Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome

Do you sometimes feel like an imposter in your business life? Like you are acting as if you are authentic and confident but not necessarily feeling it?

There you are tapped for a promotion, being acknowledged and recognized for your work and accomplishments and yet feeling like a fraud conflicted about your self worth and self esteem?

Well there’s a name for it. Psychology Day calls it Imposter Syndrome.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Imposter syndrome is:

“The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills resulting in an increased risk of anxiety.

According to Psychology Today it’s not an actual disorder, but more of a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have. They also noted it was more prevalent in women

Although it is not a disorder it can cause stress, anxiety, low self confidence, and in some cases even depression. Now that we have all the definitions on the table, be optimistic that if you are one of many who do experience this, there are many things you can do to improve and beat it.

5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome

1. Tap Into Your Self Knowledge and Accomplishments

Take some time to document and review your positive qualities, professional accolades and reputation. Do an Internet search of yourself to see how you are branded and see how everything you are doing is working. The search engines simply publish what you create, they don’t edit anything. This is your public brand.

2. Welcome Experiences that Shape your Values and Viewpoints about Life

Experiences are our greatest teachers. Think about the groups, activities, volunteerism you have invested time in and how they have changed and enhanced you. What  lessons you have you learned? Which people have touched and impacted you and how have they added to your life? Think about how you felt about yourself by your your experiences and participation.

3. Face Your Fears Head On

What are you afraid of?

Most people will have moments or occasions where they don’t feel 100% confident. There may be times when you feel out of sorts and self-doubt can be a normal reaction. Always consider the context of your feelings. Tap into your support system and seek out a trusted colleague, who you can talk candidly with who knows you and gives honest, constructive feedback. Plan a lunch or coffee if they are in proximity or phone call if they are not. Fears and phobias can be debilitating and can inhibit your professional success, so being willing to identify them, deal with them head on and if necessary seek professional help are important. The reality is most of us have fears, but most are not based in reality and can be worked through and are temporary.

4. Build, Nourish and Raise Your Self Esteem

Taking care of ourselves is essential to maintaining our overall health and well being. Balance, moderation are perspective helps us deal with our big picture and our daily activities and responsibilities. How we feel about ourselves is the basis for feeling authentic not an imposter in our lives. We all go through cycles of challenge, change and conflicts but we can process them through by how we take care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Time management and being well rounded help stabilize our self esteem. Get sober, develop a new hobby, make more dedicated time for family, friends, travel, volunteerism, practice kindness, get organized and prioritize. Do things that make you feel great about yourself and you will feel more authentic.

5. Attitude is Everything

Gratitude is an action word. Be grateful for every day you are alive and all the opportunities that each day brings. Our powers are inside of us: our feelings, values, attitudes and actions. Most things we are powerless over are outside of us: people, places, things, occurrences and events. When we get clear on this power dynamic and shift our focus and our energy to where our powers are best applied, we can enjoy our life, help others and strengthen our self esteem.

In 2016, one of my colleagues made a decision to move from Florida where she spent most of her life to Colorado and continue her life in a place that always touched her. She felt it fit her life goals and lifestyle now. It was a gutsy adult decision that has totally re-energized her spirit and attitude. Don’t be afraid to make a significant thoughtful change.

Imposter syndrome is real and touches many areas of our lives. It is up to us to figure out what our value and authenticity needs are, so that we can live true to our essence.

Unmask and show your humanity, beauty and awesomeness.

“Inside of me, inside of me,

I swear it’s all there.

Open up your heart and set it free.

You are worthy and magnetic..

Don’t ever be afraid to be kinetic….

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Can You Use a Business Bank Account for Personal Use?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Can you use a business bank account for personal use?

A reader asks:

Recently I was hired as a bookkeeper for a small manufacturing business. My boss, the owner, uses the business bank account for personal use — and it’s driving me crazy!  He withdraws money with a debit card for personal expenses. Last week his wife bought a big screen TV for their home using a blank check he signed from the business account. From one day to the next I never know how much money the business will have. I’ve explained that it’s best practice to separate business and personal funds, but he tells me it doesn’t matter since the business is an LLC and he is the sole owner. Who is right? My boss? Or me? And what should I do?       

— Roxanne from New York

Excellent question, Roxanne. You happen to be right in this case.

Business owners should not use a business bank account for personal use. It’s a bad practice that can lead to other issues, including legal, operational and tax problems.

As the company grows, the problems will also grow. That is, if the company is able to grow. Many businesses operated in a fiscally-lax fashion don’t grow the way they should or could.

I suggest you provide the business owner with a copy of this article. It has all the reasons to help you convince him. At the end is a list of best practices to follow.

Why Not to Use a Business Bank Account for Personal

Here are 7 reasons why small business owners should not use a business bank account for personal use. Commingling raises the following dangers:

1. Makes it tougher to manage cash flow

The company’s cash flow situation becomes confusing and harder to predict when commingling business and personal funds.

