4 Hiring Tips for Small Business: Stop Losing the Best Candidates

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Hiring a new person is stressful in the best of times. There is so much to think about. Are they right for the job? Will they fit in with the company? Will they work hard or never show up? There is no way to know the answer to these questions on the front end. All you can do is try to choose the best potential employee from the options you have.

You could be letting the perfect one fall through the cracks and not even know it. Here are some common mistakes (and hiring tips) made in interviews that could truly cost you the best person for the job, without you ever knowing.

You Give Off the Wrong Vibe

If the interview doesn’t reflect the company culture, you could be missing out on some great employees simply because they think they won’t fit in. For example, if your business is generally laid back, but the interview is conducted in formal business attire, you may lose a candidate that is looking for a more laid-back company, simply because they don’t’ know.

Be professional, always, but set the tone for the interview to match the daily tone in the office. This means also not conducting an interview in a less serious tone than the daily expectations. The same problem could arise.

Keeping the interview consistent with the office culture will help you and the potential employee determine where they fit, or if they fit at all.

Do Your Research

Research each and every candidate. Call references, check their social media, and know what you are walking into. This will help you ask knowledgeable questions and, in some cases, see beyond what they are willing to share in the interview.

Ask for Work Samples

Some people just don’t interview well, and not everyone is attractive to you. Whether you know it or not, you may be judging candidates on how they interview and how they look, which doesn’t always reflect the quality of their work. As much as possible depending on the position, ask for work samples.

Seeing what they can actually do will help you see beyond those things that may not matter as much in the long-term.

Get on the Ball

Don’t take an unnecessarily long period of time to get back with them. Dr. Steven Lindner of The Workplace Group advises employers to hire faster and smarter in 2017

“Job interviews are stressful for any applicant, but what is most frustrating is when the hiring process drags on without any meaningful feedback or a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Lindner says.

People apply for jobs because they are looking for a job. They are going to keep looking until they find one, and if you take too long to grab them, you could lose them. Respect their time as much as you like your own time to be respected.

6 Phones That Promise Security for Your Office

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Businesses today often have a need to ensure their phone system is secure. Whether you use an office phone system or a smart phone system, you can talk with phone representatives who can resolve your security problems with the right system for you. Here are some options for you to consider for landline systems and smart phones.

AT&T Lucent and Motorola STU-III Secure Phones

The Secure Telephone Unit – Third Generation is an inexpensive, user-friendly device that provides security to companies. By design, terminals operate with reliability and strong voice quality. The quality is the same when used as ordinary telephones or secure instruments.

The phone uses a full-duplex system over a single telephone circuit, which reduces echos from technology. STU-IIIs come equipped with 2.4 and 4.8 kbps code-excited linear prediction secure voice. The data throughput between two STU-IIIs can only be as great as the slowest STU-III connected.

Secure Terminal Equipment Office Phone

This system is the evolutionary successor to the STU-III. The STE program will ensure voice communications are secure from ship or land. It uses a digital base instead of analog. The STE cryptographic engine is on a removable Fortezza Plus KRYPTON ™ Personal Computer Memory Card International Association card, which is provided separately. The STE Data Terminal provides a reliable, secure, high-rate digital data modem for applications where only data transfer is required.

Blackphone 2

This smartphone is the most secure consumer devices. It comes preloaded with a security-focused variant of Android, dubbed PrivatOS 1.1, and the entire suite of Silent Circle’s encrypted text messaging and calling apps. The smartphone is enterprise-ready, featuring mobile device management integration and remote-locking and wiping functionality.

Boeing Black

This was created by the aerospace and defense airplane contractor. The company has produced a phone that comes with trusted data transmission for connections to both classified and unclassified networks, which, in part, led to the device being approved for Department of Defense use. The phone has a Fort Knox level of security, including a self-destruct mechanism if you try to tamper with its processes. However, it will not burn up in your pocket.

Teorem

The Thales Group built this phone for the French president. When used, you get both secure phone and text messages. The flip-phone works on both 2G and 3G networks. A light will tell the receiver if a phone is secure. You also will not be able to tamper with it. If you are sitting at your desk, it works as a secure landline too.

FreedomPop Privacy Phone

FreedomPop, a U.S.-based cellular company, built a device that is not able to be hacked and provides privacy to users. It is based on Samsung hardware and Android software. The phone allows you to browse the Internet without being known and offers 128-bit encryption for texting and calling. You also can buy it without being known if you use bitcoins.

