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volume seven issue three

Tips

TO BE

A STAR IN

MARKETING

SPRING INTO ACTION

STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

TECHNOLOGY: HOW IT IMPACTS

RHODE ISLAND

P R E P A R I N G T O M E E T W I T H A R E T A I L B U Y E1 R www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three


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contents

volume seven issue three

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

7

7 Small Business News 9 Understanding The Buyers Journey 10 Technology Trends for 2018 12 Be A Star in Marketing

15 Networking Group With A Focus On Women 16 Are You Staying In Touch With Your Business?

18

18 Handling Distractions In The Workplace 20 Spring Into Action

ON THE COVER volume seven issue three

24 Personnel Practices

HANDLING DISTRACTIONS Tips Featured Technology IN THE WORKPLACE TO BE

A STAR IN

MARKETING

26 Lifelong Learning

SPRING INTO ACTION

By Kristin MacRae

I hear this on a weekly basis, “I get so many distractions throughout the day, it’s impossible to get any work done.” We all have interruptions and distractions in our day. You may have received an urgent phone call and need to drop what you’re doing to handle it. Your emails may be piling up by the minute. Your co-workers are standing over you dropping STAYING items into your inbox. You may get pulled away from your HOW desk while you in the middle of completing an important INareTOUCH task. You may be the one responsible for causing your own WITH YOUR

Trends in 2018

distractions. These distractions and interruptions will not only allow you to lose focus but will decrease your productivity.

If you want to conquer this, you must put the work in to find out what’s distracting you. Grab a pen and paper or your tablet and jot down what types of distractions are disrupting your day. Once you have this list in front of you, now you can get to work and think about how you can work around these distractions. If you’re operating in chaos in your office, IT IMPACTS you’re going to need to get organized before you can wrap your head around this process. It’s the first step.

TECHNOLOGY:

29 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition

14

9

14 Preparing To Meet With A Retail Buyer

SMALL BUSINESS

RHODE ISLAND

P R E PA R I N G TO M E E T W I T H A R E TA I L B U Y E R

Spring Into Action: Business Growth Strategy

Everybody has different distractions in the day, so everybody will function differently. Here are 10 general ways that will help with distractions. DECLUTTER AND GET ORGANIZED. Visual clutter leads to mental clutter which will in turn cause you to lose focus and decrease your productivity. Declutter and organize your desk. You should only have on top of your desk what you need on a daily basis. Remove the horizontal flat filing trays. They are a breeding ground for paper. When you get a distraction and you’re disorganized, it’s difficult to get back on track because there’s already chaos around you. If you’re organized, you can deal with your distraction, but then you’ll continue to go about your day unscathed. HAVE A SYSTEM AND A PROCESS FOR EVERYTHING. If you are disorganized and go to search for a file or important paper, you will waste time searching for it and this process will allow you to become distracted and lose focus. Have a process to handle every piece of paper that arrives at your desk. Create working filing systems so that when you need to search for an item, it will be at your fingertips and you will be able to find it at a moment’s notice. Remember, the simpler the systems you create, the easier the system will be to maintain. The more complex the system, the more likely it will fail. WORK ON YOUR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS. Organization and time management go hand in hand. You can’t work on your time management skills until you have decluttered and organized. Create blocks of time that you dedicate to projects you are working on. Prioritize your tasks. Take some time to think about how you are functioning in your day. What changes can you make to become more efficient and productive? UTILIZE TO-DO LISTS. Working with a to-do list will keep you on track during the day. You will have a feeling of accomplishment when you cross items off the list. You will look at your to-do-list throughout the day and it will keep you focused and on track seeing everything you need to accomplish for the day. LIMIT INTERRUPTIONS. Aside from urgent issues that need to be handled immediately, set aside time for your co-workers to ask you questions. They won’t be disrupting you throughout the day and it will allow you to stay focused. Before you interrupt, think about if you can figure out the answer first before you disrupt your co-worker. CREATE A WORKING ORGANIZED SYSTEM FOR EMAILS. Can you develop a system where you check emails only certain times of the day? The minute you pull yourself away from what you are doing to check an email, you will get distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. If you are working on an important project, stay away from the email for that time period. When sending an email think about if you really need to hit the “reply all” key or if you need to copy everybody on the email.

“You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best.” WORK ON DIFFICULT TASKS WHEN YOU’RE AT YOUR BEST. You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best. If you have a difficult project to tackle, choose a time when you are functioning at your best, whether it is the morning when you first walk in the door or right after lunch. BE MINDFUL. Pay attention to when you start to get distracted. What is distracting you and how can you avoid that distraction from happening? Can you notify your co-workers to not disturb you during certain hours of the day? Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t allow yourself to get distracted and switch to a different project. If an idea pops into your head, write it down and then continue with the task at hand. REDUCE YOUR LINGERING TIME AROUND THE OFFICE. The minute you get up from your desk, you will immediately get distracted. Somebody may see you are up and that is a cue for them to speak to you. It’s going to distract you and take you away from what you were doing at that moment.

26 DRINK WATER AND EAT HEALTHY WHILE AT WORK. This will keep you alert, productive, and will keep you from feeling sluggish.

