100 episodes

The Small Biz Ahead podcast is a weekly podcast that answers small business owner's most common questions. Hosted by Elizabeth Larkin and small business owner and expert Gene Marks, this weekly podcast will help you to run your business more efficiently. Topics include cash flow management, managing employees, customer service and retention, productivity, and generating new leads for your small business.

Small Biz Ahead | Small Business | Starting a Business The Hartford

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The Small Biz Ahead podcast is a weekly podcast that answers small business owner's most common questions. Hosted by Elizabeth Larkin and small business owner and expert Gene Marks, this weekly podcast will help you to run your business more efficiently. Topics include cash flow management, managing employees, customer service and retention, productivity, and generating new leads for your small business.

    How Can I Become More Creative with My Small Business during COVID-19?

    How Can I Become More Creative with My Small Business during COVID-19?

    When times get challenging, nothing will serve you better as a small business owner than tapping into your creativity. From operational issues to financial struggles, all it takes is a little innovation to help you find an appropriate solution. In this episode, Gene Marks along with special guest, Luciana Gomez discuss the creative strategies that not only enabled her to keep her business running, but also allowed her to retain all her current employees.

    Executive Summary

    0:47—Today's Topic: How Can I Become More Creative with My Small Business during COVID-19?

    2:05—One way to sustain your small business during periods of economic downturn is to have multiple streams of income.

    4:51—While it is possible to keep all your current employees, you'll have to adjust your business to accommodate both your finances and the new safety guidelines. These adjustments might include reducing your usual business hours, decreasing the number of onsite staff members during each shift, and assigning more employees to take care of the deliveries or other offsite work.

    7:52—Cash reserves and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans can help shoulder some of the financial strain your business might be experiencing.

    9:17—Because safety is your primary concern right now, you must continue to enforce social distancing policies. It's better to have less traffic in your business than to risk the health of your staff and customers.

    11:02—Apart from PPP loans, you should also consider applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

    13:03—If you belong to a marginalized group, be sure to research grants, loans and financing options that are reserved specifically for minority business owners.

    15:30—Rather than panicking, business owners should use this current crisis to fuel their creativity and develop more innovative ways to run their operations.


    Cafe VictoriaPaycheck Protection Program LoanEconomic Injury Disaster Loan


    Gene: Hey everybody and welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. My name is Gene Marks from The Marks Group and I'm glad that you have joined us. And also joining us today is Luciana Gomez, who is the owner and founder of Cafe Victoria in Dallas. Her website is cafevictoriadallas.com, and I will give that at the end of this segment as well. But Luciana, welcome. Can you give me an awkward hello?

    Luciana: Hi, Gene. Awkward. Is this awkward enough?

    Gene: Yeah, that's awkward enough.

    Luciana: Or I do have an accent, so let's just say-

    Gene: Oh, no, that's plenty awkward.

    Luciana: Everything I say will be awkward.

    Gene: No, that's great. I appreciate that. I'm glad you're joining me today, Cafe Victoria, this is a coffee shop?

    Luciana: It is. It is a neighborhood coffee shop. We're a small shop in the heart of Victory Park, which is a small neighborhood next to downtown Dall...

    • 20 min
    Which Precautionary Measures Will Best Serve Your Small Business Right Now?

    Which Precautionary Measures Will Best Serve Your Small Business Right Now?

    If COVID-19 has taught us anything as small business owners, it's that it pays to be prepared. Whether it's through financial reserves or emergency resources, having a safety net for your business allows you to be ready for whatever economic downturns may come your way. In this episode, Gene Marks and his special guest Mindy Yanish share several precautionary measures that helped sustain her business throughout this pandemic.

    Executive Summary

    0:34—Today's Topic: Which Precautionary Measures Will Best Serve My Small Business Right Now?

    3:16—If you sense that your business is approaching a period of diminished sales from its brick-and-mortar storefront, it might be more cost-effective to temporarily close up shop in favor of an online platform.

    4:16—Avoiding debt and building up strong cash reserves also provide your business with a financial buffer for when profit margins are low.

