“With millennials, one of thethings that we've learned — one of the most important things — isflexibility,” Susan Combs told a room of business-minded brokers atthis year's BenefitsPRO Broker Expo. (Photo: CharlesGarnar/ALM)

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The most successful businesses are the ones that are able toreact and adapt to changing tides. Today, thereare countless ways to boost profitability, increase brand awarenessand lock in lifelong customers. While no two businesses are alike,there are general rules of thumb that can be applied across theboard. Susan L. Combs, CEO of Combs & Company offered someadvice and strategies to help kick any business up a notch.

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One strategy is for businesses to adapt their environment to themillennial workforce. As numerous industriessee a flurry of baby boomers and Generation Xers getting ready toretire in the coming years, millennials will be sought after tofill those positions. But to attract and retain millennials,businesses need to understand what they're looking for.

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“With millennials, one of the things that we've learned — one ofthe most important things — is flexibility,” said Combs. With acellphone and a computer, some employees can do just abouteverything remotely that they could do if they were in the office.Businesses looking to shift away from a traditional office settingshould consider this as long as the work is getting done. In NewYork City, where Combs's brokerage is based, no one really works onFridays in the summer. As a result, Combs closes the brokerage at 1p.m. on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with everyone alsoworking from home on Fridays. “What that's helped me build is avery, very loyal workforce,” Combs said.

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Millennials also closely examine a company's socialresponsibility. Being involved with charities and volunteer effortsis pivotal for many millennials. They also may be willing to foregoa higher salary in exchange for professional development, sobusinesses should send them to conferences and workshops where theycan bolster their skills and network with like-minded peers. All ofthis coalesces with their desire to be a part of a team, to workwith—not for—their coworkers, their boss or acertain business.

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Combs also emphasized getting paid for your time. “The importantthing is figuring out what your worth is,” Combs said. Once this isestablished, business leaders will have an easier time determiningwhat is worth the work and what is worth walking away from.Initially, every opportunity may seem crucial to the success of abusiness, but this won't be the case as the years go on. There willbe other opportunities, like agreeing to speaking arrangements, orjoining an advisory board or board of directors.

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Today, no business is complete without a social media presence — and there are plenty toutilize aside from the more common platforms like Facebook, Twitterand Instagram. Some of Combs's favorites are HARO, Felt, Hootsuiteand PicMonkey. When using social media, Combs suggests employing aone-third concept: “A third where you're educating people; a thirdwhere you're recognizing someone else; and a third where you'resharing something personal about yourself.” But most importantly,Combs said social media should be fun.

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Teams are crucial to the success of any business, and there aremultiple teams involved in the process. “I have three teams that Ilook at any given time,” said Combs. Her work team handles calendarmanagement, forecasting the week ahead every Friday and workingtowards an empty inbox at all times. Another team helps withpersonal growth, whether it's checking the tone of an email with afresh set of eyes or engaging in professional development. Her hometeam includes her husband; they share calendars so they know who isbusy when, which she said has helped manage the expectations athome.

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To avoid stagnation, every business needs to consider what itcan do to reach the next level. Whether it's becoming moreflexible, assessing your value more accurately, taking advantage ofsocial media or executing successful team strategies, everybusiness has the means to take it up a notch.

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Denny Jacob

Denny Jacob is an associate editor for NU PropertyCasualty360. Contact him at [email protected].