Archives for Business Sense

Aesop’s Fable Offers Sound Guidance for Both Grasshoppers and Business Owners

“There is a time for work and a time for play.” That’s the moral of The Ants and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s Fables, which have offered sound advice since they were written in the mid-sixth century. The powerful and enduring message imparted to a grasshopper by a group of ants continues to apply to people – and businesses – today.

In the fable, a family of ants was busy one fall day drying out grain they had collected and stored in the abundant days of summer. As they work, a grasshopper comes by and begs for food. The ants are shocked to learn that he had simply played his fiddle throughout the summer and didn’t prepare for the cold months when food is scarce. They don’t give him any food, leaving him to navigate on his own the consequences of his lack of planning.

Adapting the Moral

Children and adults the world over have benefitted from the tough lesson the ants impart on the grasshopper. The lesson also offers sound counsel for business owners and company leaders. For them, the moral could be adapted to say: “It’s always the right time to save money and manage cash flow.”

It’s easy for leaders to get lulled into complacency when the economy is humming, sales and revenue are consistently growing, customers are plentiful, and money is steadily rolling in. At the same time, caution and safeguards can tend to go down, expenses may creep up, and networking may all take a back seat to managing a booming business.

The grasshopper’s sad tale illustrates that the good times are precisely the right time that business leaders should save money, manage cash flow, look for new business, make connections, and reduce expenses. They should also put methods into place for when bad times hit. Barter offers business owners a great way to accomplish these important goals.

Save Money, Manage Cash Flow and Reduce Expenses

Barter offers companies the opportunity to run their business and pay bills by trading their products or services instead of spending cash. This helps businesses save money and manage cash flow for slower times or to have to use strategically to hire a new person or grow their business. For example, a business that needs to make a purchase for $1,000 could pay by check or with an equal amount of its product/service at its normal selling price to a new customer. Which sounds better to you?

Look for New Business and Make Connections

Barter also helps member companies generate new customers and expand their market area by allowing them to promote their products or services to a large network of people with whom they may not have done business previously. The Barter Company has more than 2,500 clients in the Southeast. When one of these clients becomes a new customer for another member organization, they pay retail prices, so the businesses get the full value of their goods and services, maintaining or increasing profitability at the same time.

It’s a Good Time to Start Preparing

If the ants in the fable had been inclined to help the grasshopper, they might have told him it was not too late to prepare and explained how to get started. Then, the moral might have become: “The sooner you start preparing, the better off you will be.” We will never know what Aesop would have thought about these adaptations to his wisdom. We DO know that barter is a great way for businesses to save cash, manage cash flow, gain new customers, and grow their business.

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Leaders Need to Recharge to Keep Taking Charge

How many hours a week does a CEO typically work? 50? 60? More? According to a 12-year Harvard Business Journal study of 27 CEOs published last year, they work 62.5 hours a week and conduct business on 79% of weekend days, on average. Clearly, their time, energy and ideas are always in demand by employees, customers, and colleagues. That type of packed schedule leaves a CEO (or anyone working a similarly demanding schedule) scrambling to fit in time to spend with family and friends, working on hobbies or relaxing!

To keep fit mentally for such intensive schedules, many CEOs and entrepreneurs herald the importance of taking time off to recharge, reenergize and reconnect. Recently, The Barter Company owner Ric Zampatti took the opportunity to get away on a trip to Israel and France. “The timing of this trip was perfect. We visited Israel just a few weeks before Easter and in Paris we were lucky to see Notre Dame Cathedral just before the fire,” said Zampatti. “During our downtime and on the plane, I had a chance to reflect and think about the big picture and our overall company goals in the coming year. And, I never worried about the day-to-day details.”

Zampatti came back energized and full of ideas for how The Barter Company can better tackle business at hand and make plans for future growth. As a side benefit of his trip, The Barter Company team members reported that they were able to accomplish many tasks as well as keeping clients happy – a win-win for everyone!

Whether you are a CEO or have another leadership role in an organization, it’s important to give your brain and body a break and time to refuel. In his book “Wired for Thought,” NY Times best-selling author, brain scientist and entrepreneur, Jeff Stibel writes that, “If you overtax your heart, the next thing you need to do is relax, or you’ll die.” He notes that the same care is required for the brain. “Do too much, and you’ll burn it out. You’ll make bad choices.”

