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All posts by Mike Sperling

About Mike Sperling

Mike is the Founder and Director of Sperling Interactive. Mike’s keen eye for photography, extensive technology skills and innovative marketing ideas make Mike a leader in the website design and management field. He is proficient in html, css, php, javascript, MySQL and the Adobe Design Suite. Before founding Sperling Interactive, Mike worked his way up from staff photographer at the Eagle Tribune Publishing Company to the lead operator and manager of multiple websites for daily and weekly publications. Known as the “media guru”, Mike gathered years of experience before making the leap to start his own business. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Photojournalism and a minor in Mass Communications. When Mike is not meeting with clients or designing new websites he enjoys spending time with his wife, Jodi, daughter Zoey, and son Camden. Mike enjoys hiking, geocaching, traveling, movies, the Baltimore Orioles & Ravens.

computer resume writing

Make Your Resume Stand Out

With the dawn of a new year and decade comes the yearning for something new and exciting. For some that might mean traveling the globe, while for others it may mean starting the hunt for a new job or even a new career altogether. If the latter describes your situation, you will want to take a look at your resume and start fine tuning it in order to land the job of your dreams in 2020. 

According to Workopolis,  companies receive between 75 and 250 resumes per open position and, on top of that, hiring managers spend just 11 seconds or less looking at a resume before deciding to move on. That means your resume needs to be easy to read, clear, and concise so that it catches the attention of hiring managers who are already overwhelmed with a pile of resumes to review and candidates to interview. What can make your resume stand out? 

resume writing

Don’t Forget the Basics 

It may sound absurd, but you would not believe the number of resumes that appear without contact information including a phone number, email, and mailing address. Put your contact information up top, where they can’t miss it. Also important is to mention what specific position you are applying for since many Human Resource departments deal with multiple open positions simultaneously. The last thing you want is an HR professional or hiring manager to remove your resume from consideration because they can’t find your contact information quickly. 

Customize Your Resume 

While it may seem convenient to make a hundred copies of your resume and send it out to multiple listings, you may be passed over because the business may be looking for specific skills you did not spotlight on your resume. 

It’s a good idea to customize your resume for specific positions. For example, if a position is looking for a certain technical expertise, then place that at the top of your resume under skills. That way the business won’t miss it and you may get called in for an interview. From there you can talk up your experience and knowledge. 

resume writing

Be Organized 

Resumes can look different depending upon the position or field of work. One thing that all resumes should have is a sense of organization. For instance, you may want to organize your resume in chronological order showing what companies and positions you held in the past. Or possibly, you may want to forgo the chronological order and focus on accomplishments and skills. Whichever way you decide to organize be sure it makes sense, has pertinent dates, and summarizes with key words they may be hunting for. 

Proofread

Hiring managers have seen it all from grammatically incorrect resumes, to those that spell multiple words inaccurately. Be sure to have your resume proofread before you send it. 

Need help with your resume? Check out our programs and workshops that can help you write a resume that will get you noticed and may even land you a coveted interview. 

 

performance evaluations

Preparing for Performance Evaluations: An Employer Perspective 

In continuing our two-part series on performance evaluations, we take a different point-of-view today. Last week we examined the perspective of how an employee should prepare. Now we are taking a closer look at what managers and business leadership should do to make these evaluations productive, effective, and if possible, a positive experience. 

Let’s start by saying that performance appraisals should not be a stand alone event. Instead, feedback should be given throughout the year, whether it is in writing or in discussions held at regular intervals. The annual review, therefore should just be a formalized way of talking about an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. 

reviews

Document Performance 

Just as an employee should be documenting their achievements throughout the year, you should also be keeping track of what you see as “above and beyond” efforts including client feedback, completed projects, ability to evolve and learn, any skills training that occurred, and general demeanor in the office. 

In keeping your documentation on each employee, you should be sure to note where the employee improved and where he/she could improve more. These notes will help you give both positive feedback and constructive criticism during the review meeting. 

