Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Small Business Loan Approval Rates Hit Record High, Biz2Credit Reports

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Biz2Credit Lending Index May 2018 Shows Record High Small Business Loan Approval Rates

The Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index for May 2018 is reporting record highs of loan approval from banks and institutional lenders.

Biz2Credit Lending Index May 2018

The record highs reflect a strong US economy and job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate is currently at 3.8%. And wage growth is also experiencing the highest rate in two years according to the latest Paychex/IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to expand or start their fits venture, this is a good time. Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora addressed this very point in the report. He said, “The U.S. economy is strong right now.” This has benefitted banks, making May another strong month.

Arora added, “The unemployment rate hit an 18-year low, and average hourly pay rose 2.7 percent from a year prior. Notably, the Labor Department reported employment in construction continued on an upward trend in May with more than 25,000 new jobs created. There were also large increases in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing jobs.”

The index is derived from the monthly analysis of more than 1,000 credit applications from small businesses on Biz2Credit.com.

Data From the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index

The rate of approval from big banks has jumped to 25.9%, up two-tenths of a percent from April. And according to Biz2Credit, this is a post-recession high for big banks.

The growth big banks experienced was also matched by small banks, with their two-tenths of a percent jump increasing its overall approval rate for small businesses to 49.4%. For this segment, this rate was the highest since 2015.

Institutional lenders, which generally have a high rate of approval for small business loans, were up by one-tenth of a percent to 64.7%. Biz2Credit is reporting this is yet another new Index record for this group.

Alternative lenders and credit unions didn’t see the same growth as the other lenders in this index. While alternative lenders remain the same as April with an approval rate of 56.4%, the rate for credit unions was down by one-tenth of a percent to 40.1%.

The Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index infographic below provides more data for the month of May.

Biz2Credit Lending Index May 2018 Shows Record High Small Business Loan Approval Rates

Image: Biz2Credit

This article, “Small Business Loan Approval Rates Hit Record High, Biz2Credit Reports” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business

There’s a big market for your services if you’re looking to start a pool cleaning business. According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, there are over 10 million residential pools in the United States.

How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business

Here’s how to start your own business cleaning them.

Decide How to Begin

There are two big choices for starting a pool cleaning business. You can either start your own company from scratch or buy an existing route. If you’re starting from scratch, the cost can be under $2000 for everything like pool skimmers and the other equipment you’ll need.

Choose to Start From Scratch

If you are starting with nothing, printing up a few business cards and leaving them with local pool supply stores works. Leaving these cards with local pool builders is another excellent idea. Make sure to tell them to refer you to their customers. You can work out an arrangement for these referrals.

Or Consider Buying a Route

Buying an existing route is a ready-made solution, but the upfront costs are quite a bit higher. There’s already an industry of people who will sell you a route, but you need to pay for these established businesses.

In fact, Pool and Spa News reports you can expect to pay up to 12 times the monthly service rates you’ll charge. Some routes will set you back $60,000 at first.

Either way, you should consider joining an association that provides you with insurance and other coverages.

Get the Right Equipment

Getting the right tool for any job can always be the difference between success and failure. In the case of your own pool cleaning business, you’ll need a series of different ones.

Talk to Industry People

Talking to people who work in the industry and suppliers can help point you in the right direction.  There’s several broad categories like skimmers, brushes, vacuums and hoses and accessories and you’ll need something from each to get started.

Telescopic pool cleaning poles and brushes to scrub the floors and walls of your client’s pools are some of the staples. For the telescopic pole, you need to consider a few factors like strength. Remember you’ll be using this and pushing it underwater to clean the bottoms and sides so it needs to be able to stand up to the pressure.

For this standard piece of equipment, two-piece construction is a good idea. Don’t forget the other must haves like a water testing kit.

Check Out the State and Municipal Requirements

It’s important to make sure that everything about your pool cleaning business is aboveboard with your local and state governments.  Different states can have different routes to take and even your municipality might have a few boxes you’ll need to check.

Depending on where you live, you might need a few years of experience before you apply. You’ll more than likely need to pay a licensing fee which will expire after a few years. On top of those extra payments, there’s usually a one-time application fee that you need to open your wallet for.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The Typing Game Makes Entrepreneurs Faster and More Accurate at the Mobile Keyboard

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

While many people think little of the value of typing faster and accurately, it is one of the most fundamental skills required in lots of fields, business included. Be it in writing an email to a customer or writing a blog about your new products, typing is one of the most important skills.