Consider these strategies to prepare for and take time away from the office for much-needed mental recharging:

  • Plan a trip that you look forward to taking,
  • Delegate responsibilities to trusted employees,
  • Let key customers know you will be out and who to contact during that time,
  • Commit to checking email rarely, if at all, while on vacation, and
  • Bring a journal to write down ideas that may start flowing as you unwind.

After preparing for your time out of the office, head out with confidence that your team can handle whatever comes up. You will come back find yourself – and your team – rejuvenated and ready for business.

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Mid-Year Offers Perfect Time to Take Stock of Your Company’s Finances

Maycember. That’s what many people have begun to call May with its overload of graduations, end-of-school parties, recitals, and children’s sports tournaments that are all scheduled within in the same few weeks. May schedules can be daunting, but June soon follows — the perfect month to take stock of your business and personal finances and update plans for the rest of the calendar year.

Setting a regular schedule to create and update financial plans is a smart business practice. When times are good financially, it can be easy to just keep moving forward with day-to-day tasks without planning ahead. During favorable economic times, it’s hard to think about preparing for a business or economic slowdown. However, that’s exactly when business owners should make it a priority to conduct financial reviews to ensure your plan helps you prepare for times when sales and cash flow are reduced. Having time set aside for planning can help make it become a habit for you and your business.

One of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, famously noted about the importance of planning when he said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Whenever you conduct your business planning, do some research to see how barter can help with cash flow. Many business owners are under the misconception that barter is useful only in an economic downturn or when you’re starting a business. In reality, most businesses can only handle approximately 5-10% of total sales (depending upon the company size) attributed to barter. Now, when times are good for most businesses, barter can be easily integrated into your cash management system. Then, if there is a downturn you will already have saved cash on many everyday expenses. In addition, barter offers you the opportunity to sell excess inventory and merchandise to get things you need for yourself or your business.

Consider barter as you update your financial plan for the rest of this calendar year or prepare for your new fiscal year. Barter can help you save cash, gain new customers, and grow your business in good and bad times … and even during crazy #Maycember times.

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Why use cash to buy things? Use barter instead!

Imagine paying for things with trade instead of cash. Many people and businesses in your area are doing just that, including The Oral, Facial & Implant Surgery Center in north Atlanta.

“One morning, I saw the daily news from The Barter Company and decided it was time for me to get Lasik surgery,” said Office Manager Yolanda Ducksworth. “The whole process was very easy. I called our Trade Coordinator to get started. Soon after that, I researched the eye doctor options they offered, looked at reviews, and set up a consultation with Atlanta Vision Institute.” A mere two weeks later, she had a successful, bartered surgery.

Ducksworth praised how effortless it was to arrange the trade. The Trade Coordinator at The Barter Company worked directly with the doctor she selected. “Having the surgery and using The Barter Company was the best decision I ever made!”

The Barter Company has established itself as the leading force in the barter industry throughout the Southeast. They’ve created an alternative currency network by us-ing barter dollars instead of cash to handle transactions.

Are you ready to see how barter can work for you? Contact The Barter Company today.

Visit www.thebartercompany.com or call 770-591-4343.

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Managing a Business Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

Do you get anxious just thinking about the administration part of running your business — like managing cash flow? Do you dread it as much as a visit to the dentist? Actually, the dentist can be the perfect place to learn about managing cash flow. Dr. Clarence Kegler of Artistic Smiles has a unique method to alleviate fears about dental work as well as business worries.

Dr. Kegler manages his dentistry practice with less anxiety by using barter to exchange goods and services for some of the things he needs to run the business. For the past seven years, he has been a member of The Barter Company and has traded dental services for advertising, printing, painting, contracting, and promotional items. “I have to buy these items anyway to help run the practice,” said Dr. Kegler. “If I can get these services through barter, it’s an easy way to save cash … or use that cash in other ways to hire a new person, expand, and grow the business.”

For 12 years, Artistic Smiles has offered patients state-of-the-art dental procedures that leave patients looking and feeling great as pain-free as possible. During his years in practice, Dr. Kegler has learned that barter can take the pain away from managing his cash flow. It has also helped him grow his practice. “Once a patient comes in through barter, they become a regular patient. And, they usually bring in their family members and refer friends and neighbors who then become patients too,” explained Kegler. “Barter helps reduce the stress of running the practice and then I can focus more on my patients.” Less fear and anxiety about managing a business will give any business owner something to smile about.

