Smarter Offices: Tips to Automate and Update Your Workplace

What is your organization willing to do for a more efficient workforce? You can’t log on to the internet without seeing the impact of chatbots, AI or the Internet of Things (IoT) that make our devices and appliances even smarter. Some corporations are issuing Segways and microchipping employees to provide easier access to everything from building entry to snacks. Let’s take a look at what else is in store for the future.

Smart Offices Are Among Us

With technology that once seemed only the purview of sci-fi flicks, modern gadgets are now replacing the physical boundaries of traditional business with virtual pathways and surprising innovations. This phenomenon extends past the physical barriers between your company’s employees and clients; it encompasses solutions from the use of convenient websites with helpful chatbots to incorporating tech in the physical equipment of your office.

Check out these examples of a smart office:

  • Internet of Things: IoT is a network concept that can power your office with smart lights, virtual reality cameras, thermostats, speakers, and other tools to help employees feel more comfortable and concentrate better on work, even from remote locations.
  • Interconnectivity: Smart devices like relays, dimmers, and smart switches can be set up to power the office efficiently and conserve energy. Sensors detect and control UV light, temperature, and ambient light levels to operate smart windows that keep out radiation while maximizing natural light. Apps activated from wearable tech can provide instant access to Slack and similar communication-and-convenience apps so employees can order snacks or coffee from their desks.
  • Machine learning: Knowledge management and leadership tools area already taking advantage of machine learning. You can seamlessly integrate technologies that automate meeting management, file management, and interoffice communications. Employees can answer emails in a fraction of the normal time with accurate voice-to-text tools and explore other ways tech can help them concentrate on the tasks at hand.

Tech for Employees

Whether employees are looking for easier commutes or sitting/standing desks for a healthier workplace experience, there’s plenty of tech available to help make it happen. Check it out:

  • The use of standing desks and sitting/standing desks is gaining momentum in the office. When you alternate standing and sitting, you avoid back pain and remain more alert throughout the day. GeekDesk, Uplift Desk, UpDesk, VariDesk, and Humanscale are models that help employees stay healthy and productive.
  • Self-driving vehicles, like the Tesla Autopilot, are already out there. However, Volkswagen has announced plans to roll on autonomous vehicles on a much larger scale. Starting the workday while still on the commute could eliminate lost hours on the road and allow for fewer hours in the office.
  • Modern offices feature open, inviting spaces that put dark cubicles in the past where they belong and encourage collaboration and productivity.
  • Millennials and Generation Z are children of the digital era who love working with cool gadgets, like taking calls with Echo Dot, a compact speaker that connects to Google’s Alexa voice control. This kind of connectivity can help your youngest workers avoid the stress of unplugging that many of their generation suffer.
  • These young workers also use digital apps to address any task they can — for instance, calculating taxes via smartphone, warming or cooling homes remotely, or feeding pets long-distance. Make sure you’re offering digital options available to shorten workers’ wait times and to-do lists in the office.
  • Smart tools can also prevent repetitive stress injuries that cause carpal tunnel and similar conditions. Voice-activated gadgets and voice-to-text functionality embedded in office applications help reduce the amount of typing needed and give fingers a break.
  • Technology has changed conference and boardrooms, too. Many companies have implemented AI tech for conferencing that orders the tech needed for a video call with colleagues around the world, or for webinars with clients. These smart systems are self-diagnostic and can report any issues they’re experiencing as well as collect data to streamline future operations. Amazon’s Alexa for Business is a forerunner in this area, but future applications will enable workers to multitask through voice or typed commands to connect to digital tools seamlessly.

Tech for Customers

Customer and client applications will greatly benefit from the latest tech, too.

  • Customer service and client communication will also benefit from new technologies. Chromecast and Apple TV, small network appliances that can receive digital data from multiple sources, are already ideal for conferences and PowerPoint presentations. Zoom is a video call tool that only requires a 9-digit number to join.
  • Chatbots improve customers’ experience by answering simple questions on demand, collecting client information to offer personalized recommendations, and providing expanded pathways for marketing and sales.
  • Three Square Market administrates mini-markets in hospitals, hotels, and businesses. To use the market, customers have microchips implanted under their skin, which allow them to make purchases with the swipe of a finger.

