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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Kick off the New (Business) Year Right!

Making resolutions for the new year is a time honored tradition in our society.  We resolve to eat better, exercise more and spend more quality time with family.  Sometimes we succeed at these things and sometimes we don’t.  While making personal goals are a great way to kick off the New Year, so is making a list of your business goals for 2016.  Stumped as to where to begin?  Here are some great ideas to start 2016, organized and on target.

  • Set targets for each week, month or quarter.  Organize the goals into long and short term including prioritizing them into categories.
  • Start the year off with a positive attitude.  Put forth a can-do attitude and you may find that it is contagious.
  • Invest in the right employees.  Find employees that are talented and reward them for their efforts regularly.  Even small tokens can go a long way to creating loyal employees.  Remember it is easier to maintain good employees than train a new one.
  • Create accountability. Hold meetings that ask for updates on how projects are going and any problems the group is having.
  • Invest in education.  Allow employees and managers alike to continue learning next year.  Technology is constantly changing and workers need to keep up with all the changes.
  • Get your office organized.  Ask staff to help with what they see as issues with organization or redundancies.  Then, supply methods for solving disorganization in the office.
  • Challenge Yourself.  Come up with larger goals to see what you can do.  The sky is the limit.
  • Review your bottom line.  Where are you spending too much or not enough? Seek a professional’s opinion.
  • Check in with staff and clients to see where your company can grow or improve over the next year.
  • Plan ahead.  Part of your day should always be to look ahead and see what is next on the horizon whether it is in the tech arena or in the marketing field.  Stay on top of your game by reading competitor websites and publications.

Security Protocols for Small Business

2015 was not a good year for IT security.  It seems like every other day there were announcements of how many files were breached at major corporations who supposedly were safeguarded by top notch security systems.  These included companies like Anthem Health Insurance, the infamous Ashley Madison, and chain stores like Target and CVS.

If you own a small business, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.  This could happen to your small business too.  These breaches are NOT just happening at large corporations, they are happening down the street and right in your own neighborhood.  In the first half of 2015 the number of records breached was just under 246 million across 888 disclosed incidents (the true number is much higher), with mega-breaches accounting for 82 percent of the records compromised.(Source: Tech World)

What are some steps that your small business can and should make to avoid being a victim of the millions of security breaches next year?  Here are some tips for securing your company from Tech World, Self Growth and Tech Radar.

  • Have a Security Strategy – Small businesses should have a strategy mapped out which includes:  determining the assets which need protecting, assessing how immediate the threat is to your business, and who needs access to certain information within the company.
  • Educate Employees – Many breaches can be due to an innocent mistake or lack of understanding of how breaches can occur.  Employees should be educated about what steps they need to keep their devices safe when they are accessing work files remotely as well as recognize phishing, social engineering attacks, rogue emails; and told to avoid clicking on unfamiliar links.
  • Manage Your Mobile – Small businesses and businesses that operate in numerous locations have more tech to keep safe such as tablets, laptops, and smartphones.  Companies can deploy mobile device management (MDM) solutions that separate work from personal data on your portable hardware, as well as allowing the device to be wiped if it’s lost or stolen. Look into who uses mobile devices and are they protected.
  • Manage Paperwork – Dispose of hard copies of client information properly since critical information may make hacking easier if it gets into the wrong hands.
  • Update Malware and Security Systems Regularly – Hackers are getting smarter and are coming up with better and faster ways to breach information.  Follow updates on your technology so that the best and latest versions of security are on your computers – including mobile devices .
  • Encrypt your data – Stored data, filesystems, and across-the-wire transfers all need to be encrypted. Encryption is essential to protecting sensitive data and to help prevent data loss due to theft or equipment loss.(Source: ZD Net)

 

Importance of HR Policy Writing for your Small Business

Many people in the workforce may think about policy writing for the Human Resources Department of any business as “Ho-Hum” or “Yawn-producing Boring,” or even worse as a great waste of paper. Whatever your opinion is about HR handbooks and policies, those policies are there with a purpose – to protect employers and employees alike.  Human resource policies are the formal rules and guidelines that businesses put in place to hire, train, assess, and reward the members of their workforce. These policies, when organized and disseminated in an easily used form, can serve to preempt many misunderstandings between employees and employers about their rights and obligations in the business place. (Source: Inc Online)

Some of the main topics that should be covered in these policies will be:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity policies
  • Employee classifications
  • Workdays, paydays, and pay advances
  • Overtime compensation
  • Meal periods and break periods
  • Payroll deductions
  • Vacation policies
  • Holidays
  • Sick days and personal leave (for bereavement, jury duty, voting, etc.)
  • Performance evaluations and salary increases
  • Performance improvement
  • Termination policies

This may not sound like the most interesting read, but employers and employees alike find that there are many benefits to having policies in writing. Communication with employees and managers can improve dramatically with the right resources available through human resources policies. It can also save time with the ability to focus on work activities rather than HR issues.  Finally, written policies can be a huge  asset when trying to curb litigation. Members of the legal and business communities agree that organizations can do a lot to cut off legal threats from disgruntled current or ex-employees simply by creating—and applying—a fair and comprehensive set of personnel policies. When there is a written resource that clearly and completely outlines what your company stands for whether it is regarding hiring, firing or in-office behavior, there will be a major savings when it comes to time, energy and ultimately the bottom line.

