Navigating Cloud Computing

“The Cloud.” We’ve all heard the term. We understand it in the most abstract of ideas. We can store files in it, run programs from it, heck, my fiancé talks about setting up virtual servers (whatever that means). This digital storehouse of sorts can come in very handy; but what is it exactly and how can it be used to its best advantage? Does it have down falls? Let’s define “The Cloud” and what it can do for you and your organization.Cloud Computing

What is it?

Most digital data is non-tangible but is stored on devices that are. As I type this post, the information is saved to my computer’s hard drive. The hard drive is a physical piece of equipment. It can be removed and placed into another device and the information on it accessed. With The Cloud, there is no physical device needed to reach your digital files. By using The Cloud, I am able to create and edit files from practically anywhere. It is a globally connected computer you always have access to.

How does it work?

Information is essentially stored “on the internet”. The Cloud is run by off-site servers that do the majority of the workload. Instead of having software loaded into multiple computers, it can be accessed from the servers by means of online applications. This allows the connection from any device with internet access.

Pro’s

Saves space: By operating office-site servers and not taking loading additional software onto hard drives, you don’t lose physical space in your facility nor storage space on your computers. This means less upkeep and less clutter on your hard drive.

Accessibility: Have an internet connected device? Great! You have access. You have the ability to work from anywhere, as do your co-workers, and you can all collaborate.

Cost: Before cloud computing, you would need to buy software for each computer and upkeep their licensures. Utilizing The Cloud can cut cost on the amount of software you purchase.

Con’s

Accessibility: Though accessibility is a strong point of The Cloud, it is also a downfall. If you have a subpar internet connection, good luck reaching your files. It’s in instances like this that having the software installed on your physical device would be more appropriate.

Security: The Cloud “lives” online and you can access it easily, which means if it is easy for you, it’s easy for others. You need to pay close attention to security protocols to make sure your information does not get into the wrong hands.

Control: Hosting servers off-site or contracting services from an outside source takes control away from your in-house tech team. You are no longer in charge of your own equipment and are unable to service it. You will rely on the integration of services from outside vendors, which can at times be tasking.

So what do you do with all of this information? How does this best work for your organization? What is the most cost effective? These are questions you need to ask before outlining how The Cloud will work into your business plan. If you are just looking to store a small amount of noncritical information or are just looking for email hosting, utilizing cloud services from an outside vendor may be beneficial. If you are looking to create a cloud computing system for a large amount of secure information you may want to look into buying and creating your own system so that you retain control and security options.

The Cloud is only growing. Figuring out how to utilize it in your business plan is essential. How do you already use cloud computing, or how do you plan to use it in the future?

How to Find Your Pot of Gold Dream Job

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, today we will discuss how to identify and work toward finding your own “pot of gold” in the form of your dream job. Everyone has a dream job, that one employer or position they would stay with forever. Have you ever considered what your dream job would be? Are you currently working toward obtaining your “pot of gold”?

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Making an Investment: Tips for Vetting Strategic Marketing Companies

We like to think we have it together and can do it all, but we know that it’s not true. A lot of the times we feel like we are being pulled in 6 different directions. Sometimes this is not far from the truth.

Organizations can spread employees thin on multiple projects in order to save costs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about saving money where you can, but spreading your most valuable resource (yourself and your employees) too thin can be counter productive.

In the workplace, when things get busy some “non-essential” projects get pushed to the back burner. When this happens, marketing is one of the areas that tends to go by the wayside. If you are looking for success and growth, ignoring to set good marketing practices can hurt you in the long run. Marketing is an ongoing project that needs continuous monitoring and evaluation. It is not a one-time thing; it’s an investment. You may think its more cost effective to figure this all out in-house, however, if you don’t have the human capital to concentrate on this, you may want to look for help from a professional marketing group. To make sure you get the best bang for your buck with said investment, here are several tips for vetting a strategic marketing company.

How’s the Fit?

When you start looking into different marketing agencies, one of the first things you need to explore is how well they will fit with your company and its needs. They will be representing your organization; are they capable of echoing your voice and values? Also will their communication styles jive with yours? If your group values face time, you don’t want to work with a strategic marketing company that relies heavily on email communication.

Collaboration

Though you are outsourcing your marketing management, you may not be outsourcing your graphic and web design projects. Or maybe you already have other vendors taking care of those needs. When interviewing potential agencies, discuss how they will collaborate with other groups in the creative process. If they are not willing or will have issues working with the platforms that have already been established, it’s best to know before signing a contract.

Professionalism

This should probably go without saying, but you want to make sure that the group you choose is professional and educated in marketing skills. You’d like to think anyone who presents themselves as “marketer” is professional and competent, but sadly that’s not always the truth. Before even picking up the phone, do some research, look at their portfolio work, do they list education backgrounds? How long have they been established? Remember you are making an investment; do some leg work first.

Know your Aim

Are you looking for more content marketing management, digital, or both? Be sure you know what your goals are before starting the vetting process or you may end up wasting time vetting marketing companies that can’t provide what you are looking for. Once you have decided, be sure to ask goal-driving questions. Just because a group says they do digital and/or content management, doesn’t mean they do it well. Find out what their strengths are and if they fit your specific needs.

References

Think of this process as you would hiring a new employee. You wouldn’t just hire someone off the street no questions asked, right? Ask for client references and a list of past portfolio work.

Marketing is essential to helping a business grow especially in the digital age. Consumers and potential clients are looking for a brand with a story. Relying on word of mouth can only go so far. Remember marketing is a long term investment for long term rewards. When choosing a marketing strategy and a potential outside company, keep this all in perspective.

Let’s Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day!

Everyone likes to feel appreciated for his or her contributions at work. Have you been making it a point to show gratitude to your employees recently? Observed on the first Friday in March each year, which happens to be today, is Employee Appreciation Day! Take some time today to participate.

Let us count the ways:

1. Organize a Recognition Ceremony
Have a ceremony to recognize the accomplishments of your coworkers. Whether it is their work anniversary year, great customer interactions, or meeting sales goals, your employees will enjoy being recognized for their accomplishments.

2. Have a Food Day
Order out for lunch, have a breakfast buffet, or bring in some baked goods. Whatever you choose, employees will enjoy free food and a reason to hang out in the break room.

3. Provide Professional Development
Become a mentor or provide training opportunities for your employees. Allow them to develop within their careers.Employee Appreciation Day

4. Send Thank You Notes
Create personalized thank you notes to recognize your employees. Take the opportunity to show your coworkers that you care about their work and accomplishments.

5. Small Gifts
This one depends on your company’s gift policy, so make sure to check with Human Resources before buying any gifts. If HR gives you the go ahead, buy small gifts or gift cards to hand out.

6. Take Time to Listen
Listening to your employees is one of the keys to great communication. In this case, listening does not mean only paying attention to work-related conversations. Take time to listen to your employees all the time. What do they like to do outside of work? Do you know?

7. Create Opportunity
Show your coworkers that you appreciate them by creating opportunities. Send someone to an important meeting to encourage him to step out of his comfort zone.

8. Extra Time Off
Surprise your office by sending everyone home early. If that won’t work, give out some PTO or vacation time. This will allow your coworkers to rest, relax, and be ready continue their great work.

9. Give Away Apparel
Giving away shirts, polos, sweatshirts, or blankets with company branding makes a great employee appreciation gift, boosts morale, and serves as a marketing tool. What more could you want?

10. Keep It Up
Don’t wait for Employee Appreciation Day to recognize your coworkers. Find ways to show your gratitude throughout the year.

How are you going to show appreciation to your employees this year? Share in the comments below!

Presidents’ Day: How will the Trump Presidency Affect Business?

Monday February 20 is Presidents’ Day and many have the day off (lucky ducks). Originally, this holiday started as the celebration of George Washington’s birthday (February 22) but has since evolved. Now it’s a Monday holiday that celebrates our nation’s presidents past and present. Presently, we are one month into the Trump Presidency, and like it or not, there have been many changes. Trump campaigned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” with the promise to invigorate businesses and the American economy. Now that he has spent a month in the Oval Office, what can we expect the effect of his proposed changes will be on businesses, nationally and abroad?

TrumpTaxes

During his election bid, Trump promised to make taxes simpler and to lower taxes for all Americans. This sounds great, but there’s a catch. President Trump’s tax plan for businesses could hurt small business owners. His proposed tax plan would have all
businesses pay a 15% tax, which is higher than what many small businesses pay currently. So the tax plan is great for the private citizen, but not so great for small business owners. There is a bright side to this, however. With more money staying in the hands of consumers rather than the government, that means they could potentially spend more. This could benefit small businesses; if those extra dollars are spent on their products and services.

Growth

Trump is the first U.S. President to never have held a public office prior to his presidency. Much of his campaign was run focusing on his experience as a businessman and how he would make the United States a more profitable nation. The Republican Party typically takes a hands-off approach when it comes to governing and regulations. Trump followed party ideology by reversing many of the previous administration’s regulatory decisions, such as the Keystone Pipeline. His stance on coal, oil, and gas regulations can provide quite a boost for these industries; but deals a blow to the “Green Initiative” companies favored by President Obama. It is the support of industries like coal, oil, and gas which may have indeed won Trump several states like Pennsylvania (a typically Democratic-leaning state), in which these industries are a major part of the local economy.

Global Economy

Another key platform issue during the 2016 presidential campaign was foreign trade and the global economy. President Trump plans to make changes to trade agreements and taxes on U.S. companies that manufacture items outside of our domestic borders. This is in hopes that bringing industry back to the States could help the national economy and employment levels. Many companies that manufacture goods in foreign countries, such as Carrier, have now chosen to return to America to do business due to Trump’s proposed policies, and regulation changes in countries like China. The cost to do business abroad may soon increase and no longer be a profitable option. This will have a direct effect on the countries and their economies in which these industries are pulling out and could have a negative effect on the global economy.

Whether you love it or hate it the Trump administration is poised to make changes. How do you think this presidency will affect business? Will President Trump keep his campaign promises, or will he keep us guessing?

14 Ways to Express Love for Your Job This Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! While everyone is discussing ways to show love for their friends, families and significant others. We are going to give you 14 ways to express love for your job.hearts-937664_960_720

1. Learn about Your Coworkers
Instead of always covering the same topics like weather and sports, take time to learn about your coworkers’ hobbies and interests outside of work.

2. Food
Show your workplace or department some love by stopping for bagels or donuts. Even better, if you like to bake, your coworkers will appreciate some homemade baked goods.

3. Referrals
A company’s best new hires are usually referred to the organization by its current employees. Do you have a friend who is looking for a change? Refer them to your company.

4. Participate
Does your office have holiday parties, happy hours, or birthday celebrations? If so, show appreciation to your workplace and coworkers by participating as often as possible.

5. Decorate
Add your personal style to your workspace. This helps to both make you comfortable and spark conversation.

6. Say Thank You
A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way. Whether it is an email, Post-It, or even a more elaborate card, be sure to say ‘thank you’ to those coworkers who choose to help you out during the workday.
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7. Mentor
Take time to share your knowledge with those around you. There is nothing more valuable to a new employee than a trustworthy mentor.

8. Volunteer
Does your workplace sponsor volunteer activities? If so, volunteering is a great way to help your community, while showing appreciation for your workplace.

9. Give Compliments
If you like a coworker’s outfit, tell him or her! Do you like something management has changed, let them know! Compliments can spark conversation and help create a cohesive environment.

10. Be Optimistic
Even if you do not LOVE something about your job, don’t be negative about it. Optimism and critical thinking will help solve problems in the office.

11. Collaborate
Teamwork is something we all get tired of hearing at work. However, collaboration is one of the best ways to show love for your job.

12. Gratitude Board
Inspire your company or department to create a gratitude board. A gratitude board is a space where everyone can participate in leaving notes of gratitude for the office, management, coworkers, or customers.

love-903178_960_72013. Be Present
Some days you may be just going through the motions at work. Make it a point to be present throughout the day. You will do a better job if you are sure to stay mindful.

14. Be Genuine

No matter the way you choose to show love and gratitude at your job, be sure that it is genuinely how you feel.

 

Do you have any other ways to show love for your job this Valentine’s Day? Leave them in the comments below!

Customer Experience: What It Is and How to Create It

We all have certain stores and brands that we keep going back to time after time. They consistently provide us with great products and services. When our friends and family ask for suggestions, they are a name we quickly and confidently provide. We love these companies, but what brings us back for more?

Yes, they provide quality and a product. Yes, they have great customer service. But it’s more than just those things. They create and maintain an excellent customer experience. What exactly does that mean, though? How do you create it? Is it just something that happens with time? Can it be improved? Let’s discuss.

customer service
I bet you’re thinking, customer experience, that’s just a fancy way of saying customer service. WRONG. Though it does include customer service, customer experience is a mix of many things. Think about when you walk into your favorite store, there’s something about the atmosphere and the ease of finding or ordering what you need. Also, you can’t forget about the product or service. You get quality at each turn and you keep coming back.

So, how do they make it happen? Customer experience does not just happen (though if you have a good business plan it may seem like it does); it is created. It’s in the branding and package design, it’s in the materials that go into making the product, and that product’s design. It’s the look and feel of the brick and mortar location. It’s your online presence. It’s in the message the brand exudes. It’s the people and the training they receive. It’s planning. Whether you have an established company or are working to establish a new organization, here are some ways to create and/or improve your customer experience:

Keep It Cohesive

Make sure everyone and everything are on the same page. You take time crafting your mission and message, so put them to work. These should go further than just something employees read in their handbooks; be more than just a catchy tagline. They should mean something to the company and the customer. Everyone in the organization should buy into these messages, and they should carry through all facets of the brand. Also, don’t forget to make sure all branding and imaging carry through the brand as well. You want to be recognizable; make sure your theme is integrated through all platforms.

Make Things Easy

Who doesn’t like easy? Millennials and Generation Z have short attention spans. If it takes too many steps, they are moving on. We are also seeing in the retail world a move from shopping at brick and mortar stores to online shopping. If you don’t have an online presence, you are in trouble. So many locations extend their reach and experience for the customers to multiple channels; online, apps, social media, and physical locations. Each providing ease of access to products and deals. Companies that cannot convert the experience to multiple platforms are faltering. For example, The Limited has just closed all of its physical retail locations–just one of the many recent retail casualties. Though they provided good in-store experiences, The Limited was slow to transition to multi-faceted selling platforms. Only in the past several years did the brand start to offer computerized in-store online ordering, something many other brands had established long before which calculated into their demise.

People Power

Now, I know I said this wasn’t about customer service, but it is part of it. You can make sure that your online platform is easy to navigate, bug-free, and rarely down, but if your customer service is horrible, then forget it. Invest in your people, in their initial training, in their well-being, and their advancement. Happy employees carry their enthusiasm to those they interact with. I am currently planning a wedding and working to interview different “Big Day” vendors. It’s exhausting, but one thing I will say is that all of these vendors get what it means to create a customer experience. I recently said “yes to my dress,” and the experience and service there was amazing. They made sure my pregnant bridesmaids always had water and snacks; the woman who helped me find my dress even gave me her personal cell phone number so I can keep her updated on my wedding planning progress. They added the personal touch and made me feel special. If you can instill the importance of making a connection with your clients to everybody in your organization, you will have them coming back for more time and time again. Make them see the value in your people as well as in your product.

Customer experience is an expansive concept that includes, customer service, good products, easy online navigation, and more. Competition is everywhere. Make a plan that will help you stand out and connect with your client base. Plan for customer experience; don’t think it will happen magically.

Health and Wellness: Super Bowl Recipes, Tips, and a Workout!

super bowl atlanta falconsAre you ready for some football? Although our Pittsburgh Steelers will not be playing this weekend, many of us will be attending or hosting a Super Bowl party for the food, commercials, and Lady Gaga! Here at ABG Capital, we are not quite ready to give up our healthy New Year’s Resolutions for the big game. As an organization, we focus on creating a culture of health and wellness; for example, check out our other healthy blog posts here! Before this weekend’s festivities, we would like to share with you some ways to stick to your resolutions while still having fun.

Let’s start with the food! Here are a few of my favorite healthy party recipes:

Sweet Potato Bites with Bacon and Guacamole

These are a great alternative to the potato skins, chips or fries. They have just the right amount of protein and fat without all the excess starch and carbs. They’re sure to be a hit at your Super Bowl party.

Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

Who doesn’t love chicken on a stick? This recipe packs a lot of flavor while being healthy. They’re also easy to make for a big crowd as they can all be marinated and grilled easily.

If these recipes aren’t enough for your party, check out this list of 20 Healthy Super Bowl recipes from Pinterest!

Another source of calories on game day comes from your drink choices. If you can’t possibly have fun while drinking water, here are some suggestions. If you’d rather keep it simple try to stick with flavored vodka, water, and ice or diet coke and rum.

Lastly, get off the couch! Use this football workout to get your exercise during the game!

football workout[28]

Do you have a favorite game day recipe or cocktail? Will you be trying to lighten them up? If so, share your suggestions in the comments.

The 4 Best Books about Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well these days, but what exactly does that mean? And what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? In general terms, entrepreneurship refers to the beginning of a business, but there is a lot that goes into making that happen. To delve into the process of becoming an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that, check out some of the below writings. These authors quite literally “wrote the book” on entrepreneurship or they have inspired well-known business gurus.

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The $100 Start Up – Chris Gillebeau

How many times have we heard “find a job doing what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? This book outlines how you can actually do that, be your own boss, and do it for minimal start-up money. If you have a hobby you are passionate about check this book.

The Effective Executive – Peter F. Drucker

Maybe you already have your business off the ground and running; this could be a great resource for you. This book is actually recommended by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It discusses time management and decision-making habits that will help you be a successful leader and continue to grow your business.

The Third Wave – Steve Chase

Many recent start-ups are tech based. This publication examines where tech is going in its “third wave” of evolution. Written by AOL co-founder Steve Chase, it looks to the future of tech and how it can be further integrated with established enterprises like healthcare and finance. If tech is your thing, this a great read to see what may be ahead.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey

This is an oldie but a goodie I think. I remember this being taught in my 9th-grade Civics class, and though I didn’t understand its usefulness at the time, I understand it now. Developing the habits outlined by Covey like “Be Proactive” will assist in making your new venture effective and successful. It’s also probably the reason we are all sick of hearing the word synergy.

Throughout life, there are many things that shape our outlook on how we view the world and many times those things are books. These four texts can help shape how we look at business and entrepreneurship.

What are some of the books that helped shape you? Do you have a favorite book about being an entrepreneur not on this list? Let us know!

6 Best Apps for Business

Now that 2017 is here, it is time to get more organized, set new goals and enhance your professional experiences. Let us help you get the most out of your smart phone and tablet this year by recommending the six best apps for business. Let us know your favorite business apps!

business apps

Expensify

Do you constantly forget to turn in your expense reports? Expensify can help you keep track of your expenses, submit them, and get reimbursed. This app has features for employees, supervisors, and administrative staff to enhance your entire organization.

Scanbot

Scanbot is both a document scanner and QR code reader. This helps combine two essential business functions into one great app. If you’ve ever been on the go but had to get a document to the office ASAP, this app can help you. Business professionals can use this app to scan documents, receipts, business cards, labels, or QR codes.

Avaamo

Who else hates to be included in an e-mail conversation about something that could be easily discussed with one or two words? I know that I do. Avaamo is an app that can help you avoid those situations. This messaging app allows you to message groups and individuals internally, externally, or one-on-one while on a secure server.

Hot Schedules

This app is great for hourly workers and those who manage them. Hot Schedules allows managers to create schedules easily on any mobile device. Employees are then able to switch shifts, share messages, and communicate better with each other and management.

iTranslate

Whether you travel for business or live in a diverse city, iTranslate can help you communicate in over 90 languages. This app allows you to translate websites, voices, and e-mails. They also have another app called iTranslate iMessage which allows you to translate text messages as well.

Fiverr

Everyone knows someone who will do anything for $5. This app allows you to access a world of business professionals who can contribute to your organization for $5. Fiverr is a community of professionals looking for freelance work. The categories are diverse including, writing, design, video, translation, and marketing. Next time you are looking for someone to contribute to a project or if you have the skills to contribute, check out Fiverr.