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Your Silence Is Hurting Your Company

Your Silence Is Hurting Your Company

This essay originally appeared in the collection End Malaria, proceeds from which go to Malaria No More. For more information or to buy the book, go to

When I was an admin at Apple, I used to go to meetings and see the problem so clearly, when others could not. I didn’t think I had the right or the capabilities to speak this truth. I worried about being seen as too young, or too brown, or too female, or too uneducated to offer the solution to the group.

But mostly, I worried about being… too wrong.

So, I kept quiet and learned to sit on my hands lest they rise up and betray me. I would rather keep my job by staying within the lines than say something and risk looking stupid.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve worked at or with companies like HP, Apple, Autodesk, Adobe, Symantec, Nokia, and with startups funded by Greylock, Benchmark, and Accel. And I’ve learned one simple thing. As companies are figuring out their tough problems — like which new markets to go into, or how to create the next generation products, or defend against a big-ass competitor — the thing that stop any of these good teams from being successful is not stupidity.

No, when an organization’ problems are tough (and interesting problems are all tough) the issue is rarely stupid people. Rather, what limits success, growth, and winning is something more like blindness. Blindness, as in we doesn’t know the whole context, or see an issue in its full complexity. As in, we are blind in not knowing what we don’t know. Smart people know how to solve most problems and so when they are failing, it’s usually the fact that we can’t see what we can’t see because we are experts and we stopped looking at it fresh a long time ago.

And perhaps you can identify how this happens where you work? Perhaps you were attending a new strategy rollout and you “knew” big chunks of it wouldn’t work. Or the latest re-org focuses on optimizing the delivery of X, when you know the market is really looking for Y. Or your leader never seems to address the one thing that is stopping a bunch of other things from being successful.

Maybe you’ve heard the hallway chatter such as “don’t they get it?” and “will they ever deal with this?” The thinking goes like this — the plan seems crazy and the issue is Z, but since it’s plain to me, well they must see it too.

But tragically, their blindness can make us silent. We conclude that a topic is mysteriously “taboo.” We say to our selves how busy we are, telling ourselves that the issue is theirs and not ours. If we do ponder what best explains the unmentioned elephant, we notice that one option obligates us to be a bearer of bad news to the powers that be. And what if we’re wrong? As Lincoln said, better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than speak up and remove all doubt. And so, in the end, 99 times out of 100, we choose silence. We don’t express our viewpoint and offer what we think could help.

And here’s the cost to our silence — when issues stay unaddressed, stagnant, broken — we all fail. We ship bad products, our brand suffers, and our company performance plummets. In general, things suck. Not just for “them” but for all of “us.” The cost of silence is suck-ness.

When we are silent, we are hurting the outcome. You see, minority viewpoints have been proven to aid the quality of decision making in juries, by teams and for the purpose of innovation. Research proves then even when the different points of view are wrong, they cause people to think better, to create more solutions and to improve the creativity of problem solving.

And so here’s the opportunity to avoid suck-ness, and the thing I’ve learned along the way to speak your truth without losing your job. Rather than saying, “This is the problem” which can risk looking the fool and quite possibly pissing someone off, ask this: “Could it be …that this is the problem?”

“Could it be” is a conversation starter, rather than an assertion. It is the way you put it out there without having to defend it. Could it be allows the issue to be a question for everyone. Could it be allows for a dialogue exchange rather than a yes/no argument.

The blind need you to see. The silence needs to be broken. And perhaps risking being the fool is necessary to move forward. Underlying all that is courage — Courage to speak, courage to risk, courage to step forward rather than sit quietly. Courage to break the silence and when you do, the blind will see, the different viewpoints will be heard, and we can reduce suck-ness where we work.

Could it be….you’re ready to speak up?

Surviving the Long Haul: Q & A with Charles Lewandowski, president, Planning Needs Financial Group

Surviving the Long Haul: Q & A with Charles Lewandowski, president, Planning Needs Financial Group By Iris Dorbian.

