About Austin Ries

Austin is the Small Business Correspondent at Zoho Corp. He writes about various topics concerning your small business from current events to helpful tips as well as how Zoho products can benefit you.

Could You Work at a “Bossless” Office?

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Menlo Innovation headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo by Elise Hu/NPR

Menlo Innovation headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Photo by Elise Hu/NPR

The modern workplace is at it again. Every day there’s a story about another company throwing conventional office rules out the window — no dress code, work from home, bring your dog, cat, parakeet, or python to the office — and blazing the trail toward a new way of thinking. This time, the traditional hierarchy of a company is in question.

No managers. No team leaders. No bosses.

If you’re a small business owner, this concept isn’t that unusual. In fact, most small business owners open their own place for just this reason. But can it work on a larger scale with 50 or more employees outside of Sir Thomas Malory’s Camelot or Alexandre Dumas’ 17th century France? Can a group of people govern themselves in an office environment with a “Round Table,” or “all for one, one for all,” mantra?

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Small Business Stories You Might Have Missed

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iStock_000019991402XSmallIt’s time for another installment in our ongoing series, “Small Business Stories You Might Have Missed.” At Zoho, we hope this series is helping you stay in touch with small business news and also giving you helpful tips to improve the state of your own business.

This week, we will be looking at everything from how good writing can improve your business’ online presence to the importance of embracing new technology.

Want to learn more about how you can better reach your audience in 2013 and the future? We have an article for that too.

So grab your laptop or tablet and a cup of coffee, and enjoy!

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The 5 Types of Candidates You Should Know About

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By now you know that recruiting an ideal candidate for your company is more than just looking at his or her resumé and cover letter, or calling a few references. You have to bring the candidate in for a face-to-face meeting and interview.

Successful business interviewThat’s because finding the right fit for your company isn’t just a list of qualifications, degrees and experience. It’s about finding a personality that fits your company’s culture and goals. You have to get a feel for how they interact with other people in a professional environment.

Unique personalities are what makes the human race so diverse and every relationship or interaction exciting. So when you start looking at resumés and cover letters, it’s important to know you will run into many different types of candidates from shy and sensitive types to extroverts. That is why it is crucial to know about the different types of job candidates you could potentially interview so you ask the right questions and get the best person for the job.

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Stress is Part of the Job: Handle it Like a Pro

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iStock_000016076514XSmallWe have a fun and relaxed environment here at the Zoho Austin office. From group lunches to inside jokes and the occasional game of ping pong, we enjoy coming to work each day and enjoy interacting with each other.

But no matter how much fun we have, there comes a time when we all have to get things done. Unfortunately, stress and work go together like pickup trucks at a gun range — especially for salespeople.

More than any other position, sales can be extremely stressful. Talking to clients or potential customers on the phone, meeting monthly or weekly goals and managing your pipeline all contribute to a large amount of stress that can have a negative impact on both your professional and personal life.

How common is stress at work? A reported 8 out of 10 people say they are stressed from their job and another study says 76 percent of all people report the top two causes of stress in the United States are job pressure and money.

One of the biggest problems with stress is how it impacts physical and psychological health. In fact, of people who feel stressed from work, 77 percent reportedly suffer physical symptoms and 73 percent suffer from psychological symptoms. Research has shown that when you suffer from stress, you are unable to utilize previous knowledge or training and instead resort to an automated response of shutting down or convincing yourself you can’t reach your goal. In sales, losing your confidence can be paralyzing. Read more

Small Business Stories You Might Have Missed

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iStock_000015589126XSmallWelcome back to our ongoing series geared toward getting you the stories and information you need to improve your small business. As a small business owner, you can never stop reading about the state of the market or learning new ways to improve and expand. That’s where we come in.

So in case you didn’t have a chance to read the tens of thousands of articles or Facebook posts since our last installment, here are some of the most useful and interesting stories we came across.

Getting the Most from Your Blog

Blogs used to be the butt of a number of jokes that usually revolved around an unemployed “writer” in his or her parent’s basement eating Cheetos or Twinkies. However, this is far from the truth. Blogs have since become an essential part of a business’ SEO value and overall online presence.

Getting a blog is no problem. Providing quality, shareable content three to five days a week is the challenge. This article from Search Engine Journal addresses this very issue. From organizing thoughts and ideas in an editorial calendar to simple tips on coming up with blog post ideas, you will immediately improve your company’s blog overnight. Read more

Want Loyal Customers? You Have to Earn Them

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friendly mechanic handshaking with familyI was stuck in traffic the other morning going to work. The right lane was closed for construction so the approaching vehicles were all corralling into the left lane. Unfortunately, at nine in the morning on one of the busiest streets in Austin, Texas, this process doesn’t happen quickly.

The vehicle in front me was a delivery truck for an Austin-based liquor store called Twin Liquors. I’ve seen these trucks countless times before, but I never looked too closely at the logo on the back. Funny what five minutes of stop and go traffic makes you notice.

The logo is nothing special. A circle with an illustration of the two founders — heads and shoulders only similar to a bust — but it was the line below them that caught my attention.

“Trust Twins.”

It’s as simple of a line as you can think of. Trust Twins. Trust our product. Trust our service. Trust us.

This phrase really stuck with me because of its transparency but also because of its ambition. Getting your customers to trust your products and brand is one of the most essential components for success. Essential, and yet oftentimes, the most difficult.

For small business owners, gaining the trust of customers and clients can make or break your bottom line. Just think about the places of business you frequent yourself. Why are you loyal to that brand or keep returning? Why do you recommend the company to a friend? Because you trust they will not only have the product or service you are looking for, but also trust you will be treated with respect. You trust that your presence and dollar is valued.

On the other hand, it’s incredibly easy to lose your customers’ trust by making mistakes. This can be anything from not delivering on a promise you made to not being honest with your customers or providing bad customer service.

So let’s look at some ways you can immediately start earning loyalty with customers.

Learn From the Big Boys

Okay, not everyone’s business will be as big as Coca Cola, Amazon or Apple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t study how they gain customer loyalty. In many cases, these companies have risen and stayed on top not because of sales or share in the marketplace, but because they have made it a priority to establish relationships and trust with its customers.

Former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble Jim Stengel told Entrepreneur, “we’re seeing more of an emphasis on brands building emotional relationships with consumers because it’s powerful and it works.”

Need examples? Amazon, arguably the most trusted brand in America, earns its customers’ loyalty and trust by offering low prices, free shipping on many orders and a convenient check-out system so customers can shop and buy hassle-free.

Southwest Airlines breaks all conventional rules of the airline industry by not charging for checking bags to offering open seating and even having fun and engaging flight attendants who impersonate Elvis or sing the safety directions before take-off.

The fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A offers unprecedented customer service to every person who walks through their doors. Yes they have a tasty product and “invented the chicken sandwich,” but they also treat every customer with respect. Customers like to feel important and at Chick-fil-A, you feel like the most important person in the world. You trust that every time you walk in those doors you will be greeted with a smile and hear the words, “my pleasure,” from every employee.

Prove You Trust Your Customers 

Trust is a two-way street so before you can expect customers to trust your brand or product, they need to feel like you trust them. There are a number of companies that have success because they established trust with customers by first proving they believe in their customers.

High end department store Nordstrom has a reputation for offering great customer service by trusting customers returning items. In fact, the store was rumored to have taken back a set of snow tires despite never selling tires in the first place.

And while this story is somewhat a myth, Nordstrom has gained the trust of its customers by promising to accept items the customer claims are defective, no questions asked. And they deliver on that promise.

Realize Trust Takes Time

Building loyal relationships and trust with your customers doesn’t happen over night. Earning trust is not about doing something right one time. It’s about proving yourself over and over again with every customer who walks through your doors.

This includes making sure you are doing your job well day in and day out. From creating great products or offering exceptional services to being innovative in your field and keeping your promises, building trust happens across multiple platforms over consecutive months and years.

Don’t lose patience. Customers notice when companies deliver on promises, but more importantly, they notice more when companies fail to deliver. Study companies that consumers trust, as well as companies that have lost the trust of the public so you can begin developing quality relationships that keep your customers coming back time and time again.

Small Business Stories You Might Have Missed

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iStock_000019387075XSmallThe amount of information that comes across our computer, smartphone or tablet screen on a daily basis is overwhelming. Photos, and videos, and status updates, and tweets, and links. It’s too much.

We click on 100 million Twitter links and share 2.5 billion items on Facebook everyday. Yes, you read that right. Everyday! You can’t possibly see every story or read every useful article pertaining to the growth and success of your small business.

Keep in mind that we can’t either, but we can do our best to get you a few of the most relevant and interesting articles concerning the small business market in this new blog series. So, in case you missed them, here are four articles you should check out right now.

Job Creation

Despite the United States unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 7.6 percent from May to June, small businesses are continuing to add jobs. Last month, companies with fewer than 50 employees created 84,000 jobs — 45 percent of the total new jobs added in June.

For a full breakdown of the stats and what it means, check out this article from Small Business Trends.

Managing Your Time

If you are a small business owner, you’ve come to one important realization:  there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Time management is crucial to efficiency and maximizing your efforts. Vice President of Marketing at Nextiva Yaniv Masjedi takes you through five ways you can manage your time more efficiently so you can not only improve your business, but also have a more peaceful workday.

Optimize Content Marketing

Content marketing is no longer just a trend. In fact, it is believed to be the future of marketing because it encourages people to share links on social networking sites; therefore, driving more traffic to your website.

Sam Slaughter at Mashable discusses the danger of content marketing drifting away from its original intention and purpose and simply becoming link bait. He also gives useful tips to improve your content marketing strategy immediately.

What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You?

Not every entrepreneur or small business owner has the same personality or work style. From investing your time and money into a start up to possibly buying a business, it is important to understand the different types of entrepreneurs so you can make the right decision.

This article takes you through five entrepreneurial styles like total risk takers to “Do It Yourself” enthusiasts, so you can learn how you can maximize your efforts.