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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.

How to Prepare Your E-commerce Business for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! While you may just be getting ready for Halloween, it’s vital to start thinking beyond that to prepare your e-commerce business for the winter holidays. In fact, most marketing experts believe that July is the right time to start planning, so if you haven’t yet, you’re already behind!

The holiday season can be an extremely profitable time for your business if you are smart about your strategy! Shoppers spent over $108 billion online during the holiday season last year, with online sales growing faster than traditional retail sales from year to year! To capitalize on that momentum, utilize the following strategies to get the most out seasonal promotional opportunities:

Create Holiday Strategies

Although we like to call the events starting from November to January, “the holidays,” it’s important to celebrate and plan for each one. The holiday season includes:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year’s

Prepare a unique seasonal campaign for each holiday to offer your customers unique offers, products and designs to keep them coming back for more instead of making a single purchase.

Be Prepared

If all goes well, you will make record sales this holiday season. However, marketing your brand is only the first step to success. You must make sure that your business is prepared to deliver on the sales to keep up with customer demand.

Evaluate how much inventory you have in stock, and how quickly you can order more. It’s advantageous to reach out to your suppliers to inquire about their estimates for inventory during this time. They may very well sell out of popular items, leaving you in a lurch if you need to order something last minute and are not able to.

Many shoppers purchase last minute items, which is why you should consider offering different shipping options.  You may see an increase in sales if you allow your customers to get their deliveries in as little as 1 to 2 business days.  Research how much it would cost you to ship your items faster, and make sure to include those options on your sales page.

In preparation of increased orders around the holiday time, create your staff schedules early on, and make sure your employees commit to those schedules. People tend to take time off around the holidays, which is why you must make sure you have a sufficient number of workers ready to receive and prepare orders to go out.

Save

For any business to make money, it must first spend money. As such, you should save a considerable amount of money to both market and sell your products.

You will likely see an  increase in conversion rates during the holidays, but that also means that you will see more ad competition on social media. However, if you plan early, you can purchase ad inventory at lower prices than if you wait until the last minute.

If you simply cannot afford to compete with others for ads during this time, utilize other  resources to promote engagement. Start building an email list now so you have a completely free way to reach out to your customers to alert them about special deals and exclusive offers.

SEO

Online shoppers use seasonal keywords to shop for their products. Consider how your target shoppers would find your site, and optimize your content for those keywords.

They may include:

  • “Best Christmas gifts for teenagers”
  • “Funny holiday gifts”
  • “Employee holiday gifts”

Use Google Keyword Planner to search for keywords relevant to your niche, and try to choose the ones with the lowest competition and the highest monthly searches.

You can create Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns and bid for shoppers to click on your link, or you can add those keywords to your blogs, video descriptions and social media posts to encourage engagement for little to no investment.

People love to spend money around the holiday time, and you should consider how you can encourage them to do it on your site! The strategies outlined in this article are the first steps you should take to prepare. If you need financial help in investing in your business during this time, contact IOU Financial. We work with small and medium-sized businesses to fund their goals with loans up to $300,000.

9 Mistakes You Could Be Making On Your Website That Can Ruin Your Business

Having a website for your brand is a wonderful thing, especially if you are focused on working globally. You can use it to interact with your users, sell your products and services, share content on your products, market your services, share reviews etc.

It became a norm in the business world. Benefits of having a website are highly talked about and praised in our modern society. Experts say that having a website can improve your business, create a good image of your brand and help you expand and engage with more people.

However, no one really talks much about how doing things wrong on your website can deteriorate your image and cost you your business. There are common mistakes that are often made not out of ignorance but coincidentally or because of forgetfulness.

Effects of these mistakes can be seen in sales, website visitation rates and bounce rates. This is why you need to be aware of them and have tools and knowledge to improve your website, eliminate the mistakes you are making and inevitably, improve your business.

Here are some common mistakes and some solutions to them:

There is no social proof

Imagine visiting a website where there are no reviews – good or bad – no newspaper articles or banners claiming that the website is legit. Would you stay on that website and make a purchase confidently?

Your answer is probably no. According to study, approximately 70% of people look at reviews, testimonials and other social proofs before making a decision to buy.

People need a social proof to be sure that they will not be tricked. This is basic psychology – you need to know that someone has walked that path and came out unharmed and happy if you are to walk that path yourself.

And this is what so many websites get wrong.

Avoid this by adding customer reviews, even if they are just good ones to your website. Include your stamps of approval from influencers, newspapers, other businesses from your niche, social media. Do whatever it takes to prove to a new visitor that you will not trick them.

You have a bad layout and design

People are visual creatures. They like looking at pretty things and if your layout and design don’t meet their expectations, you can be in trouble.

Bad layout, for one, can be confusing and hard to focus on. This is another easy fix – you only need to hire an expert to help you figure out what is the best layout for your business.

Design is another place where a lot of mistakes can happen. Wrong color scheme, font or illustrations can lead you to lose a lot of customers. Go for neutral colors that are easy on the eyes, pick readable fonts and make sure that everything is consistency with your brand. Check out the competition and see what they are doing. Don’t let your website look outdated.

There are no social media tags

If you are a business without social media profiles, you know you are doing something wrong.

Social media platforms are so good for businesses because they offer a unique way to build and maintain a relationship with your customers, according to study conducted by Moz. You can see their complaints and praises in the comments sections and use that to improve your business, you can get them to like you better by being fun and interesting on social media – the possibilities are endless.

If you do have social media profiles or pages, share them on your website. A customer can make an easier decision about a sale if they see that you are truly working with real people. Sometimes, this is all the social proof you need.

You have a confusing navigation

People don’t like visiting a website and being confused. Make it easy for them to find a page and move around your site. According to study conducted by Joshua Porter, users are more likely to make 3 clicks on the website to access the target page rather than 12 clicks. If some information is hard to find, they are likely to give up and move on. This is really bad for your business.

Hire someone to review your website as a new visitor and through the fresh eyes, you’ll be able to see if your website is easy to use or not.

You don’t provide enough information

On your website, you need to be open and share enough information about your business and yourself. Display your contact information or contact page prominently  – it should be your main goal for customers to be able to find you easily. Then proceed to tell your story and share just enough for them to be entertained and for you to seem legit.

Sharing too much can also be a problem.

Collin Nevin, an SEO-specialist at Boomessays, states, “You have to give your users enough information about your website and yourself for them to see you as a relevant and trustworthy business and person. Don’t make the information too hard to find and don’t make yourself unreachable. Share your addresses both email and physical, numbers and tell your story.”

You don’t post quality content

Take your time and write content that will truly resonate with your readers. You will not be able to achieve much with bad content. You can hire writers, writing services or write it yourself, but it needs to hold all of the relevant information.

Another mistake with content that you could be making is not checking it for plagiarism. Google doesn’t like plagiarized content, favoring more fresh information and new takes on different subjects. This is why you should definitely employ the services of a plagiarism checker like Copyscape or UKWritings.

You don’t optimize your images for speed

Visual content is always a good idea but not if it slows you down. People don’t like waiting and if your page takes too long to load, they will not stay.

Make sure that everything is in optimal condition and test your website while imitating similar pressure that it would endure with an enormous flood of visitors.

“Anything that might slow down your loading speed is your enemy. People don’t like waiting. This is why you need to optimize your images, icons and videos so that they don’t slow your loading speed down but improve it. This isn’t hard to do but it will mean a lot for your website and your business,” says Miranda Grayson, a Web Developer at Essayroo.

Your site is not mobile-friendly

Most of the readers like to consume their content and get information on their mobile devices. If your website is not mobile-friendly, they will not ‘pinch and zoom in’ for too long and they will move on quickly to find another, mobile-friendly website.

You make grammar and spelling mistakes

According to new studies and statistics, people don’t like grammar mistakes or misspelt words. It signals them that your website is not to be trusted and that it may be a scam, potentially harmful for their devices. This also represents you as someone who doesn’t care enough to eliminate these when they are so easy to fix by using tools like StateOfWriting or SimpleGrad.

Conclusion

While there are many benefits to having a website, there are also a lot of mistakes that you can make. Some of them are on this list and if you follow these tips on how to fix them, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Guest Post: About the Author

Grace Carter is a content manager at Paper Fellows and Academized, online writing services. She checks content quality, curates writers and explores marketing possibilities. Also, Grace is a tutor at Eliteassignmenthelp.com, academic website.

