Page 1

Business small

Chairman John Cruise



President/Executive Publisher Steve Levine Vice President/Publisher/ Creative Director/Editor Barbara Davis-Levine Chief Financial Officer Ervin Hughes Publisher’s Assistant Jerome Davis Graphic Designer Genera Media Photographers Gwen Juarez Contributing Writers Krissi Barr Sonia Clayton Nick Darlington Barbara Davis Marcellus Davis John Fawkes Holly George

Roberto Guerrieri Hank Moore Nathan Okelberry Gail Stolzenburg Pam Terry Jack Warkenthien Frank Williamson

Chief Advisor Hank Moore Publisher’s Advisory Board Denise Adjei Sonia Clayton Donna Cole John Cruise April Day Dr. John Demartini Maya Durnovo Kathie Edwards Mila Golovine Dory Gordon Greg Grant David Holt Richard Huebner Ervin Hughes Jeffrey Jones Darryl King Sandy Lawrence Craig Klein Wea Lee Bertrand McHenry Hank Moore

Lisa M. Morton Mike Muhney Leisa Holland Nelson Annise Parker Page Parkes Howard Partridge Susan Repka Ingrid Robinson Maria Rios Grant Sadler Tony Samper Rita Santamaria William Sherrill Gail Stolzenburg Pam Terry Linda Toyota Mayor Sylvester Turner Jack Warkenthien Carlecia D. Wright Aaron Young

Phone: 832-419-2814 E-Mail: Or Write: Small Business Today P.O. Box 31186 Houston, TX 77231 See us on the web at



ay back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was as a national speaker to the multi-housing industry. I spoke and trained on a variety of topics that apartment managers, assistant managers, leasing agents, etc. needed to hear on sales, marketing, and hiring. For a fee, I would provide these seminars and workshops for individual companies and organizations such as apartment associations and apartment conventions on a local and national level. In addition to doing this on my own, I would do it in tandem with one or several of my fellow national speakers.

I loved having a microphone in my hand and a group in front of me that I was hired to educate, motivate, and (yes) entertain! I believed that if an audience was laughing, they were listening as well. When I first started in the apartment business as a leasing agent at Creekside Apartments in Orlando, Florida, I absolutely hated the business and was convinced it just was not for me! Luckily, there were two brothers, Jim and John Duffy, who were equally convinced that it WAS meant for me. I tried to resign several times and they just would not accept my resignation. Imagine being a nationally sought-after paid speaker for an industry that you were convinced that you were not supposed to be in. I have had many, many mentors and role models since, but I will never forget what the Duffy brothers did for me. So, who was or is your mentor or role model? If you don’t have one, social media gives you an excellent chance to connect with a world of talented and knowledgeable people. If you haven’t connected with your mentor or role model lately, send them a hand-written note (“old school”, I know) and just say, “Thanks!” Also, consider paying it forward by mentoring someone else. Offer to share your business experiences and lessons learned with someone who could be empowered by that information. There is a very special relationship between a mentor and their protege.


It’s time to get started with this month’s issue! Good Reading, Good Sales, & Success to You,

Steve Levine







FEATURES 03 12 14

Publisher’s Column Ethics…Good for Business.

Your Next Step Negotiating Success: Turning A Negotiation Into An Opportunity


Master the 80/20 Rule to Skyrocket Success in Business and Life  


Three Hidden Dangers of Facebook Marketing

20 22

Take A Leadership Lesson from Your Dog                    


Changing Times: What is the Future of Corporate Learning and Training?   


How to Position Yourself as an Authority


Protect Your Business From “Surf-By” Lawsuits


4 Questions You Should Ask Before Taking on a Business Partner


Networking with Influence     



Choosing a Retirement Plan for your Business   




Swapnil Agarwal –

Nitya Capital and Karya Property Management From Humble Beginnings, On the Path to Building Greatness


pon entering the offices of Swapnil Agarwal’s impressive headquarters, the first thing one notices is the prominent artwork displayed, each holding a special significance. A picture of the Taj Mahal, located in the city of Agra in India, represents Swapnil’s birthplace where he grew up in humble beginnings. A picture of the Downtown Houston skyline represents where his parents took a chance and left the life they knew to come to an unfamiliar new world in hopes of improving their lives. Another photo is of a Houston Metro bus that reminds Swapnil of a time over a seven-year period when the bus was his only mode of transportation. Over the years, through vision, determination, and hard work, Swapnil has followed a path to greatness with the establishment of Nitya Capital and Karya Property Management. He has built a tremendous organization that employs over 400 people and includes apartment complexes, office buildings, and a career university. Filling in the blanks to this remarkable young man’s success, Swapnil grew up as an only child in the famous town of Agra, which is home to the eighth wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal. His upbringing was a modest one with his parents working side-byside as entrepreneurs in their desire to give him the best education possible. “During that time,” Swapnil recalls, “it was not common for women to work in India. My mom participated, worked, and helped my dad in the busi-

ness. My parents made enough to send me to a good English medium school. In India, many schools are in Hindi, so you don’t learn English. My parents chose an English school because English is a global language.” Swapnil continued, “When you’re growing up in a lower middle class environment as I was, it was the parents’ dream that their kids got the best education. Learning English is always considered a good source of education; it means you’re doing well if you know English. You also have to remember that many people were not that privileged growing up in a third world country, such as India, during the 1980s. With his parents working hard as entrepreneurs, they dreamt of Swapnil having a great job one day. They didn’t want him to experience the risk and stress they had experienced. But entrepreneurship was in Swapnil’s blood. “When your parents are entrepreneurs, you automatically get that urge to become an entrepreneur,” reflected Swapnil. They helped, inspired, and played a role in cultivating Swapnil’s entrepreneurial passion that he would act on later in life. Before that came to fruition, his parents made a life-changing decision. They decided to immigrate to Houston after much persuasion from an aunt who was living there. “She called us while we were in India and told us we should move,” recalled Swapnil. “My parents didn’t want to go because my dad was 45 and my mom was around 40. It’s a difficult age to move, especially when you have never set foot outside India. They resisted for a few years, but finally decided to immigrate to America because of the better education opportunities for me.” Arriving in Houston in 1996 with Swapnil in the ninth grade, they spent their first six months living with his aunt while looking for a place to stay. They soon found an apartment complex in the Alief area of Southwest Houston. “It wasn’t a nice apartment complex,” remarked Swapnil. “It had a lot of crime and security was an issue, but the rent was cheap.”

Swapnil attended Alief Hastings High School and initially found it hard to assimilate into the American culture. Being an introvert only made this harder. However, a keen interest in sports helped him adjust. “I was always looking to find common ground with people. Talking about baseball, basketball, tennis, and American football helped bridge the gap faster.” Swapnil’s efforts paid off, and he ended up making many friends. Two of those are now his long-time friends and business partners. The first partner, Vivek Shah, was born in America but is of Indian heritage. He would become in charge of raising capital, handling investor relations, and dealing with the review of corporate and legal documents. The second partner, Manish Patel, had also moved from India and come from modest beginnings like Swapnil. He would become the CEO of their property management company Karya Property Management. Swapnil’s parents worked hard to ensure the family was financially sound. His father bought a small convenience store, and his mother worked 11 hours a day at a daycare facility. Things were difficult, especially since they didn’t have a car for over seven years in Houston and instead caught the metro bus. But, Swapnil helped his parents financially by getting his first job in a pizza shop while also juggling school and working in the convenience store. He was responsible for delivering pizza flyers from apartment to apartment. “I passed out flyers every weekend for six years. I used to get $25 to pass out 500 flyers, and it took about four hours. It was tough in this Houston heat. I had no car and took a metro bus each day.” After finishing high school, Swapnil pursued a degree in finance. “I was always interested in commerce, entrepreneurship, and money. I was fortunate enough to get accepted at the University of Texas in Austin,” stated Swapnil. While studying, Swapnil worked parttime at Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. He was responsible for selling financial plans to high net worth clients. Each day, he was given a list and cold-

Swapnil and his lovely wife, Deepika, make an amazing team in their business and in their life together! Photo by Gwen Juarez

called these individuals to invite them to financial seminars. The process helped him become more outgoing, improved his English because he was reading a script, and bettered his marketing skills by learning to pitch to strangers. Swapnil graduated from the University of Texas with a BBA Finance Degree in 2003 and he now turned his attention toward investment banking. “Investment banking was a hot industry, and all the finance graduates wanted a job in this industry,” remarked Swapnil. “I ended up in an energy investment bank firm in Houston called Simmons & Company. They picked four analysts from a graduating class of thousands. I was fortunate to be selected. Myself and Vivek were two of the four people.” After two years, a promising opportunity in Hong Kong came along. Swapnil recalled, “It was with a firm that had just raised a $650 million fund. Their mandate was to invest in real estate companies or assets in the Asia Pacific. I was tasked with opening a Hong Kong office, which was the Asian headquarters of this firm. I was responsible for spearheading the team, hir[ FEBRUARY 2018 ]


COVER STORY Each of Karya Property Management Teams are extensions of Swapnil’s commitment to excellence in business and customer service. Photo by Gwen Juarez

ing staff, and making investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” It was a significant undertaking for Swapnil who was only 24 at the time. But, after going there in 2006, he thrived. “It was a great experience. We made investments in China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Japan. Traveling to these countries was unbelievable and it taught me the importance of looking for a good partner when making investments. We were trying to give money to good operators so they could take that money and invest in good assets. I realized that finding somebody to partner with who’s ethical, smart, and who knows what they’re doing is the most difficult and important part.” Thankfully Swapnil wasn’t alone in Hong Kong. He was there with his beautiful wife, Deepika Agarwal, who was a childhood friend he’d known since medium school in India. Though arranged marriages are common in India, for Swapnil and Deepika, it was love first. “We liked each other, and then told our parents who talked to one another. It was love and then arranged,” explains Swapnil. After seven long years in Hong Kong, Swapnil and Deepika moved back to

Houston. Their life would soon change after Swapnil made the monumental decision to give in to his entrepreneurial passion and risk starting his own business. Coming from such a modest upbringing, Swapnil now took strides to build his business with Deepika helping him realize this dream. But, Deepika was pregnant, making the transition even more daring. “Even though we were expecting our first child, I knew the time was right,” explained Swapnil. “What was the worst that could happen? If things didn’t work out, I could always get a job.” Leveraging his real estate and financial background, Swapnil started planning. “I said, ‘Look, what am I going to do differently? What’s a business that’s recession-proof?’ There’s nothing that’s really recession-proof, but there are businesses that are recession-resilient. I looked at housing because people always need a place to live. I then asked myself, ‘What type of housing?’ I said, ‘Well, the blue-collar, the workforce housing. Finally, I considered the kind of housing they could afford and chose Class B and C older apartments where I grew up and handed out pizza flyers.” Swapnil was set on buying the same apartments he had delivered flyers to so many years ago, but he took things fur-


ther. Not forgetting his roots, he had a vision of building a profitable business while doing good. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to treat these tenants with real respect and provide them with real services. I don’t think they will mind paying extra rent in return for a nicer apartment and a clean, safe place to live so their kids can go to school without worrying about getting robbed or their house being robbed. I said, ‘Look, we’re going to buy these kinds of apartment complexes, improve the physical conditions of these properties, improve the customer service, and improve the maintenance.’ We started buying older ‘70s and ‘80s apartment complexes in Texas and built our team who managed it. That’s when Karya Property Management was born.” The first complex purchased was in August 2013. “It was a small 37-unit apartment complex in Dallas,” explains Swapnil. “The next one we bought in November 2013. That’s also in near Dallas, in Irving. The first Houston one we bought was in March 2014 on Tidwell. It’s called Villa Nueva Apartments. Villa Nueva is in a very rough part of town. It was a very humbling experience because the best way to classify the apartment complex is a Class D apartment. You have criminals, drug dealers, and all kinds of people living there.” Even though repairing these apartments was a challenge, acquiring the capital to do it was even more difficult because they didn’t have the net worth and Swapnil lacked experience. “Thankfully, we were very fortunate to come across the right people at the right time,” explained Swapnil. “One of my close friends who has good net worth came and co-guaranteed with me. I maxed out credit cards to put equity in these deals. I went to friends and family, and Vivek helped raise capital.” Occupancy issues were another problem that had to be dealt with. Swapnil recalled, “On paper, occupancies were high, but when you took a closer look, they weren’t. Sellers sometimes inflate the occupancy so that it looks good on

It takes an amazing corporate team of talented and dedicated professionals to maintain the high standards of excellence that Karya Property Management’s clients have come to expect . Photo by Gwen Juarez

paper, but a lot of these people are living for free and they don’t pay their rent.” Indeed, the list of challenges grew larger by the day, initially leading to Swapnil feeling that he had made the worst decision of his life. “I had gone from living a nice life in a lovely Hong Kong high-rise apartment condo to sitting in a Class D apartment worrying about my life because people didn’t pay their rent. The air conditioners were being stolen; there were no appliances; there were plumbing leaks everywhere; people were complaining; and I wasn’t getting any rent. I was like, ‘What have I done?’” But Swapnil stuck it out and things improved. “When we bought the Villa Nueva, the occupancy was 65 percent. It was collecting $60,000 per month. By November 2014, we had increased occupancy to 85 percent and the collections had risen to $89,000. We were able to refinance it and double everyone’s money in six months. That gave us a lot of confidence. If we could turn this property around, we could turn any property around.” Marketing efforts also played a huge role in the success at Villa Nueva. They engaged heavily in physical marketing. “Guides

and online marketing are great for A, B, and even C-class assets,” stated Swapnil, “but not for D-minus assets. You’ve got to go on foot. You’ve got to give flyers and stand at grocery stores. There’s a lot of hustle to it.” Another small, yet clever, change made an enormous difference. Villa Nueva was initially known as Nordling Chateau which is a French name. This made no sense as the neighborhood was Hispanic. And so, a simple name change helped them reach their target audience. While marketing efforts certainly contributed toward success, it was the implementation of Swapnil’s vision of revolutionizing the real-estate industry through conscious capitalism that made the real difference. They made sure they fixed the apartments, provided real services, and supplied security and safety. “We were there late at night. If they had any problems, we used to fix them before we left. Nobody had ever done that for them before. We put in a courtesy patrol. Crime went down significantly. These people were used to break-ins twice a week. We put in security gates, and they got a key they had to scan in before they could enter.”