Smart office tech still comes with a large price tag; however, those costs can be expected to come down, thanks to economies of scale, as more businesses join the movement. With Generation Z and millennials becoming increasingly dominant players in business and commerce, most of these trends aren’t just likely to become widely adopted — they’re inevitable. Get a head start now on improving employee and customer experiences through smart tech, and you’ll find your business in a position to thrive in the future.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of www.BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.

 

Is There Truth to the Morning Routines of the Successful?

Most of us have a similar morning routine— we brush our teeth, have a cup of coffee, get dressed and head out to the office. Or do we? Is there something that the ultra-successful entrepreneurs do in the morning that is vastly different from the rest of us? Do successful people have a specific morning routine that has helped them realize their goals? Read on to find out if a “success morning routine” is valid or is just a hoax.

Earlier Wake Up Times

Benjamin Spall of New York Times interviewed 300 successful people over a span of 5 years to see what they do in the morning that sets them apart from everyone else. He was not able to find a “secret formula” that led to prosperity with absolute certainty, but did did discover certain practices that successful people tended to focus on in the mornings.

The author found that the majority of the people set their alarms every morning depending on where and when they have to be. A common practice for the rest of us is to wake up as late as possible to get to work on time, but the ultra-successful have a different understanding of when they need to start their day.

He found that the average wake up time for those that he interviewed was 6:27AM, but most of the people experimented with the time that would work best for them. Give yourself a month and try waking up an hour and a half, an hour and 30 minutes before your usual time to see if you can give yourself extra time in the morning to start your day better. Perhaps, if you’re not rushing and are more prepared for your day, you will also be more successful.

Start the Day Off with a Preferred Activity

Although you may not be a morning person and hate the rush at the start of the day, successful people reinvented their mornings to better suit their needs, according to Spall. They tend to give themselves enough time to start the day with an activity that they enjoy—this can involve meditation, exercise or simply quietly reading a book.

If you begin the day was something that you enjoy, you will likely be in a better mood and better prepared to tackle the challenges of the rest of the day as well.

Have a Family Breakfast

Forbes magazine reports that the ultra-successful make time to have daily breakfast together with their loved ones. Doing so helps them distress and start the day surrounded by people that they love.

Plus, sitting down for breakfast tends to lead to healthier diet choices rather than grabbing a muffin or a breakfast sandwich on the way to work. And, nobody needs to be told about the importance of a healthy breakfast at the beginning of the day.

Create a To-Do List

It may come as no surprise that successful people know how to set and achieve their goals. A common practice for them is to create a to-do list first thing in the morning when they get to the office. This helps them to prioritize the most important tasks, and dedicate enough time to them to make sure that they are completed by deadline.

Although there’s no blueprint for an AM routine which will help you get ahead, giving yourself more time in the morning to do something that you enjoy with others that you love and setting daily goals will definitely help you become happier and more productive, which is the ultimate definition of success.

Inspired to make more changes toward success? Check out our list of FREE resources. Smart Sheets are Excel based spreadsheets that allow simple data to transform for visualized business analysis. Use these along with our Business Guides to help you run your small business like a pro!

 

How to Build Up a Powerful Marketing Campaign

What does a marketing campaign have to be so that we call it powerful? Some people would say that it has to “get the job done,” e.g. – sell a product or service as well as the marketer himself anticipated. While it is true that a powerful marketing campaign paints the product in the best possible light, there is so much more to it.

A powerful marketing campaign evokes emotions. It stimulates comments, as well as etching itself into the memory of people who are targeted by it. How can you achieve all this with only one campaign? It’s a multi-step process, and you can easily master it with the following tips.

Think about what’s wrong with your existing strategy

Starting from scratch is easier said than done, so it’s always better to start with a thorough assessment of your current strategy. How long have you been implementing it? Are you satisfied?

