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Category — Small Business Advice

Are your employees helping you LOSE money?

by Guest blogger, Chuck Vance, President, MaskMail.com

employee theft - CopyDo you know if your employees are stealing from you or, if a manager is sexually harassing one of his/her subordinates or, if you have an employee who is about to “go postal” at your business or, if you have people using illegal drugs while driving company vehicles?

Most business owners and managers would probably respond: “Of course, I talk to my employees and they talk to me, so I pretty much know what is going on. Besides, we are like family.”

Unfortunately, experts and statistics would tell you that that is your perception and not the reality. Let’s just take one category of what you don’t know, and it is the one that probably everyone thinks of first—- employee theft.

The FBI calls employee theft “the fastest growing crime in America” and adds that this trend is having a devastating effect on small businesses.  The U. S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 75% of employees steal from the workplace and that most do so repeatedly. The Department of Commerce estimates that employee theft of cash, property, and merchandise may cost American businesses as much as $50 billion per year. That sounds like a lot, but consider if one of your trusted employees is taking just one pack of cigarettes per day (5 days per week), at your store—you lose, (in revenues), between $2,000 and $3,000, per year.

The average annual loss suffered by small businesses (fewer than 100 people) is $200,000, which is significantly higher than the average loss in any other category, including the largest businesses. Would you be surprised to know that it is estimated that about one third of all corporate bankruptcies are “directly” caused by employee theft? What if you had that $200,000, (or even part of it), back in the business? Could it have kept you out of bankruptcy?

You may be thinking, “That can’t be true; why would there be greater losses in a smaller business, where you know the people better, than in a larger company?” Let’s look at the factors that make small businesses especially vulnerable to employee theft and fraud. For one, small businesses generally have more limited resources to devote toward crime detection—they are busy focusing on trying to keep the doors open. When they do spend time and effort on theft deterrence, they think about protecting their company from external theft, not internal theft. In addition, small companies often include employees with multiple responsibilities (people known in baseball as “utility players”), who are not closely supervised. This provides them a greater opportunity to commit and conceal illegal activities. Furthermore, the family-like atmosphere of many small businesses may, believe it or not, lead to higher rates of employee theft—because owners of such businesses place too much faith in the belief that familiarity breeds honesty—which is not true.

And remember, thus far we are only talking about employee theft.

How about sexual harassment? Would it surprise you to know that in a recent survey taken of 782 U.S. workers that 31% of the females revealed that they had been sexually harassed at work—43% of those were harassed by a supervisor? The Business Forum estimates that over $20 billion is spent each year by businesses for litigation—and that does not include settlements or judgments.

There are other issues such as workplace violence, discrimination, alcohol or drugs in the workplace, and many more.

So, if we realize that we probably have problems in our business that we are not aware of, how do we find out about them? Do we meet collectively, or even privately, with our employees and say, “Come on, tell me what you know?” How effective do you think that that would be?  Most people will not step forward with negative information for a number of reasons:

They don’t want to be branded as “snitches” and they don’t want to be ostracized, ridiculed, or perhaps retaliated against by their peers, or even supervisors. They don’t think that their information is important enough to pass along and they don’t believe that management truly wants them to report issues—and make waves.

If these are their concerns, how do we assuage them? How can we get them to provide information to you that could, if unreported, harm the company and its bottom line?

There are anonymous reporting systems which are the proven, most cost effective methods to find out what is going on in your company.  A program is established for your employees to anonymously report information without fear of retaliation.  This is a program that you can establish, endorse and publicize to your employees, vendors, contractors and even customers— because YOU DO CARE, and, YOU DO WANT TO HEAR FROM THEM!

But should that anonymous e-mail and/or phone line go to someone within the company? If you were reporting that your boss was sexually harassing his secretary or that your office manager was taking free trips from vendors, would you e-mail or phone a tip to someone within the company and hope that your voice, or e-mail address, wouldn’t be recognized? Or, would you be concerned that you would be identified and that overtly, or covertly, you would be punished for reporting?

Far more effective, both from a quantity and quality of reported information, is for businesses to use a professional vendor, with a qualified and trained staff, as a 24/7 conduit between the employees, and them. Having a third party between the reporter and management, (with rapid transmission of the report), gives the reporter the confidence to fully and frankly report without being identified.

Also, businesses can tailor the questions that they would like the vendor to ask a reporter and require that the vendor support many different languages so that reporters will feel comfortable communicating in their native language. In fact, because the communication through the vendor is anonymous, the vendor can facilitate an open dialogue between the reporter and the company, increasing the comfort level of the reporter and the likelihood that an incident will be reported.

Business owners and managers can ask follow-up questions through the vendor to gain additional insight and further their investigation.

So, is the anonymous reporting program, with submissions by e-mail or voice mail, monitored and relayed by trained professionals around the clock, 365 days of the year, in almost any language, expensive?

Surprisingly, no. And such a program is easy to incorporate into your business.  At the program’s inception there is a small, one time, start-up fee to get your company set up in the vendor’s software. Then your business and your employees are provided with posters (to be placed in strategic areas around the workplace), wallet size cards (giving URL for the reporting website and the toll free number). You, as the boss, designate who you want to receive the reports. After the start-up charge, you have a very reasonable monthly fee (based usually on the number of employees that you have in the company). That rate remains the same through-out the term of the agreement, no matter how many reports and responses you have each month. The start-up charge and monthly fee could easily be recouped by your company just by detecting and correcting one issue (e.g., someone stealing from you). The deterrent effect alone of such a program will probably save you enough money to more than offset the expenditure.

As an added bonus, an anonymous reporting system also qualifies as one of the reporting methods mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002. In fact, some insurance companies have given premium discounts to businesses that utilize an anonymous reporting system. So, both the government and insurance companies must believe that such a program is an effective deterrent, and an effective self-policing tool.

Sound easy? That’s because it is. You go about doing what you do best for your company. When issues are reported, depending on their nature and seriousness, you resolve them knowing that you probably caught them early, before they became a more expensive and endemic problem.

So, as we’ve shown, you really can’t know everything that is going on in your company, no matter how small or large it might be. Then why not find an excellent vendor and enroll your company in an anonymous reporting program? Companies that have, see positive results. Their employees feel good that they have a way of communicating with management and reporting issues, even making minor suggestions, or voicing complaints—without revealing their identity. Management knows that by having a reliable, effective method to anonymously receive reports, they will probably get an early “heads up” about issues that they would otherwise not see or hear of. Even contractors, vendors, and customers will feel good because they know they are doing business with a company that has an effective tool for dealing with inappropriate behaviors.

So, don’t you think that it is time for you to enroll your business in an anonymous reporting program so that you’ll never have to say, “I wish that someone would have told us about that!”?

October 21, 2013   No Comments

Selling on Auctions Vs Fixed Priced Marketplaces

Online_Auction_Buttonby Marc Joseph

Auctions have been an integral piece of the Internet since the beginning. AuctionWeb (which became eBay) was founded in San Jose, California in 1995 by French born Iranian-American computer programmer Pierre Omidyar. One of the first items sold on AuctionWeb was a broken laser pointer. When Pierre called the buyer to ask why he bought a broken product, the buyer told him he was a collector of broken laser pointers. This answer helped reinforce the idea that the Internet was made up of lots of little niches of interest and a robust auction site could bring them all together.

As eBay grew, so did the fees that were charged the sellers (those listing products). EBay generates revenues from all kinds of fees. There are fees to list a product. There are fees when the products sell and optional marketing fees to sell products. To the long time sellers on eBay, the increase of fees over the years has become quite disheartening. So out of this frustration, several alternative auction sites sprang up.

The auction site DollarDays sees as the fairest site for both buyers and sellers is http://dollardays.com/landing/auction . Sellers pay only $8 a month and they get a free storefront and can list up to 8,000 products. Sellers don’t have to worry about any other hidden charges. This site seems the best way to move overstocks, shelf pulls, leftovers and end of season inventory. Hundreds of thousands of interesting products from coins to collectibles help drive committed buyers to this site.

As a seller, the other way to move your products through Internet sales is to get involved in marketplaces. Online ecommerce marketplaces are sites where the platform of a site containing sellers products, is provided by third parties and transactions are processed by these third party marketplace operators. Some of the most well-known include Amazon, Newegg and Rakuten (previously known as buy.com) If you own your own products, all you need to do is contact these sites directly and add your products. These sites take a percentage of all sales, so make sure you have built enough margins into your pricing to cover these expenses. If you don’t own your own goods and want to sell on these sites, become involved in a drop shipping program which is a technique where you do not keep the inventory in stock, but transfer customer orders and shipment details to a company like a manufacturer or wholesaler who stocks the goods and ships directly to your customer. I obviously recommend our drop shipping program at http://www.dollardays.com/aboutus/dropship.htm

Don’t kid yourself. Both listing and selling products for auctions and marketplaces takes work. The philosophy of “build it and they will come” does not work on the Internet. You need to have the right products, at the right price at the right time and then find the right venue that has the right amount of customers shopping for your goods. The easiest way today to see if you have the right products at the right price is to throw them up on http://dollardays.com/landing/auction . At $8 a month, how can you go wrong and if it does not work, just shut it down…but if it does work, laugh all the way to the bank as you think about how much those poor sellers on eBay are paying just to get their sales!

 

October 7, 2013   No Comments

SMALL BUSINESS = HUGE FINANCIAL HEADACHES

small biz headachesby Marc Joseph

You have just opened your business and you are very proud. Only 10% of entrepreneurs who say they want to go into business for themselves actually have the guts to follow through and open the business. There are all kinds of reasons why the 90% don’t make it to the goal line. The number one reason is they can’t secure the funding.

Cash to open businesses usually comes from several different sources. Self-funding is the most common. You may have been working overtime in your current job or had a couple of jobs to stash away a few bucks. You may have been able to save money in a 401K and felt it was time to put it to better use. At one time before this great recession, many people had equity in their homes to borrow against.

Using the credit on your credit cards is another scarier way to raise cash. Borrowing from family or friends is also used frequently. If there is any way to avoid using either one of these methods, for your long term sanity, please circumvent them. Credit card interest rates will haunt you for years to come and a relative you can’t pay back will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Getting a loan from your local bank plays out well in movies, but in today’s world where so many banks went under during the great recession, actually getting a bank to show an interest in what you do is another long shot.

In the headlines we read about these successful venture capital groups financing all these large companies, but in reality you really don’t see them on Main Street America. Many communities do have Angel Investors, which are usually people who have made it big and are looking to help out other entrepreneurs. Like the TV Show “Shark Tank”, they usually want a nice chunk of your business for the funding.

But I regress talking about all the financial reasons why entrepreneurs can’t get started. If your business is open now, you have figured out how to fund it. The key is once you are up and running, how do you keep the cash flow going so you can continue to keep the lights on and buy products to sell? Ideally, every business should establish a line of credit with their local bank to help with the seasonality of the ups and downs of sales ebbs. But most businesses have the same problem when they were trying to get funding to open in the first place – banks just aren’t as generous as they once were.

That is one reason why DollarDays worked so hard to establish a strategic partnership with First Bankcard to help offer credit through the new DollarDays Business Edition Visa card to the 23 million small business owners throughout the country. Having a credit card like this enables businesses to better manage their cash flow throughout the year and rewards the businesses for all of their purchases. Small businesses can now earn reward points on all of their DollarDays purchases, as well as earn three points for each dollar spent on certain types of qualifying business expenses important to small businesses. The rewards points can be redeemed as cash back as a credit to the account, for travel, merchandise or gift cards. Here is a link to this valuable financial solution.

Funding your business from the beginning through the day in day out sales has always been the most challenging part of running a business. Just look at the issues our government has been trying to overcome the last several years; and if we ran our business like they do, we would all be out of business.  If you have deep enough personal pockets to pay your bills during the lean times; than more power to you. But since most of us don’t have this luxury; finding the right partners to fund you during the down times is crucial to long term success.

October 7, 2013   No Comments

Announcing a great way to sell excess inventory

sold

Most people look at DollarDays and think we are just the largest online wholesaler in the US. While this is exactly correct, there’s something else we’d like people to know about us.

