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911, 2020

23 Steps to Surviving COVID-19 for Startups and Small Business

November 9th, 2020|

Successfully building a company is a Herculean feat at the best of times — 95% of startups fail and most small businesses close their doors before they turn five.

With that in mind, it might seem near impossible to do so when there’s a global pandemic shutting down the world’s economy.

Nobody knows for sure when we will emerge out of this black hole and markets will resume normal programming — estimates ranging from several months to several years.

What we do know is that unlike the global financial crisis of 2008 which pointed to internal problems in our financial markets, COVID-19 represents an external event, and so it stands to reason that we should expect a rapid recovery once the crisis subsides — or at least we hope so.

Based on this, if your company has less than 24 months runway left, it’s time to calmly delineate between what you can control and what you can’t, and focus on the former.

As such, I’ve taken the time to prepare the following 23 steps — many of which are applicable to both startups and small businesses — to increase liquidity, decrease burn rate, increase runway and ultimately increase thee chances of surviving the so-called apocalypse.

In no particular order…

1 — Review Online Subscriptions

Now is a good time to review your bank statements for all of those SaaS platforms that your company is signed up to — but either isn’t using and kept blindly paying for, or won’t be deriving much value from in the current climate.

Either suspend, cancel or scale back the number of accounts you have.

If this isn’t an option then you might try to contact these companies and renegotiate your monthly fee for the duration of the crisis.

2 — Renegotiate Supplier Contracts

Renegotiate contracts with essential suppliers to lower prices for the duration of the crisis. Jeffrey Epstein from Bessemer Venture Partners suggests doing so in exchange for a longer term contract so everybody wins.

Where possible, think win-win instead of zero-sum — something that’s critical in a time when we need to be coming together.

3 — Use Invoice Factoring

If you need money now and your typical payment terms are long, and your debtors are at risk of defaulting — consider selling your invoices to factoring services for a discount. For example, if a client owes you $50,000 but isn’t set to pay you for another 60 days — and you need the money now (hopefully you’re not living so close to the red) — then you might be able to sell the invoice for $40,000 and get the money today.

4 — Offer Discounts

It’s a tough time for most businesses — even Kimberly Clark, which owns brands such as Kleenex and Huggies and moves a lot of toilet paper, is down 15% from a month ago as at the time of writing. Companies will be tightening their belts, and following steps as these, so if you continue to have outgoings but see your income start to drop off a cliff, it might be time to reach out to clients and prospects you’ve had conversations with and offer discounts on services or products they’ve expressed interest in.

5 — Reorganise around New Demands

Every company has a set of assets — people, intellectual property, technology, capital — that it leverages to create value and generate income. For example, if you’re a consultancy, then people are your asset.

The temporary reality we find ourselves with is seeing the attentions and appetites of customers shift — large companies are concerned with how to get remote working right, while customers are more concerned with stocking up on essential goods like food and hand sanitiser.

How might you use your existing assets to temporarily serve new market demands?

For example, at Collective Campus we typically run innovation workshops and run corporate-startup partnership programs, but we have reassigned some of our assets around running remote working webinars to help our clients make the shift.

6 — Brainstorm Survival Strategies

Call a virtual huddle with your team to brainstorm products, services or strategies your company might employ to get by that go beyond what’s listed here.

To avoid groupthink or anchoring, have everybody ‘work alone together’ to write down their ideas privately before sharing them all at once. After everybody has shared their idea, have everybody privately vote on the ideas before discussing the results in a group setting.

To assist with voting, you might have people rate the ideas using the ICE scale (rate each idea out of 10 for impact, confidence and ease and then sum the result).

Once you’ve got a shortlist, find ways to quickly test market appetite for these ideas — such as an email to your database or an online ad — before investing in developing said products.

7 — Take Advantage of Government and Lender Concessions

Governments and lenders around the world are offering all manner of concessions to businesses to help them weather the storm.

