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Business Articles

Timely and relevant business advice and news curated by the Chamber. Offering essential information, we will help you succeed and stay current.

June 24, 2019

Article of the Week

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Entrepreneurial Mind

By: AJ Agrawal

Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires learning that goes beyond how to just run numbers and manage finances. As someone who has been an entrepreneur for more than a decade, I can tell you that while these elements certainly play a role, actually doing something significant with your particular business's numbers requires creativity, leadership ability and gumption.

These skills are obviously far less concrete than the ones you need for mathematics; nor are they learned the same way. Instead, strengthening an entrepreneurial mind requires lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom. So here are a few ways you can seek those lessons out:

Listen to experienced mentors.

One of the most practical things you can do is find a mentor --- or several -- and listen to what they say. Some of the most financially successful people in the world, likeMark Zuckerberg, credit their success to the experiences they shared with their mentors.

Mentors are great sounding boards for your ideas, so they can tell you what they believe is promising or what they foresee as being detrimental. You do not have to know them beforehand, either -- you can use resources like LinkedIn and SCORE to connect with people who have the experience to share.

Read as much as you can.

Besides mentors, you can acquire knowledge from published books and articles. People who write down their experiences and share them with the world want you to learn from their mistakes and successes, and they can provide real-world stories you can apply to your own venture.

For example, most successful CEOs revealed that they read at least a book per week.

Attend entrepreneurial events.

Want to be better at what you do?

Then surround yourself with other entrepreneurial minds at events like trade shows, conferences, webinars and more. Such events are excellent opportunities for networking, and having connections across industries will more likely set you up for success. Some of the top entrepreneurial events for networking include TechCrunch Disrupt, Startup Weekend and the 140 Character Conference.

From personal experience, I can credit my success to the time that I've spent at various entrepreneurial events. Keep in mind that your goal in attending them isn't to pitch what you're selling. Instead, it's to make professional connections that you can send leads to and receive leads from over many years to come.

Seek out new challenges.

The most important skill an entrepreneur can have is problem-solving. You need to learn how to think quickly, study situations from various angles and devise creative solutions no one else has tried before. To develop such skills, you’ll need to seek out challenging situations that help to wire your brain for critical thinking. For example, you’ll have to learn to accept feedback and criticism, listen earnestly to the thoughts and ideas of others and choose to focus on results and solutions.

Think about your vision every day.

You want to be an entrepreneur because you have an idea -- a vision. Think positively about your vision every day to remind yourself why you are cultivating these skills and putting yourself in stressful situations.

Give yourself a motivational boost when you need it; even U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she recites a mantra to remind herself of her purpose and inspiration: “I am experienced enough to do this. I am knowledgeable enough to do this. I am prepared enough to do this. I am mature enough to do this. I am brave enough to do this.”

For me, I like to create digital vision boards and keep inspirational sticky notes in my office. It doesn't matter how big or small you go to make sure you see your vision daily; instead, just do something that works for you.

Over-deliver on your promises.

One way to distinguish yourself from the competition is to over-deliver on your promises. Are you a developer who promised to build a top-notch website for somebody? Include additional features that your client wasn't expecting. Not only will this habit improve your reputation, it will foster stronger customer relationships and encourage word-of-mouth marketing.

Try out every part of business.

While you are a solo entrepreneur, you have a lot of tasks on your plate. However, when your business grows and you have employees, it’s possible that you will forget just how difficult all of those responsibilities can be. To maintain your appreciation for everyone’s job and to avoid getting an ego, try your hand at every aspect of your business.

Work alongside your employees in different roles to see what their jobs are like --that will help you keep things in perspective, and provide opportunities to collaborate and bond as a team.

Practice self-discipline.

Being a successful entrepreneur requires discipline. You need to be careful about wasting time in both your professional and personal life. Limit the time you spend on social media, make sure you get plenty of sleep and eat balanced meals, schedule time for exercise and reading, and reduce distractions. One of the best ways to stay organized and disciplined is to try your hand at bullet journaling; many entrepreneurs find this pastime to be both productive and creative.

Listen more than you talk.

Always listen more than you talk; as they say, there’s a reason we have two ears but only one mouth. Especially when it comes to difficult or uncomfortable conversations, it’s best to focus on being present and really hearing what the other person is saying (not just verbally, but through body language and other social cues).

So often, we listen to respond instead of listening to hear what someone is trying to tell us. It’s always better to listen and reflect before responding to any situation.

Help other people.

In teaching, we learn just as much as we relay to others; and in that context, helping other people is one of the most fulfilling things we can do. Helping others with their entrepreneurial ventures can teach you a lot about your own business because it requires reflection.

Say, for example, that a business partner you work with is struggling with an unsuccessful social media campaign and you volunteer to help assess what’s going wrong. By comparing notes about your strategies, you’ll gain new insights into your own social media marketing and fresh ideas for new moves in the future.

Being an entrepreneur is not just about managing a business; it requires a new way of thinking. How will you strengthen your own entrepreneurial mind?


June 17, 2019

Article of the Week

Two Perks Employees Actually Want This Summer (and two they don't)

By: Stephanie Vozza

Employees often look forward to summer as the time to slow down and schedule some time away from work. For employers, however, the work must still get done, and summer’s dip in productivity can create a challenge. Making the season work for both employee and employer can mean compromise and communication.

“Recruitment and retention start with knowing what employees want,” says Michael Steinitz, senior executive director of Accountemps, a temporary accounting and financial staffing solution provider. “It’s important to listen to learn what motivates them the most without sacrificing productivity. It’s also important to know your market—especially what your competition is doing.”

What Employees Want.

In a recent survey, Accountemps asked employees, “What is the best summer perk companies could offer?”

Fifty-two percent said flexible scheduling, followed by 27% who would love to be able to leave early on Fridays. Flexible schedules align with several company policies, with 54% of senior managers saying they offer the perk, but just 32% of companies offer summer Friday hours.

What Companies Want.

Instead, 53% of companies cited a relaxed summer dress code as a perk they provide, and 48% noted a company picnic or potluck—two perks that employees care least about. Just 11% of employees said a relaxed dress code during the summer was their top priority. “A lot of companies already have a relaxed dress code,” says Steinitz. “Casual dress is less of a big deal.” 

And holding a company picnic or potluck was bottom on the list of desirable summer employee perks, with just 10% of employees saying this would make them happy. “Employees want flexible schedules or reduced hours instead of an ice cream social,” says Steinitz.

Implementing Summer Perks.

If you decide to implement summer perks around schedules, sit down with different managers before you get too far into the season and set policies for the organization. Another option is to leave it up to each department depending on their needs.

Some companies mark the official start of summer as when the school year ends, while others create summer policies that run Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“Flexible summer hours will depend on what your company does and if you have peak hours that need to be covered,” says Steinitz. “One way to cover peak hours is by rotating schedules with certain people coming in later and staying later, and others coming in early and leaving early.”

Letting employees leave early on Friday might be a bigger hurdle to pass in some organizations, says Steinitz.

“It doesn’t surprise me that managers put leaving early on Friday further down on the list because it could mean fewer hours of production,” he says. “It’s also more of a change than some of the other summer perks that already exist in organizations. It’s easier to jump into something in existence, since it’s something that’s known and you have less adjustment.”

Steinitz says managers shouldn’t worry, though, as employees often compensate by increasing their focus, setting goals, and getting more work done in a shorter amount of time. Managers can also make it an ad hoc policy with parameters, such as certain tasks getting done or goals being hit.

Offering summer perks that workers actually want is smart business, as it can improve employee morale and make your company a more attractive place to work, says Steinitz. “These perks come at little cost to companies but often go a long way in keeping staff happy and engaged,” he says.


June 10, 2019

Article of the Week

How B2B Companies Can Win Back Customers They’ve Lost

By: Frank V. Cespedes and León Poblete, HBR.org

Most research and training in sales focuses on acquiring customers, but, as ecosystems become increasingly dynamic and discontinuous, it’s also important to focus on winning back customers you’ve lost.

Reacquisition is especially important for B2B companies. Because of current trends— increase in the number and size of mergers, the variety of choice in global markets, and uncertainty about trade wars—customers are constantly re-evaluating their relationship with suppliers and making changes. Losing these customers is increasingly costly. As recently as 2014, for example, “the average publicly traded manufacturing firm received over 25% of its revenue from large buyers, up from 10% in the early 1980s.”

The process for reacquiring a customer requires a different approach than acquiring new ones. For one thing, your previous customers will have prior experience, knowledge, and long-held assumptions about your people and capabilities. Conversely, you have a basis for judging if that customer is worth pursuing.

In our study of 26 broken customer-supplier relationships, we found that companies that had successfully won back a customer followed a similar pattern. They identified the reasons for the initial dissolution, applied the right cost-benefit analysis, conducted an honest conversation with the customer, and accommodated their specific requirements.

To illustrate the process, we’ll use two companies, which we’ve disguised: Brex Tech and RILF. In 2009, Brex Tech, who supplied RILF with electronic components for its optical devices, lost RILF as a customer, but managed to win them back in 2012. Here’s how they did it.

Reasons for dissolution. The first step in the reacquisition process is to identify the reason why the relationship ended. Some buyer-supplier relationships have contractual end-points (e.g., projects scheduled for a specified period). Others may simply fade away due to a lack of attention. Pricing pressures, alteration of product specifications, or changes in ownership are also factors.

Your analysis needs to include who or what was responsible for the decision. It also needs to be ruthlessly descriptive, not prescriptive, focusing on what happened, not what should have happened.

