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Productivity Strategies for Small Businesses

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

To stay effective, businesses need to investigate methods to streamline operations. Various techniques save time and energy when getting your company or organization above ground. These include organizational methods to streamline project management, information retrieval, employee communication, and decision-making processes.

1) Project Management:

Business cycles rarely flow with perfect routines and without bumps in the road. At times, seasonal cycles control the ebb and flow of resources of even the most stable businesses.  As a result, skillful project management must tackle the unpredictable trials that break the rhythms of even the most stable institutions.

In some cases, the same project rolls around each year. In these cases, project management systems can facilitate review and record-keeping. Applications like Asana can help create plans for these periodic bumps in the road, facilitating the delegation and simplification of tasks.

In other cases, a specific circumstance may arise, and a company has a new dragon to slay. In order to tackle such unforeseeable bumps in the road, organizations should retain the flexibility to mobilize. Cross-training can help employees take on diverse tasks within the company as needed. Also, keeping business operations flexible may allow wiggle-room for novel situations as they arise.

2) Good Information Management and Storage, aka a Good Filing System:

Even before the age of computers, any secretary could describe the benefits of a good filing system. Effective companies need to stay organized. Lost documents and jumbled service can destroy a company’s reputation. 

Applications like Airtable can help organize various documents and spreadsheets. Online applications can supplement well-thought-out systems within the office to ensure information is stored effectively and retrievably.

3) Employee Feedback and Communication:

The workers on the front lines are often the first to know when the first hits arise of a dire new issue. Worker feedback is essential. Proprietary software should include space for comments by operators, and management should take these comments seriously. Open-door policies should allow the rank-and-file to raise issues when appropriate. 

Companies should stay vertically integrated to ensure that the leadership and the rank-and-file stay on the same page. This way, problems are less likely to snowball before they reach the attention of management. Applications like Dropbox can ensure communication between various members of the team.

4) Decision Making: Streamlined Approval for New Initiatives:

How can we define “bureaucracy?” Sometimes, layers of middle management calcify into a concrete wall between innovation and leadership. Hence, skillful oversight protects businesses from careless decisions. Approval processes must be strict, quick, and effective.

A calcified bureaucracy in a large organization can stymie the best-laid plans. Careful scrutiny of processes ensures that only the best products and services go to market. Smaller organizations often struggle to maintain quality in the face of limited resources. Given restrictions in size and resources, the problem for Veteran Business Owners often is not bureaucracy, but lack of oversight.

Several workflow applications, such as Shift, can channel tasks to employees’ inboxes. Such applications can allow workers to arrive in the morning ready to tackle their workload independently.

Overall, productivity strategies should vary with the type of organization. However, the above four considerations can guide management across industries in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. In other words, both newfangled technological approaches and old-fashion office management techniques can help prune time-wasting redundancies from a Veteran Business Owner’s workday.

 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Who knew? Labor and supply shortages are creating havoc and cursing small businesses now more than ever, especially in the wake of reopening. Behemoths such as Amazon and Walmart have their safety nets. Smaller establishments must struggle with what they have. As a result, gaps in service plague the reputations and growth of their smaller counterparts.

Unfortunately for Veteran Business Owners, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, a new record. The pandemic only exacerbated a preexisting trend, and the reasons vary. 

Suggestions have included a lack of training opportunities, supercharged unemployment benefits, a mismatched skill set, and fear due to the pandemic for many. Whatever the cause, a shortage of qualified workers has left employers in the lurch despite a continuously shrinking workforce.

Gaps in service are a result, often leaving angry customers. This anger often shows up online. These days, an online presence can make or break a company. Angry reviews can pose real threats to a struggling business.

The trend nowadays is for buyers overwhelmingly to check their business’ online presence. How can business owners minimize angry diatribes on forums such as Yelp, Bing, Google My Business, and Facebook? Small employers are finding themselves trapped between the rock of the labor shortage and the hard place of customer satisfaction. The best short-term fix is better communication.

