<![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, 18 Apr 2014 22:00:10 -0500 Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:00:10 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lagunitas Fires Up First Batch of Chicago Brew]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:53:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lagunitas_chicago.jpg

Move over Goose Island, there's a new Chicago brew in town.

Laganitas bottled it's first batch of beer at its new Douglas Park facility Friday, according to Crain's.

The crew is bottling Lagunitas India Pale Ale with its first batch, but next month plan to start adding Little Sumpin' Sumpin' beer to the mix.

The bottling line can fill up to 500 bottles a minute, Crain's reports.

A taproom, where beer aficionados can hang out and sample the goods, is expected to open next month.

The facility has the capacity to brew 200,000 barrels of beer a year, making it the largest brewery in the state.

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<![CDATA[4 Tips to Prevent a Thank You Note Backfire]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:56:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/172178614.jpg

If you're beginning to question whether thank you notes are relevant in the job search process you're not alone. Often times, too many thank you notes are received too late, add little value or are so generic that they risk backfiring as opposed to helping a candidate advance through the interview process.

To prevent your thank you note from having an unintended consequence, make sure it meets these important criteria:

  • Make sure it adds value to the conversation to date, recaps your key differentiators or provides further evidence of your promise as a candidate. Merely saying “thank you” and “nice to meet you” is a waste of the paper it’s written on.
  • Proactively address a perceived shortcoming you may have discussed that might limit your consideration for the position.
  • Make it timely. Send the message within 1-2 business days via email, not snail mail. The pace of talent recruitment today, especially within the technology and analytics world, means we may be making decisions on your future employment while you are riding down in the elevator.
  • Personalize the message you send to each person you met in the interview, connecting to a positive part of the conversation. Don’t send identical, generic notes to everyone. In our debrief meetings we often compare notes, and it doesn’t look good if you’ve said the same thing to each of us.

As thoughtful as they can be, too often handwritten thank you notes take too long to arrive. As mentioned, email thank you notes are suggested, especially if they include links to online portfolios or your online thought pieces that support your candidacy. But please no thank you texts or LinkedIn posts.

Sarah Doll is the senior director of talent management at Chicago-based Enova International. With 1,100 plus employees, $766 million in revenues, online lender Enova is reshaping how Americans borrow with the use of technology and analytics. It is Sarah Doll and her team’s job to fill 200+ new positions each year with the country’s top technology talent and ensure they are successfully acclimated into the company. The company has been named a top employer of Gen Y talent the last two years.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LEGOLAND to Host Job Fair]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:51:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LEGO-logo.jpg

If you’re looking for a job and have a love for LEGOs you might be in luck.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is holding its first-ever job fair Tuesday.

Recruiters are looking for “outgoing and qualified individuals” for positions in model building, entertainment, admissions, retail and café.

“We’re looking for motivated individuals who are creative, have an appreciation for LEGO, enjoy working with our guests and can be a role model for the many children who visit the Center,” said Nick Miller, general manager of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago.

Job fair attendees will have the opportunity to meet with a LEGOLAND Discover Center recruiter and applicants for the center’s model builder team will also take part in individual and group LEGO brick building challenges.

The event will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the center at 601 N. Martingale Rd. in Schaumburg.

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<![CDATA[How to Brand "Like Mike"]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:41:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP96061801552_7.jpg

Michael Jordan entered the NBA highly touted out of the University of North Carolina after hitting the NCAA championship game winning shot for North Carolina and his mentor, Dean Smith. Clutch.

Giants like CocaCola and Converse came calling but MJ chose instead to make savvy deals with other startups such as Gatorade and Nike.

How can your business brand be more like Mike?

Here are some tips:

Make Strategic Partnerships

Working with smaller brands and strategic startups means you will likely have more influence and a closer bond with the brand.

In MJ's case, suddenly kids everywhere wanted to “be like Mike”. From the shoes to the shaved head to the tongue to the Hanes underwear to the yellow drink to the red 23, everything had to be like Mike.

Your business may not leap quite as far into stardom as Jordan's did, but knowing the power of a partnership is key to future success.

MVP before MVP

The Chicago Bulls of the 80’s were a minimum viable product constructed by Doug Collins. Michael displayed talent that could be scalable but it didn’t matter. The Bulls could not beat the Detroit Pistons and a change needed to be made.

Sometimes your most valuable player isn't enough to carry your product.

Staff to Scale

Phil Jackson was named head coach and mentor while Scottie Pippen was brought on to play the role of chief operating officer.

The Bulls even hired a veteran CTO, Tex Winters, to design a new internal operating system: The Triangle Offense (OSΔ) to maximize the strengths of their athletic wing men.

And the Bulls from Chicago started winning. They beat the Pistons, the Cavaliers, the Knicks, and when they beat Magic Johnson and the Lakers for the NBA title Michael cried uncontrollable tears of joy.

They went on to win three straight before MJ exited with his stock at an all-time high.

Focus on the Core Product

"His Airness" left basketball altogether to pivot his brand into a new vertical, baseball. It was fun, but unprofitable and unsuccessful. Before you knew it though, MJ was ready to get back to what he did best.

The Bulls welcomed Air Jordan back as CEO and he was better than ever, just like when Steve Jobs returned to run Apple.

Pippen was still working the COO position and Jackson was still providing mentorship and a refined triangle offense. The Bulls were better than ever. Three more championships and Michael Jordan did not miss one game during that run.

The Bulls in Chicago invented the term "three-peat" in 1990-93 and reinforced it into our vocabulary in 1995-98.

Now, Michael Jordan’s an investor and a venture capitalist owning a majority 80 percent stake in the Charlotte Bobcats franchise.

He established his brand on the court, with his work ethic and actions. He reinforced it with a great logo, strategic partnerships, a great supporting cast, savvy marketing, and strong brand enhancement.

Zack Price is a serial entrepreneur originally from Cleveland living in Chicago where his current startup Blog Into Book turns bloggers into authors. He recently published the Final Four run by the 2013 University of Michigan basketball team in the book “We On”. You can find Zack on Twitter and Google+ and read his other silly stories about CEOs at ZackPrice.com.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Motorola Solutions to Sell Enterprise Unit for $3.45B]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:37:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/motorola_solutions.jpg

Zebra Technologies Corp. announced Tuesday that it will buy Motorola Solutions Inc.'s enterprise business for $3.45 billion.

The Lincolnshire-based bar-code and receipt printer maker said the all-cash transaction was approved by the Board of Directors of both companies and is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

The deal offers Zebra mobile computing and advanced data capture communications technologies, allowing them to expand their global presence as companies continue to seek real-time data about their products.

"This acquisition will transform Zebra into a leading provider of solutions that deliver greater intelligence and insights into our customers' enterprises and extended value chains," Anders Gustafsson, Zebra’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The Enterprise business will generate significant value for our shareholders by driving further product innovation and deeper engagement with our customers and partners. It positions Zebra as a leading technology innovator, with the accelerating convergence of mobility, data analytics and cloud computing."

