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Entrepreneurship

5 Office Decor Must-Haves to Make Your Home Office or Workspace Pop

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When you work from home, you need to have a nice place in your house that is yours, which is also secluded from other noise and distractions. At the same time, you also want to make this an area where you can work and enjoy your atmosphere.

The same holds true for employees and professionals that have their own cubicle or workspace as well.

If you are looking to spruce things up and make your workspace more enjoyable, then you my friend, have come to the right place. Let’s jump straight to it. Below you’ll find the best recommendations to turn your office from drab to fab with four office must haves.

To kick things off, let’s take a look at what my home office looks like today! For more pictures and guidance on how I set up my home office, be sure to check out the full article here.

Now, let’s move on to five helpful decor tips that you can start using to improve your own workspace!

Office Must Haves #1: Natural Light

The modern trend is shifting toward spaces flooded with natural light. The effects of natural light both energizes and inspires your employees. It’ll increase their productivity and happiness. We’re talking large, clear windows with the curtains drawn back.

Evaluate your present sources of light. Open your curtains or shutters. Do they allow enough light to come through? If not, and if you can’t replace the windows, consider changing to full-spectrum light-bulbs.

Full-spectrum bulbs offer up the same spectrum of light as our sun. You can choose wavelengths that imitate morning, afternoon, or evening sunlight to create an awesome office space.

#2 Plants and Flowers

In addition to natural light, plants and flowers will lend your industrial office an organic quality. Don’t settle for fake flowers. Regardless of what you’ve been told, they won’t give your office an organic feel.

Stick with the real stuff. Potted plants work wonders. If you water them every few days, you’ll have them for years.

Bouquets of flowers are far better, but they can be expensive. You can always compromise. Buy fresh flowers during the summer at farmers markets. They’re much less expensive than florists.

For the rest of the year, keep a few potted flowers around. Lilies are our recommendation.

#3 Interactive Whiteboard

Whiteboards are paramount in today’s communal workplaces. They offer your staff a place to throw around ideas and think through strategies. If you leave your written work on the board between sessions, your staff will unconsciously continue developing ideas.

It’s also a simple way to keep all your business’s ideas in one place. It’s much easier and less time consuming than dozens of back-and-forth email chain letters. With whiteboards, you can take in the entire scope of your strategy in one glance.

Don’t worry, they’re not hard to find. Here are a few suggested online stores for office goodies (outside of Amazon):

Next, let’s talk about your furniture choices.

#4 Comfortable Chairs

No, we’re not talking Barcaloungers. We’re talking office chairs, seats, and stools. The only reason to furnish your office with uncomfortable chairs is that you want to push people to leave. That works fine in cafeterias and coffee shops.

For everything else, think ergonomically. When your visitors or your staff sit in a comfortable chair, their stress levels decrease. This leads to an increase in their productivity.

Comfortable chairs are also a sign of prestige. They work the same as a stylish desk or a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. They signal people that you care about more than the function of your space.

You also care about the people in it.

#5 Add Some Minimalist Art and Photos

Have you ever been to a home of office where there are pictures and photos all over the place? Sometimes it can get quite overwhelming.

There is nothing wrong with having motivational messages or pictures of your loved ones around you, but there are nice ways to set this up as well.

Try to stick with only a few art frames or photos on your desk, and make sure they have a nice frame and compliment the area around you.

It also couldn’t hurt to add some motivational posters to your walls for those days that you need an extra work ethic pick-me-up.

Motivational_Posters_Zac_Johnson_Office

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve discovered our office must haves, it’s time to start shopping. But, before you do, evaluate your present office style. Look at your color schemes and overall style. Then you can match your new goodies and your old.

Was this information helpful? Then come to pick through our library full of other helpful articles.

So long and good luck!

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Entrepreneurship

Best Gmail Alternatives for Business Use in 2019

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Email is one of the most important aspects of all business in the world today — if not the most important. It’s also the one thing that hasn’t drastically changed over the past two decades. Unlike search, mobile, social media, and online advertising, the core purpose and business of email marketing is pretty much the same.

However, what has changed is the different ways we connect and use email in our daily lives. Looking back, many of us probably had AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo emails in the previous years. Now all the buzz is around Gmail and other advanced email platforms that not only allow you to better manage your incoming and outgoing emails, but also to better manage your time and productivity as well.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best Gmail alternatives for business use in 2019.

Groove Shared Inbox

When running any type of business or dealing with important client information, your email is extremely important. Not just for data, but also for daily productivity, growth, and scheduling as well. This is where Groove stands out from the crowd, as their platform actually can improve productivity through canned responses, workflows, and integration with over 25 different platforms (like Trello, Olark, Shopify and more).

It’s also important to note that the platform is ideal for businesses and brands that want to offer collaboration with different teams member in office, or around the world. It’s also ideal for connecting customers to support and tracking teams as well.

It’s also important to note that the platform is ideal for businesses and brands that want to offer collaboration with different team members in office, or around the world, even on mobile. By using Groove, businesses can connect customers to support teams, tracki team members’ performance, and produce advanced reports that help business owners focus on what matters in order to scale.

Microsoft Outlook

At the beginning of this article, we referenced old school email addresses like AOL and Yahoo. For AOL especially, you would need to have the software installed on your computer in order to login. The same was true with Microsoft Outlook — but of course, times have now changed and so has the way they allow users to access and send emails.

With more than 400 million users on their email platform, Microsoft it looking to make email usage better for everyone using their Outlook platform. Benefits and features include free Outlook email and calendar. Along with access to everything you need to be your most productive and connected self – at home, on the go, and everywhere in between.

iCloud Mail

While many of us use Apple products and mobile devices on a daily basis, not many of us are using the email platform that Apple offers to their users. Apple’s iCloud Mail gives each user up to 5GN of free storage space and uploading limited of 20 BM for individual files.

The good news about iCloud Mail, is that you won’t need to create a new email address or be forced into using theirs if you want to create an account — simply sign up using your existing email address and you are ready to go.

Zoho Mail

Zoho Workplace is another popular integrated suite of tools that a lot of businesses are using to improve many aspects of the business. If you are already familiar with the many tools offered from Google (like Gmail, Sheets, Docs, etc), then you will likely enjoy your experience with Zoho as well.

The main benefit to using Zoho Mail over Gmail, is that you will have a better layer of security and won’t have BIG G watching over your shoulder on everything you do. This is especially true with ad placements, as premium accounts on Zoho won’t see any advertisements.

With Zoho Mail you can set up email with your own domain name address, have full access to the control panel for customization, and of course have full access through mobile devices and applications. All of this is available for just $1 per month for 5 GB of space per user, or you can upgrade to the premium version with 30 GB for just $4 per month.

Mail.com Mail

If you were to randomly visit the domain name mail.com, you likely wouldn’t be surprised when you found out it was yet another free email service.

For anyone that wants to stay away from the bigger players in this space, and set up a quite and unique email of their own, mail.com is a great place to get started. What’s unique about this email platform, is that they have secured a wide range of domains that they allow users to register a new email with. A few of the top ones are @mail.com, @email.com, and @usa.com.

The platform is free to use and offers users  the ability to choose from over 200 different domain names, getting access to free and customized apps, having the ability to send attachments up to 50 MB in size, and also allowing users to create up to 10 different alias addresses.

It’s Your Email. Make It How You Want It!

For something as important as your email, you need to make sure you are not only comfortable with the platform you are using, but also with it’s advanced settings and features as well.

It’s also a good idea to upgrade to the premium plan with many of these email providers, as the costs are minimal and the benefits are quite large. For example, every business, brand, and entrepreneur should have an email address with their unique domain name in it, and it’s also a nice benefit to have all advertising remove from your inbox as well.

No matter if you are currently using Gmail, or simply looking for a new look and feel for your email — be sure to check out each of the alternatives above.

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Entrepreneurship

What Every SMBs Need to Know About Debt and Growing their Business

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Starting a business in the world might seem easy, thanks to the power of the internet, automation, and lowered costs — but that isn’t to say it’s easy to find success and profitability with that same business. With more businesses starting daily, this leads to a larger increase in competition, and a great number of SMBs who aren’t potentially ready for the fierce competition, compiling costs, and debt that might be right around the corner.

While most aspiring small business owners would love to launch a passion venture and not worry about how to pay for it, this is not the reality. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 27.9 million small businesses in the United States compared to 18,500 firms with over 500 employees. Those small businesses took out a combined $600 billion in business loans in 2015, and another $593 million from alternative means like finance companies and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

At the same time, it’s also important to take a look at the number of startups and closures, and survival rates for businesses in the world today.

But despite the various loan options that exist, securing enough of the right debt is challenging. Yet, as the old adage says, ‘you need to spend money to make money,’ and without borrowing, it’s difficult for any business to grow their operation.

To ensure your business borrows for long-term success without jeopardizing long-term cash flow, here are six things to know about debt.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Generally speaking, good debt refers to debt that can yield long-term income or growth in value whereas bad debt will not. For consumers, good debt might be a mortgage where bad debt would be a revolving credit card balance. In the business landscape, it’s a little more nuanced and dependent on the specific company. You can learn more about the differences between these two here.

An example of good debt might be a company taking on debt to invest in certain employee programs, as the implementation of the program could lead to improved morale and better retention. It could also be debt used to do research and development for a new product since a new product line would generate more future income. A bad-debt scenario could be the result of a business taking out a loan for a larger business space that they don’t end up filling or using adequately. Or a double whammy: paying for nice office space in a prime location when clients never see the office.

These situations can go on and on, and really hinge on the execution that does or does not take place after a loan is taken.

Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratios

Every business—even two competitors—have differences that affect what a healthy debt-to-income (DIY) ratio should be. Businesses might need different levels of debt depending on a multitude of factors.

So, while not a hard-and-fast guideline, generally speaking, businesses with DTIs under 1 have more stable debt levels while a ratio above 1 indicates that a company is more reliant on their debt. Calculate your business’ DTI at any time by taking your monthly recurring debt payments and dividing it by your monthly gross income.

You Have More Leeway with Creditors Than You Think

Many business owners and individual debtors never try to improve on their existing terms or ask their creditors for any kind of compromise, even if it means falling behind on loan payments. But at the end of the day, banks want to see you succeed, if for no other reason than it means they’re getting their money back. If you’re proactive about needing aspects of your loan modified before you encounter difficulty paying it, you’ll stand a much better chance of striking an agreement.

It’s important to remember that creditor negotiations are a case-by-case basis. Whether you’re trying to lower your interest rate, get a one-time payment grace period, or extend the repayment cycle, communicate how changing the loan will impact your business positively.

You Can Consolidate Your Debts

Even if you’re keeping pace with your loans, juggling too many of them can be taxing, not to mention increase the chances you miss a payment date or don’t have the cash flow you need at a certain time of month. Debt consolidation loans condense your monthly payments, due dates, and potentially, can net you a lower overall interest rate.

To learn more about this, also see my article on line of credit vs taking out loans.

Small business owners can attempt debt consolidation by taking out a private loan (though, a high credit score will be needed for favorable interest rates), opening a balance transfer card with interest-friendly (possibly free) introductory period, or seeking assistance through companies like Andrew Housser’s Consolidation Plus, part of the Freedom Financial Network.

Layoffs Are Always a Consequence

Small businesses are like tight-knit families. Limited bandwidth and resources mean that employees develop a sense of pride and camaraderie in working together (at least, when a business does well). And unlike a large company where turnover is rampant, employees tend to work for small businesses much longer.

Of the 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016, organizations with fewer than 100 workers accounted for over 98 percent of the workforce. When small businesses take on debt to scale the operation, they need to understand that they’ll need to cut costs if the investment doesn’t pay off. Layoffs are a realistic consequence. And when a SMB starts laying people off, company morale will take a dive and could lead to lost productivity and even further turnover.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016.

  • Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses.
  • Firms with fewer than 100 workers accounted for 98.2 percent.
  • Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent.

This also isn’t just limited to small and medium sized businesses. Statista just recently had a report on big name companies like Tesla, eBay, Paypal, and more — all of which are leaving their employees hanging on whether or not they might have a long term relationship with the company.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Is a Last Resort

The thought of your hopes and dreams culminating in a bankruptcy court proceeding is certainly disheartening. However, chapter 11 becomes a viable strategy for business owners whose personal possessions are entwined in their business as it aims to restructure business debts to make repayments more manageable going forward without it sinking their business.

Just because taking debt is a necessary evil the majority of small businesses must face doesn’t mean it should be done so lightly. Leave no stone unturned in your search for a small business loan and consider these things above as you do so.

The Best Ways to Approach Debt Loss and Management for Your Company

No matter what position you might find your business in today, it’s important to realize that the first step in cleaning up an potential messes, is to ask for help.

This can be from people within your company, outside advisors, and of course — financial and legal institutions.

To learn more about managing company funds and debt, be sure to check out my other resource guide on paying off company debt.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Effective Methods to Goal Setting for Business Growth and Success

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Have you made resolutions to get your business to the next level?

Are your goals SMART enough?

Are they inspiring your employees to take action?

Goals are the observable results of achievement. Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to achieve, identifying the required resources, and developing an action plan.

If you have yet to set your business goals, consider the benefits of goal setting below.

Five Top Benefits of Goal Setting

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of goals setting to your business. Goals are important in providing direction and focus to grow of your business.

This is especially true for anyone who might be working from home or stuck in a cubicle all day. When you are working on your own and not told exactly what to do, you need to be setting your own goals and the determination to get things done.

Whether it’s writing down such goals on a piece of paper and then checking them off, or using a mobile or online application, it’s all about getting your actions into motion to simply get more done.

Other benefits and methods to accomplishing this include:

1. Inspire and Sustain Progress

The importance of goals setting lies in the ability of goals to inspire and sustain focus. When your business sets SMART goals, your employees know what to do and they can gauge their performance.

As they achieve the smaller steps, they grow in confidence to work towards achieving bigger results. This results in the constant growth of your business. Your employees will grow in their skills and get motivated to keep improving as they see results.

2. Using Video to Increase Productivity

With so many different productivity tools and applications on the market today, it’s important to know where your strengths lie when trying to increase productivity or motivating others.

Through the use of an online creation tool like mysimpleshow, the ability is there to create interactive and engaging whiteboard animation videos to better portray your message.

You can see a clear example of this in the video example below.

At the same time, there are many personal benefits for creating your own whiteboard video to accomplish more and hit your goals.

As mentioned on the simpleshow website, creating such animation and explainer videos aren’t just for marketing and teaching others, they are also great for inspiration, mind-mapping, and hitting your own goals as well. In addition to goal setting, they’ve also seen massive engagement improvement with school students and professionals when delivering information in an audio and visual platform.

Their site went on to say, “Our illustration-style simpleshow explainer videos are most effective if you”:

  • need to tackle complex tasks
  • want to explain difficult topics in a simple and digestible way
  • have to explain almost inexplicable information

Before taking on your next big project, be sure to consider your options with laying everything out in video form, and them working your way through it and sharing it with team members along the way.

3. Increase Productivity and Profitability

When setting goals for your business, you’re aiming at getting more work done and increasing your earnings. Setting goals defines what exactly you want to achieve, and how you’ll get there.

The process also includes identifying the needed resources, skills, and competencies. With this knowledge, you can train your employees or hire skills, which keep your business on track for consistent growth.

Setting goals also improves the decision-making abilities of the organization. The information you collect during the goal-setting process helps you identify where the business is at and chart out a path for the future. Informed decisions will eventually result in business growth.

4. Measure Progress

Your business can’t ignore the importance of goals in measuring progress. Good goals are measurable both in the time it takes to achieve them and the results achieved.

Monitoring is a crucial part of goals setting through which your business measures how far it is at achieving its goals.

Here, the business identifies areas for improvement as well as weaknesses. This way, your business can adjust accordingly to fit into the changing economic times, and you can set bigger goals if you have achieved the previous ones.

This same task can also be accomplished by using the Seinfeld Strategy as well.

To measure progress in your achievement of goals, you need to build a monitoring system such as recording the progress of a task.

5. Collaboration Among Employees

Your employees will work together more when they have a common goal. They can share resources, expertise, and insights. Eventually, your business grows from the harmonious working of the employees.

Goal setting should be a regular practice for your business. You can learn more about how goal setting can improve your business’ performance on this blog.

Six tips that were laid out in this article for improving productivity and collaboration with other employees are:

  1. Stretch your outlook.
  2. Know the key steps of the goal-setting process.
  3. Create a nimble goal development team.
  4. Gain buy-in.
  5. Communicate, communicate, then communicate some more.
  6. Remember to celebrate achievements.

Grow Your Business In 2019

Goal setting builds the foundation of your business, which employees refer to for inspiration and direction. The above benefits of goal setting should provide you with enough reasons to set goals for your business.

However, the most important task in this whole process is making sure you have a goal in place and are taking action to achieve it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. I’d love to hear from you and see how we can start working together.

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