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Georgia’s Labor Market and Resources to Help Companies Face Current Challenges

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On today’s episode of The Capitalist Sage, Karl and Rico are joined by Georgia Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler. The Department of Labor’s mission is to work with both public and private partners in building the workforce system that contributes to Georgia’s economic prosperity. Listen in to hear our hosts discuss what’s happening in the labor market here in Georgia, some of the trends that we see going forward, and some of the resources that are available for small and large business owners in finding great talent to help their businesses and organizations prosper. (Recorded before the recent Omicron outbreak.)

Resources:

Employ Georgia Website: https://employgeorgia.com
Georgia Department of Labor Website: https://dol.georgia.gov

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:30] – The Department of Labor’s Role
[00:06:19] – Working with a Small Pool of Workers
[00:10:45] – Business Owners Responses
[00:13:47] – Education Issues
[00:23:16] – Resources Available for Employees and Employers
[00:24:53] – What to Plan for in 2022
[00:33:14] – Closing

“There are actually a lot of opportunities out there for training that can work with even smaller businesses, especially with your technical colleges, that a lot of people don’t know about. And so I really strongly suggest, if you’re having certain types of needs, go talk to your local technical college. And they have specialists that can sit down and talk with you, see what kind of training they provide. And they can also provide you with a pipeline of talent for people who are coming into the technical college too. Some great recruiting grounds. We use them.”

MARK BUTLET

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Karl: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. How are you doing today, Rico?

[00:00:48] Rico: Great, thank you. Great to be here. This is going to be a good show. So I’m looking forward to it.

[00:00:54] Karl: Absolutely. Absolutely. Why don’t we start off by introducing our sponsor for today?

[00:00:59] Rico: Sure. This episode of the Capitalist Sage has been sponsored by Peachtree Corners Magazine, which also sponsors a family of podcasts, including Peachtree Corners Life. And you should check out also Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. So all good stuff and great to have these opportunities to do these shows.

[00:01:16] Karl: Well today, it is my pleasure to introduce our guest. Commissioner Mark Butler. He is the Georgia Commissioner of Labor. The Department of Labor’s mission is to work with both public and private partners in building the workforce system that contributes to Georgia’s economic prosperity. Today we’d like to talk about a little bit about what’s happening in the labor market here in Georgia. Some of the trends that we see going forward. And most importantly, what are some of the resources that are available for small and large business owners in finding great talent to help their businesses and organizations prosper? How are you doing today, Commissioner Butler?

[00:01:56] Mark: Doing great. Thanks for having me on. And I like the pressure you’re putting on me saying it’s going to be a great show. We hope so. We try to make this interesting. A lot of times people hear that the Labor Commissioner is going to come speak and they’re like, oh gosh, that doesn’t sound very exciting. But I think workforce development is very exciting. And I think what we’re seeing right now in our economy. Is, it’s exciting, but it’s also scary at the same time. We’re seeing things that are happening right now in our economy that quite frankly just don’t make sense. There is just very strange things going on right now. And you really can’t depend on some of the old indicators to really tell you what’s going on in the economy because they just really are not relevant right now.

[00:02:30] Karl: I know a lot of small business owners especially feel alone out there. When I talk to business owners every day, they’re all looking for people. They’re cutting back hours, reducing services, and they’re starting to do that. Maybe you could share with us a little bit about the department of labor’s role in the Georgia infrastructure, when it comes to workforce development.

[00:02:50] Mark: Right. Well, we’re at right now, the department has been in a, kind of a mode of transition. Because you know, until about, say about six or seven months ago we were tasked by the federal government to roll out a bunch of new unemployment programs because of the pandemic. And so we basically had to go all hands on deck approach and shifted a lot of our personnel that used to work in Employment Services and Business Services. They had to come over to the unemployment side of the house because it was almost impossible to hire during the pandemic and add new people. So we had to use our own people that were doing different jobs. And so, we’re in a transition right now, putting those people back to work. Because one thing that we’re seeing right now even though we’re seeing jobs come back. Fairly quickly and also seeing employment. Right now, I think employment is within about 20,000 jobs statewide of being back to where it was before the pandemic. However, the number of individuals in the workforce is down greater than that. Now, I throw a lot of terms out there. And I want to say something for the people that are listening. Workforce, when you hear me say workforce that’s everybody who is working or actively seeking work. Okay. You may not be working, but you’re wanting to work. And then you have employment, obviously that’s, self-explanatory. Those folks are actually working. Now when I talk about jobs. I’m not necessarily talking about people working. I’m talking about total number of jobs. These could be also open jobs that haven’t been filled. And that’s really where the big emphasis is right now, as everybody who’s listening to this probably knows. And almost anybody that I’ve ever talked to that’s been around for more than say, 40 years can tell you that, they’ve never seen anything quite like this. You know, I’ve talked to veterans who’ve been here, almost 30 years. And they said, they’ve never seen the amount of job openings that we have right now that are going unfilled. And there’s a lot of things that have contributed to that. You know, one of the things that we were saying gosh, probably six or eight months ago, that was going to be a factor. And now we’re starting to see some studies come out to say, this is a factor. A lot of individuals who were either right at retirement or at retirement, or you know, maybe they’ve been working past retirement age have decided to leave the workforce. The pandemic has shifted the way somebody thinks about life and what they’re doing, has changed their priorities. And that baby boom generation that we’ve been kind of wondering what’s going to happen, you know, when all these baby boomers retire. That’s a big chunk of our workforce. What’s going to happen? You’re finding out right now what’s going to happen. And what’s happening is we have a ton of jobs sitting out there that need to be filled. And you’ll hear a lot of these reports come out from economist saying, you know, job growth is slow. Job growth right now is not where you gotta be looking. Right now, you’ve got to be looking at getting more people in the workforce and filling those jobs. Because, you know, if you’re like me and you came from the private sector you may want to hire a hundred people right now. But if you can only manage 10, that’s the only job that you’re filling. So if you can’t even get to the other ninety yet. And so one of the things, you’re not going to see tremendous job growth until we can start filling the ones that we have. You can’t create more until you fill the ones you have. But right now it’s a real struggle just because you don’t have a number of individuals who are out there looking. A matter of fact, we have actually fewer people unemployed right now than we had before the pandemic began. So a lot more people are working. And we, you know, we just broke our all time for unemployment rate on this past month down to 3.2%. Which, that’s extraordinarily low, especially for a state our size and a population as big as what we have. And there’s a very good chance we’re probably going to end up breaking that record yet again, because the job market and the labor pool is just getting tighter and tighter.

[00:06:19] Karl: So if I could ask, if I understand correctly, the number of people available. And I’ll say probably across the country, we’ll say here in Georgia, that are available to fill jobs have decreased. And some of it is baby boomers retiring. Some of these people are making personal choices to not work because of childcare or whatever, related issues. But we have a smaller pool of people to fulfill the jobs. The number of jobs have stayed at least relatively stable or they’re there. But right now the challenge for employers is finding those people and matching them to the jobs that fit their skills.

