Best Practices

Up for The Count: 7 Steps to Year-End Inventory Nirvana

Up for The Count: 7 Steps to Year-End Inventory Nirvana

We at Shopventory work with thousands of merchants all over the world. So, we know the words "year-end inventory" often strike terror into the hearts of most retailers. However, there's no better time than an end-of-the-year inventory count to get your business organized and be certain you're starting the new year right...

Finishing Strong: 5 Tips to Tackle Your Holiday Retail Challenges

Finishing Strong: 5 Tips to Tackle Your Holiday Retail Challenges

The holidays are a stressful time for retail. Nobody knows this better than retailers themselves December brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, you have stores full of Customers, merchandise flying off the shelves, and cash registers 'dinging' away. On the other hand, training seasonal employees, preventing shoplifters, and trying to get inventory accounted for in the chaos can be daunting...

Blogger's Digest

The Internet has brought us all a treasure trove of content. From a good Netflix binge to the free courses offered by Stanford University, there's a lot online to consume, more than one could in a lifetime. Much of it is indeed cat videos and pointless arguments, but the small business owner can find reliable gold mines if they know where to look...

Inside Job: 5 Steps to Detecting (and Preventing) Employee Theft

One of the sad realities of human life is that people do bad things. What leads to that fact and its various philosophical implications is something we'll leave to better minds to analyze. But for the thousands of merchants using Shopventory, this means having to deal with the unpleasant subject of both Customer and Employee theft...

Inventory Management Macgyver: Getting Creative With Your Tools

For those of you too young to remember, MacGyver was an incredibly cheesy 80's action TV show about a man who used everyday items to create tools to get him out of the sticky situations in which he'd constantly manage to find himself. He would always find a way to take the tools he was given and make it work. It was farfetched to say the least, but I guarantee you'll never be able to look at a paper clip the same way again...

5 Steps to Merchandising Success

Our blog is dedicated to helping you, the small business owner, maximize your retail profitability.  We write a lot about inventory management, cycle counting, and even life hacks like storing inventory at home.  While these techniques are critical to the success of any main street business, they can be a bit dry.  Today we’re going to shift gears and talk about something more fun - merchandising!  Whether you’ve just opened your first store or you run a finely tuned, multi-location retail empire, these 5 Steps to Merchandising Success will help you sell more product and grow your business.   

1.  Know Your Customer.  It seems obvious, I know, but before you get started laying out your displays, be sure you know your target customer extremely well. Creating personas is a great way to do this.  A persona will, of course, include demographics like gender, age, marital status, and income level, but should also explore their emotional connection to your products and brand.  Ask yourself why they might buy your product and tailor your storefront accordingly.    

2.  Work in Threes.  Whenever possible, display your products in groups of three.  Ideally arrange different sized items together, creating triangles or asymmetrical shapes.  This will keep your customer's eyes moving and engage their brain on a subconscious level.  If you took art appreciation in college, this will sound very familiar.  

3.  Build Your Brand.  Every interaction you have with a customer is a chance to build and reinforce your brand.  How you display your products sends queues to your customers about who you are and what you stand for.  Apple stores are a great example of this -- they use the same aesthetics and attention to detail as their beautiful products.  Don’t just copy the big guys, though, be true to yourself and your company.  

4.  Be Colorful!  We’ve written about the importance of visuals and colors in merchandising before.  The short version - colors impact people’s emotions, moods, and impulses more than you probably realize.  Purchases are often emotional decisions, so be sure to tune your color palette and overall aesthetics for your target customer and products.   

5.  Experiment.  “The customer is always right.”  This saying is usually applied to customers’ needs and grievances.  You can also use this truth to optimize your sales by experimenting with different ways to merchandise.  Record sales data and other relevant metrics for a month, then make a change to your displays and record that same data the next month.  Keep the winning method, then try a third way to see if you can do even better.  You can do this indefinitely, as long as your bandwidth and imagination allow!  It’s also a great way to energize and engage your employees… If someone has an idea for a creative way to display your products, test it out and see how it performs.  If their idea wins, give them a little bonus.  The idea hopper will be full in no time.

Like this blog post?  You’ll love our inventory management software even more.  Sign up for a 14-day full-feature free trial at Shopventory.com.   

Shopventory Expands Through Otterology.com Acquisition

We'd like to share some great news from Shopventory!

DENVER, Colorado – June 3, 2015 

Shopventory, a leading provider of inventory management and optimization solutions for medium to small size businesses, announced today its acquisition of certain assets from Minneapolis-based Otterology.

Shopventory has acquired the Otterology service, its customer base and various other related assets including Otterology trademarks and associated Internet domain names.

"Shopventory's success in helping SMB's optimize their inventory management while saving time and money has led to our rapid growth and positioned us as one of the leading inventory management solutions for retailers leveraging the power of Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS)," stated Dave Carlson, Shopventory Co-Founder and CEO. "Our client-centric service and return-on-investment focus for our customers put us in position to acquire the assets of Otterology." 

CLICK HERE for the full press release.

Your support over the past two years helped make this possible. Keep the suggestions and feedback coming. We sincerely appreciate your ideas and input. We have some exciting plans ahead and this is just the beginning.

Make it a great day!

Cheers,

Dave Carlson

CEO

Shopventory Available in the Square App Marketplace

Shopventory is pleased to announce our formal integration with Square and our launch in the Square App Marketplace. Inventory and profitability management for Square retailers is now easier and faster than ever before with Shopventory. Sales, inventory and profit are now synced real-time between Shopventory and Square for more accurate reporting to help retailers succeed."The combination of Shopventory and Square makes it easier for retailers to order the right product at the right time so they always have high-demand product in stock and they know the cost and retail value of their inventory at any moment in time," Bach Le, Shopventory CTO and Co-Founder.

Catch our press release here!

We welcome your comments.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Expanding to a New Location

Inc. put out a great piece this week on expansion strategies and it got us thinking — how do you choose when, where and if it's time to expand into a new location? While a new location can be one of the most scary and risky moves a successful business can make, but so rewarding when you see your business grow leaps and bounds. We rounded up a few questions that we suggest asking yourself before expanding to a new location. locationlocationfrustration-2_28650

Does the new location reach customers you cannot reach with the current location?

If you're a food truck, for example, a second truck be able to cover private catering events while the others keeps trucking on the streets. Or if you're a fitness studio on the south side of town and you're losing north side customers because you're just too far away, maybe it might be time to look at a second space on the other side of town. Perhaps you're thinking of opening another location in an entirely new metro area — do you know the market well enough to know if people will like what you're bringing to their city?

Does the new location have any benefits or challenges that you haven't had to deal with at your current location or that might make it more or less appealing than another area you're looking into?

Is parking easier in one area than the other? Are there any tax benefits? Is the neighborhood business association more active? Make an old fashioned pros and cons list with your staff and trusted partners. Most importantly though, get advice from nearby business owners so you can make the best move.

Do you have trustworthy managers who are ready to take on (a lot) more responsibility?

You can't be in two places at once. Without a solid team in place, a new location is doomed to fall apart. Solid management and well-trained staff are going to be absolutely

If this is your first foray into multiple locations, will your current customers support the expansion or be turned off?

This depends on your community, your city and the line of work you're in, but moving into multiple locations is a huge move and may rattle your current customers. While we hope most will be excited about your success, some might fear that you won't be as connected to your customers or your products as those "good ol' days." To curb this, reach out to your loyal customers before, during and after the expansion to ask for feedback!

We hope this helped get the wheels turning about new locations — and we're sending you all kinds of good energy as you make this big decision on your expansion.

Any more advice to share? Let us know in the comments!

Small Business Lessons From The World Cup

Fair-weather soccer fans and fútbol fanatics from around the world are currently glued to their televisions, running up huge streaming-related iPad data bills or (lucky ducks) catching the action live in Brazil. From amazing "Flying Dutchman" goals and countless team selfies, small business owners have a lot to from the World Cup this year. Entrepreneurs can benefit greatly by studying the organizations, brands, teams and fans of this epic event. Let's score some goals. world cup

Maintain brand consistency: Not only has FIFA nailed this lesson by maintaining an active online and off-line presence, but individual teams and companies have been driving brand consistency through their blog posts, hashtags, social media strategies, advertising campaigns, even their swag.

You can't do it all. There's no "i" in team, as they say. If you have employees, remember to be a coach to your team—not just a boss. And don't be afraid to ask for help or say no. In social media especially, it's easy to spread yourself thin and lose focus. Fostering true community engagement online is impossible if you insist on having a tepid presence on every platform. FIFA has official accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. They aren't playing with Pinterest or LinkedIn or Vimeo or Snapchat, but they are doing right by those four active platforms.

Don't just share—engage. Brands have been steadily streaming tug-at-the-heartstrings content throughout the World Cup—bite-sized stories that engage fans, followers and customers. Or take a cue from the players themselves, whose cheeky videos, tweets and Instagrams have gone viral again and again—be real, get to know to your fans (err, customers) and give them a glimpse behind the scenes. Personality is magnetic across all platforms.

Winning isn't everything. Sure, every country wants to win, but the World Cup is truly about fans coming together over a shared love of the game. Despite cultural challenges, regional unrest and countless other everyday obstacles that our planet faces, events like this bring the world together to share in the excitement. As a small business owner, it's important to take your competition in stride, play fair (no red cards, y'all!) and keep your heart in the game even when your pride takes a hit.

Get by with a little help from your friends. That is, know your ecosystem and what other companies complement your business. In the same way FIFA leverages partnerships with Nike, you could be leveraging meaningful partnerships with your suppliers, media and more. Teamwork!

And now for the important question—who are you rooting for?

 

Clean Your Gmail Inbox

We were going to name this post "Spring Clean Your Gmail Inbox," so clearly you're not the only one procrastinating when it comes to spring projects. Better late than never though—and this guide is going to change your work life. Is email eating up half your day? Do you have an inbox so full of unanswered messages that you're ready to declare email bankruptcy? We feel ya. And we'd like to help you take back control of your inbox. Much like inventory management, solid email management can deliver extra hours in the day and totally shape up the way you run your business. inbox

1. Think of your inbox as a reception area. That's not where you keep the email—it's where the email waits. It's too easy to get sucked in for hours, so check it only a few times a day. If you have the self-control, shut down the email notifications from your phone so you can avoid distraction. You can always go in and check, but this way you're not disrupted by another promotional email.

2. Make labels. With the searchability of Gmail, it's easy to forget labels altogether, but two important labels help us organize our email: "Follow-up" and "Waiting." "Follow-up" is for non-urgent emails that require us to spend longer than two minutes responding. "Waiting" is for emails we've sent that require a response from someone else. We also set up labels based on Gmail's filtering options as well, but those will be different for everyone.

3. Clean house. Delete everything. Just kidding, sort of. Now that your preferred labels are set up, go through your inbox and delete, archive and label away. We suggest starting with the junk mail (unsubscribing as you go),

4.  Use the two-minute rule moving forward. David Allen's process involves working through your inbox, deleting extraneous emails (unsubscribing, muting and filtering messages as you can), responding to emails that require less than two minutes of your time, and then labeling and archiving the others. If something needs a longer response or simply requires more time to figure out, label it "Follow-up" and archive it for later. We find it useful to check email on the phone first (archiving and deleting with swipes is so satisfying)—then it's just the real meat left in the inbox when you get to your desk, to which you can respond without as much distraction.

5. Actually follow-up. Once you've cleared your inbox, it's so freeing... you'll wanna break out the champagne and call it a day. But you still have work to do. Time to go into your "Follow-up" label and get cracking—decide what messages are most important and work your way down from there.

Here's an example of how your new inbox should work:

You have five emails in the inbox (ah, only five—that'll be the day, right?!). One is an email from an employee, asking for info on next weekend's farmers market booth. One is a promotional email from a company you've never heard of. One is a neighborhood council invitation from the shop owner down the street. One is an incorrect wholesale invoice. One is your local website design company who needs to know what color scheme you prefer for the shop page. What do you do?

First, unsubscribe from the promo email and delete it. Then, check your calendar and respond to the neighborhood council invite. Decide on the eCommerce color scheme and shoot that one off too. You just breezed through three emails in record time. You know you won't have the info on the farmers market until this afternoon, but since you owe a response, stick a "Follow-up" label on that, archive it and go back to it later. Same goes for the incorrect wholesale invoice, since you'll have to look back at your order and make some calls before responding. More than two minutes to handle? Along it goes to the "Follow-up" archive. Easy as that.

boomerang

If you need more tools to make your email work for you, try testing out some Labs in Gmail to see what you like (specifically, the Mark as Read, Undo Send and Send and Archive buttons are great). Boomerang can also be helpful and complements the Follow-up/Waiting system. It's a software installed on top of Gmail that provides additional features. You can schedule emails to be sent later, return emails to your inbox based on criteria (like "if no one has responded in two hours" or "regardless," if you want to deal with it tomorrow and not today). We also love Mailbox, as we wrote about here.

How do you handle your email on a day-to-day basis? Let us know in the comments!

How to Hire the Best Performing Employees

Though the act of hiring employees to fill vacancies in your staff may seem like child’s play compared to the larger decisions you face each day as a manager, supervisor, or CEO, chances are you’re greatly underestimating how crucial your choices can be. In fact, a mere one out of four employees that you hire will actually make the cut long term, and your odds can even get worse if you make some of the more common mistakes. However, there are key indicators and little nuances you can look at that will help you choose the right person for any job, and one you get the science down you can start eliminating the poor candidates before they ever receive a paycheck.

  • Create job descriptions based on an actual set of expectations rather than vague concepts that can lead to a misunderstanding of what the job entails.
  • If at all possible, recruit from within your own company or network because you can access a track record of their performance more accurately.
  • Though it’s easy to overlook an out-of-work candidate who has recently been laid off, consider taking advantage of a “trial” period if their skill-set is in line with the job description.
  • Besides looking at just their resume or college degree, dig deeper into their accomplishments and past performance evaluations to narrow down great candidates.
  • Have your candidates setup phone references or interviews for you with their previous supervisors. Be aware of those supervisors’ actual qualifications using a research company or services such as LinkedIn.
  • Ask “competency” questions like “How did you improve your last organization, and how could you do that for us?”
  • For the most accurate results, always interview potential employees in groups of two interviewers. Once the candidate leaves, you can share your thoughts to come to better conclusions.
  • Always use a scientific way of scoring and evaluating potential employees to quantify their capabilities into a number. This eliminates the “gut feeling” errors that are commonly made when a potential employee happens to be a great interviewee.

By being as prepared as possible with a scientific way of interviewing your potential employees, you can ensure the best results when hiring to fill vacancies in your staff. Though no method of hiring is 100% perfect, setting yourself up with a repeatable program and refining it as you find success and failure will give you the best odds of finding the right person every time.

Inventory Tips for Seasonal Shops

One of the largest demographics of users for mobile cash registers and inventory systems are operators of seasonal shops. There are many advantages to using a mobile option for this type of retail environment, but the biggest two are lack of having a full-time power source and that it is not economical to get tied into a long merchant account contract that requires expensive hardware for such a short selling period. Examples seasonal shops include the little greenhouses that popup in grocery store parking lots, fireworks stores that show up in similar locations and even the little pop-up shows that you see at local fairs and carnivals.Though our inventory software gives these retailers all the tools they need to track and manage their sales and inventory, there are several things that are unique about running a seasonal shop versus a year-round brick and mortar location. To get the most out of your seasonal shop or temporary sales location, there are some important tips to keep in mind from the basics of setting up your location to how handling your merchandise can make a huge impact.

Make Everything Mobile

The most efficient addition you can make to all the equipment you have is to make it as mobile as possible. If your seasonal location utilizes a tent, consider putting wheels on the storage bag or crate to make moving it around much easier. If have other containers to move around, put wheels or handles on them as well to save yourself time during setup. Since most people’s inventory will be transported in boxes, having a two-wheeler or hand truck can save you a lot of back-breaking work and eliminate the need to physically attach wheels on every item you’re trying to move.

Appearance Is Everything

Rather than just having a bunch of shelving or storage bins with your merchandise tossed in haphazardly, take the time to make sure everything is well organized and looks professional. Not only will your customers have an easier time shopping and buy more items, but you can also keep a better eye on potential shoplifting situations which are very common in seasonal shops. This type of organization will also make final inventory much easier at the end of your season.

Packing Up: Reconciliation

Instead of cramming everything into boxes, tossing it into the back of your truck, and heading home for some much needed rest, it is important that you finish off the season correctly with proper inventory counts and reconcile the profits or losses. This may mean that you need to spend a few extra hours or even a day getting everything counted properly as you pack them in your boxes, but the benefit with doing it right is that you’ll know exactly how much product you have left without needing to open the boxes again. When you get back to your office or storage facility, you can simply run the numbers and determine your profits, how many items you’ll need to order for the following season, as well as how much theft or shrinkage occurred and which items were most-targeted.

Questions You Shouldn’t Ask Your Customers

Let’s face it, the more information you can have about your customers, the better you can target the types of products they want and need directly to them. There are even companies that make millions of dollars per year just offering this type of service to retailers and other small businesses. However, though your customers should actually appreciate being offered products based on their personal preference, many of them don’t see it this way at all.In recent polling and research studies, it was discovered that an overwhelming number of customers have little to no interest in businesses having any personal information about them. In fact, over one-third of all consumers won’t trust a business enough to give them their name, email address, or phone number in fear of having an endless barrage of spam or bogus newsletters inundating them on a daily basis; and who can really blame them?

What NOT to Ask

Since the idea of collecting zero information about your customers is probably not as good ideas either, we have comprised this list of facts and percentages regarding things like political affiliation or religion. If you are still not convinced of why you shouldn’t ask about certain personal views and information, take a look at the statistics below.

  • 76% of respondents are unwilling to share their political persuasion.
  • 71% won’t share their religious affiliation.
  • 54% won’t tell you their ethnicity.
  • 45% won’t share their sexual preference.

When looking at the list above, you can see that some questions are just way too personal to ask you customers. What’s worse is that nearly 25% of people don’t even want to share their credit card information with a business; which is very troubling since this I more and more becoming the most accepted type of payment used. So as a business owner, what are you to do?

What You CAN Collect

Fortunately, the most useful types of information about your customers have very little to do with their personal life choices or point of view and can be collected completely anonymously. By simply tracking what items you sell in your store, you can get a good pulse on what types of items trend and what doesn’t sell at all.

Additionally, you can use targeted marketing campaigns to collect purchasing habits of your customers. For instance, you can run a marketing campaign for two months that targets woman from ages thirty to forty and see what types of trends emerge in your sales data. Any significant changes can indicate products that particular age group and gender prefer, which subsequently can help you choose a better selection of products to gain a more diverse customer base.

Lastly, many of the items your store carries has likely had substantial market done on it already by the manufacturer. Make sure you ask your product reps about this type of research because it can help you choose items when you’re targeting certain demographics. Though you may not want to directly ask a customer for personal information, you can still obtain vital information that will help you sell more items without delving into their personal lives.

Small Business Copycats As Motivation, Not Intimidation

As the old adage goes, imitation is the best form of flattery. However, when you have unique concept that is your baby, small business copycats can drive a person crazy. Especially with so many creatives as our clients, we know how important it is to protect your ideas and artistry from intellectual property theft. NFIB recommends filing the appropriate patents and trademarks as soon as possible, as well as creating a Google Alert to let you know when any other business might be plagarizing your name or product model. One of the more effective ways to combat intellectual property theft of products on the Internet is filing a "trade dress. This is proving to be much more effective even than a patent, because it falls under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There is no debate. Either [the offending party has]  to remove it from the Internet and stop selling it or Google will shut them down,” she says. “A trade dress isn't for everyone. It protects the look of a product. But in my case, it’s worth a lot.”

That said, there are plenty of ways to copycat that are just plain legal. Don't fear those copycats or try to fight them—simply be better than them. Use the competition as healthy motivation  to improve your products, provide better customer service, spruce up your shop and do just about everything better.

be so good

Copycats are a tell-tale sign that you're doing something right, so take it as a tip of the hat to the hard work you've put in to make your business what it is. Generally, copycats are not viciously trying to put you out of business. They recognize a winner and want to piggyback on your success. A recent article from PandoDaily argues that type of validation is hugely important and that copycats are actually the best thing for your business. "Ultimately, the strategy that wins out is to be your own architect. Losing sleep over copycats stealing your business model and making reactive decisions to squash them lets them win. Worse, it taxes your team in their efforts to make something truly great."

Same goes for the flip side. Often times, being a copycat (to some extent) can actually be good for your business. Chances are, someone somewhere was also running a business like yours before you were. Borrow strategies and ideas from other successful companies (whether from your neighbors down the block or from  sister-businesses in other cities) and implement them in way that makes them new and fresh for your customers. There's no need to constantly re-invent the wheel, just make the wheels at your shop more appealing than others.

How to you act (or react) when it comes copycats? Let us know in the comments! 

5 Steps to Effective Negotiation

NegotiatingIf you run a business for a long enough period of time, chances are you’re going to take part in your fair share of negotiations. Whether you are negotiating better shipping rates on your inventory items, a new contract for a valuable employee, or a corporate buyout on the scale of millions of dollars, being an effective negotiator is a perfect balance between skill and science. Though the skill portion of being a great negotiator is really more of an art and is something that takes a long time to hone and refine, the science portion of negotiating is something that can be learned. Not only will these 5 steps to effective negotiation help you achieve more from your discussions, but knowing them can also help you predict what the other side is thinking and allow you to positions yourself more effectively.1 – Know Who’s In Charge

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is talking to a middleman or an intermediary rather than the actual decision maker at your negotiations. Sometimes you’ll want to be speaking with the CEO of the company while other times the head of a department will do just fine. Know who you need to talk to and don’t settle for anyone else.

2 – Have a Clear Objective

If you enter a negotiation without clear goals and objectives already in mind, you are pretty much dead in the water. The best way to enter talks is to set a goal that is truly aiming for the stars and force them to negotiate you down from that point. It’s easier to resist a bad deal if you had your sights aimed much higher in the first place.

3 – Keep It Business

Sometimes it can be easy to let your personal feelings get in the way of business, but this is always a bad idea; especially while negotiating. If you are selling your family business, for instance, you may have nostalgia or personal pride standing between you and the right deal. Check your emotions at the door and conduct business like a pro or don’t bother showing up at all.

4 – Know Your Stuff

If you show up to a meeting without doing your homework, you will be eaten alive by the team that knows the facts. You simply can’t limp through a serious negotiation if you don’t know hard numbers or market research to cite, so make sure you have all the appropriate data collected. One of the best ways to come out on top in a negotiation is to be better prepared than the other side.

5 – Give Them an Inch

When you set your goals for the negotiations, you should factor in a “concession” point that you were comfortable with in the first place. That way, you can offer that “concession” if the need arises and create the illusion that the other side has won. This can lead to you getting the deal done on the terms you actually wanted because the other side is blinded by the concept that they “beat” you. This isn’t about pride; it’s about making the deal.

Why Business Plans Fail

Having a solid business plan is crucial to being successful in any industry, but there are a few things that can stand in the way of your success that simply can’t be solved entirely on a piece of paper. To make a good run at anything in life, you need to have good motivation and avoid the fears that can accompany investing large sums of cash and time into an uncertain outcome. Starting your own business, even with a very good business plan, is not for the faint of heart and should be considered carefully before you dump your life savings into an idea.Staying too rigid with your original business plan can lead to many pitfalls that one may not consider. The world is changing at a rapid pace, and your business needs to stay agile in order to stay relevant as time passes. The most important part of this equation is predicting future market trends in your chosen industry and allowing your business model to shift with these trends seamlessly. If you keep your business model flexible, you can take advantage of these changes and capitalize of new ideas and products. If you stay stuck to a certain ideal, you may find other companies taking your place that are more willing to ride that cutting-edge wave that is certain to eventually come sweeping through your chosen industry.

There are many common mistakes that companies make and lead down the path of a failed business plan. While there are many more mistakes that can be made in certain industries and business in general, these are a few of the most obvious and burdensome errors that you should avoid.

CEOs and other leaders of your business need to stay in touch with the company and market because a leader that is afraid of failing or is detached completely from the workplace is nearly useless.

Stay focused on branching out into new business models rather than just focusing on expanding your product line. Finding more clients is always more lucrative than offering new products; though both are generally important in their own regards.

Base all of your business decisions on heavily researched facts instead of assumptions or inaccurate projections. You should never assume that you will achieve the same level of sales as a previous year if you don’t use updated and revised projections and models.

Instead of paying your managers to keep things running as usual, try to reward innovation and business expansion. Expecting things to be “business as usual” stifles innovation and leads to a stagnant amount of sales for your company.

Overall, the key to ensuring that your business plan doesn’t fail is to keep very flexible and willing to change if the industry calls for it. Always stay up-to-date with your market data and sales strategies to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. Make sure you embrace innovators, radicals, and people who aim very high at your company because though some of their ideas and goals may be lofty, that is usually the way to win the future.

5 Tips for Planning Effective Meetings

Meetings are probably one of the least exciting parts of running your own small business with a team of workers, but they are a very necessary part of continuing to develop your success. Though there are few things you can do to make the idea of a meeting more enjoyable, you can certainly make the meeting as effective and to-the-point as possible; which can also make the entire experience as tolerable as possible. Here are 5 tips for planning effective meetings that should help you get everyone into the room, discuss what needs to be addressed, and back to their work stations as quickly as possible.1. Turn Off Phones and Other Personal Devices

One of the biggest distractions in a meeting is someone looking at their Facebook page or playing their favorite game rather than listening to what is going on in the meeting. Every time a speaker has to repeat themselves because somebody was distracted is another 30 seconds that everyone is stuck in the meeting room instead of doing their jobs. By requiring everyone to shut off their electronics and personal devices (unless required for the meeting), you can keep everyone focused and get the meeting over sooner.

2. Limit (or eliminate) Boring PowerPoint Presentations

Let’s face it, PowerPoint presentations are boring. Nobody likes looking at a projector screen while a speaker makes each bullet point at a snail’s pace only to find that the vast majority of the information is common sense. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for using PowerPoint to present information; but it doesn’t need to be used every time. Avoid using PowerPoint if you can because it will drag out meetings and cause disinterest in the participants.

3. Prepare in Advance

One of the best timesavers for a meeting is to show up prepared and ready to roll. The more time you spend flipping through notes and deciding what to tackle, the longer the meeting will be. Take 20 minutes before the meeting starts to put together a game plan and the entire ordeal will go faster and more smoothly.

4. Try Virtual Meetings Instead

Depending on how your small business is structured, it can often be a nuisance to have certain meeting participants commute to where the meeting room is for a simple 30 minute meeting. If you are planning on something short, you may want to consider virtual meetings using one of the many webcam-based programs available online. Virtual meetings are not always going to be the most appropriate choice for your needs, but they can save a lot of time if you are doing a fast meeting to touch base or establish goals.

5. Follow Up on Meeting Goals

The point of having a meeting is usually to establish goals or game plans to objectives in the relatively near future. By verbally communicating these goals, you are setting a bar for certain members of your staff to achieve. To make sure that your meeting had a point and that everyone took away what they were supposed to, you want to make sure you follow up on meeting goals promptly. By following up every time, you establish a precedent for your staff and they will start to be more reliable with getting their tasks done in the long-term.