Strategic Volunteering: The Power of Pro Bono

Volunteering your time and skill set to organizations in need isn't just the right thing to do, it can also help your business' marketing efforts. Behold the power of "strategic volunteering."

Going pro bono is a win-win. An organization gains your expertise and talent at zero cost, and you gain more experience and positive exposure—not to mention a good feeling. Here’s how to go about it.

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    Here’s a simple but very effective strategy to maximize the impact of a ‘No Budget Marketing’ campaign you may create for your employer or your own business—harnessing the ‘Power of the Pro Bono’ or Strategic Volunteering.

    Why volunteer at all?

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    Whether you’re marketing the products or services of your employer or your own business or just simply enhancing your image and value to the people you work for and with, the Power of the Pro Bono can be a simple, quick and no-cost self-marketing strategy. Effectively done, it can help accomplish several important goals for you, including:

    •          Creating positive exposure for yourself as a caring and giving professional or a very positive reflection on your employer;

    •          producing positive name recognition and credibility;

    •          creating tools that can showcase your skills if you produce a newsletter, brochure, video or event. You can even win awards for your work;

    •          helping you learn new skills or enhance existing skills in leadership, project management, social media, accounting, e-marketing, writing or presenting;

    •          making you feel very good about yourself by doing the right thing and helping out a worthy professional, civic or charitable group; and

    •          stroking your creative ego and professional self-esteem by being involved with something worthwhile, creative and fun.

    How do you get started?

    As they say, getting started is the hardest part. We’re helping you ease in by giving you the following five steps to beginning your pro bono journey.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 1: Clearly define your or your business’s value proposition. What do you do well that adds value to customers who will pay you for it at a profit?

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 2: Determine those professional, civic or charitable groups where lots of your customers and prospects are actively involved. 

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 3: Search for linkages between that group’s needs for support, other than money or pure volunteer time, that relate to your value proposition. For a web design firm, that could be a website makeover. For a writer, it could be help with their brochure. For an accountant, it could be serving as a volunteer auditor.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 4: Reach out to each group and offer your services. It really helps if you’ve been an active member for several years rather than a stranger—yet another great reason to get involved with your profession or community.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 5: When your task is completed, ask for a ‘subtle’ acknowledgement: ‘Website designed by x’ at the bottom of the home page, ‘Brochure content and design courtesy of y’ on the back page of a brochure or a glowing letter of thanks from the group leader with reference in their routine member communication.

    Where do you volunteer?

    There are lots of effective platforms for strategic volunteer activity. Be creative and think outside of the usual box with the following ideas:

    •          Start with your own industry and the professional associations that support it. Those groups can probably use the help and you can benefit from all the good will you will gain from the experience.

    •          Other professional, business or civic groups you may belong to or where you’d benefit from the exposure. Start with COSE and your local Chamber. 

    •          A charity or non-profit that has personal importance to your family, your boss, your boss’s spouse, the big boss, the big boss’s spouse, or an important customer.

    What volunteer activities should you consider?

    Strategic volunteer activities are “win-win.” The organization benefits from what you contribute, but you also benefit from what you learn or gain. What special skills or talents can you contribute and showcase beyond simply giving of your time? What skills do you want to learn or enhance? What will give you the kind of exposure you need and want?

    If you want to enhance or showcase ...

    Leadership or management skills: Manage an event or fundraiser, chair a committee or task force, hold an office or sit on a board

    Writing skills: Edit the group’s newsletter, write articles for it, PR releases, promotional pieces or blog posts

    Creative media skills: Coordinate the advertising or PR for the group a major event. Write or produce a video or media tool that helps them recruit members, raise money or train volunteers.

    Graphic design skills: Design or improve their logo, letterhead, brochure or newsletter layout

    Web design skills: Design or improve their website

    Social media skills: Create blogs, their presence on leading social media sites, regularly post content.

    Presentation skills: Deliver a presentation, emcee an event or serve on their speakers’ bureau or improve their PowerPoint presentations

    Training or facilitation skills: Teach or facilitate classes or workshops for members or leaders

    Financial skills: Serve as treasurer or audit their books

    As you’ve seen, Strategic Volunteering through the Power of the Pro Bono involves simple, quick, no-cost and personally rewarding strategies to promote your image or the image of your employer. The organization wins because you give of your talent, not just your time or treasure. You win because you earn ‘Psychic Income,’ gain positive exposure and learn or enhance career-related skills.

