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Crisis Management: How Business Leaders Lead During COVID-19

leaders

Crisis Management: How Business Leaders Lead During COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed, at least temporarily, the world of work for many people as employees hunkered down at home instead of commuting to an office.

As a result, a lot of businesses are finding out just how strong their corporate culture is and how resourceful their employees are when managers aren’t hovering nearby, says Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, and founder and CEO of PFSbrands, the parent company of Champs Chicken, Cooper’s Express and BluTaco.

“One thing my company has always done that I believe is beneficial in times like these is to help employees develop an ownership mentality,” Burcham says. “Ownership thinking means taking accountability for the quality and success of your work, and it comes from actively encouraging a culture that promotes trust, communication, objectivity, and gives employees a stake in the outcome.”

By necessity, many companies are now communicating by phone or video chats, which means having employees who take responsibility for their actions is more important than ever. Yet at the same time, the business’s leaders still have decisions to make and orders to give to those employees.

That means, Burcham says, that it’s also more important than ever for a company’s leadership – and everyone who reports to them – to band together as one strong team.

“Fortunately, many of the things that make for a good leadership team in the best of times are the same ones that help the company successfully maneuver through more challenging times,” he says.

Some of those include:

Promote transparency. Mistakes happen when people don’t have the information they need to do their jobs. When something affects others in the organization, Burcham says, make sure you put it on the “team table” so that everyone can understand what is happening and provide input.

Don’t undercut others to make yourself look good. Disagreements can happen anytime people gather to discuss problems and solutions, but it’s important to keep things civil. “Attack the issues, not the person,” Burcham says. “Work through appropriate channels and be conscious of what your fellow leaders are trying to accomplish.”

Make sure meetings are well organized. Everyone has endured meetings that took too long and got off track. Burcham certainly has and at one time he would have labeled himself anti-meeting. “I felt that meetings were a waste of time. because most of the meetings I’d been in were a waste of time,” he says. Eventually, Burcham grudgingly accepted that some meetings are necessary, but he says it’s important that they have an agenda, a start and end time, no sidebar conversation, and that next steps and accountabilities are created at the meeting’s close.

Accept that a decision is a decision. It’s all right for people to debate and offer differing opinions during the decision-making process, but once a decision is made everyone needs to support it, Burcham says. “You don’t want situations where people continually reopen discussions about decisions that have already been made,” he says. “And passive disagreement is not an option.”

Know that calm is contagious – relax, look around, make a call. Several years ago Burcham adopted this mentality and worked to make it part of his personal mission statement. When faced with situations or conversations that may not be going his way, he mentally takes his brain to this personal mission statement. Burcham says, “I’m naturally a very impatient person and always will be. My personal mission statement has helped me to better control my emotions and it’s been a critical model as all of our companies work to navigate through these challenging times.”

“In the best of times, successful company growth is dependent on the capabilities of its leaders,” Burcham says. “As times grow difficult, how well the business fares also comes down to how well those leaders are able to rise to the occasion.”

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Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, is the founder & CEO of PFSbrands, which he and his wife, Julie, started out of their home in 1998. The company has over 1,500 branded foodservice locations across 40 states and is best known for their Champs Chicken franchise brand which was started in 1999. Prior to starting PFSbrands, Burcham spent five years with a Fortune 100 company, Mid-America Dairymen (now Dairy Farmers of America). He also worked for three years as a Regional Sales Manager for a midwest Chester’s Fried chicken distributor.

Successful Entrepreneurs

10 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Many aspiring entrepreneurs see business ownership as an avenue to quick riches, a path to becoming “that boss” and creating jobs for the less fortunate, as a ticket to the freedom of working how and when they feel like; as they please! But owning a business is not that easy and convenient. If it was, everyone would succeed at it. The truth is that entrepreneurship can be your ticket to wealth, but it definitely is not your ticket to freedom. If anything, it calls for you to work harder than you ever did before, take huge risks, and fail at so many things without giving up. That is the entrepreneurial spirit.

There are many traits that define successful entrepreneurs. Here are 10 of those:

1. They network

Regardless of the niche they are in, or the success they’ve achieved already, successful entrepreneurs never stop networking. They work with influencers on social media, reach out to potential investors via emails, and generate leads by all means necessary. You will find seasoned entrepreneurs networking with freelancers in a coworking space in Chicago or using a shared workspace to get inspiration for business ideas from likeminded individuals. They regularly host events that create an engaging, exciting, and inspirational platform for their employees, clients, and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and challenge the status quo. That helps them to grow and compete more effectively.

