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  1. Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview about video communication and marketing with Ethan Beute @EthanBeute. Ethan is Vice President of Marketing at BombBomb and author of Rehumanize Your Business: How Personal Videos Accelerate Sales and Improve Customer Experience. (Wiley, April 2019) He is the host of The Customer Experience Podcast He has collected and told personal video success stories in hundreds of blog posts, webinars, podcasts, and stage presentations. SmallBizLady: Why should a small business owner be thinking about video? Ethan Beute: No matter what business you’re in, when people say “yes,” they’re saying yes to you – to who you are and to the trust and rapport you’ve built with them. Video helps you communicate, connect, and convert in a more personal and human way. SmallBizLady: Generally speaking, isn’t video expensive and time-consuming? Ethan Beute: We call scripted, produced, and edited videos “marketing through video.” I like to teach a simpler style we call “relationships through video” – simple webcam and smartphone videos to replace some of your plain, typed-out text in emails, text messages, and social messaging. SmallBizLady: Why is simple video better than typed-out text? Ethan Beute: Very often, you can save time by talking instead of typing. You explain things more clearly – with tone, pace, body language, etc. People feel like they know you before they ever meet you. It’s very differentiating. SmallBizLady: When is this type of video communication better than a typed-out email or text message? Ethan Beute: Any time you want to convey sincerity, enthusiasm, expertise, gratitude, warmth, concern, empathy, or any of those other deeply human elements that we can’t capture when we go to the keyboard instead of the record button. It’s also good for longer or more complex topics. SmallBizLady: What are a few sales-related ways to use this simpler style of video? Ethan Beute: Cold prospecting and introduction. Follow up with responsive or nonresponsive leads to create engagement. To confirm an appointment and set expectations. To follow up after an appointment to restate key ideas and readdress objections. Look at all your touches and you’ll see spots that benefit from video. SmallBizLady: What are a few customer experience-related ways to use simple, personal videos? Ethan Beute: Replying to any inquiry. Customer service and support. Holidays and special occasions like birthdays or customer anniversaries. Event invites. Special offers or promotions. Meet the team. Look at your customer lifecycle and you’ll see spots for a more personal touch. SmallBizLady: Are there any other good times to use this type of video communication? Ethan Beute: “Thank you” is one of the best and easiest videos to record and send. Send a couple every day and your life, relationships, and business will all change for the better. Other possible videos include “great to meet you,” project updates, and internal communication. SmallBizLady: Does every video have to be one-to-one and truly personal? Ethan Beute: No. We also recommend “evergreen” videos to record once and use over and over again as needed. They’re great for customers’ frequently asked questions at each stage of the relationship with you and your business. The context can help make it feel more personal, even though it’s not just for that one person. SmallBizLady: What types of businesses are using video communication? Ethan Beute: Because it’s about human-to-human connection and communication, all kinds. Some of our top groups include real estate, mortgage, financial advisory, business coaching and consulting, insurance, automotive, nonprofit, software, professional speaking, solopreneur, etc. SmallBizLady: What kind of benefits are people seeing with simple, personal videos? Ethan Beute: Success stories and anecdotes are endless. In terms of survey data, video communication results in more replies and responses to emails, more clicks through emails, higher lead conversion, greater ability to stay in touch in a meaningful way, more referrals, quicker time to resolution, etc. SmallBizLady: Any pro tips for success with video in email? Ethan Beute: Be clear before you start your message on why the recipient(s) would or should look at it. Make that reason clear in your subject line, opening line, and video thumbnail or preview. Use text to drive the video play and (separately) to drive the call to action. SmallbizLady: How should you push through if you are really not comfortable on camera? Ethan Beute: Because there’s vulnerability and a basic fear of judgment or rejection there, your first few videos may feel a little uncomfortable to you. But that’s exactly what makes this style of video so powerful. It’s real. It’s you. It connects. Practice builds confidence and confidence builds success! succeedasyourownboss.com
  2. Owning a franchise allows you to go into business for yourself, but not by yourself. A franchise owner operates by selling an established product or service which often has significant brand recognition (think McDonald’s or Orange Theory). A franchise includes not only a product, service, and trademark but also the complete method to conduct the business itself such as the marketing plan and operations manuals. Running a franchise increases your chances of business success because you are leveraging a proven business model and benefitting from an existing customer base, which would take years to develop with your own original idea. However, people often make the mistake of thinking franchises are just a ‘business in a box.’ People also falsely believe that franchises have a smaller failure rate than other businesses, and that is not true. Like all businesses, 60 percent of franchises will be out of business in year two. Therefore, if you’re thinking of buying into a franchise, you need to prepare yourself. While these types of businesses provide you with everything you need to get started plus training for you and your team, they are not necessarily easy to run. You need significant cash reserves to get started, especially with a food franchise. For example, did you know that often you must have 2 million in liquidity to even apply to become a franchisee of a major food franchise such as McDonalds or Qdoba Grill? Also, many franchisees are required to contribute a designated amount to advertising each month, but they have no control over how those dollars are spent. 10 Things to Need to Know First Before Buying into a Franchise Potential pitfalls aside, buying into a franchise can be a good way to own your own business (and enjoy all of the perks that come with it!), as long as you do it in a smart and calculated way. This list has several important things to think about before buying into a franchise. 1. Do Your Homework Educate yourself. You need to know about the industry and the business you want to buy into. Interview the franchisor aggressively. They will typically only introduce you to people who will help them sell you a business license. Ask questions about their pre-opening support, franchise license boundaries, site selection, design, construction, financing, training, and a grand-opening program. 2. Assess Your Work Style & Strength How do you feel about doing the same tasks all the time? Do you like people? How about business-to-business sales? If you hate sales, you will have trouble running any business. If you hate people, you’ll need a partner to handle that side of the business. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Pick three people you trust and ask them to tell you about your strengths & weaknesses. It’s best to buy a business where you have some experience. Don’t buy a restaurant franchise because you like to eat. Buy a restaurant because you have experience in food service and management. 3. Investigate the Fees In addition to the initial franchise fee, franchisees must pay ongoing royalties and advertising fees. Then there’s often opening day expenses when headquarters may require you to give away free stuff and do special promotions. Franchisees must be careful to balance requirement/restrictions with their own ability to run a business. A system-wide scandal can make your franchise perform poorly: think Chipotle and the lettuce scandal, or the Starbucks manager who called the cops to arrest two black male patrons which caused protests across the country. If the franchisor runs into a problem, that could easily cause problems for your individual franchise too. The term (duration) of a franchise agreement is usually limited, and the franchisee may have little or no say about the terms of a termination. 4. Get Your Money Straight Getting a franchise up and running can involve hefty sums of cash, including the buy-in fee and the cost of equipment, location and fit-up construction for retail businesses, and up-front marketing costs. You’ll need at least the first year of operating capital before the business catches on, not to mention funds to live on while you are building the business. Even well-known brands like Dunkin need time to catch on in a new location. 5. Read the FDD Disclosure Statement Carefully The Franchise Disclosure Document, FDD, is the document which provides information about the franchisor and franchise system to the franchisee requirements. No franchisee is completely independent. Franchisees are required to operate their businesses according to the procedures and restrictions set forth in the franchisee agreement. These restrictions usually include which products or services can be offered, pricing, and geographic territory. This agreement also makes requirements on how much working capital the franchisee needs to have available. The FDD is the most serious disadvantage to becoming a franchisee as you have no control over who else can buy a franchise in your area, nor can you deviate from requirements or products. 6. Use a Franchise Attorney Not every business lawyer can negotiate a franchise agreement—you need a specialist. The FDD or franchise license agreement is a contract that describes the relationship between the franchisor and franchisee, including the use of trademarks, fees, support, and control. It’s the legal, written contract between the franchisor and franchisee that tells each party what each is supposed to do. 7. Beware of Franchise Consultants Most franchise consultants are paid salespeople for the franchise owners. Consultants will put on a hard sell to get you signed to a franchise deal as quickly as possible. Why? They get a commission on the initial franchise fee. Ask them to make their financial arrangements clear, up front, so that you don’t get lied too. 8. Work for a Franchise Learn by doing. Before starting a business or buying a franchise, I suggest working for one. Once you become an employee, you can see how things really work, and how much support is really provided by the franchisor. It’s like being an undercover boss, and it could give you valuable information. You should work at least 6 months to get a real impression of how things work. 9. Hire Professional Help I already mentioned getting a franchise attorney, but you also need an accountant to help you run the numbers. You’ll need a breakeven analysis so that you really understand what your cash outlay will be monthly. A seasoned insurance agent will be beneficial too. Your entire professional team should review the franchise agreement before it’s signed. 10. Talk to Other Franchisees You should reach out to other franchise owners to get their story and see what the real story is about the pros and cons. One of the most important questions to ask them is how much support they receive from headquarters. You also want to ask them if they would buy into the business again based on what they know now. Aim to speak to at least 10 franchisees because many small business owners are prideful and won’t want to admit that they struggled financially. Depending on the franchise you choose, you could be investing between $150,000 and $1 million before the business even opens. Do yourself a favor: try to find any disgruntled franchisees online before you sign your franchise agreement. You need to know if there’s any discord out there about your franchisor. Take advantage of the training, national and regional advertising, operating procedures, operational assistance, ongoing supervision, and management support, and access to bulk purchasing. Another helpful resource to check out before buying into a franchise is the International Franchising Association’s Franchising 101 guide. succeedasyourownboss.com
