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Author: Helen Eagleton

Helen Eagleton, a freelance blogger from Boston, follows topics in the realm of education, technology, digital marketing, and business in general. When she’s not researching for her next article, she enjoys watching documentaries and exploring the nature. Reach her @eagleton_helen

5 Warning Signs You Should Hire a Business Mentor

The importance of mentorship is slowly gaining recognition in the world of leadership, but it is still something of a foreign concept to many business leaders. While mentorship programs have their place among employees, a mentor for a leader is a novel concept.

When people think of business mentors, they often think of a relationship they cultivate with a superior rather than a person they hire. If you are at the top of the food chain in your own company, however, you might need to hire a mentor – someone who will help you through tough situations and be a second opinion when it comes to making the tough choices. Here are 5 warning signs you should hire a business mentor.

1. When You Start To Feel It’s You Against The World

Like the old saying goes, it’s lonely at the top and the higher you climb, the lonelier it gets. While you may have started a business with a partner or partnered up along the way, but over the long haul people’s commitment level can vary.

When you start to feel as if you are all alone trying to put out fires and forge new paths, it might be time to hire a mentor. A mentor is not a business coach – they are someone who has walked in your shoes and has already navigated the terrain you are navigating. They are not another partner but they can be an invaluable sounding board.

2. When It Becomes Hard To Get An Unbiased Opinion

As much as everyone wants to deny that they have either biases or prejudices, the truth is, we all have them. In fact, if there is any type of intelligence that should be naturally unbiased, it would be artificial intelligence. But even artificial intelligence has to be programmed, and it turns out even programmers have biases they are unconsciously passing on to their programs. Getting a truly unbiased opinion may be impossible, but there are certain factors that make people more or less biased. The less of a stake someone has in your ultimate decision, the less biased their opinion is likely to be.

Your partners and subordinates all have a fairly large stake in your decisions, which makes it nearly impossible to get an unbiased opinion from them. They will most likely either tell you what they think you want to hear or whatever benefits them the most. Theoretically, a mentor should have nothing to gain or benefit from you moving in one direction or the other, so they can offer you the most unbiased feedback.

3. When Your Company Culture Takes A Wrong Turn

The key importance of a good company culture is that cultures are self-perpetuating. When you have a company culture that is based on encouraging each other rather than tearing each other down, your culture itself provides the impetus to make it through rough patches. If your company culture is based on learning to take harsh criticism, then it can make already difficult situations even worse. A good mentor is someone who has themselves built both good and bad company cultures. They have most likely had many painful experiences with having to suffer through a difficult culture they created. That gave them the wisdom and experience necessary to create a good company culture. Ultimately, by hiring a mentor you are paying to enjoy the wisdom gained by someone else’s failures. This can help shorten your own and make them less painful.

4. When You Need To Navigate Rough Waters

In a digital world, all businesses are susceptible to being rocked by scandal at any time. In some cases, otherwise reputable companies can be unknowingly or unwittingly participating in fraud or other types of criminal activity or even be harboring criminals within their walls. The larger a business is, the less likely one person is to know what everyone else is doing. Sometimes, it may be the business owner or CEO themselves that is unaware of what one of their partners or subordinates may be doing. When scandal hits, a good mentor can help you navigate rough waters and hopefully help you land back on solid ground.

5. When You Need To Press Forward Into Uncharted Territory

A mentor is (or at least should be) essentially a guide that can help you find your own best path. A good mentor will not (and in fact cannot) tell you what path is right for you, but they can give you some insight into several paths available. What was right for them in a specific instance might not be right for you, but a good mentor has most likely been down many paths and can help you find the one right for you, even if it wasn’t the right one for them. While they can’t tell you which one is right for you, they can tell you something about the potential pitfalls of several courses of action and some benefits to be gained from each one.

When choosing a mentor, it is important to ensure you are getting a guide that is more concerned with your growth than their own agenda or ego. A bad mentor can steer you from a bad situation into an even worse one. The best course of action when choosing a mentor is to cultivate a relationship long before you genuinely need one. You don’t want to rely on someone in the middle of a crisis only to find out they are not reliable. Better to test them out in calm waters than wait to see what they are made of in the middle of a storm.

 

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6 Affordable Desk Improvements to Make the Day at Work Go by Faster

Spending too much time at your desk? You might feel comfortable, but most of your bad habits can lead to long-term problems. Ergonomics can reduce your risk of health problems and create a comfortable work environment.

There are simple and affordable adjustments you can make to your office environment that will make it safer. Some of these changes can also increase your productivity.

Ergonomic Upgrades

It can be easy to forget about your office environment when you’re knee deep in work. Sometimes it creeps up on you before you know it. Save your body from the strain of aches and pains with some of these affordable ergonomic upgrades.

One way is to elevate your computer or laptop to eye level. This can save you from hunching over or straining your neck. If your computer is your work machine, elevate it to your eye level using a standing desk or laptop stand.

