All posts by Jon Bradshaw

8 Powerful Tools for Small Teams

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8 Powerful Tools for Small Teams

Small teams can be surprisingly powerful when given the right tools. A well-equipped team armed with helpful apps and programs can keep up the pace with larger organizations that are working inefficiently. Additionally, software programs and digital tools allow small teams to get their work done without exceeding a 40-hour workweek. 

Here Are 8 Tools for Small Teams:

If you’re looking to set your team up with some new gear, you’ve come to the right place. Check out eight of the best tools for small teams and the benefits you’ll get from using them daily:

1. Appointment

When operating a business with limited staff, you want to use your resources wisely. Your goal should be to take care of your customers in the best way possible while not overextending yourself. Online appointment software is a great example of how you can accomplish this.

Take Appointment, for instance. This tool enables customers to check availability and book appointments without any assistance. This eliminates the need to have one of your team members manning the phone lines at all hours of the day, allowing them to accomplish more tasks. 

2. Calendar

As a small team, one of your most valuable commodities is your time. The better your team utilizes their time, the more your business can profit. Few tools scratch the surface of what Calendar can do to optimize your team’s time management

For starters, with Calendar you can easily share events that include the entire team and even account for differing time zones. Calendar Analytics gives you an in-depth look at how your team is using their time so you can make efficient adjustments to their schedules and practices. 

3. Slack

Communication is everything for small businesses. Luckily, with a condensed organizational structure, it should be easier to communicate effectively than it is for companies with hundreds or even thousands of employees. Using a messaging platform such as Slack will make collaborative communication second nature. 

Slack works by using different text channels for team members to send messages to each other. Each channel has a different function. The sales team can have their own channel where they can discuss matters that don’t pertain to the IT department. The marketing team can talk about promotional plans without flooding inboxes in the editorial department. 

4. ClickUp

You can do so much better than writing to-do lists on the whiteboard of your conference room. Implement a program such as ClickUp to manage your projects with greater precision and efficiency. 

ClickUp gives you different views of projects to help you better break them down. Team members are assigned different roles and assigned pieces of the project as it works its way from start to finish. Knowing and managing your team’s individual roles and tasks is a big part of creating an effective team dynamic. 

5. Zoom

Startups now have the luxury of hiring new employees from all over the world. The challenge is connecting with your team when they’re spread out across the map in different time zones. While apps such as Slack will help, using a videoconferencing tool like Zoom will make interactions much more personable. 

As your team connects through frequent Zoom calls, they’ll be able to communicate better than through text-based messaging alone. Sharing goals as a team is also easier when team members are able to hold face-to-face discussions with each other. 

6. Square

Businesses need to get paid, and the sooner the better. Outstanding invoices are really stressful and awkward for entrepreneurs trying to make sure they’re breaking even each month. A payment tool such as Square will speed the payment process along.

The great thing about Square is that it has tools that can be used for in-person transactions as well as online purchases. You’ll be able to direct payments no matter where they come from and do so without delay. 

7. Buffer

Social media is one of the greatest assets your small business has access to in today’s world. However, it’s also a difficult medium to stay on top of when you have so many other tasks to handle. Even with a small team, Buffer makes managing social media campaigns as simple as possible.

To start, you can use Buffer to schedule all of your prepared content to be posted exactly when you want to make it public. After you set your schedule, Buffer will compile analytics on your posts so you can make a better plan for your next round of content. 

8. PandaDoc

Businesses have lots of documents that need to get signed. New employees have paperwork to fill out, including tax information, non-disclosure agreements, and acknowledgment of business principles and practices. Companies require signatures from clients to finalize contracts or payments. Whatever it is that needs signing, a tool such as PandaDoc will speed up the process.

Using PandaDoc, all of your signatures can be done digitally. This means you can make legal agreements with employees and customers no matter where they live. Simply send the document, and with a few clicks, the process is done. 

The addition of one of these tools can make a big impact on your team’s performance, no matter how few employees you have. Even if it’s just you and a friend starting a business together, using the right tools can make the work more efficient and effective.

How a ‘Back to School’ Mindset Can Boost Your Team’s Motivation

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How a ‘Back to School’ Mindset Can Boost Your Team’s Motivation

Fall means going back to school, as you’re sure to have noticed with all the August and September sales that took place at retail stores across the country. Those first couple of months back can be exciting for kids as they move up a grade or even change schools entirely. 

Now that we’re further into the academic year, some of that excitement may have faded, but that doesn’t make school any less important. Maintaining that excitement throughout the school year often leads to better grades, a fuller social life, and less stress. 

There are a lot of parallels between the classroom and the workplace. We can get excited when starting a new job or getting a promotion, but that enthusiasm can quickly fade into a case of the Mondays. These feelings can really bog a team down, so here’s why and how a “back to school” mindset can kickstart your team’s motivation.

Starting Fresh

Entering a new school year is all about starting fresh. Unless you’re beginning a new job, getting that feeling at work is a little more challenging. However, there are still ways you can bring that fresh-start vibe to your workplace and reenergize even your longest-tenured employees. 

Getting a renewed start might be as simple as rearranging seating in the office, adding some different amenities, or giving everyone a potted plant for their desk. Small changes like these can make a considerable impact on productivity just by injecting novel elements into the regular routine.

Try not to get too carried away and change everything up, though. A complete revamp of your office space or work approach introduces a lot of variables that can be unpredictable. It’s often better to begin with one thing at a time to see how your team responds to each change. 

Looking to Learn

Some people outgrow the learning mindset they developed during their school years. Even though there are no homework assignments or lectures to stay on top of, learning should remain an integral part of your life. It will help you become better at your job or even open up new career opportunities. 

Encourage your employees to keep learning and enable them to do so. Some companies offer tuition reimbursements to their workers who want to take college or grad school courses. While you don’t have to go as far as paying off student loans, you should at least look for ways to help your team continue to learn and grow.

For example, you can pay your team members’ way to a conference in your industry. They’ll get some great new ideas from industry experts, network with other professionals, and bond together as a squad. Assisting team members in obtaining new certifications is another way to help them and your business grow simultaneously. 

Making New Friends

A new school year means new friends to meet in classes, at lunch, and on sports teams. Camaraderie with teammates sure makes school more enjoyable, and the same can be said for the office. After all, you spend a significant percentage of your time among co-workers, so it makes sense that being friends with them would make the workplace a more pleasant place to be. 

Team-building activities will help even longtime co-workers share a laugh and learn something new about each other. Take your team out for dinner, host a poker tournament in the break room, or make time for some speed meeting (i.e., workplace speed dating) during lunchtime. Teams that play hard together work even harder together.

These activities are just as important for remote teams. Employees who work from home often feel detached from their team, which can cause motivation and company identity to deteriorate. Start planning biweekly Zoom happy hours to bring your virtual team together and give remote workers something to look forward to. 

Pay Attention to Deadlines

School is all about juggling different class schedules and making sure you don’t miss a single due date. At work, deadlines are still an important factor in maintaining productivity and motivation. When deadlines loom, people naturally tend to work harder to get things done.

Talk with your team about how to implement more effective deadlines and use them to boost motivation. They might be feeling overwhelmed by the number of deadlines you set and need you to cut back a little. Other individuals might ask for more granular deadlines to help them focus their attention on intermediate checkpoints.

A rewards system is also worth considering. Schools have used incentives for many years, be they end-of-year pizza parties or upcoming field trips for students who turn in all their assignments on time. You can use a similar approach to give your team members the motivation they need even on the most difficult of days. 

Just as a teacher is responsible for making learning effective and enjoyable, as a leader, you are expected to keep team motivation high all year round. So follow these tips to rekindle the back-to-school flame in your team. The results will speak for themselves as your newly motivated team moves your business further forward. 

5 Reasons Appointment Software Is Thriving Right Now

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5 Reasons Appointment Software Is Thriving Right Now

Not too long ago, in order to book an appointment, you had to call your optometrist’s office or hair stylist during regular business hours and speak with a representative. Hold times, conflicting schedules, and the occasional bad case of the Mondays often made this process a grueling one. 

Luckily, appointment software has rapidly grown and is providing quality booking solutions to businesses and their customers all across the world. There are so many reasons why online appointment software is in such a good place.

Let’s take a look at why this appointment software trend is here to stay:

1. Rise in Automation

Taking the path of least resistance with regard to appointment scheduling doesn’t make you a lazy entrepreneur or standoffish business owner. On the contrary, looking for the most efficient solutions to all of your needs is just good business sense. You free up more time to focus on other aspects of your business to create a better organization from top to bottom. 

When you implement online appointment software, your employees need to spend much less time manning the phones. With that extra time, they can focus more of their attention on taking care of on-premises customers as well as a host of other tasks that might get left on the back burner.

This concept of using automation to streamline workflows is already widespread. The online appointment space is continuing to grow in its efficiency while still remaining an effective form of booking. 

2. Self-Service Over Customer Service

The modern consumer prefers self-service over speaking with a customer representative. In fact, a survey conducted by Nuance Enterprise found that 75% of consumers believed self-service solutions were more convenient and even superior. While customer service skills are still important, businesses are transitioning toward more self-service options.

Online appointment software is the ultimate self-service tool. Clients can look at availability and pricing without ever having to encounter a customer service representative. Not only is this a dream come true for the introverts of the world, but it’s also much faster for them to book their own appointment rather than wait for an employee to key it in. 

Many research studies have also shown a growing trend of consumers using mobile devices to book appointments and make purchases. By making online appointment software easily accessible on all devices, you make it incredibly easy for anyone to schedule an appointment no matter where they are. 

3. Incredible Convenience

Speaking of making the appointment-booking process easier, there are two other aspects of online appointment software that are worth noting. 

The first is that with an online platform, customer information can be stored and accessed upon a return visit. This means that repeat customers can book return appointments almost instantaneously, creating an even faster booking process. For businesses, important notes and details about each customer can be stored and accessed again and again with very little effort.

The second convenience that appointment software offers is its 24/7 availability. If someone is looking to book an appointment at 10 p.m., they no longer have to wait until the following morning to place a phone call. On the business side, booking slots can be filled all day long, helping to boost revenue with more customers making appointments. 

4. Increase in Virtual Appointments

For years and years, appointment software has been used to enable businesses to cater to the needs of on-premises customers. While this is still true, a new aspect of the appointment experience has boomed in recent years. Virtual appointments are becoming more common, which will increase the demand businesses have for quality appointment software.

