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Small Factories Embrace Automation Because They Can’t Find Enough People

Robotic arms on display.

If you look up at the night sky and happen upon some little lights on the move it might be a shooting star. Likely it is not a UFO.

The better bet, of course, is that the lights belong to an airplane. And the odds are very high they come from Astronics Luminescent Systems Inc (LSI).

These ingeniously designed, extra-durable LED exterior lights are made at Astronics LSI’s flagship factory in East Aurora, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. The facility, utterly nondescript from the outside, though a sprawling, bustling workshop inside, employs 300 mostly blue-collar workers.

With its motto of “innovation at 30,000 feet,” Astronics LSI is well-known in the industry for aircraft lighting. It’s also a major supplier of cockpit instrument panels. The company’s hundreds of products are subjected to rigorous quality control measures as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Cockpit lights need to be bright, but not too bright. And they can’t ever suddenly go out.

Image result for small industry big size gif advertisementsDemand is usually sky high with new jet fleets being rolled out regularly. Astronics products are custom-crafted. They are tested and re-tested. Nothing is rushed.

Still, the company is eager to ramp up production. And they would, too. If only they could hire more people.

“It’s been a continual challenge for us,” Astronics CFO David Burney said. “We can’t find enough qualified workers.”

The company needs machinists and engineers and assemblers – careful, not easily distracted people who like working with their hands.

Astronics is not alone.

The National Association of Manufacturers has sounded an alarm, estimating some 2.4 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2028 due to labor shortages.

Somewhere along the line, over the past several generations, high school shop courses fell out of favor as communities steered their youths toward college degrees tied to white-collar work. New forces are at now reshaping the labor market.

Automation, as well as AI technology that takes robotics closer to sci-fi levels, has and will continue to reconfigure work as humans have known it. At risk, it seems, are people who weld, fabricate, mill, join, lathe, wire, cut, hoist, assemble, package and load stuff.

“AI could affect work in virtually every occupational group,” said the Brookings Institute in a new report. And while manufacturing and production workers will be among the most affected, white-collar workers are seen as equally vulnerable.

Most big companies, such as those in the automotive industry, already have become mostly automated; smaller companies, not so much.

Robotic arms have become nimbler, safer and less expensive. It has never made more sense for so-called “SMEs” (small and medium-sized enterprises) to automate.

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Advanced manufacturing has a chance to transform smaller manufacturers like Astronics, and hundreds of others like them in the Western New York region.

Written off by some as a rust-belt relic, Buffalo tried to reinvent itself during the 1980s and ‘90s as more of a white-collar hub. But its blue-collar roots run deep, going back to the early part of the nineteenth century.

The first waves of Irish immigrants, many of whom helped build the Erie Canal, found work unloading grain shipments from eastbound lake freighters hauling barley, wheat and rye across Lake Michigan, by way of the Detroit River, to Buffalo. In the latter part of the 19th century, that task was automated. Grain elevators (buckets fastened to steam-powered conveyor belts) may have displaced some Irishmen (who became “scoopers,” going down into hulls to shovel the corner piles that the buckets couldn’t snag) and, as more Irish (and German and Polish and Jewish and Italian and black Southerners) poured into Buffalo, they found abundant employment. Bethlehem Steel and Curtiss-Wright and GM and Ford plants at one time all ranked among the most productive manufacturing sites on the planet.

By the 1970s, most of the large manufacturers were gone, leaving behind empty, too-massive-to-knock down facilities most of which still stand today like “the ruins of a manufacturing empire,” as one local business leader has said.

In 2014, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, through his Buffalo Billion initiative, opened Buffalo Manufacturing Works. It runs an ambitious nonprofit program to help revitalize the area’s manufacturing base through technology, including robotics and also additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

Related imageBuffalo Manufacturing Works (and don’t ever call them “BMW” if only because the German multinational has that trademarked) was born of a vision by state and local leaders to reinvigorate the city’s manufacturing base. Because Buffalo had few, if any, automation consultants and no real robotics industry of which to speak, the state partnered with Columbus, Ohio-based technology innovator EWI.

For more than three decades, EWI has been providing advanced manufacturing support to companies across the rust belt and throughout the country. Expanding on what EWI has done in Ohio, Buffalo Manufacturing Works serves as a central resource for Western New York manufacturers as they tip-toe toward innovation, including automation.

The Buffalo area is still home to more than a dozen large manufacturers, including Moog, Sumitomo Rubber, Fisher-Price/Mattel and Dresser-Rand. Two GM plants still make engines here. And there is a Ford stamping plant.

Tesla’s controversial factory in South Buffalo, originally SolarCity, employs about 300 people making energy storage products for electric cars. Panasonic Corp, which makes solar panels, has about 400 employees. Whether the Tesla-Panasonic partnership creates hundreds more jobs remains to be seen. (Based on the amount of subsidies provided, New York State believes it will).

Despite the dramatic reduction of large manufacturers over the decades, there are roughly 1,600 small- and medium-sized factories based in Western New York (a region also often dubbed Buffalo/Niagara) still making stuff – aircraft lights and radio antennas and countless other items. Mostly we are talking about small parts and components of other products. To stay competitive, these small companies, many of them run like family businesses, will need to invest in the future.

“Only about 20% of the small factories in the Buffalo area have some form of automation,” said Mike Garman, Senior Engineer-Automation, Buffalo Manufacturing Works. “The rest are just starting out down this road. A lot of these companies know they need to automate but putting in a robotic arm? That’s overwhelming to them – they don’t know where to begin.”

If Buffalo is ever to regain past manufacturing glory, the companies calling it home might have no choice but to automate.

“We project more than 20,000 advanced manufacturing job openings in Western New York in the next 10 years,” said Stephen Tucker, President and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, another key player in the region’s advanced manufacturing initiative. The openings owe to an aging workforce and pending retirements, Tucker added.

“[The training center] is working to prepare local residents with 21st century technical skills necessary to fill those jobs,” he said.

Related imageAbout a 15-minute drive north from Astronics’ East Aurora factory is one of Buffalo’s best-known suburbs, Orchard Park, home of the NFL’s Bills.

In a bland corporate complex, not that much more than a Josh Allen deep ball away from New Era Field, is a company called STI-CO. They make mobile radio antenna systems. STI-CO’s customers include law enforcement agencies and the military which need customized covert equipment. The U.S. Department of Defense uses the company’s products to outfit low-profile overseas operations and in natural disasters.

Additionally, STI-CO engineers antenna systems for freight and passenger railroads that communicate critical Positive Train Control data such as how fast a train is moving and if it needs to be remotely controlled to slow down.

“We recognize that we need to automate and have allocated the resources to do it,” said CEO Kyle Swiat, whose late father, Robert Kaiser, a machinist, founded the company in 1967. “But we are involving all of our people in the conversation.”

They’ve added CNC machines and a 3-D printer to speed up processes.

