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Maintaining a robust cash flow is crucial to keeping a business healthy. However, business owners often wear so many hats that they neglect to focus on the most important thing – generating revenue. Join Will Barr, Small Business Deposits Executive from Bank of America, for an in-depth look with practical tips for managing your cash flow.

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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.

 

Will Barr:                    Particularly for a small business owner you have to wear so many different hats every day running and managing all aspects of the business that, from time to time, you hear that business owners have just taken their eye off of what's the most important thing, and that's generating the revenue. No matter how much you cut and trim expenses, if you don't have more coming in than going out, you're not going to last long.

 

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 with Will Barr. He's the Small Business Deposits Executive for Bank of America. Thanks for joining us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Bank of America and ForbesBooks. Will, we are going to talk about some tips for helping small businesses manage their cashflow. Before we do, though, I'm already curious about your job and your title. You’re the Small Business Deposits Executive for Bank of America. What does that mean? What do you do?

 

Will Barr:                    Gregg, thanks for having me on. Our team is responsible for the products and services that we offer to small businesses. Those are focused on the deposits that our clients bring to the bank and the way that they access those funds and transact with the bank. It includes checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards as our primary products, and then the services that we wrap around them. Think about online banking, things like mobile check deposit, remote depositare the specific products that we offer that allow customers to deposit their money with us and then access those funds when and where they need them.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It's really interesting. We're going to have this conversation about managing small business cashflow. I am betting that the technology available today that is part of your purview as the Small Business Deposits Executive makes managing cashflow a lot easier, a lot more effective, a lot more efficient for small businesses if small businesses know to use those tools and pieces of technology.

 

Will Barr:                    Absolutely. We talk a lot within my team about small business owners and why they open a small business. Never on that list is because they enjoy banking. We think about it in the context of, how do we help them conduct their banking activities more efficiently, more quickly, so they can get back to why they opened and run their business, whether that's a love for what they do, to provide for their family, to be a part of other people's lives. That's why they're in business, and it's our job to let them get back to that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         You're in a situation where you're interacting with small businesses all the time. I am guessing that for many small businesses, managing cashflow is sort of like a problem they know they have, they don't know what to do with it, and they just sort of put up with it. Maybe there's even some small businesses that don't even understand that the problems they're having with the revenue and expenses of their business is cashflow. Do you find that even on the branch level that one of the things business bankers are doing is helping educate small businesses sometimes from the foundation up on why cashflow is so important?

 

Will Barr:                    It is. We hear about that. As you said, it's the number one thing that our clients tell us they struggle with. One of the things we have done across the bank over the last couple years is really invest in building expertise in small business so that we can give exactly the advice that you're talking about when a client comes to us and has a problem, has a challenge that they're facing. We've got the products and solutions that then help address that. We spend a lot of time. We talk about things like remote deposit, other capabilities that allow clients to deposit stuff without actually having to come to the bank. How do we educate our sales force so then when a client is talking about struggles they have with cashflowas an example, that they can articulate ways that we have solutions that help solve for that problem or help them address those challenges? That's something we've really made a big investment in as a bank, both in technology and then in the sales force and the expertise to engage the client in solving those problems.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Because I know we spend a lot of time talking with folks from the SBA, the Small Business Administration, for instance. I know that cashflow problems always rank as the number one or one of the top reasons why businesses fail. This is not something to be treated lightly. It's fundamental. If you own a small business or you're even thinking about starting a small business, this should be a number one priority of something you address, understand, and take care of.

 

Will Barr:                    I think for most business owners cashflow and the challenges it represents is something that never goes away.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Will Barr. He's the Small Business Deposits Executive for Bank of America. We're talking about tips for better managing small business cashflow. Let's start at the beginning here. Cashflow really involves two things, and each business may have a problem with one of these things or both of these things. It's accounts receivable, money coming in, and paying your expenses, money going out. Are there different tips for different parts of that equation?

 

Will Barr:                    I think there are. I think particularly for a small business owner you have to wear so many different hats every day running and managing all aspects of the business that, from time to time, you hear that business owners have just taken their eye off of what's the most important thing, and that's generating the revenue. No matter how much you cut and trim expenses, if you don't have more coming in than going out you're not going to last long. You've got a real challenge that you're going to face.

 

Gregg Stebben:         But generating revenue, there's really two pieces to that. You might be generating tons of revenue but it's not coming in. You're not managing your receivables well, so you made the money, you just don't have the money, so you can't pay your bills.

 

Will Barr:                    That's right. You've got to get paid. Managing those receivables, particularly in ... Perhaps in a retail situations it's less of an issue in the sense that you should be getting paid right then, and maybe it's a couple days later based upon how you're collecting those funds and how you're getting paid. But that's very different than someone who may be performing a service and leaves the invoice with the customer and they've got to figure out how do they collect 15, 30 days later, hopefully if all goes well. That becomes a significant effort on their part to manage that while also generating the future flow of business. Being a small business owner is pretty darn complicated.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Let's talk about ways to get the money coming in if we've earned it. For instance, one of the things you recommend ... We're looking actually at an article on the Bank of America Small Business website, Six Tips for Better Managing Your Small Business Cashflow. You talk about switching to electronic invoicing. Now, some small business owners may feel like there's going to be a steep learning curve or this is going to be intimidating. Tell us why whatever learning curve may be there, why it's worth doing, and also give a sense of is it really as hard as people might imagine to make that switch?

 

Will Barr:                    We've met with a number of providers in the industry of fintech-type firms that provide these electronic invoicing services, and our clients who've used them tell us it really helps them get an understanding of the status of their receivables at any specific point in time. The modern technology allows you to go in and see all the invoices that have generated. A lot of these electronic providers provide you visibility, tell you whether or not even the e-mail that you sent with the invoice has been opened and read. Have they scheduled to pay it? If they have scheduled to pay it, when is it going to be paid and when will you receive the funds? Those are things that you can see at a moment's notice that otherwise might take you making several phone calls, the back and forth phone tag with your client that takes time.

 

                                  These tools don't solve for all of that, but can give you some insight into where do you want to spend your time? Where do you focus? Where do you need to make the phone call to the guy who has never even read the e-mail that you sent on your invoice? That's where you want to spend your time, versus the individual who has already scheduled to pay it. You're going to know you're going to get those funds. There's some capabilities there that’ll replace a lot of the hard work that has to go into managing those things, but actually tells you where to focus your time and effort and can give you that snapshot much more quickly than it might take you to review a stack of papers on your desk.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I would imagine one of the greatest benefits, two of the greatest benefits for a company that's switching to electronic invoicing is, first of all ... I have a lot of friends who own small businesses. It amazes me how hard it is for them to create an invoice because they've never automated it, so they don't do it, so they get backlogged, so their cashflow is messed up. A really good electronic invoicing system should enable you to make an invoice in a minute or two. Everything should be standardized in a couple of options and print the thing out and send it, or just send it without printing it. Then it should also follow up. It should know when things have been paid and automate the process of, frankly, nagging companies that are not paying in a timely way, or just reminding them to pay in an important way. I would imaging picking the right electronic invoicing program is important.

 

                                  I also want you to talk about the benefit of doings things like actually offering small discounts to your customers if they pay in a very timely way, because that guarantees the money's coming in. The future value is worth a little bit of a discount, and it takes a lot of cashflow worries off the top of your head.

 

Will Barr:                    Gregg, I think you said it very well. I want to be clear when we talk about this, going back to my point around small businesses, being a small business owner, being very difficult. I know that time is at a premium, and there are times where setting up some of those electronic invoicing capabilitiesinvolves that upfront investment that folks may not feel like they have today. But I do think they're things that, when appropriate and when you can carve off the time, will pay those dividends down the line. I don't want to take away from a lot of the stuff that we're talking about. I think there are tools and techniques built into these electronic invoicing or we see as standard practice within our clients to give a client incentive to pay attention to the invoice. Discounts is one way to do that.

 

                                  What we try and do is help our clients understand, even when they're paying invoices, the cost savings that that can represent to them versus whether they have to use credit and the cost of credit. Sometimes we encourage clients to use credit that they have available to pay an invoice earlier because if you look at the discount in the short period of time that you're paying versus what you're paying on an annual percentage rate for that credit, a lot of times you can come out ahead just doing that math, and so there's an opportunity for our clients to do that same kind of conversation with their clients. Then, it helps them to understand and predict when they have needs or how do they manage their cashflow by be willing to giving up some of their margin to make sure that they have enough funds in their account that week to make payroll.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things you talked about earlier ... We're talking with Will Barr. He's the Small Business Deposits Executive. We're talking about a story on the Bank of America Small Business site. It's actually at bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/education: Six Tips for Better Managing Your Small Business Cashflow. One of the things, Will, you mentioned very early on in this interview was remote deposit capture. I always wonder, how many individuals and how many businesses are actually using their phone or some other digital means to deposit checks versus going to the bank? I don't know if you have that statistic. But talk about why this is such an important tool for efficiency for a small business.

 

Will Barr:                    Gregg, I'll give you a very personal example, as you did. You know many small business owners. In my job, I try and convert as many of my friends who are small business owners to become clients of ours. I have a neighbor who used to tell me about the effort he'd go to to make a deposit at one of our branches. It required him to leave his business, because he needed access to those funds. The check that he'd just received in the mail, he needed in his account to be able to pay his bills and his payables. He would stop what he was doing at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon to drive 10 minutes to our branch, make a deposit. Then, by the time he'd gone back to his work, was settled back in, it'd cost him as hour.

 

                                  What we were able to do through the result of that conversation we had one afternoon in the street in front of our house was put a scanner on his desktop that moves that activity from 1:00 in the afternoon, 2:00 in the afternoon, which is a prime time for him to be building and growing his business. He now does it at 6:00, 6:30, 7:00 at night, makes that same deposit. The funds go through that night and he's kept that time open in the middle of his day to really focus on driving his business. For him, that's a time-saverthat's really accomplished the same thing as dropping what he was doing and entering the bank. We developed technology like that where we have a desktop scannerthat sits on a client's desk and they can make deposits or is, as I think you're aware, people can use their mobile phones to make a deposit right when they get that check. Both those ways are ways that we've completely changed the dynamic of getting money into the account and getting access to those funds.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Let's change the conversation to payables, the things we pay. We're talking about a story called Six Tips for Better Managing Your Small Business Cashflow. It's on the Bank of America Small Business site, bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/education. I'm talking with Will Barr. He's the Small Business Deposits Executive for Bank of America. How do we apply the same kind of efficiency of thinking and these tools and these processes to the part of our business which is where we pay our bills? What kind of things can we do there to be more efficient?

 

Will Barr:                    A couple thoughts in that regard about being smarter with the way that you pay for things. In our space, we've built online and mobile capabilities that can do a couple things. They can, one, help our clients avoid incurring late fees and penalties. But they can also manage when you make a payment and actually holding onto your funds longer. Think about that, Gregg, in the sense that a lot of folks are very financially responsible and will want to pay an invoice the minute they get it so they can move it from the inbox to the outbox. I think that's a great practice. But that doesn't mean that the funds that you're paying have to go out today, and that you can schedule that payment to say, "Hey. I got this bill today. It's August the 7th. It's not due till August the 31st. Why do I want to pay that guy before August 30th?" I can do that. I can go into online banking and I can schedule that payment. I get an e-mail confirmation that it's going to go out.

