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7 Easy Online Business Ideas

When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 15 great ideas you can run with.

Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory.

Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

7 Best Photo Editing Apps

Photo editing apps are a must for businesses that use smartphones or tablets to take photos.

Smartphone and tablet cameras are better than ever, turning Average Joes into instant professional photographers. Still, smartphone and tablet snapshots are far from perfect. Photos can come out looking flat, dull or otherwise lifeless. Whether you share photos on social media or use them on your website or online store, a quick editing session with a photo editing app can make a world of difference in attracting customers with beautiful works of art.

To help you wade through the sea of photo editing apps available at app stores, here are some of the best for iOS and Android.

Sometimes, your shot is picture perfect — except for that one little blemish, glare or unwanted object. If you simply need to touch-up a photo, check outTouchRetouch.

TouchRetouch lets you quickly and easily remove all sorts of elements from a photo, such as shadows, lights, people, buildings, wires, spots in the sky, backgrounds and more. All you have to do is highlight areas you want eliminated by tracing it with your finger, and then tap Start. TouchRetouch does all the hard work for you.

The app also lets you perfect faces by retouching imperfections, evening out skin tones and smoothing the skin’s surface. And unlike many retouching apps that distort images post-edit, TouchRetouch maintains the quality of your photos so it’s not obvious that they have been edited.

Other features include a clone stamp tool to fill in any gaps, match backgrounds or duplicate elements, as well as unlimited undo and redo, 1:1 view and social media sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and Flickr. In-app video tutorials are also available to help you use and get the most out of the app.

Ask any Instagram power user or iPhone photographer and Snapseed is likely on the top of their list. Snapseed, by Google, is a free iOS and Android app that offers a slew of professional-level photo editing features.

To polish photos, the Auto Correct feature enhances colors, exposure and contrast in a single tap. The Tune Image feature tweaks brightness, ambience, highlights, shadows, saturation and other effects, and the Selective Adjust feature also lets you highlight and focus specific areas. Other features include frames, texture and tone adjustment, and sharing via email, Google+ and more.

Another great feature is the Brush tool, which lets you selectively edit different parts of a photo, for instance, manually adjust the saturation or exposure of a single object in a frame and not the entire photo.

The app also comes with several filters and effects to give your photos a unique look and feel. This includes classic Black & White, Vintage, Drama, Grunge and Retrolux, which adds scratches, film styles and other embellishments to give your photos a retro vibe.

Get Snapseed from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

VSCO is another favorite photo editing app amongst for iPhone photographers. VSCO — which stands for Visual Supply Company — is an all-in-one camera and photo editing app.

VSCO’s main draw are its wide range of filters. The app lets you adjust the strength of each filter manually by using a slider, giving you full control over its intensity. In addition to filters, you can further edit photos by fine tuning its exposure, contrast, sharpness, saturation, highlights, tin, temperature and fade.

In addition to editing tools, VSCO comes with a neat Sync & Edit feature that syncs your workflow across devices. For instance, you can take a photo and start editing it on your iPhone, and then finish your work on your iPad. VSCO also maintains the quality of your images by keeping high-resolution versions of your photos even after many rounds of editing on different devices.

VSCO also offers a robust organization system using its Photo Library. There you have the choice of displaying photos you’ve taken using the VSCO camera, photos you’ve edited and your favorite photos, as well as add existing photos from your phone’s native photo gallery.

If you’re more of the creative type, Mextures is right in your wheel house. This photo editing app lets you apply all types of textures to photos, such as grains, light leaks and gradients. There are more than 150 original textures to choose from, and it also comes with an unlimited number of layers for easy editing and blending of effects.

For fast editing, Mextures also comes with 200 “formulas” to instantly apply premade edits to other photos in just one click. Users can also save their own edits as formulas for future use.

In addition to textures, Mextures also offers basic editing tools, such as exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, sharpness, saturation, tint, black and white, fade and other adjustments.

Adobe Photoshop Express takes the basic photo editing features of Adobe Photoshop and packs them into a mobile app.

Designed for on-the-go photo editing, Adobe Photoshop Express is an entry-level photo editing app that offers a handful of features for quick edits and automatic fixes. Basic editing tools include crop, rotate, flip and red eye removal. You can also enhance photos using slide controls to adjust clarity, contrast, tint, exposure, temperature and more.

The app also supports panoramic photo editing, has social media integration, and comes with frames, borders and more than 20 filters to add special effects.

