Opening a business? Nine up-and-coming locales and regions to consider

While remote work may have opened up the “anywhere” workplace, there are still locations that are hotspots for building a business. In fact, the digital economy that has supported remote work is part of what’s making less-than-traditional locales attractive choices for a new concern. While traditional business centers are still humming, smaller cities and markets — and even more rural areas — are touting the perks and lifestyles that both business owners and employees are looking for.

The Business Journals

Depending on your industry, there are hotspots all across the country that offer attractive incentives for building a business. Here, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some specific, up-and-coming cities with great features that business owners and investors should keep an eye on, as well as regions with characteristics that are also worth a second look.

1. Austin, Texas
Austin remains a hotspot for business owners. The city offers something that is essential for continued growth: building infrastructure that is a low lift for employees to thrive in that environment. As an employer, I made the move to purchase a historic building suited for my employees and clients. This foresight allows my teams to thrive in a place that inspires them in an incredible city. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

2. Dallas, Texas
Dallas is a hot spot for business. The number of available jobs and the cost of living are still great in the North Texas Area. I believe that people are also coming to Texas to work with other professionals in person so that they can collaborate and grow professionally, which would not happen remotely. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

3. Miami, Florida
With no state income taxes, incredible beaches, entertainment and ample job opportunities, it’s no wonder people are flocking to Miami. It’s second in the U.S. for new tech company formations and it’s becoming the crypto capital of the world, all while contributing to the fourth-highest state GDP in the U.S. All this sure makes it hard not to be bullish on Miami, and it’s why I think every business needs to have its eyes set on the “Magic City.” – Michael Ayjian, 7 Wonders Cinema

4. Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is quickly becoming one of the most business-friendly cities in the United States. The city has a thriving startup scene with a number of incubators and accelerators working to support new businesses. In addition, Phoenix is home to a talented workforce and a lower cost of living than many cities. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

5. Raleigh, North Carolina
I’m biased, but Raleigh is experiencing explosive growth. Top tech companies including Apple and Lenovo have already or are establishing significant operations in the area. A low tax rate, an abundance of highly educated graduates from top colleges in the area and Research Triangle Park are enticing to many companies. It’s a great area for investors to tap into emerging startups primed for success. – Colt Parsons, Insight

6. The metaverse
One of the emerging locations for businesses to have a presence is in the metaverse. Virtual worlds provide an opportunity to engage with customers, prospects and other constituents on a global scale, avoiding Covid and travel expenses. It’s still the Wild West, but it’s suited for technology-centric and decentralized organizations. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

7. Locations with a large university population
If you are looking for an eager and available workforce who is talented and ready to work, I always suggest focusing your headquarters in a city that has a large university or college population. If there are lots of colleges, there is a revolving door of new workers who will help you scale every quarter. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

8. Locations with innovation centers and social spaces
Businesses still need to find locations that are conducive to collaboration and, ideally, some in-person social interactions. Locations with collaboration or innovation centers that also offer a variety of restaurants and bars can help a business progress. – Steve Wang, Protiviti

9. Locations that offer ‘the great outdoors’
Many workers are moving city to city. However, businesses should also be paying attention to more remote, outdoor locations that have a hip, local vibe for the worker who is truly looking for that outdoorsy lifestyle balance. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

Eight buzzwords to use instead of ‘innovative’

Buzzwords, those catchy adjectives that help mold a brand’s identity, can either help or hinder a brand. Either way, once a buzzword catches on, it can sometimes be impossible to escape.

The Business Journals

“Innovative” is a buzzword that has become so overused it’s losing its impact. Below, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some impactful buzzwords that companies can use instead of relying on the word “innovative.”

