Corporate Governance and Small Businesses

Let’s start with some review of what types of companies primarily drive the US economy.   We know that there are about 16,000 publicly traded companies represented on the NASDAQ, NYSE and the AMEX.  The key economic driver in the US is the 27 million small businesses.  The Small Business Administration 2008 Presidential Report on The Small Business Economy clearly communicated “the economy generated 1.1 million net new jobs in 2007. In the first quarter of 2007, 74 percent of the net new jobs were in small firms with fewer than 500 employees and 22 percent were in firms with fewer than 20 employees.”   Yet, the gross amount of attention in the media and the federal bureaucracy is around what is happening in the Markets.  This is understandable with the volumes of dollars transitioning in this public environment. The economic recovery program is not addressing the core of the economy, small businesses.   More than ever the public market environment is being questioned about corporate governance.  The new legislation being considered for public companies has sections that may very well trickle down and require the small businesses to adhere to similar if not exact rules on Corporate Governance.A simple definition of Corporate Governance for the small business:  Corporate governance simply refers to the set of internal policies, rules, and procedures that a company follows on a regular basis to ensure that it operates in a fair, equitable, and appropriate manner for the benefit of the company, its management and its shareholders. A corporation usually has a board of directors and a senior “C” level management team.   Most small businesses do not have these organizational entities clearly defined and functional.  For private companies that are registered as a corporation and have investors, the various states require these entities to have a governing board.  Yet many small businesses incorporate for tax issues and do not necessarily pay attention to the concepts of corporate governance. How does Corporate Governance apply to small businesses?  All businesses should look at their organizational structure and continually assess what will allow the company to perform in an optimal way.  The simplest way to implement this is to have an advisory board.  The advisory board is non-paid individuals that have business or industry specific backgrounds that can contribute ideas or mentor management.  In more formal and traditional cases a small corporation has a board of directors comprised of the founders, a spouse, an employee and maybe – just maybe an outside director.  The focal point of corporate governance within small businesses is that all businesses need to set company strategic goals, provide the leadership to put them into effect, supervise the management of the business, and if the company has stockholders, report to the stockholders on their stewardship.  For those small businesses that do not have the hierarchical structure in place to implement formal corporate governance plans, it is recommended that regular self assessment of the company will be the starting place for accountability, to enhance performance, grow the company and be a greater contributing force in the economy.  At the end of the day, if you follow some set of policies and procedures and are reporting your stewardship of the company to someone even if it is your dog, then you have accountability that is key to corporate governance practices.Will the government impose its will and definition of Corporate Governance from the public markets into the small business environment?This imposition of government from the public market companies to privately held companies is making its way through the halls of congress.  One idea being tagged onto present legislation is to extend Sarbanes-Oxley down to privately held companies.  Anyone that knows anything about SOX is aware of the high cost to implement the documentation processes and the reporting.   Pushing this down to the small business environment would be cost prohibitive and stunt economic growth.  The general politics of mandated corporate governance is to wait and see how new legislation will affect the small businesses driving the US economy.As a final note, every company, no matter what size it is, will see the positive effects of implementing the principles of corporate governance.  The facts remain that there are 27 million plus small businesses in the US who are the job creators and the drivers of the economy.  The greatness of US business is that it performs the best when individuals come together in a free market environment to meet the needs of the economy and society.  In the end, best practices of corporate governance can be freely implemented to benefit the company or corporate governance can be instituted by the government, which can cost more in resources, planning and profit.  Take the time to assess how your small business views corporate governance and how this will enhance your growth in the market place.

Melaleuca Review – Is Melaleuca A Legitimate Home Based Business?

If you have been around the multi-level marketing industry for long, there is no doubt that you have come across Melaleuca in your search for a home based business. Who is this company? What is it exactly that they offer their customers and affiliates? Can you really make money with Melaleuca as a home based business? I intend to answer these important questions in my Melaleuca review.With their roots going back to 1985, Melaleuca is a health and wellness company that operates under the leadership of CEO Frank VanderSloot. Melaleuca offers a wide selection of products ranging from nutritional supplements, weight loss solutions, and home cleaning products to name a few. The more than 350 products that Melaleuca offers are claimed to be more effective, safer, and better for the environment.You will never find Melaleuca products on the shelves of your local grocery store, as all the products that they offer are sold exclusively through their large network of Marketing Executives (distributors). This represents the business opportunity that they are well-known for.As a Melaleuca Marketing Executive, your mission will be to find as many customers as possible through the efforts of encouraging prospects to try everyday products that they already buy elsewhere, saving them money in the process. You will then try to encourage many of your customers to not only be consumers, but to become Marketing Executives in your business. You will earn commissions on every product that your customers order, and will profit from the sales of those in your downline as well.When you visit the Melaleuca website to learn more about the particular details of their compensation plan, and the investment that will be required of you to join them; Melaleuca will ask you to get back to the person who referred you to learn more. If you happened to come across their site in an online search, or you do not know the name of the Marketing Executive who approached you, there is a 1-800 number that you can call under their ‘Request More Information’ tab.In my opinion, Melaleuca is a very legitimate company that offers everyday products that are both well praised by their satisfied customers, and eco-friendly. If you choose to make Melaleuca your home based business, it will be important to take into consideration the challenges of encouraging your customers to consistently order products through your business on a monthly basis, instead of heading to their local grocery store, where these competitive products can often times be offered at lower prices.The methods of prospecting amongst your friends and relatives, and participating in home meetings and hotel presentations will still apply in this business, as with many other multi-level marketing business opportunities. If you have a strong desire to build a business of this nature, then Melaleuca is a very solid company that has changed the lives of thousands.As always, I wish you the best of luck in your search for a home based business that is best suited for you and your family.

Insurance Advertising – Discover How Independent Insurance Agents Generate Leads

Each day, more and more Insurance Agents are leaving the captive corporate world to venture into the realm of independent insurance agent. Rather than being locked into selling one major insurance carrier’s branded product line, they opt to offer a larger variety of policies, services and costs; coinciding with the demand of consumers wanting to have choices and options at competitive prices.

As we are well aware, this is no longer a “seller’s market”, but an “informed buyer’s”. People, in general, are armed with more information than ever before. So, how do you, the independent insurance agent, stand out from the other 100′s of agents in your city? What marketing avenues are available to you so that you capture the prospective buyer’s attention and convert them into a prospect and ultimately a long-term client? And which ones work?

Regardless of your target audience, whether you have niched your focus to be product specific, or if you are targeting a certain population segment; you need to investigate the various forms of advertising available to you, the costs of such programs and the pros and cons.

Below is a breakdown of the most commonly used forms of advertising for the independent insurance agency, and the pros and cons of each.

Television Advertising

As the average American spends more time in front of the television, it should be no surprise that this is one of the most sought after forms of marketing available.


Ability to reach a larger and more diverse segment of the insurance seeking population

You can specify time of day and network, reaching your intended audience easier

Since most consumers are engaged by a combination of movement, color, what they see and what they hear, this gives most businesses a platform to achieve full sensory contact

Gives a business instant credibility and prestige

Cost for the commercial air time and/or multiple runs

Cost for hiring a marketing agency to lay-out and film your insurance commercial

Consumer expectation – no longer are we impressed with someone reading off a teleprompt, they want to be entertained

Competition for the consumer’s attention

Popularity of digital recorders has increased, giving consumers the ability to fast-forward through commercials when watching their favorite shows
Many experts would agree that if you have the extra capital in your marketing budget to incorporate television into your advertising that you should. However, it is important that you research different advertising firms to help you explore your options with regards to creating your on-air advertisement, the best way to target your audience and keep within your planned budget.

Newspaper advertising and local weekly shoppers

With regards to print advertisements, some independent agents turn to local newspapers and weekly shoppers to advertise their agencies. Since many households either subscribe to at least one newspaper, or pick them up at their local newsstands, it is a fast and simple way to gain recognition by consumers.


Ability to reach more than one target audience by placing various advertisements in the different sections of a newspaper

You have the choice of large or small circulation papers to advertise your insurance agency

Consumers who turn to the newspapers and weekly shoppers are looking for advertisers who offer deals or bargains

Multiple advertisement ad sizes to correspond with various budgets

Newspapers and weekly shoppers are usually read once and discarded

Smaller advertisements have a more difficult time standing out when placed next to a larger ad

Quality of the print may distort images and photos in a way that can hurt your marketing rather than help

Ads, regardless of size, have to compete for the reader’s attention
Like television advertising, it would be prudent to consult with a professional marketing firm, preferably one that specializes in insurance marketing, to help you design an advertisement that best captures your targeted audience’s attention. The smaller the ad space the less detailed and complicated the ad should be.