[00:06:57] Mark: Right. And if you take a look. I mean, the best estimates that the US Department of Labor when they do their surveys, the best estimates they have for Georgia anyway, we’re showing that right now we have probably about 40,000 fewer people in our workforce than we had say right before the pandemic started. So, you know, February 2020. Now I know that seems like forever ago, but go back and think about February of 2020. We had already just set a new, all time low unemployment record back then, which we’ve already broken now. And we already had a very tight labor market then. Now subtract 40,000 people out of that same pool. I mean, even in a state our size, that is a tremendous. And by the way, I think 40,000 is a low number. I think they’re missing it. I think that, when they go back and look at these numbers, I think that number is going to be far greater than that. Otherwise you wouldn’t see the issues we’re having because we weren’t having this kind of issues. Think about all the restaurants right now that are not able to open their dining rooms and they can only handle carry out and things like that. And then actually that kind of rolls over to all kinds of small businesses. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. And that is contributing to our supply chain problems, which is also going to be contributing to inflation. Because right now, one of the side effects, which is good and bad, depending on what side of this equation you’re on. And I say it’s kind of a wash. Because there is such a tight labor pool. You know, the first thing everybody thinks of is, okay well, I’ve got to raise my wages. If a raise up my pay scale, then I’ll get those workers, right? And so they do that. Well, everybody else is having that same thought. And so they’re raising theirs up too. And so then what you have is, okay, now we’ve got to pay for these other pay raises because I’m not just paying that new worker more, but everybody who’s been here, a year, two years, five years, ten years, I’ve got to push them up too because that won’t be fair. So then, if you’ve ever run a business, you know 70 to 80% of your costs is going to be personnel in most cases. So now you’ve got, okay, I gotta pay for this. So what do you, do? You push up the price of goods. You push out the price of service. I mean, we just had a, I think report came out, you know, this morning where it showed that we just, I think set up a monthly record for increase inflation. I think it hit 6% this past month. That’s just crazy. But if you’ve been, you know, if you’re like me, I do the grocery shopping. And I can go ahead and tell you, I have a very good memory for prices cause I’m a bargain shopper. I like to get the best deal. And I had my daughter with me the day she was visiting from New York and she went to the grocery and I said, you see that pack of bacon right there? I said, I can remember about a year and a half ago that pack of bacon was $6. And here it is $11.99. You know, 12 bucks basically. That’s twice as much as I was getting for it. And I’m thinking we’re not buying that bag. I just can’t see myself giving that kind of money for bacon, but I probably will. But think about that. So let’s say you’re one of those individuals that got lucky and all of a sudden, you were maybe in a $9.50 or $10 an hour job, and now you’re making $15 an hour job. But your grocery bill has gone up 40%. Okay, so you didn’t actually get a raise, did you? I mean, all your costs for childcare, for gas. And look at gas. I mean gas is up a lot from where it was this time a year ago, you’ve got to get to work. And so all your costs have increased across the board. And so a lot of this stuff’s going to be a wash. And so right now we’re in that adjustment period. We’ve got to get used to the new, the new cost of things. And people say this is only transitory and this is going to go. But no, it’s not. Because what’s driving inflation right now, a lot of it is salaries. You think in eight months from now, that all of a sudden 40,000 people are going to appear in the workforce. I’m telling you, they’re not. If you look at trends historically how they come back. They’re just not. And so you can’t go back and reset all those salaries. Those salaries and those hourly wages are here. So these prices are going to be here. And so, you know, as a small business, you’ve got to adjust to the new normal. And I hate to use that term more than anything. But it is, this is a new normal. These costs that you’re experiencing are not temporary. I mean, I do believe. You know, I don’t have a doctorate or a PhD in economics, but I do have a lot, and I mean a lot of practical experience in working in the economy. And I’m telling you, these costs are here.

[00:10:45] Karl: You know Rico and I were just talking about that. We were talking about looking at some of the studies and so on, on the impact. So if it’s a fact that these costs are here and that number, you gave 40,000 less people in a state the size of Georgia, less people out there. And as these businesses now need more workers. Can you can give some insight on what are the strategies you’re seeing the better business, the smarter businesses, doing to help close that gap?

[00:11:15] Mark: Well, really right now, I think everybody’s trying to find their way because the old way of doing things not here anymore. Like a lot of people, you know, we still get a lot of calls, from different parts of the state wanting us to do in-person job fairs. And I’ll go ahead and tell you, we’ve seen very, very mixed results for that type of activity. Most job seekers we’re talking to, they’re really leaning on online searches, social media searches, for jobs. We’re not seeing a whole lot of them wanting to show up for in-person. We’re trying to tell people to get away from it and really concentrate on your online efforts. But also, you know, take the temperature of what’s around you. Like we talked to a food producer and I won’t tell exactly who this is because they’d probably know who I’m talking about, but we talked to a company that produces a food product that a lot of restaurants use. And he was, they were complaining about not finding workers. And so we told them well, let’s get together and let’s talk about your strategy. And they were telling us what their hourly wages were. And when they tell us what their hourly wages were, we were saying you do realize that the people who are cooking this product in the restaurants you’re selling to are making more than the people that are producing it in your factory. And your job as much harder than the one in a restaurant, I can promise you cause it was a live animal type product. And so, that’s hard. That’s tough work. And so I’m like, you’re going to have a hard time hiring somebody if you’re paying less than what the restaurant is paying, this person who’s cooking it. Because this is a lot more grueling work and you know, they’re like we just can’t do that. And I’m like, if you can’t do that, then you have to do what a lot of companies are doing, and there’s, you’re seeing a lot more investment in automation. Which will end up cutting your total number of jobs down the road. But it will also create a new level of jobs for people who’ve got to maintain that automation. Which are higher paying jobs. So I think right now, one of the things that is exciting is, there are events that happen throughout history that call civilizations to push things dramatically forward technology-wise every so often. And unfortunately, a lot of times it’s tragic events like what we’ve just experienced with COVID, with a lot of death. I think life as we know it is going to be just so dramatically different in the years forward. Some of us who’ve been around for a little while. You used to be in a lot of stuff in person. And a lot of that has changed. And so business models are going to have to change and a lot of that storefront stuff is going to have to change. I mean, if you would’ve told me two years ago that every grocery store that I go to is delivering food and almost every restaurant that I could ever want to I can get food delivered. I’d say you’re crazy. There’s no way that’ll work. Guess what? It’s totally different.

[00:13:47] Rico: Let me ask you this too. It’s lack of bodies out there, if you will. But is some of it also lack of certain types of education? For example, instead of having a four year degree, there are a lot of kids that are realizing I don’t want this debt. I don’t want four years of debt for a job that may not pay me as much as I want, or it’s a job that they’re realizing through the pandemic. It’s a job they really don’t want to do with their life. They don’t want to spend that. I think people are coming to a realization that, a coming to Jesus, if you will, about what their life means and what they want to do with their life. Is it better to do a two year degree? Is the HVAC industry needing people. I mean, I’ve seen signing bonuses in that industry and there’s not enough people certified to do that work, to get there. So is some of it that? Can the state help there or have they?

[00:14:37] Mark: Well, when you talk about a lack of people especially if it’s for whatever reason, yes. Because then, you know, typically a lot of the pool is sitting out there right now that’s looking for work. Based on some of the numbers we’ve seen internally, are those folks that whose education requirements are probably not up to a lot of the levels that they need to be for some of the jobs that are out there. And so there’s a lot of opportunity to extend, you know, some new training to some individuals if they’ll take advantage of it. And there is a lot of money out there and there’s a lot of availability of training. But one of the exciting things that I think you’re going to see is, because of this talent crunch that we’ve got right now, I think you’re going to push forward some thinking that nobody really wanted to touch for awhile. And that is alternative forms of training. I think that you’re going to see a lot more short-term training programs. You’re going to see a lot of industries go, you know what? We’ve always required a four year degree and I’m not knocking four year degrees. I’ve got one. I paid a lot of money for my daughter to have one. And so, right now, it’s kind a necessity, cause you’ve got to have the people to get the work done or you’re going to go out of business yourself. And so I think you’re going to see a lot of specialized training that companies are gonna start sponsoring themselves. Especially like big tech companies with programming. Because they’re like, you know what? If you got the aptitude and we can tell that you’re trainable, we can bring you in here and we can teach you this coding and we can get you ready to go. So it’s almost like everything that is old is new again. And we were having this conversation around the table the other day here at the office. A lot of the incentives that we’re seeing, a lot of companies bring that like, a lot of companies are saying, we’re going to start catering lunch every day. I can remember growing up and there was a bank that my dad worked at and they had lunch every day. Now that wasn’t free, but it was like stupid cheap, like a dollar 25 .It was nothing. And it was a hardy plate of food and it was cooked very well. So we’re hearing a lot of companies bringing things like that and all kinds of different type of stuff they used to do a long time ago. They’re bringing that back. But back then also a lot of companies, they would grab people out of high school and they would train them, do on the job training and teach them how to do it. And a lot of those always doing things through apprenticeships, stuff like that are going to get extremely hot right now. And they’re gonna have to because let’s be honest, if you’ve get this big glut of talent, can you wait four years for a graduate? Four years is a long time in the business world. They need people now, and I guarantee you, you’re going to start also seeing companies recruit. And it’s something to watch for. Watch these stats and mark my words and see if I’m right. Companies are going to start recruiting in the technical colleges and the universities. Not for graduates, but for people that they can grab out of there early, before they even graduate. And put them in jobs. And graduation rates, I think will suffer. However, these folks are going to end up going in some pretty good jobs. But you watch, I’m telling you that’s going to happen. Especially in a lot of the trades because they can go get a certification somewhere else and not necessarily get that over here.

