Additional Small Business Take Aways from the State of the Union

President Obama called on Congress to work together, put political bickering aside, and pass legislation that will aid American businesses in stimulating the economy and creating jobs. The GOP’s subsequent address touched on some of the same themes - albeit with some differing points of view on how to achieve success for businesses. So, what are the chances that our federal elected officials will come together and make progress on specific small business issues this year? The answer, of course, remains to be seen. 

President Obama called on Congress to work together, put political bickering aside, and pass legislation that will aid American businesses in stimulating the economy and creating jobs. The GOP’s subsequent address touched on some of the same themes - albeit with some differing points of view on how to achieve success for businesses. So, what are the chances that our federal elected officials will come together and make progress on specific small business issues this year? The answer, of course, remains to be seen.  But, in case you missed it last night, here are a few of the priorities the President mentioned in his address that could impact your small business (in a positive or negative manner) should they gain traction:

Paid Sick Leave: The President said America is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee paid sick or maternity leave for their workers. He asked Congress to learn from states like California and Connecticut who give their employees paid sick leave and send him a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.

Minimum Wage: Similar to what the President encouraged Congress to do last year, he once again asked for a minimum wage bill that includes equal pay for men and women and awarding workers for working overtime. 

Workforce Development: It is no secret that college is very expensive. To combat the expense and make it easier for students, veterans, and single parents to attend, President Obama announced he wants to work with Congress to offer free community college for those who receive and keep good grades and graduate on time. He also wants to work with Congress to reduce student loan payments for those who have recently graduated and are struggling with their monthly loan payments.  President Obama urged businesses across the county to continue to offer educational benefits, apprenticeships, and other opportunities for young employees; he also encouraged businesses, big and small, to hire veterans who are highly skilled, devoted and trained.

Cyber security: We are intimately tied to our technology and the internet. Americans look to the internet to pay their bills, send emails, meet old and new friends, and converse with people from around the world. Government uses all forms of technology to protect its citizens and the President made it a priority in his speech to urge Congress to pass legislation that will combat these evolving cyber-attacks, protect identities, and keep businesses safe from harm. 

Trade: Lastly, the President asked businesses, big and small, to sell more American products overseas. He asked both parties to come together and give him trade promotion authority in order to protect American workers.

Earlier today, COSE small business members and employers from across the country participated in a teleconference hosted by our partners at the National Small Business Association. The bulk of the discussion revolved around the potential impact these issues could have on small business and the chances we could see movement on them given the current environment on Capitol Hill. To learn more about NSBA’s response to the State of the Union please view their blog posting here: NSBA

What do you think? How do these issues impact your small business? We want to hear from you! And we encourage you to contact COSE advocacy by emailing advocacy@cose.org or send us a tweet: @COSEsmallbiz #COSEadvocacy


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  • Next up: Administrator for U.S. Small Business Administration Confirmed

    Administrator for U.S. Small Business Administration Confirmed

    The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Linda McMahon as U.S. Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Linda McMahon as U.S. Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    The U.S. Small Business Administration was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

    Throughout her confirmation, McMahon underscored the fact that she would not support consolidating the SBA with the Department of Commerce; would advocate for tax reform that includes pass-through entities—which comprise of the majority of small businesses; and planned to support a strong SBA Office of Advocacy with enhanced ability to affect the regulatory process.

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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Always be Ready to Pitch

    Tips for Your Business: Always be Ready to Pitch

    Quick, in 30 seconds or less tell us what your company does and wow us with your unique selling proposition. Can’t do it? You’re not alone. It can take some time to get your business pitch just right. You'll likely go through several drafts before finding one that is compelling, and that sounds natural in conversation. A business pitch or elevator speech is a brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in you and your business. 

    Quick, in 30 seconds or less tell us what your company does and wow us with your unique selling proposition. Can’t do it? You’re not alone. It can take some time to get your business pitch just right. You'll likely go through several drafts before finding one that is compelling, and that sounds natural in conversation.

    A business pitch or elevator speech is a brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in you and your business. A good elevator pitch should take no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. “Elevator speeches are shameless self-promotions,” says Phil Stella, president of Effective Training and Communication in Cleveland. “We use these speeches every day at meetings and networking events, but most of us don’t do them with enough focus or finesse.” 

    We asked Stella to share some simple strategies for crafting a flawless elevator pitch.

    Less Is Definitely More – Elevator speeches are supposed to begin a dialogue, not be a monologue. Provide enough focused information to engage your listeners in conversation, but keep it brief. With every word or fact you might mention, ask yourself “Who really cares?”

    It’s Not About You! – It’s about the people listening to you and why they should want to ask you more questions or get to know you better.  A good elevator speech should generate four or five more specific questions if they’re interested in you. If not, you’ve just saved them and yourself valuable networking time.

    Let Go of the Ego – Titles are for business cards. Write out your typical elevator speech and count the number of “I” statements. The more you have, the more ego you need to let go.

    Become Buyer-Driven – Typical elevator speech content includes a seller-driven menu of products, services or features. Stand out in a crowd by being more buyer-driven by focusing on what the listener might want or get when they work with you.  Emphasize the benefits and value.

    Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect – Practice only makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect. So, practice your succinct, buyer-driven speech until it’s articulate and enthusiastic and don’t forget to prepare similarly focused responses to obvious questions interested people might ask.

