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3 Ways the Gig Economy is Changing the Way We All Do Business

The gig economy by any other name (shared, contingent) is still a growing force of workers that get paid on a contingent or “gig” basis. An army of consultants, freelancers, and temporary staffers, they could represent at least 75 million workers in the U.S., with the power to make serious changes in the ways businesses work. How Gig Economics Reconfigures Relationships Gig workers, who have the option of working for multiple companies at once, often acquire broad skillsets that allow them to work faster — and more intelligently — across departments and channels. For employers, the opportunity to hire gig workers on an as-needed basis allows them to reduce redundancy rates, healthcare costs, and facility overhead without compromising service. In fact, smart businesses can capitalize on multi-talented gig workers to increase their range of services, all without the risk of overstaffing. But there are issues. In order to cement a reliable workforce, businesses must learn to foster loyalty among freelancers who have the choice to work for anyone, keep ahead of changes in platforms, and embrace a new kind of flexibility. 3 Ways Businesses Must Change to Take Advantage of the Gig Market There are many things businesses must rework, revise, and reconfigure to make capitalizing on the gig economy not just feasible — but profitable. Let’s explore some of the most impactful strategies businesses can use right now to increase their utilization of this burgeoning market. 1. Develop Strong Relationships To capitalize on freelance talent, businesses must learn to foster real relationships with their gig workers. Keeping them engaged is one way to increase loyalty and help freelancers feel like part of the corporate culture. Businesses should include gig employees in engagement campaigns, corporate communications, and company milestones, with an emphasis on celebrating successes. To avoid the frustration that often develops between geographically widespread employees, companies must develop clear channels of communications along with easy-to-use platforms for assignments, and most importantly, pay. 2. Implement Intuitive — and Reliable — Pay Platforms Pay is a critical touchpoint for freelancers. In fact, 74% of freelancers in a recent research survey indicated…

10 Smart Solutions for Checking In With Your Remote Team Members

What’s one innovative solution you use to check in with your remote team, and how is it effective? Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co. 1. Monday Monday is an amazing project and team management tool we began using a few months back. It is extremely intuitive and visually appealing. Monday allows us to see what each team member is working on, communicate with one another, review deadlines and more. This tool has proven to be extremely effective in managing our team that is composed of both in-house and remote team members. – Duran Inci, Optimum7 2. Time Doctor About 80% of my team is remote, and we’ve been using Time Doctor for the last four years. It makes the team check in and check out, define daily tasks, capture screenshots and generate payrolls at the end of the month. It gives a sense of being watched to the teams; they feel like they have a manager who is monitoring them. It also increases the accountability and visibility of the remote team. – Piyush Jain, Simpalm 3. Slack  It’s not quite as good as face-to-face communication, but Slack seems to be as close as you can get to the rapport-building, casual-brainstorming settings that typically only happen in real-life contexts. The instantaneous back-and-forth and channel-based communication make it easy to keep people on the same page, both for the very small details as well as for larger goals. – Roger Lee, Human Interest 4. Annual In-Person Visits I plan trips each year to different cities where my remote team works so I can visit them. Of course, if I can do other business while I’m there, like making it part of my annual holiday, then it’s all the better. I spend the day with them working and doing some type of fun activity. It’s been the best bonding experience for all of us. We understand each other so much better. – Peter Daisyme, Hostt 5. Sococo  Sococo is a very fun and great way to have that local office feel while being remote. Everyone…

CRM Systems: A 10-Point Guide

CRM, or Customer Service Management System, is a necessary part of any business that needs to better understand its customers. Good CRM systems are designed to track interactions with customers so businesses in an organized space. Without an official CRM system, businesses often keep no record of interactions with customers or if they do, those interactions are no organized in one location. This creates problems with follow-up activities, leads and prospects, and staff turnover. There are several different types and features can be included in a CRM. How do you know which is the best one to use? Take a look at our 10-point guide before you invest in a CRM that doesn’t work for your needs. 1. Types of CRM Systems There are three different types of CRM systems that meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. A single entrepreneur can get by with a basic desktop version on one computer. Small businesses with more several employees often rely on a self-hosted CRM on a server. Larger businesses tend to use CRM systems that are hosted on the cloud and can be accessed anywhere via WiFi because a third party provides it. 2. What does a CRM do? The question should be what doesn’t a CRM do. The real goal of a CRM system is to manage customer contacts – everything from basic details like phone numbers and email addresses to details about conversations. With this information, users can track activities and goals to build sales. The CRM also helps employees take a customer from the lead stage to the conversion stage – even if more than one employee is involved. 3. Do CRM systems integrate with other applications and systems? Yes. They can be synced with email programs and calendar applications.  Some CRM systems actually have messaging functions built right in, so they do not need to be synced. Larger companies benefit from complex CRM systems that allow employees to interact within them. 4. Can CRM systems customize data for individual employees? Yes. All three types of CRM systems have dashboards that can be customized based on…

Don’t Just Listen, Do! How to Turn Idle Listening into Action (5 Tips)

Are you looking to start a business but have no idea where to begin? Do you know what you want to do but aren’t sure where to turn next or who you can ask? Podcasts could be the genie to fulfill your wishes. Idle listening is easy. But taking the lessons and putting them to practice is the hard part.   The biggest factor that separates a successful startup from an unsuccessful one is actually taking the necessary steps to get started. Thinking about starting a business gets you nowhere; you must take action to become successful. Great ideas do not a business make. The way to use podcasts as a tool to success is by taking action from the information provided. Here are our 5 top tips for using podcasts to help your business grow. Network – Podcasts are really a live action, audio blog. The people who put these business podcasts on have been where you are. They, too, started their business from the bottom and worked through the ringer to get where they are now. Odds are they have some solid advice for others that are just getting started. Podcasters started talking about their experiences to help other people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who’s podcast stands out to you. If you have questions, comment and ask them! They will more than likely answer you and offer wise advice. If they weren’t willing to dole out advice when questioned, they wouldn’t have put it out there to begin with. Don’t fret! Choose Wisely – Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to listen to every podcast on business that you can find. Instead, focus on those most in line with the type of business you plan to start and those that are most in tune with your mindset and goals. Listen to these podcasts and truly listen to what they’re saying. Devote even just an hour a day to listening to the podcasts that most match your business plan. These will give you the better ideas for what you need to focus on. Take notes, apply…

6 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Small Business

Your small business probably runs like a well-oiled machine. It’s likely you and a handful of hardworking, trustworthy staff members are navigating the challenges and joys of small business ownership. What you may not realize is that your budget allows you to have access to the types of technology that will build your small business and streamline your operations. As technology continues to morph and expand, it’s good to understand how it positively impacts your business. Take a look at these six ways technology can help you organize and grow your small business. Expand your reach  Even in this technology-filled world, it’s smart to utilize a variety of advertising mediums, from mailers to fliers. However, you need to focus on digital advertising – you can use it to advertise your small business for free. Social media platforms are a cost-effective way to engage your followers and not spend a dime. Some businesses may find they’re unable to reach the target audience for free, but there are still inexpensive solutions that cost spend less than the more traditional methods of advertising. Make yourself easy to find Your prospective customers view a concise and strong website as one that’s professional – a website also increases the odds you’ll be found on search engines. If you want customers to find your business, take the time to build a website that is helpful, informative and makes it clear that your business offerings are the solution to their problems. Make sure you always treat your customers like individuals and not simply transactions. Reduce communication costs If your small business turns to conference lines to communicate or has teleconferencing expenses, it’s simple to cut the associated costs. Skype and other similar services allow you to communicate with people from various locations for free. If your business has a lot of debt, this is an easy way to free up some money to pay it down. You can also consider options like an individual voluntary arrangement to help become debt free. Learn new things  Whether you want to trade online with a broker or learn something new,…

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems – 6 Features To Know About

