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President Barbara Davis-Levine EVP/Executive Publisher Steve Levine Creative Director/ Editor Barbara Davis-Levine Publisher’s Assistant Jerome Davis Graphic Design DesignsbyMalka.com Photographers Gwen Juarez Contributing Writers Scott Blossom Frederick Crosby Barbara Davis Angela Fernandez Katy Kvalvik Hank Moore Caroline Peterson Gail Stolzenburg Mayor Sylvester Turner Mary J. West Chief Advisory 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 Richard Huebner Darryl King Wea Lee Bertrand McHenry Hank Moore Lisa M. Morton Leisa Holland Nelson Ingrid Robinson Maria Rios Rita Santamaria William Sherrill Gail Stolzenburg Mayor Sylvester Turner Jack Warkenthien Phone: 832-419-2814 E-Mail: Steve.Levine@SBTMagazine.net Or Write: Small Business Today P.O. Box 31186 Houston, TX 77231 See us on the web at www.SBTMagazine.net SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED MONTHLY BY SANAA PUBLISHING, LLC. P.O. BOX 31186 HOUSTON, TX 77231 EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER - STEVE LEVINE: 832-419-2814 - WWW.SBTMAGAZINE.NET ADVERTISING RATES ON REQUEST. BULK THIRD CLASS MAIL. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND NOTICES ON FORM 3579 TO P.O. BOX 31186 HOUSTON, TX 77231. ALTHOUGH EVERY PRECAUTION IS TAKEN TO ENSURE ACCURACY OF PUBLISHED MATERIALS, SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR OPINIONS EXPRESSED OR FACTS SUPPLIED BY ITS AUTHORS. COPYRIGHT 2017, SANAA PUBLISHING, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS PROHIBITED.​

CELEBRATING OUR 8TH ANNIVERSARY Giving You The “Best Of The Best” Advice From Our Cover Honorees



ight years of publishing this iconic and powerful magazine with 8 years of successful entrepreneurs who share their words of wisdom with you, our readers.

Is your business where you thought it would be? If it’s not, maybe you need to change up what you are doing to move forward. Here are a few words of advice from our past cover honorees to get back on track to reach and/or exceed your business goals: 1. If you are trying to please everyone and anyone, stop, because you cannot. 2. If you want to change your life and your business, you need to change something about your life or business to improve it. 3. Stop focusing on what was and start focusing on what is ahead. There is a reason that your vehicle’s windshield is much larger than the rear view mirror. Focus on where you are going and not where you have been. 4. We tend to overthink an idea or solution. Just do it! Even the worst idea executed is far better than the one you only think about or talk about. 5. Be different. You are not like your competitors. Your business is unique and has its own U.M.P. (Unique Marketing Position). Think Pepsi versus Coca-Cola. 6. Rediscover your “Why”. Why did you start your business and why is it different than your competitors? 7. Don’t listen to naysayers. Their opinions of you and your business are none of their business. 8. Expect some setbacks. Failing does not mean you are a failure. 9. Set your goals high and don’t give up! 10. Ask for help from those who want you to succeed.

You have only just begun 2020. The best has yet to come and your success is always in proportion to your efforts! Success to You,

Steve Levine



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How to Adopt a Growth Mindset and Sell More Products

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entrell Reed, President and owner of CReed Global Media, embodies the meaning of her name, which, according to her mother, means beautiful sunflower. Just as a sunflower spreads seeds, she also spreads seeds - seeds of knowledge for a pathway to success. Her lifelong propensity for coaching and mentoring others has led to her improving the confidence and healthy habits of young girls and enhancing the success of business owners. Not only has her knowledge and life skills touched the lives of many people, it has led her to develop and grow a thriving global media company. After launching in 2018, CReed Global Media (CGM) has grown to garnering clients from all over the world including Germany, China, and Australia. CGM’s impressive network of collaborators offers a range of services to help aspiring entrepreneurs that include video production, consulting, and television distribution. Even though Reed’s role as President has been a labor of love, it has also been an intense one. “Being an entrepreneur has


Centrell Reed of CReed Global Media (CGM) loves sharing the business of entertainment and helping business owners build their global media presence in television and beyond!


Ahmad Alyasin – Optima Global Holdings From Rags-to-Riches with the Divine Help of His Mother’s Blessings



or more than two centuries, people from all parts of the world have flocked to the U.S. in pursuit of the American Dream. These emigrants have left their families behind and all that they hold dear to come to a place where they have a chance to escape abject poverty and achieve a better life. They often arrive at our fair shores with little or no money in their pockets. For some, their hopes of financial prosperity are eventually realized. One shining example is Ahmad Alyasin, CEO of Optima Global Holdings and entrepreneur extraordinaire. He attributes his remarkable rags-to-riches story to a rather singular factor — his Jordanian mother’s divine blessings.

Alyasin, CEO of Optima Global Holdings, has enjoyed extraordinary success. The journey from his humble beginnings to becoming a mega billionaire has been a wild ride and full of bold moves. This amazing entrepreneur’s life today contrasts starkly with his childhood and teen years in Jordan, the country of his birth. In Jordan, Ahmad and his family of 13 earned a meager subsistence through farming, specifically from selling the milk from their cows. They used a donkey for transportation and had none of the things that Americans take for granted such as electricity and television. In addition, instead of having indoor plumbing or an outdoor well, they got their water by collecting raindrops. When Alyasin was 18 and studying for his high school diploma, his mother became gravely ill. During this time, he would visit her daily in the hospital. One day, upon his arrival at her room, he found an empty bed. The nurse gave him the devastating news of his mother’s passing but she also relayed a message of his mother’s final words that would be forever indelibly imprinted in his mind. It was the following: “I have prayed for Ahmad to go to the United States and succeed. Wherever he goes, may God open a window and make a way for him.” As Ahmad relates this tragic memory, he becomes visibly emotional. It’s evident that he believes the Almighty has watched over him each step of the way in response to his beloved mother’s divine plea. He also acknowledges that all the good things that have come to him were gifts from God’s bountiful hand. Ahmad’s story of his metamorphosis from pauper to billionaire began in Jordan in 1977 when he applied for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan to go to America. Although he didn’t have the necessary requirements including a bank statement, means of financial support, and other necessary documents, he somehow

Photo by Gwen Juarez

Ahmad’s family is always at the center of his life and heart! With him in this photo is his daughter Angel, his wife Enaam, his son Annas, his brother Hussein, and his son Allen.

managed to get the visa. Ahmad knew it had to be a divine influence orchestrating the circumstances because procuring the visa should have been far more difficult. “God was listening and watching,” stated Ahmad. After acquiring his visa, he still faced the obstacle of the lack of money

