Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Global Markets and Business Etiquette

It can already be daunting to travel to another culture, let alone feel the additional pressure of trying not to insult your international business partners! Lucky for all of us, the most basic of business etiquette, no matter what continent you are on, are based on concepts rooted in simple common sense.

Essentially, you can follow some simple rules to ensure that you avoid faux pas and social landmines that may lead to business relationships going sour no matter what country you are in.

ALWAYS:

1. Show respect – this is always held in high-regard. You do not have to agree, but you do have to respect.

2. Be proactive in finding out about customs and traditions, this shows you care.

3. Find the middle ground – don’t try to be someone you are not, simply be yourself, in a version tailored to the particular situation you are in.

4. Brush up on geography. Trust us. The last thing you want to do is show your ignorance of where you are in the world!

5. Slow down! Your speaking patterns, slang and cadence make it much harder for people of other nationalities to follow you. Be aware, clearly annunciate, but be careful not to seem condescending.

6. Know the appropriate greetings. This is your first impression, know what is customary and avoid an embarrassing situation. Also find out beforehand how to address people.

NEVER:

1. Over-gesticulate with your hands. This is a slippery slope – hand gestures are interpreted differently in all cultures and what you thought was a flippant staccato to your statement could serious insult someone.

2. Touch. These can often be the most sensitive of the etiquette rules. In every country how, where and how often you can touch someone can vary hugely. Best to just avoid it altogether.

3. Get too personal. Westerners can be very candid and conversation about personal life is quite normal. This is not always the case in other countries; steer clear of diving too deep by sticking to professionalism.

4. Discuss politics or religion. Need we explain this one?

5. Forget your humble attitude. Being confident is revered in Western countries, though many other places revere a humble and more low-profile persona when it comes to business.

Basically, the best favor you can do yourself is research. Knowing what you are walking into and knowing how you can remain respectful is of the utmost importance. Many countries develop stereotypical views about other foreigners based on those who decide to just ‘wing-it’.

Do your best to change those stereotypes if you want your business to be reflected in a positive light.

Workplace Bullies and How to Deal With Them

Times are a-changing. And rather than being a mere hindrance to running a successful business, unaddressed workplace bullying can be a real detriment to the entire team, pulling down morale and generally leaching negativity into the mix, not to mention the possibility of being a cause of litigation.

“Workplace bullying refers to any repeated, intentional behavior directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management, and is a real problem for workers at all levels.”

Often, the hardest part is recognizing a workplace bully. Disguised as sarcastic humor or dry cynicism, bullies can often come across as simply disgruntled yet humorous employees. Learning how to spot the problem is the best way to come up with a solution.

Bullies use intimidation and manipulation to gain from others. Learn to differentiate this trait from those who are simply driven and ambitious. Does the act of disrespecting others become part of the business culture? This may be an early warning sign of a bully in your midst.

Some other signs that may speak of a more serious issue:

1. Yelling, raising the voice or shouting, in front of others or in private.

2. Name-calling.

3. Disrespectful comments, inappropriate comments.

4. Excessive criticism of colleagues work. 5. Undermining a colleague’s work, encouraging failure on a subliminal level or purposefully overloading someone with work, setting them up to be overwhelmed.

6. Withholding information or actively working to keep someone out of the loop, making people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

Any of these traits can signify that a conversation between you, the team member, and even an HR expert, might be necessary. Nipping things in the bud before they escalate is the only way to prevent a workplace crisis.

Encourage team members to stand up for themselves and create an open-door policy that invites them to speak with you about any kind of concern they may have, including feeling bullied. Creating a space where employees feel safe and respected is tantamount to overall business success.

So that it is clear from day one, what is and is not appropriate in the workplace. Make sure employees know that bullying is not tolerated. Document everything. Involve your local trade association or HR consultant to find out the best way to get things down on paper.

As the boss, you may be viewed as the bully. Make sure to keep your ear to the ground and truly listen to team member’s reflections of you as their leader.

Beef Up Your Bottom Line

In the busy day-to-day operations of running a small business, actively working to boost profits can take a back seat to other management functions. Crunching numbers to make payroll, clear accounts and stay on top of the line is hard enough!

But ignoring the importance of the bottom line is perilous to a small business. Commit to investing in beefing up the bottom line in order to sustain long-term success.

A flourishing enterprise should be producing profits and cash, and this is even more important during growth stages.

Get creative and encourage profit growth by changing the game. Change is necessary if you expect results, so consider out-of-the-box options. Don’t just rely on cost cuts.

Look at other, smarter ways to improve results into the future. Look at introducing cross-selling strategies. If costs must be reduced, consider outsourcing or automating processes to improve efficiencies.

Make better use of new technology by considering accounting and financial management programs that could benefit your business.

Incorporate a relationship-based sales strategy that keeps customers coming back. Bundle and package goods and services, implement rewards programs and referral benefits to create longevity and promote return business.

Constantly audit your administrative and operational processes in an effort to remain a lean, mean, money-making machine.

Raise the bar when it comes to visibility, marketing and presence. You cannot expect to acquire new clients if you are disappearing into a plethora of generic marketing messages.

Improve cash flow by offering pre-paid terms that come with additional benefits. And always pay your own bills on time to avoid fees and overdue charges, which can really impact on profits.

Consider reducing occupancy costs. There might be opportunities to sublet under-utilized space in your business. Or look at the modern practice of offering employees the chance to work from home.

PROTECT YOUR DATA

Properly protecting your business’ data is of utmost importance – so important, that there is in fact a National Back Up Day! Small business owners can start by developing a backup strategy and educating employees on malware and spyware. Encrypt anything and everything; develop policies for bringing personal devices into the office and restricting who has what access to the network.

6 Strategies to Reach Your Goals

Setting goals is the best way to ensure progress, stick to deadlines and ultimately, to tangibly quantify success. But it is important to take on strategic methods when setting goals, and to stick to SMART goal planning.

What are SMART goals? They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each time you lay out a goal, evaluate it for these five qualities. This will ensure that the goals are driving you towards success, rather than setting you up for failure.

Once you have your SMART goals in place:

1. Align your goals with your values. Your goals must reflect what you believe in or you will lack the passion and drive to achieve them. The pay out from achieving a goal means nothing if it does not ultimately reflect your overall business vision.

Each goal should have a meaningful motivation and actively move you along the path that was set out in your vision statement.

2. Define the importance, or the ‘why’ behind the goal. Why this goal? What does it achieve, how does it benefit your business and your bottom line? Examine the why behind the goal and be sure to stay realistic.

Don’t attempt to change the world with one goal. Stick to small and relevant tasks, which act as building blocks that support each other. Goals should link together to form a net of accomplishment, designed to further escalate your business and support it through development.

3. Establish a support system and minimize potential challenges. A measured amount of preparation is required before embarking on any journey, and this is no exception. Make sure you share your goal with the people who support you – both at work and at home. Having support groups, even informal ones, can boost your confidence, provide motivation and help you through obstacles.

4. Map your route and choose your crew. This is where you break it down from point A to point B. How will you get there? Determine a timeframe; create a plan of action that is realistic and time sensitive. Deadlines – stressful? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Decide who needs to be on board, keep them involved in the planning process and keep the team as small as you can – that whole ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ thing rings true here.

5. Delegate! A good leader knows how to get the best out of their team and this is particularly so when trading conditions become more challenging. Understand your team’s strengths and leverage them. And ask for help when you start to lose your way.

6. Celebrate and reward! Celebrating achievements is an important step on the continued path to success. Reward yourself and your team for a job well done, particularly if it was a struggle. Celebrate, then evaluate. Define what worked, what did not, what could be improved upon in the future, and apply what you learn to the next goal.

5 Website Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

“Your website is your opportunity to showcase the value of working with your business, as an employee or as a customer. It also allows for you to project your product offerings and messaging exactly as you wish them to be seen.”

Eek, sounds important! It is important, and it’s worth the investment to build up a website that represents your mission, gathers potential clients and propels the business to a new level. One of the biggest mistakes that small-business-owners-turned-web-entrepreneurs make is trying too hard. Simplicity is a value here, making sure pertinent information is clear, concise and easy to find.

Other than that, there are some pretty common complaints when it comes to first-time sites. Don’t fall victim to the dreaded ‘Back’ button and make sure you keep people on your page by avoiding these mistakes: 1. Too much content. Both visually confusing and over-complex, filling the site with text is a no-no. The ‘back’ button is the web equivalent to flipping the page – keep it relevant! 2. Not being mobile friendly. Essentially, this means that any time a user attempts to view your site on a tablet or smart phone they are not getting the full experience. There are businesses devoted to converting your site to be mobile-friendly. Just look around – not being accessible via tablet? That eliminates half your potential client base! 3. Burying the lead. In this case, your contact info! This should be the most prevalent information, not some after-thought stuck at the bottom of the page. Reorganize with the idea that you have less than thirty seconds to get your customer to contact you, before they get frustrated and click ‘back’. 4. Failing to utilize Search Engine Optimization. Snazzy sites are not really that snazzy if they do not drive you any business. Make a list of the 25 best industry buzz words or phrases that relate to your business and go from there. 5. Too many gadgets and gizmos – most importantly, logos or banners that flash, spin, sing, dance or any other of these obnoxious unnecessary elements. Nitpick and be precise. People dislike typos, grammatical errors and misspelled words. It implies that you do not care enough to take time to edit for perfection. What does that say about your brand or your product?