Remember, this might not be an easy task for you. You have to put the work in if you want to become more efficient and productive. Break the process down and just start with writing down where you struggle. Start there and then move forward with the above tips. Kristin M. MacRae Organizing & Efficiency Expert Owner, Organizing In RI, LLC

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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RISBJ | rhode island small business journal

Restrictions apply. See website for details. These programs are funded by the energy efficiency charge on all customers’ gas and electric bills, in accordance


SMALL BUSINESS

NEWS

Rhode Island Foundation Awards

$43 Million in Grants and Receives $38 Million in Gifts Last Year

PROVIDENCE, RI – Following a year in which it awarded $43 million in grants to more than 1,700 nonprofit organizations, the Rhode Island Foundation is launching a new grantmaking opportunity, refining its strategic priorities, adopting impact targets and adding new staff positions to support its work with partners, donors, nonprofits and community leaders. “We are indebted to our visionary donors for joining with us to take on the state’s challenges and opportunities,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “There is considerable work ahead – increased community need and statewide opportunity for success – and we are determined to tailor our grantmaking, investment, fundraising and operational approaches to the task.” The Foundation received more than $38 million in new gifts from generous individual, family, organizational and corporate donors of all sizes in 2017. The institution’s total assets increased to approximately $950 million and its total fund return for the year was 17.4 percent. The Foundation’s three strategic priorities – Economic Security, Educational Success, and Healthy Lives – will remain major focus areas for investment in 2018 and beyond. Grantmaking and leadership activities in each area will focus on three targeted strategies. They adopted a set of 2025 impact targets to align

with those strategies, progress will be reported to the community. “Working with community partners, and our donors, we are able to support programs that make it possible for all young people to achieve educational success, for all Rhode Islanders to lead healthier lives, and put economic security within reach for even more of our state’s residents,” said Steinberg. “Investments of funding and leadership in these areas fuel positive change for our state.” As an additional complement to the dozens of targeted grantmaking and scholarship opportunities the Foundation offers, the organization is launching a new, flexible funding opportunity this year. Responsive Grants will open up funding opportunities to even more nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island, and will respond to the expressed needs of the community. “This new funding approach will enable our grantees to quickly address an urgent need, emerging opportunity, to test a new idea for service delivery, or to support a proven program,” said Steinberg. “While we will continue to provide support for the arts, housing, human services and the environment, we are opening our doors even wider so that more charitable organizations in Rhode Island have access to needed resources. This approach allows us to honor donor intent while more fully responding to community need.” www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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Get More Business By Understanding The Buyer’s Journey | SMALL BUSINESS

G E T

M O R E

B U S I N E S S

B Y

U N D E R S T A N D I N G

The Buyer’s Journey by Bryan B Mason

The Buyer’s Journey is the process or “journey” a customer goes through to buy something. Sometime this is called the Buying Cycle. This journey can be very short such as finding and going to a restaurant. Selecting a restaurant can occur a few minutes to a few weeks before the purchase. Other journeys can take as much as six months such as selecting a new car or contracting for a kitchen remodel. Finally, some cycles can be a year or longer such as with buying a new house. It is important to understand the Buyer’s Journey so that you can provide the right information at the right time and are able to identify which prospective customers need your attention at any given moment.

There are four phases to the Buyer’s Journey: Awareness – The awareness phase of the Buyer’s Journey is

sometimes called the inspiration. In this phase, the prospective customer recognizes that they have a need or desire. You need to position your brand as a possible solution or a way to fulfill a need.

Consideration/Justification – In this phase, the prospective

customer begins to gather more information. Many buyers start looking for this information by typing in some keywords using Google. So in this phase, you want to make available educational material, customer reviews, testimonials, and be mentioned by influencers relevant to your industry. Social media is key for consumer products. Towards the end of this phase, customers begin to prioritize their purchase considerations.

Decision/Purchase – This is the phase in which you need to have the most interaction with the customer. This is where you brag about your product and

demonstrate that your prospective customer is going to have a positive customer experience. In retail, the customer experience will make or break the sale. This is where your customer decides. You are going for the joy of purchase!

Evangelizing – If you have done everything right up to now and

been lucky enough to get the sale, the customer leaves happy that they have found just what they were looking for. But don’t forget this step. This is where you get your customer to tell all his/ her friends and colleagues using social media. You want positive reviews on Google and Yelp. Your aim is to get each satisfied customer to help you get more customers by evangelizing about your product or service. The goal is to provide the right information just when the prospective customer wants it. If you have a business selling big ticket items, you will want to get some information about the prospect such as an email and/or phone so that you can keep the prospect informed about specials, product developments and the like. This way you can reach out by providing information and determine by any response whether a prospect is getting ready to make a decision. Using a customer relationship management system will greatly simplify this process and allow you to track when emails are opened, etc. If you have a short cycle, you want to provide layers of information on-line or in person to allow the person to drill down depending on where they are in their journey. By mastering these phases you can greatly increase your closing effectiveness because you will be able to nurture your leads and be there to close the sale at the right moment. In addition, by paying attention to the responsiveness of a lead, you will be able to prioritize the prospects that you are more likely to close.

Bryan B Mason

Principal The Apollo Consulting Group LLC

Mr. Mason founded the Apollo Consulting Group in 2008 to help small and mid-sized companies in solving their challenges. Mr. Mason brings over thirty years of corporate, consulting and entrepreneurial experience in a variety of industries. He possesses skills in general business management, analysis, strategy development, marketing, finance/budgeting, operations, pricing optimization, workflow optimization, process reengineering, project management, and information technology. Mr. Mason has two degrees in Economics and was a Volunteer Mentor for the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RI-CIE). He writes a weekly blog on his company website at www.apollogr.com/blog. www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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8

TECHNOLOGY TRENDS Ready For Exploration in 2018 In the age of disruption, businesses and their leaders will rise or fall based on their ability to spot and creatively respond to rapid technological change. Some companies notice an emerging technology and take a “wait and see” attitude. Others see a new technology and take action. They begin experimenting, making small bets, and learning. Their attitude is that it’s never too early to start. It’s never too early to begin looking at what others are already doing. It’s never too early to engage the imagination to conceive of how the new technology could be used to create competitive advantage.

