How Technology Is Changing Human Resources

How Technology Is Changing Human Resources

How Technology Is Changing Human Resources

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The money spigot is wide open on the human resources technology front, with U.S. companies investing $2 billion into HR technologies in 2016. In fact, those investments have churned upward at an annual rate of 15 percent, according to CB Insights.

Where is all that HR investment cash going? The CB Insights report states the bulk of it is going to integrated human resource management system (HRMS) platforms, but with growing investments in emerging technologies such as cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media and artificial intelligence also in the mix.

There’s more data on the HR technology investment front. According to a recent study by SelectHub, the cloud is the biggest investment target (meaning an investment likely hasn’t actually been made yet) for HR technology spending, followed by payroll and benefits administration software.

The good outweighs the bad in any discussion on technology tools and the HR sector. “While automation takes over certain roles and processes, it actually frees up human talent to focus on higher-level tasks, like analysis, innovation and strategy,” said Martin Fiore, tax talent leader at EY America.

Systems-wise, while a growing number of companies are beginning to shift from the cloud to mobile HR-based technology platforms, there’s still a good reason for the predominance of cloud computing for most HR departments.

“Prior to 2016, there was no way for companies to manage their teams’ performance,” said Lindsey Havens, senior marketing manager with PhishLabs, an Agari Partner. “Now many businesses are using cloud-based, team-centric performance management applications that help HR management to manage performance by team, rather than by hierarchy. This system allows for a streamline in team management, plus the ability to create and change teams quickly.”

With HR technology investments growing, especially with cloud computing, payroll and benefits, what’s the overall impact on the human resources sector?

“We have used a number of traditional health and wellness programs to encourage our 10,000-plus employees to live healthier,” said Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president of global well-being and health at Unum U.S. and Colonial Life. “But over the past 18 months, we’ve really looked at updating our company’s wellness programs with the latest tools and technologies.

“We’re adding new member-management systems for our fitness centers,” Mitchell added. “Plus, we’re adding more sit-stand workstations to encourage employees to sit less. We’ve created opportunities for virtual visits with providers for non-emergent care. Employees can access a provider from their PC or mobile device and use the Health Resource Center space for privacy.”

Mitchell says her company is about to “go live” with an enterprise-wide portal that will serve as the hub for everything related to health and well-being. “This will include health assessments, health coaching and wearable device tracking paired with fitness challenges.”

Many employees spend more than 60 percent of their waking hours in the workplace, Mitchell says, so an employer who cares and supports healthy lifestyles is more attractive to potential candidates.

“Technology gives us greater reach with our wellness programs and allows employees to customize what works for them,” she noted. “It also enables us to use data to track progress or further improve our offerings.”

Investments in HR technology not only improve departmental functions, they can also promote the health and happiness of employees, primarily by helping them develop new skills – especially younger career professionals who grew up in a technology-driven culture.

“Due to an increasingly distributed workforce, widespread adoption of mobile technologies and a changing employee demographic, which includes millennial workers, corporate training is getting reshaped and is becoming more data and artificial intelligence driven,” said George Elfond, CEO at Rallyware, a workforce training and engagement technology company based in San Francisco. “Currently, we see a shift in the way companies develop their talent – instead of herding everybody to a classroom, training is provided just in time and usually through a mobile device.”

Current technologies identify gaps in an employee’s knowledge and automatically deliver customized training to a right person at the right time, Elfond says. “Such personalization could not be possible without big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Many firms also appear satisfied in farming out their HR technology needs to third-party providers, and experts say that trend will accelerate.

“We have seen firms with as many as 300 employees use technology companies like Namely and Zenefits to help manage their human resources needs,” said Timothy Hillert, chief executive officer at BenXchange, an insurance, employee benefits and retirement services firm. “Also, we’re currently seeing a greater number of firms outsource their HR needs.”

That’s only natural, Hillert says, as the cost savings in doing so can be substantial. “With a technology team on board, firms only need one designated human resources professional to manage and run the department effectively,” he explained. “There will always be a need for HR managers, but we will continue to see the use of technology to offset the cost of large human resources departments in traditional companies.”

Others agree that automation will never completely replace the human aspect of human resources, but technology will certainly grow in prominence in HR circles.

“Tech-based solutions will not displace or replace human HR managers and staffers,” said Kris Duggan, a technologist and human relations specialist at BetterWorks, a performance management software developer. “The technologies being designed today are meant to complement HR managers and staff, and give them greater insight and capabilities in their jobs.”

