Month in Review: April 2021


If you can’t believe the month of April is already in your rearview mirror, you’re not alone. But before we totally say goodbye, let’s take a look at some of our favorite articles on the blog from last month.

Branding on a Budget: 4 Tips for Your Small Business

When it comes to branding you may not be able to out-spend your competition, but you can always out-think them. Consider these four ways to brand your small business even with a small budget.

Spoiler Alert: One way COSE members can market their business for free is by contributing to the Mind Your Business blog. Contact us to learn more.

Recognizing and Handling Cyberbullying in the Workplace

Cyberbullying should never be tolerated, but it may be hard to recognize—especially in the workplace. Learn how to identify the signs of cyberbullying and how to handle it once it is detected.

FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

In this new series with COSE's own Phil Stella, we take a look at some frequently asked questions from small business owners regarding how to communicate effectively and confidently.

We kick off the series with an explanation of how to create an effective elevator pitch using the (soon-to-be-famous) SSCBH approach. So, whether it's during a zoom networking event, or in an actual elevator when life resumes in-person opportunities, learn more about improving your elevator pitch.

Hint: It starts with changing the word "pitch" to the word "speech."

If you have a question for Phil, email him at

8 Highly Effective SEO Trends For Your Small Business in 2021

It's no longer enough to just have a website—your small business needs to have an effective online presence to land in the top search results.

From artificial intelligence and video content to image optimization and keywords and phrases... keep up with these eight search engine optimization trends that will get your business noticed in 2021.

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  • Next up: Month in Review: August 2021

    Month in Review: August 2021


    We started off August with steps to an effective SEO content strategy and ended it with a call for MYB writers. Take a look at some of our favorite content on the blog in August.

    How to Build an Effective SEO Content Strategy in 4 Steps
    If content is king, then an SEO content strategy is your ace-in-the-hole. From identifying your target audience to actually sitting down to create content, check out these four simple steps to creating an effective SEO strategy to get your small business noticed.

    What Every Small Business Needs to Know About Onboarding New Employees
    In July, we discussed the increased frequency of workforce turnover as a result of the pandemic, and how to tell if an employee might be quitting. In August, we encourage you to take a careful look at your onboarding process. Check out our tips for effective onboarding to ensure that your new hires feel at home at your small business, and to help your retention rate outshine your turnover rate.

    How to Work With a Recruiter
    Recruiters can really help your business grow and flourish—but they are not one-size-fits-all. It's important to find a recruiter who is the right fit for you and your business. This article is bursting at the seams with effective tips, questions to ask, topics to cover and more when it comes to working with a recruiter.

    Become an MYB Blog Contributor: Share Your Expertise, Promote Your Business
    The response we received from this call for writers has been amazing! We are looking forward to showcasing new writers in the months to come. But we still have room for you!

    Do you consider yourself an expert in your field? Would you like a free way to promote your business? We are looking for a few good COSE members to write for the Mind Your Business blog. Your articles will be featured on our website, in this newsletter and on social media. No blog writing experience required!
    Here are some of our top-performing articles from this year—this could be you! 
    Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World by Erin Longmoon, Zephyr Recruiting
    How to Set Up an Effective SEO Content Strategy in Four Steps by Nachum Langsner, LocalBizGuru
    How to Tell if an Employee Might be Quitting by Tim Dimoff, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services
    If you are interested, please contact Marie Zickefoose to find out more.

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  • Next up: Month in Review: March 2021

    Month in Review: March 2021


    With winter behind us, and warmer weather and vaccines on the horizon, we are excited to spring into April (see what we did there?). But before we do, let’s look back at some of our favorite posts on the blog from March. These articles follow the theme of the times—virtual working and recruitment—and are full of tips you can implement with your small business.

    Is it Time to Bring Back Your Workforce?
    Are you considering bringing your team back into the office? What will a post-COVID workplace look like? From determining who should return and how you will mitigate illness in your office, check out these guidelines for planning your return.

    3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID
    It's been a full year since phrases like social distancing, "You're on mute," and Zoom happy hours have entered your daily language. Here are three things we think you should know now that we are one year into COVID and remote working.

    Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World
    We may be living in a virtual world, but that doesn't mean we can't still feel connected to our colleagues. Here are four tips you can implement today to maintain your company culture and connection with your team, even from a distance.

    Cleveland Internship Summit: 5 Takeaways from Virtual Recruitment Best Practices
    A roundtable discussion at GCP's recent Cleveland Internship Summit focused on virtual internship programs and recruitment. Participants shared tips and ideas for a successful program that you can implement in your own business. Check out these five takeaways from the session.

    What was your favorite article from March? Let us know on Twitter.

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  • Next up: Month in Review: September 2021

    Month in Review: September 2021


    We officially closed out summer with another month of hot topics on the blog. Check out some of our favorite articles from September.

    Steps to Dealing with Aggressive Customers
    As a small business owner, you carefully consider the policies you institute at your workplace. But not everyone will agree with every decision you make for your business. Occasionally customers may even turn aggressive—we've seen this happen recently in response to mask policies.
    Here are steps to take when faced with aggressive customers so these situations can go from hostile to harmonious as quickly as possible. 

    BBB Business Tips: Requiring Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination from Customers
    It's a question on every business owner's mind these days: To require vaccinations or not? Our newest MYB contributor Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland recommends the following tips to help you develop and implement a plan for requiring your customers to be vaccinated.

    FAQs With Phil: Why Do My Employees Stink at Communicating? And… How Do I Get My Company to Rock at Communicating?
    We’ve received so many questions pertaining to effective communication among teams and across all levels that it warranted its own mini-series, which we wrapped up with the last two articles in September.

    You have that one employee who appears unengaged, and maybe even a little rude. But could it be that they are lacking good communication skills? In the second article in this three-part series on workplace communications, we focus on reasons why your employees may be poor communicators.

    And… In the last article of the series we provide 10 tips to excellent communications. Check them out and you'll be well on your way to confidently claiming "My company rocks at communicating!"

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  • Next up: FAQs With Phil: How Do I Get My Company to Rock at Communicating?

    FAQs With Phil: How Do I Get My Company to Rock at Communicating?

    We’ve received so many questions pertaining to effective communication among teams and across all levels that it warranted its own mini-series. This last of three articles includes 10 tips to excellent communications.


    In this Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners and employees have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

    Reaction to the last two pieces has been great. If you didn’t get a chance to read them, check out Why are Some Leaders Poor Communicators—and it’s counterpart, Why Do My Employees Stink at Communicating?. 

    It looks like you enjoyed poking fun at both bosses and colleagues who were poor communicators. We concluded that many of them were hired or promoted in spite of their communication skills, rather than because of them.

    And the reasons were ironically similar:

    It's not on the “test.” Few organizations place written or verbal skills on the “gotta have” list when interviewing candidates for any level position, unless they’re in sales or customer-facing areas. 

     It's no big deal. Many employers don’t include written or verbal skills in their performance management system because they don’t see that much value in them.  

    They didn’t learn them in school. Most high schools offer few, if any, courses in presentation or interpersonal communication skills. The same is true for many college business curricula. So, organizations must often provide their staffs verbal and written communication training to make up for that. However, as you’re probably catching on… most of them don’t.

    We’ve talked a lot about the causes of the problem, but what about the solutions? What can organizations do about these scenarios? What can they do to make sure they can confidently claim, “My company rocks at communicating?” Let’s find out. 

    Check out these 10 tips to creating organizations that value excellence in communication.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 1: It starts at the top. C-level leaders must commit to creating and sustaining a culture that values and rewards effective communication.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 2: Or, split it up among departments. If focusing on c-level leaders is too big of a challenge, given the organization’s size and scope, then ‘enlightened’ executives can focus this effort on their respective division or department. So, if the whole organization can’t embrace the goal, maybe the Finance or Manufacturing departments could.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 3: Put it on the “test.” A key component of the process is to make sure communication competencies are “on the test.” That means adding these factors to the gotta have list for any open position, no matter the role or level. While they can’t be the most important criteria, they could be the tie-breaker between two otherwise similarly qualified candidates.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 4: Add it to performance management reviews. Once baked into the selection process, the next step is to include them in the performance management system. If employees at all levels see that demonstrating specific workplace communication skills as a piece of their objectives, they’ll pay attention.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 5: Make it quantifiable. If your employees’ performance evaluations include quantifiable skill improvements, they’ll pay more attention. 