As a business owner, accurate and fast typing will save you a tremendous amount of time that you could have spent proofreading your emails or product descriptions for typos.

About the Typing Game

The Typing Game, created by Steev James, and available for free on Google Play Store, is a mobile application that claims to help with improvement of typing speed and accuracy.

The game, which is low in size (only about 1mb in size), is completely free and doesn’t feature any ads. The game does not run in the background and does not require any permission to install or run making it fully safe.

How it Works

Download the game from Google Play Store and click ‘Open’ to get started.

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

You will be ushered to the home page where you can choose to start a game, read more about the app, view your high score or exit the game. It is simple and straightforward. 

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

The game itself is quite easy to play. You don’t need any instructions to guide you. You are given a minute to start typing in the provided words into a text box.

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

The game comes to an end after the 60 seconds and your score is highlighted. You can as well see your highest score on the home page.

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

Conclusion 

The Typing Game is a simple and easy to use application that can significantly improve your typing speed and accuracy when sending out emails or even text messages to your customers or even business partners using your mobile phone. The only downside with the game is that at one point it said that my keyboard is not supported by the game, yet it worked well when I closed and opened the game again. This might be a bug that needs fixing.

The Typing Game Wants to Make You a Better Mobile Typist

Besides that, this is a solid typing game that both adults and children above 3 years can enjoy playing and improve their typing speeds and accuracy while at it.

Image: The Typing Game

This article, “The Typing Game Makes Entrepreneurs Faster and More Accurate at the Mobile Keyboard” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Cracking the Code on Loyalty Programs: 5 Ways to Improve What You Offer Customers

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Loyalty Program

How well is your retail store’s loyalty program working for you? What can you do to make your shoppers more loyal? Two recent studies have some valuable insights. Here’s what you need to know about trends in loyalty programs, why loyalty programs matter, and how to improve yours.

Loyalty program benefits

A good loyalty program has many benefits for businesses. According to The Loyalty Report 2018 by Bond:

  • 77% of consumers say loyalty programs make them more likely to stay with brands.
  • 70% of consumers say they are more likely to recommend a business with a good loyalty program.
  • 63% of consumers say they change their spending habits to make the most of their loyalty benefits.

Loyalty programs can not only make shoppers more loyal, but also improve positive word-of-mouth for your store, and get shoppers to spend more at your business.

Loyalty Program Trends

First, the good news: The future of loyalty looks promising, according to Oracle’s report Retail 2018: The Loyalty Divide. More than 4 in 10 consumers aged 18 to 34 say they are more loyal to brands than they were five years ago. What’s more, local retailers have an edge when it comes to loyalty: a whopping 82% of consumers say the most important factor in loyalty is store proximity.

Now, the bad news: Oracle found a discrepancy between how retailers and consumers view loyalty programs. More than half (58%) of retailers believe their loyalty program offers are mostly relevant to consumers. However, just 32% of consumers feel the same way.

The biggest problem Oracle found is that retailers are still measuring the results of the loyalty programs in purely transactional terms. For example, retailers tend to measure the success of their loyalty programs by things such as frequency of transactions, frequency of visits or loyalty card membership. Consumers, however, are also expressing their loyalty through social media word-of-mouth, and businesses are failing to include social media advocacy as a yardstick of their loyalty programs’ success.

How to Improve Your Loyalty Program

What can you do to improve your store’s loyalty program? Here are five steps you can take based on these reports.

1. Enlist your employees. Dealing with employees who aren’t knowledgeable about the company’s loyalty program is a top cause of member frustration, says Bond’s report. Educate your employees about how your loyalty program works and its value for customers and your store. Remind your employees to encourage use of the loyalty program, show members how to get the best results from it, and thank them for redeeming rewards. Only 21% of loyalty program members in the Bond report say they currently get prompted to use the program, and only 20% receive help to get the most from their membership, so there’s a lot of opportunity here.

2. Make it personal. More than two-thirds of consumers in the Oracle report are willing to share their preferences and purchase history as long as it results in more personalized loyalty offers. The more you can personalize your loyalty program rewards to each shopper, the better. For example, consider giving shoppers the ability to accept or reject loyalty program offers so your loyalty program can learn which are the most appealing. You should also make loyalty program information easily available to your sales staff, so they can quickly access each customer’s personal preferences for better in-store service.

