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Managing Conflicts at Work

No matter what size your business is there are bound to be conflict between employees. Everyone comes to the table with different experiences, beliefs and expectations. Your job as a business leader is to find a way to cultivate and enjoy those differences without having to manage conflicts constantly between team members. It is pretty much inevitable that conflict will arise in times of stress or change. How you deal with it will determine the extent and impact on your company. Here are a few tips from experts at Forbes, Time, and U.S. News on what to do (and what not to do) in times of conflict.

  • Be Prepared – Honestly, you know it is practically inevitable – so plan ahead. Talk to your Human Resources personnel, who are experts on dealing with many personalities and are usually good under pressure. They may have courses or suggestions for how to handle day-to-day conflicts or larger disagreements. They can also be excellent mediators in the  event of a larger conflict.
  • Stay Calm – Conflict can quickly escalate if all parties are not dealt with in a calm manner. Your leadership skills of listening, problem solving and finding a common ground will be tested. Most of all keep your cool and check yourself before dealing with any crisis, big or small.
  • Document – One of the hallmarks of a great Human Resources department is documenting any conflicts so that they can be handled correctly. Be sure your HR department or specialist keeps a written log of what the conflict was and how it was handled. You may need this documentation later if the conflict comes up again or if a legal situation arises.
  • Do Not Avoid – Some business leaders make the all-too-common-mistake of trying to avoid the conflict and let it solve itself. Experts warn against this because what may seem like it is settled may rear it’s head later and cause even more problems later.
  • Follow Up – Many conflicts can be solved quickly and rather quietly. However, as a business leader, you should make it a priority to check in with concerned parties to make sure all is well or at least getting better. HR should also follow up and conclude documentation on the conflict.

Increasing Sales for Small/Medium Businesses

Small and medium sized businesses that are just starting out or even those who are several years into development usually start looking for was to increase sales and grow the market they currently have. Increasing sales can mean many things such as: increasing foot traffic to an actual brick and mortar shop, increasing online sales for ecommerce businesses , optimize conversions or sell more to existing customers. Here are some tips from the U.S. Small Business Association and other experts in marketing and sales.

  • Nurture Loyal Customers– While finding new customers is always a good idea, listening to the needs of loyal customers and satisfying their requests means not only do they stay happy customers, but they are more likely to spread the word and talk you up to friends, relatives and co-workers. Creating long-lasting relationships with your current customers will pay off in the long run.
  • Revisit your Web Strategy – Businesses have the potential to reach thousands, if not millions, of customers on the web. Think of the number of people who are married to their phone. The numbers are increasing practically daily of the consumers who purchase not only on the web but via mobile devices. Make sure your web strategy has taken the mobile industry into account.
  • Pay Attention to Metrics – You really can’t improve what you haven’t measured. Keep collecting data on sales that come in via the website. For example, what brings visitors to your website? It might be your blog articles, pay-per-click advertisements, or referral program. You could be great at building brand awareness, but you don’t know until you measure your efforts.
  • Step Up your Marketing – Evaluate your current marketing strategy to see if it needs some tweaking. Have you taken advantage of Google ad Words, Facebook Ads, email campaigns, traditional mailers, local search listings, and/or loyalty marketing? Take time as a team to examine what methods are working and what has not been  tried yet. Don’t be afraid to try something new for a few months.

BLS Provider CPR (1-day Initial or Renewal Course, multiple sessions available)

(Initial or Renewal Course based on the 2015 AHA Guidelines)
Basic Life Support (BLS) is the foundation for saving lives after cardiac arrest. This course teaches both single-rescuer and team basic life support skills for application in both in-facility and prehospital settings. This course is designed for healthcare professionals and other personnel who need to know how to perform CPR and other basic cardiovascular life support skills.

In addition, BLS training can be appropriate for first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, as well as for laypeople whose work brings them into contact with members of the public, such as school, fitness center, or hotel and restaurant employees.

Students must pass a written exam and skills test in order to qualify for a BLS Course Completion Card.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will receive a completion cad valid for 2 years.

Conveniently scheduled on Saturday, please choose the session that works best for you.

REGISTER NOW!

Kickstart your Start Up

Starting a new business can be exhausting with the intricate planning, making financial decisions, and filling out the appropriate legal paperwork and licenses. But, embarking on a new business venture can be exhilarating as well. How do young entrepreneurs walk that fine line between being exhilarated and exhausted? Experts say that they kick off their start up with some common strategies that will take them on the path to success. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Plan on Doing a lot of Planning – Create a simple business plan that includes your vision, mission, goals (both short and long term), strategies and an action plan. Break down your goals into smaller goals before you take on too much. The U.S. Small Business Administration has template and strategies to making the most of your planning stage and Business Plan stage.
  • Assess Your Finances – How are you going to afford to run your business? What sort of financing have you secured? Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor.
  • Define your Legal Structure – What kind of entity is your business? If you own the business entirely by yourself and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations, you can register for a sole proprietorship. Alternatively, a partnership, as its name implies, means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. If you want to separate your personal liability from your company’s liability, you may want to consider forming one of several different types of corporations.
  • Register Your Business Name – Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities.
  • Obtain Permits and Licenses – Get a list of federal, state and local licenses and permits required for your business. Read More 
  • Register for Tax Identification Purposes – Register with your state to obtain a tax identification number, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance.
  • Build Your Team – Define what positions you will need to kick start your company and then find the best and the brightest.
  • Grow Your Business – In order to make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. Reinvesting and making connections are a great way to get started on this. Stay active on social media platforms, take part in networking groups and keep your brand in the forefront in your community.

