Tricks AND Treats of Running a Small Business

Running a small business may spook some people, but not our COSE members! Read on as they share their tricks AND treats of being small business owners.

 

We asked some of our COSE members to share with us some TRICKS they swear by when it comes to running their own small businesses, as well as some TREATS they’ve experienced as a result of being a small business owner.

So don’t be a scaredy cat—pause for a spell and check out what they had to say!

TRICK: “The best ‘trick’ we have found for finding rockstar employees was taking the time to develop our core values. It makes the hiring process easier because we know that those who succeed at Pandata embody our core values. It's our measuring stick for hiring.”

TREAT: The greatest ‘treat’ in running this business has been developing a recognizable brand for Pandata. As a career-long marketer, the opportunity to build something essentially from scratch has given me so much personal satisfaction. Hearing people say, ‘I have heard of Pandata’ or ‘I really love your marketing’ makes me proud of how far we have come.”

Nicole Ponstingle, Pandata

 

Trick: “One trick we use as a matter of policy is transparency—especially as it pertains to upfront pricing. This way there are no surprises and price-only potential clients filter themselves out of the conversation. We end up getting much more qualified leads and potential clients who are more concerned with value vs price.”

Treat: “Getting to meet, help and work with local entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area on a daily basis has been such a fulfilling experience. Knowing that we're directly impacting our local economy and local families in a positive way...it doesn't get much better than that!”

Nachum Langsner, LocalBizGuru

 

TRICK: “Always have a Service Recovery strategy. No matter how good your service delivery, something will go wrong, either through your own fault or by accident. So, plan for it. Remember that a customer who receives bad service followed by a sincere apology and an outstanding service recovery process often becomes an ‘apostle’—spreading the good news about your company—because people love to tell a good story.”

TREAT:I get to decide. As a solopreneur I may have to worry about marketing, sales and cash flow, because if I don’t sell, I don’t eat. But two things I never worry about are job security (because I know the boss—me!—isn’t going to lay me off) and feeling stuck in a dead-end job (because I can reinvent myself at any time without waiting for permission)!”

Jim Smith, The Executive Happiness Coach

 

TRICK:Identifying and spending time with others (through happy hours, emails, etc) who run a small business in my same industry. Although they are technically competitors, they also experience the same problems I have. Sharing ‘tricks’ of how we have solved the problem we all have, has allowed me to solve these problems more quickly than if I had to figure it out myself…

Which has led to the TREAT of having this group of fellow small business owners become incredibly great friends and referral sources.”

Margaret Cassidy, Cassidy Law

 

TRICK: “One trick that I use is my marching orders to my team members: A video project is not complete until the client is ecstatic at the final showing.”

TREAT: “A treat I’ve experienced is getting to know so many diverse organizations intimately—their mission, culture and purpose.”

Tony Weber, Goldfarb Weber Creative Media

 

TRICK: "I use Survey Monkey to qualify candidates when interviewing. I send it to those whose resumes look solid, with the goal of paring down the candidates for phone interviews. The survey has about seven basic behavioral and technical questions. This helps me determine the candidates that are serious as well as get a better feel for the candidate’s writing style, communication skills and thinking. It reduces the need to conduct a ton of phone interviews as well."

TREAT: "I’ve really gotten a chance to harness my creativity and vision. Whether it’s building our solutions out, tackling sales goals or building our community impact initiatives, running my own business allows me the freedom to think, create ideas and make them happen!"

Nevin Bansal, Outreach Promotions and Small Biz Cares

 

TRICK: “When applying for a small business loan, time your loan request to coincide with the date when your year-end tax return will be completed by your accountant. That way, when your banker asks for a ‘current financial statement within 90 days of application’ you’ll already have it and won’t have to pay her to do a new one for you!”

TREAT: “Don’t be scared to consult your local economic development professional at your City Hall when considering an expansion. You never know what incentives they might have available to help your business grow. For example, businesses in Cleveland, Lakewood, Fairview Park, Maple Heights, Shaker Heights, and Cleveland Heights have received performance grant assistance from the city in conjunction with their SBA-backed loans. Maybe you can, boo!

Raymond Graves, Lender Relations Specialist, Cleveland District Office U.S. Small Business Administration

 

TRICK: “After I have interviewed someone and the pressure is off the potential candidate, I have two of my employees interview and talk to the potential applicant. They answer any questions they might have about working at SACS Consulting, culture, etc. I explain to my two employees: ‘You are the ones that will work with this potential candidate day to day and not me—so see what you think.’ It is amazing without our people asking much at all what the candidates volunteer and ask—which tells us if they are a good fit or not and increases our hiring success rates!”

Tim Dimoff, CEO and President of SACS Consulting

 

We hope you have enjoyed these tricks and treats and we wish you happy haunting!

