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?

 

Why mobile messaging could be great for your business

Let’s face it, we’re all addicted to our mobile phones. For many of us, our mobiles are the last thing we look at before we go to bed at night and the first thing we see in the morning. Mobile messaging is our main way of staying in touch with family and friends now, with us using messaging to arrange when and where to meet as well as just checking in to see how our people are.

So, it makes sense to think about reaching your clients and customers on a device that’s already in use multiple times a day, and that they are checking frequently for messages that are important to them.

Mobile messaging can be very cost effective compared to postal and other paper-based campaigns and allows for far better targeting and reporting. You can send a message to a segment of subscribers and get very detailed information on who opened and acted on that message. In addition, messages are quick and easy to respond to in that the person receiving the message just needs to tap on the link you place in the message

If you’re thinking of using mobile messaging for marketing, here are some things to consider:

  1. Have a strategy

Be clear about who exactly you want to reach and what they might like to receive from you. Would they like news about events, the latest deals and discounts or competitions, for example? How often would they like to receive these messages? And would they like to receive them by text messaging or another service such as Facebook Messenger?

  1. Find your messaging platform

Before you dip your toe in mobile messaging you’re going to need to find a messaging platform to send and manage your campaigns. After all, you won’t want to manage your campaign from your own mobile phone! As well as the ability to send campaigns, you’ll want to look out for a platform that allows you to segment your subscribers (say, by their interests or what they’ve bought from you), and allows for mobile engagement such as one-to-one conversations with your team members if a subscriber replies to the message. Scheduling is also a useful feature, as is the ability to send multimedia messages such as images.

If you need to integrate mobile messaging with any other tools you use – for example you want to send a text message after a customer has made a purchase in your store or on your site – look out for a platform which gives you an SMS API.

  1. Be aware of the legal issues

You will need to be aware of the legal issues surrounding mobile communications, including giving your subscribers the ability to opt in and out of messages easily as per the GDPR rules. If you send messages to someone who has opted out you may be liable for a fine.

Mobile messaging is a digital marketing channel that’s often overlooked in favour of things like social media and Facebook ads. But as you can see, there are many reasons why it could benefit your business.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

How the big companies can inspire the little ones!

Anyone trying to build a brand or business from home will know all too well the hurdles involved in getting something to come to fruition. Whether you’re a home chef who is turning their passion for cooking into a viable product you can sell at the local market (or online!), or you’ve got an online store that can’t see to get anyone to take notice of, there are ways we can look to those already successful to help get inspiration.

I’m not talking about opening a book of inspirational quotes and trying to seek knowledge from “Live.Laugh.Love”. I’m talking about looking at how big companies succeed in helping their businesses get noticed.

I’ve scoured the web and got some unsolicited advice that would be noteworthy for parents running small businesses; looking at everything from packaging to how to start selling online when you don’t have vast resources.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to glean a little light that inspires, so let’s start with getting your products out there!

Big Company Tip 1: Let others take care of your “stuff”.

When you ask most people what Amazon is known for, they’ll say it’s that they sell books or that they sell pretty much anything. When you ask people what Apple is known for, they’ll say nice phones or a fancy watch that reminds you to stand up every hour.

But did you know that Apple pays Amazon a reported $30 million a month? They’re not buying a lot of cheap phone cases but use Amazon’s Web Services (AWS). Amazon is one of the biggest providers of servers in the world. Many companies actually use it because Amazon has the computing power that they don’t – even Facebook used to for a few years.

So what does that have to do with your little business? Well, when it comes to things like designing a website, hosting it, making logos and such, you can save yourself a lot of stress by getting it done externally.

For example, weigh up the amount of time it would take for you to design complete branding that fits on your website against the money it would cost someone on a site like Fiverr or Squarespace to do it. Making small payments on your weak points saves you time and money in the long term.

Think of it like babysitting for your business. Someone is taking care of a or b to give you time to work on c-z.

Big Company Tip 2: Create a spark through design

I love Cadbury’s chocolate. We all know what a bar looks like (big shiny purple tasty goodness), and even though it’s always been in a purple wrapper, there is a surprising amount of work that goes into getting it to look a certain way when sitting on a shelf.

The company who designs the packaging is called Pearlfisher, and they have a straightforward mantra on their website that I love;

“brands that ignite passion…will be loved forever”.

If you’re making any kind of food product (or any product for that matter), you need to let your personality shine through in the packaging. People want to feel happy when they look at what you have to offer. Someone cooking a homemade hot sauce will have an easier time selling it if there’s a sense of your passion and story in every bottle, rather than a fancy label that does nothing for the imagination.

Brands like Coca Cola do this all the time when they put people’s names on bottles. Starbucks even does it every time you go in and give your name with your order. People like to feel a part of your story, so taking the time to pop a note in when getting an order ready helps make a much more positive connection than a Thank You card with no name.

It’s the kind of connection that can have them coming back as a repeat customer.

Big Company Tip 3: Act Smart, Not Big

So you don’t have the budget to hire a media company to spend a day taking photos of your business or your product. So what? You don’t need them anyway!

Etsy themselves have created a complete guide of how to act smart and get products on their site noticed. Take a page from their book and act quickly when working with what resources you have on your website or store.

Big Company Tip 4: Let the big company deliver your stuff

I’m going back to Amazon for this last tip, but oh boy it’s a good one.

For any business that sells a physical product, fulfilment is the biggest bug-bearer and making sure deliveries get out there on time can become stressful. So (again) act smart and let the big guys do all the hard work for you.

Small businesses can register for free on Amazon and start selling their products directly to customers. Amazon will come to your door, pick up all the order and ship them without you even needing to leave the house.

There can be a small monthly fee involved depending on how much you’re selling, but it dwarves having to do it all yourself when the alternative is loading up the car and having to drag it all into the post office every week.

It makes running a physical store less stressful and gives you more free time, which is something every parent always needs.

Bonus Big Company Tip: You should be happy

Did you know that people working at Google can (at any point in their day) go to the gym, grab free food, watch lectures, work wherever they like and even do yoga?

All the big tech companies invest time and money in making sure their employees are happy at work.

Take heed of that and always make sure your little business has positives that still outweigh the negatives. If you don’t enjoy doing it, you might want to reconsider it.

 

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