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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Who knew? Labor and supply shortages are creating havoc and cursing small businesses now more than ever, especially in the wake of reopening. Behemoths such as Amazon and Walmart have their safety nets. Smaller establishments must struggle with what they have. As a result, gaps in service plague the reputations and growth of their smaller counterparts.

Unfortunately for Veteran Business Owners, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, a new record. The pandemic only exacerbated a preexisting trend, and the reasons vary. 

Suggestions have included a lack of training opportunities, supercharged unemployment benefits, a mismatched skill set, and fear due to the pandemic for many. Whatever the cause, a shortage of qualified workers has left employers in the lurch despite a continuously shrinking workforce.

Gaps in service are a result, often leaving angry customers. This anger often shows up online. These days, an online presence can make or break a company. Angry reviews can pose real threats to a struggling business.

The trend nowadays is for buyers overwhelmingly to check their business’ online presence. How can business owners minimize angry diatribes on forums such as Yelp, Bing, Google My Business, and Facebook? Small employers are finding themselves trapped between the rock of the labor shortage and the hard place of customer satisfaction. The best short-term fix is better communication.

Business owners should build trust with their client base. Patrons should understand that they can work with the management of a company. These kinds of positive working relationships best protect smaller businesses from online reputational issues, which may leave business owners feeling helpless in their marketing efforts. Good working relationships often rest on a foundation of good communication, one of the variables that managers may control in this economic environment.

Methods of communication may vary. Updating profiles on relevant online business platforms is an easy first step. The business’s profiles on the above online platforms should provide up-to-date hours and terms of service. When possible, these sites should also include explanations for any changes in these terms. Additionally, a business owner should address any negative reviews directly as soon as possible.

Some verbal strategies can improve the outcome of discussions with a dissatisfied customer. For example, first, the person in charge should remain calm during a confrontation. Second, active listening can demonstrate that the manager understands the grievance.  Active listening methods generally emphasize engagement in the discussion. In other words, managers should not remain passive targets in these matters. One such technique may involve rephrasing the complaints in a manner that demonstrates a genuine understanding of the customer’s issues with their service. 

Finally, management should demonstrate their understanding of the weight of the problem and if possible, let the customer know the relevant steps for resolving such issues in the future.

Early communication with dissatisfied customers may prevent escalation or even an angry Yelp review. Overall, the goal is a synergy between the needs of the client and the capacities of the owner. During these novel times, business owners should engage any necessary communication techniques to achieve a meeting of the minds that leaves all parties satisfied and at peace.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Pandemic Labor Shortage Hiring Strategies

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The pandemic continues to keep workers at home. Real concerns about the Delta Variant loom large. Plus, continuing financial support motivates low-wage employees to stay home. Lower-wage employees often have the best reasons to snub less-than-optimal work arrangements. Concerns of such employees may range from childcare to vocational development. The result burdens many small businesses with serious labor shortages. Hence, current economic circumstances have only increased the necessity of wise hiring practices.

Know Your Capacities

Small businesses must stay mindful of their own needs and capacities. Some companies over-hire, leaving unnecessary workers to be idle and bored. Others burden a small number with an impossible workload. Before the start of the hiring process, owners should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to gain a clear understanding of their human resources needs.

Bored and idle workers become dissatisfied, even as they remain on company time. At the same time, overworked employees could simply walk off the job and leave the owners in the lurch. A healthy business provides a well-planned, balanced workday. 

Hence, management should gauge each task for the time and effort requirements. Not infrequently, an overwhelmed business may panic at their workload and over-hire. The resulting crowd of low-level workers may feel undervalued, undertrained, and ignored. Similarly, an employer may under-hire. Often, employees are expected to hit the ground running due to their experience or qualifications. Sometimes these expectations unduly burden newcomers and managers alike.

Granted, businesses cannot always afford expensive training programs. Sometimes expecting a hire to “hit the ground running” is the only option. However, ideally, this cost-benefit analysis regarding both training and the number of employees aids in the creation of a well-balanced workforce.

