AI Uses in Businesses

Some think artificial intelligence (AI) is only used on large corporations, but that’s not true. Businesses of all sizes use AI for a myriad of reasons. It is frequently found in businesses that have a customer service department. AI can make chatbots perform better with more programmed responses as well as provide faster and deeper data analytics. AI will be used more as the technology is mainstreamed and cheaper. Businesses are already expecting to use AI in the near future, since 57% expect it “to improve customer experience and support” per Datamation.  Customers are already used to using AI in their homes with through apps and devices (e.g. Alexa). 

 

We have already seen AI in medicine with machines that read scans (e.g. CT and PET). However, AI is most notably known for performing repetitive tasks in manufacturing, such as robots attaching a car door to a frame. The robots perform this task faster and with precision. AI helps the robots to see show the task can be performed better to save even more time and avoid problems (e.g. broken bolts). Aside from performing tasks, AI helps businesses perfect their strategies by providing big data that will predict customer behaviors, which will give businesses new ways to reach customers as well as customize their experiences. When CEOs know how and when their products are used, they can better tailor marketing strategies to these customers. AI can even make recommendations based on previous purchases and searches to customers. AI also detects fraud faster as well as predict when future instances of fraud may occur (i.e. banking). 

 

AI makes businesses function more efficiently not only through processing and data analytics, but in everyday business tools, including emails and news feeds. AI can improve spam filters, categorize emails and automate responders. It can automate web service, perform smarter searches and enhance security surveillance. AI can also personalize news feeds, keeping businesses better connected to their industries. There are only a few ways AI can help businesses. In the near future, AI will play a bigger role in how businesses are set up and function, as the major of their services will be automated in some fashion (other than apps). It will be interesting to see how AI will take a more physical role (robotic) in the near future.

Top Three Franchises for 2019

When you think of a franchise, you think of food — Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds. Both of these companies have strong brands and bring in a great deal of money. We even see ads looking for people to become franchisees. What exactly is a franchise? And why do people buy into them? When you (the franchisee) buy a part of a business from the owner (franchisor), you are getting the rights to sell the company’s products and/or services as well as use its brand, processes, business model and equipment. Although you pay the franchisor an initial fee and royalties pertaining to the business, you do get support and use of the trademark. It’s important to note that the franchisor retains the license to the business whereas the franchisee can only use it. The franchisor grows his business through the franchises. It is not the same as growing a business by increasing its locations (e.g. Starbucks).

People are quick to buy a franchise because they are essentially cash cows. They also want to learn how to manage a business. That said, let’s take a look at some franchises that will be popular this year.

  1. McDonald’s — This will always be a popular franchise. The company started out as a small hamburger shop and became a multi-million dollar corporation. Brothers Maurice (Mac) and Richard McDonald opened their restaurant in 1948 in San Bernardino, California. Restaurant equipment salesman Ray Kroc saw how the brothers sold their food cheaply with a self-serve counter and came up with the idea of franchising the restaurant. The first franchise opened in 1954 in Des Plaines, Illinois. McDonalds continues to grow based on its brand, quality of food and reinvention (e.g. renovated restaurants).
  2. Dunkin Donuts — The fast food chain is now called Dunkin (or DD). The franchise decided last year to drop the “Donuts” and focus on beverages. Like McDonalds, the chain has grown due to its brand, products and convenience. It was started by William Rosenberg in 1948 and was originally called Open Kettle. The mission was to sell donuts and coffee quickly. However, after meeting with consultants, it was changed to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.” The name was changed to Dunkin Donuts in 1950 and the first franchise opened in 1955. The mission holds true today with numerous franchises across the nation.
  3. The UPS Store — Originally called Mail Boxes Etc., this postal services company grew and embraced technology. It created the “business services category” with its digital capabilities for small businesses. In 2001, UPS acquired Mail Boxes Etc. and became the world’s “largest franchisor of retail shipping, postal, printing, and business services centers.” In 2003, the UPS Store Brand was introduced. In 2012, the Mail Boxes Etc. was absorbed into the UPS Store. Last year, the UPS Store was ranked #1 by Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual “Franchise 500.” There is no doubt this franchise will continue to be popular.

