Why the Internet of Things is for Your Business not just Your Home

Businesses should be looking to exploit the interconnected world in which we live. Thanks to the Internet of Things, or IoT for sure, many homeowners have thought about an interconnected home where devices talk to one another and can be controlled remotely by those with access to the system. These include turning lights on and off, opening the garage door or preheating the oven en route home. Smart businesses have not only got on the act in terms of creating and selling IoT products, but exploiting this technology for the benefit of their own businesses. In a world of integrated devices, it’s never been easier to grow a dynamic, responsive business.

Integrated Work Spaces

As we’ll explore below, some businesses can work purely online with no physical presence. However, many businesses from retail to manufacturing need a physical bricks and mortar presence. The IoT is perfect for creating smarter workspaces by allowing businesses to better control lighting and heating for example. This includes creating fake nighttime lighting programmes to give the appearance of the offices being used or more focused security lighting.

Integrating Diverse Employees

Many service and some product-based companies can actually work purely online now. The IoT allows for companies to design or access online work platforms such as Slack or Trello as well as communication tools like Skype. The former allows businesses to build a range of chat channels and personal conversations, Trello is a pinboard for tasks and checklists, and Skype is the most famous chat and video conferencing app. Information can also be shared using cloud storage services which allow for a need to know access to particular photos, files or data across a wide range of devices and locations. In doing so, if well organized, the data flows better across verticals and separate work groups and divisions. If you know the term, Big Data, then this is how it was accrued – services and products can send real-time data back while it is easier for separate departments to access and process the said data then share their results across the company.

The Flexibility to Expand or Contract

Not all of the staff accessing the above IoT applications need to be full-timers. Access can easily be gained or removed on a needs basis. Furthermore, there are a huge number of gig and freelance websites and services such as UpWork, which allow businesses to quickly sale up with new PAs, new writers, designers, delivery drivers, and sales reps as needed. Each freelancer takes care of their own financial arrangements, and as work is paid on an item by item or hour by hour basis, if there is no work needing to be done, there is no expenditure for the business.

Jenny Holt is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.

4 Keys to a More Productive Small Business

Feel at times as if your small business is stuck in neutral? If that’s the case, there are some things you can deploy to try and get things moving once again in the right direction.

In running that small business of yours, you likely know all too well that budgets are usually tight, leaving you with little wiggle room unlike larger companies.

That said even a tight budget does not mean you are destined for long days now and in the future.

By getting the most out of your employees, resources, advertising and marketing etc. you can build quite a productive small business over time.

So, are you ready to see a more productive small business come your way?

It All Starts with a Plan

So that your small company doesn’t have to put a closed for business sign out sooner rather than later, remember the following four keys to more production:

  1. Employee production

Unless you’re running the show by yourself, you rely heavily on your workers to deliver results. As such, make sure you’re not only hiring the best people available, but also making sure they live up to your expectations.

Sure, you will make some bad hires along the way, but those hires should be minimal at best. By taking the time to thoroughly review each and every prospective employee, you stand a much better chance of getting the talent you require to run a first-rate small business.

Lastly, make sure you provide a working atmosphere that not only motivates employees to do well, but fosters teamwork.

Unfortunately, too many small business owners end up with offices that are fraught with disagreements, people looking out only for themselves and their paychecks etc. By creating a positive workplace, you’re much more likely to see positive results in the end.

  1. Your resources

What type of resources are you deploying in your quest to have a winning small business For example, have you decided to move forward with a mobile app for your small business?

As many other business owners can attest to, having an app in play has changed how they do business in a positive way.

One of the advantages of having that app is getting your brand out in front of current and potential customers 24/7. Another is being able to offer specials and loyalty rewards programs to the best of your clients. Still another benefit is the ability to display blog content and much more, information that consumers can access at their convenience.

Whether you decide to use an app builder to make your small business app or end up reselling and constructing apps for others, you really need an app in today’s digital age to be as successful as possible.

Never Sleep on Customer Needs

  1. Customer service

What type of score would you give your company when it comes to providing stellar customer service?

