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?

 

Factors Guaranteed To Stop Your Business Running Like Clockwork

Image: obpia 30

Running like clockwork:

(Definition) Everything happens exactly as planned, without any trouble or interruptions.

Hmm… how many of us have that luxury in our business lives? There is always something guaranteed to interfere with our day; those proverbial spanners in the works that prevent our plans from succeeding. You know it, and we know it, because being honest, how many times have you struggled to get work done because of an unforeseen problem?

Let’s have a look at two of those things that could stop your business running like clockwork then, with a few suggestions to alleviate those pesky spanners getting in the way of your otherwise well-oiled machine!

#1: Technology

No matter what business you are involved in, we can almost guarantee that you use some kind of technology. It could be something as (relatively) simple as a computer and printer if you work at home, or a piece of machinery if you work within any kind of manufacturing industry. Whatever the case, when your tech works as it should, everything is fine and rosy. But when something goes wrong; when your computer blanks out or your machinery wheezes to a halt, then your business day will suffer as a consequence.

So, what should you do?

Well, it depends on your industry, but using the examples we gave above, you can take measures to manage potential faults.  Computers have diagnostic tools, so you should run them occasionally to check for and fix any faults. And you can detect problems on certain types of machinery too with high-tech vibration monitoring devices, so you should be able to take steps to reduce any major issues early. But whatever tech you use, ensure you use the tools available to you to preempt any major issues. Getting your equipment serviced regularly is a must too, and when buying something new, consider spending a bit more on newer technologies that are going to last, rather than on something cheap and/or second-hand that might cause you more expense with hidden issues down the line.

#2: Your employees

Your employees should help your business run like clockwork, but this isn’t always the case. Their productivity and efficiency might take a hit if they are lazy, negligent, or exhausted from the pressures on them in your workplace. As a result, your business will suffer because your employees, the proverbial cogs in your machine, will be ineffective.

So, what should you do?

For starters, try to avoid firing them, as the last thing you need is one less person to help you run your business. And besides, unless an employee is guilty of gross misconduct, you might not have many grounds too anyway, so it’s best to avoid a legal claim from a grieved employee.  

Where laziness is an issue, you need to confront the employee and have a conversation. It might be that they aren’t lazy at all; they might be struggling to know or do what is expected of them, so you might be able to point them in the right direction with guidance and training. But if they are lazy, then a warning might suffice, as well as a discussion related to your workplace policies to remind them of their duties. The same is true of negligent employees, those people who don’t pay attention to what they should be doing, or who behave inappropriately. Extra training and a kick up the backside might be in order, dependant on the circumstance. And when it comes to exhausted employees, well…perhaps it’s time you gave them a break. Ensure they don’t have to work overtime too often by finding ways to improve efficiency, and outsource some of your tasks so your employees don’t have to do more than should be expected of them.

Finally

Your business day won’t always go as planned, but you can take steps to prevent too many problems. While we have discussed technology and your employees within this article, there may be other factors that spoil your day. Think about what they might be, and then commit to further research to take steps to ensure that your business doesn’t grind to a halt as a consequence of them.

 

How To Get Ready For Outsourcing In Your Business

When it comes to running your business effectively, being able to outsource and know what things are not within your zone of genius is definitely key to being able to grow and scale properly – not only because you’re human and simply can’t manage everything on your own, but there only so many hours in the day, so it’s not possible to do this and have a business that creates a large amount of time and money freedom for you.

However, for most business owners, the idea of outsourcing is definitely quite an overwhelming one and they have no idea where to start, so in this post we’re going to share with you some of our top tips for how to get ready for outsourcing in your business.

Decide what you need:

The very first step is to decide what you need. This is something that doesn’t always spring to mind immediately since a lot of business owners know their business so well that they just do things without really thinking. So, a good idea is to make a list of all the things you do in your business on a daily basis in your business, then split those into categories of what you enjoy/are able to do well, and the other list of what you’d prefer to outsource.

This means that then you can go and do more strategic sourcing of services that you need once you know what exactly you do need instead of just running around and hiring people with no real plan in place.

Research your options:

Now that you have an idea of what you need, then it’s time to start looking for the people who can take care of these services for you, so it’s time to start researching the options you have available. When it comes to hiring people and outsourcing, there are plenty of ways to go about this, and one of these is by asking around in your exisiting network for recommendations – another way could be using a recruitment agency, and another way could be contacting agencies or posting jobs yourself.

There’s really no right or wrong approach when it comes to hiring people for your business as long as you’re doing what works for you and you find it the best way to identify the types of talent you can use in your company.

