Productivity Hacks for Busy Entrepreneurs

Staying productive isn’t just a discipline, it requires motivation and organization as well. Fortunately, productivity hacking has entered a new era with apps, cloud services and automation abilities that weren’t available just a generation ago.

Here are a few ways to help fit in more hours to your day and help your business grow:

Get A Project Management Software

Email may not be as quick and efficient as you think — A study on London power company, International Power, found that the executive team spent 1.5 hours a day sending out roughly 56 emails, reports Fast Company. That’s nearly eight hours a week lost in productivity. Although you may not be able to eliminate email completely from your business, there are ways to drastically reduce it.

Invest in project management software or cloud-based services to slash the time spent on status reports, weekly meetings and back and forth emails to sort out your next big project. Services like Asana can help assign projects to team members, instantly send updates, check off completed tasks, make suggestions and communicate without the need for a flurry of emails.

Try Cloud Accounting

According to data collected by Score.org, 40 percent of small business owners spend over 80 hours a year on tax and financial preparations. Another 47 percent dislike the financial cost of bookkeeping, and 13 percent complain about the administrative headaches and time involved. Simplify your online accounting by moving it to a cloud service, such as Sage One. This service offers simple accounting procedures, easy invoicing, integration with your bank and quote and estimate generation for your clients.

Automate What You Can

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily minutiae of running a business. But many mundane and complex tasks alike can be automated with a little help. Set up automatic bill payments, and designate that email alerts be sent to your office manager. Schedule out your social media updates months in advance with online services, and automatically back up your entire computer on the cloud. And, set up standing office supply orders to automatically arrive at the same time every month.

 








10 top tips for business security

With expensive technology and other capital assets playing a large role in every business, it’s important you make sure that you have the right security in place to protect you and your company. You should also remember that you need to secure your premises.

1. Protecting your premises

One of the first points of entry into your property is the doors or windows. To ensure your premises are as secure as possible, have metal roller doors or bars fitted by Security Direct. These will deter any unwanted intruders from gaining access.

2. Fitting cameras

If you are going to fit a CCTV system to protect your business, you must by law make sure that you have sufficient signage showing that you have cameras fitted and who controls them. You should always keep the footage for 31 days and also keep the camera lenses clean.

3. External security lighting

The Surrey Police website has some basic ideas on how to protect your business and fitting external lighting is just one of them. You can buy permanent low-cost systems that will detect movement near your premises with the intention of deterring any burglars.

4. Fire alarms

A guide on the HMGovernment website explains how to protect your business from fire. There are certain regulations and fire risk assessments that must be adhered to, so fitting smoke detectors and alarms and liasing with your local fire service is important.

5. Protect your computers

In 2014 the Federation for Small Businesses estimated that cyber crime cost £785 million per year. Using the internet is a daily practice for businesses and it’s important that you protect your systems with the latest antivirus software.

6. Using safe passwords

Many companies tend to use the same password for all their computers, but to reduce the chance of being hacked each PC station should have an individual password. 

7. Access control systems

Rather than having a basic lock fitted to your businesses doors, it’s worth purchasing an access entry system that requires a code number or pass card with an individual microchip. This not only deters criminals but also allows you to monitor the movement of staff.

8. Burglar alarms

Having a burglar alarm fitted is a standard requirement needed by your insurance company and the modern alarm system can do so much more than just ring an annoying bell. You can get instant alerts to your smart phone or home computer and the local police will also receive a warning.

9. Bank your cash

If you’re dealing with cash on a daily basis it’s important that no money is left on the premises overnight. Taking it straight to the bank is the safest method, but make sure you vary the time and don’t go alone. Leave the tills open and empty at night!

10. Smart sprays and smoke

Shoplifting and robbery is all too common, but technology is catching up with the criminals. Many shops now have a variety of security measures in place including smart sprays and smoke. These leave a colour or ultraviolet sensitive residue that can’t be removed from the robber or shoplifter.