    So, begin volunteering strategically and see how it can add value to your ‘No Budget Marketing’ Tool Kits. It has worked well for me for over 25 years.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 


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    Next up: Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. 

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. What's more is that Young isn't your average termite terminator. He runs his business with the same passion, integrity and honesty that his family instilled in the business years ago. 

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    While Young has been at the forefront of Speed Exterminating since 1998, the business dates back more than 106 years, founded in 1908 by John W. Speed (Young’s great grandfather). After Speed, the business transitioned into the hands of Young’s grandfather, and later his father.  In 1963, the pest company was relocated to Old Brooklyn before once again being passed down to the next generation -- at which time Young acquired the reigns to the family business.

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    Alongside his dedicated and passionate perspective toward the family’s industry and business, Young has also maintained a deep-rooted connection to volunteering and service.

    “I saw [my father] take great pride in having a strong small business community in Cleveland, and I feel that way too,” Young says. “Small businesses are the back bone of Cleveland. If there is going to be an economic revival in Cleveland, it’s going to be because of small businesses.”

    Turning his passion into action, Young co-founded the grassroots event, “Pedal for Prizes,” and has also provided leadership for the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. In doing so, he has achieved the ideal combo of mixing work with pleasure.

    “When I want to get away from the office, I’m big into bicycling,” Young says.

    Having been an avid cyclist for over 20 years, Young -- along with four other Old Brooklyn residents -- eventually came to unite his love for cycling with his deep-rooted Old Brooklyn heritage to create the event, “Pedal for Prizes”.

    The objective for the event is simple. “The idea is to just get on the bike and ride,” he says.

    With its inception in 2010, the event was founded with the idea of bringing together businesses in the Old Brooklyn community while also promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. Each participant is presented with a map that pinpoints 20 destinations. For every destination reached, the riders are given a raffle ticket to be entered for a chance to win various prizes such as Cleveland Indian’s tickets or bicycles. Destinations are divided between local businesses/merchants and points of interest, and are announced on the day of the event.

    The event, says Young, provides him the opportunity to give back to and promote a community that means so much to his family and business. “You succeed because the neighborhood succeeds. It’s not my success; it’s the neighborhood’s success,” Young says.

    Growing from 75 participants in its first year to over 600 people in 2013, “Pedal for Prizes” has been making a noticeable impact in its surrounding communities.

    “Biking gives me an avenue of things I’m capable of doing. I can’t solve world hunger, but I do have a connection to cycling,” says Young.

    Along with “Pedal for Prizes,” Young has also been actively engaged in the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. Created in 2012, the event raised $40,000 its first year and doubled to $80,000 this past year.

    For an involved small business owner like Young, the desire and urge to volunteer is always in abundance and, despite a busy work schedule, he always finds time to give back.

    “I want to give back to this community. I want to take time to make a difference,” he says.


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    Next up: What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    During the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton explain what small businesses can learn from the team. Read on below for a brief summary or click below to listen to the full audio of the session.

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    Small business owners have a lot more in common with the Cleveland Indians than they might think.

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    During a panel discussion featuring Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and moderated by play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton, Dolan said the team in many respects is like a small business in how it is a small market team competing with franchises in major media markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

    The key, he said, to being successful in a situation such as that comes down to making sure you have the right people on your team.

    “The beauty of the game of baseball is the $25-million guy has to get on the field with the $500,000 guy,” he said. “But when you get the right $500,000 guy, you draft well, you develop them well, they turn into guys with names like (Francisco) Lindor and (Jose) Ramirez.”

    Francona agreed with Dolan’s assessment, adding that while it might not be fair for smaller market teams to compete against the bigger market teams, he’s not one to accept excuses.

    “We may not have the same payroll as the Yankees or Detroit or whatever, but we trust the people we have,” he said.

    The COSE Annual Meeting is just one of the many events COSE hosts each year that help small business representatives learn what they need to know to grow their business while also making new connections. Click here to view a list of upcoming events and find one that will give you the tools you need to succeed.
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    Next up: Why I'm Going to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    Why I'm Going to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    In the lead up to the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting later this month, we will be running a series of stories focused on what attendees are hoping to get out of this year’s event and the lessons they’ve learned from previous Annual Meetings. Read on below to learn why one of our attendees is particularly excited about the 2018 Annual Meeting.

