company culture

6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture

company culture

A great company culture can make a world of difference when it comes to hiring and retaining quality team members. If you’re wondering how to improve your company culture, try the following simple, easy-to-implement tips.

Focus on team building

Employees who work well together do wonders for a company. Employees who haven’t had the chance to bond? Not so much.

Consider hosting regular events during which employees can socialize and get to know each other. This doesn’t have to mean long nights out — try bowling or paintball instead, or other activities that align with your company’s values. Your employees will appreciate having something fun to do, and they’ll be able to spend quality time with their co-workers in a less restrictive environment than the office. Once they feel they can trust each other, employees will be much more likely to share creative ideas — ultimately benefiting the company.

Reward employees

company culture reward

If an employee does a good job, they should be rewarded for it. It’s easy to single employees out when they’ve made a mistake, but this will cause resentment and low morale. Rewarding employees for their hard work or initiative will encourage them to keep working hard. That can also encourage their co-workers, who will see these rewards and strive for excellence.

As a bonus, your turnover rates will likely decrease, as employees who feel like they’re appreciated tend to stay with the company for longer.

Offer activities during lunch breaks

company culture dance

Don’t encourage your employees to just eat sandwiches at their desks during their lunch hour. Instead, you can offer a little extra to help boost morale, energy and afternoon productivity.

For example, by hosting a fitness class during lunch hour, employees can get their daily exercise during office hours instead of having to squeeze in an hour at the gym after work? You could also encourage a company book club to arrange a weekly get together. Or schedule regular lunch and learn sessions that can feature guest speakers and fun sessions that your employees will find particularly interesting.

Use quality furniture to create unique office zones and meeting spaces

If you’re serious about improving your company’s culture, you might like to – at least partly – move away from the traditional cubicles that are ever-present in offices. Instead, create interesting and comfortable meeting spaces by using furniture that might already be at hand. Perhaps your employees would appreciate collaboration spaces with comfy chairs. Or maybe they’d prefer having a chill-out zone to rest during a break. You know your employees, so work with their personalities and give them access to an environment they’ll enjoy.

Allow employees to work remotely

company culture remote work

Even if it’s not possible every day of the week, giving employees the occasional opportunity to work remotely will likely feel like a serious perk to many. Having time away from the office, even if it’s just one day a week or month, will help to refresh and motivate them. Employees may also be able to focus on a special project without distractions from the workplace. If you can manage it, give remote working a test run.

Encourage taking breaks

Employees will be much more productive if they’re allowed to take regular breaks, and they’ll feel much more positive about their place of employment, too. To this end, be generous about breaks. You don’t have to let your employees run wild – but encourage them not to feel uncomfortable about stepping away from their desks for a short while. This will help both your employees and the company in the long run.

Improving the culture of your company is one of the most important things to consider when thinking about employee productivity and retention. Boost your company culture and not only will you have happier and more productive employees, but you’ll also keep them around longer.

how to listen to podcasts

How to listen to podcasts

how to listen to podcasts

Podcasts are an undeniable trend seeing rapid growth in the business world. Over 42 million people listen to these online shows every week in the United States, and with a 10 to 20 per cent increase in listeners every year, that number is set to skyrocket. Couple that with the over 550,000 podcast options available and you’ve got an incredibly massive ecosystem.

So what exactly is a podcast and how can you start listening?

Think of a podcast as an online radio show that has episodes, hosts, guests and even seasons. Many of these podcasts are highly produced and researched, focusing on virtually any topic you could possibly imagine. From professional development, finance, entrepreneur stories and startup strategies all the way to cars, cooking, comedy and murder mysteries — you name it, there’s a podcast.

There are plenty of ways for you to easily listen to podcasts — all available on any smartphone, tablet or computer (and even some smartwatches) with Internet access. All you need is to open up your podcast app, search for the program name and press play. What’s more, the shows are free — and with a little preparation, you can download your favorite episodes to listen offline when data service isn’t available, such as in airplanes, subways and remote locations.

Here are some easy podcast apps to get started.

Apple Podcasts

For iPhone and iPad users, this is one of the easiest ways to get listening to podcasts. Simply use the pre-installed “Podcasts” app on your device to search for any program. Subscribe to your favorite shows and automatically download episodes as they’re released so you’ve always got the latest program at hand.

