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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tips to Maintained Company Culture

The core principles and business practices of a company are an essential part of its DNA. The work a company’s founder or founders do to develop and instill these values are a critical component of what makes a business successful. When a founder passes away, it can be a pivotal juncture for the company, and how leaders react to this loss can have a profound impact on the businesses success moving forward.

Capriotti’s faced this very situation early this year when our founder, Lois Margolet, passed away. The day of her passing was a sad day for me personally and for everyone in the company, but it was also an occasion to reflect on the amazing foundation she laid for us to build on.

We’ve grown considerably from the original Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop Lois opened with her brother in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1976. Even as we expand beyond 100 franchised locations, however, the values she established with the first location — preparing our food fresh daily and using quality, all-natural ingredients — are still at the heart of what we do.

The first step to making sure your company’s culture endures through difficult changes is to make sure it’s well defined. Take time to think about what practices made the company a success in the first place and what separates your business from its competitors. Most companies will already have answers to these critical questions, but it’s important to define and codify these ideals and practices. Make sure every employee, from senior leadership on down, understands your culture and core values.

Make corporate culture a prominent piece of your hiring process. Ensure new members of your team understand the culture and share in the company’s values. For a franchised business, this is also a crucial part of the selection process when bringing new partners into the business.

As a business expands, it’s important that certain processes change and adapt to suit the needs of a growing company. Over time it’s also important for a business to remain nimble and adjusts other practices to keep up with the times and take advantage of opportunities and technologies. If you’ve taken the time to properly define your culture and its core values, however, you’ll know which parts of the business are important to maintain even as other aspects evolve.

Take advantage of opportunities to celebrate your core values when they present themselves. A crucial part of maintaining strong company culture is demonstrating why it’s important on a regular basis. Reinforce your commitment to these values with regular communication to both your leadership team and the company as a whole. Make it a cornerstone of major company meetings and communicate the ways the business is living up to its core values and the impact that commitment has on the business’s success when there’s an opportunity to share.

Changes, even ones as solemn as the passing of a company’s founder, are inevitable for a business that grows and remains successful over time. Core values and company culture are a key aspect of maintaining success throughout these changes, and ones who take the time to understand, communicate and celebrate their culture are the ones that thrive under difficult circumstances.

7 Challenges for Entrepreneurs Woman

Entrepreneurship was once considered a man’s domain, but the tide has shifted: More than 9 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 8 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales, according to 2015 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

“While the numbers are growing, there are still too few female investors and startup entrepreneurs, which can make it more challenging to raise capital and find mentors,” said Megan Smyth, CEO and co-founder ofFitReserve. “Network and you will discover that there are plenty of women and men who are eager to advocate for and mentor female entrepreneurs.”

Although more women are embracing entrepreneurship, they often face challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts. To shed light on some of these disparities, female CEOs spoke with Business News Daily about the key challenges women entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them.

Most female business owners who have attended networking events can relate to this scenario: You walk into a crowded seminar and can count the number of women there on one hand. When women entrepreneurs talk business with primarily male executives, it can be unnerving.

 In this sort of situation, women may feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.

“Be yourself, and have confidence in who you are,” said Hilary Genga, founder and CEO of women’s swimwear company Trunkettes. “You made it to where you are through hard work and perseverance, but most importantly, you’re there. Don’t conform yourself to a man’s idea of what a leader should look like.”

Not all startup founders look for investors to help get their businesses off the ground, but those who do know how difficult the pitching process can be. Raising capital is even more difficult for women-owned firms: A 2014 Babson College report found that less than 3 percent of venture-capital-funded companies had female CEOs.

Bonnie Crater, president and CEO of sales and marketing analytics company Full Circle Insights, said venture capitalists tend to invest in startups run by people of their own “tribe” — for instance, a Stanford-educated investor will want to back a Stanford alum’s business. This means that VC firms with female partners are more likely to invest in women-run startups. But according to the Babson report, that accounts for only 6 percent of U.S. firms. Women looking for business investors should build confidence through a great team and business plan, Crater advised.

Investors typically look for businesses that can grow their valuation to over $1 billion, Crater said. “Think about how to do that,” she advised. “If you have experts on your founding team that can execute the business [operations] well, investors will have confidence in those people. [You also] need a good product market fit.”

Most would consider any given field to be male-dominated. It’s even more of a challenge when you’re coming in as a female having to give direction to males that may not want any direction. Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar learned just that early in her career.

“As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, earning respect has been a struggle,” she said. Early in her career at Jelmar, she was managing men in their 40s when she was only 25. “They were more experienced than I and often dismissed my new ideas about marketing and sales, and some assumed I didn’t have the drive to put in the long hours and hard work they did.”

She notes she’s heard it all: from being dismissed as just the boss’ daughter to presumptions that she was living off her father’s and grandfather’s reputation, as they were the previous owners.

