10 Simple Ways To Cut Business Expenses

There’s no avoiding the fact that running a business costs money. Whether it’s a brick-and-mortar retail store, a service provider, or a small e-commerce company, every startup has its own set of expenses. While you can’t fully eliminate your costs, you can significantly reduce them with a few simple changes to your business operations.

Holly Perez, senior manager of personal finance software company Quicken, shared these 10 cost-cutting solutions to help you reduce your business’s budget:

1. Outsource. Bring in freelancers or contractors for short-term jobs. You won’t have to pay a full-time salary with benefits to employees who you may not need after a project is completed. If a particular temp worker stands out, you may be able to hire them to fill a current or future position, which could help you cut recruiting and training costs.

2. Hire interns. Hiring interns is a win-win situation. Interns get valuable experience, and employers enjoy low-cost labor. However, interns might need extensive training on your software and procedures before they can get to work. Keep this in mind when weighing the costs and benefits of this tactic.

3. Use email whenever possible. When sending simple messages, like greetings to new customers and requests to vendors, do it electronically. Small costs like stamps, envelopes and paper can add up fast, so cutting the little things can make a big difference.

4. Print less. Ink cartridges, paper, file cabinets and storage space are all expenses you can easily limit in the digital age. Store the majority of your documents and data on a hard drive, scanning paper documents if necessary. Be sure to back up all of your files and protect your computers with passwords.

5. Negotiate lower credit card APRs. Many small business owners use credit cards for working capital, minor purchases or travel expenses. If you’re paying a high annual percentage rate, try to negotiate a lower rate with your provider. You can save significant money over the long term.

6. Negotiate lower prices with your suppliers. You shouldn’t just be wrangling better deals from your credit card companies; you should also negotiate with your suppliers. Most suppliers are amenable to the idea of negotiating prices, because they would rather do so than lose a regular customer.

7. Pay invoices early. Many suppliers offer discounts for paying invoices within the first few days of receiving them. If you have the cash, paying early is a great way to build long-lasting relationships with your suppliers.

8. Buy used equipment. With technology constantly improving, you can get big discounts on software and hardware that was recently replaced by a new version. Used equipment can be just as useful as new equipment, but even at a few months old, these products will come at a significantly lower price.

9. Travel less. You can save a lot of time and money by avoiding unnecessary trips. Use online resources like Webex and Skype to conduct meetings with people in multiple locations rather than traveling to visit them in person.

10. Let employees telecommute. If possible, allow your staff to work from home at least one day per week. You’ll see a cost savings on your electricity bill, and you may ultimately be able to relocate to a smaller office.

The story was originally published on Business News Daily.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Making Your Business Buzzworthy

An article from the Business News Daily discusses how email marketing used to follow a one-size-fits-all model, but now new technology is giving businesses the chance to take their campaigns to the next level.

Vivek Sharma, co-founder and CEO of email marketing technology provider Movable Ink, said there are numerous new ways businesses can help ensure their emails are not only read, but revisited multiple times.

Originally, email marketing was similar to direct mail in that everyone got the same message, Sharma said. Eventually, email messages could be targeted to different customer segments — for instance, one email could be sent to men, and the other to women.

Sharma said “agile marketing” takes things several steps further. “Agile marketing is actuality-based marketing — meaning, rather than creating a prefabbed message, the message is adapting to you based on when you are [reading it], where you are, what device you are opening it on and even the weather outside,” Sharma said.

To help businesses better understand the capabilities of email marketing, Sharma has compiled a list of 10 ways retailers can use email marketing to generate excitement and boost sales:

  • Multimedia: Rather than a simple picture, use video and a countdown clock to unveil a new product and create a sense of urgency.
  • Social media: Use social media to make emails interactive by incorporating real-time tweets and Instagram photos.
  • Personalize: While some think slapping someone’s name at the top of an email makes it personal, take it even further by personalizing an image with the recipient’s name on it — for example, a piece of jewelry with the person’s name engraved on it.
  • New deals: To get consumers to revisit the email after they have opened it, use new technology that allows for the email to be updated with new deals every hour.
  • Shipping: Include real-time shipping-status information in purchase confirmation emails.
  • Updated locations: Use geo-targeting to show nearby store locations and the hours when each of those stores is open.
  • New products: Change offers that are promoted based on each shopper’s location. For example, a ticket broker could change the concerts or sporting events it promotes in an email based on each consumer’s location.
  • Bar codes: Use bar codes in mobile emails to drive sales by letting consumers have their email scanned straight from their mobile device for an in-store discount.
  • Best sellers: For businesses with fast-moving products on their home page, use new tools that allow the emails to always show the most up-to-date best-selling products. It ensures the emails never go stale.
  • Mobile friendly: Optimize emails for mobile devices — for instance, include a “click to call” button for customers who want to make a purchase or speak to a customer representative.