    Bridget Thibeault is the chef and owner of Luna Bakery in Cleveland Heights and she recently registered for the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting taking place Jan. 23. Thibeault took time recently to sit down with Mind Your Business to talk about why she registered for the event and what she’s looking forward to getting out of the experience.

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    I registered for the annual meeting for two reasons—the speakers (Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton and Indians’ Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan) and I am a new member and would like to learn more about what COSE has to offer me as a small business owner.

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    I attend as many events as possible to learn new ways to lead and manage my company. We are a relatively new business that has grown very fast and we are preparing to open a second location in the spring of 2018.  For the past couple years, I have been focusing on organizing my company so we can grow with vision and strategy. (As a side note, my husband is the baseball coach at John Carroll University so he is coming with me as a guest since the content will be great for him too.)

    Luna is a very busy cafe and teamwork is one of the keys to our success. I'm hoping to learn some new strategies for teamwork and leadership from the speakers. I’m also looking for some additional insight into COSE and, of course, networking.  I find that every event I attend in Cleveland leads to more people finding out about our brand and we gain new customers.

    I am excited for the COSE Annual Meeting!

    Swing on by the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting and get unique insights on leadership strategies and how to build a winning team from the Indians’ Terry Francona, Tom Hamilton and Paul Dolan. Click here to register today!

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    Next up: Why Your Meetings Suck (Part I)

    Why Your Meetings Suck (Part I)

    Your meetings are all wrong: unproductive, no structure, boring. But with a few simple tweaks, you can make your company’s meetings one of the most enjoyable parts of your day. Honest!

    This is the first in a two-part series on how companies can go from meeting blues to meeting bliss. By following this carefully laid-out plan, any company can improve its efficiency, empower its employees and hold meetings that are not just tolerable, but enjoyable. Let’s get started!

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    One of the biggest disasters that I often experience when working with companies is their meetings. Let me describe the typical meeting that I have experienced and you let me know if any of these elements are present in meetings you’ve attended lately…

    There’s a problem at the company and somebody (often a boss) calls a meeting to solve it. Everyone drops what they’re working on and gets together in a conference room to discuss. There’s typically not an agenda and the manager starts by venting about the problem in all of its gory detail (which everybody usually already knows). Some solutions are offered before the real issue has even been identified and then those ideas are discussed ad nauseam, with an emphasis on the nausea. Finally, after about 30-60 minutes everyone is worn out and it is decided to table the issue while more facts are gathered and then have another meeting! 

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    Am I getting close? 

    Meetings deserve our attention because, in so many businesses and groups, they are terrible. Most employees and managers dislike them but tolerate them only because they have to. Even worse, they are often a big waste of time. We have to STOP believing that meetings are bad. Bad meetings are bad.  Great meetings are moments of truth and accountability. If your meetings aren’t your favorite time of the week, you’re doing them wrong!

    Below, I present a meeting plan for a typical company. I’ll outline who should be in each meeting, how frequently they should occur and how long they should last. 

    When you first take a look at this plan, two things are likely to happen. First, you’re going to write it off as being too simple to really work. Second, you’re going to balk at how many meetings are on the list and say you don’t have time to have all of these meetings because your company isn’t big enough. 

    I’ve heard it all before, but just know that the great companies have figured out how to hold these meetings (even when they were under $1 million in size) and they grew into them. As their meetings improved, they understood that a powerful meeting is more important than chasing a new lead. (Note: If you’re so involved in the day-to-day operations of your business that you have to miss a meeting to chase a new lead yourself, you need to go back and read my last article “A Silver Bullet for Hiring the Right People” published in Mind Your Business recently. Get yourself some better people and then come back to this article!) 

