3 Things You Can Do to Make Your Small Business Stand Out

In such a competitive landscape, it is hard to see how any small business survives. Even if you come up with a totally new and innovative widget that takes the world by storm, there is nothing stopping some Chinese knockoff company from building a cheaper version of the same thing, putting you and your company out of business.

What you need is something that will help your business stand out from the crowd. Being first is not the competitive advantage it used to be. Nor is being the best. Every industry is full of stories illustrating the fact that the best technology doesn’t always win. It may not seem fair, but the winner is often the one who does the bast marketing and brand service.

Make Your Small Business Stand Out

This is not to say that the one with the most money wins. When all else is equal, money can be the deciding factor. But clever marketing is about making sure that things are unequal in your favor. You can do that even on a shoestring marketing budget. Here are 3 tips to help you stand out of the crowd of your competitors:

Brand Your Delivery Boxes

One of Amazon’s most brilliant moves is branding every shipping box with that famous smile. It’s like a little present. No matter what’s in the package, it’s something from Amazon. Whether those boxes are atop the front desk, in the break room, or at the recycling station, they are powerful marketing tools for one of the most successful companies in the world.

But such an advantage is not reserved only for big companies. By utilizing such services as Custom Boxes Now, you, too, can have packaging and shipping boxes customized inside and out. Besides offering a great branding opportunity, these boxes also offer free credibility. Even if you are new to business and have shipped only one branded package, that package tells everyone who sees it that you are the real deal. Stop thinking of packaging as merely a means of holding content. Think of it as a way to get a leg up on the competition.

Go Mobile with Your Branding

The major US tech companies have made mobile branding a big part of their success story. Even if you don’t have a Windows Phone or PC, there is a good chance you have some software from Microsoft that you use on the go. That is because the new Microsoft is working hard to do its best work on whatever platform is popular.

Microsoft apps have quickly earned the reputation, in some quarters, of being the best iOS apps for the iPhone. Google services have a similar reputation on iOS. Going big on a popular mobile platform has paid dividends for these companies. It has worked equally well for smaller companies, too.

According to AdAge, two-thirds of Facebook’s revenues come from mobile. Facebook knows that people spend their time on mobile devices: a place where they had to be if they were going to achieve long-term success. If people do not have the option of having your logo on their smartphone’s home screen, you are missing out on a powerful branding opportunity.

Don’t Forget Your Business Card

In these days of digitizing everything, it is easy to forget about the humble and much maligned business card. At CES 2016, Kodak landed a blog post on The Verge, not for its tech, but for its snazzy business card made from a slice of film. It just stands as a reminder that the little things still matter.

Business cards aren’t just informational. They are also excellent branding opportunities. Sure, you can beam your information from one smartphone to another. But that is pretty awkward and unreliable. Even if you get it to work, there is no guarantee that the person will look up or use the information. It is out of sight and quickly out of mind.

A business card, on the other hand, has to be handled. The person you give it to has to interact with it at least twice. If he drops it and loses it, the person who picks it up will be interacting with your brand. Business cards, mobile apps, and shipping boxes are 3 excellent ways to keep you one step ahead of the competition.

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4 Smart Tips To Get Started in Investing

Learning the basics of investing isn’t all that difficult. You’re determined be smart about your investing decisions, you’ve done the research, you’ve learned about the different types of investments you can make, and you’re ready to stop learning and start acting. What do you do first? How do you protect yourself and safeguard your investing success?

Step One: Accept that There is No Net

Here is the hard truth: there is nothing that you can do to absolutely guarantee that every single investment you make is going to perform well and earn you lots of money. Investments often depend on how the market does and, as the market is comprised of millions of people making decisions all at the same time, the market is volatile and hard to predict. Some of the investments you make won’t go well. Some will go very well. Accepting this truth now will save you hours of stress and frustration (and, likely, money) later on.

Step Two: Find Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing

Some people choose to hire one financial advisor and allow that professional to manage their entire portfolio. Others choose to work with several different brokers based on the individual investments they want to make. The direction you choose here is up to you, but whichever road you take, make sure you hire someone who knows what they are doing. According to 24option, “Creating a safe and secure trading environment is in the best interest of all involved and stringent financial protocols ensure that you receive the security you need to invest with confidence” This means that if you want to try your hand at binary options, work with a company that specializes in binary options or choose a financial advisor whose experience extends to this area.

Step Three: Accept that the Research is Never Truly Over

Yes, it’s important to do your research before you make that first investment. It’s good to understand how stocks and bonds work and learn the vocabulary of investing. It is also important to know that your research is never going to be done. Yes, you can hire someone to manage your portfolio, but you need to check out that person’s background and make sure that they are qualified to manage your money before you hire them. Even after you verify this information, you will want to do your own research on each of the investment suggestions your portfolio manager suggests so that you can make an informed decision on how to approve (or not) those suggestions and requests.

Step Four: No Investment is Forever

Investing isn’t like a direct deposit savings account. You don’t just “set it and forget it,” trusting that your portfolio will grow of its own accord. It’s important to know when to buy and sell, and how to predict when one of your investments is due to go south so that you can get out of it before you become part of its failure’s collateral damage. It’s also good to know when something has the potential for huge profits. For example, don’t you wish you had bought into Twitter in the beginning? Sure, you might have had to sell off another investment to buy in, but it would have been worth it, right? Knowing how and when to do these things requires practice and constant attention. Get used to tracking your portfolio. Don’t wait for an emergency.

Step Five: Gamble Responsibly

Investing is a gamble. Make no mistake about it. And, like traditional gambling, playing the market can become addictive. Go slowly. Be careful. Never invest more than you can afford to lose. This is where hiring a great portfolio manager becomes imperative: you need someone who can tell you no and–this is important—whom you will listen to when they do.

Investing can be a great way to solidify your financial future and, if you are smart and practical about it, you should be very successful!

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Telltale Signs When To Hire Or Fire Employees

When you signed on as a manager, you knew it might get tough. If you’ve been a manager for a while, you know how tough it can be. While a manager has many challenges each day, the toughest might be deciding when to hire and when to fire employees.

If you hire the wrong person, your company will lose money until you fire them. If you fire for the wrong reason, you’ve ruined someone’s career and now have to go through the hassle of finding a replacement.

Noticing When It’s Time for a Change

When doctor’s make a diagnosis, they usually have to identify what symptoms the patient has. The same approach can be used when deciding when to hire and when to fire.

What signs should you look for when hiring or firing?

Let’s go over 10 signs for each side of the coin:

10 Signs it’s Time to Hire

As a business grows, it becomes harder to keep up with the work. Still, despite this rather obvious sign, a manager may need a few more signs to admit that it’s necessary to divide revenue and responsibilities with a few more people.

Here are 10 signs you need to hire someone:

  1. When people are staying longer at work to finish up their jobs because if they don’t clear their projects today, they will start falling behind tomorrow.
  2. When the rate of business growth slows down because overall productivity has dropped and almost everything appears to be increasingly inefficient.
  3. When new opportunities show up but everyone is reluctant to assume responsibility for seizing it.
  4. When fatigue and overwhelm become the rule rather than the exception.
  5. When the company starts losing money because of an increasing number of unnecessary workplace mistakes that are beginning to undermine the corporate culture. These are often symptoms of stress and overwhelm.
  6. When the emphasis has switched from innovation to maintenance.
  7. When people are taking on work they have no idea how to do. Since they don’t know what to do, they turn in poor quality work.
  8. When the top people in an organization are doing grunt work because there is no one else to do it. Meanwhile, their high-value, profit-producing work does not get done at all.
  9. When the boss is trying to do everything himself. As a result, the ship has no captain, just another deck hand.
  10. When it has become difficult to evaluate employee progress because there is not enough time to pay attention to the big picture.

If more than half of these 10 signs can be seen, it shows an urgent need to hire more people. Unfortunately, in a technology-based company, the traditional hiring process may take too long to save the business. When things get too critical, it’s important to fix the problem quickly. One solution is to use a staffing solutions company who has already vetted the right candidates. Companies like Extreme Technologies Inc can tap into a database of hundreds of subject matter experts (SMEs) to quickly provide a workplace with seasoned professionals.

10 Signs Its Time to Fire

Firing employees is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary to restore the corporate culture or save the company from hemorrhaging money.

Here are 10 signs when it’s time to let someone go.

  1. The employee shows obvious signs of workplace dissatisfaction. He or she, for example, remains persistently negative and apathetic. He or she doesn’t do much work and appears to discourage others without even saying a word. Just their attitude is contagious.
  2. The employee often disappears from their desks. They might show up late to take on assignments, take longer breaks, drag out field assignments, or leave work early.
  3. The employee likes to argue and become disagreeable for reasons that don’t make much sense. It’s possible that someone argues because they envision a better way a task can be done, but arguing for no clear reason indicates a lot of suppressed agitation and aggression.
  4. The employee’s productivity is at an all-time low. They appear to be much slower at doing tasks that they previously performed quickly and well. They only pretend to be busy when a supervisor is in sight.
  5. The employee has begun to gossip about colleagues and complain about management policies.
  6. The employee appears to be working on getting another job. They are gradually moving their personal effects out of their cubicle and spend a lot of time on non-work related phone calls. They also call in sick more frequently than usual.
  7. The employee has been overheard mocking the way the company runs its business.
  8. The employee appears to be baiting management to fire him or her by making unreasonable demands.
  9. The employee has not been able to keep pace with the knowledge and skills required to do his or her job properly. He or she is rapidly becoming redundant.
  10. The employee does not do the work asked, but has numerous excuses why it was not done.

Tough Decisions to Make

It’s never easy to figure out when to hire or fire because both ends of the spectrum have manifold consequences. However, it’s difficult to create a positive work culture when people are either overwhelmed or dissatisfied and it’s important to figure out the underlying reason for their behavior before taking action. Going through this brief list of signs will help identify what to look for when either hiring or firing.

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