Small business

Small business advice: Surviving Spiking Health Insurance Costs

Small business owners have a lot to consider when it comes to employee benefits. Health insurance costs have been rising steadily, and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many small firms may see a further increase in their premiums. Nevertheless, employers know that robust benefits packages are a huge draw for talented workers and a key component of employee retention. To prevent larger organizations from poaching their best people, small business owners are looking for more affordable ways to take care of their employees — and it isn’t all about health care. So how can small firms compete? The solution may lie in customization. Employee needs vary by generation These days, one-size-fits-all benefits packages simply don’t make sense, especially for small employers. Consider the multigenerational nature of most workforces, with each subsequent generation demanding different perks: • Maturists (born before 1945): For this group, stability is key. A lifetime job, homeownership, and a comfortable retirement mean everything. They’re looking for a hefty retirement plan and solid financial counseling. • Baby Boomers (born 1945-1960): Boomers want the job security that will allow them to live large, both before and after retirement. They want retirement plans, time off for vacations and hobbies, wellness programs, and long-term health insurance. • Generation X (born 1961-1980): This generation is focused on achieving work/life balance, and a bigger paycheck will offset the loss of certain benefits. They enjoy companies that allow flextime and remote work and seek benefits that serve them outside the workplace, such as pet insurance or adoption cost benefits. • Generation Y (born 1981-1995): The first digitally native generation craves freedom and flexibility. Most will not stay in their current jobs for the long haul, so they [...]

How to Make Your Company an Irreplaceable Partner in 3 Steps

Your company might think they’re building relationships with clients, but until they sink multiple hooks into an organization, the relationship is volatile. The deeper the connection with your customer, the longer it is likely to last. And, of course, losing existing relationships is costly, considering the second dollar you earn from a client is always more profitable than the first. In fact, the cost of acquiring new customers versus returning customers is six times higher. However, when you delight your clients, meet their needs and cultivate deep relationships, those clients will be happy to pay your prices. Why you need more connections If your sole contact leaves, who else in the company will understand your value? If the old contact wasn’t clearly explaining or documenting it, then your new contact might find it difficult to understand why your company and his should continue a relationship. And if only one person knows you and what you can do, other departments or leaders in the organization might hire someone else to do something you’re perfectly capable of. Additionally, spending time walking the halls of your client’s office could potentially lead to new work. Bumping into people and having conversations can easily lead to, “Can you help me out with this project?” For example, many agencies I work with regularly embed employees in their clients’ offices for a few days a week. That face time creates a depth of service and provides the chance to mine for new opportunities. It’s the ultimate in having multiple relationships. How to get in deeper If you find yourself with a single relationship within a company, the following tips can expand your influence and ensure you’re never left in the dust. 1. Get the [...]

How to make time to work on the business

Every agency owner knows that they need to devote more time and attention to their business but they're so busy helping clients with THEIR business, it's tough to carve out the time to take care of your own.  Any time I chat with an agency owner, they admit they struggle with the same issue --  how to make time to work on the business. Agency owners need strategic planning tips in order to make time to work on their businesses. Every agency owner knows the way to more profits, more success and ultimately, more satisfaction is to invest the time to not only serve your clients but to work ON your business.  To think strategically about how to improve what's already working, fix what's not and plan for the next zig or zag you need to make. But, as I meet with agency owners from all over North America -- I find that most of them really struggle with this.  Are you wondering how to make time to work on your business? Here are five strategic planning tips that will get you focused on YOUR business and not everyone else’s. Re-think your relationship with email: Email is like crack cocaine for most agency owners.  Between their laptops, tablets and smart phones, they are checking email several times an hour, feeling this burning sense of urgency to answer within seconds of receiving the latest.  If you want to find time to work on the business, you'll need to tame your email addiction. Here's the reality.  If a client or staff members needs you, they will probably send an email first.  But if they don't get a quick reply -- what do you think they'll do next?  Right [...]

Managing in a renewing economy (part two)

Agency management can be a challenge as the economy teeters back and forth between recovery and residual crud.  Things feel like they're getting better and according to all the agencies we're talking to -- they are.  But it's not all blue skies yet. I'm not trying to go all Eyeore on you...but let's stay careful. We've developed 25 helpful agency management steps you should consider as you move your agency through these turbulent waters.  Last week, we posted the first 13 steps and here are the final 12. Demonstrate to clients and suppliers that you are thorough, organized and committed to best business practices. Know where the agency's "breakeven" point is, and make sure you include the full salary and benefits of the owners. You'd best know where the worst case and best case scenarios are hidden. Continue to be aggressive and persistent in your Accounts Receivable. Call on all overdue invoices and let AEs help on collections that are coming up on 60 days old. If you have extra space created by a shrinking staff over the past year or so, think about renting the extra space out to a business partner, like your web coder or PR group. Tighten policies that were too casual, and don't get too liberal with your budgets for supplies or services. Keep costs under control. Economic hardship taught you to institute tight financial control over costs. Don't let up. If you are still going to pursue getting mark- ups on outside purchases, make sure they are spelled out in advance. If stated "up front" it rarely is a problem. Check your banking relationship. If you borrowed during these past tough times, go to the bank and review your performance, [...]

Digital only agencies aren’t making the grade

According to the Q2 Pearlfinders Index, which is digital marketing research based on interviews with more than 4,000 marketing executives across all industries --  digital and social media services have become more sought-after disciplines, while consumer PR, though still popular, is becoming less of a consideration. However, agencies that only offer digital services are not getting the nod. Despite shifting their budgets towards digital and social media, 3 in 4 marketers aren’t using exclusively digital agencies for their social or digital needs, and the majority of those don’t foresee using them in the near future, according to June 2012 survey results from RSW/US. In fact, only about 2 in 5 think such agencies can survive, with the remainder believing that digital agencies need to offer more traditional services to maintain their relevancy. In Q2, among the times that marketing decision-makers advised that they were considering a particular service category, digital made up 19% of these demands, up from 13% a year earlier. Similarly, social media was mentioned 17.1% of the time, up from 14.1% in Q2 2011. Consumer PR, at 14%, was the third most-desirable discipline, though it fell from 18.6% a year earlier. Advertising and corporate PR rounded out the top 5 desirable agency disciplines for Q2 according to this digital marketing research, though both fell substantially from the previous quarter. Customer Acquisition the Dominant Marketing Objective In Q2 2012, companies’ primary customer marketing objective was acquisition (93.8%), compared to just 5% focusing on retention and 3.8% on development. A year earlier, 71.3% had focused on acquisition, with retention (17.1%) and development (11.6%) figuring more prominently into the equation. Other Findings: NPD/innovation was the strongest source of opportunity for agencies, accounting for 35% of new business opportunities [...]

Results from the small and medium advertising agency survey on salaries and benefits

For the past 12 years, Agency Management Roundtable has conducted an annual salary and benefits survey looking at the trends in small and medium sized agencies.  The survey results report allow agency owners to compare their salaries by position with how the rest of the country's salaries.  The results are also presented by agency size and region. For the first time in several years, salaries seem to be on the rise, albeit a modest one. We’d seen flat or declining salaries over the past several surveys.  This and several other indicators in the report seem to suggest that the recession’s toll on agencies is beginning to recede. A new trend appeared in this edition of the AMR Salary Survey as well.  More agencies (18%) do not have an in-house copywriter.  As freelancing and contract labor options become easier and more plentiful, it will be interesting to see how this trend evolves.  It seems to fly in the face of all the Content Marketing push that is being driven by social networks and the rush to digital marketing spaces. Agencies, like all small businesses, are clearly struggling to offer their employees healthcare coverage.  Over 90% of agencies surveyed offered their employees some form of health insurance and contribute to the costs at some level The 2012 AMR Salary & Benefits Survey Report is available for purchase at $99 The 2012 survey of advertising agencies’ employee compensation was conducted by the consulting firm, Agency Management Roundtable (AMR). The firm is the only consulting group that focuses on marketing communication agencies employing fewer than 50 people. Over the past twenty years, AMR has worked with several hundred advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic design companies and new interactive [...]

Your agency’s biggest fraud risk

Should you be concerned about possible fraud in your business?  You bet. Here are some things to pay attention to when it comes to business fraud prevention. You may think that because your agency is a small business that you aren’t susceptible to employee theft and fraud. In our work with agencies, the biggest problem is the lack of owner understanding about financial process and how reports and statements are constructed. If you don’t have a good understanding you are a prime candidate for being bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars. At the low end. For smaller businesses especially, the burden of fraud can be very costly. Statistics show that the median loss for a small business is well over $200,000. Making business fraud prevention a priority will help ensure that you do not become a victim. With a little bit of effort, you can effectively reduce the likelihood of fraud in your business. Sadly, we could tell you too many stories  of hard working owners being defrauded by very clever thieves. And those thieves are usually employees.  The worst case I was involved in finally discovered the bookkeeper had slipped more than $400,000 out of the company coffers over a five-year period. He had a wonderful home and all the trimmings, paid for by the agency. The bad news: local authorities are hardly interested in business fraud cases that are not in the millions. It is difficult to prosecute the thief, and he goes on to his next victim.  Often, the only way to collect is to report the thief to the IRS for non-payment of back taxes on the money that was stolen. The FBI tells us that the funds are often [...]