Duggan says there would be a “backlash” if staffers didn’t have a real human HR figure, as so many of the HR processes are pertinent to employees’ personal lives, such as compensation, benefits and feedback processes. “The best human resources are empathetic and truly dedicated to solving their employees’ top problems. A tech-based solution can’t completely replace this process. That being said, adopting technology can make HR managers more informed and empathetic, and ease the human resources management process.”

Are You a True Leader, or Just a Boss?

Are You a True Leader, or Just a Boss?

Are You a True Leader, or Just a Boss?

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Employees want to feel like they’re part of a team. A manager, much like a coach, should have their staff members’ best interests in mind while encouraging improvement and training talent.

But there’s a distinction between being just a boss and being a leader – and it could make or break your entire company. Which one are you? Learn the differences.

You shouldn’t just explain a task and leave it in your employee’s hands. According to Christine Macdonald, director of The Hub Events, a boss ensures you understand your work, while a leader supports and guides you through it.

“The biggest difference between a leader and a boss is that a good leader inspires people and makes them excited about their work,” she said.

Success takes passion, and without the desire to complete tasks, workers won’t be as driven to give their best performances. As their leader, you should motivate them by letting them know the importance of their work.

Employees are human, and mistakes are expected. Who you are as a boss is evident when you deal with mishaps. Bosses often use criticism or punishment, while leaders use mentorship and encouragement, said Charles A. Mohler, president and founder of Eagle CFO Consulting. If a worker is performing well in a specific line of work, that strength should be recognized and mastered.

“One key element of leadership is the ability to harness the talents of others to achieve a common goal,” added Macdonald.

It’s important to note strengths and weaknesses of each employee to mentor them independently. Rather than attacking skill gaps, work to patch them by guiding employees through their shortcomings and building their confidence in new areas.

A boss doesn’t take the time to get to know his or her employees like a leader does. It’s important that you work with their needs and create a culture that encourages open communication.

“By getting to know your team better, you’ll be able to understand how to explain your vision in a way that will really connect with each person,” said Macdonald. “This means you can personalize the way you motivate people.”

Macdonald added that good leaders are genuine and loyal. “You really have to believe in the company and the work you do,” she said.

You set an example for your company. If you lack passion or motivation, odds are your team will too. Don’t be afraid to be human – be real and express your emotions to connect with your workers.

As the titles suggest, a boss orders his or her workers around without regard for their wellbeing. They often don’t consider how much an employee already has on his or her plate and instead just piles on more assignments.

In contrast, “a leader runs with their team and empowers them with a shared vision and strong values in which everyone enrolls and excels,” said Jennifer Borba von Stauffenberg, founder of Olive PR Solutions.

To understand how to close these gaps, Macdonald recommends checking out a wide variety of leadership books.

“Reading theories and experiences from other leaders is a great way to learn,” she said. “If you begin to understand why leaders do things, it will make more sense when you put it into practice.”

If you’re still uncertain of your abilities, look to the team you’ve been leading, Borba von Stauffenberg suggested.

“You’ll know you’re a good boss because you see it in your team’s work and on their faces,” she said. “The success is there.”

What Employees Really Need From HR

What Employees Really Need From HR

What Employees Really Need From HR

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To achieve a productive atmosphere – and an engaged company culture – you need to establish open communication with your employees. However, only 16 percent of employees feel connected and engaged at work, finds a new survey.

The study by EmployeeChannel, Inc. revealed that frequent and effective communication are the top two behaviors that create a positive experience at work, and open communication ranked as one of the top initiatives employees want in a company. However, nearly half of employees are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree that their HR’s communication efforts make them feel informed or involved.

Poor communication is bad for employee retention and recruitment, putting businesses at risk for high turnover rates. Employees might also fall short of assignments and deadlines, causing your company to suffer.

Steve Adams, CEO of EmployeeChannel, noted that using modern technology solutions to communicate with your employees can help make sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s crucial to take advantage of mobile, personalization, analytics and AI technologies to provide an employee-centric solution, he added.

“Based upon our research and hundreds of conversations with HR and internal communication teams, we believe the most effective way to address employee engagement is to acknowledge that employee communication is the cornerstone of employee engagement, and to commit to improving employee communication using contemporary technologies,” said Adams.

Not all workers sit in an office with their manager from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, so when choosing your communications technologies, you need to consider employees’ individual workflows and schedules to serve their specific needs.

