What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and why do you need it?

What-is-an-ATS-Applicant-tracking-system

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software created to automate, fasten and improve your hiring process. In this blog we will explain how using an ATS can help you overcome your most pressing recruiting challenges and help you achieve your hiring goals.

What is Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an HR software designed to simplify and fasten your entire recruiting process.

The need for speed is one the biggest pain points for modern recruiting professionals.

This is not surprising considering that the average hiring process lasts for 2 to 3 months, while the top candidates stay on the job market for 10 days only.

HR-statistic-hire-faster

Applicant tracking system offers a wide range of solutions for other hiring challenges too, such as finding candidates and processing their applications.

What are the benefits of using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

The vast benefits of using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) are best demonstrated by its ability to improve three most important hiring metrics. ATS is proved to improve the time, cost and quality of hire.

According to research, 86% of recruiting professionals stated that using an ATS has helped them hire faster, and 78% of them confirmed that using an ATS has improved the quality of candidates they hire.

Benefits-oF-using-an-applicant-tracking-system-ATS

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) features

ATS can help you overcome your most pressing recruiting challenges and help you achieve your hiring goals by offering following features:

Sourcing features

ATS can help you find candidates with advanced web sourcing, employee referral programs and social recruiting.

Career site

With ATS you can create a beautiful, branded career site in just a few minutes, with no coding knowledge needed!

Job boards

Using an ATS will save your time by offering the possibility of posting your job ads on multiple job boards with just one click.

Candidate database

The main function of ATS is to provide a central location and an easily searchable database of all your candidates.

Candidates’ profiles

An ATS automatically stores all of the applicant’s documents and creates rich, searchable candidates’ profiles.


Resume parsing and screening

One of the most useful ATS features is the automatization of time consuming resume parsing and screening activities.

Interview scheduling

With modern ATS send automated emails with interview appointment that automatically sync with your work calendar.

Candidate testing

An ATS offers customizable scorecards you can use to evaluate your candidates.


Automated email responses

ATS offers a variety of customizable email templates, which can be personalized and send in bulks with just a few clicks.

Powerful analytics

ATS automatically tracks and measures your most important hiring metrics.

Recruitment reports

With ATS you can easily create, export and share beautiful reports with most important hiring metrics.

Team collaboration

ATS makes it easy to share info about candidates with team members who need them.

Need an Applicant Tracking System?

Check out TalentLyft, our all-in-one recruiting solution that helps recruiters find, attract, select and hire best talent out there!

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How HR Can Be the Rock Star of Employee Experience

Written by Deepak Bharadwaj, General Manager of the HR Business Unit at ServiceNow

In 1981, James Hetfield, an unknown vocalist and guitarist responded to an advertisement posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a local newspaper. From this meeting, Metallica was born.

As a huge fan of Metallica, my ears are still ringing from the last concert I attended in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park. Every time I see them live I walk away amazed at their talent. For many, Metallica is the epitome of heavy metal, and while many of their peers from the 80s and 90s have faded away, Metallica is going strong. They released their tenth albumin2016 and have sold more than 58 million albums, a number only exceeded by the Beatles and Garth Brooks.

I’ll spare you the rest of the history lesson, but I hope you will indulge me on what makes this band so popular: What may sound like loud noise to some is a four-person group coming together, each with their own style and backgrounds to create a finely orchestrated metal experience.

HR leaders can draw inspiration from Metallica and its frontman, James Hetfield. The key to a successful organization isn’t much different than what makes a band successful. A band finds success when they can pull all of the different parts together – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals – all working in perfect harmony creating that sublime listening experience for the audiophile. Similarly, an organization finds success when all departments providing service to employees – IT, facilities, finance, legal and of course HR come together to create that unparalleled end-to-end employee experience. And HR must be in front with responsibility and accountability for this outcome.

Take onboarding for example: HR helps set an employee up with their tax forms, direct deposits, benefits packages and employment contracts, IT also has to to provision their laptops and accounts, while the office manager helps with a desk area and whatever other supplies may be needed. It is hard to imagine an effective onboarding process that does not bring all of these departmental services together. Yet, for many years HR has operated in a silo with little interaction with other departments leading to often disjointed processes. But employee expectations in the workplace have changed significantly, and HR can no longer ignore collaborating with others outside HR. It takes all departments working together to provide a positive and exceptional employee service experience.

