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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.

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Five Tips for More Productive Meetings

Meetings are necessary at the office, but the truth is that everyone dreads them. They tend to get a bad rep for being overly long, boring and often unnecessary. You don’t have to follow the same status quo when it comes to having meetings, you can implement ways to make them more productive with these tips:

Time Meetings

It’s been found that “64% of meetings last more than an hour, with 39% of all meetings exceeding 90 minutes. With the length of these meetings, it’s no wonder that most of us cringe when we get a meeting request.

The duration of meetings don’t match with scientific evidence about our ability to concentrate before getting bored or distracted, which is anywhere between 10 and 18 minutes (fun fact, this is why Ted Talks are 18 minutes or less).

Many modern managers are limiting meetings at 15 minutes, which increases productivity as employees are more alert and able to follow along.

Create an Agenda

Some teams are so used to holding weekly meetings that they forget that it is not a necessity. To make the meeting more productive, require that the organizer create an agenda, which is distributed a few days prior to the meeting. No agenda = no meeting!

This is imperative so that everyone understands the relevancy of the meeting, and only the required employees attend instead of everyone in the department. This also lets the attendees prepare instead of being surprised during the meeting.

Stick to the Agenda

There are a lot of moving parts in an office, and it’s easy to get sidetracked. However, to optimize the meeting in the time you have, stick only to the items on the agenda.

This will structure the meeting and sidestep any unnecessary conversations, which will simply waste time. Designate a person who will be responsible for monitoring chatter, and cut off those that go off topic.

Stand Up During the Meeting

A meeting doesn’t have to be confined to a conference room with chairs. To make the meeting more efficient, require that the attendees stand up. This has several benefits—the first being that we sit too long during the day, which leads to physical and health-related issues.

The second benefit is that after a while, we get tired of standing, and we try our best to end the meeting so we can get back to our comfortable chairs.

The third advantage, and perhaps the biggest one, is that standing allows us to be more creative, energetic and collaborative than sitting.

Create an Action Plan

It’s important to discuss topics during the meeting, but don’t dismiss your employees without creating a game plan on what happens next. Otherwise, you’ll just meet next time without any progress having been made.

In addition to creating goals, distribute a follow up email after every meeting to summarize what was discuss and outline objectives with due dates so everyone is on the same page.

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Three Creative Ways to Show Your Employees You Appreciate Them

Business owners are often so focused on correcting their employees’ mistakes that they often forget to react when they get something right. Management is not only about focusing on the negative—in fact, it should be more about boosting your staff members’ ego by celebrating the positive. It is vital for business owners to show their employees that they appreciate their time and effort. Not only will this lead to a happier corporate culture and more loyal employees, but it will create more efficient workers.

A study found that when bosses show their employees they appreciate them, the workers become more empowered and productive. Another study held up these findings, citing that 69% of staffers worked harder when they felt the appreciation from their bosses.

Creative Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Employees

Small business owners tend to feel that they can’t afford to shower their employees with gifts. However, a show of gratitude and appreciation doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are low cost and even free ways to show that you care.

Award Ceremony

If you love to watch the Oscars, create your own award ceremony at the office. You can find low-cost medals or awards and engrave them with the achievements of your employees. It’s up to you if you want to focus on recognizing your top players, or create an award that will honor every member of your team. Don’t forget to include everyone, such as cleaning people or delivery drivers.

You can make this fun and silly, creating awards for categories such as “Best Dressed,” “Best Work Husband,” or “Most Deserving of a Break.”

Work-Related Coupons

We’re not talking about coupons to grocery stores here, but coupons that can be redeemed by employees when they need them. They can entitle your staffers to time off, an extended lunch, the ability to come in early or leave late, or time to pitch an amazing idea they have. This won’t cost you anything, but will empower your employees to use them when they may simply need a break or a boost at the office.

Special Perks at Work

If you ever got to be principal for the day at school, you know how special it felt to get that designation, at least for a short time. To show your employees you appreciate all that they do, offer them special perks at work.

This can involve choosing an employee of the month and then allowing them to be CEO for a day. You would obviously limit their power on top level decision making, but they can decide on other things, like what to order for lunch that day, to set a casual dress day, or to create a wacky day when everyone dresses up as superheroes.

The three ideas mentioned above are fun and low-budget, but they truly do work. Oftentimes, it’s not the monetary value of the gesture, but the simple act of showing appreciation. However, if you feel that your employees are deserving of something more, such as bonuses, turn to IOU Financial for a business loan. We work with small companies to offer hassle free and fast loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today to learn more.

