The Difference between Social Bookmarking and Social Networking

October 13, 2010 by admin ·  

Networking is an extremely powerful and effective tool when growing any business. According to American Consumer News, “It is having a sales force without paying for a full time staff, launching an advertising campaign without having a marketing budget, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field without having to become a media darling. The basic goal is to provide professionals, resources, and clients to networking members without incurring outrageous costs.”

In this day and age it is vital to use all the Social marketing and communication that we can to get our business noticed. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of social networking versus social bookmarking?

Wikipedia describes Social Networking as an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting our social networks or social relations among people. For example, connecting those who share interests and/or activities. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.

On the other hand, in a social bookmarking system, users save links to web pages that they want to remember and/or share. These bookmarks are usually public, and can be saved privately, shared only with specified people or groups, shared only inside certain networks, or another combination of public and private domains. They allow people to view these bookmarks chronologically, by category or tags, or via a search engine.

Social networking is a general term for the ability to communicate with other individuals online. Social networking sites allow users to create a profile, providing photos, website links, biography information, or a host of other personal details. Users can view other profiles, connect in forums, or comment in community chat rooms.

Each site is different and focused on a certain area. For example, sites such as MySpace and Facebook encompass a wide variety of functions on both a personal and professional level. Linked In, on the other hand, is focused mainly on business relationships.

Suite101.com states that social networking is a very general term for the ability to communicate with eachother online. People create users, profiles, provide photos and links. It is a connection between other users and allows people to comment in chatrooms galore!

Like social networking, bookmarking sites are meant to engage users and provide interaction, reads Suite101.com, however, bookmarking sites also provide a way to more easily market articles and links. Social bookmarking works best when users also take the time to get to know other members. Many sites rank the popularity of articles by the number of votes they get from their members, so it pays to get to know other users. Unlike a social networking site, however, members are limited in the items they can post.

All types of businesses, large and small, should take advantage of both of these free marketing tools.

Social media and social bookmarkeing are more than just a fad, and for many companies, it is becoming a bigger, more integral part of their overall marketing mix. They presents numerous opportunities for businesses that might otherwise cost a company thousands (if not millions) of dollars in marketing and advertising spent, according to marketwireblog.com. Both of these processes can be extremely useful as a communication tools, a way for writers and bloggers, and the business world to connect with other like-minded individuals!

9 Home-Based Business that Could use a Virtual Office in 2010 – Part 2

September 22, 2010 by admin ·  

In Part 1 of this article, we started by giving our twist on the first 4 of Inc Magazine’s list of “9 Businesses You Can Start In Your Pajamas in 2010.” Here come the next 5!

5. The online fitness trainer: It sounds kind of funny, but this is a business that allows you to skip your gym membership and get fit by downloading your exercise program on to your iPod. However, the business itself is a Web site where trainers and trainees meet to discuss custom workout plans by phone, e-mail or instant messages. In short, it’s a virtual business (the kind we like!). The tough part is making this service accessible to the generation of lethargic humans who would rather call in to meet their trainer than do it online. Not only that, when trainers are unavailable and a message needs to be left, it would be a great assurance to know that your trainer has a substitute to answer the phone for his clients. Also, mail needs to go somewhere – a central location where all the trainers can pop in to pick up their personal letters and still maintain a professional, one-company image. Let’s not forget that since this company is growing, it will soon need a 1-800 number with a live receptionist. Why pay a full time employee when only a fraction of your clientele will call in anyway?

6. The Italian shopping tour lady: Yes, she makes a living being the kind of tour guide that takes people shopping in Italy. This unique business, which was featured in the Oprah magazine, is run out of a home in New York. While calls can be taken while in the country, this is, after all, a tour guide business, with trips to Italy 4 times a year. Having a virtual assistant taking calls and using a voicemail to e-mail phone system will allow this business woman to keep receiving messages abroad, while her new tourists can still sign-up, pay for, and get information on the Italian outlet shopping guided tour.