This includes tax breaks, deferral of repayments, interest free loans, instant asset write-offs, and cash handouts. Inform yourself of the available concessions in your country, state or locality and capitalise now before the inevitable processing bottleneck takes effect.

8 — Apply for Government Grants

Now might also be a good time to review what grants are available for companies like yours. These aren’t COVID19 specific grants but grants that exist to say, stimulate startup activity or promote the development of novel technologies.

Maybe you didn’t have the time to review and respond to such offers previously, but might find yourself with not just a little more time on your hands to do just that, but also with a much greater need.

9 — Review your Business Model

Again, with more time on our hands, it’s a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the big questions that usually fall victim to our working in the business instead of on it.

Oftentimes, when somebody has a cancer scare, they look back on the experience as one that ultimately made them stronger and changed their approach to life — it often is darkest before the dawn. COVID19 may present companies with an opportunity to be truly objective about their business model and come out of it stronger.

To do this, you might want to borrow an exercise my team does each quarter. My team and I simply draw up a four-quadrant chart on a whiteboard with more, less, start and stop in each quadrant (per below). We cycle through product, sales, marketing, target market and other areas to determine what we need to stop allocating resources to if it’s simply not working or what we could be doubling down on.

This keeps us from doing ‘what we’ve always done around here’ and ensures we maintain a culture of experimentation, optimise our allocation of resources and move forward.

Your company might emerge out of this with a stronger business model, or a more clear vision.

Note: Keep in mind what the world might look like when we come out of this when going through this exercise.

10 — Offer Remote Services

Consider what kind of remote services you might offer your clients. This might be especially applicable for B2B companies.

11 — Call Key Clients

Call your key clients — the ones you have solid relationships with .

This serves two purposes:

  • you’re calling to see how they’re doing and demonstrating that you actually care, which can only serve to strengthen your relationships
  • you can determine if there are any struggles they’re having that your your company assist with — assistance that they might be willing to pay a small fee for.

12 — Review Your Marketing Spend

In this current climate, it’s easy for a lot of your marketing dollars to be flushed down a black hole. Turn off underperforming or non-essential ads (note: observe how your marketing performed during the period March 9 to March 20 — this is when reality set in for most businesses in the west).

At the same time, it’s worth noting that you might be able to buy advertising and marketing services at distressed rates — which is fine as long as the short-term value as opposed to the conventional lifetime value, beats the cost of acquisition.

13 — Offer Gift Certificates

If applicable, offer gift certificates whereby loyal customers can continue to support your business for products or services they are likely to use in the future but now now. This helps you to bring forward some future income.

While this is something that seems to be more applicable to brick and mortar businesses like restaurants, it might be something worth considering in other types of businesses — especially if those gift certificates offer the ability to lock in products at a discount.

14 — Renegotiate Interest Rates

Central banks around the world are dropping interest rates — in many cases to zero — so if you have business loans — or personal loans for that matter — get on the phone and renegotiate your loans.

15 — Collect Outstanding Debts

Review your outstanding and overdue debts, and get on the phone, send those emails and do what you can to get paid as soon as possible. Having said that, you’ll want to be diligent about how you do this as not burn any bridges or compromise any relationships — we’re all doing it tough and that includes your clients.

16 — Consider Selling Investments

If your company has invested spare capital into stocks, bonds, property or commodities, consider the risk of the underlying assets defaulting.

If there’s a good risk of default, you might be better off locking in your losses than walking away with nothing.

17 — Consider Buying Investments

If you have more than 24 months runway then explore the merits of investing in seriously distressed stocks, bonds, real estate or commodities, perhaps via a diversified index fund, in order to lock in a significant capital gain during the recovery. If you purchase a stock that has fallen 50%, and it makes a full recovery in 24 months, then you have effectively doubled your money — it would seem to be a great time to buy if you have money.

This might also be a great time — if you have the capital — to buy competitors, or complementary companies that can give you access to resources or relevant eyeballs that will help you to increase your company’s revenue once this whole thing blows over, or even in the near term.

