How Do I Handle Embezzlement and Employee Theft?




A reader from Georgia asks:

“I suspect one of my employees is stealing from my company. This is someone I’ve known and trusted for over 10 years. She has a family and I’ve been to her home many times for barbeques and birthday parties. I am sick over this situation. What should I do about this employee theft? Do I call the police? Confront her? Give her a chance to resign?”  

  –  Aaron W. from Atlanta, Georgia

Aaron, you didn’t say what the person was stealing or the amount involved. We’ve had some experience dealing with embezzlement and employee theft issues. So we’ll offer some guidance based on various circumstances and explain how to handle it.

Every theft by an employee requires a response of some kind.  Left unchecked, even a small instance of employee theft may get worse. It becomes a habit. And it may become contagious, meaning other employees become emboldened figuring they can get away with theft, too. They may assume you don’t pay attention — or that you simply don’t care.

That said, how you respond depends on the seriousness of the theft and how much proof you have.

How to Handle Embezzlement and Employee Theft

Gather the Facts

The first step is always to get the facts in order.  What you need is proof. Good proof might consist of catching an employee on a security camera stealing money.

However, most of the time the evidence won’t be that clear. You may have to gather documents, get cancelled checks from your bank, or examine accounting records. An important part of investigating is to question employees.

In the investigation stage, ask — don’t accuse.

Because what if you’re wrong? If you falsely accuse an employee of theft, you will irreparably harm the employer-employee relationship. And you could do real damage to someone’s career with a false accusation.

Call employees into your office one by one for confidential interviews.

Here are two examples of how to handle a theft interview. Ask the employee questions about the situation. Start out like the following:

  • “I’ve discovered the cash register was short by $200 this month. Do you have any idea what may be going on, Susie?”
  • “A lot of our supplies have gone missing. In the last two months we’ve gone through 20 times the amount of coffee K-pods we normally use. Do you know anything about that, Susie?”

What you do next depends on the employee’s response. Watch facial expressions and body language. And see what they say.

The employee may just have a legitimate explanation for whatever you’re investigating. For instance, perhaps she moved something from one place to another, or created different data entries that explain where funds are, without telling you.  This is why you should ask before accusing. And be open minded to the response.

She might also offer some kind of excuse, which you will have to weigh.

If the Employee Admits it or You Have Solid Proof

In my experience, guilty employees often admit to theft when questioned — without much pressure. It’s as if they feel tremendous stress and are relieved it’s over.

So let’s say the employee admits to the embezzlement or theft.

Or you have reached the point in the investigation where you have solid proof.

Now it’s time to switch to confronting the employee and taking action.

Confront the Employee With Disciplinary Action

Depending on the seriousness and nature of the offense, you could take one or more of the following actions in a confidential meeting.

If it’s a relatively minor situation, you might:

  • Express your disappointment and that your trust has been violated.
  • Give a stern warning and ask the employee to repay or replace what they took.
  • When it comes to office and cafeteria supplies, employees sometimes think they have the right to take items home. So you may have to educate the employee about company policies and values.
  • If you are so inclined, suggest that in the future the employee ask up front if they need something. Perhaps you’d be willing to offer a salary advance if they need funds. Or give them supplies if they truly are in need. But only if they ask first.
  • Document the action such as in a confidential email or memo to the employee.

If it’s a serious matter (complex embezzlement fraud scheme, high dollar amount), your  response is more likely to be:

  • Terminate the employee on the spot.
  • Or ask the employee to leave the building immediately on unpaid leave. The employee should leave all company property behind including keys, laptop or company issued phone or car. Putting the employee on leave will give you time to consult with your attorney or think clearly about next steps such as termination and calling the police.
  • If you put the employee on unpaid leave, you will have to terminate the person officially through some kind of followup communication, either through a letter or another meeting.

If the employee belongs to a union, follow the union’s contract process.

Cut Off Access

Be sure to immediately cut off access to all company systems, data, premises and financial accounts for anyone you place on leave.  And of course do the same if you terminate an employee.

Contact Your Attorney

Involve your attorney early for advice, especially in serious cases. Your attorney can guide you as to how to conduct an investigation, how to preserve evidence, when to call in the police, how to handle the employee, and how to notify third parties.

If you suspect embezzlement of large sums of money or a significant pattern of fraud, calling your attorney is essential!  White collar crimes like check forgery or fraud schemes can be complex. Dishonest employees get good at covering their tracks – sometimes for years. It can take a trained forensic investigator to trace the full scope of a fraud.