Top Tips For Writing A CV

A Curriculum Vitae (CV), sometimes also referred to as an individual’s resume, is a vital document that lists said person’s work experience, education, technical skills and any other pertinent information that might render a job seeker more employable in the job market. This brief blog will highlight several tips job seekers can utilize to ensure their resumes stand out from their competitors.

 

Keep It Simple

 

A well-written CV highlights a prospective job candidate’s selling points such as their work experience, educational background, computer skills, languages spoken and other attributes pertinent to a given position. Top resumes include this information succinctly and each said section is authored using simple language. The key factor is to use as few words as possible. Being short and simple allows the job seeker to avoid any wasted words or including unimportant or uninteresting aspects of their backgrounds.

 

Write Using Power Words

 

Good resumes convey that the author is accomplished and well-versed, such achievements should be highlighted utilizing strong language. Many employment experts suggest included phrases such as “earned a degree,” achieved said award,” or “supervised a team of said employees.” Using more passive language might give prospective employers the impression that the applicant was more of a follower than a leader or a doer more than an achiever.

 

Adhere To Proper Formatting

 

Though sometimes overlooked, utilizing appropriate formatting techniques can play a critical role in whether one’s resume in thoroughly read or not. Would-be job seekers are advised to type using professional font sizes (typically 12-point) and types (e.g. Times New Roman). Moreover, well-authored CV’s do not contain endless chunks of text. Applicants are strongly advised to break text up into bullet points and numbered lists whenever and wherever appropriate. Following such practices will render the document easier to read.

 

Include A Personal Profile

 

While inclusion of tenets including one’s education, experience and skills are crucial, so is a personal profile. Prospective employers not only wish to learn what someone has accomplished but also gain some idea of who said individual is on a personal and professional level. Subjects to be covered in a personal profile can include a career objective, such as why said individual is applying to this job; what the applicant hopes to gain from employment at this company; and where the applicant sees him/herself in so many years.

Top Consulting Trends for 2019

The consulting industry continues to play a large role in many business industries. The demand for experienced consultants only continues to grow.

Let’s talk about some challenges that are facing the consulting industry, which may cause disruptions. Then, we will move on to talk about current trends in the consulting industry in 2019 and beyond.

Unlike many other industries, consulting is not something that can be automated or left to artificial intelligence. Consulting requires human input and intelligence, which means that it will continue to be in demand. With a deluge of information on any industry on the internet, some companies may turn to “articles” instead of a consultant for customized services. A good consultant is someone who can provide information and advice in a particular niche garnered from experience and education.

Another challenge to consulting firms is the recent trend of employees leaving to join other firms or to start their own freelance agency. There are a number of reasons consultants are doing this. Some of the top reasons include finding a better opportunity, not finding their current compensation and benefits to be adequate, and not finding enough career growth potential in their current positions.

Now, let’s move on to some notable trends. First, prices are going down, due to many freelance consultants and budget agencies providing consulting services at lower costs. On the other hand, some larger consulting firms have been buying off smaller firms. This can raise prices and create a monopoly.

Some companies, instead of hiring outside parties to provide consulting services and advice, are creating built-in teams of strategists to guide their staff.

Something that we may be seeing in the near future is consultants moving towards a value or outcome-based pricing model. Most consultants are still charging clients based on an hourly fee. While this works out better for consultants, it can raise prices for clients, especially if they are not seeing satisfactory results.

It is interesting to note that many consulting firms have reported anxiety due to increased competition, as well as increased customer expectations. Consultants are now striving to meet customer expectations as a top priority.

Diversity is another trend in the global consulting industries. Firms are looking to improve and expand when it comes to diversity. Different backgrounds can be valuable resources for creative problem solving.

With these challenges and trends in mind, the consulting industry will continue to flourish. Management consulting is still needed for a variety of industries (i.e. financial services) as new technologies emerge and customer behaviors change. Disruptions will occur, but consultants that have competitive pricing, personalized services and strong technical knowledge will survive them.

Management Trends for 2019

With more Millennials joining the workforce and gaining leadership positions, managers must change the way they approach employee engagement. There is a shift in thinking of an employee as a way to make a profit to thinking of an employee as a team member. When employees are given more value, productivity increases (and profits). Here are some management trends to expect this year.

 

  1. Maximize the Employee experience — Employees are in a position where they can demand more, especially due to the low employment rate and the advances in technology. Thus, to get the best out of employees is to create a workspace they can be the most productive in, whether it be working remotely or using better software to manage their workflow. Also, the notion that employees are restricted to their workspace is passe. Many employers allow their employees to work in other areas of the office or off-site. This has shown to increase productivity and creativity.  
  2. Professional Development — As technology evolves, so must businesses. They must adapt to survive. According to Entrepreneur.com, the average lifespan of an S & P company is now 20 years, a remarkable drop from 60 years in the 1950s. Managers should encourage employees to learn new skills, not only for their own personal growth, but to keep their company competitive.
  3. More Collaboration — This ties into enhancing the employee experience in that employees work better when they can bounce ideas off of each other or seek feedback from other work teams. Quiet cubicle farms are being replaced with open desks and employees facing each other. This “shared” approach encourages employees to get to know one another, which creates a successful work environment. There are a number of tools that are essential for collaboration, such as chat and management platforms. They allow employees to comment and edit files, share screens, monitor deadlines, assign tasks, group message and more.
  4. Video Marketing — A good manager is able to spot trends in his/her industry. A growing trend is video marketing. According to Teamweek, 55% of people watch one marketing video a day. Thus, you should create and post the videos in your social media channels as well as on your website. The main goal is to achieve visitor engagement.  
  5. Hiring a Consultant — Sometimes a fresh perspective is needed to solve a problem. Hiring a consultant doesn’t not mean failure, it just means you are using another resource. A consultant shares knowledge of a particular skill, helps you develop a business skill, ensures you are making the right decision about a problem … etc.

Learning in the Workplace

Alexandra ArrivillagaEvery year, companies across the country invest billions of dollars in spending on employee education and training. While research suggests that employees who work at companies with comprehensive employee development programs are more engaged, most of these programs don’t actually work.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte, the majority of the companies surveyed for the study claimed that retention, engagement and culture top the list for priorities. These same subjects admitted that improving employee learning programs was also a top priority. One might deduce that these subjects believe that ongoing learning and training is the way to improve retention, engagement and company culture.

While this may be true, another consulting company found that many of these development programs are not effective.  The following tips are suggested for improving employee development programs:

Managers are the Key

In the past, managers played the role of mentor and passed along valuable skill sets and advice to their employees. While ideally that is still the case, the manager is often overburdened today, and may not have enough time or incentive to continue this tradition. In order for managers to effectively coach their employees, the managers need the support, space and time to do this.

 

Skill Set Shelf Life

The kind of information gained through a mentorship or a formal program have the potential to help an employee throughout their career. However, when looking at technical skills, these change practically by the day. Technology is changing all of the time and a skillset relevant today may literally be obsolete tomorrow. This heightened realm of innovation underscores the necessity for frequent training. Instead of spending months on one skill, employers should be identifying ways to share relevant information immediately, then move on to the next.

Be Flexible

The goal of these development programs should be to equip your employees with new information and skills that give them tools to be more effective or knowledgeable in their role, or at least for them to stay more engaged. With those goals in mind, you don’t want this experience to be too overwhelming or come at the expense of their work. That means there should be some flexibility in terms of when they undergo this training. That could mean having modules that are easily watched on their phones or multiple options for in-person training sessions. If the employee has some choice in when or how they participate in training, there’s less of a chance that it will be viewed as an inconvenience.

Because retention, engagement and culture are top of mind for so many companies, it makes sense that they are actively spending a significant amount of capital in education and development programs, as it directly addresses those concerns. However, it’s important to realize that training alone is ineffective.  Proper training needs to be accompanied by support from managers, offered regularly while maintaining flexibility in how the employees participate.

 

How to Banish Workplace Stress

alexandra arrivillagaIt’s a well known fact that companies with healthy and happy employees tend to perform better overall. This is due to the fact that employees have enough energy and focus to perform as efficiently as possible within their roles. Managing levels of employee stress not only makes for  a more pleasant working environment, but it has been proven time and time again that this allows for employees to have a greater output, quality of work  and potential for retention than their stressed out counterparts. While this may not be terribly surprising or revolutionary news, the truly difficult aspect of this information is creating a company culture that truly enables its employees to appropriately manage their stress levels.

From a higher level perspective, CEOs and the executive team need to identify whether or not high levels of unchecked stress are currently impacting their workforce. If that is indeed the case, then correcting the overwhelming levels of stress taken on by the employees needs to be addressed at multiple levels within the company.

While a healthy amount of stress can lead to employees completing their tasks on deadline and taking their work seriously, too much stress is detrimental to all parties involved. With that being said, below are 5 ways that Managers can aid their workforce on the road to stress recovery!

1. Encourage Your Employees to Get High Tech Healthy

From FitBits, to a million apps and a multitude of other health minded apps, make sure that your employees are using tools that will encourage them to get up and move around, drink more water and even get more restful sleep. Whether you decide to sponsor the cost of a new fitness gadget for all employees, encourage everyone to join a particular app, or reward those who wear FitTech the best, make sure that you are communicating a clear message that health is important and that your employees need to create that space for themselves using the tools available.

2. Meditation

Whether you bring in a speaker on the benefits of meditation, create a quiet room with comfy pillows and blankets designated as a meditation space or demand complete silence and reflection for ten minutes out of the work day, make a point to show that meditation is valuable.

3. Offer Support

Although the First two methods of decreasing the amount of stress at work through encouraging beneficial health and wellness practices, offering support is a bit broader. Make sure that your employees have a clearly defined role and that the expectations are transparent. Additionally, it’s important that employees are qualified and trained appropriately for their jobs. There’s nothing like on the job training, but that is often times not enough, so making a point to regularly evaluate where your employees stand in terms of their skill sets and if there are any gaps in their knowledge is absolutely key to helping the employees not only grow, but be able to competently and comfortably fulfill their roles. In addition to ongoing training, offering proper managerial and structural support is key to ensuring that the employees are able to do their jobs well, and get help if they need it. This is critical in de-stressing your workforce.

While all companies maintain a different approach to de-stressing their workforce, these are some of the most helpful ways to do it, but remember that it requires a holistic, thoughtful and realistic approach.

The Signs That Consulting Is Right For You

Consulting is a career that comes with many perks such as flexible hours, new projects and clients every few months, and autonomy over your work. After hearing this, you might think that consulting is your dream job. However, there are a few things to consider before jumping into the world of consulting. There is a lot of buzz going around about the lucrative industry which is why many professionals are considering making that move to the more fluid and flexible career. It is important to recognize whether or not consulting will be the right fit for you. So, here some of the signs that will tell you that consulting is the right career choice.

 

You Like To Focus On The Work You Are Doing

Do you see yourself as someone who likes to roll up their sleeves and working hard to create outcomes? Then, consulting might be the right fit for you. By going into a career in consulting, you leave behind all the other aspects of being an employee. This means no managing of other people, no more performance reviews, no more worrying about the last company meeting, and no more thinking about your next steps within the organization. Now, some people enjoy managing others and want to be involved in a company’s long-term strategies. However, consultants are primarily detached from all those other things, so if that sounds like something you would enjoy, you would then enjoy working as a consultant.

 

You Lie Control Over Your Schedule and Workload

While consultants don’t exactly work less than other employees do, they do have more of a say in what they work on and when they work. So, if there is a new project to work on that you are not interested in, as a consultant, you can decline that project. Employees, otherwise, wouldn’t have that same luxury. In addition to this, the time you spend working is based on the deliverable. So, when you are able to take away all the other aspects of being an employee, you find that, as a consultant, you can work fewer hours but show more results.

 

You Have A Specific Expertise/Niche

If you are someone who enjoys working in a particular field like email marketing or even social media, then consulting might be the career choice for you. Most companies, when hiring a consultant are looking for someone who can give specific expertise on a project or initiative. They are not seeking general advice on a broad range of topics. However, this is not to say that consulting is your chance to change your expertise. For example, if you have worked on brand marketing your entire career to this point and suddenly want to go into digital analytics, consulting will not be the best way to go about that. Your best bet would be to work as an employee where you can get your feet wet, learn from the other teams within the organizations and get that hands-on experience before you make the jump to consulting.

What You Should Know Before Starting A Consulting Business

Many professionals are becoming more and more interested in starting their own consulting business. It has the perks of a great career path with a lucrative upside. However, what people don’t initially realize is that consulting is not as easy as it appears to be. In fact, it is a lot harder than you might think. Now, this is by no means to discourage you from starting a consulting business if that is what you are passionate about. There are some cautions to be aware that can save you a lot of headaches down the line and move you closer to that dream. So, with that said, here are some of the things you should know before starting a consulting business.

 

You Will Face Cranky People

You’re going to have to deal with cranky people. It is just part of the nature of the job. Consulting is a face-to-face business where you are meeting with people, shaking hands, and have conversations with them. Not many people can handle unpleasant relationships, and if that is the case for you, then you may want to reconsider going into consulting. You are going to deal with people who aren’t the nicest when they speak to you, but part of the job is figuring out who is worth working with and who is not. You will find that at some points, you are going to have to deal with some relationships that aren’t most pleasant to handle.

 

Knowledge Is Your Deliverable

At the end of the day, as a consultant, you were hired for one reason, and that is your knowledge. It is the one thing, individuals and companies expect from their consultant. They want your expertise in the particle niche for which you were hired, and for this reason, you must assert this knowledge and present yourself as the expert. Your clients are hiring you because when it comes to certain projects, you know something that they do not. So, don’t hesitate to tell it like is and deliver the knowledge that they paid for. Some people may agree, and some people may disagree, but you would be doing them a disservice if you didn’t deliver your knowledge to its fullest capacity.

 

You Might Not Be Charging Enough

One of the common mistakes that new consultants make is not charging enough for their service. Whether it is guilt or inexperience, this is a common blunder that most people make. While there is no magic formula for setting your fee, there is a general rule, and that is to charge more than you think you should. You have to remember that just as your clients are getting a return on their investment, so should you. Also, the higher your rate, the better you and your service look. A consultant whose fees are $100 per hour will be viewed as far less valuable than one who charges $5,000 per hour. You are selling yourself and your knowledge, so you want to make sure that clients know it is worth the investment.

Owl Management Consulting Now in Framingham

Alexandra Arrivillaga Owl ManagementEarlier this week, Alexandra Arrivillaga De Castro, (known in professional circles as Alexandra Arrivillaga) announced that Owl Management Consulting is opening its doors to a third location based in Framingham, MA. This announcement comes after two successful location openings at One Boston Place and Ten Post Office Square earlier this year.

The newest addition to Owl Managment Consulting will act as headquarters for the growing company. This new location has an intersting history of its own as the former home of John A. Lynch. Mr. Lynch was well known for his work as an a writer and photographer, and served as an Honorary trustee of the New England Wildlife Society. 

CEO Alexandra Arrivillaga admits that the experience of opening this new location for her thriving business has been an exercise in having things come full circle. She explains, “When I lived in an apartment in Framingham, I used to walk in Garden in the Woods [botanic garden and headquarters of the New England Wild Flower Society]. This is where I came up with the idea for my company.” She goes on to explain, “Now, I feel I have come full circle opening this location. My real estate agent Ben worked tirelessly to help me find the property. I am so lucky to have my own ‘Garden in the Woods.'”

Alexandra Arrivillaga De Castro’s enthusiasm is palpable, and this new location will provide one more outlet for Owl Management Consulting to provide clients with a number of well-developed services.

 Owl Management Consulting caters to private, public and not-for-profit organizations that seek advisory services. Owl specializes in services that include; customer relationship management, organization change management, diversity training for managers and Strategy, risk management and business process services.

The company’s reputation is built on the strength of delivering master advisory services, under the leadership of communications and management consultant expert Alexandra Arrivillaga.

To Learn more about Owl Management Consulting, visit the company website here.