 

Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Upgrade Your Online Presence with LocalBizGuru

    Upgrade Your Online Presence with LocalBizGuru

     

    According to Google, 97% of consumers use the internet to search for local businesses—which means a strong online presence is crucial to succeeding today, no matter what size your business or type of industry. How well does your website perform in an online world crowded with thousands of similar businesses and other distractions? Do you even know how to go about discovering the answer to this question?

    The experts at LocalBizGuru—a Cleveland-based search engine optimization (SEO) and full-service digital marketing agency—are here to help put your small business on the map by upgrading its online presence.

    What We Offer

    As a full-service digital marketing agency, we provide you with expert local digital marketing solutions—driving targeted traffic looking for your products and services to both your website and brick-and-mortar location. Let LocalBizGuru be your one-stop shop for all your Cleveland SEO needs so that you can focus on what you do best—your business.

    Our services include:

    ●       Website Design, Development, Hosting & Maintenance

    ●       Local Search Engine Optimization

    ●       Review Generation and Reputation management

    ●       Premium Social Media Marketing

    ●       Content creation and much much more!

    Start by taking the temperature of your business with our free LocalBizGuru resources. Let us conduct a complete overview of your local SEO performance in minutes, including search rankings, local listings, reviews, on-site SEO and social media. Get your free local SEO report here. Also, check out our free audit tools and contact us for a free consultation.

    When you’re ready to move forward with one of our competitive packages, our transparent and upfront pricing will enable you to choose the best Local SEO fundamental options and solutions to fit your budget.

    Meet the Gurus

    Aaron Garfunkel is the Co-Founder and President of LocalBizGuru. He has over eight years of experience as a business development and managerial professional with key accomplishments in operations management, process improvement, client relations, sales development and strategic marketing.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder and CMO of LocalBizGuru. He has over 10 years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.

    You can hear from LocalBizGuru's Nachum Langsner at COSE's Small Business Resource Fair on October 16 in his session titled Improve Your Business’ Online Visibility. Learn more about and register for this event focused on helping your small business access the resources, support and opportunities you need to grow.


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Welcoming Week Event Showcases Immigration Opportunities

    Welcoming Week Event Showcases Immigration Opportunities

     

    Last week, GCP, in partnership with Global Cleveland and Ideastream, hosted a networking seminar about how the E-1 and E-2 visas can be used as a tool for economic development in our region. Immigration lawyer and Partner at Ulmer & Berne, David Leopold, presented—providing a foundational background of the E Visas and how businesses and economic developers can benefit from them. This event took place as part of Global Cleveland’s annual Welcoming Week—a week devoted to highlighting the benefits of immigrants in our community.

    The E-1 and E-2 visas promote trade and investment between countries to spur international investment in businesses that create jobs and help communities grow. E-1 visas—or treaty trader visas—allow individuals from outside the U.S. to trade goods like technology between the U.S. and their home country. E-2 visas—or treaty investor visas—allow individuals to direct operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or are actively investing, in the U.S.

    The visas allow an investor or trader and his or her family to live in the U.S. To view a current list of countries with which the U.S. maintains trader and investor treaties, click here. The E-visas are another tool that can strengthen are region’s talent pipeline by attracting highly skilled foreign workers or investors. You can learn more about these visas here.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: What if Your Business IS the Best Choice

    What if Your Business IS the Best Choice

    As a follow-up to last month’s article on what to do if your business is not the best choice to fulfill a prospect’s needs, this month we are advising you on what to do if your business is the best choice.

     

    Last month, we discussed some strategies to consider when you realize you’re not the right choice for a product or service your prospect needs. We had many positive comments about the piece and some people even indicated that they had never even thought about some of the strategies. 

    So, this month’s topic should be obvious--What if Your Business IS the right choice? And some of the brief answers will be obvious, too. But, some won’t…so read and heed.

    Step 1: Thank the client and review the agreement and timeline to make sure you’ll be giving them what they want, when they want it. I like an email or phone call for immediacy, but a hand-written note card for impact really works. 

    Step 2: Ask what other providers they were considering, unless they told you up front. This information will help you analyze the competitive landscape.

    Step 3: Ask why they chose you, your product or service. You need to compare why you think they picked you with why they actually selected to work with you. You may have focused your pitch on service when the client made the decision based on cost. This information will help you analyze your branding and brand promise. And, remember, your prospect’s perception is your reality.

    Step 4: If you’re providing a product, give periodic status reports on design, production or delivery. Some variation on a project plan can be helpful.

    Step 5: This is even more important with a detailed process or project. Your plan should include dates for regular client status updates.

    Step 6: Make sure there aren’t any surprises. Whenever you encounter a problem, communicate quickly. If it’s your fault, fix it fast but let the client know about it. If it isn’t your fault, analyze probable causes and likely solutions for the client and collaborate on fix. And fix it fast.

