a group of people to check in with so that they can support you in going to the next level, or the next step, and you can then do the same for others.

 

Jill:                  Yeah, absolutely Gregg. I think that's so well said because one of the biggest challenges for business owners, male and female alike, is that they don't often ask for help. There's nothing wrong with asking for help to taking a little bit of a pause, looking around, looking at your network and saying, "Okay, there is someone who has walked in my shoes, let me just ask." I know that you probably feel the same way, when somebody raises their hand and asks for help we'll always help them, we'll always talk to them. That's really a culture that I believe that we need to continue to nurture.

 

Gregg:             Yes, and when you're part of an organization like this it's actually one of the things that's at the core of the organization is I help you, you help me, we all help each other, and we succeed together.

 

                        I want to ask a question just based on your experience at the NAWBO annual conference, could you pick one piece of advice, or one lesson learned that you learned at this event, or you heard others talking about that you wish all small business owners and entrepreneurs knew? Was there one key thing that you think could make a difference for almost anyone who owns a small business?

 

Jill:                  That is such an important question. I think of really two things that come to mind just based upon our experience at Bank of America with clients. Business owners really need to create a plan, but essentially goals and strategies that are achievable and measurable in both the short-term and the long-term. The second thing I would say is never give up. Just to provide some context around that, when we set goals for ourselves that we really can't measure and seem out of the spectrum of possibility that just doesn't create a lot of confidence, and doesn't really keep us on the right path. When we see business owners are very clear on what it is that they would like to be able to experience, and they have a measurable goal around it then they're going to be willing to try different things because if plan A doesn't work, and we know that a lot of times plan A does not work, that's not a failing, but there's an inherent learning in that around how to move forward. I would say create a plan that's actionable and measurable and two, don't give up.

 

Gregg:             That's really great advice. I'm talking with Jill Calabrese Bain Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Banking and Lending at Bank of America.

                        I want to take this one step further Jill, and that is what kinds of things is Bank of America doing with small business owners, women small business owners beyond things like the NAWBO partnership?

 

Jill:                  I am so lucky to work for the company that I do, and at Bank of America we are committed to providing women entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners with the tools, advice, and funding that they need to be successful. When we think about our portfolio of clients we have 3.3 million small business clients, 40 percent of them are women, and so I know I don't need to do the math, but that's over ... we have the opportunity to serve over 1 million small business owner clients. When we think about the opportunity that we have in front of us, and the learnings that we have, we've been able to build and tailor programs that really support women.

 

                        For instance, we have The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program. Through that program we've loaned over $40 million to nearly 2000 women business owners since 2014. We also have a supplier diversity program, $2 billion supplier diversity program where we extend opportunities to women business owners, and we have other programs, both domestic and globally, global ambassador Cherie Blair. These are all foundations for women to help them succeed. Last but not least, what I'm really excited about is just this past April we announced a partnership with Cornell University to launch the Bank of America Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship at Cornell. This is an amazing opportunity where we are establishing an online learning portal that provides women at all stages of their development, and their entrepreneurial skill set with more knowledge, more resources. It is a 12-month certification course, there is no fee up front, or no fee at all to actually participate, and we really are looking to help build and manage into a small part in helping women be successful.

 

Gregg:             You shared a lot of different things with us. Is there one place on the Bank of America website where women can go to find out about all of these programs?

 

Jill:                  All of these programs are on the website, bankofamerica/women, and anyone can access them, and look at any of the programs that we sponsor or support, so I encourage everyone to check that out.

 

                        In closing Gregg, just thinking about this conversation and thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to have the talk today, but we believe it is critically important for us to invest in women. When we invest in women we invest in our communities, and we invest in our future.

 

Gregg:             That's really well said. Jill Calabrese Bain, we're here with “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks, and Bank of America, she's the Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Banking and Lending. She was just at the annual conference of the National Association of Women Business Owners or NAWBO, NAWBO's at nawbo.org, and she did the opening remarks for Elizabeth Gilbert who, of course, everyone knows as the author of Eat, Pray, Love and was portrayed in film by Julia Roberts, which has to be a thrill, in of itself.

 

                        Jill, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Jill:                  Thanks so much, Gregg. I enjoyed it, thank you very much.

 

Speaker 2:       Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at forbesbooks.com, and Bank of America at bankofamerica.com.

