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Three Ways to Turn Around Bad Publicity

EO Member Thanos Polizos tackles the topic of bad publicity in an article in Inside Business, January 2015.

As the owner of ODUrent, a provider of off-campus housing to several hundred students at Old Dominion University, we have long dealt with negative press about crime surrounding the campus.

Even though the stories in the papers were not directly aimed at us, our customers and their parents were always very concerned.

Negative publicity is a reality that many businesses will face, and combatting it should be a part of every business owner’s strategic plan.

I’m not talking about the dissatisfied customer who wants a refund or the high-traffic negative blogger who has an opinion to share. I’m talking about true disasters – defective products or personal injury – that can change the public’s perception of your business.

Fifteen years ago, we took a huge risk investing in aging and rundown neighborhoods. Zoning issues, neglectful neighbors, over-grown foliage, along with crime, were some of the challenges we had to overcome. We have learned firsthand what to do in the face of seemingly endless bad news.

1. The best time to plan for a crisis is before it happens. Have your management team dream up worst–case scenarios and create operating procedures to handle each one of them. Don’t forget Murphy’s Law! If it can happen, it probably will. Set up alerts online on multiple search and media channels with your company name to monitor comments. Know ahead of time who will be your company’s spokesperson. Consider using a PR firm and have a plan on using social media to rebuild trust.

2. Don’t be impulsive. Take a deep breath and think through the scenario. Is it that detrimental? Do you need to get involved? Is this media widely read? Silence is OK. Sometimes the bad press makes it sound worse than it is. Then, decide if and how to communicate and if this is worth a public response. Be honest and transparent with your customers and the community and let them know you care and that they are your team’s first priority. If you are at fault, it is best to be honest. Do not sugarcoat or deny the claims. The public will see right through this.

3. Look at it as an opportunity to solve a problem. One of the best ways to handle bad publicity is to treat it in a solution–driven and optimistic manner. I don’t mean to challenge the media or other organizations involved, but to quietly offer a solution and to use this to differentiate yourself from the competition. By offering a solution and accepting the challenge, your business will come out ahead in the long run.

Long-term success creates amnesia. Many comeback stories involve long-term vision.

AT ODUrent, we took a long-term approach. We alleviated our tenants’ fears by adding safety features such as automatic nightlights, unique automatic door lock systems, door latch guards, window bars, peepholes and motion alarm systems.

When high-profile crimes came up in the news, we reminded all of our tenants about the pre-emptive security features we installed and how to use them. We also hired two private security firms to patrol the campus perimeter every weekend and over holiday breaks.

We are proud to say despite early challenges, we have made progress by renovating city blocks one at a time, while our numerous crime prevention features on our properties allow us to enjoy almost no crime.

We raise our standards every year to improve the neighborhood and become great stewards of the community, the neighborhood civic leagues and Old Dominion University.

We hope that our actions benefit several hundred households in the Lamberts Point and Highland Park areas, and also the several thousand students who call this area home.


Thanos Polizos is the co-founder of ODUrent.com, an investment and redevelopment company that manages off-campus housing at ODU. He is the outgoing president of Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Southeast Virginia, a global network exclusively for entrepreneurs. EO helps entrepreneurs learn and grow through peer-to-peer learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and connections to experts.

New Ravenna in National Campaign

KUDOS TO EO MEMBER SARA BALDWIN!

New Ravenna Mosaics, based on the Eastern Shore, has been chosen to represent the state of Virginia in Ford and AOL’s initiative, “This Built America.” The whole campaign highlights select American manufacturing firms

New Ravenna Mosaics are available exclusively through more than 200 independent showroom partners across North America, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates. The company headquarters is in Exmore.

Build Your Business Through Relationships

EO member Marion Long discusses building a business through relationships in Inside Business December 2014.

You’re in business for yourself, building your company from the ground up. There is quite a bit of excitement.

You feel as if your energy is a renewable resource. It doesn’t feel like work. That’s in the early stages of business growth. That’s when you, the owner/entrepreneur, are wearing multiple hats. You are the IT professional, the billing specialist, the director of marketing and the list goes on.

Your first customers benefit from this high level of energy and excitement. Oftentimes, new businesses get the first customers quickly. Their commendable work leads to word-of-mouth referrals and the development of new customers. More times than not, businesses retain those initial customers long into the life of their business.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.

EO Bill Headed to the General Assembly

Virginia Delegate Glenn R. Davis calls it the “EO Bill.”

This week, the former president of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Southeast Virginia introduced the EO Bill to the Virginia General Assembly.
What does the “EO Bill” do?

Davis says House Bill 1278 is a win-win for employers and for employees.

He says the idea for the bill formed during conversations with other EO members at an EO-sponsored legislative event.  They are all business owners in the Hampton Roads area who came up with a solution to a problem regarding business hiring and unemployment costs.
House Bill 1278 increases the time an employer has to vet an employee from 30 to 60 days before unemployment compensation becomes the responsibility of that new employer.
Essentially, it gives employers 30 more days to evaluate a new employee, Davis said.
The process is just beginning.  It first must go through the committee process.
But if it passes, Davis said, “EO can take credit for the concept, having the bill introduced inthe General Assembly, and making changes to the law.”
For more information, you can reach out to Delegate Davis at (757) 802-4982.
For details on HB 1278, click here: