Thursday, December 24, 2015

Giving Back: How Team BBB Makes a Difference

This time of year, it feels extra special to give more and take less! The holidays just have that effect on us. Some individuals also take the initiative to give back year round. Meet just a handful of BBB team members whose generosity is more than worthy of a “thank you!" In making the gift of kindness sound easy, they inspire us to do some good everyday.

BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a signature children’s literacy program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation designed to provide an opportunity for performers, gifted in the art of storytelling, to help develop a love of reading in children and give back to their local communities.

With teachers for parents, Amy has always loved school. In addition to her upbringing surrounded by educators, she has held roles in the field of education and performing arts including an elementary school, library. theatre camps and talent agencies. “Being able to give back to underprivileged children is a gift to me, just as much as it is for them.” Her favorite part of working with BookPALS is being in the classroom reading to the children -- seeing their faces light up when you walk in the room.

Make-A-Wish-Foundation’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

Amy’s passion for the performing arts includes time spent with The Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, FL. It was during her time spent as a Disney employee that her heart was truly warmed by Make-A-Wish’s efforts.  As a performer she was able to see first hand the absolute magic that this experience creates for families. “To see the faces of not only the wish children light up, but their families as well, is something I will never forget. Being able to shine a bit of hope and help them enjoy happiness and respite from their daily medical routines, drives me to want to involve myself even more.” When Amy moved back to Massachusetts from Florida, she felt this organization was a great way to stay involved and spread a little ‘pixie dust ‘ outside of Disney!

Random Acts of Kindness In addition to regular volunteering with the above mentioned organizations, Amy used a recent vacation to demonstrate 30 Random Acts of Kindness. In celebration of her own 30th birthday, she made others feel special. On the trip to Disney World, she handed out stickers and jellybeans to children waiting in line, lollipops to toll booth attendants, and notebooks to "princesses" hoping for magical autographs from their favorites. Though some of Amy's 30 gestures remained anonymous, most of her efforts involved face-to-face interaction with both guests and park employees. All together it was a simple way to give a little and have it mean a lot.

Bellingham High School Soccer Boosters is a parent-run, nonprofit group that provides support for the boys soccer program.

Joan has volunteered and served as Treasurer of the boosters for the past 5 years. She was motivated to get involved with the group in order to help make soccer a fun experience for her boys.  Joan’s favorite part of volunteering for the organization is "being able to provide the players with things that are outside the school's budget like warm-up jackets and hats, team bonding events, additional equipment, a banquet and awards."

Polar Plunge is the best day at the beach all year — and it’s in the middle of winter! Every year Special Olympics Massachusetts’ brrrravest supporters are “Freezin’ for a Reason” when they plunge into icy Atlantic waters. Plungers and Chickens (fundraisers who don’t take the plunge) compete for bragging rights in various team and individual fundraising categories, and are then treated to a big party on the beach with music, food, costume contests and more!

This year is Zinda’s third year doing the Polar Plunge for The Massachusetts Special Olympics, a cause for which she feels fortunate to be part of. Zinda is one of several BBB employees who “take the plunge” at one of 5 beaches in Massachusetts. Through the generosity of its participants and donors, Special Olympic athletes are not asked to pay for programs.

Keefe Tech Boosters is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers serving the communities of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton and Natick, MA. The boosters raise funds for scholarships for students of Keefe Regional Technical School. The group's Indoor Snack Shack is open after school as well as during evening school classes and special events.

This is also Zinda’s third year with the boosters. During the football season, she is part of a team who run the Outdoor Snack Shack during the games. Though Zinda doesn’t have any children, her nephew attends Keefe Tech and she is a proud Alumni. Last year they raised an impressive $18,000 for scholarships, helped sports teams with their banquet and sweatshirts, bought a prom dress for a student who couldn't afford it, donated to 4 homeless students’ families and gave a gift to the teacher of the year. Zinda finds great reward in giving back to the students, “I am really glad I can help these kids out and I have seen how wonderful they are. They are respectful, caring and always take care of each other.”

Love of the Game runs sports programs that benefit individuals with disabilities. Their mission is to emulate the joys of being a collegiate athlete for those who wouldn't normally get that opportunity. With an emphasis on school spirit, the group provides an outlet for guests to connect, learn, and grow through on-campus sports clinics that are coached by student varsity and club athletes. Clinics are open to individuals with developmental disabilities ages 8+ and are held at the community recreation center on campus at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with tentative spring and summer events planned for Volleyball, Floor Hockey, Soccer and Baseball.

