How to Make a Basement Startup a Successful Business

William S. Harley was only 21 when he built his first motorcycle in his friend’s garage. Clear back in 1923, Walt Disney created the first Disney studio in his uncle’s house. In 1974, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in Jobs’s home in Cupertino, California. Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his home in Bellevue, Washington, in 1994. If you are trying to get your own business off the ground, then make sure you take some practical steps.

Create a Network

It is hard to succeed in business if you live inside a bubble. Therefore, you need to form a network of other professionals who can help you. Harley would not have been able to build his first motorcycle consisting of placing an electric motor on a bicycle without the bicycle builder. The first Apple computers were constructed of parts made by others. Make sure that you connect with others who are good at their jobs.

Market Your Product

You may have the perfect product, but if no one knows about it then it will still be a failure. You must connect with customers who can use their product to solve their problems. You need a plan on how you intend to tell the world about your product. Your plan may include the internet, direct marketing, door-to-door marketing and email marketing. If you do not have marketing skills, then make sure to work with a professional.

Create a Positive Work Environment

While the average American worker usually works 34.4 hours each week, the average micro-business owner usually works 52 hours each week. Make sure that you have a good work environment. Use replacement windows to let the light in as you work. Install work tables and other surfaces so that you have a dedicated area for your main activities. Choose energy-creating colors for your work environment. As you start to hire people, expand the work area so that everyone can be comfortable.

Take Care of Yourself

Getting a startup business off the ground can be hard work. Make sure that you are eating a reasonable diet. Take time to exercise on a regular basis. Get away from it all by spending time doing something that you enjoy. While it can seem like you need to be working continually, doing so will have a negative effect on your enthusiasm and motivation.

Use these tips and your own ingenuity to grow your basement business. You will succeed if you want to bad enough and there is a need for your product.

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

Five Things You Didn’t Realise You Needed in Your Office!

Your office is so much more than four walls. It’s the space where your workforce spends most of their days, and so it makes sense that it should be a nice environment. Not only will this be more pleasant to work from, but improved mood is likely to boost productivity, meaning better work produced and more profits for you! If you look after your employees, they will look after your customers, clients and business- and providing them with a decent space to work from is one of the ways you can do this. We all know that we need good technology, ergonomically designed furniture and proper storage in the office- but there are a few other details that you might have overlooked. These things can improve worker happiness and productivity and make your office run that bit better. Here are ideas for five changes you could make!

Lots of Daylight

Daylight is a natural mood booster, and when your workers are happier they will do better work. You might think as long as your office is well lit, it doesn’t matter how much daylight comes in but it’s not the case. Make the very most of the natural light you have coming in. This could mean moving to an office with large windows, or if you own the building you could have the windows made larger. It could mean switching up the blinds or window treatments you have up to allow more light to come in, or changing the layout so that desks are positioned next to windows. It’s simple but so easy to overlook, if you want happier and more motivated workers a quick switch up in the office could really help you to achieve this.

A Light, Neutral Colour Scheme

As well as getting in as much natural light as possible, the way you decorate your office can have a big impact too. Choosing a light, neutral colour like a white, magnolia or very light grey can help make the office look more spacious and bounce the light around as much as possible. If your current space is looking a little worse for wear, a lick of paint can make all the difference. It will help to make the office look clean, modern, bright and airy. Even if you’re renting your office, you will usually be allowed to make cosmetic changes. Keep it simple yet beautiful and really make the most of any light coming into the room. According to colour psychology, blue makes people most productive and has a calming effect on humans, For this reason, adding some blue to your office could be beneficial if you wanted to bring in a bit of colour.

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Plants

Psychologists have shown that plants actually increase productivity in the workplace. In general, plants and flowers also help to boost our mood and reduce stress. This is thought to work on the principle of color psychology (green being a calming colour) and evolutionary. Our ancestors would have worked hard to produce crops and flowers and plants were seen as a ‘reward’ of this hard work. This is great as it means a few simple plants added to the office can make a big difference. Encourage workers to bring in a plant they love to put on their desk- and dot around a few bigger potted plants. As well as boosting mood, they’re a professional and unfussy way to decorate. The leaves add colour and texture to a neutral space without making it look cluttered.

Exercise Equipment

Unfortunately, office jobs tend to be pretty sedentary. This is bad news for employees, sedentary work can increase the chances of obesity (and its related ailments such as high blood pressure, heart issues and diabetes). It can reduce mobility and fitness levels and overall have a negative impact on health. As employers, once of the ways we can help to combat this is by providing office exercise equipment. Something like an active stool or exercise ball instead of a normal chair is good for posture, balance and core muscles. An under desk treadmill, stepper or exercise bike can be good for leg muscles and provide light cardio exercise. You could also switch to standing desks for some job roles. To take this a step further, you could add a stability ‘fitness wobble cushion’ which requires you to stand and keep your balance as you work- great for legs and core. Either way, getting employees moving in some way is good for their health, can reduce stress and even reduce sick days in the future. You’ll improve focus and productivity and decrease restless energy. Even the best employees can struggle being cooped up all day, these things can help to alleviate that feeling. If you have a social area, how about adding a pool table or a mini office golf putting set?

