When I meet with business-to-business and professional service clients to discuss their marketing strategies, one comment that consistently arises is “No one buys professional services through the Web.”
While that may be true — you don’t typically buy an accountant online as you would a product through e-commerce — how your brand is perceived most definitely will impact a prospect’s buying decision.
Decisions to work with professional service firms don’t happen overnight. They take time. And because of this, any B2B organization must ensure it is “seen” in the strongest possible light before the sale actually occurs.
In fact, it’s just as important to not lose prospective customers because your organization is perceived as weak or subpar as it is to convert a prospect into a client.
The simple truth is that you never know at any given time who is researching your brand and through what channel. Having a consistent brand message, whether they’re looking to engage you now or somewhere down the road, helps you to not lose them before they need your solutions.
To accomplish this, you must get your brand messaging across in a consistent manner across multiple channels.
So how do you that?
First, a solid marketing strategy must include a website that clearly articulates the brand message and value proposition of your services — and it has to be on the home page.
It also should include supporting content that allows a prospective customer to quickly understand who you are, what you do and why you’re different.
For example, let’s say you’re an accounting firm. Being able to articulate why you are the best at providing risk management solutions for clients can help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Providing and highlighting content that explains your service, along with case studies and client examples that include measurable results, is a smart move. It allows prospects and site visitors to get a feel of what it would be like to work with you.
Additionally, your website should offer prospective clients an easy way to contact you — either through a phone number or a simple contact form that includes a name, email address, phone number and short explanation of the prospect’s business problem.
Beyond your website, other channels to consider include social media, which includes LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In these social media channels, you need more than just simple company pages. Instead, you should offer visitors relevant and current content that consistently supports the brand message and your organization’s value proposition, along with company information and executive profiles. And it’s extremely important to continually be “active.”
Using the same accounting firm as an example, it could utilize consistent content around recent changes to government policies, updates on recent business wins or sharing a solution that helped one of its clients overcome a business challenge across all social media channels.
And when that information isn’t timely, something as simple as new hire announcements or employee promotions will show visitors and followers that there is activity within your brand — and your organization. It makes you “active,” which makes you more attractive to prospects.
Other channels to think about include mobile or tablet experiences, print marketing and event sponsorship. Every channel you can imagine should be used to express your organization’s brand message because there are always people watching.
So while your clients may not choose or buy their professional services online, they will evaluate your brand even prior to consideration. And while it’s impossible to measure what clients you may lose by not having this strategy in place, it is clear that a solid marketing strategy of this type can save you from losing consideration — even when you don’t know you’re being considered.
David Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
According to The Business Dictionary, attitude is: “A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual's choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).”
The words that jump out as important in this definition are:
- Positively or negatively
In light of this, we can say that when we respond to things with a positive attitude, that response influences positive action in us and others. We can also say that the opposite is true.
We could end this article right now by simply saying – As a leader, manager or executive in business; do the former and not the latter. But if you are like me, I bet that you could use some “how to” examples and tips.
Here they are, six tips for having a positive attitude in business:
1. Keep an open mind. Always be open to the possibility that a life change you have refused to consider might be the key to transforming your life for the better.
This type of attitude impresses your colleagues. Why? Because most of them have been faced with the same challenge and chose to not change. Their attitude towards the change has been clouded with self-doubt and lack of courage.
When you are willing to keep an open mind, you are responding positively to the challenge of a life change that has the possibility of a great reward.
Be different than those around you. Be open.
2. Be proactive, not reactive. A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive individual sees change as a part of the process and takes action to make the best of it.
Having a proactive attitude requires work. You must be able to think ahead and anticipate. It involves being involved.
In business (and life) you cannot simply sit back and let things just happen as they will. In truth, you could, but that attitude is a negative response that influences negative action, namely, reaction.
Do a little mental work beforehand. Get in the game and be proactive.
3. Go with the flow. Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity.
This is not the negative “sit back and let things happen” attitude described above. Persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity is what sets it apart.
Having an attitude that is easy and casual, without stepping outside the bounds of proper etiquette and being friendly, is some of the best advice I can give to leaders in business.
Be persistent while going with the flow.
4. Think big. If you think small, you will achieve something small. If you think big, then you are more likely to achieve a goal that is beyond your wildest dreams.
When we allow ourselves to have an attitude that pushes boundaries and explores possibilities, we draw in people who have the same attitude. In other words, by thinking big we find big thinkers.
Want to have a team full of big thinkers? Want to have meetings where ideas are shared and positive plans are made? Want to grow leaders out of your team and promote them to new heights in their career? It all starts with your big-thinking, boundary-pushing, dream-inspiring attitude.
Go ahead – think big.
5. Be persuasive, not manipulative. Use your persuasive talents to persuade others of your worth. Don’t use it to convince someone that others are worth less than you.
Have you ever had a manipulative boss? Have you ever had a persuasive boss?
6. Enter action with boldness. When you do something, do it boldly and with confidence so that you make your mark. Wimping out is more likely to leave you stuck in the same old pattern and immune to positive change.
In the end it’s all about getting things done – with a positive attitude. As leaders, we need to be able to move and work with a certain sense of boldness. A boldness that inspires us and those around us to reach for new horizons in all we do.
It’s obvious, action is better than no action – but bold action that leaves a mark is what we should be doing in our life and business.
Do something and do it with a bold attitude.
Attitude really is everything in business. It is the force that empowers us to respond positively to the challenges we face on a daily basis. It allows us to enjoy what we do as we do it. It builds us and our teams.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Should hard-nosed, thick-skinned, ice-water-running-through-their-veins executives who live and die by facts and profit and loss statements believe in things they can’t totally understand and certainly can’t explain?
We have all been there. At various times, for virtually inexplicable reasons, an undertaking that has been struggling suddenly takes a 180-degree turn and begins an upward trajectory. There was no indication from the numbers, substantively nothing extraordinary was changed, but all of a sudden, it’s as if the sun, moon and stars all aligned and you are heading toward Fat City.
Of course, we’ve all experienced the converse, when everything seems to be jelling and all of a sudden out of the blue your project takes a nosedive, plummeting to earth faster than the fastest falling star — or the stock market crash of 2008.
Even though you fancy yourself as tough as nails, you must hope against hope, experiment with unusual fixes, devise out-of-the-box solutions — do just about anything, including making promises to a higher power, along the lines of, “Let me get through this, and I’ll never ______ again.” (You fill in the blank as it is best kept between you and the great power in which you believe.)
Don’t get me wrong I don’t really believe in the good fairy or the ability to make everything better with the wave of wand, but I do very much believe what the famous New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
There is “magic” when some inexplicable ingredient kicks in that enables the best leaders to continuously generate “what if I try this” scenarios and then, out of nowhere, one of those ideas turns sure defeat into a salvageable success. Is this skill and intelligence at play? To a certain extent, yes, but there is more to it than that. The only thing I believe about unadulterated pure luck is the explanation from that overused phrase, “The harder one works, the luckier he or she gets.” The real answer more likely is a combination of knowing how to run a business: using your head, your heart and your gut to tackle a dilemma, recognizing that on any given day one of these faculties will get you through a difficult issue. On a great day when all three kick in, it’s almost as if it were magic, and you start hearing sounds that become music to your ears as the needed solution suddenly emerges.
In reality, the “magic” is having faith in the people with whom you work, maintaining a strong belief that for most of the seemingly insurmountable questions there are answers, trusting that good things do happen to good people, and knowing that every once in a while the good guys do win. This doesn’t mean becoming a naive Pollyanna. Instead, it all gets down to not throwing in the towel until you have exhausted all possibilities and logically and systematically explored all the alternatives, some of which may be very nontraditional.
This approach is also a direct reflection of positive thinking and mindfulness, which is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and ignoring all other distractions. In essence, some psychological studies have shown that when one is committed to success and has the discipline not to let the mind travel down a negative path, the brain can focus on producing unique solutions. Using positive psychology techniques can result in intense absorption that can lead to coming up with unlikely fixes. Some shrinks call this increasing mental flow. I call it a little bit of magic.
My simpler explanation for this phenomenon, which I’ve written about many times, is that success is achieved when you combine preparation, persistence with a bit of perspiration, along with a few ingredients that can’t always be explained, including having a little faith.
My advice is don’t always worry about your image of being a buttoned-up, corporate type. Instead, when the going gets particularly tough, it’s OK to become a Dorothy, as in the “Wizard of Oz,” click your heels twice and quickly repeat to yourself, “I believe, I believe.”
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.
Effective content strategies empower you to get the right message to the right people through the right channel at the right timeWritten by Dustin S. Klein
Everybody’s telling you that you need a content strategy, but what exactly is content strategy?
An effective content strategy coordinates all of your organization’s messaging — internally and externally — and gets the right message to the right people through the right channel at the right time.
When it works, people are motivated to interact more with your company. You attract new prospects. And you increase opportunities to secure new clients and expand existing business relationships.
Your content may consist of feature stories, press releases, videos, Web content, blog posts, books, whitepapers and even case studies. Essentially, it is everything and anything that discusses your business, professional expertise and ability to solve clients’ problems. It includes news about your organization and human-interest stories that feature your employees.
You can deliver your content through traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio or television), a corporate website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, e-book, TV show, movie or social media. It is quite literally every single way you digest information online, offline and on the go.
Any content strategy starts with understanding your audience. Learn who that audience is, what different groups are in it and what messaging resonates most with each group.
Every audience comprises two unique segments — those who support you, such as vendors, investors or employees, and those who use your services, including clients and engaged prospects.
It’s also important to take a hard look at this list and ask, “Who is missing from this picture?” By doing so, you may identify new prospect streams to target that you previously had overlooked.
Next, identify your key messages. What is it that you want people to know about your organization and why?
Start at the most macro level so that your brand message becomes part of the content — the part everyone receives. Then get into the specifics. As you do this, you create a series of customized messages for each specific group in your audience.
Third, recognize that not everyone digests information the same way. Learn the best channel or channels to use for each group. Some like to read it — in print or online. Others prefer to watch or listen to it — live in-person or through a mobile video. And still others prefer their information delivered in 140 characters or less.
What works for your website visitors doesn’t necessarily resonate face-to-face with people at a trade show or conference. And print ad messaging may not be aimed at the same people who devour industry whitepapers or read thought leadership articles in trade publications.
The actual format of the content won’t matter as long as it provides the “why” people should care about your organization, frequent your establishment, buy your products or services, or use your solutions. If you accurately match message with audience and channel, you’ll do just fine.
Effective content strategy can quickly become a powerful tool in moving your business forward. Treat it as you would any highly critical strategic business initiative.
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations of SBN Interactive, publishers of Smart Business magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
When the economy dips into a recession, companies have two basic responses: hunker down to weather the storm or be aggressive by attacking weakness in competitors and opportunities in the market. I have always preferred the latter approach.
During the past two years, our company made several important acquisitions and recruited top talent to forge a new business that positions us as a leading provider of a full range of marketing services for clients ranging from manufacturers and professional service firms to nonprofits and consumer products companies. I am pleased to announce the official launch of SBN Interactive, our content-driven interactive marketing firm.
SBN Interactive is the culmination of months of planning and hard work. It combines our long-standing expertise in creating award-winning content with our intimate knowledge of the latest marketing trends and tools. More importantly, it allows us to leverage our expertise in offline and online marketing to drive measurable business results for our clients across the full range of marketing channels: Web, mobile, video, social and print.
Today, customers move seamlessly across online and offline channels and expect the experience to be consistent, connected and available when they want it and how they want it. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that businesses need to deliver a consistent brand across the spectrum of marketing channels that their customers use. Some prefer print, others video, still others social media. Regardless, marketers need to present the right message to the right customer through the right channel.
Our team of interactive marketing strategists, content strategists, content creators, designers, developers, optimization experts and technologists understand and embrace this. They collaborate to develop strategies and solutions that meet the specific business goals of our clients. From custom magazines and website content optimization to social media strategies and fully outsourced marketing services, they have the expertise — and dozens of proven tactics — to help move the needle for a business.
At the heart of everything we do is our core competency: content. Content drives differentiation, and there are few organizations that exist or are organized in a way to efficiently deliver relevant content in the context of the connected world we live in. But we, at Smart Business, live and breathe content on a daily basis.
We have spent more than two decades working with and writing about some of the most successful business people in America, from iconic business builders like Wayne Huizenga and Les Wexner to maverick billionaires like Ted Turner and Mark Cuban. Now, we are putting those same skills — and many more we have developed over the years — to work for other companies.
We will still continue to bring you management insight, advice and strategy from the best and brightest business minds in the pages of Smart Business. However, thanks to SBN Interactive, we now have a more direct way to help businesses like yours meet their goals and prosper.
I invite you to learn more about SBN Interactive by visiting our website at www.sbninteractive.com or by contacting me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7034.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
Whether it’s a major event such as Hurricane Sandy or simply a snow day, businesses need to be aware of the wage and hour implications of weather-related absences.
“It is important to have clearly defined policies in place that address the many pay-related issues that are involved with a weather-related closing,” says Jenny Swinerton, general counsel at Sequent. “In addition, it’s always a good idea to implement a contingency plan that identifies essential personnel who are vital to the continued operations of the company and establish procedures for communicating with employees regarding emergency closures.”
The same issues apply in cases when businesses close because of an outbreak of the flu.
“This is expected to be one of the worst flu seasons we’ve had in years, so it’s a good time for businesses to review their existing policies to ensure that they address all of the various issues that arise when an employer is forced to close for any reason.”
Smart Business spoke with Swinerton about weather-related absences and how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates pay requirements.
What happens to employees’ pay when a business closes because of weather?
Employees are treated differently under the FLSA depending on whether they are classified as nonexempt or exempt. Briefly, nonexempt employees are those who are entitled to overtime pay. Exempt employees are those who are paid on a salaried basis and also meet specific legal requirements to be exempt from the overtime pay requirements.
The FLSA requires employers to pay their nonexempt or hourly employees only for those hours that the employees have actually worked. As a result, if a nonexempt employeed are unable to come to work or the office is closed, the employer is not required to pay them.
Exempt employees generally must be paid their full salary for any week in which they perform work. So, if an employer closes the office because of inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek, the employer must pay the exempt employee’s full salary for the week. The employer may, however, require the exempt employee to use vacation or paid time off.
Does the length of a shutdown determine how you handle absences?
It really doesn’t matter for nonexempt employees because they’re paid only for hours worked. So if you shut down for a week, you don’t have to pay nonexempt employees during that time. With salaried employees, unless an employer suspends operations for an entire workweek, they must be paid their regular weekly salary regardless of the number of hours they worked. This becomes tricky with telecommuting because an exempt employee is often going to be checking email or responding to phone calls even while stranded at home during a storm. If exempt employees work for a small portion of the workweek, they must be paid for the entire week.
If you make deductions from exempt employees’ compensation for absences attributed to inclement weather, you may jeopardize the employees’ exempt status and incur liability for any overtime they may have worked.
What happens if an employer’s business is open, but exempt employees don’t show up?
If the employer remains opens during or after a natural disaster and an exempt employee cannot report to work, the Department of Labor considers this to be an absence for personal reasons. But deductions may only be made from the exempt employee’s salary in full day increments. However, it is important to remember that if a salaried employee performs even a little bit of work during the day, employers are still required to pay the employee’s full day salary.
What else should be considered?
Employees who are instructed to remain on call during inclement weather and who cannot use the time for their own personal benefit must be compensated for this time. Additionally, if employees are performing job duties outside their normal scope, such as sweeping the floor, they may be considered a volunteer and do not need to be paid for that time.
Read Sequent’s blog — frequent posts from a wide range of Sequent experts regarding HR, technology and consulting.
Jenny Swinerton is general counsel at Sequent. Reach her at (614) 410-2362 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent
Ohio legislators are considering tax law changes that would relieve headaches for companies that do business across many municipal boundaries.
While Ohio has a uniform law limiting how a municipality may tax, it serves only as a ceiling for what a city may do. Cities can and have imposed their own rules and treatments within those guidelines.
Nonuniform municipal rules and multiple filings have made it difficult for companies to determine what taxes they owe and have deterred others from doing business in the state, says Joseph R. Popp, JD, LLM, tax supervisor at Rea & Associates.
“One of the challenges is the definition of a day. Are you working in a municipality for a day if you’re present at all, or do you have to work half of the day, or the full day? What if your workers pick up a truck at your office and then spend the rest of the day outside that city?” Popp says.
“Cities are taking different approaches, which could result in multiple cities trying to tax you for the same day,” he says. “That’s an example of the complexity that businesses are facing and why they feel that the Ohio municipality taxation structure is burdensome.”
In addition to creating uniform definitions, House Bill 601 would eliminate the need to file tax returns in cities where less than 1 percent of your income is allocated and the tax owed is less than $50. It would also change rules regarding a “free pass” that has been given in cases when workers spend fewer than 12 days in a city. That would be extended to 20 days, and tax would then be collected going forward only.
Smart Business spoke with Popp about the problems posed by current municipal tax laws and what proposed legislation would do to rectify the situation.
What types of businesses does this affect?
Those that are mostly going to be affected will be service-based groups — those that do cable TV installation or something service-based that would take company representatives to many different municipalities while working under the same business umbrella. Temporary agencies that have people going to multiple locations would also be a business group that would have interest in this.
Are there things businesses should do in preparation for the bill’s passage?
Businesses should consider looking at where they might have done things wrong in the past.
A client of ours has a real estate rental company and thought it was in a jurisdiction where tax was not due. However, we found that it was in city limits and tax was due to the city. We’ve prepared returns showing this taxpayer owes $20,000 for a couple of different years. Because of that city’s interest and penalty structures, the client will pay another $20,000 in penalties and interest. Under the new rule, the city would be limited to imposing only $4,000 in penalties and interest, although it’s not clear if the new legislation would be a retroactive change.
So, companies may want to see if there are opportunities to leverage the rule change and end up paying less to the municipality. The municipality may not like the rule change and it wants to get as much tax, interest and penalties as it can now, so that opens up another bargaining chip for businesses to use in their negotiations with a municipality’s tax administrator.
Is the legislation likely to pass?
Yes, and the reason for this confidence stems from how this came about. The major cities are on board with this, the Ohio Society of CPAs is presenting the professional point of view and the members of the legislature are involved in the process. There was a lot of effort put forth to ensure that there was agreement and buy-in by all interested parties.
Click here, to stay informed on the issues affecting your business today and visit the accounting article library.
Joseph R. Popp, JD, LLM is a tax supervisor at Rea & Associates. Reach him at (614) 923-6577 or email@example.com.
Insights Accounting is brought to you by Rea & Associates
Spam emails are on the rise. In fact, according to a recent report by securelist.com, the percentage of spam in email traffic is now more than 77 percent. Not only are spam emails annoying, in some cases they can also be dangerous. In order to combat malicious cyber attacks, it’s important to keep your network protected.
“Spam and antivirus filtering provides a defense against internal and external threats such as spam, viruses, spyware, phishing schemes, identity theft and other dangerous content before it gets to your computer or network,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.
Smart Business spoke with Desberg about email security, how to effectively block spam and the emerging trend of archiving email.
What are some reasons businesses should be concerned about email security?
Email is certainly not new. Over the years it has become an important conduit for conducting business, so much so that the technology is taken for granted. As a result, businesses have become complacent in terms of their email protection. Inbound emails can carry a wide variety of security threats, all of which have the potential to interrupt a company’s daily operations and expose an organization to unscrupulous forces. On the flip side, emails sent from an organization may expose the fact that its network is not as secure as its customers would expect it to be. This can be damaging from an image standpoint. Getting a virus from a business contact vividly illustrates that it doesn’t take its Internet security seriously.
How does virus and spam blocking work as a service rather than as software?
There are two ways to do virus and spam blocking. The first way is to install software on your server that manages threatening email. The other way is to handle it as a service, where you are running all of your inbound and outbound emails through an off-site service. In essence, the off-site service provider is managing your threats for you. This helps reduce expenses and possibly even the bandwidth needed for daily operations. A service provider will scrub all of your emails before they get to your network so those that are potentially threatening don’t disrupt your business. Also during the scrubbing process, a service provider can identify trends of threatening email and rule out sources of where such emails originate.
Why is it important to block spam before it reaches a network?
Blocking spam before it reaches a network keeps threats at arm’s length so they don’t affect resources such as PCs and servers. It also reduces the volume of spam that flows through PCs handling emails, which can reduce the burden that’s placed on the available bandwidth. We’ve worked with organizations that, after we’ve installed virus and spam blocking, came to find out that as much as 50 percent of their Internet traffic was being used just to handle the volume of spam emails. With the reduction in traffic, they are able to realize a cost savings.
How can important email be archived?
Archiving is a new trend for email management. With archiving, you can hold on to emails in order to meet requirements for regulatory compliance, litigation issues and business best practice guidelines. There are solutions companies can utilize to implement secure email archiving that can be scaled to fit the requirements of organizations of any size.
Another emerging trend is e-discovery, which allows an organization to interface with an archive so email searches can be conducted using a specific date, keyword or subject.
Alex Desberg is the sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net
When it comes to zoning and land use regulations, things are not always as they appear. You may want to move into a building that housed a similar operation and sign a lease, only to find that the prior use had been grandfathered.
“There are all kinds of things out there that are not necessarily apparent that you need to check out before you do anything,” says Catherine A. Cunningham, a director at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter. “One of the unique features of zoning is that it is not a state law, it’s a local law under the police powers of the local government. Every local government has its own rules. They have some commonality in how they do things, but the rules and regulations that you would be subject to are unique to the jurisdiction where the property is located.”
Smart Business spoke with Cunningham about the importance of reviewing local ordinances and regulations when considering a business site.
Do companies neglect to consider local ordinances and regulations when looking at potential locations?
It sometimes happens that way. Companies should consider all local ordinances and regulations to make sure that when they choose a location, they are able to do all the operations that they intend at that location.
Normally, most jurisdictions require that if you are constructing a new building, changing a use, or expanding an existing facility that you get a certificate of zoning compliance or zoning clearance from the local government to ensure that you are in compliance before you get too invested in the project.
What common mistakes do businesses make when choosing a location?
They might choose a location where the zoning doesn’t permit what they do, and sometimes they move to a location and find out they can’t expand or the building had a prior zoning violation that they’ll inherit.
Part of the due diligence, anytime you’re going to construct, lease or buy, is to check to make sure that what you want to do and the way you want to use the property are permitted under the current zoning law.
Do companies sign leases before realizing they have a zoning or regulation issue?
That happens more often than it should, in my view. Very often a business is dealing with someone it’s leasing from who is assuring its that it’s OK. Sometimes the company just makes a call to a government authority and talks to somebody, assuming that’s an adequate approval, when really what you need to do is to file an application and be sure that the governmental authority has had adequate time to review all of your information and make an approval.
Often it appears, or it is assumed, that a project or proposed use of property is in compliance with zoning, but then, when the government understands the exact nature of the project or operation, it may find it doesn’t comply with local zoning. Then companies can be prohibited from using the property or from making the expansion or adding the equipment that they think they need in their operations.
In many cases, businesses that have manufacturing facilities, hazardous materials or other special uses, such as outside storage, may trigger special permits from the local government regulator. A lot of times those businesses aren’t aware those permits are required, and sometimes they don’t qualify for the permits and can’t use that location.
Once you identify a property you want to look into, it’s critical to contact the local government or legal counsel to make a determination of how the property is zoned, whether you can use it the way you intend, and to try to get a certificate of zoning compliance or authority to use it that way so you’re cleared before leasing or buying a building.
EVENT: Managing Labor & Employee Relations Seminar will take place March 5. Click for more information.
Catherine A. Cunningham is a director at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter. Reach her at (614) 462-5486 or email@example.com.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter
In order to eliminate or mitigate inefficiencies, businesses must take a close look at current processes. This enables employers to uncover pains, such as the amount of paper being routed throughout the enterprise or the time it takes to process an invoice. Being able to recognize these inefficiencies is great, but many times, quantifying the end result is much simpler than isolating the source of the inefficiencies.
“The problem can be anything — accounting, human resources, policies, leasing documents,” says Nano Zegarra, director, Imaging Solutions Division at Blue Technologies. “It also could be a simple fix, but perhaps the company doesn’t recognize an issue because it’s accustomed to doing things the way they’ve always been done.”
Smart Business spoke with Zegarra about the role of a business analyst and how an outsider’s assessment could uncover problems you weren’t aware you had.
How can inefficiencies be uncovered?
It’s tough. These may be hidden from the CEO or COO, who doesn’t realize parts of the process can be more efficient, especially if monetary values aren’t apparent.
The people who catch most inefficiencies are those who hear the griping, such as a manager who handles the time of individuals working in a particular area. CEOs have the vision, but those in the organization who get their hands dirty, or their direct managers, often discover inefficiencies. Pay attention to the negative feedback from employees, then dig deeper to understand the true pain.
It might take a specific problem to start to unmask these inefficiencies. Perhaps an employee has plenty of downtime, and you feel that he or she might be used more effectively elsewhere but are not sure where. Or you missed a large number of early pay discounts in comparison to the previous year, but where was the ball dropped? If a manager can understand the entire process and quantify the roles of each individual, it is much easier to identify the bottlenecks.
What is a good way to begin the process?
Internal communication is key. Pay attention to the feedback from the process owners. If you identify an area that has more work than another, hold a meeting for open feedback. This is when you should bring in an analyst.
An external analyst can objectively look at the whole business process from beginning to end, using expertise in multiple industries to ask pointed questions about particular processes. A good business analyst will look for inefficiencies anywhere when mapping out work flows and showing where there’s room for improvement. Then, employers can do what they like with the assessment.
How can you accomplish more with less?
Utilize technological resources. The greatest business expenditure is an individual, so ensure your people are as efficient as possible. Even the smallest solution can help existing employees do more in less time.
Saving time can be as simple as having a centralized multifunction printer with the ability to digitally send documents throughout an enterprise. Or take a look at what is being outsourced and understand what investment would need to be made to eliminate that expenditure. Many times, the ROI can outweigh the initial investment to save time and ultimately money.
Is it always about efficiency?
Not always. There are industries where it is critical for multiple individuals to look at a particular document. An experienced business analyst has industry expertise and knows best practices. This understanding may lead to an additional step in a process that may not make it more efficient, but will improve revenue or customer service ratings. This could ultimately give your company added value and a competitive advantage.
How can an analyst improve processes?
Business analysts must understand current processes before making recommendations. This entails in-depth digging and information gathering in order to map out on paper what a company is currently doing. Throughout this process, he or she should be identifying and documenting the greatest pains and largest bottlenecks for every process. With a complete understanding, the discussion on potential changes can take place from an objective point of view.
The analysis’s most important part is the written assessment, which maps a more streamlined process and the steps a company must take to reach its ideal efficiency level.
WHITE PAPERS: For more ideas on how to increase business efficiency.
Nano Zegarra is a director, Imaging Solutions Division, at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2260 or nzegarra@BTOhio.com.
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