Our 17 Favorite Stories from 2017

We’re kicking off 2018 with a look back at the 17 Mind Your Business stories that we liked the most during the past year.

We’re ringing in the New Year with a look back at 17 of our favorite Mind Your Business articles from 2017. So, grab a glass of some bubbly and check out what you might have missed this last year.

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    No. 1: Ohio’s minimum wage on the increase

    Here’s how much Ohio’s minimum wage will be increasing for 2018—and why.

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    No. 2: Recharge without having to restart

    Your business takes up a lot of your time, but you can still manage to break away to recharge your batteries without everything going to pieces at your company. Check out these steps to effectively making work-life balance a priority in 2018.

    No. 3: Make meetings great again

    Were you involved in a lot of unproductive, unstructured and boring meetings this year? The first in a two-part series, this article can help ensure you don’t make the same mistakes in 2018. Turn your company’s meetings into one of the most enjoyable parts of your day. Honest!

    No. 4: Underrated social platforms

    Facebook Shmacebook: 4 Under-the-Radar Social Channels You Need to Start Using Now

    It’s possible you’ve never even heard of these social media platforms, but they could be just what your company needs to build a better, more effective social presence in the New Year. Check out these four options that may not carry the fame of Facebook, but that are sure to make it easier for your business to stand out.

    And for more social media best practices, swing on by our social hub.

    No. 5: Health is the best wealth

    Companies need to be proactive in establishing a culture of wellness and safety at their facilities. This includes offering incentives to increase buy-in, holding “walking meetings” and more. Here’s a summary of some of the things your company can do to promote wellbeing. Make it your New Year’s resolution!

    No. 6: Double the fun?

    It might not seem like a huge deal at first, but Twitter doubling its character limit on tweets could have some ramifications for your business. Be clear, concise and creative in 2018.

    No. 7: Show me the money

    You’ve heard a lot from us this year about the economic sense it makes to audit your building to find areas where you can make your facility more energy efficient. Now, let us show you a real-life example of a local Cleveland company and COSE member that went through this process and the real money the company received as a result. It just might be the inspiration you need to take energy efficiency action this year.

    Speaking of your energy financials, our Energy Team can also help you decipher the often confusing language in your energy contract.

    No. 8: More time in the day: Priceless

    Wish you had more time in the day? From simplifying your inbox and creating routines to going paperless and waking up an hour earlier…here are a dozen life hacks that will add time back to your day. Your wish is our command!

    No. 9: Read anything good lately?

    And if you haven’t, here’s another idea for a New Year’s resolution. With so many business books out there, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which ones will help you accomplish the goals you have set for you and your business. To help you narrow down your choices, here’s a list of quality reading material we ran last spring. Well, what are you waiting for?

    No. 10: Do the side hustle

    Here’s another New Year’s resolution for you: Are you resolving to finally putting that great skill or idea in place? Side hustles are becoming an increasingly popular option for individuals who want to pursue entrepreneurship without giving up full-time jobs. At JumpStart’s 2017 Startup Scaleup event, we learned tips for growing side hustles while holding down day jobs at the Mastering the Side Hustle panel.

    No. 11: Turn customers into devoted fans

    You don’t want customers. You want a loyal base of individuals who are going to stick with your business no matter what. Check out these six ways to make customers feel better about you and your company brand than they do about your competitors. Your success in 2018 just might rely on it.

    No. 12: Passing the personality test

    This year we took a moment to sit down with Maia Ballard of RWJ Wiring, a recent graduate of the COSE Strategic Planning Course, to discuss takeaways from the course. Ballard shared with us how personality tests can help your business focus in on making the right hire.

    No. 13: Effective delegation is a win-win

    Here’s how entrepreneurs like you can greatly benefit from effective delegation—and so can the staff members picking up those tasks. It’s a true win-win!

    No. 14: Less kvetching, more kibbitzing

    Networking is often thought of as one of those dirty words that can make you cringe. But is it all in the way you look at these opportunities to connect that influences what you get out of them? Don’t kvetch about your upcoming networking functions. Make 2018 the year of kibbitzing instead!

