Become a Member

LinkedIn to Grow Your Business

Running your own business can be challenging. There are so many components to consider from staffing, to marketing, and all the minutiae in between. It can get overwhelming. That’s why we love LinkedIn for small business owners. Not only is it a great place to network with other like-minded professionals but it is a forum that can help your business grow. Read on to find out more about how LinkedIn can help your business.

There are two major ways that business leaders can use LinkedIn to help grow their business. One method is the passive method of joining LinkedIn to read what others are posting, hunt for products, services, or employees for your company, and even keep the business page up-to-date. The other is a more active approach where a business owner or leader joins groups, participates in discussions, and posts articles that encourage interaction. Which method you choose is up to you and your business’s needs.

Either way, your business can benefit from your participation on LinkedIn. Here are three ways that LinkedIn can help promote your brand and your status as a businessperson.

Solidify Your Professional Status

Since LinkedIn is a social media platform, it is important that those who hope to make their mark in their chosen industry contribute engaging and interactive content. In this way, professionals can “show what they know.” For example, if your field of expertise is in marketing, your business profile and content on LinkedIn can showcase your successes through posts, blogs, and sharing articles. LinkedIn is a great place to illustrate to others in your field that you are an innovator or, at the very least, a business leader who is on-the-rise.

Connecting With Other Professionals

LinkedIn is the perfect social media platform to expand your business circle. LinkedIn hosts thousands of online groups, enabling professionals to network within their respective niches. Participate, add content, exchange information, and engage with others who are in your field or who are vendors that help support your type of business.

Give and Get Endorsements and Testimonials

LinkedIn enables your peers to endorse your skills and write up recommendations, and you can do the same for them. People who are searching for networking connections or job candidates will take these recommendations into consideration.

If trying these methods is not your thing, you may still want to consider trying LinkedIn advertising. Paid advertising on LinkedIn is still a relative bargain and can get your business in front of your market quickly.

If you are interested in joining LinkedIn or expanding your reach, get started on LinkedIn by finding out how LinkedIn works, creating a LinkedIn login, and if you’re not already a member create a great LinkedIn profile that focuses on growing business. Contact the Enterprise Center page for help getting started.

Top Issues Faced By Human Resources 

How does your company handle human resource issues? Do you have a dedicated department or does your company rely on an HR consultant? Either way, there are probably some common issues that every office deals with at some point. Let’s take a look at some of the top legal issues that HR professionals deal with, especially with small or medium-size businesses. 

What is a Human Resource Department? 

Whether you have a dedicated HR staff or a consultant who handles your HR issues, you should know the basics of what they do. Most human resources specialists focus on a number of major areas including: recruiting and staffing, compensation and benefits, training and learning, labor and employee relations, and organization development. Human resources staff is also responsible for advising senior staff about the impact on people (the human resources) of their financial, planning, and performance decisions.

What are the Top HR Issues? 

Confidentiality: 

If you manage a small office you know that word spreads fast whether it is good news or bad. It’s very difficult to keep a secret in a small work environment. Therefore it is one of the top issues that a human resource specialist deals with. It’s critical to the day-to-day functioning of the workplace that complaints, problems, or personal issues remain confidential. It is not only an ethical responsibility, but a legal one as well. 

Labor Rights and Compliance: 

It is the job of a human resources department to stay on top of developing laws that pertain to the rights and protections for employees. This could include a safe work environment for the accessibility for employees with special needs. There are regulations on everything from hiring practices, to wage payment, to workplace safety. Take a few minutes to read through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Law Guide. If business leadership chooses to ignore the laws or believes that they do not apply to their specific workplace, then there could be audits, lawsuits, and possibly even the demise of your company.

Compensation: 

This is always a touchy subject when it comes time for annual reviews that result in raises, bonuses or, alternatively, a decline in pay or hours. Human resources should always be involved if there is a review that is not stellar. The neutral party can help relay some of the findings and pave the way for improvement in work habits. 