Reach Employee Communication Goals With Texting

Now is a great time to assess your process and look for improvement. You can save a lot of money and time by establishing more effective communication policies for your employees. Here are five of our favorite ways to improve your company-wide communication policies this year.

  1. Prepare for Connecting with the Incoming Generations

Younger generations are showing a strong preference for texting, according to Pew Research Center and other surveys done recently. As you work to appeal to upcoming talent, you will want to expand your methods to include text messaging for recruitment. Text messages will help automate your hiring process, speed up your training sessions and allow your new employees to be more efficient and prepared for their positions.

  1. Use More Dynamic Content

Most professionals prefer less wordy emails and won’t read generic newsletters. Instead, create dynamic content to increase engagement levels. You can always text links to video content or blog posts with images to keep readers engaged. You also want to take advantage of the short nature of texting that will force you to cut the fluff and get to the point. Boost employee communication with SMS that will keep departments and teams communicating and collaborating.

  1. Empower Employee Advocacy

You want to increase your reach, brand recognition and influence, so make sure your employees are turning into advocates. Start by creating a workplace that your employees are excited about and making sure your professionals feel valuable in their jobs. Then, empower your employees by giving them access to key industry news and insight, encouraging them to share and participate in various platforms. You can use employees to help write articles in your newsletters or share their best posts to encourage more interaction. You will only have truly influential advocates if you help promote their value as a professional in their field and on your team.

  1. Increase Flexibility and On-the-Go Communication

Texting can help employees gain freedom they wouldn’t have through email and phone calls alone. Use a texting platform and company phone plans to enable your employees to do more work while they are on-the-go. Give employees as much freedom as possible to work as they can from home or while traveling, allowing for more flexible hours and scheduling. The improved work-life integration will appeal to younger generations that value flexibility and are willing to have increased interruption with working during strange hours on their devices.

  1. Speed Up Policy Changes and Strategies

Automated mass texting can really help your company get the word out about new policies and strategies. Simply send out texts to your entire team or the specific department that it will apply to in order to notify them of changing rules, training dates, industry information, deadline reminders or prompts for paperwork. Text messages are typically read within seconds, allowing your important company notifications to be distributed quickly and effectively. Emails often get lost and phone calls waste time, so use text messaging to send out these notices in a way that is sure to get the message across.

In an age of technology, don’t let your employees waste their time by worrying or gossiping – work to improve communication each year. Text messaging and great content will help you communicate in a stronger way with your employees.

Guest Post: About the Author

Joel Lee is the SEO marketing specialist at Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases.

3 Steps to Creating a Strong Company Culture

Any time a group of people interact with one another on a regular basis, an individual culture forms. As such, each company has its own company culture, which can determine to a large extent the success of the organization and the satisfaction of the employees. While a culture can organically form, managers and business owners can take steps to shape a strong and positive company culture with the steps below.

The Importance of a Winning Company Culture

A company culture is “an intangible ecosystem” according to a source, which involves “the ideology of an organization.” When your company has a strong company culture, it influences a multitude of factors that can truly make or break the success of your business. Everything from more effective teamwork, productivity, employee loyalty, reduced turnover and help with attracting top talent.

Steps to Create a Strong Company Culture

The truth is that regardless of how talented and experienced your colleagues are, if you don’t have the culture to promote their attributes, they won’t be able to thrive. Follow these steps to create a company culture that develops winners:

1. Decide What Your Core Values are

A company culture should be based around the core values of the company, which are created by the business owners. Other than making a profit, what do you want to see from your employees and how do you want to shape their lives and overall society?

If you want to involve a philanthropic initiative, build your culture around that. Is your focus is more closely aligned with teamwork and productivity? Consider how to foster relationships between your staff members to promote collaboration. Do you want to be known as a company that offers the best customer experience? Put strategies into place that reflect that desire.

The fact is that a corporate culture develops best when it is based on certain beliefs and is focused on a specific course.

2. Choose the Right Colleagues

Every hiring decision needs to consider whether the candidate would make a good addition to your team. Would this person be able to fit in and uphold the values you deem important for your company?

Oftentimes, employers tend to hire the same type of person, who either resembles them or another star employee. However, a successful environment is one that contains diversity, and hiring employees who have different strengths and points of view can help foster creativity and innovation, which will drive a positive culture.