The transaction is expected to expand Zebra’s geographical reach to more than 100 countries. Zebra expects the deal to increase earnings immediately after its completion.

Zebra plans to fund the transaction using $200 million of available cash on hand and $3.25 billion expected to be raised through a new credit facility and the issuance of debt securities.

Motorola Solutions will continue to manufacture and design voice and data communication solutions for government and public safety customers and plans to retain its iDEN products portfolio, which was part of its Enterprise business.

"Last year, we undertook a thorough review of our strategy and concluded that the synergies between our Government and Enterprise businesses were not as great as the value we could create by being singularly focused on our core Government & Public Safety business," Motorola Solutions chairman and CEO Greg Brown said in a statement. "Going forward, we will have absolute clarity of purpose and mission as we serve customers globally with our suite of mission-critical communications solutions. This business is truly distinctive in its industry leadership, strong pipeline position, long-term track record of consistent profitability and cash flow, and an array of growth opportunities."

The combined revenue for Zebra Technologies and Motorola Solutions product line would have been about $3.5 billion in 2013. Roughly 4,500 Motorola Solutions’ employees will join Zebra.

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<![CDATA[Parking App Lets Drivers Pay Via Cell Phone]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:45:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-parking-app-2.jpg

Paying the parking meter and displaying a receipt in your car window will soon be a thing of the past.

A new app called "Park Chicago" allows you to pay for parking with a couple of taps on your smartphone.

Starting Tuesday, the app can only be used at meters in the West Loop, along Madison and Monroe, but it will expand to the rest of the city's 36,000 metered spots by the end of summer.

Users pre-load the app with at least $20 to get started and subtracts the parking fees from the account once you input your license plate number and parking zone.

The app will charge an additional 35 cents if you park for less than two hours, but advantages include a countdown on your phone that alerts you to how much time is left on your meter and it also allows you to add additional time from your phone.

The pay-by-phone option is part of the renegotiated agreement of the city's controversial parking meter deal. Numbered signs will be placed near meter boxes that offer the option.

The app is available for both Apple and Android phones.

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<![CDATA[Parking App Allows You Pay Via Cell Phone]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 00:14:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000006813322_1200x675_226746435602.jpg Paying the parking meter and displaying a receipt in your car window will soon be a thing of the past. NBC 5's Rob Stafford explores the new technology.]]> <![CDATA[Group Urges Walgreens to Leave Illinois for Europe]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:28:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/walgreens+sign+edit.jpg

Walgreens is under pressure to move its Illinois-based headquarters out of the country.

A group owning nearly 5 percent of the company's shares wants the pharmacy chain to consider relocating to Europe, according to the Financial Times, to reduce Walgreens' taxable income in the U.S.

After the company's previous refusal to move, the group lobbied management at a private meeting last week in Paris, the Financial Times reports.

Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and hedge funds Jana Partners, Corvex and Och-Ziff reportedly were at the meeting, and sources told the publication talks were constructive.

The shareholders want to use their stake in Swiss-based Alliance Boots, 45 percent of which Walgreens acquired in 2012, to change its domicile to Europe.

The move, called a tax inversion, could increase earnings per share but analysts say it could have political resistance in the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Hosts World's Largest Vending Show]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:15:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/vending+10.jpg The world's largest vending expo came to Chicago to showcase the new ways companies hope to keep customers informed and entertained.]]> <![CDATA[Renewing Job Markets with Renewable Energy]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:02:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/solarpanel1.jpg

Chicago’s dependence on fossil fuels continues to bring to light the need for a switch to renewable energy sources. Solar, wind, and other alternative sources of energy have gained ground and general acceptance as viable resources.

The U.S. Department of Energy relates that every hour the sun’s rays provide the world with enough energy for an entire year. Nevertheless, the problem isn’t finding the energy; the underlying problem is the creation of jobs in these new energy fields.

Government initiatives and legislation have created some “green careers,” but the majority of the new jobs are created by means of private industry. For instance, the commercial sector of the solar power industry has grown exponentially over the past decade.

According to The Solar Foundation's Solar Job Census 2013, there are nearly 143,000 solar workers in the U.S., a nearly 20 percent increase over employment totals in 2012. These workers are employed at 6,100 businesses operating at over 7,800 locations in every state.

From sales to management, the solar industry is finding ways to renew America’s interests in the sun.

Companies like Global Efficient Energy have seen a steep demand in business.

“Business demands have dramatically increased our need to hire qualified personnel," said Abe Issa, CEO of Global Efficient Energy relates. "We have a great need for individuals with assorted skills like electrical rewiring, duct cleaning, door hanging, solar panel installation, and energy auditing.”

Similar corporations throughout Chicago are reporting similar needs and are getting boosts in business due to Chicago-based non-profits like Clean Energy Trust.

Riana Caravette, president of Earth Wind and Solar Energy in Chicago, has made her mark in the industry by leading the first female minority-operated solar business in Illinois.

“We are a premier designer and installer for commercial and residential 'green' power,” she said.

Earth Wind and Solar Energy is thriving as an Illinois certified women and minority business enterprise.

The Department of Labor BLS reports that careers in the field have salaries ranging from $43,000 to as much as $136,000 annually. Furthermore, the stability of these jobs is vastly superior to their fossil fuel counterparts.

As states continue to pass renewable energy friendly legislature, the private sector will continue to create green jobs.

Ilana Greene is a recognized expert in the female entrepreneurial community.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Vending Expo Unveils New Trends]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:52:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Vending_expo.jpg The world's largest vending expo is in Chicago this week showcasing the new ways companies hope to keep customers more informed and entertained. NBC 5's Marion Brooks has a look.]]> <![CDATA[IKEA Buying Illinois Wind-Energy Project]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:24:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452348899.jpg

IKEA's U.S. subsidiary is buying a long-planned wind-energy project in eastern Illinois as part of the company's initiative to offset its power use with renewable energy generation.

Rob Olson is chief financial officer of the Swedish furniture retailer's U.S. business. He says IKEA plans to have Hoopeston Wind up and running by 2015. The company says the 98-megawatt wind farm should generate enough electricity to offset all of its U.S. power use.

IKEA and many other companies such as Google and Walmart have announced plans in recent years to use more renewable energy.

IKEA won't say what it is paying for the Hoopeston project. It is buying it from Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy. That company will operate the wind farm.

IKEA becomes the yet-to-be-built project's third owner.



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Squeezable Skyline Makes Huggable Willis Tower]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:58:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/squeezable+skyline.jpg

Cute and cuddly may not have been words used to describe the Willis Tower before, but they might be now thanks to a Chicago startup’s new huggable high-rises.

Squeezable Skyline has launched a line of plush toys in the shape of some well-known skyscrapers, starting with the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, and the Empire State Building.

The more than 20-inch “squeezables” are “simplified versions of the real buildings and are designed at a relative scale to look great together as you build your collection.”

