(Photo Credit: DrMadra / Shutterstock.com)
It’s a simple fact of human nature that people are freaked out by change. It doesn’t matter if the change is for the better or for the worse—in most circumstances, most people prefer to retain the status quo rather than try something new.
Changes, however, are a natural part of a business’s lifecycle, and big changes can often lead to disgruntled staff members. While you may not be able to impact your staff’s first reaction, you can control how you prepare them for the transition. Here are 5 ways to help your employees cope with a major change.
1. Explain the Why, When, and How
When introducing a change, give as much detail as possible about why the change is happening, when the change will go into effect, and what the process will look like. Eliminating as many unknowns as you can will give people fewer details to worry about.
2. Focus on the Positive
Most changes have both a positive and a negative side, but when presenting to your staff, focus as much as you can on the positive. If you as their leader remain upbeat and optimistic, your employees are more likely to take a similar attitude.
3. Listen Openly to Concerns
Even after a clear rundown of what’s happening and why, your staff may raise concerns. Listen to them with an open ear and provide any additional information and reassurance your staff needs to accept the coming change.
4. Address Issues within Your Control
If there are factors causing concern among your staff that you can control, do what you can to address them. Even if you can’t fix everything, showing that you’ve been listening to your employees’ concerns and taking measures because of them will illustrate your commitment to the team.
5. Provide Adequate Training and Support
If your business change involves new processes or procedures, make sure to provide ample training and support to set your staff up for success.
The Bottom Line
You can’t change human nature, but you can make it easier for your staff to move from fear to acceptance during periods of transition by providing clear information, listening to concerns, making adjustments to address those concerns, and creating a solid training plan for new processes.
(Photo Credit: Sam72 / Shutterstock.com)
It’s easy to lead a team when things are going well, but how you lead when times are tough is what really defines you as a manager. A great small business leader knows when and how to handle employee conflicts.
If you’re new to managing your own staff, you may be daunted by the prospect of having to step in and resolve a dispute between employees. Don’t be! Even if you’re not a mediator by nature, these tips will help you approach conflicts in a productive way that ensures a speedy and fair resolution for everyone.
Tip 1: Know When to Get Involved
The majority of conflicts can be worked out between the individuals involved, without outside assistance. In most cases, you probably don’t need to step in unless an employee requests your help or the dispute is affecting business operations.
Tip 2: Intervene Promptly
When the time comes to step in, don’t delay. The sooner you can begin to assess the situation, the sooner you can help your employees come to a resolution, thereby minimizing any negative repercussions.
Tip 3: Remain Neutral
When it comes to mediating disputes, it’s essential that you remain neutral. Personal opinions or emotions should have no place in your decision-making process.
Tip 4: Listen to Both Sides
Make sure to hear out each person’s side of the story in private before bringing them together to reach a solution. This allows each staff member to speak his or her version of the truth without worrying about how the other person might react.
Tip 5: Get at the Real Issue
When listening to each person’s story, don’t just listen to what they say: Dig deep and discover what the real issue is behind the conflict. While the surface dispute may seem inconsequential, there’s probably a deeper conflict behind it. You won’t be able to resolve the matter until you figure out what that deeper conflict is.
Tip 6: Reach a Concrete Resolution
The worst thing you can do as a mediator is leave a dispute unresolved. Make sure that once you’ve talked through the issues and made a decision on how to proceed, everyone knows what their takeaways are and what’s expected of them next. Otherwise, there won’t be a clear resolution, and the conflict will continue to fester.
The Bottom Line
Disputes are bound to arise between employees, but if you get involved when needed, remain neutral, listen to both sides of the story, and implement a fair resolution based on the actual issue at hand, you’ll be able to turn negative situations into positive learning experiences for both you and your staff members.
(Photo credit: Poprotskiy Alexey / Shutterstock.com)
Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:
[Mobile News] Study Reveals 80% of Mobile Searches for Local Businesses Result in Purchase
News Source: Street Fight
A new report from Neustar Localeze and 15miles indicates that consumers are increasingly turning to mobile to find local businesses when they’re ready to make a purchase. The key metrics include:
- 79% of smartphone owners and 81% of tablet owners use their devices to search for information on local businesses.
- 80% of those mobile searches for local businesses result in a purchase, 75% occurring at a physical storefront.
