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WINTER 2022 / HOUSTON YOUR GUIDE TO “BIG” BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT RHONDA AND CHARLIE WILLIFORD Rhonda Williford Home Solutions and Williford & Company How SMBs Can Promote Digital Wellness Through Collaborative, Accessible, and Secure Technology 5 Ways Employers Can Improve Employee 10 Do's and Don’ts of Starting Financial Literacy a Destination Business

EVP/Executive Publisher Steve Levine Z”L (Of Blessed Memory)

Publisher’s Assistant Jerome Davis

Graphic Design CODEYEA Creative Design Agency

Photographer Gwen Turner Photography

Website Content Management

Zahra Rangwala/K Bizz Solutions

Contributing Writers

Mary J. West Barbara R. Davis


Christopher Budd John Collard

Ivona Ercegovic Ed Giaquinto Danielle Hinz

Jillian Kerwin Emily Ketchen

Erin Martin-Serrano Hank Moore Greg Plunkett

Gail Stolzenburg Richard Tatum Eric Yu

Chief Advisor Hank Moore

Publisher’s Advisory Board

Denise Adjei Sonia Clayton Donna Cole John Cruise

April Day

Dr. John Demartini

Maya Durnovo

Kathie Edwards

Mila Golovine

Dory Gordon Richard Huebner

Darryl King Wea Lee

Bertrand McHenry Hank Moore

Lisa M. Morton

Leisa Holland Nelson

Cecelia Nowlin Maria Rios

Ingrid Robinson

Rita Santamaria William Sherrill

Gail Stolzenburg

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Jack Warkenthien

Phone: 832-419-1918


Or Write: Small Business Today P.O. Box 31186 Houston, TX 77231 See us on the web at


“Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do” is the title of one of my favorite books written by Dr. Robert H. Schuller that is also part of my own personal library. Since I first met Dr. Schuller many years ago, I have read this book many, many times and it has always inspired me.

There is no question that small business has been hit extremely hard during the past two years of the Pandemic. The financial ramifications of the virus have caused many small business owners to make major cutbacks and/or close up for good. This is true regardless of the product, service, or clientele that they serve. Despite these adverse times, there are some businesses that still seem to flourish and even grow. These are the businesses whose owners believe that they need to play with the cards they are dealt and know that these trying times will not last. They know that yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, and today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!

I believe why and how they continue to grow their businesses when others are closing theirs lies in their ATTITUDE, DESIRE, & PURPOSE.


These successful entrepreneurs have the attitude that life and business is about possibilities and if their business is to succeed when others are failing, it is up to them to make the necessary changes to adapt to the challenges and overcome them. My wife and I always say, “If it is going to be, it is up to me!” There are always going to be setbacks in life and in business. The only way you are going to bounce back is to be innovative, resourceful, and do everything you can to figure it out.


Depending on how hungry someone is, it is in direct proportion to what they achieve and when they achieve it. No one says that success

in a challenging time is easy, but the successful entrepreneur knows that they must never, ever give up. The only way to fail is to quit!


The reason why 95% of those business owners give up on their dreams is that they have forgotten “WHY” they wanted their dream in the first place. The successful entrepreneur knows that they must have strong, compelling reasons for their goals and dreams. They know they must have a strong “WHY” to become a success despite the odds against them.

Many of our 150+ cover honorees from Small Business Today, Real Estate Executive, Premier Agent, and Profiles Magazines have been Realtors®. Many of our followers on our website and social media are Realtors®, too. Realtors® are some of the most resourceful and tenacious entrepreneurs that I have ever met.

It has been my pleasure to follow one of those successful entrepreneurs since she was first honored on our Premier Agent Magazine cover in March of 2011 - Rhonda Williford of RE/MAX Compass and Rhonda Williford Home Solutions. Rhonda and her husband, Charlie Williford, who was featured in our Profiles Magazine in March of 2011 as well, have exemplified all three of those attributes, Attitude, Desire, and Purpose, in growing their companies regardless of the drastic changes in our economy and our country. I know you will enjoy reading how Rhonda and Charlie have been innovative and complementary working independently and together in their individual businesses.

Small Business Today Magazine
President/Publisher/Editor/Creative Director Barbara Davis-Levine
Good Reading, Good Sales, & Success to YouSteve Levine Executive Publisher

Steve prophetically wrote in his final Executive Publisher’s Column that “Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do”. Who knew that I would be one of those people he was writing about?! Since Steve died of a heart attack in his sleep in August of last year, it has been a struggle for me to get SBT Magazine back on track. It has been a great learning curve in replicating everything Steve did without him leaving me instructions. A special note to those of you who work with your spouse or business partner: Make sure you have your systems and procedures written down about what each of you does and then make sure to give each other a copy!!! To add insult to injury, our website was repeatedly attacked and eventually breached but our IT Team eventually won the battle. Please be patient as I work with them in updating everything on the website pages. If you notice a screw up, just let me know and I will do my best to fix it. Starting with this Winter 2022 Edition, Small Business Today will be published quarterly. If you are interested in being a columnist, an advertiser, or participating in some other capacity, please feel free to email me at

I wish to give special thanks to this edition’s Cover Honorees - Rhonda and Charlie Williford, Profiles – Bitcoin of America/ Sonny Meraban, Lenovo/Emily Ketchen, Unc B’s Seasonings/Bryanal Davis, and RELEVE Brand (formerly Be Pure Naturals)/

Wendy Williams for their patience and understanding during this most difficult time in my life and business. More thanks go out to our new, talented Graphic Design Agency, CODEYEA Creative Design Agency, who has been a blessing for helping me rebuild the magazine from scratch, Amira Mannai, publisher of The Princess Magazine, who graciously referred CODEYEA to me, our brilliant, go-to writer who gets me - Mary J. West, our award-winning and very patient photographer, Gwen Juarez, and our terrific, dedicated IT Team - K Business Solutions/ Zahra & Amir Rangwala for going above and beyond the call of duty in saving our website from evil hackers! I can’t leave out thanking James McInvale, Jr. for allowing us to stage some photos for our Cover Story in the lovely showrooms at Gallery Furniture Galleria. Last but not least, I’m sending hugs, kisses, and lots of thanks for all the support I received from my great friends (too innumerable to mention) and my family - Gina & Brad Dennen, Jerome Davis, Tracey Levine, and “adopted” family - John & Shon Cruise.

Steve and I were married for 22 years, and most of that time we worked together in our various publications. We complemented each other in our strengths and each of us did our share of what we excelled in the best. Steve was the detail guy. He was extraordinarily regimented in keeping everything on track and handling the communications between

the clients, the contributing writers, the photographer, the graphic designer, and the IT staff. He handled the sales contracts, the billing and collections, and scheduled the appointments. I edited every written article going into the magazine, interviewed the Cover Honorees and Profile Subjects, worked with our writer, Mary J. West, on the title for the articles and the intro paragraphs, and did the creative staging wi th our photographer, Gwen Juarez, on all the wonderful photos used for the Cover Honorees and Profiles.

I am as tough as they come; I may be down but I will never be out! I have been widowed twice. I was married 22 years to my first husband, Steven Davis, when a drunk driver killed him and I was so critically injured that I was declared brain dead! At that time, we owned Celebrity/24 Hour Travel and were extremely successful. I reinvented myself before, and I am doing it once again; so, you might say this is my “Second Act”. Any help you care to offer, especially suggesting advertisers and potential Cover Honorees, will be gratefully appreciated! I give commissions to anyone who refers business to me once the transaction has been completed.

In addition to our in-it-for-the-long-haul, entrepreneurs extraordinaire Cover Honorees, Rhonda and Charlie Williford, who are great partners in life and business (much like my husband Steve and I were), this issue features Profiles on several companies that


were started by entrepreneurs with that “can do”, never quit spirit. Bitcoin of America, a company started by Sonny Meraban, is taking the US by storm and is growing like gangbusters with their BTMs (like ATMs but for Bitcoin)!

Lenovo has quickly risen to become the largest PC company in the world and one of the largest IT companies. Their focus and solutions are helping businesses stay afloat in these trying times. Emily Ketchen is one of the contributing writers and is a brilliant, dynamic leader at Lenovo.

On a smaller scale but gaining a lot of traction are two great, Houston-based

companies: Unc B’s Seasonings and RELEVE Brands (formerly Be Pure Naturals):

Two-term Veteran, Bryanal Davis’s allnatural Unc B’s Seasonings makes anything you cook become a culinary masterpiece!

Whenever I go out to eat, I take packets of Unc B’s General Purpose Seasoning to flavor my food because it is low in salt and free of chemicals and sugar.

Last but not least, is Houston’s own Wendy Williams, a single mom and the visionary behind RELEVE Brands (formerly Be Pure Naturals), a company that specializes in great all-natural products for aches & pains, dry skin, insect repellant, and hair growth.

My favorite product of hers is the Healing Balm. I use a little bit on my hands and they stay smooth and soft all week.

After you have read all of the inspiring stories of our Cover Honorees and Profiles featured in this issue, I hope you will show your support by using their products, services, referring them to others, and even dropping them a line that you read about them in Small Business Today Magazine.

Good Reading, Good Sales, & Success to YouBarbara Davis-Levine Publisher


Sonny Meraban — Bitcoin of America

Right Timing Can Make a Critical Difference in the Road to Success

The road to success is seldom a straight line with entrepreneurs achieving prosperity on their first venture. Instead, it often involves detours and wrong turns as they learn what works and what doesn’t. Missteps are actually stepping stones to profitability because they teach valuable principles needed to establish a strong enterprise. Such is the case with Sonny Meraban, CEO of Bitcoin of America (BOA), who changed businesses several times before entering the cryptocurrency industry. The wrong timing appeared to underlie his missteps, while the right timing seems to undergird his current soaring profits. “Timing is everything,” he says.

Referring to himself as a serial entrepreneur, Meraban’s twisted path to success involved two disappointments previous to finding his niche in bitcoin. The entrepreneur first ventured into the automobile industry and became the owner of three dealerships while he was in his twenties. When the economic crash of 2008 put a damper on car sales, he decided to switch gears. It obviously wasn’t the ideal time for this type of business.

Next, he delved into real estate, but the housing crash hindered this venture from gaining a solid footing. Once again, the timing wasn’t right. “Basically, the real estate business was my second career change,” Meraban says. “I hear that a working male goes through three career changes, and it probably took me a couple of years to figure out bitcoin in 2015.” So after getting out of real estate, Meraban’s business dabbling during the next two years led him to the bitcoin industry and the creation of Bitcoin of America. The idea started when he had an interest in becoming a a drop-ship merchant who could provide an automated method of payment for customers wanting to buy his product. Yet again, this venture hit a roadblock when he encountered difficulty in finding a merchant processor.

One day, while buying bitcoin from a website to play online poker, he had an epiphany. “What if I could process bitcoin in

a similar way?” Meraban began researching the bitcoin industry and eventually developed an interest in owning a bitcoin ATM known as a BTM. His inspiration got a boost one day in 2014 when he came across the first BTM in his hometown of Chicago. It was near his home and the owner happened to be there, so Meraban started talking to him. Through this relationship, Sonny acquired his first BTM in 2015, which was the catalyst for starting Bitcoin of America and launching his third career.

So exactly how does a BTM work? “Basically, you punch in your name and contact information to get verified,” Meraban explains. “Then, you put money into the machine to purchase bitcoin, which will appear in your digital wallet. Afterward, you may use the cryptocurrency to make purchases from companies that accept it as a payment option, such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and Overstock.”

Meraban’s decision to enter the bitcoin industry was partly based on timing. The bitcoin industry was young at this point but he felt it might play a more prominent currency role in the future. The time seemed right to take the plunge, and in this case, Sonny's third foray into entrepreneurship with Bitcoin of America turned out to be a charm. Even so, success wasn’t immediate. Meraban spent the first year with just one BTM while he learned the software and placed the machine in a store. However, his persistence and patience paid off handsomely, and after ironing out the initial difficulties, his business took off.

The rest, as they say, is history. The seven short years following BOA’s launch have shown impressive growth. Although the company started modestly with one BTM, it now has over 1,400 BTMs throughout the United States. This number makes up 5% of the U.S. BTM market. In addition, the initial location was in Chicago, but it is now in 31 states with more on the horizon. The company’s growth in the past year has been particularly phenomenal. Their top-line revenue increased 220%, and their

earnings rose eight times the amount of last year. Such expansion has led to growth in the company’s team. The number of employees spiked 32% in one year. BOA’s robust growth garnered the attention of Inc. Magazine, which named it one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. In fact, the magazine has included BOA in its Inc. 5000 list. Meraban is excited about the honor and the exploding expansion of his company that it represents.

Bitcoin of America is not limited to BTMs. Its services include tablets and online exchange as well. “Tablets are like an ATM in the palm of your hand,” says Meraban. BTM recently took another step forward in May of 2021 when it introduced what Sonny calls a “Universal Kiosk”. This offers services beyond those of a BTM, as it allows people to purchase cryptocurrency in different ways. Meraban’s journey to success shows that timing may just be the secret ingredient that makes a critical difference in entrepreneurship. Certainly, it plays a key role when an aspiring magnate builds a flourishing company.

Even if an individual possesses considerable business acumen, when the business climate isn’t right for a particular undertaking, it poses a hurdle that is almost impossible to overcome.

Conversely, when the timing is right to launch an enterprise, it can serve as the fuel that propels profits into the stratosphere. Meraban's great success in the launch and growth of Bitcoin of America illustrates this principle.

