SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

What Are Advantages & Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office Space?

by Shari Parsons Miller

An open-plan office space layout has pros and cons both for a firm’s personnel and its bottom line. In an open-plan work environment, there are no distinct rooms or fully enclosed spaces. Instead, workstations are positioned together -- sometimes separated by short screens or panels -- within one exposed floor plan. The openness may improve communication and collaboration among your workers, but it also may reduce concentration and productivity.

Staff Advantages
A lack of walls or other physical barriers in open-plan office spaces makes it easier for employees to interact with each other on a regular basis. The constant intermingling not only generates a sense of camaraderie among personnel, it also enhances the flow of information and teamwork. Colleagues can turn to each other for advice or assistance without having to knock on doors or schedule a formal meeting. Interactions in an open-plan office space generally are more frequent and informal than in closed environments where everyone has a separate office space.

Business Advantages
The increased collaboration resulting from an open-plan work space can lead to business innovation and advancement. At the same time, an open-plan layout can benefit the business economically by reducing costs tied to construction, utilities and office equipment. For example, fewer walls mean less time and materials required to create the office space. Having a single work space also may reduce heating/cooling and electricity expenses thanks to improved flow of air and light. Businesses can save on equipment investment as well, since communal spaces promote shared use of resources, such as printers, copiers and staplers. An open-plan space also provides greater flexibility to accommodate evolving personnel needs.

Staff Disadvantages
On the downside, the high level of everyday interaction that takes place in an undivided work space may lead to noise and distractions that make it difficult for employees to focus on their work and conduct business. Lack of privacy is another potential problem with open-plan office spaces, where computer screens are easily visible by those walking by and telephone conversations are likely to be overheard. Open-plan layouts also facilitate the spread of disease, so if a colleague comes to work with a cold, it can affect the health of the entire staff.

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The Complete Guide To Human Resources For Small Business

by Rob Wormley in People Management

Human resources is probably one of the more complicated aspects of running a small business. The complexities of working with people don’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. Yet HR is incredibly important; employee salaries and benefits make up a huge chunk of your operating expenses.

Your employees are one of your greatest assets. You must protect and manage that asset.

This blog post will teach you everything you need to know about human resources.

What Is Human Resource Management?

Human Resource Management (HRM) deals with your employees, whether in regards to recruitment, management, or other forms of direction and assistance. HR will often be in charge of (among other things):

  • Hiring
  • Performance management and reviews
  • Employee development, motivation, and training
  • Safety and wellness
  • Benefits
  • Communication between employees and/or management

HR carries a big responsibility. They have a huge effect on the culture and environment in your workplace, setting the tone for how employees communicate, settle disputes, and work with each other. Some small businesses prefer to outsource a large component of human resources, but there is no getting around human resources completely.

Human Resources: The Three Basics
HR is rife with laws and regulations, which is part of why small businesses often put off dealing with it. Generally, for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, there are three basic things you must implement to cover the bases, according to HR expert Jack Hayhow.

1. Employee Files
You must keep three specific files for each employee in your business. These files are:

  • I-9 File: This form is used by the U.S. Government to identify and verify that your employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Keep all of your employee I-9 files together, in one file, instead of under individual employee names.
  • Employee General File: This is a file you create for your own benefit. It contains any documentation associated with that employee that you’ve collected during their time with you. This includes resumes, reviews, disciplinary action, training verification, evaluations, W-4 forms, payroll details, and so on. You’ll use this file often.
  • Employee Medical File: These files will contain notes from doctors, disability information, and any medical information that you have on an employee. Because you are dealing with medical information, you must protect and secure these files from others. That is why these are separate from general files. Be sure to keep them in a locked and secure place.

2. Employee Handbook

Having an employee handbook is a must. Your handbook serves two important purposes: letting your employees know what you expect of them, and protecting your business in case there is a dispute.

An employee handbook can be as simple or as complex as you want, but there are some general approaches, depending upon the nature of your business, that you need to consider. According to the Small Business Administration, your handbook might include:

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7 Steps to Start Your First Content-Marketing Campaign

You've heard about all the amazing benefits of content marketing. You want to jump in. But . . . how? Here's how.

Content Marketing

 

Jayson DeMers

Founder and CEO, AudienceBloom

By now, you've heard about all the amazing benefits of content marketing. You know that with the right strategy, you can earn more traffic, build a better reputation and see compound growth in both areas over time without greatly increasing your budget.

In fact, content marketing is truly one of the most cost-efficient marketing strategies around, but its rewards are proportional to the quality of your strategy and execution. That's why more experienced writers and marketing agencies charge more, and why long-running strategies perform better.

So, what if you have no experience with content marketing at all? It would seem that someone totally unfamiliar with this strategy stands no chance of success at all. But, at the same time, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

The truth is, you can enter the content-marketing game with no experience. You might not live up to your full potential right off the bat, but if you follow the approach described below, you'll be publishing with the best of them in no time. Here's how:

1. Get a briefer.

Your first job is to get a briefer on what content marketing involves. Yes, as you're reading this, you probably have a grasp of the basic concept, but you need to dig deeper into the details. Familiarize yourself with the beginning, middle and end of a piece of content's life, how you're going to measure your results and your ROI and the process you'll use to build your empire.

Also, get a high-level perspective on the strategy before you start mastering those details -- you'll be glad you did. If you need help getting started, I presented a webinar about a year ago on this subjectt, which will teach you the basics of content marketing and how those basics relate to search engines.

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Top Sales Training Best Practices Successful Managers Follow

Sales training is one of the most important investments most companies make, because it allows them to close the gap between current performance and potential performance. Nevertheless, around 80 percent of respondents to a recent study by the Rain Group Center rated their own training as being between average and poor.

Here, we take a look at some of the best sales training practices the most successful managers follow.

Use of Simulation or Role-Playing

Many organizations still utilize classroom-based, instructor-led training, which can be incredibly effective. However,Sales Training it is important to balance it with practical learning as well.

Without applying learned information quickly, most expenditure on corporate training is wasted, because unfortunately people forget new information extremely quickly. Precisely how much knowledge is lost - and how quickly - is difficult to say, as studies vary significantly, but most agree that the majority of information is lost within a week.

"Role-playing [also] provides a safe environment to encounter [new] scenarios for the first time, which builds confidence in team members that can help them in their day-to-day roles," explains John Buelow, executive vice president of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

Sales Coaching and Reinforcement

Successful sales training requires newly acquired sales skills to be reinforced regularly, or else staff revert to old habits, and coaching is one of the best solutions. For this reason, coaching is often one of the most important things for a sales manager to learn and is a key component of most sales management training programs.

Yet, many sales managers continue to neglect their coaching responsibilities. Indeed, the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Best Practices Study revealed that just 32 percent of sales managers are currently spending sufficient time on coaching. In companies performing to a world-class standard, however, this figure rises to 88 percent.

A structured coaching program will allow leaders to work closely with staff to highlight issues, set targets and ensure new skills are put into practice. Meanwhile, reinforcement literature should also be made available. According to Aberdeen Group, 20 percent more reps achieve quota when post-training reinforcement is implemented.

Technology and Mobile-Friendliness

Finally, the most successful managers know that technology can be utilized to significantly improve both the quality of training and its results. In truth, technology can be deployed in an almost limitless number of ways, ranging from the use of virtual instructors in classroom settings, to bite-size video content.

One growing technology trend in corporate training has been the gamification of the learning process and eLearning Industry report that gamification features, such as the ability to progress to different levels, choose a difficulty setting, etc. can lead to a nine percent increase in retention rates. Meanwhile, adult learners who participated in gamified e-learning experiences scored 14 percent higher in skills-based knowledge assessments.

Furthermore, technology can be used to make learning a mobile experience. By ensuring that learning materials are available to access and use on mobile devices, sales skills can be improved even while outside the workplace, learning can become part of staff members' daily routines, and information can be reinforced on the go.

Conclusion

When it comes to delivering high-quality sales training, or sales management training, it is not just the quality of the information that matters, but the quality of delivery and follow-up. In particular, it is important to give staff the opportunity to put new information into practice quickly, to reinforce and personalize learning through coaching, and to make use of technology to improve all aspects of your training program.

Author Bio:

Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specializes in providing exceptional sales coaching and helps organisations develop business strategies to achieve sales success. Monika enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to provide better sales and service training.

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Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

By: Rebecca Shipley 

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by choosing and brand conceptsregistering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Logo
Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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