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Business Articles

Timely and relevant business advice and news curated by the Chamber. Offering essential information, we will help you succeed and stay current.

December 10, 2018

Article of the Week

How You Deal With Stress Can Ruin Your Employee's Jobs

FastCompany.com

While a tight labor market has business leaders seeking to improve retention and engagement, they may be overlooking one critical factor: how their managers respond to stress.

A new study by researchers of leadership training company VitalSmartsfound that one in three managers can’t handle high-stakes situations. And their inability to communicate and manage through these situations is affecting team performance in a variety of ways. Managers who get angry or withdraw in when the pressure is on hurt team morale, and teams are more likely to miss deadlines, exceed their budgets, and fail to meet quality standards. And the individual impact is extreme, as well. The report found that teams led by “hot-headed managers” are:

  • 62% more likely to consider leaving their job than teams that are managed by someone who can stay in dialogue when stressed
  • 56% more likely to shut down and stop participating
  • 49% less likely to go above and beyond
  • 47% more likely to be frustrated and angry

It’s not surprising that a manager’s team is affected by poor management skills, says organizational psychologist Katy Caselli, founder of leadership training firm Building Giants. And good managers don’t just assume they perform well under stress—they check out the facts. Personality assessments, feedback from peers and mentors, and simple observation can all give you insight about whether you need to work on your stress management skills for the good of your team, Caselli says.

While most interactions with your team may not be especially meaningful, the conversations that happen when the pressure is on often have greater importance and impact, says David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts and coauthor of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. When managers can stay open, curious, calm, and honest during trying situations, they have a positive impact on their teams. Improvements included meeting quality standards and acting in ways that are beneficial to the customer 56% more than those whose managers were less skilled. Plus they showed increased morale and met deadlines 47% more of the time, improved workplace safety 34% more, and worked within budget 25% more.

So, how can you get better at dealing with stress and create this type of positive impact? There are a few key actions.

Say something. If you see a problem or stressful time coming, speak up about it. By alerting those around you to red flags, you may be able to find solutions. At the very least, you’ll let the people around you know about an issue and that you’re working together to solve it.

Notice your patterns. Think about how you’ve reacted to previous stressful situations, Caselli says. Did you blow up or withdraw? Did you overreact or not move soon enough? When you can spot reactions that haven’t worked in the past, you can work on swapping them out for more effective responses, she says.

Keep a fact-based perspective. In high-stress situations, it’s not uncommon to overemphasize the negative. “You’re telling yourself these implicit stories that are probably not true. So, once you’ve challenged your story and you’ve decided, Okay, I’m going to try to deal with this in a professional, caring way, then start with that. Explain the facts as you know them. Ask for others to share their perspective. Include time for listening, and for understanding their perspective. Then look for joint solutions,” Maxfield says.

Create a safe environment. If you’re launching into a tirade or withdrawing into a sullen mood, your employees may retreat or get defensive, Maxfield says. That’s not the best dynamic for remaining productive or finding solutions.

In 2018 research Google did about its teams, the company found that psychological safety—the ability to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed—was a key factor in high-performing teams.

When you’re trying to solve a problem, share your positive intent first, Maxfield says. If your team feels safe and that you’re all working together to find answers, they’ll be more open to working with you to do so.

Focus on your own emotional intelligence. Being able to manage your emotions and interact with others during high-stakes, high-pressure situations may take practice and discipline, Caselli says. Learning about your own triggers and gaps in emotional intelligence and working on overcoming them can ultimately help your team perform better.

 


December 3, 2018

Article of the Week

Organize Your Small-Business Finances With These 7 Steps

Choncé Maddox, Entrepreneur.com

Going into business for yourself is a big deal. There’s always a long to-do list and you’ll find yourself wearing many different hats from time to time. Your business is more of a hobby if you’re not making money. Properly managing and organizing your small-business finances can contribute to the success of your business and make sure you’re hitting your profit goals. Like personal finance, there are plenty of ways to organize your small-business finances depending on what your goals are.

Here are seven key steps to take.

1. Track your income

It’s important to know how much you make. You can track your income, monthly, weekly or even daily so you can better understand how much money you’re bringing in.

I like to use a spreadsheet to track my income and I break my income down into categories which represent the different streams of income my business has.

If you use invoicing or bookkeeping software, you can also use a program to help you track your business income. Another benefit of tracking your income is that it allows you to monitor things better so you can determine if and how the numbers fluctuate. If you have a specific income goal, you’ll definitely want to start tracking your income regularly as well.

2. Track and audit your expenses

If you’re going to track your income, you need to track your expenses as well. Entrepreneurs have important expenses that must be paid in order to keep the business running.

You can deduct some of your business expenses on your taxes and this will lower your taxable income. It will also lower the amount of money that hits your pocket. As a result, most business owners actually net a lower income than what they gross.

You can track your expenses the same way you track your expenses. Doing this will allow you to audit your expenses regularly as well so can make sure you’re not overspending on unnecessary costs.

3. Keep a separate bank account

As soon as your business starts making money, you need to separate your finances. I kept all my personal and business finances in one bank account during my first year of entrepreneurship and I truly regretted it. I was super confused around tax time and everything was so unorganized. It took countless hours to get back reorganized.

You can avoid this headache by simply opening a separate bank account for your business. If you have an EIN number, you can open up a business bank account, or you can just open a separate personal account and treat it like a business account.

Allow your income to filter through that account and you can pay all your expenses from that account. Each month you’ll receive a statement and it will be easier to keep track of your cash flow.

4. Protect your business

Each business requires its own level of protection, but you may want to consider getting some insurance or establishing an LLC or an S-Corp. Establishing an LLC or S-Corp allows you to separate your business identity and finances from your personal finances.

For example, if you ever had to undergo any legal issues, your personal property and assets would not be liable. Be sure to renew any important certifications or licenses you need to remain compliant by adding it to your calendar. Protecting your business is the best way to ensure any financial issues that may affect your business doesn’t pour into your personal assets.

5. Consider how you’ll receive payments

You want to make receiving payments a smooth and easy process. To do that, you need to determine how you’ll accept payments. Making this choice depends on how your business works. If you’re providing a service, you may want to send invoices out regularly. If you’re selling products, you may want to accept credit card payments at your location or set up an online cart option for your website.

Compare options and consider how much the fees will be in order to find the right solution for you.

6. Sort hard copies and digitize them

I hate dealing with tons of paper. That’s why I try to digitize most of the financial paperwork for my business to stay organized. You can save documents digitally and protect them by using a third-party secure service. You don’t have to store everything on your computer and probably shouldn’t for security reasons.

If you prefer to keep some hard copies, be sure to sort through them and organized them in a file cabinet. You’ll want to keep track of important paperwork like:

  • Accounting and bookkeeping records
  • Bank records
  • Contracts, including leases and purchase agreements
  • Trademark applications and patents
  • Permits and licenses
  • Employee records

Trust me, getting these documents organized and digitized (if necessary will pay off big time when taxes are due).

7. Schedule regular money meetings

It’s important to schedule time to sit down and go over your business finances regularly. Your income and expenses will fluctuate, so it’s best to stay on top of things by checking in often. Add a weekly finance meeting to your calendar so you can stay organized and avoid falling behind on things.

When you fall off the wagon with your business finances, it makes it difficult to stay productive and understand what’s truly going on with your situation.

This can allow burdens like debt to creep in and deter you from financial success with your business.

These basic seven starter steps will help you get on track and better organize your small-business finances. You can also do other things like create a business budget, start contributing to a Roth IRA or SEP IRA for retirement, get accounting software or even hire an accountant or tax professional to touch base with each quarter.

 


November 26, 2018

Article of the Week

Ways To Give Back This #GivingTuesday

Refinery29.com

This time of year, the commercialization of the holidays can be enough to make your head spin.

Endless sales and the sometimes overwhelming pressure to buy gifts for everyone in your life can turn giving into a less-than-pleasant experience. And yet, there’s a day just around the corner that offers an opportunity to get into a different sort of holiday spirit.

What’s #GivingTuesday?

For the sixth year in a row, next Tuesday, November 27, is a day to give back. Giving Tuesday (or as it’s more commonly referred to #GivingTuesday) first started in 2012 as an initiative by the team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The day was created in response to the spike in consumerism following Thanksgiving (think Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

Taking advantage of the momentum of these global shopping holidays, #GivingTuesday marks the beginning of the charitable season, encouraging people to give to organizations, charities, and initiatives that are doing good.

In 2017, #GivingTuesday raised estimated $274 million for nonprofits in the United States alone. Using social media as a catalyst, over the past six years, #GivingTuesday has grown into an inspiring movement that creates increased awareness of nonprofits and inspires a spirit of giving.

Whether you’re able to donate your time or money, here are five ways to participate this #GivingTuesday.

1. Donate to your favorite nonprofit

Most of us are familiar with a nonprofit or two that does work that's in line with our values. Whether it’s an organization that supports immigrant families, the LGBTQ community, or domestic violence survivors in your hometown, there are plenty of nonprofits doing great work that rely on donations in order to survive.

If no specific organization comes to mind, you can check out the #GivingTuesday site to find nonprofits in your neighborhood, or browse a third-party databases, like MightyCause, to search for nonprofits by location and type. If transparency is a concern, check out Give.org, which produces reports about organizations and evaluates them based on accountability.

2. Volunteer your time

If you’re able to, consider volunteering your time on Tuesday. Though #GivingTuesday is primarily an online event, there are plenty of organizations that are in need of hands-on help. Rolling your sleeves up can be particularly fulfilling way to give back.

If you have an organization in mind, give them a call to see if they’re looking for volunteers on #GivingTuesday, or check out the #GivingTuesday site to find the contact information for nonprofits in your area.

3. Start your own fundraiser

If you have a Facebook account, one great way to elevate your efforts on Giving Tuesday is to start a fundraiser for your favorite nonprofit.

All you have to do is head over to Facebook and click ‘Fundraisers’ on the left-hand side of the screen under the Explore tab. From there, see options to start a fundraiser for #GivingTuesday. This year, Facebook and PayPal will be matching donations up to a total of $7 million. You can learn more about how to start a fundraiser and how your efforts will be matched on the site.

4. Share your experience on social media

If you're not financially able to give as much as you’d like this year, one thing that’s free and can be helpful is boosting #GivingTuesday posts on your social media.

Use the #GivingTuesday hashtag to write about what you’re doing, retweet and repost social media posts from nonprofits and charities — whether they’re the ones you’re financially supporting or not. Whenever possible, use your platform to give nonprofits some extra love.

5. Start a charitable giving habit

#GivingTuesday is a great way to collectively affect positive change. But, in a world that is struggling in so many ways, it’s good to remember to give back whenever possible — not just the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Many nonprofits have membership or giving packages where you can sign up to donate on a monthly basis. If you’re able, consider signing up for one of these memberships so that you can support your favorite nonprofit year-round. After all, every bit helps.


November 19, 2018

Article of the Week

5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season

SBA.org

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the time is now to make sure you get the most of your marketing efforts to help secure sales success in the coming months. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help get you started.

Social Media Contests

If your small business has a social media presence, contests on Facebook and Twitter are often a popular way highlight your brand and engage with customers, reminding them that your product or service is available – and a potentially great gift idea. With a few rules, a clever hashtag and incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings, you can drum up excitement about – and draw people in to – your business.

Extra Appeal for Your Loyal Customers

Take this time to make your loyal customers feel extra special – it may come back to you by way of additional business and referrals. Without breaking the bank, you can provide special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales.

Special Events or Open Houses

Make your small business stand out by hosting an open house or special event at your store or restaurant. Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise so customers can get a glimpse of your seasonal goods in advance. Pair the browsing with light refreshments – a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of cider – to get people in the holiday spirit. On their way out, give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount.

Holiday Help

This is a great idea from Illana Bercovitz at Small Business Trends: use social media to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. Consider your industry, product or service and related advice you could offer to make customers’ lives easier. “Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful,” Bercovitz says. Use an original hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Email

Although it’s often considered overused, email remains inexpensive and easy to implement when it comes to maintaining contact with existing customers. That’s a key to remember – to be effective, email marketing should be used with folks you have already done business with or who have expressed an interest in your business and have requested email from you (otherwise known as permission marketing).

Keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:

  • Keep the e-mail short and sweet. Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.
  • Clearly state the email’s intent in the subject line. For example, "A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2013.”
  • Be festive in your design. Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.
  • Follow online marketing rules. Don't forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow government guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.
On November 15, the Times Union published our special section on philanthropy, Capital Region Gives. As part of a contest, 10 local nonprofits had the opportunity to share $100,000 in granted advertising space in the Times Union. This year, 34 nonprofits were eligible to win a share of the $100,000 grant. Voting to determine which  nonprofit will…
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