“Our employees are excited about the technologies,” she said. “They want to see the company invest in future growth.”

Today, STI-CO produces hundreds of products and is keen to stay competitive in a global market. That means exploring alternatives, including, eventually, robotics.

She also confirmed the challenge of finding qualified, reliable workers and sees automation as inevitable and a win for her 45 employees.

“This is a family,” she said. “Even if we could automate the whole operation we wouldn’t ever do that because we believe that people still make the difference.”

One of the worst jobs at the STI-CO plant had been the dreaded taping and labeling detail. Each set of antennas come with sets of color-coded wires (like when you hook up a stereo). STI-CO’s process for packaging and marking the wires not only was tedious but woefully inefficient i.e. done in an outdated manner the way they’ve always done it – by hand.

So in something of a baby step into the future, STI-CO, about ten months ago, invested in a computer-enabled system. While not a robot, the creatively engineered set-up was a modern machine that took on the bundling and labeling tasks previously done by humans, freeing up those workers to focus more on quality control.

“When a company looks to automate, the first project should be an easy win,” Garman said.

Simply automating for the sake of automating, without fully thinking it through, creates more headaches, not less, he warns; a robot deployed without a clear problem to solve is just “a hammer in search of nail,” Garman explains. “We always say, ‘start slow, start small and keep it simple’ and then move from there to something more ambitious.”

As far as its first foray into actual robots, STI-CO is still coming up the curve with help from Garman and the team at Buffalo Manufacturing Works, as well as from a host of robotics industry people: advisory professionals; robotic arm distributors; systems integrators and consultants. These firms form a village of advanced manufacturing enablers supporting smaller factories in their efforts to automate more activities.

In the next installment, we’ll take a deeper dive into this robotics ecosystem and the work they are doing to reboot the Buffalo area.

(Part two of this three-part series will run tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 27.)

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I’ve covered Wall Street for nearly 25 years, focused mainly on asset management, working for publications such as ABCNews.com, Trader Monthly and Institutional Investor. Lately, writing as a freelancer, I’ve been focusing on machine learning and automation. I am also the author of three nonfiction books, including “The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up,” currently being adapted into a motion picture. I do NOT have a podcast.

Source: Small Factories Embrace Automation – Because They Can’t Find Enough People

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Here’s Why One Electric Car Is Outselling All The Others Combined

Rising graph with grid

According to the year-end plug-in vehicle sales scorecard compiled by the website InsideEVs.com, Tesla sold 158,925 Model 3s in the U.S. during 2019. That not only makes it the most-popular plug-in vehicle in America, it’s handily outselling all the other electric cars on the market combined, and by a substantial margin.

The Model 3 quite literally beat the pants off all comers last year, including its own showroom siblings, the older and far pricier Tesla Model Y at 19,225 units and the Model S at 14,100 delivered in 2019. Other top sellers in this segment, though nowhere near the Model 3, include the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Nissan Leaf, responsible for an estimated 16,416 and 12,365 units, respectively. No other EVs recorded five-figure sales last year.

Tesla reportedly pulled out all the proverbial stops to make fourth-quarter sales before its federal tax credit granted to EV buyers expired. The credits phase out for any automaker that sells more than 200,000 plug-in cars, which is something Tesla accomplished in 2008. Its credits dwindled to $1,875 as of July 1, 2019, and were eliminated altogether on January 1.

But that still doesn’t explain the Model 3’s overwhelming dominance in the still nascent electric vehicle market. A close look reveals that, unlike most other automakers, Tesla seems to be much of everything right with regard to its smallest and least-expensive vehicle.

For starters, it’s priced near, if not in the sweet spot for Tesla intenders, starting at $39,990 for the Standard Range Plus version. The mid-to-upper $30,000 range is a popular price point among mainstream EVs right now. Surveys almost unanimously cite the higher cost of battery-driven vehicles as being one of the biggest barriers to more widespread adoption. That could be one reason why luxury-oriented models like the Audi e-Tron and Jaguar i-Pace, priced in the $70,000 range, have yet to connect with consumers.

Range anxiety is frequently cited as a major concern with potential EV buyers, and the Model 3 largely avoids it. The base version can run for an average 250 miles on a charge. That’s more than enough to meet most motorists’ needs and is roughly on a par with smaller and less expressively styled electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Hyundai Kona Electric at 259 and 258 miles, respectively. If you have a bigger budget, the $48,990 Long Range model can traverse an estimated 322 miles with a full battery, which is about as much as anyone could drive in a single day.

Lack of a public charging infrastructure is also frequently mentioned as an issue among consumers with regard to EVs. For its part, Tesla gives Model 3 buyers access to its extensive network of Supercharger quick-charge stations, installed in myriad locations on well-traveled routes across the country. And this is in addition to the ability to charge at other expanding networks like ChargePoint, EVGo, and Electrify America.

Another lingering myth about electric cars is that they’re lacking in terms of performance. In fact the opposite is generally true. The base version of the Model 3 can race from 0-60 mph in a frisky 5.3 seconds, and a downright fast 3.2 seconds in the top Performance iteration. As with all electric cars, having the battery mounted under the passenger compartment in a skateboard-like configuration warrants a low center of gravity, which inherently helps afford crisp handling skills.

Another problem with widespread EV adoption is that many models are only sold via select dealerships in California and one or more states that adhere to its stricter emissions regulations. For example, for 2019 the Kia Niro EV was only available in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The Honda Clarity Electric was restricted to California and Oregon.

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Though Tesla is barred from establishing a company-owned retail presence in some states or is restricted to the number they can open due to long-established franchise laws, its vehicles remain widely available and the company seems to have developed a cult following. There are company-owned Tesla Stores in 26 states where consumers can see, touch, and learn about the vehicles. Tesla also sells its cars direct to customers via the Internet, though again with exclusions in some states.

At that, the traditional sales model doesn’t seem to be delivering the goods when it comes to EVs. A recent study conducted by the Sierra Club found a disturbing lack of enthusiasm among more-established automakers and their dealers to sell electric cars. The organization sent 579 volunteers out into the field to visit over 900 auto dealerships in all 50 states to assess how well battery powered vehicles are being supported on the retail level. They found disturbing shortfalls in electric car availability, how they were presented and charged for test drives, and salesperson knowledge regarding the products.

How will the Tesla in general and the Model 3 in particular are moving forward, with another model year under its belt?