3. Promote Transparency

A thriving company is one where every single employee feels valued and appreciated. The old world model of a hierarchy that keeps information locked at the top is outdated, and transparency is the new normal in the professional world.

A healthy company culture is one that democratizes decision making and gives everyone a voice. Instead of shielding your employees from sensitive news, involve them in the process and witness how much more invested they will become in the success of your company.

If you would like access to more articles about managing a business, or would like to inquire about getting a small business loan, contact IOU Financial.

 

3 Steps to Hiring the Correct People for the Job

Do you feel like your company is a revolving door of employees? Is it difficult to retain top talent, and you constantly spend your time recruiting new candidates? If that is the case, you need to refresh your skills in hiring the correct people for the job from the get-go.  

The truth is, a high employee turnover is bad for the morale of the remaining employees, the overall corporate culture and the productivity of your team. When employees are constantly leaving, and new members are joining the team, the rest of the staff has to pick up the slack, leaving them stressed out and overtired.

Plus, employee turnover is expensive for the business. A source estimates that it could take up to 6 to 9 months of a staff member’s salary to transition between employees. That means if an employee who’s making $50,000 annually does not work out for any reason, you can spend anywhere between $25,000 to $37,500 during the transition. If you want to avoid this, follow the steps below to hire the correct people for the job and improve employee loyalty.

1. Create a Detailed Job Description

Most positions nowadays are complex, and with the hectic pace of working life, individuals are often tasked with responsibilities outside of their direct roles. As such, it is imperative to create a detailed job description that truly captures the essence of the position.

Take the time to really analyze the person’s working day, what they need to do, how they should do it, and how much percentage of time they are expected to spend on each task. Think about what success in this position looks like, and reiterate that in the job description.

The more detailed you are from the get go, the more candidates it will eliminate, saving you time during the recruitment process when interviewing individuals.

2. Implement Skill Tests

You can find an applicant with an outstanding resume who says the right things during the interview process, but can you verify that they are as competent as they say they are? Yes, you can! That is easily doable by implementing skill tests prior to making a hiring decision.

Utilizing skill assessments will take out the bias and uncertainty from the screening process. Tests take out any inherent biases and provide a transparent strategy to choose the best candidate for the job. You will be able to see for yourself each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and make an educated decision during the interview process.

3. Involve the Team in the Recruitment Process

Employees spend most of their day at the office, and personalities often clash, which causes a poor working environment. When there is unresolved conflict, tension and unhealthy competition, that is a major reason why your employees may not be lasting long in their positions.

In order to see if a potential candidate would make a good fit within your existing team, involve them in the recruitment process. When your search is narrowed down to the top few candidates, give each person some time to spend with your employees. Encourage them to talk and ask tough questions; they may find an issue that you have overlooked!

If you need cash to invest in a skills assessment test or want to hire an HR consultant to help you with the recruiting strategy, IOU Financial can help. Contact us today to learn more about our easy and affordable small business loans.

How to Improve Business Culture: The Top 5 Practices Small Businesses Can Start Doing to Develop Their Company’s Unique Culture

The concept of Business Culture for many companies tends to draw up more questions than solutions. What is our culture? How do we set our business culture?

In any business, the style or model of business operations in a company is determined to be that company’s “culture.” It’s this culture that is vital to a company’s identity and philosophy of how to run itself each day. How staff communicate with each other, how communications work between staff and customers, and how businesses handle every day issues and transactions all tie into a business culture. So how do you improve your business culture? Companies big and small can shift and mold their business culture and set the tone for their company the way they want by implementing the following five practices. Lets review and get started! 

  1. Encourage open communication

For many companies the idea of staff and employee open communication is frightening. What if staff say something we don’t like? What if staff say they are unhappy? What if a customer doesn’t like our product? Well what if through open communication your company fosters honesty, identifies areas to improve, and delivers an even more customer-focused product? By developing an open communication system, companies can develop a trusting environment for all parties to thrive. Culture starts with knowing the truth about a company.

 

  1. Value contributions

One way to find out what kind of “culture” your company has is to embrace and value employee contributions. What does each person bring to the table? What are ways in which employees feel appreciated? If a company can identify ways to value contributions from its employees, it can create an environment that draws out more contributions from the employees as well as give employers a good sense of who they have on the team and if that team fits into the culture the company is wanting to develop.

 

  1. Develop employee engagement activities

Every company faces similar challenges with staff retention. Many companies lose good staff because they do not engage the employees that work hard for the company each day. Create activities that engage employees. This doesn’t have to be a huge event or costly outing. These activities can simply be round table “get to know you” discussions, after work gatherings, and small communications such as group emails or messages. By engaging employees, employers begin to look at drawing out the similarities and differences that will shape the culture as the team gets to know each other more.

  1. Deliver the culture

Deliver the culture? Sounds funky, but hear us out. Companies big and small can be the spearheads of the culture they want the company to adopt. If the owner enjoys humor, companies can embrace professional light-hearted banter. If a company wants people to value work life balance, they can set a tone that everyone clocks out at the same time to be with their families. Whatever the owner or company wants the culture to be, start implementing that into the daily practice and the rest will follow.

 

  1. Promote the team

Small businesses know the value of the team. To shape and develop a culture the company wants to take on, employers should look at encouraging the team to be leaders in developing such culture. If employees feel empowered, they take ownership of the company’s mission, values, and culture. By promoting the team, small businesses will see the values of the company through its employees.

Setting a business culture may not happen overnight. By implementing the concepts and ideas mentioned above, small businesses can begin to shift and mold their company’s culture and set the stage for fostering a strong business philosophy. No business culture is alike, but for many businesses starting with a plan and engaging ways to develop culture can happen sooner than one would thi

Performance Reviews: Are You Making These Mistakes?

Yearly reviews are commonplace in many organizations, but they are often dreaded by both the reviewers and the employees being reviewed. Managers feel uncomfortable giving out negative feedback, while those reporting to them stress while anticipating the feedback.

The main problem of annual reviews, aside from their negative connotation, is that they are largely ineffective. A study found that job appraisals negatively affected job performance more than one third of the time. As a result, many companies around the world, such as Microsoft and Gap, are phasing out traditional annual reviews altogether. However, performance reviews can be effective if the leaders correct mistakes they are making in this process! Read on to find out if you are making common mistakes during the evaluation meetings with your staff and how you can ensure yours is successful.

Not Timely

Another problem with the annual review is that it’s only given once a year. That is not nearly enough time for managers to be able to provide productive feedback and work together with their employees to make relevant changes.

When you sit down with a staff member in December and mention something that occurred in May, the individual may have no recollection of the incident. Therefore, leaders have to provide timely feedback instead of waiting a year to bring something up.

The most beneficial feedback is immediate, or at least timely, brought up within a few days of the occurrence; otherwise, it is just pointless. While a formal meeting to discuss the yearly performance may be helpful when discussing promotions or raises, feedback should be regularly provided during the course of the workweek.

Focusing on the Negative

Bosses often misunderstand the main point of the performance review, which is to help employees work more productively and efficiently. Instead, they consider this a time to air their grievances and dissatisfaction with the team member. Even if the individual is performing up to the standards most of the time, if the supervisor focuses solely on what needs to improve during the review, it may negatively impact the loyalty and job satisfaction of the person.

Even if you have an employee who is underperforming in many areas, it is helpful to first bring up something positive about their efforts before concentrating on the negative. Consider the small things that the person may be getting right, like the fact that they are always pleasant, to bring up before moving on to what they may need to improve.

Not Setting Benchmarks

The feedback given out during a performance review will likely not amount to anything unless measurable and realistic benchmarks are set and agreed upon by both the employer and the employee. It’s not enough to tell a subordinate that they need to work faster; to help them become more productive, set small goals that the individual can work towards.

For example, if you need a staff member to work faster, instead of telling them to do so, you should count how many tasks the person currently accomplishes in one week, and increase that by 5 percent per month to see if they can ultimately speed up by 15 percent. It’s important for managers to be involved in this process, observing current behaviors, setting goals and then measuring the employee performance to see if they are meeting those goals.

The reason performance reviews get a bad rap is because many managers are not doing them properly. Sitting down to provide feedback only once a year, focusing on the negative and not setting benchmarks makes the process ineffective; however, making small changes can positively impact both the person and your company.

