<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Inc Well | Small Business Advice for Chicago Entrepreneurs]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/inc-well http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:53:12 -0600 Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:53:12 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Local Shops Ready for Small Business Saturday]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:26:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/small+biz+saturday2.jpg

With the Black Friday frenzy coming to an end, small businesses are hoping to reign in on some of the holiday shopping madness.

Local businesses say the popularity of shopping local for the holidays is growing.

“We’ve definitely seen a jump on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday,” said Mel Nelson, owner of the M2 Boutique on Southport Avenue.

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American express. In part to help small retailers during the economic downturn and it continues to grow in popularity.

The US Small Business Administration estimated that customers spent nearly $5.5 billion nationwide in 2012 at small, independent stores during the event.

“America’s small business owners are on the front lines when it comes to creating new jobs and opportunities,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “Their efforts exemplify our Nation’s founding idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love, if you work hard, you can make it if you try. On Small Business Saturday, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring ours is a country where small businesses can thrive.”

As local shops gear up for Small Business Saturday, experts say shopping trends could be turning in favor of the “mom and pop” shops.

“Perhaps there’s an attitude change more toward people in your neighborhood helping them out,” said Shopping Deloitte Retail Expert Tom Compernolle.

And shoppers agree.

“I do think it’s great having local options where you don’t have to necessarily fight the traffic at the malls you can you know living in the neighborhood just kind of walk over,” said shopper Kristen Castelloni.

“I think people want to cheer on the small guy and not have everything look the same with the big retail boxes,” said shopper Carrie Mondschean.

In Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce said a recent study showed the benefits of customers buying into Small Business Saturday.

“For every dollar you typically spend at a local independent store about 60 percent of that stays within the community,” said Rudy Flores with the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

<![CDATA[Website Lets Consumers Haggle on Pricing]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:56:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/greentoe-1.jpg Most consumers hate haggling, and most brick and mortar stores don't even embrace it, but an online venture can make consumers more comfortable over price negotiations. NBC Chicago's Lisa Parker reports.]]> <![CDATA[10 Stores to Shop Thanksgiving Day]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 22:13:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

More and more retailers are opening their doors earlier and earlier in the run up to Black Friday, with many national chains opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Here is a list of stores that will be open for the holiday and what deals you can expect.

Target— Target is opening earlier than ever — 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours ahead of last year's 8 p.m. start — with plans to kick off online sales the week before Black Friday. Target's biggest deal? The new Samsung Galaxy S5, which normally sells for $200, is going for one cent (with a two-year AT&T contract).

Walmart— Walmart announced it will open on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. this year, kicking off "Five Days of Deals" on different categories of merchandise. Shoppers can even get a head start on Thanksgiving morning, with sales on the Samsung 55-inch Ultra HD Curved Smart TV ($1,298, or $900 in savings) and iPhone 6 ($179 with a 2- year contract).

Best Buy— Best Buy stores will be opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, an hour earlier than last year. Best Buy’s flagship deal: a 50-inch Panasonic TV for $199.99.

Kmart— With sales beginning at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Kmart is pushing the definition of "Black Friday." Kmart is selling Westinghouse 55-inch HDTVs for $449.99, plus homewares like Proctor Silex irons and toasters for only $4.99.

Sears— Unlike its sister store Kmart, Sears will be opening at the (slightly) more traditional hour of 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, although it's still an earlier start than last year's. Sears is promoting deals on appliances, like a Kenmore front-loading washer-dryer pair for $799.99.

Macy's— Macy's will kick off its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon, two hours earlier than its opening time last year. The department store's big deals, which last until Nov. 30, are focused on clothes, shoes and jewelry.

JCPenney— JCPenney is likewise pushing its opening times ever earlier. The store's sales are slated to begin at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, likely aiming to win shoppers from competitors by offering 50 percent off bedding, bath, and luggage.

Toys"R"Us— Another early starter, Toys "R" Us will be open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving with discounts on items ranging from Evenflo Booster Car Seats ($49.99 instead of the usual $89.99) to "Frozen" toys in every conceivable form.

Kohl's— Like many other stores, Kohl's will be opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. In previous years, the retailer has opened as early as 4 a.m. on Friday. Over 500 deals will begin online starting Nov. 24. In store, shoppers will get $15 in "Kohl's cash" for every $50 they spend.

Old Navy— Old Navy is one of the rare stores opening later this year, with a 4 p.m. start time instead of last year's 9 a.m. opening. The retailer is again promising to award $1 million to a shopper in its "Overnight Millionaire" promotion. The first 100 shoppers in line at every North American Old Navy store will be entered in the sweepstakes.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Businesses Giving Back for More Than the Holidays]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:51:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Gifts+Generic+Holiday+Shopping.jpg

Thanksgiving is near, and for many businesses, that means thanking clients, partners, employees, a community and supportive family and friends. But giving back as a business doesn't have to be just a holiday theme.

Some Chicago businesses, professional leaders, and organizations are contributing to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement and incorporating community-building and philanthropic initiatives into their missions, mantras, and even business models.

CSR is an effort companies take upon themselves to appeal to the ethical and social needs of its audience and the broader economy, population, or environment it serves, or serves within.

While CSR has become a widely recognized descriptor of business practices, the intent and impact go beyond responsibility, or obligation. Perhaps “social involvement” may more accurately depict the efforts companies large and small are taking to reduce waste in production, increase environmental sustainability, consider its impact on community, and prioritize people and society while maintaining profitability.

There’s proof that consumers are paying attention to company ideals too. According to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Social Responsiblity Report from June 2014, 55 percent of consumers will spend more for products and services from companies committed to making a positive impact.

If you’re looking for ways to give back year-round as a company, or as an employee, Chicago has several organizations and resources where you can connect with like-minded individuals and learn about how to increase your social impact.

One such group is Illinois B Corps., which represents Benefit Corporations, or companies that are “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Their website highlights that there are over 1,000 Certified B Corps globally, including well-known companies like Seventh Generation, method, and Patagonia, and nearly 15 in Chicago.