Upon His Arrival In Houston, Alyasin Had Only $300 In His Pocket. to buy airfare to the United States. Nonetheless, since he was encouraged by seeing the Almighty’s intervening hand in acquiring his visa, he knew his family would somehow get the funds for the plane ticket. Eventually, his family managed to borrow enough money for his airfare plus an additional small amount of cash. Upon his arrival in Houston, Alyasin had only $300 in his pocket but he believed everything would work out. He had a fervent desire to make something of himself, even though he wasn’t sure where to start. He didn’t know anyone in Houston, and even though he had the address of a school he desired to attend, he didn’t have a clue how to get there. In

addition, he didn’t speak any English so he was unable to ask anyone for directions to the school. He had just begun walking when he encountered the first in a series of kind strangers who happened to be in the right place at the right time to help him in various ways. As he walked, he passed a gas station where, to his great joy and relief, he heard a man speaking in Arabic. Alyasin considered this chance meeting nothing less than a miracle. He approached the man and asked, “Can you please help me.” Happy to be of service, his new acquaintance drove him to the school. Ahmad took the school’s exam and was told the tuition would be $220. After he paid the fee, he was left with only $80 to his name. He had heard that American schools had dormitories where students could get meals and have a place to stay, so he had assumed the $220 would also include food and lodging. Needless to say, he was quite dismayed to find out that the tuition he had just paid didn’t include these necessities. After the school closed for the day, Ahmad was sitting outside and wondering what to do next. Things looked quite bleak. He had no apartment, no car, and not even a blanket to keep him warm on that cold December evening. However, he wasn’t alone. Another student was waiting outside for his brother to pick him up who was running an hour late. While they waited, the two students started talking, Alyasin in Arabic and the [ MARCH I APRIL 2020 ] WWW.SBTMAGAZINE.NET 5

no money for clothes, but once again, a kind acquaintance stepped in to help.

Photo by Gwen Juarez

The acquaintance was a bartender from the restaurant. He gave Ahmad the required attire that looked presentable enough and agreed to be reimbursed when Ahmad got his first paycheck. Although Alyasin’s job as a busboy had a shaky start, it eventually led to a better position. One day, the manager said, “You’re doing a great job. I want you to be a waiter.” In this role, he was able to make between $300 to $500 per night in tips which was big money in comparison to his income as a busboy or an employee in the fried chicken fast food business. Things were definitely looking up.

Ahmad and his brother Hussein maintain a very close relationship.

classmate in English. This providential event turned out to be the second encounter with a kind stranger. The new friend was from Jordan, so Alyasin shared his plight, telling him that he didn’t know anyone in the city. “Are you serious? Where are you going to sleep?” the classmate asked. “I don’t know. I only have 80 dollars,” replied Ahmad. In response, the new friend and his brother took him to the home of a Lebanese acquaintance who allowed him to sleep on the couch for a month. As God’s provision unfolded, the aspiring entrepreneur was reminded of his mother’s blessing and was awash in wonder. Ahmad’s new accommodations of a couch to sleep on in the apartment of a stranger didn’t come with meals, so he tried to subsist on eggs and white bread. Sometimes, he saved his pennies to buy a dozen eggs. It was clear that he badly

needed to find a job, especially if he was going to eat! Ahmad’s new friend had written on a piece of paper the English words he needed to say to ask for employment, so he set out on his quest. He passed a Church’s Fried Chicken restaurant and approached the owner about a job. The encounter turned out to be another remarkable coincidence as the owner was from Jordan and immediately agreed to hire him. After working for a time here, Alyasin secured employment in another restaurant as a busboy. At first, his position was in jeopardy because he was required to wear black pants and a white shirt which he couldn’t afford to buy. He picked up the items from Goodwill but they were so ill fitting that the manager wouldn’t allow him to work until he could get clothes in a more suitable size. He had


After learning English, Alyasin continued working but enrolled at the University of Houston where he majored in flight engineering. The trajectory of his life changed when one door of opportunity after another started knocking. In 1979, after amassing $12,000 in savings from his job as a waiter, he met a man who offered him a partnership in a business. In a bold, courageous move, Alyasin agreed to buy into the partnership. It turned out to be a wise decision because, four months later, he was able to sell the partnership at a $12,000 profit. This was quite exhilarating at the time, but it was only a small taste of bigger and better yields to come from business ventures in the future. By 1980, Alyasin had his own game room business and $36,000 in his bank account. From this point on, he never worked for anyone else again. His next venture involved buying a limousine company for $80,000 which made a profit of $107,000 at the end of its first year. From there, Ahmad went on to own many other businesses including gas stations, convenience stores, check cashing enterprises, shopping centers, and resale shops. He even had an African and Middle East import-export business. Even though he was successful in his business endeavors, he seemed to be always working with little time for himself.

Photo by Gwen Juarez

Ahmad is extremely generous with his time and business advice.

Ahmad hosts many events for important people and organizations at his own facility.

each month. His business now has offices in various parts of the world. It assists clients with large-scale buyouts, recapitalizations, reverse mergers, and private equity funding. The company, Optima Global Financial, is aptly named because it has offices in London, Zurich, Hong Kong, Dubai, Jordan, and Brazil. Extolling the profitability of IPO companies, Ahmad stated, “If you look at every billionaire in America and find

out how they made their money, it’s because of the market. Instead of buying and selling stock, the big money-machine involves IPOs”. He elaborated, “It’s the most profitable type of business in the world. Within the last few years, some of my best IPO portfolios have made a 400 percent increase, while the least profitable portfolios have made a 40 percent increase. In comparison, currently, the highest portfolios in real estate make a 6 to 8 percent profit.”

Photo by Gwen Juarez

In 1994, Ahmad made a decision to take an entire month’s break from his work to study the business market and determine what kind of enterprises were the most profitable. He was particularly interested in finding options that would not require working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. His research revealed two big money makers: medical and financial businesses. Consequently, Ahmad opened a mental health community center outpatient clinic. Although it was profitable, he decided to sell it and concentrate on the type of business he considered even more lucrative, the financial arena. Alyasin’s foray into the world of finance involved venture capital and initial public offerings (IPOs). While he had no knowledge, experience, or education in these areas, he refused to allow anything to deter him from going forward. He invested $4 million to hire an ex-CEO of a large financial company and others to partner with him in the venture, which he named Optima Global Financial. It proved to be one of his most successful undertakings. Today, Alyasin continues the IPO business and only deals with companies that earn mega profits


Photo by Gwen Juarez


The Optima Vitamin Company was inspired when Ahmad told his doctor that he had been feeling tired. In response, the physician prescribed Ahmad vitamins that gave him energy and made him feel relaxed. The positive results were the catalyst in the creation of Optima Vitamins, a company that makes supplements using all-natural ingredients. Pictured here, Ahmad’s lovely wife Enaam.

