Can Your Office Layout Help Your Business Grow?

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Photo by Annie Spratt on UnsplashAn episode of the series “Silicon Valley” found the CEO and employees of a start-up company on the search for office space. After finding what he thought was a great deal, the CEO took his team to view the space, a windowless room with buzzing fluorescent lights. While the CEO was delighted, the team was horrified at the idea of spending at least eight hours a day in such a space.

While it might seem like a small thing, where you set up shop and the layout and design of the office space you choose for your business can have a significant impact on productivity and your company’s ability to grow. Whether you’re investing in office space for the first time or are considering moving to a bigger workspace, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Open Layout vs. Cubicles

Whether an open layout, where employees all work together, often at the same table or workbench, or cubicles are better for productivity is a debate that goes back as far as the invention of the cubicle (in 1967). On the side of the open layout is the fact that cubicles can cut people off from each other, minimizing opportunities for collaboration.

On the side of the cubicle is the fact that people often struggle to focus and get their work done when there are a lot of distractions. In some cases, people feel more on the spot and exposed in an open layout setting, which might also have a negative effect on their overall productivity.

It might be that offering your employees a “best of both worlds” option is what works best for your business. You can set up private workspaces for people to use when they need to focus and think, as well as open areas where people are encouraged to gather and discuss ideas.

Noise Levels

Another aspect of office design that can impede your company’s ability to grow is volume. When there are many people gathered in one room, working away, the noise level can get pretty high. One study from Oxford Economics found that more than half of all surveyed employees were less productive when there was ambient noise (such as phones ringing,  co-workers chatting or noises from offices above or below your own).

There are a few ways you can reduce noise levels in the office to help minimize distractions. Carpeted workspaces more easily absorb sounds, for example. You might also install special panels on the ceiling to help bring down sound levels. Another option is to encourage people to take phone calls or to chat in areas that are closed off from or otherwise away from open spaces.

Temperatures

You don’t want your office to be too hot or too cold, as temperature extremes can affect employee performance. Getting the temperature right can be tricky, but it’s usually a good idea to aim for somewhere between 67 and 75 degrees. How warm or cold your office is can also depend on the clothing choices of the people who work there. Men who are stuck wearing long sleeve shirts and jackets might appreciate a colder space while women who wear sleeveless or short-sleeves blouses or dresses might be shivering in a 67-degree office space.

One option is to allow employees to adjust the temperature in their own workspaces, such as by having space heaters for people who are always cold or small fans for people who tend to run hot.

Cleanliness

How tidy an office space is can also affect employee productivity.  One way to improve office tidiness is to eliminate the causes of clutter. Try to go paper-free as much as possible, so that your team doesn’t have stacks of files or other paperwork piling up on their desks.

Cleanliness goes beyond managing paper clutter. Take a look at the common areas, such as the kitchen or lounge space, if your company has them. Do people leave things out or do they put them away after use? Are spills cleaned up quickly? Encouraging people to clean up after themselves can help to foster a sense of pride in the space they work in, and by extension, in the company they work for.

When it comes to business growth, even the small things can make a difference. To learn more about strategies you can use to help your company grow, contact the team at New Direction Capital today.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

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10 May 2018

Ways to Avoid Burning Out

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Photo by Cris DiNoto on UnsplashOwning your own business or being a manager of a business can bring with it high levels of stress. When that stress gets to be too much, something known as burnout can occur. There’s conflicting data on how common burnout is, with some reports stating that just 7 percent of professionals have experienced it, according to the Harvard Business Review. Other surveys claim that more than 60 percent of workers have been affected by burnout.

Burnout is more than just stress. It can interfere not only with how you feel and your ability to work. It can also have an adverse effect on your business and on the productivity of your team and the people you manage. Learning to recognize the signs of burnout is one of the ways that you can attempt to keep it from happening.

What Are the Signs of Burnout?

Burnout can seem as if it comes on quickly, sneaking up on you when you least expect it. But the reality is that it actually builds slowly and usually has several recognizable signs.  One of the most prominent signs of burnout is feeling exhausted, often both physically and emotionally. You might struggle to find the energy to do your work and might dread the idea of slogging through various tasks and responsibilities throughout the day. Other signs of burnout that are associated with exhaustion include feelings of anxiety, depression, a loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating.

Another symptom of burnout is feeling cynical or disengaged about your work. Where you once felt a sense of accomplishment or a confidence in your work, you might now feel uncertain of the value of the things you or overly critical about the quality of your work.  It might also seem that no matter how much work you do, it’s never enough.

 Why Does Burnout Happen?

Burnout happens for a few reasons. A lack of work-life balance is a major cause of burnout and can often be the reason why business owners or managers experience it. In the case of employees who burnout, one of the reasons might be that they feel a lack of autonomy or control over their jobs or their day-to-day tasks. Having to work with a micromanager or a bully can also make an employee more likely to burnout.

In some cases, burnout can happen because a person isn’t a good fit for their current job. Not everyone has what it takes to be a business owner, for example, and some people might find themselves in positions that just aren’t a good match for their personalities or skill sets.

What You Can Do to Avoid Burnout

Although some workplace environments or the stress of running a business can make it seem as if burnout is inevitable, the reality is that you can take steps to avoid burning out and to help your team avoid burnout.

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to avoid burning out is to give yourself some downtime or take a genuine break. For many over-extended business owners, the idea of taking a vacation and completely disconnecting, even for a few days, can seem terrifying. But a few days of rest and relaxation can be just what you need to come back refreshed and with a brighter outlook on your work and company.

Another way to avoid burnout is to try to change what you can. Usually, there are things behind the stress, exhaustion, and feelings of inadequacy. Figure out what they are and what you can do to correct them. For example, if you’re constantly feeling overworked, it’s likely that there are at least a few tasks you can assign to someone else. In some cases, outsourcing certain responsibilities, such as finding a virtual CFO to handle your business’ finances, can help lighten your burden and keep you from burnout.

Setting boundaries can also help you reduce the risk of burning out. Know your strengths and know when to say no to people who are asking you for favors or assistance. Depending on how your business is faring, it might be that learning to say no to certain things is what you need to grow and move to the next phase.

You can look at burnout, or the risk of burnout, as a growing pain experienced by many business owners. The team at New Direction Capital can help you take steps to reduce the risk of burning out. Contact us today to learn more.

Photo by Cris DiNoto on Unsplash

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Photo by rawpixel.com on UnsplashOne thing business owners don’t often consider when they start a company is what they will do when it is time to move on from their business. Often, there’s the assumption that you’ll be with your company through thick and thin, until the end.

In reality, there might come a point when selling your business is the most viable option for it. That said, just as you didn’t rush into launching your company, it’s important not to rush into a sale of your business. Here are several questions to ask before you sell your business.

Is Your Business Going Up or Down?

One assumption that business owners often make is that it’s better to sell their companies when those companies are experiencing a downswing. But the old adage “buy low, sell high” should apply when it comes to selling a business. If your company is starting to decline, the offers you’re going to get from buyers won’t be as good as they would be if you put your company up for sale while it’s at its peak or getting close to it.

How Much Is Your Business Worth?

When it comes to business worth, there are two values. There’s the amount you think it’s worth, and then there’s the amount that a potential buyer values it at. In some cases, business owners make certain decisions that can make their businesses appear to be worth less than they are. For example, if you route multiple personal expenses through the company, it’s overall value might be lower than you’d expected, meaning that you don’t get as much from a sale as you had hoped.

Working with a virtual CFO can give you a good sense of your business’ worth and what a potential buyer would be willing to pay for it.

What Is the Market Like?

Similar to asking yourself if your business has room to grow or is beginning to decline is asking yourself what the market for your company is like. When it comes to making a sale, you want to strike while the iron is hot and while there is demand for what your company has to offer. Waiting a few months or a few years to complete a sale can mean the difference between getting a sizable amount for your company and struggling to find a buyer at all.  On the other hand, if the market isn’t so great for your industry or niche at the moment, it can be worth waiting before you put it up for sale.

What Does Your Business Look Like to a Potential Buyer?

If a potential buyer were to examine your company closely, would they be able to understand what it does, what customers it serves and what the future can hold for it? As the owner of the company, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. For that reason, it helps to have an outside eye examine your business and give you an idea of what can be improved or changed to make the company more appealing to a buyer.

What Will Happen After the Sale?

Do you have a plan for after the sale of your business? In some cases, the buyer might want you to stay on with the company, at least on a temporary basis, to help it work through the transition. Or, it might be that the buyer would prefer to start from scratch and have you and other members of your management team leave as soon as the sale is completed.

Another thing worth considering is whether you’ll have an ownership interest in the company at all after the sale. If that’s the case, how much of the company will you continue to own and what will your ownership stake translate into? Will you have some say in the day-to-day running of the business or will you move to the sidelines completely?

It might take longer than you anticipated to prepare your business for sale and to complete the sale itself. No matter where you are in the process, the team at New Direction Capital is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how our virtual CFO services can help you as you navigate the sale of your company.

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19 Apr 2018

Skills You Need to Negotiate Better

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Photo by rawpixel.com on UnsplashWhether you’re trying to come to an agreement about salary with a new hire, working on a contract with a new client or communicating with a new vendor,  you most likely negotiate something every single time you go to work. Although negotiation is a key component of doing business, it’s not necessarily something everyone is gifted at doing.  If you’d like to work on your negotiating ability, there are several skills worth focusing on.

Goal Setting Skills

Before you head into any negotiation, it’s important to have a goal in mind. What do you want to get from the negotiating process and how flexible can you be in terms of the outcome?

While it’s a good idea to have a target or most desirable outcome in mind when creating your goal, it’s also a good idea to have a few backup options at the ready. For example, in a salary negotiation, you might set $52,000 as your target salary. But it’s also ideal to have a walk away or bottom line salary in mind too. While you’d prefer to offer a new employee $52,000, it might be that you’d settle for paying them as much as $62,000, depending on how the negotiation goes.

Having a plan B is another key part of setting a goal. What happens if you and a new hire can’t come to an agreement on annual salary? Can you offer other benefits, such as a higher retirement plan match or a few days working from home each week?

Working on your goal setting skills and learning how to adjust goals when needed can help you become a more flexible and effective negotiator.

Time Management Skills

In some circles, “on time” means “five minutes early.” Showing up to a negotiation on time shows the person that you’re working with that you respect their time and schedule. It can also pave the way for a more effective negotiation, as the person you’re working with is going to be less likely to be annoyed at your lateness.

Time management is more than getting to where you need to go on time, though. It also means keeping a negotiation from dragging on and on longer than it needs to. If you need to work on improving your time management skills, there are a few things you can do. One option is to set an alarm for yourself so that you leave with plenty of time to get where you need to go.  Using a time tracking tool can help you learn how long it takes you to complete certain tasks so that you give yourself plenty of time for each negotiating session. In the middle of the negotiation, try to focus on the most important points, rather than dwelling on small details or getting distracted by small talk.

Good Command of Body Language

When you’re in the middle of a negotiation, it’s not only the words that come out of your mouth that influence the other party. It’s also the stance you adopt when speaking to another person. For example, if you avoid eye contact or make a point of deliberately looking away from someone when you speak to them, you’re sending a message that might be at odds with the words that you speak.

It’s not just eye contact that matters when negotiating. It’s also important to greet the other person warmly, such as with a handshake and smile at them throughout the process. If you feel that facing the other party face on is too intimidating, try angling your body slightly. You’ll look and feel more relaxed when you aren’t directly opposite the negotiating party.

Listening Skills

Listening to what the other person has to say during a negotiation is key to its success. If you don’t listen to the other party, the odds are likely that they will get frustrated and you’ll both leave without accomplishing your goals.

One way to improve your listening skills and improve the negotiation process is to actively pay attention to what the other person is saying. When they are speaking, don’t think ahead to how you’ll respond. Instead, focus on them. When it’s your turn to speak, you’ll be more likely to have an appropriate response.

Becoming a better negotiator can help your business grow. To learn more about achieving profitable growth for your business, contact the team at New Direction Capital today.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

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Photo by Tim Gouw on UnsplashNo matter how good you think are at something, there is usually always room for improvement. In some cases, becoming better at something can have a significant positive impact on your business. For example, improving your management skills can help to reduce high rates of turnover at your company.

If you’re looking to become a better manager, here’s what you can do to improve your management skills.

Listen to Your Team

One thing that sets good or great managers apart from not-great or even bad managers is the ability to listen. It’s not only important that you listen to what your team has to say — you also need to actually hear what they are saying. In some cases, it’s all too easy for a manager to assume that a particular employee is going to say something or have a particular issue, even if that is far from the truth.

In other instances, a manager might choose to only hear what they want to hear, ignoring anything that could be construed as negative. While that can help you to focus on the positive aspects of your company and team, it can also lead you to ignore or overlook issues that need fixing.

To improve your listening skills, it can help to practice active listening. That can involve repeating back what an employee is saying to you or paraphrasing their concern and asking them to validate or confirm that you’ve got it right. When you actually listen to your team, they will feel appreciated and that they are able to discuss any concerns that they have with you.

Get to Know Your Team Members as Individuals

The people who work with you or under you aren’t all the same. They each have different work styles and different needs. One way to improve your skills as a manager is to begin to recognize the differences in your employees. What motivates one team member might not motivate another, for example.

One way to get to know the people you work with or manage is to occasionally hold one-on-one meetings with them. You don’t want to go overboard with the individual conferences, but it’s important to check in with your team every now and again (such as every quarter or once a year at a minimum).

Scheduling individual conferences doesn’t just give you a chance to get to know your team members. It also gives them a chance to bring up and share any concerns they have with you, either about a current project, their status with the company or any other issues they might be experiencing.

Part of being a great manager is being able to anticipate and meet the needs of your team members and knowing who excels at what. Taking the time to really get to know people will help you best play to everyone’s strengths.

Communicate and Be Clear With Your Team

Great managers are great communicators. If communication within a team starts to slide, people begin to feel as if something’s been lost or as if they’re out there treading water, unsure of what to do next. Being clear with your team about who is responsible for what and when is another essential component of good communication.

Part of being a good communicator is regularly checking in to make sure that things are going along as they should. Another part of being a good communicator is having an open door policy with your team members. People who work for you should feel free to come with you at any time with any concerns they have about a project or even about another member of the team. You can help employees feel more comfortable communicating with you by regularly asking them how things are going.

Keep Your Distance

As a manager, it’s not your job to babysit employees or keep tabs on their every move. In fact, doing that tends to alienate and annoy people. Try to learn to keep a healthy distance from your team. Assign and delegate tasks to them and resist the urge to “check in” every minute of the day.

If you want your company to grow and succeed, knowing how to be the best manager possible is essential. The team at New Direction Capital is available to help you put together a plan for growth. To learn more about our virtual CFO services and how we can help your business, contact us today.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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