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How Small Businesses Can Turn a “Penny Spent” into “Pounds Saved”

All of us have heard the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Our parents probably recited it to us innumerable times when we were growing up, and now we tell the same thing to our kids.

Small businesses certainly know the implications of this wise-old saying. Indeed, lack of capital is one of the foremost reasons small businesses struggle to grow. Strategies to cut costs is top of mind for many small business leaders. A quick Google search on the top yields countless articles and blog posts on ways small businesses can reduce their expenses.

Disruption of the 21st-Century Workplace

But sometimes eliminating or decreasing costs isn’t in the best interest of your business. And sometimes not spending your capital on the right things has the reverse effect: it costs your organization more time and money than if you had actually spent the money. In this case, the age-old British saying, “A penny wise, a pound foolish” is quite apropos.

Technology disruption is transforming the face of the 21st-century workplace. The 9-to-5 workday is dead. The virtual office is quickly becoming a mainstay for the workforce. And mobile is changing how, when, and where work is done.

Importance of Prospect and Customer Communications

One area where small businesses—and entrepreneurs—can be a “penny wise, pound foolish” is in their communications. Simply listing numbers that route all callers directly to your office line or mobile device doesn’t make sense. Calls aren’t prioritized, customers are stuck using local toll numbers, voicemail management is complex, customers are left waiting on hold for long periods of time, and the list goes on.

Your brand truly matters. The communications experience of your customers and prospects play a critical role in how they perceive your company. But this is missing in too many instances. For example, over 90 percent of marketing budgets for small businesses is spent trying to get prospects and customers to call; however, only six percent is actually spent on the operations for handling the call.

Why is this important? Seventy-eight percent bail on completing transactions because of a poor engagement experience. It isn’t simply sales inquiries but includes customer service touches: 81 percent of customers will change suppliers due to poor customer service. And for those who do connect with you over phone, you have about 60 seconds—40 percent hang up after 60 seconds and 34 percent of those never call back again. Are you pushing all callers to your voicemail and planning to call them back as your schedule permits? This a mistake: 65 percent will simply hang up.

These communications extend further than live receptionists. Your prospects and customers also expect an Omni channel approach that includes live web chat, email, and even self-service capabilities. Take live web chat as an example. Customer utilization rates have grown from 38 percent in 2009, to 43 percent in 2012, to 65 percent in 2015.

Turning Your “Penny Spent” into “Pounds Saved”

When you deliver a great communications experience, customers and prospects respond positively. They spend more, express higher levels of satisfaction, and positively advocate on behalf of your company to others. At the same time, managed communications allow small businesses to become more efficient while focusing on customers and core business requirements. These business premises are at the core of Davinci Virtual Office Solutions and its founding over a decade ago. Not every business has the resources to manage the technologies and hire the headcount needed for great prospect and customer communications.

This is where Davinci Virtual Office Solutions can help, having assisted tens of thousands of companies to engage with prospects and customers through exceptional communications experiences. Whether it is Live Receptionist, Auto Receptionist, or Live Web Chat services, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions has the capabilities to cover virtually all of your communications needs and turn your “penny spent” into “pounds saved.”

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How to Send a Cold Email to One’s Dream Internship

Sending a cold email to a company you’re determined to work for is intimidating. You want to find the right balance between professional and personable, as well as make the recipient interested enough to actually respond. The good news is that cold emailing can be successful if you know what to do:

Get noticed

Your subject line has a lot more impact than you think — if it doesn’t immediately catch someone’s eye, your email will likely never be opened. Your recipient is busy and probably receives dozens of emails every day, and may even skim over them while distracted on the phone. It’s important that your subject line is catchy enough to stick out in a positive way.

Be specific but succinct. Put the important information at the beginning and make your point clear. It may help to include a common interest, like a shared alumni status. (“Fellow Jayhawk seeks marketing opportunity,” for example.) Consult with others to see what they think: would they open the email based on your subject line? You only get one first impression, so make yours count!

