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51% WORKERS WANT FOUR-DAY WORK WEEK

Research conducted over last three years shows that just over half of UK workers (51%) want to work a four-day work week – favouring the idea of working longer hours Monday to Thursday and taking Friday to Sunday off.

The modern workplace has seen a shift in values. Where output was once the focal point, today’s employers prioritise mental health, happiness and a healthy work-life balance – all of which help to boost workplace productivity naturally. In light of this, Instant Offices have considered the impact a four-day work week can have on employees and how businesses can implement shorter weeks without disrupting workflow.

How working patterns differ

Multiple countries have already embraced the concept of a four-day week, and many European countries also have some of the shortest average working hours a week worldwide, with the shortest as follows:

  • Germany: 26.37
  • Netherlands: 27.29
  • Norway: 27.38
  • Denmark: 28.02
  • France: 28.50

In the US, workers tend to work longer hours on average than their continental counterparts; however, some companies are starting to recognise the benefits of a four-day working week. Since 2016 Amazon, for example, has offered some of its employees the chance to work a 30-hour week.

The biggest distractions

According to a study in 2017, the average employee spends a mere two hours and 53 minutes per day working productively. When looking at the most significant distractions, almost half admitted checking social media was a big distraction, while almost 1 in 5 said looking for a new job often took priority. Workers also rated the following as the top 10 activities as the most disrupting:

  1. Checking social media – 47%
  2. Reading news websites – 45%
  3. Discussing out of work activities with colleagues – 38%
  4. Making hot drinks – 31%
  5. Smoking breaks – 28%
  6. Text/instant messaging – 27%
  7. Eating snacks – 25%
  8. Making food in office – 24%
  9. Making calls to partner/ friends- 24%
  10. Searching for new jobs – 19%

Benefits of a four-day work week 

A recent trial at one firm found that switching to a four-day week increased productivity by 20%, while also improving staff wellbeing.

  • Productivity: Employees become more productive during office hours, as they work to compensate for the lost day.
  • Efficiency: Employees spend less time on inefficient tasks like meetings and waste less time taking breaks or browsing social media.
  • Engagement: Workers feel less stressed and can enjoy a better work-life balance, which makes them more engaged.
  • Teamwork: Teams work better together as they chase a common goal, improving their efficiency so everyone can enjoy an extra day of rest.
  • Savings: If all employees are out of the office one day a week, overheads like electricity decrease by 20%.

Smarter ways to implement a four-day work week

Working fewer days, and shorter hours, may not seem like a practical idea, but there are a few ways that a four-day week can be executed in a company that disrupt workflow.

Start Slowly

Reducing working hours gradually by two, then half a day, before removing a full day altogether can also help ease employees into a reduction in days.

Think About Flexible Options

In instances where employees don’t want to work less hours, as it will result in a pay drop, offering flexible working options such as working remotely can be a happy compromise. If there is no way the whole office can be out on the same day, there is always the possibility to rotate schedules, having half the team off on Friday and the other off on Monday; ensuring people are always on site five days a week.

Maximise Efficiency and Track Productivity

Using automation with simpler tasks can help streamline processes and free up time, while using time-tracking and product management tools can help ensure other tasks aren’t slipping – the idea here is not to micromanage, but to make sure that time is well-spent.

Communicate

Make sure everyone is on board with the new model and hours and encourage feedback on the hours. Ensure employees know that their suggestions on what can be done to improve things are taken under consideration.

 

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Do broadcasters have a responsibility to bring niche sports to new audiences?

There are hidden audiences within the realms of niche and lesser followed sports that large broadcasters often overlook. Yet these audiences have the potential to grow at pace. Take women’s football for example – the women’s FA cup final in 2018 had a record number of audiences, peaking at 4 million viewers on Channel 4 alone and the England v Scotland group match in the World Cup peaked at 6.1 million making it the most watched women’s game of sport ever. Providing access to these sports isn’t only beneficial for the fans and followers of the sport, but also for the sports and broadcaster themselves.