In Brex Tech’s case, it had restructured, increased its prices, and laid-off key staff members. The CEO at RILF noted that “When their prices were raised by roughly 30%, we informed them about our concerns but they kept the increased price.” What started as a pricing issue then led to disputes and loss of trust between executives from both firms, which in turn generated more problems, and RILF lost interest in continuing to work with Brex Tech.

Cost-benefit analysis. All customers are not equal and not all relationships are worth re-establishing. Therefore, before you re-connect with a previous customer, weigh the costs of winning them back against the benefits.

Brex Tech did this in a few ways. After gleaning information from its previous transactions with RILF, including revenues, margins, and investments, Brex Tech’s CEO said that “RILF had accounted for more than 15% of turnover and we now had idle equipment in our plant that had been customized to manufacture products for RILF.”

Next, Brex Tech looked at both the economic and organizational requirements for re-establishing mutual trust and reliability. Brex Tech had a few things going in its favor. Since manufacturing and delivering high-quality products on time had never been an issue in their past relationship with RILF, Brex Tech managers  believed they had a good case to make to RILF. After the break up and as part of its restructuring, moreover, Brex Tech was eventually able to increase factory productivity, which allowed it to decrease its prices without compromising quality or delivery times. The production head at Brex Tech noted: “We knew RILF was interested in three parameters: delivery reliability, quality, and price. If we could excel within these parameters, we could re-establish the relationship and make them switch back.”

Brex Tech knew it could offer RILF price reductions, better technical assistance than its current supplier in the relevant product categories, order-size flexibility, and other areas where the customer could quantify the benefits of a reactivated relationship.

Interactive dialogue. Though your business case may look good on paper, people are the ultimate deciders.

When Brex Tech re-initiated contact with RILF in 2012, the key players were different at both firms. This led to a time-consuming process. A Brex Tech executive noted, “The discussions with RILF started at the operational level, then meetings with middle management to move on with the process, and finally—because of the strategic importance of the products involved—with top management.” Similarly, a sales manager recalled, “We went through a period in which we met at least weekly with the customer. Management representatives were present but also engineers and technicians of the two companies.”

Knowing who does what, where, how and at what levels—the necessary rules of engagement–is imperative for successful reacquisition. For example, Brex Tech had discussions with employees that had been involved with RILF and with personnel not familiar with the account. While top management at both companies had been unable to reach an agreement, production personnel at both firms shared positive relations and unique know-how about products that RILF required. This was a key to reacquiring the account and underscores a repeated finding in management research and practice: people do business with people.

Accommodate specific requirements. When you are a supplier, the status-quo bias works in your favor. But when you seek to reacquire a customer, you must offer a better deal than the current supplier to motivate change.

RILF made it clear that Brex Tech would need to modify elements of its production processes, administrative routines, and IT systems—and provide special product designs while lowering price. But the information collected during the reactivation process also allowed Brex Tech to adjust and optimize its activities in these areas.

The resulting agreement justified the effort. Brex Tech’s sales and net profit from the re-established relationship with RILF were soon higher than in 2009. As Brex Tech’s CEO noted, “the fact that RILF purchases higher volumes compared to the past indicates the mutual value.” Moreover, the reacquisition helped to initiate positive word-of-mouth among other buyers in this market. Brex Tech gained two new customers as RILF recommended them to other companies. For RILF, meanwhile, more flexible and customized orders with Brex Tech increased its ability to sell and service in new segments.

In personal interactions, we often fear that others will judge us harshly and irrevocably if we make a mistake in pursuing a goal. But research indicates that, in many circumstances, correcting a past mistake generates a more positive impression (if the mistake is not repeated) than never making a mistake in the first place. The same is true in account relations.


June 3, 2019

Article of the Week

AI Is Within Reach for Small Business Marketing

Kris Barton, Entrepreneur.com

Limited budgets have traditionally left small businesses at a disadvantage when looking to market themselves. Thanks to affordable artificial intelligence (AI) tools coming to the market -- everything from Adobe’s Marketo to Salesforce’s Pardot to our solution, LOCALiQ -- that’s all about to change. These tools are opening up new doors to advanced targeting and optimization that previously were reserved for larger organizations.

However, for startups and small businesses that also presents a new, rightfully intimidating learning curve. Artificial intelligence belongs in the realm of computer geniuses, right? Wrong. It belongs to you, the marketer. But where do you start and get up to speed?

The stakes

The competition has never been more fierce for small businesses looking to stay alive. Amazon, for example, is looking to own everything from local grocery delivery to pharmaceuticals and household goods. Small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB), not working with a billion-dollar budget, can very quickly be eaten up and pushed out. The stakes couldn't be any higher to grow and retain customers -- in some cases existing customers represent 40 percent of revenue -- and AI is going to help level the marketing playing field.

