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tv   Your Business  MSNBC  February 4, 2017 2:30am-3:01am PST

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and add phone and tv for only $34.90 more a month. call today. comcast business. built for business. coming up on msnbc's "your business," the new owner of a legendary new york neon business puts his own colorful imprint on the company. success secrets from casper, making other mattress companies lose sleep. what you need to know about managing your health care costs. information and advice to help you get ahead of your competition coming up next on "your business."
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hi everyone, i'm j.j. ramberg, welcome to "your business." the show dedicated to helping your small business grow. for the show this week, along with learning some business lessons, i also got a lesson in neon. i had no idea, i guess i hadn't thought about it that much before, that it was an industry and an art form that was once on the brink of disappearing. but just as the lights were dimming, along came an eccentric new york artist turned businessman who opened his legendary gallery and sign shop called let there be neon.
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he is the one who made neon popular again. by the time he left his company the bells was in shambles and the new owner had to figure out how to put back the pieces. while his name may not be in lights, this is the man who saved neon. the story starts in new york city in the early 1970s. rude eastern was obsessed with light and the dying art of neon, which was flickering out. >> neon was being replaced by plastic signs, fluorescent steins. it was just the style of the times. and rudy wanted people to see the beauty of neon. he always said, it's like drawing with light, which is exactly what it is. >> rudy was a visionary multi-media and lighting artist. he created work for the doors, timothy leary, and studio 54.
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as others were pulling out of the industry, he founded let there be neon in 1972. it was a neon art gallery with an intoxicating away of rainbow-colored glowing lights beckoning you to walk in the door and explore. the creative concept was a game changer, taking neon from has-been to cool again. >> he began to acquire and bring different people from different walks life together to create a new medium. and so artists, carpenters, philosophers, everybody came together and they started designing neon designs like the 3d chair. >> one of those young artists was jeff friedman. he was impulsively hired on the spot by rudy as part of this creative troupe and quickly learned the ropes. jeff watched the company grow but also watched it come perilously close to ruin. when it came to the art, rudy
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was on firm ground. but when it came to running the business, he was hopeless. >> he was a horrible business person. horrible. spent way more money than he ever had. but he was a brilliant, brilliant visionary. he just wasn't a business person. >> his artistic inclinations made for some very poor business decisions. just like jeff's on the spot hiring, he experience rudy's wrath a few years later with an on the spot firing. >> it's a long story. so i came to work for hit there be neon in 1977. i left for a couple of years. i actually was fired. >> despite the rift the two stayed in touch. jeff started his own successful neon shop, and in 1990, an opportunity came up that he had never expected before. >> and so all the stars align. and we started talking about it. and i don't know what crazy idea got in my head but i said, sure. we merge the. i wasn't going to come in at anything less than an equal
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partner. >> just two days in, jeff had second thoughts. >> rudy was just being really difficult. and it occurred to me, i sa, i made a miake. i just made a mistake. i can't do it, man, i can't do it. i'm going to just go back to what i had. no, no, you've got -- and i said, you've got to make it different because it's been two days and i'm done. you know? he's like, okay, okay. so it wasn't long after that that he was done. >> jeff bought rudy out and took over the business. he soon realized he was left with a huge mess. >> jobs were being done two, three times instead of once the right way. and it was just a bad spiral. and it was really hard to get off the ride. and i just lost the vision. >> how do you get through those couple of years when you were leading the helm and you have no vision? >> you know, part of it is ignorance. because you don't know what else
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to do. your already in the downward spiral. and it's so impossible to get out. so you're either going to just close the door and turn the lights off and hand the keys to somebody else, or you're going to stay there and fight, fight, fight. and that's what we did. >> the turning point came with a simple realization -- being true to rudy's legacy and vision didn't mean he had to run things the way rudy had. >> got to get the right people. it's all chemistry. it's like, do i want to continue with the craft? or do i want to take the next step and increase the talent and increase the capability and do things the right way? the easy way is just to continue with the crap. but i made that decision. >> his decision was to fine-tune the team in place so that they were focused on efficiency and moving the business forward. >> bit by bit, things started to come into focus for me
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personally. things started to align in the business. and i feel like we needed to do that. you know, we needed thithat part of the road. and hit it hard. and bounce back and be able to see things more clearly. >> now jeff arrivals at his shop at 5:30 in the morning, turns on the warm glow of the neon signs in the window, and gets down to the business of the day. he's managed to keep the legacy of rudy's artistic values while making it a profitable business. whether the shop's working on a commercial piece, a movie prop, or a restoration, the company that was once in danger of fading away is stronger than ever. which means those brilliant neon lights will shine on for a long time to come. >> i think that there's a tremendous room for growth for let there be neon. tremendous. because i want it to live on. it wasn't my creation, it was rudy's creation.
