Archive for June, 2019

The week in energy: China’s coal-fired outreach

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Iran’s oil finds a way, US renewables edge out coal in April and Vladimir Putin touts ‘Opec+’

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The goal of a commercial business is to increase sales, and retaining current customers is key to making this happen. But according to a new report from The Manifest, only 6% of small businesses are focused on retaining their customers. This is despite the fact their main digital marketing goal is to increase sales.

The data reveals most small businesses aren’t placing a priority in engaging existing customers. The report attributes this to a shortfall in their budget and resources to maximize their efforts. Additionally, they are relying on in-house teams to carry out these tasks.

While some businesses may have truly qualified in-house staff, it is not the case for most organizations. As Emily Clark, who wrote the report for The Manifest, says, “… small businesses do not always explore the benefits of different marketing strategies like SEO.”

Clark adds, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.” The report looks to give small businesses insight into choosing the best resources for their digital marketing efforts.

The data for the report comes from a survey of 529 small businesses across the U.S. about their marketing resources and annual budget. Although the participants include businesses with 1 and 500 employees, 54% only have 1 to 10 employees. So, the majority are really small businesses.

The survey respondents are male (52%) and female (48%), with millennials (29%), Generation Xers (45%), and baby boomers (27%).

Survey Findings

Businesses want to increase their sales, but there is a great disparity in how they go about doing it. If only 6% of small businesses are focusing on retaining their customers, it means 94% are not fully aware of the benefit of this effort.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The report says businesses are missing out on easier sales which come from engaging existing customers. Because compared to new customer acquisition, it is much cheaper.

The success rate of selling to a new customer is 5 to 20%. On the other hand, it is 60 to 70% for existing customers. So, the fact only 6% of small business are retaining their current customers offers huge opportunities.

As the report says, the lack of resources is one aspect. And it is not only financial, but it is also knowledge-based. While most small businesses (60%) use an in-house team to promote their digital marketing strategy, only 33% use marketing software. And because digital marketing is an essential component for retaining customers in today’s ecosystem, how it is applied plays a big role.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

With marketing software employees can schedule content, organize projects, and track metrics. But it will take experts who can optimize the software and other technologies to deliver. In order to make this happen, 40% of businesses are hiring digital marketing agencies and 39% are using freelancers.

Clark says both the agencies and freelancers offer similar value. Adding they are usually more experience in a particular field of marketing than an in-house team. She goes on to say, “Hiring a noted expert in the community can ensure that businesses receive the best results on their projects.”

Marketing Budget

The marketing budget of any organization will dictate how far they can extend their reach. And for small businesses, the budget is almost always in a state of flux. But according to this survey, 36% spend less than $10K annually on digital marketing.

However, the report says the data also accounts for marketing employees’ salaries. So the 36% of businesses are paying a marketer $10,000 a year or they do not have marketing employees. And when it comes to the marketing, small businesses also have many different approaches.

Not everyone is looking to get $10K in ROI from direct sales. Some businesses create campaigns to spread the message of the company to increase interest with the goal of acquiring long-term customers.

Businesses launch campaigns for everything from brand awareness to lead generation, product launch, special promotions, sales and more. The key is to optimize today’s digital marketing solutions, talents, and opportunities to grow your business.

Clark ends the report by saying, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.”

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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US energy independence could prove to be an illusion

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Shale boom took energy security off political agenda, but that may not last

62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

The health and wellbeing of small business owners is a critically important public health issue. It is especially important when it comes to mental health. After all, small businesses account for the employment of more than 54 million people in the U.S.

A new report by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reveals 62% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. Granted the study was conducted in Canada, but studies carried out there are usually applied in the U.S. and vice versa.

But when it comes to the issue of depression, the numbers are probably higher in the U.S. This according to Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery and Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a workplace and career psychologist.

In an emailed release, Fielkow says, “I’m not shocked by this at all. Based on what I see with my clients, I expect that this rate is even higher in the United States. Business owners are so busy taking care of their employees that they forget to take care of themselves. They also hide their depressed feelings to keep up company morale.”