Much to their chagrin, too many small business owners have to admit that they’re not doing as good a job as possible in the customer service arena. As a result, they lose potential long-time customers in the process.

To make sure you and your team don’t drop the ball in this important aspect of being in business, make sure you do the following:

  • Treat your customers with respect and dignity
  • Give them incentives to keep coming back to you (specials and discounts, announcements of sales before they go out to the general public etc.)
  • Respond to their feedback, including feedback that ultimately is not always positive about your brand
  1. Monitor the competition

Although you undoubtedly are busy with your own small business, it never hurts to see what direct competitors are up to.

As an example, keep your eye on how those companies you compete with go about hiring talent, responding to customer issues, using social media to reach consumers, and utilizing technology to stay a step ahead.

While some things you observe won’t be all that informative, others could very well turn a light on in your head, a light that leads you to do what others are doing even better.

So that your small business can be even more productive this year and down the road, are you ready to do whatever it takes to bring in more customers?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics on the web.

 

 

 

3 Tips for More Workplace Efficiency

How efficient are your employees when you stop to think about it? As a business owner, you want to get the most out of your employees when it comes to efficiency in the workplace.

Sure, most of your employees likely give you a good day’s work by the time they leave the office each day, but could they be even more efficient? If so, what tools and resources would you need to prove them with to accomplish this?

If your business could be more efficient when all is said and done, will you move now to make that happen? If the answer is yes, what will it take in terms of time, effort, even money to accomplish this?

Always Be Thinking Ahead

So that you are able to have the most efficient workplace possible, take note of the following tips:

  1. Your employees

First and foremost, you have to make sure you are hiring the cream of the crop as it relates to your workers.

No matter what role or roles each individual you hire will be responsible for, you can’t afford to be hiring employees who are not team players. They also have to be willing to provide input as to how best to get the job the done.

Although you hire managers (maybe even yourself) to guide your workers, those employees should be encouraged to speak up on what is and is not working.

Finally, be sure that have regular company meetings to discuss efficiency in the workplace. You should even have a suggestion box, one where employees can anonymously leave suggestions on how to improve the flow of work.

  1. Your tools

As great as an employee might turn out to be after you hire them, he or she will require some tools and resources to actually accomplish all of the goals (and more) that you want from them.

That being the case, look at the tools you are providing your workers, reviewing to see where some deficiencies might be. Once they’re found, do you quickly correct them or let them linger?

In order to be a successful business, doing the former is a much better way to see your sales revenue increase over time.

Such tools as audio dictation for better workplace efficiency, video conferencing, credit card readers for sales out in the field etc. can all benefit your employees and your brand. Each of these (and many other tools) assists your employees in being more efficient and ultimately more productive.

Most importantly, be sure that each tool you bring in to your company is thoroughly vetted; meaning of course the respective vendor is too.

You do not want all kinds of hassles with each and any tool you use, hassles that can slow down your company’s ability to efficiently serve customers.

Do You Offer a Winning Workplace Atmosphere?

  1. Your rules

Last but certainly not least, what kind of workplace atmosphere do you offer your workers?

When employees come to work energized and ready to roll up their sleeves, you are much more inclined to get a productive day out of each and every one of them.

Yes, some you hire simply will not pan out over time, so don’t be shocked and/or disappointed when this happens. If you hire dozens and dozens of employees even over just a couple of years, you are going to hit a few bumps in the road along the way.

The most important factor here is making sure that you offer a workplace that is conducive to both business production and career satisfaction.

As employees see a chance for themselves to grow within your business, many of them will take full advantage of such opportunities.

Instead of a workplace that feels like a grind each day, most will view it as an opportunity to succeed professionally and personally.

In turn, you field a much more efficient workplace.

As a business owner and/or manager, how are you striving for workplace efficiency within your company?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.

 

Make Your Business Loud and Clear to Consumers

Feel like your brand isn’t getting enough love from consumers? If that is your mindset, what do you intend to do about it moving forward?