How to Make an App Like Instagram: How Much Will It Cost You?

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Face-morphing and photo editing apps took the world by storm last year. In 2017, the number of entrepreneurs who want to replicate Instagram and MSQRD success is still growing.

In just three years there will be 6.1 billion smartphones worldwide. Considering the fact that every smartphone and tablet is now equipped with a high-resolution camera, building applications that enhance user photos remains a gold mine for app developers. The question is, how to create an app like Instagram and how much will it eventually cost you?

Instagram success story

Launched by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in 2010, Instagram is now operated by Facebook and boasts 700 million users around the globe. How did the app that took “8 weeks to build and ship” go from another App Store entry to #1 free photo editing app in mere hours?

  • Both Systrom and Krieger had coding, design and marketing experience and therefore could build their business on a shoestring;
  • Trial and error approach to app development. Instagram was not the first application developed by Systrom and Keiger. Their journey to mass market success started with Burbn, an HTML5 app that largely mimicked Foursquare’s check-in concept. The project was funded by two venture capital firms ($500 thousand) and was likely to become a chart topper.
  • However, the indie duo decided to be “good at one thing” and left out every Burbn feature except photo editing, likes and comments. That’s how Instagram was born;
  • A catchy name, stylish square pics, filters which “took away imperfections and made photos look better,” the decision to go iOS-first – all of this propelled an unknown app to the top of the App Store charts;
  • Good timing. In 2010, smartphone cameras – even those of latest iPhones – were somewhat lackluster. With 300 thousand apps, the App Store was still in its infancy. Besides, Instagram caught Apple’s attention, was named App of the Week and got excessive press coverage from the leading tech websites (TechCrunch included).
  • The moral of the story is: aspiring app entrepreneurs who dream of overnight success should understand that the so-called “virality” is either a happy coincidence or the result of the work of an experienced marketing team;
  • Over the course of 7 years Instagram has enabled video content support, added new filters and introduced direct messaging, Boomerang videos and Stories. The Instagram team has gone the extra mile to deliver excellent user experience on mobile and desktop – and both ordinary users and businesses seem to appreciate their efforts! Even Instagram ads (which now perform better than promo posts on Facebook) look pretty natural and do not irritate users.

If Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom had outsourced mobile app development, design and QA (or employed an in-house team), how much would it have cost to create an outstanding app like Instagram?

Based on our mobile dev experience, the r-stylelab.com team sets the minimum threshold at $100 thousand for an iOS app and $ 130 thousand for its Android version. In a perfect world, your marketing expenses should account for 20% of your projected revenue (but $20 thousand will do for a start).

In the end, we’ve arrived at $250 thousand – and that’s too much for the average app start-up. Ways out? You should build an MVP first and try your luck with venture funding!

How to make a photo editing app like Instagram: core feature set

Minimum Viable Product (or MVP for short) is a stripped-down version of a mobile application which has the key features of a market-ready product. The MVP approach helps app entrepreneurs gather user feedback, make the necessary changes to the scope early on and… get funded (a clunky MVP is better than just an idea – even a brilliant one).

So, what are the key features of an Instagram-like app?

  • Account authorization (via an existing social media account, email or phone number);
  • User account. The feature enables users to manage personal data, add profile pictures and embed links to their websites and social network profiles. Instagram’s latest versions also support business accounts and allow users to switch between personal and corporate profiles without having to log in and out all the time;
  • Account management (a user should be able to restrict access to his private account, specify language preferences and enable/disable notifications);
  • There’s more to Instagram than a bunch of custom photo filters: it is a social network, and live chat is a key feature of any social networking application;
  • 25% of smartphone owners give up on a mobile application after only one use. UX and value aside, you should constantly remind users your app is still on their smartphones. According to Business Insider, push notifications do increase user retention by around 20%;
  • Image and video uploads (users should be able to upload videos and images from their photo stream or take pics from inside the app);
  • Social features (including tags, geolocation, comments, mentions, search and integration with major social networks);
  • UX/UI design (look how stylish and simple Instagram is!)
  • Photo editing (filters and image customization options including cropping, adjustment and rotating).

Obviously, it’s filters that made Instagram an instant hit. Back in 2010, the app offered only 11 filters (4 of those were available through in-app purchases) ranging from sepia-like Nashville to the dark Gotham.

