Thursday, December 09, 2010

Give New Hires a Great Start

In a majority of small businesses, new hires are given only the basic skills and information they need to begin their new job. However, if you want your new hires to become more successful in their job more quickly, then you need to go beyond the norm. The key to this is allowing your new hires to learn the organization's policies and customs and to interact with the company's personnel.

The attitude your new hire develops about your company usually comes to fruition fairly quickly, and it can also affect their long-term commitment and outlook of the company. Within the first six months of a new hire's time with a company they decide whether it is a place they want to stick with or not. But the big question is how to turn a new employee's experience into a lasting and prosperous relationship.

Connect with them personally and early on.
By connecting with your new hire personally, you can form a relationship that will cause the hire to want to stay with your company. Get to know your new hires in every aspect of their lives. Ask them about their families, pets, hobbies, past experiences etc... People like to feel special and by making your new hire feel special, they may want to stay at your company longer.

Make the introduction about more than just a handbook.
A lot of small businesses make the initial introduction all about procedures and rules. But a lot of companies that have long standing employees make the initial introduction about the company, the history, the products etc... Company heads will take their new hires out for breakfast or lunch and really give them a feel for what the company is about. By making the initial introduction more fun you will find new hires more willing to stay with your company.

Treat the new hires like equals.
A lot of companies treat their new hires like the bottom of the totem pole. And, while that may be technically true, it doesn't mean you have to treat them like that. Don't put your new hires through a painful probation process or belittle them by displaying your big boss powers. Arrogance is one of the quickest ways to turn a new hire away. A great welcome can make a huge lasting impression, so be sure to treat your new hire like a true equal.

If you follow these steps, then you will be sure to see an increase not only in the amount of new hires your company receives but also in the amount of new hires that remain with your company.
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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cybercrime Doesn't Really Seem to Worry Small Businesses

cybercrime among small businessesIt seems as though small businesses do not seem to be very concerned about cybercrime. A recent survey of 1,000 different small business owners conducted by Visa Inc. and National Cyber Security Alliance showed that there was a surprising lack of concern about cybercrime among small businesses.

Most of the small business owners that were surveyed said that they felt that their businesses were “under the radar” and that there was no need to be worried about any computer-based crime. There was definitely a consensus between the survey respondents about the belief that there was not enough cybercrime potential for them to want to invest in the high costs that it would take to properly secure their company’s electronic assets.

An entire 85 percent of those surveyed believed that their business was much less of a target than a larger corporation. Fifty-four percent of the respondents also felt that they were more prepared than larger enterprises to protect their company and customer data. And 84 percent said that they do have certain procedures in place to protect data and keep computers secure.

These were not the only results that the survey found though. Only 25 percent of those surveyed said that they had given their employees three hours or more of security training, and 47 percent said that they hadn’t given their employees any security training at all. More than 50 percent said that they simply did not feel that the high cost of full electronic security is worth it.

The sponsors of the survey say that the results of the survey really don’t seem to match up. They say that there is “growing concern from security experts and law enforcement that hackers and cyber criminals are honing [sic] in on small businesses as their new targets." They note specifically the report of an extremely elaborate scheme in the Ukraine where more than $70 million was stolen from small and medium business bank accounts in the U.S.

The head of public affairs for Visa, Rosetta Jones, said, “Cybersecurity investments are critical to protecting a company’s brand and reputation.” Visa offers information and resources to business owners on how to protect their important data and digital assets at their website “We are focused on partnering with small businesses to ensure that they fully understand the business benefits of running a cyber-secure operation,” says Jones. There is also more information about how to keep your small or medium business secure at the NCSA’s web site

So what does this survey show? Well, it shows that small and medium businesses need to step up and take some precautions when it comes to electronic security for their companies. Yes, it can be costly, but there are also some inexpensive precautions that companies can take. It is something that is definitely important and that needs to be taken into consideration. If your small or medium business is not secured, check out the websites mentioned above and make sure that you keep your company safe and secure.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Should Small Businesses Utilize Online Advertising?

small business online advertising
Sometimes small businesses may not be sure of the best way to advertise and get the word out there about its products or services. Because advertising and marketing strategies are changing constantly to fit society and its needs, it can be difficult to decide which strategies will be most effective for your company.

Web analysts have been saying almost since the creation of the Internet that online advertising was going to take over the advertising world by storm. Online advertising has definitely made a huge impact, but it hasn’t quite taken the world by storm yet. According to years of research on the steady increase of online advertisement, the predicted “boom” in online advertising could definitely be right around the corner.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC are releasing some numbers that illustrate that a “boom” could be in store for advertising in the very near future. U.S. online ad revenues have increased 17 percent in the third quarter of 2010, compared to the same period of time in 2009. In just that quarter, ad revenues reached $6.4 billion, which is the highest recorded quarterly mark in history.

According to IAB, online video ads and traditional banners and pop-up ads are still creating an increase in revenues, but text ads that come along with search results represent the largest amount of revenue for online advertising. Their numbers for the first half of 2010 showed that search ads account for 47 percent of all online ad revenues. This is the exact same percentage that search ads had for the first half of 2009 as well.

Until recently, there were two different reasons for small businesses to be reluctant about utilizing online advertising. The first reason that companies were skeptical about adopting it as an advertising strategy was because of the perceived low rate of return for the ads. The second was the expected time commitment that was required to be able to manage an online ad campaign. This skepticism is starting to be relieved as new online ad services are beginning to target small businesses.

Pete Barlas of Investor’s Business Daily said that Google and various other search providers are trying to help small businesses overcome their hesitance about buying Web ads. He said that they are currently making it easier to select keywords and pick up other search engine optimization (SEO) tricks. Another important development is the increase in location-based services that offer customers discounts and rewards when they check in as they visit an establishment.

Recently Google released a new component for its Google Places services. This service was created in an attempt to make it as easy as possible for small businesses to profit from advertising online, and the newest developments really do help out.

Google’s Google Boost service is only available right now in select U.S. markets. It is a service that promises to feature three-line text ads in the Sponsored Links section of Google’s search page when individuals search for terms that have been specified by and for your business. This service is available for a mere $50.

Online advertising is definitely seeing a steady increase in use and profitability. Many small businesses still have concerns with the tactic, but I really feel that it is the direction that advertising is heading in. Everything is going mobile and paperless, and advertising is no exception. Online advertising is a great addition to small businesses' already established advertising and marketing strategies. With the right attitude, dedication, and commitment, online advertising that could really increase profitability for your small business.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Protect Your Small Business Against Fraud

Small Business Fraud
Small business owners have a lot of hardships they have to face, but one of the biggest problems that plagues them is business fraud, and small business owners are the ones who suffer the most from it. Businesses with less than 1,000 employees can lose an estimated average of $150,000 in a single fraud case. In comparison, larger businesses only average $71,000 per loss.

The biggest type of fraud that hits small businesses is definitely check tampering which is also the biggest way people get hurt. The reason for this is that many small businesses typically do not watch for these types of things. Most small businesses do not wish to put the money into putting controls in place that bigger companies may have. Most small businesses don't schedule an annual audit. With an audit there is a system of checks and balances which hinders people's abilities to commit fraud easily.

Inventory fraud is another type that hits small businesses hard. A lot of small businesses have inventory being loaded on and off of trucks, but most people don't really pay attention to the people loading and unloading the company's things. Commercial bribery also affects small businesses. If somebody comes into your business often and sees the same employee, they will undoubtedly form a relationship. Your employee could then begin giving the person free things for a split of the profits.

However, there are a few key things small business owners can do to protect themselves against fraud. First, get some type of background screening for your employees. Many small business owners won't spend a lot of money screening a loading dock worker or somebody fresh from college, but they should at least do a criminal check if nothing else.

Credit checks are also very helpful. It is no surprise that people in today's economy are going through financial woes. But you should know if your employees are. Be sure you aren't hiring somebody who is desperate for money. Your employee's resume is also a good thing to check up on. If they say they went to college or worked for another company, check up on it.