Not only that, but serious embezzlements and thefts often kick off a chain of legal ramifications. Your small business may need to navigate a legal minefield including:

  • Insurance claims:

    A crime insurance policy may cover your losses, and you will need to file a claim. Your attorney can help protect your claim rights.

  • Third parties that may be liable:

    Third parties such as banks may be liable for your losses, and you should put them on notice. But be careful what you say. Third parties will seize on any reason not to pay, including casual comments that could be interpreted as admissions against your interests.

  • Government authorities:

    You may be in jeopardy from unpaid tax money that a dishonest employee embezzled unbeknownst to you. You may need to protect against IRS seizures, liens and other actions that could wreck your credit score and sink your business.

  • Employee lawsuits:

    Employees may sue you for defamation or wrongful termination if evidence is weak or if you bungle the investigation.

The more serious the matter, the more crucial it is to get legal advice early.

Report Embezzlement to the Police

Many employers, especially small businesses, don’t report embezzlement fraud and theft. But that is a mistake.

If you’re talking about a few missing supplies worth $20, it doesn’t warrant calling in law enforcement.

However, you should report all serious embezzlement situations and any theft involving high value to the police, for several reasons:

  • It may be the only way to get restitution.
  • Your other employees need to know you take this seriously. You don’t want anyone else to assume they can get away with it.
  • If you have insurance to make a claim against, or plan to try to hold another party such as a bank responsible, you will need to press charges.
  • You don’t want the embezzler to move on to some unsuspecting future employer because there’s no public record.
  • A thorough investigation may help reveal how a fraud scheme occurred. This may help you take steps to avoid similar situations in the future.

Don’t Wait!

The faster you act, the better you can protect your business and the faster you cut your losses.  Besides, workplace theft can throw a business into incredible turmoil and put crushing pressure on you as the owner.

Put Control Systems in Place

One of the most important things you can do is make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Change internal procedures to minimize access and avoid temptation. Put checks and balances in place. For instance, if equipment or inventory is missing, do a better job of using software to track items and security cameras to tighten up security.

Also, require separation of functions.  Never allow one employee to have complete control. Assign one person to process transactions, and another to reconcile the bank account and make accounting entries. Or do one of the functions yourself if your organization is small.

Also bring up the topic of being frugal and emphasize the trust you are placing in everyone, in team meetings.

When you put proper checks and balances in place, you limit the opportunity for temptation and access to do harm.

Find Someone to Talk With

Last but not least, take care of yourself. If the embezzlement involves large sums, you will be upset and perhaps in shock. You may have a mix of emotions roiling around.

Try to control your own emotions and reaction, not just toward the guilty employee but toward everyone else in the business. They are depending on you to be as calm and collected as possible, and not fall apart emotionally. This is another reason to discuss the situation with your attorney.  It buys you time to cool down. Talking with a skilled advisor will help you sort out your options with a level head.

Find a friend or talk with your spouse. You might also want to talk with a spiritual advisor or a mentor.  Or you might pray as a form of talking with a higher being.

Embezzlement and theft is never easy to confront and deal with.  But your business survival and your employees’ livelihoods may depend on the tough decisions you make.

Good luck!

Get more employment advice.

All answers to reader questions come from the Small Business Trends Editorial Board, with more than 50 years of combined business experience. If you would like to submit a question, please submit it here.

Image: Depositphotos.com


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Underrated But Effective Link-Building Tactics for SEO [Infographic]


Link-building is a highly effective SEO stratagem. Marketers know that, which is why they engage in tactics like guest-posting.

But there are other, lesser-known approaches that can work just as well. Done correctly, they can have an outsized impact on your SEO results.

And that’s where an infographic from Spiralytics comes in. The performance-driven digital marketing agency lays out a series of nine tactics that can generate links to your website or other content, explaining the process for each and offering pro tips.

For example, the infographic suggests creating a resource page—containing helpful links on a topic that’s important to your audience—on your website. Then, reach out to blogs and other publications that cover the same topic, suggesting that your resource page may be of interest to their audiences.


For more ideas and suggestions on how to build links to your site, check out the infographic:

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Hair Raising Halloween Events and Trends For Your Business


You have only to look at the stats to see how Halloween has exploded in recent years. Halloween spending on decorations and costumes is almost $6 billion annually, according to the National Retail Federation.

Businesses of almost every type — retail shops, food businesses, insurance agencies, garden centers, marketing companies, and professional offices — can benefit from decorating and marketing at Halloween.



Halloween Trends and Events

So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to Halloween for small businesses? Check out these trends that small businesses can leverage. You’ll be so far ahead of the game, it’s scary.