Most people would have stopped at this point in their entrepreneurial accomplishments but Ahmad is like the Energizer Bunny - he keeps going, and going, and going! Further ventures under the umbrella of Optima Global Holdings include real estate investments, Halfer Watches that are manufactured in Switzerland, Alyasin Car Dealership in the Jordan Free Zone, Luxor Manufacturing in Dubai that makes skincare products, detergents, shampoos, and hand sanitizers, Optima Skincare, Optima CBD (the first CBD being manufactured in Texas), Delaware Import and Export, Bluebonnet Apothecary Service and Compound Pharmacy, and Optima Vitamins. The Optima Vitamins company was inspired when Ahmad told his doctor that he had been feeling tired. In response, the physician prescribed him vitamins that gave him energy and made him feel more relaxed. The positive results were the catalyst in creating Optima Vitamins, a company that makes supplements using all-natural ingredients. Today, it ships and distributes health products all over the world.


As Ahmad reflects back over his life, he is filled with appreciation for his blessings. One of the foremost is his family. When speaking of his parents, his esteem and love for them is evident. “Always listen to your parents and never say “no” to them.” Even after all these years since their passing, Ahmad still sees them in his dreams. He is also thankful for his adopted hometown of Houston. “It’s an ethnically diverse city, so the residents know the stereotypes associated with Muslim Americans aren’t based on reality. In all the 42 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve never encountered discrimination. This is a gift from God.” Most of all, Alyasin is grateful for the One who answered his mother’s divine prayer. “My journey to success has been beautiful, and I wish everyone could experience similar outcomes. All the things that have happened, the help from kind strangers and opportunities, have come from God’s hand,” he reflects. His mother’s final blessings and divine request for God to make a way for him was answered far beyond his hopes and dreams.

Photo by Gwen Juarez

Ahmad’s Best Words of Wisdom 1. Have guts. What does it take to make money? It’s not necessarily the type of business, nor is it location, credit, or money that is critical. No, the key factor is to have guts. Many people have the funds to start a business, but they’re afraid to take the plunge. They worry about losing a large sum of money. The secret to success is guts.

2. Secure the right manager and marketing strategy. Next to guts, these are the most important ingredients to increase the likelihood

of profitability.

3. Do your business the right way. This encompasses many things. Examples include having a good relationship with your employees, keeping your books accurate, and paying your taxes on time. Give attention to every aspect.

4. Help others. If you help those in need, God will always find a way to help you when you’re in trouble. I’ve always had a big heart. I’m there for a lot of people and do whatever I can for them. My assistance has included sending twelve family members to school as well as providing homes and setting up businesses for my brothers.

5. Give back to the community. I care for the less fortunate and help with community events and fundraisers. I also help by hosting

these events in my private ballroom than can seat up to 200 people. The month of Ramadan is a month of giving but I try to be generous throughout the year. I contribute to a multitude of charitable and municipal organizations including the City of Houston Police and Fire Departments, Night of Superstars for special needs children and young adults, the Arab American Language Foundation, the Jewish Community Center, the Arab Community Center, the Turkish Center, and many more.

6. Value your experience. The path to profitability will surely vary with different people, but experience can play a key role. In my life, I’ve found that success is due more to experience than education. I went to college but never did anything with my degree. I had no mentor and no one to show me the ropes. I kind of learned as I went along.

7. Stay humble after you amass wealth. Don’t let having money make you think you’re better than other people. This can cause you to become obnoxious. Moreover, showing off will get you nowhere.

8. Don’t overwork. It’s good to strike the right balance between work and leisure time. Avoid doing business after 5 pm, and every

three months, take a long weekend off and go on a trip with your spouse. Every six months, take a week off and every year, take two or three weeks off. I follow these steps and it’s been marvelous.

9. Take care of your health. I exercise and eat nutritious food. 10. Enjoy the fruits of your labors. Enjoy your life and don’t be cheap. I love my life. I eat well, travel well, and live the good life. I will never be cheap in regard to myself or my family and friends.





n February, I launched the 5th year of one of my signature programs, Hire Houston Youth (HHY). By working with the private sector and nonprofit community, HHY provides more access to employment opportunities for young people ages 16-24. Houston is a city of opportunity. If we are going to build a strong, vibrant workforce, we must invest in our youth, and we must do it now. Since becoming mayor, I have steadily grown the Hire Houston Youth program. Before I came into office, the City of Houston offered 450 summer jobs, but I knew that we could do better. In 2016, we increased the number of jobs to over 1,100. Each year, there has been a steady increase from 1,100 to 5,000 to 7,500. In 2019, I set an ambitious goal of 10,000 job opportunities. We exceeded this goal and provided access to over 11,400 jobs. Our success comes from resounding support and collaboration from the public and private sectors. The overwhelming majority of jobs come from the private sector and nonprofit community, while fewer than 500 positions are in local government. HHY’s goal is to increase our youth’s access to Houston’s dynamic economy and careers and provide them with a transformative “earn and learn” experience. In 2020, I initially challenged my staff and community partners to provide 15,000 jobs, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities, but I could not stop thinking about how Houston has approximately 20,000 gang members. If we want a safe city, we must embrace young people before negative influences steer them in the wrong direction, and we must put the gangs out of business. Therefore,

I have raised the bar to 20,000 jobs for 2020. This will be a transformational year for HHY as we further impact the lives of our youth and continue to build Houston’s future workforce. HHY connects young people to mentors, job training, and local resources and support. Working in various positions, young people will meet with career coaches to learn how to complete a successful interview, prepare a resume, make a great first impression, show up to work on time, and complete work responsibilities. The program puts them on a track to succeed in a competitive work environment and gain real world experience. They also have a chance to earn, and for some young people, this is the only money they will have. Some will use it for personal expenses, to help their parents, or to pitch in with household expenses, while others will save for future college or day-to-day living expenses. Regardless of how their money is spent, invested, or saved, we are empowering youth with earnings, financial literacy, and participation in the economy. At a recent Hire Houston Youth kick-off event, former intern Luis Moreno, a University of Houston student, explained why the program is important to him. Moreno grew up in Hiram Clark, the son of immigrants from Mexico. “The Hire Houston Youth program provided an opportunity to l earn new skills and better prepare for my future in the workforce,” said Moreno. “Not a lot of young people have access to job training. I’m very grateful to Mayor Turner, and


I want to encourage others to apply for the positions this year.” HHY ambassadors like Moreno are the reason I am passionate about building this program. I see how it transforms their lives by also building their social capital and emotional skills. I am asking local businesses and nonprofit groups to hire youth for the summer and to add yearround opportunities as well. This program would not be successful without the support of Workforce Solutions, the Greater Houston Partnership, The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the McDonald’s Owners and Operators Association, United Way, National League of Cities, LinkedIn, Strada Education Network, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, NRG Reliant Charitable Foundation, Cities for Financial Empowerment, the City of Houston’s Human Resources Department, the Mayor’s Office of Education, and so many others. I also want to thank and acknowledge companies like: • McDonald’s committing to 5,000 hires for 2020. • HEB for hiring 2,000 or more youth every summer since being a part of the program. • American Pools for hiring hundreds of life guards to work at local pools last summer. • Student Conservation Association for hiring youth to work in Green Careers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. continued on page 22






MBDA Business Center


Can Your Business Withstand Another Harvey? By Maya Durnovo and Gabriela Zambrano


June 8, 2019 Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, Harris County Community Services Executive Director Daphne Lemelle, Houston MBDA Interim Director Mark Praigg and LiftFund Business Development Officer Bianca Pruitt at the Houston Recovery & Disaster Preparation Forum at the Texas Black Expo in June 2019.

t’s hard to imagine another hurricane as devastating as Harvey happening again but experts say, “It’s not a matter of whether or not a hurricane like Harvey will hit again, it’s a matter of when!” Preparation is the only way to approach that possibility!