While Hetfield wrote the lyrics to “Enter Sandman,” it was lead guitarist Kirk Hammett who did the riffs. The end result was a song referred to as one of Metallica’s best moments and earned them a place on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. Its time for HR to create that well-orchestrated masterpiece.

Before we get into the “how” let’s begin with the “why.”

Employees first (♪ Nothing Else Matters ♪)

I’ll start with the backbone of the organization, its employees. When you look at the employee experience, one of the most important things to consider is employee interactions with HR and other departments that provide service. If employees are frustrated with the level of service they experience, then something needs to change.

Today’s employees want their experiences at work to be just as easy as ordering a Lyft or shopping on Amazon or booking an AirBnb or filling out their tax returns with Intuit’s Turbotax. They want easy and fast access to information without having to spend time searching or having to ask around. They want to be able to make a request and receive regular updates and reminders if further action is needed, but with little to no exposure to what’s going on “behind the scenes” to fulfill the request. From their standpoint, providing this level of service across the enterprise should be a top priority for organizations and they look to HR to own that end-to-end experience for important life events such as having a baby, a promotion, a transfer or onboarding. Yet, a recent study ServiceNow commissioned of 1,850 business leaders shows that HR is the department most in need of a “reboot.” Not only that, the study also revealed that the three most inefficient processes also happen to be HR-related – employee relocations, leaves of absence, and onboarding.

Enough is enough, it’s time for a change.

HR is the Lead Vocal ( Master of Puppets )

When James Hetfield was asked about Metallica’s hit Master of Puppets and what it meant for the band he explained that they were “definitely peaking” and that the album had “the sound of a band really gelling, really learning how to work well together.” Drawing inspiration from that massive hit of a song, I’d like to suggest that given the employee expectations in today’s world, it is time for HR organizations to begin “peaking” and reaching new levels of effectiveness by coordinating across the organization and “gelling” the various departments and processes. By doing so, HR becomes the lead vocalist and leader of the employee service experience, making sure processes and tasks get completed with complete end-to-end visibility.

Almost all employee life-event services provided by HR touch other departments. With better cross-departmental coordination, companies are sure to see increases in efficiency, greater visibility into processes, and overall happier and more productive employees.

Here are four steps for organizations to achieve cross-departmental success:

  • Clean up shop. Before anything, each department needs to clean up their act and get organized. HR cannot successfully bring departments together if individual departments are bogged down in managing requests in an unstructured manner.
  • Unite departments. Work towards a “team” approach by getting all departments involved. Welcome ideas and have open discussions about how departments can work together better to provide the best end-to-end employee service experience.
  • Constant communication. Provide a way to communicate back and forth effectively, between departments and with employees. Be transparent and open with departments as you help guide them through processes while reminding them of the benefits to their group and the organization.
  • Ongoing optimization. Use analytics and employee feedback to determine what is working and what can be improved. This should be an ongoing process that is constantly evolving and proactively looking for ways to be more effective.

While HR may not officially belong to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, HR organizations can certainly be rock stars within their company. By bringing departments together and working as a team, not in silos, HR can lead the way in improving the employee service experience.

How to define your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and use it to attract candidates?

How-to-define-EVP-and-use-it-to-attract-candidates

Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a solution for attracting talent in a highly competitive job market. In order to make yourself their employer of choice, you have to be able to trigger your perfect candidates’ interest by differentiating your company from your competitors.

You can do that by presenting your unique Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

What is an Employee Value Proposition (EVP)?

Simply put, Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a compelling answer to the following candidate’s questions:

“Why should I work for your company instead of somewhere else? What’s in it for me?

Why is your company a great place to work at? What can you offer me that other companies can’t?

When faced with that questions, many companies highlight the salaries and benefits they offer.

However, compensations and benefits are just a part of an effective Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a comprehensive offering that companies provide to their employees, which has 5 main components:

1. Compensation

This component encompasses employee’s satisfaction with salary, but also additional rewards such as bonuses.

2. Benefits

This component incorporates different benefits (health, dental, retirement, tuition and disability), but also paid time off and life insurance.

3. Career

This component consists of employee’s career stability and a chance for its development, including opportunities for training and education.

4. Work environment

This component refers to a positive work environment, sense of personal achievement and a healthy work-life balance.

5. Company culture

This component is based on positive relationships and team spirit with your colleagues and managers.

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Steps: Define and promote your EVP

There are 4 crucial steps in the process of defining and using your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in order to attract candidates:

Step #1: Define your candidate persona

The first step in defining your company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is defining your candidate persona. 👩

Step 2#: Define each main component of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

The second step in defining your company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is

specifying each of its main components with your candidate persona in your mind.

Step 3#: Personalize your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

In order to use your Employee Value Proposition successfully, customization is the key. If you want to attract the right talent for your company and open positions, you need to segment and personalize your EVP for your target audience.

Step 4#: Promote your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

There are many different types of content (such as team blogs and company videos) and communication channels (such as your career site, social networks etc.) which can be used for promoting your Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Employee Value Proposition (EVP) examples

Here are 2 different, but very effective examples of Employee Value Propositions (EVPs), presented in a popular video format.

BMW’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) video

In this video BMW employees explain what makes BMW Group such a special employer and what do they like the most about working for BMW. In this video you can see young, talented people explaining why they chose a career with BMW over other companies.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5KMRNdY4g0)

Deloitte’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) video

This video offers a glimpse into the everyday experiences of Deloitte’s employees. At the same time, it very cleverly incorporates and showcases different components of Deloitte’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDXWYzz7cHM)

We hope this two videos have inspired you and gave you some fresh ideas.

Now go on and start defining your own Employee Value Proposition (EVP)! 🙂

The Stress Factor: What the Online Rhetoric Doesn’t Tell You about Business Growth

Author: Terri Hiskey, Vice President, Product Marketing, Manufacturing Portfolio at Epicor Software

You don’t have to search far on LinkedIn before you come across phrases like ‘I’m a results-driven go-getter’, ‘I thrive in a fast-paced environment’, ‘I’m a best-of-breed strategic thinker’, and ‘I have a track-record for generating business growth’. The list goes on.

But beyond the online show, a lot of people–and the organisations that employ them–actually find business growth rather stressful. And that’s the case even though many organisations are constantly looking to grow their businesses by expanding into new territories, developing new product lines, or boosting their profits.

According to Gideon Neiman and Marius Pretorius in their book Managing Growth, business growth puts a strain on resources. It often requires employees to work harder and faster, and needs managers to make quicker and more accurate decisions. Business growth also involves change–whether that’s integrating new locations, new colleagues or new products into existing processes, and this too can make growth more challenging. As part of its global growth survey, Epicor has looked in more detail at the realities of business growth, in order to better understand how different organisations across the globe cope.

By surveying over 2,000 business professionals across the world, we found something that LinkedIn’s online show of pride doesn’t give away. While one-in-three business professionals find growth rewarding, two-in-five actually find it challenging, one-in-five finds it stressful and one-in-ten even finds it painful. Perhaps these things are easier to admit on an anonymous online survey than on a public LinkedIn profile page!

Stress

The realities of growth are therefore more complex than they may at first seem, with stresses and challenges playing a significant role in employee experiences as the businesses they work for develop. Nevertheless, with businesses generally feeling optimistic about their growth prospects (scoring an average 7.2 out of 10 for optimism), they must come to grips with these realities to make the growth process easier.

While a certain amount of stress can be stimulating, it can also be incapacitating for businesses or employees for whom it is not manageable. For example, in his work on stress in business, Jim Taylor, Ph.D. from the University of San Francisco, explains that growth can put employees under psychological pressure to perform, and that in turn can give people more energy and endurance, sharpening their thinking and focus for the intellectual demands they face. However, as soon as demands begin to exceed capabilities and resources, business growth (and the stress it brings) may become debilitating for workers and the businesses that employ them.

Stress may be a by-product of growth, but businesses want to grow. So, what can they do to help make the journey easier?