  3. Technology is changing much of the world we know. From medicine to industry to military, technological applications are taking over. Barring any earth-shattering events, technology seems like it is here to stay. It is humankind’s effort to make the world function with efficiency. One of the areas most affected is business—technology has almost completely transformed the business landscape of today. Small businesses particularly are taking advantage of technological innovations at affordable prices. This blog explores modern technological innovations that are changing the small business landscape. 5 Technological Innovations Changing Small Businesses Small businesses form the backbone of the American economy. Entrepreneurship is part of the American Dream. The ability to achieve success from rags to riches is appealing. Using nothing but your wits, determination, and hard work to do so is an almost romantic concept. Luckily, technology is making life easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is helping them to realize their version of the American Dream. The slide toward innovation began early, ever since the internet became available to the public in the early nineties. Over the years, technological innovations have come and gone. But, some of them have stuck around. These 5 technological innovations are helping small businesses achieve success today: Management Reporting Systems Virtual Reality Virtual Assistants 3D Printers Remote Collaboration Let’s discuss these technological innovations in more detail below. Management Reporting Systems Management reporting systems have been around since the early days of the computer. But the versions we have today are much more advanced than their predecessors. Management systems make it easier for managers to assign work to their subordinates. They also make it easier to manage work queues, reports and make business decisions. Many management systems are all-in-one solutions for smaller businesses. Others are scalable to your needs as your business grows in size and operations. Management reporting systems also reduce the amount of paperwork your business generates. All your business data and information is within easy reach. Virtual Reality What comes to mind when you hear the word Virtual Reality? A VR gaming headset? A VR cinematic experience? Both are very good examples of VR in commercial use. But VR also has many applications in businesses, especially small businesses. Over the years, technology has become more accessible and affordable. Design or engineering business functions stand to benefit the most. Why? VR eliminates the need for complex physical models. Instead, your designers and engineers create virtual models. 3D walkthroughs and models tend to appeal to many customers. They are also easier and cheaper to create in VR than in the physical world. Virtual Assistants Virtual voice assistants are very common these days. Some of the most popular ones are Bixby, Siri, and Google Assistant. There are also smart home assistants like Amazon Alexa in many homes across the country. But did you know voice assistants have a place in many small businesses as well? Investing in a voice assistant can be a good move considering today’s business world. Voice assistants can make calculations, set up appointments, and even place orders. For a small business owner, there is no end to work in sight. So, a voice assistant can help share some of the load by taking on mundane, simple tasks. 3D Printers 3D printers have been around long enough for some of the novelty to wear off. But they are still one of the most important inventions of our time. They are also much more accessible to businesses now than they were a few years ago. Some innovative 3D printers can be a solid investment for small businesses. Many printers generate gorgeous 3D prints using plastics or inks. Others print in 3D using other materials like metals. With the 3D printer, you can print almost anything if you have the right plans and materials. Small businesses can use them to print anything from souvenirs to repairing parts for tools. Remote Collaboration In the Digital Age, physical distances are almost nonexistent. Technology has made the world a much smaller place. Businesses have access to international markets. This is possible through the power of the internet and logistics companies. Businesses also have access to human resources and talents outside their country. They can expand the areas they operate in. Thanks to remote collaboration software, you can manage your global team with efficiency—most of the time, with much more efficiency than you could manage the old-fashioned way. Cloud-based remote collaboration software is the way to go for diverse teams. They reduce the need for expenses like equipment as well as travel costs. They also make it easier for businesses to operate beyond their physical limitations. Remote software makes physical distances immaterial. You can manage all your business devices, networks, and servers with ease. You can track remote teams as well as offer support to your field operatives. You can collaborate with employees that are in different physical locations. Most important of all, you can do all this in the cloud. As technology evolves, we may see even more changes to the small business landscape. How many will become common across small businesses and how many will fizzle out? Only time will tell. succeedasyourownboss.com