- Only 50% of consumers are satisfied with the mobile search experience for local businesses.
Survey participants noted that information around products & services tends to be lacking or hard to find on mobile. They also noted that accurate hours of operation are a key piece of information they look for when making a purchase decision.
Key Takeaway: It’s never been more crucial to make sure your business location, hours of operation, and products & services are easy for consumers to access on mobile. Did you know that SinglePlatform provides a mobile-optimized website that includes all of this content in one easy-to-read page? Find out more about how this service could benefit your business.
[Hiring News] Report: Businesses with More Women Perform Better
News Source: Mashable
The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology recently released a new paper entitled The Case for Investing in Women. This paper pulls together statistics from a variety disciplines to make the case that hiring more women contributes to an overall better working environment. A few key facts from the study:
- Fortune 500 companies with 3 or more female directors have a 66% higher return on investment and a 42% higher return on sales.
- International studies across a variety of industries found that teams with more women have greater psychological safety, group experimentation, and team confidence and efficiency.
- Teams with at least one female member have a higher collective IQ than teams of just men.
Key Takeaway: Many studies, this one included, have proven that more diversity leads to more creative teams, which in turn leads to better businesses. When considering new hires, make sure to look for not just a particular skill set, but also someone who can bring a unique perspective to your day-to-day operations.
[Social Media News] Research Helps Businesses Identify the Best Networks for Social Marketing
News Source: Social Media Examiner
This week, Social Media Examiner shared a compilation of social media research findings around trends in user and brand behaviors across networks. Their four key findings were:
- Users spend more time on visual networks like Facebook (6:33 hours per visitor per month), Tumblr (1:38 hours per visitor per month), and Pinterest (1:17 hours per visitor per month).
- While Google+ is not a high priority in terms of audience engagement for most marketers, the social network is becoming valuable as a SEO tool.
- Facebook’s News Feed algorithm changes in January are motivating marketers to mix up their content with photos, videos, links, questions, and offers in order to reach their followers.
- B2B marketers are finding the most success on LinkedIn.
Key Takeaway: These findings reinforce industry trends that have been percolating for awhile now. Visual marketing has become an essential piece of the overall marketing puzzle for businesses across the board, and taking advantage of less enticing social networks such as Google+ and LinkedIn is paying off for businesses as well. If you’ve been hesitant to take risks in your small business social marketing, now is the time to get out there and try new things!
Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!
(Photo Credit: marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com)
It happens at some point in every workplace. Sometimes, the individual components of a team you hired are doing wonderful work, but together, they just don’t work at all. Even if your team functions harmoniously most of the time, tensions and disputes are bound to arise.
Rather than waiting for conflicts to come to a head, a better way to manage your team is to start building a cohesive unit from day one. Here are 4 team-building ideas that will help your employees form stronger relationships and work through issues more productively together:
1. Host a Themed Event
An offsite event organized to specifically address an area of conflict in your business can often help ease strained relations. For example, if your team struggles with following directions, a scavenger hunt might be a good exercise to work on deciphering instructions as a unit.
2. Volunteer Together
Working together as a team for the benefit of others is often a good way to remove tension and competitiveness from the equation. A change of scenery can also eliminate judgmental behaviors—if everyone is doing something out of his or her comfort zone, no one can claim to be the expert.
3. Celebrate Group Successes
Rather than focusing on individual achievements, team building should celebrate successes that the entire group has contributed to. Make sure to plan separate incentives or events for group performance in addition to individual work.
4. Start a Team or Club
Extracurricular activities can often promote camaraderie among employees, even those who don’t ordinarily get along. Think about what common interests your team shares and how you could start a team or club that brings everyone together. For example, if you know your staff members like to read novels, you might start an after-hours book club.
The Bottom Line
The stronger your team’s foundation is, the more stable it will be when storms come. Laying the groundwork from day 1 won't prevent disputes from happening, but it will help you resolve them more efficiently when they do.
(Photo Credit: Anna Frajtova / Shutterstock.com)
Each member of a small business’s staff has an important role to play, and if an individual isn’t working at full capacity, it can quickly have a negative impact on day-to-day operations.
Short of firing someone who isn’t pulling his or her weight, what can you do as the business owner to boost productivity? These 4 tips will help you help your employees work smarter and harder.
1. Huddle up
A brief huddle in the morning or at the start of each shift is a great way to help employees focus on their most important tasks and get energized. Have each staff member identify their top goal for the day, and let them know how you’ll be there to support them in reaching those goals.
2. Encourage Breaks
It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging employees to take breaks and facilitating company-wide outings, celebrations, and happy hours can actually help your staff be more productive. The happier your employees are, the harder they’ll want to work when they’re on duty. Consider what makes sense based on your budget, hours, and staff size before adding regular events to the calendar.
3. Help Prioritize
Sometimes, employees can become overwhelmed when they have too many to-dos on their list. When possible, help prioritize which items are most important each day, week, and month. Breaking down tasks into more manageable chunks will help keep the wheels turning and boost productivity.
4. Stop Micromanaging
As the business owner, it’s your responsibility to define goals, help troubleshoot problems, and give guidance when asked for. However, it’s not your job to micromanage. Once you’ve clearly established your expectations, sit back and let your staff do their jobs the way that works best for them. They’ll ultimately be more productive, even if they might not do things exactly the same way you would.
The Bottom Line
Clearly setting goals each day, providing the proper amount of support, giving employees breaks together to team-build, and trusting your staff to do the jobs you hired them to do are all great ways to boost productivity. If none of these strategies make an impact, then it may be time to reevaluate the responsibilities you’ve assigned to individual employees or consider letting go of staff members with chronic performance issues.
(Photo Credit: Deklofenak / Shutterstock.com)
Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:
Small Businesses Find Profit in Customer Loyalty
News Source: MediaPost
A joint study released by BIA/Kelsey and Manta this week found that small business owners are finally starting to invest in customer retention and brand loyalty.
61% of participants reported that more than half of their annual revenue comes from repeat customers, and noted that repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers.
86% of surveyed entrepreneurs spend the majority of their annual marketing budget to retain customers rather than acquire new customers, and 80% spend most of their time and effort fostering repeat business.
While small businesses are focusing their marketing efforts on retention rather than acquisition, they’re still lagging behind on the loyalty program front. Only 34% of respondents have a program in place, and most of these programs are offline, making it difficult to gauge success.
Key Takeaway: Acquiring new customers is both costly and challenging, so it makes sense that business owners are investing in strengthening existing customer relationships. However, without making good use of technology to track retention efforts, small businesses are missing out on valuable data that could help them assess which efforts are working and which aren’t. Protip: Constant Contact provides a great suite of tools that will help you keep customers engaged and allow you to track your efforts.
[Social Media News] Google+ Brand Posts See Twice as Much Engagement as Twitter Posts
News Source: Mashable
Everyone in the marketing community loves to hate on Google+, but a new survey from Forrester Research provides reason to take the social network more seriously. According to the 60,000-participant survey, 22% visited Google+ within the last 30 days—equivalent to the number of visitors on Twitter.
Furthermore, the study investigated more than 3 million user interactions with over 2,500 posts by brands and found that Google+ post engagement is much higher than engagement on Twitter, and almost as high as post engagement on Facebook.
Key Takeaway: To borrow words from Forrester researcher Nate Elliott: “If you’re not actively marketing on Google Plus, it’s time to start.”
[Social Media News] LinkedIn Retiring Products and Services Tab on Company Pages
News Source: Business 2 Community
LinkedIn announced this week that they’re retiring the Products and Services tab on company pages as of April 14th. To date, this tab has been the place where businesses have been able to showcase their goods to potential employees and customers.
Two relatively new features have made the old Products and Services tab obsolete:
- The introduction of Company Updates
- The launch of Showcase Pages
Both features require an active involvement from the business in lieu of a static description.
Key Takeaway: Think of this change as an opportunity to illustrate your business’s products and services dynamically. Instead of a boring text blurb, you're now able to share links, photos, and promotions with your LinkedIn followers. You'll be more likely to engage your followers and better equipped to showcase your unique offerings.
Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!
(Photo Credit: Feng Yu / Shutterstock.com)
We’ve all worked with colleagues who are less than excited about coming in to work every day. They do the bare minimum they can to get by, take their paycheck, and otherwise don’t spare a thought for the business.
Are blasé employees beyond help? Not at all! With a little inspiration, a worker can go from disengaged to invested in your business.
Here are 5 ways to inspire your team and get them fired up about doing great work:
1. Share Your Mission
A job without a mission is just a way to pay bills. Make sure each of your employees knows what your business stands for and what vision you’re pursuing.
2. Remind Employees Why Their Work Matters
Above and beyond your business’s mission, remind your employees why the work they do matters. Whether it’s manning a cash register or cleaning dishes, every person in a small business has an important role to play that can contribute to the company’s overall success. Make sure everyone knows why their individual role is important.
3. Encourage Creativity and Risk-Taking
A bored employee will naturally lose enthusiasm over time. If you can, try to encourage creativity and risk-taking from your staff. If someone has a new marketing idea, let them try it out. If someone wants to help with artwork for your in-store flyers, give them a shot. Allowing people to explore their strengths and contribute to the business’s success in a new way is a great way to reinvigorate a stagnant work life.
4. Reward Successes
Whether it’s an individual or team accomplishment, take time to celebrate successes when they happen. This will keep people motivated to work their hardest and feel proud of what they’ve already accomplished.
5. Say Thank You
Sometimes, the way to inspire someone is simply to thank them for their contribution.
The Bottom Line
Inspiration can come from a variety of sources. Reminding your employees why their work matters, giving them the space to try new things, and rewarding achievements are all simple things you can do to cultivate enthusiasm in your employees.
Share your inspiration ideas in the comments!
(Photo Credit: TomaB / Shutterstock.com)
Think of the most inspiring leader you know. What makes him or her great? What qualities do you admire in that person? How do they inspire you to excel in your own efforts?
Regardless of industry, profession, or position, there are certain attributes that all great leaders share in common. These 6 traits are characteristic of successful small business leaders:
1. Communicates Effectively
Great leaders know how to communicate with their employees and vendors. They should be able to:
- Set clear expectations and guidelines
- Provide helpful and honest feedback
- Lend an empathetic ear when concerns are raised
- Praise good work and encourage improvements when needed
2. Brings Perspective
The savviest leaders are always able to keep things in perspective based on what’s already happened, what’s happening now, and what might happen in the future. Seeing the whole picture, rather than focusing on the immediate goal or challenge, is what sets a leader apart from someone who merely manages operations.
3. Inspires Others
Leaders who make a lasting impact are those who inspire others by example. Their passion, drive, and enthusiasm rubs off on the people they work with and motivates them to constantly do better work.
4. Takes Responsibility
Strong leaders aren’t afraid to take responsibility for both successes and failures. They use mistakes as instruments of positive change, rather than denying faults or blaming them on others.
5. Behaves Consistently
Leadership positions require consistency. A leader who has inconsistent expectations, reactions, and needs is bound to frustrate employees.
6. Committed to Excellence
The fate of a small business is closely tied to the quality of its products, services, and operations. It’s only natural that a small business leader should be committed to excellence in all areas, whether its merchandise, staffing, bookkeeping, or marketing. A leader who strives for perfection, even though they know it can never be fully attained, is the kind of leader who inspires greatness in others.
The Bottom Line
As you read this list, you may be thinking that it’s a tall order to be a great leader. But keep in mind that great leaders aren’t born, but created. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and what you can do to up your game. You may also want to solicit feedback from trusted colleagues and employees to help you make an accurate assessment.
Every small business leader has the potential to be great. With passion, dedication, and a willingness to keep learning, your dream can become a reality.
(Photo Credit: Jakub Krechowicz / Shutterstock.com)
It's pretty hard for any small business to survive today without a web presence. Beyond a basic website and social media accounts to inform and interact with customers, it's now becoming more important for small businesses to launch dedicated blogs. While blogs present a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers on a deeper level, they should not be approached from anything but an expert perspective. If you're considering starting a blog but are unsure how to proceed, read on.
1. Outsource the Technical Tasks
Unless you're an IT pro, your blog's technical set-up is best left to someone who can put it together with quality and efficiency. However, that's not to say you need to break the bank in the process. Explore outsourcing websites like Guru, Freelancer, and Elance to find a qualified web developer. Investigate each candidate thoroughly and be sure to ask for references and examples of past projects. I had my blog set-up for $125 by a freelancer, and I was very impressed with the finished product.
2. Commit to Superior Content
The most important element of any blog is the quality of its content. Potential customers are going to assume that you're an expert in your field, and they want that assumption to be validated before they commit to giving you their money. Post high quality articles with informative and relevant advice, showcase your industry knowledge, and provide tips that add real value to your customers' lives. And don't sacrifice quality for quantity. It's not a given that you have to post something every day. Simply decide on a posting schedule, write compelling content, and remain consistent so your readers know what to expect.
3. Market on Newer Social Media Websites
Assuming that you already have a Facebook and Twitter presence, you should also look to share your blog posts on some of the newer social media outlets that are quickly gaining popularity. Google+ is rising in significance; Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are excellent options as well. Not all are suited to blog content, but all can be used to draw web-surfers to your site. The most important thing to remember is that you can't expect word to get out about your blog on its own. You have to spend just as much time finding avenues of exposure as you do writing copy.
4. Include an About Us Tab
By creating an About Us tab on your blog, you give readers the opportunity to get a quick snapshot of your business as a whole. Include pictures of yourself and your senior staff members to personalize the page and give your company a friendly face. Many people are going to click on this tab before looking at your blog, so be sure to devote a good amount of effort to it.
5. Answer All Comments
Whenever you get a comment on any of your blog posts, be sure to answer it as quickly as possible. You might simply want to show some gratitude to a reader for taking the time to offer an opinion. If you encounter a provocative or contrarian comment, address it, but always be deferential and respectful of the commenter's viewpoint. One of the goals of your blog should be to build a community of readers and subscribers by interacting with them. Make them feel valued, and you give potential customers a reason to do business with you.
6. Make Your Blog’s Home Page Easy to Read
Some small business owners make the mistake of overwhelming their readers with content on their blog’s home page. That's definitely a mistake to avoid. There's nothing wrong with including tabs to other resources in your blog, but keep the body of your home page relatively clean and straightforward. A basic design with some white space will help readers focus on the content you do display there.
Creating a blog for your small business takes both time and effort, and maintaining it does, too. If you get to the point at which other areas of your business begin to suffer, consider hiring a freelance writer or two with industry experience so you can simply oversee the blog rather than produce all of its content. Saving money is important, but it's equally important to know when making a minor investment will save you valuable time.
What tips do you have for small business owners who want to launch a blog? Share them in the comments!
(Photo Credit: Max Griboedov / Shutterstock.com)
Once you’ve got your social media program up and running and you’re posting content on a regular basis, you may think you’ve got all of the pieces of the social media puzzle in place. Close, but not quite. The last key piece of your social media program is analytics—data you can use to improve what content you post on which channel and when.
Each social media platform provides a different set of analytics, and third party social media management programs often provide their own analytics as well. Here are a few basic metrics that you can use to gauge your effectiveness on every social channel:
If you’re making it easy for people to follow you on social and posting great content, you should see a continual increase in followers on each of your social accounts over time. If you see a decrease in followers, you may want to rethink your content strategy, as people don’t generally unfollow an account unless they’re annoyed or offended by its content.
While likes go by different names on different social networks, they all mean the same thing: A follower enjoyed the piece of content you posted. For posts that have an especially high number of likes, make sure to look at when the post went live (day of the week and time of day) and what the content was so you can try to post other content that will be similarly engaging.
Comments can be an indicator of both positive and negative engagement: Usually people only take the time to comment on something they’re really excited about or really upset about. Some followers may also pose questions to you in comments. This makes it important not only to monitor the number of comments you receive, but also what kind of comments they are and what type of posts generate the most comments.
Shares are an even better indicator of engagement than likes or comments because they require a user to take an additional action. Shares impact the number of overall impressions a post receives, so the more shares you get, the greater your reach will be.
If you’re posting links on your social channels, most platforms will provide a count of how many people clicked on them. If you use a URL shortener such as bit.ly to shorten your links, they’ll also provide analytics for you. Lastly, if you’re linking back to your blog or website, you’ll be able to see which visits came from your social media channels using Google Analytics or other website analytics programs you have in place.
Impressions are equivalent to the number of eyes that land on your posts. The more your followers share your content, the more impressions you’ll receive. You can also boost your impressions by experimenting with posting times to see when on average you get the most views.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot of valuable data available about your social media channels, but you have to actually do something with that data to make it count. By looking at a few key metrics, you can continue to optimize your efforts on social media nd make sure that the effort you're investing in social pays off for your business.