Three Ways to Streamline Your Business

Three Ways to Streamline Your Business

In today’s business climate, companies large and small alike can ill-afford the excessive inefficiencies that come from poor management. There are numerous ways of reducing your company’s waste and streamlining your operations, and any areas you can identify for improvement are worth exploring. Here, we look at three of the most popular and efficient means of streamlining a business. The specific steps will depend on the type of business you run, but the broad steps outlined below are applicable to just about any kind of business.

Automation

Automation is a big part of any streamlining initiative and, as the name suggests, involves automating as many tasks as possible so that they can be completed without tying down a member of your staff and taking up valuable and unnecessary time. If you have any talented programmers on staff this is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of their skills and provide them with a new challenge. You should consider which administrative tasks your company is currently doing that could easily be done by a specially designed program; data entry tasks are always good targets for automation.

Invest in New Skills for Existing Employees

When looking at gaps in your team’s skillset, consider whether it would be more economical and a better long-term investment to train an existing employee with the necessary skills rather than hiring from the outside. An increasing number of companies are finding themselves with employees who hold degrees and other training that they are not currently deploying. Many of these employees represent a huge missed opportunity in terms of a potential pool from which an employer can draw talent.

Online degrees are a cost-effective method of investing in your staff over the long term. For example, if you are operating a relatively small business whose accounting needs are simple, you could consider selecting an employee to undertake an online masters in accounting degree. An online MSA program will equip your staff member with the necessary skills to carry out accounting for your business. Other good degrees to consider are coding and programming, which will assist in automation, as well as degrees relating to skills such as marketing that you would often have to outsource.

Make Data Work for You

Data is one of the most powerful tools modern businesses have at their disposal, allowing you to learn about your employees, your company, and your company’s performance and efficiency. Data analytics is the science of analyzing and interpreting data and while you will need to get the permission of the relevant parties to collect data on them, you should consider hiring a data analytics firm to help you identify if and how you can use data collection and analysis to your advantage. Data mining is the process of obtaining data and generally it is most efficient to do this in a passive and broad manner.

Streamlining your business needs to be part of an ongoing process of constant review and evaluation. In this way, you can build new ideas upon old ones and grow and evolve your strategy.

Starting a Consulting Service- Building Credibility

Starting a Consulting Service- Building Credibility

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In a previous article, we talked about several business ideas you can test over a weekend. There are plenty of opportunities to explore, especially in today’s growing market. Aside from developing your own mobile app and starting a service company based on market demand, you can also offer consulting services.

Aside from skills and experience, there is one crucial equity you need to jumpstart your consulting firm: credibility. Developing credibility is not something that can be done overnight, but the tips we are about to discuss in this article will help you get started right away.

Credentials

One of the first things you need to do to start developing your credibility as a consultant is gathering credentials to support your skills and expertise. You may already have certificates and degrees that back your expertise in a specific field; these are great starting points to build on.

Of course, you can also choose to pursue a higher degree in the specific field of your choice to earn more credibility. If you want to open a public relations consulting firm, for example, pursuing an online public relations degree is a good investment to make.

I said an online degree because online degrees are easier to access, more affordable, and equally valuable compared to offline degrees. Reputable universities such as George Washington University are making their online SPR program – and programs in other fields – widely accessible.

These are accredited programs, so you can rest assured knowing that your master’s degree will be just as valuable as an offline degree. In fact, online courses are usually more in line with market demands, so you will also pick up relevant new skills along the way.

Online Presence

The next important ingredient to add is an online presence. You can’t expect to reach success in today’s market without having and maintaining a strong online presence. Establishing a strong social media presence and setting up a representative website to tie everything together is something you should do as soon as possible.

We are used to searching for products and services – and other information – we need online. Potential clients will also search for your past work and other details online. With a strong and positive online presence in place, converting potential clients into paying customers will be a lot easier to do.