At Karya Property Management headquarters, they even have a security room that not only monitors Villa Nueva but every property they own. Swapnil elaborated, “We monitor the leasing office, the driveways, and staff interactions with tenants. We also track crime. This led to free word-of-mouth advertising that helped our business grow. Once you start making changes, once you start cleaning the house, once you start taking care of the maintenance requests, and once people start seeing the changes, the resident referrals are like a big marketing tool. These tenants started referring their families and friends. About 80 percent of the tenants were Hispanic. They like their friends and family to live close to them. That helped a lot.” Growth has been rapid. Karya Property Management now has 37 apartment complexes and 12,000 apartments across the Houston and Dallas areas. To support this growth, they deploy 400 employees across all properties, including corporate. Swapnil considers all employees family. “I surround myself with people who I’ve known for many years, people who I trust, and people who I love,” [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]



states Swapnil. “Vivek, who I’ve known for 20 years, raises capital, handles investor relations, and is also responsible for the review of corporate and legal documents. Manish, who I’ve also known for 20 years, is responsible for operations. My wife, Deepika, handles marketing, and I’ve known her since childhood. Then there’s Sayde Camacho who was our first leasing agent.” As someone who came from a small town in India, Swapnil clings to his roots and never forgets his upbringing. He started from humble beginnings, and never wants to forget what it took to get to where he is today. His family and co-workers keep him grounded. Swapnil reflected, “When you become successful, your job often becomes easier; the deals come to you, and you don’t have to try as hard. That’s when there’s a chance you might lose your footing and start having ego issues. But, remembering your roots helps you keep that drive and remain humble.” The corporate office personifies this family feel. “We have a gym, showers, a break room, and a ping-pong table,” described Swapnil. “It’s more like a home. My employees enjoy working here. They enjoy spending time with everybody around. It’s a very flat organization. Nobody has any egos. We leave that behind when we come to work.” It’s no surprise that Swapnil knows every employee by name. As he looks to the future, he wants to keep the family culture and ethos of affordable living for all. And, his company intends to expand into other areas. “We are very opportunistic. We aren’t like traditional investment companies with four layers of approval. My partners and I make decisions quickly.” Nitya Capital has recently expanded into office building acquisitions. In fact, they just bought their first office building in November 2017 in Greenway Plaza and have plans to buy more in 2018. They are also looking at new development

from the ground up that includes buying in other states. Swapnil stated, “Our staff is now researching other markets that mirror Houston. Houston is unique because it’s dynamic and diverse. In the country’s eyes and in the world’s eyes, Houston is a one-dimensional economy. They always think of Houston as an oil and gas town, which is very far from the truth. That was in the 1980s, but now it’s so diverse. That’s given us a great opportunity to invest a lot because there’s not much competition.”

Karya Property Management also partners with many organizations for the betterment of the community. Swapnil remarked, “We partner with an organization called Be a Champion, which provides free meals to every kid in the community throughout the summer. We also partner with The Rose, a nonprofit organization that provides quality breast healthcare to women (and men), regardless of ability to pay. Their mission is to reduce deaths from breast cancer by providing access to screening, diagnostics, and treatment services. They come to With every new opportunity, they raise our properties and provide free mammocapital from over 300 investors including grams.” high net worth individuals and overseas investors. And, while all investors like Recently over Christmas, Karya Propreturns, Swapnil wants to nurture the erty Management ran a massive clothing vision he had when he started his busi- drive amongst employees and distributness. “I’m trying to create a concept of ed good, used clothing to people living conscious capitalism. We’re trying to in the apartments they manage. And, create a model which is a win-win model because education was so crucial in his for investors, employees, the communi- success, Swapnil, and his team started ty, and tenants that call our properties two scholarships, one at the Houston homes.” Community College which provides two associate degrees every six months and The concept is already coming to fru- the other at Hastings High School which ition; one only has to look at the many provides $5,000 to a graduating senior ways they are giving back while maintain- each year. ing good profits. For employees, they file green cards. “I file 20 green cards for my But Swapnil’s charity also extends beemployees that include housekeepers and yond home. “I’m involved with three orporters who could never dream of having ganizations that provide education to American citizenship,” explains Swap- children in Asia. One is called the Ekal nil. They also started a career university Vidyalaya Foundation. The second is to train college graduates and their own called Pratham which provides educastaff. Spearheaded by Stephen Cox, who’s tion to kids in India. The other one is been with the business for over 20 years, called the Magic Bus which offers discithe training is for property managers, leas- pline and helps kids through the mediing agents, and maintenance staff. It cov- um of sports because sports is very close ers many skills, including how to answer to my heart as well. Separately, we run phone calls, deal with clients, sign a lease, two full-time schools in India; one is an and fix air conditioning units. “It’s actually all-girls school that provides education, a university with a syllabus,” Swapnil adds. meals, and clothing to 220 girls. The oth“You have classes being offered every eve- er one is a boys’ school which has 160 ning from seven to nine and the staff gets boys, and they get free education and credits. I want to set the standard in the free-living in India.” property management industry where if they say in their resume that they graduIn recognition of all he’s done as an enated from Karya University, they are recog- trepreneur and philanthropist, perhaps nized and valued.” it’s no surprise that Swapnil was recently


Swapnil believes that training and communications are the key to the success of his businesses. Photo by Gwen Juarez

named the 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The award recognizes those who’ve excelled in innovation, financial performance, and devotion to their business and communities. But, for Swapnil, it’s not all business. He enjoys spending quality time with his parents, wife, and son. “I always say that it’s because of my son that we are where we are because he was born when the business started. He plays a very key role in my life. On Fridays, when he gets out of school, he comes to work and lights up the office. He’s a big baseball fan. We had a Christmas party, and we invited George Springer who’s my son’s favorite Houston Astros player. George is our brand ambassador for 2018. He’s a great player. He has the same values as us because he was struggling when he was growing up and faced a lot of adversity. We like to associate ourselves with like-minded people, and we couldn’t ask for a better brand ambassador.” Despite having achieved so much through his entrepreneurial endeavors, Swapnil still has other aspirations. He dreams of one day purchasing the Williams Tower ( formerly called the Transco Tower), the tallest building in a suburb. The Williams Tower is particularly significant to Swapnil because it was the first prominent landmark he saw when his family arrived in Houston and visited the Galleria area. A large picture of the building is on one wall of his personal office as a reminder of this dream. On the other wall is the large picture of the Houston Metro bus. The symbolism is all about Swapnil’s humble beginnings, where he has been, and where he ultimately plans to go, on the path to building greatness. No doubt, it’s just a matter of time. SBT

Swapnil’s Words of Wisdom 1. Don’t be afraid to take risks. If the business fails, at least you tried. You can always go back and get a job. 2. Give back. Do business that benefits not only you, but your staff, employees, investors, and customers. 3. Get rid of the sense of paycheck security. Many people want to start a business, but few do because they can’t let go of the comfort of a paycheck. 4.

