Energy Subsidy Bill Passes


GCP has continued to encourage policies that provide incentives for utilities to offer businesses opportunities that leverage energy efficiency programming. GCP members did not take a formal position on all provisions within controversial legislation, House Bill 6 (HB 6), that aims to keep Ohio’s two nuclear power plants running.  GCP recognizes it is important utilities are provided a level of elasticity needed to meet state mandated energy benchmarks, but we also have strongly encouraged the continuation of those benchmarks to spur growth and economic development.

On Tuesday and by a vote of 51-38, the Ohio House concurred with an Ohio Senate substitute version of the bill. And, the Governor signed the bill just hours after lawmakers sent the final version to him. Click here for a recap of the bill and the proceedings to this point.

GCP businesses weighed-in on this initiative throughout the year and advocacy staff worked with high-level state officials to reinforce or position. Click here to read more on GCP’s consistent, pragmatic statement on the issue from last year.

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Falling in Love with Your Business Again

    3 Things to Know: Falling in Love with Your Business Again

    If you have become disenchanted with your small business, here are three things to know about bringing the passion back.

     

    It’s that time of year to fall in love… with your small business. If the honeymoon period is over and you find yourself with more challenges than rewards as a business owner, it’s time to fall in love with your small business again.

    Here are three things we think you should keep in mind if you hope to bring the spark back.

    First thing to know: Spend your time more effectively.

    How can you love what you do if you don’t have the time to do what you love? One step toward loving your business again is to start using your time wisely.

    Here are tips on making the most of meetings, as well as 12 business life-hacks to find time and simplify your life. And, learn how to achieve the self-discipline you need to stay on task and get your critical action items checked off every day.

    Second thing to know: Find more joy and less stress.

    If you’ve lost that loving feeling with your business, maybe it’s time to remember why you started it in the first place. Think back to the excitement you felt during those early stages, and how valuable your role is in making the business happen. Here are thoughts on changing your mindset and bringing joy back to your business.

    Additionally, from finding a support system to nourishing yourself, here are six tips to dealing with owner fatigue.

    Is it COVID that has you down? Owning a business during a pandemic can be particularly unpredictable and overwhelming. Check out these six tips for dealing with COVID stress.

    Third thing to know: Make your job a little easier.

    Running a small business has its long, hectic days, but there are ways to lessen your load.

    When marketing is done right, everything else seems to fall into place. But prioritizing marketing strategies can be overwhelming for any business owner. Here are tips for selecting the right digital marketing tactics for your business.

    When it comes to selling, making the first sale can be easy. However, making the second, third or fourth can be tricky. Learn the easy way to earn repeat and referral business.

    Another way to make your life a little easier is to let the internet do some of the legwork when it comes to customers finding you. This can be done through search engine optimization—the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your site. Here are five reasons why you should invest in SEO for your business, as well as nine SEO tips to get your website noticed.

    RELATED: Read more in our 3 Things to Know series.

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  • Next up: FAQs About FAQs: How to Effectively Handle Customer Questions

    FAQs About FAQs: How to Effectively Handle Customer Questions

    Being responsive to your customers' questions is one of the most important parts of the job. Here are some FAQs from small business owners about the FAQs they receive, and tips on how to effectively handle them.

     

    How often does a customer call, text or email you with a question? If you said “rarely,” then you’re either very good or very lucky. Stop reading now and go do something fun instead. If you said “often” or “a lot,” then read on—this one is for you. We are taking a look at questions small business owners like you have regarding customer FAQs.

    Q: How important are customer questions?
    A: Very!

    Our operational assumption is that effective, efficient and engaging customer communication is essential for any business to survive, let alone thrive. That said, responding to customer questions quickly, clearly and courteously is a critically important aspect of customer communication strategy.

    Customers rarely have the technical knowledge to assess how good your product or service is—that’s why they need you. But they can also quickly judge your company’s values by what you do and say in responding to their questions. 

    Q: When should I expect questions from customers?
    A: Any time and all the time.

    Prospective and current customers will have questions the first time they visit your location, search your site or call in. They will also have questions throughout the shopping and sales process and long after they buy your product or service. 

    So, you and your customer-facing staff need to always be ready to respond to questions consistently—and be sure to always follow your company’s strategy and plan. If you don’t have a strategy and plan for questions because you thought it was obvious, wrong answer. Always have a plan.

    Q: What should I say?
    A: Initially, Nothing! But then…

    Instead of trying to jump in and answer their questions as they are speaking, be sure to listen intently to their comment or question. This is especially important face-to-face. You must not only actually listen, but you also must show them that you are listening. 