Our research shows that businesses turn to a variety of methods to help them keep on top of the stresses and challenges they face while growing, and demonstrates that different members of the workforce have different opinions on how to make business growth a better experience. Not surprisingly, two-in-five (38%) members of staff questioned in our study believe that business growth could be less stressful with better leadership. On the flip side of this, 37% of directors and managers think that the challenges of growth can be largely overcome if employees worked more efficiently.

There are differences too, between different sized organisations–with a quarter of large organisations (with over 1,000 employees) tending to feel that growth would be less stressful if their business model was more flexible, and only 16% of small organisations (with under 100 employees) feeling the same. Smaller businesses, after all, tend to find it easier to adapt, making change less difficult to manage. Larger organisations on the other hand tend to have to work harder at evolving. They have more internal processes to follow, and more stakeholders to involve in strategic decision making, which is an inevitable aspect of growth.

Across the board there is widespread recognition that implementing better technology is key to a business’s ability to cope with the stresses and challenges presented by growth. Making use of the latest technology can help businesses work more efficiently, and even help them expand into new geographies, without having to make huge investments in staff and facilities. This is especially true in the manufacturing sector, where intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are helping organisations to bridge the top floor with the shop floor. By doing this, ERP systems allow for better data flow–for example between sales teams, machines on the production line, shipping partners and customers–as well as automating otherwise manual tasks to cut time to market.

Almost half (47%) of business professionals across the globe agree that technology is an important factor in overcoming the challenges of growth, with those that are in a position of power tending to feel even more strongly about this fact. 54% of CEOs and 52% of directors and managers believe that technology helps them overcome the stresses of growth. However, just 37% of staff who are less senior agree.

It’s possible that more senior staff have a better understanding of the business benefits of technology change, because they have a clearer idea of the business’s growth strategy and the ‘end goal’ that technology will help them to reach. Less senior employees however, tend not to be involved in the decision-making process, making it harder for them to see the value in change. They may also be over-burdened by increasing workloads and have little patience for learning how to use new technology on top of their daily grind.

Technology change can moreover threaten the organisational culture of the workplace–it can change the work environment by transforming tasks and processes, and providing greater visibility of those tasks, something which will understandably make staff nervous if they don’t feel they have a personal and professional stake in the changes being made. Organisations that do chose to embrace digital transformation on their pathway to growth must therefore do this in a manner that will allow all members of the workforce to understand the reason for the business’s investment, to overcome resistance from staff.

While it’s certainly true that some business professionals do thrive under the pressure of growth, beyond the online rhetoric, and the year-on-year increase in output or profits, there’s a deeper, more human experience of business growth too. While some find it rewarding, others find it challenging. The most successful high growth organisations are those that have flexible systems, are able to constantly adapt to new and better business models, and are able to bring their staff onboard with changes along the way. Investing in technology is a good way to meet these three growth requirements and tackle the challenges of growth head on.

3 Reasons Why We Don’t See More Women in the IT Industry

We have come a long way from the days when women were only secretaries and cigarette girls. Even though things have now improved greatly, women still do not have equal rights in the workplace. They do not receive equal pay, they are still subject to harassment and discrimination and they do not receive equal treatment.

Being a woman in a tech industry is tough; there are dozens of studies and stories that can demonstrate this. The environment needs to change even more, but this is not the sole reason why we do not see more women in the IT industry.

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector, and besides from being underpaid, they are in many cases passed for promotions and faced with sexism. Perhaps this is why more women are drawn to freelancing, because they do not fit well in a corporate world that is dominated by men and freelancing offers them an escape from that thankless grind.

Many companies are now outsourcing tasks and perhaps this is where women can receive equal rights when it comes to landing a job. But, why does this gender parity even exist? What are the reasons why we do not see more women in the IT industry?

Teasing In School

This represents a big issue. Even when they are in high school, classmates and teachers in some cases stereotype girls who are interested in math and advanced physics. Eileen Pollack conducted research for her article in the New York Times magazine, and while she spoke to the physics undergrad in Yale, she heard stories of discrimination.

One young girl was concerned to find out that she was one of only three girls in her physics course in High School, and it was only worse when the other two girls dropped out, so she was the only girl in her class. Her classmates have teased her on a regular basis, saying that she is a girl, and girls cannot do physics. Perhaps the worst part was that she expected from her teacher to put an end to this, but he simply did not.