Price: Free

Google Play Music

For Android users, this streaming music app also doubles for listening to podcasts. This straightforward app has no fancy bells and whistles like some of the paid options on the market, but you can also use the desktop version to easily listen from your computer.

Price: Free on Android

Spotify

This famous music streaming app has added podcasts to the mix, referring to them simply as “Shows” in the navigation menu. Unlike other podcast services, Spotify curates their list — so you won’t find everything under the sun, but you will get a great list of hand-selected programs. You can also quickly flip between podcasts and your music selections, which is handy if you’re prone to channel-changing. Taking it a step further, Spotify has also added short video shows to the mix, which shows another potential level up in the podcast world.

Price: Free version available or subscribe to Premium for $10/month.

Pocket Casts

If you’re serious about podcast listening, the investment in Pocket Casts could be well worth the minimal price tag. Pocket Casts kicks your listening up a big notch, allowing you to set custom skip and rewind intervals to avoid advertising or easily relisten to parts of the show. You can also make use of their voice boosting and silence trimming feature which will help when you’re listening in a noisy environment (aka coffee shops, public transit or a busy office). And by syncing across all your devices, the listening experience on Pocket Casts is hard to beat.

Price: Free 14 day trial. If you choose to subscribe, it’s a $9 one-time fee.

Overcast (for Apple iOS)

Available on the Apple iOS platform only, Overcast provides some similar features as Pocket Casts — but it’s free! With recent improvements in its latest version release, there’s not much holding it back as a top contender to be Apple users’ number one choice.

Price: Free

Podcast Addict (for Android)

Another option for Android users, Podcast Addict proclaims that it is “the #1 Podcast App on Android with 8+M downloads, 400K reviews, 1 Billion episodes downloaded and an average rating of 4.6/5.” Pretty impressive in such a competitive market, this app offers multiple features while also managing podcasts, radio and audiobooks, plus other formats like Live stream, YouTube, Twitch, SoundCloud channels and RSS News feeds.

Price: Free, and you can purchase the “Donate” version for $4.29 to support the developer.

 

Ready to start listening? Check out our list of fantastic business-related podcasts featuring shows like Outside In, Business Wars, BizChix and Start With Why. There’s a little something for every business owner and entrepreneur looking for inspiring shows to help grow their business strategy.

podcast business hit list

 

Up Next: 11 online tools for creative entrepreneurs.

How to check your business credit report

Your credit rating is a useful tool to help lenders evaluate your financial health. Your score is a reflection of your company’s ability to make payments on time — an important point on any lender’s checklist.

Get these quick answers to common credit report questions:

Where can I obtain my credit report?

There are many options to obtain your credit report including common providers like Equifax, Experian and Dun & Bradstreet. For personal credit reports, you can also look to sites like Credit Karma. Check around and find the right option for you.

Pull a credit report for both your business and yourself, and do this on a regular basis. Sometimes these reports also have incorrect information, and it’s important to be aware of mistakes so you can fix them.

What’s on the credit report?

Your credit score is largely based on public data and information that vendors and other lenders have reported. Each credit bureau has its own rating system, with some common examples below:

  • Dun & Bradstreet: PAYDEX Score: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 80+)
  • Experian: Credit Ranking Intelliscore: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 76+)
  • Equifax: Business Payment Index: 0 – 100 (Good Score is 90+)

You might also discover a multitude of items within your credit report that show signs of identity theft, which has become a modern reality. If someone is using your identity, there are going to be breadcrumbs and trails. Don’t be overly worried, but be aware that it is a possibility.

How often should I pull my credit report?

As for frequency, pull your reports yearly. It doesn’t cost a lot to obtain your own credit report (some may even be free), and the time it takes will be well worth it to make sure the information is accurate.

How to become lender friendly

Go beyond your credit rating and learn five more ways to become “lender friendly” and improve cash flow.

Access the complete eBook.


Will this impact my credit rating?

It’s a common misconception that requesting your own credit report could damage your credit rating. If you’re just obtaining the report and just looking at results, this will not have a negative impact. However, if too many banks or lenders request your report at the same time, that may have a negative impact, since it could signal that you’re shopping less strategically for financing. (See section 3 for more details.)

What’s a D-U-N-S Number and why should I request one?

Of note, it is worthwhile to request a D-U-N-S Number with Dun & Bradstreet. The D-U-N-S Number allows you to proactively add your most current information to Dun & Bradstreet’s records. It is used by lenders to predict if you are a reliable and financially stable company, and is an easier method for them to find your credit information.