How to Grow Your Small Business

So you started your own business? Each sale, each new client and each business connection you make grows your small business just as you dreamed right? But maybe you want to continue to broaden your client base.  There are many options to consider when thinking about expanding and growing your small business no matter what field you are in.

What are some of the most effective small business expansion tips to grow a business beyond its current status? Let’s take a closer look at steps you may want to initiate to grow your small business. 

  • Social Media – If you are looking for a fairly cost effective and easy way to reach more of your targeted audience try a social media campaign. Do some research on which social media platform attracts your  demographic and start posting in that medium. The more your name is seen the better.  Social media can be an invaluable tool for engaging with consumers and expanding your brand recognition.
  • Open Another Location – This is often the first way business owners approach growth. If you feel confident that your current business location is under control, consider expanding by opening a new location.

  • Merge With or Acquire Other Businesses in Your Market – There are bound to be other companies in your field who may have similar goals. Explore merging, partnering or possibly even acquiring those companies as a way to expand. 

  • Stay Competitive – Technology changes so rapidly these days that it would be easy to be left behind if your new company does not keep up with the latest and greatest technology. This is especially true if your company is in anyway related to the tech world or relies on technology to provide a product or service.
  • Target Other Markets –  Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? Probably. Use your imagination to determine what other markets could use your product.
  • License Your Product –  This can be an effective, low-cost growth medium, particularly if you have a service product or branded product

  • Diversify –  Small-business consultant McGuckin offers several ideas for diversifying your product or service line:

    • Sell complementary products or services
    • Teach adult education or other types of classes
    • Import or export yours or others’ products
    • Become a paid speaker or columnist

Best Business Apps for Business Leaders

Business leaders play many roles such as: problem solvers, financial wizards, customer relations gurus and of course the captain of the ship. With all these roles to play, it is no wonder that business leaders depend heavily on mobile apps to keep them organized, stay on top of budget issues, plan business trips and communicate properly. Here are a few of the top apps that are helping successful business leaders juggle it all.

Financial Apps

  • Expensify – This app provides for easy scanning of receipts, organization of spending and categorizing of reports. You can link your credit or debit card to your Expensify account so that the app will place charges directly on an expense report.
  • PayPal – This convenient platform lets you link your credit, debit and other bank accounts to your PayPal account, making paying people and getting paid quick and painless. PayPal’s standard merchant service plan is free and allows you to accept credit cards and PayPal on your site and in store. The Pro plan costs $30 per month and comes with added features.
  • Square – This great small business app is great for companies that are on-the-go and need to be able to make transactions and payments. Square can attach to a phone or another mobile device to take fast, convenient payments.

Organization

  • Evernote – This is the app for syncing notes across mobile and desktop devices. Evernote’s free version lets users upload up to 60 megabytes of data per month.
  • Trello Trello is an easy-to-use project management app that tracks your team’s workflow. Each card you create on a Trello board represents an assignment or task.
  • Dropbox – Dropbox is the most popular platform on which to store and share files on the cloud. It’s especially useful for companies that need a reliable way to share information with telecommuters.

Communication

  • Mail Chimp – This email marketing tool helps you build and manage your mailing lists, and easily create and send newsletters. You can also build and customize email templates and view performance reports about your emails. This information can help you send your customers more relevant emails.
  • Constant Contact – Constant Contact is an email marketing tool that allows businesses to create content for clients using special features such as: email templates, email editors, contact lists and easy-to-generate reports.

The Nature of Pop Up Stores and their Benefits

The concept of temporary retail establishments, or “Pop Up” stores, has been around for years. In fact, the idea can be traced all the way back to ancient times when merchants sold their wares on street corners or in an established marketplace. Just a few years ago pop up stores  were fairly common during the holiday season when malls would introduce seasonal products. Fast forward to today’s ecommerce world and pop ups are gaining serious momentum and traction in places like malls, airports, shopping centers, and even inside other retail stores!  Why is this becoming so popular when so many of us shop online with the ease and convenience of our smartphones and tablets? Let’s examine the pop up phenomenon and why they are so beneficial for small businesses.

 

  • According to Storefront, temporary retail, more popularly known as pop-ups, are expected to generate $80 billion on an annual basis.
  • An online directory (www.popuprepublic.com) featured over 7,000 pop-ups in 2014 alone and we are expecting that number to explode in 2016.
  • The following categories are the biggest players in the pop-up market: farmers markets at $8 billion, flea markets at $30 billion, food trucks at $1 billion, yard sales at $1 billion, and pop-up stores, festivals, crafts and classes at close to $10 billion.

 

So what are the benefits that so many small companies are reaping from these pop up stores?

  • Affordability –  For retail stores that want to gain exposure while minimizing its overhead costs, they are able to take advantage of premium space at a fraction of the normal cost. Pop-up shops are often temporary in nature and smaller in size than conventional retail stores, the cost of rent is usually lower.
  • Brand Awareness – One of the primary benefits of pop-up shops is that they help a brand generate buzz. With so many online stores it is hard to rank in high on Google search but fairly easy to gain attention if your “store” seemingly appears out of thin air overnight. People are interested in the sudden existence of a store, especially if they have a unique angle or appearance.
  • Encourages Testing and Trials of New Merchandise – Since there is little money at risk, companies can try out new products that they want to market in the future. A pop up store will give immediate feedback as to the success or failure of a given item or service. An added bonus includes the education of consumers as they try the new merchandise.  This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your brand and company.
  • New Revenue Stream – A natural benefit of a pop-up store is increasing sales by taking your store to where your customers are and making it more convenient for them to buy from you. There are significant profits with minimal risk for adding a revenue stream in a local area.

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.

Family Succession Tips

dc9X5RgdiInvestopedia reports that between 80-90% of businesses in the U.S. are owned or controlled by families. About a third of them are Fortune 500 companies. But this doesn’t mean they are all big corporations. In fact many are small- to mid-sized businesses. Family-owned businesses also account for approximately 78% of jobs created in the United States.

With these statistics it is of paramount importance to create a business plan for family succession. Only a bit over half (53%) of family businesses have a succession plan which could explain why only 30% of all family-owned businesses make it to the second generation, 12% into the third generation and 3% to the fourth and beyond, according to the Family Business Alliance.

Eventually every family business needs to deal with leadership retiring, getting ill or moving on to other things.  When a business is a family business, any of these events bring on a list of questions.  Who’s going to manage the business? How will ownership be transferred? Accountants and lawyers who specialize in business succession planning can provide invaluable advice about dealing with ownership, taxes, budgeting and the myriad of legal issues that occur when leadership of a family business changes hands.

Here are some quick tips and suggestions to consider when you are dealing with family succession planning:

  1. Start planning early.  If you know a family member will retire in 5-10 years start the process now.
  2. Involve key members. When the idea of succession first comes up there is bound to be some discord about who should be in charge and how a transition should take place.  Invite key members to openly discuss what the best way to approach the transition time will be.
  3. Groom the future leader.  If given the appropriate amount of time, groom the future leader through mentoring and shadowing.  Obviously if there was a sudden illness or death this will be a crash course for whomever is in charge.
  4. Get outside help.  With so many businesses run by families, financial advisors and business advisors can be a great asset when transferring the business to a new leader.
  5. Be aware of potential hurtles. Every change causes problems, none more complex than a family relationship.  Plan in advance for sticky family relations that may make a transition more difficult.
  6. Use the best resources.  Along with tax consultants, lawyers and accountants, talk to people who have dealt with succession issues like the Small Business Association.   They can help you consider issues that may come up during each step of the process.

The Right Bank for your Business

Finding a bank that is reliable, easy-to-access and supportive should be a top priority for small business owners.  Choosing the right bank for your company could completely impact daily operations and become a solid foundation on which you build and expand your small business.  As an owner or manager of a small business you will need to consider what the business’ current needs are as well as what future aspirations may be before choosing a banking institution.  How then should a small business go about choosing a bank that is the “right fit”  and what questions should be considered before a final decision on a bank is made?

  • Bank Size – In the world of banking size does matter.  Small, neighborhood banks offer an intimate and human level of interaction which could be advantageous when you need fast cash and can contact a member of the bank easily regardless of your balance sheets. The value of your good name might carry more weight in a smaller bank. A local bank’s mission is to help a neighborhood thrive so they may go above and beyond the call of duty to help your business grow. On the other hand, a bigger bank can offer better interest rates, more flexibility in loan terms and a larger offering of products to fit your needs. Investigate what your needs are as a business to decide to go with a larger bank or one that is invested in the local economy.
  • Bank Features – Things to also consider when choosing a bank include any special features that may be offered to small businesses.  For example:  What is the fee structure like?  Nothing is free so look closely at the fee structure for everything from using the ATM, writing a check, and getting a monthly account statement. But also take note of other bank services you may need down the road, including wire transfers and credit-card processing. In addition to analyzing fees ask: What are the current interest rates?  Is online access easy?  Does the bank specialize in your special needs?
  • Compatibility – Do not underestimate the intangible aspects such as customer service and personal compatibility.  If you have a good personal connection to your bank, you’re more likely to have a successful working relationship. Ask other small businesses in your area what banks they recommend if you want a good personal relationship with your financial partner.
  • Technology – Is your company tech savvy and wants to take advantage of bill pay by phone or deposits by phone?  Do you want easy platforms for online banking?  Some banks embrace technology more than others so consider asking about what technology they practice for daily banking needs.

As you ask yourself these questions while choosing a bank don’t be afraid to go with your gut.  Which bank feels most like the best fit?  Meet with the business officer at each bank to thoroughly discuss your company’s needs and how they can be a vital partner in your business.