Empowering Your Employees: It’s The Ultimate Investment

You’re one in a million! Few people would have the gumption and self determination to quit the rat race and carve out your own niche for yourself in the fast paced and ultra competitive world of modern business. Moreover, none could do it with the same flair, panache and expertise that you have. Yet, amazing as you are, you’d be the first to admit that you can’t do it alone. Your fabulous employees have been with you almost every step of the way. When things have been at their worst you’ve always known that you have a fantastic team that you trust and can fall back on. You respect, love and appreciate your team and you want to make sure that you keep them. But while you enjoy their respect and admiration, these alone will not prevent them from straying into the arms of your competitors the moment they stop feeling valued.

This is why employee empowerment is so important to SMEs. Fortunately, there’s a great deal you can do to make them feel more valued and empowered. Some of it is simply a matter of good practice, like ensuring a safe and pleasant working environment for them some will require some upfront investment. But while entrepreneurs tend to be a little gun shy when it comes to racking up overheads, empowering your employees is an investment that will continue to pay dividends for years as your employees take you to dizzying new heights.

Give them the flexibility they need to achieve work / life balance

Some employees will have young families. Others will care for sick or elderly relatives. Some will have disabilities which you need to bear in mind. For many reasons you may need to be a little flexible in your working practices to enable them to work remotely from home every once in a while. This can be done fairly easily and with a modest outlay thanks to solutions like Vertex who offer Cloud Computing Solutions For Businesses. This empowers your employees by giving them a cloud based desktop filled with secure copies of their emails, apps, and data to enable them to do their job anywhere. Allow your employees the opportunity to do their job well while honoring their other commitments and they’ll reward you with loyalty.

Keep your distance, yet always be there when they need you

Nobody likes bosses who are relentless micromanagers, always standing over them, scrutinizing everything that they do. Not only is micromanaging dangerous and a potential impediment to productivity, it’s rarely the best use of your time. Give your employees some space yet give them the guidance and support they need when they need it and they won’t disappoint you.

Give them a voice

A hearty “thank you” is good. A competitive incentives structure is even better. But there’s a difference between making your employees feel like valued collaborators and making them feel like well paid slaves. Make sure that they always have a forum in which to voice their ideas, suggestions and objections. This can be anything from a suggestion box to a Facebook group.

Deny them an opportunity to make their voices heard, however, and they’ll wonder how much you really value their input.

Bringing Nature to Your Office Will Benefit Your Business in These 4 Ways

Bringing the outside inside through the use of plants has many benefits for the workplace. Yet, according to Truspace, 47 percent of workplaces are designed so that natural light does not enter and 58 percent do not have living plants. Here are some reasons to introduce plants to your work environment.

Increase Productivity

Workers who are surrounded by plants are more productive. Part of the reason is that being surrounded by nature, even a small item like a hanging terrarium makes people feel more positive. Additionally, numerous studies show that nature makes people more productive and creative. Introducing plants may increase the level of oxygen in the room allowing people to be more attentive.

Reduce Stress & Sickness

According to researchers at the University of Washington, introducing plants in the workplace helps to reduce stress levels. After testing participants’ blood pressure levels, the researchers found that those working in rooms with plants had lower blood pressure readings after just a few days. Plants may also help reduce the number of headaches, sore throats and coughs. Since plants help clean the air, introducing them may help reduce the number of days that workers call in sick as well,

Fulfills the Need to Return to Nature

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson first described the human need to return to nature in his book Biophilia. Plants can help create a geometric cohesiveness to space. They can also help people feel calmer and more in tune with the natural world around them. Plants can help people feel more caring about projects and others around them. They can also help people fulfill their inborn need to connect with a natural environment.

Create a Quieter Environment

Many people find it difficult to work when the noise level is too high. Correct placement of plants in the workplace can help defect sound away from worker’s areas. Stems, branches and other surfaces also can help absorb sound. Plants can also refract sounds away from work areas. Since more work can generally get done in quieter work areas, companies may find that plants pay for themselves quickly.

There are many different reasons to introduce plants to your work area. Use these reasons and your own creativity to convince your company that it is a great idea today. You may want to create a plan showing how plants can be used in your particular workplace. Then, simply ask for them to approve the plan.

Guest author Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.

Everything You Need To Know About Shipping

For any commercial business one of the main things which you will want to think about doing is sorting out your shipping method. When you start a small business, shipping may not be the first thing which comes to mind, however, after a few months, you won’t be able to handle simply packaging every item yourself to send off through the post.

Logistics and shipping can make up a very large part of your business, and therefore you need to understand as much as you can about local and interstate transport services for your business. Today we are going to take a look at the basics of shipping and teach you about what to do when shipping your items to your customers.

Rates and methods

When you start looking into the shipping products for your business you will need to take a look at the prices of your items, the shipping prices and the methods you will use for shipping. For example if you are a company who sells small items you can get away with using regular postal methods to deliver your items, however, if you are selling larger products you may need to use a large truck or van for the job. Your rates will likely depend on the type of item you want to ship as well as the weight of the item.

Weights

The heavier your item is, the more it will cost to sell to your customers. This will, of course, determine the cost of your shipping to your customers because the weight will increase the price of shipping by a hefty amount. This is why you will often see very expensive shipping on items like kitchens or furniture.

Type of packaging

You can usually order free packaging from large shipping firms if you decide to use them for all of your product shipping. If not, you will want to decide whether to use plastic bags or boxes to ship your items. This will, of course, depend on the size and the type of product you are selling.

Offer free shipping

If you want to get in your customer’s good side and make them want to continue buying from you, you can offer free shipping to any order over a certain price. This is a strategy which companies like Amazon use successfully all the time, and it stops you from abandoning your shopping basket halfway through an order. If you ordered $15 worth of items and you needed $20 to get free shipping, you are likely to carry on shopping to see if you can find an extra item.

Charge a fixed rate

Most companies use the method of charging one fixed shipping rate no matter what the cost or weight, and a lot of the time this works out as a great method for you to use. For example, if you are a homeware retailer and you charge the same money whether someone buys a kettle or a fridge, it can make a big difference to your customer and they will be more likely to stay shopping with you in the future.

Packaging

You will notice that these days many companies put their efforts into creating attractive packaging for their products. This can be anything from a cute logo to slapping your brand name all over the surface. From a marketing point of view, this can work out brilliantly because it not only makes the brand known to you and your family but also the postal workers and delivery drivers who come to bring you your items. It makes the brand more recognisable and ensures that they stay in your mind for longer.

Types of packaging

One of the decisions you will want to make when shipping your items is the type of packaging you’ll use to keep the items safe and sounds during transit. The most popular type of packaging to use is a box, however, this is not the only type of packaging you can use for your products. Many companies opt to use small bags lines with bubble wrap for their products. And this usually allows parcels to be delivered through the mailbox instead of worrying about missing your package and running to the depot to pick it up.

Keep it light

As you will know, the cost of packaging your items and shipping them off is based on the weight of the parcel. If you already have a large item to package, you will want to reduce your packaging costs as much as possible to stop you from having to pay extra. Try to cut down on fancy packaging and any extras which will make the parcel heavier than it needs to be. Remember to protect the parcel in transit, but other than that you can stay pretty lightweight to reduce your costs.

Tracking

If you are selling high ticket items and ones with a lot of value you may want to add a tracking service to your shipping policy to allow you to track your parcel and let the customer track it too. This will give you the peace of mind to know that it is well looked after, and it will allow the customer to have an estimate on what day and time their parcel may arrive.

Shipping is a huge part of your business and forms the beating heart of your strategy. It is crucial that you make sure you plan for the most efficient, cheap and quick shipping method you can for not only your business but for your customer too. A good shipping time and cost can make a big difference in your customer base and if they think it is better to go with you, they will. Take the time to research every type of packaging, every type of shipping and every company you can to ensure that you can provide the best possible service to your loyal customers. If you can provide a good service your customers will always come back to you.

The Five Areas Of Marketing Experts Will Excel In

Starting out in business can be overwhelming. When you have an idea that you love and that you know can work, you’re often excited to get stuck in. But before long, you’ll realize that a lot goes into running a business. And you can’t always manage everything on your own. In fact, it’s impossible. As your business starts to grow, you can’t spend 25 hours every single day doing admin, making sales, taking care of customer service, watching the finances, running operations, and marketing the business too. You’ll never have the time! Instead, you need to delegate. And even more so, you need to make sure that you’re delegating to people that are going to be experts in each area, particularly when it comes to marketing. Because you’ll often get the best results when you work with people that really know what they’re doing.

  1. PR

When it comes to PR, you will always want to make sure that the time spent on this is going to get the best coverage possible. If you don’t have the contacts, then you won’t even be able to come close to what an experienced agency or PR consultant can do. When you’re thinking about running an event or working with influencers, PRs can pretty much nail this for you too. You just have to stand back, enjoy the results, and pay the bills.

  1. SEO

Right now, you may think you know keywords, but do you really? Are you putting as much time as possible into getting your site to rank well on Google? Are you even doing any off-page SEO at all? If not, then you need to leave it to the experts. When you have an SEO agency or consultant in place, they will be aware of the latest techniques and policies, so that your SEO can always stay fresh.

  1. Advertising

Next, you have advertising. And if you’ve never created an ad before or even tried to set up a campaign, you may find that you’re pouring money down the drain by trying to do it yourself. Of course, you could learn, but this is better outsourced to advertising agencies that get results. If you know you want sales or traffic or customer or anything else, then leave it to those in the know.

  1. Social Media

From here, you then have social media. With so many different platforms to consider and a whole host of noise being made on all of them, do you know how you’re going to stand out? Probably not. But a social agency will know exactly what strategy your business needs to make waves and engage with your audience. So hire one and let them do their stuff.

  1. Copywriting

If you know that you can’t create great copy, you could spend more time trying to get it right, or you could just cut your losses and get someone in to do it for you. Compelling copy matters on everything from your website to your newsletters. So make sure you have the right writer on the job.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Company for the Summer Months

With summer right around the corner, now is the time to get your company ready for these warmer months when many people have slower schedules and more daytime hours to kill. When your building is pleasant, your employees are comfortable and your customers are well-served, you can reap dividends on all the time and money you put into this investment. By following these five preparation tips, you can increase your company’s popularity during these months and increase customer traffic, leading to improved sales and results all year long.

Prepare for Changes in Customer Traffic

Consider whether you expect customer traffic to go up or down during the summer months based on your service provided, your location and your typical customer base. Consider vacation times, freedom from school and warmer weather as you plot potential traffic. Next, plan how to keep traffic high with marketing campaigns or how to respond to high traffic with increased employee hours or longer business hours.

Plan for Fun Times

The summer can be a hard time for employees to be cooped up in a building when what they really want to do is enjoy the beautiful weather. Plan for special staff meeting times and parties that allow coworkers to network outside the office. Also, see if there are ways to let the fun times into your office by creating outdoor break spaces or by offering flexible work hours during the summer.

Keep It Cool

Nothing makes for an uncomfortable office quite like hot temperatures do, and discomfort can cost you and your employees productivity. Not to mention it might drive away customers. Before summer weather hits, ensure that your HVAC system or your commercial air conditioning unit is up to the challenge by scheduling maintenance.

Install a Smart Thermostat

To further help with the warm temperatures, install smart thermostats throughout your office space to keep employees comfortable while decreasing cooling costs during the hours when no one is in the building. A smart thermostat can be programmed to cool the building to certain temperatures at particular hours of the day. Not only can it keep employees happy, but also it can decrease your company’s costs.

Include Landscaping

Nothing sets the tone for a first impression of your business more than the look of the outside of the building and its entrance. By focusing on installing beautiful landscaping and by taking the time to maintain it, you will show your customers that you believe even the little things are important. Plus, your employees will feel proud to work there.

Some of these tips have to do with how your building looks and feels while others have to do with keeping up employee morale and good customer traffic. Ensuring that you have a mixture of each of these tasks will keep your company well-balanced and ensure good results on your investment. Be sure to start now to ready your company both inside and out so that when summer arrives, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

It’s Your Business Event, But You Can’t Cry If You Want To

We’ve spoken before about why live events are so good for your business. Whether you’re hosting a stall at an event or going solo with a festival of your own, it doesn’t get better for flying your business flag. A well-planned and executed live event will get everyone talking. And, you should never underestimate how far word-of-mouth can take you. In fact, many businesses hail this as the most important marketing method you’ve got.

