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How To Improve Productivity In The Workplace


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Productivity remains a thorny issue in many US workplaces. With the exception of the 1995-2003 period, annual productivity rates have declined by 36 percent since the late 1940′s, going from 2.2 percent to the current rate of 1.4 percent. Some years, productivity rate increases can be as low as 0.8 percent, a figure that has led many to affirm that America has a productivity problem. Low productivity has far-reaching repercussions, going from diminished economic output to a slow increase in living standards. So what can US employers do to improve productivity in the workplace?

In the first place, it is important to understand that productivity growth is closely linked to worker output (whether this output is measured on an hourly basis or otherwise). This means that identifying the reasons behind low employee productivity is a crucial step when it comes to defining a productivity strategy. To that end, business owners should critically assess how their company is performing along the following dimensions:

Resources

Inadequate resources are one of the main causes behind low workplace productivity. When staff lack resources to do their job, their performance is unsatisfactory and their stress levels are high, and these factors will eventually lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and employee burnout.

It is worth noting that resources can be tangible (equipment, technology) and intangible (training, systems, and procedures). On this note, most modern businesses can benefit from investing in technological resources that automate processes and therefore liberate employees from having to perform redundant and unnecessarily time-consuming tasks.

Training

No matter how many resources you may put at the disposal of your employees, if they lack training their productivity will be severely affected. Adequate training helps staff make efficient use of the resources available, bolsters their confidence, and strengthens their motivation to get the job well done.



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How Is The UK Economy Doing Post EU Referendum?


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The effects of the EU referendum are the most widely debated topic in social and economic circles across the UK. So far, there is a lack of unanimity regarding the magnitude of this development, since conflicting reports emerge depending of which figures are being analysed. To assess the impact of the referendum thus far, we examine several individual indicators linked to the performance of the economy, based on data collected by the Office for National Statistics.

- On the whole, the UK’s economy grew by 2 per cent in 2016, mainly thanks to a resilient manufacturing sector that compensated for a weakened retail sector.

- The value of pound sterling experienced a sharp drop: three months after the referendum it was 20 per cent lower on a year-on-year basis.

- Linked to devaluation of the pound was an increase in the Consumer Prices Index, along with a rise in inflation and in the price of imports due to unfavourable currency exchange rates. Nevertheless, a PwC report affirmed that consumer spending has not been as negatively affected by the Brexit vote as it was initially predicted.

- On the brighter side, the drop in value of the pound had a positive effect on the export sector, which accounts for a significant part of the country’s overall economic activity. Barely two months after the referendum, manufacturing output growth reached its highest level since 2014, and some suggest that the fall in sterling value is the main reason behind this spike.

- A modest increase in GDP (2 per cent higher than in 2015). Short-term prospects in this respect will depend on the performance of the services sector.

- A minor increase (0.8 per cent) in the Index of Services during the quarter that followed the referendum. This is a positive figure considering the connection between this indicator, the services industry, and the overall economy.



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Top Tips For Launching A Successful Business


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Although entrepreneurship is at the heart of the US economy, business fail rates seem to be increasing and are currently 30 percent higher than they were in the late 1970s. There are other figures that confirm this trend: the latest US census shows that the annual business creation / business fail ratio is 400,000 / 470,000; and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only half of all new businesses survive their initial 5 years, whereas the 10-year survival rate is even lower at 33 percent.

In this article we offer seven tips that can help US entrepreneurs launch a successful business.

1. Focus on strategic planning

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of investing most of their time and resources into planning and running successful operations. However, concentrating all efforts on the day-to-day running of a business often leads to missing the forest for the trees. To avoid that, you should ensure business strategy (whereby mid and long-term goals and action plans are defined) is a top priority and underpins all business operations.

2. Create and nurture an organizational culture

When it comes to achieving long-term business success, a strong organizational culture is as important as strategic planning. Contrary to popular belief, organizational culture is not the exclusive prerogative of large firms, as it also plays a key role in the success of small businesses by permeating every aspect of their operations with motivating values and a compelling mission.

