3 Tools Every Small Business Should Use

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – With regards to technology, small businesses and entrepreneurs working out of a home office used to be at a competitive disadvantage. But the abundance of productivity tools and online resources for small businesses has changed all that. Being small doesn’t have to look small — now you can run your business from beaches and terraces of the world with just a cell phone or a tablet.
Now, smartphones are practically office computers in and of themselves, allowing you to stay connected 33,000 feet up in the air or stuck in gridlocked traffic. Not surprisingly, a Small Business Technology Poll taken by AT&T reports a steady increase in the use of tablets, 4G devices and mobile apps for business purposes. The next step for the 85 percent of small businesses using smartphones is utilizing the variety of tools available online.
Here are three inexpensive resources offered online that help small businesses and the one-person team working from home — and your business shouldn’t be without them.
1. Virtual phone system. This system allows companies of all sizes to have a business-class virtual phone system designed to help small and home-based business owners build the same strong, professional image as larger competitors. It comes with toll-free numbers, Internet fax, voice mailboxes and more.
2. Payroll software. Depending on the size of your business, it may not be pragmatic to have a full-time accountant, and outsourcing can be pricey. But payroll software can be optimized for all payment methods, and accuracy is based on a money-back guarantee. Software of this nature tends to be very user-friendly and extremely secure.
3. Email marketing software. Social media marketing is all the rage right now, but according to SmallBizTechnology.com, email marketing software remains more effective. An email marketing software tool will track who opens, reads and forwards your emails, design more targeted newsletters, increase referrals and get quicker results.
One last word of advice, which may be the most crucial of all: Type TestThis4Free.com into your browser and bookmark it. The website is a one-stop shop for online productivity tools, including virtual phone systems, payroll software, email marketing software and more. The best part? It offers free trials of various software and services to make sure users will use and benefit from a tool before buying it.
With these tools offered for free online, small businesses actually stand a chance against large companies and big budgets.

Boosting Efficiency in the Field

Managing employees in rough-and-tumble industries like construction, security, engineering and architecture brings challenges to efficiency both in the office and in the field. And since the majority of construction managers and contractors are self-employed, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s very little room for error.

While workplace efficiency heavily depends on the caliber of your employees, it’s equally affected by management tools – what your team has to work with. Check out three simple ways to improve efficiency and better your management skills.

Shining New Light on Bulb Legislation

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – With regards to technology, small businesses and entrepreneurs working out of a home office used to be at a competitive disadvantage. But the abundance of productivity tools and online resources for small businesses has changed all that. Being small doesn’t have to look small — now you can run your business from beaches and terraces of the world with just a cell phone or a tablet.
Now, smartphones are practically office computers in and of themselves, allowing you to stay connected 33,000 feet up in the air or stuck in gridlocked traffic. Not surprisingly, a Small Business Technology Poll taken by AT&T reports a steady increase in the use of tablets, 4G devices and mobile apps for business purposes. The next step for the 85 percent of small businesses using smartphones is utilizing the variety of tools available online.
Here are three inexpensive resources offered online that help small businesses and the one-person team working from home — and your business shouldn’t be without them.
1. Virtual phone system. This system allows companies of all sizes to have a business-class virtual phone system designed to help small and home-based business owners build the same strong, professional image as larger competitors. It comes with toll-free numbers, Internet fax, voice mailboxes and more.
2. Payroll software. Depending on the size of your business, it may not be pragmatic to have a full-time accountant, and outsourcing can be pricey. But payroll software can be optimized for all payment methods, and accuracy is based on a money-back guarantee. Software of this nature tends to be very user-friendly and extremely secure.
3. Email marketing software. Social media marketing is all the rage right now, but according to SmallBizTechnology.com, email marketing software remains more effective. An email marketing software tool will track who opens, reads and forwards your emails, design more targeted newsletters, increase referrals and get quicker results.
One last word of advice, which may be the most crucial of all: Type TestThis4Free.com into your browser and bookmark it. The website is a one-stop shop for online productivity tools, including virtual phone systems, payroll software, email marketing software and more. The best part? It offers free trials of various software and services to make sure users will use and benefit from a tool before buying it.
With these tools offered for free online, small businesses actually stand a chance against large companies and big budgets.

