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.

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.

Why Small Businesses Need to Keep Corporate Business Records

Most small business owners believe corporate business record keeping is just for big corporations. In our experience as Corporate Business Solutions consultants, most small business managers and executives consider record keeping to be just another administrative hassle that their work schedules can do without. But we strongly advise all small businesses to do better to keep corporate business records for a number of reasons.

If your small business is legally considered an S corporation, an LLC, or a C corporation, it is a must. Even small businesses that are not registered in this manner can benefit from keeping corporate-style business records.

Business Records Offer Legal Protection – The main reason corporations go to painstaking lengths to keep business records is for legal protection. Lawyers call this the “corporate veil” of protection in court. If your business is sued by anyone, including creditors, these business records will play an important role in showing that your company followed proper procedures and maintained legally required standards.

Safeguard Limited Liability – If a company is an LLC, corporate records are necessary to protect the “limited liability” function in the record. A potential lawsuit could demand personal assets in a settlement, all the while questioning the LLC’s compliance. Corporate records will safeguard your business’s LLC status.

For IRS Purposes – Corporate records can be requested by the IRS. If that happens, your business will need to provide it. IRS can demand documents like business meeting minutes under certain circumstances. Therefore, for tax purposes, these records are important.

In Case of a Sale – If the small business needs to go up for sale, a potential buyer would want to look at corporate business records to see how the business has performed. Also, they might want to make sure the company kept clean records and there’s nothing shady underneath.

For the above reasons and then some, CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants recommend small businesses keep records of events like business meetings, annual reports, shareholder decision-making documentation, among others.

How to Fire an Employee Properly

Firing an employee is one of the toughest aspects of being a small business owner or a manager. Even the companies that work the hardest to hire just the right employees occasionally find themselves in need of firing someone. Getting fired is not easy on the employee either. So this is a matter that should be handled as delicately as possible. If you make the employee that’s going to be fired angry, there could be consequences in terms of lawsuits, negative press articles, or even unthinkable situations like the recent business place shooting in Orlando by a fired employee.

Here are several tips from Corporate Business Solutions consultants on how to fire employees properly:

Do not resort to abrupt firings unless absolutely necessary – Never fire an employee abruptly, unless it’s a case of a zero-tolerance violation set forth in company personnel policies which put employees on notice what actions subject them to being immediately fired. For example, if the employee gets arrested or is caught red-handed in a crime, then you can fire the person on the spot if those actions are set forth in the personnel policies for immediate termination.

If the firing is the cause of something like poor performance, then the process should be handled gradually. For example, an employee with poor performance should be given fair warnings and opportunities to rectify the situation. If there’s any cause for concern, first discuss the matter with the employee in question. Gently warn that if the issue is not fixed, then you would be forced to fire the employee. It should be well understood by both parties. The gradual firing process also gives the employee time to emotionally prepare themselves for the prospect of getting fired.

Break the news gently – Keep in mind that losing a job is an extremely emotional process. So, employees might react to the news in various ways. Therefore, it’s important to break the news as gently and calmly as possible. Be calm on your side even if the employee is not.

Discuss the logistics of the firing – The person doing the firing should meet face-to-face with the employee to discuss issues such as severance packages. This should also be done in an understanding manner. Also, in these meetings, listen to the employee. Do not react to whatever they are saying. Some may try to threaten to sue. Handle it gracefully without adding fuel to the flame.

It would help if the company has policies in place for handling firing gracefully. CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants can review the process of how your small business handles firings, or advise managers on how to fire people without having the company face backlash for any reason.

How to Create Interesting and Compelling Small Business Customer Testimonials

Customer testimonials are one of the best ways to convert traffic into paying clients. Most consumers nowadays actively seek out prior reviews and testimonials before paying for a product. This is particularly true for service sector businesses. Customer testimonials carry weight, but only if you do them right.

Consultants at Corporate Business Solutions often encourage small businesses to put an effort behind customer testimonials to make them actually persuasive. This goes beyond doing a routine spell check. Here are several ways to make customer testimonials compelling without resorting to exaggerations and hyperbole:

Write Long Testimonials – It may make sense to write short testimonials if you apply advertising logic to the material. After all, short text keeps potential customers interested, right? Not when it comes to testimonials. Audiences find longer testimonials more compelling than short ones. The problem with short testimonials is that they tend to sound like quick endorsements, not actual feedback from a former customer. People read testimonials to find out what it’s like to work with your company. So a long-form testimonial with details is the best way to go.

