Category Archives: Small Business

Sexual Harassment: Mediasplaining vs. Fact


By MJ Plaster

As the list of outted perverts grows, it makes you wonder if it would be easier to create a list of people who don’t sexually harass or inappropriately touch people over whom they have power. At the same time, it seems that men are in danger of having their every glance and utterance cataloged to prove harassment. It doesn’t help that everything has become a microaggression.

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Is “The Customer Is King” All It’s Cracked up to Be?


By MJ Plaster

Suspend reality for a moment and pretend business doesn’t answer to its gods, the shareholders—or in the case of small-to-medium businesses, monied interests. Whom would you choose for top billing—customer or employee? Before you make up your mind, read about some of the success stories at companies who put their employees first.


The Virgin Enterprise
Sir Richard Branson, who runs the Virgin empire, ranks shareholders concerns dead last in third place. In his universe, his extremely successful universe, the employee is king, followed by the customer. In an interview with Forbes, Branson says he wanted to get away from “Stepford Service” by taking “[an] informal approach to customer service at all our Virgin brands.” What he means is, “Free the employees to be themselves,” within reason. He doesn’t value cookie-cutter employees. When something goes wrong, he insists on quick resolution. That has proven a winning combination across his franchise.

Ford Motor Company
Putting employees first is not some new-age concept. If we harken back to the early days of Ford Motor Company when the company introduced the assembly line, we find that Henry Ford paid his employees the then-exorbitant wage of $5 per day, double the average wage. It wasn’t altruism. He believed not only that employees should be able to buy the products they make but also that his sales would increase if his employees could afford to drive a Ford. Regardless of his intent, how many other workers could afford a Model T back in the day?

U.S. Airlines
When Southwest Airlines (then Texas Air Southwest) began shuttling passengers among Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, the public snored, but the big airline executives revolted all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear their case against Southwest. How dare a little competitor invade their fiefdom! The big airlines did manage to relegate Southwest to smaller airports. As an unintended consequence, passengers enjoy easier, less stressful access to airports when flying Southwest.

As Southwest began to grow, other airline employees took note of the employees’ free-wheeling, playful interactions with customers and their equally casual attire. Flying Southwest was fun—not only for the customers but also for the employees. Airline personnel pointed to the company’s competitive pay scale. To recap, Southwest let’s its employees be themselves, they work in a fun environment, and they are paid handsomely to do it. Most Southwest employees will tell you they love working for the airline. How does this affect the customer? Flying Southwest is one of the most pleasurable ways to fly if you don’t mind flying in coach.

Small Business
The employee-centric model holds true for small business as well. Southerners have an expression: “If Mama isn’t happy, no one’s happy.” In this case, “Mama” represents the workforce and “no one” represents the customer. Specifically, when managers and owners show their appreciation and gratitude to their teams, and foster a pleasant working environment, the customer wins in the end.

In an interview with CheckWorks, Dale Rodgers, owner of Armed Exterminators, says that “people first” is his M.O. “My employees are number one, followed closely by our customers. Without happy employees, you won’t have happy customers,” Rodgers says. “Our customers know us and trust us. We get very good referrals for our service, and we treat them well. Our employees know how to speak to [the customers] and how to treat them; they’re always polite. We’re blessed with great employees.” His employees have extended the model of respect to the company’s customers, and everyone’s happy.

Can “Employee is King” Go Too Far?
Whole Foods has a bit of a sordid reputation—even among its loyal customers. This cloud rests on pricing and misguided or misinformed employees. Business Insider reports that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey conceded in a town hall meeting to prioritizing employees over customers “to the detriment of the customer.” For example, who benefited from employees were telling customers that the stores were GMO-free? The customer or the employee? It sure made life easier on employees who were ill-informed at best. Customers were happy until they learned otherwise.

Amazon acquired Whole Foods this year. The online behemoth has already addressed customers’ most vocal complaint—price. They have cut dozens of prices by 25 percent. Minimal interaction with Amazon takes place only in the event something goes wrong, and I can tell you from experience, they are quick to handle complaints. Customer service spares no cost to make customers happy.

