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The Best Tech Tools Entrepreneurs Recommend to Boost Business Productivity

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s important to make sure you’re covering all areas of business in the most effective way possible. While you’ll have different priorities at different times, your accounting department is just as important as your customer service department. Each cog is vital in running a smooth and effective machine.

However, as a small business, the chances are you’re doing a lot of these processes yourself, but thanks to the modern age, there are plenty of tools out there to help you get things done correctly while maximizing productivity. This means apps!

Today, we’re going to look at a selection of some of the best apps and tools out there that can help you get every job in your business done to the best of your ability.

QuickBooks

As we mentioned above, accounting is a crucial department you’ll want to make sure you’re nailing in your small business. Get it wrong, even on the tiniest mistake, and this can have huge consequences for your business, especially from a legal standpoint.

Fortunately, the QuickBooks app makes it easy for you to load up and connect your bank accounts to easily keep track of all your finances and get the facts spot on.

Square

Being able to take mobile and card payments as a business is essential when it comes to maximizing your revenue and providing your customers with the best experience possible. Square is an excellent solution for making sure you have all bases covered.

ZenDesk

As above, the level of customer service you offer is essential because this is what people are going to think of your business and will make or break as to whether they recommend you or never come back. ZenDesk makes it easy to offer fantastic customer service from your computer or mobile.

Toggl

When running a small business, it’s easy to get caught up with tasks, and you end up spending way more, or way less, time than you originally planned. Toggl is a free time tracking app that can help you keep on top of things and spending your time and energy in the right places.

Evernote

Every entrepreneurial tool list will mention Evernote, and that’s simply because it’s so effective at what it does and brings so many benefits to small business. “From jotting down notes and ideas for the future to keeping track of employee hours and orders, Evernote can be whatever you want it to be” shares Nina Harper, a business blogger for WriteMYX and Brit Student.

MailChimp

Marketing your business is an essential process you need to go through to get your business out into the world, and one of the best ways to market is through email marketing. MailChimp makes it easy to manage and create your email marketing campaigns, and you can get started for free up to 5,000 people!

HootSuite

Hand in hand with the marketing point above, you’re going to want to market your business on social media to get it out to the masses. While there are plenty of options to choose from, Hootsuite is a great way to manage all your accounts in one simple place.

There are all the features you could need, including post creation and scheduling to answering comments and managing the accounts you follow. Hootsuite, available on desktop and mobile devices, really does have it all.

WordPress

Every business needs a website to be an online HQ for the company, but this can be expensive and complicated if you have no experience in it. “However, WordPress is designed to alleviate these troubles and make it easy for anybody to set up a professional website in no time at all” explains Sarah Coombes, a writer for Next Coursework and 1Day2Write.

Through WordPress, you can manage everything from the theme and design of your website to the blog post and content you’re creating. Everything; all in one place.

Slack

Slack is an instant messaging platform designed to help you and your team communicate in the most integrated and effective way. Slack ensures your team can sign into their workspaces from anywhere to stay in touch and maximize productivity.

Slack is available on all devices, and with the ability to set up an infinite number of channels, which could be dedicated to different projects, different clients, or different departments, it’s easy to stay organized and one step ahead of the game.

Guest Post: About the Author

Emily Marchant is a marketing manager at Academic brits and Origin writings. She is responsible for renewing and retaining existing subscribers through campaigns that involve newsletters, sponsored content, partnerships, ads and events. An excellent project manager and a team player, and a blog contributor at Phd Kingdom.

Spring Cleaning for Your Business: Tackle These Tasks

Spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings, and it’s not just for nature or your closet. Your business can greatly benefit from a spring cleaning to clear out the old, and streamline the new. What tasks can you tackle that can help you run a more productive and profitable company? Below are some examples for your inspiration:

Digitize

With more and more technological advances coming out daily, it is surprising that many people are still using outdated paper processes to manage their business operations. The spring is an excellent time to review how you handle your billing, filing and communication, and find more innovative and efficient ways of optimizing them.

