How smarter working can improve your business

I see how much pressure there is for businesses to grow, how much there is to deliver and get really great results. How much competition there is out there, and you really don’t want to be out there spending money on things that don’t add value to the customer or helping you grow. When you think about all the travel cost of wasted meetings, all the time and energy of employees, having more engaged employees, helping people have more freedom in their life – happy people typically work harder, happy people typically stay longer, so we do find those companies that absolutely embrace flexible working do you have lower churn and they do have the abilities to attract better employees. New people coming into the work environment are looking for things to be slightly different and smarter than before.

So where do the challenges lie?

Challenges come from the employee, maybe they’re feeling a bit disengaged, maybe they are feeling remote, maybe they’re suffering from isolation and feel like their voice isn’t heard and they feel like they’re almost an individual contributor rather than part of a bigger goal or bigger company.
From an employer perspective they may have fear of people not working when they can’t see them, they haven’t got access to the information, then maybe a fear of the security of that information or the speed of that information getting to them. It’s really just about how you work together to benefit the business and the employees because it really shouldn’t be about flexible working it should be about smarter working.

Towards a smarter workforce

Originally when people used to talk about remote working, you were truly remote – why do I say that, because actually you couldn’t get the information in your hand – so if you’re waiting for the post for that information or a fax that you couldn’t read let alone access from home – you just didn’t have access to the cloud, you were very remote. Flexible working is very different now because if you’re worried about having information you can grab the information by using technology. Although companies may be fearful of that, if you put the right security and data protocols in, you can give people access to the same information as if they’re in the head office or if they’re in their home or in a coffee shop.

Meeting changing expectations

Employees are expecting all this immediacy of response because they have it in their personal life at a very early age, so when they come to work, they expect just to have access to information. They expect quick responses with ridiculous response times and it’s really just breaking down the communication and it’s speeding everything up and that’s what the customer wants, they want quick responses, they want quality responses, speed has become such a critical differentiator now.

Appealing to the next generation of talent

Bringing the right technology into the office and having that freedom to use your own device is paramount. That’s one stage of it. Having a culture where you openly share information and have access to information to make decisions is also vitally important and actually giving some freedom to do what you’re most passionate about also will help you attract that talent. When you’re looking for a job you often think there’s no good companies out there and when you’re looking for people you often think there are no good people out there, but guess what – there are some great people out there, they just may not have found your business and when they do find your business you’ve got to make it super attractive to them to join because high talent always has a way of having lots of choices.

The future is flexible and seamless

I think the whole space of engagement and communication is growing at a rate of knots. When that happens, guess what, the physical location is less important – so it’s technology that’s enabling it. I like the way different technologies talk to each other, it’s quite cool how you think I started in that app and now I’m behind here using that, I think it’s getting more and more seamless, you won’t actually know what the technology is behind it, but what you’re enjoying is a nice user experience.  We’re doing lots of things here at PowWowNow on how we can help people come into our path and have a great user experience, but actually to pivot off into lots of other solutions as their business grows or needs change. The user experience is still the same, so you’re familiar, it’s dead simple and it’s also very quick and productive to use.

It’s almost like you’ve got to take a leap of faith, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If it’s not working for you or the employee maybe you just need to adjust it, why not try something new because you might get some huge business benefits from it. I think it’s the fear of change and going back to some of that command and control status that needs to happen.

You call one of your colleagues. You just want to touch base, you want to take it offline. You’re trying to get buy in because you really need to drill down and move the needle. Do you know what people are thinking when you come out with phrases like these? You bet they’re impressed. That’s just blue sky thinking.

Here’s what you need to know

-with Andrew Johnson, our Finance Director

Just like every other ambitious business out there, we run a tight ship-so that includes how we monitor the cash flow in and around our business. Growth that’s as fast as ours requires close attention to every penny, so it’s something that we consistently focus on.