What Can You Do Right NOW?

9. Send yourself an email of everything that you sent to your phone and include a disaster “to do” list as a reminder of what you stored in your phone in case of an emergency.

1. Make a copy of your insurance papers and agent’s contact information and store them in your phone.

10. Get your copy of Houston Community College’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Disaster Recovery and Business Resiliency Resource Guide.

2. Make a list of all your employees and their contact information and store them in your phone. 3. Set up text groups for your employees so you can readily communicate with them in an emergency. 4. Collect and keep updated contact information on all your customers and store them in your phone. 5. Collect and keep updated contact information on all your vendors and store them in your phone.

If you already have a written disaster plan and completed this list, you’ll be ahead of the game when the time comes. In addition, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment during a situation that can oftentimes be overwhelming.

6. Make a backup of the following: contracts, legal agreements, business contacts, tax documentation, inventory information, payroll records, and personnel information. 7. Back up your business data in cloud storage. 8. Set up social media so you can announce if and when you are open for business and communicate special notices to employees and vendors through private social media groups. Participants at the Business Resiliency Expo on August 2019. On the cover: Germaine Washington, Gabriela Zambrano, Mark Praigg, Maya Durnovo, and Brenda Rios

disaster recovery workshops provided individual assistance and access to resources. The staff held these workshops in 47 Texas cities and touched 23 different industries. These events attracted over 600 individuals impacted by the hurricane; 452 were business owners. Dr. Maya Durnovo speaking and presenting the Business Resiliency Resource Guide at the Transformational Cyber Summit in August 2019.

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm that hit Texas on August 25, 2017. According to the National Disaster Center, it caused $125 billion in damage. That is more than any other national disaster in U.S. history except for Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Harvey damaged 204,000 homes. Three-fourths were outside of the 100year flood plain. Those homeowners did not have flood insurance. Needless to say, many businesses were affected either by evacuations, damage to structures, displaced employees, and loss of income. Some never recovered and some are still dealing with recovery efforts. To help small businesses with their recovery, Houston Community College received two disaster recovery grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency in 2017 and 2018. During 2017, the staff focused on providing financial assistance to impacted businesses with significant outreach into the greater Houston Area. The team delivered training in disaster recovery, forums, and collaborations with LiftFund, a non-profit designated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) for small businesses and startup companies. A disaster recovery guide and a financial guide were developed to help businesses prepare for future disruptions; and

“We were grateful to have had the opportunity to respond to the needs of our community through this grant. And, we are proud of the impact of the work. The disaster recovery guide and financial guide are both available now to help mitigate future disruptions because preparation is the only way to manage disruption,” said Maya Durnovo, HCC Chief Entrepreneurial Officer. During 2019, the disaster recovery and resiliency team developed a series of programs, including assisting businesses with contingency planning, to help companies prepare for a disaster, maintain continuity during a disaster,

and recover after a disruption. The topics included but were not limited to the following subject matters: • Marketing Before, During, and After a Disaster • Certification on the Local, Private, and Federal Level • Capital Access for Business Continuity and Resiliency • Resilience: Commercial Real Estate Property • Armor your Business with Commercial Insurance • Legal Forum on New Laws Impacting Small Business • Harnessing the Government for Business Growth • Cyber Security: Making Your Business More Cyber Resilient. • Human Resource Management During a Storm. • How to Procure Business with the City of Houston • Learning E-Commerce Tools • SBA Surety Bonding Capacity “Our goal was to support our Houston small businesses who struggled to recover from natural disasters and other possible business disruptions,” said Mark Praigg, MBDA Business Advisor, Houston MBDA Business Center, which is operated by Houston Community College. “We recognized the major contributions small businesses make to our local economy and the number of jobs that would be lost should they not recover.”

Small Business Resiliency Academy forum – “Financial Contingency Planning”

During the 2019 Summer Celebration Texas Black Expo, which is the biggest minority empowerment trade show and festival in Texas, the staff hosted a small business resiliency and disaster preparedness boot camp. The boot camp prepared small business owners on steps to build a more resilient business in the event of a disaster. The Small Business Resiliency Academy was the flagship initiative created under the Disaster Recovery and Resiliency grant. The Academy served two cohorts made up of 24 minority-owned businesses impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Participant business owners were assisted in creating and implementing multi-stepped resiliency plans. Preparation is crucial and this academy provided 40 hours of disaster preparedness and resiliency training. In addition, business owners received customized business consulting services from subject matter experts on topics affecting daily operations to increase resilience and equip for continuity, growth, and success.

Keynote Speakers Dr. Sterling L. Carter and Stephen L. Carter at the Business Resiliency Expo.

• Top Types of Cyber Investigations and How to Prepare for Them • Cyber Security Career Opportunities Business owners had an opportunity to network with disaster preparedness and cyber resilient companies. Discussions included current threats and action plans needed to protect their companies when cyber disruptions happen. And, more than 1,500 viewers participated online. “The Business Resiliency Expo and Cyber Security Event were the culmination of the more than nine months of disaster recovery programming we’ve offered through workshops and symposiums,” says Gabriela Zambrano, Director of the Houston Minority Business Development Agency. “We hope we’ve made a lasting impact on Houston’s minority owned small business community by sharing information and resources that save companies, save jobs, support our local economy, and ultimately save lives.”

Small Business Resiliency Academy forum – “Operations- Emergency response, incident management and Business Continuity ”

THE 2018-2019 YEAR ENDED WITH TWO LARGE EVENTS: 1. A dynamic Business Resiliency Expo hosted at the Houston Community College District Campus. The event was designed to capture all the key elements to preparedness: a business panel overview on getting prepared, a marketing roundtable to respond to individual issues and the opportunity to speak with experts. Over 100 small business owners attended and networked with both public and private organizations to learn about available recovery tools and disaster preparedness resources. 2. A Transformational Cyber Security Event addressed the increasing risk from cyber attacks. The Cyber Security Event was held at HCC’s West Houston Institute and topics included: • How to Be Resilient and Thrive in an Era of Cyber Attacks

Allegiance Bank Information Security Officer Jon Villanti, Blue Lance CTO Peter Thomas, Tech Mahindra Americas Vice President John Czapko, Locke Lorde Security Director Andy Sawyer, 7th Echelon LLC CEO Ed Melton, CenterPointe Energy Manager Identity and Access Management Compliance Mel Nevarez and Hines Senior Vice President Jesse Carillo at the Transformation Cyber Summit in August 2019.

