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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/ 

 

CROWDFUNDING

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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

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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/

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Just how much work brings a business idea to life? Many new business owners today assume unrealistically that no amount of work is enough. Following the initial exuberance of a spark of inspiration, some may see creating and managing their vision from the outset as not full-time job, but an all-time commitment. Life comes first, and when the stress of their own perceived obligations runs a manager down, a small business could stay down with them until their own welfare becomes a priority.

Business owners should manage their priorities wisely. The first such priority is health. Excessive overtime does no favors for either a service-provider or their clients. Sluggish thinking tends to prevail when overwork is the norm. Such thinking leads to mistakes, numbs innovation, and creates apathy. Many a medical resident or air traffic controller has learned this lesson the hard way. No business owner benefits from 12 hours a day hustling for work that may not exist.  Small business owners need to work smart instead of long and this is good advice.

The owner’s commitment should therefore match the realistic scale of the enterprise. Early in the history of a business, the time-commitment may in fact be minimal. A new business owner may in fact need to feel out the scope of demand for their services before planning for a larger, more sophisticated organization.

Often for a brand-new entrepreneur, the most exciting aspects of the business may in fact provide the greatest rewards. In other words, dry planning for infrastructure development may for some hinder rather than help development. Such development may not end up a great fit for the needs of a new business.

Perhaps later, business may grow.  The necessities of a new enterprise may change. A sole proprietor often must direct every function of their enterprise. A larger organization tends to rely on specialists. Any mid-size or large corporation likely has several departments, such as Human Resources, Legal, or Marketing. As a sole proprietor develops their new business, they often must assume each function simultaneously and wear many hats.

The direct needs of the business could more directly impact the proprietor. The more demanding a business becomes, the more carefully we should balance the needs of the business with our own capacity to function in a healthy, productive manner.

A 2012 Slate article, “Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week,” noted that for most of the 20th century, business leaders such as Henry Ford noted the deleterious effects of overwork for their employees, as well as presumably themselves. The current ethos of overwork in many sectors does nothing to improve on these sentiments.

Those who run a business should have a sense of their own proclivities. Consider those habits that may sharpen your senses and increase your enthusiasm, as opposed to those that leave you exhausted and sluggish. For example, some people work best in the mornings, while others need time to adjust and plan their day. Breaktimes and lunch may provide opportunities to get to know your healthiest, most productive, and happiest routine. Additionally, managers should know how to mesh work life with down-time and recreation.

Generally, those who deliver vibrance to their own business creations are fonts of life themselves. Your own inner world dictates the energy you radiate. Self-care and mindfulness about your own well-being colors the life of those within your sphere. Hence, consider the dangers of the cult of overwork, and remember that the management of your own well-being matters as much as management of your business.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been valuable.   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

Don’t forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

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

Veterans Take the Initiative to Explore Entrepreneurship

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Past military experience helps “veteran entrepreneurs” find success especially when they team up.  Working in teams is part of the military culture. Veterans tend to have a greater desire to create their own destiny, which is why starting a business is so appealing.  Veterans tend to have a unique point of view based on their past military experience.   They come up with different solutions to problems than non-military personnel do and are more creative and focused on crafting solutions.

 

Veterans have unique experiences and inner strengths that include:  

  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Commitment to a greater cause than self
  • Love for fellow comrades in arms regardless of their ethnicity or background
  • A drive to succeed against the odds
  • Focusing on the end goal and achieving the mission
  • Working in teams to get the job done

 

All of these attributes benefit veteran entrepreneurs.  This is one of the reasos that veterans tend to lean more towards starting their own businesses.  These same traits lead a lot of veteran business owners to want to help others pursue entrepreneurship as well.  They also become mentors and are leaders.

 

In the last few years there has been a surge of businesses, organizations, lenders, and programs that have been formed to provide veterans ways to explore entrepreneurship with the direct support of their colleagues.

 

Some of them include:

 

All of these organizations have one thing in common, they were created by a veteran, a group of veterans or those who support veterans to help veteran brothers and sisters in arms achieve their business dreams.

 

Military life has prepared many for the challenges that are unique to military service and those will also greatly benefit business life as a civilian. Veterans also face unique challenges when they return home from active duty. Seeking assistance from other veterans will help boost success as a civilian entrepreneur.

 

In today’s ever-changing economy, global climate, and interpersonal relationships, it is best to find programs and funding sources that focus on bringing together veterans and like-minded business owners who can help each other flourish.

 

We encourage all military and veteran business owners to join VAMBOA, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association.  VAMBOA does not charge any fees or dues.  Here is a link to register:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

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