1. Words that mirror and advance your mission.
In the nonprofit space, the meaning of buzzwords like “innovative” will vary amongst your audience and stakeholders. This can quickly muddy the message you intend to cascade or the action you want to elevate. The best words to rely on are those that mirror and advance your mission. It will hold true, no matter the audience. – Chandra Scott, Alabama Possible

2. Words that convey a specific message and solution.
The only thing a customer wants to know is how you can help them. Saying you are innovative does not mean much to the customer. Instead, we have always said this to clients: “When you work with us, we help you do ABC to address your biggest challenge of DEF.” This is what we do consistently at The Franchise Pros. Our clients come on board delighted and clear about the value we will deliver to them. – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

3. Words that express resourcefulness.
I prefer the word “creative” as it implies that your company is addressing a particular need or problem by devising a solution that best addresses it in the most progressive, resourceful, productive, efficient and value-oriented manner available. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

4. Words that spell out your company’s value.
Innovation is no longer a differentiator; it’s an expectation of being in business. Instead, spell out what value you could bring to a potential customer in jargon-free terms. Potential customers will be able to make informed decisions when they see the use case of what’s on offer. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

5. Words that make you stand out.
The word “innovative” carries with it a great deal of pressure to be the person. Many people don’t identify as being innovative, but if you use language such as, “Let’s think differently.” “What are new solutions?” “What hasn’t been tried?” or “What are some outlandish ideas?” — it conveys a more rudimentary level of thinking even though it gets you to the same outcomes of great ideas. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

6. Words that convey awareness of the future.
“Forward-thinking” would be my suggested option. It indicates that you are actually thinking about the future and taking into account all of the options that are available for you to utilize. You truly know what the future holds, but you need to have your eyes open and be constantly aware of your surroundings if you want to evolve and survive. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Words that speak to personalization.
Instead of “innovative,” originality should be a goal of any brand or think tank. It speaks to the individuality of your consumer and the personalized nature and relationship they want to have with any product or service. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Words that describe your uniqueness.
When every company claims to be innovative, the word starts to lose its meaning. Instead of relying on the word “innovative,” companies should focus on describing what makes their product or service unique. What problem does it solve? How will your customer be better off with your product or service? This will help connect companies with their customers on a deeper level. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

11 ways for leaders to establish themselves as market experts

One of the best ways to market your business is to become a market expert, but how does one achieve such a status? There are several ways to go about establishing yourself as a leader and market expert.

The Business Journals

Hard work, experience and some creative thinking will help get you started. Below, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their best advice on how leaders can establish themselves as market experts.

1. Say ‘yes’ before you’re ready.
When I started my business, I didn’t have all the answers but found people and opportunities that appeared when I needed them. In four years, I conducted over 200 workshops for organizations placing clients into franchises and helping others franchise their businesses. I now speak at conferences around the world on franchise ownership. Say “yes” before you’re ready! This has a magic all its own. – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

2. Use help to grow.
Use someone else’s help to grow a following. There are many ways to do it. You can get invited to a podcast, guest blog for some big-name publications or partner with some influencers to share your expertise on social media live. People will be happy to do so if you truly have something valuable to offer. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Create a plan and have patience.
Have a plan and be patient. Being seen as a “market expert” doesn’t happen overnight; it takes diligence and fortitude. Create a multifaceted plan that includes having a vibrant website, writing blogs, being on panels, doing keynote speaking, winning awards. Do social media marketing that highlights you, your business, your accomplishments and getting published in leading business publication articles! – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

4. Share knowledge without expectation.
Share your knowledge without any expectation of a return. I know this sounds counterproductive coming from a person who is very metrics-driven, but I find that providing value to others by giving of your own experience and know-how will cement you as a trusted advisor, elevating you to expert status. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. See what’s around the corner.
The best way to show expertise is by seeing what’s around the corner or what’s in the white space. How is the market or industry evolving? What trends are emerging? What do you as an expert see on the horizon? What is yet unknown but you anticipate could become the next “big thing?” Forecasting within an industry or market segment creates conversation, delivers value and shows authority. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

6. Size up your expertise and interest.
Size up your expertise as well as interest in a particular topic. Research it further to gain a current pulse. Network to identify potential panel discussions, print publications or social media forums where you can contribute an article or participate. Identify multiple opportunities and be sure to document your article, presentation and research for future reference. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

7. Be authentic.
Be who you are and act authentically. Personally, I don’t love the word “expert.” We all have more to learn and any great leader is curious. You’ve got to constantly be living and learning and refining your expertise. And ultimately what makes you an authority in the domain where you work is the sum of every part of your life — your work, your family, your hobbies, etc. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

