Building a Voicemail Funnel System for Filtering Out Junk

You’re an hour into deeply intense work at your business—virtually a work-induced coma of concentration—when suddenly your phone buzzes. You’re tempted to leave it be, but the damage of distraction is already done. Maybe it’s an important client. Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe you’ve won the lottery.

You take it out of your pocket, only to hear:

“You’ve been pre-approved for an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation…”

Another junk call. You click it off, blink, and then wonder: Where was I?

Because the cost of distraction can be as high as 2.1 hours per day, this everyday work situation is far costlier than you might imagine. Your momentum is destroyed and you’re more tempted than ever to check your email or social media accounts. The morning is shot.

Before you let another call that should go to voicemail get through to you, it’s time to consider: why does this happen far too often?

The Problem: You’re Not Letting it Go to Voicemail

In the above scenario, you were tempted to let a call go to voicemail. Yet you felt compelled to take the call anyway. Why?

In most cases, it’s because you haven’t developed a voicemail system in which you can place your full confidence. Entrepreneurs think that we need to be accessible by phone 24/7—that if we don’t pick up, that customer is going to abandon us forever. We don’t trust our voicemail to do the work for us.

This problem is easily solved when you have an effective voicemail system in place—one that you can trust to route calls the right way and make everyone who calls you feel like they’re valued. Once you feel that your customers are taken care of, all that’s left are junk calls. That makes them much easier to ignore.

The Solution: Building a Voicemail Funnel System

To eliminate distractions, you’ll want to assemble a simple voicemail system that accomplishes the following:

Separating business vs. private calls.

The first thing to do at work is to ensure that there’s a line of clear demarcation between personal and private calls. You can still route both to the phone of your choice, but it’s important to use a voicemail system that distinguishes between the two.

The most important feature here is a dedicated business voicemail inbox. This will let you check any pertinent business voicemails at your discretion, which means you won’t feel that you have to pick up every time there’s potentially a business call on the line. When you separate the two, you’ll find it easier to follow up on every business call at once. This lets you “batch” your voicemail time and spend the rest of your time on focused, dedicated work.

Forwarding voicemails to your email inbox as MP3 files.

You can further detach yourself from the voicemail funnel by having each voicemail sent to you as an MP3 file. If you’d rather read each voicemail at once and determine for yourself which ones demand callbacks, you’ll be better able to prioritize each voicemail.

You’ll also want to make sure that customers don’t drop as soon as they find out you’re not going to pick up your phone. That’s why it’s important to incorporate the next feature as well:

Give your customers something to listen to.

Don’t forget that the voicemail experience isn’t all about you. It’s also about what happens when that customer picks up the phone and dials the number you gave them. Will they feel valued? Will they feel that their voicemail actually gets heard? Does the voicemail greeting sound professional enough that they can count on someone regularly checking their voicemail on the other end?

In the age of fast feedback quick results, many of us tend to give up before we even hear the “beep.” But if you have an enticing voicemail greeting, you’ll be able to get more people to leave their message and therefore let you know exactly what it is that you need to prioritize.

Setting Up a Voicemail Funnel System that Eliminates Distractions

If you have a voicemail system in place that can handle each of the variables above, you’re already one step ahead of most distractions. But if you want to be 100% confident that your voicemail system will take care of everything while you work, it won’t hurt to go the extra mile.

  • Set up incoming call control. If you block the most frequent “junk” callers from your phone, you’ll reduce the amount of incoming call traffic in the first place. Grasshopper, for example, allows you to screen incoming calls automatically, blocking those callers you know have frequently hit you with junk calls in the past.
  • Handling simultaneous calls. What happens if an important client calls while you’re already on the phone? Your phone system needs to be adaptable enough to handle simultaneous calls without throwing you off balance. Make sure that no important client ever hears a busy signal, but instead goes to a voicemail.
  • Call forwarding. If you need to get work done but don’t want to lose out on an important call, you can always outsource that call to another member of your team with call forwarding. Make sure that your voicemail system has that function in place and that you alert someone when they might be “on deck” for important incoming calls, especially when you’re doing distraction-free, dedicated work. You should also look into the call transfers that your current phone system has available.

Finally, make sure you always make time to look up your voicemails, read through them, and call back every client who wants a call back. That way you’ll let them know that in the future, leaving a voicemail with you is worth the time and effort—and they’ll be less likely to simply hang up and try again later.

