Author: Arden

The Value in an Employee Handbook

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Did you ever read Calvin and Hobbes? If not, do yourself a favor and do that tonight. Pure genius. Anyway, they played a game called Calvin Ball. Basically the rules were always changing and were often the topic of heated conversations. However, that was the point of the game.

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Your business is not Calvin Ball. This is why you need an employee handbook.

I know, you’re thinking, “Even if it’s just me?”

Yes. You don’t know how long it will be “just you” and you need to be prepared for that moment.

The true value in a handbook is the clarity it holds. For everyone in your business, it outlines the expectations for both employee and employer. See that word – expectations? Great word. It means that if you have a handbook and review it with your employees when they are hired, they sign off saying they’re aware of the expectations of employment. What to do and what not to do. The handbook covers each facet that many of us take for granted until it becomes a problem. Dress code, acceptable jewelry, hairstyles or color, time off, sick leave, vacation, computer policy, safety, bulling, reviews, promotions – they’re all in there.

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Point 2 – it can serve as a guiding light. When you’re interviewing or hiring, you can address potential issues before they become one. An easy example is asking an employee to cover a visible tattoo while they are at work. Maybe you don’t have an issue with having the tattoo personally, but the image your business needs to project doesn’t jive with body art. No big deal – a clear expectation has been laid out. Now, if the employee chooses not to follow it, a clear expectation of discipline has been formalized and written down and they’ve been aware of it since day one. If it leads to eventual termination, you as a business owner are protected from discrimination claims because your handbook addresses the reason for termination.

Now, if you’re like me, you might be bristling a little – I mean, you shouldn’t get to tell me what to do with my hair, right? It honestly took me some time to warm to that idea, but the first time I had an issue with an employee, I was able to go right to the book and knew how to handle the situation quickly and professionally. Problem solved and happy productivity continued on.

handbookSee, the thing is, as small business owners, we tend to get attached. Conflict can feel personal, even if it’s not. Having the handbook creates a separation between employee and employer that keeps it professional. It’s a buffer of sorts and the best thing is while it lays out the rules, the rules are yours to make.

If you’ve never had an Employee Handbook, you can make one yourself, but it is a lot more work that you may think – trust me. I didn’t realize how many teeny tiny details there were in it. Thankfully, many resources exist online and offline. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a sample handbook you can modify to meet your needs and the U.S. Small Business Administration website has lots of details for each topic.

If this looks too daunting (it was to me) you can reach out to a professional for some help. Check with your local Human Resources firm for employee handbook services. Other companies offer HR work as a value added service. I met with a Paychex rep yesterday who educated me on a slew of HR services they can provide, handbooks included. Good stuff people.

Remember, an Employee Handbook will be an asset to you. It can grow and change as you improve your business, and ultimately will be a tool that will help you thrive. Just make sure to lay the foundation down while it is “just you”.

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Work with Arden

Arden is a web development company that is dedicated to helping startups succeed. We believe the first few years in business is critical to the success of the company and we provide marketing solutions in the form of online marketing, design services and turnkey solutions.

 

A SWOT for your Start Up

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What if I told you there was a way to turn all of your company’s Threats and Weaknesses into Strengths and Opportunities? Sounds good, right? This, dear readers, is the basis of a SWOT analysis. This tool exists to give you a snapshot of your business (both internal and external) and address these critical aspects of your company. This type of examination is vital to any business, no matter age, size, or level of success.

First, look within and study your internal business practices. Strengths are what your business is already doing well. List out the practices that are helping you achieve success or advantages you have and that don’t need to be improved or monitored greatly. Examples may be personal years of experience or policies that make your company stronger. It could also include insight into the market or the way you do business. Weaknesses generally address internal areas where your company is lacking. Honesty is the key here. No one likes to look at this area, but it is vital in finding opportunities to improve. What is hurting your business’s chances for success? These can be things that you are already doing, not doing or bad habits.

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From here, look outside of your company at external forces that could affect your business. Opportunities are the things that you haven’t yet taken advantage of and integrated into your business. This can include aligning with other businesses for joint ventures or working with philanthropic organizations for an improved reputation. An excellent idea is to take the weaknesses you just listed and counterbalance them with an opportunity for improvement. For example, if a weakness is lack of structure, an opportunity to improve that would be developing an employee handbook to outline the companies’ expectations. Opportunities are often endless, so, the first step is acknowledging what you’d like to be undertaking with your business that you aren’t currently doing.