  4. Are you finally ready to strike out on your own with your very own small business? Owning a small business is never a get rich quick scheme. If you want to be successful; it will cost you. It will cost you money, sleep, relationships, and you will be pushed in ways you never thought possible. But it will be awesome too. Being an entrepreneur is an evolutionary process; you must grow yourself to grow your business. If you’re planning on starting a business, take the time to figure out the business of running a business. I’ve learned lots of expensive lessons over the last 20 years in business, many of which I share in my bestselling book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, 2nd edition, but here are my top 12 things to do before starting a business. 12 Things to Do Before Starting a Business 1. Get Clear About Your WHY? Why are you starting this business? How do you envision your life now as a business owner? Have you looked into starting a business just because you hate your job or because you want to be the next tech star to cash out for big bucks? You can always get a new job. And more wannabe tech stars flame out than get a big payday. But if you are starting a business because you have a purpose you want to serve, want to leave a legacy, or fill an unmet need in the marketplace, then these are the reasons that will help you survive the hard days in business. Develop a vision board for your new dream life as a business owner. It will keep you focused on why you are working so hard. 2. Look at Your Finances The money to start your business is going to come from your personal resources. So before you start your business, calculate your net worth, pay off credit card debt, get your credit score as high as possible, and look at all of your available cash reserves such as savings, your 401K or home equity. You need to have an emergency saving account for your household, money to live on, and at least the first year of working capital for your business. 3. Research the Business Opportunity You might be excited about a new restaurant concept, but have you ever worked in a restaurant? Perhaps you should go work part-time in a business like the one you want to start so that you can learn the real deal about running one. It will also help you determine what skills you need to have to run your business. You’ll need to know the industry you want to join. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that buying a franchise will save you. They are not businesses in a box. It’s best to have business experience before starting a business. 4. Research the Market You want to make sure there is a real business opportunity for you, so that requires research. Here are a few key questions that you need to answer. Who are the dominant players in your market? Who is going to be your target customer? Who is your competition? What are the current price points? What are the industry trends? What web marketing strategies are your competitors using? What are the typical sales cycles? These answers will help you make important decisions before starting a business. 5. Develop a Customer Profile Once you identify what’s going on in the market, you’ll need to determine your target customer. Once you do that, you need to go and talk to them. Ask for opinions on how they currently get their needs met. Ask about their budget cycles. Call competitors and ask for a quote. Go online and order a competitor’s product and return it to see what their customer service is like. Use Spyfu.com to search competitor websites to see what keywords they use and if they use paid ads. Once you have this information, you can finalize your niche and your customer profile. 6. Find an Available URL and Name Your Business Your website is your #1 sales tool. Your business will feel very real once you name it. You want to be cleaver, but it’s not a good idea to use a word that is hard to say or spell. Trust me on this; my business is named Quintessence Group, lol. You need a name that is memorable and no more than three words. Use alliteration if you can. Try to avoid unusual spellings on common words or using numbers in place of words. You will be seen immediately as a small entity. You want to build a brand, not just establish a business. So it’s best to invest in a professional logo for your business too. If you are tight on cash, try 99designs.com or fivrr.com as low-cost graphic design resources. 7. Establish Your Legal Entity You need to incorporate your business as an LLC or S-Corp. Do not start your business as a sole proprietor using your personal social security number. You’ll open yourself up to personal legal liability, and you won’t look professional. Try CorpNet.com to help you get your legal entity filed. 8. Secure an EIN Number and Business Bank Account Once you establish your legal identity, go to IRS.gov, and apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You need to keep your business banking separate from your personal banking, so once you have an EIN number, go to a bank and establish a business bank account. I suggest using a different bank than your personal bank to resist the urge to comingle funds and also to protect your personal assets. 9. Develop Your Signature Product or Service You need to test the market. So now it’s time to develop your test product and drill down your list of core services. If you are making jewelry or a food product, you’ll need samples. Find a maker space or commercial kitchen and make a prototype or a batch of your product. If you are a starting a service business, develop your one-pager that tells people who you are and what you do. Be sure to highlight the benefits of working with you. You might want to develop products at cost for your first few customers to get high-quality samples and great testimonials as well. 10. Set Your Price You need to set a price, but you can’t do that until you understand all your costs. Looking at labor, materials, and shipping costs are easy, but you need to include a percentage of your overhead and admin cost and your profit margin. If you don’t know how to calculate this, get an accountant to help you. You can also find a SCORE chapter and get a mentor to help you establish your business. 11. Write a Business Plan Now that you have tested the market, built a basic customer profile and competitive data, made a few sales, and developed pricing, it’s time to develop a business plan to turn your idea into a real business. Go to bplans.com to research sample business plans or use software to complete your business plan. It might even be helpful to sign up for an online business plan course. 12. Launch While Working Don’t quit your job to run this business, yet. It takes 12-18 months, typically, to breakeven, so you won’t be able to cover even a portion of your salary for a while. You need to learn the ropes of running your business while you are still getting a paycheck from someone else. Unless you are directly competing with your employer, run your business on your nights and weekends. Request telecommuting or flex hours so that you can make business calls during the day. Be a smart side-hustler. Never use company resources for your business; that’s a fast way to lose your job. You can sell to your co-workers, though. They might be a great source of feedback or referrals. There are a lot of things that go into running a successful business. If you start with these 12 elements before starting a business, you will have a good foundation to build upon. Hopefully, before long, you’ll be able to wave goodbye to corporate America. If you write a business plan and actually use it to run your business, your finances will grow, and that will allow you to build your dream life and create wealth for your family. It can happen, but it’s going to take a lot of work. You can do it! You must plan for success; it will not just happen to you. succeedasyourownboss.com
