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Latest Blog Posts in Small Business Community

Published: Thu, 01 Feb 2018 18:57:34 GMT2018-02-01T18:57:34Z


Five Ways to Make More Money Without a Single New Customer

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:03:15 GMT2018-02-22T15:03:15Z

You've probably heard that it costs about five times more money to acquire new customers versus retaining existing ones. Obviously, the expense and effort of acquiring new customers can be worthwhile. That said, are you doing everything that you can to maximize profits based on your current customer base? Your customers already value your product or service, so it’s extremely cost-effective to try to get them to buy more from you. Follow these 5 tips to get more from the customers that you already have cultivated. 1. Add higher revenue and margin items to your offerings.Whatever products or services you offer, you probably can add some extras that provide greater perceived value to the customer while maximizing your profits. There's a reason why fast food chains ask, "Do you want fries with that?" With a profit margin of around 75 percent, they are probably the most classic example of high-margin product add-ons. Your sales staff can easily increase profits by forming the habit of offering an extra pack of batteries or other related items when they sell electronic devices or a yearly website audit when creating a new website. So, when customers and clients make a purchase, have related products and services to suggest. 2. Incentivize more frequent purchases.Sometimes, regular customers will buy your products or services more frequently if you just remind them that you're out there. For example, when a personal trainer calls customers to suggest that more frequent visits will help them reach the fitness goals that they've nearly achieved, the extra business can be significant. Don't forget the value of loyalty programs, either. Caffeine-driven customers often stop by more frequently to get their cards punched when a free latte is in the offing. As a small business owner, you know your customers well. Target their current buying habits and untapped potential to identify the incentives that might encourage more sales. Related Article: The Value of Customer Loyalty − Infographic 3. Clear low-margin products from your sales offerings.Are all the products that you sell profitable enough? By necessity, you may need to devote some shelf space or service offerings to certain products and services that customers demand — or items like parts that support higher-profit items. But, when the acquisition, storage or performance costs don't justify selling certain items, maybe it's time to just say no. Keep in mind that the real profits might reside with small companion products rather than the larger purchases. Think about the new battery-operated TENS device sold for pain relief. You might sell a device one time for about $100, which may represent a relatively moderate margin. But the repeat-purchase of required electrode pads, batteries and other parts typically have high margins. This can turn one-time customers into guaranteed, repeat high-margin sales opportunities. 4. Beat the competition and raise prices.Knowing your competition is not just about staying within the pack. If you know what they do — and how well they do it — you may find that you do it better. Whether you advertise your company's superiority or if your customers already recognize it, they may willingly pay a premium price to continue buying the best. Related Article: What Your Prices Say About Your Small Business 5. Vigilantly watch the expense side of sales.Organic growth is vital to every company, but this doesn't mean that costs aren't important. It's all about the margins. Perhaps, you can shave dollars off regular parts purchases by finding a new vendor. Or, if you have the available space for extra inventory, consider buying in bulk. If you can get comparable delivery and the same quality, these savings go directly to your profit margins. Don't forget to look at processes and personnel. How much do you spend on unnecessary steps in product or service development? And, are you paying a high-priced employee to do work that can be performed just as well by an entry-le[...]

A First Step for Small Businesses Wanting to Support a Social Cause

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:26:00 GMT2018-02-20T16:26:00Z

