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Working With The Competition: How Staying Friendly Makes Business Sense For Struggling Creative Freelancers

IMG_2699Whatever your story, whatever your industry, little businesses in a post-recession economy are often advised to be apocalyptically ruthless. It may work for some, but what if we all took a different approach to try and dig ourselves out of the financial hole we’re stuck in? This alternative philosophy has been successfully practised by Tenessee-based burger brand Pal’s Sudden Service since 2000, when a Business Institute was launched to provide practical advice and workshops to promote their company amongst competitors, and it has made waves in the restaurant industry, with others following suit. As the Institute’s President, David J, McClasky states, welcoming your competitors with open arms can be more than just a philanthropic gesture: “No matter where a customer goes, if they have a good experience eating out, then they eat out more often,” he says. “We figure everybody wins when businesses are run at excellent levels.”

This mantra can be especially important in creative industries and an artistic approach to the 21st century’s financial challenges could be your most unexpected source of inspiration. If you have spent time previously studying the arts, you’ll understand the importance of co-operation, critique and collaboration, so just how should that be different once you have left education?

Collaboration in Practice: The Freelance Photographer

Take freelance photography as a strong example. It’s a demanding field which requires extensive technical knowledge and relentless passion from the individual, plus an unwavering desire to achieve outstanding results for each and every client. Working alone or perhaps with a micro-team around them, a freelance photographer will be responsible for all areas of his or her business, from booking shoots and meeting clients to more mundane tasks like banking and bookkeeping. Everyone has their own strengths and being required to fill such a variety of roles can take its toll, so it’s no wonder that many photographers in this position often feel overwhelmed. If this scenario sounds familiar, discussing your business with others can help you assess your approach to your work, enable you to get to know cameras and setups for use in your own projects, tackle common working issues, or even just help you offload the general stresses and strains of working on a freelance basis. You’ll be putting your work into perspective and developing valuable bonds with others around you.

Learning To Give and Take as a Business

So why should you take the time to forge reciprocal relationships with those who would traditionally pose a threat to your business? Well, being generous enough to share knowledge, experience and, crucially, contacts may equate to naivety and foolishness in some people’s minds, but consider your own personal benefit. Networking is paramount to establishing oneself as a professional company or brand, and open, assured lines of communication inspire confidence, helping boost your income and get clients. If old friends suddenly become your competition, shunning them can be counterproductive.

Furthermore if there is an ambitious job you don’t quite feel ready for, recommending a rival photographer rather than putting your own reputation into jeopardy is just common sense. As an artist may collaborate with somebody working in another medium to execute the best piece of work, this could be applied to business. Working together on a project with a competitor will allow you to combine your specialist skills to make for a more rounded enterprise, even if it is only temporary.

On a broader scale, however, a healthy business climate needs to be at the forefront of industry for a more stable future. Shying away from banker-esque cut-throat gluttony could be the first (deceptively simple) step in achieving great opportunities for every small business.

Where would we all be without a little help from our ‘friends’? Anna Layne knows first-hand the tribulations facing small businesses and how important it is to glean as much help and information from her competitors. She currently works on behalf of Trinity Photography, a Glasgow-based wedding photography firm that’s risen from small foundations to achieve a great reputation in the local area.

 

 

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How To Make Sure Your Staff Are In It For The Long Haul

tug-of-warThe best businesses have loyal staff that have been there since day one. They know the company like the backs of their hands and no situation or problem is unfamiliar to them. The longer you have worked somewhere the better you know the role and the company and there for the better you do your job. Every employer would love to have staff stick around for years to come but people often become bored and move on. So how can you ensure your staff stick with you through thick and thin?

Set Out  A Clear Career Path

Many companies loose staff because of the lack of progression they offer.  People do become tired of doing the same thing over and over and if there is no opportunity to move forward they will seek opportunity elsewhere. As a business owner you should encourage your staff to apply for promotions and work their way up in the company. In order to keep staff happy and motivated you should set out a clear structure when it comes to moving up the ranks.

Offer Rewards

It can become very tiresome for staff if they work hard and that hard work constantly goes unrecognised. A simple thank you or well done is a good start and goes a long way, but a great way to really keep staff happy and motivated is to offer small rewards for good work.

Consider monthly awards in the form of a title and a small gesture such as a bottle of wine or vouchers, for example ‘employee of the month’. This means your staff will get the recognition they deserve and is an excuse for a fun monthly get together.