3. Consider charging for it. Almost four in 10 consumers in the Bond report would pay for an enhanced membership tier in a loyalty program. Among millennials and younger, the percentage is even higher. (Think Amazon Prime.) While this won’t work for every retail business, consider which VIP perks your shoppers might be willing to pay for. If you’re not willing to outright charge for a loyalty program, consider creating different loyalty tiers based on annual spending, like Sephora does.

4. Go beyond the transactional. Store visits, dollars spent, and website purchases are a few ways to measure loyalty, but there’s more. Take advantage of the power of social media word-of-mouth to promote your retail store. For example, create a special Facebook group for loyalty program members. Consider offering loyalty points or rewards in return for members mentioning your store or products on social media, or for referring a customer who makes a purchase.

5. Make it easy to use. Shoppers don’t want to wait months for rewards points to accumulate or jump through hoops to redeem them. The more effortless your loyalty program is to use, the more likely customers are to use it.

Want more ideas for improving your loyalty program? Bond’s top ranked loyalty programs for 2018 include Kroger Fuel Program, Speedway Speedy Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Papa John’s Pizza Papa Rewards, Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards, Walgreens Balance Rewards, Dollar Shave Club and Amazon Prime. Try joining one or more of the programs if you aren’t already a member, and see what you can adopt for your retail store.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Cracking the Code on Loyalty Programs: 5 Ways to Improve What You Offer Customers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Tough Situations You’ll Eventually Face When Managing People

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

5 Hardest Parts of Being a Manager

As a business owner, managing people is by far the toughest responsibility of all. Every person is different, unpredictable, and motivated by a unique set of factors. And while good hiring practices will mean smooth sailing most of the time, every business owner will eventually encounter tough situations. Knowing how to respond will help you avoid making costly mistakes.

Be Prepared for These 5 Management Situations

Between 2003 and 2013, RainmakerThinking, Inc. interviewed 37,419 managers from 891 different organizations and asked them a simple question: “What is the hardest thing for you about managing people?”

Instead of presenting multiple choice answers, which often waters down responses, they actually collected verbatim responses to the open-ended query. While there were thousands of unique answers, 87% of the responses fell into one of 10 common challenge categories. They are as follows:

  • Not enough time (or too many people to manage) – 24 percent
  • Giving negative feedback – 19 percent
  • Different personalities – 6 percent
  • Interpersonal conflict – 6 percent
  • Balancing being the boss with being a friend – 6 percent
  • Employees with bad attitudes – 5 percent
  • Dealing with pressure and shifting priorities from my own boss – 5 percent
  • Cumbersome and lengthy firing process – 5 percent
  • Insufficient authority and discretion to reward high performers– 4 percent
  • Managing people in remote locations – 4 percent

In other words, the management challenges you’re facing in your own business probably aren’t unique. You’re dealing with the same points of friction as business owners all over the world. And while this may not make things any easier on you, it’s at least encouraging. It also means there’s a lot of great advice and helpful resources out there to guide you along.

Keeping the groups above in mind, there are specific situations within these categories you’ll eventually face when managing people. By preparing yourself for them in advance, you can develop a framework for how they’ll be handled in your organization.

Hardest Parts of Being a Manager

Here are five specific situations to be ready for:

1. Firing an Underperforming Employee

Managers of large and small companies alike rank firing employees as one of the most difficult responsibilities they have. In fact, some major corporations actually hire termination companies to come in and handle this undesirable process for them. But if you’re going to be a good manager, you have to learn how to fire an employee in a firm, appropriate manner.

“The first and most important step in the firing process is to make sure your employee can see the train coming, long before it arrives,” says Tye Deines, the Director of Human Resources for one of the country’s largest human service organizations. “This is part of your job supervising your team. If your staff isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s your responsibility to let them know immediately—not months later.”

If you’ve done a good job providing expectations, correcting employees when they don’t meet these expectations, and giving them opportunities to regain your trust, then the termination process becomes much easier.

When it comes to the actual firing, you have to be firm. Cut straight to the case, explain the reasons for termination, and quickly transition into the logistics of how the termination will work. It’s okay to show empathy, but don’t let the employee control the conversation. You’ve already made your decision, so stick to it.

2. Supporting a Grieving Employee

There’s nothing sadder than walking alongside an employee who has just lost someone close to them – such as a spouse, child, parent, or dear friend. You have to provide space for grieving, while also making it clear that the employee must eventually return to a productive role with the company.

