Business Trends

Business Succession Planning in the New Working World

Business succession planning includes a lot of different factors worth thinking about for the future. If you need help with this, here’s a guide to read as a start.


People are naturally hierarchical, and we thrive in groups led by great leaders. Leaders who know how to mediate problems, engage with their people, find amicable solutions, resolve, and avoid conflict, and perform admirably under stressful situations.


Leaders who recognize opportunities and know how to make the best from the worst. It is crises such as those that shaped the world this year, from political upheaval to record-breaking hurricanes and a devastating pandemic, that help us identify and shape leaders.


But there is more to finding and turning top talent into the executive branch of tomorrow. We need not only to recognize, but also to develop and grow tomorrow’s leaders.


This is where business succession planning becomes crucially important – and it’s why this new post-pandemic working world is a crucially important hotbed for identifying the people we need to invest the most into as the economy begins to recover.


What is Business Succession Planning?


People live an average of anywhere from 70 to 80 years, depending on individual factors. But companies, organizations, and ideas can live, thrive, and grow for centuries.


If you want your business to survive, you need to choose the right person to bring it into the next century, as countless other industry leaders have before you.


The Small Business Administration notes that approximately 70 percent of all privately owned businesses will change leadership in the next 10 to 15 years. This is a process that requires long-term planning, rather than a simple exchange of hands, or just another sale made at the end of the day – especially if you care about the long-term growth of your business, and its viability in the long run.


This is what the essence of business succession planning entails. More than just placing a friend or family member into the leadership position when it’s time for you to retire, business succession entails identifying, cultivating, and training your top talent to replace you when the time comes for your company to move in a new direction.


How Has Business Succession Changed in 2021?


Why is business succession planning relevant now, of all times? Because in the eyes of most businesses, it has never been less relevant.


With rising costs, extreme unemployment levels in 2020 and earlier this year, and ongoing concerns due to the dire state that the global economy was in at the peak of the COVID pandemic, grooming top talents to take over the business in ten or twenty years was far less important than making sure there’s a business to lead when that time does come.


Yet at the same time, it is precisely at this point where an individual’s potential and ability to lead must shine the brightest, and it is precisely at this point that you should take care to observe and identify whom among your current lineup steps up to do their best for the survival and growth of the business.


Rethinking the Importance of Business Succession in Your Organization This Year


As we continue to move forward and out of a global crisis, let us look towards the potential that tomorrow brings – and let us focus on those willing to draw out that potential.


Identifying key talents in your organization to mentor and build up over time requires that you identify what people played the greatest role in keeping the business alive over the last few months – and how each of your coworkers demonstrated different qualities of leadership as the weeks and months dragged on.


It’s not just about choosing the most efficient worker, or the person who put in the most hours.


Identify what leadership means to you, or more accurately, what qualities you have come to rely on the most in your position as a leader. How do your best people reflect these qualities in their own day-to-day, and how did they perform under pressure with regards to their duties, and the organization’s health as a whole?


COVID has been nothing short of a disaster for millions of people. It has also strained departments, leaders, companies, teams, and organizations all around the world. It has also acted as a filter, to show who in the company took on the work of others, got involved in special projects, and effectively managed their stress while remaining productive under the strangest and most complicated of circumstances.


The ability to take these tasks on – because it’s what must be done – demonstrates key leadership capabilities and helps us identify who to promote and build up in the coming years.


Investing in the Future, Planning for Tomorrow


Once you have begun to identify the people who have outpaced the rest of the company during a time of crisis, you can begin to capitalize on their natural talent with directed growth and training. Approach them about taking on greater responsibilities within the organization. Offer benefits to ensure that they decide to commit to the company. Ask them where they feel their future will take them, and whether they’re likely to continue to be active in their field and industry.


A top priority talent who is looking to switch fields or pursue a different dream would be a failed investment, years down the line.


But one who is considering a long-term approach in their industry and is interested in continuing their career path as a professional in the line of work they’re currently enjoying, may be enticed to stay so long as their growth is continuously enabled, and so long as it’s clear to them that this company is the best place for them to stay.


This means that your role as a leader isn’t just finding and grooming new leadership but managing the business and its culture in such a way that the people you work with feel they’re in the best place they can be.


The Role the Workplace Plays in Creating Leaders


Company culture is an important reflection of a business’ mission, vision, and real-life track record – and it is reflected in no place better than the workplace itself.


Yet the question of what constitutes a workplace, and how that definition might continue to change in response to the COVID pandemic, is still an open one.


If you are utilizing a hybrid work model, or a primarily remote model, think about how you can leverage tools such as better telecommunications and coworking spaces to enhance company cohesion and help your workers feel appreciated and welcomed in their workplace.

Business Trends

How Can a Design Thinking Workshop Benefit Your Business?

When it comes to growing your business and standing out, a design thinking workshop may just do it! Read further on all the details to know.


Design is integral to business. Sitting down to consider how your products and services should function is what helps you set yourself apart from the competition. By iterating and reiterating existing information, you can design your way into offering something unique.


But design thinking is something very different, albeit related. And a design thinking workshop can help your business in nearly every conceivable way.


What is Design Thinking?


Most design processes begin via problem solving. Individual questions are approached and answered, moving on from point to point. But this process rarely creates room for new problems to present themselves via consumer-based testing. Design thinking involves bringing the target audience into the picture, and integrating them into the design process in order to analyze their behavior with the product or service, and identify new problems, or pain points, to address in the design.


The idea isn’t just to work off of consumer feedback. Most consumers do not fully realize what their complaints might be or don’t know how to adequately verbalize them. Design thinking involves directly analyzing their response and behavior to each iteration and making adjustments along the way. It’s a more organic approach to design, one that prioritizes heavy iteration and constant testing.


Integrating Design Thinking Into Your Business


A design thinking workshop can help you begin creating systems at work to better integrate consumer experiences into your design process, rather than working off of surveys, polls, focus groups, or internal suggestions and tests.


There’s something to be said for how bringing the target audience in changes the way you approach design, versus simply testing the design in-house over and over again. You need to find ways to approach your product not just from the perspective of a designer or engineer, but primarily – above all else – from the perspective of a user.