Though the Model 3 is currently king of the proverbial hill, the electric car market will see several important new models coming to market in the coming months (including some pricey pickup trucks and sports cars). For its part, Ford is generating tons of enthusiasm with its coming Mustang Mach-E full electric crossover SUV, already racking up enough pre-orders (with refundable $500 deposits) to sell out its allotment of First Edition models. The Mach-E will come to market late in 2020 and will compete most directly with Tesla’s new Model 3-based Model Y compact crossover, expected around mid-year. As it is, with consumers shunning sedans in favor of taller crossovers these days, the Model Y will undoubtedly cannibalize Model 3 sales and could fast become the automaker’s top-selling model.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle Tesla will face in 2020 will be the lack of a federal tax credit as a deal sweetener. Congress has yet to extend or amend the current federal incentives that were enacted in 2010 to help spur sales of plug-in vehicles. While Tesla’s spiffs have expired and General Motors are slated to go away on May 1, all other automakers can still offer the full $7,500 credit. Despite lobbying by the auto industry, legislators declined to address the tax credits in a year-end spending bill, with the White House said to be staunchly opposed to their retention.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I’m a veteran Chicago-based consumer automotive journalist devoted to providing news, views, timely tips and reviews to help maximize your automotive investments. In addition to posting on Forbes.com, I’m a regular contributor to Carfax.com, Motor1.com, MyEV.com and write frequently on automotive topics for other national and regional publications and websites. My work also appears in newspapers across the U.S., syndicated by CTW Features.

Source: Here’s Why One Electric Car Is Outselling All The Others Combined

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Why Customer Engagement Should Be Every Business’s Top Priority in 2020

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Everyone’s talking about customer engagement — but why is it so important, and what does it really mean? How does customer engagement look in action, when you’re a business trying to connect with your customers today?

We already know a lot about the customer journey — how it’s made up of numerous touch points, from search to purchase to post-purchase support. And we know that providing a good customer experience at each of those touch points is critical to building and maintaining a solid reputation for your brand. But customer engagement is often overlooked, even though it’s critical to nudging customers along their journey.

Customer Engagement Impacts Profitability

Customer engagement is about inspiring your customers to interact with your brand and willingly take part in the experiences you’re creating for them. If you do it right, you’ll grow your brand and build customer loyalty — and, in turn, drive revenue.

In fact, there’s a direct and proven correlation between the level of customer engagement and business profitability. A study by Constellation Research reported that companies who improve engagement can increase cross-sell revenue by 22 percent, up-sell revenue by 38 percent and order size by 5 to 85 percent. Reputation.com research backs up these findings —  a high rate of customer engagement increases Reputation Score, and we’ve found direct links between high Scores and revenue in multiple industries, including Automotive and Healthcare.

Today In: Small Business

Despite the immense financial impact engaging with customers can have, some companies are still not doing it.

Case in Point: Retail

In the recently released Retail Reputation Report, data scientists at Reputaiton.com found that most retailers simply don’t respond to reviews — particularly negative ones. Think about the message that sends! I’m a customer who’s had a bad experience with a business, so I do the only constructive thing I can do to express my frustration: I write a review.

Probably like most consumers, I assume the business will care if I have had a negative experience and try to fix it. If they do, they’re better off. If they don’t, I might be left feeling like they simply don’t care what kind of experience I’ve had. Am I likely to buy products from that business again? Well, much less likely, right? And if I do, I’m not going to feel good about it. I may tell my friends I dislike that business, and they’ll probably avoid it in the future, too. Perhaps most importantly, I will almost certainly not say GOOD things about the business to my friends.

When someone takes time to leave a review — good or (especially) bad — it’s the ideal time to engage. We all get this, but surprisingly, the average response rate to negative reviews among leading retailers is just 2 percent. It’s no wonder Amazon is eating away at retailers’ market share, with their frictionless shopping experience and infinite inventory.

Now let’s consider a brand who does a good job of engaging with customers. Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack scored exceptionally high for engagement, compared to many other retailers (61% and 79% respectively). That’s because they place a premium on delivering exceptional service and ensuring their customers are happy and engaged. And maybe that’s one of the reasons that, while many retailers are struggling to keep their doors open, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack are still reporting strong profits.

Investing In Customer Experience Is a Huge Lever for Revenue

The power of engaging and connecting with customers isn’t limited to the B2C world. According to Econsultancy’s Annual Digital Trends report, B2B companies identify customer experience — the product of meaningful customer engagement — as the single most exciting opportunity for 2020.

Temkin Group reports that companies that earn $1 billion annually can earn $775 million more within three years of investing in customer experience with “modest” results. The report found that to be true across industries, with software companies earning the most ($1 billion over three years). Success, effort and emotion, according to the report, were the three factors impacting customer loyalty, and an improvement in emotion increases loyalty more than any other factor. A meaningful customer engagement is the best way to stir up the positive emotions that keep customers coming back.

Take a Walk In Your Customer’s Shoes

So how do you connect with customers on an emotional level and improve customer engagement? Here are a few starting points:

  • Analyze the customer journey. How else can you know what the customer’s experience with your brand or locations is like? Take their journey, and take note of and sticking points or frustrating interactions. Are the emails you’re sending helpful and informative, or intrusive and self-serving? Are your locations easy to get to and welcoming? Is your staff friendly and professional? Do you follow up after customer interactions and respond to reviews? Every one of these customer touchpoints presents an opportunity for engaging with your customers in a mutually beneficial way. Make sure you’re doing that, and if you’re not, it’s time to start.
  • Listen to what customers say about you. Today’s customers are vocal, and it’s easy to find feedback on Google, Facebook, G2 and other review sites. You should also invest in social media management, so you can actively monitor social commentary and reviews as they come in — 42% of customers expect a response within 60 minutes, and a delayed response is almost as bad as no response.
  • Deliver seamless omnichannel experiences. If you analyze the customer journey properly, you’ll find brand interactions occur across many channels — search results, emails, websites, physical locations and even text. Make sure to deliver a consistent and pleasant experience every time you engage with your customer, regardless of channel. One bad or confusing interaction can ruin the opportunity to engage effectively, and could even begin to break down the trust and loyalty you’ve invested in building.
  • Pay attention to all factors that comprise your Reputation Score. Increasingly, brands are turning to Reputation Score as the most accurate measurement of customer experience. It’s more thorough than NPS, because it takes into account all the factors affecting your reputation. A critical component of the score is engagement, as measured by your brand’s performance across every customer touch point. Knowing and monitoring your Reputation Score is an essential step to mastering the art  — and reaping the benefits — of customer engagement.

Don’t Force It

An important thing to remember is you can’t force your customers to engage with you. As HubSpot’s Paul Greenberg said, “Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.” The customer decides how to interact and engage — you can only create the opportunities, and ensure that your diligent effort and reputation inspire people to take action.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m the Founder and Chairman of Reputation.com. I started my business because digital privacy, Big Data and online reputation are issues that impact everyone from individuals to massive corporations. People should be the center of the Internet machine – not cogs in its wheel. More empowerment online, not less, not what we have now. Follow me @michaelfertik.

Source:https://www.forbes.com

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Session recording from Industry Preview 2018. Session abstract: Salesforce Marketing Cloud Chief Strategy Officer, Jon Suarez-Davis (“JSD”) keynotes an engaging session drawing upon real life examples from working with some of the world’s biggest brands, shares Salesforce’s vision for the future of marketing, and makes some predictions about what’s coming next.

3 Purchases or Investments You Can Make to Save Money on Your Business Taxes

With a little over one month to go in 2019, small business owners should think about purchases or investments that make good business sense and will give them a break on their taxes.

Owners with available cash and a wish list should consider what equipment they need. Or, do they want to create a retirement plan or make a big contribution to an existing one? If they have home offices, are there repairs or improvements that can be done by Dec. 31? But owners should also remember the advice from tax professionals: Don’t make a decision based on saving on taxes. Any big expenditure should be made because it fits with your ongoing business strategy.

A look at some possible purchases or investments:

Need a PC or SUV?

Small businesses can deduct up-front as much as $1,020,000 in equipment, vehicles and many other types of property under what’s known as the Section 179 deduction. Named for part of the federal tax code, it’s aimed at helping small companies expand by accelerating their tax breaks. Larger businesses have to deduct property expenses under depreciation rules.

There is a wide range of property that can be deducted under Section 179 including computers, furniture, machinery, vehicles and building improvements like roofs and heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. But to be deducted, the equipment has to be operational, or what the IRS calls in service, by Dec. 31. So a PC that’s up and running or an SUV that’s already in use can be deducted, but if that HVAC system has been ordered but not yet delivered or set up, it can’t be deducted.

It’s OK to buy the equipment and use it but not pay for it by year-end — even if a business buys the property on credit, the full purchase price can be deducted.

You can learn more on the IRS website, www.irs.gov. Search for Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization, and the instructions for the form.

Home Office Repairs

Owners who run their businesses out of their homes and want to do some repairs, painting or redecorating may be able to get a deduction for the work. If the home office or work space itself is getting a makeover, those costs may be completely deductible. If the whole house is getting a new roof or furnace, then part of the costs can be deducted.

To claim the deduction, an owner can use a formula set by the IRS. The owner determines the percentage of a residence that is exclusively and regularly used for business. That percentage is applied to actual expenses on the home including repairs and renovation and costs such as mortgage or rent, taxes, insurance and maintenance.

There’s an alternate way to claim the deduction — the owner computes the number of square feet dedicated to the business, up to 300 square feet, and multiplies that number by $5 to arrive at the deductible amount. However, repairs or renovations cannot be included in this calculation.

Owners should remember that the home office deduction can only be taken if the office or work area is exclusively used for the business — setting up a desk in a corner of the family room doesn’t quality. And it must be your principal place of business. More information is available on www.irs.gov; search for Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.

Retirement Plans

Owners actually have more than a month to set up or contribute to an employee retirement plans — while some can still be set up by Dec. 31, plans known as Simplified Employee Pensions, or SEPs, can be set up as late as the filing deadline for the owner’s return. If the owner gets a six-month extension of the April 15 filing deadline, a SEP can be set up as late as Oct. 15, 2020, and still qualify as a deduction for the 2019 tax year.

Similarly, contributions to any employee retirement plan can be made as late as Oct. 15, 2020, as long as the owner obtained an extension. This means owners can decide well into next year how much money they want to contribute, and in turn, how big a deduction they can take for the contribution.

You can learn more at www.irs.gov. Search for Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small Business.

–The Associated Press

By Joyce M. Rosenberg AP Business Writer

Source: 3 Purchases or Investments You Can Make to Save Money on Your Business Taxes

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This Family Business Has Thrived for 64 Years by Selling Old-School Products Popular With Nostalgia Lovers–and the Amish

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Editor’s note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

Galen Lehman will take on anyone with his scythe. “I can cut grass fast or faster than a weed eater,” he says. Furthermore, after that grass is shorn, his electric-tool wielding opponent will be left with ears ringing and the stench of burnt oil clinging to his skin. Not Lehman. “I won’t smell like petrochemicals,” he says. “And my ears will have been filled with birdsong and the gentle swish, swish, swish of my scythe.”

Lehman’s, a family business in the small farming community of Kidron, Ohio, harks back to the days when a product’s bells and whistles were actual bells and whistles. In 1955, while the rest of the country swooned over newfangled inventions like wireless TV remotes and  microwave ovens, Jay Lehman started selling all things non-electrical to the local Amish population. Over the next six decades, others discovered the business, says Galen, who is Jay’s son and the CEO. (Jay’s daughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin, is vice president of marketing.) Today, gardeners, environmentalists, preppers, homesteaders, and the chronically nostalgic flock to this 120-employee business for their cook stoves and canning jars, candle-making supplies, and composting toilets.

Galen Lehman, CEO of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

What those populations share is the desire for a simpler life. Simple doesn’t mean easy, Galen explains: “It is not simpler to light an oil lamp than it is to flip on a light switch.” At Lehman’s, simpler means closer to nature. It means labor performed with your hands. It means understanding how products work just by looking at them. Often it means working alongside neighbors: easing one another’s loads.

Those values are cherished by the Amish, who still account for 20 percent of retail sales. The company also wholesales some products, like gas refrigerators, into Amish communities. In addition, about 250 of Lehman’s roughly 1,600 vendors are Amish. “Now we are buying more from Amish manufacturers than we are selling to the Amish,” says Jay Lehman, 90, who remained active in the business until a few months ago.

As more tourists and other outsiders (known as “English” in the Amish community) have descended on the store, most of Lehman’s Amish customers have retreated to the company’s second, smaller location in nearby Mount Hope. “The outsiders are sometimes a little invasive with their cameras and their questions and even just staring,” says Galen.

The Lehmans, who are Mennonite, embrace technology for their company: using high-tech to sell low-tech, as they like to say. E-commerce comprises half of sales, and the business is active on social media. But walk in the store on a given day and you might see a wood carver fashioning country scenes for display in the buggy barn or wander into a yoga class that incorporates goats.

Hank Rossiter, a retired nurse who lives nearby, has been buying sprinkling cans, kerosene lamps, axes, wood splitters, kitchen gear, and many other goods at Lehman’s for decades. Trying to give up plastics, he and his wife Marilyn recently went there to pick up some stainless steel drinking straws, and the tiny brushes to clean them. “I may think, how can I simplify this? How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” Rossiter says. “I’m pretty sure Lehman’s will have the answer.”

What would the Amish do?

Jay Lehman was born and raised in Kidron, a farm kid who plowed and planted, then worked as a mechanic in the local garage. In 1955, the owner of the local hardware store was retiring, and he got loans to take it over. For the first few years he had to pay rent on the building, so he drove a school bus while his father looked after the store.

Jay Lehman, founder of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

The previous owner had carried a large stock of goods for the Amish, and Jay decided to stick with that strategy. In the evenings, he roamed around the countryside in a pickup truck delivering purchases too large to fit in his customers’ buggies. “I would do it until the houses had no more lights in them,” says Jay. “Then I knew it was time to go home.”