What You Should be Doing Now to Get Your Business Ready for the Holidays

Summer has come and gone and Fall is well underway. Its time to get your business ready for the holidays! If you think you can wait, think again – it takes time to plan and execute your holiday operations. Here are 7 tips for you to consider:

Optimize your website:

Whether you employ your website for sales or marketing purposes, you should prepare it for your holiday inventory and holiday services, including any seasonal increase in volume. Steps you should take include updating your security software, revamping your pages to reflect the holiday season, and creating special holiday landing pages. If necessary, clearly state holiday shipping deadlines and costs, as well as special store hours, if appropriate. Finally, do some load testing to ensure your website won’t crash due to heavy holiday traffic.

Order your inventory:

Do it now, before prices go any higher. Review previous year sale data to gauge how much to order and check out new products you will want to include this year. If necessary, arrange financing to pay for your inventory. Remember, IOU Financial can lend you up to $300,000 with funding in 24 to 48 hours. Having cash up front for your inventory purchases may get you preferential access to scarcer items, which can be a real leg up at holiday time.

Plan labor scheduling and temporary hiring:

Many retail stores require extra help during the holiday season. Make your preparations early to lock in the workers you will need, before your competitors grab them. Your holiday budget should reflect the costs of extra labor. Once again, you can turn to IOU Financial to fill any gaps in your working capital to ensure you can pay your extra employees promptly.

Spruce up your store:

The holiday season demands special décor and ambience. Think of pleasing all the senses with appropriate lighting, decorations, music, free samples of holiday food, and even employing a Santa for young children. Your promotions should tie in to the holidays, with frequent sales and surprises. Your website should parallel your retail store’s promotion plans, such as Gifts for Grandma, Gifts for Teacher, etc.

Increase your social media footprint:

Reach out to shoppers through online reviews and social media. Review your search results and ratings, and consider a holiday ad campaign on the major search engines. You can set up software to monitor new social mentions of your business during the holidays so that you can respond quickly to any negative reviews or comments.

Prepare and execute your holiday email campaigns:

Email marketing is an important adjunct to your sales funnel. During the holidays, your email’s will naturally take on a seasonal flavor. You also might consider a more aggressive distribution schedule to take advantage of the public’s buying mood before your competitors do. Vendors like MailChimp and Constant Contact let you plan out and execute your autoresponders and drip emails in a logical, effective fashion.

Plan your post-holiday buying rush:

Many retailers make a giant portion of their annual profits between Christmas and New Year’s Day. You’ll want to plan your special markdowns and how you will market them. Also, be prepared for the inevitable increase in returns – customers appreciate a streamlined process. Here’s a nifty idea: Sell your leftover gift cards at a discount during the post-holiday period.

The holidays can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Guarantee the former by planning your holiday moves early on and funding your working capital with a handy small business loan from IOU Financial to ensure you have enough cash for all the extra costs during the holiday season.

The Pros and Cons of Mass Messaging for Small Business

If you’re a small business looking to get your message out to a large audience, email blasts aren’t always the most effective mode of communication. While you may think to yourself, I’ve put thought and effort into the perfect newsletter; who wouldn’t want that? The truth is, emails can become like unsolicited phone calls. Many individuals sign up to receive a business’s correspondence, but never actually open an email because they’re too busy or don’t believe the message will appeal to their interests. Let me propose another marketing solution: text message service

Here are some advantages and disadvantages to incorporating a text messaging campaign into your marketing strategy.

Pros:

People Sign Up for Text Messaging

Consumers need to opt in for text messaging when providing their number to a business. This means that those who receive your text messages have specifically stated that they want to hear from you. This eliminates the worry that your text messaging will be regarded in a negative light. They are most likely happy to receive a text from your business.

Email Companion

Due to character limitations, there is only so much you can cram into one text message. You may have an entire newsletter full of relevant and valuable information that a text message simply cannot support. However, using text in conjunction with your email is a smart, effective strategy for optimizing audience engagement. For example, you can send out a text message to advise customers to lookout for an upcoming email.

Current News

With emails, a lot of people will see that they have a notification, but if it is not something urgent, they will leave the email to look at for a later time. Text messaging typically receives a much more immediate response as people keep their smartphones on them throughout the day.

Cons:

Let’s talk about the drawbacks. As mentioned earlier, text messages must be brief. You can’t put a lot of information in your mass messaging blast because you don’t want to annoy your customers with a multi-text message. Also, there’s no room for elaborate graphics or to include the company logo, which is important for brand recognition.