Swap out your traditional desk for a standing desk. Some of them cost as little as $20. If you want something fancier, invest in an adjustable desk or tread-puter. Even taking a break from your desk every so often can be a break for your neck.

Hardware

There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to investing in the right hardware for your computer. If you’ve been stuck with the same mouse and keyboard all this time, then it’s time for a change. If you’re using a laptop with an external mouse and keyboard, this can lead to carpal tunnel down the line.

Tired of cramping your wrists with a worn-out keyboard or wireless mouse? Invest in a new keyboard and mouse set that’s ergonomically designed. While it won’t make your computer run any faster, it’ll save your wrists from using cheap hardware.

You should also invest in a bigger, clearer monitor as well. It’s one way to improve your work experience. This allows you to see multiple tabs, screens, or applications all on one screen without straining your eyes.

The future is wireless. Gone are the days when you’d forget you had headphones on and tried to move away from your desk only to have them snatched from off your head. We’ve had wireless headphones now for a good few years. They are a good idea in case your job requires you to make calls or you just prefer having some music on while you work without bothering anyone else.

Software

If you’re pushing yourself too hard on a given project, you should be taking regular breaks to give your arms, eyes, and wrists a break. If mental reminders aren’t cutting it then install AntiRSI, Timeout, or Workrave on your laptop or computer. These programs remind you to take a break and get up from your desk every so often.

Eye strain can happen to those who write code or copy all day long. Two ways to correct this issue is to increase your monitor’s refresh rate and install ClearType or EyeDefender. You can also use a darker desktop theme to reduce the amount of time looking at a bright screen.

Mobile Apps

The productivity app DeskTime can help improve your performance. This automatic time tracking app allows you to increase your productivity so you can focus on more mportant tasks. You won’t find yourself hunched over your desk, trying to get that project done.

The aptly titled Office Ergonomics allows you to set up your workstation to prevent discomfort and cramping. This mobile app includes animated graphics and interactive tips for setting up your office environment for optimized comfort. These tips will allow you to make changes with the things that you have, and help you uncover new solutions.

Cloud Storage

One option to improve your work experience is on the cloud. You can move most of your important documents and files to a cloud-storage service. Most of these services are free and allow you to delete local copies once you moved them to the cloud.

This frees up room on your computer’s hard drive. It also makes it easy to move those files when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer.

There are plenty of cloud-storage services available, including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. Most of them allow you to backup photos to the cloud, while others are strictly for documents. Your options depend on the type of operating system you own, the amount of storage you need, and how much you’re willing to invest for storage.

Sleep Support

Sometimes changing your sleep routine can help improve your work life. How your joints feel at work can be influenced by how much sleep you get at night. The ideal sleep position for a great night’s sleep is on your side with your knees bent and a pillow placed in between the knees. Your head should be placed on a single pillow.

You should also have a regular sleep routine. This includes falling asleep at the same time every night and banning electronics from your bedroom. You should avoid using any screens (including the television) at least an hour before your designated bedtime.

Lighting

Lighting isn’t just for decorating – it’s beneficial for your eyes. A desk light is important for reading documents and files. The right lighting can prevent computer vision syndrome, blurred vision, dizziness, dry eyes, eye fatigue, eyestrain, headaches, light sensitivity, and other problems.

People underestimate the amount of light they need to work on a task. It’s important to choose a light that’s attached to an arm that you can adjust to your liking. Position the light opposite to the hand that you write with, and shine it on papers but away from the computer monitor to cut down on glare.

Lifestyle Improvements

Changing your lifestyle can also improve your work life. If you spend most of your day sitting at your desk, it’s important to schedule regular work breaks. Take two to three 30- to 60-second breaks each hour to give your body time to recover.

 

Drinking more water throughout the day will have you getting up from your desk more to refill your bottle and to make trips to the bathroom. This will ensure that you’re taking regular breaks from your desk throughout the day.

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Overcoming Insecurities as an Early Startup Owner

One of the essential character traits that most successful business owners have is confidence. After all, it takes a considerable amount of confidence to leave behind a salaried position with relative security and to pursue a bold idea through your own venture.

For some entrepreneurs, this bold step has never been taken before. The entire experience is filled with uncertainty based on a profound lack of experience.

For other entrepreneurs who have tried to launch a startup previously, there may be memories of failure or intense challenges floating in their mind. After all, some entrepreneurs will have several learning experiences before they ultimately launch a successful startup.

Insecurities are normal, and they can even be healthy to a degree. After all, your insecurities now can help you to think through your startup activities more thoroughly. By doing so, you may be able to overcome some of the obstacles that you may face in the future.Of course, for many people, this will only address some of many insecurities. These are a few other steps that you can take to target your insecurities directly.

Find a Mentor

One concern that many entrepreneurs face involves making a false move. This may be a move in the wrong direction, or it may be a move in the right direction that is unfortunately taken too soon. You could spend ample time reading books and articles on the topic of entrepreneurship, but another idea is to find a mentor. You may join a local group for entrepreneurs or small business owners as one possible way to find a mentor who can provide you with guidance.