Provide the Specifics – Avoid writing generic testimonials. These are known to be ineffective. A persuasive testimonial includes specific details of services rendered. Ideally, the testimonials should include the nature of the services provided, the types of services provided, and the results. It’s highly recommended to use data, such as a conversion rate before and after. The small details do matter in making the testimonials sound authentic and compelling.

Do Use Pictures – Images are great for giving a human, or a real life, face to the testimonials you publish so they don’t sound like another advertisement. Also, images keep web users interested. Marketing experts know that visual aids can dramatically improve how promotional material is consumed. This is true for testimonials as it does for content and ads.

Consider Video Testimonials – Do not overlook the power of video testimonials. If your company’s target audience is typically averse to long-form text, then the video would be the best way to go. Video testimonials are full of visual assets, which are always good signs for conversion rates. A video is a great format for online testimonials as the majority of web users are known to consume hours of video.

Next time your small business is preparing to publish a testimony, think about the above advice from CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants. You will notice a difference in conversion rates sooner rather than later with compelling testimonials.

How to Develop a More “Authentic” Brand

Modern consumers value authenticity now more than ever. It’s the main feature that almost all brands must embody in order to appeal to their target audience. Corporate Business Solutions consultants occasionally find small businesses that have brands with an authenticity problem. The advice of “just be who you are” doesn’t always apply to companies. If your company is struggling to build an “authentic” brand”, here are several suggestions that might help:

Ditch the Jargon: Does the marketing team of your small business send out promotional material that often contains technical jargon or overused advertisement language? Don’t bother with sounding too formal, or too smart. Use everyday conversational language in all your brand promotional material. Customers do not engage with brands that sound robotic. If the brand sounds just like another “friend” on Facebook, then they will pay attention.

Come Up with a “Down-to-Earth” Founding Story: Every company needs a good founding story. It’s the backbone of getting more funding and humanizing a corporate entity to the public. When you write the founding story for your small company, do not go out of your way to make things up. It doesn’t have to be a script for a Hollywood movie. Be as real as possible. Tell it as it happened, but in an appealing story format. Don’t go overboard and present the company or the founders in a larger than life format. That is not appealing and looks disingenuous.

Use “Real Life” Images: Does your company spend a lot of money getting professional-grade photographs to show with the brand? That’s fine. But these pro shots should be combined with “real” or “day-to-day” shots of staff being human beings. Such images could include “behind the scenes” looks, pictures that don’t look posed, and higher ups in “regular people” situations. Appearing too sleek can backfire. It’s important to show customers that there are faces behind the logo.

Be Accessible: The best way to reach out as a truly authentic brand is to be accessible to everyone. Provide 24/7 customer support. Answer all queries customers or interested parties submit. Create as many avenues as possible for customers to get in touch with the company, such as email, phone, or live chat. Accessibility is the key to reaching out.

Think seriously about the above strategies when giving your brand a more genuine makeover. You can find more information about how our consultants can help with your marketing strategy at CBS-CBS.com.

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.

How to Use LinkedIn, According to Its Founder

If you add every LinkedIn request you get, even the ones from complete strangers, then you are using the social network wrong, according to Reid Hoffman, the founder of the site. LinkedIn is the most popular social networking platform for professionals. CBS Corporate Business Solutions highly recommends owners of B2B small businesses to have a LinkedIn profile.

Hoffman’s advice about using the site comes from Keith Ferrazzi, the author of “Never Eat Alone.” Ferrazzi once met Hoffman, who gave him a golden piece of advice about using the site. As the anecdote goes, Hoffman encourages users to make “meaningful” connections on the site. Rather than add every friend request, as you would on Facebook, Hoffman suggests asking this question before accepting a connect request: Could this person introduce me? If the answer is no, then it’s best to ignore the request.

The point of having a LinkedIn profile is to make connections with mutual benefit. Mainly, it’s a great platform for initiating introductions with long-lasting business benefits. For B2B business, LinkedIn is a great place to find new clients.

Here are several other ways to make connections on LinkedIn:

Update Your Profile: Make sure your profile has a very professional and compelling headline. This is the most commonly read part of your LinkedIn profile. If it needs updating, then promptly do so.

Include a Picture: Do not leave the profile picture section blank. Also, do not upload brand logos or any other picture that is not a professional headshot of you. Most LinkedIn users look at the profile picture, so make sure you have a highly appealing one uploaded.

Use Keywords: It’s perfectly acceptable to use keywords relevant to your line of business on the profile, especially in the headline. However, the keywords must be inserted very naturally.