Also keep in mind the days the most sought after papers and weekly shoppers are printed. The rates for a large advertisement over the weekend will be greater than the same sized ad featured all week long.

Billboards and Signs

While most forms of outdoor advertising are contained within billboards and large signage, some independent agencies have broadened the term to include park benches, posters and seat rails at public transit stops. This form of marketing has become a popular, less costly way, when compared with television and print advertising, to reach a larger audience in major metropolitan areas.


Potential clients cannot simply discard or “turn off” outdoor advertising

Name recognition is higher with those consumers who walk or drive the same route each day

Billboards and signs vary in price due to size and location making it is easier to find one in your budget

More often than not, outdoor advertisements do not fully engage a consumer’s attention for more than a few seconds

Advertisements have to be simple and interesting enough for the consumer to remember

Outdoor advertisements are usually contracted for a longer period of time than most independent agencies had anticipated securing them for

Posters and bench signs at public transit stops work well in major metropolitan areas where lower, middle and upper class alike share the same transportation systems, however, not as effective in areas where public transportation is not as common
If you feel various forms of outdoor advertising would be a compliment to your business and marketing plan, consider placement wisely. Consult many firms for input and advice on the best way to stretch your marketing dollar and how they can help you create eye-catching and simple designs for your sign.

Phone Book Directories

Since exposure to the advertisements in phone book directories is voluntary, meaning consumers actually turn to the phone book for its ads, this form of marketing for independent insurance agencies has become an industry standard.


Certain targeted audiences utilize the phone book regularly to find businesses in their area

Many phone books also have an online directory giving agencies a more broad exposure

You can tailor your exposure to cover a large metropolitan area, or just the city you work in

Traditionally, consumers will keep a phone book versus discarding it like a newspaper

Cost – as more consumers turn to the internet, the cost for print ads in the phone book has increased to cover profit loss

Marketing ineffectiveness – with so many insurance agencies buying ads, it becomes more difficult to capture the consumer’s attention, and once again, stand out from the 100′s of other agents in your market

There are so many phone books in which to advertise, which one do you choose to feature your agency
As with any form of advertising, be sure to read all the features and benefits that come with your paid advertisement. Does it include a featured ad online, or is that separate? What is the target area or audience of the phone book you are looking at? Is the cost monthly, quarterly or annual? Is there an automatic renewal clause or will you have the option of not renewing your contract? Where will your advertisement be placed in comparison to the other featured ads? Will someone employed by the phone book assist you with an eye catching advertisement, or do you have to hire a marketing agency to do that for you, and what is the cost?

Internet Advertising

Roughly 90% of all the households across the United States have access to the internet either at home, at work or at school; making advertising on the internet the fastest growing marketing medium for independent insurance agents. That household percentage goes even higher for those families with a combined income of $100k or more. However, internet advertising gaining its strength only in the last decade or so, there is still a lot an independent agent would need to research, as with any form of advertising, before making a financial commitment.


Cost- you can spend much or as little as your budget allows

Levels the playing field – the internet gives the independent agent a chance to compete with the large insurance carriers with regards to search engine placement

Whether a web site, a PDF brochure, an affiliated network or a video; any and all forms of advertising can be featured and found on the internet

Advertisement exposure is voluntary. Only the websites relevant to a consumer’s online search will pull up for them to look at. Someone searching for insurance agents in their area are more often than not, looking for an agent to speak with

People expect to be educated or informed by an agent’s personal website – having out-dated information or poor graphics can actually hurt your credibility

The ever changing internet – each of the major search engines change what they search for on websites constantly with regards to how well they rank. Staying on top of these changes can be very time consuming or expensive if you pay a firm to do this for you.

Fear of identity theft – consumers are becoming skeptical of entering their personal contact information online for fear they will have their personal information stolen or sold to telemarketing companies and be subject to unwanted emails or phone calls
There are so many options and services available to the independent insurance agent to effectively market themselves and attract more leads. The form of advertising you choose will depend largely on the audience you intend to target, the area in which you do business, and ultimately your budget. Be sure to ask questions. Know what you are getting and what you are not with whatever forms of marketing you decide to use.

After securing her position as a Top Seller in the Insurance and Financial Industry over the course of many years; Christee Fontanez shifted her focus several years ago to internet marketing and advertising. She combined both professions and now works to assist English and Spanish speaking consumers find an Insurance Agent or Advisor to help them secure their family’s financial freedom regardless of language preference.