According to Nancy Goldstein, founder of Compass(x) Strategy and one of the Chicago B Corps' community leaders, “the group has been working on showing local business leaders how they can build a better business."

"We want to inspire people to think beyond short term shareholder gains to long term stakeholder gains. That means doing what is right for your customers, your employees, the environment, and your community,” she said.

To find events and resources about building a business that gives back year-round, see below:

Illinois B Corps
Social Enterprise Alliance
Chicagoland Environmental Network
Corporate Responsibility Group
Chicago Fair Trade

Rebecca Otis is a digital marketing strategist and consultant, speaker, and blogger that focuses on using simple marketing tactics to make a significant impact for businesses. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Google+.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Tips to Avoid Black Friday Shopping Scams]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:59:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black-friday-employees-thanksgiving+%281%29.jpg

Black Friday shopping isn't always easy.

With many retailers planning to start Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on Thanksgiving Day, some even sooner, the Better Business Bureau has listed the top ways for holiday shoppers to avoid scams and hackers.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Print out your coupons to have them on hand when you go to the store, ensuring that they can guarantee the low prices they’ve claimed to have.

Only Shop at Trusted Retailers
Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at www.bbb.org . When browsing online, look for and click on the BBB seal to confirm that it is a valid and trustworthy source.
Check Store Policies Prior to Buying
Confirming each store’s policies on returns and exchanges will help you decide where to spend your money, avoid costly restocking fees and miss short holiday return deadlines.
Use Your Credit Card
Shoppers are protected under Federal law to dispute any unauthorized charges on their credit card. Same goes for if you buy an item and it is never received. Many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card number.
Hold On to Documentation of Your Purchase
A printed gift receipt protects the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange an item at the full value you paid for it. When shopping online, the BBB recommends saving a copy of the final confirmation page you are brought to after purchasing you item. This saves you from relying on the business to email you a receipt and can serve as a back-up proof-of-purchase if need be.
Make Sure Your Personal Information is Protected
It’s worth taking the time to read the site's privacy policy to understand how your personal information will be used. If you can’t find one, consider that to be a red flag your information may be used and sold to others without permission.  Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying.
Yes, Some Deals Are Too Good To Be
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially those showcasing extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.  Go with your instincts. Sometimes the best deal is passing up a scam that would cost you more in the end.

Photo Credit: AP/FILE Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Report Names Most Popular Holiday Gift Cards]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:05:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shop_cards.jpg

While shopping for the holidays typically includes searching for the season’s hottest toys, gadgets, clothes, and electronics, it also often calls for the purchase of a gift card.

The National Retail Federation reports gift cards are the most sought after gift for the eighth straight holiday season, with 62 percent of consumers hoping to receive one this year.

Card marketplace site CardHub released a list Friday of the 24 most popular gift cards for 2014.

According to the list, Visa is the most searched for gift card by consumers.

Amazon, iTunes, American Express, Netflix, Walmart Target, Google Play, eBay and Starbucks were also named among the most popular pieces of gifted plastic.

With Black Friday just one week away, many stores are offering up early deals and extending sales.

If you’re looking to avoid the holiday shopping hassle or purchasing an unwanted gift, gift cards might be your best bet.

See the full list here.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg News]]>
<![CDATA[New Lammily Doll Aims to be "Normal Barbie" ]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:02:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/lammily+fashion+3.jpg

A graphic designer turned toy maker has created what some are calling the “anti-Barbie” and "normal Barbie."

The Lammily doll, which became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday, is intended to show what Barbie would look like if she had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body.

According to the doll’s website, she “is the first fashion doll that isn’t ‘enhanced.’”

Creator Nickolay Lamm says he started a crowndfunding campaign in March, hoping to develop a doll “with typical human body proportions.”

The idea quickly took off, as more than 13,621 supporters backed the idea, preordering more than 19,000 dolls.

But as the idea developed, Lamm created a new element to the “real life” doll—a sticker extension pack, which is set to become available in January.

The stickers, called Lammily marks, include options to give the doll face acne, freckles, moles, blush, scars, cellulite and even stretch marks.

“Lammily represents the idea of being true to yourself in a world that too often convinces us to pursue an unattainable fantasy,” Lamm wrote on his website.

New fashion options are also set to debut in January.

Photo Credit: Lammily.com
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Best, Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:47:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

With so many stores offering up Black Friday deals, it can be tough to decide where to go.

To make bargain hunting a little easier this year, personal finance site WalletHub has released a list of “2014’s Best & Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals.”

The list, which the company said intends to “help consumers maximize their savings this year,” is based on a survey of 5,525 deals from Black Friday ad scans from 21 of the biggest U.S. retailers, according to researchers.

The list named J.C. Penney as the top retailer for Black Friday deals, with an average discount of 65.44 percent.

Also named among the best retailers were Macy’s, Rite Aid, Meijer, Sears, Walgreens, Office Depot and OfficeMax, Ace Hardware, Kohl’s and Staples.

Sears was dubbed the best retailer for those looking for deals in apparel, accessories and appliances, Office Depot and OfficeMax had the best discounts on electronics and computers, Macy’s topped the list for discounts on consumer electronics as well as consumer packaged goods, Kohl’s had the best deals on toys and furniture and Kmart was the top retailer for jewelry discounts.

Among the stores with the not-so-great discounts were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon, Big Lots and Costco, which all had average discounts less than 32.16 percent.

In addition to traditional deals this year, several retailers are offering pre-Black Friday sales and others are extending the shopping event into a days-long affair.

Experts say shoppers are better off mapping out their Black Friday plans beforehand.

“One way of making sure that the sales are real sales is to know ahead of time what exactly we want/need to buy and what the cost is before this event and where the best prices are and then compare them to what is offered on Black Friday,” Tahira K. Hira, professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University told WalletHub.

Hira also recommends making a list of needs ahead of time and sticking to that list to avoid overspending.

