Business meeting : how to be more effective

Bad supervised meetings is consider the dead moments of the work day and can decrease your company’s productivity. According to a worldwide study conducted by Microsoft Corp., business people spend nearly 6 hours a week in meetings and nearly 70% of the participants reported that their meetings were unproductive.

Too many meetings, lack of preparation, no follow-up and employees zoning out because they’ve lost interest are among the typical problems. Badly managed meetings can also have a negative effect on employee morale and teamwork. If people routinely arrive late for your meetings, stare at their BlackBerrys and aren’t taking notes, your company has some improvements to make.

Here are some recommendations :

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Your web site should be mobile friendly

Smart phones and tablet computers are ever more popular with consumers, but entrepreneurs have been slow to respond. In fact, only 8% of small and medium-sized businesses that have websites have adapted them for use on mobile platforms. If your clients are mobile, it’s time for you to act.

Tablets and smart phones aren’t just a caprice of the younger generation. They are here to stay. One-third of Canadian mobile phone users have a smart phone and 5% also own a tablet, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. And the numbers are growing.

People are now going online from anywhere. They are using mobile devices to find businesses, buy products and connect to social media platforms. Optimizing your website for mobile allows customers to reach your company wherever they are.

Here are some tips about optimizing your website for mobile devices.

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Get in the cloud…computing

There’s a cloud on the horizon, but this one could just save your business a lot of money and headaches.

Cloud computing is catching on with Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a way to offload the burdens of buying and maintaining information and communication technologies (ICT).

Cloud computing lets your company use software or hardware owned by a third party, instead of purchasing and managing it yourself. Instead of buying new software and downloading it onto your computer, for example, you use the internet to access the application on a third party’s servers.

That means employees, including a salesperson on the road, can access your company computer system from anywhere there’s web access. A simple version is Google Docs, a service that allows users to work and collaborate from anywhere on Word, Excel and other files hosted on Google’s servers.

Best of all, the cloud computing provider takes care of all those nagging ICT problems that you don’t have the time or expertise to handle.

  • The provider secures and backs up your data.
  • Your systems don’t go offline because your software has crashed.
  • You don’t need to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of upgrading a system—only to learn you bought the wrong one or it’s obsolete 2 years later.
  • You don’t need to shell out big bucks for in-house ICT personnel.

Cloud computing providers offer a growing list of services—everything from secure data storage to the latest enterprise resource planning systems and remote access to data.

It’s a huge cost and time saving. All my iBurger document is on google docs.

As a rule of thumb, a company can save about 65% on an enterprise resource planning system by implementing it through “the cloud” versus the usual route of buying the software and running it on the business’s computers.

One of the main cost savings is maintenance. Businesses often don’t budget enough for maintaining new ICT systems and don’t have the expertise to handle the job in-house.

Despite the benefits, many entrepreneurs remain skeptical.

One of the main question marks is about hosting sensitive business data offsite. How secure will it be?

However,  data tend to be more secure “on the cloud” because SMEs often neglect computer security and data backup—two basic services that cloud computing offers.

Business owners are slowly putting aside misgivings about data security as they get more comfortable with online consumer transactions.

Besides versatile applications and remote access to applications and data, cloud computing also allows businesses to pay for software or hardware on a per-use basis.

You’re paying for expertise and infrastructure only when you need it. Once you see how cloud computing works, the mistrust goes away.

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Tips on how to introduce new technologies with your employees?

One of the biggest sources of change in today’s workplace is the introduction of new information and communications technology (ICT).

ICT can be a game changer for small and medium-sized businesses. But it has to be implemented and managed properly or else opportunity can quickly turn to disaster.

Here are some tips to smooth the implementation of your technology projects.

COMMUNICATE EARLY

 Managing change is first and foremost about communicating with employees. That’s why the human element has to be a key part of your technology project planning.  “You can’t show up one day and say to people: ‘Up until now you’ve being doing A-B-C and now you will be doing X-Y-Z,’” says Diane Bazire, Business Consultant, Human Resources, at BDC. “Managers have a tendency to underestimate how upsetting this type of change can be.” You should begin preparing employees for a major change months before, not when it’s occurring.

COMMUNICATE OFTEN

Change is difficult for people to accept especially when it involves areas of expertise and prerogative. That’s why companies need to make sure they are being as open as possible and communicating consistently about what’s happening. Newsletters, town hall meetings and email updates are just a few of the tactics you can use to make sure employees are well informed and the rumour mill isn’t taking over. And don’t forget to seek employee feedback. “You have to try to understand what’s worrying them about the change and then respond to those concerns,” says Bazire, who is based in Laval, Quebec.

EXPLAIN WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM

It’s important to explain why the new technology is being implemented and discuss how it will affect employees. Focus on how the changes will improve the company’s performance and help employees perform their work.  At the same time, you shouldn’t shy away from talking about the bad and the ugly. If it will make things more difficult for individual employees, consider offering incentives or additional support.

ENSURE MANAGEMENT BUY-IN

A successful technology implementation starts with the whole-hearted commitment of the president. If that’s you, check your motives for doing the project and your feelings about it. Make sure you’re clear on why it’s necessary and beneficial. Then rally the support of your managers. There’s lots of room for interdepartmental discord in technology implementations. Your managers are also the first people to whom employees will turn with their questions. So make sure your top people are all pulling in the same direction and delivering the same message.

PROVIDE ADEQUATE TRAINING

Keep in mind that many employees are not savvy about technology and, in fact, may be intimated by it. Besides effective communications, high quality training is a must for ensuring that employees cope well with the changes and make a smooth transition to the new order.  “Make sure the training is complete and not too theoretical,” Bazire says.

GET THEM INVOLVED

Involve key employees in system selection and implementation. Ask for opinions on what’s needed and then involve them in supplier interviews and system demonstrations. Not only will you be benefitting from their expertise, but you will be bringing them on side. They can even be your champions, helping fellow employees become comfortable with the new technology.

BLOCK THE EXITS

Once you’ve communicated with employees, sought their feedback and provided training, it’s time to proceed. “Everyone has to understand that there will be bugs and problems but that we’re not going back to the old way of doing things,” Bazire says. This means that requests for individual exceptions and work-arounds must be vetoed.  To achieve results and move ahead as a company, your staff has to accept and use your new systems.

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Lessons from disruptive innovators

One of the great book I read was The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovatorsgets straight to the point: to think differently, you have to act differently.
In The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeff Dyer, a professor of business strategy, Hal Gregersen, a leadership consultant, and Clayton M. Christensen, author of previous bestsellers The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution, have done their research on how the biggest names in entrepreneurship got their “big ideas.” Not surprisingly, they’ve succeeded by creative thinking or creatively rethinking basic skills like networking, experimenting, observing, and even asking questions.
The Innovator’s DNA is, most of all, a primer on how to make positive associations. This includes everything from showing up at “idea conferences” like the now famous TED Talks to making sure you have a meal with someone from a different background at least once a week. “Thinking outside the box,” according to the upbeat Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen, “often requires linking the ideas in your area of knowledge with those of others who play in different boxes.”
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How to be more productive in a slow economy

While growing a business in an uncertain economic climate can present extra challenges, I believe that small and medium-sized businesses can thrive regardless of economic conditions.

 

1.  Diversify your customer base
If you are too dependent on one or two customers for the bulk of your sales, you are putting your business at risk if they run into financial difficulties. “This is a lesson that too many entrepreneurs learned the hard way during the recent economic downturn”.

 

2.  Don’t neglect your best customers

While it’s important to ensure you have the right mix of customers, it’s also wise to treat your best customers with extra attention. By nurturing relationships with key customers and building their loyalty, entrepreneurs can grow along with them. “It’s easy to make the mistake of being distracted by the most persistent or annoying customers. Your biggest customers are unlikely to be the ‘squeakiest wheel.’”

 

3.  Take a proactive approach to marketing

No product or service sells itself, especially not in a slow economy. “Word-of-mouth marketing is not sufficient to grow a business,”. “You need to define and promote your unique selling points.” a well-defined marketing strategy that includes response marketing via the Internet – to pull in customers – combined with awareness creation techniques such as direct marketing – to push your business to potential customers.

 

4.  Step back from the day-to-day to focus on strategic goals

While it can be easy to get lost in daily details and neglect your strategic plan, the consequences can lead to failure. “It’s essential to keep your mission and values in mind as day-to-day operating decisions are made. Know what your strengths are, what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. Keep your business plan documented, updated and shared.”

 

5.  Foster a positive attitude in your staff

“Everyone within the organization needs to be trained and coached to understand the company’s strategy and to proactively promote the business at every opportunity,”. When hiring, look for people with the right qualifications, but also the right attitude. “If you can’t change people’s attitudes, you may have to change the people.”

 

6.  Consistently monitor assets as well as profits

Most entrepreneurs are very focused on managing the bottom line by monitoring sales, gross margin and expenses. But they often ignore asset management, especially cash flow. For a better bottom line, keep an eye on asset and cash flow management to build net worth. Balance short-term and long-term needs with short and long-term sources of funds. “If you foresee problems on the horizon, now is the time to talk to your bankers. Never surprise them with bad news.”

 

7. Balance the entrepreneurial approach with sound analysis

Maintain the enthusiasm and spontaneity to react quickly, but do your homework and base decisions on facts, not just feelings. “Entrepreneurs can make the mistake of neglecting or ignoring market feedback and analysis of the facts. Don’t stick with what works until it stops working. Be aware of the warning signs.  Evolve and grow by optimizing systems and installing best practices and latest technologies.”

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