Sometimes giving it away for free is the most profitable solution

Written for SPAN Enterprises

Last week, Publix at Wedgewood Square Shopping Center brought us a cake and cupcakes. We didn’t order it. There wasn’t a birthday or celebration at the office that day. The bakery delivered the sweet treats just because we are regular customers and they wanted to show gratitude.

Eyes lit up as chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were passed around during the afternoon crunch. The delectable goodies made Publix’s quality of service and gratuitousness palatable as we devoured buttercream-frosted fluffy cakes.

This was a smart move by Publix. Really smart. We have several company events coming up and not to mention we are on the cusp of the holiday season. It was a great customer service strategy to remind us that they are available and appreciative of our business. Not to mention perking up our taste buds with a sample of their sugary goodness.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Give your customer something they want or something they need. It reminds them that you care about their needs, provide quality products and shows thanks. It’s an extra mile in customer service that keeps them coming back.

At SPAN, we often treat our customers. Since we are in the software industry, we aren’t baking desserts, but we develop free companion apps that complement our web-based technologies. We’ve also created general apps that support the industries we work within.

For example, we launched an app called RigMinders. It’s a free personal and professional reminder app for truck drivers that’s already loaded with standard industry reminders such as quarterly tax filings, license and permit renewals, and annual excise tax deadlines.

RigMinders has been lauded by our customers and even truckers who are not our customers as a helpful app. The decision to create and give away this app does the same thing for our customers as Publix did for us: it gives thanks, creates credibility, and shows quality of production.

Our app continues to show trucking professionals that we care about supporting their needs while also gaining credibility for our company in the process. It gives them a glimpse at the quality of our products by exhibiting our usability, industry knowledge, and design experience.

Next time your business wants to remind customers that you are available and appreciative of their needs, give them something they need at no cost. It will benefit your business in the long run.

Advertisements
Posted in Brand Journalism, Business, SPAN Enterprises | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What is Obamacare and how does it affect my business?

Written for ACAwise, product of SPAN Enterprises

10/2016

Obamacare, officially known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is a health reform law that was signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010. The law was created to give people and their families quality, affordable healthcare coverage. It requires health insurance companies and employers to provide better health insurance options.

Under the ACA, employers with at least 50 full-time employees or the equivalent of an average of 50 full-time employees in the prior calendar year are considered large employers and must provide 95 percent of full-time employees with minimum value and affordable healthcare coverage.

Businesses that don’t comply with this requirement will be fined if employees seek insurance and gain tax credits via the federal and state health insurance marketplace.

Employers may determine if they’re required to provide health insurance to employees by adding together the total number of full-time employees per month and then dividing that number by 12.

For Example: January through October, you have 60 full-time employees on the payroll every month and November through December, you have 45 each month.

January: 60

February: 60

March: 60

April: 60

May: 60

June: 60

July: 60

August: 60

September: 60

October: 60

November: 45

December: 45

__________________

690

Adding these totals to 690 and then dividing that number by 12 gets you the average employee count per month.

690/12 = 57.5 employees per month

According to this calculation, the employer would meet the requirement of 50 full-time employees and therefore, be required to provide health insurance for the next calendar year.

Determining who is full time and eligible can get tricky if you have a lot of employees and their hours vary over the year.

In order to be compliant, the health insurance must meet the minimum value of 60 percent of out-of-pocket costs for the insurer. Other requirements include: free annual wellness checkups, free preventive care, and a maximum cost for emergency care. The insurance plan must also include coverage for dependents (not spouses) up to 26 years old. The insurance plans should not cost the insurer more than 9.56 percent of the employee’s household income.

If applicable employers do not meet insurance coverage requirements, the government will fine the company $2000 per full-time employee minus the first 30 employees.

For Example: You have 80 full-time employees and don’t offer coverage. You can expect to get fined for 50 out of the 80 employees. The total fine cost will be $100,000.

80 – 30 = 50

50 x $2000 = $100,000

There’s another fine for employers that provide health insurance that doesn’t meet minimum value (affordability) and the other ACA insurance standards mentioned above. This fine is the lesser of $3000 per full-time employee receiving government subsidies OR $2000 per full-time employee minus the first 30 employees (same as the aforementioned example).

Small businesses are not required to offer health insurance; however, these businesses may be eligible for tax credits if coverage is provided. Employers who have less than 25 full-time workers who earn less than $50,000 in average annual wages are eligible for tax credits.

Also, businesses with 100 or less full-time employees may receive up to a 50 percent tax break on employee health insurance premium costs when using the Small Business Health Options Program.

If you’re still concerned about ACA requirements and managing all the information you need to determine eligibility and file information returns with the IRS, check out ACAwise. This cloud-based program helps you meet IRS compliance and manage evolving employee status and requirements throughout the year.

Posted in Brand Journalism, Business, SPAN Enterprises | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It takes more than a storefront to run a business

Breath life into your brand with social media

Written for SPAN Enterprises

Social media has become the number one way to network personally and professionally. Having a steady online presence opens the door for more business opportunities and prospective partnerships. If you’re not social online on some platform, you are doing a disservice to your business, but the good news is you can get started at anytime.

The most important thing to remember when interacting online is to create a social profile that is authentic and aligns with your vision and goals. You don’t want to look like a robot that just throws up sales ads and pressures people into buying products. That’s not how social media works. You need to humanize your brand by sharing interesting and thoughtful content that reflects your values and interests while creating real relationships with your followers by interacting with them on a regular basis..

Think back to your company’s mission. What does your company stand for? What are you trying to achieve and why should it matter to everyone else? Answer these questions and you have a good start. You want to use the mission statement as a starting block that thrusts you into the development of a humanized version of your business online — sharing important niche and business news, creative ideas, showing appreciation to others in the industry and other industries who are doing things that align with your values, commenting on social commentary that remains inclusive to all potential customers and partnerships, and gently nudging people toward your blog and website.

When you first start networking, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and want to be everywhere at once and read and share all the things; however, that can eat up all your time and take away from other more pressing parts of your business. Remember, social media ROI is a long term commitment.

Start out slow with one social platform —Facebook and Twitter are the top social media sites for business. Create an account and take time deciding how to describe your business. A shortened version of your business statement that shows personality is ideal for your social media profile description. This shows your company’s personality and continues to align with your core values — the foundation of authenticity.

Share a few times a day and really sit back and pay attention to what others are doing.

Notice when others are sharing, when people engage more and what works the best. Make an effort to log in regularly and set limits to social media perusing (10-15 mins at a time), so you don’t get lost in information land. Check out your competitors or the top dogs in your industry and see how they do it. What makes them stand out online.

Next, find a social media management tool that provides feedback on what you are sharing. Some great options are Hootsuite and Agorapulse. These tools allow you to curate your communications across several social media platforms as well as generate reports on what you post to rate your social success.

Once you’ve built a robust group of followers and curated content that builds up your business mission, then you can start developing social media campaigns to push products and topics of interest for your business. When developing a campaign, you want to have a clear plan of action.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I trying to accomplish?

How can I measure campaign success?

Who is my target audience?

How can I best interact with them?

After uncovering all of these answers, you should be able to start developing an assortment of posts that align with the campaign. The assortment of posts should include active and passive ads, curated content from other sites, company blogs, and organic social interactions.

When running social campaigns, your goal is to drive traffic to your website.

Be sure your website is updated, error-free and user friendly. It’s also crucial that it aligns with your mission statement and the brand image portrayed on social media. Someone should be able to interact with your brand on your website, social media and in your store and get the same feeling. You want people to be comfortable with who you are and what you identify as. If you confuse them with different styles and approaches, they will stray. Keep it simple.

A great tool for checking how traffic performs on your website is Google Analytics. This is the age of Google and everything that works well online goes through Google. Google Analytics is a tool that will help you stalk viewers on your site. (Not in a creepy way but a business smart way!) It reports on what brought them to you (social media posts), what pages they clicked on, and how long they were on each page. Knowing your viewers moves or lack thereof gives you a clue as to what posts effectively nudge them to take that extra leap over to your online storefront on the big ole’ busy world wide web.

If you stay true to your brand by owning your message and use the right tools to track what works and what doesn’t, you will be well on your way to lassoing new business leads and sales. The world wide web doesn’t have to be a wild, uncharted western frontier if you take a measured approach and organically grow your business with the same principals that got you started in the first place.

Posted in Brand Journalism, Business, SPAN Enterprises | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stake Claim: Your Business Mission Statement Matters

Written for SPAN Enterprises

Every business strives to make a name for itself. Your name is your identify and what people think about when they see your logo. It is what sets you apart from the crowd and draws others in your direction. In order to hone in on what really makes your business tick, spend some time cultivating a mission statement that truly aligns with your business purpose.

Having a mission statement helps customers, employees, other businesses, partners, and potential investors understand your brand.

For customers, it gives a look inside at why you create a particular product and how it matters, which helps them decide if it fits with their needs and values.

For employees, it provides a vision to focus on and an idealism to live up to when considering short- and long-term business goals.

For other businesses, potential partners, and investors, it shows your value — giving them reason to work with you or view you as a competent competitor.

Simply speaking, a mission statement should explain who you are, what you create and stand for, and why you do it. Often the “how you do it” can be included as well—as long as it’s something completely unique in comparison to other business practices.

Take action and make a name for yourself before someone else does it for you. Follow the checklist below to make sure your business mission statement stands out.

Why do you exist?
When you set out to create this business, what did you see that was lacking? What gap does this company fill? What consumer demands are met? How does it relieve stress or create more success for the user? The answer to this question is the meat of your business and clearly defines what role you play in the business world.