Do you have questions about human resources, especially the legal questions that inevitably crop up? Check out our workshop “Understanding Legal Issues in Human Resources” led by Maureen Pomeroy on November 13 at the Enterprise Center. 

 

Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace 

Is creativity important in your field? Chances are the answer is yes. In a recent poll, almost sixty percent of CEOs called creativity the most important quality for leadership. If creativity is paramount to what you do, then here are a few ways to help cultivate creativity in your workplace. 

Look at the Environment

Take a moment to look around your workplace. Is there adequate lighting? Are there multiple styles of workspaces such as smaller individual work areas and then areas where groups can brainstorm together? Is the area clean and uncluttered? Studies have shown that conditions such as dim lighting, reduced clutter, taking a walk, and even rooms with high ceilings can enhance creativity. Talk to your team members about the work environment and ways that you could make adaptations to encourage productivity. 

Allow for Brainstorming 

We all remember the rules of brainstorming from our school days that said that no idea was stupid. Let’s go back to that. Encourage brainstorming when a new project has been assigned and allow for time to mull through each idea. The process may seem chaotic at times but fostering the concept of brainstorming can help employees and leaders feel supported in their quest to innovate. 

Identify Creativity and Reward It 

If you really want to foster creativity in your workplace, you need to seek it out and, when you find it, reward those who are being creative. A simple compliment would go over well, but some sort of incentive such as an all paid luncheon for employees when creativity is blooming would also be welcome. Use your budget and business know-how to guide you in identifying creativity and encouraging it to occur again. 

Be Flexible 

As business leaders, it is often too easy to be rigid about the hours of operation, getting projects completed, and working outside the box. Sometimes being a little flexible can help your staff be flexible too. You may want to experiment with flexible hours that accommodate family activities or school hours. Some employees find they accomplish more when they are allowed to work from home for a day or two a week. While still others find that meeting in a coffee shop for a brainstorming session works best for them. Think about being flexible in ways that work for your business. 

Need more ideas on cultivating creativity? Check out our workshop on Creativity and Innovation

 

Writing for Business 

During your college years, you were expecting to write papers, draft letters, and take part in all sorts of writing, right? Who knew that would be such an integral skill once you got to your “real” job later in life. Writing for business is a given nowadays with emails, reports, and presentations given on a daily basis no matter what field you are in. 

Don’t think you write often enough to worry about your writing skills? Think again. According to a study conducted by Carleton University, professionals spend one-third of their time at work reading and answering emails. You might spend more than this, or less, but chances are that a significant portion of your day is spent writing something.

Why Writing is Critical to Your Business 

Solid writing skills can mean the difference between being taken seriously in your position or being seen as less professional. Poor writing skills can lead to miscommunication, lost opportunities, and even a loss of business. Think of the number of times you have read an email or report that did not communicate the central message well. It is frustrating to decipher what the message really says. 

Let’s take a look at a few aspects of your writing that can help improve your reports, emails, or marketing materials. No matter what you are writing, it is a good idea to brush up on these areas as you progress in your career. 

Know Your Audience

As with anything in life, it is good to know who you are dealing with when you present, send an email, or write a report. Knowing who you are talking to can give your writing a sense of purpose and direction. For example, an in-office email could be short and informal, but a customer email or a PowerPoint presentation should follow the guidelines of courtesy, clarity, and conciseness. Your audience should be your compass; keeping in mind what the recipient seeks to learn narrows down the possible directions your writing should take (SkillsYouNeed 2019). Think about what they know already, especially as you determine the terminology to use. If you’re writing to a specific person or group of people, look for ways to personalize the document by considering their interests.

Think First 

Take a few minutes to mentally define the goals of the written piece. Do you know the main content: the who, what, when, where, and why of your writing? Think through it first before you even reach for the pen or keyboard. Thinking in broad terms first will help you to focus your message and make sure that you highlight all the important points you want to make. 

Be Brief 

Workplaces are busy places. Take the fluff out of your writing and get to the point. Be direct and short in your writing, unless the type of writing dictates added details and expansion on the topic. Readers will appreciate not having to sift through extraneous information to find the real message. 

Be Careful with Word Choice 

As just stated, it is important to be clear, concise, and direct in your business writings. It is also important not to use too many buzzwords or jargon that could turn off your reader. Jargon often makes you sound pretentious, and it can further alienate your reader. Instead, write the way you talk. Keep it natural and direct.

Edit, Edit, Edit 

It is always a good idea to have someone else read through your work whenever possible. Small mistakes can be easily missed by the original author. If you have no one to proofread for you, copy and paste your writing into Google Translate and have it read the document back to you. Usually, mistakes are obvious when you hear them aloud. Also, Google can usually catch flagrant typos or spelling errors. 

Need some help with your business writing? Join us at our workshop entitled Writing for Business and Grammar Skills on October 23, 2019. 

Accessibility in the Digital Space

Your business office is probably physically accessible for clients or employees who have a disability. The accessibility components might include handicapped parking, curb cutouts, ramps, or elevators. This is not news, though. In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly referred to as the ADA. The ADA mandates that public and private spaces be made accessible to individuals with disabilities. But is your company website digitally accessible? 

What Does Digitally Accessible Mean? 

If you are not quite sure what it means to make your business or business website digitally accessible, whether it is viewed on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, then read on. According to MediaWire, Digital Accessibility addresses the ability of people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities to access electronic resources such as the Internet, software, mobile devices, e-readers, etc. It also includes people with changing abilities due to aging or illness. Basically, digital accessibility is technology put into place to allow a wide range of users to easily navigate the digital space.

Think for a moment about your digital correspondence and website. Are there text or audio alternatives for someone who can not visually focus on small letters? Can your website be navigated without using a finger on a touchscreen but rather the arrows of a keyboard? Is the text written in an easy-to-read font and color? These questions probably have you thinking about how someone with a physical, cognitive, or sensory impairment views or navigates your digital world. 

How Can You Make Your Website or Digital Correspondence More Accessible? 

Thankfully, as technology evolves, so too does the assistive tech that can help make the digital world easier to manage. Assistive software has come quite a long way since the digital world came on the scene. Now, there are technologies or programs that include: programs for screen magnification, screen reading, speech recognition, text-to-speech, Braille printers, Braille scanners, touch screen displays, oversized mice, and oversized joysticks. 

Another example of universal design that can adapt easily to different users’ needs or preferences is the alt text tags for graphics or videos. For the hearing impaired, videos are unusable. For the visually impaired, images on a website are extraneous. Alt text provides captions for the hearing impaired trying to watch a video and audio alternatives for the visually impaired. 

Some users have physical difficulties navigating a website using a cursor alone. Digital accessibility means that websites are now able to be navigated using only the arrow keys on the keyboard. 

When the ADA was created in 1990, the Internet as we know it now did not exist and there is now a great need for updated laws concerning accessibility in the digital realm. The ADA requires that “places of public accommodation” be accessible to the disabled. Most businesses are now beginning to access their digital accessibility. Do you need to reassess your website in business digital realm? Check out our workshop on this topic on October 17, 2019. 

How Can Your Business Attract Top Talent? 

All businesses have one thing in common when it comes to hiring employees. They want to find the best talent that fits their company, at the best possible price point. While it may be easy to assume that salary is the main component to attracting and retaining top talent, there are other things to consider when searching for top talent. Read on to find out some innovative ways to attract talented individuals to your company. 

Competitive Benefits 

Obviously, the pay scale is a major factor that a candidate will weigh when making a job change. Make sure your salary scale is competitive with companies in your field and shows how increases may occur over the years. In addition to salary, make sure you have benefits that will attract top candidates. 

If you’d like a benchmark on the types of benefits are available, this article on 16 types of employee benefits is a good place to start. Benefits may include: medical, dental, vision, gym membership reimbursement, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, life insurance, profit sharing, disability, retirement plans, and the list could go on and on. 

