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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.

 

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.

If you are invested in making positive changes within your company and could benefit from a small business loan, IOU Financial can help. We offer quick and hassle-free loans of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

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.

Retirement Planning for Small Business Owners

It’s not uncommon for business owners to consider their businesses as their retirement plans. At retirement age, the plan is to sell the business for cash, or to give the business to a family member in return for a share of future wealth. It might work out, but it’s risky, because if your business fails, your retirement plans end up in shreds. Short of bankruptcy, a troubled business would be hard to sell and bring in less money than anticipated. Many owners might face the prospect of delaying retirement until the business “picks up.”

It need not be this way. An orderly approach to retirement planning will help you provide for your later years independent of the ups and downs of your business. Here are five steps to take to save money for retirement:

Do the math:

Figure out how much money you will need for your retirement lifestyle, especially if you don’t receive a lot of money from your business. This is frequently a wake-up call to get your retirement plan moving. Check out online retirement calculators from financial service companies such as Vanguard, TIAA and Fidelity and many others. Use these resources to help you nail down future spending.

Get help:

You are probably an expert on your business, but don’t assume that extends to retirement planning. If you don’t have a solid finance background, hire a financial adviser to organize your retirement planning. It’s a good idea to use one who charges a flat fee rather than one who takes commissions on your trading. The best ones usually have an accreditation, such as Certified Financial Planner.

Begin a diversified retirement plan:

You don’t need to spend a fortune on your retirement plan, but you should make a long-term commitment to it. It will cut your current taxes and allow your money to grow tax-deferred. Here are for options that make sense for small businesses, suitable for sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations:

  1. SEP-IRA: A good choice for one-employee companies, because you must fund the plan for all employees. Its works like a traditional IRA, but in 2018 you can contribute up to 25 percent of total compensation or $55,000, whichever is less.
  2. SIMPLE IRA: A plan for owners of companies with up to 100 employees. You and your employees make pre-tax contributions directly from your paycheck. The 2018 contribution limit is $12,500, or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older.
  3. Solo 401(k): Good for self-employed. You can contribute up to 25 percent of your compensation, plus up to $18,500 ($24,500 if 50 or older) in employee contributions, for a total maximum up to $54,000 in 2018.
  4. SIMPLE 401(k): For business with 100 or fewer employees. You and your employees can contribute up to $18,500 a year. You can borrow from your account and make no-penalty withdrawals under certain circumstancees.

Invest simply:

Index funds are simple and cheap, and you will always get average performance, year after year. If you know when you are going to retire, you can buy into a target-date fund that adjusts its investments based on your age. Consider also a REIT investment.

Pay yourself first:

When business gets slow, it’s tempting to cut back on your contributions, and that might occasionally make sense. But resist the temptation if you can, your retirement will thank you for it.

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 Tips for Guaranteed Productivity

If you ever feel like you have worked an entire day, but accomplished very little, you are not alone. Everyone from senior management to blue collar employees tends to feel like they are not working as productively as they can. In fact, one source estimates that distractions and lost productivity are costing U.S. businesses an average of $650 billion annually. Whether you are a boss of a small company that needs to improve your own productivity, or you want to empower your employees to be more productive, you should follow these three tips for guaranteed productivity.

Take Care of Yourself First

In order to be productive in the workplace, you need to have a clear mind, energy and a positive attitude. The way to achieve this is by taking care of yourself first. If you are stressed out, tired or depleted, like many American professionals, you will never work at your maximum potential.

Insomnia is a major cause of lost productivity in the workplace, as many of us do not get the amount of sleep we need. It’s important that we get 8 hours of good, uninterrupted sleep every night to function at our best.

What we put inside our body also controls our energy and stress levels and mood. Many of us load up on unhealthy snacks and complex carbohydrates, like chips, cookies and bagels, for breakfast and lunch to save time. However, these are not balanced and nutritious meals, and simply lead to a decrease in sugar levels that makes us crash later in the day. To promote productivity, eat leafy greens, lean proteins and other foods that boost energy levels.

Hold Yourself Accountable

It’s not uncommon for professionals to procrastinate, promising themselves that they’ll accomplish a task the next day, and the next day and so on. This leads to decreased productivity and late deadlines. To guarantee productivity, it’s vital to hold yourself accountable for timely results.

When you have a big project coming up, break down the tasks and create specific deadlines for each one. You can mark them in your calendar, but consider sharing them with your staff or colleagues in order to hold yourself accountable for making sure the project is done on time.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Utilize a system that helps you become more productive with S.M.A.R.T. goals:

  • Specific: Be specific and describe the what, why and how of the goal as general goals don’t detail what needs to be done.
  • Measurable: Set goals with clearly outlined results that can be measured.
  • Achievable: Set goals that you can achieve with the skills, resources and budget at hand.
  • Results-focused: You must dictate what results you plan to achieve with each project.
  • Time-bound: Hold yourself accountable to specific due dates for each part of the project.

Making sure your mind and body are rested and properly fueled to face the day, holding yourself accountable and making S.M.A.R.T. goals are three ways to increase productivity in the workplace. However, that is often not enough as you may realize that you require additional workforce or newer software to really make a difference. If you need financial help achieving those goals, IOU Financial is ready to help! We offer small business loans of up to $300,000 in two days or less. Contact us today to learn more!

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

When Should I Hire a Virtual Assistant For My Small Business?