When Charles Lewandowski began his insurance career at Prudential 35 years ago, it was at a crisis point in his life. He was in his 20s, had just lost his job as a painting contractor, and was struggling to make ends meet for his family. Broke but determined, Lewandowski, who emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil at nine years old, forged on, even if it meant relying on his wife’s income as a hairdresser to get him through the lean times. Venturing out on his own in 1987 to launch the Rockville, Maryland-based business—recently renamed Planning Needs Financial Group—Lewandowski has defied the odds, building a thriving independent insurance agency in an industry with a high attrition rate. Heading a staff of three, which includes his son Marc, Lewandowski recently took a breather from his busy schedule to speak with business writer Iris Dorbian about the secret behind his longevity, how he has kept pace with the new technologies, and changes in his industry.

ID:  When you started your company 25 years ago, did you ever think you would last as long as you have? Why do you think you have?

CL: I have thought about it at times. It’s probably some good fortune, hard work and niche marketing that kept me going.

ID: How have you leveraged that niche marketing?

CL: In the late ’70s or early ’80s, my wife met someone who worked at the Brazilian embassy in Washington. At that time, they were looking for group insurance for their locally hired employees. So she said, ‘Talk to my husband. He’s an insurance agent and he speaks Portuguese.’ I went to visit the embassy and talked about what I can do for them. I became their agent and did this all in Portuguese. And when they grew, I was able to add Brazilian consulates from different states. From that we got a lot of spin-off business, such as individuals who needed individual life insurance or temporary medical insurance for their nannies whom they brought over from Brazil. That account lasted 20 years and then the government decided to deal directly with insurance carriers. But we still have a lot of contacts from that account and a lot of Brazilian clients. Probably a quarter of our clients are Brazilian-based.

ID: What other tactics did you use in the early days to get the word out about your business and build clientele?

CL: We were doing a lot of cold calling in those days and sending out a lot of direct mail. We were fortunate because at the time we were able to get lists of people who got new phone numbers, which indicate a change in someone’s life. The lists were a really good source of leads. We would make calls to these new numbers to encourage people to talk about life insurance. These days it’s more difficult to do that because of the privacy issues. Also, I would go around to apartment buildings and write names off of mailboxes and once a month go back to the same apartment buildings and write more names off of mailboxes and catch new names and then send them a letter. It was hardcore.

ID: How have you coped with the changes within your industry over the years?

CL: My company has become very service-intensive, concentrating more on employee benefits, group insurance, and pension plans. In 2002, I became a certified financial planner so my focus has been more on financial planning, investments, and insurance.

ID: What do you feel have been the biggest obstacles you have had to contend with during your small business career and how have you overcome them?

CL: It’s been to keep on going and just get up in the morning. It’s a clean slate. You have no one telling you what to do. You don’t have a boss looking over you. You have no one to be accountable to except yourself and of course, your clients, who are ultimately your bosses. A lot of people have difficulty being self-motivated, going out there and doing what needs to be done.

ID: How have you dealt with the phenomenon of social media—like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

CL: I’m set up with LinkedIn and I have my webpage. I also have selected some URLs with attractive names, but my focus is not too much on that because I’m not that tech-savvy. But my son keeps pushing me in that direction.

ID: What are the challenges of working with a family member?

CL: You’ve got to walk a careful line. You can push to a certain extent and insist on some results but ultimately I’m not going to fire my son. You have to be more patient than if it were another employee. On another hand, it’s a wonderful arrangement: I love my son and I love seeing him every day. He has some great ideas and I can see that he wants to take the company in this new technological direction that I’m not equipped to do.

How to Immediately Get More Twitter Followers

How to Immediately Get More Twitter Followers

Posted by Steve Strauss on Sep 20, 2011 9:17:25 AM

Steve-Strauss–in-article-Medium.pngOnce upon a time, I was very anti-Twitter. This stance was, shall we say, a bit unpopular, especially considering Twitter was exploding around that time, circa 2009. But take it I did.

I wrote a column for USA TODAY in which I stated that for most small businesses, Twitter might just be a waste of time. To say I was lambasted gives lambasting a bad name. I was called just about every bad name in the book, especially, of course, by the Twitteratti. Looking back, I see now that I was clearly wrong about several points I made in the column. That said, I was right about a few; most notably I think that using Twitter to grow your business requires time and consistent effort. Unless you are prepared for that investment, your marketing time may be better spent elsewhere. I still think that is the right approach.