Happy Clients

The most important ingredient of them all, however, is a reference. Happy clients are your best marketers. They will tell others about your exceptional work, boosting your credibility to new heights while attracting more potential clients in the process.

Don’t hesitate to go the extra mile to ensure maximum client satisfaction when working on projects. The happier your clients are, the bigger the investment you make to your credibility and future success. It won’t be long before you start getting calls from friends of past clients, asking if you can help them with their projects.

Credibility is everything in the service industry, especially if you are offering consulting services. These are some of the elements you need to develop a strong credibility and achieve the success you are aiming for from the beginning.

What To Know About Entertaining Clients

What To Know About Entertaining Clients

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Entertaining clients has become standard practice for most corporations, whether those clients come to you from around the world, or you travel to them. Businesses tend to understand the value that can come with entertaining clients, including completing deals and fostering stronger relationships. At the same time, it can be tricky to master some of the ins and outs of these scenarios.

There are things to consider such as how to manage technicalities like business expense receipt submission, to what would be considered professional in an out-of-the-office situation.

The following is a general rundown of what to know about entertaining clients in any industry.

Documenting Expenses

While many large corporations do have a good deal of client entertainment and outside meals happening, they might also experience fraud or inefficiency when it comes to documenting expenses. This can be avoided with a modern expense management software solution, which will not just make it easier for employees to keep track of their expenses, but it will also simplify oversight and create visibility and transparency.

If anyone in your organization is responsible for entertaining clients, a comprehensive expense reporting solution should absolutely be in place.

This eliminates the gray area that can come with using company cards, submitting receipts and defining things such as the reason for the meeting.

It’s also important that along with using a software solution, corporations have a well-defined policy in place for managing expenses and entertaining clients.

Keep It On Track

When employees are entertaining, it’s important that they keep the conversation on track with the business at-hand. There are IRS guidelines in place stipulating that entertaining has to be directly related to business.

While this can get really murky, as an employer you have to be firm on this for your own tax-related purposes, and also to make sure you avoid fraud when your employees invite clients for meals.

In general, only 50 percent of an entertainment-based meal is deductible according to the IRS, although this might not always be the case.

Remain Professional

This might seem obvious, but all-too-often employees will start to think entertaining clients is synonymous with party time. They may be drinking too much or be too loose-lipped, and not only can that be problematic for your company’s reputation, but it can distract from the business that’s supposed to be going on, and can lead to even bigger problems for example if your employee starts to become inappropriate.

It’s important that you train employees on how to maintain a strict sense of professionalism so that lines don’t become blurred when they’re out with employees.

Above all else, your goals as a corporation when you have employees responsible for entertaining clients to ensure that a system is set up to prevent fraud and abuse, and also keep costs in check. There should be precisely defined guidelines for spending, and you should encourage employees to stick with policies through the use of expense reporting software. It’s also important that clients are well-trained on what’s appropriate and what isn’t, both regarding spending and reporting, and also behavior when they’re representing your company.

3 Business Ideas You Can Test This Weekend

3 Business Ideas You Can Test This Weekend

Starting a business can be a scary venture. Many (falsely) believe that you need a boatload of cash before you can get off the ground running.

That might have been true back in the day, when brick and mortar businesses typically required lots of high upfront capital.

Nowadays, especially with the internet, starting a business is actually easier and less risky than ever. It’s so easy, in fact, that you can actually test your business idea in a weekend.

Below are 3 business ideas that you can use to do just that.

Service Business

Service businesses are the easiest to start and are perfect for those just testing the entrepreneurial waters. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be the best at something to start a business – you just have to do the job well enough to serve others.

There are a ton of service businesses that you can start based on skills you already possess.

Do you own a home? Do you mow your own lawn? If so, you could probably start a lawn care business. Do you fix your own appliances when things go awry? Perhaps a handyman business would work for you.

A few other examples here would be teaching others guitar, tutoring high school or college students in math, or maybe providing home-cooked meals to busy parents.