Know Your Platform

The Internet has long taken over the hiring process. The shift from paper to online applications has yielded pluses and minuses both for applicants and businesses. From the perspective of Veteran Business Owners, this shift opened the floodgates for countless frivolous applicants. Shifting through irrelevant, frivolous, or downright silly applications has become par for the course. When possible, business owners need to seek out jobs sites that specialize in their field. For example, encore.org and idealist.org specialize in nonprofit positions. Itjobspro.com connects employers with skilled IT professionals, and salesgray.com links business owners with sales professionals.

The list is endless. General job sites provide a cheap alternative but add to the burden of the hiring process. Small business owners generally spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the hiring process itself. A bad fit may cost still more in training costs, as well as the cleanup following termination. The miracle of the Internet provides countless opportunities to zero in on applicants who have at least done their own work to tailor their applications to their own interests and skillsets. Specialized jobs platforms are key resources to streamline the hiring process.

Involve the Team in the Hiring Process

Especially for a long-term commitment, consider the splash a new hire could make in the company pond. The involvement of future colleagues could ensure a “good fit” in the hiring process. In many cases, coworkers will spend many hours a day together. Often, the involvement of the team could safeguard long-term office tranquility should the newcomer take root in their new office home.

However, this process should ensure fairness. Many workplaces have corporate cultures that discriminate, explicitly or implicitly. Some interview practices may land certain employers on shaky ground. Beware of excessive prying into recreational activities, hobbies, and interests, or home or family life. Short of landing employers in legal hot water, such questions may simply deprive both parties of fruitful opportunities.

Conclusion

As always, balance is key. An employer’s rewards in the hiring effort will likely be proportionate with their investments. Companies should plan wisely and implement judiciously. The result following onboarding should leave a balanced, satisfying workday for everyone.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

  • Learn the Practice of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is a state of awareness. Through mindfulness, we focus on the task at hand. Regardless of  how simple the task, practitioners absorb themselves into every detail. Whether cleaning, preparing food, listening to music, or simply being, a mindful person lets go and concentrates on the moment

Running a small business may keep an owner in a constant state of distraction. Small business owners are inevitably busy multitaskers. However, in our routine we may carve out moments to melt into our surroundings and concentrate on the now. Hence, our down-time can become our time to relax and de-stress, rather than ruminate on what we cannot control.

  • Meditate:

Related to mindfulness is meditation. Time and place are the main distinctions. Business owners can set aside time each day for simple meditation. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere.

Meditation can involve a methodology unique to the practitioner. Some write their feelings and thoughts on paper before the session. Afterward, many practitioners feel secure and tranquil to concentrate on emptying their thoughts. After the act of writing, the task of mentally working through burdensome responsibilities has already been done.    We strongly recommend checking out The David Lynch Foundation Meditation programs for Veterans.   There are also other excellent programs.

  • Practice Gratitude:

Always stay mindful of the positives in life. Whether great people, a fulfilling career path, or whatever blessings may grace you, the practice of gratitude adorns every setback with a silver lining. Gratitude helps maintain perspective, reminding the practitioner that better times loom ahead. Also, recognizing the positive is known to reduce stress and anxiety.

Many people keep gratitude journals and write down a certain number of things they are thankful for every night. Others write down their blessings and post them in a place where they will see them each day. We should refresh our sense of gratitude regularly. Gratitude gives us hope and perspective for the challenges facing us.

  • Use your Support System:

The pandemic has disrupted everyone’s personal interactions. Fortunately, nothing can take away our strongest supports.

Networking with peers helps many business owners. Other small business owners and associates may provide a source of meaningful interaction. Shared experiences can provide bonding.  Furthermore, peer groups can provide opportunities to exchange information. The resulting sense of meaning can help anyone who must plow through adversity.

Also, never forget friends and family. Despite the isolation of the pandemic, this generation has online resources to help remain connected. Finally, always practice gratitude for those who support you every day.

  • Relinquish Control when Necessary:

Stress tends to burden the most responsible people. Often, we feel that only we can do everything right, and achieve perfection according to our standards. Unfortunately, no one can attain perfection. Circumstances can foil the most well-laid plans, and we cannot always do a thing about it.   The Pandemic has certainly made this clear and that so much is out of our control.

Stay aware of priorities. Successful business owners recognize what they can and must control. Sometimes, the winds of change shift, and carry some of your goals with them. Proprietors should have the flexibility to adapt when necessary.

  • Delegate:

The need for control can overwhelm the most well-adjusted business proprietor. There is one good strategy to reduce the pressure of responsibility: delegate.

Business owners can exercise self-awareness by recognizing those tasks they may not enjoy or do well. Making a list may provide insight into those processes we can best assign to someone else. Consider who on your team may have a different skill base. Also consider routes for contracting out the most dread-inducing tasks. Thusly are built the most efficient organizations.

  • Remember You are Not Alone:

Innumerable strategies may alleviate stress during these difficult times. The pandemic is nothing if not unifying. We must all bear some of the same burdens for slogging through these difficult times. While in the end each of us bears different types of burdens, in the end self-care and kindness to ourselves will help us survive.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

 

Programs to Help Small Businesses During COVID 19

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

Government Programs:

Federal Programs:

The Small Business Administration (SBA) continues as the wellspring for small business. Indeed, the pandemic has rendered the SBA even more important to the small business community. The SBA has branches in every state. Also look for Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).

Small Business Development Centers provide free counseling to local entrepreneurs. These centers generally receive funding partially through the SBA and are administrated by local colleges and universities. SBDCs are an important go-to resource for entrepreneurs, providing diverse training and consulting resources.

CARES Act:

The CARES Act, passed in March 2020, remains a source of relief for small businesses. This legislation provided for a variety of relief programs in the wake of the Pandemic.

FEMA:

The FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center can help any businesses with urgent concerns about continuity or delivery of goods. This office is available 24/7. The latest administration has partnered with FEMA to provide expanded services. These services include. vaccine support and information about best practices. A quick look at this website could provide you a myriad survival tools. See fema.gov for more details.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program:

The Small  Business Administration or SBA administers many programs, often in partnerships with other organizations. This program provides small loans up to $2 million. The amount of the loan must cover expenses due to the pandemic. These loans have extremely generous terms, with 30-year repayment Interest rates are 3.75% for businesses and 2.87% for nonprofits.

Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program:

Another SBA program streamlines paperwork for businesses with an SBA Express Lender. These lenders are generally banks and financial institutions. These institutions contract with the SBA to facilitate services on the SBA’s behalf.

SBA Government Contracting:

Many small businesses have contracts with the federal government. Contracts with the government in the past have not given much negotiating power to private-sector businesses. However, current circumstances have provided a degree of wiggle-room. The SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives are the go-to resource in this circumstance. The SBA website actually has a directory of procurement Center Representatives.

Useful Websites:

SBA Access to Capital:

All businesses need capital. This site provides numerous resources to keep your company running.

https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/accesstocapital

Reimbursement of Medical Leave Costs for SMBs:

Inevitably, more employees have taken leave during the coronavirus pandemic. The IRS has tried to adjust. The following site provides guidelines for reimbursement of resulting tax expenses.

https://irs.gov/newsroom/covid-19-related-tax-credits-for-required-paid-leave-provided-by-small-and-midsize-businesses-faqs

State Programs:

Most states have individual websites to connect entrepreneurs with additional local COVID small business resources. Many states have multiple such resources from several organizations. A google search can provide varieties of additional resources in each state.

Private Organizations:

SCORE is a private educational organization for small businesses. Their website, www.score.org provides access to the largest network of small business mentors.

US Chamber of Commerce has been working with the US and various governments to provide businesses with up-to-date information about the pandemic.

Where to Get Help:

The SBA provides innumerable resources for veteran owned small businesses. However, opportunities do not stop with the SBA. Local organizations, public and private, can prove amazing resources. In everyone’s interest is keeping your business alive during this unexpected crisis. The show must go on. Often, the trick lies in recognizing the public and private resources available. These resources are wide and varied.  Keep an open mind, recognizing that better times come soon.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

 

Tips for Positive Pandemic Mental Health

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

  • Consider Your Anxiety about Controlling Your Circumstances:

The pandemic is not your fault. Others will understand this in retrospect. Stay gracious for the gifts the universe gave you. Recognize any blessings that may surround you. Do not howl at the moon about whatever someone could do differently.   Find joy whenever and wherever you can.

  • Open Your Mind to New Methods of Outreach:

We are lucky to have the Internet, given pandemic restrictions about meeting in person. As many have discovered in the past few years, several online outlets provide avenues for connection. Google chat, Zoom and Facetime are among them.

Time with friends and family salves frayed nerves and depressed feelings. Circumstances with the pandemic seem to throw a wrench into our normal outlets. However, online interactions still provide meaning. Even day-to-day, a simple message may provide connection even for those not immediately living with friends or family.

  • Stay Productive:

The lack of a routine confounds many stuck at home. Remember the routine of waking up, eating breakfast, and commuting to the salt mines? Furloughed workers may relish these memories. Same for work-from-home employees. As many times as you may have pounded that snooze button, at least you had somewhere to go. The trip to work provided a new adventure every day.

The unexpected pandemic disrupted our workplace lives. Our sense of validation often comes from our accomplishments. During the crisis, we often must squeeze water from a rock. However, many of us have lists of projects that can fill our day. Consider the pandemic an opportunity to explore new horizons.

Learn an instrument. Practice a language. Redecorate your house. People need to feel useful. Small business owners should get creative about using down-time productively.

  • Do Not Compare Yourself to Others:

The Age of Social Media has brought new strains of peer pressure upon all of us. Now that so many spend so much time at home, the pandemic has exacerbated this stress. Social media is often the only outlet.

Remember, your friends on social media post what they find worthy to post. In the end, we all do. More power to all of us. And many of us not even on social media.

In an age when so many of us have “our own brand,” always remember that the online presences of others does not define us. We should stay confident of our own identity while respecting those of others.

  • Stay Mindful by Journaling:

Keeping a journal is healthy. You have likely developed some new routines during this period. Record your thoughts. Take the time to write down new recipes, insights, and feelings. Mindfulness keeps us aware of our ongoing mental states. Journaling can help with mindfulness. Day-to-day, records of your mental state could well prove benefits to your mental well-being.

  • Get Out of the House and Exercise:

The virus is weakest outdoors. Rather than going stir-crazy in the stuffy confines of our claustrophobic domiciles, simple walks outside do wonders for our mental health. Hikes, jogging, bicycling, and any number of activities can leave us with a new outlook and bring home a sense of relief. Just remember not to “share air,” as the new pandemic saying goes.

A few additional hints from Debbie Gregory, VAMBOA’s founder & CEO:

A few things that help me:   I make sure to acknowledge gratitude for the people in my life and all that I am grateful for each day.  It is nice to add it to your journal too.   This is a good way to begin your daily entry.   Almost every day, even if I am not going anywhere, I still shower, groom, dress nicely if only for me.   This helps me to be positive and when we look nice, we feel better, at least I do.    Once in a while, I do have a pajama day, but it is rare.  For me, it is better to make sure my clothes fit than to hang out in PJs or sweats.   I also go out of my way to make nice, healthy meals and exercise even when I cannot go outside with online classes, an elliptical or exercise bike.  Walking is the best.   The love, affection and devotion from our fur children is priceless too.    I also try to meditate at least once a day and find the joy where I can and often.  I am a glass is half full girl too.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

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