For example, using filing cabinets to store paper files is extremely inefficient for multiple reasons—it takes up a lot of space, it is time-consuming to put away and find needed documents and it exposes your sensitive information to theft or fire. A better way to clean up your documents is to use a virtual file storage system where you can scan information and store it in a digital cloud. This way, you can access your documents from anywhere at anytime, and implement cybersecurity to protect this information. Click here to read reviews and pricing for digital filing tools.

Hold an Innovation Contest

Entrepreneurs on the hit show Shark Tank are always questioning old processes or products and finding better ways of improving them. Most of us get so preoccupied with our daily tasks that we forget to question standard processes to see how they can be optimized to be more efficient.

Now is the time to create an innovation contest, urging employees to find creative solutions for existing operations. By motivating your colleagues to think outside of the box and have a safe space to suggest an idea, no matter how crazy or silly it may sound, you can pinpoint great ideas you can implement throughout the rest of the year.

Reinvent Traditional Meetings

Did you know that 6 out of every 10 meetings are over an hour long? That means that you are wasting at least 1/8th of your day that can be spent on other, more pressing activities. While  interaction with your employees is imperative, try to reinvent traditional meetings to make them more productive and faster.

Did you know that meetings up to 18 minutes long are able to capture the concentration of attendees the best; after that, they start getting bored and distracted?

Instead of having a large interdepartmental meeting every week, why not create micro meetings that last 10 minutes or less with only the people that are directly involved? This way, you can allow colleagues that do not need be part of the conversation the opportunity to work on other tasks instead of sitting by idly wasting time.

Commit to a New Project

There are many projects that you likely have in mind, but have been hesitant to implement due to a lack of resources. Whether it is a new marketing campaign or research and development for a new product, spring is the time to commit to a new project that can grow your business.

Creating a new annual goal that can help you beat the competition and take over your niche market is imperative to stay relevant in your space. If you do not have the financial resources to invest in this task, IOU Financial is here to help. We work with small businesses to finance up to $500,000 in small business loans in as little as 24-48 Hours. Click here to contact us and learn more.

Are You Overpaying Your Business Expenses?

Running a small business is a costly undertaking in terms of time, effort and money. Unfortunately, too many businesses spend too much on their expenses. This eats into your working capital unnecessarily, possibly crimping your flexibility and your ability to take advantage of opportunities as they appear. Let’s look at some expenses for which many owners overpay.

Credit card processing:

As your business grows, so does your credit card volume. Have you asked for a quantity discount on your credit card processing fees? This is an extremely competitive market — shop around and you might find much better deals.

Design instead of content:

Your website is a tremendous lead generator. A problem surfaces when owners lavish too much money on design without paying enough attention to content. Your search results will improve if you populate your website with timely, authoritative content. While fancy design is fine, it won’t improve your Page Rank, and it can be expensive to create and maintain. Spend that money instead on quality writing and search engine optimization.

Oversized office:

Rent is expensive. Are you paying for space you don’t really need? Have you filled your office with expensive furniture and equipment? Many businesses can function in smaller spaces or even in a home office. The latter is a great option because it gives you a tax deduction without additional expense, eliminates your commute time (saving money on gasoline), and perhaps reduces your wardrobe costs.

Inefficient employees:

You might spend more on labor than any other expense. Inefficient employees are costly because you are not getting your money’s worth and you might even overstaff to compensate for some bad apples. There are ways to quantify how much an employee is returning to the business. Good employees should return 5 to 10 times what you pay them. If your employees are underperforming, replace them with better ones (even if they cost more) or use contractors instead.

Unproductive advertising:

Do you know your marketing return on investment (ROI)? If not, you don’t have a handle on how your marketing efforts are performing. Many businesses spend a lot of advertising dollars on Google and Facebook. These media sites can provide extensive information about your marketing ROI, but it goes to waste if you don’t use it.

