The Oakland County area has an abundance of opportunities for existing businesses and new ventures.
When the going gets rough, the entrepreneurial spirit gets creative and resourceful.
The Oakland Press has gathered upcoming events, news and links to help business owners and professionals succeed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Makes CIOs Toss and Turn at Night

 IT Security among top tech concerns, according to research

MENLO PARK, Calif. - The tech world never sleeps and, apparently, CIOs don't get much rest either. According to The CIO Insomnia Project, a recently released research initiative from Robert Half Technology, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of CIOs cited data security as the primary worry keeping them up at night, followed by hardware and/or operating systems upgrades, with 13 percent of the response. For more, click on Robert Half International

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oakland County business workshops

Oakland County Planning & Development Services is hosting these workshops next week.

• Effective Networking at 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2. The cost is $40 per person.

• SBA Forum on Small Business Lending from 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday Aug. 3. There is no cost to attend.

Both workshops are at Oakland County Executive Office Building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Building 41 W, Waterford Township. Call 248-858-0783 or visit www.oakgov.com/peds/calendar/.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beat the Competition by “Hugging” Your Customers

          Stanford, CA (July 2011)—For many small business owners, business isn’t exactly booming. Forced to do more with much less, the small businesses that have managed to survive and even thrive have recognized one important factor: You can’t always compete on price, but you can compete on service. And the best thing about great customer service is that providing it doesn’t cost you an extra penny. Ed Hess explains that when your competition is scrounging for customers, you have to hold yours close, and that starts with great customer service.

          “Today’s small business owners need to understand that cutting costs will not save their business,” says Hess, author of the new book Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases (Stanford University Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-8047714-1-2, $75.00, www.EDHLTD.com) and professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

          “Remember, customers are concerned about their own financial security. When they walk into a business, they need to feel cherished and special. They need to be ‘hugged’ by great customer service. Customers don’t expect to get bottom-of-the-barrel prices everywhere they go, but they do expect to be treated with respect.”

          Great customer service doesn’t just happen. It starts with employees who have been trained in the science of service.

          “Your employees will treat your customers as they have been treated by their leaders,” explains Hess. “Treat employees in a respectful, caring manner, and that will be transferred to customers. The business research done at Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, and my research at Darden Business School all finds that happy employees make for happy customers.”

          Hess notes that many major companies, such as Southwest Airlines, UPS, Chick-fil-A, Best Buy, Yum! Brands, Room & Board, Starbucks, Ritz-Car lton, Levy Restaurants, Costco, Zappos, and Whole Foods, understand the importance of great employee relations. In the Best Buy culture, for example, customers are “kings and queens,” employees are “royalty,” and managers and leaders are “servant leaders” serving employees and customers. At Ritz-Carlton, employees are “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

          Today, not every business is getting customer service right, but not every business is getting it wrong, either.
The Bad: The Local Coffee Shop
“I recently went into a local coffee shop to get my wife her favorite latte,” says Hess. “I ordered, paid, and waited for the drink to be made. When the employee gave it to me, she said she was sorry but they had run out of skim milk and as a result the cup was less than 2/3 full. And that was it. She turned and went on to the next customer. I stood there thinking, But I paid for a full cup! Instead of making her problem my problem, she should have offered to refund part of my money, or even better, she could have given me a coupon for a free drink on another day. Nope. Nothing. Pay for a full cup; get 2/3s of a cup…better luck next time. Needless to say, I have not been back to that coffee shop.”

Learning from the “Bad”:
Remember, disgruntled customers won’t complain; they just won’t come back. If you don’t give your customers the courtesy of taking the time to provide them with excellent service, they are not going to take the time to tell you how to improve your business. “Remember, too, that in addition to not coming back to your business, unhappy customers will likely tell others about their bad experience,” says Hess. “The ripple effect of just one bad customer service experience can be very damaging. Be sure your employees are providing consistently great customer service.”

Provide special training for frontline employees. The employees who interact directly with customers are essential for your business. “Their attitudes, communication skills, and style of service are what your customers are going to associate with your business,” explains Hess. “Make sure your employees are trained to handle the potentially stressful task of working with customers.”
Make sure a customer is happy before moving on to the next customer. At many small businesses, like the coffee shop in the example above, customers value quick service just as much as they value quality service. But you can’t sacrifice one for the other. “It’s important to make sure one customer is satisfied before you move on to the next guy,” notes Hess. “That can be as simple as asking, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you today?’ Remember, you’re not done serving the customer when you think you’re done. You’re done serving the customer when the customer is completely satisfied.”
Compensate for mistakes. Never, ever shortchange your customers. “If a mistake was made or some other circumstance is preventing you from providing the best level of customer service, find a way to make it up to your customer,” says Hess. “I would have gladly continued going to the coffee shop in the above example if the store’s employee had offered to make amends for the fact that I was getting less than what I had ordered. But the employee allowed me to feel shortchanged, and that isn’t a feeling that any customer is going to want to repeat.”
Provide solutions. Never make your business’s problem or an employee’s problem your customer’s problem. “At the coffee shop, the employee who served me probably isn’t the one who does the store’s inventory,” notes Hess. “So maybe she didn’t think there was anything she could do to remedy the situation. But that really isn’t the case. Allow your employees to have the latitude to provide your customers with solutions when they can’t satisfy a need. For example, as I mentioned above, she could have offered a coupon for a free drink or even a free pastry. She could have told me about the problem before making my order and asked if there was a beverage I would like to substitute. Any offer would have been better than simply having a better-luck-next-time attitude.”

The Good: Zappos.com
Companies that know great customer service do exist, and Zappos.com is one of them. “Recently I ordered some shoes from Zappos that ended up not fitting,” says Hess. “I sent them back using the provided prepaid shipping form. I immediately got an e-mail acknowledging that my shoes were being shipped back to Zappos, and I could follow their progress on the Internet. When they were received at Zappos, I got another e-mail telling me my refund was being processed and thanking me for shopping at Zappos. I sent them a response thanking them for the great service. Quickly thereafter, I got a personal e-mail from a customer service rep thanking me and telling me that Zappos loves its customers. She upgraded me to the Zappos VIP site. Wow! I felt cared about and appreciated. And guess what? I went online and ordered a different pair of shoes. Zappos truly gets it.”

Learning from the “Good”:
Happy employees = Happy customers. Zappos understands that employee satisfaction translates to great customer service. “I can’t say for sure if the customer service rep who upgraded me to the VIP site was completely satisfied with her job,” says Hess. “But I can say that she took the initiative to go the extra mile for a customer when she really didn’t have to. She cared enough to provide me with high-level service, which makes me think that she also cares about the company where she works. Creating that feeling in your employees will pay you back exponentially.”
Always respond quickly. Your customers are busy. They have big concerns of their own. They don’t deserve to be left wondering what kind of service they are going to receive or when they are going to receive it. “Address customer questions and problems as quickly as possible,” says Hess. “Even if it’s just a message to say, ‘I am looking into this for you,’ the customer will appreciate being told where they are in the process.”
Make it easy to do business with you. Never make your customers jump through hoops to do business with you. Have a return policy that is easy to understand and that puts the interests of the customer first. Provide refunds quickly and efficiently. “My experience with Zappos was great,” says Hess. “Sure, the shoes didn’t fit, but everything after that was so easy that it made me want to do more business with them. That is the kind of customer service that can keep you afloat during tough times.”
Keep customers informed of what’s happening. When customers know what’s happening with their order, it reduces their anxiety. And when they’re less anxious, they enjoy doing business with you. “Zappos has a great system for keeping customers informed online, but it’s also easy to do in face-to-face customer service,” says Hess. “For example, instead of just leaving the counter area, you might explain to a customer, ‘I am going to check to see if we have what you need in our stock room.’ Or if you’re handling a return and typing information into a computer, you might explain to the customer, ‘I’m just entering the date of purchase and the product number so that we can make sure we give you the maximum refund possible.’”
Use technology to provide quick, efficient customer service. It’s the twenty-first century, and email, message boards, and online stores provide us with the means to provide service more quickly than ever before. “Small business owners might sometimes make the assumption that customers don’t like to be communicated with online,” says Hess. “And for some older customers that might be the case. But by and large, I think people appreciate the ease that online shopping and communication provide. As long as you make sure your messaging is detailed and easy to understand, your customers will appreciate the quick service these technologies provide.”
Make your customers feel valued. Understand that each and every one of your customers is special. As the late business guru Peter Drucker said: The sole purpose of business is to serve customers. “Make sure your employees understand this, and that above all else they must focus on making your customers feel valued and appreciated,” advises Hess. “As you saw with Zappos’s upgrading me to VIP status, there is never a bad time to throw in a special perk for a customer, to shake a customer’s hand, or to provide a metaphorical hug with great customer service.”
           “Today’s small business owners must understand that their business is not about ‘me’; it’s about ‘them’: your employees and customers,” explains Hess. “Making cuts to employee perks or customer service perks is not a long-term plan for survival. It might buy you the opportunity to stay in the game a little bit longer, but it won’t make you a winner. In today’s economy, you have to do everything you can to hang on to your customers and to encourage them to keep coming back to your business. There’s no better way to do that than through consistently great customer service.

           “You might not always be able to slash your prices lower than those of your competitors,” he concludes. “But you can make the experience of doing business with you superior to all others. Never be afraid to take your customer service up a notch!”


About the Author:
Edward D. Hess is author of Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases (Stanford University Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-8047714-1-2, $75.00, www.EDHLTD.com) and is a professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. He is the author of nine books, over 60 cases, and over 60 articles. His work has appeared in over 200 media outlets around the world including CNBC, Fox Business News, Dow Jones Radio, WSJ Radio, MSNBC Radio, NPR, Forbes, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, CFO magazine, Financial Executive, Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Big Think, the Washington Post, and Financial Times.


About the Book:
Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases (Stanford University Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-8047714-1-2, $75.00, www.EDHLTD.com) is available at Amazon.com


Submitted by Dottie DeHart, DeHart & Company Public Relations. For information, email dehartdottie@aol.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buy Michigan Now Festival comes to Northville

Buy Michigan Now and downtown Northville are hosting the 3rd Annual Buy Michigan Now Festival, Friday-Sunday, August 5-7. The family-friendly festival will showcase various Michigan entertainers, businesses, products, and educational opportunities with the goal of revitalizing the local economy. For information on vendor or sponsorship opportunities, call Buy Michigan Now at 248-390-0974 or email to info@BuyMichiganNow.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sales expert shares how to be a sales superstar

Daniel Milstein shares secrets for consistently reaching high sales levels and lays out in clear understandable language what it takes to be a sales superstar in his recently published book, “The ABC of Sales.”
Dan Milstein of Ann Arbor is the 35 year-old CEO of Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group, an Inc. 500 Company which closes a billion dollars in loans annually. Milstein has been recognized as the #1 mortgage originator in the nation, has been among the top 40 finance professionals in America for 10 years and has achieved more than $3 billion in personal career mortgage sales.
Daniel Milstein, the CEO of Ann Arbor based Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group is passing the secrets of his success on to others in the sales business.
A super success in mortgage sales. his book is a guide for professionals who want to soar in sales, revive their sales careers, or position their companies among the elite.
Known as a financial wizard with solid experience in planning and managing diversified real estate loan portfolios for companies and individuals, Dan has an uncanny ability to sense shifting market conditions and respond quickly and efficiently for his clients. With a strong foundation in all phases of loan origination, there isn't a problem or loan scenario that Dan hasn't come across. He is well-versed in all areas of consumer lending including fraud prevention, quality control, state and federal regulations, credit-risk policies, accounting, finance and marketing.
Dan is currently the #1 ranked loan officer in the United States out of 550,000 originators in the industry, a title he has held for two consecutive years and counting. He has been ranked in the top 10 nationally and worldwide every year for the last decade.
His extensive research of both domestic and foreign financial markets, as well as a thorough understanding of the fluctuations of business has helped him shepherd his company and clients through the financial crisis.
But what truly motivates him to continue pursuing business success is his sense of loyalty to his more than 400 employees and their family members who depend on Gold Star’s stability. Daniel has always expressed a deep desire to stay true to his staff and their families, business partners, and colleagues.
Gold Star has grown to 26 offices, with four new ones to open in 2011, and is licensed to originate mortgages in more than 20 states. Since 2005, revenues have increased 712 percent and Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group is currently closing more than a billion dollars in loans annually.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Dan and his family relocated to the United States in 1991. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in business management and finance. With his knowledge of the industry firmly in place, he found himself quickly moving up the ranks of the banking industry. He worked his way up from assistant consumer lending manager, to general manager, to underwriter, then Chief Operating Officer, and finally Chief Executive Officer within various financial institutions.
Dan also gives back to his community, serving on the Cleary University Board of Trustees, as well as a board member of several corporations. He is widely viewed as an expert in the industry and has published numerous articles and essays on banking and finance in several publications.
Among the gems in The ABC of Sales is Milstein’s adage that “Lunch is for Losers,” that if you “don’t believe in oranges then sell apples” and that the Great Commandment of Sales is “Always Be Closing.”
“ABC-- Always Be Closing --is one of my favorite phrases,” says Milstein. “It is a motto I live by and is one of the prime reasons I have been successful as a sales professional. I never turn off my selling mindset; I’m always ready to engage a friend, colleague, or stranger in conversations that will lead to a sale.”
In the book Milstein shares eight secrets for consistently reaching high sales levels and lays out in clearly understandable language what it takes to be a Sales Superstar. The author also reveals what he has done to maintain his place among the Top 10 mortgage professionals in the U.S. for the past 10 years.
Milstein published The ABC of Sales (ISBN 978-0-9835527-0-3), Gold Star Publishing, 2011, $19.95, 196 pages. Visit www.ABCofSales.com.

Submitted by Scott Lorenz of Westwind Communications at scottlorenz@westwindcos.com

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How to Get Past a Career Rut

How to Get Past a Career Rut
 Sometimes the key to getting ahead is in your head.
 See story on The Oakland Press website business page

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inventors Council meeting discusses funding ops

The Inventors Council of Mid-Michigan is holding its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14 in the upper level of Walli's Restaurant in Burton. The speaker is Tracy Joseph, loan officer, Metro Community Development group, discussing local opportunities for funding businesses. The cost to attend is $5. For questions, call Mike Ball at 810-245-5599.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Royal Oak, the place for Social Media Party

Social Media is a Party! announces its upcoming business networking event for professionals, 6:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 14 at Fifth Avenue Royal Oak, 215 5th Ave., Royal Oak. The panel of social media strategists will discuss creating a solid social media strategy for businesses. It will be moderated by Sola Obayan, Principal at BTO Solutions. Panelists include Jason Ryan, Detroit Sales Executive at Groupon & President at Vision Fuel Media; Pam Perry, PR Coach at Pam Perry PR; Shannon Paul, Social Media Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and David Murray, Director of Social Web Communications at re:group. It will be followed by an extended mixer. Appetizers will be served and there are half off drinks for the evening. Admission is $10 in advance and $20 at the door. Visit SocialMediaIsaParty.com.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to be a good control freak

Cynthia L. Umphrey
by Cynthia L. Umphrey

Are you a control freak? If you’re an entrepreneur, I bet you are, at least a bit.  I know I am, at least a bit.  My experience with the pain and pleasure of letting go comes from three sources. As a full time lawyer at Kemp Klein Law Firmsince 1997 with mainly entrepreneurs as clients, I gained internal and external experience.  As a co-owner of The Learning Experience of South Lyon, a child development center with over 200 children that opened in 2007, and co-owner of Sixluxe LLC, started in 2010 designing revolutionary women’s clothes for day wear and travel, I gained pure, internal, hands-on experience.

My experiences indicate that control solutions are situation specific.  But I believe there are a few constants. 
My Core Constant: If you cannot give up control properly, your business will not reach its full potential.  You cannot possibly be the best person for everything. This is WHY you give up some control.


Another constant is FEAR.  When you give up "some" control depends on your business model and the size of your operation.  But if you are profitable and working ridiculous hours or slogging through jobs better suited to others instead of shining in your true arena because you don’t trust anyone else, think they might change things, don’t want to pay for the help, etc., you are at the WHEN point or way past it.  Don’t let fear of change stop you.


HOW to give up control usually starts by assessing what you do best. Great sales people are not usually tops at logistics.  A mechanical genius may not be a human resources whiz. Input from fellow business owners and advisors increases the accuracy of your assessment.


Choose what area to back out of first. Then find the right person/team for a trial. This can be the hardest phase.  Your goal- communicate expectations clearly and require accountability, but leave enough flexibility to test your new person/team. This is a balancing act because you don’t want to stifle an amazing employee by over managing her (been there-almost), or let a bad choice create havoc (been there-almost).


Properly managing control over your business is complicated. But if you harness your need for control, build a great team, and let them do their jobs, together you’ll make your company great. Then you’ll be the best kind of control freak-reformed- at least a bit.


Cynthia L. Umphrey is a shareholder with the Troy-based law firm Kemp Klein, a co-owner of The Learning Experience of South Lyon and of SIXLUXE LLC.   She is also a member of EO Detroit.  She can be reached at 248-528-1111 or cynthia.umphrey@kkue.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Corporate blogging workshop is July 20

Automation Alley’s Social Media series: A Deep Dive for Business Owners and Marketers Corporate Blogging workshop is noon to 1 p.m. at 2675 Bellingham Dr., Troy. Laura Oliveto of Basso Design Group will discuss how a corporate blog can be a powerful tool to communicate brand message in addition to the basics of setting up a blog. It opens at 11:30 a.m. with registration and networking. The cost is $20 for members in advance and $30 at-the-door. Non-members pay $40 in advance and $50 at-the-door. To register, call 800-427-5100 or visit www.automationalley.com.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's a Michigan-made product party

Michigan Made Porch Party is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 15 at Longacre House 24705 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills. Products from around the state will be featured including appetizers, produce, beer, wine and specialty products. The cost is $13 at the door and includes appetizer dinner, wine tasting and entry into the Michigan prize basket raffle. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spotlight your business in The Oakland Press

Business spotlights are profiles of businesses for The Oakland Press Money page. 
Please include:
    * What is the news? (New location? New business? New owners?)
    * How long has the business been in business?
    * What is important to readers? (Are expanded services available?)
    * What kind of business is it?
    * How many employees?
Photos
Spotlights generally include a photo of the business with an identified person in the photo (owner, manager, etc.) Include electronic photos and shots of individuals. Include photo caption information that identifies all people in the photo from left to right, says where the photo was taken, what event took place, etc.
How to submit news
Send news releases via email to business.news@oakpress.com. Attach electronic photos to the email.