How has your office changed since you started your career?

It’s thirty years since I first set foot in an office and it’s incredible how much has changed in that time. British Gas have created an infographic of the evolution of the office since 1700, and I’m sure a time traveller from 1700 wouldn’t even recognise our offices today. One interesting fact is that the typewriter was invented in 1867 – did you know they’d been around that long? I didn’t.

My first experience of an office was when I had two weeks of work experience as a 15-year-old in the late eighties. One of my GCSEs was in office technology – all of which would be laughably obsolete now! – so I spent two weeks as an administrator in the sales department of an engineering company. At that time staff could smoke at their desks, which would seem very strange today, not to mention it being illegal! The most obvious difference was the technology, though. There was no Internet or email, so a large part of the administrator’s role was typing up letters and memos, then circulating them.

The only electronic communication we had was a telex, used mainly for international messages. I had to type up my message on a computer, save it to a very large floppy disk, then walk down two floors to the only computer which was attached to the telex line. This was fairly cutting edge because until that time telexes had essentially been typewriters connected to a phone line. As far as I know there was no fax machine in the building.

By the time I was temping during my university holidays, around five years later, there was a PC on each admin person’s desk, running Windows, and we had a fax machine. As far as I can remember the PCs were used as little more than advanced typewriters. Files were printed on paper and kept in ring binders. I don’t remember any server where you could save files that could be accessed by other members of staff.

Working from home was unusual at that time, partly because it wasn’t part of the culture of most workplaces but also because the technology didn’t exist to make it feasible. If all the files you needed to do your job were on a shelf in the office, then you needed to be there too.

Fast forward to my first proper desk job in 1995 and we finally had email. But only one computer in the department was connected to the server, so you had to use that computer every time you wanted to send an email. Most internal communication was on paper and to contact someone outside the organisation we used the phone or post.  I had my first peek at the Internet in 1995. I thought it was interesting but I couldn’t really understand what I’d use it for other than as a kind of encyclopaedia. How things have changed!

As you can see from the infographic, the Internet has created a revolution in the way we work. The Internet exploded in the 1990s, going from 500,000 users in 1989 to 248 million in 1999.  But it’s not just the availability and the connectivity of the tech that’s made things possible, it’s the cost of the equipment.

By 1998 I’d changed jobs. I had a computer on my desk with email and internet access, which was a huge step forward. But I travelled a lot for work and the small business that employed me couldn’t justify a laptop for me as they were about £2000 each at the time. And that laptop would have been much less powerful than the smartphone an average teenager owns today! By 2001 I was a freelance software trainer and had to buy my own laptop, a mid-range one for £1000 which was still a lot of money at the time.

As the 21st century moved on, Internet speeds became faster, devices became cheaper and mobile technology progressed at a rapid pace. All of this has enabled me to work from home when I had two young children in a way that wouldn’t have been possible ten years before. For us self-employed mums our offices can be anywhere from the kitchen table once the kids are in bed to a soft-play centre in the school holidays. I feel incredibly lucky that that this era in home working and technology happened to fall at the time when I had a young family as it’s given me an ‘office’ and a business that I could only have dreamt of at the start of my career.

How has your office changed since you started your career?

 

How to prepare for your CPA Exam

As an aspiring licensed certified public accountant (CPA) one of the most important hurdles you must face is the Uniform CPA Examination. The CPA Exam is comprised of four, four-hour sections including Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). You must pass all four sections within an 18-month period and earn a minimum score of 75 on each part.

Although everyone prepares for exams in their own unique way, there are some tried and tested methods that can help you to feel ready for your CPA exam. Let’s discover some simple preparation tips that can ensure you give the CPA exam your best shot.

Start revising for your CPA Exam as soon as possible

The adage of not putting off until tomorrow what you should do today rings especially true where revising for your CPA exam is concerned. Although there is no ideal time to take the CPA exam, the longer you wait to book your exam and start revision, the harder it will be to pass. Assuming you meet your state specific education, residency, age and citizenship requirements, you might even want to start studying right after reading this post.