[00:17:18] Rico: And I’m seeing, my kids are like college-age level and I have an 18 year old ready to go. And I’m seeing, I can’t tell you it almost feels like a political campaign. I’m seeing so many mailers from so many small colleges. We’re not talking about big ones. Although we did get UGA and I think Georgia Tech. But a lot of small colleges in Georgia are mailing. And because, I’ve got a feeling, that they’re not getting enough recruits. And small colleges are going to get hit with this. So there’s another problem right there.

[00:17:47] Karl: There’s been a long trending issue, before the pandemic, in this labor issue. Where hiring managers, everybody, when you looked at the job description, wanted somebody with three to five years experience doing the job. They wanted XYZ degrees doing the job. And they would always, when there was abundance of applicants to fill that, that became a de facto filter and it’s too easy to filter. Degree or no degree, one is out, one is in. Keep going in the process. I think what’s happening now. It’s going to force employers, business owners, to think differently about who they hire. Transferable skills. And it will put more emphasis on the ability to train somebody up. So big companies did that all the time. I remember a while ago, I worked for General Motors and they had a humongous training program. You could come in at any position in the company. It could be hourly, it could be engineer, it could be finance. And you go through a program and they train you on it and progress you throughout your career. Well, they had the resources to do it, but I think they also had a need for talent and they had to build their own. Small business owners don’t have that leverage. Are there things out there where people can work in collaboration to adjust their hiring practices, figure out which ones need degrees. That if it’s as a lawyer, I assume you should have a law degree. But there are other roles that you may not need as much formal education. But it puts the onus on the employer to train people. Take people with the right stuff and teach them how to do the job in the factory or on the floor. Waiting, services, et cetera.

[00:19:30] Mark: Well, I think when you approach the prospect of somebody coming in, I think showing them that you’re going to be there for them with a career path. I think that’s really important, a lot of people don’t talk about that enough. It’s not enough just to get that inch of work but a lot of times say, Hey, look, you may come in here and you may start here. But what we want to do is we’re going to train you, we’re going to provide training for you here. And you know, we’re going to mentor you. And then one day, you know you can kind of move up. Those types of things. I mean, of course now we talk about small businesses and you know my definition of small business is anything from one person to 500. And so, when you started getting some of those larger ones, obviously, they’re going to have a little bit more resources and also because of the volume that they’re hiring. I tell people like if you’re not getting a certain type of training, you’re not seeing it, go visit your local technical college. Let them know what is your looking for. They may have some programs that they can tweak or modify. Or I can tell you one of the big trends that they’re really dipping their toe in right now is doing a lot of short, or I’ll say not short term but, not that two year degree, but they’re doing a lot more certificate programs that are a lot shorter training. And so like if you’ve got a certain demand and let’s say for example, that you’ve, this one thing where you’ve got to do some cooperation. If you need to get some competitors out there who have some very similar needs, you really need to come together on this. And go to the technical college, go, Hey, if you would do with some short-term training for X, Y, and Z, it could really help four or five companies out for this type of stuff. And so, I think, you know, we’re really gonna have to do a lot more short-term type training because of these immediate needs. I don’t think you can wait years down the road. I think a lot of things are going to suffer. However, Georgia is actually set up for this type of situation better than other states. And that’s why I think you’re going to see us win a lot of recruiting battles for companies that are looking to locate cause we have the quick-start system. Which specializes exactly in that very specific training for a specific type of industry. And so once a start attracting a couple of companies that do a certain thing then that one particular school where they’re basically doing is pumping out graduates. And I say, graduates, not necessarily with a degree, but a certificate or type of training that fits in there. And I think we’re well-suited, there’s some things in there. But small businesses, we’re talking about the little mom and pops, 6, 10, 12, especially if you’re doing some complicated type things. Unfortunately some of the onus is going to be on yourself. However keep in mind, there are smaller colleges and universities that do have continuing ed programs. You can approach them to see what they’ve got. Especially if you’re talking about things like bookkeeping or different things like that. But, there are actually a lot of opportunities out there for training that can work with even smaller businesses. Especially with your technical colleges that a lot of people don’t know about. And so I really strongly suggest if you’re having certain types of needs, go talk to your local technical college. And they have specialists that can sit down and talk with you, see what kind of training they provide. And they can also provide you with a pipeline for talent for people who are coming into the technical college too. Some great recruiting grounds. We use them.

[00:22:17] Karl: I think you mentioned something there, and there might be a role for the local business groups, including chambers of commerce, to serve as a focal point for groups of businesses. So if there’s a need around restaurants, approaching the technical colleges as a group around what specific skills and as a talent pipeline. I know it doesn’t happen naturally, and everyone’s got a lot on their plate. But I think the need is starting to increase enough where the pressure will be. We need to find more innovative ways to fill that talent gap.

[00:22:49] Mark: You actually, when you mentioned that about the restaurants and you’re talking about technical colleges, a lot of people know there’s been a lot of different colleges have very good culinary programs. I know this because I eat a lot of the food that they’ve done in some of these places and they do a great job. And so, a lot of the restaurants, they don’t know that in some cases. And cause we’ve talked to some restaurants and say, hey have you talked with technical colleges? They have a culinary program, you say you can’t find this and find that, right down the road, they’re training them right here. So making those connections a lot of times makes a big difference.

[00:23:16] Karl: Absolutely. I want to reintroduce Mark Butler, the Georgia Commissioner of Labor and start to talk a little bit about some of the resources. I explored your website and looked at some of the resources that are available for people looking for jobs and for employers. Can you talk a little bit about the resources available for job seekers and people looking to fill positions

[00:23:36] Mark: Well, probably the biggest resource we have is our Employ Georgia website. It’s a job board. It works for both the employer and the job seeker. If you post your jobs on there, you can push out your job listing to job seekers. And if they’re interested, they can hit you back and you can kind of start your recruitment at that point. So make sure you’re using that. It’s a free service. It also provides us with a lot of very good data. We also, for certain types of recruitments, we have business service recruiters around the state that actually work with a lot of companies to do very specific recruitments. We have a lot of those going on right now. And quite frankly, that resource is probably stretched extraordinarily thin right now. And of course you know, we’re hiring too here, at the Department of Labor. Of course, you know, it’s harder. Imagine though, as the private sector is hard to compete for this folks out there, it’s much harder for the state to do it. But so we have a lot of recruitings and things like that going on too. But we don’t do just that. There’s a lot of other resources on our website. If you’ll just take a look. For example, if you don’t have an employee handbook, I strongly suggest you have one. We have basically a border plate language one that sits on there, that you can download. And that you can make changes to it, to fit your business. Make sure you have one of those hiring. And it’s a different world out there. But the main thing is on the recruiting. Take a look at the recruiting section on our website, especially with Employ Georgia. That’s where most people are actually looking right now. It’s one of the hot places where people are looking for jobs. Use it, it’s free.

[00:24:53] Karl: That is a great resource that’s available. And people may not realize that it’s free. There’s so many people out there, that there are paid services for that. But there are some free services like that. And I want to highlight the handbook that you mentioned really quickly. Now is the time if you think about it, when you’re in a crunch, when labor markets are tight, to reinvest in your system. Your employment system. Which includes handbooks. A lot of business owners don’t take the time to develop handbooks because they don’t know how, they don’t think that they need it. But when they run into challenges and troubles, some of the things that are in employee handbooks can help them there. They may not realize there is another resource out there available. You could download one, you can try to complete one yourself, or even engaging in professionals to help you fine tune the handbook to your particular industry and or business. But those are great resources that are available. What do you see happening in 2022. Now as people are making plans and I’ll break it out, the service sector and others. What should business owners be factoring in as they’re making their business plans for 2022?

