4 Ways to Contain HR Costs Without Impacting the Employee Experience

Let’s face it: The cost of creating positive employee experiences quickly builds up and is often overwhelming — especially for small businesses.

For Matt Bentley, CEO of CanIRank, an SEO-ranking software company in San Francisco, finding that balance was crucial to employee retention. So, he implemented an employee-recognition system to improve company culture and allow team members to recognize co-workers’ achievements.

“We use Bonusly, a peer-to-peer bonus platform,” Bentley told me via email. “Employees give each other bonus points, then use their points to cash in on rewards or gifts at the end of each month. It’s fun and keeps morale high.”

Bonusly has also helped the company reduce the turnover rates of new hires, Bentley said. “In fact, we haven’t lost a single new staff member. Even though it costs the company more up-front, it helps to lower our HR expenses in the long run,” Bentley said.

With one cost-effective tool, in other words, Bentley has enhanced his company’s e employee experience and made a work environment where employees want to stay.

Engaging employees with a recognition system is just one way to provide a positive employee experience while containing HR costs. Here are four other ideas for keep your employee experience positive without breaking the bank:

1. Go paperless.

While businesses have gone digital in most aspects of daily operations, they may find it difficult to ditch that trusty pen and paper entirely. But, by critically analyzing the cost of current printing and paperwork, employers will find an opportunity to save.

That’s exactly what David Reid, CEO and co-founder of EaseCentral, a benefits and HR solution company in San Francisco, did by focusing on digitalization. “By digitalizing the experience and using updated technology, we see savings across the board,” Reid told me. “Technology can certainly help augment administrative tasks for HR reps, decreasing costs and increasing overall efficiency.”

After integrating payroll into its employee-facing technology, EaseCentral saved both time and money by centralizing HR and benefits functionalities. This allowed the company to focus even more energy on employee engagement.

Tip: Use an HR platform, like EaseCentral or Zuman, which provides a centralized digital place to keep HR, benefits and payroll. With options like these, employers can eliminate paperwork and outdated processes, using cost-containing options.

2. Employee wellness

Many employers worry about the added expense of employee-wellness programs. But Mark Kushinsky, CEO of MaidPro, a house-cleaning and maid service in Boston, encourages employers to look at their greater team and company benefits.

“At first glance, I can see how one might not see how [wellness programs are] a necessity. However, not only does our wellness program encourage a healthy lifestyle, it also lends itself to a better work-life balance,” Kushinsky shared with me.

MaidPro’s employees are excited about their opportunity to immediately and consistently reap the rewards of the company’s wellness program, Kushinsky said. “On the corporate side, having happy and healthy employees has reduced our costs for employee recruitment, while also increasing our retention,” the CEO explained. “The wellness program costs less than having to recruit, hire and train new employees regularly.”

For example, when one of MaidPro’s employees started having serious back problems, she didn’t take time off for doctors and physical therapy. Instead, she went to a customized class at MaidPro’s headquarters.

“Not only did she have the support she needed from us, but also she was able to continue working during her recovery, which relieved stress for her and for us,” Kushinsky said.

Tip: Employee-wellness benefits come in all shapes and sizes. Before making a move, ask employees what they’re lacking or need in daily wellness measures. As employers implement benefits to help improve their teams’ health, everyone will begin to see employee experience and cost saving improvements.

3. Learning and development

Learning and development is a crucial element in creating engaged employees and positive experiences. Unfortunately, the costs of seminars, webinars and one-on-one trainings quickly add up.

Joyce Wilson-Sanford from Portland, Maine, a retired EVP of strategic organizational development at The Delhaize Group, a global food retailer, said she focused on making her small staff into experts. “I used people who stayed in their primary role to become expert trainers on various topics. Because I only asked for 20 percent of their time for the entire year, primary work didn’t suffer,” Wilson-Sanford said.

By keeping people in their primary roles, Wilson-Sanford’s program cut costs on learning and development and gave new hires an opportunity to dive deeper into the employee experience with superiors.

Explained Wilson-Sanford: “I also created self-managed learning groups.” Setting goals for each person and monitoring progress within these groups resulted in improved engagement in their primary roles, she said.

Tip: Find employees who are not only pros at what they do, but excel in bonding with co-workers. As new hires learn the ropes from an experienced co-worker, they’ll gain a better grasp of the company’s culture.

4. Benefits

The cost of benefits and perks can be too much for small companies. However, when the right benefits that are affordable and effective are chosen, they help attract and retain employees, lowering recruiting costs.