Be humble.


Be smart.


Never forget your roots.


Work hard.


Select the right partners.

[ FEBRUARY 2018 ]





n order to succeed and thrive in modern society, all private and public sector entities must live by codes of ethics. In an era that encompasses mistrust of business, uncertainties about the economy and growing disillusionments within society’s structure, it is vital for every organization to determine, analyze, fine-tune and communicate their value systems. Corporate Responsibility is more than just a statement that a committee whips together. It is more than a slogan or rehash of a Mission Statement. It is an ongoing dialog that companies have with themselves. It is important to teach business domestically and internationally that: 1. We must understand how to use power and influence for positive change. 2. How we meet corporate objectives is as important as the objectives themselves. 3. Ethics and profits are not conflicting goals. 4. Unethical dealings for short-term gain do not pay off in the long-run. 5. Good judgment comes from experience, which, in turn comes from bad judgment. 6. Business must be receptive--not combative--to differing opinions. 7. Change is 90% beneficial. We must learn to benefit from change management, not to become victims of it. Corporate Responsibility relates to every stage in the evolution of a business, leadership development, mentoring and

creative ways of doing business. It is an understanding how and why any organization remains standing and growing... instead of continuing to look at micro-niche parts. Integrity is personal and professional. It is about more than the contents of a financial report. It bespeaks to every aspect of the way in which we do business. Integrity requires consistency and the enlightened self-interest of doing a better job. Financial statements by themselves cannot nor ever were intended to determine company value. The enlightened company must be structured, plan and benchmark according to all seven categories on my trademarked Business Tree™: core business, running the business, financial, people, business development, Body of Knowledge (interaction of each part to the other and to the whole) and The Big Picture (who the organization really is, where it is going and how it will successfully get there). One need not fear business nor think ill of it because of the recent corporate scandals. One need not fear globalization and expansion of business because of economic recessions. It is during the downturns that strong, committed and ethical businesses renew their energies to move forward. The good apples polish their luster in such ways as to distance from the few bad apples. Corporate Responsibility means operating a business in ways that meet or exceed the ethical, legal, commercial


and public expectations that society has of business. This is a comprehensive set of strategies, methodologies, policies, practices and programs that are integrated throughout business operations, supported and rewarded by top management. Corporate Sustainability aligns an organization’s products and services with stakeholder expectations, thereby adding economic, environmental and social value. This looks at how good companies become better. Corporate Governance constitutes a balance between economic and social goals and between individual and community goals. The corporate governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for community stewardship of those resources. As part of strategic planning, ethics helps the organization to adapt to rapid change, regulatory changes, mergers and global competition. It helps to manage relations with stakeholders. It enlightens partners and suppliers about a company’s own standards. It reassures other stakeholders as to the company’s intent.


Contact information for Hank Moore. Website: Email: Phone: 346-777-1818. Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations, including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses and non-profit organizations. His Legends books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

let us take care of all your printing needs MAGAZINES CATALOGS POSTCARDS CALENDARS BROCHURES & MORE


Your Next Step Negotiating Success: Turning A Negotiation Into An Opportunity BY JACK WARKENTHIEN


e all negotiate every single Starting with style, your best day--at home, at work and evbet is to embrace a flexible erywhere in between. But that doesn’t make it any easier. De- negotiating approach, moving spite this constant practice, 68% of us along a continuum from quick are anxious about negotiating, and 86% to deliberate, mixing it up along of us want to become better negotiators. the way, to vary the tempo and The key to a win-win or no deal approach keep from being predictable. is finding ways to help both sides feel successful, rather than just focusing on Among the most important ones to bake getting what we want. The approach I’ll into your approach, include a realization share with you, in this article, will help that there are really no rules, everything you to solidify long-term relationships is in play, and a NO is acceptable and and partnerships--both externally and sometimes a preferred response. Learn within our own organization--and builds to work with, rather than against, the positive momentum for every future ne- other party, for a mutual agreement. gotiation. WELCOME TO Approach negotiations from an “abun- NEGOTIATION THEATRE dance” frame of mind, instead of a “scar- My belief is that life itself, is one long, city” mentality, visualizing the many continuous “act” and we are all bit playbenefits available to both parties. To that ers in the “production”. Negotiating is end, there are three kernels of knowledge “theatre”, and the negotiation model to chew on: The Negotiation Process, the has four distinct acts. The Investigative Negotiation Theatre, and the Impact of Phase begins before the curtain rises-Personality & Style. though we call it Act 1. This is where you must find out all the information possiTHE NEGOTIATION PROCESS ble, and do thorough research on all parThe permeating attitude in the process ties involved. The most successful negois always win-win or no deal, whether tiators know more about the opposing you’re negotiating price, terms or any side’s outcomes than they often know other aspect of the desired outcome. about their own. The Negotiation Process includes three components: STYLE, OPTIONS AND In Act 2, called the Presentation Phase, PRINCIPLES. we begin to present our case, based on our research, and in the course of our Starting with style, your best bet is to presentation, we totally justify our pricembrace a flexible negotiating approach, ing, and any of our preferred desired outmoving along a continuum from quick comes. Along the way, we have anticito deliberate, mixing it up along the way, pated many potential objections along to vary the tempo and keep from being the way, and diffused as many as possible predictable. Carefully plan your op- even before they’re voiced. tions, developing a best case, acceptable case or worst case scenario. Adhere to Act 3 begins after both sides have debasic--simple but not easy--principles. livered their lines, and the Bargaining 14 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]

Phase officially starts. One of the conclusions the “audience” agrees on: both sides have a genuine desire to trade. Expect a healthy dialog in this act, as both parties begin to share and sort out their wants, needs, roles and goals, usually hinting at where their top priorities lie. Finally, everyone in the “theatre” is anxious about how this play will end. Introducing Act 4--the Agreement Phase, where there’s an acknowledgment from both sides, that all points have been addressed. In many ways, this act is the most “entertaining”, since one of the “actors” may drop out here, and not even stick around for the final curtain. You must be prepared to walk out of the venue, if there’s no agreement to be found. Be aware that play may end without a standing ovation. IMPACT OF PERSONALITY & STYLE When you are savvy on how people are likely to respond--or react--to your negotiation, you are in THE strongest bargaining position of all. Keep in mind that each “actor” involved, has a primary personality & style. Your job is to quickly gauge the characteristics and traits of each person, and make your best guess. A focus on win-win or no deal, contributes greatly to creating a proper negotiation mindset. From that perch, negotiation sessions are rarely winner-take-all affairs. Instead, they enable us to negotiate from a center of power, no matter what. Never fear compromise as a path to mutually beneficial agreements. SBT Jack Warkenthien, CEO, NextStep Solutions. Email him at or call him at 832-344-6998


Changing Times:

What is the Future of Corporate Learning and Training?                      BY SONIA CLAYTON – PRESIDENT AND CEO OF VIRTUAL INTELLIGENCE PROVIDERS, LLC.


