5 Tips for a Successful Video Conference

Best Practices for Managing Meetings Remotely

Perhaps you’ve recently become a “Zoomer” yourself: video-conferencing for the first time or managing the majority of your business remotely.

Whether you’re a tech pro or you are brand new to online meetings, everyone faces video-based communication challenges. Here are a few tips to make your online meetings a bit better:

1. Put Your Best Foot Forward

Often when we’re at home, we get a bit slumpy with our hygiene.

Before your meeting, take a minute to freshen up and to inspect your viewing area. Make sure the light is shining toward you (not from behind you) and that you sit in front of plain walls or more simple backgrounds. Some platforms will also allow you to enable HD options and click a “touch up my appearance” feature, which can smooth out wrinkles and blemishes in a flattering way.

2. Test in Advance

Before starting your meeting, preview your audio settings.

If you’re just using your laptop speaker and microphone, there’s not much to adjust. But if you’ve got a mic-headset combo you’d like to use, make sure it’s the audio is selected for both the Speaker and Microphone options before you start your call.

3. Have Participants Mute Themselves

When people aren’t speaking, their microphones can pick up minor background noises like chewing, sniffles, or typing. Even laughter from meeting participants can break up the audio flow, so ask people to mute themselves whenever they’re not talking.

4. Designate a Moderator

The 2019 State of Remote Work report found that interruptions and being talked over are two of the biggest challenges for remote meetings.

To maximize group discussion, it’s best if a moderator calls on people individually and asks others to hold comments unless they indicate they’d like to speak. Some software has a “raise hand” feature, or you can establish on-camera signals that indicate when participants are ready to share. Chat boxes can also be used to type comments.

Finally, consider saving 10 minutes at the end of the meeting for additional comments or questions.

5. Have Some Fun

Part of the enjoyment of work is social connections.

“When you are used to being in person and have to be online, build in room for chitchat,” says Erica Kuhl, a consultant who has devoted years to nurturing online training communities.

Research shows that if employees don’t have a rich, welcoming online experience, their long-term engagement will drop significantly. Leave 15 minutes at the beginning of meetings for participants to introduce themselves, to share a personal highlight, or to enjoy some lighthearted banter. By building this in, you’ll have a more productive meeting overall.

Video Conferencing is Here to Stay

Now that we’ve gotten a taste for video conferencing, it may be here to stay.

Eighty percent of executives say video conferencing is taking over as the go-to form of internal team communication, and some predict that 50% of people will work remotely after 2020.

Being on top of your video conferencing game is essential, so use this season to master the technique, and you will reap the benefits in the future.

How to Determine Optimal Pricing for Your Products or Services

Pricing that is “Just Right”

What is the best strategy for pricing the products or services you sell?

At first glance, this question seems pretty straightforward. But in reality, pricing is an art. Pricing well can enhance sales and create a prospering business, while the wrong approach can alienate customers and give competitors the edge.

There are a variety of pricing strategies in business, with some psychological influences in the approach you take. Here are four models to consider.

1. Cost-Based Pricing

The most straightforward pricing strategy is “cost-plus” pricing.

This involves calculating the total costs it takes to make your product, then adding a markup to determine the final price. This method is simple, fast, and lets you quickly add a profit margin to any product.

2. Market-Oriented Pricing

Market-oriented pricing starts from a cost-based perspective but adjusts pricing up or down with an eye on the competition and the customer.

For example, after comparing your products to similar items on the market, you can consciously price your products higher and brand your products as “best-quality” or “better performing.” Conversely, companies that price products low can lure more customers or sell large volumes that easily compensate for slim profit margins.

3. Discounts and Markdowns

Discount pricing is a strategy where items are initially marked high but then sold at a seemingly reduced cost to the consumer. This can be especially effective during seasonal demand, inventory liquidation, or when marketing to value-oriented purchasers.

4. Flex Pricing

Flex pricing (or dynamic pricing) allows businesses to manipulate sales based on current market demands.

Flex pricing is at its best on big retail days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but can also be linked to timebound marketing strategies. Similar to what many sports teams and airlines do with ticket prices, you can manipulate prices up or down in a timebound fashion.

Coupons are another way to discretely provide dynamic pricing to a subset of prospects or customers. This allows you to attract new users or build momentum during seasonal promotions while remaining profitable.