    To elevate your elevator speech, Stella recommends starting out by writing out your typical response to the question, “So, what do you do?”  Then edit it in the context of the strategies above and polish and practice it until it flows naturally. “Once you have perfected your elevator speech, you can enjoy the ride up to the top floor,” says Stella.

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

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  • Next up: Amended minimum wage proposal still a bad deal for Clevelanders

    Amended minimum wage proposal still a bad deal for Clevelanders

    A national organization interested in advancing their own agenda, regardless of the cost that Cleveland and Cleveland residents would incur, announced they have finalized language for a Cleveland-only minimum wage ballot measure.  Cleveland voters will ultimately decide on the issue in the future in November or through a special election on a to-be-determined date.

    A national organization interested in advancing their own agenda, regardless of the cost that Cleveland and Cleveland residents would incur, announced they have finalized language for a Cleveland-only minimum wage ballot measure.  Cleveland voters will ultimately decide on the issue in the future in November or through a special election on a to-be-determined date.

    The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is amending the original minimum wage proposal they sent to Cleveland City Council after Council overwhelming voted against it and as the public is learning more about SEIU’s misguided approach and why a Cleveland-only wage is a bad deal for Clevelanders.  The new version will still only apply to Cleveland, but will call for the city’s minimum wage to increase to $12 in its first year, with $1 annual increases thereafter, until it ultimately reaches $15; then, the wage would be tied to the cost-of-living. 

    Meanwhile, the minimum wage for the rest of Ohio is set at $8.10 which can still increase annually based on the cost of living and how prices have inflated over time.

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership continues to oppose this effort because it puts Cleveland on an un-level playing field with the rest of the state.  We are all going to have to pay significant costs if it passes because the proposal will:

    • Cost Cleveland existing jobs and new jobs.
    • Cost Cleveland’s seniors much-needed services.
    • Deny Cleveland’s young people job opportunities.
    • Force Clevelanders to pay higher prices.
    • Cost Cleveland its grocery stores, and Cleveland residents access to fresh groceries and food at a reasonable price.
    • Devastate Cleveland’s neighborhoods.
    • Stop Cleveland’s momentum and roll back Cleveland’s progress.
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  • Next up: An Overview of the Data Protection Act

    An Overview of the Data Protection Act

    In 2017, 61% of small businesses experienced a cyberattack and small- to mid-size businesses spent an average of $1 million as a result of the damage done from cyberattacks. The Data Protection Act was conceived in response to cyber threats on businesses, and was the first piece of legislation introduced as a result of Greater Cleveland Partnership volunteer leadership and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s CyberOhio Initiative.

    The objectives

    Launched in 2016, the goal of CyberOhio is to help foster a legal, technical and collaborative cybersecurity environment to help Ohio businesses thrive. The Data Protection Act, Senate Bill 220, was signed into law in August 2018, effective Nov. 2, 2018, and encourages businesses to voluntarily adopt strong cybersecurity practices to protect consumer data. The act specifies industry-recognized security frameworks for business owners in Ohio to incorporate into their cybersecurity policies.

    The following cybersecurity frameworks are integrated into the act:

    • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
    • Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)
    • Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls
    • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27000
    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
    • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
    • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
    • Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act
    • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

    The benefits

    With effective protections against this type of business-related crisis, customers can be spared the expense, embarrassment and harm caused by having their data compromised.

    An incentive to businesses owners who establish a cybersecurity program that meets one of the act’s requirements is that the business is eligible to use the affirmative defense in the event of a lawsuit filed due to a data breach. The data protection program is inherently flexible. Under this act, a cybersecurity program is scalable to each business based on:

    • Size;
    • complexity;
    • nature;
    • cost; and
    • resources.
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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Anticipate Needs Ahead of the Customer

    Tips for Your Business: Anticipate Needs Ahead of the Customer

    Technology innovations, shrinking product lifecycles and increased global competition have undeniably changed the way we do business. These factors, along with higher customer expectations, also have dramatically altered the customer relationship. Today, understanding and anticipating customer needs ahead of the competition is essential for all small businesses to succeed. 

    Technology innovations, shrinking product lifecycles and increased global competition have undeniably changed the way we do business. These factors, along with higher customer expectations, also have dramatically altered the customer relationship. Today, understanding and anticipating customer needs ahead of the competition is essential for all small businesses to succeed. 

    It’s one thing to sufficiently meet customer requests, but it is quite another to anticipate those needs in advance. “If you truly understand your customers today and what their vision is for tomorrow, you can better predict their needs,” says Christopher Finnecy, partner at Trellispoint, a CRM business solutions consultancy firm in Brecksville. “By doing that you can not only improve sales and revenue, but you can set yourself apart from the competition, build loyalty and establish your business as one that values its customers.”

    Don’t be afraid to invest the time and money in tools that can help you monitor and understand customer buying habits and your sales relationships to help you make strategic decisions to personalize your customer interactions. “There are plenty of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools available for small business to use that don’t come with a large financial commitment,” Finnecy says. He cites Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com, and Infor CRM (formerly SalesLogix), as the best of the breed in CRM solutions. “As you grow, the products grow with you, and they can be customized and tailored to your business needs and wants.”


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