Stale content, dead links, outdated or sparsely filled calendars are also deal breakers. They are simply signs to potential clients that you lack follow through and attention to detail and may be in turn the way you handle your clients’ affairs.

Ever heard of KISS? Keep it simple, stupid! A commonly uttered phrase, KISS is important when things start to get a little bit too complicated. With small business website design, KISS is paramount.

Ways to Use Google to Build Business

Want to find out what the biggest sea mammal is? Google it, they say. The notorious go-to for seekers of information, gleaned through the vast world of online information, Google is a household name. But how much do you know about their small business support systems?

Recently Google hosted “Get Your Business Online Week” (just Google it), aimed at encouraging small businesses to get up and running on the web. Hosting free online tutorials, the support staff aimed to make the case for online business, and to assist in the creation of websites, answering questions, etc.

This kind of support has become a vital part of the brand Google has become. Their multi-layered (mostly free) suite of applications can assist even the most web-timid of small business owners.

Jumpstarting the Google-train can improve web presence, build client base and boost profits overall. So, where to begin? Let’s start with the three A’s of the Google alphabet: AdSense, AdWords and Analytics. In a nutshell: 1. AdSense: Hosting other businesses ad’s on your own site creates new content and diversifies web presence. In other words, make profit from displaying other people’s ads. 2. AdWords: Google’s answer to online advertising, allowing you to breach a new customer base by strategically placing paid advertisements. The key here is linking your advertisement to key word searches, to become an advertised search result. 3. Analytics: Interactive tool for tracking stats about who visits your site, and what they are doing once on your site. Think of this as the playbook at a ball game – it’s mostly stats, subject to interpretation and analysis.

AdSense and AdWords require some bucks, but Analytics is offered for free. Now why, you ask, would Google offer such an invaluable service at no cost?

It’s because they aim to create a suite of services that work integrally with each other and are best used as a team. When you buy shampoo, you usually pick up conditioner too, right? Another app worth mentioning is Google+, slowly but surely eating its way into the die-hard Facebook fan club and converting users worldwide.

More like a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook, this social media site more directly targets audiences, allowing small business owners to specify their scope and adapt messages accordingly. It’s a welcome substitute to Facebook, which shares all information equally.

Other supplemental app’s worth checking out: Google Offers, Google Places for Business, Site Search, Blogger and YouTube.

But we’ll save them for another time

Business Planning in Uncertain Times

The most important thing to remember as a business owner navigating uncertain times is simple: with a proper planning process in place you can have confidence. Believe that you will make it through the storm, that the clouds will part and sunshine will once again fall upon your enterprise.

Although external factors are usually ignored because they are out of our control they need to form part of our plan. But the things happening within our business are even more important.

Too often we focus on past mistakes and allow hindsight to overwhelm future planning. Put more energy into understanding just where you are, where you want to go and then mapping out how to get there.

When planning during uncertain times, action and progress are the barometers for measuring success. Stagnancy will flood the boat – be quick, decisive and most importantly know your bearings. Start with the fundamentals: 1. It’s the planning process, not the plan itself. Don’t let unpredictable outcomes derail your ability to follow through. Your plans should innately allow for flexibility and buffers for change. 2. Review, revise, correct. Repeat! 3. Hone in on a foolproof warning system – one that monitors changes and can highlight early warning signs of trouble. Pay closer attention to every detail. 4. Tighten focus, value your lucrative clientele and watch your cash flow. 5. Improve and streamline communication strategies within the business.

Consider taking on a counter-intuitive mindset. If it seems like the time to cut down, resist the urge! Growth in times of duress has proven to promote longevity, and encourages business owners to be risk-takers who strive to survive. Well thought-out forecasts will dictate the best course for you.

If you do decide that cuts are necessary, target specifically and avoid wide-sweeping cost reduction methods. Remove your ego from the equation – that’s right, you are not expected to know it all! Knowing when to ask for help and accept advice or support is a powerful quality, both humbling and intelligent. Remember, we are experienced and here to help with specific tools and resources designed just for businesses like yours.

Positive cash flow is also the time to consider applying for lines of credit and will allow for better terms and conditions to be laid out. Take this time to also foster a relationship with your bank – you never know when you will need to count on their goodwill.

Take the time during a rough patch to beef up your core – revisit fundamentals, train staff, manage client relationships and conduct regular financial assessments. Keeping busy will help keep you focused, which is the only way to overcome the hurdles and challenges.

Bank Shopping for a Small Business

Where and how a small business owner chooses to manage their money can play an important part in the overall success of the company.

So often, entrepreneurs disregard the importance of shopping around for the right bank for the business and end up paying for it in the long run.

Understanding what services your business requires is part of Small Business Banking 101.

Common small business banking needs often include:

• Basic Services – including credit cards, savings and check accounts

• Lending Services – lines of credit, equipment and term loans

• Cash Management – wire transfers, merchant services, lockbox

• Others – payroll, superannuation, insurance, import/export, etc.

If your bank cannot offer all of the services you need, shop around. These are the bare bones of necessity and trying to operate without one or the other will be a painful process.

Talk about fees. Request a list of fee incurring services and make sure your accounting team are aware of them all. These add up!

Ask about fee bundling and compare amongst banks. Recognize your bargaining power as a new client to the bank and negotiate.

“Your business is valuable and should be viewed as such.”

Involve us in the process. Not only do we understand the things that are important to banks, we probably have good relationships with a number of your bank’s competitors!

View banking relationships as marriages – you are (with the best intentions) in this for the long haul and you want to air the dirty laundry before you make a commitment.

Go with a banker who understands your industry and has the foresight and experience to make predictions and stay ahead of the game.

Experience also leads to better crisis management and informed decision-making in heated situations.

Do the research and reach out to other bank clients if possible. Enquiring as to their sentiments regarding the handling of their accounts can shed some truthful light on an otherwise sales-pitchy-pitch by the bank.

Don’t be scared to let them know you are shopping around. Your business is valuable and should be viewed as such.

A big consideration is whether to go regional or national. There are pluses and minuses to each, weigh the benefits to your business, specifically.

Changing banks is an unwanted hassle so take time and don’t rush the process.

Leadership Styles – How to Make the Most of Them

Being an effective operations manager does not always translate into being a great leader, a common misconception in small business management.

Leadership is about creating and communicating a vision, inspiring others, teaching others and promoting a positive business model.

Operational details are one thing; human nature is a whole different ball game. A great boss inherently represents both sides of this dynamic.

Many experts agree that there are five distinct leadership styles:

• Democratic • Paternalistic • Authoritarian • Laissez-faire • Transactional

Democratic leaders promote the decision-making process as a team effort. The leader may always have the final say but group participation feeds the machine.

This form of leadership really prospers in creative and think-tank formats.

Paternalistic leadership is based on a familial style of hierarchy.  Thinking outside of the box takes a backseat here, promoting a deep dedication to the ‘father figure’ leader. Commitment and loyalty are rewarded with the comfort of job security.

“Leadership is about sharing a vision and inspiring others.”

Authoritarian leaders exploit their significance over that of the employee. Trust and creativity do not flourish in this environment however decisions are made quickly and effectively.

Consider incorporating this form of leadership in deadline stages or when pushing for proficient task completion.

Laissez-faire is all about delegation. The leader here simply allocates the resources and instruction necessary. This style leaves productivity up to the workers – when your team is highly motivated and capable, this form of leadership is prosperous.

Transactional leadership is based on reward and punishment. The relationship is one of give and take between leader and employer. Militaristic in nature, beware of killing creativity by encouraging employees to play it safe.

There is no way to determine which leadership style will work for you – the best solution is likely a mix of styles, applicable at different stages of business development. But that is not to say you should be a Jekyll and Hyde!

Recognizing an Opportunity

The saying “timing is everything” could not be more apt than when it comes to small business management.

Timing and opportunity are often what segregate successful businesses from those that flounder. A true entrepreneurial spirit is rooted in this belief.

“Stay active in the industry and up-to-date with the technology.”

Opportunity does not come dressed in a pretty package with a ribbon on top. It is often disguised as a challenge or even a plain ordinary instance.

Start by becoming a true opportunistic enterpriser:

• Always be on the lookout for demand. What do the people want and how can you give it to them in the quickest way possible?

• Tell the market what it needs and make sure the message is as widespread as possible.

• Listen up and keep your eyes open – you never know when these sneakily disguised opportunities will present themselves.

• Stay innovative, be creative and remain flexible.

• Take risks and trust your abilities.

• Value persistence, quitters never prosper!

Remaining active in the industry is also a great way to hone the skill for recognition. Surrounding yourself with other innovative and opportunistic minds fuels the fire and provides a sounding board.

Attend conferences, webinars, workshops and training sessions whenever possible. Continuing to learn and grow is part of the process.

Stay current with developments so you are never blind-sided by the industry’s growth.

View challenges and problems through a new lens. The likelihood that others are struggling with similar problems means that there may be an opportunity on the horizon!

Diversify your experiences in both professional and personal realms. This will provide you with the tools to identify patterns and parallels between seemingly unrelated industries.

Beware of the classic bad opportunity apples:

• Opportunities that seem too good to be true.

• Opportunities that others have routinely struggled with.

• Opportunities that disregard the basics.

Always consider the four qualities when assessing opportunities: attractiveness, timeliness, durability and value.