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Establishing and then running a small- or medium-sized business (SMB) isn’t easy. . In this post, we’ll focus on one of them: improving internal communications. Let’s look at some common challenges there, and how to solve them.
Manage rapid growth with these internal communication techniques

Effective internal communication tools

Establishing and then running a small- or medium-sized business (SMB) isn’t easy. Statistics show that most SMBs eventually fail, and sooner than you might think. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that within a given 10-year period, 70% of all businesses founded in the first year will fail. The failure rate increases steadily by year*, meaning that even if the business survives year one, each year after is just as important. Webex offers a solution that allows your entire team to harness the power of video, voice, messaging, and more from a platform that’s easy to use on any device.

There’s no obvious solution for avoiding failure, or else everyone would already be doing it. Instead, companies have to do the hard work of sustaining growth and profitability even in the face of multiple headwinds, such as hiring staff, buying insurance, and expanding into new markets. Keeping the growth engine going requires diligent action on multiple fronts. In this post, we’ll focus on one of them: improving internal communications. Let’s look at some common challenges there, and how to solve them.

1. Creating and following a clear communication plan

According to the Gatehouse State of the Sector 2018 report, 31% of internal communicators in North America did not conduct any formal planning. That means their communications are often reactive instead of proactive. Whether it’s communication during a crisis or just a routine event like managing a hiring process, inadequate planning for internal communications may leave employees confused.

A better way forward is to create and share guidelines for internal communications. It’s important to take a collaborative approach to such planning, by gathering input from all stakeholders and setting up a common shared resource that everyone can go back to. Look for a solution that can simplify this task by making it easy to share, find, and organize files in dedicated spaces accessible by entire teams.

2. Eliminating operational silos between departments

Silos – i.e., de facto separated units, cut off from the organization at-large – aren’t just issues for large enterprises; emerging businesses can struggle with this issue as well. For example:

  • An SMB’s finance department might be disconnected from its other teams, creating significant consequences for the entire company.
  • This may lead to accountants and planners making decisions without knowing the full picture of what’s going on elsewhere in the firm.
  • As a result of inaccurate budgeting and forecasting, an SMB with already-thin margins may feel even more squeezed.

Silo elimination requires better collaboration. Entire collaborative movements, like DevOps in software development, have emerged to address the silo issue in particular. But suitable tools are needed, too.

Integrated solutions for messaging, calling, white-boarding, and more help address silos by putting all important information and context in one place. Collaborators can enjoy a single “version of the truth”, instead of working on redundant and possibly disjointed workflows.

3. Consistently distributing feedback to employees

SMBs live and die by the engagement of their employees. Since their teams are relatively small, it’s especially important for each member to be as engaged as possible. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, due to issues such as inconsistent delivery of feedback.

A Zenger Folkman assessment found that employees working under managers who provided clear, actionable feedback were three times more engaged** than leaders who weren’t. In fact, those leaders who weren’t great at providing actionable feedback had employees who were three times more likely to quit.

Consistently providing feedback can seem challenging for busy managers, more so if they have to oversee employees who routinely work outside the office. Weaving in tools such as video conferencing and instant messaging can make feedback delivery more streamlined than simply relying on emails (too easily overlooked in many cases) or in-person meetings (often hard to schedule and coordinate).

4. Creating infrastructure to support remote and mobile workers

For some time now, non-traditional remote and mobile working arrangements have been gathering momentum. Giving employees the flexibility to work from virtually anywhere has distinct benefits for them and for the SMBs that employ them. It can reduce costs for travel and office space, improve morale and productivity, broaden hiring searches, and enable more practical expansion.

If there’s a catch, it’s that employees can often feel lonely and disengaged outside the office. Buffer discovered as much in its 2019 State of Remote Work report, in which loneliness and communications and collaboration were cited as the top challenges when working remotely. These challenges of disconnection can dampen the prospects of a business.

The good news is that boosting engagement is realistic with modern collaboration software. Setting up a video conference can make a group of participants feel like they’re in the same room even when they’re far apart. Likewise, using unified collaborative spaces for file sharing and instant messaging can lessen a remote employee’s feeling that they’re somehow missing out on important information and context.

How to upgrade your internal communications

Realizing and addressing these challenges will set your business up for more sustainable success.

Learn more by getting started with a free plan today!

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*Failure rate of businesses in the first year

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SMB tools
Choosing the best small business tools for 2020

How is your small-and-medium-sized business (SMB) currently evaluating and selecting tools to help the company grow and make more money?

It’s something to really dig into, because the tools your company chooses and uses are important. And maybe it seems like a pretty obvious statement, but with often smaller budgets, heavy workloads, and less employees to do similar amounts of work, the tools your company invests in, could make or break the success of the business.

Leonard Callejo, Director of Webex Online Marketing, authored an article on the four best small business tools to use in 2020.

He says, “technology helps level the playing field for small-and-medium-sized businesses, giving the tools to improve productivity and efficiency, manage complex systems, and drive innovation. With so many options, it’s important to carefully consider a tech stack that best aligns with your goals and which can have the biggest impact on your business.”

Callejo walks through marketing automation software, customer relationship management software, project management tools, and communication and collaboration platforms, while highlighting that the tools you choose should lighten your workload and make work easier, not more complex.