Sugar Skulls

Sugar skulls as a design feature are popular year-round. But there’s also a distinct Halloween overtone, too. And they are a long-held Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertes) Mexican tradition.

These colorful and fun designs are popular for temporary tattoos and Halloween makeup.

Here’s another way to leverage the trend. Have sugar skull coloring books available in a kids’ corner with colored pencils at your Halloween event. Or simply give the books out as free gifts around Halloween. They will provide hours of delight for kids and adults alike.

It’s an easy and inexpensive DIY project to create your own sugar skull coloring book with your brand on it. Instructions:  go over to Pixabay.com and choose 10 free sugar skull designs in black-and-white. Print them on sheets of plain paper with your logo in the corner. Staple together. The paper and toner will cost about 35 cents per book. Throw in a box of Cra-Z-Art colored pencils (50 cents at Walmart). Total cost: 85 cents per coloring book and box of pencils.

See our Sugar Skulls Coloring Book for an example…

Halloween Makeup

Dramatic Halloween face makeup has become a big trend. Videos on YouTube showing how to apply Halloween makeup get millions of views.

Shop owners and/or staff who are into this trend could wear Halloween makeup for the day.  However, really dramatic makeup may be a bit much for many business settings. Keep a light touch.

If you are talented you can apply the makeup yourself. The cost to have Halloween makeup professionally applied could run upwards of $100 to $200. Or simply go to a Halloween store or shop on Amazon and buy a temporary tattoo kit for your face.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Lawn Display

image: Etsy

The Nightmare Before Christmas

This year, why not create a Nightmare Before Christmas display to decorate your business or use the theme to host an event?

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” you’ve missed a real cult classic. Tim Burton’s 1993 visual masterpiece has an enormous millennial following. The movie was shot at Disney using stop-motion animation (aka claymation).

The movie has spawned a trendy Halloween style, sometimes in neon or blacklight effects. What’s great about the theme — should you be brave enough to incorporate it – is that it can extend beyond Halloween right into Christmas.

You can find officially licensed items online. Or shop for “inspired” decorations at big box stores. Target, for example, offers a stylized Moonlight Bash line which includes trendy party items as well as Halloween decorations.

If you are a fan of handmade crafts, you can find inspired items over at Etsy (see image above) and at local craft shows, too.

Flameless Candles

image: Lumabase

Flameless Candles

Spooky candles create a Halloween mood. Flameless candles offer a safer high tech alternative. They create a realistic illusion of candlelight with a battery unit, timer and an LED light.

Flameless candles are good to include in lighted store display windows or on shelves. Very large ones can make an extra impact at your front door. You can also use them to light Halloween luminaria outdoors, avoiding the challenge of keeping candles lit on a windy evening. Pictured are flameless luminarias from Lumabase.

Outdoor Light Strings and Decorations

Every year sees more outdoor decorations for Halloween.  LED light strings in orange or purple for trees, doorways and eves are popular. Lighted jack-o-lanterns and skulls are also popular.

Gauzy ghosts and ghouls that can be hung in trees or on the side of a building are a trendy decoration. Sometimes they come with sound to “speak” to passers-by for a chilling thrill.

Pet Costumes

Dress Up Pets in Costumes

Pet costumes are one of the hottest trends!  If you have a working cat or dog in your business, or if you allow employees to bring pets to work, dress up those pets!  Chewy.com is a good place to find pet costumes. According to the NRF, last year the most popular pet costumes were (in order of popularity):

  • Pumpkin
  • Hot dog
  • Bumble bee
  • Devil
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Lion
  • Star Wars character
  • Super hero
  • Ghost

Another option is to hold a “pets welcome” open house or organize a pet parade together with other nearby businesses. Promote the activity in advance on social media, via an email blast to your customer list, and by putting a sign in your window.  People love to show off their pets and it will bring in tons of foot traffic.

Halloween Inflatables

Giant orange pumpkins, tall green witches or scary glowing ghosts — these characters and others are available in inflatable form of 8 to 20 feet or even taller. Or how about a giant inflated spider climbing on your roof? Inflatables are real attention grabbers and a decent-sized one can  cost $75 to $150 at any big box store.

Most inflatable Halloween decorations incorporate lights for a spooky show at night. Just remember: if you get inflatables that are too huge, or keep them up too long, you might run up against local zoning regulations like one car dealership did. Business owners, always check your zoning regs.

Vintage Halloween

image: Wikimedia

Vintage Halloween Decorations

Vintage decorations are experiencing a resurgence of interest. Think plastic light up pumpkin lamps and melted plastic popcorn decorations.

Incorporate these decorations in your shelf or window displays to connect with customers who remember that era. Even millennials and Gen X-ers who never knew the decorations the first time around enjoy vintage stuff for its quirkiness.

The example pictured is from the mid-20th century. You can find vintage Halloween decorations at flea markets and antique or resale shops. Don’t forget eBay, which at any given time may have over 20,000 vintage Halloween decorations listed.

Face Painting for Kids

Face painting events have become popular because kids enjoy the creativity and crave attention. To hire a face painter to make your event an experience shoppers won’t soon forget, expect to pay around $100 per hour. Rates may vary in your area. Search in Google or go to a gig site like The Bash to find one.

If your face painter can do light sugar skull designs, you combine two trends into one.

The visual nature of face painting has another advantage. You can share photos on social media. Just make sure you have permission of participants and parents. You’ll generate plenty of content to continue enjoying the experience online — all the way through to next year!

Employee Costumes for Halloween

Staff Dressing up in Halloween Costumes

Have you noticed how many workplaces these days have employees who wear costumes around  Halloween? It can make the day festive and bring a smile to customers’ faces. It’s not suitable for every business. Check out: Should I allow employees to dress up for Halloween?.

Oversize Plush Masks

Another Halloween trend these days is the oversized plush mask. Think “stuffed animal head” similar to a sports mascot. These masks completely cover the head.

Plush masks can now be purchased at party stores and online. Some adults wear them without a costume because the big head alone makes an impact. Average cost: $25 to $50.

While not a great costume idea for employees who are working, it’s a fun idea to don one of these for short periods. Use it during a Halloween party to entertain customers and their kids.

No Longer Hot Trends

Clowns:  Skip the clowns. Too creepy. Need we say more?

Wax Teeth: Believe it or not, wax teeth used to be hot for kids and adults at one time. Not any more!

Homemade Treats for Trick or Treat:  Commercial-packaged treats for trick or treat are the way to go.  Everyone these days is careful about what they eat, due to safety concerns.

Think outside the box, have fun, get creative – and take advantage of 2019 Halloween trends to generate the most interest for your small business!

Image: Depositphotos.com


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Beyond Black Friday: How to Build Revenue-Driving Holiday Campaigns


Shoppers are nuts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, their excitement is spilling over into the rest of the week and leading them to buy everything on their shopping lists—gift or not.

That’s because shoppers have realized that this time of year is the best time to get a deal on practically anything. And retailers don’t let them down: Brick-and-mortar and e-commerce brands alike run their best deals of the year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That has convinced many shoppers that they should buy not only their holiday gifts during this stretch of time but also any other items on their to-do list.

The key to success this holiday season is discovering how to take advantage of this and other emerging trends. To that end, SteelHouse analyzed thousands of retargeting, branding, and prospecting campaigns across display, mobile, social, and Connected TV (CTV) that ran across the SteelHouse network last year. The collected learnings are summarized in the SteelHouse Holiday Guide to help marketers get the most out of the season.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the study findings, and ways you can leverage them for holiday success.


1. Once Black Friday hits, shoppers spend well into Cyber Week


SteelHouse data from the 2018 holiday shopping season suggests that once Black Friday gets closer on the calendar, shoppers wait to convert. In the 10 days preceding Black Friday, site traffic soared as shoppers researched potential purchases, whereas conversions dropped in anticipation of better deals just days away. Once Black Friday hit, both site traffic and conversions surged, and continued to do so well into Cyber Week.

For any marketer looking to take full advantage of this major shopping period, it’s a good idea to keep your budget prepared to engage users over Thanksgiving weekend as well as into Cyber Week. Shoppers are deal-hungry; and, as the data suggests, many who are active on Black Friday and Cyber Monday will continue to shop days after. Shoppers now see the period from Black Friday to the end of Cyber Week as one major shopping event… and you should, too.

2. Connected TV is an effective performance channel



Over 190 million Americans watch CTV. This holiday season, advertisers need to take advantage of that fact. Based on Q4 2018 SteelHouse campaign data, CTV paired with audience-extension ads (display ads served to viewers who saw the CTV ad) were more effective at driving site visits than social and display prospecting campaigns.

And not only that: CTV holiday campaigns averaged a 6X return on ad spend, proving they too are effective at driving conversions.

Any advertiser with existing video assets—whether intended for traditional TV, YouTube, or social—should strongly consider leveraging those assets on Connected TV as well. CTV ads are unskippable and they reach users as they settle in to stream TV in the comfort of their living rooms.

