Posts Tagged ‘Growth’


How to Do Multitasking Right

1-8 multi-tasking smallIn most cases, multitasking only accomplishes one thing: it gets more things done poorly. However, there is a way to do multitasking that can increase productivity.

When running a small business, everyone and everything demands your attention all at once. With so much to do against so many distractions, it’s amazing that anything gets accomplished well. The answer can be multitasking, but it’s important to clarify what multitasking should be and just what can never ever happen.

If you are constantly shifting back and forth between tasks or allowing interruptions to determine what gets done, you are doing multitasking wrong. This type of activity has been reported to cause as much as a 40% reduction in productivity. Not surprisingly, it also increases the incidents of mistakes and errors.

While people shouldn’t perform several tasks at once, they can manage several tasks at one time. Multitasking should be thought of as a system for being able to make quick decisions about the importance and sequence of tasks, and then proceeding to complete those focused tasks efficiently.

Here are steps for doing multitasking right:

  1. Prioritize. Make a short list of the things to be accomplished (five or less) and which needs to be accomplished first.
  2. Organize. Once tasks are prioritized, decide which tasks on the list can actually be done together. This is efficient and saves more time than starting and stopping different activities. For example, instead of calling four prospects at random times throughout the day, set aside two hours to make the four 30 minute phone calls back-to-back. Also, checking email only two to four times a day is more productive then looking at each notification.
  3. Focus. Complete the task at hand and don’t think of all the other things that need to get done. Block out all other interruptions. Everything should be on the prioritized to-do list and out of mind until the more important tasks are complete. 
  4. Finish what you start. Going back and forth between tasks wastes time because it ends up being more difficult to complete the task when you try to go back to it. Aim to finish the task, in one or two work sessions, before moving on to another one.
  5. Delegate. There is a certain point where not even operating at 100 percent efficiency can get everything done. It’s important to recognize as soon as you can’t do everything yourself. The best course of action is to delegate your tasks to employees and other outside resources.

This is what multitasking should look like. The sooner you stop doing multiple things at once and start managing multiple things at once, the better off your businesses will be and the more you will actually get done. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Customer Service Resolutions for 2015

1-6 CS resolutions smallIncreasingly, customer service is the standard by which companies are measured, and the service you provide can make or break your small business. To achieve better customer service and more sales in 2015, here are five customer service resolutions for your small business.

  1. I will listen to my customers. You can read everything written about new technology trends, customer service on social media and more, but the reality comes down to one thing: What do your customers want? Don’t make customer service changes based on Top 10 or Hot Trends lists—make them based on what your customers are asking for. Listen to customers in every possible channel, from social media and online reviews to in-person conversations, surveys and emails. They’re giving you feedback every minute of the day if you’ll only open your ears.
  2. I will listen to my customer service employees. Equally important as listening to your customers is listening to your customer service reps and any other frontline employee who engages with customers. They’re the ones who use your tools and systems every day, hear customer complaints and praise, and know when a process is unwieldy, wasting time or annoying customers. Don’t assume they’re just griping—take their complaints seriously and regularly ask them for input on how your customer service could be improved.
  3. I will invest in customer service. Customer service is paramount today, so don’t skimp when it comes to spending on the technology, tools and training your employees need to provide standout service. Carefully weigh the costs of various options and assess how much they could potentially save you. If an investment enables you to spend less time on training, less money on employee salaries or less time getting new employees up to speed, chances are it’s worth the cost. 
  4. I will offer options. Some customers love to talk on the phone to live customer service agents. Others hate dealing with humans and prefer filling out online forms. Still others opt for the speedy resolution of online chat while they multitask on their computers. No one customer service option is right or wrong, and to reach the widest range of customers, you need to offer all the options that your customers express interest in and use.  
  5. I will always remember customers are human beings. This is the most important resolution of all. As customer interactions become increasingly enabled by technology, it’s easy to forget there’s a person at the other end of the online review/chat box/phone line. When you or your team are struggling with difficult customers, stop, take a breath and remember to engage with them on a human level. That means listening to them vent, acknowledging their frustrations and offering a solution that makes them happy.

What are your customer service resolutions for 2015? 


10 Trends for Small Business In 2015

1-2 2015 trends small

This New Year will be an important one for every small business as powerful trends shape the direction of the economy. Here are the shifts that companies can expect in 2015:

  1. Less employees, more freelancers. The nature of work has profoundly changed. Small businesses now are easily able to match new revenue to needs in increased resources. This means less permanent employees and more part time resources. This is a beneficial trend that enables the small business owner to make their workforce a variable expense as their sales goes up and down.
  2. Less office employees, more remote resources. While it can be comforting for small business owners to look out from their office and see their team, this version of the company is a thing of the past. Instead, all managers need to get comfortable with leading and building a team culture with remote resources that they do not see every day.
  3. Less email, more in person meetings (or at least video chat). People have opted for email instead of phone calls. But the trend this year will be to have more in person meetings with employees, vendors and customers as everyone wants to make true connections that build lasting relationships.
  4. Less apps, more dashboards. Apple and Android apps have become ubiquitous. According to a recent Intermedia study, 14.3 is the average number of apps per small business and it’s hurting employee productivity. Companies will begin to use more dashboards to integrate these apps to track the key metrics of their business. These include tools like iDashboard.
  5. Less “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD), more company issued phones. In recent years, small businesses have saved money by having employees conveniently use their own smart phone device for business. This has resulted in many security issues. The trend is for companies to spend the extra money to issue business only devices. They are then able to load only approved applications and keep tight security on those smartphones.
  6. Less data, more analysis. Small business owners are flooded with disparate data that they don’t understand. The trend is away from just data to more analysis of what it all means. Key tools include Power BI from Microsoft, Qlik and Tableau. These applications can integrate much of the company information into something that can be used by management.
  7. Less features, more relationships. With the spread of information almost instantaneously worldwide, there are less differences in product features. The customer can always choose the lowest price. The focus in 2015 will be to continue to service the customer to build value in a personal long term relationship that ensures loyalty. This includes less mass marketing and more one on one personalization through technology.
  8. Less secrecy, more transparency. With social media instantly communicating anything and with every phone having a camera, nothing in business is a secret any longer. This will force every small business to be much more transparent in dealings with customers, employees and product developments. This will also boost more social responsibility for these companies.
  9. Less organic social posts, more boosted advertising. With the sheer glut of millions of posts every day clogging feeds, small business owners in 2015 will be forced to boost their message through social media paid advertising on all the major platforms in order to be seen by their customers.
  10. Less bank loans, more peer to peer lending. Even though bank loans will continue to grow from the depths of the Great Recession, small businesses will now get more of their capital from sites like Fundera that will help choose the best alternate source.

What trends do you see in your business for 2015?


How to Choose a Structure for Your Small Business

12-31 Business Structure smallWhen starting a business, a lot of newbie entrepreneurs overlook what is one of the most key components to their business:  selecting an appropriate business structure. By default, your business will operate as a sole proprietorship, but you won’t get any legal protection should your business be sued. You need to consider forming an LLC or corporation as your setup your business. If you’re serious about being in business for years to come, it’s a wise idea to form a legal entity. Do you homework and consult with professional about the “right” legal structure for your business. Here’s what you need to know about how to choose the best business structure for your small business.

Benefits to Incorporating

First, consider making your business a corporation. Corporations — especially the S-Corp, is a popular option for small businesses — provide ample benefits that a sole proprietorship does not.

With a corporation, your personal assets are protected. Once your business is incorporated, it exists as a separate legal entity from you. In the event that you are sued or file bankruptcy, the corporation — not you, the owner — is responsible for all of its debts and liabilities. So your personal assets, like your home or savings, can’t be touched to pay your business debt. They can, on the other hand, be used to cover your business debt if you are a sole proprietor.

Incorporating also has tax perks. Through an S-Corp, you can use what’s called pass-through taxation. That’s a fancy way of saying that an S-Corp is taxed more like a sole proprietor or a partnership than as a separate entity, the way a C Corporation is. So company profits are “passed through” and reported on your personal income tax return. You get taxed only once on your revenue. End of story.

Benefits to Forming an LLC

An LLC has many of the same tax and personal asset protection benefits as a corporation. In fact, when it comes to taxes, there’s a lot more flexibility in how you file, as you can file as a:

  • Corporations
  • Dual Member: Partnership
  • Single Member

An additional perk is that LLCs require a little less red tape and annual paperwork to file, than an S-Corp.

Which to Choose?

Ultimately, the decision on which business structure to set up for your small business will come down to preferences. Speak to a lawyer or tax professional about the benefits of each for your specific benefits. The goal, no matter which you select, is to make sure your business and personal assets are protected, and that you have the best setup for taxes (after all, who wants to pay more than they have to?).

Keep in mind you may need to file paperwork or pay fees to remain compliant with either structure. Do all the research necessary to determine exactly how much work you’ll need to put into maintaining your business structure status, or look to companies who can manage the maintenance on your behalf.


Why You Don’t Feel Successful (and What to Do About It)

12-25 achieving success smallAs a small business, you expect to work very hard. However, you wish that as a result you were more successful. You have been working for many years building your company, but for some reason, “real” success still feels elusive. Here is why and what to do about it:

  1. You compare yourself to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. As an entrepreneur, you think you should be them. This is what all the business media talks about.  Unfortunately this is an unattainable goal for 99.9999% of small business owners who will never be them. What to do about it: Stop comparing and always keeping score. Don’t rely on the press’ and your friends’ definition of success. For them, it’s only about money. Come up with a definition that will make you feel “happily successful”. My definition of success is being able to support my family at something I love to do.
  2. You are impatient. You hear of cases where an entrepreneur sold a business seemingly overnight for a billion dollars. You think that this happen to you. In reality, “overnight success” typically takes seven to ten years. What to do about it: Set patient interim goals for the company. Don’t keep raising the bar before you pause and celebrate your successes.
  3. You can’t let go of the past. You think that there is always something to learn from failure and you can’t let go of it until that lesson reveals itself. What to do about it: Mourn your failures. Have a pity party if you must, but after 24 hours, let go and move on. Take another action that gets you a different result. Review and repeat.
  4. There is no leverage in your business. You work too hard and do all the difficult stuff. You make every key decision. What to do about it: Leave your ego at the door and stop being the center of attention. Build a team that can run the business on a daily basis without you. Give managers real responsibility to make independent decisions.
  5. You never go on vacation or spend quality time with friends and family. You are too busy building your business that you never get a break from work. You think that nothing can wait or you are afraid you will miss something. As a result, you are so burned out that you have lost track of the goal line. What to do about it: Every business owner needs to recharge. At certain parts of the day, turn off the technology. Ensure there are breaks from any work daily and weekly. Let your mind wonder to boost creativity.

Still feel unsuccessful? Why or why not?


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 3 Simple Ways to Connect With Customers Online

12-23 Online customers smallIf you sell a product or service that requires some time and persuasion to sell—like custom furniture, personal training or landscaping services—getting customers to buy isn’t as easy as getting customers to your website and having them click on the “shop now” link.

However, smart use of Internet marketing can get customers to interact with your company so that they learn more about your products or services and get interested in buying. Here are three ideas.

1. Learn from customer surveys. Customer surveys can not only gauge customer satisfaction, but also tell you a lot about what products and services customers are interested in. Each time you make a sale, send an email to your current customers asking them to take a customer satisfaction survey. At the end of each survey, include an option for customers to tell you what they’d like to see more of from your business or what they’d like to buy that your company doesn’t currently offer. Also ask if they’d like to be contacted by your company and/or are willing to share their contact information.

Suppose a customer of your landscaping company says they’d like to see you also provide patio covers, a product you don’t currently offer. Save the contact information and, if your company does start offering that product, you can contact those customers to let them know and provide more information.

2. Offer price quotes or estimates. A lot of customers who don’t want to call a company and engage with a salesperson because they fear getting stuck with someone pushy may be willing to fill out forms online to get estimates or quotes. For example, if you sell personal training services, you could send prospects an email offering a free online fitness assessment, or advertise this on the top of your website. The link would go to a page on your website where customers fill in a form with information about their current fitness level, their health and fitness goals, how much time they have available to work out, and so on. Of course, they’d also provide contact information.

Based on the information they check off on the form, your website could then offer prospects different levels of service, such as intensive “boot camp” training, moderate training, group training or once-a-week training, at different price points. This menu should include both click-to-buy options and click-to-call options (for the customer who now wants to talk to a salesperson).

3. Provide valuable information. Webinars, e-books or other informational offerings aren’t just for B2B companies. They can offer useful information to consumers, too. For example, a custom furniture company could hold a webinar on how to decorate a home or create an e-book on maximizing living space. The information you provide shouldn’t be a hard sell, but it should subtly show prospects the value of the product or service you offer.

For instance, a custom furniture company’s webinar could talk about making the most of a small living space. At the end it should include a link to learn more about building custom furniture to fit your needs. Prospects could either click-to-call and speak to a live representative, or click to fill out an online form and be contacted later.

By using these three methods, you’ll not only make more sales to your prospects, you’ll also learn more about what they want—and isn’t that the foundation of good customer service.


How to Get Customers to Buy from Your Facebook Page

12-19 Facebook sales  smallMillions of small businesses have Facebook pages, but most have no idea how to use them to make sales. The page may have hundreds, maybe even thousands of “likes”, but without sales to match, it is not very valuable.

How can a small business turn virtual “likes” turn into real purchases? Here is where to start:

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Post about Products and Services

Facebook is primarily about engaging with customers and forming a relationship with them by posting educating articles, photos and videos that relate to the company’s brand.  However, no business can expect to make sales if they never post about their actual products and services. Don’t always feel the need to disguise a sales pitch. Sometimes a direct message is the best way to catch a prospect’s attention and convert a sale.

2. Tell a Fun Story

Tell a story that includes the product. Connecting a company’s product or service to “fun” will always get more engagement. The best example is the BlendTec’s “Will It Blend” series. It’s not only funny, but it made people want to buy the blender. Post a preview of the story on the Facebook page, and link it to the full version on the website to make purchase conversion simpler.

3. Connect Online and In-store Activities

An integrated approach to online and offline marketing will drive likes and engagement as well as more visits to a physical store location. These types of posts can influence fans and consumers at the beginning of their purchasing cycle. Make sure what is featured in the store for this month is reflected on social media. Make parallel online announcements when sales on products and discounts are offered in-store

4. Offer Exclusive Deals to Facebook Fans

Another way to encourage purchase activity is to provide products that are available exclusively to Facebook fans. This could include special limited editions or new product launches that are offered to them first.

5. Offer a Subscription Tab

Add a tab on the company’s page that makes a free offer if the visitor “likes” the page and signs up for a mailing list. This way, that Facebook friend can be converted to an email address which can be marketed to through traditional online campaigns.

6. Learn from Facebook Insights

Small businesses need to learn about who visits their page and which content is most popular.  Use the “Insights” tab of the company’s Facebook page on a regular basis. Insights makes it easy to monitor what’s working and what’s not effective. It provides information on the people who like the page and are engaged with the posts. It also enables the tracking of competitive pages for comparison on a weekly basis.

7. Provide an Incentive for Fans to Share Their Experiences

According to Hubspot, ninety percent of people on social media trust and believe recommendations from both strangers and friends. Harness this power by encouraging fans to submit photos with their newly purchased products along with reviews, advice and where to find it. Spark discussions between customers about the service they received.  Use discounts or bonuses to customers who post on Facebook after their purchase.

Companies can also use traditional Facebook advertising to boost posts for increased customer engagement.

What tactics does your business use to convert Facebook “likes” to purchases?


How to Free Yourself from Ruts

12-11 Get out of a rut small“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This may have worked for a philosopher like Confucius, but let’s get real. Even if you own your own business, it’s rare that your professional life is so perfect that you never feel like you’re working. In fact, major ruts can be contagious. If they go on too long, they can even affect your entire team. Before you or anyone you work with decides to walk away, try these suggestions to regain your spirit.

Find Something Fun that Inspires You

At some point, all work and no play actually prevents you and your business from moving forward. Plus, sitting around pretending to work doesn’t do you any favors either. So, step back and have some fun. When was the last time you turned off your electronics and spent a week on your favorite ski slope or lazed around on a white sand beach? If you can’t release yourself from your business for any length of time, try baby steps. Go to a movie, read a novel for an hour every day or do some activity that completely takes business off of your mind. Absence makes the heart grow fonder — and the ideas come faster.

