Stretch Out Your Start-Up Budget!

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Believe it or not, the start-up costs you need to cover to get your business off the ground are going to be some of the most strenuous expenses you’ll ever need to deal with. Before you start turning a profit and taking steps to grow your business, there are a range of costs that need to be considered and managed as best as possible. Here are some tips for making your initial budget go further…

Stay Flexible

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I’m sure that when you first started drawing up your business plan, you had all kinds of grand visions involving the latest equipment and software, a board room full of expert staff, amazing office parties, and all kinds of other perks. However, if you get too wrapped up in these grand visions, it can make it very hard to stay flexible when covering your start-up costs, and therefore to save money! I’m not saying you can’t achieve all the dreams you have for your business, I’m just saying they should take a back seat for the time being! Consider the possibility of more short-term solutions; affordable, rented office spaces, freelancers and so on. There’s going to be a lot of changes in that initial period, and these short-term solutions will give you the flexibility to take them as they come.

Cut Costs, But Don’t Go Cheap!

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Your start-up costs can add up very quickly, but there are various ways for you to figure out the best areas to spend money, and those areas where you can afford to tighten your belts. If you’re opening a restaurant and you’re planning to market it as a high-end establishment, then things like lavish tableware and luxury restaurant furniture are kind of non-negotiable. However, none of your customers are going to care that much about the brand of the pots and pans your staff are using. There are going to be a range of ways you can shave down your start-up costs depending on your business model and your plans for the future. Two things thing which almost every entrepreneur can save on is digital marketing and website development. There are now countless free tools and resources out there which will help you get your brand’s online presence off the ground.

Review, Review, Review!

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It’s great when new business owners approach their start-up costs with extreme caution, but this is only the beginning of it. Now that you’ve found ways to save on those first big expenses, you need to keep coming back to your cash flow again and again, and making sure that all of your expenses stay on track for you hitting your long-term business goals. Go over your profit and loss each month, compare it to your past performance, and pin down the source of any discrepancies. This will open your eyes to problems long before they actually break. As long as you keep on top of your numbers, there’ll be little standing between you and the business you’re dreaming of!

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If those pesky start-up costs were beginning to overwhelm you, I hope this post has been a big help.

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Stylish and Functional: How to Create a Modern Business Premises

If you’re still working in an outdated building with drab decor and failing furniture, then it might be time for you to upgrade. Not every business demands a modern decor arrangement, but if you’re trying to stay trendy and want the best for your business, then modernising your premises is a long-term investment that will pay for itself very quickly.

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Modern is attractive

Let’s face it, people like a modern business. They like those large glass panes that let people see into their store. It gives them a window to see what goes on inside of your business, what you sell and how many people are inside. On the inside, large windows let in an abundance of natural light which illuminates the room and reflects off glass tables and reflective surfaces, which in turn fill the room with even more light to create a clean and crisp environment.

Modern businesses also pave the way for modern advancements. A cluttered business won’t have room for things like computers and electronic store devices if there’s no room for it. Things like electrical cables and power outlets need to be hidden in the walls unless you want your customers tripping over cables. With easier access to increased power outlets and wiring conveniences, you can install devices such as monitors, touch-screen devices and more to make your customer’s shopping experience easier and more fun.

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Furnishing your premises

Clean and reflective surfaces are key when it comes to furnishing your business. You can get solid surface worktops that look fantastic, reflect light and are sturdy enough to hold everything from food trays to the heaviest of computer components. For seating, ensure that you have designer-style furniture with a futuristic touch. You want your customers to feel immersed in modern culture, design and also technology.

The inside of your business shouldn’t over-utilise space. Empty space is not necessarily a bad thing as it creates a sense of luxury and openness to adds to the modern feel. Don’t cramp your customers into small areas—let them breathe and move around in your store so that they feel welcome and comfortable.

A good way to open up a dark corner of your business is to add more windows. As mentioned before, large glass panes are great at letting in light and allowing customers to see in and out of your business. If they are large enough and your business is close to the street, it can almost feel like your customers are actually still outside and that they’ve walked into a small closed-off section of the street instead of an actual building. With clever lighting tricks and seamless glass panes, you can create the illusion of a luxurious and futuristic shopping experience.

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Less is more

When you create a storefront, you don’t want to overload it with too many products unless you are a grocery store. If you sell something unique such as boutique bags or electronic devices, then you want to show off your products instead of throwing them at your customer’s face. One of the most common mistakes in business is to offer your customers too much choice.

If they’re overwhelmed, then they’re more likely to go to another store, buy something simpler or request help from your employee. Don’t overwhelm people in your store by attacking them from all angles with your products—focus on selling high volumes of your best products instead.