A professional accounting license is an excellent foot in the door for careers in private or governmental accounting positions, business management or even becoming a professor, so remind yourself of exactly why you are pursuing this qualification in the first place to motivate your progress. Starting preparations early allows you to take your time, work at your own pace and avoid any infamous all-nighters in the run up to your exam.

Complete a CPA Exam Review Course

It is no secret that sourcing the best CPA study materials could be the difference between passing and failing your exams. Consequently, completing a CPA review course is an excellent way to guide your studies. Not sure where to begin? If you are contemplating utilising a CPA Exam Review Course, your study materials will be a constant resource and companion throughout your learning journey, so it is important that you make the right choice.

Although there is no one size fits all course, it is important to find a program that matches your individual learning style and preferences. Surgent and Roger are two of the big names when it comes to CPA Review courses. Depending on how much time you want to devote to studying and your own learning efficiencies, there are a number of benefits of both the Surgent and Roger CPA Review courses, so it is important to do some research before you commit to either option.

Commitment is Key

Passing the CPA exam requires an incredible amount of preparation, dedication and focus. As with any exam, being mentally prepared is essential here. You must be willing to sacrifice free time, time with family and friends as well as hobbies while in the depths of your studies. Furthermore, accepting that there will be instances when you will fail to find a correct answer can also be difficult to come to terms with at first, but it is crucial to remember that learning from your mistakes brings you one step closer to passing and getting your license.

If possible, rely on your family and friends to hold you accountable to a strict study schedule. A grand total of 350-800 hours study time depending on your own abilities and any CPA Exam Review courses is to be expected, so some drastic lifestyle changes might have to take place in order for you to have ample time to cover the material and feel ready to take the final tests. Remember however to make regular check ins with your mental health. Preparing for exams can be draining, but if you experience trouble eating and sleeping or difficulty focusing it might be helpful to take a night off or a weekend away from your studies to recenter and recharge.

Ultimately, implementing study tactics that work for you and your unique learning style is the only way to get ahead with your studies and pass the CPA Exam. The CPA Exam is notoriously challenging, but do not feel disheartened if you feel overwhelmed during your revision process. Focusing on your final goal and eventual career progression can help you to put things into perspective. Accounting is just one example of a job that busy parents can do from home. For more ideas on getting your own side hustle, check out this blog post filled with ways to boost your income.

Image: Pexels

4 Easy and Simple Financial Tips That All Small Businesses Should Be Aware Of

Managing the finances of a small business is a lot more complicated than some people think. After all, trying to keep company expenditure to a minimum when monetary resources are limited, to begin with, can be more than just a little challenging to achieve. Fortunately, keeping costs at a reasonably low level isn’t an impossibility. And you don’t necessarily need to make any drastic changes to your business model to improve the financial status of the company. To this end, here are just a few easy and simple financial tips that all small businesses should be aware of and practise.

  1. Research and compare all options available

Regardless of your chosen industry, success in any business endeavour can hinge on the ability to keep fixed expenses to a minimum. And one of the most effective ways that this can be accomplished is to thoroughly research and compare any and all options available to your company. From looking up several suppliers for all the necessary equipment and materials that you may need to comparing utility services using Utility Bidder, the time you invest in research can make all the difference in keeping expenditure to a minimum.

  1. Choose energy-efficient products

These days, it’s not uncommon for companies to invest in energy-efficient products that their business operations require. After all, it gives them the opportunity not only to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum but also do the same for their utility expenses. And since a considerable portion of our monthly expenditure comes from the use of gas and electricity, it makes sense to do the same. So always opt for green technology whenever possible. It will save you money.

  1. Regularly review the company’s financial performance

Let’s face it, number crunching is a tedious task that many of us would undoubtedly rather be without. However, it’s essential to review the financial performance of the company regularly. After all, it will not only give you a better perspective as to whether or not the company is generating enough profit to sustain its operations, but it can also provide invaluable insight that can help you avoid making any financial losses too.

  1. Choose your marketing strategies wisely

In today’s world, advertising is no longer a luxury that is reserved solely for large corporations and well-established enterprises. And even small businesses can reach their target market without putting a sizeable dent in the bank. So, before you spend on expensive television ads or expensive promotional materials, it is well worth the effort to explore other avenues first like blogging or social media platforms. After all, you may find a marketing strategy that is as effective in building brand awareness as it is affordable.

Despite the challenges that it may present, maintaining the financial health of a small business is not unattainable, even for those operating with limited resources. And with these tips, you’ll reduce the risks of spending more than what is needed and, as a result, increase both the revenue and profit margins of the business as well.

Image: Pixabay

Handling an Emergency: 4 Crucial Fire Safety Tips

Fires happen every day and usually without any type of warning. The cause of a fire could be from cooking in the kitchen, a gas leak, a faulty appliance, or an automobile accident. Fires are an instant way for someone’s anxiety and adrenaline to spike dramatically. However, panicking is never the answer when a fire starts. There are several safety tips a person should keep in mind during a fire to limit the loss of life or minimize the potential for injuries.

Type Of Fire

The type of fire will determine what type of material should be used to extinguish it. Class B Firefighting Foam includes Aqueous Film Forming (AFFF), medium and high expansion foams, and Alcohol Resistant (AR-AFFF) substances. Experience with the type of foam needed can be provided with a training session provided by a consulting firm.

Smoke In The Air

If there is smoke in the air, everyone should remain low to the ground. Crawling or walking close to the ground will reduce the possibility of smoke inhalation that causes people to pass out or die. Covering the mouth with a piece of clean material will help to reduce smoke inhalation.

An individual shouldn’t keep their head any further than two feet from the ground in a smoke-filled building. If an individual has a flashlight, they should attempt to use it to see their way through the smoke.

Evacuation Plan

Every home or business should have an evacuation plan. If there is a second story to a home, the owner should consider having some type of a portable ladder that will attach to the window to lower individuals to the ground. This type of ladder can usually be stored under a bed or in a closet.

A business should regularly perform fire drills with employees. This preparation is invaluable when a fire strikes. Fire alarms should be installed throughout the building and should be pulled as soon as a fire is detected. An immediate telephone call should be made to the fire department as evacuation begins.

Feeling A Door

Before opening a door during a fire, an individual should feel the door for heat. There could be a raging fire on the other side of the door, and opening the door could cause a blowback, burning the individual attempting to escape the fire.

Highrise Evacuation

When an individual cannot escape a building because of a fire, they should block the cracks around doors and windows. Once this is done, they should use anything they can find to break a window to the outside and signal the firefighters for help.

Extinguishing A Fire

Class B foam is ideal to use on fires that are fueled by gasoline or oil. Gasoline stations, oil refineries, chemical plants, and other businesses that use these types of flammable products will benefit from training and Class B foam in the event of a fire. The foam can be ordered in pails, drums, or reusable tote tanks.

Municipal Class B foam can be used by municipalities for common settings they face. Besides municipalities, state, federal, and local governments can benefit from stocking Class B foam in the event of a fire. This type of foam can be used to fight fires in aircraft hangars, loading docks, and a wide range of other situations where Class B foams are commonly recommended. The foam will quickly limit the fire’s ability to spread.

Image: HG-Fotografie

 

Sparkling Clean: 4 Best Practices for Cleaning Your Office Space

When it comes to cleanliness, health and sanitation, just because your office looks clean doesn’t mean it is clean. Failure to follow industry best practices could leave your office with hidden grime, mould and damp, and leave dangerous microbes in the office environment.

The Three Pillars of Cleaning

 So, what does a “clean” office environment actually mean? Cleanliness goes beyond just a clean outward appearance. A genuinely clean environment will be “clean” in three ways.

  • Sterile- A sterile environment is completely free from germs and bacterial contamination. Think of a surgeon’s operating theatre where every surface, piece of equipment and item of clothing has been sterilized. This level of cleanliness is not required for commercial cleaning, where we can assume that most occupants are not at heightened risk of infection or disease.
  • Disinfected- A disinfected environment is an environment in which dangerous pathogens that can cause diseases in humans have been removed. This is something that office cleaning practices should aim to achieve.
  • Sanitary- A sanitary environment is an environment in which most contamination has been removed, however, there is still some risk of disease. Generally, a sanitary environment means employee health is adequately protected.