We want our customers, the small businss owners, to know we go to great lengths to provde tools and assistance to help businesses not only grow, but keep up with technology that will make doing business a little easier.

If you read a few posts before this one, you know we just launched a credit card for small business owners. Great tool to help with inventory or whatever your needs might be.

Today, the big news, or tool, we’d like to share with you is our new online auction platform. We believe the best way to move overstocks, shelf pulls and end of season inventory is right here, through our zero-fee online auction.

You can sell new, used and even returns! There are no selling fees, no listing fees and no commissions to pay out—you pay $8 per month and you can sell up to 8,000 items at a time. You even get a free storefront, and best of all, the customer service is five star.

If you need way to sell inventory fast and make extra income, please take a look at our new online auction tool! Start today, make money tomorrow!

What do have laying around, clogging up your warehouse? Sell it today!

 

September 26, 2013   No Comments

9 tips for writing sticky SEO content

google worldby Jackie Eldridge

Let’s face it, Google DOES rule the world. Or at least our online world of e-commerce where we constantly fight an uphill battle for search engine rankings. If you don’t keep up with Google’s algorithm changes, you may be headed backwards, instead of climbing that hill.

Google recently announced its latest algorithm update, Google Caffeine, which is a completely new way of indexing. It’s important you understand that the freshness of your content is going to be more important than ever before. This means that you need to post as often as you can and constantly update on trending topics related to your business, if you want to climb that hill to higher search engine rankings.

Two other updates prior to Caffeine (Panda and Penguin) focus on the uniqueness of content, fresh content and social media. Penguin will penalize you, even blacklist you, if you copy (plagiarize) content and also wants to see at least 60% unique content site-wide. Let this be your guide for creating content that will organically improve your search engine rankings, which will ultimately improve your sales and revenue.

So, what is search engine content, exactly? The most effective search engine content appeals both to readers and search engines. It can be tricky (like talking out of both sides of your mouth, sometimes!), as you are basically writing articles and reviews for readers, but at the same time it’s search engines that monitor your content and feed it to readers through searches. It’s not enough just to create a website anymore. A website’s content development and visibility to search engines is much more important. I’ll be outlining nine recommendations, that will help make your e-commerce store or sales on third party marketplaces more successful. That said, it’s a given that you need to create your “own voice” and write in a manner that, depending on your business, is memorable, maybe funny but for certain, credible.

1. Choosing the Right Keywords
Search engines identify your website content with the help of keywords. These are usually very closely related to the search terms that are entered by the users in search engines. Before writing any topic for your website or blog, you will need to conduct a thorough research on the keywords that are closely associated with the topic. You could make use of keyword research tools like Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner  to find the most popular keywords. Just Google AdWords Keyword Planner to learn more.

2. Readability
Please remember that you are writing for your readers and not search engines. You might find it difficult to use some of the popular keywords grammatically, but you cannot really afford to skip it all together. Although search engines look for the keywords in particular, they would want the readers to read quality content. Therefore, you will need to make sure that the content is interesting and adds value to the readers, instead of just stuffing it with overused keywords. Keywords should not stop the content flow.

3. Along with readability comes Content Relevancy
Make sure that you make use of keywords while maintaining the relevancy to your content. Search engines employ a number of algorithms to detect content that has been created with the sole purpose to obtain good ranking. This type of content will increase your chances of your website getting blacklisted by search engines, which is the equivalent to a slow death. Plus, readers can identify content that has been created for keywords and it will turn them off and you will lose credibility with them…and search engines.

4. Keyword Placement
Now that you know NOT to overuse keywords, the best way to use them is in the beginning of paragraphs and subheads. In the other parts of your content you can use synonymous phrases instead of the keywords.

5. Keep it short
Users hate reading big blocks of copy. Big blocks of copy turns readers off —they want short, succinct information blocks that can help them learn something, solve a problem or make a buying decision. Four to five lines in a paragraph is plenty.

6. A little bit of magic: Use Bullets and Numbering
This is a complement to short paragraphs. In today’s world, people do not have time to read everything they see on the web.  That said, it’s up to you to make it as simple as possible for them to grasp your message by using bullets and numbering, so they can get the gist of your content in a quick scan to decide if it is of real interest to them. If it is, they’ll read it in its entirety.

7. Subheads are a proven tool to boost readership
If you have to hyperlink any of your content to another page, make sure the links are relevant to the content.  If the page you are linking to is not relevant to your content, you will lose credibility and the search engines will hate you for “link spamming.” Readers hate being redirected to spam links too. Once you lose a reader or your search engine ranking, it’s hard to get them back.

8. Be sure your links are relevant to your content
If you have to hyperlink any of your content to another page, make sure the links are relevant to the content.  If the page you are linking to is not relevant to your content, you will lose credibility and the search engines will hate you for “link spamming.” Readers hate being redirected to spam links too. Once you lose a reader or your search engine ranking, it’s hard to get them back.

9. Proofreading!
If you’re like me, you are bound to make mistakes while writing. Make sure you proofread your articles or posts carefully before publishing them. Use spellcheck!  If you have someone else who can read it for typos, clarity and grammar, that would be ideal.

 

 

September 20, 2013   No Comments

What Content Marketing Offers to E-Commerce Sites

By Guest Blogger Joseph Berida

content marketingContent marketing is one of the biggest trending marketing techniques today. How exactly does it help the many e-commerce site owners looking to boost their sales? To find the answer to that question, we must first understand what content marketing really is.

The Importance of Value

Content marketing is a holistic approach to providing more value to your target audience based on a variety of compelling and useful content distributed through the right channels.

Basically, it’s giving relevant information to your prospects and customers for free. The idea is that they will learn to appreciate your content, and in return learn to trust you as a quality content provider. They won’t just allow you to send them more content; they will actively search for it and share it through their own networks.

By educating them about your industry and how your products are the best in the business, you generate more qualified leads, turn leads into customers, and one-time customers into brand loyalists.

Getting Friendly with Search

By delivering a constant stream of new and informative content on your e-commerce site that people share (whether it’s through social media or links from other websites), you are also improving your chances of ranking higher on search engines.

Search engines want to make it as easy as possible for people to find quality content by linking to them in the top results pages. Search is still the number one avenue for direct traffic in e-commerce sites, so it’s critical that you are ranking high.

Creating the Right Content

You can start mapping out your content strategy with different types of content that will cater to the special desires of an e-commerce audience.

Blog

There is a reason why blogs are still in use today by businesses, including Dollar Days. According to a 2012 Burst Media Survey, 8 out of 10 Americans within the 18-34 age range say that blog posts with brand mentions influence their purchasing decisions.

The angle of content marketing isn’t always self-promotion. Instead of talking about your own products, tackle issues that are relevant to your industry, whether they are problems your customers are facing or the challenges you and your competitors need to overcome.

Video

Video is your greatest tool in informing your audience about the products you’re selling, as humans favor visual information. We simply understand things better when we’re shown what they offer and how they work.

Record instructional videos of your products in use as well as the benefits they provide. Your site’s visitors will feel more assured seeing your products working just as you market them.

Experts’ Insights

Another avenue where people can find out more information regarding industry issues as well as the products you’re offering is through engagement with experts in the field. If you have contacts with thought leaders or at least those with the proper credentials to their name, set up a section on your site where they can receive questions from visitors and have them answer those questions

User-Generated Content

Besides hearing from authorities in the industry, buyers are more likely to listen to the recommendations of real people who’ve tried the products themselves than your own promotional efforts.  Allow customers to write reviews on your products. Feature the ringing endorsements on your product pages.

Spread the Word

As mentioned above, there is still the marketing side to content marketing. You’ll need to get your content out in the open if you don’t have a recognizable brand.

Social media is one of the more obvious platforms to share your content. Facebook and Twitter are the biggest sites, but you can also try out image-based sites such as Pinterest and Instagram where you can share photos.

Don’t forget to include share buttons within the pages of your content so that visitors can easily post them on their social networks.

Participate in active forums that are related to your business. Once you’ve proven yourself as a contributor, you can drop links to content within your site in your forum posts.

Email is a platform where you can directly engage with customers. You can create a newsletter where you can regularly send updates about your products with links to your site’s content as well as exclusive offers such as discounts and promos.

Consumers are constantly searching for quality content online. Capture their attention on all fronts with the right kind of information spread out through multiple channels, and you’ll earn their trust that they’ll want to do business with you.

September 3, 2013   No Comments

Small Business Labor, Marketing & Advertising

Small business owners need to be their own primary source of labor. They should learn to work for themselves as it may become costly to hire employees. Hiring cheap labor is impossible if people are unwilling to first of all provide the cheap labor by themselves. The hiring process has to be done effectively with plenty of caution; therefore external help would come in handy. Referrals from friends and family can help come up with trustworthy individuals for the job. There is nothing as frustrating as hiring an employee who consistently thwarts the vision of the business.

It is wise to establish a plan that would guide the operation of the business on a regular basis. The owner should take time to monitor the business in order to determine the amount of money that runs the business. From rent, electricity and all other bills to toner cartridges, coffee and paper, all costs have to be fully drawn. Afterwards a minimum amount of money that is required daily can be set to establish high standards for the business. This would also reduce the rate of wastage with the accountability offered by the records.

Success is inevitable once business owners learn to embrace technology. Cloud applications for instance can transform the storage aspect of the business. This application is inexpensive and allows small businesses to compete with large businesses on a unique scale. Small businesses need to take advantage of the mass storage provisions featured in the cloud. Cloud technology would most definitely leave business with more money to invest by cutting down on the running costs.

Marketing strategies for small businesses must be on point, as they focus less on quantity. Going online would set a perfect backbone for any business. It is important to list the business on search engine local listings; furthermore this service is free of charge. Customers get a more professional outlook of a business that is featured on the web.

Advertising is a very essential marketing strategy for any business, however small businesses should not advertise like the big ones. Large companies often offer costly advertising strategies, which would most definitely be strenuous to smaller organizations. Simple ways of advertising can be employed with the incorporation of offers and awards to draw the attention of prospective customers. Small businesses should reduce the size of their advertisements in order to come up with more adverts at the same cost. The adverts can be so enhanced that they draw more attention than the larger ones. Printed adverts should be placed in strategic positions that feature a large number of the targeted group.

Customers often exhibit various tastes and preferences, and it is very important to cater for their varied needs. Some people would rather have a cheaper version and compromise on the quality. Others on the other hand are willing to settle for a higher price as long as they get the best products or services. It is therefore essential to feature several versions and packages of the same product, which come with different prices. Instead of limiting consumers and clients to fixed prices, a narrow bargaining allowance can be established to encourage them to buy the products.

Regardless of how small a business is business owners should make an effort of getting insurance. This would save the business a great deal sometime in the future if something happens out of the ordinary.

October 8, 2012   No Comments

How to Create a Small Business Employee Contract

Hiring an extra employee can help your business expand and provide better services to your customers. Many Small Business Contractbusinesses choose to create an employee contract for each new addition to the company’s team. You must generate a small business employee contract even if you are hiring an old colleague or a friend. Small business employee contracts protect your business and your employee. In addition, they let the employee know what his or her job expectations and the terms of employment are. This includes what hours the employee is expected to work and how much he or she will make while working.

Include All Basic Information in Your Employee Contract

There are certain things that you must include in your small business employee contract in order for it to be effective. For example, you have to include your employee’s starting date. You should also include your employee’s responsibilities while he or she is working for your business. The employee contract also gives you a chance to explain your employee’s compensation package. A compensation package includes benefits, medical leave, vacation time, your employee’s salary, bonuses and stock options if stocks are available. You should also include how often your employee will be paid in the contract.

You will also use the employee contract as a way to explain how many hours your new employee will be expected to work. This will ensure that there will be no confusion about anything later. If overtime is available at your business, provide more information about it in your contract. For example, you will need to explain what the pay structure is for overtime. You also need to include how pay raises are given out and how often performance reviews are done. You should also explain how much notice your new employee has to give you before he or she terminates her employment at your small business.

