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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to make your small business a little bit more tech savvy

(HOW TO) In small business, the concept of utilizing cutting-edge technology feels like a pipe dream. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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side hustle paperwork and technology

Small businesses are notorious for stingy spending and tight budgets, and for good reason: As business owners navigate the cost of doing business, they must consider how they spend each and every penny.

This can make the concept of utilizing cutting-edge technology feel like a pipe dream. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways that enterprises of all sizes can incorporate technology into their business operations in the name of reducing costs, streamlining activity, and generally improving their companies.

Here are several accessible and affordable ways that small businesses can be more tech-savvy.

1. Improve Your Internet

It’s impossible to operate a modern business without the internet. Too many systems have become dependent on the need for an online connection.

Planning on becoming more tech-savvy in order to maintain an edge over the competition is wise. In order to do so, though, you need to ensure that your internet is up to the task.

A strong internet signal is a must. But you can also take things to the next level by getting a small business Wi-Fi solution like Plume WorkPass. This turns your router into a full-blown business intelligence platform. Along with a powerful signal that adapts to your internet needs, you also get a suite of other features, including analytics and enterprise-grade, AI-enhanced security.

By improving your internet connection, you can feed two birds with one scone. You can implement a new piece of innovative tech for your business and set the stage for other internet-needy tech to follow.

2. Address IT Early

Powerful, enhanced Wi-Fi is an excellent start. However, there are plenty of other ways that you can clear the path for a smooth entry of new tech into your company.

One of these is establishing dependable IT support. For larger companies, this involves setting up an IT department with multiple full-time salaried workers. This is a luxury that is far out of reach for most smaller companies.

Fortunately, there are other ways around your IT needs. For example, you can lean on part-time employees and freelancers to help you navigate new tech needs at a low cost.

In addition, look for tools that come with competent support from the manufacturers, update themselves, and ideally are cloud-based. That way you remove as much of the IT burden as possible from your operation.

3. Don’t Overlook Security and Analytics

Along with competent IT support and strong internet, you also want to consider security and analytics. If you’re using something like WorkPass, avant-garde cybersecurity and insightful data come right along with the deal.

If you choose to go another route, there are still many security options that you can turn to in order to keep your business safe. These can safeguard your individual devices and tools as well as your Wi-Fi as a whole.

Analytics are also important. They give you insight into countless areas of business. From marketing campaigns to time management, there are plenty of ways that analytics can impact your bottom line.

Most tech tools come with analytics built right into them these days. Your job as a small business owner is to figure out how to set up effective OKRs (objectives and key results) that utilize this information to better your company.

4. Streamline Finances

Finances are the life-blood of any business operation. They aren’t just the end goal in the form of profits and your bottom line. You also need to send and receive money throughout your company’s activities to keep things moving on a daily basis.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to streamline your financial activity by using technology. For example, there are a plethora of cloud-based tech tools that can help you simplify your invoicing activity.

In addition, you can abridge payroll activity by using tech tools. Many of these aren’t just accessible to smaller companies. Some are specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs running startups.

You can tailor these to the needs of your business, and they can scale along with you as you grow. Best of all, they take a huge part of the headache out of managing payroll through things like automation and letting your employees have a bigger role in managing their pay.

5. Utilize Productivity Tools

Productivity tools are another simple-yet-effective way to use tech to take your small business to the next level. There are countless options that address numerous areas of productivity.

For instance, there are little ways you can implement tech for your team, such as encouraging them to use time-tracking software or a productivity app.

You can also implement tech tools in a larger, company-wide setting. Workflow platforms like Trello and Asana are popular ways to help keep your team’s projects, assignments, and deadlines in a single location. You can access these both on-site and remotely and offer a repository for files and documents that multiple members of your team might need.

There are many simple ways that small businesses can incorporate tech into their operation. From finances to productivity and beyond, small businesses have many areas that can benefit from innovative tech tools.

The important thing is that you set the stage first. Set up a strong Wi-Fi network, create IT support channels, and make sure you have a firm grasp on security and analytics. If you can do that, you’ll be able to embrace newer tech that can streamline your operation and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Opinion Editorials

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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Opinion Editorials

Do these 3 things if you TRULY want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) We understand diversity helps and strengthens our companies, and individual teams. But how can you be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce?

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Two women at meeting table discussing working in tech.

More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps, and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

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