Caution: Nobody knows where the ‘bottom’ is and just how bad this thing will be, so it is possible that companies with typically sound fundamentals could go bust. There are no guarantees in life, and COVID-19 reminds us that black swan events do happen and they serve to challenge our entire world view. However, it is almost certain that the current bottom is not tomorrow’s top, and that markets will, over the long-term at least, make a full recovery.

Note: I am not a financial advisor and this does not constitute financial advice. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice before making investment decisions.

18 — Introduce Paycuts and Defer Bonuses

It’s a time for fiscal frugality, and with so many people losing their jobs in the current environment — unemployment is projected to hit 20% in the US — a temporary pay-cut to the order of about 20–30% is preferable to losing your job altogether.

While never an easy conversation, your staff are are unlikely to be spending as much money as they normally do and will likely be presented with other Government concessions and handouts themselves, so it’s a matter of mutual sacrifices for the greater good.

The counterfactual might be that your company runs out of cash and your staff end up jobless anyway in a market characterised by hiring freezes — I’d rather take a paycut.

How paycuts extend your runway:

  • 20% cut in total payroll extends a 12 month payroll runway by 10 weeks
  • 30% cut in total payroll extends 12 month payroll runway by 4 months

19 — Scale Back on Perks and Fringe Benefits

You might also want to look at other perks or fringe benefits that you’re offering employees — scale back or temporarily eliminate those that are non-essential and definitely not need-to-haves in the current climate.

20 — Offer Redundancies

Price’s Law suggests that the square root of a company’s headcount creates half of the value, so if you’re a team of 20, then about 5 people would create half of the value. As such, there might, sadly, some tough decisions to make by way of letting less essential people go.

If you can manage it and only if you can manage it, offer them some kind of lifeline or redundancy package on their way out — do the maths to make sure this is preferably to keeping them on the books for the next six months, and ensure you have enough liquidity in place to keep rolling.

Personally, I’d rather not let people go in the current climate. It’s a matter of what you want to optimise for — the health, wellbeing and survival of your people, or your company making money. I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong here but this is question many entrepreneurs will need to answer.

21 — Offer More Attractive Terms to Investors

If you’re a startup that’s staring down the barrel of a 6-month runway, you might want to offer potential investors — be they angels or venture capitalists who have the capital to invest in the current environment — more attractive terms.

It could be a convertible note with a larger discount, or a lower valuation. Whatever the case, make sure it’s something that’s not debilitating and that it serves to do more good than harm to the company in the long-term.

22— Scale Back on Office Space

COVID-19 has sparked a remote working revolution of sorts that might last long beyond the end of the crisis. At least for the next few months, it’s likely that you won’t need as much office space as you’re paying for.

Renegotiate rent or scale back on office space if you can. Companies based in coworking spaces on month-to-month contracts have a lot of flexibility in this area.

23 — Inspire Confidence in Your Team

While it’s easy to immerse ourselves in nothing but COVID-19 news and tweets, and become incredibly depressed in the process, and project a sense of doom and gloom to your team, you’ll want to inspire confidence to ensure that they are motivated to keep doing their part to keep the company on its feet.

Leaders earn their stripes in times of adversity, so it’s time to earn yours.

Given that we’re all experiencing some form of financial hardship, offering payment plans or milestone based payments to your clients — instead of expecting payment in one large lump sum — may help to bring in some money now, as opposed to what might be none in some cases.

Something is obviously better than nothing.

Finally, you won’t have much of a business if you cease to exist — so above all else, don’t underestimate the virus. Take care of yourself, practice social distancing, wash your hands and do all the things we’re being asked to do.

As the founder of a small business myself, I’d love to hear what other tips you might have that I’ve missed. If you add them to the comments I’ll incorporate them into this post so it’s a living and breathing collection of genuine helpful steps people can take to weather the storm.

Stay safe out there.