Consider reading this article to better understand the importance of each of these small business tools and how they can help you, without breaking your budget.

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expanding business with video conferencing
How do I expand my small-scale business without capital?

Many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t survive for more than a few years. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of them fail to make it through their second full year in operation. The causes of failure are diverse and include everything from subpar software and IT infrastructure to basic lack of capital. This article will focus primarily on the latter.

The challenges of not having enough capital to run your SMB

Simply starting a company can require over $10,000. In many instances, SMBs turn to banks for loans to help get through the early stages of business formation. Even with seemingly adequate funding, though, SMBs can still face numerous headwinds right away. 

These range from the predictable (needing to procure sufficient inventory) to the more volatile (having to spend more on accounting services/software due to one-off changes in the tax code). 

Added to the other costs that SMBs must bear on basics like insurance and office space, it’s no wonder many don’t make it past year two. But it’s possible to make an SMB budget more sustainable by implementing video conferencing software. 

How video conferencing tools help with budget crunches

Video conferencing solutions can bring meeting participants together without requiring any pricey travel. Plus, web meetings enable more flexible, less capital-intensive remote working arrangements. 

As a whole, video conferencing supports better, more cost-effective collaboration. More than simply helping an SMB optimize its budget, video meetings can also support expansion by connecting employees, recruits, and customers across many locations, in high-definition.

Here are some of the more specific ways in which video conferences fuel SMB success, even on a shoestring budget:

1. Hold productive meetings, no office required

Office space is expensive. The associated costs have spurred organizations across the U.S. to seek smaller workspaces and to take advantage of co-working and hotdesking environments. For example, real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield has charted growing densification of office space throughout the 2010s.

With video conferencing tools, SMB employees can make the most of even a small office or conference room that would be too cramped for a comfortable in-person meeting:

  • Anyone can be invited to the video meeting, whether it’s meant to be a small linkup between a specific team or an all-hands gathering.
  • It’s easy to join. Meeting participants only need to click a button in the solution when it’s time for the event to start.
  • The web meeting can be recorded for later distribution and viewing, so that no one misses out on what was covered.

Video conferencing software empowers teams to lead engaging and useful meetings without being constrained by physical space. That makes SMB expansion more feasible, since huge office spaces aren’t needed when setting up shop in new locales or trying to reach more customers.

2. Hire the right people from multiple locations

Many job searches begin by looking only for nearby candidates who don’t want/need to relocate. This makes sense in some respect, because moving is disruptive and often expensive, plus the position specs might not permit remote work.

But implementing a video conferencing platform allows for more flexibility in hiring. Say your SMB is looking to incorporate in an additional state and bring some employees on board there. Video conferencing would help in multiple ways:

  • A crystal-clear video feed could be set up for the interview. The candidate and interviewer would get more insight into each other’s reactions, including body language.
  • If hired, the candidate could then use video for their own work, perhaps as part of a remote working arrangement. They could join web conferences, view content through screen sharing, and collaborate with colleagues from anywhere.
  • Video conferencing software could also be useful for specific external-facing tasks such as conducting in-depth sales demos. A video conferencing solution is a powerful asset for sales personnel, who can use its built-in screen sharing capabilities to walk prospects through a product or service.

3. Reach audiences on any device or in any location

One of the central challenges for any SMB is building a reliable base of customers. How an organization pursues that goal will vary based on its industry, size, and personnel, but video conferencing will often be a reliable supporting tool along way.

Webinars show how a video conferencing system can expand an SMB’s reach without breaking the bank. A majority of B2B buyers have used webinars to support their purchasing decisions, according to the 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report.

Within a video conferencing solution, video feeds can be configured to show, say, a panel of subject matter experts discussing a relevant issue for buyers. But a video conference platform can go even further and enable deep interactivity between presenters and the audience, thanks to features like polling. A solution can also help manage registrations and any follow-up questions.

Audiences can participate in these events from any device. Webex supports phones, tablets, PCs, Macs, and standards-based video conferencing systems. 

 To learn more about how Webex can help your SMB grow more efficiently and stay within its budget, get started with a free plan today.

 

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Introducing Webex Perks – your new rewards program

Have you heard of Webex Perks?

Cisco Webex recently launched a rewards program that allows our customers to access resources, network with other Webex users, and refer their network to Webex’s video conferencing and team collaboration tools.

We are excited to announce the program is live!

So, how does it work?

Using your Webex account credentials, log-in to the hub and get on-boarded quickly, learning the ins and outs of all the resources available to you. Best of all, Webex Perks is FREE – no additional setup or cost needed. You’ll find tutorials to help you get the most out of your video conference meetings, live training- including webinars and online classes, and fun challenges to help you rack up points and place in the Leaderboard. The more points you earn, the more rewards you can unlock*. And, you can earn BIG points ($20 prize value) when you refer others to Webex Meetings and Teams.

Rewards vary from Webex swag, to drones, to tablets, and even Webex devices. Are you ready to get started? Log in here.

Cisco Webex recently launched a rewards program that allows our customers to access resources, network with other Webex users, and refer their network to Webex’s video conferencing and team collaboration tools.

If you’re new to Webex, try our video conferencing solution free today!

Then use your credentials to log into Perks to start earning rewards!