 

                                  But that gives me access to those funds over the course of the month if I may need them for other things or I need ... something comes up that's more urgent. A lot of these capabilities can help somebody hold their money longer, or setting up those same type of scheduled payments can make sure that you don't miss important dates that might ... a rent payment or a mortgage payment. Those types of things are other ways that people use these electronic tools and reminders to make sure they're not missing those dates.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things you suggest in this article is to negotiate with vendors. Is that something I do now or is it something I do when I'm having a cashflow problem? Or do I do it now so that when I have a cashflow problem we already have a good friendly relationship?

 

Will Barr:                    I think it's something you want to do in advance, in the sense that you want to understand and communicate to your vendors that being timely, being responsible is something that's of critical importance to you. That openness in many ways will generate that sense of trust with the vendor. I think it's always important to have that conversation upfront. Certainly the particulars of any given situation may be hard to cover or anticipate when you're initially doing that. But as soon as you know you're going to have a problem, I think vendors will appreciate that transparency, and that trust that's built as a result of that is likely to get you ... not a guarantee by any means, but is likely to get you the break that you're looking for or the patience or the understanding on the part of vendors.

 

                                   At the same time, Gregg, you've got to realize that those vendors are in business and they want to get paid on time. You need to be thoughtful and careful about how to do that, when to do that. But I'm of the opinion that upfront communication anticipating if and when those situations may occur, you've already had the conversation, is advantageous.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It seems to me that this is one of those times where if you think about how you would respond to this circumstance will be really helpful. Obviously if someone's going to have trouble with a payment, you'd rather know earlier than later. You'd rather have it be transparent. You don't want to feel like they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes. So treating those vendors like you'd like to be treated is probably a really good way of figuring out the best way to proceed.

 

Will Barr:                    I agree. This probably applies in a lot of different aspects of life. But if a due date for a bill comes and goes and you don't hear anything, there's much more consternation on your part than if somebody has called you in advance and said, "Hey. I'm working through a bit of a tough time. It's three days before it's due. I'd like you to know I need a couple more days and I'll plan to get it to you on this date." They're much more inclined to understand that than they are if they just never hear from you.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Absolutely. One of the other things you suggest in this article, which is called Six Tips for Better Managing Your Small Business Cashflow, it's at bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/education, you suggest upgrading your payroll system. I think that's a much longer conversation, and I hope we can have that conversation sometime. I want to move on to the last part of the article, which is you suggest that during periods of positive cashflow that small businesses make sure they're setting aside some money as a financial cushion for when there might be a down cycle. Do you find that even on the branch level this is something that your business bankers are able to coach your business clients through to help them understand how to do it, how much to set aside, and where to put it?

 

Will Barr:                    I do. I think this is something that we talk about both on the personal and the business side of our role as a financial advisor to our clients, is really understanding the priorities that you face, the stages of where you are both from a business and a personal lifecycle standpoint, and this is a key component. Saving for that rainy day. Recognizing that when times are good there may be times that are not so good, and how do you prepare now for those? In many cases I recognize this is easier said than done, but it is something that we're prepared to talk about and help clients understand how best to use excess funds that they may be holding, whether it's to save them, save portions of them, use that frankly in those good times to apply for credit that you may need in a later date. Those are all things that we really spend a lot of time with our sales teams talking about and helping them prepare for these conversations with our clients.

 

Gregg Stebben:         He is Will Barr. He's the Small Business Deposits Executive. We're here on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Bank of America and ForbesBooks. We've been talking about an article on the Bank of America Small Business site. It's at bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/education. Six Tips for Better Managing Your Small Business Cashflow. Will, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Will Barr:                    Gregg, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

 

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

Back to school season is here, and the similarities for entrepreneurs contemplating a new business are striking. Just like rejuvenated students are enthusiastic and preparing for the new chapter ahead, entrepreneurs should feel the same about new business opportunities. Here are some lessons entrepreneurs can learn from back to school time.

1. Do Your Homework


The majority of startups fail in the first year. While all businesses come with their fair share of setbacks, some costly mistakes are avoidable with a little research.

Before starting your business, take a good look at your business plan and ensure it is stable. Research your target market, competition and financial options. These are crucial components of any business and help determine whether it will stand or fail. Doing your homework well will reduce your chances of failing considerably.


2. Get a Mentor
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Just like a tutor, a mentor has valuable insights. Mentorship is crucial for business newbies as a mentor will keep you in touch with industry needs and lead you through some growing pains. To realize your goals, a startup needs an experienced guide who has walked that path before you. Of course, no business idea and operations can be a copy/paste of another. Even if your view on some few things may be different, appreciate the lessons and time of your mentor.

 

     Related Content: Find a SCORE Mentor


3. Broaden your Network

Networking is intentional. In school, life is all about growing connections with the right ‘clique.’ Students are encouraged to connect with professionals in their areas of interest. The right connections open doors and opportunities that many outside the circle know nothing about. Mingle and interact with more people whenever an opportunity presents itself. You may strike a conversation, do a favor or get some few tips, but get to know more people.

 

     Click here to download the whitepaper, "The Power of Networking and Strategic Partnerships" (PDF)


4. Take Time to Build a Routine

Nothing good comes easy. Even a routine. Students take a bit longer to settle in when the school year starts. Before you get the hang of running your business, you’ll encounter a trial and error period. Persevere through this tumultuous season as better times are coming. Building a routine takes time, and you need patience and consistency. With the right plan and routine, pitfalls can be avoided.

5. There is No End to Learning

Always be ready to learn something from different people, businesses, and situations around you. Don’t ignore or take any lesson for granted. Even with a successful startup, you’ll realize you still have many experiences ahead. When students graduate from one class, they feel like they are bursting with knowledge. However, when lessons in the next level begin, they realize there is so much they did not know. Be open and always ready for one more experience.


An advantage that small businesses have over the larger, established ones is that the customer base is small, allowing you to offer service at a personal level. Take advantage and provide exceptional customer service. Go the extra mile to make your clients happy.

 

     Read Next: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out


Like any 'A' student, set goals and always aim for bonus marks. Simple things like checking up on your customers will boost your grades with them.

 

 

About Ebong Eka

Ebong+Eka+Headshot.pngEbong 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 andmanagement 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

Facebook Live video broadcasting began rolling out in August 2015. Since then, Facebook has been aggressively pushing a video-first approach for the platform, ultimately competing in the streaming video-on-demand space alongside Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube, Twitch and more.

 

However, most businesses struggle to properly embrace live video broadcasting due to concerns of time, effort and resources. In fact, Buffer conducted a study that found:

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              Forty-three percent of marketers said they’d create more live videos if there were no obstacles like time, resources and budget. [Source: Buffer]

 

Yes, it does take time to map out your live video strategy, storyboard the content, decide which talent will be on camera, choose your streaming tool, create a compelling offer and more. And then, there’s no guarantee your livestream will actually generate business results.

 

However, help is at hand. Let me open your eyes to the various ways you could easily integrate Facebook live video broadcasts that will yield a measurable increase in your lead generation, sales conversion and revenue. And, if you start with the end in mind and keep your eye on the prize, you’ll be much more motivated to take the leap into doing more live video.

 

Generate leads by connecting to a chatbot

 

When you do your Facebook Live broadcasts, you can schedule them as much as seven days in advance using any one of several third-party tools, including BeLive.tv, BlueJeans Network, Zoom, Ecamm Live or Wirecast.

 

Once scheduled, you then connect the scheduled Live post on your Facebook business Page wall to a Messenger chatbot.

 

                         RELATED CONTENT: How to Use Facebook Groups to Build a Loyal Community

 

My favorite chatbot tool is Mobile Monkey. One of the nifty features is Comment Guard, allowing you to send an automated message to your audience when they comment on your posts. This allows you to also message those who opt in to your bot. At first, you’ll have Messenger contacts and you can then begin an automated or human dialog and request their email address and phone number.

 

                         RELATED CONTENT: Facebook Messenger Chatbots Give Small Business Owners an Edge

Sell your products or services

       

It’s perfectly fine to do a live video broadcast on Facebook, add value at first and then make special offers. For example, lead an educational session anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, but be sure to intersperse your special offer throughout your broadcast, every 8-10 minutes is just fine. You’ll find the audience on Facebook tends to drop in and out. Ideally, have some text overlay on screen during your broadcast with details of your offer. Any of the Facebook live platforms mentioned above allow you to have on-screen text overlays.

 

Test everything ahead of time. Set up your Facebook Shop or use Shopify as a great online shopping tool. Selling your own products or services is one of the easiest and simplest ways to monetize your Facebook Live videos.

 

Promote affiliate offers

 

Perhaps you have affiliate relationships set up with companies where you receive commission in exchange for promoting their products. This is totally fine to do on Facebook, including live broadcasts. You will need to use the handshake icon to indicate a ‘Branded Partner’ relationship. Software as a Service firms (known as SaaS) or subscription companies are great for affiliate relations as the payout is recurring.

 

Be a brand ambassador

 

This is one of my favorite methods of monetizing Facebook Live broadcasts. You establish paid relations with companies you love and from which your audience would derive value. Again, SaaS or digital tool companies are great here.

 

Think about what companies offer products or services that would be complimentary to what you do.  What problems/challenges does your audience face that you could help solve? What products/services/apps/platforms are you already using?

 

Here’s an example broadcast I recently did on my Facebook Page.

 

You’ll need to use the Branded Content tool for any brand ambassador content. The cool part about doing brand ambassador work is you may be eligible to sign up for Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager feature where you build a portfolio to showcase your content and attract more potential deals.

 

Attract show sponsors

 

If you’re set up to broadcast on Facebook Live on a regular basis, then you’re in a great position to begin seeking show sponsors. This could simply be in the way of “brought to you by…,” or, “in partnership with…”. Or, depending on your show type, perhaps you’ll have product placements, just like you see on television. Again, you’ll need to use the Branded Content tool.

 

What are potential show sponsors looking for? Exposure, visibility, brand awareness, qualified leads and paying customers. Sponsors will be seeking a close match to their target audience. Ideally you are set up for “appointment TV,” that is you have episodic broadcasts that typically air once a week or more.

 

Conduct live auctions

 

Some businesses might lend themselves well to doing real-time auctions. For example, direct-sales women’s clothing company LuLaRoe has grown from 300 sellers in the US to 80,000 in just four years. This rapid growth has predominantly come from pop-up parties and live auctions using Facebook Live!

 

Get Facebook ads rev-share

 

I’m including this potential live video monetization opportunity here… but it could be a ways off for many businesses. Facebook does have an ad revenue-sharing program in place but it’s taking longer than anticipated to gain real traction. Time will tell. Of course, the ad rev-share model has done really well for YouTubers and eventually monetization through rev-share of Facebook video ads will pay off.

 

Remember, you can ‘go live’ anywhere on Facebook – your personal profile or business page, or any group you belong to, or any public event. Also, you can choose to broadcast live through the Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram.

 

                         RELATED CONTENT: 5 Ideas to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Small Business Growth                     

 

Use Facebook Live regularly. Facebook is giving priority to video content, including live video broadcasts, especially when you use the Creator App and/or when you broadcast live through Stories as well.

 

Set up cross-posting relationships. This feature allows you to automatically access videos from mutually approved pages and publish as a fresh post, but the video views are aggregated. This feature is now also available for Live videos and can help increase reach.

