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

Source

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.

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.

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.

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.

What is the American Dream Today?

What is the American Dream Today?

What is the American dream today? If you ask most people, they will answer something about a good career, a better home, or success in all things. What most of them really mean can be said much simpler and without pretense. The American dream is more money, but it didn’t used to be.

Money didn’t used to be the American dream, but it has become the facsimile of it. This is because our country has lost itself and few remember what we once believed in.

The truth is the American dream used to be happiness, now it is money. Even those who dream of fame or power, don’t really care about either without having money to back it up. This is all true, because American is not the greatest country in the world anymore.

America isn’t the greatest country today.

This is an assertion that is made regularly by the more progressive politically active person today. This is an opinion held by both liberal and conservative persons, by men and women, even an opinion by those that are anti-government radicals and anarchists. Most hold this opinion because something has left them disillusioned with the way American treats people, enforces laws, engages in foreign policy, or the way it fails to do each of these things. In any case, the American dream has slowly been eroded in the wake of the shifting of society into socially separate and economically stratified groups that feel their separation from true power to change the United States of America. That America is not the greatest country in the world and it isn’t nearly as rich, as it once was either.

American has become a divided nation.

The real problem with the American dream today is essentially that most intelligent people are guided in how they are focused on achieving it. We have a two party system that is supposed to be representative of equality and real world representation of public opinion. In reality, the two party system is set up in such a way, that if we do not choose one of the two sides, it is nearly impossible to even have an opinion. Anything that mildly deviates from the left or the right, those views are not likely to get enough support to be represented. Ask anyone from an extremist point of view, or someone holding very middle of the road political opinions. Both these equally valid positions, simply do not have enough representatives in the population to warrant either party worry about them. Except possibly in little percentages or swing votes, and only during the elections of major importance like the presidential, or elections for the Senate and House.

Americans think great things about the United States, but they have no reason or proof that they should feel that way about America. Almost as if there were two countries simultaneously existing on top of one another.

One being America, a land whose population is made up of common people and citizens, but nobody who actually can count on the government to protect them, or even share the same country with them. The other being the United States, it is a country whose population is made up of true believers in the body political or you might call them the United Statesians, like the Romans were the true believers in the military government overlooking the Roman Empire. Americans are free but not equal to the United Statesians. Both sides of American want freedom, but both do not believe in the same way of achieving it.

One thing is true, despite these basic conflicts.

Most Americans wane nostalgic for the past. A time before television, before technology, before the Internet, and before the country had become so jaded. When the country wasn’t so scared to be politically correct or socially incorrect. If the American dream still exits, it is a dream that is rooted in somehow returning to a place of innocence. Because happiness is still the real American dream in our hearts.

 

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Faxage a leading company that provides Internet fax service for individuals and businesses.

Top 3 Business Principles For Successful Business Growth

Top 3 Business Principles For Successful Business Growth

The principles that contribute to successful growth don’t change much from small to big businesses, at least not the important ones. This is because success is primarily based on productivity. Making certain principles and practices part of your core ideals is the key, but also making them part of your daily life. These basic principles can be used by any business, as a foundation for successful growth in the long term.

Three top principles are rooted in all successful business growth. If you carry forward using these in the office, in public and even in the courtroom, you will continue to meet goals that lead to furthering success for your small or large business ventures. Take these to heart and learn to live by them.

Make Money By Spending Money

It is a traditional idea in business, but should never be forgotten. Money spending is something all businesses must do, so expect it and become comfortable with it. It is actually more important than paying the bills, because bills will not exist without putting any money at risk. A business that is thriving is constantly moving money, this is a byproduct of becoming more successful. You must invest in yourself or your company, if you expect it to flourish. Successful businesses know that investment is a huge part of their potential productivity. Without a sufficient amount of spending, a business can hardly get off the ground. Money spent wisely will build contact, open new opportunities and will reap profits. All these being products of working more productively. Every company needs to make money, every business also needs to spend money. It is a simple principle of successful economics.