* Disclaimer: Rewards are for paid Webex users. Free users can still earn points and participate, but won’t be eligible for rewards.

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3 ways screen sharing software can accelerate your sales cycle

Screen sharing is one of the best ways for all meeting participants on a web or video conference to (literally) get on the same page.

It’s simple: Someone clicks or taps a button in the conferencing solution, and then they’re able to show everyone else what’s currently on their display. That could be a single app like a set of web browser windows, a document (PowerPoint deck, Google Doc, etc.), or even their full desktop. 

No matter what’s being shared, screen sharing sessions enable better collaboration. Think of how many times something got buried in your inbox, or was shared in a chat message, but you couldn’t seem to find later on. Screen sharing addresses those issues by allowing presenters walk viewers through a workflow or asset in detail, point by point, in real time.

Is screen sharing the solution to sales cycle difficulties?

It’s no surprise, then, that the distinctive features of screen sharing software can give a big boost to sales agents – a screen share can convey a lot of information very quickly and clearly. That’s perfect in the context of today’s often protracted and fragmented sales cycles: 

  • According to CSO Insights, almost half of all new sales to B2B customers take at least 7 months to close.
  • More than one-third of respondents (35.9%) felt that their communications with customers needed improvement.
  • Poor alignment between sales and marketing teams was another widely cited issue, with many salespeople pointing to lack of well-defined processes at their companies.

Screen sharing solutions can provide much-needed relief and support for sales agents facing these long cycles and communications challenges. Let’s look at three big ways that screen sharing capabilities can help accelerate and streamline sales. 

1. Seeing is believing

The brain is much better at retaining visual information than written or spoken words. By one estimate, it holds on to 65% of images after three days, but only 10% to 20% of non-visual data. 

For a sales prospect, this gap can be the difference between buying what you’re selling and taking a pass. Imagine only describing a product’s lifecycle and features to a potential customer (or sending an email about it), versus being able to actually show it to them in high definition.  

With screen sharing, it’s practical to give the prospect a full walkthrough. Along the way, the sales professional can demo key features in detail, answer questions, and generally give the lead better insight into how the offering works.

Screen sharing has become more popular for these types of in-depth demonstrations. At the same time, it’s important to look for screen sharing solutions that enable the most streamlined experience possible. Prospects should be able to join and participate with ease, e.g. with just the click of a button. That way, they can get right into viewing your screen share.

2. Personalization, made easy

Personalized demos close more deals. After all, every customer wants to know how the product/service being sold will address their particular pain points and benefit their operations. So what is the best way to personalize your sales demo?

One reliable approach is to focus mainly on the features that the customer is most likely to use. For example, if you’re selling accounting software to a client that leases a lot of its equipment, it would be important to highlight how the platform handles lease recognition and various forms of regulatory compliance.

Doing so is easier with screen sharing software. A versatile solution lets your sales team share a variety of assets that can clarify how pivotal features work:

  • By sharing your entire screen, you could show how to open the app, navigate to the correct interface, and perform test actions. 
  • Alternatively, you could share a video or animation that provides another look at how the product works in the real world.
  • Other assets like documents and applications can be shared to add more context and fill in details, for example in response to customer questions.

3. Demo from anywhere and any device

Like the workforce as a whole, sales teams are gravitating toward mobile and remote working arrangements. Allowing sales personnel to work from almost any location has its upsides and downsides, with key implications for an organization’s sales cycle.

On the positive side, the increased flexibility can help keep employees happy by letting them set up their own working environment and proceed at a more self-directed pace. However, there can be some risks when it comes to building camaraderie across the sales team and ensuring that sales professionals can stay productive anywhere. 

This is where screen sharing via a web/video conferencing platform can help. A solution like Webex lets you conduct an engaging sales demo, as long as you have a reliable internet connection and a mobile or desktop device to run the conferencing app. 

Such flexibility across devices can save sales teams the need to make costly trips to customer locations. Plus, high-quality audio and video alongside the screen share means that the online meeting can feel just like an in-office gathering.To learn more about how to use screen sharing for a better sales cycle, get started with a free plan of Webex today.

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Day-to-day activities of successful small business owners
Day-to-day activities of successful small business owners

Successful small business owners do this

If you’re a small business owner, you probably wear a lot of different hats, taking on tasks that would otherwise be handed off to a specific department in a larger organization. However, there are some tasks that every successful entrepreneur sees to on a daily basis. Taking time out of your busy schedule to tackle those tasks will improve productivity, staff morale, and business operations in general.

Dedicate some time to these four day-to-day activities to keep your small business running smoothly:

1.Delegate when necessary

Having built the organization from the ground up, owners of growing businesses have put a lot of stake into the success of their companies. That can lead decision-makers to take on far too much work than they can reasonably handle. Successful small business owners know when to tackle a job themselves and when to delegate that task to an employee.

Delegating work is especially important as the business becomes more complex. At a certain point, it becomes impractical and wasteful for small business owners to continue doing work that could be easily handled by an employee.

Handing off the work that’s done in the trenches gives organizational leaders more time and bandwidth to focus on the big picture: mapping out business strategies and managing overall operations.