 

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.

Women’s Equality Day, August 26, celebrates the day in 1921 the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote became part of the United States Constitution. Just as voting was once reserved for men, for a long-time business boot camps and startup accelerators were (if not exactly reserved for men) definitely male-dominated.

 

But that’s changing, and more business boot camps and accelerators are seeking diversity among their participants. Still, there can be something special about learning along with other women who know what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur. That’s why in honor of Women's Equality Day, we’re highlighting six business boot camps, startup accelerators and leadership training programs that are great for women.

 

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Springboard

 

Since 2000, Springboard has helped more than 674 women-led companies grow by leveraging its global community of innovators, influencers and investors. With a goal to help entrepreneurs build technology-focused companies, Springboard invites participating women to an intensive boot camp where they work on the content and delivery of their company presentation to investors. After the boot camp, companies are assessed and assigned a personal advisory team of experts who provide input on business strategy and open doors to relevant connections and opportunities.

 

Springboard also hosts several “Dolphin Tank” events throughout the year. These programs are “helpful feedback-driven pitch sessions” where women can get constructive insight from experts about their ideas. Unlike shark tanks, Dolphin Tanks focus on collaboration, not competition, and the expert panel is there to offer advice and connections to “enable entrepreneurs to overcome their challenges and capitalize on their opportunities.”

 

Reboot

 

Reboot is designed to help business owners and businesspeople reboot their leadership skills. The company offers coaching, 360-degree performance reviews, boot camps, co-founder boot camps, peer groups, internal trainings and more.

 

This year, for the first time, Reboot will be holding a Women’s Bootcamp for female founders, CEOs, executives and VPs. The event promises a “rigorous weekend of practical skills, radical self-inquiry and peer support” at the Reboot Retreat Center in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Women’s Startup Lab

 

In the past four years, this leading accelerator for female founders has graduated more than 100 alumnae who have cumulatively raised over $50 million in financing. The 12-month program includes spending two weeks in residence in Silicon Valley, where the women participate in intensive small-group workshops. Post-accelerator, participants receive monthly coaching calls, access to exclusive investor events and workshops, and more.

 

EBW2020

 

EBW2020 (Empowering a Billion Women by 2020) is a global community of businesswomen dedicated to elevating women and democratizing access to capital for women all over the world. EPW2020’s goal is to “empower and enable women by connecting them to opportunities, funding sources, digital tools, financial planning, leadership skills, and a safe place to develop a stronger business acumen.”

 

There are monthly trainings (online and off), individual EPW chapters, training to help prepare you for outside investors, accelerator events and an annual Summit, to be held in November.

 

Change Catalyst

 

While Change Catalyst is not just for women, this organization, founded by a white woman and an African-American man, focuses on increasing inclusivity in technology. The Change Catalyst Startup Fellows Program provides selected early stage entrepreneurs with funding opportunities, introductions to key investors, mentorship, an educational curriculum, networking opportunities and more.

 

Mergelane

 

After several years of running successful accelerators for women entrepreneurs, Mergelane is changing strategies this year. The investment firm focused on women-led companies is combining the best aspects of venture funding and accelerators in its “Funderator.”

The eight-day intensive session is designed to recruit, screen and accelerate the best startups in which to invest. The first three days consist of Conscious Leadership training; the next five consist of feedback from their mentor network, the MergeLane team and the program’s alumni network. Participating startups must have at least one woman in a leadership position.

 

 

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

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

How do you take an after-work hobby and capitalize on it to create an empire? This week’s podcast episode details how one man did exactly that, board by board.

 

Listen to valuable advice for hopeful entrepreneurs from Brandon Greba, founder of West Georgia Cornhole.

 

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Brandon Greba:         We started in 2009, and from there I was doing it as a hobby. So, up until July of 2013, finally I just made the leap of faith, and I quit my good corporate job. And I was excelling, I was at the top of my team, and I was making decent money at it, and stuff. On the other side of that, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and it was instilled in me at a young age ... my dad owned his own business, so it was instilled that, hey, you're going to own your own business one day.

 

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 with Brandon Greba, he is the owner of West Georgia Cornhole. Their website is westgeorgiacornhole.com, also well worth checking out on Twitter, wgcornhole, on Facebook, West Georgia Cornhole and Instagram, which we are going to talk about because, Brandon, I have heard you are a marketing whiz, or you and your team are when it comes to Instagram. That's West-Georgia-Cornhole.

 

                                   Brandon, thanks for joining us and I have to start by asking what may seem like a really obvious question to you, but I'm not sure everybody in the United States or in the world knows what cornhole is. So give us a real quick rundown of how the game is played.

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. Well, thanks guys, for having me on first off. It's a privilege to be in this position so definitely appreciate that. So, yeah. Cornhole is a game that is primarily played at an outdoor event, tailgates, family functions, but over the past three or four years it's really gained in popularity as far competition-wise. It started as a backyard game and now it's kind of turned into big money where you can actually win some prize money and things.

 

Gregg Stebben:         There are pro cornhole players?

 

Brandon Greba:         Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean it's on ESPN now.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Then it's hard to top that, right? That's pretty much pinnacle.

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. Yeah. Exactly, but you know, the premise of it is you have eight bean bags. You usually play against another opponent and you have two boards that are spread out 27 feet apart. The boards themselves are two foot by four foot and they've got a six-inch hole towards the top. So, similar to horseshoes. You can transport it very well and then you throw the beanbags and try to get it in the hole. So, one bean bag on the board is one point, and one bean bag on the hole is three points. So you just kind of go back and forth playing your opponent until you get to 21, typically. First to 21 wins, so it's pretty simple in kind of theory but as you get more involved in it, there's a lot of strategy and competition involved.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And of course, we should point out that a big difference between cornhole and horseshoes is in horseshoes usually you're driving a stake into the ground or the sand or something and throwing them. Here, there's a board and that board ends up being really important in this conversation because that's really what your company does—you make cornhole boards, correct?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yep. Yep. So, absolutely. So we can get as basic as just a plain board, natural wood, spray some poly on it, to getting very elaborate, doing corporate logos, sponsors, teams, and things like that. So, it's kind of all up to the customer, the end customer, the company that we're dealing with but that's what makes it cool, so everyone is unique.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So, are your customers a combination of just regular folks like us who want to play in the backyard or with friends, all the way up to corporate? And I could even imagine ... I mean I think I've seen cornhole boards with team logos on them. Pro teams, college teams, things like that?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So, absolutely. We have an online retail site so anybody off the street can go on there, log on and customize a board and then that goes straight to us and then usually within two weeks, we'll have it delivered to your doorstep, so that's the process and then we have larger bulk orders that we do for corporations, for promotional events, giveaways, things like that. So, definitely, two good markets that we're in.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Help me understand how you got into the business of building cornhole boards. I'm talking with Brandon Greba. He's the owner of West Georgia Cornhole at westgeorgiacornhole.com. You can check him out on social media too, wgcornhole on Twitter, West Georgia Cornhole on Facebook, and on Instagram, West-Georgia-Cornhole. How did you get into this business?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So, I've always kind of been a hands-on guy, liking to build things. So, really it started probably around 2008, 2009. One of my friends asked me to build a cornhole set for their parents for Christmas, so I went ahead and did it, made a nice set. She presented it to her parents for Christmas. They loved it, fell in love with it. They told some of their friends, "Hey where'd you get this?" You know, mentioned my name, so really from that point on, it was word of mouth. I was working out of my garage and had a corporate full-time job, trying to manage that and orders started flowing in, started picking up, word of mouth.

 

                                   I would make some local classified posts, kind of starting real small and then things really just escalated. Cornhole was getting popular. We were making a product. Or at that time I was making a good product, and it just really scaled from there. You know we started in 2009, and from there I was doing it as a hobby, so up until July of 2013. I finally just made the leap of faith and I quit my good, corporate job that I was excelling in.

 

Gregg Stebben:         What was your good corporate job?

 

Brandon Greba:         I was working for a company called Fastenal. It's a rather large industrial supply company, so I was a project manager for them at that time.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, you were at a place where you had to make a tough choice, or maybe it was an easy choice.

 

Brandon Greba:         Oh yeah. It was tough because I was in a position with my job and I was excelling. I was the top of my team and I was making decent money at it and stuff, but on the other side of that, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and it was instilled in me at a young age and my dad owned his own business. So it was kind of installed that, "Hey, you're going to own your own business one day." So, at that point, it was like, "Okay. I know I can do this. I know I can make money at it." You've got the work ethic to do it, let's do it and then I talked to my boss. He thought I was crazy but it was a long process.

 

                                  Me and my wife talked about it for six, seven, eight months and just got plans together and made sure the financials worked out and made sure we weren't going crazy doing this thing, you know?

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, when you made that leap around July 2013—so about five years ago—were you still making the boards in your garage? Did you have any employees? Where was the business at that point, and then help us understand what you've built it into today?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So at that point we were still in my garage and it was considered a hobby at that point.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So, you and Steve Jobs started the same way.

 

Brandon Greba:         Yep. Yep. Two car garage. Yep, out in Georgia. I didn't have any employees. I mean I had some people, some friends, that would lend a hand on the weekend if I was backed up or during the summer I would hire some buddies that were teachers that had the summer off, so kind of that model. And usually the summer is our busier time, so it kind of helped out, you know, them making a little extra money and then helping me out when we were busy. So, but nobody full time at that point so as soon as I ... we formed an LLC and then started July '13

 

                                             Related Content: Why Your Small Business Should Participate in Facebook or Instagram Live Streaming Events. And Tweet Chats, Too!   

 

                                   A month or two later, I hired a part-timer. He was a work release student in one of the local high schools. So I hired him on. He was going to be graduating later in the spring. So, we kind of mentored him and trained him up so hired him on. And then in ... I guess it was October, November of '13, so a few months later, we moved into a commercial space of about 5000 square feet, so you know, at that point we were able to really expand and spread out, create some more efficiencies and not be so crammed and then really just kind of make the stepping stones of what we needed to do to grow the business to where we wanted it.

 

                                   That was a big move, getting into a building and out of the garage.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Signing a lease is a big deal.

 

Brandon Greba:         Yep. Yep. Absolutely. So, that was ... You know, we made the move there towards the end of '13 and started ramping up, getting ready for Christmas. Usually Christmas is pretty big and then went full steam at it January, February of 2014 and just kind of started hiring people. I had one part-time employee. He turned into a full-time after he graduated high school. He stuck with me after that for about three to four years, so he was definitely a good hire and kind of got me going as well, so it was a good investment there.

 

Gregg Stebben:          And so how big is your company today?

 

Brandon Greba:         Right now, we actually, two months ago, acquired a new building so we're building. Square foot now, we are about 15, 16 thousand square feet. We have a mixture of part-time, full-time. Right now probably 20 to 22 employees right now, so looking to bring on a few more here before the year is over. I would say by the end of the year maybe 23, 24 employees. Definitely a big uptick in five years, so it's something to be very proud of.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, I have to ask. Do you have a sense of how big the cornhole market is?