Kevin Busque, co-founder of TaskRabbit, and current CEO and co-founder of Guideline, a 401(k) company in Burlingame, Calif., said he believes benefits are most effective when HR gets younger employees involved.

“If we are spending the money to provide those benefits, we want employees to maximize the value from them,” Busque told me via email. “In the process of starting Guideline, I’ve learned one way to reduce costs without hurting your employee experience is to be super strategic with the benefits you offer and the partners you choose to work with.”

Tip: After establishing a budget that fits your company’s budget, create a survey to give employees a voice in benefit choices. Without increasing HR costs, leaders can enhance the employee experience by including them in the process.

Additionally, no matter what benefits are offered, it’s crucial to educate employees on what is available. Provide interactive seminars to ensure everyone is involved and understands how the benefit helps them.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Why Some People in Positions of Power Show Signs of Brain Damage

When someone becomes successful but stays grounded, people are often pleasantly surprised. But what is it about power, in any of its forms, that makes people less relatable?

Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, spent two decades studying the effects of power and discovered that powerful people exhibit behaviors associated with traumatic brain injury: impulsivity, diminished risk-awareness and a weakened ability to see things from another person’s perspective.

 Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, took his experiment a step farther. He used transcranial magnetic stimulation to compare the brains of powerful people and non-powerful people, and he found that powerful people were less capable of “mirroring” others’ actions, or imagining themselves mimicking the actions of others. When they watched a video of someone squeezing a rubber ball, the neural pathways that normally would have been firing if they had been squeezing the ball themselves did not light up strongly. In other words, they were less empathetic than the non-powerful group, whose corresponding neurons fired away.

This phenomenon goes beyond imagination. Research led by Adam Galinsky at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management revealed that when instructed to draw the letter E on their forehead for others to read, people who perceived themselves as powerful were three times more likely to draw the E facing backwards for their observers.

As Entrepreneur guest writer Brian T. Anderson wrote last April, empathy is among the most top five traits executives must exhibit to be successful. That’s what faculty at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found upon conducting interviews with business leaders around the world.

Empathetic leaders are more likely to guess how their colleagues will interpret what they say or make others feel comfortable by say, laughing when others laugh. Failure to simulate others’ feelings demonstrates what Keltner calls an “empathy deficit.” One idea to help explain this, put forth by Princeton psychology professor Susan T. Fiske, is that leaders do not feel the need to get on someone else’s level, because the power they wield gives them access to information they would otherwise need to obtain by getting a good read on a person.

So what can those in power do to overcome the neurologically damaging, hubris-building potential of being at the top? Simply telling yourself to empathize won’t cut it — you have find ways to knock yourself down a peg. A February 2016 study in the Journal of Financefound that that CEOs who had lived through a natural disaster that produced a large number of fatalities were less likely to take risks.

On the day in 2001 that PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra Nooyi was appointed to the company’s board, her mother asked her to go out and pick up some milk before announcing her big news to the entire family. When she returned, her mother told her, “Leave that damn crown in the garage.” To this day, Nooyi recounts that story to illustrate the importance of staying down to earth, The Atlantic reports.

So for leaders worried about becoming disconnected from reality or employees, customers or even loved ones — and sustaining brain damage in the process — remember a time when you weren’t as powerful, or connect with people who aren’t as powerful and empathize with their concerns.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com


4 Money Habits That Separate Building Wealth From Just Making a Living

When it comes to getting rich, many of us assume it means getting an upscale job with a hefty paycheck. We daydream about how we’ll drive a cool car or treat ourselves to fancy dinners out. After all, the more money you earn, the wealthier you are, and then you can do whatever you want, right?

There are a handful of small but powerful things wealthy people do that set them apart from those who are struggling financially. Start cultivating these habits and you’ll get a sense of what real financial success and independence feel like, as well as what it’s like to make a difference.

1. Create multiple streams of income.

It’s difficult to become financially independent on one income. If you lose your job you’ll be frantically looking for work while dipping heavily into savings to stay afloat — or, worse yet, you’ll be going into debt to pay your bills.

Wealthy people focus on cultivating multiple streams of income so they’ll always have something to fall back on during lean times. During boom times, your income will balloon to pad your savings and fund your investments.

You can build passive income, such as from rental properties, stock dividends or interest from a high-yield bank account. A side hustle is a great way to boost your income while developing a passion or a hobby.

