50 Sure Fire Ways to Get People Fired Up and Motivated as Self-Starters at Work

excited

A recent Gallup poll indicates that the percentage of U.S. employees who consider themselves “engaged” in their jobs averaged 31.5 percent, an historical low.

That means nearly 70 percent of American employees don’t consider themselves engaged at work.

Fired-up employees will perform their jobs more proactively. And you’ll realize benefits as well.

You will find that you can more easily delegate responsibility. That means you get to spend less time on the small, yet still important, stuff and focus on the big picture, such as kindling strategic growth.

Here are 50 surefire ways to spur employees get motivated, take the initiative and become a self starter at work.

Share Your Vision

You started your business with a vision that fired you up so much you expended enormous effort to get where you are today. Share that vision with your staff by telling your own “origin story.” (Be sincere.)

Listen

Aside from letting staffers get things off their chest, you have a great opportunity to put your finger on the pulse of your business and learn from your employees. You can learn invaluable things, including potentially innovative ideas to improve daily operations.

Express Appreciation

Sounds simple but this still addresses one of the greatest needs of people in general: the desire to feel appreciated. Some of your staffers will consider your appreciation as significant as — if not more significant than — more money.

Disrupt the Routine

If you want enthusiastic and productive people working for you, do all that you can to disrupt routine. Do whatever you can to make the work as interesting and engaging as possible. Don’t flick on autopilot.

Create Healthy Competition

In the office as on the sports field, people maximize their contribution when they know that exemplary performance will be rewarded. The trick is to make the reward system as transparent as possible to everyone.

Celebrate Success

Success doesn’t happen all at once. It’s often a string of continuous achievements. When you create a healthy competition for excellence, also be sure you celebrate every success when it happens.

Provide What is Needed

This can apply to small things, such as more sticky notes and yellow highlighters, or large ones, such as offering a formal training program. The easiest way to find out if your employees need anything is to simply ask them.

Show Respect

Awards are great but treating all the members of your team respectfully will help their overall performance as a group, too.

Never Micromanage

Leaders don’t lean over employees’ shoulders monitoring everything they do. Assuming you know how to hire people, you should trust them to do their jobs. Micromanaging is never helpful.

Lead by Example

Nothing is as contagious as the habits of a successful leader. But you must let your team see your successful habits in order for this contagion to work. Be a present leader who measures up to the same standard you’ve set for your team.

Be Amiable

Smile and let your employees know they can come to you with their problems and concerns — and maybe even a suggestion or two will float your way. Listening to their concerns will make them feel better too and will make them work harder and take more initiative.

Keep Your Word

By exhibiting the ability to follow through with everything you say, you will earn the respect of your team. This will increase their engagement. By contrast, imagine how engaged they will be if they don’t respect you.

Be Decisive

Remember Nike’s immortal advertising slogan when it’s decision time. Just do it. Procrastination only slows you down. Demonstrating an ability to be decisive can make a strong impression on your team and make them want to do the same.

Don’t Fear Emotion

Smile and crack a joke with folks around the water cooler. You’ll improve company morale and fire up employees in the process. As PsychCentral notes: “Even the most mundane task can be viewed with value when we are in a good mood.”

Push Limits

You will find you need to apply some pressure on occasion to prompt your team to perform beyond the usual. Otherwise, they will stagnate. Getting your team to that next level of being self-starters may take an extra push.

Be a Problem Solver

Recognize you don’t have all the answers and don’t pretend to. This isn’t a sign of weakness but of strength. Recognize these moments as chances to exhibit your effectiveness as a problem-solver. It will start to rub off on your team making them good problem solvers, too, and freeing you from needing to make every decision.

Avoid Fear-Based Management

Great leaders are with their teams day in and day out, offering words of encouragement and teaching or helping to refine the various skills required to succeed. Don’t ever stand on the sidelines screaming at them if you want them to become self-starters at work.

Cultivate New Leaders

As your business expands, it will prompt the need for new leaders. Be ready to fill this need immediately by letting all your team members know they have the opportunity to grow with the company.

Encourage Personal Growth

As a small business leader, you must consider practical ways of encouraging this growth. Give team members copies of your favorite personal success book. Tell them about an upcoming business networking event and suggest they attend. Try to enhance their personal development outside the office as well.

Help Correct Mistakes

When one of your employees makes an honest mistake, take the time and effort to explain what he or she did wrong. Then give pointers on avoiding repeating the blunder.

Promote Accountability

Your employees will feel personally invested in your company’s success when they are held accountable for their actions. They will realize what needs to be accomplished and they will expend their time and effort accomplishing it.

Show Flexibility

People are unique. No two members of your team are the same. As a result, you must be flexible in terms of how you lead each person, as some will require more of your attention than others.