The design comes from three brothers and an architect who grew up near the Windy City and started out on their mission to make their "squeezable skylines" about five years ago.

“A dad traveling for business, looking for something for their son or daughter on the way home. An urban couple traveling to a city for a long weekend looking for a unique memento of their trip. A parent looking for a decoration for their baby’s nursery. It was these people we had in mind when developing our Squeezables,” the team wrote on their startup’s Kickstarter campaign.

The Kickstarter campaign, which launched Tuesday, has a goal of raising $25,000 by next month. But the team also said they are exploring options with retailers across Chicago and New York.

The campaign offers a “super early bird special” which gives the first 100 people who donate $25 or more a squeezable and free shipping. The value of a squeezable is estimated at $30.

Those who donate $45 or more will receive both squeezables with free shipping and pledges of $1,000 will get a “giant squeeze” and receive a handmade six-foot tall Willis Tower.

The team hopes to eventually build the collection to include 25 skyscrapers in 14 cities.

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<![CDATA[Malort Documentary Set to Debut This Summer]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:44:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/businessman+with+shot+glass.jpg

Chicago’s Jeppson’s Malort is apparently getting its shot at the big screen.

The Chicago liquor, notoriously known as the “revenge shot,” will make its film debut in a documentary by Fire Engine Red Films, the liquor company announced on Twitter Monday.

Malort’s “popularity” in Chicago began during the prohibition, where it was distributed by Carl Jeppson as “medicinal alcohol.” It has since become the infamous beverage that teases your tastebuds at first, then brutally transforms into the bitterness that is wormwood.

Those familiar with Malort know what the almost unavoidable, and hilarious, reaction to a shot of the beverage, also known as the "Malort face," looks like.

“Malort has always been a challenge,” Pat Berger, owner of Paddy Long’s Beer and Bacon Pub, said in the documentary’s trailer. “Chicago’s that kind of a town, we think we’re tough, you know. We like to hurt ourselves with Malort.”

Malort was bought out by Chicago lawyer George Brode in the 1930s, and his legal secretary, Pat Gabelick, is now the current owner.

“There’s so much more to it than just a bitter shot and a Malort face,” Gabelick says in the trailer. “We have people who have drank Jeppson’s Malort their whole lives.”

The trailer for the documentary, titled “This Story Will Never End,” was posted to YouTube Sunday. The company tweeted the film is "100 percent real."

The full documentary is set to premiere this summer.

“There’s only one malort, there’s only one real Jeppson’s Malort,” Berger said. “It’s like anything that’s original, it will outlast all of us. Like a pair of blue jeans--they’re always in style.”

If you're not familiar with Malort, or the "Malort face," watch below.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Sears to Close State Street Store Sunday]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:46:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/225*120/101308+sears.jpg

Sears Holdings Corp. is reportedly closing its State Street store Sunday.

Sears announced in January that the store, located at 2 N. State St. in Chicago's Loop, was closing in early April, a company spokesman confirmed in an email.

Sears began liquidating merchandise at the store on Jan. 26, according to Director of Corporate Communications Howard Riefs.

"These decisions are never easy," the company said in a statement. "But the store has lost millions of dollars since opening and we can no longer continue to support the store’s operating losses."

The State Street store has approximately 160 employees. The company said eligible associated will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores.

The company noted that most associates are part-time hourly.

"This store closure is part of a series of actions we are taking to reduce on-going expenses, adjusting our asset base, and accelerating the transformation of our business model," the company said in a statement. "These actions will better enable us to focus our investments in stores that are performing and in serving our customers and members through integrated retail – at the store, online and in the home – that is key to our transformation...Sears has valued our presence on State Street and role in the Loop area’s revival since the store re-opened in 2001."

Sears Holdings Inc. said it plans to continue its presence on the 4th floor of the building, where more than 150 employees work in their online and information technology business units.

This isn’t the first time Sears has closed a Chicago-area location.

In 2011, Sears Holdings Corp. announced it would shutter between 100 and 120 stores to deal with sagging sales.

The announcement came week after Gov. Pat Quinn signed hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to keep the Hoffman Estates-based company in Illinois.

The company also announced in 2012 that it was spinning off its Hometown and Outlet stores as well as some hardware stores into a separate publicly traded company.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Groupon Releases First U.S. Ad Since Super Bowl Flop]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:04:54 -0500 Groupon Stays Quiet on Newest Lawsuit |
Groupon's stock closed at its lowest level ever Tuesday just five months after going public. The Chicago-based company is facing a shareholder lawsuit and possible review by federal regulators.]]>
Groupon Stays Quiet on Newest Lawsuit |
Groupon's stock closed at its lowest level ever Tuesday just five months after going public. The Chicago-based company is facing a shareholder lawsuit and possible review by federal regulators.]]>
http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/groupon_logo.jpg

Groupon came out of advertisement hiding in the U.S. for the first time since the company’s Super Bowl ad soured fans in 2011.

In their latest attempt, Groupon took a much more conservative approach, utilizing the slogan “Check Groupon First.”

The ad features Groupon users tasting new foods, buying new items and trying new adventures.

"When you're looking to make life less boring, Check Groupon First," the company posted on their blog.

The ad, which was posted to YouTube Thursday, is scheduled to air for seven weeks starting Monday. The campaing will run in six markets, including Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Minneapolis, Nashville and San Francisco.

Groupon’s controversial Super Bowl ads generated major backlash from viewers.

The worst of the bunch, an ad that featured Timothy Hutton, played on the plight of impoverished and oppressed Tibet.

“Mountainous Tibet - one of the most beautiful places in the world," the worst of the Groupon ads begins. "This is Timothy Hutton. The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought on Groupon.com we’re getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan restaurant in Chicago.”

Twitter users and bloggers immediately responded that the advertisement was outrageous and insensitive and more astute publications panned the Tibet ad as the night's biggest loser.

Everything PR dubbed it the Super Bowl's lamest commercial.

The Wall Street Journal noted the rapid backlash against the advertisement and suggested the ad would do Groupon no favors in trying to expand into China.

The London Telegraph said the ad made light of Tibet's suffering. The New York Times asked if the advertisement crossed the line of insensitivity.

Groupon may have prevented this backlash if they disclosed a little more information: The ad is actually part of the campany's Save the Money campaign, in which the company matches donations to select charities, including the Tibet Fund. Without an explanation, the commercial seemed tasteless.

“We're a different company than we were in 2011,” Groupon said in a statement Friday. “Groupon has evolved over the past few years from a daily deal website with less than 1,000 deals at the time of our IPO into an e-commerce marketplace with more than 140,000 deals across a number of different channels, including Local, Goods, Getaways and Freebies.”

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<![CDATA[Food Ordering Company GrubHub Soars in Debut]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:39:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/grubhub+screenshot.jpg

Wall Street appears to be in the mood for takeout.

Investors sent shares of online food ordering service GrubHub Inc. jumped 51 percent to $39.20 in early trading in its stock market debut Friday.