Choose the right greeting

For the first email, you want to be professional and respectful yet still warm. Always include a salutation instead of just starting the email with the recipient’s name — you want it to feel like a message, not a bulletin. Use “Dear” instead of a casual “Hi/Hello.” And always default to “Mr./Ms. Smith” instead of “Paul.” If they respond and sign only a first name, you can make the transition, but it never hurts to be formal in the initial contact.

Be confident

It takes guts to send a cold email, so do it with confidence. Don’t be timid about reaching out. Think of it not only as an opportunity for you, but as a chance for your recipient to meet a qualified, passionate colleague in his field. Your recipient wants to meet you, they just don’t know it yet! Don’t just send an email you’re content with, send one you’re excited for employers to read.

Include your résumé

Even if you’re just asking to buy your recipient lunch and pick their brain, include your résumé in your initial email. Some contacts may want to review it before agreeing to meet with you and will appreciate not having to ask. The easier you make the process, the more likely they’ll be to at least respond to you.

Keep it short and sweet

Once you’ve gotten them to open the email, reward your recipient by getting to the point right away. Forbes suggests sticking to a simple four-sentence structure that opens with the essentials: your name, current or desired occupation, and why you’re contacting that person specifically (make sure you’ve done your research). Then, ask to meet them to discuss their career and experience in the field — keep it focused on their wisdom, not your career opportunities. Give a simple time frame within the next week or two and offer to buy a cup of coffee. Find an appropriate way to sign off and leave it at that.

Follow Up

Give your recipient at least a week to respond. If after seven days you still haven’t heard anything, reply to your original email with a polite follow-up. It will add an “RE:” to the subject line and may make the recipient think they responded earlier, increasing the chances they’ll respond this time. As long as you give a reasonable amount of time, most professionals won’t mind follow-ups and may even be glad for the reminder — especially if they were impressed with your initial outreach!

Cold emailing is tricky, but not impossible. Don’t be deterred if it takes some time, and keep trying!

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Workplace Providers Presented with New Revenue Opportunities

Business is good for Workspace as a Service (WaaS) providers. Mobile disruption and changing work and workplace dynamics are critical enablers spurring the growth. Whether you’re an office business center, a coworking space, a meeting venue, or offer a hybrid model, the opportunities are vast.

Work and Workplace Changes

Solopreneurs and small businesses are constantly on the move, and mobile is now the name of the game. They spend fewer and fewer hours in permanent physical office space, and many of them are opting to give it up altogether. This certainly makes sense. Ten percent of a small businesses revenue goes to paying for their office space.

At the same time, companies are abandoning the traditional concept of work and workspace as a 9 AM to 5 PM commitment in favor of a virtual, more mobile environment. More than one-quarter of the global workforce works away from their company offices two days a week, or more, and this is expected to grow 40 percent over the next five years. In addition to changing how offices are designed and operated and how much time workers spend sitting at their desks and working from a permanent, traditional office environment, this also translates into growing numbers of solopreneurs and small businesses that forego permanent office space and opt for business center or coworking space that is configured to facilitate collaborative work.

There are a number of reasons for this turn towards workspace on demand:

  • More flexible workplace, 73%
  • Lower employee-related expense costs, 53%
  • Reduction in the cost of real estate, 48%
  • Better able to attract top talent, 46%
  • Better able to retain top talent, 43%
  • Better business continuity, 37%
  • Reductions in attribution costs, 36%


Transformation in Workspace as a Service (WaaS) Offerings

Coinciding with this transformation in how, when, and where work takes place is an evolution in services offered by Workspace providers. These fall into three buckets:

  • Virtual offices
  • Work and meeting spaces
  • Communication services

Each of these offerings provide new and exciting revenue opportunities—from both existing and new clients. Profit margins are certainly up. According to the Global Workspace Association’s 2015 Financial Study, revenues for virtual offices and meeting spaces now comprise almost 20 percent of Workspace industry revenue and deliver an average profit margin of 11 percent. Overall revenue is up 2.3 percent, with total clients per office space increasing 6.3 percent.

So what should workspace providers do to ensure they continue to grow their business and capture these new revenue opportunities? A critical starting point is knowing your prospects and customers—everything from demographics, to industry segments, to work and workplace preferences, to purchase patterns, to communications preferences. At Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, we’ve created prospect and customer personas for each of our three service offerings—Davinci Virtual Offices, Davinci Meeting Rooms, and Davinci Communications—that are used by our sales and marketing teams to hone their outreach and marketing approach.