A mentor is someone who has already walked down the path that you are preparing to venture down. This person may have a huge amount of knowledge that is now relevant and even critical for you to know. By consulting with this person periodically, you may get many questions answered that you otherwise would have had to learn through trial and error. When you have a mentor available to lean on, you may feel more confident as you prepare to move forward with your launch.

Improve Your Credentials

Many of the largest and most successful companies today were founded by individuals who lacked a college degree, and some did not even have formal experience in their field. While there are no firm requirements in this area, it can make you feel more confident about pursuing your dreams if you have a higher level of education in a relevant field. If obtaining a full degree is not ideal, you can consider at least taking a few relevant courses or working toward a certification

An alternative to improving credentials that could be placed on a resume is to improve your knowledge base. This could be through books, articles, seminars and more. Education comes in many forms, and you should always strive to improve yourself so that you can give yourself a better chance of being a successful entrepreneur.

Develop a Business Plan

After you have taken steps to improve yourself and to get the extra support that you need, you can turn your attention directly to the new business that you plan to start. Even the most well-qualified and well-supported individuals may still feel uncertain about a new venture when they have not carefully researched and planned it. Developing a business plan that is detailed and accurate is a wonderful way to improve your confidence in your efforts to launch your business.

A complete business plan may take you weeks to prepare. It covers all relevant aspects of your operation, such as marketing, product development, logistics, finances, taxation and more. Before you develop a business plan, you may simply have a product or service in mind that you think will be well-received by customers. After you develop a business plan, you will have a clear concept of what it takes to run your business and to make it a success. By developing this plan, you may determine that your business idea is not as lucrative as you initially thought. On the other hand, you could dramatically improve your peace of mind with the understanding that your plan is amazing.

Review Your Finances

Most startups fail because of financial reasons. There are many underlying causes, such as an inability to generate sales, being assessed fines because of legal violations, growing too rapidly and more. You may be aware that money is a serious concern from the inception of your operation, and you may be one of many aspiring entrepreneurs who have uncertainties related to generating revenue or turning a profit.

One of the primary ways to mitigate this type of concern is to review your finances carefully on a regular basis. Always know where you stand financially, and seek additional funding well before it may actually be needed. The time to seek funding is before you have a critical need for cash.

Wrapping Up

There are many factors that can make a startup owner feel insecure and relatively unconfident. However, you must find a way to overcome these feelings and to feel bold enough to take huge leaps forward at opportune and well-planned times. If you are struggling with insecurity in any way, take time to assess the reason for this. Determine if these thoughtful ideas may work well to help you improve your situation, or look for other effective ways that are suitable for your specific issues and concerns.

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3 Ways To Improve Your Health Using Technology

Medicine is one branch of science that has evolved rapidly over the past several generations. A key contributor to this advancement is technological breakthroughs providing better tools.

New EHR (electronic health record) systems allow healthcare providers to share and consult on centralized patient data, no matter where the doctors or the patient might be. Caregivers can collect all information through tech, from how teeth get brushed to constant monitoring of blood pressure. Extensive, personalized medical information is an advantage every ailing person can look forward to.

Healthcare solutions have also found their place online. Most providers now maintain web portals where patients can set appointments, review diagnoses and results, or educate themselves on treatments, prescriptions, and other forms of care.

These technologies offer patients and physicians a more timely, effective approach to treatment. Doctors can make better decisions and save more lives.

Telemedicine

Telehealth is a solution that utilizes communication technologies. Invalid or remote patients can consult healthcare professionals with no travel required. Video and audio communication takes place over the internet.

This is especially helpful in rural communities that need a long drive to the nearest healthcare facility. For those with chronic ailments who need regular care, this is a major inconvenience.   With virtual medicine, doctors can do visual exams, show healthcare techniques, and carry on in-depth conversations.

Unfortunately, there are laws discouraging this in some areas. But, as telemedicine proves its value, it will likely become commonplace.

Technology is also improving in computerized healthcare systems, including data analysis and artificial intelligence. Software is becoming a valuable healthcare tool in checking symptoms, testing results and medical histories to recommend more effective treatments and enable faster and more accurate diagnoses.

One solution for remote patients is the health check chair. Patients can sit there in comfort and connect to sensors that record and send their vital signs in real time to healthcare provider systems. This allows professionals to perform monitoring and analysis for developing more effective treatments.

Considering the growing costs of medical care, technology can be a significant benefit. As technologies become more common and more efficient the cost tends to fall.

Wearable Technology

Gadgets for monitoring your health come in many forms. This gives you and your caregivers immediate notice as readings change. Anomalies compared to your past health data could show that you need emergency care or a change in treatments.

The range of meters and health monitoring gadgets are a useful resource not only for people with chronic conditions, but for those suffering from an acute illness or injury that needs closer tracking. There are several FDA-approved devices already in wide use. These include BioPatch, which can record your vital signs several times a day and automatically send the results to nurses or other caregivers via smartphone apps.