At least four major retailers were not included in the WalletHub survey as they did not provide data on their Black Friday deals. Those stores include Apple, Home Depot, IKEA and Lowe’s.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stores That Will Be Closed for Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:45:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nieman-Marcus.jpg

With many stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, some retailers are keeping their doors shut for the holiday.

Several retailers are closed on Thanksgiving to give their employees the chance to enjoy the holiday before the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Nordstrom announced that it would be closed Thursday, Nov. 28, "to celebrate one holiday at a time."

“This is how we’ve approached the holidays as long as anyone here can remember,” Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said.

T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced they would be closed on Thanksgiving, but would offer extended hours and new merchandise throughout the holiday season.

"As in past years, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends" Rebecca Leonard, spokesperson for T.J Maxx and Marshalls, said in a statement.

Home Depot also plans to close for the holiday, tweeting "Take time to enjoy food, family and friends, and we'll see you early Friday morning."

In addition, USA Today reports at least 12 other retailers will stay closed for the holiday, including:

  • Coscto
  • Ace Hardware
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Patagonia
  • Dillard's
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Neiman Marcus
  • GameStop
  • Nordstrom
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • REI

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Onion Looks Into Possible Sale: Report]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:14:12 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/the-onion86426287.jpg

This is not a joke. It appears the owners of Chicago-based satirical news site The Onion are looking into a possible sale, according to reports.

Onion Inc., owner of The Onion and the entertainment site A.V. Club, has hired a financial adviser to explore options for a possible sale, according to Bloomberg, which cites people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is also reportedly working with the investment bank GCA Savvian.

Onion CEO Steve Hannah confirmed the hiring of a financial adviser in a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg. The memo reportedly said the adviser was handling inquiries for both investment partners and potential buyers of The Onion.

The Onion released its last print edition in Chicago last year as it planned to moved to an all-digital format.

Mike McAvoy, president of Onion Inc., told Crain’s Chicago Business at the time it's sad to see the print edition no longer exist, "but it’s important to see the Onion succeed.”

The Onion consolidated its media operations and moved from New York to Chicago's River North two years ago.

The city welcomed the move, dubbing July 31 "The Onion Day."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Ways to Master the Exit Interview]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:17:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

When an employee leaves a company, both the departing party and the employer face many challenges, regardless of the circumstance. Employers lose a member of their staff – someone they’ve invested in – and then add on the cost of replacing the employee, which typically includes a 30 percent uptick in salary, and companies are looking at an expensive ordeal. Exits can be especially difficult in situations where the departure is unexpected or the result of a negative employee experience.

However, as difficult as it may be when an employee departs, employers can find value in the process, most notably through an exit interview.

Feedback from an exit interview has the potential to offset the cost of future employee losses by incentivizing business improvements by gaining valuable insight into areas of improvement.

Here are four tips to help employers navigate the sometimes challenging exit interview.

Treat the exit interview like any other interview. Due diligence is key. Review the employee’s work history so there are no surprises. In an effort to identify trends of exiting employees, take diligent notes. Be sure to send a thank you note afterward and invite them to an alumni group if your company has one. Encourage the employee to stay in touch – you never know when you could bump into them again!

Demonstrate empathy with employees. The key here is the tone and verbiage you use when asking questions. Disgruntled employees might find it hard to pinpoint the root of their frustration. Guide the employee to understanding their irritations by asking why they felt they didn’t have the resources they needed for a project. At the same time, its best to avoid pointed questions such as, “Why did you quit?” Instead, employers can pose more targeted questions to yield better responses: “What prompted your job search?” or “What does your new employer offer that we did not?”

Set a goal to learn about the organization’s culture. Aside from understanding why the employee is choosing to leave, gather information and feedback on the company’s culture and business practices. Ask questions about the employee’s satisfaction with his or her peers, career path and culture at the company.

Interview retirees, too. Often overlooked, retirees have valuable information and vast knowledge about his or her organization. They’re also more likely to be candid with their feedback, as they won’t be concerned with potential backlash. Questions you could ask to uncover more information about your company include, “Tell me about the core skill sets needed to succeed here,” and “What were the three best things about working here?”

Employers should remember that exit interviews can prove as useful as hiring procedures. Done correctly, exit interviews can improve company culture, hasten the vacant role filling process and improve employee retention.

Candace Murphy is an IT Recruiting Manager at Addison Group, a nationwide provider of professional staffing and search services. Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch. Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in Administration & Human Resources, Finance & Accounting, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for both Client and Candidate service for the past four years. Learn more at www.addisongroup.com.

<![CDATA[McDonald's Reveals How It Makes McRib Sandwiches]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:54:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcrib+mcdonalds+youtube.jpg

McDonald's is making good on a recent promise to answer questions, even the potentially nasty ones, about the Oak Brook, Illinois-based burger chain's food.

Case in point: A video released Monday on YouTube shows just how McRib patties are made.

"Is it real pork? Why is it that shape?" the company ponders in the video description. "Some of the biggest questions about our food revolves around the McRib, so Grant Imahara and a McDonald’s skeptic are going to Lopez foods, one of our U.S. pork suppliers, to find answers."

In the video, Wes Bellamy, who apparently tweeted a photo of a frozen McRib while noting how "disgusting" it looked, meets up with former "Mythbusters" host Imahara for a tour of the pork processing plant where McRibs are born.

The video shows the broken-down meat ready for cooking and shaping, and at the end of the process, out pops a frozen McRib puck that's not dissimilar to the one Bellamy tweeted.

But by this point, he's convinced it's not disgusting.

"It's different now that I know what actually goes inside of it," he says.

Do you agree?

Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Target to Close Two Chicago-Area Stores]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 18:05:45 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/target9.JPG

Target Corp. has announced that it will close 11 stores nationwide early next year and two of those locations are in Illinois.

The company said the closures are expected to take effect Feb. 1, 2015.

The list includes a store in McHenry, located at 1860 N. Richmond Rd, and one in Calumet City, located at 1717 E. West Rd. Other closings include stores in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Iowa and Georgia.