There are five distinct stages to design thinking. These are:


      1. Empathize – Begin by observing how your target audience interacts with the product or service. Get testers who will likely be using your product on a daily or near-daily basis get hands-on with what you have created, and carefully analyze what they do – without your intervention – and how they naturally navigate and intuit around your creation.
      2. Define – Gather your observations to try and understand where you might find ways to improve upon the design. This might be as simple as realizing that consumers tend to interact with your product in unintended ways that could become a feature of its own or realizing that it isn’t obvious enough how certain features work. Consider what difficulties people are brushing up against the most.
      3. Ideate – Brainstorm how you can unobtrusively fix these problems, without creating new ones.
      4. Prototype – Begin developing your solutions, making the changes you need to in order to create a new stable release that feels one, two, or three steps closer to what you want.
      5. Test – By far the most important stage, this is where you effectively loop back into the beginning of the first stage and see whether the changes you’ve made adequately address the pain points you’ve identified or reveal new ones.


This isn’t just about addressing a single problem – it’s about understanding the complex and interconnected series of questions and issues you need to work through during the design process, and addressing them all together with each iteration, like chipping away at a block of wood to slowly reveal the masterpiece within.


Design thinking can help with more than just product design. It’s an effective way to create and improve a user shopping experience, it’s a productive way to innovate in the design of an app, and it can even be used to change the way you work on a fundamental level by changing your workspace.


Why Environments Can Foster (or Diminish) Creativity and Innovation


Central to iterating in the workspace is identifying controllable factors that you can change. Certain factors cannot be controlled, or require great effort – things like the space you’re given, where your windows are facing, or your specific address and location.


What you can control includes how and where to separate your floor space, how to design common areas and “focus rooms,” making the most out of a meeting space, prioritizing diversity, taking better advantage of natural light, introducing more plants and greenery, your choice of color and art, workspace policies, and much more.


By manipulating these factors, you can implement design thinking in the creation of your ideal workspace, and greatly improve the productivity and satisfaction of your colleagues and coworkers.


Leveraging the Benefits of Design Thinking While Remote


Any business can put design thinking to work. By iterating and reiterating on a software, webpage, or product of any kind, a company can – even remotely – make small individual changes or sweeping overhauls to address unforeseen pain points and get closer to the ideal product before launch.


This iterative thinking process as applied to workspaces can also be beneficial to remote teams looking for ways to improve their productivity and creativity. Workspaces that are built and improved upon organically to fix issues as they arise, and improve features as they are introduced, can help drastically change the way you work, and help promote greater creativity and innovation in your team.


Remote businesses can still take advantage of the results of effective design thinking by encouraging that their key creative personnel work through local coworking spaces. Coworking spaces market themselves on location, design, and amenities, attracting talent by reiterating how they’ve arranged their floor with the space available to them to provide greater value to their tenants.


Bright spaces, filled with natural light and plenty of nature can help improve productivity. Striking a balance between isolated spaces for silent, focused work, and collaborative spaces for professionals to meet and blend ideas. Incorporating art and architecture that inspires while making practical use of space, remaining efficient, comfortable, and safe.


Finding the right workspace, whether remote or by reiterating the configuration of your own office plan, can also be improved by integrating design thinking.


Take polls and analyze worker behavior. Under what conditions do your coworkers do their best work, and how can you sustainably promote those conditions? How can you best balance their health, life, and productivity, to help them and you achieve the best outcomes? How do the little changes you’ve made – from designating meeting rooms to creating a common area, changing out furniture, using different colors, or reorganizing workspaces to take advantage of more natural light – affect work performance and overall coworker satisfaction?




Pick a coworking space that innovates and improves through the same process and understands how design thinking can help them create a space that better caters to its tenants.

Work Environment

7 Ways to Improve Your Hiring Practices

It’s always helpful to learn different hiring practices in today’s world, and how to improve your current hiring system. Read further.


Are you looking to attract top talent? Then you need to know what it takes to attract top talent. As we approach the final stages of the pandemic, many businesses continue to gear up for growth during the predicted upcoming economic boom. This means that you’re not alone out there, pining for the best of the best – or at least, the best to fit your company’s culture and needs.


But what goes into getting the right talent for you? Chances are that you’re already well-versed in the basics of what makes a good hiring process – knowing where to look, weeding out the unserious offers and resumes, eyeing up good potential picks, and setting up the early interview.


But what can you do to improve your hiring practices, especially now, as we’re working towards a brand-new post-pandemic environment? Let’s go over some of the basics.


Do Your Research on Competitive Compensation


If you want to attract the best fit for you, you need to know what they’re looking for. There are plenty of helpful online resources to help startups and HR departments narrow down what professionals in any given field and industry are looking for, especially in terms of salary and benefits.


If you can’t match those needs, consider how you might be able to provide a unique value proposition to potential top talent.


      • What benefits might someone get working for you versus another company with more resources at hand?
      • What do you have to excite people who are passionate about the kind of work you do?
      • What prospects does your company have that might excite someone looking to foster growth and innovation in your field?
      • What challenges can you present to someone interested in honing their skills and taking on an opportunity to shake things up through your firm?


Compensation isn’t always about money. People need to be able to live, and most people don’t want to compromise on their quality of life, either.


But chances are that many top talents would be more interested in the opportunity to continue to finance their lifestyle while making ambitious strides in the industry and learning brand new skills through working with you, versus a minor uptick in their pay.


Conduct an In-Person Interview


Yes, offices are reopening – but not for everyone. Then there’s the fact that there are many startups and businesses that have had to close their physical locations indefinitely – or didn’t have one to begin with. Does that mean in-person interviews are out of the question? Absolutely not.


You can leverage flex spaces and coworking spaces as temporary offices to host hiring interviews. Chances are that you’re going to be looking for the right person for more than a few days or weeks, and most coworking spaces offer month-long leases, at the very least, and can offer isolated spaces for you to conduct interviews under safe social distancing protocols.


Leverage Coworking Spaces for In-Person Onboarding Sessions


Why stop at the interviews? The hiring process goes past deciding if someone is an initial fit for your company. The true test for any new hire comes with the onboarding process. Onboarding can help your hires figure out whether they’re a right fit for the company, get acquainted with the work style and their coworkers, and get a feel for the company culture they’re becoming a part of.


But digital onboarding has severe limitations. If you do not have an office space of your own, and are largely hiring remote forces, you can still use coworking spaces to your advantage to eliminate these limitations, by enabling your new hires to work with your nearest employees.