If you want to succeed in the competitive photo editor app market, you should bring something new to the table – for example, borrow several features from Snapchat and Prism or craft an AI algorithm that is actually good at facial recognition and/or transformation.

The mobile dev part will take you up to 700 man-hours to complete. There’s also the back-end part (400 hours) which includes database development (PostgreSQL), operating system (Ubuntu Linux 11.04) and web server gateway interface (Gunicorn).

Multiply 1100 hours by the average mobile developer hourly rate ($ 150 in the USA, $ 70 in the UK and $ 35 in Eastern Europe), and you’ll get the average price of a viable Instagram clone for one mobile platform.

Now you can launch a Kickstarter campaign or approach angel investors! Provided your application delivers value to users (that actually goes beyond the wow-factor!), you’ll most likely find your niche and raise funding to proceed with software development.

Wasted Time is Money Lost

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There is a relationship between time and money that is more complex than most managers think. Fixed overhead for salaries, rent, equipment leases and more make up the majority of the “burn rate” (monthly expenses) for most companies. Since this number is budgeted and pre-authorized, managers tend to focus upon other things such as sales, marketing and product development issues.

There is an art to efficient management of a process, whether that is the process of bringing a product to market from R&D to production or developing a new product’s launch program. What most managers miss is that every month cut from the time it takes to perform such tasks cuts the cost by the value of a month’s worth of fixed overhead or burn. Although young companies rarely measure profitability this repeatedly, more mature companies usually can bring from five to ten percent of revenues to the bottom line in the form of net profit. Ignoring cost of product for a moment to make a point, saving a month’s fixed overhead by making processes more efficient, could easily double profits for the year.

That relationship between fixed overhead and production time is as critical as any other factor in success of a young company. Many of the start-ups my various angel funds have financed died a slow death, not because of poor concept but because of poor execution, wasting fixed overhead and draining the financial resources from the company coffers.

In the technology sector where I most often play, extended unplanned software development cycles account for the majority of these corporate failures. We often accept that development schedules for young companies are almost always too optimistic. But we investors often allow too little slack in our estimates as well. The great majority of young companies developing complex products such as semiconductor-based products, new software-based systems and technologies based upon new processes greatly underestimate the time needed to bring the product to marketable condition. So the CEO comes back “to the well”, asking for more money from the investors to complete the project. It is not a strong bargaining position for the CEO to ask for money to complete a product promised for completion with the previous round of funding. And professional investors often penalize the company with lower-priced down rounds or expensive loans as a result.

I have one story that remains as vivid in my mind as when it happened several years ago. Helping the founder create a company and build a much-needed product in an industry I knew very well, I served as chairman for the newly formed company, and along with my several rounds of early investment, led rounds of other angel investors in what I knew as a successful opportunity to fill a need in an industry I understood.

The company grew to be well known in this limited niche and was operating at slightly above breakeven, when the Board and CEO decided to seek venture investment from what we hoped would be a first tier VC firm in Silicon Valley. And we were able to secure that investment along with a partner from that firm joining our board. It did not take long for the partner to become impatient with the relatively small size of the opportunity. Dreaming of a company many times the size, he led the board to approve a complete reversal of course, even stating that the company should ignore the existing market niche completely and redesign the product for the broad Fortune 500 corporate market. Every one of us on the board expressed our concern that the time to make these product changes and position for the new, broader market, would eat away all of the company’s capital. Promising the full weight of his VC firm’s resources, the board voted to make the change against the best judgment of those of us who knew the original market niche so well and thought that there was growth to spare in that niche alone.

So the company turned the ship, slowly it seemed, as R&D worked to develop an appropriate product using the base of the original design. Time slipped; fixed overhead continued. And exactly as you’d expect, there came the time when the company ran out of money as it ignored its original market. Surprise. Since the company slipped in its R&D schedule, the partners of the VC firm voted to not add new money to the company for the project. Not long after, the company was sold in a “fire sale” amounting to slightly less than the debt on the books. All investors, including the VC firm, lost everything. Do you remember a previous insight, that “the last money in has the first say”? That is what happened within the dynamic of the board, and the result is that the board was completely at the mercy of the “last money” VC to save the company in the end. Yes, there were other issues such as a protracted patent rights fight that drained cash, but the largest problem, inefficient use of R&D time burning fixed overhead, led to the demise of the company. Lots of good jobs were lost and many investors including myself were left with the question. “Why did the company abandon a profitable market, even if it could not generate $100 million a year in revenues?”

