Peripheral Visions

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Archive for the ‘Business Tips’ Category

3 Ways to Ensure a Productive Staff Meeting

Whether you manage a group of people, or you are part of an organization that is managed, productivity is always at the root of making effective collaborations. Staff meetings are one of the few times when managers and employees can get together and communicate about the goals and objectives of the weekly workload. Unfortunately, many staff meetings are wasted, or poorly run due to lack of organization or preparation. Here are tips to help you prepare for your staff meeting more effectively to benefit you and your staff’s time.

  • Collaborate about meeting objectives in advance: When possible, meet with employees, managers, and administrative personnel well before the meeting. Many managers make the mistake of waiting until the last minute before the staff meeting to ask if anyone has information, issues or content to add to the meeting. This makes for lack of complete information for the meeting, as well as ill-prepared staff members that feel put on the spot. Consider sending out an email a few days before the staff meeting, asking all parties involved if they have content to add to this week’s staff meeting.

  • Prepare an agenda: While this seems like a simple no-brainer tip, in fact, many managers don’t do this and it results in staff meetings that run over time, off topic, and in general use the collaboration time ineffectively. Plan you agenda with highlights of what you’d like to speak about, what was discussed at the last meeting, and what will carry over to the next meeting. This will help the meeting stay on topic, and will help buffer in time to go longer on more important topics, and less on minor ones.  If needed, ask an administrative person to help you prepare the agenda in conjunction with the meeting objectives in the first tip.
  • Use the staff meetings to talk and listen: Many employees dread staff meetings because they feel like it’s only an opportunity for management to tell them information, and to be “scolded”. Staff meetings should be looked at as a mini team building time, when management and employees alike are able to talk freely back and forth. Exchanging ideas, as well as voicing concerns, and coming up with remedies should be the goal and objective for all parties involved.  Consider setting aside a portion of the staff meeting for an open discussion time, or provide office hours in which management will freely listen to employees who may want to address concerns in private.

The next staff meeting should be regarded as valuable and necessary time, set aside to “get current” on the management and employees alike. Consider asking staff members outside of the meetings, what they would like to see added or detracted from the meetings to make them more effective. Staff meetings don’t have to be dreaded, they just need to be respectful of the time of all parties involved.

Categories: Business Tips

Small Business Survival: How to Make it Through a Recession

Being a small business during a recession is tough; ask any small business owner, your business decisions and strategies impact the future of your business immensely during a recession.  Every business tries to deal with the recession in their own way, some may cut back on employees and work more hours themselves, others will shorten their store hours to decrease costs, and even some other businesses cut back on advertising and marketing expenses.  I would like to share with you my tips on how to keep your small business afloat during a recession.

Add value to your customers: As a small business it is nearly impossible to win a price war with big conglomerates, e.g. Walmart, but one thing small businesses can always do that these big guys can’t quite offer is great customer service.  Being able to spend time with your customers, and understand their needs to help them make the right decision is definitely going to keep people shopping at their local store rather than these large conglomerates.  Having a knowledgeable and friendly staff keeps people coming in because they know they can rely on you for the right answers to their questions.

Cut back on overhead and operating costs: There are many expenses businesses incur which can be reduced.  One expense many businesses don’t plan on, are the expenses tied to printers.  Once a business owner buys that printer they never really think about the cost of toner per month, plus maintenance.  So when you purchase new toner for your printer, make sure to purchase the compatible toners, not only will you save up to 70% on some cartridges, you will not have to worry about voiding your printer’s warranty.  Although many people believe that using compatible toner cartridges on their printers voids the warranty, it is not the case according to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, so don’t be afraid to save yourself a ton of money by using compatible toner cartridges.

For those businesses that do not use printers as often, you can rely on creating a more effective inventory management system.  Product that sits out on the shelf for a long period of time costs you money.  Although, it does not directly cost you money, but there’s an opportunity cost of that stagnant product.  By opportunity cost I mean the amount of money you are missing out on by not having a product on the shelf that sells a lot quicker.  Say your store sells CDs, DVDs, and VHS, typically your store sells 10 DVDs for every 1 VHS, you would want to make sure that your DVD section is a lot bigger than your VHS section, giving the customers more options to buy DVDs as opposed to VHS.  Not only will you sell more products, you can also purchase DVDs in larger quantities considering you have more space to store them, and therefore lessening your cost of shipping, and potentially creating a discounted price per DVD if buying in a big enough bulk.

Other ways to cut back on overhead and operating costs is to shorten the business hours of your store.  Although it may inconvenience a small portion of your customers, you typically won’t see a huge drop in sales, as long as you put a good amount of thought into your store hours.  Say if your store barely has any sales on Weekday mornings, it would make sense to open the store at noon everyday as opposed to 8 am, not only will you save the 4 hours a day worth of salary you typically pay an employee to open the store, you will also save a ton of money on utilities.  It would be around an extra 80 hours a month of no power being used, and well that can incrementally add up to a large sum of money.

Another operating cost that can easily be cut back on is office supplies.  If you are a small business and have a pretty large need for office supplies, it sometimes makes more sense to go through an online office supply retailer.  These online retailers do not need to pay for a big place of business and typically save money that way, inevitably they will be able to provide your business with cheaper supplies since these discounts then are passed down to their customers to provide their customers the greatest value for their office supplies.

Increase marketing expenses: Many people may disagree with this, but before you decide it’s a terrible idea and skip over this section, give me a few seconds of your time to explain why marketing during a recession is such a great idea.  During a recession, many customers are looking for the lowest cost possible, which as stated before, will typically not be the small business provider.  But say you are a small family owned deli and since your products only have a certain lifespan, and typically Wednesdays are really slow days for you so, to help increase your business you can start a special for half price sandwiches on Wednesdays to help drive traffic to your store.  Although you won’t be making nearly as much money per sandwich, but you will be at least gaining a larger customer base.  With more and more people coming, and as long as you treat your customers with the utmost respect and care, they will be more inclined to go there even though it’s not a Wednesday.  Also, less of your products will go to waste.  Another example similar to the previous one is customer loyalty cards, more and more places are creating these customer loyalty cards, for example one place I go to quite often gives you a free coffee after you buy 5 coffees there.  So once every other week I am able to get a free coffee and now I go there every morning.

Hopefully with these examples I am able to help you think of how you can implement these to your business plans in the future, to help keep your small business flourishing during a recession.  We can all use a little help here and there, so please feel free to comment with any other tips you have to help small businesses stay afloat during a recession.

Categories: Business Tips

10 Ways to get Exercise During the Work Day

One of the biggest challenges of working a 9 to 5 job is finding a way to get up from your desk and getting exercise during the day. Whether it is because you are too busy, you lose track of time, or you can’t think of creative ways, here’s 10 ways that will help. Remember, exercising doesn’t mean you have to break a sweat, and come back to your desk dripping wet! Exercise should involve getting your mind, and body in motion to relieve yourself of the constant doldrums of your workday.

1. Park your car farther away: Before you step foot inside your office you can get more exercise. Park farther away from the front door, and leave the front parking spots for visitors to your office building. Pack your lunch, and personal items in easy to carry bags to make the walk easier on your shoulders.

2. Consider alternate modes of transportation: If you live close to work; consider biking, or walking on nice days. Sure, everyday may not be conducive for outdoor modes of transportation, but you may be able to skip the gym on days that you walk or bike in to work!

3. Take the stairs or the long way to your desk: If your office is in a multi-story office building consider taking the stairs or an alternate longer route to your desk.  Elevators often take more time than walking, and the time you are standing on an elevator can be spent burning a few more calories before you get to your desk.

4. Get a walking pedometer: Pedometers are a great way to measure how many steps you have taken in a day. Many devices will convert steps into miles, and you will feel motivated to walk more during the day when you see your distance traveled increase! Attach a pedometer to your waist pants or skirt, and see the difference in your motivation.

5. Get up from your desk hourly: If you have a job that keeps you trapped at your desk for hours at a time, make an excuse to get up hourly, if not more. Take walks to the printers, restroom, or the water cooler to get added exercise, without added time. This will also help you stay alert at your desk and may help you be more productive in your tasks.

6. Walk to lunch: Many people gain weight during their lunch hour due to eating out at lunch, and then sitting for hours afterwards. If your office building is located near restaurants and eateries, opt to meet your coworkers there, or ask them to take the walk with you! You will feel less lethargic once you get back to your office for the second half of the day.

7. Run in place: It may sound silly, but boosting your heart rate up for even a few minutes can oxygenate your blood and keep you alert and your body burning calories more efficiently during the day. Go into a bathroom stall and run in place for a minute or two, or take a walk down to the mailroom where no one will see you walking briskly.

8. Meet-up with coworkers for an exercise regimen: Many professionals find it easier to exercise with a friend or coworker. Ask some of your close coworkers to start working out with you after work, or even taking a walk with you during the lunch hour.

9. Join an at-work exercise/wellness program: Many offices are partnering with health insurance providers to offer on-site gyms, exercise regimens and incentives for professionals to get fit and healthy. Ask your Human Resources department if your company is participating in a wellness program.

10. Pack healthy snacks and skip the vending machine: All the exercise in the world will not help, if you are visiting the vending machine and eating potato chips and candy all day. Bring your own snacks, such as nuts, fruit, and high protein/low carbohydrate snacks to keep your energy up, and your exercise not in vain.

Exercising at work can be fun if you instill the right mindset and you tell yourself that you will benefit in multiple ways. From increased energy, better feeling body, and increased productivity, exercising has more benefits than just staying healthy. Use these 10 tips to help you stay healthy and happy at throughout your workday.

Categories: Business Tips

Engaging Loyal Customers on Facebook

Your small business has finally made the jump to Facebook by creating a Page, adding some initial content and finding some ways to attract likes (previously known as Fans). What comes next in your plan to add value to your company through Facebook? Once you have your customers connected, this social media outlet really provides the greatest opportunities to deepen and maintain relationships with loyal customers.

Facebook is not the place to simply throw up some basic operating hours and product information and then expect that your business page is complete. Interaction is the key to a successful Facebook presence. Your Facebook page allows you to add genuine value to your brand and engage with customers like never before! Customers do not want a one-sided, passive experience – they want to see new content, to have a place to give their opinions and to receive personal attention for their valuable feedback.

Here are four ways you can engage your loyal customers through your business page:

Draw people back to your page from the news feed. Customers are going to be much more apt to visit and spend time on your page if they see new, fresh content pop up on their news feed. Promotions may be one of the quickest ways to send people to your page, as well as posting pictures, upcoming events, links to your blog, and tidbits of information about employees and new products or services. Catchy, short phrases in statuses for many new kinds of content can add value and spur people to click through to your page. For example, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has an effective way of getting comments- posting a high quality picture of their food product and a fun description: “Pictured: Brambleberry Crisp Ice Cream–a gem of the Bakeshop Collection. Ohio blackberries and black raspberries and oven-toasted streusel (handmade in our kitchen), blended with our divine vanilla ice cream. An outstanding Valentine’s Day option, don’t you think?”

Give something back. You need a strong incentive to bring customers back to your Facebook page. Your customers live a busy life – why should they spend precious minutes of their day looking at your Facebook page? One way to get your loyal customers engaged is by showing your appreciation of them. Homage, a Vintage T-Shirt retailer, wanted to “pay homage” and give back to its loyal customers by announcing that once their Facebook page surpassed the 10,000 “like” mark, they would be giving out “something awesome to celebrate.” When the announcement came in that the t-shirt retailer would be hosting a 24 hour buy one, get one (BOGO) sale – their fans buzzed like crazy using Facebook and Twitter to spread the news. The BOGO sale was announced on a Monday through their HOMAGE Facebook page (the post got 116 likes and 16 comments). That Wednesday, the BOGO sale went live at 12:01 AM EST (that announcement post got another 82 likes and 65 comments).  From the day the sale was announced (Monday) to the day after the sale (Thursday), the Homage Facebook page grew from 10,000 likes to 11,517 – that’s 15% increase in just 4 days! One can only presume that the company generated new business from this sale in addition to the business from loyal customers.

Showcase your knowledge of the field. Posting links to relevant business content in your field demonstrates knowledge of current events and once again, gets your name in the news feed. Sure, the link won’t directly take people to your page, but frequently posting interesting links establishes you as a good source for information in your field and that will have people coming back for news on your page. For instance, COSI Columbus’ Dynamic Hands-On Science Center! posts links to articles with descriptions such as: “Superbowl snacks too tame? Spice them up with some science!”

Ask questions to get conversations going. This is a quick and free way to gather useful information about your products and services. You can ask for feedback on current areas of your business, solicit ideas for the future, or even just ask things for fun. BalletMet Columbus is an example of a non-profit organization that often asks for feedback from its fans, such as with this question that ended up with 40 responses: “We’re thinking about the 2011-2012 season already, can you believe it?! What would you like to see next season?”

These are all great ways to interact with your loyal customers through Facebook.  With some regular effort and time to keep your page up-to-date and the conversations flowing, Facebook can be a helpful tool to build deeper relationships with your most loyal customers.

Categories: Business Tips

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