For more information and to download a copy of the Disaster Resiliency Guide (available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) and the Financial Guide, go to: www. HoustonBRI.com. or https://www.hccs.edu/mbda.


Houston MBDA Business Center is located at 2302 Fannin St., Suite 165, Houston, Texas 77002 713-718-8974 | MBDA@hccs.edu

Friends, Customers, and Rewards Programs



riends are special. They inspire us, support us, ask us to be more, and encourage us to go further. Friends get close during certain periods of our lives because they are willing to share common experiences together.

Friendships develop out of need or utility, out of pleasure, and for the greater good. Some friendships last many years in our lives. However, most are transitory and depend upon changing circumstances. Some friendships last for seasons. Here are the kinds of friendships: • People who work together. • People who come from somewhere else and now find themselves together. • Befriended out of personal respect. • Each has a connection to others and may be assigned together for now. • People engaged in community service. • Friends from other cultures. • Teams put together by others, including mentors and advisors. • New friends. • Old friends. • Neighbors. • Friends reconnected and staying in touch for the long-term. • People achieving good together. Fate brings friend to friend then leaves the rest to human nature. Here are recommendations to get the best in friendships: • Associate higher. • Choose friends with similar values. • Choose friends who can stretch, motivate, and encourage you. • Choose friends who have a thirst for knowledge. • Choose friends who are doers and achievers. • Give what you expect to get.


Loyalty programs engage customers, predict behaviors, and increase sales. They are an important part of high-impact marketing, affect customer service, heighten customer retention, and create business referral generation. Loyalty is not just about cards and points. It means connecting shoppers to what they need now and in the future. Loyalty programs allow retailers and hospitality companies to: • Target and understand who are their customers. • Track customer purchases. • See how regularly customers visit. • Track their return rate. • Pull together touch points through a streamlined system. • Track your business data from a dashboard. • Learn insights into customers’ preferences and buying habits. • Provide special offers to regulars. • Show customers benefits that they get with “bricks and mortar” stores that they cannot get from online resources. • Some loyalty programs live in customers’ smart phones as applications. Digital loyalty programs are becoming the trend. Rewards programs can offer birthday and anniversary gifts, discounts, and invitations to exclusive events. They may provide information, classes, hotlines, blogs, and access to insider communities. Some such programs offer special shipping on mail orders and charity tie-ins. Loyalty reward programs are ideally utilized for restaurants, retail stores, salons, automotive services, florists, beauty suppliers, large retail continued on page 23 [ MARCH I APRIL 2020 ] WWW.SBTMAGAZINE.NET 15


Friends and Loyalty Programs


How to Adopt a Growth Mindset and

Sell More Products                    



ven though entrepreneurs wear many hats and juggle a number of activities, finding time to focus on the big-picture strategy for your company is one of the most important ways a small business can grow in today’s digitally-focused and competitive retail world.

Even if your product is only available in select stores, your online footprint is increasingly critical to reaching consumers who want to be able to research your product before buying it. In fact, a recent study from Salesforce and Publicist Sapient revealed that 87% of consumers begin their product searches online. Also, online marketplaces with built-in fulfillment platforms and automated inventory management services have made it easier for sole proprietors to reach wider audiences. But to play ball with these retail powerhouses, their requirements for product identification numbers and detailed product listings must be taken seriously. Follow these three steps to determine if you have what it takes to grow. THINK LIKE A BUSINESS There’s a significant difference between launching a product and growing a company. According a study conducted by GS1 US, in collaboration with Longitude, 51% of those who start a small brand do so to pursue their passion, ambition, or skill. Starting with passion is just that--a good start. Focusing on customers and their needs is an important foundation for growth, which needs to be gradually layered with a real sales channel strategy. For example, your unique line of tote bags is selling well at the local gift shop. Research suggests that expanding from local stores into e-commerce with a partner like Amazon, ebay or Etsy can lead to steady revenue growth. In the GS1 US study, the small businesses classified as “leaders” (those who grew their sales more than 25% in the past year) use as many as three sales channels. This is compared with “laggards,” (those whose sales declined in the past year), who only typically only sold through one channel. Multichannel shoppers usually prove to be worth the investment, too. Typically, those who shop in store and online spend $93 more on average than those 16 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MARCH I APRIL 2020 ]

who only use one channel, according to the National Retail Federation. FOCUS ON THE INFORMATION Congratulations! Your product has been accepted by a major retailer. Now is the time to prove your product deserves to be featured alongside the world’s largest brands. Catch the attention of discerning consumers and build brand loyalty from the outset by providing rich product content. This means going beyond the basic specs of the product and painting a picture for the customer in words, images and video. A recent survey by Salsify found that digital shoppers expect an average of about six images and three videos when looking at a product on Amazon or another retailer. Additionally, hedge your bets by making sure your target audience finds the product in the first place. Not only is the use of properly constructed UPC barcodes a key requirement for working with all the largest retailers, it effectively links your brand to your physical product and its representation online. In fact, the GS1 US study found that 57% of growth leaders say UPCs make their products more discoverable online. SEEK GUIDANCE To manage multiple channels effectively, it often takes a village. Supplement limited expertise, time, and resources with that of external partners who can help you keep up with retailer demands and grow the business. Many small businesses may be unaware of the many services available to support up-andcoming small brands. There are solution providers who specialize in tasks like barcode printing and labelling, for example, and can demystify these unfamiliar processes. With the ever-changing nature of e-commerce, there is a wide array of online content providers who can assist with website optimization and product listings, too. So, where will your company be in five years? Will you be a leader or a laggard? Prepare for growth and success now by adopting a more strategic mindset to manage your growing business. Angela Fernandez, Vice President of Community Engagement, GS1 US afernandez@gs1us.org www.gs1us.org


Centrell Reed -

CReed Global Media Like a Sunflower, Spreading Seeds of Knowledge for a Pathway to Success



entrell Reed, President and owner of CReed Global Media, embodies the meaning of her name, which, according to her mother, means beautiful sunflower. Just as a sunflower spreads seeds, she also spreads seeds - seeds of knowledge for a pathway to success. Her lifelong propensity for coaching and mentoring others has led to her improving the confidence and healthy habits of young girls and enhancing the success of business owners. Not only has her knowledge and life skills touched the lives of many people, it has led her to develop and grow a thriving global media company. After launching in 2018, CReed Global Media (CGM) has grown to garnering clients from all over the world including Germany, China, and Australia. CGM’s impressive network of collaborators offers a range of services to help aspiring entrepreneurs that include video production, consulting, and television distribution. Even though Reed’s role as President has been a labor of love, it has also been an intense one. “Being an entrepreneur has

Centrell Reed of CReed Global Media (CGM) loves sharing the business of entertainment and helping business owners build their global media presence in television and beyond! Photo by Gwen Juarez

Photo by Gwen Juarez

CReed Global Media is a multifaceted facility which includes office space and areas great for filming, podcasting, trainings, and more!