Trial and error exercises in marketing are costly, and most small businesses can’t afford the risk of tactics that may or may not have the right impact on customers. Through the application of an affordable AI tool, marketers can tackle this uncertainty and benefit from recommendations for search, social and mobile advertising that are already optimized to provide the best results and drive traffic to best performing ad options. No more wasting money to “see if it works.”

Of a similar nature, AI allows for real-time competitive reporting that can help SMBs make recommendations on how to better compete in areas of weakness compared to other companies in the market. And, as any good marketer knows, customer satisfaction is paramount.

In fact, 76 percent of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere -- switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations. With AI, smart client management tools become accessible to the SMB, increasing the usefulness of the data gathered on social, emails and calls by providing deeper insights into what customers and clients want and might need in the future.

How it all works

Big data and data intelligence have been buzzwords for years. Until recently, it has been difficult for any company that didn’t hire from a very limited pool of data scientists to take that data and actually do something with it.

AI solutions for marketers leverage big data to audit current traffic and ad performance to make real-time recommendations on the most valuable ads and strategies worth investing in.

What might take a marketing team days, weeks or even months to evaluate success and what worked or what didn’t work, AI can handle that same task in a matter of minutes. A smart AI platform will conduct predictive tests -- if X amount of budget goes in Y strategy, based on historical success, we’ll make Z amount of money. The machine learning working behind the scenes allows the system to simultaneously take into account each ad served and the resulting conversation (or lack thereof) to influence future decisions about where the ads should be placed, who should get the ads and what forms of advertising are resulting in the most conversation/leads.

The potential ROI

Implementing AI technology into the marketing process is intimidating, but at some point, it will be an inevitable undertaking. Companies that wait too long to embrace it will find themselves on the wrong side of profitable. The potential ROI from AI is just too great to resist for too long.

Especially as new tools becoming increasingly accessible, small businesses will be seeing some of the largest benefits. SMBs will save money by avoiding the wasted cost of failed marketing efforts like poor performing ads, lazy personalization, misunderstanding audiences and who needs what ad and the like. They will also save time, finally finding an efficient and cost-effective strategy to collect and analyze data from different solos and move quickly to make better decisions.

Until recently, large corporations have been the only teams in town with enough capital to take advantage of AI-driven marketing tools. However, as the price points have lowered and created a more approachable entry point for the SMBs to get in the game too, it won’t be long until more mom and pop shops and startups are feeling the benefits of this type of technology as well.


May 28, 2019

Article of the Week

How to Make Mindfulness Work at the Office

By: Amy Vetter, Inc.com

Research continues to show how mindfulness programs, whether through meditation, yoga, and even apps, can help people calm their mind and better manage stress. Top companies from Google to JPMorgan to Aetna, Inc. have taken notice and begun to implement them as a way to productivity.

For instance, after more than 13,000 Aetna employees took up yoga and meditation as part of the company's expanded wellness program, CEO Mark T. Bertolini, found that, on average, the group reported a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels. They also increased weekly production by an average of 62 minutes.

But mindfulness programs are more than just the bottom line. Implementing them into your business also teaches valuable leadership and management skills.

I recently caught up with three corporate mindfulness experts at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Here is their advice on how to best launch and practice what you preach when rolling out a mindfulness program in your company.

1. Earn credibility

Always try your mindfulness program before it's introduced company-wide. "If you haven't practiced the program, you won't have much credibility," said David Treleaven, a leading corporate mindfulness expert and author of Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. "By experiencing the program yourself  beforehand, you can offer valuable guidance and helpful tips to others."

Employees will also be more accepting when they know you find value in it. When I began yoga, I wasn't comfortable incorporating it into my business life or talking about it at work. However, when I opened up about it with my team, they began to ask questions and some even shared their experience with the practice.  This created stronger work relationships and helped to strengthen my credibility about a topic some people were unfamiliar with.

2. Teach and educate

People often resist anything that appears like extra work. Yet, introducing a mindfulness program can be a teaching moment about how it benefits people's daily work.

Rich Fernandez, CEO of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, who teaches business leaders how to incorporate mindfulness into the workday, suggests explaining how the program can help with challenging tasks, like conducting meetings, working with different personality types, and creating high-performing teams.

He equates it to how people can add extra exercise into their daily routine without feeling overwhelmed. "You can take the stairs or walk or bike to work and not feel as if you always have to make extra time for exercise," he said. In this way, your team can see mindfulness programs as something they need, and can easily add into the spaces within their day, rather than something they have to do or dedicate a significant amount of time to.

I have found some easy ways to create micro moments of mindfulness within the workday. For example, I shorten meetings by five minutes to allow everyone a mental break before moving to their next task. I also like to begin each meeting with a two-minute mini meditation to help everyone be more present.

3. Improve communication

"Energy follows intention," says Dr. Richard Strozzi, founder of the Strozzi Institute, an organization that offers blended leadership training programs based on neuroscience, action-oriented communication, conflict training, and martial arts.

Mindfulness programs can train you to better focus your energy and deal with stressful interactions in a more positive way. Strozzi says that it is "Through practice that we can train out attention and thus bring embodiment to our commitments."

For example, Strozzi suggests that when conversing with a customer or co-worker who cuts you off or keeps you from speaking, use mindfulness to center yourself, breathe, and then make a request or counter offer like, "I hear your point, but let me offer something else for consideration." This way you can change the energy and shape the conversation into something beneficial for both parties.

My approach in similar situations is to allow sufficient space before responding. I let the person know I understood what they had to say, and I will think it over and respond to in the next day or so. This way I can clear any negative emotions to ensure I see all sides of the situation whether it's a business problem or work relationship issue.

Mindfulness programs continue to help people manage stress and anxiety and more corporations have adopted them as a way to increase productivity. While there are many benefits to such programs, the process of implementing them into your business offers the chance to improve certain leadership skills. Mindfulness not only helps your business, but helps you run it better, too.


May 20, 2019

Article of the Week

What The Class of 2019 Wants From Employers

By Gwen Moran, FastCompany.com

With the labor market tighter than dress trousers after the holidays, companies are trying to gain every advantage to attract the best talent. As a crop of newly degreed graduates looks for gainful employment, the companies that seek to hire them has a question: What does the class of 2019 want in an employer?

Fortunately, there is some new research to answer the question. LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing agency, released a report aptly titled, “What the Class of 2019 Wants.” And some of the findings were surprising.

First, 35% of respondents said they’d go to work for any industry that hired them–the highest percentage in the four years the agency has done the report. Among those that are employed, 65% received between two and four job offers in 2019. They expect to earn between $51,000 and $60,000 per year in their first job out of college–and 89% will get that or more.

LaSalle CEO Tom Gimbel says these findings aren’t surprising, given the economy. “In a down economy, there is not going to be work-life balance, so the money is the driver,” he says. As jobs reports continue to show increases in available positions, people are going to look beyond money because they are secure that they can find another job that pays similarly or more.

But there are some indicators that generation-Z does approach prospective employers a bit differently. When they’re evaluating a job or company, there are several things that many want to see.

FUTURE-FOCUSED PROFESSIONALS

Gen-Z is looking for a great culture above all, according to the LaSalle report. They’re savvy enough to see beyond ping-pong tables and brightly colored walls and look for companies that invest in their people and offer a growth path. Among workers analyzing potential jobs, opportunity for growth was the No. 1 factor they considered, followed by work-life balance (up one spot from last year), and compensation (down one spot from last year). Seventy-six percent want a promotion within one to two years, versus 40% of millennials.

Kristin Mascolo, a dual public relations and entrepreneurship major at Syracuse University, is graduating with three job offers. Culture was a big factor in her search. “You ask yourself, Would you want to be with these people outside of work?” she says. But what led her to accept a job at a financial data firm was that she would enter into a rotational program, experiencing different jobs and departments in the company. “I would spend five months just learning before I even started my new job,” she says. Her firm also invests in employee education and certifications outside the firm, which was a priority for her.

They begin looking for that culture from the start, so a premier candidate experience is important, says Kim Hoffman, director of talent acquisition, products and technologies, at Intuit. “Gen Z-ers are digital natives. They grew up with information accessible to them; an instant, personalized experience is the norm. They expect this same experience from their employers,” she says. Hoffman adds that showing them how the company will invest in future growth is essential, even if it’s how they’ll grow from their internship experience to new college grad role.

True to form, Mascolo reached out cold to employees at the firms she was considering via LinkedIn. Those who seemed happy with their jobs and the company were happy to respond. Those who were reluctant to discuss their experience were also telling, but in a negative way.

PRAGMATISM BEYOND EXPERIENCE

Gen-Z workers came of age in the shadow of the Great Recession, and they want stability, says Jason Dorsey, president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, a global gen-Z speaking and research firm based in Austin. “Surprisingly, we’re even seeing them ask about things like benefits, including retirement, which is pretty unusual, given their overall age,” Dorsey says. LaSalle found that the top benefits they seek are medical coverage and a 401(k) match.

Those were two priorities for Mascolo. “I’m dedicated to starting my 401(k) early. I know one of the biggest complaints about millennials and gen-Z is that we don’t save for retirement. I didn’t want to fall into that bracket. I want to have a great 401(k) matching program and healthcare.”

Dorsey says these preferences may give bigger companies an edge in recruiting, but Gimbel says that this generation also wants access to executives, which could bode well for leaner firms. “The shine’s beginning to wane a little bit on the LinkedIns and the Googles, when they’re sitting there saying what those companies do now for their growth to hit revenue targets is to buy other high-growth companies,” he says. “The one thing you don’t get at a huge technology company is access to executive leadership.”

