Community Business Partnerships

Community Business Partnerships: Benefits for Companies Considering Partnering with a Non-Profit

As part of corporate social responsibility activities addressing the social impact of business on the community, business and not for profit organisations may enter into community business partnerships. There are many benefits to both the company and the not for profit organisation of taking part in the joint venture.

Employee Volunteering Programs Can Improve Staff Morale

Companies that provide an opportunity for their employees to give back to the community by way of employee volunteering programs also gain an opportunity for their staff to undertake skills development training. Deloitte’s Volunteer IMPACT Survey found that over ¾ of not for profit organisations believed that corporate volunteers would bring value to their organisations however under ½ of the not for profit organisations surveyed currently had corporate volunteers working with them.

According to the not for profit portal, Our Community, “more than 90% of employees prefer to work for a company with an employee volunteering project” and such a project is particularly relevant to Gen Y Employees (Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Survey).

Companies with employee volunteering programs also report less sick days than companies without the programs. Tuffrey’s Good Companies Better Employees study found that implementation of an employee volunteering program raised staff satisfaction levels by 5%.

Other benefits gained by companies with employee volunteering programs include potential for obtaining a reputation as a “good employer,” which may increase the numbers of applicants for openings, an improvement in the skills of community members which may lead to an increased pool of talent for future hires and increased media coverage.

Improved Community Knowledge Provides Opportunities for New Product Development

By partnering with an organisation that is providing grass roots community development projects, a company can increase its social standing and knowledge of the community. The increased knowledge can lead to an improved ability to develop products and services to meet community needs.

Creating products and services that meet community needs has been implemented by Orange France Telecom through formation of stakeholder groups to understand the requirements of Orange’s disabled customer and through provision of low cost services in remote areas. There is also potential for improvement of brand recognition within the community and an increase in sales of goods and services to the community.

Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility

By putting together an effective community business partnership, the business may obtain an improved or increased competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ethical consumerism sentiments are rising with consumer boycotts estimated to have totaled over £2.3 billion (Co-operative Bank). Over 90% of consumers have a preference for purchasing goods or services supplied by companies that the consumer sees as being ethical (KPMG “Ethical Business and Sustainable Communities” Report). A business’ performance in corporate social responsibility measures is one way that a consumer may judge the ethics of the business and whether a purchase should be made from that business.

Business Leadership and Brand Recognition

A business with a strong partnership with a community based not for profit organisation may also find that it improves its leadership position both within the community and industry in which it operates.

Community business partnership also provide an opportunity for the business to be included in the not for profit organisation’s media and other awareness activities thus bringing an increased exposure level of the business to the community and in some cases to areas of the community the business may never have reached in the past.

Businesses, not for profit organisations and the community benefit from community business partnerships. For business, the investment in an employee volunteering program or community business partnership can result in increased staff motivation and morale, improved community knowledge which may lead to an improvement in the products and services designed for the community, potential for increased brand recognition and the possibility that the business may become recognised as a leader in its field or community.

Ethical Business Practices

Ethical Business Practices: Ethical Behavior by Companies Benefits Society and Business

Consumers vote with their wallets and 91% are more likely to purchase goods or services from businesses that the consumer sees as acting ethically (KPMG “Ethical Business and Sustainable Communities” Report). Ethical business practices are an important arm of corporate social responsibility, focusing on transparency towards stakeholders, taking a long term view of the business and society rather than a short term profit centered vision and investing responsibly.

Ethical business practices can help to increase consumer confidence, improve business performance and protect the value of the business brand. In the United States, as a result of corporate collapses such as Enron, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed into legislation; this act requires that companies have amongst other things, a code of ethics and mechanisms in place to address risk management and transparent disclosure of financial practices.

While Sarbanes-Oxley has resulted in improved financial reporting for public owned companies, it is not a panacea for ethical business practices. Ethical business practices require strong financial reporting together with consideration of the social and environmental impacts of business.

Production Methods and Ethical Business Practices

When applying ethical business practices to production methods, businesses should ensure that the production of a good or service is environmentally sustainable and that human beings involved in the production, either as workers or as members of the community in which production takes place are not unduly harmed.

Human Resources and Ethical Business Practices

Many businesses have codes of conduct or codes of practice to deal with ethics issues, however while codes of conduct assist employees to deal in an ethical manner when negotiating contracts or in dealings with other employees, they do not address the broader ethical issues surrounding human resources in business.

