Today’s workers come from increasingly diverse environments including age, gender, race, language, and nationality. Beyond these differences, there are also other deeper cultural differences that can cause conflict, especially when working in a team setting. Therefore, it is important to find ways in which to work effectively and resolve potential conflicts as a team while taking these cultural differences into consideration.
You can do this by:
1. Knowing Yourself and Your Own Culture
Examine your own beliefs, values, biases, and prejudices. Being aware of our own cultures helps us to remain open to different ideas. We are able to compare and contrast different approaches without being threatened.
2. Learn others expectations
Expect that others will have different expectations, and that the only way we will know what expectations others hold is to by having a frank and open discussion about the nature of conflict, and how we prefer to deal with it when it arises.
3. Checking Your Assumptions
It is human nature to make assumptions. Therefore, it is important that we develop acceptable ways in which to check the basis of our perceptions. Failure to do so leads to inaccurate stereotypes and may foster negative feelings of hostility. Remember that your first interpretation is not necessarily correct. Be open to the interpretations of others.
Finally, fine-tune your listening skills. Effective listening supports the development and emergence of new norms that will reflect a deep knowledge for one another’s ‘ways.’ In turn, a strong and better team environment will also emerge.
With rising fuel costs and general costs of doing business, it is not uncommon to see a business owner pass these costs onto the client. However, how you choose to pass those costs on can potentially alienate your customers. For example, customers are more likely to accept a increase in your overall hourly rates than they are to accept an “administrative fee” or a “phone charge fee”. Nobody likes to be nickeled and dimed to death. Seeing several entries for miscellaneous, small items tend to cause many customers to become irate, particularly when they are already paying, what they feel, are competitive rates for your services.
Be cautious when adding a charge to a customer’s bill where there’s no perceived value to the customer. A better, winning sales approach would be to make it clear to your customers that many of the extra services you include are free. As always, the “carrot” of the perks you provide will go a lot further than the “stick” approach to doing business.
A recent study by Stats Canada found that the financial and management skills of a business are the keys to business success, even more so than its asset and equipment growth. Investments in physical capital, such as machinery, equipment and production facilities, are often viewed as hallmarks of a growing company. However, the survey found that the development of intangible, knowledge capital-organizational capabilities, associated with the growth process, is far more important if you plan to stay in business for the long-run.
The study reported that many businesses that had failed pointed to their deficiencies in general skills, notably in financial and general management as the reasons why. Successful new businesses that succeeded often placed a strong emphasis on ‘getting the fundamentals right’ in a wide range of strategic areas.
The paper called “Innovation capabilities: The knowledge capital behind the survival and growth of firms” is available on the Stats Canada website.
The fourth quarter is historically a big “push” period for small and big businesses alike. It presents an opportunity to meet sales goals and finish within budget expectations. To do so, requires planning and foresight. Here are a few tips that can help you focus on those year-end goals:
Monitor Your Accounts Receivable
Many business find themselves struggling with accounts receivables that stretch out as far as 60 to 90 days past due. Your inability to collect your accounts receivable in a timely manner could have a severe impact on your cash flow, leaving you strapped during a busy selling season.
Manage Your Debt Effectively
Credit cards finance a large portion of business debt. Therefore, it is important to always review your credit cards statements for interest rates that may have spiked. If they have, you need to try and refinance to a lower interest credit card. Also, make sure that you are making your payments on time. The fine print of some credit cards can slam you with hefty penalties and interest rates if you are even one day late.
Review Your Inventory
If your business carries any type of inventory, now is the time to take stock. Take a look at your existing inventory and re-think slow moving items before the end of the tax year. In order to take a deduction for slow moving inventory on your taxes, you must make an effort to reduce the inventory by discounting, special offers or even selling off items to another vendor. If discounting fails to generate sales, you can then take a deduction. If you are in doubt as to how to handle this issue, talk to a tax professional.
Did you know that over 70 percent of small businesses use credit cards to finance their businesses, and that the smaller the business, the more likely credit cards are used? With so many small business owners utilizing credit for their business needs, credit card companies are clamoring for your business.Special rates and deals galore exit and are ripe for the picking, if you just do a little homework. A good place to start is to check out IndexCreditCards.com. You can compare current credit card offers by viewing the Low Interest Business Credit Cards and Business Credit Cards with Rewards sections of the website.
What are the benefits of establishing a company credit card? Consider:
1. The ability to separate personal and business finances.
2. Business discounts offered by many business suppliers.
3. Special introductory offers.
4. Business rewards.
5. Higher credit limits and the possibility of more easily securing additional credit lines and loans, if needed.
You passionately believe in your business endeavor. You are committed to seeing it succeed, but need cash to get it off the ground. So, you drive down to your local bank to see about a business loan. Bill the Banker evaluates your loan application, approves it, but wants you to sign a personal guarantee as well. You figure, why not? I wholeheartedly believe in my business so there isn’t anything to worry about, right?Before you do sign that paper, consider the potential ramifications. A personal guarantee is your pledge that you will make good on the loan, usually without exception. This guarantee extends beyond the shelter of your corporation, or the burden of your partners to belly up to the bar and pay. It means you and you alone are going to pay the loan regardless if the business goes under with a mound of debt and is dissolved.