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and we've always -- it's always been my philosophy and my intention to just keep his vision going. another colorful company's bucking the digital age by straddling the line between street art and advertising. as nbc's craig melvin tells us, this media business is forgoing technology and going old school. that's helped them reap the benefits for their clients and the for themselves. >> born from the streets. advertising is sky high in cities like new york, los angeles, and atlanta. where brush to building sign painters like liam mcwilliams handicrafting campaigns for companies from coors to coca-cola. is this art? or is this advertising? >> it walks the line of being art and being advertisement.
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it brings them both together. >> mcwilliams is one of 23 wl dogs at colossalmedia, the largest hand painted outdoor advertising company in the world. it's a pretty cool office. >> it's not bad, right? >> in a digital age, these modern-day michelangelos receive upwards of 4,000 requests a year. paul lindall started the company in 2004. >> on average our paintings take about four days to complete. if you add in the preproduction time, it probably is worth another 40 hours of work. right now we're clocking about 450 murals a year. >> it would seem as if this is a product that's taken off in terms of popularity, why is that? >> i think when technology came in and hand painted ads were replaced with vinyl and banners, a lot was lost. when you're out there, you're painting, you're causing people to be curious.
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advertising at the end of the day is all about eyeballs. but the value goes forever. paintings have soul, honesty, they tell the story. >> but it ain't cheap. >> it's not cheap. we're sort of like the exotic car category. when you come to colossal, you want something a little bit nicer than the everyday car. you want some handmade stitching and really nice leather and you want a big motor that goes real fast. >> colossal estimates more than 1 million people per month see the accumulation of all their walls with secondary benefits on social media. and while the cost can be slightly higher than traditional advertising, clients like lifestyle brand vans argue the benefits of handpainted signage are worth of price tag. >> when we think about return on investment, you're going to have a hard time convincing me a piece of paper in a magazine between two stories is going to stick with you long-term. when you see those hand painted walls, it's a bespoke, one-off experience you can only find on
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that one specific street, on that block in that area. it comes across as much more thoughtful. >> is this street art? >> in context it's street art. because when we go out, we put our blood, sweat and tears into every single one of these things that we do. regardless of if it's cold, if it's hot, if it's raing, if it's windy. we're out there with the goal of making another beautiful painting. you can barely walk a foot here in new york city without seeing an ad for the e-commerce mattress company casper. from the perspective of many, this business seemed to come out of nowhere and suddenly be everywhere. the company's disrupting the mattress industry with its one size fits all product. we met the ceo at casper headquarters in new york to find out how casper's gotten everyone from ashton cuff tore jeremy lin sharing photos of their casper mattresses on social media and why he says their work is never done.casper mattresses on socia
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media and why he says their work is never done. ♪ snoes ♪ ♪ ♪ snoes ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> the idea you would walk into a store in your street clothes, lay on a mattress for 10, 15 seconds while a commissioned salesperson is standing over you trying to convince you that you need to spend a lot more money than you have to seemed antithetical to getting a great night of sleep. what we did is cut out all the choices. the choices are there simply to drive you or feel like you need to be driven into a store, design one perfect mattress for everyone, and sell it direct with no gimmicks, no tricks. we took the number one spot for the world's best memory foam mattress according so "consumer reports." it's because we're always taking data from our customers and making sure the products are getting better and better. that's why customers swear by our products, that's why they're telling their friends and family. it's that viral nature of our about esand our brand that will continue to be the secret sauce of casper.
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ashton kutcher is an early investor of casper. in the early days we saw this huge spike in traffic, no one could figure it out. we stumbled upon that ashton posted about us and showed a picture of the casper mattress box being delivered. right there we saw the power of someone like ashton talking about us. it was amazing for business. the celebrity that is use our products and the celebrities that have invested in casper, it's all happened organically. it just helps elevate the awareness of casper. our customers get full attention, immediate responses, no matter where they're talking to us. it is something our competitors got away from. they didn't realize that you could have a long-term relationship with customers and that if you treat them right and do right by them and provide them with great products, they will tell their friends and the family about us and they'll love casper and continue to come back to us. unlike a lot of the other companies in our category, we don't think about developing a product, launching it, then that's it, we're done. and let's sit back and relax.
