Dematerialize Your Business, Work Better

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and just think about how much “stuff” businesses needed to operate in the past. They required filing cabinets, full of archived folders, documents and contracts. They needed big desktop computers, and mainframes to run their business systems. They needed expensive conference rooms and theatres to entertain clients. And they needed all of the paraphernalia that goes into constructing a modern office.

 

 

Then, around fifteen years ago, we were introduced to the idea of “natural capitalism.” This was a concept championed by some of the world’s leading technology companies. The idea was to have a capitalist system that could operate sustainably and protect the environment. Companies began work, looking for ways to reduce the physical footprint of businesses. Trailblazers wanted to find the means to deliver products that customers wanted. But they wanted to do so without the usual business resource overhead.

Of course, if they had succeeded there and then, then they would have made killer profits too to sweeten the deal. But dematerializing business is a tall order. If it was so easy, practically everybody would be doing it.

But then things changed around five years ago. All of a sudden we started hearing whisperings about a new technology, enigmatically named the cloud. The cloud was a sort of wonder platform – capable of being accessed from any location using any computer. At the time, people didn’t really know how it was all that different from the internet. But as soon as they saw how it could dematerialize business operations, it began making a lot more sense.

 

The Cloud And Dematerialization,

In the past companies lived and died on the back of their document processing abilities. Thousands of boutique firms, like estate agents, lawyers and accountants pushed paper until the cows came home. It was an expensive and environmentally costly exercise. There was first the energy and resources that it took to get the material to their offices. And then there was the additional cost of sending it back out again in its new form. It cost a lot of money and put up prices for consumers and businesses.

But the cloud sought to change all of that. With document management software businesses didn’t have to rely on traditional means to push paper. Instead, they could digitise their paperwork and get it sent from one location to another with zero resource cost.

Dematerialization Is Even Better Than Physical

It wasn’t just that dematerialization was the same, just cheaper. It was also better. Companies found that they could turn the cloud into a new usage platform, allowing them to collaborate on documents in real time. Cloud computing enables network working in a way that just hadn’t been possible before. People could work on documents without having to be physically present. And they could use automatic sorting tools that simply weren’t available when documents were filed by hand.

The changes that dematerialization has brought to the workplace are extreme. The only barrier to getting rid of offices entirely now appears to be a cultural one. How long before the corporate world figures this out, I wonder?

 

Category: Uncategorized

Cyber Attacks: Is Your Business In Danger?

When anyone mentions the term ‘cyber attacks’, it’s not uncommon for a few shudders to go around the room. The idea of our business’ precious data being compromised, stolen and lost is unthinkable. It could literally destroy our business in the space of a few minutes; such is the damage that can be done. Unfortunately, we don’t always protect against cyber attacks as effectively as we should. Now, we’re assuming you’ve got IT support on hand to assist with any catastrophic incidents. Once you’ve got that, here are a few other prevention techniques to think about.

Servers & The Cloud

If you’re operating a business (no matter how small), you need some kind of central system to secure your data. By allowing employees to take security matters into their hands on an individual basis, you’re putting your data at huge risk. So, it’s up to you. Do you look at data centre building for the purpose of adding servers, or seek a potentially less secure cloud service? Ideally, you’ll do both in order to maximise prevention against cyber attacks.

Smart Passwords

We’ve been educated about the need to use smart passwords for years, but many of us still don’t use them. The harder your password is to guess, the harder it will be for anyone to hack it. The same goes for the rest of your employees. In fact, you can actually buy random password generator tools that plug into your USB slot. Failing that, you can always go online and use a free random generator.

Keep Tabs On Modern Risks

All that information you were told back in 2006 is still useful now, but the digital world has changed. The type of threats that we open ourselves up to are advancing all the time. In truth, even the antivirus companies out there struggle to keep up with new cyber attack methods. So, it’s up to us to stay vigilant and watch out for the signs. If you still think phishing refers to an activity with a boat and some bait, you’re behind the times.

Get Cyber Insurance

Yes, this is a thing! Although it’s relatively unheard of, cyber insurance is something that could be very beneficial for your company. It aims to help you in the event that a data breach was to occur for any reason. While companies haven’t looked to this sort of thing in the past, they’re increasingly becoming forced to. Don’t be surprised if cyber insurance becomes the norm over the next few years.

Ban Personal Mobile Devices

It’s really difficult to totally ban employees from using their mobile devices in the office. But, I suggest you do it, at least from a network point of view. Giving your Wi-Fi password to those with mobile access only makes the threat of a cyber attack more likely. Encryption techniques aren’t always implemented, and device management appears to fall by the wayside. If you’ve got an employee that doesn’t quite understand the dangers of the net, you could be in trouble. My advice? Ban them entirely.

