Category Archives: Business

Why The Customers Will Pay More for Sustainable Products

The good news for companies that make sustainable products is that consumers say they are willing to pay more for products that have less of an impact on the environment. The catch, however, is that they’re willing to pay more only if you’re doing a good job communicating to your customers why your products are different.

That’s the finding of research from the University of Missouri, which focused exclusively on the apparel industry. The study found that consumers are willing to support apparel companies that employ sustainable and ethical practices, but those businesses have to prove it.

In fact, consumers say they would be willing to pay 15 to 20 percent more for such products. However, they are also likely to remain skeptical about apparel companies’ claims of sustainability unless companies are willing to confirm that sustainability .

Gargi Bhaduri, a doctoral student, who conducted the research with Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor of textile and apparel management, said the research has implications for all sorts of industries.

For all businesses, it’s important to be open about how you create products.

“To solve this issue, consumers seem to demand a universal standard authorizing agency to verify the claims of the businesses with transparent practices,” Bhaduri said.

Furthermore, it is essential that businesses find a profitable way to make these sustainable goods before they start using their sustainable practices as a marketing message, she said.

“It must be economically sustainable first,” she told BusinessNewsDaily. “Then they can be transparent and sustainable. Only then can they reach their goal.”

The researchers found that consumer skepticism of corporate transparency stems from the suspicion that sustainability claims are falsified or exaggerated by apparel companies as marketing ploys.

They found that consumers want information regarding product sustainability to be available conveniently. The researchers suggest the use of hangtags, care labels, and point-of-purchase tags with clear information about their sustainable business practices so consumers can make an educated purchase decision.

Green Building as an Economic Development Tool

From improving energy efficiency to mitigating the impacts of climate change, businesses have been working to meet the demand of a marketplace that’s ever-more ecologically conscious. One industry in which this shift has been markedly noticeable is construction, where companies have turned to new, more efficient techniques.

“In major markets now, conventional construction doesn’t really exist,” Nathan Taft, director of acquisitions for green builder Jonathan Rose Companies, told Business News Daily. “We’ve seen a real shift in the industry, getting a push from government mandate to push people along on the learning curve. People are just realizing that green building makes sense.”

Sustainable building involves an analytical, data-driven approach to various renovations, including installing insulation, updating lighting to LED fixtures, and diagnosing heating and boiler systems. This approach helps companies identify the most wasteful aspects of a given structure and determine how to best address that waste.

Sustainable building is not just about renovations. New construction is also a key element, with the designs constructed from the ground up to accommodate both environmental sustainability and human needs.

“We position buildings from a holistic standpoint to enhance efficiency, as well as tenant and resident experience,” Taft said. “Energy retrofits are often combined with creating a new community space. … We’re always integrating green from the very beginning, not just tacking it on at the end. It’s really what the building is about from its first inception.”

Some view sustainable construction as a vehicle to spur further economic development, particularly in communities that are typically seen as disadvantaged when it comes to attracting businesses. The U.S. Green Building Council (GBC) maintains this philosophy as part of its work to spread green building practices throughout the world.

By promoting its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, the U.S. GBC encourages building designs that use less water and energy, reduce overall carbon emissions, and save money. The group might focus on buildings, but the effort is intended to have a ripple effect throughout the economy of entire communities and, ideally, the world, said Mahesh Ramanujam, chief operating officer of the U.S. GBC.

“When we look at the buildings-to-communities-to-cities mission, it’s no longer just a green building but it’s also an economic development tool,” Ramanujam said. “Being able to establish this from an environmental lens [and] economic lens, and most importantly [resolving] the income inequality gap … makes it attractive for businesses to come and invest in and grow the market.

“Our mission is about fundamental behavioral change in the marketplace, for [people] to understand sustainability principles in everything they do, in life cycles of consumers and businesses,” he added. “We want sustainability to be embedded in [the] life of the consumer, so that everything you touch, be it clothing, be it eating habits and hobbies, reflects the principles of environmental and human sustainability.”

Ramanujam said he believes green construction can affect every other industry, from health care spaces to retail. Not only will operating in a green building save these companies money, but it will also help themproject a sense of corporate social responsibility, which is increasingly important to consumers, according to a Nielsen report issued in October 2015. The report found that 66 percent of consumers said they were willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

“Consumer brands that haven’t embraced sustainability are at risk on many fronts,” Carol Gstalder, senior vice president of reputation and public relations solutions for Nielsen, said in the report. “Social responsibility is a critical part of proactive reputation management, and companies with strong reputations outperform others when it comes to attracting top talent, investors, community partners and, most [importantly], consumers.”