For example, the business might not have enough funds when an important business bill comes due. Why? Because the owner chooses that precise time to pay personal expenses from the business account.

Some owners look at their bank balance, see there’s money there, and think they can spend it. This could lead to a cash flow crisis.

2. Erodes personal liability protection

An owner of a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) might be held personally liable  for business debts due to commingling personal and business funds.

One of the motivations for owners to set up LLCs or corporations is to limit personal liability for business debts. But if the owner operates the business as if it doesn’t exist separately, such as by paying personal bills out of a business account, that protection could go out the window.

Courts have been known to “pierce the corporate veil”. This means they can hold the owner liable for business debts.

One-owner LLCs and corporations are most at risk of having the corporate veil pierced. Their owners assume separation of funds doesn’t matter because they are the sole owner. They think, ‘Who is going to object if I use my business account for personal use?’  A company creditor, that’s who. If the company closes down leaving business debt behind, an unpaid creditor could pursue the owner under this legal theory.

3. Overstates or understates tax deductions

To qualify as business tax deductions, expenses have to be for a business purpose. When you pay personal bills with a business bank account, it makes it harder to identify business expenses. As a result, you may overlook legitimate deductions. Or you could mistakenly categorize personal expenses as business, leading to penalties and a big tax bill from the IRS if you get audited.

This problem is compounded when owners don’t keep financial records up to date. Too many owners wait until once a year at tax time to categorize expenses.

By the time March or April rolls around, memory fades. They may have to sift through a drawer of receipts only to find that documentation is missing or they’ve forgotten whether something was business or personal. It’s fertile ground for errors.

4. Makes accounting unnecessarily complex

Maintaining accurate accounting records is harder when you commingle.

You have to do extra work to separate personal expenses from business expenses. You can’t just download the bank account transaction history to QuickBooks, Xero or Zoho Books, and know that all expenses are business related.

Instead, someone has to carefully comb through and recategorize expenses. It’s an unnecessary manual step that saps business productivity. Besides, memory fades and makes it all the harder to recategorize if you don’t get to it right away.

5. Leads to objections by other stakeholders

Shareholders, investors and business partners do not want you treating the business like it’s your personal piggy bank.

The founder of WeWork discovered this the hard way. The high-flying company, once valued at $47 billion, filed for an IPO in the summer of 2019. The filing disclosures revealed the founder’s self-dealing, including personal loans he got from the company at below-market rates. In other words, he was diverting company funds to personal purposes.

The company’s biggest investor forced him out as CEO. He had to resign from the company he founded!

WeWork is a high profile example. Remember, though, even in a small business with no plans for an initial public offering, stakeholders could sue for misappropriation of funds, fraud or breach of fiduciary duty. So if there are other owners or investors, paying personal expenses from a business account will eventually catch up with you.

6. Could negate part of the Subchapter S benefit

Commingled accounts can throw a monkey wrench into the best Subchapter S tax plan.

A Subchapter S is an election you make with the IRS to treat taxes as a pass-through and avoid double taxation of both the corporation and the owner.

Another advantage of a Subchapter S is that it can reduce employment taxes (Medicare and Social Security taxes) for the owner. Here is how it works. The owner becomes an employee of the company. As long as he takes a reasonable salary, the owner doesn’t have to pay employment taxes on corporate distributions over and above the salary.

However, if the owner takes non-salary distributions without keeping good track of how much he is spending, he could run afoul of the IRS. How? By taking distributions that far outstrip his salary. Tax law requires that the owner’s salary not be unreasonably low compared to profit distributions.

What can happen is that the owner loses track of how much he is taking out of the company for personal purposes. This is easy to do when you mix personal and business expenses and don’t have good accounting controls.

As Nolo.com states, “If the IRS concludes that an S corporation owner has attempted to evade payroll taxes by disguising employee salary as corporate distributions, it can recharacterize the distributions as salary and require payment of employment taxes and penalties which can include payroll tax penalties of up to 100% plus negligence penalties.”

7. Makes it harder to profit and grow

The more disciplined a business is about finances, the greater the likelihood of success. If you are loosey-goosey handling bank accounts, it can cause your business to lack fiscal discipline in other ways. And that puts an unnecessary impediment in front of you.

Any financial reports may show an inaccurate picture of the business, because they may include personal expenses. How can you run a Profit and Loss statement (P&L) without clean data — or stopping to clean up your data?

Overall, by mixing personal and business funds and not maintaining discipline, it becomes harder to manage the business toward profits and success.

Best Practices for Business and Personal Expenses

Most small businesses start out with the owner using her personal funds to start the business. So, from the owner’s standpoint it may seem perfectly fine keep mixing personal and business. In fact, according to one survey, 27% of business owners admitting using the same account for business and personal.

But it’s not fine to commingle funds once the business is operating. Follow these 8 best practices:

Separate Business and Personal Bank Accounts

A small business owner should always have two checking accounts: a personal account and a business account.