Category: Business

The Importance Of Having A Well Designed & Professional Office

As a small business, you’re already at a disadvantage. This is because the majority of the time, people prefer to work with bigger and better-known brands. The main reason for this is because larger companies tend to be seen as being more professional. There’s nothing to say that a company that’s been running for 30 years will be more professional than a startup that launched six months ago. However, it’s a common misconception that many people make.

With that in mind, as a small business owner you need to ensure that your company is always as professional as possible. A big part of doing that is providing a good first impression. You see, in business, first impressions are everything. With that in mind, it’s crucial that you make every effort to always keep your office up to date and relevant. As that way, anyone who comes to your office will see that your startup is just as professional as your larger competitors.

Ensure the decor is smart and stylish

Your business premises should reflect your personality and sense of style. However, the most important thing is that the decor is smart and stylish. The vital thing to remember is that your office is a professional space. That means it’s crucial that it is designed and decorate to look and feel professional. If you’re unsure how to update your decor to be more professional, hire an interior designer to help you.

Opt for minimalism

There is nothing more unprofessional than an office space that is stuffed full of this, that and the other. To ensure that your office looks and feels professional, it’s important to adopt a minimalist approach. This means keeping the entire space free from clutter. The key to doing this and having everything that you need to run your business effectively is good storage solutions. There are plenty of options to choose from; it’s just a case of taking the time to think them through.

Make health and safety a priority

Regardless of the size of your office space, health and safety should always be a priority. There is nothing more unprofessional than a company that doesn’t take things like health and safety seriously. Because it shows their lack of regard for their employees (if they have any), customers, and the business industry in general. To ensure that your business premises is safe, perform regular checks on it. Any areas that you’re not trained in hire a professional to come in and check over. Take your electrics, for instance. Say, for instance, your power keeps turning on and off. It’s a good idea to use a electrical service to find the problem and repair it. Or say, for example, you’re having a problem with your safety lighting. It’s important to call in an expert to deal with it. It’s totally unprofessional to leave a problem, especially if it could potentially be dangerous.

Incorporate branding

If there’s one thing that instantly gives a space a more professional feel, it’s branding. Regardless of how big or small your business is, having branding used in your office can have a big impact on how professional you seem. There are various ways that you can incorporate branding into your office space. It’s just a case of getting creative. Think signposts, wall art, flooring.

So there you have it, how to ensure that your office is well designed, relevant, and professional.

 

Category: Business

Why Your Business Should Accept PayPal Payments

If you haven’t yet heard of PayPal, you probably haven’t been spending too much time online in recent years. It’s becoming the payment option of choice for many people, offering renowned security and protection. Like anything else, it has its flaws. But, people are gravitating towards it, and your business should be implementing it. Why is this so important? We’re glad you asked.

 

 

  • Consumers Don’t See It As Real Money

 

If you’ve got a PayPal account, it sits separately to your normal bank account. It’s an online bank where some of your money might be deposited, but you’ll never actually see it. Sure, a customer can put it into their bank account and withdraw it, but many don’t choose to do that. Instead, they see it as ‘play money,’ which makes them more likely to spend it. There’s nothing lost and nothing gained – they’re just figures on a computer screen. That’s the mindset that many adopt, leading to more expenditure.

 

 

  • Because People Have PayPal Debit Cards Now

 

PayPal has always been thought of like an online service. However, times have changed, and PayPal has a huge presence in the real world too. PayPal cards allow people to spend using the money in their account, and retailers need to be ready for this. A PayPal credit card reader is your option if you want to solve this issue.

 

 

  • It’s Secure

 

Ask all the customers that use PayPal for transactions about why they use it, and you’ll probably get one response. “It’s secure.” PayPal has a very well-implemented protection system in place, and it has become famous. It’s the go-to solution for anyone who might be scared about spending money online or even in-person. And, it’s not just the customer that benefits from the protective elements of the service. Businesses can rest easy knowing they’re protected with PayPal, too.

 

 

 

  • It’s Simple For Both You And The Customer

 

Even with all the protective features of PayPal, people wouldn’t use it if it was overly complicated. Luckily for PayPal, this was realized very quickly. Setting up an account for personal or business use is very easy to do. Once this process has been completed, it gets even easier. Customers just need to log in with a username and password when they need to. Businesses might need a little more admin, but nothing too taxing.