Using paper:

OK, its 2019. Aren’t you ashamed you still haven’t gone paperless? If you had invested in a paperless office, you’d be saving a small fortune on printing and photocopying costs. Plus, don’t you want to save the trees?

Unnecessary travel:

Some transactions require in-person interaction. But does that really pertain to your business? Consider the costs of travel, hotel, meals and entertainment. Chances are you aren’t getting a good return on these expenses. Your time might be better spent conducting your business on Skype, and you’ll save a fortune.

Living the louche life:

You are a business owner, not a superhero. If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll get burnt. Guard your health by avoiding too many nights entertaining customers, vendors and employees. Your tab will be substantial, and your health might suffer. Sure, you can probably charge off your entertainment expenses, but you may pay in other ways.

Failure to grab opportunities:

In the penny-wise and pound-foolish department, false economies can cost you in the long run. For instance, you might be offered inventory or raw materials at a discount, but you don’t make the purchase because you don’t want to borrow the funds you need. This behavior can stymie growth. The lesson is to use borrowing intelligently. If you don’t, you can be certain your competitors will.

These are just a few of the many ways you can cut waste and increase efficiency. Should you need to beef up your working capital, contact us at IOU Financial for business loans that are easy to get and easy to repay.

How to Improve Internal Communication in Your Small Business

A vital component in being a successful business is effective communication. While that may seem like a simple concept, poor communication strategies seem to be a common theme in all businesses, no matter their size. Improper communication practices can create problems and pitfalls for teams working to accomplish their goals, and can even impact your business’ bottom line. So, where do managers and business owners start? By implementing tools and improving internal communication frequency to create a more unified business.

Communication Tools

In this digital age, we are able to access news and information almost instantly with our many devices. We expect the same in the business world; becoming a workforce that expects information to disseminate instantly. To keep up, it is essential that small businesses empower their workforce to communicate in a fast and timely manner. In other words, businesses need to empower their employees to communicate. Here are some examples how:

  • Implementing the use of an instant messaging platform can provide every employee direct access to one another. Tools like Google Hangouts Chat can connect employees no matter where they are. Whether in the office or working remotely, questions can be asked and answered instantly. These messaging platforms allow for constant communication among peers. Each employee has the ability to manage and monitor multiple discussions at one time. Additionally, teams can utilize this chat ability to set up a virtual room with the team in its entirety. This type of communication channel promotes more frequent knowledge transfers, the desire to collaborate, and serves as a knowledge bank of archived conversations; allowing employees the ability to refer back to previous conversations and eliminate redundancy in workflow.
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to have face to face conversations is another avenue for enhanced communication. This is especially relevant for any small business that employs remote workers. Utilizing telecommunications applications like Skype can bridge the gap between employees in the office and off location. Messages can sometimes become lost in translation through text, so having the capability to video chat can further ensure that teams remain on the same page. Not only does it allow those working remotely a seat at the conference room table, but it also facilitates the ability to read facial expressions, be aware of body language, and form real connections with their peers on the receiving end.
  • Another option for consideration is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service in exchange for a traditional landline. This means that instead of dealing with traditionally hardwired phones, you’re able to make phone calls over the internet. There are three different VoIP service options in use today: ATA, IP phones, and computer-to-computer. Each VoIP method converts analog audio signals and turns them into digital data that is transmitted over the internet. VoIP phone services can both save your company money and effort by streamlining all communication efforts to one service.
  • To further set your employees up for success, consider utilizing Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to support all of your diverse communications systems. 8×8 offers cloud based unified communications that combine instant messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP services into one suite; further streamlining your business efficiency by uniting all of your current communication tools.

The continuous development of strong communication skills will further strengthen all aspects of your business. While these tools impact things like timeliness, and the ability to share information instantly; you are also facilitating more opportunities for collaboration. The more that employees are able to work together, the stronger their work relationship becomes resulting in more productivity.

Guest Post: About the Author

Steven Maxon, is a communication advocate dedicated to helping businesses make integrated communications decisions.

Starting a Home-Based Business: What You Need to Know

Starting a home-based business takes a lot of hard work, but for millions of Americans, it really pays off. More and more people are discovering the possibilities of being small business owners on their own terms as the nine-to-five workday increasingly becomes a thing of the past. Even large companies are hiring freelancers who can work remotely in order to save on costs, from insurance to office space.

Growing a business from your home can be extremely lucrative and rewarding, but it has to start with careful planning in order to work. Not only do you have to be very focused and have goals set from the beginning, you also have to remain motivated throughout the process of garnering clients and expanding your business. Fortunately, there are several tools at your disposal, from websites to grants and other funding opportunities.

Keep reading to find out how you can start a home-based business and what you need to succeed.

Know Your Stuff

Before you start thinking about the details, it’s important to look at big-picture things first. You’ll want to be very knowledgeable when it comes to the area you want your business to be in, and you’ll need some experience, too. Very few entrepreneurs have found success with a business that they’ve never worked with before. For instance, if you want to become a consultant, you need to be well educated in whatever area you want to consult in, acquire the right licenses and certifications, and stay patient as you grow your business. Keeping realistic expectations is imperative for entrepreneurs.

Hire the Right Help

Depending on the nature of your business, it may be in your best interest to hire people to get yourself up and running, and keep it operating as a successful venture once it’s fully launched. Even if you plan an independent business that you fully oversee, ask yourself if there are people you can recruit to make you stand out among the competition. For example, if you’re going to be selling handmade works of art on a site like Etsy, should you hire a professional photographer to take eye-catching photos of your products? Has your company grown so successful that you need a second (or third or fourth) set of hands to help you create your crafts? Think about what types of employees will take your business to the next level, and then start lining up interviews. Be sure you’ve adequately prepared yourself on the job interview process by doing your research on what to ask, what you can’t legally inquire about, and what to look for in a candidate.

Stay Productive

One of the hardest things about running your own business is having to stay productive all the time on your own, with no one to motivate you. You have to be your own cheerleader, which means it’s extra important to create a space in which you can work efficiently. This includes setting up a home office without distractions and making the most of natural lighting, which can boost your energy and keep things running smoothly. It’s also important to make sure you have the right equipment for the jobs you’ll be doing; you can’t expect success if you don’t start with the right tools.

Network

Starting a home-based business usually means you can make your own schedule and set your own rules, but it also means a lot of solitude and not much time spent checking out other businesses. Networking is important to entrepreneurs because it allows them to make connections with like-minded people that could be useful now or down the road, and it also provides a support system that is helpful in the first few years of owning a business. Get online and create a web presence on social media; Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all great places to start. You can also check out conventions and similar businesses that are local.

Keep Your Personal and Business Lives Separate

It can sometimes be difficult to separate your personal and business lives, especially if your office is inside your home, but it’s imperative that you do everything you can to draw a line between the two. This means having separate bank accounts, keeping different sets of books, and making sure your tax liabilities are taken care of. Getting organized and keeping excellent records will help, as will having business credit cards and email addresses.

Starting a home-based business can be a very lucrative venture for you, but only if you put in the work. Start with a solid plan — talk to someone who’s been doing it for a while to get some advice — and use all the tools at your disposal to build up your company.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brittany has spent over 20 years as a CPA, and is writing a book about financial literacy. She also runs Financiallywell.info.

Looking to start a business? Be sure your budget is in order with our Business Budget Smart Sheet available for FREE download!

5 Online Courses to Develop Your Management Skills

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

Becoming a manager, Lynda

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

Management course, Alison

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

Beginning Project Management, Udemy

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

Growing as a Manager, Future Learn

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

Business Strategy, EDX

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

Guest Post: About the Author 

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

Five Tips to Be a Happier, More Balanced Business Owner

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

Shorten your workweek:

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

Use technology:

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

Enter the cloud:

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

Take a vacation:

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

Stop fretting about money:

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

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

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.

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.