 








Working Remotely: Good for Employees, Travelers & Business Owners

We’ve all heard some strong opinions about the great telecommuting debate. On the “pro” side, common perks include no more morning commute and the ability to attract top talent with the allure of a flexible schedule. This type of policy also works well for frequent travelers, as workers no longer need to be at their desks to get work done. Naysayers point to the distractions present when working remotely and a loss of accountability. So where does the truth lie?

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In one survey from SkiptheDrive.com, half the employees said they are equally productive whether at home or in the office. Another 30 percent claim they are more productive when working from home, and half of those surveyed also said telecommuting reduces their stress levels. If you’re considering letting your team work remotely, it’s likely a good idea – so long as you take the right steps. Here’s how to do that.

Put Guidelines in Place

While you might think your employees will adhere to some boundaries based on common sense, take the time to be explicit in your expectations. First, decide how many days per week are allowed for telecommuting. Is Wednesday the work-from-home day for the entire staff? Or will you be assigning certain days to certain people, so there are always several individuals in the office? Or maybe you’re willing to let team members choose two remote days each week based on their own schedules. If this is the case, still be clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t.

When you have a more fluid work schedule in place, employees sometimes feel like the rest of the business parameters are more malleable as well. Instead of allowing assumptions to run rampant, again be clear. Craft a work-from-home policy, along with what is expected on the days your team members are in the office. Specify arrival time, departure time, lunch and other breaks and dress code (when working at the office) so there’s no confusion. If you’re explicit upfront, you will set everybody up for a successful remote working situation.

Properly Equip Your Team

Once you have the basics established and agreed to, it’s time to be sure your employees can be just as efficient at home and on the road as they are in the office. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase each person an enormous monitor for their home simply because they use one at the office. But it does mean that everyone should at least be minimally equipped at home to get the job done smoothly.

The particulars around this will depend on what type of business you have, but most companies can start by looking at cell phones and computers. Consider supplying your team with work cell phones such as the Google Nexus 6; this way, you can reach them when necessary and they’ll feel an extra responsibility to hold themselves accountable.

If you don’t want to go down this route, think about reimbursing team members for part of their current cell phone bills. Since any company calls taken on their work-from-home days will be on their personal mobile phones, giving a set reimbursement per month is standard practice.

Once you figure out your approach to phones, take stock of what computer needs each team member has. If most of your staff works on a laptop while at the office, they can easily bring that home with them. But if they use a desktop computer that can’t be easily transported, you may want to buy a few laptops that can be rotated among colleagues on their remote days.

Make Use of Technology

If you have important meetings throughout the week that don’t require in-person attendance, take advantage of tools like Google+ Hangouts, Skype video chats or GoToMeeting conference calls (everyone will need a Web cam, of course). Being able to see one another enforces connections and also goes a long way in doing away with the temptation to multitask during calls (in other words, it encourages undivided attention).

As you work to implement a work-from-home policy within your business, remember you can have great success by giving your employees more freedom. Be explicit in your guidelines and expectations, enable your team members to thrive and turn to technology to fill in any gaps. You’ll see greater employee satisfaction and, if done properly, an upturn in productivity. What business couldn’t benefit from that?








The 5 best Apple Watch apps for businesses

The launch of the Apple Watch is just around the corner (24th April) but what benefits will the product offer the business community? Below are 5 of the best apps that will help those looking to improve business efficiency.

Evernote

Evernote is an incredibly popular application used by those in business as a means of organising information and sharing data with co-workers.

The Apple Watch app displays task update notifications and allows users to quickly set reminders for projects and check off completed tasks. Users can also view colleagues’ progress and keep updated on tasks. There is also a function that allows you to sync documents through all devices – so you can pick up where you left off.

The IG Trading App

IG has developed an app, which has been built around its award-winning trading platform.  The application simplifies data and provides quick access to accounts. With the IG app, account notifications go straight to your watch and you can access markets from anywhere – you can open, edit and close positions while on the move.

The app also provides informative updates on upcoming macroeconomic events and allows trading on IG’s full range of markets: forex, shares, indices, commodities, options, bitcoin and more.

