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Avoiding the hidden nuances that can destroy businesses

Businesses can succeed for any infinite number of reasons, but the pitfalls leading to failure are much more common and easy to spot. Be familiar with them to keep your own business thriving.

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Surprising stats from the SBA

Dr. Garnett Newcombe and Kay Woods are business experts and award winning CEOs who have joined forces to start the speaking platform CEO Real Talk through which they share a realistic foundation for long-term profitability as businesses continue to grow and diversify. These experts advise that there are several hidden nuances that can destroy businesses, pointing out that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), only about 50 percent of new businesses last five years or more, and only 33 percent last 10 years or more.

The two tell AGBeat, “Many experts have addressed the reasons businesses fail that range from inadequate cash flow, to high overhead costs, bad management, expanding too quickly and poor credit. However, in our many years as seasoned entrepreneurs, we have identified five less obvious factors that can completely destroy a business, particularly in the early years, if gone unaddressed.”

In their words, the following are the most common hidden nuances that can destroy businesses:

1. Getting a Second Job

In the early years of starting a company, most business owners feel stretched financially. Many combat this by developing a contingent back-up plan to either work at night or on week-ends just in case their business fails. However, if you straddle the fence you are setting yourself up with the option to fail. The “hidden nuance” here, which could have destroyed both of our businesses, is that if you continue down the path of straddling the fence or concentrate on maintaining your back-up plan, it will keep you from making a full commitment to your businesses. When you decide that failure is not an option because the livelihood of your family depends on your business and you commit to it completely, you will have a greater chance at success. In tough times we recommend scaling back on the “big bold sell” and focusing on those “low hanging revenue generating services” that are in high demand and have the capability to generate immediate revenue.

2. Not Understanding Your Financials

Not understanding your financials or not knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out is another “hidden nuance” that puts your business at high risk for failure. Operating in the blind is not something most business owners want to admit to. It is often not until a company has to start closing down projects that they realize a change needs to be made. Know what you’re spending on what and where you can cut back. There needs to be systems and processes in place to control purchasing and inventory and when budgets are developed for projects, they need to be followed. It’s important that you not only generate financial reports but that you understand them. It is your responsibility to watch over business finances not the accountant, the bookkeeper or the division managers. Not knowing your financials will quickly position your business to fail.

3. Your Dream vs. Business Opportunity

“I want to help, I’ve always dreamed of owning my own business, I love what I do” are often sound bites that business owners share with the world. Unfortunately, the “I” mindset is a “hidden nuance” that will keep a business from succeeding. What we have learned over the years is that the foundation of a good business is a good business opportunity. The number one focus for any business owner should be to fulfill a need in the marketplace. It’s not about your dream or fulfilling your interest, but about whether there is a need for your product or service.

4. Not Being Prepared for Economic Downturns

As business owners we dare to dream about saving or building a cushion for a rainy day. However, we often have the mindset that we are barely getting by and the thought of saving is not an option. Because of this many businesses were forced to close their doors, or came very close to it, during the economic downturn from 2008-2011. Not being prepared for an economic downturn is a “hidden nuance” that can be devastating to say the least. We recommend staying abreast of your customers buying trends, identify those customers that may be entering the “slow pay” zone (70 to 90 day payments), restructure staff duties in an effort to increase productivity, and cut back on unnecessary spending.

5. No Follow-Up May Mean No Repeat Business

Sometimes businesses take their customers for granted. We’ve all done it! Once we obtain our customers’ business we don’t follow-up or ask, “How are we doing?” Moreover, we fail to ask, “Is there anything we can do better?” The no follow-up is a “hidden nuance” that leads to loosing repeat business. Lack of follow-up can appear in the form of a decrease in sales or customer complaints. By the time you reach that point, it is often too late. The lack of follow-up and not responding to complaints immediately, positions businesses to fail. Avoid the possibility of losing business by taking the time to recognize your customers, ask them for feedback and ask them how you can do better.

The takeaway

Businesses thrive and survive for many reasons that vary on a micro level, but diagnosing failures or the potential for failure can be much easier to spot. Dr. Newcombe and Woods offer the five preceding common reasons for businesses to fall short, and knowing these potholes may save your business from its own demise.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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Business News

Technology that may help you put the “human” back in Human Resources

(BUSINESS NEWS) Complicated application processes and disorganized on-boarding practices often dissuade the best candidates and cause new hires to leave. Sora promises to help with this.

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Even in a booming economy, finding the right applicant for a role can be a drawn-out, frustrating experience for both the candidate and the hiring manager. Candidates submitting their resume to an automated HR system, designed to “seamlessly” integrate candidates into their HRIS accounts, face the interminable waiting game for feedback on whether they’re going to be contacted at all.

Ironically, this lack of feedback on where a candidate stands (or even if the resume was received at all) and a propensity for organizations to list roles as “Open Until Filled”, overwhelms the hiring manager under a mountain of resumes, most of which will not be reviewed unless there is a keyword match for the role. And if they do somehow manage to see the resume, studies indicate that in less than 10 seconds, they’ll have moved on to the next one.

The problems don’t end there, however. Once the candidate and hiring manager have found one another, and the HR team has completed the hire, the dreaded phase of onboarding begins. During the first few days of a new job, a lack of effective onboarding procedures—ranging from simple tasks like arranging for technology or introductions to a workplace mentor—can be the cause of a significant amount of employee turnover. Forbes notes that 17% of all newly hired employees leave their job during the first 90 days, and 20% of all staff turnover happens within the first 45 days.

The reason, according to Laura Del Beccaro, Founder of startup Sora, is that overworked HR teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to follow up with all of those who are supposed to interact with the new employee to ensure a seamless transition experience. Focusing on building a template-based system that can be integrated within the frameworks of multiple HRIS systems, Sora’s focus is to set up adaptable workflow processes that don’t require the end-user to code, and can be adjusted to meet the needs of one or many employee roles.

In a workplace that is becoming increasingly virtual, out of practicality or necessity, having the ability to put the “human” back in Human Resources is a focus that can’t be ignored. From the perspective of establishing and expanding your team, it’s important to ensure that potential employees have an application experience that respects their time and talent and feedback is provided along the way, even when they might not be a fit for the role.

Take for example the organization who asked for an upload of a resume, then required the candidate to re-type everything into their HRIS, asked for three survey responses, an open-ended writing task, a virtual face-to-face interview, *and* three letters of reference—all for an entry-level role. If you were actually selected for an in-person interview, the candidate was then presented with another task that could take up to two hours of prep time to do—again, all for an entry level role.

Is that wrong? Is it right? The importance of selecting the right staff for your team can’t be overstated. But there should be a line between taking necessary precautions to ensure the best fit for your role and understanding that many of the best candidates you might find simply don’t want to participate in such a grueling process and just decide to move on. There’s a caveat that says that companies will never treat an employee better than in the interview process and in the first few weeks on the job—and that’s where Sora’s work comes in, to make certain that an employee is fully supported from day one.

Bringing on the best to leave them without necessary support and equipment, wondering at the dysfunction that they find, and shuffled from department to department once they get there creates the reality and the perception that they just don’t matter—which causes that churn and disconnect. Having your employees know that they matter and that they’ll be respected from day one is a basic right—or it should be.

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Business News

Trader Joe’s doesn’t want to change its controversial brand names

(BUSINESS NEWS) Branding has gone through a major change recently and many companies are agreeing to shifts, but Trader Joe’s thinks its names are fine.

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In the last few months our country has gone through a complete re-evaluation of their societal impact with their branding names. Companies that have been strong for neigh on a century are changing their names to accommodate more socio-intelligent content. Whether its from real change or from following the societal trends, the gambit of following the socio-economic climate is becoming a common theme. However the world turns next, the changes we are seeing now is creating a new world of products and status quo.

One company, though, is standing strong with their branding. Trader Joe’s, a grocery store chain, is sticking to its guns, despite some rather vocal push back. A petition aimed at the stores “racist” branding name habit has started making its way through the internet. Currently the petition has crossed the 5000-signature threshold and is getting close to its 7500 goal on change.org.

The habit of using phrases like “Trader Jose” or “Trader Ming’s” in their international food products is the main point of contention. The people behind the petition state that using names like this makes those items appear to be exotic or out of the norm like the original/traditional brand Joe – which at its very basic definition is truthful. The branding technique brands something as different than the original.

Initially a company spokesperson stated that the names were in the process of being changed, but less than a week later their tone changed. Trader Joe’s now states that while they “want to be clear; we disagree that any of these labels are racist.” They will not be changing things based on petitions. Also they report that “decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, etc.

We thought then – and still do – that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures”. According to their current reporting they have also reached out to their customer base and supposedly many customers reaffirmed “that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended – as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing”.

Personally, I see two major issues here. First, they are literally talking about a branding that is decades old; habits that were comedic then are now seen in a very different light. Just like an organism, society grows and changes too. If they can’t come up with new gimmicks to make themselves more popular and fresher, then they’ll most likely fall by the wayside as it is. The other issue is that their polling was specifically geared towards their current buyers; they asked their own customers whether they found this offensive. Can we all just take a collective deep breath and say biased please? Whether or not they decide to stick to their guns here is going to lay some groundwork in the future.

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