    Step 7: If the client asks for changes in scope, timing or content, carefully analyze the impact any changes will have in cost and delivery. Quickly share this update with them. Seek approval or negotiate options.

    Step 8: Lots of small businesses wrongly assume the job is done when the check clears the bank. Not so. Follow up in a timely manner to see how the product, service or project is working out and gauge their level of satisfaction. Depending on the scope or details of the deal, check in regularly. Hey, if my dentist can call the next day to see how I feel, so can you.

    Step 9: Where appropriate, consider customer satisfaction surveys, either created in-house or administered by a third party. If you can respond directly, thank them for their comments and suggestions. Periodically communicate the positive actions you’re taking to improve quality or service resulting from the surveys to your whole customer base.

    Step 10: Create and launch a Customer Contact Program. It can include a grid or spread sheet with customer contact and current volume on the vertical axis and various ‘Customer Touches’ on the horizontal axis. Examples include holiday greetings, those notes seeing how things are going, articles of interest to them, especially if you wrote them and links to resources or events they might find useful. 

    So, there’s a lot more to successfully interacting with customers when you win the business than simply thanking them and beginning work. These simple strategies will enhance your customers’ experience, helping you win more repeat business. 

    Happy Pitching!

    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, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

     

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: What if Your Business is not the Best Choice

    What if Your Business is not the Best Choice

    You can’t win 'em all. Here are five next steps to consider when your business isn’t the best fit for the client or proposal.

     

    It looks like this new series in which I respond to sales pitch questions from readers is a hit. Thanks to those of you who took the time to comment or ask new questions. This time, R.G. from Beachwood asked, “What should you do if you conclude you’re not the client’s best choice?”

    The answer may seem obvious, but let’s take a deeper dive to consider options when you realize that you can’t do it as fast or as well or as inexpensively as the prospect requested.

    Option 1: Just tell the truth. The simplest and easiest option is to indicate that you now realize that you’re not positioned to be able to give them what they need and want. Thank them and walk away. No shame in retreat here—it’s simple, honest and courteous. But, there may be better choices worth evaluating.                                              

    Option 2: Consider offering ‘just enough.’ Let them know what you can do and why and let them determine if that’s enough of what they wanted to choose you anyway. It’s their call, not yours, but do try to negotiate a win-win. I’ve had several engagements where I didn’t think I was the best choice for a prospect’s needs, but let them make that call. They went with me anyway and we were both happy with the results. You never know until you try!

    Option 3: If you can’t do it all, can you do part of it? Can you partner with a colleague or their in-house resources to do the rest? Part of the engagement is better than none of it. However, these partnerships need to be well established and vetted before suggesting them. And you always run the risk of your partner not meeting your or the client’s expectations. Ask yourself if you have the appetite for that kind of risk. But, remember, if you did walk away, you’d have nothing to risk…but nothing to gain, either. You miss 100% of the shots on goal that you don’t take.

    Option 4: Separate necessities from desires. If it’s a pricing issue and you can’t do it for less, can you do less of it and still keep them happy? Part of your cost may be speed of delivery, value-added components or timing of launch or delivery. Engage in a thorough analytical discussion with the prospect to clearly define their ‘gotta haves’ and separate them from their ‘wanna haves’ or ‘like-ta haves.’ Now, can you handle the ‘gotta haves’ at a price that works for your needs and theirs?

    Option 5: And, finally, be realistic. How thorough, accurate and practical are the requirements listed in the prospect’s RFP? They may be so unrealistic that no provider would be able to meet them and still make a profit. How accurately are you evaluating your own real capabilities compared to those requirements? You may be too self-critical. So, as mentioned above, clearly state your case and value proposition. Let the prospect decide how close you come to what is really needed and how you compare to the other providers in play.

    So, add these strategies to your growing Sales Pitch Tool Kit and commit to trying some of them. And don’t tell me something won’t work unless you can tell me that it didn’t work. One may actually help you accomplish both your sales pitch goal…and objective.

    Happy Pitching!

    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, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Visits Cleveland

    White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Visits Cleveland

     

    Last Friday, the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council visited Cleveland and other parts of Ohio to continue its tour of Opportunity Zones. The Small Business Administration was also present to speak with small business owners about how the program can spur investment and drive local hiring.

    The meeting gave Cleveland’s OpportunityCLE coalition the chance to highlight key projects happening in Cleveland Opportunity Zones. OpportunityCLE is a collaborative effort between Cleveland and Cuyahoga County’s robust network of public, private, and philanthropic partners. To learn more about this work, click here.

    Opportunity Zones were established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with the goal of creating long-term investments in regions of low-income rural and urban communities. The program provides tax incentives for investors to re-invest within Opportunity Zones. Members from the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council were hosted by GCP this past May—and last week’s meeting served as a critical touchpoint to connect small businesses to resources.

    Share
  • Email