Once you decide on an idea that works for you, then you can test it out this weekend by simply calling or texting family members, friends, or coworkers and asking if they would be willing to pay for your services. If they are, congratulations! You just validated your service business and can start thinking longer term.

Mobile Apps

Another possible business idea for you to test this weekend is a mobile app. If you or someone you know has a problem that you think could be solved by software, specifically on a mobile phone, then you may want to pursue it.

You could go through the process of determining app development costs and planning out the full blown app, but that would probably take longer than a weekend.

Instead, you could just create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

An MVP could be a pen and paper sketch, or a small-scale, but workable raw version of the app itself. Once you have something tangible, show it to anyone you think might be interested. If you can get them to pay you ahead of time, you know you have an idea that could work. Then, time to pursue further!

Consulting

Last but not least, if you possess some knowledge on a topic or have your own process for something, you can teach others how to do the same.

For example, let’s say at your day job that you have a ton of experience hiring new talent. You could start a consulting business based on that.

Or perhaps you became internet savvy and figured out how to build a large email list, you could absolutely consult about that.

There is a vast array of topics people are willing to pay money to learn, and the bottom line is you just need to pick one that fits your skillsets.

Time to Test

You just learned about 3 different business ideas that wouldn’t take long to try out this weekend. What’s your upcoming calendar look like? If you don’t already have plans, there’s no better time than now to take your knowledge or skills and test the waters.

Choosing A Coordinate Measuring Machine Manufacturer

Choosing A Coordinate Measuring Machine Manufacturer

When your shop needs a new coordinate measuring machine, it can be daunting finding the one that’s right for your processes. Given the fact that these can be a major investment, it’s important that you get it right. Because of the durability of a coordinate measuring machine, it’s also a decision that you’re going to have to live with for years, even decades, to come. There’s little room for error and you need to know that a machine will be both mechanically reliable and deliver the accuracy that you need to deliver quality products. The first step is learning about the leading metrology manufacturers in the world:

Hexagon – Hexagon is one of the biggest manufacturers of coordinate measuring machines and metrology equipment in the world, responsible for brands like Brown & Sharpe, Sheffield, Leitz, DEA, Leica, and ROMER. When it comes to new metrology equipment, Hexagon and its many brands are reliable, accurate, and long-lasting. You can find Hexagon coordinate measuring machines from metrology shops like Canadian Measurement-Metrology, a.k.a. CMM, a company that can take care of your quality assurance needs from start to finish.

Mitutoyo – This Japanese company is known for its older coordinate measuring machines, such Bright models, which last for decades and are mechanically reliable. They can easily be upgraded with new Renishaw PH20 probes and better software if you buy used from a metrology dealer.

Zeiss – Zeiss offers a number of high accuracy coordinate measuring machines that can be found used at competitive prices from the right dealer, such as the Zeiss Prismo Navigator, which runs on Calypso software. Zeiss began as an optics workshop in 1846 and has since become a leading global metrology manufacturer.

Leica – Leica, an optics company that also manufactures cameras, is responsible for bringing the manufacturing world laser trackers that deliver high-precision reports and speeds of 1000 points per second. Laser trackers play an important role in any quality assurance department for large components, sheet metal, or complex geometry that requires you to reliably collect a large quantity of data.

The first thing you need to learn about CMM machine manufacturers is that you can’t start with the price, you have to begin by looking at the kind of work you’re going to be doing. The machine has to meet your tolerance requirements and provide enough speed to keep your shop productive and meeting deadlines. If you can’t find the coordinate measuring machine you want, a dealer like CMM can typically procure one. They will also fully inspect any machine that they resell and refurbish it as needed, so that it’s fully functional when it arrives on your shop floor. A used coordinate measuring machine can save you up to half the cost of a new one, and when you work with a dealer, you’re given a guarantee that it will be operate to specifications or better. Don’t get caught with a bad deal from an auction, or overpay when you can get a fully-functional used machine for less.