Credit: https://glaveski.medium.com/22-steps-to-surviving-covid-19-for-startups-and-small-business-2871c4852309

Steve Glaveski

Mar 21·11 min read

911, 2020

Distance Learning for Small Education Business

November 9th, 2020|

Distance Learning Demand Offers Opportunity for Small Education Businesses

Distance learning has become more important than ever as mandates to combat the coronavirus pandemic close schools across all age groups. In the U.S. alone there are around 51 million students in public schools, not to mention other learning institutions.

Thankfully there is a technology in place to keep the learning going. And this crisis is highlighting the importance and capability of distance learning as tens of millions of people learn online.

A new infographic presented by EDSmart and developed by Nowsourcing, titled, “The Future of Distance Learning” looks at the technology, trends, benefits and challenges.

For many small education companies, this is a great opportunity to invest more in their distance learning capability. This is because it is the future of learning and you can make your business available globally with this format.

Small Education Companies and Distance Learning

Distance learning is now an accepted part of the mainstream educational system. And it is increasingly becoming more indispensable as people choose to learn anytime and anywhere. If you have the degree and expertise to teach your chosen field you can start teaching online and make your knowledge available to a global audience.

Small education companies are now offering multiple learning opportunities across all industries. Whether it is in person, online, or taped video courses, this is a great way to monetize your knowledge and expertise.

According to the infographic, the eLearning market will have a market value of $300 billion by 2025. In great part, the growth is being driven by trends in technology that are creating interactive learning experiences.

The Technology Trend

The primary technology in distance learning is the internet. And more and more it is wireless or mobile technology which is driving the growth. People are using their smartphones, laptops and tablets to catch a lesson no matter where they are. As long as they have some free time, they are logging in and learning.

Additionally, the use of virtual and augmented reality is becoming part of the immersive technology educators are using to teach. The data in the report says 89% of educators are interested in using more AR, VR and 360° video.

Big data along with artificial intelligence is also helping instructors to track engaging content, personalize learning, streamline learning pathways and support the diverse need of all learners. Ninety-three percent of educators think predictive analytics will change education.

What About the Students?

One of the benefits of distance learning is the flexibility it offers students. Not only can they learn from schools around the world, but they can do it at their own pace. Almost two thirds or 63% in the report choose online education because it addresses work/life responsibilities.

When it comes to learning online, 60% believe it helps them improve soft skills including:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving: 85%
  • Time management: 84%
  • Attention to detail: 84%
  • Writing skills: 79%
  • Teamwork: 69%
  • Oral communication: 62%

There are many reasons students choose to learn online. Availability is one of the biggest selling points, but here are four other reasons:

  1. Affordability: 60% of undergraduate students – 46% of graduate students
  2. Reputation: 39% of graduate and undergraduate students
  3. Quickest path to a degree: 31% of undergraduate students – 29% of graduate students
  4. Quality of faculty: 20% of undergraduate students – 34% of graduate students

As for organizations, 72% say it gives them a competitive advantage. So much so, the report says every $1 spent on eLearning, increases productivity by $30. Moreover, students of these organizations learn 5X more material per hour of training.

Challenges

When it comes to the challenges of switching to online learning, lack of technology seems to be the biggest issue. Not everyone has a computer or access to broadband speed internet. And this greatly limits or entirely eliminates this population from distance learning. But there are ways around this.

Even though the report says 44% of low-income Americans don’t own a computer, 56% of online learners are using their smartphones to do so. Consequently, there is a workaround, especially as the price of capable smartphones continues to come down.

Another challenge is finding high-quality learning. The infographic recommends doing your research before you enroll. Read online reviews, look up program completion rates and ask people about their online learning experiences. Make sure to also check accreditation and credit transfers if you are looking to continue your education or use it to further your skillsets for your job.

911, 2020

An Introduction to Data Science

November 9th, 2020|

An Introduction to Data Science

The definitions, skills required, and job roles around the emerging and rapidly growing field of data science.

