GCP's Federal Tax Reform Priorities

Leadership in Washington continues to signal that Congress will attempt to tackle the first set of comprehensive tax reforms since the 1980’s. The final results are far from a finished product, but House and Senate Republican leaders recently crafted and unveiled their nine-page tax reform framework, in coordination with the Administration.

Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership believe a thoughtful, balanced, and competitive tax environment is critical to the success of our economy and that any reforms made must be all-inclusive and benefit all sectors of the business community.

    Corporate tax reform is essential to growth. And the GCP was encouraged the tax plan aims to cut the corporate rate and lower the top individual rate.

    It is equally important to recognize most small businesses are organized as pass-through entities—they file taxes through the individual income tax code instead of the corporate income tax code.  Therefore, the GCP is optimistic that the proposed tax framework strives to cut the rate for pass-through entities.        

    A tax overhaul and a long-term federal tax plan that results in parity for all business sizes and that incentivizes investment and employment must be realized. Having the tools—such as the New Market Tax Credit—to advance transformational physical development in the City of Cleveland is also crucial. Our membership recognizes the importance of this resource as the GCP has partnered with organizations in the past to secure the successful passage of a five-year extension of the federal New Market Tax Credit program, a financing option that has been instrumental for development in low-income communities.   

    The House Ways & Means Committee has set an ambitious timeline and will aim to mark-up and vote on legislation before Thanksgiving. The GCP will continue to represent our members’ interests throughout the debate and advocate for comprehensive federal tax and entitlement program reform.  

    Pre-Check
    Next up: Geeked Out Marketing

    Geeked Out Marketing

    The way you run your business is the ultimate branding campaign. Here are four ways business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage.

    The way you run your business is the ultimate branding campaign. Here are four ways business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage.

    Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Robert Stephens started Geek Squad with $200, a cell phone and a bike. He made house calls doing what felt right: helping people with their problems and making them feel less intimidated by technology. In 1994, this was a big deal because technology was hitting home in a big way.

    “I started Geek Squad within a month of the first Web browser coming out,” says Stephens, who had been fixing computers for a different company in his hometown in the Twin Cities after earning a computer science degree at the University of Minnesota. (He dropped out of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue his passion for the technical.)

    Stephens didn’t have a marketing budget when he launched his homegrown venture. He had drive and an idea. “I grew up with Star Wars and we had a computer in the 1980s—I was always taking things apart as a child, and I also liked helping people,” he says, relating how this business launch seemed like the natural thing to do.

    The meager seed money that Stephens poured into the business blew up into an estimated $1billion to $1.5 billion during a 20-year period, and Geek Squad today is the largest tech-support organization with about 24,000 employees, referred to as “agents.” Stephens sold Geek Squad to Best Buy in 2002 and continued to serve as its CEO and the chief technology officer of Best Buy until 2012, when he left to pursue other entrepreneurial projects.

    Geek Squad might be the biggest part of the Best Buy brand. But there was no marketing stunt in mind when Stephens started the tech services firm, known for its white-and-black VW Beetles and “agents” wearing white shirts and black ties. “For me, the cars and uniforms are not marketing gimmicks,” he says. “The business operations is the marketing.”

    “Helping people is the best advertising,” he adds.

    How you conduct business, the way you provide customer service, how you present yourself on the street is what creates the brand. Even how you answer the phone. “All of those things paint pictures for customers,” Stephens says, adding that when he started Geek Squad, he couldn’t afford a graphic designer to create a logo anyway.

    “I had to do those things myself,” he says, adding that businesses have access to a range of tools today to market their organizations. “This is the era of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and other social media that are advertising channels.”

    Here, Stephens talks about how business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage: business strategy and uncommon customer service.   