The business grew slowly. Then, in 1961, Jay moved to Africa, where he arranged travel for missionaries. A period in New York doing similar work followed. His brother, David, ran the store until Jay’s return in the mid-’70s. The oil crisis was in full swing, “and everyone was panicking,” says Jay. “They said, what do we do? Well, what do the Amish do? They get along without these things. If the Amish can do this, we can do it too.” Sales soared.

Then a magazine called Organic Gardening published a laudatory article about the Victoria Strainer, a product sold by Lehman’s for separating out seeds from applesauce and tomatoes. Orders poured in from around the country; and the new customers wanted to know what else Lehman’s sold. The company mailed out product brochures and a catalog that by century’s end would reach more than a million customers and eventually earn Lehman’s a place in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

During the 1980s and ’90s, nostalgia largely drove new sales “People in their 60s and 70s wanted to do things the way they remembered when they were younger,” Galen says. Eventually, the rosy glow of a cherished past gave way to the dark clouds of an uncertain future. Lehman’s next big surge occurred in the late 1990s. Y2K fears stoked the Prepper movement, and even non-survivalists stocked up on lanterns, water filters, and kerosene cookers. Subsequent end-time panics–the end of the Mayan calendar, the blood moon prophecies–sparked mini-booms.

Angelo Merendino

But recently the Preppers have grown less important to Lehman’s. Galen is OK with that. “We don’t think being prepared means hunkering down and arming yourself against the zombie apocalypse or whatever is out to get you,” he says. “Being prepared is being ready with supplies that can help you and your neighbors and your family.”

Looking for the last big thing

For a business that regards “new and improved” as an oxymoron, sourcing can be a challenge. The non-electric market has been shrinking since the store’s earliest days, causing manufacturers to shut down or switch product lines. As a result, the Lehmans have sometimes scrambled for new suppliers, sourcing kerosene cook stoves from South America and gas refrigerators from Sweden, for example. The large majority of products, however, remain American-made.

The company has occasionally acquired expiring product lines, like apple peelers from the once-mighty Reading Hardware Company. In 2015, Lehman’s took over the struggling 108-year-old Aladdin Lamp Company, whose kerosene models incorporate a mantel over the wick to produce an unusually bright, hot light.

Occasionally, Galen designs products himself. Working in Lehman’s R&D facility–a corner of the store with some plywood benches and hammers–he recreated the Daisy butter churn, which had been out of production since midcentury. “It’s a pretty good replication of the original with some improvements,” he says. “It churns faster because of changes I made to the paddle.” He has also produced a hand-cranked grain mill out of cast aluminum rather than cast iron, which allowed him to cut the price in half.

Angelo Merendino

The store’s Amish-made products are extensive, ranging from rocking chairs and cherry baskets to whisk brooms and croquet sets. Amish manufacturers suit Lehman’s because they operate on a small scale and so don’t require huge minimum orders. The flip side is they typically can’t or won’t ramp up volume when demand for something unexpectedly surges. “A lot of times they will say, ‘I can’t make your product because it is time to make hay or I need to plant the fields,'” Galen says.

Wherever they’re sourced, many products arrive without instruction manuals or other documentation. As a staff resource, the company maintains a library of old books on subjects like canning and butchering. Galen has bolstered that knowledge by interviewing people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s about the finer points of operating old-style tools and devices. Working with an employee he created training programs for the company’s main product lines. Employees certified in the operation of oil lamps, water pumps, and other devices receive a bump in pay.

While the company’s nostalgia-driven demand is, by law of nature, declining, Lehman’s is enjoying both more and new business from other sources. The Amish population is growing both in the United States and around the world. And those notoriously screen-addicted Millennials have been surprisingly receptive to the company’s message of living simply and well.

“You talk to people who work in technology,” Galen says. “They go home, and more than anything else, they want to get some dirt under their fingernails.”

Leigh BuchananEditor-at-large, Inc. magazine

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Peter instills in us that doing things a different way can be the right way. Your own way. He walks the line of family business and business being his family flipping traditional business models upside down. While some would caution never to mix the two, he has by putting “place first” creating an environment that is welcoming to all those who are lucky enough to find this hidden gem of a restaurant – 2017 Restaurant of the year in Portland, OR – HAN OAK. With special thanks to core the TEDxPortland organizing team, 70+ volunteers and cherished partners – without you this experience would not be possible. Our event history can be found TEDxPortland.com In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. Peter’s restaurant, the Korean-inspired Han Oak, was Portland Monthly’s 2017 restaurant of the year. Inside its walls unfurls a world rooted in both tradition and fresh interpretations on authentic cuisines. Peter cut his teeth in New York for 13 years in the kitchen of Michelin star chef April Bloomfield before his desire to be closer to his family called him to the Rose City. In 2017, he was recognized by Food & Wine as best new chef and is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Key Points To Consider When Developing An International Business Strategy

Let us take a minute to salute the international companies, those that have gone multi-market or are on that path. They deserve our applause and respect. When I led market entry programs , I observed that these international firms tended to outperform the purely domestic firms, but for a reason you might not expect.

Companies that were operating in many markets tended to do better than those that had a presence only in their home market, but this had more to do with the international journey than the additional revenue.

The process of going international forced a company to adapt for each new market. As a result, the international firm became a learning organization which encompassed several different successful models, and the lessons from each new market could be applied in other markets. So the international company tended to develop a feedback mechanism and process improvements more readily than the purely domestic company.

Indeed, if you ask the leadership of that purely domestic firm what they want to do tomorrow, you are more likely to hear that they want to do tomorrow what they did yesterday. In other words, many business people (like all of us) have a bias for the familiar. We all like patterns of behavior and we like to stay in our comfort zone. I see this regularly when I discuss China opportunities. We will have a nice conversation with a lovely mid-size company, but unless it has an international culture it will have an overwhelming focus on building out a successful domestic model. The management philosophy at these firms tends to be:

Today In: Asia

— Reliant on the organic growth that has served them well over the years;

— Highly structured organization, task-driven, with people looking at monthly and quarterly results;

— Heavily product-focused.

These companies tend to dominate their space or be a segment leader. All of this means these companies have a strong incentive not to expand their current set of activities, and not to think about what changes might be in order. The key principle at these firms is MOTS – More of the Same. We do what we did last year, but we do more.

More revenue, more customers, more market share, more net. A pretty common-sense approach. But this is not a strategy. This is a behavior pattern. Let’s do what we have always done, presumably because it has more-or-less worked. This approach makes sense if the world is static. If the world is standing still, if society is standing still, if technology is standing still, and if competitors are standing still– then it is ok if the business stands still as well. But there are moving pieces out there, so you had better move as well. Unless the business incorporates a bit of a change culture, it risks falling behind.

