Help! My business is like a reality TV show: all unnecessary drama.

You’re not alone. After profitability concerns, this is the No. 1 headache of business owners, says Lauren Owen of Redpoint Business Coaching. Drama and discord create stress and hurt productivity. There is no quick fix but there are things you can do, starting with regular meetings. “Scheduled, well-run meetings are essential to clear communication, team building, and addressing potential conflicts,” says Owen, adding that such meetings are conspicuously absent at stores with drama issues. Other steps include confronting your drama queens, addressing your underperformers (there is often a hidden cost in the resentment they cause), performing a cost-benefit analysis on your high performance/maintenance employees (sometimes they just suck all the energy out of a store) and, finally, taking a good look at yourself. Are you giving your staff a clear sense of purpose? Employees instilled with a sense of higher purpose tend to grouse a lot less, Owen says.

When choosing a tax preparer, should I opt for someone who claims he can get a larger refund or a percentage of the amount of the refund?

Neither, say the IRS’s guidelines. You’re on the hook if they get too aggressive with deductions.

If I upload something educational to YouTube, do I lose ownership of that video?

No, it remains all yours. Unlike most of its technology peers’ byzantine legal riders, Google’s terms of service — for YouTube at least — are surprisingly brief (at just 5,500 words), friendly and best of all, comprehensible. The pertinent part reads: “Some of our services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

How can I get the best out of my signs this holiday season?

Done well, signs allow you take some control over the consumer’s eye, educate shoppers and importantly, justify prices. At the same time, they should be like well-raised children — seen, not heard, meaning they shouldn’t scream and they shouldn’t be the focus of attention. Sometimes a big, beautiful black-and-white photograph of a couple in sunglasses does a better job setting the mood than a sign that declares “Sunglasses!” says Paco Underhill, author of the bestseller Why We Buy: “The purpose of the sign is to get somebody to ask a question rather than to close a deal,” he says.

Are pay-per-click ads a good investment for an optician/optometrist?

Google’s own data makes it clear: Pay-per-click works extremely well for existing businesses that have already built an name or themselves. Pay-per-click performs poorly for businesses that aren’t already well known. If the name of your business is a household word in your town, consider investing in local pay-per-click. But if you’re still trying to build your name, put all your eggs into a single mass-media basket and then lift that basket to the sky, says Roy H. Williams, author of The Wizard Of Ads. “The biggest mistake you can make is to spread your ad dollars around, thinking you should cover all your bases. You don’t have the money for that. Have courage. Get focused. Talk loud and draw a crowd,” he says.

My daughter’s school asked me to sponsor the school play. I’m happy to do it, but from a business standpoint, is there anything to gain?

Marketing theory says a small business in a crowded market would be better served putting ad dollars into advertising that helps build a distinct reputation for something (or occasionally into a special campaign to support a promotion). If, however, you’re in a business category in which no one advertises but you, or where you’ve established top-of-mind dominance and simple name recognition will be enough to make customers think of you when they need a pair of stylish glasses or contact lenses, then yes, go ahead and sponsor that program. Ellen Fruchtman of Fruchtman Marketing argues it’s usually best to view such ads as primarily for goodwill and to be paid for from your charity contribution fund (for which she recommends setting an annual budget.)

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of INVISION.


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