    No. 15: Don’t let your data be held hostage

    How to Protect Yourself from a Ransomware Attack

    In 2017 we heard a lot about ransomware attacks. These types of invasions can be scary, and even devastating, to a small business. In this brief video, Steve Giordano from Team Logic IT shares how you can protect yourself and your business from a ransomware attack.

    Want a deeper dive on this topic? Check out these 11 ways to keep your company safe from digital threats.

    No. 16: FAQs about COSE’s MEWA

    We took a deeper dive into nine of the most frequent questions we receive from members about how the COSE MEWA works and how it may be a good benefit option for small businesses. Get your questions answered here or email COSEbenefits@medmutual.com.

    No. 17: How to hire and keep the best

    To help you alleviate the challenge of finding and keeping talented workers, members of COSE’s Strategic Planning Course took part in a roundtable discussion on some of the things entrepreneurs should keep in mind as they dip into the talent pool and also try to retain the staff they already have.

    What was your favorite Mind Your Business article from 2017? Let us know on Twitter!

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    Next up: Paid Search: 11 Ways to Optimize Your Campaign

    Paid Search: 11 Ways to Optimize Your Campaign

    A great paid search campaign begins before you write your first ad text, or develop a keyword list. Think of the following as homework.

    A paid search campaign is a great way to efficiently reach a targeted audience that is interested in what your small business is selling. But there are a few things a business owner needs to think about before embarking on such a campaign. Actually, make that 11 things. Don’t be too intimidated; spending a little bit of time on the front end will help ensure your campaign is as effective as possible.

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    Here’s what you need to consider:

    1. What are you selling?
    Be as specific as possible. Look at your product or service from as many different angles as you can think of and try to boil down why your target audience would be interested in it.

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    2. Who is your audience?
    Take just as critical of a look at your audience as you just did at your product. This is going to make writing your text ads a lot easier. Some things to think about here include: How old is your audience? What do they like? Where are they located? Keep in mind that who you think your audience is might change based on the paid search data that flows in from your campaign.

    3. Tailor your ad
    Now that you have a deep understanding of your product or service, think about how you are going to put together your ad. Again, some things to think about here are: What is the buying cycle for your product or service? Is what you’re selling simple to use? Is the landing page relevant? Do you have good keyword saturation?

    RELATED: Learn more about keywords and creating a digital SEO strategy

    OK, now it’s time to start thinking about writing those text ads and developing keyword lists.

    4. Be clear
    Make sure your text ads read as clearly as possible and are easy to understand. You want the text ads to speak in a way that tells the user what you want them to do. Related to that idea, be sure to include a well-defined call to action. Impressions are great, but it’s even better if you get a click, which hopefully turns into a conversion. Converting customers is your ultimate goal so write your ad in such a way that will make the user want to engage.

    5. Consider all devices
    According to Google, more than 50% of search queries globally come via mobile and that trend could very well continue. You want to create a website and pages that are mobile friendly. A poor mobile experience could lead to not-so-friendly quality ad scores.

    RELATED: Check how mobile-friendly Google thinks your webpage is

    6. Optimize your text
    I talked a little bit earlier about creating text that is engaging. One way to do that, if it makes sense, is to use numbers or statistics in your headlines. Also, include in your text any competitive differentiators, promos, or urgency messaging if it fits into the product or service you’re advertising. For example, if you’re selling something on a limited basis or the price might increase later, the user might be more inclined to convert because the deal might not be around when he or she next visits your site. Users want to know how something is going to help them now, so focus on the benefits and how your product will help them rather than spending time on how great you are (or claim to be.)

    7. Check your work
    One simple, yet often forgotten task that could lead to audience disengagement is a misspelling. It could lower your ad text quality score because no one is clicking on your ad.

    8. Use ad extensions
    When applicable, utilize ad extensions. These are found below your text ad and show a little more information about your business. They also improve your text ad’s visibility and improve click through rates.