s Change Manager, I often present on a variety of topics pertaining to Education. As an international guest speaker and I am frequently asked: What is the future of Learning and Training? During the last 25 years, I have seen the world of training and learning evolved from Instructor Led in Classroom settings, to e-Learning, to hybrid or Blended Learning, to Talent Management and Development applications, to Video Training, to Corporate Universities, to Micro-Learnings, to iPad Distributed Learning, all the way to the entire Learning Ecosystem, a concept my firm VIP-Global pioneered back in 2013. Brigham Fay, from Harvard School of Education mentions that the world of learning is “transforming before our eyes” [1], it is fair to say that the future of Learning and Training will come from technical innovators and education professionals who are willing to adopt and endorse disruptive technologies. Let us remember, that for more than 100 years, during the first industrial revolution, people worked with their hands to produce goods. Training and employee development was based on the need to manage only applicable and pertaining knowledge to the goods produced. Hence, the principle of “Resource Training” was born. Contrary, in today’s world, most of the work is generated by ideas and thought processes. Making today’s economy a “Knowledge-Based-Economy” in an overpopulated ocean of data, moving at the speed of light. Therefore, the question posed is: How in the world are we supposed to manage so much knowledge, ideas and concepts? And where extraordinary thinking can be incu-

bated, tested and measured to generate disruptive concepts and principles? That is where programing, data technologies and technical resources came into the world of training and learning. Accepting them and inviting them into our world makes a lot of sense. If we consider countries such as China, where goods produced are mainly manufacturing based (repetitive production using machines or by hand), there is no dispute pertaining to the fact that the master-minds of leadership are using digital technologies to work quicker, better and with best quality. Japan, who became the leader in “Lean Manufacturing” processes, also continues to demonstrate that it is the combination of process, people and technology that create a form of learning and educating successful workers. The last known rehearsal tracks of learning and their metamorphosis into today’s approaches are the validation that we must change our traditional perspective on employee training and education. Employers must know how to train, educate, motivate and retain those with disruptive changing and creative minds. Since the need is no longer focused on documenting and training on repetitive practices or processes, we must understand that the main factor is managing the creative minds of the present and the future. In conclusion, the future is not about a specific device says, Daniel Wilson, (Director of Project Zero at Harvard Education) [2], but rather is in the power of collaboration. The new Cloud Solutions allow for collaboration, distribution and easy access.

The applications must be carefully selected, and devices will be part of a larger Learning Eco-System. Since we don’t have the luxury of time or budget, from now on the primary role of corporate leaders, is to prepare and equip employees with the necessary tools and collaborative technologies they need to create, develop, research, learn and train themselves and others on-the-job. The HR office, must focus on hiring employees or end-user’s adept to technology with excellent autonomy, initiative, research, communications, team work and problem-solving skills. Winning the competitors game has a lot to do with the ability of employees to learn on-the-go, solve problems quicker and produce results much faster than their competitors. There is no doubt, that obtaining the right training systems and appropriate technologies in combination with the right resources will accelerate the process or learning and application adoption. SBT [1] Fay, B Keeping up With the Times. Accessed on January 8th, 2018. [2] Wilson, D. Making Learning Visible: The Power of Group Learning and Documentation in Classrooms and Communities (MLV). making-learning-visible Accessed on January 8th, 2018. Sonia Clayton is the President & CEO of Virtual Intelligence Providers, LLC ( a Houston based corporation, specializing in ERP Systems, Corporate Training, Organizational Change Management and Learning Ecosystems. Sonia is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist and a member of several higher education and community boards to include the information systems advisory board of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University. Sonia is also a Harvard Business School Certified Negotiator and a Stanford University Latino Entrepreneur Graduate. [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]



How to Position

Yourself as an Authority                  BY PAM TERRY


hen you think of famous people whether it’s King Henry VIII, Mother Theresa, or Justin Bieber, you “instinctively” know them as either the ruthless King of England, the selfless missionary and now Saint, and a young, rather reckless and super talented singer who began his career on YouTube. Each has their own brand. Not all famous people have had social media; however, each used the media of their day to become known. Interestingly, all famous people are presenters of some type – whether it’s acting, creating policy, taking a stand, or performing. The stage is the fulcrum of experts. When I started out as a public speaking coach, I created a name for myself without intending it. I simply wanted to start teaching and training others to be public speakers. When I look back at what I did to do that, I inadvertently created a name for myself using public speaking. I started doing workshops every 2 weeks and promoting them on Facebook and LinkedIn. I did this for about a year along with having a website and blogging regularly. During that time, I started receiving requests to speak that has continued to this day, although I don’t do workshops nearly as often or blog as often now.

Even with the rampant proliferation of social media, public speaking is still one of the best ways to create a name for yourself and your brand. Why? Because the more you speak, not only are you known more, you also have more opportunity to promote your brand on social media.

First, an expert must have a signature talk.

If you don’t have a signature talk, develop that first. When I started out, it took me about 5 or 6 times of giving my signature

talk before I had the content developed to what it is now. I had failures along the way where I felt the content just didn’t deliver. These failures helped me to see what I needed to add and take out. Get out there and start speaking (and possibly stumble a bit) as soon as possible (see Step 3 on promoting).

Second, as an authority, you must establish your presence.

Nothing “speaks” volumes about you than having a website where you can blog about your knowledge. Blogging allows you to share your knowledge and demonstrates your expertise, authority, and thought leadership. Here are 3 ways to re-purpose your blog and get more mileage and exposure out of it: 1. Share a link to it on Facebook (in your group and on your page), Twitter, and LinkedIn (if you have time, share it on more platforms like Google Plus and Pinterest). 2. Create a video of your blog post with Lumen5 ( that you can post. The possibilities keep getting created!! 3. Publish your blog post directly on LinkedIn and then share it in groups.

Third, start speaking.

How do you start speaking when no one knows you? The easiest way to begin is to hold your own workshops, webinars, or teleseminars with a few trusted friends for feedback. That’s what I did and it worked. I began with my own workshop with about 10 friends for feedback. They liked it! That gave me the impetus and confidence to start holding regular workshops every two weeks. It was a bit ambitious to do them so often because of the marketing of them. Immediately after I completed a work-


shop, I had to begin marketing the next one. Although it was tough, I was excited and motivated and became known as an authority, expert, and thought leader on public speaking rather quickly.

Fourth, market your events.

When holding your own workshop or seminar, you’ll need to 1) have a way for people to register so you can capture their contact information; and 2) you’ll need to promote it. You can either have people register from your website or use something like Eventbrite (www. If you are doing webinars, there are several platforms that have their own registration functionality. When you start promoting and holding your events, you are establishing and creating your brand as an authority. The more often you do it, the more you solidify your expertise. It doesn’t matter how many or how little your number of attendees are because the promotion of your events is seen by a lot more people. When you repeatedly promote your events, that repetition is invaluable for creating the perspective of you as an authority, expert, and thought leader. Continue to learn as much as you can and you will succeed. Expect to make some mistakes, just be sure to learn from them. Remember this to stay inspired and motivated: Commitment is stronger than expectations. Set your goals but instead of being tied to outcomes, stay tied to your commitment. You will experience a much higher level of satisfaction that way. SBT Pam Terry is a highly recognized speaker coach and marketing strategist. For a complimentary copy of her eBook, “How to Easily Develop an Award Winning Presentation,” visit www. Pam can be reached at 832-276-4153 or


4 Questions You Should Ask Before Taking on a Business Partner BY FRANK WILLIAMSON


t’s been said that the closest thing to being a king in the United States is owning your own business.