Small businesses are a key part to America's economy. Most of them provide invaluable services and give a lot of good people good jobs, but it always seems that the ones out to do good are the ones that get burned the most. So please, be careful if you are an owner of a small business. Do what is necessary to ensure you aren't getting ripped off by some type of fraud.
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Have the Big Banks Followed Through with Their Promises?

small business lendingMany big banks claimed that they would increase credit to small businesses in 2010, but have they really done this so far? Are they really lending more money to small businesses or have they fallen through? Well, it’s a little difficult to tell due to the fact that “small business lending” for most banks usually covers a variety of different things ranging from real estate to credit cards, and there are very few lenders that separate their numbers for small businesses. Big banks were under pressure from the White House last year to increase credit. Some of the nation’s largest lenders, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, made some very big promises about increasing their lending to small business lenders in 2010. Four of the companies that set some concrete goals were asked how they were doing so far with their lending, and here is what they said.

Wells Fargo
According to Wells Fargo spokeswoman Sarah Toffoli, the company gave more than $2.9 billion in new loans to small business owners in the first quarter. The bank said that their goal for 2010 was to lend $16 billion, which is about $3 billion more than they lent in 2009, to companies with less than $20 million in revenue. "Based on the seasonality of business lending and the anticipation of an improved economy, we hope to meet our commitment by the end of 2010,” said Toffoli. John Stumpf, the chairman of Wells Fargo, says that the company plans to increase the new small business lending of $16 billion in the company’s annual report.

JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase reported in their first quarter earnings release that so far this year they have lent small businesses over $2.1 billion in new loans. They had said that their goal was to give out $10 billion in new credit to companies with revenues under $20 million. Their goal, which was announced November 9th, 2009, is an increase of $4 billion over last year. Spokesman Tom Kelly said that the bank’s first quarter lending to small businesses has increased 31% over the lending from the first quarter of the previous year.

Kelly also said that since November 9th, JPMorgan Chase has hired 235 new small business bankers, and they plan to hire 325 new employees by the end of 2010. Another interesting fact to note is that Chase has lent more than $110 million in “second-look loans” this quarter. Second-look loans are small business loans that are given to borrowers who were initially rejected but asked for Chase to review their loan application again.

Bank of America
In their first quarter Bank of America has loaned $19.4 billion to small and mid-size businesses, those who have less than $50 million in revenue. When taking out the loans to mid-size businesses, the bank has loaned $3.4 billion to small companies, those with less than $20 million in revenue, during their first quarter.

At a meeting with President Obama on December 14th, 2009, the then CEO of Bank of America Kenneth Lewis stated that the bank planned to increase their lending to small and mid-size businesses in 2010 by $5 billion. As of right now the bank has not released how much money they lent to small and mid-size businesses in 2009, so there is really no way to set a number on how much they will be lending in 2010 or on how much progress they have made this quarter towards meeting their goal for 2010. Spokesman Jefferson George said that the bank is currently running those numbers, and they hope that they will be able to make those numbers available soon.

Huntington National Bank
Huntington National Bank is a regional bank for the Midwest that is currently based out of Columbus, Ohio. In February they set a goal to increase their lending to small businesses, businesses with less than $15 million in revenue, by $400 million. Right now the bank says that numbers documenting progress towards their goal of lending $1.2 billion in 2010 are not available. Their spokeswoman LuJean Smith did say though that Huntington has currently hired more than fifty percent of the 150 new employees that they plan on hiring.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ways to Improve Your Company's Customer Service

Customer ServiceEverybody dreads a call to customer service, no matter what company it is. Whatever the problem is, most people would rather take their losses than go through a long, arduous process with a customer service representative. That is why businesses, especially small businesses, should consider improving their customer support in every way possible, because customers are more likely to return to your business if it has good customer service.

In a recent survey 60% of Americans ranked great customer service as very important. However, only one-third of them believe that they are getting it. A vast majority of Americans believe that companies either haven't changed the way they look at customer service or they are paying less attention to it. Only 37% of Americans believe that companies have increased their focus on giving high quality customer service in today's market.

The problem stems from a few different reasons. One reason is that business owners do not always know what will satisfy their customers the most. Owners may think price will satisfy customers, whereas customers may believe it is personalized service. Another reason is that business owners may not have put in place the systems and processes to ensure that they can easily provide ongoing customer service.

