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It’s a scary feeling when you see great opportunity for your business but have serious doubts about your ability to capitalize on it. That’s precisely the situation Jim Beck, CEO of Nature’s Best, found himself in more than a decade ago.

The distributor of vitamins and health and beauty aids had an outdated warehousing system designed for an industry that had completely changed. The health food craze was taking off in a big way and presented nearly limitless opportunities for Beck’s business to grow.

Instead of just vitamins, the company could now sell frozen foods, chilled products and other products desired by those seeking to lead a healthier lifestyle. The only problem for Beck was he didn’t have the means to move this new inventory. He had to make big changes fast if he had any chance of making it work.


Be bold

The good news was that Beck had a great team eager to work with him through the many challenges that Nature’s Best faced as it set out to build a new business model.

“The guys that made it happen are all the guys who run the place,” Beck says. “The pride of ownership and pride of success that came out of it for those people was probably the most rewarding thing for me because they did it. That team worked so hard and dove so deep into the weeds of the details of the whole process. It was their baby.”

The pride Beck feels for his team is strong, but he deserves plenty of credit as well for taking the bold step to completely change the way Nature’s Best does business. He could have tried to make it work with the system he had and then demanded results that would have been nearly impossible to achieve.

He could have jumped in halfway and made a series of superficial changes that would have had the same effect on the effort to sell these new products.

Instead, he recognized that he needed a new system and that by creating a new system, he would provide opportunities to scale and to replicate the process in other parts of the country as his company grew.


Show appreciation

The old saying, “Go big or go home” doesn’t always apply in business, but it’s hard to argue that it fits in this case. When you’ve got a captive audience, you need to do whatever it takes to give your team members the tools needed to do their jobs. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they need.

It’s the part of the equation you can’t skip over when you ask people to step up on a big change for your business. When you show that you care and you get down on the floor and break a sweat trying to make it all work, you earn loyalty that can take your company a long way.


Mark Scott is Senior Associate Editor for Smart Business Orange County. Reach him at (440) 250-7016 or

The word “love” is not often used in business, but at Silverado, it’s a word we use every day. In fact, it’s a central part of our core operating philosophy.

It’s fitting that a company dedicated to enriching the human spirit would echo a loving and caring outlook, but we take that even one step further. For us, love is an actionable idea — one that we characterize with the phrase, “Love is greater than fear.” And we’ve found that this mantra has made a positive impact across the business.

It’s such a powerful concept that I get mixed reactions when I share it with people, but it has truly enhanced what was already a strong Silverado culture. We adopted the philosophy in 2005, based on principles that struck me during a retreat. What I learned from that trip was so profound that I knew it could be used as a guide to further both personal and professional success.

I realized during the trip that there is only one way to know the right thing to do — it’s by making choices and acting on the greatest positive emotion: love. There’s something silly about asking our staff to “do the right thing.”

What criterion is being used to determine it? If we ask our associates to serve residents, clients, patients, families and co-workers from the standpoint of love, the reason becomes very clear.


Change is not easy

Our associates greeted the rollout of this concept with a combination of skepticism and excitement. Associates who worked most directly with residents, patients and clients immediately understood it, expressing that they live it every day.

It inspired associates to strengthen relationships inside and outside the workplace. It created fresh energy and momentum as a point of organizational pride. It also helped us build trust.

I’ve always believed that solid business ethics are critical to building trust. Our associates have been more successful by acting from love rather than fear. No one is perfect in this endeavor and it is important for our associates to see top management — beginning with me — strive to achieve this goal. When you fall short on a goal, you have to have the courage to admit that you were wrong.


Build a foundation

That strength in our culture is what ultimately enables us to attract and retain high-level talent that provides world-class service and life-changing care. It all leads to economic success — rewards that stem from the service that a dedicated and committed team provides.

When people see Silverado’s tagline, “Lives Enriched,” we want them to know that it’s more than just a tagline to us. It’s a phrase we developed as a result of a love-centric culture. By improving the lives of everyone that your organization touches, you should be able to say the same thing no matter what business you’re in.


Name: Loren Shook

Title: President and CEO

Company: Silverado

Silverado is a leading provider of services for the memory impaired through its six At Home Care offices, 33 Memory Care Communities and 10 hospice offices located in eight states.

How to reach: Silverado, (888) 328-5400 or


Learn more about Silverado at:  



Twitter: @SilveradoCare




Marketing seems to be a weakness of most business owners. We are great at our core business, but when faced with a myriad of marketing options in today’s digital world, it’s often easier to do nothing at all.

Marketing needs vary based on the point you are at in your business cycle. In the early stages of my company, I needed to grow, but didn’t have the funds or resources to do much marketing.

But the techniques I put in place were so successful that I continue to use and share these methods today.

Here are a few seeds you can plant for your business:


The Ask

What else can I do for you? With this question, everyone wins. Asking builds strong client relationships because it gives clients the opportunity to share new ideas that you can expand upon.

You get exponential growth from a single idea, and if widely accepted, the solution becomes part of your standard offering. The client who was the catalyst for the solution takes pride in having been part of a solution that is monetized, and thus the relationship is further strengthened.

I even ask clients for input on my internal company projects — like a new website. The customer feels like they have helped you build your company and that builds customer loyalty and retention. It’s hard to fire a vendor when they’ve helped you build your business.


Keep your competition close

Find someone in your market who is doing similar work, but focuses on slices of your business that are outside your specialty. Discuss ways that they can refer potential clients to you for your specialty and reciprocate by referring possible clients in need of their specialty.

Creating this partnership has two benefits. First, both you and your competitor now have a new product you can offer to clients and you both benefit from increased sales.

Second, you both protect your own customer base by being the source of the referral to your respective clients rather than having your clients cold-called by your competition. A strong alliance with your competitor will usually make them think twice before soliciting your customers.


Philanthropy and volunteer work

In addition to volunteering for organizations based on my personal values and passions, I learned what some of my customers were passionate about, and, if our values aligned, I joined organizations they recommended.

If you are genuine to the cause, the mutual respect between you and your like-minded customers can be invaluable. You’ll meet other business owners with whom you can form alliances and partnerships, as well as plenty of potential clients. The introductions that are made and the testimonials that are given are endless.

So the art of farming your relationships and attracting new customers rather than hunting them will not only generate revenue growth, but will also produce a more stable and protected client base that you can continue to build upon into the future.


Name: Laura Neubauer

Title: President

Company: National Association of Women Business Owners - Orange County

Laura is a native of Orange County and the founder of 4 Every Athletes Dream, a nonprofit that supports young athletes in competitive sports.

Reach her at (714) 630-2983 or

Learn more about NAWBO-OC at:


Twitter: @NAWBOOC.


We’ve all heard stories — many of which have taken on legendary proportions — about extraordinary service provided by the likes of Nordstrom, Disney and Ritz-Carlton employees. The luxury retail and hospitality industries have elevated customer service expectations in every business category, from fast food to financial, and yes, even pediatric hospital services.

The difference is that at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, nothing less than children’s lives are at stake, and it’s our honor, privilege and sacred obligation to serve.

The prospect of entering a children’s hospital can be terrifying. A parent’s most precious gift, his or her child, is seriously ill or injured, and the accompanying fear, anxiety and confusion produce a unique and urgent challenge to create an exceptional and memorable experience.

Every clinician and member of our support staff — from accounting to imaging — must be not only technically competent, but also wholeheartedly dedicated to our purpose and passion. Therefore, we make sure our people are aligned and ready to excel in customer service.

Here are a few standards that transcend pediatric health care and would be of great value to any business that takes the time to consider them.


Hire for fit, especially during times of fast growth

Last year, we opened a seven-story patient care tower and expanded our employee base by 20 percent to staff new services. I lost some sleep wondering if newcomers would dilute our culture of compassion, developed over years of employee longevity and institutional memory.

I’m gratified that our new hires truly exemplify the attitudes and behaviors of “CHOC people,” a direct result of our rigorous, highly selective recruitment that tests for skill and alignment with our mission and values.


Train for and reinforce expected behaviors

New and veteran employees alike annually renew their commitment to a set of standard behaviors that we call iCARE principles. Performance evaluations include measurement of alignment to these principles, which reinforce the personal role we each play in delivering our mission.


