The Importance of Mentorship When Building A Business

The Importance of Mentorship When Building A Business

 

When it comes to entrepreneurship, many want to start a business but they may find themselves stomped when defining their objective, which is why seeking mentorship has been beneficial in helping others building out their plans. Creating a clear mission is necessary when developing and growing a business. What is it about your business that is special and unique? You may have started a business that solves distinct problems or provides a valuable service. Starting is just the beginning. The work that comes with building, branding, and establishing business goals and a strong team is a whole other ballpark. Develop a clear vision and goal. You can do this by seeking mentorship in the process.

 

Stay positive!

 

Having a great idea is only part of your success. Determination and having a strong plan is the key to growing a small business. If you’re serious about growing your business, hang around others who are on a similar journey and already have successful businesses. Ask questions and take lots of notes. Learn from them and feed off the positive energy. Motivate yourself with inspirational quotes on leadership and innovation. You and your dream are worth it, and staying positive is your number one goal as you launch and build. You will have difficult days in the beginning, but negative thinking will get you nowhere!

 

Find mentorship and funding programs

 

There are practical ways to grow your small business idea. Here are a few to consider:

 

Find mentorship Ever watch the show “Shark Tank”? Having a successful business owner offer you tips and mentorship on business development and longevity is powerful. Often we may not have a clear objective in the beginning. Entrepreneurs have creative ideas, but may be limited in time and finances. Learn from those who are successful. Take notes. Go to conferences. It may even be worth it to seek a life coach to help you develop a life strategy.

 

Look for grants You may be surprised at how many grants are available to small business owners. Do the research! Contact non-profit organizations and investors. Tell your business idea and get the funding you need to grow.

 

Legal advice. Don’t be afraid to seek out legal advice. A lawyer may help answer all of those questions you have about the legal and financial side of having a business.

 

Networking is the key

 

Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You cannot succeed by yourself. It’s hard to find a rich hermit.” You can’t grow a business without networking. Social media networking may not be enough, especially if you have a small business. Consider joining or starting a meetup for entrepreneurs in your area.  Networking is invaluable when growing and expanding a business.

 

If you don’t already have a website, you want to invest into one. Many business owners who aren’t code savvy now have WordPress accounts which make it easier to post content to your site whenever you want. You can’t go wrong with strong business cards. Go to a local community fair and set up a table. Have your business cards at hand and introduce yourself to locals. The more personable you are, the better. Be friendly and reach out. You never know what opportunities will open up for you as you step out!

Hiring Seasonal Employees This Summer

Hiring Seasonal Employees This Summer

Depending on the type of business you have, you may get busier during the summer months. While some businesses make it work by using existing staff and increasing the workload, hiring a few seasonal employees can not only help with the increase in demand, but can also keep the potential workplace stress low. By hiring seasonal employees, your company is more likely to run efficiently during a busy season and your customer/client base may increase even more. Another plus? Your year round employees can take some time off without compromising your busy season.

 

Although the idea of training in a few seasonal employees may sound like too much work, particularly right before a busy season, if you make the time to train them in properly, you are likely to see positive results in your productivity. Whether you’re planning on hiring a few seasonal employees this summer or twenty, here are some things you should know:

Seasonal Employees Have the Same Rights

 

Even if you’re only planning on only keeping a seasonal employee on for a few months, he or she has the same employment rights as your full-time employees. According to U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), laws that harassment, discrimination, and workplace health and safety apply to all of your employees, whether temporary or full-time. Depending on where you live, it’s also important to find out if you need to offer unemployment benefits. However, in regards to Obamacare, you are not required to offer health insurance to seasonal employees unless you staff over 50 full-time employees for 120 days or more.

Taxes, Workers’ Comp, & Social Security

 

As you would with other employees, you must withhold part of Social Security and Medicare taxes from your employee’s wages. Additionally, you must provide worker’s compensation for all of your employees, regardless of how long they are employed by your company. When hiring a seasonal employee, make sure you have and know the correct tax information for seasonal workers or part-time help.

Training Employees This Summer

 

If you anticipate hiring a seasonal employee each year, you may want to create a special training program or manual just for seasonal employees, however (for consistency), consider training seasonal employees the same way that you would a full-time employee. Make sure to go over standard operating procedures, all workplace safety information, and any employee rights and company expectations. When you’re in a rush to hire on new employees, it may be easy to go over information quickly or unintentionally skip some information all together, but if you take the time to train properly, you are less likely to face issues at the peak of your busy season.

You May Have Found a Future Employee

 

One of the nice things about hiring a seasonal employee is that if they don’t work out, it’s not as big of a deal than having to terminate a full-time employee. On the plus side, you may have found a future full-time employee or someone who is willing to return when you need seasonal help.

 

Small Businesses & Parental Leave

Small Businesses & Parental Leave

Without a strong team of dedicated employees, a business of any size can suffer. If you run a small business, you undoubtedly rely on your employees and in turn try to offer them benefits and other incentives for staying with and supporting your small company. While many employees of a small business are offered health insurance and even a retirement plan, parental leave is another story. It continues to baffle business owners and employees, alike, that in a developed country like the United States, women are not guaranteed time off from work to care for their newborn after birth.

Although larger businesses are required to provide employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave, through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), smaller businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide the same kind of leave. If you’re not required to provide parental (or maternity) leave, here are some reasons why you may want to consider offering it for expectant parents in your company:

Employees May Return After Leave

If you decide to provide parental leave your employees, there’s a good chance that a majority of the employees will return to work after leave. By providing parental leave, giving either men or women an option to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child, you are taking action and showing your employees that you care about them and their families. In turn, you are more likely to have employees that value you as an employer and express mutual respect.

Creating a Parental Leave Policy

Whether you want to include both women and men is up to you, but when you create your parental leave policy it should be clear and you should be consistent with no exceptions and included in all employee manuals and in terms of employment. (Yes, even small businesses with a small amount of employees should have employee manuals and terms of employment.) When creating your policy, consider the FMLA:

  • Employees must be employed with your company for at least 12 months and works a regular work week (or works a minimum of hours per week).
  • The time of leave must be continuous, not broken up over a period of time (such as 6 to 12 weeks).

If you can’t offer paid leave or can’t afford to be without your employee for 12 weeks, consider alternatives such as working from home or allowing your employee to bring the child to work (if it’s safe and suitable).

Prepare Your Business

Just as you would with another lengthy absence in your company, you should have a plan for conducting business without an integral employee. Depending on the type of business you run, you have a few options that may work such as temporarily offering up or delegating tasks to existing employees, hire out your work to freelancers, or hire a temporary employee during the time of your employee’s absence.

Is Your Startup Business Idea Any Good?

Is Your Startup Business Idea Any Good?

Whether you are still in the brainstorming stage of a startup business or if you’re already a business owner and have ideas for starting another business, the thought that crosses your mind more often than not is, “Is this even a good idea?” When coming up with business ideas, it’s easy to be optimistic and confident until someone tells you it’s not the greatest idea or you find out that a business like yours already exists.

Dreams of starting a business can be a fleeting thought, but if you really want it to work, you can definitely give it a go. Will it be easy? Not always. Will everyone love it? Probably not. However, remember the old saying, “You’ll never know until you try”? Keep that in mind as you come up with a business idea or two.

Got an Idea? Questions to Ask Yourself

Having a long list of ideas are better than none. While you may only have a few viable ideas out of the bunch, it’s a good start. When tossing around ideas, it’s important to ask yourself some questions and see if your business idea can answer them. Here are some questions to consider when planning your business:

Is Your Idea “Trending”?:

When planning a startup business, it’s wise to keep your eye on trending businesses. While not every business that starts out trending and strong is in for the long haul, it can give you a good starting point. Pay close attention to businesses that continue to trend as they grow.

Will My Business Solve a Problem?:

Think as your startup business as the scientific method (in a way). You must ask yourself a question, do your research, and come up with a conclusion. A successful business often solves a problem. Whether you are looking for a way to keep people from losing their car keys or how to decrease the number of roadway accidents, your business should solve a problem. The problem may not be yours, but you’re likely to find someone with the problem.

Are People Willing to Pay for My Business?:

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, a big question you should ask yourself is if people will pay for whatever you’re selling. These days, there are a lot of services available for no cost (which can make for tough competition), so you’ll need to determine what makes you stand out from the others.

Does it Excite You?:

Many people start up a business because they know it’s a good idea, but they only feel a little passion for it. Sure, a business may be profitable, but if your heart’s not in it, it’s not going to thrive as well as it could nor will it last. Although you have a specific audience that you’re trying to capture and excite, don’t forget about your own emotional investment. Remember, if you believe in your business idea and are excited, it’s a great starting point. Ask others what they think, take advice into consideration, but don’t let the naysayers steer you away from something you really want to do.

Startup Trends of 2016

Startup Trends of 2016

Startups are dramatically impacting modern society, and it is safe to say that they are shaping this new generation. Unlike larger organizations, these agile companies take much larger risks and give opportunities to unproven new visionaries in the hopes of bringing something great to the consumer. New startup launches are everywhere. They appear in developed and less developed countries with equal flare and enthusiasm in pursuing product and service perfection. The year 2015 was recognizable for the startup trend of 3D printing, the exaggerated usage of drones, and the ‘internet of things’. Some inventions were great while others had some issues. Competition and consumer expectation are demonstrably growing bigger and bigger each year. 2016 is expected to be a year of improving the services and products created last year, with that handing out some world-changing ideas. Let’s take a look at the trends we hope to see from startups in 2016.
Tech for Everyday Living
First on the list is the improved usage of Wearables in multiple industries. Consumers are showing great demand for wearables, and it is a seemingly addictive product niche. Almost 80% of the initial adopters of this technology consider the Wearables market to be a significant strategic asset to the future of their business. The spending on Wearables by previous consumers is expected to have a repurchase percentage of 90%. There are also new customers ready and willing to adopt and install them in their businesses as well. Even though Smart home devices were greeted with some skepticism, after additional adoption occurred, and people started actively using them and connecting every tech product in their home to it, the trust factor was developed. Along with Wearables, it is expected that in 2016 Smart homes adoption will hit full market penetration and will become commonplace for many families that desire progress and security in their lives. When you have already connected everything in your life to one system, the risk of having your personal information leak or hacked does increase. To fight this, many companies will work on developing privacy protection for potential consumers in order to meet their needs. This opens up an entirely new market for the cyber privacy business.
More Advanced Technology
The creation of Smart cities really started getting noticed in 2015. These systems allowed zones to be controlled through one, all-connecting system. The aspect of health is also a major focus. Digital health has exponentially grown. Some examples are faster sequencing of DNA, in depth clinical analysis, technological advancements, and online services for mental healthcare. A new movement took shape in the form of autonomous cars. Autonomous cars are becoming more and more popular as people are willing to accept them because of the many benefits they carry (safety, health, environment). This is still in its infancy and the software has many details that still need to be worked on. Even though it is a much more budget heavy endeavor, the space exploration segment of startups will have a significant role in 2016. Small developers are going to be the backbone for the leading two companies, SpaceX and BlueOrigin, in their quest for knowledge.
All things are moving in the tech-direction, and as more and more individuals bring their own ideas to the table, it is only expected that daily life will get better, easier and more innovative.

Customer Base : How to Build

Customer Base : How to Build

Starting a new business can be terrifying. You pump time and money into your new venture with no idea of how it will turn out. All business owners start somewhere, though. And one thing every new start-up needs is a customer base.

 

Here are five things any new business can do to begin building that brand.

 

Use Social Media (and Do a Good Job of It)

Every company needs an online presence these days. Most businesses realize that, but they often neglect the details. Unless you’re selling a product directly online, you should focus more on social media than on an elaborate page.

 

Few customers will spend time navigating through an elaborate website. You need to go to your customers. A healthy social media presence will allow customers to incorporate your deals and ads into their own time.

 

And make sure your social media presence is up to date. If your page hasn’t been update in three years, no one will know how accurate your information is. Spend the time needed to get good content available online.

 

Hire a Few Reliable Employees

The more employees you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in human resources and management. A large staff may sound appealing, but remember that each person will need wages, paperwork, and maybe even benefits packages. And the more people you’ve got working together, the more likely it will be that people will feud and cause problems.

 

Find a few good people. Hire them. And keep your staff lean. Good employees—so long as your treat them well—will be loyal and hardworking. They will also attract customers. Customers like to go to a business where they know the people working. That customer-business relationship is key to growing your start-up.

 

Get to Know What Everyone Does

Learn the basics of what every one of your employees does on a normal day. This will help you build rapport with your staff; you’ll understand how hard their work is, and that understanding will help build the mutual respect between employee and employer that is necessary for building a strong workforce. It will also prevent your employees from thinking you don’t understand how the place actually works.

 

Know Your Customer

Again, customers like going to places where they know the workers. Learn your customers’ names, talk with them about their days, and slowly build that relationship. Remember to be sincere, though; nothing turns potential regulars again like a slimy conversation with the owner.

 

Once people know you, they will feel personally invested in your establishment. If it’s home to them, they’ll keep coming back, and will feel the importance of spending their money on you instead of the similar shop a few blocks down.

 

 

Do Good Work

This one should go without saying, but it pays to remember that customers will be happier when they get high quality service. Whatever it is you do, do it well. Solid product or content will be the best marketing tool you’ll ever have. Quality is the first thing customers consider when planning a shopping trip.   

 

How Strategic Office Design Influences Employees’ Output

First it was the cellular office, then the open plan office and then the group office. Those were the types of office concepts in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, respectively. After that, in the 1980s, companies introduced a combi-office, whose main role was to create a more communicative business environment. How does office design function today and how does it affect workers’ output?

image 3

Small offices – easy to adapt

Today the team is the main cell of every business, be it a small local business or a multinational company. This is why many companies nowadays create offices that can host smaller teams of workers. When employees are divided into smaller groups,their productivity rate is much higher. However, it is not enough only to create teams and expect that things will simply develop in a desired way. Both small and large teams need to be encouraged to keep a positive attitude. Lounge areas can contribute a lot to such atmosphere

.

 

Relaxation zones

When you have a look at the work areas of the largest international companies, such as Facebook, Google or Microsoft, your first thought might be that you are looking at a playground and not the headquarters of the most renowned modern enterprises. They offer their workers well-equipped relaxation zones, providing them with a wide range of flexible work stations. There are bean bags, sofas, armchairs, standing desks, offices that look like living rooms, gaming lounges and many other features that boost creativity and decrease stress. You can have a look at the photos of Google’s London headquarters on the Telegraph website. The common denominator of all these companies is that they are all IT giants with outstanding productivity. It is a clear signpost to every small business that their office(s) should be designed in a flexible, worker-friendly way. However, there are some limitations when it comes to such an approach.

 

The boundaries of office freedomimage 2

Is it really possible to organize your office and things inside in such a crazy and modern way? First of all, such an approach is not applicable to every office in the world. While it is a perfect choice for an IT startup, it could be a terrible option for a furniture-manufacturing plant. So, first of all, office design depends on the type of business. Secondly, if you want to give your workers a more relaxed work environment, they need to have a sort of a safe background. Translated to the modern corporative lingo, your business has to have a backup solution. If a software tool can perform some tasks instead of a worker or with their help, it is much easier to organize a laid-back office, because there is some safe ground behind your workers. The good news is that more and more companies will be able offer their employees a higher level of work freedom, since modern technologies are changing business in general, improving work conditions and unburdening workers.

 

When things get serious

Although flexibility and an easy-going attitude definitely help workers reach a higher output level, there are certain contexts in which only a serious and traditional approach to office design is acceptable. For instance, let’s say that a group of team leaders need to come up with a special brand name for a new product. They will be much more efficient is they sit down at one of those inspiring boardroom tables and keep brainstorming and communicating until they reach their goal. In general, when you have to make some supreme business decisions, working in a traditionally arranged environment, such as an open plan office is a more productive approach. Only when the basic business guidelines have been made should you apply a more relaxed work strategy for their implementation.

If workers are satisfied with their work stations and office organization in general, they will be more productive and loyal to their company. Office managers need to be flexible and listen to their employees’ suggestions. Only a joint effort of management and workers will ensure that your office becomes a well-designed place, yielding remarkable business results.

Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

If you are a small business, are you ready for the latest requirements in Obamacare? If you haven’t heard, starting on January 1, 2016, businesses with 50 to 100 employees will be required to offer insurance for their employees. According to the Affordable Care Act, if employers fail to provide affordable health coverage to their employees in the upcoming year, businesses will face a tax penalty (which can result in up to thousands of dollars).

I thought a business with 50 employees was considered small?

 

Last year, businesses with less than 100 employees was still considered small and wasn’t required to offer insurance to full-time employees, but revisions to the Affordable Care Act lowered the number to 50 employees or more. While this may be beneficial to hardworking employees, it’s a bit trickier for small businesses.

I was making plans to expand my business, now I don’t know if I can or should

 

For most small businesses, expansion means success. However, with expansion comes more employees and with more employees comes required insurance benefits. While many small businesses care for their employees and want to offer full-time work for all who qualify, some employers may need to draw the line on how many full-time employees can work for the business (full-time is at least 30 hours per week).

Sometimes I hire seasonal employees, do I have to offer benefits to them?

 

If you own a business that requires more employees during a certain time of year, such as the holidays or during the summer months, you are not required to offer health insurance unless you staff over 50 full-time employees for 120 days or more.

 

Is there a way to get around the new changes of Obamacare?

 

There’s no way to get around the Affordable Care Act and it’s not worth trying or the risk. Some businesses try to split into separate entities (with less than 50 full-time employees). This won’t save you any money in the long run because Obamacare treats related companies as one. If it’s more time you need, the federal government is giving businesses (who have all of a sudden become “large”) until April 1, 2016 to comply to the new changes.

I still have no idea what I’m going to do!

 

Most small businesses will agree that the Affordable Care Act can be overwhelming and confusing, particularly if you don’t have a human resources department to take care of all of the new changes or simplifying the process for you. Take advantage of the extension, but don’t wait until the last minute.

 

If you’re struggling to wrap your mind around the changes, consider contacting your local or state chamber of commerce, hire an employee benefits consultant, or speak with a licensed insurance broker who can help you find the right health plan that will be best suited for your business.

 

Even if you feel like the Affordable Care Act has set you back a bit as a business, don’t give up on your dreams of running a business; celebrate your success!

 

Black Friday Safety

Black Friday Safety

When it comes to Black Friday, you either like or loathe the post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza. Black Friday has become so popular that it has started to infringe on Thanksgiving itself, making many people wonder if consumerism is more important than time with family. Regardless of how you feel about Black Friday, it’s a pretty big deal and it looks as though it’s here to stay. Although the major shopping event of the year is good for the economy and for the shoppers who want to save some money, it can also be dangerous for shoppers and retailers. On average, each year, there’s a small handful of reported injuries that take place on Black Friday; however these statistics may be low considering that not all injuries make the news or are reported. If you decide to venture out and wait in line at one of the big box stores, take the time to make sure you’re safe.

Stay Safe in Retail

 

During the holiday season, retail employees work hard for every cent they earn. Long shifts, extended store hours, holiday music on an endless loop, and stressed out customers are common challenges each day in the life of a retail worker. Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and it rarely slows until the after the holidays are over and shoppers have made exchanges or returns. Black Friday means job security to many who work in retail, but it can result in workplace injuries and even death. On Black Friday in 2008, a Long Island retail worker was trampled to death by shoppers who had more or less broke down the barriers to get inside of the Wal-Mart. In such a frantic rush to get the biggest deal, Black Friday shoppers may have had no idea that the person who had fallen had been killed by bargain hungry shoppers.

 

While retail workers strive to make Black Friday shopping safe and organized for all shoppers, employees are often at risk for injuries that can leave them out of work permanently due to a disability, which can put an end to financial security. According to the Virginia SSDI attorneys at Marks and Harrison Law Firm, in order to receive disability pay, an eligible disability should be expected to last for at least one year or expected to result in death. Think about the Long Island worker, had he not tragically passed away, his injuries may have been severe enough that he would never work again.

Safety Plan on Black Friday

 

Implementing a Black Friday safety plan not only keeps shoppers safe, but benefits employees and the business overall. Here are some Black Friday safety tips to help keep employees safe, and ultimately have safer shoppers, during the mad dash for bargain prices:

 

 

  • Delegate Jobs: While it may be difficult to train some employees to a different department, delegate employees to certain responsibilities such as calling the police or emergency responders.

 

 

  • Explain Expectations: If employees have never worked when the store is full, explain what they can expect. Employees that don’t do well under the pressure of crowds should be delegated a different role for the day.

 

 

  • Have Security or Backup: When a line forms outside before a store opens, there’s almost always a mad and chaotic rush through the entryway (that’s kind of the thrill of Black Friday). Hire security or people who aren’t afraid to face a crowd head on, but can do it safely. This individual should know how to manage a crowd without using force.

 

 

This Black Friday, stay safe, be prepared, and keep the post-holiday shopping tradition strong.

 

Advice for Startups

Advice for Startups

It doesn’t matter if you are a fresh college graduate, recently retired worker or an average middle-aged person just wanting to try something new, there is always an opportunity to start your own small business. That is the beauty of a small business; it can be started anytime you want. That is not to say that starting and maintaining a small business or startup is a piece of cake. On the contrary, you have to be prepared to do a lot of work in order to be successful. Many people invest a lot both economically and intellectually at an initial stage and often don’t plan for the long term. The key is to have a solid plan of action to avoid failure. Let’s face it, there is a chance that your business may not work out the way you want, but if you follow some basic advice, it will increase the chances of success by a huge margin.

How to get started

Obviously, the first thing you need is to find out the kind of business you want to start. Here, it is important to keep a few things in mind. The most common mistake people make at this stage is that they choose whatever is trending. While there is a chance that it may work for a short duration, the odds are low that it will be a success in the long haul. Pick an idea that you are passionate about, and that you are confident about executing. Do your research and be sure that there is a market for your product or service. Choose something that combines both your passion and current market need. These are a few things you must ask yourself at this stage:

  • Will it be worth the time and money spent?
  • Do customers need it? Will customers like it?
  • What is the future of this small business?
  • Am I really confident about doing this?
  • Who are my competitors? How am I different/unique?

Another significant factor which can make a huge impact on business is the location of your company. Ensure that the placement of your small business is within the reach of the customers. Even if your shop is online, make sure you are reaching the right audience and are able to be found by potential customers.

Protecting your investment

It is imperative that you are on the right side of the law when starting your own business. Securing your business from fraud, copyright infringement, and other legal troubles can be vital, especially if you have come up with the “next big thing.” When it comes to online companies, the risk is even greater in the form of cyber-attacks, copycats, and even online scams. Brick and mortars stores are also in danger of lawsuits or other legal issues involving employees. Therefore, it is quite imperative to make your business safe and secure. In this case, knowledge in business law can help significantly. A deep understanding or trusted consultant in Business law can help you steer clear of any unwanted situations that may arise while you are developing out your small business. Be aware of the laws in your area prior to starting your own small business. If this is not an area of strength for you, be sure to reach out to professionals who can help you through the process.

How do you protect your small business from legal issues? Please leave your comments below: