5 Tips for Running a Startup from Your Home

Starting a new business out of your home is a financially-savvy decision in many cases. Approximately 69 percent of entrepreneurs make the decision to base their startup out of their home, and for good reason. When you run a new business out of your house, you can save a tremendous amount of money on overhead. With substantial technology now available to facilitate a work-at-home environment, many entrepreneurs are not hindered in any way by running operations out of their house.

In fact, many of the most successful companies known around the world today were started at home. Just a few of these include Apple, Google, Amazon and Hewlett-Packard. As smart as it may be for you to launch a business from home, there may be some challenges to overcome. These helpful tips will guide you on a surer path towards success with your new home-based business.

Establish an Organized Work Area

Even through you are launching a business from home, you still need to have a professional, dedicated space to conduct your work activities. This should be a space that is free from distractions and that will not co-mingle with living activities for you and other occupants in the home. One idea is to remodel a spare room and to transform it into a functional home office space. This space ideally will hold all of your business equipment and furnishings. For example, you may need a computer, a printer, a copier, a landline phone, a desk, a work table, seating for clients, storage space, shelves and more.

Remember to also focus on the environment. For example, lighting and temperature can affect your productivity level and your ability to concentrate. As you remodel your space to create a home office, remember to focus on these important elements.

Create a Realistic and Practical Work Schedule

One of the many benefits associated with starting a business from home and being your own boss is the ability to have a flexible schedule. With a flexible schedule, you may be able to enjoy a better quality of life and better manage a work-life balance. However, this type of schedule may also lead to the likelihood of wasting time throughout the day. For example, you may be inclined to sit down in front of the TV for a quick break, but that break could easily extend for an hour or longer unintentionally.

To avoid wasting your valuable work time and to maximize productivity, it makes sense to create a schedule for your workday. Select a firm starting time as well as a finishing time. You can give yourself small breaks during the day, but most of your personal activities should be tackled outside of your work hours. There are some excellent time management and project management applications and programs that you can use to schedule your time as well as to monitor your breaks and non-work activities.

Find Support

Some entrepreneurs try to handle every task associated with running and growing their business. This requires them to wear many hats and to try to be an expert in everything that they do. This essentially can pull your attention away from the tasks that you are truly good at and that require your personal attention. Some tasks may easily and successfully be outsourced to professionals. Because of their expertise, you may enjoy better results and be able to use your time more effectively in the process.

When you search for independent contractors or freelancers, look for individuals who have expertise in an area that you are weak at and who charge affordable rates for their services. An outsourcing relationship should ideally add value and help you to work more efficiently.

Connect with Others

It is easy to feel isolated and closed off when you work from home, but it can be detrimental to your efforts to seal yourself off. Reach out to other home-based business owners in different ways. These may be individuals in a related field that you may be able to work with professionally. It may be people in unrelated fields who you simply socialize with to get support as needed, get recommendations for service providers and more.

While there are online groups that you can join, try to find live support groups or networking groups as well. These could be professional groups and clubs, or the y could be informal groups that you pull together on your own and that grow over time. You can even use these groups to casually promote your products and services.

Choose Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies

Regardless of whether you run a home-based business or your base of operations is in a more professional environment, marketing is essential. However, you likely decided to launch your business from home at least partially to conserve funds. Understandably, you also want to conserve money on marketing without negatively affecting business profits and growth.

There are many cost-effective marketing options to consider, such as through social media, email marketing, cold calls, networking events in your local area and more. Remember to use your professional network to get the word out as well. You could spend a fortune on marketing, but a cost-effective campaign that is based on thoughtful, focused effort may have just as large of a return.

In Conclusion

When you run your own business out of your home, you have the flexibility and freedom to manage your activities in any way you desire. While there are no hard and fast rules regarding most aspects of your operations, you can see that these tips can help you to remain as productive as possible while also bolstering your chances for success. As you move forward, keep these tips in mind.

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5 Effective Customer Service Tools Your Small Business Should Be Using

Customer experience refers to the perception a customer has about their interactions with a given company. These interactions can be direct or indirect. An example of direct interaction is when a customer calls your customer service department. When a customer reads a negative or positive comment about your company on social media, they are indirectly interacting with your business.

You need to acquire the right tools if you wish to improve your customer experience. The best ones help your company turn customer experience into increased revenue and accelerated growth, lower operation costs, and higher customer retention.

Read on and decide if the following tools seem like the real deal.

1. Freshdesk

Freshdesk helps you categorize, prioritize, and assign tickets. It ensures you do not lose track of conversations. It features a team inbox that enables you to handle incoming support tickets from multiple channels efficiently. It makes sure no two agents accidentally work on the same problem. The tool lets you set deadlines for ticket response and resolution. It also enables you to split complex, multi-stage issues into smaller tickets called “child tickets.

