Most large businesses have an IT team that is responsible for protecting data and networking the computers used by employees. In many cases, the IT department can be ignored or isn't given enough attention from upper management. If you manage or own a business, there are a few things that you need to know to get the most out of your IT team.
How Much to Budget
Depending on the industry, good IT can cost a bit of money because the technology likely affects your customers. Technology is a key driving force in every business market, which makes IT teams more in demand. IT teams can also cost more because they're responsible for accommodating the re-occurring wave of change while embracing technology as a partner rather than a commodity. Companies that sell technology as a product will likely have lower costs than those that sell products like tacos or buildings. Investing more money in IT may be a sacrifice but can have a positive impact on each department and aspect of the business.
If you make the mistake of getting hooked on buzzwords as a business, then you will quickly find yourself bloated with useless hardware and incompatible software, which can make your IT team confused and ineffective. Do you know the difference between ITIL and ITSM? Using confusing acronyms can only lead to issues and complications that occur down the road.
Many businesses fail to have an IT plan or strategy, which is critical to the operation of their business with the type of software that is used. Many businesses often assume that technology can compensate for mistakes that are often made, but it is actually a force multiplier for the business. It can save money, attract more business, and boost the productivity of your team. You'll need to work closely with your IT team to develop a strategy and research the top software that can be utilized. Work with a professional that can help you to identify that IT structure that is needed to support the business and also plan for the future.
Businesses that understand the importance of their IT team often succeed because they utilize what the department has to offer. With the right software used and a plan created, you'll likely obtain more success in the industry.
Businesses are often guilty of wasting a lot of money throughout the year. In many instances, the money is spent without even realizing that there is a better alternative. Understanding the ways that businesses waste money will allow you to see what opportunities exist within your own operations.
New technology is available to provide higher productivity, more analysis of financials, and other tasks. Much of the new fintech is causing disruption, which leads to companies not able to adapt failing. Big data, for example, is where many businesses fail to adapt. You can save a lot of time while obtaining more valuable information about trends by learning how to work with big data. Further, CRM and ERP systems can be implemented as a way of improving customer service, eliminating data redundancy, and providing access to information from any mobile device.
Poor Marketing Strategies
Marketing tends to be a black hole when it comes to spending. Businesses know that they need to market but aren’t doing so effectively. Many fail to establish a target audience, so their campaigns aren’t capturing the interest of the audience that is most likely to do business with them. Further, every campaign needs to be analyzed to see whether the desired return on investment is being achieved. Certain marketing strategies tend to have a higher return on investment. For example, effective SEO increases conversions and lowers advertising costs. By understanding marketing ROI, you can change strategies or tweak campaigns so that they are more successful.
Businesses of all sizes tend to get sloppy with their finances. This is particularly true of small businesses because they take on the mindset that they can do it all. As a result, they struggle with knowing what they’re spending against their budget. They may also be unsuccessful at collecting all income that is owed because of not having the time to send out invoices and follow-up statements. Many businesses may not even realize they can get many tax breaks and credits and miss out on thousands of dollars. DIY accounting strategies simply aren’t effective for the long-term. Implementing a bookkeeper to help with all of the bookkeeping can make it easier to tighten spending and see where money is being spent on a more regular basis.
In the end, there are a lot of ways to avoid spending money where it doesn’t need to be spent. You don’t want to waste money when there are ways for you to improve your operations, explore new technology, market effectively, and tighten your spending with the help of a bookkeeper.
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With growing dependence on electronic communication, it would seem that many small businesses would be prepared for the paperless office era. Despite the growing reliance on technology, businesses of all types including shops, firms, manufacturers, and more are not converting to paperless offices in large numbers. Change is hard for some, since the process of going paperless may seem intimidating.
However, there are many benefits to going paperless, such as protecting sensitive data, reducing office waste, and minimizing the need for physical storage space. Going paperless can also save you time if you do it correctly. Below are three technologies that may help put your business on the paperless path.
