Category Archives: Coffee Talk

Entrepreneurs Wanted: Building a Better Business Future


Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One), by John Meese, is the practical guide for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to build a profitable business despite uncertainty in the market. Survive and Thrive offers advice on marketing, sales, and finance strategies that helps build (or rebuild) a thriving business in any economy.

Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One)

In a time of a rapidly ever-changing economy, Survive and Thrive is a saving grace for entrepreneurs and the newly unemployed, presenting a recovery framework designed to help build businesses that are stronger than ever. Survive and Thrive provides a step-by-step plan for reaching more people, making more sales, and generating more profit and simply explains the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

Despite such drastic changes in such a short time, it is still possible to be successful. Survive and Thrive offers the strategies and motivation to shake things off and start anew toward a bigger and better business future.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with John Meese, please visit or contact John Meese (the author) at

Stay tuned as we update this piece for Monday’s Coffee Talk and listen to the companion podcast as we talk with John Meese.

About the Author
John Meese is a traditionally trained economist turned serial entrepreneur and the author of Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). He is the founder and CEO of Cowork.Inc, co-founder of Notable, and is on a personal mission to eradicate generational poverty by helping entrepreneurs create thriving businesses. He is the host of the Thrive School podcast, and has worked closely with multiple clients who have repeatedly hit the Inc 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately-owned businesses in America.

More About This Title
Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One), by John Meese, will be released by Morgan James Publishing on July 27, 2021. Survive and Thrive —9781631953361 —has 200 pages and is being sold as a trade paperback for $17.95.

Nearly 40% of Consumers Appreciate Colors the Most Among Visual Elements on Business Websites, Finds New Survey from Top Design Firms

Thirty-nine percent of consumers are drawn to colors when visiting a company’s website. Small businesses should focus on colors that increase sales when designing their websites.

About two-fifths of consumers (39%) are attracted to color schemes the most on business websites compared to other visual elements, according to a new report from Top Design Firms, a directory of digital and creative agencies.

Businesses can increase their sales online by strategically using colors in their website design.

39% of people appreciate colors the most among visual elements on a business’ website.

Miranda Yan, founder of VinPit, a VIN lookup company, notes that caolor is important to a business’s overall brand.

“Color is a vital aspect of a company’s brand as it reflects its first impression on customers,” Yan said. “Color reflects the identity of a firm and resembles emotions, feelings, and experiences.”

Using colors that draw customer attention but don’t repel them is an important balance for businesses to strike. Companies also need to factor in the preferences of their target audience.

Color Preferences Vary Across Age and Gender

Different audiences think differently about colors on a website:

  • Nearly half of consumers (46%) prefer that businesses use blue on their websites.
  • 26% of women believe companies should not use yellow on their websites.
  • 23% of men think that companies should not use orange on their websites.

“Preferring blue & green tend to show a calm nature whereas yellow and orange are more geared towards aggression,” Yan said.

43% of people ages 18-24 prefer purple the most on a business website.

The color purple (43%) is the favorite among people ages 18-24, however, only 17% of people ages 44-54 prefer that businesses use it on their website. 

Cody Miles, founder of Ashore, an online creative software, believes that color preferences are related to life experiences.

“Purple is a rather melancholic color,” Miles said. “Younger generations are increasingly more in touch with their emotions, melancholy included.”

Businesses must factor in consumer preference for different colors when designing their websites.

Whitespace Should Be Part of Every Website Design

Whitespace is a crucial component of a successful website design.

Despite only 8% of consumers noticing whitespace when they view a site for the first time, it is an element that helps engage users when they are on a site.  

Whitespace creates a balance, giving users a quick break when browsing online. If a website is too cluttered or contains a lot of distracting colors, a potential customer may leave without a purchase.

“[Whitespace] helps to distinguish between themes of different pages by keeping it clean and simple,” Yan said. “Whereas if any other color were used in its place, then the page would become very messy.”

Businesses should strive to use colors on their websites that increase sales while keeping in mind their target audience and overall user experience.