Use Your Employee Contract to Protect Your Business

In order to protect your business and your employees it is a good idea for you to draw up different employee contracts for each new employee that you hire. This is safer than just using the same standard contract for each employee. Each person you hire will have different compensation packages and job responsibilities based on their experience, knowledge and background. Having employee contracts that explains everything to them can build a trusting environment and that can help you keep your business active and productive. Your employee contract needs to explain everything to your new employee. It should also protect their rights and your rights. Your employees need to know that they are being treated fairly. It also gives you a chance to show that you will respect and value their efforts. Remember to include a nondisclosure agreement in your small business employee contract. Nondisclosure agreements make sure that your employees will not share any business secrets while they are working for you. You should also find out what state laws will affect your employee contract. Everything must be legal. Because of this, it may be a good idea for you to get the help of a lawyer.

October 3, 2012   2 Comments

5 Ways for to Maintain Effective Business Communication

Most small business owners understand that good communication is vital in being able to run a successful company. Even with this Effective Business Communicationunderstanding, many businesses still find it difficult to maintain effective forms of communicating with consumers and other businesses. In today’s society, some of the most common forms of communication include emails, traditional print advertisements, virtual ads, tweeting, and much more. When companies fail to communicate in proper manners, this causes marketing campaigns to fail, and this leads to decreases in profit levels.

Fortunately, there are quick fixes that can be implemented to ensure successful communication is maintained. All small businesses should consider some or all of the following communication tips:

Use Social Networks: With millions of consumers taking part in online social networks, businesses will find it very beneficial to dive into these media platforms. Anytime companies choose to take this communication route, it is wise to partner with a social network professional. In doing so, businesses can rest assured their brand is being reflected in a positive manner on the networks. It is also smart to start out by only partaking in one or two social networks because when trying to juggle too many of them, companies often end up developing a bad online appearance.

Utilize Spell-Check Programs: There is nothing worse than sending out advertisements and emails that display incorrect spellings and grammar. When this happens, businesses look unprofessional and are not taken seriously by consumers; this leads to a decrease in customer loyalty as well as in sales levels. It is also smart to avoid using slang. Slang words and phrases are many times only understood by people living in certain regions. In order to captivate the attention of consumers on a global basis, slang should always be avoided.

Be Positive: No matter what type of communication businesses take part in, they should always strive to be positive. Even if bad news needs to be relayed to consumers, employees, or other businesses, there is always a positive way in which the news can be communicated. Messages should not be created by people who are in a bad mood or having a bad day. When this happens, many times, a negative tone becomes apparent in the content of the messages.

Thank You Notes: Consumers and other businesses greatly appreciate it when they receive thank you notes. Many businesses brush off the idea of sending out these types of notes, and this is very unfortunate because such notes can be extremely effective at increasing brand awareness. Thank you notes can be sent out in a number of different situations including after a sales transaction has taken place, a business deal has been completed, or just as a way to tell consumers that they are appreciated for being customers.

Hire a PR Consultant: Hiring a PR consultant can help small businesses maintain effective forms of communication. From handling social media communications to writing articles for newspapers, this type of consultant is definitely worth the investment it takes to obtain his or her services.

September 13, 2012   No Comments

How to protect your business on the cheap

Protecting an office requires unique considerations that are not needed when protecting a home. Sensitive customer data, Business Securityemployee turnover, trade secrets and expensive electronics are all things a small business owner must take into account when designing a security plan. Another challenge when securing an office is that the threat of theft can come from the inside as much as the outside. It would be nice if we could all trust our employees like family but the reality is that an employer must always err on the side of caution. Fortunately, there are many easy and affordable things that can be done to add various levels of safety and protection to your office.

Top Ten Ways to Secure an Office

1. Outside Lighting
If your office has access to the outside you must ensure that all exits are adequately lit at nighttime. Nothing is more appealing to an intruder than an entry point that is dark and hidden from view. You can get inexpensive motion activated lights that will turn on every time something or someone moves near them or you can setup time activated flood lights to illuminate all your entrances. If your business has a parking lot, you should also ensure the entire parking lot is well lit to protect your employees that work late and have to walk to their car in the dark.

