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.

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!

YouTube is one of many possible social media channels that you might consider using for your business – but where do you start and how do you know what to do with it? Ultimately, you need to know that it is going to be of benefit to your business, and how.

YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers both large and small.

Anyone can have a YouTube channel as it’s simple to use, from providing steps on getting started to guidelines for participating in the YouTube community.

It’s a great way of sharing your brand with the world! By sharing content on YouTube, you can present your company as a thought leader by uploading videos to support marketing content and use it as a platform to showcase your unique skills, intelligence and creativity.

This can be a powerful form of social media in terms of promoting your company’s image. To ensure you are getting the most out of YouTube, here are five simple tips for getting started.

1) Provide useful and relevant content – Deliver timely information by uploading interviews, presentations, tutorials and how-to guides, with engaging on-brand videos about your company, your brand and your product.  Keeping your videos short and informative is a sure way to stop users getting bored or quitting before the end.

2) Control the story – React to events or hot topics in your industry to show that you are on the ball with latest knowledge, and that your brand is responding to any changes or updates in the market.

3) Start a conversation – Use your YouTube channel to post footage from Google+ and social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. There are so many ways to get people talking; this is a great way of getting your company in the centre of the discussion!

Try to be genuine and engaging so that your audience want to keep the conversation going, and always respond to comments made. This again will invite discussion between you and your audience (and remember that your audience is full of potential clients). You could even run Q & A sessions to really engage with people.

4) Grow your audience– Ask people to subscribe to your channel so they can help spread your message. If you’re adding interesting material, they will keep coming back and may even recommend it to others.

The whole point of using social media is to spread the word of your business quickly so make sure you’re fully utilising the tools at YouTube’s disposal. Channel subscriptions are a particularly powerful example of such tools.

5) Understand your users– using YouTube Analytics to find who is paying attention to your videos and what they are searching for is another one of these useful tools. It is indispensable in making sure you are getting it right.

You can have a look at some great statistics in ‘The Power of YouTube for Brands’ infographic here from media company ‘FullScreen’, showing how successful your video has been for advertising and generating creative media for topics all across the globe. It seems where brand exposure is concerned, YouTube literally puts the world at your feet…

For more tips check out this video from Video Influencers!

Have you found YouTube successful for your business? Let us know below…

When looking to promote internally for a role, how do you know whether you should be doing it based on seniority or superiority? Taking time out to interview team members and getting input is time-consuming, so many companies often go for seniority over superiority, but what does that mean for the actual talent in your business? Likelihood is that they leave as they become frustrated with the way in which promotions are earned.

Promoting based on seniority and in often many cases, length of service isn’t a very good solution to a problem. Also many businesses promote in this was to avoid difficult conversations with staff as to why certain people didn’t get the role, but a 10 minute awkward conversation or a years’ worth of inferior work? What would you rather?

You would hope that seniority and superiority in many cases would tie together giving you the best of both worlds, but this isn’t always the case. We here, promote based on talent rather than position or length of service and it’s something that has worked well in terms of team development and growth.

Here are some of the problems with promoting purely based on position within the company and some of the negative effects that can have on your business:

Our founder Paul Lees often says that he started this business but it is the talented team he built around him that has gotten it to where it is today. Your staff are your number one asset, look after them, make sure you know them and their skills. Push your team, challenge them and see who steps up to the mark, and when promotions are due, promote the people that deserve it, not the ones who have been in your company the longest. It’s the only way your company will grow and continue to be successful.

There will always be times when businesses go through tough times, whether that is as a result of the economy or through poor decisions internally. But whether the decision is made for you or because of you, learning how to deal with adversity and how to adapt and come out the other side is of key importance to the success of your business.

Here we highlight our thoughts on what we believe to the key factors in overcoming adversity and having business success.

1.    Maintain a positive attitude.

No matter what has happened or is going to happen, it isn’t likely to be the end of the world. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Choosing to not let negative thoughts rule your life will have a huge impact on your ability to move forward and view your future with optimism and hope.

