Remaining Competitive in Business by Attracting Top Talent to Your Organization

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Talent Acquisition or Recruitment

Make no mistake about it: one of the biggest keys that you have regarding remaining competitive in a crowded marketplace isn’t the work that you’re doing, per say. It’s the people who are doing the work in the first place. By attracting top tier talent to your business, you affect the entire enterprise from the top down in a number of positive ways. Thankfully, actually getting the attention of these mythical “perfect” employees is a lot easier than you might think – provided that you keep a few things in mind.

Attracting Talent is One Thing – Keeping Them is Another

Many people believe that attracting top talent to a business is something akin to a sports draft. So long as you throw as much money at a person as possible, they’ll definitely come to work for you, right?

Maybe.

Getting a hugely talented person to work for you is really quite easy. Getting them to stick around is easier said than done. Studies have shown that people are willing to switch jobs not because they’ll make more money in a new position, but because they’ll be happier. According to a report published in the New York Times, when a person’s household income exceeds $75,000 per year, it really does nothing to improve the overall level of satisfaction that they feel. They don’t lead happier, more enjoyable or less stressful lives – at least not as far as money is concerned.

What this means is that if you’re offering a top tier employee $85,000 per year in an environment that they’ll ultimately not fit into versus a competitor who is offering $75,000 per year in a place that they would love to work in, that $10,000 ultimately doesn’t buy you as much leeway as you might think – if it buys you any at all.

Essentially, if you want to remain competitive by attracting top talent to your organization, you have to create the type of organization that top talent actually wants to work for. This means that your company culture needs to be welcoming and enjoyable. Your leadership needs to be more than just people high on the totem pole with fancy job titles – they need to be people worth following. The work that you’re doing needs to be something worth pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into. Whether this means continually rewarding employees for hitting certain productivity goals, profit sharing, a second-to-none benefits package or something else entirely remains to be seen – the answer will vary on a case-by-case basis.

The underlying point is crystal clear, though, – picture the employee you want to attract and make sure that your business is a place where that person might want to work. You essentially do the same thing with your marketing campaigns and buyer personas, so when you start to think of it in those terms it really isn’t that hard at all.

The Snake Eating Its Tail

At that point, attracting top talent to your organization becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. By going out of your way to create the type of company culture and environment that top-tier talent want to work for, you’re in turn creating a better business and ultimately a better product at the exact same time. The competitive advantage that you’ve gained and the quality of the work that you’re turning out then go a long way towards attracting even more hugely talented people to your business, which essentially starts the process all over again.

Making this one decision to shift your focus towards creating the type of business that people can’t help but want to work for creates a snowball effect of positive results for nearly everybody involved. Talented people flock to your organization and don’t even dream of looking anywhere else for a job. Customers become more than satisfied with the work you’re producing as your employees are putting their heart and soul into everything that you do. This, in turn, feeds back into your business by way of increased revenue and profits, creating a situation where literally everyone wins. Doesn’t that sound like the type of environment you’d like to create for yourself?

3 Tips to Communicate with All Types of Clients

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Tin-can telephone and businessman

When it comes to reaching your audience, a lot comes down to communicating with them in the language they will understand. We can learn a lot from Julia, a Pasadena ten-year-old. Julia is deaf; her new puppy, Walter, is as well. But, the two have found the ability to communicate with one another with ease. Julia has begun training the seven-month-old puppy by teaching him sign language. The dog knows the signs for sit, water, food and several others.

Julia’s mother, Chrissy, said that when her Julia was born, she couldn’t hear her mom and would smell Chrissy’s neck for comfort instead. The moment Chrissy picked up Walter, he did the same thing. “I remember just looking at him, and I knew that he was meant to be ours,” she said in a Humane Society video. Walter was the last puppy of his litter to be adopted, but the Humane Society did not give up hope.

The Pasadena Humane Society, which introduced the two, posted a video of Julia and Walter on their page. The reaction was immediate and positive. “Amazing!!” said one commenter. “This is my dog, Wyatt. He is also deaf, and he has no idea he is different.”