Lead by example

We hold quarterly, daylong excellence summits to develop leadership and train on customer service tools we expect leaders to utilize throughout the organization. The curriculum always includes “mission moments” which feature inspiring examples of extraordinary service to our patients. The power of these stories cannot be underestimated; they are repeated throughout our organization and externally to community members and donors.


Take feedback to heart

We value the feedback of our families, and we share comments — both positive and negative — with our employees, including this one from a recent survey: “The quality of care we received at CHOC could best be described as life changing. It was so impactful, my little boy begged me to never take him anywhere but there again.”

A mother’s two sentences immediately reconnect us to our purpose and make us strive to provide an even better experience the next time he comes to CHOC.


Name: Kimberly C. Cripe

Title: President and CEO

Company: CHOC Children’s

Children’s Hospital of Orange County has been consistently ranked as one of the top pediatric hospitals in the nation.

Learn more about it at (714) 997-3000 or


Twitter: @CHOCChildrens






Working capital. Every business needs it, but at what cost? One path to obtaining affordable working capital is through factoring, a simple and easy concept to understand. Factoring companies provide businesses with working capital by purchasing their client’s outstanding receivables.

Typically, a factoring transaction is an arrangement between three parties (client, factor and vendor) all of which are businesses. The business owner understands his or her profit margins and the expense associated with factoring while the factor evaluates the risk.

In most cases, the increase in cash flow will not only justify the cost, but actually lower operating margins by increasing sales for the business.


Why is factoring so popular now?

It comes down to qualifying for the capital. Banks make decisions based on business financial history, cash flow and collateral. Factoring decisions are largely based on the creditworthiness of the client’s customer. Factors, however, do perform extensive due diligence on the client as well.

Often, potential factoring clients fit into the category of small to midsized businesses that are in a growth mode, but do not qualify for a traditional bank loan. Usually the client has been in business for an insufficient amount of time or does not have enough collateral to secure a loan. In other cases, some factoring clients will qualify for a loan, but find that the amount is not sufficient to meet their cash flow needs.

Firms that can help clients grow to the point where they can raise additional capital fulfill a much-needed void.


Adding value

Most factoring companies utilize some type of specialized factoring software that allows clients to track the aging of their outstanding invoices, accrued fees, receipts and so forth. Most factoring software applications allow the client to run a myriad of accounting and financial reports to complement their accounting practices. By creating a transparent environment between the client and factor, it allows both parties to be on the same page and be proactive with account debtors.

Invoice factoring relies heavily on credit evaluations of both the client and customer. Once the client has passed the appropriate credit checks, they should also be informed about the creditworthiness of their customers.

Before we begin factoring any of our client’s customers, we always perform a thorough credit analysis. If one of our client’s customers has been declined for our factoring services, our client usually follows our lead and will not do business with them.

Think about that benefit. A strong factoring company will provide you with a full credit analysis from an underwriting team to assist you in making important decisions about potential customers. Partnering with the right factoring company can provide huge added benefits for any business looking to get to the next level.

Remember, it’s not just about the money.


Name: Don D’Ambrosio

Title: President and CEO

Company: Oxygen Funding Inc. is an invoice factoring company located in Lake Forest, Calif., that works with clients to improve their cash flow.

Reach him at (800) 790-3419, or


Each year, we produce and promote 25 nationally and internationally televised mixed martial arts events to more than 125 countries around the world that are seen live here in the U.S. on Spike TV in 100 million homes.

In the complex world of live sports event production, everything that comes before the actual event produces significantly more stress than the event itself. The preparation, structure, timing and elaborate and hyper-specific sequential orchestration place immense stress on every member of my team. 

As we prepare for our 110th event in February, here is a small collection of focal points that should be helpful to you as your next big event draws near:

Motivate the team 

There’s an age-old question in business: Is it better to be loved or feared?

The former produces better results 99 percent of the time. It’s about letting team members at every level know that their contribution, effort and belief in what we’re striving to achieve has legitimate, quantifiable impact on our success.

It takes some extra time, but at every level of your company, let the team know how much their effort and performance means to becoming No. 1. It will deliver a huge ROI.

Over-prepare, over-prepare

In combat sports, a fight can run 25 minutes or 25 seconds, meaning that changes are the norm and not the anomaly. Live combat sports production is analogous to building a house. 