These workers also don’t want surprises about their performance–they want to know how they’re doing on a regular basis. “Gen-Z also wants a different relationship with their managers, often expecting immediate feedback and responses, as opposed to traditional methods like email, meetings, performance reviews, etc.,” Hoffman says. And they want to have a voice through vehicles like surveys, beta testing, and other ways to make difference.

Oh, and long commutes aren’t going to cut it. Proximity was a key factor in choosing a role, in LaSalle’s research.

MEANINGFUL WORK AT A COMPANY WITH IMPACT

“Gen-Z, similar to millennials, are global citizens. They will look for opportunities and companies that follow sustainable business practices, give back to their communities, and know how their work is making an impact,” Hoffman says. Intuit offers employees paid time off to volunteer in their community. As the most diverse generation in U.S. history, they also expect diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Dorsey says gen-Z wants an employer with a purpose beyond money. “And it’s not superficial, like just writing a cheque, or sponsoring some organization, but they actually have some goal that is to make the world, whether it’s in the local community, or somewhere else a better place,” he says.

Where can you find them? LaSalle found that gen-Z workers are looking at career fairs, their own networks, and job boards for employment, in that order. Sixty percent would take a temporary or temp-to-permanent position, up from 16% last year.

Attracting new workers entering the labor pool requires giving them a peek into their futures, especially how you can help them develop their skills and career. Companies that can give the class of 2019 what they want have an edge in landing the best talent.


May 13, 2019

Article of the Week

Top 10 Business Credit Terms Small Business Owners Should Know

By Marco Carbajo, SBA.gov

As a small business owner, it is important to have an understanding of business credit terms. Similar to personal credit, business credit determines whether your company can be trusted by the way it manages money.  Like personal credit, business credit is a reflection of how well your company manages money.

Why is business credit important?

The Nav American Dream Gap Survey, 2015 revealed of small business owners surveyed, 45% did not know they have a business credit score, 72% did not know where to find information on their business credit score and 82% didn’t know how to interpret their score.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a financial expert to negotiate the world of business credit. By knowing some key terms and definitions surrounding business credit, you can earn lenders’ trust and make your way to successful funding.

Here are the top ten business credit terms you should know:

1. Accounts Receivable – Also known as A/R, accounts receivable refers to the money owed to your business by others for products or services provided.

2. Business Credit Report – A business credit report is a detailed report of a company’s credit history prepared by a business credit reporting agency. The information contained in a business credit report provides crucial details needed to make informed credit decisions.

The data in a small business credit report is vital to getting the funding you need to successfully run and grow a business.

3. Business Credit Score – While a personal credit score is a number that represents an individuals credit history; a business credit score represents the credit risk of a business itself. Each business credit reporting agency has a different type of scoring model with scores ranging from 1-100.

4. Cash Flow – This is the cash that flows in and out of your business in a month. The cash coming into the business can come from customers & clients.  Cash going out can be from expenses such as rent, payroll, taxes, etc.

5. Collateral – Any assets used to secure credit or a loan for the business is collateral and can be tangible or intangible.  When you pledge an asset for collateral, it becomes subject to seizure by the lender if the business defaults on the terms.

6. Gross Profit – After deducting the costs it takes to make and sell your company’s products or services, the gross profit is the money that remains. The gross profit shows up on the company’s income statement.

7. Line of Credit – A line of credit for a business is an account opened with a bank, credit union or lender that lets you borrow money when needed, up to a preset borrowing limit. Each issuer has its own unique underwriting criteria, guidelines and terms.

8. Net Terms – This is a specific type of trade credit offered to businesses which require payment in full in a short period of time after a product or service is purchased. The typical net terms are net 30 and net 60 days.

9. Personal Guarantee - A personal guarantee is a written promise from a business owner to accept responsibility in the event the business fails to pay. 

10. Profit & Loss Statement - The profit and loss statement (P&L), also known as the net income statement, shows if your company is making money, breaking even or operating at a loss.

Having access to business credit is the lifeline for a small business. It enables you to obtain the cash you need to grow, cover daily expenses, buy equipment & inventory, hire additional employees and so on. With a knowledge and application of business credit, you are well on your way to creating an important safety net for your business.


May 6, 2019

Article of the Week

How to Increase Productivity Without Giving Up Your Free Time

FastCompany.com

When you were in school, did you ever notice how some students needed a full week and weekend to prepare for an exam, while others could simply spend a few days and achieve the same outcome? As adults, do you find yourself leaving work at 5 p.m. on the dot, making everything look easy, while others are somehow never able to finish their workload and are constantly behind?

We all have the same hours in the day, yet how we prioritize our time and energy will dictate our ability to execute tasks efficiently. Working smarter is the ability to be productive and efficient when working toward your goals, rather than looking and feeling busy and out of time. Use your headspace to work smarter, and not harder, using the following perspectives:

THE PARETO PRINCIPLE

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your results will be generated from 20% of your focused efforts. This was discovered when economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of his garden peapods produced 80% of his peas. Translated into your own life, you could benefit from spending more time focusing on tasks that yield greater results, and less time on the things that don’t. For example, if you find yourself saying “yes” to every client or every project, consider only saying yes to some and focusing on the ones that bring you the highest ROI.

Set your intentions each day on activities that will produce the best results, and relentlessly focus and prioritize those tasks. Understand when you are most productive, and schedule your most difficult tasks around that time. Next time you find yourself working late, ask yourself, “Which 20% of my actions can contribute toward 80% of the end goal?“

REST AND RECHARGE

Working when you’re overly stressed and tired does not make you more productive, nor should it be a badge of honor.

Some of the most influential people of our time, like Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, prioritize sleeping seven hours a night. Try and establish a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up every day at the same time. If you can give yourself enough time between working and sleeping, you’ll have an easier time turning your brain off and relaxing without any screens.

Afternoon naps are also a great way to boost your productivity throughout the day. A quick 20-minute power nap can help reduce your stress, increase your memory, decrease mental fatigue, and set you up for a successful afternoon when you’ve hit your post-lunch productivity slump.

If you find yourself feeling stressed out, remember to hit pause, and give yourself a time out. While a bit of stress can help light a fire, too much cortisol release in your brain can (and likely will) lead to reduced cognitive functioning, decreased performance, and a lack of productivity. Give yourself time to go on a walk, practice some deep breathing, and meditate.  

ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE

If you’re staring at your to-do list and feeling overwhelmed, time-block your schedule and create hourly increments over the day where you focus only on certain tasks or project. By trying to do everything all at once, you lose focus. However, if you can give something your undivided attention, you’ll be able to break it down into more manageable parts, and have an easier time chipping away at your work.

The most productive people plan their work based on their top priorities and work accordingly around that. Creating a detailed to-do list each night will guide your plan of action throughout the following day. Don’t forget to always reward yourself when you complete and reach your milestones!

FOCUS ON YOUR OWN JOURNEY

Remember that what might take you five hours could take someone else eight. This does not mean you’re doing anything wrong, working less hard, or being lazy! Working longer hours does not ensure higher productivity. Give yourself the time you need to set and achieve your own goals, and don’t get psyched out by your colleague who can never seem to make it out of the office before 9 p.m.

Have the confidence to know that you’re doing exactly what needs to get done.


April 29, 2019

Article of the Week

4 Cash Flow Challenges Facing Small Business Owners Today

By Deborah Sweeney, Forbes.com

You should probably have a good handle on your company's cash flow, but do you ever wonder how your company compares with other small businesses? Intuit QuickBooks recently released a global study, the State of Small Business Cash Flow, which reveals the cash flow challenges experienced by small business owners and self-employed workers around the world. The study is also an in-depth assessment of the behaviors and attitudes of entrepreneurs experiencing cash flow challenges.

As I read the study, the section on cash flow issues faced by entrepreneurs caught my eye. According to the study, 69% of small business owners are kept up at night with concerns about cash flow. What drives cash flow issues for the self-employed? Let’s take a look at the top four factors.

1. Managing receivables

Receivables, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a balance of money due to a company. The business has provided services to a client or customer; however, the client still owes the company payment for those services. Until receivables are repaid in full, they are referred to as outstanding receivables.

One-third of all small business owners in the United States estimate their companies have more $20,000 in outstanding receivables, according to the study, and the average outstanding receivables for U.S. small businesses is $53,399.

2. Managing payments

How do small business owners manage payments? The study reveals 53% will send out invoices which bill customers and/or clients for services on a specific date. On the flip side of the coin, 47% of small business owners use advanced payment. This allows entrepreneurs to charge customers and/or clients for services before they receive them, or right when they do.

How long does it take money to process for small businesses? More time than you might think. Sixty-six percent of small business owners revealed the greatest impact on their company’s cash flow is the amount of time it takes money to process after receiving payments. Nearly one-third (31%) of small business owners say they wait more than 30 days for payments.

3. Employee management

Small business owners are not the only ones impacted by not receiving pay. A lack of readily available funds makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to pay employees on their payroll. More than two in five (43%) of small business owners with cash flow issues have been at risk of not being able to pay employees by their assigned payday.

Unfortunately, 32% of small business owners surveyed have paid their employees after their paydays. As illustrated by events like the partial government shutdown earlier this year, the impact late pay has on employees can be dire. Many individuals live paycheck to paycheck, and when a small business employer cannot pay on time, employees are likely to start looking for jobs at companies that can provide dependable pay.

4. Getting capital

What happens when it becomes too difficult to have liquid finances available? Some small business owners turn to loans and other forms of capital for financial support.

Getting financial support, though, isn’t always easy, and for some business owners this means admitting defeat before they have had a chance to try. Nearly two in five (39%) of U.S. small business owners don’t apply for loans, with 29% saying they don't apply because interest rates are too high, 23% do not want to make payments, and 19% do not think they will be approved.

