When Is Hiring A Contract Worker A Good Idea for Your Business?

shutterstock_189811220As a business advisor, staffing has to be one of top issues that business owners need help with, particularly whether to hire more employees and what type of employee. You may have read in recent media coverage that a growing trend for 2018 is the increased hiring of contract workers by small businesses. We know that a contractor is someone who works for your business on a defined basis, and they can sometimes be referred to as freelance workers or consultants. But it’s very important to remember that contractors are independent businesses, working for you. They can help your business through periods of growth or difficulty, but they are not full-time employees.

Initially, some business owners may focus on the bottom line and think of the hiring of contract workers as a way to save costs. I’ve outlined below some of the key factors you might want to consider when determining if hiring contract workers makes good business sense for you:

  • Your business has turned down major projects due to lack of resources
  • You’re preparing for a seasonal change in business and demand is uncertain
  • You’re trying to remain lean but your budgets are a concern
  • Your business needs someone to hit the ground running
  • You are considering testing out an internal need without a serious commitment
  • The project requires a specialized skill that your company lacks, or as a business owner, you don’t plan to specialize in
  • If you are in an industry that is a fast-growing, such as technology, you can hire a contractor faster than a full-time employee to keep up
  • If you have a virtual office or small space, a contract worker can work offsite

Create a Network
You can hire independent contractors for one-off projects or even long-term business functions such as I.T. or payroll, to help you manage workloads during peak periods. This is why it is so important to create a network of contractors that you trust, so that your business can say “Yes!” to more projects. Being able to hire reliable and available contractors on an ad hoc basis can be a good strategy for growing your business.

Determining your hiring needs and making informed decisions is an area that can be challenging for business owners, and one I see often as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!

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Small Business Trends for 2018 – Are You Ready?

shutterstock_365392142Welcome to 2018! After a hopefully restful and enjoyable holiday break, it is time to get back to business, and this year promises some interesting trends I want to share with you. In my 30+ years of experience helping small businesses, I have seen many significant changes, and this year brings new ways you can further expand and develop your business. I’m excited to highlight some of the trends worth noting, and look forward to working with you to implement these changes to grow your business even further in 2018.

The Mobile Experience – Consumers are using mobile devices to search for information, browse social media, and make purchases more than ever before. Ensuring that your business has a website that is easy to find and navigate, specifically on mobile devices, will help you expand your business’ reach to new customers.

Taking It Outside – Getting tasks done through freelancers, contract workers and outsourcing is becoming easier and more popular than ever before. Many businesses are leaving one-time functions or administrative tasks, like shipping, logistics, graphic design and content writing to others, thus leaving your staff to focus on other areas of expertise, and potentially saving overhead costs as well. Furthermore, giving your own employees the means to work and contribute from outside of the office can improve productivity, and satisfy your employees.

Engaging with Customers Online – The Internet is being used more and more by customers and companies to engage in business and share experiences. It’s becoming more important that businesses keep an online presence in order to communicate their brand, answer questions, respond to comments, and engage directly with consumers to highlight positive experiences, and minimize negative ones.

Storing and Protecting Data – Businesses are increasingly dealing with large data files and technical planning and software in their work. In order to best maintain, organize and protect their data, businesses that leverage the Cloud and other software can save storage costs, work with distant clients and partners, and increase their productivity.

Want more advice on ways to build on the success of your business with these trends, or general advice from other business owners like you? Make 2018 the year you join a TAB Board and get the support you need to make your plan a reality. Contact me today!


Everyone Needs to Take Time Off

sea-holiday-vacation-tableAre you suffering from vacation deprivation? If so, you’re not alone. So much has been written about the importance of a work/life balance, but not enough Canadians are living it. According to Dr. David Posen, author of Is Work Killing You?, “Humans were never designed to have stress all the time. Our stress reactions were designed to be turned on and then off. That’s the healthy cycle. But today we operate in a semi-permanent state of stress. Proper vacationing is an antidote to chronic stress. It is absolutely imperative that Canadians are vacationing each year – and not just one time per year.”

I understand from many of the business owners I work with that you worry about leaving your businesses because you feel nobody else can do your work, and although that may be partly true, I can guarantee that if you burn out – you risk not having any business to run.

Make this the year that you take a vacation – consider it preventative medicine – and instead of just thinking about taking a vacation, prepare for actually taking one by following these 4 tips:

  1. Plan your vacation during a slow period. It will definitely reduce your stress levels about going away.
  2. Deal with all time sensitive issues before you go. In theory, anything that arises in your absence should be able to be dealt with by your staff or wait until you return.
  3. Contact your clients well in advance and let them know you’ll be going on vacation. If they have anything that requires your special attention you’ll be able to take care of it before you leave. Delegate a point person for them to contact in your absence.
  4. Empower your employees to step in and step up while you’re on vacation. Delegate specific tasks or duties. Leave detailed instructions about how to deal with situations that may arise. If you’d feel more comfortable with regular status reports, have a staff member email you at a predetermined interval with a report of the company’s activities during your absence. Let your staff know that they can reach out to you under certain circumstances and be clear as to what these circumstances could be.

All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. We all need time to relax, recharge and reconnect with family and friends. What are you waiting for? Start planning your vacation!


Top 3 Pros and Cons of Employee Turnover

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When we hear the term “staff turnover,” we immediately think it’s a bad sign that a business is not doing well, or they don’t follow the best hiring processes. As a business advisor to small businesses for over 30 years, I can assure you that staff turnover can also be a good thing for your business.

 

 

 

Pros To Staff Turnover:

  • Fresh Ideas: When you hire new employees, they can bring fresh perspectives, new experiences and energy that could lead to innovative ideas. When they are not attached to the old ideas nor to the “way we do things” attitude, they can bring you insights you didn’t have before.
  • The 20% Rule: You know the saying: “20% of your staff do 80% of the work”. When you reward the 20% for their efforts, this can energize your workforce and strengthen your role as the leader and the balance of staff will either improve their performance or move on.
  • Avoid Complacency: When staff feel what they did yesterday is “good enough,” they have become complacent and this can be the enemy of every organization, fostering an environment of “status quo” and an aversion to risk-taking only leads to poor employee morale and increased employee sick time and poor job satisfaction.

Cons For Staff Turnover

  • Dismissal: It is never a pleasant thing having to dismiss an employee, but once you have determined employees are no longer fulfilling the role you hired them for, and you have given them ample opportunity to improve, it is time to save your business and let them go.
  • Rehiring: Hiring new staff ultimately costs money and time. To ensure you hire the right people from the start with the right skills who fit into the company’s culture, make sure you have a clear hiring process, with written job descriptions and defined roles and responsibilities. You should have an onboarding process and internal measurement and evaluation matrix to ensure they are performing the role you hired them for.
  • Train and Communicate: Invest time in training and communicating your expectations of them in their new role. Sometimes smaller businesses have a tendency to hire a person to perform a specific role, but then start loading them with responsibilities and tasks that are outside of that role. For example, asking the new sales person to design your brochures or write content is not realistic.

Your new hire will not know everything about the job in the first week, so do not set them up to fail – rather, give them clear examples of what you expect from them in a measurable and manageable document. Bearing that, if an employee has been with you for many years and is still not able to meet your expectations, then the right thing to do for both you and the company is to let them go.

Regardless of your hiring process, every business needs to have staff turnover as roles change and your business evolves. Don’t see it as a bad thing, or a good thing, but rather a “chance to grow.”

Do you think employee turnover can help or hinder your business?


When Does It Make Good Business Sense to Upgrade Your Technology?

Technology_Consulting_lgWith the latest release of Windows 10, it has many small business owners left wondering if they need to upgrade, buy new computers, put your applications on the cloud, buy new secure hosting packages, and more.

While as a business mentor to many small businesses I cannot answer tech-y questions, I can provide you with some guidance in making your office technology decisions.

Tell them how you are going to use it rather than what you need. Unless you are a tech-savvy owner, it’s best to let the experts tell you what technology will meet the needs you have, rather than the other way around. If you present a shopping list of laptops, desktops and routers, you could be buying technology unnecessarily.

Technology assessments outline what it is you want your system or technology to do. Before considering whether to purchase new computers, software applications, phone systems or networking services, you need to identify plans for using the technology. This is not always an easy task, especially when difficult questions arise about the capabilities and limitations of the technologies. You can hire an IT expert to help you conduct a technology assessment or you can conduct one yourself, but have no doubt they are invaluable tools in assessing your technology needs.

Have a technology plan which details what resources already exist and what is planned for the future. It also looks at areas of growth, contingencies, and investment vs. returns. Having technology that is up-to-date and helps increase efficiencies, reduce redundancies, and supports seamless growth is always a good idea.

Technology is forever changing and while it is important to make note of the changes, remember to not get caught up in trends and to stick to your plan and only invest when it will benefit your business.

Has your company invested in your technology recently? Did you do it because of recent trends or as part of your plan? Did you hire a technology expert or do it internally?


Why You Need a Cybersecurity Expert

Cyber-securityIt is a common misconception that only large multinational companies are targets of cyber-attacks. Unfortunately, a well-known brand and strong financial resources are not the only target for today’s hackers.

In my time working with SMB owners, the issue that I have seen come up more and more is security.

You may be wondering, “Why would anyone target a small business?” when the real question to ask is, “why wouldn’t someone target a small business?”

It’s a known fact that hackers are aware that smaller businesses usually have weaker online security. SMB owners typically do not invest large amounts of money into security for the exact reason that they do not feel threatened, and that makes them easy prey! In this digital era, more companies doing business online via cloud technology means easy access for skilled hackers.

Added to this is the fact that regardless of the size of your business, you may have a clientele consisting of larger businesses, and that makes you a very appealing entry point for attackers.

My number one piece of advice to all SMB owners is to hire a professional IT advisor on a full-time, contract, project basis; whatever your business requires. I know the tendency is for many of us to leave our IT issues to be handled or managed by an internal person, but unless they are an IT professional, they may not be able to deal with downtime or security breaches.

When you are considering hiring an IT advisor, you will want answers to these questions to understand the type of plan they would put together for you to mitigate your IT risks:

  1. What risks are we currently exposed to?
  2. How often will I need to update my software?
  3. Will I be able to install tech barriers on my budget?
  4. What kind of education/training will you provide my employees with?

Have you been a victim of a cyber-attack? Have you considered hiring an IT advisor to ensure it does not happen again? Please share your experiences in the comments below!


Peer Advisory Boards – Do They Work?

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the largest advantage of a peer advisory board is getting completely unbiased opinions from your business peers who act as a sounding board for your business concerns. Providing real life experience, your peers help you step back and think, are available to bounce ideas off of and keep your business on track.

Do they work? When many business owners think of a peer advisory group, they are a little skeptical as to whether or not they really work. All we have to do is look to the thousands of successful programs like Weight Watchers, or any 12-step program for the answer. The truth is they work because we not only crave the communal sharing and camaraderie, but we gain huge benefits from sharing mutual understanding and insights.

Sometimes entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized business owners feel they are “alone at the top” and find that meeting regularly with a peer advisory board, facilitated by their board’s facilitator, not only helps them to gain insights they otherwise wouldn’t have, but makes them more accountable and keeps them on track to meet their business goals.

Even if a business is large enough to have its own board of directors, many peer advisory boards can act as a sounding board where someone could present issues to a collection of business professionals and bright individuals for feedback before taking their concerns to a company’s board of directors.

Although there are many types of boards, a peer advisory board is something quite special because it allows business owners to unite and share common experiences.  For example, all businesses have personnel, operations, finance, and marketing concerns. If one member on the board has had a recent personnel issue, they can share their experience as to how they handled it, discuss what types of infrastructure needs to be in place and even where they posted a job.

Staff is not going to challenge a business owner, and owners need to have their ideas and decisions questioned, a peer advisory board will challenge you to consider new approaches to tackle a problem that they too have experienced.

Do you feel you could benefit from a peer advisory board? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.