 

 

  • International Payments Are Easier

 

If your business is going to be trading online, you’ll probably start to make international transactions. There are a lot of stumbling blocks that can arise as a result of this necessity, but PayPal makes it easy. Although you will have to deal with conversion charges, they’re nominal. Many businesses see it as a necessary evil in order to take advantage of the simple nature of international transactions.

 

 

  • eBay Needs It

 

If your business is going to get involved with eBay in any way, you’re going to need PayPal. While it’s true that customers can pay via other means, they often don’t. PayPal is heavily integrated with this online marketplace, and you stand a chance of losing the sale without offering it.

Category: Business

The Secret To Keeping Your Business Secure

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is keeping everything secure and as safe as possible. This task actually has many different sides to it. If you want your business to continue on for a long time with success, then you need to ensure that you stay on top of this. In fact, there are a few different major areas which you need to try and keep as secure as possible. In this post, we will go through each of them one by one. We will see the various ways in which you can work towards keeping your business more secure – and your customers. Let’s take a look now at what this might entail.

 

The Building & Premises

We should start with the actual physical premises in which your business is housed. If anything goes wrong here, then the whole business is likely to be dramatically affected. Looking after your business’ premises is relatively straightforward, albeit hugely important. One of the main ways in which you should be protecting it is by hiring a security team to keep an eye on it at all times. This is especially important when it comes to those nighttime hours when nobody is there. However, around-the-clock surveillance isn’t a bad idea, either. As long as you are keeping your business secure, you can feel safe in your business’ basic building blocks.

 

The Customers

It is vital to remember that you also have a certain duty to protect your customers’ interests and their personal data. To that end, make sure that you are doing everything in your power to protect them. For the most part, this means ensuring that you have a secure online payment system. Using a service like that offered by HBMS, you can ensure that your customers feel as safe as possible. But there is more to it than that. You also need to be careful with what information you hold about your customers on-site. Chances are, you have a lot of data about them, and you also have a duty to look after it properly. If it gets into the wrong hands, it could cause a lot of trouble, so this is highly important.

 

The Employees

Much of what we can say for customers can also apply to your employees. You need to ensure that their data is also protected, no matter what. But protecting your employees also goes far beyond just watching their data. You also need to think about their actual physical safety. Part of this is covered by looking after your premises in the ways mentioned above. But it is also vital to encourage a working culture which shuns all aggressive behaviour the moment it arises. You want your employees to be well looked-after, happy and safe in the workplace. That way, they are much more likely to enjoy being at work, and they will feel more secure. In many ways, keeping your employees secure is essentially the same as keeping your business itself secure. Look after one, and it takes care of the other.

Category: Business

Keep The Cash Flowing In While Stopping It From Pouring Out

Business is all about the bottom line. It’s easy to get swept up into some of the familiar rhetoric about business, all of which invites you to focus elsewhere. It’s about living your dream! Being your own boss! Doing something you love!

And those are all well and good – but they’re nothing without a good bottom line. If you’re not making money, then the business isn’t working – and it’s on you to change it. You need to engage with customers, get them through the (metaphorical) door and make sure you maximize every cent you make.

That means that no matter your personal spending habits, you need to become parsimonious. Every penny that you spend, down the most extreme of details, needs to be parted with unwillingly. You become Scrooge, eye on the costs at all times – though hopefully a bit nicer to the neighborhood kids.

With so many things to juggle, it’s unfortunately too easy to take your eye off the ball. There are a few common areas where you can end up overspending without even noticing it. So if you’re going to make this work, you need to apply the same business mind to the below areas as you do with every negotiation.

  1. Your Accounts

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Business and merchant account deals typically have fees attached. You can sometimes find an introductory offer which is free for a set period, but eventually, it will expire. One trap you can fall into is not ruthlessly looking for the best deal available. Loyalty is worth next to nothing in the current climate; switch at will, and make it clear you’re willing to do so. Your current provider might be tempted to offer a better deal if you make it clear you’ll leave.

  1. Currency Conversion

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If you work with overseas clients, you can find yourself a slave to international markets. You have to get your eye on the ball and transact when conditions are favorable. If you can hold off converting money or issuing an invoice until the exchange rate is in your favor, do so. Currencies are volatile in the wake of Britain’s EU vote and continuing issues in Syria, so track them every day.

  1. Insurance

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Buying business insurance is easy, but getting the right deal is not. While you can grab a pre-packaged deal with a few clicks of a mouse, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be good for you. Sometimes, it’s worth going through a broker and looking for a tailor-made policy. You don’t want to be paying premiums for something you don’t need. And as with your banking, this is something you have to be willing to change at the drop of a hat.