Looking to the Future

As workspace providers look to the future, there are several ways they can pivot their business models to achieve better profitability while also expanding revenues. Specifically, there is still room to grow utilization rates without expanding capacity. One is to fill underutilized meeting and workspace capacity, increasing revenue and expanding profit margins. Yet, it goes beyond existing offerings. Workspace providers can easily and quickly add virtual office and meeting space offerings when they join the Davinci Preferred Partner Network.

But there are other options as well. With many business clients of workspace providers struggling to manage their communications properly, this presents an excellent opportunity to tap a new revenue channel. The challenge here is the fact that most office business centers and coworking spaces aren’t staffed with enough nor the right type of professionals as well as have the right technologies to handle the unified communication services internally. Further, many of those that do offer communications services find they are unprofitable and a distraction to their business.

The Davinci Preferred Partner Network Difference

To capitalize on these market opportunities, Workspace providers have been turning to the Davinci Preferred Partner Network for help over the past decade. Over 1,200 Workspace providers are part of the Davinci Preferred Partner Network today and have seen tangible returns on the partnership, including higher revenues, more clients, and better profit margins. One average, we sign up 1000-plus virtual office clients and process several thousand meeting space reservations per month in the U.S. alone. This accounted for more than $8 million in payout revenue to our network partners last year, a number we expect to exceed $10 million this year.

Workspace providers can leverage Davinci’s core service offerings—virtual offices and addresses, meeting rooms, and communications services—in four different ways:

1. Virtual Office Solutions. Providers simply need to sign up as a Davinci Preferred Network Partner. We take care of all the rest. We promote your address (or addresses if you have multiple locations), any services you provide are invoiced each month. We retain a fee and issue payment of the published virtual office retail rate within 15 business days from invoice receipt (guaranteed).

2. Meeting Rooms. This is very similar to Virtual Offices. Workspace providers allow us to sell day office and conference room space, in addition to related business services. We retain a fee and issue payment within 15 business days of invoice receipt.

3. Full-Time Space Referrals. We generate many full-time office space leads and upgrades to full-time office space from Virtual Office and Address customers every month. We simply ask for a standard referral commission of the agreed upon lease value.

4. Communications Services. Our Communications Services consist of Live Receptionist and Live Web Chat services. We have two partner models when it comes to our Communications Services. The Affiliate Partner model pays a one-time bounty based on the communications services sold. The second is a Contract Model, whereby members of the Davinci Preferred Partner Network contract on a wholesale basis for Live Receptionist services and/or a specified number of Live Web Chat interactions.

Workspace providers that join the Davinci Preferred Partner Network literally generate tens of thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars in new revenue each year. Our turnkey solutions are easy to implement and put the ownership for marketing, sales, payment processing, compliance, and other factors on us. In addition, increasing numbers of Davinci Preferred Network Partners are outsourcing their communications services to us—both Live Receptionists and Live Web Chat. This allows them to focus on their businesses, while leveraging our expertise to drive better service, higher revenues, and better margins.

Learn more about the Davinci Preferred Partner Network by reading our free Solutions Guide or contact us today.

This post was originally posted on www.globalworkspace.org

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Work-life Balance While On Vacation

The degree of required work-life balance to feel productive, fulfilled and ‘balanced’ varies from individual-to-individual, culture-to-culture and situation-to-situation. Work-life balance doesn’t automatically mean less work … it means feeling the most productive, fulfilled and successful in meeting the individual demands of a person’s daily needs without feeling overworked, overstressed or exhausted.

Some people feel perfectly balanced in their lives by engaging in more work-related activities than others. They revel in working and feeling productive when the workload thickens, and they’re even savvy and agile enough to handle their personal needs and get recharged easily without having their W/L balance get out of whack. They’re just good prioritizers and managers of their personal time and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the distribution of adequate time for handling W/L objectives and pursuits … it’s purely a personal, individual balancing act.

Furthermore, culture has a bit to play in the scheme of things. Many countries have relatively liberal time-off policies for vacation/holiday when compared to others, and any interruption or reduction in such time provided to individuals may cause a psychological W/L imbalance that precludes an actual one. Presuming and anticipating that one will lack the adequate time to address their personal needs in itself will trigger the stress that leads to imbalance.

Whether a person is truly functioning under satisfactory W/L balance can be colored by one’s perception. Talk of subtracting some vacation or holiday time, or adding some unanticipated work hours to an employee’s schedule -- or to your own schedule -- for some, causes the inner clock and task prioritizing mechanism to begin to short-circuit, even before the time consumption and in balancing takes root … while others are wired to take it in stride and adjust without a problem, concern or complaint. Believe it or not, there are even some that are programmed to take on the extra demand for work as a welcomed challenge, such that they’ll relatively easily go with the flow and turn the development into a source of motivation. They simply expect W/L upsets as a portion and reality of their W/L game plan.

Included in those rare birds are many of the often high-strung, yet highly successful titans of business and industry who may actually hunger and thrive with challenges to the routine of their W/L programming. They feel more fulfilled the more they’re challenged, and are more willing to readily forego some of what others demand as the ‘Life’ portion of W/L balancing It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but is for some -- and who is one to judge what makes others tick and feel fulfilled? But for most of us, especially the younger generations, being married to the job first and foremost is taking a back seat to being able to juggle a newer life paradigm where 9-to-5-ing it, as the prime time to concentrate on work, is no longer the solitary, common and given work-day and work-way model.

Portable, flexible E-gadgetry in our possession, in an increasingly fast-paced, global society, has led us into wild and unpredictable work patterns that can force our hands and eat into any time of our day, night or on weekends, as the required or ideal time to tend to the ‘work’ portion of the W/L balance equation…thus re-balancing to gain their life’s proper balancing in the first place.

Which brings us to what to do, or how to handle W/L balance while on vacation. Part of the answer is to again, first acknowledge that everyone takes to working in general, and working non-traditional hours (what in the past would have perhaps been considered as interruptions during off-hours to many) in particular, differently. Different strokes for different folks, be it while in full, regular, year-round mode; or even during vacation/holiday.

That said, the presumption is that vacation/holidays are a time for refreshing, recharging and renewal -- and that the less time spent on the regular ‘work’ portion of the W/L balance equation, the better. It then becomes a question of expectation/standards, planning and contingency. ‘When, for what, and how’ you should you be interrupted during your vacation becomes the key question to ponder, and can only be answered by you … your expectations and standards for such interruptions … and how you will deal and cope with such possibilities. And if you’re an employee of someone else, being clear ahead of time and in sync with your employer or manager on that ‘when, what and how’ question that you have considered is also a critical factor.

Some people and cultures take the approach that: ‘I work my rear-end off during work year-round … and thus my standard is that I need to be fully out-of-pocket, when I’m recharging during my vacation -- please, no interruptions from anyone unless it is a life-threatening emergency’, That’s their standard -- and in some cultures and business-cultures, that’s the norm that managers readily respect because they too ascribe to the same standards for when they’re on vacation. Some companies even insist that vacationing employees must not work while on vacation as a way to satisfy and respect W/L balance requirements; shoot for a better chance that the employee is truly refreshing and recharging; and to improve the chances that their W/L balance needs once they go on vacation will be respected.

But for many, the pace and demands of the work-world is changing, or has changed dramatically already -- and that steady, non-interruptive standard has become increasingly difficult to maintain steadfastly. And when that is the case, just like regular work-day and work-life balance planning takes some careful plotting, so does vacation W/L balance require some thoughtful considerations, defining and working things out with the employers, clients, friends and family, so that everyone is clear and knows one’s standards and expectations for honoring the W/L needs of the vacationer.

Work/Life balance doesn’t work, during vacations or otherwise, unless there are clear parameters plus a commitment to honor those standards by individuals and their employers. No establishing of those parameters equals no balance. Again, it differs from person-to-person, culture-to-culture, and situation to situation. Planning and transparent, open communication of the standards are the keys.

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6 Ways to Start a Business with $5k in the Bank

When Brian Hooks and his daughters Emma and Lily started their business, ScreenMend, they had big dreams but not much to show for all their efforts. With a small investment and just over $4,000 in sales, the future seemed dim. However, after securing an investment from Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner, the company quickly grew and currently has over $1,000,000 in sales. As unrealistic as it may seem, you CAN start and grow a business with a small investment. In this article, we’ll review 6 strategies to start a business with a $5,000 investment.

1. Start a Blog or Affiliate Marketing Website

Have you ever asked yourself how bloggers earn enough money and manage to make a living? Blogging (or vlogging – video blogging) on a professional level asks for new content almost every day, and blogs can be used as marketing tools for attracting customers to your (or someone else’s) business.

If you open up a blog and sign up for Adsense, Google will place relevant ads on your website so you can earn money when someone clicks the ad. Simple as that! If you have decided for an affiliate marketing website, the formula is the same. Visitors have to click through your website and buy products, for example, a book on Amazon. Have in mind that choosing Adsense does not mean that you have to forget about affiliate marketing option. Most of the time, blog owners do both!

Generally, it is a good idea to start writing about things you know, and you can easily start more than one blog if things work out as you planned and do it on a full-time basis! Time is the largest investment when starting this kind of business, as you’ll have to spend a lot of time creating content - written, visual, or video. You can then leverage your investment to buy Facebook ads which can be relatively inexpensive, or to gain visibility for your blog.

Once your site has built a wealth of content, reach out to large brands and offer to become a brand ambassador. You’d be surprised at the many brands willing to pay to have bloggers out there talking about them.

2. Start a Consulting Firm or Online Education

Depending on your expertise, you can work from your home office, but you won’t have any employees (besides yourself, of course), and thanks to computer and the internet, you can start pretty much immediately.

Informational products can be extremely lucrative. You spend a lot of time creating content, but then you can resell your content over and over again.

Mort Fertel, owner of Marriage Max, created a Tele-Boot camp over 10 years ago, which he sells over and over again to couples looking to improve their marriage. To customers, he sells the course, consulting, and a downloadable product. His one-time investment in time has yielded years and years of revenue.

3. Invest using Fundrise

Do you want the opportunity to invest in million-dollar real estate deals? Consider using crowdfunding platform Fundrise, which allows you to make a small investment towards large deals. You would then own a percentage of the projects you’re investing in. “Fundrise is hoping its crowdfunding technology will do to traditional investment banks and Wall Street what the internet did to the travel, publishing, and taxi industries — make them obsolete.”

Sign up for Fundrise and carefully evaluate the different projects, with a keen eye on the projects that show the most potential for growth. You can build a low-fee portfolio with high-yielding real estate - the best of both worlds.

4. Get Certified as Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer

As interest rises for alternative lifestyles, the demand for instructors in yoga, nutrition, weight consultants, post-natal exercise specialists haveas increased. Certification is the key component for this business and can cost from $250 to $600.

Many associations offer home study courses - check the American Council on Exercise, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, the American Fitness Professionals and Associates, the National Federation of Professional Trainers or the International Fitness Professionals Association.

Besides marketing skills (no, you can’t skip your marketing tutorials on Youtube), you will have to have great interpersonal skills and know how to deal with people.

5. Music and Photography as Professions

Businesses that once required tens of thousands of dollars became accessible for practically anyone, including music production equipment and DSLRs. On the one hand, now it is a lot easier to sell music (TuneCore, CD Baby, Reverb Nation) or photos (Shutterstock or iStockphoto), but there is so far more competition and the payment makes it harder to earn a significant profit. However, there are niches that will always stay profitable, for example taking pictures at weddings, sports events, reunions, portraits, or playing in churches.

6. Become a Programmer

Besides graphic designers, programmers are probably the most sought professionals today. Learning Java or C# is not an easy task, but as a freelance programmer, you can develop software, apps or video games for either yourself or other companies.

To conclude, before you can think seriously about starting your own business, you need to make sure you are ready for such a big step. It is of utmost importance to assess your skills and aptitude realistically and see how they compare to the business idea you have in mind. Managing your expectations becomes even more important, as $5k might not seem like a lot of money to start a business, but depending on your skills they can be a good start.

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