2. They are disciplined

Successful entrepreneurs have clear goals and timelines, and data-inspired tactics to accomplish them. They are always ready to cut out anything that weighs them down in order to only focus on things that make their businesses work. They are disciplined enough not to deviate from that path.

3. They are passionate and motivated

They know the problem they want to solve within their niche, and their main motivation is passion; not money. They derive joy in seeing their target clients happy and satisfied. They wake up every morning eager to learn new things; to perfect their skill in order to change the world in a positive way.

4. They are creative

You need a unique, original business idea in order to cut a niche for yourself within a crowded marketplace. And because your fresh idea will always be challenged by newer ideas every single day, you must constantly figure out ways of doing everything better than it’s been done elsewhere. If you wish to remain at the top, you have to challenge the status quo and think outside the box even when you feel like you have the best ideas and strategies. That is why you need to be creative.

5. They are flexible

Flexibility helps entrepreneurs to adjust fast whenever things don’t go as planned, or when new and better opportunities present themselves. Successful entrepreneurs are quick to acknowledge a good idea even when it comes from a competitor. They are always open to their ideas being challenged, and they change tact as soon as they realize things aren’t working as they should.

6. They are persuasive

Entrepreneurs negotiate with stakeholders all the time. You have to persuade the best talents to work for you, clients to trust in your services and/or products, potential investors to buy into your ideas, and your employees to help you actualize your vision. That is why you need to be a persuasive person.

7. They work hard

Entrepreneurs have to work harder than their employees in order to set a good example, and for the fact that they own the vision of their establishments. As much as you can hire department heads to help you manage your business, you must be willing to be the overall supervisor in order to ensure that everything is done as per your directives. Sometimes you will have to work overtime and through weekends in order to catch up with all departments.

8. They are decisive

Entrepreneurs are constantly faced with questions and dilemmas that can make or break their business. Being decisive helps them to make sound judgment under immense pressure.

9. They are futuristic

Future-oriented entrepreneurs know exactly how they want the future of their business to be. They have a plan. They set their goals around a strong vision. They know how to read market trends and predict how those trends will affect their strategies in future.

10. They take risks

You cannot be successful if you aren’t willing to take risks. New marketing strategies, new technologies, and new investment opportunities are all risks that can make or break your business. Some risks are harmful, others are beneficial. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must know how to distinguish between those two types of risks, when to take the beneficial risks, and how to create a plan B in case plan A backfires.

Conclusion

Entrepreneurship is an art that you have to master. Some of the qualities discussed above are inborn, others have to be developed.  But even as much as some of them come naturally to you, you must identify and perfect them if you are to be the best.

reopen

As Businesses Reopen, a Good Plan and Flexibility are Key

With the economy trying to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and the nation’s political unrest, business leaders face a challenge like never before as stores and offices reopen and try to lure back customers and clients.

“Even before our current crisis, it’s always been important for businesses to respond to unanticipated changes in the market that threatened their product or business model,” says Adam Witty, the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Now, a willingness to adapt to changing consumer habits and ways of doing business will be more important than ever. One big challenge will be that businesses need to have a plan as they work to return their operations to normal, but they also need to remain flexible and willing to change that plan as the circumstances around them change.”

At the same time, all of this will need to be done while following CDC guidelines and taking into account the concerns of employees and customers, says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

“I’m a big believer in making decisions based on facts and data,” he says. “But if you don’t stay on top of what has been a very fluid situation, you could end up making decisions based on information that is already outdated.”

Going forward, Witty says, businesses need to:

Play the long game. It’s easy to get into a “survive-the-week” mindset, and certainly businesses need to make some things happen now to see them through the crisis. But as they ride out the difficulties in the short-term, Witty says, they also need to create a plan that will help them prosper over the long haul.

Be ready for the worst, hope for the best. With 41 million people who want to work out of work, the path back to normal will not be easy, and most people are predicting the recession will continue at least into early 2021. “Some businesses aren’t going to be able to reopen at all, and that includes big retail chains and local mom-and-pop stores,” Witty says. “That’s going to have a ripple effect in the economy.” So, as much as everyone may hope for a quick turnaround, it’s still best to make your plans based on the idea that the economic downturn will last a long while, he says.

Stay optimistic. These are the most challenging circumstances any business has faced in at least the last 50 years, Witty says. Despite that, business leaders and their employees can’t let gloom rule their feelings and emotions. “When you’re going through tough times,” he says, “it’s better to have an optimistic attitude than a pessimistic attitude.”

“As a businessperson, my hope is that we’ve already seen the bottom, and that each month going forward the economy will get better,” Witty says. “With that said, there is no playbook for this. But the businesses where leaders and employees all work together, plan carefully, and try to keep a positive attitude are the ones most likely to emerge in good shape when this is over.”

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Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant, is the CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). Witty started Advantage in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his home. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders. Witty is the author of seven books, and is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He has been featured in The Wall Street JournalInvestors Business Daily and USA Today, and has appeared on ABC and Fox.

small businesses

U.S. Metros With the Most Small Businesses Per Capita

Small businesses across the United States face dire circumstances following the COVID-19 outbreak. While each individual small business might seem inconsequential to the broader economy, in aggregate, these firms are critical to the country’s financial well-being.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees makeup approximately 95 percent of American business establishments and employ 40 percent of private sector workers. These 7.4 million small businesses (or 2.27 per 100 residents) also account for roughly a third of total private sector payroll.

Unfortunately, research shows that small businesses and their workers are particularly vulnerable during recessions and other periods of economic hardship. A recent survey conducted by the New York Fed found that even prior to the pandemic, 64 percent of small businesses faced financial challenges in the preceding 12 months. The same survey reported that a two-month loss of revenue would cause 86 percent of firms to take a serious financial action, such as using the owner’s personal savings, taking out a loan, or cutting staff salaries.

Moreover, small businesses in some industries have a larger economic impact than others. Among small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, those in accommodation, food services, and retail trade—coincidentally, the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19—employ the most workers. These industries, combined, account for more than 16 million employees and $362 billion in annual payroll.

Like the businesses themselves, small business employees are also more financially vulnerable than their large-firm counterparts. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that fewer small business employees have access to retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, life insurance, or disability insurance. Troublingly, only half of employees in small businesses have health insurance through their company and only two-thirds have paid sick leave.

While small businesses are a critical component of the national economy, some parts of the country depend more on small businesses than others. To find the metropolitan areas with the most small businesses, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review website for workers’ compensation insurance and construction software, analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked each location according to the number of small businesses per 100 residents. Researchers also included statistics on the total number of small businesses, the number of retail, accommodation, and food service businesses, and the share of workers who are self-employed. For the analysis, small businesses were defined as those employing fewer than 50 workers.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, locations were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000-999,999 residents), and small metros (less than 350,000 residents).

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the most small businesses per capita:

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-with-the-most-small-businesses

small business

How to Lead a Small Business Through Coronavirus and other Troubling Times

With the coronavirus shaking up the economy and upending the day-to-day operations of businesses, it’s perhaps more critical than ever that corporate CEOs and small business owners summon up all their leadership skills.

Employees who usually are just down the hall are now working remotely from home. The supply chain is disrupted. And customers and clients may be changing their spending habits.

But, as important as business savvy and financial expertise can be in riding out all the economic effects of the pandemic, other traits also come into play and maybe just as essential, says Marsha Friedman, a successful entrepreneur who still leads a business she launched three decades ago.

“One of those essential traits is courage,” says Friedman, founder and president of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), a national PR firm. “Thirty years ago when I started my company, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail.”

Friedman, who is also the ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, understands this first-hand. Her firm, like many businesses, endured tough economic times after the 9/11 attacks. Revenue dropped and bankruptcy loomed as a real possibility.

“I had to figure out how to turn my company around,” she says. “It took courage, endurance, and perseverance, but I knew I could not go back, so I had no choice but to go forward.”

Courage is just one of what Friedman calls the 5 C’s for building and maintaining a successful business through good times and bad.

“They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes,” she says. “They can work during the difficulties we now face as well.”

In addition to courage, Friedman’s other C’s are:

Caring. First, care enough about yourself and your dreams to believe you can achieve success even in these daunting times, Friedman says. “Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them despite the troubles we face,” she says. “Be supportive of them throughout this situation that is bringing additional stress to everyone’s lives.” Finally, a good business leader cares about customers, Friedman says. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.