Workplace Culture 

A recent Robert Half survey showed that 35 percent of the more than 1,000 workers polled said they would decline a job offer if the role was a perfect fit, but the company culture wasn’t. Take a close look at whether your office culture promotes job satisfaction. Are people happy to be there? Is there a personality and positive vibe about your workplace or is there a “nine-to-five drudgery” sense about it? Carefully examine your workplace culture and make changes to attract and retain top talent. 

Some changes that could impact workplace culture is flexibility when it comes to work hours and locations. Consider allowing for remote working days or flex days for parents who need to pick up or drop off at school/daycare. Help your employees forge bonds with non-work activities such as pizza lunches, after work gatherings, or fun office competitions. You may also want to consider the way that your office is physically configured, which will determine how your employees are able to interact with one another. Do you want to shift to an open workspace, private work cubicles, or a mix of the two? 

A Chance to Give Back 

One factor that employees have reported as a way to remain loyal to a company is their ability to give back to the community. Most people don’t just want to work for a paycheck. They want a sense that they are contributing to the greater good in some way. Consider allowing your employees to have days off for volunteering in their community or volunteering as a group on a project that your employees choose together. This will not only boost morale, but also give your employees a chance to make a difference outside the halls of your offices. 

Do you need assistance finding and retaining talented employees? Join us for our workshop on October 10, 2019 on Attracting a Talented Workforce

Organizing a Business Event 

If you work for a small or medium-size business, chances are that your staff does not include a professional party planner to organize those all important seminars, networking events, open houses, customer appreciation events, or company dinners. That means that planning corporate events falls to one (or several) employees that have a handle on details and can stay organized. If that person is you, read on for tips to organize your next business event. 

Corporate events can be tricky to plan since they have so many different components including the venue, budget, food, technology needed, atmosphere, guest lists, speakers, and the list could go on and on depending upon the type of event being planned. Here are some of our suggestions on how to get your ducks in a row and plan your next business event. 

Start With the Big Picture and Your Goal 

Start with what you hope to accomplish during the event. Ask yourself what the purpose of the event is and things will be clearer on how you should proceed. For example, if the goal of the event is to host an educational seminar for your clients, then the venue will be different than a black tie cocktail event. Or, if the goal is to have a social atmosphere and network with other companies in your field, then you know that you will have to find an appropriate venue for that. 

Create a Calendar and “To Do” List 

Once you know what the goal of your event is, you can plan accordingly. You will want to create a list of things to accomplish and give each a suitable deadline. This could include booking a venue if you are not hosting it in-house, finding a caterer and ordering food, creating a guest list and sending invitations, booking speakers, lining up any technology you need and, of course, staying within the budget set for you. 

Booking a Venue

Many corporate events happen outside of the walls of your typical office and finding the perfect venue is something you will need to arrange well in advance, depending upon the popularity of the spot you are choosing. Be sure to take into account travel time, how many people the venue can accommodate, and the atmosphere. When you book a space, an event planner may be assigned to your event and thus make your job a bit easier. If not, you may be required to work through even the smallest of details. 

Guest List and Invitations 

The venue and purpose of your event will help determine how many attendees your business can handle. Be sure to give ample time for a response from the people on your list. Remember that the average “no” response is usually around 20% when making your final guest list. Keep accurate records of who will be attending for a food, drink, or snack count. It will also help you when it comes time to print up any brochures or paperwork that will be a part of the event. 

Food and Drinks 

Depending upon the type of event you are having, food and drink is usually an aspect that needs consideration. Be sure to find out if any guests have allergies or any special food considerations. Venues are usually good about making special meals and will work with you on how to identify those guests when serving time approaches. As for drinks, this one is something your business leaders will need to decide. Do you want your guests to have the option to a cash bar, open bar, or are you having a dry event. All of these decisions need to occur early in the planning process as to allow for the budget to remain on track. 

