BBB Business Tips: Have a successful 2022 with these resolutions

There's no better time to set new business goals than at the start of a brand new year. The Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland has some guidelines to help you get started.

 

The beginning of a new year is often a reason for many of us to start making big changes in our lives: getting back to the gym; purging through unwanted items at home; setting financial goals, and many more popular resolutions. With the start of 2022, that motivation doesn’t just have to be personal, it can also be extended to your company with resolutions for your business. 

BBB offers the following ideas for business owners to start setting goals in the near year: 

Reduce costs – Save money wherever you can, without compromising quality. With 2021 having so many issues with supply chains, product shortages, and staffing, 2022 might be a good time to reduce overhead, revaluate or diversify your sales, market on a budget, or go green. Here are seven ways BBB recommends your business reduce costs in the new year.

>> RELATED: Start your year off with a plan
 
Engage with customers – As we work to get to a post-pandemic world, trends have shown that consumer behavior has changed. Ramp up your customer service skills. Communicate with existing customers by emailing them business updates, promotions, and sales. Ensure that you're responding to customer inquiries and comments on social media in a timely fashion.
 
Increase your online presence –Help attract new customers and build brand loyalty by strengthening your digital footprint in 2022. Now is the time to audit your website and social media pages to ensure user-friendliness and accuracy. By establishing a stronger foothold online, customers will be able to engage and hopefully purchase from you directly without ever walking into your store. 

Foster a positive workplace culture –In a recent Indeed survey, approximately 52% of people reported that they have experienced burnout at some point in 2021, with 80% stating that COVID-19 has had a direct impact and 67% stating that burnout has gotten worse since the onset of the pandemic. As a business leader, it's important to spot the signs of burnout amongst your team so you know when to take action. Help create a thriving workplace culture by doubling down on company values, transparency, and communication with team members to help keep the workplace positive.

>> RELATED: Read more by BBB
 
Leverage Customer Reviews - Reputation can mean everything, especially for a small business owner trying to attract and retain customers. You want to tell customers that your business is trustworthy, ethical, and transparent—and what better way to illustrate that story than through online customer reviews. Get creative by training staff to ask for reviews, share customer reviews on social media, and have designated staff responsible for responding to reviews. 
 
Exercise transparency - Operating with transparency builds relationships that turn curious browsers into buyers and buyers into raving fans. Always be transparent, from admitting missteps and correcting them, to inviting your customers to engage with you online and through social media. Authentic interaction with your clients goes a long way to building customer trust.
 
Establish Trust - Trust is more important now than ever. For many small businesses, finding a way to establish a foothold in a competitive market can be the biggest challenge. Giving your business a step up over the competition is always something to desire, and aiming for BBB Accreditation is a valuable way to do this. Accreditation requires the utmost trustworthiness, honesty, and integrity, which can help your business stand out. 

For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org.

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  • Next up: How CEOs Can Help Power an Inclusive Recovery
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  • How CEOs Can Help Power an Inclusive Recovery

    Watch the latest webinar in the "But What Does It Mean?" series - GCP's Equity & Inclusion's webinar series devoted to translating research studies and data into meaningful action.

    In a recent GCP webinar, presenters from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings - Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director, and Reniya Dinkins, senior research assistant - shared findings from recent reports that include key economic performance data for the Cleveland metro area.

    Watch the recording below: 

     

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  • Next up: 4 ways small businesses can create workplace satisfaction and attract talent (even during remote work)
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  • 4 ways small businesses can create workplace satisfaction and attract talent (even during remote work)

    It's critical for small business owners to focus on workplace satisfaction, especially in this remote working environment. Learn the secret to happier employees.

     

    As a small but growing organization, we made it a priority to be creative in order to attract new talent. But the recent rise of remote work, worldwide stress, and unemployment rates have only made our jobs as scaleup organization leaders even more challenging. 

    So, how do we maintain workplace satisfaction and attract quality team members at Pandata?