Sharma said email marketing makes the most sense for retailers because it has the largest return on their investment. He points to past research that shows that the return on investment for email marketing is $29 for every $1 spent.

“Dollar for dollar, out of all of the digital channels available to retailers, email simply performs the best,” Sharma said. “It is incredibly effective.”

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

10 Surprising Social Media Statistics

If you’re managing social media for your business, it might be useful to know about some of the most surprising social media statistics this year. Here are 10 that might make you rethink the way you’re approaching social media.

1. THE FASTEST GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC ON TWITTER IS THE 55–64 YEAR AGE BRACKET.

• This demographic has grown 79% since 2012.
• The 45–54 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+.
• For Facebook, this group has jumped 46%.
• For Google+, 56%.

Those are impressive numbers against the prevailing idea that social media is “just for teenagers.” It certainly points to the importance of having a solid social media strategy if these age brackets fit into your target demographic.

Rethink it: Keep older users in mind when using social media, particularly on these three platforms. Our age makes a difference to our taste and interests, so if you’re focusing on younger users with the content you post, you could be missing an important demographic.

2. 189 MILLION OF FACEBOOK’S USERS ARE “MOBILE ONLY”

Not only does Facebook have millions of users who don’t access it from a desktop or laptop, but mobile use generates 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue as well. This is a 7% increase from the end of 2012 already.

Rethink it: There are probably more users accessing Facebook from mobile devices than you thought. It’s worth considering how your content displays on mobile devices and smaller screens before posting it, particularly if your target market is full of mobile users. Of course, make sure to make sharing to social media from mobile more straightforward.

3. YOUTUBE REACHES MORE U.S. ADULTS AGED 18–34 THAN ANY CABLE NETWORK

Did you think TV was the best way to reach the masses? Well if you’re after 18–34 year olds in the U.S., you’ll have more luck reaching them through YouTube. Of course, one video won’t necessarily reach more viewers than a cable network could, but utilizing a platform with such a wide user base makes a lot of sense.

Rethink it: If you’ve been putting off adding video to your strategy, now’s the time to give it a go. You could start small with simple five-minute videos explaining what your company does or introducing your team.

4. EVERY SECOND TWO NEW MEMBERS JOIN LINKEDIN

LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, continues to grow every second. From groups to blogs to job listings, this platform is a rich source of information and conversation for professionals who want to connect to others in their industry.

Rethink it: LinkedIn is definitely worth paying attention to. In particular, this is a place where you may want to focus more on new users. Making your group or community a great source of information and a newbie-friendly space can help you to make the most out of the growing userbase.

Make sure you share consistently to your LinkedIn company page and profile by, for example, scheduling your posts.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA HAS OVERTAKEN PORN AS THE NO. 1 ACTIVITY ON THE WEB

We all knew social media was popular, but this popular? Apparently it’s the most common thing we do online. So next time you find yourself watching Kitten vs. Watermelon videos on Facebook, you can at least console yourself with the fact that the majority of people online right now are doing something similar.

Social media carries more weight than ever. It’s clearly not a fad, or a phase. It continues to grow as a habit, and new platforms continue to appear and develop.

Rethink it: Putting time and effort into your social media strategy clearly makes sense in light of these stats. If you weren’t already serious about social media, you might want to give it a bit more of your time now.

6. LINKEDIN HAS A LOWER PERCENTAGE OF ACTIVE USERS THAN PINTEREST, GOOGLE+, TWITTER AND FACEBOOK

Although LinkedIn is gathering new users at a fast rate, the number of active users is lower than most of the biggest social networks around. So more people are signing up, but they’re not participating. This means you’re probably not going to have as good a response with participatory content on LinkedIn, like contests or polls, as you might on Facebook or Twitter.

Rethink it: If you’re hoping to get people involved, think about which platforms are best for that. Looking at the latest Twitter statistics and Facebook statistics, these platforms might be a better place for your contest or survey, while passive content like blog posts or slide decks might be just right for your LinkedIn audience.

7. 93% OF MARKETERS USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS

Only 7% of marketers say they don’t use social media for their business. That means there are lots of people out there getting involved and managing a social media strategy. It’s becoming more common to include social media as part of an overall marketing budget or strategy, as opposed to when it was the outlier that no one wanted to spend time or money on.

