The Herd Insights Small Business Webinar Series is a series of webinars offered by Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business. The series showcases the combined expertise of our best faculty and seasoned and knowledgeable practitioners from the business community in which we engage. Herd Insights is a joint effort conducted by Brad D Smith Schools of Business faculty and industry experts to deliver functional, relevant, and practical business webinars for Marshall University’s stakeholders. The goal of the series is to help small businesses as they emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
The mission of the Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of Business is to promote economic development in the regional community and beyond. We do this by implementing our strategic priorities for external engagement and economic development including life-long learning programs, the Business Economics Research Symposium, the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker series, and the CEO panel that many of you attended last spring. The college also has outreach centers including the Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Innovation (iCenter) that helps small businesses innovate with a focus on design-thinking techniques, and the BB&T Center for Leadership that promotes consulting and research projects between students and the community. The College also cooperates with the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator to help promote entrepreneurship throughout the region.
There is no question that coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for all of us. It impacts our personal life and businesses in more ways than we can imagine. Some companies have gone under, some have survived, and more importantly, some have thrived. It is an impossible task to pinpoint one element that can explain these situations correctly. Hence, we have developed this webinar series that will consist of presentations throughout the summer and into the fall approximately every alternate week. The webinars collectively will highlight business challenges and pathways to recovery and re-imagination. As the nation and the state start rebuilding businesses and economies coming out of the pandemic closures and lock downs, the Lewis College of Business is committed to supporting our local businesses, alumni, and other stakeholders in re-engaging, re-charging and re-designing their business models.
We hope that small businesses can take something out of each presentation to improve their businesses and make WV and the surrounding area a better place for business and community engagement. To date, we have held two webinars in the series, each with over 30 people attending. The webinars typically consist of 30-40 minutes of presentation followed by a question-and-answer period.
Date: February 22, 2021
Topic: The Economic Status of African Americans in the 21st Century
Featuring: Dr. George Wright and Dr. Nabaneeta Biswas
This event can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMIDoS0GIkY&feature=youtu.be
Dr. Biswas began the discussion by noting there have been economic differences among races throughout history. Dr. Wright discussed the key factors that led to the displacement of African Americans and how this created differences in economic outcomes. He walked the audience through the history of slave trade in the Americas. He explained how England and the new colonies benefited economically from slave trade and its ability to produce rice and sugar, and how this benefit extended beyond the end of the civil war as industries were built around the ex-slave. He said, “The south loses a great economic asset with slavery coming to an end, but they immediately shift.” Black communities developed in 1885 with churches and schools that eventually led to an increase in black farm ownership. An example of the economic foothold blacks gained was their petition to the US Congress for monies to host the first black exhibit in the 1900 World Fair. Dr. Wright gave other insightful examples of the economic impact of black history in the US.
Dr. Biswas also queried Dr. Wright on the differential opportunities for black women and men that arose in the 20th century. Dr. Wright explained how, “The push initially was to make sure that black men have the same rights or be put on equal status with other men, and this often meant that women were relegated.” Dr. Wright concluded his presentation by talking about the unique opportunities he has received that inspired and motivated him to pursue a quality education and his success as an academic leader. Dr. Wright answered some questions from the audience at the end, including one in which he explained the relationship and impact of black schools. He said, “Black schools instill a certain quality in their students that I think is invaluable for them to take to the larger society.”
Date: January 25, 2021
Topic: Competing on Analytics: A Roadmap to Creating Business Intelligence
Featuring: Dr. Jingran Zhang and Skye Reymond
This webinar focused on ways small businesses can utilize an analytical strategy to gain a competitive advantage. First, the presenters explained what it means to compete on analytics, followed by examples of companies that have utilized their data to gain a competitive advantage in their industries. Businesses who compete on analytics have four things in common: Analytics support a distinctive capability, they implement a large scale strategy that transforms operations, data management is a priority across their entire organization, and they have executive support and commitment to a data driven culture. To assess how your business can begin utilizing analytics, you first must know where you currently stand in your analytical maturity. A framework was presented describing descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics to help companies understand their current analytical capabilities, and how to proceed on the next steps towards optimization. A case study was presented describing a local company that has successfully utilized this framework, Service Pump and Supply.