Since virtual appointments happen online, it only makes sense to put a digital focus on the entire customer experience. Being able to book and attend an appointment online is convenient for busy parents, workers on break, or the three-quarters surveyed who prefer the self-service options. 

At the moment, virtual appointments can primarily be found in the medical field. During the height of COVID-19, this approach enabled doctors to speak with their patients or consult with new ones about the virus. As new industries start breaking into the virtual appointment space, the demand for online appointment software will continue to grow. 

5. The Value of Data

Almost anything can be made digital these days. If you can digitize an encounter, you can generate and collect data about it. Modern businesses have come to realize how valuable data is for optimizing their operations, and online appointment software becomes invaluable for that reason. 

Every time a customer books an appointment through your online software, there is data you can collect. Demographic data, high traffic times, and the number of days in between booking a time and the actual appointment are all pieces of information you can use to fine-tune your business. Without this information, your efforts to innovate your operations may resemble playing darts blindfolded and hoping you hit your target.

Let’s consider how your business might use appointment data to its advantage. By analyzing all your appointment data from the past three months, you might notice that most of your no-shows involve new customers. With this information, you can craft a strategy to help new clients commit to their appointments and increase both your conversion and retention rates. 

Online appointment software is helping businesses and consumers save time and get more out of their booking experiences. It’s no wonder these tools are thriving now and will continue to be used for a long time to come. 

6 Hacks to Make Your Office More Productive

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Hacks to Make Your Office More Productive

With work performance metrics being tracked with ever more scrutiny, productivity has become the buzzword for just about every business. Our increased use of remote employees has, in turn, led to more meticulous research into various ways to make your office more  productive.

We already have plenty of productivity tools. These are being relentlessly pitched to us from different platforms. However, relatively simple techniques and changes in habits can bring about a positive boost more so than tools and technologies. These changes take into account the preferences of modern digital workers. They also tackle the unique challenges associated with working in our hyperconnected age.

Changing the habits of one employee is not going to help much. You must find ways of reprogramming the default work style of your entire organization. Doing so can help overcome or mitigate resistance as you quietly implement widespread changes.

The six productivity hacks listed below encourage the development of habits that teams and employees must cultivate. Some involve retraining the mind to operate differently in the workplace or digital space.

1. Use collaborative scheduling software.

Any team can engage better with work when scheduling is made painless. Effective collaborative scheduling software can help employees accomplish more in less time and deliver better-quality results.

Nowadays, user-friendly scheduling software is easy for anyone to use and can be implemented without requiring extensive IT expertise. Scheduling programs can keep your team aligned on specific tasks and ensure equal distribution of workloads. Team leaders are empowered to monitor and manage individual performance and productivity throughout.

2. Plan work in short stints for increased productivity.

It’s a proven fact that the human brain can only focus on specific tasks for a short time. After that, both focus and interest begin to falter. Recent studies seem to indicate that attention spans are much shorter in our digital age.

To combat this phenomenon, many organizations have begun using the Pomodoro Technique. This involves working for a 25-minute session followed by a five-minute break. Workers can customize these sessions to fit their individual needs.

For example, try breaking up your work hours into slots of two hours. After that, apply the technique to create four 25- or two 50-minute sessions. Doing so can help you remain sharply focused on tasks for the entire 25-minute slot. Enhanced focus coupled with quick refreshers can be a real productivity booster and make your office more productive. 

3. Block distracting apps and sites.

Research on digital worker productivity reveals some interesting habits of the average employee. For example, they can’t seem to go more than six minutes without checking their email or messages on their smartphones.

The nature of our work and social life in the digital era serves to relentlessly pull us toward notifications. It’s almost like an involuntary, unconscious reflex response. This reality can become a constant source of distraction and hamper our ability to focus on tasks.

The most effective way to change this is to block app notifications and websites that distract you. Create a list of apps and websites you need to block during work hours. Even notifications can often be set to remain silent during work hours. Once work has been taken care of, you can fire up your smartphone and see what’s happened while you took care of business.

4. Create a cool and comfortable workspace.

Most employees spend the bulk of their work hours at a desk. Providing a comfortable environment can help them deliver better-quality work. It can make your office more productive, too.

Several environmental factors can negatively affect productivity in the workplace. Lighting, noise, and temperature can all serve to distract and affect the mood of employees. A relaxed and comfortable setting is far more likely to yield better work performance.

Make sure your office is structured for optimal productivity. Ensure a sufficient inflow of abundant fresh air and natural light. Keep windows open, if possible. Use high-quality light bulbs to provide good lighting. Ergonomic equipment and sound baffles can also prove to be valuable investments for boosting productivity. They aren’t cheap, but they’ll likely more than make up their cost in the long run.

5. Provide the right snacks.

We all know that eating the right foods has a pronounced impact on productivity. We also know that glucose can energize the brain and help keep an individual alert and focused. A low level of glucose makes us lose focus. Similarly, foods high in carbohydrates or sugar release glucose quickly. This often results in a burst of energy followed by a quick crash.

This is one reason why eating right has a lot to do with productivity. Foods such as almonds, bananas, eggs, dark chocolate, yogurt, and others can put your employees in an energetic frame of mind. Stay away from bags of greasy chips, sweets, and fried items. Overall, when your employees eat better it will make your office more productive.  

6. Encourage standing with adjustable-height desks.

Productivity is directly proportional to the health of your employees. Sitting for long hours at a workstation can create health issues, which in turn cause them to lose focus.