Rethink it: If you’re struggling to make your strategy work, or you just want some advice, you don’t have to go it alone. If 93% of marketers are using social media for business, you can probably find someone to give you a hand. Plus, there are lots of blogs, videos and slide decks around to help you out. Be sure to find the right social media management tool for you to stay on top of everything.

8. 25% OF SMARTPHONE OWNERS AGES 18–44 SAY THEY CAN’T RECALL THE LAST TIME THEIR SMARTPHONE WASN’T NEXT TO THEM

It’s pretty clear that mobile is a growing space that we need to pay attention to. And we’ve all heard the cliché of smartphone owners who don’t want to let go of their phones, even for five minutes. Well, apparently that’s not too far from the truth. If 25% of people aged 18–44 can’t remember not having their phone with them, there are probably very few times when they’re not connected to the web in some way.

Rethink it: While you can reach people almost anytime, since they have their smartphones with them almost always, this also means you can interrupt pretty much any part of their lives. Don’t forget that having a phone in your pocket all the time isn’t the same as being available all the time.

9. EVEN THOUGH 62% OF MARKETERS BLOG OR PLAN TO BLOG IN 2013, ONLY 9% OF US MARKETING COMPANIES EMPLOY A FULL-TIME BLOGGER

Blogging is clearly a big focus for marketers who want to take advantage of social media and content marketing. This is great, because blogging for your business has lots of advantages: you can control your company blog, you can set the tone and use it to market your product, share company news or provide interesting information for your customers. With only 9% of marketing companies hiring bloggers full-time, however, the pressure to produce high-quality content consistently will be a lot higher.

What a lot of people struggle here is how to write the best headlines for your articles, when the best time is to publish posts and lots of other blogging questions that arise when people are starting out.

(Of course, not all marketers work at marketing companies, but the stats are still interesting–how many companies in any industry can afford to hire–or already have–a full-time blogger?)

Rethink it: If you don’t have (or can’t afford) a full-time blogger for your business, be aware that having a content strategy that requires consistently posting on your blog will mean a lot of work for your marketing team and/or other team members in your company to keep up that volume. This can work, it’s just important to realize how big a task it is to run with a full-time content strategy without a full-time content creator.

10. 25% OF FACEBOOK USERS DON’T BOTHER WITH PRIVACY SETTINGS

We’ve seen a lot of news about social media companies and privacy. Facebook itself has been in the news several times over privacy issues, Instagram users recently got in a kerfuffle over changing their terms of service, and the recent NSA news has seen people become more conscious of their privacy online.

But despite these high-profile cases of security-conscious users pushing back against social networks and web services, Velocity Digital reports that 25% of Facebook users don’t even look at their privacy settings.

Rethink it: Assuming that all of your customers are thinking along the same lines could be a big mistake. Especially if you’re basing that on what you’ve heard or read in the tech news. Remember that your customers might have very different priorities than what you expect.

Your social media strategy really comes down to what your goals are, and who your target customers are, but it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to the trends happening across the web. Hopefully these stats will help you to identify trends that will affect your strategy and adjust accordingly.

The story was originally published on Fast Company.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Does A BYOD Policy Make Sense For Your Business?

Smartphones and tablets are what make many small businesses tick. Modern mobile devices are portable enough for a daily commute and powerful enough to keep your employees productive from anywhere. For many small businesses and startups, these devices are practically indispensable.  So should small business owners be the ones to buy iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones or BlackBerrys for their employees? Or should your employees bring their own?

For decades, companies have usually provided a desktop computer for each employee if the job called for it. But as personal computing devices become more and more mobile — not to mention numerous — small business owners are faced with tough new questions. Shelling out for company-owned devices may be the most secure option, but it can be expensive — and, counterintuitively, could even dampen morale. Here are three reasons to adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model for your business — and three reasons to stay far away from BYOD.

Your business should go BYOD because:

1. It’s cheaper: Smartphones and tablets are not cheap. Regardless of how many employees you have, these devices might not fit into your business’s budget. And the hardware costs are just the beginning: don’t forget to factor in the cost of a data plan for each device. Prices vary widely between devices and carriers, but providing a Web-connected cellphone or tablet could cost you $1,000 or more for each employee.  Besides, most of your employees probably already own at least a smartphone — and if they don’t, they’re likely to be in the market for one soon.

2. Employees want BYOD: When it comes to mobile technology, most workers have strong brand preferences, be it iOS, Android or otherwise. Those employees are most content when they can work using their favorite devices, applications and Web tools, instead of ones hand-picked by their employer. And working from your own smartphone or tablet is often simply easier, since there’s no need to juggle multiple devices or partition mobile activities. That translates into happier, more productive employees. And because workers will almost always have their personal devices on hand, they can be ready to work at a moment’s notice.