• • •

Where is this technology likely to be in 5 years? When will it become mainstream? How might it help us differentiate, and to add value to customers? To improve speed of satisfaction, manage choice and complexity, and enhance customer experience? How will/could this new technology help us gain productivity and become a better place to work?

With such questions in mind, what follows are eight technologies that are ripe for exploitation by your company in 2018, and beyond.

These “fast movers” often jumpstart creative applications by asking themselves leading questions such as:

#1

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going mainstream.

While Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook pioneered artificial intelligence, AI is beginning to be deployed by increasing numbers of mid-sized and even small businesses. Here, the applications are exploding. Real Estate giant Coldwell Banker is experimenting with AI to target classes of likely buyers for a specific property, and piloting new AI software that helps identify likely sellers.

#2

Apps are becoming esstential tools in the workplace.

Fort Worth, Texas-based startup Booster Fuels saves time-strapped motorists a trip to the gas station. When you order fuel on your Booster app, they bring the gasoline to you. Startup businesses like Booster Fuels are taking advantage of the app trend to address unmet customer needs. Established companies like Safeco auto insurance are finding new ways to use apps to add value to customers — and improve worker productivity.

#3

Wearable technology is enhancing cruise experience.

With over 6000 passengers, Carnival Cruise Lines created a wearable technology to help customers avoid “over-choice.” Passengers are given the option to wear a wristband device synced with a companion app on their smartphone to serve as a kind of constant guide while onboard. Result: Carnival customer data shows that guests come away happier, less stressed, | rhode island small business for journal 10andRISBJ more apt to return to Carnival their next cruise.


#4

Big Data is empowering company location scouting.

Technology Trends | SMALL BUSINESS

Ever wondered how Starbucks can open multiple shops in the same neighborhood without cannibalizing existing store traffic? Answer: they use big data. Until now, big data was available exclusively to big companies. As more and more digital data gets collected (as when you give your phone number to the clerk at the grocery store), mid-sized and even small firms are now able to tap the power of big data analytics to carve out new strategic advantage: to lower the cost of customer acquisition, find new ways to cut costs, increase sales, personalize product offerings, and enter new markets.

#5

Amazon’s Alexa is wiring consumer’s living rooms.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology first burst on the scene in 2015, when a startup called Nest reinvented the thermostat and made it “smart,” which is to say programmable, and connected via the internet to the consumers smart phone,.Other products, and the technology is exploding. In home security, for example, for a fraction of the cost of traditional home security- service, consumers can set up the new do it yourself system — place the easy to use sensors and cameras and motion detectors around your home, and connect to a control hub, and an app on your smart phone.

#6

Advanced robotics aren’t just for factories anymore.

Hotel chain Aloft uses robotic bellhops to supplement their bell staff — delivering extra towels, keys and whatever else to guest rooms without delay. Suddenly, agile, trainable, lightweight robots aren’t just found on the factory floor, they’re showing up everywhere. And they won’t replace workers in most cases, they will enable smarter labor deployment by taking on repetitive, backbreaking and higher risk tasks and introducing logistical efficiency. In many a business, the question is not: will we or won’t we? The question is: where will we and when will we deploy robots, and in what kinds of uses do they make the most sense?

#7

Drones aren’t just for the military anymore.

While Amazon’s drone delivery seems to be stalled by regulators and other hurdles, last year, a New Zealand couple became the first persons to have a pizza delivered by drone. The successful delivery came just three months after Domino’s announced a partnership with a local drone delivery service. Suddenly drones — aircraft without a human pilot aboard — are everywhere. The commercial drone industry already touches almost every sector of the economy, 38 types of businesses have already been approved for drone operations, and the industry is poised to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S.

#8

Virtual Reality. The possibilities are viritually limitless.

Virtual reality — computer technology that uses special headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations — is poised to take off, and not just in the consumer space. Increasingly, firms are using VR to lower the cost of training. www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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IT’S A TOOL IN YOUR by Nancy Thomas I wish I had videoed the heated exchange at a recent networking group — what a missed opportunity! A little over done debate about video and if video was marketing or was it really advertising. The discussion festered into a debate over email, and on and on. What’s the big deal? The difference is, of course, are you paying a 3rd party to have your video put in front of people – or are you using a longer form of video to tell a story over channels that are for the most part free and accessible in the “new world” of marketing? In today’s world of marketing and public relations – and yes, advertising – the messages are becoming shorter and shorter. No longer is “long form” the most desirable way to get your message across. Yesterday’s Facebook posts are today’s Snapchat, Instagram, or even Pinterest posts. Sometimes they are even a quick 5-10 seconds over a text-video message! Just listen to these social media channel names — SNAPChat and INSTAgram. Quick. Today. In my face, give it to me – quick – so I can move on to the next thing. And it better be compelling, or it won’t even reach the part of my brain that has room left to remember in this over-communicated world. So how does video come to play in all this rush to quick messaging. It has become even the lowest common denominator – appealing to someone’s sense of visual processing – I don’t even have to read this – just show me. Now that we now WHY we are all rushing to video — HOW do we do it? Is it a quick Facebook live? Or is it a painstakingly laborious and expensive 30 second commercial for a medium that is losing audience numbers exponentially with each ratings period that goes by?