3. Look after existing customers

Although this may seem an obvious suggestion, the truth is that many new businesses tend to focus their efforts on acquiring new clients, and sometimes do so at the expense of existing ones. A 2015 Customer Experience Index revealed that as few as 1 percent of all US companies deliver customer service that is rated as excellent, therefore missing an opportunity to turn existing customers into loyal advocates who generate new leads on their behalf.

4. Build a winning team

To put it simply: your team should be as strong as your overall business plan. Team building should be done in the initial stages of a business operation instead of as an afterthought. Moreover, it should guide the recruiting process to ensure that the personalities and skill set of team members are a perfect match to the company’s organizational culture. Don’t limit yourself to recruiting staff who have the right experience, but also look for those who enthusiastically share your vision and believe in your business concept.



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Female Entrepreneurs in the UK – How Things Are Changing


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In honour of International Women’s Day we would like to celebrate the great strides women have made in the business world. Across the UK, successful female entrepreneurs are making headlines for the role they play in transforming their respective industry sectors. Names like Alice Hall, Brynne Hebert, or Rachel Bell are often used as examples of the transformational current that has been sweeping the business world for a while. However, the fact remains that the entrepreneurial scene is largely dominated by men. According to a Centre for Entrepreneurs report, only 19 per cent of successful serial entrepreneurs are female, despite fact that women account for over 50 per cent of the country’s population. But how exactly is the female entrepreneurial scene changing, and what can we expect in the near future?

Female Entrepreneurs: Signs of Change

The UK’s female entrepreneurship scene has changed along five main dimensions:

- Higher participation in labour market that has nevertheless not been matched by higher entrepreneurial rates.

- Entrepreneurial activity is twice as likely among men, but things have been improving in favour of female entrepreneurs since 2001. Currently, entrepreneurial activity rates are 4.7 per cent for female’s vs 9.5 per cent for males.

- Female-led businesses experience higher churn rates and the female share of business ownership has not changed significantly since the mid 1990s.

- Female entrepreneurs are more likely to be involved in management consultancy services, events organising, and PR, although the number of female-led ventures involving technology, science and engineering is on the rise.

- An increase in the number of female-led firms that make a significant contribution to the local economy. For instance, the sales volume generated by female-led mid-sized firms has increased by more than £2bn in just 12 months.

Challenges and Solutions

The key challenges affecting female entrepreneurs relate to support, funding, mentoring, training and skills development, work-life balance, and access to new markets. Over the last decade, several initiatives have been launched to address these issues. Examples of policy initiatives created to increase the relatively low numbers of female entrepreneurs across the UK include:

- The establishment of the National Association for the Promotion of Women’s Enterprise (2002)

- The Women’s Business Council (2012)



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Is Corporate Culture Still Relevant Today?


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The notion of corporate culture and its impact on the business world have been discussed since the 1980s, but despite its popularity among businesspeople and academics, the concept remains hard to define given its abstract character.

Corporate culture could be defined as the set of behaviours, beliefs, corporate strategies, attitudes, practices, processes, and standards shared by members of an organisation. It could be said that corporate culture is “the way things are done” within an organisation, usually as a reflection of the company’s mission, vision, and values. Corporate culture may even be embodied in a logo, but often goes beyond that and encompasses staff and executives’ feelings, expectations, and thought processes.

However, some are sceptical about the role that corporate culture plays in organisations, claiming that it can be double-edged sword used as a control mechanism to stifle individuality. This begs the question “Is corporate culture still relevant today?”

The answer is yes, for two main reasons:

1- Corporate culture evolves over time as a result of the cumulative actions and characteristics of the individuals that make up a company, building on the company’s history and developing as a reflection of the company’s identity. This means it cannot simply fade in the background, as it will always remain a crucial part of a business raison d’etre. Moreover, a well-defined organisational culture can help build a stronger brand image and reinforce the idea that a company is committed to high quality standards that are coherent with its identity.

2- Corporate culture plays a key role in a company’s success. A 2015 survey showed that more than more than 50% of  top executives believed corporate culture had a direct effect on productivity, growth, value, and profitability. Improved staff morale and retention are typically higher in businesses with a healthy culture. In the UK, the 2016 Great Place To Work report highlighted how workplaces with a strong corporate culture score higher in terms of employee well-being, since in these companies there are clear strategies in place to ensure the working environment is conducive to satisfaction and productivity.