Checking your credit rating will help you prepare for future funding and get a head start on the lending process.

For five more expert tips to improve your access to timely business funding, view the helpful eBook resource, “How to Become Lender Friendly.”

Why you should perform a UCC or PPSA search ASAP

One of the most fatal financing problems is out-of-date or inaccurate “security registrations” filed against your business. Security registrations are filed by lenders or creditors when you buy or borrow to help guarantee you make your payments, often using personal property as collateral. These are common in the world of lending, and once your debt is paid off the record is discharged. But that isn’t always the case…

When these security registration records are incorrect, they can stop you from being able to secure future financing. Other lenders will shy away from providing you further financing since they won’t be able to claim the proper security interest against your assets.

Example security registration

Let’s say you purchased a printer from an office supply company a few years ago, making regular payments until the full price is paid off. The vendor (aka the lender) filed a security registration against your company to act as security — a loan for the printer until it’s fully paid.

After agreeing to your side of the bargain, you paid the printer off last year, which should mean the security registration is discharged. But after doing a search, you see that it’s still on your record and the vendor didn’t make the proper updates.

Now you’ll need to go back to your supplier and ask that they discharge the registration. Their admin is backlogged, and they say it could take days or weeks to fulfill the request.

How do you search for security registrations?

In the USA, a basic UCC search should be performed, while in Canada, companies should perform a PPSA search (or RDPRM in Quebec).

These searches, if done in the proper jurisdiction, will tell you if a third party is claiming a security interest in any property of your company (other than real estate).

 

How to become lender friendly

Follow all six steps to becoming “lender friendly” and get prepared to access funding from any lender.

Access the complete eBook.


What if I uncover incorrect security registrations?

Sometimes the security registration records aren’t clean. Even if you think there are no security registrations filed against your company, it’s worth double-checking the official records. Some common problems include:

  • Incorrect filings
  • Your debt was paid off, but the filing was not discharged
  • It shows a wider scope of security than you agreed upon was registered
  • A registration was filed against your company without your knowledge

It’s up to you to correct your security registration files by contacting prior lenders who can discharge the registrations. Do this well in advance of requesting new financing, as the process could take longer than expected. You may not be able to get new financing until the records are corrected.

How often should I do a search (& how much does it cost)?

Very few companies will conduct UCC or PPSA searches on a regular basis. Don’t be in the dark — even if you’re not looking for financing, it’s good practice to do this at least once a year, and it costs you nothing to perform the search.

Should every company do a UCC or PPSA search?

For new companies or start-ups, there might not yet be anything registered and outstanding. But if you’re an established business and have previously leased equipment or borrowed money or even rented premises in the past, there’s a higher chance that a security registration has been filed.

Do my personal records count?

Make sure you perform these searches for both your company AND yourself personally, as lenders may also look at your personal records. Luckily, in most jurisdictions these searches are easy to perform online through a service provider.

By checking on your records and following these steps, you’ll be able to mitigate delays in future funding and maintain your financial health.

For five more expert tips to improve your access to timely business funding, view the helpful eBook resource, “How to Become Lender Friendly.”

Email marketing illustration

4 Steps to Launch Your Company’s New Email Marketing Program

Part 1 of the “Do-it-Right Email Marketing” series.

email marketing program

Do you have customers who might benefit from hearing from you more often? Inactive customers you’d love to try to re-engage? Prospects who ignore your phone calls? If so, it’s probably time to launch a new email marketing program.

According to the Email Statistics Report from The Radicati Group, there were 269 billion emails sent per day in 2017. By 2021, this figure is expected to rise to almost 320 billion. As much as we love shiny new communication channels like What’s App and Twitter, clearly, email is still an integral part of our lives and isn’t going away. This is even more true in the business world.

A well-developed email program can do wonders for a business. It can enable you to:

  • Increase awareness of your products, services and solutions
  • Share ideas, stories and information your audience can’t get elsewhere
  • Promote upcoming events
  • Keep in touch with buyers and potential buyers
  • Entice prospects to set up a meeting
  • Generate new business

To ensure your email marketing program gets off to a solid start, follow these four guidelines.

1. Get your lists together

It doesn’t matter how compelling your content is or if your template design is jaw-dropping: if you aren’t reaching the right people, all of your behind-the-scenes efforts will be for naught.

