4 Ways to Manage Up

No one ever said that you had to be organized to be successful. Plenty of disorganized people take on high-level positions at great companies or even start businesses themselves. This doesn’t mean that they are easy to work for, however. Oftentimes, working for disorganized bosses means that you end up feeling like (or even being!) the manager in many ways. But there are some things you can do to help manage your boss, improve productivity and keep things running smoothly. Check out these four tips.

Put Everything in Writing

Disorganized people tend to have a hard time keeping a lot of different things in focus at once. They may commit to one thing and then get distracted and completely forget about it. Sometimes it’s easier to organize your boss’ thoughts more clearly by reading or typing out their responses – you can then form these into emails with very clear actions for your boss. Make sure never to be vague or verbose – focus on conciseness and clarity. That way you have a paper trail to refer to in order to manage your boss and keep them on track.

Prioritize

Don’t let conversations or emails drift off on a tangent. Each day, make a list of priorities so that you know which matters to focus on. Start conversations and emails with the most important items and try to steer them back that way if the conversation drifts off. Try to focus on one item at a time so you don’t overwhelm your boss.

Look at the Big Picture

Try not to just eke by each day. It’s important to look at the big picture and constantly figure out ways that your boss’s disorganization affects you so you can find ways to improve it. For example, if your boss loses papers, keep everything limited to electronic correspondence so there’s a record of it. If they forget to get back to your requests, set email or text reminders to follow up. You can help them help themselves!

Clarify Tasks

Disorganized people might mean well, but they often jump into things without mapping them out completely. Don’t follow confusing orders from your boss until you have clarified what they mean and what your exact goals are. You might receive a number of “top priorities” the same day (or even in the same hour!). Remind your boss of the previous requests and ask which one should take precedence before rushing off to complete the new request.

Learning how to manage your boss can be an ongoing process – but the good news is that you can learn a lot in the process. Figuring out how to adapt to new circumstances, and even change behavior, is a great skill to have for any job going forward. If you need extra help with managing an extra-disorganized boss, get in touch with Vesper. We promise we can help.

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4 Tips for Hiring Summer Interns (Legally)

Cheap labor can be a huge boon for both startups and established companies. Hiring interns at a discounted salary is definitely a compelling idea – but what is the payoff if your interns are unmotivated and resentful of their low rank on the totem pole? Many businesses do an awful job of hiring and managing interns so the process ends up becoming a waste of time and money rather than a money-saving operation. Here are some tips for hiring summer interns that can help you avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Add a Value Proposition

The best summer interns are out there wondering “What’s in it for me?” As much as you’d love them to be interested in full-time data entry, chances are they would probably like to learn something new and take away some tangible skills from their time with you. Make the job description highlight the cool stuff the intern will be doing, in addition to being honest about the usual tedious tasks of an internship.

  1. Keep the Pipeline Open

If you want to hire the most talented students, you’ll definitely want a wide, consistent pipeline to make sure that you have enough qualified applicants. This can take some time, but it’s worth it. Make sure that your company has a presence in all the right places, including job boards, social media, career fairs and university departments. Having a lasting presence in these pipelines will bring great summer interns to your door. Also consider posting openings on the following sites:

Internships.comExperience.comIndeed Idealist.orgMediabistro.comInternJobsCollegeRecruiter.comInternMatchYouTern, College.monster.com, WayUp.com, and Craigslist.

  1. Offer Fair Compensation

Compensation can come in the form of college credits, company perks, knowledge and skill sets — as well as money. If you know your intern is going to be doing mostly menial tasks, it might be fair to you both to offer them an hourly wage. If they are getting college credit and you know you’re also going to be working to equip them with valuable skills and knowledge, they might not mind working for free. Most students state that compensation is the least important factor when deciding on an internship as long as they’re benefitting in some other way. Just make sure to research your state’s laws about interns before you decide how you’re going to go about compensating them.

  1. Mind Your Workplace and Labor Laws

Speaking of laws — this should go without saying but most of the labor laws that apply to employees, like workplace discrimination laws, also apply to summer interns. The same goes for health and safety laws – and some states require that you carry workers’ comp insurance for your interns as well as your full-time employees.

Hiring summer interns is all about finding the right applicants for the job. Get in touch with Vesper if you need help finding awesome summer interns this year!

 

4 Tips for Bringing Empathy into the Workplace

 

Empathy in the workplace is a huge element of emotional intelligence. But it’s also a skill that professional leaders need to practice in order to hone their leadership skills and create a more fulfilling and effective work environment. Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s experiences – positive or negative – and to relate to what they are going through. Empathy in the workplace has been shown to boost team productivity and increase morale in the workplace. It can even affect the happiness and satisfaction levels of your clients. Here are 4 tips to help you bring more empathy into the workplace.

Get To Know Your Colleagues

Some workplaces have like-minded people who all seem to naturally get along quite well. Others, not so much. It might take a little work, but getting to know your colleagues, even the ones who seem like you’ll never be friends with, can help all of you feel more connected and more satisfied. Take time to introduce yourself to people you might not interact with. Ask people questions about themselves, their lives and their families. It helps to ensure that everyone feels seen and heard.

Offer Help Under Pressure

It’s always nice to offer help. But if you see a fellow co-worker dealing with a tight deadline or feeling stressed out, that could be a particularly poignant time to show a little empathy in the workplace. Showing that you’re willing to go out of your way to help others will inspire them and also make them more likely to do the same for others.

Offer Praise

Call out your employees’ strengths and positive attributes at a group meeting – acknowledging what you value about someone in front of their peers is a fantastic morale booster. It’s a sure way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Find chances to acknowledge people for what they bring to your company and their role in it.

Be a Compassionate Leader

All employees learn by example. The best leaders are able to lead with good intentions and offer kindness, flexibility and support to their employees. Treating people with compassion is the best way to ensure that they offer compassion in return – and those are the kinds of employees who will love working with you for a long time to come.

Empathy in the workplace doesn’t always exist naturally but it’s worth it to you and your employees to cultivate it over time.

 

 

Tips for Managing Remote Employees

Maintaining a solid workforce and engaging in effective team building is hard enough when all of your employees work from the same place everyday. Add geographic distance and the lack of face-to-face communication to the mix and it can be even more challenging – especially if you don’t have a solid plan in place. However, new technologies and innovative techniques can help you manage remote employee engagement, no matter how far away they are dialing in from.

 

Tips for Remote Managing Employee Engagement

Want to make sure your remote employees are engaged, happy, and productive? The following tips for remote employee engagement can help.

Become Friends

One of the best ways to collaborate with team members is to strengthen your ability to empathize with each other. This means establishing a bond by becoming friends. A recent MIT study found that one of the main ingredients in a smart team was being able to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe. The more you understand your employees’ perspectives, the more effectively you will collaborate with them. Make time for small talk, ask questions and stay engaged.

Make Use of Video Whenever Possible

Even if you’re not standing in the same room, video can be an effective way of keeping your team members connected. Over half of human communication is non-verbal, after all. It’s great to have visual clues to what others are thinking during your meetings. There are tons of free and inexpensive solutions, too – Skype, Google Hangouts and Sqwiggle (just to name a few).

Never Cancel a Meeting

To the extent that you’re able to, try to avoid cancelling meetings, especially one-on-ones. There’s no faster way to build resentment in your team – they will feel like their time isn’t respected and the meetings themselves will lose value in their minds. Stick to your planned meetings and appointments as best you can, and you’ll get more done while strengthening your relationships with all your remote employees.

Have Annual Meetups

If your employees are scattered all over the country or world, it might not be realistic to get together that frequently. But scheduling at least one meetup annually will help your team build more rapport in a day than in months of working remotely. You can host a meetup in your headquarter city or have everyone meet up at an industry summit or conference.

 

Managing remote employees and keeping everyone happy and on the same page isn’t easy. But with a little added effort, you can maintain a tight, high-functioning team that will collaborate as effectively as possible. Thoughts/questions? Get in touch hello@getvesper.com.

 

 

 

 

5 Expert Recruiting Tips to Staff a Killer Startup

Employees are at the core of a new company’s success. Most businesses understand this — but it’s not always easy for young companies with limited resources and reach to find top talent. No matter whether you’ve been around for a while or you’re just getting your business off the ground, you might have to get inventive about how to find the best talent available.

Recruiting Tips for Recruitment Success

If you’re planning to grow your company in the new feature, check out this list of recruiting tips; it can help you fill your company with qualified, talented employees.

  1. Cast a Wide Net

Don’t get too hooked on one source for employees. Even if you’ve had great luck with Monster.com or Craigslist before (or even one certain University), there are plenty of other great places to turn to for quality hires. There are traditional routes, like job platforms and classifieds sites, but you can also take advantage of word-of-mouth by asking your personal connections and people in your employee’s networks. Carrie Simonds, VP of Pocket Gems, recommends that companies with fewer than 50 employees leverage the connections of all company employees first when it comes to recruiting.

