What is the EX, or the employee experience, exactly? EX is not just about what it's like to work day-to-day in the office, and it's not about benefits, half-day Fridays, sleeping pods, beer fridges in the break room and other fun perks, though those things do enter into it. But EX is deeper and more meaningful than that. It's about truly engaging employees.
(BPT) - One of the latest business buzzwords this year is EX, or the employee experience. Organizations are beginning to realize that they need to create a positive employee experience in the same way they have focused on the customer experience. In this ever-tightening job market, it's mission critical to keep employees happy, fulfilled and challenged. Only then can they keep their customers happy. Focusing on EX means evaluating an employee's entire life cycle with the company, from before they even apply for a job to beyond their last day. It's so critical that Forbes even dubbed 2018 the Year of the Employee Experience.
What is the EX, exactly? EX is not just about what it's like to work day-to-day in the office, and it's not about benefits, half-day Fridays, sleeping pods, beer fridges in the break room and other fun perks, though those things do enter into it. But EX is deeper and more meaningful than that. It's about truly engaging employees. Employee engagement (EE) and EX are intertwined so closely they can be called one and the same.
The problem with EE: There's a disconnect
In a recent study, Dale Carnegie found that 70 percent of top executives believe that employee engagement has a strong impact on financial performance. In a similar study, Deloitte found that 85 percent of company leaders say EE is an important strategic priority, but Dale Carnegie found that just 31 percent of front-line employees and managers strongly agreed that their company is actually making engagement a top priority.
Clearly, there's a disconnect between what execs are saying and what employees are feeling. That's because there's a piece left out of this puzzle: the employees' managers.
The key to aligning executive priorities with what employees are experiencing lies in the management chain. Managers need to be enabled and empowered to engage their teams on a daily basis. It means getting managers the training they need to engage their teams, by making it a strategic priority and creating a culture of engagement. Dale Carnegie programs teach the skills managers need and can help organizations do the right things to increase overall employee engagement.
Ways to increase employee engagement
Focus on getting managers and supervisors the skills they need. Immediate supervisors and managers are on the front lines of employee engagement. Leaders at all levels need to understand that the way they interact with their employees and direct reports matters to the company's bottom line. Open a dialogue with managers about EE, and listen to what they're saying about what works and what doesn't, and if they're frustrated, give them the tools and training necessary for change.
Get CEO buy-in. If your CEO does not have employee engagement on his or her priority list, the effort is doomed to fail. Make sure the CEO has the facts on employee engagement, and the knowledge that it needs to start at the top. EE needs to be treated like any other strategic priority.
Align policies with EE. You need employee-supportive policies and procedures, such as a standard performance evaluation policy. But it also means changing policies that are barriers to engagement. Are there processes and procedures working at cross-purpose with engagement efforts? If so, change them. How are your rewards and recognition programs designed? What do you reward and recognize? Are they making your employees feel valued? It requires going through your policies with a critical eye, and the willingness to change what's not working.
Employee engagement needs to be on the top of the priority list for top executives, managers and supervisors, and that's no easy task. But in this ever-tightening job market, with greener grass just a click away on a job seeker's app, keeping all of your employees happy, engaged and fulfilled is the key to your company's competitive advantage.
Women are starting businesses at a record pace — motivated to pursue passions, financial independence and the flexibility that eludes most traditional jobs.
(BPT) - Women are starting businesses at a record pace — motivated to pursue passions, financial independence and the flexibility that eludes most traditional jobs.
In the U.S. alone, women entrepreneurs generate $1.1 million in revenue on average across retail, professional and personal service businesses that have operated for 11 years. This stat comes from Visa’s new ‘State of Female Entrepreneurship’ report, which informed their recently announced program, She’s Next, Empowered by Visa, a global initiative to support and champion women in their efforts to grow their small businesses.
That’s powerful stuff, highlighting the important role women entrepreneurs play in the prosperity and economic development of local communities. The typical entrepreneur is 42 years old and earns nearly $110,000 in household income a year, making a profound difference in building and supporting families in the community.
Clearly, female founders are coming into their own. In fact, the Visa study found that 79 percent of American women entrepreneurs feel more empowered now than they did five years ago.
Still, key challenges exist: 73 percent say funding does not come easily, and nearly 2/3 use their own funds to get started. Assembling a good team, finding the right tools and dealing with competitors are among the biggest challenges keeping women entrepreneurs up at night.
