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Why Google Is Spending $1 Billion On Its Offices—And Other Small Business Tech News This Week – Forbes

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 —Google is spending $1 billion on its offices. Didn’t it get the remote work memo?  
Google announced recently that it plans to spend $1 billion on its central London office space. Google also anticipates an increase from 6,400 to 10,000 employees. According to the report, the new office will be designed to accommodate flexible and hybrid working preferences. This concept may be due to the fact that Google does not see it returning to a 9-5 in-office schedule like before the pandemic. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:
Contrary to all the work-from-home predictions, the office is not going away. And based on what I’m seeing from my client base the office real estate market will continue to grow significantly over the next few years. Yes, people will be working remotely more often. But every good company knows that it’s face-to-face time – in person – that spurs innovation and creates a positive culture. So before you go entirely virtual or cut back on your square footage, think again.

2 — Microsoft Teams now has more than 270 million monthly active users.
Microsoft shared this past week that it now has over 270 million monthly active users for Teams. That number is up from 250 million monthly users last July. Microsoft aims to grow Teams past its current business base by making additions for consumers. The tech giant added a Teams Chat button to the taskbar in Windows 11 in an effort to get more people to give Teams’ consumer features a try. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:
Think about this: Microsoft Teams was introduced in just 2017! What a great example of a company recognizing opportunity and pivoting. Of course, Microsoft had a few hundred million built-in Office users already so that gave them a pretty good start. Why this is important for your business is because if you have Office 365, which includes Teams, I’m betting you’re not using it to its full capabilities. Consider some training this year. Hire a Microsoft consultant. Take advantage of what you own.

3 —A record number of data breaches were reported in 2021, according to a new report.       
A report released by the Identity Theft Resources Center found that 1,862 data breaches occurred last year. This number surpasses the total number of breaches in 2020, which was 1,108. It also broke the previous record of 1,506 breaches in 2017. Breaches involving sensitive information— including Social Security numbers went up from 80 percent in 2020 to 83 percent last year. The same report also found that ransomware attacks doubled over the last two years. (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

Like COVID, I believe that just about every business is going to suffer a data breach or malware attack in the not-so-distant future. This is something we have to expect and live with. Hire an IT firm to ensure that your users are trained, their devices are current and secure and your data is backed up. And re-visit your cyberinsurance.

4 — Shopify is pushing employees to take a personality test and post their results for coworkers to analyze. It’s a divisive practice that’s sweeping across boardrooms.  
Shopify has started pushing its employees to take personality tests and then share their results to be analyzed by coworkers. (Source: Business Insider)

Why this is important for your business:

According to Business Insider, this practice is not unique to Shopify, as many companies across the U.S. have started to administer personality tests. Although there is a benefit to taking personality tests as a way to build camaraderie and sort out team dynamics, experts believe that relying too heavily on personality tests to categorize employees can actually hurt employee trust and negatively impact diversity.

5— Need an e-commerce makeover? A new SBA resource hub has free tools for you.  
The Small Business Administration announced this past week a new initiative to help SMBs called the Small Business Digital Alliance. The new online initiative is aimed at providing small businesses with various free resources to help business leaders grow the e-commerce side of their business. The website will also keep small business owners updated regarding changes in policy and government resources. (Source: Inc.)

Why this is important for your business:
If your business has an ecommerce site then this resource looks important. Check it out.

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Small Business

More than 1 in 5 adults with limited car, public transit access forgo health care

More than one in five U.S. adults who do not have a car and have limited access to public transit said in a recent poll they have forgone needed health care in the past year.

The poll from the Urban Institute found that 21 percent of those without access to a car or reliable public transit in their area said they went without necessary health care because of difficulty finding transportation.

However, this number dropped to 9 percent among those who don’t have access to a car but reported good public transportation, the poll found.

Having access to a car also makes a difference in obtaining health care, with 13 percent of those without a vehicle saying they skipped out on necessary medical care over transportation issues, compared to just 4 percent of those with a car.

Black and Hispanic adults were significantly less likely to have access to a car, according to the poll. While 94 percent and 93 percent each of white and Asian adults said they had access to a car, respectively, 81 percent of Black adults and 87 percent of Hispanic adults said they did not.

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Small Business

Britain’s Small Businesses See Better Times Ahead But Is Their Optimism Justified? – Forbes

Colin O’Flaherty, Head of Small Business at Barclaycard Payments says SMEs are adapting
So here’s the good news. As the U.K. government prepares to lift almost all Covid-related restrictions, Britain’s small and medium-sized companies seem to be well-placed to raise revenues and profits in 2022.

That’s the headline finding from the latest update of Barclaycard’s SME Barometer. According to the report, revenues are up and many companies are planning to raise staffing numbers in response to increasing demand.

But we’re living in strange and unprecedented times. It’s certainly true that Britain’s economy has bounced back most of the way from the downturn triggered by the pandemic and that is certainly reflected in the Barclaycard figures for SMEs. On the other hand, consumer inflation is running high, hitting 4.9 percent year-on-year in January, with an expectation that it will peak above 7.0 percent in the not too distant future. And as power and gas prices rise again in response to sanctions against Russia, energy-hungry companies face a sharp rise in costs.

