Dell Technologies
BMS-center-logo
 

Productivity Strategies for Small Businesses

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

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/ 

CROWDFUNDING

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new phenomenon and an alternative to angel investors. Many find crowdsourcing campaigns obnoxious. However, crowdsourcing websites provide an invaluable resource for new businesses. 

Additionally, over time, investment crowdsourcing has evolved to cater to the needs of new businesses. When a new business resorts to traditional crowdsourcing sites, a better way to describe these campaigns is presales campaigns. Such campaigns are as old as capitalism.

Angel investors are harder to come by. Angel investors are usually at the later stages of successful business ventures and take satisfaction from boosting new ideas. Such investors generally ask in exchange for a share of the business equity or convertible debt. Oftentimes, a mentorship or patronage relationship comes with the package.

The earliest crowdsourcing campaigns were shameless attempts to score frivolous rewards for brazen internauts seeking consumer goods, vacations, and other vanities. Later, crowdsourcing sites became known for charity fundraising. Now, crowdsourcing sites such as gofundme.com and kickstarter.com have found new life in promoting novel business ventures.

We should all welcome the repurposing of these established websites. Anyone can use these platforms to market their business idea. These sites offer great springboards for presales marketing. Angel investors are harder to come by and offer different risks and benefits.

A distinction should be made between regular crowdfunding and investment crowdfunding. Most crowdfunding provides nothing but the satisfaction of help for another. Investment crowdfunding provides an equity interest in the company. In other words, the funders receive a tiny share of ownership of the company commensurate with their investment. SeedInvest and FundersClub are popular forums for investment crowdfunding.

“Angel investors” are few and far between. Such investors often show an emotional interest in the enterprise beyond the fiscal rewards, yet generally do expect compensation. Online resources do exist for those seeking angel investors. The Angel Capital Association provides a forum for well-meaning senior investors seeking promising candidates. Gust and the Angel Forum also facilitate meetups between entrepreneurs and angel mentors. In general, such relationships are quite hard to come by. Successful relationships with angel investors tend to be serendipitous and start with lucrative personal connections before they bear any kind of fruit.

As for crowdfunding, the idea itself must be a crowd-pleaser. Hence, the idea itself provides a great exercise in marketing in its early stages. Legitimate early-stage crowdfunding generally needs good marketing material. In other words, the business concept should have developed to the point where it can attract interest. A crowdfunding endeavor may also provide an exercise in business development. 

In sum, “angel investors” are often a matter of luck. They can provide vast resources but may usurp control. “Crowdfunding campaigns” generally require the preparation of a palatable business idea. As for crowdfunding, an understanding of the different types of crowdfunding can set new business owners on a good track for funding their new enterprise. At the same time, bear in mind that most of the funding for new business ideas comes from independent “bootstrap” money. A balanced, well-researched understanding of all three can provide a realistic assessment of funding potential at the earliest stages.

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/ 

Pandemic Labor Shortage Hiring Strategies

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The pandemic continues to keep workers at home. Real concerns about the Delta Variant loom large. Plus, continuing financial support motivates low-wage employees to stay home. Lower-wage employees often have the best reasons to snub less-than-optimal work arrangements. Concerns of such employees may range from childcare to vocational development. The result burdens many small businesses with serious labor shortages. Hence, current economic circumstances have only increased the necessity of wise hiring practices.

Know Your Capacities

Small businesses must stay mindful of their own needs and capacities. Some companies over-hire, leaving unnecessary workers to be idle and bored. Others burden a small number with an impossible workload. Before the start of the hiring process, owners should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to gain a clear understanding of their human resources needs.

Bored and idle workers become dissatisfied, even as they remain on company time. At the same time, overworked employees could simply walk off the job and leave the owners in the lurch. A healthy business provides a well-planned, balanced workday. 