2.Update your social networks

Whether your business has a dedicated employee managing your social media accounts or it’s done in an unofficial capacity, business leaders should keep tabs on their social networks. Maintaining a strong social media presence is more important than ever, with 77% of small businesses using these platforms to support sales, customer service, marketing, and other critical needs, according to a 2018 SCORE report.

Spend time each day checking in on every social network your business uses, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Respond to customers who have reached out, share interesting industry news, advertise deals and discounts, and promote any content marketing work you’ve done recently.

If your social media pages are only updated once in a blue moon, they will never gain any real traction with your customers. So, make it a daily habit to take the pulse of your followers and expand your social media presence.

3.Respond to customer feedback

Social networks are just one avenue customers will use to engage with your brand. Online business directories like Yelp, Google My Business, and Yellowpages make it easier than ever for customers to leave feedback for an organization in a very public setting.

It’s important to respond to both positive and negative comments your business receives on these sites. In many cases, potential customers will go to Yelp, Google, or another site to read up on other people’s experiences. Social proof is a powerful force when it comes to purchasing decisions, and if your listings have negative reviews, it could make a prospective customer think twice.

These business directories give organizations the opportunity to respond to reviews and tell their side of the story. So, if a customer leaves a bad review, but they are leaving out some important context to their experience or are misrepresenting events, explaining your view of the situation can set the record straight.

In situations where customer complaints are completely valid, publicly apologizing and taking actionable steps to correct the problem can go a long way toward not just making things right with that individual, but showing potential customers that your business values their experience.

Don’t be too humble about receiving good comments from satisfied customer, either. That’s a good opportunity to reiterate your business’s commitment to making sure every customer walks away happy. It also helps build engagement with returning customers and sow the seeds of brand loyalty.

4.Check in with your employees

Depending on the setup of an organization, business owners may be working right alongside their staff members or entrusting key business processes to contractors or remote employees. Keeping up-to-date on employees you see every day is relatively easy – less so if you have telecommuters contributing to projects and working with a great deal of autonomy.

Make it a point to check in with as many staff members as you can every day to see the progress they’re making on their assignments, and just to take a temperature check on their state of mind. Everyone knows it costs more to replace a lost customer than to retain existing ones – that holds true for employees as well.

A 2017 Employee Benefit News study revealed that replacing an employee can cost as much as 33% of their base salary. So, if a staff member making $45,000 decides to leave the organization, the business will wind up spending roughly $15,000 recruiting and onboarding his or her replacement.

Small business owners can head off the costs of employee turnover – as well as get regular progress updates – by staying in touch with both on-site staff and remote workers on a daily basis. Web conferencing software provides a more personal touch to check-ins, letting both parties see each other’s reactions as if they were talking in person.

Face-to-face communications through video conferencing platforms help create a stronger bond between small business owners and their employees. That will increase employee satisfaction and keep your most valued staff members in the fold.

Try Cisco Webex today and see for yourself how easy it is to keep your teams in sync.

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Personalize your team meetings with these top four screen sharing features
Personalize your team meetings with these top four screen sharing features

Keeping all of your employees in sync, in real time, can be challenging, especially as more teams work remotely and on-the-go. Although these flexible working arrangements have numerous operational benefits (for example, lower overhead costs and better worker retention in some cases), they also have the potential to make people feel like they’re out of the loop. A few of the top possible sticking points can be:

  • Subpar email or chat communications: Email is a linchpin of collaboration, but it has its limitations. Messages can be misinterpreted, overlooked, inadvertently deleted, or otherwise difficult to locate, all of which result in gaps that harm productivity. The same issues can also apply to channels like chat/instant messaging.
  • Time zone differences: With employees spread out across the country or globe, coordinating meetings can be difficult. When a suitable overlapping time comes by, it’s important to make the most of it by having focused online meetings that don’t get derailed by poor audio/video quality on conference calls or complex requirements for dial-in numbers and lengthy PINs.
  • Technology problems: Some collaboration software can be difficult to use if someone isn’t seated in front of a PC and capable of downloading a full desktop application. Platforms should be versatile enough to work seamlessly across devices and deliver sufficient performance whether someone is using a wired, Wi-Fi, or cellular internet connection.

These issues and others can frustrate employees and possibly lower their morale, too. But there’s a straightforward solution: collaboration platforms that support screen sharing alongside other functions such as video conferencing.

Screen sharing is the perfect way to share documents, applications, or an entire desktop/mobile screen from any compatible device. Let’s look at four of its most important features and how they personalize online meetings and keep them on track. 

1. Share a document for real-time markup and viewing

Many collaborative calls and conversations revolve around reviewing a specific asset, such as a schedule formatted in a spreadsheet, a slide deck containing a presentation, or a text file containing a proposal. Going through the details of these assets is much easier with screen sharing. 

It’s simple to share a document or app when holding a meeting within Webex Meetings. That way, everyone in the virtual room can see it in real time, as it’s being updated/used, without having to switch between multiple applications. 

This type of screen sharing adds more context to the interaction while saving everyone time that would otherwise be wasted on opening the asset elsewhere. Presenter controls can also easily be passed between users so that different contributors can share their screens or start brainstorming on a digital white board.

2. Share your entire screen

Sometimes, sharing just one document or application view isn’t enough to provide the context needed for productive real-time collaboration. This is where a full screen share is helpful, as it lets you show off even the most in-depth workflow, step by step and in high-definition video.

In Webex Meetings, you can share everything that’s open on your screen with other participants in the online meeting. For example, let’s say you wanted to show how to upload a finished piece of written copy into a content management system. Through the screen share, you could show:

  • How to convert the document from Google Docs to the Word Document format.
  • Which site to visit to upload the converted document.
  • Where to navigate within that site to find the proper interface for uploading it.
  • How to perform specific actions such as tagging other users, leaving comments, etc.

3. Share a multimedia viewer 

Sharing a recorded video or an animated short can be complicated. The typical size of such assets, along with the restrictions of business email inboxes, makes it impractical to email them, while sharing them via a link to a service like Google Drive can still run into potential problems with playback errors or people not having immediate access.

An easy workaround is to instead show off these videos or animations during a screen share. Using Webex, it’s possible to let everyone see a multimedia viewer and watch a video or animation at 30 frames per second.

This option is just one of the many possible views within Webex Meetings. Screen sharing presenters can switch between multimedia players, application sets, documents, and entire screens with ease to keep the meeting on track.

4. Share from a mobile device

Screen sharing isn’t just for laptop and desktop PCs or web browsers. Webex Meetings supports native screen shares from iOS and Android devices, so nothing gets lost when employees join while on the go. On an iPhone or iPad, it’s also possible to share 3D models during an online meeting. 

These capabilities will only become more important as phones and tablets evolve with faster CPUs and GPUs, more RAM, and better displays, all of which make them even more practical replacements for desktop devices in many contexts.

Get started with real-time screen sharing for your growing business

Ready to learn more about how screen sharing can reshape your company’s online meetings? Start with Webex Meetings free offer today using this link.

 

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How Brooklyn Nets Star, Spencer Dinwiddie, Uses Webex for his Growing Business
How Brooklyn Nets star, Spencer Dinwiddie, uses Webex for his growing business

When Spencer Dinwiddie steps off the court at the end of a game, his day is far from over. Since joining the Brooklyn Nets in 2016, this NBA All-Star has worked hard to build an impressive business résumé, with a line of footwear – K8iros – as well as an investment company and a great deal of philanthropy. He is doing what smart people always seek to do: leverage an asset into greater achievements.

Business of any sort needs tools. You have to work lean. You have to collaborate and keep in touch. You have to stay on top of your industry, and you have to remove waste and inefficiency. Anything less is just burning money and time. Spencer has many people that he needs to work with and communicate with. Investors, suppliers, customers and partners on the business side as well as coaches and teammates on the sports side.

He recently told us a little more about his business communication setup and why he chose Cisco Webex as the machinery behind his growing, multifaceted success.

“Outside of me playing professional basketball for the Brooklyn Nets, using Webex collaboration tools will help drive my business to the next level.”  – Spencer Dinwiddie

Basketball: Coaching, review and strategy

Ongoing success in professional sports isn’t all down to athletic ability. You have to have that, of course, but it will all go to waste if it is not reviewed and fine-tuned on an ongoing basis. That’s what coaches are for, after all, to identify the potential in an athlete and then draw it to the surface. It’s not always possible or practical to pull the whole team or even select players into a room to review footage of the last game. But it certainly is possible and practical to do so over high definition interactive video conferencing technology which includes the capacity to mark up and save the visuals.

The clarity of audio and video not only allow for clear analysis and markup, they also contribute to the vital elements of team dynamics: synergy, communication and emotional connection. That’s what exists at the heart of any great team. It’s always a people thing, facilitated through effortless technology.

K8iros Design

As someone who has spent thousands of hours on the court, punishing and wearing out hundreds of pairs of shoes, he is not only an expert in what is needed in a sports shoe, but is also hands on in designing them. His K8iros line looks great on and off the court, but like many experts, his sudden inspirations or design changes don’t always present themselves at the opportune time. Or even if they do, calling a meeting of the design and QA team is often highly impractical.

This is why the ability to co-edit his shoe designs from anywhere in the world is something he sees as a game-changer in driving his business forward, even when on the move.

When it is time to actually meet, access becomes a non-issue, both in terms of travel (not needed) and access (one button to push). As he says himself, “With Cisco Webex I know that my meetings will be secured and professional for both internal users and the clients that my business team and I work with.”

So it’s no surprise, at least to us, that he and his teams use Cisco Webex for communicating, collaborating and growing his empire. People often think of Cisco Webex as the go-to tool in the boardrooms and spaces of big glass-tower companies. Sure. We’re there. We’ve always been there. But Spencer’s a great example of the numerous other situations in which people work together in companies large and small. People in business need clarity of communication. They need immediacy and simplicity. They need to build on their momentum and synergy. Their technology should be a facilitator of these needs, and not an obstacle.

Pro-basketball or fashion design may seem more glamorous than some other business lines, but the rules are always the same. Great people make great things happen. The machinery of business helps people to become great – as leaders, team members, entrepreneurs, and customers. One of the present and the greatest achievements that Cisco Webex products can achieve is to become essentially invisible. They are there, in the meeting room and on your phone, quietly and efficiently making things happen. Making meetings run well, bringing people together, allowing ideas to flow unimpeded.