Standing Out

Take into account that consumers may sign up for scores of text messaging blasts. Even the large department stores have text message updates. How can you stand out while contending with these large corporations? You will have to exercise some creativity so that when your text message gets to their phone, they find it unique and enticing and are prompted to take action.

 Getting Volunteers

As we said before, people need to opt into text messaging. People feel more inclined to sign up for email blasts as it is less personal. Even though everyone gets emails on their phone, receiving text messages from businesses can feel invasive to certain people. It’ll be your loyal customers who look forward to text message updates.

No matter if you own a bakery, a flower shop, or a liquor store, you will have to find new ways to reach your local patrons. By implementing a business text messaging campaign, you’re opening up a way to communicate with people and add that old personal touch that has almost been forgotten in this large, technological era. If you’re in need of some extra funding to implement a mass-texting service, IOU Financial can help! With up to $300,000 available in 24-48 hours, you can get the funds you need to grow your business quickly and easily.

Guest Post: About the Author

Ron Kinkade is the Director of Marketing at Call-Em-All, an automated calling and group texting company that provides solutions for small and medium sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 15 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron is a graduate of Illinois State University.

Save Time With Tools for Small Business Social Media Management

No one can ignore the power of social media in creating and sustaining a successful business. The problem is that there are so many different platforms, and managing all of them requires a team that most small business owners cannot afford.

The good news is that there are tools for small business social media management which are inexpensive and easy to set up. Read on to find out what your options are and choose the one that’s most appropriate for your business needs.

Buffer

When you want to share some exciting news about your business, or a photo or video, it can be incredibly time consuming to post it on each individual platform, like Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buffer is a great resource that can automatically share content on a multitude of platforms, and offers both free and paid plans.

You can add all of the content at a time that is convenient for you, such as early morning or evening, and then create a schedule to stagger the posts to be shared at optimal times. After the content has been shared, Buffer will offer analytics of how well each post performed.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a great resource to help you with social media that may take may take some time to learn to navigate, but it’s well worth it. Although there are limited free features, you will have to pay for most services.

Hootsuite lets you to add content and store it in their Cloud, that will allow your team to share it when the time comes. However, the tool’s main benefit is its comprehensive analytics, which allows you to analyze conversations and results across channels and compare them. You can even utilize demographics to filter conversations about your brand by location, language, etc.

Agorapulse

Calling itself a Hootsuite alternative, Agorapulse offers some great features. It analyzes your social media platforms 24/7 and alerts you in real time when something needs your attention. Plus, you have the ability to automate the moderation process by creating certain rules.

This tool helps you maintain good relationships with your audience by storing all of the interactions you have had with your followers, such as their comments, likes and messages.

Plus, you can compare your page to that of your competitors to give you an idea of what is working or not for them and help you improve your social media reach.

Feedly

The main point of creating social media pages is to engage with your target audience. However, most businesses don’t have enough information to come up with several posts a day, and different ones across various platforms at that! However, that is what’s needed to keep the public interested.

An easy way to fix this challenge is to share other interesting and relevant content that your followers would enjoy. This is where Feedly comes in—instead of subscribing to dozens of other sites or platforms and perusing their content, this Feed Reader collects content from various sites and presents it to you in an easy to read format. You can then instantly share it on your social media!

There are many great tools and resources that can take your social media management to the next level and help you engage with current and potential customers. The truth is that it may take a financial investment to set up accounts with some of these resources, which is why a small business loan can help. IOU Financial is committed to helping small businesses grow and thrive; contact us today to learn more.

Go Green! 5 Tips for Sustainably Responsible Retail Businesses

In this day and age, most of us know the importance of going green. We recycle at home and have switched out plastic bags for sustainable totes when going to the grocery store. However, not as many green efforts are being made in retail businesses, even though it’s easier than ever to do so.

There are so many reasons to go green, with the most important one being that it is beneficial for us, the future generation and our planet. However, it’s also good for business! Going green helps you both save and make money.  When you make small changes, such as becoming energy efficient, you save money every month on your utility bill.

Plus, consumers are demanding more than ever that the companies they are loyal to become more environmentally sustainable.  By showing your customers that you are committed to going green, you can attract a new audience base, thereby increasing your sales.  Below are five easy tips on a sustainably responsible retail business that you can start implementing today:

Make it Part of Your Corporate Culture

It’s not enough for you to decide to go green, you must encourage your entire team to do so with you. Incorporate an environmentally-friendly initiative into your corporate culture. Discuss ways to be more sustainable with your employees and how you can reduce, reuse and recycle, and then implement the strategies into your everyday life. Purchase blue recycling bins so that your employees remember to recycle. Reward them for biking, taking public transportation or carpooling to work.

