Thursday, 27 December 2018

Alexa for Business: What Small to Medium Businesses Should Know

Amazon's Alexa for Business is a new way to bring voice commands to small businesses and corporate offices. Alexa devices – the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap – may have assisted in business matters before, but the company was largely focused on personal use by consumers. Amazon offers other Alexa-enabled devices that may not be as perfect for business but may still be connected, including the Echo Spot, Echo Show and Echo Look. In 2018, Alexa was integrated into just about everything, from lawn mowers to laptops. In fact, the virtual assistant is so in demand, it can now be installed on any Windows 10 computer. Plus, companies such as Acer, Asus and HP are rolling out PCs with Alexa built in, offering direct competition for Microsoft's Cortana. With Alexa for Business, Amazon loaded more features into Alexa so that it can support an office environment. It added shared devices, which are public devices anyone can use. This model enables easy communication in the workplace and a removal of humdrum corporate tasks, like ordering new printer paper, turning on videoconferencing equipment, setting reminders, joining video calls, reporting broken equipment and giving office directions – Alexa can take care of it all in half the time, according to Amazon.

Before this new business version of Alexa, workers could easily integrate their personal Alexa device into their office flow by setting up skills, integrating their email or calendar through IFTT, or managing to-do lists. Now those benefits expand beyond the single, personal devices of employees. While workers can bring in their own devices, they can be linked with their company's Alexa for Business account so they can access all the private skills and features built by the business.

Now, whether Alexa is right for your business or not, it depends largely on who your employees are, what processes can be made more efficient using voice commands, and if you're willing to spend the money. The service is based on a monthly subscription of $7 per shared device per month and $3 per enrolled user per month (in addition to the cost of the actual devices). This payment model might be reasonable, depending on how large your business is.

Here's what you need to know about Alexa for Business.


How it works
Amazon breaks down Alexa for Business into two device categories: shared and personal devices. Shared devices can be placed around the office in public locations for anyone to use. These are the devices that will be placed in conference rooms, lobbies, printing rooms, kitchens or other shared company spaces. Ideally, you and your IT department can set up skills on these devices – just like on normal Alexa devices – so your staff can use Alexa to complete general tasks.

Personal devices are devices for individual workers. These devices have "enrolled users" with Alexa accounts so Alexa can complete personal tasks like managing to-do lists and setting reminders. Personal devices can also send messages and conduct calls, access calendars, schedule meetings and find information in popular programs like Salesforce. Personal users can integrate their at-home Alexa account so they can use their home-office Alexa devices as well.

Price
Amazon's devices starts in price from $49.99 to $229.99 (plus a monthly subscription of $7 per shared device and $3 per enrolled user). Enrolled users are workers who will use personal devices at work. You don't need to personally enroll everyone in your business to use shared devices. For example, if your business wanted to add two personal devices and three shared ones, you would be charged $6 per month for the personal devices and $21 per month for the shared devices, totaling $27 per month for that number of shared devices and enrolled users.

For example, a company with seven shared devices and 25 enrolled users – all using a personalized Alexa device – is going to cost $49 for the shared devices and $75 for the enrolled users. That's a total of $124 per month, in addition to however much money your company decides to spend on the physical Alexa devices.

Alexa can be found in the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Show, Echo Look, Amazon Tap, Fire TV, Fire Tablets and a host of non-Amazon hardware.

Room booking
Conference rooms are in high demand in any company. With a huge number of teams looking to collaborate at any given time, even small businesses can suffer from a lack of meeting spaces. Add last-minute huddles and meetings that run over their allotted time, and you have a conference room system strained by needs that aren't that demanding. Amazon is looking to solve the hassle of finding and booking conference rooms by getting Alexa involved.

All you have to do is link your calendar provider and read/write permission with Alexa to enable the Room Booking feature. There are a few different functions Alexa can help with. You can check the availability of a conference room you are in by asking, "Alexa, is this room free?" If it's free, you can immediately book the room. To find out who reserved a room, you can ask, "Alexa, who booked this room?" Amazon also provides a Room Booking API, so you can build out your room-booking experience to include creating reservations and finding available rooms.

Amazon has expanded Alexa for Business' conference room features. Users can control conference room settings, like dimming the lights, drawing the blinds and turning on the projector, with only a voice command. Alexa would have to work in conjunction with smart technology for this, like smart lights in the case of adjusting conference room lighting.

Videoconferencing
One of the marquee features of Alexa for Business is Alexa's ability to start videoconferences through voice command. Alexa is able to sync with a corporate calendar, so you don't even need a meeting ID or conference call number to set up your conferences. Simply say, "Alexa, start the meeting," and Alexa will turn on the videoconferencing equipment and join the respective meeting. This could be a convenient feature. It also eliminates time fiddling with equipment while you set up your meeting.

Alexa for Business console
This dashboard is the command center for your company's entire Alexa for Business experience. Here you can manage users or devices, add or remove skills on devices, manage videoconferencing options, invite new users, manage corporate calendars, and view shared devices. Amazon also provides detailed steps on its website to view and use these features.

Another way to manage Alexa for Business using the dashboard is to view the room profiles. You can assign a room to each shared device, marking its location and place in your office's ecosystem. Skill groups can then be added or removed from devices based on what room they are in. You can also enable custom skills for each user on each device, giving you control over who has access to which skills.

Amazon provides different skills and integrations with third-party apps to make your business run more efficiently, but you can also build your own skills and use Alexa for Business APIs. Once integrated with Alexa, these skills can be kept private for internal business use.

Overall, this dashboard will help you set up and implement this system for your business. The center is organized in an intuitive way so that it's easy to manage and adjust settings as your business's use of Alexa changes.

Private Alexa skills
The great thing about Alexa for Business is its open API feature. Amazon enables developers to create whatever Alexa skills a business needs. This means Alexa for Business' applications for your company are endless. Creating a skill isn't difficult, but it's probably best if someone with development experience handles it.

The 9 Smart Business Ideas for 2019

With a new year almost on ground there are chances to start new projects, so what better time to launch your own business? If becoming an entrepreneur in 2019 is on your list of New Year's resolutions but you don't know where to start, you might just need some inspiration.
You'll want to start with an idea that has room to grow, so we've compiled a list of some great business ideas that we think will help you find success in the new year.

1.Lawn care service: If it happened that you grew up with a lawn, chances are your parents might have made you take care of it. For many of us, lawn care is bothersome, but for some, it offers a sense of peace and serenity. Working outdoors with your hands to tame and beautify the natural landscape can be a rewarding experience, and since so many people find the work tedious, arduous, or time-consuming, it can also be profitable.
Lawn care services require little more than some basic equipment, a trailer and perhaps some labor depending on how many clients you have and how big the jobs are. You can quickly grow a small lawn care service into a full landscaping company by offering premium services and establishing a reputation as a brand that does a thorough job with a smile. If you like working outdoors and creating elegant landscapes, this could be the business for you.

2.Food truck: If you are a type that loves food and traveling, then a food truck business might be right for you. Food trucks come in all shapes and sizes, serving up a wide range of snacks and cuisines to hungry event or festivalgoers. Take your favorite style of food on the road and travel to events you'd already like to attend. Sure, you might be working, but you'll be in a space you're passionate about with a chance to connect with people who have similar interests.
Food trucks might sound like a wild idea, but the industry is growing. Better yet, the overhead and upkeep for a truck is significantly less than owning a restaurant, plus you have the added benefit of mobility.

3.Ride-share driver: Maybe starting your own business seems daunting or too much of a risk, you can always use your car to become a ride-share driver. The overhead and responsibility of running the company falls on the ride-share service, giving you the freedom to work as much or as little as you need. Ride-share applications have enabled people to start side hustles that pay well and require little more than a willingness to drive people to their destinations and maybe make occasional friendly conversation.
Ride-share drivers have the independence of a small business owner without the heavy workload required to manage the logistics behind the scenes. If any of the other nine ideas seem like they require too much effort or upfront capital, ride-sharing might be a great way for you to dip your toes into the world of entrepreneurship.

4.Digital marketing: As the case is now, digital marketing services are always in demand, and many small and mid-sized companies would rather outsource it than establish a costly in-house team. If you've got digital marketing chops in SEO, content marketing, pay-per-click, web development or social media management you could be looking at a business opportunity that gives you the freedom to work from home.
Digital marketing is an important job, though, so it's important you are always able to respond to developments in your clients' marketing strategy. Social media management means watching for comments and messages around the clock, not just scheduling posts in a "set-it-and-forget-it" mindset. If you enjoy strategizing and implementing plans meticulously, digital marketing could be the right business for you to launch.

5.Mobile app development: Currently, mobile devices are rapidly becoming a top priority channel through which companies reach their audience. One of the best ways to secure customer loyalty is by deploying an engaging and useful mobile application. The trouble is mobile app development can prove costly and the rollout can be difficult. As a result, many businesses look to a specialist in mobile app development to get the job done right the first time.
If you like programming and specifically enjoy working on mobile platforms, mobile app development is an in-demand business-to-business service that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But there is more to building a mobile app than just making sure it works and then keeping the lights on. Your clients will want results, so the more you can educate yourself on how to create a mobile app that drives engagement and promotes your client's brand, the better you'll do as an app developer.

6.Translation service: If you don't know translation services have been growing by leaps and bounds lately. According to research from IBISWorld, the translation services industry is growing more than 5 percent annually. That growth is showing no signs of slowing as the internet opens entrepreneurs in other countries up to English-speaking markets and vice versa.
This trend has created an opening for multilingual speakers to offer specific services, such as document translation or the translation of website information into languages for use in other markets. If you know multiple languages, carving out a niche in the translation services industry could prove to be a successful endeavor.

7.Cleaning service: Do you like to clean? You could offer cleaning services to homeowners, apartment complexes and commercial properties and charge as much as $30 or $40 per hour. All you need is some clients and the manpower to tackle their locations. Cleaning services are straightforward and require little overhead; you just need to plan accordingly, stay dedicated, and make sure your marketing gets you noticed.
If you're looking to differentiate yourself from other cleaning services, consider adding premium options like floor waxing or exterior power-washing for an additional fee. These services could be a deciding factor between your new cleaning service and one of the more seasoned veterans that maintain too large a client list to provide that level of detail for.

8.Professional organizer: Professional organizers help people declutter and minimize, enabling them to take charge of their belongings rather than feeling possessed by them. Minimalism is becoming very popular, but people often find it hard to part with things they've owned for a long time. Part of being a professional organizer is helping them develop a system for downsizing and keeping things that way.
Are you a highly organized person that enjoys making spaces more functional and comfortable? If yes, you might be good at coaching people through letting go of unnecessary or extraneous items, which can be a lucrative business especially when people are making resolutions to downsize. To promote your business, ask if your clients will let you take before and after photos of the areas of their homes you've organized and use those to create a portfolio to attract more clients by marketing your work on social media

9.Home care service: A good background in care and hospitality can go a long way to helping support housebound seniors that require in-home care. It's also a service for which demand is only going to grow. According to the National Institute on Aging, between 2010 and 2050, the 85-and-over population is projected to increase 351 percent globally, and the global number of centenarians (those over age 100) is projected to increase tenfold. Many of those people will need care and assistance, oftentimes in their own homes.
Luckily, you don't need a background in healthcare to help seniors and grow a successful business at the same time, although those skills are certain to be in demand as well. Many seniors need help with everything from running errands to repairs around the house. With some experience, you could consider growing your business to help seniors transition from their homes to assisted living facilities, offering services such as packing, transporting, setting up or storing their furniture and possessions. Thanks for reading........

How you can track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve: NORAD Santa Tracker, Google Santa Tracker

Before now, the presents were wrapped, the tree were up, and the stockings was hanged by the chimney with care. There’s only one thing left to do: track Santa’s annual Christmas Eve voyage around the world from your PC, smartphone, or tablet.

This year Santa’s departure time depends on which version of the Santa-tracking fun you’re following. Check out our explanations below for all the details.


NORAD Tracks Santa

It’s been 63 years since a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper ad led children in the Colorado Springs area to call NORAD predecessor CONAD, looking for Santa.

As usual, the fun begins with NORAD Tracks Santa, at NoradSanta.org. NORAD’s pulled out the stops for 2018, with a redesigned website, an active social media presence, and a call center for kiddies who want a live update. Here are all the details:

Livestream: Starting at 2:01 a.m. Eastern December 24 (7:01 a.m. UTC), NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will begin tracking Santa on the NoradSanta.org website.

Live phone call: Starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern December 24, you can call NORAD for live updates on Santa’s progress. According to NORAD, more than 1,400 volunteers will answer the phones around the clock. That number: 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723).

Email: You can email noradtrackssanta@outlook.com for the latest on Santa’s progress.

YouTube: Follow the official NORAD Tracks Santa YouTube channel.

Amazon Alexa: The NORAD Tracks Santa skill will let you ask Alexa for updates.

Search engine: Microsoft’s Bing search engine will be tracking Santa, too.

NORAD Tracks Santa on social media
Follow the fun on social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/noradsanta

Instagram: You’ll find a bunch of of NORAD Tracks Santa accounts on Instagram, but the biggest and most official appear to be @norad.santa, @noradsanta, and @noradtrackssanta_official.

Twitter: @noradsanta


Google Santa Tracker

Google joined holiday fun with education on its Google Santa Tracker site. Google opened its online Santa’s Village on December 4, offering an array of games and challenges for kids of all ages, plus holiday Gboard stickers.

You can also track Santa on Google Maps, starting around 10:00 a.m. UTC on Sunday, December 24, which is 5:00 a.m. Eastern. Beforehand you’ll see a countdown leading up to it. If you don’t want to use Google’s website on your mobile device, the company is giving out its annual Google Santa Tracker Android app. There are some Android app-exclusive games that you won’t find on the main website, as well as Android Wear support.

Google has built Santa magic into Google Assistant. You can ask Google Assistant “Where’s Santa?” or “Track Santa,” or “tell me a holiday story.” Google Assistant also has some Santa-flavored jokes. When you ask the assistant “Tell me a Santa joke,” the Jolly Old Elf himself will make an appearance to tell some real groaners.

I must admit I’m devastated that the Santa phone call novelty has been out of the lineup since 2016. This was my personal favorite holiday distraction, because it allowed anyone to send fun, Mad Libs-style phone calls from Santa to friends in the U.S. and Canada. I found Santa calls—while deliberately designed to be ridiculous—always brought a special smile to the recipients regardless of age.Thanks for reading...

Monday, 17 December 2018

Five Cybersecurity and Privacy Predictions for 2019

While data breaches, ransomware and internet of things (IoT) security remain front and center in cybersecurity trends, 2018 saw a greater emphasis on data privacy, thanks to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, 2018.

Expect privacy to remain a priority in 2019, according to cybersecurity experts, as more regulations have been passed in individual states and other countries, and old cybersecurity concerns have appeared in new vectors or been reshaped by cybercriminals.

Here are five predictions from cybersecurity experts.

1. Managing privacy will become the new normal.

Privacy is going to continue on a similar path as the evolution of cybersecurity, predicts Chris Babel, CEO with TrustArc. Data breaches and privacy-related incidents aren't going away just because of GDPR and other laws, so expect a standard of constant privacy to become the new normal and for compliance to be a continuous exercise that requires the same focus, vigilance, and taxes.

If organizations want to keep pace with competitors, they'll have to incorporate privacy and compliance into their business processes, especially since consumers will now have increased awareness of security and privacy.

"In 2019, consumers will become more aware of and better understand the rights and mechanisms that regulations like the GDPR have made available to them to manage and protect their data," said Babel. "As a result, we will see consumers become more engaged and active in controlling their privacy settings, such as sharing less information, unsubscribing from marketing communications, and requesting copies of their data or that companies delete their data entirely from marketing databases."

2. Brands will rethink cloud security.

As cloud adoption and multi-cloud deployments are spreading exponentially, organizations are faced with unmanaged security risks and data exposure. That's why in 2019, David Storch, security consultant with Atos North America, predicts organizations will focus on creating solutions for their cloud and hybrid environments.

You should also expect to see more companies address cloud security by moving away from public cloud formats and returning to the private cloud. We first saw an inkling of this trend in 2016, according to Jonathan Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of NS1, when Dropbox announced it was moving 600 petabytes of data from AWS to its own data center. The reason was primarily to improve security, but it also addressed availability and performance concerns.

"We expect to see these same concerns drive enterprises to move applications and data from the public cloud back to the private cloud in 2019," said Sullivan. "Data shows that private cloud is growing at a rate two times that of public cloud. As organizations that moved to the public cloud grow in maturity, many will realize the cost savings or agility benefits they anticipated were not easy to unlock. We expect to see these organizations adopt to new frameworks involving software-defined networking in a private cloud environment or on-premises."

3. Cybercriminals will use new tactics.

In 2019, the McAfee Labs 2019 Threats Prediction Report anticipates the hacker forums, chat rooms, and marketplaces where one can purchase exploit kits and other nefarious offerings – the cybercriminal underground – will consolidate. In turn, we'll see a rise in malware as a service, and these new malware families will work closely together.

"These increasingly powerful brands is going to drive more sophisticated cryptocurrency mining, rapid exploitation of new vulnerabilities, and increases in mobile malware and stolen credit cards and credentials," the report states.

As crimeware becomes a service, it could lead to more destructive attacks, added Malcolm Harkins, chief security and trust officer at Cylance. It will also enable cyberattacks to expand beyond hackers and cybercriminals and into terrorist-related groups.

"From attacks on data integrity that essentially kill computers to the point of mandatory hardware replacements to leveraging new technology for physical assaults, such as the recent drone attack in Venezuela, attack surfaces are growing, and enemies will take advantage," said Harkins.

4. Social media will grow as an attack vector.

Fake news is will become more prevalent in 2019 as cybercriminals use social media to spread misinformation and extortion campaigns. McAfee predicts the focus this time will be on brands and corporations, instead of elections. The increased number of botnet accounts will look more legitimate and will be harder to take down. Botnet operators will continue to harass organizations with the intent to do serious, if not permanent, damage to their reputation and financials.

"Activities to manipulate public opinion have been well documented and bots well versed in manipulating conversations to drive agendas stand ready," the report said. "Next year we expect that cybercriminals will repurpose these campaigns to extort companies by threatening to damage their brands. Organizations will face a serious danger."

5. Small organizations will finally take an enterprise approach to cybersecurity.

Will 2019 be the year small businesses take a leap forward in their cybersecurity efforts? Yes, said Brian NeSmith, CEO and co-founder of Arctic Wolf Networks.

This new attitude and approach should have an impact on the overall supply chain. If smaller companies are more serious about their security efforts, it is going to become more difficult for cybercriminals to target the suppliers as a backdoor into large enterprise networks. Thanks for reading....

What Is The Meaning Of Vision Statement?

Many intrepid entrepreneurs have found themselves staring at a blinking cursor on a bare screen as they struggle to formulate a vision statement for their business. Although we all know a good one when we hear it – such as Disney's "to make people happy" or Instagram's "capture and share the world's moments" – creating a well-crafted vision statement can be a daunting task. In any case, those willing to do the hard work are rewarded with a vision statement that encapsulates the core ideals that give their business its shape and direction and provides a roadmap to where it wants to go. "A company vision statement reveals, at the highest levels, what an organization most hopes to be and achieve in the long term," said Katie Trauth Taylor, CEO of the writing consultancy Untold Content. "It serves a somewhat lofty purpose – to harness all the company's foresight into one impactful statement."

A vision statement offers a concrete way for stakeholders, especially employees, to understand the meaning and purpose of your business.

Why does this matter? Research shows that employees who find their company's vision meaningful have engagement levels of 68 percent, which is 19 points above average. More engaged employees are often more productive, and they are more effective corporate ambassadors in the larger community.

Given the impact that a vision statement can have on a company's long-term success and even its bottom line, it's worth taking the time to craft a statement that synthesizes your ambition and mobilizes your staff.

Vision statement vs. mission statement

Before determining what your vision statement is, you need to first understand what it is not. It should not be confused with a mission statement. Those statements are present-based and designed to convey a sense of why the company exists to both members of the company and the external community.
Vision statements are future-based and meant to inspire and give direction to employees of the company rather than customers. "Your mission statement is your company's reason for being – it's all about what you're doing right now," said Alison Brehme, founder of Virtual Corporate Wellness, a provider of employee health and wellness programs. "Your vision statement is where your company is going – it's all about your future."

"While a mission statement focuses on the purpose of the brand, the vision statement looks to the fulfillment of that purpose," explained Jessica Honard, co-owner of North Star Messaging + Strategy, a copywriting and messaging firm that serves entrepreneurs.

Although both mission and vision statements should be core elements of your organization, a vision statement serves as your company's North Star. "A vision is aspiration. A mission is actionable," added Jamie Falkowski, managing director at marketing and communications company Day One Agency.

Deciding who shapes your vision

To start with, the first step in writing a vision statement is determining who will play a role in crafting it. To accomplish this end, Brandon Shockley, director of research at branding and marketing firm 160over90, recommends developing a vision statement through a series of workshops with key stakeholders who represent a cross-section of your organization. Teams of people can craft alternate versions of the statement and receive feedback from the rest of the group.
Falkowski in addition suggests the use of individual stakeholder interviews as an effective way to encourage candor among all invested parties and to gather real and honest feedback. Employees can identify and highlight common themes as well as describe an organization's future in words or pictures as a basis for crafting a vision statement.
Liz Robinson, who recently co-launched the logistics and expediting business ASAP Cargo, recommends starting any vision-writing session with an individual brainstorm exercise. "This allows for people to be uninhibited by others' opinions and ideas, which leaves room for more organic creativity," said Robinson.

Determining how to use the vision statement

A business should determine early in the process where its vision statement will appear and what role it will serve in the organization. This will prevent the process from becoming merely an intellectual exercise, said Shockley. It is pointless to hang a vision statement in the office lobby or promote it on social media if it never is truly integrated into the company culture.

"The vision business statement should be thought of as part of your strategic plan," said Shockley. "It is an internal communications tool that helps align and inspire your team to reach the company's goals."

In that case, the vision statements should be viewed as living documents that will be revisited and revised. But most importantly, it must speak directly to your employees.

"If your employees don't buy into the vision, you'll never be able to carry it out," said Keri Lindenmuth, marketing manager with the Kyle David Group, a provider of web and tech solutions. "The vision statement should be something your employees believe in. Only then will they make decisions and take actions that reflect your business's vision."

How to write a vision statement

Creating the perfect vision statement may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn't have to be. You don't have to reinvent the wheel to develop a powerful vision statement. Instead, use the information you already have to guide your work, as Brehme suggests.

"A company's mission, purpose, goals and values are all involved in the creation of a company vision," Brehme said. "Weave these concepts and beliefs into your vision statement."

Additionally, Lindenmuth advises looking at the vision statements of competitors within your industry to get an idea of what they are saying and to determine how you can differentiate your business from theirs.

A vision statement should be concise, no longer than a sentence or a few paragraphs. According to Falkowski, you want your entire team and organization to be able to quickly repeat it and, more importantly, understand it. However, a vision statement needs to be more than a catchy tagline. "[It] can be smart and memorable, but this is for your team and culture, not for selling a specific product," Falkowski said.

You can start by mapping out the most audacious goals your business hopes to achieve, Taylor suggested. "Reviewing your long-term goals in a collaborative setting will help you then zoom out on what your organization and the world will look like if you achieve them. That zoomed-out view of your success is really the heart of your vision statement."

According to Taylor, her team established a foundational understanding of their company vision by asking probing questions about the core of their business. This included asking what deliverables they most enjoyed working on, the partners they loved working with and the ambiance they hoped to create when collaborating.

"It's important to start with the big questions – after all, this type of statement establishes your organization's vision for what impact your business makes on the world," said Taylor.

Honard advises asking questions that reflect the eventual scale and impact your business will have when constructing a vision statement.

A few of the questions she uses in guiding clients to identify their vision statement include:

1.What ultimate impact do I want my brand to have on my community/industry/world?
2.In what way will my brand ultimately interact with customers/clients?
3.What will the culture of my business look like, and how will that play out in employees' lives?

"Once you've been able to answer all these questions, you've created a roadmap between your present and your future," said Honard.

Don't be afraid to dream big once you gather all your information and get down to writing. Don't worry about practicality for now – what initially looks impossible could be achieved down the road with the right team and technologies. Work on shaping a vision statement that reflects the specific nature of your business and its aspirations.

Shockley said there is nothing wrong with a vision statement that is daring, distinct or even disagreeable. "If a vision statement sets out a generic goal that anyone can agree with, it is likely to produce mediocre results. A goal like 'delivering an exceptional experience' applies equally to a hospital, bank or fitness club."

Those interested in taking their vision one step further can create a brand vision board, according to Taylor. A vision board includes a company's tagline, a who we are statement, what we do section, a business vision statement, ideal clients overview, client pain points, content mission statement, advertising, products and SEO keywords.

"In a way, a vision board serves as a one-page business plan that anyone in a company can reference quickly to remember the key concepts that drive the work," said Taylor.

Tips for crafting your vision statement

One reality here is that, a vision statement should stretch the imagination while providing guidance and clarity. It will inform direction and set priorities while challenging employees to grow. But most importantly, a vision statement must be compelling, not just to the high-level executives of your company, but to all employees.
Based on our expert sources' advice, here's a quick recap of what to keep in mind when formalizing a vision statement:

1.Project five to 10 years in the future.
2.Dream big and focus on success.
3.Use the present tense.
4.Use clear, concise and jargon-free language.
5.Infuse it with passion and make it inspiring.
6.Align it with your business values and goals.
7.Have a plan to communicate your vision statement to your employees.
8.Be prepared to commit time and resources to the vision you establish.
Your completed vision statement should provide a clear idea of your company's path forward. Honard points out that many of her clients have used their vision statements to direct their overall plans for the future. For example, they've adopted new marketing initiatives aimed at moving them closer to their vision, pivoted their focus to clearly reflect their desired outcome, or doubled down on one particular aspect of their brand that is working in service of their vision.

Above all, your vision statement should be a constant reminder to you and your team that the end goal is bigger than the everyday. This message is an important one to hold onto, especially on the particularly difficult days.

"As a small business, every day is an adventure, and sometimes that adventure leads us to a dead-end or a ditch," explains Robinson. "On those days, it's important to remember the passion with which you launched your business – the values that helped get your company to where it is and the vision you have for a better future." Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Five Ways the Job Market Is Going to Change in 2019

The end of the year is fast approaching, and you may find yourself growing restless in your current job. You aren't alone. Getting a new job is a popular new year's resolution, and knowing what to expect from the job market for the next year can give you a leg up over steep competition. Here are five ways the job market will change in 2019

1. Companies need to appeal to job seekers, not just the other way around: The job market is extremely competitive, but not just for job seekers. Companies and organizations will on this note need to do everything to make their employment opportunity as appealing as possible. As much as the interview process is aimed at finding the right candidate for an open position, the candidate is also interviewing the company to ensure they can envision a future there for themselves

2. Treat job descriptions as your top of funnel: The first step to making sure the candidate gets a glimpse of your culture is creating attractive job descriptions. Global companies and corporations, like Amazon and Google, have the benefit of their brand speaking for them, but smaller businesses have to work harder to articulate their mission and culture.

Justin Cerilli, managing director of financial services for executive search and leadership transition firm Russell Reynolds and Associates, says the best job descriptions "combine a little bit of marketing, the reality of the role, the necessary skills and competencies, and the organization's culture."
While most job descriptions always cover the primary, day-to-day responsibilities, not many include growth opportunities the position affords the candidate. It's becoming less common for workers to stay with the same company for longer than a couple of years, and to prevent high turnover, the best candidates want to know that the position allows room for growth.

3. Offer competitive compensation and benefits packages: Given how many companies are forgoing providing benefits for their employees – according to a report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical benefits were only available to 69 percent of private industry workers as of September of this year. If your company offers benefits, you should let your applicants know upfront.

For smaller businesses, it may not really be in the budget for you to offer full health benefits to employees. According to that same Bureau of Labor Statistics report, only "55 percent of private industry workers in small establishments (those with fewer than 100 employees) were offered medical benefits."

You need to provide medical benefits to employees, compensate accordingly whenever possible to keep your best players on board. To compete for the best talent, you have to make your job opportunity worth their while.

4. Increase transparency in the interview process: According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, "a lack of information about a job's total compensation package" is one of the biggest frustrations for job seekers during the interview process.

Julie Coucoules, Glassdoor's global head of talent acquisition, said that "job seekers clearly feel that understanding the total compensation package, including pay and benefits, is absolutely essential to fully evaluate a job opportunity." Letting applicants know as many specifics as possible about the interview process should also become commonplace.

"Time to hire is a key metric that many employers track and pay attention to, so recruiters and candidates really are on the same page when it comes to the outcome: They all want a quick and efficient match, resulting in informed, quality candidates on board as quickly as possible," said Coucoules. "Nobody likes to have their time wasted, which is why it is so important for employers to provide the necessary information upfront to enable people to make good decisions about the jobs they are applying for," she added.

5. Upskill, upskill, upskill: With widespread automation and the constant shift of business priorities, upskilling is more important than ever before, but regarding to workers and employers. Rather than the nice perk it once was, offering training to your employees is an absolute a must now.

According to a survey conducted by Robert Half and Enactus, of Generation Z workers (born between 1990 and 1999), "91 percent cited professional training as an important factor when choosing an employer." Smart professionals, not just newer workers, believe constant development is of vital importance to remain relevant in their industry, and they expect their employers to provide at least some of these learning opportunities.

If you're concerned about the cost, don't be. The ROI for employers is greater than the cost of providing training and development because it helps with retention as well as addressing knowledge and skill gaps as they arise.

Tips for job seekers

A major advice from Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for Glassdoor, provided for last year's job seekers is especially applicable this year: Tailor your cover letter and resume as much as possible. With the automation overhaul HR software is getting, tailoring your cover letter and resume to match the job description – while remaining honest about your abilities – gives you the best chance of getting an interview.

Now once you've made it to the interview round, embrace an open, coachable attitude. Yes, that may sound like corporate team-building mumbo jumbo, but adopting a coachable attitude can mean the difference between getting through to the next round of interviews and landing your dream job. If hiring managers perceive you as a collaborative team player, that can serve you better than having all of the competencies and skills listed in the job description.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

HIV Testing From Your SmartPhone

Columbia Engineering researchers have developed a smartphone accessory that can simultaneously detect HIV and syphilis within minutes.
A team led by professor Samuel K Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University's engineering school, designed the low-cost smartphone add-on, which has already been tested by healthcare workers in Rwanda.
The device emulates an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA – a blood test usually carried out in a lab – using the phone's audio jack as a power source.
An app prompts the user to enter a patient ID and then displays instructions to guide them through the process.
Users first disinfect a finger and obtain a finger-prick of blood for testing. This is placed into a plastic collector and then inserted into a special chip.

A disposable cassette containing the chip with the blood sample is then inserted into the dongle. Pressing a bulb activates the testing process, and in 15 minutes the results are displayed on the screen.

The disposable cassettes contain reagents, a substance which normally contains an antibody that will stick to a protein in a blood sample – in this case an HIV or syphillis viral protein.
When mixed with the blood, the reagent creates a chemical reaction that will make the substance change colour if the viral proteins are present. An enzyme is included to help speed up this process. Any change is then detected by shining light on the substance and measuring how much is absorbed. The results of this indicate the presence of the viral protein.
In standard equipment, this mixing is achieved by the use of an electrically-powered pump. In the dongle, this has been replaced with a "one-push vacuum" – a soft plastic button that can be compressed and released to create negative pressure in the testing chamber.
According to the team, the dongle, which can also be connected to a computer, matches the quality of a full laboratory test.
"It performs a triplexed immunoassay not currently available in a single test format: HIV antibody, treponemal-specific antibody for syphilis, and non-treponemal antibody for active syphilis infection," explained a statement from Columbia Engineering.
"The team developed the dongle to be small and light enough to fit into one hand, and to run assays on disposable plastic cassettes with pre-loaded reagents, where disease-specific zones provided an objective read-out."


According to Sia, the dongle could have a manufacturing cost of $34, compared to the $18,450 cost for equipment typically used for these tests.

Although many areas do not have reliable access to electricity, there are now more than 7 billion mobile devices in the world. This led the team to focus on designing a device that could be powered by just a smartphone.
The dongle plugs into the audiojack rather than the phone's power dock; connecting cables for audio equipment have been standardized around the world, so this enables the device to be virtually universal.

"Our dongle presents new capabilities for a broad range of users, from health care providers to consumers," explained professor Samuel K Sia. "By increasing detection of syphilis infections, we might be able to reduce deaths by 10-fold."

"And for large-scale screening where the dongle's high sensitivity with few false negatives is critical, we might be able to scale up HIV testing at the community level with immediate antiretroviral therapy that could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease," he said.

During field testing in Rwanda, care workers were given just 30 minutes of training. According to the researchers, patients responded well and said they would recommend the device to others.

Sia collaborated with researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; the Institute of HIV Disease Prevention and Control, Rwanda Biomedical Center; Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University Medical Center; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Laboratory Reference and Research Branch, Atlanta; and OPKO Diagnostics. Thanks for reading....




Tuesday, 27 November 2018

What Should You Hire for, Personality or Skill?

There are so many factors to consider when making hiring decisions for your business. One of the most elusive is whether an employee fits the culture and mission of the company. So much of it comes down to personality. But is that more important than the practical skills an employee brings to the table?

"When you've got somebody who has both the skills and the personality, you've got a real winner there," said Vic Holifield, the owner-operator of a $10 million Poolwerx franchise where he manages 46 full-time employees, most of whom he hired himself. "But that doesn't happen all the time."

Instead, Holifield says, business owners usually have to choose: pick the candidate with the best background or the best fit? On this note, Business News Daily talked to Holifield to learn the unexpected reasons your business will benefit from hiring for fit and worrying about training later
1. Skills can, and should, be taught: When you are faced with a job candidate whose personality is an ideal fit for his business but who lacks the technical background the work requires, Holifield doesn't write that person off. Being successful in a job, he says, isn't about having every skill in place before you start.

"It's not about electronic or internet skills, it's not about mechanics. It's all about interpersonal relationships," Holifield said. "You have to have likable people … good eye contact, firm handshake, [willingness] to help people … You can't teach someone to put a smile on."

Technical skills, on the other hand, can be taught. For some jobs, employees need an industry background. But, especially in entry-level jobs or growing companies, it's a mistake to only look for employees who know the job before they begin. And no matter what skill level your new employee has, everyone needs some level of training at a new company.

"A lot of times in business, people are sort of thrown to the wolves, brought into a business and left to learn on the job. I think that's the wrong approach," Holifield said. "[As an employer], it's important to teach and coach all the time."

2. With time come bad habits: Employees who need to be trained from the ground up have no bad habits to unlearn. If they have been doing a similar job for years, by contrast, they may think they don't have anything left to learn or be unwilling to try new strategies for achieving more efficient results.

"Once someone has been in a position for a significant period of time, they run the risk of complacency," said Holifield. "They go through the motions, they don't really have that energy and the drive … they get into a routine, and I try to prevent that."

Employees who come to the work fresh bring new ideas and willingness to experiment as they learn new skills.

"I like to have lots of fresh energy," said Holifield, adding that employees are often the ones who bring that level of energy and enthusiasm to their work. "You can really bring them in and train them to be successful."

3. A personality fit leads to customer satisfaction: Personality is an important factor in one of the key areas of business success: customer satisfaction. Holifield has found that his clients are happier with service when it is delivered in an upbeat, friendly and professional manner. These soft skills are much harder to learn than technical knowledge, but they can be the difference between an unhappy customer and a loyal one, especially when faced with a miscommunication or other difficulty.

"In our business, there's so much interpersonal contact with clients, you have to provide them excellent customer service," said Holifield. "Each and every time that you talk to them … you really have to impress them, and they will want to come back to you."

To help find customer-friendly personalities, Holifield's company administers two or three personality profiles in the hiring process, such as the DISC personality test. "We want to know how they look at themselves. That gives you clues to how they'll react in a difficult situation, and that's important to know."

4. Fit makes a strong team: Even for jobs that aren't heavily customer-facing, personality can be the difference between a successful working environment and one where employees are unhappy or hostile toward each other.

"In businesses that are not so client-relation based, the relationships that are formed within the office are important," said Holifield. "How they will interact with each other, how they will perform as a team, depends on fit ... You definitely have to have an idea of someone's personality even in a situation where they aren't interacting directly with a client."

Employees with the right personality will have an easier time integrating into the office and working with their colleagues. This makes a stronger team, which leads to better communication, more collaboration and a more productive working environment overall.

However, Holifield says most hiring managers make a critical mistake during the hiring process that prevents them from identifying these ideal personalities: They do too much of the talking.

"In a lot of cases, hiring managers do a lot of talking and a lot of telling but don't really listen to what the person is saying back to them," he explained. "I think it's really important to get the person talking so you can get an insight into their personality."

Once you have that insight, you will be able to identify candidates who are the right fit for your company. At that point, it's just a matter of finding the right place for them to go.

"I think it really boils down to identifying the person's personality, then finding the role they're suited for, then teaching and coaching and setting them up for success," Holifield said. "Someone may not fit the exact position that I'm hiring for, but if they're the right personality, I'll find a position where they can be an asset to our company and provide them the proper training to do that role."

Sunday, 18 November 2018

OnePlus 6T tips: The 5 features to check out first

As the case maybe, OnePlus doesn’t subscribe to the once-yearly update cycle we see from most smartphone makers. Instead, it updates its hardware quickly, and adds new features with each iteration. The OnePlus 6T just launched around the world with one of the first in-display fingerprint sensors, and it’s now being sold in the U.S. via T-Mobile—a first for OnePlus, which previously sold phones unlocked, direct-to-consumer.

So on that note, you’ve got a shiny new OnePlus 6T, but how can you make the most of it? By taking advantage of the 5 features we describe below. And if you don’t yet have a 6T, make sure to read Michael Simon’s OnePlus 6T review.

1.OnePlus Switch: The OnePlus 6T has a standard Android device restore feature as part of its setup process, but you might need to skip that and use the OnePlus Switch app instead. You can fire this up at any time from your app drawer, too. Install the app on your old phone if it’s not already there, and then go through the pairing process.

The OnePlus Switch app can transfer images, SMS, call history, and apps. It works over Wi-Fi Direct, so the process is incredibly fast. If you’re transferring from an older OnePlus phone, it can even bring over the app data so your apps will already be configured and working on the new phone.

2.Fingerprint unlock animation: One of the 6T’s newest tricks is the in-display fingerprint sensor. OnePlus has a flashy animation when you press the sensor that looks like a little ball of lightning. If you want something a bit more understated, there are some alternatives in the settings. Just go o to Settings > Security & lock screen > Fingerprints > Fingerprint animation effect. From there, you can change to “Wave” or “Stripe.”

3.Customize Alert Slider: So far, OnePlus is the only Android device maker with a three-position alert slider on the side. It toggles between ring, vibrate, and silent, and there are a few useful tweaks available under Settings > Buttons & gestures > Alert slider. In silent mode, you can also have the phone mute all media, which is handy when using your phone at night. In ring mode, you can also configure the 6T to vibrate for calls.

4.OnePlus gesture navigation: By default, your OnePlus 6T has navigation buttons. But if you still want to fill the screen with as much content as possible, there’s a fully gesture-based navigation option at your disposal. Go to Settings > Buttons & gestures > Navigation bar & gestures. Change to the Navigation Gestures option, which completely removes the navigation bar. Home is a swipe up from the bottom of the display; multitasking is swipe up and hold; and back is a swipe up on the bottom left or right.

5.Reading mode: Reading on a smartphone screen can sometimes be uncomfortable, but many of us do it anyway. The OnePlus 6T, however, can make it a bit easier on your eyes with its custom reading mode. You’ll find this feature under Settings > Display > Reading Mode. This feature applies a filter that makes your vibrant OLED screen look more like the monochrome display on an eReader by sampling the ambient light. You can turn this feature on manually, or add apps to a watch list that automatically enables reading mode. Thanks for reading...

Friday, 9 November 2018

What Is Team Building, and Ways to Achieve It

A fact here is that employees are a business's most valuable asset. As a business owner, you should recognize their importance and find ways to connect with your team — and help them connect with each other. Team building is a great way to achieve this. We interviewed experts on why team building is so important and ways you can achieve it.

What is team building?
According to Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP, and founder of and leadership development expert for SproutHR, team building includes "activities to help a group of people develop greater interpersonal skills and work together collaboratively." They are intended to strengthen bonds and improve communication and performance, she added.

"Effective team building needn’t cost loads of money and take place over a full weekend, although many companies do find this useful, especially if they have hundreds of employees," added Frances Geoghegan, managing director of Healing Holidays.

Such activities can range from challenges such as Escape Rooms to fundraisers like 5K runs — any effort to bring workers together without the stress of work and deadlines.

Why is it so important?
Without your team, you there's no way you can be able to accomplish nearly as many tasks or grow your client base. Don't view your employees as replaceable; rather, learn more about their personalities, quirks and interests. This will show them you care about them as people, not just workers, and will increase their loyalty to your brand.

Not only will it improve your employer-employee relationship it will also strengthen bonds between your colleagues, which is vital to positive collaboration and teamwork.

"Team building is important because it helps the people on a team learn more about one another, appreciate similarities and differences, understand each other's roles better and develop skills to work together more effectively," added Cox. "It makes working in a team more human, and less machine-like."

Just like on a sports team, you want each member to get along well and acknowledge each other's strengths and weakness, so they can work together accordingly. Collaboration will be more seamless if everyone is comfortable with each other.

Furthermore, the company culture will feel more welcoming and supportive. Imagine walking into a room filled with silent colleagues who keep to themselves and don't give you the time of day; now, imagine working with colleagues you also consider friends or acquaintances, who you can enjoy grabbing lunch or having a casual conversation with. it makes a major difference.

"It’s amazing how much of a positive impact a well-functioning team can have on the mood of an office," said Geoghegan. "If everything flows harmoniously, it helps to alleviate the stress and strain of everyone — from the employees carrying out the work to the managers who are responsible for them."

Arvind Raichur, CEO of MrOwl, added that team building has lasting positive effects on business.

"It can help build morale, accelerate growth and increase retention," he said. "Team work is important because it empowers team members to own their roles in working toward the same collective goals regardless of department or level. By continuing to improve this team ethic, employees can feel a sense of importance and pride in what is accomplished as a unit."

Ways to achieve it: If you're looking to improve your team building efforts, try these simple ways to do so.

Start on the first day

Don't wait for the perfect moment to gather your team. As soon as you recruit new talent, plan icebreaker activities so everyone can get to know each other right away, illuminating any discomfort that might lurk among team members.

Also, make time in your schedule to speak with the new worker one-on-one. Not only will it benefit you to understand your workers, but it will also help bridge the gap that often exists with new employees.

"Take the new team member out to lunch or coffee early on and connect with them on a personal level," said Raichur. "Take the time to find out about their interests and hobbies. Learning who employees are and what they care about is on one of the most important step some companies don’t take. It lets your employees know that you consider them a part of the team and that you’re invested in their success."

Personalize your efforts

You should cater your team building approach to each employee's personality type by using science-based personality assessments and playing to individual strengths. This will personalize your team building experience and increase your understanding of every worker, making you a better leader and helping your team grow in the right direction — one that benefits each person.

Build an open company culture

One major thing here, is that rust is crucial in team building. If your employees don't feel you're open and honest with them, they'll likely avoid asking questions or voicing concerns. Transparency works both ways; and as the leader, you need to be the one to establish it from the start.

Raichur said that he encourages his employees to speak up and share ideas at company retreats and meetings. He also is transparent with his team about company goals and the intended direction of his brand. Ensuring communication is open on both ends will reduce tension, misunderstandings and anxiety among workers, and increase respect and loyalty among your team. Thanks for reading.....

Samsung's folding Galaxy phone reveal was a huge disappointment

After more than an hour of tiring Bixby announcements, cursory Galaxy Home details, and long-winded IOT speeches during the opening keynote to its developers conference, Samsung at last showed us what we were all waiting for: its new folding phone.
Except it wasn’t really a phone at all. Samsung’s big innovation is the Infinity Flex display, and we still don’t know much about what Samsung is going to do with it. Senior vice president Justin Denison waxed poetic about an advanced composite polymer and reduced thickness that paves the way for rollable displays, foldable phones, and thinner handsets. Except he didn’t actually show us any of that.

If it happened that you blinked while Senior Vice President Justin Denison showed off Samsung’s new folding phone you would’ve missed it.
The brief glimpse we got of the phone revealed a super thick handset with giant bezels and an obvious hinge. Presumably we were looking at a dummy case that concealed the real product. At least I hope we were. Because if not, it’s going to be the phone that launched a thousand memes.
We don’t even really know how or if it works. The 10-second glimpse we got of it didn’t show off any functionality, and Denison made sure to keep the UI and design under wraps. Samsung even dimmed the lights on the stage so people couldn’t get a real clear look at it.

More questions than answers: So what do we know? Not so much. Samsung boasted that the Infinity Flex display represents “a new mobile platform,” but the only thing we know for sure is that you can run three apps on it thanks to a new feature called multi-active window. Based on the demo, the three windows are interchangeable, with one large box flanked by two stackable smaller boxes. We also officially know that Google is on board. In a rare appearance by the Android maker at a Samsung event, Google announced that it will be officially supporting foldable displays, allowing Android apps to run seamlessly as the device folds and bringing “screen continuity.” That’s developer speak for the API that lets apps dynamically adjust to the various Android display sizes, but it’s usually not seen in action on the fly. So it will definitely require a new set of tools.
But we don’t really know how that works either. Presumably, if you’re working in an app with the phone open, it will remember your place when you close it and vice versa. But Samsung didn’t demonstrate that either. Based on the peek we got of the phone, however, it looks like as though it will fold inward like a book. That means there’s a smaller display on the outside of the phone and a larger one on the inside, though Samsung says the Infinity Flex tech will allow for both inward and outward phones. For example, in the Messages app, your conversations will start in the middle of the screen so you don’t have to reach as high to respond to a new text. And pop-ups will also be pushed to the bottom of the screen for easier access with one hand.
OneUI will also include a system-wide dark mode as well as a new color scheme to match the color of the device. Samsung says it designed OneUI to keep your focus on the task at hand and minimize distractions on the screen. It’s not all that clear of how any of OneUI will relate to the new folding phone, but presumably the new interface was designed with the flexible display in mind.

Close to the vest
Back to what we don’t know. Among the questions we still have about Samsung’s folding phone:

When it is coming out: Samsung said it’s ready to begin manufacturing Infinity Flex displays “in the coming months,” but it didn’t say whether they would be attached to phones.

If it will run regular Android apps: Samsung talked in broad strokes about the foldable UI, but we don’t really know how it will work with the millions of existing apps in the Play Store.

If it will work in either orientation: Samsung showed a portrait-heavy UI, but it didn’t mention whether the phone has an accelerometer so it can be turned like a tablet.

How much it costs: There was no mention of price during the discussion of the phone.

What it will be called: Rumors suggested that the new phone would be called the Galaxy F, but Samsung declined to name the device it showed off.

The only real specs about the display were revealed at a developers session after the keynote. As reported by CNET, the front display is 4.58 inches—incredibly small for a 2018 phone—with a resolution of 1960x840 and a pixel density of 420. The inside display is a great deal bigger than any smartphone on the market today, measuring 7.3 inches with a 2152x1536 resolution and the same 420ppi. The closed display would have a funky 21:9 ratio, while the inside is a more standard 4.2:3.

But even with a clearer picture of the size, all Samsung really proved at its developers conference was that the thing it’s been working on for the past four years is actually a thing that’s going to come out next year. But whether that’s actually going to become a phone you’re going to want to buy it remains to be seen.

This story, was originally published by PCWorld.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

How You Can Attract Good Minimum Wage Employees

First here, get it straight.... "employers are struggling to find and retain workers, including young and minimum wage employees".

Now having that in place, if you're looking to hire minimum wage workers, you need to cater to Generation Z, people born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. They're entering the workforce and can be choosy about where they work.

"The economy is doing so well, and unemployment rates are at all-time lows, so it's hard to find employees in general," said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. "There are so many available jobs that candidates are able to find multiple positions and better negotiate."

To attract workers, employers need to offer more than just pay. "As the economy remains hot, many businesses have boosted pay, added vacation days, and other bells and whistles to outdo the competition," said Scott Taylor, president and COO of Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar. "It's a fierce hiring battle, but with the right strategies, businesses can better set themselves up for success." It takes the right approach and know-how to find, hire, and keep quality employees. Okay, if well noted, here are the four ways you can attract the right employees and stand out against competing employers in your industry.

1. Offer benefits and flexibility: Just like all employees, younger employees want, and are demanding, better benefits and flexibility. If your business can provide a competitive benefits package, you'll be a step ahead of the competition. "Great benefits, like 401(k), health and dental insurance, are always in demand," Sweeney said.

Flexibility is also important for minimum wage employees because many of them are still in high school or college. They have other responsibilities, such as school to work around.

"Flexibility is important because their schedules fluctuate so often," said Ryan Novak, owner of Chocolate Pizza Company. "Sports, school and social interactions create schedule stress points that an employer has to accommodate to a point. I try hard to balance their need for flexibility with my need for staffing dependability."

2. Create a positive work environment and show you care: Employees will stick with businesses if they enjoy coming into work, feel valued and are gaining solid experience.

"For jobs offering minimum wage, in particular, Marco's Pizza believes things, such as providing an engaging, fun, cohesive and purpose-driven environment that helps build an experience portfolio, particularly for young workers on their first job, are the true differentiators," said Rod Sanders, vice president, talent management at Marco's Pizza.

One way to help employees gain valuable experience is with training and leadership programs. "While such jobs are, for the vast majority of these employees, not going to be a career for them, the employee can take advantage of some differentiating skills-building programs," said Sanders.

3. Reputation matters: As a company, your reputation matters. But both consumers and potential employees are becoming increasingly conscious of corporate social responsibility.

"While everyone needs money to provide for themselves and their families, young workers seem to be conscious of and conscientious about who they're willing to attach their names to," Sanders said.

"If your employer brand is tagged with a bad reputation for how it treats people or the community, ... prospective applicants are going to see this and think long and hard before they consider you," he said.

Taylor suggests offering employees opportunities to get involved in the community and participate in volunteer work. "They will be more likely to pursue a job they feel good about – one that extends outside the walls of the business," Taylor said.

4. Prioritize mentorship opportunities: If in your own case you aren't doing so already, you just need to provide leadership and development programs to employees, including mentorship opportunities. Mentorship makes employees feel valued and that they are part of the team.

"If you are actively allowing established employees to mentor the newer ones, it can create a greater understanding of the company and how it operates," said Bill DiPaola, chief operating officer of Ballard Brands and PJ's Coffee. "You can give them the opportunity to gain a deeper perspective on what they are doing and to apply themselves. This leaves you with a more branded employee who will want to stay with you longer."
Last, think about what you wanted from your past employers and what made you leave a job.
"When in doubt about what you should do, think about companies you might have previously worked for and had poor experiences with," said Sweeney. "Whether it was a toxic environment, negative boss, or endless gossip, that experience likely taught you that you do not want to see this behavior recreated again and certainly not at your business."

How You Can Interpret and Learn from POS Sales Reports

As the case is...POS systems comes with dozens of sales reports that can give you a wealth of statistics about your business. Most systems have a dashboard that displays key metrics plus a variety of reports that you can customize with filters to get an in-depth look at your sales data.
The at-a-glance information on the dashboard is extremely useful – it's a barometer that shows you an overview of how your business is doing, with graphs and lists that show key metrics such as how many sales you've made for the day, whether your daily sales volume is trending up or down and which products your customers buy the most. You'll want to check this information at least once a day to get a feel for what's normal for your business. The reports give you a comprehensive look at your data, so you can dig into the numbers and find specific information about your sales, products mix and inventory levels, employee performance and customer preferences.

With so much data available, the challenge is figuring out how to sift through it to find insights that help you identify what's working well, which issues that you need to fix, areas where you can improve and opportunities that can help your business grow. Without going too far, here are the four steps that can help you interpret and learn from POS sales reports.

1. Start with a question: The first step is to decide what you want to learn from the POS sales report data. What specific questions do have about your sales, products, inventory, employees or customers? Do you want to know whether you should reorder a certain product? Do you want to know if the promotion you ran last week was successful? Do you want to know which employee routinely has the highest sales volume? Do you want to know who your best customers are and what product categories or brands keep them coming back to your business?
Asking the right question helps you narrow in and focus on the data that can answer it and help you gain a better understanding of what's happening with your business, so you can make informed decisions.

2. Gather and measure data: Once you are able to figure out the question, the next step is to decide which report can give you the data you need to answer it. You also need to decide if there are filters you need to apply to find the right data set, such as date ranges. There may be multiple reports or filters that allow you to look at the data from different angles, augment it with additional details or isolate it from other variables.

Next, examine your sales data over time – compare your current data to the previous day, week, month and year. This helps you figure out your sales averages and gives you a benchmark to measure current numbers against.
Jim Barksdale, the former president and CEO of Netscape said, "You cannot manage that which you cannot measure." If you don't know what your averages are – if you don't "measure" your data by comparing it against historical numbers, you won't be able identify abnormalities that alert you that something – either good or bad – is going on with your sales.

3. Look for patterns and identify trends: Now after the above is done, the next step is to look for patterns in the data. This can give you insights into your customers' buying habits, revealing information such as seasonal trends or showing you whether or not your latest promotion brought in more customers than normal or contributed to a higher volume of sales in an ordinarily flat time period. This information can help you plan ahead, and decide whether you should increase, decrease or hold steady on reorder quantities, promotional efforts or other activities.

In a Forbes article, CEO Vishal Agarwal says, "If we are too deeply ingrained in the details of deriving the numbers and do not take a step back to look at the larger picture, it can often lead to mistakes." For example, if you notice an item that was hot three months ago is now one of your worst-selling items, should you discontinue the product? What happened to cause the drop in popularity?
Perhaps if you look at the sales data for this product over a larger period of time, you'll discover that it's a seasonal item, and find that your low sales numbers are consistent for this time of year. Seeing how sales trend for this item helps you decide how to move forward. Maybe you decide to remove the product from your set this season, but order extra before it's in season next year so you have plenty on hand when your customers want it.
Data patterns can also help you identify opportunities for cross-selling. If you discover that customers tend to purchase certain items together, you can make it easier for customers to find related items, either by displaying them together, offering them as a bundle or asking the customer if they're interested in the related item when they place their order or at checkout. For example, if a customer orders a desk, perhaps they'll be interested in buying a chair to go with it, especially if they receive a discount if they purchase the items together.

4. Apply context: So here, in order to interpret the data trends that you find and learn from in your sales reports, you also need to apply context. Context is the information beyond the statistics that explains why customers are purchasing (or not purchasing) certain items. It can be external, such as seasonality, weather, road construction, competitor actions or supplier activities – such as tariffs, pricing increases, discounts or special deals. Or, it can be internal, such as gaining or losing employees, adding or removing products or services, running promotions or raising prices.

Bringing context to your POS sales reports helps you understand the story behind the numbers, so you can interpret what's really going on with your sales. In an article for Entrepreneur, CEO Karl Hougaard writes, "Understanding what lies behind the statistics – why the numbers matter – is more important than the raw numbers on their own." Context may be able to explain why you had a sudden uptick in sales for a certain item, an unusual drop in foot traffic, or other anomalies.

Having the story that explains the data helps you respond appropriately to it. For example, if an item is suddenly popular, contextual information can help you decide if you should rush to reorder a larger-than-usual quantity of an item, or if you should be cautious and reorder the same amount as usual.
Expanding on the above example, imagine you have a children's clothing store and suddenly sell out of the little white gloves that you usually sell just a few pairs of around Easter and Christmas. Finding out that a local dance class is using them as part of a costume for an upcoming performance explains the demand. This is important, because if you don't know the context – in this case, what caused the demand – you may assume it's a trend and reorder a much higher quantity. Then, because it was a one-time occurrence, you would be left with a large amount of overstock that you must sit on or deeply discount to move. Whereas with the context, you realize that it's a one-time occurrence and decide to restock at the same levels as before.
Interpreting and learning from POS sales reports so far, is an ongoing task that you'll perform on a regular basis as long as you run your business. As you get more familiar with your data and your POS system, the process will get easier. You'll be able to ask more in-depth questions about your sales numbers, product mix, employee performance and customer behavior. You'll figure out which reports and filters will lead you to the answers to your questions and what patterns you should look for in your data. You'll also put the data in context and consider how various factors have contributed to the story that your sales figures are telling you so that you can make smart decisions that help your business prosper well.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Seven Businesses You Can Start With Your Kids

We are living in a time where the entrepreneurial spirit is accepted and praised. People are starting businesses all the time, and kids should not be excluded from that. There are so many business ideas that let kids express their imagination, wonder and skills. Here are seven ideas to help get you and your kids started.

1. Children's book author: Reading stories with kids is a time-honored tradition, so why not write one? It can be based on your child's life and the funny things they do or say, or the book can be used as an opportunity to teach a life lesson like sharing or respect. Get your child's input on how they would like to develop the story. Bonus points if your child draws the artwork for the book.

2. Tutoring: This is a great business to start with older kids. If they excel at a certain subject, let others know. Parents are always looking for ways to help their kids, and that can always mean finding a tutor. As the parent, you can help your child with things like driving them to and from tutoring locations or supervising tutoring sessions in your home. Parents can also help with advertising by taking flyers to work or by posting them around town.

3. Babysitting and pet sitting: Babysitting and pet sitting teach kids responsibility. In the digital age, getting jobs like this is simple. Websites like Care.com and Rover.com are great resources to not only post your kid's babysitting service (Care.com) or pet-sitting services (Rover.com), but they are also places to find jobs.

4. Lawn care: When kids are out of school, jobs like lawn care are a perfect way for them to spend their summer. Not only do they make some extra money, but they learn valuable skills for the future such as attention to detail, timeliness and respect for others' property.

5. Computer repair: Let's face it, some kids are better at working with computers than others. In this sense, growing up in the digital age has allowed kids to live and breathe technology, making them experts in many areas. If this sounds like your child, help them turn their skill into a business by creating flyers, publicizing their services on social media platforms and getting the word out. If your child has helped you with your computer, you can provide a firsthand testimonial about the quality of their work.

6. Marketplace seller: Imagination enables kids to create art, jewelry and other crafts that appeal to the whims of potential customers. If your refrigerator is covered with artwork, take it to the internet. There are so many options these days for selling handmade goods; Etsy is no longer the only option. With many online marketplaces, you get unlimited listings, can set your prices, and get community support from other sellers.

7. Cleaning service: Here... you just need to put years of chores to good use and encourage your kids to market their cleaning skills to others. Things like vacuuming, dusting and washing dishes are all things your child can do for neighbors or family members. If your kids are older, you can include tasks like cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors. You can advertise on community boards online or at local places like grocery stores and libraries.

Bottom line: All these businesses can be started with your child and can teach them viable skills for the future. Encourage your young entrepreneurs to try their best and seek success with their new business.
Even if it doesn't turn out as planned, you can show them that adversity is a part of life, and that failure is an opportunity to retool an idea or a door to a new opportunity. The work experience also looks great when it comes time to apply for college and scholarship opportunities. Thanks for reading...

Android security: Why Google's demands for updates didn't go far enough

If there should be one thing about Android that Google desperately wants to fix, it's updates. Unless you're buying a Pixel or an Android One phone, you're never really sure whether you're going to get updates as they're available or, really, at all.

It's a question, whether you're buying a thousand-dollar Galaxy Note 9 or something much cheaper: What's going to happen to my phone in 6, 12, or 24 months?

As regard to this so far, Google is trying to make sure everyone has the same answer to that question. According to a report in The Verge, Google's latest Android partner contract finally includes language that mandates security updates for a minimum of two years, lest the OEM in question lose future phone approval.

That all sounds well and good on paper, but it's not like Google is playing hardball here. The requirements are about as light as they can be and apply to a relatively small subset of phones. As The Verge reports, the terms:

1.Cover devices launched after January 31, 2018;
2.Apply to phones with at least 100,000 activations;
3.Stipulate only quarterly security updates for the first year;
4.Place no minimum on security updates in the second year; and
5.Make no mention of version updates.

Same old, same old: For most users, things aren't going to change much. Samsung already updates its phones with security patches at least four times a year, as does Huawei, LG, Lenovo, Nokia, Sony, and others. In fact, for some of the phones, meeting Google's bare-minimum requirements would actually represent fewer updates, not more.
Things probably won't change too much even for phones that aren't updated as regularly. Taking the contract at its literal word, Google requires only 5 updates over 24 months. This means phones that are woefully behind on security patches will probably still be woefully behind on security updates this time next year.

Let's say a phone is released January 15, 2019, and reaches the 100,000-sold activation trigger. By next October it could be running Android 8 Oreo with July's security patch and still technically be in full compliance with Google's contract.

Listen, this is a good start, albeit a late one. Android is on its 9th major revision and 16th overall, and Google is only just now getting around to mandating security updates for its partners. But cool, I'm on board with the change, I just wish Google had gone further.
There are 12 security updates each year, so why mandate only four? And what about version updates? Each new release of Android contains plenty of security, performance, and safety features that all Android phones can benefit from, not just the small percentage that are lucky enough to get updates. Why isn't Google demanding that Android phones get at least one version upgrade from the point of sale?

Barely bare minimum: Google is at something of a crossroads with Android, and not just because it needs to come up with a confection that starts with the letter Q. Now on its third Pixel phone, Google doesn't just promise five updates in two years on its own phones, it promises 36 security updates over three years, plus two full version upgrades. Granted, that's probably too much to bear for many smaller OEMs, but what about half a year of updates? Or raising the limit for phones that sell more than a million units?

If there's one thing about Android that Google desperately wants to fix, it's updates. Unless you're buying a Pixel or an Android One phone, you're never really sure whether you're going to get updates as they're available or, really, at all.

It's a question whether you're buying a thousand-dollar Galaxy Note 9 or something much cheaper: What's going to happen to my phone in 6, 12, or 24 months?

Now Google is trying to make sure everyone has the same answer to that question. According to a report in The Verge, Google's latest Android partner contract finally includes language that mandates security updates for a minimum of two years, lest the OEM in question lose future phone approval.

[ Further reading: The best Android phones for every budget. ]
That all sounds well and good on paper, but it's not like Google is playing hardball here. The requirements are about as light as they can be and apply to a relatively small subset of phones. As The Verge reports, the terms:

Cover devices launched after January 31, 2018;
Apply to phones with at least 100,000 activations;
Stipulate only quarterly security updates for the first year;
Place no minimum on security updates in the second year; and
Make no mention of version updates.
Same old, same old
For many users, things aren't going to change much. Samsung already updates its phones with security patches at least four times a year, as does Huawei, LG, Lenovo, Nokia, Sony, and others. In fact, for some of the phones, meeting Google's bare-minimum requirements would actually represent fewer updates, not more.
Things probably won't change too much even for phones that aren't updated as regularly. Taking the contract at its literal word, Google requires only 5 updates over 24 months. This means phones that are woefully behind on security patches will probably still be woefully behind on security updates this time next year.

Let's say a phone is released January 15, 2019, and reaches the 100,000-sold activation trigger. By next October it could be running Android 8 Oreo with July's security patch and still technically be in full compliance with Google's contract.

Listen, this is a good start, albeit a late one. Android is on its 9th major revision and 16th overall, and Google is only just now getting around to mandating security updates for its partners. But cool, I'm on board with the change, I just wish Google had gone further.

There are 12 security updates each year, so why mandate only four? And what about version updates? Each new release of Android contains plenty of security, performance, and safety features that all Android phones can benefit from, not just the small percentage that are lucky enough to get updates. Why isn't Google demanding that Android phones get at least one version upgrade from the point of sale?

Barely bare minimum: Google is at something of a crossroads with Android, and not just because it needs to come up with a confection that starts with the letter Q. Now on its third Pixel phone, Google doesn't just promise five updates in two years on its own phones, it promises 36 security updates over three years, plus two full version upgrades. Granted, that's probably too much to bear for many smaller OEMs, but what about half a year of updates? Or raising the limit for phones that sell more than a million units?

Google is in a position to make much more stringent demands. For example, after a ruling by EU courts that prohibited the company from bundling Chrome and other apps with Android licenses, Google will reportedly begin charging to include essential apps like the Play Store in the free version of Android. If Google can charge as much as $40 per device for the same apps it used to supply for free, surely it can demand six measly security updates a year.

What I mean is, we're not talking about new features or UI overhauls here. Security updates are about patching the code that already exists, and they shouldn't be too burdensome for manufacturers to implement. If monthly updates are possible for Android One phones, why not others? By Google's own words, "updates on a 90-day frequency represents a minimum security hygiene requirement," but shouldn't Google by asking more than the bare minimum from the phones running its OS?

So, while we can all applaud a move that finally brings some level of uniformity to Android phones when it comes to security, I hope it's just a start of better things to come.

This story, was originally published by PCWorld.