Adobe Photoshop Express can be downloaded for free at the Apple App Store and Google Play marketplace. In-app purchases deliver additional features, such as the Looks pack for additional filters and the Nose Reduction pack to remove grains and speckling.

If you’re looking to mainly add text to your photos and also be able to edit them, PicLab has you covered.

PicLab lets you easily get the message across with three easy-to-use tools. You can add text simply by tapping the text tool and start typing — and then choose from dozens of fonts — or by “writing” on photos with your finger or stylus. You can also choose from PicLab’s collection of pre-made messages, which include greetings, quotes, stickers and more.

Like other phot editing apps, PicLab also offers plenty of options to enhance your photos. Adjustments include brightness, contrast, blur, exposure, saturation, temperature and tint. There are also a ton of overlays available, such as borders, shapes, light effects, textures and patterns to change the look and feel of your photos.

A popular alternative to iOS cameras, Camera+ does more than let users take photos like a pro. It is also a powerful photo editing app equipped with several tools to transform images into works of art.

One of Camera+’s standout features is the Clarity function — in one tap, Clarity corrects colors, adjusts contrast and brightness, and enhances details to bring life to dull, washed-out photos.

Other features include digital flash to brighten dark photos; scene modes to create true-to-life photos based on your environment; brushing and layered effects; and borders and captions to for a personalized touch. Camera+ also comes with standard photo editing tools, such as rotation and cropping.

The iPad app offers advanced editing tools to correct tone, remove red eyes, straighten crooked shots, change white balance, adjust sharpness, and create vignettes to add faded edges.

5 Promotable Personality Traits

Hiring and promotion are nuanced, and skills and prior work history are only part of the equation. As many employers know, a candidate’s attitude and personality traits play an important role when relating to performance in the workplace.

“Leaders need to have an understanding of things like the DiSC (dominance, influence, support, and conscientiousness) profiles to know how different how personality types interact and work best together,” said Jennifer Akoma, VP at Airfoil Group, a marketing and PR firm. “There is not one personality type that is better than another; each trait can benefit a team in a different way.”

Akoma notes it’s important for a team to be balanced with a variety of personality traits. The dominant personality can help move things forward. Influencers help with creativity and energizing the group; steadiness plays a supporting role, keeping things moving forward and making sure the team is harmonious; while C’s attention to detail ensures quality and accuracy.

“You can see how each different type of personality and work style can play a key role on a team,” she said.

“An overwhelming amount of data supports the claim that personality predicts job performance better than any other known evaluation method, including interviews and IQ tests,” said Robert Hogan, a psychologist and president of personality test provider Hogan Assessments. “Personality should be [a] major factor used to make personnel decisions.”

Carl Persing, research and solutions adviser at strategy consultancy and survey provider Metrus Group, agreed, noting that people’s personalities tend to motivate and guide them in their careers.

“Personality traits make you seek out certain jobs and affect how you fit in,” Persing told Business News Daily.

When hiring managers are filling entry-level positions, they frequently screen for basic traits like reliability and organization skills, to make sure the candidate will be motivated to do the job. But when it comes time to promote those employees, personality becomes an even more important factor, said Eric Heggestad, an industrial and organizational psychologist and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

As the candidate, if you feel that you have personality traits that would be beneficial in a particular position, you should highlight the way you leverage your strengths to solve problems, complete projects, motivate teams, improve quality or other strengths that could be beneficial to the organization that is interviewing you, Akoma said.

For promotions, “you look a lot deeper, at things like charisma and the ability to motivate people,” Heggestad said. “It matters more at the higher level, as the span of control increases.”

“Know your strengths and seek opportunities that would highlight those strengths. For example, if you are an extroverted person and you like to connect with people, perhaps a way to advance your career is in sales,” Akoma said. “Or if you’re a very service-oriented person, you may want to focus your career path on client growth and retention.”

Based on these experts’ research, data and experience, here are five personality types that are most likely to earn you a promotion:

  • The “people” person. Clients, colleagues and bosses all like this person. He or she has a pleasant personality, gets along with others and is enjoyable to be around. A people person is likely to be a good manager or team leader because of these qualities.
  • The delegator. When lower-level employees are given the opportunity to work on a group project, there will always be at least one who assumes the position of leader. This person knows how to give constructive feedback and delegate tasks based on team members’ strengths.
  • The adapter. This person learns very quickly and is able to adjust to any task or work environment. His or her intelligence and intuition help in figuring out how to tackle a new role.
  • The decider. A person who is decisive and confident in his or her decisions is a great fit for aleadership position. The ability to choose a direction quickly and effectively is essential for a strategy-based role.
  • The ethical person. No matter what the employee’s role is, his or her actions are guided by a sense of ethics and integrity. This person won’t compromise his or her morals or try to get ahead at the expense of other colleagues.

Work-Life Balance Tips for Parent Entrepreneurs

It isn’t easy to start a new business. It takes a lot of time and attention and effort. So does parenting and being part of a family. So how does one balance starting a business with raising a family? Both demand so much of a person, and it can be difficult not to get lost in one to the detriment of the other.

Ambitious parent entrepreneurs who tirelessly strive to achieve both personal and professional success have discovered that work-life balance does not always mean both in equal amounts every day. You may be passionate about starting your business, but that passion might not always make it easy to focus on your business while trying to raise a family.

“I tried to do everything and be everything that I was to everyone before I started a business,” said Becky Torrez, who owns a BrightStar Care franchise with her husband in Las Vegas. “It is a recipe for disaster and the most surefire way to become miserable. If you want to be successful in the ever elusive work-life balance, you need just that, balance. There are some times that my focus is more on my work, others my husband, friends or kids, and sometimes I need to focus on myself.”

Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, co-founders of paint-and-sip franchisePainting With A Twist, met more than a decade ago while volunteering at their children’s school and came up with the idea for their business. The company is now the number one paint-and-sip franchise, and it was a lot of work to get there.

“Over time, I realized I could be a great boss one day and a great mom the next day,” Maloney said, “but rarely both in the same day.”

“Anything is possible,” Deano said of the challenge of starting and running a successful business while being a present parent. “Follow your dream and don’t be afraid. Tell yourself ‘I can do that, I am going to try it.'”

If you’re planning to start a business while raising your family, here’s what successful working parents do to balance these two important parts of their lives.

Delegate. Lara Olson, founder and chief creative officer of Kidcreate Studio, said realizing that she was not the only person who could do things was a freeing moment. The “real” way to do something, she said, is not the only way to do something.

“Take control of your day,” Olson advised. “Don’t let the day control you. It’s OK to say no and guard your availability.”

Her best advice to other entrepreneurs is to prioritize and simplify, simplify, simplify.

“Prioritize your staff training and spend the time needed to make them comfortable,” Olson said. “Cross-train. The more others can do, the more time you have to do things that you need to do.”

Be present where you are. Encourage others to respect the time you are at work so you can give it your full attention, and then give your family your full attention when you are with them.

“When I’m at work, I try to be at work. My kids don’t call me 100 times a day,” said Torrez. “They know I’m busy. They know that if they need something, absolutely call, but they also know if they call me to tell me they’re fighting over whose turn it is to clean the cat box, it will not be a happy conversation.”

Take time for yourself. There is nothing wrong with getting your rest and taking the time to exercise. Be healthy, both physically and mentally.

“I have certain rituals in the morning,” said Deano. “I keep a routine, both at home and at work. Don’t carry both with you all the time. I like to travel too; it helps me keep my focus.”

Be OK with making mistakes. Not every decision you make is going to be the right one or a good one, and that’s OK. A mistake is a way to learn and a way to grow.

“There is always something new to balance,” Maloney said, “and perfection isn’t possible. Push through thinking it all has to be perfect, and realize that it is OK to not be perfect all the time.”

Tips to balance things at home are most often mirror images of the tips to balance work — the how is just a little different.

Make family time a priority too. Taking care of your family, being at a child’s games or events, and spending quality time with your spouse is just as important as being at the store, meeting with the accountant or traveling to meet with a client.

“I have a really great team. I don’t want anyone on the team working 60 hours a week,” said Torrez. “I don’t want to do it and they shouldn’t either. There are always going to be busier times than others, but those need to be the exception rather than the rule.”

Find a support system. It is sometimes hard to battle the perception that owning your own business means you can do what you want when you want. In fact, there is never a time when work isn’t around you, just as there is never a time when you aren’t a mom or dad. Finding a support system within your family is important.

“My husband is my biggest cheerleader,” said Olson. “He does what he needs to do so I can do what I need to so when we have family time, it is all about family.”

Balancing home and work life can be a challenge. Realizing that not everyone can be everything all the time allows you to set reasonable expectations and forgive yourself when one area or another seems to fall behind.

“It’s a bit of a roller coaster,” said Olson, “but when it feels balanced, it makes you feel invincible.”

Business Plan Tools for Startups Business

Have a killer business idea? A killer business plan can help you turn it into a successful business. Creating a well-crafted business plan is no easy task, however. You’ll need to not only flesh out your idea, but also have a deep understanding of the different aspects of running a business — before you even start one.

Figuring out how to do this correctly is hard enough, but there are several tools available to make this arduous task a little bit easier for would-be entrepreneurs. Instead of starting from scratch, here are a collection of business plan templates, software, apps and services to help you start a business the right way with a professional business plan.

Business plan templates show you exactly what a business plan is supposed to look like and what goes in each section. You can find them as downloadable sample business plans that you can copy and modify to fit your business, or as fill-in-the-blank or question-and-answer forms. There are also different types of business plans: simple business plans that cover the essentials, comprehensive ones that cover every aspect of a business, and those designed for a specific purpose, such as to raise funding or find business partners. Here are some business plan templates worth considering.

The $100 Startup One-Page Business Plan. One-page business plans take the fuss out creating a business plan by getting down to the basics of what your business is about and how you intend to meet its goals. Think of it like writing down your business on a napkin, but with a purpose. The $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan is one such business plan template. Simply answer a few questions like “What will you sell?” “What will you charge?” and “How will customers learn about your business?” in a couple sentences and you’re good to go.

SCORE Business Plan Templates. Small business resource SCORE has a collection of free PDF and Word business plan templates for startups, established businesses and even nonprofits. The organization also offers additional types of business planning resources and templates, such as financial projections, market research, sales forecasts, SWOT analysis and more. Once your business plan is finished, you can meet with a SCORE mentor for feedback and guidance.

Bplans.com. Looking for free sample business plans? Bplans.com offers a wide range of them for all types of businesses, including retailers, online businesses, service providers, restaurants and more. These sample templates come complete with a table of contents and sections like executive summary, company summary, products and services, financial planning, market analysis and other standard business plan sections. Bplans.com offers more than 500 sample business plans that can be downloaded as Word, PDF and other file formats.

Rocket Lawyer. If you need to make your business plan a legal document, check out Rocket Lawyer. Rocket Lawyer lets you create your own legal documents and provides access to various legal services. Its business plans section lets you create business plans in three steps: build, save and sign. You can also print and share your business plans for easy access. Rocket Lawyer business plans come with standard parts of a business plan, as well as sections for funding requests and appendix for supporting documents.

Find more using our list of free business plan templates for small businesses.

You don’t have to be glued to your desk to create a business plan. There are several business plan mobile apps that will let you write a business plan anytime, anywhere right on your smartphone or tablet. Here are two worth checking out.

StartPad. Recognized by Entrepreneur and Forbes, StartPad is one of the top business plan apps available for the iPad. This app offers a wide range of business planning resources, such as strategic business planning tutorials, professionally made sample business plans, financial projections and other reports. Business plans created on StartPad can also be exported as high-resolution PDFs or printed out. The basic version of StartPad is free to download and use, but requires in-app purchases for additional features. Get StartPad from the Apple App Store.

Business Plan & Start Startup. Are you an Android user? Business Plan & Start Startup is the app for you. This app isn’t just for creating a business plan, however. It also aims to do three things for entrepreneurs: help start a business the right way with a well-crafted business plan; keep them motivated and on track; and provide a community of fellow entrepreneurs, small business owners and experts to help guide users in creating their business plan and running their businesses. Business Plan & Start Startup can be downloaded from the Google Play marketplace

Don’t want to use any of the above? Try an online business plan service, which guides you throughout the business plan writing process. The services offer similar tools as business plan software — such as document collections and chart generators — with the difference being that they typically offer business and legal specialists who can help you better understand complex aspects of your business and business plan. Two online business plan services to consider are LivePlan and the SBA Business Plan Tool.

Bizplan.com. Need funding? Check out startup.co’s business plan service, bizplan.com. This web-based business plan comes with a step-by-step guide to help you build your business plan and optimize it for investors. Business plans can also be completely tailored to your business with logos, graphics, layouts and custom designs to fit your brand. After building your business plan, you can share and publish it on startup.co’s crowdfunding site, fundable.com, where you can connect with investors and add elements like photos and videos to highlight your business.

LivePlan. LivePlan is a cloud-based business plan service that offers everything from document generation to planning tools, financial calculators, guidance resources and more. The service guides you through each component of the business plan and provides step-by-step instructions and advice based on the objective of your business plan (starting a business, business development, funding, etc.)

SBA Business Plan Tool. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Business Plan Tool covers everything from executive summary and company description to market research, product line, marketing and sales, and financial projections in detail. You can also personalize your business plan with your company logo, as well as save, print and update your business plan as needed.

7 Inspiring Businesses Keeping It All Natural

Engaging in an all-natural lifestyle has a plethora of benefits, including ridding of wasteful materials and the avoidance of putting chemicals in or on your body. It also means doing better for the environment and sustainable products that can help agriculture and jobs.

Companies are embracing the benefits of “green” and natural products, not only for the Earth but their customers as well.

Whether you’re looking for products, or you want to start a business that’s all about bringing it back to basics, here are six inspiring all-natural businesses you need to check out.

EcoNuts is a company that has introduced soap nuts into everyday life. According to the site, are a berry shell that naturally contains soap. They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree in the Himalayas. The natural soap found in these berries is called saponin, which is a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing to properly clean them.

The soap nuts are gentle on clothes and skin, making the product ideal for those who find themselves irritated by chemicals used in manufactured products. Additionally, despite the name, soap nuts are a berry fruit and safe for those with nut allergies.

GrowJourney is a “seeds of the month club” — a fun, all-natural take on the popular box subscription business model for people who love gardening and want to grow organic produce. Each month, the company sends its subscribers an assortment of five different seasonal heirloom gardening seeds, all of which are certified organic and sourced from organic farmers selected by the service. And if you’re trying to get into gardening but don’t have much of a green thumb, don’t worry — becoming a GrowJourney member gets you more than just seeds. It also provides you with access to resources to help you learn how to grow your produce with ease.

Abel is a perfume company that produces signature scents with only 100 percent natural, food-grade, organic ingredients and without the chemicals and synthetic compounds found in most perfumes and colognes. There are several natural perfume companies out there, but what sets Abel apart is the craft behind the company’s packaging. Since their perfumes lack the chemicals other perfume companies use to protect their products from light and UV heat (both of which can damage the product), Abel’s perfumes come in cases hand-crafted from reclaimed wood. The company sells the gender-neutral fragrances, “Tonic,” which is made from ginger extract, black pepper oil, lime oil and peppermint oil, among many others.

Humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from going back to basics. The Honest Kitchen ensures that you can feed your beloved furry friends all-natural food and treats, too. The company makes 100 percent all-natural, FDA-approved human grade (meaning they’re made to the same standards as the food we humans eat) dog and cat food, treats and supplements. The Honest Kitchen’s products use dehydrated whole foods, non-GMO produce, hormone-free meats and organic, fair-trade ingredients in their foods. Employees even taste-test them for quality control. The company provides grain-free and whole-grain food options as well as a base mix for foods if you prefer to mix up your own pet-friendly meals and treats.

Better Life is a cleaning product company that sells everything from dish detergent and floor cleaner to stain remover and hand soap. Whether you’re scrubbing your kitchen, disinfecting your bathroom, doing laundry, washing dishes or cleaning up after your baby or pets, Better Life has a product that can fit your needs without using any toxic or harmful ingredients. Every product Better Life offers is derived from plants and is free of GMOs, alcohol, dyes, sulfates, fragrances, petroleum, not to mention cruelty. And they’re made in the USA. Better Life’s products are also safe for septic systems and completely biodegradable, so you can use them without risk in your home and in the environment.

Looking for all-natural clothing? Earth Creations is a company that sells eco-friendly clothing and accessories for men, women and children, all of which use natural, sustainable fabrics. Earth Creations’ products are made from hemp and organically grown cotton and natural clay dyes (the company’s dyeing process uses only natural and biodegradable materials). The designs are brought to life at Earth Creations’ sewing plant in Moulton, Alabama, to help maintain a smaller carbon footprint and create local jobs. Earth Creations also donates its irregular and overstock items to other organizations, such as the Audubon Society, Ogden Nature Center and Animal Acres, to help people in need.

If you’re looking for all natural skin and hair care products, TruSelf Organicsoffers a line of products complete with moisturizers, lip glosses, conditioners, and more. In business since 2013, TruSelf Organics prides itself on eliminating synthetic chemicals in favor of all natural and organic products. Founded by a yoga-enthusiast and self-proclaimed “health-nut,” TruSelf Organics entire line is vegan, save for their Raw Honey Lip Gloss which is made with honey and beeswax. Each product is designed to further the company’s mission of promoting a three-pronged approach to wellness: health, beauty, and self-love.

Tips to Choose the Right Software for Your Business

Performance reviews are an important way for employers to gauge the success of their employees, and for employees to know where they stand with a company. While there are many ways to conduct performance reviews, software designed for the task of performance management makes the process easier.

“Business owners can save valuable time and act with confidence using powerful technology,” said Aldor Delp, division vice president and general manager ofADP Resource.

Performance management software allows organizations to streamline the performance review process online. Julie Rieken, CEO of Trakstar and Reviewsnap, explains that employees and managers expect modern tools to communicate workplace expectations, and HR and C-suite expect to document and justify employee-related decisions.

“Organizations want to provide timely, relevant communication to employees around workplace expectations. Performance management software empowers managers and employees to interact,” said Rieken.

Rusty Lindquist, vice president of human capital management (HCM) strategy and insights at BambooHR, noted that “people systems” have become the most important systems in organizations. Human capital, he said, is now even higher in demand than financial capital. Organizations today are more serious than ever about measuring and improving their people and their performance and productivity, or their ability to create value at speed.

“[Performance management software] comes in all shapes and sizes, but generally speaking, it represents an industry-wide initiative to understand and quantify how our employees are doing, how much they are doing and how well they are doing it,” Lindquist said.

Brian Crofts, vice president of product at Namely, noted three main benefits of performance management software:

  1. Organization. Software can help HR departments easily administer performance reviews and store reviews for later reference.
  2. Accurate system of record. Consolidating performance data in aggregate helps companies get a 360-degree view of an employee’s growth and development.
  3. Reporting. Easy access to performance data reports enables HR teams and company leadership to make strategic talent decisions.

“We believe the modern HR platform drives employee experience. It helps HR professionals simplify their administrative duties so they can focus on strategy,” Crofts said.

The benefit doesn’t solely lie with the business owner and HR staff, however, as Delp points out: “For employees – especially the millennial generation – it satisfies their need for frequent feedback and helps them define a career path. It can keep all employees focused on what is most important to the business and help them engage in its success,” he said.

According to Rieken, an organization needs performance management software if:

  • Your organization is still doing reviews on paper, in Word or Excel, or not at all
  • Your organization makes salary decisions based on performance (if so, you should have consistent, accurate performance data, Rieken noted)
  • You’re weary and need to modernize your appraisal process

“[I]n truth, no matter what market you’re in or where you’re at in your evolution, everyone stands to benefit from improved visibility into their people systems,” Lindquist said.

Crofts said the need for performance management software also depends on the type of problem you’re solving.

“If you want to streamline administrative tasks and engage employees, software is the answer. If you’re not using software now, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when,'” he said.

According to Delp, there’s actually a debate underway about the value, frequency and validity of the process used to rate, rank and reward employees. To determine if your business needs this software, he suggested business owners ask themselves  one important question: What value does performance management contribute to my businesses success?

“To find the answer to this question, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the talent the business may need based on projected business growth and dynamics over the next two years,” Delp said.

He added that this may help a business owner develop a performance management plan to support many employees, while a performance management solution may help business owners implement and streamline new processes.

Rieken advised choosing a provider that helps train your staff and record the training for new employees. Also, it’s important to remember that organizations need to champion the review process internally and have a provider that supports their initiatives for the best success.

“Above all, pick a provider with amazing customer service. You’ll want to love interacting with your performance provider when questions arise,” Rieken said.

Delp agreed that it’s important to find a trusted partner that not only offers powerful tools, but one that provides HR expertise on how and when to use them.

“User-friendly HR tools and personalized guidance can help a business owner conduct performance appraisals, create employee handbooks, engage employees, handle difficult employee situations, hire and onboard employees, and determine compensation for new positions,” Delp told Business News Daily. “Consider a partner with a successful track record of providing this type of expertise as well as one that has the tools to help a business automate time-consuming manual processes.”

Lindquist offered a few clear “dos and don’ts” when it comes to choosing a provider:

  • DO buy into an approach that is simple and easy to use.
  • DON’T fall into the trap of trying to measure everything. That’s what caused the old-school performance solutions to fail so badly.
  • DO focus on solutions that create conversations.
  • DON’T become too fixated on the quantification of performance. The idea isn’t so much that you can quantify the performance of every person in every role, but rather to get a sense of how they are doing.

Software is only worthwhile if your company uses it, so consider whether the platform is one that your employees will adopt, and whether it is simple and intuitive, said Crofts. If it has the features you need and can easily set and track goals that align with larger goals, and offer different review types and smart performance data, performance management software should be considered.

“Bottom line, it needs to be better than pen and paper,” said Crofts.

7 Tips to Give a Kickass Business Presentation

 Business presentations don’t have to all be the same, and being in the audience during one doesn’t have to be sleep-inducing. It is possible to make every business presentation entertaining, informative and enjoyable for all parties involved.

Experts shared their best tips for creating and giving a killer presentation that will engage your audience and help you land the sale.

“A good business presentation … has one main point and everything is structured around that point. It doesn’t rely heavily upon PowerPoint or slides filled with text, and it allows time for discussion and asking questions.”

“No secret sauce, tech or gimmicks. What makes any presentation engaging and effective is to put the bottom line up front and then provide whatever backup data may be needed. I’ve seen many presentations where the story is dragged out and tension is built, as if the person was trying to make a movie. But … people are busy and need to deal with the issue and then move on.”

“Focus more on what you will say and how you will say it rather than on having the coolest slides. Not everything you say should be on your slides. No more than three sentences per slide. Present your best data, or no data at all – but not all your data.”

“The true meaning of the presentation is to engage with people and persuade them to your point of view, not just deliver chunks of information. Every presentation, no matter the subject, must be tailored specifically to the people you are talking to. If you tell an anecdote, don’t simply repeat the same story wherever you are – not only will it become stale, you’ll also fail to make a connection to the people you’re addressing.”

“What makes a good business presentation is practice, practice, practice! It’s just like sports. You have to repeatedly practice your presentation to improve it.”

“Authenticity is engaging. Too many presentations are technically proficient but lack heart. If you are not genuine, there will be an unbridgeable gap between you and your listeners. Authenticity is the most important element of an effective communication in any context.”

“A high energy level (is) the most important step to take in presentations. This applies to any type of speaking, any size audience and any topic. If you seemed bored or tired, that vibe will translate to your audience.”

Tips to Protect Your Data from Hackers

 Protecting your data is especially important during tax season, when sensitive information about your business and your employees is susceptible to attack by would-be identity thieves. Faux calls and emails from attackers posing as representatives of the IRS or even managers within your organization are commonplace and can lead to the theft of information from unsuspecting employees. Luckily, there are steps you can take to bolster your security during this time of increased vulnerability.

As Eric Cernak, U.S. cyber and privacy risk practice leader at Munich Re, noted, W-2 phishing attacks are just one popular method of thievery amongst digital ne’er-do-wells. Ransomware is also increasingly popular amongst hackers, he said. In a ransomware attack, hackers generally infiltrate a system and encrypt large swaths of a company’s data. They then demand a payment in cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin, in return for decrypting and returning the stolen data.

“These types of attacks can be costly for a (small business) in terms of productivity and dollars,” Cernak said. “Additionally, with the current value of virtual currency, ransomware attacks are costing small businesses more and more in terms of real dollars, not to mention the interruption to their business income and cost to restore files should they decide not to pay the ransom.”

While these types of attacks are particularly prevalent during tax season, cybersecurity is no seasonal game – it’s a 24/7/365 defensive slog, said Adam Levin, chairman of data protection company IDT911, which is now known asCyberScout. He added that small businesses might feel as though they aren’t a prime target because of their size, but that hackers often target small businesses to gain access to bigger companies they work with. As a result, every business large and small must remain vigilant.

“As a business you are a defender, and as a defender in the cyber world we live in, you have to get everything right,” Levin said. “As an attacker, you just need to find one point of vulnerability that might only be open for a moment or two, but then you’re in.”

It sounds scary, and indeed it is, that a breach of your business’ system could lead to a complete destabilization of your entire company and, in the worst case, its total failure. That’s precisely why developing a culture of security, constant monitoring, testing for vulnerabilities, retesting and constantly adapting is so important. As hackers are always evolving and adapting new techniques, so too must businesses in order to adequately defend themselves.

“The first thing a business has to develop is a culture of security from the mailroom to the boardroom,” Levin said. “That involves employee training, and a sense of employee responsibility for security.”

While implementing secure systems and utilizing effective monitoring tools is a must, Levin said, humans are often the easiest vulnerability for hackers to exploit. Educating employees, then, is imperative.

“This has to be an almost daily event,” Levin said. “The system is only as good as the weakest link, and humans tend to be the weakest link.”

By keeping several best practices for security in mind, you can reduce the odds that your business becomes a victim of a cyberattack. Moreover, you can implement policies and technology to mitigate the damage of any successful attack, turning a potentially catastrophic event into nothing more than a minor irritation.

Based on our expert sources’ insights, here are eight steps you can take to better secure your business data right now.

1. Secure your computers: Using up-to-date software and effective monitoring tools is essential to maintaining a secure browser. Ensure that software updates are installed promptly when available.

2. Use two-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication is a key strategy to avoid falling victim to an attacker using stolen credentials. Oftentimes, two-factor authentication means the employee logging in will receive an additional authentication request, often via smartphone, to confirm their identity.

3. Avoid recycling passwords: Once you change a password, change it for good. Browsers often store passwords insecurely, and reusing a password increases the risk that a user’s credentials will be compromised.

4. Train your employees: Create a culture of security. Make sure each employee understands where they fit in the big picture. Security is not just something for the IT department to worry about, but should rather be a team effort.

5. Always encrypt data: Encryption thwarts many would-be snoopers and hackers because they cannot access your encrypted data without the proper keys. Encryption and other services, like virtual private networks, are important aspects in protecting your information.

6. Back up data: You’ll want to back up your data in case of a ransomware attack. However, it’s important to note that the devices storing the backed-up data should not always be connected to your network. Otherwise, they could be compromised during an attack. If your system is attacked, you can wipe your hard drives and then download your backed-up data, avoiding a catastrophic incident.

7. Manage portable media: When employees use their own mobile devices on your company’s network, it creates new opportunities for hackers. Mobile devices are also more likely to be lost or stolen outside of the workplace, further increasing the odds of security being compromised. If you’re a BYOD workplace, ensure employees are conforming to your company’s security protocols. Minimize mobile device use, or ensure all data stored on these devices is encrypted.

8. Destroy unnecessary information: Make sure you destroy any sensitive documents you no longer need. Hard copies of tax documents or financial information can be used to determine possible avenues of infiltrating your system. Any connected devices in your office should be secured and routinely cleared to ensure safety.

7 Tips to Using Facebook for Business

  While the basics of setting up a page and posting to your business page are relatively straightforward, there are a lot of nuances to managing your page that could help you make the most of your Facebook presence. Here are 7 powerful ways to make your page more robust and engaging.

A key component of branding is consistency. As such, you should be sure you select a @ username that reflects your business. Of course, your ideal pick may not be available, so think of ways that you can get as close to your brand as possible. If you run the Acme Widget Company, maybe you could go with @acmewidgetco. Or even better, @acmewidget.

Remember that whatever you pick will be a part of your custom Facebook URL — shorter is better so it can fit on business cards or other promotional materials.

While Facebook keeps a pretty consistent look across the entire interface, you do have some freedom in how your page looks. You can choose from several templates that have certain tweaks to better match the type of page you have: professional services, business, shopping, standard, venues, politicians, and restaurants and cafes.

The differences are subtle, but they’re important. For example, the restaurants and cafes template places images higher so that you can show off the venue and feature menu items. The professional services option puts a prominent Call Now button at the top so potential clients can reach out to you right away. Spend some time experimenting here to see which is the best fit for your page.

You have quite a bit of control over how the layout of your page is created to fit the needs of your particular business. Make sure you’ve optimized all the right dials and settings that Facebook offers.

For example, you’ll find that the tabs on the side of the page can serve as quick stops for particular actions. Click “manage tabs” to put the photos, events or other items in a more prominent location. Also, if there are some tabs you don’t use, you’re able to get rid of those.

According to Buffer, one of the top methods for getting the attention of your audience is native videos. The company found some slightly better metrics for uploading your own video instead of embedding it from YouTube or Vimeo.

The beauty of videos is they’re so easy to produce now — all you need is a smartphone and a few minutes of light editing. Even if you’re not a professional video creator, it’s worth trying your hand at it.

Your Facebook page can be a portal for potential customers to reach out to you. A very effective way is through Facebook Messenger. If you add a call-to-action button, you’ll get messages in the Messenger app just as if they were from one of your contacts. Visitors to your page will also notice how responsive you are, which will leave them with a good impression of how you treat customers.

Facebook has rolled out a number of new tools for directing your content to a specific audience. While it will take some time to dig into the dashboard, you may find success if you are willing to target your content at characteristics more attuned to your potential customer base. For example, think about geographic location, age groups and other interest targeting. Marketer Jon Loomer has some more detailed suggestions if you want to dive in.

To really push through the firehose of content on Facebook, it’s going to require spending money on some advertisements. Facebook freely admits thatorganic reach has been declining, placing the blame on the vast user base that keeps expanding. While you can make traction without ads, they’re still an excellent way to gain exposure that you can’t get without the extra juice from the Facebook ads program.