In the near future, in cities and across networks that lead the shift, we could see a significant improvement in career readiness and economic participation. Continue reading →

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Previously we covered the growing trend for online-only retailers to open physical stores to cater to consumers’ desire for a physical, in-store experience . And I’ve got some more good news for brick-and-mortar retailers from The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper  (PDF) study. The study describes today’s consumer as a “flex shopper” whose approach is dominated by the desire for convenience. While you might think that means shopping mostly online, in fact, the study found that only 39 percent of purchases are both researched and completed online. In the other 61 percent of cases, consumers either research products in-store, buy them in-store or both. In other words, consumers are nowhere near giving up the in-store experience to shop solely online. And even when they do buy online, more than half have had a product shipped to a physical store for pickup. Another reason consumers go to physical stores is to return products purchased online. Nearly 60 percent say they’re dissatisfied with the process for returning online purchases by mail. But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Shoppers in the survey who regularly buy both online and in-store, dubbed “omnichannel shoppers,” report making over half of their purchases in-store. However, while 83 percent of them say they are satisfied with the online shopping experience, only 63 percent report being satisfied with the in-store shopping experience. Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement among brick-and-mortar retailers. What are some features consumers would like to see in your store in the future? 36 percent want to get receipts sent to them via email or text. This offers convenience and helps ease returns later. 32 percent would like kiosks that let them order products that are out of stock. Even if you’re already providing the option to have sales associates do this, customers who don’t want to wait for assistance may go elsewhere. Consider installing tablet computers as a lower-cost solution. 30 percent would like electronic shelf labels they can scan to learn more about the product, check availability or make a purchase. Information is key to today’s shopper—the majority say they won’t complete a purchase without access to detailed product information. 24 percent would like to do mobile checkout with their own mobile devices in-store. Increasingly, customers want to take charge of their own shopping experiences. In addition, 22 percent would like a salesperson to do mobile checkout with a mobile device in-store. Not surprisingly, Millennials are the generation most likely to say they’d use these services. As Millennials come into their own as consumers, these features will become even more desirable. So What Does the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail Look Like? According to the report, a lot like online shopping. For now, consumers still rely primarily on their desktop computers for online purchasing. But as more consumers get more comfortable with mobile shopping on tablets and smartphones, brick-and-mortar retailers will face even more challenges. Here are some things to watch for: Keep an eye on Millennials’ behavior: Not only is this generation huge fans of brick-and-mortar, they’re also key influencers of other generations. Many happy returns: Make sure your in-store return policies are customer-friendly. Wherever they buy, customers want return policies that are convenient, fair and easy to understand. Information, please: The more information you can provide to your in-store shoppers, the better. Think of how you can make the in-store experience more like the online experience in terms of ease of comparing products and finding deals. Touchy-feely: Customers come into stores to touch, feel and test. Make your in-store experience a pleasant one with colorful displays, well-stocked inventory and sensory touches of sight, sound and smell that an online retailer can’t create. Shopping Photo via Shutterstock The post How to Get the Omnichannel Shopper Into Your Store appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Executives are increasingly shaking off paralysis and looking to take control. Beth Comstock weighs in… Continue reading →

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Cybercrime is a growing problem.  It seems like everyday you hear of a new hacking attack.  Even the largest banks are not immune.  Now comes news of five financial institutions allegedly being victims of a cyberattack. The attack on the financial institutions was sophisticated in nature. Hackers were able to abscond with sensitive information. This included checking and savings account information in what amounts to gigabytes of data. The FBI has launched an investigation into the cyberattack on these banking institutions. But, so far, no other bank other than JP Morgan Chase & Co. has been specifically identified as a victim. Expert sources tell The New York Times that it’s believed that the attack was successful in pilfering checking and savings account information. In all, gigabytes of data were hacked in this latest major cyberattack. The FBI has also involved the Secret Service and additional security experts in the investigation, reports the Associated Press. These security experts are helping the government determine who is responsible for these attacks on U.S. banks. They will also try determine attackers’ motivations. The investigation into attacks on at least two of the banks could be centering on Russian hackers. Authorities say the attack was definitely not the work of ordinary cybercriminals. Hackers were able to use a software flaw called a zero-day vulnerability to bypass bank security in one instance, and easily circumvented other bank security measures as well. However, banking authorities and government officials are working to trace the attacks and monitor fraud levels.  