8. Read and research everything.
Read everything you can. Conduct primary research that you can point to and reference as real-time data. Do a meta-analysis of the other thought leaders in your space to know the contemporary points of view on things. Figure out your differentiation supported by data. And then write! Be a visible and vocal thought leader on social media and other forums by consistently providing expertise. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Publish specific content regularly.
Publishing regular content on specific thought leadership verticals can help brand you with the expertise and resonate where someone will look to you when they are looking for expert advice on that particular subject. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Don’t wait to share.
Don’t wait for people to ask. Proactively share observations of what you see happening in the market — both good and bad — and what people are doing to address challenges. Most businesspeople have similar challenges. If you can become recognized as someone who shares best practices for addressing those challenges, people will look to you each time a new challenge pops up. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

11. Learn constantly and get involved.
Become a master of your industry. Constantly be learning and be involved in your industry. Make others aware of your industry expertise and make yourself available to the media, competition, customers and potential employees. Always put yourself and your company in front of as many people as you can so that it becomes apparent that you and your company are experts in your industry. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

13 website design elements that can increase sales and engagement

Anyone can make a website, but a successful one that drives engagement and increases sales must contain certain elements. From eye-catching designs to ease of use and other elements in-between, it takes a lot of diligence and savvy to make your site, products and services popular.

The Business Journals

If you want to increase online sales, you need to engage the visitors to your site. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss what they believe are the most essential website design elements to include to increase sales and engagement through your website.

1. Photos of employees.
One element that is key would be to include photos of your employees. Using stock photos will never truly capture the essence and soul of your company. Visitors can instantly tell when you have put just a tad of extra work into your website. – Jacquay Henderson, Square Peg Technologies

2. Digital freebies and guides.
Definitely offer a digital freebie like a short e-book or guide related to your site. Capturing the emails of new visitors helps strengthen relationships. Also, if the quality of your free offer is good, they will be more likely to invest in any of your paid offerings. – Indya Wright, Artiste House

3. Site analytics.
Invest in analytics for your website so you know who is visiting. If you can create an immediate touchpoint for a prospect visiting your website, you can help create more value and gain more customers. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

4. User-friendly purchasing.
Make it easy to purchase the product or service! It’s amazing how challenging it is to find the “buy” button on many sites. – Dorian Rader, OneTen° Capital

5. Short promotional video.
A sizzle reel (short promotional video) on your home page will ensure that those landing on your website are immediately wowed by your accomplishments. Whether they click on your services page or read your posted case studies, a high-energy video of your best work will present prospects with what they want: Proof of your ability and authority. Then, increased sales and engagement can follow. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

6. User-friendly content strategy.
Companies should ensure their website has a user-friendly content strategy with calls to action that are relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. This includes nurturing campaigns that give visitors a sense of what you stand for as well as your services. Today’s market cares more about who you are and how you uplift your community versus product solutions alone. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

7. Embedded newsletters.
If you have a blog page, embed a newsletter signup form within the copy of the blog. I have seen this done a little aggressively (sometimes more than a few times), but usually one in the middle and one at the bottom is a great way to grab and convert visitors to your blog while building your email list for future nurture processes. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

8. Simplicity and grace.
In working with my website guru, I learned a few lessons that apply not only to websites but to life in general. He brought a common-sense approach coupled with a dash of delightfulness! He got rid of half the words on each page, then got rid of half of what was left! Clients love the simplicity and grace on our website. The result? Client engagement and sales skyrocketed! – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

9. Appointment scheduler.
Implement an appointment scheduler like Calendly onto your site. This gives your potential partners full access to booking a time and date that works for them while saving your sales team the headache of scheduling, rescheduling and canceling appointments. Once we invested in Calendly, we saw an increase in both revenue and conversions. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

10. Chatbots and live online support.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost engagement and sales is to incorporate a chatbot (or ideally live online support) into the website. If a visitor can click to chat or call, they are far more likely to convert, regardless of the site goal or audience. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

11. Chat functionality, event invites.
Make it easy for customers or visitors to engage. Provide a clear, easy-to-find “contact” page, utilize chat functionality and send invitations to local events or webinars through personalization technology. – Cindy Zhou, LogRhythm