Digital Billing Processes
Online billing software is a great first step towards a paperless office and offers so many other advantages as well. Once it's set up, it's fast and simple to use. All the client's information is stored in the system or cloud—including their preferred payment methods and information. Think of the space you'll save with this paperless system in not having to print out invoices, reports, and other records.
Physical documents no longer need to be filed and stored, which takes up time and space. With your logo, the system helps establish your brand on all of your invoices and documents. The system will protect the information in a secure environment, which is also a real plus. Many billing processes can be fully or partially automated using the software to save even more time.
If you are trying to go paperless in your office, then iPad receptionist software can benefit your business. There's no need for paper sign-in sheets or logs, since the software takes care of that for you in real time—helping you easily track all visitors, their purposes, and their entry and exit times. It saves time in letting you and your employees know of any new arrivals without someone having to monitor a paper log. You can set alerts and visitor watchlists for security purposes that can include instructions for employees on how to deal with any specific people or situations.
Digital signatures are growing in use and popularity. Providing the highest levels of assurance about the identity of each signer and the document's authenticity, digital signatures make complying with legal matters convenient and secure in addition to saving time and money. You'll no longer have to print an abundance of legal documents or contracts and send them out for signatures through the mail or paid courier services. They can be sent electronically—for free—directly and securely to the parties who need to sign, and then stored securely as well.
Using the three technologies outlined above will help you convert your business to a paperless one. Businesses seeking a more efficient, secure means of handling documentation will appreciate paperless solutions. The potential is there to save time, money, and resources while improving your office processes.
Interested in learning more? Check out a world of new ideas for a better business life.
Successful business models tend to hinge on delivering what consumers need, when they need it – a moving target that can be difficult to attain. As your consumers’ wants and needs continue to evolve, consider these ways to refresh your business without overhauling core principles.
A Breath of Fresh Air: 7 ways to refresh your small business
7 ways to refresh your small business
(Family Features) Successful business models tend to hinge on delivering what consumers need, when they need it – a moving target that can be difficult to attain. As your consumers’ wants and needs continue to evolve, consider these ways to refresh your business without overhauling core principles.
Reset short-term goals. Get to the root of the reasons you’re looking to refresh in the first place. Focus on what you’d like to change in the not-so-distant future and how you can accomplish it. Also make sure your short-term goals keep you on track for the long-term goals already established for your business.
Refresh online materials. In today’s digital world, consumers have high expectations. Maybe your website is outdated, can’t keep up with traffic or, worse, is nonexistent. Freshen things up with a redesign or even just slight tweaks to make it easier for customers to navigate. For a simple solution, consider adding a blog section where new content can be posted weekly or monthly to give customers a reason to return and to help build your search engine ranking for specific keywords.
Rethink storefronts. To help consumers make the most of their time, small business owners are partnering with other businesses to include their services under the same roof. For example, The UPS Store has a re-engineered model that exists within other retailers, such as pharmacies, hardware stores or grocery stores, that still provides all the services consumers would find at a traditional store.
“Our store-in-store model offers a smaller footprint store that still provides all of the services people need,” said Chris Adkins, vice president of franchise and business development with The UPS Store. “This is an opportunity for an existing business to set itself apart from the competition and offer added value to customers as a one-stop shop, where customers can conveniently take care of multiple tasks at once.”
With customer convenience also in mind, the model also includes updates in traditional stores to incorporate technology and other contemporary elements, including features like smart lockers, digital signage, print consultation workstations and self-service options available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Replace outdated strategies. If your business has been in operation for a while, there’s a chance your previously successful marketing strategies may be a bit out of touch. Consider your target audience and the ways you’re most likely to reach those consumers. For example, social media is a must to keep up with competition and there are ways you can amp up your strategy in the ever-evolving social space. Whether it’s posting short factoids, long-form information, links to online content or simple images of your products, it can be a productive way to reach your audience.