The right Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) will offer your business numerous benefits. These include improved inventory management, reduced costs, reduced downtime, extended asset lifetime, and overall improved operational efficiency. However, with so many CMMS vendors across the globe, it can be difficult to determine which CMMS software is right for your business. Work Order Management System The work order management feature of a CMMS software allows authorized workers to place maintenance requests and place inventory orders. CMMS software can generate word orders automatically according to the maintenance schedule. The ideal work order management system should be customizable to make it easy to use by the authorized personnel. The system should also be able to monitor work order cycles from the time a work request is made, all through to planning, scheduling, and implementation. Preventative maintenance Preventative maintenance is crucial for extending the longevity of assets as well as thwarting unprecedented system breakdowns. The preventative maintenance function of CMMS makes it possible for you to determine which maintenance tasks are required, schedule them and determine the tools and equipment necessary for implementing the maintenance task. The thoroughness presented by this function minimizes emergency faults and keeps the systems in top notch condition. Data recording, reporting, and analysis The system records information such as work history, maintenance tasks, maintenance schedules, equipment details such as model, specifications, serial numbers and warranties, equipment lifecycle and asset identification numbers. This kind of information is essential for inventory management and planning. Aside from making data entry procedures easy and convenient, CMMS software has a function for analyzing and reporting the recorded data. The system can also help with the analysis of labor reports, maintenance schedules, maintenance costs and asset reports. Asset and Equipment Management Asset management is crucial whether your business is in one location or multiple locations. The system allows you to record information on what equipment you have, in which locations, maintenance tasks and schedules, safety certification procedure, instances of equipment failure, downtime, and reported error codes. Inventory Management. Inventory management is a pivotal part of any maintenance management system. It ensures that…

Buying Software for Your Small Business? Read These 3 Tips Before Taking the Plunge

Do you find that your team projects and collaborations often feel like a game of Jenga, just one botched deadline or failed communication away from toppling over? Finding the proper tools to promote team productivity is an ongoing quest for countless small businesses – that’s why we’re here to set the stage for your success. For SMBs, organization is key. By a show of hands, how many people have an endless stream of tabs open in their browser window right now, packed like sardines? We rely on software for nearly every aspect of getting our work done, but all too often, these productivity tools can actually end up fragmenting our time. The future of work lies in streamlining our digital processes. By gathering as many programs, tools, and capabilities as possible in one place, we begin to eliminate the need for toggling between a dozen windows and programs at a time. In light of SignEasy’s recent collaboration with Microsoft Teams – which transforms the popular e-signature software into a fully-integrated app for Microsoft’s latest chat platform – we wanted to explore the many ways in which integrations mark a fundamental shift in the way SMBs are able to do business. Here are the top three things your small business should consider when shopping for company software, so you can join the productivity revolution with confidence. 1. The one-stop shop The quickest way to banish your growing collection of tabs is to have all the programs and functionalities you need under one roof. Add-on apps and extensions are quickly becoming a popular choice for businesses who want to use one central program or browser – one that they would be using on a daily basis already – as a hub for tons of other productivity tools. Take the nearly 50% of web surfers that use Google Chrome as an example. Thanks to Chrome extensions, people that favor this platform can turn their browser into a to-do list, a task manager, a productivity tracker, and much more, simply by installing a few integrated add-ons. Similarly, Microsoft Teams users can use the SignEasy…

Overcoming Disruption in a Family Run Business

Running a family business has it’s unique challenges. I sat down with Sarah Binder Mehta, President of PianoPiano, a third-generation piano sales/rental company. Sarah and I talked about growing a multi-generational business, overcoming industry disruption, and dealing with family dynamics. Sarah’s grandfather started the business in the 1930’s as a department store called Binder’s State Street. Sarah’s father worked in the store, managing the furniture department where pianos where being sold. Grandfather wanted to retire and closed Binder’s, leaving piano manufacturers with no presence in the south Jersey region. Sara and her Dad After being approached by a piano manufacturer, Sarah’s dad opened a Hammond piano store in 1959. By 1960 that store was the #1 Hammond distributor in the US. It wasn’t long before the Binders’ chain of piano stores became the #1 US distributor for almost all the major piano brand. The 1990’s brought disruption and corrections to the piano industry, forcing the Binder patriarch to close most of his 27 stores. A shift to rentals, instead of sales, has kept the company relevant and profitable. Sarah had this to say about the pressures of running a family business and honoring the legacy of her grandfather and father: “You hear all the stories about how second-generation businesses are more likely to fail. Of course that is a concern, but it’s also super rewarding. My dad has four daughters and I always say that this business is his fifth child. It’s rewarding that he trusts me to steward that.” While working with family can create freedoms not aways found in a traditional work setting, Sarah reminded me that, “When you are in a family business, you bring your family dynamics to work, every day.” While working with family has it’s unique set of challenges, a multi-generational business can benefit from the fresh and new outlook brought by younger members of the team. When Sarah introduced e-commerce her parents “they didn’t believe anyone would rent a piano online, but people do it, every day.” Since then, Sarah has digitized their records and introduced a robust CRM, allowing Piano Piano to…

How to Innovate and Grow Your Business

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Michael Haynes who is a B2B Strategist that helps small businesses grow using customer-driven strategies.  He is also the author of Listen Innovate Grow to help small businesses drive growth through B2B.  For more info: www.listeninnovategrow.com. SmallBizlady:  Why should Small business owners pursue business-to-business (B2B) markets? Michael Haynes:  B2B markets have fewer competitors which can make it easier to exploit their weaknesses and gaps in their offerings. Also, usually once business customers find a product or service provider that meets their needs they usually become very loyal. This is because the product or service often serves important purposes such as helping to meet strategic objectives or being a key production input. And finally, large companies are recognizing the benefits of working with small business owners such as getting products and services that are better tailored to their specific needs as well as their willingness “to go the extra mile” for their clients and customers. SmallBizlady:  WHAT IS THE STARTING POINT FOR A SMALL BUSINESS IN DETERMINING HOW TO INNOVATE? Michael Haynes:  The first thing small business owner must do is to obtain an in-depth understanding of the industries, markets and business customers that they are focusing on. In terms of the markets and industries, you want to gain an understanding of the market trends such as new technologies, customer trends, legal and regulatory changes both within your current industries and markets as well as adjacent ones. Small businesses owners also want to understand their business customers and prospects in terms of their objectives, priorities and strategic intent. However, you must understand the key characteristics and dynamics of B2B markets. By doing so, you will be able to identify opportunities to innovate which will help small businesses grow their business. SmallBizlady:  HOW SHOULD SMALL BUSINESSES VIEW THE CONCEPT OF INNOVATION? Michael Haynes:  Small businesses must regard innovation as being more than simply creating new products or…

4 Ways Technology Can Save Your Small Business Money

As you run your business, you probably take numerous steps to save as much money as possible. Reusing equipment and changing the lightbulbs you use will save you small amounts of money – and every little bit helps – but it may not offer you the savings you want and need. According to Observer, 29 percent of businesses failed because they ran out of capital. This is why it’s important to turn to other effective ways that will allow you to save bigger chunks of cash and better your business at the same time. While the price of new tech is sometimes high on the front end, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Check out these four ways technology can save your small business money.    It allows your team to work remotely It’s expensive to maintain an office, and if your employees take a couple days off when they’re sick, stuck at home for some reason or traveling, a lot of money is at stake. Technology gives your employees the opportunity to work remotely and communicate with customers and coworkers effectively. The prevalence of mobile devices and the cloud and the readily available Internet make it easier than ever for staff to work from anywhere and still earn money. And when your team is working efficiently, you’ll save money too.   It saves time The phrase “time is money” is often said, but it may never had rung so true as it does when you’re a small business owner. As you run your business, you know that the more time you spend on a project means the more money you’re spending on a project. As you upgrade your technology, like your computers or software, you’ll be able to work more efficiently. Make sure to utilize the things you can find online too. For instance, you can use the Internet to identify the least expensive options for electric and gas prices with the help of sites such as Quote My Energy. Do what you can to save yourself time and money.   It allows…

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