Invoice2go

Another popular application for small business users is Invoice2go. This application allows users to easily send and receive invoices and keep on top of finances. The app prompts users through geofencing to ‘start tracking time’ when approaching a job location. It also informs users of outstanding payments through charts and graphs and notifies users when a payment has been made.

OfficeTime

OfficeTime is a time-tracking tool. With the Apple Watch app, OfficeTime users can walk into meetings and tap a button in the app to start a recording time.

When they’re done, another tap stops the clock.

OfficeTime, provides a breakdown of where you spend your working hours – an essential feature for professionals who charge hourly rates, such as lawyers.

Prompt

Prompt is an iOS app that’s currently in development, according to wareable.com, and it will eventually have Apple Watch companion software. Both apps are designed to help with live presentations by letting you see what you need to talk about, when and how much time you have left for each topic.








How can your business boost safety?

Health and safety in the workplace is of paramount importance, so it’s important to ask yourself one question: Are you doing enough to keep your employees and members of the public safe? While a risk assessment is good way to spot hazards and work out what improvements you need to make, you might also want to consider the following safety solutions.

Safety cameras and reverse sensors for vehicles

Whether you run a waste management company, a bus and coach service or have a fleet of trucks, trailers and vans, you might want to invest in a range of safety devices for your vehicles. These vehicle cameras from Brigade, for example, are designed to improve all-round vision of the vehicle and surrounding area and make it much easier to reverse and manoeuvre through tight spaces. What’s more, ultrasonic obstacle detection systems also increase safety when turning or making-low speed manoeuvres and reversing warning alarms prevent accidents and injuries.

While it can be easy to label this modern technology as an unnecessary fad, it’s essential to bear in mind that according to the Health and Safety Executive, nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing. Many other reversing accidents do not result in injury but cause costly damage to vehicles, equipment and premises, so it is well-worth taking all the precautions you can in order to boost the safety of your company.

As well as protecting your employees and limiting accidents, high-tech camera systems can also save you from being accused of causing an accident when it wasn’t your fault. The council receive many complaints of damage to parked vehicles, so if you don’t have time for lawsuits, court cases and unwanted bills, simply pop a visual aid onto your vehicles and record everything you do.

Wear the correct personal protective gear

It’s the duty of each and every employer to provide the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). This could be anything from hard hats and protective footwear, to durable gloves and high-visibility clothes depending on the type of job you’re doing.  Protective respiratory equipment also comes under PPE, so you must assess the risks of each and every job role and make sure your staff are well equipped for their duties.

What’s more, if your employees are constantly out on the road driving fleet vehicles and such like, it’s also a good idea to think outside the box and provide them with items that could help in an emergency such as a satellite navigation system, road map, torch, blanket, company mobile phone with emergency contact numbers (including the breakdown and recovery services your business uses), emergency funds, jump leads, a first aid kit and such like.

Running a business comes with many responsibilities, with health and safety being one of the top priorities for any employer. So, if you’re looking to make your company as secure as possible, try putting the above tips in action and make sure everyone stays safe.








10 tips for returning to work after maternity leave

If you’ve recently had a new baby, the thought of returning to work after maternity leave can be incredibly daunting. Sure, you might be looking forward to gaining some independence once again but waving goodbye to those blissful mother/baby days is likely to pull on your heartstrings. That said, knowing the facts about becoming a working mother can make the transition a lot easier, so here are ten things to bear in mind:

1. Same job, same terms and conditions

Whether you found your position through a job site like CCJM or via a friend, you have the general right to return to the same role after maternity leave on the same terms and conditions. If this is not possible due to company changes you have the right to be offered a similar job on terms and conditions at least as good. Moreover, if your role no longer exists you should be given an alternative vacancy or offered redundancy pay.

2. Right to a pay rise

When you’re on maternity leave you still have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job. Your employer should inform you of these changes and make you aware of developments to the business.