We will revisit the relationship between time and money again in future insights.

6 Keys to Marketing Customer Experience vs. Products

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Not so long ago, every business assumed that the keys to success were the highest quality product, the best value for the buck, and the best customer service. Now all we hear about is providing the best “customer experience.” Exactly what is that customer experience that every modern marketer is talking about, and how do you measure it?

A classic article in the Harvard Business Review “The Truth About Customer Experience” defines it as your customer’s end-to-end journey with you, not just the key touchpoints or critical moments when customers interact with your organization. Customer experience is the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints over time, which result in a real relationship feeling, or lack of it.

The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via the Internet allows every customer to build and expect a relationship with your business, rather than just touchpoints. Yet we are all still learning what that means, in terms of hard business practices.

I like the insights outlined in a more recent book “Summit,” by F. Scott Addis, who is an experienced business executive and recent Inc. “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist. He ties business success and your personal summit to elevating your customers’ experience with the following specific recommendations and key differentiators:

  1. Listen to the individual customer. Every relationship requires listening, as well as talking. You have to hear your customer’s dreams, goals, passions, and aspirations. That opportunity for your customers to talk and be heard is pleasurable and memorable, and defines their customer experience, more so than just satisfying business touchpoints.
  2. Exploit your product and service differences. A memorable experience has to have something different from the norm. You must be able to highlight these differences between your products and services, and those of your competitors. If not, you are part of the crowd, and no relationship can be built.
    Don’t talk about just another device added to your product line, but highlight how you have added new capability to connect easily to other ConnectKeydevices and customize the experience to fit unique needs across the business.
  3. Demonstrate the value of your offering. The first step in being able to demonstrate your value is being willing to find out what your customers want or need. This will create a connection with them, which demonstrates more value than price or quality.
    Show how production workflow softwareexpands customer reach, streamlines processes and reduce costs, rather than merely introducing the latest technology. You create a loyal customer that wants to buy from you, and will recommend you to others.
  4. Show your passion and creativity in every solution. This active discovery mindset searching for new questions drives real innovators away from more of the same. They fundamentally become value seekers; they look for value in every experience, in every conversation.
    Customers don’t want prescriptions – they seek possibilities. For example, make configuring your new office solution a transformational experience, rather than a technical installation challenge.
  5. Demonstrate your personal commitment. When in contact with customers, focus 100 percent on them, and do all you can to determine and meet their needs. Remember, customers are the reason you do what you do. Give them the respect and results they deserve and they will tell others about your good work and your business.
  6. Shoot for the customers’ hearts. Engagement and an emotional connection will make a customer relationship the driving force for loyalty and differentiation. Move from customer friendliness to customer charisma. A business with charisma gives the customer something very special, and they want to tell others about it.

Once you know how to improve your customers’ experience, you need to also know how to benchmark it. Remember the old adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So how do you measure customer loyalty and relationships? One metric now commonly used is called the Net Promoter® Score (NPS).

This works by asking your customers for feedback, and dividing them into three categories:

  • Loyal enthusiasts who keep buying from you and urge their friends to do the same.
  • Satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who can be easily wooed by the competition.
  • Unhappy customers who feel trapped in a bad relationship.

The formula for the Net Promoter® Score is the percentage of customers who are detractors, subtracted from the percentage who are promoters (NPS=P-D). Legendary companies like Amazon and Costco operate with an NPS between 50 to 80 percent. But the average venture sputters along at an NPS of only 5 percent to 10 percent, or even negative.

Maybe it time for all of us to focus more on the customer experience. There is ongoing evidence that companies with the highest customer experience typically grow at more than double the rate of their competitors. The inverse case is that you can lose you competitive lead very quickly by focusing on the wrong things. Have you checked your customers’ experience lately?

Could Your Business Writing Use Work? 5 Tips for Brushing Up

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When was the last time you thought about how you come across in your writing? Communication is key, but much of the time, you’re probably talking to colleagues face-to-face or over the phone. However, that doesn’t mean that written communication isn’t important, particularly since many teams now use chat applications like slack or HipChat for day-to-day communications. If you’re not a gifted writer, don’t worry: you don’t have to be the next Hemingway to successfully send a quality email or memo. With that said, most people could stand to be better business writers. Here are 5 easy tips for brushing up your skills and becoming a better written communicator.

1. Be clear, and get to the point

If you’ve ever opened an email and struggled to figure out the point of the message, you’re not alone. Many people try to use jargon and big words to sound more authoritative. Don’t be tempted to try this yourself—you’ll only confuse people. Be specific about what you want or what you’re addressing in your message, and use the simplest words possible to get your point across. Be brief—your colleagues probably have a short attention span, and aren’t interested in reading a novel. Simplifying your writing is a win-win. You’ll finish writing your email or memo more quickly, and your recipient won’t have to struggle through a swamp of confusing language to uncover your true meaning.

2. Use contractions

There’s nothing more awkward or boring to read than overly formal or stiff language. In the past, contractions were seen as a very casual way of using language, but things have changed. As language has evolved, contractions have become a big part of how we communicate, and they can help make your writing more relatable and easy to read. Think about it. How often do you say things like “I should not” or “You cannot” in conversation? Probably not often—most of us only skip contractions when we’re trying to place special emphasis on our words. However, a surprising number of people still write using very few contractions, making their professional written communications seem outdated. Be conscious of contractions when you’re writing—you’ll find your messages flow better.

3. Try a tool

If you struggle with grammar, fluidity, or other common business writing gaffes, consider using one of the many free or paid writing tools available online. Whether you’re just sending quick chats or writing company-wide memos, these tools can help ensure that your message comes across with elegance and professionalism. It’s not an exam, so feel free to “cheat”! A couple of good choices are Ginger, which checks your messages for mistakes and awkward sentences, and Hemingway, which ensures the readability of your text.

4. Read it aloud

You may not have perfect grammar, but you may not realize just how many mistakes are lurking in your emails. It’s much easier to notice these mistakes when you hear yourself speak the words. Don’t be afraid to read your correspondence aloud before you send it—but you might want to wait until your office mate takes a bathroom break!

5. Tone down punctuation

We all love a good exclamation point—but leave most of them for Facebook comments. Business writing is very different from other types of communication, and it’s best to keep unnecessary punctuation to a minimum. It’s okay to use a few exclamation points and other emphasis-driven punctuation—just use them sparingly. You don’t want to come off as trying too hard or unprofessional!

You Don’t Have to Be Creative—Just Clear!

Remember, you’re not in school anymore. The most important aspects of business writing are ensuring that it is brief, gets the point across, and stays professional. Proper grammar and punctuation are important, because they signal to others that you are professional, put together, and care about the details. Don’t worry if you weren’t the most creative kid in school. As long as you put a little thought and time into your writing, you’ll do fine—and it will get easier the more practice you get.

AuthorAndrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and currently writing a book about scaling. Contact him by email or Twitter @AndrewDeen14

4 Ways to Secure Your Office

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The world today lends itself to more security. Office managers are determined to ensure that their business is secure. This comes in many forms, such as equipment, the premises, the software and the phone lines. You can get your office secure using these four tips.

Phone

When you are the owner of a business or office manager, you want to make sure that your calls are secure. You don’t want information getting out that could harm your business or employees. At the same time, you want your customers to know their calls are protected from credit card thieves. The Secure Terminal Equipment Office phone is a way to ensure security. The STE program will improve secure voice communications on and of a ship. The STE Data Terminal provides a reliable, secure, high-rate digital data modem for applications where only data transfer is required.

Encryption Software

If you are trying to send secure messages to stakeholders or customers, you want to have software that will encrypt your communications. Some simple encryption is OK for certain businesses, but if you are dealing with classified or privileged documents, you will want software that goes by simple encryption. Find the most secure encryption process for your business that you believe is best.

Premises

You have many options to secure your premises. You can hire a security team, use a monitored alarm system or an unmonitored alarm system, or an access code system. In some cases, a combination of all those might be just the ticket. If you have employees working late at night who have to cross a parking lot in the dark, a security team would be appropriate.

If you have places where you want limited access, then you should invest in an access system that requires key cards, special keys or a code to enter. A monitored alarm system will send a signal to a company when an alarm is triggered.

It can be wireless or used with phone lines. The wireless system is more secure. The monitored system does have a delay that might not prevent a theft. An unmonitored alarm system means a noise sounds when thieves are on the premises.

Burglars will be scared off the premises. You should pick a system that uses motion detection as a trigger both inside the building and outside the building. You also want to lock up all extra keys in a secure area. Arrange your office space so you will notice unescorted visitors. Empty your trash cans often.

You should be prepared for power failures with some form of communication, such as two-way radios. Important papers and documents should be locked in a secure cabinet with executive offices away from the front of the building. Utility closets should be locked at all times with limited access.

Equipment

You should always lock your most sensitive equipment, such as laptops, tablets, machines, proprietary equipment unique to your business. Allow few people access to these areas. Back up your computer daily to ensure you don’t lose important files if something happens to your computers and printers.

Make sure you have access codes on printers and copiers. This will ensure that certain people do not use printers and copiers for nonbusiness reasons.

Author: Usman Raza is freelance writer, an author and content marketing specialist for Headset Zone and Telegiants.  When not working, he’s probably spending time with his family. Follow him on Facebook @usmanraza40 and Twitter @usmanintrotech

What are Quarterly Wage Reports and Why Do They Matter?

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Wage reports, also known as quarterly contribution or wage detail reports, are the reports you file on a quarterly basis with each state, district and territory in which you pay employees in order to stay compliant with paying state unemployment insurance (SUTA). In other words, they are a key function of your payroll taxes (also known as employer taxes).

When are Quarterly Wage Reports Due?

The short answer is quarterly. While the months covered by each quarter are standardized, states can vary on the actual due date.

Other things to keep in mind for quarterly reporting include:

But wait, if my federal wage reports are due at the same time as my state wage reports, which ones do I do first?

Good question. If you can believe it, there’s a simple answer. You will actually want to complete your state wage detail reports first — because, if you pay your SUTA taxes on time, your federal unemployment tax (FUTA) rate of 6.0% can be reduced by as much as 5.4%.

How do I know what the SUTA rate is in the state or states where I do business?

The states in which you do business will also mail you your specific tax rate based on your unemployment claims. To learn the basics and get an understanding SUTA rates, check out our state-by-state payroll tax map.

Where Do You Send State Wage Reports?

Your wage reports are sent to the appropriate state’s department of labor or like-named authority responsible for overseeing unemployment. This is the same agency with which you would register to get a state unemployment tax identification (ID) number for your business. Each of the state pages within our interactive payroll tax map has links for filing information. If you’re not a fan of paperwork, there’s good news — most states now allow online filing.

What Are the Main Parts of a Wage Report?

In order to complete a wage report, you will need to provide:

  • Your Federal Employer Identification Number(FEIN) as well as your relevant state identification number(s).
  • A complete list of your employees, including each employee’s:
  • First and last name.
  • Social security number (SSN).
  • Quarterly gross wages (the amount before taxes and deductions).
  • Some states may also request taxable and nontaxable wage amounts.

What Happens if I Don’t File My State Wage Reports?

Nothing good will come of this. You will be subject to fines and your employees will not have the relevant information needed to file for unemployment insurance should it be required. Remember, your FUTA rate is also affected by your SUTA taxes. Failure to comply will SUTA will trickle up and cause you to owe more to the IRS as well.

What if I Make a Mistake on a Wage Report?

Mistakes happen. If you forgot to list an employee or entered an incorrect amount, there is an amendment process. Again, exactly how this works will be determined on a state-by-state basis. But, the big picture is, the sooner you fix the problem the better.

How Can Payroll Software Help With Wage Reports?

By automating your payroll tax calculations and deductions, small business payroll software, like Wagepoint, helps gather the information needed to complete the reports. Many providers, like us, are also able to help you pay and report your payroll taxes as well. We’d love for you to pick us, but regardless of who you choose — automating your payroll taxes will take a huge burden off your shoulders — giving you more time to focus on building and growing your business.

Got questions about wage reports, payroll taxes… your favorite sports team? Just ask and we’ll help you find the answers. 

Author: Blogmaster, content expert and marketing guru at Wagepoint, Michelle Mire is having fun (seriously I am) extolling the virtues of small business payroll and generating articles with actionable advice for small businesses and startups. Michelle probably needs to get out a little more often.

Embracing Objections

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I just saw the term, “Objection free selling.” In fairness to the person raising the issue, I didn’t read the article, so I’m not certain the premise or his position.

