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How Your Small Business Can Attract & Retain Top Talent, Part 3

In part two of this series, we took a look at some of the employment law issues that you need to consider before you make a hire. In this last installment, we’ll review some of the ways to recognize your top talent so you can work as hard to retain them as they work to help you grow your small business.

Chances are if you attract the best and brightest employees – and retain them – that you won’t have to worry about the types of legal liabilities we discussed in part two. So before the interview process even begins, make sure you are pulling from a healthy crop of potential candidates. You might try saving a manila resume folder full of candidates that are referred to from various sources. This stamp of approval cuts a lot of the dross out of the running.

“The mistake most employers make is plopping an ad in the help wanted section of the newspaper. The problem with that is you are assuming the best person is out there looking in the newspaper,” says Cathy Fyock, author of Hiring Source Book: A Collection of Practical Examples.

“Most recruitment activities don’t focus on the place where the best candidates are. Third party recruiters that make the big bucks call businesses that are similar in nature and ask for recommendations. The idea is to find candidates that closely match your profile.”

Check out this video on retaining top talent:

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How to Jumpstart Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Looking to ramp up your social media marketing efforts? Then I’ve got good news for you. There’s a new online resource to help your small business get started with social media marketing—or improve your success on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media tools.

And wait … it gets better. These resources are absolutely free—and they come from a reputable source. Constant Contact is serving up what it has dubbed the Social Media Quickstarter, a step-by-step guide that offers small businesses a series of short tutorials to get up and running on the most popular social media networks. The guide offers actionable tips, best practices and case studies to inspire you and give you new ideas.

"While more and more small businesses are experimenting with social media, many are just getting started or are still sitting on the sidelines,” says Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at Constant Contact. “Most small businesses don't need to be convinced to use social media, but they do need help in getting started, understanding the landscape, building their presence and putting best practices into action.”

Schmulen says the content in the Quickstarter is designed to be self-paced, with time-starved small business owners in mind. Users can choose what and how they want to learn, whether they have 10 minutes or an hour to spend.

Of course, Constant Contact didn’t just invest its time and money into creating the guide on a gut feeling—or because social media is popular. The company conducted a small business survey that proved the demand. Among those respondents not currently using social media marketing to promote their business, three of the top barriers to adoption cited were "I don't have the resources to devote to it," "I don't know how to use social media," and "I don't know how to get started."

The Social Media Quickstarter can be used in two ways. Small businesses new to social media can start from the beginning of the 70-plus educational chapters, while more savvy social media users can pick and choose what they want to learn about from the section headers.

"Social media can level the playing field for small businesses,” Schmulen says. “It's not a tactic only reserved for mega-resourced big businesses. In many ways, small businesses have an advantage over larger companies—they are already masters at providing an excellent customer experience and naturally building lasting relationships.”
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How Your Small Business Can Attract & Retain Top Talent, Part 2

In this first part of this series, we discussed the importance of interviewing and background checks in the quest to attract and retain top talent. In part two, we’ll take a look at some of the employment law issues that you need to consider before you make a hire.

From the Family Medical Leave Act to overtime exemption policies, there is a minefield of employment laws waiting to trap unsuspecting operators in today’s litigious environment.

A survey by the Chubb Group of Insurance companies found that 26 percent of privately-owned companies have been sued by an employee or former employee in the past few years. Employees at 22 percent of the companies have filed a discrimination or harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state agencies. What’s worse, the survey estimates it costs more than $100,000 to settle an employee lawsuit.

How do you protect yourself?

“Make sure you are hiring the right person up front,” says Cathy Fyock, author of Hiring Source Book: A Collection of Practical Examples. “You can’t ask someone have they ever made legal claims against their organization or filed a workers’ comp claim, but you can establish what your culture is and make it very clear what are your expectations when you are dong the interview so that you are picking people who really do match the culture. Asking questions that will reveal their interpersonal skills and how they treat people will help.”

Of course, it’s not always a manager treating an employee or customer poorly. It could be a direct accusation against the owner’s treatment of the manager. Experts say these accusations often arise after an employee is terminated. Therefore, employment contracts and watertight documentation is the best defense.

Experts recommend a 90-day probation period for new hires. This gives the new employee adequate time to catch on to the system. If they can’t get with the program, then they are let go with no strings attached. Give underperforming employees a verbal warning, followed by a written warning before dropping the hammer.
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How Your Small Business Can Attract & Retain Top Talent, Part 1

Employees are vital to any small business. No longer will just any warm body sitting behind a desk or standing in front of a cash register (or whatever your employees’ job function happens to be) suffice in today’s more sophisticated industry.

No matter what industry your small business serves customer service skills, for example, become critical to guest satisfaction. And with more competition for customers, sales and marketing savvy is coveted.

Let’s face it. The most successful small businesses employ top-notch employees who run the business as if it was their own. They take the time to help the customer decide on the best products and services for them; they stay a few minutes after closing time to prepare for the next day; and they are ready to respond to emergencies—and opportunities—when they arise.

In a nutshell, it boils down to attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees to bolster bank accounts and at the same time avoiding legal liabilities that can break the bank. Indeed, human resources issues (HR) are a universal business challenge in today’s cutthroat business environment. The strategy is three-fold: conduct thorough interviews and background checks, follow the letter of employment law, and keep your faithful employees on the payroll.

Interviews can give you helpful clues about a candidate, but you have to ask the right questions. For example, you can’t simply ask the candidate if he has good customer service skills because you’ll get an automatic “yes” regardless of the truth. Experts agree that the best questions are “scenario” questions, like “Can you remember a time when you had to deal with a disagreeable customer? Please explain the circumstances and what you did to manage the situation.” These types of questions will give you more insight into whether or not the candidate’s personality fits into your company’s culture.

Since managers are living on site and have so much access to company assets, background checks are pretty-much the standard for screening applicants in self-storage today. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that this practice is also becoming standard in most industries today due to rising concerns of workplace safety in the wake of 9-11 and in the midst of the military actions in Iraq.

“While employers can’t protect employees from all of the world’s ills, they certainly can take important steps to increase both the actual security of their workplaces and the sense of security for employees,” says Susan Meisinger, SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer. “HR professionals are often at the forefront in leading efforts to develop disaster response plans, and implement precautionary procedures such as background checking to ensure the protection of employees and business recovery following a catastrophe.”

Check out this YouTube video on how to interview for tips on how to interview candidates:

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Small Business Tips for Surviving an NFL Lockout

NFL owners are meeting this week to discuss the status of negotiations with players. The goal is to ink a new collective bargaining agreement.

But for all the attention the lockout is getting from sports fans, it’s small business owners who could suffer the most if the professional football season doesn’t start on time. Indeed, many small businesses that rely on the NFL to keep their business running.

"We have a number of clients-from hotel operators to restaurateurs-that are concerned about defaulting on their loans if there were a lost NFL season," says Doug Long, president of Covendium. "Our clients have already seen a drop in revenue from the economic downturn, and the banks are not willing to bridge any gap caused by the lockout-for those clients we must go to private capital to line up emergency lines of credit."

So what can your small business to do minimize the impacts of an NFL lockout? Well, revert to what you would do in a bad economy, which shouldn’t be too hard since we’ve just survived one. Hopefully, the NFL will not strike and business will continue as usual. But if it does, here are seven things you can do to help make your business more resilient, now courtesy of American Express Open.

  1. Look to “low-hanging fruit” technology to become more efficient.

  2. Re-examine every one of your operational services.

  3. Cut existing staff only as a last resort.

  4. Don’t cut marketing.

  5. Focus on getting more sales from existing customers rather than new customers.

  6. For start-ups, start selling something ASAP.

  7. Don’t skimp on your bookkeeper or accountant.


Check out the latest update on the NFL lockout:

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