Spend the money to invest in adjustable-height desks. This is not some trendy digital-age hack. Standing desks demonstrably help your employees stay in better shape and minimize discomfort. Sitting at work for long hours is known to put heart health at risk. It can also cause back pain and contribute to obesity. 

A Texas A&M University study revealed that worker productivity could be increased significantly when employees switch to standing desks. The ability to work while standing helps improve energy levels and focus. Top tech firms such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all convinced. They all use standing desks in their offices.

Hopefully, these six hacks give you some ideas for promoting productive habits in the workplace. Of course, the best way to encourage others to change their habits in the workplace is to lead by example, adapting these practices to your own work style. True, it will take time to make your office more productive. However, you can make the change sooner rather than later through thoughtful planning and implementation strategies.

How to Use Appointment Software to Get More Customers This Fall

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How to Use Appointment Software to Get More Customers This Fall

The lazy days of summer may have come to an end, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve seen the wave of new customers you expected. If your fall has been less busy than you’d hoped, rest assured that you can put together numerous customer acquisition programs with great success.

All it takes is a little fall flair to get those new customer numbers high even as temperatures drop. This article offers solutions you can implement to keep your business growing through the changing season.

Spruce Up Your Platform for the Season

Start by giving your online appointment system a seasonal makeover. Add some fall colors and designs to your website and online appointment portal. Colorful leaves, pumpkins, and hot chocolate mugs are always appealing visuals.

In addition to adding a festive theme, this is a great time to make sure your appointment software is running smoothly. You can put together the best customer acquisition program and still put off newcomers with a poor user experience. Ensure your site loading times and mobile interface aren’t discouraging would-be visitors from patronizing your business.  

Hold Some Holiday Events

A lot of seasonal buzz will be focused on the two major holidays coming up this fall. Use these days to your advantage. Businesses have historically found a lot of success gaining and retaining customers by putting their own twist on annual holiday traditions. 

You can have a lot of fun with Halloween. Your business can put on a trunk-or-treat event where families in costume can get a discount on their next appointment. If you’re open during business hours on Halloween, you can provide a free service upgrade to anyone who shows up in costume. These festive events can attract new customers to your business who are excited about the season. 

Thanksgiving is up next, but most businesses will be gearing up for Black Friday. While the day after Thanksgiving is usually a monstrous day for retailers and e-commerce, you can take advantage of all the busy customers by putting on an event of your own. Perhaps first-time customers can get 50% off of their Black Friday appointments.

Set Up Fall Promotions for Appointment-Setters

Not every single event you hold during the fall has to be oriented around a holiday. There are plenty of other autumnal promotions you can put on for appointment-setters.

Leveraging your social media is always a great way to bring in new customers. For example, you can put together a fall-themed hashtag to share. Anyone who creates a post with the hashtag can receive a coupon code that can be used with your online appointment software. 

Another promotion that fits the fall theme is a food drive. Have customers bring in canned food that can be donated just in time for the holidays in exchange for appointment deals. 

Fire Up Social Media

Speaking of social media, maintaining a few pages of content helps your business be more discoverable. There are plenty of fun fall ideas you can use to create new posts for the season to capture the attention of new customers. 

A nail salon can use Instagram to post pictures of its new designs. Clever hashtags and audience targeting can get new people in the area interested in checking out your services. Include a link to your online appointment software in the post — or at the very least in your account bio — so prospective customers know where to find you. 

Jump on the Local Bandwagon

In many cities and towns, fall is a time for sports. There are communities that will go all-in on their support for local high school or college football teams. These are large bandwagons your business can jump on as you seek fall success.

Let’s say you operate a hair salon, one of the most popular businesses that rely on appointments to thrive. You could offer the local team discount haircuts as a way to show your support. Place a banner in your shop window, and you’ll have plenty of parents and fans flocking to your doors to reward your support for their team.

To go the extra mile, you could also put together a program that donates a portion of profits to the team you’re sponsoring. Your business will transform into a community pillar that supports one of your town’s most treasured fall pastimes. 

Update Your Blog

Written content is a great way to draw in new customers. Quality blog posts will boost your ranking in search engines such as the almighty Google. When consumers make searches regarding your industry, they’ll have an easier time finding you and being lured into making an appointment.

There are plenty of fall themes you can use to update your blog with some new posts. A dentist’s office can write about the most tooth-friendly Halloween candy and how to keep your teeth clean while still enjoying your treats. A nail salon could tout new polishes in autumn leaf hues.

With every blog post, add a link that will direct readers to your online appointment software. Add it to a call to action for the best results. You can also track your blog metrics to see which posts are successfully bringing in new customers so you can replicate that success in future articles. 

Autumn is a beautiful season, and it will be even more enjoyable when your waiting room is full of new customers to serve. Put together the right combination of these tips, and you’ll be raking in new customers like leaves. 

Using Wi-Fi Analytics to Improve Your Customer Experience

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Using Wi-Fi Analytics to Improve Your Customer Experience

Offering your customers free Wi-Fi is one way to make your customers’ experiences more comfortable and convenient. It’s also a gateway to a data goldmine you can use to drive repeat visits and improve your location’s offerings. With Wi-Fi analytics, your business can create highly targeted email campaigns, optimize staff scheduling, and gather in-store behavioral insights.

