Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
Check back for updates from Lisa E. Peternel!
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
Check back for updates from Lisa E. Peternel!
As more people work online, either in jobs that have flex hours or for online freelancing gigs, it is vital that we rethink the way that we manage employees. While the Internet has helped bring people together, it has also left managers and employees further apart in some respects than ever before. On the one hand, working remotely can be a huge boon for those looking to add flexibility to their work lives and allows hirers to seek out the best people for the job from around the world. On the other hand, managing employees remotely can be quite challenging as it denies you many of the in-person tools that managers use to keep tabs on and touch base with their employees.
That’s why managers who oversee remote employees will want to keep these ideas in mind.
Make Use of Technology
Using the same old method of popping into people’s cubicles or giving them a call doesn’t work when they may be working hundreds or even thousands of miles from where you are. That’s why smart companies with remote employees make use of Skype, WhatsApp, Google Drive, and other apps and online resources to share their work.
Given the distance between you and your employees, it is all the more important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Take the time to communicate with your employees. Sending them a message every few days at minimum can help ensure that you understand them, they understand you, and that a general rapport and boost to company morale and cohesion is achieved.
Flexibility and Consistency
It is vital that you find a way to be flexible yet consistent when managing remote employees. Your employees are bound to have different schedules, motivations, and national and cultural backgrounds, all of which can be useful in cobbling together a team. You need to make allowances for everyone’s unique situation but also need to make sure that you’re being consistent in what the rules are and how you apply them.
Done correctly, managing remote employees can be a huge opportunity to grow your team and cultivate a positive online company culture.
from Lisa Peternel | Business https://lisapeternel.net/a-quick-guide-to-managing-remote-employees/
Artificial Intelligence – or AI – is one of those concepts that has spawned entire genres of film and book, and is sometimes whispered as either the cause of nightmares or the cause of a human utopia. The reality is that AI has been with us as a concept since at least the 1950s, when the first computers were making an impact in exclusive domains.
What Is AI?
In broad terms, AI can be divided into two areas: narrow AI and General AI. There have been huge developments in the field of narrow AI in recent years due to advances in machine learning, the accessibility of information on the web, and the speed of both CPUs and GPUs.
What Is Narrow AI?
Narrow AI is what most of us are familiar with. Narrow AI is a type of machine intelligence that does a specific task and can learn that specific task really well. For example, the AI that recently defeated the world Go champion. This is important because it was long thought that Go is such an abstract game with such high level concepts that a machine would struggle to match a human player.
Narrow AI can also be found in applications like SIRI, or whenever you go onto a site like Amazon and get product recommendations based on certain genre patterns and personality types.
What Is General AI?
We might not be familiar with Narrow AI even though we access it most days on the web, but General AI is a concept that most people will be familiar with. General AI is a general machine intelligence that closely mimics the capabilities of the human brain. In this sense, it can learn, reason, create, analyze, and make decisions. When thinking of General AI, super-intelligence like HAL in the Space Odyssey movies is a key example.
Of course, we haven’t actually developed General AI yet, even though there are ongoing attempts to do so. Both futurists and scientists often disagree about when we might have General AI, or even if we ever will have it. In the most optimistic visions of the future, a super-intelligence will develop at some point in the future that will be far superior to any human intelligence. This, of course, could also be a nightmare.
AI is here to stay even if we don’t develop General AI. At the very least, Narrow AI has many applications and is being used around the world.
from Lisa Peternel | Technology https://lisapeternel.com/understanding-the-basics-of-ai/
It’s a fact that most new small businesses struggle. It’s part of the process. And though some don’t ultimately survive, those that can power through early problems can emerge strong (and profitable). Still, reaching that point is difficult, particularly in a rough business climate. However, there are certain steps you can take to keep you from feeling as though you’re drowning and to help keep your business financially healthy.
In a recent look at common struggles of small businesses, we talked about the problem of having too many competitors. There, we suggested that business owners use competition to inspire innovation. More simply, use this problem as motivation to figure out how to set yourself apart. In the early stages, that might come down more to messaging than actual business products or services. But the sooner you make your company appear distinct among its competitors, the faster you’ll gain customers.
The idea of tackling debts before seeking more gains is actually an investment principle many adhere to — whether or not they’re running businesses. The idea is that debt is usually a compounding burden, with interest mounting over time, and should thus be addressed as efficiently as possible. This is particularly important for a small business in which time is of the essence. While it’s not always as simple as deciding to pay off debts, small business owners should start prioritizing debts. The sooner they’re addressed, the sooner the business can be free to grow.
When you’re running a small business, it’s important to consider the idea of reinvestment. This is basically the idea that it can be beneficial to take some of the company’s profits and invest them directly back into company needs.
Whether that means marketing efforts, a new employee, better technology, etc., it’s sometimes recommended that you reinvest half of what the company makes. It’s seen as a way of fostering fast growth, and it can also build the business up such that you have to do less on your own. In that sense, reinvestment can double as an investment in your own time as well.
While there’s always some risk involved, you might also be able to expand your own funding by doing some light personal investing. However, you’ll want to do so carefully. If you’re looking to invest in the most traditional sense — in the stock market, for instance — it may be best to do so through alternative methods. Full-on trading is essentially a job, and it’s a lot for any small business owner to take on, particularly without the requisite expertise. However, there are other ways to grow funds in the market.
If you still want some say over your portfolio, CFD trading is an option to explore. This is a method that allows the trading of shares purely with regard to whether they’ll increase or decrease in value. So, rather than buying a share of stock and timing your sale correctly to maximize profits, you merely make a decision of whether you want to buy it (anticipating gains) or sell it. CFD trading also enables stop-loss orders, which can allow careful investors to automatically limit their losses. If this is still a little too hands-on, there are also more automated or hands-off trading options such as mutual funds or apps that will trade on your behalf.
Usually, a struggling small business will already have cut costs wherever possible. However, it never hurts to do another thorough, numbers-based assessment of where you stand. Is there something you paid for in helping to launch the business that you no longer need? Are you using a supplier you might be able to move away from in favor of a cheaper alternative? Is there anything you have the time and ability to take on your own that you’re currently paying someone else to do? These are all questions worth asking when you’re struggling to make the business work.
This is not a suggestion that your small business should be staffed entirely by freelancers. You’ll need some employees to build a sustainable operation. However, where possible, you might want to look into freelance contributions. In-depth analyses have shown that freelancers cost less money, and these days — with so many people unemployed and/or looking to work remotely — they’re theoretically more available than ever. So, for the odd job here or there or for regular contributions that don’t necessarily demand full-time employment, you might want to explore the freelance market.
There are ultimately no guarantees for a struggling small business. Each company’s strategy should be distinct, and a little bit of luck comes into the picture as well. With these tips though, you might hope to keep the business afloat — in a challenging climate or when future struggles arise.
What does the perfect business email look like? For some go-getters, it might be the 21st century of War and Peace: it’s long, it leaves no stone unturned, and it contains enough detail that anyone who reads it will be impressed by your work ethic and flowery language.
This is wrong.
A good email is less art than it is science. It’s a means to an end, with a clear objective: get someone else to understand something that you already understand. Whether that means a project just finished or you have a new proposal, a well-crafted email should be clear, efficient, and engaging—without demanding too much from the reader.
We spend some 1/3rd of our office time checking and managing our email. It only makes sense to get it right.
Here’s how to construct one without constantly editing yourself:
Before you optimize the efficiency of every email you send, let’s get rid of some of the simple mistakes that are only making your written communication worse.
First, double-check that you’re sending it to the right people. In one famous mistake, Aviva Investors sent an email meant to fire one person…to a list of 1,300 people.
Before you hit “Reply All,” take a few seconds to consider what “All” includes. Here’s an example of a faux pas you can avoid if you were to double-check the email recipients every time:
“OK, so I was online dating a lot,” Shirley Goldberg remembered. After each date, she liked to send a summary to her girlfriend. “On the day I hit ‘Reply to All,’ I had four emails open, one of them directed to the entire staff of my school. Somehow I got the emails mixed up.”
This can be even more damaging in the professional environment. That’s why you should aim to keep each email as professional as possible. After all, email still counts as written communication. If you don’t want yourself on record as having said something, don’t email it. In company-wide email threads, it’s possible that even if you don’t send the email to the wrong person, what you wrote can still end up in someone else’s text.
Unsure if your writing is grammatically correct? Consider adding an app like Grammarly to your browser if you’re using web-based email.
The ancient Roman rhetorician Quintilian once said:
We should not speak so that it is possible for the audience to understand us, but so that it is impossible for them to misunderstand us.
Before you do anything else, make sure that your email is clear. That usually means the shorter it is, the better—there will be fewer opportunities for misinterpretation in a 100-word email than a 1,000-word email.
You’ll enhance clarity when you stick to this rule: don’t waste time.
If you’re sending an email proposal to someone you don’t know, there’s a temptation to spend two paragraphs apologizing or explaining yourself. Don’t! Just include a brief sentence that mentions how you found their email and move on. If their time is valuable, thank them for sparing some. Then proceed to stop wasting it.
One brief sentence at the top of an email is usually enough to let someone know that you’re aware when an email might be out of the blue, or coming in some sort of strange context. If you’re networking, include a sentence that describes a mutual contact, for example. While you should focus on clarity, you’ll still want to display some social acuity when you’re emailing someone new for the first time.
If you’re sick of staring at a blinking cursor and want to make some progress, you can always lean on email scripts to get you started.
The key here isn’t to copy and paste everything you write, but to remember the human touch. But once you’ve determined that you’ll do that, you can use some email scripts as reference points:
You might not write perfectly effective emails every time. But as you get used to the work environment and routinely send out similar emails, you’ll get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Pay attention to the questions people tend to ask in their replies and you’ll soon learn that you can answer them ahead of time. Over time, you’ll settle on a natural rhythm to your emails to help you avoid long email chains, back-and-forth question sessions, and even the occasional faux pas.
When you’re a small business, every little bit counts. Every dollar you save is one dollar more that you have to spend on the really important things or to help you through tough times. Every hour of labor you save is time that can be spent improving your company. As the saying goes, waste not, want not — which is why, as a small business owner, you should really want to get in on automation.
When done properly, automated processes can help small businesses make big leaps forward and here’s how.
One of the most important ways that automating processes can help small businesses is by helping them focus on what matters most. When you’re a small business, you only have so many employees, who in turn can only do so many things at once. You are more restricted in terms of time and manpower than larger businesses and this means that everything has to be as streamlined as possible.
Case in point — forms. For as necessary as they are to the upkeep of your business, filling out forms all day long is the very definition of drudgery and hardly an efficient use of time. That’s why automated forms have the potential to be a gamechanger for your small business. Simply design the automated form, save it, and every time that you need to use it, the settings and information that you require will already be in place. What’s better, these automated forms can be saved and retrieved on demand.
In addition to forms, automating processes can also help you track orders more efficiently. The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, Royal Mail, and other major mail distributors already use order-tracking systems, as do online titans such as Amazon and eBay.
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you can’t think big. Bigger companies are taking advantage of the upsides afforded by automated processes so why shouldn’t you? Automation can help small businesses play the part of a bigger business in the eyes of consumers.
Automating processes has the potential to help you make the most out of your business opportunities.
from Lisa Peternel | Business https://lisapeternel.net/how-automated-processes-can-help-your-small-business/
The Cloud is still a confusing concept for many people, but the truth is that many people use the Cloud without even knowing it. In fact, many smartphones now include some type of automatic upload of photos and videos to inbuilt Cloud services like Google Drive or iCloud.
How Does it Work?
One reason that many people are confused about the Cloud is because they’re not really sure where their data is stored. They know that their photos and other files go somewhere, but they are not sure where the data is stored.
A Cloud service uses data centers in various locations to store data. So, those photos that get uploaded actually get stored on a hard drive or solid state drive somewhere. In most cases, the files are stored across multiple locations and backed up multiple times across those locations in those data centers to ensure maximum redundancy and security.
Why Do You Need the Cloud?
Both personal and business computer users can benefit greatly from using the Cloud. Here are some of the biggest reasons to use such a service:
Business and the Cloud
The Cloud doesn’t just function as a storage area. It can also be used to host software that can be accessed by any authorized employee wherever they are. This even makes it possible to work from home.
In fact, the use of the Cloud as a delivery system for applications is much more common these days. In the old days, one might talk about so-called Thin clients accessing software on a mainframe, but the combination of fast broadband and access to huge amounts of storage on the Cloud makes this scenario entirely possible.
from Lisa Peternel | Technology https://lisapeternel.com/the-benefits-of-cloud-storage/
When a customer hangs up on you mid-conversation, it’s easy to tell what you did wrong. In fact, they probably spent the previous five minutes telling you exactly what their issue was.
But when customers hang up on your phone system before you even get to speak with them, that’s another problem.
According to some statistics, about 80% of callers will hang up on a phone system if they don’t feel like their call is going straight to voicemail. That means that you’re already missing out on most important customer calls by not having a robust, organic phone system in place.
How can you turn it around? Make sure that when you set up your business’s phone system, you avoid these other key mistakes that make customers want to hang up:
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t any self-respecting customer want to be in the driver’s seat in an interaction with a company?
Yes and no. If you give your customer too much power—or give them too many choices—you run into the problem known as Paradox of Choice, first popularized by an author named Barry Schwartz.
In one study, shoppers were exposed to an astonishing variety of gourmet jam: 24 whole choices, with samples to boot. On another day, the available jams were limited to six.
Researchers found that while more choices attracted more initial attention, fewer choices meant that customers were ten times as likely to make a choice from the jams and bring it to purchase.
What does this have to do with your phone system? Simple: don’t give them too many choices. Give them options, sure—they need to navigate your business as well as possible. But keep the choices limited. Don’t let customers grow frustrated with your never-ending web of call forwarding.
We’ve all been in the situation of being the customer who loses all patience with a phone system and shouts into the phone, “just get me a human!” Don’t make your customers do that.
If a customer calls you on the phone, it’s important to give them a sense that you’re a real person—or at least a real company.
The problem is that some companies believe that to come across “real,” they need to simulate the feeling of authenticity by creating a script. Then they lose sight of why they created a script in the first place and simply want to create the most flowery, over-the-top script possible.
Avoid this instinct. When SoftwareAdvice.com ran a study, they found that customers had a strong negative impression of calls when they thought agents were reading from scripts. If a customer perceived a call as unscripted, their perception of the call improved 78% of the time.
If you’re building a voicemail system for directing phone calls, you will have to use automated messages to guide your customer. The way to avoid the negative-script effect is to keep things simple and professional. Get the essential information to the customer and let them move on.
If you’ve ever been on a long phone call with a company, you know that it can feel like a temporary boost when you’re forwarded to the appropriate expert. That’s all well and good, but when your phone call gets passed on and on again, you start to feel like the entire effort is futile.
The same effect occurs when you create an overly complicated phone structure for answering customer phone calls. Yes, it’s important that you get the customer to the person who can solve their problem or answer their question. But if it takes too many steps to get there, customers won’t care about your good intentions. They’ll just care that they couldn’t get through.
If you have clients or customers call your personal number, it can be a bit disorienting to hear a casual and obviously personal voicemail greeting on the other end.
Even if you work out of a home office, it’s important that your phone system—or even something as simple as your voicemail greeting—displays that you have a professional business presence. Heed a few of the tips that we’ve provided in our post on voicemail greetings and make sure to:
If you’re convinced about the paradox of choice and you want to avoid an overly-elaborate script, it’s tempting to go too far in the other direction and record a Laconic voice greeting like “Hi. Leave a message at the tone.”
There’s nothing wrong with simple. But if you want your customers to stay engaged with your phone system, there’s no harm in infusing a little personality into their interactions with your automated responses. Just as long as these hints of your personality don’t get in the way of a customer perceiving you as a competent professional, they’ll likely stay on the line.
Just as you work hard to earn sales through marketing, analytics, and good, old-fashioned quality business practices, you don’t want the hard work to go to waste once a customer gets a hold of your phone number. Avoid these mistakes and create a simple, intuitive voicemail system that customers will understand and even enjoy. The better it is, the more likely it is you’ll retain those customers who would have otherwise given up. When it comes to your phone system and your customers, every second counts.
Launching a business is hard, and sustaining one is even harder. As a business owner, it is very likely that you will find yourself in situations wherein you are left with no choice but to take on more than you can handle. A good example of this is the global pandemic we are all facing at the moment. To ensure that you and your business are able to stand up to challenging situations, you have to familiarize yourself with some of the typical problems small business owners face and adequately prepare for them. That being said, here are five of the most common struggles that small business owners experience:
Even before the circumstances changed due to the ongoing pandemic we are all facing, lots of business owners struggled with anxiety when thinking about the future of their companies. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 49% of entrepreneurs suffer from at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetime. To cope with the anxiety linked to the uncertainty of what the future holds for your business, it would be a good idea to set aside some time for mindful reflection and to read biographies from successful entrepreneurs to stave off the feeling of “being alone” in the midst of your struggle.
As explained in our previous post on ‘How to Effortlessly Connect a Team of Remote Workers’, the current situation has driven companies, big and small, to encourage their employees to work from home. This sudden change places small businesses – especially those who never experienced having remote workers before and hence haven’t instituted the right infrastructure that supports these kinds of workers – in a tight spot. To soften the blow, The Balance suggests conducting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis frequently to help identify which areas require some improvements and a little more attention. It’s also a good idea to adopt a forward-thinking attitude and to keep a positive mindset.
In a recent report by Wasp Barcode Technologies, 50% of the surveyed small business owners admitted that the biggest challenge they face is hiring the right employees. Recruiting new talent has never been an easy task, even for big enterprises, but small businesses struggle more because they have limited funds and resources. A good way to address this issue is by aiming for new graduates who have a lot of potential but do not (yet) have the experience to command a large salary. It’s also advisable to provide lots of non-financial benefits that are proven to be more persuasive when it comes to hiring employees such as healthcare, flexible working options, mentoring programs and time off.
Due to the lack of available funds, the majority of small businesses tend to struggle to make payments on time. According to a recent survey on Forbes, 66% of business owners claim that delays in payment processing causes major issues with cash flow. To combat cash flow problems, many small businesses turn to loans for aid, even going down the route of personal loans when things get really bad. Marcus explains how personal loans come with a fixed payment schedule so that borrowers are fully aware of how much they need to repay. It can also be used to pay off credit card debt, finance structural improvements, cover costs associated with moving and even handle vacation costs. Aside from applying for a loan, cash flow problems can also be mitigated by expanding your payment options and by having a proper budget plan.
One of the toughest things small business owners face is getting ahead of the competition. To withstand the problem of having too many competitors, Business 2 Community discusses how it’s essential for small business owners to use competition to stimulate innovation. Innovate and be inspired to provide products and services that are better than that of your competitors. Examine your competitors – know the strategies they’ve employed before, and try to determine and understand the ones that worked for them. By doing this, it will help you steer away mistakes, thus saving you a significant amount of time, money and energy.
Entrepreneurs are known for their determination, tenacity and grit. However, before they become the very figures we all look up to, they had to go through different struggles at the beginning of their career. To come out successful, you have to power through every challenge and learn from them.
The cloud is something that many people are using to make running a business easier than ever. There are so many possibilities that open up when you start making use of cloud storage. When it comes to your HR needs, using cloud storage is going to be an incredible choice. Read on to examine why cloud storage is so good when it comes to helping you fulfill all of your HR needs.
The Cloud Offers Greater Flexibility
The cloud storage that many businesses make use of is going to offer many perks. One of the best perks is just how flexible it allows your HR department to become. Moving parts of your HR to the cloud is going to simplify things so much. You’ll be able to transfer files efficiently, and accessing the necessary work-related files or software from other devices will be possible.
The sheer mobility of cloud storage makes it something that every business should be using. You’re going to be able to adapt to the situation instead of having to approach things from only one angle. It makes it possible for the HR department to work easier. Employees are even going to have no trouble requesting days off, making updates to work profiles, and much more.
Implementation Is No Longer a Pain
Remember when implementation would take a lot of work, and you’d need to put effort into it? That can be a thing of the past when you start making use of cloud storage. Implementation is seamless and instantaneous. Implementations will never be a stressful thing again if you are able to use cloud storage properly.
It Keeps Data Safe
If you are using a renowned cloud storage service, then you are going to have stellar security measures in place. This means that your data is going to be very safe when it is being placed in the cloud. HR data is very sensitive, and you do not want would-be thieves getting that information. The cloud storage solution is perfect for your HR needs when it comes to storing that sensitive data.
from Lisa Peternel | Business https://lisapeternel.net/why-cloud-storage-is-a-good-choice-for-hr-needs/
We live in an age of information. Sensitive information, be it customer credit cards or your banking details, can spell trouble if they fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, hackers and malware pose a real threat to the security of information both at home and in the office. This is when a firewall should be used.
What Is a Firewall?
Firewalls have been an integral part of IT for over two decades now. There are both software and hardware firewalls, but the job of each remains the same: to filter out unwanted data traffic from a source and prevent it from causing trouble.
For example, a firewall can prevent an attack from a malicious internet source from getting into your home network. It scans packets of data in real-time and filters it based on a series of rules. It also monitors traffic from the networks, too, because sometimes malicious programs can send out unwanted data to third-party servers.
What Does a Firewall Do?
A firewall performs the following tasks:
In this way, a firewall acts as an intermediate wall of security that sits between the network and the web.
Do You Need One?
What many people don’t understand is that as soon as they connect a computer to the web, it is vulnerable to being accessed by malicious sources. Without a firewall, this network is able to be accessed because there is nothing monitoring, analyzing, and potentially blocking data coming into and going out of the computer.
The Windows operating system has included a software firewall for some time now, but third-party software firewalls can also be downloaded for Windows and other operating systems. In fact, many routers will also have some type of port blocking or firewall capability, and the best course of action is to use a firewall like this and a software firewall on each computer in the network to provide maximum security.
from Lisa Peternel | Technology https://lisapeternel.com/the-importance-of-firewalls/