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5 Alarming Signs That Your Business Is Failing

5 Alarming Signs That Your Business Is Failing

Starting a business with a great idea doesn’t necessarily mean success. Launching a startup is surprisingly simple, but no one wants a bad start. When a business fails, entrepreneurs sometimes feel that the failure came out of nowhere. The truth is that very few businesses fail without warning. Here are five signs that your business is in serious trouble.

1. Low Sales

The first and most obvious sign that your business is floundering is low sales. This can mean lower than your projections, or lower than last year. For companies to succeed, they need to be making sales; if sales drop off suddenly, then you have a problem.

Turn it around by figuring out what went wrong. Did you introduce a new product that’s missing its target? Can your marketing be improved in an inexpensive way to better spell out your message? Is there a problem in the sales or service sector that can be resolved? Whatever’s going on, you have a limited amount of time to turn it around, so don’t wait.

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2. No Differentiation

For a business to find success in a noisy global market, it needs to be doing something different from the competition. Amazon pioneered two-day shipping, Jamberry offered a fashionable alternative to manicures, Lularoe took into consideration the needs of busy moms to have comfortable clothing and reminded them that they deserve to look beautiful as well.

What does your company do differently? If you can’t give a passionate, cohesive answer in a few sentences, you’ve missed the mark.

Turn it around by reexamining your ideal customer and figuring out what you can offer them that no one else can. Make sure your marketing reflects what you do differently than the competition and always strive to get more done for your customers.

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3. No One’s Talking

There’s nothing worse for a business than silence. If your customers aren’t talking, aren’t leaving reviews, aren’t engaged on social media, then you have a communication problem. After all, if they’re not talking to you, they’re definitely not talking to their friends about you.

Turn it around by understanding why they’re not talking. Are you not asking customers for reviews and reminding them how useful they are, or are they just not impressed enough with your services to talk about them? The two problems have very different solutions—know which one you’re fixing. Ask your customers to connect with your on social media and engage them in conversation about a specific product.

4. Struggles Around Cash Flow

Even though on your company’s profit and loss sheet you’re doing well, you struggle to pay your bills on time, or you find you have too much inventory on hand and have to engage in extreme promotions to make room for new products. Properly managing your cash flow is the single most important thing you can do for your business.

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Turn it around with practices like offering discounts to customers who pay cash or within 15 days, and only buying the inventory that you need, rather than investing heavily in something you’re just positive will take off soon.

5. Saying Things Like “Failure Is Not An Option!”

Here’s the truth of the matter: failure is an option. When the numbers say that 8 out of 10 businesses fail, it’s the worst sort of arrogance to assume that your business couldn’t possibly be one of them. Entrepreneurs and CEOs make mistakes all the time. Why are you exempt?

Usually, new business owners plan step-by-step how to start a company, but sometimes they will look up and realize that their business is headed in the wrong direction. They’ll manage to correct course, right the ship, and steer off in a new and smoother direction. But sometimes, it’s too little, too late. Your customer trust is gone, or your startup cash is depleted, or you’ve traded too heavily on employee morale and it’s all just over.

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In those situations, the way to turn it around is to close things down as gracefully as possible and to figure out what went wrong. Dig deep to find out where mistakes were made, and make sure you understand how to keep the same mistakes from recurring.

The next step is to move on. Find the next idea, do a better job of differentiating, communicate your ideas more clearly, keep your cash flow more consistent. The right idea and the right timing will happen—unless you give up.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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