Centrell’s pathway to success stems from her take-charge, can-do spirit that gets its roots from her childhood. The oldest of four children, she learned responsibility by helping care for her younger three siblings. Reed participated in an array of activities including school sports, music lessons, student government, and speech; all of which exposed her to a broad swatch of life. Her leadership skills were also evident from a young age, manifesting in honors like being named president of the church choir, president of her youth and government organization in school, and secretary of her Sunday school. This living embodiment of a sunflower’s first opportunity to spread seeds of knowledge came when she was a very young girl. It involved teaching children in her grandmother’s daycare center how to read. Her proclivity to help others in any way possible would continue to be expressed in all her undertakings. It was in the daycare center that Reed first learned basic fundamentals about running a company. Later, other entrepreneurs in her family would further her business acumen. These included her dad who had a communications company, a grandmother who had a sewing business, and another grandmother who had a pies and cakes company.

Referring to her family legacy of entrepreneurship, Centrell reflected, “I just think that it was something I saw a lot. I learned that when you have the ability to do something and provide a valuable service or product to people, then why not?” While entrepreneurial role models have influenced Reed’s life, her competitive spirit has likely also played a part in her present success. She traces this aspect of her personality back to the many hours she spent playing games during childhood. Yet the focus of her competition was not on beating others, it was about being the best she could be. “There’s something in me that says, ‘I don’t necessarily need to compete with you.’ It’s just about seeing how good I am,” she clarifies. Reed’s competitiveness is the impetus that challenges her on a daily basis. “I challenge myself to see what I can do, what I can accomplish, who I can impact, and how I’m going to leave this legacy

Because of the difference Centrell has made in her work for the nonprofit, she was asked to do a radio show where her coaching and mentoring could be done on a larger scale. Such a prospect was out of her comfort zone. After declining a number of times, she finally agreed. “I was thinking I can coach on a one-to-one basis or in intimate groups, and that should be enough. Well, I guess it wasn’t. I wound up doing it because the bigger goal was to be selfless, right? Although I’m still finding my legs, it has brought me to owning my own media company,” stated Reed. The transition from radio show to the establishment of CGM was quite interesting. After being on the air for only a few months, Centrell left the radio show to produce her own show with her team. People began asking Centrell how they could do what she was doing. In pondering how to answer, she started looking for

Photo by Gwen Juarez

been one of the most draining, rewarding, surprising, up-and-down-emotional-rollercoaster type experiences that I’ve ever had in my life,” states Reed.

in the world. Every day, the challenge is different. That is the competitive nature in me.” Despite the desire to win, no one wins all the time; and Centrell is philosophical about this reality. Win or lose, she enjoys the experiences gained. In 2015, Reed became a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit organization called Girls on the Run Greater Houston. Since then, it was been her delight to spread her seeds of knowledge, this time by working with the board to enrich programming for young girls from third through eighth grade in learning valuable life skills such as discipline and goal setting.

Centrell often hosts shows that showcase business leaders and influencers from all over the world. 18 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MARCH I APRIL 2020 ]

Ms. Reed explained that CGM has expanded its services to include a fully fledged, on-demand streaming television network on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android and IOS mobile phones. This puts CGM in the ranks of HULU, Sling, and Netflix, to name a few. With a model that provides content creators revenue from subscriptions and advertisements, this is quite an amazing feat! CGM is also a production company that provides videography services to help clients become more visible in the marketplace. “In media, video is king these days. You’re educating the world so they can engage and connect with you. That’s the platform that I stand on,” notes Centrell. “This education may include the brand benefits of commercials, podcasts, sizzle reels used on social media, owning your content, and monetizing your brand. All of those things are visual assets that add value. We create videos to tell stories about a company, theme, or idea,” says Reed. The CGM team works together to do everything from fine-tuning the initial concept to curating and distributing the video message. While the major part of Centrell’s company deals with videography and television distribution, the collaborating partners are important as well. They include cameramen, sound engineers, graphic design artists, editors, public relations professionals, writers, producers, directors, make-up artists, stylists, talent, and other supporting cast. In other words, when clients come to CGM with ideas they want brought to life, the process involves contributions from a wide scope of people with diverse talents. Reed keeps a database of partners in the Houston area to enhance her team and support the entertainment community at-large.

Photo courtesy of Centrell Reed

the ways and means to meet their media needs. During this quest, she learned many things, including identifying exactly what she could bring to the world; the culmination was CReed Global Media. Reed likens the evolution from radio show host to president of a major global media company and television network to an “amazing journey.”

CReed Global Media Television is an OTT network showcasing shows and channels of invigorating content from creatives on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and apps on Android and iOS mobile devices.

Reed appreciates the fact that her efforts are equipping people to understand how business works and to have a better chance at having their dreams come to fruition. “It can take money to make money, and not all aspiring entrepreneurs have the necessary funds. Some may have people interested in investing in their ventures,” explains Reed. “My coaching propensity drives me to advise them to ‘own’ their project whenever possible. When someone buys an idea, you normally get a single payment; whereas when you own the idea, you receive royalties and residual income. That’s legacy.” CReed Global Media has grown a great deal and is ever evolving since its inception. Since that time, CGM has hired new employees, worked with the City of Houston Workforce Solutions, collaborated with many businesses, and worked with many interns from Houston colleges and universities that include University of Houston, Texas Southern University, and Houston Community College. Reed appreciates and values the contributions of her team. “Without my team, I probably would have stopped a long time ago because I would have never thought of all the little things that make a big difference. They’ve been integral to the reason why I started this. Human capital is very valuable. To find the right people, you seek those who are passionate about their work, whether it is creating quality videos, editing, or executing quality projects.”

