Archive for the ‘Team Building’ Category


The 10 Best Interview Questions of All Time

??????????????????????????????????????????While unemployment is the lowest in 5 years, it is still challenging to find the best employees for your company. Not only do they need the skills to perform their job well, but they also have to fit within the company’s culture.

To hire the perfect people, it’s important to ask the right questions. This is a challenge for many small business owners because they typically talk more than the job candidate or they just ask questions which review their resume. Here are the best 10 questions to ask:

  1. Tell me about yourself. This is always a good introductory question. Ask and then don’t say another thing until they are done. What they actually say is not critical, but how they answer this question is. Do they focus on personal or professional details? How do they see themselves? Does this view fit into the culture of the company.
  2. Tell me about a time when…Many job candidates can talk in generalities about their skills and accomplishments. However, asking for a specific example is a much more effective why to discover what they have really achieved. For example, when interviewing a sales candidate, ask “Tell me about a time when you won a customer from a competitor.”
  3. How will you contribute to the company? This will highlight their goals for the specific job and which of their skills would be most beneficial for the company. It also will tell you how they see themselves as part of a team. Remember, their goals should match the company’s. When they deviate, employees leave.
  4. What is a specific example of the biggest professional challenge you have faced? How a candidate faces adversity is key. Even if a project didn’t go as planned, it’s important to find out how the applicant would reacted and would remedy the problem in the future.
  5. Test them. In a professional setting, these are typically hypothetical situations or ones that have actually occurred at the company. They should demonstrate job-specific and problem solving skills. Don’t be afraid to ask them to solve problems they would face in the first month of their job at the actual interview.
  6. Why are you here? Andrew Alexander, President of Red Roof Inn, says it helps reveal what the person’s passion is. The applicant should want to work at the company, not just want a job. Employees that are passionate about the company’s mission excel at their position.
  7. What is your ideal job? Liz Bingham, Partner at Ernst & Young, says it helps match if the person is suitable for the open job. It reveals what their passions and strengths are.
  8. What areas of improvement were identified in your last job review? Andrew Shapin, CEO of Long Tall Sally, says it can show self-awareness and weaknesses when people answer this question honestly.
  9. Where’s your passion? Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig, says they only hire people who are passionate about that profession. It helps attract committed employees that will make the business successful.
  10. How do you measure success? This answer will tell you what the candidate values and if it matches the job compensation structure.

What are your favorite interview questions?


How to Improve Your Work/Life Balance in 2014

work-life-balance-life-purposeAll of us would like to strike a balance between our work life and personal life, but accomplishing such harmony can be easier said than done. Here, Dr. Rachel Elahee, a life coach based in Atlanta, offers a few pointers on how to feel a more relaxed this year.

Take inventory of your activities

As a business owner, you most likely started your company because of a deep-felt passion in a product or service. Maybe you love to bake and wanted to bring your cakes to the masses or you are fan of the latest fashion trends and wanted to bring your tastes to the women in your community. Take a moment to think about what you do on a day-to-day basis and ask yourself: Are you still doing what you love?

“We often get trapped by doing what we need to get done and lose sight of our original spark,” says Elahee. “When you move away from your original passion, you can get lost. Try to gain an awareness in your every day activities and determine if you are still doing what you really enjoy.”

Schedule your down time

Your love for painting or taking yoga classes has fallen by the wayside since you launched your business. Now your days are filled with meetings and worrying about your next sale. Instead of staying on the moving walkway that is your life, try stepping off for a minute to do something that you adore.

“When I recommend business owners do something they love to do, they will immediately tell me that they just don’t have the time and talk themselves out of it,” she says. “But I’m here to tell you that there is almost always time during your week that you are wasting. Carve out one or two hours each week for yourself. If you still can’t, take that as a cue that you really need this.”  

Refocus and delegate

How many hats do you wear on any given day? 10? 12? More? Business owners, especially those with early-stage companies, are known to take on the creative side of the business in addition to the sales side, the technical side, the advertising side and the bookkeeping side, just to name a few. Elahee says it is a good idea to take stock of your daily responsibilities and consider farming some of them out to others.

“If you try to do everything, you will bury yourself under all of your tasks,” she says. “Consult with someone to take things off your plate. You will feel so much better when you do.” 