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Goodbye Boring, Hello Wowzer

So many business people think that they are in a “boring industry,” meaning that they are in an industry that people wouldn’t ordinarily want to read about or learn about. But what people find interesting differs from person to person.

Suppose, for instance, you’re an entrepreneur, and you want to succeed on Twitter. The only problem is that you run a business consulting firm which isn’t exactly conducive to new content and tweets. Well, that’s what you think, anyway.

It turns out that more people are successful on social media than you think. A company called 3M has managed to build up a following of more than 120,000 people, despite the fact that it’s primary business is selling bandages, Scotchguard and Post-it notes. What’s more, the company isn’t political, it doesn’t have any celebrities on its board, like Lady Gaga and yet it’s managed to draw in the punters and make an impact.

The way the company has done it is by introducing people to the technology behind their products. Post-it notes might not be particularly interesting themselves, but the process by which they are made certainly is. People are apparently fascinated by all the stages of production that making a simple post-it note goes through and just how much machinery and automation are involved.

In other words, 3M is helping its customers geek out, in a similar way to How Stuff Works website does.

It’s A Myth That Some Brands Can’t Have Social Media Followers

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According to one branding agency, it’s a myth that some brands can’t develop a social following. What is really required is for a company to think about how it fits in with its customers’ wider interests. Perhaps business consulting isn’t all that exciting for entrepreneurs as a title in itself. But far more interesting are things like interviews with successful business people who can share their stories. Remember, people love stories.

Entrepreneurs Need To Invest In people

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3M employs more than 90,000 people. Most of those people are in the business of making, processing and shipping goods. Only around 10 people work in the company’s social media department, but it turns out that they are incredibly valuable. It is estimated that the company invests more than $500,000 and possibly closer to $1 million, paying for people to write content, upload photos and tweet news about the company across a range of social media sites and blogs. It shows that to be a force on Twitter, you have to invest in the platform. The company clearly believes that it is worth it.

More Content Is Better Than Quality Content

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This is usually the opposite of what you hear on most sites, but 3M has discovered that it is the best policy. Just getting content out there, without having a strict content policy, is best in the fast-moving world of social media. Managers, they say, need to be open minded when it comes to the content that their staff are pushing. It’s simply not possible to control every keystroke and have a functioning social media presence.

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Essential Positions That Need to Be Filled in Any Start-Up

Even though you might think your start-up business isn’t big enough to need or even warrant a large number of employees— it is and it needs them; unless, of course, you yourself are professionally trained expert in just about everything. Here are just two of the positions you should seek to fill as soon as possible in your start-up business if you want it to be a success.

An Accountant

Accountants provides a real back bone for your business, allowing you to focus on all the other aspects of it that are stressing you out. They will assist you in all the financial matters, including the drawing up of your professional business plan and any tax issues regarding the registering of a new business. As well as this, an accountant will give you a peace of mind when it comes to a number of acronyms that have so far just given you a headache whenever you’ve look at or thought about them, like VAT and PAYE procedures. They would take these tasks as their own as well as keeping on top of all your regulatory and compliance requirements.

You can also seek help with budgeting and forecasting cash flow from an accountant as well as credit control. And if you’re worried about the price of actually hiring an accountant or using accountancy services in the first place, then fear not as more and more are becoming relatively low-cost, considering the extensive job they do, like those and the services found on www.AccountantsEastLondon.com.

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A SEO Manager

You need somebody to look after your social media sites and your SEO (search engine optimisation) so that you can get the best out of the ever changing world of today’s technology. SEO is of great importance in the marketing of your product online. If a potential customer is searching in your market online, they want quick and accurate information — the business that offers this has that all-important initial attention of the customer. To get this, the customer in question needs to be able see your information pop up on their search engine instantly: they need to see exactly where they can find you so that they can work out how best to get to you; and they need to customer reviews from other, like-minded people as themselves in their area in order to know if they can trust you. Businesses that fail to take advantage of SEO are much more likely to get overlooked in comparison to rivals who have optimised it. Does this sound like a lot for you to handle? The simple solution: hire somebody to do it for you.

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So, there you have it. Simply put: to take back the enjoyment of running your start-up business, share the burden. As well as what bringing accomplished professionals into your business will do for the business as a whole, bringing people in who are as like-minded as you are could induce brand new friendships.

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Seven Deadly Sins Of Writing A Business Plan

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If there is only one thing you need to get right when you start a new company, it’s your business plan. A good business plan outlines the whats, whys, wheres, and how much that you, and potential investors to your company, will need to know. Even some of the greatest product or service ideas of all time will struggle if they aren’t supported by a robust, accurate, and inspiring business plan.