Given those high stakes, it’s no wonder events like these can get stressful. Many business owners go without sleep for a week in the lead up to something like this. The trouble is, sleepless nights and stressful days aren’t going to leave you at your best. And, your best is less than you need to be if you’re going to make the right impression. It’s fair to say, then, that you need to do what you can to reduce the stress of the experience. And, we’re going to look at how.

Plenty of time to set up

Admittedly, setting up early isn’t always possible. But, if this is a private event, there’s no reason you can’t set up a week or two before. That way, you can kiss goodbye to last-minute disasters which leave you flustered and out of whack. Instead, set up bit by bit and deal with issues as they arise. Even if you aren’t able to set up until a day or two before, invest in utility truck beds and extra bodies which can help speed things up. That way, you still stand to be ready with plenty of time to spare. And, that’s essential if you want to be in the best headspace for the day.

Get enough staff on board

Often, these events will happen at the weekend. And, you may usually survive on skeleton staff if any when Saturday rolls around. But, you NEED to make sure you have a large enough team to deal with your event. That means calling in your whole workforce and getting temporary workers on board. The last things you want on the day are long queues and leaving customers because your team can’t deal with the demand. Instead, give everyone plenty of notice to work, and get onto an agency about as many temp workers as you can afford.

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Schedule time to enjoy yourself

Enjoy yourself at a business event? Are you joking? No, not at all. There’s nothing funny about the idea of enjoying your efforts. What’s more, customers will warm to your company even more if you’re out there having fun with them. That doesn’t mean slacking off, of course. But, as well as ensuring your day runs smooth, scheduling your time means you and your team will have time to grab a hot dog and soak up the sun. This will make your team happier to work, and will wash away any stress you may feel. And, that can go a long way towards sending the right message to your customers.

Just Calling To Tell You That Customers Aren’t Happy With Your Phone Service

You may be surprised to see this post. After all, literal interaction with customers has slipped right down the priority scale, hasn’t it? Now, we’re all about social media and the best website to impress. THAT’S the way to make a success of what you’re trying to do. Isn’t it?

In many ways, online interactions are now crucial to success. This is how most customers shop. But, many businesses are getting on top here and still failing. Why? Because they’re failing to take into account that some customers prefer old interaction methods. High-street shops may be on their way out, but phone calls will always be relevant. Some customers just aren’t willing to Tweet and wait to hear back. They either don’t know how or don’t have the patience for it. And, to cater for those individuals, it’s essential you stay on top of phone-based interactions.

 

Yet, many new companies fail to take this aspect into account at all. It’s difficult to blame them when they have so much on their plate. But, to make sure customers don’t hang up on your business efforts, consider the following reasons for failure on the phone front.

Long waiting times

Given that instant gratification is the focus of modern business, it should come as no surprise that long waiting times are a no. There will be times when a small wait is inevitable, and customers understand that. But, anything over five minutes could lose you business. To make sure that doesn’t happen, consider your phone operations. Everyone in the office should have a phone by their side. That way, they can answer calls when the primary phone operators are busy. What’s more, you should head to sites like www.esudo.com and implement VoIP (voice over internet) capabilities. This will ensure that, even when out of the office, you staff are available to answer calls.

The wrong introduction

Even if waiting times aren’t a problem, answering calls in the wrong way will lead to disgruntled customers. As can be seen from sites like www.thebalancesmb.com, it’s essential to answer in a warm and enthusiastic manner. You should also state your name and company. And, you should brief your staff on these pointers, too. Much of this is common sense, but don’t assume they’ll do this without your asking. Take time to train each new employee on this issue.

Customers can’t understand you

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Not being able to understand what someone’s saying down the phone is frustrating. And, this is an issue which many companies struggle to overcome. But, if customers can’t understand what your colleagues are saying, they aren’t going to buy. They’ll simply grow frustrated and put the phone down. To make sure that doesn’t happen, put efforts in place to make your phone calls as clear as possible. Give staff members headsets to block background noise. Make sure, too, that they know to pronounce every word well. These small steps will make a massive difference to the customer experience, and could seal you that deal.