To find out more about Bitcoin of America, one can visit or


client, and serve as advisors to the businesses that are their customers. Just what is this “listening”thathaspropelledthecompany toitsleadershiprole?Ittakesseveralforms, allofwhichallowittounderstand,support, and provide remedies for its customers. One form is a robust insight community whereLenovoengageswithmorethan4,500

customers who own small and medium businesses. The community continually asks customers how things are going from a technological perspective. In addition, Lenovo has advisory councils, which are constantly hearing from customers and helping them solve their challenges. Other listening comes in the form of research that involves focus

INSIDE WINTER 2022 / HOUSTON YOUR GUIDE TO “BIG” BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT RHONDA AND CHARLIE WILLIFORD Rhonda Williford Home Solutions / Williford & Company There is a typo at bottom of cover on right. You put 10 Do's and Don’ts of Starting Starting a Destination 5 Ways Employers Can Improve Employee 10 Do's and Don’ts of Starting Financial Literacy a Destination Business T he current health and future wellness of business can stem from myriad of factors. Now more than ever, businessesaredealingwithchallenges they have never before encountered. For them to survive and flourish, they need to consult with specialists who can empathize with their problems, really listen, and provide successful remedies. One company in particular, Lenovo, has madesuchacriticaldifferenceintakingthe pulseofsmalltomediumbusinesses(SMBs) and providing successful remedies that it has quickly risen to become the world’s largest PC company and one of the largest IT companies. Lenovo offer all kinds of technology solutions, from smartphones and personal computers to services and complex data but what sets them apart is that they are focused on listening to their clients and providing them the devices, solutions, and services that help, serve, and solve their technology needs. According to Emily Ketchen, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the PC and Smart Devices Division. “Being great listeners involves several methods of collecting feedback from customers which has given usinsightsinhowtobestmeettheirneeds.” These insights have enabled Lenovo
televisions, they took the opportunity to push technology forward. Later, in 2005, they acquired the personal computer divisionofIBM,andthatiswhere number of the PC pieces came together such as In addition, Lenovo developed consumerbased and gaming products such as Yoga and Legion. No wonder that Lenovo has become the largest, worldwide vendor of personal computers! Lenovo, whose mission statement is “To provide smarter technology for all”, can trulyrelatetobusinessownersbecausethey toohaveanincrediblyentrepreneurialspirit whichdrivesbothindividualcontributions and meaningful results. Notes Ketchen, “Lenovohas uniqueentrepreneurialspirit thathasledtotheproductionofanenviable breadth of technology portfolio. It sells products in 180 countries, which includes desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, as well as smartphones, storage devices, and peripherals. The company also carries servers,supercomputers,andcomplexdata systems solutions.” Despitesuchabroadarrayofelectronics, Lenovo’s primary goal is not to sell but to listen intently, take the pulse of the
to devise innovations that have made it visionary leader in electronics on the world stage. Launched in China in 1984 by a group of technologists who got their start as a small business specializing in
groups and observationalstudies.Thecompanyalsohas a customer insights dashboard, listening toolthathascapturedmorethan20million unsolicited comments from those who buy their products. Lenovo has harnessed informationgainedthroughthesemeansof customer engagement to improve product features. Such innovations deliver tangible advantages, often addressing the needs of customers before they’re fully aware of Because the business climate is everchanging, it’s essential to keep a close pulse on it to keep up with the times. “One example involves this world of 24/7 collaborationwheresomeofusareworking from home,” Ketchen relates. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a laptop that includes built-in earbuds that are charged, automaticallyconfigured,andoptimizedto make easy to hop on call or participate in meeting?’ So we included that in our ThinkBook 15-inch laptop, a brand we specifically created for SMBs. It’s a great listening to customers.” PROFILE Lenovo Listening to SMBs, Taking their Pulse, then Providing Successful Remedies for Business Health and Future Wellness By Mary J. West continuedonpage35 18 SBTMAGAZINE.NET Winter 2022 06 COVER STORY 18 LENOVO PROFILE FEATURES ADVERTISERS 01 Executive Publisher’s Column 03 Inside Front Cover Gwen Juarez Photography LiftFund 02 Publisher’s Column 04 Sonny Meraban - Bitcoin of America 13 Changing Your Mindset for Networking Success 15 What Small Business Owners Need to Know When Hiring and Firing Employees 16 5 Ways Employers Can Improve Employee Financial Literacy 17 How to Get the Most Value out of a Business Credit Report 14 Protecting Your Company from Business Email Compromise (BEC) Attacks 11 Make the Right Data-Driven Decisions for Your Business Without the Need of Big Data 19 How SMBs Can Promote Digital Wellness Through Collaborative, Accessible, and Secure Technology 12 Business Regeneration – Lessons Learned from COVID 20 The Role of Subcontracting in Supplier Diversity 21 How To Protect Your SMB Website 24 10 Do’s And Don’ts Of Starting A Destination Business 25 Why Hire Outside Directors When Private Companies Don’t Have To? They Bring Change! 26 The Obituary of Steven Paul Levine Z”L (of Blessed Memory) 30 Wendy Williams - RELEVE Brands (formerly Be Pure Naturals) 31 How Small Businesses Can Sustain Success During “The Great Resignation” 32 Bryanal Davis – Unc B’s Seasonings 33 8 Tips for Selecting the Best Bank for a Small Business 34 Looking to Raise Funds? Here’s What Every Small Business Entrepreneur Should Know 22 36 CODEYEA Creative Design Agency River Oaks Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, & Ram 23 Autism Speaks - Ad Council Back Cover Phil & Derek’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar 36 Optima Vitamins Inside Back Cover PAWS, HOOFS, & CLAWS WINTER 2022 EDITION / HOUSTON

Rhonda and Charlie WillifordGreat Partners In Life and In Business - Helping Real Estate Clients and Making Them Feel Like Family

The intensely caring nature of both Rhonda and Charlie Williford were the driving force behind the launch of their flourishing businesses and, indeed, their continuing success. Early on, Rhonda wanted to have the kind of company that would treat clients like family. Charlie shared the same passion. Consequently, when they met on one fateful evening in 2007, they quickly realized they were soulmates, which led to a beautiful marriage. This great life partnership eventually evolved into an informal business partnership that has brought them great fulfillment and helped a multitude of people.

While the couple’s businesses are technically separate, they frequently intersect. In her work as a Realtor® and design specialist, Rhonda routinely encounters sellers who need the services of a contractor to help remodel their homes in preparation for being listed. Likewise, in his work as a contractor and insurance adjuster, Charlie meets clients who are interested in selling their homes and need a great Realtor® and/or design specialist. Working side-by side in assisting clients achieve their real estate goals and dreams, Rhonda and Charlie not only help their clients together, they are able to provide each other’s expertise as well.

Undoubtedly, if Rhonda and Charlie had never met, they would still be the owners of successful businesses. However, they embrace working together and helping their clients. They also have an ever-expanding group of people whom they have welcomed into their business family. For over 17 years, Rhonda Williford has been a “mover and shaker” in the real estate community and is the sole proprietor of Rhonda Williford Home Solutions, a RE/MAX affiliation. In addition to being the Team Leader, Rhonda has two Buyer's Agents - Lori Cassity and Chanta Brown.

Rhonda uses her talents, skills, and knowledge in helping people buy or sell their homes. When sellers contact Rhonda, she gives them a choice of two options. They can either list their homes without making improvements, or they can first invest money in home improvements which often pays off in a larger selling price and a shorter time on the market. When clients choose the latter, Rhonda acts as their design specialist and advises them in what steps are necessary to take in increasing their home’s marketability, curb appeal, and value. After following her recommendations, it is not uncommon for her clients deciding not to sell because they find the improvements too appealing to leave.

Rhonda’s advice in enhancing her clients’ home appeal depends on how much they are willing to invest. Sometimes a few changes can make a great deal of difference. These may include decluttering and cleaning the interior, along with refreshing the yard. Other simple changes may involve removing outdated carpeting, adding some fresh paint, changing light fixtures, or replacing a few appliances. In addition, Rhonda may suggest changes to facilitate better flow within a home. For example, when people are cooking in the kitchen, they want to be able to easily speak with family members or guests in the living room. They also like to be readily accessible when children are doing their homework. In other words, if the interior of a home flows well, it’s more functional for the residents and more desirable to potential buyers.

Rhonda’s clients represent many walks of life, so she has experience in selling everything from starter homes and “fixeruppers” to luxury high-end properties. Regardless of her client’s income, she values each of them. “I don't care if you have $80,000 or $8 million to spend, you're just as important,” remarked Rhonda.

Rhonda & Charlie - The "Dynamic Duo" Photography by Gwen Juarez
Cover Story
Rhonda Williford Home Solutions/Williford & Company

She is as adept at enhancing homes with a limited budget as well as she is with those who have an extravagant budget. Even if a client has only a relatively small sum to spend on home improvements, Rhonda's creative flair and shopping savvy can transform a lackluster residence into an enchanting abode. “I’ve made modest homes look like the Taj Mahal by picking up items from places that deliver design that fits any budget, from discount to designer,” explains Rhonda.

Rhonda is quite the resourceful shopper. It is not unusual for her to find unique items at flea markets that make wonderful conversation pieces. She is always thinking outside of the box in getting her clients what they need at the best price. Rhonda elaborated, “Furniture auctioneers who sell items for people who are downsizing or moving overseas are another treasure trove for home furnishings. It’s fun to have a diverse variety of shopping sources.”

Although the sellers’ side of real estate is Rhonda’s specialty, she also enjoys working with buyers. When people who want to buy a home contact her, she takes time in determining their needs. “Because sometimes they don’t know what they need or want,” explains Rhonda. “I ask questions to narrow down areas that best suits their needs.”

Whether Rhonda is working with sellers or buyers, she feels one of the keys to her success is the way she treats people like family. “I got into this business because I thought I could make a difference by taking care of them in the most optimal way,” reflects Rhonda. “The secret to having satisfied, happy clients is treating them the way I would want to be treated. One by one, I can make a difference.”

The other half of this wonderful couple, Charlie Williford, has been in business for over 40 years as an expert contractor. He initially got the idea for his enterprise, Williford & Company, when he was just 18 years old and working as a painter for another contractor. “After two years, I said, ‘Shoot, I can do this myself.’ And that's how I got started,” recalls Charlie.

Today, Charlie employs carpenters, granite workers, plumbers, and flooring people as part of his talented team. He also subcontracts with other reputable businesses that he has established relationships with. In addition to being a contractor, Charlie is also a licensed insurance adjuster. “I know how the game is played and what the insurance company is supposed to pay the homeowners for their loss,” explains Charlie.

“They can't push the homeowner around if I'm with them. And I help the homeowners walk through the whole process, including contacting the mortgage company, getting an estimate, and whatever else is needed. This expedites the process for the client and maximizes what they get from the insurance company for their loss,” states Charlie.

Ask any business owner and they will concur that it isn't easy retaining competent, long-term employees, so it is a real a testament to the quality employer Charlie is, knowing that some of his employees have worked for him for over 35 years! What's even more amazing is that some of his employees’ children, who are now adults, have followed in their parents' footsteps and work for him, too.

It's quite evident that Charlie is a great boss. Everything he does is with integrity and pride in his workmanship and his employees reflect those qualities as well. Charlie is confident in his employees’ honesty and trusts them completely when they are working in a home where the owner has valuable possessions throughout the home. Of course, Charlie is bonded, but just the same, he knows he never needs to worry that his crew would ever act in an untrustworthy manner.

Often, the Williford’s businesses will intersect, and they’ll work as a team. When Rhonda is working with sellers who need a contractor to remodel their homes, she’ll recommend Charlie if they ask for her advice. She will tell them, “You can use who you wish, but if you need a trustworthy contractor, I have one!”

When expertise and experience matters, Rhonda is the key person to call! Photography by Gwen Juarez

Most clients choose working with Charlie and Rhonda together as a team because they make a dynamic duo! Consequently, Charlie’s crew may do the painting, flooring, and other things needed that provide the appeal their home needs to maximize a selling price in a timely fashion.

Conversely, in his construction work, Charlie encounters people wanting to sell, so he puts them in touch with Rhonda. Even though Rhonda and Charlie recommend each other to their clients, when it seems appropriate, they never pressure their clients to hire each other. Rhonda explains, “I’ll tell them, ‘This is what you need to do, and I can get my husband’s crew that I guarantee is trustworthy because we’ve worked with them for so many years.’ I leave them alone while they make the decision, but 99% of the time, they'll say they want to use Charlie’s contracting crew.”

The business partnership the couple embraces involves more than just referring clients to each other.

Their shared principles in treating their clients like family has led them to go above and beyond the call of duty when their clients are going through difficult situations including offering their services and expertise at no charge. To illustrate, as a contractor, Charlie has done restorations for people who have home damages from a fire or flooding. These individuals need advice in many aspects of home improvement such as selecting flooring and paint colors, as well as planning a backsplash, updating a bathroom, or reconfiguring a space. Rhonda works with them for free in these areas. In addition, when Rhonda gets her home inspection reports back, Charlie helps her by writing estimates on repairs the buyers or sellers want.

The couple’s togetherness is a win-win situation, and their clients benefit most of all! This teamwork and dedication to their clients' well-being also means that Rhonda has been known to get up at midnight to paint a client’s wall, or that Charlie might run over to a seller's home to winterize the plumbing during an ice storm.

Formulas for success are usually complex and involve many factors. Aside from treating people like family, Rhonda and Charlie have other personal qualities that likely play a role in their success. For instance, rather than relying heavily on voice mail, they make themselves available to their clients and personally answer their phones throughout much of the day and evening. “It's important for me that clients are able to get in touch with me,” explains Rhonda. “And Charlie feels the same way. We understand that when someone is talking about their greatest asset, their home, they need to know you’re not ignoring them, and we see their concerns as urgent as they do.”