3. Keeping in touch

It’s the duty of your employer to keep you informed about other goings on within the company too including opportunities for promotion and job vacancies. You can also work ten Keeping in Touch (KIT) days while on maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits or ending your leave.

4. Holidays

Your holiday entitlement will continue to build up while you’re on leave, so you can either add this to the end of your maternity leave period or take your holidays separately when you return to work. It’s worth talking to your employer, however, in case you need to use them up by a specific date.

5. Flexible working

As a parent, you’re entitled to ask for a flexible working pattern, although you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks to request this. While you have the right to ask for it, your employer can also refuse to offer it you should it negatively impact the performance of the company.

6. Parental leave

If you’ve completed at least one year’s service for your current employer you’re entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave up to your child’s fifth birthday (or up to 18 weeks for a disabled child up to their 18th birthday).

7. Reasonable time off for emergencies

Parental leave is not the same as taking time off to deal with an emergency. If you child falls ill or your childcare arrangements go wrong at the last minute, you are allowed reasonable time off to deal with the issue.

8. Right to breastfeed

If you want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, you have every right to do so and your employer should make allowances for you to express/feed throughout the working day. They should also provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to rest and this includes being able to lie down. You’ll find plenty more information regarding breastfeeding at work here.

9. You’re not alone

Feel alone? Then why not talk to other mums about their experience of returning to work after having a baby? Making friends and chatting about your issues can improve your mood and help you to feel far less afraid or alone in the workplace.

10. A quick call to the babysitter can work wonders

If you’re feeling anxious or worried about how your child is getting on while you’re at work, a quick call to the babysitter or nursery can work wonders. Your little one might have been crying when you dropped them off but there’s a high chance they would have perked up when you left, so don’t be afraid to call in now and again.

Heading back to work is not always easy, but knowing the facts and opening up to colleagues can make all the difference.








Career Goals For 2015

Sort yourself with a new organisational system. Get your emails arranged into folders, file your important paperwork and get a diary and planner on the go. It’s not glamorous stuff but you’ll be pleased at how much more efficient you’ll be. Your career can easily get off track if you allow yourself to slip into sloppy practises – but you can address this in 2015.

Update your CV. Even if you’re not applying for a job it’s always worth keeping on top of your CV. Not only will it mean that you keep an important document up to date but it’ll also force you to reflect on what you’ve achieved and what, if anything, you want to do next. You’ll also be primed and ready should the job of your dreams pop up on Jobstoday. Tie this in with creating or updating your LinkedIn profile – which can be a useful shop window and a way of picking up useful tips to further your own career. 

Challenge yourself to raise your game. Performing well in your job is one sure-fire way to get noticed and move your career on. Set your sights on one particular aspect of your job and zero in on that. Look at how you can improve and set your own personal targets to do better. 

Create your own personal website or blog. The world wide web has room for everyone to showcase their own personal talents. A website or blog can be a useful way of proving your worth to a potential employer as well as giving you an outlet to write or upload information about a passion or hobby – and also a way of people getting in contact with you. It needn’t be expensive or too time consuming either. 

Enter yourself into a suitable training programme. Find out what courses you can take on in your company or with an outside body and use them to develop your skills and add another string to your bow. It’ll boost your career and give you a fresh challenge to get your teeth into. You might also be able to become an expert in a particular field and be someone others turn to for help and advice.

Engage in a discussion about pay. Don’t bottle up any concerns you might have about your salary – book in a chat with your boss and get it off your chest. Keep the conversation professional and courteous and listen to what they have to say. You might want to offer to take on more responsibility in order to earn more. If you don’t ask you might miss out, pick your moment and get this done in 2015.

Downtime is vital – make more space for it in your schedule. Your home life and career are not completely disconnected. One way to succeed in your career is to strike a healthy work/life balance. If you’re not going in to work fresh because you’ve been agonising over work for hours at night you will struggle to succeed. It’s tough to get this right so factor some time in your diary for leisure activities and stick to them.