Whenever someone talks about Data Science, the following questions come to mind:

  • What is Data Science?
  • What is the role of a Data Scientist?
  • What skills are required to enter the field of Data Science?

You will get answers to all the questions above in this article.

According to Wikipedia, Data Science is defined as:

An interdisciplinary field about processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured, which is a continuation of data analysis fields such as statistics, data mining, and predictive, similar to Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD).

So in general, Data Science is a field which studies how Information is gathered, what it conveys, and how that information can be converted into a valuable resource to generate meaningful insights for the betterment of a business as a whole.

You can see another explanation of Data Science in the Venn Diagram below:          

The white area signifies Data Science, which is basically an intersection of the following skills: software engineering, domain expertise, and operational research.

When we talk about Data Science you will often hear the buzzword “Data Scientist”.

To summarize role of a Data Scientist, it goes as follows:

  • They are people who are good with coding as well as great analytical skills.
  • In general they are good with coding, statistics, data mining, and data visualization.

Data scientists broadly fall into two categories. A detailed explanation will be found at the end:

  1. Analysts / Statisticians
  2. Engineers

There are several programming languages for Data Science out in the market. Here are a few of them:

R

  • It is the most popular language for Data Science
  • It is an open source language.
  • Its IDE is also open sourced.
  • It has an excellent set of libraries.
  • It only has some issues with scalability.

Python

  • It is equally as popular as R.
  • It can severe a variety of purposes other than Data Science, such as developing Web applications.
  • It has a good set of libraries, packages, and tools built around it.
  • It is better than R from Scalability point of view.

There are other languages such as SAS, SPSS, MatLab, etc., but the only problem with using these packages is that they are not open sourced.

Apart from learning these languages, you also need to be a domain expert and a better presenter.

Domain Expert

A domain knowledge expert is needed to understand what the data communicates. This knowledge is something which you can only build through gaining experience over a period of time.

Presentation/Visualization Skills

You should have the ability to visualize data and present it in such a manner that even a layman can understand it.

To broadly classify, here are the different professional roles in the field of data science:

  1. Data Engineer: Write code for performing ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tasks as well as writing code for the selected algorithms.  
  2. Analyst: Wrangle and analyze data in order to identify patterns.
  3. Statistician: The primary role of a statistician is to recommend the appropriate algorithms and strategies that fits the use case.

Hope this article helped anyone who is planning to enter the field of data science!

Credit: https://dzone.com/articles/an-introduction-to-data-science

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

· Big Data Zone · Opinion

911, 2020

Why Product Reviews are Important in eCommerce?

November 9th, 2020|

Product reviews are arguably the most useful way to eliminate shoppers’ concerns regarding a product. A majority of the people are influenced by product reviews in their purchase.

No matter whether you are a popular brand or just started out, product reviews do play a crucial role in your eCommerce business as far as credibility is concerned. Credibility is one of the key elements that decide the success of your brand in the long run.

Merchants often overlook the importance of product reviews. The major focus remains on designing the site look and optimizing the checkout page but nothing really matters if you are not getting good reviews on your products.

The importance of product reviews can be understood by the fact that 90% of the consumers read online reviews before making a purchase and 72% of the consumers will be prompted to take an action after reading positive reviews. (Stats collected from Invesp)

What is Product Review?

Product reviews are the opinions or feedbacks of customers for a particular product. Many online businesses put up a review section on their website to allow customers to rate and review the product they purchased.

A product review helps other users get a clear idea of the product before purchasing it. They can read the reviews and make their mind clear, and decide whether the product is worth purchasing or not.

If you have not added a product review section on your eCommerce website, only because of fearing negative reviews, you are losing out on a huge number of potential customers.

Importance of Product Reviews

In this write-up, I have provided 6 reasons why product reviews are important to your eCommerce business. Let’s have a look.

1. Product Reviews build Trust

When a user lands on your website with the intention of making a purchase, the first thing that they look for is reviews.