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Top Ten Small Business Ideas for 2017


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Small businesses account for over 99 per cent of the UK’s private sector. 2017 presents some attractive small business opportunities to discerning entrepreneurs, here we give you some of the top ten small business ideas for this year.

 

1. Brexit Consultancy

Regardless of which form Brexit eventually takes, it is clear that the move will affect multiple aspects of the country’s social, legal, and economic life. Businesses of all types and sizes will certainly welcome sound advice about how best to tackle the ramifications of Brexit, so professional Brexit consultancy firms are likely to become one of the most in-demand industry sectors in the coming years.

 

2. Social Media Consultancy

Entrepreneurs with knowledge of digital marketing, social media, and business can take advantage of the unparalleled growth of these sectors with minimal investment. Social media consultancies can focus on delivering training, providing management services, or both, and can easily be run from home or remotely.

 

3. Co-Working Spaces

The rise in the number of start-ups, remote workers, and freelancers has translated into a need for suitable working spaces that offer flexibility and first-class business services. Co-working spaces are popping up all over the UK as an alternative to traditional offices and their popularity is only expected to grow, both in London and in other regions.

 

4. Shared Living Spaces

Shared living spaces offer the convenience and quality standards of a hotel along with a convivial and homely atmosphere. This is an attractive proposition for certain segments of the population (particularly millennials, young professionals, and digital nomads) who may find that accessing the traditional housing market is difficult or not suited to their needs and lifestyle.

 

5. Meal Subscription Services

Not only British consumers are becoming more aware and knowledgeable about their food choices, but they are also increasingly requiring convenience when it comes to their meals. Meal subscription services are an interesting and versatile niche that can cater to the demands of savvy consumers. For higher chances of success, you could choose to focus on specialty meal delivery (e.g. gluten-free, vegan, Japanese, organic, etc.).

 

6. Craft Alcoholic Beverages

The UK’s craft beer market has been experiencing important growth for over seven years, and the prospects for independent brewers continue to look good. Breweries, microbreweries, and craft beer subscription clubs are some options worth exploring, but don’t feel you should limit yourself to beer. The production of craft liqueurs and spirits are also a business idea with much potential for success.

 

7. Sugar-Free Drinks

The UK’s controversial sugar tax will be implemented in 2018, and this presents a wealth of business opportunities for entrepreneurs who are willing to capitalise on alternative and / or sugar-free drinks. Parallel to the introduction of the sugar tax is an increase in the number of health-conscious consumers, and both factors can contribute to the success of businesses that focus on the production of healthy sugar-free beverages.

 

8. Jive Dancing Lessons

Search engine statistics reveal that over the past two years there has been a surge in the number of people interested in taking jive lessons. This dance style is definitely experiencing a revival thanks to its ability to combine opportunities for socialising with chances to get fit and build confidence in a leisurely way.

 

9. Big Data Analytics

Businesses today have a wealth of online data at their disposal, but finding ways of making sense of huge volumes of data is not always easy. This is precisely why offering big data analytics solutions and applications to companies involved in finance, insurance, and retail can be a highly profitable business opportunity.

 

10. InsurTech

Providing technology solutions tailored to insurance companies is another potentially successful business idea for tech-minded entrepreneurs with a passion for innovation and a thorough understanding of how to connect consumers with insurance firms.

 

 

 



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Ten Profitable Small Business Ideas for 2017


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If you want to start or invest in a small business in the US today, there are literally millions of business ideas to choose from, so it’s a good idea to narrow your choices to a few profitable small business fields. Here is a list of the ten most profitable small business industries in the US, as of late 2016. Investing in or starting a small business in one of these sectors will hopefully give you a fairly high return on investment.

Specialized design: interior, industrial, graphic

The ability to create an attractive design, whether industrial or interior, can lead to a profitable career. Some specialized education may be required. Graphic and interior designers are in demand by other small businesses to help enhance and strengthen their image.  Industrial designers are sought out to improve the design, if not the function, of products. In today’s visually driven world, specialized design is among the most profitable small businesses.