Lack of Encouragement

This is another reason why women do not feel comfortable choosing jobs in the IT sector and this also leads from their early years of schooling. Women often do not receive encouragement from their professors to pursue a career dominated by men, even in cases where they graduate at the top of their class.

Media Stereotypes

This plays a big role in discouraging young female adults from pursuing STEM related subjects. Let’s take the female characters in the series The Big Bang Theory just as an example. A female scientist in the show is forced into a “weirdo” role, where the non-scientist female is the only “normal” female character, and there is other research that shows that, when females are closely exposed to “nerdy-white guy” stereotypes, they feel discouraged in pursuing careers that can place them in those stereotypes.

The lack of women in the IT industry translates into the workforce and in many tech companies males are an overwhelming majority. This only leads to women feeling like they do not belong and according to one survey, 73 percent of workers in the tech industry believe that the whole tech industry is sexist. Since more and more women are leaving the industry, it is difficult to have female role models that are on the top and it only adds to the image of a male-dominated tech world and the cycle of female encouragement.

Besides role models and sexism, the IT industry also makes it difficult to combine motherhood with the career in tech and one study reported that 85 percent of 716 women participating in the study, left the IT industry because of the maternity leave policy. This is why now is the right time to focus on the next generation of tech talent, and to make sure that the gender equality exists for the sake of everyone.

This means that there needs to be more flexible working arrangements, more women in leading roles and more encouragement for young female adults to pursue whatever they are interested in.

Modern Tools for the Modern Employee

Written by Deepak Bharadwaj, General Manager of the HR Business Unit at ServiceNow.

The modern corporate world strikes a stark contrast to the workplace of 20 years ago. Beyond the tearing down of cubicle walls and the obliteration of the nine-to-five workday, the changes in the way companies meet staffing needs, and the way we work have been nothing short of revolutionary.

At each turn in the evolution of the workplace, advances in technology have both pushed and enabled these changes. There isn’t any better example of the shift that has occurred in the workplace than comparing the bulky desktop computer that occupied office desks for decades to the modern smartphone, an always connected, supercomputer that fits in your pocket. The magnitude of change is undeniable and it is no surprise that these changes in technology have completely altered how employees expect to communicate, connect and stay informed in the workplace.

Today’s employees want easy, seamless experiences in the office. To them, requesting time off or checking their company’s maternity leave policy should be just as easy as ordering an Uber and using Venmo. Within seconds, consumers can find the answer to just about anything. But when it comes to life at the office, even with the advances in technology in recent years, employee requests or questions can take days or sometimes weeks to answer.

Chatbog

We asked more than 350 HR leaders at last year’s HR Tech Conference and Expo how their employees find information on HR policies. While nearly half (47%) admitted employees want easier access to information, only 12% of respondents said it’s easy for employees to find the information they need. While a common scenario throughout the enterprise, employees are speaking up and pushing their organizations to look at other options that would enable them to get the answers they need no matter where they are or the time of day.

The path to the future that will enable companies to meet employees’ needs is an integrated HR Service Delivery (HRSD) approach. One of the many tools enabled by HRSD is chatbots. In fact, two-thirds of respondents to our survey believe their employees are very comfortable using chatbots. We have Siri and Alexa to thank for that. With the majority of respondents (92%) agreeing that chatbots will be important in directing employees to find information, it’s clear that this technology represents an important step in enabling employees to access the information they need when they need it. There may be nothing more valuable to an employee than accessing information without having to go through hoops.
Given the increasingly “on demand” nature of staffing solutions, tools like chatbots that connect users to an organization’s data are key to avoiding common pitfalls when working with temporary and new employees. Chatbots are an exciting solution to a common pain point, but before implementing intelligent technologies, there are other things to consider.

A more recent trend among large employers, Gartner market guide, is for them to “approach service comprehensively, by organizing it around the totality of employees’ needs rather than by department.” HR influencer Josh Bersin calls this this a ‘system of productivity’ that helps employees to get their work done. Chatbots and other new intelligent technologies are not standalone solutions but rather, part of a larger HRSD strategy to enable these new technologies and improve the employee service experience. Through careful planning and consideration of new intelligent technologies combined with HRSD strategies, companies will be in a unique position to provide a superior employee service experience in the coming years.

 

Marketing Technology: How to Modernize Your Advertising

Things to Consider Before Taking Your Business Global

Once upon a time, it seemed like a notion light-years away from becoming a reality, but your small business is finally ready to make its first step outside your national borders. You are about to take on the challenge of building your own Roman Empire, if you will. And for that, you need resolve, patience and exceptional business expertise, in order to succeed in the ever-growing competitive atmosphere of the world.

Before you make your transition official, you should take into consideration several essential aspects of your business that will determine whether you will be able to meet the global market’s needs and stay relevant on what will soon become a borderless scale.

Think locally, act globally

You might be used to focusing on expanding your business one city at a time, but when it comes to moving beyond your cultural comfort zone, you need to retain the same frame of mind in order to access the essence of global. Every single country and territory is made up of unique and authentic characteristics, and their peoples have different preferences, so going global in a way means that you will go local one country at a time until you actually gain a worldwide presence.

Each society has its norms, their customs, traditions, language and core values may be entirely different from what you are used to seeing in your own home country, and your brand needs to be ready for the culture shock you’re about to experience. Every solid international strategy needs in-depth research conducted beforehand, to identify and incorporate the most important cultural differences that will make or break your endeavor.

Adapt your language

A major segment of your globalization efforts will revolve around fine-tuning your language for a wider audience, and preferably, in their own native tongues. This is where your understanding of a country comes into play, since no decent brand copy, including your product presentation, online or offline, can be created without considering the language finesses of each territory.

As true as it may be that English has become the go-to global language for all companies, you should remember that it’s one thing to vaguely understand the basic concepts of what your company does, and a completely different problem to not get lost in translation and achieve the same emotional connection through the local community’s native language. Words make for a wonderful vessel for people to relate to your brand, and you cannot afford not to use it wisely.

Learn the legal ropes

Whether you plan to import your product, make it locally, or sell your services through agents dispersed all across the globe, your business has to comply with all the laws and regulations of each country in which you operate. Before you even begin the transition, learn what it takes, from paperwork to adapting your legal language and tone, to become a recognized legal entity in each country.

Your licenses, documentation and all paperwork should be in perfect order before you move your business overseas, and to do that, it would be wise to consult a professional legal counsel to stay a few steps ahead of the global game.

Employee incentives

What is a company without its loyal employees, who are at the same time your brand’s most important ambassadors? They will be the pillars of your success, because no international endeavor can survive without a strong local foundation willing to put its heart, soul and expertise into the venture. And it’s your duty to create the drive and enthusiasm that will fuel your business and create that strong basis for expansion.

Depending on your business and available options, you can create the right company culture – from offering your employees share option plans and providing them with educational opportunities, cash incentives and more vacation time, to more flexible work hours, you have an endless list of choices to make this enormous effort worth their while.

Prep your budget

If you thought that funding and building a business from scratch was a hassle, think again. Branching out onto the world’s map means that you will need significant investments, which you will in all likelihood, underestimate to begin with. To prevent being flooded by costs you cannot cope with, you will need to define and continuously redefine your budget for this endeavor.

Take into account all the different tax laws, customs, legal expenses, import and export costs, hiring local people or sticking to a local operation that ships globally, etc. While you definitely need to brace yourself for losing money in the early stages of your growth, there’s no need to waste money if you can prevent unneeded expenses from day one.

Is your product ready?

Upon completing your research and analysis phase, and adapting your brand image and language to the local cultures, start implementing the results to your product or service. However, if you are already a business of many facets and have a wide selection of products to choose from, it’s not wise to go all out and immediately present your entire offer to the world.

Instead, adjust one product that you are certain will fill a market gap and be a good fit for a given territory, and launch it to test the waters. Once you see the initial reaction and how much trust your brand is establishing with the new audience, you can move on to expanding your product list to become available to the rest of the world.

How to Expand Your Business: 5 Tips for Success?

The way companies grow often confuses first-time entrepreneurs who assume that their business expansion will only concern the workload and manpower. In other words, they assume that the greatest difference between a small and a medium business is the fact that the first one has 10 people in the sales department while the second one has 100 salespeople. In truth, the change that occurs during this transition is infrastructural in nature. As your company grows, you will have to start adding services you never before even considered using. With this in mind and without further ado, here are five things you need to learn about expansion.

Start by networking

By mingling with people from the business world, you will get in touch with agencies to outsource to, potential investors and future business partners. Moreover, you will meet HR experts, IT security moguls and professional recruiters you can come to cooperate with later on. Nevertheless, networking has its own set of rules you would do well to obey. For instance, when the meeting is scheduled, you need to avoid arriving late. Then, you need to avoid talking about what you need as soon as you sit at the table. Finally, give your full focus to the person you’re conversing with. As Robert Breault once said, ”Charisma is not just saying hello. It’s dropping what you’re doing to say hello.”

Tend to your cash flow

The fact that your company is on a tight budget is natural for a young enterprise, yet, it might pose a certain problem in the long run. You see, a tight budget often means that there are not enough funds for innovation. In fact, even if some of your standard equipment breaks down, you can barely afford to fix or replace it. Then, while you’re never late on salaries, bonuses are out of question, which directly impacts the motivation of your staff. In other words, in order for your business to grow, you need to burn some cash but, in order for this to be possible in the first place, you need to tend to your cash flow.

Taking a business loan would be the most logical first step, however, this is often quite difficult for a sole proprietorship (which is a category that most of the small businesses belong to). Therefore, it might be simpler and more effort-efficient to look for personal loans instead. Apart from this, as your company grows, you might feel the need to share this burden with someone, therefore, you might want to look for someone willing to buy equity in your company. In this way, you get both financial and administrative relief at the same time.

Groom your company’s future leaders

As a one-person startup, you don’t have to worry about hierarchy. The same goes when you’re running a small group of employees; however, what happens when you get several teams within your organization or when the number of people in your employ exceeds 20? You can’t expect to still be able to micromanage everything, neither should you. This is where you need someone else to step in.

Here, you have two options to choose from. You can either hire a manager or groom someone from your company to assume this responsibility. The latter is a clearly superior choice, seeing as how it is more frugal and more efficient (no need to get accustomed to a new situation). Nonetheless, this requires a no small amount of foresight.

Talent retention is key

In the previous sections, we mentioned the issue of bonuses and other employee benefits; well, things are even more serious than you might have assumed. If certain requirements or expectations aren’t met, you can expect your employees to start leaving in droves. The greatest problem here is the fact that your best, most capable and most productive employees will be the first ones to leave, seeing as how they have the most options available. Due to the fact that in most companies a small fraction of competent employees does all the work, this could spell a disaster for your company. To avoid this, focus on talent retention as much as you can.

Focus on return customers

At the end of the day, if you really, really want to grow, you need to keep in mind that persuading people to buy from you isn’t enough. You need to make them come back over and over again. For most companies, 8 percent of customers are able to generate 40 percent of the profit, however, with the right strategy, you might even be able to increase this percentage even higher. Furthermore, if the previous customer experience was a positive one, you have a much easier job of persuading them to return. Don’t be too shy to go with a post-sale follow-up. This can range from sending a thank-you email to starting a loyalty program.

Conclusion

As you can see, growing your business is much more than simply expanding its capacities, it’s mostly being able to add new dimensions to your infrastructure when you deem such a thing necessary. In time, merging and outsourcing might also become viable options, nevertheless, this is a story for another time.

Bankruptcy and Tax Refund- How to Save Money

Bankruptcy and Tax Refund? How to Save Money

It comes every tax season; you probably anticipate a big tax refund check. This refund is like a reward that you can use in different ways.

However, if you’re facing serious financial difficulties and don’t have great accounting in place, filing for bankruptcy may be a viable option.

Did you know that tax refund is the most valuable asset that trustees can take from you?

Exemption Laws never protect tax refund during bankruptcy. Trustees will chase after your tax refund because that cash can be used to pay creditors with minimal effort.

They no longer need to list your property for sale and distribute the sales proceeds to your creditors. This is the primary reason a trustee will first try to find out if you have a tax refund.

The tax refund is part of the bankruptcy estate

Once you file a bankruptcy, all the assets that you own will become part of the bankruptcy estate. The tax refund is part of those assets.