3. You’re busy: Let’s face it: You’re busy, and your small business isn’t likely to have an IT department on hand to manage a fleet of cellphones and tablets. And there’s a lot to manage beyond picking the right devices and juggling payment plans. You could spend a lot of time micromanaging which apps your employees use for functions like reading and responding to company email. And if a company-owned device breaks down, you’ll be the one tasked with fixing it. By going BYOD, you leave those decisions in their hands, letting you stay focused on daily business operations.

Your business should stick to company-owned devices because:

1. It’s (much) more secure: Letting your employees work on an unsecured personal device is risky business — especially when it’s a device that’s so easy to lose. Even when using devices and apps that hold sensitive company data, employees are likely to use weak passwords — or no passwords at all. And if an employee accidentally sends private client data to a personal contact, your business is on the hook. By managing company-owned devices, you can control which applications your employees use — and how. You can also retain the option to wipe company devices — even remotely — or revoke access to company accounts at any time. All else aside, legal liability is the No. 1 reason to steer clear of BYOD policies.

2. You own the numbers: Letting employees use their own phones has its perks, but what do you do when an employee leaves? Shelling out for company-owned devices means you own more than just the phones — you also own the corresponding phone numbers. That can save you from a lot of headaches — and keep you from missing out on business if a client tries to contact your company through a former employee. Owning all phone numbers associated with your company will also help your next employee get right to work without any hiccups and avoid lost productivity.

3. Your employees really need them: The majority of Americans have smartphones, but the pocket-size computers are far from ubiquitous. If you depend on your employees to respond to that email from wherever they are, buying them a phone might be the best option. Employees can’t be expected to shell out for an expensive phone or tablet — not to mention foot the bill for a data plan. Biting the bullet on company-owned phones isn’t just secure and practical for small businesses; it might also be the only way to ensure that every employee can stay connected and productive when they’re away from the office.

Ultimately, this choice comes down to the needs of your individual business. Not every employee needs to stay connected to work through a smartphone or tablet. But when they do, there are very good reasons for small business owners to buy and maintain their own devices. On the other hand, if your business is very small, or if employees rarely handle sensitive company data, the flexibility and cost-savings of a BYOD policy might be too good to ignore.

The story was originally published on Business News Daily.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The Social Super Bowl Ad Brawl

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations throughout the Boise Valley. More information available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Four Mobile Technologies That Will Change How You Do Business in 2014

In 2014, new mobile gear will help you connect with customers, sell your product and stay productive wherever you are. In other words, these four burgeoning mobile technologies are primed to change how you do business in the new year.

Phablets: If you don’t already own a megasized smartphone/tablet hybrid — often called phablets — you might by the end of 2014. Over the past two years, smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger. In 2013, phablets, such as the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3, saw huge success, and scores of huge smartphones are set to debut next year. Business users in particular can benefit from the extra screen real estate afforded on a phablet. Their big displays are more comfortable for Web browsing, compared with the cramped screens on smaller devices. And they offer the space business users need to view or edit documents and spreadsheets on their smartphone. In other words, owning a phablet means you can do real work on your phone.

True mobile multitasking: Mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS were designed to display one app on-screen at once. Real mobile multitasking, however, requires the ability to view two or more apps at the same time. This year saw the debut of the productivity-boosting feature on Android phones from makers such as Samsung and LG. The rise of large phablets have made it more practical to work in multiple windows at the same time on your phone, but the feature is also available on more modestly sized handsets like the 4.9-inch Samsung Galaxy S4. Meanwhile, the proliferation of Windows 8 tablets has helped bring true mobile multitasking to larger slates. That’s a plus for the mobile business user who wants to check their email while browsing the Web, for example. Expect more devices to ship with side-by-side multitasking this year.

Smartwatches: The first big smartwatches launched in 2013, but 2014 could be the year they hit the mainstream. A string of wrist-ready devices launched this fall, and heavy hitters, including Google and Apple, are rumored to be readying smartwatches for release in 2014.The wearable gadgets aren’t just a novelty; they could have major benefits for business users. The existing models pair with your smartphone, then scan your accounts to notify you of incoming email, text messages, calendar events and more. That means business users are less likely to miss an important email, phone call or meeting because the notifications are right on your wrist. Some models feature a built-in microphone to let users dictate notes or perform hands-free searches on the fly.

