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Understanding Net Neutrality Rules and How Elimination May Affect Small Businesses

Net neutrality has been in the news lately. The newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajith Pai recently unveiled a proposal to repeal net neutrality rules adopted under the Obama administration. Now it may all sound like tech stuff that has nothing to do with business whatsoever. If you think that, then you are dead wrong. In fact, if net neutrality rules are repealed, it would mostly affect small to medium-sized companies in the U.S. Read below for a briefing from Corporate Business Solutions consultants on what net neutrality is and how the proposed repeal may affect your small business:

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality broadly refers to keeping internet access equal for everyone. Our access to the internet is controlled largely by broadband service providers. Your ISP can block access to certain sites (and it already does for illegal sites), control which content you see, and more importantly, throttle or control speeds for various sites.

The idea behind net neutrality is to prevent large broadband service providers from preventing free access to the internet.  Simply put, ISPs could create a “pay to play” system where some businesses can pay for better access to customers. That is to say, broadband companies can create a “fast lane” for certain businesses, where sites are speedy and then throttle the speeds of rival companies. When the net neutrality rules were initially enacted, then President Obama said: “No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.”

Here is a useful resource to get more details about net neutrality in general: 13 things you need to know about the FCC’s Net neutrality regulation

What Repealing Net Neutrality Means for Small Businesses

Repeal of net neutrality rules will give large internet provider companies broad control over how everyone accesses the internet. For example, a broadband provider could charge a fee to make sure a website loads in under 3 seconds. This fee may not be hefty for a large company, but for a small business, especially a one-person operation, it could be life or death for the company.

Consumers, too, would be affected. ISPs would be able to provide packages that limit video streaming data availability, for example. Consumers will no longer be able to get access to all content, which would definitely affect how companies reach their target audiences.

Internet-based companies would certainly suffer if net neutrality rules are scrapped. Not just the small companies, even large ones like Code Academy, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and Google have urged FCC to keep the rules. The American Sustainable Business Council even released an open letter to the FCC stating that rolling back net neutrality rules will be “disastrous for the country’s business community.”

What to Anticipate

Keep in mind that FCC’s decision is still a proposal and is not yet final. However, the FCC’s chairman has been insistent that the rules will be eliminated. Even if it occurs, there may not be a reason to panic just yet. It’s not likely that broadband companies would immediately create a pay-to-play system, especially when emotions are running high. In any case, ISPs may have to await legal decisions.

If you are worried about how net neutrality may affect your business, contact CBS Corporate Business Solutions to learn more about the issue with regards to your company’s unique situation.

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How a 350-Year Old Business Continues to Innovate

Do you think your small business would last 350 years?  For the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, that’s the reality. The company was founded in Tokyo in 1656 by a former samurai. Since then, MUFG has made remarkable strides in the financial industry. Though the business is a bank in practice, this has never stopped MUFG from innovating. Today, the company is a multinational business in a highly competitive international environment. So what lessons does this centuries’ old company have much newer small businesses?

MUFG’s head of transaction banking, Ranjana Clark, told media that the secret to the company’s continued success was a commitment to identifying customer pain points and eliminating them. MUFG doesn’t attract customers by offering various incentives but rather retains customers by making it a lot easier to do banking with MUFG rather than anywhere else.

This is a great tactic that your small business can also employ to obtain an advantage over the competition. Making sure that the end-to-end customer experience is seamless has proven to be more effective than offering customers deals, discounts or gifts. Here is how your small business can go about eliminating customer pain points:

Identify Pain Points First—obviously, your company needs to understand what obstacles customers face when interacting with your business. Don’t speculate here. Do one of our Corporate Business Solutions Reviews or an internal review to scientifically identify pain points.

Think Like Customers—Don’t approach the problem as a business executive would. Approach the problem like a customer. Viewing pain points from the customer’s perspective is all that matters when solving issues.

Come Up with Specific Solutions—don’t think there will be a “one size fits all” solution for the pain points identified. There won’t be. Therefore, the business will need to come up with specific solutions for each target group for each pain point.

Customer Feedback May Help—when developing solutions, it will be helpful to get input from customers as well. It’s part of “thinking like a customer” mentioned above.

Ultimately, aim to develop an emotional connection, like security and trust, with the customer. It has been shown over and over that emotional connections make customers return more than incentives. You can get in touch with a consultant at CBS-CBS.com to develop a comprehensive plan to address customer pain points.

 

How to Build Trust in Business Relationships

Solid business relationships are entirely built on trust. But occasionally, some of these relationships can get frayed. How do you repair a business relationship that’s losing its trustworthy nature? Here are several solutions from our Corporate Business Solutions consultants:

Keep Communication Lines Open – Trust can erode when the communicating stops. Therefore, keep in touch with the client or the business partner to make sure the relationship is retaining the trust it is based on. For example, keep partners informed of critical developments happening at the company that may be relevant to them as well. Answer questions honestly. Communication is the key to building trust, as well as preserving it.

Aim for Cooperative Contracts – Instead of signing for-profit contracts, aim to sign long-term cooperative contracts that offer benefits to both sides equally. If a small business wants to retain important partners, expect that these partners will seek more than financial gain from contracts. Most businesses do not enter into lucrative long-term contracts with entities they don’t trust. Therefore, cooperation is the key to stable business relationships that reap major profits over time.

Own up to Mistakes – One of the biggest reasons small businesses lose the trust of partners and clients is the blame game. It’s normal for mistakes to be made during everyday business transactions. However, how these mistakes are handled is what matters for long-term trust. If a mistake is made, and it’s the fault of your company, then do own up to the mistake. Do not deflect blame or try to pin it on something else. That shows irresponsibility. Businesses don’t like irresponsible partners that cannot be trusted. Therefore, be an empathetic and responsible partner.

Directly Address Sources of Conflict – If another business or a client is losing trust in your company due to a particular issue, do talk about it. If there are causes of tension in the business relationship, take time and initiative to address these problems head-on. Don’t let small issues snowball into big ones that result in broken partnerships.

Overall, be proactive when it comes to building trust in business relationships. To know more, visit CBS-CBS.com.

Growth “Strategies” Small Businesses Must Avoid

Growing or scaling is one of the core aspects of running a small business. Most business owners CBS Corporate Business Solutions have come across invest a lot of time and money for their companies to grow. There are definitely legitimate growth strategies, and sometimes “hacks,” that small businesses can use to grow. Then there are certain tactics that our consultants strongly advise small business owners to avoid. Here is a list:

Signing up customers to email lists without their knowledge – If a customer is on a company mailing list, then that person should have signed up for it themselves. Some companies use a shady tactic where customers who provide their email address are signed up for mailing lists without their knowledge. While this is not technically illegal, it’s a horrible practice that should be avoided. The customers will not be happy about getting email newsletters they didn’t sign up for. It will, in fact, have the opposite effect. Instead of a customer being more attached to a business, the customer will very likely learn to avoid the business.  Moreover, Congress passed an anti-spam law which imposes certain requirements on businesses engaged in email marketing.  The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a spam law that established the national standards for sending commercial email (which is different from transactional or relationship email) and providing guidelines for sending behavior, content and unsubscribe compliance. To follow the guidelines in place, you must include a visible and operational unsubscribe option in your commercial emails, a legitimate physical address of the company, accurate “From” information and subject lines, and you cannot send to harvested email addresses.

Adding customers to social media groups – This is a similar tactic to auto-signing up people for email lists. Don’t add customers to Facebook groups or similar social media networks without their explicit consent. People do not like getting random notifications. It may even lead the customers to complain about your company’s practices to social media site owners. That is definitely not a position a brand wants to be in.