But where I missed the boat, and where I was appropriately called out the most, was in understanding just how powerful a marketing tool Twitter can be for most small businesses. It turns out that Twitter is often a great way to

Get your message out
Make more contacts
Become an influencer
Build your business, and, yes even
Make more money

My follow-up story about the woman who contacted me saying that, via Twitter, she had grown her PR business by 36 percent marked the turning point for when I started to come around. Clearly there was more to Twitter than my simple take: “people don’t care what you had for lunch.”

Personally, since writing that column two years ago – and then seeing the light – I went from a few Twitter followers to now, where I am getting closer to having 10,000. There are many reasons to want more Twitter followers of course: so you can meet more people and have more conversations, so you can have a farther reach and, let’s face it, so you can establish your online brand and credibility; after all, the more followers you have, the stronger online presence you have, right?

All of this then begs the question: How do you get more Twitter followers?

The standard answer, the one you have likely read before, is that the secret is to be a great tweeter; that by tweeting valuable content that people like, potential followers will organically find and follow you. And yes, that is true; it is the core of any strategy (including my own), but it is equally true that it only gets you so far. The quality of your tweets is only one factor.

It turns out that there is a lot more to it, and it’s not rocket science.

Using the techniques below, I have quadrupled my following in a little more than a year. In the last 24 hours I gained more than 100 new followers. You can do it too.

Here’s how:

1. Follow more people: The quickest and easiest way to immediately get more Twitter followers is just to begin following more people. There is an unwritten twittiquette that it is proper to follow people who follow you. Ergo, if you follow more people, you will get more followers. Simple.

That said, a corollary to this rule is that not everyone you follow will indeed follow you back, so then what? Try this nifty trick:

2. Follow people in your field who have a high likelihood of following you back: Maybe a personal example best illustrates my point: I write about small business, so one thing I consistently do is find the best, most followed small business tweeters I can and cull their “followers” list. I figure that if someone follows one of these folks, there is a high chance that they would like to follow me as well.

I also regularly check out the list of people who follow my tweeting colleagues. From the follower’s profile, I can quickly surmise whether they might be interested in what I tweet, and then I follow them. When they do follow back, I can rest assured that they are a quality follow and not just a number; that they are someone with whom I can and will want to forge a deeper connection.

Note: I strongly suggest that you do not simply and blindly follow all followers, as this will not only create a bad list for you, but will also likely lead to a Twitter terms of service violation.

3. Use hashtags (#) to find the good followers: As you likely know, hashtags group tweets by conversation topic. Find people using hashtags appropriate to your business and follow those folks. Additionally, it is good practice to add appropriate hashtags to your tweets so that they will show up in those Twitter streams and thereby increase your chances of getting retweeted and followed.

4. Get Retweeted: Having your followers retweet your content is the best word-of-mouth advertising available today. It is like getting an unsolicited endorsement. How do you get retweeted? Tweet great stuff of course, and then…

5. Ask: It never hurts to ask, right? For instance: Please follow me at @SteveStrauss.

Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business

Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business

Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business. Some days it may feel like getting everyone in your small business to work together is a Herculean task. Even if your company consists of a handful of employees or just yourself and one other partner, there may be times when it seems like everyone else involved in your business is using a different playbook. It’s tempting to attribute this disorganized effort to differences in job Pull-Quote-Tall.pngfunctions—salespeople aren’t in sync with the operations staff, human resources doesn’t understand the needs of customer service—but there may be another major factor contributing to a company’s lackluster performance, one that small business owners in particular frequently overlook: generational differences. Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business

A decade ago, understanding how generational differences affect productivity in the workplace was often dismissed as a frivolous, touchy-feely topic, says David Stillman, co-author of the book When Generations Collide. Now, however, he says more and more companies are realizing the very profound effect that the four generations currently comprising the U.S. workforce—Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millenials (see sidebar for demographic explanation)—can have upon their chances for success.