Consider Staff Quarterlies

A great way to say thanks is to host an evening of fun once every three months. It is something for staff to really look forward to and is a great way to encourage staff bonding. You don’t have to do anything huge, maybe just put some money behind a bar or book a meal. Tell everyone the date and time and see your staff let their hair down for a night of fun.

Offer Bonuses

At the end of the day your staff are there to earn money, and money does make people happy. A great way to encourage staff to go above and beyond at work is to offer bonuses measured by how well they are doing.

Staff really appreciate being paid on time and the right amount. Mistakes do happen but that can cause great problems when people are expecting money. Ensure these mistakes don’t occur by making use of payroll services to keep staff happy.

Eilidh MacRae works for Trace Payroll who offer payroll services.

 

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Getting Respect Working From Home

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How often have you been working at your home office, when your brother calls you wanting to chat, or a friendly neighbour comes over to ask you for some help? You’re working at home, but everyone seems to think that your work involves sitting around the home doing nothing all day but answer some emails or occasionally talking on the phone.

What can you do to stop these distractions so you can work, and even get some respect for your home business?

Set a Schedule at Home

If you have regular working hours, you can post them on your office door, inform your family and friends, and if anyone comes over to chat during your scheduled work time, you can politely ask them to leave. This schedule will help people realize you are working, and make your business look more professional.

Even better having these regular working hours will help you be more productive if used properly. By focusing on your work at a regular time everyday, you train your mind and body to go into working mode. If you you plan your work hours when you have the most energy, it’s even better.

Remember that this doesn’t have to be a 9-5 work schedule, play around with it at first to find out what hours are best for you, and then stick to it.

Dress for Success

Since the inevitable stereotype of working from home is a person working in his or her pyjamas, try to break the image by wearing comfortable business casual clothes.

You want to be comfortable while you work, but wearing clothes that are too casual, will make you appear less serious, and can make you feel a bit too relaxed to work at your peak efficiency. By wearing business casual, you keep the comfort, but if a neighbour, client, or family member drops by they’ll see that you are treating your work professionally and it gives you an advantage. If they see you wearing old jeans and a sweatshirt or worse actual pyjamas, it will be very hard to convince them that you are working.

Learn to Say No

Sometimes people don’t take a hint, you can tell them that you’re working, print up a super-sized schedule for your door, explain that you’re about to talk to an important client, but they still want to talk.
In this case, you have to firmly tell them that you do not have time to talk, go out for coffee or even let them in your front door. Try to be polite but firm when you do so, don’t tell them you don’t want to talk, simply say you are working but can talk to them when you are done. Give them your schedule and explain that between certain hours you are unavailable, but you’d be happy to talk after work.

Your at home business is important, and people need to realize that working from home actually involves working. So treat your job like a regular job and insist others follow suit, even if they disagree with you.

Dan Clarke is a business coach, specializing in helping people who work at home expand their business, solve problems and find a great work/life balance. Find out more about him at his website, Be Happy Working at Home.

 

 

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Dealing With Changes In Companies: What’s The Best Solution?

Business NetworkingIn both our professional and personal lives, a certain amount of change is inevitable. These can range from the minor, such as a favorite television show recasting one of the characters, to the major, such as an undesired change in your relationship status. One of the key areas of change that can impact heavily on an individual’s life is the concept of change in the workplace, whether it’s from a corporate takeover or a seemingly straightforward rebranding. Let’s explore some of the key methods that will assist with dealing with change in the workplace.

How Severe Is The Change?

Change in the workplace leads to a sense of uncertainty. This sense of uncertainty can often be overcome in a fairly organic way; if the change is merely a modification to a business process, or perhaps a new software system, then the new system or method quickly becomes normality. It’s hardly something that will cause undue stress, although management should certainly take steps to ensure that all employees are familiar with what is expected of them in relation to the new processes.

Employees Will Feel The Fear

In some instances, the sense of uncertainty can become overwhelming and can impede a corporation’s operational capability when it’s a large-scale merger or takeover. There will undoubtedly be changes at all levels of operations, and this can lead employees to question the safety of their own employment. It’s important for management to handle the situation with as much transparency as is possible in a scenario such as this one. If there is to be restructuring that will lead to layoffs, then this decision needs to be made and executed as soon as possible. Resolve the matter in as straightforward a manner as is appropriate, and then a new normality will rise from the ashes, leading to employee peace of mind.

Negative Ways of Coping With Change

Management should be a little sceptical of employees who seem to warmly (and indeed, blindly) embrace large changes in a company. It’s perhaps possible that these employees are being enthusiastic about a change in policy, operations or ownership, simply because they believe it’s what their supervisors want to hear. This is unhelpful to the overall aims of any corporate change, and is on a par with avoidance coping, where an employee essentially tries to ignore the change and undertake their employment in the way they always have, which is often inappropriate.

Positive Ways of Coping With Change

Ideally, management will gently ease employees into any kind of change in the workplace, utilizing change management training that will allow employees to feel in control during the process of change. It goes without saying that it’s beneficial for management that their employees make a smooth transition during whatever change the company is going through. Management cannot dictate how an individual should feel in response to a change, but they can set the tone about what’s appropriate, essentially by being available to answer all enquiries, and to clearly outline what’s expected of employees. Unsurprisingly, any kind of change in a company generates a huge amount of paperwork when new guides and manuals are published.

Change can be a huge problem for many employees, and it’s hardly a stress free time for management either. But management needs to ensure that their employees feel like they’re part of the solution.

Kate Simmons is a business developer, management coach and freelance writer. She is mostly interested in topics related to leadership, management and business structures.

 

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Ordering Office Supplies For Your Small Business

AdobeCreativeCloud_promo122412In these tough times for the economy as a whole you certainly won’t want reminding of the need to remain afloat while other firms falter around you. This has not just affected small online companies but big names on the high street too. So it is now more important than ever to keep track of your spending on essentials such as office equipment and stationery.
Whether you run the enterprise from the comfort of your own home office, rent out premises in the city centre, or have rental space in a building on the outskirts of town, it is necessary to fit the place out with all you need to ensure the smooth running of the business.
No matter if you sell products direct to the customer, or supply other firms with the parts they require in keeping their operations going, you will be expected to maintain a tight ship with regards to your paperwork.
This means that you should take stock of all you own and the equipment pertinent to your organisation. Printing is a requirement for nearly all firms, in all industries (even if the majority of business is conducted online), so your printers need to have spare cartridges ready and the mail ready to send out, without any delay.
Office furniture and hardware is another consideration for any SME, irrespective of its sector. Staff will have to sit somewhere and if your company ever invites customers or prospective clients to your offices it certainly pays to devote time and effort on the right décor, in fitting with your brand image.
Personalised stationery may not be a must, but in some cases it can really help to get your message across to your audience. These are the kinds of decisions you will have to make as you contemplate what will be beneficial to your firm in the long run.
Even if you conduct your business at home, it is recommended you differentiate this room to the rest of your house as this can have a psychological effect on your work and how you go about it.
So when ordering the supplies you need from a dedicated office products and services company, make a definitive list of the things which are essential in maintaining the smooth flow of your operations. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you will be expected to invest in all the right areas, including the physical office space.

Article written by Shane Peters who recommends http://www.mgmofficesupplies.ie for office supplies.

 

 

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Workplace Flexibility: An Interesting HR Concept

business_meeting_2The world around us has changed so much that some of the things we see nowadays are things we would never have imagined. Workplace flexibility is a concept which if well nurtured will transform the world of human resource.

The whole idea behind the concept is to have some elasticity when it comes to when, where and how work is done. It affords the employee convenience to work at times when they are comfortable and from places where they feel comfortable. At the end of the day, tasks are completed and work is still done. A few HR personnel argue that work is done more efficiently because people work in a more relaxed environment.

What is Workplace flexibility?

It is basically an arrangement between an employee and employer where they agree to have some elasticity in terms of how, when and where work is done, provided that the objectives of the company are met. It should afford the employees some convenience, but at the end of the day they have to do all that is required of them, so as to meet all their obligations to the employer.

Possible ways in which the flexibility comes in

1.      How work is done

There are a number of options here. For example, when it comes to hourly jobs, the employer and the employee can agree to use a monthly or annual hours instead of the traditional weekly hours. This way an employee can take a 3 month holiday provided he gives the employer high quality hours as agreed. People are also at liberty to share one job, depending on the arrangement. One can work from Monday to Wednesday while the other works for the rest of the week.

2.      Where people work

The conventional style of working involves people waking up every day to go to work. Workplace flexibility allows employees to work remotely or from home. How it is effected is highly variable, but there should be an agreement on how many days an employee works at home, as well as how regularly it should be done. Working remotely allows the employee to work in a client’s workplace or from an office that is not his or her main workplace.

3.      When people work

Here, the human resource manager and the employee agree on the time when work is done. For example, if the employee has to work for 8 hours a day, then they could agree that the employee starts his day whenever he is comfortable as long as he is loyal to the dedicated hours. Thus an employee can come to work at 6:00 am and leave at 2:00 pm. He can come to work at 8:00 am and leave at 5:00 pm. Other forms of flexibility on when to work include part time working, part year and variable year employment arrangements. To further illustrate this, workers can put in more hours during peak seasons and less hours during off-peak seasons when there is less work. The amount of leave days can also be altered so as to suit the needs of employees.

Are there pitfalls?

For the arrangement to work, the employee must be very loyal so as to honor the arrangement. It therefore means it might be risky to have such an arrangement with an employee who you have not worked with before. Some employees will fail to honor their part of the bargain, which slows you down.

Sometimes, you need to have an employee around, who you can call upon to tackle emergency situations. This arrangement might not work in this aspect, more so because the employees might be away from the workplace at a time when you need them.

It is quite difficult to promote teamwork with this kind of understanding. Employers’ give up their control over employees, which makes it very difficult to assign an employee tasks which require him or her to work directly with others. Some online software however overcomes this problem by allowing people to interact and have conferences through these platforms.

All in all, it is a good concept. As long as both the employee and the employer agree on how to go about it, is something that should be embraced by human resource departments.

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Sarah Filer has teamed up with Breathe HR to offer HR advice, Sarah has been in the HR industry for 3 years and Breathe HR is a cloud based HR management system.

 

 

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Making A Brand’s Campaign Accessible For A Global Market

 

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In a global market place, thoroughly researching how campaigns will come across to other cultures is vital. This highlights a contradiction in globalization: although we are increasingly integrated into a unified global society, that society still consists of diverse cultures, languages, and value systems that need to be understood in their own terms.
Chevrolet is the fastest growing major automobile brand in the world. Despite its “American Pie” roots, however, most Chevrolet cars are purchased from outside North America, which has increased from 27% to 65% of total sales in the last 10 years. Their new campaign, “Find New Roads,” aims to reflect this trend, and appeal to a global audience. It replaces the widely criticized “Chevy Runs Deep” slogan, which tried to capitalize on their longstanding immersion in American culture.Ford Pinto USA 1978
Chevrolet’s new campaign shows an attempt to revaluate itself from a global perspective. The brand has in the past been able to translate its core message effectively for different cultural audiences. The advertising jingle was at one time “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pies and Chevrolet”, exemplifying all that is Americana. When marketing to South Africa, however, this appropriately became, “Braaivleis, Rugby, Sunny Skies and Chevrolet”.
This sensitivity is a far cry from their infamous faux pas made years ago. Chevrolet tried to market the Chevy Nova in Mexico, but unfortunately in Spanish, “No va” means “it doesn’t go”. Unsurprisingly, the model did not sell.  These kinds of stories are not unusual in a globalised market place, often to humorous effect:

  • The widely popular “Got Milk?” campaign, when presented in Mexico, was translated into “Are you Lactating?”
  • Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as, “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.
  • The wording of one Pepsi Generation ad campaign in China apparently claimed the soda could “Bring your ancestors back from the dead”. In Germany the same ad was translated into “Rise from the Grave with Pepsi.”
  • The Chinese characters originally used to translate Coca-Cola, at first had meanings like “Bite the wax tadpole,” or “Wax-flattened mare”. Finally, “Kekou Kele” was settled on, meaning “Delicious in your mouth”.
  • In Germany, the word “latte” translates into erection. Starbucks has had to remove several advertisements in German stores offering a “morning latte break”.
  • In Chinese, the direct translation of KFC’s slogan, “Finger Licking Good,” is “Eat Your Fingers Off”.
  • In many third world countries where the majority of the population is illiterate, it is common practice to place a picture of what the product contains on the packaging. When missionaries donated Gerber Baby Food to tribes in Africa, the tribes’ people were horrified upon seeing the jars of ‘baby food’. They had a similar aversion to ‘pet food’.
  • Only after Ford sent many Pintos to South America and spent a considerable amount marketing it, was it realised that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals”. Even after Ford substituted Corcel as the new title, meaning “horse”, people were still uncomfortable to be seen driving them.

With the rise in global campaigns, translating a product’s catchphrase isn’t enough. A different culture needs to be understood.  As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language – that goes to his heart.”

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Terence Stoker is a Branding expert and lover of SUVs. When not writing, he can be found exploring back roads in his beloved Chevy Trailblazer

 

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