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All posts by Mike Sperling

About Mike Sperling

Mike Sperling Bio 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.

Common Mistakes of New Business Leaders

Starting a business can be a huge undertaking that involves planning, money and exceptional leadership skills. Even rookies with deep pockets and amazing entrepreneur skills can make some common mistakes that can put a wrinkle in any well-laid plans. Learn from other entrepreneurs and their first-timer mistakes. Here is a quick guide of common mistakes to avoid as you set out on your new business adventure.

  • Keep an Eye on Finances – Watching the bank balance can be nerve wracking but is in your best interest. Always have your finances updated and keep a regular check on your money owed and money earned. Cataloguing each can save you lots of heartache later. Knowing your cash flow will help you keep your mind on the ultimate goal of your company.
  • Making Poor Hiring Decisions – Your team is one of your more important assets at your company. One bad hire can mean your business downfall. Hire for skill, talent and intelligence rather than convenience or pay scale.
  • Poor Management – There is a balancing act between laissez-faire managing and micromanaging your company. Learn to balance by delegating and relying on experienced managers.
  • Failing to do Research – New business leaders need to be aware of the changing market, sales, and the ins and outs of your competitors by researching completely. A dedicated development team can keep you up-to-date if you have the wallet for a team member who can keep you informed.
  • Failing to Create a Business Plan – A great plans need to be changed and adjusted but failing to start with a goal and steps in the process can be deadly for a new business leader. Always have your eye on the goia whether it is long term or short term.

 

What is Rebranding?

 

For many of us in the business world, we understand what branding means and how it works to help consumers recognize and understand a product or service. Rebranding is something that many marketing agents are weary of and may be nervous to start fresh, so let’s look at what rebranding is and what the common steps are to do this.

Rebranding is the creation of a new look and feel for an established product or company. The usual goal of rebranding is to influence a customer’s perception about a product or service or the company overall by revitalizing the brand and making it seem more modern and relevant to the customer’s needs.

If your company is getting lost in the busy internet world of marketing, you may want to consider rebranding your company name or product. To do this you will want to consider the following suggestions.

  • Obtain Customer Feedback – Talk to your customers through questionnaires either online or in person, and ask what they would like to see from your company. Find out what your clients feel, think and want from your company. These suggestions can help you set a course to branding success. Be sure to find out what is NOT working for your customers as well.
  • Gather Employee Feedback – Your employees are a vital part of your company. They will have important feedback about how to improve your company and your overall brand name.
  • Start promoting your New Brand – Use any new channels whether social media or traditional methods to start getting the new branding out there. If you want to transition from an older branding strategy you may want to spend a little bit more on your advertising for a month or two.
  • Be Consistent – Keep branding your service or product consistently. According to Open Forum, “Once you have established who and what you want to be, do not change it except for tweaks and slight adjustments. It takes 10 to 12 ‘touches’ for a customer to even notice you.”

 

Benefits of Business Mediation

At some point or other, all businesses have disputes whether it is about contracts or employee benefits or any other number of issues. While most disputes can be resolved fairly quickly and quietly, occasionally disputes escalate into something that needs intervention. In these cases, mediation can be helpful to resolve the issue.

This arbitration between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise. This increasingly popular form of alternative dispute resolution serves as a viable option for business owners who choose to resolve conflicts through a forum other than arbitration or a conventional jury or bench trial. Mediation tends to try to accommodate the needs of each party and helping the parties formulate a workable solution. Here are some of the benefits of using mediation to solve business issues.

  • Input and Control on the Outcome – In a court case to resolve dispute the judge casts the final decision. In mediation,  the two parties come to a mutual resolution that hopefully makes both parties happy. Mediation enables parties in a dispute, be it during or before a lawsuit, to have control over the final settlement.
  • Cost Savings – Hiring a lawyer can be costly and means an investment for the entire case. Mediator’s fees are usually divided between the various parties involved in the dispute. This cost savings can really add up.
  • Preservation of Relationships – Business disputes often involve friends, employees and long time clients. Mediation can help to develop solutions based upon mutual interests rather than adversarial positions.
  • Time Savings – Court cases, whether done by a judge or a jury, can be lengthy and drawn out. This method can be completely efficiently as opposed to a trial or hearing.
  • Confidential – Mediation stays between the parties and the solution to the dispute is private and confidential.

 

Common Questions about Leaves of Absence

 

Do you have a sick family member, just had a baby, have a medical condition or need to fulfill military service? If so, you may be looking to take some time off from work. A Leave of absence is approved time off work from the management or leadership of our business. It can be granted for many reasons including: active duty call-ups for reserve military personnel, or to attend to the health needs of the employee or of a family member of the employee.