Plan for the Future 

Most employees envision a review as looking back on what happened in the past year, but as an employer, you should be thinking ahead as well. Use the review to find out what goals your employee has for the future, whether it is specialized training, a degree, or to gain a promotion. Set aside some time during the meeting to explain what you would like to see as goals for the employee and get feedback on your thoughts. 

lightbulb

Make it “No Mystery” 

Performance reviews are sometimes shrouded in secrecy and the office may take on a different feeling during the days and weeks of reviews. Make your reviews less mysterious by having your team members fill out a self evaluation. This way they know exactly what will be discussed. 

Some managers find that using performance review software can take away some of the secrecy and mystery surrounding these yearly appraisals. 

In addition, some companies find it helpful to have more than one manager in the review to make things more comfortable for all (This is especially important if you are a new manager, or the employee is completing his/her first review process.). 

Most importantly, go into the review with your ideas and thoughts prepared. Be sure to listen as much as you speak. Interested in learning more about performance reviews? Check out our programs and workshops that often include information about performance review and techniques. 

 

business review

Preparing for Performance Evaluations: An Employee Perspective  

As a hard-working employee, there are almost no events at work more nerve wracking than the annual performance evaluation. How can you prepare for this evaluation both professionally and emotionally? There are a few things you can do in the days and weeks leading up to your performance evaluation that may help calm your nerves and help your professional outlook. Let’s take a look at this first from an employees perspective today and in our blog next week we will look at how business leadership should also prepare for this annual milestone. 

Before you begin to prepare for your annual performance review, it is important to put yourself into the right mindset. Yes, it is hard to take criticism. Keep in mind, however, that this constructive criticism is meant to help you grow as a professional in your field. It is an opportunity to connect with your direct manager and let him/her know what you have learned, how you have grown, and the hurdles you have overcome this year. Once in that right “headspace” you can begin your preparations. 

gathering notes

Gather Your Notes 

It’s a really good idea before you head into your review to compile your notes from the year. Create a list of major accomplishments, goals that were completed, projects that were on schedule, positive feedback from clients, and any awards or recognition that your received over the past year. Keep a list that your can refer to as well as pass on to your manager. You would be amazed how some accomplishments are quickly forgotten after the next project has started. It is always a good idea to remind leadership how much has gotten done under your guidance. 

Be Realistic 

In gathering your notes you will want to also be realistic. There were probably some “pain points” during the year or difficulties in some aspect of your job whether it was staying on-time with a project deadline, technical difficulties, or maybe a problem that had to be solved. No employee is perfect, so be ready to talk about these issues and how you handled them, or possibly what you learned from them and how you would do things differently. Employers can’t ask you to be perfect, but they can examine what you learned from the situation. 

Do Some Comparison Shopping 

If you plan to ask for a promotion or raise, be sure to do your homework. Do salary comparisons online before you ask for something that is not feasible. Research current salaries for your position on sites like PayScale or Glassdoor.

Head into your performance review with a positive attitude, your notes, and reasonable expectations of whether you will see a pay raise or not. Need help preparing for your review? Check out our programs and workshops that can boost your education and skill level. 

 

A Closer Look at This Year’s Marketing Trends 

Hard to believe that it is almost 2020. Another decade is in the books and the world seems to be moving faster and faster every year. The trends in business seem to evolve at an alarming rate the older we get. This is true for trends in the field of marketing as well. 

As we look back over the past year and forward into the next, let’s take a minute to evaluate the latest trends in marketing from AI, to Chatbots, video marketing, and personalization. 

AI – Artificial Intelligence

What was once the fantasy of sci-fi movies has become an everyday part of life. How often do you ask Siri, Alexa or some other artificial intelligence to find out some information for you or do a task? Earlier this year Harvard Business Review predicted that AI would quickly become a part of every single one of our newest technologies. The trend seems to be going in that direction.

According to Techgrabyte, “Artificial intelligence is the biggest commercial opportunity for companies, industries, and nations over the next few decades” and “will increase global GDP by up to 14% between now and 2030.” An indisputable fact that means “AI latecomers will find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage within the next several years.” How does your company use AI? 

Chatbots

Chatbots are another form of AI technology that are making it easier to connect with your customers each time they visit your website. You have probably seen the window pop up on your screen asking if you need assistance. These chatbots offer answers to simple questions 24 hours a day. Single Grain online estimates that chatbots will power 85% of customer service by 2020. If your company is not considering this as a part of the marketing strategy you may be left behind as consumers have begun to expect the access to answers, no matter what time of day. 