Freshdesk supports the discussion of specific parts of a ticket among your company’s top experts, leading to quicker resolution of complicated issues. Also, this tool supports live chat, lets you integrate your Facebook page, and Twitter handles, allowing you to manage them from the same place. Most importantly, Freshdesk offers a customer service portal and a website-related knowledge base that provides helpful information to visitors. Additionally, it allows customers to view ticket status and even share or vote on ideas.

2. Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business is a complete cloud-based office suite. Think of this tool as an online ecosystem in which you can run applications, access remote data, exchange information, and collaborate on documents and files. Two of the most useful services that Office 365 Business offers are Microsoft Bookings and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Scheduling appointments with existing and prospective customers is critical, but it can be time-consuming. Sending emails, talking on the phone, and reminding people about meetings can take a huge chunk of your time. In the end, you do not give your core business the attention it deserves. Microsoft bookings offers a unique web page that allows customers to schedule appointments. Based on your availability or that of your staff, the customer selects the service they want and chooses a day and time, effectively booking an appointment.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers integrated solutions that enable you to track leads, automate field service, improve operations, and drive sales. You accomplish all these activities using cloud-based mobile, enterprise-ready business applications. The beauty of this service is that you can use the apps even when offline. Reconnecting to the internet leads to automatic data.

3. Zendesk

The tool allows you to provide your customers unlimited support. It is useful across a wide range of vertical markets such as media, retail, technology, government, and other small and large businesses. It is scalable whether you are a small or large organization. Zendesk enables you to serve your customers no matter where they are using live chat and short messaging service.

It features forms, a customer relationship management system, and other tools that add extra data to your customer support tickets. Implementing Zendesk takes minutes, and it is accessible across multiple devices. It becomes for you a flexible support center that grows with your team. It allows automatic addition of the features you need as situations change.

4. Conversocial Software

The Conversocial software is the perfect tool for managing all your company’s social media interactions. It intelligently prioritizes issues and tickets, ensuring the team does not delay or overlook the important ones. The software compiles onto one screen each customer’s interactions with your business. Customer support agents have their workflow simplified; the compilation helps them improve their effectiveness. If you are in retail, banking, healthcare, telecommunications, or utilities, this tool is a perfect choice.

5. Live Chat Software

Live chat software is a versatile tool that helps you improve customer experience and grow sales. You will need to implement this useful tool on your website. If you are looking for software that offers both efficiency and quality, this is a great option. It allows your customer support agents to multitask. Typically, live chat suppliers allow agents to engage up to ten customers at a time.

Your agents need training and must possess multitasking ability before they can handle several live chats concurrently. If you own an e-commerce site, this is the tool you need to help you quickly answer your visitors’ questions that could lead to a sale. Most online shoppers, especially the younger generation, prefer live chat to the phone. Live chat improves CX by satisfying customers’ immediate need for quick response to issues of concern.

9 Actionable Tips for Hiring Employees for Your Home Office

Consider yourself lucky if you have the good fortune of being able to run and build your business from home. When the business is new, you might be the only person working for it. However, as it begins to grow and expand, you might need to hire employees. Hiring an employee for your home office is as challenging as finding the right roommate. The following tips can help you sidestep a lot of issues.

1. Discuss With Your Family

You never know how your family might react to the prospect of having a stranger share their private space. It is important to discuss with them from the get-go so that they know what to expect. Have them understand that the person is an employee and not a guest. Be sure to mention that they will not need to feed the person or have to make other inconveniencing arrangements.

2. Opt for Full Disclosure

You do not want to have prospective employees wondering whether they got the wrong address. Full disclosure presents you as a person who is straightforward and considerate. You do not want a potential employee weighing whether or not they want to work from someone else’s home as they walk down the hallway. Non-disclosure might have them thinking you have something to hide.

3. Interview Your Candidate

You will need to watch how candidates behave once they arrive at your home office. Do they look comfortable and at ease? Do not hesitate to ask them how they feel about it all. Attentively listen as they answer, understanding what they say and what they leave unsaid. If you had told them about it right off the bat and they seem uneasy during the interview, hire someone else.

4. Perform a Background Check

Experience and skills matter a lot, but character and integrity carry much more weight than these two qualities. It is better to hire someone worthy of trust even though they are inexperienced than hire an experienced person about whom you have trust issues. Be sure to conduct a thorough background check on all candidates. Ask people you trust for recommendations. You can always train a person, but you cannot induce character.