    5:17 —Trust your instincts when they tell you to proceed with caution.

    9:07—While it is easy to seclude yourself and your business under our current circumstances, continue to stay involved in community outreach programs. This will not only help forge genuine relationships with your existing clientele, but it will also allow you to broaden your customer base.

    11:57—Take advantage of all the generous payment plans and lower rates that are being offered right now.

    12:18—Even if you have reserves, don't be afraid to seek out financial assistance. This will help shoulder some of your operating expenses and keep you from completely depleting your savings.

    13:24—Because of a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases, we need to extend our efforts to protect our small businesses.


    Offerings Gallery


    Gene: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Gene Marks. My friend, John Aidukonis is not here today, so I'm going to go solo. I've got a great session and a great segment planned with a great interview with Mindy Yanish, who is the owner of Offerings Gallery in Katonah, New York, which is Westchester County, Mindy, right, about an hour from New York City?

    Mindy: That's right.

    Gene: Well, it's great that you're on here. First of all, let's get some of the basic facts down. Offerings Gallery, it's offeringsgallery.com. What does the store sell?

    Mindy: Well, basically it is a community resource and that's what it's evolving more and more in, but the thing that I've always believed in is trying to support handmade American products. I have a beautiful curated selection of American handmade jewelry, and I know all the artists that I represent personally. So it's really more like a big extended family, which is my favorite part. And then I also have handmade pottery, also all American made blown glass, fine art, and some very interesting, unusual smattering of antiques, as well as my own art.

    Gene: This is just a retail shop on a main street, or do you sell-

    Mindy: Yeah, it's on the main street of Katonah .

    Gene: Got it. I get this vision that Katonah is this beautiful little New York State town, with the main street and drug store and outdoor restaurants.

    Mindy: It is. It's a very precious gem of a town. It's kind of rare in that it's mostly local owned,

    • 17 min
    What Can You Do to Help Your Small Business Survive COVID-19?

    What Can You Do to Help Your Small Business Survive COVID-19?

    To say that COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on the small business community would be a serious understatement. All around the world, countless businesses are struggling to maintain their operations due to this pandemic. But, while there's no way to escape the consequences of this devastating health crisis, there are several steps you can take to keep your small business up and running during these difficult times. In this episode, Gene Marks and special guest Anita Comisky share several strategies that helped protect her business from the negative effects of COVID-19.

    Executive Summary

    0:35—Today's Topic: What Can I Do to Help My Small Business Survive Covid-19?

    3:23—Because so many retail stores have been affected by COVID-19, business owners need to think beyond traditional sales platforms if they want to effectively diversify their channels.

    5:25—In order to navigate this health crisis, small business owners are encouraged to carefully assess their potential sales numbers and then, adjust their operating expenses accordingly.

    6:14—While a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan can help shoulder some of your business's financial burdens, it is only a short term solution. Small businesses really need to concentrate on revamping their marketing strategies and online presence if they want to survive this pandemic.

    7:21—Rather than saving your cash reserves for future investments, use them to supplement your current working capital.

    8:43—When evaluating your cash flow for the next few months, it is not enough to merely set new sales goals; you also need to create a realistic timeline for when you can actually collect those receivables.

    10:27—Now is an ideal time to take a hard look at your current customer base and think about how you can broaden it. By targeting new audiences, you will inevitably open your business up to new sales channels and opportunities.

    13:54—As cities prepare to reopen, make sure that your business is equipped to handle the “new normal," both in terms of operations and marketing.

    14:45—Business owners should prepare an extended cash flow in case there is a second wave of COVID-19 cases. This will prevent them from incurring any additional debt from unnecessary expenses.


    Amelia Toffee


    Gene: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Gene Marks. I am not joined today by Jon Aidukonis due to technical issues. We miss him, but he will be back, I am sure, on our next podcast. But in the meantime, I wanted to introduce my guest who has a really interesting story to tell about herself and her business. Her name is Anita Comisky. She's the founder of Amelia Toffee Company down in Florida. Anita, first of all, let me ask you for an awkward, hello.