Pour Resources into Targeted Job Markets


Expand your search – by seeking out better criteria.


The internet offers a large host of established job markets where professionals congregate and look for work in a specific niche, industry, or profession – from ProBlogger for content writers, to ArtStation for art directors and digital creatives. Snoop around YouTube for talented video editors. Don’t rely entirely on UpWork or LinkedIn.


Screen for a Cultural Fit


What is workplace culture? In a post-pandemic world, finding an accurate definition that doesn’t involve the “feel” of the physical workplace and the people in it can be difficult. But companies can still have culture while working remotely, or in a hybrid setting, via watercooler talks and casual chats, the tone with which coworkers communicate, the language that is tolerated or encouraged, and the way both new hires and established company employees are treated after mistakes are made, or in celebratory moments.


What sets a company apart is how it treats its workers, and the behavior it allows or encourages between those workers – and, how well management communicates, engages with, and spends time with the rest of the company.


A new hire with great talent but a potentially toxic personality might become a thorn in your side, bringing down morale and causing others in the company to lose faith in you as a leader.


Their behavior, words, and opinions might not seem relevant to the work they do, but how they interact with others, and how their beliefs shape their actions within the company do reflect on both you and the business you are running.


Someone who continues to be overly informal in a company that demands professionalism or is rude and inappropriate despite doing a great job, should still be considered a bad fit for your work culture. The performance of a single person can never overshadow the accomplishments of a whole team that is in sync and working with high morale.


Why Weren’t They a Good Fit?


With issues and concerns around discrimination continuing to rise, it becomes more important than ever for companies to assure hopeful hires that they were disqualified from the hiring process for non-discriminatory reasons.


Doing so allows you to nip future issues in the bud, establish that any decision not to hire was born out of pragmatism rather than bad faith, and create the necessary documentation to ensure that your company steers clear from controversy if a potential hire takes offense with your decision to pick someone else. Even a simple follow-up is always better than total inaction.


How Has the Pandemic Affected Hiring Practices?


Finally, think about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected (and will continue to affect) your company’s hiring practices, and whether these changes are positive as a whole.


For example, as a result of a switch to a hybrid or mostly remote setup, many companies have massively expanded the geographical pool from which they draw talent. It no longer matters if the person they’re interviewing lives on the other coast of the continent, or even another country.

Business Trends Office Space

The Advantages of Using a Virtual Business Address

What’s a virtual business address and how is it beneficial to the growth of your company? These are important questions to ask, especially during a time when remote work is happening more than ever.


In this day and age, many businesses don’t need physical locations to exist, operate, and thrive – and with the pandemic, more businesses than ever are embracing a hybrid or fully remote organizational structure. For many service-based startups, from SEO and content to software development, there are very few things speaking against this kind of setup – especially in terms of cost. However, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. People are more likely to trust a business with an existing address – and oftentimes, they want to know that their product or service is being handled by real humans, in a real location.


Sadly, it’s getting harder and harder to afford quality commercial real estate, especially when you’re in an industry that doesn’t require physical manufacturing or a dedicated office setup. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a real business address.


You can lead a fully or mostly remote business, and still have a set professional business address to share with clients, customers, and potential business partners. This is where the virtual business address enters the picture.


What is a Virtual Business Address?


Virtual business addresses are real-life addresses in a coworking space or office space managed and leased out to companies as mostly virtual fronts, designed to interact with clients and customers, redirect mail and communications, and even host meetings when need be.


These spaces are real, and do exist, and are usually set up in business parks and commercial or corporate districts. However, all you are paying for is the nominal use of the address, rather than the entire space or office. Because the terms are much more minimal, they are also much more flexible.


Virtual business addresses are usually leased monthly, can be canceled at any time, and allow you to legitimize your business through a physical location (rather than a simple P.O. box) without anywhere near the same costs. Below are some of the advantages of working with a virtual business address rather than your own home office address.


In short, a virtual business address allows you to put a real-life address to your business, without the associated costs of leasing an office space in an expensive commercial district. Why bother? Because having a professional business address comes with a suite of benefits.


The Legitimacy of an Established Business


There is more to being successful on the Internet than a pretty façade. The advent of reputation-based marketing, customer reviews, and social media has drastically changed the way companies need to present themselves when vying for clients and keeping customers. Yet despite that, first impressions still matter.


Customers are more likely to take you seriously when knowing that your company has a location and address behind its name, one that isn’t tied to your personal home.


While it is becoming more and more normal for certain industries to feature 100 percent remote start-ups, and home-based freelancers or contractors, there is a certain reassurance behind knowing that the people you’re talking to are human beings working together in an office, rather than a group of strangers interacting online.


True, the latter is a completely misleading take on how remote companies function – but with the information age also comes the overly-cautious customer, warier than ever of scams and schemes. Legitimacy, even if it comes in the form of a virtual address rather than one you own the keys to, can go a long way towards convincing leads that you are every bit as authentic as any other ambitious business on the market.


Privacy for Your Home


With a virtual address comes an added benefit of not having to name your own address instead. There are still processes for which a business needs an address, such as registering as an LLC, entering a limited liability partnership, or seeking financing.


Most of the time, these processes do not accept simple PO boxes as addresses. And for everything else, you should still hesitate to place your home address as the base of operations for your business.


Not only will you be eliminating yet another crucial separator between work and life, but you are putting yourself at risk of going through lengths to address the problem of address discrepancies whenever you need to move.


Clients who decide to look your business up would also know exactly where you live, which can be more than just an uncomfortable fact – it can be a security risk.


Local SEO Benefits


While so much of our life has been supplanted or changed by the creation of internet services and social media, we’re still ultimately people living in towns, cities, regions, and countries – and that fact isn’t lost on search engines.


Most search engines (especially Google and Bing) place a great premium on location and are more likely to recommend services that are close by. In order to take advantage of that fact and ensure that you’re the biggest fish in your pond, you need Google to know where exactly you do business – and where your company can be found.


Even if you specialize in a good or service that never requires a customer to come anywhere near your main office, taking advantage of local SEO can greatly boost your traffic, which translates into relevant leads, and better sales.


Choosing a Virtual Business Address


Virtual business addresses are usually one part of a larger package, which can include virtual assistant services, receptionist services, email and phone redirection, package receiving and forwarding, and much more.


But when you take advantage of something like a coworking space as your virtual business address, you’re paying for more than just an expanded P.O. box and receptionist’s desk – you get an actual space for your company, one you can use from time to time to host important clients, schedule monthly or annual team meetings, and make use of as an onboarding space for new local talent.


By taking advantage of the full benefits of a coworking space, you’re not just getting a business address for your company in a prime location, but you’re getting an office space too – for a fraction of the cost and hassle.

Work Environment

7 Ways to Avoid Creating a Toxic Workplace Environment

A toxic workplace environment is a legitimate cause for concern, both for worker health and overall productivity. It’s essential to avoid these environments; read the ways below.


As we become more aware of how office culture can impact our personal lives, and the lives of those we work with, it becomes increasingly important to be retrospective about how we treat each other at work, and how simple changes in interaction and management can greatly boost morale and profitability.


While many managers and executives wish to maintain a positive and healthy office environment, they may be unwittingly contributing to a toxic work space. Below are seven important tips to preventing the growth of a toxic workplace environment.


1. Don’t Cater to Bullies

The workplace can be harsh. People don’t go to work to play, and ideally, they should feel motivated to get things done. Part of that can mean feeling immense pressure on some days, striving to achieve things that might not, at first, seem plausible. To bring out the best in people, managers and leaders must learn when to push, and when to give.


But there are other aspects of the workplace that are often harsh without needing to be, breeding a lack of trust in the management and undermining morale and productivity. These people often move up into higher positions within many corporate organizations, while leaving others in the proverbial dust.


Abuses of trust are a clear example, where employees who are superficially loyal to the management may go out of their way to emotionally sabotage those around them, vying for individual and selfish benefits while catering to the boss’s needs. It’s important to recognize the brownnosers and the troublemakers and to make it clear that undermining others is not a viable path to promotion in your organization.


2. Provide an Outlet for Feedback

This can be hard without proper feedback and truthful, reliable information. That is why commanding a certain level of transparency and urging others to speak up about misuses of power is important.


While many might worry about the image of essentially promoting ‘snitching’ and an office environment wherein employees can be free to complain about each other, the ultimate goal is not to cull people but to build a cohesive team of people who trust one another.


Doing so is impossible without giving everybody the ability to speak up about one another, to avoid individual abuses of power or toxic behavior.


3. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

When something is done well, it’s important to give credit to the right person, and doing it properly. Another problem with a toxic workplace environment is that people may try to claim credit when it isn’t deserved. Or, they may make false claims about how certain ideas came to be, and how certain decisions were made.


Managers should keep in mind:


    • Which employees have been historically trustworthy and reputable
    • Which employees are more likely to stay quiet and keep to themselves
    • Properly give credit whenever credit is due


Even those striving for approval will likely get the shot they need to prove themselves, without feeling the need to undermine others.



4. Point Out Mistakes, But Reward a Job Well Done

Managers are often tasked with fixing problems and preventing messes, but if you perceive your role as a manager as being one to crackdown solely on the bad and lay in wait for mistakes, you’ll often find that your employees and workers begin to feel as though they are walking on eggshells.


They begin to fear taking any risks because there is no incentive to doing extraordinarily well. On the other hand, there’s also a good chance of catching flak whenever a mistake is made.


Subvert this by addressing mistakes but rewarding useful input. The best way to promote creativity and innovation is to incentivize risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking, even if it doesn’t always pan out.


5. Remember That Employees are People

People are individual in nature and don’t always fit a particular mold. It’s easy to come to quick conclusions about a person’s character, but sometimes, it takes the right environment to properly allow an individual to flourish.


Some people thrive in a traditionally toxic workplace environment, easily capable of manipulating their way to the top. Others do very badly in such areas but have the potential to be amazing workers and top earners, should they have the right environment to unlock their potential.


Managers should strive to create teams that give each person ample opportunity to thrive, which can be very difficult; but by talking to your employees and recognizing their unique traits, strengths, and weaknesses, you can have a better idea of how you might structure your office and your organization to allow everyone to feel comfortable with their tasks and positions.


6. Avoid the Pitfalls of High Stress

Work is stressful, and there’s a lot of benefits to stress. We’re ultimately meant to do best under a certain amount of pressure – but too much, and we crack. It’s hard to tell what too much means, however, as that is entirely subjective. While incentivizing hard work is good, there are certain pitfalls to consider and carefully avoid.


If you necessitate extreme stress, for example, by suggesting that overtime is necessary to avoid potential termination or demotion, then you’ll find yourself stuck with a toxic workplace environment. You’re then struggling with absenteeism, a high turnover rate, and workers who perform much worse than before.


If you rely entirely on your hardest workers, you might find that they’re picking up the slack for everybody else.


Make sure you are employing enough people to deal with big projects and extremely pressuring deadlines. Reward those that go above and beyond, so long as it’s evident that they are not sacrificing their health; and remind them to take breaks, when it’s clear that they’re beginning to burn out.


7. Bigger Space Can Help

Space is important. Offices shouldn’t feel cramped – but there should still be some form of design in place. Completely open offices can be chaotic and unruly, leaving many to struggle with noise and a lack of concentration.


Finding a healthy middle ground is important but avoid cubicles and other office plans that further isolate workers and leave them feeling unmotivated or inconsequential.


For many companies, coworking spaces offer an excellent middle ground as a great place to work while offering plenty of amenities most smaller companies might not be able to afford in an office of their own.


Business Trends

The Ultimate Business Plan Checklist You’ll Need

Taking action with your ideas should be fun, not stressful. So to ensure you have everything you need, follow this ultimate business plan checklist.


With the onset of a new year, it’s time to reflect and strategize, taking into account the lessons of 2020, and how they shape your company’s or idea’s path forward. When taking stock of your business (or concept) and both it’s short- and long-term goals, the most important thing is to create a quantifiable and actionable plan.


Business plans are both the ideal way of quantifying an idea, as well as reflecting on past progress or failures and how they changed your company.


Why Bother with a Business Plan?


Business plans are usually thought of as the first step towards turning a spark into a business, but they’re also worth revisiting and revising, particularly after the challenges of last year.


As managers and entrepreneurs enter the new year, it’s important to take stock of a company’s strengths and weaknesses, take the opportunity to explore and study the competition, and consider how or where the company might be able to attract new clients, funding, or investments. A solid business plan acts as the distilled essence of what your business is, what it’s done, and where it might go.