Reconnect with consumers. If overhauling marketing strategies or diving headfirst into social media seems like a stretch for your small business, start small. Simply reconnecting with loyal customers may be just what’s needed to rejuvenate the buzz surrounding your company. Try holding a contest for the best customer-submitted content to use online, or create a giveaway for a randomly chosen commenter on your latest social posts. These types of online conversations can attract consumers who may have been previously unaware of your goods or services.
Revive printed materials. Business cards, flyers, banners, posters, newsletters and any other type of printed materials may be the first impression potential customers have of your company. Using professional, well-designed printed items to let customers know what you do, like those available through The UPS Store, can convey the correct message to consumers that your products or services can meet their needs. Whether you think slight tweaks to your current materials will suffice or a more drastic redesign is necessary, it can help to ask friends, neighbors and even current clients and customers how they feel about the materials you’re using. Pay attention to layout, headlines, colors, white space and even font choices.
Rebrand your business. It may sound like a lot of work, and it certainly can be, but rebranding your business doesn’t have to mean changing the company name or rethinking product lines. Simply updating logos to appear more modern or rethinking an overused slogan can give your business a fresh vibe. Remember that enhancing the look of something seemingly as small as your logo can make a big difference, especially considering that image is likely the first thing a consumer sees when visiting your social pages or website.
Even companies experiencing success should often weigh the pros and cons of refreshing certain business elements to keep things impactful for current and potential customers. Find more tips and ways to improve your small business at theupsstore.com.
How Retailers Can Put Convenience First
In the race to nab consumers’ attention (and dollars), retailers need to be increasingly creative. Some of the more successful efforts show that retailers must recognize the value shoppers place on convenience. Look for ways to boost convenience for your consumers, such as:
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
The UPS Store
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.
(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.
One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations. These tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Digitally Transforming Your Business
(Family Features) One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations.
As small business owners look to transform digitally, they face a number of options, from upgrading their technology to optimize shipping operations and decrease costs to adopting digital marketing tactics to better understand and target their customers. While it can be difficult for a small business that is well-established using analog processes to switch to digital, the key is to start with the final objective in mind; in other words, begin by defining your end goal. Once you’ve determined the desired outcome of digitizing your business, these tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Reach customers through digital marketing
Beyond the content, an effective strategy establishes connective links between all your marketing touchpoints, from email to blog and even to your traditional tactics, such as direct mail and more, all with the goal of boosting credibility and visibility via search engine optimization and foot traffic.
Optimize operations through the cloud
“The SendPro C-Series is designed to take the guesswork out of shipping and mailing,” said Jason Dies, executive vice president and president, Pitney Bowes SMB Solutions. “These digitally connected sending devices allow users to better manage their sending operations on one platform, providing the confidence that they selected the right carrier and class of service for each expedited envelope and package, track all shipments from one dashboard and provide consolidated visibility and control of postal and carrier expenses. Plus, the open platform allows developers to create new applications specific for the needs of small business owners.”
Make decisions based on analytics
Use mobile to communicate with customers
Find more tips for transforming your business for the digital age at pitneybowes.com/us/digital.
Elements of a Digital Transformation
Before diving head-first into a digital transformation, consider what aspects are most important to your business.
Boost Business Digitally
Google G Suite is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere, and on any device.
Yext puts businesses on the map by letting companies manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems and social networks, as well as facilitating face-to-face and digital interactions that boost brand awareness, drive foot traffic and increase sales.
Promote by Acquisio is an advertising solution that helps businesses get new customers with zero expertise needed by creating tailored ads, providing optimization, on-the-go text notifications for incoming leads and tracking of all recorded incoming calls from ads.
Nimble is a simple social sales and marketing CRM that helps companies nurture relationships across email and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
DocuSign lets people sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, replacing traditional methods that require printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (two business owners)SOURCE:
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