Category Archives: Career

What you need to know before starting a small business

Starting a new business can be scary. There’s so much you don’t know a single thing about. But the good news is that behind every successful business is an entrepreneur who was once right where you are now. These are the people who know exactly what you are going through. They’ve been there. They have been uncertain about where to turn and who to ask for help. It’s very likely that they hesitated before taking the next step. Theirs is the advice you should be looking out for.

 

Take advice from the pros. Apple boss Steve Jobs used to say that it’s important to be selective about the challenges you choose to tackle as an entrepreneur.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1 000 things.”

His Virgin counterpart, Richard Branson, said business owners should focus their companies on the thing they need and the changes they’d like to see.

“Think about changes you’d like to see as a customer – even if you’ve just noticed little details that need tweaking. Those little changes may add up to a big idea that leads to a new and truly disruptive product or service. This is essentially how we, at Virgin, launched our first successful businesses.

“We were very sensible when we started out, setting up connected enterprises like most other companies do. We went from running a small record shop to starting up a record label with recording studios and then added our large music megastores to our portfolio.”

 

Planning your next move. When you’re just getting started, it’s important that you know what your next move is and where you plan to be in the next five to 20 years. Only then can you really begin to plan your next move and way forward. You’ll need to draw up a business plan to guide you onward. It’s essential that you’re constantly measuring your success, taking note of the factors which help you and which hinder you along the way.

 

There are many factors which could potentially impact you, as a small business owner. In South Africa especially we have to protect ourselves from the twin issues of crimes and cost increases. Making sure you have the necessary security in place and planning your finances carefully should assist in putting your mind at ease.

 

Next up, you’ll need to start thinking about making your startup a success. It’s likely you’ve read thousands of articles, listened to many podcasts, spoken to friends who’ve done the same thing and scoured the stores for books on your subject.

 

And your startup is beginning to show the signs of your hard work. So, how do you take your business to the next level? If you’re looking to grow, here are some tips for moving your business to the next level.

 

Think about your timing. Just like everything in life, you need to be at the right place, at the right time. You need to be able to spot a gap in the market and get in there quickly. You need to realise what consumers want or need, before they even do. In order to do this, you need to always have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening, what they want and where there’s a need. You’ll need to always keep updated about everything that’s happening in your particular industry.

 

Spend time building your brand. Your brand is everything. It’s what will come to mind every time a consumer thinks of your product or service. You’ll need to connect on an emotional level with your consumers and ensure your brand is thought of as a leader and influencer. For this, you’ll need to pay attention to a number of different factors:

 

  • Choosing the target market that’s right for your product or service
  • Connecting in the right ways and in the right places with your target market
  • Making sure you and your brand are always known for providing excellent customer service

 

When all of these factors begin to come together, consumers will choose your brand over others. That’s when you’ll know you’ve made it.

 

Pivot your brand. This is when you move away from what’s not working and find a solution that does work for your small business. You definitely don’t want to do this too soon. But eventually, you’ll want to diversify and become known for something else. When the time is right, you’ll need to apply for the asset finance solutions to help you grow your business. Be sure to stick to related products or services as you grow because otherwise you’ll begin to feel disjointed. This could be confusing for your customers and push them to your competitors.

Your brand needs to be online. Seriously, get online now. What are you waiting for? The world is becoming increasingly digital and every company needs to be online. Make sure your website can be found easily by using use of some simple SEO strategies. You should also be using social media in the correct ways and to your advantage.

 

Take your time to grow slowly. But don’t wait for too long because someone else will have the same idea as you. They’ll move faster and you’ll never get anywhere.

 

Being a business owner is tough. That’s especially true when you’re starting out. But if you believe in your project and know the risks, you should go for it. That’s when you’ll not only survive, but thrive.

What 2016 tells us about financing a business

If we’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that there’s plenty business can and must do to help protect themselves from events they could not have foreseen. To that end, it’s worth thinking about what we can do, as business people, to help keep our businesses afloat while the world goes on. Businesses won’t stay up because we want them to, but through hard work. We need to be able to handle what occurs and look out for dangers that might threaten their continued existence. Just as we care for any loved one, we must be mindful of what could pose a threat to businesses – 2016 shows us that many of the biggest dangers could come out of left field. To that end, let’s look at ways to protect our businesses from any possible dangers.

Look for bargains

We make our own success, but it also involves knowing where to find opportunities for that success to blossom. One clear way to make success into a reality rather than a dream is to find the best deals and bargains. For example, here is a detailed way one American finance writer managed to get an expensive electric car reduced in price. Instead of spending $35,000 on a brand-new electric car, he got it for under $14,000. Businesses must look at their financing options in terms of the best way to make the most out of a little – or, perhaps, how to get exorbitant prices reduced.