Your primary audience should be your customers, inactive customers and prospects. If you can break up these groups further, that’s ideal. Can you split your customer list into regular purchasers vs. those who haven’t purchased in 12 months? By dollar amount? Region? Segmenting your list will allow you to tailor your email campaigns.

Chances are you have access to association and networking group lists. Don’t automatically add those contacts to your database or you will be in violation of spam legislation (CASL in Canada or the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States). First seek the permission of your colleagues, explaining that your emails will be educational and informational. If you don’t, you may end up with a ton of spam reports, opt-outs and potentially even fines.

It is a good idea to have vendors and employees subscribe to your lists, too. The former may gain insights about your organization that ultimately benefit you, while the latter will likely demonstrate more interest in your email marketing efforts if you include them in the process. Here are other ideas for growing your email database.

2. Choose your “email service provider” carefully

The next step is choosing the platform you will use to send your email campaigns – your email service provider.

There are many affordable providers that cater to do-it-yourselfers (such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Emma) by offering pre-designed, customizable templates or the option of uploading HTML code for a custom design. Be sure to compare platforms and carefully consider factors like features, support and deliverability.

3. Plan helpful content for your audience

One of the biggest challenges for many small businesses is what to say to their audience. It’s natural to want to focus on what your organization offers, and heavily promote your products or services. Unless you’re a behemoth and much-loved brand, however, that’s the last thing your audience wants to read.

To capture – and keep – the interest of your customers and prospects, dedicate your messaging to their interests and needs. Your content should include anecdotes, how-to documentation, case studies, resources, industry news, trends, new product information, and only if appropriate, special offers.

No more than 20 per cent of your material should be promotional or you’ll turn off buyers.

4. Design for email, not for print

Email is a different animal than print. If you’ve ever received an email with fuzzy images or text that was difficult to read, it means the designer didn’t understand the difference.

A typical email template is 600 pixels wide, while an 8.5 x 11” piece of paper is 2,550 pixels wide. That means you can’t take a layout created for print, then drop a picture of it into an email template and expect it to look stellar. Either recreate it at 600 pixels wide or create a complimentary design comprised of smaller images, body text, headings, subheads and multiple links.

Equally important, your email campaigns need to look good on both desktop and mobile devices. Even if you sell strictly to businesses, it’s likely that 25 to 35 per cent of your audience will view your emails on a smartphone or tablet. If your campaigns aren’t easy to view, you will unintentionally encourage your contacts to delete your emails or unsubscribe.

 

Cathy Cain-Blank is President of CC Marketing and Communications, specializing in developing and deploying effective email marketing campaigns for businesses across North America.

 

Get more accomplished

21 Effective Ways to Get More Accomplished Every Day

Get more accomplished

What secrets do the world’s top businesspeople use to be hyper-productive? How do they seem to fit so much into each day, week and year to get more accomplished than the average worker? The answer is in the small tasks they do to stay focused on their goals, priorities and the outcomes that will consistently progress them to the next level.

Here are 21 of the greatest tips that elite entrepreneurs and business pros do that have put them on top.

1. Get more accomplished with an ultimate to-do list

Create a master to-do list, not a variety of different lists in multiple formats and locations. Stick to one, preferably online that syncs across all devices and that is available when you’re offline — so even when you don’t have Wi-Fi you can keep adjusting your task list.

2. Prep every night

Start the night before by answering three questions for the next day: 1) What will you work on first thing tomorrow? 2) What do you hope to accomplish during the day? 3) What must get completed tomorrow, in priority? The answers should feed into your to-do list.

3. Your routine is key

Establish a daily ritual. For example, you may start your day by pouring a coffee, putting on instrumental music and reading your favorite newspaper online. Then move straight into your most critical task of the day. By mid-day, you may decide to always take lunch and a 15-minute walk, and on the way home you catch the latest podcast on your list.

4. Learn on the go

Speaking of podcasts, listening to them on your commute to or from work is a great way to research and learn. Don’t waste that time on Google or Candy Crush though, when you can be getting in some professional development time or improving an important skill. Listening to podcasts like HBR Ideacast and Outside In will get you thinking a step ahead of your competition.

5. Power hour

Schedule a “power hour” for the first 60 minutes of every morning — where you work diligently and uninterrupted on the most important task on your list. Avoid checking email and doing the little tasks that can veer you off course all day long.