Top Design Firms surveyed 500 consumers in April 2021 about their website design preferences.

About Top Design Firms
Top Design Firms is a directory of design, marketing, and development companies from around the world. Launched in 2003, Top Design Firms was recently acquired by Clutch, the leading ratings and reviews platform for IT, marketing, and business service providers.

Quick Bite – After a Year of Uncertainty the Value of Professional Financial Advice Goes Up

Advisors are considered people’s most trusted source for guidance

According to the latest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2021 Planning & Progress Study, U.S. adults aged 18+ say financial advisors are the most trusted source for financial advice. This represents a reversal from 2020 findings when people said they trusted themselves most.

Americans’ most trusted sources of financial advice:

1.   Yourself (30%)1.   Financial advisor (26%)
2.   Financial advisor (22%)2.   Yourself (20%)
3.   Family member (13%)3.   Spouse/partner (16%)

“After the events of the last year, many people are looking for someone they can trust during unpredictable times,” said Tim Gerend, executive vice president and chief distribution officer at Northwestern Mutual. “The value of professional advice is on the rise in America.”

Guidance through a storm
The study found that the market volatility and economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was a major factor influencing individuals to seek out professional financial advice.

Nearly four in ten (38%) Americans currently work with a financial advisor, representing a significant jump from pre-pandemic levels (29%).

Fifteen percent of survey respondents reported that they didn’t have a financial advisor pre-pandemic and they now either currently work with an advisor or plan to start working with one.

The trend was most pronounced among younger generations, with 23% of Gen Z and an equal 23% of Millennials reporting that they have or plan to work with a financial advisor as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the markets and economy.

“It’s encouraging that younger people are taking action with their finances, as this is a crucial step towards creating positive financial planning habits and achieving financial security over the long term,” said Gerend. “This study data reflects trends we’ve been seeing amongst our clients as well – the pandemic has prompted many to revisit their financial plans and seek help from their advisors.”

Financial planning priorities
When asked to identify their top financial planning priorities over the next year, respondents identified:

  • Paying bills/expenses (48%)
  • Saving for retirement (39%)
  • Paying off debt/loans (38%)
  • Taking care of family (37%)
  • Investing (32%)

“Financial decision-making can be difficult, especially when outside factors are at play,” said Gerend. “Financial advisors have the expertise and perspective to help simultaneously navigate present priorities while also planning for long-term goals. It’s times like these when the value of that becomes crystal clear.”

About The 2021 Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study
The 2021 Planning & Progress Study was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual and included 2,320 American adults aged 18 or older who participated in an online survey between March 16 – 26, 2021.  Results were weighted to Census targets for education, age/gender, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.  No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

Economy Transitioning from Consumer-Led Recovery to More Balanced Growth as Inflation Risks Remain

Historically High Home Price Growth Expected to Moderate but Add to Overall Inflation Pressure

Expectations for full-year 2021 real GDP growth at 7.0 percent were little changed from the previous outlook, but meaningful compositional and temporal shifts are now projected for the underlying sources of economic growth, according to the July 2021 commentary from the Fannie Mae (OTCQB: FNMA) Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group. Modestly weaker-than-expected consumer and construction spending data and an updated federal spending timeline from the Congressional Budget Office led the ESR Group to update its forecast to reflect a larger share of 2021 economic growth occurring in the second half of the year. Second quarter growth is now expected to clock in at 8.1 percent, down from last month’s projected 10.1 percent, while third and fourth quarter growth projections were revised upward by 0.7 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively, to 7.1 percent and 6.6 percent. Additionally, the ESR Group expects that business inventory investment and government spending will account for an increasing share of near-term economic growth, as spending by consumers shifts toward services and away from goods. Risks to the forecast are weighted to the downside, including future COVID-19 developments, supply chain and labor shortages, and inflation risk. The ESR Group expects higher-than-consensus levels of inflation through the end of 2022, in part due to anticipation that some of the more transitory price pressures will give way to housing-driven inflationary pressure.

Amid record demand for housing and extremely limited inventory in the first half of the year, the ESR Group significantly upgraded its home price forecast, as measured by the FHFA Purchase-Only Index, to 14.8 percent annualized in 2021, up from its prior forecast of 8.0 percent. However, home purchase demand is expected to soften modestly moving forward. Combined with supply chain disruptions, material costs, and labor shortages easing – which should allow homebuilders to ramp up production – the ESR Group expects home price growth to moderate to 5.1 percent in 2022. In addition to its upgraded home price growth projections, the ESR Group also lowered modestly its interest rate forecast. As such, 2021 mortgage originations are now forecast at $4.2 trillion, up from last month’s forecast of $4.1 trillion, with both purchase and refinance origination activity projected to be higher.

“While recent home price growth has been historically high, we’re forecasting further home price appreciation to moderate through the remainder of the year and into 2022,” said Mark Palim, Fannie Mae Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “On the supply side, we think homebuilders will be able to increase production as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages alleviate, which should add to the inventory of new and existing homes available for sale. On the demand side, we expect the increase in housing demand we saw over the past year to ease, as the impact of unique recent factors lessens, including adjustments to accommodate pandemic-related remote work arrangements, stimulus checks bolstering household savings, and record-low mortgage rates. However, demographic trends remain favorable for a strong housing market over the next few years, and, combined with the chronic undersupply of homes built over the last decade, upward pricing pressure is likely to remain through the forecast horizon – just not at the rate seen this spring. Nevertheless, we expect home price growth to become one of the more persistent drivers of inflation going forward, as other, more transitory factors diminish.”

Visit the Economic & Strategic Research site at to read the full July 2021 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, Housing Forecast, and Multifamily Market Commentary.

Vimeo and TikTok Partner to Drive Small Business Success With Video Ads

The partnership connects Vimeo’s powerful creation tools with TikTok Ads Manager; Vimeo is the first video software company to join the TikTok Marketing Partner Program

Vimeo (NASDAQ:VMEO), the world’s leading all-in-one video software solution, and TikTok, a leading destination for short-form mobile video, today announced a new partnership that integrates Vimeo’s powerful video tools with the TikTok platform. The partnership gives small and medium businesses (SMBs) everything they need to make effective video ads to engage customers, while enabling them to take full advantage of Vimeo’s suite of video tools and the broad reach of the TikTok platform. In pre-release tests of the combined capabilities participants saw up to 50% higher clickthrough rates compared to previous campaigns on other platforms and were able to double the number of videos they created in a short timespan. 

Vimeo is joining TikTok Marketing Partners, a group of vetted experts who create, implement, and measure TikTok ad campaigns. Vimeo is the first partner to be badged under TikTok’s all-new Creative Tools subcategory of Creative Partners, who help brands produce creative assets that leverage TikTok’s best practices.

With this first-of-a-kind partnership between TikTok and a video software company, SMBs can now use Vimeo Create, an advanced AI-driven video production tool, to produce and publish ads directly into the TikTok Ad Manager in minutes. The companies also collaborated on developing custom video templates exclusively available in Vimeo Create, optimized for the TikTok platform.

Pre-Release Test Advertising
Ahead of launch, Vimeo and TikTok invited small businesses to try Vimeo Create and advertise on TikTok for the first time. More than 85% of participants reported successful campaign results and plan to run additional TikTok campaigns. NaturalAnnie Essentials, a family-run, Bridgeport, CT-based soy candle company, saw a 5.5x increase in conversion rate within the first two weeks of the trial campaign when compared with other forms of online advertising.

“We’ve saved thousands of dollars, the stress of shipping candles to a production studio, and lots of headaches by using Vimeo for our TikTok ads,” said Annya White-Brown, CEO of NaturalAnnie Essentials. “Vimeo Create made it super easy — it was as simple as adding your assets to the templates to fit your brand. Now we create anywhere from 30-75 videos per month.”