Beware “gurus”

Nobody can predict the future, yet many make their money off selling their beliefs to businesses desperate for a path. These finance gurus tend to offer vague reasons for their predictions, forcing businesses down paths they would otherwise have never gone. Consider some of the worst financial predictions in history, by some of the smartest people in the world. For example, in 2010, entrepreneur Richard Branson warned that “the next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch,” predicting a severe supply shortage. Of course, six years later, the price of oil is actually lower than it was then. Businesses must on the evidence they have, that will benefit themselves and shareholders, not the words of those who claim to have knowledge they could not possibly have. The smartest people in the world did not think Donald Trump would get elected or that Britain would leave the European Union – yet both of these large events occurred and have dramatically changed the landscape. How many businesses were prepared when these events occurred? How many were protected from the financial fallout? For example, did these companies have protection for their immigrant employees? Did they have proper health coverage (the repeal in America of the Affordable Care Act has left millions without healthcare, meaning they might not be able to work – a reduction in people able to suddenly work will have a massive impact on businesses and therefore the economy).

Be creative

Business people must be more creative than ever, as they go forward. It’s using plant and machinery finance in clever ways to create more jobs, services and so on. It’s creating new advertising campaigns, drawing in younger people, getting active on social media. Creativity means standing out from others, an expression of individuality that draws people in so they want to work with us in various capacities. 2016 showed that creativity is key, especially in a world that is increasingly competitive.

Proper hiring and proper management

Our business is only as good as your least talented staff member. Hiring the best people must be at the top of our list of priorities. Businesses are made of teams, so if one person messes up, it falls sideways and upward. That is, it affects everyone, not just the work of the person who made a mistake. Competency must be paid for and rewarded, which means it is on us to treat our staff properly, doing what we can to retain them for as long as possible.

The longer someone works for us the better for everyone, since this establishes a long-standing dynamic that gives a measure of stability to the constant shifting market. For example, we could listen to various studies that indicate working from home has enormous benefits. Not only do people then feel more inclined to work for us, but their work improves, too. If our concern is that people need rigour and micromanagement in order to complete their work, the failure is ours not theirs – we should not be hiring people who can’t work when left by themselves. Otherwise we’re being teachers and watch dogs, not managers focused on production, ideas and so on. Implementing new strategies for the benefit of staff will go a long way to making a business better than it ever could be.

People are always looking for ways to stay employed after all and no one likes the sense of fear, when leaving. There’s no guarantee any job is forever and the lack of job security is one reason people tend to stay in position longer than before – after all, even advanced degrees are not guarantee we’ll be employed. Yet that shouldn’t stop us as business people putting effort into retaining the staff we do have.

Security considerations for small businesses in 2017

Small businesses are not exempt from caring about security. They, too, need to be as invested in what occurs in keeping their data and other aspects of the organisation secure. Though so much of security is often focused on big businesses and major breaches, such as hacking and cyber invasion, there are many aspects to security worth considering. To that end, if you want to be able to protect your businesses from outside interference, in order to actually produce quality work and meet client expectations, it’s important to consider what is happening in terms of security in the future. Businesses must stay ahead of security concerns in order stay ahead of those who would do damage and participate in criminal activities.

Everything is cyber

These days every business understands that being connected is essential. No longer are modern businesses only local, but are branched out into the rest of world. They exist in various forms, communicating through social media, email, website and so on. Even internally, data is stored digitally, people are able to operate and conduct meetings regardless of location. But this internal idea is itself part of the problem. As the American National Cybersecurity Institute noted:

“One of the biggest threats a company has that puts it at risk for an attack or data breach is its internal users. Lack of cybersecurity awareness and training can put organizations at a significantly higher susceptibility to cybercriminals. As Tripwire’s security engineer pointed out, security doesn’t just mean taking measures to prevent the attacks, but providing training and guidance on how to handle incident response in the event that an incident occurs. And this should be done throughout all levels of the organization, especially considering ransomware schemes like spear phishing happen primarily through emailing employees.”

Training is important but so is monitoring. So often when people consider installing, say, CCTV camera or a video wall controller, the assumption that it is to prevent outside interference. But the threats come from inside, too. This can be intentional or negligence. As SC Magazine pointed out:

“[Workers] taking the necessary steps to ensure security in the workplace becomes less of a priority for them as they seek to perform their job functions efficiently. In fact, 40 percent of firms expect a data breach in the next 12 months as a result of employee behavior, and employees indicated a widespread lack of awareness of good cybersecurity practice. The consequence is that over the last year, 78 percent of breaches have originated from within the extended enterprise (including contractors and ex-employees), the report found.”