What Should Your Office Cleaning Regimen Strive For?

 A comprehensive office cleaning plan will strive to achieve a disinfected level of cleanliness in which all pathogens dangerous to humans have been removed. A sterile environment is impractical and unnecessary for a commercial space. Simultaneously, a sanitary space should be the bare minimum.

The 4 Best Practices to Achieve the Necessary Level of Cleanliness

Avoiding toxic chemicals in the cleaning process whenever possible reduces the number of harmful toxins in the facility and makes for a healthier, more pleasant working environment. Big Clean commercial cleaning products have a wide selection of cleaning products for use in your office workspace.

  • Don’t reuse the same cloth to clean multiple areas.

The purpose of cleaning is to eliminate germs and pathogens. Using the same cloth, therefore, becomes counterproductive. You effectively end up moving germs from one surface to another, never really eliminating them. Not changing cloths regularly will leave bacteria and germs on surfaces and could become detrimental to employees’ health and safety in the workplace.

  • Don’t use a mop.

Once upon a time, every janitor and office cleaner used a mop as the preferred method of cleaning commercial floors. However, modern science has allowed us to refine our cleaning practices and update our best practices. Use a floor cleaning machine and germicide to ensure floors are adequately disinfected and don’t merely appear clean.

  • Stay proactive.

Cleaning is not something that only happens at the end of each day. If there is a spillage, there should be janitors or cleaners ready to quickly block the area off and clean the area. Not only will this protect employees from slips and falls, it will also make the janitor’s life far simpler as nobody will have walked through the spill and spread it to other areas on their shoes.

Follow these best practices to ensure your office doesn’t just look clean but is disinfected and free from harmful disease-causing pathogens.

Image: Pixabay

 

Why video is the best way to sell in 2019

When running a business, especially with many other responsibilities to consider as well, you could be easily excused for wondering how exactly you are supposed to spend your marketing money. After all, you might have exhausted many of the obvious options already.

How can you stand out in a marketplace where many other businesses are striving to do the same? Surprisingly or not, shooting some video footage could be the answer.

You could provide some instructional, “how to” videos

Often, people turn to YouTube in search of such videos, as Econsultancy points out. Many of us are eager to improve ourselves in one way or another – but, sometimes, we need a face-to-face teacher rather than blocks of soulless text in a book. This is where video can make a crucial difference…

Consider the example of the women’s workout apparel retailer Sweaty Betty, which has uploaded various helpful videos, replicating its in-store exercises classes, to its YouTube channel.

Target obscure, easy-to-overlook markets

Many of us love the idea of tucking into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. However, for the lactose-intolerant among us, eating anything from such a tub might, at first, seem like a big no-no. Fortunately, perhaps to your surprise, Ben & Jerry’s does offer non-dairy options.

Cleverly, the brand itself has highlighted this in a YouTube video which people could come across when using Google to look for lactose-free food – and it helps that the video adopts a comedic tone.

You can avoid overly sales-driven pitches

How ironic that you can more easily sell to people when, well, you aren’t so open about your attempts to sell to them. The luxury clothing brand Ted Baker obviously took note of this, hence its video series ‘Keeping Up With The Bakers’, which is closer to an ongoing drama than a blatant ad.

On film, we see the Baker family on their entry into a new suburban house – and, with a 360-degree video, viewers can click on featured Ted Baker items to add them to their basket.

You can give… well, just some general life advice

You might like the thought of putting together a video series, but how can you be confident that viewers will keep returning for new instalments? You could take inspiration from the organisational app Evernote, which has launched a video series titled ‘The Ever Better Challenge’.

Each video includes tips which viewers can act on simply to improve their lives – though, of course, if you stick around long enough, you might opt to buy one of Evernote’s premium plans…

You can provide immediacy with a live video

Thanks to the rise of video-streaming platforms like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope, live video has really taken off as a medium. Social Media Examiner offers a few tips for spicing up your own live video, like offering exclusive discounts and pitching your products through live demonstrations.

Alternatively, the influencer marketing agency Socially Powerful could help you find an expert capable of doing this legwork on your behalf.

Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels