Some company offices operate at a much more efficient pace – have you ever wondered why this is? Although each and every company is unique, some offices are more productive than other companies’ offices.

In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the factors that come into play, which you can adjust to make your workforce more efficient.

Light

Let’s start with the amount and kind of light an office gets. Any office will benefit from lots of natural light. Though this can come from skylights and windows, if there’s little opportunity for natural light you could invest in full-spectrum light bulbs.

These emit light which is more like that of natural light. Experiments have shown that exposure to this light elevates mood and makes people more astute after about 30 minutes of exposure.

 

Temperature

In the winter the office can get cold – workers typing while wearing gloves are a good indicator of this. An office worker who’s too cold most certainly won’t be concentrating.

In the summer, the office can be too hot, and it can even get too hot during the winter. We’ve all experienced coming back from lunch and almost falling asleep at our desks because the office temperature is like we’re on holiday.

Keeping the temperature to a comfort zone between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 77 degrees Fahrenheit has scientifically been proven to allow people to work at an optimum productivity level.

 

Office layouts

With several different plans to choose from, your office layout needs to be organised; neat, uncluttered and designed in a way that allows staff to communicate with one another in an easy manner.

 

Cubicle layout

The cubicle layout offers each office worker some privacy with wall partitions that may or may not ascend all the way to the ceiling. Each cubicle contains the occupant’s office furniture and equipment but often a line printer is shared.

Each cubicle is connected by a walkway in between, allowing a level of easy communication for staff.

 

Open plan

This type of office layout is very good for allowing staff to communicate easily. Without the wall partitions, it allows for an office environment where people simply talk to one another and can be more encouraging.

 

Incubator office plans

Incubator offices are rented to more than one company at the same time and they can consist of open plan or the cubicle types. Each company is assigned its own space and each company only uses this space.

 

Brief office rentals

These again are relatively new in practice. They operate on a short term rental principal, where companies rent office space by the day, week or month.

These office rentals come fully furnished and equipped – a big bonus for travelling business people who need a local operation setup fast.

 

Which plan is best?

Well, that would depend upon your company. A creative department of a business might very well benefit from open plan, so people can share ideas on large projects easily. On the flip side, a sales department might very well benefit from a cubicle layout so each employee gets the privacy to concentrate on a deal.

Recent studies have shown workers exposed to 30 minutes of low level, background office noise while working have lower motivational levels in solving puzzles. This is compared to those who were exposed to silence while performing the same trivial office tasks.

There again, a cubicle layout will certainly cause a level of employee discontent; humans are social animals, after all.

Whatever plan you decide is best for your company, you should ensure good air-conditioning of around 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit and as much full-spectrum light as possible.

About the author

Marianne is a computer aided designer for Spacelink in Surrey, UK. She enjoys writing articles about anything work associated. For more information, visit http://www.spacelink.co.uk/

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Stickies – The best PC utility for creating sticky notes on your computer.  Forget about sticking (and losing) sticky notes, just create one directly on your computer.

GoFileDrop –  A free service (paid version available) that lets other drop files directly into your Google Drive account without giving them access to it.

Mark Twain quotes, finding yourself on the side of the majority

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Rebel Mouse – Add a single social media stream on your website with Rebel Mouse.  Add Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and more onto a single page for your website visitors.  Free and paid plans available.

Tweet Grader – A free service from Hubspot that lets you see how influential you are on the Twitterphere.  Also check out their website grading tool.

Believe in yourself quotes

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

In order to maximize your marketing efforts and improve your engagement with customers online, it's important to understand the most effective ways to connect with your audience through social media.

In a world where competition for consumer attention is at an all-time high, including images are improving your business outlook by connecting with past, present and future customers online.

For example, did you know that status updates on social media that include photo are liked twice as much? Or that images are processed 60,000 times faster than text in the human brain?

Images allow you to connect your business with customers in a much better way than a wall of text ever could.

Show them why your business is so great, don't just tell them.

 Using Images Online

The time to start leveraging business images on your social media profiles is now.

But don't just go search Google for a somewhat relevant image that someone else created. Be original, don't be a copycat. Customers today want to connect with businesses that are authentic, transparent and engaging.

To help you get started, here are three tools for you to use in order to create custom images to use on your business social media accounts. To demonstrate how easy it can be, I've provided three original examples from these tools to help you see how easy it can be.

1. Instagram

This tool has been gaining popularity across the Internet and many different brands have found success using it. And because this mobile application can be synced to your Facebook and Twitter accounts it makes marketing on social media easy.

Try using Instagram to create artistic photos of your business and the products or services you offer. It's a great way to really show your target market the great things that you are doing on a daily basis.

Here's an example of how a restaurant could show off one of their delicious dishes.

 Instagram image of food

2. Memes

Taken from “me to me,” a meme is often a viral piece of content that gets passed from person to person quickly typically as a joke. However, businesses can take this trend and capitalize on it very easily by using sites like meme generator.

Meme's can help you promote your business and better connect with your customers without seeming too pushy. Try creating your own original business-related memes and share them online.

Below is an example of a meme that an auto shop could use to post on Facebook while linking to a coupon on their website.

Sample meme for auto repair shop

3. Infographics

While the marketing budget for your businesses may not allow you to sign $10,000 checks to design companies to create awesome infographics, there are many tools available for creating them yourself. Using these visualizations for your business is a great way to highlight multiple different pieces of information and wrap them all together.

You can use a variety of different tools to create infographics that are easily viewed and that share a message while increasing your brand awareness.

Here is an example of an infrographic created on Piktochart that a local restaurant could put together to highlight upcoming events or, for example, a Valentine's Day promotion.

Sample infographic

Grant Tilus works as an Inbound Marketer for Rasmussen College where he engages with past, present and future students over social media while also writing content for the School of Business Blog. Feel free to connect with him on Google+.

 

Every small business faces the challenge of advertising their services without breaking the bank. In fact, some small businesses operate with such a small marketing budget that its extremely difficult to get the reach necessary to acquire new customers. Fortunately, USPS offers a direct mailing service called Every Door Direct Mail that helps businesses of all sizes and budgets. EDDM allows businesses to mail postcards, brochures and even menus to an entire mailing route without paying for a mailing list or a mailing permit.

To help illustrate the benefits of Every Door Direct Mail Tampa FL based printing company SonicPrint.com has created an infographic better explaining the value that EDDM offers small businesses.

Every Door Direct Mail From Sonic Print

eddm-USPS

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Screaming Frog – Free tool (paid plan available) that lets you run an SEO audit on your website.  It helps to uncover common SEO problems such as broken links, missing meta data, etc.  It's a desktop download that's very popular in the SEO community.

Curdbee – An online billing and invoicing software for small business. Has a generous free plan as well as affordable paid plans.

Oprah quote at Harvard university

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

2012-09-14 Tax by Design-1012If you're business is in the creative field, managing finances is probably just above visiting the dentist when it comes to your list of “things I really want to do”.  When you first started out you probably had no worries about finances, as you probably had very little of them.  But as your business grows larger and you begin to generate a steady stream of revenue, managing your finances becomes an essential part of running a quality business.

Whether you're just starting out in the creative field or are getting ready to get serious about your finances, proper planning is essential to your businesses financial health.  The following is an interview with Dean Shepherd of Tax by Design.

Dean Shepherd is an accountant and the owner of Tax by Design, a UK based accountancy firm specializing in servicing creative businesses.  He offers a different approach to accounting than your traditional accounting firms and offers several services that cater to the financial well being of creative businesses.

How long has Tax by Design been in existence?  It doesn’t seem like the typical accounting business, tell us how you got started.

I started my professional accountancy career in 1997, the year the UK’s Self Assessment system was first introduced but my interest in design came much later when, on a sabbatical, I studied Multimedia Design at the University of Kent. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a career change and, despite achieving 1st Class Honors, was extremely aware of my limited ability as a designer. However, I did want to find a way of linking my two interests so I started working for an accountancy firm that had a specialist creative industries department.