6. Satisfy the stomach

Never ignore a rumbling stomach. This doesn’t mean you should satisfy every snack craving, but make sure you’re staying fuelled up during meal times throughout the day. Working straight through your day without a meal can be the ultimate crush to productivity. So scheduling those meals into your calendar can also be a nice reminder.

7. Get away to recharge

Get in a couple mini-breaks throughout the day, whether that’s just to step away from the computer for 10 minutes, or a walk around the block. Establish a “break habit” by scheduling them into your calendar or using an app to keep track of your time — and potentially to signal when a break is needed.

8. Emails can be your worst enemy

Enforce a personal email strategy, where you set certain times on your calendar to check email — and don’t spend any more time than allocated. Process the emails according to priority and pick up the phone for emergencies, rather than resorting to typed messages.

9. Time to tidy

Organize your workspace. It doesn’t have to look as clean as an office showroom, but your space should be tidy and uncluttered, which helps you focus on the tasks at hand. Nothing is more stressful than searching tirelessly for your office supplies, working files or phone when you need to get things done in a hurry.

10. Zero distractions

When you’re in true work mode, close down any distracting Internet browsers, email programs or other software. At the very least, minimize them from your computer screen so you won’t get the urge to click elsewhere.

11. A “social” reward

Treat social media like a reward. It’s easy to get distracted by eye-catching headlines and notifications on your phone, so shut those off and save the fun stuff for when you accomplish a task. Then, when you complete each major task, you can reward yourself with your favorite distraction — like a quick one-minute video of a cat being cute. Just make sure you shut it down after the reward to stay productive.

12. One task at a time

Stop trying to multitask. Studies show it actually can make you pay less attention and have troubles recalling information. You may feel like you’re getting more done, but in reality it could slow your performance down.

13. Just say ‘no’

Contrary to what you may have been taught, it’s not impolite to say ‘no’ to tasks that derail your productivity. You may want to help others out with their requests, but sometimes you need to decline their request in order to get your work done. By saying ‘no’ you can free up future time for something you really want to say ‘yes’ to — and that will be more fulfilling in the long run.

14. Like Costco for your calendar

Schedule time slots to work on things in bulk. Like many people, you may have had days where you jump so quickly from task to task that you never have a chance to sink into any of it. Instead, schedule multiple working time slots in one to two-hour segments throughout the day where you can have uninterrupted work.

15. Cut your low-value tasks

High productivity people follow the Pareto principle — 80% of your results can be driven by 20% of your effort. The key is figuring out what the other 80% of your effort is spent on, and then systematically delegating, deleting or diminishing those from your schedule so your day becomes more valuable.

16. High-impact times of day

Discover your productivity rhythm — that is, the time of day that you are most impactful. People can be classified into three categories: the morning crush-it, the high noon heavy hitter, or the night owl ninja. Find out which one you are and schedule your tasks accordingly.

17. Always be goal oriented

Never lose track of your long-term goals. Too often, we move from one thing to the next just trying to get through the day. But by integrating your yearly objectives into all your meetings and activities, you’ll be more prepared to cut unnecessary activities and keep your teams (and yourself) focused on the right priorities.

18. Positively priority proficient

As new tasks arrive, reprioritize with speed and ease. The trick is giving every task an A, B or C rating (or 1, 2, 3 if you prefer). The As will get ultimate priority as your most important tasks — so if a new B task comes in and you’re working on an A, that new B task can wait. But conversely, if an A task arrives, you better hop on it.

19. Make meetings count

Make sure your meetings are efficient and worth every minute — otherwise, they won’t be worth your time and you should cut them from your schedule. Every meeting must include an agenda with clear objectives, and schedule less important meetings into the second half of your day so you have more time in the morning to complete key responsibilities.

20. High gear afternoons

An hour and a half before the end of your workday, you have a perfect window of opportunity to kick your productivity into high gear. Get your affairs in order by checking your email and drafts folder, finishing those last messages and then completely closing your Inbox. Then, your last hour of work can be spent entirely undistracted.

21. Final 10 before freedom

The last 10 minutes of your day can set you up for a more productive tomorrow. Make sure your to-do list is finalized, clean-up your workspace, sign out of every app and program (including on your phone), and then do a brain dump — where you jot down anything left on your mind so you can go home with lighter shoulders and enjoy your night.

Stairs

7 Important Steps That Will Improve My Business Credit

improve business credit steps

Capital is essential for any business, but sometimes our commercial credit becomes unhealthy. Unfortunately, when a commercial credit rating isn’t perfectly clean, sourcing a small business working capital loan or another form of finance isn’t always straightforward. You might be asking yourself, “So what exactly can I do to improve my business credit rating?”

Every savvy entrepreneur must smooth the peaks and troughs of revenue to keep up with payroll and inventory, while also financing growth toward future success. For most enterprises, this means accessing business funding from time to time rather than relying on reserves, whether this credit is taken through mainstream banks or alternative finance.

     Did you know? Factoring funding is NOT based on your credit rating. Learn now.    

To increase your chances of getting credit at an affordable rate, it pays to take steps to improve your business credit — and it’s simpler than you might think. Here’s what to do.

1. Get Your Books in Order

If you’re looking to obtain a new line of credit in the near future, it’s important to first assess your situation and then proceed with a little caution. Each credit application you make will be recorded on your file, and multiple rejections will count against your score.

Before applying for any funding, spend some time getting your finances into good order, researching your options, and finding a credit source that’s likely to approve your application.

2. Separate Your Business Identity

When building your business credit rating, it’s essential to establish a business credit identity distinct from your personal rating.

If you’ve not already incorporated your business, then consider doing so, and also obtain a federal tax ID number (EIN in the U.S. or a BN in Canada) or equivalent registration. Make sure all your bank accounts and credit cards are in your business’s legal name, and that you don’t use any personal accounts for business purposes.

3. Build Your Profile

The three major business credit reference agencies keep their own files, and it’s important to ensure your profile with each is complete and accurate. Check that ExperianEquifax and Dun & Bradstreet all hold the correct details about your business, and that all your active trade lines are recorded on your file.

If you have any longstanding credit accounts with suppliers, add them as references on your profile. Even if they don’t actively report to the agencies, your good records with them will be taken into account. Going forward, regularly check your file for any errors, omissions or signs of unknown activity.

4. Arrange Credit With Suppliers

Each bill you pay on time will give a small boost to your business’s credit score, and you can increase this effect by paying bills early whenever possible. Even better, if you establish credit lines with your suppliers and stick to the terms, each transaction will add a positive to your credit profile.

5. Avoid Signals of Financial Distress

As well as being conscientious about paying bills promptly, you should avoid showing any signs of financial distress that could lessen your creditworthiness. Filing accounts and paying taxes on time will give your rating a boost, while paying down debts and avoiding using credit for routine expenses will send signals of stability.

Related: How to get start-up financing without a bank loan.

6. Cut Back on Credit Usage

Whenever you’re looking to obtain a major new line of finance, you should aim to present a picture of clean credit activity within your current circumstances. Ideally, your ongoing level of credit utilization should be no more than 30% on each account your business holds. Try and avoid unnecessary spending on credit or building up balances. You should also pay down what you can — and clear your borrowing each month when you do spend on an account.

7. Consolidate Accounts

If you have credit card accounts with zero balances, it may seem a logical choice to close them down and simplify your business’s financial situation. However, if you want to boost your credit rating, the smarter choice is to keep these accounts active so long as they’re in good standing.

Closing an established, zero-balance account will remove positive history from your file, worsening your rating. Instead, take the opportunity to balance any debts across multiple accounts, so that each has no more than the all-important 30% utilization of its credit limit.

Few businesses can be totally self-sufficient. However, accessing business funding doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Taking a little time to improve your business credit rating will make obtaining commercial credit easier and more cost-effective, leaving you free to concentrate on driving your business forward.

Smiling businessman

6 Body Language Mistakes You Might be Making & How to Fix Them

Posture Perfect: Are you unconsciously sending prospects the wrong message? Here’s how fixing your body language mistakes can help you win more opportunities.

Body Language Mistakes

As salespeople, we often focus on our pitch and the carefully selected words we use when speaking with prospects, but what about our body language? Are we making major body language mistakes that are holding us back from closing more deals?

55% of effective communication comes down to body language mistakes

A famous study by UCLA Professor Albert H. Mehrabian found that only 7 per cent of effective communication actually comes down to the words we say. 38 per cent comes from the tone of our voices, and another 55 per cent depends on our body language.

How we stand, where our eyes look, our hand gestures and even subtle movements can all make a difference in the interpretation of our sales pitches. But the most effective communicators will combine all three parts: the words spoken, the tone of voice and the body language.

Related: Do you have this powerful leadership skill?

The professional sales training team at Sales Grail explains that a sales person’s body language can immediately spark customer engagement. “What we mean by posture is not a cocky guy with his feet up on his desk — this is just rude and it suggests a lack of humility in one’s leadership and sales approach. Rather, by posture, we mean one of openness and confidence.”

When genuine, that confidence can help you develop a stronger connection with the prospect, as they describe. “When we’re really behind something, we become an amazing combination of characteristics. We’re relaxed, yet passionate. We’re calm, yet excited. We’re understanding, yet persistent.”

Here are six body language mistakes you might be making, and how you can turn your visual communication and body language into a sales secret weapon.

Mistake 1: Slouching — especially while on the phone

You’ve likely heard that sitting is the new smoking, but has that made you get out of your chair more? At the very least, have you sat up a little straighter when seated? This is one of those body language mistakes that we’re likely all guilty of doing.

“Research has shown that sitting in a slouched position can send “sad signals” to your brain. You are more likely to produce cortisol, a stress hormone, and experience negative thoughts when you slouch. Slouching also can make you feel disempowered and weak compared to the people you’re interacting with – whether in person, on the phone, or even over email.” – Tech.co

Mistake 2: Too little (or too much) eye contact

“It’s good to maintain eye contact 70% to 80% of the time. Any more and you might appear threatening, any less and you may appear uncomfortable or disinterested.

Good eye contact exudes confidence, engagement and concern. Plus, it’ll help you read your customers’ emotions and body language.” – Customer Experience Insight

Mistake 3: Never “power posing” before meetings

“Breakthrough research from Professor Amy Cuddy at Harvard Business School…proves that body language and body positioning directly impact self-confidence and feelings of power. … Professor Cuddy’s research indicates that a salesperson (or anyone about to go into a stressful situation) should assume a high power pose for at least two minutes. Rather than hunch over an iPhone, a salesperson should find a private place to spread their arms and pull their shoulders back.” – Fast Company

Mistake 4: Dressing to blend in, not to fit in

“First impressions get set in stone very quickly. And, like it or not, the way you look is the most important factor in shaping those first and lasting impressions.

“The key is to always dress well enough to fit in with the top people you’re calling on, yet never to blend in with the wallpaper. Think of your clothes as the way you package yourself. Always dress in a way that creates the maximum positive impact on the people you want most to impress – your customers.” – Selling Power

Mistake 5: Talking too much with your hands

This isn’t to say that you should completely stop hand gestures. They are an important part of getting your message across and creating dynamism and charisma in your communication. But overdoing your hand movements can be a distracting body language mistake that can have an undesired effect.

“Avoid chopping gestures … Whole arm karate chop gestures can psychologically cut up the space between you and your interview in an aggressive way … Pointing is often perceived as an aggressive motion and in some cultures is considered incredibly rude. … Any fast, repeated or aggressive hand gestures should be kept to a minimum. … [Instead] you should appear open and approachable, which means your hands should be in front of you and ready to gesture naturally.” – Forbes

Mistake 6: Work the room

Whether it’s a presentation, speech or in-person sales call, making strategic physical moves could draw attention to the right discussion points.

“To bring movement to your speech, use the physical space you have available and walk it. For example, if you’re presenting three points, talk about point A when you’re at your first position; then move out 2 or 3 steps and talk about point B; this way, a movement that includes space will accompany your speech.” – HubSpot

 

Next: Get these 7 new school digital marketing tips to help grow your business.

Illustration - target

Can business failure make you successful?

Business failure leads to success

No one enjoys failing. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into an effort that crashes and burns, the pain can be excruciating. Yet business failure is a part of running a company at one point or another. So, should you find yourself down and out, focus on the upside. It will help you get back on track quickly, and with newfound strength.

Here are five reasons to dust yourself off and considering any failure a blessing in disguise.

1. It’s an education

Thomas Edison made 1,000 attempts at the light bulb before succeeding. You could say he had 1,000 failures, but with each attempt he learned something more. Following a “failure,” you’re better educated, better experienced and, hopefully, a bit wiser.

The same mindset can be seen in modern business, with much success. For example, at NerdWallet, a company offering tools and advice for managing personal financial decisions, failure is celebrated publicly on the “Fail Wall,” a space covered with Post-it notes memorializing the lessons learned.

Related: Even out the ups and downs of running your business.

2. It can improve investment opportunities

In Entrepreneur.com’s Celebrating Failure article, Jake Gibson notes one big reason to rejoice: “Many founders of failed companies find it easier to raise money for their second company because investors know they are buying experience and the lessons learned from those failed endeavors.”

Conducting a thorough post-mortem is on many a business guru’s short list of things to do following a setback. Collect all the insights and data you can. Learn where the missteps occurred — and how they can be avoided the next time.

3. It’s a bonding experience

When we fail, we often do it in the company of partners, colleagues and employees. They are all affected, and may suffer as much as we do. Let these people know that you value them and care about them. Don’t engage in blaming or any other form of divisiveness.

Focus on moving forward as a team. The shared experience can be transformative, providing for you to emerge from the setback as a stronger, more committed organization. 

4. It provides a determined focus

Jodi Goldstein, managing director of the Harvard Innovation Labs, is one of many experts advising that you not dwell on the past as you pick up the pieces following a failure.

“Don’t waste energy by constantly thinking about how you could have avoided the situation that you’re currently in. If you decide to continue with the venture, this means working to maintain high levels of morale amongst your team, celebrating each win that you achieve as you battle your way back into business.

“If you ultimately decide that you cannot, or don’t want to continue with your startup, it means taking the lessons that you learned to whatever you might do next, while not dwelling on what could have been.”

5. It’s never the end

Finally, remember that whenever you fail, you’re in good company. The most successful people on the planet have all been failures at one time or another. Consider your low point as merely the prologue to your next chapter.

 

Up next: Do you have the ultimate entrepreneur mindset?

Business agreement handshake

How to Find the Right Asset-Based Loan Partner

Business agreement handshake

For many businesses, asset-based loans can be the perfect solution when they’re short on working capital but don’t currently qualify for a traditional loan. The key is finding the right funding partner that is willing to learn about your business, understand your challenges, and then work with you to find the optimal solution that will offer the most benefits to your growing business.

Finding that right partner is a vital part of the funding process, especially when you rely on their expertise, products, services and connections. Nothing can roadblock a company’s operations like lack of working capital. With asset-based loans, in particular, you’ll be accessing larger amounts of capital while agreeing on terms that maximize the value of your available assets. Obviously, working with a trusted partner is crucial.

 

Background: Who should consider an asset-based loan?

Asset-based loans (ABL) allow companies to leverage their accounts receivable, inventory, and in some cases, equipment and real estate to access working capital. Qualifying companies generally have a strong credit rating and maintain comprehensive financial reporting with strong internal controls — tending to be established businesses with a solid track record.

     Related: Get the 101 on Asset-Based Lending here.

 

With many funding options in the market, how can you tell which one is right for your business? Below are three main factors to consider.

1. Find a like-minded partner

Your ABL funding expert should feel like a genuine partner in your business. They’ll need to understand your business model, industry challenges, opportunities, and any unique processes you have in place. A partner with an entrepreneurial mindset and personal experience as a business owner/operator could also add to their understanding of where you’re coming from and where you are going.

Also, look for funding partners who have cut their own red tape and complicated approval processes. These can slow down your ability to access cash flow when it’s needed — but be careful to ensure they are still credible and still have a strong reputation in the market.

Ultimately, a like-minded partner will work with you in the long-term and should go the extra mile to create more availability against eligible collateral. That means your assets will provide the biggest return for working capital.

2. Look for value beyond the “money”

Your ABL partner should be more than just a person that writes you a check.

Factor in various aspects of value beyond the capital they provide. With ABL, rates are generally competitive but on par with different vendors, so it’s important to assess other criteria that can show who you’re dealing with.

Look for service partners who will provide access to their referral networks that can extend your business relationships. This longer-term value is often overlooked but can be a strategic benefit. A trusted partner will also provide access to advice related to the struggles of a growing business, and they’ll be able to offer strategic business advice and beneficial tools as you grow the company. Their network along with access to like-minded entrepreneurs are invaluable to a business facing the challenges of growth and emergence.

3. Work with a person, not just a piece of software

Technology is an important aspect of modern business, but when it comes to a funding relationship, you should be working with a real person.

In particular, find local representation and experts who will be responsive when you have questions or challenges. Look for an organization with strong underwriting, risk assessment and good relationships within the industry. Your partner should also be able to work with you to offer creative solutions to your business funding needs.

With ABL, your company is going to be relying on the funding partner for large amounts of working capital, and this shouldn’t be trusted to a piece of software or website touting fast-funding without strategic consultation.