A dollar saved is a dollar earned, and for small businesses, healthy finances can determine success or failure.
While companies strive to keep costs low, software and technology expenses can add up quickly. Fortunately, you can find free solutions that often work as well as paid options.
If you pick up an Office Suite for your team, you may pay $10 or more per user each month. Not into subscription costs? You could buy stand-alone software, but that may set you back $250 or more. Or, you could use LibreOffice, a free open-source office suite that works on Mac, Windows, and Linux, providing free alternatives for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other tools. You can also use the free Linux operating systems to replace Microsoft Windows and Mac OS completely.
An image is worth a thousand words. When writing blogs or putting together sales materials, you may need pictures. There are tons of stock photo websites, but with many, rights to the photos will set you back some bucks. With Pixabay and Unsplash (among others), you can find images that are free for commercial use. Just make sure you check individual licenses. Need to touch up photos? Photoshop sets you back a few hundred dollars. Or you can use GIMP for free.
Many businesses now use Dropbox and other services to store and share files. These services get pricey, often starting at $10 or more per month. Over a few years, you’ll quickly shell out hundreds in fees. However, you can buy a lifetime membership from a service like pCloud for less than $200, or pay just $4.99 a month.
Do a bit of searching and you’ll find plenty of other free or low-cost alternatives. Just make sure you check out customer and professional reviews first to ensure they’re up to the task.
Put purpose first to produce the highest profits
It’s easy to fixate on making money when running a business. And at times, doing so is the right move. However, research conducted by the Harvard Business Review and EY found that combining purpose with profit pays dividends, with companies espousing purpose regularly more profitable than firms lacking purpose.
Classifying businesses into purpose prioritizers, developers, and laggards, the study found that prioritizers enjoyed the best financial results: 58 percent saw revenues grow by 10 percent or more. Just 15 percent saw revenues flatline. Meanwhile, among laggards, 42 percent of companies flatlined.
Why does purpose outperform? Surveyed business leaders believe that purpose offers many benefits, including increased employee satisfaction, greater customer loyalty, and higher quality products and services. Achieve the above, and you stand a good chance of bolstering financial performance.
The findings echo Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a classic business book written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Chronicling visionary companies from 1926 to 1990, the authors found that firms that put purpose at center stage generated far greater returns for investors than those that didn’t.
Purpose may inspire a vision that withstands the test of time. Importantly, a long-term mission, according to Collins and Porras, sustains companies and inspires better strategic planning — not just today but for years to come. Emphasizing short-term profits, meanwhile, may encourage mediocrity, like cutting corners to pump up quarterly reports.
That doesn’t mean companies can ignore profits, of course. As Collins puts it, “Profit is like oxygen, food, water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without them, there is no life.” So hone your company’s “point,” and you may establish a foundation that lasts a long time. But make sure you’re getting your square meals too.
Hiring practices: 3 tips for choosing the right interview questions
If you want to hire the best candidates for your team, asking the right interview questions is key. Here are three tips for creating questions that will help you identify the ideal people for the positions you need to fill.
1. Assess job-related skills
Generic questions like “what’s your greatest strength?” don’t provide a lot of insight. In fact, many candidates come prepared with generic answers to such queries, and these responses won’t tell you much about their skills or personality. Therefore, it’s important to include questions that are directly related to the job.
2. Assess attitude and character
As an employer, you probably know that soft skills are just as important as technical ones. Therefore, don’t forget to ask the candidate questions that reveal their ability to collaborate, resolve conflicts, and respect authority.
3. Assess objectively
Don’t let your feelings cloud your judgment. It can be all too easy to fall in love with a candidate’s charm and personality. However, you shouldn’t lose sight of the skills and traits an employee needs to be a good fit for the job.
Finally, remember to stick to your plan, take notes and make a well-informed decision.
Book review: How to to craft the story of your business
Stories can be powerful tools for businesses big and small. In her book, Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business, Kindra Hall covers why stories are effective and how to craft tales that truly wow your audience.
Fact is, markets are extremely competitive and organizations often struggle to stand out. Why should someone use your app or dine at your restaurant? Through proper storytelling, it’s possible to cut through the noise. Stories centering on products, founders, and other things can help you differentiate from the competition.
Hall argues that storytelling is essential for building bridges between different parties. This could mean a bridge between customers and the company. You can also use stories to close the gap between employees and the firm, with investors, and much more. And if your stories impact folks on an emotional level, there’s a good chance that any bridges built will last a long time.
On the other hand, burying people and organizations with stats and dry PowerPoint presentations often causes them to tune out rather than engage. Meanwhile, stories can invoke “narrative transportation,” encouraging your audience to forget about their surroundings and instead focus on you, your company, and your products.
So how do you craft brilliant stories that help your organization, founders and other stakeholders stand out? Pick up Stories that Stick and you can catch all the details. For now, make sure your tale contains the four essential elements of a story: identifiable characters, authentic emotion, a significant moment, and specific details.
Why is Microsoft buying up game developers?
Microsoft has acquired a lot of companies over the years. Not so surprising, given that the company has a market cap north of $2 trillion and is active in a number of industries. Yet the pending $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard marks the biggest purchase in the company’s history. And it comes after the tech giant purchased Bethesda Game Studios, Rare, and various other developers.
So why is Microsoft spending so much money on game developers? Check out the official press release after the Activision Blizzard deal and you’ll hear that it’s “to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device.” Take a step back, however, and there’s arguably more to Microsoft’s strategy.
By purchasing studios developing popular video games, Microsoft can gain so-called “exclusives.” This means the games are available only on Microsoft systems, including Windows and Xbox, and not on PlayStation, Nintendo or other platforms. Microsoft seems to be betting big that more exclusives will help them expand their presence in the lucrative video game market.
Nintendo already has a huge library of exclusives that includes famous IPs like Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. Sony has God of War, Uncharted, Horizon Zero Dawn, and a smattering of smaller but acclaimed games. Microsoft has Halo and not much else. By purchasing developers, however, the company can acquire more video game brands and can also make them exclusive.
With more exclusives, Microsoft may move more consoles. Console hardware sales don’t produce high profits, but console makers get a cut, typically around 30 percent, of each video game sold on their platform. In 2021, the value of the global video game industry topped $170 billion. To put that into perspective, Microsoft’s revenues totaled $140 billion in 2020.
Social media made easy with the right tools
Social media offers a powerful opportunity to build an audience and connect with your customers. Unfortunately, managing social media can be quite the hassle and many small business managers already have a lot on their plate. Fortunately, with the right tools, you can make things much easier to handle.
You can manage your profiles the old-fashioned way — namely logging into, say, Facebook, writing up a post on the spot, and then sharing it. Then you might log into Twitter and start the whole process over. Talk about tedious, and many would-be social media stars end up abandoning the process because it’s simply too much work.
Fortunately, you can now use dashboards to manage your profiles. With Buffer and Hootsuite, among others, you can manage all of your social media profiles in one place.
Many social media dashboards also allow you to schedule posts in advance. So instead of sitting down each day to write posts for each profile, you could write all of them for the week on Sunday.
Then you can schedule and forget.
The best social media dashboards also allow you to monitor tweets, likes, and other engagements right from the platform. Instead of logging into each profile to analyze data, you can do it all right from one place. This also makes it easy to compare engagement across channels.
Of course, you might wonder what you should post about. You can uncover hot topics at trends.google.com. Discussing timely, trending topics can boost engagement and make your business more relevant.
Images help when posting on Facebook and other platforms. Your own photos often work best.
Here’s why SEO offers a great opportunity for small businesses
One of the principal challenges of running a small business is wearing many hats. You may find yourself printing up ads, stocking inventory, managing benefits, hiring staff, handling customer service, and more. And these days, with so much business taking place online, you may find yourself moonlighting as a digital marketer as well.
If so, a basic grasp of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can go a long way. When customers type a search term into Google or Bing, they’re presented with a list of web pages related to the “keywords” typed in.
Search engines send out bots that analyze web pages, looking at both the topic and the quality of content. Using complicated algorithms, they categorize and rank web pages, assigning them Search Engine Rankings.
Through SEO, business owners can make their content more appealing to search engines. This, in turn, means they show up higher in the rankings. Moz found that the first page of Google search results reel in over 70 percent of clicks, so a high ranking is important.
Getting to the top of search engines for national or global terms, like “best car 2022” is extremely difficult. Many big companies, such as Ford, and big publications, like MotorTrend, staff entire teams that produce SEO content.
When it comes to “best burger in Atlanta” or “best barber in Spokane,” you face less competition. That local pizza parlor or barbershop probably doesn’t have a team of content producers on hand. This makes it easier for ambitious local businesses to get to the top of search results.
Also, search engines are good at predicting when people need local results. If you’re in Chicago and google “best donuts,” you’ll be shown local results. The best donuts in Detroit aren’t useful for someone in the Windy City.
Add it all up, and small businesses are perhaps in the best position to take advantage of SEO.