For any entrepreneur, it can feel like there’s never enough time or resources to grow a business. To help other entrepreneurs and based on insights from the ’State of Female Entrepreneurship’ report, Visa polled four areas women entrepreneurs focus on to turbocharge success:
Find mentors: More than two-thirds said they wanted advice from fellow entrepreneurs. Relatable role models and mentors are invaluable when you’re making the leap to starting or building your own business.
Find your feet: Strategy development is critical for women starting up their own company. Assembling a good team was a challenge encountered by 37 percent of women founders. Other challenges include: finding the tools to grow and manage their business (36 percent), competition (36 percent) and growing as quickly as they need to (33 percent). Have a plan and pursue your vision.
Gather capital to invest in your business: Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. Respondents cited profits and revenue growth as the top two priorities for improvement. Thirty-two percent of women would direct additional funding toward newer technology.
Put in overtime: When building a business, time is precious. Given the investment and high stakes that come with the territory, it comes as little surprise that a majority of women entrepreneurs (56 percent) are putting in more work hours than before they started their business.
If you’ve joined the ranks of female entrepreneurs, find support and resources by signing up for the Female Founder Collective, and visit She’s Next, Empowered by Visa where you can download and print a toolkit with tips and advice to help build and sustain your company.
Take a look at recent trends and developments in technology. It’s clear that these changes can give entrepreneurs that extra leverage to scale up. Here are three to consider.
(BPT) - Small businesses are far more influential than most people may realize.
That influence is felt well beyond Main Street. Small businesses make up 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S., and these firms employ nearly half (48 percent) the workforce, according to the 2018 Small Business Profile compiled by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In addition, take a look at recent trends and developments in technology. It’s clear that these changes can give entrepreneurs that extra leverage to scale up. Here are three to consider.
Big companies have big opportunities for small firms
Back in the 20th century, a large company would get things done in this very straightforward way. Wherever there was a need, they hired someone directly to perform that task, whether it was a driver or an accountant.
Under today’s leaner models, these big companies are finding it’s much more efficient to partner with other firms to fulfill certain needs. According to Deloitte, 31 percent of IT services have been outsourced, as well as 32 percent of human resources. This increasing acceptance of outsourcing is a huge growth opportunity for small businesses owners.
For example, Amazon recently announced it is actively seeking and helping entrepreneurs who are willing to deliver packages as their contractors. The mega retailer will even go as far as helping with startup costs so long as these smaller firms deliver their packages. Landing a contract with a big corporation is a significant milestone for any company, but starting out with that lucrative contract is sure to let these startups hit the ground running.
Better connections for greater flexibility
When today’s entrepreneur has a new role to fill, they’re not confined to the talent pool in their immediate community. Because we now have the tools and connectivity to work from anywhere, a business owner can expand the search across multiple states!
What’s more, these flexible, work from anywhere options can give business owners the inspiration to do things differently. Having greater collaboration means having access to more options to fit specific needs.
For example, what is the very nature of being a small business owner? It’s dealing with a fluctuating volume of work. Tapping into the talent pool of freelancers to work on these specific, short-term tasks and projects is easier than ever, because for a segment of workers, freelancing is increasingly becoming a way of life. Freelancers currently make up 36 percent of the workforce, according to a study from Upwork. And, if trends maintain, most Americans will be freelancers by 2027.
Thanks to remote options with easy access to talent, small businesses can easily set up temporary or ongoing as-needed work arrangements. When you partner with Dell for your computing needs, you’ll get the expert help and support so you can set up the perfect flexible workspace system.
More automation brings better efficiencies
Without a doubt, new technology works in favor of small businesses and entrepreneurs because they have many tools at their disposal to automate labor intensive processes, be more productive and cut costs. For example, entrepreneurs can use software to process client payments and even set up automated payments, saving hours and costs associated with collecting, processing and reconciling under the traditional paper check payment system. That translates into a more efficient billing department that can spend more time focused on complex issues.
Let Dell equip your small business with the right tech tools, tailor made for your venture and backed with support, so you can focus on running your business.
How businesses access working capital has shifted, as traditional methods haven’t kept pace with the speed of business. Where can entrepreneurs turn for funding? These three alternative options may be worth considering.
(BPT) - How businesses access working capital has shifted, as traditional methods haven’t kept pace with the speed of business.
Growth is one of the biggest indicators of small business success. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), more than 500,000 businesses have between 20 and 99 employees as of 2014. These established businesses are in the upper end of growth but have not yet met the threshold of being a medium business. In fact, 39 percent of growing companies — between three to five years old and seeking more than $100,000 — consider accessibility to capital their greatest concern. It’s during this stage businesses typically are faced with growth challenges.
Where can they turn for funding? These three alternative options may be worth considering.
1. Lines of credit
Lines of credit, provided by online lending platforms like Kabbage, offer established businesses in all industries the flexibility and convenience of accessible capital.
With Kabbage there are no fees to apply for a line of credit or annual costs to access funding. Small businesses don’t pay a thing to see for how much their business can qualify. Kabbage offers access to lines of credit up to $250,000, helping small to mid-market businesses access funding for operational costs and strategic investments like cash flow needs, purchasing specialized equipment, business expansions and launching high-growth marketing projects. There are also no obligations in how much a business is required to take. Businesses can take the amount they need from the line of credit when they need it, with no hidden fees or pre-payment penalties.
Lines of credit are faster and more flexible than traditional loans. In fact, Kabbage offers a loan application that can be finished in minutes — even through a mobile app — eliminating the time usually spent waiting in lines or filling out numerous forms.
2. Merchant cash advances
Some established businesses turn to a merchant cash advance (MCA) due to lower credit ratings, not having enough assets to provide as collateral, short-term financing needs or the flexible repayment terms.
Essentially, an MCA is an advance on future credit card payments. The cash advance is decided upon by the funding company, with the specific amount being paid back in full plus fees and interest.
With merchant cash advances, borrowers pay a set percentage of their credit card sales and make payments every time they receive credit card payments from clients.
3. Invoice factoring
Invoice factoring is another funding option established businesses use in lieu of bank loans. Factoring is the process of selling accounts receivables to a financing company for immediate cash.
Factoring helps businesses receive cash much faster than waiting for clients to pay their invoices. The financing company, known as the “factor,” pays the business the majority of the invoice upfront. Once the business receives payment from the client, they send those funds to the factor. The factor then pays the remaining percentage to the business.
Factors are more concerned with the financial health of the business’s clients rather than the business itself. These companies collect directly from a company’s clients and customers, sometimes requiring payment history validation from the business. A benefit of factoring is not assuming debt for money received; however, if clients are not creditworthy, you may not receive funding.
To maximize this growth, consider looking online at www.kabbage.com/yes to learn about and find new options that fit your business. Merchant cash advances, invoice factoring, and lines of credit are three alternative solutions that help growing businesses go beyond traditional financing methods.
(BPT) - What drives someone to take the risk and start their own business?
In many cases, it’s the knowledge that they can offer a great product or introduce new solutions to old problems. Passion and determination put entrepreneurs at the forefront of innovation.
What’s remarkable about so many small and medium-sized businesses today is that it’s not just the bottom line they’re after. Businesses are more focused than ever on socially and environmentally conscious causes.
Take, for example, small business Bayou with Love, who partnered with Dell to create a jewelry line using recycled gold from old computer motherboards. The jewelry line is just one example of a small business prioritizing doing good for the planet.
Cuvee Coffee practices direct trade, a model that considers environmental, financial and social sustainability as well as personal relationships. It builds partnerships with farmers who are good stewards of the land, pay fair wages to their workers and are often leaders in their communities. Cuvee then pays well above market prices for their coffee and in return, the company gets the very best coffee and the farmers make substantial profits.
By using ethical and altruistic principles to guide business practices, these entrepreneurs practice what many call “conscious capitalism,” and investors are taking notice.
Investments from angel investors and venture capitalists have helped these businesses play their part in a national and global trend toward social betterment in business.
Here are a few ways small businesses can benefit from conscious capitalism.
It opens the door to more capital from investors
When a company launches a humanitarian initiative or implements an ethical program, people pay attention.
According to Fundivo, angel investments in altruistic businesses have been steadily growing since 2002 and roughly four jobs are created per investment. Moreover, a recent study from The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing reported that under sustainable and responsible investing guidelines, a total of $8.72 trillion was made in 2016, showing a 33 percent increase since 2014.
Increased networking opportunities through crowdsourcing
By helping businesses reach like-minded changemakers, the tech industry has made it easier for small businesses to maintain a conscious mission statement along with a profitable bottom line.
In particular, funding for socially-conscious businesses has become more easily achievable through crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Even Kickstarter owners Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen insisted that their crowdfunding platform become a Benefit Corporation, ensuring they remain focused on their mission to bring creative projects to life rather than simply increasing the size of their own profits.
These crowdsourcing platforms are an efficient way for companies to find investors, but also to network and get their message out to a broader public.
A boost from tech
At the center of many altruistic businesses is the robust use of technology, which has allowed many highly successful small businesses to support social and environmental causes.
It’s not only that having dependable and easy-to-use technology is critical for these businesses, but many tech giants have implemented programs to support conscious capitalism in small businesses.
For instance, as one of the world’s leading IT suppliers, Dell has been particularly passionate about helping businesses with an eye for social change and environmental consciousness. Through its 2020 Legacy of Good plan, which outlines its own sustainability goals, it has helped small businesses use technology in a way that drives progress and social change.
Dependable and affordable technology is essential to promoting social change, and that’s why so many entrepreneurs and investors are realizing that when paired with technology, ethical business practices can do a lot of good and turn a profit.
(BPT) - A challenge for any entrepreneur is getting access to capital. If you’re like many, you’re constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and free up cash flow so you can be ready for anything, whether it’s a slow season or an opportunity to expand.
When tax season rolls around, you’re already taking a deep dive into your expenses and income for the past year. Don’t stop when you file. With all that information at your fingertips (and fresh in your mind), it’s a great opportunity to take a big-picture look at the health of your business and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Use the following tips to take your tax preparation efforts a step further and boost your cash flow in the upcoming year.
Dust off your business plan: No doubt when you started out in business, you were eager to put your vision to paper. Most entrepreneurs get busy with the day-to-day pressures of deadlines, and that vision can recede into the background. Schedule some time with your board members or business partners to revisit and update the business plan. Now that you understand the realities of your market, you should have plenty of ideas on creating the 2.0 version of your enterprise. When finished, it’s important to not allow it to gather dust again. Set goals and schedule check-in meetings with your team to make sure everything’s on track.
Update your budget: The nature of entrepreneurship is being agile in the face of change. Market trends, price changes from vendors and suppliers, effects of new laws and ordinances, even road construction are variable forces that can send anyone’s budget into a new direction. That’s why your budget isn’t ever going to be a spot-on prediction. Think of it as a plan. If you stay on top of it, you can spot the trends early and make adjustments right away so you can reap the full advantage — or head off problems before they become unmanageable.
Check your credit score: If you’re planning to raise capital to expand or make improvements in the next year, checking in on your credit score is an important first step you can take several months before you apply for the loan. Even if you have a business credit score, certain business loans still require a look at your personal credit score, especially if you’re a sole proprietorship. Visit Your.VantageScore.com to find free resources to learn your credit score. There’s also helpful information on what factors influence your score and things you can do that can help increase it over the coming months to help you get the best rate possible.
Create a tax strategy: The tax break Congress passed in December will save small business owners 20 percent on their tax bill this year. In the coming year, small business owners have many opportunities to capture more tax savings with the right plan and strategy. For example, if you’re planning a large equipment purchase, you may find yourself in a better tax bracket in 2019 if you time it before Dec. 31, rather than waiting until the following year as planned. Have a meeting with your accountant to discover more ideas.
Pay down debt: One way to use the windfall of your 20 percent tax savings is to pay down revolving loan debt. Doing so is a great way to raise access to working capital should you need it down the line. Depending on the source of credit, reducing your credit-to-balance ratio is one factor that could raise your credit score. Before you do so, make sure you have enough cash flow to meet your expenses.
Improve accounts receivable: If your business extends lines of credit to your customers, it may be worthwhile to implement a credit check policy on all new customers. Knowing they’re creditworthy before the fact can help you create the appropriate plan for them and protect your business. Credit reporting is also an effective way for even a small business owner to let customers know they are serious about collecting what’s owed. In the end, you’ll get paid faster and increase cash flow.
The life of an entrepreneur means things can change drastically on a dime. A thorough check-in with your finances can put you in the best position for success. To learn more about the tools and solutions offered by VantageScore, visit Your.VantageScore.com.
(BPT) - Over the past decade, technology has reshaped the retail industry in profound ways. Ninety-six percent of Americans are now shopping online, according to a recent study from CPC Strategy. Which means today’s business leaders face increasing pressure to keep retail spaces relevant and engaging for customers.
One solution to captivating today’s consumer is a simple one: Build meaningful connections with local communities, says Etienne Veber, president of Field Trip Factory, a firm that helps design, schedule and promote interactive learning experiences within retail environments.
“Technology provides greater convenience and lower prices,” Veber says, "but it is not a replacement for human interactions."
The increasing lack of human connections in our daily lives represents a unique opportunity for retailers to thrive in today's environment, he says, by identifying their core values and concerns, and then expressing them through meaningful learning experiences and a deeper sense of community.
"We learn by doing, and retail environments can be incredibly powerful as teaching platforms,” Veber says.
The value of purpose
When companies express a sense of purpose to their customers, it has a profound effect on the confidence in the brand. Eighty-five percent of companies with a strong sense of purpose say they are backed by their communities, because they are seen as “good and helpful corporate citizens,” according to a survey by Deloitte.
Furthermore, 89 percent of firms with a purpose say clients and customers trust the quality of their products and services — versus the 66 percent of firms that do not have this sense of purpose.
As a way to demonstrate its commitment to its local communities, multi-format food retailer Giant Eagle, Inc. developed an interactive program that connects with local school children. “Be A Smart Shopper” helps young students and their families learn about making healthy food choices.
Over the years, it has been a very effective way for Giant Eagle’s retail Team Members to uphold the company’s common purpose to improve people’s everyday lives and well-being in a community-centered way, and so far more than 600,000 families have been reached across Pennsylvania and Ohio. Educators love the program because it supplements the classroom curriculum and gets their students really engaged. Ninety-five percent of them are planning to come back with their students next year!
“Our Be A Smart Shopper program is an important part of how we fulfill our commitments to education and health and wellness,” says Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet. “Through the program, our retail Team Members are able to meaningfully impact how the children in our communities think about the foods they eat, and encourage involvement from the children in family meal planning.”
Expressing purpose in the retail space
A retailer can build trust and loyalty by expressing their values in innovative ways. Their stores are more than places to shop. They can build opportunities right in the towns and cities in which they serve.
Host in-store classes and events: Business leaders, store managers and longtime employees, with their industry knowledge, are community gurus. With that mindset, what better way to connect with the community than to open the doors for an on-site event? Things like hands-on demonstrations, seminars, consultations and even heading up an ongoing club are all engaging ways to share knowledge and help people solve their most common pain points.
Champion local causes: Transform company values and industry knowledge into a community asset, and direct resources to solve problems in the community. Reaching out to local nonprofits, being a major sponsor to make a local event even bigger and better, or paying employees for their time to volunteer are all ways a brand can build a meaningful community presence.
Find a partner: Most businesses do not have the in-house expertise to organize, plan and publicize in-house events and initiatives, which is why some turn to a trusted partner for expertise in that field. For example, as Giant Eagle planned its Be A Smart Shopper Program, Field Trip Factory took the lead with the curriculum (with input from educators), and created the online tool that makes it easy for teachers to discover the program and sign up their class for an event. Each participating store can easily set its availability on the Field Trip Factory platform and these educational events take place without disrupting their day-to-day business activities.
Today’s retail climate is a uniquely challenging one, due to the rise in technology. To learn more about finding opportunities to engage with customers and communities, visit fieldtripfactory.com.
(BPT) - A hundred years ago, few thought that the clunky automobile that broke down so often would ever replace a horse. In the 1970s, people wondered if the personal computer that a few eccentrics were using would have any use beyond storing recipes. It’s safe to say that these innovations, along with many of the technologies we now use daily, were once considered impossible dreams.
Right now, the most-talked-about piece of technological innovation that is poised to transform our lives is the autonomous or self-driving car. As self-driving cars gain widespread adoption, analysts are predicting the rise of what is known as the passenger economy — a term coined by Intel — that is expected to be worth $7 trillion by 2050 as validated in a new report by analyst firm Strategy Analytics.
Seven trillion dollars is a lot of money! A decade ago, people couldn’t fully imagine the way smartphones would give rise to the app economy. Today we are at the threshold of something equally momentous — that’s why entrepreneurs and investors are now beginning to imagine the economic possibilities tied in with autonomous cars.
The following are five big areas of opportunity that will unfold in the passenger economy era.
The advent of the passenger economy will contribute to a safer and more efficient world. Those who can imagine and anticipate the coming changes will be in the best position to get the most out of it.
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