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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Entrepreneurs in the Making: Ideation with Canon-McMillan Students

The holidays are over! This is leaving some of us relieved and a few of us a little disappointed that it’s time to get back to the grind. Regardless, this past month has been a busy time for everyone. Before we cocooned ourselves for the remainder of whatever PTO days we had remaining, ABG Capital took some time to do what they do best; invest in the future.

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How so? One month ago today, we welcomed the students of the Canon-McMillan School District’s Entrepreneurship Program! Twice a year, as part of our community outreach initiatives, we welcome the class and their teachers to our office for an educational field trip.

ABG Capital finds it important to invest in educating students for “real-world” office life expectations. On this particular visit, the students gathered together to listen to ABG Capital’s CEO Jeff Tapolci, VoIP Innovations’ President Dan Ravenstahl, Director of IT Adam Scott, Director of Human Resources Sharon Kolesar, and Director of Development Jerry Eddy.

After a brief introduction of our company’s history, structure, and people-focused culture, Jeff spoke about some of the useful business tools he uses to ensure the alignment and health of our companies. The students learned about the importance of Strategic Thinking and the 7 Strata, along with Execution Planning and the use of a One Page Plan. The main topic of discussion, however, was the topic of ideation.

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What is ideation? The thought process of ideation comes from Stanford University. The goal of performing ideation is to produce “innovation at work” whether it be the overall mindset of your employees or an actual team-building session completed throughout each department. Ideation occurs at every point of the project planning process, but these ideas are often brought together with others generated during specific exercises aimed at uncovering new methods, approaches, practices, and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of improving something such as a new user interface experience. So much information is uncovered over the course of most projects that there must be a point where it is combined, analyzed, and converted into practical solutions and means of making innovation at work more tangible.

After hearing the detailed overview of ideation, students formed small groups to perform their own ideation sessions. Following the layout and steps of this ideation/brainstorming template, the Canon-Mac students chose struggles that involve other people, can be solved with a physical thing or experience, and that could be tackled within a week.

The students dove deep into these brainstorming sessions and came up with some really insightful and thought-provoking ways to develop analogous situations, break through any constraints, and framework for the problems they decided to tackle.

Shortly after their ideation run-through, the students were able to wrap up their day with the chance to meet with members of our staff that work in departments like Development, Marketing, IT, and Accounting. Our team members shared with them how our roles in the company, along with other companies they have worked for, have helped shape their careers and led to new opportunities.

After the meet and greet, the day ended with pizza for lunch and a Q&A session from the students.

The day was busy, fun was had, but most importantly the students were able to take away a better knowledge and understanding of what may lie behind the door of graduation. The students were able to witness first-hand the power of what a small family run business has the potential to turn into with hard work, cultivation of those around you, and respect. Success is the aim of the game. ABG only hopes that we could instill that goal in the minds of these young adults and inspire the next generation.

For more information on ideation and how you can implement this philosophy and strategy into your workplace, click here.

To get a copy of the Innovation at work Ideation worksheet, click here.

Beware the Office Time Wasters!

Look out! This Friday is the first of two Friday the Thirteenth’s the year. The second is in October (because that’s not ominous or anything). Many people get wrapped up in the superstitions on days like these and are throwing salt over their shoulders left and right. However, there is something we should beware of more than Friday the Thirteenth; office time wasters! You know, those little things that derail your concentration throughout the day–stay away from them! Here are a few superstitions you should be mindful of on Friday and every day so you steer clear of bad luck and office time wasters.

img_0027Don’t let a black cat cross your path: I love animals, especially if they are fuzzy, but superstitions say that if a black cat crosses your path on Friday the 13th that’s bad juju. I think black cats get a bad rap (Thackeray Binx was a pretty sweet and helpful black cat); but watching cute kitty videos that are ubiquitous online can be a major time waster. Resist the urge to get sucked deep into the void that can be YouTube videos while at work. Don’t open that silly text, or email titled “I haz hamburger.” Save that for weekends when it is below zero outside and you can snuggle under blankets and binge all you want.

Don’t break any mirrors: Ever break a mirror? It’s a chore to clean up; those shards can go everywhere. So, this is more a PSA than a superstition I think. But, people think its unlucky nonetheless. To avoid any bad luck try and avoid the bathroom (and the bathroom mirror) at work. Now, I’m not saying not to go when nature calls, but maybe you should avoid that greasy burrito you know will give you bubble gut the rest of the day. By planning healthy lunches you can avoid you running to the bathroom multiple times a day. You also will save time by not running out for said food and have more time to enjoy your lunch break.

Don’t walk under any ladders: I think this is just a common sense rule right? Apparently, this particular fear is linked to an antiquated belief that walking under a ladder is blasphemous; as it is an insult to the Holy Trinity, and means you are in league with devil. Though we don’t believe this these days, it’s just not safe to walk under ladders. In the office try to avoid walking under metaphorical ladders by getting involved in water cooler gossip (the devil of the office). Not only does this distract you from your work, we all know how damaging gossip can be. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friendly with those you work with, but we all know that one person who always has some “juicy” news about someone in the company. Don’t engage this person; simply smile, exchange pleasantries, and move on. And by no means should you repeat their stories!

Don’t start any new trips: It’s also bad luck to start any new trips on this superstitious day. Though I don’t think traveling on Friday is a bad idea, it can cut into your productivity. Be it wasting time in traffic or in airports, if you can lessen your travel time and concentrate on work more you can get more accomplished. Instead of flying back and forth for meetings try to have them virtually if possible. This will save time, frustration, and money.

There certainly can be many things that distract us during the day and pull us away from our work. What are some the time wasters that trouble your work environment? How do you avoid the temptation? Do you have any superstitions around the work place? What are they and why do you have them? If you are looking for some good ways to avoid distractions in the office check out our previous post “No Interruptions Day” for more tips.

4 Social Media Trends for 2017

One of my favorite end of year trends is the Google Year. In my opinion, this is a great way to summarize the year in technology, social media, and the public. You can check out the 2016 video here.

Now that you’ve looked at the year in review, let’s discuss social media trends for 2017!

trends in social media 2017

Virtual Reality

2016 has been the year of VR. Many major companies are releasing VR devices, including Sony, for use with their Playstation game console and Samsung for use with their Galaxy phones. Although these were released with gaming in mind, the rise of social VR is coming. It is beginning with 360-degree photos on social media platforms and will only keep getting more involved. Be prepared to feel like you are at all of the hottest events in 2017!

Live Video

Live Video is catching on with companies much faster than individuals. Recently, I’ve seen quite a few television commercials demonstrating how to go live on Facebook. This doesn’t seem to be going away in 2017. Live videos are a great way to interface with customers and have customers connect with each other in real time.

Social Fundraising

Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, and Crowdrise have gotten a lot of attention in 2016. Social fundraising has become a great way to get ideas funded by individuals who can get behind those ideas. Individuals, start-ups, and nonprofits have all found great success in social fundraising campaigns. Look for this trend to keep getting more popular in 2017!

Filters and Photos

In 2016, we saw a lot of pictures of our friends with dog faces, reindeer, funny voices, explosions, and glitter thanks to Snapchat’s filter feature. 2017 will bring filters to Facebook and Instagram due to the public interest in expiring media. Look for Snapchat to be the trendiest social media platform of 2017.

 

As we look forward to what will happen in 2017 one thing is for sure, social media is here to stay. What are you most looking forward to happening?

It’s No Interruptions Day!

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The last days of the year are ticking down, soon it will be time to ring in 2017. I bet you’re thinking, “But I still have so much to do in 2016!” and are rushing around to finish up those last few projects. We all have so much on our plates that time just tends to get away from us. Some days we get so distracted we can’t remember what the original project we started on was. If this sounds like you join us in celebrating No Interruptions Day!

No Interruptions Day celebrates the last work day of the year and aims to help us all concentrate and round out the year feeling accomplished, as well as allow us to walk into the office in the new year with a clean slate. This year, No Interruptions Day is Friday, December 30 (unless you work weekends too, by all means, celebrate on the 31st). So let’s take some time to get centered and finish this year out right!

Here are some ways you can celebrate in the office this year:

  • Make it an office-wide event–Get the word out and let the office know about No Interruptions Day. Broadcast it through your company intranet and encourage clients and/or family to take part as well. By making it a group effort you’ll be able to accomplish more. This also lowers the likelihood being distracted by co-workers, family, or others (unless it’s an emergency) as you’ll all be focusing on year-end projects.
  • Turn off your cell phone–Our cell phones go everywhere with us, even to bed. On the 30th (or whatever day you decide to celebrate), leave your phone at home, or shut it off and keep it out of sight. This way you won’t be tempted to check any of your social media accounts or personal texts that tend to derail your focus.
  • Shut your door–If you are lucky enough to have an office door, shut it and place an educational note about No Interruptions Day and how you are celebrating on it. This way others will be less likely to intrude on your “work holiday” and you’ll be able to concentrate better by having the noise of normal office commotion deadened by the door.
  • Noise canceling headphones/Music–Not lucky enough to have an office door? If you are distracted by background noises consider bringing in some noise canceling headphones to help you focus. Are you motivated by music rather than silence? Bring in your headphones and shuffle your favorite playlist. If you are looking for playlists that will help you concentrate check out this list for some inspiration.
  • Make a plan–Much of our day in the office is taken up by replying back and forth to emails or returning phone calls. Try and make a plan to best manage your time and optimize it. Set aside a specific time period when you will check your messages, address them, and then move on to your next project.

We wish you all productive last days of 2016 and hope you have a successful and prosperous 2017. If you are planning on celebrating No Interruptions Day let us know! If you have suggestions on ways to participate share them with us!