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we viewed that we needed a great product to launch with, but we could always make it better. we knew as soon as we launched the product we were already working on the next version to improve it. we always wanted to traverse online and offline seamlessly. one way we've done that is with popups. we like the temporary nature of popups. it allows us to learn, it allows us to test different concepts, it allows us to tweak the experience to be ideal for customers. we'll continue to do that to determine and evolve, just like we evolve online experience with a website that's constantly learning and changing. we have to stay maniacally focused on our mission and on building the business that we want to build. and that means not taking on too many things. we have tons of ideas on products that we would love to take the market but we know we can't work on everything. we're very selective on the products we work on. by spend a lot of time developing them. you have to take risks, you have
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to be bold, you have to continue to push yourself to do exciting things. we can't be complacent be we can't be doing something because that's the way we've done it since the beginning. we have to think big. our goal when is you think about how to get a better night of sleep, you immediately think of casper. to have small business growth your job can't end when the customer buys your product. you need to communicate with them effectively so they tell their friends about you. five ways you can improve your online customer relationships. one, stay informed. there are always improvements in customer relations management technology and best practices. follow crm influencers on social media so you're always in the know. two, use emojis on social media. they help humanize your business and make you seem more
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approachable. three, even if your business is primarily brick and mortar, have an online presence. it helps you build brand loyalty and awareness. four, define and create your voice top everyone in the company understands what it is. no matter who on your team is doing the responding, people should feel like they're speaking with your company, not each separate individual. and five, work on your seo. you can't have a relationship with someone who doesn't even know you exist. so make sure your small business is showing up at the top of search results. . we now have the top two tips you need to know to help your small business grow. let's introduce our panel. cindy whitehead is the founder and ceo of the pink creeling that propels female-focused businesses. gene marks is head of the marks group. good to see you both. and gene, you are old hat at this, we've love having you on the show.
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cindy, i'm glad this worked out, i've been trying to get you on the show for a year now. you really know business. your last business turned out to be a billion-dollar company, the female viagra. now you're working with small companies with your pink-ubator as you call it. we're thrilled to hear what you think about a growing a business. >> my top tip is you need to invest in yourself before you ask others to invest in you. i think in the post-"shark tank" world we think that showing up with a good idea is good enough to ask for it. the truth is i need to see that you're investing in yourself to take you seriously. simple things. be incorporated. make sure you've done that work. it's as easy as going on legal zoom. even better, work with a local law firm, you're going to need them as a small business as you grow. second thing, look professional. have a website. have business cards. again, you can do it as easy as square space and moo online. look like you're going to show up for the job. the final piece, this is
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important, already have a plan worked out for how you're going to network or find your mentor. i need to know you're resourceful enough to go to a place where you're going to get constant advice, because as you build it from scratch you're going to need it. >> do you learn something from the way people got to you? >> i do. the pink-ubator is a great test case. it is virtual membership. how did women find their way to me, what are their goals out of it? i see a level of commitment in their -- ultimate commitment to their business success. >> great. gene, you were the person i often turned to when i need a question, have a question, need advice. what's something you want to share with the audience? >> first i want to say i did not build a billion-dollar business but i bought this sports jacket brand-new, it's nice, don't you think? i've been making some decision good decisions. >> it's not over yet. >> we're looking up. we do a lot of technology consulting. i write a lot about technology. when i'm looking at small
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companies, medium-sized companies are, anybody with five or more employees, i'm seeing a lot of people this year and next investing in hr platforms. my advice to anybody who has more than five employees is they should be looking at human resources software in 2017 and 2018. it's a $14 billion market and it's expected to grow at double-digit rates. some of the big names are paychecks, for example, gusto, zenefits, namely, bamboo, a few really great hr platforms out there. they save a lot of time because your employees can do data entry themselves. they help with onboarding and offboarding and managing vacation time. . managing sick pay. reminding you when you do performance evaluations. hr platform, hr software, it's becoming an essential type of platform for businesses as long as you've got more than five people in your company. >> it feels when you are small
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that maybe you don't want to spend the money on it. but when you do the math of how much time you are spending on silly things like recording people's vacation time. that they could be putting in themselves. for most kotds it works out. >> getting reminders of performance reviews is an enormous thing. i thought people would resist putting their personnel or employees information in the cloud with these things. that hasn't been the case, people have been migrating to it. >> great tips. when we come back, we know this is top of mind for many of you. how do you manage your health care costs? and how to get young entrepreneurs who think they're visionaries to come down to earth. . will your business be ready when growth presents itself? american express open cards can help you take on a new job,
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or fill a big order or expand your office and take on whatever comes next. find out how american express cards and services can help prepare you for growth at
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we try to bring both of those pieces to the table. that balance is really what ultimately helps implement those big visions. time to answer one of your business questions. today's question is about health care costs. >> how do we help manage our expenses specifically in the area of health care? >> okay. i'm going to start with you because i know you've written a tremendous amount on this. >> yeah, health care costs is a
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big concern to many small companies. so i've got three bits of advice and i hope i'm not taking away anything cindy will say. but one bit of advice, i see a lot of clients looking into something called level funded plans. they are basically a plan that combines group insurance with self-insurance. go to the self-insurance institute of america's website, you can find more about level funded plans. number two, a lot of companies are starting up health savings accounts. if you combine them with your plan, you can put money away pretax for your employees. they have been immensely popular. and finally, back in december of 2016, the congress passed a bill that now allows for health care reimbursement accounts. they're now legal. you don't get penalized if you set those up. so if you decide not to cover health insurance but your people want to get health care insurance on their own, you can now set up hras, health care reimbursement accounts, so that
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it will reimburse them on a pretax basis. so look into those three options. >> and so i will ask as i'm listening to all these three options and as one who has figured out health care for a company, it is complicated. and i'm sure people are listening to you saying that is all complicated. >> and you can talk to other small businesses in your community and find who they use as a broker. is this a real pain point. if you look at the dollar amounts, you spend about $6,000 for an employ he e, but $18,000 if you can covering a family. the dialogue has to be real with the proceemployees. at least start putting away money that they can use, have a conversation with a local broker, figure out two different plan options, figure out how much you cover.