When we are communicating with our prospects and our customers, we can take some valuable lessons from Julia and Walter:

1. Different customers will respond to different communication.

Customers are not all the same. You will deal with Millennials and Boomers, urban and rural folks, and people from different income brackets and areas of the country. It is important to segment your marketing lists and create materials for each individual group.

2. Remember that each group does not think of itself as a segment.

Just like the dog Wyatt who thinks himself like any other dog, your customers just think of themselves as ordinary people. Talk to them directly and respectfully. Never talk down to a group. Don’t use slang that is not in keeping with your brand. This can feel false and off-putting.

3. Remember that consistent marketing is key.

Don’t just reach out to each segment once. Create follow-up emails and other remarketing opportunities. If you do direct mail, send a follow-up postcard to go out to people who did not respond to your initial offer. Just like raising puppies requires a long-term commitment, nurturing a prospect from initial contact to conversion takes patience, time and effort.

Marketing segmentation takes more time and attention than a shotgun approach. But, over time, you will find that it consistently increases your return on your marketing investment and helps you build stronger relationships with your clients.

The Importance of Making Sure That Your Employees Actually Like Each Other

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Angry female boss

Make no mistake about it: a business is more important than any one person. A successful business is truly the sum of its parts. It’s a collection of people all working together to form a cohesive whole, helping the business as an entity move forward into the future and accomplish the goals that it has outlined for itself at the same time. Finding the right people to fill the right positions is one important step towards achieving this environment, but it is exactly that – one part. An element that is just as important (but one that far too many business owners fail to pay attention to until it’s far too late) comes from the idea that your employees also have to actually enjoy working with one another if your business is going to succeed the way you want it to.

The Business Consequences of Employees That Don’t Like Each Other

When your employees don’t like one another, it creates a situation where they become disengaged from their environment. This is true regardless of the type of industry that you’re operating in. When employee engagement suffers, nearly every other aspect of your enterprise will as well. Productivity begins to decline. The high level of customer service that you’ve become known for disappears. The individual goals of team members are no longer aligned with the larger corporate goals of your business.

In essence, the entire machine begins to break down. Think of your employees as the engine on a car. Each element is important in its own right, but they’re all working together to act as the force that propels the car forward. When they stop working together, the car doesn’t move – which is exactly what can happen if your employees don’t like each other and if this trend shows no signs of reversing itself anytime soon.

Ways to Improve Employee Relations

Team building exercises like business retreats aren’t just a great way to make sure that you’re working with a team of high-quality employees – it’s also a great opportunity to guarantee that these are high-quality people at the exact same time. Hosting regular events after work with the express intention of increasing relations and improving morale is the type of decision that will pay dividends for years to come.

Employees will begin to get more comfortable with one another and will develop the type of rapport that your business will thrive on. It creates the type of business where employees don’t just take pride in their own work, but in the work of everyone else, too. People want to see each other succeed, making them truly invested in the process. This creates the type of situation where the larger idea of your business benefits as a result.

These are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to make sure that your employees actually like each other. A (cheesy) old saying tells us that “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team'” – in the world of business, this is very much true. Employees that like each other not only as companions but as people are more willing to help each other when times get tough. They don’t just think about themselves – they think about themselves in the context of a much larger whole. They think about success less in terms of their own careers and more in terms of your business. Talented employees who don’t like the environment that they’re in because of their co-workers essentially accomplish the exact opposite.

The Art of Reflection in Business

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Profile of pensive man

The Art of Reflection in Business

Though you might not know the name Aaron Sorkin, you’re no doubt familiar with some of his work. He’s the brilliant writer behind some of the most critically acclaimed, successful shows on television in the last two decades including, “The West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The Newsroom,” and more. One of the constant themes in all of his different works is that the last episode of the first season of all of his shows all share the same title: “What Kind of Day Has It Been.” This repetitive title isn’t an example of a lazy writer who just can’t come up with something unique. It is Sorkin’s thesis statement. “What Kind of Day Has It Been” is a phrase he uses to indicate reflection. At the end of the season, he (and his characters) always look back and examine where they’ve been and how far they’ve come to get a better idea of where they should be going next.