Video Marketing 

Content is still king, but now people consume their content much more visually than in written form. Take YouTube for example. When you want to learn “How To” do some small chores around your house, very few people are reading a manual but rather watching a video on how to get the job done. 

Customers respond well to visual content. In fact, live video has shown to keep audiences watching three times longer than recorded ones. Just ask viewers of Facebook Live or Instagram Stories. 

Personalization

Consumers are becoming more annoyed by generic advertisements and email blasts that take up their precious time. This coming year is going to be the year of personalized marketing. Businesses will be leveraging the power of personalization in the coming year as surveys have found that 90% of consumers remarked that they found personalization appealing in email, advertising, and product recommendations. Two companies that are already doing this well include Netflix and Amazon, with their tailored recommended products or movie titles.

If you are hoping to get the pulse on this year, and next year’s marketing trends you may want to attend our workshop, “Marketing for Success” on December 10th. 

Common Sales Mistakes 

The American economy is strong and buyers have more options than ever before. These two factors mean that knowing how to successfully market your business is more important than ever. In order to successfully sell your band’s products or services, it is a good idea to know what works and what doesn’t. Today we are looking at the top sales mistakes that cause a buyer to run for the hills or, worse yet, seek out another place to do their business. 

There are virtually hundreds of ways that your sales team could kill a conversation that costs your business a sale. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the ways the sale could go south but rather help your team learn from each of those mistakes and vow to do better next time. 

Talking Too Much 

Chances are that your sales team is mostly an outgoing and gregarious group of professionals. This may mean that they enjoy talking to people. Unfortunately the top sales mistake according to Sales Hacker is talking too much during a sales call. Their research has shown that the talk-to-listen ratio should be 46-54. Sales professionals should talk at most for 46% of a sales call. That means they listen for at least 54% of it. They suggest spending less time on the “pitch” and spending more time listening to what your client really wants and needs from your business. You never know, it could help improve your overall business and help you close the sale. 

Making Assumptions 

Often sales representatives head into a client meeting having a pretty good idea what the clients business is all about and what they may or may not need from your marketing team. Never assume anything in the sales process. What your client may want could change or expand, making your sale larger and more expansive. Or it could be less, and then you have oversold your business. Try to go into each sales meeting with an open mind about what each client may need, want, or wish to spend. 

Lack of Follow Up 

Sales reps are busy people and sometimes even the most organized of them can forget to follow up on the details of the sales meeting. Sales experts suggest making plans on follow up before the meeting is over or the client walks out the door. Even if the follow up call is for six weeks or six months down the line, it should be scheduled so there isn’t this amorphous time floating around. 

Want to her more about sales successes and mistakes? Check out our Dec 12th workshop on “Secrets of Effortless Selling.” 

Finding a Work-Life Balance

It would be fantastic if there was some magic pill or even an app that could make life more balanced. For instance, it would be freeing not to feel a constant pull in two different directions; from home and at the office. Often people trying to gain some sense of balance feel like they are not doing either well. If this even remotely sounds familiar then you will want to continue reading about how you can start to find a work-life balance. 

It’s often hard to know where to start when you are overwhelmed with family life and work life, and many times those responsibilities tend to overlap. With more and more employees working remotely or bringing a laptop home to “catch up on work,” the line becomes blurry about where home ends and work begins, or vise versa. 

While everyone’s lives are different, there are some similarities that experts have found in people who are attempting to balance their lives between work and personal life. Here are a few….

Get Organized 

It’s really hard to have a work-life balance when your physical space is a mess. Get yourself organized by creating some order to both your home and office workspace. It may take some time to file away all the paperwork, create a calendar, and tidy up the physical space that you occupy. Remember this is a process not a race! You may need to carve out a little bit of time every week to maintain organization as this is something that does not come naturally to lots of people. 

Manage Your Time 

Like most professionals, you probably have a long list of things to do at work and home. In order to create some level of balance between the two, learn to prioritize this list. You may want to mark whether each item is urgent, important, or can be classified as “can wait.” Finding ways to manage your time may also include delegating actions to some of your employees at work, or to a family member at home. Remember, you can not be all things to everyone and keep your sanity. 