Get Employees More Involved

Encourage staffers to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty by getting more deeply involved in more facets of their work, including longer-term projects. If they feel they are a part of the organization’s future, they will be inspired to work independently, freeing more time for you.

Brainstorm

Hold frequent brainstorming sessions and encourage your team to hold its own. This will help each team member creatively come up with innovative ideas for the company.

Inspire

Tell your team members how their contributions add to the company’s advancement. “Employees are more inclined to step up their game when they know their work can add value to the healthier whole,” Forbes proclaims.

Be Socially Responsible

Your employees want to feel good about their work beyond just their salaries and your bottom line. Where possible, show them your company is a good citizen locally and of the world. Explore green options to make your business process more environmentally friendly. And always look for ways to provide more socially responsible products and services.

Stop Lecturing

Today’s frenetic business world is not a good place to opine on and on (and on). Avoid long winded explanations and cut to the chase. Unneeded complexity is draining.

Sustain Fresh Ideas

Each team member will feel empowered by simply having the ability to suggest new ideas as well as help bring them to life. Give people a chance to take this kind of initiative and task them with the follow-through. You may be amazed at the results.

Create a Good Environment

Research shows that your office environment is very important to your team members. You can easily drive motivation here by considering what you can do to transform your office space into a cool place, where people want to work, rest and have fun.

Build Team Spirit

Your company team can be likened to a family. Or it should be. Help bolster this attitude by organizing team activities during work but also after work.

Provide More Freedom

Having the ability to choose their projects, including how, when, and where they get the work done is becoming increasingly important to talented professionals across sectors and industries.

Pay Staffers Properly

When you are working at establishing employees’ salaries, make certain that the pay is consistent with what your competitors pay, as well as similar companies in your region of the country.

Set Priorities

Employees report that they often waste time at work because they don’t know which of the many projects they are working on has priority, for example. As a leader, it’s your job to help them prioritize. Work with your team members to set clear goals, including details about each project’s priority.

Make Meetings More Efficient

Meetings have the potential to waste too much time — time that could be better spent completing priority projects with approaching deadlines. Set the agenda for each meeting, start on time and end as soon as possible.

Don’t Be a Drill Sergeant

Ordering people around like you’re running an army is counterproductive in every conceivable way. Instead of fostering engagement, you’ll encourage people to update their resumes. Offer direction but leave room for employees to develop their own processes.

Deal With Dissatisfied Employees

Some employees simply can’t be motivated. And with your repeated attempts, you will reach the point of diminishing returns, spending too much time and energy that could be spent on something else. The Wall Street Journal suggests: “Ask how you can help improve their work experience. Offer to move them into another work area, a different department or even a different company.”

Kill Rumors

Rumors need to be nipped in the bud. Depending on the nature of the rumor, it could destroy morale and hurt productivity. That’s bad news while you’re trying to teach your team to take more initiative.  Obviously, time is of the essence when dealing with this type of situation.

Share Long-term Goals

Fill your team in on some of your long-term goals. This can have an effect similar to getting employees more involved with projects. It signals to them that they have a long-term role to play in the company’s future.  And it could alleviate anxiety allowing staffers to take a more proactive role in day-to-day operations — your ultimate goal.

Get Them Out of the Office

Sponsor a community service day. Such an event will allow employees to get out of the office to participate in something that can make them feel good about themselves. Churches and charities are always available to help you find such day projects. These activities can also teach employees how to be more proactive leaders, something they can bring back to your business too.

Keep Personal Worries to Yourself

Whatever is keeping you awake at night, keep it to yourself. If you exhibit trepidation in front of your team, it can stimulate their anxiety, which never helps.

Launch a ‘Mini-CEO’ Program

Inc. relates the story of how when an employee has a new idea, Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, a marketing software firm in Boston, sometimes will appoint that person as ‘CEO’ of a new in-house start-up. “We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers make decisions,” Halligan told Inc.

Give Ownership Stakes

Employee Stock Ownership Programs can be an attractive way to motivate your team, since the structure works by providing funds only from the company’s profits. This arrangement may promote more proactive behavior from employees because they benefit directly from the results.

Go Nuts (Once in a While)

Have a crazy hat or tie day in the office. Host a lunch-time dance party. Cut loose and do something crazy to break up the routine and lift spirits. It may also spark some creativity and improve your team’s work ethic. A little silliness is a small price to pay for employees that will take more of the load off you.

Give Handwritten Letters

Nothing says appreciation like a handwritten letter. Send these to team members who have exhibited the kind of proactive leadership you’d like to see from everyone at the company. The result may be more such leadership in the future from others who see the results.

Provide Nap Breaks

Depending on your comfort level with this one, napping may be a great motivator. Companies large and small have created nap rooms where employees can enjoy a restful 15-minute snooze.

Create Other Incentives

Incentives are well-known ways to motivate staff. They don’t necessarily require the expenditure of a lot of money. An extra paid day off, gift cards, or tickets to a movie are all excellent incentives for your staff, as is an occasional cash bonus.

Correct in Private

When you need to discuss a performance-related issue or correct a recent specific error, do so in private. Hold the conversation either in your office or the employee’s, with the door closed.

Praise Publicly

Companies celebrate Employee of the Month for the simple reason that people love praise. Make it a standard practice in your offices to recognize positive people by announcing publicly when someone has made a particularly dazzling achievement.

Ditch Managers

Try removing the project supervisor. Empower your staff to work together instead of having everyone report to one person. This can work wonders, as letting your team down is considered by many to be far worse than letting a supervisor down.


Excited Woman Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Motivational

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Handmade at Amazon Expands Categories to Include Accessories, Toys, Games, More

Amazon.com announced recently that Handmade at Amazon, its new store for handmade items, has added three new product categories of handmade items. The site sells products crafted and sold directly by artisans in competition with well-known handmade platform Etsy. The new Handmade at Amazon categories are Accessories, Baby and Toys and Games.

News that Handmade at Amazon has expanded categories of handcrafted items should be exciting for the artisans and customers choosing to use the service. That’s because the expansion will introduce thousands more Prime – eligible items, giving customers a fuller experience. It will also provide artisans a richer storefront for handcrafted items where they can showcase their work and make more sales.

The ecommerce company said the new categories of handcrafted items will offer more than 20,000 items sold directly from artisans. It adds that since the beginning of the year, there’s been a 100 percent increase in handmade artisans taking advantage of its service to deliver items quickly to customers.

New Handmade at Amazon Categories

Handmade business owners will now be able to offer everything from accessories like Italian leather handbags and plaid zipper clutches to baby-themed items like teething rings and toys & games products like wooden memory games and felt tool set toys with this expansion.

One doesn’t need stats and figures to see that Amazon Handmade is growing fast and making an impact. The new Handmade at Amazon categories of handcrafted items add to the previously featured Kitchen and Dining, Stationery and Party Supplies, Jewelry, Artwork, Bedding, Home Décor and Furniture categories launched last fall.

Amazon said in the press release that since launching the Handmade e-store last fall, the number of items listed has grown four times to more than 400,000 quality handcrafted items from all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world.

Social media sites like Facebook also have many satisfied artisans and customers sharing photos of handmade items they either purchased or crafted. They are satisfied because handmade provides a unique feel that someone crafted the item, poured their hearts and soul into it, and the piece stands out.

Impact of Amazon Handmade on Etsy and Similar Sites

When Amazon first announced the opening of a handmade storefront on its giant ecommerce platform, many wondered what it would mean for those who shop and sell on Etsy and similar sites. Would Amazon Handmade be the end of sites like Etsy, the hitherto vibrant peer-to-peer niche ecommerce site focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies?

Amazon Handmade promised to facilitate seamless sales of authentic handmade items and has already made many of the items eligible for Prime, Amazon’s special two day free shipping service. However, it remains a bit hazy whether Amazon Handmade’s terms of service and listings are better than Etsy’s.

According to Investopedia, Etsy has a wildly low fee structure, charging only a 3.5 percent commission and a flat $0.20 listing fee. Comparatively, Amazon charges about a 15 percent commission on most products in its marketplace, although it brings this percentage slightly lower for its Handmade service in order to appeal to small businesses in the artisan space. Still, undercutting Etsy would be difficult.

It’s still too early to tell what the long-term impact the new Handmade at Amazon categories will have on Etsy, but many handmade business owners are welcoming the opportunity to sell their wares on Amazon in addition to Etsy. Amazon is certainly much, much bigger and the additional exposure for artisan items is good.

Image: Amazon.com

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Nokia Introduces Asha Smartphones Beginning at Just $69Nokia Introduces Asha Smartphones Beginning at Just $69

nokia asha 500

It may be the era of the affordable smartphone. Earlier this year, for example, Google announced it was knocking $100 off the cost of its already affordable Nexus 4 phone making the 8GB model $199 and the 16GB $249.

Then Chinese manufacturer ZTE announced it would make its own phones available for just $79.99 with no contract to U.S. buyers via the Internet. The phones run on the recently introduced Firefox operating system by Mozilla.

And most recently, Apple introduced its iPhone 5c starting at just $99, an unheard of move by the tech giant known for its premium prices.

So it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that Nokia, along with a high end phone and new Windows tablet, has released its own crop of budget smartphones starting at just $69.

Nokia introduced the three new phones at its recent Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi. The phones are all part of the company’s Asha line of devices and are upgrades of its earlier Asha 501.

Neil Broadly, a member of Nokia’s marketing team, says the phones will include:

  • The Nokia Asha 500, the most affordable at just $69.
  • The Nokia Asha 502 with 5 megapixel camera and LED flash for $88.
  • The Nokia Asha 503, a smartphone with 3G connectivity for $99.