What You Need to Know About Starting a Real Estate Business

What You Need to Know About Starting a Real Estate Business

If you enjoy selling real estate, then you already understand the types of profits you can make. Yet, it can be difficult to split your profits with several agents.

It can be such a disappointment when you hear you are receiving a $300,000 commission but splitting it with five other agents. Now, you are still getting a nice payment, but only a fifth of the full amount. Plus, you have to deal with the personalities of four other agents who probably think they know the best way to sell the house. It can be chaotic.

This is why successful real estate investors choose to own their own brokerage to help structure real estate investments in the best way they see fit.

Start with Saving

You will need money to open and run a business. Items to consider include:

  • Renting or buying a space
  • Website design
  • Logo design
  • Insurance
  • Office signs

Financing

Then, you need enough money set aside to cover operating costs. If you want your business to succeed, you need to keep the lights on and the Internet working. You also need your phones to work.

Moreover, if you plan on hiring anyone, you need to have enough one hand to pay their salaries for several months until the sales start coming in.

Legal Configuration

You want to ensure your business is a business. This all depends on what type of tax status you need. In general, many real estate brokerages are set up as LLCs. This means owners can legally separate themselves from liability and increase protection over personal property and finances if ever faced with a lawsuit.

It’s not difficult to create an LLC.

All you need to do is file articles of incorporation with state agencies and ensure your company maintains good standing. Nonetheless, it helps to seek out the advice of an attorney who specializes in real estate issues.

You may also want to discuss your plans with a financial advisor to ensure you are spending your money wisely.

Marketing

You also must decide how you will get leads. You need a plan that will keep your inbox filled and your phone ringing. If you don’t have leads, your business will dissipate rather quickly. So, you must have a marketing plan and a marketing budget.

Even if it’s a few reams of flyers, you must start advertising. Some strategies work better than others. The point is: you need to make money to stay in business.

Hiring

Now that you have a real estate business, you need to hire agents to bring in multiple streams of income. Who you hire depends on what type of business you can attract. The best agents will work for firms with the potential for many good leads. So, it is your job to provide that. Easier said than done, but it is necessary for getting the best agents available.

In Conclusion

Starting a real estate brokerage is a good idea for seasoned agents with a plan for success. Huge profits won’t come in overnight, but they will happen with the right strategy and implementation.

How Artificial Intelligence Benefits All Areas of Business

How Artificial Intelligence Benefits All Areas of Business

The use of artificial intelligence is on the rise, and there is no reason to fear it. Businesses of any industry and size can benefit from artificial intelligence. It can be used to monitor employee information, to implement instant compliance with local, state and federal regulations as well as track any changes.

Plus, the user interfaces are becoming even more intuitive with the utilization of cross-platform browser-based HMIs that can quickly facilitate the process of web-based IoT. In an age where driving efficiencies is the norm, your business can’t stand to operate without artificial intelligence.

Provide Virtual Assistance

Many of us have already experienced virtual assistance through our mobile devices and systems such as Amazon’s Echo. Artificial intelligence is slowly gaining more prominence into our everyday lives. And, it is available right at our fingertips.

Then, there are the chatbots popping up everywhere to provide us with 24/7 customer service and answers to our less complicated questions. In terms of customer service, your organization can save a lot of money on salaries and benefits just by implementing chatbots.

Analyze data

In a world overwhelmed with big data, it would be too difficult to get through all of that information manually. We have access to an infinite amount of data, but that data needs to be mined and analyzed to be useful.

It needs to be compressed into digestible forms. It’s hard to look at the big picture when information is not organized and categorized. Artificial intelligence is already in use that can turn raw data into power point presentations.

Moreover, you can use artificial intelligence to make sense of customer data, financial statements, health records and more. Now, you have something working in the background to give you a 360-degree overview of all of the types of data important for your business.