Recently, Premierline Business Insurance invited us to share our top three tips for effective cash flow management. Andrew chose three tactics that he deemed to be the most feasible for small businesses amongst the list of ways to avoid running out of cash.  These included:

 Read the full article here or watch Andrew Johnson’s top three cash flow tips here:

Powwownow Snowmen

Now that December is here, we feel we can start to celebrate Christmas and to kick-start the celebrations we have launched a competition for you to win a £250 hamper in time for Christmas.

All you have to do is find Frosty’s family before they melt away in our bountiful Christmas bonanza. Spot Frosty’s 7 cousins on the Powwownow website and find the Christmas anagram. It really is that simple.

To be in with a chance of winning simply either tweet @Powwownow, email snowman@powwownow.com or Facebook post with the message below and you’ll be entered into the prize draw to win a £250 hamper just in time for Christmas.

#PowwowSnowman and the word found on the snowmen’s hats

And because it’s Christmas and we’re feeling especially festive, we are also picking three runners up, who will all win £100 hamper each.

Get going now find the snowmen and enter!

Competition runs from 12noon 1st December 2014 to 12midnight 5th December 2014. We will pick winners at random on Monday 8th December and be in touch on the 8th to get contact details to send the hampers.

Sunday 19 October saw a strong team of 24 take on the 10 mile Cabbage Patch run in aide of Clarendon House, raising £609.
The run which has been in place since 1982 is one of the flattest ten mile races in the country (shouldn’t have been too difficult then!). Starting in Twickenham town centre and following a loop course crossing the river in Kingston and Richmond.

Powwownow

Wyn going for the win!


With past winners including Mo Farah and with Richard Nerukar setting an all-time British record on the course in 1993 finishing it in 46 minutes and two seconds, our team had some stiff competition.
Powwownow

John and Jason running strong


The Finance team came in strong with Andrew and David coming in joint first, in just over an hour.
Powwownow

Andrew breezing through the race


Great job everyone… now where to sign up for the marathon?

Jason Downes appointed as General Manager

Jason Downes, new GM at Powwownow

Paul Lees, Founder and CEO of the UK’s leading free conference call company, Powwownow, has today announced that he will be stepping down from his position as CEO to take up a consultancy role within the company.

Paul, who co-founded the company in 2004 after spotting a gap in the market for an affordable conference call service highly accessible to SMEs, has built the company up to the size it is today.

The company, which currently has a turnover of £13.1million, employs 65 staff and operates in 15 countries, will now be run by Jason Downes.  Jason, who was previously Managing Director of Staples UK, currently works internally as the Sales Director of Powwownow.

Jason has transformed the sales department since he joined Powwownow in June 2013 and will continue to push the company forward under the ownership of PGi, a global leader in collaboration and web meeting technology.

The takeover comes as the company works to penetrate more of Europe including the German and French markets in a bid to increase its yearly growth to 20%.

Paul Lees comments: “I am extremely proud of the company’s growth but now feel it’s time to hand over to new management and allow it to expand even further.

“Jason lives and breathes the company’s values and provides a great mix of external and internal experience. I know that I am leaving Powwownow in very capable hands.”

New General Manager Jason Downes said:

“Paul has done an incredible job building this company from scratch and I am hugely excited about leading Powwownow into the next exciting growth phase. We have a unique business model, some great people and wonderful customers and partners.

“With the introduction of iMeet, our new video conferencing tool that includes free screen sharing, we look forward to helping our customers improve their communications and getting things done quicker and more easily.”

Find the best on hold music

As the UK’s leading free conference call provider, we have launched a new on-hold music campaign this week in a bid to better the music our customers hear whilst waiting for other participants to join their call. Check out the new music now or take our fun quiz to see which type of music suits you best. 

With the belief that music can play a large part in altering people’s moods, boosting people’s confidence and preparing people for certain situations we have surveyed the nation to find out exactly what extent music has on individuals and the relationships people have with different songs.

Our survey of 2,000 respondents has shown that ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams is the most common tune Brits listen to for a boost in mood and motivation.

The data has also shown that residents of the North West of England, including counties such as Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire, find music the most powerful mood booster with 85% of people questioned, admitting to turning to music if they are in need of an emotional boost.

For the majority of people in this area this comes ahead of chatting to friends (65%), doing a physical activity (40%) or going to a restaurant (22%).

This compared to 80% in London and just 73% in the West Midlands as the North West, renowned for its production of famous musical sons and strong clubbing scene, lived up to its reputation.

Listening to music also came out on top as the common preferred method of psyching oneself up for something important (34%), with speaking to friends or family (21%) and taking a walk (19%) coming in second and third place respectively.

The results also showed that 34% of people from the North West listen to music to calm themselves down, narrowly ranking second behind taking a walk (39%).

London residents however (84%) listen to music to gain inspiration in the workplace, in the gym or in other aspects of their everyday life, higher than any other region in the UK, and (81%) are most likely to turn to music when they are in need of a pick me up as, believing it acts as the biggest mood enhancer over other activities such as chatting to friends, eating at a restaurant or any physical activity.

The data, which also detailed the public’s inspirations, found that over half of London residents surveyed (52%) admit they choose the music they listen to based on how they currently feel, however rock music (20%) is the genre most popular for increasing motivation and classical music (18%) is the genre most commonly selected for a boost in confidence.

64% of Londoners also admit to having a guilty pleasure song, which takes them back to their youth, making them feel excited.

Although not at the top of the league table, people from the East Midlands, which has been revealed as the area of the UK where people are most reluctant to embrace modern technology and where most people feel they could happily live without it, still think music works as a mood enhancer (74%) and that on a scale of 1 – 10 music changes their mood at number 8.

30% of residents also admit turning to music to gear them up for certain situations.

60% of East Midland surveyed residents state they could happily live without their mobile phones. The common belief is that mobile phones are more of a luxury than a necessity. The survey also shows over a quarter of residents (30%) from the East Midlands and surrounding areas own, on average, less than one computer per household, go on the Internet for less than 60 minutes per week and do not listen to music whilst on the go.

Commenting on this, Rob Gorby, Marketing Director at Powwownow, says:  ‘’Despite the East Midlands common impartialness to modern technology, it is interesting to see that the majority of residents still turn to music to boost their mood over other activities such as going for a walk.

‘’It is interesting to see the varying attitudes towards music and its ability to inspire and motivate between regions.

“Music has long been used in other spheres to inspire people, such as when exercising but perhaps not everyone would associate it within a workplace environment but the people of the country have spoken.

“The productiveness of having music in the workplace is something that has long been debated and these results clearly show that Brits feel it can have a positive effect. We try to think of the effect songs will have on people when selecting our on-hold music, which is why we offer a range to suit most needs.” 

Hiring the right employee for your business is just as challenging as it is important. A successful employment relationship will have a positive impact on your mind-set and your overall working environment. The time and effort you put into the hiring process will be paid back to you in employee productivity (with interest!) should you choose the right person for the job.  As well as enhancing employee morale, you will find yourself pushing for those more challenging goals with someone who is capable and willing to stretch themselves. On the other hand, hiring idiots is expensive and time-consuming. It’s best to get it right first time!

So what’s the magic formula?

Unfortunately, there is no 100% fool-proof formula that can be applied to ensure you hire the right person. There are, however, some straightforward steps you can take to make sure that the hiring process is done in the best way possible.

Define the job

Begin with a job analysis. This will enable you to discover what duties are required of the role, the responsibilities that come with it and the necessary skills needed. This information is paramount in putting together the job description. Creating the right job description is the first part of the hiring process, and should hopefully whittle down a few of the interviewees who really shouldn’t be applying. If too vague or broad, a job description can attract people to apply who simply do not have the tools for the job.

Plan your recruiting strategy

Again, this step is aided by a well-constructed job analysis. Set up a recruiting planning meeting with employees who will be involved in the hiring process to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Construct a checklist

Aside from creating a sense of progress, a checklist helps you keep the process on track and gives you a more specific idea of what you are looking for. A checklist is an important part of getting the hiring process right and giving you the best chance of hiring the right employee.

Review credentials and applications carefully

Once again, a task made easier by a thorough job analysis. Review CVs, cover letters and job application letters. Review these against a bulleted list of the most desired characteristics to screen the applications that fit best with the image your checklist gave you.

Pre-screen your candidate

This is not an essential part of hiring someone new, but a pre-screening telephone interview can help tell you if the person merely looks good on paper, or if they truly have the skills to fit in with your job. Getting a feel, albeit over the phone, for the candidate’s personality will give you an idea of how well they fit with the working culture of your team.

Getting the interview right

Now that all the preparatory work has been done, don’t make it count for nothing by getting the interview (arguably the most important factor in the whole process) wrong. The interview is essentially what will shape your final decision. At this point, after the pre-screening and checklists etc. have done their job, only genuine competent candidates should have reached the interview stage. Therefore the interview questions should be designed to separate the average candidates from the outstanding candidates. Establish the qualities you would want to find in an outstanding candidate, and tune your questions towards topics that give interviewees the opportunity to show such qualities.

Don’t forget to do background checks on your potential employees. It makes sure that they actually have all the skills they claim to! It’s a good idea to start with former work references and educational credentials.

There are thousands of fantastic potential employees wanting to work for you; it’s just a case of finding them. You’ll be able to by putting in a little extra time and effort in following these crucial steps, it is well worth it. Happy interviewing!

After the kind nomination from our digital agency Branded 3, our Marketing Director Robert Gorby, kindly took one for the team and did the ice bucket(s) challenge.

A worthy cause and hilarious 5 minutes at the end of the day at Powwownow HQ. Our donations have gone to Motor Neurone Disease Association.

 

We know outsourcing is an important subject for small business, so we spoke to the experts at Time Etc, Jessica Faulkner, Virtual Assistant, to find out more…

Are you one of those people who tends to take on too much at work?

In a rapidly expanding business world, it’s becoming more and more commonplace for businesses to make the decision to outsource their overflow of work to outside agencies. This outsourcing is beneficial for a number of reasons, not only can it help your organisation grow and expand, but it can have a considerable impact on your outgoing costs and final profit. So how can outsourcing benefit your company?

Focus

By outsourcing those tasks that you would class as necessary yet ‘menial’, you are able to free up valuable staff members who are then able to focus on those activities that have the most benefit to your company and ultimately make you the most money!

Reduced overheads

Save money and reduce your overheads by outsourcing the least cost-effective tasks to a specialist firm. This can have two resulting benefits, firstly, you are able to function with a smaller workforce, and secondly, a specialist firm will be likely to perform tasks more quickly with fewer distractions, ensuring that their work is as cost-effective as possible.

Cost-Control

By outsourcing specific tasks, you are able to monitor the exact time and money that is spent on areas of your business. This allows you to identify the areas that your business is over-spending with little result and adjust spending accordingly.

Continuity and quality control

If your business suffers from a high employee turnover, it can reflect badly upon the service that you are providing to your customers. Even if you are simply changing employees due to maternity cover, it is likely to result in a reduction in consistency. By outsourcing to the same company for the same tasks, you can be confident that you are maintaining a level of consistency throughout and ensuring that there is no risk of reduced customer service standards.

Access to skills

Outsourcing allows you access to skills that your current employee base may not necessarily posses, without the requirement of expensive training that costs both time and money. This leaves your budget available for improving other areas of the business.

Flexibility

Need to provide a 24 hour service but just don’t have the staff? What about always having the phone answered, even when there’s no one in the office? Outsourcing can give you a level of flexibility that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  If you have a small staff base, outsourcing tasks to outside agencies can make you appear larger and more professional, allowing you to target a customer base you wouldn’t previously have thought possible.

When considering an outsourcing company, it’s always good to look at other people’s experiences and recommendations. After all, you are putting the reputation of your business into somebody else’s hands. The most important benefit to your business is definitely going to be the consistency of service you will be able to offer your customers.  Outsourcing allows you the freedom to focus solely on your business, whilst keeping costs to a minimum.