When you first learn of your employee’s loss, send a sympathy gift basket to their home with a note that lets them know you’re thinking about them. Encourage them to forget about all work-related responsibilities for the next few days and give them room to mourn.

After a few days have passed, you can begin to press in a little bit and encourage a gradual return to work. If you aren’t a naturally empathetic person, you may want to have a coworker who is close to the employee handle the process.

After the employee’s return to work, be vigilant of their behavior. “Watch for warning signs of prolonged grief and ongoing performance issues, such as poor grooming, severe withdrawal, substance abuse, or other uncharacteristic behaviors might be warning signs,” employee wellness expert Julie Ferguson writes.

3. Handling Conflict Between Multiple Employees

Few things are more frustrating than conflict between employees in the workplace. Not only does conflict impact productivity, but it also threatens to compromise the healthy workplace culture you’ve worked so hard to cultivate over the past few months or years. Conflicts don’t just involve the participants – they indirectly involve everyone else.

While you shouldn’t feel the need to immediately jump into the middle of every conflict, there does come a point where a manager needs to get involved. And when you do get involved, be sure to listen more than you talk. It’s through listening that you’ll understand the heart of the matter and be able to bring in some sort of resolution.

“Conflict resolution doesn’t necessarily have to end in agreement. Sometimes, it’s best to agree to disagree, respectfully,” HR expert Megan Moran admits. “When that happens, employees should acknowledge there is a difference of opinion or approach, and come up with a solution together on how to move forward.”

The outcome of every quarrel will vary, but your approach should be the same. You want to develop a culture in which employees understand how to communicate in peace and conflict. If you have an employee who repeatedly exhibits an inability to communicate and/or reach resolution, it may be time to discuss parting ways.

4. Dealing With a Dishonest Employee

When you hire an employee, you do so with the assumption that the individual will act with the company’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always end up being the case. If you’re in management long enough, you’ll eventually encounter your fair share of dishonest employees.

A dishonest employee may be someone who physically steals from the company (taking cash, products, or supplies), commits intellectual theft (taking ideas away from the organization), or misleads management (cheating on a resume, lying about hours worked, etc.).

The primary objective is obviously to prevent dishonest behavior from occurring in the first place. You can do this by making sure employees understand what behaviors are acceptable and what are against company policy. But even with the correct policies in place, you’re still going to have some issues on occasion.

When you notice dishonest behavior, you must active decisively. If you try to tiptoe around the issue, you’ll end up getting taken advantage of. Step up, implement the appropriate reprimand, and move on. There should be no enabling on your part.

It’s also important that you use dishonest behavior as a teaching opportunity. Employees learn through experience and they’re much less likely to repeat the behavior of a coworker if they’ve seen the consequences played out in real time.

5. Persuading an Employee to Stay

While we’ve discussed the challenge of firing an employee, the opposite is true as well. It’s sometimes even more difficult to hang on to an employee who is looking to accept a position with another company.

In most cases, employees leave for one of the following reasons:

  • More money
  • Better benefits
  • Greater responsibilities
  • Career change/pivot
  • Relocating to a new city

While you can’t do much if an employee wants to switch careers, you have some room for negotiation when it comes to money, benefits, and responsibilities. You may even have some options when it comes to relocation.

“In the past, location was probably the biggest objection that companies couldn’t overcome. If a spouse moved to another state it was inevitable that the employee would quit and move as well,” CoWorx Staffing Services explains. “In today’s ultra-connected world this doesn’t need to be the case. If the long commute is a problem talk about flexible work hours that can help. You could also arrange for a remote working relationship that will continue their employment even if they move away.”

Learn From These Challenges

It doesn’t matter how good your idea or product is – the only way to be successful on a large scale is by involving people. And when you involve people, you can bet they’re going to present some management challenges that are uncomfortable, troubling, and stressful. But they’re also going to make your life a whole lot easier by offering help, guidance, time, and labor.

The key is to anticipate major challenges, tackle them head-on, and learn from your successes and failures. By letting challenges shape your management style, you’ll eventually grow into a better manager who is capable of handling a variety of situations.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Tough Situations You’ll Eventually Face When Managing People” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Topics to Discuss with a Lawyer Before Starting a Business

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

10 Questions to Ask an Attorney Before Starting a Business

There are several legal ramifications of starting a business. It can lead to issues related to liability, copyright, employee rights and everything in between. So one of the first steps you should take as you work to get your business off the ground is speak with an experienced business attorney.