Confidence. Most people have faced and overcome challenges in life. The confidence that allowed them to prevail over those challenges needs to be brought into play in business more than ever right now, Friedman says. “Believing you can reach for and achieve your short-term and long-term goals is essential to getting you there,” she says. “Maintaining your confidence is important to get through these unsettling times.”

Competence. It’s critical to stay up on the disruptions in your industry that the coronavirus is causing. “If you’re forced to downsize, this may be the time to reorganize and tap into the skills and abilities of your remaining team that are different from the roles you hired them for,” Friedman says. “That’s why it’s always important to have hired competent people who you can rely on no matter what the situation.”

Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes during these challenging conditions. Friedman says there may be times when this will be not only difficult but downright painful. That was the case for her during those tough times after the 9/11 attacks. “I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go of beloved employees,” she says. “But I never wanted to suffer a failure, and so I stayed committed to the goal and succeeded in pulling the business through those rough times.” 

“As we face the current challenges, you have to stay the course, remain positive and show caring for everyone related to your business,” Friedman says. “Most of all, no matter how dismal it seems right now, you need to have confidence that you are going to get through it.”

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Marsha Friedman, ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, is a successful entrepreneur and public relations expert with nearly 30 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and professionals in the field of business, health and finance.  Using the proprietary system she created as founder and President of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), an award-winning national public relations agency, her firm secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for its clients.  The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies, who shares her knowledge both as a popular speaker around the country and in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself.

commerce

Commerce, Currency, and Credit —and What’s Next

The notions of commerce, currency, and credit are nothing new. For centuries, we’ve found ways to barter, borrow, and repay one another through the exchange of goods, services, or credit. Exchange aside, every form of currency has an assigned value agreed upon by the individuals or organizations participating in the transaction.

Need a house or a plot of land? Everything had a price. Back then, we offered what we had…like goats, cows, or crops. In modern times and with the development of currency, we have turned to coins, paper, plastic, and other forms of credit to define the values of our exchanges.

If we begin to think about the evolution of commerce in the context of innovation, we simultaneously begin to wonder, ‘What’s next?’

As the COO of a fast-moving fintech company, I look to innovation to answer this fundamental question. It will always be top-of-mind for me, in order to ensure that our business is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to contemplating the many ways Americans — particularly those in the small business community — think about and gain access to commerce, currency, and credit.

Today, small businesses are faced with an unfavorable choice when considering taking on additional capital: curb their instinct to innovate and grow, or encumber themselves with debt. While the growth of small businesses will help our economy thrive, we can’t increase our ability to provide funding to small businesses by maintaining the status quo. So how do we inject businesses with funds, without ultimately harming that growth and innovation?  I suggest several ways: decrease our industry’s approval time and simplify the process; provide customized offers and understand the uniqueness of each business through the implementation of artificial intelligence and advanced technology, and restore the innate integrity and trust from the nascent days of commerce.

Here are three topline factors that will drive commerce, currency, and credit — and what’s next:

Convenience

If we look at the transition in the consumer payments industry as a leading indicator, we think about the emergence of fast-pay apps like Zelle, Venmo, or Apple Pay, one thing is clear: convenience is king. Even if it costs the consumer a dollar or two, it beats the basic, but now outdated steps of writing a check, (purchasing and) putting a stamp on the envelope, putting it in the mail, and making sure the mail person gets it on time. Certainly, checks have a role to play in the exchange of money — and perhaps always will — but fast cash apps represent the shift.

If we examine the ways that small businesses have historically gained access to capital, what were once nothing more than hard-copy applications followed up by mountains of paperwork issued by traditional banks that required waiting weeks or even months to hear of an approval, is rapidly evolving into what is now a full-fledged industry dedicated to providing capital in mere days or even hours  —with companies in industries ranging from online retailers to credit card processors, and more, working to deliver working capital in the near speed it takes to complete an ATM transaction. Just as odd as dropping a goat off today to pay for a good or service would seem, so too will be the long timeframe to secure small business capital via a long arduous process.  We are quickly moving to a couple of button clicks on your cell phone and capital will be delivered into your business account.

Channels

When discussing my philosophy about our business, three words colleagues often hear me use are “channel of choice.” They refer to finding our customers by identifying who they are, where they are, and what is their preferred method of communication; and of course, delivering superior user experience.

Which “channel of choice” will appeal to the busy mom-and-pop shop owner who calls us from her landline in search of new ways to gain access to capital for a new storefront facade; or to the construction company that does most of its business and banking online and prefers to be reached via the web; or, to the 20-something app developer who likes to do his business with a simple click on his phone?

Our success is contingent upon creating an appropriate environment and successful strategy for each of our customers, all of whom have varying degrees of means and preferences to interact with us.  While mobile interactions will continue the trend to dominate in preference, there will likely always be a need to handle interactions with just a simple phone call.  And delivering an intentional experience with all of those channels in mind will become the new normal

Caution

Over the past few years, the vulnerability of data, privacy, and information security systems has been exposed. As we move into a more digital environment where every piece of data is at your finger times, it’s incumbent upon us in the alternative financial services industry to evaluate the ways we protect the vast information we hold in similar ways customers expected traditional banks to hold and secure their deposits. The phrase “data is the new currency” is quickly becoming reality and expectations of security from those who provide us that information will be just as high as dropping of a deposit to your local bank. As mountains of information continue to become available, it will become a focus for all to consider how we store that information just as a bank locks up its currency in a vault.

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Herk Christie is the Chief Operating Officer of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses, by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has provided approximately $400 million in capital to over 12,000 small businesses nationwide.

small business

Small Businesses: Here’s How They Impact Communities

Every small business owner knows how important it is to have the support of their community. Luckily events such as Small Business Saturdays help bring small businesses and their local shoppers together in order to benefit the community as a whole. This survey put together by OnDeck, a small business loan provider, looks at small business customers to learn a little bit more about how they support small businesses AND also how the small businesses they
support helps the community in return.

why small businesses are important

ondeck second annual small business community impact survey

why small businesses are important

ondeck small business community impact survey

small business

Three Reasons You Should Support Small Business

Small Business Saturday takes place this Saturday, November 30

Every year, when Small Business Saturday rolls around, Americans are reminded to ‘support small businesses.’ But the need for your support extends far beyond the holiday season.

American small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. In fact, they make up 99.9% of the economy and employ 47.5% of the workforce.

As a small business owner, I’ve built much of my career around serving the incredible community of entrepreneurs who drive innovation and economic progress, locally and nationwide. These men and women are the hidden heroes of our neighborhoods, often putting everything on the line to provide the services and staples that we rely on…not to mention, those which make our communities unique. It is they who pass the torch of the American dream to future generations — all of whom fight to defy conventional wisdom that only half will survive their first 5 years. Make no mistake about it: they depend on your support to hold onto that dream.

Here are three reasons you should support small business, and go out of your way to contribute to Small Business Saturday every day.

Small Business Owners Drive New Jobs

It’s no secret that small businesses create new jobs, fuel economic growth, and contribute to lowering unemployment rates. Even in today’s globalized world, America’s 30.2 million small businesses still make up 99.9% of all businesses in this country, and employ 58.9 million people.

Check out ‘The Best Small Places For Business And Careers’ in Forbes, to see where our city ranks. None of us should be surprised that we have an incredible workforce; we are well below the national unemployment rate; and that most of our 16+ population is in the civilian labor force. There’s no reason not to keep this momentum going and drive more business and more jobs to our area.

Small Businesses Strengthen Communities

It’s not the megastores that give our communities vibrancy; but rather, the mom-and-pop coffee shop that serves a great cup of morning joe, the family-owned pastry shop that’s been a local staple for decades, and the go-to-guy auto mechanic that give our communities personality, and a spot on the map.

Small Business Saturday is a community-centric day, where we have the opportunity to rally around our local small companies that make our lives a little bit better. So long as the community connection created by small businesses remains strong year-round, the benefits of strengthened communities will too.

Small Businesses Empower the Next Generation

Almost all of us got our start at a small business, whether it was helping out the family, as a cashier at the local movie theatre, waiting tables, working in the local bank, or even babysitting! We learned the basic skills and requirements of the workforce: showing up on time, working hard, being accountable, and leading others (and being led). It is still incumbent upon small businesses to perform the vital role of training the next generation and offering them mentorship opportunities and ways to learn professionalism.

 Things have changed a little since my first days as a neighborhood lawn mower in my hometown. Still, today, I scout for great small businesses everywhere I go, which was why I came here. I have found that small-business owners here understand best what it takes to make an area a real community. To me and many others, that’s an important public contribution and one I hope to never live without.

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Vincent Ney is the Founder and President of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has connected over 12,000 small businesses nationwide to approximately $350 million in capital.