Therefore, some sort of strategy is in order. Strategy can mean the allocation of resources without the normal formula for a return, displaying some capacity for experimentation. Strategy can mean you are doing something different, and the constituency for this change has not yet been established. Strategy can mean clearer costs than benefits.

Strategy can mean a journey into the unknown. You are taking steps that require you to stretch beyond current capabilities. A new product launch could represent a strategy. A new sales channel. Or a new market.

For most companies, the decision to go into a new market is a matter of strategy, because growth is no longer MOTS. The best expression of this might be a decision to go to China. On any given day it might not make sense to have a strategy. It makes sense to do what you did yesterday. But cumulatively, this could lead to a disaster.

On any given day, it might not make sense to go into a new market. But over the long run it could cripple the company to stay only in its home market. I caught up with Jack Ma recently at the Forbes Global CEO Conference. Jack has stepped down as Alibaba ($BABA) chairman, but he is still fiercely passionate about helping companies enter the China market. I had not seen him in almost a year, but we immediately saw this issue eye-to-eye.

Sooner or later, every company needs an international strategy. Sooner or later, every company needs a China strategy. Strategy is possible. Cost-free strategy is not. Those companies that are taking the international journey, we salute you.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Whether in banking, communications, trade negotiations, or e-commerce, my professional life is helping companies enter and succeed in new markets, with a particular focus on China. As Founder and CEO of Export Now, I run the largest international firm in China e-commerce. Export Now provides turn-key services for international brands in China e-commerce, including market strategy and competitive analysis, regulatory approval, store operations and fulfillment, financial settlement and remittance. Previously, I served as Asia Pacific Chair for Edelman Public Affairs and in my last role in government, I served as Undersecretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Previously, I served as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. Earlier, I served in Hong Kong and Singapore with Citibank and Bank of America and on the White House and National Security Council staff. New market book: http://amzn.to/2py3kqm WWII history book: http://amzn.to/2qtk0wK

Source: Key Points To Consider When Developing An International Business Strategy

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Welcome to the Vodcasts of the IUBH correspondence courses. (http://www.iubh-fernstudium.de). In this video of the course “Managing in a Global Economy”, part of the “Master of Business Administration” program, Jürgen-Mathias Seeler discusses the topic “Strategy Development in International Business”. By the end of this lecture you will be able to understand the meaning of strategy in international business, the potential benefits from global strategies, the most important strategic choices in globalized business operations and how to manage strategy development and strategy adoption successfully. To find out more about the “Master of Business Administration” program, please visit http://www.iubh-fernstudium.de/unsere….

Bill Gates: High Schoolers Should Cultivate 1 Skill to Thrive in 2030 and Beyond

No one can predict the future. Not even Bill Gates. But the billionaire founder of Microsoft and philanthropist can tell you which skills he thinks will give you a competitive edge in the future.

Gates recently touched on this topic when he delivered a lecture at his high school alma mater, Lakeside School in Seattle. Fun fact: Another famous alumni is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The two met when they were students there.

The first question the school’s head Bernie Noe posed to Bill Gates was this: “What do today’s students need to know to thrive in 2030 and 2040?”

You’re never too old to keep learning.

Gates encouraged the high school students to cultivate their curiosity. The more knowledge they seek out, the better they’ll be prepared for what’s ahead.

“For the curious learner, these are the best of times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or lectures that are online is better than ever,” Gates said.

To do that, Gates said students must build your sense of curiosity and basic framework of knowledge. History, science, and economics are the subject areas he sees as being particularly useful to be successful in the future.

What Bill Gates predicts for the decades ahead.

During the decades ahead, the digital revolution will surprise us,” Gates said.

This is where that foundational knowledge and drive to keep learning will come into play. He thinks having the self confidence and willingness to keep learning will help prepare students for that revolution.

For example, he says changes that will take place in healthcare and climate change will require an understanding of the sciences.

He also believes teeangers must be more informed than ever on current affairs and past events. “Democracy is going to more and more require participants,” he said. He says understanding history — both of the United States and the entire world — will prepare students to understand why the world is in the situation it’s in.

Bill Gates is his own case study.

When Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973, he didn’t know what the future would hold. There was one thing he took with him though that prepared him for his future success: “I had the ability to learn.”

He never expected that he would drop out of Harvard. In fact, Gates was so hungry for knowledge that he took extra classes in college just because they sounded fun and interesting. He admits that he wasn’t very sociable because his heavy course load was all-consuming. “I managed to get two and a half years there, and I loved every minute of it,” he said.

Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft with his former Lakeside buddy Paul Allen in 1975. The rest is history.

Betsy MikelOwner, Aveck

Source: Bill Gates: High Schoolers Should Cultivate 1 Skill to Thrive in 2030 and Beyond

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Check out these books by and about Bill Gates: * Business @ the Speed of Thought: https://amzn.to/2PAw27v * The Road Ahead: https://amzn.to/2QfWPDh * Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry: https://amzn.to/2PGLvmu * Who Is Bill Gates?: https://amzn.to/2PF7bzu * Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire: https://amzn.to/2qrh5Xc He consistently ranks in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people. He’s one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. He is also the second-most generous philanthropist in America, having given over $28 billion to charity. He’s Bill Gates and here are his Top 10 Rules for Success. * Join my BELIEVE newsletter: http://www.evancarmichael.com/newslet… 1. Have energy 2. Have a BAD influence 3. Work hard 4. Create the future 5. Enjoy what you do 6. Play bridge 7. Ask for advice 8. Pick good people 9. Don’t procrastinate 10. Have a sense of humor Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldPh0… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGZb9… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyg-D… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJcFs… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBdIe… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS6ys… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynQ5Z… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxaCO… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY2j_… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI_xu… ENGAGE * Subscribe to my channel: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c… * Leave a comment, thumbs up the video (please!) * Suppport me: http://www.evancarmichael.com/support/ CONNECT * Twitter: https://twitter.com/evancarmichael * Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvanCarmicha… * Google+: https://plus.google.com/1084697716903… * Website: http://www.evancarmichael.com EVAN * About: http://www.evancarmichael.com/about/ * Guides: http://www.evancarmichael.com/zhuge/ * Coaching: http://www.evancarmichael.com/movement/ * Speaking: http://www.evancarmichael.com/speaking/ * Gear: http://evancarmichael.com/gear SCHEDULE * Videos every day at 7am and 5pm EST * Weekends – Top 10 Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… * #Entspresso – Weekday mornings: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For In 2020

As the world evolves to embrace the 4th industrial revolution, our workplaces are changing. Just as other industrial revolutions transformed the skillset and experience required from the workforce, we can expect the same from this revolution. Only five years from now, 35 percent of the skills seen as essential today will change according to the World Economic Forum. While we’re not able to predict the future, yet, here are the ten most important job skills (plus a bonus one) every company will be looking for in 2020.