Is your small business active in supporting social causes—or would you like to be? If so, February 27, 2018, offers the perfect opportunity to get started. That’s World NGO Day—an annual, international celebration of non-governmental organizations. Here’s what you need to know about World NGO Day. What’s an NGO?Generally, an NGO is a nonprofit organization or charity that focuses on global concerns, such as humanitarian crises, environmental issues, healthcare and social causes. They often empower long-term initiatives, such as conserving the earth’s resources or eradicating communicable diseases. The Red Cross, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam are among some of the best-known NGOs.  The Entrepreneurial Spirit Behind World NGO DayWorld NGO Day has entrepreneurial roots. It was established by a young British-Latvian entrepreneur, Mārcis Liors Skadmanis, who came up with the idea in 2009 as a way of helping NGOs achieve greater success. In 2014 the United Nations officially put its stamp of approval on World NGO Day, and the first official celebration took place in Finland. What’s World NGO Day All About? The theme of World NGO Day is “Celebrate, Commemorate and Collaborate.” Celebrate: Honor NGOs and the volunteers who give their time to help NGOs make a difference. Commemorate: Acknowledge the hard work NGOs do to create positive change in the world and the inspiring results they achieve. Collaborate: Create greater symbiosis between NGOs and the public and private sectors; find new ways for both businesses and public agencies to assist NGOs. What Can My Business Do?If you’re already involved in supporting an NGO, or you want to get started, here are some great ways to participate in World NGO Day 2018.Educate, then spread the word. Make your customers and the community aware of the mission of your chosen NGO and the need for what it does. You can use social media, email, your website and public relations to spread the news about both the NGO you support and World NGO Day in general. Solicit donations. Encourage your customers to donate to your chosen NGO. Make it fun: Give a percentage of your profits on February 27 to the organization to encourage your customers to buy from you, or offer a discount to every customer who gives X amount. Get involved. Plan and host an event to raise awareness of what your NGO does and how members of the community can participate. You can get templates to help promote your event hereDonate. Make a donation to the NGO of your choice. You don’t have to donate money—in fact, donating goods or services can be more effective at raising awareness of your cause.Whatever approach you take, get attention for your activities by using the official hashtags of World NGO Day: #WorldNGODay, #YourNGODay and #NGODay. Learn more about how Bank of America supports social causes and makes an impact.    About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah. Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli awa[...]

What 5 U.S. Presidents Can Teach Us About Business

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:07:16 GMT2018-02-16T17:07:16Z

Is being an entrepreneur good preparation for being president of the United States? Considering that Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and Warren G. Harding are among the few U.S. presidents who previously succeeded as business owners, the answer seems to be no. But while the lessons of entrepreneurship don’t always translate to a successful presidency, many of our past presidents have important lessons to teach us about business. George Washington: Focus on fiscal responsibility. "Building the national prosperity is my first and my only aim."  Washington was an innovative farmer who bred horses and owned a distillery. Perhaps it was his business background that gave him the sense of fiscal responsibility he carried into the presidency. Before stepping down as president, he worked with Alexander Hamilton to establish a national bank and gradually help the United States get out of the debt it incurred to other nations during past wars. According to First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His—and the Nation’s—Prosperity, Washington knew the young nation needed to be on solid financial footing in order to succeed.The Takeaway: Keep a close eye on your cash flow. Related Article: Cash Management for Small Business Abraham Lincoln: Surround yourself with people of different viewpoints.“We are not enemies, but friends.” After being elected president, Lincoln promptly appointed some of his fiercest rivals to his cabinet. He wasn’t just seeking to keep them under his control: He wanted to hear their opinions, and he listened to their advice. Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin has said that Lincoln recognized the importance of surrounding oneself with those who have not only different opinions, but also different temperaments. He knew that a country needs the best people to lead it—whether those people were his supporters or his rivals was secondary. Of course, listening to different opinions didn’t mean Lincoln always followed his advisors’ advice. For example, his cabinet spent a long time debating whether to abolish slavery. Ultimately, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation despite their advice.The Takeaway: No, you don't want yes-men. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Be a leader."The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Taking office during the Great Depression and leading the nation through World War II, Roosevelt faced one of the most challenging administrations of any president. Yet he was elected for four terms because he understood the importance of leadership. Throughout many ups and downs, Roosevelt remained steadfastly calm, strong and optimistic. His Fireside Chats projected strength and eased the fears of a frightened nation. If Roosevelt was worried, he never showed it—in fact, he worked hard to hide any signs of weakness. Although he used a wheelchair as a result of having polio, public appearances and photos were carefully staged to hide his disability.The Takeaway: Never let ’em see you sweat. Related Article: Leadership Traits that Small Business Owners Should Possess John F. Kennedy: Tap into the power of new marketing tools.“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Presidential elections have long relied on slogans and slander, but in 1960 there was a new tool in town: television. The first televised presidential debate was held in 1960 between Nixon and Kennedy. You’ve probably seen footage of the smooth, smiling and attractive Kennedy crushing the sweaty, nervous Nixon. In fact, the visuals were so persuasive that the more than 70 million TV viewers overwhelmingly saw Kennedy as the winner—even though radio listeners generally thought it was a draw, or even that Nixon did better. Kennedy wasn’t afraid to use this new media and marketing channel to his advantage.The Takeaway: Maybe it’s time for you to start marketing [...]