“For non-desktop and remote workers, any solution must be designed from the employee perspective and must be on the communication device that is most critical to their personal lives – the mobile phone,” Adams stated.

He noted that mobile phones are the best choice today, since most people are attached to their devices at all times, making it easier to connect with workers who aren’t in-office.

Once you implement a technological solution that suits the needs of managers and employees, learn how to efficiently follow through with your plan. Adams offered the following tips for HR professionals to make sure they’re communicating well with their employees.

  • Perform a communication audit. This will help you understand how to best communicate with employees today, what’s working and what’s not.
  • Develop a “fit-to-purpose” model. You want the channel of communication to match your desired business outcome.
  • Create a multi-channel communication strategy. Base this on the “fit to purpose” model. No single channel will meet your communication needs.
  • Train employees. Make sure workers understand the fit-to-purpose model and multi-channel strategy so that they can effectively use it.
  • Provide a single platform for employer-to-employee communication. Make sure it supports the model and mitigates possible challenge
  • Use behavioral insights to gauge impact and effectiveness. Have an analytics platform that provides data on trends and employee engagement.

7 Business Ideas That Don’t Require Employees

7 Business Ideas That Don’t Require Employees

7 Business Ideas That Don't Require Employees

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Many entrepreneurs are embracing the “lean startup” model, in which operations are kept simple and overhead remains low. Few businesses are run leaner than those without any employees. A good “solopreneur” reaps all the benefits of the business, but also has to do all of the legwork. For some, this is the ideal arrangement.

Here are seven ideas for a business owner who wants to go it alone:

If you have a particular skill, be it writing, graphic design, coding or anything in between, building up an independent network and offering your services as a freelancer is a great way to translate side hustle into full-time business. Easily started on the side of a 9-to-5, these types of arrangemetns can quickly blossom into full, one-person operations once a solid network and reliable body of work develop. In a few short months, a freelancer can often build up several regular clients; the aspiring solopreneur will find in this an opportunity to launch a business.

Freelancers launching a full time company often incorporate their business as an LLC, which is a pass-through entity. This means that income is taxed at a personal level, rather than the corporate level. The wage or salary the solorpreneur takes, in other words, is subject to the personal income tax.

Are you educated in nutrition but are still looking to get your career to go in the right direction? Turn your healthy lifestyle choices and education into lucrative business decisions by becoming a virtual health coach. You’ll be aided in your efforts by the myriad new health-related apps and devices being developed to help clients keep track of fitness goals and weight loss.

Anyone with aging loved ones knows how hard it can be to care for them without extra help. Elderly people living in their own homes need help with lots of routine chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and yard work. Why not start a business that offers senior citizens and their families the help they need to maintain their households without breaking their budgets? With word-of-mouth endorsements and social media targeted at the overworked baby-boomer set, you could get this business off the ground in no time.

Want to turn your love of beer into a viable occupation? Why not jump on the microbrewing bandwagon? With the popularity of craft beers on the rise in the U.S., the demand for innovative breweries is growing. Take a page from the successful owners of Brooklyn Brewery and start by focusing on branding and distribution of your beverages. With some thirsty investors and a few barrels of persistence, you could have your brewery up and running faster than you can say “cheers!” Learn more about starting your own craft brewery in this Business News Daily guide.

With employers and corporations looking to decrease health care costs and a greater awareness of diseases associated with obesity, America is looking to get fit. Freelance personal trainers make their own schedules and work for a diverse range of clients. If you’re a fitness guru with a head for business, this might just be the right idea for you. Learn more about how to become a personal trainer.

Whether it’s a bouquet of flowers in celebration of a wedding anniversary or an ice cream cake delivery for a child’s birthday, there’s a need for businesses that carry out long-distance requests on behalf of those whose loved ones live far away. With the right website and a PayPal account, you could start building your reputation as a “special delivery” courier today.

Are you business-savvy with years of experience, and willing to pass that knowledge on to others? With the right marketing tactics, a strong personal network and a great website, it’s simple to become a business coach on your own. Work with small business owners or startup-hopefuls to carefully craft business plans, and advise those who need that extra motivation. If you know you can be a good motivator and not just a “yes man,” their investment in you will have great returns.

10 Successful Businesses Run by Parents and Kids

10 Successful Businesses Run by Parents and Kids

10 Successful Businesses Run by Parents and Kids

It’s inspiring to hear of parents and their children getting along like friends while still respecting each other’s positions in the family. Such a quality relationship can be channeled into entrepreneurship: With generational differences and insights, communicating and working as a team can be a basis for a successful business partnership.

We asked the leadership teams of 10 family-run businesses about the advantages and challenges they’ve had working with their parent or child, and their advice for other parent-child business owners.

This wheat- and gluten-free food manufacturer was founded by Steven Rice in 1993. His son, Aaron, now works with him as Authentic Foods’ vice president of sales and marketing.

Aaron says the biggest advantage of running a business with his father is the ease of communication that comes with knowing each other so well.

There is something different about the communication of a father and son than other relationships,” he said.

However, Aaron also notes that it’s been a challenge for his father to give up some control. Steven ran the business by himself for years, he said, and it’s an adjustment to work with a partner.

Aaron’s advice: “Open communication is key. Start by delineating clear responsibilities about who is in charge of what and fall back on those when there is conflict and a decision must be made.”

Mother and daughter Kathy Moça and Emilie Whitaker were inspired by the figure-flattering jean designs of Brazil and created Beija-Flor Jeans together. Emilie loves having a partner she already knew how to work with, and Kathy appreciates the shared passion she and her daughter have for their company.

As in all family businesses, boundaries are hard to set and even harder to preserve, said Emilie. She notes that she and Kathy both have a hard time “leaving the office” and transitioning back and forth between partners and mother-daughter.

Emilie’s advice: “Be patient and kind to each other. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easy to treat those we love the most with the least care.”

Kathy’s advice: “Share the work. From the very beginning we had a division of roles and responsibilities, with the understanding that sometimes we have to cover for each other.”

Creighton’s Chocolaterie, a design-led chocolate brand offering artisanal treats, was created by mother-daughter duo Andrea Huntington and Lucy Elliott. Lucy said the greatest advantage is being able to spend more time with her mother and having a mutual interest they can both get equally excited about.

“There is also the trust that, when times are tough, your business partner will always be supportive as a parent too,” she said.

Trying to be diplomatic when there is something you don’t agree on can be a real challenge in a family business, said Lucy. This is especially hard if one of you has made a mistake. Lucy said that it’s important to remember that it is work and not personal – “but that isn’t always easy to put into practice,” she added.

Lucy’s advice: “Try to have defined roles that play to your skills so that there is no stepping on each other’s toes. And set aside regular times outside work when you do not talk about work!”

John Paul DeJoria, co-founder and chairman of the company responsible for the renowned Paul Mitchell hair care products, currently works with his daughter, Michaeline, who is vice chairwoman.

As a duo, John Paul and Michaeline benefit from each other: John Paul takes pride in his daughter’s proficiency while Michaeline gains wisdom and knowledge from her experienced father.

The business does pose its challenges, especially with a generational gap to consider. “Something like social media, for example, took me ages to convince him was a relevant thing,” Michaeline said. “We think a lot alike, but have very different sets of eyes in some ways.”

John Paul agreed, noting that it was tough for him to let go of certain areas of business so Michaeline could take over. “She is part of the millennial generation, so it’s also a matter of keeping up with her and learning from her,” he said.

Michaeline’s advice: “Don’t have an ego. It’s not about who is the boss, who is entitled to what, and certainly not about who knows better. We both have one goal: to grow the business for our staff and our customers’ sake. When you have selfless intentions that are united, just do what needs to be done.”

John Paul’s advice: “If you are lucky enough to have a child that is proficient, you learn that your past knowledge may not always be right, so be open to your children informing you of what they think and why.”

Dave Greenhalgh is the current owner of a Minuteman Press printing franchise based in Medford, Oregon. His stepson, Sean Byrne, is his co-owner and future successor.

Dave hired Sean because he believed he was the best person for the job, with his enthusiasm, go-getting mentality and other leadership qualities.

At first, Dave was concerned with the fact that he was hiring family; but Sean proved he was the best fit for the position and has been a great asset to the company. “… I am very happy to say that Sean is the best hire I have made in the 20 years I have been in business.”

Dave’s advice: “Consider the possible negative impact of hiring a family member. The possible resentment of the staff and the harm it could do to family dynamics is a very serious consideration.”

NuFACE, a company that makes an at-home anti-aging skin care device, was founded in 2005 by Carol Cole and her daughters, Tera and Kimberly. Today, Tera serves as the CEO.

Tera said that she, her mother and her sister have different strengths and talents, and each complements the others and contributes to the company’s success. “My mom, Carol, is what I call the mad scientist; my sister, Kim, is the worker bee and gets all the office stuff done; and I am the assertive salesperson,” she said.

Starting the company from scratch was a challenge, but the trio learns as they go. “Fortunately, we have good heads on our shoulders, a knack for business and know our customers very well.”

Tera’s advice: “You can’t change someone. Embrace each other’s differences to recognize the value in a different point of view. My weaknesses are my mom’s strengths and vice versa, and we love to learn from each other.”

Jeff Braverman is the third-generation owner of Nuts.com, which was founded by his grandfather in 1929 as the Newark Nut Co. He currently serves as CEO, after inheriting the company from his father, Kenny.

Jeff said that knowing each other as family has allowed them to have faith in one another. “I could wholeheartedly trust my dad, and he in turn ultimately put blind faith in my stewardship,” he said.

However, mixing family and business has its complications, like typical family tension, which can be emotionally draining, Jeff said. But this doesn’t stop the Bravermans from moving forward.

Jeff’s advice: “I think parents should expose their children to as much as possible, as early as possible. I know many peers that wanted to work with their parents, but were frustrated that their parents kept things very guarded and were reluctant to share. It’s important to note that humility and curiosity are very important characteristics, especially in a family business.”

In 2010, Chrissy Weems helped her then-14-year-old daughter, Bella, co-found Origami Owl, a custom jewelry company that now operates on a direct sales “home party” model. The company started as a mall kiosk before expanding into a social selling platform.

Chrissy relished the opportunity to work with her daughter while learning how to grow a new business. By doing so, she saw firsthand the importance of people over profit, she said.

“It has been fulfilling watching her grow as a young woman in business as well as in her compassion for others,” Chrissy said. “We both have been empowered to affect change in this world by sharing the Origami Owl business opportunity with others.”

Though the hands-on experience was valuable for Bella, she was still only a teenager. Chrissy made sure to remind Bella that education comes first, as well as being a kid.

“I never wanted Bella to miss out on opportunities with her friends; however, she is committed to Origami Owl and was willing to sacrifice a lot to support growing it,” she said.

Chrissy’s advice: “Find something you are both passionate about and set goals. Be willing to commit the time necessary to build the business and surround yourself with others that lift you up. When Bella and I started out, we sacrificed a lot, which impacted our entire family, but we were willing to do what needed to be done to be successful and provide a life-changing opportunity for others.”

Natural “peanut butter with a twist” company PB Crave was founded by Curt Riess. His son, Austin, serves as the company’s general manager.

The two thrived off each other’s knowledge and experience, working on a strategy and business model. However, their age gap sparked some challenges, as each had his own approach to certain areas.

“I come from a different generation and background, and have new ideas and ways of doing things,” said Austin. “So, you need to be able to compromise on different things.”

Austin’s advice: “Work somewhere else for a year or more [if you’re the son or daughter]. That was a requirement for me to come into the business. I had to go out and prove myself and experience a different work environment to see the different benefits and downfalls. You also will be able to see how vastly different business models vary by company. This is good to understand, and it will allow you to be able to react better in different business environments and bring some experience to the table.”

Skyline Windows, a New York-based custom window company, is currently run by CEO Steven Kraus and his son, senior vice president Matthew.

Matthew said that the greatest advantage of working with his father is learning from someone he admires and respects.

“I’ve been watching my father run Skyline Windows for as long as I can remember, and I greatly value his insight,” he said. “Furthermore, my father knows me better than anyone, and he is able to use that knowledge and deep connection in order to properly challenge and encourage me.”

As father and son, the two share strong personalities – but they don’t always share opinions, which often causes issues.

Furthermore, it can be uncomfortable challenging someone you’ve looked up to your entire life, Matthew said. “You need to be able to remove the personal relationship from the picture and solely focus on the fact that you are … having a professional discussion with a colleague, not your father.”

Matthew’s advice: “Ultimately, you have to understand that your child is his own person with his own ambitions, dreams and goals. You cannot force your child to follow in your footsteps, or else you will have nothing but resentment, [and] the company’s future will not be as successful as you hope it will.”

Small Business Snapshot: Attitude Apparel

Small Business Snapshot: Attitude Apparel

Small Business Snapshot: Attitude Apparel Credit: Matt Lawrence Davis/Attitude Apparel

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Matt Lawrence Davis, chief marketing officer of Attitude Apparel, explains how this image represents his business.

Attitude is an apparel company based primarily in New York City. We produce sustainable, high-end athletic clothing that is functional in the gym and stylish in the street. Our signature “Streetletic” clothes can be worn while working out or in casual settings, and wouldn’t seem out of place in either scenario. All of our products are made in the USA from 100 percent recycled materials.

Growing up with interests in sports like BMX, skateboarding, and MMA, we were unhappy with the styles – and especially the quality – that contemporary popular athletic clothing brands offered. We wanted products that were functional but also fit within our personal fashion and street aesthetic. That, along with our high standards and a sense of responsibility led us to transform from a mildly successful novelty t-shirt business to producing top of the line, environmentally-friendly activewear- made right here in our own backyard.

This photo represents Attitude Apparel on multiple levels. The model is wearing our Slouch Beanie, our Crop Top Hoodie (featuring our mascot, “Skully”), and our Mesh Panel Leggings. She’s jogging, representing our focus on health and wellness. The nature surrounding her represents our commitment to using only environmentally-friendly recycled materials in the creation of our products.

The biggest challenge we face right now is finding our place in such a saturated landscape. Casual athletic styles (aka Athliesure or Streetletic) are so popular now that everyone seems to be doing it. It’s a challenge to stand out as a brand. So we really try to provide the absolute best product possible, and putting out into the world what we’d like to receive.

A good product is more than just its features. A product is good when its effects radiate positively in all directions: A good product has a positive effect on the people who consume it, the people who make it, and the earth itself where the resources that make up the product come from. These vibrations carry further than you may realize. We plan to stay our course and continue growing. 2017 and 2018 will be a period of great growth for us. New product offerings, winter lines, swimwear, footwear and more are all on the table. We’re very excited for what the future holds.

Selling Your Business? How to Take Advantage of the Current Market

Selling Your Business? How to Take Advantage of the Current Market

Selling Your Business? How to Take Advantage of the Current Market

Credit: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

It has been a good year for business sales. According to broker data compiled by BizBuySell.com, there were 2,534 closed transactions through the first half of 2017, which represented a 31 percent increase in sales over the first half of 2016. Since July 2017, the report reads, nearly 5,000 businesses have been sold.

“Our recent conversations with brokers and previous research shows both buyers and sellers are confident in today’s business-for-sale environment,” Bob House, president of BizBuySell.com and BizQuest.com, said. “This streak of record-number transactions confirms this sentiment and suggests many are capitalizing on today’s hot market.”

Businesses that sold in the second quarter were, on average, listed for less time and sold for higher prices, according to the BizBuySell.com report. Sale prices rose from $199,000 last year to $229,000 this year. Asking prices also rose 12.6 percent, to $250,000, but as BizBuySell.com notes, the average sale-to-asking-price ratio remained the same at 0.92. The average business was listed on the market for just 168 days, which is just shy of six months.

As more businesses look to sell, particularly with baby boomers exiting into retirement, it’s more important than ever to employ best practices before closing a deal. Here’s how to sell your business properly at a time when sales values are elevated and thousands of business owners are clamoring to find buyers.

Just because most listings were active for about six months doesn’t mean you should wait until six months before your target sale date to get your house in order. Mason Cole, founding partner of the Chicago-based law firm Cole Sadkin, advised giving yourself enough space to operate comfortably.

“[A common mistake] is not preparing enough in advance,” Cole said. “Approaching your attorney or accountant six months before you want to sell may not leave enough time to put proper procedures in place.”

Cole outlined several things that must be taken care of before a business sale can be reasonably closed. Those include:

  • Notifying employees of the business sale
  • Settling any outstanding debts
  • Alerting customers to any changes to the business model
  • Ensuring all taxes are properly filed
  • Negotiate fair terms of the sale

Some of these items are open-ended and subject to extensions, so it’s important to start the process while time is on your side.

According to Cole, the market is ripe for business sales right now, not just for retiring baby boomers who are looking for a way out, but entrepreneurs who are ready to move on or want an injection of capital.

“Interest rates are too low to last, so we are seeing companies selling for dramatically more than they are worth,” Cole said. “Eager buyers are willing to overpay as long as rates stay low. This leads to a unique window for sellers to list their businesses before inventory is diluted.”

Interest rates will certainly continue to rise in the future. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has signaled the economy and employment situation has stabilized enough that it will begin gradually raising the target rate over the next several years. That means that even if the volume of sales remains high, the value of the deals might decrease in the long term. Cole said for business owners on the fence, making the move now might be wise.

“The best time to list your business is when you don’t want to sell,” Cole said. “A good owner always understands the true value of [their] business. Just as banks like to lend only when you don’t need the money, the best time to sell is when you are listing from a position of strength.”

What Traits Do the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common?

What Traits Do the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common?

What Traits Do the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common?

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If you rounded up a group of successful entrepreneurs and put them in a room together, you might discover that they have many things in common – including certain personality traits.

Although there are no set characteristics that guarantee a person’s success in business, many of those who take the entrepreneurial plunge share qualities like passion, a sense of social responsibility and a desire to help others, according to a 2015 study by U.S. Trust.

Here are some other personality traits exhibited by many entrepreneurs.

They have a reason for what they do. They’ve found the “why” that makes them soldier on through the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.

“Successful entrepreneurs realize they can’t do it all,” said entrepreneur and author Ian Balina. “Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither are great companies. The goal is to consistently solve problems each day, and over time those wins add up.”

Those who have success in entrepreneurship are willing to be different, very quick, and very efficient in what they do, according to managing director at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, Bill Aulet.

“Once they choose what they are going to do, they execute with the skills of a Navy Seal,” said Aulet. “The spirit aspect of this helps you to get the business going and continually innovate it, but it is the execution skills that make for sustained success.”

Entrepreneurs must be able to lead an organization. This requires creating an inspiring vision that unites employees and external stakeholder – but they must also have clear and consistent values that are lived every day at the company, said Aulet.

An entrepreneur’s business often consumes much of their life, and therefore becomes part their personal identity. Successful entrepreneurs often have a healthy – but not all-consuming – sense of pride in themselves and their business.

“[Entrepreneurs] have great pride in the success of the business, but not so much personal individual identification that it blinds them to what is best for the company,” said Aulet. “The great entrepreneurs are able to get the greatest satisfaction with the success of the company rather than their individual relative power.”

Does My Restaurant Need to Offer Mobile Ordering to Get Ahead?

Does My Restaurant Need to Offer Mobile Ordering to Get Ahead?

Does My Restaurant Need to Offer Mobile Ordering to Get Ahead?

Credit: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

National chains like Starbucks, Five Guys, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell and, most recently, McDonald’s have popularized online ordering, and busy customers appreciate the convenience of skipping the line. But if you’re an independent restaurant owner who doesn’t have the deep pockets of a franchise or chain, does mobile order-ahead make sense for your business?

The expense and technological know-how needed to create and maintain a mobile ordering app may be daunting, but if you’re looking for strategies to give your restaurant a competitive edge, offering mobile order-ahead is worth looking into – and there are several options that are less expensive and easier to implement than a custom app.

In addition to cutting your customers’ wait time and making it convenient for them to quickly pick up their orders, mobile order-ahead can help you attract new customers and gain increased loyalty from your existing clientele. Consider the following:

When selecting menu items on their phone, customers have no fear of receiving a judgmental smirk (whether real or imagined) when ordering large fries with a diet beverage and low-carb entree, or of hearing impatient sighs from customers waiting behind them as they study the menu. As a result, they’re likely to place larger orders. For example, Business Insider reports that Taco Bell’s mobile order tickets are 30 percent higher than its in-store sales.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2016 State of the Industry report shows that 63 percent of smartphone users place takeout or delivery orders using their phones. However, only 37 percent of restaurants offer mobile ordering, with chains and franchises four times more likely to offer mobile order-ahead apps than independently owned establishments. Industry experts expect the demand for mobile order-ahead to rise, estimating a 57 percent increase in these sales over a five-year period, reaching $38 billion by 2020, according to Business Insider. Adopting this technology now sets your business apart as a trendsetter and allows you to cater to customers who don’t want to spend their lunch hour waiting in line.

In addition to craving convenience, consumers want to save money. By offering coupons, promotions or loyalty rewards to your customers through your online ordering app or website, you encourage repeat business.

The NPD Group, a marketing research company, notes that money-saving promotions are effective incentives for mobile order-ahead customers, with 29 percent of all digital orders utilizing coupons. The combination of order-ahead and loyalty programs has been successful for Starbucks, which reported to Forbes a 16 percent year-over-year increase in active app users and 27 percent of its U.S. sales coming from orders placed using its app.

While the benefits of offering mobile order-ahead technology to your customers is enticing, the cost and complexity of creating a custom app can be prohibitive.

“In a smaller merchant’s reality, very few are ready to invest $10,000, let alone $100,000, in an ecommerce website and a mobile ordering application,” said Jean-Francois Noel, CEO of mobile ordering solutions company FANS Entertainment, in an interview with PYMNTS.

However, white-label apps and order-ahead aggregators are lower-cost alternatives that can give you the functionality you need. Here are some options to consider:

Some point-of-sale companies, such as Revel Systems and SalesVu, offer white-label apps that you can customize with your restaurant’s branding and use for mobile orders. The advantage to this solution is that the app is ready to use – it’s already been developed and tested – and integrates seamlessly with your POS system. The drawback is that, if you switch POS systems, you also have to find a new mobile ordering solution.

Order-ahead aggregators, such as Grubhub and Yelp’s Eat24, are mobile app platforms that work with many restaurants, giving customers the ability to find multiple order-ahead and delivery restaurants from a single app. Engadget reports that Amazon is also getting into the order-ahead aggregator space through the new Amazon Pay Places feature on its app, though at this time it’s only available to TGI Fridays restaurants in a few eastern U.S. cities.

The benefits of working with an aggregator are that it’s less expensive than other options and helps order-ahead customers find you, which is an advantage that even restaurants with custom apps could capitalize on. However, it lumps your restaurant in with your local competitors, and repeat customers may choose to try another local restaurant when presented with multiple options.

Although mobile order-ahead is increasingly popular, especially among quick-service restaurants, developing a custom app is a costly venture that not many independent restaurant owners can afford. However, less expensive options, particularly working with an order-ahead aggregator, are viable solutions that restaurant owners would do well to investigate.

5 Solid Strategies for Expanding Your Professional Network

5 Solid Strategies for Expanding Your Professional Network

5 Solid Strategies for Expanding Your Professional Network

Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

There’s an old saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Knowing the right people can help you get where you ultimately want to be in your career, which is why networking is so critical for any professional.

Networking has become easier in the age of social media, and as a result, creating a personal brand is also becoming easier.

To help job seekers build and grow their professional networks, Business News Daily asked networking experts to share their best networking tips.

Social media sites, particularly LinkedIn, have changed the networking landscape. Many people rely on their LinkedIn network for referrals, introductions, reviews and references, all of which come in handy when you are looking for a job, said Michael Brown, a career consultant and author of the book “Fresh Passion: Get a Brand or Die a Generic” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013).

Brown adds that anyone you deal with professionally should be added to your LinkedIn network. Even if your contact with these people was short, add them, because you are trying to grow your network.

LinkedIn is also a great space to learn about someone’s professional and educational background to find similarities and create great conversation for a first meeting, according to Tyler Whitman, licensed real estate salesperson at Triplemint.

Brown suggested creating an official contact in your email address book for anyone you deal with, and put as much information in there as you can gather. You want to be able to find the contact information easily when you want to reach out to people in your network.

Make it a career priority to have a diverse network in terms of industry, geography, tenure, experience, gender, education and whatever else you can think of, said Kelly Hoey, author of “Build Your Dream Network” (TarcherPerigree, 2017).

A broad, diverse network is going to provide you with more opportunities. Brown agreed, noting that you never know when you may need to talk to someone in a different industry or change career paths.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone in your network to introduce you to someone they know, Brown said. This is business, he said, and most people will be happy to connect you to someone who can help.

You can also ask for help from a networking “wingman.” It can be awkward to brag about yourself to a stranger, said Whitman, but if you network with a friend, that person can talk about you and your success, and you can do the same for them. 

Focus on growth and think about the people you encounter on a daily basis, said Brown. Grab a business card, or search for them on LinkedIn, if there is any chance you can call on them professionally in the future.

However, the one key thing to keep in mind is not to be selfish when you network, said Whitman. Create a foundation first, he said. Learn about the other person and tell them about you. Once there is a foundation, it’s OK to ask for what you want, but don’t try to jump the gun and ask for a favor outright.

“Every interaction from your voicemail message to your water cooler banter at the office is ultimately about forming relationships,” added Hoey. “Be human and take an interest in other people. Don’t leave the impression that every time you show up you’re going to try to pitch an idea or sell a product.”