5 Online Courses to Develop Your Management Skills

As a business owner,  it is important to have the developed skills of a leader alongside other hard skills that will benefit your company. Nowadays, people learn various stuff online, from foreign languages to cooking and programming.  There are hundreds of courses available online and most of them are free. Those that have to be paid for, are still significantly cheaper than offline lessons. Browse this list of 5 of the most effective online courses that will turn you into an awesome leader in no time!

Becoming a manager, Lynda

Lynda is an online learning platform developed by LinkedIn. It offers 1 month free trial and you can try any of the lessons for this period. Taking a course will give you a good idea of the qualities a good manager must possess to be useful for the team and company in general. During this time, you’ll get to know your strengths, discover your personal motivation, and learn how to build a good relationship between you and your employees. Also, you will learn how to hire the right people, how to connect, motivate and engage with your team, and act as a coach and role model for your team.

Management course, Alison

Courses on Alison are specialized to suit your own needs. Here we suggest you try not only one lesson, but complete all three courses to make sure that you’re becoming a qualified specialist. Whether you focus on managing people, individual projects, quality, or corporate leadership, there is an opportunity for you to learn from these courses. You can also try a diploma program that is offered in specialty areas. Taking these programs will ensure your success in the field.

Beginning Project Management, Udemy

In this course at Udemy, you will learn the absolute basics of Private Management. You’ll discover the big picture of it and its life cycle. By the end of the program, you’ll have a great grasp of what Private Management is about, what your roles and responsibilities as a Private Manager will be, and how to move forward in your career.

Growing as a Manager, Future Learn

What differs this program from the previous ones in this list? It has been developed by The Open University Business School – a pioneering institution that is triple accredited by Chartered Management Institute (CMI) – the leading authority on leadership in the UK. Even if you are not planning to work in Great Britain, this online certification will turn your professional skills to the new level.

Business Strategy, EDX

A qualified business owner must not be only the leader and a good team player. They must know how to develop the business. One of the fundamentals of professional development for managers is mastering of business strategy essentials. What helps people to improve their position in the marketplace? A good strategy does. To execute an effective strategy, a specialist must have a grasp of specific tools and frameworks. That is exactly what Business strategy course from Wharton will give to you. Here you’ll gain knowledge that will make you competent enough to evaluate your strategic environment in the present and the future, and engage you in a strategic planning process that works.

Guest Post: About the Author 

Judy Nelson is a writer at https://eduzaurus.com/ whose main topics are dedicated to management issues of different kinds. She used to share her thoughts with all those who were interested in getting useful information on business topics mostly. Her life motto is: “A good leader has to have a purpose that is larger than his daily duties are, and the balanced personality and skills to put that purpose into action.”

Five Tips to Be a Happier, More Balanced Business Owner

If you run a small business, you probably have become accustomed to working hard….really hard. Seven-days-a-week hard, with nary a day off. Admirable, but also dangerous, because you risk burnout, health problems, and grumbling employees. It’s up to you to create a healthier work-life balance, so here are five tips to get you started:

Shorten your workweek:

Nowadays, many business owners feel guilty if they work less than 10 hours a day, including weekends. This is sure to exhaust your mind and hamper your creativity. If you want to increase your productivity, shorten your workweek. Put in no more than 40 per week and try to not work on weekends. Remember, sitting at your desk for long hours doesn’t equate to productivity. Work the hours you actually need to and relax the rest of the time.

Use technology:

We live in the high-tech era, so let technology do some of the heavy lifting for you. Automate your workday with a suite of apps that collect, process and distribute information. AI apps can automatically generate your Twitter tweets, schedule your appointments and alert you to important news. Update your old apps – email campaigns are much more sophisticated than they were five years ago, so use a modern app to manage your email marketing.

Enter the cloud:

Are your data and apps still residing on a hard disk on your computer? That’s a shame, because migrating to the cloud opens up all sorts of possibilities that can make you more productive and save you time. Look at apps like accounting, CRM, design and development. They need to share data to operate most efficiently. By putting your databases on the cloud, you can take advantage of scalable software that is constantly updated and doesn’t take up valuable real estate on your computer.

Take a vacation:

If you feel you are indispensable all the time, you’ll never get any time off. You deserve a vacation, and two weeks of sun and fun will do wonders for helping you get through the remaining 50. Pick your least busy time of year, and either close up shop or assign tasks to employees you can trust. Maybe two weeks is out of reach right now, but try to get at least three or four days in a block, and build from there.

Stop fretting about money:

Many small businesses have variable cash flows that sometimes leaves them cash-starved. This constant worry will drain all the joy out of being a business owner. The solution is to create a relationship with a trustworthy business lender, like IOU Financial. You can borrow and pay back quickly on convenient terms, with never a pre-payment penalty. Daily or weekly payments mean no large monthly lump-sum repayments to worry about. And with loans up to $300,000, we can give you peace of mind for just about any circumstance.

You started your own business to make money, be your own boss and do things the way you want. But wasn’t the ultimate goal to achieve a happy life? Don’t wait until it’s too late – add some joy to your life right now. Adopt our five tips, plus ones you come across in other articles. If you work with a team, what better way to demonstrate the value you place on work-life balance than to practice it yourself? Protect yourself from burnout now, and you’re more likely to happily remain in business over the long run.

Seasonal Business? How to Prep for Your Slow Times

Seasonality is both a blessing and a curse for a small business. The blessing is that you have a great opportunity to capture the bulk of your annual revenues during the busy times. However, the prospect of one or more slack months in which revenue is punk but bills still have to be paid can truly seem like a curse. The saving grace is that seasonality is, by definition, predictable, which gives you a chance to prepare for the slow months. Here are some tips to shepherd your business through the lean times:

Understand your fixed and variable costs:

Naturally, you’ll need to cover your fixed costs, although it might be possible to postpone some of them. Variable costs seldom go to zero during slow seasons, but you do have the opportunity to slash them significantly. Adjust your monthly budget to reflect your reduced spending. If you find your cash won’t cover your expenses, contact IOU Financial for a quick business loan, often is as little as 48 hours. Our loans are easy to pay back without putting an undue strain on your cash flow. Because these loans are short-term, your total interest costs are tightly constrained.

Conserve your cash:

Build up your cash reserves during the busy season so that you can enter the slow months with a cushion. Once the slack season begins, execute your budget imperatives, including labor reductions and furloughs. A good strategy for seasonal businesses is to maintain only a minimal employee count and fill with hourly temps during the busy seasons. You can postpone inventory purchases until the end of the slow months and consider factoring your accounts receivable to speed up cash collections.

See the world:

Your vacation schedule will no doubt coincide with your slow season. This is especially feasible for mom-and-pop businesses. If you own an ice-cream store in Maine, then it makes sense to shutter the store during the winter and head off to warm climes. Your variable costs will be reduced to the greatest extent with this strategy.

Renegotiate with your suppliers:

Speak to your suppliers about your seasonal requirements and work out better credit terms during the slow period. For example, if your normal terms are 2/10 net 30, see about extending the payment due date to 60 or 90 days. If you’ve been a good customer, your suppliers will be more likely to accommodate your request. After all, suppliers want you to succeed, and it makes no sense for them to force you out of business and thereby lose a customer.

Adjust your marketing plans:

If you don’t have the ability to shut your business during the slow season, try bringing in more customers through sales events and promotions. You can program special events like raffles, classes, and bonus loyalty points for the slack periods.

Shore up your social media footprint:

If you have extra time during the slow period, put it to good use by increasing your social presence. Exploit your accounts on Facebook and Twitter to push out information about your special promotions. Start up or re-engage a newsletter and/or email campaign with useful and timely content that elicits readership.

IOU Financial provides affordable small business loans of up to $300,000, funded in as little as 48 hours. You won’t ever be charged upfront fees, and fixed daily or weekly repayments rids you of large, scary monthly payments. If seasonality is your business’ problem, then IOU Financial is your solution. Contact us today to learn more about how we can get you through the slow season in good shape.