    We pay attention to the core factors that set a team up for long-term success: diverse hiring practices, comprehensive training programs, fair compensation, and attractive (yet affordable) incentives.

    Check out these four ways you can adopt a similar approach to achieve workplace satisfaction. 

    1. Focus on Hiring Professionally and Ethnically Diverse Team Members 

    In contrast to the data science and technology industry as a whole, we have prioritized diversity in the workplace by building a team of women and men—many with multicultural and multi-ethnic backgrounds.

    We choose to bring in new data science consultants at the associate level and promote them to data science consultants via our internal training program, which has allowed us to focus on building a team of consultants with knowledge and expertise from a wide array of disciplines, including anthropology, law, immunodeficiency research, and mechanical engineering. 

    At Pandata, we’ve found that cultivating a diverse, inclusive workforce organically allows us to solve complex problems in a more meaningful way, from a variety of perspectives.

    >> Related: Employee retention challenges and solutions

    2. Invest in Internal Training 

    Equipping new team members with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful in their jobs starts with a good internal training program—especially if your employees are working remotely.

    At Pandata, we give new hires a flexible training framework that includes curated courses and certifications, as well as peer to peer learning and mentorship. While some are standard to our training program, we also encourage employees to select other certifications or courses of interest to them—so long as they align with Pandata’s growth and their own professional development goals. We want to grow together with our team.

    Investing in continued education and training for existing employees is also important to ensure your team stays up-to-date with the latest tools and technologies. At Pandata, we encourage our team to attend conferences, join boards and committees, and maintain their certifications. 

    >> Related: Read more by Nicole Ponstingle

    3. Offer Fair Compensation

    Employees want to be paid fairly for the work they’re asked to deliver. And why shouldn’t they be? Despite being a small organization, we make it a point to know the average salaries in our industry for the positions we’re hiring, and match them.

    It is also important to us that we do not discriminate against gender, race, or ethnicity when developing and offering compensation packages. There is still compensation inequality in the data science industry and Pandata makes it a point to work toward greater equality within our own team.

    4. Don’t Forget Incentives  

    In today’s job market, employees expect employers to offer incentives that go beyond the traditional monetary incentives. While small businesses may not have the ability to pay for a full ride to college, there are a slew of affordable incentives that you should be considering when it comes time to hire new talent (and retain your existing team).

    Affordable incentives could include: 
    Offering a fully remote or hybrid work environment 
    Unlimited PTO
    Allowing for flexible working hours
    Covering conference fees and certification costs up to a certain amount per year
    Developing an informal or formal mentorship program between experienced and new team members
    Offering reward programs like Bonusly that gives your team access to gift cards, cash, and travel rewards while enriching your company culture 

    It is critical now more than ever for small business leaders to pay attention to workplace satisfaction. Existing employees may feel stretched thin and qualified candidates are difficult to attract. How is your organization ensuring employees are happy and new talent feels welcome?      

    Nicole Ponstingle is the COO and a partner at Pandata LLC, a Cleveland-based data science consulting firm that designs and develops humans-first, trusted artificial intelligence powered solutions. For years, Pandata has worked with clients across a variety of industries, including healthcare, software, manufacturing, marketing, higher education, and technology to design ethical AI solutions that align with their needs and goals. Learn more at www.pandata.co.

     
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  • Next up: How to Know When it’s Time to Part Ways With a Customer or Client
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  • How to Know When it’s Time to Part Ways With a Customer or Client

    Is it possible that the customer isn't always right? Despite your best efforts, there may be times when it's best to part ways with a customer or client. Make it as painless as possible with these tips.

     

    As a small business, you rely on your customers or clients to survive. They are the lifeline of your business. You appreciate the projects and the business they give you, the money you earn from doing business with them, and even the friendship you may have developed. 