Finally, Threats are the things that can ultimately destroy your business or at least, hurt it in some capacity. These are the external factors that you have no real control over. These can range anywhere from a problematic climate in your geographic region (i.e. hurricane season in the Southeastern U.S.) to an increasing number of competitors in your area. The bottom line is that you must identify what can hurt you so that you can find a way to plan for the worst.

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When you complete a SWOT analysis, you should be able to find ways to utilize all of your strengths to protect you from the threats. You should be able to create an action plan, comprised of the weaknesses you plan to improve and opportunities you want to take advantage of. Evaluating your business in this way can help you see things more clearly and help you to know what steps to take going forward. Upon completion of your SWOT analysis, you should have a good idea of how bright your company’s future is.

 

 


Work with Arden

Arden is a web development company that is dedicated to helping startups succeed. We believe the first few years in business is critical to the success of the company and we provide marketing solutions in the form of online marketing, design services and turnkey solutions.

 

Protecting Your Brand Online Over Time

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I used to work in the games industry years ago and when we would create a game to launch nationally, we would send out copies to magazines and reviewers in order to create good press.  Of course not everything was positive because let’s face it, not everyone is going to love everything you do all the time.  One review was particularly negative and when we had a meeting to discuss how to reply, the project manager decided that we shouldn’t bother because the review came from a little known online magazine.

 

img_reviewBig mistake.

Years later, a friend asked me about the game and then later went online to find it. The only thing she found? – the bad review from the little known online magazine. Not one of the other reviews, good or bad, could be found. The only review of our game was sneering criticism that had gone without response from our company.

As a small business or a business just starting out, a bad review can be detrimental to your survival and a good review can bring in more business than you ever dreamed. The lesson here folks, is that your brand’s management is up to you and people will take notice of how you go about managing it. So how do you make sure you don’t make the same mistake? And how do you take progressive steps for your brand?

 

88percentHere are some tips about managing your brand.

  • Don’t ignore bad reviews (no matter who wrote them). Address them in some way (politely and non-confrontational is best because how you handle a bad review can also live on forever).
  • Get permission from article publishers or reviewers to link to their articles from your site.
  • Get permission to host the article on your own site.
  • Make sure the article is kept in a format that is searchable to the search engines. If it is a print article do not scan it in as an image. Make sure it is a searchable PDF or html page at the very least.

 

Ignoring what people and reviewers say about you is not a good idea because people actually do pay attention to them.  In fact, 88 percent of consumers look at online reviews before deciding to act on something.  With that in mind, remember to keep a close eye on all your reviews!


David Maples is Brand Strategist at Catapult Creative Media Inc, parent company for Arden. He enjoys music and witty banter.

Work with Arden

Arden is a web development company that is dedicated to helping startups succeed. We believe the first few years in business is critical to the success of the company and we provide marketing solutions in the form of online marketing, design services and turnkey solutions.

 

Enhancing Your Reputation Early On

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You need a good reputation for your business to survive. You’ve got clients who love you and you’ve done good work, but you’re only halfway done. It’s vital that your company’s reputation be available for others to find as well. We’ve got a few tips you should do to build your brand online. By implementing these early on, you’ll create a snowball effect as your business grows.

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Testimonials and reviews — legitimacy from the people you’ve served.

This is perhaps the most important piece of proof when it comes to establishing an honest reputation.

In fact, 90% of customers will check the reviews before they make a purchase. Because of what they read in the reviews, they may or may not buy the product or service.

Therefore, it’s critical for you to get as many good reviews as possible. Timing is key however. The longer you wait, the more generic the kudos become. If you can’t get them right after you’ve closed the deal, send them a follow-up survey afterwards asking how you did. To be even more personal, call and ask how they’re doing. Lead up to your testimonial questions and ask if you can use what they say in testimonials on your site or ask them to share it online to help someone else have the same good experience they did.

watchtvThe media — free exposure to hundreds, or even thousands.

Reaching out to the media can have a huge impact on your business. Magazines, newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations have a large following in the local community — and when you’re just starting up, many of your customers will be close to home.

You can reach out  and establish a good relationship with the media by issuing a press release. This allows you to tell the story about your business or a great experience you created for a client. It also can spark interest that can lead to an interview, additional articles and quotes for other pieces. On a slow news day, they may even include your article in their publications.

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Social media — free accessibility and interaction.

Secure your name on all of the social networks. Make sure you have the right address and contact information in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and especially Google Maps. Make yourself available to any potential customers — encourage them to tag you in posts or use your hashtag.

Respond to compliments and complaints — remember, it’s all public. Imagine that the complaint is coming from a customer right in front of your restaurant, and thousands of people are watching. Seeing the conversation and resolution between you and an upset customer may even encourage others to visit you.

There are other kinds of sites your business can join. If you’re the owner of a bakery, set up your Yelp and Zomato accounts. If you’re in the hospitality industry, sign into TripAdvisor. Builders, interior decorators and architects can get involved with Houzz.

It can seem a little daunting to get started, but leverage your connections on and offline. Joining organizations can provide support and networking can introduce you to tons of people. They key is to dedicate time to each of these areas in order to get the most out of them.

 


Work with Arden

Arden is a web development company that is dedicated to helping startups succeed. We believe the first few years in business is critical to the success of the company and we provide marketing solutions in the form of online marketing, design services and turnkey solutions.

 

How to Be Your Own Boss

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Imagine never having to leave home again. You work whenever you want and stop whenever you feel like it. It’s the perfect work schedule, right?

Not quite. As productive as we like to think we are, things don’t always get done our way on our time. That doesn’t mean that becoming a self manager isn’t impossible, it’s just that there are some traps you need to look out for.

startupKnow thyself — find your strengths and weaknesses.

Sit down with yourself and have an interview. Be honest, too. Are you someone that you would trust to do things without supervision? Three of the biggest challenges in being your own boss are often distractions, loss of regimen and too many hats to wear.

1. Distractions = easy. The internet and in all it’s glory can often be a dark pit of non-productive time. Did someone say Pinterest? You know exactly what I’m talking about. A healthy dose of discipline can counteract this. Set times to take breaks, but stick to them.

2. Loss of regimen = hmm. This one is a little harder and deserves careful planning. We like to call it separation of Work and Home. We understand you are going to put in long hours, but save your sanity and follow some rules. After a certain point, put work down. Be involved with your family or friends. Not only will you give your mind a break, but you may find yourself actually more productive if you know you have to “go home” at 7 tonight. Separation of Work and Home also helps to avoid burnout, which will drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

3. The Hats. The best way to work within this is to use your strengths to turn your challenges into opportunities. Say someone wishing to start up a nonprofit has great hiring and management skills, but is unconfident when it comes to writing grants. He can either use his skills to hire a writer for him, or to leverage his network into finding help to do it himself. Whether or not you’re at a point to hire others, doesn’t matter. Be creative and find ways to reach out for help in other ways. Maybe you can do some work on trade or take an online course.

 

deskStay organized.

Planning is everything. Time management is key to profitability, but even more so when you’re the gears behind the machine of the company.

Keep a planner, a timer, a large clock, whatever it is that you need to stay ahead on tasks. Draft a schedule with projects you need to accomplish, and make sure you get them done when you say they need to be done. Plan one break, not ten, and spend your working hours doing just that — working. An excellent online resource for this is WorkBoard, useful for team or personal projects.

Market your company and yourself.

The only way you’ll grow as a company is to get more revenue, and you get those from more customers. You can’t live off projects from your family and friends forever — so make sure that you set up a website, social media networks, and advertising.

Reach out to local networking groups and create visibility for yourself. Make sure people can contact you directly. Google offers some of the best free tools around. Once you are finished with a job, service or product, ASK for a referral. This will help to deepen your network though clients you like working with.  Make sure everyone knows who you are and what you do by leveraging your paper items. If you are sticking to just a business card, make sure the design of the card reflects the care you put into your own offers (really, this is true for any marketing collateral you have).

Don’t give up.

It is said “The Difference Between Failure And Success Is Perseverance” When you’re first starting up, it’s likely that you won’t have a set schedule at all. Some small business owners still have 50 to 60+ hour work-weeks. This company relies first and foremost on you, and if you can’t give it that extra time, it won’t last long.

You’ll make mistakes. Yes. Yes, you will. Don’t give up. Acknowledge the mistake, correct it if possible and move on. Learn from it.

Always be looking for ways to improve your company. If you see a process that needs to change, course correct quickly. This can allow you more things to do with your time, and the ability to take on more clients, resulting in a more profitable business for yourself.

 


Work with Arden

Arden is a web development company that is dedicated to helping startups succeed. We believe the first few years in business is critical to the success of the company and we provide marketing solutions in the form of online marketing, design services and turnkey solutions.