In terms of managing your time, there are special considerations for those who work out of the home. In order to separate your work and personal life, it may be best to have a dedicated area to do your work at home, as well as a set time that you will work. It’s hard to have a good work-life balance if the laptop is always calling to you. Do yourself a favor and set a time for work so you know when you can clock out for the day and put your focus on your family or yourself instead. 

Utilize Technology 

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, so start using it to do just that. Tap into the hundreds of apps that can keep you organized, keep track of how long certain tasks take, or automize some of your work for yourself. Instead of driving to the office for a meeting use Google Hangout to get there remotely. Instead of keeping track of projects on your own, use an app that can keep each step of the project marked as completed or in progress. 

If you are looking for some ideas on how you can gain a work-life balance you may want to try our workshop on December 6th from 9am-3:30pm called Work-Life Balance

 

Creating Real Customer Loyalty

Did you know that repeat customers or clients spend up to 67% more than new customers? Did you also know that it is up to ten times more expensive to try to attract new customers than it is to keep the ones already doing business with you? Creating customer loyalty, therefore, should be a top priority for businesses both large and small. 

What’s a Loyal Customer? 

We hear a lot of talk about retaining loyal customers and clients. What exactly is a “loyal” customer? Generally, a loyal customer is one who buys your product or uses your services even when they are not on sale. They return time and time again usually because they have gotten to know your brand, your sales people, or have come to trust what you sell or serve. During sales slumps, these are the people who keep a business afloat. 

Retaining Loyalty

Once you have run the numbers and checked out your company’s database to identify your most loyal customers, it is time to do some work to retain those people. What you do really depends on the nature of your industry, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking. 

Reward Loyalty 

Customers tend to remain loyal to a certain brand or business if they feel valued. Show this audience their value by offering some sort of incentive for being loyal. For example, many businesses offer some sort of loyalty card that allows a consumer to earn a reward after spending a certain amount of money or shopping a certain amount of times. Think about it. Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks keep their customers loyal not just due to the addictive caffeine they sell but also by offering rewards cards that tally up to free coffee! Even if the reward is small, consumers will recognize that they are considered “regulars” and will continue the trend. 

Maintain Excellent Communication and Customer Service 

One of the reasons customers return to the store is usually the service they received the first time around. This connection between employees and the public is critical to maintaining a solid customer base. One of the top qualities that customers report valuing is the communication between the business and themselves. Be sure to be open and honest about your products/services. That communication will go a long way in helping you brand your name as an honest business person and get you some loyal customers as well. 

Create a Community 

It’s always a good idea to ask your clients or consumers to give you feedback as to how you are doing. It can create a sense of community and that “we are in this together” feeling. Ask your clients for feedback on social media, newsletters, or through surveys that can give your business a good sense of what is going well and what you need to improve upon. Many businesses find that a sense of community is found through volunteerism, social media connections, and community outreach. 

Are you looking to create loyal customers for your business? Of course you are! Check out our workshop on December 5th entitled, “How to Create Conversations that Will Gain and Retain Loyal Customers.”

Common Qualities of Entrepreneurs 

Ever wonder if you have what it takes to be your own boss and start your own business? If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and want to explore business ownership, here are some of the common qualities that most entrepreneurs exhibit. 

If you are looking to become the next Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates, then you probably have the internal drive and motivation to strive for your own piece of the American pie. Outside of motivation, what are the other qualities that you may need to lean on as you rise to excellence in your given field? 

Vision

Entrepreneurs tend to have their eye on the big picture of what is going on in their field of work. Having a finger on the pulse of your industry means you can keep up with the trends, upcoming issues, and plan for the “next big thing” before it hits the news. Having a sense of vision also means that you can maintain the day-to-day running of the business all while keeping up with future plans. 

Flexibility 

The ability to switch gears, change the plan, and juggle many things at once, is also a characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs that have struggled through the first few years of a fledgling business will tell you that it is important to always be evaluating what is working and what is not. If it is not, then change courses to make an idea feasible. Being open-minded to feedback from others in your circle can help you make adjustments that will make your business work. 

Decisiveness

If making decisions is not your thing, then maybe being a successful entrepreneur should not be on your radar. You will need to make sound judgements with the knowledge that you have at the moment. Many of those decisions will be under time pressure so be prepared to make a choice, stand by it, and commit to it until it is no longer successful. 

