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Ways to Hire Top Talent When You Can’t Afford to Pay Top Dollar

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

When faced with a choice between hiring an inexperienced employee and an award-winning superstar, most organizations would prefer to hire the superstar. The hitch is that the superstar’s compensation expectations may exceed what a smaller company can afford.

It may be possible to rationalize bringing them on board and cutting budgets in other areas to afford their high pay rate. Some companies have done this in order to tap into the skills and network of top salespeople, for example. The expectation there is that the employee will more than cover their elevated salary with all the new business they bring in. And in many cases, that is the case. The new hire effectively self-funds their compensation package.

However, with non-sales roles, it may not be possible to tie the employee’s pay to immediate revenue increases. In fact, their job may not be impacting revenue directly at all, if they are in an administrative or research position, for example. 

So, what can you do to attract and retain such high performers when your bottom line can’t afford a big payday right now?

While the annual report, The 2021 Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker,” conducted by EmployBridge, did confirm that pay is the number one factor hourly workers consider when accepting a job—32% claimed it was their top priority—there are a number of other considerations that impact that decision, and may prove equally important in recruiting and retaining workers:

Job security

Twelve percent of workers surveyed indicated that job security was important to them. So how can you convey that the company and their position, in particular, will be around long-term? Can you offer a year-long renewable contract? Can you share financial results company-wide so that all employees can see how the company is doing and what they can do to continue to fuel its success?


Another 12% of respondents reported that their schedule was a big deciding factor. For some workers, that might mean that they want flexibility. During the pandemic, being able to work from home became essential for many employees with children who were being schooled remotely. Many want to continue to have that option. Can you provide it? Other workers may prefer certain shifts, whether that’s overnight or day. Can you offer any flexibility in choosing the timing of shifts?

Advancement opportunities

Some employees—6% in this study—indicated that opportunities to be promoted would impact their employment choice. So, can you design a clear career path or path to promotion for your employees? Your business may have ongoing advancement opportunities, but do your employees understand how to find out about them and be considered? Do you have any kind of mentoring program to help high potential employees get noticed?

Education and skill-building

Five percent of those surveyed reported that the opportunity to receive training, to add or enhance skills, was desirable in an employer. What kind of training can you offer? Can you provide each employee with an annual professional development budget to use for skill-building? Can you partner with a local community college to design a program or series of courses for your employees? Do you offer education reimbursement for employees who want to earn a degree? All of these offerings could tip the scales in your favor.

Other offerings that might also prove desirable could include:

Paid time off

What is your policy regarding vacation time or sick days? Are you liberal with days off? Adding personal days or extra vacation time to a new hire’s compensation package is the equivalent of giving them extra compensation, except that you didn’t need to write an additional check. Some companies even offer unlimited vacation, as long as the work gets done. 

Long-term incentives

Even if your business can’t afford to pay top dollar right now, how about identifying larger goals that could trigger a payout to employees. Sometimes referred to as “long-term incentive plans (LTIP),” these programs can be a way to retain skilled workers, with the promise of a big bonus when a milestone is reached. That milestone could be a sales target, a productivity goal, a corporate buyout, or something else. Make sure you’re prepared to write those checks, however, when the target is hit.

A voice in company decision-making

The more employees feel that they’re part of a company, or have a say in how it is run, the more likely they are to stay. So how about creating departmental advisory boards, to get employees involved in policy-setting? Or hold regular town hall meetings, where employees present recent successes, to raise the profile of your hard workers. Find ways to involve top performers in the company’s operations—it could be a useful way of identifying potential successors to current business leaders.

Social activities

Another big reason that employees stick around is that they like their boss and/or their coworkers. So, what can you do to foster bonding within your company? Even if you can’t afford a big off-site gathering in Europe, how about monthly fun events? Depending on where your company is based, you could have an evening of snow skiing or a day at a local amusement park. Or, even simpler, you could have a Friday night potluck dinner, or a chili or barbeque cook-off. Creating opportunities for employees to get to know each other as people, rather than colleagues, can pay off in terms of retention and loyalty.

If your goal is to attract top performers, brainstorm how to craft a compensation package that you can afford and that will give candidates what they value, even if it isn’t quite as much money as they had hoped for.

6 Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Clients that Cost Next to Nothing

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

It’s customary in many industries for companies to give their customers gifts of some kind during the holiday season. For example, beauty salons often give clients small samples of beauty products in appreciation for their business. Accounting firms sometimes mail out annual calendars for the coming year. Salespeople have been known to hand out jars full of candy, which they commit to refilling during the next year. And many firms mail out holiday greetings to let their best customers know their business is appreciated.

These are all great ideas and customers certainly appreciate signs that they are valued, but don’t feel that you need to spend lots of money to express your gratitude. Especially in business-to-business (B2B) relationships, there are many ways you can show appreciation today that won’t cost a dime, but that can reap rewards for your client that can be worth more than a gift basket or nice bottle of wine.

Leave a 5-star review

Leaving a 5-star review on Yelp, Google, Amazon, or wherever your client or supplier is visible can provide a boost to their business. Since many potential customers turn to online reviews for a sense of whether a company is reputable, the addition of a 5-star review may ultimately help sway a potential customer their way. 

For example, adding a 5-star review to a book on Amazon can help the author attract more attention and potentially sell more copies. The same with the caterer whose website you just redesigned, or the payroll provider your company uses. They would love to see a positive review on Yelp or Google. 

Not only does a positive review like that help with Google search rankings, it also adds credibility and legitimacy to a business. Positive reviews are like gold, and they cost you nothing to provide.

Give them a shout-out on social media

Another way to show appreciation is to share a post on social media dedicated to saying nice things about a client or supplier. 

You could take a photo of a product or memorable experience you had or witnessed, for example. Post it to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter, to spread the word that you were completely delighted with what your client provided in the way of goods or services.

Or create a post and mention how great the business is, and that you’re a fan. It can be as easy as that.

Refer them business

Of course, nothing beats sending other businesses new clients.

Whenever you spot an opportunity to refer clients to other clients, you demonstrate the value of doing business with you and your company. Some companies go so far as to create a list of recommended partners. For example, real estate agents keep lists of their go-to home stagers, gardeners, electricians, and inspectors, which they routinely share with potential clients. Commercial printers have lists of designers, copywriters, illustrators, and photographers they like working with.

Create your own list of preferred partners.

Enter an awards program

Ask for your client’s permission to enter your work together into an awards program or competition. Not only does this demonstrate how happy you are with the end result, but it creates an opportunity for the client to be recognized as well.

A graphic designer, for example, could enter a logo or brochure design into a marketing communications awards program. A public relations (PR) firm could enter a publicity campaign into a PR competition. And a painting or landscape contractor could enter photos of client buildings or grounds into programs that recognize top work in their industry.

Whether you win or not isn’t as important as demonstrating to your clients that you’re proud of the work you did, and signaling that they should be, too.

Send a personal note

Our heavy reliance on electronic communications means that snail mail is unexpected. Take a minute to handwrite a personal note of thanks, mentioning specific details of your work together with your client that you enjoyed or appreciated.

For example, if you’re a career coach, you could thank a client for the opportunity to assist them in finding a new career opportunity and for the chance to be part of their journey. If you’re a retailer, you could thank your clients for continuing to patronize your company during a pandemic year. Tell them you’re looking forward to serving them in the New Year as well.

The note doesn’t have to be more than a few sentences, but because no one else is sending out handwritten notes, yours will be noticed and appreciated. And all it costs is a first-class stamp.

Provide a complimentary service

If your business provides a range of products or services, consider giving away something small as a token of appreciation.

Although products cost cash, services will generally only cost your time, depending on what you provide. For example, photographers could send out a free print of a shot the client didn’t select as part of their photography package, as a holiday thank-you. Housecleaning services could clean an extra room in the house, or do a deep clean of the refrigerator at no extra charge during the holidays. And auto mechanics could top off all the fluids and check and fill the air in all the tires on client cars.

These extra steps don’t have to take a lot of time or cost much money, but going beyond what’s expected to express appreciation to your clients will be memorable.

How to Pitch Local Media Outlets

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

While your business may serve a national or even global customer base, your local news and broadcast outlets are likely to be the most interested in learning about your company. Since their purpose is reporting on local people, organizations, and events, news about you and your business fits right into what many area media outlets want to report on.

And the publicity that can result is one of the best and cheapest ways to promote your business. 

That’s because not only is the media coverage free (versus advertising or some other kind of promotion), but with each quote or mention comes the implied third-party endorsement of the media outlet. Assuming the article topic is positive, your company’s reputation can only be enhanced when readers see you’ve been interviewed in the local business magazine or in the daily newspaper. The natural assumption is that you’re successful, and that’s why the reporter interviewed you.

Local publicity can also be leveraged to pursue national or industry attention.

Believe it or not, catching the attention of local news and broadcast reporters isn’t as difficult as you might expect.

The key is coming up with article ideas that are related to your company, but that go beyond simply profiling you. Profiles are fantastic, but it’s typically harder to convince a reporter to write a piece only about your business. Better to come up with topics that also quote you, rather than being the sole focus.

Proposing Potential Articles

What you need to do is suggest article topics, also known as “pitching.” 

Pitching article ideas is a 4-step process that begins with studying the newspaper, magazine, or website you want to be featured in.

  1. Do your research. That means looking at the different sections of, say, the paper, to identify the type of news each section covers. Make a list of what you see as the different departments.

That might include business, sports, personal finance, home and real estate, national news, and/or other subjects. 

Then, read each section to identify the types of articles that are written. Are they profiles of a single person or organization? Are they how-to pieces? Do they tie local happenings to national trends? Do they quote experts or local residents?

  1. Brainstorm article ideas. Now that you’re more familiar with each section of your local paper (or magazine or website), it’s time to think up different topics that could fit within those sections.

Daily newspapers want topics that are timely, meaning happening now or in the next week. The same is generally true of websites, since they can update their content quickly. 

Magazines want pitches for topics relevant two to three months in advance; printing and distribution takes that long, so don’t bother pitching a magazine an idea for next month. You’re too late at that point.

Using what you observed from your read of your newspaper, magazine, or website, think about what articles might be of interest to your local community that have to do with your business—not just a write-up describing your company, but having to do with what you sell, how you sell, and who you sell to.

For example, let’s say you run a gift shop and you’re having a special artist demonstration next month. Given the timeframe, you know this is only appropriate for newspapers and websites. Some of the possible articles you could pitch around this one event include:

  • A piece about the event itself, offering to connect the arts reporter with the artist who will be in town, for an interview.
  • A calendar listing inviting members of the public to attend the demonstration.
  • A trends piece about the type of art being demonstrated and why it has caught on recently; why it has become increasingly popular in the last few months.
  • A round-up article about women artists, including the one coming in to provide the demonstration.
  • A business article about how effective in-store demonstrations are in generating sales.
  • A piece offering tips to other gift shops for scheduling effective demonstrations or events

These are just ideas to get you started, but think about your business and all the different angles that might be of interest to a reporter.

  1. Find your contact. Once you have a specific idea for an article you want to pitch, you need to track down the name and contact information for the editor who is responsible for that particular department. If you’re reading a print newspaper or magazine, there is usually a masthead—often a page or section of a page near the front—that lists all of the reporters and editors. 

If you can’t find that list in print, use Google to identify who the appropriate person is to connect with.

  1. Send a summary of your pitch. When you have an idea and you know who is most likely to be responsible for writing it, send an email summarizing your idea. In the subject line of your email, you could write “Article idea,” to make it clear why you’re getting in touch.

This should be a 3- to 4-paragraph summary of who you are, what your suggestion is for an article, with details regarding why that reporter would be interested (because it’s a local event, represents a local trend, or ties into a national news piece, for example), and an offer to share more information if they’re interested.

Keep in mind that you’re not offering to write the article, nor are you sending a draft of what you’d like to see in print. You’re sending an idea that would include quoting you as a resource.

Another Approach: Write a Press Release

Now, if you want to have a little more control over what is written, you could instead draft a press release and send it out to multiple media outlets at once in the hopes that they use will that information in an upcoming story. 

Press releases are designed to make announcements, primarily, so you could prepare one if you want to share information about:

  • An upcoming event
  • An honor or award your business received
  • A new location
  • A new product or service
  • A new partnership or joint venture
  • A new employee
  • An employee who was promoted

Press releases are not appropriate to pitch individual articles, however.

Hubspot has a useful article on how to format a press release, along with some free templates, if you decide you’d rather send something out en masse.

Pursuing media coverage in local newspapers, magazines, bulletins, and community gazettes is a great first step to landing national publicity, and a smart way to raise awareness of your company’s existence within your local community.

How to Improve Your Company’s Profitability

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Although many business owners focus on sales as the most important metric of success, profitability, or how much you have left after you pay all your bills, is actually a much better measure of how well you’re doing. Profits are what allow you to grow and expand. They also determine whether you can afford to stay in business. 

So, what, exactly, can you do to increase profitability in your business?

There are really two basic ways to boost profits: 1) Increase sales while holding costs steady or 2) Reduce costs associated with those sales. 

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take on either front to increase your profits.

Increase sales

Driving up the amount of top line revenue your company generates is one approach to increasing profitability. Some ways to do this include:

Increase the value of each sale. It’s always easier to sell more to your existing customers than to go out and find new customers. So, one way to boost profits is to get your current customer base to buy more from you. That could be by raising your prices, for example, or by giving them reason to buy a wider variety of products and services. If you own a beauty salon, for example, you might persuade your customers to buy their hair products from you, on top of the cut and style they normally pay you for. The goal is to increase the average amount each customer spends with you. 

Increase the volume of sales. Another approach is to get your customers to buy more frequently from you. The average sale remains the same, but you receive more payments than you usually do. You could do that by giving them an incentive to come in more often. Such as if you run a restaurant, you might give diners a reason to come back more than the typical once a month they usually do. Or if you run a doggy daycare, you might offer a temporary discount for bringing dogs in more than, say, once a week—to get clients in the habit of dropping their dogs off more frequently.

Increase your service area. Even without increasing costs or selling more to your existing clients, you can increase your potential market by expanding your geographic service area. That might entail announcing that you deliver to new zip codes, or by advertising in media that serve a broader market. The key is spreading the word that customers outside your current territory can now easily buy from you. One step you can take is creating a website to serve customers nationwide, or even globally. Furniture retailer IKEA used to only sell through its retail stores, making it difficult for customers who weren’t local to buy from the company. Creating a website and accepting online orders has greatly expanded its customer base. You can do the same.

Create new products or services. Another way to convince customers to spend their money with you is to give them other products and services to acquire. You may have customers who rely on you for one or two types of services, but who would gladly buy more if you offered it. For example, a restaurant could add more dessert offerings, a consultant could add an annual evaluation or assessment to track progress, and a personal trainer could begin to sell apparel or vitamins alongside their weekly workout sessions. Keep in mind that the products or services you add to your offerings don’t have to be things you personally create; you could explore affiliate relationships, where you sell products others have created in exchange for a small commission.

Reduce costs

The converse of increasing the topline revenue is looking at how to reduce cash outflow. Some tactics toward that end are to:

Negotiate with suppliers. Reducing the cost of your products and services begins with looking at what you’re paying your suppliers. Can you find a way to reduce your cost of goods sold by buying in larger quantities, for example? Can you negotiate for your supplier to pay freight costs? Or can you find a supplier who is closer to your operations or less expensive? Explore with your suppliers what kind of discounts they might offer you, or strategies they might recommend to drive down your costs.

Delegate to lower-cost suppliers. Sometimes it’s possible to find suppliers to take on the responsibility for managing parts of your business and that cost less than an employee’s salary. For example, using an outside bookkeeper might be less expensive than adding a full-time staffer. Or retaining a social media manager, content creator, or prototype designer on a contract basis, per project, might turn out to be less expensive than the ongoing expense of an employee, especially if there isn’t 40 hours of work to be done each and every week. 

Reduce direct costs. Sometimes the problem with expenses has to do with basic overhead, such as what you’re paying for office or warehouse space, what you’re spending on utilities, or on employee salaries. Could you save money by moving? By reducing the hours you’re open (without significantly impacting sales)? By installing solar panels to generate electricity? Reducing what you must pay each month, separate from anything related to production, can dramatically impact your profitability.

Improve productivity. Helping your employees do more in less time is another way to reduce indirect costs associated with serving customers. Offering training, for example, is a great way to help staff members learn how to complete tasks in less time, or with fewer errors, which can also drive up costs. In some cases, you may need to invest in tools and technology to enable productivity improvements, so confirm that the long-term benefit will more than pay for what you’re spending. Automating some tasks, for example, is another strategy for productivity improvements.

Look at both sides of the balance sheet—meaning cash coming in and going out—for clues to how you can increase your company’s profitability.

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