7. The government mapping guy: While an impressive resume is on the side of this business owner who has contracted out to clients like the U.S. military and NBC news, it’s no question that when bureaucracy comes calling, every little detail matters. So it helps to have a big-company image even when you’re not. A live receptionist answering a government contracting company shows prestige that matches the job at hand, and will no doubt benefit this business’s clout to skeptic callers who are unaware of the portfolio proving its capabilities.

8. The baby designer mom: Who says a famous person’s kid shouldn’t have their own closet full of designer threads? Certainly not the Gap or Nordstrom, companies who have bought designs from a mompreneur working from home designing baby items for celebrity class mothers. Why does she need a virtual office? For one, meetings with these big players can’t happen around her coffee table, and it just might be that she’ll need to travel to make a deal with a new company. Yes, she can go to their offices, but she will have so much more clout by inviting them in to hers – which can be worldwide. Virtual offices can be rented by the hour or day, and with a well-connected business center, a network of offices and boardrooms can be accessed instantly for business location hoppers.

9. The podcast organizer: Callisto.fm was founded after a need was identified in the podcasting industry. While content had been organized well with other online mediums, nothing existed for podcasts. So Michael Sitarzewski got busy organizing, and caught the attention of many. But he also has another business for web applications. So how does he juggle them both? A virtual office would help! Two ideas come to mind: he could have two separate lines, which would be answered in individual company names, or he could have a single 1-800 number that would ask a user to press 1 for company ‘A’ or press 2 for company ‘B’. Then the call would be immediately transferred to a live receptionist, or even direct to his cell phone where ever he is. In the background, a virtual assistant would be helping with paper work and keeping office duties in check by providing services such as typing, sending out memos, managing databases and keeping accounts in Excel.

And there you have it! 9 pajama startups in 2010 that can boost their success by making use of a virtual office service.

9 Home-Based Business that Could use a Virtual Office in 2010 – Part 1

September 15, 2010 by admin ·  

A visit to Inc Magazine’s site will show you an article titled “9 Businesses You Can Start In Your Pajamas in 2010.” In it, you will find everything from a mompreneur who got her baby clothing line into a store where Nicole Kidman shops to a guy who wears logo t-shirts for money (and to think we do it for free sometimes!). While the business ideas are fascinating and the stories inspiring, we in the office industry can see how each of these pajama-startups could be even more successful with a virtual office to come to their aid when the big knuckles start knocking.

And so, here is our take on the article’s featured businesses:

1. The t-shirt guy: His company is called IWearYourShirt.com and surprisingly has taken off. The way he works is that he charges companies to wear their logos on his t-shirt, with each day of the month costing the amount of the calendar number. So $1 buys your company a September 1st wear, and $30 buys you a September 30th wear. Here’s the catch: he’s expanding. Now there’s someone wearing Your Shirt on the West Coast and no doubt we can soon expect a cornbread eating, t-shirt wearer in the South and an igloo building, shirt model in the North (or we hope). When the process gets complicated and companies can pick locations to have someone wearing their shirts, IWearYourShirt.com will need a headquarters and a centralized phone number that can direct calls to the appropriate person who wears clothes for a living.

2. The entertainment franchisers: Two corporate fellas started Games2U, a mobile entertainment van that can be rented out at birthday parties and events. Each fully equipped vehicle is sold as a franchise and now a big shot at Dell has decided to help the expansion. Wouldn’t it be great if each city had a local office where meetings could be held with the area’s franchisee owners every now and then? No need to rent full time offices, a booking by the hour will do just fine for these entertainment moguls, who likely spend most of their time on the road anyway.

3. The e-mail advice lady: She gives financial advice in an e-mail newsletter to 9,000 subscribers. Pretty impressive! But that’s her second business. She runs another one at home while being a mother of two. It would be safe to believe that this accomplished woman would need a telephone answering service to take care of her advertising calls, take messages from financially incompetent people and look professional to her high-end writers. That way she can spend more time doing what she does best – marketing advice.