2. Computer and Laptop Locks
Computers are expensive enough by themselves. When you consider the cost of replacing the data on the computer, they are priceless. Even if you back up your company’s data onto a server, many important documents may only live on the physical hard drive of the computer. While laptops are especially easy targets due to their small size and portability, a simple laptop lock is all you need to secure the physical device and at the same time protect the stored data.

3. Surge Protectors
Not only do you need to protect your computers and other electronics from theft, but you also need to protect them from the elements. A lightning strike can be a disaster for an unprotected office. Insurance may replace the device itself but it can not replace the data on the computer or the time it takes to reconfigure the device. However, a few surge protectors can easily prevent this situation from ever happening.

4. Lockable File Cabinets
Even though we store most information electronically these days, most companies will never truly be paperless. It is important to keep all sensitive documents and files stored under lock and key to ensure unauthorized individuals do not have access. There are many kinds of file cabinets with locks and you should choose the cabinet that suits your office’s needs. Basic file cabinets with a lock may be enough to keep nosey employees out of important documents, while a Sentry file safe will protect your documents from burglary and fire damage.

5. Key Management
As you add various levels of security around your office, you will inevitably end up with a wide variety of keys. Simply keeping things locked will not provide protection if you do not also protect the keys to those locks. It is always best to minimize the number of available keys floating around your office so they do not end up in the wrong hands, but you should also ensure that you keep all keys locked up. A locked drawer may be enough, but for the bigger offices with numerous keys you can also look at adding a commercial key cabinet. Key cabinets let you store your keys in an organized and secure way. As the business owner, you should maintain control over the key for the key cabinet for maximum security.

6. Data Security
Securing your office’s electronic information is more important than ever but you do not need to invest in an expensive IT security division. Encouraging your employees to use strong passwords for their computers is a good measure that doesn’t cost anything. There are also numerous low cost options for virus protection to maintain network security. It is equally important to protect the data that is no longer needed. A paper shredder that turns your documents into little pieces instead of strips will ensure that no one is able to piece together your old documents. Also, destroying old hard drives before you throw them out is a security measure many employers forget.

7. Access Control
Whether it is high quality deadbolts on your exit doors or an advanced electronic access control system, it is crucial to restrict access to your building so that only authorized employees can get in and out. If you can’t afford a full on access control system with proximity cards and access management software, you can add more advanced door hardware that uses access codes or biometric fingerprint readers. Make sure that you change access codes whenever an employee leaves the company.

8. Video Surveillance
Cameras can be the biggest deterrent to theft or vandalism. When someone thinks they are being recorded, they almost always behave. You can use this to your advantage by installing dummy cameras which don’t actually record but still provide protection. If you want to take it to the next level, a quality DVR camera system will keep recorded footage of all installed cameras on an electronic device that can be reviewed after a situation has occurred. Network DVRs are even more secure as the data is stored off-site and therefore can not be tampered with during a burglary.

9. Alarm System
Alarm systems today are much more advanced than in the past. Wireless alarm systems do not even require wires run throughout your property which can be a huge hassle and expenditure for a small business. Alarm systems can simply sound a loud siren when an intruder is detected or you can opt for a monitored alarm system that is backed by a central station that can deploy emergency response after an alarm is received. Luckily, for those frugal home or business owners, security companies have begun to really cater to those who like to do things on the cheap. DIY home security wasn’t possible 15 years ago. But now with the internet, much of what used to require specialized knowledge is able to be replicated by individuals who simply want to save money by doing things on their own. If you want a recommendation on a good looking control panel that will get the job done, we recommend the Honeywell L5100. This unit is the plain Jane version. For those who want a wireless setup, you can extend it to make the Honeywell L5100 wifi enabled.

10. Insurance
All of these steps are important and should be utilized in whichever capacity works for your office. However, even if you chose the most advanced expensive options for each step, things can and will happen. Therefore, it is vital that you have adequate insurance to cover any damag e, theft or false claim against your business.

Follow all of these steps and you can then spend your time developing your business instead of worrying about potential disasters.

August 24, 2012   No Comments