10 tips to help entrepreneurs break out of a stagnant position

Just about every professional is guilty of allowing habits to become ingrained because they work. While this is sometimes the best way to be productive, in some situations ingrained habits cause stagnation that can prevent a business from innovating.

The Business Journals

It’s good practice for every entrepreneur to not allow themselves to get too comfortable with the work they’re doing. Below, ten members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their top tips to help entrepreneurs break out of a comfortable position.

1. Don’t expect your results to be different.
I am a big believer in the thought that if you are currently in a career or professional opportunity that looks and feels like most of your peers, you should not have the expectation that your results will be much different. Those that accept fewer guarantees typically have significantly more upside! – Andrew Platt, Northwestern Mutual (Dayton)

2. Make sure that change is your constant.
Make sure that change is your constant. It has to be a part of your culture because the comfort zone is the worst place to be in, both professionally and personally. That said, change should not be a major disruption to your processes every single time. The best changes are gradual, so it’s important to find balance between innovation and stability to ensure sustainable growth. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Do something outside of your normal.
Entrepreneurs tend to rely on habits to help move the company forward. However, this approach can restrict their gifts of thought generation and creativity. To keep the right side of the brain nimble, I suggest they do something outside of their normal. Try a new physical activity, attend a learning retreat or simply spend time alone in a coffee shop listening to the buzz of others’ conversations. – Teresa J.W. Bailey, Waddell & Associates

4. Let competition keep you on your toes.
Your competition can keep you on your toes! If you know your competition, you can innovate to offer different or variable alternatives. I always like giving my clients options on how to solve their problems. – Corine Prieto, VIDL Network

5. Schedule innovation and creative time.
Schedule innovation time. Block off creative time on your calendar so that you can focus on your business. Your entrepreneurial mind is a superpower and it deserves its own regularly scheduled calendar appointment. Remember, what gets scheduled gets done. – Jason Hennessey, Hennessey Digital

6. Bring in an outside perspective.
Whether it is a new hire or a coach, having someone who hasn’t been doing it the same way for all this time will provide a new lens on the situation. Also, as an entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to spend time at the 30,000-foot level of your business so you can see what is out there that requires leaving your comfort zone. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

7. Manage performance with metrics.
Identify three to five indicators for your organization and consistently measure your progress throughout the year. Use this data to make improvements or to pivot when necessary. Allow the metrics to drive you and be the canary in the stagnation coal mine that lets you know when your processes have outgrown their effectiveness. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

8. Focus on execution management.
Quality goal setting and execution management prevent stagnation. For example, we utilize the Traction EOS management system, which includes an annual goal-setting session. We imagine our business five years from now and then clarify what must happen this year to achieve that vision. We then use EOS to execute weekly. Nearly any elephant becomes easy to eat utilizing this process! – Jason Dunn, DACS Corp

9. Interact with other companies, CEOs.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to get out and interact with other companies and CEOs or through thought leadership conferences so they don’t get stuck in their views or habits. Then, seeing what others are doing with their companies or general world trends that will naturally push you to evolve your business, practices and any personal habits. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Envision what you want in three years.
Envision what you want your business to look like in three years. Be specific on the “what” it looks like. Break that into three operating plans. Identify the gap in the year one plan from where you are today to where you need to be in a year. Break that down further to specific behaviors that need to change and focus on one behavior. It takes 21 days to form a habit. Then, go to the next one and so on. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

8 essential screening steps when interviewing inside applicants for an executive role

When an executive role opens in a company, leadership may choose to promote from within to fill it. For many leaders, this approach has multiple benefits: They can reward loyalty, and they can choose from a well-known group of people who already understand the company culture and have proven their skills.

The Business Journals

Still, it’s important to not allow your appreciation and liking for a well-known employee to cloud your judgment — thorough screening is always necessary when filling an executive role, even when you’re hiring from within. Here, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss essential parts of an effective screening process for inside applicants for an open executive role.

1. Evaluate how well they match your ideal candidate profile.
An “essential” is to identify the competencies for the role and incorporate these into an ideal candidate profile. Then assess candidates for these competencies using instruments focused on context-appropriate areas such as personality, judgment and/or reasoning. One “must-do” is to ensure a candidate’s risk of derailing behaviors is included in the assessment. Additionally, 360s are also very helpful. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

2. Assess competency and leadership.
The key is to always assess competency and leadership. Leadership is a key skill in an executive role. The ability to do the job while inspiring is important in being successful. If they tick the leadership box, go ahead and make the hire! – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

3. Avoid just seeking to reward loyalty.
The biggest mistake I see leaders make is promoting out of loyalty instead of competence. You naturally want to reward loyal team members, especially those who joined you early. However, it’s essential for the health of your organization to evaluate the skills, character, experience and competencies that are required in advance of doing any internal interviews. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