Just like Charlie, one of Rhonda’s standout features is her integrity. Her husband works with several Realtors®, but she will never take away a listing from one of them. In fact, if one of his clients complains to her about their Realtor®, Rhonda will call the Realtor® and convey what needs to be done to make the client happy. She encourages the client to work things out with the Realtor® if at all possible. Rhonda reflected, “I think everybody should be given a chance because you never know what somebody is going through at that moment in time. We don't try to step on anybody's toes.” Another personal quality that underlies Rhonda’s success is that people are drawn to her warmth and congenial personality. She is a “down home” girl at heart and everyone experiences it the minute they meet her. Her great charisma always makes people feel at ease. “I’ve been told by many that my energy just pulls people in,” says Rhonda with a big smile on her face!

According to Rhonda, one of Charlie’s best features that has helped make his company strong are his communication skills. “He is great at putting people at ease and assuring them a job will be done to their satisfaction. If my husband takes on a project, it's going to be done right,” states Rhonda. When Rhonda and Charlie meet with clients, they feel it’s vital to determine what their expectations are. Rhonda explains, “Everyone is different, so you can't assume that they’re going to think the same way that you do,” With this in mind, the Willlifords try to listen carefully to their clients so they can give them exactly what they want.

The personal and professional qualities that the couple bring to their work has earned them loyal customers.

Charlie hard at work making plans. Photography by Gwen Juarez
Cover Story

“We have repeat customers from years and years ago,” says Charlie. “I've done one house three times after it flooded each time.” In addition, most of their clients come from referrals, so they rarely have the need to advertise. “We get a lot of word-of-mouth business,” adds Charlie. The togetherness that is an integral part of the Williford’s business endeavors is likely a natural outflow from their close marriage. Although they have been married for over 14 years, they still act like honeymooners. When asked how they keep their relationship fresh, Rhonda and Charlie shared, “We always sit beside each other when we are dining out. And whether it is work or play, we love holding hands and being together.”

Truly, this marriage is a rare gem. “We can be together all weekend long, but when Monday comes and I go back to work, I just miss her terribly,” reflects Charlie. “The more time we spend together, the more we like it. We always are each other's sounding board and have the utmost respect for each other,” adds Rhonda. The relationship has fulfilled Rhonda’s long-held dreams about love and marriage. She elaborates, “I always wanted to be treated like a queen and be put on a pedestal, but I wanted to have somebody to treat that way as well. It should work both ways. I finally found that special person that I thought did not exist.”

Family life is also very important to the

Willifords. They cherish each moment spent with their eight children, three of whom are Rhonda’s and five of whom are Charlie’s. The couple also dote on their five grandchildren. The Willifords are justifiably proud of their children, all of whom appear to have bright futures. The oldest, Lyndsay Richardson, a University of Houston magna cum laude graduate, is a pharmaceutical sales representative. The second to oldest, Stephanie Brown, a University of Houston graduate, runs one of the biggest restoration companies in the city. The next in line is daughter Reygan Cox. She is finishing up her degree in Hospital Administration and works as a tax accountant at Heights Financial Services. Son Jake Williford, a cum laude graduate from Texas Tech University, holds a Master’s Degree in accounting and works for Ernst & Young. Continuing down the line are twin daughters Ashtin and Story Williford. Ashtin is a Texas A&M Mays Business School graduate and employed with AT&T. Story is a University of Texas McCombs School of Business graduate and employed at Oracle. Daughter Waverlee Sykowski, a cum laude graduate from the University of Houston C.T. Bauer College of Business, is employed by Andersen Tax LLC. The youngest, Logan Sykowski, is currently in college and working towards his degree in Economics and Finance.

When asked how they juggle business with family life, Rhonda commented, “I still love homemaking tasks, gardening, and cooking, but sometimes juggling work and family means my house doesn't get as clean as I would like even though I’m a neat freak. But you know what? It all eventually gets done. We just make it happen. Recently, we became empty nesters and the pressures of balancing aren’t as demanding.”

The Willifords’ hard work and dedication to their clients has paid off handsomely. Their businesses are thriving and they enjoy the fulfillment that comes from working on projects with all their heart. They give over and above what is expected, and consequently, their clients are loyal as well. Since Rhonda and Charlie treat them as if they’re family, they have a bond with them that transcends mere business.

Although Rhonda and Charlie feel blessed by their business partnership, their life partnership is an even greater blessing. They are inordinately rich in the things that money can’t buy - namely love, respect, family, and a keen delight in each other’s company. At the end of each day, when all the work is done, they savor the quiet yet sublime joy that comes simply from being together.

When it comes to helping their clients, Charlie and Rhonda are the perfect combination. Photography by Gwen Juarez.

Rhonda and Charlie's Words of Wisdom for Success

1. Having the funds to start your business is essential. This means you need at least a few months’ worth of payroll and all your other overhead in the bank.

2. Be reliable. Do whatever you say you’re going to do. Clients need to know they can count on you and that you are a person of your word.

3. Make good communications a priority. We are there for our clients 12 hours each day. When a client calls and we are occupied, we answer and say, 'Just give us a few minutes and we’ll call you back.' As long as you communicate when you will be available and then do what you say you will do, you will prevent them from getting frustrated.

3. Treat your employees and your clients with respect and honesty and they, in turn, will treat you the same way. That's one of the reasons we have loyal employees and clients.

4. Be teachable and never stop learning. Don’t be the kind of person who thinks they know everything. There's always going to be a new scenario or project from which you’re going to learn something new. The more you know, the better you can help your clients.

5. Don’t let money be your motivator. Instead, let your driving force be on protecting your clients' best interests and meeting their needs to the best of your ability. You must focus on making the client happy. If you do this, you’ll be the first person who your clients will think about when they need your services. This will even happen if they have 10 friends who are your competitors.

Cover Story
Photography by Gwen Juarez

Make the Right Data-Driven Decisions for Your Business Without the Need of Big Data

Big data has become a buzzword in the field of data analytics as more companies seek to harness the seemingly endless amounts of information that they possess to improve their profitability. While small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have big data analytics, their ability for making the right data-driven decisions remains a key factor in the company’s success.

Data-driven decisions enable people to make course corrections that leave a positive impact on the business and align with their goals. While big data is not required, the focus on which sources of data to analyze is. Outlining the right process for the size of your business will get the maximum return on investment (ROI). Here are important steps to follow which enable better data-driven decisions for SMBs.

Identify and Be Specific on Areas to Improve

Being specific will help define the focus of your efforts and avoid being sidetracked from your goals. Starting with a broad topic such as quantifying customer satisfaction might be a good starting point but that is only scratching the surface on discovering insights.

For example, a past client of mine wanted to determine how to prioritize their assets. After reviewing the book value of each asset, I realized that it did not identify which asset generates the highest customer satisfaction or revenue. Simply knowing which assets are the most popular with customers does not provide a financial number to its true value. To explore further, the client and I assigned a rating system to all aspects of the asset: financial book value, customer ranking through surveys, customer traffic, maintenance costs, and the physical condition of the asset.

Define Metrics and a Rating System

Take each identified metric and list them for consideration in the rating system. For example, here are some methods that I have used:

1. Most popular assets - customer ranking via surveys and customer traffic

2. Customer traffic - the business physically counts people who used the asset

3. Financial book value - review financial statements and assign ranking values (1-5)

4. Physical condition - another rating system of 1-5 where 5 is “like new” condition and 1 represents “major overhaul required”

The rating system for physical condition was assigned by the head of maintenance for each asset. Having competent and relevant members of the organization developing these metrics will provide more accurate assessments and a better understanding of the process.

Gather the Data

Once the rating system is set with all known assumptions captured, the next step is to gather the data. During this step, it is important to use the same capture method for each asset to maintain consistency in reporting. In other words, if you are using machine learning to count overall traffic for one asset, do not use an employee to count the other ones.

Establish a Frequency

Once enough data is captured and reviewed, then determine how often to repeat these assessments in the future. This may be each change of the season or every business quarter. There can be flexibility in picking a frequency meaning that can be adjusted as required to facilitate improvement.

During the review stage, the finalized prioritization might come as a surprise. The enjoyable part of datadriven decision-making is that you can objectively consider what to focus on that will improve the bottom line. For my past client, the asset with the highest book value was not the most popular with customers but it received a lot of focus from financial reviewers. After gathering data, a data-driven decision can be made on where to invest capital first to where it would have the biggest impact on the overall business.

Data-Driven Growth and Improvement

SMBs can benefit from creating a process that fits their size of organization and making data-driven decisions which increases profits while underscoring the true value of an asset. Access to big data is not needed here. Outlining the minimum metrics, data sources, and what you want to improve will reap valuable returns and business insights.

Erin Martin-Serrano is the Director of Business Development with Hedgehog Technologies. Contact:

Business Regeneration

–Lessons Learned from COVID

Business recovery requires a lot more than loans to tide them over. Businesses need strategies. They need to know there is a place for them in a changing landscape. In addition to the health effects, COVID negatively impacted the economy and spurred a recession. The pandemic caused dislocation in business. Stopgap measures to recover business resulted in false starts, forced openings, forced closings, and the loss of customers. Those who were shutdown reported loss of marketplace, dislocation of clientele, and spending cuts that harmed their small businesses the most. According to surveys, 50 percent of business owners believed that the crisis would pass within four months. 54 percent of businesses closed for short-term periods, and 47 percent were marked by unemployment. Declines of 50 percent were highest in the hospitality industry.

The duration of the crisis played a huge role in the impact.

In the first months, 72 percent of businesses expected to reopen. After eight months, 47 percent expected to recover and reopen. Social distancing had a direct impact on customer service, relationships, and repeat business. 48 percent of workers in small businesses have livelihood directly tied to the ecosystem caused by downturns. Many found new jobs, took stopgap jobs, or gave up on their careers altogether. Liquidity crunches with cashflow disruptions showed slower cycles in recovery. Businesses suffered closures, losses, and missed opportunities. Many workers saw career dreams dashed, lost career momentum, and a reality that putting things on hold might encounter changed business dynamics.

Customer service suffered.

When you heard terms “contact-less and contactfree,” I heard customer service sinking to new depths. Human interactions were minimalized, making restoration of customer service more difficult on the backend of the pandemic. Some businesses added COVID charges to bills, citing increased cleaning and sanitation services plus costs for PPE. Many cited the loss of business in other areas due to the pandemic including limited occupancy charges, paying workers when the business was closed, and costs associated with re-launching businesses.

Hidden fees are nothing new.

Those who pay cable bills, healthcare statements, and academic charges are beset with recovery charges. Consumers who were hit hard by the pandemic had to bear the brunt for COVID charges. The auto industry thanked consumers for past business and encouraged them to buy more cars as an economic incentive. Education was changed by COVID. Learning went virtual, as did professional development. Many associations cut vital programs and met by losses in dues and participation.

Terms we learned during the pandemic included:

Essential workers, social distancing, cave syndrome, drive-by rationing, super spreaders, rolling blackouts, quarantine, response team, generation pandemic, zoom conferences, food insecurity, humanitarian crisis, distance learning, pandemic brain fog, PPE supplies, PEP loans, masking up, front-line staff, preventable crisis, infra-structure, boil water notices, sanitizers, vaccine hesitancy, the New Normal, and normalizing trauma.

Coping with stress, grief, and worry led to innovative communication. People used isolation time to engage in virtual chatrooms, reconnect with old friends, and attend Zoom meetings. As COVID forced most businesses to become distanced, the Zoom era grew rapidly. Conferences, meetings, professional education, and customer service began utilizing cubes of people to contribute to the business. In the post-COVID recession, many businesses went under. Many frail companies were not on firm foundations and abdicated their abilities to improve and serve customer bases.

As a Big Picture business strategist, I encourage businesses to adopt new ways of thinking about old processes. Here are new acronyms for COVID to help you visualize opportunities differently:

COVID: Collective Ongoing Virus Incidents Decreased

COVID: Community Operations Verify Intelligence Data
continued on page 35

Changing Your Mindset for Networking Success

What is a Mindset?

A mindset is an established set of attitudes held by someone. It is the collection of things you consciously or unconsciously believe or assume that influences how you meet your needs, how you feel, and how you think and approach things that ultimately influences your actions and outcome.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, says there are two types of mindset: Fixed and Growth. “A fixed mindset assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change. A growth mindset, on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

What are the Qualities of Someone with a Healthy Growth Mindset?

• They keep the focus on the client and eliminate the “me”, “my”, “mine”, “we”, “us”, and “ours”.

• They ask probing questions about the needs of the potential client. When they find out what their symptoms are, they provide the remedies for them.

• They recognize that it is not possible for everyone to be their client. You can’t fit a size 12 foot into a size 8 shoe.

• If they can’t help them, they try to refer them to someone else who can.

• They try to include a story about someone else they knew who had a similar problem that their prospect can relate to.

• They never waste other’s time. They provide valuable and quality information.

• They never try to convince someone to eat shrimp if they are allergic to seafood.

• They never stop learning. They always take notes on the new things they learn.

• They regularly read nonfiction books and take self-improvement courses.

• They focus on networking every day whether it is in-person or online.

Why is Having a Growth Mindset so Important to Networking Success?

By listening intently to the questions people ask when you are networking with them, you are able to determine if they are the ones who have a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. If they say things like “Why is this always happening to me?” or, “Why am I unable to get ahead?”, they have a Fixed Mindset and you should spend less time with them. On the other hand, if they say, “How can I improve on that” or, “Where can I find out about that?”, they have a Growth Mindset and you have a greater potential in developing a business relationship with them.