  1. Foster Relationships with Candidates

If you’re doing it right, you’ll probably end up interviewing a number of people for each position. It’s really important to foster good relationships with these applicants – there’s a good chance that even if they aren’t quite right for that exact job that they could fit the bill for another opening in the future. Treat candidates with respect and don’t leave them hanging – always follow up with them to let them know you won’t be hiring them this time around. Business News Daily reported that about 46% of startup hires fail in the first 18 months, so you might want to keep some people in line for job openings down the line.

  1. Talk Up Your Company

One of the best ways to attract top talent is by generating buzz about your company. You want to be the kind of place where people are dying to work! Don’t be afraid to spend a little marketing cash on PR, and take out ads in publications that your employees like to read. Social media is also a great form of free exposure so start ramping up your online presence.

  1. Offer Sweet Benefits

Businesses are getting savvy about enticing top talent with killer benefits. You don’t have to break the bank but you can be creative about which benefits and perks you can dangle for extra allure. The ability to work remotely, flexible hours, weekly lunches at the office, a ping pong table…all of these can go a long way in making your workplace more desirable to great candidates.

  1. Be Persistent

If you are really trying to draw in top talent, chances are you’re going to be competing with other companies in the area. So you’ll want to communicate with prospects regularly and, when you find one you really like, pull in other execs from your company to help woo them. Be enthusiastic about why you specifically want them and why they will love working for you. Mashable suggests taking a candidate and their partner out to dinner to show that you’re interested in them as a whole person – not just what they mean to the bottom line of your business.

 

If you need help recruiting the best talent for your business, get in touch with Vesper! We can help you with your recruiting process you stack your staff with the best people out there.

How to Set Break Room Rules that People Actually Follow

 

Having a well-stocked break room is a great perk for employees. It gives them a place to relax and recharge with snacks and socializing. And it shows them that you value their well-being and know they need to step away from the computer and engage in some non-work oriented activities at work from time to time. However, even though it’s a chill-out spot, you still need a few break room rules so that chaos doesn’t ensue. Break room rules help keep order where there can be chaos, and they ensure that the place stays a spot that everyone wants to hang out.

 

Essential Break Room Rules for Companies of All Sizes

Here is a rundown of break room etiquette you can share with your employees. Consider posting these office break room rules in the break room and around the office. Regular reminders of break room rules help ensure that they’re followed.

 

  1. Don’t Empty the Coffee Pot

Polishing off the last drop of coffee and then returning to your desk isn’t a great way to make friends at work. In fact, some people argue that refilling an empty coffee pot is #1 when it comes to breakroom rules. If you drain the last drop, brew another pot for your coworkers who are looking forward to their share of coffee. It’s simple politeness and consideration at work.

 

  1. Clean Up After Yourself

Business Management Daily likes to remind employees that their mother doesn’t work at the office – i.e. everyone needs to clean up after themselves. Again, a simple rule but a very important part of breakroom etiquette. If you make a mess, clean it up. Don’t leave junk or food lying around and wipe up any crumbs or spills you may have left. Try to leave the space as clean as you found it. If you see a mess that isn’t yours, don’t shy away from tidying that up either – your coworkers will appreciate it.

 

  1. Don’t Store Food in the Fridge (particularly long-term)

Try not to get into the habit of using the fridge for storage. It should just be there to house basics, like milk for coffee, and whatever employees have brought in to eat that day. Try to clear out your food at the end of each day so that your colleagues don’t find rotten fruits and salads in there weeks later.

 

  1. Stay Away from Smelly Foods

All breakroom rules should urge employees to be considerate about how their food smells – especially if you work in a small office space. Heating up fishy foods is kind of nauseating, and even if it tastes delicious you don’t need to subject coworkers to an afternoon of terrible odors. Save the kimchi tacos for dinner at home, everyone.

 

  1. Have a Noise Policy

Small Biz Trends recommends having a noise policy so that breakroom chatter doesn’t get out of hand. Everyone takes breaks at different times so you don’t want certain people disrupting other’s work while they are taking a time out. Whatever you decide, just be sure that it’s clear to employees so that they know what your particular break room etiquette expects of them.

 

If you need a set of break room rules to post in a highly visible place (and you want it to look good, get in touch with Vesper). We’ll help ensure everyone is aware of your break room etiquette, and that it remains comfortable, clean and relaxing haven where everyone can zone out for a bit.

So, What is an Employee Happiness Survey (and why does it matter)?