Small Business Best Practices 2018

Best practices involve business owners finding and using ideas from outside their company to help improve performance and morale in the workforce. Operating a small business can be a challenging process at times, but small businesses can receive substantial benefits through professional development. Here is a list of the best practices that small business owners should focus on this year:

Have A Solid Foundation

Being successful starts at the core of the business. Owners should make sure that they have a solid team in place. Small business owners should look to hire people who share their passion and dedication to achieving success. Owners should hire employees based on the demand for their services. Small business owners should only consider hiring someone when the business is suffering from being short staffed.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations for all employees and demanding accountability can make a huge impact. Small business owners should consider bringing all the managers and executives together monthly to discuss each department in the business. This is a good opportunity for small business owners to give and receive feedback.

Be Punctual

A common trait among successful business owners is that they are always on time. Staying on time will help small business owners develop better relationships with their partners and clients. Punctuality holds the business owner accountable and helps your day run a little bit smoother.

Small business owners should respond to any questions or concerns that a customer has in a timely manner. The faster that the business responds, the more impressed a customer will be.

Avoid only responding when a client initiates the dialogue. Try to answer questions in advance. Never let a client feel that the business doesn’t value their support.

Avoid Getting an Ego

Many small business owners can be stubborn at times. However, the most successful owners aren’t bothered by criticism or feedback. Business owners must be good listeners, willing to accept that things may not be going well and focus on the changes that need to be made.

Use Updated Technology

Running a business can be complex at times, as there are multiple variables that can impact outcomes. Small business owners should rely on data. Using data based decision making allows small business owners to take an objective viewpoint and keep track of important records. Protect yourself and your employees by installing cyber security systems.

Document Everything

When small business owners provide clear documentation for everything, that promotes transparency. Employees should have a clear idea of what is being asked of them. Documentation makes it easy for owners to bring on new employees while also stopping the business from being over reliant on a few employees.

Market Your Business

Your small business may not be a branding giant but there are small marketing steps to take to make your business more visible.

  • Stay active on social media accounts
  • Use paid advertising
  • Promote special events or sales
  • Make sure your contact information is updated and available

Marketing your business will increase revenue and your customers while also helping you connect to the community around you.

Always Think About the Future

Small business owners should incorporate policies that will be successful right now and in the coming years down the line. Owners should constantly look ahead so that they can continue evolving and avoid becoming outdated. Stay consistent and focus on the longevity of your business.

Emphasizing Customer Service

The most successful businesses have made proving excellent customer service a major point of emphasis. Dealing with unhappy customers is something that every business will have to deal with at some point. If the business handles the complaint with professionalism, that will enhance their reputation in the industry.

Save Money

Small business owners should try to put aside at least $1,000 to $1,500 a month. That way they can have a peace of mind concerning their finances and avoid fears of going out of business. Many business owners have said that getting their finances in order has helped their relationships with vendors.

Embody Your Mission Statement

Create a mission statement if you do not already have and let that be the heart of your business. Small business owners should enjoy the process of creativity. People and products are important, look to surround yourself with good people and strive to create innovative products.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for NextGen Wealth. She often produces content for a variety of business blogs.

Are You Interviewing Wrong?

When a valuable employee has moved on from your organization, or there is a need for additional manpower to handle growing responsibilities, management may want to fill that position as soon as possible. However, it is imperative to give this process the time it deserves in order to hire a candidate that would fit all the criteria needed to make a valuable addition to the team.

It’s frustrating when a new hire doesn’t work out, and this can negatively affect the team’s productivity and company culture. If your department doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto new hires for a reasonable time, it’s time to consider if you may be interviewing wrong. Learning better strategies to this process will help you choose the right candidate from the get go.

Interview Mistake #1: Choosing Someone You Like

As people, we tend to gravitate towards people we like, typically those that are similar to us. You may bond with a person because they are from your hometown, or like the same sports team. While it’s important to like your colleagues, you must strive to use objective criteria instead of subjective criteria during the interview.

It may be advantageous to utilize a job screening assessment when recruiting new employees. This is a test that evaluates a potential candidate’s knowledge and skills in a specific area. Whether you choose a computer test or a paper test, the answers will give you a comprehensive view of the person’s expertise in the area, and a preview of how valuable they could be to the team.

That being said, it’s also not a good idea to hire someone when you have no gut feeling that they will work out. If a person seems rude, arrogant or simply disinterested, don’t hire them just because they aced their job assessment.

Interview Mistake #2: Not Asking for Input From Multiple People

Most employees don’t meet their new colleague until their first day on the job, which is too late for them to provide their input. Instead of single handedly selecting a new employee, utilize the peer-to-peer interviewing technique, which allows existing employees to interview potential candidates on a one-on-one-basis.

This provides several benefits to both the interviewer and the interviewee; your staff members can evaluate their potential new coworker and ask questions to see how they would fit into the team. The interviewee can use the opportunity to ask questions about the working hours, management style, and typical day on the job which they may not have been comfortable asking leadership.

Improving your interview process with simple adjustments can help you make a better decision about bringing on the right candidate. Remember to discuss the criteria most important to the team, and focus on assessing whether the individual meets those criteria.

Guest post: About the Author

Grace Ma is a Managing Director at Ex-Consultants Agency (ECA). ECA is a specialized executive search firm that focuses on placing former management consultants into project-based and full-time roles. Before joining ECA, Grace worked as an Engagement Manager at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) and VP of Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Parental Leave and Small Business – How to Do What’s Best for Your Business AND Your Employees

Small business owners have come to realize that allowing employees to take parental leave is a good policy despite its costs.

It’s a great way to recruit and retain good employees, plus provides these benefits to you:

  • Employees are more likely to return to work after taking time off after having a baby
  • You have the opportunity to cross-train other employees to fill in for a person out on parental leave
  • You can train junior employees to take on new responsibilities
  • It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at how you distribute responsibilities within your company
  • Generally, employee morale will be higher if you offer parental leave, a fact than can save you money by helping you to avoid frequent turnover

If your company has 50 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave is optional for companies with fewer than 50 employees, at least from the viewpoint of federal law. However, your state might have parental leave laws that apply to you. These laws provide job protection for a specified number of weeks when parental leave is needed.

Parental leave is indeed popular – 80% of employees at small companies would take advantage of it, according to the Family and Work Institute. Of course, any paid portion of the leave will only serve to increase its popularity. An interesting statistic is that 91% of small businesses that provide paid parental leave report no noticeable effect on performance and profitability, according to ThinkGrowth.

It makes sense for your company to devise a parental leave policy that meets your needs and those of your employees. Your policy should be included in your employee handbook so that all the terms are understood by all.

The policy should spell out features like:

  • Scope: Under what circumstances can employees take parental leave – maternity, adoption, accepting a foster child, etc. – and whether it applies to both parents.
  • Benefit: How much leave time can employees take, and whether they will be expected to work from home.
  • Pay: How many leave days, if any, will be paid.
  • Notification: How far in advance must an employee request parental leave.

When an employee requests parental leave, a manager or the owner should review the employee’s duties and methods with other employees who will be filling in during the leave period. It’s important not to overload other employees, which might require the hiring of temporary workers. The review process should encourage brainstorming to see whether more efficient methods are available.

It’s a good idea to build relationships with freelancers or staffing firms so that a ready source of temporary labor is available during parental leaves. While employees appreciate the opportunity to take parental leave, they don’t want to be burned out by assuming the work of employees on leave in addition to their own workload.

Employee abuse appears to be rare. Employers should require some sort of documentation for non-obvious (i.e. other than maternity) situations. Employers can add flexibility to parental leave by allowing employees to use saved up vacation days and sick time to provide some paid time during the leave.

2018’s New Employment Laws Business Owners Need to Know

Among the many responsibilities you have as a business owner is to keep up with the latest laws that affect your company. Each year seems to bring change, and keeping up to date can be difficult, which is why we’ve outlined everything for you in this article.

Minimum Wage Laws

There are 18 states that have higher minimum wage requirements in 2018. Eight of these are due to increases linked by law to the inflation rate: Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota. The other 10 states passed laws raising their minimum wages: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State.

The salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act will probably rise in 2018. This is the threshold on the maximum salary subject to the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at time and a half. The threshold stood at $23,660 at the start of 2018, but we await the new figure due sometime this year.

One other thing that should be on your radar is the crackdown on companies that steal wages from employees. Prosecutors have been winning stiff penalties and jail time for companies that underpay their workers. For example, a Texas chain restaurant was found guilty of working their employees 12 hours a day and paying them less than minimum wage. Three of the chain operators are now serving time in prison.

Taxation and Deductions

The 2018 tax brackets have been lowered, with the corporate tax rate dropping from 35 percent to 21 percent. Corporations can also deduct state and local taxes. If you are a business owner, you’ll likely find your personal tax bill lower in 2018 due to the lower top rates. And certain small business, especially LLCs, are eligible for a 20 percent tax deduction on their gross income.

One other change pertains to the Section 179 deduction. This deduction allows small business to immediately expense the full price on leased or financed equipment and off-the shelf software rather than depreciating the cost over several years. The change for 2018 is that the deduction limit doubles to $1 million.

State Laws

There are a slew of new state laws and regulations that could affect your business in 2018. Check your state’s department of state for new rules affecting:

  • Equal pay for equal work laws: These laws outlaw the gender-based pay gap.
  • Paid leave: Several states have passed paid leave laws for employees seeking family or sick time.
  • Posting requirements: States frequently update their job posting requirements that allow current employees to apply for different jobs within the company.
  • Predictive scheduling: More states are climbing on the predictive scheduling bandwagon. Predictive scheduling laws oblige businesses to provide employee schedules ahead of time. The law usually applies to selected industries such as food services, hospitality and retail, but the rules vary by locale.

3 Excellent Online Communities for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in the U.S. are taking their careers more seriously than ever before as well as the necessary steps to become entrepreneurs. Since 2007, there are 45% more female-owned businesses—which currently employ 9 million people in this country.

Although women have been making significant progress in the business world in recent years, it is still mostly run and controlled by men. As such, females need their own communities to help them with the motivation to succeed, resources to start their own business and support to meet the challenges head on. The following online communities are great choices for women entrepreneurs:

Chic CEO

This community targets those females who want to become entrepreneurs, or are in the first stages of developing their ideas. A common barrier to the process is fear and the belief that they can’t do it, so Chic CEO provides resources to help women conquer their fears.

The site offers tutorials and advice from actual business owners that is easy to understand and follow. Check out the following resources:

  • 3 Day Chic Start: an online tutorial that focuses on customer service and brand development
  • Business Plan format guide
  • Blog
  • Resource Center that recommends books, interviews with other professionals and more

Yes She Can

As the name itself suggests, this online community empowers women to follow their dreams and live up to their full potential. This site targets female Los Angeles business owners and professionals, sharing local events, stories, advice and resources to empower females.

Started by professional writer, Lydia Mack, Yes She Can offers several cool features:

  • Sole news source for female LA entrepreneurs
  • Calendar with hand selected events, such as conferences, lectures, meetups and workshops to help women advance in their careers
  • Weekly newsletter with strategies to improve both the personal and professional lives of women
  • Monthly meetups where members meet on the first Friday of every month to network and share their thoughts and advice

Note: Although this group is Los Angeles based, it is a great example of local groups throughout the country. With an easy online search, females can find meetups and meetings in their areas.

Lean In

This organization was created by Facebook’s Founder and Board Chair, Sheryl Sandberg. Named after a book she wrote, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this site is dedicated to aiding women in their quest to follow their ambitions.

They accomplish their goal in three ways:

  • Create Circles, where over 37,000 different groups of women meet throughout the world to discuss their objectives and create plans to succeed
  • Create awareness campaigns to educate the public about important issues surrounding the success of women, and men’s role in this process
  • Create tutorials, videos and discussion guides for both men and women on helping females succeed in the business world

If you are a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a new business, but lack funding, turn to IOU Financial. Our company is committed to helping both men and women follow their dreams and ambitions. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out about our easy business loans of up to $300,000!

3 Must-Haves for Smooth Running Operations

This is an exciting time to manage a business—technological advances and new opportunities due to increased globalization lead to greater profits, innovative business models and new customer bases. However, increased competition and higher demands from customers create new challenges for managers and business owners that leave some unsure as to what goals are right for them.

