Tag Archives: Communication

Small Business + Technology = Real Solutions

Growing up in a small town has given me a unique view of small business. The convenience store in the center of town (which is still there!), the neighborhood pharmacy, and the floral shop are a few examples that pop into my mind. If you had a good idea and a strong work ethic – the dream of owning your own business was yours!

I remember my best friend’s dad owning his own construction company. He had a pickup truck, some tools, and his wife typed invoices on homemade letterhead – on a typewriter. I picture a bunch of guys from my high school working a summer roofing job and sporting the best tans around thanks to baby oil and iodine. No one cared about the risks of sun exposure and no one had any clue what a huge part technology would eventually play in the construction industry.

Fast forward 20+ years and you’ll find SPF 80, smart phones, and at least a handful of tablets on most job sites. Gone are the days of hand-typed invoices, paper time cards, and magnet boards for scheduling… or are they? Would you believe there are still companies who “have a gal” who types invoices, enters time cards manually, and posts schedules on a dry erase board? No, it’s true! And while what she (or he) does is critical to the success of the company – there is a better, faster, and less expensive way to complete day-to-day operations – with technology!

messy desk
Enter: software and mobile applications for the construction industry. There are lots of companies who have out-of-the-box solutions – licenses for multiple users, programs that either provide too little or too many features. A package that cost a fee to purchase, and requires a monthly or yearly subscription. What about customizing that software so instead of doing about 60% of what you need – it does nearly 100%? How about owning the software and not paying yearly license fees? What about having a direct dial to the desk of the person who created your application – and not navigating through a huge company directory when you need help? What happens when your company grows and expands and you want to add functionality? These are just some of the benefits of having a custom program for scheduling and dispatching, time tracking, bid management, and equipment maintenance.

construction app
If some of your current challenges include sifting through complex spreadsheets (if you can find them), poor communication from the office to the field (and vice versa), and lots of paper waste on your desk (or on the dash of your vehicles) – you need to consider what technology can do for you. Don’t be afraid – embrace all that can be accomplished and made easier with a few clicks or taps!

 

 

Policy Awareness: Your Smartest Choice

Contributed by Director of Strategic Planning & Development, Kathy Olek Donatelli

A clear and concise social media policy seems pretty sensible for every business. But how many of you can lay your hands on one? If so, do you know what it says?  What about a corporate ethics policy?  A communication policy?

As the lines between “personal and professional” as well as “home and office” continue to blur, many companies are revamping their corporate guidelines across the board to reflect today’s electronically active and collaborative workforce. Yet another reason for this recent focus is mobile access and the ability to work from home. As employees are increasingly using their own mobile devices at work, as well as working from home and in the field, companies need to find a way to guide and focus communications activities. And although words like policy, compliance, and guidelines may sound limiting and daunting to some, many of these documents exist to protect both the employee and the company alike. More than anything else, policies help to set expectations and provide examples of what is and what is not acceptable. They are your first point of reference if there is ever any question about your actions.

millennials-in-charge-640x302Photo credit: Insperity

And if the entire electronic communication conundrum is not difficult enough, now we have an entirely new generation of tech savvy multi-taskers. Enter stage right the Millennials, making up the majority of our workforce now and into the future. They were born with a smart phone in their hand and as a generation, they move fast, they love change and they are ready for any pop-up or crowd sourced opportunity. Now more than ever, corporate policies need to be in place to manage expectations and set standards among the greenest employees in the workforce.

Most formal policies address issues that may be perceived as unlawful and/or unethical, as well as those that undermine company, brand, employee, shareholder, vendor or and customer trust. Issues typically addressed in these policies include:

  • Conflicts of Interest or Opinion
  • Protection of Company Assets and Resources
  • Criminal Conduct
  • Protection of Confidential and Proprietary Information
  • Intellectual Property
  • Interaction with the Media and other Public Parties
  • Compliance and Disciplinary Actions

The bottom line? Questions about social media, corporate ethics and communications policies should find their way into the interview process if you are just beginning with a new company.  And if you are already working, a current copy of company policy is most likely available in the human resources department. These policies may not address (or provide final answers to) every possible issue or situation. General questions or issues you have about your company’s policies should be directed to your manager or Human Resources Department.

policiesPhoto credit: dreamstime.com

Don’t be surprised if, as a requirement for continued employment, you will be required to resign and re-certify every two years, in writing, your statement of compliance with corporate policies. And make sure you fully understand the stated violations, disciplinary implications and resulting consequences so that your actions don’t come back to bite you in the butt. The bottom line? Be proactive and do your homework.

After the Holidays Marketing How-To

The holiday season isn’t just an important time of year for the retail industry – it’s an excellent marketing opportunity for all businesses. Whether you’re looking to increase awareness about your brand, gain customers, or simply keep your current clients engaged – there are a few out-of-the-box ideas that can have people talking well into the summer months.

Host a holiday get together – after the holidays. Wait until the dust settles and invite clients and prospects to your office in mid- to late-January or even in February. Make it a winter themed event (think blue and silver), have a simple buffet, a few passed hors d’ oeuvres and a signature cocktail. Caterers may even be willing to work within a tighter budget to get business during an otherwise slow time of the year. The themes and possibilities are endless! Make this a relaxed social event, a networking opportunity – not a sales session. Show the customers you’ve been serving or courting all year that you appreciate them and want to continue to stay in contact through 2016 – and beyond.

Beautiful silver gift

Schedule an Account Review. A new year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on past challenges and future plans. Everyone is starting fresh after a long holiday break. Take advantage of this renewed energy and schedule an account review session with your clients!

Send “Happy New Year” cards. Holiday cards are great, but a card arriving in the first few weeks of January, wishing your clients and prospects a fruitful and successful year, won’t get overlooked in the excess of Christmas cheer. Use this vehicle to promote your brand and create awareness about what you do, all while sending best wishes for the coming year. And send real paper cards with a mailing address and a stamp!

happy new year gold

Take advantage of New Year’s resolutions. We all make them (or at least say we did) and rarely follow through. Target specific prospects with an email or phone call offering a free consultation to bring them back to discussions you had the previous year.

“So Jim, I’m thinking your New Year’s resolution should be to really get serious about your company’s outreach. Let me come in and talk to you about your marketing and public relations efforts. We can chat about updating your website and brand too, if time allows. Let’s set up 30 minutes, before the year gets away from us!”

Your goal for the New Year? Make a new marketing initiative commitment (I won’t call it a resolution) – and follow through. None of these options have to be expensive or complicated. With a little creativity and excitement you can do more than you think!

 

 

 

 

 

My 4C’s of Contracting Your Social Media

Contributed by Social Outreach & Business Development Coordinator, Kelli Komondor

This is 2015, people. Your organization can’t survive without a social presence. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know, or even something you aren’t already doing. But – are you doing it correctly? Are you using resources to the fullest and getting all you can out of your social pages? Here are a few ways to determine if you should be contracting your social efforts to an outside professional, categorized in true 4C fashion.

Content Creation: If the content on your social sites isn’t being read, what’s the sense in posting? You need a writer who will keep your audience engaged and can adapt the posts for multiple social sites. If you want a reader to click a link on Twitter, those characters prior to the link better be engaging and cause a call to action! Social media professionals will take the time to curate posts, rich with eye-catching graphics, that will not only gain followers, but will keep the ones you have engaged and interested.

social birds

Customer Service: You need an individual with strong communication skills who can provide top-notch problem solving in an area viewed by the most important people: your audience and clients. Although a negative post or complaint on your Facebook page isn’t ideal, it is an opportunity to showcase your organization’s professionalism and desire to make it right and please the customer. Unless the customer’s post is laden with foul language or straight-up lies, it should remain on your site and should be dealt with in a clear, concise, level-headed response. Those who work directly for you are more likely to take offense and reply with a hot-headed comment that can cause more harm than good. Someone on the outside is ideal to respond and handle the situation without any feelings attached; they’re more likely to handle things professionally without emotion.

Community Connector: “It’s not who you know, it’s who they know.” is something I’ve heard repeatedly from Paul O’Donnell, my co-worker and fellow lover of all things networking. Hiring an outside source as your social representative can be beneficial in so many ways beyond what they post and how many of your followers they engage. Your social specialist should be someone who uses sites such as LinkedIn to keep connected and up-to-date with happenings within the industry and business community. They would bring their own circle of business and personal associates to the party – anyone with a loyalty to them, would become involved with your company. This individual should also be out attending networking events and promoting your organization face-to-face. The right person will spend time on follow-up after an event and make sure to stay connected to the people who can benefit your company.

social-networks-V2

Communication Junkie: Your social media manager needs to be in the thick of news about your industry. They should follow the rule of thirds: One-third of the posts they create should be about your company – promoting your business and generating profit; one-third about your industry – sharing ideas and stories from industry pros and like-minded businesses; and one-third should be personal – posts about your company culture and the individuals who make your organization what it is. Think about sharing company picnic photos, spotlighting an employee with a Q & A, sharing employee posts, and so on.

If the individual you have in place to handle your social media doesn’t have a clear understanding of SEO and keywords and if you’re seeing a lull in your company’s social posts, if you’re finding the posts to be dry or uninteresting, or if you’re noticing a decline in your followers and the amount of engagement – it may be time to explore taking on a social media specialist. Think about this – if your office manager or team accountant is supposed to be the one posting on social, you’re doing it wrong. Free up their time to do what they were hired for and let a professional take over. Someone who is big on content creation and customer service and an individual who is a community connector and communication junkie – someone who follows my 4C’s of social media.

15 Tips For More Effective Electronic Communication

Contributed by Sharon Haver, Senior Consultant at 4CTechnologies 

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Do you consider yourself an effective electronic communicator?  Do you wonder if people value your written word?  Or, do you type an email like you tell a story and send an instant message that’s flooded with so many details the important content is lost?  In today’s fast-paced workplace where getting to the point is priceless, your co-workers will appreciate you making good use of their precious time, especially when it comes to the mundane task of reading emails and exchanging instant messages.  These 15 steps will have you writing more effective electronic communications in no time:

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