It is so important to focus on your Target Market while networking. Determine who would be your best prospect and find out what is keeping them awake at night. Know at least three characteristics about them and focus on those during your introduction. We know the majority of people make the decision on whether to continue the conversation with you within a couple of seconds.

They need to convince themselves why you are the best person to spend their money with. If you are networking online, they need to see that you are confident and an expert in your field. And, always have a call-to-action resource such as offering a free report, a book, an article, etc. These are all aspects of developing your mindset. If you are unsure of yourself, how can you expect your prospect to feel confident with you?

Eventially, it is your mindset that will determine how you respond and the success you will have. The more you develop your mindset, the better life you will have with more opportunities and better relationships.

Change Your Mindset, Change Your Future

We can change our mindset in one second and there is no cost. It’s free to do. Instead of letting our mindset control us, by taking a chance we can change our future. Most people

are surprised to know that nature gives us a negative mindset.

We are internally preprogramed to fear everything as a means of self-defense. Nature wants us to protect ourselves so we can survive. Surviving is good but achieving is greater! Achieving requires us to stick our neck out. It requires us to take a risk of talking to strangers with the potential of being rejected. And what about others? Can they affect our mindset? Certainly! If we let them!

Ways to Change Your Mindset and Become a Better Networker:

• Make a commitment to remain positive, learn a new skill, and create a Healthy Mindset.

• Find things that make you happy such as nature walks, exercise, dark chocolate, swimming; then schedule time each week to do it.

• Take immediate action by doing a follow-up, making a phone call, making a commitment.

• When you were a baby and learning to walk, did you give up the first time you fell down? It is no different as an adult. You need to take one tiny action step. Hearing the word “no” shouldn’t stop you from trying again with a different person or in a different way.

• If you never make a change, what do you think is going to be the end result? The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over but expecting different results!

• Read books on mindset such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Secrets to Mastering Your Mindset by Tom “Big Al” Schreiter.

Have you ever been told you need to change your mindset? Why is that important to your networking success?
- So, change your mindset and see more networking success! -
Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg is the Author of "21 Ways to Connect"
can be contacted by email at or by phone at (281) 493-1955
his website at

Protecting Your Company from Business Email Compromise (BEC) Attacks

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a fast-growing cybersecurity threat that all businesses, especially small and medium-sized (SMB) ones, face. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported in their 2020 Internet Crime Report that they fielded 19,369 Business Email Compromise (BEC) complaints amounting to over $1.8 billion in adjusted losses in the United States for that year.

BEC attacks primarily use email, but can be carried out using SMS messages, voice mail messages, and even phone calls. BEC attacks are notable because they rely heavily on so-called “social engineering” techniques, meaning they use trickery and deception against people.

Because BEC attacks apply social engineering, traditional security software doesn’t always protect against them. That means you and your employees must understand what BEC attacks are and how they work.

How BEC Attacks Work

While there are many ways BEC attacks can unfold, they all boil down to a simple formula. An attacker tries to convince an employee to send money to the attackers by impersonating someone that the employee trusts.

Attackers often try to stack the odds in two ways. First, they try to make their attack believable by who they choose to impersonate. Second, they try to create a sense of urgency so that the intended victim is less likely to follow the proper transaction procedures that could catch the scam.

For example, one type of BEC attack involves an employee getting an urgent message from the CEO or other high-level executive requesting the employee to pay a past due invoice or get gift cards for a company event. These can be email or text messages, but one executive in 2019 lost €220,000 (approx. $243,000) to attackers who even used deep fake technology to impersonate his CEO.

In another type of BEC attack, the attackers use fake and compromised accounts to exchange several emails with the intended victim that convince her or him that they’re a legitimate vendor, and then send them a fake invoice.

A third type of BEC attack targets company payroll. In these, attackers impersonate employees to convince payroll staff to change employees’ direct deposit information to the attackers’ bank accounts. These attacks are more subtle and take more time but can be very effective.

In almost all cases, BEC attackers’ goal is to get money through electronic funds transfers (including cryptocurrency) or gift cards. While using gift cards for an attack like this might be surprising, attackers have found it’s an easy way to transfer and launder money.

How You Can Protect Against BEC Attacks

BEC attacks really are old-fashioned fraud attacks that happen to utilize current technology. Because these aren’t technology-based attacks, technologybased solutions won’t be as effective against them. A well-made BEC email, for example, is hard for security software to distinguish from a legitimate one, especially if it’s coming from the actual — but compromised — account of someone you trust.

This means that protecting against BEC attacks needs to focus on two things: you and your employees.

First, educate yourself and your employees about BEC attacks. You and your employees should learn to be suspicious when a sudden unexpected email comes from the CEO saying, “I need you to get $5,000 in gift cards for a birthday party today, send me the numbers, and don’t tell anyone about it.”

Second, reinforce the importance of following the established rules for paying bills, changing direct deposit information, and sending gift cards. For example, employees should call the number on file for an employee or vendor requesting payment to verify that the request is legitimate. Emphasize that even if requests seem to come from high-level people in your company, employees still need to verify.

Ultimately, BEC attacks succeed because attackers fool their victims into believing their deception. Because BEC attacks use technology, thwarting them requires adjusting to the new ways these old-fashioned frauds operate.

The good news is that with proper training, education, and following procedures, you can thwart these attacks. You just need to educate yourself and your employees that these scams exist, how they operate, and the proper way to handle payment requests.

Christopher Budd is the Senior Global Communications Threat Manager for Avast. For more information, visit the Avast website at or email Chris at

What Small Business Owners Need to Know When

Hiring and Firing Employees

As the boss of your own business, you probably already know how important it is to maintain a strong team of employees. Employment has been a big topic over the past year due to COVID-19 layoffs, and as a small business owner, you need to know that hiring and firing people without taking the proper legal precautions can put your business in a serious legal blunder.

When it comes time to hire or fire an employee, you’ll thank yourself for knowing what steps you need to take to set your business up for success.

What to Keep in Mind When Hiring Employees:

Bringing someone into your business is an act of trust on both ends – you want to make sure you hire the right person, and they want to know they’re signing up for the right job.

To ensure a smooth transition and solid foundation from the get-go, make sure you follow these guidelines:

• Get your legal paperwork ready from the start

The requirements for hiring someone vary from state to state, so do some research on exactly what forms you need. Regardless of state, these two things are definitive requirements by the IRS:

- Set up an EIN (Employee Identification Number). This is a legal requirement for anyone you hire.

- Have them fill out the right tax documents. Think: W-4 and I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

• Interview intentionally

Prior to the interview, make a checklist of skills you need the new hire to have for

day-to-day esponsibilities, and use the conversation to confirm if the candidate has what’s needed to cross off the list. Additionally, get to know the candidate and consider how they would get along with your team.

• Make sure you follow post-hiring legal


Once you’ve made the decision, first thing’s first: It’s time to get this new employee legally started.

- Set up a payroll: You will need a payroll system that can withhold a portion of your employee’s income for the IRS.

- Create an employee handbook: While having an employee handbook isn’t technically a legal requirement, creating one can help prevent legal issues down the road. Having a thorough book that lists the “Do’s and Don’ts” of the job for your new hire to go through before starting can ensure expectations are understood. A handbook also provides you with tangible proof that you communicated expectations.

What to Know When Firing Employees:

Whether you have to let someone go because of the pandemic or because of performance, remember that communication is key. Always know your rights and ensure you’re going about it the legal way. Follow these guidelines for a roadmap:

• Write out the bullet points of “Why”

List out the reasons they’re being terminated. Be sure to call extra attention for issues that specifically go against the rules established in your employee handbook. Example: “Being late every day.”

Keep a paper trail of the reasons “Why”

You’ll want to document everything so you can prove that it’s true. Your paper trail could be timestamps that show the employee got to work consistently late. And it’s a bonus, if you followed our advice on having an employee handbook, you can show that your company rules clearly state that employees must be on time for their shifts.

Communicate legal requirements

Make sure you cover what the plan is for the remainder of their time, as well as what will happen with their benefits and last paycheck.

• Be honest but brief

Why? Especially if you’re firing someone due to performance, you want to keep it as professional and focus the conversation solely on reasons you think they are a wrong fit for the job. You should steer emotions out of the conversation and avoid saying anything unnecessary, because the conversation could be brought up if this were to become a legal issue for any reason.

When it comes to hiring and firing people, it can be tempting to cut corners and get it done as soon as possible. We get it - you’re busy running a business, and not to mention, it can be uncomfortable. But ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible will protect your business and set up your employees for success.


Office: (580) 436-1234

5 Ways Employers Can Improve Employee Financial Literacy

Financial pressure is significantly impacting the lives of millions. In fact, a significant majority of Americans agree that finances are their number one cause of stress - more so than politics, work, or family. This takes a toll not only on employees but also businesses. Employers lose nearly one month of productive workdays each year due to financially stressed employees. Given that April is Financial Literacy Month, it’s an opportune time to focus on improving employees’ access to tools and information, thus setting them up for a more secure financial future.

These Are Five Steps to Improve Your Employees’ Financial Literacy:

1. Offer a company-sponsored retirement plan. While retirement plans offer benefits to employers such as tax incentives and recruitment strategies, there are significant perks to employees as well. For employees, participation can reduce their current taxable income as well as improve their financial security in retirement. In fact, people with access to a plan are twice as likely to report planning for retirement than those who do not have access. To increase participation, you may also consider implementing specific plan features, including:

• Auto-enrollment: Setting up automatic enrollment has been proven to boost plan participation rates by as much as 221%. It could also have a positive impact on the amount employees save. Compared to employees in plans where enrollment is voluntary, saving rates are 56% higher for individuals in plans with auto enrollment.

• 401(k) match: For employees, this is essentially free money, encouraging them to save faster and more successfully for their future. For you, it means a bigger tax break.

2. Provide financial literacy training. Two-thirds of Americans fail a financial literacy test on topics such as interest rates, debt, and investing. While financial education programs are on the rise (they’re required in school curriculums in 37 states), we still have a long way to go. Employers have an pportunity to educate their employees in the

office (or virtually). To help close the knowledge gap, consider inviting a local financial advisor to come speak with employees on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.

3. Show you’re investing in them. Whether you’re providing a 401(k) match, college loan reimbursements, HSA incentives, or financial literacy programs, literally “investing” in your employees shows your commitment to fostering financial wellness in the workplace. In turn, it can motivate employees to learn more about their personal finances and help them meet their financial goals.

4. Make it fun. Research confirms that fun experiences promote learning, memory retention, and willingness to try new things. The gamification of financial education in the workplace can help you create informative yet entertaining content for your team. Consider implementing money saving challenges to make saving for the future exciting and competitive. You can also gamify financial literacy education through the use of mobile apps.

5. Provide a financial toolkit. Create a financial literacy toolbox for employees, which can include resources and free tools like retirement planning and investing estimators, budgeting calculators, and credit score simulators. You may also want to incorporate instructions for how to create a budget as well as a glossary of financial terms.

As the lines between work and life continue to blur, the day-to-day stresses can impact the performance of your employees more than ever. By providing ways to improve financial literacy, you can help reduce financial stress, improve employee well-being, and increase retention. Whether you choose to take up one - or all! - of the steps above, the investment in your employees’ financial wellness will leave a lasting impact for years to come.

Richard Tatum President of Retirement Services

In today’s COVID environment, many businesses are suffering. If your company extends credit to other businesses, it is more important than ever to use business credit reports when determining whether or not to extend credit. It’s the best way for you to make fast decisions without making bad decisions and it gives you the most reliable information available.

A business credit report highlights information contributing to a company’s risk potential, identifies strengths and vulnerabilities, and offers in-depth details on its financial activities.

What follows are the key components of a business credit report and how they can help you make better, more profitable decisions:

1. Identifying information – This data includes important information such as the primary business name, address, inquiry match details, unique business ID, and Ultimate Parent name for businesses that are part of a corporate hierarchy. Phone number, URL, and Tax ID Number are also provided when available. With this information, you can determine how long the company has been in business and verify the company’s business location.

2. Risk dashboard – The elements included here highlight datapoints that are related to risk including payment history, public record activity, and even possible fraudulent activity.

• You can see how a company pays its bills as compared to other businesses in its industry.

• The payment history shows you how the company has paid invoices within the past 6 to 12 months – very valuable information when determining how much credit to extend.

• Public records will showcase any

bankruptcies, tax liens, or judgment filings against the company which are clues to a company experiencing financial distress.

• The business category enables you to identify whether the data contributor is a primary or secondary supplier and compare the business’ payment habits across the industry.

this information, you can be confident in the legitimacy of the company and how it operates.

4. Credit risk score – This score predicts the likelihood of the company going seriously delinquent or bankrupt within the next year. With highly predictive risk scores you are better positioned to make a fast and accurate assessment of risk.

5. Financial stability score – Obtains a clear understanding of a company’s likelihood of financial stability risk within the next 12 months. It even determines the percentage of businesses that are riskier and more likely to have financial issues compared with your customer.

• Terms set by other vendors can also be seen. This allows you to see if the business pays others on time and is a way to determine what credit terms to set.

3. Fraud checks – A business credit report also screens for potential indicators of recent fraud. It checks against potential listings on the OFAC warning list, whether the business has been a previous victim of fraud, or if there are any inconsistencies with the company name, phone number, address, or Tax ID number. Armed with

Just imagine having all the information you need to confidently reduce risk and identify emerging growth opportunities –right at your fingertips. With a business credit report, it can happen. It offers companies that extends credit an exceptional level of customer information that enables you to conduct business with greater confidence. These reports offer a snapshot overview as well as detailed data that relates to business payment performance, public record history, and company backgrounds. They allow you to determine the creditworthiness of a business and make sound decisions that will improve your ROI and mitigate risk easily and accurately.

How to Get the Most Value out
Business Credit Report
of a
Author: Greg Plunkett, Director, Business Information Services at Credit Plus, Inc., a leading provider of business data. He can be reached at


Listening to SMBs, Taking their Pulse, then Providing Successful Remedies for Business Health and Future Wellness

The current health and future wellness of a business can stem from a myriad of factors. Now more than ever, businesses are dealing with challenges they have never before encountered. For them to survive and flourish, they need to consult with specialists who can empathize with their problems, really listen, and provide successful remedies. One company in particular, Lenovo, has made such a critical difference in taking the pulse of small to medium businesses (SMBs) and providing successful remedies that it has quickly risen to become the world’s largest PC company and one of the largest IT companies.

Lenovo offer all kinds of technology solutions, from smartphones and personal computers to services and complex data center solutions for businesses of all sizes; but what sets them apart is that they are focused on listening to their clients and providing them the devices, solutions, and services that help, serve, and solve their technology needs. According to Emily Ketchen, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the PC and Smart Devices Division. “Being great listeners involves several methods of collecting feedback from customers which has given us insights in how to best meet their needs.”

These insights have enabled Lenovo to devise innovations that have made it a visionary leader in electronics on the world stage. Launched in China in 1984 by a group of technologists who got their start as a small business specializing in

televisions, they took the opportunity to push technology forward. Later, in 2005, they acquired the personal computer division of IBM, and that is where a number of the PC pieces came together such as the ThinkPad and ThinkBooks for SMBs. In addition, Lenovo developed consumerbased and gaming products such as Yoga and Legion. No wonder that Lenovo has become the largest, worldwide vendor of personal computers!

Lenovo, whose mission statement is “To provide smarter technology for all”, can truly relate to business owners because they too have an incredibly entrepreneurial spirit which drives both individual contributions and meaningful results. Notes Ketchen, “Lenovo has a unique entrepreneurial spirit that has led to the production of an enviable breadth of technology portfolio. It sells products in 180 countries, which includes desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, as well as smartphones, storage devices, and peripherals. The company also carries servers, supercomputers, and complex data systems solutions.”

Despite such a broad array of electronics, Lenovo’s primary goal is not to sell but to listen intently, take the pulse of the client, and serve as advisors to the businesses that are their customers. Just what is this “listening” that has propelled the company to its leadership role? It takes several forms, all of which allow it to understand, support, and provide remedies for its customers. One form is a robust insight community where Lenovo engages with more than 4,500

customers who own small and medium businesses. The community continually asks customers how things are going from a technological perspective. In addition, Lenovo has advisory councils, which are constantly hearing from customers and helping them solve their challenges.

Other listening comes in the form of research that involves focus groups and observational studies. The company also has a customer insights dashboard, a listening tool that has captured more than 20 million unsolicited comments from those who buy their products. Lenovo has harnessed information gained through these means of customer engagement to improve product features. Such innovations deliver tangible advantages, often addressing the needs of customers before they’re fully aware of them.

Because the business climate is everchanging, it’s essential to keep a close pulse on it to keep up with the times. “One example involves this world of 24/7 collaboration where some of us are working from home,” Ketchen relates. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a laptop that includes built-in earbuds that are charged, automatically configured, and optimized to make it easy to hop on a call or participate in a meeting?’ So we included that in our ThinkBook 15-inch laptop, a brand we specifically created for SMBs. It’s a great innovation that came about as a result of listening to customers.”

continued on page 35

How SMBs Can Promote Digital Wellness Through Collaborative, Accessible, and Secure Technology

In a fast-paced, tech-driven world, it’s not unusual to be surrounded by multiple devices and screens creating a sensory overload. We rarely stop to consider how it might be affecting our well-being. While some companies have instituted programs to promote wellness, whether it’s offering free fitness classes or access to therapy services, few contemplate how technology can actually promote digital wellness. The average share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and/or depression has increased from 11 percent in 2019 to 31.5 percent by March of 2022. Thankfully, more than three quarters say good technology has a positive impact on a work/life balance.

The work-from-anywhere culture is prompting more companies to assess technology that is tailored to the evolved needs and behaviors of the workforce. As wellness in the workplace is progressively discussed and researched among organizations, devices that are collaborative, accessible, and secure can contribute to improved well-being and will further advance tech enablement for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs).

Collaborative Technology Promotes Digital Wellness

By equipping teams with portable and reliable technology that prioritizes effective collaboration, SMBs can empower their employees to bring their best ideas to the table while maintaining the social contact that most of us need. With teams working in various remote locations, people need to utilize technology to substitute the office interactions that we all took for granted. Nearly half have felt isolated working from home. Taking a few minutes to chat with someone can shift your mood or workflow for the better. Never underestimate the beneficial impact of a group chat or direct

message above and beyond the businessas-usual conference calls.

Seek out devices that focus on high quality webcams, premium audio, and microphones that can sense and minimize ambient noise. With a secure and reliable connection, stressfree video calls go a long way to enhance well-being. But don’t enforce “video-on” conferencing policies. According to a recent survey by Virtira Consulting, 49 percent report exhaustion due to having their webcam on constantly during online meetings.

Accessible Technology Enables the Well-Being of a Diverse Workforce

For many people, accessible technology means independence, freedom, and empowerment. Accessible technology helps promote a more inclusive workplace that benefits all. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to accessibility because equal access does not mean the same thing for all people.

Certain companies are working hard to play their part in finding innovative solutions. One in particular, the number one PC manufacturer across the globe, established a foundation to help under-represented communities get access to technology and STEM education. Innovation comes through the diversity of talent; and giving everyone an equal opportunity in science, technology, engineering, and math fields will cultivate the entrepreneurs and inventors of tomorrow.

The PC manufacturer also created a Product Diversity Office (PDO) with the goal to embed diversity and inclusion into their product design and development process. By leading with a diversity-by-design mentality, accessible technology can make a huge difference and support inclusivity. An example of that is having a raised bar on the F and J keys which helps orient alignment on the keyboard for users with visual impairments.

Utilize Secure Technology to Help Provide Employees a Peace of Mind

As a consequence of the pandemic, companies are accelerating digital transformations, including AI and IoT solutions, to help monitor safety and wellbeing in physical workplaces. However, with remote working here to stay, the increasingly blurred lines between personal and work devices are creating new challenges for IT staff.

Heightened awareness and demand for security and privacy protection continues to grow among consumers and employees working from home. To help alleviate some of the stress and concern to support digital wellness, SMBs should prioritize identifying their security and privacy measures so they are transparent and seamless for their endusers. Maximizing endpoint protection should and can be straightforward to reduce vulnerabilities of the users, their data, and their interactions with customers and colleagues.

Ultimately, the best ideation happens when diverse cultures work together to share their unique perspectives. By prioritizing digital wellness through collaborative, accessible, and secure solutions, people will feel supported and empowered to help their company succeed.


Lenovo’s Chief Marketing Officer & VP of Intelligent Devices Group, Emily Ketchen, is responsible for managing and leading complex B2B and consumer brand challenges into meaningful and measurable results.

The Role of Subcontracting in Supplier Diversity

As organizations look to set diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals in 2022, a supplierdiversity program can help achieve those goals. But sourcing supplies through diverse sellers can be challenging, considering many are small businesses without the capacity to take on complex procurement contracts.

1. What is a supplier-diversity program?

A supplier-diversity program is a proactive initiative set up within organizations to source supplies through diverse sellers, such as minority, women, and veteran owned businesses. These sellers can receive a supplier diversity certification from a third-party agency, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

When a large B2B buyer deliberately seeks out alternative sourcing options from a diverse supplier, it can have a significant, positive impact on the growth and success of a diverse seller’s business. Coca Cola, for example, is spending more than $800 million annually on diverse suppliers.

2. What benefits does a supplier-diversity program provide organizations?

Organizations across nearly every industry are ramping up their DEI efforts. In 2020, Nasdaq filed a proposal requiring its listed companies to have at least two diverse board members, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise now requires all managers to attend DEI training. These types of diversity initiatives are becoming increasingly important across the board; however, it’s just as important to invest in DEI externally. Setting up a supplier-diversity program can help to ensure that organizations committed to ramping up their DEI efforts are demonstrating those values outside of their organization by investing in businesses they otherwise might not. And it’s a win-win for the organization looking to divert spending to support small and diverse businesses, as well as a win for the supplier who is gaining a large client and achieving new growth.

For government organizations, larger procurement contracts may mandate that a certain amount of their purchasing goes toward underrepresented and small businesses. An established supplier-diversity program can help them meet compliance and set more ambitious goals to earn a higher score on the SBA’s Annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard,

which measures federal agencies’ success in meeting their overall small business contracting goals.

3. What are the biggest challenges to setting up a supplier-diversity program?

The first hurdle many organizations face when trying to set up a supplier-diversity program is a difficulty finding diverse sellers to source from. And small businesses typically don’t have the necessary resources available to expand their market reach, so organizations have a hard time identifying them among their supplier options.

4. How can organizations overcome these challenges to create an effective supplier-diversity program?

To work around these barriers, organizations can require subcontracting as part of their procurement process. Breaking up bigger contracts into smaller pieces enables small businesses to participate in larger deals. Not only does this open the door for more minority-owned businesses to bid on contracts, but it also enables organizations to increase the number of diverse suppliers they use.

However, splitting up procurement into separate parts to attract more diverse sellers can complicate the process—especially considering it’s difficult to find diverse sellers in the first place. To open the search pool, organizations can digitize their procurement process. Some online B2B stores have supplier diversity search and filtration features that provide buyers with features to directly source and buy inventory from small and diverse businesses. Online stores can also provide organizations with capabilities to search for products based on certification type and to track certified supplier diversity spend to simplify goal reporting.

For example, Johns Hopkins University was committed to increasing contracts with minority and women owned businesses. By leveraging an online store, JHU’s procurement team was able to filter search results by seller certifications to ensure they’re discovering and purchasing from businesses with a variety of different diversity certifications. Considering the university spends around $1 billion a year on procurement, its supplier-diversity program makes a significant impact for the suppliers whose businesses JHU supports.

Danielle Hinz, Public Sector Leader at Amazon Business

How To Protect Your SMB Website

How often do you think about the security of your website? Your organization is small enough that hackers won’t take aim. ...Right? Wrong! Lack of attention to web security is the quickest path to become a hacker’s next victim.

Danger Ahead: Widespread Web Security Negligence

Nearly half (48%) of SMB leaders think that their organization is too small or unimportant for hackers to notice. The harsh reality is that any website or cloud-based system can be a target.

The consequences of a website attack can be severe. SMBs are at risk of losing revenue, customers, productivity, search engine rankings, intellectual property, and reputation. Sixty percent of SMB website attacks resulted in site outages, and more than a third incurred revenue loss.

So, What Should You Do?

1. Keep Your Security Tech Updated

When choosing a tech stack for your SMB website, it is imperative that it gets proactively updated and patched to expose and ward off vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cybercriminals. It is critical to keep the core site version and any plugins updated with the latest revision in real time. Pay extra attention to areas on your site that request user input, such as registration forms, where many attacks occur.

2. Proactively Detect Malware and Vulnerabilities

It is surprisingly common for website owners to have malicious code working silently in the background without the owner’s knowledge or causing any visible malfunction. Utilizing an automated vulnerability scanner that will continuously scan for vulnerabilities on your website is an essential security measure these days.

Vulnerability scanners will scan web applications for security problems such as cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). More advanced scanners deliver more robust techniques that delve further into the web application and can then automatically and safely remove malicious code from legitimate files without compromising their functionality.

3. Tool Up to Remove Discovered Threats

Tool Up to Remove Discovered Threats The moment you or your website manager find a vulnerability in your MySQL database, website files, or another core component of the site, it

needs to be removed immediately!

Your website admins rely on remediation software that can immediately remove active vulnerabilities without disruption. Make sure you choose a tool that prioritizes business continuity in the event of needing to remove a discovered threat.

4. Consistently Perform Backups

If your website succumbs to a cyberattack, your site backups are your insurance policy and the key to your recovery plan. Version control software is widely available, and many hosting services have plans that periodically perform database backups and snapshots. Effective backup and restore tools are critical to any connected business to reconstruct lost information quickly.

5. Show Visitors That Your Site Is Secure

Your website visitors need to be confident that they are on your secure website. Digital certificates (visible as a padlock in many browsers) help visitors know that the personal information they enter is being shared with a verified site.

The rise of security automation has made it considerably easier to issue, renew, and maintain TLS/SSL certificates, meaning that small businesses can enjoy the benefits of identity security with minimal management. In order to provide the highest level of trust available, it’s wise to upgrade from a Domain Validated (DV) to an Extended Validation (EV) certificate for web pages that collect sensitive personal data or financial information.

Don’t Become a Cyber Victim!

It’s critical to protect your organization by keeping your tech updated, proactively detecting malware and vulnerabilities, tooling up to remove threats, performing backups, and automating TLS/ SSL Certificates.

While cyberattacks may never end, there are many resources and technologies available so you can be prepared for anything. The Internet is ever-evolving, so should your organization’s website security be as well.

solutions. +1-888-266-6361

Ed Giaquinto is the CIO at Sectigo, a global provider of digital identity management and web security


Starting a business is never easy. It requires a lot of planning, research, and a whole bag of optimism. But having a clear objective and some tips on the side can take you a long way. Destination businesses are not just a product; they are also something intangible. In addition to building on the physical destination, it also requires a personal touch and a memorable experience. A destination business requires you to be part of the package. You need to be so passionate about it that you dream about it. It must include your heart and your soul. You also must envision how it can have future growth and improvements; that is why research is everything.