5. Set Up a Suitable Workspace

Your employee needs privacy; you must spend some money to create a bit of privacy around their work area. Offer them an atmosphere like the one they would expect in a traditional office. Provide them with a desk, a chair, as well as the tools and technological devices they need to work efficiently — a computer, wireless connection, a phone, and so on. The office needs to be well-lit, too; consider hiring a professional to help you design the office. Finally, have your family understand that the office is off-limits.

6. Add a Separate Entrance

Invest some money in designing an office having its own entrance. The less likely it is that employees will meet someone from your family as they enter the office the better. Also, it creates a sense of professionalism, making everyone feel comfortable. While you might need to spend some money to achieve this, it is worth it in the end.

7. Invest in Housekeeping Services

You are the boss, and you do not want your employees to come across dirty dishes in the kitchen. It makes perfect sense to hire a housekeeper. Having someone who does your dishes, vacuums the carpet, and cleans the bathrooms makes the home office a nicer place for your employees. Also, such an arrangement makes you feel confident.

8. Define Your Terms

This is a job, and you have expectations just like they have. Make it known right from the outset that you expect them to respect and follow all the rules and deliver results. Giving them an employee handbook demonstrates that you take your duties as a manager seriously. The manual should carry policies on office rules, working hours, use of office phone, sick days and any other relevant matter.

9. Set Your Boundaries

Being clear about the boundaries relating to their presence at your home is critical. They need to know from the beginning the rooms they can enter and those they cannot. Can your employee use your kitchen to prepare their lunch? Do you want them to leave during their lunch break? What about bathroom arrangements? Ensure you have a bathroom for office use, too.

In Conclusion

Being able to work from home is an exciting opportunity. However, it can be daunting if you have no idea how to handle hiring employees to work in your home office. Do background checks, tell candidates and family what to expect, set rules and boundaries, and build an office with own entrance. These simple tips should help you to hire the right person and keep them.

4 BYOD Risks HR Managers Should Know About

4 BYOD Risks HR Managers Should Know About

4 BYOD Risks HR Managers Should Know About

In today’s employment atmosphere, a growing number of companies are shifting toward a more flexible workplace. By implementing bring your own device (BYOD) policies employees are now increasingly using their own devices for business purposes.

Even though such policies can bring numerous benefits to companies, they come with some inherent risks. The following four issues are worth examining before deciding on a BYOD policy.

Irregular Updates

Every mobile device is vulnerable to hacks from outside sources. Your smartphone, tablet and laptop all have similar software that can be hacked if firewalls and other security features aren’t in place or aren’t updated regularly.

Busy employees often put off their security updates. Unfortunately, their phones are then automatically open to potential attacks. In a regular IT environment, it’s up to the business’s IT department to secure every device used for company purposes. Since the devices are the employees’ private property, they are responsible of keeping them updated with the latest versions of security software.

Viruses and Malware

Viruses and malware have numerous pathways that they can take to infect an employee’s device. The worst thing is that an employee’s device could be hacked without them even being aware of the situation.

For example, your employees can receive phishing email with a malicious link that could install viruses or malware when clicked on. The infection could then spread onto the company’s server and compromise corporate information in a matter of seconds.

The phishing email could also look as if it’s from a familiar contact or even a legitimate website. It could ask your employees to click on a link and in order to log in into their account. The employees would then enter their user names and passwords on fake websites giving hackers access to their sensitive information. Identity theft is always a possibility in these hacking situations.

Unsecured Connections

Your employees might use their devices to connect to public Wi-Fi to access necessary data on your company’s server or to go online for personal needs. Unfortunately, using public networks is dangerous since they allow multiple people to connect to the same network, and that includes hackers.

Hackers could intercept the data your employees download or upload, they could install malware on your staff’s devices and even gain access to their email. This is another way malware could spread from the infected devices onto the company’s server and compromise the safety of corporate data.

Your employees need to be aware of these threats and take the appropriate preventive measures. Instruct your employees to turn off Wi-Fi when they don’t need it and disable it from automatically connecting to open networks.

You can also set up a virtual private network (VPN) which will allow your employees to connect to a hotspot without worrying about data breaches. Connecting to a VPN encrypts and secures any data being sent or received. This disables hackers from intercepting sensitive information and compromising the security of your employees’ devices.

Missing Devices

The best opportunity for stealing corporate data is when a device gets into the wrong hands. Lost or stolen devices are always a big security issue, which can lead to leaked proprietary data and vulnerable business positions.

IT professionals need a plan in cases this happens. A remote wipe policy is a very good solution which allows the IT team to completely remove all data on a device after it’s been reported missing.

Since BYOD devices include an employee’s personal data, you need to make sure that the employee agrees to a remote wipe of every piece of data even before they are hired.

Employees should see this step as both a protective corporate and identity-theft policy. To avoid any further information hacks, employees can also make it more difficult to access the data in the first place. A fingerprint or PIN passcode frustrates thieves, and they might toss the device before trying to access the information.