Pulling Your Voicemail System Together in One Place

The more functionality you have with your business phone system, the simpler you’ll keep your voicemail funnel. That’s why it’s important to use a service like Grasshopper, where you can cull together every call and direct the incoming voicemails as you see fit.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/Building a Voicemail Funnel System for Filtering Out Junk/
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How to Improve Communications with a Mobile Workforce

Not all teams huddle up before every play. If you have a mobile workforce—with a remote team across multiple time zones and contractors handling remote work—the idea of executing a singular strategy can seem like a pipe dream. But it’s possible to improve communications with your mobile workforce in such a way that you all operate as a single team—no matter where you are.

If there’s something lost in the remote work experience, it’s the face-to-face interaction that comes with daily work. Being unable to read someone’s body language can sometimes mean that certain aspects of your operation get lost in translation. How do you bring together a mobile team in a way that looks and feels like in-person interaction? We have a few ideas.

Strategies for Improving Communication with Your Mobile Workforce

These days, technology has made us more mobile than ever—the global mobile workforce has been over 39.3% for the past few years, which means you’re not the only one struggling to handle distributed team communication. But rather than guess your way forward, it’s important to have some proven strategies for bringing this distributed team communication to one central place. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use video conferencing to your advantage.Video conferencing technology is agile, effective, and adds that face-to-face layer that can change the context of your communication strategies. For distributed teams, it’s important to have that kind of face-to-face time through video calls in real-time. Whether you decide to schedule regular conferences or simply want additional tools at your disposal, add video conferencing to your communication channels.
  • Install at least one team-building activity. Team-building gets a bad rap. Many of us associate it with team-building exercises in traditional office settings, where the entire process seems redundant. But improving distributed team communication requires it. If there are ways for you to “gamify” the mobile workforce experience and turn activities into team builders, try them out. Toggl has a lengthy list of team-building activities you can try, including mobile apps.
  • Get everyone on the same page. One of the fastest ways to destroy communication within a distributed team is to have people running different apps and following independent structures. Make sure that you create a singular method of communication that all mobile remote workers are to use, and don’t be flexible here. It’s not only important to have an infrastructure in place, but to enforce that structure at the organizational level. For new remote workers, create an “onboarding document” that instructs them as to which apps they’ll need, how to communicate with other distributed workers, and where to send their communications. This will have a unifying effect on the entire team.
  • Listen to feedback. It’s not enough to build a system—you should be flexible enough to listen to your remote team when they provide feedback as to its effectiveness. Make sure to reach out to your mobile workforce on a regular basis and discover what they’re most concerned about. What do they think are the right tools? What would they do differently? When you start noticing common themes, you’ll know it’s time to adjust your strategy.
  • Build a culture. Before you start, you should decide what you want the culture of your agile teams to be. Do you want a highly independent company culture of self-motivated individuals? Then most of your priority should be in being able to identify them and train them for independence. Do you want a unified team despite the remote working schedule? Then invest in a culture that rewards communication and features regular standup meetings and team communication. If you’re in the position of leadership, the culture of your team is ultimately up to you.

Communicating with Customers

Bringing your mobile workforce together with an effective system will have the added benefit of making things easier on your customers. Here’s how:

  • Give customers the chance to reach you. Your customers should be able to dial a company number and reach the person best suited to handle their problem. When you connect a mobile workforce to the same phone system, you make it far more convenient for a customer to dial the appropriate extension.
  • Make your contact information freely available. Don’t just post your contact information on your website. Include a company number on any social media profiles and email signatures. 

Tools to Leverage: How to Incorporate These Strategies into Your Mobile Workforce 

It’s all well and good to talk about what you should do. But how do you pull it off? Here are some of the communication tools you should consider when building a better culture for your remote team.

Skype: Skype is one of the most popular work-life communication tools for remote teams thanks to its robust chatting and web conferencing features. Skype also has the advantage of being one of the most popular apps in remote working and web conferencing there is, so you won’t find it difficult to build a team with Skype capabilities.

Trello: Trello is a straight-forward project management app that makes it easy for teams to interact in a unified platform. The advantage here is that Trello makes it easy for everyone to get on the same page: they can see their current assignments and where these assignments fall within the pipeline. Of all the project management tools, Trello is one that’s going to be one of the best suited for teams with plenty of remote workers.

Zapier: Bringing a virtual team together can sometimes mean bringing in different apps and tools and making sure they function as one. That’s where a tool like Zapier comes in, automating some of the more repetitive tasks that your remote team shouldn’t have to handle themselves. For example, you can have Google docs automatically created based on the feedback of other apps, making it easy for the appropriate person in your team to access information—without adding an extra step of work for someone else on your remote team.

Google Hangouts: An easy way to get a team to talk to each other, Google Hangouts is a convenient service that will have your team feeling like an “office” team even if it’s only ever been remote. This is the kind of service that provides the feel of face-to-face meetings no matter where everyone might be.

Grasshopper: Call us biased, but one of the best ways to create the feel of a brick-and-mortar office setting—even if you have a team of remote workers—is to utilize a phone system that automatically forwards its calls to the appropriate team members. It doesn’t matter if one team member is in Australia and another is in New York—Grasshopper creates a professional portal for your clients and customers and ensures the appropriate team member gets their calls without a hitch.

 

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/How to Improve Communications with a Mobile Workforce/
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6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business in 2020

There’s no quick fix, or “one and done” solution when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). You have to be prepared to play the long game to see the full advantages of SEO when developing a site — and it’s worth it to see your site rank highly on search engine result pages.

That said, there are some methods that will give you a quick boost. Shift more attention to the most significant ranking factors and tactics that will give your site the ability to rise to the top of the search results this year.

Choose a Responsive Design

User experience is a big deal these days. Google loves to serve its users the best results possible. If your website isn’t easy to use on a mobile device, you’re going to suffer a setback in ranking. Think about it, have you ever landed on a site where you had to zoom in to read the text and scroll side-to-side to read all of the content? This was most likely the desktop version of a website. It was made for larger screens and doesn’t reformat to fit on different screen sizes.

Responsive sites will resize images and reorganize the blocks of content according to the size of the screen. If you want to test whether a website is responsive, open up a web page on a desktop or laptop. From the full screen, shrink the window by clicking and dragging, and you’ll see the sidebars move, the navigation and header will take on new positions and the content and images will line up differently. 

Mobile search volume accounts for more than half of the total searches made online (see chart below). A responsive, mobile friendly site is no longer an option, but a necessity, when it comes to providing an enjoyable user experience.

Create Keyword Clusters

Making a list of keywords that your ideal audience would use to find the content you’re offering will also boost your SEO ranking. Plug each keyword into a keyword tool to generate additional ideas. Assess the best options for keywords to include in your content strategy by grouping them into pools based on search intent. You’ll notice that many of those keyword options will be subtopics large enough to write an entire blog post about, in which you can provide more detailed content optimized for a related keyword.

For example, if you own a home improvement business, a central page on your site would be kitchen renovation. And because there are so many choices to make when renovating a kitchen, you could then go into depth and create a new page for every option, from counter tops and backsplash tile to faucets and refrigerators. When you’re planning your content, structure the website to feature central pages that are optimized for the most central, competitive keywords and most important aspects of your business.

Publish articles on the related subtopics in full detail in order to provide as much information on those major keyword topics, to show your expertise in your field, and to demonstrate authority within the content of your site. Google looks for this as partial evidence of your status as an expert in your niche.

Google also loves when there is a distinct organizational structure. By linking the subtopic posts to your major product pages, you signal what pages are most important to your site by creating a keyword cluster.

Picturejk-png

Image source: https://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/3-site-structure.html

Optimize Your Content

On-page optimization enhances the likelihood of your page being ranked for your target keywords. Avoid keyword stuffing and place your keywords strategically. For instance, use your target keywords in the front end of your titles, and keep your titles under 60 characters or they will get cut off in the search display.

Place your keyword in your URL. The most effective URLs are those that are under 5 words and summarize the title or content on the page. Keywords should also be included in the meta description. Using your keyword in the beginning of the meta description will improve the click-through rate for users. As will placing your keyword within the first 100 words in the first paragraph of your content, and using keywords and keyword synonyms in the subtitles.

Use structured data markup whenever possible. If you can provide a rich snippet, you may get a boost in the position your site is displayed.

Make Your Pages Quick and Nimble

With a heavy emphasis on user experience, page speed can make a huge difference in how your site performs. If you’re an ecommerce site, it becomes extremely important because every second your page takes to load will cost your business money from lower conversions.

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 mPulse Mobile Case Study on Page Speed Vs Conversion Rates, Image source: https://digitalducats.com/page-speed/

Test your mobile page speed here. You can improve your site speed by reducing image file sizes, using plugins, and using a content delivery network to give your website additional page speed.