 

Does it matter to you how happy your employees are? The answer should be a definite yes. Studies from The Wharton School of UPenn, among others, have found that businesses with high levels of employee satisfaction perform considerably better than those with lower levels. Research from the University of Warwick claims that happiness makes people 12% more productive at work! It’s easy to see how those numbers could translate into a more successful business – so why don’t all companies place more of an emphasis on the happiness levels of their employees?

One reason could be that it’s a hard thing to measure. That’s where Employee Happiness Surveys come in.

The employee happiness survey exists in order to measure the level of engagement and satisfaction of your employees and to figure out where you as a company might be falling short. There are plenty of great survey templates that you can find online– but it’s best when you can create one on your own that’s tailored to the particulars of your company.

 

Sample Employee Happiness Survey Questions

If you want to create an employee happiness survey to measure the satisfaction of your team, here are some basic questions that you’ll want to ask.

Overall Job

Do I have clear responsibilities?

Do I have authority to carry out my responsibilities?

Do I like my job?

Do I am recognized for my good work?

 

Your Boss

Do I respect my boss?

Does my boss provide clear goals?

Does my boss provide helpful feedback?

 

Your Growth

Have I enhanced my skills since working here?

Do I have opportunities for growth at this company?

Does my boss care about my career path?

 

Your Co-Workers

Do my co-workers work efficiently and help move us toward our goals?

Do my co-workers cooperate with each other and other groups?

 

Your Salary

Am I content with my salary?

Am I content with my benefits and additional compensation?

 

Company Mission and Leaders

Do I feel aligned with the company mission?

Do I have a good sense of how the company is doing and where I stand?

Do I trust the company leaders and the direction they are taking us?

 

Career

Do I enjoy working for this company?

Do I wish to continue working for this company in the years to come?

 

These are the basic fundamentals of employee happiness at any company, but it’s a good idea to add other questions to your employee happiness survey pertaining to specific aspects of your company culture and values. That way you can get a better sense of whether your team is happy with what your business is doing – or not.

The results of an employee happiness survey can help you understand how to better motivate your employees and improve their productivity. For example, if they don’t feel as though they have the authority necessary to complete their assigned tasks, you can facilitate better communication amongst employees and managers/bosses to ensure a more productive workflow.

If you want help disseminating and collecting employee happiness surveys get in touch with us at Vesper. We can help you get surveys filled out – and analyze their results.

 

Tax Tips for Startups

Now that tax season is almost upon us, it’s a great time for businesses to take a look at your accounting system, tools and processes in order to make sure you don’t end up scrambling to get things in order come April. It’s extra important for startups, especially, to make sure you’re dong everything you can to maximize income and lower your taxes. Accounting needs are just as important as growth and raising money when it comes to bolstering the business, and addressing your tax needs early on can help you develop the solid foundation you need to build your business. You have plenty of time to make sure your business is in good shape for the coming tax season – here are some tips to help you along.

Use a good bookkeeping system

There is plenty of excellent accounting software out there that startups can take advantage of, including QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero. Using a software throughout the year is one of the smartest tax tips; it can help you keep track of receipts, expenses, payroll, quarterly taxes and more. If you don’t have an accountant on staff, you can outsource this work through a company like Vesper.

Pay Estimated Taxes

Many small businesses, such as sole proprietors, self-employed individuals, partners and S Corp shareholders who expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes have to pay estimated taxes on income. This calculates the tax to be paid on income that’s not subject to withholding and have to be filed quarterly by April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15 each year. Here’s a helpful guide to estimated taxes from the IRS if you want to learn more.

Set up a retirement plan

Getting a startup on its feet can be so all-consuming it makes it hard to think far ahead in the future, especially when you need all the cash you can get your hands on. But it’s important to think about retirement in the early days – and retirement plans are tax deductible. You will get a business deduction for setting up a retirement plan and also make your company more attractive to potential employees by offering them the option.

Develop a Relationship with a CPA for More Helpful Tax Tips

Even if you use accounting software for the bulk of your tax needs, it’s important to have a good CPA that you trust and can go to for occasional advice. They can even give you advice about which bookkeeping software is right for your business and help you get set up if you need it. You don’t have to have a CPA on payroll, but meeting with one now and then is a smart way to spend your money. CPAs can often help you come up with tax solutions that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

Track expenses by using a company card

Separating your business and personal expenses is important for startups, which are often funded with a lot of out-of-pocket cash. Paying vendors or making business purchases with personal credit cards should always be tracked with receipts, but try to also use the company card whenever you can – it provides an easy record that you can reference at any time.

Have questions or need help with getting tax-ready this year? We’ll be happy to share what we’ve done to get organized.