Spencer’s presence on the court and in the public eye, as a designer, business owner and philanthropist is testament to his hard work and tenacity, from his early years trying hard to join the big leagues of the NBA through to the present and the future. Cisco is proud to know him, and to be, in a mostly invisible way, part of the team.

See more of Spencer’s journey and sign up for your free Webex account.

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4 non-verbal communication cues that are important for growing businesses

Effective communication isn’t just about what you say; it’s how you say it and how you present yourself. The frequently cited “7-38-55 Rule,” established by Albert Mehrabian, posits that words only account for 7% of the message we send when communicating with others. Body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%) have much bigger impacts on personal communication.

Non-verbal communication is incredibly important for small- and medium-sized businesses, from interacting with customers to negotiating with vendors and coordinating efforts between employees. Whether you realize it or not, you may be saying more through your body language than your words. Master the art of non-verbal communication, and you’ll effectively navigate critical relationships with clients, business partners, and staff members in person and during online meetings.

These four non-verbal communication cues, in particular, are vital when running or working at an emerging business.

1. Strong eye contact

A lot of communication happens through the eyes. One of the easiest ways to show people you’re interested and engaged in the conversation is to maintain eye contact. Repeatedly glancing at objects on your periphery will make you seem distracted or bored. It can also come across as a sign of anxiety or a lack of confidence, which can turn away clients and business contacts.

Maintaining eye contact tells customers they have your full attention, and that you are completely engaged and actively listening to what they have to say. Good eye contact is one of the most fundamental non-verbal communication cues, but it’s also one of the most difficult to master. Too much can make people feel uneasy, and even something as seemingly trivial as how often you blink can have a huge impact on how you come across to others.

2. Restrained hand gestures

The right hand gestures express your ideas more effectively. Hand movement can make a speaker seem more animated and invested in the subject matter. Used correctly, hand gestures punctuate statements and add a subtle visual component to verbal communication. 

Like eye contact, there’s a fine line to walk with hand gestures. Going overboard can backfire. Excessive movement can come across as overly aggressive and possibly even threatening. 

Make your hand gestures meaningful and deliberate. Unconscious movements like fidgeting, handwringing, running your hands through your hair, or scratching an itch could make you seem anxious or nervous.

3. Situational facial expressions

Your facial expression can sell an idea or undercut it completely. An employee giving a glowing quarterly performance report will be sending a very different message to business leaders if his or her facial expression suggests fear or concern. 

Facial expressions can seem involuntary, but it’s a skill that’s worth mastering to align your non-verbal communication cues with your message. Unlike some other forms of body language, facial expressions are fairly universal across different cultures and societies. Even if two people don’t speak the same language, they can still convey what they’re feeling purely through their faces. 

Who can forget the famous ending to “The Graduate,” when Benjamin Braddock successfully crashes Elaine Robinson’s wedding and runs off with the would-be bride? There isn’t a single word of dialog in the scene: The audience watches as the young, rebellious couple’s faces as their initial joy and excitement curdles into an uneasy sense of doubt about the future and the rash decision they just made. It speaks volumes without uttering one syllable.

Having control over slight facial movements like a raised eyebrow or slight crease in the lips is a major asset, no matter your line of business.

4. Controlled posture

Whether you’re standing to make a presentation, sitting down at a conference table or attending an online meeting, your posture says a lot about you. Standing or sitting up straight conveys confidence and leadership, making good posture important for communicating with both customers and co-workers. Conversely, slouching or letting your shoulders hang forward sends the opposite message, telling your audience that you don’t really believe in what you’re telling them.

Non-verbal communication cues are essential, especially in today’s business climate where so many employees work remotely and team members frequently collaborate over video conferencing software. A robust web conferencing solution helps ensure that your staff has the tools to communicate with one another and coordinate projects. Instilling the value of non-verbal communication will make those collaboration sessions more fruitful.

Get started with your free Webex Meetings plan today, which includes support for up to 50 participants, crystal-clear high-definition video, screen sharing, and much more.

 

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How video conferencing enables cost-effective collaboration
How video conferencing enables cost-effective collaboration

Business travel is a major expense for many SMBs. Data from expense management provider Concur has revealed that average SMB employees spend more on airfare, lodging, ground transportation, dining and car rentals than their counterparts at a large enterprise organization. For some SMBs, company-related travel constitutes more than 10% of their budgets, even though it’s not a value-added activity. More money on travel means less for everything else.

There is no shortage of tips and tricks for reducing travel costs, from trying to avoid checked luggage fees to booking cheaper flights with more elaborate connections. But perhaps the most effective is to simply do less travel overall. How can SMBs make this gain without sacrificing their all-important connections with customers, partners and remote teams? Video conferencing solutions provide a great starting point for more cost-effective collaboration.

Why video conferencing is perfect for budget-conscious SMBs

Not all forms of collaboration are equally rich and immersive. For example, a salesperson sending a prospect an email pitch is usually a good way to do introductions, provide a high-level overview and list out the next steps, but it’s hardly ideal for going much deeper than that. A call followed by an in-person meeting will be likely necessary to close the deal. That requires more spending on travel – unless video conferencing can fulfill the same role.