A Bullish Mood

So how positive are the Barclaycard figures? Well, it can’t be denied that small businesses are in bullish mood. More than half of the SMEs taking part in the survey reported a rise in earnings in the last quarter of 2021 when compared with the same period a year earlier.

A separate report published by accountancy software company Xero paints a similar picture. The January update to its Small Business Index finds that sales rose 3.7 percent year-on-year in January when averaged out to take account of the impact of Covid.

Arguably none of this is surprising. The final three months of 2020 were marked by a sequence of ever more stringent Covid restrictions, culminating in a lockdown over the Christmas period. And while a huge amount of uncertainly hung over the last quarter of 2021, businesses had to some degree learned to adapt. Added to that, the economy as a whole was recovering in fits and starts.

Future Prospects

And Britain’s SMEs seem to be optimistic about the year ahead. According to the survey, businesses are expecting revenues to rise by an average of  13.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. Buoyed by an increase in demand, two-fifths of the companies surveyed expect to make an average of six new hires in the coming months.

But there are warning signs that the months ahead could be difficult. Certainly, SMEs are extremely concerned about inflation. Businesses are seeing their own costs rising at a time when customers – also squeezed by rising prices – have less to spend.

Offline to Online

Two-thirds of SMEs said they were concerned about rising prices in general and energy bills in particular, with four in ten seeing it as a threat to their competitiveness. And inflation could force a radical change in business practices. According to the report, nearly 10 per cent of businesses are reconsidering the need for physical outlets. It seems the economic fallout pandemic is continuing to accelerate the move from offline to online.

Staff shortages also threaten the SME recovery. UK employment rates are high and the economy as a whole has around one million unfilled vacancies. Companies planning to take on new staff may have to work hard to attract the right people and pay more when they do. This is reflected in the Xero research. It reports wage rises of  4.4 percent in January, although this falls to 2.7% when averaged out over the two years of the Covid crisis.

Some businesses appear to be feeling the strain. Xero reports that the average payment time to customers was pushed back by 1.9 days in January and many payments were made beyond the agreed terms.  Average lateness was 8.9% days. Typically businesses begin to pay later when their own cashflow is stressed.

The Wider Picture

And if you step back from Barclaycard’s report, there are plenty of other issues to worry small companies. For those who either import or export to or from the E.U., it has to be a concern that trade between Britain and continental Europe dipped in the wake of new rules coming into force in the wake of Brexit. There has been some recovery, but according to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, SMEs have been particularly badly hit by increased costs and paperwork.

Barclaycard says that SMEs are responding to the economic challenges. As Colin O’Flaherty, Head of Small Business at Barclaycard Payments, observed: “SMEs are also remaining resilient by continuing to focus on areas within their control, such as by improving their operating models to overcome the hangover to supply chain disruption which peaked at the end of last year.»

So it’s a mixed picture for Britain’s SMEs. Those that have survived two years of Covid restrictions are hopeful of better times ahead, but no one can ignore the increasingly challenging economic trends. The sector is not out of the woods just yet.

 

 

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Three Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask In Creating A Workplace Culture – Forbes

For small business owners, the morale of their employees is key to success.

There is a scene in “The Wire” where Lieutenant Daniels is speaking with another police officer who is about to become a supervisor. He tells him, “all of them will take their cues from you. You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it’s about the work, it’ll be about the work. You show them some other kind of game, then that’s the game they’ll play.”

While owning a small business is different from working in the Baltimore Police Department, workplace culture is critical in both. For small business owners, the morale of their employees is key to success. Empathy and transparency are important in maintaining a positive, productive morale, and its foundation is rooted in culture.

It is important to establish a positive workplace culture in order to ingrain company values at all levels of an organization. In doing so, here are three questions a small business owner should ask themselves when working to create a workplace culture with intention.
1. What kind of culture do I want for my business?

A workplace culture reflects a business owner’s unique values, beliefs, and attitudes. Essentially, it’s what makes a business stand out. A culture varies from sector to sector and from business to business. Not every business strives for the same culture, and leaders can instill values such as community innovation, care, and a growth-oriented environment.
2. Why will this culture help my business?

Workplace culture is an important part of conducting business, as it informs how employees interact with one another, with customers, and with leadership. It also establishes core values and helps to create a space for employees to grow and learn in their roles. A strong workplace culture also has the potential to attract talent, increase engagement and retention, as well as boost job satisfaction. All of these factors together drive productivity and help a business grow to be more successful.

3. How will I create this culture?

Creating culture in the workplace takes time and hard work and means something different for every business. There are a number of different components and approaches employers can use. For example, many start with an audit of their existing policies, employee skill sets, and assessments before outlining any skill gaps in relation to future business needs to create meaningful work through community-based volunteering and reverse mentoring. Almost all positive workplace cultures have a clear “open door” policy for employees to share their thoughts or ideas. These types of actions are small steps that will make meaningful impacts down the line.

Company culture is a crucial part of creating success for businesses, providing companies a chance to connect with and learn from their employees. This culture should reflect company values because it is essential for employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction.

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