Aggressive selling from the get go – If an interested person signs up for an email newsletter or like the brand’s Facebook profile, don’t target that person as a potential customer right away. Don’t start trying to push products on the potential customer. The interested party needs to get used to the brand and build a trustworthy connection before he or she buys a product. If the business starts to aggressively sell right away, this connection will be severed right away.

Posting fake statistics – Companies do get a lot of leeway when it comes to making marketing claims. However, don’t push it. While some exaggerations may be acceptable, don’t try to paint these exaggerations as actual fact. You may call your brand the number one in the field, but don’t make up statistics or studies to “prove” a claim like that. Don’t post fake statistics about customer satisfaction levels, various “scores” for products, and so on. These will only be lies and your long-term growth plan will only get hurt.  Moreover, using fake statistics is not considered harmless by state Attorney Generals who are charged with protecting consumers against businesses making false claims. Such claims are prohibited by consumer protections statutes against misleading advertising and also under general business statutes involving unfair business practices.   For legitimate techniques a small business can use to promote growth, consult with a Corporate Business Solutions expert.

What to Do When Customers Bash Your Brand or Product on Social Media

Social media is essential for engaging with customers. Sometimes though, small businesses may wish customers were not so engaged on social media. If clients are taking to social media, not to praise your products, but to bitterly criticize, then your company will have a full-blown crisis on hand. Understandably, not all customers who engage with a brand post positive or neutral comments. The goal of a marketing strategy is to maximize positive engagement and minimize negative engagement down to near zero.

But what happens when the negatives end up overtaking the positives? How can a small business respond without spending too much or making the crisis worse?

Don’t Confront the Negative Posters – Being confrontational on a public platform like social media will never end well for a brand. Unless being confrontational is actually one of the traits the brand is trying to promote. Most brands, however, do not want this. If your team tries to confront the accusers, regardless of the merits of the claims, you risk a small argument from snowballing into a veritable social media spectacle. It takes years to build the reputation of a brand, and only minutes to destroy it beyond repair.

Take the High Road and Put the Matter to Rest Quickly – For example, learn about what happened to Iggy Azalea, a promising musician who damaged her brand permanently by relentlessly arguing with critics on Twitter. Keep in mind that the negative reviewers are not losing massive profits by arguing with a business. Therefore, the company should take the high road. Without sounding condescending or deceptive, put the matter to rest with a genial post. Keep it short and apologize if you have to. Don’t drag on an argument any longer than it needs to and let the news cycle move on.

Ask a Consultant What to Do – Marketing experts like the Corporate Business Solutions consultants can help your small business respond to a major PR crisis in a timely and sensitive manner. If your marketing team is inexperienced in responding to negative feedback that is making its way to media, hire the experts to manage the problem.

The main thing during a PR crisis is to avoid the problem from getting worse. Refer to CBS-CBS.com on how your small business can prepare for negative publicity in advance.

How Famous Businesses Create Great Company Cultures

If a small business wants to retain its top talent, increase employee morale, commitment and productivity, then the business must have a great culture. Company culture is a term that pops up a lot in business-related news articles. It refers to the internal environment of a business and the rules and procedures that drive employee, manager, and customer relations. A good company culture is essential for long-term business survival.

So, exactly how can a small business create a good company culture? Let’s look at some examples of famous brands that have managed to create truly excellent company cultures (selected by Corporate Business Solutions consultants):

Twitter – Twitter has managed to avoid some of the major pitfalls tech companies faced by developing a good company culture. The workplace is highly team-oriented with an emphasis on motivation and inspiration. Twitter also offers other benefits like free lunches, yoga classes, and even unlimited vacations for select employees. Those are only some of the reasons why Twitter employees cannot stop boasting about the company.

Warby Parker – Warby Parker is a major prescription eyeglasses brand. The company ensures that the internal culture is positive by arranging numerous events that drive positive interactions between employees. For example, working at Warby Parker means attending fun events, going out to interesting lunches, and overall socializing with co-workers a lot.

Zappos – The online shoe brand does not tread slowly when it comes to company culture. Zappos is heavily invested in providing great customer service. But the customer is not the only focus here. Zappos has 10 core values that all employees must learn. Zappos believes that happy employees lead to happy, and loyal, customers.

Squarespace – Squarespace is a highly successful startup that was once ranked as the best place to work in NYC. Why? Well, the reasons are many. The company has a “flat” hierarchy where the management level between the employees and the executives are few. Squarespace is actually applying a common startup tactic to a much larger company. Also, the company offers amazing benefits to employees like full health insurance coverage, pleasant workplaces, in-office stocked kitchens, and flexible vacation periods.

There are many things small businesses can learn from the above examples of creating a great company culture. CBS Corporate Business Solutions also want to include the importance of taking steps to reducing the incidents of verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the workplace if a company wants to create a truly great culture.

Tips for Managing Freelancers

Freelancers—it’s a word that evokes both elated and derisive responses from small business owners. Companies, both big and small, rely on freelancers to a certain extent. Inarguably, it doesn’t make sense to hire full-time employees for temporary tasks that may not exist in several months. Some companies, especially tiny ones, rely on freelancers if hiring full-time employees is too expensive.

Corporate Business Solutions can help your small business decide whether it wants to hire freelancers or not. But the tough part comes when the business has to manage the freelancers. Here are several tips on how to manage freelance employees of your company:

Get Ready to be Flexible—Most people work as freelancers to have flexibility. That is to say, freelancers don’t like working 9 to 5. That doesn’t mean freelancers work less efficiently. Most freelancers keep irregular hours and tend to prioritize work based on fees and importance. Therefore, when negotiating with freelancers, be flexible. Set deadlines instead of hours.

Do Convey Your Expectations—Unlike office workers, freelancers are practically strangers who don’t know about the goals and priorities of your company. Therefore, for each project, the expectations should be conveyed clearly. Be explicit about the standard of work you expect and when you want things to get done. If you require the project to be completed in stages, be clear about that as well.

Communicate Well—Do keep in touch with freelancers when a project is ongoing. It can easily clear up misunderstandings. If expectations or standards for project changes, don’t wait until the last moment to inform the freelancer. Keeping in touch is very important for striking a good working relationship with the freelancer.

Build a Good Relationship—It’s a nightmare to hire and fire freelancers all the time. Therefore, test a few and start building a professional relationship with freelancers your company can rely on. If the relationship is strong, your business will be able to rely on the freelancer for years.

Do you think your business could save time and money with more freelancers? Opt for Corporate Business Solutions Reviews to find out whether hiring freelancers would help or weaken your small business’s team.

Small Business Loans Explained

Borrowing money for a small business can be tricky. The finances involved in this category are quite complicated. More often than not, small business borrowers don’t really understand the terms associated with business finance. Here is a brief explanation from Corporate Business Solutions consultants of some types of business loans available to small business owners:

Term Loan – These are a common type of financial assistant in the business sphere. A term loan is simply a sum of money that the borrower must pay back with interest over a designated period of time. The length of the payment period is important here. Term loans are paid back over a longer period of time, in contrast to short-term loans, colloquially known as payday loans which have high effective interest rates and are not a smart way to borrow money. Term loans offer the major advantage of having reasonable interest rates and lower monthly payments. However, businesses need to be in very good financial standing to obtain a term loan.

SBA Loan – These are small business specific loans made under a program authorized by the Small Business Administration. SBA loans are highly recommended for companies because these offer lower costs than typical term loans. The loans are created to boost small businesses, so the lender has your best interests at heart. While highly affordable and quite ideal for small companies, obtaining one of these loans requires following the procedures set forth by the SBA.

Line of Credit – Traditional business loans are borrowed once and paid over installments. Line of credit business loans are different in that small businesses can continuously borrow and pay back as many times as desired. Line of credit does have a maximum borrowing threshold, so borrowers can only obtain amounts lower than this threshold at any given time. Line of credit loans are largely similar to using revolving credit since no new approval process is needed as long as you stay within the limits established under the original terms of the line of credit.

