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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.
Cloud Computing Best Practices to Avoid Pitfalls - Joel Patterson

Cloud Computing Best Practices to Avoid Pitfalls

The future is now, and businesses everywhere are switching to the cloud. I’ve built my career on developing cloud-based solutions that allow businesses to operate seamlessly at any scale, without having to focus as heavily on IT and infrastructure.

While I believe cloud-based computing has far more pros than it does cons, there are still pitfalls to watch out for.

A Smooth Transition

The process of migrating to a new cloud-based computing system brings with it many changes and risk factors. During the transition to a cloud-based system, you are moving sensitive data, and security measures must be put in place to ensure confidentiality.

Your employees also play a big role in achieving a smooth transition. Switching to the cloud will inevitably change the day-to-day processes of your business. These changes ripple out into every department, and if employees aren’t kept informed and sufficiently trained to use the system efficiently, hiccups could ensue.

The best way to avoid the cloud transition blues is to have a thorough plan and work with an expert that can guide you through each step of the process. At The Vested Group, we work with our clients to plan and implement Oracle + NetSuite solutions in a way that keeps their business running smoothly.

Security

While cloud service providers like Oracle + NetSuite have thorough security measures in place to protect their users’ data, there are still potential security risks involved in using the cloud. Security must be at the core of your company’s approach to using cloud-based software. It’s estimated that 95% or more of all cloud security failures are the consumer’s fault, not the cloud service provider (CSP).

Creating a thorough security strategy for your business is essential to protecting sensitive information. These are just a few factors that should be included in your cloud security strategy:

  • Periodic training for all teams on best practices for system security.
  • Limiting access to information based on individual employee needs.
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication for accounts that have access to sensitive data.
  • Regularly updating security policies and procedures to ensure they are still effective.
  • Performing regular system audits to detect any potentially threatening activity.
  • Having a thorough data recovery plan in place in case of a catastrophe.

Get Your Money’s Worth

You might design and implement a system that fits your company’s needs to a tee. It is equipped to streamline processes and make everyone’s life easier. But, after implementation you find that it doesn’t seem to be making life easier, in fact, it seems to be making things harder.

This can happen when your staff doesn’t know what to do with the new technology they’ve been given. It’s important to provide training for your employees so that your company can reap all the benefits of your new system. At The Vested Group, we provide support and education for team members, allowing for a smoother, more efficient transition for everyone.

My team and I are dedicated to finding cloud-based solutions that fit our clients’ needs while actively avoiding these common pitfalls. Don’t try to transition to cloud computing alone. Reach out today to see what we can do for your business.

Company Culture - The Vested Group

Company Culture: It’s More than Just Employee Perks and Office Décor

When I set out to start my own company, I knew that our culture was going to set us apart. The company culture at The Vested Group has been a defining factor in our overall success, and I know my staff would agree.

 “Corporate culture” is a buzz phrase that’s been going around for over a decade now, though the actual meaning behind this hot topic is often lost. A company’s culture goes far beyond celebrations, perks, and the office layout. In fact, it reaches the very core of a business.

Let’s look at some of the many factors that comprise a company’s culture.

Heritage and Vision

Every business has an origin story, and this narrative has the potential to be a driving force for success. It’s important to incorporate your organization’s heritage into your culture. Sharing your business’s unique history connects your employees to the “why” behind your organization’s conception. By celebrating your business’s roots, you connect your staff to the company’s original purpose and encourage them to embody it in their work.

Values and Practices

Companies often define their core values for their employees, but those mean very little if accepted corporate practices don’t align. It’s important to ensure that communication standards, leadership structure, workplace environment, etc. all promote your company values.

Contribution and Recognition

Sometimes it’s hard for employees to see how the work they do affects the big picture. You never want a member of your staff to feel small or insignificant. Celebrate individuals’ accomplishments, hard work, or great ideas. Make a habit of telling your employees how much you appreciate them and how important their contribution is to the overall success of the company.

Promote Growth

No one wants to stick around at a job they feel is stagnant. It’s important to encourage professional growth so employees feel they are improving themselves and their lives while working for you. This can be through continuing education courses, seminars, a book club, or even just built-in flexibility to explore new topics.

Positive Work Environment

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in order to keep employees happy, they have to want to come to work. Take steps to create a positive workplace that’s fun to come to every day.

Stay Consistent

After you’ve decided on the elements that make up your company’s culture, enstate them across the board. Consistency helps build employee trust. If your staff sees inconsistency in your culture, they’ll know it isn’t genuine.

Remember, each company’s culture is unique, and the perfect culture doesn’t always come right away. Don’t be afraid to reflect and revise as you go.

Navigating Business Growth with Joel Patterson

10 Tips for Navigating Business Growth

When running a business, you are constantly striving to promote growth. Once things start to take off, there’s often a whole new set of challenges that must be addressed. Here are a few tips I’ve found useful when navigating a period of business growth and expansion. 

  1. Don’t Lose Sight of Your “Why.” Seeing your business grow and thrive is exciting, but it’s important to stay focused on your mission. A rapidly growing business can sometimes take off in a direction that doesn’t align with your core mission. Periods of growth are an opportune time to reflect and realign with your “why.”
  1. Learn to Delegate. As an entrepreneur, you often begin by handling almost every aspect of your business. As your business expands, you must delegate to manage your workload. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by your organization’s growth recently, look over your responsibilities. Are there aspects of your workload that could be handled efficiently by someone else?
  1. Hire with Culture in Mind. Retention of quality talent is essential to the long-term success of a business. When searching for new hires, consider how candidates will do in your company’s unique culture. Of course, credentials are important, but the candidate that looks the best on paper is not always the best fit.
  1. Listen to Your Customers. Your customers are the life force of your company. Never lose touch with what your customers want out of your brand. Especially in periods of rapid growth, be sure to focus on customer experience. You can show customers you care through meaningful communications and requests for feedback.
  1. Encourage Employee Feedback. Speaking of feedback, it’s vital to listen to your employees as well. During periods of growth, lots of things shift and employees are invaluable sources of information. Their insight into what needs revision or improvement can help your business grow with grace and agility.
  1. Analyze Your Inefficiencies. In addition to listening to employee feedback regarding ways to improve your business, seek out inefficiencies in the processes you currently have in place. Is there a manual task that could be automated? Are employees spending too much time on tasks that don’t benefit overall productivity?
  1. Reduce Regulation Risk. A growing business has to be on the lookout for new government and industry regulations! Growth can take many different forms expanding your markets, utilizing new sales channels, teaming up with a distributor, rolling out new products, etc. Big changes like these might mean dealing with new or different regulations. Be sure to do your homework to ensure that you’re in compliance.
  1. Integrate Your Processes. When a business is just starting out, the decision is often made to go with the most economical software solutions. This can mean patching many different systems together, which can be especially problematic during high-growth periods. Disparate systems will struggle to keep up with the demand, causing internal issues as well as a diminished customer experience. Switching to a comprehensive business management system allows all departments to communicate effectively and efficiently. It also allows you to access all the data you need at any time, rather than having to gather it from multiple programs.
  1. Make Scalability a Priority. When thinking about how to navigate growth in your business, always consider the scalability of your decisions. Demand fluctuates over time, and (if things keep going this way) you will need to account for more growth in the future. Make sure the solutions you implement now can support growth in the future as well.
  1. Bring in an Expert. All of this may sound daunting to tackle on your own, but the good news is you don’t have to! At The Vested Group, we help growing businesses find software solutions that make business processes more fluent and efficient. Our NetSuite systems can be tailored to businesses’ needs both today and in the future.

Let’s talk about how we can work together to improve your business!

How Your Leadership Style Affects Company Culture - Joel Patterson

How Your Leadership Style Affects Company Culture

When you think of company culture, many things may come to mind. Of course, there are the flashier aspects of company culture (think in-office happy hours or team bowling outings). There are also more subtle elements, such as how workspaces are arranged. While these are undoubtedly parts of a company’s culture, they are not what is at the core. 

The culture of a business starts at the very top. The leadership styles of executives set the tone for a company’s internal culture. Leadership affects all aspects of business, including perceived values and goals, communication norms, and employee engagement. Let’s look at how your leadership can connect your company’s culture with the big picture.

Begin by being aligned and intentional. If you try to sell your employees on a set of standards and ideals that are not reflected in the way you lead, your company culture will be inconsistent and ineffective. Aligning your leadership style with your company’s core values is paramount.

For example, if you want your staff to sacrifice for the good of the team, you have to be out there in the trenches with them. If you want to foster open communication, you have to create an environment where employees feel that they can honestly share their thoughts. If you want a company that strives for innovation, you have to give your team the space to explore. 

Think about your company’s stated beliefs, values, and intentions. Then, consider whether the way you lead encourages behavior that aligns with those. During this exercise, don’t think about the way you want to lead think about the way you do lead on a daily basis. Consistency is vital to the success of each of your team members and your company as a whole. In short, you must practice what you preach.

After some reflection, you may realize that your company’s culture does not align with your core values. Unfortunately, creating or correcting aspects of corporate culture takes time. When making big changes, you have to take steps to make the change and give your team the reasons behind the shift.

For example, if you tell your employees that you are going to focus more on collaboration, but keep the work environment and team structures the same, you’re not going to see the results you desire. On the other hand, if you change the work environment and team structures without giving employees the reason behind the need for more collaboration, you still might not see the results you want.

Aspects of company culture are most effective when they solve a problem that employees care about. When improving your company’s culture, think about the issues that affect your staff and the solutions that could be implemented to resolve them. Then, sell this idea to your team. If they truly believe in the “why” that backs up an idea, they are more likely to get behind it.

All leaders are unique; and therefore, all companies will have different internal cultures. It’s important to create yours with your vision of the company in mind. Remember, a quality corporate culture is vital to a company’s long-term success.