How VolP Phones Can Save Your Business Money

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The internet has triggered a rapid change in the communication industry and the trend has gained momentum and, there is no pointer that this inclination is going to slow down anytime soon. The inception of Voice over Internet Protocol (VolP) has left many businesses to stem from their former telephone methodology. This new framework is offering business with lucre features besides having financial savings that come with VolP.

How VolP Works

Diverse from habitual telephone companies, with VolP you’ll not rely on telephone lines to make a link and disseminate. A broadband internet tie-in such as DSL, cable or satellite is used as an avenue to channel calls electronically over the internet. The recipient of the call is not a must should have a VolP connection simply because calls placed in this modus can reach any cell phone or telephone. This has made it easier to make calls around the globe for at a customary rate instead of extra amount. This also gives an opportunity for service providers to offer a linear rate monthly rate fee regardless of the service that is actually used (local or long-distance).

Although many businesses are now using VolP, there are some which still have the big question of whether VolP will save money or increase cost? The answer is yes, VolP help saves money and, there are sundry ways that this happens. Take a look

No International Calling Fee

Call cost is a prime consideration for many businesses especially if you make calls overseas to speak to manufacturers and distributors. With traditional phone lines, it is easier to accrue expensive cost but with VolP, you will reduce the cost because you will be wielding an internet connection to make calls. The best part is that many providers offer video conference and conferencing allowing you to communicate to a number of blocs at the same time. This can help you save some serious dollars besides enjoying a streamlined communication.

Call Stalking and Monitoring

VolP has features such as call tracking and calls recording which will help you increase your business coherence. With these features, you will be able to track he output of your sales team, inclusive of the metrics like a number of calls made each day and time spent on each call, assure quality control with regular reviews and improve staff tuition using good or bad call examples. You will able to keep your sales team on track and hit their targets each month.

Aerodynamic Employee Communication

A VolP system comes with workflow features such as Company-focused instant messaging, instant see where you can view colleagues and staff that is online and when, and peer to peer chat for an efficient and easier conference calls. With all these, your teams will communicate in time thus helping everyone gets work done in less time.

Operating a business is an extortionate affair; therefore, cutting back expenses is important. Getting your business setup with a business VolP phone system and plan is not only a business asset but it will reduce your communication costs substantially. You will have everything you need at the same time; you’d have reduced your overhead costs.

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How To Keep A Positive Cash Flow

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Placing other business goals ahead of your company cash flow is a big blunder as a business owner, and for many start-up businesses, this is a common norm. It is critical that you spend the time to establish your trademark and sales leads, at the same time, it is vital to develop a ceaseless cash flow (amount of cash coming into your business). Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business and if you can retain 10% or 20% of your monthly revenue, you will be able to pump the cash back into your business.

To have a consistent cash flow in your business, here are ways how to

Be Familiar with your Expenses

Several businesses offer discounts to attract and possibly retain a customer, right? We’ve have seen before haven’t we? Some have harnessed the use of a site like Scoopon and Groupon while others have done this on their own. Despite all this, you should offer a discount if you know the cost and the hit of hat you are offering, if not, prepare yourself for reverberations.  As a business person who would like to see your merchandise grow, you should be aware of your comprehensive cost basis, how much you’d theoretically charge, the cost of what you’re offering and the profit gap on your products and services.

Pay bills when You have to

In regards to bills, the idea is that you try and get your outgoing invoices paid as soon as possible and pay your bills when you have to. However, it has to be said that there is an effect of paying your bills on time that builds a positive relationship with your suppliers. If you’re having trouble recouping bad debts then it’s always wise to get a debt collector to help, I always recommend Network Debt Collection.

Combat the Urge to Offer Immense Discount

There are 2 buttons that many business owners seem to battle with “panic and discount”. When discount overwhelms panic, the next step is to drop prices which are the biggest mistake you can ever do. Although it’s good to offer discounts once in a while, make sure you’re still being profitable when you offer discounts. Say after every three months you have a big sale, customers are not fools, they’ll just wait until that time you have a big sale and then will show up.

Encourage Repeat Business

If you can be able to land and retain customers (continuous) and especially if you’re in a volume-driven business like retail, you’d have cemented your cash flow, profit, and growth. In this case, what you need to do is consecrate yourself to see your customers coming back again and again.

Think about how you can make good use of loyalty programs, VIP offers and other frequent shopper programs. They are some of the best tools to systematize continual business.

What else are you waiting for? You have the tips, go for it!