Define core company values.
Is your business on the cutting edge of technological innovation? Does it feed the user’s creative needs or bring more safety and security to their home? Do you work to create a healthier environment by implementing certain business practices? Do you reward customer loyalty? Examine the way you work and the products you create to determine what values should be associated with your business.

Layout business goals.
Do you plan to create products and sell them to other businesses? Do you plan to start with one product and become a niche empire in five years? Do you want to partner with other businesses to create solutions for their work processes? Think about where you started and where you plan to go. This shouldn’t be as specific as laying out the plan to white label for X no. of businesses, but it should let the reader know that you have high hopes of developing industry-specific products that will manage all objective-specific needs.

Be inclusive.
When writing the mission statement, make sure to target all sides of the business. This should be written for everyone aforementioned — customers, employees, other businesses, and potential partners and investors. A good brand has all-encompassing qualities that leave everyone feeling like they’ve been included in the business model.

Set intentions for greater good.
Does your company create eco-friendly goods? Do you donate products one-for-one to people who need but cannot afford them? Do you make products using ingredients that will not have a negative effect on the consumer’s health? Evaluate how what you create creates a better quality of life for others.

Show some flair.
Can you cultivate an anecdotal story line about your products? If not, maybe the niche market already has a characterization that you can lean into for inspiration. The best brands have personality and aren’t afraid to flaunt it.

Include philanthropic interest.
Many businesses show their merit through action. Do you donate a portion of the proceeds to a particular cause? Is their a foundation arm of the company that educates children or provides for underprivileged families? Not all companies are able to invest in philanthropic efforts; however, if you find a way to give back, this will speak volumes for your brand. It is definitely worthy of a mention in the mission. After all, a mission that does good for others creates an impact far beyond anything you can sell.

Take ownership of your identity by asking yourself the above questions and include them in your business mission statement to create an effective and purposeful business model. It will help others define you and remind you of what got you started in the first place.

Posted in Brand Journalism, Business, SPAN Enterprises | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cutivate morning rituals that create better work flow

Originally posted for SPAN Enterprises

9/14/2016

Rituals have been a part of humanity since the beginning of time. We thrive on habitual practices that symbolize our goals, values, and desires. Rituals often remind people of religion, but it’s best described as a series of habits that consciously or unconsciously set our intentions for the moment.

Morning rituals have the ability to make or break the day. It can affect your family life and even work productivity. When you unconsciously roll out of bed late, argue with family while rushing out the door, and battle with traffic, the tone set for the workday is frazzled and frustrated. However, if you rise early and spend time preparing the mind and body for the day, you feel energized and motivated for whatever lies ahead.

If you’re currently in a morning rut that evolves into a rat wheel race for the rest of the day: Do not despair; turn it around with a few simple changes. Follow the tips below and support your concerted effort to create a positive morning routine. These rituals lead to a more productive work day and a more fulfilling day overall.

Better Starts in Bed
Getting no less than seven to eight hours of sleep will curb the crankiness. Make a point of going to bed early — you will feel more refreshed and ready to greet the day. Also, when the alarm goes off, don’t hit snooze, get up and get going. The act of hitting snooze defines the morning as an unwelcome visitor. Make friends — stretch and smile and give salutations to the sun. One more thing, remember to make your bed. This gives closure to sleep time and prevents further unruffling of the sheets.

Spend Time in Silence
Rushing to cloud the mind with news or morning talk shows averts attention from what’s going on inside. Face anxieties head on with some positive self-dialogue. Release fears and don’t add to them with social media drama and stress-inducing crime stats. Ease into the day with silence or soft, instrumental music giving your brain time to warm up in a pleasurable way.

Set Your Intentions
Instead of allowing others to dictate how your day will go, consciously choose how you want to feel, act, and be. There are many ways to do this, so you have to find what works best for you. Some examples are journaling, meditation, reading or listening to inspirational messages, and repeating positive affirmations. Find the best method to use everyday or change it up. However you accomplish this, it’s vital to take ownership of your intentions.

Take Care of Your Body
They say people who exercise in the morning are more alert and productive throughout the day. Set aside time for exercise — whether it’s walking, running or yoga — get the heart rate up and blood pumping. After getting your sweat on, spend some quality time getting ready. Try out a new hairstyle, paint your fingernails, or iron the wrinkles out of your best suit. The way we present ourselves symbolizes to the world (and ourselves) how we feel and how we should be treated. Dress like a business leader and you will be treated as a business leader.

Learn Something
Watch an inspirational video while drinking coffee. Listen to NPR or a book on tape during the daily commute to work. Research something that insights creativity. Remain curious about the world and everything in it. Coming to work thinking like a student opens a world of opportunity.

Fine tune these little habits to solidify a morning routine that perks up your potential and you will lead a more engaging, thought-provoking, productive, and joyous life.

Posted in Brand Journalism, Business, SPAN Enterprises | Tagged , , | Leave a comment