You can decide everything you want about your work environment. Though many entrepreneurs might not admit it, there is a certain emotional charge from being the boss. Depending on what you envision for your business’s future, there may be limits on what you can achieve as a lone entrepreneur, which is why many business owners start to consider taking on a partner. As a business advisor, I provide feedback and assistance to entrepreneurs facing this question. In my business, the word “partner” often refers to an equity investor, who provides capital in exchange for sharing in future profits. A partner might benefit a business in other ways, bringing previous experience in the industry, connections or even personality. Two people can achieve more together than alone — if the partnership works. If not, both people will get less done, maybe leading to the failure of the business. A partnership is not something to take lightly. For business owners wrestling with this decision, it’s worth taking some time to ponder a few questions:

1. Would new capital alone solve your business’s problems?

Small businesses need money to grow. Sometimes they need money to get through a rough patch. But if you find your business in a tenuous cash position,

you don’t have to sell a stake of your company. You can sell assets to raise money. You can go to a bank for a loan. And you can look for ways to cut back on costs. My firm recently worked with a small company that needed capital, but wasn’t able to raise it quickly. In the end, the solution wasn’t to raise more money; it was to spend less. They made the decision of cutting expenses by half, which meant that they had to let some people go. They also became more efficient about taxes and accelerated payments from clients. Their newfound financial health allows them to decide the timing and pace of future growth.

2. Do you feel paralyzed by your responsibilities?

Even if they start with a clear vision, business owners can reach the limit of their capabilities. Joining forces with an experienced partner can help you picture what good looks like at the next level. It must be stated, though, that investment banking firms also can bring this advice to the table. Because of their experience working in similar situations, they understand what successful decision-making looks like in a healthy business.

3. Do you know how to unwind the partnership if it stops working?

Before taking such a major step, you should think through a plan for unwinding a partnership should the situation go wrong. What happens in case of death or divorce? What if one partner wants to sell

his or her stake to the other? Although most companies commonly do this through governance documents, these are still good practical questions to revisit from time to time.

4. Will you be unhappy sharing control?

This question requires a business owner to have some self-awareness about their personality. If you like to be in charge, you’re going to have to think hard about how you’ll react to giving up some control. It’s a very different experience to go from being a company’s sole owner to just one of the owners, where each person has a say. When you have business partners, you’re not just accountable to yourself anymore. You’ll also reap a smaller percentage of the financial rewards when your business succeeds. If things don’t go well for your company, you may experience pressure from your partner to have a greater say in decision-making. And you may not always share the same vision for the company you founded. Some business owners may end up deciding that they’ll be better off on their own. But others may see the benefits of joining forces with a second person or a group of investors. Each business owner’s considerations are different, which is why many seek the assistance of an investment banking firm to choose the right option for their individual business. SBT About Frank Williamson Frank Williamson is the founder of Oaklyn Consulting ( To learn more about Oaklyn’s consulting services for investor groups and private businesses, call 888-983-1617. [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]



Master the 80/20 Rule to

Skyrocket Success in Business and Life                      BY HOLLY GEORGE


s a small business owner, it’s critical to pinpoint the areas that will increase your revenue and profits. The easiest way to define that sweet spot is by following the Pareto Principle.

Developed by Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, his original observation was in connection with income and wealth. Pareto noticed that 80% of Italy’s wealth was owned by 20% of the population. The Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule, states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. The outcome to this is that 20% of our results absorb 80% of one’s resources or activity.

The 80/20 rule teaches simplicity and applies to several examples: •

20% of employees are responsible for 80% of a company’s output • 20% of customers are responsible for 80% of the revenues • 80% of your daily interruptions come from the same 20% of people • 80% of your personal calls are to 20% of the people in your address book • 80% of your annual sales come from 20% of your sales force • 80% of what you produce is generated during 20% of your working hours • 80% of your website traffic comes from 20% of your pages Your job is to find out which 20% of your marketing is motivating the most sales, to determine which 20% of your

customers are producing 80% of your profits, and to learn which 20% of your prospects are most likely to become customers. The value of the 80/20 principle for a business owner is that it reminds you to focus on the 20% that matters. Think about it; of the things you do during your day, only 20% really matters... and 20% of your customers really matter. When you discover which 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your sales, your marketing and communication will focus on keeping them happy, increasing the amount of business you do with them, and tapping them for referrals and testimonials. Paying more attention to this 20% reduces your marketing budget because you can pay less attention to the 80% who account for only 20% of your profits. Now, consider applying the 80/20 principle to your life. For example, do you spend more time with people you enjoy being around? Do you try focusing on a few habits that can bring huge value to your life? Do you identify goals and priorities on a daily basis so you can focus on what matters most in business and in life? No matter how big or small, start writing and assessing your dreams and goals in relation to the 80/20 Rule. Can you identify which 20% of your goals, when achieved, will give you 80% of your satisfaction and happiness? Now step back and assess the ‘More with Less’ path. There are typically 4


routes to achieve a certain objective: the ‘Low Effort, Low Reward’ route, ‘High Effort, Low Reward’, ‘High Effort, High Reward’, and ‘Low Effort, High Reward’. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that focusing on the ‘Low Effort, High Reward’ route brings the greatest return on time, energy and investment. Don’t wait another day to evaluate and apply the 80/20 rule to work and life. The first step is easy. Get a pad of paper and a pen and start writing! Create two columns; one entitled “20” and the other entitled “80.” In the “20” column, put everything you must do. If you have commitments that must be met, or responsibilities that cannot be put off, put those items in this column. In the “80” column, jot down items that give you low rewards, or tasks you find useless and/or tedious. Remember, the key here is to always ask yourself: “What is truly important to me?” By putting the Pareto Principle into effect in business and life, you will do less and achieve more, and you’ll feel a whole lot more energy and passion as you focus on what matters most. SBT

Holly George Founder Spitfire Promotion Group


Three Hidden Dangers of Facebook Marketing BY JOHN FAWKES


f you speak with small business owners these days, about four out of five will tell you that every business these days needs to be on Facebook.

What they won’t tell you is that very few small businesses are actually making money off of Facebook these days. For the majority of small businesses, Facebook is a waste of time, money, and energy- here’s why. Organic reach is going down, and will probably keep going down What do I mean by organic reach? I mean the percentage of your Facebook followers who will actually see any given post on your company’s Facebook page. For instance, if you have ten thousand followers, and your posts are seen by two thousand people on average, that means your organic reach is 20%. When “fan pages” were originally launched back in 2007, organic reach was well over 50%. However, by 2012, when page managers first gained the ability to see their organic reach, that figure had dropped to 16%- still not a bad number by any means. Unfortunately for social media marketers, that figure has only continued to fall. One study found that between 2012 and 2014, the organic reach of the average page fell from 16% to 6.5%. Later studies found that as of 2016, average reach had fallen to just 2%. More recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm will likely drop that number below 1%. Even Facebook is now telling marketers that Facebook pages are mainly a way to make paid advertising more effective, rather than a way to reach our audience for free. Of course, your followers can always visit your page on their own initiative- they just won’t be seeing your posts in their news feeds anymore. You’ll be advertising to spam accounts Not only will your reach be low, but there’s another problem: not all of the people you do reach will be in your target audience. In fact, many will be nothing more than spam accounts.

There are, at the very least, tens of millions of spam accounts on Facebook. These accounts tend to “like” and follow a lot of company pages, in an attempt to make themselves look more like a real Facebook profile. Once these spambots are following your page, you can’t get rid of them. Unlike subscribers to a mailing list, there is no way to get rid of Facebook followers. What this means for you is that your already pathetic 1% reach may in fact be only 0.5%. Worse, this applies to paid advertising as wella large portion of your advertising spend will be used to advertise to fake profiles. You can be locked out of your accountforever Sooner or later, when you log into your Facebook account , you may be asked to prove your identity. What does that mean? It means you’ll have to upload a photo of your driver’s license. But you’re not done there. Sometime within the next few days, you’ll be sent an email asking you to provide scans of even more documents- a utility bill, passport, certificate of incorporation, or even- no joke- a bank statement. And if you do provide these documents? There’s still no guarantee that your account will be unlocked. If it isn’t, you’ll never know why- and you’ll never be able to speak to a live tech support person, because Facebook doesn’t have them. The kicker: if you have an ad campaign running when this happens, you’ll have no way of logging in to manage it or turn it off. Your only recourse will be to call your credit card company and tell them to freeze payments to Facebook. Bottom line: Facebook might still be useful if your business is something “cool” or social like a night club or a luxury brand. But the vast majority of small businesses shouldn’t bother with it. SBT John Fawkes is a personal trainer and health science expert who writes about health and fitness at [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]



Take A Leadership

Lesson from Your Dog                      BY KRISSI BARR


eadership is that intangible secret sauce that makes every business person better. When you improve your leadership, you will get more accomplished in less time. You’ll attract better employees who will wow your customers. When you repeatedly display great leadership, your small business will grow into a not-so-small business. To improve leadership, many executives read books or watch movies to draw inspiration from famous people. Let me recommend a different role model: your dog. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Dogs share many of the same leadership traits that great leaders have, like loyalty, honesty, perseverance, ingenuity, bravery, teamwork and curiosity, to name a few. If you categorized all of the dog-leadership qualities you can think of, you will likely end up with the following four traits: dogs (and great leaders) are faithful, inspirational, determined and observant. The first letters of these key characteristics spell the word “FIDO,” which makes it easier to remember than when to give your dog its flea & tick medicine. The first of these dog-inspired leadership traits is faithful. It is fundamental to your ultimate success as a leader because faithfulness builds trust. And without trust, everything is difficult. Show that same level of faithfulness to your team and you’ll lay the foundation for greatness.

Here are some ways faithful leaders earn their role as leader of the pack:

• Demonstrate loyalty by putting the needs of customers and team members ahead of your own. 20 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]

• Defend your team at every opportunity. • Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. The second of the four FIDO factors is inspirational. Dogs, like great leaders, lift our spirits and inspire greatness in others by getting them to believe they can do what they thought was impossible. Inspiration moves people to do the extraordinary and changes the focus from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about us!”

Want to be a more inspirational leader? Try these: • • •

Strive to exude a positive “can do” and “will do” mindset. Paint the picture of what success looks like and reinforce it at every opportunity. Communicate with clarity to get buy-in instead of just barking out orders.

The third—and perhaps most obvious— dog-leadership trait is determined. The phrase “doggedly determined” didn’t become famous because canines were slackers. Leaders know they need a team that’s fiercely unwavering in their desire to succeed to achieve lofty goals. The only way to get there is with a never-give-up mindset. Determined leaders and their teams know they control their destinies by their actions.

Here are some ways to boost your determination quotient at work: •

Keep your list of goals short and make each item a priority. • Assemble a best-in-show team using a rigorous hiring process. • Concentrate on the future, not the past; pivot from the negative to the positive. The final FIDO factor is observant. For many, this is the least obvious…and perhaps most im-


portant. The most significant development in business in the last hundred years is the speed of change. Only those individuals who are dedicated to absorbing the right information—and integrating it into an actionable strategy—will succeed in today’s frenetic pace.

Here are some ways to become more observant and boost your leadership:

• Pay close attention to body language and listen for tone to understand the true meaning of a message. • Become a great asker of questions, and add “And then what?” and “Tell me more” to your vocabulary. • Get out and meet customers to learn what’s really going on. The beauty of using dogs as leadership role models lies in their visibility. If you live with a

dog, you’ll be reminded of these leadership traits day in and day out. Watch TV and you’re likely to see a dog during every commercial break. Ask a Siberian Husky in the Iditarod and they’ll confirm it: if you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes. Improve these dog-inspired leadership traits and you’ll get a leg up with your small business. SBT

Krissi Barr is CEO of Barr Corporate Success and co-author of The Fido Factor. 513-470-8980

The first of these dog-inspired leadership traits is faithful. It is fundamental to your ultimate success as a leader because faithfulness builds trust. And without trust, everything is difficult. Show that same level of faithfulness to your team and you’ll lay the foundation for greatness.


Choosing a Retirement

Plan for your Business                     BY MARCELLUS DAVIS


any small business owners are interested in providing retirement plans for their employees. After all, offering retirement plans can be a way to attract and retain talent. A variety of factors, however, can deter small business owners from offering plans to their employees, such as cost or lack of resources. But with over 90 percent of businesses with more than 100 employees providing retirement benefits, it is important that small business owners consider the options available.

Nearly 70 percent of employers leverage retirement benefits to attract new hires, and 57 percent use retirement plans to earn the loyalty of current employees. Offering retirement plans can help level the playing field for small-business owners who may be competing with larger companies to retain talent. Providing retirement benefits can also impact productivity. Studies indicate that an employee’s stress can affect the workplace. Offering employer-sponsored retirement plans could help make a difference in employee productivity, financial well-being and even mental health. When you consider that 60 percent of workers are worried about saving for retirement, it makes it easier to see how providing benefits could lead to peace of mind and long-term financial security for your employees. On the employer side, offering a retirement plan to your employees might also mean a significant tax benefit. Make sure to consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax benefits for your company. There are several options available to small businesses interested in offering retirement benefits to their employees. Here are a few to consider: Traditional 401(k) Plan A traditional 401(k) plan is a widely known retire22 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]

ment plan option. It allows the employee to make contributions with pretax dollars. These contributions are typically made to the plan through payroll deductions. Additionally, contributions to the plan by the employee could reduce their gross earnings for federal income tax purposes. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA Plan The SEP Plan offers many of the tax benefits of a 401(k) plan but eliminates some of the administrative burden and costs that come with providing retirement benefits for employees. Employer contributions are deposited directly into an employee’s SEP-IRA. Contributions are flexible and the employer can decide whether they want to make contributions and may vary from year to year. Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA Plan The SIMPLE IRA Plan is for companies with 100 or fewer employees who have no other qualified retirement plans. They require mandatory employee contributions and employer contributions are discretionary. Employee contributions are made on a salary deferral basis. There are several factors to consider before choosing a retirement plan for your company. Think about your business goals, availability of funds to contribute to the program and your plan for future expansion. Additionally, consider your employees, their ages, salaries, years of service and even your turnover rate. What’s right for one company may not be right for another. Before deciding on a plan, sit down with your financial advisor to discuss the options. SBT Marcellus DavisFinancial Advisor Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (713) 965-5015