A video conferencing platform allows for in-depth interactions over high-definition (HD) video. In addition to being able to see everyone’s reactions in real-time, the sales team can also harness the power of features such as screen sharing – either of their whole screens or just a particular app or document – or use the video stream to walk through a live product demo. These video conferences also have the benefit of being more focused than an audio-only meeting, as there’s less chance of someone multitasking while on mute.

Moreover, by investing in a video conferencing system like Webex, SMBs can eliminate potentially thousands in business travel expense per year. Almost nine in ten (87%) of respondents to a Wainhouse Research survey cited reduced travel as a benefit of video solution deployment. At the same time, video conferencing saves money in other indirect ways, too. Let’s explore some of the additional benefits of video for SMBs and how they contribute to a more manageable budget and a more productive sales cycle.

Beyond travel: Video’s impact on productivity, decision-making, and more 

With video conferencing in place, SMBs can do more than just immediately curtail their travel costs. They can also:

Improve employee productivity

Inefficient meetings are a major drain on the productivity of everyone in them, as well as a substantial opportunity cost for the company. After all, every minute spent in an unnecessary meeting is one that could have been spent on a different, more worthwhile task.

Video conferencing technology helps facilitate more effective meetings:

  • Instead of wading through a complex process just to join a conference (long PINs, downloads, etc.), attendees can simply click or tap to join a Webex conference. 
  • They don’t even have to download a dedicated app if they don’t want to or can’t do so – the entire meeting can be experienced through the browser. 
  • Clear video keeps the meeting focused and on track. Everyone can be seen and names can be put to faces, so there’s less confusion.
  • Meetings can also be easily recorded for later review by anyone who wasn’t there or who needs a refresher.

Support mobile and remote workers

Telecommuting has become more common since the early 2000s, thanks to changes in employee preferences and the emergence of technologies like smartphones and SaaS. There are risks to remote work, however. 

The State of Remote Work 2018 report from Buffer found that loneliness and collaborating/communicating were the most cited challenges by remote workers. Video conferencing can address both of these problems.

HD video and crisp audio can make it feel like teams are in the same room with each other, no matter where they are. Paired with features for screen sharing, recording, and more, a video conferencing solution also provides a comprehensive way to collaborate and communicate.

Integrate with other tools and workflows

It’s easy to configure Webex and then integrate it into your SMB’s current workflow. Integrations are available with multiple popular applications, from Salesforce and Google Calendar to Slack and Microsoft Teams.

In other words, Webex can be easily shaped to your organization’s particular requirements and workflows. Whether you plan to use it to help close more sales, provide online trainings to staff or simply host regularly scheduled meetings, Webex can fit the occasion. Learn more by starting your free trial today.  

 

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5 ways small businesses benefit from video conferencing tools

When you schedule an in-person meeting, you subject everyone involved to some rather strict limitations. They all have to gather in the same physical location, plus you need to ensure that you’ve actually got an open conference room or office at a time that works for every attendee. 

Neither requirement is a given, especially if you’re an SMB with limited working space and employees who regularly travel or telecommute.

It’s sort of the workplace equivalent of visiting a travel agent to plan a trip, despite having the more convenient option of just handling the flight details, car rental and Airbnb or hotel booking online. In this case, the appealing alternative is to use video conferencing solutions.

As SMBs look to enable real-time collaboration without the constraints of in-office meetings, video conferencing software offers a compelling combination of rich functionality, affordable cost, and overall ease of use. SMBs can use such a platform to perform many tasks, from holding internal online meetings with screen sharing to meeting with sales prospects via HD video. 

Let’s look at some of these benefits in greater depth, so you can evaluate the different solutions out there and choose the best video conferencing software for your team. 

Here are 5 ways your SMB can benefit from video conferencing services:

1. Simpler, more consistent collaboration

When a meeting’s attendees are not all in the same place, it’s crucial that they have a consistent platform they can connect to whether they’re joining from a phone, tablet, computer, or dedicated video calling equipment. Webex levels the playing field with:

  • Flexible device compatibility, supporting mobile and desktop devices as well as any standards-based video equipment.
  • The option to join from a web client without needing to download anything.
  • Call Me functionality to join by just answering the phone.
  • Quick joining via Webex Productivity Tools in the toolbar.

Webex’s familiar big green button makes life easier for everyone, no matter whey they are or what device they’re using. A TechValidate survey of Cisco collaboration users found that 93% felt Webex video conferencing improved their interactions and business relationships.

2. Better productivity

At its best, video conferencing software supports productive real-time collaboration from any location. A 2018 Forrester survey found that almost three-quarters of IT decision-makers said their overall number of video calls had increased over the last two years, hinting at big ongoing gains in employee productivity.

Compared to conference calls, video and web conferencing solutions enable better productivity by:

  • Minimizing distractions: Audio-only meetings encourage multi-tasking, which distract from their proceedings. Thanks to crystal-clear video, Webex helps attendees stay fully focused.
  • Keeping the meeting short: Overlong meetings test everyone’s focus. By simplifying the processes for joining and participating, the best video conferencing software eliminates the delays and technical hiccups that inflate meeting times.
  • Providing rich functionality: Video conferencing solutions let you do more than just see who’s on the other end of the line. Screen sharing, online meeting recording, webcasting, and more open up many possibilities for your SMB.