John Griffiths, VP Marketing at Spicy Mango, discusses whether broadcasters – both traditional and OTT – have a responsibility to invest in these niche sports and bring them to new audiences.

Shining a Spotlight on Women’s Football 

With the women’s Fifa World Cup underway, and debates about gender diversity in sport hitting headlines, all eyes will be on broadcasters to see how much they push the women’s game in comparison to last year’s men’s competition. There is a real hunger from viewers to see more: a recent survey polling viewers about sports broadcasts found that 52% thought that the BBC should be doing more to encourage women to participate in sport. And 71% of UK adults agreed that showing more women’s sport would be good “because it will have a positive effect on girls and women taking part in sport.”

The BBC has arguably ‘responded’ to this by launching the #ChangeTheGame campaign for the upcoming World Cup which features all 24 qualifying countries and several nods to significant moments in women’s sport. Channel 4 have also announced the launch of a show discussing women’s football that will run for the duration of the World Cup. It might not rival Match of the Day, but it is a step in the right direction.

Niche is Niche 

Niche and lesser watched sports are labelled niche for a reason – they have smaller audiences than mainstream sports and many of the people who watch the sports in question are also active participants themselves. From a commercial angle, it’s unsurprising that broadcasters and brands have failed to invest as the figures remain starkly different: 43% of people who said they were interested in sport had watched women’s sport in the last month, compared to 81% for men’s, so the advertising revenue remains small. And this story is replicated not just in gender, but also across other sports such as hockey, handball, Rugby Sevens and surfing, to name just a few. All of these sports have loyal followings across the world, but aren’t necessarily mainstream with many being watched live in person, or through an online service.

Many sportsmen and women who compete in niche sports compete for passion, not to pay the bills. It’s also worth noting that some of the sports that are viewed as niche in the UK are mainstream in other countries. For example, handball and hockey in the Netherlands. But surely if UK broadcasters invest now, they could elevate the sport allowing for professional competition opportunities and a new audience?

Getting in front of an audience 

It is a vicious circle – sport needs exposure to gain an audience, but if the followers don’t exist then a live stream could fall flat. And investment in OTT services is significant for a small sport with a limited budget, as there is a breakeven cost associated with that spending. In comparison to the big leagues, advertising revenue for niche sports might be small but it’s enough when there isn’t a huge amount of money in the sport anyway.

Many niche sports are turning to existing platforms like social media, tapping into Facebook live streams to deliver competition streams to their audience across the world. This works because Facebook have the finances available to buy the rights to the sport, and the cost for using the service is minimal for both the sport and the user. And specialist sports OTT platforms are emerging such as Flow, DAZN, and the recently announced service from Rakuten. With a mix of larger more high-profile sports events or leagues the cost of infrastructure is covered allowing the platforms to provide an outlet for more niche sports too.

There is more to getting in front of an audience than a streaming platform: the magic is in the marketing and sports governing bodies and broadcasters arguably don’t do enough between them to promote niche sports. This was a primary criticism of the BBC’s upcoming coverage of the women’s World Cup – most of the games will still be on the red button, so despite the flashy advert, it appears the coverage still won’t match that of prime time games. When it comes to gaining new audiences, more time needs to be invested in promoting the sports to draw in new audiences. This doesn’t have to be complicated, running social media campaigns or bolting on an advert to the end of a TV programme can be highly effective.

An inherent responsibility? 

When it comes to niche and lesser watched sports, broadcasters certainly have a part to play in ensuring that the sport is watched and engaged with by not only the existing fans, but new ones too. It’s clear that many sports will remain niche, but for sports like women’s football which have arguably been worthy of the spotlight, broadcasters can definitely do more to promote and draw attention to the sport. Not only will this benefit the viewer, but the investment will bring more attention, more viewers and ultimately more revenue to be funneled into the sport and those who broadcast it.

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The Value of Beauty Cards for Your Business

If you buy cereal or household products, odds are that it comes in a square or rectangular box. They’ll come in different colors, sizes and patterns, but the packaging is designed to protect the product and maximize shipping efficiency.

The beauty industry is a little different. Here, you will find lotions and makeup encased in containers that come in a wide variety of shapes. Orbs sit beside fancy fluted glass sculptures, while hexagonal and octagonal boxes are not unknown. The shape of the container may be as much a part of the brand identity as the color pattern and brand name on the container. This means that it is hard to change the packaging in any way, because it is too integral to literal brand recognition.

How then can you promote various points about the product? How can you then label the product as being sold by you? The solution is simple — beauty business cards. Furthermore, there are other cases where business cards are the only practical option for those working in the fashion and beauty industry.

Labeling the Items You’re Selling

Are you selling beauty products at a flea market? Taping your business card to every beauty product allows you to sell the products to fans while giving them your contact information. Do you sell scarves, hats, or jewelry in addition to makeup and other beauty products? You could incorporate a version of your business card into the product tag. Alternatively, you could simply slip your business card into every bag full of products you’ve just sold.

If you are building gift baskets for clients, include your business cards in the gift basket. Now the gift recipient has your contact information if they want to buy more of any of the beauty products. Another strategy is including your business card in any envelopes containing your gift cards or vouchers. Then the gift recipient has the information required to contact you to take advantage of the gift card

Promoting Your Products or Services

You’ve struck up conversation with someone at a party or other social event. You mention that you sell the products that they’re looking for. Let’s be honest. Most of them will not remember your full name later that day. Fewer will remember a web address or slogan. The simplest solution is to give them your business card during the discussion. Then they have your name, line of business, contact information, and website in one easy to reference document. It is less obtrusive than a flyer, and you can carry many of them around in your wallet or purse.

Don’t forget to give everyone coming to an educational seminar or makeover copies of your business card. It is a discrete way to promote yourself to the daughter while giving Mom a makeover. It is a good way to quickly advertise your business to the wedding party while giving the bride her makeover before the wedding. If you send thank you cards to your clients, include a business card that they’re likely to keep for future reference. Another tactic is including your business card in any order that is shipped to your customers. You may not be able to afford personally branded packaging, but you can tape your business card to the outside of the box.
Insert the business card in the package, since you want to ensure that the receiver has one that they keep.

They Can Supplement Your Digital Marketing

A smart way to utilize business cards in the beauty and fashion industry is to integrate them into your digital marketing. For example, when you set up a lovely display in a store, include an easily read business card. Then take a picture of it and post it on social media. Now you’ve tapped into the appeal of rich images for online marketing, but the picture includes your name, website address, and contact information. Anyone who shares pictures of the array of beauty products by definition shares your contact information. When it can be tactfully done, try to do the same when doing makeovers or working at various events. For example, you could stand with your clients behind a table that prominently shows a stack of your business cards. When
they take that picture and share it as a status update, all their friends know how to reach you to request the same products or services.

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How To Increase Your Online Sales During Summer

Summer is finally here – but while everyone is happy about the weather, entrepreneurs are worried about their sales.

A lot of businesses face a sales dump during the summer months. People are out on the beach enjoying the weather and while the temperatures are rising, the sales numbers are falling. But there are some ways to take advantage of summer as it’s a good time to look at new ways of growing your income streams and improving your business strategy. With the right coping strategy, you can use the summer to set yourself ahead of your competitors.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Summer is the time to communicate and interact with your customers as they often have more time than during the rest of the year. For example, you could host a Social Media contest with a summer theme and a nice giveaway. Besides it being a great way to engage customers and increase your page views, it will also create a good reputation for your business.

Improve Your Website

Your website is your virtual business card and should always remain state of the art. During summer, when the website has less traffic, it is the perfect time to adopt some changes and improve usability as well as visibility.

These days, a big challenge to manufacturers is to always be available to the customers. The smaller the business, the greater the challenge to answer all customer quests. Therefore, it can be helpful to implement a chatbot to your eCommerce. Statistics show that chatbots are on the rise and in 2020 they will handle around 85 percent of customer service interaction worldwide. If you haven’t considered it yet, you should definitely look into integrating a chatbot to your business. They never leave a client’s request unanswered as they are available 24/7 and their company during the check-out process can lead to less abandoned carts.

Plan Ahead

Summer is the perfect time to plan campaigns or promotions that you want to realize later in the year. Sales structure, communications, and all details should be ready at least three months before they are due to be implemented. Starting in summer, you will have a lot of time to research and get feedback for your ideas. It goes without saying that you will avoid being stressed about leaving things until the last minute.

Automate your Business Operations

While planning your next campaigns, you should also have a look at how you can improve your business operations. Even as a small company, you should come up with an efficient production planning strategy. A proper production schedule is key to making your manufacturing process flow with maximum efficiency, as it helps you to fulfill orders without interruptions or delay.

Target alternative customers

One way to step up your business game is to target an entirely new group of clients. With some research, you might find that you could widen your target group easily and that you haven’t used all of your business’ potential yet. To attract these new potential clients, you might have to diversify your product. Instead of offering just one version, you could try offering different colors, types, sizes, or the option of personalizing it.

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Start Your Business Magazine | The Ultim.. by Start Your Business - 3d ago

Using Events to Promote Business Growth: Getting the Basics Right

There are three primary aspects of a business. They are production, marketing, and sales. Now, everything from customer and demand identification to finance management and networking is just as important and sometimes even more so, but these are the three core aspects of business in general, with varying interpretations.

An event can be an excellent marketing tool, especially if your business is relatively new in the field or if you are planning to expand it beyond its current size and reach. The problem is that even though you might be a suave entrepreneur with experience and impressive success rates unless you know how to actually manage and direct a marketing event for your corporate venture, it can prove to be a very, very difficult task. Go through the following as we discuss the basics of ensuring the event’s grand success, even before you start out on the planning.

Hire the Experts You Definitely Need

Hypothetically, let’s assume that Warren Buffet has been given the task of developing a new game for a popular game development studio, would he be able to do it on his own? The man can probably buy and sell the software development company many times over and turn a profit larger than their initial net worth in all likelihood, but he can’t possibly code a new game all on his own when he still uses a feature phone from 2010!

The absurdity of the example above is meant to convey what will happen if you try to arrange a very important corporate event with huge marketing potential all on your own, without seeking help from the professional event planners who have the connections and the experience to give shape to your visions.

If you are hosting an event, contact iDEKO Productions and they will make sure that all the gaps in your knowledge of event production and your vision are filled by them. iDEKO is an award-winning event management and production agency who offer their services through the country, so your event will be in safe hands.

If you want them to play a passive role, they will simply take care of the permits and finding/booking your venue for you, but they can do a lot more if you let them. In fact, the event productions company specializes in sponsorships and activation platforms, so they might be just the ideal partners for planning and promoting your marketing event.

Pick the Right Date

The importance of the date should not be overstated. Depending on which date you choose, the attendance percentage will vary widely, and key guests might even have to skip the party because of the date.

So, how should an entrepreneur avoid choosing the wrong date for the event? The answer to this question is not simple by any means. It will vary depending on who the key guests are, what kind of a party or event you are planning, the personalities of the key guests and, lastly but most importantly, the weather.

We may not be able to control the weather yet, but weather stations have gotten pretty good at predicting it. Take the weather forecast into consideration because a beautiful evening event on a summer day in one of NYC’s many park venues would be a disaster if it started raining!

Try to pick holidays or weekends, although the cost will be higher and the good venues will likely need to be booked well in advance for that. Perhaps the best way to ensure that at least the key guests do not miss your event would be to personally call them up or ask them during a previous meeting whether they are available to attend the event you have planned.

As this event is a marketing tool, don’t be shy to shift dates around and accommodate maximum attendance, if you must. Don’t start sending out invitations unless you have ensured at least a decent chance of most guests being present during the event.

Promoting the Event

The more people know about it the better, so you need to promote it as best as you can. Social media is an affordable and highly successful way to do it. However, to truly promote the event, you will need to seek the help of event promotion and production teams like we already mentioned. It’s a professional job and without experience in event promotions, there’s only so much you can do on your own. Nevertheless, the following few are mandatory steps on your part.

  • Invest in a social media marketing campaign for your event, especially on Facebook
  • Prepare a guest list with careful consideration and send out email invitations
  • Contrary to popular belief, the newspaper is still read and corporate event promotions in them still work

There is much more to planning a marketing event and ensuring its success, but as long as you follow tip number one, your event management partner will guide you through the rest.

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So by this point you’ve chosen your gateway (or gateways). Now it’s time to have a think about which payment options you will provide. These are the methods of payment that are available to customers and can include debit and credit card, pay by finance, PayPal, e-wallets and one-touch payments.

This is where things can get a little bit complicated… but bear with us on this one. Some payment options, such as PayPal and Klarna double up as not just payment options, but also payment gateways. This allows them to handle the payment from start to finish within their own platform, without the need for a traditional payment gateway.

Other payment options such as Google Pay and Apple Pay can be integrated into your payment gateway depending on the service you choose. It’s completely normal to have a combination of any/all of the above, so find what works best for you.

Either method is absolutely fine, and if you feel confused, that’s also fine. All will become clear as we delve deeper into this within the next few blogs.

Depending on who your products and customers are, offering a variety of payment options is a great way to engage with new audiences, reduce cart abandonments, stand out from competitors, rejuvenate customer loyalty and increase sales.

Let’s have a look at the types of payment option you can offer.

The types of payment options available to you

Instant pay

This is the traditional method of accepting debit or credit card payments online; examples of which include Visa and Mastercard. It’s easy to get carried away with the new and exciting forms of payment, but many visitors will expect to be able to pay by card. By not using this method, you run the risk of losing trust with a large, conventional audience.

Credit pay and pay by finance

Credit pay and pay by finance have become a popular favourite amongst many of our clients. The beauty of providing credit pay or finance is that you make your products accessible to a wider audience. Customers are less likely to change their mind before making payment which in turn reduces the number of abandoned shopping carts and works wonders on sales. Providing credit or finance options can also give you a significant advantage over your competitors, which is useful in a busy marketplace.

Sounds good right? There are lots of credit and finance providers that can integrate directly into your checkout. Examples of online finance and credit providers include Klarna, Hitachi, PayPal Credit, Barclays Partner Finance and V12. We will explore credit pay and pay by finance options in depth later in this blog series.

Digital wallets and cardless payments

Digital wallets and cardless payments cater to customer demands for faster and smoother transactions. It has become an expectation that products and services can be purchased at the touch of a button.

Customers love the fact that they can buy the products that they want online in a matter of seconds, so providing a quick and easy payment method could act as a great springboard for growth. This is thanks to the innovations of payment wallets and cardless checkouts provided by the likes of Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and others.

International payment providers

If you are selling your products and services internationally, it is important that you provide payment options that allow for multiple currencies. Examples of which include iDEAL, PayPal, Adyen and Skrill. We will explore ecommerce integration of international payment options later in the blog series.

So what’s right for you?

When it comes down to choosing the payment method on your site, we wholly believe that there really is a unique solution for everyone. It all boils down to finding what’s right for your business and customers. You should consider:

Your budget 

How much are you willing to pay per transaction or per month to use the payment method? Generally speaking, the more complex the payment method, the higher the fees. Consider whether the increased fees will have a negative impact on your profit levels before signing up.

Your products

In terms of the products and services that you are selling, do they have a high or low monetary value and what level of decision making occurs before your customers to make a purchase? Finance and pay later options can work well here.

Your customers

Who are you targeting your products and services towards and how can you make the decision and purchase process easier for your customers? Digital wallets are becoming more popular, but don’t neglect the more traditional market by not taking card payments

Your checkout experience

Would you like customers to stay on your site when making a payment? Is your checkout experience suitable for both the desktop and mobile users? How quickly would you like to deliver the payment process?

The single page checkout for our client, electricial-showroom.co.uk

As a specialist ecommerce agency, we can offer advice on a wide range of topics. If you think we can help, please get in touch via our contact us page

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Choosing a payment gateway

Now you have an idea of how payment gateways and merchant accounts work, it’s time to work out who will provide your payment gateway and merchant account. You could:

Select a merchant account and payment gateway as two separate services.

Opt for a modern payment gateway that does not require a merchant account.

Choose an all-in-one payment provider that offers a combination of both payment gateway and a merchant account.

Before making any decisions, consider the following…

Modern or classic?

There are two approaches to payment gateways; modern gateways and classic gateways. The biggest difference between the two is that modern gateways do not require you to have a merchant account.

Hosted or integrated?

Hosted payment gateways will redirect your customers to a payment processor’s platform where they can enter their payment details. Integrated gateways create an in-line system via API so that customers can enter their payment details without having to leave your site.

PCI compliance

You must be PCI compliant. It’s the law and failing to demonstrate compliance not only puts your customers at risk but puts you at risk of a heavy fine. There are a number of payment gateways that are Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, (taking the responsibility off of you), but it is important that you check before making any decisions.

Security

Many payment gateway providers will provide a robust level of fraud protection which keeps both you and your customers safe. Additionally keep your eyes peeled for CVC/AVA verification, which protects you from invalid or fake cards.

Cost

To use most payment gateways, you must pay a fee. Some charge a fee per transaction, whilst some charge a monthly usage fee. Take a little time to get your head around how your chosen gateway’s pricing works.

Automatic billing

If you plan to automate payment, a gateway that enables automated billing is going to be high up on your priority list. Check which platforms provide automatic billing as well as support for regular payments.

Integration

Depending on whether you are using a Magento, Woocommerce, Shopify or another ecommerce platform you will need to consider how easy your chosen gateway is to integrate. Consider what level of developer support the service provides as well as the speed of the integration process.

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An introduction to online payment options for ecommerce

Selling products and services via an ecommerce platform opens the door to an entire world of potential customers. If you’re just starting out in online retail, you’d be surprised how complex it is to take payment from those customers. Luckily, this is the sort of stuff we get excited about, so here at Datadial we’ve written a series of blogs on everything you need to know about online payments.

Broaden your payment methods perspective

The approach that you take to accept payments via your website can be the difference between getting by and exceeding your revenue expectations. The good news is that sophistication in technological advances has resulted in a boom in the multitude of approaches and options available when it comes to how you accept payments via your website.

The market is flooded with competing ecommerce payment services, making the world of online payments, at times, a complex one. However, if you want real results online, this is something that you’re going to want to get right. Sifting through providers and doing your research is essential.

A guide to online payment methods

Panic not! This is where we step in to offer a helping hand. This blog is set out to be your ultimate go-to online payments guide. By taking away the complicated and replacing it with clarity, we hope that you will feel confident to make an informed decision about how to tackle your online payment conundrums.

We’ll start by offering some general understanding of how the online payments world works, discuss the fundamental such as PCI compliance, advise on factors to consider and discuss the variety of payment gateways and payment options that are out there to choose from.

How do online payments work?

As with many things’ ecommerce, a basic understanding of how online payment processes actually work goes a long way in informing your decision. So get comfy, buckle up and here goes…

If you want to provide online payments to your customers, you’re going to need two things: a payment gateway and a merchant account. What is a payment gateway?

Think of your payment gateway as a card terminal in a traditional brick and mortar store; the piece of technology that allows you to take payments for the products and services that your customers buy.

On your website, your payment gateway allows you to accept details from customers and use these details to authorize transactions. You customers input their payment details and the payment gateway acts as the middle-man between the transaction that is made on your site and the payment processor.

A key job of the payment gateway is to get your customers’ sensitive payment data over to the payment processor safely and securely. This is done via an encryption method known as tokenization which works by generating a random, secure code that carries the customers’ data safely to a payment processor via SSL.

The payment processor then steps in…

Once the payment gateway has safely passed the customer’s payment data to the payment processor, work begins to authorise the payment. The job is split between two types of payment processors: the front-end processor and the back-end processor.

The front-end processor works to connect to the various card associations such as Visa and Mastercard. It provides the settlement and authorization service that confirms the payment to the merchant’s bank. The back-end processor accepts the settlement from the front-end and is responsible for moving the money from the issuing bank to the merchant account. You want to know what’s really amazing? This all happens in a matter of seconds.

A merchant account allows you to accept payments

A merchant account is a specific type of bank account that allows you to accept payments online and is fundamental if you want to make money from your website. The merchant account works to take debit or credit card payments from the payment processor. Once your merchant account receives the funds, this is then sent to your own bank account.

But which one is right for you?

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Start Your Business Magazine | The Ultim.. by Start Your Business - 1w ago

Stop Measuring, Start Questioning

Companies increasingly want – and expect – their huge data resources to support key strategic change. Shifting from revenue driven to profit driven; moving the business upmarket; surely data can help? It can – but it isn’t, because companies are still too hung up on measuring their past performance – the ever-present Key Performance Indicators – rather than asking the big questions that deliver true business value, the Key Performance Questions. The result is that all the effort that is put into fishing in a sea of data, with a plethora of increasingly sophisticated analytics tools, including Artificial Intelligence, fails to deliver any real business insight. The just ‘store everything’ data model, promoted so heavily by IT functions has not provided the promised machine-generated insights.

This is because the whole approach is back to front. Companies are currently not data driven; they are being held to ransom by the technical data handlers. If companies are to deliver value from the extensive (and expensive) investment in data, Peter Ruffley, Chairman of Zizo, insists it is time to stop measuring and start questioning.

Measurement Addiction

It is hard to find a business that hasn’t embraced a ‘data driven’ culture, often as part of digital transformation. Yet while the concept of leveraging data to improve business direction and performance is laudable, that is, sadly, not what these organisations are achieving. They are simply tracking performance. Adding Key Performance Indicators (KPI), extending the depth and reach of measurement metrics, even drilling down for more detail, remains an essentially backwards-looking approach. This culture of monitor and measure is not one that actively uses data to better understand performance and drive change.

What is required is a simple but essential change in mindset; a shift from the tracking of KPIs to the strategic relevance of Key Performance Questions (KPQs). The issue is not, ‘did we meet our targets?’ but ‘how did we meet our targets?’. Not, ‘how many shirts have been sold this week?’, but ‘are we selling shirts to the all the potential shirt customers?’. Essentially, is this the right direction for the business?

Business Direction

Take a parcel delivery company, for example, wanting to use data to support its strategic shift from being revenue driven to being profit driven. The obvious KPI is profitability per parcel – but how does that help strategically? The KPQ is who else can we sell our most profitable service to?

Or the holiday company that has decided to shift up-market towards more expensive and hopefully profitable packages. Measuring every possible KPI to track performance has minimal value and certainly doesn’t identify the customers that haven’t been attracted to the up-market offer, where they holiday and what compelled them to buy. The KPQ’s to be asked are not only who are these non-customers, but did marketing reach out to the right audience in the first place?

The real problem for any company that has created a state-of-the-art cloud-based data lake is that it only contains the data for looking at KPIs and will not even have the right data to support KPQs and have no strategy for getting it. No wonder so many companies default to the track and measure paradigm. It’s all they can do.

Data Myth

This underlines one of the very real issues facing businesses today – the only apparent way to deliver any value from current data models is to add KPIs. Why? Because the data scientists and technology vendors have propagated the myth that computing power can do anything and solve anything, providing it has access to data and unlimited computing power. It can’t, not on its own. Data science needs direction. Data needs preparation. According to recent 451 Research, the biggest barrier to successful machine learning deployments is a lack of skilled resources, followed closely by challenges in accessing and preparing data. And the more data-driven the organisation, the worse the problem. Simply adding more data sources without direction is adding cost, not delivering value.

Taking the KPQ approach turns the entire model on its head and brings much needed direction. Rather than layering tools over a sea of data in a blind and typically futile attempt to realise true business value, KPQs focus the attention. A KPQ identifies the subject matter experts within the business who can give insight into those questions and prompts the essential discussions that reveal the data sources required. Suddenly, rather than looking at 25, 30 even 100 data sources, the KPQ may require analysis of just five or six.

Leverage Innovation

This opens the door to leveraging new technology, to experimenting, building prototypes and using AI to dig deeper into the answers. Indeed, there is no need for the data scientist: the combination of the right question, the right subject matter experts and the right, well prepared data, and then the speed with which the business can unlock insight can be truly transformative. Business experts will immediately see and understand trends; they will have the context and knowledge to identify insights that have business resonance.

In many cases that data will not be within the organisation, it will be third party or generic market data that will need to be blended with internal data resources to deliver insight. And this is where the compute power and the clever technology does have a role to play; where AI can be very quickly used to reveal whether there is any meaningful correlation within the data at all. Data landscaping provides unassailable information regarding the existence – or not – of mathematically identifiable connections between data items. If there is not, a business is either looking at the wrong data, or that data is incomplete. And this is an issue that companies will need to embrace: KPIs measure existing performance, based on internal data sources. KPQs may well demand additional external data and computing resources.

Time for Change

Something has gone very wrong with the concept of data-driven business. Rather than providing insight to support essential business decisions, too many companies are simply sitting back and hoping that the vast quantities of data being collected will – almost magically – provide the elusive gold dust of fresh and valuable insights. It doesn’t work that way – however smart the AI or machine learning. Measuring the business in ever greater detail does not create a data-driven business. Where is the change? Where is the true strategic insight?

Data resources will not deliver value without direction and senior management need to step up and ask the questions. What is the biggest business challenge? Can the data provide that insight? Are the potential gains worth the investment? Unless companies begin to proactively question the data rather than continue to monitor performance nothing will change, and the concept of being truly data-driven will remain a myth.

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Returning to work after a career break

Returning to work after a career break can be extremely daunting. Whether the time off was maternity leave, illness or simply just taking some ’me time’, it’s normal to feel anxious about the prospect of returning to a work environment. For many, the anxiety that comes with returning is due to a loss of confidence, however with the right support and mindset this can be overcome.

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, discusses the challenges of returning to work after a career break.

Speak to loved ones
“Family and friends often act as the biggest support network and speaking to them about workplace worries can provide reassurance and remind you of your skills and ability as a professional. For those that have been out of work for a considerable amount of time, speaking to ex colleagues for advice will be a reminder of what a working day consists of. This will be a good way to connect with professionals in a similar field, making the transition back to work smoother.”

 Make a plan
“If you’re returning to an old job, it’s important to make a plan on how to tackle your workload. Organisation and forward planning will not only alleviate stress, it will prevent the overwhelming feeling of catching up on the work that has been missed. However, it’s also important to remember to shut off from work, so aim to get preparation done early in the evening so you can unwind before going to bed.”

Take it easy
“Work anxiety is common after a long absence. Make sure to discuss these feelings with colleagues and line managers so they can help ease it where possible. Employers should be flexible and understanding of people’s commitments, as being an accommodating manager is crucial to improving the wellness of staff and rebuilding trust after a long absence.”

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
“Taking on too much at work will make you feel stressed and run down so it’s better to have a smaller work load and complete tasks efficiently, rather than to over-stretch yourself. To help order your thoughts and stay productive, break down larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritise their importance.”

Look after yourself
“When returning to work, you may find that you’re busier than usual, but make sure you take the time to look after yourself. Help avoid getting run down by eating healthy meals and get at least seven hours of quality sleep a night to help stay charged up for the day. Trying a phased return to work will help you to rebuild your stamina for the working day and prevent burnout and exhaustion during this period.”

Paul Kelly, Head of Employment at Black Solicitors LLP, discusses the rights employees have when it comes to returning to work, as well as the consideration employers need to be aware of.

“As there are no laws governing career breaks it is important that both the employer and employee communicate respectively what their expectations are when an employee returns from a career break, especially if it has been a long one.

“Failure to have an open dialogue can lead to resentment and ultimately the breakdown of the employment relationship. With career breaks becoming more and more common, especially amongst millennials, employers are advised to put in place a formal career break policy that sets out their eligibility criteria for taking a career break and the process for employees returning to the workforce after having a break.

“This way both parties know where they stand from the outset and unnecessary conflict can be avoided.”

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