If you are a sole proprietor, a lender may have the right to sue you personally and confiscate your personal assets to satisfy the loan. If you’re married, they may require your spouse to sign the agreement as well. When they do, jointly owned assets such as your house are on the line for the debt, as well as your spouse’s assets and income.
The reality may well be that you have no choice but to issue a personal guarantee if you have no other options for cash. Even the Small Business Administration (SBA) requires that all loans they guarantee be personally guaranteed by any person with a 20 percent or larger ownership interest in the business. Still, it should provide you with an opportunity to step back and make sure all your ducks are in a row, and that you are ready to make that type of personal commitment to your business.
If you are a small business dealing with the issues of Intellectual Property (IP), you are definitely not alone. Research estimates place the value of the IP market at between $5 trillion to $5.5 trillion. Small businesses play a significant role in this market.According to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, the technological influence of small firms is growing dramatically. Believe it or not, small firms are producing more technically important patents than larger firms. A 2003 report found that “small patenting firms produce 13-14 times more patents per employee as large patenting firms.”The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) reports that one-third of the top 1,000 most patenting firms in the U.S. are small businesses. In the biotech industry, one-quarter of patents are produced by small firms.
Unfortunately, there are numerous headaches that come along with IP. If you are lucky enough to make it through the complicated patent and copyright process, you still have to worry about copyright infringment and piracy from abroad. While many larger corporations have the resources to address these issues, its not always easy for smaller businesses to do so.
A great starting point that can assist small businesses with understanding the patent process and IP issues in general is the website, www.stopfakes.gov/smallbusiness. The site provides a wealth of information on copyright, patents and trademarks as they related to small businesses. A great resource worth checking out.
Thanks to modern technology and a plethora of “Dummies Guide to…” books, almost anyone can set up their own website with relative ease. While user-friendly software makes the process of setting up a website seems quite simple, one aspect which may not be so simple to accomplish is selecting a domain name.The quest for the perfect domain name which will allow you to sum up your business in just a few simple catchy letters is typically your first step. Unfortunately, if you choose a domain name that conflicts with one of the millions of other commercial names that already exist, you may run into trademark issues that can end in significant legal costs to you.
The best way to choose a domain name that satisfies your needs while not infringing on any possible trademarks is to search as many existing trademark databases as possible. Start at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov), the Thomas Register Online (www.thomasregister.com), and then search the Internet in general.
If your search turns up a similar name to your proposed name, ask yourself these questions:
(1) Are you offering goods and services that will compete with the goods and services being sold under the other name?
(2) Are you offering goods and services that will be distributed through the same channels as the goods and services being sold under the similar name?
(3) Could your website ultimately divert business from the other site with a similar name?
(4) Is the other name well known?
If you can answer “no”, to all of these questions, you can feel relatively confident that your domain name will not create a possible trademark infringement issue. If you answer “yes”, you may need to brace yourself for a possible legal challenge from the other business down the road. If all else fails, consult an attorney specializating in trademark law.
Who hasn’t heard the catchy slogan that TEAM is an acronym for “Together Everyone Achieves More”? It may sound corny or like a cheer from an over-enthusiastic leader, but the rationale is sound. Teamwork has become an essential element for the success and survival of a business. Teams are not created overnight. They do not simply happen. They have to be developed, grow in to maturity, and on occasion, end when their usefulness has passed. How do you begin to create a team? The easy answer is by laying a solid foundation upon which to build. This foundation would include:
- Creating a positive working environment.
- Achieving a setting in which people feel confident and comfortable to express themselves.
- Establishing norms for being open, for planning, and for dealing with issues
- Encouraging people to speak what they feel and assure that no negative action will result.
- Presenting a cognitive framework for the whole team building experience.
As business owners and managers, we cannot force associates and employees to trust each other or to work as a team. But, we can provide them with the needed resources to build an effective team. Once that team is established, business owners and manager will find that they have a better opportunity to accomplish the company’s objectives and goals.
Defining your marketing strategy is, without a doubt, an essential element needed to sustain the ong-term success of your business. Surprisingly though, most entrepreneurs and new business owners do not have one. Or, they have taken the time to create one, but fail to follow it. What’s the point in that?
A marketing strategy is not to be confused with a marketing plan. They are not the same thing. A marketing strategy requires selecting a realistic, measurable, and ambitious goal that you think your business can achieve on a sustainable basis. Each marketing tactic you employ will be focused on reaching and exceeding that goal. With a marketing plan, you are outlining the tactics, actions, and timetable that will be used to achieve your overall strategic goal outlined in your marketing strategy. In short, the plan details what you will do to make that strategic marketing goal happen.
One of the first steps in developing your strategy is to set your ultimate goal which obviously will be different for every business. Regardless of what it is, your marketing strategy should drive everything that your business does to achieve that objective. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for creating the right strategy, but there are several key factors that can point you down the right road. You can start by identifying who your customers or target prospects are, where they are located; what they want and need, why they need it, how they need it, and when they need it.
Answering these questions will assist you in creating a unique marketing strategy which you can test, analyze and implement. Yes, I said test. Very few businesses nail it right out of the gate. By testing your strategy on a defined portion of your market, you can analyze its effectiveness, tweak it if necessary, and then implement it when you think you’ve got it right.
The implementation of your strategy will (and should) be an ongoing process of creating a plan to satisfy your customers; testing it; and learning from it. You can learn from it by recognizing what is right and doing more of it, or changing what is wrong as soon as you realize it wasn’t working.
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