 

Depending upon the type of business you are in, you may be able to informally request time off or you may need to use the FMLA Family Medical Leave Act to have your request approved. Requests for unpaid personal leave are normally made in writing to the employee’s department manager with a copy to the Director, Human Resources, and should indicate the reason and the length of leave requested. If the workplace is more casual, a verbal request may suffice.

 

Here are some common questions about Leave of Absence that you will want to discuss with your employer.

    • Will I get paid while I am on a leave of absence?  Leaves of absence are without compensation with the exception of Long-Term Disability Leave.
    • What if I have to care for a seriously ill family member?  Employees can request a Family Care Leave to care for a seriously ill family member.
    • I have been ill and have exhausted all of my sick time or PTO time and my extended sick time. What do I do now?  Employees can request a Medical Leave of Absence if paid-time has been exhausted and the employee is still medically unable to work.
    • What laws are there about Leaves of Absence? Federal and/or state laws govern a mandatory leave of absence. These leaves include medical absences governed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), military leave, jury duty and other state-mandated leaves. Whether the laws surrounding these leaves of absence apply to you is often based on the number of employees working for your company and where an employee is working. Your business must grant job-protected leave to eligible employees in these situations.
    • How does an employee qualify for FMLA? An employee qualifies for FMLA leave by working 1250 hours.Here are some reasons an employee might take FMLA leave: Childbirth, adoption and foster care, serious health condition, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or certain military reasons (including care of a service member).

 

 

 

Professional Presentations

Whether you use Powerpoint, Google Slides or another presentation software, having captivating and informative presentations for your clients can mean the difference between making the sale and losing a client. Add some creativity that will captivate your viewers with a clever presentation, images and content that will keep them listening from beginning to end.

  •  Be Well Versed – One thing that completely turns off an audience is having the presenter read directly from the slides. Know your topic well enough that you do not need to read every word but rather can talk freely and interact with the audience.
  • Use Quality Photography – Sharp and custom photography can really make your presentation pop. Use images of your business when possible instead of stock photography. Make the images unique and interesting to look at.
  • Choosing Slide Backgrounds – Many presenters go for flashy or eye catching backgrounds but others rely on solid backgrounds that make the content stand out. Either way you choose, make sure your colors are eye pleasing and that bullet points are easily readable in a font that matches the tone of the presentation.
  • Be Clear – Make each slide clear and to the point. Use bullets but do not overwhelm your audience with too many points to consider on each slide. Instead break up major topics into smaller ones so that your audience can follow your train of thought.
  • Use Humor – Your presentation has an ultimate goal for your company. Using humor to maintain the attention of the audience can help you get to that goal. If your audience is bored they may stop listening. Keep them laughing with personal anecdotes or common situations that your listeners can relate to will keep them on task.

Time Management Tips

Tick, Tick, Tick. . . 

Does your work day slip between your fingers and make you wonder where the time went by the time you reach closing time? If so, you may need to re-think your time management skills. Learning how to manage your time can be difficult and take some time to learn but here are some expert tips that can get you started.

  • Maintain a Calendar – Carry your schedule with you at all times. This may mean using an online scheduler and project management tool. Be sure to refer to the calendar regularly throughout the day and keep track of how long regular activities take. This may seem tedious but will give you a better idea of how long certain activities will regularly take. You will then be able to plan your time better in the future.
  • Plan Every Morning – Many business leaders emphasize that what keeps them on track all day is a 30 minute review every morning of what the goals are for the day and week, maybe even the month. Having those goals in mind before you start meetings or rushing from activities to activity can keep you focused.
  • Know How to Delegate – Having a trusted employee who can handle some of your daily duties can mean you can attend to more important duties. Someone who can field your email and phone calls as well as prioritizing them can help you stay on task all day long.
  • Eliminate Distractions – Start paying attention to the number of times someone interrupts you when you’re in the midst of an important task. Eliminate those distractions by closing your door or doing work in a separate area. Or set aside a certain time of day when you are free.
  • Start Early – While it might be nice to sleep in or have a lazy coffee, getting an early start is the hallmark of leaders who have time management mastered.

 

Pinterest for Business

Chances are that if you own a business website, you also have links to social media or at least some presence on one or more of the social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and LInkedIn are the common choices for many small and medium sized businesses. Have you considered Pinterest? Here are a few compelling statistics that may sway your social media choices.

