If you’re like most Small Business owners, your Facebook Page stood the same way today as it will tomorrow. However, Facebook has changed your Page to the new Timeline format whether you, I or your customers like it or not. Actually, they did so on March 31, 2012. Facebook is not where I engage my target audiences primarily so all I do is typically syndicate curated content and self-published content to our Facebook Page (like my blog posts and tweets), but for many Small Business owners it is currently their main Social Media hub. (My Facebook Page with all of 26+ Likes would have stayed the same, except that I posted a coverphoto to my Facebook Page in anticipation of writing this post today.) I am writing this article to educate you about the good, the bad and the ugly (sorry, there’s not much good here) of Facebook Timeline, in hopes of providing you with a small business strategy to leverage the change to benefit your bottom line.
Patricia “Patra” Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker and author on human capital issues at Strategies for Human Resources. Patra will be presenting “Hiring Smart” on April 3, 2012 at Alexandria SBDC; register here and come to this must-attend presentation for all small businesses and nonprofits who have limited Human Resources staffing.
If you’re a Small Business owner or marketing professional in a small business, you undoubtedly find yourself at a point where you go to networking events and keep running into the same people over and over again. The monotony is not only mind-numbing but it’s also bad for sales as you’re not building new leads for your “trusted referral partner” network by seeing the same folks all the time. Well, worry no further as Meetup™ is here! Er, they’ve been here for more than a decade, but we won’t mind that little detail. So, what is Meetup and why does it matter to Small Business marketing?
MEETUP, THE MOVEMENT
September 11th changed the world; strangers helped strangers that day in remarkable ways Scott Heiferman recognized. He wanted to keep that momentum going and it became the inspiration for Meetup.com. Meetup, according to their own website, is:
Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.
Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.
I enjoy seeing the “Do something • Learn something • Share something • Change something” motto when you visit Meetup.com before logging in, and that’s the essence of what makes the platform so versatile. I feel like they should add “in real life!” to that message because that’s the key component to what I think Meetup does. It bridges the digital-analog divide so many of us face today with digital (email, phone and text message) and Social Media communications as our primary business contact throughout the workday (and perhaps even more so in our personal lives, trying to stay in touch with family and friends with ever-increasing work hours and workloads). All the Meetups are live, in-person group meetings coalesced around a shared interest. And, what does this have to do with your Small Business marketing efforts you ask? Read on!
SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING ON MEETUP
Whether you’re trying to build your Small Business brand, increase sales to your local boutique or retail shop, or want to learn how to build a smartphone app, there’s a community of not only your target audience on Meetup but also like-minded small business entrepreneurs getting together to help you! That’s the power of Meetup! These meetings are usually free (though I believe in the give-what-you-can model since it does cost Meetup Organizers to create a Meetup group on Meetup.com and other administrative costs, plus the value of their time), you can see who’s going, and you can ask questions, share and collaborate before and after the get-together through Meetup.com.
I know that today with the proliferation of Web marketing, it’s easy to think that focusing as much of your resources on your Web presence is important but even I (a Web and digital business strategist) think that all the Web has to offer is worth nothing if it doesn’t make our physical, real world lives better! So, sign up for a Meetup account today, type in your industry, professional, service or product (or a current challenge facing your business), and RSVP for a Meetup in your community soon! You’ll be glad you did.
- Meetup.com: 10+ years organizing thousands of groups (cbsnews.com)
- Flickr Announces New Meetup Site (webpronews.com)
Join us for the fourth in an interactive series of START, MANAGE, GROW your business workshops for federal contractors.
Learn the basic elements of Government Cost Proposals, including tips on the certificate of current cost and pricing data from a federal contracting expert, Sequin Lukon, Principal of The Essential Agreement, LLC. She’ll explain the different types of cost/price proposals and the ins and outs of government procurements from a cost/price perspective.
Sequin will also discuss TINA, the Truth in Negotiations Act, and other matters that you need to know!
For more than 25 years, Sequin has offered high-level contracts advisory services to the government contractor community in both small and large businesses.
This FREE federal contracting SMART, MANAGE, GROW your business workshops is sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.
Join us at for two hours of interactive programming in our new office Board Room, 625 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA beginning at 9:00 AM.
- Tuesday, April 24: “Subcontracting to Prime Federal Contractors” presented by Sequin Lukon, The Essential Agreement, LLC
- Tuesday, May 8: “Financing for Government Contracting: The Importance of Timing” presented by Barbara Greenwald of Sheinwald Financial Strategies.
For more information these and other SBDC trainings and programs, please www.alexandriasbdc.org.
Who in the world thought you could have the world on your mobile phone?! Deploy Google Mobile products in your business to give employees access to information anywhere, anytime. Let Ray Sidney-Smith show you how you can literally have the world at your business fingertips! Join us for this free one hour webinar.
As business owners, we worry often about the health of our business, but how frequently do we worry about having healthy employees? Sure, it gets attention when an employer contributes to health care insurance. If employees are absent because of sickness or a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome that limits their productivity that affects the bottom line, and the prosperity of the business. However, even if employees show up for work, they may be suffering from health conditions which reduce their ability to do their best.
How can a business owner help maintain the wellness and health of employees, so that everyone benefits from a healthier business, both financially and otherwise? Prevention is clearly key. This is why employee washrooms in restaurants always have the sign “All Employees Must Wash Their Hands before Returning to Work.” Maintaining a healthy workplace and encouraging employees to adopt and maintain healthy habits go a long way. Leading by example is very effective. If the boss is seen smoking — and known not to exercise — then employees may read the hidden message that it is okay for them to do the same. On the other hand, if the boss brings a gym bag to work (as she stops off at the gym either before or after work), then this sends a completely different message. If the boss discusses engaging in sports activities (and not just watching sports on the television) whether as an individual, or in family activities, then this becomes a conversation topic among coworkers.
As small business owners, we may not be able to pay for gym memberships, but we can provide incentives for employees to lead a healthy lifestyle in other ways. Large companies can organize weight loss, smoking cessation or healthy eating workshops, and encourage employees to attend, and sometimes provide incentives for doing so. Small companies can create some challenges to employees and provide some tools to get started, such as a notebook for tracking exercise routines, food intake or other measurable criteria. An inexpensive pedometer can go a long way to help track distance walked or jogged during a lunch break or outside office hours. A business owner can reward an employee who participates in a wellness workshop in their free time, or achieves individual fitness and health goals. The key is to provide motivation that appeals to the employee.
We all want to stay healthy, both on and off the job. Having healthy and productive employees is surely an indicator of a successful business. Motivating employees to maintain their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or whatever the individual goal might be, will send a sure signal that they are valued beyond their work performance. Hiring and training new employees is much more expensive than retaining existing staff, and so wellness encouragement reduces overhead and management time spent on these issues. A few hours or a few dollars dedicated to focusing on employee wellness now can pay dividends in the future.
For suggestions on incentives or rewards for an employee wellness program, please visit our website at www.oxfordpromos.com or call Oxford Communications at 703-922-4193.
Photo courtesy of USACE Europe District
- CFOs slowly seeing link between employee wellness and productivity (medcitynews.com)
- Workers Want Employers to Help Them Stay Healthy (livescience.com)
- Build an Office-Wellness Program in 4 Easy Steps (openforum.com)
Google+ for Small Business
Technology That Can Help Your Business Grow!
February 29, 2012
9 am – 12 Noon
With only 20 spots for this hands-on workshop, we anticipate more demand than space. Email or call Patricia Melton if you are interested. Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis, and then we’ll start a standby list. See information below.
Google is the well-known search engine and leader in the Web advertising world, but if you haven’t already started seeing and hearing, they have recently launched a new service platform called Google+ and its Google relations, the +1 button, Direct Connect and Search Plus Your World. Together, Google+allows businesses share, promote and measure the building of relationships between the business brands and the people who care about them. In this seminar and workshop, you get the best of both worlds from Alexandria Small Business Development Center. First, Ray Sidney-Smith, president of W3 Consulting, a Web and digital strategy firm for Small Business, presents a strategic overview of Google+ for small businesses. Following the presentation, Ray will walk you through the steps to launch your own Google+ pages for your business. This event is not to be missed!
From Google+ Pages’ site:
Different people are interested in different parts of your business. Whether it’s breaking news, updates, promotions, links, photos – even talking face-to-face with groups via easy-to-use video chat –Google+ lets you easily share the right things with the right customers.
Help word get around. Put the +1 button anywhere you’d like people to be able to recommend your business, products or services to friends and contacts all across the web.
How’s your page doing, and how could it do better? Google+makes it easy to learn more about how your followers’ interactions on your page affect your brand, and your business.
Bring your wireless-enabled laptop, netbook, or mobile tablet (e.g., iPad). The session will be held in our boardroom, located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400. Because we expect this to close out early, we ask if you register, please attend or let us know if you cannot, so others may have the opportunity!
Enter the “Retail Parking” garage via Pendleton Street for free parking.
- Upcoming Events at the Alexandria SBDC (alexandriasmallbusiness.com)
Non-competition agreements, or non-solicitation agreements, are generally clauses within employment agreements which limit employees’ ability to enter into employment or to start a business which competes with a former employer. Under Virginia law, non-competes (sometimes called or written plainly “noncompetes”), though viewed as a restraint of trade, are enforceable if the three prongs of the non-compete–time, geography and function–are properly limited. The non-compete terms should be broad enough to protect the employer’s business interests, but not so broad as to prevent the employee from earning a living and should not violate public policy.
Many times the focus on non-compete agreement terms fall on the time and geography prong. In November, the Virginia Supreme Court squarely refocused the discussion on the function prong of the non-compete. In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, the Court reviewed a non-compete agreement that it had approved 22 years ago in Paramount Termite Control v. Rector. This time the Court declared that the function provision, which the company had not changed in the ensuing time, as overly broad and the entire agreement as unenforceable.
The Court held that the language which stated that the former employee could not engage “directly or indirectly. . . in any manner whatsoever in the carrying on or conducting the business of exterminating, pest control, termite control and/or fumigation services as an owner, agent, servant, representative, or employee, and/or as a member of a partnership and/or as an officer, director or stockholder or any corporation or in any manner whatsoever . . .” was not reasonable because the clause effectively prohibited the employee from holding any type of job in the industry. The reasonableness of the time and geography prongs were insufficient to save the agreement. Under the Home Paramount, if a business wants to preclude an employee from performing any work for a competitor, then it must be ready, willing and able to prove a “legitimate business interest” to do so. That’s not necessarily an easy task.
So, to ease the process for small businesses, now is the time to review any non-compete clauses used in your business. Be wary of non-competition agreement forms or templates. What terms are permissible in a non-compete clause in Virginia may not work at all in California – and vice versa. Terms permissible 20 years ago or even 6 months ago in Virginia are no longer workable. Court decisions over time can and do change the law. The laws of individual states evolve over time and the laws of each state differ.
All three prongs of the non-compete must be appropriately limited, reasonable and related to the position in question. The function prong cannot be so broad that it effectively precludes the employee from performing any job in the industry from CEO to janitor or even from owning stock passively in a multinational, publicly held corporation.
Law Office of Paula Potoczak
218 N. Lee St., 3rd Floor
Alexandria, VA 22314