Common Issues with Employees and How to Solve Them

To run a business efficiently, most companies, both small and large, will have several employees to support their processes and ensure that the quality of their services is high. However, managing employees can be difficult, and business owners may find that they experience a range of problems when it comes to ensuring employee happiness and motivation, which are vital to the success of your business.

1.   Personal Injury Claims

If your business does not have a sufficient health and safety policy in place to support your employees, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a personal injury claim made against you. Common workplace injuries that occur range from slip and falls caused by hazards such as wet floors and loose wires, as well as office-related injuries such as repetitive stress injuries like carpel tunnel syndrome. If a personal injury claim is made by your employee against you, Aston Knight Solicitors has a history of helping both employees and employers to negotiate the right solution for them, whether that be in terms of compensation, or defending themselves in court. If you want to prevent personal injuries in the workplace, you should create a strict health and safety policy and training regime for every staff member, which you should refresh on a regular basis and which should include elements such as the correct way to lift heavy objects.

2.   Motivation Issues

However, for many employees, their issues are less physical, but, as a business owner, you should be no less aware of these. With a third of employees feeling unmotivated, motivation issues in the workplace can occur for a variety of reasons, including a lack of praise or unsuitability for the job, as well as a lack of promotion. To ensure that you are able to motivate your employees at all times, you should set up rewards for hard work, such as seasonal events like summer barbecues or Christmas dinners, to celebrate your employee’s achievements throughout the year. You should also consider pay rises and promotions in order to show employees that they are valued. You could also set up prize schemes for those employees with the best stats, such as holidays and days out.  

3.   Skills Gaps

One of the major problems for managers dealing with employees is the skill gap, with many employers struggling to find employees who suit the needs of their company. However, even if you are unable to find employees on job boards that match your requirements, it is possible to combat the skills gap easily. To do this, you should create training schemes for your employees on a regular basis, as well as invest in exterior training courses or qualifications, which could boost your employee’s skills and strengthen their weaknesses. You could also consider investing in personal development by giving employees an afternoon off regularly to focus on improving skills that they are interested in, which they can then reinvest into your business.

4.   Human Resource Problems

Along with the skills gap, human resource issues are also becoming problematic, with many businesses unable to find the amount of staff that they need for certain tasks. To find a solution to this, you should consider out-sourcing employees to find the talent or amount of employees you need for a certain project, especially if they are only needed on a temporary basis.

Customer Retention: Why brand image is key

In today’s competitive market, public perception of your brand is more important than ever before. In order to run your business successfully, you need to think about how you can leave a lasting impression on your customer base. Dimensions, who offer a range of corporate wear for business, are here to take a look at what businesses across all sectors can do to boost their brand image and improve customer retention rates. 

Make your business stand out 

It’s essential that you take the time to consider the right uniforms for your business. You need to ensure that your employees are identifiable to customers and this can only be achieved by designing a uniform that stands out; while catering to each type of individual that works for you (considering religions etc). By having a uniform rather than just a generic dress code, you will spend less time monitoring what employees are wearing on a daily basis which otherwise could become extremely costly. As well as this, uniforms represent your business – so you must design them in the correct way and prioritise employee comfort to ensure you receive the best delivery from them. 

You should also invest in employee training to ensure that your staff are able to deliver great results for your customers. This should cover ways that they interact with consumers of all kind (race, religion, disability) and offer the most efficient service possible to show that you’re a reputable brand. On top of this training, you should also make your staff aware of any new products or services that you begin to offer so that they can give customers all of the information that they require. Although your workers are an integral part to making your business run smoothly; there are other options available too. Research has suggested that customers will spend up to 13 minutes in a store — so it’s important that you deliver an exceptional service. Queues are notoriously long here in the UK and can be the biggest contributing factor to a customer’s walk-out. To combat this, why not look at queue management software and point of sales service?

Why the customer experience is so important 

According to research, over 70% of UK shoppers would rate a good in-store experience as more important than the product. Although you should also be prioritising the quality of your products (to reduce returns and negative reviews), you should be constantly reviewing your current customer service methods and continually think of ways that you can improve the overall service. However, it’s important that businesses don’t become blinded with their current delivery of customer service. According to one study, 80% of businesses already believe that they deliver a superior service to their consumers – but only 8% of shoppers actually agree with this statement. 

It’s imperative that your brand makes a positive first impression, after all, 50% of customers reported that they were likely to repeat their custom if the service was good during their initial purchase. Not only that, but if you’re looking to increase your consumer acquisition rates – this is a good avenue to go down. 84% of people make a purchase because of a referral; so if your first impression is worthwhile, it could lead to additional business.

Keep in mind that brand image and customer retention go hand in hand, so you need to get it right.

Advice for Managing Staff for New Entrepreneurs

When you are a new entrepreneur, you will spend a huge amount of time focusing on the logistics of your operation. But, one of the most overlooked areas and one which many new business owners struggle with is managing a team of workers. People are complex and issues are bound to arise, so you need to know how to look after your team and keep everyone happy, engaged and pulling in the same direction. This is a skill that is developed over time, but here are a few tips that should help you avoid any early issues and keep your employees motivated.

  • Give Regular Feedback

It is important that you are providing regular feedback so that staff know how they are performing and if there are any areas in which they need to improve. When employees do not get any feedback, it can make them feel under-appreciated and unsure as to whether or not they are doing well. Additionally, giving positive feedback can do wonders for morale and creating positive working relationships.

  • Have an Open-Door Policy

Leading on from this, good communication is crucial to success in all areas of business. Having an open-door policy can break down barriers and help to create a team-based mentality as well as encourage staff to come to you with problems, questions and ideas. A great leader is one that listens and learns from those around them.

  • Team-Building

Team-building is important for creating positive working relationships, improving productivity and bringing the team closer together. Team-building events and activities can be worthwhile, but you will often find that the best results come from the informal, relaxed social events such as lunches or after-work drinks where people can relax.

  • Employee Engagement Software

Employee engagement software from specialists like Inpulse is a smart investment, because it can make it much easier to manage a team of workers. Software systems like this give a voice to your staff members, as they allow them to voice their views on a wide range of matters. And, this will then give you the chance to make informed decisions that can benefit the company and your workers.

  • Manage Conflict

It is unfortunate, but conflict does arise in the workplace, and this is something that every business owner will encounter at one point. It is essential that these issues are managed immediately and not ignored, because this can create much larger issues for the company as a whole. Tackle the issues head-on with the help of HR to find resolutions and keep the ship steady.

  • Be Flexible

In today’s day and age, employees expect some flexibility when it comes to work, so you should not enforce a 9-5 schedule. Instead, give your staff some flexibility and the option to work remotely from time-time time. This can raise morale, show that you trust your staff and tell them that you recognise that they have a life and other responsibilities.

These tips should help a new business owner manage their team effectively and start to develop good leadership skills, which can help their company thrive.

The top 5 must-read books for entrepreneurs

If you’re just starting out in the world of business, it’s important to understand that not every day is the same – some days you’ll be bursting with innovative ideas and the next you could find yourself lacking inspiration. Reading is a great way to overcome these problems; by immersing yourself in the words of other business owners, you can gain valuable knowledge and insight. Where The Trade Buys, who supply casebound books, take a look at the top five must-read books for entrepreneurs in 2019: 

  1. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

If you need to learn from someone who describes himself as his own boss, this book penned by Chris Guillebeau will do the job. The full title of this read is actually: The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better To Live More — so if you fancy living by those rebellious rules and make money at the same time, pick up this book on your next trip to the store.

Guillebeau doesn’t like to follow convention, or what we’re expected to do to please our parents. He advises that you no longer need to work nine-to-five to pay your mortgage, send your kids to school and book that trip abroad. You can set up and set sail on your own terms! 

In this read, you’ll also discover some key insights from big players in business who started their company with $100 or less. Who knows, you might feature in v2 of this book!

  1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Although you shouldn’t mirror your success to another entrepreneur, this read is perfect to understand how Ben Horowitz built his fortune from the ground up. You’ll learn more about his time co-founding the capital firm Andreesen Horowitz and running it, as well as selling, buying, managing and investing in other technology firms around the world.

From this read, you’ll receive practical advice and tips on a range of different corporate issues. This includes firing executives, putting your company on the market, poaching staff as well as clearing any misinterpretation from your staff members. Once you’ve read this one, you’ll be excited to hear that his second book What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture will be released in October 2019.

  1. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

Although this book was released in 2001, the stories within it will be inspiring for all of time. Written by Jessica Livingston, the book is a collection of interviews with famous technology moguls which poses questions about their early entrepreneurial years and the challenges they faced.

We know you’re wondering which icons are featured in this read, and we don’t mind telling you! Expect to hear the tales of Steve Wozniak from Apple, Caterina Fake from Flickr, Mitch Kapor from Lotus, Max Levchin from PayPal and Sabeer Bhatia from Hotmail. Your mind will be blown away by their approach to business — from fleshing out an idea with their friends, capturing investors and building a multi-million-pound company.

  1. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Daniel Lyons

You’ve probably heard of this one, but never got the chance to give it a read. The Los Angeles Times actually stated that this read was “the best book on the Silicon Valley”. Although it was released back in 2016, it’s just as relevant to its audience today and is heavily entertaining.

You might not learn a lot about how to launch a start-up, but it does cover the ups and downs of the authors work life which is incredibly interesting. Although we don’t give you any spoilers, on one Friday morning, he received a call from his boss who told him that his job no longer existed — this just shows the everchanging landscape of the corporate world and how you need to keep up with the times!

  1. Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

If you enjoy learning from the top dogs in business, this book is actually penned by a PayPal co-founder who was also an early Facebook investor, Peter Thiel, with the help of COO Blake Masters. The book is a condensed and updated version of online notes taken by Masters for the CS183 class on startups taught by Thiel at Stanford University. 

At its core, the book is all about optimism for the future and how innovation is key. It also discusses how we “live in an age of technological stagnations, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice” and that progression is key to success. Although the book has sold 2.5 million worldwide since its release in 2012, the original notes taken by Blake are available on his website.

The Influence of AI on the World of iGaming

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Unless you believe that developing AI is a sure way of bringing the events from Terminator to life, future application of artificial intelligence can be a very interesting thing. One industry that stands to gain a lot from introducing aspects of AI is iGaming. Companies are not the only one that will benefit from it, but players as well, both directly through the use of AI and indirectly from having a better experience during playing. AI has been a buzz word that has caused a lot of controversy in the last decade, but so far, we haven’t seen its impact in any significant way. Some indicators say that it may happen in the next year or two.

AI in gaming

Use of AI in gaming isn’t a new thing. Older folks remember Garry Kasparov’s chess battles against a series of IBM’s computers. First, it was Deep Thought in 1989. Kasparov wiped the floor with it. The next iteration was called Deep Blue in 1996. Kasparov won again 4 – 2 but became the first chess world champion who lost a game to a computer in tournament settings. The next year saw a rematch and the unthinkable happened. Gary Kasparov, one of the best chess players in history, lost a match 2.5 – 3.5 to a bunch of electronic circuits and a piece of cleverly written code. Of course, Kasparov blamed his loss on IBM cheating.

Fast forward 20 years later and it is not even a competition anymore. The current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, has an Elo rating of 2845. The most powerful chess computer program Stockfish 9 has a rating of 3438. Translated into layman terms, it means that in a hundred matches, Carlsen wouldn’t win a single one. That is how far we have come.

Photo by Vladislav Skripchenko on Unsplash

Creating an Environment for Responsible iGaming

One of the biggest issues some people have with the iGaming industry is that it causes addiction and allows players to continue playing even when in well over their heads. AI can greatly help to curb that trend, by introducing warnings that could prevent addictive behavior and even force players to play responsibly. By analyzing game patterns, it can be easy to recognize players who may develop an addiction and introduce measures to prevent them from it. It can be quite easy to lose track of both time and money while playing your favorite online slot games, but with an AI keeping a watchful eye on you, bad consequences can be avoided.

Fraud Prevention

One of the biggest concerns of online iGaming companies is fraud prevention and AI can do wonders in preventing people from cheating. Ironically, the best tool these cheaters have is AI, so the industry is fighting fire with fire, in a sense. Cheating in modern online casinos is all about patterns and there is no better and faster way of detecting hidden patterns than AI. AI-powered fraud prevention tools can save a lot of money and it is easy to see why more and more companies are using them. Of course, even more, important is preserving their reputation. Nobody wants to play in an online casino that has allowed cheaters to run free, which is a reasonable reaction.

Photo by Laurens Derks on Unsplash

Data Processing

Data processing is one of the most boring AI applications, but also one of the most powerful ones. It is also an area where we are seeing a massive use of artificial intelligence and machine learning today. Analyzing terabytes of data is a task no human being can accomplish in any reasonable time frame. AI, backed by a powerful computer, can do it in an afternoon, if not faster. By extrapolating the results, AI can make meaningful suggestions on playing styles and create useful feedback to both companies and players.

iGaming has always been at the forefront of technological advancement  and the industry is keen on developing and applying any new solutions that benefit it. AI is no exception and many companies have already incorporated it in some form. There is no reason to doubt that iGaming industry leaders will continue to do so in the future, benefiting both themselves and their players. Well, at least until Skynet takes over.

5 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting Business Finance

For many small and medium businesses, business finance can be their ticket to success. Additional finance can solve cash flow problems and may be used to enable growth.

There’s just one problem: business loans can be hard to secure, especially from banks. 

So if you need business finance, it’s a good idea to prepare your application in advance. To get you started, here are five ways to improve your chances of being approved for Business Finance. 

1. Build Your Credit Score

Most finance providers will take a look at both your personal and business credit score and history when reviewing your loan application. This means that if you’re planning on applying for a business loan in the future, you should start building your credit score now

Improve your credit score by paying bills on time and clearing as much old debt as possible. Being smart with a credit card, or even better a business credit card, can also bump up your credit score — make one-off purchases and pay your bill in full at the end of each month. 

2. Create a Thorough Business Plan

Finance providers will want to see that you have a plan in place for managing finances and initiating growth before providing finance, so before applying for financial support, you should have a thorough business plan

A business plan will give you a clearer idea of how to progress and will prove to lenders and finance providers that you have long-term plans and goals for your business. It also shows that you’ve considered how you will manage your funds and use it to improve your financial situation. 

Any finance provider that considers supporting your business, will first check that you’re worth investing in and that you’re a low-risk lendee. Proving that you can think ahead and manage your finances shows that you’re a good candidate for a loan or finance. 

3. Consider Alternative Finance

Banks can have low approval rates when it comes to business loans. If you don’t have the best credit rating or you haven’t been established for very long, it’s unlikely that you’ll be approved for a bank business loan. 

However, there are other business finance options you can consider. Alternative finance providers offer business finance with higher approval rates. Many alternative business finance providers will also consider your application based on more than just your credit score. They’ll take into account your business’ overall performance. 

4. Prepare the Right Documentation

Regardless of the finance provider you apply for a loan or finance from, they will usually ask you for certain documents before considering your application, and it’s worth having these ready before you apply. 

Make sure you have your business plan written up, your personal and business credit report, and any tax returns and bank statements. You may also need a list of your current and aged debtors and creditors. Most business finance providers will outline what documents you need on their website, so you can prepare these in advance. 

5. Only Apply for What You Can Afford

Finance providers have worked with hundreds of businesses, so they have a pretty good idea of how much finance businesses need to achieve their goals. If a finance provider suspects you might struggle with the repayment of a loan, they’ll reject your application. 

To give yourself the best chance of being granted a loan or finance, first think about what you can afford each month. Consider how much you need, what you’ll do with the funds and how long you want to spend repaying the loan. 

A longer loan repayment period can mean more affordable monthly instalments, which can give you the freedom to borrow more. If you’d rather spend less time repaying the loan, you’ll have to make larger monthly repayments. In this case, to keep costs down, you might need to consider borrowing less.

Beyond control: 4 external factors that can impact your business

As we all know, most boardrooms want immediate action when a downturn in business performance occurs. Unfortunately, it’s generally not quite as simple as that.

Markets are volatile things, particularly nowadays, and it means pinpointing these downturns can be more difficult than ever before.

This is one of the reasons why accounting companies like 3 Wise Bears are so popular nowadays. By keeping on top of your accounts, you can at least spot holes a lot easier – and make things like a PESTLE analysis simpler.

For the purposes of today we are going to focus on external factors when it comes to running your business. Let’s now take a look at four issues that often slip by the net when it comes to scrutinizing performance.

The weather

It might be something of a headline-grabber, but you might be surprised at just how much the weather can impact the performance of a business.

For example, if a winter is particularly warm, a ski company might struggle much more than in previous years. Or, if there was a particularly cloudy and rainy summer, a window blinds company might have similar difficulties.

To some, this might seem like the easy excuse, but there’s no doubt that some businesses are affected by the weather much more than others.

The seasonality

In some ways, this is similar to above. However, all businesses have waves of seasonality, and it’s worth looking at this as a priority before you dig any deeper into your company’s performance.

To coin an example, for a lot of brands December is a particularly slow month. This is because people are off work, and generally having downtime. When one considers the festivities, buying products tends to be at the back of their mind (at least after the 25th December).

The political factors

Like it or not, politics can play a part as well. We’re not going to dive too deep into politics, but suffice to say certain legislation is going to impact some businesses more than others.

If we were to coin a real-life example, it could be with high-interest loans in the UK. Legislation was passed which meant that companies offering such a service were under much tighter regulations – and this had severe effects on the way they operated.

The economy

Finally, let’s leave one of the biggest macro factors until the very end. Granted, the economy is going to vary between nations, but as a whole it would be fair to say that it is struggling at the moment .

For most companies, the repercussions are obvious. Customers just aren’t willing to spend the money that they once were – and they are a lot more conscious about price than they may have been in the past.

It can mean that companies offering more of a budget service can start to grab market share, while it can also mean that markets start to shrink. Either way, this is an external factor which is really difficult to affect.

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