 

5 Useful Tips for Making Your Company Family-Friendly

One way that small businesses have evolved over the past few years is by instituting more family-friendly policies. Family-friendly policies make businesses more adaptable and better equipped for a wider population, and they allow employees who are parents to more easily achieve a work-life balance – which ultimately helps them perform better on the job. While large companies have lots of resources to offer to employees who are parents, small businesses are often able to make valuable changes more easily and quickly than large, corporate organizations — because they don’t have to go through tons of red tape with an HR department or extensive company policies.

Family-Friendly Policies for Small Companies

If you’re a small business looking to make your work environment more family-friendly here are some easy family-friendly policies that you can introduce.

Flex Time

Parents have busy schedules and have to deal with last-minute changes in their kids’ schedules as well. Sometimes events come up, babysitters cancel, kids get sick, etc. Flex Time is a work schedule that is adjustable and lets employees decide when they want to start and end they workday. Parents who have afternoon commitments could show up at 6 or 7am and head out at 3 or 4pm (instead of the typical 9 to 5 workday). Flex schedules allow employees to pop out to pick up the kids to school or get them to a dentist appointment, etc., which helps reduce both stress and childcare costs.

Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave

According to the US Department of labor, companies with less than 50 employees don’t have to offer paid maternity leave – and this can be really hard on a family. Not all small businesses are in a financial position to offer this, but think about ways you could offer partial income or other benefits to your employees while they are adjusting to parenthood. It is likely to make them much more loyal to you in the long run.

Telecommuting

Many startups and small businesses are opting for telecommuting positions these days. This is an ideal situation for families because parents can multi-task and not worry about having to be in a specific location all day. It’s one of the best perks a company can offer to parents.

On-site childcare

If you need your staff on-site, you could outsource childcare help for the office. On-site childcare helps parents rest assured that their kids are happy and safe during the day, which can help them work more effectively. It’s also nice for parents to be able to check in on kids during lunch breaks, etc.

No caps on promotions

Companies can underscore the fact that having a baby won’t keep you from getting raises or promotions. It’s a good idea to have transparent policies about how new parents, especially women, aren’t at risk of losing their ability to get promoted if they are planning to have a child.

Making your business a family-friendly environment is a good way to help attract young talent that may, someday, want to start a family. If you want help instituting family friendly policies at your workplace, get in touch with Vesper. We can help you do things like find an in-house childcare solution, or provide an extra set of hands on-demand should a parent need to leave the office.

 

4 Best Practices for Terminating an Employee

Terminating an employee is never an easy thing to do but, unfortunately, most businesses do have to deal with it at some point. It’s probably the least favorite part of most manager’s jobs – especially if you are terminating an employee for uncomfortable reasons. Added to the inherent discomfort are potential legal mistakes that can lead to serious issues if you don’t handle the situation properly.

However, preparing yourself with the knowledge of how to terminate an employee before the situation arises can help.

Best Practices for Terminating an Employee

If you run a small office and may have to fire an employee at some point in your career, here are 4 best practices to ensure that you make the best of the situation.

  1. Document your reasoning for termination

Make sure that you have a fair basis for terminating an employee. You should have everything properly documented, from the employee’s initial hiring contract to reports of their job performance to detailed reports of the grounds for termination. This is your best defense in both preventing lawsuits and also the best way to maintain the integrity of your business reputation.

  1. Tell them in person

Of course it’s easier to deliver bad news via phone or email, but the most ethical way to do it is in person. That way they have a chance to ask questions and better understand why they are being fired. The meeting should include only the manager, the employee and, if you have an HR department, one other HR rep who can act as witness in case the employee claims they were unfairly treated. Having another person in the room can also help discourage any negative or abusive reactions from employees.

  1. Be well versed on employment laws for your state

Employment laws vary depending on your state and how many employees you have at your business. Consult an employment law attorney if you don’t have an HR department in order to make sure you’re in compliance with all of the right laws. You want to do what’s best for your business, but you also need to treat your employees fairly.

  1. Treat the employee with respect

In addition to staying compliant with the law, on a more human level you should be sure to treat your employee with dignity. This means not waiting until Friday afternoon to fire them – that just leads into a weekend of feeling cut off from resources. Don’t think of your feelings first – you might be tempted to make jokes or lighten the mood, but remember terminating an employee is a very difficult situation. End on a positive note by expressing confidence in them for future roles, rather than dwelling on negative behaviors or faults that may have led to their termination.

You might try your best to avoid them, but terminations are simply part of the job for most managers. Following these best practices can help cushion the situation for the employee and shield your business from legal repercussions.