Understand the differences

“The basic rule of thumb for any business is to really understand how communication differences among the generations affect their bottom line,” Stillman says. Stillman, a 40-year-old Gen Xer, co-owns the business consulting firm BridgeWorks with Baby Boomer Lynne Lancaster, his co-author. He explains that different communication norms are often the root of conflicts in the workplace. And lest you think these differences among the four generations will simply disappear as more and more Boomers and Veterans quickly leave the workforce, take note of a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that shows that a solid majority of older workers have remained in full-time positions even well after reaching the traditional retirement age of 65. Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business

Shaped by wildly different times, experts note that these four generations generally communicate using different means, at varying frequencies, and with sometimes radically divergent expectations about feedback. They tend to have strikingly different expectations about the companies that they work for and what they want to achieve in their own careers as well. In a rapidly changing and increasingly global marketplace, this diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints (not to mention technological savvy) brings with it many advantages, to be sure. But it also brings a set of challenges that can be problematic, especially for small business owners. Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business

Generations in isolation

“The chilling part for small businesses is that with a tiny workforce they could easily skew toward just one generation,” Stillman cautions. And those interests might not always line up with the long-term interests of the business. “Baby Boomers, for example, tend to be knowledge hoarders,” he notes. So, their expertise on how to, say, work around a production snafu or defuse an irate customer might never be passed on to the next generation of employees, he explains. To combat this, Stillman recommends that all companies undertake some kind of mentorship or knowledge sharing program. His business partner Lancaster agrees, adding, “The best way to foster this exchange of ideas and knowledge is to make the business case for it, to point out how it will help the bottom line and, thus, everyone will benefit.”

The lack of inter-generational interaction isn’t confined solely to Baby Boomers, however. In fact, a recent World of Work survey by the global staffing company Randstad found that the four generations rarely interact with each other in the workplace and often do not recognize each other’s skills or work ethic. And though the older of these two generations possesses the most knowledge and experience, the study found that a slight majority of Boomers and two out of three Veterans reported little or no meaningful contact with their youngest, 20-something colleagues. (You can download a PDF version of the study here.)

“The workplace is on the verge of real change,” noted Randstad managing director Eric Buntin in the survey. “By focusing on and encouraging the professional contributions of all employees, employers can help close the knowledge gap by instituting ways for each generation to recognize their strengths and value to all colleagues.”

Communication is the answer

The aforementioned formal mentoring programs are but one way to accomplish this. Particularly in small businesses, Stillman and Lancaster advocate a more informal approach, like simply gathering everyone together every few months to talk about how the company communicates, both internally and externally. “This shouldn’t be about fixing blame, but instead should be about asking ‘How can we do this better?’” explains Lancaster. Stillman adds, “you want to get past the ‘Back in my day’ anecdotes that set up an ‘us versus them’ mentality between generations, and instead get ideas flowing back and forth from old to young and young to old.”


This give and take will help businesses better recognize that good ideas may come from different generations and because of different motives. For example, Stillman relates a story about one company’s recent decision to switch to paperless billing. “The Millenials in the company triggered the change because they wanted to save trees and be greener,” he explains. “But, understanding what the older boss might value, the case they made to him was that it would save the company both postage and materials.” The boss acceded to their request, but only after adding a caveat born out of the wisdom of experience, one that the younger generation had overlooked. “The boss said that the each customer must be given the choice of opting out of paper bills before any switch could be made,” Stillman notes.

In the end, a firm grasp of how the four generations work and communicate can pay dividends in not only better teamwork and productivity, but also in improved company morale, employee retention, and more effective recruiting. And for small businesses looking to achieve these results, Stillman says the best way to begin is to first accept that generational differences exist and then, just as importantly, “embrace those differences.” Generations at Work: How Different Generational Styles May Be Hampering Your Business


6 Tips For Improving Your Site’s Search Engine Positioning

6 Tips For Improving Your Site’s Search Engine Positioning6 Tips For Improving Your Site’s Search Engine Positioning
6 Tips For Improving Your Site’s Search Engine Positioning. Almost all webmasters or website owners are looking for ways to get better results from their websites. They wish to improve their site’s standing and get better rankings in search engines. This quest for improved results, known as search engine positioning, can be satisfied by following a few basic procedures.