According to the Video Advertising Bureau, ads shown on TV screens generate 32% more ad recall than the next closest device. Advertisers would do well to take advantage of that fact this holiday season—and start driving site traffic and conversions with Connected TV.

3. Prospecting and retargeting are better together


Based on SteelHouse data, brands that ran prospecting campaigns as well as retargeting reaped significant benefits. Which makes sense: lower-funnel efforts are more effective when they have a large targeting pool to choose from. By launching prospecting campaigns early in the holiday season, you can drive more site traffic, increase your retargeting pool, and then drive more conversions as you bring those users further down the funnel. Brands that ran prospecting and retargeting drove far more conversions than those that ran retargeting alone, our data shows.

There were stark increases in conversion rates in November and December for advertisers that ran prospecting throughout the quarter. In fact, the increase in conversions were almost in direct correlation to the increase in their average spend, showing that advertisers can get a solid return on their upper-funnel efforts.

Prospecting campaigns launched earlier in the season can reap major benefits for your lower-funnel efforts, so make sure you have your budget ready for them.

4. Gifts or not, shoppers are buying everything on their list


Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Week are the best time of year to get a deal—period. And shoppers know it, which means they’re looking to spend not only on gifts but on everything else on their list as well. Retailers and e-commerce brands that are not traditionally known as gift-giving destinations can benefit by running sales during the frenzy of the major shopping holidays this year.

The key to success for nongift brands is awareness. Advertisers that fall into this category should plan to have deals ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then set out to raise awareness of their brand and holiday promos. From October to November, launch multiple campaigns across display, social, Connected TV, and email to educate shoppers of upcoming deals.

Your biggest potential obstacle is your audience’s not knowing that you’re offering savings. Once that hurdle has been cleared, you’re in a good position to reap the rewards.

Build a holiday strategy that captures shoppers

Whether they’re shopping from the comfort of their own homes or lining up around a brick-and-mortar retailer on a cold morning, holiday shoppers are ready to spend. If you’re looking for better ways to engage your audience and drive conversions, download the SteelHouse Holiday Guide. It’s full of stats, trends, and insights that you can leverage to ensure you get the most out of your advertising efforts this holiday season.

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Secrets of Creating the Best Event Landing Page for Your Business Revealed


Your event landing page has 10 seconds to capture a visitor’s interest. That’s not a lot of time to spark an event-goer’s imagination and hold their attention.

How do you strike a balance between eye catching design, strong messaging for why attendees should come, and the value they’ll get all on one event landing page?

Ronnie Higgins, Eventbrite’s senior content strategy manager, shares some advice on how to create the perfect event landing page.

What’s an Event Landing Page?

An event landing page is different from your main website as it is designed with a singular focus — to get visitors to register or purchase tickets to your event.

Whether your event landing page is for a concert, conference, or trade show, it’s primary goal is to drive attendance. If your messaging is confusing to visitors and difficult to navigate, then all of your marketing efforts will be for naught.

There are two key components to creating a perfect event landing page: copy and design.

How to Create Compelling Copy for your Page

Before you type a single word, take a moment to think about who you’re speaking to. When you truly understand the audience you’re trying to reach, it’ll be much easier to write copy that speaks to them.

For example, a conference for recruiters focused on industry trends wouldn’t use the same voice as a multi-day music festival. The conference would use a professional tone and more formal language, whereas the festival would take a conversational approach.

How you format the copy on your landing page is also important. Make yours is easy to understand with these tips:

  • Write a clear call-to-action: Since you have a short amount of time to capture a potential attendees’ interest, you’ll need a clear, action-oriented copy that ultimately leads them to register for your event or purchase a ticket.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs: A good rule of thumb is to keep your copy short and sweet. Maximize the effectiveness of your landing page by distilling only the highlights: what to expect, who the speakers will be, which vendors will be there. Write short, easy to read sentences that can be skimmed by prospective attendees.

Lastly, your event landing page should encourage visitors to purchase a ticket or register for your event. You can do this by creating a sense of urgency with potential event-goers and guiding them into the purchase process. Write straightforward, action-oriented CTAs (call to action) buttons that can’t be missed — or ignored — like “Buy Now” or “Click Here To Register”.

How to Design an Event Landing Page

The words used to describe your event and convince visitors it can’t be missed are important. But the design of your event landing page can stand in the way of your event’s success. The layout, colors, and other visual aspects on the page should support your copy. It has to be clear and intuitive, naturally leading visitors to the action you want them to take.

Follow these tips to make your design capture interest and drive attendance:

  • Keep it simple: Don’t clutter the page with unnecessary visuals and design elements that make it difficult to navigate. You’ll only end up frustrating interested visitors who would have otherwise attended your event.
  • Make it easy to purchase or register: In the case of event registration pages where you need to collect additional information from your guests, it’s important to limit the forms to only pertinent information. Lengthy registration forms on your landing page will deter attendees from completing the required fields.
  • Optimize for every device: Don’t forget to optimize your event landing page for mobile. Half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, so be sure your landing page is mobile ready.

Take your Event Page for a Test Drive

Want to know if event landing page is…landing? Ask a colleague or someone who isn’t as familiar with your event to read your landing page. Have them to summarize the benefits of attending. If their summary doesn’t match up with what you want to communicate, you can make the necessary tweaks before it’s too late.

If you’re trying to decide between two landing page designs, you can test to see which is most effective through multivariate testing tools like Yieldify.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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Spotlight: American Cuckoo Clock Company Makes Time for a New Tradition


You’ve probably seen traditional wooden cuckoo clocks at some point in the past. But you probably haven’t seen clocks like the ones made by The American Cuckoo Clock Company.

The niche business has found a way to mesh the old and the new. And the owner has taken on several unique projects along the way. Read on to learn more about the company’s journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.



What the Business Does

Provides American and German-made cuckoo clocks.

Owner Jodie Davis says that the company offers, “Cuckoo clocks designed in America, made in Germany and on the farm in Hickory Flat, Georgia.”

Business Niche

Modernizing the cuckoo clocks.

Davis says, “We have picked up the ball where Germany dropped it by reinventing the cuckoo clock. We design clocks that fit into today’s homes and reflect our passions and interests.”

How the Business Got Started

On a trip to Europe for another project.

Davis used to host a show for quilters. When she was in Europe for the show, she ended up shooting an additional episode at a cuckoo clock factory. She ordered a series of clocks for the quilting show and a new obsession was born.

Biggest Win

Proving the concept.

Davis explains, “When our customers say ‘I love cuckoo clocks but could never find one that is me — until I found yours.’”

Biggest Risk

Embracing the fear of going broke.

Davis says, “I literally went broke in order to face the challenge of having to become my own supplier. It was either that or get in my truck and leave my horses and cats every day. NO WAY!!!”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Create the first edition of the Dineyesque/Vermont Teddy Bear/Babyland experience.

Davis explains, “That is my ultimate goal. This is decidedly an e-commerce business. Which is all about the magic and charm and tradition of the cuckoo clock. It needs a magical in-the-flesh experience!”

In the Spotlight: The American Cuckoo Clock Company Puts a New Spin on an Old Tradition

Favorite Accomplishment

Designing a clock for a major occasion.

Davis says, “I was commissioned by Sesame Street Workshop to make a cuckoo clock for the retirement of Carroll Spinney, Big Bird and Oscars puppeteer since the beginning. Such an honor!”

Favorite Quote

“Just Do It.” -Nike.

Davis adds, “This has been the truth for me all of my life. And I have done a lot of interesting things, blazing my own path.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: The American Cuckoo Clock Company, Jodie Davis


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Sales Leaders' Top 10 Priorities for the Year Ahead [Infographic]


Sales leaders say their top focus areas in the year ahead are to improve their team’s ability to communicate value and to improve their team’s productivity, according to recent research from the RAIN Group.

The report was based on data from a survey conducted in April 2019 among 423 sales and enablement leaders.

Some 70% of respondents say improving their team’s ability to communicate value is a top priority in the year ahead, and 65% say improving their team’s productivity is a top priority.

Other major focus areas for sales leaders in the year ahead include boosting business with existing accounts, increasing retention and renewals, improving sales opportunity planning, improving their team’s ability to inspire with ideas, winning more against difficult competitors, increasing sales manager effectiveness, driving more new accounts won, and optimizing their sales process.


Check out the infographic for more insights from the research:

About the research: The report was based on data from a survey conducted in April 2019 among 423 sales and enablement leaders.

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How to Get Paid Faster in your Small Business


As a business owner, you know how crucial it is to your business to be paid on a timely basis. The better your business accepts today’s technology, the faster you’ll receive payment. A staggering 30 percent of businesses fail because the owner runs out of money.



How to Get Paid Faster

In order to make sure you’re getting paid in a timely fashion, use these 5 simple tricks.

Make your payment terms clear.

Settle your terms and conditions from the get-go, before you start working with a new client. Seek written proof of the agreements so it’s easier to prove amounts due, deadlines for payment and any other important details.