4. Look for those who are proactive and engaged.
We like to see how inside applicants have contributed to projects and needs over the years in ways that they were not “asked” to do. Is the individual willing to get involved with needs outside their primary set of roles and responsibilities? Executives need to be willing to dive in before things become urgent; look for those who are proactive and engaged. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

5. Interview based on the new skills they can offer.
Make certain that the candidate’s previous job prepared them for the new position you want to put them in. Interview them based on the new and additional skills they can bring to the job you’re hiring for, not the job you know they’re good at. It’s one thing to be an individual contributor; it’s another thing to be a manager. And it’s another thing entirely to be a manager of managers. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Make sure expectations are clear on all sides.
Promoting internally is great for loyalty and having confidence the person knows all parts of the business. However, it’s important to make sure expectations are clear on all sides about what the new role and responsibilities are so there’s no confusion around or blurring of new and past responsibilities. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Consider if they will focus forward, not backward.
The essential part of an internal promotion to an executive-level position is the question, “Can they rise above their previous duties?” Often, a promoted employee will revert to focusing on what they know instead of looking forward. If you promote a project manager to vice president, will they continue to try and run tasks or look for ways to advance processes? Can they get out of the details? – Timothy Hess, Azteca-Omega Group

8. Make sure they’re ready for next-level complexities and challenges.
A promotion means someone is assuming an additional level of scope, breadth and depth in a new role. Critically evaluate whether they have the intellect to handle the complexity that comes with the next level. Do they have a high level of motivation? Do they have high learning agility? Do they have any derailing personality traits? Performance in a current job does not predict someone’s potential at the next level. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

10 small-business tips for large organizations to build better relationships

Just because a person is employed in a large company doesn’t mean they’re OK with feeling like a number. In fact, engagement and personal interaction are valued more in today’s workplace than ever before.

The Business Journals

However, building personal relationships among employees in larger companies can be challenging. Below, ten members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some small business approaches to relationships that larger companies can borrow from to create better workplaces.

1. Practice a morning huddle with employees.

Every company, big or small, should look to practice a morning huddle with their employees. The huddles are a great way to share information as well as build a team spirit and culture. Small companies can typically have just one huddle for the entire group, whereas larger companies would want to break into departments and teams. – Michael Bacile, The Daily Java and King’s Coffee Company

2. Encourage a collaborative work environment.

Smaller companies tend to encourage a collaborative work environment. Working cross-functionally often increases employee engagement through relationship-building opportunities and access to leadership. Large companies will benefit from intentional and ongoing gatherings to retain engaged and thriving employees. – Tracy Williams, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

3. Support better work-life integration programs.

Smaller companies create cultures that support better life-work integration programs. You are not just an employee ID but an actual human being. Empathy is one approach I have seen smaller companies use effectively and one that larger companies can borrow from to create a better workplace. Empathizing with employees and creating an inclusive culture can go a long way in helping employee retention. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

4. Implement change respecting the Rule of 150.

Consider implementing changes that respect the Rule of 150, which suggests that organizations become difficult to manage beyond 150 employees. It’s when bureaucracy grows and innovation is stifled. This is a phenomenon that also occurs in nature with other creatures! Create smaller teams or divisions, delegate more, listen actively and empower new players. – Chip Laingen, Defense Alliance

5. Put leaders in approachable environments.

As CEO, I do not sit in an office. I sit in the main conference room so I am approachable to all our employees. They can come in and sit with me without any of the chatter about them being in the “boss’ office.” This has helped all our employees feel like they have a relationship with me as CEO and that is a harder thing to achieve in larger companies. – Courtney Spaeth, growth[period]

6. Cross-train and empower your employees.

Management layers, in particular new layers, can create an environment of micromanagement that isn’t necessary in smaller companies. Small companies require people who wear many hats and are trusted and empowered to do a variety of jobs, which creates a more rewarding experience. Cross-train and empower your employees to improve their satisfaction regardless of company size. – Ryan Morris, First State Bank

7. Celebrate achievements of noteworthy people.

Celebrate the achievements of noteworthy individuals in group settings. This will show that individual contributions are important and noticed throughout the organization, no matter the size. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Set a culture of caring.

