Category Archives: Administrative Support

Handling Small Business Stress

Handling Small Business Stress

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There are only two ways to make a living in this world – working for someone else or working for yourself.

If you’re an employee, unless something serious goes wrong, you have a reasonable expectation of stability, certainty and knowledge of where your next paycheck is coming from. Depending on your employer, you may have good benefits and potential to advance in your career. The risk-reward ratio of a salaried job is low to medium and suits the majority of people just fine. But, as the saying goes, nobody ever got rich working for a salary.

As a self-employed person or small-business owner, however, you are entirely responsible for your own income – and, if you have employees, for their income, too. There’s always the chance that you will be wildly successful, but that possibility is tempered by the very real risk of failure, sudden changes in the market, and a host of other risks. The risk-reward ratio is high and, for a small percentage of people, worth it.

Accept that you will undergo stress

If you’re considering working for yourself or starting your own company because you’re tired of working long hours, many rounds of golf with clients, or getting up at whatever time of day you feel like it, prepare yourself for failure right now. Because, as any successful small-business owner will tell you, it’s going to take a massive amount of very hard work, long hours, and the ever-present risk of losing it all. It can be a very high-stress venture and knowing how to deal with that risk could make the difference between pushing through the lean times and packing it all in for a nice, stable salary. Your first step is to accept the fact that you are going to experience stress and prepare yourself to deal with it.

Focus on what’s in front of you

It’s always a good idea to have a plan A, B, and C in place to deal with foreseeable contingencies; however, it’s impossible to foresee every scenario, so don’t spend all your time planning for what might go wrong. Have one or maybe two backup plans in place, then focus on what you’re trying to achieve – after all, the cost of reward is risk. Deal with each problem as it arises – don’t spend fruitless time worrying about what may happen. At the same time, don’t put off dealing with an issue for too long; both of these habits will cause you far too much unnecessary stress.

Have a release valve

For some self-employed people it’s a daily walk with the dog, for others it’s a weekly art class. Whatever it is, everyone, no matter how busy, needs time away from work to allow the mind to shut off, focus on other things and remember that there really is more to life than work. Unfortunately, for too many people that ends up being the instant gratification of alcohol or drugs, so take the time to find something worthwhile. Before you even choose the name of your new company, find something that can serve as your release valve and stick with it – you’ll thank yourself later for it!

How to Position Sales and Specials to Increase Profits

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Sales, specials, discounts and one-time offers are often a quick, simple way to boost your business. They help you attract new customers, offer long-time customers a reward for their loyalty, and encourage occasional customer’s incentive to buy more items. An added bonus, sales can help you move excess stock that’s taking up valuable space earmarked for new products.

Reduced price offers are, however, risky business. Offer too big a discount and you won’t make any profit; offer too little discount and it hardly seems like a deal. Here are three ways to tackle a special to help maximise your profits.

1 Crunch the Numbers

The first thing to do is to work out the golden median – what discount will allow you to still make a profit but will seem like a worthwhile deal to customers? This is where a good understanding of your income, expenditure and cost of sales comes into play. Depending on how big your profit margin is, you could potentially offer a significant deal. If it is a small margin, you need to be careful to take into account the hidden costs of the product, like warehousing costs, shipping, and other money already spent. Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant to help you work out the figures.

2 Find creative ways to offer a deal

It’s not just about slashing prices. Sometimes, you could gain more effect by offering a bundled deal, where two complementary items are sold together for a small discount, but in a way that showcases the benefit of having both. Alternatively, you could offer discounts for quantity – buy three, get a fourth free, or buy bulk for a discounted rate.

You could also offer discounted rates to specific groups. For example, a retail store offering senior citizens certain items at cost price on one day a week would encourage them to buy several additional non-discounted items during their shopping. Another situation, an internet service provider could offer registered university students a certain amount of data per month for free. It pays to be cautious with these kinds of deals, though – they should be limited time offers, as long-term discounting could cause you more harm than good.

For service-oriented businesses, you could consider offering certain customers a retainer deal – they get up to a maximum amount of hours or service from your company for a fixed rate every month, which can certainly help in the quieter, leaner months of the year.

3 Go seasonal

Depending on what you’re selling, you could consider offering seasonal deals. A clothing retailer catering to school kids could offer special deals at various times of the year – back to school or beginning of the vacation. A service-based operator could offer an annual discount to long-term customers at a quieter time of the year to encourage additional business.

Lastly, a little tip – be very careful of offering reduced prices when your cash flow is tight. You could end up doing yourself more harm than good. It may seem like a great way to drum up extra sales, but unless you are sure of making that profit, it could be too big a risk for your business.

A Simple Guide to Profit & Loss and Your Balance Sheet

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You have a great idea for a small business. You’ve done all the research, you know there’s a need for your product or service and you even have a few great marketing ideas. Unfortunately, you’re not exactly a financial genius. You know profit is a good thing and loss not so much. However, when people start asking anything more complicated than are you making any money, you’re at a bit of a loss.

Even if you employ a top-notch accountant to deal with money matters, it helps to know what position your company is in. To help demystify small business finances, let’s look at the basics – P&L and the balance sheet.

Profit and Loss Statement

At its simplest definition, profit is what is left over after you subtract your costs from your income. From this point, it becomes a matter of going into detail. What are the costs? Are they recurring or once-off? Do you have a single type of income or are there various categories – for example, a property company could get income from rentals, property sales, or investments. Each of these is a different kind of income, or revenue that needs to be shown as its own item on the statement, but counted together, they are all income. Costs could include salaries, consumables, marketing and a host of others.

Loss, however, is not the same as costs, or expenses. Loss happens when income minus expenditure results in a negative figure – in other words, when you’ve made less money than you’ve spent. This could be because of any number of factors, including unexpected expenses, failure to make enough sales, or a sudden increase in costs. At the same time, loss can be deceptive – for example, just because you haven’t sold your inventory doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. That’s where the balance sheet comes in.

Balance Sheet

A balance sheet shows your company’s overall situation when it comes to assets and liabilities. Assets are anything you own, including income received, property, inventory, investments, equipment, anything that has any kind of value that you owner. Liabilities are anything that causes a drain on your finances. This can include normal operating costs, maintenance fees, even depreciation in the value of fixed assets. The balance sheet takes all these factors into account to show the total balance of equity in your company.

Of course, the deeper into company finances you go, the more complex it can seem, but if you can get a handle on these two important statements, you are well on your way to being in control of your own company finances.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Business Intelligence

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Young urban professional man using smart phone. Businessman hold

Business intelligence is a vital part of running a successful corporation. Because of this, many businesses are beginning to use mobile platforms for business intelligence.

While mobile business intelligence may seem like the way of the future, there are a number of pros and cons that business owners should consider before making the switch.

Pro: Information wherever you are
Whether you’re at lunch with a client, on your way to the airport, or relaxing at home on the weekend, mobile business intelligence allows you to access your business’s information wherever you are.

Con: Every device works differently
The same information that is easy to manipulate and read on an iPad screen may be cumbersome to navigate with the track ball of a Blackberry.

Pro: Hands on experience
Rather than viewing information in a report or presentation, mobile business intelligence allows you to interact with data in new and more hands-on ways.

Con: Separation of business and personal information
Most people do not want to deal with the hassle of maintaining two tablets or smart phones. Because of this, corporate applications are either being used on a personal device or a business device is also being used for personal practices; either way, there is a definite lack of separation between business and personal information.

Pro: Manage data in real time
Mobile business intelligence platforms allow you to monitor and manage incoming data in real time. This allows businesses to make immediate decisions about what is and isn’t working, changing tactics and strategies as needed.

Con: Lack of security
The security for smart phones and tablets has not yet caught up with the security for desktops and laptops. Because of this, mobile devices can be more easily hacked – as well as more easily lost or stolen. Using mobile business intelligence could potentially compromise sensitive or confidential information.

While mobile business intelligence continues to grow in popularity, consider the pros and cons before jumping on the bandwagon.

How to Ask for Help in the Office

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Young Student Overwhelmed Asking For Help

Asking for help in the office can be hard. Unfortunately, many workers feel that they will be labeled as incompetent or lazy if they ask for help, often leading to bad results and further consequences if they try to go it alone.

Instead of unnecessarily struggling with an issue on your own, follow these helpful tips on how to ask for help in the office.

1. Try it first
No matter how impossible a task seems, try to accomplish it on your own before you ask for help. Use a wide variety of solutions or ideas to try and tackle the issue. By doing so, you’ll have more to contribute if you do need to ask for help by explaining the methods you already tried that didn’t work.

2. Don’t wait too long
Staying at the office until 1 am, neglecting other projects, or missing deadlines may all be indicators that you’re stuck or in a rut on your current task. The longer we delay asking for help the worse the problems can become and the fewer options there are to resolve them,” says psychologist Richard Plenty. Instead, ask for help before you once again find yourself as the last one in the office on a Friday night.

3. Ask a trusted colleague
If you’re uncomfortable asking for help, turn first to a colleague whom you trust. Fess up to your insecurities; more often than not, they will be honored that you chose to come to them for help. Doing this may also help you quickly resolve the issue – without needing to turn to your boss for help.

4. Use different words
Instead of saying, “This is overwhelming,” try, “This new project is making it difficult for me to manage my time effectively.” Likewise, instead of admitting that you don’t know what to do, address the progress you’ve already made or the things you’ve already tried. Doing this can turn a pity party into a collaborative brainstorming session.

While needing to ask for help may leave you feeling like a failure, the way in which you ask for help can shape how others in your office view you. By following these steps,  you can confidently ask your coworkers for assistance next time you need it.

Quick Fix Guide for Fixing a PR Disaster

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Public Relations

Whoever said “There is no such thing as bad press” obviously didn’t live in the world of social media and the 24 hour news cycle. Now more than ever, businesses are under constant scrutiny; the way you handle a PR disaster can either make or break your company.

There are a wide variety of public relations disasters, from the mildly embarrassing to the downright inappropriate. No matter what you’re PR problems you’re facing, the following quick fixes can help you avoid a PR nightmare and get your business back on track.

1. Quickly acknowledge your mistake
In the age of the internet, nothing ever truly goes away: tweets can be screenshotted before they are deleted, videos can be continually reposted, and one bad review can quickly turn into 100. Because of this, it is extremely important that you acknowledge that a mistake was made as soon as possible.

“A day is too long,”  says Jennifer Berson, president of Jeneration PR. “Even if you don’t have all the information you need, at a minimum you should be telling people that you are aware of the issue and will provide more information the following day.”

2. Issue an apology
“The really important thing to recognize about apologies is that they are a very smart thing to issue,” says Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, founder and business-writing specialist at Syntax Training. “In order for the client or perspective customer to get over the bad feelings, we have to issue the apology. It helps the other person release their anger about it.”

Apologies should frequently include and repeat words such as “apologize”, “regret”, and “sorry” in order to appear more sincere. A public apology doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a full press conference; for small infractions, a heartfelt letter, tweet, or statement on a website may suffice.

3. Make it right
If a product is faulty, recall it. If customers had a bad experience, offer them coupons or exclusive experiences. Doing what you can to make things right can often increase the public’s perception and respect for your company following a PR disaster.

4. Counter with a positive campaign
A PR nightmare doesn’t have the mean the end of your company. Instead, focus on creating a positive campaign to change people’s perceptions of your organization. “Go on a positive press campaign,” says Melissa Cassera, publicity expert at Cassera Communications. “Even though negative things about your company will stay online forever, you can push them down to Page Three or Four on Google, and no one goes to those pages anyway.”

Dealing with a PR disaster doesn’t have to be the end of the world. By responding quickly, apologizing, doing what you can to make it right, and positively altering people’s opinions, your company can survive – and thrive – after a PR disaster.

Avoiding Presentation Disasters

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Businesswoman Reporting To Sales In A Seminar

You have an important sales presentation coming up with some all-too-important clients. It’s a chance to land a big account. A chance to impress you bosses. So, how do you not blow it?

Some sales presentations are a hit and others fail, and it’s good to know not every factor is under your control. Still, there are many different ways to make mistakes during a sales presentation, and you can stack the deck in your favor by avoiding some of the most simple and basic errors.

Here are five quick tips on how to avoid sales presentation disasters:

Avoid too much obvious ad-libbing. While you want to avoid a canned, stiff presentation full of clichés, presenting on the fly can bring about its own set of problems. Don’t slack on your level of preparation, so that your organization, information and talking points are spot on even while you’re being casual.

Know your tech. Do not let computer or projector problems take away from your presentation. Know how to use PowerPoint, back up your presentation files, prepare for poor Internet connectivity (with backup files), use a remote, and disable updates and notifications on your tablet or laptop.

Know what to do if you get caught off guard. You won’t have an answer for everything. So know your responses to those situations ahead of time. When you’re met with objections or don’t have all of the necessary research on hand, know what you will say and do next.

Be aware of body language. It should be obvious, but don’t stand with your back to the room – you should not be reading word-for-word from your presentation. And be aware of awkward, non-verbal body language – always smile and look people in the eye.

Don’t talk too much … really. Yes, it’s your presentation, but you can talk too much. No one wants to sit through a boring one-way presentation. Make plenty of time to listen, answer questions, and make it interactive.

Bring real value. Whatever mistakes you might make, don’t make the mistake of giving a presentation that doesn’t include valuable information. Be clear and concise in articulating the value of what you are presenting and why it’s important.