The Goal of the Study

Titled, “Going it Alone: the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada,” the study looks at the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs. According to the CMHA, the goal of the study is to better appreciate the unique pressures business owners face. At the same time, try to find ways to improve the mental health experiences of entrepreneurs.

The study looks to understand:

  • What mental health issues entrepreneurs report.
  • The impact of mental health concerns on business objectives and entrepreneurs’ personal lives.
  • What strategies and/or support entrepreneurs use to manage these issues.
  • What barriers they face in accessing services and support, including lack of access and limited awareness of support.
  • The cost of mental health services.
  • Stigma-related concerns, such as concern for reputation and discomfort discussing the issue.

The report comes from a survey of close to 500 entrepreneurs.

Key Findings

The study says generally entrepreneurs are likely to experience mental health issues frequently. On top of the 62% who say they feel depressed at least once a week, another 46% also experience low mood or feel mentally fatigued. And these mental issues interfere with their ability to work for 46% of the respondents.

Why Business Owners Feel Depressed

In the past 12 months, 28% said they experienced or were diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most common of these conditions are mood and anxiety disorders. This was 8% higher than the general population.

Other mental health-related issues include feelings of uncertainty and/or inadequacy (51%), depressed mood (50%), and mood swings (39%). But even with so many conditions, 79% say they are happy with their state of mind at least once a week. And only 20% feel the need to get mental health support and services.

Do Depressed Business Owners Seek Help?

When it comes to getting help, a number of barriers prevent entrepreneurs from actually seeking mental health support.

The number one reason (36%) is the stigma attached to mental health. People are concerned about the organizational and reputation implications of seeking help and/or taking time off work. The good news is, the report says 46% are reporting their organization is working to end mental health stigma.

Additional barriers entrepreneurs face includes the cost of mental health (34%) and lack of access to support (22%).

Who is More Likely to Experience Mental Health Issues?

In the report, female entrepreneurs say they experience some issues with far greater frequency than their male counterparts. This includes feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy, depressed mood, and feeling overwhelmed.

Entrepreneurs with businesses which are going through early growth stage also report higher incidents of mental conditions. This is perfectly understandable because of the many stresses associated with growing a business. Especially a small business without the right funding.

Recommendations

For most small businesses addressing the issue of mental health is going to be way beyond their comfort zone. But it is important to create a safe environment for employees to report their condition without any repercussions.

Some of the recommendations in the report are to:

  • Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs.
  • Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance.
  • Include mental health in entrepreneurship education.
  • Strengthen research on entrepreneur mental health.
  • Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, the report says, “We need a more nuanced narrative that allows entrepreneurs to show their vulnerability and ask for help when they need it.”

Read the full report here (PDF)

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

For most small businesses, growth is a primary objective. And while achieving growth is wonderful, it often presents issues for companies that are unprepared to scale up. When these issues aren’t dealt with swiftly and effectively, the business will eventually crumble due to scaling mistakes.

Managing the Chaos of Growth

Growth is a topic entrepreneurs love to contemplate, but it’s not one that gets studied enough. If you’re willing to learn from the past – and even your peers — you’ll discover that others have already made a litany of scaling mistakes so that you don’t have to. They’ve also enjoyed profound successes and discovered what it takes to foster authentic growth.

Think about the most successful people, nations, groups, and companies in history and consider the way in which they grew. The Roman Empire, for example, had an expanse of five-million-plus square kilometers at its height. But it didn’t grow to that size overnight. The Roman Empire lasted for well over 1,000 years and was built over hundreds and thousands of invasions, battles, and political maneuverings — one square kilometer at a time.

Consider a modern example: Facebook. When Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard College students and roommates launched the online social network, they didn’t immediately start a national or global blitz and attempt to take over MySpace (the major social networking platform of the time). Instead, they started small. In order to join, you needed a Harvard.edu email address. Then they added another college. And another. And another. Eventually, they launched to anyone with a college email address. Finally, they launched to anyone and everyone.