TikTok gives small businesses opportunities to reach and attract wider communities where they spend their time today. However, the high level of user engagement on the platform creates a challenge for marketers who need to publish new content and ads with far more frequency than on other online channels. It’s recommended that businesses test new TikTok ad creative on a bi-weekly basis, and that they post new organic TikTok videos multiple times a week – if not every day – to maximize their engagement.

“Vimeo and TikTok are solving one of the most significant pain points for SMBs in reaching customers — how to easily and affordably create professional-quality content at scale,” said Richard Bloom, SVP, Business Development, Vimeo. “We’re thrilled to be the first video creation platform to integrate with TikTok For Business and to expand the reach of Vimeo Create, so more businesses can engage even more customers online.”

“As small businesses recover and rebuild after a challenging year, TikTok is working on ways to make it easier to reach their community and grow their business,” said Melissa Yang, Head of Ecosystem Partnerships, TikTok. “Our partnership with Vimeo provides small businesses with simple, effective video tools that rival what the biggest brands in the world have access to — and they drive real results.”

Following the launch, Vimeo and TikTok plan to find more ways to join forces in helping every SMB succeed with video. This integration is available immediately to all Vimeo users.

About TikTok
TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. TikTok has global offices including Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo.

About Vimeo
Vimeo (NASDAQ: VMEO) is the world’s leading all-in-one video software solution. Our platform enables any professional, team, and organization to unlock the power of video to create, collaborate and communicate. We proudly serve our growing community of over 200 million users — from creatives to entrepreneurs to the world’s largest companies. Learn more at


Looking to book an airbnb this summer? You might be too late.

June kicked off a mammoth summer for U.S. short-term rentals, with lead times normalizing and demand high, reports AirDNA. Summer travel starts strong with record occupancy levels.

The U.S. short-term rental industry posted another strong month as occupancy rose to an all-time high of 70.2% in June 2021, a full 20% higher than June 2019. This is the first time the U.S. has exceeded an average occupancy of 70%. 

“Longer lead times and higher demand mean hosts can get high occupancy, even at higher rates,” – Jamie Lane, AirDNATweet this

The July 4th holiday weekend is historically one of highest demand weekends and the biggest winners in 2021 relative to 2020 were markets in the Hawaiian Islands, where demand more than doubled for the weekend.

In Maui, demand was up over 230% vs the same weekend in 2020. Resort cities in the U.S. saw the biggest gains over 2019 for the Fourth of July weekend where Fort Lauderdale (+36%), Phoenix/Scottsdale (+35%), and Cape Coral/Fort Myers (+32%), each had more than 30% growth in demand for the weekend. 

Book Ahead? Too Late in Top Destinations
Booking lead times, typically around 30-90 days from confirmation to arrival, peak in the summer as limited available supply leads guests to book their rentals months in advance to secure the best homes.

“Monitoring lead times is key to making smart pricing decisions,” said Jamie Lane, VP of Research at AirDNA. “In May 2020, lead times dropped as low as 18 days, with guests delaying booking decisions. The natural response was to discount your listing, but now as lead times normalize hosts can have much more confidence their unit will book, even at higher rates.” The median lead time in June 2021 was 59 days, catching up to the 62 days in June 2019.

Demand Is Hot, but Can Investors Capitalize on It?
New U.S. short-term rental unit additions reached 55k in June and are now at the highest level since the start of the pandemic, but just shy of the average of 60k new units per month that were being added between 2017 and 2019. 

“With a strong summer on the books and the fall looking positive, many industry participants are setting their sights on making new investments in the sector,” said Scott Shatford, AirDNA CEO. “Seeing the positive returns that hosts are realizing by investing in short-term rentals and record high demand, we expect continued strong investment.”

Click to read the full Monthly Review


Why Empathy is a Back-to-the-Office Cure

Maryland Smith Expert Gives 5 Tips for How Leaders Can Handle the Transition

While there is no single playbook for successfully bringing employees back to the office after pandemic restrictions have waned,  Gerald Suarez at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business says there’s a crucial element that leaders can use to ease the transition: empathy.