Net profit margin: 11%

Consulting: technical, business, career

If you are an expert in your field and know how to help others succeed, consider a career as a consultant. Consulting services are always in demand, as every other kind of business needs advice and mentorship from time to time. Find or develop a niche and you have a nice profitable business that requires little overhead.

Net profit margin: 12%

Office administration and virtual assistant

Providing office and administrative assistance to other small companies is a niche small business that requires specialized knowledge, but not much overhead. These services are essential for most business owners. Offering the day to day paperwork management and record keeping, whether on site or at your own location, can be a profitable arrangement for both parties.

Net profit margin: 13%



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Holiday Season Preparations for Small Business Owners in the US


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The holidays are approaching; is your small business ready for the Christmas season? As a business owner, you have much to consider during the holiday season. For some businesses, December is time to slow down and wrap up the end of the year; for other companies, the month of December puts the business under very high pressure to meet customer expectations and reach sales goals. Whichever type of business yours is, here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your business for the holiday season.

Start Early

Long before the holiday season begins, you should be thinking of the concrete and specific steps you will need to take to prepare for the holidays. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Will you need to hire more staff for production?
  • More staff for packaging and shipping?
  • Will you need to downsize your staff?
  • Will you need to increase overtime hours?
  • Will you be giving gifts to clients? To employees?
  • Will you be hosting holiday events for clients or employees?

Some of these answers will indicate that your business needs to begin preparing for Christmas as early as June or July, while other answers will have you planning as late as the week of Christmas. Make lists, itemize, step by step, the things you need to do to prepare. A successful holiday season is often reliant on successful planning.



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What Businesses in the UK Need To Know About Preparing For Christmas


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Christmas is a busy time of the year, and particularly so for business owners. This article covers a few important considerations that will help you plan ahead and make this time of the year less stressful and much more enjoyable -just as it should be.

Christmas 2016: Important dates to keep in mind
This year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, with the 27th substituting as a Bank holiday. New Years Day falls on a Sunday, with Monday the 2nd of January substituting as the bank holiday.

Other important dates to keep in mind are the Post Office’s recommended last posting dates. Letters and / or packages sent via 1st class mail within the UK should be posted by Wednesday the 21st of December if they are to arrive before Christmas Day. Items send via 2nd class mail should be posted by Tuesday the 20th December. The last posting dates for international mail or packages vary depending on the country of destination. Bear in mind that some destinations have a last posting date as early as 4th December.



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Top Cities to Start a Business: Shreveport, LA


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A number of factors make a location an ideal place for a start-up, including the local cost of living and taxes. Access to resources like financing and talent are also important variables. Shreveport has been recognized as a city with many of these key elements to making a successful start for a new company. In WalletHub’s 2015 ranking of the best and worst places to start a business in the United States, Shreveport came on top (1). In 2016, Shreveport ranked eighteenth in WalletHub’s list of the best large cities to start a business (2). The same study found that Shreveport has the fifth highest rate of growth for small businesses.

Shreveport is Louisiana’s third largest city. The city is a major commercial center in the Ark-La-Tex region where Louisiana meets with Arkansas and Texas. Interstates 20 and 49 link the city to nearby states, while Shreveport Regional Airport offers direct flights to major economic centers in the South including Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. Founded in 1836, Shreveport is home to nearly 200,000 people (3). A major business hub for the oil industry until the 1980s, the city is now home to a strong service-based economy. Major commercial developments include the Louisiana Boardwalk, a large shopping and entertainment complex in neighboring Bossier City. Downtown is the home of the 350,000 square foot Shreveport Convention Center.

Businesses in Shreveport benefit from several tax incentive programs at the local and state level. Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone Program provides tax credits and sales and use tax refunds for businesses hiring from targeted groups, while the local Caddo-Bossier Foreign Trade Zone allows for the import of materials and components without paying duties until they enter the U.S. market. With the Louisiana Quality Jobs Program, an annual rebate is available for up to ten years for employers that meet minimum hourly wage rates and offer a basic health plan. Motion picture and television production companies also benefit from refunds on sales and use taxes.



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