One way to improve upon this is to find technology that will help you monitor what customers are saying about you. There are many services you can sign up for that will alert you when someone online is mentioning your company, like Google Alerts or even TweetBeep. You also need to make sure you are reaching out to customers on a regular basis. This allows them to easily tell you how they feel.

If a customer complains, make sure the problem gets fixed and that they are happy. If the owner personally deals with the problem, then the customer usually leaves happy. You also have to communicate to your employees about how important it is to make sure that the customer is as happy as he or she can be before leaving. Consistent, good customer service does not come easily, and you have to train your employees to do so in order to get the best productivity.

One thing you have to do as a small business is make sure superior customer service is a part of your company's reputation. You need to ensure that you are talking about your customer service and selling your services or products on that fact. Encourage your customers who have left feeling satisfied to share their experiences with others.

Good customer service will also get your name out there by customers. Three-fourths of people surveyed said they are more inclined to talk about good customer service as opposed to complaining about bad customer service. People really do like to discuss positive things, so make sure one of those things is your customer service.

Contrary to that, people also say that they are more inclined to believe negative feedback they see online as opposed to positive. This is all the more reason to make sure your customers are satisfied with your customer service. Nobody likes bad feedback, so when you do get some, make sure you address that problem immediately. You may also want to hop on that discussion online and say what you have done to fix the problem.

It goes without saying that customer service is one of the most crucial aspects of an up-and-coming business. If you want your customers to keep coming back and you want new customers to start coming, then you need to make sure that whenever they talk to one of your staff or even yourself that your customer service is as top notch as possible, because it may be the deciding factor in whether your business succeeds or fails.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Five W’s of Marketing

the five w's of marketing
Most people have heard of the Five W’s. They are who, what, when, where and why, and they are utilized by anyone from journalists to detectives to customer service representatives. Now when developing a marketing strategy, it is not only important to use these Five W’s but also to use them in a very particular order. Usually keeping the W’s in a certain order is not necessary, but with marketing it is definitely important.

To effectively formulate a marketing strategy, the best way to utilize the Five W’s is in the order of why, who, what, where and when. By following this pattern, much confusion and loss of precious time can be avoided. Many marketers think of utilizing what or where first, but doing this can definitely cause some issues.

By focusing on “why” first, many issues can be avoided. Companies should begin asking themselves why they are expending their limited resources on marketing. They should decide why they are spending this money on marketing instead of investing it in another area of the company. By asking these questions, it allows company executives to undoubtedly define their business and marketing plans. It also lets people deal with any sometimes unrecognized assumptions that they might have before getting too deeply into the strategy.

Some companies may have unrealistic marketing plans that need to face reality, while others might go in the advertising direction to solve a non-advertising problem. The “why” question can help a person to confront these problems head on before delving deeper into their strategy. It can be challenging at times to start with this question, but it is necessary to fully accomplish your goals successfully.

The second question for marketers to focus on is “who”. Who will help us accomplish our goals? Who will be receiving the message that we will be putting out? Who do we need to convince and win over in order to be successful? By asking this question, a company should then be able to clearly define its target audience. The better that the audience is defined, the more effectively the company will be able in addressing the three remaining W’s and formulating their marketing strategy.

“What” is the next question a company should ask. This question allows the team to figure out what they need to do for their target audience in order to accomplish their goals. This stage will include a variety of different important business decisions. A company will have to decide on things such as products, pricing, packaging, and policy. This stage is also where branding issues and personality dimensions for the brand and the task will be addressed.

“When” and “where” are the final W’s that should be utilized to formulate your strategy. These questions will allow you to figure out where and when is the best possible place to communicate your “what” and your “why” to your “who.” It will be necessary to make many tactical decisions during these stages, but if you have effectively utilized the first three W’s, then this should be much simpler.

Marketing principles can be simple at times and very complex at other times. If you follow the five W’s, I am certain that coming up with your marketing strategy will be much easier than you thought it would be. Who, what, when, where, and why are the perfect way to get things done. You just need to be careful what order you follow. By using them in the correct order, you are guaranteed to discover a much more successful marketing plan. So get started on your plan today and make sure to use the five W’s.

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