Protect Your Business From



his last year has witnessed the increase of lawsuits against businesses alleging their websites are not accessible by individuals with disabilities and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) or its equivalent state law. These lawsuits are even more frustrating than typical ADA lawsuits alleging physical barriers at a business location. These so-called “surf-by” lawsuits are more frequently being brought by individuals who have never even visited your business, but instead simply visited your website from the convenience of their home. Unfortunately, the law on website accessibility is unsettled and changing, with courts throughout the country split on whether a website is a “public accommodation” under the ADA and, therefore, is required to ensure its website is accessible. The Ninth Circuit has provided some protections to businesses in California, holding that for a website to be covered under the ADA, it must have a nexus to the goods and services offered at a business’s physical location. However, even if the ADA requires your business’s website to be accessible, what exactly it means for a website to be “accessible” is unsettled and evolving. There are no current laws or regulations defining what is required, and while the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has been working on regulations for websites much like those applicable to buildings, those regulations stalled when they were placed on the “inactive” list earlier this year, all but guaranteeing that there will be no formal guidelines anytime soon. The lack of any formal guidelines puts business owners

in the difficult position of determining whether they should invest resources to make their website accessible under accepted industry standards for web accessibility or wait until the DOJ publishes accessibility guidelines for websites like they have for buildings. Unfortunately, the lack of formal rules on accessibility has not stopped private litigants and their lawyers, as well as the DOJ, from attempting to enforce the ADA against businesses through websites and mobile applications. These lawsuits can be expensive and a distraction from business operations, and business owners should remember that taking appropriate preventive measures is the best defense against any ADA access lawsuit, whether it be against your website or your physical locations. While no formal guidelines have been published, courts and the DOJ have cited with approval the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0” as the industry-accepted standard for web accessibility and a model that websites should follow. The WCAG is a set of accessibly guidelines for websites published by the international organization World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In light of the growing number of these lawsuits, particularly in California, all business operating a website should consult with their web developer about what, if any, accessibility standards are being used on their website, and implement a plan to make the website accessible where possible. There are several easily identifiable fixes that can be made to make your website less vulnerable to a lawsuit. These include:

• Using “alt text” or text-based alternates to describe images or media content. This will ensure that there is a textbased description of the image that is accessible through a screen reader for individuals who are visually impaired or have certain cognitive disabilities. • Ensuring the website can be navigated solely with a keyboard, as opposed to requiring the use of a mouse. • Using clear, easy-to-read fonts that contrast from the background. • Uploading documents in non-image based formats, such as HTML or RTF. • Providing closed captioning for videos where possible, particularly if your website provides online classes or tutorials. • Avoiding using flashing or moving graphics that are not capable of being read by screen readers. • Having easily identifiable help or assistance options where individuals who are unable to access certain portions of a website can receive alternative assistance. Taking a proactive approach to making your business website accessible to individuals with disabilities is the best deterrent to a lawsuit and will put your business in the strongest position to defeat a lawsuit. In the event your business is sued, you should retain qualified counsel as soon as possible so that an appropriate litigation and remediation plan can be developed. SBT Nathan Okelberry Associate, Fisher Phillips (213) 330-4449 [ FEBRUARY 2018 ]




with Influence                 BY GAIL STOLZENBURG


s your networking really productive or are you just spending time with old friends? What if you were networking with influential people? Thomas J. Stanley, author of Networking with the Affluent, says, “Dollar for dollar, the most productive way to penetrate the affluent market is to network with its members, their advisors, and key members of their important affinity groups”. There is a difference in the mindset of wealthy people and less affluent people. When purchasing a product wealthy people consider the investment rather than the cost, the long term benefit rather than the immediate gratification, and tax consequences instead of just cash flow. Did you know 40% of the wealth is controlled by about 1% of the people? Rather than attempting to market a few products or services to many prospective purchasers, consider marketing many products or services to a few customers who are influencers. Develop one or more niches of influencers on which you can focus. Are all influencers wealthy? There are many less affluent people to connect you with influential people. Rather than what you know, it is who you know, who knows you, what you know and remember about each other, and how you build relationships. What do you think of when you hear wealthy, affluent, or influential? Does is bring up thoughts of exclusive, privacy, or inaccessible? Most successful people dislike being sold and yet welcome opportunities where they can share their knowledge, develop relationships, and increase their contact sphere. It is important that you are


perceived as an influencer yourself, so begin by developing the mindset of an influential person.

Develop a Plan How do you approach these in-

fluential people? Do research (Google it) and get background information on individuals you want to meet, the events they are attending, and who else attend these groups. As often as possible take a millionaire to lunch or at least take someone who advises the affluent. Get away from the office, phone calls, and other distractions. Spend the time asking questions to discover their urgent needs. There are many success stories about networkers who helped influential people solve problems or supported causes, totally unrelated to the networkers business, and received lucrative contracts as a result. Offer to conduct complimentary seminars or workshops for their employees on topics you know will benefit them. Share ideas you have learned about personal development, leadership, and relationship marketing. Ask them where you should network.


Gwen Juarez Photography


Stay in Touch Finally, develop a system of following up. Let them know you enjoyed and benefitted from your meeting and exchange of ideas. Send a personal note with helpful ideas from time to time. Set up a time to reconnect. Determine the next step. And, continue to help them in any way you can, even if there is no immediate financial benefit to you. Always remember the Givers’ Gain® philosophy.

guy, who has influencers coming to you for referrals for other services or products to help their business. You will receive endorsements for using the law of reciprocity .Business is all about relationships. Mention the people with whom you want to build relationships in your newsletters. Utilize social media. Have pictures taken with influential people at events. Belong to at least one Chamber of Commerce and serve on committees where you can meet the influencers. Attend the networking events where


Consider Timing When is the best time to make a sale? It is when you have just made a sale because you are in a peak state. So when is the best time to contact an influencer you want to meet? It is when they have just concluded a major deal or been recognized for accomplishments and are feeling great about themselves. Also, take into consideration the best time of day for you personally. Are you at your best in the morning, noon, afternoon, evening, or night time.

Find the Resources Be a resource, the “go to”


you can meet the influencers rather than just those in which you feel comfortable. The most personal growth happens when you are uncomfortable. Groups where there is no charge for membership tend to attract members only interested in saving money. Exclusivity is important aspect of networking groups composed of influential people.

H.M.S.D.C. InKids

Your Network is Your Wealth! SBT Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg Author of CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients 281 493 1955



Phil & Derek’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar





Sbt March 2018 Lunch & Learn Small Business Today Talk Show Symmetry Fitness

Profile for Digital Publisher

Small Business Today  

February 2018

Small Business Today  

February 2018