Date: January 11, 2021
Topic: Will the Economy Recover? Impact on Financial Institutions and Small Businesses
Featuring: Dean Avinandan Mukherjee and Dr. Charles “Skip” Hageboeck
The full event can be viewed on: https://youtu.be/1xyWJD0cVmE
Date: November 16. 2020
Topic: Small Business Planning in Times of Great Uncertainty
Featuring: Shaorong Zhang and Dan McGowan
This presentation started with an overview of the current state of small businesses in United States and West Virginia, and showed how small businesses performed and contributed to the economy in the last two decades. Some opportunities and challenges facing small businesses were discussed. The second half of the presentation featured a success story of how a small credit union in West Virginia has grown over the last 80 years to become a nationally recognized financial institution. It was designated “Credit Union of the Year” in 2012 by National Association of Federal Credit Unions, and twice as one of “America’s Top 50 Credit Unions to Work For”. Data from this credit union displayed how financial consumers were positively affected by government stimulus funds and enhanced unemployment benefits during the pandemic in terms of improving their financial position through debt reduction and maintaining adequate cash liquidity. The presenters also shared how Pioneer has managed to perform well during the COVID-19 crisis (continued profitability and record setting loan production) despite all the challenges facing all small businesses, and provided suggestions as how to be resilient and make prudent decisions during this difficult time.
Date: November 2. 2020
Topic: Managing Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond
Featuring: Kent Willis and Tim Hazelett
This webinar focused on how small businesses can remain competitive even though COPVID-19 has created multiple challenges for business operations. Items discussed included unpreparedness/risk management, flexibility by employer and employee, trust issues, business culture and changes needed, and results driven by outcomes. While these topics are broad in scope, the presentation focused on those specific issues that are pertinent to small business operations. Even though COVID-19 may have created challenges for business operations there are positives of those challenges. Small businesses should emphasize continuing business operations while learning how to adapt and change the business model. The presenters discussed the critical need for communicating business changes to employees.
Date: October 12. 2020
Topic: Maintaining Employee Privacy in the Age of COVID-19
Featuring: Kevin Knotts and Jenna Misiti
This webinar discussed the different privacy laws that are applicable to businesses, with a particular focus on the impact that these laws have with COVID-19 related privacy concerns. It focused on common misconceptions as to what information employers are able to share, how that information is shared, and how human resources can help address those concerns. The specific laws discussed include HIPAA, ADA, FMLA, and GINA. Each law was covered in relation to how it impacts the sharing/storage of COVID-19 data. Employees have a right for their information to be confidentially stored and this webinar discussed how the laws deal with that privacy. The webinar also discussed the role of the human resource department in making sure that employees are following privacy regulations. This included a discussion on trainings that could occur, resources that were available through different organizations, and how businesses were handling information when there is a positive test. This webinar sought to provide participants with general knowledge surrounding privacy information so that they are better informed on what can and cannot be shared.
Date: October 6. 2020
Topic: The New Decade of Marketing: A Discussion on Digital Marketing Strategies
Featuring: Kipp Bodnar, Ben Eng, and Tricia Ball
On Monday, September 28th, the Lewis College of Business and Brad D. Smith Schools of Business in association with the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (iCenter) hosted the seventh virtual webinar of the Herd Insights Small Business Webinar series. The webinar was titled “The New Decade of Marketing” and featured Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot Chief Marketing Officer, and Marshall University Alumnus. The conversation was facilitated by Dr. Ben Eng, Associate Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and Tricia Ball, Executive Director of the iCenter, and Associate Director of the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator and iCenter.
Dr. Eng introduced Kipp Bondar as a graduate of Marshall University majoring in public relations and the CMO of HubSpot, a company known for empowering businesses with inbound marketing technology. Kipp Bodnar reflected on his Marshall University experience and his major learning that having a strong conviction can lead to success. In Bondar’s case, it was the internet and its marketing application. Tricia Ball led the conversation of the New Decade of Marketing where Kipp discussed inbound marketing, effective content creation, and the emerging marketing strategy called product-led growth. Afterward, Kipp answered questions from students, small business owners, and local government officials. When asked about marketing in the state of West Virginia and helping attract and retain young entrepreneurs, Kipp said, “West Virginia is awesome. It has so much to offer the world. It’s got four great quadrants of opportunity—two great universities, a great industrial and manufacturing worker base, supply for businesses, and great tourism. West Virginia has the opportunity to have a really remarkable next 100 years if it chooses to.” The full event can be viewed at https://www.muicenter.com/speakers
Date: September 14. 2020
Topic: Emerging from the Pandemic: A Small Business Health Checkup
Featuring: Monisha Gupta and Jim Sutherland
The sixth webinar was held on September 14, 2020 and was titled “Emerging from the Pandemic: A Small Business Health Checkup.” It was presented by Marketing Faculty member, Dr. Monisha Gupta, who brings with her over 20 years of service industry work experience, and retired DHG audit partner, Mr. Jim Sutherland, CPA, with 40 years of consulting work to businesses of all sizes along with accounting and tax expertise. Their presentation focused on the regular check-ups that small businesses sometimes overlook and how an early diagnosis can help resolve the challenges. The webinar concentrated on three key areas of management: Operations, Marketing, and Finance. Within each area some common mistakes made by small businesses were deliberated and practical actions were suggested.