    But sometimes they can become more of a problem than an asset. They may become a nightmare to work with—perhaps they have stopped paying on time or are causing problems with your staff. Maybe they have unrealistic demands or keep adding on to the project but are unwilling to pay more. Maybe they are unresponsive or unsupportive of your work. 

    That’s when it may be time to consider firing them.

    But, can you really fire a client or customer? The short answer is yes, you can. However, it is crucial to first make sure you have exhausted all other solutions and explored any potential remedies to the problem. It is always best to work things out when possible. 

    A working relationship is kind of like a marriage. You have invested time, energy, and money into this relationship. It’s important to take the necessary time and effort to ensure ending the relationship is the right thing to do—and that is it what you want to do.

    To begin this process, start by taking full stock of the situation and clearly identifying the problems. Are you losing money on them? Are you losing staff because of them? Why and how?

    Also try to look at the situation objectively and make sure your ego or your need to make money is not getting in your way. 

    Then, take some time to talk to the customer or client and listen to what they have to say. Clearly assess the situation to determine if you can work out the challenges and problems. Then make your decision with a clear head and a clear conscious.

    However, it may be that a customer or client has behaved inappropriately with you or your staff. These types of situations are definitely more cut-and-dry—and you shouldn’t hesitate to fire them immediately. This includes sexual or any other form of harassment. 

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff 

    If you decide that the time has come to fire a customer or client, here are some tips to ensure the smoothest process possible:

    Be honest and clear about the problems or the situation 
    Never blame them or intentionally offend them. Blame the particular circumstances if necessary—this can include personal circumstances or a change in business direction
    Finish any outstanding projects or services to the best of your ability
    Create a final task list for both you and the client
    Suggest a replacement if you can
    End the working relationships in person or by phone or letter—not in email

    Firing a client or customer is never easy or preferred. It’s almost always a tough choice to make. However, if it needs to be done, doing it quickly and the right way will help ease the situation for both of you.

    Timothy 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: How to Recognize and Handle Cyberbullying in the Workplace
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  • How to Recognize and Handle 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 and understand how to handle it once it is detected.

     

    It’s important to recognize the signs that an employee may be experiencing cyberbullying, which should never be tolerated in the workplace. Signs of cyberbullying are often subtle. Managers and company owners need to know how to recognize these signs, how to handle the situation and how to utilize methods of prevention.

    Let’s start with the definition of cyberbullying. Essentially, cyberbullying is a method of bullying or trying to inflict psychological harm to someone, through the internet or other means of cybercommunication. While we tend to think of it as something that usually happens to children or teenagers, it actually can happen to anyone of any age. It is a means of threatening someone using social media or on-line technology. It is also used as a way to demean someone. Cyberbullying can be motivated by many things including revenge, boredom, or a lack of empathy. Additionally, because it’s usually anonymous, it’s often motivated by a person who is feeling invincible. In a work situation, it is often used to deal with jealousy, for sabotage or revenge. 

    RELATED: Understanding and Building a Positive Work Culture

    Cyberbullying generally involves threats or mean comments that are clearly meant to hurt someone. Making fun of someone on-line in a cruel and hurtful way is a classic form of cyberbullying. People who cyberbully feel powerful and confident because they are doing it anonymously. 

    The main forms of cyberbullying are:
    Harassing someone 
    Impersonating someone
    Photo harassment
    Creating websites, blogs or other means of hurting someone thru social media channels

    Cyberbullying is most likely a situation that occurs when a person is being threatened, humiliated, embarrassed, tormented and hurt by another person using text messaging, e-mails, or any other type of digital technologies. Cyberbullies often post humiliating information.

    Some signs that an employee is being cyberbullied include:
    Exhibiting frustration, anger, or anxiety
    Having insomnia
    Exhibiting performance or productivity issues
    Being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
    Being very secretive or protective of one's digital life
    Withdrawal from other employees
    Avoiding workplace gatherings
    Eating lunch or taking breaks alone

    The biggest difference between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is that the internet is available 24/7 and it can be invasive and inescapable. In a business situation, employees are protected by federal law if subjected to a hostile working environment, so it is incumbent upon you to make sure that they feel safe at work and this includes feeling safe on-line as well.

    You need to be aware of the frequency and severity of the unwelcome conduct, whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, if it is interfering with work performance, if it is having a negative effect on the employee's psychological well-being, and whether the alleged harasser is their manager or superior within your company.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff

    What you can do to help prevent cyberbullying is to offer employees and management intensive training about all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. They need to know it is unacceptable in your company and will not be tolerated. Make sure that you clearly state the penalties for this behavior. It is no different than training employees about sexual harassment or any other unacceptable behavior. You also need to create a culture that allows a victim to feel comfortable coming forward to report cyberbullying, just as you would for any other form of bullying. And make it known that cyberbullying will not be tolerated in your workplace. It is an important and very positive message for you to send. 

    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: Implementing Automation and Lean into Your Business—No Matter the Size
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  • Implementing Automation and Lean into Your Business—No Matter the Size

     

    Time is money, especially when it comes to business. If you could maximize employee time, reduce business costs and save your customers time, would you jump at the opportunity?

    Most likely, the answer is going to be yes. 

    If that’s the case, then automation and lean processes should be something to consider for your business. But what exactly is automation and lean?

    “Automation reduces human error and lean eliminates waste. They both eliminate hours of labor and go hand in hand,” said Kathy Dockery, SVP, Chief Information Officer at First Mutual Holding Co., First Federal Lakewood’s holding company. “It’s not if you should lean the process, it’s a matter of when.”

    At First Federal Lakewood and all our affiliate banks, implementing automation and lean are a top priority across many departments. Introducing efficient IT solutions, consolidating employee processes and cutting out excess steps are just a few ways that the banks are working towards productivity within the business.

    From startups to large corporations, Dockery believes every size business can benefit from the efficiencies gained from these initiatives—including employees and customers.

    However, Dockery warns that it’s not a one and done initiative. An internal cultural mindset needs to happen in order for automation and lean to be successful. 

    “Employees have to be behind both ideas, and it has to be cultivated within the organization first,” she said. “Awareness must be raised so the company can let go of repetitive processes and improve efficiency.”

    Where to begin?

    There are a few things to consider if you plan on implementing automation and lean into your business.

    You want to start by creating a committee with the leaders from each Line of Business. This internal group must exist so they can create rules, provide guidance, and ensure everything is being maintained as the environment changes.

    “You must have strong leaders backing and supporting this initiative,” Dockery said. “Once that’s in place, there needs to be training, communication via company-wide townhall meetings and meetings with employees to walk them through the ideas. This way, everyone understands the culture you’re trying to cultivate.”

    Once a committee is in place and has created ideas for their department, a decision can be made on where automation and lean should occur within the organization.

    “Look at the company as a whole,” Dockery said. “The departments with the most processes and most employees will be the first to benefit from automation and lean. Look at the financials in those areas and start digging into it from there.”

    Beyond the initial step of creating a team, Dockery recommends tracking KPI’s around each process that you’re going to automate and lean.

    “I recommend having quick wins,” she said. “Take those wins and use them as examples when you’re in the beginning stages of implementing the processes. This may help you boost the overall confidence amongst the groups.”  

    Emerging trend in the world of automation and lean 

    As for the future, Dockery sees one emerging trend on the horizon for automation and lean. 

    In the automation sphere, hyperautomation is the latest buzzword. Hyperautomation is an approach that an organization uses to rapidly identify, vet and automate processes and covers everything from IT to business processes. 

    “Hyperautomation utilizes multiple technologies and platforms ranging from RPA, AI to machine learning,” Dockery said. “However, it isn’t about the technologies, it is about a new approach to business and IT processes.”

    No matter how big or small your business is, everyone can benefit from implementing automation and lean. While it may seem overwhelming to begin, the end result can leave you with large rewards.

     
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