“The decision to close a Target store is only made after careful consideration of the long-term financial performance of a particular location,” Target said in a statement. “All eligible store team members are being offered the option to transfer to other Target stores. Team members who choose not to transfer will be offered a separation package.”

The Minneapolis-based company currently has 1,801 stores in the United States and 133 in Canada.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shake Shack Opens First Chicago Location]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:57:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shake+shack+line.jpg

New York-based Shake Shack, as famous for its lines and web cam as its burgers and shakes, has officially opened in Chicago.

The fast-casual chain made its Second City debut at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ohio and Rush streets in the River North neighborhood, and the crowds were prepared. 

A line stretched clear down the street ahead of the location's opening.

This summer, the company announced another location to open next year on the ground floor of the new Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at Michigan and Madison.

Both locations will serve the modern-day, “roadside” burger-stand staples Shake Shack is known for: burgers, flat-top dogs made with Chicago’s Vienna Beef, frozen custard, craft beer and wine.

The original Shake Shack is so popular in New York that it has become known for long lines and a web camera that shows the real-time wait.

Leading up to the opening, Shake Shack unveiled six life-size, interactive sliding puzzles on Ohio Street. The puzzles featured artwork by artist Noah MacMillan, known in the city for the Chicago Loop District’s iconic “Float” mural.

"In the spirit of Chicago’s vibrant public art collection and in homage to Shake Shack’s roots as a hot dog cart art installation in New York City," organizers said, "the puzzles invite the neighboring community to engage with them."

Photo Credit: LeeAnn Trotter / NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[New McDonald's Ad to Feature Updated Slogan: Report]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:48:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds+sign+new+1.jpg

McDonald’s Corp. is reportedly addressing haters in an upcoming ad campaign.

Amid declining profits and sales, the Oak Brook-based fast food chain plans to launch a new advertising campaign featuring the slogan “Lovin’ Beats Hatin’,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The latest campaign reportedly aims to spread a positive message in the wake of increasing Internet hate. It is expected to debut on Jan. 1 and may include a 60-second spot during Super Bowl XLIX, which airs on NBC Feb. 1.

While the updated catchphrase won’t replace the chain’s well-known “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, it is intended to give it more global appeal, WSJ reported.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's confirmed it is "not a new slogan" for the company.

"We’re always working with our partners on great new creative," spokeswoman Lisa McComb said in a statement. "It’s highly speculative and premature to talk about Super Bowl ads and future campaigns for next year."

Last week, the company announced sales fell 3.3 percent globally and in the U.S. during the third quarter.

"By all measures our performance fell short of our expectations," CEO Don Thompson said.

In the U.S., McDonald's Corp. is fighting to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition and shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome. In hopes of improving its image, McDonald's last week launched a social media campaign inviting customers to ask questions about its food. It began with frank questions like, "Why doesn't your food rot?" and "Is the McRib made from real pork?", showing just how bad some of the perceptions about McDonald's food can be.

To improve the image of its food, McDonald's recently rolled out chicken wraps with sliced cucumbers and the option to substitute egg whites in breakfast sandwiches. It also plans to eventually let people swap out the french fries in value meals with options like salad or vegetables.

<![CDATA[Why Employees Are Calling in Sick to Work]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 18:27:01 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

It might not come as a surprise that employees calling in to work sick aren’t always sick, but a new survey has revealed some surprising excuses employers say they’ve been given.

The survey, conducted by Chicago-based CareerBuilder, shows 28 percent of employees have called in to work sick when they were feeling well.

While almost half of employees say they have a “paid time off” program that allows them to use their time off however they choose, 23 percent of those workers say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse for taking a day off.

But the creativity of some excuses has some employees raising their eyebrows.

From putting a casserole in the oven to “accidentally” getting on a plane to having a "lucky night" and not knowing where they were, the unbelievable reasons employees called in to work are quite surprising.

While the outrageous excuses might come as a surprise, not every employee is playing hooky. A majority of workers feel they do not have the luxury to take a sick day and more than half of employees said they have gone into work sick because they felt the work wouldn't get done otherwise, the survey noted.

Though the majority of employers say they give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31 percent of those surveyed said they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth. Some asked to see a doctor’s note, some called the employee, and some even drove past the employee’s house.

Nearly 1 in 5 employers have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

How are these employees being caught in a lie?

Nearly 24 percent of employers say they caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media. So think twice next time you post a photo of your adventures to Facebook or tweet about your day off.

<![CDATA[Which Big City is Better for Business?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:50:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

New York and Los Angeles may be bigger than Chicago, but bigger isn’t always better when it comes to running a business in the nation’s three largest cities.

Chicago outranks both New York and LA in terms of overall quality of life, a key metric for employers looking to recruit top talent. According to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which considers everything from housing and education to cities’ social, political and economic environments, the Windy City ranks 42nd globally, compared with 44th for New York and 59th for LA.

Chicago, which was recently named one of the top cities for fast-growing companies, is also more affordable than its coastal counterparts. Not only are average real estate costs lower – $22.62 per square foot in Chicago vs. $29.61 and $55.28 for LA and New York, respectively – but the value of a dollar is higher in Illinois than in California and New York, giving businesses, and the people who work for them, more purchasing power.

Here’s an infographic with more information on how “the big three” stack up:

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Microsoft Tech Conference to Come to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:15:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/mccormick+place+chicago.jpg

A mega-tech conference is coming to Chicago this spring, officials announced Thursday.

Thousands of Microsoft’s brightest minds will unite at McCormick Place for the company’s Ignite event.

“Ignite is really the signature event we have for our business customers,” said Microsoft General Manager Julia White. “We are really happy it will be here in Chicago for the first time.”

It’s a major coup for tourism and technology in the city.

Microsoft says it will combine five of its annual tech conferences into a singular one event, set to be hosted at McCormick Place.

“The desirability of Chicago in general—the food, the entertainment, the sports—made it really ideal,” White said.

The conference is scheduled for May 4-8. It could bring as many as 20,000 people to the city and an estimated $47 million in spending.

“This is a testament to what has happened at McCormick Place and all the other strengths—our airport, our hotels, our entertainment, our restaurants and it plays to Chicago’s strengths,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The announcement was made at 1871, one of five startup incubators in Chicago. The newest, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, opened Thursday morning in Hyde Park.

The city’s growing tech sector is another reason Microsoft chose Chicago.

“We are recognizing it for what it is—a real technology hub,” White said. “Ignite is the first great partnership but I think there will be more.”

The Microsoft announcement comes on the heels of news that next year Chicago will host both the NFL Draft and the James Beard awards, events that were previously in New York.

So far, Microsoft's agreement with the city is for one year only.

“My goal is to make it an annual conference so they keep coming back,” Emanuel said.

<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:32:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Drops 460 points, Rebounds]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:57:24 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009257445_1200x675_343121476001.jpg What caused the stock market to take a big slide today. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.]]> <![CDATA[Suburban Teen Creates App That Shoots Up the Charts]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 21:43:00 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009185795_1200x675_339892291645.jpg 10/9/2014: A suburban Chicago teen helped create the "Impossible Rush" app that's become a worldwide hit. Lauren Jiggetts reports.]]> <![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App, Garner Worldwide Attention]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:13:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

<![CDATA[New Restaurant Set to Replace Hot Doug's]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:58:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/hot-dougs.jpg

While the closing of Hot Doug’s may have marked a somber moment in the encased meat world, there’s a new meaty menu set to go up on the walls of the former sausage superstore.

Frank Meats Patty is expected to move into the iconic Avondale space located at California and Roscoe as early as Dec. 1, Chicago Eater reported.

Hot Doug’s closed its doors for good last Friday, marking the end of a legacy in the city’s hot dog realm.

Owner Doug Sohn said he has to vacate the building by Nov. 1 and announced plans to auction off the decorations for charity.

Then comes Franks Meats Patty, owned by the group behind Fatso’s Last Stand and Lockdown Bar & Grill.

While the new eatery will have a lot to live up to following in Hot Doug’s shoes, but general manager of Lockdown Bar & Grill Bob Corbett says they’re going to be much different.

"We're not trying to be Hot Doug's,” he told Eater. “I stood in line there for years like everyone else."

The expected fast-casual gourmet burger and hot dog joint will boast a menu similar to Fatso’s with a few adjustments. It will feature new Chicago-related décor, later hours and delivery services.

But there will be one piece of Hot Doug’s that could make things easier for fans—the new meat will be cooked on the same grills.

Eater reports that the group is purchasing Sohn’s kitchen equipment.

"If you serve good food and keep the prices fair, people will come in," Corbett said in the interview. "As long as the customers know I'm not trying to be Doug."

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Jordan Brand Standalone Store Planned for Chicago]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:32:29 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MJ+Bobcats+Retirement.jpg

Chicago sneakerheads will soon have a one-stop shopping option for snagging the latest Air Jordans.

Flight 23 at Footaction, a Jordan Brand-only store, plans to open a 36,000-square-foot retail store at 34 S. State St. next June, the Chicago Tribune reports.

It will be the second specialty store for the brand in the country after a New York location opened earlier this year.

The store will only stock Michael Jordan-brand shoes and merchandise and will be located in the space currently occupied by Forever 21.

The company signed a 15-year deal for the Chicago store, according to the Tribune.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Allstate Raising Rates in Illinois]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:12:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Allstate_tag_4color_hor.jpg

Allstate is upping its rates for customers in Illinois.

The Northbrook-based insurer will be increasing its car and home insurance rates in the state by an average of 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner Jones said the increase equates to an average of about $3 a month per auto policy and $10 a month per home policy.

“The reason for this change is to keep up with rising costs,” she said in a statement. “Customers are encouraged to talk with their local agent about discounts for which they may be eligible to help offset these increases, including our Full Pay discount and Easy Pay discounts, among many others. Customers can also work with their local agent to migrate to higher deductibles as a way to help keep premium costs lower.”

The increases, which are larger than ones implemented by the company in other states, both take effect this month-- The homeowners’ hike takes effect Oct. 27 while the car increase begins Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The insurance company is reportedly Illinois’ second-largest property and casualty carrier, following State Farm.

<![CDATA[Determining the Best Lease for Your Business]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:48:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

As the No. 2 city in the country for fast-growing small businesses, Chicago has become the go-to place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new business ventures.

But before they can bring their big ideas to fruition, small business owners have to find a place to house their companies. One of the most common questions that come up when leasing office space is whether it’s better to sign a long-term or short-term lease.

This is especially important for small businesses whose success, or failure, could be at least partially dictated by this decision. While there’s no right answer – every company’s needs are different – there are certain advantages to each that, when carefully analyzed with the help of a commercial broker, can help steer businesses toward the best option.

Benefits of a long-term lease include:

  • Stability – If you find your dream location, a long-term lease (typically five years or more) ensures you’ll be able to stay there for an extended period of time, even if your building is sold. Short-term tenants (one to five years) risk being forced out of their space unexpectedly, inconveniencing customers and employees and jeopardizing the future of their business.
  • Predictability – Tenants that sign a long-term lease know how much their rent will increase from year to year, regardless of market conditions. By comparison, companies that sign a short-term agreement could see their real estate costs soar each year, hampering growth.
  • Tenant Improvements/Concessions – Landlords are often more willing to give tenant improvement allowances and other concessions like free rent to tenants that sign long-term leases. These aren’t off the table for short-term tenants, but they may be more difficult to negotiate.

Short-term leases are attractive for the following reasons:


  • Flexibility – Tenants that need to scale up or down, or move to a new location altogether, are easily able to do so with a short-term lease. Conversely, long-term tenants would either need to sublease or transfer their lease to another tenant in order to relocate.
  • An “Easy Out” – It’s estimated that eight out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of opening. Unlike long-term leases, which leave tenants on the hook for unpaid rent if they ever go out of business, short-term leases allow entrepreneurs to cut their losses and move on if a business venture fails to take off.

One alternative to a traditional short-term lease is shared office space, which allows businesses of all sizes to rent space on an annual or month-to-month basis. In addition to offering amenities like conference rooms and cafeterias, as well as a full support staff to assist with back-office functions, these centers make it easy for tenants to add space as their businesses grow or reduce their footprint during down periods.

Another option is to sign a short-term lease with several renewal options. For example, a tenant who inks a three-year lease could have an option to renew for an additional year or two – often at a higher rate – after the initial term expires. Doing so allows tenants to have the best of both worlds by remaining in their existing location if business is going well or relocating to another location (without penalty) if they run into problems with their landlord or simply want a change of scene.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

<![CDATA[Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Avoid Misclassification]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:41:59 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, companies have been creatively looking to “trim the fat” when it comes to expenses.

The recession, coupled with increased business regulations and health care reform has led businesses to continue expense-minimization efforts.

One way this has been achieved is by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The cost advantage of this is that you aren’t responsible for providing them with certain perks (healthcare benefits) and you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages. But because this is a way of avoiding certain taxes, this is something that is highly monitored and regulated by the IRS. We all know that Uncle Sam needs his money and that the IRS is there to ensure that businesses are giving their just due to the government.

With that being said, companies found to be misclassifying their employees are leaving themselves open to receive a hefty civil fine of up to $25,000 per event PLUS potential back employment taxes.

So how do you know if you’re misclassifying your employees? Here are the three factors that the IRS uses:

  • Behavioral Control – To what extent do you control how the worker performs the work? If you are directing how work is accomplished, providing training, giving instructions, etc. the worker may be seen as an employee. This factor is all about asking how much autonomy does the worker have and how much are you controlling the “who, what, when, where, and how” of his work.
  • Financial Control – To what extent do you control the financial aspects of the work? If you are purchasing the tools necessary for the work to be done and/or reimbursing the incurred expenses of the worker, the worker may be seen to be an employee. Likewise, the IRS looks to see if the independent contractor is able to realize profits or losses in the performance of duties. If the worker can incur no losses, he/she can be viewed as an employee.
  • Relationship of the Parties – How do the parties view the relationship? Here the IRS looks at how permanent the relationship is, if the worker receives any benefits (i.e. insurance), and what business relationship was intended (as shown by written contracts).

These three factors are all taken into account and the IRS looks at the whole situation to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Being aware of the test the IRS uses can help you in avoiding the misclassification of workers and the penalties that comes along with it.

Jamal Jackson, JD/MBA is a corporate attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. He is the Managing Partner of Jackson Corporate Law Offices, Co-Founder of Initiative Consulting Group, LLC, and a Public/Motivational Speaker engaging audiences in the topic areas of Business, Leadership, and Legacy (www.JamalEJackson.com).

<![CDATA[Blackhawks to Unveil Renovated Mag Mile Store]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:03:54 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/495205527.jpg

With just two days until the Chicago Blackhawks officially kick off hockey season, the team is giving fans even more to look forward to.

The team is set to unveil their newly renovated Chicago store on Michigan Avenue in a ribbon-cutting event late Tuesday afternoon featuring Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, President and CEO John McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and Captain Jonathan Toews, alongside Alderman Brendan Reilly.

"This is an incredible opportunity to engage with our fans on the Magnificent Mile, a world class location on one of the most iconic streets in the world," McDonough said in a statement. "We envision the Blackhawks Store will become a must-visit destination for locals, tourists and fans alike."

The store is located at 333 N. Michigan Ave. in an art deco building designed in 1928. The renovation and expansion of the store was expected to cost $48 million. Included in that cost is the renovation of office suites above the store and the restoration of some of the building's historical features.

The updated store will grow to 362,210 square feet and will have four levels of retail space, including restaurants.

"We are up for the challenge of restoring one of the city's most important Landmark buildings in one of the most highly-regarded locations in Chicago," Don Vitek, SVP of Wirtz Realty, said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Web: October 5]]> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 08:06:43 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009114130_1200x675_338009155769.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us the latest technology in hearing aids made by Beltone., in Illinois.]]> <![CDATA[Groupon Gets Into the Grocery Business]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 14:20:54 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/205*120/Groupon_snap.jpg

Chicago-based Groupon has unveiled a new app that offers users a way to get cash back from their grocery bill.

Snap by Groupon features cash-back offers on a variety of items such as food, personal care and household goods.

Different items are featured each week that are available to receive a certain amount of cash back after purchasing. When a user accumulates $20 in cash back, they're eligible to receive a check from Groupon.

The company is offering cash back on 31 items this week, including $1 cash back on any gallon of milk, $3 on Huggies diapers and $1 for any Glad trash bag products.

The free app is available on iTunes and the Google Play store.


<![CDATA[Fans Line Up for Final Hot Doug's Taste]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:44:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot-dougs-line.jpg 10/03/14: NBC Chicago's Regina Waldroup was outside Hot Doug's Friday morning talking to hot dog and sausage lovers hoping to get in on the last of the action.]]> <![CDATA[McDonald's Launches Squid Ink Burger]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 16:24:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2D274906915346-mcdonaldssquidinkburger.blocks_desktop_small.jpg

Trick or treat?

McDonald’s isn’t letting Burger King have the only spooky burger.

McDonald’s Japan has launched a Halloween-themed “Squid Ink Burger,” sporting black-dyed buns and a “squid ink sauce.”

The burger, which costs $3.40, also features two beef patties, cheese and fried onions.

The company said the squid ink sauce was added to a chipotle sauce with a smoked flavor and pungent taste to give it “the flavor of squid ink.”

It is the second black burger to hit the market in Japan after Burger King Japan launched the Kuro Burger.

The Kuro Burger, "kuro" meaning "black" in Japanese, features bread and cheese colored using bamboo charcoal and a black sauce, which has a soy and a garlic base, turned a shade of ebony using squid ink.

The Kuro Burger, also dubbed the “goth burger,” is scheduled to end in early November.

While both burgers were launched as limited-time Halloween treat, they might be too spooky for many to bite into.

