Could a Remote Team Be the Key to Building Your Business?

This week, we have the pleasure of posting a guest blog post by Tina Martin. Learn more about Tina at the end of the article.

 

New technologies are always changing the dynamics of how we work, and for today’s business owners, digital tools have made remote work easier and more popular than ever. For employees, a desire for work-life balance and the flexibility of remote work is a big draw. Flexibility is a huge benefit for business owners, too, because hiring remotely allows you to get help without the cost of on-site staff. Hiring remote employees is a smart way to grow your business, but you don’t want to jump in without a plan.

What kind of jobs should you hire remotely?

Remote work can actually be whatever makes the most sense for your business. You may need full-time, off-site employees who keep everyday operations running, or you may only need part-time or short-term freelancers. 

Sometimes as you’re growing a business, you have jobs that could be done more efficiently if you hire someone to help. A perfect solution is to hire a virtual assistant who can take these smaller roles off your plate. Common tasks that virtual assistant freelancers handle include all kinds of administrative functions, such as taking phone calls, coordinating your schedule, proofreading documents, and completing data entry. 

Hiring someone to do these tasks is very affordable, and of course, it allows you to focus more time and energy on what your business needs most to grow and succeed. When you’re ready to hire an assistant, your best bet is to search for a candidate through an online job board. The best job boards are dedicated to matching employers with reliable freelancers who have the specific skills you need. 

What makes remote work work?

The number one thing that makes a remote team successful is communication. Before bringing on remote staff, your primary goals should be to set a communication strategy and choose the right tools to make it happen.

Collaboration

Communication is how team members can work together on shared projects, while ensuring important tasks don’t get dropped. The best strategy for keeping everyone on the same page is to use digital apps that make virtual meetings possible, along with tools for transcribing notes so that all team members stay in the loop, even when they aren’t able to join a live call. You can find automated speech-to-text transcription services online, which are easy to use and provide a quick turnaround time on delivering your notes. Plus, these digital tools cost much less than hiring someone for this job, with some services offering accurate transcripts for as little as 10 cents per minute. 

Expectations

Communication with remote workers is also how you make sure they know exactly what a project entails and the timeline for when it should be done. Many business owners worry about not being able to check in on their team’s progress, but Workforce explains how a good remote team member will typically live up to expectations that are set clearly. Setting clear expectations can be as simple as writing a set of guidelines that you go over with new hires, and including a policy for how you would like your team to keep communication ongoing. Make sure your expectations are achievable and that you follow up with your employees on a regular basis.

Feedback

Providing feedback is something that tends to happen naturally in an office setting, but it takes a little extra effort when you’re managing a remote team. Along with providing individual feedback to team members, using apps like Slack can make it easy to keep everyone connected. This way, team members can lift each other up when a project is done successfully. Plus, it’s an efficient way of communicating to the group when something needs to go in a different direction.

Above all, effective communication is what makes everything else you do possible. When you approach it with a plan, bringing on help from remote employees can be the boost your small business needs to reach new heights. Managing remote employees can seem intimidating, but businesses that are willing to innovate are the ones that reap the rewards of taking risks.

 

Photo from Pexels

 

Tina Martin stays busy as a life coach and works hard to help herself and her clients achieve a healthy work-life balance. She started ideaspired.com as a side project to reach as many people as possible, and encourage them to put their dreams first. 

Top 25 Must Read Business Books

Some of the greatest industry leaders are also known as some of the greatest learners. Industry leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are known to be extensive readers. Why? Because with so much information being published daily, there are endless opportunities to learn from experts with a wide variety of experiences.