The same technology is also improving the quality of care within hospitals. Sensors, cameras, radio frequency (RFID) tags are all orchestrated into a single comprehensive system. This allows caregivers to view healthcare records on mobile devices, track patient movement, medications, and equipment location for your increased safety and security and empowering faster medical decisions and emergency responses.

Yet, wearable health tech is not just for recording your heart rate or respiration to better ensure a speedy recovery. People can also use it in preventive medicine, and even for physical therapy or training through monitoring your movements and physiological responses.

For many, tech opens new possibilities through smart clothing. This could be anything from a bra or pair of socks to a full body suit outfitted with sensors and transmitters. If you’re not sick at all, but trying to lose weight or train for the Olympics, this tech can help you understand how your body works and where you need to make improvements.

 

Health Apps

The millions of smartphones in use have also created a flood of useful apps for the health-conscious. Now everyone can check their own physical condition and better maintain a healthy balance in their lives. Affordable apps are designed for those who wish to stay in good shape and helps those with a medical condition to become more self-reliant.

For instance, young people on their own at college tend to eat poorly. An app such as All i Can Eat helps them follow a healthier diet, including avoiding allergies for items such as peanuts or shellfish. The app can benefit others, for instance, if you are lactose intolerant or have stomach problems, by helping you stick to the right food choices.

An app available through Drugs.com helps you track daily medications. A diabetic, for example, can use the app to track and regulate insulin use. It can also help you identify pills or look up conflicts with new medications.  

Medscape gives you access to over 3,500 medical conditions, including symptoms, treatments, new research, and other relevant information. It will also help you locate health care providers (U.S.) based on your smartphone GPS location. Medscape is free from WebMD.

A user-friendly health app on your smartphone can help with both prevention and treatments wherever you go, whenever you need them. There are apps available for sending alerts to friends, managing alcohol intake, making healthy meal choices, even tracking menstrual cycles and pregnancies. Whatever condition you may have that you’d like to monitor, you’ll most likely be able to find an app for it.

Technology has given patients more control over their own health. While a doctor’s knowledge and expertise are still essential in most cases, there is now a range of options helping you to take better care of yourself.

 

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4 Steps to Surviving Your Home Office Renovation

With remote work on the rise, more and more people are needing to create a space to work at home. While you can always use almost any extra room in your home as an office, there are a number of benefits to actually custom renovating an empty space into a home office. Renovations not only take time, however, but they also create a great deal of chaos, confusion and noise. While the outcome will almost certainly be worth the headache, it is important to create a plan for sailing through your home office renovation. Here are 4 tips to surviving your home office renovation.

 

Plan Thoroughly

One of the most important aspects of any home renovation is to have a detailed plan in place that covers every aspect of the remodel. Before you begin renovations, you should already have your office furniture picked out and a detailed floor plan laid out. You will want to plan exactly where your desk is going to be so any electrical needs can be met.

You’ll also want to have a lighting plan in place to take advantage of or even create natural light in your space. Make sure you have any lighting fixtures ready to install so the appropriate installation mounts can also be installed. In addition, you will want to have all materials ready and waiting when work begins. Many remodels and renovations have been held up for days or even weeks by materials that didn’t arrive on time. As the old saying goes: if you fail to plan, plan to fail.

 

Choose Your Contractors Carefully

Whether you are doing a full-on remodel or just an all-out renovation, you are probably going to need help. While it is possible to do some of the work yourself, doing it yourself will often cost more in lost income than simply hiring someone. In addition, professionals will generally accomplish the task far more quickly. Remember, time is money. The less time it takes, the more you save. Ultimately, however, you will need to decide whether to hire your own contractors or hire a general contractor to oversee the entire project.

When choosing a contractor, the lowest bidder is not necessarily the best. Many are the nightmare stories of hiring a bad contractor. Take your time, do your research and choose wisely. Hiring a bad contractor can result in everything from costly delays to actually having to rip out work that may not have been performed up to code.

 

Backup and Pack Up

While renovations are taking place, you will want to vacate your space entirely. This means you will need to pack everything up, but you will also want to be extremely detailed about doing so. Unlike a home move, your livelihood is dependent on being able to find certain things in an emergency. While your renovations may only be planned to last a few days, when it comes to renovations it is always best to plan for the unexpected. This means planning as if the renovations may take several weeks or more.

Make sure you have a full backup of all computers on portable hard drives, particularly if you are going to be packing up your desktop and using a laptop. If you pack things in boxes, make a detailed inventory and color code each box. Take pictures of how electronics are set up or anything that needs to be dismantled. Make sure that you tape any hardware, fixtures, screws, nuts or boils that are removed to the piece they belong to. The more care you take in packing up your office, the more likely you are to find what you need when you need it.