Capturing customer behaviors through your guest Wi-Fi allows you to see real-time data, something that many businesses are already doing. A Harvard Business Review study found that 58% of businesses used customer analytics to increase retention and loyalty. Real-time analytics were viewed as extremely important to improving the customer experience by 60% of companies.

Real-time data can reveal how much time customers are spending in your location(s) and how long they’re lingering in various areas. You can track who’s visiting your storefront for the first time and what percentage of first-time visitors come back. Wi-Fi analytics has the power to show heavy and slow traffic times and which customers are churn risks. As highlighted below, this type of data can pivot your customer experience from average to exemplary.  

Adjust Your Staffing Levels

It’s happened to just about everyone. You go to a restaurant with the expectation you’ll be in and out within an hour or so. But when you arrive, it’s obvious the staff is overwhelmed and can’t keep up. You can either deal with the long wait times and poor experience or leave and find another place to eat.

Wi-Fi analytics can help your business avoid these types of scenarios by syncing foot traffic data with your scheduling software. By seeing how many customers log into your guest network during different times, you can adjust your employees’ schedules accordingly. If the data shows peak traffic times are between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., more staff can be scheduled then to meet demand. Your clients will be less likely to experience substandard service and delays.

If you operate more than one location, real-time data can reveal similarities and differences between them. Say your hair salon on the west side of town is constantly busy in the evenings. Your east side location tapers off during this time, but both locations experience high volume in the mornings. To help improve customers’ experiences, you could shift some employees from the east to the west location in the evenings.

Segment Customer Personas

Public Wi-Fi portal agreements are an opportunity to learn more about your customers’ demographics. These agreements are also an effective way to gather email addresses and build databases for digital marketing campaigns. Although some businesses simply let visitors accept terms and conditions to sign in, they’re missing out on valuable information.

By asking for some personal information during the sign-in process, you can learn about your clients’ characteristics. Data points like gender, age range, and zip code will allow you to start segmenting your customer base into various personas. You’ll also see whether the majority of your visitors fall into certain demographic categories, such as male or female. This kind of information could change the way you offer services or the types of products you carry.

Asking customers for their email addresses and permission to communicate with them enhances your personalization efforts. You can combine their purchase and on-premise behaviors with their demographics to deliver tailored messages. These touchpoints can encourage them to come back by suggesting complementary services and products. You can also use these messages to nurture the relationship with personalized offers and rewards for feedback about their visits.

Track Conversion Rates

Businesses that track conversions effectively send targeted promotions to customer segments via text message and email. People can look at the details through an online link and redeem offers at the physical location using a barcode. Once staff scan the barcode on a customer’s mobile device, the business can log which individuals converted.

Conversion rates for individualized or segmented offers tell a business a few things. They let the company know whether those customers found value in the promotion and whether it led to purchases. Conversion rates also reveal whether the messaging about the promotion did its job. This information gives the business the opportunity to target those who didn’t convert with different messaging or offers.

Wi-Fi analytics help you personalize offers after customers’ visits based on some key behaviors. This includes how long they browse in certain areas, how often they visit, and what times they come in. Your business has a greater chance of increasing conversion rates with offers that match those behaviors. A nail bar, for instance, can send a discount mini-pedicure offer to individuals who tend to stop by on their lunch break.

Identify Churn Risk

When customers stop purchasing from you, it can be because they no longer need what you offer. It can also be due to a bad experience or frustration with your processes. While customer surveys can identify some of these problems, their reach is often limited. McKinsey & Company reports that the typical customer experience survey captures only 7% of an organization’s customers.

As the report outlines, combining real-time data with other information can pinpoint customers who are at high risk of churn. For example, customers might browse your website for items to pick up later at your location. The website indicates the products they want are available, but when customers arrive at your location, they learn they’re out of stock.

Some clients might overlook this error on the first or second visit. Others won’t and will start looking for alternatives. By identifying individuals in the latter category, you can seize opportunities to implement recovery methods, such as reaching out to offer a discount on their next purchase. You could also offer to order the out-of-stock item(s) with express shipping to their home.

The power of using Wi-Fi analytics to improve your service processes lies in its real-time data. This information provides insights into how clients are responding to your business as they interact with it. When combined with other data, customers’ immediate and often unspoken feedback can lead to the creation of a superior customer experience.

How Entrepreneurs Can Clean Up Their Calendars

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How Entrepreneurs Can Clean Up Their Calendars

Entrepreneurship is one of the most admired aspects of the American dream. Without hardworking men and women with dreams and passions — coupled with astounding drive and work ethics — we wouldn’t have many of the things we enjoy today. Think of your favorite brand and remember that before it became mainstream, it was a lowly startup backed by a bold entrepreneur.

While entrepreneurs are rightly praised for their accomplishments, it can be difficult to be in their shoes. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into entrepreneurship. All that effort can get exhausting. It can also get confusing when calendars are packed end-to-end with meetings and events to keep track of.

Time management is key to entrepreneurial success. Here are six ways active and aspiring entrepreneurs can clean up their online calendars to help them achieve more while stressing less.

1. Implement Color-Coding

Color-coding is a simple organizational system that will bring your calendar to life and keep it better organized. All you need to do is group your tasks together in a way that they can be identified with a single color. Once you get used to this new system, one glance at your day will give you all the information you need. 