You can never go wrong with learning more about your field and yourself. Books are a great way to increase your knowledge in ways that your formal education may not be fulfilling. These are our picks for the top 25 must read business books for college students or recent graduates: 

  1. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  2. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  3. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge
  4. Grit by Angela Duckworth
  5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  6. Drive by Daniel H. Pink
  7. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson and Constance Johnson
  8. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  9. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  10. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  11. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  12. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  13. The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  14. Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  15. The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
  16. When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein
  17. Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson
  18. In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peter and Robert H. Waterman
  19. Built to Last by Jim Collins
  20. Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard
  21. Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute
  22. Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and James A. Champy
  23. First, Break All the Rules: What the Worlds Greatest Managers Do Differently by Jim Halter
  24. The Goal: The Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
  25. The Human Side of Enterprise by Douglas McGregor

You cannot go wrong with any of these excellent reads. Which book are you going to read?

 

Have you already read most of these books? Find more great business books at the Business Insider’s top 25 list and TIME Magazine’s top 25.

 

Know the Laws: What Employers Can’t Ask in an Interview

Interviews are scary enough without worrying about whether or not the questions the interviewer is asking are legal. This can especially be a concern if you are worried about discrimination based on your age, gender or ethnicity. This is a brief overview of some of the questions employers cannot ask in an interview and where to take your concerns if you think the potential employer asked you a discriminating question.

 

Illegal Questions

Potential employers cannot ask you questions based on the following categories: age, race, gender, country of origin, religion, disability and marital status. These are considered subjects that an employer could use to discriminate against a candidate that does not contribute to job performance. These are a few example questions they cannot ask for each category. Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but is meant to give you a quick idea of what questions to be wary of.

  • Age – What year were you born? What year did you graduate from high school? When did you first start working? How long do you plan to work before you retire?
  • Race, Ethnicity or Color – Where are you from? What race are you? Where is your family from?
  • Gender or Sex – What does your wife/husband do for a living? Are you comfortable working for a female boss?
  • Country of national origin or birthplace – Where were you born? Can you provide a birth certificate? Are you a US citizen?
  • Religion – Who is your pastor? What denomination are you? Are you religious?
  • Disability – Do you have a disability? Do you have a mental illness? Have you ever suffered a workplace injury? Have you experienced any serious illness in the past year?
  • Marital or family status or pregnancy – Are you married? Are you single? Do you plan to get pregnant in the next few years? Do you have any children? Are you pregnant?

There can be exceptions to these rules based on the organization or job required. For example, movie producers can discriminate based on gender, age, and looks when hiring an actor; or a religious organization can discriminate based on religion. However, for most organizations these are topics they cannot ask you about. You can see more examples of illegal interview questions at https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions

 

What To Do If You Were Being Discriminated Against in an Interview

First off, if you feel you are being asked illegal questions in an interview, you can either politely decline to answer, indirectly answer the question without providing personal information you are uncomfortable sharing, or just end the interview. You should never feel pressured to work for a company that makes you uncomfortable, or continue in an interview that makes you uncomfortable.

If you feel you have been discriminated against and want to take action, you will need to file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to do that, you will need to contact an attorney in your state that specializes in labor issues, or contact your local EEOC office directly.

Learn more at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer-inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334

 

This is not legal advice, but advice on how to get started. If you are concerned about your situation or unsure if what happened in your interview constitutes discrimination, please contact an attorney for a consultation.

Entrepreneurial Support Center (ESC) Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Entrepreneurial Support Center (ESC)?

The Entrepreneurial Support Center (ESC) is a new program at the Research and Business Development Center that focuses on helping small business owners, who have completed the Self-Reliance Services Starting and Growing My Business course, move the needle for their business. New clients work with three to four BYU-Idaho students, majoring in Business Management, Marketing and/or Finance, to work on two modules that will improve their business plan. These modules are: Business Concept, Competitive Analysis, Finances and Operations, Pricing Strategy, Marketing, and Cash Management.

 

Do I need to pay anything to participate?

This is a free, no obligation, opportunity. None of our ESC clients pay a dime to participate, though many chose to move on to our paid ALPS projects after their time at the ESC.

 

What topics can you help me with?

