Ep. 258: Home In on Small Business Success


Brian Calley, Shannon Dwyer, Ann Callahan and Kristy Desimone join Lynne for a chat on how you can have a successful business all year long.


00:00:06.7 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money I’m Home, welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Great show for you this week, oh my goodness. We’ve got Brian Calley. He’s with the Small Business Association of Michigan and our own Consumers experts are here to really hone in on how you can have a successful business all year long. And then later, don’t forget, we’ve got our Money Minute expert. And I’ll tell you what, this week it’s on fraud and so important to make sure that we stay up to date on what’s going on in the technology world and all of the fraudulent things that people are trying to do to us. It’s Money I’m Home. Let’s get started. Today we have a really special topic to talk about. And it’s, you know, it’s really very near and dear to my heart and that is small business success. And joining us today, we’ve got great experts that are going to help you run your business to its ultimate. And that is Ann Callahan. Ann, welcome in. You’re with Consumers Credit Union.

00:00:57.8 Ann Callahan (AC): Yes, I’m the business engagement manager. Thanks Lynne.

00:01:00.0 LJJ:Hey and Ann’s going to actually help us ask the questions that are always— oh, it’s a tough panel we’ve got today. [laughter] We have Shannon Dwyer who is also with Consumers Credit Union. Welcome in, Shannon.

00:01:11.7 Shannon Dwyer (SD): Hello. Yeah, thanks for having me.

00:01:14.3 LJJ: And then there’s Brian Calley and Brian is the CEO, the executive director of the Small Business Association of Michigan. Love that you’re here with us today, Brian. I know you are busy. This is the time of year when you’re really rockin’.

00:01:27.5 Brian Calley (BC): It’s a pleasure to be with you. And any time Lynne Jarman-Johnson calls, I answer the phone.

00:01:33.2 LJJ: Wow. Hey, listen, Brian, I’m going to start with you. You know, we have been a partner with
the Small Business Association because, A: it helps our member partners who are our small businesses, but also you really focus on helping us understand what’s going on out in the community in the state of Michigan and what our small businesses are facing. Thanks for being with us. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on at SBAM.

00:02:00.2 BC: Yeah, well, there’s a lot happening at SBAM. We just got our foundation up and running, which will really expand the number of things that we can do for businesses all across the state, but especially those that are disadvantaged in different ways, and to really lean into and lift up all communities through more entrepreneurism. But we also see a lot of kind of crosswinds out there today with respect to the types of issues that small businesses are facing. That’s really what our job is, is to try to help people navigate, to see around the corner a little bit, on what’s coming to make sure you stay compliant when it comes to the rules and the regulations that you have to follow, to really speak into the system to let the policymakers know how these proposals and rule changes impact your business. But at the end of the day, it’s really operating the business to its optimal levels.

00:03:00.0 AC: And Brian, can you fill us in on a little bit more details around what’s going on in the business environment right now and an outlook that you’re seeing from where you sit for 2024.

00:03:10.6 BC: We do a quarterly survey, and this last survey was quite insightful in that it showed us for about two years we’ve seen the overall optimism level fell off a little bit. Now people that own small businesses are generally optimistic people in the first place. They kind of have to be. Pushing all your chips in on a small enterprise. You’re probably an optimistic person, but it has been waning over the last two years. But we saw a bit of an uptick in this last quarter, which was a very welcome change. So you got the biggest concerns that turned up on our survey: inflation, labor force or lack thereof. So difficulty in finding people, but particularly people that are up for the type of work that needs to be done. And then the third was overall the economy.

00:03:59.7 AC: Shannon, can you also share some of the best practices that you use in your everyday, you know, conversations and working with your internal team, on the business objectives that you’re trying to get to.

00:04:14.1 SD: Yeah. And as far as best practices, I mean, working with our business members, I think that, you know, the outlook for the economy— and we do anticipate that interest rates should come down this year. I think it’s a good time to really invest in your company and also really take the time to understand your customer base. Sometimes I’ll look at, you know, working with small business owners and, you know, they’re focusing on profits and staffing. But I think it’s really breaking it out on a customer level of, you know, understanding each individual customer relationship are— Is each of those relationships profitable? Maybe there are some relationships that need to be reassessed. I think it’s just like engaging in your community, understanding what the needs are, finding ways to diversify your revenue stream, as well. You know, what can you do to continue to grow and build out that profitable business? And then I think, too, with the labor market continuing to shrink, it is focusing on culture and having that be a top priority. I was just reading an article, McKinsey and Company, that said, you know, “treat talent as scarcer than capital.” And I think that’s so true. I think that we have to— like what the millennials and Gen Z population, they’re looking for more than just an employer. They want to know how you’re giving back and really supporting the community that you serve. And I think those questions are being asked more and more of employers.

00:05:59.4 LJJ: Brian, can you do us a favor and also give a little shout out about your team and what you’re doing around the state of Michigan and why an SBAM membership is so important?

00:06:11.8 BC: Well, there’s so much to this organization and I want to highlight just a couple of things that are particularly important. The first thing is, it’s important for small business owners to spend time with other small business owners. It’s just, magic happens when you get in the room with with others that know what it’s like to run a business, to be responsible for other people’s payroll, to be sweating out the details and every little thing, to be responsible for everything from making sure that that the office stays clean all the way through to the the invoices get collected on. That’s a— it’s a special and important role that the owner of the business plays. And so that’s number one, is to really get connected in with a cohort of other business owners. Number two would be to, you know, I hate to even bring this up because kind of a scary top topic, but— cybersecurity. One of the things that we have really try to do is to make this easy and seamless, to at least just check and see how you’re doing. So for anybody who’s a member, you can for free get what is essentially like a credit score on your cyber hygiene. Also there’s, on the compliance side, I want to throw out just kind of a hot tip to keep you out of trouble. And one of the things that we do is we make sure that you know all of the things that are changing and what the government expects of you. On March 11th, there is going to be a change that goes into effect on the status of independent contractors. Whether a person is classified as an employee or an independent contractor. And misclassification of independent- employees as independent contractors comes with heavy, heavy penalties. And the rule change coming on March 11th is big. We keep track of that stuff so that people can just go out there and run their business. So whether it’s best practices and learning cohorts and peer-to-peer interactions, or compliance education and putting together employee benefit packages that are competitive and can go toe to toe with the bigger competitive- competitors, these are the sorts of things that we do to just try and give entrepreneurs, small businesses an opportunity to go out there and compete and win in an increasingly competitive environment.

00:08:39.8 LJJ: Well, I’ll tell you what, you guys, this was great. Just learning all of the the opportunities and the tools that are available to small businesses. And I love the fact that we can literally do like mock- like political running. Like, you know, if if someone, like, is a real success, Brian, you could like get them on a platform.

00:09:00.2 BC: Yeah, that’s right. You know, we— you know, the other thing that we do is we do some media practice as well. So, because basically there’s three areas that we like our small business owners to engage in if they, you know, if they have the inclination—and it takes some courage to do this—but it’s to be able to talk to policymakers: might be in a committee, it might be in a meeting with your legislator, it might just be as simple as sending an email or making a call into the office and sharing an opinion. But, so there’s that one, that’s one of the three. The next one is to actually apply to be on a board or a commission. Do you know that the governor does 800 appointments per year. 800 appointments. We love to have small business owners serve on boards and commissions. So we encourage people and show them how to apply and get in the mix to be considered for one of those appointments. And then the final is to talk to media. So this is the one that can be the scariest, of course, but the— but the idea of doing radio or TV or print interviews in order to put the word out there on an issue that’s important to small business owners. So, we regularly get reach outs from the media. And I’m always happy to talk to the media, but a lot of times they’re like, “Well, we want to talk to somebody who actually owns the business.” And so, it’s hard for some— to just out of the blue say, “Yeah, I’ll talk to a reporter.” So we actually do some media training to get people up and— up to a point where they feel confident, like, “Yeah, I can do that.” And you can get a sense for—as people get more and more engaged, more and more involved—that other confidence and everything would go up. I mean, the idea that, “Yeah, I could do this and I was successful and I made a difference right there.” Sky’s the limit. What else? What— What’s next?

00:10:51.5 LJJ: Well, thank you. I can tell you what’s next is that there will be many businesses— and if you need help and assistance, SBAM is there. And Consumers is here too, to really help you get your business not only off the ground, but then also to be very successful long term. Ann, thank you so much.

00:11:10.1 AC: No, this has been great, and I love working with Shannon every day. We have a lot of great conversations. And every time I’m with you, Brian, be it over the phone this way or in person, it’s always great to see you and hear your insights. So thank you so much.

00:11:24.5 BC: Thanks so much. Good to be with you.

00:11:26.9 SD: Yeah, thank you.


00:11:33.0 LJJ: It’s time for our Money Minute Expert. Today we’re talking about fraud. And Kristy Desimone is our expert in fraud here at Consumers Credit Union. We know that people can impersonate others. We’re talking voice, look. What’s going on in the fraud world?

00:11:49.3 Kristy Desimone (KD): Yeah. So they can impersonate voice or they can also impersonate a number. So a lot of times they spoof your credit union’s number or a website and they get you to click on a link or call them at that number and provide information.

00:12:02.5 LJJ: You actually have helped people who— like they’re literally on the phone with a wrong fraudster.

00:12:08.8 KD: Yeah, I’ve called individuals and they have already said, “Hey, I’m on the other line with you.” And I’m like, “Ahh, no you’re not.” [laughter] So we figure out that they’re spoofing our number and the person isn’t who they say they are.

00:12:20.6 LJJ: How can people make sure that they stay safe?

00:12:23.3 KD: Yeah, use a number you have used before to call us or stop into an office and give us a number and let us know what’s going on.

00:12:30.5 LJJ: And I love the fact that Kristy always says, “Do not be embarrassed if you think you might have fraud in your life.” We are here to help. I’m always so amazed at our guests and their leadership and their expertise. And you know something? You can be a part of it. Do you have a question for any of our experts? Just call 269.488.2764. That’s our Money I’m Home Hotline.

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