In addition to all she does, Ms. Reed founded, in April of 2019, the Houston Entertainment Industry Task Force (HEITF) which has received the support of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. The HEITF is an integral arm of the International Entertainment Partnership (IEP) with a mission to expand the entertainment industry through investment opportunities, jobs, resources, and economic development for diverse communities starting in the Greater Houston Region. When envisioning the future of CGM, Centrell is always forward looking and positive. “We want to do more because there’s a lot to be done.” As Reed speaks, you get a sense of her excitement at the potential represented by ventures brought to her company. When approached by a client, she never knows whether the fruit of her staff ’s efforts could result in the next big movie or big movement. Yet regardless of the number or magnitude of successes CReed Global Media helps create, one thing is for sure, Centrell, like a sunflower, will continue spreading seeds of knowledge to those fortunate enough to meet her on the pathway to success. For more information on how you can take your company or idea to the next level, contact the CReed Global Media Team by phone at (713) 892-5717 or by email at info@CReedGlobalMedia.com. You can also visit www.CReedGlobalMedia.TV, www.CReedGlobalMedia.com, and www.IEPGreaterHou.org.



5 Tips to Recession

Proof Your Business               



here is heavy speculation about whether or not there will be a U.S. recession in the next year or two. While some indicators are pointing to a growing chance of a U.S. recession, the truth is that no one knows for sure exactly when the next one will happen. Economic downturns are a fact of life when you’re running a business, but there are steps that you can take now to ensure your business is prepared to whether a storm and come out stronger. Here are five tips to help recession-proof your business.

1. Focus on finances

Whether a business can set aside a year or three months’ worth of cash, it is crucial to create a fund that will mitigate risk during emergencies or provide options to capitalize on buying opportunities. Keep close tabs on receivables, but remember that in a recession your customers may also be feeling the effects. Offering payment installments can go a long way toward helping customers get through tough times and increase consumer loyalty.

Don’t forget that more countries are entering the “tariff war” with the U.S. there is a pending trade dispute between the U.S. and China, and there are more than $7.5M tariffs on exports from the European Union. Businesses that find alternative solutions and adjust their supply chain network to avoid additional taxes and fees have an undoubtable advantage.

3. Stress test your business

A stress test is used to identify a business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A stress test allows business owners to plan for worst-case scenarios and preview different crisis scenarios. This can in turn help you determine how your business would respond and create contingency plans to address vulnerabilities.

4. Customer first

This is an area where business owners cannot be caught complacent.

2. Examine your supply chain processes

Get creative with strategies that attract interest, earn trust, and encourage loyalty. Look at what tactics your competitors are using and identify opportunities where you can do better.

Consider whether you are consistently ordering too much of a particular item. Are there suppliers that offer the same goods for less? Do any of your suppliers give discounts for bulk orders?

Companies that excel in a recession are those that don’t sacrifice customer experience. Cost-cutting solutions that look good on paper do not always translate to real-time success. If it drives customers away, pivot your planning to accommodate your base.

Take a close look at your inventory practices.


Take steps to improve your customer experience before a recession by analyzing customer behavior data. Customer insights will help owners understand wants and needs, buying habits, and how to better serve them. These insights are a business owner’s Holy Grail for attracting and retaining customers before, during, and after an economic crisis.

5. Don’t neglect marketing

An economic slowdown is an opportunity to distinguish your business from competitors. Highlight how your products or services are superior or unique with marketing strategies that don’t break the bank. There are many cost-effective ways to get your message out, including social media and training employees to be brand ambassadors. While cutting marketing costs may ease your budget in the short-term, it has the potential to hurt lead generation and brand awareness. The threat of a recession has been a prominent discussion in the media over the past few months. The secret to weathering an economic storm is proactivity. Preparing ahead of time will set up your business to not only survive an economic crisis, but emerge even stronger and more successful. Frederick Crosby is the Chief Revenue Officer of Veem, the global payments network built for business. To contact Veem please visit https://www.veem.com/


Finding Hidden Business Referrals



id you know that 98% of entrepreneurs rely on networking and referrals to build their business? And, only 3% have a networking plan? Do you have a plan?

Throughout the day we are exposed to a number of hidden referrals that we miss because we are forgetting to focus on them. Thank goodness we have a part of the brain that can do the work for us. It is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), a bundle of neurons found in your brain, about the size of a very large pencil, which acts as a filter for deciding what is important or unimportant. For a networker, this could possibly mean living an extraordinary life. Here are some examples of RAS: (1) if you were in a large crowded room with announcements being made and your name is called, you would pick up on it immediately, (2) you had just purchased a new red sports car and when you went for a drive you began noticing a number of red sports cars on the road, (3) when you hear a new word, you begin hearing it in every conversation, (4) Dr. Ivan Misner, the Father of Modern Networking, talks about being able to sleep through anything, even an automobile accident occurring right outside his front door. But, when he got married and they had their first child, he would wake up when there was just a simple whimper. You may have had some of the same experiences. That is your RAS in action. Our problem in networking is that we are paying too little attention to the clues we receive about referrals. You need to listen to the “Language of Referrals” and the clues being left for you. So, what are some of the clues you should be listening for? When you hear someone say, “Do you know”, “I need”, “I want”,” I don’t know how”, “I can’t”, the next few words will probably describe a potential referral you can give someone. All you need to be doing is to pay attention to the phrases which indicate there is a need of something, then find a referral to help the person. You will become the “Go-To-Guy” and people will be asking your advice, recommendations, and referrals.

Instead of giving referrals to someone else, you really wanted referrals for yourself, right? There is the paradigm shift from getting the referral for you to giving it to someone else. It’s called the Law of Reciprocity, Givers’ Gain®, Servant Leadership, or just Give to Get. The top networkers always begin by listening to the other person and then giving referrals based on the information they have learned. You will receive many more referrals using that philosophy. Read “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann to learn more about applying this new thought process. How can your RAS help you get the referrals you want? Champion basketball players visualize making the 3-pointer. Artists visualize the final result. If you think about a specific referral you want to receive, your RAS will detect it is important to you and focus on getting it. Vision boards, goal setting, sticky notes, and daily journals are all part of the process. RAS can never be defined as being all-powerful but it does respond to your desires. Here is a three step process that may help you train your Reticular Activating System:: 1. Define specifically what you want, let’s say it’s a referral for a specific business project. 2. Imagine the experience you will have when you receive the referral. 3. Create a video in your mind of exactly how your life will be in the future when you achieve what you want. Employ all of your senses: notice what you are seeing, how it makes you feel, the sounds you are hearing, a taste in your mouth, and feel the things you are touching. Many people will make a list and keep it with them at all times. Brian Tracy rewrites his goals every morning. So, instead of sitting back and waiting for it to happen, you must get into action. Prepare for your networking sessions, know who is attending, develop an agenda and goals for the session, continued on page 25


continued from page 10 Starting now, employers and youth can visit www.HireHoustonYouth.org to get started. Companies can also donate to the Hire Houston Youth Foundation at www.hirehoustonyouth.org/donate. You can also post your jobs at www.hirehoustonyouth.org/employer. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, 35-40 percent of the jobs in Houston do not require a college degree, but they do require skills and training beyond a high school level. The GHP is working with my administration to build a strong regional economy and enhance the quality of life and opportunity for all young people by building pathways to success. The Hire Houston Youth application process opens on February 10, 2020. Please visit www.hirehoustonyouth.org/youth.