 

Brandon Greba:         The cornhole market ... We've got a few competitors of mine that are out there, but the market's kind of really split because you've got these garage hobby builders, like I came out of. So from the garagers ... There's still a lot of those guys out there that are doing that across the country. But we kind of estimate the cornhole yard game market. Because we do a little bit more than just cornhole. We do a lot of other yard games as well. So, we anticipate the yard game market anywhere between 20 and 40 million dollars a year.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I have heard that you have done very well, very, very well, using Instagram as a marketing tool. Can you talk to us about things you tried in the beginning? What worked, what didn't, and what you're doing today?

 

                                             Related Content: 5 Ideas to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Small Business Growth

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So, you know, we use social media is huge for us. You know we use it as a way to connect to our followers and not just followers, but potential buyers. And a lot of people out there will try to push product down people's throats on social media. We kind of take a different angle, you know. We want to just engage with those people. You know, we want to get them to know our business and then hopefully, at that point we have an emotional connection with them and then they make the sale. They want to be connected with company in the sale.

 

                                   It's just not some random cornhole board off an internet site. We want to let them know how the process is, behind-the-scenes pictures, kind of stuff like that. It's important to put a face behind the product, really. That's kind what we really like to do with it. And then Instagram and Facebook is an easy way to do that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes. And so, has that ... First of all, are you the one who's managing your social media and whether you're the one doing it today or not, were you doing it in the beginning?

 

                                            Related Content: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Social Media

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. I handle a lot of it now still. I have a little help from one of my other guys but it's you know, it's probably about 50-50 between both of us as far promotion we're going to do on there or any type of ad spend or anything like that or pictures or what not we're going to put on. But yeah, in the beginning it was all me. Everything really, was all me in the beginning, you know until…

 

Gregg Stebben:          It's the nature of being an entrepreneur.

 

Brandon Greba:         Oh yeah. Yeah. And until you realize, "Hey. I can't do all this anymore." Then you start hiring people, so hiring good people that can do the job that you used to do. So, that was a big thing too.

 

Gregg Stebben:         When you started the company in 2013, were you already a big social media user? Or did you have to learn the rules of the game around the time you launched or started to use it for your own company?

 

Brandon Greba:         I wouldn't say I was good. I was probably average, you know. Just being young, knowing that kind of stuff is an advantage and then it starts changing every day. You know, the aspect of the new sites that are out there and how people interact an all the hashtags, the algorithm, all the hot stuff behind the scenes. All that stuff's changing every day. You know, you got to kind of stay on top of it. We have some outside help that kind of helps us with some of the guidance on that stuff. But yeah, it's all learning. Every day is change. You got to learn new things every week.

 

Gregg Stebben:         How would you categorize the importance of social media in the marketing of your company? Is it your main thing or is it part of a larger mix?

 

Brandon Greba:         I wouldn't say it's everything but it is a lot. It's a big nest, but you don't want to put all your eggs in that basket.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Yes. Yes. Well, I'm imagining that if you're in what you call the backyard game industry, that there's a lot of other ways to connect with fans, and friends, and customers. Events, leagues, celebrity clients ... Do you see yourself doing things like that?

 

Brandon Greba:         We host tournaments. We have a weekly league that we host in our local city. You know we are for hire for different corporate events or tournaments that people want to point on. At that point, you know, people are actually playing on our boards. They get the chance to talk with us, interact with us, play with our product so it's a good way to get people to actually use our stuff before the buy it and then they can ask us how to purchase these things at that point. So, it's just another avenue. You know, another avenue as far celebrity clients ... We'll occasionally get clients that will purchase some of our cornhole boards.

 

                                   At that point it's pretty cool. You know, we try to jump on it, try to leverage that as far as making posts or what not or trying to get them to take pictures with the product and tagging us. It is pretty cool and if there is a potential buyer that sees that they're going be like, "Wow. Okay. You made this so and so." For us it's just another way to go to market there.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Brandon Greba. He's the owner of West Georgia Cornhole. It's westgeorgiacornhole.com. If you're needing a board, that's the place to go. On Twitter, wgcornhole. Facebook, West Georgia Cornhole, and on Instagram, West - Georgia-Cornhole.

 

                                   Brandon, I noticed on your website that you are actually doing a lot of work for big name, big brand companies like Coca-Cola and American Express, Adobe, Google Fiber. Tell us about how you got started in the corporate market.

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So the corporate market has really come on, probably in the past two to three years. So, that's a totally different ball game as far as going to bat with those guys but we just reach out to them. We try to make some calls. A lot of times they're finding us on Google searches, sending us emails that way. But it's just, when you get those emails, you get those inquiries, you know we try to jump on them, take extreme care of them. We try to take care of everybody but really focusing and making those relationships work.

 

                                   And then a lot of times, it's reoccurring purchases that they're doing. You know, they have events throughout the year, do promotions or giveaways. So we just want to make sure that they are 100% taken care of. It turns out to be an ongoing relationship that we have with them.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which is a beautiful, beautiful, thing. I want to ask you two other things, Brandon. One is, now that you've built this company up, essentially in about 10 years, right ... 2008 or 2009 ... you're 10 years in. You've grown. You're having a remarkable success. Where do you see yourself and the company in five years, 10 years?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. So, I'm always ... one of my things is I always dream big. You know, set big goals, obtains those goals and then once you do that, set even bigger goals after that. So, in five years, I would be like to be doing close to $10 million in sales, be looking for a bigger building at that point, outgrow this building. I want to have probably 30 to 40 employees, so double the employee base. So those are just some of the five-year goals. After that it's probably the 10 years goals. After 10 years I want to be at the point I'm letting this ... this thing is smooth sailing. I'm looking into possibly purchasing other business or building another business kind of similar that can complement this. You know, that's where we're at.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Sounds like a great goal. The last thing I want to ask you because of the success you've built in the last 10 years is, when you think back to those early days, and then in your mind kind of fast forward to today ... Has there been one or two of the most valuable lessons you've learned about owning, starting, or running a business that you wish everyone knew?

 

Brandon Greba:         Yeah. I've got quite a bit of them. Yeah. I guess one of the biggest things, you know ... Don't let anybody tell you, you can't do it. When I started off, "Oh. What are you doing, man? You're crazy. Why are you quitting this job, doing this?" Don't let anybody say you can't do it. There's always going to be naysayers and stuff out there, so put that aside and then five, 10 years down the road, say, "Well, look what I've done." Don't let anybody put you down. Don't let anybody say it can't be done. I said it before. Dream big, set big goals. Obtain those goals and then set new ones, really.

 

                                   And a big one too is, it's not all peachy and peachy as a way it's going to be you know. There are going to be rough times. Everybody thinks owning your own business, "Oh, man. You own your own business. That's awesome." It's got its bad days just like anybody else. Those bad days are bad.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Well, for you, and for your company ... For West Georgia Cornhole, what's a bad day look like?

 

Brandon Greba:         You know, you may lose a sale, you may lose a customer, you may lose a bigger customer. You know may have some machinery that goes down. You're going to have to jump on that, spend money on that. You may have some employees that on a big day you needed them to be here, they didn't show up, something happened. So, there's always crazy things like that. It's never all ups. But with those rough times, you know, learn from those mistakes and what happened in those rough times and how you can avoid them in the future. You got to do that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         In other words, when things are tough, make sure you learn from them so you don't repeat the same mistakes.

 

Brandon Greba:         Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Brandon, thanks for joining us. He's Brandon Greba. He's the owner of West Georgia Cornhole. Westgeorgiacornhole.com. On Twitter, @wgcornhole. On Facebook, at West Georgia Cornhole and on Instagram at West-Georgia-Cornhole. Go to any of those social media sites or directly to westgeorgiacornhole.com, you will see some beautiful boards and if you want to have a great summer and you don't have a cornhole board or you're ready to update, these are the guys to go to.

 

                                   Brandon, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Brandon Greba:          Yes sir, thanks for having me.

 

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

 

 

As we pass the halfway mark of 2018, there are numerous reports saying small business owners are optimistic. A few months ago I noted the Spring 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report showed some of the highest levels of optimism among U.S. entrepreneurs since the survey began in 2012.

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But small business owners had some concerns as well, primarily the cost of healthcare, higher interest rates and consumer spending.

So, what is the state of the U.S. small business economy these days? I put that question (and a few others) to Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) last month, and a mega-successful entrepreneur in her own right.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What’s the state of our small business economy these days?

 

Linda McMahon: There’s a feeling of optimism, confidence and enthusiasm among small business owners. They’re excited about the tax cuts, rollback of regulations and launch of association health plans (which will become more accessible on September 1st). [There’s more about association health plans here.]

 

Lesonsky: What’s the environment for getting a small biz loan now?

 

McMahon: With less regulation, it’s possible for the SBA, conventional lending banks, community banks and credit unions to go back to kind of lending they did. The SBA is guaranteeing more loans.

 

 

Lesonsky: You personally have long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. What  are some of the challenges we face in trying to level the playing field for fair and equal access to credit? (McMahon cofounded Women’s Leadership Live in 2016.)

 

 

McMahon: There are many women’s organizations giving support to women, to help them be more confident. And there are now 109 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the country, where women can get expert advice from women—and men—about what they need to do. Some of the greatest help women can get is to help them develop a good pitch.

 

The SBA, SCORE, the SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) and WBCs are here to help women walk through the paces, and to advocate for them. And the SBIC [Small Business Investment Company, which is licensed by the SBA to invest in small businesses] is helping women get access to venture capital.

 

Lesonsky: What do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access?

 

McMahon: We need to continue to break down barriers. Women are resilient and are starting more businesses. We need to help women get more loans and seed capital. We are thrilled to see more traditional lending coming from banks.

 

Lesonsky: You are a big believer in the value of technology and have said in previous interviews that small business entrepreneurs should embrace technology to remain competitive. I am always surprised by the fact nearly half of small businesses don’t have websites.

 

McMahon: I don’t know how you get started without having a website. It gives you a head up. Consumers are Googling to find out where businesses are and [what they do]. If you need to, go to your local SBDC or SCORE office to help you develop a website. It’s all free.

 

Lesonsky: How can we encourage more startups?

 

McMahon: We had a big recession and it takes recovery time to come back. But people are more confident and optimistic now, so more businesses will be starting.

 

I’m visiting all 68 SBA district offices to make sure the SBA is not the best kept secret in the country. [I met McMahon as she visited the Santa Ana (CA) district, her 49thtrip to a district since she began serving her term.] Small businesses should know about all the resources we have to help them start and grow. They should check us out at SBA.gov.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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

One of the toughest aspects of being a small business owner is the isolation. Next time you feel like there’s no one you can turn to for advice, check out one of these organizations. They’re some of the best places I know to get help achieving your entrepreneurial goals.

 

Small Business Administration (SBA)

This federal agency provides access to capital, entrepreneurial development and training, assistance with federal contracting and more. Through its resource partner organizations, including SCORE, the SBDC Network, Women's Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, the SBA helps entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses. There’s also an online Learning Center where you can take entrepreneurial education courses[GK1] .

 

    Related Content: SBA Loans & Financing from Bank of America

 

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SCORE

With more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters nationwide, SCORE is the country’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. SCORE offers both in-person and online mentoring by current and former business owners and executives. Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of free educational resources including live and on-demand webinars, interactive online training courses, in-person local workshops, and free business tools.

 

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners with free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, market research help and more. There are hundreds of SBDC locations nationwide, typically located on college and university campuses.

 

Women’s Business Centers (WBC)

There are more than 100 Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States and its territories seek to level the playing field for women business owners. Women can receive training and counseling on a wide range of topics to help them overcome the unique obstacles they face in starting and growing their businesses.

