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Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year

Gil’s Appliances: A Family Tradition of Trust and Integrity

Sisters, Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella quite literally grew up in the business started by their parents, Gil and Sarah Almeida, in 1961. The Almeida family lived in an apartment upstairs from their original store on Wood Street in Bristol. Gil’s began as an old-fashioned, family-run record store before shifting focus from music to televisions and appliances. In 1976, Gil and Sarah moved the business to its current, larger location on Metacom Avenue, and in 1995, Lisa and Gail took over the business from their parents and began focusing solely on appliances. Since that time the sisters have been dedicated to continuing the tradition of trust, integrity, value, and exceptional customer service that their parents
began over 55 years ago.


In 2016, Gil’s opened a second retail showroom on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, RI, to
better serve the Aquidneck Island and South County communities. In 2017, the sisters completed a renovation and expansion of their Bristol location, nearly doubling their showroom space while adding working kitchens for cooking demonstrations and special events highlighting local chefs and artisans.

The sisters continue to move the business forward in ways that allow them to thrive in an ever-changing economy and meet the needs of new generations of customers. Gil’s customers enjoy the personalized service of a family business without paying more for the benefit. This is possible thanks to their partnership with a large east coast appliance buying group which gives Gil’s more purchasing power and an even greater selection than big-box stores.

Lisa and Gail have also ensured Gil’s web presence flourishes by completing a website redesign and expanding their overall online and social media presence. By continuing to invest in digital marketing content and advertising campaigns on multiple platforms, Gil’s has seen a rise in brand awareness and support. As a result of their efforts, Gil’s experienced impressive sales growth in 2017 and was able to add new employees to their staff.

In addition to focusing on the economic success of their business, Lisa and Gail strive to be the same reassuring and supportive presence in their community that their parents were by supporting local groups through sponsorships, donations, and volunteerism. Gil’s sponsors several local Little League baseball teams, community festivals, and food and toy drives. They are proud to sponsor such community events as the iconic Bristol Fourth of July Concert Series, as well as the Last Night Concert in Bristol featuring the RI Philharmonic over Labor Day weekend. The highest honor in Bristol was recently bestowed on Lisa and Gail when they were named Chief Marshals of the 2017 232nd Bristol Fourth of July Celebration for their ongoing commitment to family and community values and local commerce. The highlight of their philanthropic work is their partnership with RI Child & Family, in which Gil’s hosts an annual Holiday Toy Drive to benefit Child & Family’s Adopt-a- Family program.

For their demonstrated longevity, success, and community outreach, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella, Owners of Gil’s Appliances, as the 2018 Rhode Island Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year.

4 Uses of Technology That Drive Company Success

By Bryan B Mason
The Apollo Consulting Group LLC


Small companies typically look at technology as a necessary but unwanted expense. Often, systems were acquired one at a time to fulfill a need or solve a problem and don’t talk to each other. The objective has been to minimize costs rather than drive sales or provide information for decision making.

I suggest the following uses of technology that I believe are critical to company success:

Drive Sales – You want to use technology to provide the right information at the right time to prospective customers and be able to identify which potential customers need your time depending on where they are in the Customer Journey (see last’s months article on this topic).

Deliver Best in Class Service – In this day in age, you need great customer service if you want to have lots of repeat business and just as importantly – great customer reviews and recommendations. So you need technology to be able to provide a 360 degree view of the customer – purchase history, contact history, open issues for resolution, next steps, etc.

Enable Operational Efficiency – You want to minimize duplicate data entry (e.g. having to enter customer name and address in more than one system). You want to have your technology support optimized work flows. You need consistent information between systems so everyone knows what needs to be done. You want information to be the same between your operational systems (items and inventory) and your online retail store.

Support Management Decision Making – You need information on what is going on so you can spot trends. You need easy access to what is selling and not selling. You need to know which sales people are performing and which are not. Most importantly, you need to track the key metrics that drive your company’s success (understanding that these are different for each company).

So you ask yourself, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be with technology? The answer, of course, is that you need to develop and execute a technology plan. A technology plan identifies the target end state and lays out the steps to get there. Having one minimizes the transition costs as work proceeds in a logical and deliberate process. It also minimizes
misdirection as the end state is already defined.

Some of the key components of a successfully technology plan include:
 A map of data flows throughout the company
 An evaluation of current systems
 An identification of gaps in functionality and inefficiencies
 The identification of potential solutions
 A target technology end state
 The sequence of steps and costs to transition from the current state to the future state

If you don’t think you can do this on your own, get some help. After all, it is critical to your company’s success.




Mr. Mason founded the Apollo Consulting Group in 2008 to help small and mid-sized companies
in solving their challenges. Mr. Mason brings over thirty years of corporate, consulting and
entrepreneurial experience in a variety of industries. He possesses skills in general business
management, analysis, strategy development, marketing, finance/budgeting, operations, pricing
optimization, workflow optimization, process reengineering, project management, and
information technology. Mr. Mason has two degrees in Economics and was a Volunteer Mentor
for the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RI-CIE). He writes a weekly
blog on his company website at

Spring Into Action with Your Business Growth Strategy

By Tuni Schartner

Um…where did Q1 go? (*Thinking image that goes with this aside from main

Seriously, I don’t know about all of you but with my own business and the majority of my clients’ and colleagues’ businesses, this last three months has gone by in a FLASH! Hopefully you all jumped into this New Year prepared — with your long-term growth goals firmly in place, but chances are you might not have? Either way, Spring is here and it is a great time to review your business’s performance in this first quarter of the year then take some time to plan out your growth goals for the rest of 2018 and set short term objectives that will start to move you in that direction. I call myself a ‘professional spaghetti thrower’ because I’m constantly quantifying what is working, and what isn’t, then deciding what to ‘shelf’, what to ‘trash’, and what to ‘invest more time and money into’. Many of us are visual thinkers and this analogy seems to resonate with many of my clients – I thought I’d share it with you! (*image of spaghetti on the wall, lol!) Understanding how busy professionals and business owners, like you, are I thought I’d share a simple process I use ALL THE TIME here, and one that I highly recommend you take and practice on your own business ASAP.

The Self-Awareness Audit!
 Who are you?
 What do you do?
 WHY do you do what you do?
 What do you enjoy doing in your business?
 What do you think you’re exceptionally good at?
 What do you think you are NOT doing well?
 What don’t you enjoy?
 What do you think your clients or customers love about what you do?
 What do you think they aren’t happy with?

Diving deep into each of these questions is where the real gold is and I promise you’ll gain clarity that is the key to all the other parts of your marketing and growth strategies and campaigns when you do this exercise. This is the foundation of it all. The more time you spend on this the better, for it is truly the base, and the more solid your base the easier and more efficient the rest becomes.

Who is your audience?

 Really peel back the layers of the onion here. Who is your real target audience or audience segments?
 Are they men or women? Groups? A very specific age demographic, etc…

For some businesses it’s pretty simple and they have a very clear niche audience, but for others it might be multiple segments they are targeting. Again, clarity is vital to everything else you’re building within your marketing and growth strategies and
campaigns – cannot stress this enough (wink). Clearly understanding your differentiator and unique value proposition, honing in on what you enjoy doing in your business, what you’re good at and what your clients and customers appreciate (from above) should always be step one, but this second step is just as important. When applicable we really recommend diving even deeper to identify the nitty gritty details of your target audience(s), such as habits, behaviors and on and on, but having a clear basic understanding is a great start.

Where is your audience’s attention?
Now that you’ve gotten really clear on what makes you so special, and who you can help with your amazing products and services, it’s time to figure out where their attention is. You can’t craft your marketing content until you know who you are and
who you are trying to reach, right? Now that you’ve gotten super clear on those vital first steps it’s time to figure out what engaging content you’re going to create and where it needs to go. Your website, for most anyway, is a no brainer… and it is no
longer like days of old where it was basically an online portfolio, it should now be the base camp, the core of your digital marketing strategy. Aside from your website, permission based email marketing campaigns are fantastic ways to reach both your target audience, as well as your brand advocates. Email remains one of the most important tools in your toolbox and even though we continue to be bombarded with way too much in our inboxes…we’re there everyday. Social media is here to stay,
not going anywhere, and identifying which platforms make the most sense for you to be sharing and building your brand is super important. If your target audience is a very specific decision maker within a certain enterprise IT department, then
LinkedIn and Google Adwords is probably going to be a much better investment of your time, money and energy than Instagram and Snapchat. Make sense? We’ve just tipped the iceberg here, but this is an overview of the three of the most
important exercises that need to not only be done once, but revisited often (I recommend at least quarterly) to make sure all of your marketing efforts are aligned properly.