How to resolve cash flow challenges

Sometimes I’m in a position to write an article in which I can offer actionable advice and help for small business owners. Cash flow is a slightly different matter. As noted by the study, it’s become an increasing problem for small businesses not to have funds readily available for real-time expenses.

While I am not a financial professional, I certainly don’t think it’s fair for small business owners to lose sleep worrying about cash flow. I recommend meeting with a accounting professional or a financial adviser to help sort out these concerns. These professionals will be able to get entrepreneurs on track with better billing practices, for example, that can be an asset to small businesses. Once companies and their owners are better equipped to resolve these issues, they will be able to keep relationships strong with employees, vendors, clients, and customers.


April 22, 2019

Article of the Week

Direct Mail is Hot Again. Here’s How to Use It.

By Rieva Lesonsky, SBA.gov

From Glossier to Quip, a variety of hip new companies is targeting millennials with...mailers? From postcards to catalogs, “hot, digitally savvy, direct-to-consumer” brands includingHarry’s, Wayfair, Rover, Quip, Away, Handy, and Modcloth have all started targeting customers via direct mail.

Here’s why direct mail is hot again and how your business can use it effectively.  

Why Direct Mail Is Hot

Why is direct mail so hot? One reason is a higher trust factor. Younger consumers don’t associate direct mail with “junk mail” the way older consumers do. They’re more likely to attach that label to email.

Direct mail can be more effective. While direct mail and email marketing campaigns get similar response rates, a recent study found direct mail campaigns generate purchases five times larger than email campaigns. Combining email with direct mail led to the best results of all: purchases six times larger than email alone generated.

Direct mail stands out. Young people get hundreds of emails a day but only a few pieces of actual mail, notes one marketer quoted by Vox. In the same way digital-first companies such as Warby Parker and Glossier have begun opening physical stores to create a special experience, sending physical mail is a way to stand out from the crowd.

Direct mail is more shareable. Unlike email that goes to one person, physical mail goes to a household. RetailWire reports 88% of key purchase decisions for retail, financial and automotive categories are discussed at home, and direct mail pieces give recipients a reason to talk over the offer.

Direct mail has a longer lifespan. Email has a lifespan of just a few seconds, RetailWire reports, while direct mail’s average lifespan is 17 days.

Making Direct Mail Work

If you want to get started with direct mail, you have several options, including postcards, catalogs or catalog-like booklets. There are even group mailers that combine several companies’ offers in an envelope. (Vox cites one company, Share Local Media, that’s targeting millennial Brooklyn hipsters with the type of mailers their parents used to get full of ads for mini blinds or power washing services.)

The option you choose will be based on your budget (direct mail isn’t cheap) and your goals. Once you’ve made a decision:

Start with your existing customers. If your direct mail isn’t relevant to the recipient, it will hit the circular file. More than two-thirds (68%) of consumers immediately throw away mail from a brand or retailer they haven’t heard of. However, 76% will discuss mail from a brand or retailer they have purchased from in the past.

Target your mailings. Focus your mailings on people who have expressed interest either in your business or your category. Two-thirds of consumers will discuss mail from a brand or retailer they’ve never heard of if the category is of interest to them; 54% will discuss mail from a brand/retailer they have heard of, but not purchased from. You can target customer demographics using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail program, buy or rent mailing lists from companies like InfoUSA or DirectMail.com, or create your own house mailing lists.

Style it right. If you’re trying to attract millennial consumers, think of your direct mail pieces as physical Instagram posts. Keep the text brief, the layout streamlined and the photography eye-catching.

Make worthwhile offers. Email offers for discounts are a dime a dozen, clogging up the average millennial’s mailbox. But a glossy postcard or catalog with a special offer can catch the eye. Make it worth the customer’s while, not just a few dollars off.

Create landing pages for your direct mail. Three-fourths of people who use direct mail to make purchasing decisions also consult online sources for more information, so drive them where you want them to go. If you’re sending out a direct mail piece promoting a sale on your store’s athletic shoes, for instance, include a URL that goes to a landing page for that specific offer.

Don’t overload them. Direct mail is special precisely because your customers don’t get a lot of it. Carefully limit how often you send direct mail to avoid it becoming “spam” and eroding the recipient’s trust. For example, you could send direct mail with a special offer for a customer’s birthday, or after somebody makes their first purchase.

Combine direct mail with email. Media Post suggests starting with direct mail and following up a week later with email. It also recommends sending two emails for everyone piece of direct mail. You can make direct mail part of your automated marketing campaigns by setting up triggers to send direct mail after a prospect takes certain actions, just as you would with a drip email campaign. Both the email and the direct mail piece should use the same design elements and messaging to reinforce your brand and your offer.

Track results. Use landing page visits, coupon codes, and redemption rates to see how well your direct mail campaign is working.

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