Tech and other Materials 

Many events focus on some aspect of business and, as such, require technology, whether it is a presentation board, slide projector, smart board or, at the very least, a podium and sound equipment. Be sure to make a list of all the equipment and specialists you will need for your event so they can be secured well in advance. 

Presenters and Schedule of Events 

Once you have the venue, catering, guest list, and technology all set, you will want to line up who will be the master of ceremonies or presenter(s). A run through of the schedule can help ensure that things go smoothly on the day of the event. It will also ensure that small details like name tags, table gifts, and printed materials are ready to go for the event. 

Do you need help planning your events? Check out our workshop on Planning Events from Start to Finish on October 2, 2019. 

 

Instagram for Business 

Imagine being able to connect and interact with one billion people about your business. As of 2018, Instagram reached the 1 billion monthly active users mark (TechCrunch, 2018). There are more than 500 million active users using the mobile photo sharing platform daily! If you haven’t tapped into this social media network yet, it’s not too late. Read on to find out about how Instagram for business can get your brand noticed. 

Why Use Instagram? 

The question should really be “Why not use Instagram?” Instagram is currently developing and evolving rapidly. Being a part of that growth is a way to help your business do the same. Once used mainly by teens and young millennials, Instagram continues to grow as one of the most popular social media platforms, and the data tells us that’s not going to change anytime soon. If your target demographic is anywhere between 20 or 30 years old, then Instagram is the place to advertise, post, share, and comment (Oberlo 2019). In fact, of all the social networks, Facebook and YouTube have more daily active users than Instagram. 

If that is not enough to convince you to hop on the Instagram bandwagon for your business, then this one just might. More than 80% of users follow business accounts on Instagram. That means that 200 million Instagrammers actively visit business profiles everyday. They click on photos, share videos, and tap into “stories” to find out what is new with your business – every single day. 

Getting Started 

If reaching your target audience through Instagram seems like it might be a good marketing strategy for your company, you can get started here. When you sign up for an Instagram account, be sure to create a business profile. Business profiles have access to tools and features that help create a business presence on the platform. Once you have signed up through Instagram, you will want to add details about your business, including your name, username, profile picture, website URL and a short biography. Be sure to include contact information so your followers can connect with you. 

Before you start posting photos, videos, or stories, you will want to come up with a calendar and strategy of what and when you will post. Is your goal to teach others about your business, highlight products, introduce services, connect with consumers or, maybe, give some insider info that viewers love? Decide what your ultimate goal is so your posts can have a direction. 

As for when to post, we suggest that you take a look at the metrics on when to post to get the highest engagement. Sprout Social offers up some pretty compelling data on when to post on Instagram. In general, these findings show that the safest time to post are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m–3 p.m., while the peak times during the week are Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday between 10-11 a.m. These windows of high engagement can likely help to generate even more likes and engagement, especially for brands that just starting out.

Tips to Engage Your Followers 

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when adding Instagram to their arsenal of social media platforms is to treat it like Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is less wordy and more visual. Be prepared to show what you do or who is in images or videos rather than words. This means getting creative and looking at what you do from a different lens, per se. 

Get smart about hashtags to expand your reach. Instagram has always been big on hashtags, and they’ve always been an effective way to expand your reach on the platform. Now, Instagram allows for 30 hashtags per post and Instagrammers can now follow specific hashtags, meaning that they can keep tabs on relevant conversations by using hashtags alone.

In order to add to people who follow you, or at least follow your hashtags, collaborate by mentioning them with the @ sign in your posts. Take into account that not everyone is monitoring hashtags on social media, so tagging an account is usually a better choice if you want to get noticed.

Just like any other social media platform you will want to analyze your efforts. Check out the metrics often so you can see how certain posts are doing. Change your strategy according to those numbers. 

 

If you need more info on Instagram check out our workshops. The Instagram 101 workshop is on October 1, 2019, with more workshops offered all the time. 