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How to Get An App Developed for Your Business

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Since the inauguration of mobile application development, many business, and upcoming entrepreneurs have joined the use of applications to take their businesses to the next level. Although many are not well aware of how to get their feet wet, but the rate at which applications are being generated shows it’s a lucrative business.

To develop an application for your business isn’t a facile affair. As you deliberate on how you can go about your application initiation, there are those already in the progress of instigation, marketing and even reaping from their apps. To help you navigate this bumpy ride, below are common ones that will help you develop a successful app.

Which App Idea to Start?

Perhaps you have many app ideas and you don’t know which one to follow. Successful entrepreneurs have built their business on multiple ideas. So, don’t hold yourself to a single app idea. Apps are like single music hit. You never know which one will hit. After you launch your app, give it a grace period of 6 months. If you see your user base isn’t growing, budge onto another idea

Where to Start

Jot down all your ideas as clearly as possible. Peruse the internet and note prototyping tools and create functional elements of your app. Look for an app developer that can design and develop your app once you are coherent about your essentials. In my personal experience I’ve used Production Media App Developers in Melbourne and they offered a great service at a reasonable price. But there are plenty out there

How to tell if Customers want your App

It’s desirable that you get into the market with a prototype. Design your app with core propositions and see if customers are ready to buy it. The moment they do, you will receive important feedback that will help you to modify your app to meet customers’ expectations and business as well.

Distinguish Between Mobile Website and Native App

Deciding whether you need an app or whether a cheaper mobile friendly website would do the job is an important decision, one that could save you a lot of money. There are thousands of applications in the Android App Store and iOS and you will be competing against the best-selling apps and the best to be seen and engaged with.

Should the App Development be in-house or outsourced?

If you look at popular products like Skype and Alibaba, they were outsourced during their initial days. In this case, you can keep the cost low by outsourcing your product to a provider who wholly understands your requirements. If your product continues to be in demand, you can then take over the development and maintenance in-house.

Should you submit your App to the App Store or Android Market?

Create developers account with Google and Apple by registering through their websites. Pay yearly app store fee of $99 for Apple and $25 for Google. The process of transferring you app to the app store should be done by your developer.

What next after your app is ready?

Products don’t take themselves to customers, you need to do that. You have to tell customers where to find them. The same applies to your app. Although app-store optimization can help you to get discovered, you still need to take your app to market visibility.

Marketing your App

The best form of marketing for any business app is the use of a third-party endorsement where press coverage, reviews from bloggers and word of mouth should be a go for.

How much will it Cost to Develop an App?

Application development depends on several factors. But it ranges between $3,000 up to $100,000 or even more depending on complexity.

I believe you have been able to get something from this article. Now, go and get your app developed.

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Save time, save money

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When it comes to matters of tax, most people don’t know what they don’t know! That’s why seeking out expert help is important.

The key to running a good business is finding experts, such as an accountant, business coach, bank manager or lawyer, who can add value.

When the end of the financial year approaches, the focus for most businesses is on how they can minimise their tax. But you should work with your accountant several times during the year not just at the end of the financial year. Quite often cashflow issues at this time can reduce your options for reducing your tax.

A trustworthy accountant who can work with you on developing strategies to take your business forward, is not easy to find. Many accountants are either busy tending to compliance or don’t have the skills to be a business adviser. Still, you shouldn’t give up the search.

The key thing to remember is to see your accountant well before 30 June – after that date there’s nothing that can be done to improve your tax situation for the previous year.

How to find an accountant
The best way to choose a trustworthy accountant is to ensure they are a member of professional association and/or come with a personal recommendation.
o Ask your friends, family and other contacts (but remember, what works for someone else isn’t necessarily going to be right for you)
o Tap into the referral networks of your lawyer, financial planner or bank manager
o Call or visit the websites of professional associations, such as CPA Australia or the National Institute of Accountants (NIA). The CPA Australia website has a ‘Find a CPA’ quick link (www.cpaaustralia.com.au)

Here are some general answers to accounting questions frequently asked by small business owners:

What payroll methods can I use to reduce my employees’ tax bill?
A salary sacrifice arrangement is also commonly referred to as salary packaging or total remuneration packaging. It’s an arrangement between an employer and an employee, where the employee agrees to give up part of their future entitlement to salary or wages in return for the employer providing them with benefits of a similar total value.

Many of my staff require vehicle for their work. What is a novated lease?
A novated lease is a three-way arrangement between the employee, the financier and the employer, where a vehicle is leased under a finance lease in the employee’s name and assigned to the employer by way of a novation agreement. The employer recovers this amount from the employee’s salary package. The lease, the FBT and the operating costs associated with running the vehicle are deducted from the employee’s gross salary, therefore reducing their income tax.