Remove Costly and Time-Consuming Manual Processes

Computers can be taught to do just about anything from driving cars to cleaning our floors. Instead of employing people to perform time-consuming and repeatable tasks, artificial intelligence can be used to automate manual processes. As a result, your company saves both time and money.

In addition, artificial intelligence can learn on its own. As you implement new processes, you won’t have to worry about spending time and resources on training.

In Conclusion

Artificial intelligence can be used for everything from automation to analytics, marketing, financial processing, customer service and more. Think of the old Star Trek movies where computers had minds of their own. This is exactly how artificial intelligence works.

It reduces human error and increases the speed for every process. Some believe that fewer than 30 percent of Americans will drive and own cars in 25 years.

As it stands, people are increasingly using shared ride services too. Artificial intelligence will make us faster, more accurate and more competitive. There is nothing to be afraid of as we can simply use it to our benefit. You no longer have to spend time training for repeatable tasks.

This is why artificial intelligence is here to stay.

Servicing, Installations, and Repairs of Lab Equipment

Servicing, Installations, and Repairs of Lab Equipment

It is essential to make sure a medical laboratory operates properly, and this means maintenance and repair has to be performed regularly. Luckily, pass boxes manufacturers generally ensure that they follow all the necessary service contracts, which includes installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement.

When Service Is Consistent, Functioning Is Flawless

Generally speaking, a manufacturer of laboratory equipment will make sure that their service is consistent. This includes easy installation and scheduled maintenance periods, as well as repair solutions for any instruments they offer. This includes the pass through boxes, which are vital components of laboratories where technicians work with hazardous materials, or materials that must remain free from contaminants.

It is vital that you look into this, however. You must make sure that your manufacturer works with trained and experienced technicians, who have an understanding not just of your pass boxes, but also of the conditions within your laboratory. This is also due to the fact that they will have to enter sterile environments themselves. The goal must be that you have a device that functions as new at all times.

To achieve this, technicians should make sure they can maintain and repair your devices in various different situations. They must be able to respond to any inaccuracies by reconditioning the device if applicable, by disassembling it and identifying and replacing the parts at fault, by inspecting the device in its entirety and more. They must also be able to decontaminate the device after they have worked on it, strictly sticking to any relevant rule. Sometimes, they will have to remove your device from site and return it once it is reconditioned, which means they also have to have extensive knowledge of shipping and handling procedures. Last but not least, they make sure that all the relevant standards, regulations, and codes are being adhered to, meaning they must always keep their regulatory knowledge up to date as well.

The Key Advantages of Regular Services

When you professionally and regularly have your equipment serviced, maintained, and repaired, you will access a number of key benefits. Those include:

  • Being proactive by engaging in preventative maintenance.
  • That repairs and service can generally be done on site.
  • That you can sign up to a contract for a set period of time.
  • That solutions will be offered promptly and in a reliable manner.
  • That only professionals service and repair your devices.
  • That the technicians will be able to retrain you on any new configurations.
  • That you will have ongoing support.
  • That you will always have functioning equipment.

Why You Should Stick to Reliable Suppliers

Because we live in an online world, everything is now available through digital providers. The problem with this is that it can be difficult to determine whether or not a supplier is of good quality. You must take the time, therefore, to compare what is available so that you know that you can count on your equipment to function properly at all times. After all, this is of vital importance in a lab environment.

The Success of Your Organization Relies on How Others See You

The Success of Your Organization Relies on How Others See You

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Your online reputation is your greatest asset, and it must be managed properly. This is a full-time job, and one for which you should enlist the services of an online reputation management company so that it is done right. They will ensure that you always look positive when your prospective and existing customers search for you.

What Does a Reputation Management Company Do?

An online reputation management will focus on your business, brand, or on you, making sure that you look good. They do this by highlighting the positive while at the same time pushing back the negative. Doing this offers a number of key benefits, but the greatest benefit is that you will always appear in a positive light, which in turn attracts more custom to your website.