Employees feel like a number when they feel like no one cares about them as a person. It is the leadership’s role to set the culture of caring and the managers’ role to care about their team members. Smaller companies get to know their employees because they are all so entwined with the work. Larger companies need to help team members feel that same connection, even if only in their small team. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

9. Provide rich, positive personal feedback.

Feeling valued by an employer is all about recognition beyond simple awards and birthday wishes. By providing rich, personal feedback that is mostly positive and constructive, people know that their efforts matter and have been intensely reviewed and contemplated. It illustrates to employees that they are part of a larger team and that their contributions warranted review by their leaders. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC

10. Take a few minutes daily to get to know someone.

Working for both, I can tell you that having the CEO or executive of the company know your name and your spouse or kid’s names goes a long way. Simply taking a few minutes a day to get to know someone new in your organization will make a larger impact on those individuals than you realize. – Timothy Hess, Azteca-Omega Group

10 smart ways to ensure continued growth in the post-pandemic business world

The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was staggering, and there’s little doubt that businesses will have to deal with its effects for some time to come. While some aspects of everyday life and the workplace have returned to more familiar patterns, there have been changes to the ways businesses operate that are more long-lasting — and some are likely to be permanent.
The Business Journals

Among the processes companies may need to evolve are their growth strategies. Both customer and employee expectations have changed, and if businesses are to survive, they must respect and address that. Here, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some smart strategies to embrace for continued growth in a world that’s been changed by the pandemic.

1. Stop waiting for things to ‘get back to normal.’
It’s critical as a leader that you stop thinking that things will “get back to normal.” The workforce evolved during the pandemic, the labor shortage isn’t short-term, and you must be the one to change. It’s time to rethink your workforce, your workstreams and what growth looks like. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

2. Have open conversations with your entire team.
Authenticity and transparency have long been hot topics — even before the pandemic — but I truly think they’re more relevant now than ever before. If you are not having open conversations with your team and leadership on a consistent basis, I encourage you to start it now, especially if you are all remote and working from home. Employees are struggling to share how they are really feeling, so proactively reconnect with them. – Cindy Lo, RED VELVET

3. Create a culture of opportunity.
Try to look for talent in unusual places. There are many people out there looking for opportunities to thrive in a new career — they just lack the opportunity or network to make it happen. Look for ways to train and inspire the people already working for you, as well as those who have the core elements of success and are being overlooked by others. Surround yourself with a culture of opportunity. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

4. Consider employees’ new needs and wants.
While employee recruitment is an obvious priority, employee retention is more nuanced, especially during the “Great Resignation.” In particular, employee needs and wants have changed due to the pandemic. Flexible work schedules and remote employees are the new normal, but provide opportunities, not just challenges. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

5. Align your strategy with your customers’ new direction.
With all change comes opportunity. The way people buy, the vendors they use, their priorities and more have all changed. This provides a great opportunity to take advantage of that change. Talk to your current customers as though they were brand-new, and align your strategy with their new direction. Understand the major trends of your target market and create strategies to address their changing needs. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

6. Always be hiring.
I am a big proponent of the ABH mentality, and it has never been more relevant than right now. The workforce has been greatly diminished, to the extent that making a quick hire of a qualified person is not as easy as it once was. Having a solid pool of people you have curated at any time is an asset for your future. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Ensure new hires are serious about working with you.
Continue to pivot when needed, and get comfortable with constant change. Something we have had to change recently is our hiring patterns and how we manage our hiring cohorts to ensure that the people who are getting in the door are serious about their new roles with us. There will be some give and take, but our values need to align. – Mackenzie Toland, A New Leaf Therapeutic Services PLLC

8. Enable remote operations.
As digital transformation accelerates, it’s smart to ensure your business, people and products can operate remotely and in a digital environment. Make sure you’re providing self-service and online access to your products and services. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Look for ways to be more nimble.
The No. 1 growth strategy today is the same as always: Be nimble! Your greatest opportunity is to think about where you can be nimble. Take a look at such things as your hiring practices, your employee benefits programs and even your own revenue streams. – Janel Laravie, Chacka Marketing

10. Always be ready to change direction.
Have a plan, but use it as a compass, not as a detailed map. One of the biggest lessons we learned from the pandemic is that things can change drastically at any given moment, and only those who stay flexible will be able to move farther and grow. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

12 Potential Causes To Consider When Website Traffic Starts To Tank

When a company’s website begins to see a downturn in traffic, it may be cause for concern. Often, a sudden lack of visitors is a warning sign of an impending decline in sales, as less website traffic typically means fewer customers. The issue should be diagnosed and addressed as quickly as possible to lessen the impact on a business’s bottom line, and that job often falls to an agency partner.

Forbes Agency Council

Drawing on their extensive expertise in this area, members of Forbes Agency Council share some potential causes for a sharp decline in a client’s website traffic and how that downturn can negatively affect businesses. Follow their recommendations to help determine the cause of the drop-off and fix your website traffic problems.

1. Algorithm Update

Knowing that a common cause is an algorithm update, that’s the first thing to research. At the same time, you need to review and identify whether anything has changed in your internal content strategy, publishing and optimization. Great tools to be used are Google Search Console and SEMrush. An ongoing “stay on top” strategy will most likely prevent or diminish any traffic downturn. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

2. Tech Stack Change

A decline in traffic is almost always going to be linked to a change across the tech stack or to actual marketing activities. If a tool didn’t break, you may have made some changes on a current paid channel, and you have to figure out which one. Traffic can spike up, but it should never spike down without platform changes on paid traffic sources or broken tracking. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

3. Changing Keyword Performance

It’s either paid traffic or organic traffic. If it’s paid, then look at budgets, campaigns and so on. If it’s organic, it can be a little trickier. Look at your top referring sites. Look at keywords. Where did the traffic disappear from? The easy answer is to say, “Google changed the algorithm.” Now, that might be true, but go deeper to see what was performing. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

4. Outdated Content With Irrelevant Keywords

When you track backward from site traffic, you will find yourself looking at search. What is preventing your site from ranking high on searches? Understand your keywords and make sure your content reflects that. If you’re not up to date on the keywords relevant to your audience, search results will drop. This could be the time to conduct an SEO audit on your site and optimize those keywords. – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

5. Consumer Changes

Agencies sometimes forget that a downturn in sales is not always caused by faulty products or bad advertising. It could be a decline in consumers having disposable income. We suggest adjusting marketing strategies and product offerings in response to shifting demands while analyzing data in real time and pinpointing the issue at hand. – Greg Carney, Freedom United Social

6. Technical Issues

A rapid downturn in traffic could be a technical issue, from needing to do an update to a broken link or plug-in. Running a full diagnostic routinely and checking for updates can prevent problems before they start. It’s important to have a trusted partner who has a regimented website maintenance routine to ensure your website is in great health. Remember, if you ignore your website, so will Google. – Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors, LLC

7. Drops In Traffic To Specific Pages

Google Analytics showcases all traffic under “Acquisition > Overview.” There you will find categories such as Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Display, Paid Search, Social and Other. You can dig into each channel to see why there was a drop. You can detail specific websites, pages, campaigns and more to determine what changed and why. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

8. Change In Your Product Or Offering

A downturn in site traffic should be addressed immediately and is usually the result of a change in your product, offering or algorithms online, so assess what changes may have impacted the site traffic and make necessary changes to get site traffic up to baseline levels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Policy Violations On Paid Ad Platforms

Uncover which source of traffic saw the steep decline by analyzing your Google Analytics and Search Console data. If the source is a paid channel, your account might have been suspended due to a policy violation or expired credit card. Organic traffic might fall due to a Google algorithm update, link or ranking losses and search engine penalization. – Dejan Popovic, PopArt Studio

10. New Digital Efforts

A surprise Google update is often the cause of a sudden downturn in site traffic. Cross-check your traffic dip in Google Analytics with updates announced by Google. Alternatively, there could be traffic shifts that coincide with new digital efforts — launching on Amazon, for example. If you are losing site traffic, but Amazon sales are increasing, your traffic may have simply shifted to another platform. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Multiple Reasons That May Be Uncovered In Your Analytics

It’s impossible to indicate one reason. Your site may not rank as well on Google due to increased competition, outdated design, lack of external links, algorithm updates and so on. Site traffic may seem unpredictable at times, but you can acquire invaluable information by assessing the analytics of your site data. After all, you can’t find a solution to a problem without finding out its cause first. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

12. Causes Beyond Algorithm Updates

While an algorithm update is often the cause of a sudden decline in website traffic, penalties from search engines, loss of keyword rankings and redirects can also lead to drops in traffic. You can confirm this through Google Search Console and then start to perform the necessary steps to rectify these issues to regain your organic traffic rankings. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

15 Tips For Businesses Looking To Ramp Up Social Commerce Efforts

Social media originally started as a platform to connect with others — now, it’s so much more than that. Social media sites have evolved into integral marketing channels and marketplaces where businesses can sell their products directly to consumers.

Forbes Agency Council

Because “social commerce” is still relatively new, many brands are still learning how to optimize their Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and other accounts for selling. Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council share their No. 1 tips for businesses looking to get into social commerce, describing the most effective ways they’ve seen entrepreneurs enter the social media marketplace.

1. Have A Holistic Strategy For Testing

Social commerce is in its early stages, but it will inevitably be huge. TikTok is investing big in social commerce and will be the dominating social media platform for this decade. Brands looking to enter this space need to have a holistic strategy to test what might work for them before doubling down. Investing in user-generated content, working with creators and refining processes are key at this stage. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

2. Publish High-Quality Content

Always remember that content is king! Regardless of how many or which social channels are used as a marketing vehicle to deliver a message to current and potential audiences, you have to make sure you stay on-brand, publish high-quality content and actively engage with your audience. Quality content always makes a difference and gathers attention. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

3. Choose The Right Platforms First

Start with the right strategy. Which platforms are you active on for which audience, and what content/messaging is right for them? Then comes the right content strategy. The audience has only a short attention span, so content is key. From there on you can tap into social commerce. It’s always on. – Maddie Raedts, Media.Monks

4. Identify Your Target Audience

Ask yourself which platforms your customers use and what type of content they like. By focusing on the proper channels and understanding your audience’s preferences, you’ll have a higher chance of succeeding. And of course, for branding, showcase your aesthetics. It’s crucial to build up your brand personality and to interact with your audience on a personal level. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

5. See How It Works For Competitors

Most brands don’t need to be on all of the social media/commerce platforms. Resist the temptation. Don’t spend countless hours and budget getting started. Wait a little longer. Watch competitors burn budget. Pay attention to who stays on a platform for six months, 12 months and 24 months. Go there. In the meantime, focus on your current customers/clients. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

6. Be Authentic

Represent yourself authentically through the platform. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and replicate what you see other top-followed brands do. As a Cincinnati-based company, we had a unique opportunity to show people who we are with the Super Bowl last month. Sometimes, it can be funny; sometimes, it can be embarrassing, but it has to always be authentic. Check out the Ickey Shuffle! – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

7. Actively Engage With Audiences

Social commerce relies on the social part of the equation. Start by building a brand presence on the relevant platforms, and encourage and develop community by actively engaging with audiences. Another option is to partner with creators on the platform who have built up credibility and influence among their followers. Either way, focus on the personal connections that will ultimately drive sales. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

8. Don’t Rely Too Heavily On One Platform

Social commerce is still in its relative infancy, and platform algorithms award newer features and products. It is best to test on every platform and not rely too heavily on just one. By utilizing artificial intelligence technology to find and partner with creators and platforms who can best promote their products, brands can generate authentic collaborations driven by consent that truly inspire audiences to purchase. – Ricky Ray Butler, BEN

9. Dedicate Resources To One Audience

When creating a new social commerce campaign, it’s critical to streamline to an initial audience. Dedicate your resources to one specific group and create a great campaign, instead of spreading yourself thin. Do research initially on your prime customer demographic and then follow up that research once the campaigns begin, particularly with A/B testing to see which campaigns are strongest. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

10. Know Where Your Audience Is Already Spending Time

Know what social platforms your preferred audience is spending time on. These demographics have been shifting, so don’t assume. Look at the data. Next, brands need to consider ad infrastructure. Which platforms are already set up to drive social commerce with minimal friction? The more steps there are between your content (or ad) and the purchase, the harder the conversion is going to be. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Be Sure You’re Ready To Handle It

Social commerce can bring new opportunities for revenue, but verify that it’s something you can actually handle. An effective social media strategy involves high-quality content (that represents your unique brand) and consistent engagement with followers. If you already run a successful e-commerce operation, can you stretch your current resources into also managing the social media side of things? – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

12. Ensure It’s The Right Fit For Your Brand

Before you launch on any platform, ask yourself: “Is this environment right for our brand?” In the same way having a stall at the local flea market may not be right for your brand, so too may social commerce be an ill fit. Do not erode your brand’s perceived quality through a mismatch. – Hamish Anderson, Three Piece Marketing

13. Understand Each Platform’s Unique Nature

Understand the unique nature of different platforms. It’s important to understand how e-commerce works on different social media platforms, and that they all operate differently in terms of audience delivery, metrics, typical consumer response and so forth. This includes having different media to push out on each platform. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

14. Be Ready To ‘Pay To Play’

Make sure that you are ready to “pay to play.” One of the largest trends in 2021 was the reduction in organic social media success and engagement across the board. So in 2022, if you are looking to throw your hat in the social commerce ring, per se, you need to have a nice advertising budget secured and set aside. A killer post is not going to make you millions. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

15. Do Your Homework

Before your brand jumps onto these platforms, do your homework. Make sure you can provide the type of content that resonates on social media and that your prospects are actually on these platforms. Look at your website and brand. If you start using social media to drive traffic to your website, and there’s a disconnect between your brand and brand messaging, it’s a waste of money. Don’t sell — infotain. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

Eight ways leaders can ensure stakeholder satisfaction

A company’s stakeholders are what makes it a company. From investors to employees, it’s essential to keep the people who believe in your business satisfied and motivated to keep supporting it.

Stakeholders come in many forms and it’s up to the leaders of a business to make sure they’re all satisfied. Below, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss specific ways for leaders to ensure their business’s many stakeholders are satisfied with the company’s performance.

The Business Journals

1. Communicate clearly and align strategies.
Clear communication will always be the one specific way leaders can ensure overall stakeholder satisfaction. Understand their expectations clearly and align your strategies accordingly, ask for constructive feedback regularly, submit regular key performance indicators (KPI) reports, maintain transparency by being honest with stakeholders every step of the way and create more engagement opportunities. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

2. Ask them for direct feedback.
One specific way that leaders can ensure that their stakeholders are satisfied is by asking. There are a lot of people who are too busy to give feedback, but if every time you get off the phone with a client you ask for their feedback, you will get the information that you need. – Mackenzie Toland, A New Leaf Therapeutic Services PLLC

3. Ensure they understand your direction.
Ensuring the stakeholders have a general understanding and approval for the strategic direction of the business is key. Then align the key performance indicators to strategic direction. The positive KPIs will translate to the organization’s success, which would have inherent buy-in from the stakeholders due to the approval on the frontend of the strategic direction. – Jay Toland, A New Leaf Therapeutic Services PLLC

4. Leverage human-centered design thinking.
Start out by knowing exactly who all the internal and external stakeholders are. You’ll be surprised how key stakeholders can be overlooked. Then do an exercise with the stakeholders (or surrogates) in which they tell you why they need a team or your business to “deliver” and how they measure success. From there, as needed, bring human-centered design thinking into stakeholder engagements. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

5. Ensure year-over-year growth, performance.
Year-over-year growth and performance are key to ensure stakeholders satisfaction. So is the company ensuring it is performing with a competitive advantage, proven by its growth. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Be clear on what success looks like for all.
Be clear on what success looks like for everyone. Eliminate assumptions. Establish clarity on the goals, objectives and outcomes that everyone is hoping to achieve from the very beginning. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

7. Involve them in company operations.
Keep them involved in the pulse of the company. A solid way to do this is to provide weekly updates to the stakeholders listing the wins, good news, goals met and progress toward future goals. These people are very busy, so make it a bite-sized bulleted list that’s easy for them to digest. Having this level of touch will keep them engaged with your plans and progress toward your goals. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

8. Report key accomplishments regularly.
People worry when they don’t know what is happening. One awesome tool to address that is what we call “5-in-5s.” Team members take five minutes to submit their five accomplishments for the week. Managers then take the highlights and blast them out to the entire company as to what is going on for their team. This one small (free) approach has created unbelievable communication for our clients. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

15 unique benefits small businesses can leverage to recruit top talent

It’s a workers’ market, and businesses in every industry are facing a serious challenge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Until recently, many companies were accustomed to having a number of applicants lobbying and competing for plum posts. But in many cases, the tables have turned, and it’s employers who find themselves having to convince potential employees that they’re the best choice.
The Business Journals

In a highly competitive market, small-business owners may feel they’re at a disadvantage. Many of them can’t offer the higher salaries, varied perks and flexibility of their larger counterparts. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t unique benefits to working for a smaller business — they just need to be pinned down and promoted. Here, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some cost-effective and unique benefits that small-business owners can (and should) promote to stand out in the race to sign top talent.

1. Upskilling and reskilling
It may be easier to offer “fun” perks such as happy hours and catered lunches, but those only seem to be short-term culture changes. Try implementing a training or coaching program to help upskill and reskill your workforce. This initiative will show your investment in your workforce and lead to increased morale and loyalty amongst your employees. – Erica Brune, Lever1

2. A fast track to leadership
Small businesses can provide a “fast track” to personal and professional growth. Entrepreneurs can easily spot exceptional talent, see value and worth, and promote from within for a position that may have taken the employee or team member longer to achieve in a larger company. – Elliott Noble-Holt, MediCopy

3. The chance to build something new
Impact and recognition are far more visible in small businesses than in larger ones. There is an opportunity to build and create something new that makes a difference in employee culture, customer experience, workflow efficiencies, revenues and other parts of a business, as opposed to following standard processes. You have the ability to change the way something is done without the red tape. – Sherine Khalil, Valor Compounding Pharmacy

4. More opportunities for professional growth
The best talent is looking to grow professionally, and they want to do it fast. As a smaller company, you need to share your vision for growth and how this growth will provide opportunities that a stagnant, larger company can’t provide. Let them know there is a direct correlation between personal business growth and the growth of the business you are investing your time in. They must choose wisely! – David Barbeito, De La Hoz Perez & Barbeito PLLC

5. Understanding of each person’s unique motivators
Not all people are driven by money. Find out what drives people during the course of discussions, and structure the offer accordingly. I always believe in the mantra, “One should hire for attitude and not just for skills.” Small-business owners must promote this unique benefit to gain top talent: the ability to try different things and to create the story. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

6. Revenue sharing
One of our biggest benefits — and the one that most resonates with our employees — is that there is no ceiling to the amount of income they can make. We firmly believe in revenue sharing, which allows our staff to become personally invested in the success of the company and see that return in a concrete dollar amount. – Jennifer Wehner, The Wehner Group

7. Deeper team connections
Promote connection with your employees. Communicate the difference that they are making within the company and the larger scope of their communities. Creating a culture where your people take care of each other because they feel valued creates a ripple effect and attracts others to join your team. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

8. A variety of experiences
Small businesses have the unique opportunity to more quickly develop skills in their employees and to provide a variety of experiences for them compared to larger businesses. Showing that you are committed to giving team members broader engagement with the company, more decision-making opportunities and more ways to develop overall translates to an enticing advantage that will appeal to top talent. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. A ‘family’ culture
Small businesses offer family values rather than corporate norms. There is no doubt that a smaller company has more of a familial aspect and that the owner usually cares deeply about their employees and clients. This culture may also provide employees with more emotional stability during constantly changing times. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Schedule flexibility
Small-business owners should highlight their flexibility. The employee experience can be more fulfilling, as there is less red tape. Need to get off 30 minutes early every Thursday to get your daughter to ballet? Let’s get creative and figure it out. It’s the little things that a larger employer might not be willing to entertain. – Justin Livingston, Reflektions Ltd.

11. Opportunities for real impact
Working for a small business provides an opportunity to make an impact on your customers and the business. Many people get frustrated with large companies when they feel the work they are doing doesn’t ultimately matter. Being able to highlight the direct impact team members make is a great benefit to promote. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

12. Access to and interactions with leadership
Smaller companies offer the best opportunity to grow. Passionate people who want exposure to top execs and leadership should look to smaller companies. Many of the folks in these companies have long and storied careers and want to be part of something different. You can learn so much from these individuals and get the best mentorships at this type of company. – Kathryn Wilson, VUE Health Insights

13. Tailored benefits
Small businesses often have a lot of flexibility when making decisions, which allows them to offer tailored benefits — something that larger organizations cannot do. These tailored solutions can create greater job satisfaction. – Sudhakar Puvvada, Dream Catcher Innovation Labs

14. A healthier work-life balance
Prioritize flexibility — not just in terms of working hours, but how and where your employees work. Today’s employees demand flexibility and a healthy work-life balance. Simply put, employers who don’t take these renewed employee expectations into account will lose out on top talent. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

15. Openness to non-traditional backgrounds and career paths
A small business has the advantage of offering flexibility and non-traditional career paths for individuals who don’t fit the corporate machine model. Look for people with non-traditional backgrounds, career changers with passion and those who don’t necessarily want to work full time. These people can be your secret weapons in the war for talent. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

13 challenges of running a business during market changes

Market changes present many challenges for business owners. As the challenges differ depending on the specific changes the market is facing and many specific factors regarding individual businesses, leaders need to be aware of the changes taking place and understand how to deal with them.

The Business Journals

From talent acquisition to production issues and everything in-between, today’s leaders face a host of challenges. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the challenges that leaders are facing right now and offer their recommendations for overcoming those obstacles.

1. Talent acquisition and retention.
The biggest challenge right now is talent acquisition and retention. On the acquisition side, always be recruiting. Many companies are only looking for people when there is a need. You should always be looking for great people. Even if there is not a pressing need, you can always upgrade. On the retention side, one simple rule is to put your people first, especially the really really good ones! – David Barbeito, De La Hoz Perez & Barbeito PLLC

2. Service model changes and updates.
As the market changes, businesses need to keep an open mind. For instance, restaurants that were not able to adapt to the takeout model of dining experienced rough times during the pandemic. On the other hand, businesses that recognized the need to update their service model experienced tremendous growth in their business. Being open to change is a key mindset in adapting to market environments. – Tony Sablan, Ultimate Wealth Strategies, LLC

3. Burnout.
Burnout from change is an issue. People pushed past a certain point will burn out and leave the company. If managers aren’t cognizant of this, this pattern is likely to repeat with new sets of employees. Like a good coach, a leader needs to know how to set the pace for a team. That slower pace can allow people time to rest and come back to the challenges of work refreshed and more creative. – Mark Hohmann, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, Inc.

4. Business management flexibility.
Be prepared for constant changes. In this current environment, things continue to change at rapid rates more and more, so flexibility is key in business management as well as quickly being able to pivot no matter what the macro environment throws at you. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Supply chain account prioritization.
An obvious challenge is the supply chain. No products or materials mean it is hard to generate revenue. Rather than first in/first out, I encourage companies to prioritize their accounts. Take care of A-clients and be very transparent with them to protect longer-term revenue. Put facts on the table and then work together to come up with creative solutions. This will build even stronger relationships. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

6. Rising payroll and compensation costs.
Employee payroll costs are on the rise. Stay ahead of the curve by actively discussing compensation with your employees. Money is not the only answer. For many employees, there are other incentives that they would prefer. Examples include more flexible working hours, better benefits and new opportunities for growth. Work on an individual basis with your team members to understand their needs. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

7. Increase in product/service demand.
A challenge many leaders face is how to best handle growth and increasing demand for services or products. A specific aspect of that is staffing; not only in finding qualified people willing to work, but also in a changing wage environment, which not only affects new hires but the pay of existing employees. To meet this challenge, companies should review pay structure, PTO and job perks. – Joe Reilly, National Drug Screening, Inc.

8. Employee expectation changes
The great resignation is no joke. Employees are expecting more from their employers; more equitable compensation, more flexibility in their day and the ability to decide where they want to work – be it at home, the office or a combination of both. Employers have to meet these expectations to stay competitive. We have to listen, empower people to do their best work and then trust that they will. It’s a cycle: adjust, assess, adjust. – Joelle Nole, Larj Media

9. Consumer behavior shift post-Covid.
One challenge that business leaders face today is navigating the post-Covid-19 environment as well as understanding the shift in consumer behaviors. Listen and stay in touch with the problems the world is facing today in order to meet the demands of a changing marketplace in the future. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

10. Customer engagement with value.
One challenge is staying close to your clients as the market changes. Seek to understand the impact of these changes on your customers. Determine the way your customers prefer to communicate and the cadence they prefer to stay engaged. When you do engage, bring something of value to them so that they appreciate the engagement with you rather than being frustrated by it and considering it an intrusion. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

11. Inflation mitigation and containing costs.
While inflation has had a nominal effect thus far, it could become a much bigger challenge for many businesses. There are a host of strategies to mitigate inflation, but containing costs and increasing prices are the most common solutions. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

12. Team focus on purpose, vision and goals.
Keeping the team inspired. Your employees are constantly asking what the “why” is and what the vision is. As a leader, it’s your job to keep your team focused on that vision and help them understand how they fit into that vision through accomplishing their goals. It goes with the territory to keep your team focused on that purpose and to encourage them as you accomplish your goals together. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

13. Presence and collaboration needs.
The biggest challenges are reconciling the growing need for presence with the preferences of employees about where and when they are in the office. The need for more presence and collaboration is growing. Finding equilibrium to drive presence and satisfaction in order to foster a great workplace for retention is essential. – Peter Prodromou, Boston Digital

6 industry leaders share their ‘favorite’ forms of media and content platforms

Finding the right venue and method for sharing your marketing and message is an essential part of running a successful business. Whether it’s because of their industry, where their customers congregate or just their unique brand voice, a business leader will often home in on a “favorite” form of media or preferred content platform and become particularly adept at leveraging it to promote their organization.

The Business Journals

Once you’ve found the right medium, the next step is crafting and refining your message. Here, six members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their preferred media formats and content platforms and talk about how they’ve successfully leveraged them to promote their business or brand.

1. Video
If I had to choose only one form of media, it would hands-down be video. Besides the higher rates of engagement and retention for viewers, I’ve seen the most results from video. YouTube has been a game-changer; it’s literally becoming another lead source because people are connecting with the videos we create. You have to meet people where they are, and your audience is watching videos — guaranteed. – Jennifer Wehner, The Wehner Group

2. LinkedIn
Our preferred medium for business-to-business marketing is LinkedIn. As a consulting firm, we leverage this platform to connect with influencers and high-level decision-makers. We create meaningful content that then sparks conversations and connections with industry experts.  – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

3. Instagram
In a world of too much information, combined with people’s current habit of looking for bite-size bits of information to easily absorb, Instagram meets the needs of my business when it comes to providing small amounts of important information. Through Instagram, we can provide a quick look at a big idea along with a method for pursuing further understanding for those who want to delve deeper (for example, by posting a quote backed by an article). – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

4. Podcasting
Podcasting has been a firm favorite of mine for a while. Is it an ROI bonanza? No — at least, not in the “post a podcast and the phone will start ringing off the hook” sense. It has successfully elevated me to thought leader and expert status, which comes in handy on sales calls, in presentations and in closing a tough contract. Creating instant trust with your audience is invaluable. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. Email articles and newsletters
Each channel has a unique brand to it. While Facebook and Instagram are good for more casual interactions and updates, LinkedIn and other platforms provide the opportunity for thought leadership. Also, publishing routine email newsletters and articles helps keep your personal and business brand top of mind among followers. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. A well-rounded ecosystem
My answer would be all of it! Posting on social media doesn’t really work in a vacuum; it has to be part of an ecosystem, including earned media (thought-leader commentary on your sector or a vertical your company supports), blogging, podcasts and so on. And adding some paid marketing — such as LinkedIn targeted content, Google ad words and so on — doesn’t hurt. – Jen Vargas, JVComms