 A Social Area

Do you have a social area in your office, for break and lunchtimes- or a place to sit before work? If not, it’s well worth setting one up. First of all, workers won’t have to leave the premises when they go on breaks, and this can mean you’re not losing minutes here and there from them returning back a little late. It can also help with socialisation and bonds between employees. Businesses need workers who don’t just work well themselves, but who can also communicate and work well with others. Giving your employees a space where they can chat and get to know each other can be very beneficial. Collectively, companies spend a fortune each year on things like team building activities and events that bring employees together to improve communication. So this isn’t something to be overlooked. A few comfy chairs, a coffee machine and a vending machine would suffice. Ideally a kitchenette area with a place to heat food would be better.

Had you considered any of these things for your office? Do you have any ideas on how you can make your office more pleasant for workers, therefore boosting mood and productivity?

Speed Up and Simplify Your Everyday Business Tasks

Today, we have more tools than ever to make business easier. It would then be foolish not to utilize them, so that we and our employees can spend less time on those mundane tasks and more time doing things of real value that will help our businesses to grow.

Here are some of the ways that you can use automation to speed up and simplify your everyday business tasks:

Use Tech to Take Care of Your Finances

From using software to take care of your payroll tasks in a couple of clicks to using products like FreshBooks to take care of your accounts, it has never been easier to automate the financial side of your business. As well as the two examples above, you can use technology to schedule recurring invoice payments and pay the bills and use online banking to more closely and quickly monitor your bank accounts than ever before.

Automate Your Network Management Tasks

Network management tasks may be necessary, but they can also be very time-consuming and extremely tedious, so why not free up your staff by using an IT management solution like Spiceworks to automate them instead? You’ll never have to worry about monitoring your network again because Spiceworks will do it all for you.

Use Software to Track Your Leads

No matter what industry your business is operating in, it’s almost a certainty that following up leads will be high on your agenda. This is one of the best ways to make more sales, so it really is very important, but if you’re running a large business, it can be difficult to track all the hundreds and thousands of leads your company generates each month. With software like Salesforce, you don’t have to.

What Salesforce and similar products do is automatically capture leads from your website, assign them to the most appropriate members of your sales team. They can even forecast future sales activity and carry out marketing campaigns targeted closely at your leads. They really can save so much time and money.

Email Marketing Made Easy

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Email marketing is a very good way of increasing sales. Especially if you’re a relatively small online business. Of course, it is pretty time consuming too, well it is if you’re doing it all yourself anyway. To simplify and speed up the process of email marketing, all you need to do is use a program which can be programmed with rules, so that you can run a tightly-targeted marketing campaign, that will kick into action when a particular trigger goes off, contacting the right people at the right time. There are many such programs and investing in one could be one of the best purchases you ever make.

Schedule Your Social Media

Using social media is one of the best ways to advertise your goods and services in the 21st Century, but often you have more pressing concerns than sending out a Tweet to your followers. That’s where tools like Hootsuite come in. They allow you to schedule posts in advance, so you can schedule a blog of time to write them, specify the date and time you’d like them to go out and then get back to your other work.

Do you run a business? Which automation tools have you found to be most useful?

What Impact Could Ransomware Have on You?

iStock_000008869356XSmallWith stories of massive security breaches and identity theft sweeping the news, it’s more important than ever for your business to protect its data.

This is especially the case when it comes to your network computers being taken over by ransomware.

Here are just a few examples of how ransomware can impact your business:

Ransomware in a Nutshell

In its most basic form, ransomware can limit your access to certain information within your business network. Ransomware is a form of malware, which means you likely won’t know you’re a victim of the intrusion until it’s too late.

Ransomware gets its name due to the fact that most attacks result in the intruder demanding money in return for access to your files and documents. The most sophisticated types of ransomware can encrypt your business’s entire computer system and bring your online operations to a standstill.

Unfortunately, according to leading online security authorities such as Symantec and McAfee, ransomware attacks will continue to rise in the coming years.

That’s why it’s important for your business to stay informed on the topic of ransomware.

Types of Ransomware

The most widely used form of ransomware features false messages that require payment if action isn’t taken.

With this type of ransomware, victims aren’t actually aware their systems are compromised because the ransomware comes in the form of a message from authoritative sources, such as payment for the reactivation of software.

The article “Ransomware: What it is, How it Works, and What to Do if You Are Victimized” mentions the fact that ransomware messages can also impersonate government agencies that seize your system.

Another form of ransomware to be aware of is encrypted file ransomware, such as CryptoLocker malware.

With this type of ransomware, victims are fully aware their systems are compromised and they must make a payment in order to gain access to their files and documents. This type of ransomware also comes with the threat of file destruction if payments aren’t made in a certain amount of time.

What to Do in the Event of Ransomware

There are a number of steps your business can take if you become a victim of ransomware.

For starters, many experts recommend disconnecting from the Internet the moment a ransomware threat or message is detected. Doing so will limit the amount of data that can become compromised.

In addition, it’s also wise to contact your local FBI branch.

Ransomware is a form of extortion, which is something the FBI handles. The FBI will also let you know other steps to take in eliminating the threat.

How to Avoid Ransomware

Avoiding the threat of ransomware altogether is always the best course of action. By using reputable firewall and antivirus software at your business, you can drastically reduce the chances of ransomware threats.

In addition, you should back up your business data to a secondary, non-Internet enabled device regularly.

Likewise, you should also enable popup blockers within your browser, which can help you avoid accidentally clicking on infected ransomware messages.

Don’t become another victim: keep in mind the information above and steer your business clear of ransomware threats.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator content. He writes on a variety of topics including online security and business technology.

Balance Your Network Performance and Capacity Planning Needs

socialNetwork planning can be a very serious element of your business plan, regardless of what industry you’re in.

Today, the Internet rules the roost, meaning if your business’ website or internal online resources are not able to handle a flux in users, you might find that you’re losing money. If customers can’t access your online resources, they may go to your competition.

On the flipside, if employees can’t access internal online resources, they won’t be able to get work done, and once again, this can hinder customer relations.

It Starts with Proper Planning

In order to avoid, or at least mitigate, problems in the first place, you need proper planning.

This means hiring the right professionals to set up network components and internal software in order to balance network performance. When doing this, consider company growth as well so that your online activities can be scalable.

Remember that what works today may not work in the future as you add customers and employees.

Another point to consider is that technology changes, so your network will need to be based on a framework that can change as well without losing data.

Optimizing Your Capacity

When it comes to optimizing capacity, there are several things to take into consideration.

In the article, “Network Performance and Capacity Planning: It’s a Balancing Act” the author points out that you’ll need to consider which links are most congested, which links are the most critical for business success, how to determine the source of traffic, and more.

By reviewing this information, your company and its IT team or partner can optimize capacity to allow for smooth access of company resources without paying too much for unused capacity.

Remember That Content is Increasingly Heavy

Finally, you need to realize that, as more and more ISPs offer unlimited bandwidth, consumers and potential customers are looking for more content that is rich.

This means video and audio are becoming the norm, and as a result, your network needs to be able to not only host such content, but also deliver it 24 hours a day.

You may have created the best video ever, but if consumers can’t access it because your network is over capacity, then it serves no purpose, however great it is.

In order to solve this, you need to go back to the first point mentioned in this article, which is to “plan accordingly”.

By taking proactive steps now, your business and its network will be set for future growth, usage, and marketing of its products and services.

About the Author: Andrew Rusnak is an author who writes on topics that include business development and planning.

Is Your Network a Soon-to-be Victim?

Your business network system may be a target right now and you don’t even know it.

cloud_compNetwork hackers cost businesses more than $445 billion annually, all around the globe.

To prevent this increasingly pervasive threat from destroying everything you’ve struggled to build up over the years, you need to know how to detect a potential hack, how to protect yourself, and how to stop it from happening in the first place.

How to Detect a Potential Hack

Future hacks begin with delivery of the “weapon.”

In digital terms, the weapon may be a piece of software or a piece of code. This weapon needs to be embedded in your system, where it will either lie dormant until the date of attack, or it will immediately begin breaking down your system from the inside out.

The delivery of the weapon can come from various sources.

Often it will come via an innocent sounding email, through a third-party website, or through a software update.

Network attackers hide viruses and other hacks designed to gain sensitive information from your company in these “carriers,” in the hopes that someone in your organization will be naïve or careless enough to click on them and allow them to gain entry into your network.

Potential threats can be sometimes be identified with the following methods:

  1. Words are misspelled in emails, or sentence structure is “off,” indicating that the writer’s first language is not English. One runs its entire economic structure off of hacked U.S. sites. The cell is operated by indigenous Romanians who write emails designed to lure unsuspecting American workers to click on links and start the download of the virus.
  2. The email is an unexpected communication from a bank or other financial organization, such as asking the user to verify information out of the blue.
  3. The third party website looks similar to one your employee is used to seeing, such as UPS.com, but certain elements are missing, some words are misspelled, or is just looks “off” in general.

How to Protect Yourself from a Hack

As the following article looks at, to know how to detect an advanced attack in time to actually stop it, you need to know how to protect yourself ahead of time.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to invest in a backup system for all your company’s data.

A backup system will allow you to instantly restore your uncorrupted files to your servers with little or no downtime. For a low monthly subscription fee, you can virtually free yourself from any possible hacks.

How to Stop Hacks From Happening in the First Place

Of course the best protection against hacks is prevention.

You can stop hacks from happening in the first place by putting in place some measures in your company.

Among them:

  • Educate your employees

Give your employees either in-house or outside courses in how to detect hacks. Let them know what a potential hack looks like, and what to do if they suspect something.

  • Hire an IT expert

It’s worth it to pay for an IT expert on your team. This person can install virus protectors and firewalls that will keep attacks at bay.

Your company network doesn’t have to be the next victim.

Implement these steps and help to make your network impervious to threats.

About the Author: Kate Supino writes extensively about best business practices.