It’s so much easier when you keep your business and your personal life separate and well organized.  Read more from tax expert Barbara Weltman on why you need to separate your business finances.

Take a Salary

The owner should set herself up with a salary. If it’s a corporation or Subchapter S, the owner should be made an employee. For a sole proprietor, she could simply set up a regular withdrawal or transfer every two weeks into a personal account.

This enforces the separation of funds. Taking a salary is the main way to break the habit of dipping into business accounts for personal expenses at irregular intervals.

Take Profit Distributions in Lump Sums

Sole proprietors and LLC owners commonly take profit distributions over and above their salary. This is accepted practice.

But the best way to do this is to take distributions as planned lump sums. Do not take them as irregular ATM withdrawals or by paying personal bills here and there. Doing so makes planning much harder. Plus, the funds are more likely to get frittered away instead of being earmarked for important purposes such as a SIMPLE or 401k retirement plan.

Make distributions a planned event once or a few times a year. Build them into your tax and retirement planning and your growth strategy.

Use Separate Credit Cards

Another poor practice is when the owner uses the same credit card for both personal and business.

This causes accounting confusion and can lead to mistakes when it’s time to claim tax deductions. It also adds extra steps to your bookkeeping. You can’t simply download your monthly transaction history into your accounting software and have all business charges in one place. Just like with bank account records, you have to manually sort through them.

Apply for a business credit card as soon as you have revenue coming in regularly. It will also help establish a separate credit history for the business.

Keep Good Records for Taxes

Keep your tax records up to date throughout the year. The impact of procrastinating can be costly.

Good recordkeeping helps you stay out of tax trouble. Often it isn’t bad intent that gets small business owners into hot water with the IRS and other taxing authorities. Rather, poor  bookkeeping and lack of documentation cause unnecessary problems. It’s a forced error.

Poor recordkeeping can also cause you to pay more in taxes. Good tax planning becomes difficult when you don’t have a clear financial picture. So you’re likely to arrive at tax time only to discover there were strategies you could have employed to reduce taxes.  But because you didn’t have good books and the ability to look ahead before the tax year ended, you missed out.

Manage to a Budget

In business you’re more likely to thrive and be successful if you set goals and a budget.

This includes setting a budget to pay yourself a “salary.” Don’t just pull out money from your bank account in dribs and drabs. You will lack a clear picture of what your monthly expense burn rate is. Your burn rate should be burned into your brain!

Owners lose track of how much they need to generate in sales when they commingle business and personal funds. As an owner, you are much more likely to meet your goals if you always know exactly how much you need to earn and how much you can spend, in order to make a profit each month.

Be sure to run a monthly Profit and Loss statement and other financial reports. They help you stay on track.

Always Pay Obligations Timely

When you don’t pay obligations when they are due, that’s a key time when questions arise over personal use of business funds. Everything may go along fine with no one raising objections UNTIL the business stops paying.

Rule of thumb in business: pay everyone you owe on time. You will avoid a large chunk of legal entanglements this way.

Respect Other Stakeholders

If you have an investor, a business partner, shareholders or members in an LLC — be extra scrupulous in funds handling. Respect that they have a right to know how business funds are being used and a say in it.

By separating business and personal, and following best practices, it keeps everything above board. It helps avoid the appearance of impropriety.

In conclusion, dipping into a business account every time the owner needs a little extra cash is a terrible way to run a business. Be a smarter business owner.

All answers to reader questions come from the Small Business Trends Editorial Board, with more than 50 years of combined business experience. If you would like to submit a question, please submit it here.

Image: DepositPhotos.com

This article, “Can You Use a Business Bank Account for Personal Use?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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New Shutterstock Tool Helps Your Business Make a Creative Brief

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Shutterstock Smart Brief Speeds Up the Process

The launch of Shutterstock’s Smart Brief addresses the growing visual demands of today’s digital ecosystem. But with more marketing channels available to businesses, creating the right content to represent your brand is critically important.

Smart Brief looks to simplify and expedite the process of developing your creative brief so creators can get started with your project right away. According to Shutterstock, Smart Brief will cut the time it takes to draft briefs by allowing collaboration with clients. So, clients can leverage the collaboration tools to get the branded content they want for their company.

The goal is to reduce the approval process time, which can be drawn out with traditional communication tools. In fact, this is what Sylvain Grande, SVP of Product & UX at Shutterstock, highlights in the press release.

Furthermore, Grande says the traditional creative process is labor-intensive, time-consuming and leaves a lot open to interpretation. But with direct communication and a platform which asks the right questions, this can be solved. Smart Brief uses innovative technology to automate and simplify this experience.

What is a Creative Brief?

A creative brief is a document which outlines the details of a creative project between clients and agencies or freelancers. Producing quality briefs with all the information creatives need is key to getting projects completed accurately and on time.

According to Grande, “A good brief that captures the brand voice serves as the foundation of any campaign and is absolutely essential to its success.”