Tablet/laptop hybrids: It’s the return of the netbook. Tablets that pair with keyboard accessories aren’t new, but they are becoming more popular. More importantly for business users, 2013 was the year when tablets finally became powerful enough to replace your laptop for real work. Powerful slates such Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 actually have more in common with Ultrabooks than most tablets. Not only that, but the rise of Windows 8 tablets means business users finally have access to a desktop operating system on a tablet — the same operating system they probably use in the office every day. Meanwhile, tablet hybrids such as the ASUS Transformer Book T100 prove you don’t have to break the bank to get a keyboard-equipped, business-ready tablet. Expect more of the same in 2014.

The story was originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Cybersecurity Tips For Your Business

An article from Fox Business offers five ways you can help your business avoid being a victim of a cyber attack.

Every day, it seems another security breach makes headline news. Companies such as Apple, Twitter, Facebook, The New York Times — even federal government agencies have fallen victim to cybercrime this year.

While big companies make the news headlines, the real targets are small businesses just like yours. According to the 2013 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec there was a 42% increase in targeted attacks in 2012, and 32% of all attacks were aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. That’s a three-fold increase from 2011. Yet many small business owners don’t believe their business is big enough to attract the attention of a cyber-criminal. Quite the opposite, small businesses are easy pickins’.

Most businesses today are reliant on the Internet. Technology provides the power to reach global markets, efficiently run operations and manage finances from anywhere at anytime. Yet along with all those benefits there is also significant risk.

You don’t have to be a technology guru to take smart and simple steps to minimize the risk of a cyber-attack on your small business. Here are a few things you can do immediately to protect your small business.

No. 1: Create Strong Passwords. My husband is a disaster when it comes to passwords. He has sticky notes all over his desk and when he can’t find what he needs his backup plan is to call me. Typically, he uses some variation of the same elements for all his passwords, but he gets confused about what he used where. Yikes!

Don’t use the same password over and over, and don’t use one that is easy to guess. The longer your password the better, because it’s more difficult for a cyber-criminal to hack. The experts recommend a minimum of 12 characters if the site allows.

Make sure you store your passwords safely. Don’t use sticky notes like my husband. If you want to store them manually file them somewhere away from your computer.  It’s best to write down a clue rather than the actual password as another protective measure.  However, the most secure way to store your passwords is to download a password management program.

No. 2: Log-Off. One of the simplest ways for a cyber-criminal to access your proprietary information is from your computer or mobile device when you forget to log off. Think about how many times you leave your computer or mobile device unattended while you’re still logged-on.  A cyber-criminal can easily and quickly access account information, log-ins, even financial information. So before you leave your computer or devices unattended for more than a few minutes, take a few seconds to log-off to protect your information.

No. 3: Update Systems. Cyber-attackers are really smart folks. I wish they’d put their intelligence to work for a good cause rather than criminal activities, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen. What you need to realize is that as soon as you have updated your anti-virus software, web browser and operating systems, the cyber-criminals are already devising new methods to steal your information.  To protect your business, you need to make sure you’re regularly updating everything. This should be a priority, not something that falls to the bottom of your “to-do” list.

No. 4: Regular Backups. Even when you do everything right, there is still a risk of becoming the victim of a cyber-attack. Make backup copies of all important business data such as financial information, word documents, electronic copies of legal documents, databases and customer account information. If possible set your systems to back-up automatically, and if not make it a process to do it at least once a week.

No. 5: Limit Employee Access. Not everyone on your team needs access to the same information so limit your critical data access to those who truly need it to do their jobs. Require employees to have unique passwords that are changed at least every 90 days.  And don’t allow any employee to install a software program without your permission.

The bottom line is — a determined hacker can most likely crack any system, but why make it easy for them.  These simple steps can minimize your risk and help you maintain the integrity of your company’s critical information.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The Top Workplace Trends for 2014

Happy New Year!! An article from Forbes.com discusses the workplace trends for the new year. 2014 will be a slow period, where a lot of major workplace issues will surface and executives will be scrambling. As more boomers retire and more people work from home, the idea of “work” will start to change. Hiring processes are going to start to shift as more recruiters rely on the Internet and the word “reputation” will become even more important to professionals and companies alike. Here are the trends I’m following that will affect you one way or another next year:

1. Healthcare’s impact on the workplace. CNNMoney.com found that 9 out of 14 economists say that businesses are putting off hiring because of health care reform next year. The reform will force employers with 50 or more workers to provide affordable health insurance starting in 2015. Starting next year, small businesses will be able to get a credit for up to 50% of their health care premium costs if they buy insurance. It’s debatable exactly how Obamacare will impact the workplace but many are saying (at least Republicans and some economists) that companies will be laying off more full-time workers and hiring more contingent workers in order to dodge the penalty.

2. Freelancing becomes a normal way of life. One third of Americans are freelancers (17 million people), contractors and consultants right now and there will be more of them than full-time employees in six years. Employers are saving more money hiring freelancers because they don’t have to pay benefits (they will want to avoid the Obamacare penalties for instance) and they are looking to hire experts who can complete specialized projects. This also means that more professionals will be working from home instead of a traditional office setting, which saves companies money. Despite how the public views the working from home phenomenon, Gallup reports that you are more engaged when working from home.

3. Gender pay gap starts to close. Earlier this year, Gallup found that only 24% of women are happy with what they earn at work compared to 32% of men. This was a more general view of the workforce but what we found recently was that if you break it down by generation, there isn’t much discrepancy between millennials. After controlling for all other factors, there is only a 2-3% difference between male and female pay across all 3 generations, and that difference is the smallest for Gen Y. The gap is going to shrink overall because 36% of the American workforce will be millennials by next year and that number will continue to rise. As more women are becoming educated and more men leave the workforce, the gap will shrink even more. Millennials are all about equality in every aspect of life and want women and men to be treated the same. For instance, 74% of millennials support same sex marriage, which is a big reason why it passed in many states.

4. The economy delays career growth. The economy hit the workforce really hard and there are no clear signs that it’s going to bounce back any time soon. The Congressional Budget Office expects unemployment to remain near 8% in 2014 and Generation Opportunity reports that there is a 15.9% unemployment rate for millennials. A new studybetween my company and PayScale.com shows that millennials are most likely to have had to move back home with their parents due to financial hardship after starting their careers (28 percent) compared to Gen X (11 percent) or Baby Boomers (5 percent). Millennial workers are now 30 years old before hitting a median wage of $42,000–up from 26 back in 1980. Millions of millennials are moving back in with their parents when they graduate and Pew Reports that 36% of millennials are choosing to put off moving out on their own. Many recent graduates are finally getting internships, which delay their ability to actually get a full time job. Degrees and internships don’t guarantee jobs anymore and the economy has slowed down career development for many.

5. Boomers retiring – changing demographics in the workplace. We’re going to see a lot of boomers retire starting next year and it’s going to cause major shifts in workplace demographics. In fact, 18% of boomers will retire within five years and 68% of HR professionals say that boomers retiring will have a major impact on the workforce. Next year, millennials will account for 36% of the American workforce too. One of the biggest problems companies will have is succession planning. They are going to have to train Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers before their boomers retire or they will be in major trouble. On the flip side, new opportunities will be created for younger generations who are more loyal to their companies.

6. Employers create new ways of filtering candidates. Every year it becomes more competitive to apply for jobs because there are more applicants for fewer positions. In the past, I’ve called this the black hole of resumes and the Wall Street Journal calls it “resume oblivion“. Companies, especially larger ones, are finding new ways to filter candidates. One of them is to have HR programs that filter out those who didn’t graduate from college. The second way is to use social networks to screen candidates. Jobvite.com reports that 94% of employers are using social networks for recruiting and that number will be about 100% next year I predict. More smaller companies and even midsize companies are looking at your online footprint first before giving you an interview to see if you would fit into the corporate culture and if there’s anything negative that comes up for your name. More companies will be using tests next year to try and close the skills gap. One test is called the “Collegiate Learning Assessment“, which provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills.

7. More companies provide wellness programs. Health and wellness at work will become one of the biggest conversations next year, especially with the Affordable Care Act coming into effect. Employers will be able to use financial rewards and penalties to encourage healthier behaviors. Currently, employees who smoke cost companies an average of $5,800 per year and depressed employees cost companies $23 billion each year in loss of productivity. 10.8% of the workforce suffers from depression and they miss an average of 8.7 days per year due to poor health. Companies know they can save a lot of money and be more productive and effective with a healthier workforce. Professionals who are healthier are happier in their jobs too.

8. The continuous job search. Research shows that people are always searching for new jobs and opportunities. People are just not satisfied anymore with the work they do so they are continuously searching even after getting a new job. 73% of workers don’t have a problem looking for new employment before leaving their current employer and 48% of millennials say they conduct job search activities at work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that people have about eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 34. People are going to get even more restless in the future as the internet creates an even larger marketplace for jobs.

9. ROI of college is looked at closer. Next year the pressure is going to be on colleges much more than in years past. College’s continue to increase their tuition rates for 2014 and there are still one trillion outstanding student loans out there. Due to all the unpaid internships, it’s becoming harder for students to pay back their loans and save up to live on their own when they graduate (26 million of them live at home). In response, colleges are being forced to prove their worth and one way they are doing it is to offset unpaid internships with money. The other threat that college’s have to worry about is MOOC’s that offer free online courses that people can take from their homes. More colleges are going to be offering online courses next year in order to lower costs and allow for more diversity in the student body.

10. Reputation become more important for both professionals and companies. The word “reputation” will be talked about in length next year by employers and professionals alike because people will be hired and promoted based on it and will only work at a company that has a positive one. For professionals, companies are focusing their recruiting on outcomes, waiting for the perfect hire and are more risk averse. They want to hire a candidate that already has a reputation built on a strong track record. From the professionals standpoint, they are starting to judge companies based on reputation when deciding where to work. A recent study by CareerBuilder shows that about 75% of job seekers will accept a lower salary for a good brand.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

End-Of-The-Year Checklist for Business Owners

An article from the Small Business Center at Fox Business discusses how to wrap up 2013 so you can hit 2014 running.

There are a couple of steps to take to make sure your business is legally fit for 2014. By doing so, you’ll be making sure your business gets the right start in the New Year, and you won’t end up paying extra in administrative fees and fines. Here’s what you need to consider before the calendar hits 2014:

1. Incorporate or change your business structure: If you’re like many small businesses you may have started as a sole proprietorship or partnership. But many businesses eventually outgrow these business structures. If your business is not incorporated, you may want to incorporate (either by forming an S Corp or LLC) to shelter your personal assets and perhaps give you more flexibility and cost savings when it comes to your taxes.

If you choose to incorporate, you can look into a “delayed filing” option with a document-filing company. This option lets you get all your paperwork submitted now, then it will be held and filed on the first business day of 2014. This approach will simplify your tax paperwork, since your business will have the same business structure for all of 2014.

2. Close any inactive businesses: If you’ve ever registered a business with the state and are no longer operating it, you need to file a formal termination with the state as soon as possible. Why? Until that paperwork is in, you’re still going to be charged for any fees associated with the business, you’ll need to file an annual report, as well as submit any tax returns.

To close a business, you need to file an “Articles of Dissolution” or “Certificate of Termination” document with the Secretary of State where your Inc. or LLC was formed. Keep in mind that you will need to settle any owed taxes before you can do this (but again, the sooner you take care of this, the better…when it comes to taxes, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away).

Make sure to take care of these matters while it’s still 2013. There’s no reason to keep paying for a business that’s basically been retired.

3. Hold an annual meeting for your Corporation or LLC: If you’ve gone through the work to incorporate your business, make sure you keep it in good standing. If you haven’t held an annual meeting for your Corp or LLC this year, be sure to get one in before the end of the year. Along with the meeting, you’ll need to generate written minutes/resolutions to be signed by the shareholders (Corporation) or members (LLC). If this will be your first meeting, you can find free meeting minutes online to use as a starting point.

4. Make sure you file an annual report for your corporation/LLC: Most states require some form of an annual report filing (some every year; some every two years). If your state requires you to file this report, there is a specific due date for filing each year. In some cases, it’s on the anniversary of your business’ incorporation date; in other cases, it’s when your annual tax statements are due; and in some cases, it’s at the end of the calendar year. Missing this deadline can result in penalties and late fees, and depleted state budgets mean that we’re seeing several of these late fees grow.

5. File an “Articles of Amendment” to record any company changes: If you made any changes to your business (for example, if you changed your business address, dropped the .com from your official company name, authorized more shares, or a board member left), you’ll need to file an official notification with your state.

This may seem like a pretty trivial thing, but it’s actually essential to keeping your LLC/Corporation in good standing. For example, if your business happens to be sued and your paperwork isn’t up to date, it’s possible that the plaintiff will try to come after you personally.

6. Review your estimated tax payments for 2013: Now that we’re nearing the end point of the year, review what your business has made year to date and assess your estimated tax payments to avoid underpayments or overpayments. You’ll want to adjust your final 2013 payment (which is due Jan 15, 2014) as needed.

The next few months will be busy, but set aside some time to address these legal obligations. It will help you save money in fees and penalties moving forward. And what better gift could you give your business than a fresh start for the New Year?

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work

An informative article from the Wall Street Journal about companies trying to boost productivity by micromanaging seating arrangements. By shifting employees from desk to desk every few months, scattering those who do the same types of jobs and rethinking which departments to place side by side, companies say they can increase productivity and collaboration.

Proponents say such experiments not only come with a low price tag, but they can help a company’s bottom line, even if they leave a few disgruntled workers in their wake.

In recent years, many companies have moved toward open floor plans and unassigned seating, ushering managers out of their offices and clustering workers at communal tables. But some companies—especially small startups and technology businesses—are taking the trend a step further, micromanaging who sits next to whom in an attempt to get more from their employees.

“If I change the [organizational] chart and you stay in the same seat, it doesn’t have very much of an effect,” says Ben Waber, chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, a Boston company that uses sensors to analyze communication patterns in the workplace. “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.”

Mr. Waber says a worker’s immediate neighbors account for 40% to 60% of every interaction that worker has during the workday, from face-to-face chats to email messages. There is only a 5% to 10% chance employees are interacting with someone two rows away, according to his data, which is culled from companies in the retail, pharmaceutical and finance industries, among others.

Want to befriend someone on another floor? Forget it. “You basically only talk to [those] people if you have meetings,” Mr. Waber says.

Companies should think carefully about who they put where, according to experts who study office design and workplace psychology. Grouping workers by department can foster focus and efficiency, says Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, but mixing them up can lead to innovation

In his dissertation, Mr. Catalini examined the impact of proximity at an academic campus in Paris. When scientists were shuffled around to different buildings because of an asbestos problem, the result was more experimentation, he says. The shake-up produced some bad ideas—but also more breakthroughs.

MODCo Media, a New York advertising agency, has tested three different seating arrangements over the past few years. For about six months, the company intermingled its accountants and media buyers, hoping they would begin to absorb each others’ skills through “osmosis” and “overhearing phone calls.”

The experiment ended up saving MODCo “a couple hundred thousand dollars a year,” says CEO Erik Dochtermann, but it turned out badly for the accountants. The media buyers began to understand the financial side of the business so well that MODCo no longer needed a full accounting department. Now, the media buyers “do the accountancy on the fly” and the company’s chief financial officer checks their work, says Mr. Dochtermann.

Other seating configurations have helped inspire new products and expedited the training of new employees, he says.

At travel website Kayak.com, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Paul English has joked with his colleagues about developing an algorithm to capture all that goes into devising his seating plan for the engineering team.

He uses new hires as an excuse to alter the existing layout and thinks carefully about each worker’s immediate neighbors. He takes into account everything from his employees’ personalities to their political views to their propensity for arriving at work early—or, more important, their propensity for judging colleagues who arrive late.

“If I put someone next to you that’s annoying or there’s a total style clash, I’m going to make your job depressing,” he says.

Young Chun, a product designer at Kayak, is one of Mr. English’s ambassadors in his pursuit of an office with “a balance of energy.” A self-professed member of the “loud” contingent of Kayak employees, she was recently dispatched to the mobile group, where she estimated 90% of the workers were quiet, to get them to be more vocal.

“The first week that I was down there I was like, ‘Oh my god, I could hear a pin drop here,’ ” she says.

It took a few weeks, but Ms. Chun says she was able to get the group to open up and start chatting. Her seating mission accomplished, she was soon switched to another section of the office.

Aspects of a worker’s disposition can, in fact, be contagious, according to Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “People literally catch emotions from one another like a virus,” she says. Her research has found that the least-contagious emotional state is one marked by low-energy and sluggishness. The most contagious is a calm, relaxed state—which she nicknamed “the California condition.”

People with similar emotional temperaments work best together, Ms. Barsade says. But if a manager is trying to get a stressed-out worker to brighten up, the best strategy is to surround her with lots of cheerful, energetic people.

Constantly shuffling people around has its consequences, however. Ms. Barsade says that moving from desk to desk can make workers feel like they have little control over their environment. And some seating experiments can cause a backlash.

For about four years, employees at HubSpot Inc., a marketing-software company based in Cambridge, Mass., switched seats randomly every three months. The seating strategy was meant to reflect the lack of hierarchy at the company, which HubSpot says was especially helpful in recruiting Millennials. Eventually, the company added some structure to the arrangement, splitting workers into loud and quiet groups.

But when HubSpot decided to group its executives in one part of the office, the employee feedback was negative. The executives felt more efficient and liked being able to chat without having to arrange formal meetings, but the employees felt the higher-ups were too far removed. The setup was reversed after six months.

Employees now have the moving process “down to a science,” says HubSpot Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Dharmesh Shah, unplugging their phones and rolling file cabinets to their new spots swiftly.

But having grown to more than 600 workers, the company is facing a new problem: no one can remember who sits where.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.