Transform Your Business Before January? Tough, But Possible

It’s a scary thought, but 2017 is just two months away. For millions of people across the globe, it’s just starting to dawn that 2016 has passed them by. This is particularly true when it comes to business, but the year isn’t over yet.

You still have time to make some major improvements before 1-1-17 rolls around. Here are five simple yet effective upgrades. Embrace them immediately, and you should see telling results before the year is through.



Cut The Slack

When looking for ways to improve our businesses, most of us naturally think about increased sales. However, earning profit is a two-way avenue. Cutting overheads can be equally beneficial, and it’s probably a lot easier to do too.

Whether it’s using a new delivery company, changing energy supplier, or a new insurance claim isn’t important. Anything that cuts the overall costs without sacrificing the quality of your output should be grabbed with both hands.

Upgrade Office Facilities

The office arena is the heartbeat of any successful modern business. Therefore, making improvements here should bolster the entire operation. Introducing new and improved technology is the key.



Even simple additions like going paperless can enhance the communication and the organization. Computer support experts can help you maximize the progress by ensuring that systems continue to run smoothly. It may take a few days to settle into the new routines. But those long-term benefits will improve everything from productivity to security.

Invest In Your Staff

As a business owner, you should already appreciate that your staff has a massive influence on your success. They are the people that will put your ideas into practice. Therefore, creating a happier workforce should be a priority at all times.

Staff training and development shows that they have job security while improving their prospects. However, it’s equally important to appreciate their human needs. Water coolers, staff room upgrades, and the introduction of flexitime can all have a positive impact. Reward them, and they will reward you. It’s a simple formula, but it really does work.

Branch Out

Growing your business will require some work on your behalf, but it doesn’t require as much as you may first think. One of the quickest and simplest ways to expand your brand is to start franchising.

You’ll only see a small percentage of the additional profits, but you’ll barely have to lift a finger. Once you’ve found the right blueprint, you can add extra locations too. As well as those direct benefits, the expansion should increase the brand awareness too.



Go Online

Finally, it’s time to realize that online sales are the key to future business success. Online transaction figures have climbed at an incredible rate over the past decade or so. Most people have used the internet to buy a product at one time or another. Adding those possibilities to your venture can open your doors to an entirely new audience.

Whether it’s selling directly through your site, or through eBay and Amazon, the online audience cannot be ignored. Apart from anything else, it’ll keep your doors open on a 24/7 basis.


Don’t Overlook Professional Development Hours

Today’s job market is competitive.

onlinePeople are coming out of college well educated, well prepared, with strong backgrounds and experience already. Skill sets are strong and with internships starting in high school, experience is easier to get. You’ve got to get (and stay) ahead of the game to maintain and move ahead.

One smart way to do this is to take on some professional development.

Whether you take professional development hours before you get a job, during employment or even in between jobs, it can help make the difference in your career.

Here’s a look at 4 Reasons to earn additional professional development hours:

  1. You’ll improve your skills – Regardless of your career, professional development hours will help you improve your current skills. Maybe the classes are geared toward your specific career, like “How to Teach New Methods of Math” or more general, like “Better Organization Skills.” Whichever it may be, you’ll benefit from learning new skills. Once you implement your new knowledge, you’ll be able to do more within your job.
  2. You’ll open the door for more promotion opportunities – Perhaps you want a promotion, but you aren’t quite ready for it. Take a few professional development classes in the specific area of the position you’re eyeing, and you will be more marketable for it. Not only does it open promotion doors for you within your current job, but it you are looking to switch companies to move up, it will help out there as well.
  3. You’ll increase your earning potential – Often your salary is dependent on some outside factors including certifications. Professional development courses can help you reach those certifications, therefore, increasing your earning potential.
  4. You’ll impress your employer – Sometimes it’s mandated to take professional development hours, sometimes it’s optional, but it’s always a benefit. Your employer will be pleased you are taking initiative to better your work skill set, and that will lead to good things. In fact, check with your employer if this is something you’re taking on yourself, because they’ll often pay (or reimburse you) for these classes.

Educate Yourself on More Schooling

Teachers, for examples, need to take professional development hours.

Whether it’s in their specific subject field or grade level, or it’s covering new educational trends or technology, it keeps them current and up to date to provide the best education to their students that they can.

Sales people also continue to take professional development hours on technique as well as product. The medical field continues to take professional development to learn new techniques and information.

Without professional development, there’s the chance of stagnating and falling behind.

With it, you’ve got opportunity, excitement and enrichment. It’s an easy choice which way to go!

About the Author: Heather Legg is a freelance writer who covers topics related to career development, social media and small business.

The Beauty of a Cosmetology Degree

Cosmetology is the practice in which a professional beautifies the hair, skin or face. Cosmetologists may be hair stylists, makeup specialists, nail technicians or skin specialists. In order to become a cosmetologist, you must attend cosmetology school and get your license. With the average cost of school being about $20,000, this isn’t a career to be taken lightly. Fortunately, there are ways you can save on your program of choice.

Cosmetic set on a white backgroundHere, we’re looking at what to expect from cosmetology education and how to save money in the process.

Saving money on cosmetology school

Among the tricks to saving expenses include:

  • Only take out loans for money that you need – Students oftentimes get themselves in trouble because they take out more money in loans than they actually need. If you need a loan to help pay for tuition or for a portion of your living expenses, that’s understandable. But if you request more loan money to pay for your expensive eating habits or fine taste in clothing, that’s unnecessary. Get into good money habits when you’re young – the results will pay off immensely.
  • Look into cosmetology grants – There are two types of grants – need-based grants and merit-based grants. Need-based grants are based off of your income. Merit-based grants are awarded to students who qualify for reasons other than low income. These can include anything from being a single mom to being a certain ethnicity. There are millions of dollars available in grants and scholarships; it’s up to you to get awarded them.
  • Choose a less expensive school – While some beauty schools cost tens of thousands of dollars, that doesn’t mean all of them do. Do an extensive search in your area on the cost of several different schools. Find one that fits or comes closest to your predetermined budget and go with that one. After getting your license, you can gain experience and work your way up to where you want to be. Once you have 10 years of experience under your belt, it won’t matter what school you graduated from.
  • Work part-time while in school – Most cosmetology schools offer classes at night. Consider working as a receptionist at a salon during the day and going to school at night. Yes, you will be extremely busy, but most cosmetology programs are only 9 months to 2 years, so you can make it work. If the school of your choice only has classes during the day, pick up a serving job part-time to bring in some extra money. The less debt you have when you graduate, the better.
  • Take your licensure test immediately after graduating – If you’re forced to wait a few months to take your licensure examination, apply at salons in the meantime instead of sitting around. There are salons out there that will hire people who have completed their program of study but are still waiting to get licensed. Another benefit of taking the test as soon as possible is the information is still fresh on your mind.

Get into a program, study hard and stay focused.

Take out minimal, if any, loans and look for grants and scholarships.

It won’t be long until you’re a licensed cosmetologist and gaining a reliable and steady influx of clients – and a steady paycheck!

About the Author: Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer living in Glendale, AZ. She writes on saving money, small businesses and travel.

Is Your Present Job Costing You Your Retirement?

In the wake of America’s biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, many find themselves working at jobs that not only pay less but also provide far fewer benefits than was the case before the slump.

For those looking beyond their working years to what hopefully will be a financially secure and comfortable retirement, the outlook for reaching their goals may seem very gloomy indeed.

But with a little strategic planning, in time you can move from a low-paying job now to a more lucrative position that will allow you to set aside more savings for the future and your eventual retirement.

And if you play your cards right, you may land a position with a company that offers a retirement savings plan such as the 401k that allows you to grow your money at an even faster pace.


Advance Planning Is Key

Like anything worthwhile in life, retirement requires advance planning — lots of planning.

You need to decide what sort of life you want to lead after leaving the workplace and, most importantly, the level of monthly income you’ll need to pay the way for such a lifestyle.

To achieve savings goals, you first must decide how much you’ll need to save to support you in your retirement years.

Without savings goals, you have no way to gauge just how much should be put aside in savings each month to accumulate your retirement nest egg.

Survey Findings Alarming

Nearly half of all American workers 45 and older have made no attempt to calculate the amount of money they’ll need to save in order to finance a comfortable retirement. This alarming statistic comes from a 2013 survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to helping develop sound employee benefit programs.

Not surprisingly, the same EBRI survey indicated that far more American workers expect to be working longer before retirement than was the case a decade ago.

EBRI’s 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey also revealed that only 67 percent of those surveyed believe they will have enough money to cover their basic expenses during retirement. That’s down sharply from 80 percent in 2012.

Breaking down the 2013 data even further, 24 percent of respondents are very confident they’ll have the money they need to cover basic expenses, while 43 percent describe themselves as only “somewhat confident.”

Get a Plan Started

The most important step you can take toward retirement is to draw up a plan that can serve as your roadmap to the life you hope to lead after your working days are over. The earlier you start this plan, the better. However, it’s never too late to put a plan into place.

You’ll find a wide array of online planning tools that can provide a framework for your retirement plan. CNN Money’s Retirement Planner is a simple tool that can get you started. Or you can use one of the online templates as a model for a retirement planner of your own design.

Save for Retirement

Ideally, you should be stashing away 15 percent of your current gross income into a retirement savings fund.

If that’s impossible given your modest current earnings, save as much as you possibly can. If and when you move on to a better-paying job, you can try to increase your savings to compensate for the years when you were unable to save as much.

Take full advantage of your employer’s savings plans, particularly 401k plans in which the employer matches your contributions, at least up to a certain percentage point.

Another worthwhile investment opportunity available from many employers is an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, which allows vested employees to purchase company stock at a discounted rate.

Typically, employees put a specific amount of pre-tax earnings into an ESOP fund that is used to purchase company shares at, say, 85 percent of face value. Assuming the company is solid financially and doing well, that amounts to an instant 15 percent savings, which can add up quickly over time.

If you are currently working in a job where no such employee benefits are offered, your search for a better-paying job should also take into consideration what benefit plans are available from prospective employers. Whether you work for company that sells real estate, markets various products and services, specializes in mobile payments or offers various financial investments, take advantage of what your employer offers you.

Timing Your Retirement

While most individuals dream of retiring as early as possible, that might not be a viable option for you, particularly if you’re getting a late start on your retirement plan or if you’re now unable to save as much as you’d like for the future.

Working a few years longer, however, can pay significant dividends, particularly when it comes to the size of your Social Security check each month.

Forbes magazine estimates that an unmarried worker earning $50,000 a year would get a monthly check of $1,011 if he took early retirement at age 62 in mid-2013. If he waits until the full retirement age of 66, the check would increase to about $1,420.

Postponing benefits until age 70, the worker would receive a monthly check of $1,972, almost twice the amount of the monthly benefits from early retirement.

About the Author: Jay Fremont is a freelance author who has written extensively about personal finance, corporate strategy and social media.

Collaboration in the Workplace: A Goal or Mission-Critical

Collaboration is the latest buzzword in the business world. Businesses are deploying collaboration software, hiring community managers, and employees are being told to “work together.” Collaboration sounds like a good thing, but, do you know what effective collaboration looks like?

collaborationEphraim Freed, self-proclaimed Internet Nerd, defines collaboration as two or more people (team), working together (processes) toward shared goals (purpose.) In the workplace, collaboration often takes place in the form of a team, a network or a community.

Teams include members that are focused on a joint goal or product, such as a presentation, completing a project, writing a report, or creating a new design or prototype.

Networks are systems of people who share information and services usually around a common interest.

Communities are made up of members with shared interests and who want to learn from each other, building and sharing knowledge, they are not necessarily focused on achieving a specific goal.

In each of type of collaboration, new ideas are generated and explored. However, collaboration is not a one-time event nor is it easy to implement without practice. Collaboration is a process that continues to get better over time. The more people collaborate, the more significant their working relationships become and teams are better able to share and discuss ideas, leading to more successful results.

Strategies for Successful collaboration

According to this article in the Harvard Business Review, there’s a big difference between working together and truly collaborating with one another. Collaborative activity is the “secret sauce” that enables teams to come up with innovative new products or creative, buzz-worthy marketing campaigns. Chris Jones, an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, agrees with the idea of a “secret sauce” of ingredients for driving effective collaboration. Jones’ recipe includes engagement, authenticity, respect, positivity, and focus.

In the video below, Apple CEO Tim Cook describes his strategy for hiring people who will focus on collaboration and deliver the “magic” that happens when great minds come together.

What is the best way to ensure that your team is successful collaborating?

Sarah Maynard shares three tips for encouraging collaboration in the workplace; communicate, visualize and acknowledge.

  • Communicate by sharing ideas with your coworkers, contacts, managers, and anyone who will listen.
  • Use visuals to help communicate your ideas and clarify your ideas at the most simplistic level. Visuals are a great facilitator to aid strategic thinking and planning. Acknowledge the work that your team is doing.
  • Give credit when a team member has contributed a good idea, hard work, or even good constructive criticism. Collaborative relationships work best when team members feel appreciated and valued.

Dr. Carol Kinsey Gorman shares her 7 insights for collaboration in the workplace telling us that collaboration is a leadership issue which requires a change in the attitudes and behaviors of people throughout an organization. Some of them include:

  • Collaboration is essential for organizational change whether the change involves creating new products, services, processes or a total reinvention of the organization.
  • Success dictates that the individuals impacted by change be involved in the change from the very beginning.
  • Visioning is a team sport. Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past.
  • Diversity is crucial because it makes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Instead of exploring alternatives, a confirmation bias takes over and members tend to reinforce one another’s predisposition. Relationships are critical to the outcome of any collaborative effort.
  • Collaboration is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants.
  • Trust is the glue that keeps it all together. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party.
  • Finally, don’t forget that your body language matters.

Do you encourage your team to collaborate? What tips can you share to help others lead their teams to work better together? Post a comment with your ideas!

Video: Active listening: Pep Rosenfeld at TEDxBinnenhof

Pep Rosenfeld is one of the founders of Boom Chicago as well as the artistic director. Rosenfeld writes tailored presentations and campaigns for companies as well as hosts events like Next, TEDxAmsterdam and Spin Awards. He is a political junkie, interested in current events in America, the Netherlands and Europe.