Upload Details of Your Resume: Upload professional details of your work experience that doesn’t fit in your resume on LinkedIn. Use the blank spaces to fill out job descriptions. A potential client interested in your business may look up your LinkedIn profile, therefore it’s important to stay as detailed as possible.

Want more advice on how to improve your company’s social media presence? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com.

Reasons Your Business May Fail

Some businesses do fail. Most owners do not want to imagine a scenario where their business might actually fail. While this is understandable, consultants with Corporate Business Solutions encourage business owners to imagine scenarios that may lead to failure. It’s important to keep failure in mind when running a business to avoid making a fatal mistake. Here are several situations to keep an eye on that usually cause small businesses to fail:

Not tracking cash flow – Many small businesses we review track sales, but not the cash flow. A business owner should always know how to predict the cash needs of the business going forward. Now, sales might have increased, but how did that affect the cash flow? Some businesses increase sales and also other expenses along with it, which can result in a cash crunch. If your business is not tracking monthly cash flow, then it could be on the way to failure by not being able to pay all expenses when they are due, including payroll.  If you can’t pay your bills on time, it can lead to punitive actions by suppliers which can have a snow ball effect on the business.

Spending too much on products – We do not recommend businesses invest on a product, service or infrastructure on the basis of “hopium”.  Business investments must be based on realistic sales numbers which indicate the market worthiness of the product or service. Businesses should develop minimum-risk products first. Then, make sure the product is actually profitable before proceeding to further investments.

Overspending on appearance – Appearances are important in the business world. But it can also get out of hand. More often than not, small business owners tend to overspend on leasing office space at fancy addresses, buying expensive furniture, sending partners on over-the-top business trips, and the list goes on. Spending a lot just to appear successful could lead to serious debt. Failure to control costs is one of the most common reasons small businesses fail. We recommend keeping things humble until the company actually has solid sales numbers to justify additional expenses.

Avoiding business taxes – Small businesses must be aware of all taxes related to running a business, such as payroll taxes. Avoid the temptation to solve cash flow problems by not paying payroll taxes on time. Failure to pay taxes can lead to costly penalties and could even lead to a shuttering of your business.

Overpromising – Do not promise customers or partners things you cannot deliver. Your company will be expected to deliver as promised, and if you cannot, the business will not survive.

Afraid that your business may go broke or fail due to any reason? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com to fix the problems and ensure the continual survival of your company.

 

How Restaurants Can Improve Employee Performance

The food service sector is one of the toughest industries to run a business in. Competition is high, and without a watchful eye, costs can run amok. CBS Corporate Business Solutions can help restaurant owners improve productivity with business reviews. Owners of the restaurants we have reviewed are quite concerned about employee efficiency. Business places like restaurants are highly dependent on employee performance. Inefficient employees can ruin customer service and drive up costs. Here are several tips our consultants recommend for restaurants that want to improve employee efficiency:

Provide Clear Instructions – If you want your employees to perform as you intend, vague instructions or directions will not deliver the results you desire. It’s important to make sure employees know what’s expected of them. Explain clearly which tasks employees must be carried out each day, the performance standards you expect for the employee, and how quickly the task needs to be done.  One of the foundations to the work we do for our clients is to develop the methods, systems and controls needed to operate a restaurant both efficiently and profitably.

Avoid Micromanaging – While it’s important to give clear instructions, it’s equally important to avoid micromanaging. No one likes it. Also, micromanagement leads to a “wait to be told” work culture, where the employer has to direct everything. A productive workplace has employees who can take the initiative. So, train employees well so they don’t always have to be told what to do.  When the proper systems are put in place, employees know what is expected of them.  In addition, employees have a clear understanding of what they need to do to be accountable.  Moreover, businesses which are system- dependent are more successful than those which are people-dependent.  The proper systems allow management to have more control.

Reward Good Performance – Reprimanding bad performance but never rewarding good performance can leave employees confused about the service that’s expected of them. If an employee does a really good job, it’s important to let them know you appreciate a job well done. Rewards can boost morale and also motivate others to improve their own performance.

Understand Their Work-Life Balance Needs – Overworking employees often leads to bad performance. It’s important for employers to understand that employees require sufficient time to spend with their families. So don’t force people to take on extra shifts or work on holidays. Seek willing employees to take on the extra shifts, when needed.  A respect for work-life balance will improve employee satisfaction and lead to better performance.

Make sure the employees you hire are well trained and have the necessary tools to carry out their jobs.

Unsure about whether your restaurant workforce is performing as well as they should? Contact us at CBS-CBS.com to get an affordable performance review.