2.    Maintaining composure.

It is important that even if you feel like panicking, that you don’t. Take a deep breath and remain calm. The night is always followed by a new day and with that new opportunity. Panicking and believing the world is over is going to help no one.

3.    Remember the bigger picture.

It is always important to remember the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve as a business, or what you are trying to achieve doing a specific task. Not getting bogged down in the detail and taking a step back can be sometimes all it needs to re-focus and remember why you are doing what you are doing.

4.    Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

A battle is never won alone. Remember there is no shame in asking for help or advice. Use the experience and skills of others who have gone through similar experiences. Also use the knowledge of experts in areas you may not understand. Reaching out to those who are skilled and highly supportive can be sometimes all that is needed when it comes to a win or lose situation.

5. Try again and then again.

If you fall of the horse, you are supposed to jump straight back on. A simple message, yet so important. Don’t quit if times get tough, continue to do all you can, learn from your mistakes and bend and adapt at that pivot point and try something new to come back stronger than ever.

6. Always remain humble.

Being humble is not only a great quality, it will make people warm to you and will make you a better business person. Unwarranted pride is a common reason for business challenges lasting far longer than necessary. Don’t be stubborn; remember that what is right for the business is what should always be at the forefront of your mind.

The most successful businesses and people in the world tend to be those that have had success and then lost it again and come back fighting. What lessons have you learnt in business that has made you fight stronger for what you are doing? Any top tips for overcoming adversity, let us know below.

The key to maintaining growth at an enterprise level is the ability to continue to adapt and think differently to your competitors. Just because the business has grown and there are more staff, doesn’t mean you have to lose the essence of a start-up. Think of the likes of Google, Facebook etc. OK yes they are obvious examples, but you only have to take a look around the HQs to notice that the true essence of how they run their business is the thought process of a start-up.

So here we give our top tips on how to maintain momentum in a large organisation to achieve successful growth:

1.    Financial Planning

This is our first point for a reason, with bigger companies comes bigger budgets. They are essential for continuing growth, especially if you want to stay ahead of your competitors. Make sure you have a strong financial team in place, and a team that can say no when needed. You don’t need yes people in your finance team, you need people that understand all the tiny details of your finances and when and when you can’t afford to spend company budgets.

 2.    Managing Leadership

As a leader in your business, your role is to set the direction of your business. It is therefore important that you framework a managerial team that will mould and shape the business to your specification. Recruitment here is essential, people with past success and understanding of these roles will help to define your business. Managing a team is an art and therefore having the right team in place to spark creativity and inspiration into your workforce is essential. Therefore make sure you invest in training when needed.

 3.    Resourcing

People are the lifeblood of your business, with large companies it can be easy (and not surprisingly) to forget people’s names and with new recruits happening frequently this isn’t a surprise. However, make sure you try to know as many people as possible. Make sure you have the right amount of people in each team. Surround yourself with people who can bring excellent skills to the table. Also make sure you have a solid Human Resources team to help keep on top of all staff issues, you as the business leader certainly don’t have time for these.

 4.    Creative Marketing

One thing small businesses often do well, is creative marketing, they have no constraints or sign off processes and they can quickly jump on the back of the news agenda and stories in the media. It is unlikely that a company of your size will be able to do this, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. You have the luxury of big budgets, and with big budgets can come some incredibly creative ideas. So make sure you have a marketing team and creative agency that nurtures that. Having office space and senior management that inspire creativity will also help with this too. Don’t think that just because you are a large corporate you can’t be creative (Coca Cola is the perfect example!)

 5.    Planning

This goes without saying, but make sure your business plans are all set and agreed for a minimum of a year. As a large organisation it is likely that your planning will encompass a minimum of five years to continue with the growth you have had to date, but make sure that you review these plans regularly with your management team so to keep on track for growth.

What has your business done to allow continual growth?

When it comes to on-hold music, there’s never any fence sitters. You either love it or you hate it. It’s one of those things that can leave you dancing in your chair or clenching your fists in frustration.

