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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Benefits of an Employee Handbook

Writing, maintaining and executing all of the parts of an employee handbook can be a daunting task for any employer. Most new companies hold off writing such a document until their business has grown to a point where it necessary to have a formal list of items to review with each new employee during the on-boarding process. While it may seem overwhelming at first to put into a single document the goals, rules and policies of your company it is a good idea to do so for many reasons. The benefits can be numerous including the following:

  • Every employee receives the same information about the rules/policies of the workplace.
  • Employees will know what you expect from them (and what they can expect from you).
  • Valuable legal protection if an employee later challenges you in court over any human resource issue such as benefits, hiring/firing, workplace rules, discipline, safety and a host of other topics.

Top Benefits of Spelling it all out in an Employee Handbook:

  1. All employees know and have read the core mission of the company.
  2. All employees understand the expectations of their job whether it is in regard to workplace attire, hours of operation, expected behaviors, harassment, or even drug and alcohol use.
  3. All employees will have a written document explaining the benefits whether they are medical, dental, retirement or paid time off.
  4. All employees and managers will have a written document explaining the need to comply with state and federal laws.
  5. All employees will understand where to turn to if they need help.
  6. All rules and specific policies are clearly stated for all employees to read and follow.
  7. All managers and leadership position understand their role including the consistent and fair dealings with each employee.
  8. Serves as a reference guide for both the employee and the employer, thereby eliminating common misunderstandings and unreasonable employment expectations.
  9. Allows all employees regardless of level, to understand the compliance regulations of the company when it comes to technology use/misuse and communications outside and internally within the company.
  10. Explains all safety regulations and rules so that the work environment can remain a safe and secure place to work.

Building your Brand

A brand is anything-a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, emotion, employees, tone, and much more-that separates one product or service from another. For McDonald’s its the snappy slogans and “golden arches”. For Apple Corporation it is innovation and those adorable lowercase letter “i” added to each product. While not every company can be a McDonald’s or Apple, each every company should spend considerable time crafting and building their brand image. Every business does not need to be world famous in order to have a successful brand. Here are a few tips to consider when building your brand image.

  • Know who your target audience is. This may mean some careful research using analytics from your media campaigns both print and digital. Once you have this focus, it will be easier to zone on on your best consumers and start molding your brand image.
  • Clearly define who you are as a company: innovative, trustworthy, experienced.
  • Stand for something you believe in.
  • Differentiate yourself from the competition. Find out what makes you different and special. You must be aware of both your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Be extremely consistent with your visual image as well as written image.
  • Make sure all communications, individual or mass, are consistent and in line with brand positioning.
  • Be consistent with your color pallet across all marketing medias. Keeping the look the same will make it easy to identify your product or service.
  • Use customer service as a way to drive home your brand.
  • Train your employees to embody the brand and what it equals.
  • Reward loyal customers and fans with perks and special treatment to show your appreciation.
  • Do not mimic other companies that are in your field. Make your company stand out with service and look.
  • Make sure your logo/slogan and tagline is on everything your company touches from print media to social platforms.
  • Keep the dialogue ongoing with your customers. Treat them well and it will comeback to you in spades.
  • Make sure that every point of contact stays true to who you are as a company.

Building and maintaining your brand image is a major part of the success of your growing business.

 

Publicity 101

“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”

Public Relations is a very careful dance where the image of a company is shaped by promoting ideas, products or services. In addition, PR is meant to spotlight accomplishments in an unpaid or earned method. Publicity is not writing snappy slogan or buying advertisement space online or in a magazine. In many ways consumers are often confused about the differences between marketing and publicity. Let’s examine the fundamentals of publicity and how it can benefit your business.

What exactly do publicists do?

PR experts are great storytellers and persuasion professionals who use their writing, communication and interpersonal skills to promote a company and their products/services. Tools that a PR expert uses include:

  • Writing and distributing press releases
  • Speech writing
  • Writing pitches (less formal than press releases) about a firm and send them directly to journalists
  • Creating and executing special events designed for public outreach and media relations
  • Conduct market research on the firm or the firm’s messaging
  • Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
  • Writing and blogging for the web
  • Crisis public relations strategies
  • Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online (Source: Forbes)

How is Public Relations different from traditional or digital advertising?

