Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

The COSE Strategic Planning Course offers small business owners invaluable advice on a range of subjects to help them grow their business. We asked some recent graduates of the program what their takeaways from the course were and during the next several weeks, we’ll be relating to you their insights. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, Inc. She talked about the importance of not trying to be a one-person show at your company.

Q: If someone were on the fence about enrolling in the COSE Strategic Planning Course, what would you say to encourage them to enroll in the program? 

Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, Inc.

I would tell them it’s the best money you will ever spend in your life. And the reason why is because a lot of times we, as business owners, have been in business a while but when it comes to the COSE Strategic Planning Course, you realize you know nothing. You don’t know as much as you think you know. I came to this class and was completely overwhelmed, stressed out and pulling my hair out and thinking I can’t make it. After 10 weeks, however, I had a new lease on life. They helped me to revise the way I look at my business.

For instance, one class focused on the topic that you shouldn’t be doing everything like the books, the accounting, the payroll. But that’s what I was doing. And that was too overwhelming. So, the first thing I did was I knew I had to get a bookkeeper. I had to get someone qualified to take over that responsibility because it was one less hat I had to wear.

The second thing I learned is that if you don’t have the right people in the right positions in your company to help you grow, then your business is not going to grow efficiently or effectively. I sought to find someone with experience and a master’s degree. You can’t train someone to be that kind of person overnight—especially as a small business person, you don’t have the resources to train them. But if someone comes in the door with that experience, that training and that knowledge, it’s so much easier for them to hit the ground running. That’s something I learned when I came here. I’m still in my 30s, but I’ve been in my business almost 10 years and I had no knowledge this is the way I needed to run my business. I wanted to be the business owner and work in business development, but how can I do that if I’m in the office 80 hours a week? By the time I’m finished doing all that, I’m exhausted.

Also, the mentors and the speakers they brought in are just unbelievable. If you attended all of those talks separately, you would easily spend more than what the course itself costs. In addition, once you go through the course, you become part of a family for life. It’s just like a sorority or a fraternity. Once you join, you’re there forever. You can always come back and sit in on a class to get more education. It’s amazing.

Anyone who is on the fence about signing up, I would tell them that you need to invest in yourself. If you want to be successful, you have to invest in yourself and your business and it will be worth it because you will achieve what you want to achieve.

Learn more about how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can help your business grow.

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  • Next up: Lesson Learned: Personality Assessments Help Identify Top New Hires
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  • Lesson Learned: Personality Assessments Help Identify Top New Hires

    A recent graduate of the COSE Strategic Planning Course explains why she is now a believer in adding personality assessments to the hiring process at her business.

    We asked some recent graduates of the COSE Strategic Planning Course about their takeaways from the course. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, who talked about how personality tests can help your business focus in on making the right hire.

    RELATED: Learn how COSE’s Strategic Planning Course can help your business grow

    What’s one thing you learned during the COSE Strategic Planning Course that you plan to implement at your business?

    Maia Ballard, RWJ Wiring

    I think one of the better classes was the one that dealt with doing personality assessments on both yourself and your potential hires. It helps you determine who you are as a person; you think you are this one certain personality and it turns out you have a different personality.

    RELATED: Personality assessments can help you find and retain top talent

    The personality assessment class is just amazing for you as an owner because it also helps you choose the people you want on your team. You can’t have 10 of the same types of people on your team. You have to mix and match. You need achievers, mediators, etc., and you need to have everyone on board to make the business successful. It was an eye-opening class because while I had heard about educational assessments and intellectual assessments, doing a personality assessment had never come to my mind.

    Had I known about this years ago, it definitely would have changed our whole game. It was one of the best classes and if you’re trying to grow your business, it’s worth making that investment to find out about the personality of the person you’re trying to hire. When you’re hiring people, they will lie, they will try to deceive you, but the truth comes out if you have an independent firm evaluate it. Your hands are off of it entirely and you are not emotionally attached at all. That was one of the best classes I took and I’m glad I did. Next year when they have this class, I am going to audit it when it comes back up because you have to continue to learn and invest in yourself and grow.

    Read more on how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can help your business succeed by checking out the other stories in our “Lesson Learned” series:

    Lesson Learned: Have an Exit Strategy

    Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand On Its Own

    Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

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  • Next up: Let's Get to Know Generation Z
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  • Let's Get to Know Generation Z

    You might not know much about them right now, but in just a couple short years Generation Z is going to be having a significant part of the staffing strategies of businesses everywhere. Take a couple minutes now to understand what comprises this up and coming generation.