    Anita: Hi.

    Gene: It's always awkward when you get these things started. So listen, you and I, we knew each other from before and I kind of heard your story earlier, but let me first... Let me ask you to tell the crowd listening, what exactly does Amelia Toffee Company do? Give us a little history.

    Anita: Well, we started about five years ago and we started because I'd been making toffee for 50 years and just like many other folks in the food busines...

    • 17 min
    Will a Paycheck Protection Program Loan Help My Business?

    Will a Paycheck Protection Program Loan Help My Business?

    For many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat due to COVID-19, the idea of taking out another loan might seem like an unnecessary risk. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to the generous terms of the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), small businesses owners now have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance without having to worry about incurring significant debt. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks discuss the benefits of applying for a PPP loan and how it can help your small business thrive during this current health crisis.

    Executive Summary

    1:05—Today's Topic: Should My Small Business Apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan?

    3:07—Now is the ideal time for qualifying small businesses to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. This loan, which you can apply for until June 30, is intended to keep your workforce employed for the duration of this pandemic.

    3:42—Due to the generous terms and conditions of the PPP loan, you don't need to worry so much about forgiveness once you're approved. Instead, use this time to focus on actually running your business.

    6:01—If for some reason you don't qualify for forgiveness on your loan, the interest rate will only be 1% over a 5-year period. After which, you will still have access to a wide range of competitive refinance options.

    8:01—Because applying for forgiveness is a relatively simple process, banks are encouraging owners to take care of this matter upfront.

    12:29—Business owners should also use this time to evaluate their current business practices and determine which areas need restructuring. These changes could prove beneficial for both a potential second wave and for life after COVID-19.


    The Paycheck Protection Program

    Full Forgiveness Applications for the Paycheck Protection Program

    Small Biz Ahead


    Jon: Good morning, and welcome back to The Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Jon Aidukonis, and I'm here with Gene Marks from the Marks Group. It's been a couple months since we last connected, so how are you doing, Gene?

    Gene: I am doing okay, Jon. Just sheltering in and getting ready to go back out into the world and enjoy. How about yourself?

    Jon: Do them all things. Yeah. A new month. We're getting close to summer. For those of you listening, we're recording this in mid-June. Just had a birthday. We're getting ready for a season where hopefully, at least looking out the window, it's going to feel like a nice vacation.

    Gene: I agree. And I don't know about you, but you can ask me anything you want about anything on Netflix and I can probably answer that question.

    Jon: I can probably balance you out on the Hulu side. I've gotten very used to Hulu Originals over the past couple of months. What's interesting is I think last time we talked was right before the world changed to what we're going through right now. It was right before COVID. We were prepping on a whole bunch of marketing advice for the year, some fun planning, tips and tricks, getting some testimonials and stories from some of our fellow small business owners and experts. And come release day, we interacted with something called a stay at home order, right? Where states across the country were like,

    • 17 min
    How Can I Use Market Research to Help My Small Business?

    How Can I Use Market Research to Help My Small Business?

    Change is an integral part of growing any small business. After all, businesses must constantly be evolving if they wish to stay competitive in their respective fields. Still, prior to altering an existing product or launching a new service, it is important for small business owners to examine how these changes could potentially impact their current consumer base. In this episode, Gene Marks and Jon Aidukonis discuss how small business owners can utilize various market research strategies to determine how well a new product or service will be received.

    Executive Summary

    2:56—Today's Topic: How Can Market Research Help My Small Business?

    4:16—Before you commit to changing one of your business's staple products or services, it is best to conduct a trial run to ensure that your current customer base will respond positively to this change.

    8:47—If you are launching a business, you should examine the leading competitors in your field. Consult their customer base to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and then, model your new business accordingly.

    11:02—Market research is particularly important if you are presenting a new product or service. Regardless of how optimistic you may feel about your idea, there are often very practical reasons behind why a specific product or service has never been successfully executed before.

    14:32—While it may seem expensive, investing in some initial marketing research can save you even more money in the long run.

    16:13— Be sure to explore some lesser known or previously untapped resources when conducting your research, particularly professional networks and community organizations that have a close tie to your market.