Reduce Paper Use

Over 30 million acres of forest around the world are destroyed every year to make paper. This is why it’s important to reduce paper use as much as possible. Encourage your employees to email or write something down on a small post it rather than print an entire page when it’s unnecessary. Teach them to print on both sides instead of single sided.

Ask your customers if they prefer an email receipt over a paper one; this will also give you the opportunity to collect email addresses to stay in touch with your clients. Reward your customers with a small discount for bringing in their bags instead of giving our plastic ones.

Create a Green Wall

In many retail businesses, air is recirculated throughout the ducts and becomes stale. Instead of using the A/C even more or investing in an air purifier, create a green wall! This will allow you to create a unique space that is affordable and will improve air quality. Spider plants, common ivy and sword plants are the best options for cleaner indoor air and a cool look.

Turn Everything Off

It’s likely that you leave computers, cash registers and lights on when your business is not operating, which wastes electricity and raises your utility bill. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of turning each and every item on and off daily, invest into a smart plug. This way, you can control your devices from anywhere with an app or with voice control through Alexa or Google Assistant.  

Green Marketing

Once you commit to making sustainable changes in your retail business, spread the word!  Concentrate on effective green marketing strategies to let your customers know all of the new initiatives you’re putting forth.

Why not host an event to celebrate you going green, and educate your customers about your efforts? This is an excellent way to increase foot traffic and help new customers get acquainted with your business.

IOU Financial works with small businesses to help them finance their needs. If you need a small  business loan in order to help your company go green, visit us today at www.ioufinancial.com.

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.

Are you Monitoring Your Online Reputation? How to Get Started.

The advent of the internet age has made competition for all businesses a bigger challenge than it ever was before. As customers are no longer constricted by time or distance, they’re able to purchase goods from around the world.

Since it is difficult to compete by offering unique products or lower than average prices, business owners should strive to provide the best customer service, which goes a long way in keeping current customers loyal and attracting new clients.

It’s important to monitor your online reputation to see what is being said about your brand online because 74% of shoppers base their purchasing decisions on positive online reviews. That means that if you have poor reviews about your products or services, you may be losing out on ¾ of your potential sales! Read on to see how you can get started with monitoring your online reputation to help your business succeed!

Set Up Google Alerts

Google offers an incredibly useful tool that all business owners should become familiar with; and the best part is that it is completely free! Instead of dedicating hours of your time on a weekly basis to scouring the web, Google Alerts will email you when your business is mentioned online on websites, blogs, etc.

Setting this up is easy; simply log into or create a Google account and set up words or phrases that you want Google to track. This can include your company’s name or the names of products or services you offer.

Know Where Your Audience “Hangs Out”

Although Google Alerts is a great resource, you can’t rely on it to report 100% of what goes on online. This is why it’s important to know your audience—customers, employees, investors, etc., and learn where they hang out online.

If you have a physical location, such as a restaurant, body shop or hair salon, it’s likely that your customers tend to frequent review sites, such as Yelp.

If you target a younger demographic and/ or offer products or services that are presented well in photos and videos, such as a travel agency or a clothing boutique, your target audience may be found on Instagram.

On the other hand, if you offer professional services, such as bookkeeping or accounting, you may find your company being mentioned on professional sites, such as LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Remember that your employees may also leave reviews about the experience of working at your company, which can influence shoppers!

Verify Your Information is Correct

While the internet offers a multitude of benefits, it also often takes the control out of business owner’s hands. You can’t regulate what a person or a company posts online, and that may lead to wrong information about your business being posted.

Yext is a helpful tool that can help you manage listings on review and location sites, such as Yellow Pages. It automatically reviews these sites and alerts you when a mistake is found or there is no information at all.

This will help you keep your contact information, address, business hours and link to your website current so your customers can always find you.

Monitoring your online reputation is the first step; however, the most important step is the second one. If you notice a bad review or wrong information about your business posted online, do something about it! If a customer had a negative experience shopping on your site or visiting your brick-and-mortar location, reach out to them and attempt to make it right. Showing your online audience that you are invested in your brand’s reputation and committed to providing the best customer service will go a long way in setting you apart from the competition!

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