  • To reduce the size of your images use Kraken or Smush.
  • W3 Cache is one of the most popular WordPress plugins that increase page speed, but you can decide for yourself by choosing one from this list.
  • Choose a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to reduce your pages load time from a list of options here.

Get Other Sites to Link to You

Establishing credibility and authority is a necessity to be competitive in search results. Backlinks are a powerful way to prove that your content is credible and authoritative because essentially it is being endorsed by the websites that link to you. But stay away from paid links, or any link scheme used to manipulate ranking in an underhanded way. Unnatural linking will lead to penalties and should be avoided altogether.

One approved method of link building is to become a guest author. There are guest posting sites in every niche and having knowledge about your business is all you need to create an article that can be submitted to a site for publication. It may take a few weeks to get a response, and you may need a few submissions before receiving acceptance. Get into a routine for guest posting to build backlinks as fast as possible.

Ask People to Share Your Content

A social network is a priceless asset for expanding your audience and getting more traffic to your website. Build your network by being active on the social media site that has the most impact on your business.

Install social sharing icons on your site and include a call to action to get the most shares. A retweet study revealed that content with share icons received 4 times as many retweets with the phrase “Please RT”.

Conclusion

Although there is a lot to put together to achieve a first page result, it’s a long-term game plan. Start building your website with SEO in mind to give your site the best chance at the top positions in search results.

 

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business 2020/
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5 Lessons for Building a Larger Professional Network

In the age of digital nomads, freelance enterprise, and the gig economy, it can be difficult to build a professional network the traditional way. But you don’t have to let that limit you. Today’s technology may seem like it gets in the way of fostering genuine connections, but the opposite is often true. If you know how to leverage social media and digital communication into a broader network, you can build a system of business connections that goes far beyond your local community. Here’s how.

Lesson #1: Go Face-to-Face

Today’s gig economy is full of phone calls, emails, social media interactions, and the like—essentially, anything but the face-to-face method of doing business. But face-to-face interactions haven’t lost their value in the slightest. If anything, they’re at a premium in the digital age, which makes these face-to-face connections more important than ever.

But if you’re an entrepreneur whose business exists almost solely online, this can be a challenge. How do you get out of your bubble and meet people in the real world?

  • Attend conferences. If you exist within just about any niche with a large enough digital following, there will be more than enough opportunities to attend conferences that bring you face-to-face with colleagues and subject matter experts.
  • Find co-working spaces. A co-working space in your area is a fine excuse to get out of your bubble and interact with new people. Not everyone will be a valuable business connection, but that’s not always the point.
  • Find MeetUp groups. MeetUp.com is full of leisure activities—hiking, salsa dancing, and the like—but it’s just as valuable for networking professionals like yourself. Chances are, your local metropolis already has an active MeetUp group just waiting for new members to join in.

Lesson #2: Enhance Your Social Media Presence

Some criticize social media and say it gets in the way of genuine human interaction. Hogwash. The technology is there for you to find new business connections. Here’s what you’ll need to do on each platform:

  • LinkedIn. Join and participate in groups of professional interest to you. It only takes a few moments of your time to participate in a LinkedIn group, but you’ll find that these connections can be far more rewarding than you’d ever imagine.
  • Twitter. Find the types of people you would want to engage with and…begin engaging with them. Make sure that you reply, engage, and interact online. Don’t forget to add value with every self-directed post you make on Twitter and make yourself worth the return follow.
  • Facebook. Launch a Facebook business presence and interact with customers—and don’t forget to join Facebook groups, just the same way you might interact with people on LinkedIn. Stay connected to your industry and you’ll find that many of the connections rise naturally.

Lesson #3: Don’t Limit Yourself to One Location

This may seem to fly in the face of Lesson #1, but it’s important to remember that instant communication should open new networking opportunities, not limit them. If you can’t get face-to-face interactions, be willing to make connections even on a digital basis with other people like yourself.

When a potential client reaches out to you for a video conference when you’d prefer an email, try indulging them. When you receive a potential lead via email that doesn’t seem like much, give your full effort. Explore every avenue you have available to you, because in the 21st century, you have the advantage of not sticking to one single location.

Lesson #4: Don’t Close Doors

In some professions, you’ll be exposed to a large number of potential clients. Many of these potential clients will deem you not a “fit” for their needs. That’s life.