The above is only a very brief explanation of the type of business loans available to owners. Small businesses should not borrow indiscriminately just because the financial instruments are available. Consult with us at CBS-CBS.com to find out if your business is borrowing wisely and what are the best options available for your business.

 

Sleep Scientists Awarded a Nobel Prize Because That’s Just How Important Sleep is

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael W. Young, and Michael Rosbash—three scientists who have been studying the circadian rhythm, or our internal biological clock, for decades. Their research was vital for understanding how sleep affects our health, and, mainly, performance. Optimal performance is crucial for maintaining a high level of productivity at workplaces. It’s these scientists who, at least indirectly, helped companies understand the importance of sleep.

In the past (as in about 5 years ago), it was considered a sort of badge of honor to work all day and sleep 4 hours a night. Working long hours was even considered by some to be an indication of productivity. By now, science has found overwhelming evidence that this is, in fact, not true at all. People need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to optimally perform the following day. Corporate Business Solutions consultants recommend that small business owners and employees prioritize sleep at night to ensure personal productivity the following day.

The Nobel Prize-winning scientists also suggested a strong link between lack of sleep and poor health. Sleep deprivation is linked to increased risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. We all know that cognitive performance, the ability to think and concentrate, is necessary for productivity. Lack of sleep can significantly impair a person’s cognitive performance. If your employee was up all night working on a project, his or her ability to deliver the following workday will be markedly impaired by the sleep deprivation. In other words, if you want an employee to pay attention to a project, it’s important to make sure that they have gotten a good night’s rest.

Lack of sleep is also linked to increased irritability. Small business owners sometimes spend a lot of money to design workplaces that are pleasant and contribute toward a good company culture. If the employees are sleep deprived, this won’t matter much. Even a pleasant work environment is linked to sleep.

If you are a small business owner seeking to increase productivity and employee satisfaction at work, then make sure to encourage all employees to sleep well at night.  CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants advise not to encourage working late because nothing will harm employee performance more.

How Should a Small Business Handle a Publicity Crisis

It’s the worst nightmare of any business. Public relations or perception crises are not wholly uncommon to small businesses. Usually, it’s the big businesses that are plagued by publicity issues. But small businesses should not feel too secure. Publicity crises can happen for many different reasons. It could be due to a misunderstanding, a mistake on the part of the business, or even unforeseen legal issues popping up. Whatever the cause is, here is some brief advice from Corporate Business Solutions for small businesses on how to weather a publicity storm:

Diagnose the Problem – First of all, the company should move quickly to understand exactly what the problem is. If outsiders are accusing the business of anything, there should be an internal investigation to find out if such accusations hold any merit. Once the CEO and the top managers know exactly what is going wrong, then the business can move to address the problem effectively.

Leadership is Important – Leadership is most important during a time of crisis. Without a good leader, a CEO or a senior manager, there’s little chance that the business could navigate the crisis. If the executive officers are not showing good leadership skills at the moment, or if the crisis is somehow their fault, it’s time to find a new leader capable of keeping the company together in a time of crisis.

Take Swift Action – If action is called for, don’t wait around to do it. In most public relations crises, businesses are accused of malpractice or selling low-quality products in some form. If the customers are complaining, then don’t wait to apologize. At lease inform that the problem is being looked at. Do not try to shift blame, because it will not be perceived well.

Stay in Touch with Customers – Don’t ignore customers and their complaints during a time of crisis. It’s more important than ever to provide good customer support as the crisis is unfolding. They won’t be too happy, but it’s important to keep communication lines open to avoid complete abandonment.

Inform Shareholders and Investors – Keep internal stakeholders like shareholders informed of what is happening and keep them updated on new developments as the business addresses the crisis. The last thing a company needs in a time of disaster is a shareholder revolt.

Last but not least, call in a consultant like CBS Corporate Business Solutions to formulate a plan of action to address the disaster head-on.