Learning From Facebook

The Facebook launch model was all about the phenomenon of critical mass. They knew people wouldn’t join Facebook if they didn’t have friends on it. So instead of targeting hundreds of millions of people, they started small. They believed — and rightly so — that a few dozen users would lead to a few hundred, which would lead to thousands, millions and possibly even billions of users.

The Roman Empire and Facebook are an unlikely pair, but they are just two examples showing that growth has always been a huge focal point in politics, business, and life in general. However, for every story of successful growth, there are dozens of companies that attempt to scale up and end up crashing. Generally speaking, it’s because they fail to lean on the proven advice of those who’ve gone before them and attempt to scale up prematurely or too fast. In doing so, they bring on countless problems.

Hear this: Growth is good. However, growing too fast is arguably worse than staying put a little longer than you should. Yes, under certain circumstances, temporary stagnation can be better than premature growth. That’s not something everyone will agree with, but it’s a truth that’s supported by dozens of case studies and business obituaries over the decades.

Most businesses try to grow for the sake of growth and, in doing so, forget about the importance of establishing a strong foundation that can withstand the downward pressure that’s applied when there are more resources to manage, prospects to chase down, customers to keep happy, and money to allocate. You don’t want to make these same scaling mistakes.

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

Now that you have a big-picture overview of the importance of scaling at a slow and steady pace, let’s explore some of the top scaling mistakes companies make that prevent them from doing so (and how it affects different areas of business).

1. Unnecessary Innovation

Growth is something that needs to be managed by people who have strategic leadership qualities. While everyone can have a say in how your business grows, be wary of letting innovators take the lead.

“Innovators are an invaluable part of your team, but they’re often not the best people to put in charge of scaling,” business consultant Rhett Power mentions. “The constant search for new ways of thinking and doing requires a heavy investment of time, energy, and — eventually — money. There will come a time when it’s more practical to focus on maintaining what you’ve built rather than redesigning it or trying to dramatically improve it.”

On a related note, product innovation is only one aspect of differentiation. As you grow, you’ll discover that it’s often more cost-effective and less resource-intensive to innovate customer service, customer experience, shipping/logistics, etc.

2. Poor Hiring

In terms of hiring and managing human resources, two things happen to startups as they grow:

  • First off, people leave for new opportunities. Either they realize they can’t handle the uncertainty of startup life and want the predictability of another job, or they choose to go off on their own and start a new business.
  • Secondly — even if nobody from the original team leaves — you find yourself in a position where you have to add positions in order to account for growth.

Whatever the underlying cause for hiring new employees is based upon, growing businesses frequently make the mistake of hiring the wrong people. While they may consider a candidate’s resume or technical skillset, they don’t take nearly enough time to evaluate whether they’re a good “fit.”

When hiring employees, ask yourself questions like: Do they possess an attitude that meshes well with our mission? Are they willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term results? Do they understand the vision of the company?

3. Disorganized Accounting

When your business is small, it’s fairly easy to keep track of finances. But as your company grows, you’ll find that it takes a much more purposeful approach to keep accounting in line. One of the biggest scaling mistakes growing companies make is losing track of accounting and drowning in disorganization. Not only is this frustrating, but it can have serious tax repercussions and legal consequences. Here are some suggestions to avoid a similar fate:

  • Hire a full-time CPA or outsource it to someone who is responsible for staying on top of financials. This is no longer something you, the business owner, can handle in addition to your other responsibilities.
  • Get your accounts receivable under control. Simplify your invoicing process and don’t let anything slip through the cracks. A failure to collect timely payment can hurt cash flow and limit your flexibility.
  • Reconcile all accounts at the end of each month. If you wait until the end of the quarter, you’ll find that it’s far more time-consuming and difficult to uncover what went wrong, where it went wrong, and how it can be fixed.

Accounting isn’t sexy, but it provides significant peace of mind. When you have your finances under control, you’re freed up to focus on other areas of the business.

4. Too Much Debt

Debt is a strategic tool for growth, but it’s not something to become overly reliant on. Many well-intended founders have relied so heavily on debt to grow that they unwittingly handcuffed themselves and eliminated future flexibility.

Whenever possible, try bartering instead of taking on more debt. If you’re in the B2B world, this is especially useful. You can offer your services to a company in return for theirs. By building out this network, you lower your overhead expenses and prevent the need for excessive debt. Obviously this can’t be done with everything, but it is a valuable strategy in many situations.

5. Too Much Focus on Sales and Marketing

When growth is the primary focus of everything you do, you’re inclined to spend all of your time and resources on sales and marketing. After all, that’s how you get new customers! But this may actually be a mistake.

When all of your attention goes to sales and marketing, you neglect creating value for your customers. Innovation goes by the wayside, customer service takes a backseat, and the errors and kinks in your product fail to get worked out in a timely manner. The result is a sub-par customer experience that negates any progress you make on the sales and marketing front.

6. Failure to Listen to Early Adopters

Another problem with constantly marketing and selling is that you don’t take the time to listen to your customers. Your early adopters, in particular, will let you know what they like, don’t like, or want to see. If you’re the only one doing the talking, you’ll miss the chance to implement simple improvements before scaling up your customer base.

7. Failure to Develop a Culture

“If you’re scaling successfully, you’ve probably got great people working for you. Losing them at this stage is very easy if you’re not paying attention,” entrepreneur Matt Doyle writes. “Sometimes it’s just that responsibilities grow too fast, but I’ve also seen teams fail because the earlier members didn’t get along with all the new people who came aboard and didn’t understand/couldn’t maintain the culture that got you here.”

Culture is something you have to focus on from the very start. While it can evolve over time, it’s hard to go back and create an entirely new culture from scratch. Decide on what’s important and really instill these values in every existing employee and new hire.

Disciplined Scaling, Not Growth Hacking

This article isn’t meant to scare you away from growing, but it should give you pause and make you think twice before you pursue growth for the sole objective of getting bigger.

It seems that the biggest problem among today’s entrepreneurs and young business leaders is the belief that growth can be hacked. There’s even a buzzword for it: growth hacking. It’s the idea that you can implement a couple of shortcuts or find a few loopholes and grow your business in weeks or months, rather than years. Unfortunately, the notion of growth hacking has permeated the modern entrepreneurial mindset and led people to believe that they can do things that really aren’t possible or healthy in the long run.

Your primary objective should not be growth hacking. Instead, try focusing on what we’ll call disciplined scaling. You want to grow at a pace that’s purposeful, strategic, and steady. Sometimes this growth will happen fast, but more than likely, it’ll follow the gradual path of other successful groups, nations, and companies. And if this means avoiding a premature collapse, then by all means, slow and steady is a good thing.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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National Grid sells Cadent to CIC-backed group

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Completion of Cadent sale comes amid concerns over role of Chinese companies in UK

Trump Became the First US President to Enter North Korea

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

US President Donald Trump became the first US acting head of state to cross the border between South and North Korea.

This happened as he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the demilitarized area, which continued with a one-hour tripartite conversation with the leaders of the two Koreas on the southern side of the border.

Trump said he was invited by Kim to take the steps in North Korea and the result was a “very historic” meeting. They have been talking for the third time, but this has never happened on the Korean Peninsula, even less than the northern side of the border. The US president added that “right now” he would have invited Kim to the White House, but at 11 am Bulgarian time there was no confirmation that such an invitation had been made. Kim himself said that it would be an honor for Trump to visit Pyongyang.

Trump was in South Korea at a meeting with the country’s president, Moon Jae-in. He announced on Twitter that he had offered Kim to meet him in the demilitarized zone during the (planned) visit to the area to “say hello.” Several hours later it was confirmed that Kim would respond.

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Repair of Bulgaria Blvd. in Sofia Limits the Traffic for 20 Days

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

On 30 June, the repair of the roadways on Bulgaria Blvd begins and will be carried out in stages.
 