For example, you can separate most of your tasks into three main groups, such as team huddles, client meetings, and administrative tasks. Each group will have its own color, like red, yellow, or blue. A stream of yellow for next Wednesday lets you know right away that you have a bunch of client meetings coming up that you need to prepare for.

Once you’ve implemented your color-coding strategy, you’ll begin to think about the tasks you put into your calendar more carefully. More methodical thinking will keep your calendar clean and organized even as you splash it with colors.

2. Batch Tasks Together

Speaking of grouping tasks together, not every single to-do item needs to have a designated space in your schedule. There are many instances where you can batch tasks together to condense your calendar and prevent clutter. 

It would be silly to create a calendar event for every email you plan to send throughout the day. Not only can you schedule a time to do all your emailing, but you can also batch that with other administrative tasks to get them done at the same time. If you don’t want to forget important details, use the notes section of your digital calendar to make to-do lists that accompany your task batches. 

3. Create a Separate Calendar

Many online calendar apps allow you to create multiple calendars to organize your time. With multiple calendars, you can clean up one messy calendar by dividing it up. To ensure double-booking doesn’t occur, keep these calendars synced even if you don’t view them together at the same time. 

One of your calendars can be designated for all your personal affairs. Track birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events, important school dates, and more here, while keeping all of your entrepreneurial activities on a separate calendar. If you really want to go all out, you can create separate calendars for each department of your budding organization. 

4. Learn How to Delegate

One reason entrepreneurs’ lives are so grueling is that their plates get overloaded, especially in the early stages of a startup. Entrepreneurs are product developers, marketers, HR representatives, and salespeople all at the same time. The sooner you can delegate some of these tasks to others, the sooner you can clean up your calendar and clear your head. 

Learning how to delegate is a process. Many entrepreneurs don’t want to let go of their responsibilities because they only trust themselves to get the job done. Just remember that you’ll become more effective as you pass on assignments and focus your attention, and your calendar, on fewer projects. 

5. Make Time for Yourself

Entrepreneurship is often a 24/7 job. Building a business from the ground up isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to become one of the few who enjoy long-term success. Prioritizing your mental health and physical wellness will help ensure long-term success by staving off burnout and keeping your mind in top shape.

This is different from just creating a separate calendar for your personal events. You need to intentionally make time for yourself in your calendar. Schedule a date night with your significant other, allot time for exercise. Even schedule some evening hours to read a book. These blocks of time will help with your work-life balance and clear your calendar of unnecessary busywork you continue to pile onto yourself.

6. Lean on Automation

Any task that you can automate can be taken out of your schedule, which leads to a more open calendar. Not only that, but automation will keep your business running even without your constant supervision. You will be able to accomplish more with less effort.

No matter your business model, there is some business task that you can automate. You can add a chatbot to your website to answer frequent customer questions without the need for a human representative 24/7. You can automate email marketing campaigns and sales outreach. Find ways to automate your growing business, and these tasks and others won’t be taking up calendar space any longer. 

While it’s good to fill your time with productive activities, an overstuffed calendar can be counterproductive. Use these tips to clean up your calendar and keep it that way. That way o you can focus on your performance as an entrepreneur and not your ever-changing schedule. 

5 Tips for Keeping Your Team on Track During the Day

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Keeping Your Team on Track During the Day

As a manager, one of your top priorities every day is to make sure your team stays on the right track. Your responsibility is to assign tasks and projects and guide the work toward a set deadline. If a detour is necessary, you’re expected to be the guide.

With so many daily responsibilities, unexpected distractions, and the unpredictability of human nature, teams can easily get derailed and lose productivity. Teams need the right mindset paired with proper tools to ensure each day is a productive one from start to finish. 

You need to keep your team members on track no matter what obstacles they face. Try a combination of these suggestions to help out even the trickiest of teams:

1. Leverage Productivity Software

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of apps and tools you can use to help keep your team on task and heading in the right direction. Many can be used for free as well. So you’re only harming yourself if you don’t take advantage of at least a few of them. 

For example, time management is made easier using scheduling tools like Appointment. When time usage is a major concern, programs like this help to keep schedules structured around deadlines and milestones. Other tools like online calendars and time trackers enable employees to be more productive instead of watching the clock.

Another popular brand of productivity tool is project management software. With a program like ClickUp or Asana, you can assign tasks to different team members. You can also designate roles and break a project into progressive steps. Add in a communication tool like Slack, and you’ll have everything you need to streamline team operations. 

2. Manage Your Meetings Better

Meetings can be a double-edged sword. Well-executed meetings provide needed direction and instruction for your team to improve and excel. However, poorly planned meetings can stop productivity in its tracks and do little to help your team move forward.

For starters, consider how often you should hold meetings. Meetings that are held too frequently become redundant and end up wasting time. Meetings that are held too far apart can become long and drawn out. 

Every meeting should have a purpose. Do you need a weekly team meet-up to divide assignments and check on individual progress? That’s fine, but keep them concise. No one wants to sit in an hour-long meeting every week if the goal could be accomplished in a 15-minute team huddle. 

3. Encourage and Empower

Let’s face it. Eight-hour workdays are long. It’s hard for just about anyone to maintain optimal productivity for that period of time. Fatigue, boredom, and frustration can easily derail productivity and get your team off course.

