How to Know When a Business is Facing Financial Problems

Almost every business faces bumps in the road or periods of real operational difficulty but how do you know when challenging headwinds have become serious financial problems?

1 – Financial Problems and an Unsteady balance sheets

When sales momentum is heading in the wrong direction it is always likely to seem as if a company is struggling to compete. However, there are certain key factors that determine whether a business is in good enough financial shape to come out on the other side of a testing period.

Key to the whole equation is a company’s balance sheet. Cash can disappear quickly in times of trouble but if cash holdings remain largely intact then a business always has a fighting chance of turning its fortunes around.

2 – Interest payments are proving a heavy burden

Having debts to pay is not necessarily a bad thing and borrowing money to help prepare a business for a brighter future is very often essential for success. However, when interest payments on debts amount to a very significant portion of a company’s outgoings, it can be a sign of a business entering dangerous financial territory.

3 – Dividends being reigned in

A simple but often effective measure of how a company considers its prospects is the rate of dividend paid out to shareholders. When dividends are being consistently reigned in, it can be a sign of underlying financial troubles and concerns about the shape a business is in.

However, reducing or cutting a dividend is not always a sure sign that a company is struggling because there can be other reasons for reigning in the amounts of money paid out to shareholders or relevant parties.

4 – Assets going on sale

It doesn’t take too much of a leap of the imagination to guess that when a business is beginning to sell off some of its most valuable assets that the underlying financial picture might not be great.

Raising funds via any means necessary might be a prudent course of action for a business struggling to stay afloat but there is always likely to be a limit to what can be sold without a company damaging its own long-term prospects.

The key point here is to look out for really unusual behaviour and for sales that either don’t make much long-term sense or which undermine a company’s ability to operate.

5 – Directors jumping ship

When a company’s top managers start setting off for pastures new, it can be a clear sign that all is not as it should be as far as an organisation’s financial health is concerned. So if you see directors taking up new posts with rival companies and less senior employees being promoted with unusual haste then it might be worth looking deeper into what’s really going on.

6 – Perks becoming less perky

Most companies will want to keep their employees happy and offering perks can be an important means of attracting and retaining talented staff. But genuine financial problems and difficulties can only be ignored or brushed aside for so long. Eventually, struggling businesses are often obliged by financial necessity to cut back on the perks they offer their workforce.

7 – Accounting issues

When a company decides that it wants to change its auditor on short notice or based upon some sort of disagreement then it might be red flag and a sign of problems. Businesses do change who handles their books in the normal run of things but not often when their finances are ticking along quite nicely and the future is set fair.

Mark Halstead has worked at companies across the financial services industry and is a fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing. He is a key figure at Red Flag Alert, part of the Begbies Traynor Group, and is now in his 10th year with the business.

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Creating a Successful Employee Reward Program: 6 Key Strategies to Consider

Today’s workforce is more diversified than ever. And companies looking to leverage this rich and vast resource of multi-generational, multi-cultural and multi-lingual employees for competitive edge are finding employee reward programs very effective for upping employee satisfaction, spurring motivation and increasing productivity. Small businesses have the advantage of creating the employee rewards program they’d like to see implemented throughout the growth of the company.

The main challenge for companies in implementing a successful employee reward program is making sure the program is aligned with key business goals and objectives. To that end, here are six key strategies to consider for creating an employee reward program that works.

Begin with the end in mind: Corporate success comes from meeting specific goals, and those goals need to be made clear before implementing an employee reward program. After all, the achievement of corporate goals is dependent upon employee performance. And since employee performance is the product of actions and behaviors, both good and bad, it’s critical to reward employees in ways that reinforce only those actions and behaviors that align with corporate objectives and increase performance.

  • Make all employees eligible: In order to be successful, an employee rewards program must make all employees eligible for recognition. And that must be made abundantly clear to the entire workforce at the outset. Otherwise, at the first sign of favoritism, real or imagined, the program and those who implement it will suffer a damaging loss of credibility as employee morale takes a nose-dive. Without establishing and maintaining a level playing field for all employees even the best reward program will fail.
  • Make the program multigenerational and multicultural: No employee recognition program can be successful unless the rewards being offered are relevant and meaningful for all employees, regardless of age or culture. While taking generational and cultural differences among the workforce into account is no small feat for HR, the benefits are well worth the effort. A simple and direct way to gain a better understanding of what types of rewards might be preferred by employees of different generations and cultures is to ask them in an anonymous survey what culture they most closely relate to and what types of rewards motivate them most.
  • Give personalized rewards: While giving a reward that best matches the employee’s age and cultural background is critical, making that reward personal to them by including a note of thanks from upper management will go a long way in making the employee feel truly valued and appreciated. Long after the money is spent or the luster of the gift is gone, the power of a personal note or letter of recognition will continue to reinforce and reproduce positive employee behaviors.
  • Leverage technology: In order to be successful, employee reward programs must be effectively and efficiently communicated and promoted in order to maximize employee participation. In today’s tech connected world there are all kinds of ways to promote programs and educate employees using the communications platforms that they are most familiar with. Web based platforms, email, and social media are just a few tools that can be used to give extra depth and relevance to reward programs. And many companies are discovering the power of recognizing employees through social media platforms and delivering their rewards digitally.
  • Monitor effectiveness: Employee reward programs can go a long way in creating a positive corporate culture. That being said, it is still incumbent upon HR to show that the program is achieving the strategic objectives of the company, such as increased performance, productivity and ROI. Today’s sophisticated HR platforms allow businesses to accurately monitor and measure ROI as well as other key indicators of employee performance. Armed with this information, management has a better picture of how well the reward program is working as well as areas that can be improved upon to increase employee motivation and performance.

 The above six strategies will go far in helping an organization implement a successful employee reward program. To make any program more effective, it’s critical that employees understand that the reward is performance-based. It’s also important for management to present the reward sooner than later, as delaying a reward can dramatically reduce its effectiveness.

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UK Budget 2015 – Election Acts as a Speed Camera on the Pace of Austerity

This Budget more than any of the Osborne Budgets that went before it had one eye on the election. Previous Budgets focused on protecting the older generation, and again we saw this today with the confirmation of more pension flexibility for those people with annuities. However the younger so-called ‘jilted generation’ also featured on two key fronts – first of all, with employers national insurance contributions waived for under 21s and an additional waiver for employers hiring young apprentices next year; and secondly with the Help to Buy ISA, through which first time buyers will receive a bonus of up to £3,000 for saving for a deposit.

While this is welcome and will undoubtedly be attractive to many first time buyers, in Northern Ireland it is perhaps less economically significant than in the South East of England, as the issue with the local housing market is that there are too many potential home movers in negative equity or with not enough equity to move.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

Raising Personal Allowance

As in previous Budgets, the Chancellor has continued his theme of raising the personal allowance. Given that Northern Ireland has lower average incomes than the rest of the UK, an increasing number of individuals locally will be taken out of income tax altogether.

Over the next 24 hours, the media headlines around the Budget are likely to focus on populist measures like the beer duty reduction and the Help to Buy ISA. However, attention will quickly return to the public finances. While these are improving, as the Chancellor highlighted today, the challenges of reducing our debt burden and cutting public expenditure remain.

Indeed, there are an additional £12 billion in welfare spending cuts included in the Budget, which will bring further financial and political challenges for Northern Ireland in particular.

While the pace of austerity appears to have eased relative to the Autumn Statement back in December, people should be under no illusion – the UK faces a second Parliament of fiscal pain. Such a scenario was flagged five years ago by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Day-to-day public spending is facing cuts in 2016/17 and 2017/18 that are more than twice what has been experienced on average over the last 5-years.

Effectively, the 2015 General Election has acted as a speed camera for the pace of austerity, and after May the austerity accelerator will have a heavy right foot on it again. It is likely that the most unpalatable medicine will be delivered at the start of the fixed 5-year Parliament.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

Emergency Budget

Regardless of who wins the next election, a second ‘Emergency Budget’ is expected in June. Public spending growth is not expected to return until 2019-20. We also will face a Spending Review in the autumn. It is noted that in the first so called Parliament of pain, record low interest rates and a weak currency provided much needed tailwinds to the economy. Looking ahead into the second Parliament of pain, the public expenditure cuts for day-to-day spending will be deeper than experienced to date and the sterling / euro exchange rate is now a headwind not a tailwind.

Furthermore, it would be overly optimistic to assume that interest rates will remain on hold for another 5 years as has been the case for the last 6 years. Austerity may be easing and economic growth remains robust. Enjoy that combination while it lasts.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

www.ulstereconomix.com

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Four Effective Ways To Enhance Your Online Advertising Efforts

These days, many business owners have come to realize that online advertising is an incredibly effective way to build their business. Because so many people around the world have now made online shopping an integral aspect of their life, using the internet to connect with one’s prospective clients can really send your conversion rates through the roof. In recognizing this reality, you may be ready to start investing your company’s resources into the design and ongoing development of a strong online advertising platform. If you’re ready to get started, consider implementing the following four strategies:

1. Offer Absolutely Amazing Gifts And Prizes

One of the best ways to attract attention to your brand and subsequently optimize conversion rates is to run a contest with an absolutely amazing prize. While giving away a promotional product such as a t-shirt or coffee mug can yield results, offering a truly exceptional gift will really turn a lot of heads and create buzz about your brand. In recognizing this reality, consider running a contest with a mind-blowing prize like a free vacation. If you’re looking for a company through which to purchase a vacation and have all the details secured, consider Royal Holiday. With over 30 years experience in the dynamic travel industry, this company can put together an absolutely amazing vacation package that will leave your contest winner thoroughly impressed.

2. Focus On Your Call To Action

One great strategy you should consider implementing when attempting to optimize your online advertising campaign is to focus on your call to action. This is an incredibly important part of your marketing efforts because it informs your prospective customer that you want them to do something. A great call to action will make it clear to the target audience that taking a specific course of action will be important and advantageous in a significant way. An example of a strong, effective call to action would be: “Fill out the contact information form below and start receiving our free e-newsletter today. Once you register, you’ll get free coupons and other wonderful discounts that help you save on all of our wonderful products.”

3. Be More Philanthropic

One great marketing strategy that many business owners fail to take into consideration is the power of being more philanthropic. As many marketing experts know, having your company engage in philanthropic endeavors is a great way to draw attention to your brand. Many if not most people like to see organizations making positive contributions to their local community and/or the world. Additionally, these individuals will oftentimes be more interested in doing business with you once they realize that you are generally interested in making the world a better place. If you’re ready to start being more philanthropic, note that there are numerous activities you can engage in to make it happen. One particularly effective strategy would be to offer a scholarship to a student who possesses financial need. Also consider the value of local can drives and efforts to preserve the integrity of the environment. To make the online world aware that you’re engaging in these philanthropic endeavors, be sure that you’re talking about them via your website and blog.

Conclusion

Business owners who are ready for their brands to become eCommerce magnets should know that the cultivation of a strong online advertising platform is a great way to make it happen. By implementing some or all of the marketing optimization techniques discussed in the subsequent paragraphs, you will likely find that your business starts to expand in a great way.

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Emotional Marketing: Focusing on Human2Human

A simple message can be memorable… you just need to strike the right chord. And the chord is deeply associated with different emotions of an individual. Similarly, your brand should speak to the customers at an emotional level. Many leaders discuss about customer-centric services, but I wonder if they actually walk the walk and execute their plans into actions. In this post we discuss emotional marketing or emotion-centric marketing.

It is the time to focus on H2H (Human2Human) besides B2B and B2C

It is that time of the year when you look ahead and make exhaustive plans for your business. Just to remind you that strategising emotion-centric business plans will do wonders. To make your brand more appealing and memorable, start emphasising on creating more perceived value and personalisation. As rightly said by Mother Teresa ‘If I look at the mass, I will never act, but if I look at the one, I will.

Strike the emotional connection with customers

So what does emotional connection mean? It is all about understanding the heart and mind of your customers. It is more psychological than logical, and more of unconscious than conscious. It has been observed that customers become more engaged in a personal way and expects to be more positively and emotionally treated at every level of their pre and post purchases.

This means that today’s service providers should develop and demonstrate higher level of competency to deal with emotions of the customers.

Emotionally engaged customers are:

  • Three times more likely to repurchase
  • Three times more likely to recommend
  • Less price sensitive
  • Less likely to shop around

A comprehensive guide to focus on customer emotion

Ask a few questions to yourself before you get into the action.

Ask yourself:

  • What customers get from you that they cannot get from anyone else?
  • Do you leave each customer with a feeling of strong support?
  • Do you make them feel empowered with your services?
  • Do you deliver all your promise on time?
  • Do you apologise when things go wrong and fix the issue?
  • How well do you handle negative comments?
  • Do they actually laugh because of your company’s fun-loving nature after they get-off the phone with you?
  • Do they recommend your brand to others?

If you’re good at managing these factors, you’re surely to win your customers heart.

Knowing customer as an individual and not someone among the masses

Knowing your customers exact wants and aspirations and most importantly their expectations from your service helps you to create a strong and positive emotional connect with them. Not only it builds loyalty, but also inspires repeat purchases. A repeat customer is five times more valuable than a new customer.

It is not about sharing your stories only, but also listening to your customer’s stories

Besides sharing your stories, ask your customers to share their ‘good and bad’ experiences with the sales team at a quarterly basis. Invite them to speak to your department head and resolve any queries they might have. In fact, customers should be a part of the everyday and the important activities. After all, many small changes can add up to a big result.

Selling a required mobile application to a customer is not the end of your responsibilities. The follow up effort to know whether the application is functioning properly, served the purpose, anyone in the family or friends require the same application or not is important. This gesture makes your customer realises their value in your business.

Personalised communication

Customers prefer products, services, packaging and communication that are visually and audibly appealing. They want to do business and communicate with those brands that recognise their needs, make them feel good and provide them with an identity. For instance, working with variable data printing can be the ultimate solution. They’re used to personalise and customise every communication element including adverts in magazines, brochures, publications, invitations and much more to add. Right from offers, graphics, texts and images can be modified to best meet the customer’s wants and desires.

Engage their senses

Visual communication is an excellent way to engage your audiences’ attention. And the best way to harness their senses is to appeal to your customer’s imagination. Talk to them either with explainer video or hosting a webinar and help them imagine an experience with your company’s products and services. Remember, customers, buy or do business because of what they’re feeling, and not necessarily because of what they’re thinking.

The right emotions to strike:

  • Surprise and laughter that drives emotional satisfaction and sharing
  • Intrigue and mystery that creates curiosity and drives exploration
  • Urgency and fear that incites a feeling of missing out
  • Desire and aspiration that stokes contemplation.

It is the emotional benefits that actually turns product into brands.

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Quick Response Voice Over

The original QR, quick response code, was initially developed by Denso Wave, a Toyota subsidiary, in 1993, as part of car assembly operations. QR codes are Alpha Numeric, high capacity, quick scan, codes.

The QR code received added applications with the advent of the Smart Phone.

In more recent times an Irish company has re-engineered, and greatly enhanced the code with, non industrial, more consumer friendly applications. The QR code now becomes QRVO, Quick Response Voice Over, an information gateway. QRVO now includes, a consumer friendly voice over introduction, and is linked to analytics and social media.

Smart Phone and Mobile Device users simply scan the code, no URLs, no special password, and are directed to a web site, special offer, video, graphics instructions etc.

QRVO

Clients are assigned a dedicated QRVO which can be deployed as standalone signage, overprinted on conventional material, business cards, outgoing emails. The code remains constant and the content can be changed remotely. The client receives regular traffic updates.

The QRVO Partner channel seeks to engage with those in the ticket distribution area with a view to incorporating QRVO onto the ticket/token .The outcome is an opportunity to utilize the arrangement to promote/advertise local enterprise and events. The QRVO code is overprinted on the ticket/tokens and the content can be regularly updated. The value proposition will be determined by the numbers of tickets issued.

The local business gains, insofar as QRVO provides an additional engagement/ information channel. The analytics reports allows for evaluation, response and impact. Linking to Social Media can also be of benefit.

Car Park providers can gain as it provides a business support platform. This programme reduces some of the associated negativity and presents a value to the end user.

Operation

The value proposition is based on the number of tickets/tokens issued in a given timeframe.This then becomes the cost base for week long promotional modules. The actual code remains intact and the content is changed remotley.

The client determines the Terms and Conditions, and . of course, the content. A traffic analysis report is issued to the client after each module to evaluate traffic and impact.

Discussions are currently underway with Public and Private car park operations where Pilot Schemes are being considered.

qrvo_business

Witten by John Moran | QRVO Business Development info@qrvo.ie 087 25 27 407. As part of ‘Use SBC as a channel initiative, QRVO has a special 10% discount on Standard QRVO orders to SBC members and readers.

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Digital Marketing for Small Business – the Basic Practices

Small businesses are faced with more than a few trials, especially in the first couple of years of their inception. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months of their existence. There are numerous reasons why people lose their business investment, and why small businesses crash and burn so fast, but we are not here to discuss that. We are here to discuss how you can actually keep your business alive. In recent years, more and more businesses focus on digital marketing, and the Web itself keeps evolving to meet their requirements. There are numerous benefits to digital marketing that fit the purpose of SMBs like a glove. Still, many resources would have you believe that there is nothing to it and that anyone can do it, which isn’t entirely true.

Digital Marketing and Your Web Presence

It is only proper that we start from the basics. Your website is the digital equivalent of your office or shop, depending on what kind of a business you are running. It needs to serve the purpose and look good. This is something that you need to keep in mind during the creation process. Make sure that you consider the profiles of people that are most commonly going to visit your website, and their IT proficiency as well. Furthermore, you need to identify the right platform to build your website on, and this will depend on the functionalities that you require. WordPress is a universal choice for general use, Magento is a popular choice for eShop purposes. If you are really planning on putting up something big, then a customer solution might be in order. All in all, make sure that you hire some experienced developers to help you out. You also need to make sure that your website works without a hitch. It is supposed to be a valid presentation of your company, and if the users run into a buggy website, they will start doubting your abilities. It is probably better not to have website at all than to have a bad website.

Blogging

It is a standard procedure to include a blog within your website, but a lot of people are not aware of this. The reasons why you need to include a blog are numerous. First of all, it will help you with building a name for yourself as a niche expert and creating a voice for your company. Secondly, this is a great way to create sharable and engaging content in order to pull in new traffic and keep people on your website. There are also numerous SEO benefits that having a blog pulls in.

SEO

If you want people to be interested in what you have to offer, you have to deal with search engine optimization. There is simply no way around that. The amount of new traffic you will receive is directly related to your optimization, and there are a lot of SEO factors you need to satisfy in order to get results. Still, this is a process, and you shouldn’t rush things. Take it one step at the time.

Multimedia Content

We’ve mentioned blogs and textual content, but what about photos and videos? Well, video content is the most commonly shared type of content in the online environment, so it is crucial that you have at least some of it at hand. Your textual content needs to be backed up with videos and photos in order to increase its sharing potential.

Social Networks

The best places to reach new customers and engage with the old ones are social networks. Depending on the purpose for which you intend to use the social networks, you might want to target different ones. Facebook has great targeting ads, and is one of the most generally used networks. Twitter is generally used for business purposes but can be complicated to use, especially if you are new to it. LinkedIn is a must these days for any respectable company, and it is great for hunting new talents, connecting with competitors, keeping up with industry trends and so on.

Tie all of these together, and you are surely to reach a lot of people. Still, each of these things seems rather straightforward, but these are just the basic overviews of important aspects of digital marketing. There are tons of details you need to work on, and you need to put in a great effort to turn them into a perfectly functioning mechanism. Hope this helps!

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Google Warns: FBI Wants to Hack Computers Worldwide

The search engine giant is boldly opposing any move by the US Justice Department for expanding the powers of the FBI of searching and seizing digital data. Google warns that if the changes are implemented, the US government would be able to hack any facility in the world. The company made a strongly worded submission about the proposed changes, which are being considered by a Washington committee. In its submission, Google has said that ‘highly complex and monumental constitutional geopolitical and legal concerns’ would be raised if the powers of the FBI given in search warrants is increased so the Congress should be allowed to make the decision.

Covert Raids

As per the warning given by the search engine giant, the updated proposals would give the FBI agents the authority to conduct covert raids on servers regardless of their location, which would mean that the US government would have clear and global access to huge amounts of private information. Google has sounded the alarm in particular over the desire of the FBI to search those computers ‘remotely’ that have concealed their location by obscuring their IP addresses or via encryption with the aid of anonymity services. Google said that such government searches could be done in any part of the world.

The US technology giant is that this threat is not simply theoretical because under the proposed amendment and due to the nature of today’s technology, the warrants would allow the US government to conduct searches outside of the US as well. The search giant raised its objections in a public consultation that drew to a close on Tuesday. The Advisory Committee on Criminal rules will consider the objections made by Google and 37 other interested parties. This party may be obscure, but it is powerful and comprises mostly of judges that have control over federal rules that also pertain to the FBI’s actions.

Warrants in a Digital World

When wishing to search a property, federal agents are required to apply for a warrant to a judge. Rule 41 is the existing rule, which states the authorizing judge has to be in the same location as the property that’s the target of the search. According to the argument made by the Justice Department, this is no longer suitable in today’s modern computer age. It wants to widen the scope of the warrants so the FBI would have the authority to search the property, including computers, outside the district of the judge.

It has been argued by the FBI this new power is crucial in those investigations where criminals have hidden the location of their computer networks. The Justice Department has attempted to assuage the anxiety over its proposed changes stating that this new type of warrant would only be sought by the FBI agents when they would have probable cause to search and seize the instrumentalities and fruits of crime. Nevertheless, they haven’t managed to convince the legal groups and civil liberties that claim that the vague language used in the amendment would have huge global implications.

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The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round: 3 Universities in One Day

If you want to find out what the best and brightest in Dublin universities have to offer, you now have an opportunity to do so. In one day. Across 3 universities. All you need to do is book a ticket and get on the bus (literally!). Once you book, we will take care of the detail and tailor a tour to your needs and the sectors you are interested in.

Inspiration, information, connections and resources 

You will get opportunities to network over breakfast, lunch and over some drinks when the day is over. But more importantly you will receive the inspiration, information, connections and resources to give your company a boost for the future and an opportunity to
engage and find out what the  universities can do for you.

3 universities in one day

Book now or contact ron@smallbusinesscan.com for more information

First come, first served

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The wheels of the bus go round and round…… 3 universities in one day

Great news. If you are fortunate enough to be in:
• Software
• Banking
• Finance
• Biotechnology
• Data analytics
• Sensors
• Cloud computing
• Content analytics
• Material science
• Engineering
• Telecoms / Communications
• Health
• Health & Human Performance
• Materials Manufacturing
• Diagnostics
• Manufacturing competitiveness (Pharma)

And if you want to find out what the best and brightest in Dublin universities have to offer, you now have an opportunity to do so. In one day. Across 3 universities. All you need to do is book a ticket. Once you book, we will be in take care of the detail and tailor a tour to your needs and the sectors you are interested in.

Inspiration, information, connections and resources 

You will get opportunities to network over breakfast, lunch and over some drinks when the day is over. But more importantly you will receive the inspiration, information, connections and resources to give your company a boost for the future and an opportunity to
engage and find out what the  universities can do for you.

3 universities in one day

Book now or contact ron@smallbusinesscan.com for more information

First come, first served

The post The wheels of the bus go round and round…… 3 universities in one day appeared first on Small Business Can.