Ben De Leon is the President of De Leon Washburn & Ward, P.C., where he has served as general counsel to some of the fastest growing companies in Texas. As an experienced business lawyer, he recently spoke with Small Business Trends about some of the most important legal issues that new entrepreneurs should discuss when getting started. Here are some of the top things to consider.

Questions to Ask an Attorney Before Starting a Business

Structuring Your Business

There are several different business structures that you can choose when you’re forming your company, including LLCs, S corporations, C corporations, partnerships and sole-proprietorships. So speak with an attorney who can explain each option for you and then listen to your vision for your company so they can guide you in the right direction for your specific situation.

Protecting Your Personal Assets

No matter what specific structure turns out to be the best choice for your business, it’s essential that you structure it in a way that limits your personal liability and protects your non-business assets.

De Leon said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Establishing a limited liability company or other corporate entity with the applicable government agency (e.g., filing a Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State) and securing an EIN number from the IRS are vital steps to ensuring small business owners’ personal assets are protected from any exposure in connection with their business operations. Many small business owners file assumed business certificates with the County Clerk in which their business is located instead, thinking their personal assets are shielded from exposure in this regard. This is not the case. Only by establishing a corporate entity and following the necessary corporate laws and regulations do small business owners enjoy what’s commonly known as a “corporate shield” that protects their personal assets and ensures only their business assets are at play.”

Choosing a Name

Another part of getting your business officially up and running is choosing a name. Each state has its own processes for officially selecting a name. And you also need to be sure that you’re not infringing on any existing copyrights or trademarks with your name choice. So a business attorney can help you make sure your name of choice is available and walk you through the necessary paperwork.

Protecting Investors

If your business has any outside investors, it could impact the type of corporate entity you’re able to establish for your business. Specifically, you need to be sure that the structure provides a corporate shield for your investors as well as yourself.

Establishing Ownership Responsibilities

If your business has multiple partners or owners, you also need to have clear agreements about what is expected of each person and what the responsibilities are in terms of purchasing property or equipment. It’s best to have contracts or signed agreements in place when you’re just getting started so that all parties involved understand what is expected of them and what they are entitled to in any given situation. This can help you avoid contentious disagreements that could lead to legal battles down the road.

De Leon says, “I’ve seen time and time again where business owners have oral agreements with each other or third parties; then an issue arises and there’s nothing in writing to address it. When in doubt, get it reduced to writing!”

Creating Internal Bylaws

Then you also need to create some bylaws for your company as a whole. These should outline all of the rules that owners and management should follow over the course of running the business.

De Leon says, “Owners must understand that establishing a corporate entity and securing an EIN number is but the first step; internal governing documents (e.g., Company Agreements/Bylaws/Agreements of Limited Partnership), ownership agreements (membership interest/shareholder agreements) and corporate resolutions to memorialize certain actions of one’s business (awarding of bonuses to employees, purchase of real property or business equipment, securing business loans, etc.) are extremely important for the sake of following corporate formalities, but also in case a regulatory agency decides to drop by and audit owners’ records.”

Adhering to Compliance Practices

The federal government and each individual state have requirements for record keeping, safety practices and a number of other business related processes. So your business needs to know exactly what is required in order to comply with all of those rules and regulations. Your lawyer can walk you through some of those issues and make sure you know exactly what records must be kept on hand and for how long.

Making Sure You’re Covered with Insurance

Insurance can help you avoid costly issues down the road. Speak to your legal representative to discuss what types of coverage you might need or at least benefit from, including coverage for workplace injuries, data breaches, or non-injury claims made by employees or customers.

Creating Vendor Contracts

Once your business starts working with vendors, suppliers, clients, or any other third parties, you’ll need written agreements in place to ensure that all parties involved know what to expect. A lawyer can help you draft specifics or at least walk you through the creation of some templates that you can use in common situations.

Navigating Tax Issues

Your legal representation probably isn’t going to do your taxes for you or manage your books. But there are some tax ramifications of choosing different corporate entities or making some of the other decisions listed above. So it is important that you also have a good CPA in your corner, and your lawyer might be able to refer you to one so they can work in tandem on some of those important issues.