  1. Printing Supplies

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There is an argument for going with professional printing supplies for things such as billboards, and it’s not to be discounted. However, if you’re watching your cash flow, it can be a financial suck. In a paperless office, you won’t even need them. If you do, with a little practice, you can learn to use a graphic design program such as PhotoShop and create them for yourself. Keep the design simple, using online style guides to keep things on brand and then use a separate company to print your existing design.

 

Category: Uncategorized

Do You Have What it Takes to Run a Non-Employer Business?

 

Non-employer businesses have been a big part of American business for many a decade. And even with the employee-rich startup culture in boom, non-employer businesses are still on the rise.

So is this something you should be looking into in your own business pursuits? It’s important that you understand a little more about how this part of American business operates. Take a look at these facts. They’ll help you get a sense of the bigger picture when it comes to this type of business.

What’s a non-employer business?

A non-employer business is actually something most of us is familiar with. It’s just that we don’t often use that term to describe the business. Basically, the owner of the business in question doesn’t employ anyone except themselves. They’re self-employed and are going at this pursuit solo. Some may say that a more accurate term would be a non-employee business. But the business owner doesn’t employ anyone, so the non-employer term definitely makes sense.

 

The data

Non-employer businesses are hardly a minority of businesses, believe it or not. When you think about it, this makes a certain kind of sense. After all, it is markedly easier to start one of these businesses than it is to get something going with employees. If you count up all the businesses in America, then you’re going to find that most businesses are non-employer businesses. The United States Census Bureau found that non-employer businesses made up the majority of all businesses in America. In 2013 it was estimated that for every thousand residents in the country, there were 72 non-employer businesses owners.

 

However, the same study also shows that these businesses only make up a very small portion of the country’s overall business revenue. After all, most of these businesses are likely to be the part-time pursuits of self-employed people. They may even have another full-time job for a regular business. It’s estimated that just under 4% of America’s business revenue generates from non-employer businesses.

 

If you’re interested…

Non-employer businesses can work really well for people interested in going into business solo. As long as you’re not expecting to run some crazily complex operation, not having employees to look after can work to your benefit. And there are certainly plenty of resources available to you if you need help. The IRA will be able to talk to you about certain tax breaks you’d be eligible for. Companies like Office Evolution can offer you office solutions suited to your business model. The SBA will also have resources for businesses that don’t require employees.

 

 

The costs saved by going at a business in this fashion are really remarkable. The average capital expenditure of a small business with ten or so employees exceeds $150,000. Many non–employer businesses will only spend between $3,000 and $5,000. However, it’s important to remember where a lot of those extra costs go. They go towards employees who, presumably, end up bringing in more in revenue. So you have to be sure that your business can make the profits you need without hiring the help of part- or full-time employees.

Category: Careers

Black Friday: Mistakes Your Business Should Avoid On The Big Day

Black Friday is something that has become synonymous with businesses and customers around the world. Lots of countries celebrate it, and they all do so in their own specific ways. Sometimes, they restrict it to Friday only. At others, they make it a week-long thing, hold it on different dates and more. No matter what your business plans to do this year, it’s beneficial to use this as a marketing opportunity. It can also present plenty of stumbling blocks, and that’s where we come in.

 

Mistake #1: Not Using Hashtags On Social Media

There are a lot of marketing blunders we could mention, but we’re going for this one. I’m going to assume that you’ve already got an elaborate social media plan in place. But, if you fail to include the Black Friday hashtag in your posts, it won’t reach as many people as it should. You might not realize it, but there are lots of people who check that hashtag all day for the latest deals. If you’re not showing up, your deals will go unnoticed by the social media masses.

 

Mistake #2: Underestimating Demand In-Store

Alright, you’ve got a bit of time until Black Friday this year (it’s late November!). So, use this chance to get a proper inventory system going. Maybe, you want to buy barcodes from www.barcodesolutions.co.za? This could assist your audit and stock ordering process. Maybe, start predicting customer trends based on other companies’ Black Friday experiences? On the big day, you don’t want to run out of stock.

 

Mistake #3: Underestimating Demand Online

Oh, we’ve all seen this before. A company advertises a too-good-to-be-true sale, and everyone clicks onto the website immediately. Before anyone can make a purchase, the site crashes. A failure like this could mean the company misses out on huge profits. Think about a good web hosting company from somewhere like www.webafrica.co.za/hosting/. Make sure it can cope with the demand.