With this in mind, I thought I would go through some of the deadly sins of business plan writing. What are they, why do they happen, and how can you prevent them? Read on to find out more – and ace your next business plan the first time! Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know.

Writing it all at once

There are many parts of a business plan, and they all make up an overall picture of your proposal. But you don’t need to sit down and write it all, in order, in one go. In fact, doing so should be avoided at all costs. You will start off with the best of intentions, but by the time you are finished, your boredom will be self-evident to anyone reading. So, just write your business plan over time, doing it in chunks – it’s the best way to start things off, and an easier way to get things finished.

Thinking you’re the bee’s knees

Your idea might be a great one. But you have to realise that everyone else has great ideas all the time, too. And, that a business plan isn’t about your idea anyway – it’s about the business potential of your idea. If you create an all-guns-blazing plan of activities and declare you will earn a billion before the year is out, you will be laughed out of town. You need to prove you can build a business on your idea, with hard facts, reasonable estimations, and realistic measurements of achievement.

Inaccuracies

If you are using figures, make sure they are correct. If you need help, find a financial expert to give you a hand. Similarly, a fresh pair of eyes going over the copy in your business plan can’t be a bad thing. You can pass it over to a business plan specialist, or even use a proof reading service, who might be able to help you make your message clearer and more succinct. It would be a genuine shame for a business plan to be thrown in the bin on account of a few glaring spelling mistakes, but it shows a lack of focus and a poor eye for detail.

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Setting it in stone

A good business plan is never finished. What you show investors or stakeholders is a ‘most recent’ version, and it will be obvious to everyone if you are using the same plan you have been hawking for the last five years. Make changes, keep figures updated, and keep it alive – it should adapt as your business goals change.

Too much/too little detail in your figures

As I mentioned above, you need to update your business plan at all times and include all your business milestones such as your cash flow, deadlines reached, and sales. If you blur over these relevant facts, potential stakeholders will see it straight away and suspect you are trying to hide some gory details. On the other hand, you can take things too far when it comes to projecting forecasts beyond the next twelve months. Don’t forget, this is a business plan – not your business accounts. If you start suggesting you are on course for a record-breaking five years, it’s not going to look good for you.

No understanding of the market

The market available to you will dictate how successful you are. If your business plan is full of assumptions about your ideal customers, such as who they are, why they will buy your product, and how much money they will spend, people will see through it straight away. It’s vital to research your market thoroughly and ensure you understand the realities involved in getting your business out there. And you should also have the foresight to include any vulnerabilities with your plan seeing potential problems might scare off some investors, but it will also show others that you are serious about what you are doing.

Because you need a plan

Finally, a business plan should never exist for the sake of it. Sure, it’s common sense to create one, but you will only get out of it what you put in. And it should always have a meaning beyond seeking investment – it needs to be shared with your team to organise your goals and measure your achievements. So, put the work into your business plan – you won’t regret it.

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Stressing Over Business Problems? These Common Casuses of Corporate Stress Are Easier to Fix Than You Think

As a business owner, you are probably used to getting stressed out over a thousand things at once. But there is a chance that some of the things you commonly stress over are easier to fix or sort out than you think. It’s worth taking proactive steps to put things right rather than just losing your head and stressing. Here are some things that you shouldn’t get too stressed out over because they can be addressed in a calm and clear way.

Loss of Talent

There are few things more disappointing than losing your most talented employees when you’re trying to run a business. If you want your business to keep growing and becoming better, you’re going to need the best possible team driving it forward. So, how can you keep hold of your best employees for longer? It’s all about making sure that your business is appealing to them. Keep challenging them, show them that there are going to be promotion opportunities for them and give them the pay that they deserve. You ignore any of these things, they might look for a better deal elsewhere.

Tax Inspections

Tax inspections are easy to get stressed out over. No one enjoys dealing with them, and it’s not hard to see why. Everyone can make mistakes, and you don’t want to be left with a huge tax bill at the end of it it. There are a couple of things you can do, though. The wisest thing to do would be to hire an external accountant who can take care of your taxes for you while you do the important stuff. They know what they’re doing, so they shouldn’t make mistakes. However, if a problem does arise, you will need a different course of action. Go to taxinvestigationadvice.com if you have an upcoming tax inspection and need help preparing for it.

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Patent Rejection

Many people think that the future of their business depends on them being able to get a patent for their product. These patents do help, but they are not necessarily the be all and end all of running a business or selling products. Even if your product isn’t protected by a patent, you can still present it in a way that no one else could and get ahead via other means. What matters is that you present the public with something they want to buy. You can also go through the patent appeals process to see if you have another shot at getting the outcome you wanted. You can visit gov.uk/patent-your-invention to learn more about all this.

Inconsistent Sales Patterns

Sales patterns are known to fluctuate; this is pretty normal. But if you are worried about the inconsistencies if your sales patterns, rather than panicking, you should find out what’s causing them. Maybe your products are more in demand at one time of the year than at other times. If that’s the case, you just need to plan your finances in a way that means you can survive the low sales periods by using the money you made earlier in the year.

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Dreaming Big? Keep Your Eyes on These Common Business Mistakes

Ambition is key to a successful business, but getting too wrapped up in the glories that might await you and your business later on down the line can often distract us too much from the here and now, the things that have to be in order if we’re ever going to become the success we dream of. Never forget the old cliche about how success is achieved: it’s 1% inspiration, 99% hard work. While what we’ve outlined below isn’t quite the bulk of the 99%, they are a few incidences where companies commonly get tripped up later on down the line.

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Letting the Company Define Itself

Before you launch your business, it’s absolutely paramount that you have a definition of what your company culture will look like. If it’s left unannounced, it’s liable to taken over by the new employees, clients, even the building that you operate out of. It’s about branding: what is it that you want your company to represent. Take the following for example: a company that wants to be a cutting edge voice in the smartwear market would have a much different tone than a traditional smartwear market, even if they’re selling essentially the same thing. Have all this sort before launch, otherwise it could end up anywhere – and most likely somewhere you don’t want to be.

Not Planning for the Future

It’s never been easier to gauge whether or not you’ll still be in business in a few years or not. There is enterprise risk management software, long term financing options, and a slew of steady markets to position yourself in. If you don’t investigate these things, then you’re not planning for the future – and that’s one thing you absolutely must do. It isn’t enough to just tick along steadily: things will one day change, and if you’re not moving forward with it, you’ll be left behind without much notice.

Not Toasting Your Success

Of course, moving forward too much is also a problem. If you’re always adapting to new markets, you’ll be losing your niche voice, the one that was at its loudest when you began your venture. Having a set number of values and looking back to remind yourself of what is worked in the past – and, well, celebrating your achievements – is doing a disservice to your company and its employees. One eye on the past, one on the future, and and being right where you in the present is the ideal approach.

Having A Solid Plan

You might think that having a solid plan is a good thing, and broadly speaking it is. However, having a plan that is too solid is not a good a idea. If you’re determined to stick to a vision you had several years prior, then you could be missing out on many opportunities that are much better than where you’re currently heading. Have a plan, but always be ready to adapt and change it depending on which way the wind is blowing: it’ll ensure you’re never liable to stagnation.

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The Edge You Need To Cut Yourself A Place In The Market

There are very few businesses that are going to start without any competition at all. Even the products that bring a whole new dynamic to the industry are going to have to prove themselves against businesses that may be both bigger and less innovative. So, those businesses need to find themselves a place in the market. Just how do you do that?

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Make a unique promise

You might cater to some of the same needs and provide some of the same services as you competitors. However, your best bet is not to focus on beating them at their own game. Your best bet is to set the rules for your own game. This means finding a niche. It could be one particular aspect of the service you could provide. It could be a section of the market and a certain kind of consumer not already being protected. Whatever your niche is, finding one will immediately give you an advantage.

Stand out

You might make a whole new promise, but if your business looks the exact same as its competitors, then you will struggle to get the kind of visibility you need. This means finding brand imagery to make your logo, your site, and all your marketing have its own unique flavour. But you have to do the same even when you don’t have your marketing to represent you. For instance, you need unique packaging like bespoke pouches, too. That way you can rest assured that your business stands out even when you’re not there to help it do so.

Have your own values

The promise you make to the consumer about the value your products or services will offer them is important. But nowadays, consumers are thinking bigger and businesses need to, as well. If you want them to get on side with the business, then you should share some values with them. The best way is to fulfil your corporate social responsibility and make it a part of your messaging. For instance, look into how cause marketing can help build the profile of the business. Whether it’s going green, helping with education needs, or any other of a hundred causes, stand up for yours as a business.

Build your own community

The most important part of getting a share of the market is the people who make up that share. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and start conversations. Build yourself a presence with social media and a blog that represents the business. Answer their questions, boost their messages, and get to know them as people. Include them in the business through online campaigns, whether they offer a prize or the opportunity to simply be silly and have fun. No connection to a market is stronger than the personal one. That’s how you turn potential customers into brand loyalists.

Market positioning is a vital skill. If you can’t learn it, not only will you be able to find yourself that share of the market you need. You will suffer from newer entries into the industry that can do it a lot better than you, boxing your branding in even further.

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Branding: A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

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Branding is possibly the chief ingredient to success in any business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a global corporation with aspirations of becoming a monopoly, or a small and local business simply looking to beat the competition in your area. People remember a brand. Part of that is due to the fact that, in an ever-competitive consumerist world, thousands of businesses offer the same goods or services with very little variance between them. It becomes impossible for customers to separate overly-similar companies, so they look to the branding of businesses to make their decision; whichever companies presents itself the most effectively is the one which will secure the target audience. It’s as simple as that.

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Of course, it’s all very well to explain the simplicity of branding in theory. In practice, however, creating a successful brand which overrides the successful brand of your competitors is not necessarily the easiest task in the world. It’d be foolish to pretend that other businesses within your industry haven’t also put a lot of time and money into creating a successful marketing campaign, logo, slogan and overall image of the company as an entity and a group of hard-working individuals.

Still, this all works in your favour. Whatever has worked well for your competitors can work even more effectively for you. The aim of the branding game is to cherry-pick successful techniques that have won over consumers for your competitors, and then use them to form your own original brand which blows other businesses out of the water. Here’s how to begin building a successful image for your business.

Nail your online presence.

This is the modern age, and if your business doesn’t have an online presence, it’s not yet a full business. You need to learn the concepts of online marketing; how it is similar and how it differs from physical marketing.

Promoting an image of hard-working employees and a professional, unique service is an important part of branding, but you need to be spreading that message in the right place. The majority of your target audience will be browsing for services and goods similar to yours online. You need to ensure you’re showing up at the top of their results pages, and this relies on using SEO techniques to optimise your website to the algorithms of Google and other search engines.

In addition, when you have a responsive website with a beautifully-designed layout, not only are you ranking more highly in search engine results, but you’re presenting a better image to potential customers visiting your website. There’s no harm in using a graphic design specialist, if you want to overhaul your existing website design.

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Co-operate with other businesses.

I know – blasphemy. However, you don’t always have to be challenging other businesses in your area. Contrary to belief, even if this is a free economy, that doesn’t always mean you have to compete with your rivals. If your employees compete with one another, then they don’t work nearly as well as they do when they co-operate. It’s the same in the business world, and it’s why your business image might flourish if you and other businesses promote one another.

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Passion means just as much as originality.

Having a unique idea is great, but novelties wear off eventually. What is new now will be old tomorrow. If you want to impress your customers, your business’ passion and drive to offer incredible services and high-quality goods is perhaps more important than simply being “original”.

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Are You Sapping Your Team Of All Joy In Their Work?

As a business owner, you want to get the best you can from your team. However, it’s not always up to you. The mental and emotional state of the individual will play a big role in just how motivated, engaged, and happy they are at their work. If previously reliable and even excellent employees are starting to show signs of unhappiness, it’s more than a trivial concern. You need to start thinking about what is making them unhappy in their position and get them back to peak performance.

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Are they recognised?

This is a very important factor. Everyone wants to feel like their work matters and in some way reflects back on them. If they’re doing good work, are you sure they’re getting the credit that they should be? One way that some thoughtless employers deal a crippling blow to office morale is by neglecting to recognise that need. Some will use their authority to take the credit for any victories while passing the blame of any defeats. It’s a defensive mechanism that many do without even noticing it. Remind yourself that as the head of the team, you are the one who stands the least to lose by taking responsibility, and the one with most to gain by giving the team the recognition it deserves.

Build a culture that cares

The admission of blame and passing of credit in part creates a culture that shows more concern for the surrounding individuals, as opposed to oneself. That culture can reflect in the actions of the employees, as well. But there are other ways you should make it clear that they are in a business that cares about them as people. For instance, take a closer look at the workplace they inhabit. Are you using commercial cleaners and supportive, comfortable furniture to create a workplace that is easier, more comfortable, and more welcoming? Do you organise any group get-togethers with the team to make it easier to forge bonds that give them more respect and thought for one another?

Find what they want

The most important part of a workplace culture is that it makes more than the appearance of caring about its people. It truly cares for them. As their employer, you likely have the greatest demands on the time of any of your employee’s. Instead of using that time solely to benefit you, make sure you’re allowing some benefit for them besides a paycheque. Turn a staff member into a team member by helping to develop them as people and giving them some personal space in the office. That can be physical space like a locker of their own, or a mental space, like engaging them directly during team meetings to hear their thoughts on issues at work that matter to them.

The happiness of an individual at work is a tricky thing. The points above are going to make a big difference, but if that source of unhappiness is outside the workplace, there is less you can do. Showing that you care, however, plays a big role in itself.

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