 

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC)

Transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses who want to start, buy or grow a business should check out the Veterans Business Outreach Centers. Located nationwide, the offices provide transition assistance programs including Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot; resource referrals; and business development assistance such as training, counseling and mentoring.

 

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

Founded in 1975, the National Association of Women Business Owners represents over 10 million women-owned businesses nationwide. With chapters across the country and members from all industries, NAWBO works to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of its members and promote economic development. Members benefit from a library of resources; networking opportunities; and the NAWBO Institute Virtual Platform, which facilitates best practice sharing, communication and education[GK2] .

 

     Related Content: Learn about Bank of America's partnership with NAWBO

 

The National Minority Business Council (NMBC)

The NMBC offers minority business people business assistance, educational opportunities, seminars, purchasing exchanges, mentoring, business listings, procurement-related events and opportunities, and more.

 

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC)

The largest black business association in the world, the National Black Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity. It has more than 200 chapters in 40 states and 50 countries. Members include businesses of every size and industry, state and local chambers of commerce, and trade and professional associations. Benefits for members include corporate and federal procurement sessions, networking opportunities, publications, access to international trade missions, and an annual convention.

 

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

This elite organization is open to owners, founders or majority stakeholders of businesses earning at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. With 173 chapter locations in 54 countries and more than 12,000 members, Entrepreneurs’ Organization promotes both global and local networking. Members have access to executive education and mentorship programs, local, regional and global events, and virtual learning tools.

 

With so many entrepreneurial assistance organizations out there, there’s sure to be one (or a few) that appeal to you. Have you worked with any of these organizations? What did you think?

 

*(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my business.)

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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

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Many entrepreneurs turn to their bank for a loan when starting a small business. On the latest podcast episode, Chris Ward, Small Business Credit Executive from Bank of America, explains what banks are looking for when making loan decisions.

 

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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.

 

 

Chris Ward:                If you have an accountant, that's your business partner. If you have an attorney to help represent you, that's your business partner. Think of your banker the same way, one of the three trusted business partners for you to be successful as a small business, because every small business owner wants to grow their business over time and wants to have a positive impact on the community. So how can your banker help you with that?

 

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 with Chris Ward, he’s the Small Business Credit Executive at Bank of America. We're going to talk about something, Chris, I know all small business owners think to themselves and always wonder who I can ask? Here's the question. When it comes to a bank like Bank of America making business loans, what is the bank looking for?

 

Chris Ward:                Good question Gregg. It's hard for small businesses, because there's not a lot of information out there to help them like there is on the consumer lending side. What are banks looking for? They're primarily looking for the five C’s of small business credit. What are those five C’s of small business credit?

 

                                   It's about capacity, collateral, capital, conditions and character, and if I could throw in one more, it's also about communication, so let's just call it the six C’s of small business lending credit.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. I'm game to call it the six C’s of small business credit. Let's take them one at a time. You said the first one is capacity. What do you mean by that?

 

Chris Ward:                Capacity really is about whether the revenues, the income that your business generates, is enough to cover your debts, so your business debts and also your personal debts. Because if you're a small business owner, your business is your personal income as well. So, it's about the cash flow that your business generates and is that cash flow getting better, is it getting worse, is it stable, is it unstable, is it volatile? It’s things like that we’re looking for to determine the capacity that a business has for handling its expenses and its liabilities.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Do you find that many people who are looking for a small business loan are surprised that their personal credit situation is also a factor?

 

Chris Ward:                A lot are. A lot don't realize that. But if you think about it, if you're a sole proprietor, it makes all the sense in the world, because on your tax returns on your personal side you're going to have your business. But when you're a Subchapter S or LLC, a lot of those businesses—because of the way they're structured—they have to pass through the retained earnings back to the personal side.

 

                                  Because in a small business loan, as owners, you're going to be personally guaranteeing that loan, we have to look at both sides, both the business side and the personal side to see how you're managing your entire financial well-being.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Are there certain benchmarks or rules of thumb that I, as a small business owner, should be looking at to recognize whether I'm in a good situation to be going to a bank for a small business loan?

 

Chris Ward:                Yeah. There's a general rule of thumb, and it's really about the income divided by your total debt. We call it debt coverage ratio. In general, in the industry you're looking for about $1.25 to cover at least every dollar of liabilities out there. That way you have a little bit of buffer, a little bit of wiggle room, if you will, on your cash flow to manage your debt and provide some working capital for the business so it can keep on growing.   [GK4]

 

Gregg Stebben:          Then the next C of the six C’s of small business credit is capital, so talk about that.

 

Chris Ward:                Capital is really about your business assets, what the business owns, what the business has generated. Is it greater than the total liabilities the business has out there? Think of your business assets. Think of what the business owns. Think of inventory. Think of real estate. Think of retained earnings, the cash, the checking account balances. Is that more than what the business owes to others? So, whether that's an actual loan or maybe it's just your accounts payable, and does that capital also have enough to show how much you as a business owner have invested in that company that you own?

 

Gregg Stebben:         Which I think would tie into the next C, which is collateral.

 

Chris Ward:                Collateral, right. Capital helps to generate collateral, at least generate the means to grow your collateral. It's accounts receivable for a business. It's inventory. It's cash. It's equipment. It's real estate if the business actually owns its property instead of leases. It's an automobile that might be in the business name or a truck, depending on the type of business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. We're talking about ... I think classically they're called the five C’s of small business credit. We've talked about capital, we've talked about capacity, we've talked about collateral. There's also a C, which is the fourth C, which is conditions. What does that refer to?

 

Chris Ward:                That's really about the economy and the type of industry that you are. A lot of industries could be very seasonal. You think of industries that rely upon tourism, very, very seasonal. So that means the cash flow, the revenues, could be somewhat volatile if we look at the entire year.

 

                                   It also could be about the type of industry such as a gas station or a convenience store. You might be handling very dangerous liquids—obviously a gas station would—so there's legislation, there's regulations involved. So, it's really understanding not only the business itself, but also the type of business it is and how it impacts our local communities.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It's interesting, when you talk about something like seasonal industries, are you suggesting that there's a best time of year for me to be applying for a loan, or just that I am addressing it well when talking about the need for the loan or in the written materials I might submit to the bank?

 

Chris Ward:                It's more about addressing it well with your banker, making sure they understand the type of business you are, when your revenues come in if they don't come in as a straight line. And no business has revenues coming in in a straight line every month, month over month. You think about it, just the American economy. People spend a whole lot of money in the fourth quarter for the holidays and then they turn around and they have to pay all their bills in Q1, and the tax time comes, so that also relates to small businesses in general from my opinion.

 

                                  Help your banker understand how your revenues come in, how your expenses go out, and how does time and the time of year impact how your business runs.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking that you're suggesting that I be prepared to answer the same questions a rich uncle would ask if I went to my rich uncle for a loan.

 

Chris Ward:                Yeah. Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Is that actually ... Could that be a good way to approach this? Just imagine that I'm making a case for a loan for my business to another person versus a bank? Because everything you've said so far is really common sense.

 

Chris Ward:                It is common sense, but you're dealing with your banker, and so how you have that relationship with your banker, how you build that partnership with your banker, is really important. Getting them to understand how your business runs, because every business is different. There's over 28 million small businesses in America today. They're all different. Some are businesses at home. Some are businesses with an actual storefront. Some are businesses where the owner is more of a consultant and traveling all the time.

 

                                   So, help that the banker understand how your business runs, how it operates, how it generates cashflow, and what is the ultimate goal and purpose of your business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Okay. Let's move on to the fifth C of the six C’s of small business credit. It's character. That's got to be a big one.

 

Chris Ward:                It is. It's probably one of the most important, if not the most important. It's all about you as a business owner and your history. It's tied so closely to the success of your business. It's actually critically important.

 

                                  It's factors such as your personal integrity, your industry experience, your good-standing. It's about your credit history, both your personal and your business credit history, and the factors that impact your credit score, because there are small business credit scores out there as well as the credit bureau agencies.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And the sixth C you have said is communication, and I would think that that fits in with character as well. Talk about why that's so important.

 

Chris Ward:                Well, it's a little bit different, and here's how it's different. Communication is first you have a business plan. It's significant if you have a business plan where you've been, where you are today, and where you're going, and how are you going to continue the success of your business, and then can you communicate and share that business plan with your small business banker? Because your small business banker is your business partner in many, many senses. They're there to represent you with the bank and to cut through the red tape of banking, because banking is not easy nowadays.

 

                                   It's gotten a lot better because of mobile technology and mobile banking or remote deposit capture and things like that, but it's still complicated, especially for a small business owner, because there are so many factors that impact you as a business owner. So that communication, that relationship, that give and take that you have with your small business banker to help you get the proper products, to make sure that you're lining up the right type of lending products to the needs that you have, that's what communication is all about.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, I want to ask you two more questions. I'm talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. I want to ask you two other questions. One is what is the best way for me to begin building a relationship with my local bankers now, so that when I'm ready to ask for a loan I'm not walking in for the first time, so that I know them and they know me?

 

Chris Ward:                That's a great question. So here's my suggestion. Where you have your business checking account today, get to know that bank, the bankers there that represent you at that local branch, and get to know their products and services. Then ask them questions about how to run your business better, how to have a better business banking relationship.

 

                                   So think of things like merchant services. If you accept credit cards from your customers, are your merchant services to accept those credit cards with the bank that provides your checking account? Do you have a business credit card? Business credit cards are a very popular way of helping to finance small dollar expenses for a business. If you don't have a business credit card with your bank today, why not? Look into it.

 

                                   Does the relationship you have with your bank reward you, so the more that you have at that bank, does it give you discounts and fee waivers? The larger the relationship with your bank, the better that you get from that bank, the better the relationship, but also the more that you know about that banker and how they can help you.

 

Gregg Stebben:         It sounds to me like I should really be thinking about the bankers in my local branch almost as consultants when it comes to managing the money of my business. There are ways they can help me that I might not know unless I made the effort to ask them.

 

Chris Ward:                I totally agree. I actually think they're your business partner. If you have an accountant, that's your business partner. If you have an attorney to help represent you, that's your business partner. Think of your banker the same way, one of the three trusted business partners for you to be successful as a small business, because every small business owner wants to grow their business over time and wants to have a positive impact on the community. So how can your banker help you with that?

 

                                   If you have a banker that can help you with that, it's going to help your business. It's going to help make your life easier as a small business owner. So making sure that you have a banker who's competent and knowledgeable and dedicated to small businesses I think is super important.

 

Gregg Stebben:         The last thing I want to ask you, Chris ... Chris Ward, he's the Small Business credit executive at Bank of America. The last thing I want to ask you is this. I'm sure many people listening have never applied for a business loan before from a bank. What is that process like? Can you give us a brief overview?

 

Chris Ward:                Every bank is a little bit different. It's not as common and streamlined as it is in consumer lending, say as an auto loan. But a lot of banks are dedicating a lot of time, money and technology to improve in the small business credit application process.