Common small business problems related to operations that were discussed include managing the crisis in the short term, trying to make every decision alone, and an inability to embrace new technology. Examples were provided and practical solutions were recommended to deal with these issues. In the marketing arena problems include guessing customer wants, discounting marketing efforts, slipping into a passive role of wait and watch, and curtailing growth. The presenters discussed the impact of coronavirus on advertising expenditures, marketing strategy and relevance of the message. Recession marketing and recommendations for surviving these unprecedented market conditions were also emphasized. In the area of finance, some of the challenges include receiving timely and accurate information, and securing capital and arranging for liquidity. The presenters discussed the importance of having a stronghold on these aspects.
Date: August 24, 2020
Topic: The Post-Pandemic Future of Work: Perspectives on the Economy, Businesses & Individuals
Featuring: Brad D. Smith and Avi Mukherjee, PhD
On Monday, August 24, the Lewis College of Business hosted the fifth virtual webinar of the Herd Insights Small Business Webinar series, launched with the goal of helping the local economy and its small businesses as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. The webinar was titled “The Post-Pandemic Future of Work: Perspectives on the Economy, Businesses, and Individuals” and featured Brad D. Smith, Executive Chairman and former President and CEO of Intuit, in conversation with Dr. Avi Mukherjee, Dean of the Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of Business.
Dean Avi first set the stage with some background information on how the pandemic has affected the world as we know it. The economy, businesses, and even ourselves as individuals have been hit hard in ways we could never have imaged. Brad D. Smith and Dean Avi then engaged in a lively and in-depth conversation that discussed the post-pandemic future of work at three levels of aggregation. The discussion first focused on the effect of the pandemic on the economy as a whole, followed by its effect on businesses, and eventually its effect on consumers and individuals. Afterward, Brad answered questions from the audience. Here is an excerpt from Brad D. Smith: “I think your opening part of a question says it all – it is a tale of two cities. Whether it is the impact of the pandemic or the road to recovery, it has been and will continue to be an uneven playing field. We can see the pandemic had a huge impact on different demographic groups, different geographic regions, different types and sizes of businesses and different industries.” The full event can be viewed on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1Ax2o_OCb4&feature=youtu.be
Date: August 10. 2020
Topic: Navigating COVID-19 Workplace Concerns: Keeping Employees Safe & Paid
Presenters: Casey Baker, JD and Tom Norton, JD, CPA
The fourth webinar was held on August 10 and was titled “Navigating COVID-19 Workplace Concerns: Keeping Employees Safe & Paid.” It was presented by Legal Environment faculty member, Casey Baker, JD, who has 12 years of experience practicing law in Ohio and West Virginia. He was accompanied by Tom Norton, JD, a CPA and attorney with a specialization in taxation. They discussed federal responses for businesses including health and safety requirements and the PPP loan program.
The webinar stressed that when considering workplace health and safety measures during the COVID-19 crisis, common sense and flexibility are critical. Employees have a right to a reasonably safe work environment, and recent federal legislation has enhanced employee rights to COVID-related leave. Employers need to be prepared to accommodate employee needs and concerns in a manner that allows the business to remain operational. In addition to safety, small businesses around the United States are struggling to stay financially strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to support businesses suffering from declining revenues and rising expenditures, federal and state governments have responded by providing loans, credits and deferments against taxes, grants, and other financial support. Knowing what is available for your business during these trying times is critical. This presentation discussed what programs are available, how to apply, and what programs provide the best benefit for your organization.