Collaboration 

Being an effective team leader means that you can also “play well with others.” It’s not enough to be a prodigy in your field. You need to be able to work with others who can help support your business and use skills that possibly you do not possess. We are not all good at everything. Recognizing that, and be able to work with others who hold an entirely different skill set than you, is a hallmark of a brilliant entrepreneur. 

Are you looking into becoming your own boss and need help with your business plan? Check out the workshops we offer here at the Enterprise Center. Future entrepreneurs may be interested in the “Do You Have What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur?” workshop on December 3. 

 

Building a Dream Team of Employees 

Look around your office. You probably have some well chosen employees. Some have personalities that work well with clients, others may have the expertise that helps your company innovate and move forward. Have you nurtured this group into being your dream team? 

Molding your group of employees into a dream team is not only a smart idea to grow your business but it can make working at your company a happy place. Let’s take a look at some things you can do as a business leader to help shape and build your dream team. 

Identify Each Person’s Strength 

Working together means that you probably have a good sense of what each person in your office can and can not do well. Some people are more technical, while others are better on the organization front. And still others are best at working with clients or writing that proposal in a hurry. 

Take some time to get to know each of your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. In fact, you may want to hire a specialist to come in to work with your staff to help them identify what they do well with and where they struggle. Not only is this a good way to pinpoint everyone’s strengths but it lets your team know that you are invested in their careers as well. 

Set Goals 

Once you have identified each employee’s specialty areas, help them set goals for themselves both short-term and long-term. These goals can be in relation to clients, sales, recruitment, networking, or any area that you decide upon. The goals should be given to both individuals and the group as a whole. 

Give them the Tools They Need 

If you read that and said, “Whoa, what about the budget,” then keep reading. Within the limits of your budget, we suggest that you provide as many ways as possible to give your team what they need to do their jobs well. If they need better communication between remote workers, clients, vendors and others, then provide an app like Slack that can help keep all parties along the chain connected and communicating. If they need time to collaborate as a group then carve time out of every day or week to allow for group collaboration meetings. In short, listen to what their needs are and try your best to provide them. 

A dream team doesn’t just happen, they are made by the leaders and people within a business. Check out our listing of workshops that can help you nurture the team you dream of. 

 

Networking For Your Small Business 

Being a small business owner can mean long hours and taking on many different roles, especially when starting out. For many small business leaders juggling it all, the thought of networking on top of all the others things to do is too much. Networking is, however, a great way to generate leads, stay up-to-date on trends in the industry, and gain helpful hints or creative ideas. 

According to a survey sponsored by American Express, 9 out of 10 Americans agreed that it was important to support the small businesses in their community, and 73% consciously tried to do just that. The people around you want you to succeed – they want to book your services. But they can’t do that if they don’t know about you! And that’s where it helps to network in your own community.

Here are several ideas of how to make networking seem like less of a chore and to get the word out about your business. 

Commit to Local Networking Groups

Whether it is a monthly breakfast meeting or a bi-monthly coffee-house get together, commit to attending these networking gatherings on a regular basis. It is a great way to start to meet other small business owners in your area as well as people within your industry. If your time is extremely limited, be sure to research which local organizations you want to take part in. Even just participating in an industry-specific organization, small business associations, or your local chamber of commerce can be beneficial for your business.

Attend Conferences 

In addition to meeting other professionals in your area and industry, you may also want to expand your networking by attending conferences that are industry specific. Conferences are a great time to catch up with people in your field who are influencers or innovators as well as solidify friendships with local or regional professionals in your field. 

Exhibit at a Trade Show 

Once you get more experience networking with local businesses and industry specific businesses, you may want to exhibit your services or products at a trade show. Don’t forget to bring your business cards and a partner to talk up your business with attendees. 

Volunteer in Your Community 

One of the best ways to make genuine connections with other small businesses and potentially clients in your area is to take part in some form of community outreach. The level at which you decide to volunteer depends on your schedule, but check out local charities or nonprofits that could use your expertise and provide some pro-bono work to not only feel good but to make connections that are meaningful. 

If you need further ideas on networking and connecting with your local community, check out the small business association for more helpful hints. Also check out our calendar of events for great workshops and networking opportunities.