3 ways to cut costs WITHOUT cutting employees

When profits slip and the economic outlook is not a friendly one, it can be tempting for businesses to cut one of their largest costs, employees. Recently it was suggested that computer firm IBM might be about to begin one of the largest corporate culls ever, but losing staff is a move that carries a significant risk, and not just because of the large cost in pay-offs or potential lawsuits involved. If a company sheds staff then, when business picks up, it may find itself without the people it needs to seize opportunities. Recruiting and training new people takes a long time and can put businesses at a disadvantage to the competition while you wait.

There is also the fact that making significant cuts to staffing risks damaging the morale of those still employed and, if too few people are now trying to do the same amount of work as before, it could actually decrease productivity through stress, mistakes or illness. The worst-case scenario for a company is the feeling that they are – or at least feel – forced to introduce swingeing cuts which mean the most skilled, experienced and hard-working staff are cast out as well as those the company can afford to lose.

So although making redundancies is a standard tactic when times are tough, it’s worth considering the alternatives…

Software Licensing

A major organisation can have hundreds, if not thousands, of staff employed across multiple sites. Assuming most of them will use computers for at least part of their job, and that they will need to a variety of applications, then the company will have a heavy spend on software licensing. The danger is that, in such large companies, it can be difficult to keep track of exactly what software is in use, where, by whom, and most importantly, to what degree.

Overspend could quite easily run into the high thousands, possibly the millions, without due care and attention. It makes sense, then, for companies with such an issue to work with suppliers such as 1e.com to quickly gain an accurate insight into which software licences do not need to be kept on.

Energy Efficiency

Climate change is an issue that’s not going away. The instability of the UK’s power supply will be topping the political agenda for years to come. And consumers, by and large, are in favour of companies that commit to environmentally-friendly initiatives. That’s before we even speak about the potential for cost-savings which, for large organisations, can be immense from even the smallest of changes. Introducing motion-sensors and low-energy bulbs to big offices can have a huge impact. Dropping the thermostat by just one or two degrees in a premises where hundreds of people work may bring massive savings. Requiring staff to print on both sides of paper and keeping printing to an absolute minimum could even halve a major cost. There is abundant advice out there to help large businesses save significant sums every year and these steps could easily prevent people from being made unemployed.

The Cloud

Cloud technology has revolutionised the IT industry and the way that modern businesses work. Moving data or applications across to an external storage system carries manifold benefits, financially and otherwise, but let’s concentrate on how it can save money. Firstly, by slashing the cost of server storage and maintenance, which can easily run into the thousands of pounds a year.

Secondly, because the Cloud provider will usually provide the latest versions of software as soon as they are out, the business has that benefit coupled with no cost for installation. Also the cost of IT security, of vital importance, is borne by the Cloud provider. Then there is the benefit the Cloud gives of allowing remote working – not only potentially boosting employee productivity but also allowing the company to lower its overheads on premises.

We live in an age of technology. Since the Industrial Revolution, machines have been putting people out of work. Yet, as we can see, there are many ways in which technology, well-used, can actually help to avoid unemployment if a business is open to investigating the possibilities.








Why more business leaders need to embrace digital

Marketing, advertising, hiring staff, everything in business is turning digital and if you can’t keep up you and the team of people behind you will be left in the dark.

Instead of burying your head in the sand, it’s time to start embracing digital more in your business model and as a leader, to open doors you never dreamed of. Here’s how:

A digital strategy for your business is important. Forget newspaper ads or good old-fashioned word of mouth (unless you’re only targeting local business), it’s a good idea to embrace digital for your hiring methods. From uploading job positions online to searching for new managers on specialist sites, such as www.exec-appointments.com, you will find and hire people you might never have discovered before. Social media sites such as LinkedIn also offer a whole new world of potential employees at your fingertips, who you can contact to discuss potential positions.

You should also be using digital to ensure your brand’s name is out there. Trade magazines are still around, but publishing is quickly becoming a lost art, with newspapers and magazines seeing dropping figures in sales and interest. Of course, some people out there still enjoy reading a physical magazine or newspaper but more and more are turning to the Internet to get their news and searching Google to source new products.