Happy Spring!
Tuni Renaud Schartner
RI’s Economic Gardener

TS Consulting

Handling distractions in the workplace

By Kristin MacRae

I hear this on a weekly basis, “I get so many distractions throughout the day, it’s impossible to get any work done.” We all have interruptions and distractions in our day. You may have received an urgent phone call and need to drop what you’re doing to handle it. Your emails may be piling up by the minute. Your co-workers are standing over you dropping items into your inbox. You may get pulled away from your desk while you are in the middle of completing an important task. You may be the one responsible for causing your own distractions.

These distractions and interruptions will not only allow you to lose focus but will decrease your productivity. If you want to conquer this, you must put the work in to find out what’s distracting you. Grab a pen and paper or your tablet and jot down what types of distractions are disrupting your day.

Once you have this list in front of you, now you can get to work and think about how you can work around these distractions. If you’re operating in chaos in your office, you’re going to need to get organized before you can wrap your head around this process. It’s the first step. Everybody has different distractions in the day, so everybody will function differently. Here are 10 general ways that will help with distractions.

Declutter and get organized. Visual clutter leads to mental clutter which will in turn cause you to lose focus and decrease your productivity. Declutter and organize your desk. You should only have on top of your desk what you need on a daily basis. Remove the horizontal flat filing trays. They are a breeding ground for paper. When you get a distraction and you’re disorganized, it’s difficult to get back on track because there’s already chaos around you. If you’re organized, you can deal with your distraction, but then you’ll continue to go about your day unscathed. Have a system and a process for everything. If you are disorganized and go to search for a file or important paper, you will waste time searching for it and this process will allow you to become distracted and lose focus. Have a process to handle every piece of paper that arrives at your desk. Create working filing systems so that when you need to search for an item, it will be at your fingertips and you will be able to find it at a moment’s

Remember, the simpler the systems you create, the easier the system will be to maintain. The more complex the system, the more likely it will fail. Work on your time management skills. Organization and time management go hand in hand. You can’t work on your time management skills until you have decluttered and organized. Create blocks of time that you dedicate to projects you are working on. Prioritize your tasks. Take some time to think about how you are functioning in your day. What changes can you make to become more efficient and productive? Utilize to-do lists. Working with a to-do list will keep you on track during the day. You will have a feeling of accomplishment when you cross items off the list. You will look at your to-do- list throughout the day and it will keep you focused and on track seeing everything you need to accomplish for the day. Limit interruptions. Aside from urgent issues that need to be handled immediately, set aside time for your co-workers to ask you questions. They won’t be disrupting you throughout the day and it will allow you to stay focused. Before you interrupt, think about if you can figure out the answer first before you disrupt your co-worker. Create a working organized system for emails. Can you develop a system where you check emails only certain times of the day? The minute you pull yourself away from what you are doing to check an email, you will get distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. If you are working on an
important project, stay away from the email for that time period. When sending an email think about if you really need to hit the “reply all” key or if you need to copy everybody on the email. Work on difficult tasks when you’re at your best. You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best. If you have a difficult project to tackle, choose a time when you are functioning at your best, whether it is the morning when you first walk in the door or right after lunch. Be mindful. Pay attention to when you start to get distracted. What is distracting you and how can you avoid that distraction from happening? Can you notify your co-workers to not disturb you during certain hours of the day? Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t allow yourself to get distracted and switch to a different project. If an idea pops into your head, write it down and then continue with the task at hand. Reduce your lingering time around the office. The minute you get up from your desk, you will immediately get distracted. Somebody may see you are up and that is a cue for them to speak to you. It’s going to distract you and take you away from what you were doing at that moment. Drink water and eat healthy while at work. This will keep you alert, productive, and will keep you from feeling sluggish.


Remember, this might not be an easy task for you. You have to put the work in if you want to become more efficient and productive. Break the process down and just start with writing down where you struggle. Start there and then move forward with the above tips.


Author Info:
Kristin M. MacRae
Organizing & Efficiency Expert
Owner, Organizing In RI, LLC

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