One of the most vital answers to running a successful business in current times is streamlined operations. When staff is properly trained and motivated, smart systems are in place and customer demands are met—the company is headed on a positive path. To keep your operations running smoothly, make sure you focus on the following three must haves:

No Single Point of Failure

One of the most common pitfalls that stagnate growth is a single point of failure in any aspect of operations. Most companies train specific employees in different areas of the business; however, when an unforeseen emergency arises preventing them from their duties, no one else is able to take over their responsibilities.

To prevent this from occurring at your workplace, work with Human Resources to cross train your workers. Additionally, it may be advantageous to switch teams within your organization, thus allowing different team members to handle various aspects of the operations.

This practice would prevent a single point of failure and would make certain that there is always someone at the workplace that can take over for a colleague should they be unavailable for work.

Automation

Operations are always at risk for human failure, which is why automating processes with the latest technological offerings is a beneficial way to streamline this area of your business. Although automating processes usually involves a high upfront cost to purchase software, integrate it into your routines and train staff, the return on your investment (ROI) is usually significant.

Automation leads to higher productivity, reduced costs, better customer service and reduction in errors. It is important to note that even artificial intelligence and machine make errors, so designating a team to review these operations on a regular basis is imperative to running a tight ship.

Motivate Employees

Your business is nothing without its employees, and successful operations result from motivated and empowered staff. An employee who comes to work daily and gets away with minimal effort is one that is failed by management.

Create incentives to encourage your employees to work hard, be proactive and creative instead of those that are satisfied with the status quo. Maintain that with constant feedback, recognition and rewards for your highers performers—the more invested your employees are in the success of your company, the smoother your operations will be!

It’s always a good idea to invest financially into projects and strategies that will streamline your operations. IOU Financial is ready to offer financial help into your endeavour. Contact us today to inquire about our quick and easy business loans.

 

How a Business Owner Can Take a Vacation Like a True Boss

Many people aspire to be the boss so that they can control their own schedule and take off as much time as they want. However, the stark reality is that many owners don’t take vacations at all, year after year.

According to a recent survey, half of small business owners take an average of three days off per year, while 70% work on holidays, including Thanksgiving. The main excuse for lack of time off is that business owners don’t feel like their companies can survive or thrive without their presence and input.

However, not taking any time off leads to extreme stress, feeling burnt out, loss in productivity and a creativity block. In fact, lack of vacations can lead to depression, cognitive decline and even heart disease!

There are ways for all business owners to take a vacation with these tips:

Start Small

It’s probably not the best idea to take a two-week cruise where you will be fully inaccessible if you haven’t taken more than a day off in recent years. Instead, start small and train your staff and yourself to run the business without you little by little.

Start by giving yourself half-day Fridays when work permits, and leave after lunch to see how your staff does without you. If all goes well, take an entire day off, followed by a mini-vacation for just a few days.

Assess how your employees are able to handle responsibilities on their own, and how much they need to contact you to make decisions before taking a week off or more.

Designate a Leader

They say that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. This especially applies to the workplace, where employees feel they can give themselves luxuries they would never dream of when their boss is at the office.

This is why it’s vital to designate a leader in your absence who will be responsible for overseeing the workplace. Choosing a proven and trusted colleague will help you rest easier, and will let your employees know that work will resume as usual.

Limit Checking In

Although you may force yourself to get on a plane and jet to a new destination, you may not be as relaxed as you would expect when you return. That is because the majority of business owners can’t abstain from constantly checking in with their staff while on vacation.

It’s hard to lay on the beach or take an excursion when you’re constantly checking emails or  are on the phone. Plus, the more you make yourself available, the more your staff members will feel like they can reach out, even for non-vital matters.

Make it clear to your staff that you will only check in once every 24 hours, and that they can only defer to the leader if an emergency occurs and you need to be contacted sooner.

This will allow you to take true time off, while empowering your employees to make decisions without your input.

Slow Summers? Contact IOU Financial for a loan to help smooth cashflow, get winter inventory ready, or up your marketing efforts. We can approve you for up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours.