Monthly Archives: September 2011

Do You Know How Valuable Corporate Training Is?

Corporate training is an expenditure that compares to others like recruitment and advertising; however, most companies just pay attention to the course’s cost and number of learners, and fail to measure its return on investment.

Basically, the majority of companies are not tracking how the cost of training transforms into results; but… why should they do this in the first place?

Because in this way, they can improve their training, concentrating on the courses that give results and getting rid of those that add zero value.

Effective corporate training, either through e-learning or on-site, has many benefits, such as:

Knowledge transfer: as knowledge is transferred from one area of the organization to another, more people benefit from it
Expertise gain: people acquire more and better skills
Higher retention: people tend to want to stay in a company that invests in their training
Higher morale: when people feel that the company is investing in their future, there is a boost in morale
More sales: all of the above translates into happier, more effective employees, which in turn increases sales

All of the above can be measured. When you evaluate corporate training results, you are able to see the value behind an effective training course and how it influences the bottom line.

Following are some ways in which companies can measure the effectiveness and value of corporate training:

A company can select a couple of points to assess the numbers for both, before and after the course.
A company can form two groups, a control group and a training group, and track them to measure their performance.
A company can supervise performance on strategic areas that concern a specific training.
A company can ask for comprehensive post-training information that documents the precise actions that were taken and the results of these.

For instance, let’s say a company held a sales course and afterwards it tracked the performance of those who took the course against others who didn’t.

There are two possible results:

1. The control group and the training group perform the same.
2. The training group outdoes the control group.

If the first option is true, then the training was not valuable.

If the second option is true, it means the training was very effective. In this case, the company can take the larger profits made by the training group, compare these to the cost of the training, determine the return on investment, and identify the value of corporate training.

Mark Doyle is a freelance writer who lives with his dog Smokey in the Pacific Northwest and learns best through e-learning.


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Video Promotion Isn’t Just for the Fortune 500

A few years ago, promotional videos were reserved for huge companies. If you weren’t planning on running a TV ad campaign, or including videos in promotional packs Disneyland style, then there was no reason to go to the considerable expense of producing a video. Today, that’s all changed. Videos are cheaper to make, easier to distribute, and much more likely to be viewed by a large audience.

There are a lot of companies in the UK that specialise in video production. Nottingham, Newcastle or London; wherever you are you will find studios that can help you with actors, sets, and high quality recording. If you find the right promotional video production company, they may also be able to help with distribution too.

Promotional videos, if they are well made, can do a lot for even small, lesser known brands. If you are a local business, and you want to target customers from your area, then hiring a company that does video production in Nottingham is a better idea than hiring a promotional video production company from a different part of the country. The world may be getting smaller, but there are still regional differences that can come across in videos.

The exact tone of your video will depend on what you’re advertising, and the demographics you are trying to reach. Viral videos are becoming increasingly popular with all age groups, however. Teens and young adults like edgy, and slightly “cheeky” videos, while business people prefer more sophisticated humour, and the videos that get forwarded by retirees tend to lean towards the “cute, harmless fun” category. Of course, these are rather broad generalisations, and they’re no substitute for real market research, but they are a good starting point.

If you want to produce a video that is informative rather than just simply a viral with your branding, then make sure that there’s still a hook to draw viewers in. Nobody likes to be preached to in their spare time, so try pose a question, or offer a solution to a common problem rather than just tell your viewers that they need your product.

A well produced marketing video, used as part of an online ad campaign, can put your brand name in front of a huge audience. Posters, banner advertisements and fliers are looked at once and then forgotten about, but videos engage the viewer for the duration of the viewing, and may be re-watched or shared if they are interesting, informative, or funny. It’s this second viewing which is so useful, as it makes your brand memorable.

When you’re looking for a promotional video production company, try to find one that specialises in the kind of videos that you are going to use. There’s no point hiring a company that makes artistic videos if you want something that looks more like a TV ad, for example. Also, look through the list of actors that they have available. If you’re not planning on enlisting your staff to appear in the video, then you’ll want to have some actors that your clients will relate to.

This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Black Hawk Productions. Amy works in marketing and is always on the look out for new and innovative ways to market her clients.


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Do You Know LMS vs. LCMS?

These two terms are so similar that in many instances they are employed to talk about the same thing when in reality they are different systems.

LMS stands for ‘Learning Management System’ and LCMS stands for ‘Learning Content Management System’.

Both systems provide training for employees; but it is important that you understand the differences between both before making the decision to invest in one of them:

  • LMS

This is basically a system that manages learning, and it is normally web-based and referenced as e-learning. With a LMS you can plan, organize, and follow learning from a central platform, and from it you are able to supervise and send training to employees as it is required.

Let’s say an employee needs training on presentation skills and another one has to learn about workplace violence. Through LMS you can send a presentation skills course to the first one and a workplace violence course to the latter.

In both cases, as the employees move forward with the courses, you are able to see their improvement and test results. At the same time, employees can take the training from their desks and go as fast or slow as they need to.

A good LMS will offer a wide variety of courses, allowing you to train your staff on many subjects and according to each employee’s needs.

  • LCMS

This system is centered on supervising content instead of individuals. It focuses on creating content, which is provided by specific instructors and internal content developers.

In this case, you are able to take content that already exists, sections or targets, and mix and match them to create new courses, allowing you to reuse content that already existed instead of creating a completely new course.

So, which one works best for your company?

It all depends on what you need.

If your company has its own trainers or coaches, it could be very valuable to give them the chance to create and supervise content through LCMS.

If you don’t want or need to create and supervise content, but rather prefer to employ courses already created by a third party, you should go for the LMS option.

However, bear in mind that the LMS can’t reuse the content you already have and build another course; it can’t create courses. This is precisely what the LCMS can do. It can build, deliver and manage courses, but also manage all of its individual pieces. These chunks of information, also known as “learning objects”, may be reused and organized to form a different, new and improved course.


So, once again, the decision is yours. But now you have what you need to make an informed decision.


Mark Doyle is a freelance writer who lives with his dog Smokey in the Pacific Northwest and learns best throughelearning.




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What to Expect from a Virtual Assistant (And What Not to Expect)

There are a lot of unclear expectations surrounding virtual assistants, even though they’ve been a large part of the workforce for quite some time now. A surprising number of business owners just aren’t sure how to handle them. Is she a secretary? Is she a part of the work force? Will she be around for a long time? These are questions that pop up over and over again, so here’s some clarification about what it is that a virtual assistant actually does.

For starters it helps to begin with a clear definition of a virtual assistant (VA): A VA is someone who is hired by a company on a contract basis that provides administrative and clerical support while working from an outside office. So, yes, virtual assistants can perform the same duties as secretaries, but that isn’t all they’re capable of. There are a huge number of benefits to hiring a virtual assistant for your office team, and many of them involve time and money saved.

Virtual assistants step onto the virtual job site with a wide range of skills and abilities, making training essentially obsolete. Since they’re able to do so many things though, it’s extremely important to understand just what you can expect your VA to do and what you can’t.

Virtual assistants are independent business owners, possibly just like yourself. They can assist you with any administrative tasks that need to be taken care of, and most importantly they’re people who you can rely on. They can provide advice and knowledge in business facets that aren’t the main purpose of your own company, and thus can offer valuable insight and a second opinion on business matters. The best thing about virtual assistants is that they’re interested in the growth and success of your company, just like you are. For them, when you’re successful, they are successful by default, since they are employed by your company. As your relationship with your VA grows over a long term contract, you might find that you’re constantly bouncing ideas off of them or even asking for their input on crucial business matters. This leads us into what you shouldn’t expect from a VA.

To start with, virtual assistants are not decision makers when it comes to your company. That responsibility lies with you and you alone. It’s perfectly alright to ask their opinion or get some feedback on one of your business models, but you shouldn’t ask them to make the final call on anything. Additionally, remember that although your VA may have a lot of knowledge in business matters, that doesn’t necessarily make them an expert at your particular business. You may ask them for assistance in a specific business matter in which they won’t be able to help you. Just keep in mind that they aren’t around to be the company’s CEO. Working with a virtual assistant is a great way to save time and money, as long as their expected role is clear.

Scarlet Evans is an efficient virtual assisant blogger. She has a team of virtual assistant specialists who help her run her site as well as manage the many blogs that she contributes to. If you’re interested in Scarlet’s virtual persoanl assistant initiatives or you would like to find out more on virtual personal assistants, vist her website.


New Business Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make

Starting a business can be an invigorating and challenging undertaking. While many of us love the idea of working for ourselves and not answering to a traditional boss, owning a business comes with a heavy share of responsibility. If you’ve decided you want to start your own business, there are a number of first-time mistakes that people often make. What are they and how can you avoid letting these faux pas ruin your chances at success?

  • Don’t Neglect Relationships

Whether with investors, employees or potential customers, one huge business mistake is to neglect the importance of business relations. A business relies on clients, not contracts, in order to stay successful. If you treat your clients, investors or suppliers with disrespect, you’re burning bridges that stand between you and financial success. Always draft a company code of conduct for relationships that highlights the importance of personal professionalism and mutual respect, and hold employees to that code wherever possible. As the owner of a company, you should consider all relations with outside entities a representation of yourself.

It’s wonderful to be independent. If you didn’t want to be independent, you wouldn’t start your own business. It’s natural for new business owners to want to take on everything and make it work. Unfortunately, no one is able to do absolutely everything, business owner or not. Allow yourself too have and honour your own limitations. If you’re not an accountant, hire one. If you’re not an experienced contractor, don’t try to undertake building renovations. Be honest with yourself about your skills and hire someone to help you with the rest, otherwise your new business could start out with you overstretched and unable to take on the projects that really matter.

  • Don’t Miscalculate Your Start Up Capital

Any new business needs to have money in order to make money. If you start your business before you have adequate funding to do it well, you’re essentially setting yourself up for failure. Consider money you will need for business licences, operating fees, employee wages and store front rental where applicable.. If you understate the amount you need when you begin your business, you’re only hurting your own operations.

Accidents can happen anytime. Tragedies don’t wait for your business to become established. Business insurance is one of the most important aspects of owning and operating a company, no matter what your dream is. Remember that this company is your financial responsibility, and consider how much you stand to lose in case of a robbery or other incident.  Business insurance makes for good business practice.

This guest post is from Allison with, where you can go to learn more about purchasing business insurnace for your new smalll business.


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When You’re Ready to Reboot

By the time you reach adulthood you’ve doubtless faced a lot of changes in your life. In line with the natural order of things we tend to experience successes and gains, but also great loss. If change has come upon you due to things like the kids moving out or going through divorce, you may feel like the life you have is no longer the one you want. The upside is that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Any number of steps, both big and small, can help you give your life a reboot; here are just a few…

Change your look.

Sure, it may sound simple but what better way to embrace inner change than by changing your appearance? First envision the new you you want to become and then have that picture reflected in everything, from your wardrobe to your hair. Ditching the corporate job to become a visual artist? Guess you won’t need those power suits any longer. Trading in the McMansion for an Airstream and a dream? Then you might want to consider an easy-to-manage hairstyle and high performance clothes that are suited for adventure. Or maybe you’ve always been a brunette and you think auburn might better reflect your new zest for life; it doesn’t have to be completely drastic but your new style should herald change.

Move to a new town.

Still feeling constricted by a well-meaning community that thinks it knows you? If your attempts at bringing positive change into your life consistently meet resistance from friends and family then you may want to consider moving. This is no small change, that’s for sure, but there are few things more liberating than being able to go to a new place and start fresh. Imagine your life becoming a blank canvas just waiting for new vivid patterns of color. Lifelong friends will always be there, no matter what the geographical distance; whereas the naysayers delivering the negative energy will simply fall away.

Go back to school.

Higher education is a terrific way to give your life a positive charge. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about photography, or dance, or theatre; why not take this time to feed your mind and soul? You’ll not only learn remarkable things about your subject of interest, you’ll also surround yourself with people from all walks of life. When done strictly for yourself higher education can be an incredibly expansive experience. Granted, you might feel a little out of place at first but when you really look around and get to know other students you’ll find any number of things you have in common with them. You’ll also feel good that you’re making real steps toward improving your life. And if you’re prone to brooding, school will keep you far too busy to mull over those “what ifs” in life. However you choose to revamp your life, try approaching it remembering that this is not a dress rehearsal and that you were born to shine. So what changes do you see coming?

Author Emma Bell writes for Coupon Croc. Ready for that new look? Find some saucy and affordable fashions with these ASOS discount codes.


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5 Things You Can Do To Make Wild Animals Hate You (That You Never Knew Were Cruel)

Most people love wild animals, especially when they visit your yard and let you have a flash of the wild from the comfort of your porch.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things that we do can end up hurting animals, even though we have the very best of intentions. Check out these five ways that you are being cruel when you try to be kind.

Feed Them (and Then Stop)

While feeding wild animals might seem like the best thing you can do to keep them happy and healthy, you need to remember that you are taking on a big responsibility. The animals may come to rely on you as a source of food, meaning that if you stop feeding them, they may have nowhere else to turn. This is especially harmful if the increased food supply has led to them having more babies than normal.

Use a Humane Trap (At the Wrong Time of Year)

Humane traps, such as those used in skunk relocation, are certainly a kind way to deal with nuisance animals, but only if you make sure not to use them during breeding seasons. If you time it wrong you could end up trapping a nursing mother. Even if you release her without moving her, the time that she spent in the trap and away from her babies could be a death sentence if they are very young. If you’re going to try skunk relocation, learn how to trap a skunk humanely first.

‘Rescue’ a Baby (When it Was Perfectly Fine)

Baby birds are piteous little creatures, and the sight of one out of its nest tugs at the heartstrings. The problem is, they often don’t need rescuing.

Baby birds leave the nest when they are learning to fly, and their parents continue to feed them while they are on the ground. When you ‘rescue’ the baby, all you are doing is moving it away from where the parents are coming to feed it. If the area is dangerous it is fine to move the bird onto a wall or under a bush, but otherwise, if the bird has feathers leave it alone. Birds that are obviously young can be put back in the nest if you can find it.

Feed Them (The Wrong Food)

Even if you only feed wild animals a small amount very occasionally, you can cause big problems if you feed them the wrong food. For example, bread and milk is definitely not suitable for hedgehogs and can make them quite sick. If you are going to feed wild animals make sure that you are leaving out something that will agree with their digestion.

Own a Cat (and Let it Outside)

Cats are hunters. It isn’t their fault, but it is in their nature. Cats kill countless birds, rodents and other small animals every day and have been implicated in the decline of songbird populations. At the very least, make sure your cat has a bell on its collar to give the animals the chance to get away.

Now that you know the effects of these practices, you can make sure that the effect that you have on your wild visitors is the one that you intended from the start.

Your next step should probably be learning more about skunk relocation or how to keep rabbits out of the garden humanely and safely, now that you know about wild animals. Post written by guest blogger Mike Ishman.


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Three Controversial Uses of GPS Tracking

GPS tracking is an amazing technology that evolves constantly for new uses beyond navigation. The law enforcement community and businesses have begun using GPS tracking in ways that worry privacy experts.

Because GPS tracking allows someone to unobtrusively monitor a vehicle in real time, some question if the practice is ethical.

Monitoring Devices

Nicole Ritchie had one because she drove drunk. Lindsey Loan wore one during rehab and after for her legal problems related to substance abuse. Football star Michael Vick wore a bracelet after he got out of prison for his role in a dog-fighting ring.

The criminal justice system commonly uses GPS monitoring devices to track individuals on probation, parole or house arrest for a variety of crimes. In several states, registered sex offenders are required to wear a tracking bracelet even if they are no longer under state supervision.

These monitoring devices are designed to be intrusive. While someone convicted of a crime may prefer electronic monitoring, it is not a foolproof system. If someone removes the bracelet or if its battery is not charged, the bracelet is useless.

Sex offenders who are no longer under any sort of legal restriction are not likely to be inclined to keep the bracelet on and in working order. This leads some members of the public to question if it is cost-effective or even useful to continuing this monitoring.

Fleet Tracking

What is fleet tracking? When a business has multiple vehicles driven by employees, it often installs GPS tracking on each vehicle. Aside from the obvious benefit of routing vehicles and locating them if stolen, employers are using the trackers to increase worker productivity.

With GPS tracking, businesses can tell how fast employees drive, the number of times the vehicle has stopped, as well as the location. Because employers can purchase systems that broadcast in real time, they immediately know when an employee spends an excessive time at a service call, parked in one location or on lunch break. Employees may not like this tracking, but most employers inform employees. Employees are free to accept the policy or find other employment.

Under Cover Surveillance

Police have conducted surveillance on criminal suspects for years. Previously, most surveillance relied on someone following someone and taking photographs or video. Now, a person can be under surveillance without someone physically following them. Courts have ruled that police don’t need a warrant to place GPS tracking devices on the vehicle of a person of interest.

If someone parks a car and goes inside a building, police or anyone else can place a small tracking device under the bumper or in some other location not highly visible. From this device, they may be able to track the vehicle in real time. On other occasions, police retrieve the device the same way they placed it and then have location data to use. Expect continued court battles over whether this type of surveillance continues to be possible without a warrant.

Any technology has benefits and drawbacks. GPS tracking is no different. We have security of mind knowing we have directions to our next destination. Unfortunately, the same device allows others to identify where we are going and when. A balance of safety and privacy is important in the use of this technology.

Peggy Crippen, a guest blogger, regularly writes about business and technology, including GPS tracking.


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How to Read Your Customer’s Mind

Do you know what your customers are thinking about your company right now? Have you ever checked to see if they are supporters or detractors? Would they recommend you to their friends or business associates? A person on the street?

If you haven’t asked your customers what they think lately (or at least not recently), you are in need of customer survey.

Why subject your customers to meaningless questions like: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your experience with us?” and then follow-up blank box: “Please tell us how we can do better.”

How many of those kinds of questions attract answers, let alone answers helpful for improving your business?

Are you ready for honest feedback that could completely change the direction (and the prosperity) of your company.

Surprise your customers with questions like these. Customize them for you business. Involve as many employees that you can in the process. You might just like what you hear from both them and your customers.

How Do Your Customers Perceive Your Company?

  • What do you say to people if about our company?
  • What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear our company name?

What Do Customers Think of Your Products?

  • When was the last time one of our products delivered something unexpected?
  • If you wanted to buy another product from our company, what would it be?
  • What would you do if one of our products was no longer available?
  • What do you need that we don’t provide?
  • What’s the first thing you do with our products after you purchase them?
  • Which of our products would you like to have but can’t afford?

How Good Are You At Providing Service?

  • What is something we do that you prefer how a competitor does it?
  • When was the last time you were angry over something our company did?
  • If we didn’t respond to your call about a problem, what would be your next action?
  • When was the last time you were surprised by something we did?

Anything Else to Add?

  • What else do you have on your mind?
  • Should we have asked you anything else?
  • What would you think if the head of our company contacted you?
  • What did you think of our survey?

Take every answer to heart. Make sure you take immediate action on the most important ones. If you weren’t prepared for what you heard, tackle one that’s relatively easy. Any visible changes you make will let customers know that their opinions are important.

Amy holds a strong belief in customer oriented business as a means to success. Through her work with a local Albany Credit Union, she advocates customer owned banking in her home area.


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Car Insurance for Business Vehicles — What You Need to Know

When using a vehicle for driving to work, parking outside the office, and returning home after work, it is fairly simple and straightforward to find the proper insurance coverage for your vehicle. Usually, all you will need is general coverage against physical damage and liability, and you’re legally clear to drive.

However, when work takes place in a vehicle – such as meeting with clients at lots of different locations, delivering a product with the vehicle, etc. — that is a much different situation. In these circumstances, it can be much more complicated when it comes to getting auto insurance. But finding the right car insurance for business vehicles can become simpler and easier to understand once you have done some research and are more familiar with the subject.

Distinguishing Commercial Vehicles

Regular car insurance is sometimes known as “SDP cover.” That abbreviation refers to the car’s primary use, at least in the estimation of insurers, as something for “social, domestic, and pleasure” purposes. That can mean shopping or social events, visits to family and friends, or transportation back and forth to a single work location. All of these uses are normal, everyday, common, and they are all expected to fall somewhere under the usual auto insurance policy.

Commercial auto insurance is a separate and specialized type of insurance coverage for a different situation entirely. Maybe a certain person must use their own vehicles for work, and they must purchase insurance to properly regulate and legitimize that use. He or she may have to attend meetings, conduct seminars, or hold conferences far away. And the transportation to get him or her there must be properly insured.

It does not even matter how much the vehicle is used for business-related purposes — occasionally, regularly, or exclusively — just that it is at all. No matter what the degree or frequency of the use happens to be, car insurance for vehicles used for any kind of business purpose is a must have.

Buying Commercial Auto Insurance

Once it is clear that the vehicle you use needs an insurance policy that covers its use at work, the next step might be to look into your options for purchasing a commercial auto policy.

To maintain a good cost for the insurance (low premiums, high discounts), the most important thing to do is to communicate clearly, right away, with your insurer. Just be up-front on how the vehicle will be used. Will it be occasional or regular business use? Will it be total commercial use and not used at all for personal purposes? With this information, you’ll be able to avoid under-insuring (or over-insuring) your car.

There are also some strategies for you to help keep insurance costs down:

Establish a good mileage limit. Do your homework on the area you’ll be covering professionally, and plan the driving carefully.

Choose a safe location to park. This is important, especially with a business vehicle that you won’t be around to protect all the time. The insurance company will want to know how safe the parking area is.

Make sure your vehicle itself is secure. Use an alarm or other device to make sure the vehicle is always safe from intruders, no matter where it might be parked.

Shop around and compare rates from several different commercial auto insurers. It is not uncommon for rates to vary widely between insurers. It may also be helpful to work with an independent insurance broker that is able to find you the lowest rate among several insurance companies. This could save you some time in finding the best rate.

For more details on buying commercial auto insurance, read “A Guide to Business Car Insurance,” an article from insurance advice organization Break Down Cover:

Commercial Auto Insurance & the Law

Almost all states in the US have compulsory vehicle insurance. Vehicle insurance is mandated to make sure that damage from auto accidents will be fully compensated, or as close to fully compensated as possible.

If you have an accident while driving for business (no matter where the damage is or whose fault it was) and you only have a conventional, private insurance policy with you, then the insurer may decide not to cover it. This is because the cost of that insurance doesn’t cover the risk associated with business-related travel.

It is imperative to have the right type of insurance for the type of driving you’re doing, so that you don’t end up having an accident and later finding out you didn’t have the proper kind of coverage.

Another important consideration is that you may be more likely to suffer an accident in the first place when driving commercially. Since your use of the vehicle might increase once you’re using it for work, the risk of an accident, as well as the necessity of insurance, increases exponentially.

All of the work involved in understanding, researching, and buying car insurance for business vehicles may seem like a difficult task. However, it is necessary to make sure and obtain the right kind of coverage for your situation. After doing thorough research and having a good idea of what kind of coverage you need, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision and get the proper coverage for your business vehicle.

Jim Wright is a freelance writer for Zonar.  Zonar provides fleet management software for fleet management companies.

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