Clients like Dr. Kegler at Artistic Smiles have realized the benefits of barter to their business. At The Barter Company, we’re here to help take away some of the “pain” of managing a business by offering a barter experience based on long-term client relationships, thousands of available goods and services, and barter coordinators who provide individual client service. We work hard each day to help our clients live out our motto – “barter is smarter.”

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6 Google Doc Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

It’s one of the most widely used business tools, but it isn’t always easy to use. Here are some hacks for Google Docs that can save you time and energy.

When you run a small business, there’s never enough time in the day. Your task list is as long as a shopping receipt, and it seems to stay the same length no matter how many items you check off. And, of course, you probably want to make time for your significant other on top of that. It’s no wonder you’re stressed.

Small-business loan provider Fundera surveyed several hundred business owners last year and found that 19 percent of small-business owners work more than 60 hours a week. It also found that 70 percent work more than 40 hours a week, and 89 percent work on weekends.

You’re most likely overseeing a litany of business operations, from hiring and sales to marketing and customer service. Improving your productivity isn’t only about working harder or faster, it’s also about working smarter. Leveraging tools can help you make the most of your time.

Google Docs is one of the tools most widely used by entrepreneurs these days. It can help you squeeze the most out of every hour and run your business more effectively. But are you using it as efficiently as possible? Here are some ideas that can help you optimize it.

1. Get organized with color coding.

Business owners use Google Docs and Sheets for everything from tracking employee hours to creating marketing collateral. Over time, your Drive can get pretty messy and crowded. And if you can’t remember the exact name of a doc or sheet, you’re forced to waste time looking for it.

Color coding your folders will stop this. You’ll locate your materials far more easily. First, create new folders and sort your docs. Next, right click or control click any folder. Select “Change Color” and choose from any of the 24 hues.

2. Make conference calls from within a doc.

Add-ons are companion apps for G Suite that allow you to perform a variety of tasks. Let’s say you’re collaborating on a Google doc with two of your employees. The UberConference add-on lets you book a conference call with your collaborators right from the sidebar.

To get the add-on, open your doc, and then click “Add-ons” and “Get Add-ons.” Type “UberConference” into the search bar and click the blue plus sign. Then allow the app to access your Google account.

To launch the add-on, click the add-ons menu and select “UberConference/Launch Sidebar.”

3. Use templates for recurring projects.

If you find yourself struggling to format project proposals, meeting agendas, or customer invoices, use a template you can quickly modify as needed. This way you don’t have to start from scratch every time.

Navigate to drive.google.com/templates and choose from a variety of preformatted docs. This list includes business letters, project proposals, onboarding notes, and job-offer letters.

Other templates, like consulting agreements, sales quotes, and statements of work, are available as add-ons.

4. Add your signature to a document.

How many times have you printed a document, signed it, then scanned and emailed it to someone? Imagine how much time you’d save over the course of a year if you could add your signature to a document with the click of a button.

The PandaDoc add-on inserts your e-signature to a doc from any device. After you get the add-on, you’ll be prompted to connect to PandaDoc and create an account. Once that’s done, activate the add-on to open a sidebar and draw your signature. Click it to add it to your doc.

5. Use your voice to type.

There are plenty of situations where it might be more convenient to speak your draft than type it. Try the Voice Typing feature to speed up the creation of a Google doc.

From Tools, select “Voice Typing.” Click the black microphone icon and begin speaking after it turns red. You can add common punctuation by saying “period,” “comma,” “exclamation point,” or “question mark.”

6. Send a fax without a fax machine.

Have a love-hate relationship with your fax machine? The HelloFax add-on enables you to fax documents from within Google Docs. It may inspire you to kick that clunky machine to the curb once and for all.

To fax a Google doc, simply open the add-on, enter the fax number, and click “Send.” Add an optional cover page in less than 20 seconds.

When you use these hacks to extend your abilities, you can get more done in less time. Who knows, you might even clock a 40-hour workweek for a change.

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12 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Company’s Culture

This list of quick-strike team boosters will put you on the path to culture-building success.

Great company culture isn’t created overnight. At Hireology, the company I co-founded eight years ago, we put a lot of intention, action and oversight into making sure we have a culture by design; culture by default doesn’t give us the competitive edge we need to achieve our goals. We work hard at it every single day.

While building an award-winning workplace takes time, but there are actions you can take right now to move your company in a positive direction.

1. Increase transparency

In the absence of clear information, your team will fill in the blanks with a litany of “worst case scenarios.” Pat in Customer Service was let go? Mass layoffs are coming!

Share information. Talk about your cash balance, and how you manage it.  When you show your comfort level with openly discussing important information, you communicate a critical component of great workplace culture:  I trust you.

2. Reconfirm the vision

Your early joiners drank the Kool-Aid, but you’ve hired lots of new people since then. Do they know why you started this company?

At the next town hall, put together a 10 slide “pitch deck” and present the business as if you’re talking to a venture capital firm. Make a passionate case for why you should exist as a business, and why your team should back you 100%. Inspire them to give every ounce of incremental effort that they can.

3. Fire someone

I want you to think of “that person.” You know who this person is: When you go to bed at night, as your head hits the pillow, the last thought running through your mind is, “How. In the world. Did this person. Get a job. In. My. Company?

Keeping this person employed signals to everyone else that you’re willing to tolerate mediocrity. That violating company core values is ok.

Fire this person. Do it today. Do it humanely, do it legally. But do it.

4. Thank someone with a handwritten note

When was the last time you got an honest-to-God handwritten note or letter? It’s probably been a while, right?

It takes time and thoughtfulness on the part of the sender to hand-write a note. It’s a real, tangible thing.  Think of someone in your organization who’s done something great, and thank them with a handwritten note.

5. Give public praise

Someone in your company did something amazing last week. They landed that deal, they saved the account, they engineered the solution.

Walk into the center of your office and make that announcement. Publicly share this individual’s accomplishment, and why it was exceptional. Ask everyone to give a standing ovation. (Make it loud!)

6. Show vulnerability

You might think you’re approachable, but you’re not.  You’re the CEO, and you’re scary.

Remind your team that you’re still a human being with hopes, dreams and fears about the business. Talk about a low point in your career, how you got there, and how you got back on track. Talk about your successes, what you’re most proud of, and why.

7. Run a contest

There’s a reason that game shows have been among the highest-rated television programs for over 60 years: they’re fun.

Pick a target you’d like to hit – new appointments set, new accounts opened, anything –  and whoever hits that target gets raffle ticket. At the end of the month, raffle off a three day weekend. Second place gets a $50 gift card. Third place, you’re fired! (Kidding.)

8. Sit on the sales floor

What inspiring leader sits thirty miles behind the front lines?  Go to where the action is and rally your team.

Pick an open desk on the sales floor and spend the next five hours making cold calls with them. Put 100 percent effort into it — exceed your own number. Talk to prospects, set meetings. Show that it can be done, and that the sales role is a critical one, because without new business, there is no business.

9. Take a team to lunch

What’s the least-recognized team in your company? It’s time to give them some props.

Reserve a private room at a nice restaurant, and take a two hour lunch. Don’t skimp, get loads of appetizers and order everyone desert. Show your love for the people who grind it out for you every day.

10. Give everyone a day off this Friday

Your team has worked its tail off this month, and you’re darn proud of them. Everyone gets Friday off. Have a great weekend, see you Monday.

11. Interview your superstars

Grab a smartphone and shoot an interview-style video with three of your star performers. Hearing your best people talk about why they love what they do inspires everybody.

Post it on YouTube. Social media the heck out of it.

12. Ask for feedback

Everyone has room to improve – even you. So, send an email to your entire company and ask for their help.

Create a Google form that gives them the space to provide anonymous feedback on how you’re doing as CEO. What could you do differently? What could the company do differently?

Want better culture? Do these twelve things. Do them now.

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Keeping Employees Healthy Helps Keep Businesses Healthy

Large diverse group of hospital doctors, surgeons, and nurses

The New Year is almost upon us with new resolutions for a better 2017. For many, that means a resolution to be healthier and business owners are smart to help their employees with this goal. Studies have shown that healthy employees are, in general, happier and more productive at work (Source: Business News Daily 2013).

 

In the past, providing such benefits has become nearly impossible for small to mid-sized business owners. Now, there is a solution. The Barter Company is offering a new product to its clients called BarterCo Health. The BarterCo Health card is purchased by business owners using barter dollars instead of cash. The card can then be offered to the company’s employees as a health benefit.

 

From allergy testing to yoga, The Barter Company’s BarterCo Health program offers a wide variety of health care options for business owners to offer their employees. Healthier employees mean a healthier business with fewer sick days and increased productivity as well as increased retention among employees. For more information on how this program can benefit you or your business, click here.

 

Here are some other tips for a healthier company in 2017:

 

  • Stock the breakroom with health snack alternatives and water. Healthy snacks not only help with weight control but they can increase an employees’ intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

 

  • Encourage your sedentary employees to take stretch and walk breaks. A good stretch, breath of fresh air, and a walk around the block can do wonders for energy and productivity.

 

  • Offer incentives to those employees who want to lose weight, including health club memberships or a financial reward to those who meet their weight-loss goals.

 

Most of all, be supportive of employees who want to get or stay healthy. In the long run, it benefits your business as well as the individual.

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Beating Out the Big Box

Beating Out the Big Box

small-business

Your business is going along well – you have satisfied customers, sales are coming in, and you’re managing overhead. Then suddenly, a sign goes up across the street from your company that says something like “coming soon – big box store.” Immediately, you break out into a cold sweat thinking about how you will compete with one of the large national chains. Will your customers leave and shop there instead?

 

Before the big box store becomes a reality, take some time to examine your business operations. Here are a few key questions to help you prepare for this new competition:

 

  • What can your company offer customers that the big box can’t? Maybe you have the ability to locate one-of-a-kind items or produce custom-made products. The big box store will struggle to offer anything unique or hand-crafted.

 

  • Are you recognized for having great customer service? If not, now is the time to focus your efforts on making sure each and every customer is happy with your company. And, help them tell others about their positive experiences through online review services and social media. Most big box stores are notorious for having poor customer service.

 

  • What’s your USP (unique selling proposition)? This is what differentiates you from the competition – both large and small. What’s your secret weapon? It doesn’t have to be about product or price. Maybe your organization is passionate about a particular charity or you have a really cool story to tell about how your business was founded.

 

Don’t think you can match a big box store just on price. However, effectively managing costs and cash flow is now more important than ever. Make sure you keep an eye on administrative costs and look for ways to save money. Don’t forget how barter can help you pay for business expenses without outlaying cash. It might just help you knock that big box down a few notches!

 

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Going for the Gold – As an Athlete and in Business

Olympic medal

The Summer Games are here once again as all eyes turn toward Brazil to watch world-class athletes seemingly do the impossible. Some will fail but many will achieve glory – all of their stories will capture the attention of the World and inspire us.

 

Going for a top medal means not only being your best but challenging yourself and others on your team. Many athletes and their coaches will attest that achieving greatness in sports also transfers to greatness in the business world. There are many of the same key ingredients to success, including: focus, dedication, and teamwork.

 

According to a Wall Street Journal article, rowers are the athletes most likely to succeed in business after leaving the sport. The article says that the sport “requires intense teamwork which often means sacrificing personal glory and adapting to the style of others in order to achieve a final goal.” (Source: WSJ August 12, 2012)

 

As a leader within your company, here are a few tips on how to help bring “Athletic Glory” into your organization:

  • Identify your business goals and communicate them to everyone on the team. Make sure all team members know what the goals are and how they impact their day-to-day work.
  • Is your team dedicated to the company’s goals? If not, find ways to build loyalty. Celebrate successes and milestones. The more the team feels like they’re contributing the more they will be invested in the overall success of the organization.
  • Emphasize the importance of being part of the team – from the mailroom to the boardroom. Even with a star player, members of a team have to work together, pass the ball, and help each other to achieve success.

 

Here at The Barter Company, we’re celebrating our own “Glory” in 2016 as we mark our 20th Anniversary. Another milestone we achieved this year was our selection as one of the Top 25 Small Businesses in Cobb County by the Chamber of Commerce. We strive every day to focus on our clients, dedicate ourselves to providing great service, and work together to be the best we can be. It’s our way of bringing home the “Gold” to our clients. So enjoy watching the Summer Games and Go Team USA!

 

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