    Here’s the meeting plan I recommend for companies in the restoration industry:

    Type

    Participants

    Frequency

    Length

    Focus

    Daily Huddle

    Frontline Staff

    EVERY Day

    5-15 minutes

    Plan the day, get on the same page, avoid unnecessary running around

    Peak Performance Meeting

    Entire Company by Division

    1 time per week

    60 minutes

    Get the team together and train on how to perform the company’s services

    Production Meeting

    Management

    1 time per week

    60 minutes

    Check in on all open projects (go thru them one by one), discuss projects that are off track, share best practices

    Leadership Team Meeting

    Senior Management

    1 time per week

    90 minutes

    Quick reporting on all aspects of the business followed by focused discussion of problems that would move the company forward the most if they were solved right now

    Strategic Planning Meeting

    Senior Management

    1 time per quarter

    1 day

    Review the prior quarter’s progress and get on the same page for the next quarter

    Annual Planning Meeting

    Senior Management

    1 time per year

    2 days

    Review the prior year and prepare for the new year

    State of the Company Address

    Entire Company

    1 time per year

    60 minutes

    After the Annual Planning Meeting get the whole company together to share the vision for the year and get everyone fired up and ready to tear raw meat off the bone in pursuit of your goals

    So, now we’ve got a shift in thinking and a meeting outline. Tune in next week for the concluding article of this short series. We will break down in greater detail the different meeting types, and take a look at sample agendas, that you can institute immediately for a more content and productive workforce.

    Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at jpslain@gmail.com or 216-870-4219.
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    Next up: Why Your Meetings Suck (Part II)

    Why Your Meetings Suck (Part II)

    The sample agendas found below (which definitely don’t suck) will cover just about all of the different meeting types your company might face.

    This is the second article in a two-part series providing steps to more intentional and productive company meetings. The key takeaway from last week’s article is that we have to STOP believing that meetings are bad. Bad meetings are bad. Great meetings are moments of truth and accountability. Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the different types of meetings your company needs to start planning, today.

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    Pre-Check

    Daily Huddle

    This is a short daily meeting with your frontline. The powerful part is that it happens EVERY day. I can hear you out there saying that this won’t work for your company, that you can’t possibly get everyone together every day and that it would be a waste of time. You’d be wrong! Do it by teams or by division and use technology (phone/video conference) to make it easier. 

    Think about it this way: While your teams are doing re-work, going back and forth to Home Depot five times for parts, and waiting on another sub to finish their work, the best teams at other companies are all on the same page. They know exactly what everyone else is up to that day and their gross margin is going to crush yours. You can’t afford to NOT do a daily huddle. Keep it short and simple!

    Huddle Sample Agenda:

    1. Make sure everyone knows their assignments for the day (5 to 10 minutes)
    2. Q-and-A (5 minutes)

    Peak Performance Meeting

    Each week, each division should get their teams together for training. If you are just talking at your people it isn't training, it's just a boring meeting! Peak Performance meetings need to be interactive.

    For example, every week have your employees read a short article (this article would be a great one to start with). Ideally, you want them to walk in with questions about what they read. At the end of the meeting, certify them with a simple five-question quiz (they literally take a quiz and get a tiny certificate that they can post next to their desks or in their vans that shows they are "Peak Performance Meeting Certified.”).

    Videotape these meetings so that new employees can watch an entire library of your company’s greatest hits. Your employees will hit the ground running and you’ll crush your competition. What if your new staff members spent 12 hours watching training videos before they met with your first client? Wouldn't that be a great way to introduce them to your culture, rather than just throwing them in the deep end and hoping for the best?

    Peak Performance Sample Agenda:

    Culture Club (5 minutes): Discuss one of your company’s values and a staff member who recently demonstrated that value.

    Housekeeping (5 minutes): Any updates you need to share?

    Execution and Training (40 minutes): Roleplay a common process from your company. Have an employee present a best practice. Lead a discussion on an article or book you all read.

    Jeopardy (10 minutes): Play a game to test everyone’s knowledge. Give away a fun prize. Invest in some Jeopardy buzzers (go on ebay.com and search for the “Rolls GS76RL”) and make it fun and interactive.   

    Production Meeting

    OK, I am going to admit this up front: Production is the one meeting that is a necessary evil. I don’t have any magic to make this meeting “fun,” but you can take some of the sting out of it if you read on. You’re going to have to bring a list of all your active projects to this meeting each week and walk thru them one-by-one with your team. I know that it’s tedious, but it’s the only way to hold your team accountable for closing projects. My best advice is to go thru the reporting part of the meeting as quickly as possible. Whoever is leading the meeting really needs to drive the team to stay focused and on track. 

    If anybody tries to offer excuses or sermons about their project, cut them off and keep moving. What you want to figure out is whether each project is on track to meet or exceed its projections. For the second half of the meeting, you want to focus on discussing projects that are either going to finish way ahead of plan or projects that are in serious trouble.