To get the best “viewpoint,” write down ten things that are working and ten things that are not. Separating functional from non-functional elements will make each of the next moves much easier to orchestrate.

As you analyze the strategy, you will know what good things to keep and repeat and which segments are unfit for your goals. Speaking about goals – how much time do you devote to creating them?

Set realistic goals

There are no better key performance indicators (KPIs) than clearly-defined and achievable goals. Think about what you want to achieve with your marketing campaign. Do you want to set the groundwork for the launch of a new product? Do you want to increase customer loyalty? Setting goals can be easily separated into the following steps.

  1. Separate bigger goals into smaller sub-goals.
  2. Write a project brief or outsource it using writing services.
  3. Assign every single segment of a goal to the team member you believe will execute it the best.
  4. Cross off goals that you have accomplished. The mere visual representation of what you managed to do is the best motivation!

Never set a goal if you’re unsure you can achieve it. Funneling time and resources into unattainable plans will derail your marketing campaign before it even started. Be careful.

Know your audience

When building up a powerful marketing campaign, efficiency is the most important factor. This requires knowing exactly what kind of people might be interested in your products or service.

Each platform contains a unique group of individuals that just might be your next customer. By monitoring the data that you receive from previous campaigns, you can map out a detailed buyer persona.

Who is your average buyer? How old are they? Do they like videos or infographics more? There must not be any questions left unanswered if you wish to create a powerful marketing campaign. By knowing your audience, you will ensure that they will take an interest in your brand, signaling the beginning of a relationship.

You will also benefit greatly in a financial sense, as well. 77% of all email marketing ROI comes from campaigns that were previously segmented. Choosing the target and hitting it is the key.

Don’t follow trends, set them

Following trends is integral when building up a powerful marketing campaign. Knowing what’s popular and what’s not can give your campaign shape. But, do you always want to be a follower? A really powerful marketing campaign starts a trend and makes it one with the brand.

Take this GE campaign as an example. GE first invited influencers on a tour of their company, with a goal to show that their business isn’t as dull as it seems.

Soon, people caught onto the hashtag and started posting their own images. Just like that, GE started a trend. People observed what they did and started doing the same. Overall, this GE campaign resulted in:

  • 8 million views of their Instagram profile
  • 3 million outreach per each tour
  • 000+ new followers

Setting the trend doesn’t require you to change the world. Think of something new that might catch on and your campaign will be truly powerful. The best way to achieve this is by using content.

Reinforce every product and service with content

The most powerful campaigns aren’t the ones that only focus on selling. Instead, they are executed to spread awareness and focus on both short-term and long-term goals. To add identity to your marketing campaign, you have to reinforce it with content. What should you watch out for?

  • Be versatile. Don’t be afraid to switch it up. Post more than just text. Make videos, infographics, and even animations to engage your audience.
  • Think about the most common problems of your target audience. Write blog posts that relate to these problems specifically and address them in a helpful, but determined manner.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource. Use tools such as xpertwriters.com to order custom content. Outsourcing content serves two purposes. It decreases the overall workload of your team, and it gives you an example for future reference.

Look for collaborators

Why not make your powerful marketing campaign a joint effort? The most powerful campaigns are conducted on multiple channels, which is mainly due to collaborations.

Think about all the prominent bloggers and influencers in your niche. Collaborate with them! Guest post on their website, interview them and promote them as they promote you.

When people see that you are connected within your niche, it will automatically give you marketing campaign credibility. In addition to this, sites more popular than yours will cause an influx of new potential customers. You will have traffic coming from many different sources, causing your brand to truly branch out in terms of online presence.

Be consistent with your content marketing strategy

As you create a myriad of content to help you market your brand, it’s important that you don’t stop. If you post content on a regular basis, people will start looking at your blog/website as a reliable source of information. This will lead to much higher customer retention and improve your brand’s performance across the board.

Plan in advance for different types of content and analyze everything you can. If you’re short on inspiration, you can always draw ideas from your past posts. Expand on a certain detail or even transform them completely. Turn an old blog into a new podcast or a wall of text into a fun infographic. The opportunities are endless.

Concluding thoughts

A powerful marketing campaign is all about being determined and willing to think outside the box. Remember to segment your audience, be consistent and always set new realistic goals. One bout of success will influence the future of your brand, giving you the opportunity to make even more powerful marketing campaigns.

Guest Post: About the Author 

Alexandra Reay has been working as a journalist and editor in one of the finest Melbourne publishing agencies for 3 years. She is also a professional content writer who prefers to do research on the following topics – self-improvement, technology innovations, global education development ets. Feel free to contact her at Twitter.

5 Tips for Better Inventory Management

There are dozens of ways to improve your inventory management. In this article, we have five important tips for establishing you beginning of year inventory so that you can report your taxes correctly.

The Internal Revenue Service requires you to value your inventory at year’s end so that you can determine your cost of goods sold, or COGSs, gross profits and taxable income. The IRS assumes your beginning inventory for one year is equal to the ending inventory of the previous year — if it isn’t, you must tell the IRS why. To prepare your tax returns, you need to establish your year-end inventory value, either by taking physical counts or by using an estimation method approved by the IRS.

Tip 1 – Prepare for Inventory Count

If you establish your inventory value through a physical count, your preparations depend on how you keep inventory records. If you use an automated inventory management system, you can quickly switch from normal operations to inventory counting in the waning days of the year. Paper-based inventory systems are inherently slower and require you to have stationary inventory before beginning to count. You might need to freeze paperwork, receiving, manufacturing, purchasing and shipping several days before year-end to ensure that no inventory moves into or out of your storage area during the count.

Tip 2 – Count Your Inventory Efficiently

If your inventory is small, counting by hand might suffice. However, many companies use devices such as barcode readers and radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to speed the process. RFID readers count inventory by receiving electronic transmissions — they do not require line-of-sight access to inventory. Even if you maintain a perpetual inventory system, you can still choose to take a year-end count. This allows you to adjust your inventory value to match the information you collect, and helps detect shrinkage, damage and other problems. The IRS requires you to take a physical inventory at “reasonable” intervals to ensure accuracy.

Tip 3 – Use the Perpetual Inventory Method

The IRS allows you to use avoid year-end counting in two ways — perpetual inventory and the retail method. A perpetual inventory system immediately captures the receipt, movement and sale of inventory, relying on inventory tracking technology and an automated inventory management system. The IRS requires your perpetual inventory system to record the actual cost of inventory you buy, produce, use, transfer or sell. Your ending inventory must also reflect the value of beginning inventory.

Tip 4 – Consider the Retail Method

The IRS permits you to estimate ending inventory, and thus next year’s beginning inventory, via the retail method. To apply the method, you must calculate a cost-to-price ratio for goods you sell. You apply this ratio to sales revenue to determine your COGS. Subtract COGS from the sum of beginning inventory and the cost inventory acquired during the year. The result is your ending inventory cost. If you sell different classes of goods — the normal situation for many retail stores — you should calculate a cost-to-price ratio for each separate class and track acquisitions and sales by class.

Tip 5 – Expand Your Inventory

If you want to grow your company, try expanding your inventory through a business loan. This will allow you to purchase more inventory and more storage space in support of expanded sales. If you can efficiently manage an inventory of X size, the jump to 1.5X or 2X should not present insurmountable problems, and in return you can expand your sales revenues without a proportional increase in operational costs, due to economies of scale. Contact IOU Financial to arrange an inventory loan and watch your bottom line grow!

 

10 Onboarding Kit Ideas to Make Your New Employees Feel Welcome

So, you’ve hired some new team members, but how do you give them the warmest possible welcome? For many smart companies, the answer is to shower them with branded swag on day one! And it’s not a bad strategy—surprising new hires with welcome kits is a great way to instill company pride from the get-go and to encourage a positive work environment. As long as you make it creative, personal, useful and (perhaps most important) welcoming, you can be sure your brand-new co-worker will be glad he or she took the leap to join your organization. Here are some awesome onboarding kit ideas to make new hires feel right at home.

