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Monthly Archives: November 2016

7 Best Apps for Business Collaboration

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to collaboration software for your business. It’s essential, as most have moved on from the antiquated method of sending file attachments back and forth or scheduling endless conference calls.

From real-time document editing to synchronous chat, it’s time to leap into the 21st century of work. Here’s a short guide of some of the most trusted and popular solutions for helping businesses get things done. Each of the options has a trial or limited free version, with upgrades available for the entire feature set.

Most of the working world has moved to Slack. It helps your team stay connected through a series of chat rooms, and throws in a bit of fun with an easy way to add in GIFs. Another key feature is the ability to invite freelancers to your organization, while granting them limited access so they’re not privy to all the inner workings of your business.

Google Apps has grown up and is ready for businesses of all sizes. G Suitegets you the standard fare of Google Docs, Drive, Calendar and, of course, Gmail. The company’s penchant for search and machine learning can make it a powerful combination, as Cloud Search can suggest what files you should be looking at to start your day.

Microsoft is still a productivity powerhouse, and its suite works well on just about any device thanks to the company’s cross-platform strategy. Along with the standard grouping of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, don’t overlook OneNote as a powerful tool for sharing notes and other thoughts throughout the team. Also, if Slack doesn’t quite work for your company, then check out Microsoft Teams.

While part of the Office 365 family, Skype deserves a special callout here for its business-focused features. You get 60 minutes of international call time with Skype, which can help you connect with clients worldwide. Additionally, group screen sharing and other features in the Skype for Business application can help bridge the divide, as many small companies have an international presence.

While some were calling Evernote a dead elephant, the company is making quite the comeback by ramping up the speed and reliability of its services and overhauling the interface on its mobile platforms. The Evernote Businessplan can give your organization a way to manage projects and assignments and to share information in one centralized location that is easy to navigate but also packed with options.

Dropbox is one of today’s most popular file-syncing services. For $10 per month, you get 1TB of storage, and the company has proven over time that it can keep files rapidly in sync better than anybody. Dropbox is also wading into the teamwork space with Dropbox Paper, a minimalist and focused collaboration tool that might be the right fit for your organization.

Salesforce’s Quip has the real-time collaboration flavor of Google Docs, but it tries to break away from strict focus on documents and spreadsheets, allowing for more free-form work. The entire system is built around conversations and notifications, with cross-platform support so you can even respond to queries from your Apple Watch. And of course, it plays nicely with Salesforce’s massive suite of other services.

The 7 Best Jobs for Persuaders

To help those looking for work, CareerBuilder and Emsi compiled the 7 best persuader jobs the labor market needs based on their current number of jobs, growth over the past seven years and high annual salaries. All of the positions on the rankings have more than 200,000 current jobs and average annual salaries of at least $88,000.

Nearly all of the jobs on this year’s list are leadership positions and require at least a bachelor’s degree. Of the 7 best jobs for persuaders, eight have a manger title.

This year’s 7 best jobs for persuaders are:

  1. Operations managers: Operations managers form policies, manage daily operations and plan the use of materials within a business. There are currently 2.25 million operations manager jobs in the U.S., making it the 11th largest occupation group in the country. There are nearly 250,000 new operations manager jobs since 2011. Operations managers earn between $68,000 and $151,000 a year.
  2. IT managers: IT managers plan and coordinate computer-related activities, determine company IT goals and implement computer systems to meet those goals. There are currently 366,000 IT managers in the U.S. There are 56,000 new IT manager jobs since 2011. They earn between $106,000 and $167,000.
  3. Financial managers: Financial managers produce financial reports, direct investment activities and develop strategies to reach the financial goals of a company. There are currently 565,000 financial managers in the U.S. There have been 43,000 new financial manager jobs added in last six year. They earn between $89,000 and $163,000.
  4. Sales managers: Sales managers oversee the sales representatives within a business: assigning sales territories, setting sales goals and establishing training programs. There are currently 381,000 sales managers in the U.S. and they’ve grown by 38,000 since 2011. Their annual salary is between $80,000 and $163,000.
  5. Personal financial advisors: Personal financial advisors use analytical skills to sort through various money matters, and persuasive skills to help people with things like investments, mortgages and taxes. There are currently 215,000 personal financial advisors in the U.S., and since 2011, 36,000 new jobs have been added. They make between $61,000 and $152,000 a year.
  6. Construction managers: Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget and oversee large building projects. There are currently 254,000 construction manager jobs in the U.S. Over the last six years, construction manager jobs have increased by 35,000. Their annual salaries are between $69,000 and $116,000 a year.
  7. Sales representatives (wholesale & manufacturing), technical and scientific products:There are currently 350,000 of these sales representatives in the U.S., with 32,000 new jobs added since 2011. They earn between $55,000 and $109,000 a year.

6 Tips for Success With Public Relationship

According to Landor Associates, 45 percent of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. Furthermore, 75 percent of consumers cite brand awareness as a major influencer in making their buying decision, and consistent brands are worth 20 percent more than those who aren’t consistent.

How you create and deliver your company’s message matters to consumers looking for your brand.

“Public relations can provide legitimacy for a business, and that’s especially important for an SMB that may not have a lot of brand awareness,” said Amy Bryson, the vice president at Airfoil Group, a marketing and public relations firm.

Bryson notes that if a media influencer or third party validates a company, product or service, it demonstrates credibility, which is great for brand building.

“A positive article, review, blog post or social media endorsement is a great asset to promote across a company’s own social channels so that business is searchable and findable,” she said.

As with any decision making in business, you need to consider how the task should be planned and executed. CEO and chief publicist at Three Girls Media, a boutique PR firm, Erika Montgomery, offers this insight before making any choices:

“It’s important to remember the PR is a slow and steady approach. Don’t expect to see results overnight,” Montgomery said. “Building brand awareness and name recognition takes time, but it provides a solid base for your business to build upon the future as you have a larger budget for marketing, advertising, etc.”

She suggests setting aside 10 percent of your annual budget for public relations. Use your PR resources to:

  • Establish clear, measurable goals for your business
  • Determine the best strategy to achieve these goals
  • Follow through on the strategy
  • Review your results and establish new goals/a new strategy

“Create a plan with small, manageable steps so you’ll be able to follow through,” she said.

To help make the most of your PR efforts, Business News Daily spoke to public relations experts about the best ways to handle your responsibilities.

Before doing any strategy work, figure out your ‘why’ – your ultimate goals for your PR campaigns.

“Choosing whether to handle PR in house, utilize freelancers or contractors, an agency or DIY will depend entirely on your budget, company size and unique set of needs,” said Molly Smith, a senior publicist. “If you can’t answer the question, ‘Why am I doing this?,’ implementing any PR strategy or tactic [or business model] is going to be an uphill battle.”

Smith notes your “why” is your story, not your product or your service. For example, say you are a launching a new restaurant. Instead of saying check out this new trendy place (your what,) you’ll need to answer why does it matter? Why should I eat there? Why did you decide to start this restaurant in the first place?

Suki Mulberg Altamirano, founder of Lexington Public Relations, suggests doing this by reading what journalists are covering and finding those that are talking about your industry and competitors.

“Before you pitch anything, really make sure that what you’re sending is relevant to what they write about, their publication and their interests,” she said.

When you do reach out to your media contacts, Mulberg Altamirano cautioned against creating a generic press release. Blasting this out is not going to get you coverage and it will simply annoy people. Instead work on highly personalized, short email pitches.

“Research your competitors and take note on how they are positioning their brand and how you can differentiate your own business,” added Alison Krawczyk, director of public relations at overit. “Also, look at the kinds of news and stories your competitors are sharing with media.”

If you don’t hear back right away, don’t take it personally, Mulberg Altamirano said. “Journalists are busy and sometimes it will take a few different tries before you get that first bite. If one pitch doesn’t work, be patient, wait and try a new angle when you have something truly newsworthy to share again.”

Building relationships takes time. Mulberg Altamirano notes to be fast to respond to requests from journalists, offer them timely and personalized information and don’t over pester them with follow-ups and you’ll be on the right track.

“It’s important to have an active social media presence, because it’s something that can be very efficient in getting PR results,” said Jon Gunnells, social and digital media manager at Airfoil Group.

He notes there are opportunities for organic and free reach and impressions, and it’s important to have a consistent brand and brand message.

“Make sure your creating the right content catered to your audience. Additionally, there are ways to put paid support behind it as well to reach a wider audience,” Gunnells said. “Social media is also a way to amplify content to reach people who may not be following the news.”

Another positive of social is you are privy to real-time and exact reporting. There are no estimates.

“You can know within five minutes after you run [a social] ad how your post will have performed and get any number of metrics,” he said.

Megan Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners, notes to not go it alone. A consultant or PR firm can help you navigate around potential issues that they know exist because of their own experience and expertise.

“PR is more art than science,” Carpenter said. “Find a PR partner that you trust and that believes in you and your business. A great partner will help your voice be heard and then use the right PR tools to help you communicate with your audience.”

What Small Businesses Should Expect as Monetary Policy Changes

To find out more about what the Federal Reserve’s impending changes mean for the economy at large, and for your business and investment portfolio, Business News Daily spoke with economists who are keeping an eye on the U.S. central bank.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve dramatically lowered the interest rates at which banks borrow money. Low interest rates incentivize borrowing and spending, and debt is far cheaper to acquire.

The low rates are intended to kick-start a sluggish economy by encouraging consumers and businesses to continue buying and investing, rather than clutching their pearls during a crisis. The Fed achieves this boost by increasing the size of its balance sheet by buying securities from banks, such as U.S. treasury bonds, thus injecting more cash into the economy. The interest rate was held down near zero for years until Dec. 2016, when the central bank began to gradually raise rates. According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Economic Data, the Fed Funds Rate stood at 0.66 percent in February.

In addition to holding down the interest rate, the Fed also engaged in several rounds of what is known as “quantitative easing” (QE) following the onset of the financial crisis. Like lowering interest rates, QE essentially expands the money supply and aims to incentivize more lending by banks, in turn encouraging more spending by consumers and businesses.

Ultimately, the Fed issued three rounds of QE (known as QE1 through QE3) before it began the tapering process, which ultimately wound down the QE process to avoid excessive inflation without shocking the larger economy and slowing down growth yet again.

“The Fed policy in response to [the 2008 recession] was right on point – lower the interest rate to ultra-low levels, expand the balance sheet and have an accommodating policy to help the economy through this,” Anthony Curcio, a principal at consulting firm Summit and former credit policy analyst at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), told Business News Daily. “Now the entire economy is preparing for the prospect of stronger growth, and the Federal Reserve’s policies are falling in line with that perspective.”

While it’s unclear whether the FOMC will announce any interest rate increases this week, it’s generally expected that increased rates are indeed inevitable in the short term; so much so, that many economists expect multiple rate hikes this year.

“The whole Western world appears on the same page; [European Central Bank President] Mario Draghi said they won’t be entertaining any further stimulus measures, and the Federal Reserve has been on that page for a while now,” said Bob DeYoung, capitol federal distinguished professor in financial markets and institutions at the KU School of Business and former Fed economist. “One sector in the economy that’s convinced the Fed to move is the fact that real wages have begun to increase. We finally have some signs of tightness in the labor market.”

As the Fed pivots back to fighting inflation rather than ameliorating unemployment, DeYoung said, he expects two rate hikes within the year.

Curcio concurred, but noted that even with multiple increases before the end of 2017, the fed funds rate will remain historically low.

“I think maybe there will be two or three [rate] increases in 2017. That would put the fed funds rate at about 1.5 percent, which is still low; we’re still coming out of that ultra-low policy we’ve been at for years,” he said.

How might any of these changes impact day-to-day operations for small businesses? First and foremost, the cost of capital will increase. That also means if your consumers are dependent on credit, they might think twice before buying when interest rates rise. DeYoung suggested locking in low rates you might have now, if you have the flexibility to do so.

“If [business owners] haven’t already locked in fixed-rate contracts, they need to do that, because interest rates are low now, and going forward, they’re not going to be lower,” he said.

The good news? Demand is expected to hold steady, and there are no signs of recession on the horizon, DeYoung said.

For Curcio, so long as businesses maintain healthy reserves and keep an eye on their debt service, the increases shouldn’t prove too much to handle for most entrepreneurs. While it’s important to be aware, he said, don’t expect any drastic increases – the Fed will move gradually.

“When rates rise, entrepreneurs relying on credit or relying on customers [who rely] on credit may face additional headwinds,” he said. “That being said, one or two rate increases will not be a high rate. We’ve had healthy growth periods in the ’90s where rates were much higher.”

“As the economy starts to improve, entrepreneurs need to keep an eye on their interest costs and to make sure they’re ready to either lock in those rates or use growth to pay down some debt to make sure [they’re] not too exposed,” he added.

Because the Fed largely reacts to the state of the economy, it’s difficult to speculate about the future. However, some indicators can help you infer what might happen down the line in terms of your own industry. According to DeYoung, a key indicator is in the stock market.

“The stock market is trading above lagging earnings, which is a signal that the market expects earnings to stay steady or to go up,” DeYoung said. “That’s one way to think about the rising stock market – it’s predicting that future earnings will be higher than they are today. That’s a strong signal today … and I don’t believe the current strength of market is based on borrowed money or that it’s an asset bubble of any kind.”

Curcio said it’s important to remember that a lot of what the Fed does is based on external economic conditions. Two major indicators of what the Fed might do down the line are policies set by the federal government, and the ups and downs of major economies throughout the world.

“What [the government] is able to accomplish over the next year is going to tell us a lot about where we’re headed,” he said. “The other thing is global growth. When growth in China and Europe and other important economies is weak, that’s not good for [the U.S.] either. So, if their growth were to falter, then the prospects are not as strong.”

The central bank, said Curcio, is not so much working to create economic conditions as it is trying to maintain balance as these scenarios unfold in the real world.