12

RISBJ | rhode island small business journal

Video is part of marketing. If your marketing company isn’t doing it or pushing you into thinking all must be PERFECT to do it – then seek other advice. You don’t need the best lighting, the best copy, the perfect scenario. Even the perfect technology. But you do need to catch someone’s attention. And you need to speak in sound bites with grabbing visuals.

What to video? Speak right straight into the camera and tell your story, talk about an upcoming event or sale, or give them some useful information they need. Take a tour of your company, or store. Stop and talk to people along the way. Do something unrelated to your company, too, to personalize the message – show someone how to safely shovel snow – or how to pick out the best apples in the grocery store. If you have a new product, video opening up the package as it comes into your building. A nonprofit? Interview a client about what going to their fundraising event will mean to them…the sky’s the limit — and don’t be all just about business.

“ In this over-communicating world, take your message to video — let them see you, hear you, and always leave them wanting for more...”


Be A Star | SMALL BUSINESS

R MARKETING TOOLBOX… Of course there are those times when things might not be “popping” about your message or the message is just too serious and well, mundane. In that case, tell the viewer right up front – you’re going to talk at them, give them necessary information and it’s information that they want. Cut it into segments – 3 minutes or less. The attention span has to be kept top of mind. Break your mundane “lesson” or “message” into a series – 3 parts – or 6 parts – or once a week, even. But keep to that 3 minutes or less video marketing message. Otherwise? Make a mini-movie or a 20-minute YouTube video and place it appropriately with a little teaser up front – some people will take the time to watch, but you have to literally lead them there.

What to do with it now? Once you’ve done this little 3 minute video, now what do you do with it? Think multi-use. You can put it on your website. Upload it to all your social media. Don’t forget LinkedIn. Send it out to your client base in an email link. Upload it to a Constant Contact mailing or an e-newsletter. Nothing you do today should be done for one simple format. Think multiple use — multiple channels.

In this over-communicating world, take your message to video – let them see you, hear you, and always leave them wanting for more – and give them a website or a click through with how they can get the information. If you move to traditional TV advertising or even YouTube production, then that is where you will want to invest in lighting, professional sound and production – because you’ll be paying for some of these placements – and you’ll want to make sure you look your Sunday best! Otherwise, it’s super casual, super easy, right in your face, and wow them. Try it today…remember, no fussing, just do it! Start right with that phone in your hand, set that photo app to video and have some fun. You can be a star…and it starts with video marketing. Go for it! And – smile…

Nancy Thomas Public Relations & Marketing Consultant Owner of Tapestry Communications

So – is video marketing advertising? I suppose it can be if you want to run a long form video ad on someone’s website…but I would never advise it — that should look much more like the 30 second commercial you would see on traditional television.

Another tool for your toolbox. Video is a tool. Just like a podcast is a tool. Or photographer is a tool. It is a great, short, informal way to tell your story. Make it short — but longer than a TV ad (that no one is watching)…think about the multiple channels of use. Don’t fuss and fret to make it perfect. If you’re really bold do some Facebook LIVE – and again, repurpose it after the fact.

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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SMALL BUSINESS | Preparing To Meet With A Retail Buyer

Preparing to Meet With a Retail Buyer Your business is launched, your product is ready! Don’t let lack of preparation stop you from getting it on the shelf. Here are a few steps to make sure you’re ready to sell your wholesale product when you walk in the door to meet with a retail buyer.

1.

BE FLUENT IN YOUR PRODUCT

This is where all the time and energy you put into designing a product and bringing it to market comes in. Be ready to talk about who the target audience is, how it works, special features, how it will bring value to customers’ lives, and what sets it apart from similar items.

2.

ANTICIPATE QUESTIONS

If possible, ask colleagues or networking partners to grill you about your product and sales so that you’re ready to answer any question that comes your way. Some questions that may come up include: • Who is your competition? Are you priced competitively? • What are the minimum order requirements? • What is the timeline for order fulfillment? • How will you handle a problem with the order or a defect in a product? What is your warranty policy?

3.

PREPARE YOUR SALES PITCH

Outline a brief sales pitch. Give a brief background of who you are, what you are selling, why people will want to buy your product, and what distinguishes it from its competition. Practice your sales pitch so that you can deliver it with enthusiasm and excitement to convince the retail buyer that their customers will be excited to purchase it from their store.

4.

RESEARCH YOUR BUYER

It is important to know about the store, their target market and customers, and other product lines they sell to make sure the store is a good fit for your product.

5.

BRING SAMPLES

If available, bring as many samples of your highest quality products as you can, so the buyer can see it, feel it, try it out, and picture how it will fit in their store. If no samples are available, bring brochures with comprehensive information and high quality photos.

6.

MAKE ORDERING EASY

Once you’ve sold a buyer on your product, make it really easy for them to order (and reorder!) a supply for their store. This includes making sure they have accurate information about how to reach you to place an order (phone, email, online ordering form), as well as a comprehensive order form and line sheet. A good order form should be well-organized, and provide easy ways to account for products, sizes, styles, colors, quantity, and payment options. A comprehensive line sheet makes the process of buying products simple and straightforward. Think of it as a summary, or cheat sheet, of all the information you’ll be relaying in your meeting, so that a buyer has the information at a glance after you’ve gone.

RISBJ | rhode island small business journal

General business information: Business name and logo, your name and title, contact information, website, and possibly a 1-2 sentence summary about your business/brand. Product images and brief description: Straightforward, representative photos of your products, paired with a succinct, accurate description detailing function and key features, so that buyers are clear exactly what is being presented in the image. Purchasing options: Provide complete information about what sizes, colors, and other options are available with each product. Mark any items that are One Size Fits All as such, and display a photo or sample color swatch of any additional colors. Prices: Clearly state the price of each product, including any volume discounts. Include shipping estimates, and taxes where applicable.

Bio: The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center at URI is part of a national network of nearly 1,000 business assistance centers that provide counseling and training to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Partially funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, we help businesses to succeed from start-up to maturity.

Congratulations on taking this next step to get your product to market! 14

Key elements of a line sheet include:

RISBDC Director Manuel Batlle leads a workshop at Hope & Main, where dozens of food entrepreneurs are developing retail relationships.


New Networking Group Puts Location, Focus OnLocation Women || SMALL Location, SMALL BUSINESS BUSINESS

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Focus On Women

Polka Dot Powerhouse networking is the first of its kind in R.I.

T

he role of a successful company comes from growing in order to make a profit. Accomplishing this goal means networking at various events. Some seminars are small and cater to specific industries. Other venues are larger and can handle hundreds of businesspeople fulfilling potential projects and new endeavors. There are also times when someone has an epiphany and sets about to blaze their own path. That was the route Christine Gallo of Burrillville, who attended a Polka Dot Powerhouse networking event in Framingham, Massachusetts. She soon learned that while Massachusetts conducts several such chapters, Rhode Island does not have one in operation. She said that meeting encouraged her to begin a chanter closer to home. “I enjoyed going to the event in Framingham because it was a comfortable, welcoming environment that focused on relationship building,” said Gallo who works as an entrepreneur who was a public school educator for over 15 years. “It was unlike any group I have attended in the past and felt like a mix of a mom’s group and networking. It was a middle ground between those two extremes. However, making the Framingham meetings takes about an hour each way, and I wanted one that was closer to my home. I wanted to bring the energy of this group to the women of Blackstone Valley and RI.” Gallo went on to launch a local chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse—Blackstone Valley RI Chapter. This networking event features issues and concerns that cater primarily to women. The group meets on the last Tuesday of every month at Harmony Lodge, 102 Putnam Pike, (Rte. 44) in Harmony. The event features a guest speaker that talks about a partic-

ular issue or service while focusing on helping women grow personally and professionally. There is time to network and have dinner also. Gallo said the launch meeting took place recently and was “pleasantly surprised” by the initial turnout. Nearly threedozen people attended the first meeting on February 27. She added numerous industries were represented that ranged from real estate agents and financial advisors to life coaches, direct sales representative and yoga instructors. She said;

The goal is creating several more Polka Dot Powerhouse Chapters throughout Rhode Island.” “The goal is having several of these events taking place throughout Rhode Island,” Gallo said. “Their policy is not to have meetings within a 20-mile radius of each other. So, the hope would be to hold one in the Providence/Cranston/Warwick area and start another chapter in the southern part of the state.” The Polka Dot Powerhouse networking event is scheduled to convene over the next several months. Those interested can attend the upcoming meetings on either March 27, April 24 and/or May 29. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the final Tuesday of every month. The event costs $20, which includes dinner, tax and gratuity. More details regarding this event and/or inquiring about hosting their own event may contact Christine Gallo by phone at 508-735-4187, by email at gallo_christine@yahoo. com or visiting their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ BlackstonePDP. More information about the networking group itself may be found by visiting www.polkadotpowerhouse.com

CHRISTINE GALLO www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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SMALL BUSINESS | Are You Staying In Touch With Your Business

Are You Staying in Touch

By Larry Girouard Do you have a way of staying in touch with your business so that you know what is working, and what is not? I recently wrote articles about the power of decluttering your business and addressing what the change process looks like. These are certainly foundational for creating a powerfully competitive business culture. That said, what are your business indicators that move you to act on something sooner rather than later to improve, or protect, your business? I like using the car analogy because most of us drive 10,000-20,000 miles a year, or more. Our love for our automobiles starts when we were youths dreaming about our first jalopy. To this day I can remember mine...a 1954 ford that, by any description, would be considered on its last days. It did not matter...it got me where I wanted to go without having to pedal. Free at last! In the fifties dashboards were Spartan by today’s standards, but they had the big three gauges...speed, oil level and engine temperature. While I might have tested the top end of the speedometer, perhaps all too often, when the oil or temperature gauges started to peg you were quickly moved to action at the risk that your freedom would be shortly curtailed. A terrifying thought! Fast forward to the 21st century when I bought my first Garmin GPS system for my car back in 2002. It reminded me of the early James Bond movie, Goldfinger, where Bond was tracking a car using a screen on his dashboard that displayed a map and the location of the car he was tracking. For those old enough, you may recall that the car was eventually was crushed in a car compacter with a body inside. Messy! That said, the Garmin GPS system was terrific! The reliability and accuracy exceeded all expectations,

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and it provided great advantages for the user...it saved a lot of time getting to a place you were not familiar with, and it created peace of mind driving anywhere. (As an aside Garmin was named after the company’s two founders, Gary Burrell and Min Kao. The US Army was their first customer). Today most cars have a built in GPS system that has become part of the overall dashboard instrumentation. Today’s dashboards provide a wide range of real time performance metrics for the driver to easily monitor. Think about the concept of a GPS system for your company that tells you where you are and, more importantly, where you are going. What stress relief this would present for a business owner and management team! Optimization of both top and bottom line growth can be realized through the successful integration of creativity and structure. Most small companies are top heavy on the creativity side of the balance scale and painfully light on the structure/process side. This often results in a culture that is more reactive to their environment which results in a high stress level for all. Rarely can a company succeed over the long haul with a culture of reactivity. It is painfully exhausting and demoralizing.


h with

Are You Staying In Touch With Your Business | SMALL BUSINESS

“Optimization of both top and bottom line growth can be realized through the successful integration of creativity and structure.”

