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.

 

Hurricane Harvey Highlights the Importance of Small Business Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Harvey has made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast turning quiet streets into raging storm rivers. While the rescue operations are ongoing for regular folk, it’s important to pay attention to the hurricane’s impact on the small businesses in the area. The area Harvey is barreling through is a major hub of the state’s offshore oiling business. As a result, there are many small businesses operating in the region. Unlike the bigger companies, small businesses are hit hard during disasters like hurricanes.

As much as 40 percent of small businesses don’t survive disasters like Harvey, says a disaster specialist with Fox Business. Experienced Corporate Business Solutions have noted that many small businesses do not adequately prepare for natural disasters. It’s understandable that most people might be concerned about personal safety. But small businesses can lose a lot during disasters. The business can end up literally torn apart by a hurricane and lose inventory and property. Here are several suggestions from our consultants on how small businesses can prepare for disaster and minimize losses:

Have an Emergency Management Plan – All small businesses should have an emergency management plan at hand. Such a plan makes an early assessment of potential damages a small business could experience in case of a disaster. Also, such plans prepared in advance roles to take on for employees and managers in case a natural disaster strikes unexpectedly. In simple terms, this is basically a handbook on what to do in case of a flooding, hurricane, or a tornado. Your business absolutely needs to make this plan in advance, preferably with the help of experts like the ones you can find in CBS-CBS.com.

Take Necessary Steps to Physically Secure the Business—Small businesses should always have at hand the necessary tools to board up a store in case disaster strikes. Well prepared managers should call construction experts in advance to find out the best ways to secure the store so it can withstand most natural disasters.

Get Insurance Coverage – Business insurance coverage should include a provision for natural disaster emergency situations. Your company must be covered for the most common natural disasters the area you are located at faces. The FEMA website has some useful information for companies about getting disaster insurance.

Small businesses should also have a system in place to address local government emergency alerts for disasters. Set up a communication system so that all employees are informed of such alerts and evacuations when needed, are facilitated.

The Must-Know Laws of Writing Business Emails

Writing business emails are a fact of life for those who run a small business. But do you know how to write proper business emails? Here is a list of rules that all small business owners must follow when writing business-related emails:

Enter a Subject Line – Never send business emails without a subject line, warns Corporate Business Solutions, unless you want the emails to be ignored. Emails without subject lines would just end up in the trash or spam folder.

Add a Signature at the End – Gmail and other email services let users add an electronic signature to all emails sent. It’s highly advisable to use this feature when sending formal and semi-formal business emails. It’s just like adding your actual signature at the end of a memo or a business letter.

Avoid the “Hi”—Instead of starting the email with a “hey” or a “hi,” try using a professional salutation like Ms (name). Hello is more acceptable than hi, and you can start emails with Hello (name of recipient). Decide which is more suitable depending on the nature of the correspondence.

Read it Once Over – Don’t send the business email without reading it at least once. Avoiding embarrassing spelling mistakes might help you land a deal. Even a silly error could be interpreted by the recipient as you being sloppy and not serious, which is bad for business.

Let the Recipient Know What You are Talking about – Keep in mind that the recipient might not always know what you are talking about, especially if you are responding to a chain email. To employ the use of “one-liners” to refer to the subject matter. For example, write “with regards to (subject)” first and then continue the email.

Avoid Trying to be Funny – Don’t assume that jokes translate well in emailed text as in real-time conversations. Even an innocent joke could be misinterpreted by the person on the other end. So, don’t try to be funny and instead be formal when sending any business email.

Do Reply—Reply in a timely manner to all responses you get to business emails. If you don’t have time to write a lengthy message, do address that and at least say you will get back later with a better response.

Master the above email etiquette to improve your professionalism as a small business owner. Get more advice at CBS-CBS.com.

That Google Memo and Company Culture

If you are an avid consumer of business news, you must have already read about the 3,000-word Google memo by an unnamed employee that has gone viral. The memo details an employee’s dissatisfaction regarding Google’s new efforts to recruit more women and minorities. The author of the memo is rather offended by the tech giant’s push to hire more women engineers and cites “biological differences” between the sexes for underrepresentation of women in tech. Regardless of what you think about women or diversity, the memo raises an important question about company culture.

Small business owners often need to take decisions about hiring new employees that may not always be to the satisfaction of already existing employees. In local small businesses, for example, employees that have stuck out with the business for a while may not like it when the company wants to hire senior personnel to expand. Regardless of what hiring quotas end up being, business owners and managers must always maintain a strong company culture as well. The culture could be more diverse, or rather closed. However, all employees must ultimately have close working relationships that further the goals of the business. It’s never good for business when employees don’t get along well.

Here are several suggestions to small business owners from Corporate Business Solutions consultants about maintaining employee cohesion and building a strong company culture:

Listen to Complaints – There should be an effective method for employees to voice their complaints about the workplace environment. Some of these complaints will have merit, and most might not. Regardless, it’s important that all employees understand that the boss listens to them.

Let Them Know Empathy Matters – Don’t expect all your employees to get along like BFFs. Some will be close friends, others will not. The managers must ensure that employees have good working relationships with one another regardless of personal feelings. Some of these feelings may be sexist or racist, as in the case of the Google memo author. Don’t ever let your small business be embroiled in a racism or sexism scandal. It will ruin your business and expansion efforts for years to come. The company cannot change personal beliefs of workers either. What the small business owners can do is build an empathizing company culture where all employees respect one another.

Keep Goals in Mind—Make sure all employees share your vision for the company’s future. This matters more so than almost everything else when it comes to succeeding as a business.

If your small business needs to make the workforce more efficient and solve company culture issues, you can seek help at CBS-CBS.com.

How Small Businesses Should Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is as valuable as cash assets to small businesses. Most companies, especially big ones like Google and Pepsi, spend millions each year protecting intellectual property assets. That’s because IP infringements are all too common. A company’s IP can be breached even via mundane things like signing a new contract with a partner or proposing a new design with a contractor. Losing the IP value of anything means that a small business loses an asset. Considering that, here are several methods recommended by Corporate Business Solutions to protect your company’s IP:

Sign NDAs with Everyone: It’s very important to include an IP clause in nondisclosure agreements that the company signs with clients, partners, contractors, freelancers, or anyone else. This indicates to the third-party that your business fully owns the copyright of a certain asset, and thus discourages infringement. If a breach does happen, your company will have the legal advantage to take the matter to the courts.

Be Careful of Disclosures Made to Freelancers: More and more companies are now getting business done via third-party freelancers or self-employed agents. If these non-employed workers get involved in the development of something, they can later make a claim on the IP. To prevent this, sign an NDA with an IP clause as mentioned above. Also, be careful of the sensitive disclosures you make to freelancers who might be able to use the knowledge to turn a copyright claim to their advantage.

Beware of International IP Rights: Small businesses themselves can be perpetrators of IP violations, sometimes unknowingly. This is quite true with regards to companies that sell internationally. Always make sure that patents, trademarks, or copyright claims of your company cannot be contested internationally. You will have to check international patents and IP registration to be sure.

Negotiate with IP Violators First: IP claim lawsuits are typically costly and prolonged for both parties. Therefore, it’s best to open dialogue with a potential violator before going to court. If you think an entity is infringing on your company’s IP, you can send a legal letter notifying them of the infringement, and send a cease and desist letter. You can hire mediation services to come to an agreement with the violator before getting into a lengthy court battle.

Always think of IP as assets. Things like patents add wealth to your small business. If you want to conduct a company review of business operations, including your risk for unregistered IP, contact us at CBS-CBS.com to find a consultant.

Microchipping Employees and Other Workplace Privacy Concerns

A company in Wisconsin will soon have approval to microchip its employees. Whether this indicates the business has reached an Orwellian age or is simply moving forward with technology will depend on whom you ask.

Of course, having microchips physically inserted into employees should unsettle even the most rationally pragmatic executive. In this case, the company will need an employee’s consent to insert a small “rice grain” sized chip between the thumb and the pointy finger of the hand. Participation is mandatory. More importantly, this chip is not a GPS tracker and will not be internet connected, so no one can hack into it. The only way to compromise the microchip, according to one employee at the company, is to have the employee’s hand literary chopped off.