The most important way that a publicity campaign differs from an advertising campaign is in the cost. Advertising is paid media, whereas public relations is earned media. For example PR means that a professional PR person convinces a reporter or editor of a media outlet to cover or write a positive story about your company or product. While this method of exposure is more difficult to control it is obviously less expensive and can build a level of trust since a third party is validating your product or service. Advertising is much more controllable and can beneficially build brand exposure it tends to be expensive and the audience knows that the advertisement is biased toward the owner or company.

While publicity will never replace a solid marketing campaign, it does play an important part in the overall strategy of of any business. Planning a successful publicity campaign should be an integral part of every company’s plan to build their brand and connect with consumers.

Are there Gaps in your Retirement Planning?

“Working Americans have a very positive view of retirement: 84% expect to feel free to pursue their interests and hobbies, 77% expect to travel as they wish an 74% expect to feel financially secure.” (Source: The Retirement Crisis)

 

Did a certified financial planner or CPA analyze your retirement plan? Or did you work it out on your own? Regardless of how you formulated your retirement plan, chances are you may have a financial gap that could stop you from enjoying the fruits of your life-long labor. Don’t panic! Most people face a financial gap when planning for their retirement years. A financial gap or income gap merely means that there is a shortfall between your living expenses and your guaranteed income sources. Let’s examine how to close this gap including questions you should consider before you retire and actions you may want to take to be sure you do not struggle during your “Golden years.”

 

The number one fear in retirement planning is running out of money. Facing this fear means asking yourself some tough questions.

 

Will your retirement plan provide you with enough money to last throughout retirement? If the answer is, “I don’t know” or, worse yet, “I don’t think so,” then you have some further planning to do. Things that you may want to consider include:

 

  • re-evaluating how much money you will need to live the desired lifestyle through the many years of retirement.
  • considering which of your expenses you expect to eliminate or reduce and which will remain steady or increase.
  • thinking about reducing expenses, increase income or a combination of both? Reducing expenses may mean refinancing your mortgage, moving to a less expensive neighborhood or downsizing to a smaller home. Increasing income might mean deciding to stay in the workforce longer than you had planned – or, if you’re covered by a pension plan at work, retiring and then seeking employment elsewhere, allowing you to receive a salary and your pension benefit at the same time.

 

Will your retirement plan provide you with the necessary funds to pay for long-term care expenses?

  • Talk to a financial planner about protecting your property and larger possessions in the case that you end up in a long-term care facility. Will your home be used to pay for your care or will it be protected.
  • Plan in advance with insurance that will cover your needed expenses. This may seem like a guessing game but online calculators and financial professionals can help you.

 

If you die before your spouse? Will your retirement plan continue to provide for your spouse? Will it be enough?

  • Again, consulting a financial advisor can help settle these questions before there is an issue.

Avoiding Startup Mistakes

Going from “startup” to “successful business” is a dream of every entrepreneur. Unfortunately, navigating the bumpy landscape of the business startup world can be difficult and fraught with mistakes. The harsh reality is that most startups have only a 50% chance of suceeding in the first five years. Without the right information and action regarding financing, marketing, customer service, human resources (and the list goes on and on), startups can stumble and even fall due to some common mistakes. Let’s examine the most common mistakes that new businesses make.

  • Lack of Focus– When first starting a new company it is easy to get distracted by all the work that needs to be done. Pivoting from one area to another can be a huge problem for startups that need to focus on core values. New owners need to prioritize and seek development guidance from business mentors, coaches or even a consulting company that can help your business get going in the right direction.
  • Financing  Headaches– Remember that old adage that “You need to spend money to make money.” Well this has a ring of truth in that every business needs solid financial advising including a plan for: marketing, hiring, pricing of goods, and of course, physical maintenance of your brick and mortar office. Be sure to have all of your ducks in a row before you begin any business venture. This should include researching all forms of financing from self financing to taking on investors.
  • Hiring Poorly– Startup employees need to be versatile and able to wear many hats depending upon the work that needs to get done. In fact, many times the work goes beyond the job description. If owners don’t manage this expectation upon hiring, there could be employee issues six months down the line.
  • Not Listening to Customers– Believe it or not startups can sometimes forget that the customer is the most important part of the business equation. Customers can teach new owners quite a bit about what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.  Listen to those customers by becoming involved with them at each step of the process no matter what the product or service is that you are marketing.