Go Back to Your Business Inspiration

What motivated you to start your business in the first place? Was it an urge to follow your passion, help the world with a brilliant invention or even do something better than your former employers did them?

You probably didn’t need five alarm clocks to get out of bed in the early days, so close your eyes and mentally travel back to that time. If you can recapture the spark that got your company off of the ground in the first place, you may even inspire your entire team, no extra alarm clocks needed.

Bring in Fresh Ideas

Business owners tend to count on themselves and a few other people to generate new ideas. But as years go by, those ideas are bound to become stale. Consider introducing other people who will (dare I say it?) think outside of the box and encourage your core team to do the same. Hiring an outside consultant may be a viable option, but you may not need to spend the money. You have any number of people who come to work every day with creative ideas. Why not invite them to your meetings? Or perhaps seek feedback from customers.  These new perspectives can bring some creativity and renewed spirit to your endeavors.

Get Out More

Looking at the same walls and talking to the same people day after day is a rut-waiting-to-happen. When the walls start closing in and stifling your creative flow, get out of there! Go to an industry meeting to educate and inspire you. Or, visit people in your professional network in their places of business. Seeing how they do things will help you gain a fresh perspective that can help you get re-excited about what you are doing.

Embrace Change

The notion of change is scary. It takes you out of your comfort zone, which basically is another name for “rut.” Change does not have to be huge; you don’t have to completely change the purpose of your business by replacing your widget product line with thingamabobs to liven things up.

Change does not even have to be permanent. If you delegate some of your daily activities to someone else, there’s nothing that says you can’t take it back … if you really miss doing it yourself. Still, initiating smatterings of change in your business can spur brainstorming throughout your organization. As new ideas arise, implementing them creates a flurry of activity and challenges for everyone involved. Ruts cannot survive in this type of atmosphere.

Since everyone has a different set of motivators, some of these ideas may work well for you, while others can be abysmal failures. No rut has to become a permanent way of life, so open your mind to any option that can ease you back on the road to a productive and happy future. Remember: if all else fails, there’s always chocolate!


Where to Find Your Next Employee

12-11 Looking for employees smallSix years after the Great Recession, national unemployment is finally dropping. At 5.8 percent, it is the lowest since 2008. This poses a problem for small business owners who need to find the best people to fill open positions at their company. Unfortunately, posting jobs on various sites like Craigslist or Monster can bring in a lot of unqualified people and be expensive. For most small businesses, hiring a recruiter that collects 25% of the first year’s compensation is out of reach. The key is to find those individuals that have the required skills and the cultural fit at a reasonable search price.

Here is the best way to do it:

  1. Ask current employees. People socialize with other people like them. If a company wants to find more similar employees, ask the current staff. Pay a $250 to $1,000 bonus for any employee that refers a candidate and stays for at least 90 days.
  2. Post openings on the website. Many candidates are doing job searches through Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Posting job descriptions with the appropriate search keywords will get the opportunity found by those who are looking.
  3. List the opening in every employee’s email signature. Use a simple sentence and link in the signature of every outgoing email from the company. For example, “We are growing! We need sales and marketing superstars. Check out these opportunities”. Then add the appropriate hyperlink for the website.
  4. Search employees at competitors on LinkedIn. Find competitors who have the employees that your company is looking for. Get connected to them and see if they are interested in making a switch. Some websites even list key employees. Alternately, competitors can be called to find out the names of people who hold positions that could be candidates for your company.
  5. Niche job boards. Look at the smaller job boards that focus on a specific job candidate. For example, HealthCareJobsite is for health care positions and Hoojobs for PR. The more niched the job board, the better the quality of applications you will receive. Fifty more niche job boards are listed here. A company may even find a candidate at freelance sites like Elance and oDesk.  
  6. Ask social media. Post weekly (or as a tab on the company’s Facebook page) the types of job candidates that the business needs. This will allow followers to spread the word as well.
  7. Search trade shows or other industry events. Many of these have job boards. In addition, see who is speaking on various panels to source higher level positions. I also saw one company executive once at a show wearing a button that said “I am looking to hire you.”

Where do you find your best employees?




 
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