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.

101 for the One-on-One

Alexandra ArrivillagaIn most companies, regardless of the field, one on one meetings with direct reports are pretty regimented. These check-ins can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, but may at times feel unnecessary. If you’re dealing with an employee who is doing well and doesn’t have any issues, this may feel like you’re wasting there time. However, these meetings have the potential to be extremely useful not only for the two of you, but possibly for the company as well. Following these tips will encourage a more productive use of time and hopefully a breath of fresh air!

Change Your Environment : Even if these meetings only last 15 minutes, go for a walk outside. Having these meetings away from the office will help the two of you really focus on the meeting instead of being distracted by the eight million other things vying for your attention. If you’re sitting in the conference room, it’s very easy to just talk about current projects at the office. By getting out of the office you’ll shake up the routine, and the employee will also be able to talk more freely without the fear of being overheard by other co-workers.

It’s all in the questions. Instead of just asking how it’s going, get a bit more creative. Come up with some open ended questions that look at the bigger picture. Come up with specific questions. What are this employee’s  goals? How can you help this employee be more productive? Really check in, and get to know who this person is and how you can help them grow. If you feel like the employee isn’t really engaging with your questions, tell them what you’ve been working on and something that has been challenging for you. Soliciting advice or even just revealing some insight into your job and role might be helpful for the other employee.

Share the Mic : If there is something in particular that you need to address with this employee – by all means talk about it. However, this should really be a chance for the employee to have the floor. As a manager, you talk at your team a lot. Look at this as a chance for the individual team member to speak up about any of his or her concerns or thoughts.

One-on-ones are important because they offer an opportunity that is easily overlooked during the day, when everyone is wrapped up in their own work. Look at one-on-ones as a chance to get to know your employees and for them to know you. One-on-ones are a chance for you to offer professional development and create a space for the employee  to air any grievances, share ideas and reflect on their work.

 

How to Build Customer Relationships

Alexandra ArrivillagaTalk amongst yourselves: Make sure that your sales and marketing teams are in alignment. This means that they should be communicating regularly to make sure that they are presenting a united front to current and potential clients. Additionally, be keeping these two arms of your company in conversation, they can share data, information and insight with each other regarding the current and aspirational client base. By connecting these two teams both will understand who they are targeting and what traits make for an ideal customer. In addition to face to face meetings, there are a number of digital services and systems that can be incorporated into company infrastructure to facilitate these sorts of interior dialogues across departments.

Social media: Go to the customers. Create conversations relevant to your company and your customers. The easiest place to engage with your customers is on social media platforms. Come up with ways to engage with them there. Not only does this create a great forum for feedback, but your customers will feel actively engaged with your company, its services and products. Consider using tools that help identify trends when creating content on these platforms so that your content is au courant.
In addition to creating a dialogue with your customers through social media platforms, consider incorporating a live chat element onto your company website, and make sure that you have dedicated staff that will respond to customer inquiries promptly. Live chat can provide a quicker alternative to traditional phone-based customer service, immediate customer solutions, and potential leads for the sales department.

Take surveys: Although this shouldn’t be done so frequently that it becomes a deterrent or dis-incentivizes potential customers from engaging on your platform, surveys can be an excellent tool for showing that the opinions of your customers matter.

Positive reinforcement: Find ways to reward customers. Reward those that repeatedly show their loyalty and/or engage heavily with the company. Offer incentives, discount codes and more. Anything that encourages the customers to continue utilizing your services.

The Human Touch: Though this can be challenging at scale, try to find ways to connect with your customers in ways that remind them that there are people behind the company and its services who care about building relationships with the customers as well as addressing their needs. Get creative about how to do this at scale if you are  a larger company, and see how regional divisions can help with this as well.

When considering implementing any of these new measures intended to help connect with your customer base, there is one more thing that’s very important to keep in mind. And that is transparency. Today consumers expect transparency, and companies are lucky in that there are so many tools to implement this. And when considering the objectives of your company, take care to align them with the needs of the client. Why is your company and its services or products beneficial to them? And be clear about this. Transparency will take customer building to a whole new level.

 

Lock It Up Security LLC

security cameras

Alexandra Arrivillaga is the owner of Lock It Up Security LLC, a commercial-based telecommunications company in Boston, MA that works to serve as a world-class provider of electronic security and low-voltage solutions. Working on a sub-contractor basis, Lock It Up Security LLC installs security cameras in businesses, small and large.