  5. We all know there’s nothing more damaging to a brand or company than a PR disaster. While PR mishaps can vary in damage done, being prepared to handle the media can help to prevent or mitigate potentially detrimental exposure. If your company has already committed a PR faux pas, the good news is that it’s likely to be relatively short-lived. Despite this, some mistakes can lead to long-term damage and possibly even bankruptcy. 5 Small Business PR Tips When you’re a small company without a PR representative or firm hired full-time, having a basic PR toolkit can prevent your brand from potentially harmful media exposure. Thwart future mishaps by memorizing these small business PR tips and adopting them as your PR bible. Tip #1: “Off the Record” Doesn’t Exist There’s no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t want your audience knowing something about your business, don’t let it leave your lips. Many states don’t have legislation requiring that both parties are aware they are being recorded, and many camera crews will even continue filming once the interview has ended. Reporters are looking for a story and that story is often going to be rooted in controversy. If you’re off-the-record comment provides them with a story, they’re going to use it. Being “off record” goes beyond speaking with a reporter. If you’re in a studio or near a reporter or cameraman or anywhere besides the absolute privacy of your home, be aware that you’re being watched. This clip of Sainsbury’s CEO caught singing “We’re in the Money” to himself before the Asda merger interview proves just that. Even in the event where you feel you can trust the reporter, the best practice is to not say or do anything that you wouldn’t want to be publicly exposed. Pro Tip: “Treading through a tough position can always be resolved when deliberating on the facts of an event. Display facts about the truth to dispel any wrong speculation. There isn’t a need to speak in-depth about hypotheticals or tangents. Stay focused on the facts, as opposed to stirring the pot and denying or accepting any controversy. Stay away from feeding into bait that the media may produce. If you’re resilient and consistent with your fact-based response, there isn’t much room for disbelief.” – Leo Friedman, CEO and Founder of iPromo Tip #2: Always Stay Away from Religion, Politics, and Gender It’s important to remember that without you, the media doesn’t have a story. You control the narrative. Reporters and media personnel will try to direct you away from your message. Stay in your comfort zone and always know that you don’t have to say anything you don’t want to. Chik-fil-a learned this lesson firsthand when CEO Dan Cathy discussed his conservative views on the institution of marriage on The Ken Coleman show. Chik-fil-A underwent a media firestorm following these comments. Business partners severed ties with the fast-food chain and activists worked to boycott restaurants. Even if you’re not dealing directly with the media, it’s important to keep your political and social opinions private. Don’t share them on social media channels or discuss them at public events. Regardless of who you’re with or where you share your personal views, they are going to be divisive. Additionally, your political and social opinions shouldn’t have anything to do with your service or product. Ultimately, companies don’t always know exactly who their audience is. Play it safe, do yourself and your business a favor, and keep these opinions private. Tip #3: Know Your Message & Stay on Topic Know what points you want to make and familiarize yourself with the message you want to send. Remember that your audience wants you to succeed. Have you ever watched an interview gone wrong? It’s painful and unpleasant for the viewer. When preparing your message consider who your audience is. There are three audiences you’ll want to cater your message to: The People on the Inside: Your employees are just as important as your consumers. Consider how your message will affect them. The People on the Outside: The way that current and future consumers view your company influences your brand’s perception. Consider how they will interpret your message. The Future: What does this message say about the future of your brand, your employees and your customers? Once you’ve identified your audience, it will be easier to construct what message you want to send. Once you’ve identified your message, pick three topics that you’ll need to focus on to convey this message. Stick to only making three points; your audience won’t remember anything past that. In addition to your audience, there are a few other elements to consider. What does your company do? Why do you do it? What do you have to gain from your message? And what comes next? Always be comfortable with your client/company message. If you’re not, don’t talk to the media. Pro Tip: “Know how to respond to questions you don’t want to or don’t know how to answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be transparent. Tell the reporter that you’d need to have a conversation with the person best equipped to answer that question to provide an adequate answer or that you need additional time to answer the question. If you’re the person who should have the answer to the question, don’t admit that you don’t. Another option is to answer only part of the question, the part that you either know the answer to or the part that won’t be damaging to your brand. Another option is to safely and intelligently redirect the question by clarifying with, ‘I think what you’re asking me is…’ Know that there is a good chance that you’ll be presented with an uncomfortable question and keep cool when it