Philadelphia (1114)

A marketing epidemic, to put it mildly, has been impacting most businesses — and it’s time to think about keeping your message simple if you haven’t already done so.

The roots of this epidemic can be traced back to two events.

First, during the economic fall of 2008, as businesses looked for ways to preserve revenue streams, companies hunkered down and focused on sales to preserve existing customers. Many cutoff or significantly reduced marketing budgets, and others shifted to digital media as a “low-cost alternative.”

The second event was the rapid spread of social media and the skyrocketing use of smartphones and tablets, which provide instant access to relationships, information and communication.

The social media craze and businesses’ desire to market on the cheap led companies to flood the marketing channels with content. Sales sheets, photos, videos, web pages — companies were suddenly all things to all people because they could push content to digital channels for “free.”

The problem — our marketing channels are now very noisy. As consumers of information, we respond to this noise with limited attention spans. The result — companies have sent confusing messages to the marketplace and people aren’t listening.

This current epidemic of marketing noise distributed across all channels leads to a common marketing need for all businesses — simplification.

 

Keeping it simple

So how do you achieve message simplification? It all ties back to the business. Here are seven steps to help get you started:

1. Identify three to four key business objectives for the next two years. Do you want regional growth or growth in a new industry? Do you want to sell more to existing customers?

2. Prioritize your objectives by placing dollars or number of opportunities next to them. This will help you focus on the most important areas.

3. Brainstorm a list of marketing tactics that can help you achieve each objective. Can you generate more leads from trade shows, your website, your existing customer list? What tactics do you need to adopt?

4. Write a succinct summary, or “elevator pitch.” This should be one to three sentences on how you benefit the people you are targeting in your objectives.

5. Compare your elevator pitch to your marketing tactics and existing materials. Review your website, brochures, email newsletter, social media accounts, videos, trade show collateral, etc. Notice how many “extra” things you say in an effort to cover all your bases.

6. Rework your message. Focus on the audiences for your key objectives. Identify the benefits for these audiences. Your marketing message should speak directly to these audiences so they can understand your value and usefulness to them.

7. Prioritize your marketing tactics. It’s tempting to be trendy and market on social media or through video, just remember to consider which tactics will best reach your audiences. You don’t need to be in every marketing channel, just the ones where your customers and prospects will hear you.

 

Finally, once you’ve simplified your message, stick to it! It is important so that people understand the benefits and value that you deliver. While it might seem repetitive to you, your audience will appreciate the clarity and with time, will remember what your business does best. ●

 

Kristy Amy is director of marketing strategy for SBN Interactive. Reach her at mailto:kamy@sbninteractive.com or (440) 250-7011.

Life has a way of presenting us with difficult circumstances. Sometimes it’s in our personal lives, and sometimes it’s in our business.

If the circumstance is severe enough, it can create a crisis, which can often cause a feeling of hopelessness. When things outside your control come at you in droves, it becomes difficult to cope with them. Entire organizations can be overwhelmed and pulled down by external circumstances, which if not dealt with promptly and correctly, can destroy the company.

The CEO’s role is to right the ship and rally everyone around a solution — and it most likely won’t be easy. People are always looking for the easy way out, but that path is rarely an option. When facing a difficult situation, you have to play the ball where it lies, which means the resources you have in people, dollars or equipment are all you may have to work with.

But challenges also present opportunities. Faced with a crisis, you and your leadership team will be forced to look at your assets in new ways. You’ll be required to take a careful look at your customer base, your market and your processes. This kind of in-depth evaluation may uncover not only a possible solution to your problem, but it may open your eyes to markets or applications you never considered before.

Take Netflix for example. The company was the king of DVD-by-mail, and had already knocked off the once mighty Blockbuster. With the increase in streaming video content, however, customers began moving away from DVDs, threatening Netflix’s main revenue channel. It reacted by creating not only streaming content, but also by creating its own unique content. Customers can stream video from many outlets, but it’s tough to beat Netflix’s reputation and ease of use.

Often, the resources you need are already at hand; they just need to be used in new ways. Netflix already had the capabilities; it just needed to apply them differently.

You may find that after assessing what you have, you have started to create a new path that leads away from the crisis.

At the beginning of a difficult time, you may not be able to see a way out, which can lead to despair. By starting with an initial step and continuing, however, you’ll soon see the light. Start by calling your bank or suppliers to ask for better terms or whatever it is you need, and then build from there.

No matter what you do, though, don’t compromise your integrity. Always do the right thing in the wrong circumstances, because depending on how severe your crisis is, your reputation might be the only thing you have to negotiate with.

If you work hard, do the right thing and stay positive, a solution will likely present itself. It may not always be in a form that you anticipated — you may need to change your products or your market — but if you keep an open mind and work with what you have, everything will work itself out. ●

Most weeks I get on a plane and attempt to have an out-of-body experience to deal with all the hassles of flying as I travel from point A to point B. When flying, I have a few simple rules. One, I almost never eat the food. Two, I attempt to talk to no one other than obligatory hellos. Three, I never argue with or say a cross word to flight attendants.

One other very important practice I follow on land, sea and especially in the air is that I constantly scan my surroundings for potential troubles and new ideas.

On a recent flight, upon boarding, I quietly and obediently proceeded to my assigned seat.

As I began to sit down, a gentleman asked if I would mind trading seats with him so that he could sit next to his wife. Like most seasoned travelers I try to accommodate reasonable requests. In this case it seemed a no-brainer to agree to move.

 

Notice the details

As I started to settle in and fasten my seat belt I noted that my new seatmate was very hot. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I mean she seemed to be flushed and radiating heat, ostensibly from a high fever. I’m thinking, this is not good, plus it proves the age-old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

In the next minute I had an epiphany, which happens frequently as I believe that many problems come disguised as opportunities.

I rang the call button and, when approached, asked the cabin attendant to please bring me two cloth napkins. I stated that the purpose was to construct a makeshift face mask by tying the two pieces together to prevent possibly contracting some dreaded disease.

I feared that my intentions could be misinterpreted if I were to don a mask without an explanation; this could cause a well-meaning passenger to drag me to the floor thinking I had nefarious motives.

The stewardess smiled, nodding approvingly of my plan. She then summoned all her co-attendants to my seat and proceeded to whisper what I was attempting. Otherwise, she explained, they, too, could misunderstand my appearance and cause me bodily harm.

As founder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a health and wellness retail and marketing chain, I’m always looking for that next special something to share with my team. Therefore, while burying my now masked face in a newspaper so as not to frighten or offend the sick seatmate, I began dictating a memo to my merchandise product group proudly asserting that I just had another “aha!” moment, for which I am well-known, among my colleagues. For full disclosure, however, I am sometimes known for being a bit “out there” on occasion — but no one bats a thousand.

 

Turn an idea into a product

This particular predicament gave me the idea to develop a product kit that we could sell to weary travelers in our stores and in airports. I suggested a handful of complementary products, including a mask, a disinfectant spray and, if all else fails, relief remedies. I also noted that it probably would be prudent to include a cigarette pack-type “Black Box” warning stating that the mask is not what some suspicious flyers might think, but instead it’s for prevention of disease only. I even proposed we market these kits directly to the airlines to dispense as an emergency prophylactic for passengers exposed to airborne (pun intended) pathogens.

 

Fleeting thoughts have value

A key role for business leaders is teaching a management team to use fleeting thoughts as a springboard, to pair common problems with sometimes-simple solutions.

Just because it is a simple fix, though, doesn’t mean the idea couldn’t be a lucrative breakthrough.

When something sparks an idea it needs to be taken to the next level before being pooh-poohed. Most likely the vast majority of these inspirations won’t see the light of day, but that’s OK. Just think — what if one transient idea translates into the next Post-it Notes, Kleenex or bottled water?

The next time you sit by a masked man on a plane, it most likely won’t be the Lone Ranger. Instead, you might be witnessing the incubation of the next best thing since sliced bread. ●

 

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. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

The legal exposures that come with terminating employees are always present. But with a troubled economy continuing, increases in certain types of claims, more publicity in the media about employment discrimination cases, and the Department of Labor and state agencies spending greater resources on investigation and enforcement, it’s more important than ever to take potential legal exposure seriously.

“An employer should absolutely take the time to review all circumstances of the employee’s time with the company prior to terminating the employee,” says Alfredo M. Sergio, member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC.

Smart Business spoke with Sergio about what to do before, during and after employee terminations.

What considerations need to be weighed before firing someone?

There are a number of questions to ask before terminating an employee. Employers may still choose to terminate, but should proceed carefully. For example, consider whether the employee:

  • Is in a protected class such as age, race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation or veteran.
  • Suffers from a medical condition, disability, is pregnant or is taking care of a family member with a disability.
  • Has ever requested a disability-related accommodation, or taken or requested pregnancy or medical leave.
  • Has ever made a claim of discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation, or has ever threatened to sue.
  • Is subject to an employment contract, a non-compete, non-solicitation, confidentiality and/or inventions agreement.
  • Needs to cooperate with the company after being separated, e.g., in other litigation or on a project.

If any of these apply, you may want to consult with your attorney before you proceed with termination. Of course, if the soon-to-be terminated employee is violent or threatens anyone, immediate termination may be warranted.  

What else might employers do to prepare before terminating an employee?

Employers should document the decision to terminate when the decision is made, and accurately document employees’ conduct and performance throughout their employment. This will help the company prove its legitimate reasons for termination and put the company in a better position to defend itself.

Before the termination discussion, employers should think about how, where and when they will communicate the termination, and be prepared to answer questions about pay and benefits.  Employers should think about changing passwords, getting back keys, security badges, computers, tools, equipment, customer lists and/or obtaining summaries of current projects.

How should the termination be handled?

Consider whether there are any written policies regarding termination. Treat the employee with dignity and be professional, and keep the meeting brief. The supervisor communicating the termination may also want to have a human resources representative present. At the meeting/in a separation letter, set forth the reasons for termination. Remind the employee of his or her obligations if the employee signed a non-compete, non-solicitation or other agreement. In some instances, it may be appropriate to obtain a release of claims from the employee through a severance agreement, which may provide protection and deterrence against future claims.

What do employers need to do afterward?

Employers should pay the terminated employee’s final paycheck within the required time periods, and should be careful they provide the separated employee any notices required under COBRA. Also, plan how to communicate the termination to other employees, since rumors or gossip can have a negative effect on employee morale.

In the end, reviewing possible legal exposure and practical concerns before firing an employee best positions the employer for a smoother transition.

Alfredo M. Sergio is a member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach him at (215) 887-0200 or asergio@sogtlaw.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

For-hire trucking companies have unique risk exposures, so the right insurance is crucial in today’s environment.

In the trucking industry, it’s important to fully understand the nomenclature, nuances between each industry sector and the differing coverages provided by each policy and each insurance company.

“It isn’t an all-encompassing package that is given to every company. Insurance companies are going to want to limit their exposure, so they won’t offer if it’s not requested,” says Scott Nuelle, vice president at ECBM. “If the company is not insured for what management believes it should be, you might not find out until the time of a loss.”

Smart Business spoke with Nuelle about how transportation firms can determine how much excess insurance to buy.

Why is it necessary to buy excess insurance?

The key reason is to protect your assets. Anytime you’ve got trucks on the road, you don’t have as much control of the environment as you’d like. Regardless of your driver safety programs, driver training methods or vehicle technology, an accident could still occur. And the more trucks and miles traveled, the greater the exposure.

The primary layer of a liability policy is usually only $1 million, so excess insurance may be necessary in many cases. Then, if one of your drivers has an accident and is sued, you’ve protected the business.

How does a transportation company know how much excess insurance to buy?

Cost is a big factor in how much excess insurance to carry. Right now, prices are increasing, making it difficult for smaller companies to carry higher limits of liability. But many companies don’t have a choice because shippers may require the higher coverage limits in contracts.

You want to buy enough insurance to reflect the company assets you are trying to protect. Although many businesses have structured the organization to protect assets, you should at least consider what would happen if plans failed.

Then, measure your level of risk aversion. Some people want to completely cover the company and all assets, referring to it as ‘sleep insurance.’ Others perceive the exposure of not buying excess insurance as minimal, gambling on the outcome.

How do recent court cases necessitate the need for more insurance?

Although legal rulings vary by state, when people are hurt, courts generally seek to compensate them. Increasingly when a truck is involved in an accident, trucking companies are paying, whether the driver was at fault or not. For example, if a third party under its own authority is hauling a trailer with your name on it, your company might still have to pay. The exposure could go well beyond what you believe.

What else has changed with the pricing and underwriting?

The general market hardening is having an impact on insurance prices, and there are fewer carriers offering excess coverage. Therefore, even those with good experience are seeing increases because of the decreased number of players in that market.

From an underwriting standpoint, more underwriters are utilizing the compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) scores from the new grading schedule for trucking companies. It measures things like driver out of service, driver safety and vehicle maintenance. As a result, companies must be very active at monitoring and trying to control their scores, which will very likely impact the premium you pay on the excess and primary liability coverage.

If a company has a private fleet of trucks that delivers its own goods, do these exposures still apply?

These companies face similar issues, especially on the liability side. It is more common for the parent company with a private fleet to buy umbrella coverage. However, the umbrella carrier may hesitate to take on the trucking portion, because of the exposure level. Then you would need to get an excess buffer layer to cover the trucking exposure.

The decision of how much insurance to carry is fluid, but you should have a discussion annually with your broker. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because a large loss hasn’t happened. Evaluate your exposure, the legal climate and the state of the market to make an informed decision.

Scott Nuelle is a vice president at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100, ext. 1387, or snuelle@ecbm.com.

Get more information about risk management, on ECBM's blog.

Insights Risk Management is brought to you by ECBM

Many closely held private companies are organized as partnerships or S corporations — pass-through entities with no material tax implications at the organization level. For owners of such businesses, tax planning predominantly focuses on the individual. To properly plan for those taxes, you need to start well before the end of the year, says Michael R. Viens, a director in the Tax Strategies group at Kreischer Miller.

“Although it can be difficult to precisely forecast results for the entire year, a reasonable estimate, along with identification of the material differences that will exist between financial and tax reporting, should be developed,” says Viens.

Smart Business spoke with Viens about key considerations in developing an effective tax planning process.

What is involved in year-end tax planning?

It starts with a solid foundation — just like an unstable foundation can be problematic with a house, tax planning based on inadequate information can lead to a bad outcome.

Some things to consider when developing your forecast are year-end activities that can affect tax reporting, items such as fixed asset additions, the cash basis tax reporting impact of the collection of receivables and seasonal swings in profitability.

It’s also important to take into account tax considerations unrelated to the business. Key components of a business owner’s personal tax obligations are W-2 wages and share of business income listed in a Schedule K-1. But you also need to consider other aspects of the personal tax puzzle. Acceleration of tax deductions is frequently part of tax planning; however, you have to consider what the ultimate tax benefit will be. Too much acceleration of deductions in a particular tax period may result in limiting the related tax benefit to a lower tax bracket than if taken at another time.

So it’s sometimes better to pay taxes earlier rather than defer payment?

Much of tax planning involves a question as to timing when to pay. If there is no material direct or indirect interest charge for deferring payment, that is normally the recommended course. However, a ‘pay as you go’ approach can lead to a better outcome when economic circumstances are not ideal for the accumulation of a significant tax payment deferral.

Another concern with a deferral of tax liabilities is that it can be difficult to monitor future tax payment obligations. Because pass-through entities are not required to identify those liabilities in finance reports, those reports will not help you keep track of when tax obligations may come due.

How does wealth transfer impact tax planning?

Effective estate tax planning may run counter to income tax strategy. You may be able to defer payment of tax due on business profits, but you might not want to do that from an estate tax standpoint. When it’s time to transfer ownership to children, they might not be aware of the need to handle payment of deferred tax obligations. An owner may want to pay the tax, thereby reducing his or her taxable estate and leading to a higher amount of wealth passing along to his or her children.

Should your tax strategy change every year?

An effective tax planning process generally includes some constant elements, such as deferral of revenue recognition and acceleration of deductions. But you need to be flexible to address new challenges.

For example, the new Medicare tax on net investment income will adversely affect owners who do not materially participate in a business, as well as rental arrangements in which commercial property is owned under separate entities. An effective tax plan will consider such changes and adapt to the extent possible.

Michael R. Viens is a director in the Tax Strategies group at Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 or mviens@kmco.com.

Learn more from Kresicher Miller about tax strategies.

Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by Kreischer Miller

As the economy begins to improve, with increasing sales and corporate profits gaining some momentum, now is a good time for companies to consider directors and officers liability insurance to help secure their growth.

Smart Business spoke with Philip K. Glick, senior vice president at ECBM and a registered professional liability underwriter, about some issues companies should be addressing in this area.

Are you seeing a growth in claims?

Mergers and acquisitions and other business combinations have begun to increase. This activity has resulted in more directors and officers liability claims brought by disgruntled shareholder groups that question their buyout’s valuation. Also, if a merger or acquisition falls through, one or both parties may file a claim against the other for breakup fees or other damages.

In addition, the number of wage and hour claims filed by current and former employees continues to increase. These claims involve a range of allegations, including failure to pay overtime; failure to pay for break periods; failure to pay for the time involved in getting in and out of uniforms; and failure to reimburse employees for the cost of uniforms and other job-related expenses.

With more litigation, are there changes in the directors and officers liability market?  

As a result of litigation trends and the overall tightening of the property and liability insurance marketplace, renewal premiums are increasing by 8 to 10 percent for directors and officers liability, including employment practices liability. Companies with recent claims face larger increases.

Insurance companies also are restricting coverage terms and conditions offered. With respect to employment practices liability, often written as a part of directors and officers liability coverage, many insurers are eliminating coverage for wage and hour claims — even for legal defense costs routinely covered in prior years. Some insurers may be willing to provide a sub-limit for these costs.

Carriers are eliminating coverage for claims brought by former directors or officers against the company, even if they haven’t been with the company for years. Examples include failure to pay post-termination benefits or cheating a former shareholder out of the real value of prior stock holdings upon the company’s sale to a third-party buyer today. These restrictions might be changed with a carve back only excluding claims if a former officer/director has been gone less than two or three years.

Are coverage extensions or improvements available to broaden your coverage?

Even with market tightening, the directors and officers liability marketplace remains competitive with many coverage enhancements available, if specifically requested. For example, the cost of legal defense is often included in the policy limits, but many insurers are willing to provide an extra limit of coverage for defense of claims, if the overall policy limit has been used up by the payment of awards.

Some insurance companies also provide an ‘excess side A’ limit of protection, giving additional coverage to individual directors and officers in the event claims against the company have used up policy limits. It’s an extra level of protection to insulate personal assets from third-party claims.

Another expanded coverage involves the selection of defense counsel. Traditionally, smaller private companies’ coverage was written on a ‘duty to defend’ basis where the insurance company appointed defense counsel for claims. Today, carriers may allow the insured to get approval for their own counsel choice, or to select counsel from a preapproved list.  

Many insurers are offering directors and officers liability in combination with other specialty coverages, such as employment related practices, fiduciary liability and crime insurance, under an overall blanket professional liability menu of coverages. This can be subject to an overall shared aggregate limit for all claims or separate limits of protection for each part. Blanket coverage costs less and has broader terms and conditions than separate policies.

Insurance companies also are willing to provide coverage for potential whistle-blower claims in which current or former employees allege the company violated laws involving government-funded contracts.

Philip K. Glick is a senior vice president and registered professional liability underwriter at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100, ext. 1310, or pglick@ecbm.com.

For more information about risk management, visit ECBM's blog.

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Monday, 02 September 2013 22:37

How to more effectively deal with problematic issues

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Wouldn’t it be great if every day we woke up and all was good in the world — no poor or mediocre operating results, no people issues, no customer or supplier issues, no worries.

Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in today. The most successful companies and their leaders have one thing in common — they are effective in dealing with difficult decisions that can have profound results.  

“Many people can identify what should be done, but not everyone is courageous enough to act,” says Stephen W. Christian, managing director at Kreischer Miller.

Smart Business spoke with Christian about the obstacles to dealing with troubling issues and a path toward more effectively resolving them.

What are some of the toughest decisions facing executives?

Without a doubt, people issues are most prevalent. Examples include investing in strategic hires, counseling poor performers and retooling the organization chart. Other areas that often result in decision paralysis include investing in equipment or a physical plant, exiting or entering geographic regions, and walking away from a customer or service line.

Why is it important to quickly and effectively deal with tough decisions?

Decisions are required every day, some routine and some critical. Managers make routine decisions, but leaders make the critical ones. Effectively tackling performance and strategic issues guides our future and puts us on a path toward success. As leaders, we have people watching us and counting on us to do the right thing for the organization. We may be the owners or top executives, but our team members’ livelihoods depend on us effectively dealing with tough decisions.

What gets in the way of addressing difficult business issues?

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of reasons to ignore or postpone important actions. A day becomes a week, a week becomes a month, a month becomes a year, and before we know it, a decision we knew was necessary never takes place. Some reasons for this are lack of accountability, uncertainty about what we are trying to accomplish, fear of failure, worries about short-term consequences, failure to embrace the opportunity and concerns over what others might think.

What puts executives in the best position to make timely and effective decisions regarding complex and difficult matters?

Successful leaders utilize a variety of techniques to ensure they resolve difficult decisions. These techniques include defining the discrete decision at hand — focusing on the issue, not all the noise surrounding the matter; outlining the opportunities arising from the action; and defining the costs, both monetary and process change related.

From there, a plan of action is determined and commitment to a time frame is established. Along the way, seek the counsel of those whose judgments you trust to validate the plan and remind yourself that the goal is to advance the cause of the organization. There are no risk free, perfect answers.

Can you read a book to become a better decision-maker?

What you can read in a book are techniques to overcome obstacles and reinforcement of the importance of making effective decisions. The ability to actually effectuate what you know should be done comes from your inner being. Remind yourself that successful companies are led by people who identify critical issues, take risks, are decisive and accept responsibility. Action is what it is all about.

The world is full of people who understand what the issues are. Not all of them have the skill to determine the solution to a problem, and even fewer have the ability to effect and sustain change.

Stephen W. Christian is a managing director at Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 or schristian@kmco.com.

For more governance and leadership topics, check out the Center for Private Company Excellence blog.

Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by Kreischer Miller

The restaurant and bar industry is highly competitive, and many owners struggle every day to stay in business. The right technology can help restaurants and bars gain an edge, while improving back-office operations and guest experience.

Recently, Comcast Business conducted a poll of LinkedIn members in the hospitality industry. Of the more than 700 respondents, 31 percent said technology was setting them up for success, the second-highest response.

Smart Business spoke with Kevin Conmy, regional vice president of business services at Comcast Business, about how technology and the Internet can be the keys to evolving a restaurant or bar from struggling to thriving.

What technology is driving new efficiencies for back-end operations?

Multiple generations often operate family-owned restaurants and bars. Older-generation owners may prefer traditional, paper-based methods to take customer orders, track time and inventory, and pay employees. However, these businesses often lose money without understanding why.

Fortunately, many software packages and systems are specifically designed to bring the business a level of automation and help operations run more smoothly. Owners can automatically re-order items when supplies get low with real-time inventory management systems, preventing shortages of key ingredients and minimizing over-ordering. They can order food and make supplier payments directly online, making accounts payable faster and easier. Online time cards and schedule management software can improve employee management and allow servers to log in to a secure site to see their schedules with updated changes. The system can deliver announcements to quickly communicate important information, such as menu changes, to the entire staff.

Technology also allows tablets and other mobile devices to send orders immediately to the kitchen. Orders move faster with fewer errors.

How can owners improve guest experiences?

Consumers today are constantly using their smartphones, tablets or laptops. They want a fast connection to watch videos, update social media accounts or do a live video chat right at the table. Restaurants and bars can differentiate themselves with fast wireless Internet service. Having a sign that says ‘We have Wi-Fi’ brings people in and keeps them coming back. To support this, you must have a high-capacity connection out to the Internet that supports the Wi-Fi network.

Technology is also transforming how guests order and pay with tableside touch-screens. One-click ordering leads to more food and drink orders. The bill payment delivers tips directly into a server’s account.

How does cloud technology help restaurant and bar owners?

Many of these technology solutions are stored and operated ‘in the cloud’ so owners simply pay for the service and log onto a website to access the software. Then, there is no need to upgrade software or keep a server on site. Plus, the system can be accessed from any Internet connection, allowing owners to keep eyes on their businesses whenever or wherever. They also don’t have to be technology experts to use these tools, freeing up more time to manage the restaurant or bar.

And with data stored elsewhere, owners don’t have to worry about losing information because of a technical issue, theft or fire/flood damage.

However, the key to cloud-based systems is access. Businesses need fast, reliable Internet access to get online, so cloud-based systems work quickly and reliably.

What are the first steps to getting started?

Restaurants and bars need to start planning now to shift to technology-based systems and amenities. First, stay ahead of the bandwidth curve by ensuring you have a fast enough Internet connection to meet your needs today and tomorrow. Once you have a high-speed network connection out to the Internet, you can purchase cloud-based software systems or Wi-Fi access points.

Business owners also might consider bundling Internet, phone and television with one provider, so there’s only one place to call for assistance, and one bill to pay.

To enjoy the benefits of these technology tools, restaurants and bars need to embrace them now, or risk being left behind.

Kevin Conmy is a regional vice president, Business Services, at Comcast Business. Reach him at (215) 642-6457 or kevin_conmy@cable.comcast.com.

Learn more about Comcast Business solutions or contact your local account executive.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast Business