In the first stage from 30.06.2019 to 04.07.2019. it is forbidden to enter road vehicles on the southern roadway on Bulgaria Blvd. in the section from Vitosha Blvd. to Pencho Slaveykov Blvd., announced Sofia Municipality.

In the second stage of 05.07.2019. until 19.07.2019. it is forbidden the entry of road vehicles on the southern roadway on Bulgaria Blvd. in the section of Akad. Ivan Ev. Geshov to Cherni Vrah Blvd. as the traffic is done in the north roadway of the boulevard in the same section.
 
From 30.06.2019 to 04.07.2019. the routes of bus lines № 76, 204, 304 and 604 are changed only in direction of “Orlov most” square, as follows: from “Bulgaria” Blvd, following the Vocational School of Textile and Fashion Design, , to the right on “Pencho Slaveykov” Blvd., on Bulgaria Blvd. and on its route.
 
There is a temporary stop at “Pencho Slaveykov” Blvd., after Vitosha Blvd., towards “Orlov most” square for bus lines № 76, 204, 304 and 604.

From 04.30 on 05.07.2019 to 24.00 on 19.07.2019 the route of bus line № 76 is changed only in the direction of hc. “Gotse Delchev” as follows: from “Bulgaria” Blvd., on “Pencho Slaveykov” Blvd., on Vitosha Blvd., to the right on “Byala Cherkva” Str., On “Petko Y. Todorov” Blvd. stop at all existing bus and tram stops in the changed stretch of route.
 
The routes of bus lines № 76, 204, 304 and 604 in the direction of the National Palace of Culture are partially changed as follows: from the crossroad Bulgaria Blvd. – Acad. Ivan Ev. Geshov “-” Petko Y. Todorov “Blvd. on the north roadway on Bulgaria Blvd. to the crossroad Bulgaria Blvd. -” Prof. Fr. Nansen “- Cherni Vrah Blvd. and along its route.

There is a temporary stop on “Bulgaria” Blvd. before “Petko Y. Todorov” Blvd. in the direction of the National Palace of Culture for bus lines № 204 and 304.
 
Closed stops with code 0268 “Bul. Acad. Geshov “on Bulgaria Blvd. in the direction of the National Palace of Culture for bus lines Nos. 76, 204, 304 and 604 and code 1736″ Textiles and fashion design “on Bulgaria Blvd. in the direction of the National Palace of Culture for bus lines № 76, 204 and 604.

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Bulgarian and Syrian Arrested in Athens, Selling Fake Documents to Migrants

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Greek police arrested a Syrian and a Bulgarian woman who were arrested with a lot of false passports and identity papers, the Associated Press reported.

They are believed to have sold the documents to migrants at a price of 5000 euros. The arrests were carried out in Athens on Friday, but the announcement was published yesterday.

In addition to Greek and Swedish passports, Bulgarian and Greek identity papers, laptop, tablet, lamination machine, information flasks and plastic sheets were found. If they were able to sell the prepared papers, they would have won nearly one million euros.

The Syrian is 41 years old and has already served a sentence for such an activity, but has recently been released. When the police entered the apartment, the 44-year-old woman tried to throw through the balcony several documents and a laptop.

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Survey: Over 50% of Bulgarians Can not Afford a Vacation this Summer

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

For more than 50% of Bulgarians the summer holiday this year turns out to be a chimera. Every second person is ready to draw credit to have vacation at the sea. This shows a study by the Trend Research Center.

“The lack of financial capacity is the main reason for not planning a break. This was also the result of last year’s results. Demographic breakdowns clearly show that those who highlight the financial reasons are mostly the oldest groups, “commented Atanas Stefanov from Trend to NOVA.

The data from the survey also indicate that most Bulgarians prefer to spend their vacation on the native Black Sea coast. “Over half of the holiday planners will be doing this on the Bulgarian beaches this summer. Favourite is the Southern Black Sea Coast towards the North, “added Stefanov.

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