BBB business tips: Start your year off with a plan

If 2020-2021 taught us one thing, it's that anything can happen. Be better prepared for whatever 2022 brings your way with these planning tips from Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.


If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything about running a business, it's that things might not always go as planned. Getting creative and having a backup can help your business when something unexpected happens. Better Business Bureau (BBB®) suggests starting the year off with a business continuity plan (BCP.) A BCP is a strategic plan for an organization to continue providing its goods or services through a disruption such as a natural disaster, fire, cyber attack, or public health emergency like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Even if the chances of an unexpected disaster are low, they aren’t zero. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, phishing and spoofing attacks were the most common cybercrime in 2020 and are one of the top scams targeting business, with almost one-quarter of a million victims and $50 million in losses nationwide. In 2020, lost business costs from a cyberattack accounted for nearly 40% of costs for a data breach, totaling an average of $1.52 million, notwithstanding the losses from other business disruptions. Having a BCP not only gives business leaders peace of mind knowing they are prepared to face a challenge like a phishing attack but can be used as a critical tool to continue or recover normal business practices. Businesses that aren’t able to create a BCP might have a longer recovery time from an incident due to loss of client data, productivity, and revenue. This in turn may have an impact on customer retention and could impact your business reputation. 

When designing a BCP, it is important to consider these things: 

1. Strategy and organization: Elements such as employee structure, skills, and communications
2. Technology: IT elements such as systems, data backups, and networks
3. Facilities: Physical infrastructure that may get damaged and need to be replaced

Creating a BCP involves analysis, creation, execution, and evaluation. BCP’s should also be realistic and adaptable to unexpected obstacles. 

BBB Serving Greater Cleveland has the following tips to help your business create a BCP: 

Tip no. 1: Create a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). What is the impact of an unexpected disaster on your business? How does it affect business functions, resources, people, and suppliers? Your impact analysis should start with brainstorming scenarios of threat. Then create a concise plan with documentation that recognizes which processes are most important to your business. 

Tip no. 2: Identify risks, vulnerabilities, and threats. Create a list of possible disruptions that may impact your business. This may include physical damage to property/equipment, supply chain or transportation interruptions, utility outage, and corruption of sensitive information technology. After you have identified possible risks, create a list of safeguards to help reduce these risks or improve recovery. For example, if an employee goes home from illness, you can implement an overnight cleaning to protect other employees or create an on-call system for when people call off. 

Tip no. 3: Assign leadership roles. Identify a team to help implement your plan. This team will help create the readiness plan, including focusing on the cost of business disruption and solution costs for continuing your business. This plan should also include anyone who will know the plan well enough to train the rest of the employees. 

Tip no. 4: Create a plan for workers and operations. A well-assembled BCP includes a list of priorities in critical business operations and time-sensitive tasks. The plan should also list administrators and contact information for emergency responders, key personnel, and backup site providers.

RELATED: 3 things to know about starting a new year off right

Tip no. 5: Create a disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery (DR) plan is part of a BCP. However, a DR plan focuses on restoring IT infrastructure, whereas a BCP considers business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners.

Tip no. 6: Store important documents. Creating a Business Continuity Resource Requirements document helps keep a clear view of what the business would need in case of a specific loss in resources. The owner should also create a BIA worksheet to analyze what operational and financial activities will be prioritized in the event of a disruption. 

Tip no. 7: Test the plan. Training exercises will help to familiarize your employees with the plan, allowing for a better, realistic execution. Controlled training strategies, such as a simulation of a disaster, can help determine if the business will be able to carry on critical business functions.

RELATED: Read more from BBB Serving Greater Cleveland

Tip no. 8: Measure Performance. Management can then analyze the plan's performance to see if it fulfills its intended purpose. We recommend testing a continuity plan two to four times a year, depending on the organization's size and the number of business processes occurring between each test. 

Tip no. 9: Continuously review the plan. Finally, it is crucial to determine the plan's KPIs by measuring if the recovery objectives were met. Management should assess gaps found in the implementation process and train staff accordingly. A periodic review of the plan will contribute to the plan's success. 

For additional tips and resources, visit to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.

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  • Next up: The impact of company culture and tips for improving it
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  • The impact of company culture and tips for improving it

    Having a good company culture can help attract and retain good talent, and can have a positive impact on your bottom line. Find out how to improve the culture at your small business.


    Even a small business establishes a company culture. Having a positive company culture is important whether you have many employees or only a few employees. With the pandemic “great resignation” going on, a positive company culture can help you to retain your employees. It boosts employee morale and leads to increased productivity and efficiency in your workplace, as well as motivates employees to do better and makes them want to come to work. This helps your bottom line in many ways including being able to attract and keep the best employees, which in turn, helps you to reduce costs as training new hires can be expensive. It also helps cut down on absenteeism, workplace accidents and more.

    There are many reasons a company culture can be negative including lack of growth opportunities, lack of clarity and expectations for job responsibilities and performance, problems with leadership or problems with your company’s morale. These are all things that you should take a hard, honest look at. If you find you have a morale problem, you should take action as soon as possible to correct the problem. 

    There are many things you can do to boost company morale, whether your employees work in-person or remotely. Check out the following ideas.

    Recognize good employees for their efforts. This can be thru recognition in various ways such as a bonus, an award, a mention to other employees when there is a successful outcome, etc.

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business

    Listen to your employees. They can offer many excellent ideas whether at meetings, thru a suggestion box or by any other means of communication. They are often on the front lines and hear things that you may not be aware of.

    Offer your employees growth opportunities. No one wants to be in a dead-end job with no way to grow or improve. This also helps when recruiting new employees. 

    Offer your employees training opportunities. This can include in school or in company training programs.

    Offer other benefits. Consider offering your employees assistance with higher education, or personal assistance for health or personal issues. This will help them feel valued and important to your company.

    Organize team building activities. These can be beneficial to both in-person employees, as well as to employees who work remotely. These can foster communication, increase productivity and creativity.

    RELATED: Read more from Tim Dimoff

    Encourage frequent breaks. A coffee break can do wonders to re-incentivize employees. Discourage employees from working thru lunch or eating at their desks. If you can, have a breakroom that is nice and comfortable so they can unwind for a few minutes. This also fosters communication between employees.

    Encourage diversity. Bring in different talents, experiences and various skill sets. This can bring your employees together as a team and promote fresh ideas.

    Let go of any bullies or negative employees. This type of employee can completely hinder a positive company culture, as well as open you up to potential lawsuits.

    The best thing you can do for your company and your team is to embrace changes that positively benefit all before low morale takes hold. And if you already have good morale and a positive company culture, these steps will help you to keep good talent. 

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at

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  • Next up: The importance of building customer loyalty
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    Customer loyalty is one of the many crucial elements to success for a small business. Check out these ways to earn repeat business and develop and build customer loyalty.


    I’ve written quite a bit lately about retaining employees, but today I want to discuss the importance of building customer loyalty. It’s crucial for every business to build customer loyalty, no matter if it is a retail, manufacturing or a service business. The hard fact is that if you don’t have returning customers, your business will not survive. Studies have shown that returning customers spend around 65-70% more money on products when compared to first-time customers. And customer loyalty helps to bring in new customers through recommendations. 

    You can measure customer loyalty by knowing how often you have repeat customers and determining why they are returning to do business with you. Repeat orders or purchases are an excellent indicator of customer loyalty and of their satisfaction level. Social media is another way to gauge customer loyalty. Check your online reviews and don’t hesitate to ask your customers to post reviews. If you find negative reviews, follow up with them. Just the act of following up shows you care, and that will go a long way to building loyalty. Don’t hesitate to address any problems or issues. 

    Also, track your repeat purchase rate. This will help you to understand your best customers’ purchasing habits and provide you information for developing promotions or coupons. 

    And lastly, use social media to your advantage by developing affiliate marketing with other businesses, bloggers, market sharing, etc. to send new customers to your business.

    >> RELATED: Good customer service is critical for small business success

    In addition to the importance of understanding customer loyalty, there are many steps you can take to help develop and build customer loyalty including:

    Improve your customer experience. This is important whether their interaction with your business has been positive or negative. Tips for this include getting to know your customers by learning their names and their buying habits. Take the time to go above and beyond for your customers, pay attention and identify any areas you can improve on to keep their experience positive.

    Create a customer loyalty program. A customer loyalty program both encourages and rewards loyal customers. This can be as simple as rewards or discounts based on purchasing such as a bonus program, points program, spending program where the rewards increase with the amount spent, VIP rewards program offering special perks for joining, etc. While many of these may seem structured for retail, they can be modified for other types of businesses.

    Communicate with your customers. Frequent communication thru newsletters, emails, social media posts, phone calls, webchats, etc. is an inexpensive and highly effective way to build customer loyalty and improve on your customers’ experience. Develop what works best for your business and your customers.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff

    Ask for feedback. A great way to improve and retain customer loyalty is by seeking out customer feedback. This can include surveys or asking questions on phone calls. The point here is to engage with your customers.

    Be sensitive to your customers financial needs and restrictions. Consider offering payment options. This can include 30 days with no finance charges, taking credit cards or PayPal, a down payment program with financing, etc. 

    Be mindful of how you come across in your communications. This includes written as well as verbal communications. Make sure your employees are always aware of their voice and tone—and that they use proper and respectful language. 

    Give customers a reason to be loyal. You can accomplish this by making their experience positive in every way—from their initial contact thru the final sale. The interaction you offer can define whether you develop customer loyalty or become a one-and-done. 

    The current business climate is highly and globally competitive. Ensuring a positive experience for your customers creates and strengthens your customer loyalty, which in turn creates a successful and profitable business for you.

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at


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    The webinar was part of the "But What Does It Mean?" series, devoted to translating research studies and data into meaningful action.

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