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Increasing Happiness at a Small Firm

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, August 29, 2017

INCREASING HAPPINESS AT A SMALL FIRM by Christine Bilbry at PRI (Florida Bar Association)

Large companies and law firms are usually well equipped with established systems to reward high performing employees and to assist an employee experiencing a personal crisis. But what is a small firm to do if the budget does not support ski slope retreats or comprehensive employee assistance programs? How can you make your employees feel valued when you have limited time and resources?

To move your employees from their current states to a place of engagement and positivity requires some effort on your part. Don’t assume that your employees know that you appreciate them. Employees need to be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done. The most basic and immediate thing you can do right now (and I mean as soon as you finish reading this article) is to decide what behavior you want to see more of from your employees, walk out of your office and up to the employee who has most recently displayed that desired behavior, and tell them that you noticed them doing “x” and that you just wanted to take a moment to thank them for what they did. It can be anything. “I really appreciate your help with that project yesterday.” “Hey, thanks for unjamming the copier for everyone.” Keep a few $5 and $10 Starbucks gift cards in your desk for those occasions when an employee has gone above and beyond. To reinforce the good behavior, give positive feedback as soon as possible.

Why would you want to do this and what’s in it for you? Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work states, “We found that managers of companies, if they just increased their praise and recognition of one employee, once a day, for 21 business days in a row, what we find is that six months later those teams, as opposed to a control group, had a 31% higher level of productivity.” It should be noted that his research focused on recognition of an individual’s work. Being part of a team is great, but when a boss says, “Good job everyone,” it carries a lot less weight than acknowledging the specific actions of an individual employee.

There are many low and no-cost ways to increase employee engagement at your firm. If possible, implement a flexible work schedule for your staff. Respect your employees’ personal lives, which means no work calls or emails after hours. Encourage healthy lifestyles by providing nutritious snacks in the break room and consider having outdoor walking meetings to give people a break from the office while still being productive and enjoying some fresh air and sunlight. Everyone loves food. Throw a pizza party or have a barbecue in your parking lot on a Friday afternoon. Making your office a positive place to be benefits everyone. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson Ph.D. is a good resource to start you thinking about how to increase happiness at your own firm.

If there is generally low morale in your office, you may need to consider that you are setting the tone that has now spread to your staff. In the forward to the book, The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon, Ken Blanchard shares an exercise he does at his seminars. He asks attendees to get up and “greet other people as if they are unimportant.” He then asks them to “continue to greet people, but this time, to do it as if the people they are greeting are long-lost friends they’re glad to see.” He describes how the volume and energy dramatically shift in the room during this activity and then he tells the attendees, “Every morning you have a choice. Are you going to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker?” This also applies to how you treat your employees. “You can catch people doing things right, or you can catch them doing things wrong. Guess which of those two activities energizes people more?”

Creating a happiness initiative at your office benefits you and everyone around you. It can alleviate stress and have a positive effect on mental health and resilience. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee happiness and engagement. Find what feels authentic to you because praise and recognition must be sincere to be effective. Even small changes and gestures from the boss can have dramatic results.

Tags:  Leadership  Solo and Small  Wellness 

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IRS Guidance Released on Understanding Employee v. Contractor Designation

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The IRS has released guidance on understanding the employee v. contractor designation. (FS-2017-09), July 20, 2017. To read the IRS statement, cut and paste the following link into your browser:

https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/understanding-employee-vs-contractor-designation

Tags:  Small Businesses  Solo and Small 

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8 Tips and Tricks to Building a Winning Reputation

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, April 24, 2017

Building

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

– Warren Buffet

Buffet’s quote perfectly describes the fragile nature of a business’ reputation in the modern world. In today’s mobile and social media age, consumer opinions can be shared and spread conveniently with a single mouse click or screen tap. An off day, an insufficiently trained employee, a late delivery, a politically incorrect tweet, or a small error can explode into a PR crisis—leading to scathing reviews, one-star ratings, nasty blog comments, and social media criticism.

As a small business owner, you may feel like you don’t have the time and money to invest in comprehensive reputation management solutions. Yet don’t think for one second you have no control over what customers are saying about you, because you do. Here are eight great tips and tricks to help any small business owner get started with building a winning business reputation.