But what most people don’t realise is that we have more than 10 different on-hold music options for your choosing. So whether that’s something classic like String Quartet or something more exotic like Latin Lover, we’ve left it to you to choose (unless you leave your on-hold music on default).

Below are a couple of the tunes and a brief description of the style of tune so you can mix it up whenever you feel like it:

Relaxation

Party Time

Simple

Festive

The classics

Want to see the full list of options? Simply click here to listen and change your on-hold music.

Have you got a suggestion? Tweet us @Powwownow and tell us your thoughts.

So we’ve all made them at one point or another. But what exactly are the big business mistakes to avoid?

Using poor market research

Knowing your target audience is crucial to success. The best way to do this is through market research. It is therefore essential that this is accurate, reliable and up to date. This is important both before and during launch, as feedback from the people that use your product is priceless. Always remember to develop a business based on your customer’s actual needs, rather than what you think they may be.

Having a weak financial plan

Prepare for the unforeseen circumstances that will undoubtedly present themselves with costs that haven’t been budgeted for. This could be something as simple as a late payment, broken equipment or a missed sales target. Make sure that these possibilities are all taken into account during the initial plan and if need be seek professional advice to ensure that things run smoothly.

Being too ambitious

Be realistic in what you can actually achieve. Although businesses should aim high, be careful not to cross over into the unachievable. Make sure that forecasting is accurate and fully question new costs before over committing. Can you really provide all the orders that you have taken on? Are you ready for the expense of an additional employee? Is your target audience ready for you to diversify? Strong and effective planning will ensure that you stay on target and in budget.

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As our working lives get busier and we are constantly on the move there is a greater need than ever for your mobile device to be able to support your working needs. We have taken a look at how an app can help business efficiency and picked our top 5 to keep you connected, on track and most importantly making money.

1. Dropbox – Free

Available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and desktop. This free app allows you to share documents, videos, photos and presentations easily wherever you are. Once you have accessed your files you can save them to your Dropbox from your computer, iPhone, iPad and the Dropbox website. As with the desktop version this service is free for the first 2GB of space. The great thing we think about this app is that everything is saved on Dropbox, so if you lose your phone or laptop, everything is saved on its website, so there is no need to worry about lost documents.

2. Basecamp – Free

This is a widely known project management tool – but did you know there was an app for this! Well there is and it’s a good one (as well as being free!). Available on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. If you are part of a Basecamp project (or multiple projects) Basecamp app is now listed right below your other Basecamp accounts, so you can keep connected all the time. This app allows you to check into projects from anywhere, and shows you the latest updates on each project. You can add your thoughts and post comments, as well as complete to dos and upload files.

3. LinkedIn – Free

When you are on the go it is often hard to stay in touch with that ever important network. In business contacts are everything so we recommend that you have the LinkedIn app on your phone. Again this is free and is really user friendly. The interface is designed with you in mind and how you use LinkedIn (smart!) so it allows you to access the information you need quickly and easily. The app allows you to do everything that the website does – stay connected with your network, read your feed, receive messages and updates as well as update your own profile if needed. Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android and Blackberry.

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With many people now doing business on the move, keeping costs down couldn’t be more important. We all know that conference calling is the ideal way to stay in touch with customers, colleagues and clients but what if you’re dialling in from a mobile phone?

If you’re looking for an alternative to 0844 numbers, to try and keep costs down, why not try out our new mobile shortcode? Simply dial 87373 on your mobile phone and enter your PIN as usual, and you will be entered into your conference call.

Cheaper rates for mobile:

When you or any of your participants dial-in using a mobile phone, and you use our new shortcode, all UK providers should charge the call at only 12.5p per minute + VAT, compared to 40p per minute charged by some providers when dialling an 0844 number. Want to know your exact rate? Contact your provider to confirm.

Download our Powwownow mobile app:

You can now download our mobile app from the App Store and Google Play to make your conference calls that much easier.  By being able to invite your participants via text or email, you no longer need to remember your dial in numbers or PIN – it’s all there for you, which means all you need to do is choose your participants and click send.  The best part? You can enter your conference call in just one click!