 

Relocate

While you may want to check in every day on what progress is being made, you are unlikely to be able to focus or concentrate while all the business of remodeling is going on. In addition, if you need to meet with clients, be on the phone or hold a video conference, there is no telling what kind of noise or other distractions you may have to deal with. Sometimes, remodeling can even require water or electricity being shut off for a time. Ultimately, your best bet is to get out of the house while renovations are happening.

If all you need to do your work is a phone and a laptop, you might be able to simply relocate to a local coffee house. There are a number of other options, however, that may be more conducive to doing business. Co-working office spaces are a great solution because they often have daily and weekly options available. In addition to providing a space that is more conducive to doing business and getting work done, most co-working spaces have available conference rooms and other amenities that help you accomplish everything you need to.

Wrapping Up

Most people labor away for years in offices they have little to no control over. Creating your own home office gives you an almost unheard of opportunity to create a space specifically designed down to the very last detail to help you do your best work. Remember that you will spend a great deal of your life in your office and ultimately you probably want that time to be at least productive if not completely enjoyable. Yes, every job will have some unpleasant tasks, but at the very least you can create a great space to accomplish even the most unpleasant tasks.

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6 Ways Smart Tech is Impacting the Office Environment

Smart technology is all the rage. We have “smart” phones, “smart” homes, and “smart” appliances. As smart tech continues to evolve, there’s no wonder that it has impacted the office environment.

Tools such as cordless phones that work with smartphones and intelligent VoIP hubs only begin illustrating the new smart workplace. Behind the scenes, intelligent routers and automated data management workflows provide just a shadow of things to come.

You don’t have to wait for the future to enjoy the benefits of smart tech in your company. Get a glimpse of what’s possible by learning about the following ways a smart workspace can impact your business.

Collaboration

Already, Office 365 and Google Docs have allowed you to work with people around the world to edit documents. Cloud-based file sharing apps enhance that collaboration.

Now, smart tech has enhanced collaboration via screen sharing, allowing multiple people to work together on the same workstation. Meanwhile, virtual reality enables people to work together in 3D spaces to design and build everything from buildings to entire cities.

Most of all, smart collaboration technologies will permit you to draw from global labor pools. As a result, you can access world-class talent while building highly functional distributed teams.

Communication

Smart tech is allowing companies to move away from traditional email correspondence and telephone conversations. Already, consumers have grown to expect to interact with their favorite brands across multiple channels.

Now, you can get communications packages that unify all your communications within a single interface. Tools such as live text or video chat, for example, enable customers to choose how they contact your firm.

Smart technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are now automating communications. Thanks to chatbots and similar tools, you can let “virtual” agents handle basic service requests, saving your human agents for advanced tasks.

Home Offices

Smart tech has dramatically increased the capabilities of home offices. Thanks to the ubiquity of the cloud, you can slash overhead by hiring remote home-based workers rather than traditional employees.

As long as remote workers have internet access, they can connect with the same communications and collaboration tools they would use in your facilities. Your remote employees often show a higher level of job satisfaction and often produce more than their office-bound peers.

Small operations such as home-based businesses can also benefit from smart tech. By relying on innovative cloud solutions, a one-person operation can have the same capabilities as a global enterprise.

Time Management

Modern time management apps can “learn” your behavior and automatically update your schedule, helping you to get more done in less time. Thanks to artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms, smart tech can also help you prioritize your tasks.

Smart time managers can automate employee scheduling across multiple shifts and locations. When you have the right app in place, employees with smartphones can directly enter and edit their availability information.

If you normally use spreadsheets and manual data entry to calculate hours and wages, smart tech can help. Many time management apps will automatically populate your accounting and payroll apps with relevant data, saving time and improving accuracy.

Satisfaction

Call center software can now monitor customer interactions, including voice conversations to tell you when a customer is becoming agitated. Such systems can also assess agent performance and provide training recommendations.

Furthermore, smart tech can help you assess customer sentiment after every interaction by providing targeted surveys and follow-up emails. Similarly, you can use smart tech to identify upselling opportunities that can enhance the customer experience that you provide.

Smart tech can also improve customer satisfaction and retention through personalization. For example, social-media-aware CRM systems can learn about your contacts and use that data to craft targeted email messages.

Security

Thanks to smart tech, you can now exercise greater control over your network, workstations, and other IT resources. For instance, smart routers can proactively monitor network traffic and almost instantly disconnect suspicious activity.

Smart technologies are also improving antivirus and anti-malware applications, helping them to uncover threats before they become fully understood. Soon, intelligent apps will eliminate the need for virus definition databases and their associated updates, further improving your online security.

Smart tech can even improve the physical security of your company. Biometric devices can control access to every section of your facility, helping to reduce the damage caused by thieves and snoops.

 

In conclusion, smart technology is transforming the way people work. By embracing this trend, you and your business can work smarter, faster and thereby achieve a satisfying work-life balance.

 

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5 Things to Consider Before Moving Your Business to the Cloud

 

If you are not currently taking advantage of cloud-based technology, you may be missing out on an amazing opportunity to improve your business activities in incredible ways. Cloud computing can seem like a complicated concept at first glance, but it actually can simplify your life and improve your professional efforts. With cloud computing, you will have access to stored data from any location where you have an Internet connection.