This is a shocking number. In terms of the future, more businesses must focus on creating policy and training programs to highlight the dangers posed by employees themselves.

Education

Learning new skills and acquiring knowledge is never a bad thing. This is particularly important if, as we noted, employees learn what to do and what not to do in order to minimise any cyber dangers to businesses. Businesses owners must take the necessary steps to help minimise this danger and this means supplying education and courses that can enable their employees to not make any mistakes. Of course, nothing is perfect, but training isn’t about perfection in this case – it’s about reducing the chances of invasion, manipulation and so on from occurring which could threaten the whole company.

For example, you could begin by putting in place policies that minimise or completely restrict mobile devices. As Forsythe notes:  “As smartphones and tablets become constant companions, cyber attackers are using every avenue available to break into them.”

Most of us expect these expensive pieces of tech to be secure. In reality, they are not. With simple equipment, hackers can get in and make use of other, more powerful equipment nearby. For example, says Forsythe, “hackers can gain access to a nearby mobile device in less than 30 seconds and either mirror the device and see everything on it, or install malware that will enable them to siphon data from it at their leisure.”

You can also encourage employers to change their passwords regularly, instituting Two Factor Authentication on all their important accounts. Google, for example, sends a message to your phone when you login to your email from another device or computer. After all, if you suddenly login from somewhere else, that’s a red flag of hacking – since it means someone else is invading your space. But sometimes, of course, it’s just using a new or another device. Sending a quick note to your phone lets you authenticate it. Since hackers don’t have your phone, this is a much more secure method and is recommended by many cybersecurity experts.

HR Trends for 2017

Business culture changes with the times, like so much of the world. One aspect that has dramatically shifted has been how people are viewed and treated within organisations. So often, the idea has been that employees are little more than cogs in the giant machine of production, resulting in a profitable output the benefits those at the top. While some critics of capitalism would claim little has changed, there are at least laws and social norms in place that were not there before. Within this has been a growing engagement with HR (human resource) management, allowing for greater insight into the nature of work and employment. This has led to better work conditions and understanding of what employment means. It’s therefore worth considering what the future of HR could mean and how that could influence business.

What is the point of HR?

There are many aspects required for a business to run. It’s hard to balance the many plates spinning that result in production and ideally profits. This allows employers to pay employees, so that people can continue to pay their bills, pay for education and so on. But this itself still requires management and this is where HR comes in.

As The Balance notes:

“Human Resource Management (HRM) is the function within an organization that focuses on the recruitment of, management of, and providing direction for the people who work in an organization. As you can imagine, all of the processes and programs that are touched by people are part of the HR kingdom.”

A lot of people, especially in smaller businesses think they can get rid of HR departments or managers. After all, they think, if it’s just a matter of hiring and firing, anyone can do it. But that’s not true. As Business 2 Community points out: “There’s a lot more to human resources than hiring and firing. There’s payroll, benefits, performance reviews and more. And you have to make sure you’re doing all of that in compliance with state and federal laws.”

To that end, businesses, regardless of size, would do well to consider HR managers – or, at the very least, send those in positions of power to HR management courses to help improve their knowledge and educate them about what it means to work in such a space. Businesses benefit from proper management – this is simply a statement of fact. Why wouldn’t you want that area, involving the hiring and management of people’s employment done professionally and well, too? Further, if you can alleviate pressure from

The future of HR

Cultural and technological progress will change how the workplace operates in future. To that end, it’s worth considering just how HR itself will change. It might seem strange to think that societal factors will influence how you manage employees, but once you see what does and continues to influence – for example – who does and doesn’t get hired, you will see how HR practice could change.

For example, what kind of culture creates a toxic work environment? Researchers at prestigious institutions have long wanted to know the answer to this question. Fast Company summarises one finding:

“A string of ugly scandals in recent years has hit companies like Zenefits, Wells Fargo, ANZ Bank, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Toshiba, and others. What they have in common is that all have been attributed, in one way or another, to a toxic work culture where unethical business practices were encouraged. In most cases, impossibly high standards set by executives and upper management led employees to cut corners (or worse) to reach them.”

In terms of what this means for the future, many HR leaders, executives and managers are talking openly about “culture” in the workplace – looking at what is expected from a top down perspective. As Fast Company put it: “businesses that care about [creating a non-toxic work environment] may look to their HR teams to find ways to have those conversations with all of their employees more meaningfully and more often.” This is due to how the entire company must work to create a better environment. While it is true that the power lies at the top, that still means you can participate even if you are merely an employee. But you need guidance and openness from the an HR department to allow this to happen in the first place.