    Helping is timeless. Technology gets outdated—fast. But customer service is always relevant and in demand. If you ask Stephens, he’ll tell you Geek Squad isn’t really a tech business. It’s a helping business. “There is a tech aspect, but it’s also a lot like a small restaurant or a boutique hotel where there is a lot of customer experience that goes along with it—showing up on time, dressing nice, and helping regular people feel comfortable with technology and not feel overwhelmed,” he says.

    Build trust. People open their doors for Geek Squad. They invite agents into their homes, expose their data and share their problems. Customers are a little vulnerable—they’re also overwhelmed and looking for answers. Earning trust is critical to growing a service business, and Geek Squad adopted a flat rate fee structure to show customers their intentions were to solve problems, not run up a large hourly bill for tech services.

    “Flat rates were a way to build trust early on,” Stephens says, relating this removed risk for customers who took a chance on hiring Geek Squad.  And, when Geek Squad agents meet with customers, they listen. “Every time we touch a customer, we are learning more about what they want—we are seeking insight,” Stephens says.

    Hire bright people. Geeks love to learn about technology. So training for skill was not a big focus for Stephens and he knew he could teach anyone to fix computers. “But I can’t train people to be nice and to care about customers,” he says. “Either you do or you don’t.  I would always hire for the qualities I could not train for, and the three most important traits are curiosity, ethics and drive.”

    Curiosity is essential because agents must solve problems. And, they must care about learning more about the customer, Stephens says curiosity is the No. 1 trait for successful businesses in the 21st Century.

    Ethics are critical because of the nature of Geek Squad’s business, working in customers’ homes. And drive is the persistence to do it right. “Everyone has had services where they don’t get it done right the first time,” Stephens says. “You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to have the persistence to get it right and not drag your feet.”

    Solve problems. What are you really selling? If it’s just the technology, you could be obsolete by the time you finish reading this article. Focus on the customer and their needs. Find out what makes them tick—what do they want to do better. “You’re not selling a drill, you’re selling a hole on the wall, so focus on the hole the customer wants because the drill might not be the answer,” Stephens relates.  “Maybe you need a hole-punch, or a sideboard with a hole already cut in it—sometimes you have to think more broadly.”

    Be responsive. “The easier you are to talk to as a business, the more business you will do,” Stephens says. That’s why messaging is the best technology advance to come around since the Web browser opened up the World Wide Web in 1994, he says.

    Stephens explains: “Right now, if you use Google Maps or Yelp, the only way to interact with a business is to call that business, and that’s quite inefficient—it ties employees up on phone lines, and does anyone really believe the call is being recorded for quality? But if you can text a picture of your problem and see a copy of that message, that’s a persistent conversation. Facebook messaging is free, and I encourage every business to use it.”

    This article was originally featured in the July/August 2015 issue of the COSE Update.

    Pre-Check
    Next up: Tips for Your Business: Generate Revenue by Selling Soft Cost Savings

    Tips for Your Business: Generate Revenue by Selling Soft Cost Savings

    Competing on price is extremely difficult to do. Thus, businesses need to find ways to add value, along with competitive pricing, to stand apart from the competition and succeed in today’s economy. “When it comes to cost savings, most organizations focus on hard dollar amounts,” says Sara Schweda, director of client solutions for Group Transportation Services (GTS), a third-party logistics provider in Hudson. 

    Competing on price is extremely difficult to do. Thus, businesses need to find ways to add value, along with competitive pricing, to stand apart from the competition and succeed in today’s economy. “When it comes to cost savings, most organizations focus on hard dollar amounts,” says Sara Schweda, director of client solutions for Group Transportation Services (GTS), a third-party logistics provider in Hudson. “In today’s competitive environment, companies strive to do more and perform better while keeping operations lean. Positioning your company as the partner to help a client achieve these goals is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors and generate additional revenue streams for your business.” 

    Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Small businesses can leverage their portfolio of services and highlight their largest assets – their people and technology – to stay competitive. While each of these benefits is considered a “soft cost,” they stress the real value received in saving both time and resources. “Investments in service and technology result in substantial ROI for clients, but in order to sell these you must not only understand the clients’ processes and operations, but also the objectives that have been set as a company and direct your focus to helping the client accomplish them,” says Schweda.

    Assigning a dollar value to items such as time savings, ease of use, or even customer service can be done if there is an understanding of the time and resources involved. “We include this process review in our onboarding,” notes Schweda. Ask clients how they use data to make strategic business decisions across multiple business units. “Hard dollar savings is by far the most attractive differentiator in decision making, but soft cost evaluations can provide additional value while increasing your service offerings to the client.”

    This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

    Pre-Check
    Next up: Get Away (Without Getting Away from Your Business)

    Get Away (Without Getting Away from Your Business)

    We’re heading into peak vacation season and you know the beach is calling your name. Problem is, your business is SCREAMING YOUR NAME. So, how do you go about taking a break from your business, but at the same time ensuring things won’t fall apart while you’re gone. Take a look below at some handy resources to keep in mind this vacation season.

    We’re heading into peak vacation season and you know the beach is calling your name. Problem is, your business is SCREAMING YOUR NAME. So, how do you go about taking a break from your business, but at the same time ensuring things won’t fall apart while you’re gone. Take a look below at some handy resources to keep in mind this vacation season.

    Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Pre-Check
    Next up: Tips for Your Business: Get Creative with Cross Promotional Opportunities

    Tips for Your Business: Get Creative with Cross Promotional Opportunities

    Small business owners are always on the lookout for new ways to promote their business and creativity is key when you have a relatively small marketing budget. One simple way to get your business in front of potential customers is to team up with other small business owners and cross-promote your businesses.  

    Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Small business owners are always on the lookout for new ways to promote their business and creativity is key when you have a relatively small marketing budget. One simple way to get your business in front of potential customers is to team up with other small business owners and cross-promote your businesses. 

    “Cross promotion is a cost-effective and creative way to expand your reach and attract new customers,” says Nevin Bansal, president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions. “It is important to identify partners that have the values, brand image and customer experience that fit with your business identity. Also, choosing partners with related products or services improves the chance that the customer connects your services with your cross-marketing partner. Ultimately, ensuring that the partnership is a genuine win-win builds a stronger cross-marketing partnership to leverage in the future.” 

    A few ideas for effective cross-promotion include:

    Collateral – Cross-promotion can be as simple as asking a business to display your print collateral materials (brochures, business cards, flyers, etc.) or coupons in a visible place in their business. Waiting rooms, bulletin boards and checkout counters are great places to grab attention. Offer to reciprocate and display their literature in a high-traffic area in your business.

    Co-Sponsor an Event – Gain the recognition and goodwill that comes from having your name attached to a popular community or business event and team up to reduce the cost of sponsorship.

    Online Promotion – Add banner ads, coupons or special offers to your website and ask your marketing partner to do the same.

    Content Marketing/Social Media – Promote advisory content written by your partner on your blog and social media platforms and leverage your partner’s social media platforms for your content.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions for the tough questions they face every day. 

    This article originally appeared in the May 25, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

    Pre-Check
    Next up: Getting Out of Your Office Can Help Your Business

    Getting Out of Your Office Can Help Your Business

    In our View from the Top section in the March/April 2016 Mind Your Business, we mentioned that staying behind your desk too much can hurt your business. Attending COSE’s events is a great way to not only stay connected with fellow business owners, but learn a thing or two as well.

    In our View from the Top section in the March/April 2016 Mind Your Business, we mentioned that staying behind your desk too much can hurt your business. Attending COSE’s events is a great way to not only stay connected with fellow business owners, but learn a thing or two as well.

    Share
  • Email
  • Compass Payroll

    Don’t believe us? Take a look for yourself at some of the content that has come from COSE events:

    Convinced? Great! Visit our events page to learn more about the content COSE provides through events. 

    Pre-Check