A side hustle could be a business you start on the side, freelancing in an area of expertise or marketing your skills. Can you teach yoga? Design websites? You can work a part-time job during off hours, or even rent out a room in your home.

The best kind of side hustle is something you enjoy doing, and it’s even better if you can create synergy between your different income threads, so they feed into your overarching goals and dreams. If you’re able to tap into an area you are passionate about, you’ll be determined to persist until you’re successful.

2. Learn to live on less than you make.

Living beneath your means is the key to creating and maintaining wealth, not to mention avoiding debt. Millionaires know spending less than you earn creates opportunity; you can invest that money, save it or donate it to a cause or charity you care about. Ideally, you can do all three.

Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, uses the 70/30 rule as a blueprint for how much to spend, save, invest and donate. For most people, the difficulty is learning to live on 70 percent of their income after taxes, including spending for all necessities and luxuries. The remaining 30 percent is then broken into 10 percent allocations for investments, savings and charity.

Living on less than you make requires you to get your spending under control and come up with a budget that you stick to. You’ll need to learn to be more frugal and to really make your money stretch. It may mean that you drive a used economy car, eat at home more often or ditch extravagant purchases.

It definitely means that you should stop comparing yourself to others. According to Rohn, “Poor people spend their money and save what’s left. Rich people save their money and spend what’s left.”

When you spend, think about whether this something you really need, or something you just really want.

3. Make your money work for you.

The wealthy invest in themselves. They know the key to making their money work for them consistently over the long haul is creating an investment plan to create wealth. The plan should include regular payments into a mutual fund, a trading account and retirement accounts.

Accruing wealth also requires making capital investments. This is the money you’ll invest in creating an enterprise, such as developing a business, manufacturing a product, marketing and selling your services or investing in other ventures.

This will require you to take calculated risks while taking into account your long-term financial security. Walking this line require financial savvy. Educate yourself on financial matters. Understand the ins and outs of your investment plan and make adjustments as needed.

In addition to your investment plan, you should be tucking away at least 10 percent of your paycheck into “rainy day” savings. It’s easiest if you have it automatically deducted from your paycheck. This money is for unexpected expenses and to get you through tough times.

Savings protect your investments. It will keep you from going into debt or needing to pull money from your investments, which in turn could cripple your multiple income sources.

4. Give back.

It may seem counterintuitive to give generously of your time and money, but this is also an important investment. Giving to others and being of service to those who need it most helps you connect with your community and be a part of something bigger than yourself: the greater good.

This is about growing wealth not just in your bank accounts, but in your whole community, which benefits everyone. When you volunteer your time or make donations to causes or issues that your care deeply about, it gives you a sense of joy and purpose.

The idea is to not just be a go-getter, but a go-giver — someone who is focused on others more than themselves. Yes, it’s important to stay focused on your goals and be passionate about your dreams. But finding a way to also add value to the lives of other people will benefit you in the long run as well.

Truly wealthy people, the ones who impact society and change our world views, understand that the more you give, the more those good feelings and vibes come back to you.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

3 Perspectives of Visionary Leaders

Every leader needs a clear vision. However, much like common sense, vision is anything but common and frequently unclear.

1. Diagnostic Perspective

Before a vision can be created, you need to understand what’s worked before and what hasn’t. It’s critical to recognize the current position of your organization and use that as a starting point.

Additionally, it’s critical to identify existing obstacles, procedures and personalities that may undermine your vision at various stages. These may be difficult for you to see, especially if you’ve been with the organization for a long time. Institutional “blind spots” develop over time, unnoticed.

Once you have completed your diagnostics and have a clear view of the organization and its needs, it’s important to incorporate the findings into the overall vision.

2. Innovation Perspective

Innovation is often “hiding in plain sight,” which requires a specific perspective to help pop it into view.

Consider the challenges of trying to innovate the following commoditized products: paint, glass and duct tape. Those are pretty dull and boring at first glance with little growth potential. For decades, industry leaders did not see a way to innovate on those products and increase their revenue. Yet:

  • Sherwin-Williams developed a square, stackable, pourable paint container that revolutionized the industry.
  • Corning innovated away from cookware to fiber optic cables, flat-screen TVs and biotech lab tools.
  • Duck Brand duct tape breathed new life and profitability into the category with fashion-focused line extensions in a rainbow of patterns and colors.

In each case, the opportunity for innovation was always there — anybody could have innovated at anytime but didn’t. It took visionary leaders to create an environment where others within the organization could see the opportunity that was right in front of their eyes, articulate it and bring it forward.

