COSE Day at the Capitol: Advocacy, action and pecan pie

On May 24, small businesses had the unique opportunity to meet in-person with policymakers in Columbus to share challenges and to discuss how we can work together to enhance Ohio’s small business climate.

Nearly 20 COSE members traveled to Columbus for a day of advocacy, education and camaraderie on Tuesday, May 24. COSE Day at the Capitol brought together restaurant owners and manufacturers, HR professionals and arts activists, music industry representatives, IT company owners, organic soap makers and others to meet with policymakers to share challenges and discuss ways to advance Ohio’s small business climate. The event included a tour of the Ohio Statehouse, led by Greater Cleveland Partnership’s own Director of Government Advocacy, Terry Donelon, and the opportunity to sit in on a legislative committee hearing. COSE members who arrived Monday night enjoyed a networking reception at a locally-owned barbecue joint, Pecan Penny’s, complete with hush puppies and pecan pie.

“Giving small businesses access and the opportunity to speak directly with elected officials about issues that directly impact them, their businesses, and their employees is invaluable,” said Megan Kim, COSE’s Executive Director. “Historically, these connections and conversations have led to policy changes that have benefitted small businesses.”

The day-long conference held in the historic Westin Great Southern Columbus, included a breakfast with public officials and discussions with State Representative Dan Troy, Chair of the House Democratic Caucus; Eric Kearney, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce; State Representative Jon Cross, author of the GROW Act and a lunchtime conversation with Lydia Mihalik, Director of the Ohio Department of Development. The sessions concluded with a panel on Ohio politics and elections. COSE Day was also attended by Baiju Shah, President & CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Before the sessions started, COSE named four recipients of the 2022 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award:

· State Senator Michael A. Rulli

· State Representative Dontavius L. Jarrells

· State Representative Daniel P. Troy

· State Representative Andrea White

The award honors elected officials and those who sponsor, endorse, support, draft legislation or lead initiatives on behalf of small businesses throughout Ohio.

Between sessions, COSE members and legislators had a chance to step into the “Green Room” for video interviews focusing on the impact COSE has on small businesses and making advocacy more accessible. Members shared their thoughts on workforce issues, post-COVID challenges and other concerns, and how COSE and legislators can assist with growth. Legislators emphasized the importance of business owners speaking up and making them aware of pressing issues, and outlined some of their plans for dealing with labor, transportation and other pressing issues.

“Business growth doesn’t just happen in the office or the board room, it happens in the law too,” says Cheryl Perez, COSE board executive committee member, Greater Cleveland Partnership board member and founder and president of BIG-HR. “That’s why having advocates who can speak on your behalf with our lawmakers is so important. Small business is the bulk of our state’s and nation’s economy and we have a voice that deserves to be heard, and advocacy ensures that it is heard loud and clear!”

Both members and government representatives commended COSE’s role in breaking down barriers between the two and making advocacy accessible.

Several members shared advocacy success stories they achieved with the help of COSE and Greater Cleveland Partnership, including removing unduly restrictive rules on small organic businesses and even changing legislation regarding pedal bike tours.

Look for more on these stories and the most pressing issues facing small businesses — and what can be done about them — in our upcoming COSE Day at the Capitol video recaps.

 

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  • Next up: COSE is turning 50, and you’re invited: Celebrating a half-century of grit, passion and advocacy – and you

    COSE is turning 50, and you’re invited: Celebrating a half-century of grit, passion and advocacy – and you

    COSE has accomplished a lot over a half-century. Join us July 28 as we celebrate these accomplishments and look toward the next 50 years.

     

    It all started with a 1970 trucker strike – and a group of determined business owners.

    Today, COSE is one of the United States’ largest and most active business expert organizations, providing cost-saving benefits, advocacy and education to 12,000 members. But in the early ‘70s, it was a grassroots response to a grave threat. A strike of 10,000 Ohio truck drivers paralyzed small businesses across the state, forcing many into bankruptcy. Cleveland manufacturing executive Edward H. Richard banded together 200 small business owners to apply pressure on political leaders to resolve the strike. Their “March on City Hall” put the spotlight on the need for a strong, unified voice for small businesses. 

    At the time, Richard also launched the Industrial Action Group. It fizzled after the strike, but interest in a small business coalition was growing. In 1972, businessman Bill Jones was appointed to oversee a committee to attract small businesses to the Growth Association. Instead, he created a small business owner board within the Growth Association. This board became known as the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). 

    The organization began offering educational seminars, networking events and advisors for members. As the number of opportunities grew, more small business owners saw the value of becoming a COSE member.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Over the last 50 years, COSE has offered the power of unity, cost-saving benefits, educational seminars and advocacy to its members. But COSE is not slowing down at the half-century mark. We’re using the milestone as an occasion to celebrate both the past and the possibilities of the future. Now, more than ever, small business advocacy and unity is integral to growth and success. As we have for 50 years, we’ve got your back – and we’re moving forward together.

    That’s a reason to celebrate. Join us Thursday, July 28 for COSE’s 50th birthday party, at the storied Public Auditorium. This celebration isn’t just about COSE, it is about all of you – those who partner with us, those who give their time to support other entrepreneurs, those who inspire us, and those who drive us to keep working harder and harder to ensure small business success.

    Our celebration will include a panel with special guests discussing how important small businesses are in driving the economy locally, state-wide and nationally. We will recognize individuals and organizations that have had a lasting and memorable impact on COSE and in the small business community. Then, it is time to party! We will have food, drinks, music, interactive engagements and more – all supplied by small businesses, of course – and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones.

    Click here to register and for more information. And click here to meet some of COSE’s ground-breaking, ceiling-smashing entrepreneurs in our ongoing video series.

     
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  • Next up: COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    We asked some of our COSE members what resources they turn to while running their small businesses. Podcasts, books, websites, YouTube channels... check out their suggestions!

     

    From books to websites to podcasts, we asked some COSE members to tell us what resources they find valuable as they work day-to-day running their small businesses—including any they have personally written or produced. Check out their suggestions and consider adding some to your list.

    Margaret Cassidy, Esq., Principal, Cassidy Law

    A book I co-authored and co-edited, although titled Lawyer’s Corporate Social Responsibility Deskbook: Practical Guidance for Corporate Counsel and Law Firms, is a great tool for small and large businesses looking to design a social responsibility program or to simply take a more socially responsible approach to how they conduct business. It covers everything from cyber security to supply chain and includes checklists, case studies and other practice resources for your business.

    Tim Dimoff, CPP, President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc.

    I wrote a book The You in Business, which is for anyone who manages or owns a small business. Filled with real-life, in-the-trenches stories, it offers insight into the fundamentals of building a business from the ground up. Readers will also learn how to develop long-lasting customer relationships to grow their business and place it on the fast track to success. www.timothydimoff.com 

    Alex Gertsburg, Esq., CEO, The Gertsburg Law Firm

    One of the best books on starting a business is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, about the first 20 years of Nike.  The best personal development book I’ve ever read, and the one I “gift” the most, is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. The book I’m reading right now (one principle per day upon waking) is Principles by Ray Dalio. All three books should be required reading in any business course. They are amazing and provide enduring lessons for life and business, written in very readable ways by masters in both life and business.

    Janet Gosche, Business Advisor and Integrator

    In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish describes John D. Rockefeller's underlying strategy and adds his own suggested three winning habits: 1) Set priorities, 2) Measure key metrics, 3) Get a rhythm of well-organized meetings to keep everyone aligned and accountable. He also provides a tool to document your plan, called The One-Page-Plan. His website, gazelles.com, allows free downloads of the tools.

    jimcollins.com is a website from the author we love, including Good to Great. This site is filled with his articles, tools, and many other resources. It is easy to navigate and find all sorts of inspiring and helpful materials.

    Leadership Unlocked, Unleash the Power of Your Body for Impact and Fulfillment is written by a new local author, Yan Maschke, who shares leadership stories, lessons learned, and leadership practices in this easily digestible short read and quick reference guide.

    Erin Longmoon, CEO, Zephyr Recruiting

    Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz, will turn your accounting on its head and make your business profitable, sustainable, financially heathy, and resilient! Daring Greatly, or anything by Brené Brown... this book will transform your courage, leadership, and mission. Smart Strategy for CPA’s podcast by Geraldine Carter... I am not a CPA, nor in the accounting space at all, and this podcast is brilliant and has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and solving my business challenges. The Dames, is an online (or some in-person chapters) networking group for female entrepreneurs who make 6+ figures, and who want to be surrounded by women business owners who mean business! LinkedIn with Louise, is a helpful podcast about everything LinkedIn.

    Cheryl Perez, President and CEO, BIG HR

    I have a complete library on my YouTube channel. Here you can find all the tips and tools you need from A-Z to start-up, step-up and level-up your business every week with How To-Tuesdays! My focus is inspiring entrepreneurs to develop and create the processes and systems to grow and scale their for-profit or non-profit organizations. My approach focuses on the structure, strategies, tools, and resources that can help you take your business to the next level and grow. 