You must start somewhere, so why not start with these easy-to-follow tips:

DO’S Be Patient

Even though you made great plans, just remember what happened in 2020. You must take into consideration that the market is always changing, prices go rocketing up or down, viruses can show up and ruin something, and a national disaster like an earthquake, mudslide, wildfire, or hurricane can stop everything. You just need to continue going forward, no matter what happens. Never lose your optimism or dreams; because the one who needs to believe in this the most - is you!

Love It!

If you do not love your business, how do you expect others to love it? There needs to be passion for something you are doing or trying to achieve. When you are true to yourself and to your business, people will see and appreciate your genuineness. In a destination business, you are the product. You need to cherish that.

Make an Exceptional Business Plan

You need to have a business plan and then you need to review it quarterly. No matter if you are handing it out to the banks or possible investors, you must have one. You wouldn’t go on a road trip to a new destination without a map or navigation, would you? A business plan helps you to see a clearer picture. It gives you numbers you can work with and helps you plan for future expenses.

Always Have Some Money Set Aside

You need to have money set aside that you can live on for at least a year when you are starting a new business. Never pour your last cent from your own pocket into something. You need to have a line of credit with a bank before you need it and never make unnecessary purchases until the have a contract or sale that justifies it.

It Can’t Hurt to Have Additional Streams of Income

Extra streams of income are always helpful to have, but don’t let it diminish the focus on your dream. No one can guarantee your success but you, but having a Plan B is helpful when you run into a dead end.

Choose a Charity

In this day and age, people (especially millennials) like to support businesses that give back to others. If there is a nonprofit business you strongly support, why not designate a percentage of your profit to an organization that you would like to make a difference with. The most successful businesses always give back to their community. Whether it is your money or your time, you need to do it. When you have strong values, others will value you. The law of reciprocity really does work.


Don’t Rush It

It will get you nowhere. There are some things you are not in control of, and you need to acknowledge that in the beginning of your journey. Do not rush or push things, sometimes things do happen for a reason. You just need to have the wisdom to recognize when these types of situations are happening and beyond your control, then let it go.

Don’t Pay Anyone in Advance

Never pay someone in advance before the job is completed! You will be left with nothing and/or poor execution of what you really wanted. There are unethical contractors or scam artists who will take your money and run. Always have everything in writing including a completion date and penalty if the deadline is not met.

continued on page 35 EDITORIAL FEATURE

Why Hire Outside Directors When Private Companies Don’t Have To?

They Bring Change!

You need these guys … to increase cash flow, provide valuable guidance, contacts, and credibility.

Why Add Outsiders to Your Board of Directors or Advisors?

1. According to Forbes, 97 percent of companies increased revenues and EBITDA, since adding a board with outside directors.

2. They bring a new set of skills and ideas to produce benefits while you maintain control.

3. They provide external sources of accountability.

4. They are on your side and answer only to you.

5. They add credibility. At a liquidity seeking event, they show the organization has leadership and guidance.

Create a culture and structure that will withstand third party accountability to add value to your business. Start thinking as a serious company and prepare for a potential future life as a public company or increased scrutiny of investors.

Independent Perspective

An outside advisor provides a sounding board to ground the CEO in real leadership duties. The CEO needs unbiased advice and a diversity of opinions from advisors who can view things from a different perspective. The CEO is well served by adding board members who can challenge decisions that you are about to make. You want members who are not afraid to offer advice, guidance, feedback, and argument on issues, while employee board members may be in fear of speaking up.

Strategic Thinking & Planning

Directors should challenge and contribute to strategy development and implementation. They can be particularly adept at guiding the company into new markets or changing direction when trouble occurs. Because these outsiders have experienced these situations before, they can certainly guide you to success with less trepidation.

Experience & Objectivity

Growth implies that a company is going where it has not been before. It is refreshing to make that journey to new opportunities with the help of an objective advisor who has been there and done that before. Understand the idiosyncrasies of new markets. Sell products and services to customers in a way that they want to be sold.


Every company needs help when it wants to grow, prosper, or turn around. Outside directors can extend the company’s reach by using their own network of contactscolleagues who can get involved in providing guidance and resources.

Capital Infusion

Outside directors often have contacts who can supply capital in the form of equity and/or debt. Some have more extensive and higher quality databases than others. You can get in front of many financing resources quickly, once an expression of interest or offering package is ready. The key is to document the plan describing where you want to go and why you will succeed, put that in summary and detail form, describe assumptions and risks, and present rate of return projections.

Present your opportunity in terms the investor or lender wants to see; your company is the product. Investors are in this for returns on their investment.

A director, as part of the company, can be a Finder to introduce you to investors and/ or lenders and guide the process. Then, you negotiate a deal that you can live with. There is money available, just be the ‘good deal.’


Directors also often have investor contacts who have deals for acquisition and who are looking for opportunities to buy. Once an offering package is ready, you can get in front of M&A dealmakers quickly.

Prepare for that future liquidity event. The best time to sell a company is when a buyer wants to purchase with cash, which could come when you least expect it. Be prepared and work toward ultimate valuation. Privately held and family-owned companies should demonstrate that they can be run independently without the owner to maximize valuation. Buyers don’t pay for the past sins, and they don’t pay much for companies heavily reliant on the owner. There is more company value when the management team’s processes and procedures control the company and are autonomous in producing results.

Outside directors are often adept at introductions or negotiating deals. In addition, they elevate you to the decisionmaking role.

Hire that outside director!

About the Author John M. Collard, Chairman of Strategic Management Partners, Inc. in Annapolis, Maryland, a turnaround management, outside director leadership firm. Contact: 410-263-9100,


Steven Paul Levine Z”L

The Obituary of (of

Blessed Memory)

Shmuel ben Yaacov halevi v'Perla

February 1, 1950 - August 7, 2021

February 1, 1950 was a time of great celebration for the Levine family because Steven Paul Levine was born.

From now on, August 7, 2021 will always be a time of great sorrow for Steve's friends and family because he has left his Earthly body to return home. Though Steve's physical presence no longer remains, his light and spirit will always be with us. He shared a little spark of his soul with each of us and for that reason, our lives will never be the same. He made us better, and because of him, we will continue to share his light long after his passing, and the world will be a better place because of it.

On February 1, 1950, Eugene Levine and Pearl Boxer Levine celebrated with tears of joy the birth of their first-born child, Steven Paul Levine. From the very beginning, Steve was a ball of unlimited energy; running, laughing, or impishly grinning, he always exhibited his exuberance for life in everything he did. He loved meeting people and making new friends and he always went out of his way to help them.

Growing up in West Nyack, New York, Steve wanted to do a lot of things, but his parents encouraged him to make wise choices because they worked full-time in their family business, Levine's Dry Goods Store in Pearl River, NY, and had limited funds and limited time for them to dedicate to Steve. They did the best they

could and taught Steve the importance of outstanding customer service. One of Steve's first extracurricular activities was scouting in the BSA. He became a Cub Scout, then a Boy Scout. While in the Boy Scouts, Steve was so proud to be selected as a member of the Order of the Arrow. His only regret was that he was never able to qualify to be an Eagle Scout. He had a bad arm from an injury when he was hit by a car. Because of that permanent injury, he could never fulfill the swimming requirement necessary to become an Eagle Scout.

Some of Steve's favorite memories were from his time at Clarkstown Senior High School (Class of '68). Throughout his four years there, he was part of the Class Council, in Band (tenor saxophone), in Chorus, on the Junior Prom Planning Committee, on the Junior Class Card Party Committee, part of the SAGA Yearbook Staff, and Wrestling Junior Varsity Team where he proudly wore his letterman jacket and matching scarf.

Steve also was the self-appointed manager of the Varsity Majorettes, a position he creatively made up on his own. He loved being surrounded by beautiful, young women and would drive as many of them that he could fit inside his “nerdy” 1961 Rambler American. He was the envy of a lot of guys in high school. Some of his dearest, platonic longtime relationships were with several of those Majorettes including Head Drum

Majorette and best friend for life, Bonnie Gaffney. In addition to all he did in high school, it wasn't unusual for Steve to be working three different jobs after school, a drive-in movie theater attendant, a sous-chef and busboy at a restaurant, and a bellman at a hotel where he personally catered to a lot of “made men”. It's no wonder that Steve ended up with pneumonia and missed out on attending Woodstock that he had tickets for.

After graduating from Clarkstown Senior High School, Steve attended SUNY Delhi and got a degree in Hotel Restaurant Management. He was also a proud member of Phi Sigma Tau Fraternity. He found out in his senior year that Disney was opening a new theme park in Florida and there were going to be three job positions available for the graduates. A headhunter was coming to the campus after Spring Break to interview any senior who was interested. Steve got the bright idea to get ahead of everyone and called the headhunter to interview him for one of the positions while Steve was “visiting” the area.

Steve drove to Florida during Spring Break, did a stunning interview with the headhunter, and closed with a handshake to seal the deal on giving Steve the coveted position in Orlando. But the headhunter stated there was a catch; Steve had to graduate. Apparently, the headhunter had


gotten Steve's transcripts and knew that Steve wasn't passing. Steve stood up and reached out his hand. He then shook it and got the headhunter to agree to give him the coveted Orlando position if he managed to graduate!

Knowing he was failing all of his classes, clever Steve made a deal with each of his professors to base his class grade on his final exam. He told each professor that he only needed just their one class to graduate, but in reality, Steve needed a passing grade in each of his classes for him to graduate. Amazingly, he did well enough on each final exam that he passed with a 2.000005 GPA! In addition, Steve got the coveted position in Orlando and the other two students, who were top in their class, got lesser desirable locations in Florida.

Steve used to joke that he graduated in that ten percent of the class that made the upper ninety percent possible! Steve always believed in himself and said that grades did not define him; his determination did. He had some learning disabilities that were never diagnosed when he was in school, but he managed to overcome them. Steve always wanted to be an inspiration to youth. He would often say, “I want to prove to those students in the same percentile I was in that their grades are not a deterrent to what they can achieve in life and/or business. My grades were my motivator to show everybody that I was no dummy. I was determined to make something of myself and to bless others through philanthropy and as a mentor.”

After working for many years in Orlando for hotels and restaurants, Steve ended up working in Hotel Management, Real Estate as a Realtor® in Orlando, Apartment Management – Leasing and Marketing, and then finally, Publishing. His accomplishments and accolades are innumerable. He is the former EVP/National Sales Trainer at Haas Publishing Company in Norcross, Georgia where he created The Apartment Guide and The Perfect Wedding Guide. He is the former National Sales Trainer at Homes & Land Magazines in Tallahassee, Florida. He was President of Steve Levine Real Estate Media, Owner/President of Legacy Publishing Group, LLC, Senior Director of Ignite Energy (Now part of ACN), Executive Publisher of H.U.G.E. Magazine (Health Under Government Employment) – SANAA Publishing, LLC, Publisher of Real Estate Executive Magazine and Builder/Agent Magazine, Publisher/Partner of Rising Star Magazine, Profiles Magazine, and Premier Agent Magazine, Partner/Business Coach of

Coaching & Connections for Small Business, and Executive Publisher of Small Business Today Magazine. Steve was featured in “Who's Who in Professional Speaking” and Who's Who in Sales & Marketing” in 1987 as a Member of the National Speakers Association.

Steve's philanthropy is equally extensive. He was a Platinum Board Member at Night of Superstars, Chairperson at Night of Superstars, Board Member of Hebrew Order of David -Tikvah, Former Board Member of Hebrew Order of David – Galil, Brand Ambassador at Including Kids, Inc. (Inkids Autism Center and Parent to an autistic son), Board Member of Cease Addiction Now, Board Member of Phoenix Charities: Stop the Demand (Human Trafficking), and former Board Member of the Altus Foundation.

Steve has been duly recognized by the U.S. Congress, Office of the Mayor of Houston, and a multi-gold winning Paralympian. On top of that, Steve and his wife and business partner, Barbara Davis-Levine, have been recognized in three books written by Hank Moore that

have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes for Steve's and his wife Barbara's contributions to small businesses and support of so many others. In recognition of Steve's 40 Years in Publishing, Steve was given a City of Houston Proclamation naming June 10th (the date in 1979 that he started his publication career) as "STEVE LEVINE DAY" in Houston, Texas! Also, at that same event, Steve was presented with an Olympic Gold Medal (not an actual 1st Place Medal), but one that is presented to visiting dignitaries who attended the XXX Olympiad London 2012 by multi-gold medal Paralympian, Kevin Saunders (who has sat on every President's Physical Fitness Council over the last two decades) for Steve's and wife Barbara's philanthropy and community support.

Steve was instrumental in keeping the PHI SIGMA TAU fraternity brothers and DELTA ZETA TAU sorority sisters together through the pandemic by continuing to update the database with members not previously contacted and arranging Zoom

Steve & Barbara - Partners in life and business.

Calls to visit with each other and promote SUNY Delhi. In addition, Steve successfully organized and found many missing alumni for the Clarkstown Senior High 50th Year Class Reunion with the help of other former classmates including dear friends Johnny and Patty Luongo, Bonnie Gaffney, and Murray Bauer.