Are You a Fake?

a-penguin-imposterMany small business owners suffer from the imposter syndrome. They feel that their customers or employees will find out "who they really are" and lose confidence in their ability to run the company. This fear holds many people back from displaying who they really are at work. This becomes a problem in the transparent world of the Internet where "being human" and authentic are highly valued by customers.

Customers buy from who they believe, like, and trust. Without being authentic as a leader and a company, this will never happen and it will become impossible to build a profitable company. Here is what to do:

1. Tell the truth. This is more difficult than it first seems in small business. Most owners have good intentions, but sometimes are afraid to disclose to employees and customers what is really happening. How to be authentic: Focus on the companies strengths. Always deliver good and bad news in a timely fashion. Don't be afraid to be humble and show personal or company warts. Build a culture of openness and frequent communication. 

2. Stick to the brand. Many times, companies want to be everything to everybody. This leads to telling the customer that the company can do things that they really can't. This leads to frustrated employees, disappointed customers and an unprofitable businesses. How to be authentic: Determine the exact customer segment served and the pain solved. Get clear on what the company cares about. Stay focused on delivering outstanding results in this niche area.

3. Hire employees that want to be part of the company's culture. Too many times, owners hire a person to fit a particular job. They rush into a decision and don't understand how that person would work in the overall company culture. How to be authentic: Hire for attitude over skill. Think about how the new employee will complement the rest of the team. Have team members give feedback on prospective employees.

4. Be consistent. Too many times, the company's brand does not match it's culture. The friendly company persona contradicts the cut throat office atmosphere. The boss is sometimes an angel and other times an ogre. How to be authentic: Live the company brand. Be the same person inside and outside the office. Be the same in front of managers, staff and customers. Have no hidden agendas. Set an example by practicing whatever is preached.

Are you authentic? How do you demonstrate it? 


Mondays with Mike: 7 Simple Steps to Improving Office Morale

Worried about post-holiday doldrums in the office?  Afraid that short of spiking the coffee with Prozac, there’s little you can do about it?  Fear not!  These simple tips can help you brighten the mood and invigorate your staff.

  1. 10-tips-for-boosting-employee-morale-pop_6697Daily Huddle.  Don’t sweep your office problems under the rug.  Take a few minutes each day to air out concerns and address practical solutions.  Let your staff know that you’re making changes by giving them regular updates on the concerns they’ve expressed.  Tip:  Hold the meeting standing up.  You’re more likely to keep people on topic and to-the-point.
  2. Schedule Change-Up.  Offer your staff a chance to shift their schedules a bit.  It’s amazing what a little flex-time can do.  You’ll see refreshed, focused faces if you give your employees the chance to get out of their rut.
  3. Focus on the Why, rather than the What.  No matter what you do, you can benefit from reflecting on why you’ve chosen your field.  Accountants’ offices may not be the most exciting places to work, but if you can get your team focused on the real benefits they provide to your clients, then you can invigorate your staff and get them ready to tackle even the crunch of tax time.  Focus on your purpose.
  4. Say Thank You.   Simple.  Free.  So important.  Take the time to let your staff know that you appreciate their hard work.
  5. Listen.  Any good customer service rep will tell you that the first step to resolving a problem is to let the customer vent.  If a member of your staff has a complaint, it’s important that they be able to voice their concerns.  If a frustrated employee has no place to vent appropriately, then the dissatisfaction will spread to other members of the staff.  The important tip here is to let your staff air their grievances in private if possible, preventing the negative attitude from multiplying and giving you the opportunity to address legitimate complaints.
  6. Take the Bullet.  Does your staff have a gripe about a particularly unpleasant or difficult task?  Is there something standing in their way – an obstacle that needs to be overcome?  Be the hero!  If you step in and show that you’re not just willing to pitch in, but able to solve problems for your staff from time to time, you cement your position as the solution-finder extraordinaire.  By modeling the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get dirty on occasion, you’re setting the example of being a problem-solver.
  7. Change of Scenery.  Monotony is the slayer of enthusiasm.  Get your employees out of the office for a day and see how their collective outlook improves.  Pick a charity and spend the day volunteering, and when you return, have a new coffee maker or new desk chairs for your staff waiting for them.  Shaking up the routine can make your staff as enthusiastic as they were on their first day.

