Helping your employees feel fulfilled keeps your bottom line strong

Employee retention is a small business key to success. Learn how to retain talent in these eight steps.


As a small business, employee turnover is to be avoided as much as possible. The cost of finding and training new employees is expensive and time consuming. It can disrupt your business and your bottom line. 

In order to keep employee turnover to a minimum, there are steps you can take to make sure your employees feel fulfilled and have opportunities to further their career development. 

Check out these eight steps to retaining top talent at your business:

Retention step no. 1: Understand your employees’ roles and goals

Employees normally have specific roles and individual paths to develop as professionals within their departments. If you take time to understand each of their roles and to establish ways to implement effective development, you can help them to feel secure and that they are on a productive path. It is important that both the employee and their managers understand the specific roles and development goals. 

>> RELATED: 3 things to know about retaining talent

Retention step no. 2: Help them identify important skills

Once you understand their career goals, work with your employees to identify the skills they need to develop in their career. Understanding and prioritizing their career development is a good way to show how important they are to you and that you will help them achieve their goals.

Retention step no. 3: Help them develop these skills

Create a learning system thru on-going training to help them develop their skills. Finding success in your company can lead them to future career success as well as personal accomplishments. You can decide to send them to external training or develop training in-house tailored to their needs.

Retention step no. 4: Improve the team as a whole

It’s important to know your team’s skills, how well they work together and what can be improved upon. Training and team bonding activities are an excellent way to strengthen the team as whole. A strong team can help individual employees feel confident in their roles and stay in their jobs longer.

>> RELATED: Creating a strong workplace environment

Retention step no. 5: Establish learning connections

Create mentorship opportunities for employees to help them learn and grow in their roles. Perhaps you serve as their mentor, or you can identify other team members to guide them in this way.   

Retention step no. 6: Communicate opportunities for growth

Your employees may not know of or understand the ways they can develop in the workplace. Create a way to formally let your employees know about various growth and development opportunities within your company. 

>> RELATED: Read more from Tim Dimoff

Retention step no. 7: Provide feedback

Now that you’ve helped your employees identify and develop their skills and goals, formal feedback on their performance is important. Create a way to formally track their performance goals and their learning progress. Meet with them annually or even semi-annually to check in on these areas and ways to improve moving forward.

Retention step no. 8: Recognize good performance

Everyone loves to know that their efforts are appreciated and valued. Celebrate your employees and make them feel important and appreciated. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it can be as simple as a written note or mentioning their progress or accomplishments in a team meeting.

While there is no guarantee when it comes to employee retention, implementing many of these suggestions will certainly help to ensure your team members feel wanted and valued by you and your company. When your employees have confidence in how well you know them and understand their personal and professional goals, their performance and chances of retention will improve – and so will your bottom line.

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at

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  • Next up: COSE Day at the Capitol: How one restaurateur took a fight for fairness to the statehouse – and changed the law

    COSE Day at the Capitol: How one restaurateur took a fight for fairness to the statehouse – and changed the law

    COSE helped one of its members fight an unfair workers' compensation bill during an annual COSE Day at the Capitol. Registration is open for the 2022 event, which is Tuesday, May 24.


    When Toby Heintzelman, Operations Manager at The Driftwood Group, was hit with an unfair and unexpected workers' compensation bill after opening his first downtown restaurant a decade ago, he knew where to turn: his support network at COSE.

    They helped him take the fight all the way to the statehouse, at COSE Day at the Capitol, and their advocacy helped change the law. 

    “COSE Day at the Capitol is one of the best experiences one can have with COSE,” says Heintzelman.

    The annual event, taking place May 24 this year, provides small businesses with the unique opportunity to meet in-person with policymakers in Columbus to share challenges and to discuss how they can work together to enhance Ohio’s small business climate.

    Heintzelman originally joined COSE for health-care options. He was also interested in energy programs. But it took that surprising bill to lead him to take advantage of the myriad of resources COSE offers.

    “We had purchased a restaurant space in Playhouse Square where the previous tenant had left,” he explains. 

    “As we were doing our due diligence and working on opening the place, we were informed our workers' comp bill would be the same as the past tenants’ bill, and they did not have a great track record. I really did not understand it, but seeing as how workman’s comp was one of the core competencies COSE had, I reached out. They said, ‘that doesn’t sound right, let us look a little deeper.’”

    Eventually, it became apparent that due to Ohio’s successor liability laws at the time, business owners who started a business or who moved their business to a location previously occupied by a completely separate company could inherit workers’ compensation liabilities. Driftwood was being penalized for a previous owner’s bad record. 

    “All we were looking for was fairness,” says Heintzelman. 

    “We understood being a new business we couldn’t get a group rating right away, that’s acceptable. What I had a problem with was I was being given an experience rating of someone who had run a business poorly, just because I had the same kind of business in that space. I didn’t buy the business, I did not buy any of the employees, none of those things. We weren’t trying to beat the system.” 

    That’s when COSE’s advocacy team really came into play. 

    “I was invited to go along to COSE Day, and we had some meetings and I got to tell my story to people who then could see it was an issue for their constituents and the businesses of Ohio, it wasn’t a fair shake. I got to do that a couple times. 

    “COSE never gave up. [This issue] was always at the forefront. They made sure we were represented with our political people and that businesses were given an opportunity to let their grievances out.”

    Finally, in 2015, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 259, which included a provision to help ensure entrepreneurs would not be penalized in the form of increased workers’ compensation rates, outstanding balances, or uncovered claims costs for assuming space that was previously inhabited by a completely separate business with negative claims experience.  

    “It was beneficial for my company and eased the way for us to be able to purchase more restaurants and not be too concerned with what was there before,” says Heintzelman. “It saved us thousands and thousands of dollars. It allowed me to have a piece of equipment I need for my business without a problem. It allowed me also to be responsible for my own actions and my own business decisions."

    “That wouldn’t have happened without COSE.” 

    The 2022 COSE Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, May 24.  Registration is now open. The day includes networking with public officials, speakers, a roundtable, an opening reception and a visit to the Ohio Statehouse to attend business-focused committee hearings. 

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  • Next up: How to do effective competitive research for your small business on a budget

    How to do effective competitive research for your small business on a budget

    Learn how to build an effective strategy to monitor and research your competitors without breaking the bank.


    As a small business owner, you should regularly check out your competitors. Not to spy on them, but to do competitive research. Competitor analysis allows you to know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and helps you learn the industry trends.

    However, it’s not just enough to check on your competitors’ social media accounts and subscribe to their email list. You need to have a solid strategy for effective monitoring and research.

    Below, we will help you know more about competitive research, its importance, and how you can effectively do it for your small business on a budget. Read on.

    What is competitive research and why is it important?

    Competitive research is the assessment of both strengths and weaknesses of your current and potential competitors so that you can identify any future opportunities or threats. 

    When doing competitor research, you can consider the marketing strategies that the competitor uses, the plant facilities, financials, number of employees, etc. By doing the competitor analysis, you can realize how your products or services perform in the industry and what you can do to improve them. 

    Here are the main benefits that you can get by doing detailed competitive research:

    Benefit no. 1: Helps you better understand the market 

    Well-done competitive research can help you know the current industry trends that you may have missed. The ability to study or identify the current industry trends is vital for business growth, as it helps you improve your business’s value proposition.

    Benefit no. 2: Allows you to improve your marketing

    Customers are always looking for the best products or services that will make their lives better. If your clients have been leaving you for your competitors, the chances are high that you are not doing something right. Competitive research can help you know what your competitors are doing right to improve your marketing.

    Benefit no. 3: Helps you to identify market gaps

    Competitive analysis in marketing is all about identifying the market’s opportunities and threats. After the analysis, you can identify an underserved market that you can start to focus on.

    Benefit no. 4: Helps you to plan well for the future

    You may not take immediate actions after the competitor analysis, but you can use the data to improve your future practices. For instance, you can improve your marketing or change your pricing strategies to gain a competitive advantage.

    Six Steps to Doing Effective Competitive Research Inexpensively

    Here is a short, step-by-step guide on doing effective competitive research:

    Step no. 1: Understand your competitors

    First, you will need to know the types of businesses you are competing with to make the most accurate data comparisons.

    In business, there are two main types of competitors: direct and indirect. Direct competitors are the businesses offering the exact products and services that you offer. Indirect competitors offer different products to yours, but they are substitutes to what you offer.

    When doing competitive research, you should only focus on the direct competitors. If possible, you should write all the competitors by name.