Can I reward my staff without increasing their tax bill through cash bonuses?
Yes, use other methods such as hampers or tickets to sporting or cultural events. If the benefits are less than $300 and are irregular, then generally they’re not subject to fringe benefits tax (FBT).

What tax deductions can be made for the home and serviced office? Can I claim part of my mortgage repayment?
It’s not recommended to claim part of your mortgage repayment, as it could become partially liable for capital gains tax (CGT) if you sell your home (your residential property is usually exempt from CGT). This may also apply to council rates and water bills.

You can claim utility bills by estimating the percentage of business use (based on the number of rooms utilised). You should make a reasonable estimate of the area used for the business, for example, one third of the property equals 33.33% of the bill.

All of your office furniture and serviced office fees will be tax deductible. For simplified tax system (STS) payers, all assets less than a certain value means a straight deduction. On other hand, for non-STS payers, all items need to be depreciated at a percentage, as per the Australian Tax Office (ATO) guidelines (visit www.ato.gov.au for more exact details).

Therefore, it’s important that you engage a qualified accountant to ensure you receive the maximum tax deductions.

What records should I keep?
Keep all invoices to support a claim (for five years). If you lose receipts/tax invoices, make sure you have secondary evidence such as credit card statements, bank statements, a petty cash book or diary evidence. In the case of flood or fire, make a statutory declaration and keep the insurance claims documentation.

Can I claim entertainment expenses if I have a meeting at a café or restaurant?
If the meeting is arranged to discuss a business proposal and you simply have a cup of coffee and a biscuit, this cost would generally not be seen an entertainment cost, but a legitimate business cost.
It is recommended as a good business practice/policy to keep a diary with some notes from the meeting – for instance minutes of the meeting, who attended, reason for the meeting and so on.

If we travelled overseas for a business conference, can we claim the expenses? What if we included a side trip for personal reasons?
All travel expenses for business purposes are tax deductible. A side trip to Disneyland would be excluded from the calculation, as it’s non-deductible. Again, keep a diary to show what’s business and what’s personal and have a chat with your accountant if you’re not clear on this.

Are any courses we attend tax deductible or just ones related to the business?
Courses, seminars and any professional development (including business coaching) that is designed to bring in more revenue for the business is tax deductible.

Can I claim my dry cleaning?
This is very hard to claim, as the ATO’s view on this strictly classifies what is a uniform (it must have a logo or be registered with the ATO). A uniform is not a suit or shoes that you wear everyday, with the exception of protective shoes. The argument that you need to look presentable is not a valid one. If your income depends on your image eg a TV presenter it would be worth discussing this with your accountant.

What happens if I get audited?
You will be asked to provide all the documents to support your claims in the tax return. Your accountant is not responsible for the expenses that you claim, as the Australian tax system works as a self-assessment and whenever you sign the tax return, you’re signing a declaration that all expenses claimed in your tax return are correct as per your advice.

How can I legally reduce my tax bill?
o Use a qualified accountant who will claim the maximum deduction for you
o Talk to your accountant several times a year
o Keep a good record of all of your expenses (even the ones that you’re not sure about it), such as communication bills and consumables, postage, advertising/promotion, travel, motor vehicle (keep a log book for a minimum period of three months and renew every five years), bank fees, merchant fees, interest on business credit cards and loans and gifts for clients.

This information is provided as a general guide. You should seek your own detailed accounting advice to suit your individual business circumstances. Remember – that advice is tax deductible!

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Help from above

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It is one of the oldest cliches in small business, but it is one of the most misunderstood. It says one of the greatest problems with small business people is that they spend too much time working in their business and not enough time on their business.

When it comes to government money or assistance and contracts there are so many business owners out there with their heads down, ‘doing it, doing it, doing it’ as Michael Gerber has said in the past, that they don’t see the opportunities just waiting to be discovered.

Gerber, the author of the E-Myth Revisited, a perennial international best-seller, differentiates the entrepreneur from the technician, who simply does the work in his or her own business. The entrepreneur works on the business.

Working on doesn’t just mean thinking laterally about market opportunities, which searching for government contracts – at federal, state and local government levels – could mean. It also means thinking about government assistance out there that could make you take your business to the next level, to a new overseas market or to network into other groups who could tell you something you don’t know and create opportunities for you at the same time.

Two classic suppliers of government assistance that every creative business owner – oh, let’s call them entrepreneurs – should think about are AusIndustry and Austrade.

AusIndustry has a myriad of money grants that can help bankroll research and development (R&D) and ultimately innovation. Meanwhile, Austrade’s export development grant has become a great encouragement for entrepreneurs who think outside the domestic market square.

I recently saw a guy who has patented an invention, all on his own time and it cost him tens of thousands of dollars to develop the concept and patent it. Luckily for him, while he was too busy working in his business to see the opportunities, his accountant did his thinking on the business for him and put him in touch with an expert adviser who took him to AusIndustry.

The advice he received helped him add protection to his patent for overseas opportunities and showed him how to access government grants. This guy was lucky to have a lateral thinking accountant – most business people don’t and miss out.
For inventive business owners committed to R&D, looking for money to make their dream come true, be aware that AusIndustry has helped thousands of businesses and many have received hundreds of thousands of dollars. AusIndustry has opened the doors for many exporters and its Export Market Development Grant offers assistance in defraying the costs of the promotion of a product or service overseas.

The bottom line is if you are making money overseas, whether it is via transporting products by plane, ship or eBay, there are many monetary reasons to contact Austrade.

If you are too time poor to work on your business, use a search engine – contact government bodies or industry groups to find expert consultants who know how to help small operators tap into government assistance.

Finally, if you are afraid of the expense of using experts to position yourself for government contracts or assistance, then start putting on your networking thinking caps.

Many businesses have targeted various government departments by putting their hand up to serve on various government-related committees. Some offer their time and expertise to be judges for awards or offer to help in business community groups such as Business Enterprise Centres.

By being on the boards of these groups they have worked their way into the favour of government departments and public servants, winding up with lucrative contracts.

Where there is a will and a damn smart plan, you can put yourself in the right place at the right time to pick up a plum public prize.

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Up close and personal with the ATO

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Did you know that a small business can get a visit from the Australian Taxation Office with the surprising message, ‘We’re from the ATO and we want to help’?

At the centre of the ATO‘s help program is a business register which has been created following a business, for example, filing its first group tax return.

An officer from the tax office will then set up a meeting with the business owners, who can have a tax agent present if they want, to check that the correct record-keeping procedures are in place. There are tax advisers specifically assigned to this task force.

“Our work with small business shows time and pressure with record-keeping leads to downstream problems,” says the ATO‘s deputy commissioner, small business.

Apart from the one-off visits for new businesses, those on the register are monitored for two years to ensure that no tax problems develop.

If not checked early, tax mistakes may result in fines and back-tax payments but also could undermine cash flow, which is one of the biggest reasons for small businesses going bankrupt.

Don’t get caught
According to the ATO, businesses were surprised, but also very appreciative of the ATO‘s involvement.

There are four areas where small business often performs poorly:
o Record-keeping is often inadequate
o Budgeting for tax obligations is unrealistic
o Fringe benefits tax issues, where the business owner is unaware that there is an FBT liability
o Business structure problems, which give rise to different compliance issues.

On the issue of FBT, the ATO suggests that a business owner should simply ask whether the business delivers a benefit which is not in cash, particularly if the owner is also on the books as an employee.

The part-time use of a car owned by the business is a classic FBT issue. Aside from being keen to educate small businesses on FBT issues, the ATO is also concerned about businesses which are not really businesses.

Hobby farmers, direct marketers and people in the arts and craft area are sometimes targeted and tested to see whether they are a real business.

“There is a large number of people who are claiming tax deductions who are not really in business,” the ATO says.
However, the ATO doesn’t necessarily presume that home-based consultants are non-businesses.

Where do you fit in?
While some workers simply leave a job and become self employed to reduce the tax obligations of both the employer and the employee, the ATO conceded that in this age of downsizing some genuinely unemployed people were going into business for themselves.

The ATO suggested the following tests as key determinants of the existence of a business:
o Is there more than one customer?
o Is the consultant available to work for anyone?
o Does the consultant advertise?

All these characteristics of a real business would be important when the ATO investigates the credentials of a business.

In addition to the visiting program, the ATO holds free seminars and issues several helpful publications such as A Tax Guide For New Small Businesses, and A Guide To Keeping Your Business Records.

Getting close and personal with the ATO might be a way to keep on the right side of this often misunderstood organisation.

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Wealth creation

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Edward de Bono said great business owners think outside the square; they are lateral thinkers.

Over the years, I’ve pondered what really holds people back and I reckon the greatest hurdle to success is old habits. You see it with athletes when they change coaches, or even get a coach for the first time. They excel. Deep down, anyone who wants to build a business is also in the wealth building game.

You need to be inspired
Building wealth is like building a great business – it not only rests on getting the fundamentals right, it also requires commitment to doing things right.