Finding Your Passion: From Professional Football Player to Small Business Owner

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 15:05:59 GMT2018-02-15T15:05:59Z

 Sometimes you find your passion. Other times, your passion finds you. In my case, it came from a friend. In 2000, my childhood friend Kunta Littlejohn was in the middle of his battle with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – something that’s impossible to imagine until it strikes so close to home. I didn’t know how to support him. I only knew that I wanted to do something – whatever I could – to help. At around the same time, I began my professional football career as a linebacker with the New York Giants. Kunta and I spoke often as he underwent treatment and I began my journey as a professional athlete. He was fighting for his life while I was launching into the national spotlight. As my star rose, Kunta told me, “If you wanna be somebody, you gotta rock a bowtie.” At first, I took the statement for what it was: one friend imparting some light-hearted advice on another. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the enormous potential inherent in a tiny fashion accessory. A custom-designed bowtie could be used to tell his story of perseverance, resilience and survival – and bowties designed to support good causes could move mountains for those in need across the nation. I started my business by listening and, like other business owners, I became passionate about identifying what the market needed and growing my business.Today, BowTie Cause provides an avenue to support individuals and organizations they believe in by rockin' a signature BowTie. What began as an idea has transformed into a powerful tool for philanthropy – and a growing enterprise. I hope each bowtie will serve as a catalyst for conversation while having a meaningful impact for those in need. Bowtie Cause now helps raise money and awareness for many charitable organizations, from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to USAID. It would never have been possible to empower the causes and people that BowTie Cause touches without taking a leap – to pursue a passion, to build a business, and—ultimately—to transition from one career to another as a business owner. I played professional football for 11 seasons, but now I am fully dedicated to enterprise. Football and business are similar  in that you take great care to reach the Big Game. In football, you take care of your body like you take care of your business. Your goal is to reach the Big Game. As a business owner, your Big Game may be reaching the Fortune 100. However, running a business has challenges different from professional football. Sales, for example. Sales can be challenging, and I’ve learned it’s important to have a compelling product and a good story in order to thrive – whether that means growing your business into an empire, or growing your business to sell it.Professional athletes know that their careers won’t last forever. The advice I share with them is the same advice I would give all small business owners: plan while you’re planning. By this I mean focus on your current enterprise, but always look ahead to the next great idea, the next opportunity, and the next adventure. Kunta knows what I’m talking about. He beat cancer, and you know he’s rockin’ a bowtie! About Dhani JonesDhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and with Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, Dhani Tackles the Globe and the CNBC series, Adventure Capitalist. He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.[...]

Six Tips to Succeed at Business with Your Valentine

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:28:00 GMT2018-02-13T16:28:00Z

On this Valentine’s Day, it is of course important to remember the ones who make our hearts go aflutter. Flowers, chocolates, a honey-do list – it all goes a long way toward letting our partners know we love and appreciate them.  I would suggest that this is even more important when your Valentine is also your business partner.  This is true for many reasons. One key issue is that when you work with your spouse or significant other, lines can get blurred. Business and love are not the same thing; the way you treat or think about your business associates is not (or should not be!) the same as how you treat your mate. So it’s important that you use Valentine’s Day to reaffirm the romantic side of your multi-faceted relationship. This then begs the question – what is the best way to run a business and a relationship at the same time? Here are a few tips I have compiled – from my own experience, from that of couples I know in the trenches, and from some experts: 1. Keep work and home separate (to the extent possible): Look, we all know that there is no way that these two worlds can be completely separate. However, partners that make it work know that one’s role at work is not the same as their role at home. They keep these worlds (somewhat) separate. Some couples accomplish this by having “office hours.” Work is about work at these times, and later, home is about home. I know one couple whose rule is that they are not allowed to speak about work after 8 p.m. And, by the same token, it is important to set ground rules, whereby, just as work needs to stay at work, so too does your personal life need to stay out of the office (again, to the extent possible). 2. Have a division of labor at work: Along the same lines, having a division of labor is key at work. At home, roles and responsibilities may tend to intersect or bleed over. At work, it is important to know who is responsible for what and to accept and appreciate the chain of command.  3. Have your own space: Just because you are working together does not mean that you must spend all day together. You probably don’t want to in any case. That means at work you not only need your own space – you also need to give your partner space. 4. Remember that playing the game is different from watching the game: Running a business is like being on a team together. When working with a spouse, he or she is going to be playing the game on the field with you every day. You will not have someone rooting you on from the sidelines. Remember your partner is your teammate more than your cheerleader when you work together. 5. Make time for your relationship: As you well know, owning and running a business can be time-consuming. Finding time for yourself can be challenging, let alone finding time to nurture your relationship. But that’s why it’s more important when you run a business with your partner. It is simply vital that, just as you need to not let your personal relationship negatively interfere with your business, you also need to make sure your business does not overwhelm your relationship.  Taking time helps ensure that. 6. Heed these words of wisdom: Let me end by giving you the best piece of advice given to me on my wedding day, 27 years ago, by a family elder who had been happily married for over 50 years: “Treat her like a queen and she will treat you like a king.” (I’m not always successful, but my Valentine knows I try!) Happy Valentine’s Day, entrepreneurs. About Steve StraussSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, [...]

A Reflection on Black History Month and Economic Empowerment

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:05:18 GMT2018-02-09T15:05:18Z

Each February, at the start of Black History month, I reflect on the many contributions African Americans have made to the country, to the economy and to our communities. Going back decades, we can see the impact civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks and many others have had in creating opportunities for people like me today.  As an immigrant to the United States and a recently sworn-in U.S. citizen, I have always understood the importance of “economic opportunity” in this country. This is one of the major reasons I focus so strongly on economic empowerment, which is a powerful way to improve the lives of millions of Americans, and to increase their ability to have an impact – not only in their communities but also in their environment, their country and their business community. I’m inspired by the stories of successful African Americans entrepreneurs, like Bob Johnson, founder of BET, Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, Oprah Winfrey and many others.  These entrepreneurs and countless others like them gave me the idea that the American dream, though difficult to achieve, is possible. I was inspired by the importance of solving problems related to money – problems that can lead to economic empowerment. It doesn't mean you have to start the next Fortune 500, but it does mean if you have an idea and a dream, you can make it a reality.  The U.S. economy rewards hard work. It rewards innovative thinking. It incentivizes people to take their ideas, send them to the marketplace, and exchange those ideas and actions for money and influence. To me, Black History Month serves as a reminder there are Americans who look like me succeeding despite difficult racial and economic setbacks in the past.  As a result, I devoted my life to not only writing a bestselling book about entrepreneurship, Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan, but to focus on helping minorities, women, and people of color, by giving them the tools to start and grow their lives through entrepreneurship. Black History Month also reminds me of my journey and how being in this country has given me an opportunity to make my dreams a reality.  I lived and spent time in multiple countries and numerous continents while playing professional basketball 18 years ago. I’ve also visited repressive regimes where freedom of speech is non-existent – let alone the freedom of entrepreneurship. I've seen opportunities in the U.S. that I’d never be exposed to in other parts of the world.  America is not without flaws, nor without faults. The civil rights movement as we currently know it is still young and America still has a long way to go regarding racial inequality and economic empowerment.  If you have an idea and a dream, and you're able to communicate that idea effectively, the United States of America is one of the best places for you to make that dream become a reality. Black History Month reminds me of how Wally Amos wanted to bake and sell cookies, so he created Famous Amos – doing $1 million in revenue in his second year of business. Thomas Jennings was one of the first African Americans to obtain a U.S. patent in 1821 for his innovative way to dry clean clothes. Sarah E. Goode, who ran a furniture business, invented the foldaway bed and was the first African American woman to receive a patent in 1885.  The contributions of Amos, Jennings and Goode not only improved the lives of African Americans but also the lives of all Americans. Black History Month reminds me that my experiences in tax, small business, accounting, sales, pricing and marketing can be used to empower others. The contributions of millions of African Americans to the community and economy will continue because this is a land of opportunity, and my goal is to make it as easy as possible for people like me, and for all America[...]

