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!

 

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  • Next up: Understanding and Building a Positive Company Culture

    Understanding and Building a Positive Company Culture

    You’ve probably heard of some of the bigger companies that employees like working for. But company culture is just as important in a small business as well.

     

    As a small business you may not think much about company culture. But I have learned that building a strong company culture is equally as important in a business with five to 10 employees as it is in a company with hundreds of employees. There are many reasons for this ranging from attracting good employees to fostering an atmosphere that promotes good communication, keeping employees happy and with your company.  Today, most people have several opportunities for employment so it is up to you to provide a strong, attractive company culture to attract this talent to your small business. 

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business.

    Having an attractive company culture does not mean you have to provide extras like gyms, day care centers or yoga classes that most small businesses can’t afford. But it does mean that you provide a workplace that is open, communicative and is a pleasant place to work. It starts with a vision of your core values and how you run your company. The first steps toward developing your company culture are essentially knowing what your company does, what it believes in (your values) and what your vision of the future is. 

    Once you have defined those, see if you need to make any adjustments or changes. Remember, company culture starts from the top down. Be honest when reviewing your current culture and be proactive when making any changes. 

    When hiring, keep in mind if the new hire will fit into your company culture. Be honest with your expectations and in listening to their expectations. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. They are the ones who will share their feelings about what kind of workplace you have. Be open to talking with them and take any suggestions they offer seriously. Employee attitudes are as important as their skill sets. However, be careful not to hire clones of yourself. You want employees who can offer new thoughts and experiences and add to your company culture. 

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    In order to reinforce your culture, consider programs that award employees who meet or beat expectations. These programs go a long way toward making employees feel valued. Examples of this can include annual awards for the “best” sales leader or “best” example of your core values. This can also mean something as simple as just celebrating employee birthdays with a cake. 

    Your employee turnover, reviews etc. will help you to determine if your culture is effective and positive. Be sensitive to what you see and hear when analyzing your environment. If you follow these suggestions, you will ultimately find yourself with lower turnovers, a more positive and friendly work environment and a happier and more productive workplace.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

     
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  • 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.


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  • Next up: U.S. Department of Labor Releases Hourly Employee Guidance

    U.S. Department of Labor Releases Hourly Employee Guidance

     

    For employers that have hourly employees working from home, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently released guidance to clarify your obligations to track an employee's teleworking hours. The guidance can be read here

    While this guidance responds directly to needs created by new telework or remote work arrangements that arose in response to COVID-19, it also applies to other telework or remote work arrangements.

    Other useful information about the DOL's response to the coronavirus pandemic including OSHA's guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 can be found here.

     
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  • 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.

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  • 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.   

     

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