But to create a solid business plan, you need a solid structure, and a foundation built on data and research.


Your Business Plan Checklist


Like any lengthy document, a business plan needs structure.


First, you should identify what audience you’re trying to target with your business plan – is it an internal document for management? Is it going to be primarily used to inform existing investors and secure new ones? Is it an elaborated mission statement to attract clients?


Then, you will need to address questions that your audience might have. These would be the individual sections the business plan will consist of each clearly answering a potential question with clear data. In general, a business plan checklist would look like this:


      • Describe Your Company and Industry


Depending on your audience, the first section of the plan will consist of an overview of the company’s purpose and its role in the current industry, as well as general information on the industry to help provide context for the company’s state and future.


      • What Are Your Prospects in the Current Market?


After going into detail on what the company does, it’s time to go into detail on the state of the market, and how your company is adapting to recent changes or aims to improve in light of sudden developments.


With the pandemic, countless industries have had to rapidly shift towards remote services, safe delivery mechanisms, rapid digitalization, and better software integration with mobile devices, among other concerns. How has your company adapted, and what are its prospects in the current market?


      • What is the Competition Up To?


No business plan is complete without an unbiased and objective view of the competition, particularly how it serves customers and clients in your area, and how you can further differentiate your business from other successful businesses around you.


      • How Are You Operating?


The next critical part of the business plan is a concise and comprehensive overview of its management and production, from how individual teams and departments are managed, how the organization itself is structured, how workplace policies such as remote work, coworking spaces, and work-from-anywhere policies have been implemented as a result of the pandemic, and how delivery mechanisms have been changed or implemented to ensure safety.


Another question is scaling – if your company is growing rapidly as a result of the shift towards digitalization, how are you planning to keep up with growing demand or a wider audience?



      • How Are You Marketing Your Products and Services?


The marketing portion of the business plan should report on the success of previous campaigns and tactics and plans in light of how the market has changed, and how demand is shifting.


Who are your customers, and what are they most likely to want? Can you identify what it is that they might want that they themselves aren’t aware of? And if yes, how can you leverage that to gain more sales?


      • How Healthy Are Your Finances?


How have your sales and revenue been holding up as a result of the pandemic, and what kind of growth are you projecting for the new quarter? A financial overview is often the most critical portion of a business plan for many investors who want to see raw numbers, and want to know how you’ve been holding up over the pandemic, and whether you have the potential to continue to grow your business.


      • Create Your Management Summary


The last thing you should work on should be the first thing in the plan – the executive or management summary, providing a concise overview of the contents of the document, the state of the business, and the purpose for this plan.


Essential Rules for a Well-Written Business Plan


It’s easy to go overboard with the jargon and flourish and turn your business plan into a wordy brochure. But shareholders and investors are people too, and their eyes glaze over just as easily as any other customer or client. You must keep your audience in mind when writing your business plan, and understand that there are a few key rules to follow:


1. Stay Concise


Avoid repeating yourself and avoid the use of industry jargon that might not make any sense to a general audience of investors and financiers. Save the flourish for your marketing campaigns, and focus on short, simple bullet-point answers for critical questions that you imagine the reader might ask.


Source your information heavily with references based on real market research, but don’t drown the reader in unnecessary data – keep it informative, and in the service of an actual point (such as explaining the potential demand for your niche or product based on market trends and surveys).


2. Focus on Your Differences


When describing your business and how it fits into the industry – especially when considering your competition and other similar companies – focus on what differentiates your company or idea from others and focus on the specific niche that you’ve carved out or plan to carve out for yourself.


In a world where modern technology gives us access to products and services from all over the globe, focusing on what sets you apart from the competition is more important than ever.


3. Provide Authoritative References


Regardless of whether your business plan is written to attract investment, reassure or maintain investors, or just to give you an updated overview of the company and its direction for the near future, it’s important to provide trusted references for the information you’re including in your plan.


We tend to try and focus on the positives when discussing an idea we’re fond of, or we tend to lean towards defending our practices and business, even when the writing is on the wall that a change of direction is long overdue. Reliable data is important to back up your belief in your business and provide readers with more than just a sense of your passion for the company.




The ultimate business plan serves as a referential document used to reflect on the company’s progress. In addition, to give a thorough insight on its unique purpose in your industry, as well as provide direction for the future.


Business Trends

5 Essential Startup Resources You’ll Need for Success

Sure, there are plenty of startup resources to look into, but which ones will you need for a path towards success? Read below for the details on the 5 important ones!


The modern-day startup is defined by its resourcefulness and adaptability, and the spirit of global connectivity. Competition is fiercer than it has ever been. But the opportunities for collaboration and remote connection are greater than ever to boot.


To outperform the competition, reach the most people, and dominate the local market. Startups today must leverage existing and upcoming technologies, and manage a global talent pool.


Any aspiring startup in today’s climate will also have to deal with the century’s greatest economic challenge: an ongoing pandemic. In times like these, it’s important to focus on what works best, and shed what’s non-essential.


Here are our five startup resources you’ll need for success.


1. The Right Workspace


The completely remote business model works for many companies, especially in the digital and tech industries. But these models aren’t applicable to all businesses. There are still many startups that rely on face-to-face business, and there are companies that see benefits in working from an office that cannot be mimicked in a completely remote setup.


Working alongside one another can improve performance and efficiency in communication, allow for spontaneous collaboration and interaction, make it much easier to train newcomers, help stave off burnouts caused by isolation, and speed up project ideation, planning, and execution. While remote work will absolutely play a greater role from now on for both productivity and safety reasons, some tasks are still best coordinated in person.


But any old office setup would be unsuited to the challenges and dangers posed by the coronavirus, which is why new ideas are necessary to help prepare the workplace, and those who work in it. Once workspaces are retrofitted to accommodate their workers, there’s still the issue of limited space. Social distancing and dedensification play a critical role in minimizing the effects of the virus.


Coworking spaces are ideally suited to implementing all necessary safety precautions while providing the perfect environment for small teams to return to work together. They include combining remote collaboration with face-to-face communication, acting as spokes to the hub in a wheel, and ensuring that startups can leverage existing safe spaces to get back to work without endangering their team.


2. Remote Collaborative Tools


Any lean startup seeking to make the most of the challenges and limitations of this year will rely heavily on remote collaborative tools. This is of course to communicate between on-site teams and workers staying at home.


Collaborative tools are the connective tissue of any aspiring startup. In addition, enabling instant communication across oceans and making it possible to collaborate on projects regardless of physical distance.


Whenever face-to-face collaboration isn’t possible, it’s time to turn to tools like OBS for screen capture. Also, Microsoft Teams for documentation and ideation, Trello for planning, Zoom for meetings, and so on.


3. A Feature-Rich Helpdesk


Customer service and support are critical. Especially for startups where early experiences between a company and their first customers can result in thousands of new sales, or a ruined reputation.


Beneath viral social marketing, glowing customer reviews, and an enviable following online lies the nitty gritty legwork of swiftly and efficiently addressing customer complaints and problems. In addition, troubleshooting errors, and conveying – as best as possible – that you care.


Managing all this without the digital infrastructure to do it efficiently can be soul-crushing work. Not to mention resulting in countless wasted hours. An effective helpdesk and customer support solution is a critical investment for any startup looking to create a long-lasting and loyal customer base.


4. Designs and Designers


Startups need consistent quality branding and marketing material that is up to snuff with the competition – or better yet, beats it.


There are plenty of platforms and resources dedicated to promoting designers and artists skilled in creating entire design suites for startups. Being in contact with a designer you know, someone who you feel best encapsulates what your company means to you in a visual sense, is an important resource.


5. Market Research Tools


Analyzing and capitalizing on data is critical for any startup trying to get a leg up in today’s market environment. That’s where market research tools become really important. From analyzing trends for content and marketing purposes, to drafting, sending, and compiling data from surveys to the customers and potential customers you serve and will serve.


Identifying and recruiting testers is just as important. Especially when you want to make sure your product is developed to suit your target audience, and not flop on day one. There are many different platforms and services to help you get as much insight into your customers as possible. These include free tools like Google Trends and Crunchbase to paid local surveys.



Other Startup Resources


Concrete startup resources vary greatly from industry to industry, and business to business. You might need more people at work and hands on deck. You might need to focus most on better equipment, or a hygiene plan that lets you operate better during the ongoing crisis. Or a plan that attracts critical investment. Perhaps you need more immediate financing to help your business off the ground. Or, what you need most is to focus exclusively on promoting your business locally. And attracting clients currently dissatisfied with the services that are available to them.


Identifying what you need the most and investing in that need requires a keen eye and a tactical mind. As well as a knack for leadership. Especially now, when many are worried about their jobs and the prospect of surviving this crisis as a smaller company.


Even more important is the ability to reflect on the one thing that never truly stops growing: experience. Do you have the capacity to sit back and analyze your failures? Or are you going to repeat them?


Running a business is never easy. And neither is weathering the negativity and opposition constantly in place against you and your dreams. That’s why the two most important resources, past even experience, or reflection, are motivation and support.


Never forget the humanity behind your business, and the importance of promoting that human element in everything you do. From inspiring your coworkers, to forging that human connection with your clients and customers, and finding fulfillment in the everyday process between a startup’s early days and that first taste of true success.


Read More:

Employer Branding: What Is It and How Can It Grow Your Business?

Business Trends

Innovation Ecosystem: What is It & Why Your Business Needs It

What is an innovation ecosystem and how does it exactly work in the business world? It has proven to provide great value and success. Read for further details!


There have never been better opportunities in the world for value creation. A business’ capacity in the modern day to leverage technology to assess situations and develop solutions is unparalleled in history. Never have we been at this level of data accumulation and analysis, automation, and communication. Never have we had the opportunity to witness how technologies can scale seamlessly from the smallest startup to immense multinational corporations.


But in order to make full use of how technology has and will continue to drive innovation, we need an environment that prioritizes said innovation – one that does not stifle it. And one that can lead, manage, and network in such a way that we continue to keep moving towards creating better value for customers and clients.


To understand how an environment can be shaped to improve innovation, it’s important to understand the concept of innovation ecosystems.


What is an Innovation Ecosystem? 


Work on innovation ecosystems attempts to identify the factors that influence innovation in a given field (whether it’s an industry, a nation, a city, a region, or even a firm). The sum of these factors is described as an ecosystem.


In ecological science, an ecosystem can be defined as the flow of material and energy – the transit of nutrients between different organisms and their respective life cycles within an environment. Ecosystems also attempt to explain and observe the relationships between living and non-living components within an open system (from small ponds to entire biomes).


The concept of an ecosystem attempts to summarily define all factors contributing to life in a given area. And in much the same way, an innovation ecosystem is an attempt to identify the outside and inside factors that work towards fostering and harnessing ideas and helping them mature into solutions to existing or even unidentified problems.


On a larger scale, an innovation ecosystem attempts to understand and potentially optimize an industry’s capacity for new ideas with tangible usefulness. Depending on the scale, this might include funding, education, and policy changes on a national or regional level, and incremental changes that lead to results over the course of many years.


On a much smaller scale, evaluating a company’s innovation ecosystem, for example, would help a business identify whether their decision-making and management style are optimally conducive towards pulling the best out of their existing employees, while attracting the kind of talent into the business that would continue to breathe life into the industry.


Coworking spaces are a great crucible for innovation, and a showcase of how the individual components of an innovation ecosystem meld together.


The Components of an Innovation Ecosystem


To better understand how to leverage the idea of an innovation ecosystem within a smaller scale like a business or a local industry, it is important to identify the factors that are commonly discussed within various different definitions of an innovation ecosystem.


These are:


      • Actors (the individuals within the system)
      • Activities (from research and development to sales and marketing)
      • Artifacts (products, prototypes, technologies, services, and projects)
      • Institutions (established groups, rules, or policies that set the stage)
      • Relations (the interactions and networking between actors, as well as groups of actors)


Beyond these critical elements exist other important layers, such as the degree to which an ecosystem is collaborative (fostering profitable relationships between separate groups of actors working together) or competitive (wherein the drive to compete fuels innovation between actors), and whether artifacts are being developed either on a complementary level (to build on existing ideas and provide auxiliary products and services) or as substitutes (attempting to replace an existing product or service with something better).


Where innovation is the development of something new or novel to a system, an innovation ecosystem attempts to identify how innovations are made and improve upon existing factors to drive more innovation.



Harnessing Innovation Ecosystems Through Coworking


Just as in nature, innovation ecosystems are not consciously built – they can only be modified or fostered. The ecosystem is already in place, if not within a smaller scale then on a larger scale, often outside of the control of any one business or individual.


Managers and employers are tasked with finetuning the factors that remain within their control to drive innovation within their own ecosystem, whether through hiring methods aimed at attracting the right actors, or through improved relations. In addition, by seeking funding to help fuel activities that may lead to innovation, by changing the way workers are motivated, and by collaborating with other companies capable of providing complementary artifacts.


Coworking spaces are a great example of an innovation ecosystem, particularly its central point: the environment (the institutions) that set the stage for the process. Avoid rigidity, especially in a day and age where innovations are occurring rapidly, and where companies are often encouraged to move with the times – which is to say, very quickly.


Another prolific example is how Apple worked with the music industry and complementary technology companies to develop content for the iPod and iPhone, kickstart the App Store, and dominate the mobile industry in the late 2000s/early 2010s.


By being aware of and recording the factors contributing to the development of a company’s successes, that company can learn to prioritize what is useful, and shed what is not.


Fostering and Enabling Innovation in Your Business


Identify and take control of the factors that contribute to innovation in your industry or company. Leverage what you can to find and promote strong actors. Empower them to focus on the activities that lead to profitable artifacts.


Find ways to cut down on demotivation and disengagement within your own team or company, identify and reward talent and initiative, and be a business that positions itself to attract the best talent in your industry going forward.




At the end of the day, the key goal is to improve a company’s value proposition by identifying all the key factors that go towards creating the products or services that customers want or need. The degree to which contributing factors can be changed or affected differs from situation to situation, based on existing factors and the proposed scale of the innovation ecosystem. But the key factors usually remain the same across all cases.


Business Trends

6 Effective Brainstorming Techniques for Teams

How well are you implementing brainstorming techniques for the team? Not only will this practice most likely produce great ideas, but it will also help bring the team closer together. Read more below.


There are two important rules for successful brainstorming:


        1. Quantity over quality.
        2. It’s critical to emphasize that everyone gets a word in.


With these two basic tenets, most brainstorming techniques naturally follow.


The art of brainstorming successfully is demonstrated best via positive creativity – the goal being that you avoid shutting others down as much as possible, and instead bring new ideas to the table or elaborate upon parts of a concept you enjoy or like. It’s easy to let conversations wander and turn towards nitpicking. Or to get hung up on details that ultimately waste everyone’s time. Yes, everyone knows there are limits on what a company can and cannot achieve. There are budgets and time constraints.


But the goal in a brainstorming session isn’t to spend an hour on three ideas. It’s to get as many ideas out there in half an hour or less, never spending valuable time to criticize an idea, but suggest a new one instead. That is how you get to the ideas that push a business forward. And it’s only then that you begin to ask how and get down to brass tacks.


To cut down on the useless criticism and get to those golden ideas, let’s talk about six effective brainstorming techniques that can help you make the most of your team’s time.


1. Set Your Limitations Aside 


Let’s talk about rapid-fire brainstorming. For this technique, the focus is on speed and diversity. Set aside any notions of complexity or critique. It doesn’t matter if 80 percent of the ideas that are brought to the table in any given brainstorming session end up getting scrapped. The more ideas each individual plows through in a session, the more one’s creative juices get flowing. And the more the focus becomes “what else can I come up with?” rather than “why do I think this idea is bad?”.


Set a quota per person and meet it. Give everyone five to ten minutes to come up with at least half a dozen ideas. Then get everyone to present them succinctly and quickly. This leaves no time for anyone to get caught up on any one idea. If an idea is a bad idea, the person presenting it can quickly move to their next one.


If it’s a good idea, everyone takes notes and things keep moving. It’s easy to circle back to the best of the bunch after everyone’s gotten their ideas off their chest. This also keeps things from revolving entirely around the thoughts and opinions of just a handful of creatives in the room.


2. Follow the “Yes, And” Rule


Some people call this “mind mapping”, but it’s essentially a technique based on elaborating upon an idea with improvements or sub-ideas that aim to take the original concept and elevate it.


Based on improv comedy’s golden rule of saying “yes, and” to any development in the skit, the idea here is to avoid hitting a creative dead-end by accepting all changes and simply organically moving from one suggestion to the next. Rather stopping at an idea that isn’t perfect. If there’s something wrong with a suggestion, take your opportunity to amend or workshop it. Evolve the idea. Improve it.


3. Don’t Get Stuck & Be Fast


Another important technique in brainstorming is forced succinctness. When emphasizing that everyone gets a shot at improving an idea or coming up with their suggestion, it’s important not to find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time on a single person’s vision.


There’s no doubt that some ideas are better fleshed out than others, but encourage everyone to provide an attractive “elevator pitch” of their idea rather than present an entire plan off the bat.


Require team members to come up with ways to explain the most useful or engaging parts of their idea. And when it’s circled back to at another stage in the planning process, they can find ways to extrapolate on it. And take in suggestions to improve it further.



4. Get Visual


Visualization is an important technique in brainstorming to get certain ideas across to others in a quick and fast fashion. A picture can be a thousand words (or more). And it doesn’t need to be objectively well-done or have any sort of artistic merit to serve its purpose.


When relying on visualization, encourage team members to either prepare visual aids for their brainstorming ideas or simply sketch certain parts and processes of their ideas on a paper or whiteboard. This technique further elaborates on the idea that speed is important in brainstorming. By cutting down on unnecessary explanation where a visual medium can help provide a much clearer picture.


5. Include Everyone


There are two great techniques for involving everyone in the brainstorming session. The first is a basic round-robin, giving everyone a set amount of time to present their idea, as discussed previously. The other is the stepladder technique, which manages how team members get involved in decision making and are ideal for smaller groups.


The stepladder technique relies on a core of creative powerhouses (usually just two people) discussing ideas in a room together while the rest of the team brainstorms on their own. A third member is brought into the room to present their idea first, and then they hear about what has already been addressed, and how their idea might contribute. Then a fourth member enters, presenting their idea, listening to what’s been talked about, and so on.


For teams of twenty or more, this type of brainstorming is relatively unrealistic, and can easily take all day. But smaller creative teams can benefit greatly from this technique. It forces the ever-growing group to listen to a person’s ideas without them having been influenced by what’s already been discussed and deliberated (i.e. groupthink).