Connect with people:

Once you’ve figured out where to look for people and which method you’re going to use, then it’s now time to start actually contacting people and getting an idea for things like rates, availability and skill level for the services you need help with. This may take you a while to find the right people, but it’s definitely going to be worth it if you’re willing to make some effort in finding the right people for your business.

Do a trial:

A good idea is to always do a trial run with anyone who you’re considering bringing into your business and this is because it gives you both a chance to see if you’re a good fit for each other without being over committed in the beginning. A trial could be done for a week or two and then you can decide from there if you’d like to move further.

Image credit: Pexels

10 Inspired and Creative Ways to Promote Your Nonprofit or Business

Most for-profit and nonprofit business managers would agree that marketing is the one of the toughest parts of the job. Marketing usually involves paying for something and hoping that it reaches potential customers. If the marketing campaign works, it’s brilliant. If it doesn’t, it’s a bust.

Instead of playing the marketing guessing game, there are plenty of inspired and creative ways to promote your business. Some have a cost attached, but most are minimal.

1. Get busy on social media

Social media is one of the lowest priced marketing tools out there. There can be costs attached, but they are usually minimal, and you get to control how much you choose to spend. Your customers are active on social media, so you should share on a regular basis. And, what you share should have some value to your potential customers. If you have a nonprofit, you might be able to get a “Donate Now” button on your Facebook page.

2. Use holidays to your advantage

Customers love holidays and you can use that to your advantage. Prior to each holiday, you can come up with a special or a special event that will draw customers to your company. If you are running a nonprofit, the holidays could be the perfect time to reach donors. During these holidays, you could give a holiday-themed gift to give to donors. Be sure to share your specials on social media so your customers or donors know what is happening.

3. Create a welcome package

Depending on the size of your community, a welcome package could be the perfect way to get your brand in front of new customers. Welcome packages could be given to people who move into your community or they could be given to new businesses in your community. The welcome package does not need to include items from your business, they can include items from a variety of businesses and organizations. For example, the welcome package could include information about the local libraries, polling locations, and local parks and recreational areas. Business could provide coupons and swag like refrigerator magnets or ink pens. New residents in your community will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

4. Get your brand moving in the community

If you have a community where people are active, you should get your brand where they are. Give your employees and customers swag that you can order here. Items like wearable clothing magnets, customized tees, and car stickers can show off your brand to your community. This type of swag is low-cost and very visual. You’d be surprised how quickly word spreads about your business or nonprofit when your business name is visible in the community.

5. Create useful partnerships

When you partner up with local businesses and nonprofits, you can share costs in several ways, like printing and marketing. But best of all, partnering businesses get to share customers. Partnerships should benefit both organizations. For example, if you run a yoga studio and good partnership would be with a restaurant that offers fresh juices. The two businesses can share marketing and encourage customers to visit both locations. Or if you run a nonprofit, you can partner with a corporation that will automatically deduct donations from employees who elect to donate. The employees get a tax deduction and your organization gets regular funding.

6. Develop stories

Outstanding social media marketing involves telling stories. This can be done on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Your story should involve pictures, video, and high-quality writing, too. The brand experience should engage the potential customer and it could even include the experiences of customers that you already have. These stories should be memorable and short enough that potential customers will pay attention without turning away.

7. Create short videos

If the prevalence of YouTube is any indication, people love to watch videos. Your social media posts should regularly include videos and if you aren’t including them, you are losing out on a valuable tool. While professionally created and edited videos might be the gold standard, you can create videos with a mobile phone and a video editing app. Before you shoot videos, come up with a plan so you aren’t just winging it. Consider what and who is in the background and consider how long you want each video to be.

8. Give out awards

Giving awards is a great way to bring customers to you. If you can afford it, you can create a scholarship competition at local high schools. Or, you can create an awards program for your top donors. You could even give out awards to customers who come in on any given day. Maybe you celebrate the Oscars by giving out awards to customers or employees, or you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by giving out awards to people who wear green when they walk through the door.

9. Sponsor an organization

If you want exposure for your brand, you have to get it out in front of people. You have to go where people are. Some brands can success getting out on social media, but others need to get out in the community. Whether you have a nonprofit or a for-profit business, you can sponsor organizations. A great way to get out in front of customers is to sponsor events at local schools or at places where people volunteer regularly, like food pantries or 5K runs. When you sponsor an organization, potential customers see that you care enough to give money and time. Your big heart and pocketbook will make you look good to current and potential customers.

10. Get on local media

People still watch TV and the still listen to local radio. If you have an expertise in something that interests people, you can promote your business or nonprofit on local media channels. Many local news channels are looking for ways to showcase nonprofits, so if you send them a press release, they just might put you on during a segment about nonprofits. Local media often showcase healthcare providers, lawyers, or insurance experts to help residents better understand news events and changes to government policies that might affect them. It’s free advertising and potential customers will appreciate seeing you on TV or listening to you on the radio.

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How Convenient Is Your Firm?

Consider your firm from the eyes of those who might engage in its business. We’re talking about your potential clients, customers, those who return time and time again to take part in your services. These are the people who might care about your product line, or could potentially care about it. They’re looking for many things from your business.

Of course, labelling those things is fairly obvious. Your safety standards might be extremely high. Perhaps you have a quick turnaround for booking work. Maybe your prices are right, and your branding is always pleasant to see and interact with. But it can also be that convenience is a massive factor here.

Convenience can come into play through many factors. Without it, even the best product line can suffer. From the first moment that your business comes into the head of someone wishing to make a purchase or book a service, they will next think about what it will take to get there. This is why businesses such as Amazon have been so successful – they prioritize convenience above all.

Let us consider how you might implement this in your own business development plans.

Outreach

It should, ideally, only take moments between the idea of your firm as a viable option coming to the minds of your audience, and them being able to execute a purchase. This means that you need to always remain online, and have the best mobile app or mobile-browser-friendly utility, and you can develop that with Xibis https://www.xibis.com/services/mobile-app-development. This can allow anyone, no matter where they are, to conduct a purchase, assign delivery, or book in an appointment. With bespoke app development utilizing a service such as Xibis, you can find what the latest trends are in the app world, and try to utilize the new means of appealing to an audience.

Support Requests

The idea of contacting customer support is starting to shift. More and more people live busier and busier lives, and to that extent they often dislike the idea of spending half an hour on the phone trying to contact someone. This is where implementing social media IM reach can be appropriate. Not only can a direct message be responded to in near-real time, but it can also function as a form of email. Both Facebook and Twitter offer this functionality, but there are other services that do. This way you can also encourage your audience to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your social media main business or support page, helping you deliver messages and updates whenever necessary. To us, that’s convenience personified.

Allow Account Management

A service that allows customers or guests to create online accounts can be the one that offers their audience a great degree of flexibility when it comes to their experience. Opting in to certain programmes or recommendations, making use of promotions, returning items automatically, bulk buying and changing the contact details of their profile can ensure that no matter what, you will always be in contact with your potential visitors. This can ensure the outreach feels natural, and never forced.

With this advice, you’re sure to make your firm much more convenient.

Image: Unsplash

What Could Boost Office Morale?

Employees are not predictable, they go through various moods and changes all the time. They’re human after all and since they do not have a consistent attitude in the office, it’s up to you as their leader to try and nudge them in a direction. Think about what the office is to the average employee. It’s their known surroundings for at least 8 hours out of the day. That means they’re going to be stuck in one place for half of the waking day and two thirds overall. Your environment doesn’t always shape you, but it can have an effect on your attitude day by day. Bosses of all kinds try to think of new ways of how they could possibly pull out more enthusiasm from their workers. The net results would mean more productivity, more creativity, a better understanding of their roles and industry as well as net profits rising for the company. It’s quite easy actually, start with the office?

A nice place to sit

The old saying of cleanliness is next to godliness is still valid in this day and age. Giving employees a nice office to walk into every morning is certainly going to make them more pleased. If you don’t think this would be that effective, consider what a dirty office would do to their morale? They would think twice about their role within the company if there was dust and litter all over their desks, chairs and office floor. To get a thorough once-over, contact a professional place of work cleaning company such as Orca Cleaning which has services pointed towards business owners. It’s vital to take care when cleaning around wires and monitors as this is where the fragile bits of hardware are. Letting experts handle it and every once in a while going over the entire office would greatly benefit your employees.

Zoning and banners

One of the most effective ways to stir up internal competition is to create a distinct culture for each department. For example, one part of the office might be for the marketing team and the neighboring area is where all your design team sits and works. You can create an invisible border between the two by having mascots, color schemes and different banners around their separate spaces. Maybe for the design team they could have a futuristic robotic monkey as the mascot on their computers or ceiling posts. Cut the design out or have it made into a giant sticker. The marketing team could have a color scheme that’s different to everyone else such as wearing blue ties and blue skirts, or perhaps the office chairs and sofas being blue or some opposing color to the rest of the office. The more you zone your departments the more they get to breathe and create their own culture. This can only lead to a sense of pride in their skills and what they bring to the business table.

Office morale is something that every great business leader is continuously checking in on. They want to make sure that the place of work is a place of familiarity for workers too.