Maximize Flexibility For Your Small Business

FlexibilityThere is a razor-thin line between success and failure for a small business. The ability to be highly flexible and respond quickly often gives small businesses a desirable advantage over their much-larger competitors because they can adapt to take advantage of growing opportunities and changes in their particular industries.

Small business owners are constantly looking to evolve, knowing that where they start may not be where they end up. But, looking forward and adapting also includes costs and competition. So, how can small businesses stay flexible in the face of these challenges? Here are three can-do items to add to your small-business flexibility list:

  1. Look for a niche. The simple nature of a small businesses allows it to spot and react more quickly to market trends and changes. If you’re out of ideas, the U.S. Small Business Administration suggests conducting a market survey with current and/or potential customers. Look for opportunities in areas that are being ignored by your competitors. As added feature or a change in a product or a tool aimed at a small but passionate audience might be all you need to attract new customers.
  2. Find technology that fits multiple needs. Larger businesses may have receptionists, IT departments and contractors, but for small businesses, implementing technology that has a big-business look and functionality without the cost is a must. Many companies now have various “cloud services” available that provide small businesses with big business capability. Microsoft’s Office 365 for Small Business offers such capability at a small price, and the technology can grow with your business.
  3. Cultivate communication within. You can often find great ideas and strategies by asking around the office. Talk to your employees daily about their ideas for growth and hopes for the future…and really listen. Keeping that channel of communication alive will help you identify inefficiencies in your operation and shine the light on new opportunities. Not only are you finding ways to increase production and profitability, you’re also making your employees feel more invested in your small business.

The Internet Can Be A Dangerous Place

Danger InternetIt’s not your imagination. The they are trying even harder to get into your computer.

According to Symantec’s annual Internet Security Threat Report for 2013, attacks are up significantly.

Here’s what the bad guys were up to in 2012:

  • Targeted attacks surged by 42%.
  • One out of every three attacks was aimed at small businesses.
  • One single threat infected 600,000 Macs.
  • One waterhole attack infected 500 organizations in a single day.
  • 32% of all mobile threats succeeded in stealing information.

Make sure you don’t become a statistic. Update your antivirus and anti-spyware software regularly…and don’t be cheap and get a “free” one. They never do the job well.

To make it easier for you to find a good protection package, PC Magazine offers up ratings on what they consider the best packages available today.

Be careful out there.

My Adventure With Hearing Loss

Let’s face it: I’m deaf. I didn’t ask to be this way. I don’t find it embarrassing, nor do I feel sorry for myself. There is nothing anyone could do to change or prevent what happened to my hearing. It just is what it is. But the condition does come with some significant challenges, both for myself as well as those I come in contact with.

cochleaI was in my mid-twenties When I first noticed a ringing in my ears. After some urging by my wife, a visit to an audiologist proved there was a significant loss in the high frequency range. That meant I was no longer hearing any of the consonant sounds or ‘e’ sounds. I could hear, but had a difficult time understanding speech. Soon after, I was fitted with my first hearing aid. It was important to me to be able to communicate with those around me.

Originally, the hearing loss seemed to appear from nowhere. I later learned that my dad and my great grandmother both experienced significant hearing loss. Although my great grandmother was never fitted with hearing aids (family just talked really loud), my dad was fitted and it has made a big difference. Based on conversations with my dad and other family members, it seems that the hearing loss follows the same pattern in my family. This leads my audiologist to believe that the cause is primarily hereditary. It is also degenerative and permanent. At some point in my future I will most likely be completely deaf and hearing aids will be of little use.

The gradual decline in my hearing over many years has allowed me to develop many coping strategies. I have learned to lip-read, to a certain extent, because I have to in order to form and maintain relationships. I discovered that I gravitate to people who speak clearly – not consciously but rather as the outcome of trying to have a conversation with people who mumble or talk behind their hands or hair was tiring and stressful for me.

I have also learned that because I speak well, people generally have unrealistic expectations of what I can hear. They are sometimes impatient—why couldn’t I just try a little harder and concentrate. Those who know me well have learned to face me and speak clearly if they need to communicate.

I have observed that “Hard of hearing” seems to be more difficult for people to understand than being “deaf”. If someone is completely deaf people generally adjust to this and clearly understand that they cannot be heard (they know the rules). However, when someone is hard of hearing and can hear some things but not others, that can be difficult for hearing people to understand. It can look as if I am choosing what I hear or don’t hear and may be perceived as “selective hearing”. In some cases it my responses (or lack of one) seem odd or rude. This is not the case, I just didn’t hear clearly.

The adventure is an ongoing one. As technology has advanced, it has been able to keep up with my hearing loss (to a certain extent). Hearing aids currently provide an 85% solution, and enable me to live relatively comfortable in the hearing world. Although there is no 100% solution to my problem, I am grateful that I am able to hear what I can and communicate with others reasonably well.