Ideas for Paying Employees When Finances are Tight

The coronavirus has rattled the world, and while the health consequences are dire, the economic fallout could be worse.

In just one week, from March 7 to March 14, initial unemployment claims jumped by a third, rising from 211,000 to 281,000. And while we don’t know whether workers have been laid off or furloughed, we do know that lost jobs are bad for families, employers, and the nation.

Job losses translate into increased federal spending and a slower response to unemployment claims, and those businesses that have to hire or train new employees down the road will undoubtedly take a financial hit later. Even if it’s difficult, your business can benefit by keeping employees on payroll and by modifying your business plan.

What might this look like? Here are some options to consider:

Lower Overhead Expenses

The most effective response to financial pain is to freeze spending wherever possible.

This may mean holding off on new investments, eliminating projects where costs exceed value, or re-proposing previously rejected cost-savings ideas. Want a more comprehensive guide to cutting costs? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.

Consider Alternative Financing

While borrowing may not have previously been in your plans, the Small Business Association is working directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to companies that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program may provide the vital support you need during this temporary loss of revenue. Other options to consider are family borrowing, hard money loans, or seeking a float loan from a customer or an external “angel investor.”

Liquify Assets or Discount Existing Receivables

How can you attain missing funds to pay employees in a crunch?

“Beg, borrow, or sell whatever you need in order to come up with the funds,” says Rod Jorgensen, the director of counseling at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. Whether you sell vehicles, buildings, or equipment, put every option on the table for consideration.

Donald Todrin, founder of the Northhampton, MA-based Second Wind Consultants, says taking as much as a 50 percent hit on your outstanding receivables may also be a wise strategy:

“If I’ve got $25,000 out on the street that I’m owed, I’d slash it down to $10,000 on a promise [that vendors] wire me the money today,” Todrin said. “Pay me half [of what you owe me] and I’ll wipe [the debt] out. And you raise cash instantly and overnight. Now you pay a price for that because that’s your overhead money, but you cover your payroll. You got to play for another day.”

Be Resourceful and Keep Employees in the Loop

If you know you are unlikely to make payroll, it’s essential to be honest upfront.

Proactive communication is crucial during a crisis. If finances are tight, tell people up front, starting with the natural hierarchy of company leaders and involving them in the process. Allowing leaders to inform their teams can soften the blow and make it easier to gather feedback.

And be creative. Teams that want to retain employees in extremely tight situations may consider shrinking paychecks across the board or ask the highest paid, top-level staff members to (electively) forgo paychecks for a short time so lower-level employees can still be paid. This spreads out income and grows confidence and unity in your staff.

People First

Though you may not be closing shop, many businesses will experience shortfalls in this season. Creative, sacrificial entrepreneurs will work hard to protect their most valuable asset: people.

Master Font Psychology to Bring Personality and Purpose

If you wanted to make a splash at a spring gala, what color would you wear?

If you wanted to be known for your edgy personality, what kind of car would you drive?

Just as your personal appearance creates emotion or impact, your design choices will too. While we often undervalue text in designs, every font has a unique personality and purpose. A little font change can go a long way.

With that in mind, take a look at font psychology and see how using it well can win customers through print!

How Fonts Influence Emotion

What is font psychology?

Font psychology deals with the impact fonts have on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of readers. For example, when you use a Bookman Old Style headline, it’s going to carry a very different tone than a Brush Script or a fanciful Curlz font. When you feature Tempus Sans in primary body copy, it will bring a more contemporary vibe than Franklin Gothic. Once you understand the associations a font carries, you’re on your way to using fonts to create the emotional impact you desire.

Fonts contain features like line, weight, size, and orientation. When you see a font, your brain disentangles those components and associates them with characteristics from the real world. For example, italicized fonts mimic movement (like a runner leaping off the starting blocks), and flowing scripts convey creativity (like a dancer spinning across the stage). Fonts mimic visual characteristics from the real world, so if you want to choose an appropriate font, choose one that visually resembles your context.

Keep it Simple with This Font Cheat Sheet

When you think of the vibe you want to convey, what adjectives come to mind? Basic or bold? Gentle or hardcore? Elegant or gritty? Once you’ve identified the tone you want, here is a cheat sheet you can use to craft corresponding messages:

Slab Serif fonts (or “Egyptians”) are perceived as important, bold, impactful, or attention-grabbing. Great slab serifs include Sentinel, Adelle, Clarendon, Linoletter, Archer, and Amasis.

San Serif fonts are perceived as simple, sensible, straightforward, neutral, and easy to read. Popular selections include Apercu, Futura, Avenir, Verdana, and Avant Garde.

Simple Serif fonts are seen as stable, respectable, timeless, formal, or traditional. Classic serif fonts include Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Palatino.

Bold or weighty fonts are seen as dominant, commanding, gallant, significant, and reputable. Have fun with bold fonts like Qanelas Soft Typeface, Nevis, Municipal, or Andor.

Condensed or ultrathin fonts carry a professional, forward-thinking, logical, or influential quality. To sharpen your image, try fonts like District thin, Antipasto pro thin, or Cocotte ultralight.

Vintage fonts come across as old school, retro, stylish, and remarkable. Type outside the box with six different Zing Rust fonts and carefree fonts like Palm Canyon Drive, Parker, or Lovelo.

Script fonts bring a sense of femininity, elegance, connection, and indulgence. Fun script fonts include Allura, Mistral, or the Segoe family.

Decorative fonts are seen as casual, cool, unique, or high-spirited. Stretch the limits with The Bomb, Circus, Cute Notes, Keep on Truckin’, and more!

Mono-spaced fonts can bring a techy, sophisticated, or smart vibe. To sell your credentials, try Courier, Inconsolata, Maison Mono, or BP Mono.

Display fonts bring a chivalrous, quirky, friendly, or eccentric tone. Use fonts like Amadeus, Anudaw, Bearpaw, and Collegiate to make design twice as fun!

Keep Fonts Front and Center

While fonts are sometimes an after-thought, text is an integral part of your branding and emotional impact. And many online resources are available to help you find fun, free fonts.

Use your font choices to shape perceptions, streamline messages, and project your intent.

4 Strategies to Curb Communication Breakdowns

They say that the only sure thing about communication is that we tend to get it wrong.

If communication between two family members is a challenge, how much harder is communication at work? Have you ever experienced a team “fail” like this?

  • After meetings, people don’t seem to know what was said or what’s coming next. It’s like the meeting never occurred.
  • After training on a new procedure, only one person recalls the protocol.
  • Following a brainstorming session, everyone assumes someone else is covering the “next step.” The ball is dropped, resulting in blame, disillusionment, and embarrassment.

Make Your Messages Stick

Everyone knows communication is critical to success.

To run a thriving business, employees, managers, and CEOs need to communicate clearly and effectively. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of short circuits in this process, which can result in angry employees, difficult HR situations, and lost profit.

What can you do to improve team communication? Here are a few suggestions from some of today’s best leaders:

1. Kick Silo Doors Open

Many teams work well together but fail to communicate with the larger organization.

Communication silos occur when people in different departments don’t collaborate or connect to the bigger company vision. Enon Landenberg, founder and CEO of tech consulting company sFBI, says this is common:

“It’s very possible for departments to focus too much on their own work and miss out on the big ideas that only come from collaboration,” Landenberg said. “Egos [can prevent] honest discussions about the quality of work, necessary improvements and fresh ideas.”

To avoid this problem, send weekly briefings to the entire company and regularly schedule time for divisions or leaders to connect on projects, questions, or suggestions.

2. Limit Email Communication

When employees receive too many emails, they will start forgetting and ignoring the information they receive.

According to Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile, urgent messages should always be relayed by phone or in person. And when it comes to email conversations, Corbin says this:

“[I follow] the three-email rule: After three messages, we talk.”

Simplify not only the amount of email but the language you use. When technical jargon abounds, you increase the chance for errors because people can’t understand you!

3. Squash the Gossip

News travels quickly, especially if it’s bad.

Some rumors are just silly, but many contain an exaggerated seed of truth. Managers should address issues head-on rather than mopping up messes later. Even if you can’t share all the details, giving people a snapshot of the situation will build confidence and quiet dissension.

4. Lead Engaging Meetings

When people fail to listen, their minds are probably elsewhere.

The burden of communication is yours, so make meetings concise and engaging. Share the purpose of a meeting immediately, and conclude with assignments and action steps. Train managers to share only the most essential information and to use stories to illustrate a point. (e.g. “Yesterday, I got a phone call from our largest shareholder, and guess what they said?”)

Megachurch pastor Craig Groeschel says this:

“Work to keep your meetings small and your communication large. Too many [leaders] make the mistake of including too many people in too many meetings. The purpose of the meeting determines its size and . . . [it is important to] keep the discussion moving. Maintain a sense of polite urgency, pushing hard enough to keep the meeting moving but not so hard that discussion and decision-making is rushed.”

Eliminating miscommunication can head off a whole host of problems, so be intentional and make improvements each day!

Why Custom Notepads are a Perfect Promotional Tool

Want to give your business a gift that keeps giving?

You can do this by giving gifts to other people. According to the ACI 2019 Impressions study, promotional products bring some of the highest rates of return on advertising, trumping all other forms of media. Consumers surveyed said they were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a favorable opinion of promotional products compared to online advertising, and consumers under 55 preferred a promotional product message over EVERY other advertising medium (including print, online, or traditional mass media).

Data shows the average household in the U.S. owns 30 promotional items, which means if there are 120 million households in America, over three billion company logos are floating around at any moment!

Looking for a fun but practical promo gift for your clients and prospects? Custom printed notepads are a great, economical option. Notepads are designed for utility and flexibility, meaning people can take them anywhere and will certainly use them. Since notepads are durable and easy to distribute, they’re great for trade show giveaways, sales rep gifts, presentation folder inserts, or fridge magnet marketing.

Making the Most of Your Custom Notepads

When you are ready to maximize the ad potential of a custom notepad, here are some ideas for making the most of your design:

Define Your Key Concept

Not every notepad is created equal, so you should decide upfront what your design concept will be.

Do you want a stand-alone desk pad with a hilarious 3D appearance (like this hilarious “hair thinning” tearaway Pantogar notepad)? Perhaps a vintage cover or a sparkly flip pad? Whether you want simple sticky notes or an artistic journal, defining your concept will clarify details about paper selection, line guides, and binding.

Strive for Consistent Branding

Because clients will use your notepad over and over, this is a very tangible way to build brand awareness.

Consistent color schemes, fonts, and logos all build your brand and strengthen the associations people have with your business. While you may be tempted to stray from your standard branding guidelines for a promotional pad, this can be unwise.

Put Them to Work Yourself

While many professionals give away notebooks, many fail to use notepads for their own needs.

Notepads can leave lasting impressions on your associates. Not only can they be used for notetaking or strategizing, but they are great for casual correspondence too. Think about how often you jot notes to send internally or externally. Why not do this with your own customized marketing tool? Notebooks offer a subtle strategy for increasing brand credibility.

Consider Custom Photo Options

What is more memorable than a photo?

When you want to add extra personalization, consider a photo banner on top or a transparent full-page photo backdrop for each page. People resonate with pictures, and when they connect to an image, they’re engaging with your business.

Overcome the ordinary and try something unique with image-oriented notepads!

Keep Your Name at Their Fingertips

When you want to grab hold of customers, make it easy for them to grab hold of YOU with a pocket-sized promotional notepad.

Notepads are economical, memorable, practical, and fun. Build on-going exposure as you keep your name at their fingertips with this helpful, handy tool. Contact us to learn more today!

How to Shift from Reactive to Proactive Customer Care

Everyone makes mistakes, but no one likes admitting them.

If we’re honest, business professionals hate owning up to mistakes because of pride, embarrassment, or fear that customers will leave. But denying weaknesses only magnifies awkward situations and hurts your company’s reputation. Dealing proactively with problems will strengthen credibility and spark improvements that benefit your brand.

When Micheal Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey founded Barefoot Cellars, they started in a laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse. Knowing next to nothing, they made many mistakes. In one instance, they discovered a barcode error that led a shipment to ring up for less than it should, which lost the distributor money.

When he caught the mistake, Houlihan showed up personally at the store’s corporate office with a check for the loss, including an added bonus for the distributor’s time and expense. Houlihan described to the manager how Barefoot Cellars was shifting internal processes to make sure the problem never happened again. Because Houlihan owned the mistake and informed the distributor in person, the orders kept coming, and a potential complaint became a memorable learning experience.

Overcoming “Survival Mode” Mentality

For many companies, the default approach is to respond to problems as they arise.

This survival mode mentality may work temporarily, but long-term success is built as your brand is able to impress and delight customers in a more proactive, personalized way.

Future forecasters predict that by 2023 businesses will transition into a season of “continuous service” through artificial intelligence. But in the meantime, customers still need care, and the best strategy is upfront intervention.

Looking to sharpen your systems? Here are three ways to be more proactive:

1. Inform Customers About Your Mistakes Immediately

It’s always better for customers to hear about a problem directly from you instead of discovering it themselves.

If your company identifies a problem upfront, you can avoid costly damages and harmful publicity. As you identify errors, take responsibility for the mistake, offer refunds or future discounts, explain how you are remedying the problem, and let people know who to contact for assistance.

2. Offer Self-Help Customer Service Channels

One reason service can be so frustrating is the wait time and red tape it involves.

Many customers prefer to find answers themselves, so generate accessible content that addresses common complaints. This may include a FAQ page, live chat software, webinar tutorials, or a customer care focus in your print newsletter. Not sure where to start? Review customer service call and email logs or use survey data from clients and customer service representatives.

3. Build 5-Star Service into Your Company Culture

For proactive service to work, it must be embedded into your company culture.

Here employees are trained to deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. This means everyone (not just the people on the front line) must understand and desire a 5-star service. Teach employees to anticipate what a client MIGHT need and have a solution ready before they ask.

Build Your Brand by Fortifying Customer Confidence

One of the most effective ways to stoke customer confidence is to do things for your customers before they know they need it.

Like a vase on a pottery wheel, proactive service means continually molding and reshaping the interactions customers have with your business. As you preemptively address sore spots, you’ll confirm the customer made the right decision to do business with your company.

How to Build Trust and Unity Through a Strong Company Culture

When it comes to company culture, Zoom is off the charts.

Zoom is a California communications company that provides remote conferencing services for online video meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.

Zoom’s mission is to develop a people-centric cloud service that unifies meeting experiences while improving the quality of communications forever. Zoom is passionate about connecting not only customers but employees.

The company sports its own “happiness crew,” a team committed to maintaining company values through wacky celebrations, community involvement, and volunteering. Happiness crews coordinate team serving opportunities like Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, and more, allowing employees to give back, to enjoy co-workers from other teams, and to make a difference for causes they care about.

Whether it’s arranging a “Bring Your Parent to Work Day” or decorating desks with rubber ducks, this passionate team culture has helped Zoom to grow and thrive.

Company Culture is Beyond “Perks”

Company culture is more than just great coffee or vacation incentives; it goes to the heart of how people treat one another and the values of the company itself.

Deliberately defining and communicating your culture makes it easier to determine who you’re looking for and why certain individuals are a fit for your team. It defines success for employees and encourages people to practice values that are important for your business. And deeper than just perks or parties, company culture unifies people and makes work more meaningful and enjoyable. As you design company culture today, you build trust, responsibility, and vulnerability for tomorrow.

5 Keys to An Enhanced Company Culture

What might an enhanced culture look like for your business? Here are a few keys.

1. Build From the Bottom

Start by defining your mission, vision, and values.

Create language or catchphrases that celebrate a “win,” so values come off the wall and into everyday life. When you center your culture around how you want people to be treated, company culture will fall into place.

2. Identify Cultural Ambassadors

Every company has team members who are passionate about company identity.

These people love the organization and serve as cheerleaders who breathe life into the workplace. Once you identify ambassadors, ask them what they like or dislike about the current atmosphere and what improvements they would suggest.

Ambassadors offer a buffer between the boss and the team and have immense power to sway opinion. Lean on them and be open to change!

3. “Mandate” Fun

A strong work culture requires that everyone gets together, whether it’s a mid-day splurge or an after-work activity.

Offer timed conversation prompts or get people competing to fuel momentum. Looking for ideas? From breakroom cooking competitions to a hilarious round of “Eat Poop, You Cat,” online hacks are endless.

4. Assign Culture Captains

Maybe you can’t afford a happiness crew, but every employee can assist you in connecting with changing personalities.

Involve employees by selecting rotating “Culture Captains” who are in charge of shaping ideas for the month. From Funky Friday costume days to a buffet of the month (with a merit-based giveaway item), getting people involved in planning means everyone will have more fun!

5. Encourage Anonymous Feedback

No one likes criticism, but if you don’t welcome feedback, culture “cancers” can grow.

Send a yearly survey to all employees so everyone can share how they’re feeling and provide anonymous feedback. Allowing an avenue for processing can prompt a wealth of new ideas. Sometimes your team has the solutions you need, and you don’t even know it!

Your Greatest Asset

In a world where great employees are like gold, treating your work atmosphere as an afterthought is a huge missed opportunity. Wise entrepreneurs will design company culture as intentionally as they design the products they sell.

Spark Creative Solutions with Four Ideation Strategies

Creativity.

It’s something we long to unleash. Some seem to do this effortlessly, with work that carries a distinct, resounding voice. Others labor tirelessly and produce merely a weak echo. Where some of us once flourished, now we flounder.

The good news?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What does it take to beat back the ordinary and to release fresh, gripping, or exciting ideas continually?

4 Ideation Strategies to Spark Creativity

When you want to break out of creative ruts, ideation strategies offer a useful tool for challenging your habitual (a.k.a. BORING) ways of thinking.

Want to give it a try? Here are four exercises to enhance imagination for yourself or your team.

1. Green Lighting

Green lighting (or free-flow brainstorming) is often used in creative strategy sessions because the lack of censorship allows participants to generate a high quantity of ideas in a short, synergized session.

During a green light session, any wild or wacky ideas are welcome to be jotted on a group think board. Participants restrain from analyzing or critiquing options and instead try to build momentum by generating a large quantity of ideas or by collectively building on others’ ideas. Green-light thinking sparks solutions you might otherwise overlook, releasing your team to much higher levels of creativity and productivity.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a graphical technique used to build a web of relationships.

Begin by writing a problem statement or a key phrase in the center of the page. Now encourage people to say solutions or ideas that come to their minds next. As new ideas are put on the board, participants connect their keyword “branches” by curves, lines, or vectors. Mind mapping transforms dull or tedious information into colorful, memorable patterns that can help flush out ideas, articulate hidden options, or generate collective solutions.

3. The “Anti-Problem” Exercise

Sometimes looking directly at a problem makes it harder to solve.

This ideation strategy encourages teams to turn the tables by defining an “anti-problem,” or a challenge that is the opposite of the real problem at hand. After articulating this concept, teams work together for a set amount of time to solve the anti-problem. Here teams may find inspiration by generating ideas still relating to the problem space, solutions than can then be “re-flipped” to bring them back into the realm of the true problem.

4. Mindset Spacing

Sometimes using physical space to reflect different thinking methods can propel your team to breakthrough.

For example, Disney’s creative team used to label four parts of a room for separate mindsets: imagining, planning, critiquing, and stepping outside a concept. Teams then gathered in each space with one target objective: perhaps an innovation to brainstorm or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced green-light thinking, planners tried to define the specs, timeline, etc. Meanwhile, critics and concept overseers analyzed weaknesses, defined missing elements, or addressed obstacles.

Challenge your team members to physically rotate between these “mindset” spaces and see if it brings new ideas to light!

Collectively We are Genius

Time to teach an old dog new tricks? They say that “collectively, we are genius,” so try out ideation techniques with your team and awaken imagination today!

Ideation strategies allow you to flow in a life-giving, streamlined environment, releasing ideas that are imaginative, strategy-driven, and smart. Need help with coming up with your next great idea in print? Reach out to us today.