One of the toughest things that anyone can do, Suarez says, is starting something new or stopping something old.

“COVID-19 accelerated people leaving behind things the way they were and embracing the new way, which led to them developing new habits,” says Suarez, professor of the practice in systems thinking and design. “Now people are being asked to abandon this new way and let go quickly. That manifests in disruption and vulnerability with people having already adapted and being forced to adapt once again.”

It’s these types of moments where leaders need to be sensitive to what people are going through, Suarez says. Understanding how employees are feeling at this time is critical to accelerating the organization’s reintegration. “People have been impacted by this pandemic in varying scope and levels of intensity, and every conversation is unique.”

Suarez offers five insights for leaders facing those tough conversations:

Look for meaning. Consider why someone is sharing specific details with you, Suarez says, but don’t rush to solve the situation right then and there – just listen. “Silence is your friend. Don’t interrupt, but ask questions for clarification when necessary,” says Suarez. “‘What do you mean by that?’ ‘Tell me more.’ Or a simple nod, will allow you to relate to the situation at a deeper level.”

Read between the lines. Stay in the moment and focus on what you hear and what you see. The unspoken parts of communication can offer relevant clues, Suarez says. “What emotions are you observing? What expressions and gestures are reinforcing the feeling? Are the spoken and unspoken communications in harmony? All of those details are important to pick up on,” says Suarez. Seek the proper context. After allowing for the meaning and feelings to emerge, it is important to get some specifics and demonstrate curiosity, Suarez says. When, how and where did something happen? “Gather the facts, make your assumptions explicit and seek clarification. How widespread is this issue? Is this person representing the views of others or is this their own point of view? Paraphrase your understanding of the message and let the person react to it. Never walk away without this validation,” says Suarez.

Assess the consequences. Are there unintended consequences or irreversible implications that may emerge? “As you seek empathy, be mindful of your own emotions. Are you genuinely interested in how others feel? Are you in tune with how they feel? How do you know? Are you mindful of how their emotions are influencing you?” says Suarez.

Don’t watch the clock. When people ask if you have a minute, consider the intensity of the request and try not to postpone the conversation, Suarez says. They may change their minds and not tell you. Is this a priority that requires immediate action or attention? “Assess the risk of inaction or postponement,” says Suarez. “Recognizing the time sensitivity with respect to the request is an opportunity to take action and our options should be to respond with compassion and comfort.”

About the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

SOURCE University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business
See this and more articles like this at Smith Brain Trust

If you’ve thought about starting your own business, the time is now

4.4 million new businesses were created since lockdown began, far exceeding historical norms

Have you thought about starting your own business or creating a side hustle? If you have, according to the Census Bureau you aren’t alone. More than 4.4 million new businesses were created since the lockdowns began, and while an uptick during a recession is expected, this far exceeds historical norms. In January of this year alone, there were nearly half a million new business started. The side hustle went mainstream.

YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook are huge contributors to this surge. These platforms give entrepreneurs guidance, tutorials, and an advertising medium to reach consumers. Budding entrepreneurs at long last had time to study topics and tutorials they were eager to learn, but didn’t have the time for while working nine to five. Taking their hobbies online to bring in additional funds, they found there was a viable market for their artisan wares.

As expected during lockdown, food trucks and meal delivery services increased by a large percentage and are still on the rise over a year later. Yelp noticed consumer interest in psychics rose 74% over last year and astrologers by 63%. Notaries were up 52%.

As the lockdown continued, families reconnected across the country, and people realizing how burned out they had become working long hours plus added commute times, decided to make some adjustments. A shift began to take place and they looked for options to keep them out of the nine to five drudgery.

Simple medical visits shifted to a virtual experience, private therapy sessions took off and new personal delivery options popped up everywhere. Personal assistants, marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, and business coaching rose to a new level of not only working from home, but also in the creation of home-based businesses with new entrepreneurs consciously pulling themselves out of the workforce. This trend looks as if it’s here to stay leaving previous employee positions, vacant.