This gave me an amazing insight into the industry and exposed me to a huge range of creative businesses from the eager start-up to the established world-wide brand. Although my department worked only with creative businesses the firm as a whole did not; and I felt this sometimes held us back from what we could achieve for our clients. In 2004 I took the decision to set up my own accountancy firm out of which Tax By Design was born.

What made you focus on the creative sector?  Are there unique challenges that you see in this sector that may not apply to other sectors?

I will let you into a secret, accountancy is not the most exciting subject and accountancy firms are not the most exhilarating places to work. Who you work with has a huge influence on your job satisfaction and I was extremely motivated to work on cutting-edge projects, with interesting people and for businesses where my input could really make a difference.

It is a cliché to say that creative people are not great at business or finance or numbers. I think most people are not great at business or finance or numbers, at least initially. Good business is something that has to be learned from experience. Doing a Harvard MBA is not going to guarantee you success in business. Determination and being able to think differently will. Creative people think differently.

Many people just starting out on their own, especially freelancers don’t really think about financials when they are starting out. What are some common mistakes you see people make and how can they avoid them?

In the midst of the Tax Return season I decided to use this busy period as an opportunity to help raise funds for my charity and offered free Tax Return reviews in exchange for a small donation. This offer was directed at people completing their own returns who just wanted a profession eye cast over their figures. To date I have not seen one completely correct Tax return. Errors range from items in the wrong boxes, to tax allowances incorrectly claimed to people being unaware of the full range and extent of expenditure that they can off-set against their income.

What I would recommend to anybody starting out is to make an appointment to go and see three different accountants. Everyone offers free no-obligation consultations and you can use that as an opportunity to learn. Ask them some searching questions such as: What do you think my financial priorities should be? Tell me about what expenses I can and cannot claim? What business structure would you recommend for me and why? Most accountants give up information freely (sometimes too freely). Take advantage of that and if, at the same time, you find someone you would like to work with then great, it’s a win-win.

I see that you offer a subscription plan for your clients; do you find that this makes for a better relationship with your clients?

The reason I introduced a subscription model, rather than billing by the hour, is that I did not want clients to avoid calling me up with their business problems for fear of racking up a big bill. Every client gets unlimited access to me. I want to know what is going on in their business. It is important that I know if I am going to offer the best advice I can.

Not only has this resulted in better relationships with my existing clients but also means I attract better clients to work with; those that want and appreciate my input.

Some of your service offerings, like your online boot camp, don’t seem to be directly related to accounting.  Why do you offer these services and how to they relate to your core business of accounting?

The thing I enjoy most about my job is seeing a great creative idea grow into a business and reward those involved. Too many perfectly credible creative endeavors fall by the wayside because the business of doing business gets in the way. The online boot camp is a great entry into business coaching – something that is completely underutilized in the UK.

The accountancy profession is slowly evolving. People want more and demand more from their accountants. Bookkeeping, payroll and tax returns are the bare minimum anybody should expect. What people want now is help driving their business forward and we see business coaching, either face to face or via our online boot camp, as a hugely beneficial part of that process.

You’re pretty active on Social Media, as a small business yourself, do you find that it helps to promote your brand and attract new business?

I am still very much at the exploratory stage of social media but, for me, Twitter right now is the most effective online social medium for getting a brand out there. I use it predominantly for disseminating useful information to my clients and other interested followers and rarely mix business with pleasure but this will probably change over time as I become more interactive.

Since using Twitter I have generated significantly more traffic to my website which has in turn forced me to redevelop my website and make it a more complete sales process. I think it is only a matter of time before Social Media outstrips Pay Per Click as the most effective online marketing solution. Unless of course Google or Facebook figure out a way to seamlessly integrate the two.

How can people reach you if they want to find out more about Tax by Design?

The best way to find me is via my website www.taxbydesign.com or to follow me on Twitter @TaxByDesign.

Virtual assistants for small businessWhether in times of financial crises or if one is simply trying to improve profits, managers and small-business owners alike usually think of cutting back and cutting down when it comes to saving money. However, counting paperclips and paying employees a meager salary certainly won’t ensure a happy company atmosphere.

So how can you cut down on overhead costs or extra business expenditures? Think outside the box and take advantage of the latest business trend: mini-outsourcing.

Let Experts Handle Certain Parts of Your Business

Giving your taxes to an accountant every year before filing time is considered normal – but did you know that it’s actually considered mini-outsourcing? That’s right, any part of your business that a subcontractor or external party handles is technically outsourcing, even if on a small scale. For example, a CPA (Certified Personal Accountant) or tax advisor certainly has more expertise in this area than the average business owner. You save both time and money (and a huge headache) by letting an expert handle your taxes.

So why not do the same thing for other areas of your business?

Mini-Outsourcing #1: Virtual Secretaries

Answering phone calls, taking messages, collecting and sorting the post – what if these typical secretarial duties could be “mini-outsourced” for a fraction of the cost? Virtual secretarial services offer many advantages: 24/7 availability for answering phone calls (even during bank holidays), more flexible contracts than you’d have with a full-time employee, saving time and money by not recruiting or hiring an in-house secretary, full dictation services and more. The specific services of each virtual secretarial company will vary, of course, so it’s best to do some online research before trying one out for a month or two.

Mini-Outsourcing #2: One-off Projects

What else can be handled by experts at a more affordable price? There are some freelance marketplace websites  where all sorts of one-off (single occurrence) projects can be posted. Freelancers around the globe then bid on the project, saying for which price they’d be willing to complete the project. All kinds of tasks can be posted, such as software/app development, web design, article writing, online marketing, financial consultancy, etc.

CloudCrowd is a site that helps business owners or individuals access services in the area of copywriting, public relations, editing and translating. This service is very similar to the one mentioned above, in that workers from all over the globe can sign in and complete projects in their own time, on a flexible basis. Outsourcing these small tasks are much cheaper than hiring a freelancer or an in-house employee for the same tasks.

Mini-Outsourcing #3: Using the Cloud

“The Cloud” is also known as cloud computing and, explained in simple terms, is basically when you use software that’s not on your own computer. Think about accessing data bases or saving large files on an internet platform. The information is saved on a server in another geographical location, yet you can access and use it through the internet or other network.

Amazon offers cloud computing services, and many other providers offer remote desktop access or file back-up for a much lower cost than you would incur when purchasing an external hard drive or server for private or small business use.

Mini-Outsourcing #4: Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new trend, which gained much popularity in the past few years. Crowdsourcing works like this: if you have a problem or issue, you would address a large number of people (hence the “crowd” part) to help you. The crowd can then suggest answers, and the best answer is either voted upon by the crowd or selected by the querent. Issues often presented are in the field of software development, programming, data entry and general FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Crowdfunding, raising money to finance a project or new small business, is another way that the “crowd” can be accessed and utilised thanks to the internet. Usually, payment schemes in crowdfunding are either donation-based (people donate money for your business to get started) or as micro-loans (small amounts to pay back to an individual, usually interest-free and after a short period of time).

Mini-Outsourcing #5: Virtual Assistants

Most virtual assistants (VAs or VPAs) aren’t based in India anymore, and their reputation is steadily increasing. Now that practically everything can be done through the internet, personal assistants don’t necessarily have to be physically present. Whether you want to schedule appointments, book flights, order flowers or just have some general research done on certain topics, a virtual assistant is a great solution.

Isn’t there a downside to subcontracting or outsourcing?

Well, of course there is a negative aspect to everything in life. Before you start utilising mini-outsourcing, you should generally weigh the costs and benefits. Many payment schemes are insured, meaning you don’t have to pay the freelancer unless he/she actually completes the work. You can also rate the quality and efficiency of the person’s work.

Other points to consider are:

  • How much time do you need to invest in training in your new freelancers or subcontractors? Would they possibly be working from a different country or different time zone?
  • Is the job you want to outsource your core-competency or is it just a basic task which has to be done but could easily be done by someone else to save your time and energy?
  • How much money would you be saving by taking advantage of mini-outsourcing? An analysis of your cost structure can help you to identify high fix costs!
  • Would mini-outsourcing release resources you can use to maximize your earnings?
  • Are your projects highly confidential (such as for a law firm or medical office), or can information be shared outside the company?
  • Does your potential partner ensure you the confidentiality which is required for your project?
  • Are there any legal implications (different ways in claiming the expense on your taxes, for example)?

If you have experience using mini-outsourcing, I’d be glad to read about your experiences and opinions! Leave a comment below or get in touch with me via email.

 

Kasey Navita PhiferAbout the author: Kasey Navita Phifer  works in the PR department of an England-based call answering service. For questions or comments, she can be reached via email: kasey.phifer [@] office24.co.uk.

 

 

 

Global Networking imagesAdvancements in telecommunications and the Internet have made it easier than ever before for business to make their products and services available everywhere. But taking a business global isn't always easy or simple.

But doing business on a global scale means networking, and even maintaining a local or regional professional network can be a lot of work. Many business owners, especially those operating small businesses, might find themselves wondering if all the expense and effort of “going global” isn't a massive waste of time.
Here are a few compelling reasons why expanding your business network into the global arena is a good idea.

More Growth, More Opportunities

Operating internationally can mean faster growth. The more extensive your professional network, the better the chance that you'll hear about emerging markets and opportunities. An international presence also means more brand awareness and exposure, with the potential to open up new and untapped markets.
Other countries can often have “hidden” economic advantages, like fewer regulations on direct foreign investments, tax breaks, or reduced tariffs on imports — not to mention the potential advantages of acquiring cheaper labor and supplies overseas.

Diversification

No one expects their local markets to fall through or dry up — but that doesn't keep it from happening. A diverse global marketplace can help ensure that the end of one market doesn't mean the end of the entire business, as a business with multiple markets in multiple countries may be less susceptible to the caprices of changing local circumstances. The addition of overseas revenue also means fewer wild fluctuations in a company's profits.

New Ideas

Doing business in a new market means developing new strategies and goals that can provide benefits in the future — not just in the foreign markets, but company-wide. Challenges such as having to learn German to deal with foreign auto companies, or understanding the unique business etiquette in Hong Kong, for example, can require new business practices and techniques that a business owner can put to use everywhere in their company. Just remember that you may need to put some extra effort in to these opportunities. Depending on what industry you are in, consider learning a top industry language. For instance, if you are in the auto industry, your networking efforts might pay off better if you learn German.
Doing business on a global scale can also require reacting to rapid changes in international economics, which can be a big boon for companies looking to break into new markets before anyone else does. Imagine setting up shop in a foreign country where the economy suddenly booms and creates a high demand for the goods and services you provide.

The Foreign Field Advantage

Sometimes, an overseas market may offer better economic opportunities than a business' home country. Differences in taxation, economic climate, regulations, or any other number of factors can make doing business in another country profitable in unexpected ways.
Of course, if you're not preparing to do business globally, you can be sure that your competition will be. Refusing to acknowledge or embrace a global marketplace means running the risk of being left behind. Lay the groundwork for a global business network now, even if you have no current plans to expand your business internationally. Don't take the chance you'll be left behind.

Competitive Pressure

Doing business globally means going up against international competition, and that means bringing your “A” game in terms of quality and efficiency. While dealing with global competition comes with its own set of unique challenges, many businesses thrive on being pushed to excel — and what better proving ground than the entire business world?

A global marketplace is not just emerging — it's inevitable. By expanding your business network and laying the foundation for doing business worldwide, you can get a jump on the competition.

photo credit: Flickr

Byline:
Leslie Collins is a long time writer for Pimsleur Approach. She enjoys traveling, coffee, discovering new cultures, and hikes with her golden retriever.

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Pindom – Free website monitoring and performance software.  A great tool to monitor the uptime of your website as well as conducting performance testing for your website.  Find out what is causing your website to load so slowly.

Click Heat – A free, open source software that lets you view a heatmap of where visitors click and interact on your website.

fortune-cookie-quotes

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here