[00:26:03] Mark: Well, I hate to say it this way, but you could probably expect more of the same. Because we actually ran some numbers and looked at some past trends coming out of recessions, which obviously this is different than a recession. And what we have seen in the past, when we’ve had a very large drop, like we were just seeing right now in the workforce. Typically those workers don’t come back very quickly. It takes years to recover. Don’t think, I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade, but don’t think that those 40,000 people are going to magically appear in six to eight months. It’s just not going to happen. Historically, it doesn’t happen. The only way it happens, is if a whole bunch of people leave some other state because there’s no opportunity, to come here. And that’s not going to happen because other states are having the same problem we are. Because it wasn’t just in Georgia that we just saw a lot of people leave the workforce. It’s the entire nation. So you need to be making plans now. You need to adjust now for the fact that this is not going to end anytime soon. And also start thinking about, where’s that supply and demand cross for you when it comes to how much you can afford to pay versus, how much you can afford to charge. So you really need to spend some time rolling that over and thinking through that because we’re a long way off in this kind of getting settled in. Take a look at how you’re doing business. Think of different ways of doing what you’re doing possibly with less people. You’re gonna have to readjust because if it wasn’t for the virus, I think we would have had years to make this adjustment. But I think that because we did have the pandemic, I do believe with all my heart that it pushed forward a lot of retirements that weren’t going to happen for years from now. And it’s very hard to replace that talent in the stream, so to say. And so it’s, it’s going to be tough going and look, trust me. One of the things that keeps me up, and I’ll give you an example, one thing that keeps me up at night here is, you know, if anybody knows anything about state government, state government is older. As they say, I put in air quotes for those are just listening. Which means, you know, our average age in the state government’s about 54 and I’m right there at that average myself. Right now in my agency of about 1100 people, about 25% of my entire agency can walk out the door today with full retirement. do some quick math and let’s just say only 200 of those people leave before the end of the year. Imagine that, if you’re somebody, if you had a thousand people that work for you and you had to find 200 people to replace them in the next two months. So our crunch has come in here too. And so we can relate and we know how tough this is. And you’ve got to constantly recruit, never stop recruiting. It’s almost like, now when you go out, not only as a small business person you’re trying to sell what you’re trying to sell, but you’re also trying to recruit workers in the same breath. Like, well okay, you don’t want to buy it? Oh, hey, would you want to come to work for me?

[00:28:40] Karl: I think you’re hitting on a really insightful point there. People look at their marketing budget around marketing their products and goods and services, but recruiting. If it’s important for your business, especially service-based business. Developing a recruiting strategy, an onboarding strategy, to attract people should be factored in to your budget in 2022. If you don’t, you will be spending the money to do it one way or the other. So you might as well start factoring it into your budgets.

[00:29:09] Mark: Well think about it, almost everything you’re getting right now, let’s say you get like a solicitation in the mail. One side it says, buy our roofing system, on the other side, it says hiring roofers. Like when you go out to eat a lot of times on the receipt, it says now hiring, you know, or whatever. I mean it’s everywhere. And I have never seen anything like it. Here’s the good news. So we’ve got a lot of bad news there, but now if you’re that job seeker or somebody who’s jumped out. And you’re wanting to better yourself or better where you were, right now is the time. Be trainable, be on time, have a good attitude. And a lot of people will take you on and train you. You know, if you need to say well, I didn’t have the skills. Well guess what? Here’s your work around right now. Take advantage of this.

[00:29:46] Rico: We had one of our guests was Music Matters Productions. And it was, lindsay was the marketing person. But the one constant thing they said was just be on time. Literally that was the mantra. Four or five times through the conversation. Which is someone to be on time, and to be there, I guess to show up. Because isn’t that the problem? I mean, I’ll do a drive-through at Dunkin Donuts where the front door is locked because they don’t have enough people to man a small store. And the line is wrapped around. And all they need is someone that can hit the register, I mean it’s pretty easy, the point of purchase sales. And they still can’t find the right people. And they’re, what was it, Salada has a permanent sign essentially on their window saying $15 an hour. We’re looking to hire. When you get that happening, it’s just sad.

[00:30:33] Karl: Everyone is going through that and realizing that. I’ll offer one other insight that people may not think about. Your key employees, those people that you really rely on. This isn’t the time to neglect them. Figuring out ways, if you haven’t talked to that employee that’s been with you for 10 years and they’ve done an outstanding job and knows your systems and your customers love them. It’s the holiday season. It’s time to give them love, take care of them, and start compensating them. Coming up with ways to retain those key employees. Because this isn’t the time you want to go out to find that new person. And now that you have to train them, you’ve got to pay them more and they may not know all the things that help you be successful over the years. So I vote for taking care of those key employees this year.

[00:31:25] Mark: Yeah. You’ve got to do that. That’s part of the strategy because it’s much cheaper to keep one than to hire one. It’s simple math right there. And of course my problem is the state government. We can’t give out bonuses so, it’s not allowable. So trust me, there’s been a few times lately, just myself. I’m thinking, man, I remember that job, my private sector job I had before I became Labor Commissioner. I remember those Christmas bonuses I used to get and it paid for Christmas. And I’m like, I don’t get Christmas bonuses anymore. I’ve got to have a Christmas account now.

[00:31:52] Karl: It’s a challenge. And not only economically compensating, but sometime it’s just flexibility. As some people have shifted where they may, instead of going in five days a week, they could work four days in the office, one day at home. There are different ways to recognize those great employees and in ways that could drive retention. We have one instance of an employer we now love. That just allow one of their key employees to have two days from home. They can do some other things. It makes commute a little bit less. And for that person, that probably prevented them from looking for another job. And they’re able to retain that person. There’s different challenges when you’re managing people remotely. But this past 18 months plus, has taught us a lot on how to get creative in engaging people remotely when necessary.

[00:32:39] Mark: Yeah. If you’re in the service industry or if you’re in manufacturing, work from home really doesn’t work real well. And those challenges are going to be totally different. You’re going to see a lot of new ideas. I know there’s a lot of people rethinking things like childcare and education bonuses and things like that are there. So, it’s definitely a competitive market when you have competitiveness in this kind of thing, hunt for talent. You’re going to probably see a lot of different things. It’s a good time if you’re out there trying to improve where you’re at. Because the opportunities are out there and some of the benefits I’ve seen put out there are different and really interesting.

[00:33:14] Karl: And I would say to employers, take a look at your job description and make it more open. So for people that are great workers, great attitudes, have the right stuff. They may not have the right experience exactly that fits your need, or they may not have all the degrees that they would want. But figuring out which jobs need what types of criteria and open up that lens, you’ll find a lot of great people out there that can do great for your companies. Commissioner Butler, I would like to thank you so much for joining us and just sharing some of the information and data that you’re collecting and what you’re seeing there in the market. It’s really apparent that Georgia is a place where employers want to be. There’s this collaboration between government and private sector that helps create the tools and the vehicles for success here. And I want to thank you for your leadership in that and continuing to be a resource to the community, to help all business owners and people looking for jobs. I’d like to also thank Rico for everything that he does to continue to drive the Capitalist Sage as well as the other family of podcasts here. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business we work with small business owners, helping them with how to improve their business, grow their business. And when they’re ready, exit their business. You can contact and schedule a consultation with any one of our business advisors. And yes, we are one of the many companies that are also looking for people that want to do something different with their life. And we do have a training program to help bring people on that want to help be business advisers for small businesses. You can reach us at our website at www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. We help people with finding businesses to buy, selling businesses, and consulting people on how to franchise their business when they’re ready. Rico, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’ve got going on?

[00:35:13] Rico: Sure. We’re working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. The December, January issue. It’s going to be packed with a lot of things. We’re mainly talking about the holidays and how people are celebrating in a diverse way. As well as home-based businesses that are creating product and selling them on Etsy and online and at festivals. So there’s a lot of things, a lot of feature stories in there about people and businesses. So check that out when it comes out at the beginning of December. You can go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com to find out more about the magazine and what’s going on in the city, or go to TheCapitalistSage.com to find out more podcasts from this series of podcasts and see what other business people and subject expert matters are saying that you might be able to use. And if you’re looking for someone to do social media marketing, content, videography, or photography, check out MightyRockets.com. That’s my company. And you can always find me on LinkedIn, rico Figliolini, that’s F I G L I O L I N I. There aren’t that many of us on LinkedIn. Check that out and connect with me and I look forward to seeing you all there. But great show Commissioner Butler. I appreciate you being here with us.

[00:36:21] Mark: Thanks for having me.

[00:36:23] Karl: Thank you so much. And please do visit the Georgia Department of Labor website. If you’re a job seeker, explore some of the resources available there. And there’s a lot of great data there. If you want to see what’s happening in the job market locally, please do reach out and explore some of the great information to share on the website. Thank you everybody for joining the Capitalist Sage today, and we’ll continue to bring you great guests having a discussion about business and how it impacts your business right here in the community. Thank you very much.

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3 Things and More that Small Business Owners Should Focus on in 2022 [Podcast]

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On this special episode of the Capitalist Sage, Karl and Rico are joined by Mark Collier, business consultant and faculty member with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center. What is affectionately called the SBDC, is a great resource to the small business community. Listen in to this episode to learn more about the SBDC and just how this asset can help you build your business.

Resources:

SBDC Website: GeorgiaSBDC.org
Mark’s Email: MCollier@GeorgiaSBDC.org
SBDC DeKalb Number: (770) 414-3110

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:30] – About Mark and SBDC
[00:05:07] – Hiring and The Labor Crunch
[00:09:52] – The Importance of a Business Plan
[00:11:30] – Supply Chain and Strategizing
[00:13:34] – Finding Your Differentiating Factors
[00:17:01] – Getting Financial Systems and Plans in Place
[00:23:54] – Resources with SBDC
[00:27:36] – Closing

“We have a singular, sole mission and that’s to help Georgia businesses grow. That is all we do. We help businesses along all, what we call five core business functional areas. Strategic planning, marketing, operations, human resources, and financial reporting. So we’ve got a variety of tools and resources for small businesses.”

Mark Collier

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Karl: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico, how you doing today?

[00:00:50] Rico: Good Karl, it’s a beautiful day.

[00:00:53] Karl: Yes, no snow this weekend. As we sit here in January, getting ready for our mini exposure to winter. Excited to continue to have some great shows today. Why don’t you introduce our sponsor for today?

[00:01:06] Rico: Sure. Our sponsor is Peachtree Corners Magazine. The sponsor of the family of podcasts that we do, right? Between this and the Peachtree Corners Life and Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. So, and now we’re working on our next issue, which is the best of Reader’s Choice Awards for Peachtree Corners. That’ll be coming out the beginning of next month. So a lot of stuff in there and it’s going to be a good issue.

[00:01:28] Karl: I think a deadline is coming up for that. I know I went in and made some, when is the deadline for people to get their votes in?

[00:01:36] Rico: Today actually is the deadline. The 20th when we’re filming, when we’re streaming this and filming this rather. So yeah, we’ve had over 1800 responses so far, which is phenomenal, I think for this type of survey.

[00:01:49] Karl: Well, looking forward to see that. And again, a lot of the small businesses that are featured in that survey also, I’m glad to see the many businesses that the community here supports. So really appreciate that. Well, today I want to jump right in and I’m excited to welcome today’s guest is Mark Collier. He is the business consultant and faculty member with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center. And if you don’t know, what we affectionately call the SBDC is, this is a time to learn a little bit about it and understand it’s great resource to the small business community. Hey Mark, how you doing today?

[00:02:27] Mark: I’m doing well. Karl, and Rico, thanks for having me on.

[00:02:30] Karl: We’re really excited to talk. Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit to our audience. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do with the SBDC to help the small business community?

[00:02:40] Mark: Absolutely. Again, my name is Mark Collier. I’m a business consultant at the University of Georgia, Small Business Development Center. I office in the DeKalb office, one of 18 offices around the state. And we have a singular sole mission and that’s to help Georgia businesses grow. That is all we do. We help businesses along all, what we call five core business functional areas. Strategic planning, marketing, operations, human resources, and financial reporting. So we’ve got a variety of tools and resources for small businesses. And here’s the best thing Karl, anyone who chooses to use our services have already paid for us through the tax dollars that they pay. So our services come at no direct cost because we have one singular mission. And that is when we help Georgia businesses grow and scale, and they grow their revenue, grow their employees, guess what? They pay more taxes.

[00:03:35] Karl: That’s right.

[00:03:36] Mark: A very simple business model that we work off of.

[00:03:38] Karl: Well, I love it. And most people already know. And if you don’t, most of the businesses in the US, 90 plus percent are small businesses. So continuing to support that is a mission that the SBDC and the folks that help advise and support the small business community is really passionate about. Well, today I wanted to start off by talking about some of the top issues you see business owners struggling with. And some of the things that they can do about it. Why don’t we start with the first thing that when you talk to business owners, where do you see them really having challenges?

[00:04:12] Mark: Well, that has shifted over the last couple of years. Prior to the pandemic year of 2020, it was the traditional things. Access to capital, strategic planning and marketing. Since the pandemic their needs have shifted dramatically to how do I deal with this pandemic? How do I pivot in an effective manner to continue to drive revenue growth for my company? So that’s kind of the core challenge that we are seeing now is how can businesses best compete in our emerging post COVID economy.

[00:04:44] Karl: Yeah. We’re seeing a lot of that when we talk to business owners. It’s actually incredible to think that in 2021, what constrained most business owners from having a really stronger bounce back from COVID in 2021 was that they didn’t have the people and they were struggling with supply chain issues that would allow them to continue to grow their business.

[00:05:07] Mark: Correct.

[00:05:07] Karl: But I’m curious, have you seen techniques and strategies that business owners have been doing, to succeed to navigate? Let’s say start on if you’re a service business, the people part, and then we could talk a little bit about people that sell products in the supply chain area.

[00:05:23] Mark: Sure. Well, from the people perspective, there’s been a labor crunch. Across the board labor crunch in a lot of sectors. So what small business owners have had to do is really wrap up their offerings to attract and retain good people. Not only in terms of salary but a huge one, Karl that’s emerged since the pandemic is the ability to work from home or some type of hybrid arrangement where they can work partly in the office and partly at home. Businesses who are focused on wrapping up their benefits and pay, are the ones who have gained a competitive edge in keeping and finding and retaining good people for their company.

[00:06:04] Rico: Has it become a problem with some companies trying to up their salaries, up their hourly pay to be able to meet the demand? Has that helped employment at all?

[00:06:14] Mark: Well, it’s gonna cause some kind of wage inflation, which we’re starting to see some reminiscence of out here. But in terms of the difficulty, yes. Obviously anytime you raise a pay of your employees, that impacts your bottom line because your labor costs start to rise. And there’s only so, so far that you can rise the prices of your goods and services to help mitigate that.

[00:06:37] Rico: Right. And to pay more for new employees to attract them, you also have to lift the wage just to your existing employees too.

[00:06:43] Mark: Correct. Rico, what smart employers are doing is they’re trying to get folks away from focusing purely on the dollars and starting to offer some ancillary benefits. Like I said, perhaps a hybrid work environment. Some additional vacation days or other incentives that are non-monetary that wouldn’t have that direct impact to a company’s bottom line.

[00:07:04] Karl: I think the market and what this has done, it’s accelerated a trend that we saw in large corporations for probably 20 years. You know, you work for a large company like Coca-Cola or UPS, you get benefits and vacation and all these things. that drove retention. That’s why you have people that have worked there for 20 years and 30 years. It wasn’t always about just the salary, although they were competitive. Some of that expectation now is creeping into the small business environment. And I know a lot of small business owners pride themselves of how disposable their workers were. If you wanted more money, I could find someone else to do it. Well, when unemployments under 3% here in Georgia right now. It’s 2.8, 2.7 and continuing to decline. The recognition in 2022, is that the market has shifted.