“I was more than willing to put in the work to create my own reputation for being a hardworking, honorable businessperson in my own right,” Gutterman said.  “To overcome this, I have had to learn to build my confidence and overcome my negative self-talk, or as I like to call it, ‘head trash.’”

The communal, consensus-building qualities encouraged in young girls can leave women unintentionally downplaying their own worth. Molly MacDonald, founder and CEO of The Mobile Locker Co., a startup that provides personal storage for events, said she has always found it difficult to convey her own worth as a leader.

“When I talk about the company … I always find myself saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I,'” MacDonald said. “I know I have fallen into this pattern for two reasons: Using the first person to discuss successes feels to me as if I’m bragging, and I cannot shake the idea that if someone knows it’s just me in control, the value of what we do will go down. As I grow the business, I am making an effort to own what I’ve accomplished.”

Sharon Rowlands, CEO of digital marketing firm ReachLocal, agreed that confidence is the key to success, even when you’re up against a boardroom full of men. Rowlands noted that when she was a newly appointed CEO, she often felt her ideas received more scrutiny than those from her male colleagues. However, she didn’t let that discourage her from being a great business leader.

Forty-eight percent of female founders report that a lack of available advisers and mentors limits their professional growth, according to Inc.

“With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard to blaze your own path and facilitate the introductions and connections into some of the more elite business networks,” said Hanson, who established the Hera Hub co-working space to foster support and collaboration among female entrepreneurs. “As most of business today still rings true with the philosophy that ‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,’ this can be a huge factor in your ultimate success.”

Knowing where to find the right support network isn’t always easy. A few good places to start include women-focused networking events — such asWomancon, Women in Technology Summit and WIN Conferences— as well as online forums and groups created specifically for women in business, such asEllevate Network.

Work-life balance is a goal of many entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, but mothers who start businesses have to simultaneously run their families and their companies. And in this area, traditional gender expectations often still prevail.

“Being a mother while running a business is very challenging,” Genga said. “There are ways to balance your time, but the perception is that you could be more effective running your business if you didn’t have to deal with kids.”

Genga said she has learned not to take shortcomings on either front too seriously, and to not beat herself up over the little things, such as missing a class trip with her children.

According to Babson College’s 2012 Global Entrepreneur Monitor, the fear of failure is the top concern of women who launch startups. Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture, but Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified and founder of the Women’s Choice Award, said it shouldn’t be viewed as a negative.

“You need to have massive failure to have massive success,” Passi said. “You may need 100 ‘noes’ to get one ‘yes,’ but that one ‘yes’ will make you more successful tomorrow than you were today.”

Pierson offered similar advice for female entrepreneurs, encouraging them to work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces.

You Need to Know About Job Searching

Searching and applying for jobs is nothing like it used to be. Gone are the days of physically handing or mailing in your resume and waiting for a call about the position. Now, nearly all job search communications happens electronically. Since the employer isn’t likely to see your face and interact with you until you’re invited in for an interview, the paperwork, and the way you follow up, must be on point.

From applying to jobs to following up after an interview, here’s everything you need to know about successfully landing a job in the digital age.

In this article …

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) sift through resumes to determine whether a hiring manager sees your application or not. There is a way to craft your resume for submission for an online application to ensure it will make it past any ATS.

According to Michael Krikheli, co-founder of ZipJob, the use of ATS software has risen dramatically over the last few years. Krikheli suggests crafting your resume to be adjusted not just for the company, but also for the applicant tracking systems. Here are a few tips for the best chances for a follow-up:

  • Ensure you have the correct keywords related to the position or industry
  • Make sure that there are no grammatical or spelling errors. Microsoft Word is not enough to correct all your mistakes; send it to a friend or a professional to review.
  • Send your resume in a .doc or .docx file.

“Your resume should be optimized for the ATS, but keep in mind that someone will read the resume once it gets through,” Krikheli said. “Ensure your resume is optimized for the ATS and is also easy to read and effective when a recruiter looks at it.”

The average recruiter spends six seconds scanning for six pieces of information in the following order: name, current title and company, previous title and company, start and end date of previous position, start date of current position, and education, according to Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for resume writing service, TopResume.

There are seemingly endless options for searching for a job online. Websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Mediabistro, etc. is a good place to find a job listing, but candidates should first go directly to the companies they’re interested in to search for open positions.

It’s difficult to determine if one job board or ATS is better than another. Candidates may have better luck finding more positions that suit their needs and qualifications when they turn to niche job boards that specialize in their industry or field.

“If the company does not use ATS software to manage its recruitment process, you may have the luxury of forgoing the robotic application pre-screen when you apply directly to their listings,” Augustine said. “Since these systems often eliminate great candidates whose resumes aren’t formatted or written with this technological gatekeeper in mind, your candidacy may be more likely to be considered for the position.”

Augustine suggested that if you know someone who works at the company, look for the application option that allows you to include an employee referral. Once you’ve applied online to the job, ask your connection at the company to pass a copy of your resume along to the hiring manager or internal recruiter in charge of filling the position.

“Studies show you’re 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by a referral,” she said.

Organization is key. Augustine advised setting up a folder on your computer, or in the cloud so you have access while on the go, where you can save a copy of the resumes and cover letters you create and tailor for a particular job opportunity. Since job postings often get removed before the interviews take place, it’s important to copy the job description and paste it into a file so you can reference it later.

“Set up an Excel or Google Sheet to track the jobs to which you apply — the [listing] links, the dates you applied, and any other important information or notes, such as the name and contact information of a networking connection you have at the company, the recruiter, or the hiring manager,” Augustine told Business News Daily. “Then, you can set reminders on your calendar to follow up on each application appropriately.”

Some employers make it difficult to follow up on applications. Augustine suggested following up roughly one week after the job application deadline, if this information is listed, so the employer has enough time to review your application. If the job posting didn’t list an application deadline, follow up one week after your initial application.

“[Like] your cover letter, if you can figure out who is the hiring manager or the recruiter handling the job opportunity, then use their contact information to tailor your follow-up and send it directly to the person who matters,” Augustine said.

If the position is listed for an anonymous employer, you may not have the ability to follow up. Plus, if they intentionally posted the job without employer details, chances are they won’t be thrilled if you figure out who they are and reach out directly.

Mistakes in the job search, even minor ones, could cost you the opportunity. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when searching and applying for jobs:

Using one standard resume without customization. Since you’re likely going up against an ATS, in your best interest to tailor your resume and cover letter for the specific position, said Augustine.

When it comes to tailoring your resume, the first step is to thoroughly understand the job description, said Leah Paul, director of marketing at Mediabistro.

“Figure out what the most important skills are for the job and reorganize your resume to highlight those accomplishments in your experience first,” Paul said. “You want to use the keywords used in the job description, but not verbatim.”

Mass-emailing recruiters or employers without a specific role in mind.Augustine noted that one of her biggest pet peeves is when candidates email their resume to the company’s recruiting email, asking to be considered “for any role where they might be a good fit.”

“If you can’t take the time to look at the list of job openings and apply for a specific role, why should the hiring manger bother taking the time to review your application?” said Augustine. “Often, these applicants are not qualified for any open positions, and they’re merely wasting the employer’s time — as well as their own.


5 Key Customer Service Mistakes

Given that customer service is so important, it is valuable to know some of the most common customer service mistakes. Customer service experts lent their expertise to Business News Daily and shared how to avoid them.

Just because it can be automated does not meant it should be, and it also does not mean the automation will automatically translate into cost savings.

Don’t automate just because you can. Avoid erasing all personalization and direct contact with the customer. When possible, provide a variety of different communication modes, as some customers prefer online chat while others want to talk to a person over the phone.

“Give them that option. Don’t force customers to use frustrating phone trees,” said Dana Brownlee, founder of consulting firm Professionalism Matters.

Assuming you know what the customer wants, instead of listening to the customer, is a big mistake.

“Teach listening skills throughout the organization, especially to (customer service representatives),” said Brownlee. “Develop processes that ‘force’ CSRs to really listen to customers – get rid of CSR scripts.”

Instead of thinking about how to delight customers on the front end and avoid getting the calls, many companies fall into the reactive approach of being satisfied with somewhat mediocre products or service and thinking of customer service as something that happens on the back end when there are complaints or problems. Take time to conduct process analysis, continuous process improvement and root cause analysis to truly improve your product service.

“Require every employee to take (five) customer service calls a month to maintain connection to the customer. Incorporate customer service goals into every employee’s compensation/bonus structure,” Brownlee said.

It’s a shame that very often the staff members who interact with customers the most are paid and valued the least. To avoid this mistake, Brownlee said, “Hire better staff, pay them more, and reward them for providing great service.”

According to Robert C. Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, customers want accurate answers or quick, efficient and respectful solutions, and getting that to the customer is the most important thing, even if the answer or solution is not ideal.

“Make sure the employees (who interact) with customers have access to the right information and are listening to their concerns,” Johnson said. “Ensure communication is realistic – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver on that promise than the other way around.”

Customer service is proving to be a vital part of a successful business. But where does it start? Employees may not know where to turn for advice on customer service, or how to get the right information.

“A culture of exceptional customer service must start at the top. It can’t be just a slide in a presentation or a cliche saying that employees are expected to follow,” Johnson said. The CEO needs to set the tone, invest in the right team members and technology, and lead by actions as well as words.

No one is perfect. Whether due to a lack of focus, understanding, guidance or diligence, mistakes will happen.

“Sometimes we move too fast, and sometimes things just happen. At the end of the day, it’s how you recover from these mistakes that’s important,” Johnson said. “Good companies own both the good and the bad things that happen.”

The key is knowing how to rectify the situation once it has happened and making sure that the customer still receives the best customer service, despite some bumps along the way to a resolution.