Include Something Personal

No matter how many logo hoodies, pens and sunglasses you throw into a given kit, nothing says “we’re glad you’re here” quite like a personalized note. Before the first day, pass around a welcome sign or card to the entire team to sign, with personalized notes, signatures and tips for brand-new hires. If you already know a little something about the newbie—maybe she’s an athlete, a music lover or a foodie—try to tailor a goodie bag to suit her personality.

Include Something They Can Wear

At the end of the day, employees are representatives of your brand. And if they believe in it, they will share it with everyone they love, acting as natural (and free) promoters. Thus, keeping employees proud and happy is key to solidifying a good Glassdoor review and reputation within the industry or community. Allow new hires to show their company pride with an onboarding kit that includes promotional apparel, like custom hoodies and tees.

Include Something That’s Useful

What do the welcome kits of the most forward-thinking companies have in common? Uber, Randstad, Facebook, IBM and eBay all give new employees the same single piece of branded swag: a branded notebook. The truth is that logo items simply get more use when they’re useful, so you can trust that they’ll stay in the game for years to come. Consider adding custom mouse pads, pens, planners and sticky notes to your onboarding kit for a practical appeal.

Include Something They Can Eat

You’ll be the onboarding hero if you add something sweet to your welcome kits! The idea is to pair valuable, branded items like apparel with affordable yet crowd-pleasing extras, such as candy, beverages and snacks. If your new set of hires has relocated for the position, make sure to give your onboarding kit a local flair with regional sweets and treats that welcome employees to the area and your company.

Include Something You Sell

If you have the ability to give every single employee your best-selling product or service, do so. This is more than just a perk for new hires; it’s also a way for them to get acquainted with the things they’ll be working with or using every day and to provide real, usable advice to potential customers, family and friends. Of course, if your service is an intangible—such as software or an app—be sure to offer all new hires the premium or top-tier version for personal and work use for free.

Include Something They Can Share

Again, your employees serve not only as the scaffolding of your business, but also as promoters and believers of what you do. In this spirit, it helps if you encourage your new hires to spread the word about your business with their closest family, friends and colleagues, and they’ll be much more likely to do this if they can hand out stickers, pens or buttons. Be sure that you don’t put pressure on this (especially if promotion isn’t their job), but simply mention that sharing is caring!

Include Something to Carry it All in

If you love the idea of creating a super neat, self-contained welcome kit for new employees, consider tying it all up in a pretty little package that serves dual purposes, like a custom promotional bag. These carry-alls serve as personalized gift bags and swag in their own right, so they’re pretty much guaranteed to check all your branding and welcoming boxes! Opt for something you know will get use, like a custom tote bag, drawstring bag or backpack.

Include Something in Your Company’s Spirit

Don’t choose onboarding kit items at random. Piece together swag and gifts that celebrate the essence and vibe of your company. Say, for example, your company is a fitness tracking app. Your employees will surely be interested in staying fit, so consider welcoming them with company water bottles. If your company is all about the high-tech, then a custom wireless speaker is a great option. All about the cool factor? Obviously, it’s got to be custom sunglasses!

Include Something Industry-Specific

Not everything in your welcome kit needs to be branded. Mixing in useful, iconic and industry-specific extras will give your swag kits a big-picture feel, helping to honor the history or importance of your work. For example, a limited-edition version of a significant book—Gray’s Anatomy for medical pros, The Elements of Style for writers, etc.—will always delight passionate employees!

Include Cool Finishing Touches

The devil’s in the details, as they say! Some of the most memorable and unique onboarding kits we’ve seen perfectly honor a brand’s spirit with special unboxing experiences, beautiful packaging and messaging and colors that honor a company’s branding and culture. Tie it all together by creating a new hire welcome basket that newbies will want to share on social media!

When designing your employee onboarding kits, make sure that they’re three things simultaneously: personal, inspiring and creative. The goal is to make your new hires feel like they’re part of the team—and part of something overall positive and inclusive—and to encourage them to build loyalty and pride so that they work hard and stay with your company well into the future!

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. She oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years.