[00:07:56] Mark: Yes.

[00:07:56] Karl: We’re announcing it here. We’re calling it out. You can continue the same practices pre pandemic, but what you’re risking is being able to hire, attract, retain the best quality employees in this environment. And if you don’t have the employees to service your customers, you can’t grow your revenue.

[00:08:16] Mark: No. Not only can you grow your revenue, but you’re putting your entire business livelihood at stake. You may go out of business.

[00:08:23] Karl: Absolutely. It is something that when we look at financials for folks and we see what they pay on leads and salary, we’re just expressing to them the need. Now we understand that it’s going to decrease profit. If you act alone in that way. Some of these other benefits can be something that’s lower cost to deliver, but you’ve also got to think about ways of adding more value to what you provide so you can increase prices. That’s when it’s forcing you to think holistically about your business model. And if labor is going up by 10, 20%, what else can shrink? And where else can you grow revenue to help maintain an increased profitability?

[00:09:01] Mark: No, I was going to say probably you’re spot on that the words value added has taken on a new meaning for small business owners that they’ve got to have that value add.

[00:09:09] Rico: I was just gonna point out that, I mean from my experience with advertisers and such and being out there with some of the small businesses in retail, is that if there’s not enough employees, you end up limiting the hours that you’re opened. You end up, the service suffers and people are funny. The Yelp reviews we’ll go flying. And in fact for every one bad Yelp review, there may be 10 people that are not even going to bother doing a review. They just won’t go back. So it’s not just saying I don’t have enough money to do this. It’s more like, is my business going to suffer? And I’m going to lose clients because of that. Because eventually you ended up closing.

[00:09:50] Mark: No, absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:09:52] Karl: So this leaded to an interesting discussion for business owners. If when you have business owners come into your office, I’m curious to how often they walk in and they open up and present you a business plan for the new year, 2022. Here, Mark, here’s my business plan. Here’s where I’m going to grow revenue. I’m going to diversify revenue stream, I’m going to offer catering in my business. I’m going to offer delivery. And then here’s my cost basis and here’s how much profit and here’s some of the things I’m doing strategically. That’s what you get when people come in every day, right?

[00:10:24] Mark: Oh, absolutely Karl. It’s routine, no. Absolutely not. Most folks who come in, and it really depends on what stage they’re in. If they’re a pre venture or startup, there’s a whole different set of needs that are very different than an established business or what we call professionally managed business. But you’re right. The majority of business owners come in, they do not have a business plan. And that’s something I strongly urge because a business plan serves as a blueprint for success. You can’t get to a destination if you don’t have a roadmap to get there. And that is what a business plan serves. It is a living breathing document that kind of drives the company’s culture, it drives the mission, drives the vision. It drives everything. And Karl, you mentioned something where they come in at the beginning of the year. But within that overarching business plan, there has to be a strategic plan that has to be a part of that business plan. But that’s something that has to be looked at least on a quarterly basis to make sure that you’re on track. And if any course corrections need to be made at that point.

[00:11:30] Karl: One great example around that, as we talked a little bit about the impact of supply chain. I was talking to a business owner the other day, you know, we started talking about some of the challenges that’s happening currently. And I ran into a business owner that did a really smart thing. They saw what was coming with the supply chain challenges and they placed orders for key materials months in advance. And so now they’re going into their peak season in the spring and they’ve got all the inventory they need for over a year of the business. So they did some tactics, but they saw it coming around the curve. When I talked to them some further, the next evolution is they’re looking at getting suppliers that are more domestically based versus overseas. All the way around it, they don’t know how long ports are going to be jammed up, but they realize they have to make a strategic shift in their supply base so they don’t have to keep ordering all that inventory in advance and dealing with that. How important is it to start talking to somebody through those things to be successful?

[00:12:35] Mark: I can guarantee you that client of yours had a strategic plan in place with some mitigating factors that helped them forecast those types of things. And typically those things are uncovered during your SWOT analysis, your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. So you can start to make some adjustments when things happen and do some better forecasting. But your client also has understood the importance of supply chain diversification. Because the clogged supply chains, and there was a point early on in the pandemic where nobody even wanted anything from China. They didn’t know if it would come over infected with COVID. We didn’t know what extent that virus can infiltrate products. So we went through that stage where they didn’t want any products from China. And what that did is created a mini revolution of Made in America products. Which I think we’ll start to see the fruits of that as this year rolls on and on into 2023.

[00:13:33] Karl: Absolutely.

[00:13:34] Rico: Yeah. And I agree with you, Mark. Politically speaking, even if the supply chain fixes itself to a degree with the world politics, the way it is and the stresses that are going on in the South China Sea and all that stuff. I mean, most people are moving towards American products. There are international things going on that we can’t even fathom at this point. But Ukraine is an example, what’s going on right now. So imagine something like that going on. What’s the practical things businesses should think about when they come to see you to be able to know. So then you can help them with a business plan? What’s the top three or four things they need to know to come to you with?

[00:14:15] Mark: Top three things is to have kind of their strategy, their overall strategy in place. What is their differentiating factor? What makes a client or customer want to purchase their product or service versus other offerings in the marketplace? And you’d be surprised at the number of businesses that can not answer that question. And I tell them, the business owners, you can’t answer the question, what makes you better than the competition? You really need to reevaluate if you want to go into this business.

[00:14:41] Karl: That’s a great point. I know that differentiation and starting to understand how you’re different for a neighborhood pizza shop may not think like it makes sense. But what this pandemic is showing is, taking the time to think through that and coming up with that, and it could be simple as service. We provide better service than anybody else. Dominos made a killing off of the 30 minute guarantee when they started. Why? No one else did it. No one else was guaranteeing the pizza’s free in 30 minutes or less. And guess what? All the competitors started trying to figure out how to deliver their pizza faster, because they wanted to make the claim and build systems to support that.

[00:15:24] Mark: No, I mean you hit on it. I mean, there are three broad categories that you can compete on. The low price, differentiation, or quick response as Domino’s did, we’ll get you a pizza in 30 minutes, quick response. Not going to be the cheapest. Not going to be the best pizza. But we’ll get it there in 30 minutes. So those are the three broad categories that you can compete on. And of course there’s some hybrids in some other underlying areas that have overlap. But those, you hit that one right on the head Karl.

[00:15:50] Rico: Because most businesses are, they don’t have a cutting edge technology. They don’t really have anything completely different. An HVAC company, a pizza place, a restaurant. They’re providing the same thing that you probably could get somewhere else.

[00:16:03] Mark: Correct.

[00:16:04] Rico: But you’re right. How do you position yourself and how you think about yourself? Would make some difference, at least, right?

[00:16:12] Mark: Rico, you’ve made a very important point. You raised the HVAC component. I’ll give you a prime example of that. I’ve got a client who has an HVAC company. He grew his business tremendously with one simple pivot technique. When he went out to service an AC, his people would find a loose door knob, something else that was totally unrelated to the HVAC problem. And they would fix that. Screw in that funny light bulb, fix a door handle, fix this. That small pivot created a, just a groundswell of goodwill for them. Positive reviews. And it just exponentially grew their business.

[00:16:51] Rico: Wow. Doing something outside their…

[00:16:53] Mark: Doing something extra. I spent seven years in New Orleans they call it lagniappe. A little something extra.

[00:17:01] Karl: There’s another area that I’m curious what you’ve been seeing. Many people start or acquire a business and one of the skillsets that I noticed that’s in high demand is good bookkeeping and accounting financials. I ask business owners three basic questions. I asked them, do they know how much money they made last year? That’s the first question. And it’s an open book test. I love it if they go in and grab their tax return or anything to be able to answer that question. Then I asked them if they know how much they made last month. And that’s usually telling me the difference between someone that’s really paying attention to the details of their business and really know what the quote unquote score is. The third question that I ask is, do they know how much cashflow they generated last month. That shows me that they’re at another level in their financial acumen in their business. Because despite all the claims of profit being good, cash is king, when it comes to business. Businesses don’t go bankrupt or go out of business for profit, they go when they run out of cash.

[00:18:05] Mark: That’s right.

[00:18:05] Karl: What can you advise people to close this gap in where you see people at today with their financial acumen and where they think they need to be a professionally managed business?

[00:18:16] Mark: Well, I think it comes down to utilizing the resources that are out here available. I mean, experts like you, Karl. The experts that we have at the SBDC who can help a business owner, get his arms around his finances. Help understand what the inflows and outflows are of his cash each month. Cashflow projections. Most companies don’t even do that. You’ve got to do some type of monthly cash flow projections in order to get your arms around your cash and what’s running, moving in and out of your business. So I would say one of the first necessary step is to get educated in better cash management techniques and financial techniques. And if not, reach out to the available resources that are out here that have experts that can help them go from one level to the next.

[00:19:02] Karl: What’s key in that thought is, we’re not suggesting that you need to become a certified CPA accountant. You need to build in your team. Somebody with good financial acumen to help keep the books. But you as the owner and leader of your business is responsible to what that score is. So if you’re not looking and reviewing your financials, I would almost argue, it doesn’t even make sense you keep it. You’ve got to track it. So that review of them and taking actions based on deviations from what you expect, is what the great companies do differently than everyone else.

[00:19:40] Rico: I was going to say, there’s enough absent technology out there, that once you have someone set it up for you. A couple of hours of them set up, you can pull down your phone app of QuickBooks or FreshBooks or whatever you using. There’s no excuse. It’s so simple to be able to track your stuff day to day, or week to week on it.

[00:19:59] Mark: You’re absolutely right. I mean, those systems, that’s part of the systems that you want to put in place. I call them the three P’s, policies, processes and procedures. They all build up into your systems. I’ll ask business owners all the time, what’s the highest and best use of your time? Is it doing books? Is it HR functions? Is it doing the marketing? Typically for most small business entrepreneurs, the highest and best use of their time is going out, making connections that will drive revenue, additional revenue for the company. That’s the highest and best use of their time.

[00:20:32] Karl: Absolutely. I’d say a close second to that is being a leader to your employees. Training them, building culture, building value, building ethics. If you’re going to focus on two groups of people, your customers and your employees, I’ll let you pick the order. Each businesses. But if that’s where you have to spend your time, you can outsource the bookkeeping. You can outsource the marketing, you can outsource some of these other functions. But being present and really focusing on that, is going to be really key. The one other tip I’d give is starting out in January of 2022, have a conversation with your accountant, your bookkeeper, or even with yourself and your team to create a budget for this year. A forecast. How much in revenue do you plan on doing each month? A monthly budget. And how much expenses? Both costs of goods sold costs, as well as operating costs, all those. Just by putting out a number, a target each month that you sold, those great tools Rico was mentioning QuickBooks and others, you could easily see whether or not you win or lose each month.

[00:21:38] Mark: Yes.

[00:21:38] Rico: And if you keep life as simple as that each month you want to win. And if you win 12 months in a row, you are going to have a good year.

[00:21:46] Mark: Oh, absolutely. And you know, I’d like to add something to that. In addition to setting that goal, you also have to have a set of tasks underneath that goal that are going to illustrate how are you going to do it? You know, I always say a plan without some detailed steps behind it is a dream. That’s all it is.

[00:22:04] Karl: Absolutely. Perfect example is, you want to increase revenue by 20%? You’re going to implement a marketing plan, that includes digital marketing. You are going to engage in X amount of sales calls per month. You’re going to approach new clientele or new customers or new channels and take those actions and each quarter break the year into four quarters. Each 90 days, set a goal to improve your business and put the actions in place to do it and hit it. Don’t move on until you hit those goals. If it takes you five months, then take five months. Then you set a new set of goals and repeat. And that’s what world-class companies do.

[00:22:45] Mark: Fully agree. Fully agree.

[00:22:46] Karl: The other thing I’d mentioned along that is once you set the budget, you have to review it. And if you’re going to ask me the frequency, a minimum of monthly. Depending on your business, you might need to review it weekly or twice a month. But a plan without some review and accountability to it just really isn’t helpful.

[00:23:04] Mark: No, you’re right. I mean the old adage is true. What can not be measured can not be improved. So without those measurement intervals, as you said, you’re like a hamster on a wheel.

[00:23:15] Rico: And that gets a little scary, I think for businesses that don’t have contractual agreements that don’t have expected certain amount of revenue every month. I mean it could be a restaurant that, every month is going to be different for them. Mother’s day. Father’s day. Those are going to be big events. Christmas maybe, thanksgiving. For other types of companies, like HVAC, the beginning of the spring, the beginning of winter. So, and some of them will have contracts, those monthly maintenance, but not all of them. So, being able to understand what you did the last two years, where you think you’re going forward, that’ll help protect maybe, you know, any losses that might be coming because you didn’t plan ahead.

[00:23:52] Mark: Great, great points Rico.

[00:23:54] Rico: Can people come to you to get regular assistance, even? Instead of just the initial thing. Can they come to you on a regular basis somehow?

[00:24:02] Mark: They certainly can. I’ve got clients across the continuum. Like I said, we kind of segment our clients out into pre-ventures, basic businesses, established businesses, and professionally managed. And typically those business segments will have different needs. But I’ve got clients where I do a monthly check-in. I’ve got clients where I do a quarterly check-in and some are semi-annual check-in. And I serve as a sounding board for them. And they know that I have no other vested interests other than to see them succeed and grow their revenue.

[00:24:35] Rico: And just to, so that people remember, this is free. There’s no fees here. You’re a professional. And you’re providing these surfaces.

[00:24:41] Mark: Yes. Well, we don’t like to use the word free cause that sometimes implies no value, but we say it comes at no direct cost. You’ve already paid for us through the taxes that you pay. So why don’t you go ahead and maximize your ROI on those taxes?

[00:24:54] Rico: Yeah. And people can come back to you, I mean, accountability partner to be able to hit things off with you.

[00:24:59] Mark: Absolutely. Yeah, so that’s one of the key needs that we feel as an accountability partner. And many business owners are very appreciative of that.

[00:25:07] Karl: So let’s talk a little bit about some of the resources that the SBDC and some of the other resources available to small business owners. And I’d like you to comment on one small thing and see if this. When folks are looking at doing their planning, they’re always asking the question, how are my peers doing? If I’m setting a goal for profit or how much I’m spending on labor relative to my revenue. Does the SBDC have resources that can help people answer some of those questions?

[00:25:37] Mark: Absolutely. We all have access being University of Georgia, to a number of databases that can generate some impactful reports for our clients. Industrial CFO is a benchmarking data that lets you know, how am I doing relative to revenue, expenses, where my revenue is coming from? So it’s kind of a benchmarking report for other similar firms that are in your industry. We also have access to what are called Vertical IQ and that is an industry report. Good at giving forecasts for what changes or forecastings are upcoming in a particular industry. So, those are two of the most impactful reports that we have access to that we can distribute to our clients, again at no direct cost.

[00:26:18] Karl: And if you were to try to buy these reports online. And so some of these costs thousands of dollars.

[00:26:24] Mark: Absolutely.

[00:26:24] Karl: Just on that alone. I just want to make people aware of that. One of the great ones is there’s resources like IBISWorld and other similar. This benchmarking, if you are a professionally managed business or a business that has some scale and size, going out and seeing how you compare to your peers, benchmarking will tell you a couple of things. If you are below the financial metric averages for your industry, it tells you, you’ve got some work to do. If you’re looking at selling one day or exiting or valuing a business, it’s going to matter whether you’re above the average, below the average, or at the average. So understanding that sooner so you could take action to make improvements. But on the other side, if you’re performing well above the average for your industry, that’s a point of pride. And you need to figure out what is making you do that? How is it? Bottle it up and leverage it to scale and grow the business. So something as simple as that, if you wanted to do this year, go out and benchmark your business. Approach one of the great SBDC consultants like Mark out there and start that process of learning more about your business.

[00:27:34] Mark: Absolutely Karl.

[00:27:36] Karl: Perfect. Well, I’d like to attack, you know, do you have things going on? Besides the consulting service, I know you offer training and classes and stuff. Do you have anything that’s coming up or things you’d want to highlight?

[00:27:48] Mark: Sure. For a kind of an overview of our upcoming trainings and classes, you can go to our website, GeorgiaSBDC.org. It’s Georgia spelled out sbdc.org. Go to the training tab and you’ll see all of the training on there, but I’d like to highlight two signature programs that we have. One is called our Grow Smart Program. And that is like an mini MBA. It is an intensive eight week program that business owners come in once a week, for eight hours a day, for eight weeks. And they cover all of the business, core business functional areas. That class is open. It’s only open to businesses that are generating at least $300,000 in revenue, have some full-time employees. But that class is one of our signature programs because it can really make a huge difference in propelling that company from good to great. The other signature program we have is called Start Smart. And that’s at the other end of the spectrum for people who are either looking at getting into business or have been in business for less than a year. That program is more foundational. It’s a four weeks, it extends four weeks, I think, twice a week. Three hours after work night. But what it does is it sets the foundation for success. And I came from a Capital Projects Management background. And what I know is that businesses are much like buildings. The most important part is the foundation. So what that Start Smart class delivers are those business foundations that will help business owners get off on the right foot.

[00:29:24] Karl: Thank you for sharing that. And I’ve taken courses through the SBDC and I refer many clients to them. Those that go through and set that strong foundation from the beginning have a higher success rate and they were able to build and scale the business much, much quicker than learning along the way. It’s always tougher to learn after you realized you should’ve done a thing. To be able to learn that afterwards in the middle of satisfying customers, trying to hire employees, dealing with a pandemic, you want to get the foundation strong.

[00:29:56] Mark: Absolutely, Karl. You hit something very important. Now, sometimes those real life lessons can be very, very expensive in both time and money. So you will try to want to avoid those.

[00:30:06] Karl: Absolutely. Well Mark, if someone wanted to reach out and contact you, what’s the best way to reach and contact you?

[00:30:12] Mark: Sure. They can email me at MCollier, C O L I E R, @GeorgiaSBDC.org. And then our office number in DeKalb is (770) 414-3110.

[00:30:28] Karl: Excellent. Well Mark, I want to thank you so much. Let me reintroduce Mark Collier. He’s a business consultant, a faculty member with the University of Georgia. Go Bulldogs. Small business development center.

[00:30:40] Mark: National champion Bulldogs.

[00:30:42] Karl: National champion Bulldogs. Have to make sure I get that in there. Respect. At the University of Georgia SBDC, he and his colleagues all around the state. There’s offices in South Georgia, North Georgia, all around the Metro Atlanta area. There’s plenty of people out there to help you plan, execute. Whether you’re starting a business, whether you’re growing your business, where you’re planning on an exit feel free to reach out and leverage these resources in the community. And Mark, I want to thank you so much for sharing your insights and experience.

[00:31:11] Mark: You’re welcome Karl and Rico. And I really appreciate both of you for allowing me the opportunity.

[00:31:17] Karl: It’s our pleasure. We would like to thank our audience for tuning in. And we enjoy that. I’ll introduce myself again. Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business advisors are passionate about small businesses. We’re available to consult on your business. Whether you’re looking to improve it or looking to grow in particular by acquisition, or you’re looking to exit the business. We are qualified in doing valuations and consulting business owners. And feel free to schedule a consult with us. I can be reached at KBarham@TWorld.com. Or you can visit our website, www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. And come in and see some of the tools we have, information we have for small business owners to help them grow and be successful in their business. Rico, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’ve got coming up?

[00:32:06] Rico: Sure. Our Pastry Corners Magazine, we’re working on the next set of feature stories for this issue coming up, February and March. The cover story is Reader’s Choice Award. So we did a survey, we have over 37 categories. So our readers and social media followers have told us who their favorites are in some of these categories. And we’re going to be sharing that in the next issue. Along with some information about we’re doing an overview article about the commercial and residential development that’s going on in the city over, the next year in 2022. What’s been approved, what’s in construction, and what’s coming up. So we’re doing that overview plus there’s a whole bunch of other features in there that, we’re be talking about Pinckneyville Middle School, about businesses opening up, restaurants and such. A lot of stuff going on there. You can find more information at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. Follow us on social media. Peachtree Corners Magazine can be found on Instagram, @PeachtreeCornersLife. Facebook, same thing, Peachtree Corners Life. Search those and you’ll find that. Follow us on LinkedIn. We have a page for the magazine there as well. And if you’re looking for someone to do content online or social media or other things along those lines, just check me out at MightyRockets.com or look me up on LinkedIn as well. And I’ll be more than happy to consult with you and see what you need.

[00:33:22] Karl: Sounds good. And we’re continually excited to bring you these Capitalist Sage podcasts. We have more folks coming in, in the upcoming weeks and months. We’re highlighting some local business owners. We’re talking to some of the great resources that are available here in the community. If you have a topic, feel free to reach out through the website and suggest a show topic.

[00:33:42] Rico: And actually you should follow us on Instagram @TheCapitalistSage and visit us on Facebook @TheCapitalistSage as well. So there’s a few places you can go to pick up more of these podcasts and learn more of what’s going on.

[00:33:56] Karl: Absolutely. Thank you everybody for joining today, have a great day.

[00:33:59] Rico: Take care.

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Business

Cutting Edge Firewood Now Offered At Home Depot

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Cutting Edge Firewood

Cutting Edge Firewood, a Peachtree Corners-based firewood company that features ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood, announces that its best-selling cooking wood products are now available through Home Depot online. 

The products at Home Depot include four species of cooking wood:

  • cherry wood for a wonderful sweet flavor and fragrant smoke;
  • pecan wood for a nutty, smoky flavor;
  • oak wood for traditional hardwood that adds a subtle smoky flavor; and
  • hickory wood for a bold flavor with a powerful punch.

“We are thrilled to partner with Home Depot to make Cutting Edge cooking wood available to more customers than ever before,” said Leroy Hite, CEO and founder of Cutting Edge Firewood. “When it comes to BBQ, wood is equally important as a flavor and as a fuel. Whether you enjoy grilling in your own backyard or whether you compete in large-scale BBQ events, we have a cut and a species of cooking wood to infuse your meals with delicious smoky flavor.”

Cutting Edge cooking wood is 100% natural, with no chemicals or additives to guarantee a clean, bright burn. The company’s special drying process ensures all Cutting Edge wood is free of mold, fungus or pests.

The Cutting Edge products are available in a variety of sizes to work with every type of grill and smoker. Cuts include wood chunks, 16” splits and 8” splits to give Home Depot customers options and sizes to work best with their cooking equipment.

For those who seek authentic wood-fired crusts for their pizzas, Cutting Edge and Home Depot offer a 16” pizza wood cut for traditional pizza ovens and a mini 6”splits for portable pizza ovens.

Home Depot carries both standard and large boxes of the popular Cutting Edge cooking wood products, giving customers a wide selection for every cooking need. Each box includes matches, firestarter bundles, kindling and wood logs.

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Business

Intuitive Surgical to demolish buildings in Tech Park

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Constructed in 1986, this 1-story office building at 3790 Data Drive will soon be demolished to make room for a new Intuitive Surgical training facility. Another building at 3770 Data Drive is in the process of being demolished. The demolition is part of an expansion plan announced last August. Intuitive, a publicly-traded company that makes robotic-assisted surgical systems, is expanding its presence in Peachtree Corners, investing over $500 million into its current campus and creating over 1,200 high-paying jobs.

According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Intuitive’s expansion is among the largest announced projects in the state this year in terms of jobs and investment and the largest in Gwinnett County’s entire 200-year history.

Located at 5655 Spalding Drive, Intuitive will expand its current location to create a regional headquarters. The expansion will include a six-building campus totaling more than 750,000 square feet of manufacturing and engineering operations, state-of-the-art training facilities for surgeons and hospital care teams, and administrative offices. The new facilities will open in phases, as they are constructed, with the entire expansion project scheduled to be completed by 2024.

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