 

 

Mistake #4: Letting Things Get Out Of Control

We’ve all seen those scary pictures of stores being looted by over-eager customers, right? We don’t want our store to get like that. If you think there’s a chance of it happening, consider hiring security for this purpose. It won’t be something everyone needs to do, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

 

Mistake #5: Failing To Capitalize On Brand Interest

This is the one chance where you’ve got much more interest than you’d usually get. Why aren’t you taking advantage of it?! Use this opportunity to get customer information and add them to mailing lists. Find ways to keep them in the loop in the future, rather than capitalizing off one sale.

 

Mistake #6: Forgetting About Upselling

You’ve got a chance here to satisfy customers’ needs and make a little extra money in the process. They want that ultra-cheap TV deal? Great! Why not add a games console and a few DVDs into the mix? Think about bundling and finding ways to maximize profit even further. Train your staff ahead of the day, so they don’t forget about this amidst the chaos.

Category: Retail

Learning, Adopting, Improving, Performing – The metric model to use; by Toby Beresford

The Learning Adopting Improving Performing (LAIP) model provides a new tool for categorising personal analytics metrics according to the maturity of the behaviour. This allows program managers to channel behaviour adoption appropriate to business priorities and the current status of the individual and cohort.

The model stems from a collaboration between  Ben Martin and myself when looking at metrics to encourage effective social selling practices.

Anyone creating a personal analytics program may find it a helpful tool when evaluating which metrics to include, when to include them and how to weight them.

The LAIP Model

In our LAIP model, maturity of a behaviour is evaluated along two axes:

  • how established is the behaviour?  has it become a habit?
  • how much value does the behaviour drive? is it worthwhile?

Based on these two axes we can create a boston matrix and into each quadrant we can categorise our metrics.

laip-model-1

Learning

The player is learning the new behaviour and associated tools / processes.

Adoption

The player is seeking to create a regular habit around the new behaviour.

Improving

The player already has a habit but seeks to derive more value from the existing behaviour.

Performance

The player is seeking to achieve higher performance in the adopted behaviour.

Worked Example

Let’s apply this model in the context of an inside sales team looking to drive telephone calls off the back of cold (unsolicited) emails.

Say for example I have the following metrics which I am tracking for each of my sales reps:

  • Total emails sent  (Learning)
  • 20  emails sent per day (Adopting)
  • Responses per email ratio  (Improving)
  • Number of telephone calls arranged (Performing)

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Number of cold emails sent is a  Learning metric because it is relatively simple. Sending out emails is a new behaviour and for now I just want to track the total number I’ve sent. This helps me as I get going with sending out those cold emails.

Once I’ve got the hang of sending emails I might want to tighten up the metric so I can be sure I adopt the behaviour I want which is to send 20 each day. So a ratio formula – number of cold emails / day with a goal (20) is a real Adopting metric. This helps me adopt the behaviour I want to achieve.

My Performing metric, in this case, has nothing to do with the underlying behaviour but all to do with the value I am hoping to achieve with my cold emailing behaviour – which is telephone calls with a real lead. So here my metric is number of telephone calls I’ve arranged.  Over time I can make this more sophisticated, perhaps calls per month, per week and so on.

Finally there is a chance that I develop my cold emailing behaviour but it isn’t driving the value that I want. In this case I need to consider anImproving metric – a ratio of email responses to those sent out. This looks at the quality of the emails in terms of who I sent them to and their content. An improving metric assumes that the behaviour is established but is not driving value.

Handling misfit metrics

Like any model, the LAIP model can only offer an approximate view on reality – inevitably there will be some metrics that seem to fit into more than one category or no category at all. The expectation in this case is that the manager will provide a “best fit” assessment when plotting metrics on the matrix.

Conclusion

Overall this model offers gamification gurus a way of categorising metrics, particularly useful in multi-metric scoring systems where scores from multiple behaviours are composited into a single score.

By categorising the metrics,  the program manager can ensure that the personal analytics dashboard is aligned to the current business goals for the individual or current cohort. The program manager does this by weighting and prioritising metrics within the overall score algorithm.

The Sales Battle: 3 Data-Backed Risks of NOT #SocialSelling

The sales battle is ripe with competition. In the today’s disruptive landscape, sellers are scrambling to step ahead and be the first ally in their buyers’ journey.
That’s why we’ve created this following infographic — to arm you with valuable insights as you prepare your future sales strategy:

Social sellers realize a 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting techniques

Sales professionals using social selling see 81% more appointments per week

90% of top salespeople use social selling tools, compared with 71% of overall sales professionals

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Category: Uncategorized