The complications in creative briefs arise when the communication channels get bogged down. Depending who creates it (the client or the creator can) there needs to be a more efficient way to get it done. And collaboration is key to making it happen.

Shutterstock Smart Brief Features

The technology in Smart Brief was created after analyzing hundreds of briefs and client interviews. The conclusion Shutterstock came up with is, the process needs to simplify brief input to get accurate results.

Three key strategies are part of the process in Smart Brief. And just as the name suggests, they are brief but smart.

It all starts with intelligence or data. The platform only asks relevant questions as you move through the process by capturing accurate inputs. This gets rid of unnecessary information, which eventually results in conflict between the client and creators.

Once the intelligence is in hand, it is time to bring in both parties together to collaborate. At this stage, the client can make recommendations, accept changes, view all versions of the project, and bring additional team members for more input.

When the client accepts the brief, they can now make changes at a later date. The flexibility in Smart Brief lets you make changes throughout the year as your needs fluctuate. As a client you can adjust control, production value, and service level per project.

Smart Brief is part of Shutterstock Custom, a platform that connects brands with creators to develop branded custom content quickly. It is also offering three pre- and post-production services and support as part of this launch.

The new improved service and support will offer Rapid Ideation to individualize brief concepts customized to your brand with new ideas; eCommerce Optimization to drive engagement and purchases on major e-commerce marketplaces by generating the assets; Convert to Pins and Mobile Video function which will turn existing images or videos into formats that are ready to share on different platforms.

You can go on Shutterstock Custom and experience Smart Brief along with the new pre- and post-production features.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “New Shutterstock Tool Helps Your Business Make a Creative Brief” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Insightly’s New CRM Platform Manages Your Customer’s Journey

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Insightly Marketing Platform Centralizes Management in One Platform

As the first of its kind Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, Insightly Marketing is going to integrate marketing, sales, and project management into a single platform. And with this integration, businesses can better manage the entirety of the customer journey with a single solution.

What this means for marketing, sales and service teams is they have the exact same view of the customer. Consequently, there will be fewer mistakes, repetitions, and inefficiencies because they get the whole picture.

In the press release for the launch, Anthony Smith, CEO of Insightly, addressed this aspect of the platform. Smith says, “Businesses today must address the complete customer and that means understanding the intricacies and value of each touchpoint.”

Smith adds, “By integrating marketing with project management and sales into a single platform, Insightly is revolutionizing the future of customer engagements by helping businesses deliver the right marketing initiatives with the right ROI.”

Addressing Customers’ Needs at All Touchpoints

The digital ecosystem is responsible for creating multiple customer touchpoints, which makes it a challenge to address all of them. And it is especially challenging for small businesses with limited resources.

In order to find out how businesses feel about marketing trends and challenges, Insightly carried out a survey of more than 440 businesses. The respondents include C-suite executives, mid-level managers, and CRM administrators.

Among the findings, the majority of businesses (54 %) say marketing is very important to their business growth. And close to one in five report they couldn’t run their business without it. That said, 11% do not integrate marketing and sales initiatives, while 42% only do it on occasion.

Looking towards accurately measuring ROI

Insightly Marketing is built on the same platform as its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. As a result, it will provide a seamless and streamlined customer experience across all touchpoints.

Considering the study says the majority of businesses (56 percent) are still using Excel to manage marketing, there is a lot of room for improvement. Not only that, but 17% say they don’t use any technology. And over a third are not measuring how marketing contributes to their business.

With Insightly’s unified platform, it is possible for businesses to bring together their sales and marketing activities under one roof. As the company says, this will be a single source of truth on customer data. This will eliminate the need to integrate different systems and platforms and the compatibility issues it creates.

Key Features of Insightly Marketing

The new features will have advanced analytics which will give you the ability to analyze, visualize, and share customer engagement metrics. You can also see open rates, bounce rates, click-through rates, and more to determine what is working. Armed with this information you can make informed decisions about your campaign.

The CRM platform also includes better builds for templates to create customizable emails and newsletters; chart the course of discovery for the journeys of your customers, and a single source of all your customer’s data so everyone in your team can access it.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Insightly’s New CRM Platform Manages Your Customer’s Journey” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Want Your Brand to Stand Out on Social Media? Try These 8 Tips

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

8 Ways Your Business Can Stand Out on Social Media in 2019

Businesses and brands are constantly competing for attention on social media, and with all the noise and incessant messaging, how can you make your voice heard?

You have to find ways to cut through the noise and stand out like a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.

But how? By knowing how to standout on social media.

How to Stand Out on Social Media

Here, I’m revealing a few of my favorite social media marketing tactics that have helped me grow my businesses and stand out on social media.

1. Plan a content strategy and create an editorial calendar for your social channels.

Marketers are sometimes at a loss at what to post on social media.

Successful social media marketing doesn’t happen on accident — there’s a strategy in place, just as there is with a blog.

Look at the big picture and come up with social content that will resonate with your audience.