1.  Data Literacy

Data has become every organization’s most important asset—the “fuel” of the 4th industrial revolution. Companies that don’t use that fuel to drive their success will inevitably fall behind. So, to make data valuable, organizations must employ individuals who have data literacy and the skills to turn the data into business value.

2.  Critical Thinking

There’s no shortage of information and data, but individuals with the ability to discern what information is trustworthy among the abundant mix of misinformation such as fakes news, deep fakes, propaganda, and more will be critical to an organization’s success. Critical thinking doesn’t imply being negative; it’s about being able to objectively evaluate information and how it should be used or even if it should be trusted by an organization. Employees who are open-minded, yet able to judge the quality of information inundating us will be valued.

3.  Tech Savviness

Today In: Innovation

Technical skills will be required by employees doing just about every job since digital tools will be commonplace as the 4th industrial revolution impacts every industry. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, blockchain, and more will become a part of every worker’s everyday experience, whether the workplace is a factory or law firm. So, not only do people need to be comfortable around these tools, they will need to develop skills to work with them. Awareness of these technologies and relevant technical skills will be required for every job from a hairstylist to an accountant and everything in between.

4.  Adaptability and Flexibility

As quickly as the world is changing, the half-life of skills is constantly reducing. Therefore, people need to commit to learning new skills throughout their careers and know they must be adaptable to change. Important to this is understanding that what worked yesterday isn’t necessarily the best strategy for tomorrow, so openness to unlearning skills is also important. Additionally, people must be cognitively flexible to new ideas and ways of doing things.

5.  Creativity

Regardless of how many machines work beside us, humans are still better at creativity. It’s essential that creative humans are employed by companies to invent, imagine something new and dream up a better tomorrow. Tomorrow’s workplaces will demand new ways of thinking, and human creativity is critical to moving forward.

6.  Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Another area where humans have the edge on machines is with emotional intelligence—our ability to be aware of, control, and express our emotions and the emotions of others. This ability will be important as long as there are humans in the workforce since it impacts every interaction we have with one another.

7.  Cultural Intelligence and Diversity

Organizations are increasingly diverse, and effective employees must be able to respect differences and work with people of a different race, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Also, businesses are increasingly operating across international boundaries, which means it is important that employees are sensitive to other cultures, languages, political, and religious beliefs. Employees with strong cultural intelligence and who can adapt to others who might perceive the world differently are also key in developing more inclusive products and services for an organization.

8.  Leadership Skills

Leadership skills will be paramount for not only those at the top of a traditional corporate hierarchy but increasingly for those individuals throughout the company who are expected to lead in the 4th industrial revolution. Enabled by the support of machines, there will be more individuals who are in decision-making positions, whether leading project teams or departments. Understanding how to bring out the best in and inspire every individual within a diverse and distributed workforce requires strong leadership skills.

9.  Judgment and Complex Decision Making

Machines might be able to analyze data at a speed, and depth humans are incapable of, but many decisions regarding what to do with the information provided by machines must be still made by humans. Humans with the ability to take input from the data while considering how decisions can impact the broader community, including effects on human sensibilities such as morale, are important members of the team. So, even if the data support one decision, a human needs to step in to think about how a decision could impact other areas of the business, including its people.

10. Collaboration

When companies are looking to hire humans in the 4th industrial revolution, skills that are uniquely human such as collaboration and strong interpersonal skills will be emphasized. They will want employees on their team who can interact well with others and help drive the company forward collectively.

BONUS: In addition to the skills listed above that every company will be looking for in the 4th industrial revolution, there are several self-management skills that will make people more successful in the future, including self-motivation, prioritization/time management, stress management and the ability to embrace and celebrate change. Those people who have a growth mindset, are adept at experimenting and learning from mistakes, as well as have a sense of curiosity will be highly coveted in the 4th industrial revolution.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

Source: The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For In 2020

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5 Things Your Resume MUST HAVE To Get More Job Interviews: https://youtu.be/WATpBoVprRk J.T. Free Job Search Resource: https://www.workitdaily.com/why-shut-… Get hired faster by working with our team of experts. Learn more here: https://www.workitdaily.com/pricing/ Showcasing the right skill sets is essential when you’re on the hunt for a job. If you want to stand out in the hiring process, you need to consider other skills that can give you an advantage over the competition. Here are some skill sets that can give you a “leg up” in the hiring process (even if they don’t directly relate to the job to which you’re applying): 1. Experience With Relevant Technologies Do you have experience with any programs, applications, software, or other technologies that relate to your field? Be sure to emphasize them on your resume and LinkedIn profile, especially if they’re listed in the job description. 2. Fluency In A Foreign Languages If you speak another language, make sure you showcase it! Although most jobs don’t require fluency in other languages, it’s not a bad thing to add to your resume or LinkedIn profile. In fact, it can actually give you bonus points because there are so many people who aren’t fluent in other languages. 3. Customer Service Skills It doesn’t matter if you were a server at a restaurant, a customer service representative, or a retail associate, if you dealt with customers in the past, you likely developed some good customer service skills. The ability to work with people is such a valuable skill set. Even if you won’t be working directly with customers in the role to which you’re applying, these people skills you’ve developed can help you work with colleagues and navigate tricky situations in the workplace. These are just a few things you can do that can give you a leg up in the hiring process. However, there could be things you’re doing that are holding you back… To get insight into what these are and how to fix them, be sure to check out my free resource here: Thousands of other professionals have found this helpful, so be sure to check it out. Free Tutorial: https://www.workitdaily.com/why-shut-… And, if you want J.T. and her team to help you become a pro at interviewing, negotiating and more, then you need to check out our career support platform. Want to learn more about our affordable Premium Subscription? Learn more here: https://www.workitdaily.com/pricing/ Follow Work It Daily: https://www.workitdaily.com/ https://twitter.com/workitdaily?lang=en https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorkIhttps://www.facebook.com/WorkItDaily/ #JobSearch #JobSearchTips #Resume

Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

Every entrepreneur wants consistent monthly income to fuel their cash flow and business goals. However, between economic cycles and changing customer interests, that regular revenue may be hard to achieve.

I’ve talked with more and more small business owners lately who use a subscription business model. It involves offering monthly subscriptions for various products and services. Options for these subscriptions cover all kinds of items. Maybe you know someone who receives a subscription box filled with clothing or makeup. Perhaps you’ve tried making meals prepared by Blue Apron or you receive shaving supplies from Dollar Shave Club. Millions of people enjoy Netflix and Spotify for streaming. Other companies offer toys for kids and treat boxes for pets.

The subscription e-commerce industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. A 2018 McKinsey survey noted that nearly 60 percent of American consumers surveyed had multiple subscriptions. The monthly subscription economy doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. People love the time and money they save, as well as the excitement of personalization and convenience.

Besides attracting and retaining customers who want these benefits, there’s a significant advantage for subscription companies: recurring revenue. Instead of a one-time payment, monthly subscription businesses collect a monthly fee (or sometimes a year of fees in exchange for a lower monthly rate) before sending out the product or service.