    Once you have listened attentively, verify your understanding by saying something like “Let me make sure I’m understanding…”  or “So, what you’re asking is…”

    Then, answer and respond clearly and concisely. And after you do so, don’t follow up your response by saying “Did I answer your question?” That implies you might not have answered the question. Simply say, “Do you have any more questions or is there anything else I can help you with?”

    Q: What if I don’t know the answer or can’t respond immediately?
    A: Say so! But then…

    If you really don’t know the answer to a customer question, be honest and tell them that you don’t know. But then indicate when you think you will have an answer or response. Ask them if they would rather stay on hold/stay in the store or have you call them. Do what they ask. And a good rule of thumb is to always respond sooner than you said you would. 

    If the right answer is “I don’t know,” consider instead choosing the words “I’m not exactly sure.” Selecting these words will be better for your credibility.

    Q: Should I have an FAQ page on my website?
    A: Absolutely!

    Every business should have an FAQ page—just be sure it’s easy to find, clear and comprehensive. When someone calls you, ask if they’ve already visited the site. This is a subtle way to remind them to do so for next time. 

    While an FAQ page is important, such a page is static—it sits there waiting for someone to read it. Consider including all of it or parts of it in regular customer communication. If they already know the answer, no problem. If not, they might appreciate the gesture. If you have a customer blog or e-newsletter, feature a regular FAQ section in each issue. And, once is never enough—keep repeating the important questions. Few people will notice the repetition and no one will mind.

    Q: How do we know which questions are important?
    A: They are all important!

    Assume all customer questions are equal, but some are more equal than others, (Thank you, George Orwell). Keep track of questions manually if you have to or by hit frequency on your site. Usually the questions asked the most often are the most important, or at least impact the most customers. 

    So, make the most of FAQs for your customers and your value proposition. Turn every frequently asked question into a frequently answered question. And make sure to send in your questions about questions (email Marie Zickefoose) so we can respond to them in our article next month. Any questions?

    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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  • Next up: Federal Payroll Tax Deferral Guidance

    Federal Payroll Tax Deferral Guidance

     

    On August 28, the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service released guidance (Notice 2020-65) that implements President Trump’s recent memorandum directing the Secretary of the Treasury to allow employers to defer certain payroll taxes if they so choose.

    The deferral applies to wages or compensation paid from September 1 through December 31, 2020.

    Employers that defer the tax collections from September 1 through year’s end will need to collect unpaid taxes from that period starting on January 1 and remit them by April 30.

    The guidance allows employers to defer withholding and paying the employee portion of the Social Security payroll tax if the employee’s wages or compensation during any bi-weekly pay period generally are less than $4,000, calculated on a pre-tax basis, or the equivalent amount with respect to other pay cycles.

    Additional tax relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on IRS.gov.

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  • Next up: Find Your 2020 Summer Intern

    Find Your 2020 Summer Intern

     

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central program is again collaborating with Tri-C to offer GCP members the opportunity to participate as an internship host employer for Tri-C’s 5th annual Summer Internship Program. The internships will be 100 hours in duration, i.e. 20 hours/week for 5 weeks or 10 hours/week for 10 weeks, from May 26 to August 7, 2020. Employers are able to host more than one intern.

    As an external host employer, the company would be placed with an intern that best matches your needs. Tri-C manages the HR functions of the internship such as hiring, placement, background check, and internship compensation. Students will be compensated by the college at $11 per hour.

    Other benefits to the host employer include:

    • Screening of interns for 2.0 minimum GPA, active student status and other requirements will be conducted by the College.
    • Speed networking internship fairs (opportunity for employers to interview potential interns) hosted by the College.
    • Students will be considered Cuyahoga Community College employees (on Tri-C’s payroll).
    • Thorough background check and drug screening conducted by the College.

    The host employer is responsible for:

    • Providing the internship job description by 12/6/2019, click here for the job description template
    • Attending an information session on 2/11/2020 (Metropolitan campus 9:00am-10:30am) to learn about the role of the host/employer, timelines for hiring and next steps
    • Providing supervision, coaching, feedback, and support to the intern during the internship period
    • Providing meaningful work and learning experiences for the intern
    • Developing and sharing a work plan for the intern, outlining objectives and deliverables throughout the 5 or 10-week internship
    • Ensuring the internship is complete between May 26, 2020 and August 7, 2020.
    • Providing a workspace and other resources (e.g. access to computer, reference materials, and telephone)
    • Attending ONE of the Internship Fairs. Attending an internship fair is essential because this is where you will meet and interview potential interns and make your top intern selections.
      • Metropolitan Campus (downtown Cleveland) – Friday, March 6, 2020,
      • Western Campus (Parma)- Tuesday, March 10, 2020

    Internship host opportunities will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.  If you are interested in hosting a student during summer 2020, please complete the Summer Internship Job Description and return to Angela Finding at afinding@gcpartnership.com by December 6, 2019. For questions regarding the program, call Angela at 216-592-2385.