 

                                   So the first thing I would ask that you all do is that you go to the bank's website and see what their capabilities are and are not. For example, go check out Bank of America and compare it to the competition. Do they have an easy way to apply for credit? Do they have a learning section with really good general industry information that helps you understand how to establish and maintain your business credit?  How to apply for  business credit

 

                                   Then does it also list out all the different types of small business credit products that are out there, from a small business credit card, to a real estate loan, to a business auto loan, up to an SBA, a Small Business Administration loan? Do they have those capabilities? That's a great place to go and to start the process, to educate yourself and making sure that you're dealing with a bank that is full-service and has industry experts to help you with your small business.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's really great advice. I've been talking with Chris Ward. He's the small business credit executive at Bank of America. Chris, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Chris Ward:                Thank you.

 

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

Facebook offers small business owners an unprecedented opportunity to reach your ideal target market with your message. With the right Facebook ad format, creative and offer, you can easily drive more foot traffic and website traffic to your business. Managed properly, your ad campaigns can yield incredible results, including generating more highly qualified prospects that convert into increased sales and profits.

 

If you are not optimizing all Facebook offers with its wide array of campaign objectives, targeting parameters, placements and ad formats, this article is for you. We’ll specificallyhone in on the best performing formats and placements.

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Currently, there are over 80 million business pages on Facebook. Out of which, only six million use Facebook for advertising.

 

If you are among the 74 million businesses not taking advantage of Facebook ads, you likely fall into one of two camps:

 

      1. You’ve tried Facebook ads and were disappointed with the results. Perhaps you ran a few campaigns and didn’t get the ROI you were expecting. Thus, you’ve decided Facebook ads don’t work (for your business).
      2. You’ve never placed a Facebook ad and don’t really know where to start. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed with all the options and afraid of losing money. And/or you may be hoping that your organic marketing strategy will pay off.

 

 

The good news: There’s never been a better time to start using Facebook ads to grow your business.

 

12 Facebook Ad Formats

 

Facebook offers the following 12 different ad formats for promoting your message to your target market. This list is in my recommended order for both best performing and level of complexity, from easiest to more complex.

 

  1. Video – Tell your story with sight, sound and motion. Show off product features, and draw people in. The auto-play movement catches people’s eye. Video is one of the best performing ad types as Facebook is giving high priority to video content in the News Feed.
  2. Image – Use a beautiful image to convey your message. Drive people to a destination website or app through high-quality visuals. Image ads with a link work really well on Instagram in particular, given it’s such a visual platform.
  3. Lead Generation – Lead ads on Facebook and Instagram help you collect contact information from people interested in your business. A lead ad is presented using an image, video, or carousel, and followed by a lead form when the user engages with the ad. Facebook’s tagline for Lead Ads is, “Tap, tap, done.” It’s that simple for the user.
  4. Messenger – Get people to start conversations with your business. This format is particularly effective when you have a Messenger chatbot [BE2][GK3] hooked up to your Facebook Page. Plus, people seeing your ad don’t have to leave Facebook to interact with you. Well, they hop out to Messenger and then right back to scrolling through their Facebook feed!
  5. Slideshow – This ad format is a lightweight looping video of up to 15 seconds long, using between 3-10 of your own images or Facebook’s stock images available via Shutterstock. The simple slideshow format doesn’t take up as much streaming data to play, which helps to reach people across connection speeds.
  6. Carousel – This is a lovely format that allows you to showcase up to ten images and/or videos within a single ad, each with its own link. This format performs well on both Facebook and Instagram.
  7. Offers – Create a special discount to share with your customers on Facebook. You can design your offer ad to appear as an image, video, or carousel.
  8. Event Responses – Use this ad format to promote awareness of your event and drive responses. Event ads can be a single image or video. I recommend video.
  9. Collection – Encourage your prospects to shop by displaying a variety of items from your product catalog—customized for each individual. Definitely a more advanced ad format, and essential for ecommerce stores.
  10. Dynamic – Promote all the products in your catalog to the right people, automatically. Also incredibly effective for ecommerce stores.
  11. Canvas – This beautiful, immersive format lets people open a full-screen, mobile-optimized experience instantly from your ad. I don’t see too many of this ad type; usually bigger brands put the time and effort needed into creating this format.
  12. Page Likes – I put this one last on purpose. If your Facebook Page is really new with not that many likes (fans), or you’ve reached a plateau in fan growth and wish to build your audience, then Page Likes ads could be a good choice. Page Likes ads can be with a video or an image. However, I will say that Page Likes ads should be a low priority in your marketing mix. It’s best to invest your advertising dollars to place your message in front of your exact target audience. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying to get more likes, and then paying again to reach them.

 

Small businesses should first focus on these 3 Facebook ad formats

 

If you are new to Facebook ads, the three formats I recommend focusing on for best performance are video, lead generation and Messenger.

 

For video ads, upload native video content to your wall first and also broadcast using Facebook Live. Then amplify reach with the Video Views objective. But, before you place your video ad (boost your video content) make sure you’ve included a strong call to action and a link, or Messenger button.

 

For almost all ad formats, you can include a link to drive people to your website to learn more about your business or special offer.

 

You’ll want to run many split tests when driving people off of Facebook. Ideally, send people to a very simple landing page with no extraneous buttons. Just a clean, simple offer to sign up with their name/email/phone number or to make a purchase. Make sure you have Facebook Pixel installed on your landing pages.

 

To learn from real businesses of all sizes generating amazing results with their Facebook ads, visit Facebook’s Success Stories.

 

In future articles, I’ll be walking you through additional aspects of how to get solid results with Facebook ads.

 

 

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.

How should I lead my team to grow company revenue and retention?

 

I received this question from a small business owner with 50 employees, and he has been struggling to get his employees on board with a new company direction.

 

Without the right plan, process and actions, leadership can be exhausting for the business owner. More importantly, it can be detrimental to the business by impacting morale,

productivity and sales.


Here are five important considerations business owners should do to be a strong leader.

 

1) Identify and share desired business goals

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It's imperative to share your overall goals with the very people who are going to help attain those goals. How can you arrive at success if you haven't told the people what  your plans are and what success looks like to the company?

 

Lack of effective communication can be a problem for achieving company goals. If employees are not clear on the goals, they are confused when the results aren't what was expected.

 

Related Content: Keeping it real: Are you setting your expectations too high?

 

2) Align the business goals with the goals of stakeholders and employees

This can be a challenge for many business owners because they think the goals of the business, or the ideas of the business, are generally most important. However, people instinctively have their own interests in mind. Effective business leaders are able to identify those goals and dreams, not only for the business and for themselves, but also for employees.

 

Your responsibility as a business owner is to understand your employees' goals, your team members' goals, and other stakeholders' and align them with company goals.

 

For example, it's important to understand what a colleague really cares about. If they care about more money, maybe you can create an opportunity to earn more by improving the bonus and compensation structure.

 

Identify your employees’ goals first before aligning them with the organization’s goals.

 

Related Content: 6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees

 

3) Recognize the staff and people who work for you


Everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized in some capacity. Sometimes, a thank you is enough, and other times public congratulations may be in order. Whatever it is, learn how they receive information and praise. If not, it's your responsibility as a leader to understand how your employees and team members receive praise and understand what makes them feel appreciated.

 

When they feel appreciated, they'll be more excited to come to work and happier because they know what they're doing is being acknowledged. This greatly improves productivity and company revenues.

 

       Related Content: How Are You Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day?

 

4) Interact with team members frequently - daily or weekly meetings


Frequently interact with team members. Not just for specific projects but consider having daily or weekly strategy meetings. Part of being appreciated is knowing you're acknowledged, and for an employee to know you care about who they are and what they do.

 

It doesn't mean you must meet with every single person you work with. Many sales teams have daily meetings to encourage and inspire the sales staff to dominate the day. These strategy meetings allow you to revisit individual employee goals, the team's goals, and the company's goals.

 

Spending time with the people who help build your business reminds them their contribution matters. Also, it allows you to learn a little bit more about the people who work for you.

 

5) Create a positive and enjoyable culture

 

This doesn't mean that you must play video games or pool like a tech start-up. Foster a jovial work culture.

 

People understand what the culture is, and know how they fit in the culture. The last thing people want is to work in a contentious or difficult situation. You still need to have hard conversations if warranted.

 

Encourage team building activities and group experiences that build camaraderie and trust. Some of the best companies I’ve worked for had an amazing internal culture. This will increase productivity and profitability in the long run for your business.


As the business owner you're responsible for the health of the business and the growth of your employees. Ever had a great experience at a store or restaurant? If you have, chances are the culture and leadership of the business are in sync. That leads to better customer interactions, service and eventually, a healthier bottom line!

 

Related Content: The importance of employee perks and how you can offer more than you think

 

About Ebong EkaEbong+Eka+Headshot.png

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 smallbusiness planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms likePricewaterhouseCoopers, 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

Over the course of a long career advising and strategizing with entrepreneurs, I have noticed a trend, particularly amongst those driven by creativity and passion. For these creative types, it is that their biggest strength – the incredible creativity that sets them apart and drives them to pursue an opportunity – is often their biggest weakness in business.

 

I have gone deep with the owners of some of the coolest and most interesting business concepts around – the type of entrepreneurs who are doing phenomenal, creative and impactful things with their businesses. From the outside, it looks like they have a veritable goldmine. They are the businesses others look at and go, “why didn’t I think of that?”

 

However, as I get to peek behind the curtains (i.e., look at their financial statements), many of these “innovative ideas” are not being executed in a way that makes the entrepreneur enough profit to get by. Some aren’t making any profits at all.

 

High-touch vs. Systems

 

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For many of the high-touch or creative businesses, the uniqueness that sets them apart is what keeps them from reaching the next level or even turning a profit. Instead of being focused on creating something that is perhaps slightly less unique, but scalable and repeatable, the entrepreneur is married to the complexity. They feel it would compromise their vision to streamline what they are doing. Often, that is at the expense of making money.

 

When a business has specialized high-touch services it is also difficult for them to be replicated, even by team members. This leaves the owner burnt out because he is working too many hours or is having a hard time teaching his staff to deliver on the value proposition. This also leaves the entrepreneur with a job, instead of a business.

 

     Related Content: Hear Daria Knowles talk about her family business, Hot Skwash, that designs and

     manufactures high-end home décor – Post Some Love Small Business Podcast | Hot Skwash Interview

 

Pricing Reality

 

For some entrepreneurs, their unique product or service is in demand but only at a price point that won’t support the business’s viability. By requiring certain elements are done by hand, by an artisan or with a special material, they have priced their product or service out of the market. It’s a needed product or service, just not at the price that it would require to keep the entrepreneur’s vision intact.

 

     Related Content:

     What your Prices Say About your Small Business

     Take a Fresh Look at your Pricing Strategy

 

So, what does an entrepreneur do when the vision that drives you is what’s keeping you from being successful?

 

Compromise has to happen.

 

If you are in this position, are you willing to let your creative vision inform you, but also to scale back some of the uniqueness for the sake of growing the business (or staying in business)? That is the million-dollar question.

 

I hope you can make that mindset shift. You don’t have to give up your values or your mission, but you may have to implement them in a way that cuts out the smaller details in order for the business to thrive.

 

The challenge is to do that in a way that is still appealing to the customer, as well as to you as an entrepreneur.

 

Ask yourself, “Is what’s setting me apart holding me back?” If it is, you need to decide whether passion or profit is your priority.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.pngCarol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

Regardless of if you have a new start-up or a long-standing family business seeking to grow, having a board can help your business become more successful.