happens.” – Matt Edstrom, CMO of GoodLife Home Loans Tip #4 Know When to Use & When Not to Use Your Company/Product Name Whenever you’re discussing your company or company’s product, make sure to always use the company or product name. This will allow for any statement that you make to be taken out of context and still make sense. This is important for re-creating content from your media exposure. Additionally, the more often you use your company or product name, the more exposure it receives. If someone tunes into your interview halfway through and you’ve only used your company name once, how can the viewer know what you’re talking about? Additionally, if you’d like to feature clips or audio from the segment, it will be a much better branding opportunity if your company or product name is being used. On the other hand, if you’re addressing negative issues, do not, under any circumstance, use your company or product name. If you happen to be addressed with a negative circumstance, whether it be a customer or client complaint, a mistake made by a current or former employee, or even an unfounded accusation – do your best to redirect the conversation and don’t use your company name. As soon as you use your company name, you associate your brand with the negative circumstance. In addition to not referencing your brand in relation to less than ideal situations, don’t use or repeat negative language when discussing said circumstances. Tip #5 Practice & Be Prepared Chances are if you’re a small business, you may only get one shot at getting media exposure. That media exposure could hugely influence the success or failure of your brand. This is one of many reasons why it’s so important to practice and be prepared. No matter how much you prepare, there’s a chance you’ll be thrown a curveball, so prepare for that as well. The more comfortable and prepared you feel, the better you’ll be able to handle unexpected circumstances. Make your statement, back it up with examples, conclude your thoughts, and stop talking. Don’t feel the need to continue talking. Find someone you can run through mock interviews with and remember these tips. Pro Tip: “Be prepared to talk to the media. There is nothing worse than being caught off guard by a question. Prep, prep, and prep again. If you think you are ready to address the media, you aren’t. Outline every angle that may be talked about and become an expert. Doing an actual practice run where someone asks you questions is also a huge help as well. This tactic will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your answers. Even if you don’t fully know what you are talking about, speaking with confidence will go a long way. Take pride in the preparation, and the real deal should be a breeze.” – Jason Yau, VP of E-Commerce & General Manager of CanvasPeople Although the larger your business is, the more likely you are to be featured in the media, all business owners have to be prepared. The next time you get a chance in the spotlight, be sure to remember these small business PR tips. succeedasyourownboss.com
  6. Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview about intellectual property and trademark with Andrea Evans @evansiplaw. Andrea is the owner of the IP law firm, The Law Firm of Andrea Hence Evans, LLC. She is a graduate of George Washington Law School, Spelman College, and Georgia Tech. For more information: www.evansiplaw.com/book SmallBizLady: What is intellectual property (IP)? Andrea Evans: Intellectual property is divided into three types – patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Patents protect inventions. Trademarks protect brands. And copyrights protect written works. SmallBizLady: What types of things can be trademarked? Andrea Evans: A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Names, words, images, sounds, objects, scents, and colors that are used to identify and distinguish goods and services and that are used as a source identifier can be protected by federal trademarks. SmallBizLady: What is the benefit of registering your trademark federally with the USPTO? Andrea Evans: The key benefit of federal registration is the legal presumption of ownership of the mark and the exclusive right to use the mark for the goods and services identified on the federal registration. SmallBizLady: How do you determine the cost of your trademark application? Andrea Evans: The USPTO has 45 classes. Each class has a fee starting at $225/class. Expect to pay attorneys fees plus the USPTO fees. SmallBizLady: What makes a trademark weak or strong? Andrea Evans: Brands are on a spectrum ranging from weak to strong. Weak terms are generic, and generic terms can never be trademarked! Consider creating a word or using a term that is arbitrary, similar to Apple for computers. SmallBizLady: What’s a common myth about trademarks? Andrea Evans: A common myth is that owning a domain name means that you own the trademark and vice versa. The truth is that owning a domain name does not necessarily mean that you own the trademark or vice versa. If the domain name functions as a source identifier, it can be registered similar to match.com. SmallBizLady: Is a trademark search necessary? Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended to search your trademark before filing a trademark application. Searches can be conducted at www.uspto.gov but consult with an attorney for a professional search. SmallBizLady: What is the difference between TM and symbol ®? Andrea Evans: The ® symbol may be used once the trademark registers at the USPTO. The TM symbol can be used prior to registration. SmallBizLady: How long does it take to register a trademark at the USPTO? Andrea Evans: It can take at least 2-3 months for the trademark application to be assigned to a Trademark Examining Attorney at the USPTO. Once examined, the mark is published for a month, and if it is not challenged, it registers. The entire process can take up to one year. SmallBizLady: Is it required to work with an attorney to file a trademark application? Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended that you work with a qualified trademark attorney. Remember, the application is a legal document, and you want to ensure that you have been counseled and understand all options. SmallBizLady: Do international trademarks exist? Andrea Evans: There is no such thing as an “international” trademark, but trademarks can be registered in other countries. Each country has its own laws, and it’s recommended to consult with foreign counsel, as needed. SmallBizLady: Do trademark registrations expire? Andrea Evans: Yes. However, if renewal documents are filed timely and you continuously use the mark, the trademark will be maintained. Coca-Cola has owned their registration since the 1800s! succeedasyourownboss.com