12. Engaging lead magnets.
Potential buyers visit websites to fill their needs or solve problems. Come up with an engaging lead magnet positioning your company as the best solution. Lead magnets are a “give-to-get” strategy and gated content. When leads provide contact info, they get something useful — a report, checklist, kit, sample, discount or special offer. One tip is having a follow-up strategy in place to make the sale! – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

13. Stimulating or engaging visuals.
Ensure your website is visually stimulating from the first glance to ensure that it grabs the viewer’s attention. Immediately engage them in wanting to scroll through and get more information with the ultimate goal of converting them to a consumer in the first interaction. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

16 often-overlooked steps in building an effective marketing campaign

Developing a great product or service is only the first step in bringing the world to your business’s door. The second, equally important step is getting the message out to potential customers about what you have to offer and helping them understand how it will make a positive difference for them.

The Business Journals

It’s easy to get caught up in your own enthusiasm about your offerings, but that’s not enough. You have to consider the perspective of your target audience and craft a campaign that really speaks to them. Here, 16 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share important steps businesses often overlook when they’re crafting a marketing campaign and why they’re so essential to success.

1. Seeking the opinions of multiple stakeholders.
It’s smart to start with brand discovery by answering critical questions. What are the product’s or service’s attributes? What is the value proposition it offers? What does success look like? What are competitors doing? What might get in the way of our success? Seek the opinions of different stakeholders — not just the marketing team — to gain diverse perspectives that better inform the campaign. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

2. Considering who you’re helping, and why
Marketing campaigns have to be about your customer and how you’re going to relieve their pain points. Marketing is no longer about what we do as businesses. Don’t overlook who you are helping, and why. – Tiffany Wallace, Dagen Personnel, LLC

3. Developing a comprehensive buyer persona
Develop a comprehensive customer avatar — aka a buyer persona — to develop marketing that truly connects. A customer avatar humanizes your ideal buyer by going far beyond demographics and including psychographic traits, such as values, goals, lifestyle, pain points and so on. By aiming for one customer, you can successfully reach many more. Be sure to build your customer avatar using research and data. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

4. Collecting a range of customer testimonials
Businesses often overlook consumer testimonials. They are the authentic voice of users of your product or service. Testimonials bring a user experience to life. They are more reliable and trusted than a company bragging and give the potential buyer insight from a variety of “real-life” perspectives. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

5. Developing a clear and concise message
Before launching any marketing campaign, it’s important to take the time to develop a clear and concise message. Every aspect of the campaign, from the tagline to the visuals, should work together to reinforce the central message. By developing a strong message up front, businesses can increase their chances of success and avoid wasted effort. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

6. Conversing with potential customers
When creating marketing campaigns, many businesses overlook the conversations with potential customers that need to happen throughout the development cycle. Create a feedback loop: Take your offering early and often to customers for input. When you learn your market’s pain points and needs during development, your offering — and therefore your marketing campaign — will resonate with your customers. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

7. Establishing a brand narrative
Establish a brand narrative and ask the basic questions about why you exist, why people should care and what problem you solve. Companies should be able to easily answer why they should be trusted by their customers, industry, investors and their own employees. This allows them to cut through the clutter and approach their goals with a full package of products and purposes. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

8. Maintaining ‘always-on’ content marketing
The “always-on” campaign of great content marketing makes every one-time campaign more effective. If people already associate your brand with a solution to their problem(s), it makes a campaign focused on a specific product or service feel less like marketing and more like another way to engage with a trusted thought partner. – Andrea Fryrear, AgileSherpas

9. Understanding the customer’s journey
Experience mapping is a critical step in building an effective marketing campaign that’s often overlooked. Work to understand the customer’s journey by watching their behavior, listening to their stories and learning from their data. By putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, you gain vital insight into the moments that matter most in their relationship with your brand. – Ethan Whitehill, Crux KC

10. Planning fresh, modern sales materials
Marketing collateral is often overlooked. These assets are ideal for increasing brand awareness and providing information about your products or services. In our marketing plan, we plan out sales materials with fresh stats, stories and a modern design. This helps us stay ahead of the competition and generate more leads using sales collateral. We know that it’s a critical component of business growth and sales success. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

11. Building a strong email list to nurture leads
Something that’s often overlooked is building a strong email list — every single time. I have spoken to an immeasurable number of prospects over the years who, when asked about the size of their email list, just stare back blankly. Building and using an email list will enable you to nurture your leads and convert them along the way. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. Sending direct mail to engaged leads
Direct mail is effective. To maximize its value, mail to engaged leads, not all leads. Engaged leads interact with emails, talk to sales or make multiple visits to your website. Direct mail is effective because we get less mail than email, so it stands out more. Mail also has a longer “shelf life.” Studies show recipients keep direct mail for 17 days on average — and that helps you win. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

13. Packaging compelling case studies/success stories
While customer testimonials can provide highly effective validation and social proof, I feel the most persuasive element of a product launch is the packaging of compelling case studies/success stories. Outlining the use case and the resulting impact of your product or service on a business (or consumer) leaves little room for skepticism. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

14. Conducting in-depth customer research
Customer research is by far one of the most overlooked steps in building a marketing campaign, which often results in a significant gap between what your team puts forth and what the customer actually wants. Its importance is reflected in the effort required to motivate your customers to buy the product. Validate your roadmap constantly with your target customer profile to ensure alignment. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

15. Being a thought leader in your space
Being a thought leader in your space is a critical component of extending your brand. A consistent showing in written form, where you are fueling discussions and adding to the perspective of leaders, is a powerful way to keep you in front of large audiences. Make sure what you offer is quickly absorbable, easily identifiable, clearly written and compelling, such that the audience wants to read more. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

16. Ensuring outstanding customer service
A great marketing campaign can effectively target your consumer audience, but the key to it all is successfully converting them to a consumer and then fulfilling the product order in a timely manner. Once a customer receives the product, ensure it exceeds their expectations, with the goal of them becoming a lifetime customer and brand ambassador who attracts other customers to your brand through word of mouth. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

11 ways business leaders in large markets can address staffing challenges

Finding new talent in a tight workers’ market is a challenge for any company. But when you’re a business leader in a large market, addressing staffing challenges during a labor shortage requires thinking outside of the box. In the current economy, filling a post takes more than an ad in the paper or posts on online job sites.

The Business Journals

Whereas it used to be up to job seekers to convince companies they were a good choice, today, a business leader has to convince job seekers that their company is a great place to work. Even then, it may be necessary to do some creative thinking to fill any gaps until you’re fully staffed. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some ways business leaders in large markets can address staffing challenges.

1. Start conversations on social media.
Sharing culture consistently, especially on LinkedIn, is one way we’ve helped clients (from regional players to multinationals) capture job seekers’ attention. There is a lot of competition for talent right now; showcasing current leaders’ and employees’ perspectives is key to winning the best hires. An employee engagement initiative on social (with a specific hashtag) to let colleagues share how much they love working at your company can also help — if it’s executed sincerely and isn’t just lip service. The more you stay involved and relevant in conversations that matter to your target employees, the easier recruitment will become. – Jen Vargas, JVComms

2. Upskill or cross-train your existing employees.
Being in a large market with a labor shortage can present new challenges to business leaders, as finding and hiring new talent becomes more challenging. A common way to address staffing challenges is to upskill and/or cross-train your existing employees to bridge your organization’s gaps. Another option would be to hire people who may not match the existing skill requirements but are willing to learn. I always tell my team to hire people for attitude, not just for skills. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

3. Engage with the talent pool before you need to hire.
Just as with any “sales” pitch, engaging with your community of potential talent before you need to hire is key. What value can you offer the people who have the skills you will need in the future? Whether it’s a simple “How to prepare to get hired at MyCo” page on your website with a Q&A feature or the sponsorship of an event that the community attends, there are a thousand ways of engaging with potential employees before you have an open position. Regardless of how simple it is, having a “future employee” strategy — in the same vein as your sales strategy — will ensure that you’re way ahead of your competition. – Daniel Sweet, Sweetview Partners, Inc.

4. Evaluate the person first and the CV second.
Meet people where they are. Our climate today calls for us to be creative and actively meet the needs that today’s employees are looking for. Lead by valuing a candidate first and their CV second. This could include company-led networking opportunities where the goal is to expand beyond what’s on paper and learn who people are or what they can bring to the table. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

5. Consider broadening your talent pool through a remote work strategy.
Be broad in your definition of where work happens. Not only is that advocacy for a work-from-home strategy (if it makes sense for your in-person employees), but it’s also a call to consider what work can be done in another country. Another call to action is to spend resources automating work where possible to diminish some of your human capital needs. Lastly, develop a pipeline of junior talent, and grow it aggressively. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

6. Write ads from a behavioral viewpoint.
We write our ads from a behavioral viewpoint. Rather than talk about tasks and duties, we focus on attitude, learning opportunities, culture and purpose. We can teach the necessary skills to the right person, but skills won’t make up for a good personality fit. – John Dini, MPN Inc.

7. Make hiring a promotional focal point.
Make hiring great talent a focal point in the things that you’re doing to promote yourself, whether it’s through podcasts, LinkedIn posts or something on your website. Also, make it a point to emphasize that this focus is demand-driven and a positive for your business, rather than coming from a place of scarcity. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

8. Ask your team to record testimonials.
Candidates crave authenticity; they don’t want a curated marketing spiel. Encourage your employees to share their stories in their own words, as this will resonate much more with candidates. For example, ask your team to record short testimonial videos to discuss their work experiences rather than creating highly edited productions. Candidates want something that depicts real life. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

9. Connect with local media outlets.
I believe traditional marketing, particularly PR, can be highly effective at generating awareness and credibility in the marketplace. Connecting with local media outlets — particularly those read by the target audience (potential hires) — to tell your story is the ultimate validation. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

10. Engage consultants or temporary workers.
Staffing shortages pose an opportunity to engage a talented consultative or temporary worker who may not be wanting a full-time job due to a personal preference for flexibility. Tapping into this option can be a win-win for both the business and the professional. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

11. Always be hiring.
The easiest way to ensure that you have a pool of people available to you at any point is to always have opportunities available for people to apply to. This can help you sidestep a tough labor shortage, as you’ll already have engagement with key people in the market. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

10 ways to support employees’ physical and mental health (beyond offering insurance)

Healthy, happy employees make for a successful business. While many business owners choose to provide their employees with health insurance, some don’t have the means to do so, but still want to do all they can to support their team’s physical and mental well-being. And some companies that do provide insurance are looking for additional ways to support employee health.The Business Journals

Fortunately, there are plenty of creative, budget-friendly ways for a business to support its employees’ physical and mental health. Below, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss various ways for business owners to make health a priority in the workplace.

1. Integrate health support into daily activities.
Leaders need to set an example and integrate priorities that support physical and mental health into daily activities. Don’t just tell employees how it can be done; invite others to participate. And request ongoing feedback to optimize the process. It’s also important to build in “scaffolding” to support it (for example, meeting-free zones, not sending emails after hours and so on). – Dan Webber, Edelman

2. Set up ways for the team to connect socially.
Make sure to support all employees and build a personal connection. Encouraging a work-life balance is important, but also remember that employees need a social connection to the company and their colleagues. Social activities ensure a sense of community and connection and make it fun to associate with your work colleagues, which is just as important as standard company health insurance benefits. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Lead with compassion.
Compassion is the key. It builds trust and a bond between the business and employees. Businesses should strive to create an environment that cultivates a compassionate work culture and ethics. Building employees’ confidence in their employer, so they know they can depend on the business in an hour of need, is worth more in supporting physical and mental health than contributing to insurance. – Seshagiri Vaidyula, Templar Shield Inc.

4. Encourage healthy workplace habits.
It’s not always about the money or workplace benefits. You can support your team’s mental health simply by encouraging healthy workplace habits. Make sure your team members don’t work overtime and weekends on a regular basis. Have them take breaks, introduce some kind of “happy hour” in the office and celebrate together so that you build genuine relationships, not just “do the work.” – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

5. Be open and flexible.
Everyone is going to have a doctor’s appointment, the need for a mental health day and so on. Encourage your team to put anything that can be planned in advance in the calendar as soon as possible so that adjustments can be made if necessary. For things that pop up, find alternatives and reprioritize. And keep an eye on each person’s workload, doing what you can to minimize overloading anyone. – Rebecca Thorburn, Visible Impact

6. Create a ‘burnout-free’ environment.
Most importantly, we try to create an environment where people don’t work too hard and get burned out. If we sense someone is working too hard, we encourage them to take a break. We offer ample vacation and sick time, and we ensure our team uses it! Time off is important. We’ve found that having a safe, accepting and inviting physical office is important for both physical and mental health. – Andrew Bird, CFP®, RICP®, CLU®, Mosaic Financial Group – Northwestern Mutual

7. Learn what motivates each of your employees.
There are several human resource tools out there that can help an employer learn what motivates an individual employee. If you are a small business, learn the key triggers that your people consider important. Acknowledging and using those triggers will add to work and personal satisfaction. – Corine Prieto, VIDL Network

8. Partner with health and fitness providers.
There are several ways for employers to support their employees’ physical and mental health. For example, partner with health and fitness providers to offer access to online training programs, or conduct physical training boot camps at regular cadences. Setting your employees up with Apple Fitness+ is one good option for their and their families’ well-being. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

9. Offer ‘wellness bucks’ for health-related expenses.
“Wellness bucks” are a good idea! Offer each employee a set amount of money to pay for health and wellness expenses — maybe a new bike, yoga classes or a gym membership. The important thing is to support their interpretation of what they need, not fund what you think they need. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

10. Provide the time and space for your team to meet their needs.
A business can support its employees’ physical and mental health by providing space for the employee to do what’s best for them, recognizing that each employee has different needs. Simple things such as setting schedules in advance can help hourly workers plan for their needs in a less stressful, more meaningful way, which dramatically improves mental health. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

7 creative ways a small company can up its social media game

An accessible marketing tool for businesses of any size, social media can really help a business connect with the public and grow its customer base when it’s utilized properly. And with some careful thought and planning, social media is an outreach method where “outside the box” creativity can definitely be rewarded.

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To reap all of the benefits that social media marketing has to offer, you can’t simply create profiles on the various networks and expect some magic to happen. You have to consider the unique niche a particular site fills in the social media space and create content that specifically speaks to and engages its users. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some creative ways small companies can improve their social media game.

1. Focus on authenticity and consistency.
Develop a social media strategy that focuses on authenticity and consistency. As a small company, you may not have the resources to invest in a social media team that can really drive a strategy. Utilize curated content from customers and team members to help with content development while showcasing unique perspectives on your products or services. – Lerah Harris, Kforce, Inc.

2. Show your audience more than just your ‘business’ side.
People have to feel like they are getting to know you. Show them other things besides just the business. Maybe it is a group volunteering somewhere or going out to eat at their favorite restaurant close by (remember to tag the restaurant). – Christy Berry, Compass

3. Create a distinctive feature in your store as a backdrop for customer selfies.
A favorite strategy of mine is one that many of my customers who own coffee cafés leverage. Have a mural wall for people to take pictures in front of and post on social media. It is a free advertisement for the café, and, if done correctly, it can draw a crowd to the location. – Michael Bacile, The Daily Java

4. Respond to comments and reviews.
Whether they’re selling a product, service or experience, strong brands on social media are strong community managers that are responsive to comments and reviews and are proactive at capturing their brand in action. By making your customer the hero of your brand story, you can capture the essence of your brand in a way traditional advertising never could. – Ethan Whitehill, Crux KC

5. Hold a sweepstakes or giveaway.
A sweepstakes or giveaway is a tried-and-true method for promoting engagement and capturing customer information. Ensure you promote your winner at the end to show full transparency and encourage further engagement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Create and share eye-catching videos.
Creative videos that stand out and connect with audiences will increase social media engagement and success. Creating eye-catching videos may be easier and more affordable than many small-business owners realize. User-friendly video creation tools are available through various platforms, third-party apps and video specialists for hire, making it possible to tell compelling stories within wide-ranging budgets. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

7. Share information, not a sales pitch.
Create a presence on places like LinkedIn — but not with a sales focus. You can become an information source with brief, hard-hitting posts that provide something. Help others understand a complex process or the nuances of a particular industry or resource they may not otherwise be aware of. Giving away knowledge eventually pays off if you’re strategic and genuine about helping others. – Chip Laingen, Defense Alliance

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.

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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.

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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