At the very least, ensure your terms and conditions highlight a detailed explanation of the work you’re expected to complete, the payment amount expected and when the payment is due. Include late fees and discounts for early payments, if you offer them.

If you opt not to add penalties or rewards, it’s still best to specify your payment deadlines. Keep in mind that research shows the average customer will choose to pay two week later than the date they’re given. This makes it a good idea to set the deadline for sooner than when you actually need to receive payment.

Make sure customers see your invoices.

Eye-catching invoices are likely to grab the customer’s attention and become a priority for them. Do what you can to banish unpaid invoices by making your invoice stand out. Your invoice should include your business logo and branding, full contact details and the essential information printed in a clear and simple-to-read format. You don’t need to make the invoice elaborate, but it’s best to highlight key information like the amount due and the payment deadline.

Increase your payment options.

Your goal should be to make it as convenient as possible for your customers to make a payment. Small businesses that want to increase their payment options should ask customers which payment methods they prefer. Customers like to offer input about new payment methods, so they can share the best ways to pay you; no one wants debt hanging over their head. Plus, putting your customer first is one of several things successful business do right.

When you accept multiple forms of payment, you make it harder for customers to find reasons they’re unable to make a payment. Go beyond accepting checks and credit cards and think about accepting PayPal and other alternative forms of payment.

Use electronic invoices.

If your business still uses paper-based invoices, you should consider upgrading to electronic invoicing. One positive of electronic invoices is that they’re sent directly to the client, so you do not have to wait for the invoice to be delivered or worry about losing it.

Remember to send your invoices as soon as possible — the sooner you invoice, the faster you will receive payment.

Other advantages of electronic invoices is that they’re easy to customize and edit, they can be sent through email and you can even add a “pay now” button so customers can pay directly into your small business bank account.

Chase late payments.

Want to know the most common reasons customers fail to pay? Because your business didn’t follow up on the original invoice. Sometimes the customer may truly forget that they have yet to pay. But a due payment reminder can help to ensure payment is made.

If the customer doesn’t respond to reminders, send further polite reminders. Highlight the terms and conditions they agreed to with any late payment fines they have accrued.

Or if you utilize electronic invoices and accounting software, set up automatic reminders for payments that are late. They’ll be sent to the customer at timely intervals.

While every business is different, when you adopt these simple and effective practices you will see that your business will get paid faster.

What tips do you use to help your small business get paid on time?

Image: Depositphotos.com


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Email, Content, and SEO: A Marketing Tag-Team for 2019 and Beyond


To step up your digital marketing game, you need to combine your SEO efforts with email marketing to achieve genuine, organic reach for your content.

In the age of digital marketing, excellent content marketing along with the latest SEO techniques (which need to keep up with Google and social media algorithm changes) is absolute necessity. It’s been all about making sure your content reaches your brand’s target audience.

Yet, the market has been saturated with content, and everyone is using SEO techniques.

But there is an unlikely “new” way for brands to reach their prospective customers and target user base: email marketing.


The Sleeper Hit: Email

On average, email users are bombarded with 120 emails a day (some studies claim that number is now closer to 140), and 57% of users say the content they receive through is never or rarely useful.

Yet email remains one of the fastest, most common, and most direct ways of reaching customers. A lot of people also typically prefer to read emails, which often are now read first via mobile. There are few faster ways to reach the audience so directly than email marketing.

The trick is not to overwhelm. The problem is that although everyone uses email, most companies don’t really use it discerningly, instead blasting emails for just about any opportunity. Users are bombarded with clunky newsletter updates, spam, and promotions. As a result, users don’t open those nonessential emails anymore and consider most of them as spam.

So how do you get your customers’ attention via email?

Utililty. Make sure that whenever you contact your consumer base, it’s something they will consider useful. And here’s where content is key.


Say you’re developing an app; you will likely use some form of email communication (it’s important to reach out to new users with a welcoming email). But many companies don’t send welcome emails to new users, even though it’s an ideal time to provide highly useful content to new users by leading them to your website.

Email Marketing Levels Up With an SEO Mentality

By using SEO approaches combined with email marketing, you can…

  • Drive traffic to your website. Make your email more personalized and targeted; think of it as you would content. Use the right mix of keywords and SEO methods to perk up users’ attention and make them realize that this content is relevant to them (something you can do even without the help of an SEO specialist.) Whether it’s trending articles, or a product or service they are particularly interested in, make it super clear what the email is about and its benefits.
  • Once they’re onsite, engage. When qualified traffic heads to your site thanks to the keywords and relevant information in your email, it’s time for reinforcement. Redirect them straight onto the website where the information, item, or service they’re looking for is.
  • Improve mobile interaction. When users receive a notification on their phones, they pay attention. If an email with the right SEO keyword (i.e., relevant to their interest) appears, they’re more likely to open it right then, on their mobile device. That increases website traffic. (Make sure your website is mobile-user friendly!)

The Email Marketing and Content Marketing Tag-Team

In content marketing, you will have fewer better allies than email marketing. It gives content the highest ROI in any marketing channel. Using this combination of content and email can…

  • Improve brand and customer relations. The people you are communicating with via email have opted in to hear from you and are paying attention to what you have to say. Meet their expectations by providing timely, relevant content that they want to hear about. When that’s done well, the customer will keep opening your emails and continue to build a rapport with your brand.
  • Highlight the most important information. Normally, websites contain a great deal of information, and items that you might want to highlight will get lost in the bustle. Using email marketing, you’ll be able to put a spotlight on information that you need the customer to see. It may be a new product or service, or even an important update.
  • Answer your customers’ questions. When issues arise with regard to any item or product, or maybe an influx of customer concerns regarding an incident or event, a combination of content and email marketing will give them their answers, reassurances, or just inform them of the company’s position on the matter. Provided in a timely manner, it will strengthen a customers’ trust in the company.

The Future

The future of these and other marketing techniques continues to move toward greater personalization. What really makes users click open is based on personal interests and individual needs. The more emails seem canned or generic or broadcast in bulk, the more disingenuous they seem. Personalization gives the customer the feeling of truly being given attention, the feeling that the brand is taking steps to address their needs in particular.

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Your Customers Want Unique Furniture But Don’t Want to Pay for Shipping


Thanks to social media, many people now want to buy unique, picture-perfect furniture. But they also don’t want to spend money on shipping charges.

Furniture Market Statistics

According to Dream Décor Report 2019, “40% of consumers would turn to a major retailer like Amazon or Wayfair if a boutique retailer didn’t offer free shipping, though 11% of consumers had regretted buying mass-produced furniture from a major retailer like Amazon and Wayfair.”

For boutiques, small furniture retailers and home décor retailers, like you, it is a significant opportunity to grow.

You just need to cater to consumers who don’t want to go for mass-produced products and offer those consumers unique furniture items.

What People Feel About Their Furniture

Social media play an important role in our lives. Many of us tend to share our happy moments instantly on social media. So many people want to have picture-perfect furniture.

15% of consumers have felt that others judge their home décor and furniture, and 18% of consumers have felt pressure to have Instagram-worthy furniture at their homes, as found in the report.

Image: uShipThe report also states that 14% of people feel that big retailers have too many options, making it difficult to choose the right furniture.

Furthermore, many times, big retailers that often sell mass-produced products don’t have the furniture items people want to buy. And consumers end up buying mass-produced furniture.

11% of people, according to the report, regretted purchasing mass-produced furniture.

What Buyers want

Consumers want to have unique furniture. In fact, 25% of people agree that they would likey to buy furniture item that is not mass-produced.

What buyers want

image:uShipAre people ready to pay more for a unique furniture item?

Yes, they are!

31% of people are ready to pay more than their intended budget if they find the perfect item, the survey reports.

How Small Furniture Retailers Can Boost Growth

Small furniture retailers or home décor retailers don’t sell mass-produced products. So there is a huge scope for them to grow their business if they focus on improving their shipping process.

People want to buy a unique piece of furniture but not only they expect free delivery but they also want quick delivery.

How small furniture retailers can boost growth

image:uShipSmall retailers can delight their consumers by adoption shipping innovations.

In a time when 65% of retailers are going to offer the same-day-delivery by the end of this year, no consumer wants to stay in the dark when it comes to getting their furniture delivered.

Here are some shipping innovations to win your consumers’ heart:

  • Offer first-to-final mile delivery
  • Provide live tracking option
  • Provide instant final quote at checkout
  • Try to minimize shipping charge

Kris Lamb, CEO of uShip, says, “It’s never been more important for retailers, big and small, to focus on the entire customer journey.”

“In our experience, boutique retailers have a lot to offer the Instagram-loving, digital-first customer in terms of desirable items, but struggle to compete with fast, free shipping. We hope these insights will help boutique-style retailers address the growing needs of a solid buying experience,” She continues.

The Report

The survey was conducted online by the third-party research firm YouGovPlc. 1227 people (aged+18) participated in the survey. 330 people of the total had purchased an oversized piece of furniture in the past year.

Image: Depositphotos.com


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