As a student at UMass Lowell, Dan entered an idea into the DifferenceMaker program. Half ‘Idea Hatcher’ and half ‘Shark Tank’, he formed a team around his concept and led it through the competition to win a few thousand dollars in funding. As founder of the program, Dan is involved in the entire process from setting up events to working directly with guests of the program.

Love of the Game’s first clinic took place in October 2015 featuring the Men's Riverhawk Varsity Basketball team who taught guests the game of basketball and made them feel included throughout the event. Dan’s inspiration for his program is his experience with Track & Field. After running at the high school level and currently a Division 1 runner for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dan felt athletics provided him with many benefits including mental, physical and emotional toughness, confidence, leadership and time management skills. “I decided that I owed it to life to pay these benefits forward and if I can do it in a very scalable way, all the better!” All eight of Dan’s LOTG teammates are not only athletes but most of them currently play or have played sports at the Division 1 level at their university and are now paying the benefits of sports forward. “Everyone involved in my program from the volunteers, to my co-workers, to the guests are very excited to be there. I get to work very enthusiastic people.”

In addition to running Love of the Game, Dan volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell in their athletics program.

Are you or your business considering involvement with a charity? Always do your research before you contribute your time or money to a cause. Visit for a nationwide list of charities and their reviews. BBB Wise Giving Alliance uses 20 standards to evaluate philanthropic organizations including finances and complaints. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Apps that Deliver: 5 Marketing Professionals Share their Favorites

We’re all striving for that work/life balance. The struggle is real for most of us. We admit it. It can be tough to turn off work. We want to be the best we can be and find it hard to relax until we’ve tackled the total to-do list. If professionals can rely on something (or things) to help us simplify a busy lifestyle -- there’s a good chance it will be technology-based.

Whether it’s staying organized while offsite and on the go, or injecting personality into work from the palm of your hand -- being a modern day professional means getting on-board and online with apps for your smart device to remain pleased with your productivity. Everyone deserves time for family, friends and that pilates or crossfit class.

Members of our Communications and Marketing team weigh in on their favorite apps and why they consistently deliver.

Amy Schram, Senior Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Google Calendar: time and event management
Why: It is literally my whole life. I have anywhere from 10 - 15 places each day that I need to be, often in different cities in different states. I am able to not only save and reference the address of each location but contact names, phone numbers, links to relevant websites and details on each event as well. I could not do my job without it!

Jaime Slatt, Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Waze: real-time map with re-routing functionality
Why: I actually do not know what I would do without it, especially as someone who is on the road on a daily basis visiting with businesses in BBB’s service area. Not only does it alert me to delays on my route, it updates me with opportunities to avoid the issues that crop up between me and my destination. It is the best traffic app out there, in my opinion.

Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing

Fave: Google Drive: file storage accessible from any of your devices
Why: It allows me to work on the go. I can edit, share and review files with the team. Drive is very user friendly from a handheld device and documents can be worked on simultaneously with a colleague. In addition, edits are made quickly and automatically.

Rachel Gelb, Communications and Marketing Manager

Fave: Giffage: gifs literally at your fingertips
Why: The app allows you to send gifs right in a text message, using your own keyboard to search for them. You can see trending gifs and save your favorites. You can even make your own gifs and save them for later. It makes finding and using gifs effortless. In an increasingly gif-centric world, it’s a marketer’s dream.

Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate

Fave(s): Twitter and Pic Stitch: an online timeline and one-stop shop for photo editing
Why: If you can’t find me, check Twitter. It’s where I go for real-time news, how I stay up to speed on what other BBB’s are saying or doing and one of the main platforms for communication with BBB Accredited Businesses online. Pic Stitch and Twitter go hand-in-hand for my social media efforts. Since tweets including media are proven to perform better than those without, many of our BBB tweets will contain an image. In addition, our Instagram account is a mainstay for featuring snapshots from our Community Outreach team’s travels. Pic Stitch allows me to edit, embellish and create images for both social media accounts -- all in one app.