If you start building without a well-conceptualized and organized blueprint, you will fail. It’s that preparation for any eventuality and creating a fail-safe for the fail-safe that ensures that everything stays on track and that our clients (viewers/fans) experience what they perceive to be a flawless event.

Engage everyone in that process. The synchronicity and flawless execution of an event to millions of consumers/viewers is only as strong as the preparation of its weakest link.

Support your talent

Our superstar fighters generate TV ratings, move event tickets, attract advertisers and expand brand growth domestically and internationally. Every business has talented individuals and in every business they are central to the success of the big event. In any business, talent typically became talent due to being unique, extraordinary and special. It’s critical for management to have open, honest and understanding dialogue with talent. Whether it’s a face-to-face, a phone call, a text or an email, effective and honest communication with talent is vital to securing the best possible performance on the largest stage.

Always look back

Success means that the “big event” will be an ongoing and recurring circumstance. So, when the last fight leaves the cage and the production truck goes dark and the “big event” is completed — granted you will be exhausted — it’s the optimal time to catalogue those key execution elements that went wrong. Those execution points that were not optimized will be clearer in your mind and in the mind of your team immediately post-event than they will ever be again.

As much as you would like to immediately join everyone for a post-event celebration, bring your team together, stop and spend 20 minutes or less quickly documenting what went wrong.

Fleshing out that list and solving the issues can wait, but immediately capturing a snapshot of the key elements that must be fixed next time is an invaluable use of you and your team’s time.

Bjorn Rebney is founder, chairman and CEO of Bellator MMA. He has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in sports business from Ohio University and earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. For more information, visit

Fear is a wild emotion for many reasons. When you bring fear into business, however, it can be a distraction, handicapping your growth and blinding you from opportunity. Unlike fear in a horror movie, where you know only bad things can happen, fear in business is quite different. Those who can overcome it will often achieve great results.

When you find yourself saying, “I’m afraid,” try to determine what is really making you afraid. Is it a fear of making cold calls? Is it making contact for that big deal or asking a business alliance for help? Once you have identified the true, underlying cause of your fear, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” In most cases, you will be no worse off if you fail. But if you succeed, you will be in a much better place.

Adopt a game day face

Like a professional athlete, we need to get in a game-zone mentality. We need to think, feel and act with confidence that we will succeed. On every play, we must put ourselves out there and envision the best possible result.

Similar to the athlete who is going to make the last play of a close game where the final play will determine the outcome, his combination of skill, vision and confidence has a significant impact on how it plays out. If he doesn’t execute the play, his team will definitely lose. But if he acts confidently, his team can win — and he’s a hero. Either way, action is better than inaction.

Working on overcoming fear can be as simple as listing out all possible positive outcomes. What could the results be? How can you benefit from those results?

This technique works well in both your professional and personal life. Once you have the list, tell yourself you deserve all the positive possibilities on the list. Internalize this belief. It will help build your confidence. All of a sudden, those tasks that elicited fear become steps in the process toward achieving the positive results and successes you deserve.

Create opportunities

When you are able to overcome fear and start completing tasks that once made you afraid, you are able to create your own opportunities. You need to be free of the emotion of fear so that you can see the choices and the opportunities in front of you.

Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity right in front of you. Or worse yet, you may miss something that needs your attention and not be able to react in time because you are being driven by fear.

Finally, you succeed in overcoming fear when you turn that negative energy into motivating energy. Conquering fear becomes a game. You are now in the zone, and anything is possible. Your confidence becomes contagious, like the athlete who can rally the crowd on the last play.

The athlete believes he can succeed, the crowd believes he can succeed and then he succeeds. The crowd goes wild. Opportunities are like that as well. Your success becomes contagious, and more and more opportunities are created for you.

Laura Neubauer is owner and president of Deliver-It, a successful overnight and scheduled delivery services company, and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners - Orange County. You can reach her at To learn more, visit or

Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:21

Why you can’t treat social media like a road trip

Written by

The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.

I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.

Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.


A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.


Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.


Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.

As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.


Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at or (440) 250-7078.

When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.

While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.

They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.

And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.

You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?

During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●

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