Tag Archive: small business


HackerToday’s post deviates a bit from the norm, but Techsnoop believes that small business owners should learn from the mistakes of large business.  Small business owners have thin margins for error so it pays to keep an eye on and learn from, Big Biz.

During the late 80s and early 90s, many employees explored flexible work options with employers to assist in balancing their work and family responsibilities.  One option was job sharing where 2 employees would share one full-time job.  Another was the ability to complete work tasks from home.  The work from home option required a solid plan on the part of employees where they could demonstrate responsibility and capability to actually be productive outside the office.

Once it was proven that employees working from home were actually more productive than those in the office, employers embraced this option on a larger scale.  Not only was it good for productivity, it allowed businesses to increase staff while keeping square footage overhead low.  A true win-win policy, work from home allows employees to accept smaller monetary compensation due to lower commute, lunch and wardrobe costs.  In a flat financial economy, both business and staff are able to reduce costs and exist on lower margins.

Fast forward to 2013

As more start-ups and small businesses use work from home policies to recruit top staff and keep overhead low, Yahoo bucks the trend and decides to eliminate this valuable policy.  The official word is that the productivity of some work from homers is low.  However, this “toss the baby with the bathwater” management approach has been proven to be unsuccessful.

When a business has under performing employees, managers need to directly meet with offenders armed with an objective list of actions that are not meeting standards.  A discussion then needs to outline the expected corrections, acceptable outcomes and results of meeting or not meeting the targets.  The manager then sets the target date for the improvements to be reached.

Should the targets not be met, the employee is let go.  Period.

When a company tries to correct individual behavior by imposing changes on an entire group, the employees who are not abusing the policy become upset and their productivity drops.

Those employees who in good faith, took a work from home position and are meeting and exceeding productivity levels, are being punished.  Even the most faithful will suffer from a morale drop and a feeling that they are being cheated or unfairly punished.  When employees feel they are not being equitably compensated, they will try to level the playing field by reducing productivity or other behavior.

No one likes to be group punished for the errors of others.  Yahoo, take note; this is a dangerous path.  Your superstar workers will be disgruntled and start looking to move to the competition.  Additionally, this move does not address the actual problem; low productivity of some workers.  Just being in the office does not raise productivity.  What actually will happen (Techsnoop predicts) is that the slackers will find ways to make their problems seem to be someone else’s fault.  Dissention will grow in the ranks and a toxic environment will ensue.

Lessons Learned

One way small businesses can keep their costs low is to use independent contractors whenever possible.  These freelancers require no benefits, pay their own taxes and are highly motivated to complete projects timely and professionally.  But if you are successful, at some point you will need an actual employee.  An employee is one whose schedule and duties are directed by the company and/or manager.

The ability to work from home, at least some of the time, can be a big selling point for a job with a company that has fewer benefits and lower payroll capability.  This nets you higher quality workers for lower wages.  Technology has made work from home jobs a great option for workers and employers.  Employers who choose to go backwards with options reveal a culture that will drive away the talented and creative workers needed to be successful.

socialmedia

(copyright DKemp Designs)

Social Media is the great business buzzword.  What is your social media strategy, do you have social media apps, how do you handle social media. these are the questions of the new consumer landscape.

If you are a small business chances are you don’t have the budget to hire a specialized social media master.  So you make do with whoever in the office seems to know the most.  But it is not enough to set up a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ page and hope masses of customers will show up.  In fact, Techsnoop has seen hundreds of business pages that have virtual dust on them.

Looks Count

First, is your page appealing?  You need to have a great logo and cover photo that attract interest and showcase your business.  The photos should be crisp and in-focus, not blurred or stretched out.  Here is where a little money goes a long way.  A professional graphic designer can create 2 or 3 cover photos in the sizes needed and you can rotate them through the year.  Next you need to post some interesting information on the page.  Blog or news items relating to your business are great posts if you don’t have any sales or promotions going.

Mix It Up

Next, do you like or comment on posts of others on your page?  If not, why not?  You should have at least a few regulars with content you can look for and like each week.  Mention others and interact so they will do the same.  This is what gets your “talking about” stats up on Facebook.

You wouldn’t go to a party and stand in the corner looking but not speaking to anyone.  The social part of social media is interaction.  Make honest connections with others who have something in common and keep conversations going.  Thank others and when asking for likes and follows use the word “please”.  Manners count.

To keep your time manageable on the platforms, search for specific content that relates to your business or interests you like technology or football.  This will help you choose your top engagers and keep the time spent to about 3 total hours per week.  Ideally, time should be spent one hour a day for 3 days each week.  This keeps you looking active.

Let us know in the comments if this helps you focus your social media efforts for 2013.

twitterwinnerSocial Media is by nature a quick, off the cuff means of communicating. But in business, especially small business,  it is important to know that cyberwords are never forgotten and never go away.  Even so-called private texts and e-mails can become public.  One upset critic can decide to upload every embarrassing message you ever sent.

For 2013 commit to not making assumptions or disparaging others in writing and to not re-posting unchecked information as “fact”.  Being certain of your information gives you credibility and increases your personal presence.

The best way to screen your online communication is to create a social media strategy that reflects the image you want to project.  Use technology tools such as BufferApp to help you choose and schedule posts.  Pre-type your tweets and posts in Word or another text program and hold for 15 to 30 minutes, then read again and make sure it conveys your message accurately.

Techsnoop and DKemp Designs wish you a great and prosperous New Year!

social mediaIf Social Media has your head spinning, Techsnoop is here to help sort out some of the mystery with a list of what to use to keep up.  Social Media strategy depends on your small business goals and niche.  Review here and on the previous post to determine what will work for you.  And all apps are FREE!

Google+ is gaining in popularity, but still finding it’s social media footing.  While used by bloggers, news sites and small business is gaining, widespread audience is not as compelling as most forums.  It is however, important to be found on this site as having a Google+ presence guarantees rankings in the search engines.  Think of Google+ as a posting board to get information out and share stories.  Don’t devote excessive time to it unless you are a blogger.

LinkedIn is the choice social media site for businesses and professionals.  The site and its groups have little tolerance for spammers and fakers.  If identified as one of these, you will be ousted quickly.  Join groups and make sure you like and post on topics of interest.  You can make connections with group members, but have a follow-up or thank you note policy in place when they accept you.  Manners are KING in this group.  Don’t spam, use poor grammar and spelling or make negative comments.

LinkedIn has recently added new features and functionality that allow small businesses to post fan pages that look remarkably like the FB timeline pages.

Businesses and recruiters check this site for you above all others.  Keep your reputation clean and make sure you have a company page.  Post updates of informative articles or company milestones every week to keep current.

Techsnoop’s latest favorite Social Media tool is BufferApp.  This little plug in for browsers allows you to instantly tweet content as you browse the web, but schedules it so you are not spamming followers.  For example, you can tweet this article and use the buffer button to have it automatically listed in a que you set up.  You set the times of day for your tweets and BufferApp sends them out at the next available slot.  There is also a chance to add hashtags and notes to the tweet and it works with Facebook.

A little simpler than TweetDeck, you don’t have to leave your current page or specify times, they are preset and can be updated by logging into your online account.  Nothing to download or install.

If you are a small business person or freelancer, you may want to re-think Instagram.  They have changed their privacy policy to allow them to use and sell your photos to advertisers without compensating you.  This is a copyright violation for small business owners.  You may want to switch to Flickr.

If you have other useful tools to keep your social media organized, please share it in the comments.  Happy surfing!

Hacker“Aw, Crap”.  You may find yourself using this phrase or something stronger if your website or blog gets popular, and you find yourself hacked. Hacking can take many forms from phishing (spoofing your URL), to redirects where the hacker uses your site to direct traffic to their own, or spamming where the hacker inserts their own keywords on your site to boost their own Google rankings.
Google is aware of these tatics and will flag your site in search results if you are hacked.

DO NOT ignore these flags. Click the instructions and check your site for malware. If there is no malware, you may have one of the hacks mentioned above.

Since most bloggers are not web developers, Techsnoop has a quick and simple fix.
Find out when your site was hacked and restore all files from a date prior to the hack. Then change all passwords. Your blog and web host passwords. Make them completely different and stronger.  It is OK to write down your website passwords as long as you keep them offline and somewhere secure.

Techsnoop was recently hacked with a “Pharma” attack.  This code was placed in my site, invisible, but searchable by Google and making my blog look like spam (links & inappropriate words removed);

One italian study looking at the Levitra Online.. diagnoses of wall street. Representation appellant represented order to give Insight Into The Payday Loan Process .. them major pill viagra. As noted the size locations presence or by Generic Cialis Online .. dewayne weiss psychiatric pill communications. Service connection on and are addressed cash loan .. in treating erectile mechanism. Eja ..medicine of disagreement nod Viagra .. in adu ..problem? Isr med assoc j montorsi giuliana meuleman e ….Unsurprisingly a long ..in place by Cialis .. an ..devices have obesity. Effective medications it can be attributable to Viagra .. change your doctor may change. Thus by tulane university researchers published in july the secondary condition the two matters the arteries.

WTH?  My blog is on technology, design and movies.  But spammers use your search rankings to get their own increased.  Since Google is on to them, it doesn’t work long, but it makes your rankings suffer.

If you catch this right away, you can preserve your standings.  So,

  1. Search your sites every week and check your Google Analytics to make sure your site is not going down in the standings.
  2. Use the “remember your password” function of your browser so you are not typing in your password every time.  This makes them accessible to keylogger viruses.
  3. Scan your computer frequently to clean out any malware or viruses that may be dormant but sending out your information to hackers.

Because Techsnoop checks search rankings and Analytics every week and so only had this for one week.  Imagine if you are hacked and don’t find out for months?  The damage to your rankings would take months to repair.

So, as Techsnoop blogged earlier this week, Security is critical for small business.

Happy Holidays from Techsnoop.  If you are a freelancer or small business owner, you probably have an extensive online presence.  Take the holidays as an opportunity to review your security procedures.

Many small business owners treat their business security like their individual security.  This can be risky because the business has more online exposure than individuals and there are more people accessing records and clicking links.  If you sell online, my friends at Garage Sale Academy.com can give you great tips on selling safely.

We live in the age of the Cloud and most business is conducted at least partly through cloud-based services or applications.  These transactions generally happen smoothly with no issues.  But, one tiny mistake can cost you your business or online life.

According to Wired.com,

“Hackers are increasingly going after small businesses,” says Jeremy Grant, who runs the Department of Commerce’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. Essentially, he’s the guy in charge of figuring out how to get us past the current password regime. “They have more money than individuals and less protection than large corporations.”

This puts small business owners in the hacker sweet-spot for targeting.

Staying Safe

First, passwords.  Use a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numeric and special (if allowed) characters in all passwords.  Make sure they are a minimum of 8 characters long and use a different one for each site.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but isn’t keeping your business worth it?

Set up password reset information or questions with answers that are not published anywhere online.  If the information is published online, chances are hackers can look it up and use it to guess your password or have it reset.

Links are the gold standard for “phishers”, those emails sent from businesses you know (or seem like it) and have a link to click to log in to your account.  Get around this by NEVER clicking links in the emails unless you requested a reset or other information.  Always go into your browser address bar or your bookmarks to get to a site that requires sign in.

Delete employees or partners who have left the company right away.  They may not mean any harm, but having an unused profile with access to your records opens the door for hackers.

Change passwords frequently.  This may seem a no-brainer, but most small companies do not have a password reset system in place.  Also, have common passwords blocked from your system.  In the year 2012 the word “password” is the most used password online.

Finally, get and use the strongest firewall, antivirus and security software you can afford.  This is not the place to skimp in your business.  If someone gets into your accounts, they can completely destroy your data and your life.

Have a safe and prosperous year.

 

 

(Credit: DKemp Designs)

Are you a web designer who needs to understand how to integrate jQuery into your web designs?

Techsnoop is here with timely tutorials on how to link jQuery files to your sites so they work smoothly.

The first tutorial is a basic one of how to add jQuery to your site so it works properly.  The second is a bit advanced, but it gives you a simple demonstration of how jQuery can jazz up your sites without using Flash.  Since many mobile devices do not support Flash, it is important to be device neutral in your designing.

Whatever your design role is, understanding how jQuery adds dynamic movement to the web is important.  Movement and interaction are key concepts that “sell” your site to customers.  Anything that results in higher conversions is a best practice for future of web development.

Have a great week and get your skills polished.

 

When making out your Christmas shopping list, keep in mind what values your dollars support.  If you support processes that cripple the economy, you are creating an economy that will cripple your children.

That said, take a few minutes to research the items on your family’s gift lists.  For instance, much was made during the election of jobs being outsourced to China.  One of China’s biggest manufacturing firms is Foxconn who makes tablets for Apple.  Foxconn was criticized because they had an epidemic of employee suicides due to poor working conditions.  Now, they have chosen the oh so compassionate route of ending employee dissatisfaction by replacing them with robots.

Yes, they are going to replace the troublesome humans with robots.  Techsnoop finds this disturbing.  If Apple continues to use this company and allows this to go forward, US dollars will be used to outsource jobs to Chinese robots.

What a concept.  We will go from sending our dollars to support humans in another country, to supporting robots in another country.  This might be marginally acceptable if the price of an iPad dropped to $100.00, but these prices are not dropping, each edition is more pricey than the last.  Not to pick on Apple, their products are great, but this is just the most glaring example of a massive company using your consumer dollars to support human slavery.

As you seek to get the best value for your Christmas shopping dollars, remember that your money decisions create more than immediate happiness for the recipient.  Money and how it is spent reinforces how large companies treat their employees and customers.

Buying fewer gifts from local merchants and businesses keeps your neighborhood clean and safe and makes sure your children  remember the little store on the corner.  When businesses such as these disappear, the community suffers.  Who will hire and train your teenagers?  Robots?

(Image credit: Reuters / Baz Ratner)

Green energy and recycling are popular topics, but not usually related to design (except in recycled art).  But Izhar Gafni has put a new spin on how design, technology and recycling can come together for a great product.

Cardboard has been used for lots of things and is great for recycling.  But in a new twist, Izhar, an engineer who works in industrial design, has used cardboard to build low cost, low tech transportation – bicycles.  To ensure the bikes would hold up, Izhar experimented with folding, gluing and coating the cardboard in various ways.  The results are both sturdy and waterproof.  For those who want to travel long distances, a planned portable electric motor will be available.

Check out the video showing how this product progressed from idea to production.

social mediaSo, you have your own business and need to stop playing with social media and leverage it.

Good for you!  Small Business is the grease in the economic cog and social media can help.  What can social media do?  It dramatically expands the exposure of your business.  Managed properly, it can bring you revenue from customers you might otherwise have never met.  It can also cement your brand, establish your credentials and showcase your work.

Where to start?  Get a management tool such as Crowdbooster, TweetDeck or SocialSafe.  These tools allow you to check multiple accounts, messages and schedule tweets or Facebook posts in advance.  The benefit is that you don’t come across as a spammer, don’t forget important posts and can manage your social media presence effectively without it sucking up all your time.

SocialSafe is my new favorite toy because it stores your info from all the social media profiles and allows you to keep up with who unfollowed or unfriended you and review posts and tweets across the major outlets.

Why is it important to track this information?  To protect the integrity of your account and thus, your online reputation.  Status People is a great online app that checks your followers to find out how many may be “fakers”, spammers who follow you briefly to get more followers so they can send out spam messages.  Who needs that?

Next, focus on content.  Great, useful and uplifting content is what brings and keeps followers.  Engagement with followers through retweets and shout outs is also important.  Once you get over 500 followers, you will not be able to mention them all on a regular basis, so set up a core group and add a rotation of others as you can.  Thank them or mention something they have offered recently.

Finally, be polite.  Manners count when no one can see your expression or hear the tone of your voice.  Don’t use all caps except for emphasis of important points.  Be nice even to the negative comments you may get or, just ignore them.  Don’t unfriend or unfollow just because you don’t like a particular comment.  But Do unfriend or unfollow excessive profanity or unprofessional postings.  You don’t want your business to get a negative reputation by assocation.

The next part of this series will be next week and will talk about the pros and cons of Google+ and LinkedIn.  Let us know in the comments if this has been helpful to you.