Hence, management should gauge each task for the time and effort requirements. Not infrequently, an overwhelmed business may panic at their workload and over-hire. The resulting crowd of low-level workers may feel undervalued, undertrained, and ignored. Similarly, an employer may under-hire. Often, employees are expected to hit the ground running due to their experience or qualifications. Sometimes these expectations unduly burden newcomers and managers alike.

Granted, businesses cannot always afford expensive training programs. Sometimes expecting a hire to “hit the ground running” is the only option. However, ideally, this cost-benefit analysis regarding both training and the number of employees aids in the creation of a well-balanced workforce.

Know Your Platform

The Internet has long taken over the hiring process. The shift from paper to online applications has yielded pluses and minuses both for applicants and businesses. From the perspective of Veteran Business Owners, this shift opened the floodgates for countless frivolous applicants. Shifting through irrelevant, frivolous, or downright silly applications has become par for the course. When possible, business owners need to seek out jobs sites that specialize in their field. For example, encore.org and idealist.org specialize in nonprofit positions. Itjobspro.com connects employers with skilled IT professionals, and salesgray.com links business owners with sales professionals.

The list is endless. General job sites provide a cheap alternative but add to the burden of the hiring process. Small business owners generally spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the hiring process itself. A bad fit may cost still more in training costs, as well as the cleanup following termination. The miracle of the Internet provides countless opportunities to zero in on applicants who have at least done their own work to tailor their applications to their own interests and skillsets. Specialized jobs platforms are key resources to streamline the hiring process.

Involve the Team in the Hiring Process

Especially for a long-term commitment, consider the splash a new hire could make in the company pond. The involvement of future colleagues could ensure a “good fit” in the hiring process. In many cases, coworkers will spend many hours a day together. Often, the involvement of the team could safeguard long-term office tranquility should the newcomer take root in their new office home.

However, this process should ensure fairness. Many workplaces have corporate cultures that discriminate, explicitly or implicitly. Some interview practices may land certain employers on shaky ground. Beware of excessive prying into recreational activities, hobbies, and interests, or home or family life. Short of landing employers in legal hot water, such questions may simply deprive both parties of fruitful opportunities.

Conclusion

As always, balance is key. An employer’s rewards in the hiring effort will likely be proportionate with their investments. Companies should plan wisely and implement judiciously. The result following onboarding should leave a balanced, satisfying workday for everyone.

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/

Research & Development Tax Credits

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

Governments typically incentivize private industry to produce research and development (R&D) as a strategic tool to advance their economies. The United States government also does so. The  Research & Experimentation Tax Credit (R&D Tax Credit) was first introduced in 1981 as a two-year incentive, and has remained part of the tax code ever since.

The rules of the Research & Development Tax Credit can be found under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 41 and the related regulations. The R&D tax credit may apply to any taxpayer that incurs expenses for performing Qualified Research Activities (QRA) on American soil.

It’s not only high-tech or life sciences companies with dedicated research departments that qualify for the R&D tax credit. Some other common industries that qualify include, but are not limited to:

  • Aerospace & Defense
  • Architecture
  • Automobile
  • Chemical & Formula
  • Engineering
  • Environmental
  • Food Science
  • Foundries
  • Life Sciences & Pharmaceutical
  • Machining
  • Manufacturing & Fabrication
  • Software Development
  • Tool & Die Casting

To qualify, you must be able to prove that the activities rely on are hard science, such as engineering, computer science, biological science, or physical science;  that they relate to the development of a new or improved business component; and that your activities constitute a process of experimentation involving testing and evaluation of alternatives to eliminate technological uncertainty.

The potential R&D credit benefits include a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your federal and state income tax liability; improved cash flow; look back studies that recognize unclaimed credits for open tax years(generally for three or four years); and up to 13.5 cents of R&D tax credit for every qualified dollar spent.

Whether you’ve already filed your return or filed an extension, the R&D credit is a powerful tool to help lower your tax rates. If you are uncertain as to whether you qualify for the R&D tax credit, there are numerous professionals that can guide you through the process.

 

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA.

ibmpos_blurgb