Surround Yourself With Intelligence

As a company grows, so does the need to have input and recruit talent. Moving upward in the business world requires more than a few good minds to deal with the daily tasks and changes growth brings about. The people hired to cover your workload must be able to take direction, learn your business model, cross train in relevant areas for basic redundancy and think outside the box, as the company expands. Hiring people that can lead and follow is an art, all good business owners learn to read people. Your hiring process should include the idea that grooming people to stay with the company is a good thing. These people should not all be yes men or women, but people that bring ideas to the table that challenge the whole business. Being surrounded by intelligent minds is an asset that really has no price tag, it is invaluable and apparent, when nobody knows how to solve a problem. Commit to your talented employees, give them a reason to stick with your business and keep your promises as a business owner. The loyalty your actions inspire in others, create new dimensions and potentials for successful growth as a business.

Always Be Upgrading Your Resources

The essential tools to run a business are structured around what product you sell or what service you provide. Each industry has technology that is uniquely designed for the type business model it emulates. Whatever the essential tools, tech or materials are for your business productivity, never stop upgrading them. If you need a computer, always purchase another for redundancy, so breakdowns never stop production. When new technology becomes the best option, always spring for the upgrade packages. This kind of thinking will always save your business money, but also keep it state of the art. Keeping up with upgrades to materials and resources is an ongoing investment. It is also the differential line that leads small businesses into becoming bigger ones.

If you carry these principles and utilize them in your daily work, any business model is sure to be more productive. Successful business growth lends itself to companies that are consistent about how they conduct themselves. Having clear core principles helps in guiding small or large businesses in the right direction.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. She currently writes for Checkworks.com, where you can get personal checks and business checks.

How to Make Sure Your Small Business is Actually Productive

How to Make Sure Your Small Business is Actually Productive

Productivity is the secret sauce of many a successful business. No matter how great your business idea is, if the workplace is not actually productive, your company will not be making much money. Productivity for business means making as much money as per labor spent. If your employees work 9 hour days with little to show for it, then you are not making much money. So here are several essential tips for making your startup or small business more productive:

Assign Leaders

If you assign a team of people to handle a particular task or a project, make sure the team has a leader. When it comes to groups, a hierarchy is important to assign responsibility. The team leader will ensure that everyone does what they are supposed to on time. Without leadership, there will more room for members to be lazy, get into lengthy disputes, and overall be less productive. So, make sure there’s someone responsible for the project or task at hand.

Invest in Communications Software

A lot of time in offices is wasted on employees not communicating properly. Long chain emails, memos that go nowhere, and talking loudly in cubicles are all signs of lack of productivity. Companies should ensure that employees can communicate easily and quickly. So, do invest in communications software. Some, like Skype, won’t cost much money and will make communication much more accessible.

Do a Business Review

It won’t be possible for you to know how productive your small business is without doing a comprehensive review, like Global Resources Reviews. So, don’t hesitate to hire management consultants to review practices at your small business. The professionals will be able to tell you what you are doing right and what you are not doing right. A review from an outsider’s perspective would be highly beneficial to ensuring productivity as well as efficiency.

Ban Spur of the Moment Meetings

Most businesspeople are familiar with those spur of the moment, “5-minute” meetings. Such meetings do nothing but take up valuable time. It’s best to ban these meetings. Do not let employees hold meetings that have no clear purposes. If a team needs to discuss things over, it can be done via Skype or email. Let them hold meetings only when it is absolutely necessary. Discourage all other meetings that only waste time.

Have Clear Agendas for Lengthy Projects

If a project can last for months, then employees that handle the project must approach it with a clear agenda. Big tasks must be broken down into smaller ones, and there should be a team member leading various aspects of the projects. Without a clear agenda, the management of the project will be a mess, and deadlines will definitely be missed. So, make sure projects have a clearly thought out timetable so everything gets done on time.

Allow Employees to Take Breathers

Too much work can hinder productivity rather than make things better. So, if you have employees who are overburdened with work, it can take a toll on their individual productivity levels. So, do allow employees to take a breather and think clearly to be more productive afterwards.

The above tips should allow your small businesses to be more efficient and productive in the long run, and ultimately, more profitable as well.

