179 episodes

The Small Biz Ahead podcast is dedicated to helping small business owners succeed. Each episode focuses on specific topics that can help you bring your small business to the next level. Gene Marks, an author and business owner hosts our podcast with Jon Aidukonis, a specialist in marketing and advertising. Together, they offer insight on how to make your business more efficient with tips, interviews and conversations with business owners and thought leaders.

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

    • Business

The Small Biz Ahead podcast is dedicated to helping small business owners succeed. Each episode focuses on specific topics that can help you bring your small business to the next level. Gene Marks, an author and business owner hosts our podcast with Jon Aidukonis, a specialist in marketing and advertising. Together, they offer insight on how to make your business more efficient with tips, interviews and conversations with business owners and thought leaders.

    Virtual Auditing Technology: See How It Can Benefit Your Business

    Virtual Auditing Technology: See How It Can Benefit Your Business

    For the longest time, small business owners have had to monitor the efficiency of their operational facilities through in-person maintenance checks and frequent onsite inspections. However, thanks to the development of new mobile auditing apps and platforms, you can use your electronic devices to not only monitor your business remotely, but you can also program them to alert you and help you address any potential safety concerns. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with Bob Butler, the General Manager of SafetyCulture, discuss how virtual auditing technology is revolutionizing the way that small business owners supervise their facilities.

















    Executive Summary







    1:09—Today's Topic: How Can Mobile Auditing Technology Help Improve My Small Business?








    2:47—Mobile auditing apps, such as the one created by SafetyCulture, enable you to perform virtual routine checks on various aspects of your business. Because this technology can capture information in real time, you can address any problem immediately and ultimately, save yourself a lot of money in the long run.








    4:49—Virtual auditing technology allows you to monitor all the activity at your various business locations, even if you can't be there physically.








    6:06—Through the app's digital data collecting, you'll be able to observe any trends or inconsistencies that are occurring within your business. Based on this information, you can develop a plan that will further optimize the products and services you offer.








    7:46—Although SafetyCulture's sensory technology is specific to their products, they are currently trying to create a program that will integrate with any sensor.








    10:44—SafetyCulture works with third-party consultants to create their “Best Practices" templates.








    13:22—Due to increased health concerns among consumers and returning employees, businesses owners who openly use a safety application platform will have a competitive advantage in the post-pandemic market.








    17:06—Small businesses that utilize remote auditing programs tend to have more open communication among their staff members since everyone, from the front lines to the executive level, has access to the app's digital data and can see whether their operations are truly up to par.








    19:41—In the future, SafetyCulture hopes to introduce more robust features into their products; develop a wider range of sensors; and establish an American version of their Mitti insurance offering with QBE in Australia.








    Links







    SafetyCulture







    Transcript







    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.








    You're listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, brought to you by The Hartford.








    Our Sponsor







    This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability, and workers compensation insurance. Check out The Hartford's small business insurance at TheHartford.com.








    Jon: Good morning everyone and welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis,

    • 24 min
    Protecting Your Small Business From Cyber Threats

    Protecting Your Small Business From Cyber Threats

    If you're a new business owner, the thought of investing hundreds of dollars to protect your network from potential cyber threats might seem like an unnecessary expense. After all, aren't hackers only interested in infiltrating multi billion dollar corporations? Unfortunately, it is this common misconception that often leaves small businesses vulnerable to the most devastating cyber attacks. So, what should you be doing to ensure the security of your business's operating system? In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks along with special guest, Paul Warnagiris from the Teneo Group, discuss several strategies that can help you keep your network safe from the latest cyber threats.

















    Executive Summary







    0:23—Today's Topic: What Should a Small Business Owner Know about Cybersecurity and Safety?








    1:35—Because the most prevalent cyber threat to our data right now is ransomware, it is important for business owners to have a thorough understanding of their operating systems, in terms of hardware, software, and vulnerabilities. Knowing who has access to their data and what their network looks like on a regular basis will make it easier to prevent as well as detect potential data breaches.








    6:51—When it comes to cyber security, it's not so much a question of whether you have any important data that a hacker would want, but whether you have any data that you would need once a hacker encrypts your entire system.








    7:43—To minimize the number of systems you'll need to monitor, you should consider segmenting your network either by using a different access point or by setting up another SSID exclusively for your business. Consulting with a professional IT person or firm is highly recommended.








    10:39—If you need to utilize your network while traveling, downloading the ZoneAlarm protection app for your mobile device and laptop can help prevent you from logging onto any suspicious operating systems.








    14:10—In order to protect your passwords, avoid using the same one more than once and invest in a high quality password safe. Don't be surprised if private industries begin adopting the government password standard of 64 characters.








    16:23—VPN's (virtual private networks) alone are not enough to provide adequate protection for your system because you are already being tracked before you get on a VPN.








    18:15—While multi-factor authentications can make it harder for someone to access your system, they are not foolproof. Hackers can still access the necessary cookies to penetrate your system.








    20:03—You can also limit your network's exposure by never clicking on an email link unless you have verified with the original sender first. Should you need to access the link for work, access it directly from the website itself instead.








    23:21—Keep your systems up to date with all the manufacturer recommendations.








    24:23—Unfortunately, offline backups can also be compromised by hackers.








    25:26—Small business owners need to acknowledge that everyone is vulnerable to cyber threats. Only then will they be ready to accept the advice of an IT security professional or firm.








    Links







    The Teneo GroupZoneAlarm...

    • 29 min
    The American Jobs Plan: What It Means for Your Small Business

    The American Jobs Plan: What It Means for Your Small Business

    Over the past year, Congress has done its best to provide federal assistance to the millions of small businesses that were affected by COVID-19. Still, despite the positive impact of the American Rescue Plan, it has become clear that this legislation is not a long term solution and that in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace, significant changes will need to be made to our nation's infrastructure. It is for this reason that Congress is currently trying to pass the American Jobs Plan, a new bill that would make such changes possible. In this episode, Gene Marks and Kip Eideberg, Senior Vice President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, discuss how the proposed infrastructure plan will benefit small manufacturing businesses.

















    Executive Summary







    0:28—Today's Topic: How Can Small Manufacturing Businesses Benefit from the Government's Proposed Infrastructure Plan?








    1:47—It is the first time in over a decade that there has been such an overwhelming demand for a comprehensive infrastructure package in the US.








    4:26—The proposed investments in our national infrastructure could provide small businesses, especially those in rural America, with the tools and resources that they need to compete in the global market; such investments are necessary if we wish to stimulate our economic growth.








    7:09—If approved, the money from these incoming legislations can help finance more projects, which in turn will create more employment opportunities.








    11:02—Once it becomes clear that there are more project opportunities on the horizon, smaller manufacturing businesses will have the confidence to not only produce more goods, but to also make important financial investments in themselves.








    15:43—It is estimated that while 4 million manufacturing workers will be leaving the industry in the next 10 years, there are only enough incoming workers to fill 1.6 million of those vacant positions. This being the case, it would be beneficial for a portion of the infrastructure package to go towards workforce development, specifically educational institutions that could help address the growing skills gap.








    19:39—There are two tax provisions that enable businesses to immediately deduct the costs of R and D (Research and Development) investments over the course of 5 or 15 years.








    21:57—The extension of these two tax credits would enable R and D investments to remain affordable, ultimately ensuring that the US manufacturing industry can stay competitive with other nations.








    23:57—Congress needs to reassess the current steel tariffs because the rising costs and supply shortages are putting this nation's manufacturing industries at a severe disadvantage.








    Links







    Association of Equipment ManufacturersThe American Jobs Plan







    Transcript







    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.








    You're listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, brought to you by The Hartford.








    Our Sponsor







    This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes,

    • 29 min
    How Do I Keep Selling During This Pandemic?

    How Do I Keep Selling During This Pandemic?

    When COVID-19 first broke out, it was clear that small businesses would have to make a lot of operational adjustments if they wanted to maintain their usual sales quotas. However, what many business owners failed to anticipate were the changes that they'd have to make to their marketing strategies as well. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with Small Biz Silver Lining Founder Carissa Reiniger, discuss how the pandemic has impacted consumer needs and how small business owners can alter their sales tactics to meet their desired goals.

















    Executive Summary







    2:29—Today's Topic: How Do I Keep Selling During This Pandemic?








    3:17—Because of this pandemic, online accessibility has become a nonnegotiable aspect of every small business. Similarly, offering a wide array of delivery options and platforms to your customers has also become a standard business practice.








    4:30—There has been a significant shift in the type of marketing that customers prefer. Nowadays, audiences want their advertisements to seem authentic and genuine; the most compelling brands are those that come from a place of sincerity.








    5:58—The decision to let your personal identity define your brand is one that only you as an individual are qualified to make.








    10:15—Business owners should only leverage social issues if they genuinely want to take a stand. Doing so merely for the sake of publicity will always backfire on you because customers can sense when a business is just virtue signaling.








    13:44—When hiring new sales people, look for individuals who have experience working in another small business; have a proven track record of consistently hitting their sales targets; possess a demeanor that matches your brand image; and can confidently own up to the risks of their position.








    16:20—Small business owners should utilize a “hire slow, fire fast" approach when it comes to their sales staff, which means they should hire a lot of salespeople with the intention of weeding out those with a poor performance.








    19:02—Your sales team will be more motivated by a cause, not a product. Another way to motivate your sales staff is by offering them the time and support that they need to succeed.








    20:59—In order to accurately assess the performance of your sales team, you need to consider both the overall volume of customers they speak to and the conversion rates of those interactions.








    23:41—Although technology can certainly help boost your sales, it can never fully replace the human connection that your customers crave.








    Links







    Carissa ReinigerSmall Biz Silver Lining







    Transcript







    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.








    You're listening to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast, brought to you by the Hartford.








    Our Sponsor







    This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability, and workers compensation insurance. Check out The Hartford's small business insurance at TheHartford.com.

    • 28 min
    How to Create a 12-month Action Plan for Your Business

    How to Create a 12-month Action Plan for Your Business

    When life derails your plans the way that COVID-19 did to so many small businesses in 2020, planning for the future can seem almost pointless. After all, how can you develop a proper course of action when so much of the future is still unclear? Yet, as counterintuitive as it might sound, it is during these times of chaos when business owners need a clear strategy the most. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with Small Biz Silver Lining Founder Carissa Reiniger, discuss how small business owners can create a successful 12-month action plan, even in the midst of uncertainty.

















    Executive Summary







    0:21—Today's Topic: How Do I Develop a 12-Month Action Plan for My Small Business?








    1:59—SLAP™ (Silver Lining Action Plan) initially grew out of a desire to help small business owners make more money and find new customers. However, unlike other programs, it utilizes behavior change science to develop a plan that actually motivates them into taking action.








    5:11—While it might seem counterintuitive, small business owners need to be even more intentional about their time and resources during periods of extreme crisis or chaos.








    6:23—In order to develop a successful plan, you need to be honest about what you really want, as opposed to what you're supposed to want.








    9:11—The three factors that prevent small business owners from being honest about their true goals are complacency, insecurity, and not knowing what they want.








    12:13—One quality that most successful entrepreneurs have is the ability to decipher between fear and risk. This skill enables them to make the right decisions for their business and keeps them from remaining stuck in complacency.








    13:30—The first step in building a 12-month action plan is creating a SLAP™ statement based on what your business does; who your services or products are for; and how big you want your operational scale to be.








    15:40—Once you've created a SLAP™ statement, you have to define your ideal client so that you can figure out how to connect with them and hit your growth goals.








    16:19—Next, you need to set some financial goals. By examining your current revenue streams and your expenses, you'll get a clearer sense of how to optimize your performance.








    17:05—The last step of this process is creating a concise action plan that outlines your business development and sales market strategies.








    17:53—If your current business strategy isn't working, it may be due to a lack of alignment between your goals and your actions.








    21:28—Small Biz Silver Lining offers several free resources, including a two-hour workshop, for business owners who want to develop their 12-month action plan.








    Links







    Carissa ReinigerSmall Biz Silver LiningSLAP™ (Silver Lining Action Plan)







    Transcript







    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.








    You're listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, brought to you by The Hartford.








    Our Sponsor

    • 22 min
    How Behavior Change Programs Can Help You Reach Your Goals

    How Behavior Change Programs Can Help You Reach Your Goals

    Is there a goal that you would love to achieve for your small business, but it just keeps eluding you? When it comes to our professional goals, sometimes intention isn't enough to bring them to fruition and we need to carefully reexamine our current strategies. This is where a business owner can benefit from a bit of behavior change science. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks along with Small Biz Silver Lining Founder and CEO, Carissa Reiniger, discuss how behavior change programs can help small business owners finally achieve their goals.

















    Executive Summary







    0:39—Today's Topic: How Can Behavior Change Science Help Me Achieve My Small Business Goals?








    0:59—SLAP™ (Silver Lining Action Plan) is a program that enables small business owners to develop a 12-month action plan based on their specific goals as well as their current situation.








    2:38—Behavior change science is a specialty within psychology that focuses on the different techniques that can be used to modify an individual's behavioral patterns.








    4:24—In order to follow through on your goals, you need to make sure that they are very specific and that you have a clear deadline for completing them. Once you settle on your goals, you need to break them down into smaller quarterly goals and determine exactly what actions you need to take to accomplish them. Lastly, make sure that you have the proper resources to support and hold you accountable.








    9:29—The characteristics that determine your level of success in the SLAP™ program are your ego, your discipline and your attendance at their mindset calls.








    13:45—The most common goals among small business owners are usually related to cash flow or capacity.








    15:50—One way to determine whether you're being intentional enough with your time is to create a time budget; this will enable you to see if you're actually devoting enough time to your goals or if your attention is being diverted elsewhere.








    20:05—SLAP™ requires participants to dedicate 30 minutes a week; an hour every month; and two hours every quarter to reflect their business. Small Biz Silver Lining currently allows business owners to pay what they can for this program.








    Links







    Carissa ReinigerSmall Biz Silver LiningSLAP™ (Silver Lining Action Plan)







    Transcript







    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.








    You're listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, brought to you by The Hartford.








    Our Sponsor







    This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability, and workers compensation insurance. Check out The Hartford's small business insurance at TheHartford.com.








    Gene: Hey everybody, and welcome to the Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. My name is Gene Marks. I'm here with my true partner in crime, Jon Aidukonis. Jon, want to say a quick hello?








    Jon: Hello, people of the internet. How are you today?

    • 24 min

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