Do you have a favorite app? Do you use it for personal or professional reasons -- or maybe it’s one that allows you to balance the two? Let us know. Tweet us at @BostonBBB with the app and your “why” and we’ll retweet you! #FaveApp

For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Linkedin.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

15 Ways for your Small Business to Save

Penny pinching for your business? It can be painful. Instead of getting frustrated, why not get frugal? Start by balancing your budget, separating your personal banking and business expense accounts and cleaning up your debt. There are many techniques for saving your business’s bottom line. Here are 15 ways you can implement simple changes and save.

Network (It)
  • Attend free and/or affordable workshops and events run by organizations like General Assembly to network with other small businesses and/or participate in ongoing education.
  • Host and/or co-host events with like-minded partners to deflect cost and get double the exposure for your brand and/or initiative.
  • Connect with your alma mater(s). Attend networking events that are often free for alumni. Offer to speak in front of alums and/or soon-to-be graduates on a topic in an area of your expertise.
  • Join or register your business with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, applicable trade associations and Better Business Bureau.

Reward Yourself
  • When applying for credit or gas cards, cash back or point-collecting programs will prove thrifty. Take annual fees into consideration but more often than not, these cards act like a VIP pass. Same holds true for hotel and airline loyalty programs. These accounts will not only present amenities but enable you to track spending activity and evaluate where your business spends the most.
  • Join a wholesale shopping club like Costco or BJ’s. Necessities like paper supplies and printer cartridges can be more affordable when purchased in bulk. If you do buy a membership, always request a business account. Remember, keep it separate from your personal one so you can track spending and how long supplies last in the office.

Staff and Space
  • Growing and established businesses alike struggle with the hiring process. Save money, management sweat equity and time by employing a temp agency or hiring independent contractors.
  • Take advantage of universities in your surrounding community. College and Graduate students are often eager to apply their newly-acquired skills with businesses who support their education endeavors and offer opportunities in their area of study.
  • Embrace the telecommuter. Avoid office space headaches, like shifting of employees desks and/or the need to expand physical space all together by allowing staff to go "virtual."
  • For younger small businesses and/or businesses without a physical office space, consider utilizing community workspaces like WeWork and WorkBar. A business can rent coworking space by the day and/or maintain a dedicated space as well as access conference rooms.
  • On the road 24/7? Plan out your trip for the most direct route AND one based on where you can find free wifi. Cafes, sandwich shops, etc. are pretty commonplace for offering wifi to its customers free of charge.

Tackle Tech
  • Could your business benefit from streamlining your technology needs? Like small businesses, Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT (BBB) is consistently faced with finding ways to be financially efficient. In 2014, BBB merged hardware and software applications onto one platform. This decision to streamline with Google proved to be a profitable venture. Converting the staff to universal devices eliminated the need for full-time IT support and improved confidence regarding security. BBB's technology guru, Lisa Ventura, said:

Not only are we greatly reducing IT issues, we have saved roughly $900 per seat by purchasing Chromeboxes versus computers with added software. With a staff of approximately 50 people, that savings really adds up.

  • Be willing to invest your time in free online tools as part of your business plan. The art of engaging with your customers and customers-to-be online - if executed well - can be very rewarding for lead generation, customer retention, and more. Keep in mind, online tools don’t run themselves. Carving out time to participate in forums on topics you can add value to as well as having an active presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, not only increase your Internet footprint but won’t cost much (if anything) to incorporate into your marketing efforts. Sound like a lot? Find out and evaluate how and where your customers interact and spend your online-time accordingly.
  • YouTube can be a gateway to new customers as well as an effective branding tool. Content and quality are key there (as is keeping most videos under 90 seconds). Everyday devices like an iPhone can be used as a legitimate recording tool. A focused YouTube account allows you to effortlessly cross-promote video content via your website and/or social media accounts and can serve as a 'priceless' component of your marketing budget. Cue the Mastercard commercials.
  • Make a habit of periodically circling back to service providers like Internet, cable and cell phone. There are often promotions available at the start of a new quarter or a credit you might qualify for, especially if you are a loyal client.

Let the saving begin!

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to Make Business Travel Less Turbulent

Despite much of today’s marketplace being well-suited for virtual management, in-person meetings and off site events continue to be a component of maintaining and growing your business. Out of town team gatherings as well as conferences or conventions are an opportunity for both personnel and brand strengthening. Before you check your bags, here are some items to check off the “travel to-do” list plus ideas for making your business travel less turbulent. 