Map out seasonal content, as well as content related to events or launches your company is planning.

Work closely with your editorial and marketing teams to know what’s coming down the pipeline and strategize the best ways to promote it.

2. Invest in the right social channels.

It’s not just about what social content you share — it’s also about where you share it.

Not all social platforms are created equally, and where one business gets amazing engagement, another might fall flat.

B2Bs, for example, might do very well on LinkedIn, but not so hot on Instagram.

Meanwhile, B2Cs usually thrive on Instagram.

Find the platform that aligns with your audience.

3. Dive into new social platforms headfirst.

Another unicorn social tactic?

Find the latest and greatest platform, and dive in — before your competition.

One prime example?

Facebook Messenger.

The open rates on this thing are sky high (80% on average).

There are 300 million active monthly Messenger users, and you can communicate with them straight through Messenger in an engaging format that they prefer!

Whether you want to create customer service bots, bots that can schedule appointments, or bots to deliver key content, you can do it all on Facebook Messenger.

Since it’s relatively new, however, there’s little competition — which gives you a prime opportunity to get in and get ahead.

4. Always add visuals.

Whether it’s video or static images, visuals always up the engagement on your social content.

Hire a photographer to create a library of images for your brand to use, and/or invest in a high quality stock photography site — the kind that has images that don’t actually look like a stock image.

On a budget?

Comb through a license-free site like Pixabay or Stocksnap.io for unicorn visual content that won’t cost you a dime.

5. Create a consistent aesthetic for your social content.

Creating a consistent theme with your accounts helps you establish and grow brand awareness, especially on Instagram.

Practically, this means using a consistent color palette and the same filters to come up with a distinct feel and look.

This makes your posts look visually appealing to your followers and customers, and more — it reflects your brand’s image.

6. Know your audience and anticipate their needs.

Knowing your audience means you’ll know what kind of content they’ll find useful and want to engage with.

To that end, do as much persona research as you can so that you can thoroughly understand your customers and audience.

This will help every aspect of your marketing, including your social media marketing.

7. Pay attention to your social media analytics.

In addition to doing persona research, always look to your analytics to find out what’s working and resonating with your audience, and what isn’t.

Based on that data, you can move forward and create more content that’s in line with what your what’s already working and move away from the social content that isn’t cutting it.

8. Create a place where your visitors and customers can add their feedback.

Customers often rely on reviews and they appreciate businesses where they can leave their feedback.

According to Huffington Post, 70% of businesses that give the best customer experience use customer feedback?

Encourage feedback on your own social channels, and use it to inform your own service and practices.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Want Your Brand to Stand Out on Social Media? Try These 8 Tips” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Unify Square Expands PowerSuite to Better Manage Business Collaboration

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Unify Square Meeting Room Management

Unify Square, announced on October 1 the extension of its PowerSuite Cloud Managed Services (CMS) offering. The new service will make it easier and more cost-effective to manage and secure Unified Communications room systems. At the same time, it will improve and streamline the way people are communicating and collaborating today.

According to Unify Square, PowerSuite Cloud Managed Services with 24/7/365 management and support for Microsoft Skype for Business and Teams was expanded earlier this year to include services for Zoom Video Communications and Office365 applications. As a result, Unify Square was positioned to further grow the offering to include the new Room System extension.

Unify Square Meeting Room Management

PowerSuite CMS for Room Systems supports multiple unified communications and collaboration platforms. This includes a variety of hardware device types along with offers for on-site room system intervention. It also covers break-fix services in nearly 100 countries around the globe.

In the press release, Scott Gode, chief product marketing officer at Unify Square further explains the need for collaborative tools.

Gode says, “As the workplace continues to evolve with a renewed focus on constant collaboration and flexibility, the need for always-on and always-available conference and huddle rooms is increasing.”

Adding, “However, while companies like Zoom have greatly enhanced the end-user conferencing experience, many enterprises are finding that challenges to ensure all room systems work 24×7 at scale still exist,”

Unity Square wants to help bridge the gap which exists between the different UC systems and technologies. And this is for all rooms regardless of size, which should be good news for small businesses.

According to Gode, the goal is to make the meeting experience frictionless for employees while at the same time ensuring it is cost-effective.

PowerSuite CMS

PowerSuite CMS for Room Systems addresses the organizational confusion of who owns the support and management of these rooms.  Between IT, help desk/support, and facilities, things can and have gotten out of control. Hence the confusion organizations are having to deal with.

It is especially challenging because most managed service providers’ offerings for room systems are one-off, bespoke individual UC platforms. However, PowerSuite CMS for Room Systems is a standard service for multi-platform room systems.

Key Features

Video Network Operations Center is a proactive round the clock feature which keeps track of your rooms. It has uninterrupted meeting room monitoring, troubleshooting, remediation, and IT support. So even if you don’t have a dedicated staff for your rooms, you can keep track of what is going on.

Additional features include multi-platform support for any Microsoft Teams Room (MTR), Skype Room System (SRS), or Zoom Room system. This is integrated with management and coordinating feature with incident resolution based on hardware warranty support for Crestron, Poly, Logitech, and Yealink devices.

The Collaborative Workforce

Solutions such as the one from Unity Square are addressing the growing collaborative workforce. Because businesses of all sizes are using talent across the globe. And as this way of working becomes the norm, UC and the supporting technology will be key to bringing everything together seamlessly.

PowerSuite CMS for Room Systems is now available.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Unify Square Expands PowerSuite to Better Manage Business Collaboration” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What is a Creative Brief? 15 Places to Find Examples

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

15 Creative Brief Examples

A creative brief is an essential document for businesses and agencies that work on any creative projects. It is used to describe every aspect of a creative campaign or project so that the people working on it know exactly what is expected.

Creative briefs can be put together by the a client requesting a creative service or campaign, or by the team or agency that is providing a creative service. But it is usually a collaborative effort, since input from the decision makers is essential for making sure their vision is included. It is then distributed to the creative team who is tasked with actually executing the campaign. This can either be an in-house team of creatives or an outside agency.

Creative briefs should include a brand statement, an overview of the campaign and its goals, the target audience you’re trying to reach, key messaging points and the channels you’ll use to spread those messages. They should also have basic details about the project, like deadlines and contact information of all the necessary parties. Overall, the document should be kept fairly simple and is often just one or two pages long.

Creative Brief Examples

If you’re looking to create a creative brief for your business or organization but don’t know where to start, templates and examples of other briefs can sometimes provide a good jumping off point. There are plenty of these available online. Here, we’ve rounded up 15 spots where you can find decent starting points for your own creative projects.

SmartSheet

SmartSheet offers creative brief templates for Microsoft Word and Excel. The site breaks it down into categories. So you can find options for advertising campaigns, client-led projects and general creative briefs.

TemplateLab

TemplateLab has a wide array of starter templates available for business and individual documents. They have about 40 creative brief templates available for you to download as Microsoft Word files.

Workmajig

Workmajig provides project management software for creative teams. Their website includes several examples of creative briefs used by top companies in their ad campaigns.

Hubspot

Hubspot offers a couple of different creative brief templates for download. There’s one for simple campaigns and another for video projects. You can simply sign up with your email and contact details to access them.

AdCracker

For advertising campaigns or professional, AdCracker offers a sample creative brief that was created specifically for the ad industry. Their website also includes plenty of examples of what type of information is needed for specific types of creative briefs.

Milanote

Milanote is an online organization tool for creatives. A section of their website is dedicated to templates for various forms and documents that creative teams might need, including a creative brief.

CoSchedule

CoSchedule offers several creative brief examples on their website, including basic ones for ad campaigns and even a more involved, Q&A style option for a video campaign. They also offer a free, downloadable template so you can easily customize your own.

Filestage

Filestage is a content management platform that offers a free creative brief template on its website. You need to request the file via email. But it’s available as a Powerpoint file, which can be beneficial for those who need to present their brief to clients. You can also easily convert it to a PDF if needed.

Toggl

Time tracking tool Toggl offers a free creative brief template on its website. It comes as a fillable PDF so you can easily input your information. But there’s not a ton of customization options when it comes to the layout or design.

Canva

Canva is an online graphics tool that is popular with a lot of creatives. The website includes a thorough explanation of what to include in a creative brief, along with plenty of examples and templates that you can use to create the graphics.

99designs

Online design platform 99designs has a section of their website dedicated to the creation of creative briefs. You can learn more about what goes into creating one and then download their free template via email.

Creative Market

Creative Market offers plenty of different design elements and assets that creative businesses can use. The site also includes a free creative brief template that was made specifically with designers in mind.

FunctionPoint

Agency management software provider FunctionPoint offers several creative brief templates for various situations, including basic templates, website projects and branding and design.

Workfront

Enterprise software company Workfront also has a free template for a creative brief. They also include an explanation of what important information you need to include.

JotForm

JotForm is an online form builder that has tons of forms and templates you can edit directly online. Find a basic creative brief template here are view all the other marketing and creative form options they have to offer.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “What is a Creative Brief? 15 Places to Find Examples” was first published on Small Business Trends

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In the Spotlight: TinyFrog Technologies Shrinks its Niche to Survive

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

In the Spotlight: TinyFrog Technologies Niched Down to Provide a Better Experience for Clients

There are a lot of companies that offer tons of digital services for businesses — everything from web design to online marketing. But TinyFrog Technologies has chosen just to focus on one area. Read about the company’s journey to niche down and provide a better experience for customers in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers a variety of web services for businesses.

Services include web design, web development and WordPress secured hosting and maintenance.

Business Niche

Bringing experience to every client.

TinyFrog Technologies Founder and CEO Mikel Bruce told Small Business Trends, “We’ve been in business for over 15 years and have 24 team members. In comparison, most web agencies are very small with just a few employees. Because there’s a lot of competition in our industry, it’s rare to find agencies that have been in business as long as we have.”

How the Business Got Started

By noticing a need in the market.

Bruce says, “In the early 2000s, I saw a growing need for website services for small businesses. I had over 10 years of experience in corporate marketing, so in 2003, I started the business in San Diego with just one web designer and one web developer.”

In the Spotlight: TinyFrog Technologies Niched Down to Provide a Better Experience for Clients

Biggest Win

Successfully shifting the business model.

Bruce explains, “Our biggest win was deciding to shift from digital marketing services and specialize solely in web design, development and maintenance. We made the decision in 2010 and we slowly shifted all of our resources. Once we made the shift, the quality of our work skyrocketed. We expanded our team and recruited extremely talented web designers, developers and UX strategists. We’ve also seen tremendous growth in our WordPress maintenance service. We started by hosting 50 sites or so, and we now host & maintain over 600 sites.”

Biggest Risk

Focusing on a specific niche instead of casting a wide net.

Bruce adds, “Shifting away from digital marketing to web design services was a big risk. At the time of the decision, 30% of our revenue was coming from those marketing services. However, the decision paid off in a big way. We took another big risk in 2011 and decided to only build sites on the content management system WordPress. WordPress has a lot of benefits in terms of custom design, development and SEO. It was a risk though because it limited the types of projects we could take on. It was a great decision for our team. WordPress is now the most popular content management system in the world, and a lot of clients come to us because we have such deep knowledge of everything related to WordPress.”

Lesson Learned

Focus only on your specific target customers.

Bruce says, “If we could do it all over again, we would niche down faster by offering certain services and by focusing on our ideal client profile (industry, company size, etc.).”

In the Spotlight: TinyFrog Technologies Niched Down to Provide a Better Experience for Clients

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Taking the team on an excursion.

Bruce explains, “We treat our employees really well, and we have a company outing once every quarter, but if we had an extra $100K, we’d love to do a really amazing employee retreat. Our team was recently discussing how awesome it would be to go to Costa Rica and see real red-eyed tree frogs – our company brand & mascot. With $100K, we could arrange a nice trip to Costa Rica and get to see our “tiny frogs” as a team.”

Favorite Communication Method

Frog puns.

Bruce says, “Our team has really embraced it. Our website is filled with frog puns (toad-ally awesome, un-frog-gettable, etc.). Our office has tons of frog photos and artwork that we’ve received as gifts over the years. It’s a really fun aspect of our work culture, and our clients love it too.”

Favorite Frog Joke

“What does a frog say when it sees something great? Toad-ally awesome”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: TinyFrog Technologies; Top Image: hosting manager Chris Andujar with clients

This article, “In the Spotlight: TinyFrog Technologies Shrinks its Niche to Survive” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Start an Online Side Hustle

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

E-learning Business Opportunities

With the global e-learning market expected to reach 400 billion dollars by 2026 more people are opting for online courses to raise their game. This has opened opportunities for those who can cash in on their knowledge by creating valuable online learning materials.

As Onlinecoursereport.com explains, selling your knowledge or other products online can get you on the fast track towards entrepreneurship or help you earn extra income on the side. This can start as a side-hustle and could grow to become a full-time job in some cases. Adding a side job can increase the income of Americans by an average of 25%.

The data comes from an infographic titled, “Using Tech To Become An Entrepreneur” created by NowSourcing.

E-learning and Other Online Business Opportunities

Write an E-book

Simply choosing a topic you are knowledgeable about and targeting your audience with a few highly practical tricks you can publish your own e-book. You can then use Kindle’s direct publishing services with its free tools for formatting, creating a cover and promotion to earn up to 70 percent in royalties. If you want to go both print and electronic then Barnes & Noble Press can help you earn up to 65 % in royalties by publishing to Nook readers.

Apps, Online Stores, Blogs, Podcasts or YouTube Channels

You can also develop your own application through BuildFire and create a custom app for iOS and Android with no coding required. If this is not an option, you can hire a team to build, support and sell your app idea. If retail is your thing then Etsy can help you curate your own online shop. There you can sell original goods for only 20 cents per listed item plus 5% of the cost when purchased.

If you find that mentoring is your niche then why not start a blog, podcast, or YouTube Channel. This will allow you to provide compelling insights to business, personal development tips and even how-to videos to get subscribers coming into your channel.

Create an Online Course

To build a valuable online course you will first need to find your niche. “Know your audience and stay on topic. Get rid of the fluff. Once you know your purpose with your content. Stick to teaching how they can achieve that result,” says John Lee Dumas, Host of the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast.

Testing your product first comes in handy. Give friends and family a demo and ask for their feedback. You can then start marketing to gauge interest among your audience.

Tips for Getting Started

Some quick tips for your digital side hustle include time blocking where you give yourself structure. Creating and sticking to a daily schedule will give you the discipline to keep going. Use the early mornings for answering e-mails, midday for scheduling posts and the afternoons for marketing.