As fascinating as micro chipping is, the story raises important questions about company goals and employee privacy. Small businesses, regardless of the sector, routinely collect very sensitive information about employees. For example, a typical small business would have access to an employee’s personal information, social security information, addresses, phone numbers, and other similar data that could wreak havoc in the wrong hands, Corporate Business Solutions consultants point out. So what exactly are the responsibilities of modern day companies to protect employee’s privacy and information?

First of all, as our consultants point out, all small businesses must have an employee guidebook that explains what data a small business might collect about them, how this data would be stored, and how the sensitive information would be protected from malicious entities like data thieves. It’s the responsibility of the business to be fully transparent with the employees regarding what type of information the business collects.

Small businesses should also ensure that the collected data is kept secure. This means investing in cyber security infrastructures such as safer networks, malicious software removal tools, and employee awareness training programs that teach good internet habits. Like the Wisconsin microchip company did, it would be wise to keep sensitive data disconnected from the web-connected company network.

To make sure your business is fully capable of ensuring employee privacy rights while keeping business secrets secure, get one of our Corporate Business Solutions Reviews.

How to Encourage Employees to Meet Deadlines

Not being able to meet project deadlines is one of the most persistent issues small businesses face. There could be a variety of reasons for this issue. However, to keep up the levels of productivity at the workplace, meeting deadlines on time is a must. If the project teams at your company sometimes fail to meet essential deadlines, here are several suggestions from Corporate Business Solutions that might help:

Assign a Clear Team Leader: Teams work efficiently only with the presence of an undisputed leader. Rudderless teams are more likely to miss deadlines and be disorganized because no one is sure what to do. It’s common for some managers to put together a team without a clear hierarchy of authority. This can reduce tension at the office, but overall it leads to more disarray. When a team has a leader, that leader will ensure everyone does what they are supposed to on time. This structure is essential to almost every project.

Check in on Long Projects: If there’s a project that takes months to complete, a manager or an executive at the company should occasionally check in on progress. It’s possible that with other daily duties, employees might neglect long-terms goals. Executive supervision prompts employees to get things going. Also, for long projects, it’s best to schedule monthly or bi-monthly progress reports to remind everyone that the project needs to proceed.

Break Down Complex Projects: Sometimes employees are just too overwhelmed to meet deadlines. Therefore, managers or others in charge should take care to break down complex projects into small, doable portions. Do not dump a massive project on a handful of employees and give them a deadline they might not be able to meet. The responsibility also falls on the management side to be realistic about what to expect from employees.

Tell Employees to Write Down a Timetable: Employees must have a written record of schedules or timetables related to the project. The purpose here is to provide a task map that everyone can follow. Don’t let employees take mental notes of what to do and when. There should be a written record for all team members to refer.

If a team does miss a deadline, there should be a really good reason for it. Otherwise, your company might be lacking in productivity in general. You can get one of Corporate Business Solutions Reviews to see if your company is up to industry standards when it comes to productivity.

Some Tips for Generating Customer Referrals

The best way to influence a customer is through a recommendation from a friend, so said Mark Zuckerberg once. The customer referral, or word-of-mouth marketing, is still the best way to attract new customers to your brand. Potential customers naturally trust their friends or family over company-made ads. Therefore, a recommendation from a peer has a much stronger influence than the slickest marketing trick your business can afford.

While word-of-mouth marketing is indeed understood to be powerful, it’s very difficult to master. It’s not like your business can visit the Facebook pages of all customers and convince their friends to recommend your brand. But there are effective methods to promote word-of-mouth, as illustrated by the successes of companies like Uber and Dropbox. Here are several tips for creating customer referral programs as recommended by our Corporate Business Solutions consultants:

Come up with Great Incentives—Obviously, what really drives a customer to make a reference to someone else is getting something in return from the brand. If a customer really likes your business, he or she may make a recommendation to a friend. But your brand can definitely change the ‘may’ to a ‘will’ with an incentive. The incentives to offer will depend on your business. You can offer discounts, free items, or free upgrades. Dropbox, for example, offered customers an additional 500 MB of storage space for inviting a friend to join. Find out what your customers really desire, and base referral incentives on that.

