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How to Handle Holiday Vacation Requests

It’s that time of year again – time when people everywhere start thinking about taking time off and spending it with family and friends. Your employees are no exception. So how do you handle these inevitable requests that all tend to come in at the same time while also focusing on keeping your operation up and running? Here are some helpful tips to keep your ship afloat while also providing your valuable employees with the much-needed time off that they deserve.

Establish a Clear Policy – Before you can really manage your staff’s time off you first have to have a clear and specific vacation policy in place. This will spell out exactly how much time off each employee gets and the steps required in order to be granted time off. Make sure that each member of your team understands the policy and that any changes or updates are communicated to everyone. This will make it easier to keep everyone on the same page. 

Set a Deadline – Last minute requests can easily cause chaos and interrupt important business functions, so be sure to let your employees know when they have to submit their time off requests by. This will help you to plan staffing and divvy up the workload accordingly so that everything continues to run smoothly and the staff that’s still working doesn’t get overwhelmed. 

Encourage Teamwork – Remind your team that they are the ones that are directly impacted by the time off each of them takes and encourage them to work together to coordinate their vacation schedules. This will foster a sense of teamwork and staff empowerment and will also make your job easier, since most requests for time off will already have been worked out in terms of coverage by other employees. It’s a win-win.

Develop a Fair System – Whether it’s a lottery system, performance driven or based on seniority, come up with a system that keeps time off requests distributed fairly, and be sure to document and communicate it well. When everyone is aware of the policy there are no surprises and you’ll be better prepared to manage your staffing schedule.

Post Your Holiday Schedule ASAP – As soon as you have granted some time off for the upcoming holiday season, post the schedule for others to see. This will help people to quickly identify available dates and encourage them to request time off in a timelier manner. Last minute requests can be frustrating for you, and denial of these requests can be equally as frustrating for your employees. The sooner you communicate what’s going on, the better for everyone.

Managing your staff’s time off during the holidays can be challenging, but with these tips, you will ensure that the process runs smoothly and your business still functions in the most efficient way possible.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 8:09 AM

Home-Based Business Myths

Did you know that of the nearly 30 million small businesses in the US, almost half of them are home-based? That’s a pretty impressive number, yet there are still a number of myths and misconceptions that deter people from this type of venture. We’re here to quell those untruths and show you why starting a business from your home can be highly successful and worth taking the chance.

You need a lot of capital. The answer to this really lies in the type of business you are thinking of starting. Not every venture requires a lot of money up-front, and some don’t require much overhead to run. You don’t have to break the bank or look for investors right away. Just determine how much you need to start off slow, and see where it takes you.

It’s going to take up all of my time. Many would-be entrepreneurs put off starting their own business because they are under the mistaken impression that it has to be a full time operation right from the get-go. This isn’t true at all! Some of the most successful home-based businesses started out with just a small investment of time each week. Once things begin to take off, then you can begin to devote more time to making the business flourish.

You need a lot of experience. Not every successful business venture was started by an expert or even a professional. The key is not experience as much as it is passion. If you have an idea and you feel it’s something that can be turned into a money-making venture, go for it. If you’re really not sure where to begin, do a little research first. All it may take is getting your feet wet and then, with time, the experience will come.

You’ll get bombarded with taxes. Home-based businesses are subject to the same taxes as other small businesses, but keep in mind that they’re also eligible for a number of tax breaks and deductions on expenses such as accounting software, office equipment, licenses and insurance. Before you write off the idea of a home-based business because of tax reasons, check with an accountant to learn the truth about what to expect. It may be much less of a burden than you’re anticipating.

Too many small businesses fail. While it is true that nearly half of all small businesses don’t make it past the first five years, that doesn’t necessarily mean that yours will be one of those statistics. Passion, determination, dedication and hard work can help you overcome these odds and achieve success. Remember, it’s better to take a chance than regret never trying.

Home-based businesses don’t have to be scary endeavors, doomed to fail and cost you tons of time and money. If you plan accordingly, play it smart and take your time, you can beat the odds and emerge from the rubble a smashing success.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 6:29 AM

How to Maximize Your Time

No matter how much we wish it weren’t true, there are only so many hours in a day. As a busy business owner, you’re probably using just about all of them. If you want to continue to be successful, it’s important that you are able to really get the most out of each and every moment of your day; otherwise you risk becoming overwhelmed and letting things fall through the cracks. Here are a few helpful tips on maximizing your time to get the most out of your days.

Start with a list. Seems kind of obvious, but many people forgo this step figuring they can keep track of everything they need to do in their heads. Unfortunately, the lengthier your to-do list the greater the chances of you forgetting something important. At the beginning of each day (or at the end of the previous one), make a list of all of things you need to accomplish, in order of importance. As you go through and complete each task, check it off and move to the next. This will keep you focused and on target.

Cut yourself some slack. It would be awesome if every day you were able to tackle every item on your task list, but we all know that sometimes it’s just impossible. Things pop up at the last minute and priorities shift from day to day. If you can’t finish an item on your list, just tack it on to the next day’s list and cut yourself a little slack. Tomorrow’s another day.

Be flexible with your schedule. If there’s one thing about business it’s that it’s fluid. Things change all the time, so you must be able to adjust accordingly. If something suddenly crops up that takes priority over other things on your list, don’t panic and abandon your whole schedule for the day. Simply take a moment to look things over, determine what things you can move around or postpone until tomorrow, and rearrange accordingly. You’ll be back on track and your day won’t be thrown completely off course.

Multitask whenever possible. This is especially easy now with the mobile technology that we have at our disposal. Instead of juggling a schedule that requires you to be stuck in the office all day, use technology to maximize your time. A virtual phone system can help with this, offering features like group calling and find me/follow me. This way you can still stay connected from wherever you are, allowing you the freedom to be on the go and tackle what needs to be done!

Learn to let go. There comes a time when we have to admit we are overwhelmed and do something about it. If you have other team members, pick one or two that you trust and train them on a few tasks that you feel comfortable delegating. If you don’t have employees, consider outsourcing through a site like oDesk. Once these tasks are off your plate you will be freed up to focus on more important things, like growing your business.

Unfortunately, as much as we will it to be true, there will never be any more hours added to the day. Make the most of the time you are given by implementing these strategies. They will help you to maximize your time, stick to your schedule and ensure that everything that needs to get done does.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 6:57 AM

What Not to Do: 5 Common Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Just as with most components of running a business, marketing isn’t a one-size-fits all task. What works for one company may not necessarily have the same results for another. But just because you may be able to adopt a different strategy than another business in your industry doesn’t mean that your chosen strategy will be flawless. In fact, just about any marketing technique may result in various errors. The good news is five such mistakes are common enough that you can anticipate them and plan ahead to avoid committing them for your business.

Forgetting About Existing Customers – Aiming for new clients is an essential part of any business that wants to experience growth (and, who doesn’t), but don’t forget about those loyal customers who helped you get your start. More importantly, not only is obtaining new customers much more costly, but studies have shown that existing customers spend an average of 33% more than new ones. Can you afford to lose that? Make your existing clientele feel important and valued by offering perks and rewards for repeat business.

Approaching Social Media Too Broadly – Some businesses make the mistake of trying to be all things at all times on social media. What inevitably ends up happening is that it quickly becomes overwhelming and many simply abandon the strategy altogether. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, figure out where the largest concentration of your target audience is likely to be, and focus your efforts there. This is much more manageable, and will set you up better for success.

Dropping Prices Too Low – Some companies think that they can increase sales if they just drop their prices a little bit more. While this technique may work for mega corporations like Walmart, it’s not necessarily the approach a small business should take. In fact, this can be dangerous and you may end up losing money in the long run. Instead, try other alternatives, such as adding a ‘9’ to the end of your prices (like $9.99 or $49). Research has shown that psychologically this makes people feel that they are saving money.

Not Clearly Telling Your Story – Most businesses need some type of funding, but in order to get it, you have to be able to clearly and accurately deliver your story – your mission – to investors. If you can’t, chances are, nobody will buy into what you are trying to do. You are surely passionate about what you do, so let that passion come through in your thoughts, words and actions and make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row before you pitch for funding.

Not Keeping Online Info Up to Date – Would you allow the front of your brick and mortar building to become old and dilapidated? Of course not! That would turn customers off and cost you business. Your online presence should be the virtual front door of your business; therefore it should be treated with as much care as your physical one. Make sure your website and blog are kept up to date, and that your online prices are accurate at all times. Otherwise, you risk losing a ton of potential new business.

Marketing a business isn’t an easy task, and it’s often a trial and error experience. Knowing what things to avoid can help keep you on track and better prepare you for success.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 6:59 AM

Helpful Tips to Hone Your Brand Message

One of the most important things to making a business successful is solidifying your brand. This means making your brand more recognizable and developing strong, lasting relationships with your clients that will help to perpetuate future success, both in repeat business and in word-of-mouth referrals. So how does one effectively develop and deliver their brand message so that it accomplishes these goals? Here are several tips on how you can come up with that perfect message that will really get results.

Take a look around you first. Check out your competitors. What is the message that is working for them, and how are they delivering it effectively? Obviously you can’t (and wouldn’t want to) copy them, but doing a quick competitive analysis can help provide the inspiration you need and get your creative juices going. Identify things that you like about their message, and things that you don’t and work from there to develop your own.

Next, spend some time getting to know your customers. Understanding what your target audience wants and needs can help you define and position your business for success. After all, you’d be nothing if it weren’t for them, right? Learn about how people are using your products or service. This will help you to identify new opportunities and further hone your message so that it really makes the mark with your clientele.

Now that you have some insight about your competitors and what your customers want and need, you can use that information to begin to develop your message. To begin, ask yourself the following questions:

~ What does your business stand for?
~ What pain points do you address?
~ What problems do you solve?
~ What makes you stand out from your competition?

The next step is defining what your tone and voice will be. What you have to say is just as important as how you actually deliver it, so this is important. Once you have the tone and voice hammered down, make sure that all of your communications reflect this, from web content and blog posts to social media activities to print advertising. Wherever you plan on sharing your message, make sure you do it consistently across the board.

Finally, once you’ve got your message and tone ready to go, it’s time to start using it. Just remember, these things are not set in stone. As with anything in business, your brand message should be fluid and scalable. Measure and tweak it as needed until you feel comfortable and begin getting the response you desire.


posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 8:39 PM