Before you even begin, you have to realize that you are competing against hundreds, and in some categories, thousands of websites offering similar products and services. In the case of affiliate marketing, many of the competing websites may even be identical! If you want to get the edge over these competitors and improve your search engine positioning you have to fine-tune your website and actively work to make it better.

1. Make Sure that your design is search engine friendly:

Your design may look good to your eyes, but it may also be the cause of you present difficulties and poor search engine positioning. How is that possible? Look at your web page using a text editor or the html view of popular editors such as Dreamweaver and Frontpage. On what line does your first line of copy begin? If your actual copy is pushed far down the page, it is more difficult for search engines to pick up the crucial information that would have helped you to improve your web page ranking.

If you have this difficulty, first take out all unnecessary spaces in the html code. If there are long strings of java script, put these in external files. Similarly, put style information in external Cascading Style Sheet files. Simplifying your table structure may also help. If this starts getting too complicated for you, then consult with a professional search engine positioning specialist or your web designer.

2. Make sure your keywords are strategically placed in your copy:

It is not possible to improve web page ranking if the readable copy on your web page does not contain the words you wish to be found by. Many people erroneously think that just putting your important keywords in meta tags is enough. This is not true, some search engines hardly use the meta tags and look more to the copy on the page. Make sure that your important copy is in the first paragraph of text, in headlines (using headers such as H1, H2, H3) and in the active or clickable portions of link text on your page.

3. Use a site map and text link navigation on your pages:

If you want to improve your search engine positioning for all the pages of your website then you have to be sure that these pages actually get indexed or included in the search engines. You can help this process along by making a site map, a web page that has text links to all the sub pages of your site. Another good practice is to include a text link navigation system on your web pages, even if you already have a graphics based navigation bar elsewhere on these same pages. Remember, search engines follow text links more easily. A robot that lands on your main page or site map page will follow the text links and then visit and index your lower level pages.

4. Increase the quantity and quality of inbound links:

In fiercely competitive categories it will be difficult to improve web page ranking without obtaining a good number of links to your page from other websites. If you have very good and valuable copy, other sites may link to you because you are a valuable resource. However, if you want to speed this process along you will have to actively request links from other websites, either by trading links or by getting your content (with a link back to your site) placed on other websites.
When it comes to links you should keep in mind one important principle: it is not the quantity of links that is important, but the quality. One good link from an authority site such as CNN or Wikipedia is worth more than dozens of links from other sites. To get these quality links, there is no short cut. You will have to earn it by having a site that provides a lot of useful information.

5. Keep up with Search Engine Developments:

The challenge of improving your web page ranking and search engine positioning is dynamic. Search engines are not static. Most of the big search engines of yesterday have disappeared or are only minor players today. You should keep up with changes in the world of search engines by taking part in online forums or subscribing to newsletters which deal with topics such as search engine optimization, web ranking, and general webmaster related issues.

For years I have been getting great information from the Led Digest, a subscription list which is sent out several times a week. You can see samples online at

If you do not have the expertise or the time to tackle these matters by yourself then you should take advantage of skilled professionals who can help you to improve your site’s performance in search engines. Whether you rely on professionals or are able to do it yourself, these five tips can provide a good point of reference for starting the work.

Affordable Links For SEO

Affordable  Links For SEO
The natural one-way links.
This one is solely based in good content and resources. This is the safest method of link building available as far as search engines, which look at the “intent” of links. But it is also the slowest. If your site is new, then as part of its launch, submit it to niche web directories. Start with a few highly trusted directories, but do not have more than 10-15% of your overall links coming from them. Don’t overlook industry-specific directories that may be paid or unpaid. These usually send highly qualified traffic and can be a real bargain. Directories will get you site many natural one-way links, at a natural speed of growth. This combination of type and speed is very beneficial. Look for sites that would benefit from offering users your content.

Linkbaiting, or link bait.
This one is not easy, and involves creativity. But it is worth every effort. Linkbaiting refers to content, videos, images or anything on your site that is created with the intention of increasing links to it. It is highly effective in getting links, probably the cheapest too, based on the cost of the “bait” you use, has no negative effects from the search engines, at least not for the moment, since all links generated look natural. When complemented by social bookmarking, the networks associated with these links will add even more value to them.

Paying for links, or paid links.
These links can have great short-term search benefits. These are good mainly for sites that have tons of pages with content, and have been well established online for years. In addition, these sites also have tons of natural links to them, again because they had been well established online for years. These are not recommended for new sites. Look for sites that are highly on topic with yours, and in complementary niches. A very important factor in the evaluation of these links, like any other, is age. And the latest “Google Slap” effect were sites fall pass the top 30 in the listings, is affecting primarily those which do heavy link buying.

Bad links and their effects.
Outbound links play a big role in the way search engines determine who your “neighborhood” is. Bad neighborhoods will affect your search engine rankings. Things like FFA (Free For All) link pages, links farms, etc, fall in this category. Note that this has nothing to do with your pages going into the supplemental index. That is not the kind of penalty these links cause for your site. And the amount of bad links considered is a big one. A small amount of them would not trigger a penalty, but make sure that your site is not related in any way to those link patterns.


Creating An Affortable SEO Plan

Creating An Affortable SEO Plan
SEO forms a very important part of the success of a website. After all you want as much visitors as possible to your site in order to increase your sales. Like the law of supply and demand, once professionally done SEO is growing in importance, the price asked by most companies for a good SEO job will increase too. So what to do if you are running a small home based business and you are faced with SEO offers of up to $4000 for small job? Perhaps even the job isn’t that costly at all but the SEO specialist’s time is.Off course he wants his time to yield as much for him as possible. Let me tell you, affordable SEO is still available. What many experts won’t tell you is that, more often than not, they have very sophisticated software at their disposal. Software like that does lot of the web site analysis to be done before the SEO can be implemented which saves a lot of time. The next point of concern is that imagine you would be able to find a relatively cheap SEO? Would you trust it? Doesn’t cheap mean that it is no good? Or perhaps the “cheap” agency is run by scam artists? No doubt this is still true is many cases. Either there are companies that charge (criminal) amounts of money for a good SEO job at one hand and there are the “cheap” scam artists at the other. However it is my belief if you do a good search on the web you will still find some honest guys that are willing to work for you at an honest price and really give you a good return on your money.

How much work there is involved? First the SEO analyst will have to “scan” your website as to what is there and what is still missing SEO wise. Has the web site been submitted at all for the search engines? Have the right keywords been filled out at the various tags? Is the text or tile of the site search engine friendly? SEO experts use sophisticated software that “scan” all those details. After that they will advise you about how to get a better content,will supply you with a list of good keywords, will advise you how to restructure your site if necessary; all imperative actions to optimize the site for search engines and Page rank.

How much time will a typical SEO cost? Well the depends the size of the project off course but mind that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. SEO is a process rather than an action. If your site’s current page rank is zero,a good SEO job could get it to 3 in 2 months and to 5 in 4/6 months, also depending on the content of the site.Most of the work for the SEO expert comes in the beginning of the job. After all the work on the site, tags etc is done than the site might need some fine tuning or re submission to the search engines a few times. Therefor usually most agencies work with a maintenance agreement of up to 6 months.

Of course if I talk about cheap or affordable SEO I don’t mean cheap in a sense of $100 a project but, depending a bit on the work involved off course,I would say about 40%/50% off the general market rates. That’s what I call affordable and accessible to most home business owners.

Are you interested in having some affordable SEO done on your website? Please contact us(CapitalOneEquity SeoDesigners) and we are most happy to provide you with a free analysis of your site and make you a very fair offer. For contact details please see my profile.

Holiday Time: It’s time for us to Mix and Mingle!

Holiday Time: It’s time for us to Mix and Mingle!

Jingle, Jingle, Jingle…


Christmas 1

It’s time for us to Mix and Mingle!

Join us for a toast of good cheer to the holidays and the coming New Year at the Annual NEFA Southern California Holiday party.

Thursday, December 4, 2014.

Bluewater Grill Seafood Restaurant,
the District at Tustin

5:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

Advanced registration fee is $40 per person.
$50 if registered at the door.


The holidays are a favorite time of the year to celebrate friends, family and spread some good cheer. Please join us for an evening of merriment, holiday cocktails and delectable hor d’oeuvres.

Friends, Food and Fun…don’t miss out, Register today!

This year, the NEFA Southern California region is working to raise donations for the Blind Children’s Learning Center whose mission is to prepare children with visual impairments for a life of independence through early intervention, education, and parent support.

Please join us in supporting their cause
by clicking here to make an online donation. Be sure to mention the NEFA Holiday Party in the comments box!

**Bring a copy of your donation and be entered into a raffle full of fun prizes!


Special Thanks
to our event sponsor:


Support Good Causes: Charitable Giving

Support Good Causes: Charitable Giving

by Robert Lerose.

With the holiday season upon us, small businesses will once again find their mailboxes overflowing with charitable appeals. A recent report by Blackbaud, a software provider for nonprofits, found that more than one-third of all charitable giving happens in the last three months of the year. That giving really adds up: According to Giving USA Foundation, American corporations and businesses gave over $16 billion in charitable gifts in 2013. Obviously, every small business wants to ensure that the dollars they donate are used wisely, but how can they evaluate a charity’s efficiency? What’s a sensible way to choose good causes to support? We asked some fundraising experts to give us their perspective on how small businesses can make informed judgments fordoing good.


Donate your services

While charities are still happy to accept monetary donations, they are also open to other forms of support. “Businesses can think about ways that can bring their own expertise to a particular charity,” says Michael Nilsen, vice president of public affairs for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “I think most charities would love it if an organization came to them and said that they’d like to get more involved.”


For example, Nilsen says that many charitable organizations would welcome an overhaul of their website or someone to help them with their social media efforts—services that a small business could provide. Nilsen explains that large national charitable organizations are doing well, but that smaller charities are still recovering from the economic downturn and can use help in many different forms.

Nilsen recommends zeroing in on the issues that matter deeply to the business and to the employees and then find charities that support them. “The charity process gets better when there are more engaged donors and engaged volunteers—as opposed to trying to figure out what’s most efficient or most effective—because there’s no easy way to measure that,” he says. “You could have five different charities working on the same issue and they’re probably doing five different things, whether it’s research or program implementation. Figure out what’s most important to you and focus your giving on that. Find out from employees about organizations that they like, so you’ve got that engagement started already.”



Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Dallas County Community College

Goldman SachsGoldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Dallas County Community College

You built your business, we’ll help you grow it with:
  • A practical business education
  • Access to capital
  • A supportive network of advisors and peers
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing them with greater access to education, financial capital and business support services. The program operates across the U.S., through a network of more than 90 academic and community partners. More than 2,300 small-business owners have participated, and the program continues to expand.

Education for Business Growth

Designed by Babson College, the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school, the curriculum focuses on practical business skills that can immediately be applied by business owners, including negotiation, marketing and employee management.
A small business team stands behind their owner

Access to Capital

Small-business owners learn how to become more bankable and position their businesses to access financing and capital. Through partnerships with local, regional and national Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) and other mission-driven small business lenders, or “Capital Partners,”  loans are available to qualifying small businesses that lack access to affordable capital or may not qualify for traditional sources of credit. Loan applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, independent of acceptance into the business and management education program.

A Network of Support

Participants will receive one-on-one business advising and the opportunity to learn from other like-minded business owners. The program provides this expert advice and technical assistance through partnerships with national and local business organizations, professional services firms and the people of Goldman Sachs.


Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is designed for business owners who have a business poised for growth. We look for applicants who are passionate about growing their business, creating jobs in their communities and who generally meet these criteria:
  • Owner or co-owner of a business
  • Business in operation for at least two years
  • Business revenues of at least $150,000 in the most recent fiscal year
  • Business with a minimum of four employees (including the owner)

How the Program Works

To get the most out of the program, business owners are asked to invest their time to engage in the following:
  • Attend a program orientation
  • Complete 11 convenient learning sessions
  • Participate in out-of-class activities, including completing assignments and attending networking events and business support clinics (approx. 6-8 hours per week)
  • Create a growth plan over the course of the program​


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