    Generation Z is just entering the workforce, but by 2020, will make up 20% of the total workforce. They have different work styles and expectations than generations that came before. While they will likely be compared to millennials, they have distinct personality types. Read on below for what to expect from this up and coming generation.

    Workplace expectations

    In terms of workplace expectations, their expected salary post-graduation is $46,799. As a millennial who entered the workforce less than a decade ago, my initial salary was significantly lower. However, 77% of Generation Z expect to work harder than previous generations, thus earning the salaries they command. Unlike millennials, who job hop frequently, Generation Z plans to work for no more than four companies during their career. They are looking for companies who will invest in them and vice versa. Commitment from both parties is what they are seeking.

    Attitude toward work

    Their attitudes about their careers are also different than prior generations. More than eight out of 10 (82%) say their parents will help to influence their career decisions. They have a great deal of respect for their parents who likely navigated a recession while raising them. This will also provide them with the fortune of getting along well with Generation X managers in the workplace. An additional 30% say they would take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work for a company with a mission they care deeply about. This aligns closely with millennials who are philanthropists at heart and care more about mission than money. They are also eyeing retirement and perhaps entrepreneurship with 50% stating they would like to retire before age 60 but understanding they may need to work longer.

    Working with Gen Z

    Now that we know a little bit about them, how will we work with them? First, they prefer a collaborative work environment in an office setting. They would like to collaborate in small groups and really get to know their coworkers. This is different than millennials who are strong advocates for telework and work/life balance with much work being completed outside of the office and the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Interestingly, when polled Generation Z found it least ideal to be working offsite with a virtual team. The biggest reason for this is that Generation Z prefers face-to-face communication.

    Similar to the war on talent that took place as Millennials entered the workforce, HR departments will need to think through how to manage this new generation to ensure they are recruiting the best and brightest.

    What’s one way to do that? HR departments will need to ensure they are listening and doing their homework to understand the multiple generations in the workplace and their different work styles.

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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  • Next up: Leverage Staffing to Make Your Small Business Known
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  • Leverage Staffing to Make Your Small Business Known

    COSE members discuss how they're leveraging staffing and marketing to make their businesses known.

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  • Next up: Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World
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  • Maintaining Culture and Connection in a Virtual World

    Your company culture and the connections you have with your team does not need to be sacrificed for the sake of remote working. Here are four tips you can implement today to stay engaged and productive.


    Many companies and small businesses are still working in some type of virtual capacity as the global pandemic (hopefully) winds down. Some businesses might even choose to keep some virtual working options even after COVID. 

    Over the last handful of months there have been many articles and webinars about how to transition to this new way of working. 

    What is often missing from the discussion is how to maintain and foster your team connection while working virtually. We, at Zephyr Recruiting, have been virtual for years. So, we are old hats at this, and we want to share some of our favorite ways to foster connection while being virtual. 

    Here are four tips to maintaining culture and connection in a virtual world:

    1. Communicate often. It is easy to take for granted all the ways, big and small, that we communicate with each other while working together in an office. The small ways, especially, get overlooked. When you go virtual, it takes a more conscious effort to keep those small ways alive and well. At Zephyr, we use Slack as an internal communication tool. If you take a look on any given day, you will see that we share random thoughts, jokes, photos, ideas, and simple hellos. All the things you would have shared at the watercooler and lunch room. 

    2. Increase the number of meetings you have but make them short and productive. Instead of having one longer meeting per week with your team, break them up into two meetings, or simply add in some touch points throughout the week.  

    My husband’s company does a quick 10 minute, daily Stand Up meeting, as an example.  At Zephyr, we have a longer All Hands team meeting, and then shorter meetings with specific teams—the sales and marketing team; the recruiting team; the operations team. We also have short one-to-ones between supervisors and their team members. It sounds like a lot, but we are efficient and keep them short. These allow for more opportunities for the team to see each other and connect about business as things evolve during the week. 

    3. Continue to find ways to do social things together. We have the occasional meal together over Zoom. Other ideas are a movie or book club; lunch and learns; or use an app designed to encourage your team members to have “virtual coffee.” One such app is called donut and it works with Slack. It sends a fun conversation prompt and the rule is no talking about work. Trello (a popular project management software company) promotes a cooking challenge among their team members. They pick one ingredient, and everyone uses that in a dish they make, and then shares photos and the recipes with the team, inevitably, conversations ensue about the recipes and cooking. What fun ways can you find to engage your team?  

    As a side note, we have been asked about paying for these types of things and we feel that depends on what works best for you and your company right now. At Zephyr, due to the way we work and pay, this is voluntary, but our whole team is showing up because they want to stay connected. For your team, it might just be something you do during regular work hours. Only you can decide what is best for your organization. But if you do not pay for the time, then it cannot be mandatory. 

    4. Have senior management engage one-on-one with the team members. I, as the CEO of Zephyr, have regular Zoom calls with each of my team members. I want to check in personally and offer a space for them to talk freely about how they are coping with the pandemic and work. This is fostering our connection in a deeper way and I know it is helping us both manage better.  

    The most important thing, no matter what you do, is that you do it. Be intentional, stop for a moment and think about your team, what would they enjoy, ask for their ideas, then write them down and plan for them. Make space and time for socialization and connection. It will go a long way in keeping your team engaged and connected!

    Erin Longmoon is the CEO of Zephyr Recruiting, which she founded in response to her clients’ needs for help in with building effective and successful teams. Zephyr Recruiting serves the small business community—the mom and pop places that are the backbones of our communities and our economy.

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  • Next up: Make Screen Time Easy On Your Eyes
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  • Make Screen Time Easy On Your Eyes


    In today’s digitalized world, extended screen time has become the norm in our everyday lives. The average person spends around eleven hours a day on digital devices*. Whether it’s for work or play, statistics show our day is infused with technology, from the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep. According to The Vision Council’s annual VisionWatch survey, nearly 67 percent of adults say they use two or more devices simultaneously, close to 55 percent report looking at some type of screen in the first hour they’re awake, and nearly 80 percent say they use digital devices in the hour just before going to sleep**. Staring at blue-light-emitting screens all day must have some effect on our bodies, right? When you mix together prolonged usage of smartphones, computers, tablets, TV, and the use of other electronics, it adds up. Blue light is all around us and, although a lot of this technology is beneficial, prolonged usage may impact your visual comfort and leave you experiencing digital eye strain symptoms like eye fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, and dry or watery eyes.

    How can you combat digital eye strain and blue light?

    Avoiding blue light is impossible, but there are several options for helping to combat digital eye strain and reducing your exposure to blue light which include limiting screen time, observing the 20-20-20 rule, using computer glasses, and enhancing your glasses with a blue-light-reducing lens coating. 
    The best digital eye strain treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the symptom which requires proper diagnosis. With regular eye care and proper diagnosis by your eye doctor, your symptoms of eye strain can usually be alleviated. 

    Why is an eye exam important?

    Even if you have 20/20 vision and don’t have an eyewear need it’s important to get your annual eye exam. Our eye health and vision can change over time no matter what life stage you’re in. Having a routine comprehensive eye exam every year is the most important thing you can do to help prevent or treat computer vision problems—along with other eye and health issues. During your exam, talk to your VSP network eye doctor about your lifestyle and how often you’re using a computer and other digital devices. This will provide your doctor with a full picture of your vision needs and help determine which options are best for you. NEED AN EYE EXAM? Find a VSP Premier Program Practice near you and schedule an appointment.

    Depending on your diagnosis, treatment can range from only requiring modifications to your home and work environment like limiting screen time, finding a comfortable viewing distance, changing brightness, contrast levels and font sizes on your computer. 

    In other cases, treatment may consist of providing relief from digital eye strain with non-prescription, ready-made blue light glasses. Shop styles for the whole family on Eyeconic® starting at $69 and get 20% off any pair just for being a member. If you’re needing prescriptive blue light options, you may benefit by enhancing your glasses with a blue-light-reducing lens coating like TechShield® Blue. Your VSP benefit provides a savings of up to 40% on TechShield Anti-Reflective Coatings, including TechShield Blue.***

    *Q1 2018 Nielsen Total Audience report

    **The Vision Council’s VisionWatch July 2018 survey 

    **Savings based on doctor's retail price and vary by plan and purchase selection; average savings determined after benefits are applied. Available only through VSP network doctors to VSP members with applicable plan benefits. Ask your VSP network doctor for details.

    See Well. Be Well.™ Make your eye health and eye care a priority, starting with scheduling a comprehensive eye exam. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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