Good advice offered at Micro Business Summit in Aptos

Customer service expert Kent Burnes said small business owners can boost revenue by 10 percent by committing with their employees to a 30-day growth plan with these three essential elements:

• Identify where you want to grow, which could be anything from special orders to desserts to design services, and make sure employees have bought into the plan. Train staff to ask, “Did you know we can (fill in the blank on what you can do)?” Stop asking, “How can we help you today?” Start asking, “What special project are you working on?”

• Fewer than 13 percent of businesses ask for referrals. Eyeball-to-eyeball is best; an online ask does not count. If a customer has a positive experience, that is the time to say, “We had a good time with your order today. Who else do you know that would like our service?” One in five customers will respond in the affirmative; educate your employees so they will not be surprised at a “no.”

• Stay in touch with your customers constantly. Call them when you have a private sale. Send them an online newsletter. Mail your top 10 customers a hand-written thank-you after they make a big purchase.

APTOS >> Lizz Hodgin, owner of Musical Me, said she wondered what to do when her millennial employee texts her at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, which is outside her workday.

At the Micro Business Summit on Friday at Cabrillo College, LaTorsha Hill, talent development manager for Plantronics, had an answer: Set boundaries. Tell the employee you won’t respond at that hour, you’ll wait until the morning.

“It’s really expensive to hire new employees — the training to ramp them up takes a long time,” said Kathy Long, founder of Kat & Mouse Web Design, after hearing that milliennials expect to have two to five employers during their career.

To retain millennials, you must do more than offer free food or allow pets at work, Hill said, noting they want their ideas to be valued and opportunities for career advancement.

Those are a few examples of the practical advice in plentiful supply from experts at the second year of the summit geared for the 82 percent of businesses in Santa Cruz County with fewer than nine employees.

About 220 people attended on a sunny Friday, hosted by Cabrillo College and produced by the County of Santa Cruz Economic Development Office with the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, Angels by the Sea, The Root Group, Slingshot Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce, all of them united in a mission to help entrepreneurs grow their business, add employees and create a vibrant local economy.

“We’re a 25-year-old overnight success,” said Peter Meehan, who co-founded Newman’s Own Organics in 1992 in Aptos.

His business along with Newman Own’s brand has generated $500 million for charities including local nonprofits.

He’s pleased to see investors backing good ideas, such as

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