    Patrick Lencioni makes the point in “Death by Meeting” that the reason movies are so much better than meetings is because they always have a high level of drama. Movies typically present the viewer with a hero and a problem that has to be overcome. Then about halfway thru the movie there is some huge obstacle and a crescendo builds to when the hero faces the bad guy and … triumphs!

    Unfortunately, most meetings have very little drama and thus are not very entertaining. In order for your meetings to be fun, exciting and productive, you need to MANUFACTURE DRAMA by focusing attention on the most interesting projects. Don’t waste time discussing Mrs. Johnson’s toilet that overflowed and the annoying adjuster who is dragging his heels on approving the claim. Focus on the project that is three weeks behind schedule and $50,000 over budget. Have the team drill down to figure out the real issue and share their experiences around how to fix it.

    Leadership Team Meeting

    The Leadership Team is where the C-Suite and Division Leaders get together to discuss the most important one or two issues facing the company this week. It is a tactical meeting in that it addresses the most burning issues of the day.

    The meeting begins with everyone reporting their progress for the week, including current metrics and progress, against the prior week’s to do items. The remainder of the meeting is focused on solving problems. All the time spent on reporting should build a parking lot of potential problems to discuss (it helps if you assign one person to record all the potential problems for you to solve). The idea is to get all the potential problems out on the table and then to pick which ones the team will solve that day. 

    Most unsuccessful meetings fail because the leadership team launches into discussing whatever problem is most top of mind for the owner of the company. Unfortunately, this usually means that the team wastes valuable time talking about whatever issue annoyed the owner of the company right before the meeting started. In other words, the team discusses the urgent at the expense of the important. Instead, you need to spend the first part of the meeting getting all the potential problems on the table and then you can choose (as a team) which problem to focus on to move the company forward. You can pick which movie you’ll watch instead of having to suffer thru whatever re-run happens to be playing in the owner’s head at the start of the appointed hour.

    Leadership Team Meeting Sample Agenda:

    1. Reporting (25 minutes)
    2. Problem Solving (60 minutes)
    3. Review and Conclude (5 minutes)

    Strategic Planning and Annual Planning Meeting

    It is human behavior that after about 90 to 120 days, we get off track and lose focus. Imagine that everyone in your company is an arrow. Ideally, you want all of the arrows aligned and ready to shoot in the same direction. After 90 days, these arrows start to move in all directions and, with time, it’s chaos!

    The Strategic Planning Meeting and Annual Planning Meeting are your compass to get back on track. These meetings will make sure that your company’s management team stays aligned on the most important things to work on over the next several months. 

    The first key to this type of meeting is to hire a professional facilitator. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to both participate in a meeting and facilitate it at the same time. Unless you have a lot of experience running meetings (so much that it’s second nature), hire an outsider to help facilitate the meeting. This investment will allow you to focus on participating in solving your company’s most important problems instead of being distracted watching the clock.

    Second, host the meeting off site and have it catered. Get your people outside of the box so that they can spend a day working with you ON the business and not IN the business. Treat them like a board of directors and pamper them with a catered breakfast and lunch. Going to a restaurant will break up your flow and cause the meeting to last longer. 

    Lastly, make it fun! If your team is going to have to be cooped up all day talking about the business, mix in some fun team-building events (no, not trust falls! Email me if you need some ideas!) And, consider taking the team out to dinner to build rapport and enjoy each other’s company.

    Sample Strategic Planning Agenda:

    1. Get vulnerable—each team member shares a high and low from the prior 90 days
    2. Review the prior quarter
      1. Review P&L for the last quarter
      2. Review progress against goals for the quarter
    3. Establish new goals for the upcoming quarter
    4. Discuss problems—this is a great time to discuss really sticky issues that were too hairy to discuss during your weekly meetings
    5. Review mission, vision and values (annual meeting only)

    State of the Company Address

    This is your opportunity to get everyone in your company together and aligned. Done properly, these 60 minutes will be the most profitable hour of the year for your business.

    Sample State of the Company Agenda:

    1. Review the company’s mission, vision and values

    2. Reveal goals for the upcoming year

    3. Conclude with a team-building exercise

    What’s in it for you? A successful meeting plan will ensure that all your employees come together as a cohesive unit all rowing in the exact same direction, which leads back to my favorite Patrick Lencioni quote from “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

    “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

    Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at jpslain@gmail.com or 216-870-4219.

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