Murphy Business &
513 N. Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
Potential Customers and the Internet
April 15, 2013 12:32:32 PM
We are all very familiar with our own Internet searches (and what appeals to us as well as what we find downright frustrating), but when was the last time you looked at your company’s website through the eyes of a potential customer?
Perhaps it’s time to check out the process from the opposite, er, side of the computer screen. If your potential (and existing) customers cannot locate your business online or become impatient waiting too long for downloads or having to sift through verbiage to find an answer, it’s definitely time to review and revise your site.
Does your page typically appear on the first page of an Internet search? If so, congratulations! After all, if your customers cannot find you while searching it is doubtful they will even make it to your home page.
It’s a tough world out there, and your competitors have more than likely hired search engine experts to help topple your position and move their own companies higher in the search rankings. Be certain your title tags are optimized. Use common words and phrases most customers would use for queries, and be sure to have unique titles for each page. Remember that search engines are not receptive to Flash navigation. Consider putting your best content on a blog first, as viewers are more apt to link to blogs over websites. Include your website address and links on the blog.
Page-loading time is an extremely important factor to users. In fact, most consumers state that speed is more important that other aspects of web design. It’s too easy to click and move on to a competitor’s site.
Now that your customer has found your site, what’s in store for the visitor?
Dr. Jakob Nielsen, a consultant U.S. News & World Reports calls the “world’s leading expert on web usability,” published his research findings in 2011 indicating that the “first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave.” More recent data has suggested perhaps today a typical viewer spends only a few seconds making that determination.
Faster Internet connectivity for most users has contributed to viewers’ overall impatience. And, most users today are experienced with phrasing their queries to maximize results displayed.
Is your site attractive and engaging? Or does it look dated or unsophisticated? Savvy consumers will quickly detour when faced with archaic design.
Research suggests it is best to avoid these potential nuisances that are likely to irk your existing and potential customers: links leading to pages “under construction;” pop-up ads; interstitial pages (those displayed before or after the intended page, generally used for advertising or to confirm information about the viewer); background music and other audio or video that automatically begins playing without a user prompt; and forcing viewers to register prior to entering your site.
Consumers expect ease in navigating your site. Use navigation with familiar terms located in logical places. Consumers are easily frustrated when faced with pagination (having to click through multiple pages to read an article in its entirety).
It should be most obvious, but these two warnings bear repeating. If your text is difficult to read, it won’t get read. This could be due to font sizes that are far too small or a color combination that does not have enough contrast (think pale lettering on a white background). If your text is poorly written and loaded with misspelled words and grammatical errors, kiss your credibility goodbye. Why should your company be taken seriously when your web author does not even take the time to double-check spelling and punctuation?
And speaking of writing, make certain your content is clear, informative and easy to read. Avoid lengthy paragraphs and run-on sentences: just looking at a page filled with text will turn most viewers away. Be concise and direct. Bulleted points and plenty of white space are good things! Visitors always appreciate graphics and interesting images.
Keep your pages fresh and current, and you’ll continue to attract new and repeat visitors (and perhaps loyal customers).
What DO Your Employees Want?
March 03, 2013 4:29:55 PM
I have very fond memories of my first “real” job. After all, this was my initial step into the real world: no longer did I receive cash for a few hours of watching someone’s children; I now had my hands on an official paycheck – complete with my social security number, full address and withholdings for the government!
I was attending college, so this was a part-time job at a (local) state bank a few blocks from my home. I originally answered an advertisement requesting help as a new accounts representative, but I soon found myself learning about every aspect of banking.
I did help open new accounts, but I also spent time assisting customers with their safe deposit boxes and working as a teller handling deposits, withdrawals and other transactions.
The bank’s vice president and cashier took me under her wing and taught me a great deal about banking. It was an exciting and exhilarating time!
I learned about the FDIC and was privy to the bank’s safe, which contained the actual currency available at any given time. I was educated on why banks cannot be closed for more than three consecutive days in a row (and assumed this is why many banking holidays land on Mondays!).
I helped process personal and commercial loans and greeted customers as they entered our lobby.
Looking back, I believe the VP/Cashier hoped I would follow a career into banking. I did not take that path, but think of that particular time in my life often (I really didn’t consider it a job … it was more like a fun internship!).
I’ve had a few jobs since that time, and several have involved personnel management.
My experience at the bank taught me a lot about how an employee wants to be treated. I was the lowest-ranking employee at the bank, yet was treated as the officers and board members were. I had the opportunity to learn as much as I wanted and work in various departments in the bank. I was never bored! I left with great references – and only took another job because I was considering applying for law school and wanted to have some experience working for attorneys.
Have you spoken with your employees lately? I share this experience as a reminder that a little bit of interest can go a very long way in helping workers feel valued and appreciated.
At the bank, we only had 30-minute lunch breaks. To offset that, the bank provided bread, deli meats and cheeses and frozen entrees. I am dating myself here, but my first microwave experience was at the bank! The point is, the bank asked for the sacrifice of a short lunch break but offered something in return for the favor.
Do you know what your employees really want? You might be surprised to speak with them individually. Each employee might want something completely different, but you may also find they share some common desires. And these desires might easily be within your budget and reach as an employer.
You might find an employee who really wants to learn and tackle new challenges. What a great internal resource! Teach that employee and empower him.
You may uncover an employee who enjoys working at your company but is bored stiff in his current position. Better to know this now than on the day he hands in his resignation.
You may learn that someone really wants to retire soon but has been afraid to mention this to management. In this case, knowing about an impending departure in advance can only lead to a smoother transition.
You may discover innovative ideas and uncover a willing spirit from some employees to learn and achieve more.
Take a moment this week to sit down with each member of your team for a candid – and possibly enlightening – conversation.
Just as I Remembered: Why Consistency is Important for Your Company’s Success
December 11, 2012 3:32:12 PM
I like consistency. I bet your customers like it, too.
Consistency brings repeat business from satisfied customers. It’s a simple thought, but one that is often overlooked in small companies.
Franchises are a step ahead in that regard. Although part of the charm of travel is discovering boutique hotels and wonderful local restaurants, if you are in a strange town and didn’t get recommendations from friends or do some research prior to arriving at your destination, are you going to take a chance or simply go with the familiar -- patronizing places you recognize and know will deliver the products and services you need?
If you’re in a hurry and driving in a strange part of your own town, are you likely to pull up to a Starbucks or McDonald’s for your coffee fix? You would, after all, be familiar with how the drive-through systems work (even the dual lanes and separate windows for payment and product) and whether or not the restaurant takes plastic cash. You know how many ounces are in each size and what they cost. You probably don’t even have to review the menu unless you are in the mood to try something you don’t generally order.
If your customers are coming back, they are pleased with the consistency of your product or service.
They are also probably familiar with the interaction they expect to have with your employees and have been satisfied with their experiences in the past. Whether your customer chats with a representative on-line or welcomes a member of your staff into his home, he knows what to expect. In retail settings, especially, customers feel confident locating store personnel when employees wear some type of company uniform. Although each is a unique individual, your employees should be relaying a consistent message through consistent behavior. Think of a different scenario: a hospital patient is also a customer. Although the stakes are higher and more personal, patients are looking for consistency from health care workers. If one medical professional washes his hands carefully and dons protective gloves before certain procedures, wouldn’t the patient expect that same behavior from the other staff members?
Also remember to keep consistent with your marketing. Branding is extremely important to a company’s success. Logos and slogans are to be recognized and remembered. Think carefully before making a decision to change either of these. Keep your message consistent in all written materials, packaging and advertising, as well as in the content of your web site and on social media.
Inconsistency is definitely inefficient. Corporate policies and ongoing training go a long way toward encouraging consistency. It is tempting as an entrepreneur to sometimes just take each day as it comes, but this often causes the business owner to spend a lot of time and energy putting out fires instead of preventing the initial sparks.
Thoughtful consistency is an integral part of a successful business plan.
In Case of Emergency, is Your Small Business Prepared?
September 20, 2012 12:32:34 PM
Natural disasters may hit at any time of the year, but the recent wildfires in Colorado and derecho (line of violent thunderstorms) that cut a path across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic have made Americans aware that the atmosphere is often very unstable during the summer months.
Have you given any thought to a disaster plan of action for your small business? Having a continuity strategy in place prior to an emergency situation can go a long way toward helping your company return to normal business operations sooner.
An obvious place to begin is reviewing and possibly updating your insurance coverage. Store hard copies of important insurance and other paperwork in a safe place. A remote location is ideal, provided you are able to easily retrieve these documents after a disaster.
As you plan how your business would function day-to-day, think about how you would communicate with your employees. Are there two or three key managers who could be assigned with specific tasks prior to an approaching storm? Are employees able to work remotely during emergency situations?
If your company is a retail operation, what circumstances would dictate a change in business hours? How would altered hours be shared with your existing customers and the general public?
Is the physical location of your company in a low-lying area, subject to flooding? How do you protect your inventory and FF&E? How would travel to your location and parking at your facility be affected? It may be wise to stock up in advance on extra office and related supplies. Power outages and other utility disruptions almost always occur when a disaster hits. Often, days or even weeks may pass before electricity is restored. Would having a backup generator be worth the initial investment in order to keep your company running immediately after an emergency?
What about important electronic data? Some careful consideration should be given to the method and frequency chosen for saving pertinent data. Are back-up files stored remotely and safely?
If you have experienced physical or economic damages after a disaster, there may be relief in sight. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers assistance to eligible companies in declared disaster areas. Any size company may provide an application for a low-interest loan to help repair or replace damaged property and items. There are also working capital loans available to help relieve economic injury caused by a declared disaster.
The loans are available at reasonable terms and can typically also cover uninsured losses.
For additional information, please contact the SBA directly at 1-800-659-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And start planning your recovery strategy in advance of the next natural disaster or other emergency.
Labor and Employment Laws
June 17, 2012 11:24:02 AM
In a previous post, we noted that small businesses are not exempt from following federal and state laws and regulations. Being unaware of these many laws does not mean you can ignore them. Failure to comply might result in hefty fines or civil penalties. In some instances, criminal charges could be a factor.
Some of the most numerous and complicated laws concern labor and employment. There are many regulations in place that protect employees, covering everything from child labor to safety in the workplace.
Approximately 125 million workers are protected by the 180+ laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Its web site (www.dol.gov) offers information on how to comply with these federal laws. The DOL has several agencies that administer various regulations.
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The division’s mission is “to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the Nation's workforce.” The FLSA covers minimum wages and overtime. The Act restricts the hours children under the age of 16 may work. Garnishments of employee’s wages, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are also administered by the WHD. The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees and mandates eligible employees receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for births, adoptions and serious illness of employees and their immediate family members. The FMLA ensures the employee will be able to return to his previous job after the leave of absence.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) manages safety and health issues in the workplace through the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
If your company offers pension or welfare benefit plans, you are responsible for following the reporting requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA supersedes state laws and penalties for failing to file the required reports can be substantial.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) protects those serving in the reserves, National Guard or armed forces. Some affected have the right to be reemployed by their employer at the time they entered service, in addition to other special rights.
Certain industries have specific regulations (transportation, construction and agriculture, among others), so be certain you are familiar with laws relating to your particular company. Businesses that receive grants, financial aid or contracts from the government are subject to another particular set of regulations.
The laws are numerous, but a little attention now to ensure compliance is a lot easier and less expensive than taking corrective action later.