    Note: if the list is long, you can reduce the number to focus on seven to 10 competitors. Your list should be comprised of companies that:
    Sell the direct products/services to yours
    Have similar business premises to yours
    Have an equal marketing share to yours
    Are new to the market but who are more experienced than you

    Step no. 2: Create a spreadsheet

    You should keep your data organized to reduce errors. For this reason, you should have a spreadsheet where you will compare and contrast the following aspects from your competitors:

    The price range of the products or services
    The social media engagement of the competitors
    Marketing tactics, including the content used for generating the leads
    Keyword terms your competition are ranking for

    Step no. 3: Analyze your competitors’ engagement

    The best way to know your competitors’ engagement is to check how the users respond to your competitors’ posts. Check the average number of likes, comments, and shares on the posts to know if:

    Some comments attract more likes and comments than others
    The comments are negative, positive, or a mix of the two
    Readers respond more on some social media platforms than others
    People tweet more topics than others 

    Be sure to document the observations to your records/spreadsheet.

    Step no. 4: Observe the competitors’ marketing tactics

    From the engagement, you should now check the content promotion strategies that your competitors use. Some of the things to pay more attention to include:

    Types of content they’re producing
    Keywords used

    As you analyze, you should write down the keywords or any other content marketing strategies that your competitors are using but you are not. You should also note the social media platforms that your competitors use most to promote their content and feedback.

    Step no. 5: Know how your competitors market their goods

    Marketing remains top-secret to many firms, and you may not explore all the marketing tactics of the firm by solely checking their social media accounts. You can assume the role of a potential customer to dive deeper into the competing business by doing the following:

    Subscribe to your competitor’s emails
    Purchase a product
    Shop for products online and abandon the cart
    Subscribe to their blogs

    As you do the above activities, be sure to document the company’s responses to cart abandonment, to your blogs subscriptions, social media following, etc.

    Step no. 6: Conduct a SWOT analysis

    The last step is to conduct a SWOT analysis for your business and the competitors. A SWOT analysis examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business. 
    Examples include the company’s:

    Number of employees
    Market share
    Partnerships, etc.

    Threats and opportunities are external and not easy to control. Examples include the economy, market size, regulation, and so on. You can aim to do a SWOT analysis for your business and competitors every year so that you can weigh the current positioning of your business against your competitors.

    A final word on competitive research

    Aside from the effective yet rudimentary methods discussed until now, using sophisticated tools designed for competitive research will only help save you time, money, and energy. The challenge is to get the vital data needed without having to get saddled with expensive subscriptions that most comprehensive tools require.

    There are many free or relatively inexpensive research tools that we recommend trying out, such as Ubersuggest, SimilarWeb, Spyfu, Moat and more. While most of the free versions provide valuable data and insights, they invariably get better by upgrading to their paid versions.

    The bottom line is that it’s vital that you know the performance and positioning of your business amongst your competitors so that you can plan well for your future. Follow our guide above and seek professional help when need be.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

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  • Next up: Introducing the "Platinum Rule" of communication and how to embrace it

    Introducing the "Platinum Rule" of communication and how to embrace it

    You've heard of the Golden Rule. Learn how the Platinum Rule can help you become a more effective communicator.

    “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Many business professionals diligently attempt to practice the Golden Rule at work that we all learned as youngsters. A workplace communication version of that philosophy would be "Communicate with other people the way you want them to communicate with you."  While it's a nice warm and fuzzy concept, a quick reality check indicates a serious flaw in the logic: the Golden Rule assumes everyone has the same needs as you.

    While the Golden Rule doesn’t work at a certain level of specific application, the "Platinum Rule" does. Rather than communicating with other people the way you want them to communicate with you, the Platinum Rule stresses communicating with other people they way they want you to communicate with them. I first learned about this strategy from Dr. Tony Alessandra in the 90s. It is 10 times harder to do well, but 100 times better than the Golden Rule when it comes to communicating. So, you do the math and see how much value you see using it.

    Here are 11 best practices and lessons learned that can help you evolve into Platinum Rule Workplace Communicators:

    1. Accept the reality that people are different. Many of you are acquainted with the various personality style profiles that validate this aspect of diversity. DiSC, MBTI and MIR all point to key differences in how people communicate and, therefore, how they like to be communicated with at work.

    2. Recognize that your personality style preference has its inherent communication strengths and weaknesses. Play your strengths while minimizing the negative impact of your weaknesses. 

    3. Strive to be flexible and adaptable. These are two characteristics that are helpful in just about any situation, but especially when communicating.

    >> RELATED: How do I get my company to rock at communicating?

    4. Plan workplace communication one individual interaction at a time. This means a time commitment, and that’s where the "10 times harder" part comes in. While it’s easier to go through the motions of communicating on Golden Rule autopilot, that strategy misses the target most of the time.

    5. Focus on your communications being receiver-centered instead of sender-centered. They realize the whole communication process revolves around sending messages to receivers on their terms that will help them accomplish the specific outcomes of that communication process. It’s all about them – the receivers –and the outcomes and not at all about us, the senders.

    6. When you know or can accurately guess the primary style of the receiver, modify your approach accordingly. Your goal is to maximize comfort for the receiver and minimize the conflict inherent in our communication differences. In so doing, you increase the receiver’s potential for active listening, understanding, retention and action that support your defined outcomes.

    7. When you don’t know the receiver’s style, look for clues. These clues can be found in the type and amount of words they regularly use, the tone of their voice, their pace of delivery, body language, even attire and what you see in their work space.

    8. While we have a component of each style quadrant in us, we tend to wear one hat more than the other three. Using the DiSC terminology, if the receiver looks like a D, sounds like a D, uses D words and even dresses like a D, they are probably wearing the D hat at that moment. So, communicate with that D the way that D wants you to.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    9. When you don’t yet have enough of a sense for their preferred style, use some all-purpose default strategies. These strategies should initially work until you get more telling signs. Talk less and listen more. Tell less and ask more. The extroverts will appreciate your less-is-more approach that allows them to talk more, and the introverts will be more comfortable with you. Ask good, focused questions to gather important information without interrogating or intimidating.

    10. Offer choices where possible and appropriate. Under-promise and over-deliver on those choices. And make sure they’re receiver-centered choices.

    11. And above all, Platinum Rule Communicators interact with uncommon courtesy. This means saying what you’ll do, doing what you say and being respectful of the receiver’s time, feelings and needs.

    Like I said up front, being a Platinum Rule Workplace Communicator is 10 times harder than interacting on Golden Rule autopilot, but 100 times better. If you want to evolve into a much higher level of workplace communication effectiveness, make the commitment to do what it takes. All the rest is just practice and details.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

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  • Next up: How to improv my elevator speech

    How to improv my elevator speech

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  • Next up: FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    In this new series, COSE's own Phil Stella advises creating an effective elevator pitch using the (soon-to-be-famous) SSCBH approach—impressing people you connect with and improving networking results.


    In this new Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

    This is a good question and I get it a lot. Before I dive into the answer, let me first explain why I prefer “elevator speech” to “elevator pitch.” Using the word “pitch” sounds like you are trying to sell something. No one likes to be sold to or to feel like you are only interested in talking with them to make a sale. Calling it a “speech” sounds like you want to share some information. Even though the difference in connotation is subtle, it can impact the mindset of the person doing it.

    That said, the purpose of an elevator speech is to answer a stranger's question “What do you do?" in an effective, efficient, and engaging manner. It begins a short, focused dialog. It is important to remember that this is not an invitation for a monologue. The purpose of the dialog is to begin to answer two important networking objectives questions:

    1. Is this person someone I or someone I know can help? Or,
    2. Can this person or someone he or she knows help me? 

    They're separate concepts and connected with an “or,” not an “and.” Thinking about it with an “and” implies that you can't have one without the other. This is simply not true for best-in-class network pros.

    RELATED: The 10 worst networking practices and how to avoid them

    Let’s take a look at an example of an effective elevator speech: 

    Imagine I get in the elevator on my way down from a conference in Key Tower. A fellow conference-goer hops in the elevator with me. She turns to me, takes a look at my conference name tag, and says…

    “What do you do, Phil?” 

    “I empower business leaders to reduce their pain when communicating with colleagues or customers by phone, in person, in writing or through presentations... The pain they experience and, often, the pain they cause others.”

    Why is it effective? This is a compelling elevator speech because it uses the famous SSCBH approach. OK, we just made this up, but it works. The SSCBH approach calls on you as the deliverer to ensure your pitch is Short and Simple, includes Clear language, has a Benefits-related focus, and includes a clever Hook at the end.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    This speech does just that. But I’m not going to only talk about myself. I am going to ask her in return about her profession, and look for a connection between what we both do and how we might be able to help each other. By the time we get down to the lobby, we will exchange goodbyes and business cards. And, chances are good that that elevator encounter won’t be the last time we are in contact with each other. 

    So, stop pitching in the elevator and start engaging in dialogues. The people you talk with will appreciate the difference and your results will improve.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

    *If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at

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