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maybe you start with employees, maybe you evolve over time. but again, a pleflexible saving account is a minimum. >> and how do you think about the rising costs and who knows what the cost of health care will be going forward. how do you deal with those fluctuations when you start giving something to employees and it is expensive, and then you don't know what that cost is going to be next year. how do you deal with take? >> you bet on it going up. i think as you start to think of what can i afford and over time it will go up, if you look at the exchange, i think that i saw data that it's up 25% in 2017 all right. so people's premiums even if they're going up, they're paying for it on their own have gone up substantially. again, if you think it's better to set aside a certain dollar amount that is manageable costs, a flexible savings account is a way to manage that. >> and if i can add on, cindy's advice is great. yeah, about a 25% increase.
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2017, very uncertain after 2017. my advice also, you should invest a little bit in educating your employees. like you said it's very complicated, costs will definitely continue to go up. the more that you can teach your employees about the type of choices that they have, the better choices that they will make for both themselves and i'm sure for your company. so bring in a benefits consultant, do some training, a few seminars. get them as smart as possible about what is going on in the world of health care and it will benefit you and them together. >> i think that is great idea especially i talked to someone who pays 100% of their employees health care whicis incdibly generous, but what happens there when that expense goes up, the employees don't see it. so they don't realize that there is in essence their salary just went up significantly. >> no question. >> thanks both of you so much. this week's your biz selfie comes from jenelle who owns global strategies llc.
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a highly respected woman opened business, they offer budgeting and financial services to small, medium and large companies. it looks like she could have a career doing vanna white style presenting, as well. thank you for sending in the picture. for all of you out there, take a selfie of you and your business an send it to us at your biz business at if you're savvy, a couple of apps can help you knock off a whole slew of items. that's why we turned to our viewers to find out which ones they have book marked and downloaded. >> so an app i use on a daily basis in my business is to do. it's basically a to do list app but i can prioritize things. it allows me he to organize my
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life and business and keep everything inside of one app. you can share it with the team so we're all able to understand what everybody is focused on with a quick screen shot offing be able to see what everybody is doing. >> if an instant messaging service had a child with a message board, slack is what you would get. so we use that to communication with our teams nationwide and we're able to have sub categories for each dealership where we can communicate no matter where we are in the world, we can post information on there, pin some documents if there is something important to go back to. and it's made it a one stop shop for communication whe. >> one app i use regularly is a daily newsletter called the skimm. it provides a snapshot of information. it allows me to have conversations with kribclients. if i missed the game last night or what is trending from new york fashion week, i can get it
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in one quick snapshot. thank you so much for joining us today. we love hearing from you. so please e-mail us at with any questions or comments that you have. also head over to our website, it's we put all of the segments thfr today up there and a whole lot mo more. and connect with us on our platforms, as well. we look forward to seeing you next time. remember, we make your business our business. will your business be ready when growth presents itself? american express open cards can help you take on a new job, or fill a big order
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or expand your office and take on whatever comes next. find out how american express cards and services can help prepare you for growth at what's going to happen this weekend? two weekends ago this was washington, d.c., right? one of the biggest protests in d.c. history combined with the other simultaneous protests and all 50 states that same day. it may have been the single largest day of protest in american history. so that was two weekends ago. then last weekend it was this. and at least the white house had notice there was going to be a protest the day after the inauguration but when this happened the following weekend as well you could tell they were taken aback. that outpouring of dissent, that was a response to the refugee muslim ban the p


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