Don’t Fear Becoming More Metric Driven One reason most entrepreneurs, and for that matter most business owners, chose that career path is because they have complete control over their own destiny. They are their own boss and, in their minds, accountable to no one. Not true! They are always accountable to their customers who vote with their dollars. If the customer experience is not up to snuff, customers will vote by sending their dollars to competition. Better said, you must have a set of company performance metrics to ensure you are delivering a quality value proposition. These metrics are the owner’s boss. These metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs), will either attract or drive away customers. Even if you do not measure your company’s KPIs, your customer will. As an owner, have the courage to make a list of all the KPIs you can think of, and then set an acceptable upper and lower limit for company performance on each one. Like the 54 Ford in the example above, if a KPI falls below the lower performance limit, this is the signal for immediate corrective action. As you improve the overall performance culture of the company, your KPI performances will begin to increase by default. The next step is to work with your employees to set higher KPI performance limits, and continue this upward trend by implementing continuous improvement methodologies with management and the employees working together.

Successful metric driven companies include all employees driving these metrics, not just management. Employees add all the value and, for the most part, impact overall corporate efficiency the most. Like the instruments on your car’s dashboard, metrics are your friend. They keep your company from straying off course with real time feedback when there is an issue that demands corrective action. Through this type of data mining, which is simple with today’s technology, you can stay in touch with all aspects of your business your business from your office, or from a remote location. Have the courage to let the power of technology help you stay in touch with the performance of your business by making your KPIs visual. It will help your team become more proactive in response to customer needs and pave the way for market penetration in a world of me-too services and look-like products.

Larry Girouard President, The Business Avionix Company A Business Consulting Firm

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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SMALL BUSINESS | Handling Distractions In The Workplace

HANDLING DISTRACTIONS

IN THE WORKPLACE By Kristin MacRae I hear this on a weekly basis, “I get so many distractions throughout the day, it’s impossible to get any work done.” We all have interruptions and distractions in our day. You may have received an urgent phone call and need to drop what you’re doing to handle it. Your emails may be piling up by the minute. Your co-workers are standing over you dropping items into your inbox. You may get pulled away from your desk while you are in the middle of completing an important task. You may be the one responsible for causing your own

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distractions. These distractions and interruptions will not only allow you to lose focus but will decrease your productivity. If you want to conquer this, you must put the work in to find out what’s distracting you. Grab a pen and paper or your tablet and jot down what types of distractions are disrupting your day. Once you have this list in front of you, now you can get to work and think about how you can work around these distractions. If you’re operating in chaos in your office, you’re going to need to get organized before you can wrap your head around this process. It’s the first step.


Handling Distractions In The Workplace | SMALL BUSINESS

Everybody has different distractions in the day, so everybody will function differently. Here are 10 general ways that will help with distractions. DECLUTTER AND GET ORGANIZED. Visual clutter leads to mental clutter which will in turn cause you to lose focus and decrease your productivity. Declutter and organize your desk. You should only have on top of your desk what you need on a daily basis. Remove the horizontal flat filing trays. They are a breeding ground for paper. When you get a distraction and you’re disorganized, it’s difficult to get back on track because there’s already chaos around you. If you’re organized, you can deal with your distraction, but then you’ll continue to go about your day unscathed. HAVE A SYSTEM AND A PROCESS FOR EVERYTHING. If you are disorganized and go to search for a file or important paper, you will waste time searching for it and this process will allow you to become distracted and lose focus. Have a process to handle every piece of paper that arrives at your desk. Create working filing systems so that when you need to search for an item, it will be at your fingertips and you will be able to find it at a moment’s notice. Remember, the simpler the systems you create, the easier the system will be to maintain. The more complex the system, the more likely it will fail. WORK ON YOUR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS. Organization and time management go hand in hand. You can’t work on your time management skills until you have decluttered and organized. Create blocks of time that you dedicate to projects you are working on. Prioritize your tasks. Take some time to think about how you are functioning in your day. What changes can you make to become more efficient and productive? UTILIZE TO-DO LISTS. Working with a to-do list will keep you on track during the day. You will have a feeling of accomplishment when you cross items off the list. You will look at your to-do-list throughout the day and it will keep you focused and on track seeing everything you need to accomplish for the day. LIMIT INTERRUPTIONS. Aside from urgent issues that need to be handled immediately, set aside time for your co-workers to ask you questions. They won’t be disrupting you throughout the day and it will allow you to stay focused. Before you interrupt, think about if you can figure out the answer first before you disrupt your co-worker. CREATE A WORKING ORGANIZED SYSTEM FOR EMAILS. Can you develop a system where you check emails only certain times of the day? The minute you pull yourself away from what you are doing to check an email, you will get distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. If you are working on an important project, stay away from the email for that time period. When sending an email think about if you really need to hit the “reply all” key or if you need to copy everybody on the email.

“You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best.” WORK ON DIFFICULT TASKS WHEN YOU’RE AT YOUR BEST. You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best. If you have a difficult project to tackle, choose a time when you are functioning at your best, whether it is the morning when you first walk in the door or right after lunch. BE MINDFUL. Pay attention to when you start to get distracted. What is distracting you and how can you avoid that distraction from happening? Can you notify your co-workers to not disturb you during certain hours of the day? Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t allow yourself to get distracted and switch to a different project. If an idea pops into your head, write it down and then continue with the task at hand. REDUCE YOUR LINGERING TIME AROUND THE OFFICE. The minute you get up from your desk, you will immediately get distracted. Somebody may see you are up and that is a cue for them to speak to you. It’s going to distract you and take you away from what you were doing at that moment. DRINK WATER AND EAT HEALTHY WHILE AT WORK. This will keep you alert, productive, and will keep you from feeling sluggish. Remember, this might not be an easy task for you. You have to put the work in if you want to become more efficient and productive. Break the process down and just start with writing down where you struggle. Start there and then move forward with the above tips. Kristin M. MacRae Organizing & Efficiency Expert Owner, Organizing In RI, LLC

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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SMALL BUSINESS | Spring Into Action





 By Tuni Schartner Seriously, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know about all of you but with my own business and the majority of my clientsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and colleaguesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; businesses, this last three months has gone by in a FLASH! Hopefully you all jumped into this New Year prepared â&#x20AC;&#x201D; with your long-term growth goals firmly in place, but chances are you might not have? Either way, Spring is here and it is a great time to review your businessâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s performance in this first quarter of the year then take some time to plan out your growth goals for the rest of 2018 and set short term objectives that will start to move you in that direction. I call myself a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;professional spaghetti throwerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; because Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m constantly quantifyinwhat is working, and what isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, then deciding what to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;shelfâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;,

what to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;trashâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, and what to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;invest more time and money into.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Many of us are visual thinkers and this analogy seems to resonate with many of my clients â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I thought Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d share it with you! Understanding how busy professionals and business owners, like you, are I thought Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d share a simple process I use ALL THE TIME here, and one that I highly recommend you take and practice on your own business ASAP.

     â&#x20AC;˘ Who are you? â&#x20AC;˘ What do you do? â&#x20AC;˘ WHY do you do what you do?

â&#x20AC;˘ What donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you enjoy?

â&#x20AC;˘ What do you enjoy doing in your business?

â&#x20AC;˘ What do you think your clients or customers love about what you do?

â&#x20AC;˘ What do you think youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re exceptionally good at?

â&#x20AC;˘ What do you think they arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t happy with?

Diving deep into each of these questions is where the real gold is and I promise youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll gain clarity that is the key to all the other parts of your marketing and growth strategies and campaigns when you do this exercise. This is the foundation of it all. The more time you spend on this the better, for it is truly the base, and the more solid your base the easier and more efficient the rest becomes.

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â&#x20AC;˘ What do you think you are NOT doing well?

RISBJ | rhode island small business journal

â&#x20AC;&#x153;         

  â&#x20AC;?




Spring Into Action | SMALL BUSINESS

 Â?Â?Â?Â?Â?    â&#x20AC;˘ Really peel back the layers of the onion here. Who is your real target audience or audience segments?

â&#x20AC;˘ Are they men or women? Groups? A very specific age demographic, etc...

For some businesses itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pretty simple and they have a very clear niche audience, but for others it might be multiple segments they are targeting. Again, clarity is vital to everything else youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re building within your marketing and growth strategies and campaigns â&#x20AC;&#x201C; cannot stress this enough (wink). Clearly understanding your differentiator and unique value proposition, honing in on what you enjoy doing in your business,

what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re good at and what your clients and customers appreciate (from above) should always be step one, but this second step is just as important. When applicable we really recommend diving even deeper to identify the nitty gritty details of your target audience(s), such as habits, behaviors and on and on, but having a clear basic understanding is a great start.

      Now that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve gotten really clear on what makes you so special, and who you can help with your amazing products and services, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to figure out where their attention is. You canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t craft your marketing content until you know who you are and who you are trying to reach, right? Now that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve gotten super clear on those vital first steps itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to figure out what engaging content youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to create and where it needs to go. Your website, for most anyway, is a no brainerâ&#x20AC;Śand it is no longer like days of old where it was basically an online portfolio, it should now be the base camp, the core of your digital marketing strategy. Aside from your website, permission based email marketing campaigns are fantastic ways to reach both your target audience, as well as your brand advocates. Email remains one of the most important tools in your toolbox and even though we continue to be bombarded with way too much in our inboxesâ&#x20AC;Śweâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re there

everyday. Social media is here to stay, not going anywhere, and identifying which platforms make the most sense for you to be sharing and building your brand is super important. If your target audience is a very specific decision maker within a certain enterprise IT department, then LinkedIn and Google Adwords is probably going to be a much better investment of your time, money and energy than Instagram and Snapchat. Make sense? Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve just tipped the iceberg here, but this is an overview of the three of the most important exercises that need to not only be done once, but revisited often (I recommend at least quarterly) to make sure all of your marketing efforts are aligned properly. Happy Spring! Tuni Renaud Schartner RIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Economic Gardener TS Consulting www.tunischartner.com www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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LEGAL | Personnel Practices: Transgender Discrimination In The Workplace

Personnel Practices Transgender Discrimination in the Workplace by Kristen M. Whittle, Esq. and Alexandra Rotondo, Esq.

Although the transgender rights movement has made substantial progress in recent years, research has shown that transgender individuals across the country remain subject to unequal footing in the workplace. In fact, according to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people are three times more likely than the remaining U.S. adult population to be unemployed, and nearly 30% of survey respondents who held or applied for a job during that year reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their transgender identity. The following provides a summary of protections for transgender and gender non-confirming individuals in Rhode Island, as well as best practice tips for employers to reduce discrimination claims based upon an employee’s gender identity.

Federal Law

There is no federal law explicitly barring employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and the current presidential administration has taken the position that “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination . . . does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity[.]” However, numerous federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have determined that discrimination because an employee or job applicant is transgender or gender non-conforming, or because he or she fails to conform to gender stereotypes, constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Notably, Title VII only covers business with 15 or more employees, but small businesses may choose to comply with its requirements as a best practice.

Rhode Island Law

Rhode Island’s Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), which applies to all employers with

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RISBJ | rhode island small business journal

four or more employees, expressly prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “gender identity,” which is defined as “a person’s actual or perceived gender, as well as a person’s gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression; whether . . . different from that traditionally associated with the person’s sex at birth.” Specifically, FEPA provides that it is unlawful for an employer “to discharge an employee or discriminate against him or her with respect to hire, tenure, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, or any other matter directly or indirectly related to employment” because of an employee’s gender identity or expression. Importantly, if adverse employment action is taken because an employee is perceived to be transgender or gender non-conforming (whether the person is or not), the employee can still invoke FEPA’s protections.

Best Practice Tips

In order to comply with applicable law and reduce discrimination claims, employers should:


Personnel Practices: Transgender Discrimination In The Workplace | LEGAL

Nearly 30% of survey respondents who held or applied for a job during that year reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their transgender identity. •

Implement a broad non-discrimination policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity, as well as other protected classes. The policy should detail a procedure for employees to raise concerns about discrimination in the workplace and prohibit retaliation against employees for reporting such concerns.

Be careful of implementing policies or practices that have a “disparate impact” (or disproportionate effect) on transgender and gender non-confirming individuals, such as strict rules about which bathrooms employees can use. Such practices or policies are unlawful unless the employer can show that they are “required by business necessity.”

Do not ask questions about an applicant’s gender, gender identity or expression either in a job application or during an interview.

Be wary of claiming religious exemption from the duties imposed by FEPA. While this statute does not apply “to a religious corporation, association, education institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of its religion to perform work connected with the carrying on of its activities,” this exemption is not a carte blanche for an employer to use religious beliefs to justify discrimination.

Kristen M. Whittle, Esq. Partner, Barton Gilman LLP Alexandra Rotondo, Esq. Associate Barton Gilman LLP

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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SMALL BUSINESS | Monthly Learning Tips From Rhode Island Small Business Owners: Lifelong Learning

Lifelong

Monthly Learning Tips from Rhod

Through his tenure in the profession Bob has observed a major change in the ways to most effectively market a business.

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Monthly Learning Tips From Rhode Island Small Business Owners: Lifelong Learning | SMALL BUSINESS

Learning

de Island Small Business Owners:

by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro, PhD

This month’s learning tips come from Bob Salvas, a lifelong Rhode Islander, certified SCORE counselor, Seminar Coordinator for the Rhode Island chapter of SCORE, independent marketing consultant at Bob Salvas Consulting and owner of 4th Monday Networking. Bob’s marketing career spans 30 years, initially as a marketing team member for the United States Post Office and more recently as an independent consultant helping small to medium sized businesses with their marketing initiatives. Through his tenure in the profession Bob has observed a major change in the ways to most effectively market a business. At one time a business needed to simply provide information to customers. The customers would notice the information and call the business for more information. Today there is so much information out there that a business needs to focus on unique ways to communicate while also providing evidence that the business is credible. In Bob’s opinion, this can best be accomplished through networking, email, direct (paper) mail, and social media. The most effective of these communications include testimonials supported by word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers and others. Additionally, utilizing a novel way to communicate, such as hand writing direct mail, can’t hurt. As a SCORE (an independent agency, originally established as the Service Corp of Retired Executives by the US Government Small Business Administration in the 1960s) volunteer Bob is dedicated to providing learning opportunities for business people because being a dedicated lifelong learner is absolutely critical for today’s successful business professional. All SCORE volunteers share Bob’s passion for learning and have been highly successful business owners or corporate executives. There are about 30 SCORE volunteers in Rhode Island.

Some are currently active in their businesses. Others have retired. The volunteers offer seminars and 1:1 counseling at libraries, Chambers of Commerce offices and other public locations throughout the state. While most of the seminars focus on marketing, financials and productivity, SCORE aims to satisfy all business owner needs with unique seminars, bringing in outside experts and generally doing what is necessary to help business owners to be successful. The seminars and counseling are all free and highly recommended for business professionals. Bob recommends that all small business owners: •

Utilize the free consulting, seminars and webinars offered by Rhode Island SCORE. To start go to the website for information and to register for opportunities: https://ri.score.org. Become familiar with the US Government Small Business Administration website (https://www.sba.gov), the services they offer, and the links to services offered by numerous other organizations. Include Face-2-Face networking as a significant part of their business marketing plan. Bob emphasizes that successful networking focuses on relationship building rather than making a quick sale. He emphasizes the importance in building both deep relationships, by getting to know selected people really well by attending some events very regularly and by broadening the scope of people one knows through attending new events as well. Bob states that you cannot build your business while hiding in the office.

Please contact Bob at 401.359.1602 or by email at Bob @ BobSalvas.com for any questions you may have about marketing or SCORE. He considers it a privilege to help the small business professional to become more successful. I would like to thank Industrial Consultant Dr. Margarita Posada Cossuto for helpful comments.

Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro

Independent Consultant in Human Factors, Learning and Human Resources

www.risbj.com | volume seven issue three

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