You a True Leader, or Just a Boss

How do you know if you’re a good boss and, more importantly, a good leader? The two roles aren’t mutually exclusive, but the best bosses are actually leaders first.

“When the boss is a true leader, the fact that he or she is the boss might be a side note,” said Charles A. Mohler, president and founder of Eagle CFO Consulting. “People often see a boss as getting things accomplished through rewards or punishment or consequences, while they see a leader as using mentorship and encouragement, trying to teach and train and motivate.”

“A leader runs with their team and empowers them with a shared vision and strong values in which everyone enrolls and excels,” added Jennifer Borba Von Stauffenberg, founder of Olive PR Solutions. “A boss can mean the same thing if the boss in question holds these values.”

According to the Great Boss Assessment survey by S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, only 45 percent of survey respondents say their boss inspires their best efforts each day. Fifty-eight percent say their boss treats them with trust and respect daily, which means 42 percent of bosses treat team members with distrust and disrespect.

Experts agree that, when bosses embrace leadership qualities, they’re more likely to inspire their team.

According to Mohler, good leaders have following characteristics:

They have an open-door policy.
They’re willing to work with their staff and their team.
They’re able to share the purpose or the “why” of what’s being accomplished.

To become a better leader, reach out to mentors to get feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, Mohler suggested. This way, you’ll know what you need to improve on and what kind of information you need to seek out.

“From there, read books on leadership and actively participate in the company,” he added. “Don’t wait for someone to give you a title; just jump in and take the lead.”

If you’re still uncertain of your abilities, look to the team you’ve been leading, Borba Von Stauffenberg suggested.

Social Media Marketing

With businesses looking for the best ways to reach their customers, social media marketing has quickly become one of the easiest and most cost effective options.

Social media marketing enables businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reach consumers where they are spending an increased amount of time — social networking sites. Social media marketing entails marketing or trying to sell a product by advertising on social networking or social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

Social media marketing revolves around creating original, free, content on the sites in order to generate buzz about a brand. The objective is to create content that followers will find interesting enough to share with their friends in family. The end goal is to produce a larger circle of consumers taking interest in a business.

The first step in creating a social media marketing plan is determining the social networks worth being active on. With so many social networks out there, businesses need to focus on the ones where they know their customers are. It is important to gauge your customers on the social networks they use most often in order to not waste time on sites consumers aren’t paying attention to.

Some of the most popular social networking sites for social media today are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google +.  To launch social media marketing campaigns, all businesses need to do is sign up for free with each social network they want to use. Once registered, businesses can create individual profiles for their business and start posting content, such as industry trends, company news and promotional information right away.

Once a business has created profiles on each site, it is important that they define the goals they are trying to achieve. Do they want to use social media marketing to sell a certain product, create buzz about the business in general or drive more consumers to their website? By knowing the goal of the plan, it will be easier to determine the type of strategy and content that should be used.

Another main component of any social media marketing plan is figuring out how to attract fans, friends or followers. One quick way to do so is by tapping into the current customer base. Encouraging current customers to “friend” or follow along in exchange for a coupon or free gift is an easy to start building up a following.

Once current customers are in the mix, ideally they will start sharing the posted content with their friends and family, who then will in turn start following along as well.

In addition to content, businesses must decide if they want customer service to be a part of their social media strategy. If it is, they need to keep constant tabs on their social media pages so they can respond to customer questions and complaints. Not responding will only make companies lose credibility in the eyes of those whose business they are trying to attract.

Besides posting their own content and responding to questions and complaints, an organization should make customer engagement a key part of their social media strategy. Ask them questions about what they like and dislike about the brand. This is a tremendous source of information that shouldn’t go untapped.

Why The Most Entrepreneurs Start Businesses

opNew research from Cox Business has found that more than half of small business owners start their own business in order to be their own boss. The researchers found that people were also motivated by the idea of creating something from the ground up. Overall, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they had started their own business for one of those reasons.

Money, on the other hand, is not a motivating factor for many small business owners: Just 8 percent of respondents said that was their main motivation for starting their own business.

Small business owners are also very dedicated to building those businesses, the research revealed. Forty-three percent of business owners said they have never considered closing their business, even as new technologies create challenges they may not have anticipated when starting their businesses.

Despite those challenges, small business owners are looking at the rise of new technologies as more of an opportunity than a detriment for their businesses. More than half of the business owners in the Cox Business Small Business Week survey said that new technologies like apps, mobile marketing and others were helpful to their businesses.

Additionally, 37 percent of business owners said they were happy with the way they have incorporated technology into their businesses. Just 32 percent of respondents said they are having trouble keeping up with new technologies. Those responses speak to the idea of “digital Darwinism” which refers to companies trying to keep up with constant technology changes.

Business owners still rely on email for daily communication. Forty percent of respondents said email is the most important communication tool for their business: Small business owners chose email over cell phones and social media for their daily communication needs.

Social media was not only less important to small businesses’ daily communication, but also to other aspects of running a business. In fact, just 33 percent of small business owners said they utilize social media in their marketing efforts.

Even though technology was not a huge emphasis for many of the small business owners surveyed, they rated a tech superstar as their entrepreneurial idol: Twenty-one percent of business owners said Steve Jobs was the entrepreneur they most want to emulate. Jobs was followed by Ben Franklin and Walt Disney.

The research was based on 605 responses from small business owners and managers at Cox Business.

How to Entice Holiday Shoppers with Social Media

A recent survey by Crowdtap, a collaborative marketing and social influence platform, revealed that 65 percent of holiday shoppers use social media to find the perfect gift. With Christmas just a couple weeks away, this is a business’s last chance to maximize its reach using social media.

“Whether you are a big-box retailer or small business, you can leverage the holidays to grow your online influence through social media,” said Becky Robinson, social media strategist and CEO of Weaving Influence, an online influence-building company. Robinson offered the following tips and anecdotes on how to use social media to listen, monitor and engage with current customers and influence potential ones.

Turn up your listening.Although many businesses schedule social media updates, Robinson said businesses can stand out by stepping out of that box and showing a willingness to connect.

“While it may be tempting to schedule and send promotional updates through the holiday season, you can stand out by listening to and responding to fans and customers who communicate with you,” Robinson said.

Robinson also advised businesses to always keep their eyes open. She recommended signing up for services like Google Alerts — which lets businesses monitor their brand and other relevant terms online — and checking social media channels multiple times throughout the day.

Take charge. People are posting about products and services you offer every day. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to turn them into customers.

To get on shoppers’ radars, Robinson said businesses should save a search on Twitter for their industry or location, then find relevant tweets and social media updates by regularly checking search streams.

“Several weeks ago, I needed to find a new bank for business banking,” Robinson said. “Though I tweeted several general tweets about banks, not a single bank engaged with me. Later, after I chose a bank, I sent tweets tagging both my old bank and my new bank. Until I mentioned a specific bank, no one engaged. You can impress me — and win my business — if you respond before I tag you by your handle.”

Show up and be real. Social media isn’t just about promoting products and services — it’s about creating relationships.

Robinson said businesses should designate someone in the company to personally engage with others in real-time every day. One way is by asking about or commenting on things people are sharing. For instance, Robinson once tweeted, “@TopoAthletic delighted me by tweeting me, several days after our original connection, to wish me luck on my half marathon.”

During the holidays, businesses can share real-life, real-time updates to give customers a glimpse of what the company is doing to celebrate. Share photos, daily happenings and other stories from the office.

Give extra love to your best fans and customers. Although people follow brands’ social media accounts to get the latest news, Robinson said, the primary reason is they want to get inside deals and discounts. Be creative and think of unexpected ways to offer promotions and exclusive sales. Give fans and customers exactly what they want.

Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Small Business Loan

Small business owners looking for capital may want to spend some time preparing for the process.  That’s because, Marc Scheipe, chief financial officer at Sage North America, says preparation can make all the difference in whether a company receives the funding they desire.

Scheipe, a former small business owner himself, says that prepared businesses going through the financing process have a better chance of gaining loan approval. To help businesses in their journey, Scheipe offers the following tips to small business owners.

Provide detailed information— Don’t skimp on specifics with banks. Show exactly how you will use the requested funds and how much you need to accomplish your goals.  Lenders appreciate attention to detail and preparedness when it comes to the facts.  For example, if you are looking to purchase a new piece of equipment, provide quotes on the exact costs, how much capital you need to facilitate this purchase and specifically how the new equipment will help grow your business.

Be prepared to share your financial information – all of it – Provide your lender with all the financial background on your company, future growth plans, and often your personal financial information.  By offering this information up front, it will allow a bank to gain an understanding of your complete financial situation and it will ultimately reduce the time to finalize your loan package.  The more information you have to illustrate that you’ve run your business well in the past gives banks the confidence they need to invest in you for the future.  The more information you provide, the easier it will be for your loan officer to get your loan approved.  Banks are in business to loan money, so this is a win-win for both sides.

The more the merrier– Research and make a list of five potential lenders and start at your first choice.  If approved for a loan, continue to shop the market for the best rate if you have time.  If declined, keep trying!  Too often, mostly due to lack of time, business owners stop at the first or second negative response.  Be prepared to seek a loan from a minimum of five lenders.  And learn from your mistakes.  If one lender turns you down for one reason or another, learn from this feedback and adjust your approach with the next lender.

Seek out Small Business Administration assistance— SBA lenders are a great resource for small businesses.  There are counselors who can assist you with the loan process.  Additionally, the more you know about the products that are available for your unique situation, the better your chances are at securing a yes response to your application.

Holiday Decorations Boost Sales

The grill-buffet restaurant Golden Corral franchise has determined that adding a little holiday cheer to the outside of its restaurants is bringing new diners in the door and increasing sales.

Bob McDevitt, senior vice president of franchising for Golden Corral, said about 50 of the chain’s restaurants have hung holiday lights on their buildings this winter after a test program last year produced pronounced results.

“It is just a great opportunity to increase the street presence,” McDevitt told BusinessNewsDaily.

During the test program last year, six restaurants hired professional decorators to hang lights along the rooflines and trees leading up to each location. The lights were kept up from the week before Thanksgiving through the end of the year, and the restaurants saw an average 5 percent increase in sales and a 4 percent increase in meal count. All six saw an increase in sales.

McDevitt said he came up with the idea in 2011, when he was visiting a location in California that had hung lights outside. As soon as he turned onto the restaurant’s street, he was struck by how great it looked.

“It was lit up like a Christmas tree,” he said, noting that the lights made the restaurant stand out from the other nearby businesses.

After talking with the local franchise owner, McDevitt said he knew the concept needed to be tested elsewhere, too. “He told me that they get a lot of buzz, but mostly that their business gets better,” he said.

McDevitt attributes the success of the holiday lights to the exposure it brings the restaurants on streets that are often dull in the dreary days of winter. “It dramatically enhances streets’ presence and makes it seem like a happy place to be,” McDevitt said.

Children are also contributing to the holiday-light program’s success. “Kids love it,” McDevitt said. “They see this beautifully decorated place that they are able to go into.”

For other businesses considering lights as an enticement, McDevitt suggests letting an expert handle the decorating. The several-thousand-dollar investment in a professional job, he said, is worth it.

“You can’t just hang a string of lights from the downspout and expect business to go up,” McDevitt said. “It has to look great.”

He also said businesses need to have the lights up long enough to make a difference. He suggests starting at least a week or two before Thanksgiving and letting it run through the end of the year. “You need to give it enough time to get a payback on it,” he said.

Finally, he said multicolored lights seem to make more of a difference than white ones. In the program’s test last year, the restaurants with multicolored lights outperformed those that had hung only white lights.

Founded in 1973, Golden Corral has nearly 500 restaurants operating in 40 different states.

How to Know Your Kid Succeed in Life

yuThose looking to predict a person’s chance of success should start their investigation on the playground, research shows.

A new study by researchers at Concordia University revealed that a kid’s friends may be the best judge of what the child will grow up to be like.

Specifically, the study found that a child’s peer evaluations of their classmates’ personalities can more accurately predict adulthood personality traits – which are associated with a number of important life factors, such as health, mental health and occupational satisfaction – than self-evaluation at that age.

The study, which began in 1976, asked students in grades 1, 4 and 7 to complete peer evaluations of their classmates and rate them in terms of aggression, likeability and social withdrawal. In addition, the students conducted their own self-evaluation.

The children were tracked into adulthood over the next 20 years. A follow-up survey was then conducted that included measurement of their personality traits as an adult, such as levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Alexa Martin-Storey, a recent Concordia graduate and one of the study’s authors, said they were able to compare peer and self-perceptions of childhood behaviors with their adult personality characteristics.

“We found the evaluations from the group of peers were much more closely associated with eventual adult outcomes than were their own personality perceptions from childhood,” Martin-Storey said. “This makes sense, since children are around their peers all day and behaviors like aggressiveness and likeability are extremely relevant in the school environment.”

The research shows that children who perceived themselves as socially withdrawn exhibited less conscientiousness as adults, while kids whose peers perceived them as socially withdrawn grew up to exhibit lower levels of extraversion.

Martin-Storey said peer-perceived likeability also predicted a more accurate outcome, associating the personality trait with higher levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness and lower levels of neuroticism than those who thought of themselves as likeable.

The Reason of People Quit Their Jobs

Some of this analytical work is generating fresh insights about what impels employees to quit. In general, people leave their jobs because they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years. New research conducted by CEB, a Washington-based best-practice insight and technology company, looks not just at why workers quit but also at when. “We’ve learned that what really affects people is their sense of how they’re doing compared with other people in their peer group, or with where they thought they would be at a certain point in life,” says Brian Kropp, who heads CEB’s HR practice. “We’ve learned to focus on moments that allow people to make these comparisons.”

Some of the discoveries are unsurprising. Work anniversaries (whether of joining the company or of moving into one’s current role) are natural times for reflection, and job-hunting activity jumps by 6% and 9%, respectively, at those points. But other data reveals factors that have nothing directly to do with work. For instance, birthdays—particularly midlife milestones such as turning 40 or 50—can prompt employees to assess their careers and take action if they’re unhappy with the results. (Job hunting jumps 12% just before birthdays.) Large social gatherings of peers, such as class reunions, can also be catalysts—they’re natural occasions for people to measure their progress relative to others’. (Job hunting jumps 16% after reunions.) Kropp says, “The big realization is that it’s not just what happens at work—it’s what happens in someone’s personal life that determines when he or she decides to look for a new job.”

Technology also provides clues about which star employees might be eyeing the exit. Companies can tell whether employees using work computers or phones are spending time on (or even just opening unsolicited e-mails from) career websites, and research shows that more firms are paying attention to these things. Large companies have also begun tracking badge swipes—employees’ use of an ID to enter and exit the building or the parking garage—to identify patterns that suggest a worker may be interviewing for a job. Companies sometimes retain outside firms, such as Joberate, to monitor employees’ social media activity for indications that people are scouting for new options. (Among other things, such firms look at whom employees are connecting with.) Joberate CEO Michael Beygelman compares this emerging science to the way that credit scoring can predict which consumers will fail to repay loans. Although some companies hire Joberate to help them anticipate which individual employees might think of leaving, others use the intelligence to zero in on departments or locations with high “likely to leave” scores so that they can work on team building and overall engagement. One large tech company uses it to target people it might lure away from other firms. Some investors use it to identify companies that may soon face turnover in key positions. “If the CIO and the head of sales are both likely to be job hunting, you have to ask what’s up,” Beygelman says.

Lori Hock, the CEO of Hudson Americas, a recruitment process outsourcing company that uses Joberate, values predictive intelligence because it helps her reduce clients’ attrition—and spot things that may be driving it. “Is it a bad manager?” she says. “Is there a training component? Are we undervaluing certain positions? It gives you a nice opportunity to think about what the trigger might have been—and to ask questionsbefore you lose talent.”

Some firms, such as Credit Suisse, take this tack with employees identified as being at risk of leaving: Internal recruiters cold-call the employees to alert them to openings inside the company. In 2014 the program reduced attrition by 1% and moved 300 employees, many of whom might otherwise have left, into new positions. Credit Suisse estimates that it saved $75 million to $100 million in rehiring and training costs.

Researchers agree that preemptive intervention is a better way to deal with employees’ wandering eyes than waiting for someone to get an offer and then making a counteroffer. CEB’s data shows that 50% of employees who accept a counteroffer leave within 12 months. “It’s almost like when you’re in a relationship and you’ve decided you want to break up, but your partner does something that makes you stick around a little longer,” Kropp says. “Employees who accept a counteroffer are most likely going to quit at some point very soon.”