Browsing Articles Written by

Carol Roth

Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at She also has an action figure made in her likeness.

5 Key Apps for Your Business

By October 14, 2016 No Comments

Watching your small business grow is one of the most enjoyable rewards for your efforts, but frustration can set in when you lack the resources that allow your larger competitors to move forward effortlessly.

As long as you have computers and wireless devices, you and your hard-working staff can now have tools to help level the playing field to look and play like championship teams. Better yet, they allow you and your staff to be mobile and still be efficient.

The following 5 recommendations can help get you started on your quest.


5 Ways to Reduce Small Business Stress Through Positive Thinking

By September 28, 2016 No Comments

Part of the exhilaration of owning a small company is the flurry of unpredictable activity needed to satisfy customers and grow the business, typically with limited human resources. Unfortunately, with an eye on the prize, you see value in these experiences, but your employees only see the stress.

Frequent changes in direction and focus are necessarily the rule in most small businesses, but change is known to be a top-stressor for most individuals. If you can't effectively ease the tension, your employees are likely to burn out, assuming that they don't flee to more relaxed positions at other companies.


5 Ways to Run a Successful Small Business While Retaining Some of Your Personal Life

By August 26, 2016 No Comments

When you operate a small business, you look for creative ways to provide your employees with a work-life balance to offset the many sacrifices that they often make. This is how you reward them, while trying to stop them from fleeing to larger employers that probably offer less daily pressure.


5 Ways to Make Your Small Business Innovate Better Than the Big Guys

By August 9, 2016 No Comments

There's no escaping it — small companies must be flexible enough to continuously react to changes in the business environment. Reaction definitely keeps your business alive, but it takes a proactive, innovative approach to encourage growth. Innovation can (and should) come from anyone on your team, and your close-knit relationships actually put you in a better position to innovate than many of your largest competitors.


What Your Business Can Borrow from the “Good Old Days”

By July 28, 2016 No Comments

Even baby boomers, whose parents were young during the Great Depression, grew up hearing about “the good old days”. Every generation has its own version of that magical time, even though they all grew up in a world that seemed on the verge of imploding. I know a woman in her 90s who still fondly reminisces about taking a pillow to sleep on the beach because it was too hot to sleep in her third-floor walkup before the advent of air conditioning.


How to Bridge Between Millennials and Boomers in Your Small Business

By July 14, 2016 No Comments

Common stereotypes say that all boomers are grumpy know-it-alls who insist on ordering the younger generation around and that millennials are the true know-it-alls who will never admit that their older counterparts may have learned a thing or two during many years on the job. This leaves you with an important question: can baby boomers and millennials co-exist or even thrive in the same workplace?

Your small business cannot afford age-related discord when every person counts. Older workers are remaining on the job longer than they have in the past, but the millennial generation represents a larger percentage of people entering the workforce. So, how do you get two diverse factions to work together in peace and harmony? Here are five keys that can help them work together — and create alliances that make them valuable teams.

 #1. Personality matters when integrating older and younger workers.

It is very easy to view age as the only reason why your employees are not getting along. Not so fast- in reality, personality clashes are major sources of discord, regardless of age. You probably need to focus on personality types when developing good working relationships.

Every age group has its share of grumpy workers. If you arrange for any grumpy worker to mentor another one, you can expect the same explosive relationship as you would get by combining old and young grumpy workers.

So, when you need any grumpy employee to mentor someone, make sure that the mentee knows how to turn the other cheek. An employee who cannot create conflict will eventually stop trying, opening the door for a good relationship to develop.

Of course, successful employee combinations do not all pertain to levels of grumpiness. Combining individuals of like personality types can be successful as well. Put two high-energy workers together, for example, and you're likely to benefit from a powerhouse team.

#2. Mentoring can work in both directions.

It is common to assume that your company only needs the “old codgers” to mentor the young upstarts who just came in, but it's a two-way street. Everybody has knowledge to share. At one end of the spectrum, anyone with a longer history in the company can provide valuable advice on company processes and procedures. At the other end, the newbies probably have up-to-the-minute technical knowledge that identifies when those processes and procedures cry out for updates.

Your millennial team members have fewer pre-conceived notions to limit their thinking. When they envision new methods and technology that can make life better for everyone, they are willing share their ideas with everyone, young and old. Will a seasoned employee reject a valid idea that makes life easier? Of course not; few people want to work unnecessarily harder.

Rather than awarding ultimate power to a mentor, it's better to introduce both members of a new partnership as a team. There is nothing wrong with a healthy, respectful debate that may culminate in solutions that you can approve for implementation.

 #3. Develop relationships through shared experiences.

Boomers probably walked uphill in the snow to and from school each day… without shoes. Millennials probably had parents who drove them… until they could drive themselves. But, the fact is that they both went to school and the boomers recognize that going by car is better than traveling on foot.