De Leon says, “Not only do business owners need to seek good legal representation, they also need to secure a good CPA to talk them through the tax ramifications of the corporate structure they choose, business purchases, applicable taxes owners must file once established, and the like. Having good coordination between business owners’ legal counsel and their CPA makes the process go even smoother, allowing owners to focus on continuing to grow their business.”

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Topics to Discuss with a Lawyer Before Starting a Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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11 Genius Productivity Hacks You Need to Know

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

11 Genius Work-Life Productivity Hacks You Need to Know

Most of the time, being more productive means striking a better work-life balance and learning to mitigate the little stressors that eat away at efficiency and the psyche.

These hacks will help you maximize your time and happiness.

Work-Life Productivity Hacks

1. Know Thyself

What time are you at peak productivity? Now schedule your most crucialtasks during that time. If you’re a genius between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight, then by golly, do whatever you have to do to block off that time and get ‘er done.

If you need a little help discovering your peak productivity, check out this app that promises to help you find it.

And if you work from home, here are some special hacks just for you.

2. Skip Facebook

It may be tempting to log in and just *peek* at what your news feed is up to, but that’s a dangerous move when you’re trying to get something done. Before you know it, you’re tangled in a web of cute animal videos and profilestalking, and it’s 30 minutes later before you realize you’ve entered the Facebook time warp.

One study showed 23 percent of workers cited Facebook as the destination to “waste time.”

But what if it’s your job to manage social media profiles for a company? Try staying within scheduling apps like Hootsuite so you’re not tempted to log in?—?or check out the Facebook at Work product that promises to keep work and personal separate on the network?—?and limit distractions from screaming goats.

3. Ditch the Smartphone

The average smartphone user checks his or her device 221 times a day.Putting your cell phone out of sight during work hours helps get it off your mind?—?unless you’re so far gone that you experience phantom cell-phone vibrations. In that case, start rethinking your relationship with technology.

4. Forget Multitasking and Just Focus

You might think you’re being more productive by sending those emails during a conference call, but think again. Multitasking reduces efficiency and the quality of work (plus, research shows it literally lowers your IQ). So when you have to get something done, just focus on the task at hand for best results.

And keep in mind that studies show the human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time before it needs a break.

5. Reimagine Your Inbox

Emails build a to-do list that other people create for you. So you need to manage that daily annoyance somehow.

Schedule certain times of the day that you check email, and stick with it. You can try tackling email first thing in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of day. And for God’s sake, turn off email notifications.

If you think this is going to be a problem for your teams or clients, let them know ahead of time how you communicate throughout the day.

You can also look into apps that let you get a handle on your inbox, like Productive Inbox SimplyFile, or Boomerang for Gmail.

6. Change Your Scenery

If you’re feeling a little foggy midafternoon, try looking out the window into nature. No window? No problem?—?one study found simply looking at a computerized image of nature helped increase focus.

Even better though is to take a short walk outside. Research shows that a 30-minute lunchtime walk can help people cope with stress and boosts enthusiasm for the remainder of the afternoon.

7. Meditate

Just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can lead to more rational business decisions?—?not to mention better teamwork, being more creative, and a whole slew of health benefits.

Not the yogi type? Try the Headspace app, which has brought meditation to the masses. So go ahead and get your ohm on.

8. Ask for Help and Delegate

There is power in numbers. And frankly, there are things you’re just not good at and probably don’t want to do. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks or underwhelmed by the tedious work on your plate, ask for help.

Guaranteed there is someone out there who can do the tasks you don’t want to 10 times better (try looking in Upwork), so find the person and delegate!

9. Create Innovation Time

Google made famous the idea of giving team members a percentage of time to work outside their normal projects and on what they think would most benefit the company.

If you’re constantly “doing,” you have no time to innovate. Making the same widget day after day does not allow you to think about what new widgets you might make.

Try setting aside time to work on something that will move the needle.

10. Be Agile

The agile approach to building products and software and managing projects is finding its way into other areas of business and even into people’s personal lives.

A popular method is Scrum (an agile framework), which breaks large tasks into smaller items that are worked on and completed typically within a one-week sprint.

11. Get Ergonomic

Sitting is the new smoking, don’t you know. And some research suggests that even if you exercise but still sit for long periods of time, your health is at risk. Not to mention aches, pains, and fatigue can be a real productivity killer.

Luckily, there’s been innovation in workstations that offer affordable sit-stand options, chairs that move with you more naturally, desks that recline and even allow you to take a nap. (By the way, napping has also been linked with productivity.)

Republished by permission. Original here.

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This article, “11 Genius Productivity Hacks You Need to Know” was first published on Small Business Trends

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eRelevance Releases New Services to Gauge ROI in Advertising and Business Communications

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Check Out the New eRelevance Services for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business owner who feels overwhelmed by technology but lured by its promise, there’s a new idea being floated specifically for you.

eRelevance has announced a new suite of tech services flipping the old model of offering small businesses software they can buy and run themselves on its head. Small Business Trends spoke with eRelevance co-founder and CEO Bob Fabbio about the new approach and the services the company offers.

Most Small Businesses Seem to Struggle

“We’ve discovered that most small businesses that are trying to grow attempt a lot of the work inside with staff and software tools,” he said. “Ultimately they struggle.”

eRelevance decided this traditional template didn’t work for most small companies. Fabbio explained how his Austin-based firm concluded the problem was about not having enough time and expertise in their ranks. They decided the solution was about providing services rather than tools, in essence taking over the processes on behalf of these small business clients.

eRelevance Services

In response, eRelevance is offering a service run by folks that already know the right levers to pull to get the software running smoothly so you get the results you want. This suite has four services all designed to help a small business to grow.

Fabbio explains, “Our focus is providing these services to small businesses that are challenged measuring the ROI on their current in-house communication systems and advertising efforts.”

eRelevance Capture

As the name implies, this service corrals the responses from email blasts and other advertising efforts. The idea here is to get all this together to track the ROI. 

eRelevance Prospect Engage 

“This engages new prospects as they come in from digital or traditional advertising sources,” Fabbio says. “We have the ability with technology to pounce on those leads while they’re hot.”

eRelevance Customer Engage

The new suite takes all of the data information collected and puts it into action. The customer engage component uses multichannel campaigns that are tailor-made and designed to increase client loyalty. Fabbio stresses this particular aspect is highly personalized and  makes a claim about how this new tech suite can eclipse other small business efforts.

“This will ultimately drive four to five times more demand from an existing customer base than small businesses can do on their own.”

eRelevance Connect

One of the big issues that small businesses experience when using technology on their own is following up on good leads. eRelevance Connect does just that by engaging responses to different marketing campaigns and pointing people who want to buy your goods and services to the right scheduling resources.

The suite is designed to increase demand and lead conversion while streamlining advertising costs for those small businesses already struggling with the IT aspect of their company.

Image: eRelevance

This article, “eRelevance Releases New Services to Gauge ROI in Advertising and Business Communications” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Apply These 5 Tips to Help Your Small Business Thrive in a Saturated Market

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Small Businesses Can Thrive in Saturated Markets

Conventional wisdom tells us that before starting a small business it is important to research the marketplace to identify opportunities. Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners take this advice literally and abandon great ideas because they deem their chosen market to be saturated. Don’t fall into this mindset and miss out on great opportunities. Instead, search for ways to provide value and thrive despite the saturation.

How to Thrive in Saturated Markets

Do It Better

One of the best ways to enter a seemingly saturated market is to provide better products or services. I sat down and spoke with Joe Daley, a member of a group of entrepreneurs and freelancers who were dissatisfied with jobbing websites and decided they could do better. He shared with me the following. “What most freelance sites seem to be lacking is quality freelancer and clients. With so many people wanting to find freelance work, I feel some of the freelance sites grew too quickly and didn’t watch the quality of freelancers they were letting in,”

“When we started FreelanceMyWay we wanted to focus on a very easy to use interface, quality freelancers, clients and incredible customer support.  All our freelancers must fill out an application that is reviewed by our quality assurance team and only 3% of all applicants get into our community. We also review all job postings to make sure it’s a good fit for our freelance community. We’re going to go above and beyond to make sure our users are satisfied with our service.”

This startup is finding success in a truly saturated market because they identified the weaknesses in the current providers and are delivering a better service.

Find a Niche

In saturated markets, especially those dominated by large national or regional providers, look for profitable but overlooked niches that you can serve. For example, if you want to start a home cleaning service, market to affluent homeowners who have elderly parents. The homeowners probably already have a cleaning service but may be concerned about the cleanliness of their parents’ home. This underserved niche may provide amazing opportunities for a savvy entrepreneur. Whatever your business choice, drill deeper than the competition and find the underserved niche that will serve as your entryway into the marketplace.

Be Distinctive

No matter what product or service you want to provide, study the market and select ways to be distinctive from what is already available. A great way to achieve this is to find a common customer problem or complaint and solve it. A distinction can come in a variety of forms that can include offering personalized products, making a different style or color of product, offering a delivery service, adding a personal touch through communication or special offers and excellent customer service. The choice you make will depend on the product or service you provide but find a way to make your mark in the marketplace to attract a loyal clientele.

Communicate Effectively

A great way to stand out from the crowd in a saturated market is to deliver consistent, value-added communication to your target audience. Many smaller companies and startups do not prioritize blogs or social media engagement because they have so many other tasks on their to-do list. The key is to work smarter by leveraging new technologies specifically designed to make blogging, social media posting and other engagement easier. Providing consistent content that goes beyond announcing the next sale allows customers to connect with you on a deeper level that will result in a loyal customer base.

Look to Other Industries for Inspiration

One of the biggest marketing successes in the fast food industry was when Subway billed itself as a healthy alternative to traditional fast food options. Whether they are healthier or not is debatable, but the key is that they didn’t follow their competition, but instead used marketing techniques that were successful in another industry, specifically fitness. Their hired spokesperson had lost weight by eating their products and touted their fresh ingredients and low calorie counts long before anyone else appreciated the value of this tactic. When considering a saturated market, think about how your product or service is related to another industry. Target successful companies in that industry and identify the customer service, marketing, and product strategies they have used which you can apply to make your business a standout.

Bottom Line

A saturated market doesn’t mean lack of opportunities, it just requires additional effort to find success. Providing better services, developing an underserved niche, and providing a distinctive product or services are great ways to make a place for yourself in that market. Also, don’t forget the benefits of value-added communication and don’t be shy about applying great ideas from other industries to your own efforts. You can find success in a saturated market as long as you find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Apply These 5 Tips to Help Your Small Business Thrive in a Saturated Market” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Zoho Show Aims to Provide Intuitive Presentation Tool for Small Business

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Zoho Show Labeled a Next-Generation Presentation Tool

When you’re making a dynamic presentation for a client, you need software tools to help you express your ideas simply without the need for a lot of technical expertise. The new Zoho Show has been designed to simplify this process with an intuitive interface allowing you to create your content simply instead of spending your time trying to master the software.

Zoho Show

The goal of Zoho Show, according to the company, is to let users create, collaborate, present, broadcast and publish presentations with a tool that simplifies the process in a much smarter way. With the new Show, you can create and make your presentations anywhere.

Zoho Show offers small businesses a presentation tool accessible on mobile and able to broadcast on a variety if other platforms and devices. The company says it has also focused on making this tool as easy to use as possible.

The official Zoho Blog explains, “How many of us struggled with a poorly designed interface? When the tools you need most, and most often, are buried in drop-down menus or down under counter-intuitive options, we found ourselves spending more time and effort just navigating the software rather than telling the right story.”

Simplified Story Telling

Zoho started with a contextual interface so users can craft their stories without the software getting in the way. A clean interface with an intuitive formatting pane quickly responds to the actions of the user without you having to search for the right tool within the application, the company says.

The tools that are available within Show include custom text boxes, silhouettes, image filters, pre-defined layouts for charts and tables as well as more than a dozen animation options for elements within a slide.

While you are in the process of creating your presentation, team members can collaborate and brainstorm using the commenting system in Show. Team members can provide suggestions, add rich text comments to highlight ideas and even attach images to make a point. And if you need to import PowerPoint files, Show can do it without any formatting issues while letting you work on them online.

When the presentation is completed, you can pitch it to your audience by broadcasting it remotely. Or you could use the platform’s Presenter View feature to deliver your presentation face-to-face from anywhere.

Zoho Show Labeled a Next-Generation Presentation Tool

Your final product can be streamed on your Android TV while controlling your sessions with the Show app for Android devices to keep your presentation looking professional.

Zoho has created a suite of applications for the entire business ecosystem. The open application programming interface the company uses has been integrated with other popular solutions including Microsoft Word, Excel, Google Apps and more.

Zoho Corporation is a business management software (SaaS) developer and information technology company based in California and India with 5,000 employees.

Image: Zoho

This article, “Zoho Show Aims to Provide Intuitive Presentation Tool for Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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