  7. Ann is a 43-year-old single mom from the east coast. Ann is a great photographer, but no one knows it because she spends most of her time helping to run her parents cleaning business. Recently, at Ann’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration, her dad made a huge announcement. In his most prideful voice, Ann’s dad said, “My wife and I are retiring at the end of the year and turning over the family business to Ann.” For some people this would be great news, but not for Ann. She likes things just the way they are. She works a few hours in the morning, then spends the rest of her day taking cool pictures of odd and interesting people and events in the community. But now Ann is torn, she really wants to pursue her photography business full-time, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents if she decides not to take over the family business. This isn’t a scene from your favorite Netflix series. This is a tough situation that many children of Baby Boomer business owners are faced with every day. Their parents are retiring and expecting them to put their lives aside to take over the family business. Running a family business isn’t a “no brainer.” In fact, many businesses fold after the second generation takes over, and rarely do family businesses survive to the third generation. 6 Things to Consider Before You Take Over the Family Business Your parent’s dream of having you take over the family business can become your personal nightmare if there’s not a strong transition plan. Before you say yes and sign your name on the dotted line to buy the company from your parents, here are a few things you must be crystal clear about before you take over the family business. 1. Decide What You Want to Do Get clear about your personal and professional goals. What do you want to do with your career? Will running the family business make you happy? Are you prepared to buy your parents out? How will your mom or dad handle the transition? Do they respect you enough to really let you run it? Will they support your leadership? Make sure you really want the job before you take it. 2. Get Ready to Not Know Everything Even though you may have grown up in and around the family business, you likely still need to brush up on specific operational functions. You might be able to leverage your professional education to grow and expand the business, but the most important thing to do is embrace the business culture. Define the business objectives and goals with care and make sure that you’re keeping the business relevant and generating the revenue the business needs. Digital transformation might be necessary, but rely on key experts within the company for advice. Engage outside consultants slowly. Hire people you know and trust. You must know what each of the employees is good at and help them grow. The key is knowing where to turn when you need expertise. Do not connect only with managers, but those at the front lines of service to make sure you are getting an accurate view of the company and customers from all angles. Studies show family business successions tend to be more successful when there is more support in place to give incoming leaders assurance and resources. However, 70 percent of these businesses fail due to a disconnect between incoming leaders and their employees. To avoid becoming a statistic, shadow as many key employees as possible to gain insight into your company’s workflows. Spend the day or two in customer service, ride along with a salesperson, spend time in the shipping department. Get involved and connect with the employees to garner their support and trust. By meeting with staff and involving them in the transition, instead of maintaining business as usual, you may be able to refine their workflows as well as identify untapped staff with skills that can provide the business with more value in a different department. Build rapport and empathy for your employees. Ask them how things could be run better. Engaging staff early also mitigates potential turnover and other losses to your business. You are the new generation and you must earn respect before making major changes to improve the business. 3. Maintain the Company Culture From handwritten notes to simply remembering an employee’s names, the personal touch will ensure that your company’s values are always realized in every aspect of its operations. My mother taught me a lot about business ownership. As a former manager of senior citizen apartment buildings, she built bridges between residents, staff and the community, and made sure the staff and residents felt valued. Holiday celebrations were planned for tenants who had no family; school children would come and sing and make valentines cards. The most fundamental value of any business culture is that everyone feels like they are a part of something bigger. Treat employees like you care about more than the bottom line. Provide them with care and support—and they will work harder for your company, as a result. In addition to offering generous benefits, it’s crucial to have frequent and open communication with staff. It’s important to do regular informal check-ins with employees between formal managers meeting, which should be weekly. Even if you can’t be everywhere at once, leverage technology to communicate with staff. Don’t let the rumor mill take over in your business. 