3. Many possible use cases

Small business owners and their teams often have to wear many hats. From sales to customer support, the same employee might perform several different tasks on a daily basis, necessitating a similarly versatile set of collaboration tools. This is where a flexible and intuitive video conferencing solution like Webex pays dividends.

With Webex, you can:

  • Hold all-hands meetings to provide informative updates about the company.
  • Host a webinar to showcase a new product or pitch a promising partner on a project.
  • Conduct trainings for departments such as HR, with Q&A, polling, and screen sharing.
  • Offer high-quality, real-time technical support to customers and users around the globe.
  • Make it easier for sales teams to collaborate internally and with prospects and customers.

4. Seamless integrations

Video conferencing works best when it’s integrated into your other workflows, such that you don’t even have to think twice about scheduling a meeting. Webex works with all major calendaring software, including Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Office 365. Inviting anyone or everyone is no problem. 

Plus, you can launch meetings from inside tools such as Salesforce, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. When you connect with someone via video on Webex, these integrations provide helpful context that fuels better meetings.

5. Reduced travel costs

SMB budgets are often tight, with little room for unexpected expenses. A video conferencing system can help you optimize your costs by reducing the need for pricey travel, whether it’s between company offices, on trips to meet prospects or attend conferences.

The lifelike video conferencing of Webex makes it as if everyone is actually together in one room, even when they’re apart. So save the commute or the business travel, and focus on the projects that matter most to your SMB. Try Cisco Webex for free today!

 

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Team collaboration tools improve communication from business leadership

The most common pitfalls of SMB leaders stem from lack of communication. From setting goals with team members to delegating or automating tasks, entrepreneurs risk burnout when they take on too much. Though it can make you feel secure to own every task, allowing others to lend a hand means that you can focus on long-term growth. Plus, team collaboration tools like Cisco Webex Meetings and Cisco Webex Teams make it easier than ever to stay in contact while on the move as a fast-paced executive.

Here are some common mistakes SMB leaders make and how Cisco Webex products can help address them:

Failure to delegate

Often the biggest mistake that business owners make is feeling the need to own each part of their business, from accounting to invoicing to customer relations and satisfaction surveys. Constantly juggling all aspects of the business can only lead to one thing: burnout.

With a trusted team, managers can delegate aspects of the business with automation or outsourcing. Team collaboration tool, Cisco Webex Teams integrates with multiple productivity apps like Box, Salesforce, or SharePoint, which means the entire team can receive app notifications through Webex Teams. This usability means there is one less item on your to-do list and your team is receiving the information they need.

When possible, outsource administrative items like invoicing, taxes, and human resources to third parties who can stay in contact with you over Cisco Webex. By using Webex, you can host weekly or monthly check-ins to ensure you’re on track with your projects, send texts, or access shared files easily.

Establishing clear and consistent communication

Often business owners, especially those who work in a different city than their clients and other team members, suffer from miscommunication. If it happens too many times, they risk losing employees and business. Setting expectations about when and how you’ll connect with contacts early in a relationship, as well as checking in often, can help alleviate any issues, and Cisco Webex enables cross-device engagement in real time.

Avoid the inbox abyss and use direct messages that can be received more quickly.

Skipping goal setting

Without a clear direction, your business may end up going down several rabbit holes before finding a path that leads to profitability and productivity. Once goals are set, you can’t forget to check with team members—both in-office and remote, employee and contractor—to find out how they’re progressing.

If you find yourself too busy to set up meetings and calls, you can quickly reach out with Cisco Webex Teams. With Webex Teams, reach a group or message an individual quickly to get a status report and keep moving toward your organizational goals.

Not taking time off

According to Project Time Off, 52 percent of American workers left vacation time on the table, accounting for 705 million unused days. For entrepreneurs, who are tasked with building their own business without being tied to a company’s calendar, the stats are likely worse.

Guilt doesn’t have to be a partner in your business as an SMB. Take that trip and enjoy a hike or a day at the beach. If you need to check in, your Webex platform is available from any corner of the world.

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How to leverage secure team collaboration for small business messaging

Cloud messaging has become the bread and butter of small business productivity. In late 2016, BI Intelligence estimated that total monthly active users of the four most popular mobile messaging platforms had surpassed that of the top four social networks in 2014 and widened the gap through 2016. While these services were originally designed with consumers in mind, their use in the workplace is widespread:

  • A 2017 survey of U.S. workers by 451 Research revealed that 73% of respondents used SMS and/or third-party messaging platforms for business purposes.
  • For comparison, only 66% relied on email and 58% on voice calls. No other workflow surpassed 50% of surveyed responses.
  • 62% reported their firms had not updated their security policies despite the growing use of messaging. Only 9% said unapproved apps were forbidden.
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Better Online Meetings for SMB

It’s easy to think of IT departments as a dedicated crew of folks sitting in a room unlocking passwords, restoring Internet access and implementing all of the tools that keep a business connected. But for many Small or Medium Businesses (SMBs), the responsibility of choosing and implementing the right technology solutions often falls on business leaders.

When it comes to web-conferencing, selecting the right solutions is even more crucial for these businesses. Having a high-quality, reliable online meeting experience can go a long way in helping SMB leaders juggle the many hats they wear.

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