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Growing Pains in Business - Photo by Isaac Smith via Unsplash

Growing Pains in Business: How to Know When to Make a Change

In the business world, growth is generally thought of as a good thing. It brings with it many exciting opportunities, but none of those come without change. When your business is experiencing rapid growth, your current way of doing things might not be up to the challenge. This can lead to lost time, missed opportunities, and frustration on all sides. 

In order to stay relevant and grow in a sustainable way, you must evaluate your business and make the necessary changes to expand while avoiding roadblocks along the way.  

1. Evaluate how each silo of your business operates individually

Whenever a company experiences a period of rapid growth, its current processes are put to the test. Take a look at each of your departments and identify what’s still running smoothly and what’s not. Does your departmental structure allow for flexibility and expansion? Are you equipped with the resources required to effortlessly handle the amount of business coming your way? 

Talk to your staff about aspects of their jobs that have gotten more difficult or time-consuming recently. Their input can give you on-the-ground insights to fuel intuitive, lasting solutions that will allow your business to flourish during growth spurts rather than suffer. Remember, the key is to find scalable fixes that can continue to grow with you, not just quick fixes that only work right now.

 2. Assess how different departments interact with one another

Is communication between silos seamless? Is data easily accessible to those who need it? Often, when different departments are utilizing independent systems to accomplish their respective tasks, integration can be difficult. This can result in wasted time and resources, frequent miscommunications, and an inability to see the full picture in real-time. 

If many of your processes are still manual or it’s difficult to gather and share data between departments, it’s time for a system overhaul. A business management software like NetSuite is highly customizable to each department’s needs, as well as your company’s unique situation. NetSuite is also adaptable, so as your company grows and shifts, your system can too.

 3. Gather information from your clients

As the old saying goes, the customer is always right. Look at what they’re saying﹘ if there’s a lot of negative feedback concerning one thing (product quality, customer service, delivery time, etc.), then that’s an area that needs your attention.

When looking at ways to improve your business, think big. Imagine doing twice as much business as you are now. Will the solutions you’re thinking of implementing still be able to give your customers the best possible experience, or will they need to be revised again in the near future?

4. Know what you’re up against

Lastly, even with the most thorough plan or perfectly executed change initiative, shifts in your business are never quick or painless. This will be a difficult road, but with the right attitude, skills, and people it will be well worth it. Lead in a way that inspires positive change but doesn’t force it.

Company Values - Joel Patterson

The Importance of Establishing Clear Company Values

Cultures around the world place value on different aspects of life. Some cultures tend to place a high value on consistent hard work, while others prioritize family and leisure time. The same concept can be applied to companies. Because the personal values of company leaders vary widely, their company values will inevitably follow suit. 

For a company’s leaders, management, and staff to all stay on the same page, they must be operating with a common set of values. If a business doesn’t have any stated values to refer to, it can result in utter chaos and misalignment. Here are just a few ways that clearly stated company values benefit a business. 

 

Hiring to Fit the Team

When looking for new hires, experience and skills are often given the most weight in the decision-making process. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be the case. Everyone has the ability to learn and hone their craft. It’s more important to find employees whose values align with those of the company. Unlike skills, values aren’t something that can be picked up along the way. 

Your company values will help guide hiring decisions so that you find the best fit rather than just the most impressive resume. This leads to happier employees, higher retention rates, and a harmonious work environment.

 

Widely Understood Standards

Company values can help to bring clarity to so many areas of your business. If an employee’s behavior isn’t up to your standards, it’s likely because it’s not in alignment with one or more of your company values. You can use these values to correct behavior through productive conversations rather than what might be perceived as judgmental accusations. 

 In addition, core values can help guide big decisions such as mergers or new products. Would the results of these decisions be in alignment with your current company values? If not, what are your reasons for pursuing them?

 

Guide Your Corporate Culture

I like to emphasize the importance of corporate culture, and company values are the framework that guides decisions pertaining to that culture. Without a clear understanding of your company’s values, there’s no way to create a culture that promotes them. It’s as simple as that. 

Many people misunderstand the meaning of a company’s culture. They think it’s mainly the layout of the office or staff outings or a casual dress code. While these can be elements of culture, the core of the culture lies in the values it is meant to convey. 

For example, staff outings may reflect a company’s core values of teamwork and trust. A more relaxed dress code may be meant to make employees more comfortable and promote open informal communication. It all comes back to what you value. 

 

Differentiate Your Brand

In today’s expansive marketplace, your company values can set you apart from the competition. When you share your values with your customers, they know what to expect from you. These expectations also provide another source of accountability for you and your employees, which is never a bad thing!

Leading by Example - Joel Patterson

Leading by Example: How to Teach Your Employees Good Habits, Attitudes, and Work Ethic

When you’re a leader, there will inevitably be moments when you feel frustrated with your employees. When this happens, it can be easy to place the blame on those who seem to be “causing” the issue: your staff. But I’ll tell you a secret I’ve learned in my years leading The Vested Group. Your employees are a mirror. Often, they reflect the attitudes and actions that you are projecting.

Leading by example is the most effective way to create real change when it comes to morale. By self-reflecting, you can often find where employees’ undesirable habits or attitudes are stemming from. While it can be a bit uncomfortable to examine your own shortcomings, doing so improves both the way you lead and how your team works. Let’s look at a few things to remember when striving to be a good role model. 

Practice What You Preach

Within every workplace, there are certain standards that are expected to be upheld. For some offices, this refers to the formality and style of everyday communications. For others, it’s an understanding that team members will occasionally stay late in order to accomplish important tasks. No matter what your standards are within your business, they will not be upheld unless leaders set the bar through their actions.

For example, it’s reasonable for a leader to expect their staff to go the extra mile for the good of the company, but only if the leader does the same. Whatever you expect from your employees, prove to them that you are also willing to give just as much. This motivates staff and shows that everyone is on the same team. 

Remember the Golden Rule

Treat others the way you would want to be treated. This wisdom can be applied to a myriad of situations and workplace culture is no exception. Here’s one way you can apply the golden rule to your leadership. 

“Treat (insert task/project/responsibility) the way you would want your employees to treat (insert task/project/responsibility).”

With this version of the golden rule, you can easily reflect on your actions and decide whether you are setting a good example for those you lead. If this was the way an employee was performing a task, would you be satisfied? If not, that’s your cue to find ways to improve.

Show Don’t Tell

Work ethic is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but we often don’t pause to consider its full meaning. Work ethic encompasses your attitude, persistence, thoroughness, and morals.  It’s about more than getting the job done; it’s getting it done the right way. 

A strong work ethic is a characteristic you want to see in every single person at your company, including yourself. You can’t just tell your employees to have a better work ethic. You have to show them what that means through your actions.

Showing your expectations this way can be far more powerful than motivational pep talks or even flashy incentives. What are some ways you demonstrate leading by example?

Choosing the Right Technology Partner - Joel Patterson

Choosing The Right Technology Partner

You’ve made the decision to upgrade your business systems. That’s fantastic! Now that you’ve committed to new software, it’s time to commit to a technology partner, the company that will work with you to make your dream a reality. When choosing a firm, you’re entering a long-term, collaborative relationship. The partner you choose is just as important as the business management system itself. 

Let’s dive into what to look for when hiring a technology partner for your implementation.

Look at their history

A firm’s prior experience is a great place to start when deciding if they’re a good fit. Is this their first implementation within your industry, or have they helped similar companies before? While it’s not absolutely necessary to hire an implementation expert with prior industry-specific experience, a partner who’s familiar with your industry may bring more confidence to the table. 

In addition to their previous experience, take a look at their past clients. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Speaking with teams who have worked with the partner in the past can give invaluable insight into what it would be like to work with them long-term.  

Get in their business

Sounds nosy, right? Not at all! I believe that intentional company culture is essential to an innovative business. With today’s wide variety of company cultures, it can be highly beneficial to choose a partner whose culture aligns with that of your own company. This brings a mutual understanding to the table, allowing for more pleasant and productive collaboration between client and consultants. 

Another piece of data to note when researching a potential technology partner is their employee retention rate. If a firm has an extremely high turnover rate, that’s a red flag. It’s a sign that they don’t invest in their employees and a clue into how they will treat you. In addition, a lower retention rate often means that your account will be handled by a revolving door of people. While they may be bright and talented, there will still be a learning curve for new hires. 

Are they available?

Of course, if a firm isn’t taking new clients, you’re out of luck. But you must dig a little deeper to know whether or not your potential partner is available to live up to your expectations. Do you have a deadline in mind? Make sure they have the resources to reasonably meet it. Are there consultants in the area and able to help you on-site if necessary? If the answer is no, consider that your support will always be remote. 

In addition to supporting you during your implementation, it’s always smart to choose a technology partner that will be there for you long after your new systems are in place. I recommend choosing a firm that offers in-house, post-implementation support to all clients. That way you will always have a trusted team to turn to if and when issues arise. 

Are you looking for a new technology partner? The Vested Group might be the perfect fit!

Creating a Great Customer Experience - Joel Patterson

The Importance of Creating a Great Customer Experience

A customer’s opinion of a brand changes slightly every time they come in contact with it. These points of contact vary greatly, encompassing everything from social media presence to customer service interactions to word-of-mouth reputation. All of these touchpoints make up your brand’s customer experience. Let’s look into the importance of creating an outstanding customer experience and the steps you can take to stand out in a sea of sameness. 

Define Customer Experience

It’s hard to nail down what exactly a customer experience is because it’s… almost everything. Here are some examples of brand touchpoints that your audience will likely come in contact with: 

  • Branding (logo, color scheme, website design, etc.)
  • Social media (aesthetic, content value, copywriting)
  • Online experience (seeking further information about your brand, shopping, etc.)
  • Product/service quality
  • Packaging and delivery of goods
  • Customer service during and after purchase

Consider these the bricks that create your overall brand reputation. Generally, you can control the elements listed above, and the impressions they leave lead to individual opinions. A large sample of individual opinions, in turn, creates the general reputation of your brand in the world. If the consumer feels that their needs or expectations aren’t being met at any of these points of contact, it diminishes their experience. 

Own the Experience

There’s no way to hide an inferior customer experience. One customer’s opinion now has the ability to influence thousands of other potential sales. Online reviews are powerful, and the only way to accumulate a mass of outstanding feedback is to actually provide a stellar customer experience.  

Begin with honesty. Make sure that what is promised is what gets delivered. Misleading marketing techniques may work to get someone in the door, but they will not create loyal customers. How you respond to dissatisfied customers is extremely important as well. Owning up to mistakes, addressing their concerns, and going the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction will likely leave a lasting positive impression rather than a negative one. 

Did you know that it costs a business approximately five times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing customer? Happy customers are often loyal customers. Not only will they buy from you time and time again, but they’ll also be an advocate for your brand. Word-of-mouth praise is more likely to generate new business than expensive marketing campaigns because real-life experiences say far more than strategized hype ever could.

Why It Matters

Customers are more empowered than ever before. The average shopper now checks reviews, compares prices and products, and knows exactly what their opinions are before making a purchasing decision. If you can’t provide consumers with the level of service, quality, and convenience that they expect, they’ll find a company that can.  

A company’s most important relationship is the one it has with its customers. Is it time for you to rethink how your customers experience your brand? By reviewing and revamping your consumer touchpoints you can increase your revenue, improve your reputation, and create a loyal client base.

The Stages of a Digital Transformation - Joel Patterson

The Stages of a Digital Transformation

A digital transformation occurs when you realign your business’s technology and processes to stay efficient and competitive in today’s constantly changing world. The Vested Group specializes in helping companies prepare for the future with comprehensive, cloud-based software solutions. We offer Oracle+NetSuite, a highly customizable and scalable ERP software system that can be tailored to businesses’ current and future needs.

So, what does a digital transformation generally look like for a company?

Before

The days before a digital transformation often feel like business as usual simply because we are used to the processes in place. Often outdated and inefficient systems slow day-to-day operations in ways that we don’t initially notice. Other times faulty, archaic systems can cause productivity to grind to a halt.

Whatever the case may be at your company, the time just before the need for a digital transformation can leave you saying, “there’s got to be a better way.” Sometimes instead of opting for a complete system overhaul, minor improvements will be made here and there. While these pockets of change are intended to improve processes, they often highlight the need for an updated and cohesive software system.

During

The process of planning and implementing your digital transformation can bring on a myriad of emotions. The planning process is exciting–you get to dream big! During this phase, you will review your operations and work with a team of experts to explore new possibilities that increase productivity and promote growth.

The journey of implementation will inevitably have its ups and downs. The keys to smooth sailing are having a dedicated team of experts to manage your project and creating a realistic plan and timeline. It’s essential to have complete trust in your team, as well as flexibility along the way. Remember, you’re all working towards the same goal﹘ a new innovative way of working that enhances customer experiences and makes your job easier and more efficient.  

After

Go-live has come and gone, and you and your staff are now in a transitory phase. Initially, you may feel wary of all this new technology. It’s normal for teams to hit a few bumps in the road before becoming comfortable with a new way of doing things. But, I assure you, once you understand how to use your new tools, you won’t know how you lived without them.

Be sure to hire a team that offers support long after your project has wrapped. An experienced team will ensure that any frustrations or learning curves can be addressed rather than having to feel your way through the dark on your own.

Congratulations! Your digital transformation has produced an innovative and adaptive software system that can change and grow with your company. The only thing that’s constant in business is change, and now you’ve got the tools to navigate it with grace and agility.

5 Habits of Successful Leaders - Joel Patterson

5 Habits of Successful Leaders

What’s the first thing we want to know about successful CEOs? What’s your morning routine? What does an average week look like for you? We want to tap into their habits–the small things they do every day that leads to their success.

This curiosity stems from knowing that being a great leader doesn’t come quickly. Leadership requires dedication to the process honing your skills, cutting the fat, and knowing what works. I’ve been (and still am) in the process of becoming an effective leader for The Vested Group, and these are five habits that I’ve found help my employees excel.

1. Be an Active Leader

Sometimes when you think of a leader, you might envision a powerful, well-paid person sitting in a corner office with an assistant who ensures they are not disturbed. This cliché is not who I aim to be as a leader.

I believe in being an active, involved leader. This means interacting with my employees often and being readily available to them. We all have packed schedules these days, but everyone in our company knows that I will take the time to engage with people from all departments. I seek ways to connect regularly, and I’ve found this helps me be more accessible and keep my finger on the company’s pulse.

2. Be Approachable and Receptive

The value of employee ideas and feedback cannot be overstated. Some of the most profitable and innovative ideas come from employees, and feedback is essential for creating and maintaining a pleasant and sustainable work environment.

Often a position of authority can create intimidation among employees. Be sure to encourage employee input regularly and provide a safe space for them to share their thoughts. Another component of this habit is active listening. When an employee approaches you with their ideas, look them in the eyes and absorb what they say.

3. Communicate Expectations Effectively

I believe that part of running a successful business is holding your employees to a higher standard than the competition. But, these standards will never be consistently met if you can’t effectively communicate them.

One sweeping way of doing this is by creating a set of company values and making sure all employees understand what they mean in the context of their position. Also, if an employee’s performance isn’t living up to your usual standards, give them some one-on-one feedback and work with them to find ways they can improve.

4. Make Transparency a Priority 

I value honesty over “saving face” in every situation. As a leader, you must own up to your mistakes. If you play the blame game, your employees will not trust you in the long run. By taking responsibility for your missteps, you show humility and set the stage for an honest workplace.

5. Create a Positive Work Environment

As The Vested Group founder, I put a lot of thought and resources into creating a place that people want to work. I believe that company culture is vital to all employees’ happiness and the overall success of the company.

Step back and ask yourself if you would want to work for your own company. If you were in the lowest paying position in the company, would you be happy with your job? Why or why not? Reflections like these can help you see areas where your company can improve.

E-Waste and the Electronics Refurbishing, Redistributing, and Recycling Industry - Joel Patterson

E-Waste and the Electronics Refurbishing, Redistributing, and Recycling Industry

Advances in technology have opened up a galaxy of possibilities, and new and improved tech is being released every day! While this is exciting for consumers and profitable for companies, there is a relentless, environmentally harmful side effect to this booming industry – E-Waste.

Technology often has a lifespan of just a few years, but the toxins in electronics don’t belong in the landfill. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, over 1,000 materials are used to make electronic products and their components, and about 40% of the heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronic equipment. These include dangerous substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium.

So, what can be done to keep these hazardous materials out of landfills? Three words: refurbish, redistribute, and recycle.

Refurbish and Redistribute

As consumers, we’re constantly being told why we have to have the latest, greatest technology. But, once you get your hands on that shiny new gadget, what happens to the old one? Many people are resistant to give up their old electronics due to emotional attachment or the idea that they are still valuable.

Well, the truth is they are! There is an enormous demand for affordable electronics on a local and global scale. Your used electronics can have a second life with others who can use them to lead more educated, productive, and happy lives!

There are many charities dedicated to the refurbishment and reuse of technology. The National Cristina Foundation links donors with charities in their area in need of specific tech resources. Since you can use their nonprofit locator to donate to nearby charities, your unwanted gadgets can benefit your community! World Computer Exchange is a global nonprofit that promotes the reuse of E-Waste and its ultimate disposal in an environmentally responsible manner. They help people worldwide gain access to technology that will further their lives and benefit their communities. 

If you’re not ready to donate your electronics, you can always try to sell them to someone who could use them yourself. Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, and eBay are all viable options for rehoming your devices while still making a few bucks. Just remember to erase all your data before selling!

Recycle

Maybe your electronics are beyond the point of usefulness. What now? While you can’t just throw your old tech in the recycling bin for collection, there are many options for making sure that your device is disposed of responsibly. Big box retailers, such as Staples and Best Buy, offer electronics recycling services.

Unfortunately, many companies who claim to recycle electronics don’t do so responsibly. Luckily, there is an organization whose mission is to promote best practices in the electronics recycling industry e-Stewards. To ensure that your device is disposed of in the best possible way, check e-Stewards’ recycler locator.

To learn more about E-Waste and ways we can recycle and improve the environment, check out the movie my team and I made: Silicon Mountain.

Oracle+Netsuite ERP for Business Growth - Joel Patterson

How Oracle+Netsuite Can Take Your Business to the Next Level

“Entrepreneur” is one the most challenging and complex job titles a person can hold. Every day offers new challenges, and you must continuously bring strategic solutions to grow your business. A successful, growing business presents obstacles that require innovation and adaptation to keep up with demand.

When a business grows but is not equipped with the tools to keep up with that growth, that’s when significant problems can arise. Systems that could easily handle smaller demands may not address the same tasks on a larger scale. By implementing a scalable, comprehensive software solution like Oracle+NetSuite before your company desperately needs it, you’re setting yourself up for a smoother growth process.

So, how can Oracle+NetSuite help take your growing business to the next level?

1. Processes That Work for You.

Manual processes slow things down and leave room for error. Oracle+NetSuite can be tailored to handle all of your company’s unique processes and allow for automation in many cases. A scalable ERP system frees up time and resources that can then be allocated to aspects of the business that require a human element.

Out-of-box software systems can’t provide the level of specialization your growing company needs to stay at the top of its game. Because Oracle+NetSuite is a highly customizable software system, you only keep the elements that benefit your business, making employees’ jobs more straightforward in the long term and ultimately helping your bottom line.

 2. Accessible Full-Spectrum Data.

Insight into your customer base, operations, and overall performance is crucial when planning for your business’s future. With how fast a growing business changes, it’s vital to be able to access the information you need at the exact moment you need it. If your business is currently using multiple software systems across different departments, data collection can be brutal.

Oracle+NetSuite allows all business sectors to seamlessly communicate with one another, storing all data about critical functions and processes in one central database. One source of truth enables users to access the data they need across all operational silos, providing the up-to-date insights necessary to quickly make smart decisions.

3. Room to Grow.

Implementing a new software system is a daunting task, so why do it every time your business hits a growth spurt? Oracle+NetSuite’s flexibility and scalability allow it to grow and change as your business does. It’s designed to handle any change a business might go through, so you can rest assured it’s the best decision for your business.

Would you like to know more about Oracle+NetSuite? Reach out to our team today and we’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.

work-life balance - Joel Patterson

How to Enhance Your Employees’ Work-Life Balance

In today’s non-stop work environment and as we continue to work from home, it’s easy for work-life balance to favor the work side of things. With our devices giving employers and co-workers the ability to contact us any time, it can be hard to turn off work when we’re away from the office.

Be Flexible

The traditional 9 to 5 workday just doesn’t work for everyone anymore, and with today’s technology, it doesn’t have to. There are lots of options that can give employees more freedom in their schedules.

  • Telecommuting can be just as effective as a day at the office as long as you have the tools to get things done. Having employees work from home saves them commuting time and has been shown to boost productivity and morale. A lot of companies found that employees are more productive while working from home during CoVid19.
  • Even if you’d prefer your employees to be in the office, allow them to have flexible work hours. For example, an employee could work 10 hours on Tuesday but 6 hours on Thursday. A flexible schedule allows employees to take care of life’s necessities that aren’t directly work-related by creating a work-life balance that works best for them.
  • Be understanding when family commitments are involved. If your employee needs to leave to pick up their child or asks off to attend to a family member, work with them to make it happen. Happy home lives make for more joyful, more productive employees.

Encourage Employees to Use Their Vacation Days

Often employees don’t take all of their annual paid leave for fear of work piling up. Self-restricting time off from work may be well-intentioned, but this is not healthy or sustainable. If you notice this is a trend at your company or with specific employees, talk to your employees and encourage them to take some time off. Explore their feelings about being away from the office and work with them to delegate responsibilities to others while taking some much-needed time away.

Promote a Healthy Balance

Make your employees’ health a priority. You can show your staff the importance of taking time for themselves by incorporating health-focused seminars, fitness challenges, and active online team-building exercises, such as a company yoga class. If your company stocks the break room with snacks and beverages, be sure to offer a variety of fresh, nutritious options like fruits, veggies, juices, and protein bars.

Leave Room

Some of the most successful companies in the world understand the importance of prioritizing creativity and innovation in the workplace. At Google, employees are offered a 20% program, allowing developers to spend 20% of their time on creative side projects. Leaving room in your team’s workload for creative thinking will ultimately lead to higher employee happiness levels and give them the space to discover ideas that might’ve been overlooked if every second of their time is already scheduled.

Remember Your Role

As a leader, you must make sure that your employees are satisfied with their work-life balance.

  • Have an open-door policy. Let your employees know that you are always there to help if they are unhappy or need advice. Listen intently and try to be as open and understanding as possible to build trust with your team.
  • Check-in with your employees. Keep an eye out for people who show signs of burnout, and talk to those who seem to be working too hard. Let them know that you care about their overall wellbeing and that it’s okay to take breaks sometimes.
  • Keep yourself in check. As is the case with many aspects of leadership, you must lead by example. Set communication boundaries. Focus on your health. Take time away from the office to recharge and rejuvenate. Make sure you’re as balanced as you want your employees to be.