6. Brainstorming Online 


Learning to brainstorm over the internet is especially important for businesses working remotely from home. In addition to out of coworking spaces, and other workspaces.


Any of the techniques above can be adapted into virtual brainstorming via an array of digital tools. This includes teleconferencing software and collaborative editing software, but it still takes a little practice to get used to brainstorming outside of physical space. You can let team members join the call one-by-one to simulate a stepladder decision-making process. Or give everyone a few minutes to present their ideas round-robin style and use a variety of software to aid in explaining and presenting your ideas and suggestions.




Brainstorming doesn’t need to be difficult or frustrating. It can be extremely fruitful with a little bit of cooperation and a focus on the core tenets of swift, expedient presentation and improvisation. Avoid getting hung up on the details, and move from idea to idea, taking notes as you go along.


Business Trends

The Importance of Virtual Skills Training for Both Employees and Management

Virtual skills training for both employees and management is critical now more than ever. But also, we live in a world, where technology continues to play a vital role to help gain success.  Read below for detailing insights on this important subject.


We live in a day and age where technology rapidly evolves on a regular basis, best practices are constantly changing and shifting, and systems are undergoing daily optimization and frequent alteration.


A formal education is no longer as valuable as it once was, and even tech giants like Google, IBM, and Apple seek out individuals with exceptional flexibility, creativity, and adaptive intelligence, rather than academic accolades. Many are looking towards virtual skills training as an alternative to emphasize a continued education.


Workers today must make it a habit not just to absorb the basics, but to spend their entire careers evolving and contributing to a world that is never again going to sit still.


For employees, this means staying on the cutting edge. For management, this means investing in the means to help employees continue to learn long after school has ended.


Technology is Always Moving 


It must be said that the rapid expansion of technology throughout our daily lives in the Information age has successfully integrated with every industry on the planet. Countless businesses rely on cloud technology, VOIP, a consumer internet, the ubiquity of the smartphone, and the expansive use of big data collection and complex algorithms.


As businesses are encouraged to continue the integration of new technologies, employers must look towards efficient and cheap ways of getting their workers up to speed quickly. Most businesses do not have the luxury of hiring in-house instructors, organizing training manuals, printing and sending out entire volumes of instructions on a monthly or annual basis, and planning seminars to keep employees up to spec. Things have to move faster to match the pace of the world we live in. That is where virtual skills training becomes critical.


Skill Sets are Changing


Regardless of whether you run an SME or have a managerial role within a larger corporation, virtual skills training is relevant across industries. Whenever a new technological paradigm shift presents itself, businesses – small and large – scramble to adapt and outdo the competition, taking advantage of better, faster, more reliable services in order to attract greater audiences, improve their share of the market, and invest in the future.


But if a business moves forward without taking its employees with it, it is setting itself up for failure. Training programs must be swiftly rolled out to help workers catch up and integrate new technologies into their daily processes. Whether it’s something as simple as a software change, or something far more fundamental, such as switching delivery methods, streamlining into a totally digital business, or expanding vertically at a rapid pace.


Workers Aren’t Ready


In 2019, a study by SHRM Research revealed that 83 percent of responding managers had trouble finding the right talent for their business within the last 12 months. Over a third of respondents explained that this was because they didn’t have the technical skills needed for the job.


This is a recurring problem in several different industries: a lack of upskilling, wherein many companies are finding themselves trying to meet the ever-growing demands of modernization without investing in resources to help existing and new employees learn the skills necessary to perform their tasks, after their formal education has ended.


Let’s face it; while education is important, it’s just as difficult for schools to stay on the cutting edge, and curriculums cannot be updated as swiftly as technologies evolve. Many in the workforce today are too busy or lack the resources needed to acquire new skills and must rely on management to help bridge the gap between yesterday and tomorrow.


Furthermore, many older workers suffer the most under a lack of effective training or poor training, and one in four American workers believes that they lack the technical skills necessary to perform the job they already have.


How can virtual skills training address these issues?



Distance Nullified


The first big problem when trying to create a training program to scale to the needs of today’s workforce is that you just can’t get to everyone. The experts needed to compile, write, and disseminate these training programs exist, but they can’t be in all places at once.


Virtual skills training completely eliminates this real world problem by taking things into the virtual space. This is by connecting via VOIP, cloud editing tools, and online classrooms. Experts and coaches around the world can help businesses leverage existing technologies to educate workers on existing and upcoming tools.  And thus, help them become more valuable and effective workers.


Lowered Costs


Aside from cutting short on distance, virtual skills training cuts down on cost. It is estimated that virtual instructor-led training cuts down on training costs by as much as 70 percent in some cases.


Of course, at a reduced cost, businesses might appear more eager to begin overtraining their workforce, but trying to push workers to complete too many tasks at once will backfire just as much.


Yes, effective and useful virtual training can considerably improve employee satisfaction. Many workers value training because it gives them greater career options and allows them to play a greater role in the company.


Swifter Implementation


It’s fairly clear to readers at this point that hard skills change fast, and workers need to be up-to-speed on matters of data accumulation and processing, artificial intelligence, VR, and other emerging technologies that are becoming relevant in many different industries. However, it isn’t just the hard skills that are changing.


Those in the front-end and customer-facing parts of the industry must also learn how current technological leaps are affecting business, in order to help answer customer queries and offer actual solutions to recurring problems.


Furthermore, as automation continues to take humans out of the equation in simple, repetitive tasks, workers must learn to leverage that which separates them from the machines – their humanity – to better serve customers and coordinate with management. To keep up with this, training programs need to take place, which virtual skills training enables.


Virtual Training is Not Easy to Implement


Yes, virtual skills training is more effective than video or text-based learning materials, because it connects employees to knowledgeable instructors who can answer questions, clear confusion, and offer better guidance than normal reading or viewing material could. However, it is not always easy to implement.


Not every business has the infrastructure to begin implementing online training for every employee. There are also types of training that are far more effective when given in the real-world, rather than over video or VR.


Instructors train several people at once, which means they cannot always spend a disproportionate time trying to provide unique teaching styles to address every employee’s needs. Technical problems can cause delays in training, from losing internet access to a downed server.


Businesses must be aware of these issues and work on addressing them to get the most out of virtual skills training, and help their employees be the best they can be.