steve patterson on stage at CO— salt lake city
Steve Patterson, emcee, Twin Cities Live, hosting CO— Salt Lake City on September 18, 2019. — CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Although a volatile stock market and bearish headlines are fueling concerns about the economy, small business owners across the nation aren’t buying into the fear. Two-thirds of small business owners feel positively about business, and more than half are confident about the economy, according to the latest Small Business Index released by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That optimism was on full display at the CO— Salt Lake City event, where business experts and successful local entrepreneurs shared their stories and insights.

We’ve boiled down all the action from the Salt Lake City event into a few highlights and takeaways.

To win in business, think like an athlete

Whether they’re recruiting a new client, building a new product line or expanding into a new market, business owners must perform their very best in order to grow. To achieve peak performance, Olympic silver medalist and entrepreneur Shannon Bahrke Happe recommends that business owners bring an athletic mindset into their workplaces. As with sports, business rewards those who put in hard work.

“Anybody can do the easy stuff,” Happe said. “It’s sticking with the stuff that is the hardest to do that you don’t want to do, that’s first on your list but somehow keeps making it to the end of the list. If you do those things, you will win.”

Happe brings other techniques from her Olympic days into her new business pursuits. They include practicing and preparing for critical moments and big opportunities, staying hydrated and well-rested, and simply believing in herself.

Shannon Bahrke Happe, Olympic Silver Medalist, co-founder of Silver Bean Coffee and founder of Team Empower Hour, speaking at CO— Salt Lake City on Sept. 18, 2019.

To close the sale, lead with empathy

No matter what product or service your business provides, at some point, you’ll likely need to close a sale. The art of selling requires finesse, and according to renowned sales expert Shari Levitin, a healthy dose of human connection. She suggests that sellers do a bit of research to learn about potential customers, then talk to them on a personal level when making a sale.

“Only a human can connect to the heart of another human,” Levitin said. “No matter what you are selling, no matter what business you are in, we need to connect, but we need to lead with empathy. And I will tell you, most business owners get it wrong.”

According to Levitin, the order matters. Sellers should make a personal connection with potential customers first, then move on to discussing the details of their products and services.

Shari Levitin, author and founder of the Shari Levitin Group, speaking at CO— Salt Lake City on September 18, 2019.

Tackle overwhelming tasks by setting incremental goals

The road from startup to success can be a long and challenging one, and the end goal isn’t always in clear view. Kodiak Cakes co-founder and CEO Joel Clark experienced plenty of discouraging days when he was trying to grow the company. He fought the urge to quit by assigning himself short-term tasks.

“I would set myself these little six-month goals,” Clark said. “And I would say, ‘These things need to happen over the next six months or I’m out. I’m going to call Uncle and call it a day and go do something else,’ you know? And little by little, they kind of happened.”

This goal-setting technique helped Clark build Kodiak Cakes from a side business to a national brand available in large stores across the country. Clark advises other business owners to be patient and steadfast when growing their businesses, because success takes time.

Joel Clark, co-founder and CEO of Kodiak Cakes, interviewed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Jona Van Deun at CO— Salt Lake City on September 18, 2019.

Join us in DC!

Join CO— and our keynote speaker Daymond John at our Summit for small and growing businesses in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16-17, 2019. We hope to see you there!

Maximize your social media strategy by avoiding common traps

Social media is a key tool in any marketing strategy, but it’s not easy for businesses to stand out from the competition on common social sites. Dave Smith from Utah-based communications agency Penna Powers suggests that business owners take the time to build a social media plan before moving into the medium.

“Most companies just jump into social media without any sort of plan because they know they need to be there,” Smith said. “The first thing you need to do before jumping into social media is create an overarching communications plan that integrates social media into your marketing mix.”

Smith said companies can maximize their social media investments by ensuring each piece of content uses an authentic voice and is optimized for the intended social media platform. Smith also encourages business owners to use data to drive their social media decisions.

Dave Smith, partner, president, and CFO of Penna Powers, speaking at CO— Salt Lake City on September 18, 2019.

Successful business owners embrace new tasks and skills

Whether it’s balancing budgets, creating a marketing plan, or learning the fine print of government regulations, small business owners often find themselves tasked with important jobs outside their core skillsets. Marcus Jones, founder and president of Miss Essie’s Southern BBQ, says he started his business because he could make great BBQ sauce, but has had to gain a host of other expertise along the way.

“I have to wear all the hats in the business, and I have to be almost an expert in every area in the business,” Jones said. “I’m in food service, so [I need to know] USDA guidelines and FDA guidelines.”

Jones also said it’s important to know when to roll up your own sleeves, and when to call in an expert to help with larger or more complex tasks.

Molly Mazzolini, partner, Infinite Scale; Marcus Jones, president and founder, Miss Essie’s Southern BBQ; and Betsy Mikesell, co-founder and CEO, Beddy’s, at CO— Salt Lake City.

Many thanks to our event partner, the Salt Lake Chamber, and our local partners, the South Salt Lake Chamber, South Valley Chamber and Utah Black Chamber. Many thanks also to our sponsors, MetLife, FedEx and Square.

Full list of the CO— Salt Lake City speakers:

  • Steve Patterson, Host, Twin Cities Live, Emcee
  • Eric Rea and Dennis Steele, Co-Founders, Podium
  • Jeanette Mulvey, Content Director, CO—
  • John Modica, Senior Vice President, Small Business Solutions, Group Benefits, U.S. Region, MetLife
  • Marla Dee, Owner, Clear & Simple Organizing
  • Lewis Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer and President, Square Financial Services (in application)
  • Dave Smith, Partner, President, and Chief Financial Officer, Penna Powers
  • Shari Levitin, Founder, Shari Levitin Group and Author, “Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know”
  • Joel Clark, Chief Executive Officer, Kodiak Cakes
  • Jona Van Deun, Vice President of Small Business Coalitions and Engagement, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Marcus Jones, President and Founder, Miss Essie’s Southern BBQ
  • Molly Mazzolini, Partner, Infinite Scale
  • Betsy Mikesell, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Beddy’s
  • Derek Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Salt Lake Chamber
  • Shannon Bahrke Happe, Olympic Silver Medalist, Co-Founder, Silver Bean Coffee, and Founder, Team Empower Hour
  • Tom Sullivan, Vice President of Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.