Do you Hire Writers for your Business? Time to Say Thanks

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 14:40:00 GMT2018-02-08T14:40:00Z

Does your small business use freelance writers? Perhaps you rely on freelancers to help you write and edit blog posts, create marketing copy, draft social media posts or craft your website wording. This year, February 12-17 is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week, which would be a good time to show these unsung members of your team how you feel. As a former magazine editor who now runs a content creation company, I know a LOT of freelance writers. Here are some proven suggestions for how you can share your appreciation in ways they’ll really appreciate. Send a gift. Writers love food. For writers who are employees and work in an office, having lunch brought in for a client meeting or receiving a tin of gourmet cookies in the mail is an event that gets everyone on staff running to partake of the goodies. Freelance writers who work by themselves at home don’t have that little thrill, so they’ll be truly grateful if you send something special. Since freelance writing isn’t the highest paid job in the world, a gift card to a failsafe retailer like Amazon or Target is sure to be a hit, too. Put your sentiments in writing. Send a thoughtful, handwritten card to share why you appreciate all the hard work the freelance writer has done for your business. In a sea of emails, a personal note always stands out and makes a freelancer feel valued, which always makes people want to work harder on your behalf. Provide some detailed, positive feedback. As a freelancer, one often gets detailed criticism or requests for rewrites. When something you’ve written is really good, you’re less likely to hear about it—or if you do, it's a brief, “Good job!” If you explain what you particularly liked about their recent work, they’ll be better prepared for the next assignment. Don’t be cheap. When it comes to freelancers, you’re going to get what you pay for. Many people who don’t write think writing is easy. It’s not. Pay freelancers a fair fee. Many will negotiate a volume discount with you if you hire them for multiple projects.  Host a get-together. If the freelance writer lives nearby, take him or her out to lunch. Do you work with more than one freelancer? Why not host a happy hour? The freelancers will probably welcome the opportunity to network with each other, as well as enjoy a break from work. Offer to be a reference. Speaking of networking, recommendations from satisfied clients are the primary way that most freelance writers find new work. Offer to be a reference. Let them know that prospective clients can call or email you with any questions about their work (and then be sure to respond if they do). Write a testimonial. Freelance writers generally market themselves online and are always looking for testimonials from satisfied clients to post on their websites. Offer to write a testimonial and make it a good one! Be very specific about why you hired this writer, what they’ve done for your business and why you would recommend them to others. Endorse and recommend the freelance writer on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an essential marketing tool for freelance writers. Take the time to not only endorse them for skills they’ve employed for your business, but also to write an actual LinkedIn recommendation. This shows that you care enough to do more than just click a few buttons. The life of a freelance writer can be an isolated and thankless one. Showing your appreciation will go a long way toward building a good relationship with the freelancers you rely on. Related Articles: 6 Tips for Working Better with FreelancersRemote Workers Are Happy Workers: My Tips for Making Smart Hires6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content[...]

