• Benchmark your small business and win the horse race

    Winning the Race

    Maybe it’s an inherent competitiveness or just the pursuit of improvement, but it’s commonplace for people to seek out benchmarks they can use to assess their relative position or performance. It interests people to know how they compare to their peers. Benchmarks have a place in business, too, and can be an invaluable instrument to help business owners succeed.
    Think about running a business like having a horse running in a horse race. Knowing how a company ranks relative to others—before the starting bell, halfway through the race and right before its conclusion—empowers management to evaluate the company’s performance. Armed with that contextual information, they can potentially adapt strategy and affect the company’s final ranking (if there is a “final ranking” at all in business).

    Where to begin?

    The most difficult step in financial benchmarking is acquiring benchmarks to use. Part of the difficulty stems from ambiguity around the word “benchmark”, which could be interpreted as

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  • How a business can succeed without a boss

    Your business without a boss? If you’re in management, you might not find the idea as thrilling as many beleaguered workers would. But, believe it or not, there are companies that run quite well without anyone in charge. (Some of these have been described recently in articles including Inc’s A Billion Dollar Company with No Bosses?, the Wall Street Journal’s Who’s the Boss? There Isn’t One, and management guru Gary Hamel’s Harvard Business Review essay, First, Let’s Fire All the Managers.)

    To imagine a bossless workplace, and understand why and how to create one, Michelle Benjamin, CEO of Benjamin Enterprises and TalentReady, a company that offers strategic talent management solutions, suggests first defining what a boss is. According to Dictionary.com, it’s “a person who employs or superintends workers.” But that definition falls short. “It lacks purpose. It doesn’t say what are we trying to achieve,” Benjamin says.

    She believes “the true role of the boss is to communicate the

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  • Initiative to help women business owners get government contracts

    The Small Business Administration has teamed with American Express OPEN and Women Impacting Public Policy to launch a national initiative aimed at boosting government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. Representatives of the three participating organizations unveiled the program, dubbed ChallengeHER, at a luncheon for women business owners in Washington this week.

    ChallengeHER will help women business owners compete in the government contracting marketplace by providing  online curriculum and resources, mentoring with experienced women contractors, and access to government buyers and prime contractors. A series of 9 free events and workshops to take place around the country will kick off on May 23 with a Department of Energy event.

    SBA Administrator Karen Mills said one of the agency’s top priorities is making sure that more qualified women-owned, veteran-owned, and minority-owned small businesses have access to government and commercial supply chain

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  • Entrepreneurship? “Not for me,” most college students say

    Mark Zuckerberg might have been cast by the media as a Gen Y hero, but it turns out that not too many twenty-somethings want to emulate him. Most college students say they do not aspire to entrepreneurship. Asked in a recent survey if they are interested in starting a company in the next few years, more than 60 percent said “no” and only 8 percent said they are “very” interested. Only about one in five students wish their school offered entrepreneurship courses.

    AfterCollege, an online career network for college students and recent graduates, surveyed 600 of its registered college students from a variety of U.S. colleges and universities. The resulting report, issued jointly today with Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm run by 29-year-old Dan Schawbel, reveals how students are developing their careers while in college. The outlook is rather grim.

    According to "The Student Employment Study," most students do take internships, but most don’t get paid for them, and

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  • Business as usual, starting a business, advice: Small Business Reading for April 19, 2013

    Boston Harbor

    This past week has been a tough one for many in the US - and a hard one during which to remain focused on business. And yet that is what millions of small business owners need to do - not just for themselves but it is important that acts of terror do not deter us and do not make us afraid to carry on. With that in mind this weeks roundup is deliberately dedicated to business as usual.

    I'm going to reiterate our new series on starting a small business - part 3 on the topics of funding and partnerships will be up next wee. This series will run for the rest of this year and walk you through the thought process and practical steps to help you start a business as successfully as possible.

    Is it time to start up that startup business?
    The Yahoo Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business: Part 1 - Goals, values and Ideas
    The Yahoo Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business: Part 1 - Resources for Goals, values and Ideas

    Build a Winning Business Right from the Start
    The Yahoo Smart and

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  • Office culture as important as salary? Many say yes

    If you think your dismal office culture isn’t costing you talented workers, think again. Ninety-five percent of respondents to a recent survey said they consider a positive office culture to be important, and 75 percent said it’s “very important” to them. More than 60 percent said office culture plays an important role in their decision to take a job, and 30 percent said the culture is as important a consideration as salary when considering a job offer.

    uSamp, an online and mobile market research technology company, gathered the data from 1,000 business professionals in more than 40 industries who are part of its exclusive B2B Whiteboard panel.

    Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the definition of office culture is “an environment that promotes collaboration.” Few were unfamiliar with the term and a majority agreed that their own office culture promoted a good work/life balance. And a good culture is more important than foosball tables, Nerf guns, and bean bag chairs: only 28

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  • The rise of fake followers is a growing issue on Twitter. But how much of an issue? And where do all these fake followers come from?

    The media quantifies success on Twitter for public figures by the number of followers they have. Brands pay celebrities for endorsements on Twitter so they can promote a message to a celebrity’s followers. Kim Kardashian, for example, could earn $10,000 for a single Tweet to her network of 17.5 million followers. The volume of her Twitter following has an undoubtedly positive impact on her income.

    But how much can we trust the number of followers a public figure has? Ever since news broke that a sharp increase in Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Twitter following came from fake accounts, it’s become public knowledge that many celebrities have fake followers. Kim Kardashian is one of those celebrities. According to our research, only 43% of her followers are active and authentic Twitter users. So that $10,000 Tweet only gets seen by about 7.5 million

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  • Putting Play to Work

    Play at Work

    Historically, playing at work was no different than being caught on hidden video picking your nose on the job all day. No one in their right mind would want management to see them doing anything remotely enjoyable. For the Facebook Me Generation this workplace attitude must feel like very industrial, Hard Times thinking, which may not be irrational when repetitive motion, production line models are the driving force of an economy. But, even then, it seems only natural that people will walk under the yoke for only so long - even now, there are stories about China-based workers turning down good manufacturing jobs for more pleasant, stress-free office work.

    Further along that work attitude evolution timeline, a solid slice of the U.S. workforce keeps stepping further from a grueling 9-5 day of punching the clock, and instead is pursuing more of an intentional, life-work balance, in tune with the mantra of, “work smart, not hard.” So, it’s easy to see how a workplace environment today

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  • Creating an office culture when there is no office

    More and more small businesses are leveraging communications and data sharing technologies to get work done among a remotely distributed workforce. And some are using it to do away altogether with the office.

    Kevin Kuske, chief anthropologist and general manager for the business furniture company turnstone, says it’s not necessary for every startup to invest precious capital to buy furniture and sign a lease. “Join an incubator or shared workspace or work in a network of spaces,” Kuske recommends. “You don’t have to own the space. Work in coffee shops, a public park, or libraries,” he suggests.

    What’s more, he says, “that movement across different locations is good for your health and mental state; no type of work is ideally done in the same space.”

    When Carey Albertine and Saira Rao started In This Together Media, a children’s book publisher, both wanted the flexibility that working from home offered for their young families in Hoboken, NJ, and suburban Connecticut. As the company has

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  • Some small businesses show returns on social media investment

    Showing how advertising and marketing dollars translate directly to revenues is a challenge for any business, so it’s no surprise that 60 percent of small business owners reported in a recent survey that they cannot prove a return on investment from their social media efforts. What is notable is that nearly 40 percent say they can, and of those, nearly a third reported returns of $2,000 or more.

    The small business community Manta, which conducted the online survey of more than 1,200 small business owners during the last week of March, reports that “with the potential to generate a compelling return on investment, social media involvement is trending upward in the small business community.”

    More than one-third of business owners surveyed indicated that their primary goal in using social media is to acquire and engage with new customers, and most dedicate just one employee to the effort.

    Still, asked where they would spend the majority of their business dollars in Q2 2013, more than a

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