Dynamic pricing can be challenging but worthwhile. In 2013, Walmart used flex pricing to change the prices of its products almost 50,000 times a month, and with this pricing model, its global sales grew by 30 percent!

Adjust as You Go

You have a great deal of flexibility in how you set prices.

And the good news is this: there is no surefire method to pricing things “just right.” Consider the current pandemic situation, your target customers, eyeball the competition, and hone your marketing to match the pricing strategy you pursue. Experiment, adjust, and see what works for your business.

Reduce Financial Risk by Conducting a Stress Test for Your Small Business

Ways to Stress Test Your Business

A stress test is a simulation to gauge your financial risk under different economic scenarios. The results can aid your financial planning and let you know where your business is at the greatest risk in the event of economic hard times.

Here are three ways to stress-test your business to stabilize it during unwanted slowdowns.

1. Solicit advice from others

Do you have an advisory board or a brain trust of reliable partners?

SCORE, a nonprofit that is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers a network of volunteers, including retired C-suite executives, who can help mentor. You can search for a SCORE mentor online or through a local chapter.

2. Plan for worst-case scenarios

One of the more effective ways to prepare for change is to make projections.

Look at what a dramatic budget crunch might do to your business or what would happen if you lost a major client or product. Evaluate how this loss would affect your business and decide how you could trim expenses or diversify your client base before this happens.

3. Review your current ratio or financial cushioning

What kind of cash cushion does your business have?

The first thing you should protect is your current ratio (current assets / current liabilities), which should be at least 2:1. Second, is your days’ cash on hand which should be 30+ days. You can estimate this by dividing annual sales by 365 and then multiplying by 30. Not an exact science, but close enough for most small businesses.

A Road Map For the Future

While it is wise to conduct a stress test at any time, analysts say the best seasons are typically the spring and summer because larger market crashes tend to occur in the fall.

By planning ahead now, you can make informed decisions about decreasing inventory, consolidating debt, cutting payroll, or connecting with new investors. By stress testing your business’s finances and proactively plan, you can mitigate future problems and sleep better each night.

6 Ways to Speed Up Your Next Print Project

Do you have a print deadline that needs the fastest possible turn-around time?

If speed is of utmost importance, here are several ways you can improve efficiency as you take your project to print:

1. Plot Your Course and Communicate Early

Early planning and communication are vital when starting a print project.

When possible, get your printer’s input early regarding design, project checkpoints, and final editing. Setting a schedule with your printer regarding design, estimated turnaround, and print presets can directly impact the speed with which your project is finished.

As soon as you coordinate these details, you’ll establish a timely framework that both parties can stick to.

2. Ask Questions Upfront

When partnering with a design professional, be sure to clarify the contract at the get-go.

Will you be paying a project fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in this fee? Clarify how long the project will take, how often you’ll review the work, and how many revisions are allowed in this agreement.

3. Allow for More Margin on Larger Projects

Professional printers are very efficient, but big projects still take time.

Designing one piece can be quick, but re-branding or crafting large-scale exhibit pieces can take a significant amount of time, especially if there is confusion about the parameters or design presets for a particular project. One costly mistake can disrupt an entire campaign, so allow extra time for big projects, and both parties will have leeway to handle hiccups in the most efficient, cost-effective way.

4. Assemble All the Elements

Attend to the precise details of copy, timeline, and photography at the get-go, and be sure those in authority have given these elements the green light before the task proceeds.

Your project will involve many pieces, and when they are aligned from the start, it will allow your design dollars to be maximized with fewer delays. While you may not have precise details ironed out, clarifying project parameters is key to finishing on time and on budget!

5. Err on the Side of Simplicity

Creativity is cool, but if swiftness is your goal, you should keep designs simple.

Don’t go overboard. If you’re short on time, design something that is easy on the eyes and uses very basic graphics, fonts, and materials. If you have templates on hand (from previous projects), consider whether you can adapt or edit these for the fastest possible output.

If you are pressed for time, consider using an online design tool. Or your professional print specialist may be willing to combine a pre-ordered template with the custom design you want. This may be the simplest (and cheapest!) way for everyone to get a project across the finish line.

6. Avoid Alterations Once a Design Has Been Sent

Check your design before sending it to the printer.

Proof everything with multiple editors before it leaves your office. Every alteration or edit can cost you valuable time. Once the design has already been received by the printing company, there should be no need to make changes unless it is vital to do so.

Better Together

Want to save on time, labor, or unnecessary stress?

Whether you need high-level graphic design or full-service printing, our capable team is dedicated to providing you with prompt, knowledgeable, one-on-one service, and bringing you carefully printed materials you can be proud of.

We’re here to make things flow as smoothly as possible!

3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

How to Kick Those Monday Blues

It’s true. Not many of us look forward to the start of the week.

Half of all workers will be late to their jobs on Monday mornings. The abrupt transition from a free weekend to the grind makes many people miserable. But Mondays don’t have to be a drag. While you can’t magically get your team excited to head back to work on Mondays, there are a few things you can do to make Mondays a bit better.

Ax Monday Meetings

How often do you say something like, “let’s follow up on that first thing Monday morning?”

The start of the week may feel like the perfect time to reconnect and launch a new week. However, research shows that Monday mornings are actually a time when many people are at their most energetic and creative levels.

Rick’s investment team found that, when scheduling Monday morning meetings, they unwittingly drained energy levels and decreased momentum. By giving team members several hours alone to start the day, Monday morning “jump starts” made mid-day meetings much more effective.

Team Breakfast

Pivotal, a software company based in San Francisco, believes company breakfasts are the key to building a cohesive company culture. They actually serve breakfast EVERY DAY of the work week!

What makes Mondays better? Breakfast! Serving food warms people’s hearts and bonds your co-workers. Occasional Monday breakfasts can soften the workweek blues, build camaraderie in your team, and give people healthy fuel to launch into the routine.

A team breakfast doesn’t have to be strictly social. You can also use this time to brief people on announcements, share upcoming projects, or celebrate workplace wins for your team.

Friday Fun Days

A typical five-day workweek is a given for most managers. But, did you know that 15 percent of companies have started implementing four-day workweeks?

Reusser Design, an Indiana Web app development company, slashed their hours from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursdays. Founder Nate Reusser says that the policy motivates everyone to work faster and with greater focus, much like the way people work just before going on vacation.

“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” Reusser said.

Four-day workweeks can boost morale and increase productivity. Employees with a shorter workweek are usually more enthusiastic when returning to work, and those energy levels fuel higher outputs.

Lighten That Monday Mood

In the US, approximately 100 million full-time employees aren’t engaged at work, which means a staggering 51 percent of people are slogging through their days on the payroll.

Underperformers can have a devastating effect on your company, but often a simple remedy can transform a negative work culture.

Look for ways to lighten up the Monday mood, and Mondays will lighten up on you!

How Chick-fil-A’s Customer Service Continues to Dominate

In 1995, a renegade cow painted three words on a Texas billboard: “EAT MOR CHIKIN.”

From that day forward, Chick-fil-A transformed the fast-food landscape. When founder Truett Carlson began in the restaurant industry during the mid-forties, he was inspired by many customers who took chicken and wrapped it in a bun to eat. Today, Chick-Fil-A (and its cows) have reached millions through ads in television, print, and even the occasional water tower.

But Chick-fil-A is about more than great food.

Closed on Sundays so employees can rest and worship, the establishment recognizes the well-being of the people on both sides of the counter.

“We should be about more than just selling chicken,” Carlson famously said. “We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities we serve.”

Unfailing Hospitality

As the restaurant seeks to bring value, it has grown in net worth.

In 2018, Chick-fil-A made more per restaurant than McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway combined. In June 2019, the franchise grabbed the best customer satisfaction score in the fast-food industry, claiming the No. 1 spot on the American Customer Satisfaction Index for the fourth year in a row.

Outranking establishments like Panera and Chipotle, Chick-fil-A’s fans rave about its excellent service, polite employees, and consistent cleanliness. Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowki says Chick-fil-A’s unfailing hospitality is a huge part of the chain’s success:

“Little things like being told ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – it feels like you’re appreciated as a customer and a human being at Chick-fil-A,” Kalinowski said. "And especially in today’s very complex world, it’s just very nice to be able to go to a place where you feel appreciated."

Manners Matter

Humans are highly social creatures, and rudeness signals a form of rejection that cuts deep, whether we admit it or not.

Recent polling in France showed that one of the primary causes of stress was the behavior of others. Good manners increase the presence of the neurochemical oxytocin, causing people to demonstrate kindness and generosity while experiencing greater pleasure. This fuels not only connection but greater prosperity.

What might this look like during a typical day at Chick-Fil-A?

  • Often if you say ‘thank you’ to an employee, they might respond with: ‘my pleasure.’
  • Some Chick-Fil-A operators offer expired nuggets to pet owners (while the chicken is still good).
  • Others offer a “Mom’s Valet” where young families can order at the drive-through and ask employees to set the table (including the correct number of high chairs and drinks) so when they enter the restaurant, kid chaos is eliminated.

According to Davide Farmer, vice-president of restaurant experience, part of the company’s service philosophy is to empower employees:

"There are all kinds of scenarios that pop up that you don’t necessarily train for," said Farmer. "We try to teach the principles of what it is to care for somebody so that a team member can kind of act on their own when they see an opportunity."

Danny Cadra experienced this firsthand when he walked into his local Chick-fil-A in Lubbock, Texas. After sitting down, he was surprised when a longtime employee handed him an envelope and said, “Hey, you left your money here a while ago.”

In the envelope was three dollars Cadra left at a drive-through almost a month before. The employee tucked away the cash and looked to return it at the first opportunity.

“I was just floored,” Cadra said. "I went a whole month not knowing there was a guy at Chick-fil-A who remembered me every day, [who] brought that money every single day until he saw me."

Customer service like that is what we all should aspire to, and we’d love to have a chance to showcase ours to you!

How to Grow When Sales are Slow

Nothing was going right at the plate for Davey Concepcion, the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.

About a month into the 1976 season, he was suffering a hitting slump, a plague of physical and mental anguish that had frittered away his batting average to around .150. The Reds were in Chicago, where the Cubs had a large industrial gas-operated clothes dryer in the stadium. Feeling goofy, Concepcion hopped in the dryer and called to his teammates. “Hey! Maybe this will help me get hot.”

Going along with the gag, Pat Zachry, the pitcher, hit the side of the switch, pretending to turn on the machine. With a puff of smoke, sparks flew, the machine whirred and began to rotate with Concepcion inside.

”I’ll never forget it,” said Zachry. ”Davey started spinning, and I froze with my eyes bugging out. Oh, it was terrible. Then I banged the side of the switch again. And the machine stopped.

”Davey went out that day and got four for five,” said Zachry. “And for weeks it was almost impossible to get him out. I tell him now that I made him the player he is today.”

Fast-Track Productivity in Unconventional Ways

No one in baseball or business is certain how slumps happen, but it’s helpful to know how to react when they do. Especially if you see trends that repeat each year.

Here are four creative options to fast track productivity if your momentum is slow this summer:

1. Engage in pro bono opportunities that enhance your products, services, and relationships.

In slowdown seasons, invest company time in something that will pay off.

Who are your target customers or VIP account holders? Approach these contributors and offer to host a free training event or professional engagement that will put your products and people in the limelight. Another alternative is to select core clients and offer to enhance your services for them for no cost.

2. Do non-profit work for your best customer’s charity of choice.

Slow periods are an ideal time to invest people equity in causes that matter.

During your down times, partner with agencies that your clients value and offer volunteer hours, free professional services, or mentoring that can make these organizations stronger.

3. Stretch your team’s skills.

When activity wanes, morale often follows.

Invigorate employees by offering on-going education opportunities, professional mentoring within your team, or innovation labs that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals.

Take time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, and involve your team in designing these pieces. Here you’ll strengthen your products, catalyze creative thinking, or upgrade inefficient systems.

4. Network or collaborate with other professionals.

Finally, as your business weathers change, remember that other entrepreneurs may be in the same boat.

Find like-minded friends and cook up a multi-site promotion to bring people back. Network and learn from people in your community or industry while you have extra time. Or trade services and train one another in ways that are mutually beneficial.

Want to make the most of each day? By reaching out, stretching your team, or collaborating with others, you’ll sharpen your skills and fortify your very best relationships.