The Product Photography Tips You Need to Know

The Product Photography Tips You Need to Know

Source

eCommerce is popular, with consumers making so many of their purchases online. It’s also simple for entrepreneurs and business owners to create their own eCommerce site within a few hours, and be ready to sell to people around the world.

There’s just one thing to consider, and that’s the photography. The product images you use on your eCommerce site are extremely important, and they’re ultimately what’s going to sway your consumer in one direction or the other, but what do you do if you’re a novice at taking product photos?

You might also want to do it all yourself, particularly if you’re on a tight budget and hiring a professional photographer just isn’t feasible for you.

There are some tips you can follow to make sure your customers are compelled to buy from you.

Show Products in Use

First and foremost, this isn’t so much a technical tip as a content tip. When you’re adding product photos to your eCommerce site, don’t just show the product in its packaging. Try to add images of it in use. For example, if you’re highlighting men’s haircare products, show it being used on men’s hairstyles.

People are visual, and it’s things like this that can help you stand out from the massive amounts of competition in the eCommerce world.

Use the Right Equipment

In the past buying a professional-quality camera might have been out of the question, but now DSLRs are getting so much more affordable. If you have an eCommerce site with a lot of items, or you plan on taking a lot of pictures, it m ay be a  justifiable expense.

Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge with a new camera, consider using something the VSCOCam app which will turn your smartphone into something ready to take a professional-quality photo.

Also, think about using a tripod, particularly if you have smaller products. You can use a tripod with a camera or your smartphone, and it can help make sure your pictures have the right depth of field.

Use a White Background

When you take product photos, you want the focus to be entirely on that photo, which is why you need a white background. Even what seems like a small detail such as a subtle texture in the background can take away from the impact of the image.

With a white sheet of paper or fabric, you can give yourself the perfect backdrop.

The Light

Finally, you’ve probably heard it before, but to get the best digital photos, you need the right light. Natural light is almost always best, and if you can use it, do it. Taking product pictures in natural light in the early afternoon tends to be best.

You want to keep shadows soft as well, which you can accomplish by taking pictures near a big window or going directly outside.

Adding a flash diffuser to your camera can also help soften the light and prevent unsightly hard shadows.

This might not be a full course on product photography, but these are some must-have tips that can get you started.

How To Turn Your Business Idea Into Successful Reality

How To Turn Your Business Idea Into Successful Reality

As a business owner I am frequently asked how someone can turn their acorn of an idea into a great success. Usually insinuations such as these I will refer them to my friend Chase Rubin, a far more successful businessman than I am and someone who loves nothing more than a challenge. On the few occasions that I do sit down with someone, I am always surprised to hear that shortly afterwards, they have decided that the world of business is not for them, and they have let their idea go. This must happen each and every day and it makes me sad to think that so many great ideas end up in the graveyard. If you ever stumble upon an idea which you think could become a success then here is what you need to do.

Attitude Adjustment

When you first have the idea you will sense excitement, shortly afterwards you will hear a number of voices in your heading telling you why it will be impossible for you to turn your idea into a business. This is not your own voices but the voices of those around you who you think will meet you with negativity. In order to turn that idea into a business, you should list the reasons which your head has told you as to why you cannot make this business work. Once you have this list, it is time to start finding the answers as to why they are wrong.

Business Plan

Once you have the answers to the doubts which you had, it is time to start formulating a business plan. This model should involve how you will make your product, how you will market it, who you will sell it to and how much money each unit will cost and make by way of profit. The ideas don’t have to be perfect and there is a lot of business help out there for you.

Finding Funding

Every business needs the sufficient funding to get it off the ground and once you have an idea for how you you will operate the business, it is time to go and look for some funding. The first place to start is the bank, they regularly offer business loans to start ups and they will not only help you financially but they will give you a business specialist who can walk you through your early stages in business.

Go Ahead And Do It

You could spend weeks, months, even years trying to work hard on preventing any problems which may occur in your business but this will only be time lost. The best approach once you have a business model and funding in place is to just go ahead and do it. Much of business is learned on the job and once you have put yourself out there in the market, you will find that you learn pretty quickly, lose the fear and go in with both feet!