Dress for the Job You Want: How Dress Affects the Workplace

Work clothingThey say, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If that was the case for me, I’d be wearing a tiara and be dressed like Belle. Alas, a professional princess is a position that isn’t widely available. Dress codes are quite common in the professional world, some more relaxed than others. What you wear can affect many things–how you feel, how others react to you, even how you perform. So, why do employers institute dress codes, why are there so many controversies surrounding them, and how does it affect the workplace?

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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.

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!

New Year, New Office: 5 Resolutions for the Workplace

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Looking out my window, the snow has finally begun to fly. In a few weeks, Christmas will be upon us and after that New Years. With the ringing in of 2017, we all want to start fresh. New year, new you, right? What about new year, new office? Here are five office New Year’s resolutions to help get you started with your list.

1. Get and stay organized–If you are anything like me and your desk looks like a tornado hit it, this might be a good idea. I am always digging through piles hoping the document I need hasn’t been thrown away. I can’t imagine how much time I’ve wasted just looking for a Post-it with a phone number I wrote down days ago. By taking the time to organize your desk each evening before you leave and developing a better filing system, you can help save your sanity and save time.

2. Stay Positive–We all have days that try our patience, and sometimes all we want to do is complain. Though venting serves a purpose, it can spiral out of control and create a culture of negativity. This hurts productivity and quality of work. By trying to look at challenges in a different, more positive way it can change your mood and your work. When presented with a challenge instead of outwardly expressing your irritation, take a second to breathe and reform your thoughts.

3. Get Healthy–Many people include a health goal as part of their resolutions so bringing that to the office is only logical. If you have snacks in your desk take inventory and try to remove any bad temptations. Take it a step further and organize a workout challenge group in the office and cheer each other on towards your goal.

4. Give More–There’s something about giving a present to someone or contributing (time or money) to a good cause that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Taking time to give more in the workplace can help build better relationships with your co-workers and create a culture of caring. This can be a two-part resolution, internal and external. Part one: Start by giving more within the office and making small gestures among co-workers. If you know a co-worker is having a bad day, buy him or her a snack to help cheer them up. Part two: Take things outside of the office and volunteer as a group for a non-profit of your choice. For help and ideas on how to do this visit the Tapolci Foundation.

5. Focus on the Mission–The new year is always a great time to evaluate and re-focus your mission, be it organization-wide or just departmental. Getting everyone on board and moving in the right direction will help you conquer the year ahead effectively.

Making New Year’s Resolutions is a tradition. We’d love to know what you have done in the past and what you are planning for in the future. What office resolutions did we miss? Do you have any suggestions on how to successfully keep them?

An Office Thanksgiving: 7 Ways to Show Employees You are Thankful for Their Work

img_4130The start of the holiday season is upon us. In just about a week we will gather with family and friends and gobble down as much turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing as our belly will allow. We will enjoy each other’s company and be thankful for many things. We know how to celebrate with our family but what about our work family? What are we thankful for in the office? How can we show our employees we are thankful for them?

You and your staff have worked hard during this year and are starting to look forward to the holiday break. Before cooking the turkey and hitting the Black Friday sales, take inventory of what your office should be thankful for this time of the year. Ask for input from employees. Make it an office community activity. Most importantly, don’t forget to thank your employees! While free turkeys are great, here are some other ways to show your fellow workers you are grateful for them and all they do.

Tell Them! It sounds so simple and it is, but everyone likes to know they are appreciated! You can write a card, send out and email, or give them a pat on the back. Just say Thank You!

Give a Small Gift: Again, this can be super simple, maybe it’s a gift card for gas or coffee, or a catered lunch or surprise dessert bar.

Celebrate Accomplishments and Milestones: Have employees who have been furthering their education and earned new degrees or certifications? What about those in the office who have gotten engaged/married or had a child? Take time to congratulate them; be thankful for their accomplishments and new beginnings.

Have an Office Thanksgiving! This is the time of year we loosen our belt buckles and share meals together. Take time to relax; celebrate as a work family for all the things you are grateful for as an organization.

Give Them Time Off: It’s a busy time of year. If possible, be flexible with employee schedules and let them take the time they need with their families. Take it from a former retail worker, breaks during the holiday are needed and greatly appreciated.

Donate on Their Behalf: Many employees burn the candle at both ends, working to support their family during the day, then working to help others in their free time. Show you are grateful for their hard work and sacrifice by donating to their cause.

Relax the Dress Code: Within reason, say thanks for your great work by letting employees let their hair down and relax while continuing to be productive.

What are you and your organization thankful for this year? How do you show employees they are appreciated and you are grateful for their hard work? Let us know what we’ve missed.

Most importantly have a great Thanksgiving and eat as much turkey and pie as you can!

Office Etiquette: Halloween

As we reach the end of October things are starting to get spooky. Halloween is approaching and many of your coworkers may be ready to get into the holiday spirit. Halloween in the workplace can get a bit frightening if you’re not sure of Halloween office etiquette. Whether your workplace has an official Halloween celebration, or you like to bring the celebration to your own workspace, you should probably switch out your sexy pizza costume, for a more work appropriate peanut butter and jelly costume this year.

Halloween costumes for work

Since sexy costumes are out of the question, you may be asking yourself if it’s okay to put together something scarier. Experts suggest that a good rule of thumb is to skip the mask, excessive fake blood, or anything exceptionally gory in the workplace. This is mainly for safety purposes. It is best for the working environment if your coworkers can see your face, and know that you aren’t really hurt or in danger at work.

So you want to try out a new recipe you saw on Pinterest and bring some creepy treats into the office this year? Keep in mind regular office etiquette when it comes to bringing food into your workplace. Do you have a place to store the food safely? Also, try to be considerate of those with allergies by either avoiding the reaction causing ingredients or, at least, by adding a warning to your dish so that they can avoid it if necessary.

Most importantly, remember that you are at work! Unfortunately, a celebration isn’t a reason to avoid your work for the day. Don’t ignore your phone, e-mail, or other responsibilities just because you’re feeling spirited. You’re boss will still know which witch, ghost, or werewolf was responsible for your work, and why it didn’t get done. This could jeopardize future holiday celebrations for everyone!

 

Does your workplace have a Halloween party? Do you have a costume chosen for this year? Let us know in the comments!

The Perfect Fit: Finding the Right Candidate for the Job

The hiring process can be nerve racking from both ends of the spectrum. Applicants are working to tailor their resumes and cover letters for the “perfect job,” and those in charge of hiring are searching through stack upon stacks of applications hoping to find a diamond in the rough. When tasked with finding the “right applicant,” one can feel like he is Prince Charming in Cinderella (and we’re NOT talking about the Disney version); searching for the perfect fit and hoping for a happy ending. Though we might not all have fairy godmothers, following these suggestions can make the process easier, and help you select a charming new hire.cinderella candidate, the perfect fit

Be Up Front: When crafting a job posting make sure to bring the culture of your organization, specifically the environment of the position into your description. This however does not mean writing a book about your company. Giving a succinct but informative view of the job will help attract the right applicant.

Don’t stop with just the job posting; in all communications with potential hires, make sure they are aware of the full expectations of the job and what it is like to work in your organizational culture. This way they are not blindsided by a culture they may not fit into. You don’t want to push a wallflower into a loud boisterous culture and hope they come out of their shell.

Thin the Herd: When going through applications and weeding out potential candidates find one key thing, be it positive or negative, that will quickly help you decrease the number of resumes you need to comb through.

For example, I once had a manager that would automatically discard an application if the applicant asked for something to write with. They explained their logic stating “If you can’t be bothered to bring a pen to fill out your application, how can I expect you to be bothered to bring what you need to work”.

Check Social Media: Social media says a lot about potential new hires. This is who they are when they think no one is watching…even though they really are. If what you see there doesn’t match who you see on paper or in interviews, or doesn’t match your culture, move on.

Ask the Right Questions: When interviewing your most promising candidates make sure you aren’t leading them to give certain answers. Some people are pro’s at interviews, make sure you dig deeper.

help wantedHire from Within: Are you in the position to promote someone within your organization? Did you have a great intern in the past who is ready to enter the work force? These are always great options. These candidates already know the culture of your organization, know the systems, and know what is expected of them, making for an easier transition. Positives for you as a hiring manager or HR professional is that you already know what their personality is and how to motive them.

Someday your “perfect fit” will come, though you may just need to do some extra work to find him or her. The effort you put in to finding the right candidate will likely translate to the work that candidate will produce for you. So try and put to action some of the above before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

3 Ways to Create a Culture of Empowerment

EMPOWER; (verb) to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means.

This dictionary definition of empower probably makes you say… “I would love to be empowered at work, give me the power!” What would you change? Who would you hire? business-1564366_960_720Which problems would you solve first?

How can we take the definition of empower and use it to change the culture of the office? Let’s take a look at the business definition of empowerment.

EMPOWERMENT; (business definition) A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance.

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”- Theodore Roosevelt

Now all of that is easier said than done. Let’s take a look at three ways a company can build a culture of empowerment.

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Find your passion
If employees can identify with a company’s passion or purpose, they can find passion in their work. Passionate and purposeful employees can help take an organization from “old school” to innovative due to extensive engagement in the business.

Invest in your employees 
Investing in your employees is as easy as giving them the proper tools, knowledge and training to do their job well. This will help everyone avoid the frustrations of not knowing the answer a customer’s question or concern. Proper training also leads to great innovation and process improvement through higher levels of thinking

Create a process for change
Empowering employees leads to changes in workplace culture. Why make these changes difficult? Clearly define to company employees the process for pitching an innovation or process improvement. The knowledge that change is possible and clearly defined will inspire employees to think about their role in the company.

Does your company foster a culture of empowerment? Do you have any suggestions for how your company could promote empowerment better?

ABG Capital Was Named on the Inc. 5000 List Again!

We are thrilled to announce that we were listed at No. 4507 on Inc. Magazine’s 35th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, making this our second consecutive year!

Jeff Tapolci, Chief Executive Officer, states, “We align our core competencies with the demands inside the markets in which we compete. In doing this, we’re able to have quite the scalable growth pace. We’re also a huge proponent of Verne Harnish, the CEO of The Gazelles International Leadership and Growth Summits and author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up. We have built our entire organization around his principles, the One-page-plan and the Rockefeller Habits Checklist.”

Inc 5000
The 2016 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available at newsstands August 23), is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year growth of 433%. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $200 billion, and the companies on the list collectively generated 640,000 jobs over the past three years, or about 8% of all jobs created in the entire economy during that period.

“The Inc. 5000 list stands out where it really counts,” says Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “It honors real achievement by a founder or a team of them. No one makes the Inc. 5000 without building something great – usually from scratch. That’s one of the hardest things to do in business, as every company founder knows. But without it, free enterprise fails.”

The 2016 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2012 to 2015. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2012. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2015.

In 2016, ABG Capital also ranked on Inc. 5000’s 50 Best Places to Work, Penn Central Business Journal’s Best Places to Work in PA, Best Places to Work in Western PA, and the Pittsburgh Business Times’ Fastest Growing Companies.

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

 

ABG Capital Named on Pittsburgh Business Times’ 2016 Fastest Growing Companies

Today we officially announced being named on the list of 2016 Fastest Growing Companies by the Pittsburgh Business Times! Though we’ve been keeping mum about making the list, we never knew our ranking until last Thursday. We can now share with you that we ranked 60th on the list!

ABG Capital Listed on Pittsburgh Business Times’ 2016 Fastest Growing Companies“Our company has been on a sustainable and scalable growth pace for years because we continue to focus on our core competencies and aligning them to the demands inside the markets we compete. We are very disciplined in our approach and honored to be on this list,” explained Jeff Tapolci, CEO.

One hundred companies were named on list of Fastest Growing Companies, honored for their revenue growth, at the Westin Convention Center hotel in downtown Pittsburgh the evening of August 18. Two of our portfolio companies were also named as award winners, VoIP Innovations at number 65, and InspiraFS at number 3.

In 2016, we also ranked on the Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in America.

If you’d like more information on the 2016 Fastest Growing Companies and the full list of companies chosen, please visit the Pittsburgh Business Times.