Use most of your advertising budget on promoting your company on the Google homepage, updating your Google business directory and paying to have banner adverts placed on leading websites or blogs. Any left over can go into print publications should they be covering an important event you are attending or at a peak time of year.

Hand in hand with advertising, marketing is the less ‘pushy’ version of promoting your brand. As a business leader it’s time to forget sending out generic press releases by email. Content Marketing is the new and improved method that fully embraces digital and allows you to get your company name out there in an article, with a good deal of subtlety i.e. by not reading as an advert.

Content marketing essentially works by placing a click through link to your website, within a post on a leading blog site, which people read because they find interesting, useful or entertaining.

The more interesting the article, the more it is shared online and the more the click through link featuring your website reaches potential customers. There are companies out there who can write great content for you, just to make things even easier. Read about the trend here.

In a sense, everything must be digital, from your communication system to your filing and technology is making it easier and easier. You don’t need to be an IT whizz to set up a Google account and use the apps for work available which include business email, calendar and the Google Drive to store and share files.

You should also consider hiring someone who has experience and know how in this side of things, to manage your business’s journey into the digital world. They can build up your digital brand while you get on with leading the business and team and watch as interest grows and sales increase as your company gets noticed online.

Digital is now a way of life for most of us, as we use our smartphones, tablets and computers to source information on a daily basis, catch up with friends and professional networks and buy goods, so as a business leader you must immerse yourself and the company fully to stay on top.








Three social campaigns that changed the face of charity donations

Social media is a huge part of any charity campaign as it provides the opportunity for users to run with an idea and make the campaign go viral. This isn’t easy and often it’s down to luck but social media is definitely changing how we look at charities. If you’re planning a charity campaign, it’s important to take advantage of mobile marketing techniques (see GlobalMessaging for examples) to ensure your message gets as far as it can.

Here are three social campaigns that are not only great examples of how to get a campaign right but also changed the face of charity donations for the better.

Movember

We’ve all heard of Movember, where men grow moustaches to help generate awareness of prostate cancer while raising money for the cause at the same time.

Movember, UP Global, Startup weekend

This is something that has really taken off thanks to social media with the campaign receiving millions of mentions across social media every year. Unlike some charity social media campaigns, Movember actually manages to make money for Prostate Cancer UK with plenty of people sponsoring friends to grow a mo’ during the month of November.

The camaraderie and wit of the campaign means that plenty of people are rushing to get on board, even if they’re not cultivating their own moustache. Photo sharing sites such as Instagram are perfect for these kinds of visual campaigns.

#nomakeupselfie

This wasn’t started by Cancer Research UK but the charity soon jumped on board to encourage people to donate via text. The trend of showing yourself without any makeup soon became a chance for people to donate to the charity and raise awareness at the same time.

#nomakeupselfie, UP Global, Startup Weekend

The campaign raised £8m in just one week and it’s a great example of a campaign that explodes in a viral sense and is hard to replicate. Cancer Research did a brilliant job of spotting the trend and jumping on board, and as a result they raised a huge amount of money for a great cause.

Posting a no makeup selfie created a sense of community and Cancer Research showed their appreciation to those who posted and donated by letting people know exactly where the funds were being spent.

Likes Don’t Save Lives

One of the unfortunate downsides to charity campaigns is the fact that sometimes people feel simply by getting on board and posting to social media and sharing charity content, they are doing their bit to make the world a better place. This kind of armchair activism started with people changing their profile pictures on Facebook to raise awareness for all sorts of causes.

But it’s not enough to just hit ‘like’ and consider it job done. UNICEF responded by running a campaign to show that likes on Facebook weren’t enough to help them save children’s lives. This campaign made armchair activists all over the world realize that perhaps they weren’t getting as involved as they could.

The Likes Don’t Save Lives videos were viewed more than 750,000 times and led to more than 10,500 tweets during the campaign. Message received, loud and clear.