     

     

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  • Next up: Rooted in Our Communities: First Federal Lakewood Helps Businesses Weather Uncertain Times for 85 Years

    Rooted in Our Communities: First Federal Lakewood Helps Businesses Weather Uncertain Times for 85 Years

     

    “Our vision and mission is that all people have a right to affordable housing,” said John Habat, President/CEO at Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity.

    First Federal Lakewood is helping Habitat for Humanity realize that vision with access to funding through a business line of credit and more recently, a loan through the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

    “Nobody was coming forward offering us a line of credit. I said, ‘Let me try reaching out to First Federal Lakewood.’ What they did was arrange for us to have a line of credit,” said Habat. “There’s just no comparison. You go into the bank and they know you.”

    Habitat for Humanity again turned to First Federal Lakewood to apply for a loan through the PPP to be able to keep its workers on the payroll. Habat said he was on the phone right away with someone at First Federal Lakewood. “In 10 days, we had our approval. When your banker comes through for you like that, that’s just the best,” he added.

    Helping Local Businesses Thrive
    Habitat for Humanity is just one of hundreds of organizations and small businesses First Federal Lakewood works with to invest in the local economy and help local businesses thrive.

    Thinking Cap Child Care in Cleveland is an all-female, family-owned small business that provides child care services. Thinking Cap’s relationship with First Federal Lakewood began with a PPP business loan. Since then, Jaishawna Bates, Thinking Cap Director, has opened business and personal accounts, and referred friends and family to First Federal Lakewood.

    “Receiving paperwork or an application can be so tedious. They gave me a little push and the reassurance that we would figure it out together. They go above and beyond in wanting to help. I think that it’s a wonderful thing,” said Bates.

    IT-services firm UCG Technologies, which is located in Independence, was looking to secure flexible funding. A business line of credit from First Federal Lakewood was just what the company needed.

    “We chose First Federal Lakewood primarily because of the people. I can pick up the phone and get them on the phone, send them an email or meet with them quickly in person. At other banks, that may not be the case,” said Jim Kandrac, President, UCG Technologies.

    First Federal Lakewood has been committed to Northeast Ohio for 85 years. As a mutual bank, First Federal Lakewood is owned by depositors and not shareholders, so the emphasis isn't on quarter-to-quarter results. That has proven especially helpful during COVID-19 in being able to refocus resources to serve the community directly, providing additional assistance and helping businesses and organizations navigate the CARES Act.

    “We continue to invest in our local economy and embody what it means to be a good neighbor and a mutual bank. We don’t just serve this community; we’re a part of it, too,” said Kurt Kappa, Chief Lending Officer at First Federal Lakewood. “We remain committed to helping our local economy and the members of our community get through good and bad times so they can thrive.”

    Paycheck Protection Program
    When the PPP was announced, First Federal Lakewood’s business team quickly got up to speed to be able to help as many local businesses and organizations connect to PPP loans as possible and weather the ensuing economic storm. The results through early July speak for themselves:

    • 1,259 total loans
    • $105.5 million in total PPP loan dollars
    • $83,722 average loan amount
    • Helped businesses retain 12,377 jobs in our communities
    • 93% of loans less than $250,000
    • 40% of total loan dollars to women and minority-owned businesses
    • 80 non-profits secured loans of more than $12.6 million

    “We believe local businesses, non-profits and local economic development departments are the fabric of our community, working to make each community better. We have been proud to support our neighbors in securing loans through the PPP and a variety of other ways to support our local communities,” said Kappa.

    He said relationships are a hallmark of working with a mutual bank, where clients get the knowledge and service of larger banks along with community knowledge and small-bank relationships—and the ability to form relationships with the decision makers at the bank.

    Jim Kandrac from UCG Technologies agrees with that assessment. “At the end of the day, people buy from people and it’s about relationships. First Federal Lakewood stepped up to the plate, addressed our needs and got it taken care of,” he said.

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