4. The virtual insurance agent: This man works from home with his baby daughter in lap giving sales pitches and insurance advice to clients over the Internet. His success is based on the fact that he’s a work-from-home kinda guy, which is being seen as more trustworthy than the mysterious insurance ‘men in black’. Since he does virtual insurance, it would be most fitting for his office and phone communications to be virtual too! His meetings can still be over voice chat, but truth be told, no one wants to take work with them on their vacations. This man’s virtual office can be complementary to his existing virtual communication with clients. The beauty of virtual plans is they come without contracts and minimum terms, which makes them flexible for a business owner and reliable to a client base when they need a human to talk to right away.

Stay tuned for our next article, giving the remaining 5 reasons why these home-based businesses could use a virtual office!

Finding the Right Fit when Hiring

September 9, 2010 by admin ·  

In this day and age, it is next to impossible to know whether or not you are hiring the right “fit” for your business. Business managers are very apprehensive because in these difficult economic times it is a fact that people will say anything it takes to get the job. This of course becomes evident only when the person has already been hired. It is easy to make excuses for these “trainees” and we let many of their mistakes slide, as patience is needed when someone is learning the ins and out of a new company. Often, as their probation period passes, it’s not just company knowledge they lack, but a less than eager willingness to learn and a lack of initiative.

Unfortunately, this is when issues arise. Managers ask themselves: “Do we really want to go through the whole process of screening, hiring, and training ALL over again?” The fact is, if we leave these people in place, with their less than optimal work ethic, we are truly not getting what we pay for, nor are our customers.

People who are hiring assume they are ready when they follow the usual process: The posting, the interview, references, and of course, the training. But do we really stop and ask ourselves exactly what KEY characteristics, skills, and behaviours are we intending on hiring for the long term? Are there “deal breaker” points that would make the decision for you, or are we expecting the educated and seemingly professional people to be right for any position?

Hiring the right mix of skill, professionalism, education, and presentation is extremely important. This is essential from the very beginning process, and according to LeaderShip.com, here’s how to start:

Determining your need to hire a new employee. – Are you properly utilizing the skills and talents of your current employees? Do you know what needs to be done? Can your business growth support a new employee? Are the key characteristics and skills matched to the job responsibilities?

Conducting a thorough job analysis. – What are the job’s essential functions and key performance criteria?

Writing a job description. – Detailing the job specification for the position based on the job analysis and outcomes desired.

These first steps are crucial when starting the hiring process, and naturally if these steps are executed properly, it makes for a much easier transition for you and your new team member!

Using color to brand your office space

September 1, 2010 by admin ·  

It is well known that colour can influence our psyche. In society, colour also possesses meaning. For example, baby girls are always wrapped in pink, baby boys in blue. Interior decorators know what shades of colour to select to create certain moods and atmosphere. In business marketing, the effects of colours on buyers are also examined.

The way you use colours to stage your office in front of your clientele can also affect the message that you are trying to send them. The mood and atmosphere of your office can convey certain meanings, which is a great branding opportunity.

Here are some guidelines on how to use certain colours to achieve the effect you want:

Cool blue – blue is a colour that can be calming, but too much of it can also be depressing. However, used correctly, this colour can also show sophistication and intelligence. If you are an upscale high tech or science-based company then blue is your colour. While you don’t want everything in your office to be blue, you can use this colour for things like your presentation folders, your computer accessories, a filing cabinet, and anything associated with information.

Growing green – green symbolizes growth and environment, no wonder. It is a very warm and welcoming colour. Although it seems cliché, companies vying for attention from eco-friendly consumers will find this colour essential. You can add green to your office with plants and art decorations with vibrant shades of green. Keeping with the ‘growth’ theme, use hard wood desks and furniture to accent the green.

Pretty in pink and… – pink, lavender, baby blue, turquoise and other feminine colours appeal to women only, so use them if your clientele is mainly that. These colours are seen as soft, gentle, elegant and romantic. While home decorating accessories are easy to find in these colours, you may need to be more creative for your office. For example, using an artful mug as a pencil holder instead of a plastic black one, or making a chair cover out of colourful fabric to cover up the leather – are a few ideas to get you started. Fresh flowers are always a nice addition of these colours!

Mystery black – perhaps the most popular colour used in office furniture is black. It creates an atmosphere of mystery and thus, intimidation. Big ‘movers and shakers’ will like this colour for showing assertion during a deal-making process in a darkly furnished boardroom. Black is also a neutral colour, which means it can be a backdrop for other colour effects you want to achieve.

Exciting red, orange, yellow – these colours create feelings of happiness and stir up emotion and alertness. Their brightness makes them great for companies dealing with children, and for those wanting to show their product or service is going to make life easier. On the negative side, these are the colours used in hazard signs. They are usually the first thing people notice, especially yellow (think of traffic signs). Use them well in areas you want to draw attention to, but avoid them for things like confidential filing cabinets you want to keep unnoticed.

While all these colours can be used effectively, they shouldn’t be over done in your office decorating. Keep in mind that neutral colours like beige, gray and black can all be a backdrop to your colour coordination so that your symbolism remains subtle.

Should You Buy Or Lease Office Space in Vancouver

June 24, 2010 by admin ·  

Vancouver Office Space in the Burrard Businss District

The Reflection of the Marine Building in Vancouver's Burrard Business District.

Vancouver Office Space: Buy or Lease?

Vancouver is a city that is booming with real estate. When you’re in the market for office space for your business there are a few things that you should think about before making this investment.

With ever-changing office vacancy rates in the city of Vancouver and stock markets globally, it is uncertain what the future may bring. You need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of leasing or buying office space.

Here are some pros and cons of leasing vs. buying in Vancouver.

Pros of Buying Office Space

  • Tax Deductions – the associated costs of owning and running a commercial space can provide expense deductions.
  • Fixed costs - locking in your commercial mortgage can give your business clear, fixed costs.
  • Additional income - owning your office can add the advantage of renting out extra office space and adding more income.
  • A Retirement Fund – the prospect of owning commercial space allows the owner to sell out and fund their retirement.

Cons of Buying Office Space

  • Upfront Costs - buying space usually costs more money upfront which is not practical for new businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Lack of Flexibility - a new or growing business may experience unexpected needs in the future.

Pros of Office Space Leasing

  • Free-up Working Capital – with your money not tied up, your business can respond to opportunities in the market.
  • More Time – allows more time to focus solely on running your business.
  • Prime Property – leasing allows opportunity to be in a great location with a high image.

Cons of Office Space Leasing

  • Variable Costs – when you lease you may be subject to annual rent increases and higher costs at the time when your lease expires.

  • No Equity – When you lease you are funding someone else’s retirement with your lease payments.

There are pros and cons to both buying and leasing. Making a decision will come down to finances, tax, and personal issues.

Investing In Vancouver Office Space

Here are some simple tips and things to think about before investing in Vancouver office space.

  • Decide How Much to Invest

When considering how much money you should invest in your office space you should think about your present needs, how much you can afford, and whether you wish to use this space as an investment vehicle.

  • Think About Timing

When is the right time to buy or lease an office space in Vancouver? Factors to consider are your personal situations, and “market timing.” Market timing is your judgment of whether the market will be going up or down.

Spring and fall usually have greater market activity, and a wider choice of reasonably priced properties for sale, than summer and winter. However, looking back over many years it is clear that no season is predictably the least expensive time to buy in this area. Sometimes the best time to buy is when nobody else is looking. A little-known secret is that there is usually a noticeable drop in prices at the end of December, creating an opportunity of which very few buyers take advantage.

When looking for an office space in Vancouver the most important thing is that you consider the long run and the needs of your business.

Vancouver Business Networking Where You Work

June 18, 2010 by admin ·  

Robson Square lit up at night during the 2010 Olympics.

Getting involved in your local Business Improvement Association is a bit like joining a board of trade on the street where you work. You get to know the local banker, barista and nail bar owner on a first-name basis. They provide a great opportunity for Vancouver business networking.

Based on a long and successful history in the United States, the Business Improvement Association represents all businesses within a neighbourhood bringing together local merchants, entrepreneurs and professionals.

In Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, there are 35 individual Business Improvement Associations. Downtown Vancouver itself has seven BIAs including Robson Street, Gastown, the West End, Yaletown, Chinatown and Strathcona.

Unlike other business organizations and associations which charge a fee at the door for everyone who attends, participating in BIA events, meetings and committees are free. All business owners within the zone contribute financially through an annual levy against property taxes.

Whether you own a business or work for one, attending meetings and joining committees provides an inroad to developing local clientele as well as networking among those who run businesses or work near you. It also provides free access to marketing surveys, neighbourhood profiles, special studies and reports for the area.

Most Business Improvement Associations are run by a volunteer board of property owners and business community members. Apart from regular meetings, the BIA holds special events, business networking events and forms committees to promote community awareness, marketing and street beautification /image enhancement as well as safety. Marketing committees get involved in everything from developing advertising and media campaigns to orchestrating street festivals and community events.

If you are a professional, getting involved in your BIA will bring you in touch with neighbourhood lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, and medical and dental practitioners. The opportunities for business networking and making new contacts with other Vancouver professionals and business owners are excellent.

If you are a newcomer, the first step is to get to know your BIA’s executive director or president. This individual is your personal welcome wagon host to the local business community – in many cases, on a first name basis with business owners and bankers alike.

Vancouver Business Networking at the Local B.I.A.:

To find out more about the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, go to http://www.downtownvancouver.net

For more details on business associations within Vancouver, visit http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/cityplans/bia/index.htm

How a Live Answering Service can Assist Your Small Business

May 11, 2010 by admin ·  

A live answering service can be a great asset to a business. In order to discuss the advantages of a live answering service we must first define it. A live answering service is a business service that answers clients’ phone calls and dispatches messages.

There are many ways that a live answering service can assist your small business.

Why do I need a live answering service?

  • First, if your hours of operation are around the clock, 24/7, you are going to need someone to manage your calls when you are not available to answer them. If you are not 24/7, customers are still going to call when you are closed, out to lunch or unavailable. A live answering service will reassure your customers you will be there for them to answer and respond to any calls, or answer questions if you are there or not there.
  • Live answering services can save you money. Hiring an employee in-house for the task of answering phones can be very expensive. A live answering service is a cost effective and professional alternative to hiring more staff for the same purpose.
  • A live answering service will be able to keep up when your company grows. If your business cannot manage your overcalls during the day, a live answering service can. Normally, overcalls go to voicemail or automation, but a live answering service is a good alternative. Ultimately it becomes your staff and is able to answer basic questions about your business. Also, if you need more advanced services (such as order processing or package training) the advanced call center could help manage your needs. Your business will never out-grow a live answering service!

How it can give you a leg-up!

  • A live voice to answer your phone calls will give you a big advantage over your competitors. A professional staff will help you when you are busy helping clients. This frees up time for you and puts you at ease that all of your phone calls are being taken care of.
  • People are three times more likely to leave a message with a live voice than a recorded voice. Usually, a voicemail message leads to more hang-ups which results in lost revenue. A live voice is there to answer their call when they need help.
  • It is more personal. A live answering service can customize their answering with your company name. The representatives will take messages, enter data into your web form, or forward calls to you as if you’re in the next office.
  • It’s just more convenient for you! You don’t need to take the time hiring and having a new employee fill out paperwork. You can sign up for a live answering service and cancel at any time with no trouble at all.

A live answering service is not only going to help your small business around the clock , but it’s going to cost a fraction of what you’d pay an employee. It can help bring your company more revenue because of the personalization of a live person rather than a voice recording.

Now, you know a bit more about what a live answering service can do for your small business!

How To Make Your Office Space More Green

April 26, 2010 by admin ·  

Plants help to make your office environment more green. (Credit: MsCaprikell / cc)

Whether you’re leasing or buying an office space you should consider going “Green.” Making your office more environmentally friendly can actually save you money and reduce your company’s ecological footprint.

Let’s take a look at some office-greening opportunities.

1. Heating and Cooling

  • If you have access to your office thermostat, heat your office to a maximum temp of 21°C when occupied; when you are not around turn it down to 16°C. Use automatic setback thermostats to adjust the temperature for weekends and evenings.
  • Use weather stripping and caulking to minimize heat loss from possible cracks near windows or doors.
  • Consider solar shading to reduce the amount of heat from the sun that penetrates your office building
  • Try to remember to keep the blinds closed to conserve heat in winter and keep it out during summer.
  • Think about outside air economizers that use outside air to cool down buildings when the air outside is cooler than the air inside.

2. Go Green with Your Printer

  • Try to buy and use recycled paper.
  • Use eco-mode on your printer if it has one.
  • Save paper by printing on both sides whenever possible.
  • Recycle your used ink and toner cartridges.
  • When buying a printer, choose one that is Energy Star compliant.
  • Do not set your printer to come on when you turn your computer on. Only turn it on when necessary.
  • Check out Soy-Based Ink. Not only is soybean ink better for the environment but it has many other benefits. Soy Ink’s prices are comparable to petroleum-based ink, but less soy ink is needed. It produces brighter, sharper colors because of the innate clearness of the soybean oil. And, it emits less harmful toxins.

3. Lighting

  • Turn off the lights in the room when not in use.
  • Do not leave your office lights on overnight.
  • Use light wall colors. The lighter your paint colors the more daylight they will reflect meaning you will need less overhead lighting.
  • Replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps wherever you can. They use 75 percent less energy while producing the same light output.

4. Office Supplies

  • Recycle used office supplies whenever possible
  • Purchase products that are made from post-consumer content such as paper and plastic products.
  • Eliminate your use of products that there are no green alternatives for, such as rubber bands.
  • Turn of machines when you leave for the night and activate sleep modes for printers, copiers and fax machines.
  • Consider consolidating these machines by purchasing a machine that performs multiple functions in one product.

5. General Ideas for a Greener-Office Space

  • Place recycling boxes or centers in a prominent location so that you and employees remember to recycle.
  • Encourage re-usable mugs, glasses and dishes rather than disposables.
  • Have at least one large plant in your office. They not only are great for decoration but they recycle the air.
  • E-mail instead of Faxing whenever possible
  • Use organic products for cleaning of washrooms and offices.
  • Get and use a battery charger. Re-usable batteries will save time and money and reduce the amount of toxic materials sent to landfills.

All of these ideas are simple and inexpensive ways of making your office space more environmentally friendly. Going green is something that can save you money and you can feel good about.

Our Contribution:

Some of the things we have been doing at Elite Business Centres to reduce our environmental impact:

  • We recycle paper, glass, plastic and are working toward a paperless office.
  • All money collected from bottles and recyclable containers is donated to a different charity at the end of each year.
  • Recently, we added sensors so that if an office has not been occupied for 40 minutes, the lights automatically go off.
  • We are participating in a “turn your monitor off” campaign to encourage everyone to turn off their monitors at the end of the day, rather than rely on energy-consuming screen savers.

If you don’t have a Receptionist, you ARE a Receptionist

January 6, 2010 by admin ·  

Receptionist

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