Of course, business owners hopefully use their operation to create a platform for wealth building. And putting more effort into building a great business makes more money sense.

Unfortunately, like eating junk food, it always seems easier to do the wrong or easy thing instead of the right or hard task.
That’s where inspiration comes in, and that’s why so many high achievers I’ve dealt with never underestimate the importance of being inspired.

Anyone cynical towards the importance of inspiration and motivation has never owned a small business. Business owners know that at times when deadlines, suppliers, customers, staff and even yourself are all piling the pressure on, recalling words of wisdom, experience or success can simply lift you.

Mingling with magic
Not too long ago I did a ‘talkfest’ road show, which meant I worked as a master of ceremonies with some absolutely inspirational people.

They included Lauren Burns, who won a gold medal in taekwondo at the Sydney Olympics, and Ben Darwin, the Wallaby rugby union player whose career ended prematurely with a terrible neck injury in the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup against the Kiwis.

Then there was that great cricketer, Bruce Yardley, who was named international cricketer of the year in the 1980s and who played with great Aussies like Thommo, Lillee and the Chappells.
Another was a guy called Tony Mowbray, who not only battled the seas of that tragic Sydney to Hobart Yacht race in 1998, when many lives were lost, but he also broke the record for sailing solo around the world.

Mimic the magic
Individuals who have taken on the odds and pulled off big results should always be studied. The best way to build a great business is to copy the best.

I once observed young artists copying the masters in the British Museum, and that’s what would-be master business people should be doing to – mimicking the magic.

Follow the success trail
Some champions can give you small yet enduring hints for success, while others can give you a virtual blueprint.

One unforgettable line that Lauren Burns uses is: “I think success leaves clues.” She told her audiences that successful people leave clues on how to win. Working hard was important, but she said when she was young she did too much and overtrained. When she accessed experts at the Australian Institute of Sport, she worked smarter.

Divine inspiration!
One short story before I finish. This is not about a well-known star, but a local hero who turned around a potential poverty problem.

This fella left the priesthood in his 50s and when you cut out of God’s service, there is no superannuation or divine pension.
He had ‘diddly squat’ and there’s not many jobs for out-of-work priests.

After talking to a money expert, he decided the only way he could catch up in the money stakes was to buy ramshackled homes – he didn’t have much money – and he simply did them up and sold them.

He had somewhere to live while he did them up and, as it was his principal residence, he was able to sell the homes with no capital gains tax.

He pulled off the triple play. First, he built up his wealth, so he is set to retire with a lump sum better than most Australians. Second, he gave himself a job, which was really a development business in doing up the properties, and, third, he had somewhere to live.

Part of the inspiration was the knowledge that there is no capital gains tax on your principal residence, while the other part of the boost was the money expert who convinced him he could do it.

Spend a penny to make a pound
We all can do it, but we need education, commitment and inspiration. Often experts or coaches can show small business owners how to do it better.

Too many business owners are not willing to face what is wrong with them and therefore what is holding back their business. That’s where a pair of independent eyes can work wonders.

By the way, the advice and the recommendations will generally cost money, but it will often be the best money ever spent.

Tips:
o Look to others to inspire you if you feel yourself getting flat.
o Mingle with magical people by going to seminars and reading books or this column!
o Make a determined commitment to write a success plan and mimic what successful people do.
o Follow your success plan – if you go off the trail, get more inspiration to get back on it.
o Spend a penny to make a pound.

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What employees want

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Do we really know what an employee wants from their job? According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the Gallop Organisation, they want many things. Gallop asked 80,000 managers and more than a million employees about the things that are important to them at work and distilled the answers to 12 requirements of a great workplace. Employees generally want the same things out of their workplace, which means they face some common issues at work.

Sales and negotiating expert, Mike Schoettler of Sales Sense, says the findings are a good reminder about the investment we’re prepared to make in our own people. He takes us through the 12 questions asked in the survey. Both the questions and answers give you some good food for thought about your staff.

What’s expected from me at work?
It sounds basic, but in truth it’s easily overlooked.
You probably know someone who’s always busy and says they’re constantly being told what to do, but they don’t really have a clear picture of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. This has happened to most people at some stage or another.

Do we have the materials and equipment we need to do our work properly?
Employing people means you have to start at the basics first. If people really don’t know what’s expected of them, and don’t have the tools to get it right, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be really happy and satisfied trying to do this. These first two questions formed the foundation of the survey.

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
They use strong, extreme language in these questions so that the people answering the questions have to answer specifically. The Gallop survey has a one to five rating. To get a five is really an outstanding result – they didn’t expect to see a lot of fives. Of course, they got them in some groups.

Most of us have the ability to think back to different positions we’ve had, different organisations we’ve belonged to, where you would say you were really keen to go there and it was really exciting to show up and you probably felt like you could do your best every day.

Have I received recognition or praise for good work in the last seven days?
See how precise that is? In the last seven days. We like to think that we’re in a good environment and it would be easy enough to say that we do get to hear about the things we do well and people do mention it, sometimes publicly, sometimes not.

When you specifically say in the last seven days, as you can imagine it separates the groups that have the atmosphere of receiving praise from the ones who really do. There are not a lot of people who would actually say they really received recognition or praise for their good work within the last seven days.

Does someone at work care about me as a person?
Generally, people talk about joining a company and having a real opportunity to get involved in an exciting industry, or doing something for a company that’s really moving ahead. But typically if you talk to people when they’re leaving an organisation and going elsewhere, they say they’re not really leaving the company. Frequently, they’re leaving the person who they work for.

So the common expression is, “we join companies and leave managers” and that fifth question in the survey – “Does he/she care about me?” – indicates it is not a question of whether you are getting correction or praise, it’s a question of whether or not you think they are really involved in your result.

Is someone encouraging my development?
This is a similar question to the last, but it’s not necessarily referring to your supervisor. Historically, we used to have personnel departments that were supposed to help people in their developments and we had senior supervisors who were supposed to come around with certain training opportunities.

Now, we’re not sure who the person might be, but we just want to know if there is somebody there, a mentor, if no-one else, who’s actually taking an interest in our development. That’s part of being really happy and feeling like you have an opportunity.

In the last six months has someone at work talked with me about my progress?
This reminds me of a joke I heard once. A fellow slipped into a bar and used the pay phone to ask if there were any openings in a company and he hung up. The bartender said to him, “Were you looking for a job?” and he says, “no, I just wanted to find out what they thought about my work”.

All too often we have to go out of our way to find out whether or not things that we are doing, our opinions, our views, anything we’re working on, actually seems to matter to the people around us because they don’t incorporate it, they don’t seem to respond officially. We are just lacking feedback and some people will go to those extremes of asking other people to find out.

Do my opinions count?
If you don’t believe that you have a say, you’re being deprived of that sense of belonging that most of us want. You don’t have to be the decision maker, but if somebody will at least believe that you are worth listening to, they can lift your view of yourself.

If they start behaving as if they don’t care what your opinion is, it can work the other way very quickly, too. You have to feel sorry for people who work in that environment and you certainly understand why their retention rates are low.

The mission purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
When we talk about the importance of a vision or values for the company, we’re talking about the part that says what we’re doing is actually worthwhile. If you don’t feel like you are producing something, it’s hard to believe in what you’re doing.

There’s a stage in life where we are not actually working for the money – most people have a desire to feel like that what they are doing actually is worthwhile.

Are my fellow employees committed to doing quality work?
It’s tough to work in an environment where other people are trying to slow you down or discourage you. We’ve all heard stories where people come back and say, “The people around me don’t want me working so fast, or doing this so well”. That can really sap your spirit.

The reality is most of us want to have a group around us that encourages us to lift our game and even when we have been there a while there’s always something we can learn from people around us and we’re hoping it’s something positive. The question is sure. It’s there to specifically identify those situations where even with a great leader, the team around you can pull you down.

Do I have a best friend at work?
Some people actually seem to show up at work and don’t get involved. If you do get involved, you’re bound to have relationships. You’re going to develop some friendships. You work there for a while, certainly a new person probably would say, “No, I don’t have a best friend”. Someone who’s been there for a while should say they do.

In the last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow at work?
This is extremely important because it has a total effect on each individual’s self development. Not talking to people and not developing isn’t good for the business. It isn’t good for any of the measurements we talked about.

The fact that a survey of this size was run shows in itself how important it is to be mindful of how your employees are thinking and acting. As Mike Schoettler says, “We need to be reminded of the investment we make when we take on staff and we need to look after that investment”.

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It’s in your system

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Imagine you woke up one morning and decided you wanted to build a new garage in your backyard. So you hired a truck, picked up a few of your mates and went to one of those hardware outlets that look like an aircraft hanger. You bought sand, cement, steel, timber and bricks and by midday you were off and building.
This would be a dream with nightmare written all over it.

A garage may be a piffling structure, but every year tens of thousands of new businesses start up with virtually the same “go get a truck and some building supplies” attitude as our garage builder.
And what is even more surprising is that many people in micro-businesses, employing fewer than five workers, actually do pretty well for quite some time. But eventually the worlds collide and business problems ignite. A time bomb will explode. And if it doesn’t ruin the businesses, it can badly damage them and a hell of lot of relationships along the way.

I recently talked with an award-winning couple, who had set sales standards that few could match in their franchise system. They had great staff and plenty of business, but they had cash flow problems and they usually did their Business Activity Statement a couple of days before the deadline.
They knew something was wrong and were smart enough to go looking for experience to help them beat a growing problem.
Many of us have heard the cliche: “Small businesses don’t plan to fail but fail to plan.” And then there’s: “Small business people spend too much time working in their business and not enough time working on their business.”

There is a real-life difference between a business owner and an entrepreneur, and it’s that the business owner often works at the coalface. He or she is the shopkeeper, the plumber, the accountant, the consultant, the sandwich-maker or the service provider. They do the work of their business: put in the pipes, talk to the customer, solve their problems, send the bills and collect them as well. But they don’t think about the real product.
Most tradesmen try expanding and find being an employer and a paper shuffler for the federal and state governments extremely challenging. Many just pack it in and go back to being a one-man band.

The entrepreneur comes to see the business as the product he will grow. He or she uses systems to solve frustrating problems in the business and the systems, when they are put together, can define the business: the way a phone is answered, the way a complaint is handled, the way a customer is served and how transactions are recorded.
This is what a whole lot of smarties have done in creating franchise businesses. The guys at Gloria Jeans have a system that means both a school teacher and a journalist can throw in their jobs and become coffee shop owners with the minimum of training.

Last year I looked at the young entrepreneurs who started Sumo Salad and Wellbeing, young people who could see the customer shift to healthy food. The business owner would have created a shop and maybe opened another and then tried to manage both. But these entrepreneurs, from the outset, were looking to systematise the business so others could buy it from them. They worked on the business until it was a product they could sell.
This year the goal should be to systematise your business, not only to eliminate frustrating problems – which makes the business easier to grow and live with – but to make it easier to sell, like a franchise.

As with all things, such as building a garage, get a plan. And if you don’t have the skills to do the job yourself, find an expert to help.

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The right mix

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How can I attract and retain good staff?
The success of your business is a function of many things but two important ones are having a great business plan and your staff. Like most small businesses you probably don’t have the luxury of a dedicated human resources (HR) person.

The business owner usually takes on this role. If that’s the case in your business, then develop a HR policy and procedures manual so you can effectively align your business goals and objectives and communicate them to your staff. This is all part of developing systems in your business. If something’s not on paper then, as the saying goes, it’s not on the planet.

Do you have written procedures when it comes to staff? A manual will provide clear guidelines that will comply with legal requirements and empower your staff to maximise their contribution to your business. They should be handed a manual when they start working with you – and sign a document to say that they have read it.

It can cover a vast range of topics depending on the size and nature of your business — even if you have only one employee.

We have a few pages written down. Are you saying we need to develop a proper system?
Having a few pages is a start but once you start to have people in the business other than you or your partner you can run into trouble if you don’t have a formal manual that clearly outlines the practices and procedures of your business as well as a comprehensive job description for your employee.

You see, as a small business owner you’re used to juggling tasks, but you can’t expect staff to be that dexterous. A proper job description, for example, let’s them focus on what you employed them to do!

I have mostly family working for me – do I need a recruitment strategy?
So often, the employment decision is made without following a structured process. The potential new employee might be a relative, a friend or come recommended- but does that make them suitable for the position? Will they be able to perform the tasks? Sure, it can be a quick solution but it also may not work out in the long term – an expensive exercise.

To be effective, recruitment must be planned and structured. If you haven’t developed a job description, you need to be absolutely clear what you’ll require the person to do. How can anyone give their best performance if they don’t know what they’re expected to do?

Most employees who leave a job within six months state that the job did not meet their expectations! This is a direct reflection on the recruitment process!

So it’s all about hiring right?
Getting the right staff is one thing. The next thing is to keep them and keep them trained so they add value to your business.

How do you do that?
You have to reward them! Your employees need to know that they are a valued member of your business and contribute to its success.

A lot of people say that they prefer working in small businesses because they feel more like a real person than just a number. See this as a real plus for your business and make sure that you take advantage of this – get to know what makes them tick. Make sure that you know what motivates them. Seek their suggestions on how to make your business better.

How can I understand my team better?
Anne Bartlett-Bragg, a HR consultant who not only provides professional development service and training to small business, she is also a university lecturer in human resources.

She believes that to understand a team better you could consider using a team performance profile and she recommends the Kolbe Systems. She says that by using the Kolbe tools:
o Team ineffectiveness can be diagnosed
o Strategies can be developed to enhance both individual and team performance
o You can work towards appreciating the diversity of others and how to avoid procrastination and inertia by understanding the instinctive drivers of each employee.

How often do you review or assess your staff performance?
Bartlett-Bragg says that performance and appraisal should link closely to the job description and done at least once a year and that ongoing underperformance can cost your business a lot in time and productivity.

She says that you can buy off-the-shelf performance appraisal products which are good but if you find them too cumbersome then you need to modify them and use their framework rather than the full process.

What minimum training should a business owner provide for staff?
Give all employees the opportunity to perform their roles to the best of their abilities, and with sufficient guidance and training.

Bartlett-Bragg says you should categorise training into these groups:

1. Induction training
Do you remember your first day on a job? How did you feel? Nervous, excited, apprehensive, terrified? New employees are likely to feel all these emotions and more – at once!
Ask yourself, what do you do to make them feel welcome and a valued member of your team?

Bartlett-Bragg worked with a small organisation that wanted to improve their induction process. She considered the essential issues that have to be addressed when you start a new job – payroll, paperwork, contracts, forms, all types of administrative issues. Then she asked why did we have to do that on the first day – what message was that sending the employee about the company? Not the one we wanted to portray!

So her company designed a kit and sent it to them before they commenced work – all the paperwork was clearly numbered and explained – the new employee had to do hand it in on arrival.
Then she went a step further – she wanted to get them excited about the company.

She brainstormed with the existing team members things they would have liked to have known about the company before they started. That information was then collated in a fun way and included in a separate kit – ‘Stuff you might like to know’ – it included public transport information, car park locations and rates, best places to eat (or not in this case – so bring your own), locations of major banks, favourite Friday night pubs (chosen by the team) and so on!

How would you feel receiving a pack like that in the mail, before you start your new job? The feedback has been tremendous – the new employees are already starting to feel like a valued team member BEFORE they arrive on day one!

She says that structured induction training involves planning – ensuring that someone is allocated and responsible for looking after the new employee – for at least the first month. She advises that you:
o Don’t cram it all into day one – they won’t be able to remember a thing!
o Introduce them to the rest of the team informally – have a morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea – use name tags. Ask each team member to explain (briefly) what they do and why the new employee would need to deal with them. Sometimes, one of the hardest things in a new job is working out who to ask!
o Check in with your new employee regularly and informally for the first week. Show some genuine interest and encourage their feedback.

2. Technical skills required to perform the job
Consider what technical skills are required and to what level that skill must be performed. For example, if the role requires basic knowledge of Excel spreadsheets, there is very little value sending someone to an advanced Excel course.

3. Soft skills to enhance their job and overall business effectiveness.
This is your area of greatest competitive advantage! If customer service is going to be your major focus it’s your responsibility to ensure your staff have the necessary skills to deliver that!

Consider all types of communication skills training and development sessions, customer service sessions, sales skills, negotiation skills, team building, etc.

4. Other – including updating skills and knowledge, further interests outside their role
Small and large businesses often ignore training. When was the last time staff were given the opportunity to update and further develop their technical skills – what extra efficiency and productivity might this provide the business?

What other areas are staff interested in? Again, supporting your performance management strategies with training and learning opportunities beyond the scope of their current job is a great motivator!

Where are affordable courses?
Some businesses attend Train the Trainer courses and complete qualifications like the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training to provide them with the ability to design and deliver effective training sessions themselves, and give them the knowledge to better understand and evaluate what external course providers are offering.

Why not consider some kind of strategic alliance with other businesses in your local area? The buying power of a small group is often a more economical alternative than sending an individual to external courses.

Tafe colleges, short courses offered by universities, and Continuing Adult Education organisations are also options worth considering.

Bartlett Bragg says to give your employees a statement about your vision/mission and objectives is crucial for your staff to understand what you’re trying to achieve. How can people contribute to your success if they’re unsure what you’re striving for?

She says to also provide them with a statement about safety at work that outlines your obligations and the responsibilities they have to maintain their working environment and/or report any accidents. She also says to include a statement outlining your adherence to your legal obligations to provide a workplace free of discriminatory practices and encourages diversity will clearly outline your position on these matters.

Don’t just put it together on paper, share your policies and procedures manual with your staff so they understand your intentions and expectations about the important issues.

And finally – your staff are such a valuable asset to your business – enjoy them, develop them, and treat them how you would like to be treated yourself!

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