Date: July 27. 2020
Topic: Counterbalances and Counterstrategy: A Pandemic Pathway to Business Strategy Innovation
Presenters: Dr. Alan Letton and Dr. Uyi Lawani
The third webinar was held on July 27 and was titled “Counterbalances and Counterstrategy: A Pandemic Pathway to Business Strategy Innovation.” It was presented by Management faculty member, Dr. Uyi Lawani, who is a researcher and expert in Business Strategy. He was accompanied by Dr. Alan Letton, a professional consultant and partner at the Lewis Institute. Dr. Letton also teaches for the Lewis College of Business. They explained the unique opportunities COVID-19 presents for conducting business strategy.
The presentation stressed the idea that strategy is not just a plan to do something or an arrangement of work/processes. It is a plan founded on and derived from a complete understanding of resource position and the environments both within and outside of the organization. Strategy should lead an organization to sustainable profits. Strategy takes a long-term form and it must be antithetical therefore to think of it as a short-term proposition. Discussion was focused around: (1) Why the pandemic is necessary for reimagining our approach to business strategy, (2) What the pandemic can teach about the current approach to strategy, and (3) If the emergent approach is sustainable and whether it can engender long term benefits to the organization. The second part of the webinar went into depth on provided a summary of the challenges small to mid-size business are facing now and away from the pandemic were reviewed. To stabilize business moving forward, a simple strategy was presented that focuses on “people”, “systems” and “tools.” The discussion focused on the strategies associated with each. A simple road map with examples was reviewed highlighting strategies like; role consolidation, shifting customer focus, redesigning the supply chain, and creating new methods of delivering services or products.
Date: July 13. 2020
Topic: Drive, Engage, and Convert: How to Succeed with Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Presenters: Dr. Tyson Ang and Casey Mosrie
The second webinar was held on July 13 and was titled “Drive, Engage, and Convert: How to Succeed with Your Digital Marketing Strategy.” It was presented by Marketing faculty member, Dr. Tyson Ang, who is a researcher and expert in Digital Marketing. He was accompanied by Casey Mosrie, a recent College of Business graduate in Digital Marketing and Analytics who is now a commercial banking analyst at City National Bank. They explained how companies can utilize their digital presence to seize growth opportunities and boost revenues.
The webinar demonstrated that those businesses that have survived and thrived through the pandemic have viewed marketing as an investment instead of an expense. The presenters highlighted that digital marketing offers advantages over traditional marketing due to its effective reach, accountability, and cost-efficiency, reaffirming that COVID-19 pandemic will only accelerate this process. The presentation outlined digital marketing strategy as a process of understanding and utilizing digital marketing tools to drive traffic to the firm’s website. Business websites must be optimized and designed in such a way to encourages conversion (purchase). Finally, and most importantly, businesses need to analyze the metrics and key performance indicators to observe growth and capture opportunities. There is no better time than today for businesses of different sizes to start formulating and experimenting with their digital marketing strategies.
Date: June 29. 2020
Topic: From Strategic to Dynamic: Scaling New Heights
Presenters: Olen York, JD and Kevin Levine, JD
The initial webinar held on June 29, 2020 was titled “From Strategic to Dynamic: Scaling New Heights” and was presented by Entrepreneurship faculty member Olen York, JD, who is the Co-Director of the iCenter and Kevin Levine, JD, an adjunct faculty member for the college. Both are practicing lawyers in the area of intellectual property and they discussed how to connect purpose, brand identity, and trademark strategies to open new online business channels.
In response to the global outbreak of COVID-19, governments at all levels implemented stay-at-home and social distancing protocols that provoked rapid and disruptive changes for existing, developing, and nascent businesses of all sizes. In particular, the pandemic forced businesses to re-evaluate traditional business models and more broadly embrace e-commerce platforms of various types. The inaugural Herd Insights webinar emphasized a focused-understanding of one’s purpose for conducting business, connecting purpose with an appropriate brand identity, and harnessing that connection for a trademark strategy. Businesses should optimize business and legal concerns, especially issues eccentric to an on-line environment such as URL selection and SEO considerations. The presenters demonstrated how businesses of all sizes and ages can more effectively evaluate and implement strategies that optimize messaging, customer-reach, customer-loyalty, and minimize the noise that often inhibits new customer development. The webinar highlighted the need for focus and understanding of digital brand development, including the front-end concern of identifying and aligning business purpose to customer interest and the back-end concern of deploying an effective and efficient trademark registration strategy.