3. Unseen Perspective

Visionary leaders ultimately have to lead an organization down a path it has never traveled before. This requires the use of the “unseen” perspective, which will set the course for the desired future state. Past and recent history are packed with examples:

  • Christopher Columbus had to apply this perspective when he set off to find the new world, at a time when everyone thought the world was flat.
  • President Kennedy had to apply this perspective when he pledged 1961 that the US would put an American on the moon “before this decade is out.”
  • Steve Jobs did it repeatedly when he challenged Apple to launch the iPod, MacBook , iTunes and iPhone.

As a visionary leader, you need to be your organization’s oracle, driving its performance down a pioneering path into the future. To be a positive, transformational leader you need a clear vision if your organization is going to survive and thrive.

But you and the vision are indistinguishable. Without a clear vision, you won’t last. And without a visionary leader, neither will the vision.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Surprising Online Marketing Method Most Consumers Prefer

Marketers today are faced with the challenge of appealing to active consumer groups that represent four generations spanning from legacy traditionalists to elusive millennials. The unique experiences of each generation have played a large role in the development of distinct predilections in what they value and how they spend their money.

 The Millennial misconception

Poised at the peak of consumerism and yielding nearly $200 billion in buying power, millennials are a key target audience for marketers. However, have marketers been targeting them incorrectly all along? We’ve heard it time and time again — the recurrent conjecture that millennials now resort to social media for virtually everything. The dominant narrative circulating among many marketing communities seems to be “if you want to reach millennials, start with social media.” However, a recent survey on consumer shopping habits by Campaigner reveals that the concrete assumptions many marketers hold on millennial’s purchasing habits are actually a bit more nuanced than one would think.

Despite social media’s large and growing presence in many consumers’ lives, millennials are the most likely generation to engage with marketing emails. In fact, 51 percent of millennials surveyed indicate email as the preferred method of interaction with brands. Additionally, less than a quarter (24 percent) of all participants surveyed across all four generations name social media as their preferred channel for brand interaction. Rather than blasting promotions via multiple social channels, marketers will have more luck crafting campaigns designed to engage consumers instead of strictly “selling to” them.

The enduring power of email

Marketers have consistently implemented email marketing as a pillar of their campaigns because it’s fast, cost-effective and non-invasive. However, the rise in social media has begged a few questions on the state of email as a medium, the most prevailing being, is it still the most successful tool in our marketing arsenal?

In sharp contrast to the shelf-life of some social media platforms, email has proven to be the most enduring marketing channel for brands. Email ranks as the most preferred digital marketing platform for brand interaction (44 percent), and 85 percent of online shoppers are either somewhat or very likely to open email from brands.

However, contrary to the old adage “you can never have too much of a good thing,” online shoppers’ top complaint (49 percent) about marketing messages is that they simply receive too many of them. When planning campaigns, marketers must determine what cadence of email is most effective for their various audiences. For example, Generation X appears to be more receptive to a higher frequency of email than the rest. On the other hand, when it comes to serving millennials and Baby Boomers, sometimes less contact is more impactful. Most (27 percent) think receiving emails from brands once a week is ideal. In efforts to appeal to each of these generations, audience segmentation is a great way to ensure each group is being met with the appropriate and desired email frequency.

Brick and mortar for boomers, tips for traditionalists

In the effort to attract Generation Z and millennials, baby boomers and traditionalists cannot be overlooked. With their sheer size, disposable income, and spending power, these two generations still control a large part of our country’s spending power and have unique preferences about how they would like to interact with brands.

For those born in the traditionalist and baby boomer eras, the survey indicates that they want to interact with brands in physical stores. In fact, 73 percent of traditionalists and 67 percent of baby boomers say they prefer to interact with brands in-store, compared to 65 percent of the group overall.

Digital marketers targeting baby boomers and traditionalists should use online deals that further entice foot traffic to stores. Additionally, traditionalists appreciate helpful tips and short reads more than the average online consumer, at 28 percent versus 13 percent overall, so content marketing may be most impactful for this group.

With every generation expecting marketers to engage when, where and how they choose, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Rather than attempting to bridge the generational divide with blanket content and campaigns, brands must devote time to understanding generational preferences and learning to market across demographics. The insights from this report further detail commerce consumption preferences and how to most effectively market to different consumer generations.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Do’s and Don’ts of Private Equity for Entrepreneurs

Here’s a hard-earned lesson for entrepreneurs who might take funding at any cost just to achieve their dream: The most critical factor in identifying a private equity partner is how well you align with the PE firm. That sounds simple enough, but it’s not.