Photo Credit: McDonald's Japan]]>
<![CDATA[Where to Satisfy Your Hot Dog Craving Post-Hot Doug's]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 19:17:07 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Hot-Dog-Generic.jpg

There may never be another chocolate hot dog or Anna Kendrick fire dog again, but for Hot Doug’s fans looking for their Chicago hot dog fix, there’s still hope.

As the sausage superstore reaches its final day, GrubHub has put together a list of some of the most popular hot dog restaurants in the area to help cure the meaty mourning fans will likely experience.

The delivery app service looked at Chicago restaurants with at least one hot dog ordered per day and compiled a list of the top 10 with highest ratings.

1. Johnny’s Beef and Gyros
2. Tom & Jerry’s (Formerly Wilbur’s)
3. Fatso’s Last Stand
4. Slim’s
5. Duff’s Dogs
6. Jay’s Beef
8. The Original Luke’s on Harlem Pizza
9. The Haute & The Dog
10. Huey’s Hot Dogs

In addition to the highest-rated hot dog eateries, they also put together a list of restaurants with the most hot dog orders.

1. Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl and Portillo’s Hot Dogs
2. Slim’s
3. Choppers
4. Chicago’s Dog House
5. Munchies Gyros & Pizza
6. Huey’s Hot Dogs
7. Fatso’s Last Stand
8. Al’s Beef
9. Hamburger Heaven Express
10. Byron’s Hot Dog

While the end of Hot Doug’s marks a somber day in the encased meat world, fans can rest assured that delicious Chicago hot dogs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[7 Key Tips for Developing an Internal Training Platform]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:15:16 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Happy+People.jpg

An internal learning and development platform can help a company prepare for a prosperous future, increase employee skill sets, motivate team members, groom future leaders and help sustain values and culture. In fact, the fast growing millennial workforce rates excellent training programs as a top factor when considering an employer, according to a PwC report. The net net: without a training program, companies run the risk of slowing employee development, or worse, missing out on top talent.

Below are seven tips every business should consider when building its own learning and development program.

1. Get backing from senior leadership. Commitment to the learning investment is crucial for driving the program. Make sure your leaders understand that an early investment in people development will allow scalability of the business. Also, that this is an opportunity for them to become role models of continuous learning and champions of this initiative.
2. Designate an advisory council to establish a vision and plan. Training platforms are successful when team members throughout the company are willing to put the time in to establish a mission for the initiative. An advisory council of internal subject matter experts and cross-functional department representatives should take ownership of making recommendations to senior leadership about the overall vision of the learning platform, and guide development.
3. Inventory your learning content. Thousands of pieces of learning material are developed throughout the startup years. Deciphering which pieces can support your mission and vision might be a painstaking process, but it’s necessary. Get a good grasp on what you have before thinking about what additional content should be developed.
4. Give yourself some time to plan. After a company understands what it has at its disposal, it’s time to figure out next steps in leveraging the content. This piece takes time. Will onboarding be involved? Will learners have a suite of trainings to choose from? Think about what you want the program to look like in the future and set milestones.
5. Find the shared value between overall business and individual learning needs. What does the business need team members to know? What do team members need to grow in their careers? Refer back to your business goals and ask your learners where they want to go in their careers to shape a successful learning curriculum. Provide industry trainings to help employees understand the market as well as learning opportunities specific to their role within the company.
6. Select learning solutions that work for your team. Good corporate learning management systems make knowledge accessible and organized, and significantly impact your program’s success. Look at what systems you have, and figure out how they could work for you. There could be an opportunity to leverage existing investments to cut costs.
7. Keep the content evergreen. Establish learning coordinators who can work with each department to update content and keep the course material fresh. Learning coordinators should be closely tied to each department to maintain knowledge and designate an iterative approach to updating content.

The creation of the program is just the beginning, and there are many ways to evolve a learning program to meet an organization’s needs over time. For example, you could offer customized courses for team members in specific departments or at a certain level; include courses to better educate your team members on your industry or product(s), so employees are always up to speed; or leverage the program to assist in HR initiatives like management training or onboarding new team members.

As more and more companies place an emphasis on corporate culture and employee engagement, a learning and development program is quickly becoming a “must have.” While it might feel like a heavy lift at first, the benefits will pay off in dividends.

Dorie Blesoff is chief people officer at Chicago-based kCura, an e-discovery software developer. In her role, Dorie works closely with the human resources department to help create a stronger platform for recruiting team members and growing their skills, while also continuing to make kCura a great place to work. Dorie has helped to implement various development initiatives across the company, including the company’s internal education platform, kCura U.

<![CDATA[10 Tips for Creating Great Content for Your Business]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:22:13 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/computer+generic1.jpg

Inspiring people to read and share your content is not as hard as you might think, nor does it require sophisticated writing skills or an inordinate amount of time. Yet many small business owners believe those three myths and it’s causing them to miss out on opportunities to engage customers and grow their business.

To prove those myths wrong, here are 10 shortcuts to creating great, shareable content.

1. Use photos and videos to tell your story. A funny or heartwarming image with a catchy headline will get your message across and increase the likelihood of your content getting shared on social media.
2. Ask open-ended and specific questions to initiate conversations. For example, a sports pub may ask Facebook fans to weigh in on the upcoming World Series. The responses will keep the content engine humming while allowing you to further engage customers between visits.
3. Run contests. For example, a yoga studio may ask newsletter subscribers, “What is the most challenging pose and why?” In exchange for their answers, random names may be put into a drawing for free classes. The answers, along with profiling the winners, are terrific fodder for future issues.
4. Proactively answer the most frequently asked questions from customers.
5. Curate other people’s content and add your own opinion. Just be sure to give credit and a link to the original source.
6. Enlist industry experts to participate in a Q&A or write a guest post.
7. Issue a survey. The results and responses will have a long shelf life in your email and social media marketing efforts. Added content bonus – let customers know about the changes you’ve made as a result of their feedback.
8. Read the news and follow conversations on social media to spark fresh content ideas.
9. Develop an editorial calendar that looks at least six months ahead so you’re not wasting time pulling together content at the last minute.
10. Dont be afraid to recycle content. While nobody wants to read the same material twice, you can reuse the kernels of good ideas by putting a fresh twist on an angle or using different formats to reach your audience such as Tweets or LinkedIn posts.

Great content is one of the most effective ways to stay at the top of your customers' minds. Now that you know the myths and shortcuts, there’s nothing stopping you from generating more business through content-driven email and social media.

Steve Robinson is Constant Contact’s educational marketing expert in the Midwestern United States (IL, IN, KY, OH, & MI). He has over 30 years experience supporting small business, with a background in small business marketing, management & development. He has helped thousands of small businesses, associations, and nonprofits develop and implement effective email marketing, social media, online survey and engagement marketing strategies. Steve has twice been named to Crain’s Chicago Business’ Who’s Who in Non-Profit Management and currently writes a guest blog for nbcchicago.com’s Inc.well Blog. Steve draws from this experience to be a valuable resource to Midwestern small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Steve has educated more than 40,000 small businesses on behalf of Constant Contact since joining the team in 2007 and has presented at @Midwest, Techweek Chicago, & for the City of Chicago Treasurer’s Office Online Marketing Contest to name just a few.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Doug's Owner Doug Sohn Reveals Plans for Auction]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:13:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Doug_Sohn.jpg

Fans sporting a Hot Doug’s tattoo may already have a piece of the famous encased meat eatery with them forever, but for those not brave enough to ink their love for the Avondale hot dog stand, there may be another way to walk away with a sausage souvenir.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hot Doug’s owner Doug Sohn said he plans to auction off meaty memorabilia for charity. Details on when and where have not yet been revealed, but fans are sure to be chomping at the bit to take home part of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

Sohn also left some hope for fans as he prepares to serve his last Hot Doug’s meal Friday.

In the interview, Sohn noted that a pop-up restaurant isn’t off the table following the shocking closure of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

"I haven’t ruled that out," he said. "Like a one-night charity thing. Not saying I would, but I’d consider that."

Lines at the Avondale restaurant are longer than ever leading up the “permanent vacation.”

The hot dog stand has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

A man even proposed at the restaurant and had owner Doug Sohn ordain his wedding, and a number of followers got tattoos when it was announced that Sohn would give free meals for life to the questionable souls who inked their loyalty.

The restaurant will even live on in a movie as filmmakers plan to document its final days.

<![CDATA[Chicago's Only Olive Garden Opens on NW Side]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:06:57 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Olive_Garden_chicago.jpg

Chicago residents won't have as far to travel for an unlimited pasta bowl.

Olive Garden restaurant opened its only eatery in Chicago's city limits Monday, setting up shop in the Avondale neighborhood at 3555 West Addison St.

Gov. Pat Quinn and other elected officials were on hand to tout the approximately 170 new jobs they say the restaurant is expected to bring to the community.

Officials say the new 7,780-square-foot restaurant can host more than 240 guests.

Photo Credit: Olive Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Jewel-Osco Reports Another Possible Data Hack]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:43:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP985800088575.jpg

Jewel-Osco revealed Monday that hackers attempted to obtain payment card information at some of its stores in late August and early September.

The intrusion is separate from an earlier incident reported by the company in August, and used a different type of malware, according to information posted on the company's web site.

Company officials say the hackers may have captured "account numbers, expiration dates, other numerical information and/or cardholder names," but it's not known whether they were successful in capturing the customer data.

Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa Jewel-Osco customers who used a credit card from June 22 through July 17 or between Aug. 27 and Sept. 21 are encouraged to monitor their credit and debit card accounts and promptly contact the bank in case of suspicious activity.

Federal authorities have been contacted and third-party forensics experts are investigating the intrusion, according to Jewel-Osco officials.

Jewel customer Alan Rebok said Tuesday that he plans to cancel his account after erroneous activity appeared last week.

"I tried to use my ATM card and it said maxed out. The next day it worked and then I heard the stories this morning and I'm like, 'Oh wow,'" he said.

Officials have not yet confirmed if any customer information was in fact stolen as a result of the breach.

"I think every business needs to think about beefing up their cyber security," said customer Nate Lucero.

The company is offering free consumer identity protection services to anyone affected. Call 855-865-4449 for more information. Customers also can call the Illinois attorney general's office identity theft hotline at 866-999-5630.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Madigan Opens Investigation Into Jimmy John's Breach]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:42:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday warned residents who made purchases with their credit or debit cards at Jimmy John's to immediately be on the lookout for unauthorized charges on their accounts.

“Identity theft is a serious threat to consumers," Madigan said. "It’s critical to start incorporating extra precautions in your daily routine to limit the damage done as a result of a data breach.”

Madigan has opened an investigation into the security breach at 216 of the Champaign-based company's restaurants.
Jimmy John's said Wednesday that stores in 37 states, including Illinois, were affected by the breach that occurred between June 16 and Sept. 5.

It appears customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores, company officials said.

The security issue has been contained and the company said customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third-party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The restaurant chain is offering credit protection services to customers impacted by the breaks. Call 1-855-398-6442 for more information.
Madigan said Illinois residents also can call her office’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 for assistance.

Affected Chicago-area stores include:

    Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
    Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
    Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
    Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
    Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
    Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
    Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
    Lombard, 1235 South Main St
    Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
    Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.

<![CDATA[Jimmy John’s Warns of Possible Security Breach]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:15:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Jimmy John’s is warning its customers of a "possible security incident involving credit and debit card data."

According to a letter posted on the company's web site, the problem was detected at approximately 216 Jimmy John's corporate and franchised stores between June 16 and Sept. 5 of this year.

Company officials say it appears that customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores.

The security issue has been contained and the company says customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The Champaign, Illinois-based sandwich chain says cards affected by the breach include those swiped on certain dates at these individual stores.

Chicago-area stores include:

  • Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
  • Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
  • Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
  • Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
  • Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
  • Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
  • Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
  • Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
  • Lombard, 1235 South Main St
  • Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
  • Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.