The Art of Storytelling in Marketing

Since the time when the earliest homo sapiens created paintings on cave walls using clay and berries, humans have been telling stories in one way or another. Stories have passed on information, family culture and education – generation after generation.  Fast forward millions of years and storytelling has morphed from something done with small children before bedtime to a clever marketing tool that has many benefits in today’s tech centered world.

Let’s think about the amount of information a typical consumer may process online each day.

  • A typical consumer may process more than 100,000 words each day online.
  • Google reports a massive 700,000 searches per minute.
  • Internet users are exposed to over 5.3 trillion advertisements every year. (Source: Digital Marketing)

With this massive amount of information, images and ads that inundate users daily, it is understandable that many viewers skim over online data rather than read thoroughly.  So, how then, do marketers capture the attention of viewers?  Storytelling!

Storytelling is one such technique that can capture the attention of consumers, connects the viewer to the product or service, and helps the viewer identify the brand.  Storytelling can give a soul to your product, introduce the product in a new light, or even create an emotional connection that may be missing from regular digital advertising. While creating a story to tell about your brand will be unique to your company, TOMS Shoes is an excellent example of storytelling in marketing that illustrates how to use storytelling to connect with viewers.

TOMS Shoes promotes a story that is dedicated to something they call “One for One.”  What this marketing story tells is how a company that started in an apartment as a side business has grown into a multi-million dollar movement that gives away shoes, eyeglasses and clean water to needy areas.  Whenever customers buy a pair of TOMS shoes, eye-wear or coffee beans, they can feel like they’ve become part of something meaningful. The TOMS story has since become a worldwide phenomenon that has captured national attention and obviously consumer’s hearts.  This is how storytelling can be a game changer for marketing teams.  For further information on storytelling and how it may benefit your company see the following links-

Top Companies Using Storytelling

iScoop – Storytelling Benefits

Forbes – Secrets of Storytelling

 

Break-even Analysis

Launching a small business is a bit like an acrobat walking across a tightrope at the center ring of the circus.  The acrobat must shift and balance their weight to safety make it across the narrow wire, much like an owner of a small business must balance costs vs profits to figure out if a break-even point will be reached each month. Just as the acrobat has a daunting task of balancing their weight, so too does the owner of small business when accurately assessing costs against sales.  Let’s examine some top tips from the professionals at Small Business Association and Forcaster regarding Break-even Analysis.

What is a Break-even Analysis?  If you are considering jumping into the “circus ring” and starting your own business, one of the most important business planning tools is a Break-even Analysis that can help you determine how soon your business will be profitable and be able to cover all expenses.   The Break-even Analysis lets owners determine what amount of product or service is needed to sell, monthly or annually, to cover the costs of doing business–the “break-even point.” The U.S. Small Business Association states that the formula for  reaching that critical threshold is: “Breakeven point = fixed costs/ (unit selling price – variable costs).”

 
 Break-even Points to Consider-

  • Start-Up Costs – It is important to identify your startup costs, which will help you determine your sales revenue needed to pay ongoing business expenses.
  • Identify Fixed and Variable Costs – To calculate your break-even point, you will need to identify your fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are expenses that do not vary with sales volume, such as rent and administrative salaries. These expenses must be paid regardless of sales, and are often referred to as overhead costs. Variable costs fluctuate directly with sales volume, such as purchasing inventory, shipping, and manufacturing a product. (Source: SBA)
  • Get Contracts in Writing – If you are relying on sales and contracts long range be sure to get those in writing since it will be easier to collect (even legally) when it comes time. Even if not legally required, it’s wise to put almost everything in writing, because oral agreements can be difficult or impossible to prove. This includes leases or rental agreements, storage agreements, contracts for services (such as consulting or electrical work), purchase orders or contracts for goods worth more than a couple hundred dollars, offer letters of employment, and employment policies. Get in the habit of getting and giving receipts for all goods, services, and deposits, regardless of how much.(Source: NOLO- Law for All)
  • Change Strategies of Break-even point is too high – If your break-even point is higher than you expected, don’t panic.  There are some ways to balance the numbers such as: shopping around for less expensive supplies, reducing the number of, or eliminating employees altogether, working from home, and
    raising your sales prices. (Source: Find Law)