Aim for High-Quality Referrals—It’s not simply enough for a customer to mention your brand name in a Facebook post. The referral must result in a lead. That is to say that the customer making the referral actually facilitates a purchase, a subscription, or a meeting. It could be done via social media, email, or in person. So, when offering incentives, make sure it leads to a referral that facilitates a purchase. Offering gifts in return for Facebook mentions or social media shares thus may not result in generating new leads.

Choose the Right Time: Don’t ask customers to make referrals during the wrong time. You risk requests being ignored. Ask for referrals when the customers are most engaged with your product or service. This is the only time incentives actually work. Timing is key to making referral programs work.

Want to know more about how to create a customer referral program with a huge turnout? Then contact one of our CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants.

What Small Businesses Can Learn from Richard Branson’s Secret to Success

Richard Branson, the famed CEO of Virgin, recently shared his secret to success on his blog. So what could have propelled a once unknown recording studio owner to become a billionaire celebrity? The answer is deceptively simple: to do lists.

Branson explains in detail how he is always making lists. He carries a small pocketbook with him at all time to write down things to do. He even shared a snapshot of a to-do list he had made way back in 1972 when he was only running his studio, The Manor. His list included lofty goals like learning to fly, as well as such mundane things like buying new stuff for his studio. Branson says his to-do lists help him turn his ideas, no matter how big or small, into a reality.

This is, indeed, a very interesting habit for anyone to have. Branson tells all entrepreneurs to make lists and break down big tasks into small and manageable tasks that can be ticked off on a to-do list. Our Corporate Business Solutions consultants agree. What Branson is showcasing here is a keen ability to remain organized and focused. The to-do lists are a simple yet highly effective way to do this.

No entrepreneur or small business owner is ever not busy. During hectic weekly schedules, it’s easy to forget things that one must do. These things include both personal goals, like Branson wanting to learn flying, as well as business goals. Our consultants always advise small business owners to find personally convenient ways to stay organized. To-do lists, as Branson explains, are a very good start.

To-do lists are a great option for small business owners to stay ahead of schedule. Using such a list on a weekly basis will lead to more productivity. When we do Corporate Business Solutions Reviews, we often recommend teams to use lists as a way of staying organized. Small business owners, too, can definitely benefit from this advice, as Richard Branson clearly did.

Does Your Business Need to Change Course?

A while back, a CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultant advised a printing business that needed to change direction. Our consultant took the owner through a learning process so she could move her business forward. It can be difficult to say when your business needs to change course. Keep in mind that no business stays the same, ever. So even if you don’t like it, as markets fluctuate, your business may need to take a turn for the better. Here are several glaring signs that your business immediately needs to change course:

Slow Growth: It’s fine if the growth numbers for your company are not always inching upwards. Most companies go through periods of slow growth. However, the company should be able to overcome these slow growth periods. Compare your growth trajectory to that of your competitors. It should not be perpetually facing downwards. If slow growth is a prolonged issue at your company, then it’s time to reevaluate your goals and adapt a new strategy.

Challenges from Smaller Competitors: If the smaller competitors your business may have ignored in the past are looking like actual threats, then that should set off warning alarms. A smaller company can surpass yours if growth is severely lagging. It should be an indicator that your business is losing its competitive edge and should change course immediately to thrive in the future.

Low Customer Satisfaction Numbers: Nothing is more indicative of a need to change than low customer satisfaction numbers. While negative reviews, complaints, and low ratings are to be expected, the majority of the feedback your company receives must primarily be positive. Your company should continuously receive a lot of customer feedback. If feedback is declining, or is increasingly becoming negative, then it indicates an even worse fate: insignificance of your brand.

If your business faces any of the above problems, then it’s time to change course. Suddenly changing the trajectory of a business is not easy. It requires a solid plan. But first, you should seek advice from a CBS-CBS.com consultant to identify the underlying issues that are causing growth or sales problems at your business. After careful scrutiny, the consultant will be able to present you with a proposal for changing course and becoming competitive again.