 

Read next:

At 13, Dave Lavalle realized he could combine his passion for woodworking with his desire to make money. That led to multiple businesses, from furniture making to lawn care to light remodeling, before Lavalle started Mr. Handyman in 1996 and franchised it in 2000. In 2004, he branched out yet again by launching Dryer Vent Wizard, which began franchising in 2006. The first company to focus solely on dryer vent cleaning and maintenance, Dryer Vent Wizard has grown to nearly 100 franchise locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. We talked to Lavalle about building a successful franchise operation. Next month, we’ll discuss (with Lavalle and others) how to franchise your business.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: How did you get the idea for Dryer Vent Wizard?

 

Dave Lavalle: While at Mr. Handyman, people would ask, “Hey, while you’re here, can you clean the dryer?” So there was an untapped need. I was educated by the consumer, which is how I approach all my businesses. [Listen to] what the customer is asking for. Find a need and fill it.

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Before I started the business, dryer vent cleaning and maintenance was being handled in a chaotic manner by many different services – from carpet cleaners to plumbers. I knew if I spent the time to develop the business model properly, follow the correct codes and develop technical processes and procedures, homeowners would benefit from a higher quality of service.

 

Q: How was franchising Dryer Vent Wizard different from your experience with Mr. Handyman 10 years earlier?

 

A: With Mr. Handyman, I didn’t recognize that it was a franchise opportunity until people kept asking, “Is this a franchise?” I worked [with Service Brands International] to franchise it, and we had to take every piece of the business and dissect, reengineer and systematize it.

 

With Dryer Vent Wizard, from the very beginning I expected it to be a franchise, so I systematized everything down to every product SKU and the tools we used.

 

Q: How do you develop a franchise system?

 

A: I looked at where my stumbling blocks were when I started the business. Look at what takes too much time for you [as an independent businessperson] or what was a challenge for you. That’s where you can assist the franchisee.

 

For example, [businesses] spend all this time and money on marketing, but sometimes a call comes in and they can’t answer the phone. So, I decided, we’ll answer the phone for the franchisees, we’ll schedule the [client appointments] for them. Sometimes it’s hard to recruit, so we have a recruitment program. Getting a new vehicle set up takes time, so we get it ready for them—tools, their name on the side, keys in the ignition.

 

If you don’t have any stumbling blocks, look at where the non-transferable skill sets are. Maybe you’re fantastic at spreadsheets or social media, but is the general populace good at those things? If not, provide support in those areas to make it easy for the franchisees to grow the business.

 

Q: How do you know if your business is franchisable?

 

A: Ask yourself:

 

  1. Does it have wide geographic appeal, or is it geographically specific? An igloo-building business only works in Alaska.
  2. Does it have a transferable skill set? In other words, can you teach the person down the street to do it?
  3. Does it have margin? You need [to provide enough] value to the consumer to create margin for the franchisor and the franchisee.

 

Q: What advice do you have for would-be franchisors?

 

A: I’m sure someone told Mailboxes Etc. and the UPS Store, “That business isn’t a good idea—we already have the Post Office.” But they added outstanding service to make it worth using them instead of the post office.

 

Don’t you dare believe anybody who tells you your idea isn’t good. Believe yourself, beta test everything, try it out, and look for opportunities to add value. Business is a set of challenges to overcome. You can look at it as a lemon or turn it to lemonade.

 

 

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

Sage advice for women small business owners from Ramelle & Emma Massey of Massey Insurance Agency.  Emma and Ramelle are featured in the Bank of America National Women’s Small Business Month video currently running in Times Square and here on the Small Business Community.

 

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Transcript:

“I am Emma Massey, and this is my daughter, Ramelle Massey, and we are Massey Insurance Agency.

 

“It’s extremely important to have female business leaders that you can look up to. This is my mom. She was a female business leader, and I followed in her footsteps. Having a strong role model is very important. Lift as you climb. The glass ceiling is shattered, piece by piece, and we are the ones who are chipping away at it.”

 

 

Bank of America is not affiliated with any business featured herein.

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 used pursuant to license. Member FDIC.  ©Bank of America Corporation.

The power of women is changing the world. Throughout our culture, from the #metoo movement to the growing (and record) number of women running for office, women are flexing their power like never before.

 

Women-owned businesses have been growing steadily for the last 11 years (even during the recession). The number of women-owned businesses rose 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, according to a 2018 report on women-owned businesses from American Express, and now account for 40 percent of U.S. businesses. During that time, employment, revenues and new business starts all grew substantially faster for women-owned businesses than for businesses overall.

 

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Why is it so important to encourage the growth of women-owned businesses?

 

Despite their growing numbers, just 1.7 percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more. However, those businesses contribute a disproportionate share to the economy and to employment. In other words, the more the better!

 

When women-owned businesses reach $250,000 in revenues, growth in both employment and revenues begins to take off, according to the same report. Supporting businesses that are approaching the $250,000 threshold (or have just crossed it) can help increase the number of $1 million-plus women-owned businesses—and that benefits us all.

 

How can you support women in business?

 

Here are five things you can do to help other women-owned businesses—and your own.

 

1. Show support with your dollars. Seek out women-owned businesses to buy from. If you can’t find entrepreneurial sources for what you need, look for businesses that have women in top leadership positions and show real commitment to a more equitable workplace. Support them by buying from them, and encourage others to do so, too. 

 

2. Learn and share the history of women in business. Women business owners are sometimes treated like a recent development, but in fact, we’ve been contributing to America’s economy since our nation began. Consider Madame C.J. Walker. Born to freed slaves in 1867, she built a business that was valued at more than $1 million when she died in 1919—yet her story isn’t shared in most history books. Change that by learning about Walker and other groundbreaking women business owners and sharing their stories.

 

3. Take advantage of government programs. Linda McMahon, a successful entrepreneur in her own right as former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, has long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. Now, as Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), McMahon is proud of the 109 Women’s Business Centers across the country, where women can get business training, advice and counseling, assistance competing for federal contracts, and access to credit and capital. Learn more about programs and assistance for women business owners from SBA. 

 

4. Are you just starting out in business? Get a boost for your startup from business incubators, accelerators and boot camps for women entrepreneurs.  (Here are six of the top programs to check out.)

 

5. Are you a successful woman business owner? Give back to other women entrepreneurs by mentoring a startup entrepreneur. Become a SCORE volunteer and mentor other business owners, or contact your nearest Small Business Development Center to see if they need help providing advice and consulting to small business owners.

 

As women, we’re stronger when we work together. Reach out to give to other women and get help from them in return. That’s the real power of women in small business. 

 

     Read next:

               Check out our Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs article collection.

 

 

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

 

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Every business needs to foster a tolerant culture by promoting diversity and inclusiveness. Apart from making perfect business sense, promoting diversity creates a personally enriching and excellent environment for the staff, suppliers and clients.


Benefits of diversity are still compelling in today’s business, regardless of the size of an organization.
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What is diversity? Diversity is the distinct difference in gender, nationality, religion, education, race, age and sexual orientation, among others. While such differences create a beautiful entity if handled well, it can turn chaotic be a and source of deep hatred curtailing the business. 

There are three ways diversity strengthens a business.

 

It decreases conflicts


The Internet has turned the world into a global marketplace. As a result, you are most likely to interact with people from a diverse cultural background in your professional assignments. One of the most invaluable workplace skills today is cross-cultural communication. A great message can cause adverse effects if conveyed in the wrong way. To get a positive response from clients, financers, and other stakeholders, you need to put the message out in a pleasant way that depicts tolerance.

Communication within the workplace also promotes a conducive culture that increases productivity and individual output. Also, address policies and values that may suppress a particular community or individuals.

A culture of tolerance promotes unity in small businesses, which increases productivity.

It promotes innovation


Employees have rich ideas and problem-solving approaches. Employers can tap into this by making employees feel respected, connected and involved in the business. Tapping into the power of diversity will help the company respond well to clients, empower teams to collaborate, and retain high-performance employees among others. With the right environment and support, individuals will give the best and offer solutions that will take the business to the next level.

Every business seeks to offer unique products and services. Getting every team member involved in the running of the company will help you create a unique product or brand.

 

There is power in diversity. To deliver to clients, different thinking, talent, and views that reflect the society is crucial.

Increase market base

 

The critical goal of any business is to increase its customer base. One sure way of pushing sales is through diversity. Being able to meet customers at their point of need while talking their language is a great plus. As a business, you can employ low-cost and straightforward ways like recognizing different holidays and ensuring that your staff represents different cultures.


When business respects and appreciates the differences in individuals, more people feel comfortable doing business with them. Leveraging diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and lifestyles will drive a company to success.

Diversity is fast becoming a strategic priority. It is an enabler that helps businesses survive in the ever-evolving marketplace. The business world today faces geopolitical shifts and complex challenges which makes diversity a necessity.

 

 

 

About Ebong Eka

 

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Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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