Whether your board is loosely structured as an advisory board or has a fiduciary responsibility to the business’s shareholders via a formal directorship, you need a plan of action to get the most out of your advisors.

 

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Here are some key ways to help your advisors help your business to be a success:

 

1. Know your advisors’ competencies. Advisors can bring a bevy of benefits to companies, so know what you want and what will help you the most when seeking an advisor.

 

2. Set clear and realistic expectations. What is it you want your advisors to assist with? It could be help with raising capital (through direct contacts or credibility), strategic advice, marketing and PR, product development, business development, sales or a whole host of other connections and areas. Know and communicate your expectations.

 

Many of the companies I advised find the most value in using me as a sounding board and a check-in point to keep them on track. That is an underrated value of having someone who can provide discipline on your advisory board. On the flipside, don’t expect your advisor or board member to be running your business for you. That’s never their role.

 

3. Know what you are looking for. You should know your needs before you seek an advisor, just like you should know a job description before hiring a candidate. While you may run into someone who is so fantastic that you just want them involved in your business, it’s likely going to be most helpful to have a list to check a potential advisor’s skills against.

 

Also, it can be tempting to add cachet to your company by adding brand name individuals as advisors. However, if these big wigs don’t do anything for your business, they will end up being just a waste of space on paper.

 

4. Have diversity in your advisors. Your business will benefit from having advisors that don’t all have the same skills or demographics. If your board is comprised of people with the same age, sex, industry background, etc., you are missing a huge opportunity to expand the benefits advisors can bring. Having diverse advisors will expose you to a wider array of connections and thinking.

 

5. Ask for the help. I always tell those that want to engage me as an advisor that I am always available to help, but they have to ask. First, I don’t know the goings-on day-to-day in the company, so I won’t know what issues are most pressing without being told. Also, I am very busy. There are multiple things on my mind at one time, not always the company. If you want something done, ask and be specific in your ask. The onus is on you, not the advisor, to find a way for them to be helpful.

 

     Related Content: 7 Ways to a More Productive Meeting

 

I would also suggest you schedule regular check-in meetings, via phone, Skype, in-person or otherwise. This is usually a practice with formal boards, but not necessarily with advisory boards. This makes sure that you, as an entrepreneur, don’t forget to utilize the advisors as you get caught up in the day-to-day fire drills of running the business.

 

6. Be responsive. If you ask for help and the advisor wants to help or is helpful, be responsive. I have had far too many entrepreneurs ask for my help, only to find when I requested something specific, like a piece of collateral required for me to bring my contacts and expertise to bear, they never got back in touch (or perhaps, took quite some time). Advisors can be helpful, but you need to fulfill your part of the bargain. You have a responsibility to follow through on any tasks required to help your advisor help you and the business.

 

Even worse are the entrepreneurs who ask for help and then bounce to the next person for help without following through on the work the first advisor has done. I have seen this many times. It is not fair to send an advisor on a wild goose chase or have him invest time in one direction for you to get bored, fall off the face of the earth and then ask another person a new set of initiatives. You will not only lose business benefits, but you will earn yourself a bad reputation.

 

7. Give advisors a “vested” interest. Many advisors love to give back to entrepreneurs, but being an advisor is both a commitment and an opportunity cost, even if that cost is that they just can’t be on another board. Consider giving them an equity stake so they have a vested interest in participating in the success of the company.

However, the second part of that is to make that equity interest “vest,” i.e., earned over time. As many flaky entrepreneurs as there are, there are also flaky advisors. So have a trial period to test out working together and if you both see the value, have that extra kicker available.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

Your customers want to pay you for your product or service, but are you making it difficult for them to give you money? Carol Roth discusses what stands in the way of you and added revenue – from a poorly trained sales staff to a confusing website layout.

 

 

Transcript

 

Hey, it’s Carol Roth, and I want to talk to you about a big mistake that businesses make in terms of their growth and their revenue – and that is making it difficult for customers to give you money.

 

Now this may sound counter-intuitive, but far too many business do this. The first issue is with ill-trained sales staff.

 

I have a colleague who was planning a wedding who called different venues and different caterers and the like, and had so many people give conflicting information; so many people who couldn’t answer basic questions about their offerings – at the end of the day she didn’t go with a company that had the offering she wanted, she went with the company and the venue that had the ability to answer her questions. So, make sure your sales staff is well-trained.

 

This happens to me at spas all the time. I call spas. They’re not able to say this is what you want, this is our service that matches it, here’s an up-sell. They do a really poor job of tracking that entire journey. And if you have somebody who is interfacing with the customer, they have to have that nailed. So, make sure that you’re training them properly – giving them all the information that the customer needs to give you money. It is imperative.

 

     Related article: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

 

I will say the same thing for websites. Sometimes going online and trying to be self-served, it’s impossible to find key information. Whether the information is about the goods and services, the different facets of those, the pricing, or even a number to call more information – don’t make it difficult – again, online or on social – wherever your customer is interfacing, for them to get that information they need for them to give you their money.

 

     Related article: Ten Top Hacks to Increase Sales on your E-commerce Website

 

And the final step is: make sure you have a good payment processor. So, think about how your customers like to pay you and make sure that’s not a roadblock for them to give you money. Because at the end of the day you are in business for customers to give you money, and you want to make it as easy as possible.

 

Learn more about taking payments online, in-store, anywhere.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.pngCarol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. 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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In the latest episode of The Heartbeat of Main Street, a small business podcast series by Bank of America and ForbesBooks, entrepreneurs were given a wealth of information about how their businesses can benefit from banking rewards programs. Tune in to get insights about how loyalty programs with vendors can play an important role in the growth of a small business and hear about how you can earn benefits from Bank of America by taking advantage of their new Relationship Rewards program.

 

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 impact revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and past episodes, as well as episodes from the BofA Small Business podcast, can be found here. Each new episodes will appear on the Small Business Community, or on iTunes, GooglePlay and SoundCloud. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

 

Kevin Condon:            Entrepreneurs are among the busiest people out there and the program has to be simple, easy to understand, and easy to enroll. When we took a step back we said, “Can we design a program that spans across all the products and services of the bank that meets those three tests? That's easy to understand, that provides incremental rewards, and really appreciates the loyalty of our clients?” That's what we did with Relationship Rewards.

 

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

 

Gregg Stebben:          Talking with Kevin Condon, he's the Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. It's interesting that the name of this program is Business Advantage Relationship Rewards because at the core of all this is, frankly, what all business people want to have with their customers, which is a relationship. That must be what was behind the research and must've been what was behind the creation of this product. What kind of research did you do as a team to determine what would be the most valuable things you could offer your small business customers?

 

Kevin:                         Greg, we talked to many small business owners, many of our own clients at Bank of America, and clients of other banks. We gained a few keen insights from that research. The first was, as I mentioned, perhaps more than anyone entrepreneurs appreciate the value of loyalty because they're working so hard to earn the loyalty of their customers. Any offering that they have with their suppliers or their partners that recognizes the value of their relationship is something that they'll be interested in. The second thing we gleaned from that insight is those rewards or that loyalty program needs to be incremental, meaning the more business I give you the more I get from you, and if the business I give you increases a lot I want the value of that reward to increase even more than that.

 

                                   Then, the third thing that we learned from them is entrepreneurs are among the busiest people out there and the program has to be simple, easy to understand, and easy to enroll. When we took a step back we said, “Can we design a program that spans across all the products and services of the bank that meets those three tests? That's easy to understand, that provides incremental rewards, and really appreciates the loyalty of our clients?” That's what we did with Relationship Rewards.

 

Gregg:                        This whole conversation about rewards is really interesting, and before we get into the specifics of your new program at Bank of America, I'm wondering what other kinds of rewards small business people told you were most valuable to them? I'm really asking because I suspect some people who are listening could learn oh, I didn't realize I could take advantage of rewards in other parts of my business, and obviously we want to talk about the banking rewards from Bank of America as well. What other kinds program did you hear small business owners talking about and really appreciating the value of?

 

Kevin:                         Greg, we found that through our discussions with our clients that there are a growing number of great loyalty benefits in the marketplace, and I would encourage every small business owner to ask their partners and suppliers if those suppliers offer such a program because they are on the increase. What we heard though is the characteristics of those better programs tend to be, as I mentioned, those that offer incremental value when I do more business with you. The more I give you the more I want to get from you, and those benefits need to increase the more business I give you. Think of the frequent flyer program at an airline, the higher your level of status you achieve, the better the benefits you get each time you fly. You get a bonus on the rewards, you get earlier boarding, you get incremental free bags that you check, that's an example of those incremental benefits the more business I give you.

 

                                   Second key element were those rewards programs that focus on what's most important to the small business owner tend to do the best. For example, if your business requires you to be on the road a lot and buying or purchasing a lot of gas at gas stations, a program that offers benefits such as cash back on gas purchases is critical. It's something that the small business owner is doing every day and it provides tangible benefits where they don't have to change their behavior. All they have to do is reward that provider with more of their business.

 

                                   The third key element we found was small businesses want programs that recognize the full value of the relationship. Rewards programs that omit a part of the relationship with the small business tend to be viewed more skeptically, so if there's one part of the business that's rewarded and one part that's not small business owners tend to take a step back and view that a little bit more skeptically.

 

                                   Finally, those programs without a lot of fine print or exceptions are the most successful. The easier the program is to understand, the easier the program it is to enroll, and the easier it is for the benefits to be tangible and meaningful to the small business owner without having to do a lot of research analysis are the programs that tend to do the best in the marketplace.

 

Gregg:                         Let's talk about the specifics of your new program. It's called the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards, it's a new program that, as you've now said, offers small business clients a lot of different benefits, frankly, to help them grow their businesses. Let's talk about some of the specifics. What are the things that your clients are going to enjoy as participants in this program?

 

Kevin:                         We tried to act on the feedback and the best practices that our clients told us about rewards programs when we launched Business Advantage Relationship Rewards most recently. The program recognizes and rewards our small business clients across the products and services that Bank of America offers them, so there are benefits on small business deposit accounts, investments, credit cards, and loans. It's simple to understand. Starting at $20,000 of any combination of deposit or investment balances that a client has with Bank of America they start earning benefits. Those benefits span the entire relationship across those products and services that I just mentioned. From fee waivers on your checking accounts, to cash rewards on merchant services processing, to interest rate discounts on loans, to higher rewards bonuses on the credit card purchases. You receive benefits across all the services we have to offer.

 

                                     It's a tiered program so we provide those incremental benefits, the more and deeper your relationship with us there are three tiers and when your qualifying deposit and investment balances reach the next tier the value of those benefits across the services I mentioned go up. The higher the tier you qualify for the greater those benefits become. We launched it most recently after extensive research across those three areas, we tried to reflect that in the program, and we're very excited with the results so far.

 

Gregg:                        When you talk to small business owners in doing your research on this would you find that they, on their own, could point to specific parts of the banking relationship where they would benefit from rewards or was it more of a give-and-take with you suggesting what if we did this and what if we did that? I'm just wondering how prepared were small business owners to dive in and help you address places to create rewards versus you coming to them and making suggestions based on your own internal research?

 

Kevin:                          Our small business clients were very eager to help us in our research. We found that the critical elements where they found that they could get the most was, as I mentioned, recognizing the full value of the relationship. What they felt was most financial institutions provide rewards on one particular aspect of their relationship, be it the credit card rewards programs that most of us are familiar with both in our consumer lives and in our small business. What our small business owners said is, "Hey, we'd like to see you recognize the full value of what I bring to you not just credit card, but also those deposit balances I have with you, my investment relationship I have with you, and any lending I do with you with your bank. We want to see benefits across the whole spectrum."

 

                                    Based on that overarching theme and feedback we got from our clients the rewards program that we designed really became easy and our clients were more than happy to react to the specific benefits that we brought, but it's simple to understand. If you purchase one of any one of those services with Bank of America you'll receive a benefit and the deeper that relationship goes the greater that benefit becomes. That was the keen insight that we got from our clients.

 

Gregg:                        One of the things that I really admire about this program, I'm talking with Kevin Condon, he's the Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America, one of the things I really admire about this program is that it really is focused on many parts of a business including not only having the businesses' relationship with Bank of America grow, but helping the business grow itself so that it grows as an entity in the market marketplace, which then of course naturally creates a growing relationship with the bank. One of the places where I think you've done that very successfully is by actually offering interest rate discounts because, as we all know, if you own a small business there are times when if you're getting a small business loan that capital is essential and you're really, as you said, you're looking at every place where a small business can have a relationship with a bank, but I would suspect that for many small business owners having an interest rate discount on a small business loan is one of the most exciting things you're offering here.

 

Kevin:                          It is, and our small business clients were excited to give us that feedback when we laid out the options before we launched our Relationship Rewards program. Clearly, as you mentioned, a loan, be it a auto loan if they're requiring an automobile to help run your business, a commercial real estate loan, or an everyday loan for a line of credit clearly that's a need that many of our small business owners have to grow their business. We want to be in the business of helping our business owners grow their business, so a discount frees up some cash flow, helps our clients invest their funds back into growing their business, and if their business grows Bank of America grow along with them, so we're more than thrilled to work with our clients to do that.

 

Gregg:                         I'm curious to know the actual process you go through to talk to small business owners about programs like this. Are there a lot of face-to-face meetings? Is a lot of it done by email or electronically, by phone? If somebody's listening and thinks, "I would love to be able to give feedback to my bank or Bank of America as well," are there ways for small business owners to give you feedback today?

 

Kevin:                         When we designed the program we did extensive in-person discussions with multiple small business clients, so we would have groups of small business clients come together and talk about what's important to them, what needs they have from their financial institution, where they feel some of those gaps had been in recognizing that full value of the relationship, and what benefits would help them bring more of their business to Bank of America. We found that those in person, face-to-face discussions were a great opportunity for us to get really deep insights on how we can better serve our clients going forward.

 

                                    In terms of ways that a current small business client could come and talk to us, we'd recommend you setup an appointment to speak to a Bank of America employee, if you go to bankofamerica.com there's an opportunity to schedule an appointment with a customer. We'll be happy to talk with either a small business specialist or a specialist in one of our financial centers, we take that feedback on a day in and day out basis and act on it to try and increase the value of the services and products, and the rewards programs that we're bringing to our customers.

 

                                    Additionally, as the program matures for Relationship Rewards over the next weeks and months we'll be gaining direct client feedback on their customer experience on everything from enrollment to how our associates explain the program, to how we could offer even more value on different benefits going forward. We'll be back in the marketplace doing those group discussions in short order.

 

Gregg:                         This program is brand-new, I think you just rolled it out a week or so ago.

 

Kevin:                          We did. We launched it on March 26th and we're very excited about the results we’ve seen in the first two weeks.

 

Gregg:                        You mentioned the word “as the program matures” and I think that's another important thing to small business owners. Just in the conversation we're having here there's a clear commitment to this program and having it evolve over time into something that increases in value and so when you describe it as maturing can you look out and see where this program might be in a year, 5 years, 10 years from now? Do you have thoughts on what the future may be for the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards Program?

 

Kevin:                         We're always looking to expand the value of our rewards programs with our clients, and so the best roadmap we have for seeing how Relationships Rewards may evolve will be looking at the rewards program we had in our consumer space. Relationship Rewards is modeled after our consumer Preferred Rewards program, which was launched a little over three years ago and in those three years we've done the same process of gaining client insights and feedback, and we've adjusted the benefits of the program during that time. We've adjusted how we've communicated, how a customer can enroll, we've adjusted how we communicate what the benefits have actually been. We've changed, in fact, some of the benefits themselves adding additional lending benefits to the consumer space. What we found is the best way to draw that roadmap is to continue to talk to our customers and clients, and so I can't tell you how the program will change in Relationship Rewards, but I can tell you it will change, and the people that will help us change it are our small business clients.

 

Gregg:                        When you encourage people to reach out and talk with someone at Bank of America about things they see that could be a benefit or an addition to the program you really mean it because that feedback is going to go right back into the R&D loop.

 

Kevin:                          Exactly. In fact, the reason we've launched Relationship Rewards was based on feedback that our small business clients, who were also consumer customers, told us. They said, "I love the fact that I have a rewards program for my consumer business. I would love it if you could bring it for my small business relationship well."

 

Gregg:                        He is Kevin Condon, he's Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. We're talking about the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, it's a new program for small business clients of Bank of America and it offers all kinds of benefits to help them grow. I guess, the last question, Kevin and it's obvious one, is if I want to become part of the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, what do I do?

 

Kevin:                         The easiest thing to do is go to bankofamerica.com and click on the small business tab and schedule an appointment to talk to one of our small business specialists or one of our financial center associates. They'll take you through the process of how to enroll, answer any questions you have, and talk to you about the core products and services that go into Relationship Rewards where you receive all those incremental benefits.

 

Gregg:                        This is, frankly, a different type of process than I might go through opening and a consumer account because, in this case, I'm speaking to someone who is a specialist in working with small businesses?

 

Kevin:                         That's right. We have several thousand small business specialists located across the country and available via phone. We want to make sure that we're putting our small business clients in the right services that best meet their needs, so we'd like to have a conversation with our small business clients to ensure that they're in the correct core product offerings before we enroll them in the Relationship Rewards program where they get those added benefits on those offerings.

 

Gregg:                        You mentioned earlier that this service grows with you as your business grows. Can you mention those tiers again and if there are fees associated with being part of the program, could you tell us about that as well?

 

Kevin:                         There are no fees associated with being enrolled in Relationship Rewards. As I mentioned, it's a three-tiered program we have Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors. Our Gold program, a customer qualifies with $20,000 of combined deposit and investment balances, if those balances increase to $50,000 the client moves to Platinum, and at $100,000 of deposit and investment balances you become eligible for the Platinum Honors program.

 

                                   You asked me about fees, Gregg, and are there any fees. In fact, the fees on your core deposit account are waived as a client who's enrolled in the program. The value of the benefits across lending, merchant services, investments, credit card, and deposits increases as you move up those tiers. For example, at the Platinum level you receive the benefit of no fees on non-Bank of America ATM transactions. There's a limit on how many of those fees are waived. When you move to Platinum Honors that a limit is waived, so the value of the benefit growth as our relationship with our client grows as well.

 

Gregg:                        It's a really interesting and clearly valuable program. I love the fact that as you move up through the tiers the value of the program itself increases and, as you said, there's no fee to be part of the program and in fact, in a way, you're actually saving on fees. He is Kevin Condon, he's Senior Vice President of Rewards Programs for Bank of America. We've been talking about the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program. Kevin, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Kevin:                         Thank you for having me.

 

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

By the time he was in his mid-50s, Ray was a mediocre, unhappy, traveling milkshake mixer salesman.

 

And then it happened.

 

The fateful day that changed everything. His life. Your life. And mine.

 

On that day, Ray called upon a new client – a restaurant in Southern California. It was there that Ray discovered a radical new way of running the business. So amazed was he, so enamored, that Ray committed himself 100 percent to working with and for the brothers who owned the place. Before long, they gave in to Ray’s enthusiasm and cajoling and hired him.

 

Within 10 years, Ray Kroc’s vision for what the McDonald brothers had created begat a behemoth, and he had invented the system of franchising along the way. New franchisees were taught the McDonald’s way, allowed to use its name, brand, recipes, and systems, and (for a fee of course) were able to open their own McDonald’s.

 

So yes, franchising is a remarkable way to join something bigger than oneself, but it doesn’t come without risks. Indeed, there are both pros and cons to buying a franchise.

 

Prosimageedit_2_3012441430.jpg

 

Maybe the best part of buying a franchise is that you are buying into a proven system. Here is how it works: Somewhere, some business owners created a successful business they thought could be duplicated, systematized and taught. The owners reduced their success to a step-by-step plan, and that plan – the system – as well as their business model and brand and “secret sauce” is sold to would-be entrepreneurs.

 

That is the essence of a franchise.

 

The idea is that if the franchisees do what the owners did, they will get the results that the owners got. A good franchise then is a systematic way of doing business whereby you agree to do things the franchisor’s way and are being allowed to use their business name, logo, system, and so on.

 

So, the first benefit of franchising is that you theoretically reduce your risk of failing as you are buying a proven business success system.

 

The second good thing about buying a franchise is that you should get plenty of help. Ray Kroc put it best: As a franchisee, you might be in business for yourself, but you are not in business by yourself. Whereas when you start a business from scratch you are on your own, when you start a franchise, the franchisor and other franchisees are there to help you succeed.

 

The franchisor in particular will offer expertise in a wide variety of areas: marketing, accounting, finances, labor, etc. A good franchise system therefore should train you to be a successful businessperson.

 

The last benefit of franchising is that you will get assistance with your advertising and marketing, and with the bigger franchise systems, you will get the benefit of their national advertising campaign.

 

Cons

 

While the benefits of buying a franchise are significant, the downsides must be considered too.

 

The first is that it can be expensive to buy a franchise. When you are buying a franchise, you are buying the franchisor’s name, logo, goodwill, expertise, system and training. That can be worth a lot, especially for a well-known franchise. This is not to say that all franchises are expensive, there are many that are quite reasonable, but just know that if you want to buy a name-brand franchise, you will pay for that right.

 

How much? Here are a few examples:

 

  • Want to buy a Taco Bell? Startup costs, including construction expenses, range between $1.2 million and $2.6 million for a new restaurant, according to the company's franchisee disclosure document. The franchise fee alone (the fee for buying in), is $45,000.
  • Conversely, a small home-based franchise system might have a $2,500 franchise fee and total costs of $10,000.

 

The second issue is that you will have less independence as a franchisee than you would as a regular entrepreneur. The system is the system, and you will agree in your franchise contract to run your business according to the system. Because the franchisor trusts you with its brand and goodwill, you will need to do things their way.

 

The final downside, and this is important, is that in relation to your franchisor, you will be in a position of relative weakness. The franchise contract, for example, is drafted by the franchisor’s attorney to favor them. The franchisor will know more about the business than you, and likely will be better financed than you.

 

Not insignificant, any of this.

 

The important thing to understand in this regard is that not all franchisors are created equal; some are great to work with while you should run in the other direction from others. How do you know the difference?

 

  • Speak with other franchisees to learn of their experience
  • Use Google
  • Research potential lawsuits that the franchisor has been involved in

 

All in all, if you do your homework and find a good franchisor to team-up with this, you should find that franchising can be a really great way to get started in business.

 

Related Content:

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America

8 Steps Toward Starting a New Business

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Buying a Business 

How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

 

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 SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

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

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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.

 

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