GrubHub and its rivals are changing the way people order takeout from restaurants. Instead of calling a restaurant, people can order their next meal online or through a few taps on a smartphone app.

The Chicago company raised $192.5 million after pricing more than 7.4 million shares at $26 per share. That's above the company's previously expected range between $23 per share and $25 per share.

The stock is trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "GRUB."

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<![CDATA[CEO Spotlight: Ifbyphone's Irv Shapiro]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 06:39:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/Irv_shapiro.PNG Ifbyphone founder discusses how his voice-based autmation company helps marketing and sales professionals take complete control of the voice engagement with their customers.]]> <![CDATA[GrubHub IPO Raises $192.5 Million]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:32:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/grubhub+screenshot.jpg

Investors seem ready to eat up GrubHub.

The Chicago-based online food delivery company has raised $192.5 million in its initial public offering, more than it expected.

GrubHub priced 7.4 million shares at $26 each, up from its expected sale of 7 million shares for $23 to $25 each. That was already an increase from its projections in March and February. And the banks managing the deal could still buy another 1.1 million shares, further boosting proceeds.

GrubHub also owns the Seamless food ordering website. The company connects nearly 29,000 restaurants with users in more than 600 U.S. cities. At the end of 2013, about 3.4 million people had placed an order through GrubHub websites in the past year.

Shares are to begin trading Friday.

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<![CDATA[How to Leverage Online Reviews to Drive Performance]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:07:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Yelp+Generic+Screengrab.jpg

For retailers, online reviews can seem scary. Having no control over what people say about your brand or product is not always easy to handle. If a customer says something bad it could affect your sales, it could damage your reputation, or it could undo what you’ve worked so hard to build.

But don't be afraid of reviews. Instead, embrace them. Just ask those who attended National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention and Expo (NRF14 Big Show) earlier this year. The event highlighted several key trends that the retail industry can expect this year, and one of these is that consumers will continue to seek information online — via social networks, review sites, and shopping apps — before they finalize their purchase decisions.

If this sounds like a daunting challenge for retail marketers, e-commerce entrepreneurs, and product-based business owners, don’t worry. There are many ways of leveraging online reviews to drive performance.

Monitor your presence. The first step to managing reviews is to plant your flags. In today’s social-media-driven, digital omni-channel world, it’s critical for you to be able to claim ownership of all your online listings and profiles. Only then will you be able to monitor what’s being said, which in turn allows you to engage in online conversations with your most vocal customers.

Getting good reviews? Incorporate them across your digital channels. Positive reviews tell potential customers that you’re a great choice. Wouldn’t you want to amplify that? Exactly. Beauty brands are already doing it: according to L2 Think Tank’s latest Digital IQ Index, 83 percent of beauty brand websites now incorporate customer reviews as a way of helping instigate sales decisions.

Analyze your data. In the words of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, “Information is our generation’s next natural resource.” This is why consumers read as much as they can online about future purchases before they make a decision. In the same way, you should be able to effectively gather and analyze available data — and this includes consumer-generated reviews — to understand, and meet, specific market needs. The information you get should be able to help you segment and target your activities. With data comes insight, and with insight comes an opportunity to drive performance.

Engage and personalize. People write reviews because they have something to say about your product. Join that conversation. Respond to reviews they wrote and resolve the issues they raised. It’s less about price now and more about delight. By focusing on this, you create personalized post-purchase experiences that can potentially spell the difference between a one-time buyer and loyal customer.

Chris Campbell is the CEO and Founder of Review Trackers, an online review management and reputation monitoring platform for multi-location businesses looking to track, analyze, and generate reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and more.

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<![CDATA[5 Tips to Help Ace a Phone Interview]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:30:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Woman+on+Phone+Generic+Telephone+Customer+Service.jpg

Phone interviews are often used as a first-round step in the arduous process of job searching. While a seemingly simple step, the phone interview is crucial in securing a face-to-face meeting.

Some people assume that since it’s not in person, a phone interview is easier and requires less preparation. This simply isn’t the case. Interviewees should go into a phone interview with the same professional and organized mindset as a traditional interview. Phone interviews are a way to weed out applicants and it’s crucial to show your intelligence and qualifications in an effective manner to make it to the next round.

Consider the following tips for acing phone interviews:

  • Prepare in advance: A phone interview isn’t any less formal than a face-to-face interview. Google the company and recent projects to get familiar with their background and accomplishments. Outline the information in a way that you understand and can apply to interview questions and prepare questions for the interviewer as well. Practice out loud a day or two before the scheduled interview so you are confident in the answers.
  • Don’t get too comfortable: Create a space that feels professional, similar to how the set-up would be for an in-person interview. Standing or sitting-up straight to helps the voice project properly and keeps interviewees alert during the interview. Don’t take the call if you’re outside walking around or your pets are running around the house. Instead, schedule a call when you know you’ll be able to create the ideal environment. Make sure you have childcare so that the interviewer won’t hear crying children through the phone, and take precautions to prevent background noise, whether it’s noisy neighbors or a loud lawnmower.
  • Smile: This may seem like a weird suggestion, but the interviewer will be able to tell if the interviewee is smiling and happy to be having the interview. Since it’s not face-to-face, smiling and speaking positively will help project appreciation and brings energy to the conversation. Your energy and enthusiasm will come through the phone, so make sure that you are keeping a spirited and outgoing attitude.
  • Have materials ready: Print out a resume, cover letter, copy of the job description, research notes and any other items that may be of assistance during the interview. If you don’t have a solid cell connection, be ready with a land line option. Also, phone interviews give an advantage here as the interviewee can easily reference their notes and can mark off points they discuss throughout the call to make sure nothing gets missed. Similarly, it can be beneficial to be in a space with internet access in case anything catches the interviewee off guard. Just make sure to mute the volume so typing isn’t audible.
  • Follow-up: Just like an in-person interview, the interviewee should follow-up and thank the interviewer for their time. Express interest in the position with details from the call and restate qualifications with specific ways applicable to the position. If possible, recall a few key conversation points from the interview in order to help refresh their memory of who you are and how well your conversation went.

Remember, a phone interview isn’t an opportunity to slack off. It’s an opportunity to show potential employers that you are a self-starter and that you are able to motivate yourself independently and stay enthusiastic even during difficult times.

Kelly Gorham is the President of the Healthcare division at Chicago-based Addison Group, a leading provider of professional staffing and search services. Addison brings specialized practices to deliver the right candidate at the right time in administration, engineering, finance & accounting, financial services, healthcare, and information technology.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[SMS Assist's Mike Rothman]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 04:07:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/Mike+Rothman.png SMS Assist's CEO discusses how his Chicago-based startup utilized cloud-based technology to revolutionize the service facilities industry.]]> <![CDATA[New App Offers "Apartment Inspection" for Chicago Renters]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:17:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

Chicago renters can now use an app to determine if an apartment is up to code for their living standards.

A new apartment inspection app RentSpek, set to launch Thursday for iPhone users, allows renters to conduct an inspection of homes and apartments for rent, helping them avoid potential problems they may not have noticed.

The free app, developed by Chicago’s Landlord Advisor LLC, is designed to “increase transparency in the rental process” and "help tenants rent with confidence," according to founder Phil Castello.

“The RentSpek app has been a long time coming,” Castello said in a statement. “It’s a tool that renters can keep in their pocket to make sure the houses or apartments they’re considering don’t run the risk of falling apart during their lease.”

The app guides users room by room during an apartment tour and prompts them to answer questions, which it uses to calculate the property’s “integrity.” A user can also add notes or pictures using their phone’s camera.

Landlord Advisor claims the app grades properties using a “unique scoring system based on issues that could arise during a short-term living situation.”

In all, the inspection process is expected to take less than 20 minutes, and users can revisit RentSpek reports to compare different properties.

Castello said the long-term plan for RentSpek is to provide crowd sourced information for rental listings on other apartment search websites and a certification feature allowing landlords to show that their property is “RentSpek Certified.”

“We’re only marketing in Chicago right now, so we’re not talking astronomical numbers yet. But as more people see what this app is capable of, I think it will become a standard tool for apartment hunters,” Castello said.

RentSpek is available on web-enabled devices at RentSpek.com. The iPhone app debuts in the iTunes App Store Thursday and the team hopes to launch an Android version later this year.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Innovation Awards to Ring NASDAQ Bell]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 11:58:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nasdaq+Exchange.jpg

Chicago innovators will be in New York City Monday to close the NASDAQ Stock Market, the premiere exchange for technology companies.

Members of the Chicago Innovation Awards, and seventeen winners of the 2013 awards ceremony, will ring the NASDAQ closing bell Monday.

“This annual event is an excellent example of how the Chicago Innovation Awards celebrates the spirit of innovation in organizations across all industries, sizes and sectors,” Tom Kuczmarski, Co-Founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, said in a statement.

Among the 2013 winners traveling to the event will be representatives from Anova Technologies, Belly, Chicago Public Library, Everpurse, Farmedhere, FarmLogix, iLight Technologies, Ingenuity, Life Spine, Nordic Auto Plow, Portapure, Protein Bar, Rabine Group, Sagent Pharmaceuticals, SceneTap, SimpleRelevance, and Tastytrade.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Developers Turn Divvy Data into Dating Site]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:04:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/divvy-addison-pine-grove-1.jpg

Looking for love? You might want to try Divvy.

A new website, Serendivvity, took Divvy data and turned it into a bike rider’s dating paradise.

The website, named one of the winners in the bike-sharing program’s Divvy Data Challenge, allows you to explore Divvy stations based on your romantic interest and neighborhood.

“Serendivvity was built to help Divvy enthusiasts find partners for the long ride of life,” according to the website description. “We use ridership data to help you find the best time to meet other riders at your local stations.”

The Divvy Data Challenge, launched in partnership with 1871, asked Chicagoans to analyze the program’s 2013 data and present it in a visually compelling way.

That’s how Alex Killough, Sabella Flagg, Craig Clark, Stephen Menton and Theresa Stewart, who work at Chicago-based innovation consultancy Gravitytank, came up with the idea for Serendivvity, which they designed in a matter of three weeks.

The website uses data to help those looking for love by allowing users to select a gender and location, then provides them with a list of stations with “the highest amount of connections and the best time to go to a station.”

“Now is the time for you to get offline and share a moment with someone new. And you know you have Divvy in common, so there’s that, right?” the website states.

But the group said the site wasn't necessarily intended to be for dating, but rather to showcase gender imbalances at Divvy stations in a humorous way.

"If people happen to have a date too that's great, we certainly encourage love, but the idea was what we can do with the data and highlight an issue without being too heavy about it," said Killough.

Other “practical uses” of Serendivvity, according to the site, include using areas with a gender imbalance to address possible issues with a station, such as lack of proper lighting or proximity to a higher crime area. Existing local businesses can also use that data to better understand their Divvy customer base, and new businesses may scout locations to match their service offerings.

"People have said that they want it to be a real thing to use," said Stewart. "I'm sort of really floored with where we ended up and how it works."

And while the site may be used for finding love, It’s not the first Divvy dating project to hit the streets of Chicago.

Last summer, Divvy teamed up with Chicago dating company Project Fixup to help set singles up on bike dates.

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<![CDATA[Hot Dog Lovers Unite For Chicago Emoji]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:01:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot+dog+emoji.jpg

The dog days may soon be over in the world of emojis, thanks to Chicago hot dog restaurant Superdawg.

General Manager Laura Ustick began a campaign earlier this year to advocate for the creation of a hot dog emoji, and the campaign has attracted national attention. Emoji are the colorful pictures and icons used in electronic messages to communicate things, from feelings to food.

The current dictionary of emojis contains food symbols of all kinds, including pizza, sushi, French fries and ice cream. Somehow, the traditional American cuisine -- the hot dog -- has been left out.

Ustick noticed a demand for the emoji after witnessing Twitter discussions about the absence of a hot dog. Since then, she has joined the conversation and created a prototype for the emoji.

"We take our hot dogs very seriously," Usick said.

Ustick's design for the hot dog is meant to appeal to hot dog lovers all over the world, but its lack of ketchup is a tribute to her Chicago roots.

In her appeal for the emoji, Usick has enlisted hot dog restaurants and food celebrities all over the country, including Vienna Beef, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council in D.C., Detroit's Singing Hot Dog Man and competitive eater Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti.

Ustick believes the hot dog emoji belongs with the rest of them, so she has been using social media sites like Twitter and the Facebook page "Hot Dog Emoji Coalition" to get the word out.

"The emoji is a universal language, and the hot dog is a universal food," she said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Loko Agrees To Change Marketing]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 21:41:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/four-loko.jpg New York is among 20 states that have reached agreement with the makers of the fruit flavored malt beverages Four Loko meant to ensure marketing through social media isn't aimed at underage drinkers.

Under the agreement, Chicago-based Phusion Projects admits no wrongdoing but will pay $400,000 to authorities.

The company agrees not to sell alcoholic beverages containing caffeine, an ingredient it previously removed, or to promote sales to anyone underage or on school or college property except at retail establishments licensed to sell alcohol.

Phusion also agrees to remove from its websites and social media any postings that depict or condone misuse of alcohol.

The company calls the agreement a practical way to move forward.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says "alcoholic energy drinks" are dangerous, especially for minors.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rideshare Drivers Ask Judge To Intervene in Taxi Lawsuit]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 18:13:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dan_burgess.jpg

Drivers from three of Chicago's ridesharing companies gathered at the Dirksen Federal Building Tuesday to file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by a group of taxi owners.

Drivers from Lyft, uberX and Sidecar filed the motion seeking to dismiss the taxi owners' lawsuit that aims to regulate ridesharing.

The companies offer a smartphone app to connect riders with people offering a ride in their personal vehicle for a fee. The drivers don't have to pay for expensive city medallions like cab drivers do.

"There is no constitutional right to be free from competition," the rideshare drivers' attorney, Anthony Sanders, said. "And there is no constitutional right to have the government arrest your business competitors which is what the taxi cab companies are arguing."

The taxi owners' suit claims rideshare companies are jeopardizing public health and safety, and alleges the city allows the companies to discriminate against passengers in low-income neighborhoods. The suit also says the city is "failing to enforce its own regulations for taxi services."

"That's essentially saying we're playing with two sets of rules," attorney Michael Shakman said. "This is an administration that understands public policy and has to realize that what it's doing is poor public policy."

Ridesharing drivers call the lawsuit baseless. and said they don't think the city should cave in to the cab companies’ demands.

Dan Burgess has been a rideshare driver for Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar for 11 months, and estimates he’s given about 500 rides in his Cubs-plated Hyundai.

“We’re not going to take the taxicab companies’ lawsuit sitting down, unless it ends with us sitting down in our cars picking up riders," Burgess said.

Burgess said smartphone-based ridesharing technology supports a cost-effective mode of transportation. "Chicago should be celebrating innovation, not debating whether or not to crush it.”

"That is simply what this case is about," Sanders said, "the taxi cab owners trying to prevent the public from having different options to move around the city."

Tuesday's motion to dismiss the lawsuit comes on the same day state lawmakers introduced legislation to establish Illinois standards for ridesharing services.

"If taxi drivers and chauffeur drivers are doing it, then they should be under the same regulation," 1st District Sen. Tony Munoz said.

Chicago has proposed its own set of rules for rideshare companies, but traditional taxi drivers like Bennett Dartey say more needs to be done, because the new services are taking money out of his pocket.

"They are taking a lot of business from us. It's slow, and they are making a lot of money," Dartey said.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Restaurant Offers Digital-Free Dining]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:17:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Cell_phone_restaurant.jpg

Have you ever been frustrated that your dinner date is paying more attention to their Instagram feed on their phone instead of what you have to say?

Loop restaurant The Florentine doesn't have an app for that, but they do have a solution.

Last Thursday, the restaurant unveiled a new option for diners to check their cell phones, just as they would their coats.

General manager Amanda Kipp says the decision was made after she noticed a preponderance of what she calls "blue-faced diners."

"We were noticing a lot of distracted diners, and I go out a lot and you just see people around you using their phones and not communicating with anyone at the table," Kipp said. "I have a rule with my friends that we don't text or email at dinner, because as soon as you pick it up, you're on it for the next 10 or 15 minutes."

Even though the phone-checking service has only been available for a few days, Kipp says some diners have already taken advantage of it.

"Some people have said great, you can take my phone, and I think it's going to catch on quickly. I've already noticed some diners checking out the customers who are using it," Kipp said.

Especially when diners figure out their dining date looks much more attractive without a constant blue glow.



Photo Credit: clipart.com]]>
<![CDATA[Groupon Launches Fund to Restore Swedish Water Tower]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:19:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Swedish_Museum_Tower.jpg

Chicago-based Groupon wants to see a symbol of Andersonville's identity restored.

The company on Friday launched a campaign to restore the historic water tower that, up until Thursday, stood atop the Swedish American Museum.

In a 13-hour effort, crews removed the tower because it was damaged throughout the course of our long winter. Water in the tank, painted to resemble the Swedish flag with a blue background and yellow cross, is believed to have frozen during the winter and damaged the bands holding the tank together.

A page on Groupon's website -- www.groupon.com/andersonville -- is collecting donations through the end of the month "to fully restore" the tower once it's been repaired. People can donate in $10, $25 or $50 increments, the company said, with 100 percent of the money raised going to the museum. Groupon will take care of the credit card fees.

Lesli Proffitt Nordstrom, the museum's marketing manager, said it wasn't immediately known how much it would cost to restore the tower, which now sits in the museum's parking lot. Experts are slated to examine the tank in the coming week to determine what can be done with it, she said.

"In the event that it can't be repaired, we want to make sure that whatever we put up there is equally striking," she said.

Groupon said similar restoration projects in the past have cost up to $200,000.

The loss of the tower, which was erected in 1927 and remained functioning, was "really catastrophic for us," Proffitt Nordstrom said.

A symbol of the tower is included in the logo for the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) called it a "a treasured symbol of the Andersonville community" in an email to constituents.

Groupon officials approached the museum late Thursday to coordinate the details of the funding campaign. Donations can also be made to the museum through the website at SwedishAmericanMuseum.org.

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<![CDATA[3 Tips For How to Respond To A New Job Offer]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:51:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/cheeringworkers.JPG

Congratulations! You just received that great job offer you want. Now don’t blow it by bringing up issues that you should have addressed earlier in the interview process.

Handling a new job offer can be tricky. There are tough questions you need to ask, and others you probably shouldn't. Here are three pointers to make sure that your job offer discussions keep a positive and productive tone:

  • Ask for the decision deadline, but in most cases, spend no more than a week – five business days - contemplating the offer. Anything more than that is not appreciated and gives the impression you are not interested. Other companies may want you too, but be transparent about it and let the recruiter know what and why you are contemplating.
  • Share with the recruiter if you have other offers and outline your key deciding factors. This provides the opportunity to know what’s important to your decision and lets them consider how they can adjust an offer to meet your needs.
  • Don’t accept the offer and then try to negotiate the terms. Raise any desires or expectations earlier in the interview process. If you request a higher salary than offered or an additional benefit, have industry data that supports your request. There is no problem reaching for the stars but don’t hold it for the offer discussion.

Try to hold communications regarding the offer over the phone. By this point it’s best to be speaking directly with the recruiter versus sending impersonal emails. Plus, an employer likely wants to hear the excitement in your voice!

Sarah Doll, senior director of talent management at Chicago-based Enova International. With 1,000 plus employees, $660 million in revenues, online lender Enova is reshaping how Americans borrow with the use of technology and analytics. It is Sarah Doll and her team’s job to fill 200+ new positions each year with the country’s top technology talent and ensure they are successfully acclimated into the company.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Rocketmiles]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:36:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000006492630_1200x675_201317955512.jpg Rocketmiles, a new Chicago startup, aims to help you earn frequent flyer miles when you stay at hotels.]]> <![CDATA[Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Announces Chicago Location]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:18:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nobu-budapest.jpg

Chicago can add another swanky destination to its culinary and hospitality slate.

The Robert De Niro-backed Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Chicago will take up residence on the corner of Randolph and Peoria in early 2016.

The boutique Nobu Hotel will feature 155 rooms, and a restaurant helmed by Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Initial plans include an indoor and outdoor bar and a rooftop lounge.

Nobu has 28 locations worldwide, including 11 in the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Now Hiring: 350 Jobs Open At Bridgeport Mariano's]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:07:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Marianos_park-ridge.jpg

Mariano's recently took over several former Dominick's locations in Chicago, and the chain is hiring.

Next up: the new location in Bridgeport. The store hosts a job fair Saturday to help fill 350 new positions.

Mariano's partnered with the Instituto del Progreso Latino to host the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. fair. The store is hiring people of all experience levels, from entry-level jobs to management positions.

The former Dominick's store, located at 3145 S. Ashland Ave., was acquired by Roundy's, Inc. in December after Dominick's announced it was leaving the Chicago market.

The Bridgeport location is one of 11 former Dominick's stores being converted into Mariano's.

Mariano's says it will have created 10,000 jobs in four years.

The job fair will be held at the Instituto del Progreso Latino at 2520 S. Western Ave.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Competition Seeks Collegiate Startups]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 15:08:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1871+new+2.jpg

College entrepreneurs may want to think about coming to Chicago.

ThinkChicago, 1871 and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new competition Tuesday, geared toward attracting the leading collegiate business startups from around the country to Chicago.

The Chicago College Startup Competition will offer up to 10 entrepreneurs, who started their business in college and wish to continue after graduation, full-time desks at 1871’s networking and business incubation space in the Merchandise Mart.

The winners of the competition will receive a year of desk space, mentorship services and amenities provided for startups at the 1871 facility.

"1871 is all about attracting the best new businesses and helping them succeed," Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, said in a statement. "Collegiate businesses are in a unique position to be successful, and we believe that the resources that are available at 1871 will greatly help these young startups on their path. I'm excited about the potential for integration with the ongoing efforts of the city as part of this effort."

ThinkChicago and 1871 will work with leading entrepreneurial business plan competitions at colleges across the country to identify potential winners and businesses can also apply directly to be considered for the program. A panel of current businesses located at 1871 and members of ThinkChicago will evaluate the entries.

"This is exactly what ThinkChicago is about," Emanuel said in a statement. "The City of Chicago remains focused on attracting the best and brightest tech entrepreneurs to Chicago. This opportunity will help future college graduates succeed while integrating their businesses directly with Chicago's thriving tech community."

Interested applicants can visit www.1871.com/CCSC or contact college@1871.com for more information. Competition winners will be publicly announced at ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza during the first week in August.

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<![CDATA[Fannie May Recalls Assorted Chocolate Box]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 15:21:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/165*120/fm+chocolate+recall.jpg

Fannie May Confections is recalling more than 89 cases of a box of assorted chocolates because the box includes a piece of candy that contains peanuts, but the known allergen is not listed on the food ingredient label.

The product being recalled is a spring-wrapped rectangular gift box that weighs 14 ounces and contains 24 pieces of assorted chocolates including a caramel/peanut candy.

Fannie May, in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, voluntarily recalled the product after the label error was discovered during an internal review. The company says 19 boxes were sold before the product was recalled.

The boxes were available for sale beginning March 3 in seven states including Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Arizona. They were sold at various retailers including Walgreen, Hallmark Gift Shops, CVS and others.

Fannie May, which first opened in Chicago, said there have been no reports of illnesses so far, but urged customers that purchased the box to dispose of it.

Last month, Fannie May recalled 12,000 heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for the same reason.

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<![CDATA[Company Makes Coffee With A Purpose]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:42:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Aspire+CoffeeWorks.png Aspire, a non-profit that helps children and adults with developmental disabilities, has partnered with Metropolis Coffee Company to make coffee that Makes a Difference. Aspire CoffeeWorks can be bought online, at Whole Foods and select coffee shops. Art Norman reports.]]> <![CDATA[Best and Worst Words to Use in a Resume]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 05:28:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/22_170_resume.jpg One in six hiring managers spend 30 seconds or less, on average, reviewing résumés, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. A majority spend less than two minutes. With so little time to capture interest, a candidate’s word choice can make a big difference. The nationwide survey of employers identified which commonly-used résumé terms are overused or cliché and which are strong additions.]]> <![CDATA[Smart Setup for Online Business Profiles]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:35:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/218*120/11-1-2011+1-52-09+PM.jpg

We recently covered how to avoid the urge to set up new online profiles unless absolutely necessary. But your digital accounts, whether private like email accounts or public like social ones, help with productivity and help you communicate better if you use them correctly.

So, how can you set up digital accounts for optimal results?

Public-Facing Accounts (social channels, blogs, websites)

  1. Think about the contact information you want displayed to the public. Make sure your business address is consistent across all public online accounts (watch for St. vs. Street, for example). List a non-personal email address and phone number that you are connected to often. You don’t want to miss important prospect messages because you didn’t check the general inbox info@yourbusiness.com.
  2. Customize your profiles with branded images like your logo as headers or profile images. Make sure they fit within the space provided without being stretched or cutting off part of it. Also, choose images that won’t cause difficulty reading your profile information. For example, don’t use a white photo for a profile that has white text. Adjust the colors on your Twitter profile so your information is legible and matches your brand.
  3. Make sure your business website is prominent and accessible without clicks. For example, add your company URL in the "About" box on your business' Facebook page. Google+ automatically displays your provided URL proudly on your business page.
  4. Keep login information somewhere safe and change passwords regularly. Make sure all team members have the correct information and sign a confidentiality agreement (usually included in employment or client agreements). Consider trying some of these multi-platform password managers.
  5. Designate managers whenever possible, versus sharing logins with many people.

Private Accounts (email accounts, third-party software, productivity tools)

  1. Think about the contact information you want captured by the platform. For email, choose your first and last name or business name for contact information for alerts and notifications about your account. Gmail offers the option to provide a phone number in case you can’t be reached through email from Google.
  2. Follow the same guidelines on keeping passwords in No. 4 above for "Public Facing Accounts."
  3. Set up "rules" for emails you want forwarded to your primary email and enable sending from other email addresses in your primary account. Capture all incoming emails to multiple email addresses and switch the ‘from’ email in your primary account to stay efficient and responsive. (Try checking mail from another account in Gmail.)

When setting up an account online, think about the personal information you’re sharing, creating easy access to login information, account privacy, and enabling features to be productive and attentive to those who need you.

Rebecca Otis is the Content/Social Media Manager at Digital Third Coast, a Chicago digital marketing agency. She started her own small business marketing consultancy at the age of 26 and has spoken at HP Catalyst and BlogHer events on social media and education and small business marketing on a budget. She is a member of the Chicago Blogger Network and Chicago Food Bloggers organization, also serving on the Social Media Club Chicago board. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Google+.

 



Photo Credit: Google]]>
<![CDATA[The Downside of Social Media Success]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:16:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/facebook_generic.jpg

By now you’ve heard enough social media blunder stories to know how easy it is to put your company’s reputation at risk in 140 characters or less. But what you don’t hear about is the downside of social media success.

Believe it or not, there is a dark side to acquiring all those fans, friends and followers.

To keep you out of the dark, here are three of the biggest traps of social media success and how to avoid them.