Partners in life and in business, Steve leaves behind his wife of 22 years of marriage, Barbara Bram Davis-Levine. He also leaves behind his beloved sister, Tracey Levine, adored sons, Jason Levine and Timothy Levine, plus treasured daughter-in-law, Renea Levine. Steve was always a protective, big brother of his younger sister Tracey. Like a lot of siblings, Steve loved to tease his sister, but it was always done in a lighthearted manner. Steve was so proud of his son Jason's accomplishments in everything he did. He loved so much how Renea had such a sweet, special relationship with Steve's autistic son, Timothy. Even though Steve was the stepfather of Jerome Davis and Gina Davis-Dennen, he loved them too and appreciated their caring spirits. He also got a big kick out of Gina’s husband, Brad Dennen’s sense of humor. Having a sense of humor was a requirement to be part of Barbara’s family! In fact, when Steve proposed marriage to Barbara, Jerome and Gina warned Steve that the whole family was crazy, especially Barbara!!!

Steve and Barbara lived life to the fullest. In spite of their ups and downs from floods to illness, they never let adversity define them. As business partners working together for 22 years, they complemented each other. They did everything together, which could sometimes lead to friction between them and make them look like the “Batttling Bickersons”; but they always patched things up in due time because they realized their love for each trumped everything else. Steve used to joke and say, “I married well but Barbara didn't!” In reality, they both admired each other for what their strengths were. Barbara was always amazed at Steve's tremendous organization skills, tenacity, and self-discipline. Quite opposites in some ways, Barbara always liking to get up at “the crack of noon”, Steve arose every morning at 5:30 AM. He attended morning minyan services at United Orthodox Synagogue (UOS) over the years and more recently Congregation Beth Yeshurun (CBY) morning minyan in the Greenfield Chapel. Steve was so proud to be a Levite and oftentimes attended two minyans each morning just so there would

be enough men present for a minyan. He was equally proud of his limited-edition, work of art “Rainbow Tallit” by the famous artist, Yaacov Agam, that Steve received as a wedding gift from his wife, Barbara, and Barbara’s beloved mother, Lillian Bram Miller Z”L. He wore it every morning with his tefillin when he attended synagogue to daven (pray).

Steve was brought up as a very Reformed Jew, and even at his Bar Mitzvah he didn't lay tefillin. Steve's first wife, Margaret, wasn't Jewish. Eventually, their marriage crumbled, and they decided it was better for them to go their separate ways. After their divorce, for the most part they were civil with each other for the sake of their autistic son, Timothy. One of Steve's struggles was that he had lost his sense of being a Jew. Because of that, he only wanted to date Jewish women so he could rekindle his faith. After Barbara and Steve met, they found they shared a love of Mickey Mouse and eventually had a Disney themed wedding with Barbara wearing a white Minnie Mouse hat with ears and a veil and Steve wore a black top hat with Mickey ears.

Everyone dressed in a theme of each one's favorite Disney character. One person came

as Cinderella before the transformation, and another guest dressed like a Dalmatian. The wedding was quite a blast and even had two large blocks of ice sculptures of Mickey and Minnie in full wedding attire. The Chuppah was made of a wrought iron gazebo with Mickey head profiles in it on top of concrete columns. Even the four layered wedding cake had a different porcelain bride and groom Mickey and Minnie figurine on top of each layer. The wedding was officiated by UOS Rabbi Joseph Radinsky Z”L and Steve's longtime friend from Clarkstown High School in Nyack, NY, Rabbi Kerry Baker, who was a Hillel Rabbi in Austin at the University of Texas.

At the end of the ceremony, Rabbi Radinsky Z”L surprised everyone with his impromptu singing of the Mickey Mouse song. All the guests had been given kazoos to hum the song with but most of them didn't know how to use a kazoo!!! Before the ceremony ended and the Ketubah was presented, Rabbi Radinsky Z”L said jokingly to Steve, “In this Ketubah, you promise Barbara everything and she promises you nothing. I hope you promise to keep your promises!” There was so much music and dancing with over 300 people in attendance and it was catered by the world-famous chef, Yaacov


Shteyman. The highlight of the wedding was when Steve and Barbara departed in a white horse-drawn carriage decked out in Mickey Mouse balloons.

Steve and Barbara had many struggles throughout their marriage including having their home flood four times, heart attacks (Barbara, Steve, and Jerome), and injuries from car accidents. In spite of everything, they lived each day to the fullest and never had any regrets. At Barbara's encouragement, she finally got Steve to lay tefillin, something he had never done before – even at his Bar Mitzvah! It was at a dinner at the home of Rabbi Yossi and Rebbetzin Esty Zaklikofsky when they first moved to Pearland to start a Chabad synagogue there. Barbara took Rabbi Yossi aside and asked him to get Steve to lay tefillin because he had never done it before. Steve seemed to be fearful of trying whenever Barbara previously encouraged him to perform the mitzvah (commandment of Jewish law/act of kindness). This time, to Barbara’s delight, Steve finally did it and the mitzvah was accomplished!

Once Steve performed the mitzvah of laying tefillin, he was exhilarated by it and wanted to learn more. He finally was connecting with his Jewish spirit, and he did it with a fervor. Barbara's father-in-law, Sol Davis Z”L

(father of her late husband, Steven Davis Z”L), helped Steve acquire his first tefillin and Sol treated Steve like a “bar mitzvah” along with UOS Rabbi Barry Gelman and the other morning minyan participants at UOS. Steve became quite proficient in laying tefillin, even though he often said, “I feel like a mule in the Kentucky Derby!” because the congregation davened (prayed in Hebrew) so quickly. Sadly, after the last flood, Steve special tefillin was irreparably damaged. He was quite upset when he thought he had lost both his tefillin and tallit. He felt partially better when he found out that Barbara had salvaged his treasured tallis and taken it to the dry cleaners.

Soon after, Rabbi Yossi called Steve to ask him if he needed anything. Steve replied, “I need tefillin!” Rabbi Yossi said to Steve that he would check around and get back with him. A short time later, Rabbi Yossi presented a new pair of tefillin to Steve through a kind benefactor who wanted to donate the tefillin in his late son's memory. That son was Mendel Cotlar. Unbeknownst to Steve or the Rabbi, months before the flood, Barbara had called Steve at work and asked him to lay tefillin in the merit of Mendel's speedy recovery. Steve was confused about who this person was and why he should do it. Barbara explained that she had read on the internet that requests

were being made to help Mendel recover from his coma. She didn't know him either but knew that Steve would want to help after she explained it. Barbara's son Jerome also performed the laying of tefillin in merit of Mendel when Rabbi Lazaroff came over to the house and brought a new mezuzah. So how miraculous and divine that Steve should be repaid for his mitzvah by a new pair of tefillin from the family of Mendel Cotlar! From then on, Steve would always include Mendel in his morning prayers.

Steve's caring nature and his desire to want to help everyone in their time of need was always so typical of him. Barbara and he shared that passion together and that's why Barbara found Steve to be so attractive. It was from his beauty within. Their biggest delight was to find youth and freely mentor them to become successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Many youngsters are successful today because of Steve (along with Barbara by his side). May Steve's legacy continue on forever in making the world a better place and may his memory always be for a blessing.

To view Steve's funeral service, go to

Steve & Barbara's Mickey Mouse themed wedding -June 6, 1999


RELEVE Brands (formerly Be Pure Naturals)

Amazing Natural & Effective Products for Health, Wellness, & Personal Care

Long before the pandemic, Wendy Williams’ focus on cleanliness was so strong that one might call her a germaphobe. Often, she would search for a hand sanitizer that was safe and gentle enough to use on her toddler’s hands. In 2016, Wendy was a stay-athome mom with an entrepreneurial spirit. She realized there was a need for better hand sanitizers than what she had found in stores. They either dried out her skin, smelled bad, or left a sticky residue. “I wanted a natural, safe, and effective antibacterial product for my family,” recalled Wendy. “I started researching the best quality ingredients that would produce the results I was looking for and began making them at home.” After coming up with a formula she liked best, Wendy shared it with her friends and family. They all exclaimed that it was amazing!

They loved it so much that not only did they want her to make some more, they wanted her to start her own business. At that point, she wasn’t ready but as time passed, Wendy’s world turned upside down due to divorce. Like many women in her situation, she faced the struggles of being a single mom. These were the motivating circumstances that inspired her to do more. She thought to herself, “I've always wanted to have my own business, so why not?” And that is how Houston’s own Wendy Williams, the visionary behind RELEVE Brands (formerly Be Pure Naturals), began developing a line of effective, natural products for health, wellness, and personal care.

While going through her divorce, Wendy was dealing with a lot of daily stress and

had difficulty sleeping.

By 2019, Wendy began investigating the benefits of CBD and started incorporating it into several of her all-natural, personal care products. Through her research, she discovered that CBD had anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties that accelerated and boosted the results she was looking for. In addition, when she added CBD to the Lip Balm, she had people telling her that it was helping them with their migraines and headaches. Wendy reflected, “I had no idea that CBD was so powerful until I started getting all of the feedback from my friends.”

Last year, I fell down a flight of stairs and seriously hurt my ribs. Even with pain medication, I was in unbearable pain. When I rolled on the CBD Topical Ointment, almost instantly the pain became more tolerable and helped me get through the day without having to take prescription pain medications. The convenient rollerball applicator makes it easy to apply without getting my hands messy. But my all-time favorite is Wendy’s CBD Healing Balm!!! I have tried all kinds of expensive hand moisturizers but they were ineffective. When I use the CBD Healing Balm, my hands are always soft, smooth, and hydrated without being greasy.

RELEVE Brands uses the finest, locally sourced ingredients and whole plant extracts that nature offers. Every item containing CBD adheres to the strict State and Federal guidelines and is independently tested for heavy metals,

pesticides, residual solvents, mycotoxins, and potency. Wendy’s Number One selling item is her CBD Topical Ointment for aches and pains. The ingredients include a CBD Isolate in a choice of 250 mg., 500 mg., or 1,000 mg. Wendy reflects, “People ask me, ‘Why does your product work better than the others that I’ve tried?’ and I tell them it’s all about the recipe and the quality of the products.”

Clearly entrepreneurship runs in the family. Wendy’s mother makes colorful Crochet Covers that fit the 2 oz. travel size Hand Sanitizer and also the Bug Spray bottle. It can be attached to a lot of things including belt loops or purse straps. Wendy’s daughter also has her own business! She makes and sells clay figurines and teaches others to do the same.

Make sure to check out Wendy’s website at for a complete list of everything she markets. You can also contact her directly at (832) 498-3411.

RELEVE Brands offers a guarantee that if you are not 100% satisfied, you can return the item up to 30 days from the date of purchase and get a full refund, or you can get a credit to use for another product.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease.

If you have any questions regarding the use of CBD or essential oils if you are on medication or have other health concerns, you should consult with a physician.

Wendy Williams -

How Small Businesses Can Sustain Success During

“The Great Resignation”

According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States saw a record high of 4.53 million workers quitting their jobs in March 2022, beating the previous record of 4.51 million in November 2021. Available jobs also increased, rising to 11.5 million - the highest since the JOLTS data survey program began in December 2000. This recent phenomenon of employees leaving the workforce is referred to as “The Great Resignation” and represents the transformation of how employees are evaluating their overall work-life balance.

Small to medium-sized business (SMB) employers are now more vulnerable to the effects of a volatile job market than ever before. With national and global labor shortages, there is an opportunity for SMBs to course correct. However, the key to long-term SMB success will be workforce retention accomplished by offering desirable benefits, tools, and positive working environments.

Impactful Results Boost Employee Satisfaction

As a common business goal for many companies, positive employee morale often leads to improved employee efforts which can manifest in the form of thoughtfully designed products, positive customer service, diligently plated meals, and more. Additionally, according to Gallup, team members who feel valued by their employer are more likely to maintain high levels of engagement that result in less turnover, less time spent on training new hires, and overall business growth and continuity.

Furthermore, a recent talent index survey shows two thirds of US and UK workers want employers to prioritize a work-life balance. Three quarters of employees surveyed acknowledge they are now being heard.

Ironically, half of those three quarters are seeking new employment. This indicates employees must see actions, real results, and tangible benefits based on their wants and needs. Therefore, companies must continue to readjust their culture to meet employee demand in order to improve employee satisfaction and overall retention.

Benefits of Flexible Work Environments

According to The Future of Work and Digital Transformation Research by Lenovo, employees prefer the flexibility of working remotely, with 80 percent of participants from SMBs preferring hybrid or remote work options over working in an office. When SMBs put employees first by prioritizing flexibility and work-life balance, internal morale improves. One solution shown to improve the worklife balance is offering flexible working conditions so employees feel like they have some control over their schedule. The freedom to incorporate breaks during the work day or accommodate personal appointments can greatly improve overall productivity.

Small and large business owners alike can help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance by providing an organizational structure that offers the flexibility of pairing with the right productivity tools and collaboration software. That could include voice command, dual array microphones, and security solutions.

Tech is No Longer Just a Nice Thing to Have; It’s a Necessity

According to the US B2B Small and Medium Business (SMB) Survey from Alibaba, digitized SMBs are outperforming offline companies. In fact, digitized businesses are better equipped to go global; 39 percent of digitized businesses expect to grow exports in 2022 versus just 13 percent of those who rely on offline

channels. Additionally, 91 percent of digitized SMBs are confident in the future of their business compared to 80 percent of non-digitized businesses.

As SMBs continue to evolve, the workplace experience will evolve in tandem. In-office technology will continue to be mirrored at employees’ homes that might include an extra monitor, collaboration device, or standup desk. However, as the way we work continues to adapt to the needs of our shifting workplace priorities and the next generation of workers, the speed, bandwidth, and functionality of available tech solutions in the SMB workplace must grow with its diverse users to ensure sustainable SMB success.

Where Do Small and Medium Sized Businesses Go From Here?