How Does a Reputation Management Company Do This?

There is a reason why reputation management is a full-time job. The company you hire will:

  • Set up alerts so that they know whenever something new, good or bad, is posted about you.
  • Engage in SEO (search engine optimization) tactics so that all the positive postings about you are found on the first page of google.
  • Engage in reverse SEO to ensure that any negative postings are pushed back to the third page of Google or further.
  • Respond to those negative comments that cannot be pushed back so that customers continue to see you in a positive light.
  • Attempt to have libelous criticism removed or de-indexed.

As you can see, online reputation management is quite a complex technological field. This is another reason why you should bring in the professionals. Unless your own business is a reputation management business, or you have some personal skills in digital marketing, you simply won’t know what to do. And even if you do, you are likely to be too busy running your business to also take on this task.

So why not simply hire a member of staff to deal with this? There are several reasons for this, but the main one is one of cost. The internet changes at lightning speed. Did you know, for instance, that Google changes its search algorithm just over once every day? While not all of these changes are major, they do all matter. Staying up to date with that requires a significant investment in training. Not just that, but if you have a single member of staff on board to manage your reputation, what would you do if they were off sick or even went on vacation? Your reputation is not something that can wait until tomorrow, but rather something that must be monitored at all times.

By working together with a reputation management company, they ensure a highly trained individual will monitor your online position around the clock. They are responsible for their training and for their replacement should they be absent for whatever reason. Yes, you do have to pay them for this. If you don’t, however, the overall cost doesn’t come anywhere near what it would cost you to lose your business, and that is a very real possibility.

How to Stop the Common Innovation Mistakes from Occurring

How to Stop the Common Innovation Mistakes from Occurring

Implementing innovation is necessary across all organizations. Getting it right, however, is a lot more difficult. There are some very common mistakes made with innovation management software SaaS tools, but these are mistakes that can be avoided. By building your awareness of them, you may be able to not fall into their traps either.

Two Key Mistakes

There are two key mistakes that almost everybody makes when it comes to innovation:

  1. They think they know what problems their customers have that need to be solved.
  2. They immediately try to solve the problem.

If you think that there is a problem that your customers have, you need to find out whether you are right about that. Do not, ever, make any assumptions. Speak to your customers, listen to them, and conduct proper research. You may be surprised to find that what you believed was a problem is not a problem at all. Or, at the opposite of the spectrum, that the problem you had identified is just the tip of the iceberg. Either way, it is likely that once you truly know what the problems your customers are facing are, you will have to move in a completely different direction in terms of idea generation.

The second mistake is that we are all far too solution-driven. Naturally, the ultimate goal is to solve problems, but because of our drive, we take the wrong approach to this. Most notably, when one of us believes that we have found a solution, we think it is the only thing that will work. We love our own solutions. We forget that the goal was not for us to take the glory with a solution, the goal was to solve a problem. It is hard to make that distinction, but it essentially means that you let go of your solution and allow others to tinker with it, until it actually becomes something that works – and that is not necessarily attributed to you.

How to Avoid Mistakes

Keys to avoiding these types of mistake from happening are:

  1. Make sure that everything you do is customer-centric. You don’t need to force the newest craze or coolest technology onto your customer if they are not interested in it. Rather, you must identify their problems and frustrations, and resolve those, together.
  2. Never, ever, assume anything. You must head out onto the streets, speak to your actual customers, listen to what they have to say, and don’t go into defensive mode. You are there to find out what it is that they need, so that you can find a way to offer them exactly that.
  3. Do not go into solutions mode. Come up with possible solutions and then open source them. Crowdsourcing software can help with that, whereby everybody collectively takes ownership of an idea.
  4. Don’t implement a possible solution until you have gone back to your customer and spoke to them. In fact, involve them in your overall innovation process.