Why Cash Flow Can Be An Important Factor for Small Business Success

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 18:16:00 GMT2018-02-07T18:16:00Z

When managing a small business, owners will say cash is king. Or, as Zeynep Ilgaz will tell you, “cash is queen.” Ilgaz, founder and CEO of Confirm Biosciences, Inc., started her business, as many small business owners do, with her own funds – in her case, $2,500.  Getting from there to the $14 million revenue business she leads today was an exercise in cash management that took a very disciplined approach. “When we started, we were laser focused on managing cash,” Ilgaz said. “Our philosophy was that if we didn’t have cash, we didn’t have a business.  So we implemented strategies to bring cash in as fast as possible and slow down paying cash out.” Confirm Biosciences is a worldwide provider of substance abuse and health testing products and services.  Managing cash flow meant keeping costs to a minimum.  The company initially started online and didn’t carry inventory. “We drop-shipped product and required payment upfront.  We would collect payment by credit card or wire transfer to reduce risk, and we eventually leveraged a line of credit to help manage cash flow,” Ilgaz explained.  “We also worked with our suppliers to extend payment terms, which allowed us to be in control of cash outflows.” “Our mentality was always to get cash in advance to pay for our growth and cover costs.” The strategy worked.  In 2008, when the company started, Ilgaz and her husband occupied a small, 1,000-square-foot building.  It was just two people  and one big dream.  Today, 10 years later, the company resides in a 23,000- square-foot facility in San Diego County, employs over 50 teammates and sells product worldwide – both on a wholesale and retail basis. “I get asked if there was a defining moment in my business that really set the course of our success,” Ilgaz said.  “I think there are several important factors – first, be honest and transparent, and represent who you are, and then have a mindset of being flexible and able to adapt and change.  We have always maintained the philosophy that managing cash is the most important strategy, and that lens helped us to continue to look for opportunities to increase control over cash.” Today, Confirm Biosciences warehouses its own inventory, which allows the company to maintain tighter control over quality, execute faster, and reduce the administrative costs of working with third parties.  “I also advise small business owners to organize a Board of Advisors, which is different than a Board of Directors,” Ilgaz explained.  “Our advisors have helped provide critical coaching and mentoring.  For example, when I made a presentation to Walmart, one of our Advisors was a very powerful CEO and able to provide invaluable insight on how to pitch and approach a large retailer, and this guidance helped us win this contract.” The importance of managing cash is a frequent concern expressed by small business owners. It is a recurring theme that appears in small business surveys, including the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report.  “Strong cash management means leveraging forecasts to manage cash, and always knowing what your cash needs are throughout your operating cycle,” Ilgaz said. “Maintaining good relationships with vendors, suppliers, creditors and your banker can help a company establish terms to help manage cash flow needs.  We knew, for example, that the move into retail meant we would need more cash, and that the margins would be tighter than wholesale.  Timing became that much more critical, and the increased focus on cash management that much more important.” Another best practice for smal[...]

Six Quick and Easy Stress Hacks for the Entrepreneur

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 23:01:00 GMT2018-02-02T23:01:00Z