There is a critical need in today’s fast-paced business environment for you to have access to information, files and more on-the-spot without delay. By migrating your documents and data files to the cloud, you are taking an integral step toward promoting your professional success. Before you decide with certainty to begin this migration process, you need to focus on a few essential elements to ensure that this is the right move for your business.

Internet Connection

Cloud computing is not beneficial without a solid and fast Internet connection. While you need reliable Internet access from your home-based office or your business location, you also need a way to remotely access files if you want to take full advantage of this technology. If your business is regularly impacted by slow speeds or frequent outages, the benefits of cloud-based computing are eliminated. In fact, because you will not be able to access your data files stored in the cloud without an Internet connection, your business could be negatively affected.

Even if you typically have a solid and reliable Internet connection, understand that there is always a possibility of an outage. With this in mind, there is always a risk of inaccessibility to critical data when you use cloud-based technology.

Data Safety

As beneficial as cloud-based technology is for many businesses, there are reasons why this technology may be disadvantageous for you.

Some businesses store very sensitive data about their company’s activities, their clients or their customers in their files. In some cases, cloud-based technology offers more security than your business may be able to access on its own. However, if you have a solid IT department in-house, your IT department’s efforts may be more secure than what you can enjoy through cloud computing.

The security of your data in the cloud is directly based on the technology and efforts used by your service provider. With this in mind, it is critical to analyze the security protocol being used by a provider before deciding to set up service.

Team Performance

If you struggle with group collaboration in your office, cloud technology may be beneficial. When your files are stored in the cloud, multiple employees may access the files at any time and from any location provided they have access or permission to do so. This enables your team to work more efficiently from any location, and it also reduces redundant work efforts.

Your team has a finite amount of time to complete all required activities, so finding a way to work more efficiently can bolster productivity. In addition to efficiency promoted by file sharing and remote data access, remember that there is also a time-saving benefit associated with using a third party to provide you with IT hosting and infrastructure services.

Evaluating Cloud Service Providers

Because of how important it is to choose the right cloud service provider to work with, you need to understand how to effectively evaluate screen providers and make a smart decision. As you compare the options, consider if any of your professional contacts have recommended them or what their track record is in general. Analyze their experience with providing services to other companies in your industry, and ensure that they have the services and support options necessary to meet all of your needs.

As you examine the service providers more closely, determine if they have the ability to adjust to growing needs in the future, such as by migrating your email from a hosted system to support through an in-house server. Pay attention to training and support provided and any guarantees that the provider offers for uptime. The methods used to protect and store your data is also a critical point that must be analyzed.

A final factor to consider is the cost of service. Do you need to pay for a year in advance, or can you pay monthly? Will your rate increase as your company grows?

Cost Effectiveness

Before finalizing your decision to move your business’s data storage to the cloud, understand the costs as well as the savings related to the use of this technology. For example, with cloud services, you will not need an in-house team of IT professionals, and you will not need to pay for licenses, IT support, expensive servers, related software programs and more.

If you have a smaller business, cloud computing may make it affordable for your company to access technology that you otherwise may not be able to afford to pay for at this time.

On the other hand, if you invest in in-house infrastructure up-front, the ongoing maintenance costs are minimal. In some cases, you may save more money overall by using in-house solutions. There are also costs associated with increasing your Internet service to accommodate your increased data transfer needs with cloud-based computing.

 

As you can see, there are many benefits associated with cloud technology, but this technology is not suitable for all businesses. Analyze your security, storage and access needs, and focus on the costs of both types of technological solutions. With a closer analysis of all critical points, you can make an informed decision that is in the best interest of your growing business.

 

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Running A Home-Based Business: 5 Tips For Success

If you have decided to take the big leap towards starting a home-based business, you are not alone. Up to 69 percent of start-up businesses still running in the USA are home-based. Another 50 percent of entrepreneurs run their businesses from home.

Contrary to popular opinion, home-based businesses could end up being successful multinational corporations. Examples of such businesses include Amazon, Google, Walt Disney, Mattel, etc. This should boost your confidence when starting your business.

Among many other benefits, a home-based business will grant you the autonomy of scaling up or down as you see fit. You will also save on resources and you can invest the money back into your business.

To be successful at your new endeavor, follow the following five tips when starting your home-based business.

 

Organize Your Space

Starting a home business can give you many benefits. Besides being your own boss, you will from now on save on office rent. As a result, you will also save time you used to spend on commuting.

For most businesses, rent is an unavoidable overhead cost. A home-based business will not incur this cost. However, working from home means you have to separate your living space and working space. You may have to sacrifice an entire room to use as your office.

The area you decide to use as your working environment should mimic a real office. You should ensure sufficient workspace and adequate lighting. Most importantly, make sure you can isolate yourself from distractions and work efficiently.