As a leader, part of your responsibility is to encourage your team to overcome these challenges. One way to accomplish this is by offering incentives. An alluring reward can help a team finish a project by the end of the workday with more vigor. Celebrating successes can increase job gratification and fulfillment and encourage team members to stay on track with their goals.

Another aspect of leadership is team empowerment. Put your team in a position to succeed. Provide flexibility so work-life balance isn’t a concern and provide the proper tools for the work environment. You can also make resources available for physical, mental, and academic needs. 

4. Take a Break

Many managers focus on how to get their team to work as hard as possible around the clock. You might find more success by taking an alternate route. While hard work is an admirable virtue, it can lead to faster burnout and decreased motivation. 

Instead, start by planning out your team’s breaks. Sufficient time for rest allows team members to regroup and recharge before jumping back into a project. Proper breaks improve critical thinking, which leads to greater efficiency. Providing adequate breaks also helps increase endurance over the course of a long shift. 

It goes without saying, but just to be sure, don’t let breaks get out of hand. Break time is meant to reduce burnout, not burn out the clock by avoiding work altogether. 

5. Examine Your Management Practices

We know you mean well, but keep an eye on your management techniques. While you might think you’re being helpful, you could be part of the reason that your team is getting off track.

Micromanagement is perhaps the greatest example of how one management technique can throw an entire team off course. A leader might have the perfect plan in mind and wants to lead their team every step of the way. However, excessive hand-holding is often frustrating for team members. The frustration that builds from being micromanaged constantly can lead to resentment and deliberately going off-script.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, having a too complacent leadership style can be just as debilitating. You can’t just hole yourself up in your office and hope your team gets a project done with no direction. Sometimes a leader needs to be there to shift a team into gear and get them motivated again. 

Don’t expect your team to become a productivity powerhouse overnight. Aim for incremental progress and guide your team in the right direction. Keep an eye on those key performance indicators, as they will show you whther your efforts are paying off. 

How to Handle the Post-Pandemic Appointment Onslaught

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How to Handle the Post-Pandemic Appointment Onslaught

Life is finally getting closer to normal. Even though there have been some Covid-related twists and turns, businesses are beginning to reopen, and customers are once again clamoring for services. If your city is approaching a full reopening, you can expect customers to be rushing to your doors and booking appointments in the near future.

While the sudden influx in business is positive, it brings along a host of challenges. How do you fit in every single appointment without turning anyone away? How do you keep up with the demand? How do you prepare your employees for potential chaos?

You may run a dentist’s office or a hair salon. No matter your business, there are some basic business principles that will help you handle the post-pandemic onslaught with ease. Start by implementing the following:

Review Your Walk-In Policy

Your clientele may have lost a bit of their sense of protocol after a long hiatus during the pandemic. You might find many customers trying to fit into an appointment on very short notice. Some may even walk in requesting to be added to the queue. This behavior is difficult to plan around and can cause a lot of logistical bottlenecks if not handled correctly. 

This is a good time to review and potentially revise your walk-in policy. Consider placing a cap on walk-ins and announcing the restrictions to your customers. This will hopefully alert as many people as possible that the best way to get an appointment is through booking in advance. It can eliminate the wave of those who show up unannounced. 

A walk-in policy can consist of a maximum of two walk-ins per hour or a set number for the entire day. Your business might be able to fit in a few walk-ins, especially on a slower day. Having a set cap ensures you don’t get overwhelmed. 

Automate What You Can

Any office task that you can take out of the hands of your employees will help ease the post-pandemic appointment rush. Your workers will be able to assist more customers when they’re not continuously getting caught up in administrative duties. 

Implementing online appointment software should be your top priority if you haven’t set one up already. Making it possible or even required to book an appointment online will keep the phone lines quiet, reducing in-house interruptions. With online appointment software, you can keep track of customer or patient information automatically and even receive payment in advance. 

Appointment reminders are another type of automation that will benefit your business. Your system can automatically send out reminders at various intervals to reduce no-show rates and boost punctuality. 

Consider Expanding Your Workforce

Post-Covid unemployment levels are still higher than before the virus struck our shores. Although they’re steadily improving, there are still over 9 million people without work. If you’re considering expanding your workforce, now is the time to do it.

Think about the sort of entry-level positions you could open up and how they would be beneficial to your business. For example, seasonal jobs can add an extra set of hands to your payroll. This helps you avoid a long-term commitment that you don’t want to keep once the rush dies down. 

You can also look into hiring some full-time personnel to pick up the slack. Out of the 9 million people without a job, there must be someone out there looking for an opportunity that you can provide. 

Prepare in Advance

How much preparation does your business need before the doors open each day? If you’re experiencing higher appointment numbers than normal lately, you might need to start those preparations a little earlier than usual. 

Let’s say you run a salon that requires guests to have appointments. You may have a huge amount of appointments queued up as customers are ready to get fresh haircuts or pedicures. Offer some overtime pay to have a few people prepare supplies and service areas in advance. This will enable you to serve customers in a timely fashion.  

Even making sure that your workforce clocks in well before doors open will help prepares you for the busiest of days. Incorporate timeliness into your training and scheduling so that you’re never caught short-staffed during a time like this. 

Leave Room for Error

When handling so many appointments, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. Customers will show up late, appointments will run long, and systems won’t work as designed. Be prepared to right the ship so you can continue to move forward instead of crashing into the rocks.