Ethical business practices in human resources include considering the impact the work of the business has on employees and their families, reviewing pay scales to ensure fairness and providing access to mechanisms that enable family support including employee assistance plans, child care, family leave provisions and health care benefits.

Ethical Business Practices and Society

Business and society exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with business providing goods and services required by society and the environment and people in the community providing resources for business, in terms of production resources and financial resources through spending. A MORI poll “Sustainability Issues in the Retail Sector” found that 77% of consumers had a preference to purchase environmentally friendly goods and 79% felt that in order to trust a company, the company needed to provide evidence that it was ethical.

In order to be successful, ethical business practices need to be supported by the culture of the business. Management should lead from the front on ethical business practices and build ethical business practices into each dimension of the business from production to follow up customer service.

Learning Organization

Striving to be a Learning Organization: How Companies can Achieve Greater Success in the Business World

Becoming a learning organization can vault companies into a successful future. Learning organizations offer employees increased job satisfaction and productivity.

Developing a learning organization is a beneficial way for some businesses to achieve the best work results. Many larger corporations have begun to realize this over the years and are offering help with education costs and are actually encouraging their employees to go back to school, obtain degrees, or get a certification. The company’s employees are also benefiting from this effort. Many employees report having greater job satisfaction, and strive to be successful with their jobs by doing the best work possible.

What is a Learning Organization?

A learning organization is somewhere that a group of people are continually learning and expanding in an effort to achieve the best possible results for the business. A learning organization encourages their employees to advance themselves and wants employees to be verbal about changes that they see necessary. This environment is the best one for achieving the ultimate goals for a company. Job satisfaction is also higher for organizations that provide this type of environment for their employees. Many employees report a feeling of success and believe that the employer has a greater respect for the employee’s suggestions and work production.

Come Together to Achieve Results

To be a true “learning organization” an organization will need to band together and welcome ideas from management as well as lower level staff. Everyone’s ideas must be voiced and considered. Management has to have an open mind and not discount other workers concerns or thoughts. Management has to believe in the concept of a learning environment. This can be difficult because the concept is intangible. Results are not immediately evident. However, once results are achieved management will then understand the true benefits and fully embrace the concept.

Offer Support and Education

Change can be a very frightening thing. Because of this, some managers and employees have a great deal of difficulty dealing with change. They are resistant and often voice negative statements about the transformation into a learning system. By educating all staff, providing updates, and offering support, the company will be able to successfully work through these problems. Hopefully, the organization will be able to unite and share a common vision for the future of the agency. This is how great companies are born and success is achieved.

Once the employees have achieved the transformation everyone can start working to achieve the companies goals. These changes and common goals will help management and employees come together and work as one cohesive unit. Difficulties and problems will be overcome much easier if the group is willing to work together and try to find the answers. Becoming a learning organization can lead the company to success that was never before imagined.

Management by Objectives

Attain Personal Success Using Business Models: Management by Objectives for Individual Achievement

There are several ways that individual can meet their personal goals, whether at work, home, or in personal relationships. One is to actually use the business model MBO.

Most models of personal success are very similar to business management models, although often “water-down” or modified versions. The MBO model is a simple management model for reaching and attaining success goals that is easily adaptable to personal use.

What is Management by Objectives?

The MBO model is where someone decides on some specific goals that they want to achieve, say for example, you want to lose forty pounds in the next year, and set specific task, or objectives in order to reach that goal. Each objective must meet the SMART criteria. This means they must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

Using the weight loss example, you might give yourself some specific diet or exercise objectives which are task driven. Your objective might be to cut out a certain amount of calories from your diet within the first two weeks. From this your tasks could be:

  • cut out
  • daily chocolate bar right away
  • cut out
  • daily giant Big Gulp and replace it with water
  • by week
  • replace all junk food snacks in the house with healthy snacks, such as fruit and vegetables.

This objective is then specific (the number of calories you reduce the diet), measureable, achievable (you’ve only modified part of the diet, so it doesn’t hurt you all at once), relevant (it’s healthier food choices and reduction of unwanted consumption), and time-specific (you’ve decided by when it must be completed).

An Exercise to Reach Success

One of the first things that you must do in order to use this model is to brainstorm the things that you would like to accomplish in order to meet your idea of improvement or personal success. Whether this is in your work or personal life, there are specific goals you want to reach, so you must write each and every one of them down.