    9. Keyword usage
    When you get around to developing a keyword list, make sure they are relative to the text ad you just wrote. Let’s pretend you’re an optometrist selling eyeglasses. I don’t think you want users who are looking for “wine glasses.” That’s not relevant, right? By adding “wine glasses,” you will avoid a wasted impression, or worse, a click you have to pay for. Keyword quality scores rely on a lot of things, but the biggest are expected click through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience. Optimizing your keywords will help improve this score.

    Now that you have your ad text and keywords ready to go, here are a few other key points.

    10. Be content rich
    Ad ranking isn’t just about great text ads and keywords. It’s also about how those keywords and text ads relate to the landing page you’re sending your audience to. Having a landing page or website that is rich in content and is mobile friendly is crucial. Remember: User experience and relevance is vital. Better text ads usually mean better text ad ranks, which tend to lead to cheaper costs per click.

    11. Be in it for the long term
    Running an effective paid search campaign is a continuing and holistic process. Constant optimizing and refining of campaigns are more likely to succeed. Think about the big picture and keep a long-term approach.

    John Griffith is manager of paid search operations at Essex Digital Platform.

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    Next up: Port of Cleveland and Tri-C Issues Win Approval; Questionable Drug Measure Fails

    Port of Cleveland and Tri-C Issues Win Approval; Questionable Drug Measure Fails

    Unofficial Election Day results, as reported by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, are in. The Greater Cleveland Partnership proudly supported the Issue 59 (Port of Cleveland) and Issue 61 (Tri-C) ballot questions and opposed Issue 2, a deceptive measure that would have changed the way Ohio purchased prescription drugs.

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    Here is how each issue fared:

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    YES on Issue 59, Port of Cleveland

    Yes

    161,554

    No

    88,806

    For more information on Issue 59 click here.

    YES on Issue 61, Tri-C

    Yes

    174,740

    No

    82,993

    For more information on Issue 61 click here.

    NO on Issue 2, Drug Pricing

    Yes

    79,177

    No

    176,443

    For video and more information on Issue 2 click here.

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    Next up: President Addresses Congress

    President Addresses Congress

    On Tuesday, February 28, President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time, outlining his priorities and what he sees as challenges ahead.

    The following content includes excerpts from an article written by our partners at the National Small Business Association (NSBA)…

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    On Tuesday, February 28, President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time, outlining his priorities and what he sees as challenges ahead.

    While there was no specific mention of small business in the speech, President Trump did mention many policies that would have a significant impact on small business, namely health care. The President called for expanded Health Savings Accounts in any package replacing the Affordable Care Act, but he did not provide details on what a replacement plan should look like, and he also made a reference to allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines. In addition, he predictably underscored the need for health costs to be reduced.  However, how that will play out in the weeks and months ahead remains in question.

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    The President also spoke of the importance of tax reform and said he would be proposing a middle-class tax cut. However, he did not take sides in the ongoing Congressional debate around a “border adjustment” component to the business tax regime. On the campaign trail, President Trump did express the understanding that corporate tax reform must include a workable solution for pass-through small businesses who pay business taxes at the individual income level, but there was no mention in his address to that effect.

    While the President did cite his efforts to ease the regulatory burden through regulatory task forces and his recent Executive Order, he didn’t specifically call for a more permanent fix such as a National Regulatory Budget which would require Congressional action.

    For more information on NSBA’s priority issues at the federal level click here.

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    Next up: President Signs $1 Trillion Continuing Resolution

    President Signs $1 Trillion Continuing Resolution

    President Obama signed a $1 trillion dollar Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2015 that will continue to fund the federal government at current spending levels, effectively avoiding a federal government shutdown through December 11, 2014. Two notable small business provisions related to the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) were also passed.

    President Obama signed a $1 trillion dollar Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2015 that will continue to fund the federal government at current spending levels, effectively avoiding a federal government shutdown through December 11, 2014. Two notable small business provisions related to the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) were also passed.