Plan ahead. Research hotels in your destination city before committing to a stay for your business. Utilize online reviews to get a grasp on their reliability and learn past experiences of other guests who have stayed. Plus, plans can change. It’s always wise to understand a hotel or resort’s policies regarding length-of-stay -- make sure to ask questions on topics like cancellation and penalty fees before you book. Using a travel agent? Agencies can be helpful for package deals and learning about hidden gems but it’s crucial to do your due diligence before hiring an agency to avoid scams and misleading fine print. 

Ask away. Your lodging is in the business of hospitality, afterall. When you book your reservation, make requests that might make your stay more enjoyable. Traveling for work -- especially if across different time zones or jam-packed with obligations -- can be exhausting. Inquire about early and/or late check-in and if your routine includes regular exercise, ask for details on the gym. Does your room have a kitchenette? That’s a score, if so. On a recent trip, mine did and I brought along the ingredients to make my daily smoothie. It allowed me to maintain my morning routine despite not being in my own kitchen. 

It’s all in the details (make sure you know them). Are there multiple team members in the mix? Confirm who will be attending which session/dinner/client meeting, etc ahead of time. It also can’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the layout of the event space and/or area you’ll be staying in. If traveling alone, you could reach out to clients or colleagues in the area for tips and suggestions for staying there. Oh, and cell phone numbers -- you’d be surprised how many employees don’t communicate outside of work. Get co-workers' digits before you hit the road so you can keep in touch if edits and or issues arise.

Pack it up, pack it in. Do you literally sit on your suitcase before dragging it down two flights of stairs? Are you pulling things out of your bag at airport check-in because it’s overweight? Avoid the hassle and pack smart. Try not to (I admittedly find it hard to resist) bring too many options. It’s helpful to bring an extra outfit or two in case plans change but bringing three dresses or shirt/tie combos to choose between for that client dinner will only add to frustration courtesy of extra decision making. The time you spend deciding on what to wear subtracts time from something else you could be doing (i.e. networking, sightseeing or taking a nap). Try on and coordinate clothes before you include them in your “necessities” for the trip. With versatility in mind, take into consideration your color palette. Neutrals are your best travel friend! For example, bringing mostly black pieces of your wardrobe could allow you to get away with one pair of business-ready shoes and leaves room for a more casual or cocktail appropriate pair. Think about wearing the heaviest pair of shoes on the plane to save pounds on the luggage scale.

Communicate. Regardless of the role you play for your business, you’re important. An out-of-office signature on your email is the best way to spread the word with external contacts and a direct email and/or in-person conversation is probably best for communicating travel plans with your colleagues.


Organize from the start. Allow yourself time at the train station/airport to get organized. Separate out items you’d like to work on while in transit. This will alleviate the need to repeatedly access the overhead bin. 

Sounds good. You fully-charged your devices before you left home so you can use them during travel, right? Don’t forget your headphones so you can work without the background noise and/or listen to music to politely drown out that Chatty Cathy sitting behind you. Looking to catch-up on sleep? I never (ever) leave home without ear plugs.

More than you paid for. Upon check-in at your destination, why not ask if there are any free upgrades available? All they can say is “no” and if you belong to their rewards program, you’re considered a preferred customer. IF you don’t already belong to their program, ask to join with the caveat that you’d like a perk during your stay. A suite sounds nice. Or maybe it’s a noontime check out in advance of a late departing flight. 

Sleep soundly. You are where you are for a reason. You won’t be the same or nearly as productive without good sleep. What works when you’re at home? I sleep with a sound machine. When I travel, I use a free smartphone app that replicates it. It kind of feels like home and helps filter out other hotel noises in the night (also, see ear plugs above).


Pay it forward. Once back in the office, submit an online review for each of the businesses you interacted with. The hotel, convention center and restaurants you enjoyed during your trip will appreciate the feedback on their performance. These reviews allow other travelers to learn from your experience in preparation for their own. You benefited from someone’s feedback and they’ll benefit from yours. In addition, it gives the business you review a leg up on their competition and a stronger presence online. Via InsightSquared:

88% of consumers are influenced by online customer service reviews when making buying decisions and 58% are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago.

Reach out. Solidify connections you made via timely follow-up. Suggest that you find one another on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Remember, networking doesn’t end with an in-person meeting. Provide new contacts pertinent info from conversations you engaged in or topics you enjoyed at a joint-attended event. Keep the lines of communication open after the trip to avoid being out of sight and out of mind. 

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.