1. Plant flags on your digital properties

Start with a website, but don’t stop there. Continue by securing your business name across the web and claiming your business page or profile on social networks, online forums, local business listings, community sites, local search networks, and online review sites. If you don’t have a listing, create one. This will allow you to listen in on and join online conversations about your business, wherever these conversations are taking place. A great tool I’d recommend for claiming your social media profiles and securing your brand name is KnowEm, while my company, ReviewTrackers, specializes in helping businesses listen and manage customer conversations on all major review sites.

2. Keep your business information up-to-date

On your digital properties, make sure your local business information is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Your business name, phone number, and address are of paramount importance, but don’t forget to include other helpful information such as website URL, email address, operating hours, business category, and list of products and services, among others. At a time when 37 percent of businesses don’t even have the correct name on their listing (effectively losing a total of $10.3 billion in potential annual sales), paying attention to these details can mean the difference between gaining a customer or losing one to a competitor. Make the effort and spare your potential customers the frustration of having to look elsewhere.

3. Show your social media savvy

Social media serves as a great platform for engaging with existing and potential customers. Build a community of fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, then keep them updated with news about your company or information about new products and services.

4. Listen and respond to online reviews

Online reviews and ratings of your business on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, Foursquare, and other community-based review sites can give you valuable insights into what and how customers really think. So listen in and identify any issues, concerns, and weaknesses reviews may be able to point out. Also, take the time to respond, even if it’s just a simple “thank you” or “I’m sorry”: this shows customers that you care about their feedback and that you consistently strive to make things right.

Check out the Palomar Chicago’s TripAdvisor page, for example, and observe how management responds to reviews posted by guests who didn’t necessarily have a positive experience. To someone who didn’t have a good night’s sleep at the hotel, front office manager Joseph Eames responded,

“Thank you for taking the time to review our property. We rely heavily on the feedback in forums like this to point out places we can improve upon. A basic component of a hotel stay is obviously a good night’s sleep. I’m very sorry to hear that this wasn’t your experience with us, and invite you to reach out to me directly to discuss the matter further.”

The response simple, straightforward, and effective, creating an opportunity for the business to positively change its conversation with a customer.

5. Create and share positive content

If your reputation is taking a hit—say, a bad Yelp review or a vicious critic’s blog post is showing in search engine results—you can minimize the negative impact by creating and sharing positive content. This can be in the form of blog posts, photos, videos, ebooks, newsletters, whitepapers, and even podcasts—digital assets that build your credibility, improve your visibility, and enhance your reputation.

6. Minimize jargon and marketing buzzwords

Today’s consumers are more proactive than ever, and they’re less trustful of corporate speak, sales pitches, marketing buzzwords, and promotional messages. That’s why it’s so important to make adjustments to the tone and language of your communications with customers. If you’re writing tweets, responding to reviews, or publishing a new blog post, choose words your customers understand and use. This allows you to humanize your business brand and engage more effectively with your audience.

7. Have a sense of humor

When it comes to building a winning reputation, one of the biggest challenges for a small business owner today is to cut through all the noise and stand out. You’ve got to give people a reason to notice you. Even if you’re an insurance agent or the marketing manager of a nondescript auto parts shop—even if the services you’re offering are not terribly exciting—you have to find ways to distinguish yourself from the competition. One such way is by making people laugh.

Whatever the form it takes—a funny tweet, an amusing anecdote, a meme-filled blog post—humor humanizes your business. (Check out, for example, Eat24’s Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries.) It can soften the hearts of even your harshest critics and toughest reviewers. Humor is a universal language that can bridge the gap between you and the customers with whom you want to connect.

8. Be authentic

Authenticity can make you sexy and irresistible. These days, too many business owners try too hard to build up their reputation and generate five-star ratings across the board, even to the point of hiring writers in India or the Philippines to post fake reviews. But this isn’t sustainable. Focus your efforts instead on delivering excellent service and creating positive experiences for your customers. By doing so, the buzz will build itself around your business.

Key to all these tips is the belief that you have the ability to manage and influence what customers are saying about you. Don’t sit back, thinking it’s out of your control. Be proactive in finding creative ways to build and strengthen your reputation, as well as protect it in situations that could otherwise drive customers away.

Be sure to check out our other posts from Chris on managing your online reputation, “Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Responding To Negative Reviews” and “6 Keys to Successful Customer Engagement in a Multi-Screen, Omni-Channel World.”

Chris Campbell


Chris Campbell is the CEO of ReviewTrackers. He has helped tens of thousands of businesses hear, manage, and respond to what their customers are saying online.

Tags:  Branding  social media  Solo and Small 

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