Smart Phones and Business

  

smart phone

Almost everybody owns a smart phone which connects to the internet these days. Whereas before, online data could only be accessed through a computer terminal, now emails and communications are available 24/7 at the touch of a button. These advancements in technology have had several effects on business and business continuation.

Workers now possess more flexibility as they are able to catch up with their business on the go with much more ease. Even when travelling to and from the office, or while you are away on business trips or even on holiday, as long as you have access to a 3G network you are able to continuously communicate with your clients without the need for a computer or laptop. Smartphones often come with smart software that allow you to update your schedules and calendars on all your devices at once, so even adjusting these isn't problematic from your cellar device, and having a cellular device on you at all times also has the added ability of reminding you of important dates and events in your schedule through push notifications, alarms and reminders that you are guaranteed to see, regardless of your location.
Employees have a greater ability to be able to take their work home with them. Even without a computer or laptop, people are able to write and send emails, adjust and send documents, amend schedules and access the internet which means that when you have approaching deadlines that put pressures on you that regular office hours simply don't suffice for, tasks can still be completed outside of the office and on the move. With the ability to access anything from anywhere, working on the move is becoming more and more popular.
With the ability to conduct teleconferences and Skype interviews from your mobile device, international hour differences are less of a problem as you can conduct these from anywhere where you have access to a network or wifi connection. This means that this is no longer restricted to office hours.
Smartphones are multitasking devices which allow you to complete several tasks at the same time through multiple applications which leave each other uninterrupted. Often these apps can communicate with each other so that you can transfer files and data between them. With such a simple interface, often it is easier to control several applications at once through your smartphone than on your computer device.
Smartphones give you immediate access to your bank accounts and you can manage, make and receive payments at your fingertips from anywhere. You also have instant access to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram which can be used to promote your business within seconds, as well as quick and easy access to stock reports and essential business data.
The biggest disadvantage to this development in technology is that where people used to just leave the office and switch off, now they are more likely to take their work with them all the time. This can lead to an increase in stress levels, a more agitated sleep pattern and more disruption to their private lives, however, overall, smartphones have had a very positive impact to businesses all over the world.

 

Successful advertising for today’s market

  

advert example

In an age where the internet dominates our lives and people spend the vast majority of their time scrolling through a news feed, advertising has had to adapt to capture attention even quicker than before. The use of visuals in advertising have become even more important as often a potential consumer's eyes will only glance over the advert for a fraction of a second as they scroll past it on their screen.

If you think about it, Instagram is a very strong media platform because it says so much with so few words. People simply don't have the time to sit and to read through pages of information and they want quick, easy access to mass content with quick and easy responses to show their support or appreciation for what is on display.
So how can we apply this to advertising? What visual features make you stand out from an endless stream of mediocrity?
Colour is a very important tool. Your reaction to certain colours is very personal and emotional and can completely change your mood. As an advertiser, you have to decide which mood you want to inflict upon your target audience that would be most effective to persuade them to buy your product. Bold and bright colours will make you stand out from other advertisements and media, but may not portray the message or the mood that you wish to deliver.
Creating a brand and a strong image for yourself is important. If you can reach the stage where a small logo or a simple typeface is immediately recognised as your brand, such as the Apple logo or the purple used in Cadbury's advertising, then you have really implanted your company and your product into people's subconscious. This can be achieved through repetition and ensuring that you have a strong brand and logo. Just be careful not to over stimulate with repetition that they decide to block out your advertising campaigns.
The people in your advertisements obviously play vital roles. Consider the body language of the people in the pictures. Do they look confident? Do they look happy? Viewers of your adverts will automatically assume that your product will have the effect on them that it has on the people in your images.
You have to be careful not to overcrowd your imagery. The use of negative space is very effective as it promotes simplicity and draws focus very quickly to a particular point on the advert. Also when composing your image, consider using the rule of thirds for maximum impact, or to be really direct with potential customers, central composition can also be really effective. Patterns are visually satisfying to consumers and can have a very positive effect.
People remember about 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read. The way to truly speak to somebody on a personal level is through their eyes and not through words. Imagery is a language that transcends all language barriers, although it can be interpreted differently by different cultures. Especially in today's markets where people simply don't have the motivation to read large amounts of text, it is the quickest and most effective way to promote your product.

 

The coffee business

  

coffee

After water, coffee is the most consumed drink in the world. From your humble cup of nescafe gold instant all the way to a single origin dark roast barista crafted flat white in a modern independent cafe, with so many formats enjoyed by a bullion people worldwide there is something to satisfy every palette and it is easy to see how it has become such a big and important business in todays society.

On average, an American spends $14.40 a week on coffee from cafes. On average, Americans drink 3 cups each every day. The average net profit on a cup of coffee is between 400% and 500%, with roughly 80c spent on labour and materials and the average cup costing $3.50. There are 25 billion small producers relying on coffee for a living. Around 30 million coffee brewing machines have been sold in the US every year since 2010. 45 hours are spent every year on Americans waiting for coffee, compared to the 48 hours they spend in the shower. 46% of coffee drinkers visit a cafe more than three times a week, and 56% percent of these people will buy a pastry with their drink. Needless to say, the market is massive.
The majority of coffee is consumed at home, however the three companies boasting the largest sales in coffee are McDonalds, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. There is however a trend developing which is complicating the art of coffee. The daily consumption of espresso based beverages in the US has tripled since 2008, and a lot of this growth has been seen in the younger generations. The coffee industry remained largely unaffected by the 2008 recession as millennials proved that it had become a staple that they were willing to pay for, even in trying times, who also tend to spend money on products from companies that reflect their personal values more than previous generations. This is seeing an increase in fair-trade and organic products.
There is a rise in consumption out of home and in a social environment, with consumers expecting to have their coffee served precisely as they wish. This is boosting business in smaller, independent cafes and also creating more competition amongst these companies as they all try to bend and adapt to an ever changing market as well as provide something unique.
Apps are changing the way that people buy coffee. These days, you can order your coffee from your phone and so you don't have to wait in line to acquire it. This also opens a potential stream of information which, whilst before was largely unappreciated, today is expected, so that consumers can find out where their coffee beans are sourced, how they are roasted, and the best ways to have it prepared for their particular taste.
The rise in app usage comes alongside a rise in interest in technology. More consumers are looking to buy coffee related gadgets so that they are able to produce high quality beverages in their own home, and the market for this is sharply inclining.

 

The cost of your bathroom break

  

company bathroom

There's that old saying “you gotta go when you gotta go”, but just how much is your bathroom break actually costing your company?

The average size of a bathroom is 40 square feet. The average rent of an office is $23.23 per a square meter every month. The average time spent on the toilet, as a mean between men and women, is 95 minutes a week, which comes to 13.57 minutes a day and roughly 4.5 minutes during your eight hour shift. There are 43800 minutes in a month, which means that one square foot costs $0.00053 every minute, and 40 square feet cost $0.02121 every minute. This figure multiplied by 4.5 minutes is $0.09546.
During those 4.5 minutes on the toilet, your wages are still being paid for you to be essentially idle. The average American is paid $24.57 every hour, which equates to $196.56 for an eight hour day, and $0.4095 every minute. Your time in wages, on average on the toilet during company time is $1.84275 every day.
The average price of water is $1.50 for every 1000 gallons. The average amount of water used to flush the toilet is 1.6 gallons, which means that each flush costs $0.0024. Then of course we still have to clean up, and let's just say a roll of paper costs a reasonable $0.25 which consists of 500 sheets, 8.6 of which are used on average every trip to the bathroom, the price of this will be $0.0172.
If we add all of those figures together, we come to $1.95781, or $1.96 when rounded to the nearest cent, and this doesn't include factors like the water and soap used to wash your hands, the time spent walking between your desk and the computer, the cost of lighting the bathroom, the cost of maintenance and cleaning, the cost of heating, the cost of wear and tear on the office carpet, the cost of running your computer while you're not using it and most importantly the share of the 6.5% annual profit margin which you will not be making whilst you are taking a bathroom break.
The amount of money that a company spends on its employees being idle racks up very quickly when you begin to consider every element that a company spends simply on existing. It is absolutely essential that a company does their best to eliminate time wasting in order to be successful. Going to the toilet is an essential part of our day, being mammals we simply cannot live without it, but what about time on social networks, or time socialising at the water cooler, or the time waiting on hold for a conference call, or the time waiting for your computer to power up in the morning? Are there any ways that you can cut out unnecessary elements in your time to save your company money? And if not, is there anything else you can do while your computer is loading up? Are there emails you can be answering while you are waiting for a conference call to start?
Time is money, and time is the most valuable resource that we have. Make sure to use it effectively.