 

Rules for Superb Customer Service

We’ve all heard the mantra that customer satisfaction is imperative when it comes to running a business. In fact, customers are the lifeblood of any business, large or small. That’s why maintaining and, in some cases, improving customer service is imperative to any company. Let’s review some rules for keeping your customers satisfied and loyal to your brand.

Most companies already have a customer service policy in order to maintain strong relationships with their customers, but a smart company will always ask the question, “What is good customer service?” This is especially true as touchpoints with clients and customers become more technology driven.

Deal with Complaints

We know it is no fun, but handling complaints head on is the best way to turn a disgruntled customer or client into one that may value your efforts to make things right again. This is critically important in our social media driven world where one post about a bad experience could spread like wildfire. Sites like Yelp, Google Reviews and other online review platforms should be monitored so you can make things right with a customer as soon as possible. Be sure that you respond online as well as through other more personal avenues to show others who are reading that you value your customers’ experiences and are trying to rectify the situation.

Know Your Product or Service

Honestly, every person who deals with clients or customers should know the intricacies of your product or services. When a customer has a question or problem, a customer service agent should be able to talk him/her through the issue easily. That means knowing the product forward and backward and being trained on potential issues that could arise. For service-related fields, agents should understand what the service entails and what it is limited to including a warranty policy.

The Ability to Read People

Reading a client’s emotional state is important to being able to successfully help them. If you are face-to-face, body language and eye contact should be fairly easy to pick up on. On the phone or even through an online chat, things get a little more complicated. Look and listen for subtle clues about the client’s current mood, patience level, and personality. This will help you go far in keeping your customer interactions positive.

Survey Your Customers

As your company grows and evolves, it may be worth your time to take a gauge of how well you are really doing in terms of customer service. A short survey could give you some insight into both what is working and what could use improvement.

Need more information on providing superb customer service? Check out our workshop on this topic September 20, 2019.

Best Practices for your Sales Team 

How does your sales team operate? Are they cooperative and open, or do they like to keep all their strategies secret? Chances are that there is a little bit of both going on in offices across the region. The balance can be hard to maintain, especially when numbers are measured and compensation relies on quantities sold. Here are a few ways you can encourage your sales team to maintain a healthy balance between competition and cooperation. 

Brainstorm Targeting Techniques

Criteria for Success online suggests asking your sales team a few important questions. “Does your company have a set plan for targeting? Is every salesperson on the team executing the targeting plan the same way? Want to mix things up?” Ask yourselves who your best customers are and where they are coming from. Why are they your best customers? Take some time to look at where your targets are found and what other areas can hold similar customers. 

Develop Success Stories 

Whenever someone is considering investing in a product or service, they want to hear from other customers and how they fared under your company. Create a series of success stories that can help you explain how your business has helped others succeed. For example, if your company is an IT support company, have a few short stories that can illustrate how your company has guided or supported other companies that needed IT services. Maybe a business that you have serviced has seen an increase in traffic on their website or and increase in clients of their own due to the work you have done. Stories like those can help sell your business without being a hard sell. 

Ask for Referrals 

We all have those loyal customers whom we adore. When the opportunity arises, ask for a written testimonial for your social media platforms or possibly a write up on an online review site like Yelp or Google Review. Most clients are thrilled to be able to help grow your business. These reviews or testimonials can really help the sales team when it comes time to close a deal. 

Not only can loyal customers help out with testimonials or online reviews, they can verbally refer you to other people in their field of work. It never hurts to ask for a referral or a mention to others. 

Build Relationships 

Finding customers can happen in the most unlikely places. Not all sales are made at networking events, seminars, or workshops. Many times, the sale happens months down the road after someone has gotten to know you during community events, volunteering opportunities, or through valued referrals. Building relationships and talking about your business can be something you do in many venues. You never know when someone may need your services and suddenly your name comes to mind. 

Do you need help with your sales team? Check out our workshop on September 19th titled, “Secrets of Effortless Selling.”