 

Stick to a Schedule

Working from home could be challenging. Since you will be spending most of your time at home, you might have a challenge balancing time between work and family.

Work out a daily routine, which enables you to balance work, family time, house chores and other obligations. A schedule ensures that your productivity is at maximum and that you stay on top of all of your tasks. However, make sure your schedule is flexible and don’t forget to set apart time for breaks.

Communicate your schedule to your friends and family. They might unintentionally disturb you while you are working at home. When they have your schedule, they will know when you are free and when you are not available.

 

Outsource

In the initial stages of the business, you will, most likely, solely handle all the aspects of your business. Functions such as marketing, supply chain management, and accounting will take up most of your time. Your business may experience a shortage of resources and you may need to outsource some of the labor-intensive functions.

Outsourcing might incur some excess costs, but you will save a lot in terms of time and energy. Outsourcing will also give you access to qualified personnel and fill the expertise deficiencies you may face.

 

Network

Starting a business is not easy. At initial stages, you may face certain challenges. For example: adjusting to your new schedule, acquiring clients, managing finances, etc. These challenges could take a toll on you.

A support structure is essential to help you cope. Networking will not only give you a social outlet but will also link you up with people who are on the same journey as you are.

Whether you network socially or professionally, you will be tapping into a potential source of professionals in your field. Not to mention the potential clients you could meet.

 

Don’t Forget About Marketing

Customers are more willing to get into business with brands they know and trust. This gives them a sense of security. This is why you need them to know your business and what it is all about.

After all, your customers are your greatest assets. Without people knowing about your business, you can’t expect to make sales.

There are numerous techniques you could use to market your business. Attend social events and never give away an opportunity to talk to a stranger. Hand out your professionally designed business card, ask for referrals, and don’t forget to give out samples of your products or services.

Don’t forget about online marketing. The internet offers a cheap way for you to reach a large audience very quickly. Create a website and focus on posting relevant content. Then use social media to connect with your audience and distribute your content.

 

Final Thoughts

In summary, organize your space and organize yourself. Outsource to acquire the skills you lack, reach out to acquire new clients and potential partnerships. Lastly, make yourself and your home-based business known far and wide. These tips will help you run a successful home business.

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6 Mistakes Brands Should Avoid on Social Media

Using social media for marketing purposes appeals to numerous businesses because of the large number of daily users that log into popular social networks. Unfortunately, many brands have a hard time converting their media presence into new leads and sales. Many of them make mistakes that result in damaged reputation and even loss of customers.

However, you can improve your chance of success on social networks by being aware of common blunders some of those businesses make and learning how to avoid them. Here are five mistakes you should avoid in order to maximize your benefit from social media.

Not Having a Social Media Strategy

Businesses that haphazardly jump into social media have high expectations, but often fail to reach them. Such a mistake wastes time and effort and can deter the company from ever trying again.

However, you can have a smooth social media experience by first identifying your needs. After that, you should set goals and plan how to achieve them. Finally, your strategy needs to define how to monitor and assess your results.

Another aspect of your social media strategy is the tone of voice and personality your brand will use as it interacts. Taking this extra step can help you and your team effectively respond to customer inquiries, complaints and other feedback.

Being Insensitive

If you fail to be sensitive towards your audience, you can severely damage your reputation. In that case, your social media campaign may hurt you more than it helps.

Pay attention to how you communicate and how what you say comes across to your audience. In other words, be sensitive to their perspectives and circumstances.

For starters, the transparent nature of social media means that everyone can see how you treat your customers. That means you need to treat everyone with respect, even when they’re angry or complaining.

In addition to your vocabulary and tone of voice, make sure you are sensitive about your use of humor. In other words, what you think is funny might either offend or insult someone else.

Ignoring Negative Feedback

Social media has become the most popular channel for customer support. However, many brands make the mistake of ignoring customer feedback on their social media profiles, especially if it’s negative. When this happens, problems fester and often go viral. As a result, even small issues become major headaches.

Avoid the mistake others have made by giving prompt and courteous attention to every comment, even if it’s negative. Rather than pretending that no problem exists, be proactive and work to find a satisfactory solution.

You can even go the extra mile and use social listening techniques to pinpoint comments that aren’t aimed at you directly. Paying attention to what others are saying about your brand without using the @ symbol gives you the chance to act before a problem escalates. It also shows you care about your customers and displays a positive brand image.

Not Offering Value

Companies that use social media to bombard their audience with sales pitches make a blunder that offends audiences and drives them away. In other words, posting only promotional content to your social media pages may hurt your business.

Such a misuse of social media usually results from a misunderstanding of the nature of social networks. For the most part, people log into their favorite social sites for the purpose of socializing. When you compel them to buy, they will most likely stay away from your accounts.

Avoid this error by publishing valuable content that improves life for your audience. In addition to posting material that you and your team create, post content from external sources. Also, don’t forget to share content that entertains, even if it’s not directly relevant to your business.

Neglecting Security

With the rising numbers of hacking attacks on social media accounts, it is essential to take the necessary safety precautions. Failing to do so could have negative consequences on your business. Just imagine what would happen if a hacker hijacked your Twitter account and started posting offensive tweets. This would certainly hurt your brand’s reputation and possibly cost your business money.

The first step to keeping all your social media accounts safe is installing antivirus and anti-malware software on all your in-house computers. Another important step i s educating your employees about using strong passwords and changing them often.

They should also know about the dangers of accessing your business’ social media accounts via public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are not encrypted which means that a hacker can intercept the password you use to login to your accounts. If avoiding public Wi-Fi is not possible, make sure your employees use a virtual private network (VPN) for a safe connection.

Not Engage With Your Followers

Finally, remember to socialize on social media. You can get so busy posting and sharing content that you forget to interact. If you just post and run, such a blunder can torpedo your social media effort.

When people follow your profile and you follow them in return, you build a sense of friendship and trust. Similarly, you can achieve a lot by sharing content posted by the people who share yours.

Your main goal should be to engage with your followers. Doing so maintains the spirit of social media while building trusting relationships that eventually will lead to new sales.

Final Thoughts

Using social media doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, the above five blunders frequently ruin reputations of companies and their brands. However, by using these tips to create and implement a social media strategy that adds value to and engages the community, you’ll be set up for success.

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7 Useful Skills That Every Entrepreneur Needs

To successfully launch and grow a company, an entrepreneur needs a unique skill set as well as ample knowledge and patience. Almost every startup has its ups and downs, and very few follow a straight, upward path to profitability. If you want to increase the likelihood that your new startup will be successful, consider nurturing and refining these specific skills that can serve an entrepreneur well.

Ambition

To succeed with your startup venture, you need to have an ample supply of ambition to combine with your talent and vision. Ambition can give you the drive to work harder and smarter while remaining committed to your endeavor even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Ambitious people are generally willing and able to put in the extra effort to get the job done right, and they do not look for shortcuts along the way. You should mix your ambition with a clear plan of action so that you know how to act to achieve your goals.

Willingness to Learn

Some people stop educating themselves when they graduate college, but learning is a life-long activity. You should always focus on evolving and improving yourself, such as through books, articles, documentaries, seminars and more. Your industry is in flux regularly, and you need to stay updated in order to properly lead your company. You should be in regular communication with industry leaders, or you should at least be in touch with their blog post or other published works so that your knowledge remains relevant.

Assertiveness and Confidence

You need to instil a sense of confidence in others, and the only way to ensure that others believe in you and trust you is to have full confidence in yourself. After listening to what others have to say and after developing an educated stance on a subject, verbalize your thoughts with confidence and assertiveness. People often trust assertive people. When you feel unnecessary pressure to act against your will or instinct, put your foot down with a firm response that voices your opinions tactfully.

Creativity

The most successful entrepreneurs embrace creativity in themselves and in their team members. You cannot expect to run a successful business always walking the tried and true path. There will be times when you need to be a trailblazer by thinking outside the box. You can encourage creative thinking by always talking to new people, reading new books, ordering new meals at a restaurant you frequent, changing your office or living room layout and more. Keep your mind open to new possibilities, and always push yourself toward innovation by setting lofty yet attainable goals for yourself and for your team.

Ability to Listen

Communication is critical to the success of any business owner, and active listening is a vital component to effective communication. You must be a people-person, and you should have open, honest, two-way communication with your customers. If you are striving for success you will need to commit to providing a great customer service, which includes listening to what your customers have to say, especially complaints.

Always listen to what other people have to say, and avoid the rude inclination to interrupt others. Bothersome chatter and self-promotion can also be irritating to others and could reflect negatively on others. If you are talking, you likely are not listening to the thoughts and ideas of the other person. Know when to be quiet and focus on what others are saying, and focus on their non-verbal cues as well as your own for more effective communication. However, you also need to know when to speak up, such as when your team needs extra motivation to push forward.

Courage and Risk-Taking

It is not enough to simply think creatively as an entrepreneur. You also need to be bold and courageous enough to act on your innovative ideas. While some ideas will be clear winners, others may require you to stick your neck out there and to be gutsy. In the words of John Burroughs, “Leap, and the net will appear.” Never be afraid to take chances even when they seem far different than anything ever attempted before, but in the same token, you should research all options before deciding how to proceed.

Perseverance

Almost all successful entrepreneurs can describe a series of road bumps and hurdles they had to navigate over on their path to success. These individuals who accomplished their goals did not turn around or grow fearful when faced with a challenge. Instead, they remained patient and optimistic through various challenges. You cannot possibly succeed if you give up, so the best thing to do in order to succeed is to keep moving forward.

Entrepreneurs are often highly successful people, but the path to be successful is rarely easy. You need to have strong knowledge in your field, and you also need to develop each of these skills carefully. While they can help you to be a better business professional, they could also help you to enjoy a more meaningful, productive life.

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