It was the phrase that caught my attention, making me flashback on my own history of dealing with objections.

At one point, I feared them. I did everything I could to avoid them. I’d prepare, I’d anticipate questions and concerns. When the inevitable happened, when the customer raised an objection, I thought I had failed. Somehow the act of raising an objection meant that I hadn’t convinced them, that they were disagreeing.

Part of my concern was, to some degree, objections seemed to create a conflict, I thought sales people should avoid conflict, aligning with the customer and getting them to align with you.

As I grew more experienced and confident in my capabilities as a sales person, I embraced objections. It seemed an opportunity to demonstrate how smart I was. Getting an objection and “handling” it gave me a feeling of superiority—almost as if I were competing with the customer, challenging them with, “Give me everything you have, I can deal with all of it.”

At one point I got cocky, if I wasn’t getting the objections from the customer, I would raise them myself, then answer them. I’d do something like, “You might be thinking this……, Well that shouldn’t be a concern because of that…..”

At one phase, I thought not getting an objection meant I had so “wowed” the customer, they couldn’t think of anything to disagree with. But then I realized, if I had completely wowed them, why wasn’t I getting the order?

I’ve come to be at peace with objections. Neither provoking them nor avoiding them. I no longer view objections as a battle of wits to demonstrate superiority over the customer, eventually winning them over through the power of my knowledge and to leave no question or concern unanswered.

I’ve come to embrace objections—they are a natural part of conversations, they are a natural part of learning. We all have differing points of view, opinions and experience bases. We have different goals, priorities, and needs. In selling or working with our colleagues we will misunderstand, we will disagree. But it’s the process of exploring these, aligning our views and goals that enables us to engage customers deeply on things important to them. It maximizes our ability to create value with them.

The objection is really an expression of engagement by the customer. We don’t want to provoke them artificially just to demonstrate how smart we think we are. But the objection shows the customer is involved, thinking about the discussions, and they care enough about the conversation to raise an objection of different point of view.

In fact the concept of “objection free selling,” is quite frightening. To me, it’s an indicator they don’t care and they aren’t engaged.

Ask Your Customers

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“Treat with utmost respect your power of forming opinions, for this power alone guards you against making assumptions that are contrary to nature and judgments that overthrow the rule of reason. “

~Marcus Aurelius

Asking your customers about your business is so important for each and every business. If you are selling a product or service, then both the trends in the markets and customers desires should be part and parcel of your decisions about your business especially those decisions in which you are considering a shift in orientation of your business.

While a customer satisfaction survey about the quality of your customer service is great information, there is so much more that you should be periodically asking your customers. We are dealing with a very neat entrepreneur who had an exercise/spa business. The spa was not doing well for numerous reasons including the difficulty of finding qualified nail and hair technicians and attracting new business. As she saw that the spa space was not being used effectively, she decided to use this space for a “wellness center.” In this “wellness center they planned on having a dietician and a formal weight loss program.

While this “wellness center” sounded so appealing to overcome the difficulties of running she was having with the spa. The owner decided to move in this direction, as it just seemed as if this was a national wide trend. However, she never asked her customers if they would support this change in orientation of her business. Once I asked her if she had asked her customers about this change, she quickly realized that she had missed this critical piece of information and needed to survey her customers before she proceeded with this change in her business.

If you are going to survey customers, you must ask the right questions to insure that you get valid information to base decisions on.  A student of mine was considering starting a business to sell custom made motorcycles. As part of this project, he had to do a survey to insure that there was a demand for this new business.  He went to a motorcycle event and proceeded to ask questions from as many motorcycle owners as he could get to fill out his questionnaire.

He decided that his planned business was going to be so successful because the response was so positive. He made this judgment on the fact that he got a 98% positive response to the question, “Would you consider to purchase a custom made motorcycle?” After he had some time to reflect on this survey and question, he realized that this question was not valid as he realized that most people would consider a custom motorcycle. He changed the question to, “Would you buy a custom motorcycle that was priced about $5,000 more than a standard motorcycle?” The positive response to this revised question was only 1% and he quickly abandoned this idea and he learned from this experience that asking a wrong question on a survey could possibly sink a new venture.

You need to continually and constantly be asking your customers how you can serve them better. Obviously, not only must you ask your customers about your business but also you must frame the questions in a way that extracts the information that you need.

You can do this!

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