Entrepreneurship and stress seem to go hand in hand. So, how do you handle the stress? Here are six stress hacks for entrepreneurs: 1. Take a walk: If, in the middle of your day, things are getting too out of control – too many demands, too many deadlines, and your wife has taken to calling you “Steve Stress” (oops! sorry, that’s my stress story) – then one of the easiest things you can do is to get the heck out of Dodge, or at least your office. A 15-minute walk around the block will do wonders to clear your head and break the stress momentum. Indeed, studies show that one of the best things you can do when feeling stressed-out is to interrupt the pattern. 2. Go work out: More broadly, and if time allows, hitting the gym or otherwise getting in some real exercise will do wonders for reducing your stress levels. The great news is that exercise alleviates stress on two levels: First, the physicality of exercise works to counteract the physicality of stress. Physically getting your blood pumping works stress out of the body.Secondly – and just as importantly – interrupting the pattern and experiencing the change of pace and scenery that accompanies a workout helps to clear your brain. 3. Get some rest: On the other end of the spectrum, the toll stress stakes physically and emotionally often coincides with a lack of sleep. By getting a regular good night’s sleep or a good nap, you counteract the power that stress can have over your body and life. In a Ted Talk that has gotten almost 5 million views, Arianna Huffington says that the key to productivity and creativity alike is a getting good night of sleep. 4. Look at a nature scene. According to Psychology Today, “Looking at nature scenes can speed your heart’s recovery from stress. In a recent study, students were stressed by having to take a math test and getting feedback that they were performing below average. Afterward, researchers [showed the students either] pictures of trees or pictures of urban scenes. Those who saw the pictures of trees had a quicker cardiovascular (heart rate, blood pressure) recovery following the stressor.” 5. Check some things off your list. Stress is often the result of having too many things to do. By getting productive and simply checking a few things off your list, you may feel better. 6. Reinterpret your stress as excitement. That same Psychology Today article suggest that, instead of trying to calm down, what works is to harness the “energy of you stress chemicals.” People who reinterpret their anxious feelings as excitement do better on various tasks and have more positive feelings about the task than “those who tried to calm down.” Tony Robbins famously uses this technique in his firewalking events, where he teaches people how to transform “fear into power.” That is the same idea here; stress is an energy that can be harnessed and used positively.  About Steve StraussSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss. Web: or Twitter: @SteveStraussYou can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. [...]

Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:35:34 GMT2018-02-01T16:35:34Z

By Dhani JonesEleven-year pro football veteran and small business owner-------- Dhani's Three Tips for Small Business Success  Local events provide unique opportunities for small businesses to capture excitement – and increase sales. The story of my career is filled with such events. Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I played professional football for 11 heart-thumping seasons. In fact, in 2005 with Philadelphia, we made it to the Big Game. Today, as a business owner, I seize opportunities like big football games – and other, local events – to create an uptick in awareness, engagement, and sales. You can learn more about my business, BowTie Cause, here. Here’s the playbook for turning an event into a touchdown for your business: 1. Define success. Understand what you want from participating in or sponsoring any event before you dive in. What’s your goal? Define it as specifically as you can, identify how you plan to measure success, and create a game plan to achieve your objectives. 2. Pick the right event. Knowledge is power, and the first step to leverage an event to benefit your business is to educate yourself. What about the event is relevant for your business? Engage where it’s most practical. For instance, if you own a record store and a music festival is planned in your area – be a sponsor. The important thing is that it makes sense for your business to be present. 3. Be true to your brand. Authenticity—from your brand’s message to its voice—is critical to connect with your target audience. Once you’ve identified an appropriate event, ensure your participation is true to your brand. If you own a T-shirt company that specializes in humor and a comedy festival comes to town, equip comedians with your best shirts to wear during their set; if a burger festival is on the calendar and you own a new restaurant, enter the competition; if a surf tournament comes to your local beach, sponsor a surfer and set up a pop-up shop near the event – just engage in a way that is right for your brand. 4. Join the conversation. There are many ways to hit a bullseye in this regard. One of the easiest is to get in on the digital dialogue – create content online paired with a trending event hashtag – and bring your brand to an active online audience. Take full advantage of social media. There are many ways to do this, from promoting targeted messaging to event attendees to streaming live video from the event. Engaging visibly online will draw attention to your business. 5. Consider working with a partner. If you are not resourced to plan for event engagement, consider partnering with a marketing or PR firm with values similar to yours. An experienced partner can play an important role in developing a truly impactful strategy – and help bring it to life. Each business has its own story, its own goals, and its own way forward. By prioritizing relevance and authenticity, you can leverage the right event for your business to attract attention and win sales. Stay true to your brand and seize opportunities to connect in the most meaningful ways with your audience. And never forget, the way forward is your way forward. About Dhani JonesDhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and with Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, Dhani Tackles the Globe and the CNBC series, Adventure Capitalist. He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.[...]