To break it down in terms every entrepreneur can use, here are some of the important “do’s and don’ts” for a successful PE partnership — all designed to ensure maximum alignment.

The best practices for a successful PE partnership boil down to making sure you’re not an outlier in the PE firm’s portfolio. Here are four actionable ways to achieve that:

1. Make sure you fit the PE firm’s funding and investment strategy.

Your deal size should be in the same range as other companies in the portfolio and your investment timeframe should be typical to theirs. The PE firm’s investment timeline is driven by the agreements it has with its investors and each PE firm has a different time horizon. For example, large institutional investors generally require shorter timeframes and family office investors often take a longer view. Partner with a firm that has investors who will stick with you for your optimal investment cycle. The PE partner in one of my previous companies forced a sale just as we were beginning to realize the benefits of scale that would have accelerated our growth. The sale met their investment needs, but we felt shortchanged.

2. Target firms that have interest and experience in your industry.

“Interest is more important because you can help frame the PE firm’s passion and they’ll dedicate the resources to understand your business and help it grow,” says Deb Schwarz, CEO of LAC Group, a Los Angeles-based provider of library and knowledge management services. Having industry experience facilitates due diligence because they know the nuance of your space.

3. Understand the PE firm’s decision-making process.

Be very practical and ask for stories about how decisions are made. Interview the CEOs of past and present portfolio companies to verify what you’re being told. An early PE funder asked me for three references, including one negative — so I asked the same of them. All’s fair in PE funding.

“It’s very important to follow through on these references,” adds Schwarz. “The people we called were founders or CEOs of companies recently acquired by the PE firm we were considering an investment from; the calls were enlightening and reassured us we were making a smart choice.”

4. Find out how the partner responsible for your investment gets paid.

The key question: “Do you make money if I make money?” Ideally, you want a PE partner who has personal skin in the game so your wealth generation goals are aligned.

The “don’ts” of PE funding are about navigating the process without naiveté. Here are four traps to avoid:

1. Don’t go “exclusive” too soon.

Remember, the PE firms need you, too. They have investor money to grow and are looking for proven leaders with solid business models. Understand as much as you can about the details of the paperwork before you sign an exclusive arrangement that takes you out of negotiations with other firms. With every deal, the devil is in the details, and you won’t see that until you review the transaction agreements.

2. Don’t be afraid of “thorough” money — and beware fast money.

“Don’t be afraid of someone being thorough with you,” says Eli Boufis, managing director of Driehaus Private Equity, LLC. “Things don’t always work out as planned and the PE firm that does its homework is better equipped to navigate, rather than berate, its way through the storm.” (Note: DPE is an investor in my current company, Energy Distribution Partners.)

3. Don’t cheap out on your advisors.

In particular, hire an experienced transaction lawyer. Lawyers can save you time and anxiety because they know what’s standard in PE deals, meaning they can set realistic expectations for you. They also know when the PE firm is offering something good or rare in a deal — another sign of alignment with the right partner.

4. Don’t be defensive when the PE firm offers operating expertise.

Most entrepreneurs read this as interference, but for me, it’s a valuable advisory resource. With a good PE partner you have access to directors who add to your strategic brain trust, shared services, including human resources, and credible introductions to other investors and better banking relationships.

The two keys to a successful PE relationship are to make sure you fit the firm’s investment profile and knowing how to navigate the funding process. Doing these things right will provide the kind of alignment you need for a partnership — one that can withstand the challenges that inevitably visit every entrepreneurial venture.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

How Fiverr’s Culture Created a Company of CEOs

Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business — and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: the smartest companies don’t tell their employees how to innovate, they manage the chaos. Listen to this week’s episode here

Early in an organization’s lifecycle, everything is experimentation. Externally, it’s the product, the target audience — even finding a winning business model can be a series of tests. Internally, it’s often management styles, processes and organizational hierarchies. In both cases, it’s about seeing what works, what sticks, what’s effective and then doubling down while everything else is cast aside.

Typically, a manager will be presented with a problem, come up with a solution and then direct team members to execute on the strategy at hand. Obviously, the manager has a large degree of control and weight in everything taking place. After all, it’s his or her project, and to remain accountable, it’s important to keep everyone tied to the same solution.

But, this top-down approach has substantial drawbacks. If a business is hiring the right people, contributions should come from every member of a team. So, why would an organization limit its own collective mind power through a system of direct action? Rather than having people think about the larger problem the business is facing or working towards, team members are limited to focusing on a singular piece. It’s one person’s solution executed by many, rather than many competing solutions being tested and iterated. In this world, team members’ mindset is to execute rather than to innovate, effectively being blocked off from looking beyond the organizational walls built around them.

The second big problem is a loss of accountability and responsibility. Team members are merely executing on a manager’s idea, rather than building their own concepts. The failure of an initiative doesn’t extend beyond the creator, leaving many outside of the stakeholder group. In rapidly growing organizations, ownership is key for culture, and top-down management often reduces ownership, whether that ownership results in success or failure.

The lesson learned? Flip the model on its head.

Give team members a framework to work around in the form a “company northstar” to guide their efforts. This northstar creates clear lines between what’s a priority and what’s not, and it empowers employees to be guided by impact rather than execution. Team members have clarity, and they maintain accountability because the concepts they’re working on are based on their own strategic thinking and analysis.

Since Fiverr’s inception, a core driving tenant of our business has been to bring ecommerce simplicity to freelance services. We recognized a high friction problem in how freelancers offered their services and how businesses bought them, and saw an opportunity to apply what everyone already loved about buying products online. That framework — recognize low friction above everything else — created the outline that everyone in the company worked towards. An idea that solved complexity with simplicity was to be pursued, regardless of where it fell in the product. Any idea that wasn’t following this framework wasn’t pursued.

As a data-driven company, team members could recognize where inefficiencies existed, come up with potential solutions and hypothesize on the target impact of their new solutions, implement an experiment and extract the right signals to decide if they pursue the direction. The framework of simplicity drove the thinking, the team drove a solution and then backed it up with data. Management’s job in all of this is to be a guiding resource, rather than a task master.

A good example of this commitment to simplicity as a framework came through in our marketplace as Gig Packages. As Fiverr grew, we recognized that entrepreneurs were looking to the marketplace for more complex services and freelancers wanted to expand the breadth of their offerings. But, the structure of many services didn’t allow for a ton of wiggle room — services were narrowly defined to maintain simplicity. Recognizing this core problem, the team maintained a commitment to simplicity while expanding our opportunity through a “Good,” Better” and “Best” enhancement. One service with standardized elements across three price points. Recognizing an opportunity and equipped with a northstar, the team developed a solution that could be rolled out strategically and tested. The result? A browsing and purchasing solution with simplicity and depth.

We simply created a company of CEOs. Team members know the problem, and it’s their job to develop a solution, hypothesize an outcome, experiment and then implement. Managers play the role of a board of directors, providing implementation resources and analyzing outcomes to sharpen and push the team for higher goals.

The impact on our company culture cannot be understated. In this kind of system, ownership within a company goes beyond individual projects. Many hands aren’t just working collaboratively, they’re all strategically pulling on the same rope to derive a larger outcome.

Like any organization that’s “moving fast and breaking stuff,” priorities will shift and change. It’s the job of management to continue to refine and communicate northstar guiding principles and make sure they’re universally understood from all corners of the business. Whether it’s human resources or front end development, a culture of strategic problem-solving and driving impact flows through an organization that empowers its team.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Hidden Reasons Why Customers Buy Your Products

The “Amazon era” of technology and e-commerce has made cost and convenience a forefront of retail and consumer product business for over a decade. Certainly, low prices, ease and efficiency are top motivators for many consumers when choosing stores, brands and products.

But these are not the only drivers.

Shoppers are moved to transaction and brand loyalty by a range of factors. It can vary by age, demographic, and so much more.

Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that low price points and ultra simple shopping processes are all that consumers seek (or what they predominantly seek). While it can be true, it can also depend. Failing to recognize the unique dynamic that makes your customers and prospective customers choose your products can have an adverse effect. If you’re not careful, it can hurt your brand and bottom line.

It is imperative to assess and determine what your own customer motivators might be. There are thousands of media articles and references on the topic on consumer behaviors that you can tap into. But you’ll want to hone into what specifically fits your customers and prospective customers.

At Simple Mills and within our industry, we’ve found that these below often play a role in why consumers buy our products:


People make purchases that fit who they are or who they aspire to be (or both). Our customers are often people who are concerned about what they eat as well as their footprint on the environment. They tend to make choices that fit this identity consciously — but many consumers do not. Who are your customers? Who do they want to be? Determine this. Keep it in mind at all times.


Value is highly individual to consumer groups – what one group considers valuable can differ from another. Amazon customers may value the ease and competitive prices that Amazon offers. For Whole Foods customers, it is often rooted in that they can trust products are natural and responsibly sourced, with price and ease less relevant. Don’t assume that what matters to one matters to all.


It’s easy to forget that stores and products are an experience – one that many consumers enjoy. Apple is a great example of the power of product experience. Prior to it introducing beautifully designed products, the look and feel of tech gadgets and gear was often ignored. It gave Apple an enormous capability to beat out what was (and continues to be) a crowded market. Give thought to this with your store and/or product.


We inadvertently participate in a community and experience connectivity with others who buy the same things we buy. It creates a commonality. For example, Simple Mills customers often engage and interact on our social pages. Harley Davidson motorcycle owners gather every year at a large festival in the company’s hometown. This can also be very subtle, where purchasing your products simply makes the customer feel part of something larger.


Cost and convenience often require a compromise of quality. For the shopper moved by quality, this matters – and you’ll risk losing them if you cut corners here. Hundreds of luxury brands have held potent positions in their categories because their customer wants craftsmanship, fine materials and so on. Don’t assume that price will keep a customer alone. If making things easier for your customers requires you to chop away at your product, don’t do it.


In an era of innovation, ideas explode across all markets. But not all fill a need – and needs of all kinds play a huge part in consumer behavior. It can be base needs like food or shelter, or something else. Google was enthusiastic about its Google Glass product. But consumers felt differently and it affected sales. My company’s customers feel a need to eat natural, whole foods. Find this in your customer. Make it your priority. 

Original Article: www.inc.com

3 Proven Ways to Keep Employees Happy

We live in a time when culture plays a bigger role in employee retention than compensation. American employees are now willing to sacrifice their pay for a better, more enjoyable work environment. A recent study released by Fidelity Investments proves that money cannot buy happiness for millennials entering the workforce, revealing that, on average, millennials are willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for a better “quality of work life.”

 Who could blame them? The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average full-time employee in the United States spends 8.8 hours a day at work. Who would want to spend over a third of their day working at an organization that neglects their happiness and satisfaction? This has left business owners around the country wondering how to keep their employees happy.

As employees begin to adjust the way they approach their employment options, it’s time for employers to adapt and make their own adjustments to the way set up their organizations. Instead of trying to entice candidates and encourage retention among current employees with high salaries, executives should be looking for ways to make their office a place where employees are excited to spend their valuable time.

Sounds like a tough task, right? I mean, unless you’re a Luxury Bed Tester or a Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Guru, it’s not particularly easy to be excited about going into work on a Monday morning. However, executives are going to need to think outside the box and change their traditional management styles to stay ahead of the curve on this recent trend.

It seems like executives are ready to take these steps, too. Earlier this year, my employer, DATIS HR Cloud, surveyed over 280 executives regarding their top priorities for 2017. Respondents included a mix of CEOs, CFOs, CHROs and even some CIOs. The second-highest priority of this year, behind recruiting, was employee satisfaction. Here are some proven, surprisingly simple steps for executives to take to make work more enjoyable and satisfying for their employees.

Encourage social connections within the office.

I know what you’re thinking. “James, wouldn’t social connections distract my employees from the work I pay them to do?” Good question, reader. However, I’ve found that enabling better relationships among coworkers actually does wonders for employee satisfaction and productivity.

For starters, when employees are friends with one another, they generally feel more connected to their organization and more excited about coming into work each morning. According to Gallup, close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent, and employees with a best friend at work are generally seven times more engaged.

Strong coworker relationships also help when it comes to collaboration within the office.  Encouraging employee connections breaks down barriers between coworkers and makes working together and cooperation much simpler.

There are many ways in which you can improve and encourage social connections within your workforce. Celebrating birthdays around the office, motivating employees to eat lunch together, hosting out-of-the office outings and arranging fun activities among coworkers are simple, cost effective ways to improve relations among your employees.

Give employees purpose.

Employee satisfaction and job fulfillment go hand-in-hand. Employees feel the most satisfied at work when they know that they are doing meaningful work and working towards something special. This evokes a kind of emotional connection to their job that simply cannot be recreated or artificially manufactured. However, there are elementary management tactics that executives and leaders can utilize to stimulate this feeling of fulfillment and bring it to top of mind.

First, reiterate to your employees that they’re a valuable asset to your team and the work they’re doing is contributing to the overall success of the organization. This is not only great for employee morale, it also reinforces purpose in the work they’re doing.

Recognizing and celebrating individual achievements also plays a large role in employee fulfillment and satisfaction. I personally feel that we don’t give one another enough credit in the office. We should be congratulating our coworkers when they reach personal and professional goals. This brings a workforce together and motivates others to achieve similar success in their own roles.

On a side note, studies show that transparency when it comes to personal and professional goals in the office also greatly improves productivity. A survey commissioned by Betterworks found that an astounding 92 percent of employees would work harder if their coworkers could see their goals.

Be understanding.

My last tip to improve employee satisfaction around your office is to simply be understanding. Believe it or not, your employees have lives outside of work. They have families, friends, hobbies and passions. But, they also face real life problems that put their physical and mental strength to the test.  Being understanding and supportive when these problems arise is essential.

I’m sure you’ve encountered events in your life that are out of your control. When these events happen, it helps to have support from the company that you dedicate so much of your time to. Just knowing that your managers are there for you when times get tough is a truly great feeling.

Employees are your organization’s greatest asset. If you don’t keep them happy, they’ll find another company that will — it’s that simple. High salaries and compensation packages are a great way to attract talent, but are no longer a proven way to retain it. Fostering a company culture that provides employees with a better quality of work life is the new way to build for a stronger tomorrow.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com


8 DIY SEO Tips to Optimize Your Mobile Marketing

Mobile online marketing is now synonymous with online marketing. More users consistently use mobile devices today than connected ones. In late 2016, Google began testing a mobile-first index. When they rollout and begin using the index, search engines will look to the mobile version of your website before the desktop version to determine ranking.

If your content performs inconsistently across mediums, you’re missing an audience engagement opportunity. Mobile SEO, much like traditional SEO, is about creating and tagging content in a way that makes it stand out online. Use this list of DIY mobile SEO tips to protect your brand from search engine penalties and maintain online visibility:

1. Create a Google My Business listing.

One of the most important listings businesses owners can create, Google My Business accounts are free and simple to set up. Fill out the information to the best of your ability, and include as many images of your business as possible. When people enter a search for your business online or via a Google app, they will likely see this information first. Make it count.

2. Frequently review all directory listings.

Beyond the Google My Business account, mobile users may use other websites and applications to find your brand. Frequently review and update all listings for your business online. Update listings on Yelp, local websites, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau and other popular business directories. These listings will ensure searchers reach the right information when they search for your name.

3. Get social.

On mobile devices, social media sites drive a significant amount of traffic. Around 80% of social media users spend their social media time on mobile devices. If you want to maintain visibility with mobile users, prioritize your social media marketing strategy. Use platform-specific advertising, engage with users, and/or post prolifically to ensure your brand stands out.

4. Take advantage of plugins.

If your business uses WordPress or another platform, take advantage of the plugins designed to make your mobile site more user friendly. WordPress offers plugins to improve site speed, optimize images, and take care of other important mobile SEO tasks. WPtouch is a somewhat ubiquitous WordPress plugin that will create a Google-approved mobile-friendly version of your website. If you’re not currently using a professional to update and optimize your website, look into how plugins can help you maintain visibility online.

5. Use keywords for content visibility.

Mobile users search differently than desktop users. Optimize for mobile keyword searches to keep your content in front of the right people. While you can purchase tools to find the right keywords for your content, you can find keyword comparisons by device in Google’s Search Analytics.

6. Optimize images.

To improve page loading times on mobile devices, optimize images for mobile users. If you don’t use a plugin to help with images, identify the ones that present a problem using a page speed tool and then compress or change the dimensions for faster loading times.

7. Prepare your content for mobile.

In addition to searching differently on a mobile device, many people digest content differently. Readable and scan-friendly content tends to work better on mobile devices, but testing is the only way to know for sure. Consider using a basic A/B test format to determine which types of mobile content perform better.

8. Optimize for local searches.

You may not want to dive into detailed code optimizations that can boost search rankings, but you may want to consider a few basic activities. To optimize for local searches, include both the city and state in title tags, the URL, the H1 heading, and Meta description.

Mobile SEO will soon trump desktop SEO. Consider working with a professional or attempting a DIY head start today to ensure your site maintains visibility in mobile and desktop searches. A few simple tweaks can boost your digital presence and bring local customers to your door.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com