This type of reflection isn’t just important in terms of prime-time dramas; it’s also a hugely invaluable tool in terms of running a business for a host of different reasons.

The Benefits of Periodic Reflection

At its core, reflection in the world of business is an attempt to take some of the critical experiences that you’ve had in the not-too-distant past and force you to think about them in a meaningful way. It’s an attempt to take both successes and missed opportunities and dive deeper than you may be used to. It gives you the chance to articulate the key lessons that your experiences have taught you, either consciously or subconsciously, and use those insights as the basis for every decision you make moving forward.

One of the main advantages that reflection like this brings to the table is one of increased confidence. Even if you weren’t able to achieve a particular goal, going through the process of breaking it down into the sum of its parts can still provide a valuable context as to why events played out the way they did. This, in turn, will help you harness the real learning experience that even less-than-stellar days can sometimes bring and create something positive as a result. Reflecting on the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career in this way can also make you more productive for the same reasons.

Remember that when you begin any journey in the world of business, be it to finish one particular project, increase revenue by a certain date, or release a new product or service to market, the road that you’re about to travel is one that is clouded by expectations. When you’re at the end of that journey, however, those hopes are gone. Taking a cold, hard look at everything that led you to this point can not only give you a chance to celebrate your successes, but it can also provide you with valuable insight into issues that you may have encountered or lessons that you may have learned. Reflection is the mother of course correction and that brief pause at such a critical time could very well be the moment of clarity you need to start your next journey with some much-needed perspective.

Judging a Book by its’ Cover – How People Choose Products Based on Packaging

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New and Improved Product Stands Out

Kids and cats seem to have this well figured out. We’ve all seen or experienced first-hand the joy that kids and cats take in taking an “ordinary box” and making that product packaging into the most exciting plaything of all time. What they are instinctively telling us, without truly understanding for themselves, is this: if the packaging sparks the imagination, it almost doesn’t matter what’s inside.

While they may be appreciating the packaging more after the fact, this axiom still holds true when we are making our purchasing decisions. No, we’re not likely looking for packaging we can turn into a rocket ship, but we are looking for something that reflects our values and distinguishes itself from the rest of the products out there. So, what does that mean for those of us who are trying desperately to gain the attention and love of consumers? Well, it means you need to know a few key things about who your consumer is and what they value. Let’s break it down.

People want to buy things that reflect and confirm how they see themselves in the world. How do you as a producer know what that means? Well, you might do a lot of research, or you might already know who your demographic is because they are you! For this example, let’s assume the latter. You are a 32-year-old, college-educated female living in Northern California who is passionate about organic farming, conservation, and veganism. You’ve designed a line of shoes using recycled materials that are vegan-friendly.

Are you going to shove these walking works of art into a plain brown cardboard box with a line drawing of the shoes and a white label showing the color and size like every other shoe out there? No, of course not!

You’ll likely package the shoes in an attractive, reusable bag with your logo and an image of someone wearing your shoes prominently displayed in colors of greens and browns to evoke feelings of calm and earthiness. You’ll tell a story right on the bag about how you came upon your idea for these shoes and your vision for your company and the world. You’ll let people know that the shoes and the bag are handmade in a certified Fair Labor facility powered solely by the wind and the sun, using sustainable methods and responsibly-sourced materials that are animal-friendly. You’ll even tell them that the ink used to print the bag and tags is made from vegetable products and not fossil fuels. Basically, you’ll appeal to the sensibilities of your ideal buyer who shares your values.

When that person chooses your product, it’s because it confirms their beliefs in themselves, that they are passionate about protecting the environment and they despise oppressive and exploitative labor. Not only will the shoes become a part of their identity, but so will the bag that they will use every day to carry their groceries and other items. They will take pride in knowing that they did not place another shoebox and extraneous paper products into the great landfills of the world.

This bag among the sea of sameness will be what gets your customers’ attention. The story you tell on that packaging will make them love your product. Don’t let your packaging be an afterthought, make it an integral part of your product.

Protect Your Business While On the Move

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VPN text on metal with red lock symbol — Virtual Private Network or Internet security concept

Even if you’re not working for an organization that requires you to travel on a regular basis, there is still a high likelihood that you will work from home at some point during your week. Giving people the ability to work remotely not only increases worker productivity but also drives efficiency, lowers stress, reduces employee turnover, and more. However, all of these benefits come at a pretty significant cost: giving employees the ability to work while on the move also increases the chances of a cyber attack pretty profoundly.

Organizations that want to leverage the power of modern technology with as few of the downsides as possible would do well to learn three specific letters as quickly as possible: V, P, and N.

What is a VPN?

Short for “virtual private network,” a VPN is exactly that – a private network that extends across either a public network or a larger, global network like the internet. Think of it as a lane on a highway that only you and your employees are allowed to use while on your way to work. Sure, there are other cars out on the road trying to get to various destinations, but YOU are the only one who gets to enjoy that one, special lane.

This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but this is largely the idea at the heart of a VPN. It allows users like yourself to both send and receive information over public networks like the internet with all of the privacy and security they would expect if they were connected to a smaller private network in their office.

Many businesses use VPNs to help increase security as more employees work remotely. Using a VPN, remote users can connect back with the head office, or regional offices can connect with one another, without worrying about anyone with malicious intentions intercepting their traffic.

Why is a VPN So Important?

For business professionals on the go, VPNs are important, thanks to one simple, little word: security. While connections to the internet are a dime-a-dozen, SECURE connections are much harder to come by. If you hop onto the Wi-Fi network at your local Starbucks to send some important files to a client, anyone on that some network could potentially “snipe” that file out of the air and gain access to it if they know what they’re doing. This is because Starbucks’ network was designed to be public so everyone could use it, which unfortunately means any and all traffic going over that network is essentially up for grabs.

However, if you used that same Starbucks Wi-Fi connection first to connect to your VPN, the kid with the laptop three tables over trying as hard as possible to read your emails can “hack” all he’d like, but he won’t be learning your trade secrets anytime soon. VPNs allow businesses to extend the security of their local intranet while located out of the office, allowing remote employees to be as productive as they need to be without worrying about something like a data breach.

These are just a few of the key reasons why VPNs are so important for today’s modern business world. When dealing with something as inherently volatile as the internet, the security and privacy benefits alone are more than worth the investment, even – and before you begin to think about the added level of protection this gives to employees working out of the office. In an era where data breaches are all too common, and concern with data privacy is at an all-time high, virtual private networks are one of the single, best ways to remain protected and productive at the same time.

The Courage of Success

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Think differently

Setting goals to drive revenues and profits is part of doing business. We all strive to be successful in business and in life. When we are young, we look for careers that will make us successful to get the things we want such as a beautiful house, cars, and money. Most people define success as the ultimate goal.

However, there are other ways to look at success.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Churchill defined success and failure as a journey instead of the end goal. How do you define success? If you look at success and failure as part of a journey instead of an end goal, life looks very different. Instead of always striving to seek the end, you are marking points along the pathway as measures of success and failure. None of these points is the ultimate goal, but rather, destinations that you can reach and surpass.

When you define success in this manner, it takes much of the stress away as you pursue your goals. While still working to create success, whether that is a monetary target or achieving other goals such as graduating from school, gaining particular skills, or training an employee successfully, you know that each point is not an end. In fact, each time you achieve success, it is a beginning of the next segment of your journey.

On the flip side, defining success as part of the path means that failure is also part of the path, and not a crushing blow. While no one likes to fail, you can take your failure as a learning opportunity to improve the next time you journey in the same direction. Breaking down the road to success into smaller, doable achievements can help you gain strength to pursue your goals and succeed multiple times.

Churchill said, “It is the courage to continue that counts.” Sometimes, we wake up in the morning and want to be anywhere except at work. However, a successful business person is the one who continues to work day after day whether they want to or not. It takes courage to persevere during the good times and bad, especially when you are not sure if you will be successful that day. When the economy is tough, and business is hard to find, it takes courage to keep looking for new customers.

It also takes courage to change with the times. No matter how long you have been in business, change is inevitable. These days it seems to come faster than ever. However, success means the courage to make the changes that will help you continue to grow in business. In fact, your successful business influences the world around you. As your business continues to flourish, you add to the economy and help bolster the lives of everyone that you touch.

Your courage to continue along a successful pathway creates a ripple effect. By setting an example for your employees, your customers, your vendors, and your family and friends, you show everyone the true meaning of success. You have the courage to continue moving forward.

Managing Change Effectively

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Change Just Ahead on Green Billboard.

There is no question that people do not like change (https://hbr.org/2012/09/ten-reasons-people-resist-chang). Although some people can adjust more readily than others, it is inherent in our nature that managing change on any level is difficult.

When it comes to business, change is inevitable. As the world changes, so do our businesses in order to stay up-to-date and competitive. However, with each change, it becomes necessary to follow a transition process to acclimate both employees and customers. A transition can be the cause for issues to crop up in any area of your business. At a minimum, it can cause whining, grumbling and potential mistakes from your staff.

Changing Attitudes

When managing change in your business, keep this quote in mind.

“Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” ~ William Pollard

The Need for Innovation

Innovation and creativity are two of the most important factors that make your business a premier vendor for your customers. How you and your staff interact with customers and how you provide the best products and services to them will nurture loyal customers and make their lives better. While your techniques and results may change, your values do not, and that is what your customers will come to expect from you.

Creativity is Evergreen

Your ability to create, or to help your customers create, is a valuable talent. Managing change offers you an opportunity to find new ways to develop and display your “wares.” Since change requires learning and developing new skills, people that go through any transition can stimulate their creative centers at the same time they are learning.

How to Manage Change Effectively

To help your employees, customers, and yourself manage change in a positive manner, look for ways to reward people who make the transition effectively.

1. Use change to retrain staff on necessary skills and review their knowledge.
2. Offer incentives for staff to display their new knowledge and expertise to customers.
3. Offer discounts to customers who try your newest innovation.
4. Take the change in stages that make sense for the involved participants.
5. Explain why you are making the change and how it will improve your product, your operations, or grow your business.
6. Give staff and customers a forum to voice their opinions and complaints.
7. Thank people for trusting you and making the effort to try something new.
8. Express your understanding of resistance to change.

As you ask your people to take the steps to change, remind them of how far your business and industry has come and where you would be if you never made any changes.

Travel Tips for the Tech-Savvy Professional

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Man working with laptop in airport lounge

For many professionals, finding themselves on the road (or on an airplane) has quickly become a way of life. With more and more jobs requiring extensive travel regardless of industry, staying productive while away from the office has become of paramount importance. Luckily, technology has stepped up to answer this particular call, and things like the cloud have made it easier than ever to get all of the work you need to get done regardless of location – even if you’re halfway around the world away from your office. As with most things, however, this does require you to keep a few key things in mind.

There’s File Sharing, and Then There’s Secure File Sharing

In the last few years, file-sharing solutions have become a lifesaver for anyone who needs to remain as productive as possible even if they can’t physically make it to the office to do so. More and more traveling professionals are turning to cloud-based providers to do everything from collaborating on documents to sending files to clients for approval and more, all while on the go. The most important thing to consider in this regard, however, is security. This is particularly true because as a traveling professional, you’ll likely be spending a great deal of time on public Wi-Fi networks.

While a cloud-based file-sharing provider itself may be secure, your connection is most certainly not. All it would take is someone connected to the same public network that you are with a little knowledge to pluck every kilobyte of data you’re sending and receiving out of the air, exposing you and your enterprise to harm. If you’re serious about file sharing, invest in an FTP (file transfer protocol) solution for your business.

You still get all of the file-sharing benefits you’ve grown accustomed to, but you get the added benefit of both at-rest and in-transit encryption. Even if someone were to intercept an important, confidential file you’re working on or transmitting, the data inside would be impossible to access without the encryption keys that only the sender or the recipient have.

Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, is something that tech-savvy traveling professionals should look into if they’re serious about doing as much work as possible on the go. IaaS takes the same concept as file sharing only it extends these benefits to EVERY last part of your digital life – from the software that you use to the hardware you use it on and more. All of your mission-critical services are delivered in an on-demand capacity over the internet, meaning that the program you use to get work done in the office is the same one you use to get work done while on vacation.

Because everything is hosted online, you don’t ever have to worry about creating a file in one version of a program that turns out to be incompatible with the one you use when you get back home. This also removes the reliance on a single operating system from the equation, turning EVERY computer or mobile device into essentially a carbon copy of your work computer at any given moment.

These are just a few of the tips that the tech-savvy traveling professional can use to remain as productive and as proactive as possible while on the go. Technology is a great thing, but it is NOT a magic bullet – you still have to be careful so that you don’t find yourself on the receiving end of a data breach due to lax security protocols (or worse – user error). As long as you understand that “productivity” and “security” are two terms that will always be closely related, you’ll find that geography is no longer your biggest inhibitor of productivity any longer.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

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Family at the kitchen

Customer service is sometimes the part of the job that we dread due to the range of customer complaints that ensue. However, if we look at customer service as an opportunity, we can create a lot of positive energy from it. While not all stories are as entertaining as this one, the fact that the customer service response became a boon for the company is evident.

Giraffe Bread

Lily Robinson, 3 and 1/2 years old, wanted to know why the Tiger Bread from Sainsbury’s (a British convenience store) wasn’t called Giraffe Bread. After all, it looked like giraffe skin. She wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s and her mother mailed it to their customer service department. (https://www.helpscout.net/10-customer-service-stories/)

In an incredible customer service response, Chris King, 27 and 1/3 years old, responded to Lily with another letter and a gift card. That response in itself would have been an incredible customer service moment, but the story continues.

Sainsbury’s decided to change the name of the bread to Giraffe Bread and created signage explaining the story. Lily’s mom was so impressed that she wrote about the story on her blog. (https://jamandgiraffes.com/2011/06/15/our-careline/) The story then got picked up by BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-16812545) and became a marketing tale that has returned goodwill to Sainsbury’s many times more than what the first gesture from Chris King cost them. While this return doesn’t happen every time you offer excellent customer service, your actions and response to customer complaints are opportunities to cement relationships with customers. Often, it is the customer service assistance that creates the most indelible mark in a customer’s memory.

Customer Service as an Opportunity

There are many similar instances that companies never find out about that affect their bottom line. Not every customer calls or writes to a company because of a good or bad customer service experience. However, they may tell all of their friends about it. Positive or negative, word of mouth goes far and can create a bundle of good or bad press for a company.

Because most of us are dealing with automated phone systems and customer service reps that speak other languages and barely know English, a lot us have become numb to the massive amount of poor customer service. When we do come across good customer service, sometimes it is a shock to our system. We crave good customer service, and most people will return and refer others to any company that treats them well.

Examples of good customer service opportunities abound:

*The mechanic that takes the time to explain what is wrong and why it needs to be fixed, but won’t fix anything that is unnecessary.
*The patio furniture sales person who brings out a ladder to get the last display model from the ceiling-high display shelf.
*The jeweler who walks the customer through the options of repair for their cherished, but cheap, pearl necklace.

These types of customer service experiences are appreciated by the customer and remembered.

By treating every customer service issue as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a customer, you can build the loyalty that every business needs. Loyal customers are your bread and butter, the customers who pay your monthly bills month in and month out.
Being a small business can give you more of these opportunities because you know your customers personally, so use these moments as a chance to shine.