 

How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Help Your Business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategy many small and mid-size business owners should embrace for two reasons: to help society and to help their own image. There are many causes you can choose to support, such as saving the rainforest, helping refugees, or contributing to a local boys & girls club. A source lists the most common causes of US companies as the following:
1. Efforts to protect the environment (74%),
2. End discrimination or restrictions based on sexual orientation (59%) or gender (54%),
3. Improve access to quality education (59%)
4. Protect human rights abroad (49%)
5. End discrimination/restrictions based on gender identity (52%)

Why adopt CSR into your operations? For these three reasons:

Set Your Business Apart

Regardless of what niche your business is in, you have competition. A way to identify your brand and let potential clients know what sets you apart from your competitors is with the adoption of a social initiative. For example, TOMS shoes, is a great example of an owner who built CSR right into the business model. For every pair of shoes bought, the company donates a pair to those in need around the world. This cause helped people connect with the brand, and sales soared!

People like feeling good about themselves and know that they are making a difference in the world by spending their money. If you align your business interests with a social or environmental cause, you can set your business apart and grab more market share away from your competitors.

Staff Engagement

While a CSR can help you connect with your audience, it is also beneficial to your own staff. Although they are motivated to come to work every day to receive a paycheck, they can become more engaged with the company and invested in its success if there is a cause they believe in involved.

For example, some real estate agents participate in a network called Charitable Agents, which donates 10 percent of commission from homes sales to charities. Agents can feel good about not only making a profit from a sale, but also contributing to a cause close to their heart. This benefits the business with more exposure, as people looking to make a difference when buying or selling a home will find an agent through this network, bringing new business to the agency.

Lower Costs

Corporate social responsibility doesn’t only have to involve donating money to causes, it can also benefit you within the confines of your company. For example, companies who pledge to help the environment should start with changes in their own offices, such as recycling, switching to energy-friendly appliances and technology, reducing water usage, etc.

Not only will these actions represent your true commitment to your cause to your clients and employees, but it will cut costs and promote your own sustainability in the years to come.

Oftentimes, small business owners need funds to market their CSR efforts, otherwise their clients may not know about them. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners make a difference in the world, which is why we offer small business loans in as little as 24 hours.

Low Corporate Morale? Five Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Working in today’s world is not easy – the hours are getting longer, the responsibilities more intense and the push to cut costs are brutal. Many business owners find that they have more to do to stay afloat with less resources to hire staff, so all employees end up doing more with less – less time, less money and less help.

Overworked and tired employees develop low corporate morale as they stop looking forward to coming to work every morning, and feel tired and stressed out. This leads to high employee turnover, decreased productivity and an unhappy workplace.

On the other hand, engaged employees are better for business – a source states that businesses where the staff members are truly engaged “have 6% higher net profit margins,” according to Towers Perrin research and “five times higher shareholder returns over five years,” according to Kenexa research. It is up to the business owner to find ways to boost employee engagement, which will create a better corporate culture and better overall morale.

What is Employee Engagement?

An employee who is truly engaged is invested into the success of the company in which they work. They don’t just come in to receive a paycheck, but care about the company’s goals and interests. This type of team member uses discretionary effort, meaning they do things to help the company without having to be asked or required to do so. This can involve staying late or coming in on a weekend, mentoring a new staffer, or addressing a safety concern.

How do You Promote Employee Engagement?

In order to “turn that frown upside down,” use the following tips to improve corporate morale to increase employee engagement:

Reward Your Staff’s Efforts

When small business owners hear the term “reward,” they tend to think of financial rewards; however, rewards don’t have to cost anything! Simply showing your staff that you recognize their hard work and are grateful for their efforts is often more than enough to get them to take ownership of their responsibilities and become more engaged.

Oftentimes, simply saying, “I see you are working hard, and I appreciate it,” will do the trick. However, it can also be advantageous to recognize certain team members publicly during a staff meeting or to create an employee of the month award so that the whole office is aware of someone’s achievement. 


Other ways to reward staff without spending a dime are to let them go home earlier after a long week, give them a day off after a busy season that required continuous overtime or to host a potluck to celebrate a big company win!

Support a Cause

It’s important to remember that companies are made up of people, and that many of them are motivated by social causes. A great way to boost engagement is to survey your employees about causes important to them – be that the environment, local boys and girls clubs or third world countries. After calculating the responses, pick a social cause that you can support as a company.

You can either dedicate a percentage of your profits to the cause, or help bring awareness to it through marketing and social media campaigns. To take it a step further and truly unite your team members to strive for a common goal, dedicate a day to go out and make a difference together. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or build houses for Houses of Humanity to help those that are less fortunate.

The best way to boost morale and create employee engagement is to take the time to get to know your staff, form relationships with them, and make them feel appreciated!