    Harriet L. Russell, CEO, Cross-Cultural Strategist, Business Ease Overseas

    Do you have a local multicultural team and want to work better together? Do you travel internationally? Do you have global virtual connections? I authored Doing Business with Ease Overseas: Building Cross-Cultural Relationships That Last. In this resource, you get specific tools and tips to increase your intercultural competence and move through difficult issues with ease. The rich content is complemented with real life story examples, training questionnaires, and takeaway chapter summaries. It can be found on Amazon, but if you want a signed copy, my contact info is at www.HarrietRussell.com. Also, download there "How to Speak English to Non-Native Speakers."


    Do you have a business resource to share? Contact us—we’d love to hear about it!

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  • Next up: How to create an impression that LASTS

    How to create an impression that LASTS

    If you're in the business of selling, and we all are, making a good impression is not enough. The key is to make an impression that LASTS (read on to find out what this stands for).

    How well does your team create an impression that LASTS with every customer or prospect they come into contact with? During the last few years, you may have employees that have gotten a little rusty when it comes to working with customers, or you may have brand new employees who may not understand yet how important it is to create an impression that LASTS.  

    We all rush to deliver what we perceive it “good or exceptional customer service.” However, unless these traits are present, we won’t do a very good job of creating this impression and exceeding our customer's expectations.

    Maybe all they need is to get a "reset" when it comes to delivering that experience. It could be as simple as creating the impression that LASTS

    LASTS – is an acronym I created, and it stands for:

    L- How you LOOK- Your body language, appearance, dress code. The first thing most people see is your non-verbal cues. If you don’t look like you care about wanting to be there and help them, why should they care to purchase something from you? This also applies to your online presence. How your email correspondences look is an important part of the brand message you are trying to create. Misspelled words, poor grammar and sentence structure all play a role in how you LOOK online.

    >> RELATED: Do you have a WOW budget?

    A- How you ACT- They say that actions speak louder than words. If this is the case, how do you “show up” in front of a customer or prospect? Do your actions tell them that you are there to listen, care about them and help them solve their challenge? Are your actions focused on being proactive versus being reactive? The difference is that the former focuses on actions that anticipate the needs of your customers. These are actions that are benefitting your customers, like contacting them before the delivery of the product or service that they bought from you to assure them it is on its way. The opposite action, reactive, means that you could be apologizing for not taking care of them, for not following up with them, and now they are stressed and frustrated. 

    S- How you SPEAK- What words do you use when working with people? And how do you use them? Is your tone condescending or aggressive? Do you use words that are known in your industry, but they only confuse the other person? Or do you speak with confidence and does your tone reflect respect and empathy toward your customers? This also has the same effect when you correspond via email or on one of your social media channels with them.  

    T- What your TACT is- Tact is defined as a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense – your skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. How do your people handle some of the typical “company stuff?” Gossip, cliques, tantrums, aggressive behavior? Do they practice tact when it comes to serving their internal customers before they can even start serving the external ones?

    >> RELATED: Read more by Bob Pacanovsky

    S- How you SERVE- This takes on two meanings. The obvious one is the service that your people give to the customers. The not so obvious one is using the word “serve” as it applies to leadership. Is everyone on your team a “Selfless Leader?” Meaning…do they put others and their needs in front of themselves? And are they willing to let others on their team take the credit for success, and they put their ego aside because it really will help the team? 

    The challenge today in business is that we rush to the “serve” part of this acronym, as everyone wants to create a top-notch customer service experience. Here is the disconnect, however, and there is a reason why the word “serve” is at the end of this acronym.  

    I believe that if we are striving to create that top-notch customer service experience, we must first be able to LOOK the part, ACT the part and SPEAK the part before we can ever SERVE the part. 

    Easy to remember, right? Absolutely. 
    Easy to implement? Absolutely… as long as everyone understands how important these five traits are to creating a wow experience and an impression that LASTS.


    Bob Pacanovsky is a Keynote Speaker and Trainer, and he works with companies and organizations that look to achieve the highest levels of Hospitality and Service Excellence to attract and retain more customers and employees. His programs are customized to meet the needs of his customers and he strives to always look for ways to deliver a Black Tie Experience. He can be reached at Bob@BobPacanovsky.com.


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  • Next up: Developing a marketing plan for small business

    Developing a marketing plan for small business

    Developing a marketing plan is a strategic, forward-looking exercise that will assist in determining a business' product development, market development, channel design, sales promotions and ultimately impact profitability. It helps avoid future uncertainties and defines objectives.

    Marketing Plans are important tools for both new businesses and existing businesses with growth initiatives. Plans can be at the organizational or business-unit level. Optimally the plan will identify target customers, set up marketing objectives, and identify a timeline of activities necessary to reach objectives. It is a forward-looking exercise that helps management identify strategies for the organization relative to product development, market development, channel design, sales promotions and, ultimately, profitability. By defining a marketing plan, it reduces the risk of future uncertainties and sets marketing objectives. The plan objectives should support the overall business objectives.  

    As with any business plan, the marketing plan should have an Executive Summary Section that provides an overview of plan contents. The detailed portion of the plan should include sections and information on the following.

    Products/Services: Provide information on the product/service that is being offered. Explain product/service details such as its characteristics, benefits to consumers, and competitive advantages that will prompt consumers to buy it over existing similar offerings. For existing business with expansion plans, identify how they fit into existing business products or expand the business to new markets.  

    Target Customers: Provide details on who is the ideal customer to buy the product/service. A source of information for this may be from the U.S. Census Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce and/or the local Small Business Development Center. Include information on potential for future market expansion either with other new and related products that may attract new customers or by geographic expansion of the market.  

    Unique Selling Proposition & Competitive Analysis:  The unique selling proposition is the message you want the target audience to receive, including your competitive advantage over existing suppliers of similar or substitute products. Provide information on customer pain points you are addressing and how your product/service is differentiated. For each customer target market there should be a unique set of selling propositions.  

    >> RELATED: How to choose the most effective digital marketing tactics

    The second portion of this section related to Competitive Analysis should include an analysis of competitors, both direct and indirect. In performing the analysis, compare not only the product/service but also pricing, quality, advertising, management, location, customer service, marketing, reputation, and image.

    Provide information on where your product/service fits within the industry.

    Pricing Scheme & Sales Volume Potential: This is basically a pricing analysis. Determine the cost of the product/service, profit margin, and break-even point. Once the price for the product/service is set, provide comparative information on both direct and indirect substitute products/services. If there are multiple products/services, there can be different profit margins and rationale for this should be included.

    Sales volume potential can be determined by data obtained from the local city/county, Small Business Development Center, or industry trade associations. Once the sales volume and price are determined, the estimated total sales should be compared to total expenses.

    Location Analysis: Step one is to determine if you will be utilizing a physical brick and mortar location or selling online. You may also consider a combination of these depending on the product/service being offered. If your primary location will be physical consider the following:  parking, public transportation, proximity to competitors, zoning issues, potential for expansion, visibility to customers, and electric capacity. If you are considering online selling, consider the following: optimal host location, software requirements, internet speed and accessibility and need for developers and ongoing technology maintenance and management.

    Marketing Strategy: The strategy should be specific to the customer segments and their communication styles. This will help define the marketing channels you will use to communicate, reach, and retain customer loyalty. Considerations may include but are not limited to: emails, blogs, chat rooms, websites, emails, advertising, etc. Considerations for packaging, product distribution, marketing materials and customer service capabilities should be detailed.

    Partnerships: This relates to the business forming partnerships with other organizations and businesses to help reach new customers. This “pairing” of products to customers will benefit both partners in the relationship.

    Retention Strategy: Provide information on how the business plans to retain the customer base. In essence this is a plan to build customer loyalty.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Cleveland SCORE

    Financial Projections & Goal Setting: This will be a detailed analysis of the costs related to marketing your product/service to the target audience. It should include categories such as, but not limited to: technology expense, mailing, internet monthly fees, licenses, development costs, ongoing technology maintenance and management costs, printing costs for brochures, trade show fees, etc. These are reasonable estimates and will never be 100% accurate. They do represent the best estimations at the time the plan is developed. Recognize, however, they play an important role in identifying which promotional strategies may result in the highest return on investment.  

    Marketing goals should be set to evaluate the effectiveness of the marketing strategy over time. These goals should support the overall business goals of your organization. They should be measurable, specific, and realistic. Some common goals would be categories such as but not limited to: sales dollars, units sold, market share, product mix, return on advertising investment, brand awareness, number of new accounts and customers, share of customers business, and sales conversion rates. The optimal targets for goals should have some stretch but be reasonable in providing a measure of success.  

    When undertaking the development of a marketing plan, small business may need outside expertise and support offered by a SCORE mentor. Mentors with a wide range of technical and user experience are available upon request.

    The Cleveland Chapter of SCORE was founded in 1965 to foster and support the small business community in Northeast Ohio through mentoring and education. There are currently 80 volunteers with experience in the fields of business ownership, managers, accountants, attorneys, and other business fields that are ready to share their knowledge through mentoring.  

    For more information about our services for small business visit the website at www.cleveland.SCORE.org or call (216) 503-8160. In addition to mentoring services, there are also webinars available. Registration for these is found on our website.

    The following are upcoming events in April:

    Behind the Lending Curtain Series 2 -  April 19, 7 PM
    New Product Development Series 3:  How to Commercialize It -  April 20, 12 PM
    Financial Series 2:  Organizing Your Financial Data - April 21, 7 PM
    Behind the Lending Curtain Series 3 - April 26, 7 PM
    Financial Series 3:  Practicing Making Financial Decisions - April 28, 7 PM

    *Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

     
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  • Next up: Do you have a WOW budget? Impress your customers with these 8 tips

    Do you have a WOW budget? Impress your customers with these 8 tips

    Setting aside a portion of your budget to go above and beyond for customers can really have them saying "WOW!" It can also go a long way toward customer loyalty and the success of your small business.

    What if you could create a lasting impression on your customers without breaking the bank?

    I believe it’s the little things we do today for our customers that have the opportunity to make the biggest impact. Remember, it’s about creating the entire experience and not just selling your product or services today. 

    So, do you have a WOW budget for your clients? What’s a WOW budget? My definition of the word WOW is: random and unexpected. It should make you say or think, “WOW!”

    A WOW budget is a portion of your customer experience (or maybe marketing/promotion) budget set aside to empower your staff to “go above and beyond” for a customer. Just think what an impact it could have on your business if you spent a little money from time to time so that your customers will say (to themselves, or others), “WOW! I can’t believe they just did that for me!”

    Here are some tips to consider when you’re putting together your WOW budget:

    WOW budget tip no. 1: It does not need to cost a lot of money. Most of the time, it’s the heartfelt things you do for them that end up meaning more than something expensive. 

    WOW budget tip no. 2: It needs to be personal. This should be something that you found out about them, or something that may have significance to them. 

    WOW budget tip no.3: Don't mistake this idea for “delighting” your customers. We should always strive to delight them. But we should "WOW" them on a random and unexpected basis.   

    WOW budget tip no. 4: Because it is random, you get to choose the time and place. There is something to be said about the element of surprise. 

    WOW budget tip no. 5: Listen to them to find out what is important to them. Ask them, "What is your favorite (fill in the blank)?” The word “favorite” elicits an immediate response when asked. Capture those answers to help craft and create the entire customer experience.

    WOW budget tip no. 6: It’s an additional thing you do for them. It’s not something you have promised them, or something that they are already expecting. 

    WOW budget tip no. 7: You get to pick who it's used on. Your WOW budget can be for a loyal client, one that you are trying to move to become a loyal client or one that is a brand new client that you would like to develop a stronger relationship with. 

    WOW budget tip no. 8: When you WOW a customer, it can have a domino effect. You see, people LOVE to tell others the wonderful things that have just happened to them. Your customers are on the receiving end of this WOW and now have the opportunity to become storytellers for your brand. They will typically share their story with others in many ways, especially on social media.  

    For example, I still tell the story (three years later) of the time that I had the knock on the door of the hotel room that I was staying at while I was speaking at a conference in that city. The manager and a member of the hotel staff were there with a beautiful tray that had two homemade cookies, some chocolates and a glass of milk on it. This was around 3 p.m. and they were intentional with that timeframe as well. 

    That was a WOW moment for me. But, there was an added WOW that went along with it -- it was the glass of milk. You see, I have a lactose allergy, and the milk was lactose free! How did they know this? The meeting planner, my client, casually asked me one day during a conversation we were having. But here was the key, she remembered it and acted upon it.    

    This entire surprise probably cost them $2-3 dollars, but it made a very big impact on me…one that I still talk about three years later.  

    What about for your company? As you plan your budget for this year and next, make sure to add some money for a WOW budget and empower your staff to use it. Then you can sit back and wait for the stories to pop up of people shouting your company's praises.

    Bob Pacanovsky is a keynote speaker and trainer, and he works with companies and organizations that look to achieve the highest levels of Hospitality and Service Excellence to attract and retain more customers and employees. His programs are customized to meet the needs of his customers and he strives to always look for ways to deliver a Black Tie Experience. He can be reached at Bob@BobPacanovsky.com.


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