Final Thoughts

These security issues aren’t a reason to forgo a BYOD policy. However, appropriate security measures are necessary in order for it to be successful. Begin your BYOD strategy by educating your employees about the importance of regular updates and how to recognize security threats.

They need to understand that every piece of data is priceless to the business and their personal life. In reality, many people don’t realize how valuable their data is to hackers outside of the corporate atmosphere.

Employees also need to agree to corporate statements, liabilities and compliance measures in order to make this BYOD program a success. At the very least, add professional indemnity insurance coverage to the company so that any data leaks are quickly resolved.

Finally, by protecting the data with software and passwords, businesses can keep their proprietary information private. In the end, the employee’s device can be as safe as any company-issued electronic.

About the Author:

Josh McAllister

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector, and independent business consultant. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. 

Josh is a contributor of a number of digital outlets, and well published including DZoneIoT World News, and Rabid Office Monkey.


If you want to share this article the reference to Josh McAllister and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

How to Protect HR from Ransomware | Featured Image

How to Protect HR from Ransomware

How to Protect HR from Ransomware | Main Image

Companies have HR departments that are responsible for storing confidential information such as an individual’s social security number, payroll information, health information as well as employment history.

Because of enormous amount of sensitive data collected on individuals, HR departments opt to store data in a digital format, thus, making it susceptible to cyber-threats. Furthermore, since HR departments receive more email that any other department in a company, they are even more vulnerable to such threats. One of the most challenging form of cyber-attacks that HR departments face today is ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data and restricts access to a computer system. Often malware is sent through an email in the disguise of a resume or cover letter. When the email is opened, then the malware infects the computer and the entire network. The next time a user tries to gain access to the computer system, he or she is required to pay a monetary ransom in the form of Bitcoin to remove the restriction. WannaCry is one commonly known name for the recent ransomware attack that affected many companies.

Ransomware not only steals an individual’s personal information, but it damages a company’s reputation and financial status as well. The good news is that there are steps that HR departments can take to prevent ransomware attacks.

Basic Security Measures

It is imperative that HR departments work closely with the IT department to implement strong web filters and spam controls as a basic security measure. Next, the IT department should have Endpoint analytical tools to immediately detect, quarantine and shut down ransomware invasions.

Finally, always have a working data backup plan that is not connected to the company’s network so data cannot be infected.

Latest Operating and Software System

The IT department should make sure that the company’s operating system and software is up-to-date. It is extremely important that security updates are installed on all machines as they are released to protect all computers on the network.

If the company uses Microsoft Office software, it is recommended that macros are turned off. In addition, remove plugins if using Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java or Silverlight since these plugins can run a risk of having embedded malware attached to them upon installation.

Employee Training

It is essential for companies to train employees on their information security policies. Employees must understand that technology alone is not enough to protect sensitive data and that there are cybersecurity threats that can bombard them.

Employees need regular training sessions in learning how to use technology as well have an understanding that technology is not always foolproof. There should be employees training in the do’s and don’ts of data protection. Since HR employees receive numerous emails daily, they need to know what types of files are safe to open.

Finally, employees need to know how to respond, and to whom they should report a cyber threat if the unthinkable happens.

Network Segmentation and Separate Work Stations

The IT department needs to ensure that the company’s most sensitive data is not stored all on one network. This is done through network and database segmentation. A restriction should be in place where only certain authorized individuals can access sensitive information. For example, make one person the administrator for the system.

The administrator should only log into the system as absolutely deemed necessary and use a regular account for everyday use. Furthermore, the IT department should assign dedicated workstations to employees responsible for reviewing resumes and monitor workstation usage.

Outside Testing

To ensure the validity of the company’s security, it is a good idea to hire an outside firm to test the vulnerability of its IT security. By hiring an outside firm, the company can understand where hackers can possibly penetrate the system, and take necessary steps to make data more secure.

To conclude, HR departments have access to massive amounts of sensitive data and the employees are typically not very well educated in knowing how to protect themselves from data breaches. Therefore, they are an easy and lucrative target for hackers.

It is easy to see why HR departments are prone to such cyber-attacks. However, when the HR staff works more closely with the IT department, preventive steps can be taken to reduce ransomware attacks. Precautionary steps such as implementing basic security measures, installing the latest operating system and software, setting up network segmentations and dedicated workstations, training employees and having outside testing to check for security breaches can save a company’s reputation and financial status.

About the Author:

Josh McAllister

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector, and independent business consultant. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. 

Josh is a contributor of a number of digital outlets, and well published including DZone, IoT World News, and Rabid Office Monkey.


If you want to share this article the reference to Josh McAllister and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.