THE FUTURE OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND HOUSTON’S WORKFORCE IS AT STAKE. I hope you join me to increase access to quality ‘earning and learning’ opportunities for all Houston youth. If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to contact us at hirehoustonyouth@houstontx.gov.


chains, clothing stores, pet shops, travel programs, hotels, department stores and specialty retailers. Rewards programs are predicated upon points, spending, levels of loyalty and VIP memberships. Some are value based programs where customers become brand ambassadors. There are partnered programs, gaming programs and hybrid rewards programs. Gift card programs widen the appeal to friends of existing customers. Airline loyalty programs offer points on future flights. Hotel loyalty programs offer bonus stays and access to a wider selection of hotels than customers might find through their own research. Loyalty programs for rental cars get free upgrades for cardholders. Punch cards for free food in restaurants have been a staple of the hospitality industry for 70 years. Banks charge a fee for rewards card programs. This accrues points for use on a variety of purchases. The gold card gets holders a printout of purchases by category, which is useful in tracking business expenses and in preparation of taxes. Grocery store rewards program include points toward discounted gasoline, special discounts (such as four times fuel points on credit card sales), quantity discounts on sale merchandise and specials that were not on the weekly sale circular.

buy from their favorite store. They return often and refer new customers. 82% of adults say they are loyal to brands. 63% of customers will modify their spending in order to maximize loyalty benefits. A 5% increase in customer retention will increase company profit from 25-96%, depending upon the product, seasonality and coordination with other marketing. Stores with loyalty programs can send emails to users, including newsletters, new product introductions, recommendations for bundling and cooperative offers with other retailers. With loyalty programs come the opportunity to conduct customer research. Surveys can test new product offerings, learn differences of the company from its competitors and glean insights into how to do things differently. Think of the loyalty program as an online focus group. 79% of customers prefer businesses who show that they care. Customers will support cause related marketing and charity tie-in promotions that appeal to them.

With Loyalty Programs Come The Opportunity To Conduct Customer Research.

Loyalty programs have created many companies who operate the software for tracking purchases, research on consumer buying habits and specialty marketing firms in the digital age.

Reward programs for internet purchases include Amazon Prime, where the upfront annual fee gets VIP services such as free shipping, special offers and access to specialized services. This is instead of transactions first and rewards later.

When rewards programs are done wrong and without adequate coordination, they may be a waste of time and resources, becoming a burden for customers with little interest in getting into the program.

Many loyalty programs include applications for faster checkout, bonus points and special offers. Retailers offer private sales, information on products and brand gifts for purchases past set goals.

Companies need to create the best rewards program for their business. Rewarding customers has the advantage of immediately motivating incremental spending. Customers will happily identify themselves with succeeding visits, giving the data the company needs to create deeper customer connections and motivate targeted behaviors.

The Panera Bread loyalty card program generates $2 billion per year in digital, mobile, web and kiosk sales. Coffee chains offer free points, mobile payment, advance orders, access to WiFi and special events. Loyal customers mean more business, increased repeat sales and destination purchases. This saves marketing to wider nets, many who will not turn into customers. It requires 5-25% more to acquire new customers than to sell to existing ones. Regulars spend 67% more than new customers. Engaged customers are five times more likely to

Contact information for Hank Moore. Website: http://www.hankmoore.com. Email: hankmoore4218@sbcglobal.net. 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.



continued from page 15


Show Your Sales Team

How to Be Successful



ales is about personality and building trust, and a good salesperson knows the industry they are working in like the back of their hand, which is why helping your sales team learn your industry and what you offer with a visual guide is one of the best investments you can make.

With SaaS technology becoming more popular by the day, finding new leads has become easier, but how do you build a relationship over email or the phone? If a fellow entrepreneur is willing to give you the time of day, then you know she/he is interested in what you offer and have to make it worth it by getting to your point. Make sure your sales team knows what to say by creating a visual toolkit so they understand why you are pitching this particular person your business. While it does not have to include everything, it can be done in several ways including: • Bolding important numbers that show adding your company to their payroll will immediately benefit who your sales team is contacting • A word cloud they can email showing how many others in the potential clients industry are taking advantage of what you offer • Arrows showing how businesses saved money or increased profits using your services • Block quotes of clients who have used your services that can be read easily over the phone Using methods such as these will help them remember the information your sales representative needs to know. Why? Because over half of the people in this world are visual learners and need to see information to fully absorb it. In fact, using visuals in any handbook has helped employees do their jobs because they actually look at what you want them to know.


Many companies are also using similar methods for their sales teams with videos. And why not? Just think of the movies you have watched. Why do you think it has been easier to remember what a great effect looked like, or why a pivotal scene is stuck in your head, and not what a potential client you spoke to said? Because the movie was done in a way that was compelling enough for you to clearly remember what occurred. Businesses can do this too by creating video graphics of facts, numbers, or other pertinent information that helps employees remembers them because they were presented in the same “movie magic” way. While SaaS is great at generating the leads you need, it does not tell you who the person you are calling is. What are their hobbies? Which sports teams does she/he watch? What music do they listen to? And let’s face it, if they are as busy as you are, your goal is to find this out later as you develop the relationship, which makes the information you put in front of your sales team all the more important. Do not get me wrong, SaaS technology has tons of advantages but you have to use it right. If you get 100 contacts a day, chances are you will only hear back from 10 of them, which means you probably need two of them to sign a contract to make your sales representative time worth it. But if your team is looking for information to keep those 10 companies enticed, you have a problem.   Putting visual facts in front of your sales team will allow them to respond immediately and consistently which, by the way, has proven to save companies money. So if your sales team is slowing down, or you think they can do better, give them the visuals they need to succeed. Caroline Petersen, Founder and Creative Director, Gallery Design Studio, https://www.gallerydesignstudio.com, caroline@gallerydesignstudio.com



Centrell Reed CReed Global Media Profile


Gwen Juarez Photography


HCC/MBDA Profile


Inside Back Cover

Optima Vitamins


Phil & Derek’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar

Back Cover


Inside Front Cover

continued from page 21 focus on listening rather than talking, ask questions, be interested rather than interesting, develop the habit of Toni Harris Taylor and set at least three appointments at each networking event, and follow up with a thank you note. You may have heard about “The Law of Attraction” and now it may seem less mystical. By becoming more aware of want you want and tuning in to the right information, your RAS can help you succeed. However, there is no magic or silver bullet in networking. You must expend the effort to produce the results. When you learn to utilize your Reticular Activating System, you will produce more referrals for others and generate more referrals for yourself. You can start applying this approach to the other areas of your life like family, career, and adventure. You will be amazed.

- Your Network is Your Wealth! Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg Author of CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients Gail@GailStolzenburg.com 281 493 1955 www.GailStolzenburg.com


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