As the pandemic continues restructuring the U.S. economy, it’s difficult to peer into the future to see how this will round out, but it looks like the virtual office has taken root. Reports show consumers are making lasting changes to their every-day life to accommodate this, and with home office renovations up by 75%, this is a pace that doesn’t show signs of slowing.

One of the positions new entrepreneurs find themselves in, is investing in their own future. Working for an employer, employees take home a paycheck while the employer handles the taxes, 401k, medical, etc. For a bulk of these 4.4 million new business owners, these are unnavigated waters. Taking time to connect with a professional to map out taxes, investments, growth and retirement planning is essential, and the earlier the better.

Looking for a bit of guidance on this topic, we reached out to Homer Smith, Private Wealth Advisor Konvergent Wealth Partners and asked what trends he has seen over the past year and what possible next steps small business owners might want to look in to as they grow:

“One of the benefits we have seen over the last year was the comfort level that all generations have with technology. Many of these new startups as well as established players focused on information and tools that can be accessed from anywhere. 

This includes a multitude of services aimed at providing access to financial tools that in the past were cost prohibitive for small business. Whether it is as traditional as PayPal for getting paid, Quickbooks for bookkeeping, or a more comprehensive platform like Gusto for payroll and benefits, there have never been more options.

After taking care of the basics and you now have excess cash flow to put to work for your long-term goals, making sure you are building a cash reserve is a minimum requirement to ensuring you maintain liquidity when you need it the most. As you create a foundation of profits and cash flow, it is time to consider how you will invest in your business to create sustainable growth as well as build longer term capital outside the business. These decisions become more complex with growth and may create the need to bring in more resources, whether they are internal or external, to support the fulfillment of your goals.”

Homer Smith is a Private Wealth Advisor with Konvergent Wealth Partners and is not affiliated with Basil & Salt Magazine.

Financial Experts Caution Biden’s Capital Gains Proposal May Impact Small Business Owners

President Biden is asking Congress for higher taxes on inherited properties. As is being discussed across news channels, this may impact family with more than $1 million in gains. 

Financial experts recommend estate planning strategies now, to avoid a surprise tax bill later. 

What’s on the table: Tax inherited property gains at death which targets generational wealth transfers. 

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Financial experts caution this may impact more families than just affluent ones. “The largest impact on this may be small business owners.  For many of them, most of their wealth is tied to the value of the business.  This increase in capital gains tax, while geared towards those with $1 million of income, will end up hitting these middle class business owners when they are ready to sell.” said Private Wealth Advisor Homer Smith, Konvergent Wealth Partners

As it stands now, heirs may defer taxes on inherited home gains until the property is sold. There’s also the so-called “step up in basis”, which is adjusting the home’s purchase price to the value on the date of death. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports this law saves taxpayers $41 billion per year

Biden however, would like to treat home inheritances like a sale. Heirs would pay for the gains that occurred before they received the property. 

Noteworthy: STEP Act, authored by democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen,  would get rid of the so-called “Step-Up” in basis. 

Exemptions: up to 1 million for single heirs and up to 2.5 million for couples.  

While financial advisors wait to see how the language plays out, this levy would possibly be a burden to heirs who want to live in the family home but are unable to afford the tax bill. Sales of homes over $1 million have spiked by 81% from February 2020 – February 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize a tax hit: 

  • Work with a financial professional 
  • Get a home appraisal 
  • Meet with an Estate Planning attorney 
  • Gift a home or vacation property to children while still living, using a “qualified personal residence trust”. 

Increase the home’s cost basis by: 

  • Tacking on the cost of improvements. Example: New siding, roof and/or certain property renovations. 
  • Keep immaculate records on all improvements 
  • Create a family partnership or Limited Liability Corporation 

Homer Smith is an Investment Advisor Representative with konvergent wealth partners, a Registered Investment Advisor.  This article is for informational purposes only.  Please contact your financial professional about your particular situation.