Unfortunately, too many business owners do not do enough to get their brand’s name out and about. As a result, they pay the consequences in terms of sales numbers slipping. When that happens, the writing could be on the wall that one’s business is headed for a slippery slope.

So that you can make your business loud and clear to consumers, you have to make sure you are promoting it anywhere and everywhere.

This also means that your employees (unless you are a one-person show) are doing all they can to get the word out there.

With this in mind, is it time for you to make your business more loud and clear to consumers?

Working In-House and Outside the Office to Promote Your Brand

For you to get the most attention in and out of the office for your brand, remember a couple of important tips:

  1. Message and Your Employees

Without a clear and concise marketing message, how do you expect most consumers to find you?

Make sure each and every marketing message you send out has had some thought put into it. Secondly, it is also important to know your audience each time you reach out to them. Lastly, the vehicle or vehicles you use to transport your message (email, social media, texts, press releases etc.) also need to be thought out before you hit send.

As for the messengers, your employees and current customers (see more below) are two of your best resources.

When it comes to the former, be sure your workers are up to speed on a whole host of ways to make your brand as relevant as possible. Two such means are video conferencing and webinars for your business.

With video conferencing, you can greatly reduce one of the issues that many growing businesses run into.

That would be when offices are spread out both nationally and globally. When this happens, getting all the employees together as one can prove challenging.

By turning to video conferencing, you can bring your group together, allowing for both information and thoughts to flow freely. Best of all; the company feels like one big family.

As for webinars, this is another valuable tool that too many businesses fail to capitalize on. Webinars allow your company to spread your brand’s name online, with the added advantage that they are available in essence 24/7/365.

If you are not using webinars now, think about doing them sooner rather than later. In doing so, be sure to promote them anywhere and everywhere.

This is especially true on your social media channels, channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube etc.) that should be getting plenty of action.

  1. Message and Your Customers

As great as your employees can be at delivering your company’s message, never forget your customers.

By giving them some incentives to promote your brand, you can get more marketing bang for your dollar.

For instance, don’t take your long-term customers and/or those who spend a fair amount of money with you for granted.

You can offer them items such as rewards programs, first shot at sale items before they go on sale to the general public etc. In doing so, many of your customers will be more than happy to help spread your company’s message to friends, family, even strangers in some cases.

As you can see, your message and the messengers both play key roles in your company’s ability to be successful.

Take a step back and see where your brand might be coming up short at the moment. In moving forward, make sure your business is heard loud and clear by consumers. 

 About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business and marketing topics on the web.

 

 

 

 

How Safe is Your Work Environment?

When you run a business, you have myriad of responsibilities awaiting you each and every day.

With that in mind, one of your greatest tasks at hand is making sure your employees have a safe workplace environment with which to do their jobs in. Unfortunately, some offices and other work related buildings across Canada are not nearly as safe as they can and should be.

So, can you step back for a moment and assess how safe your workplace is?

Do workers ever come to you with complaints regarding the conditions they deal with on a regular basis? If so, have you addressed and/or acted upon them?

Unless you run a one-person show, you rely on your employees for so much.

That said just how safe is your work environment?

Providing Your Employees with a Healthy Workplace

So that you are able to maintain a healthy workplace day in and day out, keep these tips in mind:

  • Safety around your office – For starters, look around your office to see if you have issues such as electrical cords sticking out, boxes that could easily tip over, poor lighting conditions, and piles of paperwork that could end up being fire hazards. Any and all of these matters could lead to injuries, some of which can turn out to be quite serious. It is also a good idea to have occasional fire drills, making sure employees know what to do in the event the real thing occurs;
  • Group disability benefits – Whether you want to admit it or not, some of your employees will be injured or fall victim to serious illnesses each and every year. As a result, having group disability benefits for your employees is a great idea. With such benefits, you do two things. First, such a benefits plan is a great recruitment tool when you’re looking to hire new workers. Secondly, such benefits help those workers currently out of work who’ve been injured or suffered serious illnesses while under your employment. By giving them a monthly financial lifeline, you allow them to get by as they await to return to work;
  • Keep sickness away – How many times have employees showed up for work, only to be sick as a dog? Yes, while you do not want workers falling behind on their workloads or taking advantage of sick days when they actually are not ill, coming into the office with germs galore is not good either. Especially in smaller offices, it can be quite easy to spread colds and the flu etc. from one worker to another. Before you know it, much of your team is under the weather. Encourage those with colds and the like to take a couple of days off to get better;
  • Safety outside the workplace – Coming to and leaving the office should be a routine process for all employees. That said be sure your workplace surroundings are as safe as can be. Whether you own the office building or just rent it out, you want a parking lot that has proper lighting and other safety features in place. If you can afford it (or your landlord if you rent office space), having security on the grounds is a good idea.

 Meet Regularly to Discuss Safety Efforts

Some business owners have regularly scheduled safety meetings with their teams, meetings that can prove quite productive.

While such meetings are not necessary on a weekly basis, think about having one a month (if you are not already doing so).

The meetings are great opportunities for department heads (and others choosing to speak up) to share their ideas on how to make the workplace even safer. It can also be an opportunity to discuss your current group disability benefits insurance offerings, allowing employees a chance to give their two cents on the plan they presently have.

At the end of the day, knowing just how safe your work environment is will prove one of your most important tasks. 

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.

 

 

 

Uncovering the Causes of Low Morale in the Workplace

morale1

Via pixabay

Is low employee morale affecting your business? If so, there could be serious repercussions for your company. Unhappy employees will result in a multitude of negative consequences, and you could be at the start of a slippery slope to ruin.

Low morale means lower productivity, which ultimately results in fewer profits. It can also have an impact on customer service levels and can see once-loyal clients leaving in droves. And finally, when it comes to replacing poor performing staff, who is going to choose a company where everyone is miserable?

Make no mistake about it – low morale is a serious issue, and you need to fix things sooner rather than later. But what, exactly, are the common causes of low morale? And how can you start addressing the problem? Let’s take a closer look and uncover the causes of low morale in the workplace.

Inconsistent goals

Are you always moving the goalposts for your workers? If so, the always changing goals are going to have an adverse impact on their performance. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes, and understand that they are trying to do a good job. If you reward them by discarding the original measure of success for something else, how will that go down? Ensure you have clear goals in place that enables your employees to hit targets and taste success.

moreale2

Via pixabay

Confusing expectations

Unless you are giving your employees clear guidelines on how to do their jobs, you can’t expect them to do it to your liking – it’s that simple. Employees are not mindreaders, and you can’t afford for them to go days, months, or even years without exact and precise instructions. Be sure to outline their responsibilities in a contract, and give them enough opportunity to learn the necessary skills they need to do their work. You will find that this simple practice will make everyone’s position clear, and you will keep morale to an adequate level.

No systems to measure performance

Of course, having ideas of measuring and managing employee performance is one thing, but having the systems in place to do so is another altogether. Make sure you are looking for performance management solutions that are relevant to your company and its goals. Once you have employees on board, you will have a history of their problems, issues, wants, and needs, and will be able to give them what they require to solve them.

Lack of progression opportunities

People thrive when they are able to realize their potential. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true – those who never get a chance to progress or receive training to further themselves will often sink into boredom and despair. If you want to attract the brightest, motivated talent possible, it is essential that you give employees an opportunity to better themselves. Failure to do so in this day and age will make you out to be something of a business dinosaur.

No communication

When employees are having problems, they need to be able to access the boss to explain them. However, they won’t be able to do so if you don’t have an open door policy, or, at the very least, open lines of communication. In simple terms, the problems people have will fester, and you will also miss out on creative and innovative ideas to improve your business. Good luck!

 

Are You Doing Enough To Keep Your Startup Secure This Winter?

The days are getting cooler; the evenings are drawing in. It’s become acceptable to turn the heating on, at least for awhile. Pots are bubbling on the stove at home, and the crock pot has come out of storage. For men, the iron can go and stay in the cupboard for a while – putting a sweater over your shirt means that creases aren’t a worry. Yes, it’s fall; and before too long it will be winter.

Winter means different things to different people. Chestnuts roasting, open fires, maybe the first snow isn’t too far away. It’s time to think about Christmas shopping if you haven’t already done yours. And who’s that peering through the window of your darkened business premises? It’s the holiday burglar, come to ruin the season for you and all your employees!

Yes, we all have reason to enjoy the good things about winter. It’s a very cozy season if done right, for sure. But along with those positive aspects, there are things you have to be ready for. The truth is that as those nights get darker, opportunities for break-ins and burglaries increase. Wherever you look, the numbers are the same: property crime spikes when the cover of darkness allows.

For established, large businesses, it is not a non-existent threat. However they have long-established protocols, sometimes a 24-hour business day and security guards. If you’re just getting started, you need to put some thought into this. How strong is your premises security? We’re now in full view of the time of year where it is going to face its sternest tests. Are you confident it will pass them?

It is true that much of the crime against businesses in the present day has taken a more modern bent. But the rise in cybercrime does not mean that opportunistic thieves have hung up their gloves and redirected operations. It means that you have another ball to keep your eye on. And while you should definitely be tightly focused on what can be stolen from your servers, you would also do well to look outside.

  1. Lighting: Deny The Burglar Their Best Friend

winter1

Pixabay

If someone wants to break into premises and steal physical items, they will be motivated to do so unseen. This is why winter is such a profitable time for them. It may be a little cold for hanging around surveillance premises, but it’s dark. And burglars love the dark. If they can move quietly, they can do quite a lot without raising attention. But if your exterior premises are well-lit they may think twice.

Keeping the lights on in the office is a double-edged sword. It won’t exactly save money on electricity, and it’s not great for the planet. Although it discourages some burglars, the more brazen will see it as a shop window – they can take stock of what they’re after and plan a path.

  1. Security Personnel: No Burglar Wants Company

winter2

Pixabay

If you were trying to break in and steal a lot of expensive equipment, you’d want to have privacy, wouldn’t you? It’s an entirely personal thing. It’s very off-putting to have someone walk around the corner with a dog and ask what you’re doing. Puts you right off your burgling. And that’s what you need to count on for your business premises. Having security equipment is one thing; an actual person is better yet.

Ironically, hiring security personnel is a process that needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Make sure that anyone you hire is accredited fully in line with industry standards. Anyone can call themselves a security expert. But there’s a difference between a security guard and a man with a club who likes to fight. Security means doing things the right way.

  1. Recording Equipment: Smile, You’re On Camera!

winter3

Wikipedia

Camera equipment on your premises provides a dual service in defense against opportunistic crime. First of all, if the burglar knows it is there, they are liable to think twice and go somewhere that will be an easier target. Secondly, if don’t know it’s there – or try anyway – it will make them easier to identify if they are successful. Check the latest models from Security Camera King and other stockists to see how far security has come.

One key point to note about security cameras is that they should be discreet. Not because you don’t want the thieves to know they are there – ideally, your building should be adorned with signs saying they are. Naturally positioned security cameras can be tampered with. If a burglar knows where they are and can evade or break them, all they are is a very expensive box.

  1. Locks: Strong And Sturdy Wins The Race

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Wikipedia

Yes, of course, your doors should have locks. You know that, and we know you know. What’s more important is the quality of those locks. They need to be up-to-date and have a few different elements to them. Burglars tend to know a bit about locking systems, and how to overcome them, so you need to have a few arrows in your quiver here.

Firstly, the locks need to be sturdy. Anything that can be cut through with a blowtorch is useless. Secondly, you need something that can only be accessed digitally. A keycard system for employees means that the doors will stay locked unless someone has a keycard. Thirdly, if you only have a keycard system, you may end up being burgled by an employee. So there should be a master combination lock – and only management can have the combination.

It is fair to say that, by adopting only one of the above elements of security, you will leave yourself vulnerable in other ways. A true and reliable security system requires a combination of ideally all of the above. Your business is important, and you’ve put a lot of effort into building it up. To see it damaged by someone breaking in and taking important items would be dreadful. Don’t let it happen to you. Be safe, be secure.