  • Pinterest has 150 million users as of January 23rd of this year. Seventy million of them are in the United States. That is a lot of traffic that could be seeing your products and ideas.
  • Millennials use this social media platform as much as Instagram so if your target audience is in the age bracket consider becoming a pinner and poster.
  • 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest.
  • 93% of active Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases and 87% said they’ve purchased something because of Pinterest.
  • What’s unique about this mode of communication compared to most social media websites, is that it reduces the number of steps from discovery to conversion. This means that visitors from Pinterest convert into leads or sales faster than from other social media sources.
  • About 95% of the images were either pinned or re-pinned from the web which means you are building valuable links to your site daily.
  • The half-life of a pin is 1,600 times longer than a Facebook post.
  • The average pinner user spends 14.2 minutes pinning every time they log in.

Convinced? Check it out and see how it can work for your business at PinterestBusiness.

Organization Skills for Business Leaders

One characteristic of exceptional leadership (that many times is overlooked) is the organization skills of that leader. Sure, we have all had a great boss whose desk is a mess or can’t seem to keep meetings straight, but for every one of those types of leaders there are leaders who have their business lives organized. Here are a few tips for business leaders to maintain organization.

  • Planning – There never seems to be enough time in the day for business leaders. That is why planning is a critical part of being organized and taking advantage of every moments to get things done. Many leaders believe that using one calendar for the entire office can help keep things organized. Google Calendar and other online options can keep everyone on the same page and reduce overbooking a day.
  • Office Management – Many businesses have a designated person who keeps the office organized. For example, when the copier breaks down or the clients are running late, an employee should be a point person that can keep things running smoothly even in the absence of the owners or management.
  • Goals – While it is a great idea to have a planning calendar, often managers and owners can get bogged down by the day-to-day activities and not keep the ultimate goal in mind. Organized business leaders have regular meetings with key members of the team or office staff to check in on goals and see whet the progress is for each goal. Be sure to set both realistic as well as long and short term goals. Prioritize them according to your company’s needs.
  • Clean Things Up – At the end of each long work day it is tempting to leave for home and relax with your family. Take an extra ten minutes to tidy your desk and prep for the next day’s meetings or activities. You won’t believe how good it feels to come in the next day with a start on the day already.

Boost Your Company’s Cyber Security

Taking a risk in business comes with the territory for small and medium sized business owners, but taking a risk with your company’s assets online can be downright perilous. With news of spyware, hackers, ransomeware and data breaches making the news practically nightly, now is the time to beef up your cyber security. Here are a few tips from Forbes and cyber security experts on ways you can safeguard your business assets.

  • Back Up your Data – In the case of something small like a power outage or catastrophic like a major hacking, is your business data backed up regularly? Consider automatic back ups and redundancy plans to make sure your data can be recovered quickly.
  • Passwords and Authentication – Require that your employees use strong passwords that are created by a password manager and saved separately. The majority of password managers save and generate strong, random passwords for each of your web accounts. In addition, enable two-factor authentication on any website or system that supports it.
  • Maintain Updates – Always update and use the latest versions of software. The latest versions of software have the newest security protections that can save you time and headaches later.
  • Cyber Security Training – Train all employees on the security protocols that you will be using in your office and train them for red flags and what to look for. This is a great way to stop a breach while it is happening or catch it before it can do damage.
  • Employ the Best Security – If you think that just because you are a small or medium sized business means you are invisible or exempt from security issues,  you are wrong. Make sure your IT department is using the best security safeguards possible and maintaining them. Review these programs regularly to see if you need further security or better training for employees.

 

 

 

Networking: Benefits and Opportunities

Whether you own a small business, medium-sized business or a large corporation, business networking is an integral part of growing your company and seeing that it is successful. Building a lucrative business takes a lot of time and drive, so it’s good to have a network of friends and associates to draw energy from and keep you going. What is even better, is to have connections within your industry when things go wrong and you need advice from someone who has been there before. Networking can provide these things and more. Let’s take a look at the benefits of business networking and what potential opportunities abound in a networking event.

  • Referrals – When attending a networking meeting or event, there are always opportunities for referrals. Through word-of-mouth, leads can be filtered in your direction and eventually, those leads can turn into clients.
  • Connections – If the business leader is motivated, this form of marketing can mean you gain a great source of connections in your industry and in industries that work with yours. This can come in handy when you need simple advice or when you need help building and growing your company.
  • Raising Your Profile – With regular attendance at social gatherings and networking events, other business people will begin to recognize you and your brand. Sharing your information and talking about your company is a great way of building a name for yourself as well as increasing your reputation.
  • Sharing Knowledge – Many small and medium sized businesses need “a village” to get off the ground. These meetings are a perfect place to ask questions and share knowledge of the struggles and successes related to your specific industry or company.