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    The Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) was extended through December 11, 2014. This extension prevents state and local taxes on Internet access; had lawmakers not acted before November 1, 2014, consumers could expect increased costs in accessing and using the Internet. ITFA provides small businesses with access to broadband Internet access, government services, job training, education, and employment opportunities without excess taxation. 

    In addition, the Export-Import Bank was reauthorized through June 30, 2015. Ex-Im Bank works with brokers and lenders to provide loans, loan guarantees, and insurance policies that increase export opportunities for U.S. small businesses and allow the small business community to be competitive in the international market. As stated in a previous blog, “Congress is Back Briefly,” the Ex-Im Bank has financed more small business exports than ever before within the last five years, generated $2 billion for U.S. taxpayers, and supported 1.2 million American jobs - all at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer. View the listing of small businesses in your area that utilize the Ex-Im Bank. 

    COSE partners closely with the National Small Business Association (NSBA), and NSBA supports long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. COSE and NSBA encourage small business employers to contact your member of Congress regarding the importance of the Bank’s work. 


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    Next up: President Signs Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

    President Signs Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

    COSE partners with the National Small Business Association (NSBA) on federal advocacy issues and one of the bills we were tracking of late was bi-partisan workforce development legislation known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or WIOA (H.R. 803).

    COSE partners with the National Small Business Association (NSBA) on federal advocacy issues and one of the bills we were tracking of late was bi-partisan workforce development legislation known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or WIOA (H.R. 803). Introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) in February 2013, WIOA replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

    WIOA passed the House in March 2013, the Senate in June of this year and was signed by President Obama on July 22. WIOA aims to strengthen America’s current workforce development system by:

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    • Eliminating 15 existing programs and creating smaller and more strategic local workforce development boards. State and local workforce boards are required to align their workforce programs in order to create more comprehensive and complimentary services for job seekers and employers.
    • Focusing on the unemployed, helping them to create a competitive portfolio to enter into the workforce through the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service Program 
    • Creating a thorough database for state and local officials to identify the successes or failures of their training programs
    • Including a Pay for Success provision, which provides for a funding system that links payments to the outcomes of these workforce programs. Under this new model, job training service providers are eligible to receive payments and bonus payments, but only if they achieve specific requirements linking to success.
    • Contributing to economic growth and business expansion by matching employers with skilled employees. State and local boards will work with industries and sector partnerships to address workforce needs and are responsible for activities to meet the workforce needs of local and regional employers.
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    Workforce development is one of the biggest challenges facing the small business community – small businesses need productive, reliable and educated talent to achieve success. That’s why it is important that we work to establish programs at the local level that connect educators, students and employers to each other with the goal of creating a pipeline of employees across various industries. COSE has been working with a number of organizations to help foster those connections and relationships, and we will continue to form partnerships needed to bridge the gap.  Here are a few COSE workforce development initiatives we’re currently engaged in:

    • Northeast Ohio Software Association (NEOSA) / Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) – A partnership that is funded by the Department of Labor and provides training to dislocated workers in an area that the U.S. workforce is lacking – information technology. 
    • Hudson High School – An entrepreneurship class, a business pitch competition and the hiring of interns to support the work of small businesses.
    • Jane Addams Business Careers Center – Connecting interns with small businesses and ensuring the Center’s curriculum is applicable to the skills needed by small businesses.
    •  Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) – Internship opportunities for college students and providing employers resources on how to best utilize students.

    COSE applauds the steps Congress has taken by passing the WIOA, but we also know that this is a complex issue that cannot be solved with a simple stroke of a pen. As we continue to connect small business owners with programming and key stakeholders, COSE looks forward to collaborating with Ohio policymakers to strengthen the workforce in Ohio.

    For more information on H.R. 803 please read NSBA Weekly Advocate

    Do you have a workforce development challenge or solution you would like to share? We want to hear from you! Please send your experiences or questions to jburns@cose.org

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