As the demand for more flexible work and remote work conditions grows, new technology that caters to specific remoteworker needs will help businesses meet the niche demands of their workforce. The forward-thinking employers who continue to rise to the challenge of making work more enjoyable for their teams via benefits, flexibility, and quality technology will be poised for long-term success despite any unemployment trends, waves, or movements.

Eric Yu is the SVP & GM for Lenovo’s Commercial Product Center SMB Segment, Intelligent Devices Group, and is responsible for the SMB Segment‘s global end-to-end business strategy and execution. He also oversees Lenovo’s global Visuals Business Unit and Accessories Business Units. With over 20 years of experience working across different Lenovo business functions, Yu has a track record of understanding business needs and exceeding growth exponentially in various technology segments. To contact Eric, please go to


Unc B’s Seasonings

From Serving His Country to Serving Great

Healthy Culinary Masterpieces

The inspiration behind an entrepreneur’s product sometimes comes from an unexpected source. When Bryanal Davis, AKA Unc B, enlisted in the military almost 30 years ago, little did he know how it would impact his future. It turns out that his service provided him with the culinary skills necessary to later launch a line of seasoning blends that has garnered rave reviews.

Dedicated to the service of his country, Bryanal chose to serve two terms in the U.S. military. His first six years were in the Marines from 1993 to 1999 where he rose to the rank of E3 Lance Corporal, then six more years in the Air Force from 1999 to 2006 where he rose to the rank of E5 Staff Sergeant.

During his second term, while working in the commissary, Unc B found his true passion - serving people delicious yet healthy cuisine. That is when he did a lengthy mentorship cooking for hundreds of people while also attending culinary school. At that point, he had gained an in-depth knowledge of spices but also came to the realization of the vast number of general purpose seasonings being sold that were loaded with unhealthy ingredients. This led to Bryanal’s obsession - to create a low salt, chemical and sugar free, great-tasting seasoning blend that would turn any dish into a culinary masterpiece.

After ten long years spent testing and tasting, Bryanal was finally satisfied that he could truly serve his customers the most perfect, flavorful seasoning blend that was 100% all-natural, vegan friendly, and devoid of unhealthy ingredients such as MSG, sugar, anti-caking agents, allergens, and preservatives. Bryanal’s validation that the time was right to launch his product came when everyone who tasted his general-purpose seasoning thought it


was so great that they wanted to either salute him or stand up and shout “Oorah”!!! Unc B’s Seasonings officially launched in 2015 and Bryanal has never looked back.

Since his first "Aha" moment in creating that perfect, healthy, flavorful blend, Bryanal is always working on new ways in appealing to the plethora of palates of the satisfied customers he serves. His Spicy

Heat has the perfect blend of peppers yet doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the food.

Unc B’s Southern Blend is quite versatile and excellent on veggies and meats. In addition, Unc B’s offers salt-free blends and is always open to new suggestions. All you have to do is ask!

What can you expect in the future with Unc B’s? A succulent barbeque sauce will be available soon. The company is also fine tuning their recipe for infusions, which are liquids that contain flavorful ingredients. Moreover, plans are in the works to include some type of seasoning with a smoke flavor. This expansion to the product line will broaden the ways Unc B’s can serve its loyal customers.

So, what is the secret behind Unc B’s seasonings that have made them so appealing? According to culinary wizard Bryanal, one of the key factors involves having the right balance necessary to enhance the natural flavor of food. For instance, he believes a spicy seasoning should provide a little kick to impart robustness into a dish without burning the throat.

With balance in mind, part of Unc B’s winning formula for great seasonings involves carefully calibrated quantities of quality organic ingredients. Adding to this is passion, which pervades the whole creation process. Beyond these components, Bryanal feels that there is yet another ingredient that is indispensable

for the formula — love. “Love definitely has to be a part of the equation,” he says.

Few things in life are more comforting and pleasurable than a delicious homecooked meal, and Bryanal is passionate about giving customers the tools needed to make this happen. What if a person doesn’t know how to cook? Not a problem! Unc B’s provides step-by-step cooking demonstrations on YouTube and Facebook.

Currently, people can find Unc B’s videos on a variety of recipes, such as a quick Tex-Mex meal, teriyaki-glazed beef sticks, and sliders. The videos also show how to transform everyday dishes into something special and memorable. For example, scrambled eggs or grilled vegetables can become gourmet fare by adding a pinch of the right seasoning. This eliminates all the guesswork, as the seasonings in combination with the videos make it likely that someone can duplicate the recipes and suggestions in their own kitchen.

Whenever you want to serve your family and friends culinary masterpieces full of flavor yet free of all unhealthy ingredients, make Unc B’s Seasonings your go-to source. Order your Unc B’s Seasonings today at unc-b-seasoning.myshopify. com. For culinary masterpiece recipes and cooking videos, make sure to check out Unc B’s Facebook page at You can also reach Bryanal at (346) 857-8336 or email him at

Bryanal Davis –

8 Tips for Selecting the Best Bank for a Small Business

When it comes to selecting the best bank for a small business, people are most often familiar with big banks that are generally busy dealing with larger clients who can generate more revenue. While big banks are capable and willing to take new business, small business banks operate with the particular needs and concerns of the small business owner in mind. There are specific areas to review and evaluate and understanding the features available to a small business can help in making the best decision.

1. Small Business Loans

For a small business that has ever tried to get a loan, it is well known that it is not an easy task. Some banks work with small business clients more than others so when looking for a small business loan, it is advisable to look for a bank that works often with small businesses and regularly gives them loans. Ask bank representatives how frequently they work with businesses of a similar size. Consider asking local businesses and colleagues for referrals. If the bank offers referral promotions, this could provide an added bonus.

2. Brick and Mortar Banks

Many banks today offer online banking with limited physical locations. Additionally, there are some banks that are completely online. Though these options are convenient to the personal consumer, as a business they may not be ideal. For a business that has a lot of cash that needs to be physically deposited, or if there is a personal preference to work with bankers in person, a bank with ample brick and mortar locations is necessary.

3. Interest Bearing Checking Accounts

A checking account that bears interest is a smart option for a small business that regularly keeps large amounts of cash in a checking account. In the current interest rate environment, it may take longer to find a bank that provides the highest interest possible for a business checking account. If the information is not easily found on bank websites, ask bank managers for interest rate information to compare who would provide the best option. Additionally, inquire about any fees associated with the account related to balance minimums, management, etc.

4. Online Business Checking Account

For small businesses whose operations entail frequent travel, a bank with an easyto-use online business checking account is a must. Banks that provide mobile apps may be even more beneficial, as they provide faster access to finances. For online banks that may not have physical locations, they generally allow use of other banks’ ATMs to withdraw money and will reimburse the transaction fee.

5. Rewards

Some banks offer rewards as incentives for business owners to bank with them. These rewards can include cash bonuses for setting up new accounts and meeting certain minimums. If these incentives are of interest, inquire if the bank offers them.

6. Number of Transactions

Many business bank accounts limit the amount of monthly transactions permitted without an additional fee. Analyzing the business’s estimated transactions will help determine whether it is necessary

to select a bank that allows the largest number of transactions at no additional charge.

7. Business Analysis

A small business bank should feel like they are somewhat of a trusted advisor. Look for banks that provide free or low fee business reviews of financials on a routine basis. This type of benefit can save money that might otherwise have to be paid to someone else and help keep business goals on track.

8. Online Bank Grading Tools

Tracking all bank options can be done in a spreadsheet or with pen and paper. However, using online bank grading tools are the best way to compare and contrast all the options in one view. Recommended tools include the FDIC Bank Find Tool, which identifies if a bank is FDIC-insured, and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Performance Rating Search Tool, which evaluates a bank’s record of meeting the credit needs of its community.

If the best bank available still does not offer or approve services needed, you need to consider your other options such as leveraging personal credit cards, advances, short-term lines of credit, or peer-to-peer lending. Finding the best bank for your small business is an important task and can help support your business for many years to come.

Nadine Pyter is the Vice President of Marketing for PaySimple. You can contact her at or visit the company website at


Looking to Raise Funds? Here’s What Every Small Business Entrepreneur Should Know

How do you get your company in front of the right investors to land an investment, especially in a world gone virtual? In reality, it is often a balance between solid business fundamentals, strong planning, and a healthy dose of savvy.

So here are a few tips to help strike this balance on your own investor engagement and fundraising journey:

Investors want to invest in businesses, not products, so to get noticed and establish strong business fundamentals before engaging in the fundraising process, including:

• Understanding financial basics such as revenue growth and sales velocity

• Knowing the drivers of your gross margin to show a grasp of product input costs and trade spend dynamics

• Reviewing your burn rate and how much capital is available for use (cash flow) on a weekly basis, which is an essential discipline

• Having sound supply, production, distribution, and operational techniques plus being able to articulate these processes when asked

To gain investor interest and get discussions moving toward the investment stage, try to see the world through their eyes and be ready to explain the value your company will bring to them. This should not only be clear in conveying numbers on which your pro forma is built, but it must be clear in the key story and assumptions that underpin it, as well. A critical component of this story is of course product, so be sure to clearly differentiate yours from others on the market and explain how that difference translates to investor return.

To connect to investors, conduct research into how they look for investments and find ways for your brand to be more discoverable, especially online and in social media. Join virtual conferences, meetings, and presentations in lieu of travel and leverage chat features on virtual meeting platforms for quick, non-invasive introductions.

Ready to raise capital? Take into account company stage and size to properly set expectations. Pro formas and cash flow statements are both core

to determining how much capital is needed to raise, keeping in mind that the company will go through several fundraising stages. Later-stage fundraising provides opportunities to set valuation, but more often, potential investors will negotiate the valuation amount depending on the funding vehicle being discussed. SAFEs and convertible notes used in early rounds can defer the valuation process, while a ‘priced round’ trades equity for a cash infusion. It is important to understand these different vehicles, and what their use means to your company and current and future investors.

It can take a long time to find interested investors and negotiate terms, so patience and planning are necessities. During and after this process, keep investors current on important updates as part of the relationship building process. Like with any other relationship, find common ground. Listen, respond, be open to feedback, and ask questions.

A primary objective for investors is to mitigate risk, so they are always looking for ways to say “No”. Your job is to turn every “No” into a “Yes” to keep conversations moving forward. Being well prepared, knowing business fundamentals, and building a strong relationship all preserve momentum toward that ultimate “Yes”. Remember, not every “No” is final. While an investor may not be ready right now, get feedback on what they would need in order to invest, and reach out when these objectives are accomplished.

It takes perseverance and a lot of positivity to successfully navigate the fundraising process. Months of effort can lead to getting turned down, sometimes multiple times, before getting the “Yes” that propels you to the next level. Every interaction with an investor brings knowledge and a greater understanding of what to improve on, which is an invaluable outcome of the process!

Tom Malengo is a founder at Brandjectory. He can be reached by email at or by phone at (216) 780-3752. Visit for more information.

from page 18


: Corrective Organizational Visioning Involves Discipline

COVID: Corporate Organizations View Interests Differently

COVID: Courage Overrides Variance In Defeat

COVID: Creative Organizations Visualize Individual Decisions

COVID: Continuous Operations Validate Increased Demands

“Another example”, remarks Ketchen, “deals with hybrid working models, which are systems that allow employees to work from different locations or different times of the day. This necessitates the need of portable technology to take from the office to the home. Again, listening to our customers, we created a device called ThinkSmart View, which is an all-in-one device that handles multiple means of communication. By offering employees in different locations the opportunity to chat and interact, morale is improved, a benefit that boosts digital wellness.”


Coalescing Omnibus Value Intelligence Destiny

Small business is resilient and will recover and prosper. Cool heads will always prevail. Small business has learned many lessons from COVID. While some fight change and adhere to the same processes that got them into trouble, I still see great opportunities for businesses that are forward focused.

Lenovo has also taken heed to customers’ security concerns. “Because we live in an era where company hacking and customer data breeches are rampant, this feature is very important,” elaborates Ketchen. “I would say that our long-standing strategy on security is to design it into our devices, solutions, and services right from the very start. Our security is comprehensive, as it covers everything from product development to the supply chain. The idea is to give businesses peace of mind with our think security platform.” This is one more way that Lenovo keeps their clients healthy.


Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Hank’s Legends books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Contact Hank by phone at (346) 777-1818, by email at, or visit him on the web at

Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Hank’s Legends books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Contact Hank by phone at (346) 777-1818, by email at, or visit him on the web at

All of the meaningful innovations and services provided by Lenovo stem directly from attentive listening to customers and taking their pulse. Lenovo will always focus on their clients needs, first and foremost, in their strong desire to create remedies that will continue to help SMBs adapt to changing times, stay healthy, and foster growth.

For more information on how Lenovo can provide remedies for your business health and future wellness, visit them on the web at

continued from page 24

Don’t Do Everything on Your Own

Never be ashamed to ask for help. Whether you have to pay for it, or it is done as a favor, we all need help sometimes. Feedback can help you look at things objectively and that is crucial when starting something you are emotionally attached to. As the saying goes, “Two heads are always better than just one!”

Don’t Forget Your “Why”

There are always going to be disappointments and people (especially family and friends) telling you that you shouldn’t be in the business that you are in. Don’t let anyone steal your dreams. You have to keep on going, no matter what! There is only one captain of your ship, and you must stay the course. The only way to fail in your business is to give up.

If you are starting a destination business just as a whim, then you better think twice. But if you truly desire it and refuse to quit, then your business will become a success. Do not expect success to come overnight; but, if you plan it well and you strongly believe in it, you will eventually get where you want to be!

continued from page 12
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