Pro Tips: Adult Snow Days
Snow day! Music to a child’s ears, but not always to an adult’s. Unless, perhaps, you are fortunate enough to have the type of job – and the type of boss – that allows you to work from home. Working from home on a snow day or other weather emergency is a lovely perk to have, as well as an opportunity and a privilege.
Without as many distractions, you may find yourself better able to focus, and may even get more accomplished than when you are in the office. This is a huge opportunity to:
- Catch up on correspondence. If, like many of us, you find your inbox is full to overflowing, use this day to address it. This includes both your virtual inbox and your physical one. Ditch the junk. Respond to anything you can take off your plate quickly. Sort, file and delegate.
- Organize your notes and your thoughts on a project. Had a lot of meetings with little time to breathe in between? Review your notes and write recaps. Follow up on anything you promised to do.
- Brainstorm! A change of scenery (and working in your pajamas) can provide you with a different perspective. If you’ve been stuck creatively, this may be the perfect time to approach a challenge from a new angle.
- Learn something new. Is there something you can learn to do online to make you more productive at work? Chances are you can learn how to do it while you’re home, thanks to Google, YouTube or online learning programs like Lynda.com
Keep in mind that while a day working from home may be more relaxed than a day in the office (you are in your PJs, right?), it’s still a work day if you’re getting paid. Show your boss you know what this means:
- Check in. Let your boss or your team know what you’re working on. You should have something to show for your time at home.
- Be responsive. Show your team or your customers they can still count on you – answer your phone and messages promptly.
- Be honest. Talk to your boss about your circumstances. If you have small children to entertain and supervise, or if you spend a significant portion of the day on tasks like snow removal, it’s better to take time off. You want your boss to be able to trust that when you are working from home, you’re really working.
- Express your appreciation. Many people, like those in hospitals, public safety or other industries, can’t stay home to work in a snow storm. But if you can, and your boss allows it, be sure to say thanks.
Our hard-working team at Market Mentors always does its best for our clients, no matter the weather. If we can help you, let us know.
Got a claim? Be sure to back it up!
Got a claim? Be sure to back it up!
One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Elf” is the one in the coffee shop:
World’s best cup of coffee! Wow!
This scene is hilarious, but it illustrates a trap that is all too common in advertising. While your parents may believe you are the best, the rest of us need proof.
It’s easy to describe yourself using superlatives — highest quality, fastest service, best tasting — but if you don’t offer any proof, you’re only offering empty words. Words your competitors can also use, and words that don’t mean anything to your customers.
Back it up
If you can indeed claim to be at the top of your particular heap, back it up. For example, instead of “World’s Best Cup of Coffee,” showcase the results of your latest taste test that lets you say “The Choice of Coffee Connoisseurs.” Or instead, let your customers make the case for you: “No Other Coffee I’ve Tried Measures Up.”
To take it a step further, dig down to find out what really sets you apart from your competitors, and turn that into a benefit for your customers. Got the fastest response times? Let your customers know that they will waste less time waiting around. Offer 24/7 service? Let them know you’re ready when they are.
Any time and money you spend on research up front will pay for itself when you hone in on what makes you special and resonates with your customers.
Walk the Talk
It’s also important that you don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Your goal should always be to exceed expectations. If you promise one hour delivery, be sure you consistently deliver in less than one hour. Setting the bar high and then failing to reach it not only defeats your efforts, it leaves you in worse shape than ever.
If you do miss the mark on occasion, have a plan in place for service recovery so you don’t lose the customer completely. Apologize sincerely, and then make it right. If you didn’t meet the promised delivery window, waive the cost of the order or the delivery charge, or help offset the consequences of your mistake. Then make sure you identify the source of the problem and take steps internally to prevent it from happening again.
Don’t Overlook Onboarding!
In doing a bit of digging for this blog post, I found some staggering stats via the Harvard Business Review. Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job and 23% of new hires turn over before their first anniversary. Wait, what?! How might you prevent this from happening within your company? Effective onboarding.
Onboarding can be overwhelming, so it is important to first focus on getting across high-level milestones to your new hire. Sure, there are required forms to fill out and fellow employees to meet, but if you don’t get across your company’s story, culture and long term goals in the beginning of the onboarding process, you stand the chance to lose your
most recent hire.
Well organized onboarding not only improves employee performance, but it helps reduce employee frustration, sets up clear expectations and leaves the new hire feeling empowered and ready to get to work.
What are some simple, high-level ways in which to engage your most recent hire? Try to incorporate the following:
- Set them up: Get their space ready and ensure they have all they need to hit the ground running. Having a space to call their own will also help boost their confidence!
- Meet the gang: Get your new hire acquainted with those they will be working with – but make it fun! Research some out of the box icebreakers or have a company lunch to welcome your new hire. Remember: finding ways to emphasize your company culture is a good thing!
- Minimize questions/stress: New hires (like myself) will have a million questions. Try mapping out a daily schedule for their first few weeks. Have them interview key employees (psst: provide guiding questions), cover processes and procedures, provide a FAQ sheet and make yourself available and approachable. You had a first day on the job once – what would you have liked to know?
- Set goals and check-in – often: Gratitude, checking-in and asking, “How are you doing? Is there anything you need?” will help new employees feel both seen and heard. Setting goals and objectives helps to reduce ambiguity and will allow the new hire to focus on what is expected of them.
According to the Aberdeen Group, 90% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within their first six months – so make sure your onboarding process is on point to retain that great new talent!
The 1099-MISC Abyss
You know that feeling you get in the last few months of the year when those deadlines begin looming? As members of a marketing agency, we know that deadlines are always going to be part of our daily routine. While it’s our responsibility to manage media deadlines, we know you have deadlines, too. And no matter what business you’re in, properly filing tax documents on time is something that applies to all of us. I have implemented some steps that helped me through the years and thought it might be of value to our clients or any other business professional responsible for tax preparation:
- Get started early! This may sound crazy, but the January 31st deadline for mailing the 1099’s to recipients comes faster than you think.
- Pull ALL vendors and make sure you have a current W-9 (within two years). Here is a link to access a blank W-9 http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf. Whether they need a 1099 or not, you are required to have them on file.
- Separate the W-9’s by Corporate and LLC/Partnership/Individual. Corporations do not need to have a 1099 sent to them, but I send them to all the others just to cover my bases.
- Make sure all correct information is in your system based on the signed W-9.
- Email, fax or call vendors that need a W-9 or updated one. I prefer to email since you can have an electronic copy if the printed one disappears.
- If they fall into the send category, there are some criteria to determine if you need to send a 1099 or not. You can go to irs.gov/uac/Form-1099-MISC,-Miscellaneous-Income- for a complete list.
- If you are going to print the 1099’s on a laser printer, do not order the forms from the IRS website because they send carbon copies that won’t go through your printer. I prefer to purchase a 1099-MISC laser printer set (4 or 5 parts) as it comes with all copies you will need. Make sure you order the 1096 forms and envelopes because they are not usually included in the set. I order about 10 percent more than I actually need (in case of errors or re-dos). Do not print the forms from the IRS website because a penalty may be imposed for filing forms that can’t be scanned by the IRS.
- I print each part copy (i.e. Copy B Recipient then State Copy 1 etc.) all at once. After they are printed, I double check information has lined up correctly. I also check to make sure the Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number (SSN), name and address are correct based on the W-9.
- Send the “Copy B for Recipient” copies out first since they have an earlier deadline. All of the “Copy B for Recipient” copies need to be separated by individual and mailed in 1099 envelopes post marked by January 31st. I usually will wait a couple weeks after mailing them before filing the other forms because you may get a few back due to incorrect information. This alleviates the need to submit a “Void” or “Corrected” one. All of the “Copy A for Internal Revenue Service Center” copies need to be filed with the form 1096 and mailed by a deadline that usually falls in late February or early March. All of the “Copy 1 for the State Tax Department” copies for Massachusetts need to be filed with a copy of the form 1096 and mailed by a deadline that also falls in late February or early March as well. Check each state as they may have different requirements for filing. No stapling or folding is accepted so I usually mail them in a 9×12 envelope. I prefer to send the State and IRS packages via Certified Mail to ensure a receipt.
- I make a copy of the form 1096 for my records to go along with the “Copy C for Payer” copies. I also keep the 1099 vendor list printed which usually identify the vendor, EIN or SSN, and amount. If you need more information you can access the Internal Revenue Service’s instructions here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1099msc.pdf.
Lastly, if you find the process to be too much or need a little help, let us know. We just happen to have a client in the business we can introduce you to!
National Do Something Nice Day
National Do Something Nice Day (NDSND) is on October 5th this year. It is exactly what it sounds like, a mandatory day to do at least one nice thing for someone else. You think, “that isn’t hard” but for some people it is and they need a nationally known day to do something kind for someone else. For those of us that do nice things on a daily basis, this is a reminder to go the extra mile.
At Market Mentors we thought it would be nice to supply readers with a few tips on how to celebrate National Do Something Nice Day.
Top 10 ways to celebrate NDSND:
- Give a Compliment – Go up to someone in the office and say “great job on that project” or “your new haircut looks nice.” Obviously do not lie, but if you like something about someone, let them know.
- Help Someone Out – You know a co-worker is swamped at work. Offer a helping hand to take a few things off their plate. Even if they decline, the gesture is always appreciated.
- Crack a Smile – Ok, no one is expecting you to bust out your high school pompoms, but be conscious of your body language. If you are more of a stoic or serious person, take this opportunity to show off those pearly whites – smile!
- Laugh – Smiling usually leads to laughter. Laughing can help you just as much as it can make someone else happy. You know what they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”
- Give Back – If donating or service work is not something you normally do, do it today.
- Be Polite – Just be nice. Plain and simple. Try not to swear, or talk over someone. Today can be a day where you test your manors to the max.
- Share – Do you have a bag of cookies in your desk or some yummy treats? Walk around the office and share it with colleagues. Or if you have a piece of advice (positive), feel free to spread the word today. Words of wisdom are always accepted.
- Read – If you got to this point you have already done something nice for me. Now please, keep reading to see what you can do for someone else.
- Email Signature – This is an easy way to do something nice. Instead of the boring name signature, spice it up. Add, “hope you have a great day” or “Do something nice! It is National Do Something Nice Day!”
- Celebrate – Need an excuse to have a party? Pick today. If you are at work, bring in some goodies or party hats and play a game. Enjoy the day!