You’re the captain of the ship.  Keep tabs on morale and make sure you brighten up the office when necessary.  


How to Win a Business Plan Competition

Want to win money at a business plan competition?  There is plenty of cash out there in 2014, but it takes team preparation since the rules for contests differ and can be quirky. However, they can be a viable source of funding your business.

Here is what you need to do to win:

Management experience: Tell why your team is uniquely qualified to run this business. An experienced management team always wins over a great idea since success is about execution. For example, explain which members of your team have built a company before and have industry experience.

Market size: Describe the true addressable market of your company. Be as specific as possible. For example, a target market is not toys, but rather educational toys for 0-18 month olds.

Describe the problem your solution solves: Customers only buy when they are in pain. What pain do you solve and for whom? Do they have the money to buy the product? For example, the solutions that Nextiva sells allow companies to reliably communicate with their customers.

Proven concept or just a prototype: Showcase your paying customers since they are the best example that there is really a need for your product.

Strategic alliances: It is difficult for a small company to do it alone. Which larger brands can you get help from? For example, if your product is distributed by Wal-Mart, this is a big advantage.

Sustainable competitive advantage: If your company is successful and a richer competitor comes into the market, what will be your competitive advantage? For example, this could be a patent, trade secret, or distribution rights.

Use of the prize money: Judges want to know how the money will be used and make a difference in your company.

Get the math right: Financial projections are usually critical in any competition. Making arithmetic errors or having projections that are too optimistic can be fatal.

Make it engaging: Make the written entry or presentation engaging. Bored judges stop reading or paying attention. Anticipate the most likely questions, but be ready to improvise when things go wrong.

Rally your tribe: Many contests have a public voting element. Get everyone that your company is connected with to vote for your business.

Winning isn’t everything. Participating in these contests can bring valuable connections that can exceed the value of the cash prize.

Apply to win The 2014 Rule Breaker Awards sponsored by Nextiva, Microsoft, Skype, and Constant Contact. 

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2014 Resolutions: How to Promote Wellness in Your Company

office-yogaWith the New Year right around the corner, everyone is thinking about how to get back into shape, improve what they eat and live better lives. That way of thinking can easily be applied in the office setting and, according to Lisa Menninger, a corporate wellness consultant, business owners are smart to incorporate health-related practices during the workday.

“For every dollar a company spends on wellness, they get back $5 to $6 in decreased insurance claims, a decreased number of employee sick days and an increase in general efficiency on the job,” she says.

Here are a few easy ways to promote wellness in your company:

Start a walking club

Chances are good that your employees are looking to get healthier in 2014. Help them in their effort by creating a walking club where a group meets for a 30-minute stroll at lunch or after work, recommends Menninger. Establish a daily meeting time and ask a staff volunteer to lead the group. Better yet: divide leadership responsibilities between a few people to increase the chances of the program lasting past January.

Throw out the break room

Take inventory of the snacks in your break room. Are you finding chips and dip or carrots and hummus? If your answer is the former, it’s time to get out the trashcan and start over.

“Don’t stock fake creamer or fruit juices. Instead, cut up veggies and put them out on the table,” suggests Menninger. “I promise that those goodies will be gone in no time. By supplying the room with healthy snacks, your employees will no longer reach for the other stuff. They will be fuller longer or have more energy to get work done.”

Launch a health-related newsletter

Take a moment to think about your staff members. Who is the healthiest person in your office? The person who runs races on the weekends or talks about his or her yoga retreats on a regular basis?

“If you have someone in your group that can recognize good information, ask that person to circulate blogs on health topics or create an internal newsletter to help motivate employees throughout the year,” says Menninger. “Either that, or give the person a corner of your existing newsletter to write a column about health.” 


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things Your Employees Need

Support your employees and develop a win-win relationship to help your business succeed. Learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


How to Plan the Perfect Corporate Off-Site Event

Holding a company event outside the office can be a useful way to bond a team and allow employees to relax and enjoy each other’s company without having to talk about work. It can, though, get a little overwhelming to try to plan such an event. Here, Anne Marie Rembold, owner of Anna Marie Events, a corporate event planning company based in San Francisco, offers her top insights.

Start with the money

What is the budget for your corporate off-site event? Establish a number and go from there. Don’t start looking into activities or locations before confirming a budget with your team as costs can quickly get out of hand, says Rembold.

Pick a venue

When choosing a venue, consider where your employees will be coming from, how they will be getting to the venue (public transportation or vehicle) and if you will offer alcohol at the gathering (a vital consideration for drivers).

“Then, go back to your budget,” she says. “Make sure you understand every layer of cost associated with your location. Will gratuity be included? Will there be additional service fees? What about room rental fees? After looking at all of those factors, determine if the venue still fits into your budget.”

447-corporate-team-building-events-with-way2go-adventures-ltdChoose an activity

Off-site activities should be inclusive to most people (hopefully everyone) on your team. Stick with pursuits such as mini golfing, corn hole or Bocce ball. “I also really like cooking events because it doesn’t matter how good of a cook you are, you can still have fun and learn something,” Rembold says. “It is important to choose activities that are lighthearted and level the playing field.”

Communicate with your employees

Think of yourself as a party promoter, you want to build buzz around the office. Generate excitement by announcing the event at least a month in advance. “Remind your team again two weeks out and then three to five days in advance,” she says. “You want to keep it front-of-mind so they are talking about it with their colleagues.”

Plan your food and beverage

Regardless if you are going to a bowling alley or a mini golf course, it is always a good idea to provide food and refreshments for your staff. Think hard about alcohol. It may not be necessary if the event is in the middle of the day. If, though, it is scheduled for the evening, you may consider offering beer and wine or even a full bar.

“But I wouldn’t plan for the entire event to revolve around alcohol,” says Rembold. “If it does, people who don’t drink or are trying to cut back could feel really uncomfortable.”

Stay on top of logistics

Logistical considerations—namely transpiration, directions and maps—are of utmost importance when planning a corporate off-site event. “I’ve seen it so many times where someone plans an event and no one knows how to get there. It can really throw people off,” she says. “Make sure everyone has detailed instructions in advance.”


4 Questions to Ask When Planning a Company Holiday Party

88a1e9184b62fcf2_shutterstock_165467636.previewIt’s the second week of December and a thought just hit you like a ton of bricks: you forgot to plan your company holiday party. Don’t panic. You still have time (and could always organize a New Year’s party in January instead). Not sure where to start? Christina Millikin, founder of Glow Event Design in San Francisco, offers four questions to ask yourself as you dive into planning.

What’s the budget?

How much are you willing to spend on this event? Be specific. “Saying you want to ‘make it nice’ means different things to different people, so it is best to start with a set budget and move backwards from there,” recommends Millikin.

Once you have a number in mind, decide what party components are most important. If securing a specific venue is high on your list, spend a good portion of your allotment there. If team-building activities are important, allocate your funds differently.

Who will be invited?  

Will this party be for your sales department or for your whole staff? Will you be inviting significant others? If you’re worried about over-extending your budget by inviting husbands and wives, hold the party during work hours. “But if you are planning it for a weeknight or a weekend, it is best to allow people’s partners to come along,” she says. “All of us work hard and spend time away from our families. You don’t want to take your staff away for another evening.”

What activities will be offered?

Many of us have been to holiday parties at restaurants where the sole activity is to hang out at the bar. Think outside the box this year by tapping into the interests of your employees. “If you have staff members who love bowling, for example, consider hosting your party at a bowling alley,” says Millikin. “Or transform your office into a casino for a night and offer prizes.”

How will alcohol be handled?  

Access to alcohol can be a little tricky at company parties. On one hand, you may want to treat your employees to a few recreational drinks, but on the other hand, you don’t want things to get out of control. “We’ve all been to parties where someone drinks too much, makes a scene and the mood is awkard the next day,” she says. “It really pays to think in advance about the temperment of your employees and how they may handle alcohol.”

Opt to offer just beer and wine or an open bar for a limited peroid of time, or forgo drinking altogether with a lunchtime party, recommends Millikin. “And always offer non-alcoholic options so as not to isolate anyone,” she offers. “Come up with a really fun mocktail and offer it as part of the menu.” 




 
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