We can help you with the following:

  • Business Concept | How does my product/service address my customer’s needs? What are my customer’s needs? Who are my customers? What should my product or service be/include?
  • Competitive Analysis | What is my competitive advantage? What do my competitors offer? Who is my target audience? How large is the market? What are the competing products or services?
  • Finances and Operations | Will my business be profitable? How much revenue can I expect to make? How do I track my expenses? How can I reduce my operating costs?
  • Cash Management | How do I track my revenue? How do I keep my business and personal finances separate?
  • Pricing Strategy | What’s the best price point for my product/service? What price point are my competitors selling at? How much is my target audience willing to pay?
  • Marketing | Should I have social media accounts and if so, which ones? What’s the best way to market to my audience?

 

How much involvement should I expect to contribute?

We ask our clients to meet with our student advisors four times in those two weeks, usually for 30-60 minutes per meeting. The advisors may also ask you to do quick assignments each week, such as give them specific information, or make a decision for your business that impacts their research. Overall, you can expect to spend four to six hours of your time in those two weeks.

 

Who will I be working with?

You’ll work with a small team of three to four BYU-Idaho students; most of which are Business Management, Marketing, and Finance majors.

 

What happens when I sign up as a client?

Depending on when you sign up, and where we are in the cycle for that quarter, you can expect to receive an email from the client liaison with an introduction to the ESC, and an invitation to do an introductory phone call. After that, you’ll receive another email about having your first meeting with the ESC administration to determine where your business is at and what work will benefit you the most. At this meeting you should bring your Starting and Growing My Business book, your business journal, your product or a detailed description of your service, and any other relevant information. Once we have determined a scope of service, we will contact you with your team’s contact information and your project start date.

From there, you’ll begin meeting with your team and start your two week project.

 

What can I expect to get at the end of the project?

It depends on what work the team does for you. At the least, you can expect to be given a presentation of the student advisors findings and recommendations. Some projects may also include a handout or list of resources for your business. 

 

What can I do after my ESC project finishes?

Once your project is done you have a few options:

  1. Do a second ESC project the next quarter
    1. You are always welcome to come do a second ESC project the next quarter if you feel you have more work that needs to be done. 
  2. Move on to an ALPS | Basic project
    1. You can sign up for an ALPS | Basic project, which is a 12 week program working with a team of four to six BYU-Idaho students from various majors. These projects provide greater flexibility on what can be done and depend on your expertise to guide the team. ALPS | Basic are $399.

 

How do I sign up for the ESC?

If you’re ready to take your business to the next step with the ESC program, please fill out the following interest form: http://bit.ly/ESC-SignUp

If you think the ALPS Basic program might be a better fit, please go here to learn more.

Spring 2019 Project Excellence Awards

The Research and Business Development Center is proud to announce the winners of the 2019 Spring Semester President’s, Director’s, and Project Excellence awards. These students and project managers have gone above and beyond to present their clients with excellent work and proven their skills in the workplace. Please join us in congratulating these students on their outstanding work!

 

President’s Award – Gold Medal Winner 

Client: Emerson

Student Team: Junior Analyst – Mason Taylor | Research Specialists – Elena Guido, Ismael Rohn Cardenas, Kevin Bosley, Roldo Eliason, Sara Villarroel, and Westley Cottam

Student Project Manager (coach): Bernard Seariac

RBDC Mentor: John Ward

This team excelled by completing three high priority marketing projects for the Emerson Helix Center – a new products innovation center located on the University of Dayton campus. The three projects included (1) a competitive analysis of various products in the U.S. markets, (2) an inventory control and assessment project and (3) a study of new electronic products being introduced in some markets in the U.S.    

Things can seem overwhelming at times. Coming together as a team isn’t easy. However, as you divide the work and rely on other’s strengths, it will all come together in the end.” -Roldo Eliason

Teamwork and communication are key to success.” – Kevin Bosley

“Working on the Emerson Helix project allowed me to gain invaluable skills and experience that will greatly aide me in career. I learned how the business world works and was able to work closely with my team and the company executives to produce a project that I never thought I was capable of. 10 out of 10 recommend!” -Westley Cottam

“It was an eye-opening experience, not only for the great projects and the professional skills I practiced but also for the opportunity to work with my different teams’ partners who were a diamond of people. If I got this award is because of them, team partners, junior analysts, project managers and everyone contributing to the training, follow up and any other aspect of the development of the project.” – Elena Guido

Director’s Award – Silver Medal Winner

Client: Alturas

Student Team: Junior Analyst — Merridy Anderson | Research Specialists — Enedic Lopez, Igor Kiselev, Kristene Fisher, and Nate Barlow

Student Project Manager (coach): Daniella Jordan

RBDC Mentor: Will Jenson

This team did research to explore the Idaho entrepreneurial ecosystem including information about business incubators and startup funding sources like angel investors and venture capital partners. The team far exceeded the expectations of the client. Following the final presentation, the client committed to five more RBDC projects.

“I have learned the investment is important and interesting part of our life and wellbeing.” – Igor Kiselev

“Working on the Alturas Capital project both challenged me and developed my business leadership skills. To accomplish the goals required, I found it necessary to be proficient in my research, organization, flexibility, and trust.  I love the quote by Warren Buffet, “Someones sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”. My teams project was just the beginning of a much larger one. I feel privileged to work with a client and team in planting the seed for something amazing!” – Merridy Anderson 

Project Excellence Award – Bronze Medal Winner

Client: Sublette Center

Student Team: Junior Analyst — Ephraim Tripp | Research Specialists — Chaney Mobley, Andrew Peery, Cortney Helland,  David Jones, Dieunise Thermidor and Zachary Dreher

Student Project Manager (coach): Will King

RBDC Mentor: Will Jenson

This team worked with the Director of the Sublette Center in Pinedale Wyoming. The team conducted marketing surveys and made recommendations for where the Center could look to improve their internal operations and where to look for growth opportunities. They also evaluated studied the effectiveness of their website and made significant recommendations as to how to improve the reach and effectiveness of it. 

“I learned how to work in a team and contribute my portion so the work could get done. I learned a lot about marketing and the different strategies that go into play. I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had to work with the Sublette Center.” – Zachary Dreher

Working with the RBDC this past semester was a very valuable experience that taught be about the importance of good leadership. I am grateful for the network of relationships that I was able to create with great individuals while there, and I am sure that their abilities and work ethic will be of great value to society as they go through their careers.” – Ephraim Tripp

“It was such a neat opportunity doing this project for the Sublette Center. Being able to do research and understand the target market helped me a lot and I am excited to use these skills again in the future. “ – David Jones

“I learned that while our client was in the health care industry, that didn’t mean all of us working on the project had to be and really it was to our advantage that we weren’t all Healthcare Administration Majors. Our team at the RBDC was made up of people from a variety of different backgrounds, majors and specialties. What really made our team successful was our ability to see how our differences could benefit the team and our client. Having in the mindset of learning from our teammates and finding different ways to succeed in ways we didn’t think we could was an eye opening experience.” – Chaney Mobley

“I definitely appreciated the teamwork I had for my group. Everyone was working so diligently to get the top information. I definitely felt like everyone was a part of the group and that our leader didn’t place himself above us. He made all of us feel included and so it was such a great experience as a whole.” – Andrew Peery

“I enjoyed working with a client in my field.” – Cortney Helland

Advertising on Social Media: What Platform Should You Use?

Person holding tablet with icons of social media platforms on the screen

When it comes to social media advertising the first step is to know which platform is best for you to use. Each platform has unique features to offer depending on what you want. Here is a quick overview of some of the things each platform offers, and general tips for using each one.

 

Facebook

Facebook is great for reaching people ages 25 and up. Post at least once a day for every day your business is in operation. You can use targeted ads to reach the audience you want with as little as five dollars a day.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is only for business professionals and work related topics. This a great place to post a job opening or news on your company. You can use a business LinkedIn page like a Facebook business page to update what’s going on with your company and post about news in your industry. LinkedIn is best for large companies or Business-to-Business (B2B) companies.

Instagram

Instagram is great for high quality photos and minute long videos, usually once a day. Most people pay more attention to the photo than the caption, so make sure to only post attention grabbing content. Instagram stories are another great way to reach your audience. Feel free to post as many times as you want there.

Twitter

Twitter is fast-paced, news and sass centered platform. It can be a great place to quippy comments on local and national news or sales, as well as a great place for customer service representatives to contact your company. It’s better for large companies to use. You can post up to 8 times a day, and should include as many photos and videos with your content. 

Pinterest

Pinterest is great for anyone with a design, DIY or crafty business. Be warned that it’s difficult to build a following on Pinterest and it can be difficult to get regular sales. If you want to do Pinterest, you will need to commit hundreds of hours to making it happen. 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a great way to reach the teenagers, but it’s not a great way to sell product. Like Pinterest, it takes a lot of time and dedication to build a buying audience. However, it can be a great place to build a community and connect more personally with your audience because most people use this site to talk with their friends, not to connect with businesses.

Behind the Scenes: What it’s Like to Work at the RBDC

a man and woman sitting in an office space.

What is it like to work at the Research and Business Development Center (RBDC)? This is

something all our new interns want to know, so here is a quick overview of what to expect when

you do a project with us.

First, you sign up! Go to the job board and find a project you are interested in. You then apply for the project and fill out the application form. If you are interested in more than a project, you only need to apply once. The deadline is one week before the semester starts.

Right before the semester starts, you will receive an email with the Project Interest survey where you will choose your top five projects you would like to work on. Then, the Project Managers and staff will do their best to assign you to one or two of your top five projects. The semester starts with two kickoff trainings where teams will be announced, among other important things. There are weekly trainings throughout the semester where you learn skills that will help you have a successful internship experience. During the first week you can expect to have your first meeting with your client where you will discuss what the project entails. From there the work begins!

After your first meeting, you will begin working with your team to deliver the final product one week before the semester ends. You will work closely with your project manager and an executive mentor to make sure you are adding value to the project and to help you answer any questions you may have about the internship and the project. At the end of the semester, you will put together a final deliverable and give a final presentation to your client.

The process is easy and simple, and the work you do for these companies not only gives you great work experience, but provides valuable information to them. It is a win-win for everyone. If you are interested in working on one of our projects, check out the job board here or apply now by clicking here.

How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Strings making geometric shapes.

LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform. It is a great place to connect with other professionals and businesses. Just like any social media profile, it is important that your profile is complete and looks good. This is a quick step-by-step guide for how to have a great LinkedIn profile.

Customize Your LinkedIn URL

Customizing your LinkedIn URL makes it easier to search and looks more professional. Just go to your profile, on the right click “Edit Public Profile and URL”, then on the right, under “Edit your custom URL” click the pen and edit the end of your URL to your first and last name.

Profile and Cover Photo

Make sure your profile picture is professional. It looks best if it is just of you. If you do not have a professional photo, have a friend take a picture of you against a brick wall. For the cover photo, find a photo that applies to the field you are going into. You can find high quality, free and royalty-free photos at Pixabay or Unsplash (links).

Headline

Under your name you can add a headline. In your headline, include the industry or job you want to get in to and what you are looking for. Something like “Social Media Manager Enthusiast Looking for More Opportunities” or “Up and Coming Business Analyst” are great if you are looking for a new job.

Summary

Your summary is like the summary on your resume. It is two to three sentences that showcase your best skills. You can easily copy and paste your summary from your resume and insert it here.

Experience | Education | Volunteering

The easiest way to complete your experience, education and volunteering experience is take everything you did on your resume (link) and copy and paste it into your profile. That way your jobs and bullets are the best they can be.

If you do not have your volunteer experience on your resume, still add any that is relevant.

Skills

List all the skills you have. Do not be afraid to use the keyword list you created when making your resume or to Google a list of skills and find the ones that apply to you. You cannot have too many skills!

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Person typing on a computer

Cover letters are a great way to expound your experience, answer questions for the recruiter before they meet you, and give you another way to brag about yourself. Although many jobs do not require a cover letter, many still do, and many give you the option to submit one. So how do you write a cover letter?

Write It Like an Essay

Cover letters follow the same format as your English essays: introduction, main paragraphs, and conclusion. Your cover letter should have at least three paragraphs, and should not exceed a single page. Make sure to set your margins to narrow and your text spacing to single space so you can include as much information as possible.

Introduction

A cover letter is a letter, so you’ll start with a hello. Usually you’ll want to start with “Dear” or “Hello” and then the company name.

Your introduction should start with a hook. Put your best foot forward and show them immediately why you are worth meeting. An easy way to create your hook is take the first bullet in your summary from your resume and turn it into a full sentence.

Summary:

  • 2 years of experience in marketing, communications, and business management with a focus on data analysis, marketing plans and strategies, and design

Cover Letter Hook:

I have two years of experience in marketing, communications, and business management with a focus on data analysis, marketing plans and strategies, and design.

After your hook, you can include an additional sentence that further showcases your skills or education. The last sentence of your introduction should say something like “Because of my experience, I believe I would be an excellent fit for (job title)”

Main Paragraphs

In your main paragraphs you want to highlight your skills in more detail. This is a great place to tell the story behind a project you mentioned in your resume, or to show off additional skills.

For example, “I always exceed the expectations given to me. When I first joined Company, Inc. I volunteered to help with the programming project and not only completed all my tasks early, but helped my coworkers when they had questions or issues. Because of that we were able to finish the project ahead of schedule and saved the company $500k in work expenses while our project made $1 million in the first month of release. This experience taught me the importance of organization, time management and building strong workplace relationships.”

Try to highlight two-three experiences or projects in your main paragraphs.

Conclusion

Your conclusion will only be one to three sentences. This is the place to explain any gaps in your work history or to specify that you will be moving to the area soon if the job is out of state. Use your last sentence to thank you the recruiter for reviewing your documents.

For example, “I will be moving to Denver by January 16th and could begin work as soon as January 20th. Thank you for taking the time to review my resume and cover letter. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Sign Off

A cover letter may be written like an essay, but it’s still a letter, so make sure to sign off. Usually you’ll use “Sincerely” and then use your first and last name.

 

Now you have a cover letter! For more information or ideas, check out these articles from Glassdoor and The Balance Careers.

Introducing Our Newest Program: Entrepreneurial Support Center

Man and woman writing on white board

We are excited to announce our newest program: the Entrepreneurial Support Center! This program pairs Brigham Young University – Idaho (BYU-Idaho) students with graduates of the Start and Grow My Business (SGMB) class to provide advising on various topics designed to improve their startup business.

This program had a successful pilot during Winter Semester 2019 and is now on its way to becoming a full blown program within the Research and Business Development Center (RBDC). BYU-Idaho students from various majors, including Management, Economics, Finance and Marketing, work in teams of two to three and contribute a total of 80-100 work hours per client over the course of one to two weeks. They advise on business plan assessment and development, understanding your financial statements, competitive analysis, social media and marketing, cash management, and pricing strategy. SGMB clients pick one or two of those topics to focus on during their time with the team. This is a great way to help startup businesses grow in the area, and provide further work experience for students looking to better understand and apply the business principles they learn.

This program is currently limited to SGMB graduates, though there is a possibility to expand it to any small business owner in the future. If you’re a SGMB graduate and want to learn more, visit bit.ly/ESC-Info (this link is case sensitive).

Students who are interested in working as an adviser on these projects should contact the RBDC at info@RBDCenter.org for more information.

Along with the ESC program, we are piloting a Brown Bag Forums program each month. These forums are an hour and a half long presentations from local organizations and individuals who are experts in their field. Desserts and drinks are provided, but you’ll need to bring your own lunch. Not only is it a great place to learn, but an excellent opportunity to network and learn about local resources for small businesses. Stay tune to our Facebook page, Research and Business Development Center, for forum details.