Your business is growing and that once small start up has turned into a solid, reputable, and stable small business. While you grow your business, you may also find yourself considering the idea of hiring a virtual assistant: someone to tackle the day-to-day scheduling of work tasks or business meetings, and handling administrative duties to help you take your business to the next level.  You may even ask yourself where, when, or how to go about hiring a virtual assistant. In this post we will tackle the 4 key factors to consider when you’re considering bringing on a virtual assistant. Let’s jump in!

You’re ready to hire a virtual assistant:

When you lose track of keeping track

One of the simplest yet most important factors to consider when hiring a virtual assistant is knowing the right timing. If you find it hard to stay on top of simple day-to-day tasks, and you find your attention is being pulled away from the important roles you have, it may be time to bring an assistant on board. When your systems such as Evernote, Slack, Trello Boards and beyond start becoming overwhelming to keep organized by yourself, an assistant may be the solution. When you see it’s hard to keep track of things, don’t lose track anymore-bring on an assistant. 

When you have the business down to a science

When your business starts becoming a well-oiled machine and the products, services, and business model you run can be set to “cruise control,” you may be able to bring on an assistant. Your business is now solid, so bringing on an assistant may free up some of your mental energy and allow you to tackle the next steps for growth. Think about building a house: If your foundation is solid and in place, you can start tackling the framing of the walls. Allow an assistant to keep things running while you move on to framing up your next big project.

When finances make sense

Before you dive into hiring an assistant, be sure to consider the cost to do so. Virtual assistants are not minimum wage jobs, they can be costly if you’re hiring top talent. Make sure your business can justify and support an assistant. The intention is to bring in more business by hiring an assistant, so ensure the financial pros/cons are considered. You may not be able to pay a full year salary today, but can you justify the initial cost by allowing it to add revenue elsewhere?

When it feels right

There is something to be said for “trusting your gut” when you run a small business. It was that very gut that lead you to start the business in the first place right? Do not leave out the internal thought process for bringing on an assistant. Ask yourself if it feels like the right time, seems like the moment to enter that phase, and do “the cards just fall in place” leading to the perfect fit for your company? If your gut is saying go for it, then it should be worth the thought.

By now you have considered hiring a virtual assistant for your company and ruling out the various pros/cons for when and if that moment is right. Hiring a virtual assistant can be a vital asset to any small business, however the timing, need, and role in your company all need to be considered. By reflecting on the top 4 factors when hiring a virtual assistant, one can better prepare themselves for striking at the right place and the right time.

Need a little extra working capital to hire a virtual assistant?  IOU Financial is here to fuel the growth of small business. We can provide a small business loan of up to $150,000 in as little as 48 hours. Contact us today!

Five Ways to Lead Independent Thinkers

There are different types of leaders – micro and macro-managers. Micro-managers are akin to dictators, they want to be involved in every small decision, and do not provide their staff members with the ability to think for themselves. Macro-managers, on the other hand, lead a democratic team, encouraging their employees to make their own decisions, take chances, and provide innovative solutions to everyday problems.

Time and time again, research studies have proven that macro-managers are the best types of leaders; this manager not only creates a happier corporate culture, but has loyal and productive employees. However, in order for a manager to relinquish control and delegate tasks to staff members, they need to be sure that the workers are up to the challenge of working independently and trusting their own instincts. Whether you are integrating a new candidate into your team, or want to delegate more and micromanage less, you can lead your staff to become more independent thinkers in the following five ways.

Delegate

A common grievance of bosses is that they spend a majority of their day on tasks their staff members should be doing. However, not all supervisors have the skills necessary to take themselves out of the equation and delegate tasks to free up their schedule.

The first step to encouraging employees to think on their own is to make them responsible for their own tasks. This process starts with the team’s leader – this individual must be able to hand out assignments without looking over the individual’s’ shoulders every step of the way. Employees must feel capable and qualified to handle their duties in order to start thinking independently, otherwise they will keep turning to the boss with every question or concern.

Be Open to Different Views

Once tasks have been given out, the manager must be open to hearing and implementing different views. Many leaders feel comfortable following the status quo, and resist any suggestions to innovate. This attitude stifles the minds of the employees, and doesn’t encourage them to think on their own, as they know that any suggestion will be ignored or denied.

Trust the Capabilities of Your Staff

Another component to promoting independent thinking is to fully trust in the fact that your employees are capable of making their own decisions, and are invested in the best interests of the company. After all, you hired them for a reason! When bosses stop second guessing their team members, and trust that they are experts in their field and have the experience and knowledge to work independently, they can start encouraging their staff to trust themselves.

Encourage Original Thinking

To promote independent thinkers in your workforce, you should promote original and out-of-the-box thinking. Ask your employees to come up with innovative ideas and share them with the rest of the team. Consider rewarding employees who offer unique ideas that can benefit your company – you can offer gift certificates, time off or bonuses for the effort!

Provide Inspiration

Innovation often comes from inspiration, but it’s difficult to get inspired inside the bland walls of most office environments. To promote creativity and original thought, provide inspiration in the form of bright colors, vivid images (art and photography), music and unique experiences in the office.

Advise your employees to take a walk outside if they are in the process of a creative endeavor, or take your team to an ethnic restaurant to introduce them to flavors and smells from different cultures. All of these experiences can contribute to helping them change the status quo.