Once the goals are written down, pick the top five goals. What is most important for you to achieve? Rank these goals. Now write down at least three objectives that meet the SMART criteria that you need to accomplish in order to reach that specific goal. The objectives will each likely require you to complete several specific tasks. What are those tasks? How can you complete them?

Time Management is a Factor in Success

For your tasks you will have to set specific times that you want to complete each task. This is where your time management skills come into play. Many people use a scheduler, such as a day-timer or a program like Outlook when they are at work. There is no reason you can’t have something similar for your personal life. One idea is to use a list for each day’s items that you have to get done. All truly successful people have such a list. Go over it every morning and see what things you have to do. Make sure to allow time in this schedule for your work and personal care. Some people tend to get over zealous and schedule too many things into their life. Remember that you typically need at least nine or ten hours from each day for sleep and personal care, including meals.

With clear goals and objectives and knowing the tasks that need to be done in order to meet each objective, you will have a much higher chance of attaining any kind of success you desire!

busniess plan

Business Plans: The Key to Business Success: Advice on Structuring and Composing an Effective Business Plan

A business plan is one of the most important keys essential to business success. As a navigational tool, it can steer entrepreneurs towards growth and profitability

Constructing a good business plan could mean the difference between attracting the right investment for your business idea and establishing a comprehensive guide of what your business would like to achieve with regards to successful growth and profitability; and ending up another statistic with the number of companies that fail before they are even able to spread their fledgling wings.

A Navigational Tool

A business plan is not just a tool to attract investors but is the company’s first strategic planner that will enable the entrepreneur to conduct detailed analysis of financial and organisational assumptions; and by doing so can discover fatal flaws or contradictions that may hamper business success. As the company grows, the business plan must be updated and realigned according to the strategic direction the company would like to take.

Essential Key Elements of a Plan

Initially, writing a business plan may seem daunting and most entrepreneurs reluctantly embark on the task. If the task seems too overwhelming, easily downloadable templates and organisations that offer advice on writing business plans are in service; Professional experts are now offering their services to write business plans for reluctant entrepreneurs. Despite all the different and varying formats, business plans must include the following essential key elements:

  1. An Executive Summary
  2. The Management and Organizational Structure
  3. The Service or Product Offering
  4. The Marketing Plan
  5. The Prospective Financials
  6. The Forecasting Schedule

No part of the business plan is less important or should be less thoroughly researched than another. It remains a solid design of the companies planning and goals, and should be meticulously constructed to the last detail.

Mistakes to Avoid

Despite it being the most important document a new entrepreneur will ever write, most new entrepreneurs fail to understand that their business plan is an extension of the company. A poorly constructed plan will present a negative image to possible investors. Some likely errors that new entrepreneurs should avoid are:

  1. The presentation of a handwritten business plan with poor vocabulary, spelling and grammatical errors
  2. The omission of pertinent information regarding certain facets of your business, due to poor knowledge or lack of facts
  3. Inundating the business plan with industry jargon; on the assumption that the investor is an expert in the chosen industry of business
  4. Basing financial projections on costs and revenue on personal bias rather than on industry knowledge and research
  5. Failing to record progression timelines, negative facts and prospective competitors in order to present a rosy view of your company’s proposed success

A business plan has no timeframe, no set defined number of pages and is not rigidly fixed to today’s industrial conditions; but is a fluid document that will evolve with the company and provide a very valuable point of strategic reference for future growth and profitability.

Monitor Review Sites for Customer Feedback

Monitor Review Sites for Customer Feedback: Consumer Review Websites Offer Insight Into Business Reputation

Online reputation management is critical to success in B2C e-commerce. Consumer review websites give the public easy access to customer complaints and the best reviews.

With a click of the mouse, internet surfers can view pages of customer feedback on any product or service company, simply by visiting one of the myriad of consumer review sites available. According to planning, development and marketing company iCrossing’s report, “How America Searches: Online Retail,” 88% of consumers perform internet research before they buy a product online.

E-commerce companies must diligently monitor and improve their online reputation by staying abreast of the customer complaints and reviews published on consumer review sites. Some of these services offer companies the option to respond to customer feedback. E-commerce company representatives can do damage control or express thanks to customers by replying to feedback promptly and accurately. The following five popular consumer review sites are a great place to start when running an online reputation management campaign:

MeasuredUp.com- Multimedia Customer Feedback and Easy Navigation

After purchasing a product online, customers visit MeasuredUp to leave written or videotaped reviews and complaints about the company. Consumers indicate their level of overall satisfaction with either a smiling or frowning emoticon. Customers are required to create an account before they may post reviews.

Companies are able to respond publicly to any customer complaints or reviews. In addition to addressing complaints, be sure to thank customers for the best reviews. Surfers seeking information on a specific company will see that the company cared enough to engage in public conversation and show gratitude to previous customers.

Blagger.comSearchable Customer Complaints

Blagger users rate companies on a scale of one to five, graphically displayed with thumbs-up or thumbs-down icons. The site encourages both positive and negative reviews. E-commerce companies can easily search from the top of the homepage to see if their business is listed among the 3,000+ companies consumers have reported on to date . Companies are not able to respond customer complaints.

ConsumerReview.com- For Companies Selling Product Online

Perhaps the most advanced of the consumer review services, ConsumerReview.com allows surfers to seek out specific products and filter searches by price, brand, design and more. They can then choose a product to see ratings on a scale of one to five. Each listing links to several e-commerce storefronts selling the product, giving the consumer the option to price shop and compare shipping policies.

Customers are asked to leave an overall rating as well as a value rating. They also leave a written review with sections for a summary, strengths, and weaknesses. Companies cannot respond to feedback, but get a valuable, detailed overview of their customer’s experience.

Epinions.com- Consumer Reviewer Transparency and Accountability

Epinions.com allows consumers to search for products in a broad range of categories including cars, electronics, books and more. Users must create an account to leave a consumer review and are therefore accountable for their ratings and comments. Reviewers are ranked according to their level of activity, giving credibility to the process. Consumer complaints and the best reviews include a list of pros, cons, and the bottom line or overall opinion of the product.

Sutori.com- Interactivity and Open Communication

This service describes itself as “the voice of today’s customer.” Consumers are encouraged to share their “stories” and rally the community to build consensus. Customer complaints can include photos. Consumers can select a final comment to sum up their experience, ranging from, “I’m in love” to “Livid with rage.” Companies can post a response, listed directly below the consumer review, above any other user comments.

Monitoring Online Reputation with Consumer Review Sites

Given the ever-increasing number of consumer review services, it’s almost a full-time job to scan sites for new reviews and customer complaints. Many of the websites offer a newsfeed service, alerting subscribers when specific keywords or company names appear on the site; use this service to negate the need to search for new listings. Google also offers news alerts, while Technorati scans blogs for keywords or terms.

Year of the Entrepreneur: Launch a Candle Manufacturing Company as a Family Business Venture

Candle-making like many functional crafts can be a low cost or no cost start-up business venture that is also a fun business idea as a small family run enterprise. Candle making is said to have originated independently in many countries. As early as 3000 B.C., archaeological finds the east African people of kmt (Egypt) making beeswax candles.

Candles can be created and promoted as natural or can be customized for individuals as gift items or for birthdays. In addition to the aroma-therapy (scent) options, national holidays and religious and heritage festivities offer an array of marketing opportunities: Judaica, Christmas/Easter, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.).

The Candle Craftsman

Designate a space for candle-making. Candle making takes up a small amount of space compared to the potential for profit. If you have a back room, a garage, an unused walk-in closet, kitchen-area, pantry room, cottage house, a basement or a shed then you have enough space for making candles.

The candle craftsman melts down wax in pots and has the option of adding colors and scents to be reshaped into imaginative molds and shapes. Large box shaped or small floating candles or votives can be customized as family unique expressions.

When sales begin to come in consider securing vendor sources or core vendors for wax, dyes, scents, and molds. Readily available candle wax in the U.S. includes soy and paraffin bases. There are others, such as beeswax or gel, depending on local resources. As to adding scents, many candle supply dealers have pre-formulated aromatherapy waxes. Adding fragrance to wax creations may be a regulated market activity. Check local and federal laws for applicable rules and regulations.

Financing the Candle Business

The candle business can be created with no financial investment if the list of tools (wax, molds, wicks, and pans) is currently in the possession of the new candle-maker or can be secured by donations from family and friends.

If all the tools cannot be secured without costs, the largest expense will be specialty molds as some of them can run as high as $20 each. Remember, molds can sometimes be found among existing resources, e.g., kitchenware items such as miniature banking pans and small containers from pre-packaged goods, especially glass packaging.

Local, National, and Global Candle Making Sales

In today’s conservation-conscious global economy green is the new black. Candle-making can truly be marketed as a functional craft that is an alternative use to electricity-based light sources in the lives of high-energy consuming populations.

It is a word-of-mouth, reputation-based business. Initial candle orders can be obtained from individual sells through gift shops or art and craft or expo shows. Orders can also be obtained through wholesaling the candles to local shops and franchise outlets. In considering accepting new orders, remember to maintain family production projects to manageable levels.

This type of family business can become a micro-multinational through online sales that tap into global markets. This can be done by purchasing, developing, and marketing an on-line candle business website with payment purchasing options, security, and web-management oversight and updates.

Additional online sales can be obtained by joining trading venues for domestic sales and international import/export sales. On-line trading communities include eBay (pay required) and Craigslist (no pay required). A growing list of on-line bartering and trading communities are also developing, such as Caretotrade.com.

Disclaimer: Check local and federal laws for applicable safety and trade rules and regulations regarding candle-making and interstate and import/export sales. This article is for informational purposes only and creates no attorney-client relationship. It should not be used as a substitute for tax or legal advice.

Stress Reduction for the Entrepreneur

Stress relief is as important for the entrepreneur as it is for the man or woman who works a typical nine-to-five job. Many entrepreneurs enjoy their work and spend several hours devoted to their business. But when the economy sours and profits slow down, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.

To keep the entrepreneurial fires alive the entrepreneur applies a few rules that help alleviate daily stress before it leads to emotional breakdown and burnout. The following seven concepts come from Brabble chief executive officer and founder Patrick Mackaronis, who finds stress at every corner running an up-and-coming social network.

A Regular Time Out

The man and woman with ambition have the habit of working long hours. But being locked in the office for those hours can lead to high levels of stress. To cope they take regular time outs throughout the work day. That often means simple activities like stretching unused muscles, taking a brief walk around the block or calling the spouse or a friend. Anything that lasts ten to fifteen minutes can help charge tired batteries and clear the mind so the thinking process can be rejuvenated.

A Break form the Routine

Many famous people throughout history took time to lie down on the couch and take a brief nap. Thomas Edison took regular naps. Winston Churchill often spent his mornings working in bed. While getting eight hours of rest every night is important, it has been shown that those who rest frequently during the day retain more energy and work longer hours without fatigue.

A Review of Priorities

The reason why some businessmen and women burn themselves out is because they lose sight of their reasons for being in business. Daily problems tend to draw attention away from the important tasks and on to trivialities. Many entrepreneurs get busy but don’t accomplish anything meaningful. When that happens they stop to refocus attention on the important areas. That includes their loved ones and children.

Authority Delegation

Unfortunately, this isn’t the strength of many entrepreneurs. They are independent people who see the need to get things done a certain way. While this is an asset when starting out a new business venture, it becomes a severe handicap when the business starts to grow. Menial tasks are better left to someone else who can handle them. If hiring a full time employee isn’t in the cards, temporary help will release the time the entrepreneur can spend to focus his/her attention on more important tasks.

A Cool Head

Most people don’t get ahead in life because they react to problems, but don’t actually solve them. They lose themselves in negative emotions that keep them from finding lasting solutions to their problems. Entrepreneurs are just as fallible to this phenomenon. Keeping a cool head means looking at the problem from different perspectives. There is always a solution to every problem but getting lost in worry and fear does little to resolve the issues. Success can’t come to the entrepreneur who worries constantly.

A Backup Plan

Every successful businessman and woman has the day mapped out. They have a planner and a schedule. But sometimes events throw off the best plans. Rather than resort to panic, the effective entrepreneur has a backup plan that still steers him/her in the right direction. A backup plan is one way to steer clear of stress.

Acceptance of the Inevitable:

Life throws many curves. Sometimes, no matter what happens, the business just doesn’t become a viable or profitable enterprise. If bankruptcy is imminent, the entrepreneur accepts it and doesn’t berate himself for his failure. Many entrepreneurs have found themselves in the depths of despair, only to rise again in a new venture that proved successful.

The rules of entrepreneurial stress relief is just the same as the rules for running a household or working for a job. Common sense, a cool head and living in the present can help anyone in business for themselves avoid the stresses that lead many to mental breakdown.

Patrick Mackaronis is the CEO and Founder of social network Brabble. He can best be reached on Brabble, or on Twitter at @patty__mack.