It also helps if you have a designated workspace for your digital hustle, be it at home or in a coffee house. However, make sure the jobs you choose to motivate and encourage you to be productive.

To raise your game websites like edX and Alison offer free courses for any level. They also help you increase your skill levels, be it your day job or side hustle in coding, copywriting or Web design.

Take a look at the rest of the data and e-learning business opportunities in the infographic below.

E-learning Business Opportunities

Source: Online Course Report

This article, “How to Start an Online Side Hustle” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Best Resources For Getting Your Business Started

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Business Startup Resources

Starting a company today is both harder and easier than ever before. It is more challenging because a larger number of opportunities have been capitalized on, and a greater number of people appear to be trying. It is easier, though, because more resources are available and the world is more global. This means you can hire (or sell to) someone from outside the country with greater ease.

If you are thinking of starting a company, then one of the best steps you can take is capitalizing on the countless resources. You can now find support through all of the logistical steps needed to start a business. Plus, you can learn tactics by reading stories from founders about success and failure that can teach quite a bit.

Business Startup Resources

Here are the 5 best of these resources that can get you off the ground and on a great path with your new business:

1. YCombinator How to Start a Startup

Y Combinator has been home to a plethora of successful companies including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. They are widely cited as the most successful accelerator due to the ways they push and support their batches.

Y Combinator, consequently, has a lot to teach future entrepreneurs. They have turned starting a business into a bit of a science that they have fine-tuned over the years. They share these learnings and approaches with every company that walks through their doors.

Luckily, they want more companies to be started. Being a part of YC involves much higher levels of intensity and support, but they have also created online resources for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The best of these resources is their How to Start a Startup video series. In this twenty hour-long video series, they bring together the best in their craft to talk about running a business. Facebook vice president of growth marketing Alex Schultz talks about growing your business, Airbnb founder Brian Chesky talks about company culture, and much more.

These videos explain what you really need to think about and focus on when starting a company from every aspect. You can jump around based on your most needed topics or you can decide to watch all of them. It is a great intro for starting a company no matter how much (or little) experience you have initially.

2. Stripe Atlas.

To officially start a business, there are important legal measures to handle. In the past, these were a burden for founders due to the cost, money, and challenge of which choices to make. Stripe Atlas has made the process easy. They provide all of the legal and technical resources you need to get a business off of the ground, and they do so at a very reasonable price.

Using Stripe Atlas will allow you to spend less time worrying about the frustrating logistics that come with starting a business and instead put your energy towards the harder problems.

In addition to the logistics, they offer other startup-help advice. Exploring their site and resources is very useful.

3. Read Books and Personal Accounts.

There are great pieces of content in addition to Startup School that can help you manage your business. Some of the best books include Zero to One, The Lean Startup and The Hard Thing About Hard Things. They offer both practical advice as well as ideas of the bigger picture and what it actually takes to run a successful company.

There are also helpful websites that share personal accounts of founders. IndieHackers (owned by Stripe) is a great example that shares stories of small business owners. The site explains, in detail, how many founders got their businesses off the ground. This will offer you practical advice on getting going as well as motivation that you can do it.

4. Sites like StackShare, Siftery and G2 Crowd

One big challenge in starting a business is determining your software stack. How are you going to build your product and offerings, and what software will you use to support you? These are tough choices because there are thousands of different software products out there all claiming to be the best.

It is also a very important choice because effective software can save you time and money, while ineffective software can cost you greatly. Choosing wrongly at the foundation of your company can cause real issues as you scale. Sometimes making changes down the road can be extremely challenging and time-consuming.

Platforms like StackShare, Siftery, and G2 Crowd can help you choose your stack. They give real reviews on software products and share the stacks of other successful companies. They can even help you determine what might be best for your company depending on your needs.

5. Social Communities.

Starting a business can be emotionally draining. It requires significant hours of work and often high levels of stress. There are many challenges involved in each step and doing it on your own makes it that much harder.

Luckily, today, you can take advantage of social communities as a resource. Even if you are starting your company in a remote location, you can communicate with other entrepreneurs online through communities. These include HackerNewsStartupNation and the countless Slack groups for founders.

In these groups, in addition to the support, you can get real advice. You can discuss the problems you are facing and share stories with others who have tackled similar obstacles.

Entering into these communities will not only give you an added level of support and advice, but it will likely increase your energy towards the project at hand. Seeing how many other people around the world are doing what you are doing as well as their passion for their respective projects is inspiring.

Find What Works Best for You.

The ultimate key to maximizing all of these resources is finding what works best for you. The five above are the most immediately helpful, but there are countless more. Think about the type of support you need as a founder and then take advantage of online resources to get that support. When you are faced with challenges, you no longer have to solve them on your own. You can, instead, capitalize on all of the existing information and support on the web.

Republished by permission. Original here

Image: Due.com

This article, “5 Best Resources For Getting Your Business Started” was first published on Small Business Trends

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