Relying solely on social media to market your business. Since most social media tools are free, there may be a tendency to rely on them to drive your entire marketing efforts, especially if you’re seeing results. However, abandoning other marketing channels limits your ability to fully engage all of your customers and in the ways they prefer to be reached.

For example, customers that aren’t on social media or would rather receive your newsletter versus reading your Facebook posts represent missed opportunities if you’re marketing strategy is purely social media.

Remember, the most successful marketing campaigns engage customers online and offline through a mix of marketing activities.

Believing your own hype. While responses to your posts and regular interactions with customers are signs of a healthy social media marketing effort, don’t assume they equate to success. After all, a small business owner’s primary reasons for using social media are to engage customers and increase sales. For this reason, don’t be fooled by an escalating number of friends on social networks. Likewise, don’t be disheartened by a small yet engaged group of followers.

To create long-term customer relationships and grow your online presence through social media, engage your audience through authentic dialog that is focused on sharing valuable content and providing insight as opposed to promoting your business.

Catching FoMO. Fear of missing out (FoMO) is the concern that you may be missing something if you’re not constantly online, especially if you’ve amassed a lot of connections on social networks. FoMO can lead to an overzealous approach to social media and you’ve likely seen this in the form of chronic posting and an over-the-top eagerness to connect with the online community.

To quell FoMO, take a balanced approach to social media by scheduling it into your day, crafting your messages from the recipient’s point of view, and focusing on cultivating ties with your core audience, as that will yield the strongest results.

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.
 

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<![CDATA[Chicago-Based Calumet Photographic Shutters U.S. Stores]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 14:53:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CES_Thursday_P8.jpg

A Chicago-based photography store has closed its doors and filed for Chapter 7 liquidation.

Calumet Photographic, which sells and rents photography equipment and supplies, announced on its Facebook page Thursday that it will immediately close its stores in the United States.

“After 75 years of business it is with a heavy heart that we announce our immediate closing in the United States (our European stores will continue),” the company wrote. “It has been a joy to share our passion for photography with you all of these years. We'll miss each other and we'll miss all of our customers. Thank you for everything.”

At the same time, the company's website and Twitter pages both disappeared.

The company listed between $50 million and $100 million in assets and between $10 million and $50 million in liabilities, according to its bankruptcy filing from Wednesday.

While some commenters responded to the "goodbye post" with sympathy and sadness, others claimed employees and customers were not told of the news until after the stores closed.

“So my wife is just told NOT to come to work.. she's out of a job.. NO HR mention, NO mention of final paycheck, NO mention of what to do about insurance? NOTHING?! Really???” one commenter posted.

“Calumet didn't have the decency to tell there [sic] employees what was happening they had to show up at work to find out it was closed. How about treating your employees with respect,” another said.

Some customers were questioning how they can retrieve equipment left at the store for repairs or be refunded for recent purchases.

“So I have an outstanding order will I be receiving it or be getting a refund, would be kind of nice for the people who did support the business to know!?” one commenter posted.

“I still have a camera in the repair shop there. How will I get it back?” another commenter wrote.

A few hours after their original Facebook post, the company said they were exploring opportunities to reopen “select locations.”



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Smartphone App Lets Users Fight Hate Crimes]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 12:24:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/combat-hate-app.jpg

Victims of a hate crime or cyber bullying now have a new digital tool for their arsenal.

The CombatHate App, available for iOS and Android, allows users to anonymously record and report incidents to law enforcement.

Secretary of State Jesse White on Tuesday was joined by the app's developers, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to increase awareness of the technology in Illinois.

"When you've experienced [bullying or discrimination], you know how badly it makes you feel. You know how deeply it cuts you, and we don't that to happen to anyone in society," White said at the Standard Club.

Just last week, the social media application Yik Yak was disabled in Chicago after high school administrators and parents expressed concerns the app was being used for cyber bullying.

In addition to allowing users to report incidents, the application also aims to define what constitutes a hate crime or hate speech. For users who want to report bullying, which isn’t technically a hate crime, the app links to the federal stopbullying.gov website for tips on dealing with that type of harassment.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, is a global human rights organization.

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<![CDATA[U of C Tops Northwestern in Business Grad School Rankings ]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 11:19:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/university+of+chicago+getty.JPG

Two Illinois business schools swapped spots in this year's U.S. News & World Report ranking of best graduate schools in the country.

The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business moved up to No. 4 from last year's sixth place, and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management moved down to No. 6 from fourth.

Both schools were topped by Harvard University, Stanford University and the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, which all tied for the No. 1 spot. The Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked fifth after tying for fourth last year.

Chicago's part-time MBA programs also were noted in the list, published Tuesday.

"The Haas School of Business at University of California—Berkeley, Chicago's Booth School of Business and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management again came in at Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively."

As for the best online graduate business programs, the top spot went to Indiana University—​Bloomington (Kelley).

See the full rankings here.

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<![CDATA[Facility to Promote Chicago's Women-Owned Tech Startups]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 10:37:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1871+new+wolinsky.jpg

Women in Chicago’s tech world will soon have a new opportunity.

1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups, has announced a new facility designed to foster growth and opportunity for women-owned tech startups in Chicago.

The 1871 FEMtech incubator, sponsored by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation and the Motorola Mobility Foundation, will feature 10 to 15 startups at a given time and will engage in programming, mentorship and training specifically designed to maximize their resources, according to a release from 1871.

"Women-owned technology businesses have grown in number and reach in recent years, and we are hopeful to see more of these exciting companies doing great things as a result of our new incubator," Howard A. Tullman, CEO of 1871, said in a statement.

The initiative is part of an international effort by Google for Entrepreneurs to launch 40 female-focused incubators worldwide. Google for Entrepreneurs provided $25,000 in seed money to 1871, which will be combined with additional private donations to fund the program.

The effort is also supported by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"Chicago's tech and digital manufacturing industry continues to create jobs and boost economic growth across the City," Mayor Emanuel said in a statement. "The FEMtech incubator at 1871 will increase opportunities in this dynamic sector for women-owned tech businesses and startups.

In a recent survey, 1871 reported that nearly 30 percent of its member companies had a female on their founding team, nearly six times the national average.

1871 FEMtech is scheduled to open in the fall and expects to “incubate” participating companies for two five-month stretches each year.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Ranked No. 7 For Hardest Working Cities: Report]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 10:09:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/chicago-skyline-generic_448x336.jpg

Chicago might be “the city that works,” but according to a recent study, it’s not the hardest working.

A report from Locality.com ranked the top 50 hardest working U.S. cities, and Chicago isn’t even in the top five.

The study analyzed the average number of hours that local businesses work each week, with an emphasis on service-oriented businesses like dry cleaners and hair salons.

Data showed Chicagoans work an average of 61.54 hours a week, and while that is still above the national average, it puts the city at no. 7 on the list.

New York, dubbed the hardest working city, works an average of 65.91 hours each week and was followed on the list by Las Vegas, Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix.

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