The important thing to remember here: don’t close any doors before their time. Rather than warn these potential clients that they’re “making a huge mistake” or ignoring them entirely, make sure that you keep them in your Customer Relationship Management software. Let them off nicely. Tell them that if they go in a different direction and it doesn’t work out, you’d still be open to hearing from them.

Not every lead will return to you this way. But some will. There’s no reason to end a potentially lucrative business relationship before it begins just because you feel your pride wounded at any point in the interaction.

Lesson #5: Prepare Yourself to Give a Little More Than You Get

One of the best habits when it comes to fostering new business connections is to stop looking for what you can get from these interactions—and start looking for what you can give.

You’ll see this principle plays itself out across a range of strategies for your business.

In content marketing, you should aim to create content that’s more than worth the price of admission—in this case, a free click to your website. Give away some of your best information. Give away the goods. Spend time and energy on creating something of genuine value so that when people visit your blog, they feel that their time wasn’t wasted.

One of the most effective ways to close a sale is to utilize the law of reciprocity, an essential element from Robert Cialdini’s famous book Influence. The strategy here is simple: you give something away. You do your potential lead a favor. The need to reciprocate will help drive them to take further action with your company.

In business networking, be willing to introduce people to each other. If you’re overloaded on client work or can’t handle any more customers, refer a client in need to someone who can help them. You’ll get nothing out of this interaction, of course. But you will meet the needs of other people, which means you’ll be first in mind when they have something to reciprocate.

In social media, think of what kind of profile you would want to follow. Would you follow you? If you don’t have a large following already, the chances are that the answer is: probably not. Create genuine value with insightful links, relevant sources, and original thoughts.

Building a Larger Network, One Connection at a Time

These lessons are a solid primer on building a larger business network. But try to make a habit out of them. Stop closing the door on leads. Start participating with groups online. Go out beyond your bubble with the intent to see what kind of people are out there. Even if results don’t come right away, you’ll build a larger network of people who know you—and think about you—in no time.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/5 Lessons for Building a Larger Professional Network/
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Top 7 Small Business Trends for 2020

2020 is almost here, which means that now’s the time to start thinking about capitalizing on the top trends for small business owners. Before you get ready for the year’s end, it’s the perfect time for a refresher on what’s happened in 2019—and where the winds of change are blowing for 2020:

Trend #1: Automation Software

You don’t have to look very far to find that automation has been a trend as of late. But one of the best reasons it’s an emerging trend for a small business like yours is that automation software is getting more sophisticated—and more affordable.

Whether it means automating your social media accounts with content or capitalizing on one of the top business trends with automated chat bots, automation software can give you the appearance of a much larger operation—without you having to lift a finger.

There are two areas in particular that might be good for small business owners to pay attention to, according to Entrepreneur:

  • Chatbots with built-in machine learning can get started with your customers right away and only improve with time. As you tweak their messaging and allow them to interact with customers, you’ll have a head start on other businesses that haven’t utilized this technology to create fast responses with their customer service inquiries.
  • Virtual assistants are more popular than ever, and one reason is that it’s easy to use an AI virtual assistant. If you can start working with AI to delegate more of your more mundane tasks sooner rather than later, you’ll have a similar head start. Imagine where you could be in 2020 with a fully automated virtual assistant.

Trend #2: The Rise of Gen Z

For years, all of the talk in marketing has been on millennials as a rising demographic with increasing purchasing power. And those millennials aren’t going anywhere. But there’s another socioeconomic trend that all business owners will have to pay attention to: the rise of Gen Z.

Gen Z—defined as those who were born in the mid-to-late 1990s and later—are now coming of age. They were raised in a world with Internet, social media, and instant access to information. As such, marketing to them is different. And while 2020 won’t necessarily be a milestone in the world of marketing to Gen Z, it’s certainly as good a time as any to start rethinking your plans.

Trend #3: Mobile Applications

E-Commerce is one of the top areas of growth right now, as you can see at Statista. But one of the top areas for growth within E-Commerce can be found within mobile applications. Simply put, more and more small businesses are selling directly to the consumer by putting themselves directly on the consumer’s smart phones.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a new business or new to digital marketing—in 2019 and 2020, it’s easier than ever to construct a mobile app of your own. There are even no-code platforms that make it possible for you to generate an app with simple drag-and-drop ease rather than diving deep into the coding. This reduces expenses and labor associated with creating a mobile application for yourself.

Trend #4: Women In Leadership

The economic playing field continues to even, and that’s great news. But it’s not just in the United States where we should expect to see this trend continue. According to Intuit, “Women, especially those in emerging markets, will be a dominant force in the global market – taking increased leadership responsibilities across business, government and education.”

Not only is this a trend a sign that we’re headed in the right direction, but it’s also good feedback that the small business landscape is changing for the better.

Trend #5: Platform Consolidation

Sound a little technical? It is. But the good news is that small business owners don’t have to worry about that side of it. Platform consolidation only refers to the infrastructure that companies are putting together to serve as complete small business platforms.

When you can manage everything—from remote workers and social media marketing to the customer experience and user reviews—from fewer and fewer platforms, your to-do list gets smaller. So does your password management file. What’s left is an easy way to interact with your business and navigate everything you need to navigate as you look to scale.

In 2020, rather than adding more to your slate, think about all of the features of the platforms you already use—and ask yourself if you can scale back on these tools by consolidating to one or two specific platforms.

Trend #6: The Gig Economy Takes Over

Of course, we’re all aware of the effects the gig economy has created in every other trend. For small businesses, it can be a competitive advantage: being able to hire someone for a brief contract that doesn’t require full-time benefits.

The only question for 2020 is: where is this trend going? Expect it to become an indispensable part of doing business, with now over 57 million participating in the gig economy in the U.S. alone. By 2023, data suggests that over half of the U.S. workforce will participate in the gig economy in some fashion.

Trend #7: User Review Management

User review management is nothing new, but as E-Commerce begins to drive retail, user reviews will become more important than ever. That means that user review management software—tools that allow you to check reviews and gather feedback—will be of increasing importance.

In today’s small business environment, user reviews are essential. 97% of people read reviews for local businesses—to say nothing of how many users will give a quick glance at the user reviews of a product before they decide to purchase online. Incorporating user review management into your business isn’t an accessory anymore. It’s a necessity.

Today’s emerging trends might not all move into 2020 with equal momentum. But pay attention to shifting demographics and emerging technology to stay on top of your game and ensure that your small business runs smoothly.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/Top 10 Small Business Trends for 2020/
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The Employer’s Guide to Giving Holiday Bonuses

The holiday bonus can feel a bit like a double-edged sword for employers: if you give away too little, your employees might not be happy with you. If you give too much, you won’t have quite as much left over to invest back into the company that keeps them all employed.

It seems like a simple enough topic. Then you start getting into more serious questions. How does it differentiate from the year-end individual performance bonus? What are the valid alternatives if your company simply doesn’t have extra money to spend on bonuses?

And, finally, is there a happy medium, or a single system you can use to determine 1) how to give the “right” amount in bonuses and 2) how to go about it the right way? Here are our thoughts on making the holiday bonus experience work for everyone:

Tips on Giving Out Holiday Bonuses

How do you give out a holiday bonus? It starts with poring through your budget and getting a clear idea of what you can afford. But first, let’s get clear about what a holiday bonus is:

“A holiday bonus can generally be described as a gift expressing gratitude, which is given equally to everyone,” writes PayChex.com.

That means that your holiday bonus comes low on the list of priorities—if the other priorities on that list include making payroll, paying great benefits, and giving out performance-based raises to employees. Still, the holidays are a perfect time to express your gratitude for what employees have done throughout the year.

How to Determine How Much to Give, and How to Give It

Since it’s already the holiday season, it can seem too late to reward the hard work of the employees you’ve kept on staff all year.

  • Giving cash bonuses? Give out as much as you can afford to give to everyone. Once you start weighing holiday bonuses based on performance, you’ve stopped giving holiday bonuses. Now you’re simply adding to the performance-based raises you’ve already instituted throughout the year. Your holiday gift should be equal for everyone, but some employers do give percentage-based bonuses to their employees.
  • Time it before the holidays. The holidays are a time in which many Americans’ spending is at its highest. If you’re giving out a cash payment in your bonuses, keep this in mind—the end of the year makes for a natural point to give out bonuses, but give people some breathing room to help with holiday shopping.
  • Add the bonus to a paycheck. Cash bonuses can often be the easiest way to give bonuses for tax purposes, as it will fit neatly onto any employee’s W-2. And you’re not making it any harder for employees, as other gifts (like gift cards) would be considered taxable by the IRS.

Alternatives to Holiday Cash Bonuses

Let’s be honest: everyone’s favorite bonus from their place of employment is the gift of cash. But as it turns out, only about 38% of small businesses are able to give out cash bonuses every year. It’s great when you can do it, but it’s not always required. And if you can give bonuses like that to employees who deserve it, that should be your first priority.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t spread a little holiday cheer if your company is stretching the budget thin as it is.

Here are some alternatives to cash that employers like to use:

  • PTO. Paid time off is not only appreciated during the holidays—it’s the second best thing to getting a fatter paycheck. Essentially, it’s the same thing. If your payroll is based on salary, you can give away holiday “bonuses” in the form of extra time off, and it’s one of the most popular perks outside of a direct check.
  • Giftcards. If your company meets all of its financial obligations and provides its employees with great benefits, they’ll usually understand if you can’t afford the bonus amount. A gift card alternative can be a good way to show appreciation during the holidays without the financial requirements typically associated with cash bonuses.
  • Company swag. If your budget is stretched to the max and you still don’t want to give your employees nothing, some free gifts are always welcome. Company swag often comes at favorable prices when you buy in bulk, which makes it a great way to stretch the dollar while still giving your employees a gift for the holidays.
  • Holiday party. You’d be surprised at how much a holiday party can do to lift the spirits of people within a small business. In lieu of a Christmas bonus, a fun party can give people a chance to relax and kick back.

Budgeting for Holiday Bonuses

It’s that time of year, which means that you also have to be thinking about budgeting and year-end tax implications. Should you do a flat dollar amount? What did you do last year? What will make life easier for you in the new year?

These are all considerations you need to pay attention to during bonus season. And employees bonuses need to fit into accounting principles whether you’re doing flat dollar amounts or simply offering gifts to employees.

How do you prepare your budget? No two businesses are the same. But keep in mind that cash bonuses will show up on the balance sheet as income paid toward your employees, which needs to be taken into account.

If you can, spread the saving you do for holiday bonuses throughout the whole year. This makes the impact far less dramatic a drain on your cash flow, minimally disrupting your company on a month-to-month basis. But if it’s already too late for that, look at your cash on hand, the liabilities that require payment in the next three months, and what you expect your next tax bill to be. You have to prioritize meeting your financial obligations first, as fun as it can be to give out holiday bonuses.

A great holiday bonus is always a great way to cap off the year. But it’s important that you approach it the right way and find a way to give your employees a kind gesture for all of their hard work—big budget or not.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/The Employers Guide to Giving Holiday Bonuses/
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The Greatest NFL Players

Nfl Players

 

While it may not have the history of the NBA or MLB, the NFL has long been the top sports league in the United States. The game of football brings out a passion in fans that no other sport can replicate. It can be difficult recognizing greatness because there is just so much happening on the football field at one time, so here are the five greatest NFL players of all-time.

  1. Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor was the most dangerous and explosive player to ever play on the defensive side of the football. Playing linebacker in the 3-4 defense let Taylor line up anywhere on the field, and that may him almost impossible to stop. Whether he was rushing the quarterback, covering a receiver or defending the run, Lawrence Taylor always came up with the big play.

  1. Joe Montana

Montana lacked the arm strength of the prototypical quarterback, but he had an uncanny ability to put the ball exactly where he wanted. This skill was very useful in the short passing offense of Bill Walsh. Montana’s four Super Bowl titles are only topped by Tom Brady and Charles Haley.

  1. Jerry Rice

There will likely never be a wide receiver in the NFL better than Jerry Rice. He lacked the size and speed of most great receivers, but he may up for it with quick reflexes and excellent hands. Despite playing in an era that focused on running the ball, Rice has 6,000 more receiving yards than anyone else in NFL history.

  1. Jim Brown

Jim Brown made one of the most shocking decisions in NFL history when he decided to retire after the 1965 season at the age of 29. Brown held every rushing record imaginable at the time, so he had nothing left to prove on the field. Brown bulldozed his way to an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He also scored an impressive 106 touchdowns in only 118 games.

  1. Tom Brady

Tom Brady is the most dominant player at the most important position in the NFL. His Super Bowl titles are the most in league history, and he still has time to get more. In addition to the championships, Brady will also be second on the all-time passing yards and touchdown list when he retires.

from Louis DeTitto’s Sports Blog http://louisdetitto.net/the-greatest-nfl-players/
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