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 6: Tie it into salary and promotions. If those evaluations directly impact their salary increases and readiness for advancement, they’ll really pay a lot of attention.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 7: Readily communicate about communication. Build communication strengths and weaknesses into the ongoing performance coaching process. With each conversation, include what’s working and what still needs more work.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 8: Create informal opportunities for feedback. Besides these formal conversations (performance reviews, etc), regularly include informal feedback on specific memos, presentations and interactions. 

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 9: Offer professional development programs. These programs can include topics such as writing, phone skills, meeting management and presentation skills. Make a commitment to empowering all employees to improve their workplace skills, including communication.

    Excellence in Communication Tip No. 10: Master the skills. Work hard to be a positive model of these competencies to influence staff. Regularly ask for feedback from them on your effort and results. Walk the walk.

    While improving an entire organization’s communicating competencies can be a daunting long-term challenge, simply start small with your immediate reports and watch it catch on and grow from there. Do what you can to make sure you can confidently say, "My company rocks at communicating."

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 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.   

    *If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at

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  • Next up: Network with a strategic plan

    Network with a strategic plan

    After almost two years of sitting behind screens, in-person events are resuming. If you're ready to perfect your networking skills, start by making a strategic plan with these expert tips.


    Looks like some business organizations are returning to in-person meetings and networking events this year. Be ready for that change by committing to a thorough networking plan for 2022. 

    Network on purpose and for a purpose—every time.

    With businesses, failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s the same simple paradigm for networking like a pro instead of an amateur. And it all starts with the reason(s) why you’re networking. Whether you want to learn things to help you do your job better, look for a better job or grow your business, network with a strategic plan. Here’s how:

    Define your specific networking objective. Ask yourself, After I accomplish these objectives, what will be the result? A good objective is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. It’s better to have three different very focused objectives than one all-purpose, vague, or generic one.

    >> RELATED: Make a great impression every time

    Determine the “who.” In order to figure out who to network with, you have to refer back to the objectives. Who do you need to meet with and learn from so that you can achieve each specific outcome? If you don’t know their names specifically, figure out what kinds of people you need to meet—in terms of function, position, and industry.

    Determine the “where.” It’s pretty obvious that where you meet depends on who you’re meeting. For those people you already know, begin the information-gathering process by phone, email, or in person. For those individuals you don’t know, figure out where you can find them. What platforms for networking exist where large numbers of these kinds of people are in the same place for a short period of time? This should be a place or platform where networking is both encouraged and supported.

    Pick your platforms wisely. You only have so much time to invest in networking, so make every moment, every event, and every interaction count. Professional association and chamber meetings, events, or seminars can be time-efficient platforms for networking. 

    >> RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    Don’t limit yourself. Refrain from only choosing events based on your interest in the topic or organization. Choose it based on your interest in the people who will be in attendance. If it’s the right kinds of people AND an interesting topic—even better! This will give you an obvious lead-in while networking at that event. But you shouldn’t let topics that you’re uninterested in or unfamiliar with prevent you from connecting with those event attendees.

    Don’t eliminate phone calls as options for networking. If you already know some of the people you want to talk to, networking by phone can be very successful. It’s easier, faster, and less fattening.

    Maximize your ROI and networking potential. Get to events early and stay late. Most networking happens before or after the program anyway. Make it the most important thing you do that day. You can make up the lost work time the day before or day after.

    Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? That’s probably why they call it ‘net-WORK’. But, a strategic plan will significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your desired networking outcomes. The choice is up to you. 

    So, best wishes for managing your 2022 Strategic Networking Plan. If you have a specific question regarding networking or effective communications, feel free to reach out via email and perhaps we can cover it in an upcoming blog post.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, 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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