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How to Create the Organizational Structure of Your Growing Small Business

How to Create the Organizational Structure of Your Growing Small BusinessThere can be no progress in business without structure and order. As a small business having only you and, maybe, a partner at its helm, it made no difference how you titled yourself. But when the time comes to start hiring employees and expanding your operations, things are very different.

You need to create an organizational structure from the moment when you take the first employee onboard. There are several reasons for it: first of all, there is the issue of the job description and the duties the employee will perform. Without a clear definition of their role, you will never be able to put these duties in writing. Then there is the issue of authority and chain of command: who is answerable to whom, how much authority does a specific job position have in decision making, and so on.

The key to a successful organizational structure is to find a simple, but flexible model which can be adapted easily as your business grows. It should also fit the needs of your specific line of business: a law firm will have a different organizational chart from an advertising agency and from a furniture company.

There are various models of organizational structures which can be adapted to your business model, and these are:

1. The Functional Structure
This is a classic business organizational chart which details the various departments existing in a business and how they relate to each other. The CEO or administrator is at the top level and oversees the activity of managers from the other departments. These departments focus on the key functions of any company:
⦁ Product development
⦁ Marketing and sales
⦁ Financial and taxation
⦁ Legal

As a small company, you will probably have only one employee for each key role, but this role should be clearly defined and included in the business structure, allowing you to allocate further job positions and manage your personnel efficiently. This type of structure is ideal for companies operating in traditional industries, such as manufacturing and consumer products.

2. The Product-Centric Structure
When your business focuses on specialized and proprietary products, it makes sense to organize your company structures in departments which deal with various aspects of creating, testing, marketing and further developing your products.

Such companies will start with a Research and Development department, a Customer Accounts department and a Sales and Marketing Department. The core structure of a product-centric company is also influenced by the way you are selling your product or service: one-time sale or subscription-based model. In the first instance, the Sales department has a stronger role and in the second, the Customer Accounts department.

3. The Divisional Structure
Some companies plan to expand by entering new territories in order to find new customer bases. These companies need to be careful about expanding in the right places and at the right pace.

If you plan to grow your business out of your city, or even out of your state, each new division needs to have a separate department in your organizational structure. These departments must monitor the state of the market, competition, and revenues and expenses, while the central structure receives their reports and compares their performances.

4. The Customer-Centric Structure
This type of business structure is adequate if you are selling services or evergreen digital products. The product development is not the key focus of this type of company (since there are few variations foreseen in the future), but rather how to attract customers and keep them loyal.

Such a company will focus on the Marketing department, the Customer Loyalty Programs department, the Customer Care department and any other department which you consider relevant to keep your customers happy in your specific niche.

5. The Matrix Structure
This type of structure is often seen in software and video game development companies. These companies have one key product (or line of products) and the activity is organized in departments which have an equal input into creating and promoting the product. Basically, except from the top CEO who oversees everyone else, there are no other relations of subordination among departments. On the contrary, they are required to collaborate together and complement each other’s work. Nobody can say that the graphic design team is more important than the programmers’ team, for example.

This is an organic company structure, adapted for modern businesses which focus on digital products and services.


Top Secure Cloud Storage Services for Small Businesses

Top Secure Cloud Storage Services for Small BusinessesCyber security is an increasingly sensitive issue, both for large companies and small businesses. Recent ransomware attacks have shown how exposed digital data is, and how much its loss impacts companies and people. Truly, one of the most valuable assets any business owns are not material ones, but digital: the information stored in your company computers and servers.

Just imagine losing all your customers’ data, the proprietary business processes you developed, the login data to various software solutions and online resources (including your social media and email accounts). It is the kind of loss which effectively paralyzes your activity.

Many small business owners fell victim to ransomware attacks and, even though they finally caved in and paid the demanded amount, they never regained all the data held hostage. Moreover, such an attack proved fatal to many start-ups, which were forced to shut down.

There is a simple solution to protect your company data: cloud storage. This service offers you secure storage space on high-performing servers, which are protected against hacking by the most advanced cyber security solutions. To help you choose the best solution for your small business, we prepared a list of the most secure and affordable cloud storage solutions available.

1. Dropbox
Dropbox has been around for years and is one of the most trusted and secure cloud storage solutions. You can test their service with a free account which offers 2 GB of storage space, or you can opt for a personal account which offers you 1 TB (that’s 1000 GB) of storage space for $8.25 per month.

The business account has a monthly fee of $12.50 per user and offers:
⦁ Unlimited storage
⦁ 3rd party integration options
⦁ 2-step verification and 2-factor authentication
⦁ Mobile app
⦁ Local file system synchronization
⦁ SSL encryption

Dropbox has a very simple and user-friendly interface, making it the top choice for people who are not very tech savvy.

2. Google Drive
Google needs no introduction – its reputation obliges them to provide users with top-notch services. Google Drive is more than a secure cloud storage solution. It comes paired with a SaaS (software as a service) solution formerly known as Google Docs, which allows you to open files stored in Drive even if you do not have the software used to create them (such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, etc.) installed on your computer.

Google Drives offers 15 GB of storage space for free. Other storage sizes are priced at :
⦁ $1.99 per month for 100 GB
⦁ $9.99 per month for 1 TB
⦁ $99.99 per month for 10 TB
⦁ $199.99 per month for 20 TB

3. MozyPro
This cloud storage solution for small businesses is the ideal choice if you want to forget about the worry of performing back-ups and synchronization. MozyPro does that automatically, retrieving files from servers, desktop computers and laptops running on either Windows or Mac OS. MozyPro is even compatible with specialized Microsoft server applications such as Exchange and SQL.

You can test the capabilities of MozyPro for 30 days for free. The monthly fee is $40 for 100 GB of storage for an unlimited number of computers, and an additional $12.99 per month for servers.

4. Egnyte
This complex cloud storage and collaboration solution offers state-of-the-art protection for your data and allows you to share documents both with your team members and with people outside your business organization. Egnyte is equipped with Microsoft Office 365 (the online version of the Office suite) and offers third party integration for other business tools you use (Salesforce, for example). Speaking of security, Egnyte is SOC and ISO 27001 compliant and offers support even for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Pricing starts at $8 per month per user.

5. Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft has a solid and secure cloud data backup and storage service with advanced encryption and various security features, both for personal use and for businesses. If you want to try before you buy, you can sign up for the personal OneDrive Basic plan which offers 5 GB storage space, without any other collaboration and document editing capabilities.

You can choose from the following business plans:
⦁ $60 per year for 1 TB – standard storage and security;
⦁ $120 per year for 1 TB – advanced security and compliance features;
⦁ $150 per year for 1 TB – includes Office 365.


Key Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master in 2017

Key Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master in 2017Entrepreneurship evolves with the times and so does the set of desired skills any entrepreneur needs to have. Decades ago it was all about dogged determination and putting in as many man hours as possible in your business. Technology now helps us work smarter and focus our efforts on innovative thinking.

The internet and the smartphone have created the digital revolution which has changed the way people look at businesses and the expectations they have. At the same time, the change also propagated within organizations – from large corporations to small businesses. The boss type who barks orders was replaced by the leader who manages by collaboration and motivation.

Today’s discussion focuses around the specific set of skills that you should work on if you want to be a successful entrepreneur in this day and age. It does not mean that your current skills are not useful anymore – it just means that you need to consider polishing these ones.

1. Empathy
As we mentioned above, leadership has changed. It is not about the boss who rules with an iron fist anymore. Successful managers are great communicators and collaborators and they have empathy for their team. Your employees are not robots, programmed to perform a task, but people with feelings, with good days and bad days, with health and personal problems.

An emphatic entrepreneur can help each employee become a top performer by listening to them, advising and coaching them, and allowing them to grow in the company, even if this means making a mistake or two.

2. Focusing on Your Strength
Let’s be honest, nobody can master every single skill required in a certain job role – and that of entrepreneur is the most demanding role. For years and years, many entrepreneurs worked hard, missed opportunities and lost their enthusiasm while trying to correct or improve their shortcomings. None of them achieved a satisfactory result in the end.

Right now, there is a shift in the paradigm: instead of working on your weak points, focus on your strong points and be the best at them. The Jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur is not a feasible idea. Instead, hone your core skills and strengths and own them like a true leader.

3. Networking and Relationship Building
We live in a connected world in every sense of the word. No one can succeed on their own, no matter how skilled they are. Entrepreneurial success is the result of teamwork and collaboration these days. No matter what products and services you want to develop and sell, you will always depend on others: suppliers and vendors, peers to vouch for your business idea, partners to add talent and value to your business, and loyal customers to become brand ambassadors.

Knowing how to cultivate and build relationships with others is now a key skill in any line of business and at any level: from the mom-and-pop store, to the multinational corporation.

4. Consumer Focus
The economy we live in now is consumer centric. The consumer, the client, is at the heart of any product development and launch, and any marketing message. People have a wide range of choices for any product or service you can think of. Nobody owns a specific niche, no matter how precisely defined. Competition is everywhere. Therefore the old school slogan that a product sells itself is outdated.

You must always be able to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes whenever you want to write a piece of content, create an ad campaign and, most importantly, develop a product. Only this approach will help you create products and marketing messages which will attract and persuade your customers.

5. Personal Branding
Brands go beyond businesses. Entrepreneurs and top managers need to build and protect their own personal brands. This is reflected in your online activity, your social media accounts, the way you interact with your business partners and peers and, in the end, reflects back on your business and your products.

A strong and positive personal brand is a valuable asset for any business. It is the guarantee that there is an actual person behind the business name, able and willing to vouch for all the promises the business makes to its customers.

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