Get Big-Screen Video From a Portable Media Player

It’s been said that good things come in small packages. No other expression could more aptly describe the Neo-i — which, depending on your point of view — is a video  projector with an iPod sound dock, an iPod audio dock with a built-in projector, or a new category of product altogether. No matter what you call it, it’s a brand-new device that is revolutionizing the way people watch movies, play video games, share photos and give office presentations from their iPod, iPhone, Blu-ray/DVD player or any media player.

5 Free Ways to Work and Collaborate

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – You don’t have to be a tech geek to work smarter in and out of the office; there are some straightforward, free software programs that will help you connect with colleagues for conversation and collaboration.
Let technology simplify your work life with these free software programs. Each offers the ability to get work done on your own time and from anywhere.
* Skype. Sign up for a free Skype account, then send instant messages or make calls from your computer. It helps if you have a microphone and video camera connected to your computer. Try it out at www.skype.com.
* join.me. This program lets you share your desktop. Once you sign up for the free account, you can send up to 250 colleagues to http://join.me. After they enter the nine-digit code that you provide, they can see your desktop and files. This is great for meeting, training and group editing.
* Open Office. Build documents, spreadsheets and presentations without the expense or megabit-girth of Microsoft Office. Download Open Office onto your computer, and use the free suite of open-source software as if it were Office. It can save and open Office files, so no one will know the difference. More details are at http://openoffice.org.
* Google Docs. Google Docs allows you to host documents for free, so everyone can have a look. Go to http://docs.google.com to download your file, then share it as a link or send an e-mail to collaborators. You can change the settings to allow users to edit the document (you can track changes) or limit them to viewing only. You do not need to have Gmail, though you will need to create a free Google account.
* Tungle.me. Among Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and iCal, you might have trouble sorting through your date book. Tungle.me lets you sync these calendars and provides a place where people can schedule time with you — without your involvement. Go to http://tungle.me for more information.

Companies Seek Happy Employees

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Today’s economy isn’t just frustrating for those without jobs -; limited budgets can do a number on employed workers’ morale as well. Exemplary employees might not be awarded with raises, no matter how much effort they put into their projects. Employers unable to afford larger salaries may see their best employees looking elsewhere.
But some companies are finding way to keep employees happy by cultivating employee-friendly office cultures. For example, in the fall of 2010, Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer implemented a Results Only Work Policy (ROWE), which pays employees for results, not the hours that they work. This means that employees are able to work when or wherever they want, so long as their work gets done. In places where it has been tried, ROWE not only boosts morale and retention, but also improves output.
Of course, not every company is willing to redo its entire work structure. That doesn’t mean that they can’t find less drastic ways to boost morale. Here are some of the many ways that companies can make the workplace more attractive for employees:
* Acknowledge employees’ contributions. Employees who work hard without recognition are likely to lose morale. Even if a company can’t provide raises, managers can give out certificates or plaques acknowledging an employee’s accomplishments or designating an employee of the month. Plaquemaker Plus, a company that offers many personalized trophies, plaques and frames, offers laser-engraved and full-color plaques that can be used to give hard-working employees a boost. Visit their website at www.PlaquemakerPlus.com or call 1-800-367-5556.
* Celebrate birthdays. Acknowledging employees’ personal lives will make them feel like valuable team members, rather than replaceable automatons.
* Communicate. Unhappy employees are less productive, so managers should take time to speak with them about questions or concerns. An anonymous employee survey can also help employers determine where they need improvement.

Six Tips to Personalize Your Workspace

Staring at gray cubicle walls doesn’t exactly lift your spirits, but you don’t know how to decorate your office so it looks like you without looking unprofessional. Here are some tips on creating an organized, professional and attractive workspace, whether you have a home office, a corner office or a cubicle.

PlaqueMaker Plus, a company that specializes in custom frames, signs, trophies and other items, offers the following tips:

•    Ask about your company’s policy on desk decorations. Obviously, you have considerable decorating freedom if you work from home. But your company may have restrictions — find out what they are before you’re required to remove family pictures or that piglet calendar.

10 Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Between office meeting and errands, sports practice and studies, many people sacrifice sleep for a few more hours of productivity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, fewer than half of Americans report getting adequate sleep every night.

But sleep deprivation results in more than just yawns. Inadequate sleep has been linked to depression, weight gain, hypertension, poor concentration and memory retention, and accidents.

Take driving, an activity that most Americans perform daily. In a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, 54 percent of respondents said that they have driven while drowsy. Twenty-eight percent confessed to falling asleep at the wheel. People know that alcohol impairs driving, but too few consider sleep deprivation’s effect on their motor skills. Drowsy driving causes thousands of accidents each year.

Setting aside seven to eight hours for sleeping isn’t a luxury -; it’s a necessity. The American Sleep Apnea Association offers 10 tips for better sleep hygiene:

1. Set a sleep schedule, and stick to it.

2. Don’t nap for more than 45 minutes a day.

3. Avoid excessive alcohol intake within four hours of bedtime. Do not smoke.

4. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.

5. Avoid spicy food six hours before bedtime.

6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.

7. Use comfortable bedding.

8. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature.

9. Block out noise, and eliminate as much light as possible.

10. Do not use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.

If you feel tired even after sleeping eight hours, an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, may be to blame. In sleep apnea, the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway. Sufferers wake up for a few seconds every time they stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times a night. Visit www.sleepapnea.org to find out your “Snore Score,” or the likelihood that you have sleep apnea. The disorder can be treated, so it’s important to speak to a doctor if you experience excessive daytime fatigue.

Playing the Office Temperature Game to Save Money

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Business owners should think twice before tweaking workplace temperature settings this winter. According to a new survey of office workers, sixty-nine percent said they would be willing to sacrifice their preferred temperature in the office to help their company conserve energy. However the survey also found that nearly four in five participants (78 percent) say they are less productive at work when they are too hot or too cold.

Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), the global leader in providing energy-efficiency solutions, commissioned a survey of nearly 800 American adults who work in an office setting regarding a variety of issues, including temperature, productivity and energy efficiency. The survey is part of the company’s Efficiency Now campaign to build nationwide awareness of the importance of energy efficiency at work and at home. The good news: The findings indicate that many workers think their employers could be doing more to be energy-efficient. The challenge: Business owners must avoid a negative impact on office productivity and the possibility that workers may take action to circumvent their discomfort, including the use of portable heaters or fans, if temperatures are not ideal.

“Employers may be tempted to turn down the thermostats this winter, but this quick fix could lead to hidden costs,” said Clay Nesler, vice president of Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls. “Energy-efficient systems and equipment is the win-win alternative, allowing businesses to save energy and money without sacrificing workplace productivity.”

Almost all participants said their office has been too hot or too cold at some point (98 percent), and when that occurs, most (78 percent) said they are less productive. Not only does workplace productivity suffer, individual actions — such as bringing a heating or cooling device into the office -; result in increased energy use.

* Forty-nine percent of office workers have used a fan when it was too hot in their office, and 28 percent have used a space heater when it was too cold.

* Nearly one-third (30 percent) have left their office building to take a walk outside when it was too hot or too cold in their work space.

For additional information, please visit www.johnsoncontrols.com/efficiencynow.

Flu Season Tips for Small Businesses

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the U.S., on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu complications, and about 36,000 people die. With the spread of H1N1 (swine flu) virus, it is predicted those numbers will increase.

The best way to battle the flu is with a good defense. For small businesses, that means protecting yourself and your staff from germs with simple and straightforward measures and being prepared when staff can’t make it in, due to illness. Not only will you have a healthier, happier workforce, you can keep your business as productive as possible.

Don’t forget the basics. The first step is to keep your hands clean: Use soap and water or a hand sanitizer before meals, after shaking hands with someone and especially after using public restrooms.

Consider putting anti-bacterial soap or sanitizer in the office kitchen and bathrooms, and wiping down computer keyboards, phones, door knobs, light switches and shared electronics such as printers with rubbing alcohol to reduce germ build-up.

A staff e-mail or notice in the office reminding employees of these basics may be a good idea. The CDC provides information and materials for the workplace at

www.cdc.gov/flu/workplace/.

Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot as your most important protection from the disease. In most cases, the vaccine can prevent you from getting the flu and at least minimize your symptoms should you contract it.

Consider making flu shots available to your employees. If your business or building doesn’t offer them, make it a yearly office outing for everyone to get flu shots at the same time.

Stay at home, but stay productive. The best way to not get the flu — and to not spread it — is to stay at home at the first sign of illness. Encourage your employees to do the same when they or their family members are feeling under the weather.

Now that staffs are more mobile than ever before, for many, working from the couch is not only possible, but productive as well (depending on how you feel, of course).

Consider remote access software, like LogMeIn (www.LogMeIn.com). It allows you and your employees to access office computers and all of the applications, files and folders on them from any Internet-connected computer. There’s also a version for the iPhone.

For more information about flu prevention and vaccination, check out the CDC Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/FLU/.