Business owners should build trust with their client base. Patrons should understand that they can work with the management of a company. These kinds of positive working relationships best protect smaller businesses from online reputational issues, which may leave business owners feeling helpless in their marketing efforts. Good working relationships often rest on a foundation of good communication, one of the variables that managers may control in this economic environment.

Methods of communication may vary. Updating profiles on relevant online business platforms is an easy first step. The business’s profiles on the above online platforms should provide up-to-date hours and terms of service. When possible, these sites should also include explanations for any changes in these terms. Additionally, a business owner should address any negative reviews directly as soon as possible.

Some verbal strategies can improve the outcome of discussions with a dissatisfied customer. For example, first, the person in charge should remain calm during a confrontation. Second, active listening can demonstrate that the manager understands the grievance.  Active listening methods generally emphasize engagement in the discussion. In other words, managers should not remain passive targets in these matters. One such technique may involve rephrasing the complaints in a manner that demonstrates a genuine understanding of the customer’s issues with their service. 

Finally, management should demonstrate their understanding of the weight of the problem and if possible, let the customer know the relevant steps for resolving such issues in the future.

Early communication with dissatisfied customers may prevent escalation or even an angry Yelp review. Overall, the goal is a synergy between the needs of the client and the capacities of the owner. During these novel times, business owners should engage any necessary communication techniques to achieve a meeting of the minds that leaves all parties satisfied and at peace.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Psychological Barriers to Starting a New Business

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Veteran Business Owners have a right and a responsibility to market their talents and skills. Successful paths are myriad, as are roadblocks. Many of these roadblocks are psychological. Here is a list of some of the most common misconceptions veterans often have that impede their paths to running a successful business.

1) “I don’t have the resources.”

A Veteran Business Owner need not invest unwieldy amounts of cash or resources to carve out a place in the economy. “Start small” is often the best strategy. Your best resource is yourself. 

A new business can start with meager resources, assuming a good concept. Good planning conceivably may keep the dream alive. 

Consider Sophia Amoruso, founder of the fashion company Girlboss Media. She literally started her fashion company browsing secondhand stores, selling her finds on her Myspace site. Also consider Khan Academy. Sal Khan’s company evolved from tutoring sessions he provided a family member. Other family members showed interest in his lesson plans for themselves, and thus his company turned into a marketable idea.

Marketable ideas often stare potential entrepreneurs in the face for years before they spark inspiration. Often, these ideas require little to no investment at the outset. Consider your talents, hobbies, surrounding circumstances, and social connections. Good ideas are often free and can sow fertile seeds that lead to rich fruits over time.

2) “I can’t do it,” aka “Imposter Syndrome.”

When lightning strikes, and you have a great business idea, one natural reaction might be some variant of “I can’t do it.” 

If an entrepreneur needs affirmation, online communities can frequently offer support, a sounding board, or at least ideas for development. In the end, remember that nothing can take away your relevance to the world around you.

However, “imposter syndrome” is nothing new. Consider Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and his comment “[v]ery few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe they are now qualified to be CEO.”  Also, Consider Sonia Sotomayor, and her quote “I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and at various professional jobs, not feeling a part of the worlds I inhabit.” The best and brightest of us often suffer from self-doubt. Often these doubts are simply an indication that we have the wisdom to know what we don’t know. 

3) I’ll Fail

Failure is inevitable in business and in life. The first failure can lead to greater success in later attempts. Everyone who lives fails. Frederick W. Smith’s first service, Zapmail, cratered before Fedex could focus on his core concept. Similarly, Amazon took years to turn a profit

Of course, no one wants to fail big. Not everyone has $350 million to burn, as did FedEx. However, the early failures serve as necessary steppingstones to creating a well-oiled machine. Failures of all kinds, whether administrative errors, operations inefficiencies, and hiring mistakes, are necessary to design an enterprise that fits well into the economy. Depending on resources such as financing and social support, slow and steady may win the race. 

4) “The Timing isn’t Right”

Consider a spore in your garden that may sprout hundreds of plants. The most inopportune times may give rise to the perfect storm to get your idea going

Even mulling the idea in your own head can become your own stress relief exercise. The smallest measures can build inertia. Building a web presence, for example, you can start with little effort and adapt to a changing schedule. Your relationship with your idea can morph gradually as it takes on a greater part of your life. Short of huge commitments, there is no wrong time to get started on a business idea.

 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

A VAMBOA PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

VAMBOA believes that this information is important to our membership and all Veteran Business Owners especially those who are Service-Connected Disabled Veteran Business Owners due to Agent Orange.

The Veterans Administration announced two major decisions related to presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange and particulate matter exposures during military service in Southwest Asia.

Agent Orange

VA will begin implementing provisions of the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Public Law 116-283), adding three conditions to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to herbicide agents, more commonly known as Agent Orange. Those conditions are bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.

“Many of our Nation’s Veterans have waited a long time for these benefits,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “VA will not make them wait any longer. This is absolutely the right thing to do for Veterans and their families.”

VA will apply the provisions of court orders related to Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which may result in an earlier date for entitlement to benefits for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Vietnam War-era Veterans and their survivors who previously filed and were denied benefits for one of these three new presumptive conditions will have their cases automatically reviewed without the need to refile a claim. VA will send letters to impacted Veterans and survivors.

Particulate Matter Exposures

The Secretary recently concluded the first iteration of a newly formed internal VA process to review scientific evidence to support rulemaking, resulting in the recommendation to consider the creation of new presumptions of service connection for respiratory conditions based on VA’s evaluation of a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report and other evidence. VA’s review supports the initiation of rulemaking to address the role that particulate matter pollution plays in generating chronic respiratory conditions, which may include asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis for Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War and/or after September 19, 2001, or in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War.

“VA is establishing a holistic approach to determining toxic exposure presumption going forward. We are moving out smartly in initiating action to consider these and other potential new presumptions, grounded in science and in keeping with my authority as Secretary of VA,” said Secretary McDonough.

VA is initiating rulemaking to consider adding respiratory conditions, which may include asthma, sinusitis, and rhinitis, to the list of chronic disabilities based on an association with military service in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan during the covered periods of conflict. VA will conduct broad outreach efforts to reach impacted Veterans and it encourages them to participate in the rulemaking process.

For more information, visit our website at Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Exposures – Public Health.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable information.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army will be moving $31.5 billion over the next five years from lower-priority programs to the service’s top-priority needs, according to undersecretary Ryan McCarthy. The 2020 fiscal budget will ensure that the service branch’s top priorities of readiness and modernization, the “Big Six” , remain on track.

“All six of the Army modernization priorities will have vast increases, and you will see a sustained push to the readiness portfolio because we made hard choices inside of our budget,” McCarthy said.

The Big Six include: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

This year, the Army plans to launch a competition for new armored vehicles; award development contracts for scout aircraft and helicopter engines; conduct key tests of long-range missiles, anti-aircraft defenses, rifles, targeting goggles, and multiple battlefield networks; and field new electronics for command posts.

Overall, McCarthy said, “We are trying to enable the National Defense Strategy” — which prioritizes preparing for high-intensity war with China and Russia — “and have taken some pretty dramatic steps in order to get there. We’ve been very consistent about where we were trying to take the Army… with that comes some very difficult choices.”

McCarthy would not give details about which programs have been cut, restructured or canceled. The question is whether Congress will accept the painful cutbacks, slowdowns, and outright cancellations required.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill have objected to taking money from military construction, which would impact readiness, military families, and home-state jobs.

By constantly shifting money to top priorities in both near-term readiness and long-term modernization, Army Secretary Mark Esper expects the Army to hit a critical turning point within the next four years, and barring any unforeseen crisis, the Army will reach its readiness goal by 2022.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

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