A bankruptcy trustee is designated to represent your creditors, collect, and liquidate your assets to repay your creditors. In most chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, there are less cash or assets to pay your creditors.

However, if you already owe a huge tax refund amount, it will become an easy target for whoever is appointed as a trustee But, with little planning and understanding a few tips, you can succeed in keeping most, if not all, of the tax refund amount.

Exception to that general rule: Earned income credit

Did you know that you can benefit from a few exceptions to the rule that a trustee is entitled to all tax refunds not spend or received before bankruptcy filing?

For instance, in Colorado, any tax refund associated with additional child tax credit and earned income credit is untouchable. The rest of the tax refund is subject to turnover.

You intend to keep your refund? Spend it

The perfect way of ensuring that you don’t lose your tax refund is by filing tax refund at the right time.

Once you receive your tax refund, spend all of it before you file for bankruptcy. Your attorney will advise you to keep a good record of how your tax refund was spent.

You can use this amount to meet a variety of expenses. These include most of your usual household expenses such as;

  • Mortgage payments
  • Food
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • HOA dues
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Car loan repayment
  • Educational expenses
  • Insurance
  • Clothing
  • Car repairs and maintenance

It’s wise to have minimal or no tax refund money in your bank accounts on the day you intend to file for bankruptcy.

Besides, you might be eligible to save a certain fraction of your tax refund amount using your retirement account. However, you need guidance from a qualified tax or bankruptcy attorney.

Avoid spending your tax refund money on luxury goods, pay off a credit card debt, repay a family member or a friend, or any other unsecured debt.

This might trigger an objection from the trustee. If the objection is accepted, you will be required to turn over your tax refund regardless of whether you spend the entire amount or not.

In case you don’t receive your tax refund early enough, the trustee will be entitled to the entire tax refund amount when you get it.

When you receive the tax refund while in bankruptcy…

You’re likely to have very little tax refund amount remaining by the time you file for bankruptcy.

Remember, tax refunds that you receive for wages earned before filing for bankruptcy are treated as part of the bankruptcy estate. These refunds are subject to liquidation if there are no exemptions.

Fortunately, it’s the attorney’s responsibility to sit down with you before filing for bankruptcy, discuss all the available assets, and create a plan that can maximize the exemption laws to your benefit.

Experts like Ric Dean, CEO at Caffeinated, assert that you should consult professionals and make well-calculated moves to avoid costly mistakes during the bankruptcy.

For instance, you can use the IRS’ withholding calculator to know the amount of deductions you should claim.

Note that if you opt to file for bankruptcy between August and December, the trustee will definitely request a copy of the previous year tax refund as soon as you file your tax returns.

If he realizes that you will receive a tax refund, he or she will request for a certain portion of the refund to repay your creditors.

To avoid this tax refund loss, it’s wise to file for bankruptcy by making all the necessary adjustments on your payroll. This will allow you to keep money in every paycheck and avoid handing over the entire tax refund amount to the trustee.

Haven’t you received your tax refund? Don’t worry

If you had a huge tax amount the previous year, it’s advisable to look for your W-4 and make the right exemptions adjustment.

This will ensure that only the necessary taxes are withheld from your pay. Since filing for bankruptcy before you receive your tax refund means you don’t want it, it’s wise to keep the amount of tax refund minimal.

Instead of transferring all your tax refund amount to the trustee, wouldn’t you desire to have a little money coming to your paycheck monthly?

It’s a wise idea, isn’t it?

Consult your lawyer and find a legal way of achieving this objective.

Hire a lawyer to avoid mistakes

During bankruptcy, asset exemption and protection are complex subjects. A simple mistake can result in loss of your entire tax refund amount.

As said earlier, every step you make before or after filing for bankruptcy will impact the possibility of retaining your tax refund.

Why not hire a professional who can offer the right guidance on what should be done?

Conclusion

Bankruptcy isn’t an easy road to freedom from financial challenges. However, with the right guidance, you can have minimal tax refund before you file for bankruptcy. You can also wait until you receive the refund. Otherwise, a larger portion of your tax refund will be used to repay your creditors.

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.