Another trend will come from analysis. After all, in order to make the best decisions, you need to have the best data. As Forbes notes: “Not only is there a lot of employee data that is becoming available but HR teams also need to understand what to do with that data and how to make sense of it. This requires a deep understanding of analytics and data science. The smart HR teams around the world are staffing up with plenty data, science and analytics professionals to help make sense understand their people better.”

This data is what ties in to the research showing that toxic work environments are actually less productive. Using proper methodology and measurements, you can calculate what and when particular policies were put in place and then the results of that implementation. With the wide variety of ways to capture data about a company these days, HR will be incorporating this data into suggestions and policy it can recommend be implemented throughout a company.

Jobs to help the world

Everyone wants to save the world when they are younger. Inspired by heroes, both real fictional, children often dream about being everything from superheroes to firefighters. Though often these dreams fade out as people approach adulthood – for practical and other reasons, such as no one has superpowers – there do exist many people, around the world, doing incredible work to help others. So often, these are not jobs you do for wealth but the fulfillment of helping others. Let’s see what someone can do to help make the world a better place.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

People become doctors for various reasons, but often it’s known as a secure, well-paying job that helps others. Whether you work in a hospital or devote yourself to research, there are also a range of career opportunities that can be catered to for your particular skillset. The point is, there are many reasons why someone becomes a doctor. As Kevin MD, a doctor and writer, points out, even family can be a factor:

“There are, however, plenty of people in medical school who have a doctor in the family. Usually one parent, sometimes both. Coming from a medical dynasty can have its pluses and minuses—on one hand, these people are usually down-to-earth and diligent, as they are going into the family business and know both what to expect and what is expected of them. On the other hand, some of them act like by virtue of birthright, they are doctors already, and the actual process of medical training is just an unfortunate technicality.”

Being a doctor by itself already denotes helping others and making the world a better place. But you can also take this further. The most famous and popular version of this is with Médecins Sans Frontières, a non-profit which aims to deliver healthcare around the world to those who need it. They are often in war-torn, conflict zones, in the areas of the worst poverty, risking their own lives to help others. It is often a messy and thankless job, with doctors rarely reaching the headlines for their work. But they don’t do it for fame.

Though each act might be small in comparison to the world, they mean a great deal to the individual lives that get saved. They were recently operating in Syria and Nigeria, fighting for women and refugees around the world.

Human Rights

Lawyers are often portrayed as sleazy, money-grabbing snake oil salespeople, more focused on defending big corporations than the underdog. But this would be a false story, since there are many who fight every day on human rights issues. For example, Human Rights Watch is dedicated to combatting all forms of discrimination and criminal activity across the world, ranging from human trafficking to war crimes. Tackling everything from freedom of the press to the death penalty, this requires a passionate battle of laws and legal issues across countries.

Lawyers do everything from campaign for individuals to tackling entire governments. As Quartz details a report by HRW, which goes into very fine detail about issues in China – showing they go all over the world, regardless of country.

“The report, published today (Dec. 6), is the first to contain first-hand interviews with detainees. HRW interviewed 21 people, including former shuanggui detainees, their family members, and lawyers who had represented them. All of them, except for a former procurator, said that shuanggui detainees are subjected to torture. Shuanggui, or ‘double designated,’ refers to the notice informing party members to appear at a designated place at a designated time for questioning. It dates back to 1990 and has no basis in Chinese law.”

Another group that does similar work is Lawyers without Borders. This is a charitable, non-profit,  organization that uses pro bono work of “lawyers from around the world into volunteer service in global rule of law, capacity building and access to justice initiatives.” Their goal is “to develop, manage and support… initiatives in the human rights and global capacity building sectors, leveraging pro bono hours and in-kind support to keep program costs at a minimum.”

They offer opportunities for law students and those that recently graduated. The work is international, even in places Myanmar. For example, “Ed Turner, has been involved in pro bono law reform work in Myanmar where a major effort is in process to rewrite the many laws largely ignored by the prior military government. Some of these laws date back more than 60 years to the British colonial period.”

This shows there are already a range of organisations people can join to improve their lives and others. Though the work is hard, it is rewarding and helps the lives of millions of people every day. It is possible to make a change in the world, even if you are not winning Nobel Peace Prizes, since the goal isn’t to win awards or become rich, but help others. This still requires hard work like anything else and shows there are paths to accomplish it.