    16:59—As a small business owner, you need to be patient and open enough to listen to constructive criticism.


    National Small Business Resource Guide


    Jon: Hello, welcome to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. My name is Jon Aidukonis. I am a director of marketing at the Hartford. I'm here with my cohost Gene Marks, small business extraordinaire.

    Gene: I always thought it was Jon Aidukonis, actually. It's Aidukonis.

    Jon: Yeah, it's a super phonetic last name.

    Gene: So we were talking right before we started airing this and by the way everybody, Jon is our new host and partner here on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. So welcome.

    Jon: Thank you.

    Gene: Taking over for Elizabeth and we're glad that so glad that you're here, but you were sick over the holidays. I was sick over the holidays. You had bronchitis though.

    Jon: I did. Yes. It was a nice excuse to relax and kind of have an easy holiday season.

    Gene: Yeah, I got violently ill on Christmas Eve. I went and saw the Star Wars movie, which did not make me violently ill, although it was okay, but then I went out to dinner and it was bad. It was like food poisoning. So same thing. So like all of Christmas day I just laid around and I did nothing. And you know what? That was okay.

    Jon: Yeah. I think it's the first year ever where I got to relax at the end of the year and take an inventory and recharge and the circumstances that prompted that weren't good, but it was actually good when I started to think about what am I trying to do in 2020 because I was stuck with myself.

    Gene: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's funny here and it's because it was two weeks this year, it was a Wednesday and a Wednesday it was Christmas day and then new year's day, it's like both those two weeks were just gone.

    Jon: Sure, it went by very fast.

    Gene: Yeah. Here at The Hartford, it was empty from what I heard. It was like a ghost town.

    Jon: Yeah.

    • 22 min
    How Do You Get Clients to Sign Contracts?

    How Do You Get Clients to Sign Contracts?

    When it comes to sustaining your business, long-term contracts are one of the most effective ways to ensure a steady source of revenue in an unpredictable market. However, for many new businesses, convincing potential customers to sign one of these contracts can pose a real challenge. With so many competitors, how do you convince someone to take such a big risk? In this episode, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin share several strategies that will entice customers to sign a contract with your business.

    Executive Summary

    2:10—Today's Topic: How Do I Entice Customers to Sign a Contract With My Small Business?

    3:12—Before you even approach your potential clients, research your competitors so that you understand how your business compares.

    3:49—If you would like to propose a long-term contract with a particular client, try to do so as soon as possible, because it will be more difficult to adjust the terms of your services later on.

    4:43—With regard to incentives, small businesses should consider offering either a free product or service for a limited time. Not only does this trial period give the customer a chance to get to know you better, but it also gives you a clearer sense of how they behave as a client.

    6:01—Another option to consider would be to provide increased discounts for customers who commit to a longer contract.

    7:29—You also can attempt the "puppy dog close," where you offer them a free trial for a limited time and then give them the option of terminating your services if they aren't satisfied.

    10:14—Gene discusses how lack of competition can lead to stagnation for small businesses.


    I, ClaudiusCleopatra: A Life

    Submit Your Question

    Submit Your QuestionLeave Us a Review on iTunes


    Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. I'm Elizabeth Larkin from The Hartford and I'm here with Gene Marks from The Marks Group.

    Gene: Hi, Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth: Hi. How are you?

    Gene: I'm doing good. How are you?

    Elizabeth: I'm good.

    Gene: Good. Glad to hear that. Are we going to talk about TV shows after this episode?

    Elizabeth: Yes, after we answer this important question about enticing new clients, we are going to talk about your TV show recommendations.

    Gene: We'll have a word of the day, and then the TV shows, because last time we talked about El Camino, but I've got plenty more.

    Elizabeth: Okay. You're going to have to wait for the end.

    Gene: I'm going to have to wait. You know what? Forget about these small business questions. Let's go right to the TV shows.

    Elizabeth: Great. Okay, so after a word from our sponsor, we're going to come back and talk about enticing new clients to the very niche business.

    • 16 min

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