Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making Virtual Business Solutions Work

Virtual marketing departments and outsourced business solutions are becoming more mainstream with improved technology. Companies can outsource everything from human resources to data entry, and marketing to off-site consulting. Why not? Work previously requiring overhead can now be completed with shortened man-hours and reduced office space. It isn't as simple as turning over the keys, however, and some of the issues that used to be uncovered during the employee hiring process may not be as apparent when hiring an entire department. Additionally, getting those issues resolved might be handled differently.

Communication is the key

It is every bit as important to communicate effectively with a virtual department as it is with an in-house department. Regular meetings should still be kept, and guidelines should still be adhered to. One of the most effective ways to work together is to schedule video or phone conferences weekly to discuss the parameters of outstanding and pending work. Staying 'in the loop' will allow open conversation  - an opportunity to praise work well done or identify areas for improvement. At the same time, it is equally important that the outsourcing company is reachable and willing to discuss questions or concerns stemming from the virtual department.

Keep these things in mind:
  • Spell out exactly what is expected of your virtual department. Documentation can be helpful.
  • Discuss dates for product or project completion. Virtual departments work for several companies and will have requirements due to their time lines as well as the outsourcing company's expectations. 
  • Working together will assure that goals are met.
  • Require accountability. What is the hierarchy within both companies for problem resolution?
  • Have a good attitude.
  • Working Smarter Should Work
If your company isn't using collaborative tools and team effort to accomplish goals, working virtual won't be more efficient. The end results should be easier to accomplish, not more difficult. Using something as easy as Google tools, like G-mail, Google Docs, and Google Reader can help multiple people work on, approve, and share vital information so individual tasks can be managed off-site.

Other helpful collaborative tools that help with various aspects of communication include: - Screen sharing and voice conferencing. Allows the presenter to change between screens for different screen sharing perspectives. Also provides a pointer for the other participants to comment directly on the presenter's screen. Large file transfer ability is also a plus. - File and document sharing with up to date communication and task management in a secure environment. Allows projects to be broken into tasks and individually assigned all under one project listing. Also shares large files and comments with all or certain team members. Great for project approval due to the comment structure and editing ability. Additionally manages time for entire projects as well as individual team members. - Largest free file share I've seen. Easy desktop application allows a drag and drop for files, documents and images, and task bar alert when new information is included. All team members can access at the same time quickly and seamlessly. One member can drop a file in the box, and other members instantly have access to it.

Virtual Problem Resolution
Somewhere, somehow, or sometime a problem will arise. When it does, how will it be resolved? Part of that question has already been answered above. First, know the hierarchy involved within each business. Know who to go to when issues are not resolved. Second, have a good attitude - even in adversity. Nothing gets the defenses up like feeling an attack coming on, and you won't get the resolution you've hoped for without practicing patient people skills.

Patient people skills? Yes. No matter what side of the circumstance you're on. Remember that people are only people, and even if everyone is truly trying to do their best, something still may go wrong. Having a good attitude isn't taking abuse, neglect, or irresponsibility with a smile. Rather, it's recognizing that the whole picture may not be evident to the naked eye, and deciding you're not going to let an issue destroy relationships.

If the situation has a poor outcome and your company has handled it well, you'll be better prepared for the next scenario. Understand that sometimes the resolution of a problem is a parting of the ways.

On the other hand, apologies, flowers, and concert tickets can go a long way.

Susan Hamilton is a freelance business writer from the Dallas, TX area, and business member of the virtual marketing collaborative Zero To Sixty Marketing LLC, serving small to mid-size businesses nationwide.

Article Source: Making Virtual Business Solutions Work

Monday, June 7, 2010

Small Business Grants - Are You Eligible?

By Kennedy Angle

Government small business grants are a hot topic of discussion among small businessmen with limited access to funds and capital. The federal government does not provide grants for developing or expanding a small business; but the state government does.

Small business grants are handed out to entrepreneurs by their home state governments. It is not very difficult to get business government grants, though it is time-consuming. The federal government on the other hand, does provide some low-interest loans to encourage and assist upcoming entrepreneurs. The criteria to get a small business grants usually depends on location, race, sex, sales revenue, total number of years in business and the purpose for which it has to be funded. The requirements for grant eligibility are specific and one must be prepared thoroughly for it with a clear-cut plan.

The initial steps involved in seeking business government grant are:
  1. You have to spend a good amount of time and resources to search for small business grants program in your state. Thanks to computer and internet it has become less tedious now.
  2. After you have searched a grant program matching your business plan, hire a consultant to apply for the plan. The consultant will make your grant application a presentable one before the state authority. Alternately you can spend some time learning the grant application process and apply. Remember you have overcome bureaucratic bottlenecks.
  3. Define for yourself the time limit-do you want it now or wait for a year.

To find small business grants, one can look into the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CDFA). This CDFA lists thousands of grants from all government agencies. Many of these business grants are targeted at rural business improvement, minority business development or export-oriented businesses. After finding a   Small Business Grant suiting your business needs be prepared to undergo lengthy and time consuming process of approval. You must be ready or tough competition as the grants' funds are limited.

There are some tips to receive a grant.

  1. Complete and accurate information of your business outfit is necessary. If your application contains incomplete details or inaccurate information, it may not make through the review process or may end in an ordinate delay.
  2. It will be advisable to interact with your grant officer and come to know their concerns, budget limits, and constraints with your grant.
  3. A well prepared business plan and demonstrating your strong business acumen will make your approach a discernible one. A smarter strategy would be to show the benefits it will make to US government agencies.
  4. Bringing in an outside expert or consultant would add credibility to your application. Also it would create an impression of professionalism.
  5. Keep tracking your application process. It will be helpful to be in contact with a concerned grants officer in a non-intrusive manner to tilt the balance in your favor.

If you are looking to venture on your own you need to apply for Business Government Grants.

Article Source: Small Business Grants - Are You Eligible?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tour de Fest Supports The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Participation in Paperfest's 6th annual Tour de Fest bike tour is unlike any other. What a great place to meet others in the community concerned with the issues associated with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's Disease and myeloma. To those who know, those diseases impact every area of life for the entire family. Since early symptoms aren't as apparent as an allergic reaction or broken bones, these diseases often go undiagnosed until in their later stages. Supporting families and community members, diagnosticians and staff all come together in recognition and fellowship of each other in this phenomenal display of camaraderie on July 17, 2010.

This year's bike tour will begin and end at Kimberly, Wisconsin's Sunset Beach. Participants will choose the length of their course, varying from 18 - 100 miles. SAG wagons will regularly patrol routes to ensure the safety of the bikers and offer water or assistance as necessary. Bus rides to showers after the rides will be available to everyone who would enjoy attending Paperfest's activities afterward with their families.

It's no small event. Music, refreshments, games and rides will all be a part of this venue. Don't miss out! Register now, the first 300 to sign up will receive a free water bottle. Advance registration is open until July 4, and after that will increase by $5.00.

Proceeds from Tour de Fest jersey and t-shirt sales benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health organization, improving the quality of life of patients and their families.

Sign up today.