 

The Digital Age

  

vinyl

 

With advancements in technology constantly in the pipeline, the world has come a long way in the last few years. Gone are the days of vinyl, film photography, tape decks, CD, VHS, polaroid cameras, DVD and board games…. or are they?

While we have music streaming websites such as Spotify dominating the music industry, and likewise Netflix taking a lot of consumers away from their traditional televisions, it seems that it is becoming fashionable to revel in the processes of our pastimes. More and more people are falling back in love with their film cameras, chasing the analogue systems over their digital counterparts. More people are sitting down with the warm crackle of a vinyl; a sound that was almost lost in the digital age. There are even new advancements in film photography so that photographers can develop their film on the go. There seems to be a certain romance with the physical connections with our music and photos.
While on the rise, it is still a very small market, and the majority of consumers will opt for the newer and more practical solutions. There is an upwards trend in paying for subscriptions for services like Netflix and Spotify, where instead of paying once for a DVD or a CD, people will pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to the services that website provides. This eliminates clutter around the house, makes media completely portable by putting everything in one place - inside a smart phone or computer device, and also gives users more access to content that before they would have had no exposure to.
With over 100 million people subscribed to a music streaming service worldwide, it is certainly a booming industry. Initially, the introduction of digital files in the music industry was problematic as music piracy became more common. While still very popular, the introduction of services like Spotify is beginning to tackle that problem. The drop in demand for the physical product is saving record companies a fortune in shipping, storage and production as effectively, all they need to do is to allow access to a digital file, which also combats issues such as pollution generated when moving vast amounts of a product as well as the reducing the plastic used to create CDs and CD sleeves.
Youtube poses a potential threat to paid streaming services as there are more consumers listening to music on youtube than through Apple and Spotify combined. While royalties are paid out through this service, the inflation of royalties has not kept up with the increase of streaming creating a a value gap. Money is obtained through advertising and distributed accordingly, instead of through a paid subscription.
Despite revenues being $195 billion for Spotify in 2015, the company doesn't produce a profit as the price of royalties increases. Spotify's sustainability is questionable, despite the fact it is still going strong. Still, in a rapidly developing environment, it's only a matter of time before everything changes again, and music streaming becomes, like film photography and vinyl, a thing of the past.

 

The effects of the Business suit

  

Business suit

While appearance isn't everything, making a good initial impact is very important. There are a number of beneficial reasons for dressing up smart for your career and a number of mental changes that come with looking sharp, for both the observer and yourself .

Dressing smart makes us feel powerful. A phycology study at California State University suggests that looking more formal than is required broadens our perspective and encourages wearers to think in a more abstract way. By feeling more powerful, people in formal attire are less likely to get caught up on small details and tend to think about the larger picture. The wearer begins to distance themselves from social elements such as what others may be thinking about him or her and can focus more on the professional implications of the task at hand.
There is a well documented link between power and abstract thinking throughout history. What this means is that the thinker removes the facts and thinks more conceptually. This is effective for some areas of business, but not others. It is very helpful when problem solving as the person would tend to think of the whole process rather than just the obstacle. It's also effective when receiving criticism because the thinker can take a step back from the social implications rather than letting the negativity drag down their self esteem. The opposite of subtract thinking is concrete thinking, which is particularly effective when following a process and focussing on small details
As wearing formal attire makes you appear more professional, people will listen more to what you have to say and find you more trustworthy. Somebody wearing a suit emits a lot more confidence than somebody wearing a tracksuit, at least in a formal work atmosphere. If you consider somebody asking for change to catch the bus, are you more likely to part with 50 cents to a businessman or to somebody is casual attire?
There is a subconscious mindset that somebody wearing formal attire is successful and moving upwards in the world. We naturally see somebody who is working to make a difference, in one way or another.
Other research suggests that wearing formal attire in business environments where it is not essential or part of a dress code has even greater effects. By raising the bar a notch, you will be making the people in your immediate proximity uncomfortable and making a larger statement with your choice of formal attire. You will increase the margin between those who chose to down dress and, even if only on a subconscious level, you will place yourself at the top of the hierarchy.
Obviously it depends on your job and the environment that you work in as to which attire will help you settle into the right mindset for the task at hand, but when you have the chance to and you need to boost your abstract thinking, put away the polo top and trade it for something a little smarter. You might just feel the difference that you need.

 

The FairTrade Business

  

fairtrade

"Fair Trade” is a label that we see every day in supermarkets, cafes, supermarkets and shops. It is a social movement who's goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. It is also set up in support sustainable business. There is a level of concern over how much the farmers and workers in poorer conditions are receiving, and fair trade companies wish to support them with three main beliefs; producers have the power to express unity with consumers, that an inequality of wealth distribution exists between different nations, and that buying products from developing nations supports sustainable business and development.

More consumers in the millennial generation are spending more money on day to day products from ethical companies instead of opting for cheaper products from companies that do not support these values. They feel it is worth spending more money on companies that support their beliefs and values, and therefore, the value of being a fair trade company is increasing as demand rises for such products.
These days companies pay as much as 2% of their profit to have the “Fairtrade” logo on their products. The standards required by Fairtrade International, formerly FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International) include a minimum price for producers and development initiatives, which is funded by a 10% surcharge on certified products. Companies are pressured to register with the FLO brand as it has become a distinctive label that consumers expect to see on the products they are buying, and so the “Fairtrade” logo has become the standard brand in the field. Ironically, these multibillion dollar logo has become it's own business, and has had problems supplying the producers with the benefits it promises as it struggles to recoup the cost of labelling.
Some British supermarkets are setting up their own fair trade brands to support “the little guys”. They are questioning the values of the “Fairtrade” logo and finding that they can support growers and producers in developing countries in their own way without relating to the standard “Fairtrade” brand. The owner of Mojo coffee in New Zealand pays his suppliers almost twice the premium they would receive under the “Fairtrade” logo but refuses to register with Fairtrade international as that would require him sending a cheque for 2% of his profits to a conglomerate in Germany. Some companies feel that they can do more to support developing countries and the fair trade social movement in their own way instead of simply acquiring a logo on their product.
The benefit of registering with Fairtrade international is that you can display their logo on your products which is instantly recognised by your consumers and displays your ethical commitments and beliefs. For those millennials who shop with a sustainably and ethically conscious, this is important, and it could attract a larger and more refined consumer base for your products. If you decide to own a fair trade business by your own means, it is more difficult to portray to your customer base. The logo has become so international and so recognisable that it does all the speaking for you and your business.

 

The importance of time off

  

day dream

It is very easy to fall into the mindset that the only time that matters for our careers is the time spent in the office. As it turns out, our spare time and taking time away from our work is just as important towards our trajectory and productivity.

Not only can working too many hours have negative effects on your business, it can also have serious implications on your health, and if you're not able to attend work because of tiredness related sickness, then obviously you can't get anything done. They solution to business continuity starts with employees being able to complete their work, and looking after their health, both physical and mental, is vital for this. A recent study in Sweden where the weekly hours were dropped showed that sickness reduced due to this increased time off.
Taking time off is also important for social and personal reasons. It allows us to chase whatever interests us, from personal projects and development opportunities to vacations and day trips. This boosts our positivity and makes us happier, and happier people just work better. To further build on this positivity, we also have more time to spend with our families and friends. We are, by nature, social creatures, and spending time with other people is important for our mental health. By improving our work/life balance, we will look after our mental and physical health as well as our happiness.
When you do return to work, you'll find that you are a lot more productive. Taking time off allows you to reset your mind and to remove yourself from the chaos that is easy to lose yourself in during your time in the office. Taking a short break to refuel the engine, so to speak, is mutually beneficial for both your and your employer. Even “microbreaks” of sixty seconds or so can allow us refocus our minds when things become muddled.
If you don't take time off, although you may be functioning as a human, you will gradually wear yourself down with fatigue and tiredness and the build up of stress and the strain it puts you under will grind away at your motivation and so your productivity will slow.
It is important to approach work with a positive mindset, and one very effective way to achieve this is to ensure you are spending your time outside the office to the highest effect. Sometimes it pays to switch off your smart phone and to distant yourself from your emails so that you can put things into perspective. While the employees inside a business all work towards a common goal, like cogs in a machine, it is important to remember that we are all individual humans with individual needs, and we perform at our best when we are truly ourselves.
Statistics suggest that only about 77% of vacation days are actually used in the US and that this number is declining. Our time off is very important to succeeding in our careers, don't forget to use it and to use it well.

Antisocial hours

  

working late

Certain professions require staff to work during antisocial hours, which comes with some obvious disadvantages, but also some hidden advantages.

The obvious problem is the effect on your personal body clock. As humans we are used to sleeping during the night and being active during the day, but to spin this on its head creates a few difficulties. First and foremost is knowing when to sleep. If you try to sleep during the day, there is a lot more noise outside and light that can disrupt your sleeping pattern. We require 7-8 hours of sleep to function properly, and it can be a strain to your body to adjust when you fit this in.
Alongside a potential lack of sleep, it has ramifications on your social life. Most people like to meet up after work in the evenings to go to a bar or a restaurant, and this is most likely the time you'll be sleeping or working, and your work schedule will most likely contradict that of your family which can create friction. You have to force yourself to eat on a regular schedule and enforce healthy traits which normally come naturally during the day.
Altering your sleep pattern can also come with health complications if you're not careful. Irregular heartbeats and cardiovascular complications are not uncommon for people on the night shift. There's also a security risk as you travel to and from work at times which can potentially have more crime and danger on the streets, and workplaces are more prone to break-ins during the night.
On the other side of the coin are a plethora of different benefits. Companies tend to pay more money for people working during the night as compensation for the antisocial hours. Also, by doing all of your work during the night, providing you have enough energy left, you then have all of the day to fill in with other activities. Some people go back into study as universities and colleges tend to be open when they're not working. Some people take up new hobbies, or focus on developing skills. There seems to be more time as you have already got the hard part of your day over with. Some people even fill in some of this time with a second job.
During the night there are less interruptions and workflow is more consistent. There are fewer meetings to attend, fewer urgent emails and fewer distractions which means productivity increases.
If you're working in quite a big business, then chances are that during the night there are less staff which means less competition for anybody looking for a promotion. It also means there's a chance to pick up twice as many responsibilities and develop new skills as there are less people to designate these out to.
There's also a decrease in traffic to and from the office. This can help you save some money on fuel and some time from your schedule.
It's difficult to balance everything out, particularly the strange social hours and people's reactions to this, however once you are familiar and settled into a schedule, working the night shift doesn't have to be as bad as it sounds.

 

Threats to small businesses

  

small business

More people are opting to start up their own business, and with the changes in consumer activity with the new millennial generation, it is a good time to open a small business to support your local economy and to make a living on your own terms. Diving into this water is no easy feat, and there are a lot of dangers to look out for.

Starting a business is very expensive, and often the property from which you run your business and the holdings kept within it's walls are your most valuable asset, particularly if you have been saving for a long time to begin your company. Therefore, it pays to have a decent security system in place to protect your business. It's also a good idea to take out some form of insurance against theft and damage. You may not have much money to afford such luxuries, but you will be very thankful you took out that insurance policy if anything were to happen. It is best to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Extreme weather can force a business to temporarily close due to a lack of customers being able to travel to the business or for safety reasons. Statistics show that 40% of small businesses fail to reopen after a fire or a flood. If your business is located in a disaster prone area, make sure you have a strategy for continuation if something were to happen.
Small businesses don't tend to have that many staff, and if too much of your business relies solely on one person, then if they become ill or decide to leave for whatever reason, it can have serious ramifications to your business. Make sure you do not depend too much on single employees.
Creating contracts for employees has become standard practice and is expected in most businesses, however a lot of small businesses don't have the time or the funding to properly proof read everything that they are signing and all of the terms and conditions and the potential legal ramifications it could have against the business. This can be a big risk further down the road with potential legal action taking large sums of money from your business. Paying a lawyer or an expert to thoroughly evaluate your contracts is a difficult and expensive decision to make, but in the long run it could save your business from going bust.
Much like relying on one employee, if you rely too heavily on one supplier, this can also be a huge risk. Make sure you have a dependable supply chain with alternatives in case of any emergencies to ensure continuity of your business.
There is a big threat of hacking, phishing and the compromising of data, and with the expansion of the internet, this is only going to increase. While costly, protecting yourself electronically and protecting your data can be as valuable or even more valuable than protecting your physical assets, depending on the business that you run.
When opening it is hard to know what you can shave costs on, however to ensure that your business survives the first and most difficult year, biting the bullet and preparing for a worst case scenario is often the best thing you can do.

 

  
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