For starters, make sure you have proper buffer time in between appointments. This gives you some leeway if a customer shows up late or if an appointment runs long. Without buffer time, such situations would cause overlap with other appointments and create messy scheduling conflicts. 

Some businesses designate one employee as a “floater” to help handle scenarios like this. The floater’s job is to run between rooms or workstations and assist as needed. They can help answer phones when there are too many calls to process. They can also check in guests to move them into their appointments quickly. They can be a lifesaver in numerous situations. 

Remember that having too many paying customers is better than not having enough. As your business pivots to a post-pandemic world, you can streamline how you deal with appointments to help smooth the way.  

How to Stay Productive During the Summer Slowdown

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How to Stay Productive During the Summer Slowdown

When warm, summer days arrive, work may be the last place you and your team want to be.

It’s the time of year when many businesses experience significant decreases in productivity. Your employees could be on vacation or taking a personal day. Or they may need time off to care for children who are now home because schools are closed. 

All of these factors can make your workplace look like a legit ghost town during the summer. 

It’s no wonder that workplace productivity usually drops 20% during the hottest days of the year, according to a Captivate Office Pulse study. 

So how can you transform the annual office work slump into a productivity jump? Here are six ways you and your staff can stay productive all summer long.

1. Emphasize Summer Exercise 

It’s no secret that an active body equals an active mind. Studies have shown that there are tons of connections between exercise and productivity.

Along with all the physical benefits exercise brings, it also improves memory, cognitive skills, and mood. All these are factors that can make your employees healthier, happier, and way more productive at the workplace.

So how can you reap these benefits for yourself and your team during the slow, summer months? 

If your office has (or is near) a gym, encourage your employees to get in a quick workout during the day. Or take some brief time out to do a fitness class like yoga, spin, or Zumba. You and your team will appreciate the extra energy boost and glow that a good workout can bring.  

2. Encourage a Growth Mindset 

The workplace should always be a place that encourages growth for everyone. Many businesses experience sales lulls in the summer as clients go on vacation and responses slow to a trickle. That dip in activity makes summer a perfect time for you and your team to update knowledge or learn new skills you need in the workplace.

By focusing on growing your knowledge, you and your team members will be prepared to provide solutions that the company needs. For example, you can organize summer training for skills such as web design, social media marketing, communication, or leadership. You can also offer e-learning courses that allow employees to study at their own pace, away from the office.

3. Conduct an Office Clean-Up

With many of your employees out on summer vacation, why not seize the opportunity to organize the office? Organizing your office setup may not seem exciting, but it plays a big part in keeping productivity levels up at the workplace. A clutter-free space contributes to clutter-free minds.

A summer cleanup can be as simple as sorting and putting items where everyone can find them. Clear filing cabinets of outdated documents and tidy shelves. Do an inventory check of office supplies and restock any that are needed. Buy desk organizers, whiteboards, or any stationery that you think will help life at work go as smoothly as possible.

4. Embrace Flexible Work Arrangements

Who wants to slog away in an office while warm weather and endless sunshine beckon outside?

It may seem counter-productive, but if you want your team to get more work done during summer, consider reducing work hours. You can experiment with a four-day workweek in the office or have reduced hours on certain days.

For example, Iceland saw productivity rates go up when workers participated in trials where they worked a four-day week. It was considered an “overwhelming success.” Now around 85% of workers there can choose to work a four-day week with the same pay. 

Recent studies have also shown that employees are more productive when they work from home. Because of COVID-19, many companies have already adopted remote working. For your employees whose children are on summer vacation, it’s a solution that lets them work and be with their families. Because workers feel like they have more freedom and control over their work, they ultimately get more work done.

5. Take Time to Get to Know Each Other

Between WFH arrangements and employee vacations, summer can make your workplace look like it’s perpetually in the midst of mass exodus. The last time you counted, it was just you, a few colleagues, and the office fish left behind. 

Although engaging with this depleted group may not sound tempting, this is a good time to get to know whom you’re working with. If you make time to interact with your staff, it almost always results in better communication and increased productivity. Those who might feel stuck in the office while their peers are off recreating will appreciate your overtures.

You can make interaction easier for introverts and extroverts alike by organizing work lunches away from the office. It’s a nice way for everyone to get to know each other outside of the work environment. It is also an opportunity for you to get feedback from your employees on company or personal issues they may face.

Team-building activities are another fun way to get people talking with each other. A group hike or family picnic can go a long way toward creating positive feelings among your employees.  These positive vibes often lead to stepped-up productivity when employees get back to the office.

6. Process Summer Vacation Requests in Advance 

According to a study by Healthline Media, 50% of Americans plan to take a summer vacation this year. This could mean that half of your staff would be unavailable at some point during summer if vacations aren’t planned in advance. Productivity will take an instant hit just because there are not many people working.

Having employees submit vacation requests before summer starts is key to ensuring that there are always enough people at the office to keep work flowing. In addition, it allows your HR department to find fair ways to deal with those who have conflicting vacation times. They can also make plans to hire temporary staff if needed.  

Summers Don’t Have to Mean a Productivity Slowdown

If you plan ahead, summer months don’t have to mean reduced productivity for you and your team. Less office work and extra time mean everyone is able to spend more time on personal and professional growth. You can also use this time to recharge your mind and body for busier days that will come.

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