According the New York Times report: “JPMorgan has not seen any increased fraud levels, one person familiar with the situation said. ‘Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day,’ said Patricia Wexler, a JPMorgan spokeswoman. ‘We have multiple layers of defense to counteract any threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.’ Joshua Campbell, an F.B.I. spokesman, said the agency was working with the Secret Service to assess the full scope of attacks. ‘Combating cyberthreats and criminals remains a top priority for the United States government,’ he said.” The timing of the attack suggests a connection with Russian companies, including some of the country’s banks, put in a stranglehold by U.S.-backed sanctions against the country, authorities say. There has been an uptick in the number of attempted cyberattacks traced to Russia and other eastern European countries since tensions have risen between Russia and Ukraine. Bloomberg originally reported only two U.S. banking institutions were victims of attacks, which apparently took place in mid-August. Later the number of possible banks targeted by the attacks had risen to at least five, the New York Times reports . Bank Photo via Shutterstock The post 5 Banks Allegedly Victims of a Cyberattack appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Bad reviews aren’t just upsetting. If they give your brand a bad reputation with key customers, it can kill your business. That’s why business owners need to learn to cultivate good reviews and also deal with bad ones when they come. Luckily, we’ve got your back when it comes to managing your online reviews. We’ve collected some of the finest articles Small Business Trends has run over the years on managing your brand’s reputation online. Here’s a resource you can use to manage the good, the bad and anything in between. Help for Managing Your Online Reviews Why Online Reputation Matters to Small Business Even a small business with a great reputation among its local clientele should be concerned with what people online are saying about it online. Here’s why those online reviews matter so much despite what could be a glowing local reputation. Is Your Online Reputation Impacting Your Business? Believe it or not, your online reputation has a massive impact on your business. This article gives more reasons why a small business – even one with mostly local customers – should be monitoring their online reviews . 4 Steps To Managing Your SMB’s Online Reputation If you’re ready to take positive steps towards fully managing your online reputation, here is an article that can help you. These four simple steps build and promote your brand online  and show you how to deal with negative criticisms of your business. How to Handle Bad Online Reviews for Your Small Business Even the best small businesses are bound to get a negative review online now and then. You can’t please everybody all the time, right? This article provides you with details on what to do and what not to do when your business gets a negative review online . 15 Ways to Avoid Bad Online Reviews Here’s a list of 15 things any small business can do to avoid getting a negative review online . Even one negative review among many positives can have an unpleasant impact on your business. Luckily, there are steps any business owner can take to ensure they don’t get one in the first place. How to Turn Around a Bad Online Review Successfully So you got a bad online review. Lucky for your business, it’s not the end of the world. It all starts with curbing your rage and offering a helping hand to the upset customer. From there, you’ll potentially be able to turn around that bad review into a positive one. 5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good For Business Believe it or not, negative reviews are also beneficial for your business. A negative review can give you a chance to show off your customer service skills, for example. It is a matter of looking at your business reviews in a different light so that you can turn it around and use them for your benefit. When To Respond To Negative Reviews (and When Not To) When you receive a negative review, your initial reaction is to respond quickly. But you may not be able to respond in the right way all the time. Here is an article that discusses when to respond to negative reviews for the benefit of your online reputation. And it also discusses those times when it’s best to let those angry at the world – and not your business – have their say without a response. 4 Ways to Encourage Online Reviews Getting bad reviews is upsetting and potentially bad for your business. But it is better than having no reviews at all. You see, when a business doesn’t have any reviews online, it may seem like the business is dead. There are several ways to encourage your customers to leave online reviews for your business. Their feedback could prove invaluable to your business in the future. Take the Time to Manage Customer Reviews There are a growing number of places where your customers could be reviewing your business. It’s important to be monitoring these locations and providing feedback when appropriate. Consult this guide to find out the top review sites and how to manage your responses to those reviews . Amazon Photo via Shutterstock The post 10 Resources for Managing Your Online Reviews appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Wondering why your business revenue is going in the wrong direction? It all goes back to that foundation you first created for your company — or sometimes didn’t create — and how solid it was from the start. Everything since then should be built on top of that foundation, that plan. Without a strong and clear strategic plan, your business may flounder, and you may make a lot of costly mistakes along the way. The following are some of the most common problems business owners have with regards to their business plan. 1. It’s Nonexistent Maybe you never slowed down enough to actually write a business plan for the strategic growth of your company in its early days. Perhaps that’s because you didn’t think you needed one, were overwhelmed at the idea of writing one, or didn’t know where to begin. How to Fix It: Better late than never. Start today with a fresh business plan or strategic plan on where your company is and where you want to take it. Start with free software such as Enloop . 2. It’s Ginormous (and Therefore Useless) Back in business school, you were taught that business plans had to be thick tomes, 40 pages plus. They needed to be all-inclusive and leave no stone unturned. Fortunately, that rarely applies to small businesses (unless perhaps you are seeking funding from investors), and what you’ve got is overkill. It’s so overwhelming, you never actually take it out to review it. So what’s the point of having it if you don’t use it? How to Fix It: Try a simpler plan. You may be the only person who ever reads your strategic plan, and that’s okay. But you want it to be readable and comprehensible, and that starts with simplicity. Stick to the basics, and don’t strive for length. Just get to the point. 3. You Never Look at It Maybe you developed a fantastic business plan…5 years ago. Likely a few things have changed since then. A plan should be a living, working document that you regularly review (try for 2-4 times a year) and modify as needed. How to Fix It: Blow the dust off that thing and take a look at what you’ve got. The structure can probably stay the same, but if you’ve pivoted in your product offerings or otherwise changed company goals, those need to be reflected in the business plan. 4. It’s Not Actionable Maybe you stuffed your plan with $10 words and filled it with fluff. You read it and don’t have a clue about what to do next. How to Fix It: Amend that plan with action items. If you established a goal of becoming a $1 million company, set up steps for how you can make that a reality. These need to be achievable and measurable steps so that the next time you review your strategic plan, you can actually see how far (or not) you’ve come toward achieving those goals. Having a manageable, updated strategic business plan is what keeps your business on track toward achieving those goals you’ve set for yourself. So keep it simple, keep it updated, and keep it nearby so you can refer to it regularly. Republished by permission. Originally published at Nextiva . Computer Photo via Shutterstock The post How to Fix What’s Wrong With Your Business Plan – You Have One, Right? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Business Productivity Software (BPS) promises to deliver a lot more bang for its buck, both initially and over time, for companies of nearly every shape and size. So What is BPS? Different from standard productivity software, BPS is a revolutionary new approach for integrating systems, people, and business processes. It’s primary focus is to allow people to work better – both individually and collaboratively. It supports and integrates both data and processes for nearly every aspect of business – sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, executive management and more. So, why is your business not leveraging it? For most businesses, making the move to a comprehensive BPS solution requires an entire organization’s buy-in and a true commitment to wanting to improve all business processes. Solutions (such as business by Miles) present new frontiers for businesses of all sizes. Frontiers that include better management, organization and collaboration of all business operations 24/7. Still, some companies find it hard to jump away from the de facto standard in terms of business process management, traditional ERP systems. What a shame, because BPS solutions today afford companies both small and large a viable alternative and a necessary graduation in business process efficiency. Below are 4 reasons to embrace business productivity software – or at least, begin your BPS homework. Your Business Needs Better Collaboration The collaborative aspects of BPS productivity are vast. Exchanging, storing and accessing information is more efficient with BPS in place, resulting in not only centralized information, but also a 24/7 opportunity to collaborate, engage – and get business done. Better Integration Means Better Business Doesn’t it get frustrating when different departments are using different software platforms and colleagues are not working in an integrated manner? Integration means that information from various sources is pushed into a centralized location, so that data is available in one place rather than multiple places. An example of this is integrating financial software, for instance, QuickBooks, with a BPS system – allowing users to see important financial information and how it ties into aspects of a business, without separately opening QuickBooks. Doesn’t it make sense to fully integrate all business processes? Your Human Resources Tactics Are Tired It’s difficult to run a growing business without having the right people on board. Every growing business needs to make efficient recruiting a priority, but recruiting can be an overwhelming and labor intensive undertaking. Sure, some productivity software packages are built specifically for applicants, allowing them to create logins and user profiles, then apply for multiple positions. Still, those tools do not necessarily allow multiple users to work on recruiting in a collaborative way. Plus, they don’t tie together recruiting and other business functions. With a BPS system, the recruiting process is streamlined, resulting in customized application processes, applicant tracking and more. Your Customers Will Benefit – Greatly Customer service is a vital part of the buying experience. Your company might provide stellar products, but in the long run, deficient customer service and support risks losing customer loyalty and revenue. Providing excellent customer service is critical. Using a BPS system that includes a customer portal can significantly decrease the amount of time and effort your employees spend handling customer service inquiries and issues. An online customer portal can provide 24/7 customer support and allow customers to, at any time of the day, submit requests, make payments, request additional projects and more. Your business will get paid faster – by customers highly content with their ability to interact with a customer service superstar. Team Photo via Shutterstock The post 4 Reasons Business Productivity Software Means Better Business – Period appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Over the last few weeks, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral prompting millions of videos. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge marketing campaign was created to help find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, by raising awareness and collecting monetary donations. We’ve all seen the videos on our news feed: People dumping water over their heads and issuing a new challenge to their friends. In a recent post on the official ALS Association blog, President and CEO Barbara Newhouse explained : “This is a creative way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide…” Pete Frates, resident of Beverly, MA and a victim of ALS himself, helped to push the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge marketing campaign to viral status early this August. The premise is simple. After receiving a tag from a friend, you either: Donate $100 to the ALS Association and avoid the bucket; or Donate a smaller amount (recommended at around $10) and pour a bucket of ice cold water over your head. Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Marketing Campaign Effective? Some people argue the campaign is counterproductive. In taking the challenge, participants are avoiding donating the full amount to the cause. So is this campaign a flop? The results so far give a pretty resounding answer: The campaign is an overwhelming success! Let’s look at the numbers. As of August 27, 2014, the ALS Association has raised $94.3 million from over 2.1 million new donors. Compare that figure to this time last year, when the organization had earned only $2.5 million over the same period. This means that in the one month the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge marketing campaign has been viral, the ALS Association has collected more than forty times what it made over the entire course of last year. Why is that? Well, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is not only a way to raise money. It’s a way to raise awareness. With social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook, people can connect to hundreds, thousands, even millions with the message. And with the viral videos wallpapering the news feed of nearly every website, ALS has finally been given the focus fundraisers have always sought. The more cost effective option makes it feasible for nearly anyone to participate. Although ideal, the $100 donation might be out of some people’s price range. And the option to take the “challenge” and make a video challenging others has gotten more people involved than ever before. That includes celebrities and other well-known figures who are donating thousands as well as completing the challenge, thus spreading the message even further. So YouTube uploads are spiking. And well-known figures like Bill Gates (who built a machine to dump water on his head, pictured above) and Charlie Sheen (who decided to do something…different) are issuing big-ticket challenges to their colleagues. And the collections continue to increase by the day. Finally, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge marketing campaign has given those who suffer from the disease a chance to speak. Anthony Carbajal, a professional photographer who has been diagnosed with ALS — his mother and grandmother were also diagnosed — recently uploaded a video of his own. (Watch out. Some of the language in this video is strong.) There is a fun part in which Carbajal spoofs a car wash video and challenges talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and singer Miley Cyrus to participate. But the video also gives a sobering look at a person suffering from the disease and allows Carbajal to speak candidly (sometimes through tears) of the fear he feels facing it. The ALS Association has posted instructions on its website for completing the challenge. There are also hashtags including #icebucketchallenge, #alsicebucketchallenge, and #strikeoutals and some downloadable graphics to help spread the word via social media. Image: YouTube The post Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Working? Numbers Say Yes! appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Careers aren’t made overnight, but a few mistakes can easily derail your career pretty quickly. Whether you’re complacent in your current position, or you’re swept up in office politics, there are many career damaging moves and snafus seasoned professionals can run into. “People make a lot of mistakes in their careers, some are small and can be recovered from with an apology or the passage of time. Others can fully derail your career and your reputation.”says Julie Bauke, career strategist, president of The Bauke Group, and author of “Stop Peeing on our Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw Up your Job Search.” From blowing off networking opportunities to aligning with the wrong colleague, here’s a look at five damaging career mistakes to avoid. 1. Not Taking Advantage of the Tools at Hand When taking on a new role, most people set their goals on doing a great job, learning as much as possible and hopefully moving up to a higher position. But often people fail at meeting these goals, simply because they don’t take advantage of the tools and resources that are readily at their disposable. “We offer a lot of really great training tools, a lot of which are offered online,” says Christy Palfy, recruiting manager at Progressive. “Yet a lot of people don’t sign up and take advantage of that training.” By utilizing any tools available to you, you are able to stretch in the job you have today but also advance within the company because you have learned new skills. 2. Being Focused Solely on Your Job You want to do a great job in your current position and you want to show you’re a hard worker, but the work can’t stop once you leave the office. Many people are “working for the weekend” and, as a result, miss opportunities to develop and grow and become valuable to the company, says Bauke. “It is imperative that all professionals always understand what is going on in their industry, company, and profession so that they can continue to stay aligned with what is needed. Our ability to stay relevant and marketable is fully the responsibility of the individual,” she says. 3. Not Keeping Your Emotions and Behavior in Check Often we spend more hours at work than at home, and as a result we forge deep relationships with many of our co-workers and bosses. While those relationships may introduce a level of casualness ,your behavior inside and outside of the office will have an impact on your career if you don’t keep it professional. Some of those career killers, according to Anthony Graziano, regional managing director Randstad Professionals include: Having an inappropriate relationship with someone in the office. Getting inebriated at company outings. Being insensitive to someone or overreacting emotionally to a work scenario. While you may want to throw your computer across the room in frustration, actually acting on that feeling will be a surefire way to lose your job and reputation. 4. Blowing Off Opportunities to Network Networking doesn’t stop once you land the job, but instead should become a way of life, particularly if you want to move up in your company. According to Palfy, far too often people work in the same company for years, yet they don’t know what other people in the organization actually do. Whether you are networking at an official event or just chatting with someone in the elevator, Palfy says you should always have your elevator pitch ready and share what you do when meeting new people in your job. Another great way to get access to different people is to participate in company organized groups, outings or teams. 5. Choosing the Wrong Team Power ebbs and flows in an organization and if you align with the wrong person you could end up on the chopping block if something goes wrong. Yes, you want to be loyal to your boss and be a team player with your co-workers, but you should always keep it professional. If you are working with a disgruntled boss, it’s ok to listen to him or her. But don’t get involved in any gossip or office politics. “I have seen situations where people were aligned with the wrong boss and when that boss was removed from the situation, whether a transfer, a promotion or getting fired, that person was then negatively affected by that,” says Graziano. Align with the wrong person and best case scenario – you’ll have an uncomfortable time at work. Worst case scenario – you’ll lose your job, along with your boss. Republished by permission. Original here . Frustrated Photo via Shutterstock The post 5 Career Damaging Moves You Need to Avoid Making appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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If you have incorporated your business as an S Corporation or a C Corporation, most states require that you keep careful records of the company’s activities. Every time your board of directors meets, your company needs to keep a record on file for regulatory compliance purposes. There is a long list of possible transaction and resolutions that you might need to keep on record. This can include anything ranging from: The appointment of a new officer. The resignation of a director. Purchasing insurance. Selling stock Obtaining a line of credit/credit card in the company’s name. Keeping records can be a lot to keep straight, particularly for the small business owner. However, proper meeting minutes are essential to keeping your corporation in good standing and maintaining your personal liability shield. Below are some of the key things you need to know when it comes to keeping minutes of your meetings. What are Meeting Minutes? Meeting minutes keep an official account of what was done or talked about at formal meetings, including any decisions made or actions taken. They are taken during a formal meeting of the board of directors or shareholders of a corporation, such as initial and annual meetings. Typically, meeting minutes are recorded by the corporation’s secretary (or another individual appointed at the meeting). What Should be Included in Meeting Minutes? Your meeting minutes do not need to include every little detail. You just need to document the key information and any decisions made or actions taken. In general, your minutes should be detailed enough to serve as your corporation’s “institutional memory.” Typical minutes will include the following: Basic information about the meeting: date, time, location. Who attended, along with a special note in the cases where attendees came late or left early. Agenda items with a brief description of each item. Voting actions with a detailed account of how each individual voted, along with any abstensions. Time when meeting was adjourned. In most cases, you don’t need to create minutes from scratch. You can find free templates online to serve as a starting point. Choose your type of minutes/documentations, fill in the blanks, and print it out, and you will have met your recordkeeping obligations. Who is Required to Keep Meeting Minutes? The majority of states require both S Corporations and C Corporations to document major business decisions and the major meetings you hold. At present, the following states do not require minutes to be kept: Delaware Kansas Nevada North Dakota Oklahoma Additionally, LLCs are not required to keep minutes. What Should I do With the Minutes After They are Recorded? Minutes do not need to be filed with the state, but can instead be kept with your other corporate records, such as articles of incorporations, bylaws, and resolutions. Like other documents, you should keep minutes on hand for at least seven years. Members of the corporation, such as shareholders, officers, and directors, are entitled to review the meeting minutes upon “reasonable request” to the corporation. While you don’t need to file these documents with the state, they should still be considered important documents and are essential for protecting your corporation’s good standing and your limited liability status. The post How to Properly Handle Your Company’s Meeting Minutes appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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