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Business @dvisor

  • Winter 2014
  • 2015 Business Trends; Fight the Flu; Green Biz Ideas; Bust Scams; Get Organized

  • Fall 2014
  • Protect Computers; Communicate Better; Overcome Obstacles; Subcontractor Tips; Prepare for Winter

  • Summer 2014
  • Prevent Burglaries; Networking Tips; Facebook Marketing Tips; Roof Maintenance; Finance for Start-Ups

  • Spring 2014
  • Business Trends; Electrical Safety; Social Media Tips; Business Insurance; Business Accelerator

See past newsletters

Business @dvisor

Spring 2014

Is Your Business Ready for What’s Next?

Learn about business trends you should be aware of.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” No truer words were ever spoken – especially when it comes to the lightning-fast speed of change in the business world.

The question in front of you is, are you staying current with change and the ever-changing ways to do business? While no one has a crystal ball to predict the future, here are some forward-looking trends we find especially helpful. Each offers new opportunities for businesses.

  • Increased globalization. Technology has created opportunities for a worldwide, borderless marketplace.
  • Longer lead times for parts. With a recovering economy, there’s a renewed demand for equipment resulting in backlogs and longer lead time for delivery. This renewed demand creates an opportunity for more aggressive suppliers to break into the components marketplace.
  • Increased marketing on social networks. Look for even greater need to be on social marketing and photo sharing websites. If you’re not on these sites, you’ll need to find how they fit your marketing strategies.
  • Increased movement to “buy local.” While technology has created a global reach for products, many customers are placing increased value on buying local products and services, creating opportunities for “hometown” businesses.
  • Technology-enabled partnerships. Technology will allow companies to work together in mutually beneficial ways never used before.
  • Growth in mobile banking. Mobile banking services will grow beyond basic balance inquiries and transfers to increased use of remote deposit and person-to-person payments.
  • 24/7/365 shopping. More consumers will be using mobile devices to shop any business, anytime and anywhere. Businesses need to make sure their sites are optimized so customers can view them and conduct business on any type of mobile device.
  • Guided discovery. Online shoppers will be looking for related products. More online businesses will use a "guided discovery" to present targeted suggestions to help consumers make purchases.
  • Consumer-driven demand and personalization. Consumers want unique, original and personalized products. 2014 will see more businesses enable customers to personalize, modify, or design the products that they want to purchase.
  • It's still about the brand. Businesses build a strong brand by delivering great products and services. Whatever you do, don’t forget about the brand no matter what bells and whistles you use to market it.
  • Tech timeout. Some companies will call a timeout on new technology. The thinking is that they aren’t getting all the way up to the productive part of the learning curves before a new process comes along.  During their 2014 timeout, they plan to get their act together on all the technology changes from the last five years before they introduce any new ones.

Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Protect your staff and equipment from the dangers of electricity.

No matter what your industry, an often forgotten but key tool for staying in business is electrical power. Whether to run heavy machinery or charge the batteries in your laptop, electricity fuels the business world.

Unfortunately, the same electricity that powers your business can kill or injure your workers. Every year, electricity is responsible for more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries in the workplace.

Know the signs of electrical trouble

Recognizing the warning signs of electrical trouble can help your business avoid death, injury, equipment damage and even down time. Here are some signs to watch for.

  • Frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers can point to electrical concerns.
  • Getting a shock when touching appliances can indicate problems.
  • Worn or discolored wall outlets can indicate hidden arcing, damaged or improperly installed wiring or a problem with the outlet itself.
  • Frequently flickering or dimming lights may indicate a short in the wiring, dangerous arcing or an over-extension of electrical systems.

Many injuries and deaths, and much property damage caused by electrical hazards, can be avoided. Keep your employees and business safe with these guidelines.

  • Make sure anyone working on or around electrical systems and equipment is properly trained.
  • Frequently inspect power cords and plugs to be sure they are not cracked, frayed or damaged.
  • Only use extension cords temporarily and limit the equipment plugged into them.
  • When working on any electrical device, make sure the power is off and use proper lockout/tag-out procedures.
  • If repair or service work becomes more difficult than you anticipated, revise your plans and call in a more highly trained technician.
  • Always use the recommended wattage when replacing light bulbs and the recommended amperage when replacing fuses.
  • As your business adds or replaces equipment, be certain the electrical system is capable of safely handling increased demand.
  • Only use appliances, tools, lighting and extension cords approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Always use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) in any area where water and electricity can come into contact. Outdoor outlets should have waterproof covers and be GFCI protected.

By following these easy safety suggestions, you and your business may prevent injuries or property damage. More information about electrical safety – and workplace safety in general – is available at American Family’s PureSafety On Demand website.

Boost Your Business with These Social Media Marketing Tips

How can you leverage Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms to jump start your business?

Just ask Dean DeLisle of Forward Progress, who has a proven track record of helping businesses achieve the next level of success.

Here are some of the social media strategies and tactics Dean recommends for businesses of all sizes.

It’s all about trust. By engaging with others in different social media platforms, you enhance your reputation, and you build trust – the very foundation for gaining new customers and business.

Know your audience. Learn which social media platforms your customers use, and make sure you frequently use those same platforms, too. If you don’t, you’re missing opportunities to engage with your target audiences.

Find your social voice. Fine-tune your social media profiles to speak directly and succinctly to your target audiences. Don’t be shy – humanize yourself with details that reflect your personality.

Connect your real-world and social media communities. Create a network map identifying real-life partners, charities, vendors, associations, clients and clubs, and then connect with them via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You’ll build trust and increase engagement. Expand your networks by connecting your personal and business social media pages.

Update frequently. Every day, post thoughtful, conversation-based comments in your social media networks. Posting at least once or twice a day is recommended for Facebook or LinkedIn, and five to 10 tweets per day works well with Twitter.

Get visual. Select visual examples of your best work, and use to give visual impact to your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter presence. This also increases your authority within your social networks.

Take the CEO challenge. C = Connections: Add new social media connections every week. E = Engagement: Have meaningful conversations via social media, and track their frequency. O = Outcome: Define and track desired outcomes, whether they’re simply calls from prospects, or actual sales. People who commit to CEO consistently get referrals and sales, and build their businesses.

Video extra!

Want to learn more, including specific tips about leveraging Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram? Watch this exclusive American Family Business Accelerator video. Just sign in if you’re a Business Accelerator member, and if you’re not, register for Business Accelerator here.

Top 5 Reasons to Get Business or Farm Insurance

Don’t jeopardize your dreams by failing to protect them!

Why do you need insurance for your business or farm?

Just ask Peter Hvidsten.

Peter’s business – a fifth-generation family farm – was ramping up for the big sugar beet harvest in late fall. After a large rock damaged one of his trucks, Peter realized he had a big problem on his hands.

“Every hour is important,” Peter explains. “If I have a truck that isn’t working, that’s about 25 percent of our hauling capacity. It was a considerable deal for us not to have that.”

Fortunately, Peter had insurance. His American Family agent acted quickly to help him to get his truck rapidly repaired so he could continue with the harvest and avoid greater losses.

Peter’s case vividly illustrates the top five reasons why you need business or farm insurance.

  • Business continuity. Large-scale disasters or even small accidents can interrupt your business’ operations and revenue. Insurance helps you recover more quickly so you can keep your business on the path to success.
  • Protecting your bottom line. Repairing damaged buildings, equipment and other property without insurance can be a staggering financial blow for most businesses. Insurance cushions that blow, so you can continue to focus on your bottom line.
  • Preparation for the unexpected. You can’t predict when accidents, fires or other unforeseen events can threaten your livelihood. Business or farm insurance can put you at an advantage against the unexpected.
  • Peace of mind. Owning your own business or farm is a big responsibility. People depend on you. Why risk it all? Insurance can give you, and others, considerable peace of mind.
  • Protecting your dreams. As a business owner or a farmer, you’ve probably got some big goals for success. Insurance can help you protect these dreams. And that’s a good feeling.

Want to learn more? Check out American Family’s business and farm insurance products. And, learn more about Peter Hvidsten in our annual report.

Here’s How to Start or Revamp a Business

This free resource can help you grow your business dreams.

Want to learn how to start a new business, or revamp your existing one? Check out the latest offerings from American Family’s Business Accelerator, to turbo-charge your entrepreneurial dreams!

And don't miss our special "Email Persuasion" book club, and webcasts on April 1 and 10.

All of these valuable articles, videos and more are available at no cost to you!

Log in or sign up at the Business Accelerator website to learn, grow and succeed.