For example, when a Prime delivery reaches customers late for any reason, Amazon extends an addition month of the premium service free of charge. For me, it translated into six free months tacked on to last year’s subscription. So far, I’m one month into the new year, and I have received a free month. However, their superb customer service has little bearing how Amazon treats its employees, which is deplorable according to The New York Times. Amazon disputes the report.

So, what’s the verdict? Unless you are willing to pay your employees extortion-rate wages and salaries, their well-being should be of paramount importance—as long as it translates into a superior customer experience.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Six Tips For Hiring The Best Seasonal Employees

Smaller retailers and merchants who often lack the resources of their larger counterparts may run into any number of problems when attempting to hire seasonal workers in order to expand their existing staff. Organizations that have only limited experience conducting a hiring process would do well to properly prepare themselves before seeking seasonal help. Continue reading

How to Give Your Business CPR After a Natural Disaster

By MJ Plaster

The disasters keep rolling in—one right after the other. Unpredictable weather is one of the things Americans have learned to live with. It’s when, not if, a natural disaster or a wind-fueled wildfire will strike. As a business owner, you want to protect inventory, physical buildings, data, employees and office pets.

I’ve been through more natural disasters than I care to remember, including Tennessee’s Thousand-Year Flood in 2010 when my home sustained six feet of gushing water. I lived to tell the story and worked my way through the labyrinth of complex forms, organizations, qualifications, etc., the hard way. Now that I’ve earned the t-shirt, I’ll share what I’ve learned.

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Tips for Prepping Your Business for the 2017 Holiday Season

September has arrived in full force, and that means people are starting to look forward to the holiday season. Lots of companies make 40% of their annual revenue in the last quarter of the year, and even though September is almost half-way over, it is not too late to prepare and take full advantage of the upcoming shopping craze. Here are four tips for prepping your business for the 2017 holiday season. Continue reading

Is Hiring An Outside Contractor Different Than Hiring Other Employees?

Outsourcing some aspects of your business to outside contractors can be a smart way to grow your business without all the added complications that come with sourcing, hiring, training, equipping and managing new employees.

But many small businesses make some mistakes when hiring contractors.

For some, the problem is that they misunderstand the legal differences between contractors and employees, and this can lead them into all sorts of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Continue reading

Taking The Luck Out Of Business Finance

Over the last few decades, sociologists and behavioral psychologists have been conducting research into business success. Some of the most controversial research has been centered on the arguments framed by Malcolm Gladwell, a respected author whose thought-provoking book Outliers: The Story of Success suggests that luck has a lot to do with business success.

Unfortunately, Gladwell’s observation and research have been widely misunderstood. Gladwell chooses subjects who have experienced monumental success, people such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen, founders of Microsoft. It so happens that these two talented and hard-working individuals experienced a series of lucky breaks in their respected lives; however, they understood how to work those lucky breaks to their advantage. Continue reading

Six Business Finance Lessons For The Year Of The Rooster

We have entered year of the fire rooster according to Chinese astrology. Whether you believe in astrology or not, your business can benefit from lessons the fire rooster has to teach us. Each animal of the Chinese zodiac calendar represents traits people want to embody and qualities that people struggle with. Here is a list of the main business finance lessons year of the rooster teaches: Continue reading

5 Tips For Starting Your Business On The Right Financial Foot In 2017


Those who want to start their own business and find success in 2017 must have a plan established to gain financial independence and stabilize the business. For many people, it can be easy to make mistakes that can lead to financial disasters due to a lack of experience or resources.

To ensure that you start your business on the right financial foot in the new year, there are a few important tips to follow that will prove to be effective long-term. Continue reading

5 Business Myths to Toss in the New Year

Coworkers throwing crumpled paper into waste basket, selective focus

By MJ Plaster

It’s a new year, and everyone’s new calendar holds a world of possibilities and promise. Unfortunately, your heavy baggage doesn’t magically check itself at Old Man New Year’s door; it follows you. So, instead of counting calories or pullups, or in addition to, if you’ve already committed to those things, why not vow to toss the business myths that have weighed you down all these years?

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