Never assume that a past filled with challenges creates a person who wants the challenges to continue. Boomers are more likely to respect high-tech shortcuts, as long as they do not cause errors. Millennials don't want errors, either. They will agree to periodic quality checks, even if the process is a tad slower.

 #4. Focus on similarities.

Maybe it's time to ignore the generational differences and listen to the experts, who say that all age groups share certain needs. They all need (or at least prefer) meaningful work, they enjoy collaboration and they love to learn.

As the boss, you need to recognize these similarities and design jobs that incorporate them. Try to avoid assigning too many blindingly-mindless tasks. Provide teams with opportunities that capitalize both on similarities and differences to meet shared goals.

#5. Encourage teams to capitalize on each member's assets.

Older athletes necessarily favor strategic intelligence developed from experience over the brute strength that they had they had in their youth, but both approaches have value to the team. Your job is to help multigenerational workers to recognize each other's strengths — and recognize when those strengths provide the synergistic benefits that allow them to solve problems or modify processes together more effectively than they could do on their own.

True diversity strengthens any business environment.

Diversity extends beyond racial or other cultural differences, and certainly includes the differences between younger and older workers. Blending all types of diversity within a small work force helps bring high levels of excitement and innovation to every job. With a little encouragement, all generations can make vital contributions as your small business grows into a larger one.


Small Business Owners: The Buck Stops with You When Outside Vendors Create Client Issues

By July 7, 2016 No Comments

Big companies are typically adept at sending customers with complaints to other companies connected to their products. The blame game is all too common. Just recently, one of my colleagues told me about how the manufacturer of her failing streaming DVD player immediately blamed her network provider for a weak signal.

It took weeks of unnecessary research and testing of a perfectly-fine internet connection before she decided to assume that the DVD player was at fault. Knowing that support was not forthcoming, she shelled out more money to buy a different streaming device. That device worked flawlessly right out of the box.

My colleague no longer buys products manufactured by the major electronics company that refused to support its product. And, she tells everyone that she knows to do the same. Maybe that huge company can afford to lose customers, but small businesses rely on customer loyalty. Regardless of who bears the blame for a customer concern, your dedication to problem resolution can win you customer loyalty for life.

Vendor relationships give you the power to help.

Do you have total control over your product or service? Any business relies on other businesses to some degree. Maybe your product is comprised of parts created by one or more manufacturers. Or, perhaps your company creates some form of intellectual services completely in-house, but relies on outside printers to create documentation for your clients.

Your company's work may be stellar, but when an outside vendor fails, your ultimate goal is to make your customers happy with little effort on their part. Your relationships with your vendors typically provide you with more problem-solving power than your customers enjoy. So, even if you can give your customer the printer's phone number, for example, you need to make that call yourself.

Naturally, there are times when your customer absolutely has to talk directly with the vendor — perhaps super-secret security information is needed to resolve the problem. This might be the case when a medical office patient is having billing problems with an outside diagnostics vendor. You probably still have some power to ease your client's path to resolution. Maybe you can connect customers with specific vendor representatives in lieu of sending them to the general-use 800 number that never works quite right. Or, make the call yourself to alert the vendor to the problem and convince someone to call your customer directly.

Present a spirit of partnership with your customer.

Regardless of the source of customer issues, they will take comfort when you quickly make it clear that their problems are your problems and you take the situation personally.

You definitely want to avoid the "us vs. them" mentality between teams within your company, but this is exactly what you want to display when helping resolve customer complaints. Customers can initially feel victimized by the circumstances, but your partnership can be quite empowering. So, if that print shop, for example, produced the documentation on paper so thin that it seemed like tissue paper, your customer needs to understand that the vendor faces the wrath of the loss of your future business if they don't re-deliver a high-quality product post haste.

You don't always have to point fingers… directly

Your customer paid you for goods or services, and you need to take full responsibility for related problems. Even when an outside vendor created issues, the bottom line is that you chose to use that particular vendor. Regardless of your reasons, your customers should never suffer from your choices.

Still, it doesn't always hurt to communicate the causes of problems to your customers. You don't want to blame a vendor outright for no good reason. But, it helps when your customers can watch you resolve their concerns by masterfully taking control of external problems.

Show that you care

You should always display a caring spirit even after an issue has been resolved. Customers who are happy with your solutions may not be fully confident that similar issues will not arise in the future. It does not take long to pick up the phone or send a follow-up email to verify that your customer is fully satisfied with the results and to ask if there are any remaining questions or concerns. The customer who knows that you continue to care is more likely to stick with your company to place future orders.

No small business is an island

Even if your company creates products or delivers services with in-house resources, you don't do it alone. This single blog topic required the use of a computer, several types of software, reliable electricity and a great cup of hot tea for a caffeine burst. When it comes to customer satisfaction, however, everything comes from you. Customers who witness your full control over any situation have the assurance they need to keep coming back to you.