4. Mastering the Hand-Off It could be tough for your dad or mom to give up control. You might need a consultant or exit planning coach to help develop a plan. You also need to gently but firmly restructure any stake they hold in the business to reflect the move forward. Encourage them to become involved in activities that do not immediately affect your bottom line or outside philanthropic and community initiatives. If you are in charge, you need to look like it. Your parent in the CEO role will need to give up their office and they must not allow people to go around you and use them to intervene. As an incoming leader, it is important to acknowledge those who’ve paved the way. Reach out to decision-makers across all departments and offer to have them serve as your mentor. Also, empower managers to give you constructive feedback. This secures their support over the long-term and reassures them that the change in leadership doesn’t threaten their livelihoods or alter company culture. It is important to create allies early on and weed out those who may not support you and, intead, hinder growth. It’s not always easy, but having honest conversations earlier on prevents damage to your business. Successions are not only a great way to enhance your organizational structure, but also an opportunity to evaluate the business model and pursue new target growth in areas that may not have been apparent to the previous leadership. 6. Putting It All Together As you assume your new role, keep in mind your job is to not only achieve success for your organization but to cultivate the next generation. Family businesses are often entrenched in the local community, so reach out to leaders in nearby business organizations as well as supportive peers to help your transition go smoothly. Immerse yourself in business operations and the organizational structure as soon as possible. Make sure to empower managers to share ideas and feedback to ensure a smooth transition. Finally, make sure that all family members are on board in terms of your objectives for the firm and boundaries in terms of communication and management style. A successful succession maintains the integrity of your family’s legacy, maintains employee morale, and most importantly, prepares your company for its next phase of growth. It is one thing to grow up in the family business and another to be truly qualified to take the reins. Whether the business is a mom-and-pop shop or a manufacturing company or you are an emerging leader in a given field, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the business as well as demonstrated skill in navigating your organization’s culture. Taking over your family business may be a daunting task, but establishing clear objectives early on—from onboarding to team-building—can save you huge expense and relationships in the long run. One last thing… If you’ve taken over your family’s business and it has cash flow or staffing problems, fixing them on your own is the worst thing you can do. So, before you have another long night or tough conversation, let us help you get your family business back to running smoothly. That way your parents remain happy, and you can keep your stress down! Don’t worry; not only can we help you but we are very discrete, so go to http://succeedasyourownboss.com and click the contact button. Someone from my team will follow up with you within 24rs. succeedasyourownboss.com
  8. 1. Learn Everything You Can Devour any learning resources you can get your hands on — management training materials, articles on leadership, exercises in effective communication skills, and the like. Read through your company’s HR policies and employee handbook so that you have a better idea of what to do in any situation. Also, bone up on the latest developments in your area of expertise. If you’re managing developers, can you confidently discuss the full scope of programming language or software tools that your team uses? If you’re in marketing, are you able to evaluate the range of skill sets being utilized by your team, and introduce new ones that can be leveraged for greater success? 2. Get to Know Your Team If you’re being promoted internally then this is easier — you probably already know a little about the people you’ll be working with. If you’re new to the company, then you’ll need some help. Ask for the names of the people on your team and look them up on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet (it’s not at all intrusive; in fact, your team is likely looking you up as well). Also, research the people managing you. Get familiar with your immediate boss, and all other executives to whom you might indirectly report. Ask HR for a company organization chart to get a view of all reporting structures. If possible, ask around about some of the key players you’ll be associating within your new role: find out what kind of personalities they have, how they manage, what type of people succeed or fail under their management, and so on. 3. Shift Your Perspective You’ve not focused only on you anymore. Your job has now grown from executing a given set of tasks of your own to helping your employees accomplish their tasks. Take the time to step back and shift your perspective. Learn how to focus on the big picture, and to look beyond your needs to that of your team. 4. Clean Up Your Act As a manager, your team will be looking at you as both an authority figure and as an example. You set the mood of the team. If you as a manager are consistently 15 minutes late, then it tells the team that it’s okay for them to be late, too. If you are constantly in a bad mood or are impatient, then that affects team morale and productivity. As a first-time manager, you don’t have to be the “cool” manager (and in fact, you probably shouldn’t be), but you do have to set a good example. If you want to lead a team of professionals, act professionally yourself. 5. Adjust Your Relationships First-time managers who’ve been promoted internally have an additional challenge, in that the dynamic of their office friendships has now changed. People with whom you’ve shared jokes and secrets are now people you have to manage. Friends who’ve covered for you and vice versa are now employees you have to direct and may have to discipline. It’s very important to step back from these relationships in order to function properly as a manager. You can’t afford to be seen showing favoritism to old friends; you absolutely want to be objective and fair when engaging each member of your team. In closing, first-time managers have a job that is as challenging as it is exciting. With the right preparation, you can get a big head start and hit the ground running. Go into your new role with a smart approach and an open mind, and you’ll do a stellar job! succeedasyourownboss.com
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