This revenue model provides an upfront spike in cash flow along with a longer-term outlook for stable income. Moreover, you’ll get a better sense of product volume for inventory planning and management.

There is no time like the present to start a monthly subscription business to ride the lucrative wave. Here’s how to launch:

Decide on a subscription model type.

There are three main sub-models that can frame your monthly business within the subscription model. The curation model involves creating a personalized box for customers based on interests they share when they sign up. This might include sample-size versions of products related to a hobby or lifestyle.

The replenishment model is the one I use most often. It offers a regular stream of products the customer uses. For example, Amazon offers this under the name, “Subscribe and Save,” for many food items, cleaning supplies, vitamins, and more.

The access model provides a feeling of exclusivity for customers who get products and experiences not available to anyone without a subscription. Again, let’s reference Amazon. Its Prime program gives members special discounts, offers, and products not accessible to non-Prime members.

Consider a service-oriented subscription model.

You may be wondering how to find your niche. Consider a service-oriented skill set you have that could fit this approach. For example, if you specialize in graphic design, web development, or writing, consider this model for your monthly business.

In contrast to a monthly retainer model, a service-based subscription model provides upfront revenue while giving clients the opportunity to select a pricing tier with accompanying services that fit their needs.

Proceed like any business startup.

I’ve met many a startup founder that didn’t do the basics. Make sure you conduct research, determine a market need or interest, think about what the new product looks like, scope out any competition, and establish pricing.

Create a business plan that outlines your monthly business model, marketing plans, launch timeline, budget, and profitability forecast. Explore technology that helps automate the ordering, processing, and payment aspects of your subscription. I know entrepreneurs who use SaaS companies like Zuora or Zoho here. Also, study how other subscription brands have used marketing tools and platforms to launch and grow their business.

When you are ready to share your subscription business with your audience, consider a no-obligation trial. This entices people to try it on their terms and get excited to sign up for a longer period. In addition, make sure your website or social media promotion has a transparent subscription pricing guide that describes what customers receive at each pricing tier.

Taking all these steps prior to launch can set your monthly subscription business up for success. You want to know that you can attract customers and then deliver an exceptional experience so they maintain their subscriptions and spread the word.

Offer a recurring automatic payment method.

As part of establishing a successful subscription business, it’s ideal to offer old and new customers a way to select recurring automatic payments for their monthly subscription service. They can choose where to deduct the money from — a bank account or credit card.

This model works because it saves them from having to remember to make a payment each month. Instead, they can set up a payment method and comfortably receive the service on a regular basis.

By: John Boitnott

Source: Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

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For more info: http://smarturl.it/COBS-YT Could doubling or tripling your revenue this year be a reality? Are you serious about growing your business and maximizing its success? Business growth is extremely teachable and you can “Clone” success strategies and tactics as easily as it is to learn a recipe and bake a cake! The Cloning of Business Success is a one-of-a-kind, live hands on business event where you will be guided through a proven process for creating the specific blueprint to dramatically increase your revenue and profits in the next 6-12 months. I realize this is a bold claim, but the truth is, there are a few key things that (when done right), will have an immediate positive impact on your business’ revenue. I know this to be true because I’ve done it may times myself and have shown thousands of small business owners all over the world how to do it for themselves. Now, it’s your turn. For more info: http://smarturl.it/COBS-YT Subscribe To My Channel: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c… Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/johnassarafpage http://www.facebook.com/PraxisNowLLC Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnassaraf http://twitter.com/PraxisNowLLC Website: http://www.johnassaraf.com http://www.praxisnow.com

Why Your Managers Should Become Opportunity Managers

To successfully recruit, hire, train, retain and build the capacity of Opportunity Youth, organizations need a strong corps of frontline managers who have unique skills to successfully supervise, support and develop these young adults. We call these managers “Opportunity Managers”.

Opportunity Managers build strong working relationships with their team members. They are kind and empathetic, set clear (and high) expectations, and create an inclusive culture with high levels of support. These leaders are also strong at the day-to-day tactics of people management including coaching, giving and receiving positive and constructive feedback, communicating effectively with their team, and creating an environment where entry-level employees can grow over time. Given the skills that Opportunity Managers possess, it is no surprise that these managers frequently have a profound impact on the lives and the careers of the young adults that they supervise.

Becoming an “Opportunity Manager”

At Grads of Life, we believe that strong managers are “made”, not “born”. Skills such as relationship-building and effective communication are skills that can be learned. We have developed the Opportunity Manager Training (OMT). The OMT is an engaging, relevant, and actionable online training to help frontline managers learn to effectively supervise and support their team. The training is 100% online, self-paced, and contains actionable modules that frontline managers can begin using immediately.

One such module highlights the impact that a frontline manager had on one of her team members.

The Return on Investment

Kelly’s experience is a powerful example of how skilled managers can help their team. Research shows that when frontline team members – especially Opportunity Youth – feel supported, the business thrives. In 2007, The GAP created the This Way Ahead Initiative to recruit and train Opportunity Youth to work in its stores. The initiative has expanded over time because participants stayed with GAP twice as long as their peers and have higher employee engagement scores. Given the high cost of turnover and low employee engagement scores, it makes business sense to engage with new ways to improve on retention and engagement metrics.

Having frontline managers who effectively manage diverse teams also benefits the managers themselves. McKinsey surveyed frontline managers and found that over 80% of them are unhappy with their performance. The study found that the majority of managers surveyed are not engaged in “high value” practices such as coaching their team members, a practice that ultimately improves the performance of the organization. As managers become more effective in their work, and as their team members become more productive, these managers will likely enjoy their work more. This pattern can lead to a virtuous cycle.

When strong managers support their team, their team members have greater workplace engagement and higher performance rates. When team members perform better, not only does your business grow but you now have a pipeline of committed, high-performing individuals who can grow your business and grow with your business. It’s a win-win-win.


Learn more about our Opportunity Manager Training, and how Grads of Life can help your organization grow your frontline talent.

Philip Price is the Product Management Lead at Grads of Life. He designs, builds and develops online programs and face-to-face trainings to help workplaces become more inclusive and effective. This past year, Philip designed and built the Opportunity Manager Training, an innovative program designed to help frontline managers more effectively supervise and support diverse young adults in the workplace. Prior to joining Grads of Life, Philip designed and developed online training programs for frontline healthcare workers and built leadership development programs for managers at Fortune 1000 companies.

Philip is an educator at heart. He is committed to serving young people who have not traditionally been served well. He has led schools in Philadelphia, PA and Providence, RI and has worked with young people as a teacher and outdoor educator in Providence RI, New York City, Florida and South Africa.

Philip holds an MBA from American University, and MA from Columbia University Teachers College and a BA from Brown University. He lives in Philadelphia with his family.

Source: Why Your Managers Should Become Opportunity Managers

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