A product having good reviews would surely be able to help the prospect in his/her buying decision. They would likely put their trust in your products as well as your Brand.

Amazon displays average ratings for products based on customers’ feedbacks, right on the top of the product page, and at the bottom are the customer’s reviews. Whenever a prospect visits the product page, they are straight away displayed the product ratings along with the number of people who rated that product.

Related: 8 Ways to Build Customer Trust and Loyalty

2. Product Reviews provide better insights into the product

Hearing from people’s past purchase experience helps the prospects identify whether the product has earlier matched customer’s expectations or not.

I mean, Brands will obviously try to highlight every feature of the product in the best way possible, but it is the customers who will give honest feedback on the product.

When a customer leaves a review for the product, he is helping others understand what they can expect from the product, how is it performing, what are its flaws, what are its pros and much more.

3. Product Reviews let you rectify the issues with the product

If a majority of customers are pointing out the same problem in the product, it is for you to take the onus of rectifying the defect so that the issue gets resolved. Yes, there are possibilities of a damaged or defective item reaching the customer but it happens with a few customers only.

If the problem is major, you need to look into it and get it fixed as soon as possible. Put simply, customer reviews help you find the loopholes in the product and provide you with an opportunity to improvise on those areas.

4. Product Reviews work as Social proof

One of the major benefits of product reviews is they can do wonders to your Brand. You would have often seen brands highlighting what their customers have to say about their products or services. These are what we call as testimonials and they make a significant impact on a prospect’s purchase.

Display testimonials through your social media pages and on the home page of your website. It is one of the best ways to promote your brand that can attract a large number of potential customers to your website and also leave an excellent impression when a visitor lands on your website.

5. Product Reviews boost Conversions

If you delivering up to your customer’s expectations, product reviews are going to play a huge role in your conversions. People would openly do the marketing for you by leaving positive reviews. And even a single positive review can lead to an increase in the conversion rate.

Yes, there will be a few negative reviews as well but till the time they have a low count, you do not need to worry much. Each and every customer cannot be satisfied. If the product has the quality and people have given positive remarks to it, more and more people will be encouraged to buy that product.

6. Product Reviews reduce possibilities of Returns

If you do not display product reviews, how are online shoppers going to decide the product quality? They would not be confident enough to make a purchase. Moreover, they will have doubts regarding product quality.

Let’s understand it this way. You have a product but provide no customer reviews. Now users can only hope that the product does not turn out to be defective or has a low-quality. It is very much possible that they receive a genuine product but if in case they don’t, they will be left with no choice except placing a return request.

Now let’s figure out how this could have been sorted with product reviews. A product having good ratings and reviews would likely face fewer returns, simply because most of the customers are satisfied with it, whereas on the other hand, if negative reviews are dominating positing ones, it simply means that most people have faced some kind of issue with it. And hence people would not even go for the purchase, in the first place.

Related: 8 Simple Tips to Reduce Product Returns eCommerce

The Bottom Line

Customer is the king. They are the ones who can either take your business to new heights or bring it down drastically. Their feedback is highly important as it will only be their experience that will decide how good your product is.

And there is no shame in having negative reviews. They are people’s honest opinions which you give a reality check. And it also shows that you welcome whatever a user has to say with open arms.

Since there is not any technology yet that could let users examine a product online, the importance of product reviews becomes supreme.

Make reviews more fun with Review Reminder and Incentives module.

With the Review Reminder and Incentives module, you can offer your customers rewards for every successful review posted. You can set the timing for the review reminders to be sent over email, customize those emails, set the incentive value and much more.

Every review posted will be first submitted for approval. Only after you approve, the end customer receives the rewards. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

The Product Review Reminder and Incentives module is available for PrestaShopOpenCartMagento, and Magento 2 eCommerce platform!

Credits:  https://www.knowband.com/blog/ecommerce-blog/product-reviews-importance/

Last Updated:   Ecommerce

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