Here’s an overview of the Asha 503 from SlashGear:




More Smartphones in Emerging Markets

The phones seem loaded with apps and designed especially for social sharing. But before small business owners in the U.S. get too excited, these devices are targeted for emerging markets. So there’s no hint if or when they will be available in the U.S.

That said, the introduction of the new Asha phones fits a Nokia objective – putting a smartphone into the hand of everyone on the planet.

For businesses of any size that are online and selling globally, this means a growing market…especially for those with a strong mobile presence.

Image: Nokia, Asha 500

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Character Sombra at BlizzCon 2016

Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Character Sombra at BlizzCon 2016Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Character Sombra at BlizzCon 2016
HIGHLIGHTS
Sombra will be playable via Blizzard’s Public Test Realm (PTR) next week
The PTR will also have the new Arcade Mode for Overwatch
A new map, Ecopoint: Antarctica will be present too
At BlizzCon 2016, Blizzard finally announced the latest character to grace its hero-themed shooter, Overwatch.

According to the official Overwatch website, Sombra is a hacker with a base of operations located in Dorado, Mexico. She is affiliated with Talon and formerly Los Muertos – two of the game’s factions.

(Also see: Blizzard and Google DeepMind to Use StarCraft II for AI Research)

Overwatch Sombra ability list:
Machine Pistol: fully-automatic machine pistol fires in a short-range spread.
Hack: can hack enemies to temporarily stop them from using their abilities, or hacks first aid kits to make them useless to her opponents.
Thermoptic Camo: can become invisible for a short period of time, during which her speed is boosted considerably. Attacking, using offensive abilities, or taking damage disables her camouflage.
Translocator: tosses out a translocator beacon. She can instantly return to the beacon’s location while it is active (including when it’s in mid-flight).
EMP: Discharges electromagnetic energy in a wide radius, destroying enemy barriers and shields and hacking all opponents caught in the blast.
(Also see: The Original Diablo Will Be Playable in Diablo 3)
Sombra is the second new character added to Overwatch this year. The first being Ana – a sniper with healing abilities.
Blizzard hasn’t announced when Sombra would be available for all but has mentioned she will be playable as a part of its Public Test Realm (PTR) next week. PTR is a service to test patches before release to the general populace. Along with Sombra, the PTR will have a new arctic map, Ecopoint: Antarctica, which is designed around 1v1 and 3v3 play as a part of a new mode known as Arcade.

For what it’s worth, we found Overwatch to be one of the year’s best games. There are various heroes to choose from, near perfect gameplay, and the promise of extended support and free content, most of which Blizzard has made good on so far.

Tags: Sombra, BlizzCon, Blizzard, Overwatch, BlizzCon 2016, Xbox One, PS4, PC Games, PC Gaming, Sombra ability list, Overwatch Sombra ability list, Overwatch Arcade Mode, Ecopoint Antarctica, PTR, Public Test Realm

[“source-ndtv”]

Blizzard Reveals Necromancer for Diablo 3 at BlizzCon 2016 as Paid DLC

Blizzard Reveals Necromancer for Diablo 3 at BlizzCon 2016 as Paid DLCBlizzard Reveals Necromancer for Diablo 3 at BlizzCon 2016 as Paid DLC
HIGHLIGHTS
The Necromancer will be coming to Diablo 3 in 2017
It will be a part of the Rise of the Necromancer Pack
Blizzard has not said how much it would cost
BlizzCon 2016 saw more Diablo announcements than usual to celebrate the series’ twentieth anniversary. Aside from stating that the original Diablo will be coming to Diablo 3 and Seasons Mode making it to consoles, Blizzard had one more trick up its sleeve, with plans to bring the Necromancer class to Diablo 3. But there’s a catch – it will be a part of paid downloadable content (DLC) referred to as the Rise of the Necromancer Pack.

“Necromancers can expect darker, more controlled gameplay centered around the raw materials of life: blood and bone. Grounded in a philosophical, pragmatic approach to life and death, they’re more like a calculated conductor of the darkest arts,” reads the description on Blizzard’s website. “ Deadly serious in their practice, they are the experts of curses and reanimation—and their pets obey their every command.”

(Also see: The Darkening of Tristram to Bring the Original Diablo to Diablo 3)
Though Blizzard are yet to detail the Necromancer’s abilities, a screenshot from BlizzCon 2016 has been doing the rounds confirming what you could expect when the class hits in 2017.

Diablo 3 Necromancer abilities: ​
Corpse Explosion: target an area exploding all corpses dealing damage.
Blood Rush: shed your mortal flesh and re-appear yards away, passing through most obstacles.
Siphon Blood: drain the blood of your enemies dealing damage and restoring essence.
Bone Spear: summon a piercing bone projectile that causes damage to all enemies it passes through
Decrypify: a crippling curse that reduces the enemy unit’s movement speed and damage done to you
Command Skeletons: command your skeletal minions to attack the target and increase their damage. The skeleton cap seems to be ten units ( seven melee and three ranged skeletons).
(Also see: Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Character Sombra at BlizzCon 2016)
“In addition to unlocking the Necromancer as a playable character, players will also receive an in-game pet, two additional character slots, two additional stash tabs (on PC), a portrait frame, pennant, banner, and banner sigil,” the site claims in way of what else will make up the cost of playing as a Necromancer.

It will be interesting to see what else comes along with the Necromancer since it is a paid piece of content. Other Blizzard games like Overwatch don’t charge for new characters, making this an oddity of sorts. And it seems that Blizzard isn’t ready to say much else about it right now aside from well, it will be purchasable.

“We’re not ready to announce a price just yet,” states an official FAQ.

While there was little in the way of an announcement of a new Diablo game or expansion to mark two decades of the series, some fans are holding out, expecting a hint during one of BlizzCon 2016’s many panels. Though it seems unlikely given that the opening presentation would have been the perfect stage for such a reveal.

Tags: BlizzCon, BlizzCon 2016, Blizzard, Diablo, Diablo 3, Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls, PC games, PC gaming, Xbox One, PS4, Necromancer, Diablo 3 Necromancer, Rise of the Necromancer Pack, Diablo 3 Paid DLC, Necromancer ability list, Diablo 3 Necromancer ability list

[“source-ndtv”]

Blizzard Unveils New E-Sports Overwatch League at BlizzCon 2016

Blizzard Unveils New E-Sports Overwatch League at BlizzCon 2016Blizzard Unveils New E-Sports Overwatch League at BlizzCon 2016
HIGHLIGHTS
The Overwatch League is Blizzard’s attempt to make e-sports acceptable
The Overwatch League will take place from next year
It is unlikely that India will be a part of it
A new hero for Overwatch in Sombra wasn’t the only announcement for Blizzard’s first-person shooter. At BlizzCon 2016 the company unveiled the Overwatch League.

According to Blizzard CEO and President Mike Morhaime, the Overwatch League “represents a true next-generation e-sports experience.”

Players would be evaluated during tryouts by team owners. There would be regular schedules, professional contracts, free agency, and a baseline salary for players.

(Also see: Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Character Sombra at BlizzCon 2016)

“The Overwatch League represents not only the pinnacle of Overwatch competition, but also a genuine career opportunity for the most skilled Overwatch players,” said Morhaime. “We’re building a league that’s accessible to players and fans, sustainable, and exciting for everyone involved.”

In elaborating this it was obvious that the Overwatch League would ideally like to possess a greater degree of structure and stability versus what most e-sports leagues are seen as – fickle and lacking in transparency.

The Overwatch League’s maiden season will take place next year. Play well enough and you might be invited to join teams. In taking such a hands-on approach to Overwatch’s e-sports potential, it seems that Blizzard wants to build the EPL or IPL of Overwatch.

(Also see: The State of E-Sports in India: Untapped Potential but It Doesn’t Have to Be)

Right now, there is no clarity if the Overwatch League would be making it to India in its first year. Considering that Blizzard has a local distributor but chose not to release Diablo 3: Ultimate Edition or Overwatch officially makes the nation’s prospects seem unlikely at this stage. That hasn’t stopped other companies from cashing in on its popularity though.

For what it’s worth, we found Overwatch to be one of the year’s best games. There are various heroes to choose from, near perfect gameplay, and the promise of extended support and free content, most of which Blizzard has made good on so far.

Tags: BlizzCon, BlizzCon 2016, Overwatch, Overwatch League, Esports, Overwatch India, Overwatch League India, PC games, PC gaming, PS4, Xbox One

[“source-ndtv”]

Blizzard Announces New Heroes of the Storm Heroes, Nexus Challenge, and More at BlizzCon 2016

Blizzard Announces New Heroes of the Storm Heroes, Nexus Challenge, and More at BlizzCon 2016Blizzard Announces New Heroes of the Storm Heroes, Nexus Challenge, and More at BlizzCon 2016
Blizzard at the BlizzCon 2016 added two new faces to its PC multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), Heroes of the Storm. World of Warcraft’s Varian and Ragnaros will be seen as the new heroes.

Varian is the first multi-class hero that can be played either as a deadly assassin or a shield-wielding warrior. Ragnaros has some fiery abilities that includes summoning lava waves to incinerate an entire lane’s worth of enemy minions.

Varian will be available for testing next week and as a fully playable character on November 15, while Ragnaros will join the Heroes in December.
Aside from announcing the new characters, Blizzard also unveiled a new Heroes Brawl called Blackheart’s Brawl. The brawl allows only one core while the defending team tries to help prevent Bleackheart from sinking. The new brawl will be available starting November 15.

That’s not all. The company also announced a new Nexus Challenge giveaway in Heroes of the Storm to the delight of Blizzard players alike. The Nexus Challenge will allow players to unlock in-game loot in both Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.

“Complete 15 Heroes of the Storm games in Ranked, Unranked Draft, Quick Match, or Co-op vs. A.I. before time runs out, and you’ll unlock the Oni Genji skin, spray, and player icon in Overwatch, as well as Zarya and the Oni Genji Portrait in Heroes of the Storm,” Blizzard says.

Completing 30 games in Heroes of the Storm during the Nexus Challenge nets players new heroes, an new Orochi Hovercycle mount, and a 30-day Stimpack for the game. The Nexus Challenge begins from November 15 and ends on January 4.

Overwatch fans were also introduced to a new character, Sombra – a hacker with a base of operations located in Dorado, Mexico.

(Also see:Overwatch Review)

Overwatch is currently one of Blizzards hottest games this year, praised in both gameplay and production value.

Tags: Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard, BlizzCon 2016, Overwatch, Gaming, PC Gaming

[“source-ndtv”]

How to Secure Financing for Your Small Business at a Traditional Bank

How to Secure Financing for Your Small Business at a Traditional Bank

Banks are the largest lenders for small businesses across the United States. But getting a traditional bank loan for a small business is often a huge challenge. About 72 percent of small businesses that apply in fact get rejected. That’s because traditional banks require businesses to meet several criteria to secure financing.

It doesn’t however mean that you cannot secure financing from a conventional bank.

If you are a small business owner, you should first understand the kind of loans and financing options available at a traditional bank.

How to Secure Financing at a Traditional Bank

Term loans are the most common types of business loan. You obtain a predetermined sum of money with a set interest rate. The interest rate could be variable or fixed. You need to pay back the cash over an agreed upon amount of time.

Term loans are fairly straightforward and you know what you are getting into. It’s however important to remember that not all term loans are the same. Depending on your credit rating, revenue, cash flow, growth needs and other factors, there are several types of term loans available.

Before you go for them, you should also know the pros and cons of term loans.

Pros and Cons of Terms Loans at a Traditional Bank

Small businesses go for term loans at a traditional bank mainly because the interest rates are fixed and low. Monthly payments are predictable and they help build business credit.

Another key advantage of these loans is that they are available for many uses. Whether you want to purchase inventory, equipment or commercial real estate, you can use a term loan to meet your needs.

On the flip side however, securing a term loan involves lengthy paperwork, longer wait time and strong credit. You may also need to furnish some collateral to boost your chances of landing a small business term loan.

Some common types of term loans for small businesses are working capital loans, equipment loans, merchant cash advance, lines of credit, professional practice loans and franchise startup loans. Take a quick look at each of these options.

Working capital loans are meant as short-term options for businesses that need money to run their operation.

Equipment loans offer financing to small businesses for office equipment such as computer and copy machines.

Merchant cash advance is provided to a business based on the volume of its monthly credit card transactions.

Lines of credit help businesses meet their day-to-day cash flow needs.

Professional practice loans are meant for providers of professional services, such as businesses in legal, healthcare, architecture or engineering fields.

Franchise startup loans help businesses procure financing to open their franchise business.

How to Apply for Small Business Loans with a Traditional Bank

Once you have decided which loan best meets your needs, you must understand how to apply for small business loans with a traditional bank. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you.

Understand Why You Need a Loan

The first question that you must be prepared to answer is why do you need a loan for your business? Is it because you need to start a business, or is it because you need to grow it?

The reason to secure financing will determine the type of loan you should opt for. So, before you approach a bank, make sure you know the reason why you want money.

Choose the Loan that Meets Your Requirements

As mentioned above, there are several types of loans to choose from. You just need to be sure which one fits your requirements. For example, if you want to manage your day-to-day expenses, you can go for a short-term cash flow loan which is a quick, one-time injection of money.

Determine If You Qualify

You need a loan from a traditional bank, but do you actually qualify for it? To find out, check your credit score first. You can get your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.

Most banks will require you to have a credit score of at least 680. If you fall short, you may have to look at other options.

Other factors that will be considered by the banks include your ability to repay the loan and the health of your business. The more information you can provide to prove the worth of your business, the stronger are your chances of securing a loan from a traditional bank.

Gather Your Documents

Be prepared to go through a lot of paperwork when you decide to approach a bank for a loan. Some of the documents that you will be required to furnish include business and personal bank statements, business financial statements, legal documents and tax returns.

Speak to a Bank Representative

If you have questions about the process of securing the loan, you should visit the bank first and speak to a representative who can guide you.

You should try and find out the different options available and the terms that will matter when you are repaying the amount. The representative will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you make the right call.

Make a Strong Case for Why You Need the Loan

A bank will want to know why you need a loan for your business. It’s therefore a good idea to be prepared for specific questions. For example, if you want a loan to buy office equipment, the bank will ask you why exactly you need it. It will also inquire how you expect the equipment to support your business.

Wait for the Answer

After you’ve ticked all the boxes, you just need to wait before you hear from the bank. It may take days or up to a couple of weeks before you hear from them.

Securing funds on time is essential for your business to grow. You just need to know what options you have and how best you can manage funding from a traditional bank. Preparing in advance will certainly pay off in the long run, so explore your options and make sure you meet the criteria to qualify for financing.

Bank Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Is Apple Really at the Risk of Becoming BlackBerry?

Is Apple Really at the Risk of Becoming BlackBerry?
Noted developer Marco Arment said in a blog post this weekend that Apple is on track to fall into the same trap as BlackBerry.Cue the sirens. As tech industry burns go, that’s a biggie. If there’s been a company that’s acted as shorthand for what a tech company doesn’t want to be – fairly or not – it’s been BlackBerry. To be compared to BlackBerry is to be told that you’re a bad combination of short-sighted, delusional and content to rest on your laurels.

The Canadian firm was on the top of the world as recently as 2007 and then lost it all (in terms of market share for phones, at least) after seemingly ignoring the signs of the iPhone revolution. In hindsight, it all seems so obvious that an Apple-led smartphone revolution with apps, rich messaging, full Web browsing and more would drive the old idea of a “smart” phone into the ground. Right now, BlackBerry’s in the midst of a self-described turnaround effort. Turnaround efforts are great, but it’s better to have weathered shifts in the market such that you don’t need one.

Now, Arment and others see a similar shift on the horizon and, they say, this time the dominant player ripe for a fall is Apple itself.It should be said that Apple and BlackBerry are very different companies, with different histories and cultures. And Apple, at its peak, has hit much higher heights than BlackBerry ever did. Yet comparing the two is not exactly like comparing apples and, well, blackberries either. There are certain similarities to consider. Apple now, like BlackBerry then, is on the top of its game but being criticized for not innovating as much or as visibly as its competitors. In an era that admires moonshots – heck, even Microsoft’s got crazy chatbots and the HoloLens – Apple is looking downright staid. It’s possible that the firm, known for its perfectionist pursuits, is keeping something enormous and exhilarating under its hat until it’s ready.blackberry_duo_blog.jpgIt’s also clear from a recent rash of analyses as well as Apple’s own earnings reports that the iPhone just isn’t growing like it once did. That’s not necessarily the fault of Apple, but it’s still not comforting in the near- to mid-term. Much of it comes from the fact that there are just only so many people in the world and only so many of them want new smartphones right now.

Apple’s been managing to make large enough changes to the iPhone to keep sales up. Bumping the screen size up, for example, gave it an extra boost. Apart from that, however, it doesn’t seem to consumers like there’s a lot of exciting things happening at Apple right now. The engineering challenges of making a phone lighter and thinner are substantial, but changes like that don’t really rock innovation-hungry consumers. And that makes them willing to hold on to their phones for longer.

It is also true that if Apple has a plan for moving out of an era where the iPhone turns in massive profits, it’s been awfully quiet about it. Sure, there has been a greater focus on other projects – Apple TV, the iPad line, the Apple Watch – as well as whispers about VR headsets and an Apple-branded car. Every time there’s even a hint that Apple could revolutionize an industry such as entertainment, autos or music, there’s a lot of excitement over the fact.

But to date, the really big revolutions have yet to happen. And the company is just as reliant as ever on the iPhone for its profits. So Apple, which will host its annual developers conference June 13 – 17, is under increasing pressure to deliver a vision of its future.

Meanwhile, Apple’s other bread-and-butter service, the App Store, is showing its age, even if it’s by no means yet outdated. But, really, how many more apps do we all want to download? It’s clear that Apple’s competitors, as Arment notes, are looking to replace the app with AI bots. The idea is that, soon, you won’t need an app for that. You’ll just talk or text a bot that will get you whatever you need off the internet, including movie tickets, a restaurant reservation or flowers for your mom. All of Apple’s major competitors – Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon – are racing to lead in this area, as is evident from their recent product launches and developers conferences.

There’s also another interesting reason why Apple may not be going quite as hard into some of the areas that its competitors are: its devotion to privacy. Apple simply doesn’t collect data in the same way that Google or others do, by design. Consumers offer a lot of information already to services to make them better – for maps, recommendations, etc. – and software assistants that can manage our schedules, hack our commutes and control our homes will require a lot of pooled data. But perhaps the most interesting part of Arment’s analysis is the footnote in which he says that he doesn’t find this a very good excuse.

“It’s possible to build tons of useful services and smarts by just using public data, like the web, mapping databases, business directories, etc., without any access to or involvement from the user’s private data,” he said. In other words, Apple’s getting outstripped on even the non-creepy services.

Now, it’s worth remembering that this whole AI thing is a big, risky bet. It’s not known whether it will work as well as advertised or will be embraced by consumers. Yes, it’s great from a potential standpoint. So was the Segway. Natural-language processing is a hard thing to get right, and it could take a lot of time before it gets to a workable, simple-enough state for the everyday person. Smart money may currently be on AI eating the world, but there’s always a chance that smart money is wrong – or, at least, that Apple still has time to catch up.

What’s more, the app economy has been wildly successful to this point, and its revenue is growing. That kind of consumer investment in apps gives Apple a way to hold on to its customers better than BlackBerry ever had. And Apple has an enormous, record-setting pile of cash at its disposal. So Apple still has a lot going for it in a way BlackBerry never did.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Apple has a distinct advantage that BlackBerry did not – it already knows what happened to BlackBerry. In fact, it should know that lesson better than anyone – given that it hastened BlackBerry’s downfall. Not to mention, it’s never good to count Apple out. This is, after all, a company once left for dead in the 1990s, right before Steve Jobs came back to the company and unveiled the iPod.

But whether it’s already heeding the warnings about Blackberry or will hear them too late remains to be seen.

© 2016 The Washington Post

Tags: Android, Apple, Apple Watch, Apps, BlackBerry, Laptops, Mobiles, PC, Tablets, Tim Cook, Wearables, iPad, iPhones, iTunes
[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Apple’s iOS 10 Beta Hints at Lots of Change – Not All of It Welcome

Apple's iOS 10 Beta Hints at Lots of Change - Not All of It Welcome

Apple is releasing a new version of its mobile operating system this fall, bringing the company up to a nice round number: iOS 10.

Ahead of launch, Apple is allowing anyone to test the software and give their feedback. First, I would not recommend that most people download this beta. Bugs are par for the course with all early software and could try the patience of those who don’t test imperfect things for fun. Many apps behave strangely with the beta since it hasn’t gotten its final polish yet.

That’s particularly true with this system. After a week with the beta, I’m confused about where Apple is heading with this update. It’s true that this build is, by definition, not ready for primetime and it would be unfair to fully review it. But it is still basically the same software that will hit millions of devices in just a few months and is just not as good as I’ve come to expect from Apple.

(Also see: How to Download and Install iOS 10 Beta on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch)
There are many things I like. Apple has enhanced the Health functions to track sleep, among other new data. This system also lets you erase icons for some of the pre-installed apps (Tips, Watch, etc.) that many relegate to a permanently unused folder on their phones anyway.

Apple has also done some work on Messages, that makes it easier to send music, sketches, .gifs and photos. You can also send very large emoji. It’s sort of silly, but definitely fun.

The features are welcome changes. That can’t be said of other tweaks to the system overall, which seem to move away from the logical, simple design that make Apple stand out in the first place.

Many menus and navigation screens have gained extra panels in iOS 10, which have the effect of making each individual pane more simple, but complicate navigation overall. For example, the control center that appears when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen now has two sections — one with the Bluetooth, brightness and other familiar panel controls, plus a second just for music and volume.

These controls used to be on one screen, and there was no real reason to add a second. In fact, it took me a couple days to even realize the volume control was there at all.

These menus look a lot like the bubbly, almost empty layout you see on notifications for the Apple Watch. But sparse design makes sense on that small of a screen. While it’s understandable – even admirable – for Apple to want to unify the look of its systems across devices, it hasn’t been done in a user-focused way. That’s unusual for Apple.

(Also see: iOS 10 Features: 10 Big Ones Unveiled at WWDC 2016)

Apple has also changed the lock screen so that richer notifications can be accessed on their own screen with a simple swipe to the right, in addition to being accessible by dragging down from the top. You can also search for apps from this new section on the lock screen. That’s a win for convenience, but not for privacy. I changed the widgets that I put in my notifications screen because they felt more exposed in the new layout.

Others may want to turn off the ability to get the notification center on their lock screen altogether, through settings in the Touch ID and Passcode menu.

Many of these complaints may sound like small cosmetic gripes, and admittedly some of them are. Others, though, are more serious. And all illustrate my genuine puzzlement about why Apple is changing the feel of a system that has helped propel it to such great heights.

There’s still time for the company to squash the bugs and refine the software — something that will definitely happen. But if the rough sketch of the beta is anything to go by, users will have to prepare for changes that may confuse them once the fall comes.

© 2016 The Washington Post

Tags: Apple, Mobile Operating System, iOS, iOS 10, iPad, iPhone
[“source-smallbiztrends”]